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Puzzle Points - Anagrams

The Challege of the Diagramless

The New Music Connoisseur is published by Barry Cohen under the auspices of the Composers Concordance.

E-mail any technical questions about the website to: webmaster@newmusicon.org and any general questions about the publication to Barry Cohen.



Welcome to this uniquely new feature on our web site. We think there is and has always been a bona fide connection between the arts of enigmatology and music; we tried to demonstrate that recently in NMC (i.e., our h-zine*) when we asked readers if they could identify five compositions in which a puzzle or some sort of puzzle-like design was built into a piece of music. No doubt, the greatest example that comes to mind is Sir Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, which incorporates a mystery that, according to musicologists, has never been solved. The conventional wisdom is that the composer either took the secret with him to his grave or simply planted a mischievous joke upon his followers. While that idea involved the identification of a particular theme within the larger framework, composers have used other clever devices in their works: palindromes (Hindemith's Hin und zuruck), anagrams, cryptograms, jigsaw puzzles, words spoken by the performers (in pieces that Jon Deak, NY Phil bass player, has been composing with great relish), as well as structural devices, such as Harold Blumenfeld's opera Seasons in Hell, in which he rearranged the sequence of time progressions in similar ways to the playwright Pinter and the filmmaker Resnais. Some of these devices are, indeed, theatrical, and opera is the perfect medium for such "experimentation."

Note our use of the term enigmatology; it is an accepted field of study now, though New York Times editor Will Shortz is quite possibly the only practicing enigmatologist with a degree in the subject (Indiana U., where he was allowed to design his own course of study). But since he makes an adequate living by serving a number of publications with his masterly knowledge of the field, we cannot refer to him as a fringe practitioner or intellectual dabbler; there is a market for his services. The executives at the New York Times must certainly be fully aware that a good percentage of their readership is magnetized by the Sunday Times' puzzle page as well as its daily crosswords.

The standard crossword puzzle is still the most popular form of puzzle because it does not require a lot of reorientation of one's brain to solve. You get a clue, know how many letters are involved and, as you progress, more and more hints come your way. But Will Shortz has made them more challenging by using tricky wording and puns (e.g., A moving experience = HOME SALE). Also his thematic ideas have leaned toward sophisticated word play vis-a-vis straightforward knowledge, as for example, a very recent large puzzle by the clever Manny Nosowsky entitled "You will be missed." When interpreted phonetically it is the letter "U" that is missed, and, indeed, there was not a single U in the puzzle, the point made emphatic by the longer word answers like SCOTMASTER, MAIDEN ANTS and COLD WATER FACETS.


To entertain our readers we have laced our puzzles with musical ideas as much as possible. We began that premise as far back as 1994. For the Late Summer issue (Vol. 2, #3) we printed ten anagrammatic posers which we repeat below. The challenge of anagrams (ars magna) is to explore the possibility of inventing two parallel anagrams, one of which offers a clue to the solution of the other, as opposed to the not very clever version of the art you see in the tabloid papers under names like Jumble and Scramble in which letters are reformatted helter skelter. But when you come across highly thought out posers, what more inspiring an idea could there be than the phrase, "Ja, he canons in Sabbath" for Johann Sebastian Bach.

Solve all 10 here (with clues given) and you can claim 3 CDs from the collection of Jeff James. Sorry, Leonard and Eric, you guys are not eligible as you were the two previous solvers. Unlike our mag rules, your answers may be submitted to our e-address: publisher@newmusicon.org.

1. Ich hat Anna, sons, ebb - ja! (composer: 6,9,4)
2. Big wheel, vaunted no. V - (composer: 6,3,9)
3. O, I put art in a vocal - (tenor: 7,9)
4. It's dancers pump, reel - (ballet, Fr.: 2,5,2,9)
5. I'm Mr. Bach's cue - (major category: 7,5)
6. Lo, Viotti concern, eh? (form: 3,6,8)
7. One art o' Chopin, etc. (form: 3,5,8)
8. O, Brit-sung livened patter, la la. (popular stage fare: 7,3,8,8)
9. O, alto, tenor pose, ham it up here. (venue: 3,12,5,5)
10. He's most nice 'n curious. (publication now renamed: 3,5,11)

* h-zine, as opposed to e-zine, i.e., hard copy mag or handheld mag.