Tuesday, July 31, 2007

G'day Mate!

Lately when you get a Patrick Blindauer puzzle, you get more than your money's worth. You not only get a crossword puzzle, but when you're done it transforms into another game you can play. Last Thursday he and Francis Heaney turned that day's puzzle into an acrostic. Today Blindauer brings us a chess problem to solve. And you get 16X14 symmetry, which I don't think I've ever seen before.

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times puzzles check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

The name of this puzzle is "Board Members" referring to the chess board that will take shape shortly. There is a message to See Notepad! -- and I'm trying to remember if these messages always come with an exclamation point or if that's just for today. One thing's for sure, this puzzle's not going to make much sense if you don't read the notepad. Here's what it says:

Mark the center 8x8 squares with a heavy border. This border will start between the third and fourth letters of 21-Across, proceed across to right side of the box with a 23 in it, proceed down to the right side of the box with a 54 in it, then proceed to the left between boxes 54 and 61, over to the bottom of box 51. Finally it will proceed up back to where you started. If done correctly, the center 64 squares of the puzzle will have a border around it. That 8x8 area marked by the border is a chessboard. After you solve the puzzle, put chessmen on the circled squares (all the chessmen are black except the ones in box 26, box 54, and the crossing of 47-Across and 40-Down) and solve the problem given in the puzzle.

As you can see, I follow directions to the letter:

The instructions by the way are at 3D (WHITE TO MOVE) and 27D (MATE IN THREE).
If you follow the directions in the notepad, this is what your chess problem looks like.

This is not that hard of a chess problem and I know because I'm not that great a chess player, but mate in three is very simple. Remember the only way to force mate in a limited number of moves is to limit your opponents options. The best way to do that is usually by putting him in check.
So A2-A8 in algebraic notation, or Q-Rook8, if you prefer the old-fashioned notation.
Black is in check and there's only one way out of it. He has to sacrifice his queen.
F4-B8 (Q-Bishop8)

But we're not after the queen -- which would lead to a trade anyway -- we're going for the kill.
A8 X C6 (Queen takes pawn)
Once again, black has no choice. He has to get out of check and there's only one way to do that:
B8-C7 (Q-Knight7)
After which, C6XC7 (Q takes Q) Checkmate.
The black king cannot move out of check, and he can't capture the queen because she's protected by the rook.

You know what I love about crossword blogging -- you never know what you're going to be writing about. It could be anything. I know that, but I still didn't expect to be writing about chess.

Just like with the acrostic puzzle, I can only imagine how much work this took. For one thing, getting two K's and two Q's into a square in the middle of the diagram. And setting up a chess problem in the middle of a crossword -- wow.

Other entries of interest:

17A: Athlete's foot sufferer's purchase (TINACTIN) Made famous in a series of commercials starring John Madden, who said, "Boom! Tough actin' Tinactin." So, we've got a guy famous for saying "Boom!" and another guy (Emeril Lagasse) famous for saying "Bam!" Isn't America a great country?

20A: The NHL's Senators, on scoreboards (OTT) I'm glad to see this clued as a city and not a person. I have nothing against Mel Ott the baseball player, but I can't helping thinking when I see those three letters of Vance Ott, the worst boss I ever had.

21A: "Joyeux ___"? (French holiday card sentiment) (NOEL) Why does this clue have a question mark?

26A: Skirts and shirts et al. (RHYMES) I made this one more complicated than it actually was by trying to come up with some apparelly term for these two items.

35A: Deal breaker (NARC) Dope deal, that is.

39A: Tomb raider played by Jolie (CROFT) Because it gives me a chance to post this from artist Adam Hughes:

62A: "Marriage is too interesting an experiment to be tried only once" quipper (EVA GABOR) Eva was married 5 times -- she made four fewer trips down the aisle than her sister Zsa Zsa, who evidently really enjoyed the marriage experiment.

60A: Weddings rings? (HORAS) It sounds like somebody picked a bride with an interesting past, but it refers to a circular dance done at Jewish (and some European) weddings.

6D: Fairy tale ender (AFTER) as in "happily ever. . . "

33D: ____ Xtra (soda brand) (PIBB) What Xtra? More rip-off Dr. Pepper flavor than ever before? (Yes, I'm a soda snob.)

That's all for today. See you Thursday.

So, Patrick, what's your next puzzle gonna morph into? Is it gonna origami out into a badminton court?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the intricate write-up of my latest word baby. The tricky part was to get a decent endgame position (since things like BNR or a row of P's is no good). Also, I wanted to get one of every type of piece in there and not use any P/R/N/B/Q/K's anywhere else in the 'chessboard' area, but you can't win 'em all. The size of the grid was to center the board, natch. I loved the chess diagrams, too, and I really laughed at the origami suggestion. Though now that you mention it, making something like a paper cup might be possible if ...


Austin said...

I enjoyed today's puzzle. 26A was a head-scratcher for a while for me, too.

I also liked ASIA's clue of "What one of the five Olympic rings represents"

Somehow I plucked what they meant out of my memory.

PS - I'm 70 pages or so into Special Topics in Calamity Physics and it's a very quirky read so far, but in a good way.

Jon Delfin said...

21A's question mark is just a gremlin. Sometimes the translation into Across Lite picks up coding errors and converts them to symbols.

Norrin2 said...

Thanks, Jon, I had noticed that before and should have figured that was what was going on here.
Austin, I looked at Calamity Physics but I've already got too many books in my TBR (to be read) pile and not near enough time. Still, an Audrey Niffenegger recommendation does mean a lot. Let me know what you thought after you finish it.
Patrick, I really enjoyed this puzzle and look forward to more from you -- but I was kidding about the origami : 0