Author interviews Vol.32 Turing-Joe Jr.

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to Turing-Joe Jr.

Here is the corner that asks questions from and talks to puzzle authors. Our guest this time is Turing-Joe Jr. He is in the bachelorship of the late twenties. His occupation is an editor of a publishing company.

NobWhat kind of child were you when you were small?

Turing-Joe Jr.Hmm, I didn't change much between then and now. I liked kanji characters at that time. When my mother went shopping, I wrote kanji characters silently alone. I didn't just write kanji characters, I created new kanji characters. I think that was when I was three or four years old. My parents thought me to be a 100% humanities course student. However, RealIy I'm a true science course man. (laughs)

NobDid you do puzzles?

Turing-Joe Jr.I liked mazes in kindergarten. I drew mazes with a crayon in my notebooks. I remember they were not so complicated, but they were elaborate enough for myself. They had to clear the stages in the proper order. My friends solved them. I don't remember why I came to like mazes, but I remember it was very pleasant to make mazes.

NobWhen did you encounter pencil puzzles?

Turing-Joe Jr.I think that the beginning was Nonogram, that was published in the Mainichi News Papers. My family didn't subscribe to the newspaper though. I had an aunt who liked it, and she made a copy every week and brought it so I could do it. She thought that I would like that. She didn't come from far away. She lived in a house across the street in those days. That was when I was in third grade of elementary school. I continued Nonograms for a while. Afterwards my parents let me have a magazine with it, which I had found in a bookstore.

NobWhen did you get to know about Nikoli?

Turing-Joe Jr.That was when I bought the Nonogram magazines. My grandfather gave me NG5 (Bound volumes of Puzzle Communication Nikoli back numbers.) when we visited a bookstore. I was in fourth grade of elementary school.

NobWhy NG5?

Turing-Joe Jr.I probably thought it looked interesting. There were both Puzzle Communication Nikoli and the Pencil Puzzle Book Series around it on the shelves, I don't know why but I went for NG.

NobI would think that NG is difficult to a fourth grader.

Turing-Joe Jr.I tried all of the puzzles in it, and I could hardly solve any. I was no match for Kakuro really. (laughs) There was a maze by Kazuyuki Yuzawa that I clearly remember I could solve. The maze was in the shape of Australia. When it is solved a koala appears . However, it becomes a kangaroo by the shortest course. I was impressed by this maze which had a story in it.

NobThen did you buy Puzzle Communication Nikoli?

Turing-Joe Jr.No, no. I din't notice that there were other Nikoli books than NG. (laughs) I got to know the Pencil Puzzle Book Series in a while. I bought Numberlink and some more. After a while, I learned about Puzzle Communication Nikoli by an advertisement in a Pencil Puzzle Book. The first I bought was Vol. 56. I was a sixth grader then.

NobCould you solve the puzzles better now?

Turing-Joe Jr.I could hardly solve anything. (laughs) When I looked at my Nikoli from that time, there were just two or three numbers in each puzzle. Even then, I liked the atmosphere surrounding Nikoli, and I continued buying it.

NobWhat exactly was that atmosphere that you liked?

Turing-Joe Jr.The contests are unique. I never felt that in other puzzles. Sometimes I sent in my answer. And even if I didn't solve the puzzles, I felt it was fun with the the way things were presented. In junior high school I discovered a classmate who knew Nikoli. We were excited about that and started a puzzle club in eighth grade.

NobSounds great! Did you get to be able to solve the puzzles by then?

Turing-Joe Jr.Yes, by and by. It went slowly but by tenth grade I managed that. In the beginning, our puzzle club members were all from the same school year. But finally in third grade of high school younger students joined us. The club still continues to be active and excellent talented persons from there get published by Nikoli. The school festival is important for the puzzle club. In the high school, a prize is awarded for excellent planning for the school festival. When I was a twelfth grader, the puzzle club took the grand prize. We showed original puzzles and were voted in by our visitors. It was wonderful.

NobDid you begin to make puzzles for the school festival?

Turing-Joe Jr.It was for the school festival in ninth grade that I made puzzles to show to others.

NobWhat kind of puzzles were you making at the time?

Turing-Joe Jr.I made crossword and logic problems. I still have those problems at home. I also made problems with original rules. That was a puzzle which mixed Nurikabe with Hashiwokakero.

NobWhen did contributions to Puzzle Communication Nikoli start?

Turing-Joe Jr.That was when I was a sophomore. I thought about which puzzle would most easily get published if I contributed. There was a Ripple Effect Special in Vol. 107. I contributed puzzles there for the first time. I thought there would be just a few Ripple Effect submissions, but there are many in Vol. 107. One of mine was accepted. It was a middle difficulty 10 x 10 Ripple Effect. I worked really hard to complete that first problem. When I thought it was complete I tried to solve it, but it didn't work. Then I fixet it and solved it again and it failed again. Over and over and over. I realized that I couldn't do it just by hand, and I made support software with the programming that I learned at university. It tells you when you have broken the rules, even in the middle of creating a problem.

NobWas it only that you thought it would be easy to be accepted that you chose Ripple Effect?

Turing-Joe Jr.Yes. I didn't think Ripple Effect was particularly interesting then. I focused on what would be accepted over my own likes and dislikes. I wanted to become the very best at the puzzle I worked on. I chose it because with Ripple Effect could be a new thing. In Kakuro and Heyawake, I couldn't become the first or best. My choice was correct. Because I'm here now. (laughs)

NobThen did you continue making Ripple Effect?

Turing-Joe Jr.Yes. I kept up at sending in Ripple Effect. The deadline for Nikoli is every three months. I sent in 5 problems every time keeping that goal before me like a real ascetic. It has dropped off recently because I am busy though.

NobDon't you make other puzzles than Ripple Effect?

Turing-Joe Jr.I rarely do. I don't wish I make other puzzles really. I don't have the confidence to make them interesting.

NobYou are a true specialist. Are you able to make Ripple Effect with full control, do them just like you wish to?

Turing-Joe Jr.To some extent. I can make easy problems and I can also make hard problems. It's difficult to make intermediate problems. I can make problems that are as hard as you like. However, the level of difficulty then means they won't get publlished.

NobWhen you make Ripple Effect, what do you keep in mind?

Turing-Joe Jr.I want the problems I send in to be published. So I contribute puzzles which satisfy the standards of Nikoli. I notice when some way is not accepted because the hints are too difficult to get on with. I want the solver to notice the hints. For example, when you put a 3 in a room, you have to look for 3s in four other cells, it's hard to keep up with. I don't like it if the solution is too easy to see. Problem number 1 in the Pencil Puzzle Book Ripple Effect 3 is by me. I made it so nearly everywhere you only need to find one number in the other cells to get it right. I was happy when it had been included, as I expected.

NobDid you become this skillful because made a lot of puzzles?

Turing-Joe Jr.I have learned to see things because I made and solved many of Ripple Effect. But I had a hard time till I got to where I can make Ripple Effect well like now. That's why I don't want to take the trouble with other puzzles now.

NobWhat is your ideal Ripple Effect puzzle?

Turing-Joe Jr.It is a Ripple Effect with a proper story. But it often turns out to just slosh along. I want to make problems where the flow for solving it is clear. I sort of know what to do for the climax, but I am still not too sure about how to deal with the middle stage. Therefore my masterpiece is not yet made. The goal I want to get to is to make problems that have a flow that is clear and you notice.

NobWhat puzzle do you like as a solver of puzzles?

Turing-Joe Jr.Heyawake. I haven't made any of those either. Heyawake has a story. I like stories.

NobFor you, what is a puzzle?

Turing-Joe Jr.As a puzzle author, it should be a straightforward creative activity. It's a pleasure, to make something and have others do it. I am really happy when I do something entirely new. So, Ripple Effect is great. There is still room for development in it.

NobWhat's it for, this creative activity?

Turing-Joe Jr.I want solvers to be happy. Then, I want people to see the puzzles I make. It is not good that there are only few fans of Ripple Effect. (laughs) It seems people think Ripple Effect is troublesome, and they give it a wide berth. So, I want to see more light and attractive Ripple Effect puzzles.

NobNow the last question, anything that you want to tell people solving your puzzles?

Turing-Joe Jr.Please just solve them as you like. My work includes some appealing points. If you can feel that, I'd be very happy.

Interviewed May 2011 Published on May 1, 2012