Author interviews Vol.41 oku-yama

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to oku-yama

Our guest this time is oku-yama. He is in his early 30s. He is doing clerical work. He tells us that it's the type of job where he is required to be very very cautious.

NyanBazWhat kind of kid were you when you were small?

oku-yamaI liked crafts since I was a kindergartener and I made different games. I remember a fishing game where I make fishes from paper and hooks. And there was a game which had a screen to section paper which makes it a maze, then you roll a small ball and play.

NyanBazThat sounds like substantial craft creations. Did you play with the people around you?

oku-yamaI played with everybody and, I also played alone. I have an older brother, but I was different from him in the things I preferred. So he seldom played my games. But he played my original labyrinth game a lot. Here, each player makes a 10 x 10 cell labyrinth hidden from the opponent. It's a game to explore the labyrinth of the opponent while guessing about the structure. The opponent gets to move if you collide with a wall during the search. You have to imagine that the other player will place a wall somewhere. It has an element of psychological warfare. I think that you can enjoy it even if you are an adult.

NyanBazIt seems to be interesting. Did you like study?

oku-yamaI liked arithmetics. When we got our workbooks, I went right ahead without permission. When there were new symbols, appearing for the first time, I became tense and excited. Later in high school mathematics, I was excited to see "!". And when I saw "!!" in university mathematics, I laughed.

NyanBazWhen did you encounter puzzles?

oku-yamaI came across Sudoku as a second grader. I discovered a Pencil Puzzle Book with Sudoku at the bookstore. Because I thought that it seemed interesting, my parents gave it to me. From then on I have kept doing them.

NyanBazYou began puzzles without anybody influencing you, all by yourself. What was it that attracted you in the book?

oku-yamaJust lines and numbers keeping on for dozens pages. I thought that it was clever, smart, and cool. There were few similar books in those days. That book stood out.

NyanBazCould you solve the problems?

oku-yamaI was able to solve many problems. I solved about 60 problems from the start. But I couldn't solve anything after that. I made a note of the small numbers, but I gave up on the way because I never got further. I did challenge doing the last problem, but I couldn't put even one number.

NyanBazHard Sudoku problems are really hard. What did you do after that?

oku-yamaI found Puzzle Communication Nikoli at the bookstore when I was in third grade. It was my parents who gave it to me again. I didn't understand how to solve it at all in those days. Because I solved them by guessing and by just writing in answers, I wasn't happy. I stopped buying it with that one issue. I read other puzzle magazines and I made puzzles with a puzzle fan friend in junior high. But I soon got bored.

NyanBazSo puzzles as your hobby was cut off. When did you return to Nikoli?

oku-yamaThat was after I entered the university. When the entrance examination was over, I found a Puzzle The Giants at the bookstore. I remembered that I had done that before, and I bought it. I solved it. Now I understood the way of thinking that I didn't understand before. I thought that the intention of the author had been handed down to me. It made me happy and I got absorbed in Nikoli. I began contributing immediately. I regretted that I hadn't understood how it was fun doing this. If only I had continued buying Nikoli from primary school.

NyanBazWhat was the first puzzle you contributed?

oku-yamaI sent in several kinds of puzzles at the same time. There was a crossword puzzle, a block puzzle, and some others. I thought they were cool. Then, five of those problems were published by Vol. 98 as the first contribution from me. I was totally elated.

NyanBazFive problems! That's great! Did you continue sending puzzles all the time from then?

oku-yamaUnfortunately no. I make puzzles when I feel like it and send them in. I want to send puzzles constantly for nikoli.com though. I would like to make good use of the opportunity I have there.

NyanBazYou are an all-rounder. You make both word puzzles and numeric puzzles. I have the impression that you can make anything. You are also making puzzles where there are pictures.

oku-yamaSure, in fact I invented the stained glass puzzle. (Sorry only in the Japanese page)

NyanBazYes, I remember that. In that puzzle it ends up showing a picture, stained glass has a lot of freedom in making it.

oku-yamaYes. I wanted to make a puzzle where a picture appears and without using cells. It was the time when Tentai Show became popular. I thought that it was a chance to send in a puzzle which turns into a picture. It is the only new puzzle which I have contributed, so my new puzzle hit rate is 100%. I will not send in any new puzzle from now on, but will maintain my 100% rating. (laughs)

NyanBazTo be sure, it really is 100%. What is the puzzle which you like best?

oku-yamaI like them all, but I love Sudoku in particular among the puzzles at nikoli.com. Sudoku is a puzzle where an author can still devise some new way. I'm interested in packing a lot of ideas with an attractive placement. I'm also interested in pursuing simpleness, easy problems. Together with that I'll always continue making extra hard problems, slowly and especially carefully. It's absolutely a lifework for me.

NyanBazYou take your time making a problem. Do you also check everything carefully?

oku-yamaYes. I solve all the problems that I made many times. I am uneasy about problems which I make quickly. What I make comes out with a feeling like it was done in the deep night. I wonder if it will be interesting if I solve it in the daytime? That's how I think. And then I solve it, and usually there are places where I can improve a little more. When I adjust, it takes time. I respect authors who can make a lot in a short time.

NyanBazWhat kind of puzzle size do you like?

oku-yamaI like to make small problems. I like problems which consistently use only one kind of method many times. A large problem gets boring by using only one method. More than one method is required for that. Because I don't like mixing in methods, I make small size problems. When the balance is good, I admire the large puzzles of other authors.

NyanBazHow do you think about difficulty? You make extra hard Sudoku, so do you like hard problems?

oku-yamaNo, I like easy problems except for Sudoku. I work very cautiously. Therefore I want to make easy puzzles. (laughs) I was different in my student days, in those days I was carefree and happy, there was surplus energy to be troubled with.

NyanBazDo you have any hobbies other than puzzles?

oku-yamaOne hobby is to watch drama and comedy. I did drama in high school. That was because I wanted to attract attention, I feel great when I am in a play in front of people. I like it that I complete something and get people to see it. That element also works in puzzles.

NyanBazYou forgot about puzzles as a high school student. You may be making puzzles as a change from drama now.

oku-yamaThat could be so. My ideal is that a puzzle or a play should express myself and delight others.

NyanBazYou said that you want to attract attention. But you also think about delighting others. You are an entertainer.

oku-yamaI'll be happy if others enjoy my work. One thing in nikoli.com that I'm happy about is because I see how many people have solved my problems. There are people who have solved a hard Sudoku and spent more than one hour at it. That person spends a valuable one hour of life to do my work. It makes me happy just to watch the history of solvers. Because there are solvers, I can make puzzles.

NyanBazWill you continue making puzzles in the future?

oku-yamaYes, I hope to do that. Puzzles are a good relaxation for me. I can enjoy puzzles without thinking about anything else.

NyanBazPuzzles have a fine position in your life. Good for you! Now for the last question, anything you want to tell the people solving your puzzles?

oku-yamaIn nikoli.com, you can see the problems after you click to open. That's different from a magazine. So even when you don't really intend to solve a puzzle, feel free to open it. I will make problems that you will want to solve if you take a look. It's my joy when the number of people who open a problem increases.

NyanBazWell. Please open the problem if you find the name oku-yama. Oku-yama, thank you for today!


Interviewed Feb 2014 Published on Jan 13, 2015

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