Saturday, March 24, 2007
LOCAL & STATE
Puzzles offer fun on the dot
"CONNECTIONS" By JIM MEMMOTT
David Kalvitis is pretty sure he's started a revolution, a dot-to-dot revolution.
"It's going to be like Sudoku," the 44-year-old Brighton resident says. "It will just take some time."
He laughs after saying this, as bringing dot-to-dots to the status of Sudoku would be a puzzle-maker's dream.
Still, Kalvitis has tangible proof that his form of dot-to-dot puzzles is becoming more and more popular.
KATHARINE SIDELNICK staff photographer
David Kalvitis, designer of dot-to-dot books, offers a glimpse of his work at his home office in Brighton.
Not only are they selling well, they're also being imitated by other dot-to-dot designers.
Kalvitis isn't that happy about the knock-offs, but at least they are a kind of endorsement of efforts to bring the dot-to-dot into the 21st century.
"With my books, I have been trying to change people's perception of dot-to-dots so they don't think they're just for kids anymore," he says.
I first wrote about Kalvitis, a graphic designer, in December 2005, explaining how he came out with The Greatest Dot-to-Dot! Book in the World in 2000 and followed it with three more volumes of that title.
They were unlike other dot-to-dot books Ń most of which are designed for children.
Traditionally, dot-to-dots are rather simple puzzles that are solved by connecting numbered dots in numerical order to create an outline of a form, be it a ship or an animal or something else.
Kalvitis' dot-to-dots have more dots. Sometimes they ask the players to connect letters, not numbers, or they may make other demands.
Most importantly, at first they appear to be numbers or letters sprinkled randomly on the page.
"It looks like a mess," Kalvitis said then. "But when you get done, if you've done it in sequence, you have a nice picture."
By the end of 2005, Kalvitis had done the four volumes of The Greatest Dot-to-Dot! Book, as well as two volumes of The Greatest Newspaper Dot-to-Dot! Book.
They were all selling well, and he was getting fan mail from young players and old players. In a sense, he had created a multigenerational audience for the dot-to-dot.
Since then, Kalvitis, who works in an office in his home, has continued to produce weekly dot-to-dots for newspapers. His dot-to-dots are now appearing in a magazine in Italy. They have also been picked up by a law journal. (Really.)
And at the end of last month, Kalvitis came out with Book 5, The Greatest Dot-to-Dot! Book Super Challenge.
In it, he pushes the dot-to-dot envelope even more.
There's a puzzle with 1,365 dots, another with 973, a third with 883. Each of these goes over two pages.
"How could we possibly make them harder?" Kalvitis asks in the advertising copy for Book 5.
"Well we did it!" he says, answering his own question.
Book 5 also has a puzzle entirely made up of small arrows.
"I don't know how I came up with that one," Kalvitis says. "I just woke up one morning and started playing with the idea."
Kalvitis has a patent pending on the arrow-to-arrow puzzle, a first for any of his creations.
A patent would protect the idea behind the arrow-to-arrow, just as patents protect inventions, Kalvitis says. That way, nobody could steal the idea.
He's feeling a little paranoid because he's come across at least three dot-to-dot books which look remarkably like his.
A lawyer advised him that it might be hard to get these imitators for copyright violation or at least it might cost more than it's worth. Patents could have more force, Kalvitis hopes.
Regardless, it might be hard for someone to do dot-to-dots as well as Kalvitis does them.
Certainly, they couldn't replicate a crew of puzzle testers that includes his wife, Irene, and his sons Nathan, 11, and Aaron, 6.
And Kalvitis takes pride in the fact that, while his dot-to-dots are created on a computer, they are not computer-generated. He places the dots and draws the lines himself.
Beyond that, he says that he's gotten better with time, more skilled at creating denser, more interesting puzzles.
"I've got to be the best dot-to-dot guy in the world," he says, implicitly challenging all the other dot-to-dotters. "I've grown into the title."
Reprinted with permission from the Democrat & Chronicle