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Solution to Large-scale Anthropomorphism

Lake Eerie

Answer: FICKLE
by Kah Kien Ong
Art by Joe Cabrera

The first step is to identify the animals shown in the images. The names of these animation characters are not relevant, as hinted by the image of a generic unnamed wolf from Frozen. As in any image identification, the specific choices of the images used in depicting the animals though, are important. For instance, the images of the tiger, elephant, ox, and boar, capture them in some unusual state, and the image of the dragon in particular, has been photo-edited to include a crown. Each of the images depict the animals “with human-like characteristics”, which is hinted by the flavortext phrase as well as the puzzle title word “anthropomorphism”. Doing an online search of the characteristics with the corresponding animals would reveal the aha that the given images reference pieces in Dai Shogi (or Large Shogi), a Shogi (“General Chess”) variant with more pieces and played on a larger 15x15 board. Other hints in the flavortext are the words “general”, “large”, “armies” and “checking”. The numbering represents notation for their coordinate positions on a board.

Other parts of the puzzle which could help provide clues:

The images, all stills from animated movies, represent 13 different Dai Shogi pieces:

Soaring Eagle (Mighty Eagle from “Angry Birds 2”)
Soaring Eagle (Mighty Eagle from Angry Birds 2)
Blind Tiger (Vitaly from “Madagascar 3”)
Blind Tiger (Vitaly from Madagascar 3)
Ferocious Leopard (Phango from “Khumba”)
Ferocious Leopard (Phango from Khumba)
Flying Stag (Prancer from “Way to the Stars”)
Flying Stag (Prancer from Way to the Stars)
Dragon King (Toothless from “How to Train a Dragon: The Hidden World”)
Dragon King (Toothless from How to Train a Dragon: The Hidden World)
Drunk Elephant (Dumbo from “Dumbo”)
Drunk Elephant (Dumbo from Dumbo)
Violent Ox (Ferdinand from “Ferdinand”)
Violent Ox (Ferdinand from Ferdinand)
Angry Boar (Boar from “Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll”)
Angry Boar (Boar from Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll)
King (King Harold from “Shrek 2”)
King (King Harold from Shrek 2)
Cat Sword (Puss in Boots from “Shrek”)
Cat Sword (Puss in Boots from Shrek)
Horned Falcon (Kai from “Zambezia”)
Horned Falcon (Kai from Zambezia)
White Horse (Donkey from “Shrek 2”)
White Horse (Donkey from Shrek 2)
Evil Wolf (a wolf from “Frozen”)
Evil Wolf (a wolf from Frozen)

Solvers need to use the referenced pieces and their corresponding board coordinates to recreate a Dai Shogi position. And as hinted by the lone White king, this is a miniature Shogi problem (Tsume Shogi), similar to a chess problem. Hence the next step is to solve for the shortest forced mate sequence of moves by Black (moving up the board as per Shogi convention), following the rules for Tsume Shogi. One of the helpful rules (unlike chess problems) hinted by the flavortext phrase “keep checking”, is that every move by Black must be a check, which narrows the possible moves in this sequence. And unlike Shogi, captured pieces may not be dropped back into play in Dai Shogi.

Solvers also need to know the rules for Dai Shogi for which, besides its Wikipedia page, there are at least two other detailed sources available online (source 1/source 2). The moves for each piece are shown below, and there is one unique Dai Shogi move used by White in move 3 called “Igui” (stationary feeding), where certain pieces such as the Horned Falcon can move 2 squares, including making a capture on an adjacent square and returning to its original square. As this is a intervention move which, if missed, results in a valid but non-optimal 5-move mate, the second liner of the flavortext hints that White should play optimally to “stay alive as long as possible”, just like in a standard chess problem. Standard Shogi promotion rules also apply, i.e. Black pieces can only promote when crossing into Rows A-E, or when capturing within Rows A-E. So the only valid promotion is employed by Black in move 3, from a Cat Sword into a Gold General to give check.

Dai Shogi Board Position
(using actual pieces)
Dai Shogi board grid (apologies it's an image)
Dai Shogi Board Position
(using English names and solution moves)
Dai Shogi board solution (apologies it's an image)

Here is the required Tsume Shogi solution:

Move Black (shown in red above) White (shown in blue above) Number of squares moved by Black piece Index into name of Black piece
1Ferocious Leopard – 10AKing – 8C1F
2Soaring Eagle – 6AKing – 7D5I
3Cat Sword – 8E + (promotes to Gold)Horned Falcon x ! (“Igui”) 8E1C
4Dragon King – 7FKing – 6D7K
5Flying Stag – 5EKing – 5C2L
6Evil Wolf – 4C1E

The theme of a large board Shogi variant, and the specific positions of the long-range pieces on the board, clues that the number of squares moved by each Black piece in the mating sequence is important. This is further hinted by the flavortext phrase “how far they have come”. Using these as indices into the names of the corresponding Black pieces extracts the answer for this puzzle: FICKLE (thematically, a common anthropomorphic characteristic of cats).

Note: Below are some alternative possible constant checks which do not result in mate in minimum number of moves.

Move 1 Alternatives
1Ferocious Leopard – 10CDrunk Elephant x 10C
2Violent Ox x 10C +Soaring Eagle x 10C
1Soaring Eagle x 9ACat Sword x 9A
1White Horse x 6EBlind Tiger x 6E
Move 2 Alternatives
2Ferocious Leopard – 9BKing x 9B
2White Horse x 6EBlind Tiger x 6E
Move 3 Alternatives
3Soaring Eagle x 6CAngry Boar x 6C
3Soaring Eagle – 5BCat Sword x 5B
3Dragon King x 8DDrunk Elephant x 8D
3Cat Sword – 8E =King – 7E
4Dragon King – 7FFerocious Leopard x 7F
3Cat Sword – 8E =King – 7E
4Flying Stag – 6FFerocious Leopard x 6F
5Dragon King – 7FKing – 6d
Move 4 Alternatives
4White Horse x 6EBlind Tiger x 6E
Move 5 Alternatives
5Dragon King x 8DDrunk Elephant x 8D
5Dragon King x 6EBlind Tiger x 6E
6White Horse x 6EKing x 6E
5Flying Stag x 5DFerocious Leopard x 5D
5White Horse x 6EBlind Tiger x 6E
6Flying Stag – 5CCat Sword x 5C
Move 6 Alternatives
6White Horse – 2FViolent Ox x 2F
6Evil Wolf – 4DBlind Tiger x 4D