Sometimes you don’t realise that two ideas are actually the same idea, coming at you from different directions.
The Mondrian anagrams I have had ‘on file’ for some time, and I have done a puzzle where the top and bottom rows are anagrams of each other. What was holding me up was how to get the squared pattern to work. Mondrian’s paintings are generally more complex than the final grid here, and I was perhaps too obsessed with trying to mimic them more closely.
And then I was pondering a puzzle in another newspaper where the clues were in alphabetical order with answers being fitted in where they will go. These can entail an awful lot of cold solving and I was looking for a way to cut this down a bit. Perhaps if only certain parts of the grid were subject to the alphabetical arrangement…? Just certain subsections, for instance?
And then it dawned on me that these two ideas could be made to mesh.
So I sketched out some juxtapositions and found that squares of 3×3, 4×4 and 5×5 could fit together in the standard 12×12 grid. Colouring could be by some sort of labelling – annoyingly RED, BLUE and YELLOW were 3, 4 and 6, but breaking the 6 into two lots of 3 would allow some degree of centrality, and the Pythagorean reminiscence of (3,4,5) was strong. Also, of course, I was still thinking of 12-letter anagrams top and bottom. Finally, with (3,4,5), it was easy to ensure no entry encroached into two coloured squares. So YEL/LOW it was.
The grid had sufficiently unconstrained content that it could be the standard Azed type. After the relatively tedious part of arranging the relevant words into alphabetical order, and then checking they were in alphabetical order, I settled down to write the first clue to Square 1, and blow me if DUST-WRAPPER wasn’t in Chambers (which has DUST-JACKET instead). I’d put it in without a second thought! Only goes to show that you can’t always rely on any dictionary to contain words you think are common.
The original intent was to have the grid presented in something closer to grayscale so that the thick bars added at the last stage stood out more clearly. I also had something in the initial preamble about added bars spanning the full grid, but took that out lest it gave too much away. However, that opened up the possibility of alternative solutions, and certainly Mondrian did not always have his black lines crossing the full extent of the canvas. I was pretty certain he always started from one border or another, but even that’s not the case. There are even some examples where small coloured areas do not have lines on all sides.
I spent some time hoping to find an example Mondrian with exactly one each of a red, yellow and blue block, but no joy. Once the puzzle had been published, however, a fellow-setter sent me an example from Tate Modern, namely Composition C (No. III) with Red, Yellow and Blue of 1935, which turns out to be copyright restricted and if the Tate can’t put it up on their site , then neither should I. I’m sure the Tate shop has the appropriate permissions, though, so I can direct you here.
I should also include a snap of a local employment bureau which I see from the train every morning:
No, no yellow, not even behind the ‘To Lease’ sign on the other half of the building.
In submitting the puzzle, I originally noted that the 75th anniversary of Mondrian’s death falls in 2019, and on a Saturday to boot. We decided to go ahead more immediately – but I subsequently noticed that 2017 is at least the centenary of De Stijl, and there are exhibition details here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.