Robert E Boot: A Tribute to Oberto

Solvers will be sad to learn of the passing of Robert Boot, super-solver and grid designer, Oberto. Robert has been a member of our 3D Crossword Community since the early days. I wrote to Robert’s wife, Kit, who asked if I would record that tribute for use in the funeral held at Mortlake Crematorium, Kew Meadow, Richmond, on Wednesday 15th September 2021, and streamed across the globe to far-flung family and friends.

Kit and Robert Boot
Kit and Robert Boot, aka Oberto

Transcript of letter sent to Kit and recording thereof sent to Kit Boot as requested by her for use in the funeral.

Dear Kit,

I am grateful to Nora for copying me in to the sad news of Robert’s passing. I wanted to tell you that we share some sense of that huge loss and are thinking of you. I also wanted to tell you of our very considerable regard for one of the amazing stalwarts of our 3D Crossword community right from the early days, not to mention our appreciation of Robert’s, or should I say Oberto’s, many contributions to our development.

I am also aware, in a small way, of the loving support you have given, particularly in recent years, to enable Robert to stay in touch with this slightly bonkers puzzling project and raise funds for youngsters in need.

Robert was kind and thoughtful in commenting on the puzzles as we ventured into the newly created 3D world. Solver feedback was and remains crucially important in the development of the genre and the community it formed. It was wonderful to have such a super-solver with us. And one who stays with us still as a grid designer in the archive and so part of the nebulous slightly wacky spirit that is diffuse amongst the puzzles.

It was a pleasure to meet you two for the first time in Coventry and then a couple of years later in Winchester at award presentation lunches. I could then imagine the quiet intelligence and impish wit with which Robert E Boot went about Three Dimensional Crossword solving, with perhaps a ghost of a smile at the occasional penny-dropping clue and a sapient, satisfied blink of the eyes. I could also see a creative craftiness with which he designed a series of captivating grids for our setters to clue and our solvers to relish in the solving. How wonderful to see such talent grow and come to fruition in an ascending series including 2013 OCT TYRUS on Verdi, 2014 JUN COLUMBA on R Strauss, 2015 DEC PUCK on Sinatra, and then my favourite 2016 FEB ARACHNE on Kenneth Williams and Carry On films. And so on through 2017 NOV ANAX on The Sorceror, and then my memory becomes hazy but includes The Cheltenham Gold Cup!! I sense an influence there Kit!

I will have said along the way ‘Oberto just gets better and better’.

I am most incredibly grateful to Robert, and I suspect yourself, for all those hours upon hours of research and then fiddling and twiddling the words together to accommodate the theme in a 3D grid, until finally completing it with great satisfaction to be lived again when solvers gave their feedback after the puzzle. I know Robert worked on all the feedback as his grids grew and grew in stature.

Oberto featured in more than one photo-finish in The World Championships with nothing more than a hairs breadth between him and the declared winner but he will always be a 3D world champion to me.

Oberto’s tie-break clue, acknowledged by all the contenders is world class in any company.

‘Comic actor fiddles while man tinkles’ (7,8)

On the face of it , it seems to show a chap on the violin and another playing the piano. No pursed lips there. No sensibilities outraged. Perfectly respectable.

But then this is a clue in a grid with a Kenneth Williams and Carry On theme with all those risqué double entendres! What a wonderful clue and one of my all-time favourites – thematic in its solution of the KW theme, and thematic in the way it is solved. The surface has the double entendre.

How wonderful and what a pleasure and privilege it has been to have walked through this wondrously puzzling 3D world of surprises for some of the way with you.

Thank you so much, Robert and Kit.

Best wishes,
Eric Westbrook
Le President
BBC CiNA 3D Crosswords
Registered Blnd RNIB Member and Volunteer Public Speaker

Oberto would like you to take the letters of WHILE MAN TINKLES and fiffle with them until you get the name of someone.

And of course that name is KENNETH WILLIAMS!

Audio recording
Listen to Eric read his letter to Kit

2 thoughts on “Robert E Boot: A Tribute to Oberto

  1. What a wonderful clue! I didn’t know Oberto’s work, but he is clearly a giant with great footsteps to follow. I shall look up those puzzles.
    I am very sorry for your loss, Kit: I hope that gradually pride in his memory will have become stronger than the bereavement.
    Alan – Komorník, novice setter

  2. I am so sad to hear of Robert’s passing. I worked (and played) with him at the BBC in London for several years, together with Peter, the third Musketeer of our lunchtime trio, who also passed on many years ago. It transpired that the two of us had done vacation work at Butlins in Skegness in the summer of 1965 and had communicated frequently by phone in the course of our duties but never knowingly met face to face. My belated condolences to Kit.

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