Listen With Others

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Listener No 4688, Harry East: A Setter’s Blog by Lath

Posted by Listen With Others on 26 Dec 2021

For this puzzle, I remember chatting to my neighbour who is also an avid Listener solver. He was musing about the setter’s inspiration for a particularly impressive endgame. After finally parsing everything fully, he announced he was going to teach his grandson how to play chess later in the day.

As a very average player myself, I spent a few minutes mulling over the subject as a possible crossword theme. Eventually, the seed was really sown when the 7 separate moves of Scholar’s mate combined with the 7 letters of the word “Scholar” seemed to form a possible final part of an endgame.

The decision on the size of the grid soon arrived with even numbers of rows and columns being essential if a chessboard was to be created in the grid at some point. From that point, the tricky bit began, with the need to find a device to empty the middle of the completed grid, as well as a means of producing the 7 moves from the clues or answers. It actually didn’t take too long to realise that the 4×8 section in the centre of the grid lent itself to having the instruction for the solver within it. Hence, my first set of words that were to form part of the completed grid were the “obey block of 32 cells” section.

After that the 7 letters of “Scholar” needed to be placed in their starting positions for a game of chess. For neatness, I also put “Black“ and “White” in my grid symmetrically at this point, which left the rest of the grid creation to complete. On this occasion, there were not that many spaces to address.

I felt that the clue construction needed three things – a hint at the theme, an instruction to erase the centre of the completed grid and of course the notation for the chess moves. I do like the challenge of missing letters in clues as the end results can be quite satisfying if you produce an elegant surface to the clues.

Achieving the notation was the most challenging part, not least because the symbol “x” would always appear in chess notation to signify the taking of the piece. After many efforts to include this, I decided to use the removal of the final letter “r” from the board to signify the taking of the piece and to a position where it completed a real word in the corner of the grid. I hope it was obvious to solvers with a basic knowledge of chess that this was what they should do. I reasoned that it was a crossword and not pure chess puzzle at the end of the day!

As I am originally from the Rugby area, the choice of “ Harry East” for the title was a nod to one of my local writers and fitted the theme nicely to round the whole thing off.

Finally, I also hope everyone enjoyed the unravelling of the clues and endgame (as I am just about to attempt with today’s puzzle!).

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