The Checker Murders is a 16,000 word novelette published in seven monthly installments. It is perhaps the most extensive work of checker fiction ever published. We hope you enjoy it, but if you wish you can skip to the end to see this week's checker problem. Be forewarned that the problems in this series are very difficult.
Mortimer S. Holmes was a nerd, if not exactly an unabashed one. He very predictably spent a lot of time in front of his computer, playing the old adventure games, with interludes of online chess and checkers.
Still, he tried not to look and act the part. He made an effort to be cool. Sometimes he wore a baseball cap backwards and dressed in a tee shirt and baggy shorts. He went to the bar and had a beer or two. He tried to make time with the chicks.
But it just didn't seem to work out. The beer made him dizzy, the chicks ignored him, and the baggy pants didn't fit his skinny frame and kept slipping down. Usually after an hour or two at the bar, he and his friend Roger paid their tab and left. Or more like slunk out a side entrance, trying not to garner any more negative attention.
You have to give Mortimer credit, though; he kept trying. Twenty-two years old and an engineering grad student at University of Colorado in Denver, he was nothing if not persistent. He kept on trying, figuring that he'd eventually get it right.
His favorite place was the Baker Street Pub, in nearby Lakewood, Colorado. He liked it because they served food and eating kept down the dizziness. He also thought he somehow fit in. His middle initial, S, stood for Stephen but he always said his middle name was Sherlock. "M. Sherlock Holmes," he would say, "the Modern Sherlock Holmes," and then he'd wonder why the girls suddenly had something they needed to do and left him sitting alone.
He kept going back every Friday evening with great predictability. Other regulars learned to steer clear, lest they hear yet another tale about how the Modern Sherlock Holmes solved yet another difficult mystery, even if that mystery happened to be embedded in an adventure game.
So it happened that one Friday evening in the spring Mortimer and his friend Roger were at the Baker Street Pub, eating chicken wings and drinking draft beer. Roger was showing Mortimer the latest edition of the Denver Post newspaper.
"They're calling it ''The Checker Murders'," Roger said, pointing to the photo on the front page. "This is the third one already."
The photo showed a checkerboard with checkers arranged on it, right next to a picture of the deceased. "Checkers Murderer Strikes Again," the large headline read.
"Terrible, just terrible," Mortimer said.
"Yes, three dead already," Roger replied.
"No, no," Mortimer said, "that's not what I mean, well, sure, it's tragic, but look at this!" He pointed to the photo.
"Look at what?" said Roger.
"The checkerboard, of course," Mortimer said, "it's just not right."
"It's one of those red and black things, with red and black men. An /official/ checkerboard is green and buff with red and white men. Obviously the murderer didn't know about regulation checker sets."
Roger was Mortimer's best friend, but he still couldn't suppress a groan.
"And not only that," Mortimer went on, "the headline should read 'Checker Murderer,' not 'Checkers Murderer.' I've got half a mind to call the newspaper first thing Monday morning and tell them to run a correction."
Mortimer's seeming insensitivity aside, it was a bizarre case. Someone, evidently a serial killer, was murdering people and leaving a checkerboard at the scene of the crime. The checkerboard was set up in a different way at each location. The murder victims seemed to be a random group, and for that matter so did the methods of murder.
The first murder took place in Littleton, Colorado. It was an elderly woman. She had burned alive in her bed, and in a bizarre twist, the murder apparently extinguished the fire afterwards. The second murder, in Fountain, Colorado, was a fifty five year old sales executive who had been bitten by a rattlesnake that was evidently released by the killer. The third murder, in Montrose, Colorado, was a thirty year old factory worker, thrown head first into a deep hole freshly dug in his back yard.
There was no robbery and no other evidence of foul play. The police were baffled. The murders seemed arbitrary and without motive, and the checkerboard aspect was beyond their comprehension.
It was just the kind of case that would intrigue someone who called himself M. Sherlock Holmes.
Mortimer would be up late that night, long after he and Roger would inevitably give up, once again, trying to find dates at the Baker Street Pub.
To be continued.
As always, you can click on Read More for the solution and explanatory notes.
Run-up to diagram:
9-13 22-18 10-14 18x9 5x14 26-22 6-9 22-18 7-10 25-22 1-5 29-25 3-7 31-26 11-15 18x11 8x15 24-20 14-18 23x14 9x18 27-24 12-6 24-19 15x24 28x19 118-23 22-18.
One possible solution:
6-9*---A 18-15 10-14 15-10 7-11 10-7 23-27 32x23 14-17 21x14 9x27 7-3 27-32 26-23 13-17 23-18 17-22 19-16 12x19 3-7 22x29 7x23 Drawn.
A---Everything else loses; try it on your computer.
Source: Richard Pask, The Golden Dozen, opening 4A.