Author interviews Vol.39 Kenja

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to Kenja

Our guest this time is Kenja. He is a university student now. He is a member of the university swimming club. He is a real athlete.

NyanBazPlease tell us about your childhood.

KenjaI went to a swimming school from I was 3 years old. I could swim before I could talk. It was early too that I got to know Puzzle Communication Nikoli. I read Puzzle Communication Nikoli from I was 4 or 5 years old, because my mother read it. My mother had bought it from the spring, 1990 issue.

NyanBazWow, you were doing Nikoli from you were very small. What kind of puzzles did you solve then?

KenjaI solved dot-to-dot etc. When I entered elementary school, there were a lot of back numbers in my house which my mother had bought and I read them. My mother had already solved most of the puzzles, so I only read them. Because the sentences were interesting, I was absorbed. I came under a strong influence of Nikoli writing. I came to solve puzzles in earnest after I reached elementary school grade 3 or 4. The puzzle which I came to like first was Hitori. I solved those properly. I made Kurodoko problems for events at the school

NyanBazYou were making puzzles and also solving puzzles at the time. It's a very early time to do that, just a third grader. I think that Kurodoko is quite hard to understand for someone who doesn’t do puzzles.

KenjaSure. I had a hard time to get to understand the rules. I made puzzles such as seeking words other than what is there already and had people around me solve them. I enjoyed the reaction of the people who solved them. I started to make puzzles like Slitherlink from the fifth grade, in my squares notebook. I hit on a rule for a new puzzle Kuroobi and sent it in to Omopa.

NyanBazKuroobi was published in Nikoli Vol. 94 (Mar 2001). Is that your first work?

KenjaYes. Suddenly I got published and you sent me the magazine, the whole family was in an uproar. Then I got absorbed in making puzzles. I contributed a lot to all issues of Puzzle Communication Nikoli.

NyanBazWhy did you get absorbed like that?

KenjaI was just happy that my work was published. Then I had a lot of free time. It was in the seventh grade that I spent most of my time on puzzles. My work was published in "Slitherlink Freak" (out of print) a lot. Those days were my golden age. There is one of my puzzles that I still like now. It's the #21 problem of that book.

NyanBazWhy do you like it?

KenjaIt has few numbers in the grid, I was able to include all that I could put in it with that size without overdoing it or cutting corners from beginning to end. That puzzle I have confidence in, it fit the story that I aimed for. I am happy when I make something I like and then don't force myself to make the next one for a while. (laughs) I really wanted to have my name in Nikoli Vol. 100 and I sent in Mochikoro.

NyanBazMochikoro was published in quite a few issues. And you continued making puzzles afterwards. Which puzzle do you like now?

KenjaI love Slitherlink most. The personality of an author is easy to get into the puzzle with Slitherlink. Slitherlink becomes an entirely different problem depending on the author. When there is a situation I like when I solve a problem of another author, I feel a sense of accomplishment. With me making a Slitherlink problem, I can become the first to solve the problem. There I can aim at a course that I think will be comfortable when I solve it. That's the reason why I like Slitherlink.

NyanBazWhen I make Heyawake, there are many situations where it must be this one way. Slitherlink has few such situations.

KenjaBesides those, I like solving Hashiwokakero. I want to do Hashiwokakero anytime when I am free. I solve them easily in my free time. But they're difficult for me to make.

NyanBazWhich puzzles are you weak at?

KenjaIt took time until I could solve Kakuro. I couldn't solve Kakuro at all till I entered high school. I didn't understand the way of thinking about combinations of numbers. Then I solved a lot of small Kakuro in the Nikoli mobile site and I learned how to solve Kakuro.

NyanBazOur mobile site was already closed down. I am happy to hear that we had such an effect with that site.

KenjaI'm not good at making Sudoku. Even when I want to make a hard problem, it becomes easy. I respect people who are good at making hard Sudoku. But it is not only Sudoku, I'm weak at puzzles where it is difficult to establish what the problem is.

NyanBazWhen you make puzzles, do you decide on the difficulty and development from the beginning?

KenjaIt's rare that I decide it from the beginning. I'm a catch-as-catch-can kind of person. When I make a puzzle, I hope for some surprise in the development. I cherish that live performance impression. It's all about luck whether it will become good or not in the development. Therefore, I concentrate on making problems. It's possible to make good problems that I can finish in just 2 hours, much better than when I take 2 weeks to do it.

NyanBazWho is your favorite author?

KenjaIt's Renin. (Who created Hashiwokakero and Nurikabe, and participated in the start of Slitherlink) I think that he was the starting point for Omopa. I also like Kumotan's problems among the authors of In his Slitherlink problems, there are few unnecessary numbers. When I make a Slitherlink problem, I want to make it with as few numbers as possible. Because it becomes unexciting and standardized when I go too far, it's difficult to make good problems.

NyanBazWhat are your hobbies other than puzzles? Do you still like swimming?

KenjaI love it. Actually just today I swam for 2 hours, total 5,000 meters.

NyanBazYou really keep going.

KenjaOther than swimming, I like to go by train. I took the route around all of the lower half of Japan. I managed to ride on all the routes around Fukuoka and Nagasaki recently. I asked for a ticket for a route which made a detour here and there all the way from Fukuoka to Chiba. Because it was a very complicated ticket, it took 4 days to have it made. It is just like a puzzle to make a ticket of an odd route and it's interesting.

NyanBazWith trains there is a rule that you are not able to repeat any section on one ticket. I think that resembles a puzzle too. Are you going to make puzzles from now on?

KenjaDo I need to answer that one? Sure I want to make puzzles. Puzzles are my starting point. Puzzles are the very center of my heart. Puzzles are pure pleasure for me. However, I can't give all my attention to puzzles like before. I want put more emphasis on puzzles in the future.

NyanBazI look forward to that. Now for the last question, anything you want to tell the people solving your puzzles?

KenjaI make every effort I can in my problems. I'm happy if you feel something of that when you solve them. I welcome impressions and messages about my problems. I tend to feel whirled around when I am praised. Please praise me.

Interviewed Sep 2013 Published on Feb 25, 2014