My first BBC Music Magazine puzzle (the sixtieth in the series) appeared in September 1997, and I’ve been doing them nearly every month ever since, which means I passed my 200th puzzle in the Christmas 2013 edition. If the maths for that looks a bit off, remember that the magazine appears every four weeks, rather than strictly monthly (that generally has meant either an additional Proms issue or a Christmas special), while also accounting for one-off events like a late-arriving advertisement forcing the disappearance of the crossword (which generated an appreciable – and gratifying – postbag of complaint).
As I think I’ve noted elsewhere, some topics lend themselves readily to thematic treatment because of a wide vocabulary and a deep penetration into the broader culture. Music is one such topic – daily crosswords already frequently use p and f in their clues, and words like ‘playing’ lend themselves to anagram indicators. There are lots of musical or sound-related idioms in common usage: ‘turn a deaf ear’, ‘bells and whistles’ and so on. Add to that the weird and wonderful terminology of music (who would have thought that a ‘frog’ was part of a violin bow?), then throw in ballet, and it becomes probable that you could construct a set of clues full of musical references, even if there was no overtly ‘musical’ word in the grid.
That’s not how I do it, of course. The grid’s first entry is often what I’ve just been listening to, and around that I’ll build first the longer entries, and the rest of the grid, striving to keep them musical in some way. When no obviously musical word presents itself, I’ll assess the available options to see whether they have p or f or one or more of SATB, and so on. There’s usually at least one word with no apparent saving graces of this kind, the clue to which just needs cudgelling into shape somehow.
My gratitude to the Oliver Condy and the editorial team at BBC Music Magazine for permission to reproduce the occasional crossword. The puzzle does not appear on the website, but the site does have a lot of blogs and news on classical music, with selected articles and reviews of recent discs from the magazine itself. It’s also one magazine where the paper copy remains a good bet for a subscription, as you get a CD of complete works with each issue. (The January 2013 issue, which dropped into the mailbox the day before writing this, comes with a CD of Britten’s War Requiem, for example. The February issue will have Mozart concerti.)
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