Flanders and Swann were at their peak popularity when I was about five, so my interest in them doesn’t stem from seeing them live. My father loved them, and I also suspect that some of their songs turned up on children’s radio (Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart, anyone?)
Later they were somehow just there as part of the cultural background, and I picked up on some of the more adult songs. Have Some Madeira, M’dear had a last couplet that might have been relished by kids for its surprise value but was far too risqué. And there was the strange melancholy of Slow Train (I’ve already done a puzzle on that, and a blog), or the odd anti-litter message of Bedstead Men (though it’s the stunningly appropriate rhyme in that one that always gets me). I have a fondness for The Armadillo which sets off as a comic song and then, rather suddenly, isn’t.
It felt like they should be about one hundred years old, and when I checked a couple of years ago, sure enough: Michael Flanders born 1 March, 1922. (Swann’s centenary is next year.)
That 1 March instantly suggested a monthly publication, and I didn’t have anything on the workbench for The Magpie (and The Magpie has a bit of a track record in Flanders and Swann). The great thing about celebrating songwriters is that their titles immediately offer you a store of words. And FLANDERS, with eight letters, sprawls nicely across a 12×12 without threatening too much restriction. (MICHAEL FLANDERS fits across – or down – a daily 15×15 if anyone wants to start planning for the bicentenary.)
So I lined up FLANDERS alongside the song titles, with a view to having pile-ups of letters in individual cells, with the missing letter contributing to the surname. That provided some surprising limitations – I wanted to use the more familiar titular words, and that cut down the options. It struck me that expecting solvers to spot links between ‘anagrams – 1’, even with the additional definitions, might be a bit much, so I dropped SWANSONGS into the mix.
No, I don’t have a puzzle ready for Swann’s centenary.
Well, not yet.