I never intended to blog much about daily blocked crosswords – not that there isn’t a good deal you could say about them, but they come along too frequently to do them justice. Every so often one will make an appearance here though, and Independent 8421 is a case in point.
In opera, 2013 has been the year of the Wagner and Verdi bicentenaries. I mentioned early on to the Independent crossword editor that having a setter called Klingsor (Alberich elsewhere) might help in allocating the Wagner one. What I hadn’t expected was the absolute gem of a puzzle that Klingsor produced, with each clue having a Wagnerian reference that nonetheless didn’t require you to know anything about Wagner to solve it. The rather awed fifteensquared blog is here. Klingsor’s website is here, though as far as I could see, he hasn’t put the puzzle up there.
By the time that puzzle appeared, I’d agreed to take on Verdi. I enjoy a lot of Verdi, but without approaching Amici di Verdi status, so I wasn’t going to attempt anything like Klingsor’s puzzle. As I thought about my presentation of the theme, it occurred to me that, although reasonably well-known, Verdi wasn’t quite the cultural icon that Wagner was, so something along the lines of thematic clues probably would misfire anyway. In the end I settled on Verdi’s links with Shakespeare as a way of capturing the theme approachably. The grid that arrived also allowed me a few further references to both creators. It was probably something of a doddle for those expecting a Verdian theme, and who knew something about the composer, but I don’t imagine that was so many.
There remained the question of a pseudonym. I was moving away from my Friday/Phiday spot, so it seemed reasonable to adopt a temporary persona, and I did feel that if Wagner could have Klingsor, Verdi ought to have one of his characters. In my Verdi puzzle for October’s BBC Music Magazine, I’d included the title of an aria from Don Carlos one of whose singers was the Marquis de Posa. This was close enough to ‘poser’ (from which you can derive multiple interpretations, I’m sure), so he had his day in the sun.
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