Solution: Triangular Moves
Authors: Anthony Hsu, Yifei Luo, Max Chang
Artist: Yifei Luo
The first step is to fill in the Rows Garden grid and divide the grid into 8 regions (in the casual version, the grid is already pre-divided) corresponding to the 8 Sailor Guardians' bloom answers. The 8 Sailor Guardians can be easily identified by a Google image search.
Here are the answers to the grid clues. In the casual version, answer lengths were provided in parentheses for the row clues (as shown below), whereas in the expert version, they were not.
|A||Scurry off (9)||SKEDADDLE||Sailor Jupiter||Fiddle (with)||TINKER|
|B||Collide (6)||IMPACT||Hot and humid||SULTRY|
|Cut off (5)||SEVER||Narcissism||VANITY|
|Farm sound (4)||OINK||Narrate a second time||RETELL|
|A rocky walk (6)||WADDLE||Possible end to a conflict||TREATY|
|C||Concealed opening (8)||TRAPHOLE||Sailor Mars||Excellent||SUPERB|
|Ridiculous (6)||ABSURD||Former actor and president||REAGAN|
|First satellite (7)||SPUTNIK||Loved deeply||ADORED|
|D||Mathematician known for a category of primes (8)||MERSENNE||Register (2 wds.)||SIGN UP|
|It can be savory or sweet (5)||CREPE||Something you might grab with coworkers||DRINKS|
|Someone unsure whether a higher being exists (8)||AGNOSTIC||Sailor Mercury||Became smaller||SHRANK|
|E||Audio communication protocol and file format (4)||MIDI||Leftover||UNUSED|
|Measure of purity (5)||KARAT||Someone who obeys||ABIDER|
|Free software collection or animal (3)||GNU||Stared angrily at||GLARED|
|Molecule involved in making proteins (3)||RNA||Valley with steep sides common in the Pacific Northwest||COULEE|
|Presidential candidate involved in recount (2 wds.) (6)||AL GORE||Sailor Moon||Alaskan national park||KATMAI|
|F||Shine brightly (5)||GLEAM||Doomed whaling ship||PEQUOD|
|Something to play with (3)||TOY||Expression for addressing more than one person (2 wds.)||YOU ALL|
|Speech impediment (4)||LISP||Non-wizard||MUGGLE|
|Top-level domain used by most schools (3)||EDU||Target of bees||NECTAR|
|More embarrassed (6)||REDDER||Sailor Neptune||A la Picasso||CUBIST|
|G||Forrest ___ (4)||GUMP||Army of computers||BOTNET|
|___ cost (4)||SUNK||Senior executive who worked at Oracle and Google Cloud||KURIAN|
|Part of a dog breed common in memes (5)||SHIBA||White ___||CASTLE|
|H||Property (4)||LAND||Sailor Saturn||___ Farm||ANIMAL|
|___ space (5)||OUTER||Agree||CONCUR|
|Central part of a church (4)||NAVE||Jazz big band leader||KENTON|
|Inhabitant of the moon (8)||LUNARIAN||Patch once more||REMEND|
|I||Type of acid (5)||AMINO||Sailor Uranus||Bestow||IMPART|
|Building block of organisms (4)||CELL||Communication devices||PHONES|
|Attempt (3)||TRY||Less light||DIMMER|
|Fuel-saving mode (3)||ECO||Something to get rid of during fall cleaning||LEAVES|
|Site of a World War II siege (6)||TOBRUK||Vessel for the dead||CASKET|
|J||It rises on a hot day (7)||MERCURY||Sailor Venus||Arousing genre of fiction||EROTIC|
|Bone in the foot (5)||TALUS||Book reader||KINDLE|
|Bro or sis (3)||SIB||Drag one's feet||DAWDLE|
|Annoy or irritate (someone) (6)||NETTLE||Wears (2 wds.)||PUTS ON|
|K||One may secure a rope (7)||ENDKNOT|
|Unite again (6)||REKNIT|
|Dead end (hyph.) (8)||CUL-DE-SAC|
The filled in grid looks like:
Each of the 8 regions is an independent triangular chess puzzle. Triangular chess is hinted at from the title of the puzzle ("Triangular Moves") and the chess-themed flavor text, which includes chess words like "check," "mate," "king," "queen," and "knights." The word "unicorns" in the flavor text helps confirm triangular chess, as the unicorn is a new piece added in triangular chess that is not present in standard chess. It also helps disambiguate triangular chess from another chess variant called tri-chess, since tri-chess does NOT have unicorn pieces.
Each region contains exactly one hexagon with a black dot and also exactly one K, always located in the hexagon with the black dot. As suggested by the flavor text, this K is the "dark king" (K is the chess notation for king) that you must "mate" (checkmate). You mate this king using the other chess pieces in the region. The other chess pieces are the letters used in standard chess notation, plus P for pawn and U for unicorn. While P and U are nonstandard, we hope using those letters seemed natural, as they are the first letters of pawn and unicorn, respectively, and the other standard chess pieces (besides the knight) are represented by their first letter.
- K = king
- Q = queen
- R = rook
- B = bishop
- N = knight
- P = pawn
- U = unicorn
In the casual version of this puzzle, the letters representing the pieces are highlighted by the capitalized letters in the flavor text words "King," "Queen," "kNights," "Unicorns," "otheR," "Buddies," and "Pals."
The other realization solvers must make is that all the chess pieces in the cells adjacent to the black dots are black pieces. This is hinted at by the phrase "the dark king (and sometimes his forces)" in the flavor text. Solvers might also come to this realization after being unable to find a mate-in-1 for some regions otherwise.
Once all the chess pieces have been identified in a region, the solver must find a mate-in-1 using the white pieces (those in cells touching white dots). Each region should be thought of as an independent triangular chess board, and pieces are not allowed to move outside the boundaries of the region (nor are pieces from other regions allowed to be used).
The solutions to the 8 mate-in-1 chess puzzles are shown below. White pieces are indicated in black, black pieces indicated in red, and extracted letters indicated in yellow (except for the 'R' that is a black piece):
For each of the 8 regions, extract the letter in the cell that the mating piece moves to. Then sort the letters by the Sailor Guardians in order of proximity to the sun (closest to farthest) to get the final answer RELATIVE.
The puzzles in this COO round each involved 3 elements. The 3 elements we were tasked with for our puzzle were anime, grid, and triangles.
Initially, we were thinking of using the anime Kantai Collection, which involves girls in a naval school that put on weaponized outfits and embody the spirit of historical warships. We were going to combine that with a battleships logic puzzle on a triangular grid (inspired by this year's MITMH puzzle Dancing Triangles). However, we found out that another puzzle already involved a battleships logic puzzle, so we scrapped this idea.
None of this puzzle's authors is super into anime, so we did some more brainstorming focused on "grid" and "triangles," with the belief that we could tie in "anime" later, since there seems to be an anime about everything. Thinking about "grid" and "triangles" naturally led us to think about triangular grids. This reminded us of a Rows Garden puzzle grid. We wanted to combine this with some logic component, so we searched for games played on triangular grids and eventually stumbled upon triangular chess.
We needed some way to order the letters extracted from the 8 regions (this gave us a bit more flexibility in constructing the grid vs. needing to have the letters read in order left-to-right, top-to-bottom), so that's where we thought to incorporate the Sailor Guardians.
Initially, the flavor text was a bit coy about chess and referred to Pegasus, a horned horse in the Sailor Moon universe, rather than unicorns, to be more thematic with Sailor Moon. However, during initial test solves, we found playtesters going down Sailor Moon rabbit holes and not finding triangular chess. So we adjusted the flavor text to downplay the Sailor Moon references and add more explicit chess references.
In subsequent test solves, we found that playtesters realized there was chess involved but they were having trouble identifying the correct chess variant. The fairy chess piece Wikipedia article has a fairly comprehensive list of fairy chess pieces and lists many chess variants that involve unicorns. However, it was missing triangular chess, so we edited the article and added it. We also tried to add triangular chess to the glossary of chess Wikipedia page but that edit was quickly reverted due to not being a "commonly used [chess] term."
Once solvers found the triangular chess Wikipedia page, they often still had trouble understanding how pieces moved. To make the moves easier to understand, we added 6 diagrams to the triangular chess Wikipedia page, one each showing the moves for rook, bishop, queen, king, knight, and unicorn.
We hope you enjoyed solving our Rows Garden puzzle and learning a little triangular chess! If anyone implements a client for playing triangular chess on the computer, please let the authors know. We would love to play a game.