Crossword setters have a sort of professional interest in pseudonyms, nom de plumes and aliases. They’re fairly good thematic material at the very least, while there are books and sites that tell you more about who lies behind a particular name. I have done puzzles where part of the endgame has been to reveal the actual pseudonym lurking behind the one presented – there’s a long-ago puzzle in the Crossword Club apparently by D, but which led to a hidden message outing me as Phi. They should be done sparingly – there’s a sort of ‘in-jokiness’ about them. However, I couldn’t resist the idea of hiding myself behind a fake nom de plume.
I have stumbled across the Alan Smithee pseudonym several times; not quite sure why. Nor why this latest time suddenly set off the idea of using the pseudonym as a fake pseudonym. It was clear that I could make a smallish grid out of the idea – always a good idea where space is limited! There again. 11 letters is a pain as it doesn’t break down into useful units for converting to words of any other length. The 3+3+3+2 I landed on still feels untidy.
The intent was to point people at the use of the pseudonym, purely as a curious piece of trivia – I’ve always reckoned one purpose of crosswords is to spread curious facts (certainly I’ve picked up lots of odd stuff from them). So I had to set up a reasonable mapping of ALANSMITHEE on to KCIT – fortunately my EV pseudonym is relatively short. I noted that each letter of KCIT could be an abbreviation for a four-letter word or prefix, and the structure of including entries where ALA, NSM, ITH, and EE were replaced were sequentially replaced by KILO, COLT, ISLE and TIME. I tried to ensure that all four letters of each of these were checked – didn’t quite make that, but the exception was more or less incontrovertible.
I looked around for a suitable example to use in the clues. It has to be said that most of Mr Smithee’s output seems to have originated from relatively minor directors, but there was Dennis Hopper in the middle of the list. And his film had a relatively short title CATCHFIRE – reissued under Hopper’s own name as an acknowledged ‘director’s cut’ under the title BACKTRACK (ah, they both have nine letters, is there anything I can do with…no, no, let’s not complicate things). Since the puzzle is all about names being erased from things, then deleted letters would suffice.
(Not having seen Mr Hopper’s opus, nor read the Wikipedia entry, I can only wonder what the plot might be that allows it to be called both Catchfire and Backtrack. At least he sidestepped Backfire.)
And that’s about it, really. I’m writing this in advance for once, and haven’t seen a great deal of feedback yet, but the couple of comments that have reached me have been positive. There seems to have been no problems with what struck me as a rather complex path from one name to the other. So one day I might use it again…