Author interviews Vol.27 T. Karino

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to T. Karino

Our guest this time is T. Karino. He is in his early 60s. He is retired from his job now, but he used to work as a computer engineer in his working days. The interviewer is NyanBaz, and another staff member, Nob, also participated.

NyanBazLet's start the story from when you were little. What kind of child were you?

T.KarinoI liked the sciences since I was in primary school. When I was in the fourth grade, the first transistor made in Japan was released. I remember that I bought one at the age I was in sixth grade and I put together a transistor radio by myself. I had the license as an amateur radio when I was in seventh grade. I was a 100% science course kid.

NobI did amateur radio, too. In the science course then, everybody did.

T.KarinoHowever, amateur radio is not interesting when the conversation doesn't continue. Because I was weak at conversation, I didn't continue amateur radio for long. I can't do word puzzles well.

NyanBazDo you love machines?

T.KarinoYes, very much. Then also, I like to make them rather than use them. I like making puzzles better than solving them too.

NyanBazIs that the reason why you chose your occupation as a computer engineer?

T.KarinoYes. I was developing computer hardware before I retired.

NyanBazDo you feel happy to have worked in an occupation that you loved since childhood?

T.KarinoSure. Then I had a chance to develop what I wanted to do. I told the boss that I wanted to develop something, and the boss told me to get on with it.

NobYou did computer development since you entered the company. That must have been about 40 years ago. What was computers like at the time?

T.KarinoWhen I was in college, we used vacuum tubes in computers. Transistors came afterwards. When I entered the company, integrated circuits had begun to appear.

NyanBazIt would have taken courage to become a computer engineer then, when you didn't know the future of computers?

T.KarinoI didn't need any particular courage. I was convinced that it was a field that would grow. I was filled with hope. Computer hardware has few new parts nowadays. I think that I joined at a good time, and retired at a good time.

NyanBazWhen did you encounter puzzles?

T.KarinoIt started when I read the book "brain teaser" by Akira Tago. Japan did not have puzzle magazines in those days.

NyanBazWhen did you get to know Nikoli?

T.KarinoMy daughter got a puzzle magazine from a teacher when she was a fourth grader. That was "Puzzle Communication Nikoli." My daughter got it, but I did the puzzles. After that, I kept buying it for the next 20 years.

NyanBazWhen did you start to contribute problems?

T.KarinoMy first contribution was in 2001.

NyanBazDid you only solve puzzles till then?

T.KarinoYes, puzzles for Nikoli. But I had made puzzles before that. I put puzzles in the newsletter of the company where I worked.

NyanBazWhat do you know! But what was the first puzzle you contributed to Nikoli?

T.KarinoThat was Kakuro and Hashiwokakero. I also began to make Sudoku and Hitori in 2001, and I started making Kurodoko in 2002. Then a little later, Slitherlink and Ripple Effect. After that came Yajilin. I started Masyu and Akari this year. At present that makes ten kinds in total.

NyanBazDon't you make other puzzles?

T.KarinoSure, there are some that I want to make, but I once disgraced myself seriously in Ripple Effect. Because I have a negligent character, my checking is optimistic. I contributed a lot of problems that violated the rules. So, now I have created a computer program to check that my puzzles conform to the rules for Ripple Effect. I have also made other puzzle-checking programs, now I check puzzles by the programs before I contribute them. When I make a new kind of puzzle now, I have to make a checking program first. I couldn't trust myself without that. (laughs)

NobSo you didn't contribute puzzle for 12 years, then why did you suddenly begin it?

T.KarinoPerhaps because I didn't work at the forefront any longer at work, I had the time. I don't recall that clearly. So, when I see all the many authors in their 30s, the prime of their lives, I admire how they do it.

NyanBazHow many puzzles do you make in a month?

T.KarinoI do many more now that I started to contribute to and the mobile site. I contribute an average of 25 puzzles every month to and the mobile site. I also contribute puzzles to other publications of Nikoli, approximately 15 or 20 per month. I'm careful to have a variety of difficulty levels. But there are puzzles where it is not easy to control the difficulty.

NyanBazFor instance, which?

T.KarinoRipple Effect. I can't control the difficulty. (laughs) The best I can do is to make a problem to be solved. I make it while thinking about how to control the difficulty. However, it quiclky breaks down. After such a bust-up, all my effort comes to nothing. Kakuro and Slitherlink can be modifed locally even if something goes wrong. There some local change does not disturb how it went so far. Ripple Effect is difficult.

NobSudoku is also a difficult puzzle to do partial corrections with.

T.KarinoYou said it. I think that puzzles can be classified into two groups largely. One is the puzzles that can be fixed in parts as you are making them. The other is puzzles where a modification of a single point affects the whole board. I can't put up with a full day of making puzzles which can be partially fixed. When I work on those puzzles all day, I make them taking breaks.

NobIsn't it because you don't want it to become monotonous?

T.KarinoYes, yes,. When I make several in a row, I use the same method repeatedly. I think that likely the solver won't feel it interesting. So, I pause. I can't pause when making Ripple Effect. When I pause there, I get puzzled. (laughs)

NyanBazWhen you make puzzles, what do you keep in mind?

T.KarinoI keep in mind that I'm going to finish it properly. There are authors who modify after they have made puzzles. I don't modify later. Therefore I'm going to do it to completion when I make a puzzle.

NyanBazDo you have a favorite puzzle author?

T.KarinoI occasionally admire how a puzzle is solved. But I don't pay real attention to the name of the author, and I forget it immediately. However, I'm always impressed by SAKAMOTO, Nobuyuki. He makes a wide variety of different problems. His puzzles are one of my goals.

NyanBazIs there a best problem among the puzzles you have made?

T.KarinoNo. Once a puzzle has been sent off, I forget what kind of problem it was. Sometimes, I can't easily solve my own problems after they are published. (laughs)

NobThat would give you a chance to observe your problem objectively. You would become able to understand where the solver trips up.

NyanBazA little more about the future, will you keep making puzzles?

T.KarinoYes, sure. At my age, I want to hold off both the deterioration of my head and deterioration in physical strength. I check the deterioration of the head with puzzles. And to maintain physical strength, I climb mountains with the money I make by my puzzles.

NyanBazWow! You do mountain climbing.

T.KarinoI've climbed quite a few mountains. I started in 2000. I've climbed to more than half of the 100 most famous mountains in Japan. I first thought that I whould be able to climb 25 of them.

NyanBazGreat! You reached the summit of more than 50 already! Then one last thing, what would you like to say to the people who solve your puzzles?

T.KarinoWhat I want to say has been said already in the interview so far. Let me say something to young people. Puzzles are good for you, but do other things too. You may prevent the aging of your head with puzzles. But if you want to enjoy puzzles forever, also prevent the aging of the body. Please enjoy other things as much you enjoy puzzles.

NobIt's the wisdom of age.

NyanBazThank you for an interesting story. Please keep making interesting puzzles.

Interviewed Dec 2009 Published on Aug 18, 2011