Wordsmith.org : the magic of words

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Anagram Times Q&A with Julian Lofts

He has turned an anal skin tag into a nipple, so turning a news headline into an anagram is something he can probably do in his sleep. Meet The Anagram Times' New Zealand reporter, Julian Lofts, who works as a plastic surgeon in his spare time.

There are many twins. There are many anagrammers. But there is probably only one set of identical twin brothers in this world who are also master anagrammers. We recently had a Q&A with Jason Lofts. Now it's the turn of his twin brother Julian Lofts.

Q How did you get into anagrams?
A My twin brother Jason and I were brought up from an early age to love words. We played Scrabble and did cryptic crosswords. Roget's thesaurus was an extremely well-worn book in our library. We liked puns and palindromes, acrostics and acronyms. My contributions to The Anagram Times were sparked by my brother's apparent obsession with wordplay. Initially I thought it was a side effect of his medication but then I realized it must be an inheritable trait that we both share. It has brought us closer together as he lives in Switzerland and I in Auckland, New Zealand and we haven't been good at communicating with each other until a few months ago.

Q Do you remember the first anagram you made?
A I created a cryptic crossword for the Otago medical school students' magazine in the late 1970s -- can't remember the wording of the clue but Psychotherapist somehow became Psycho the Rapist. Certainly not original, I'm sure. Then there was this huge gap until 1st June 2013 when I helped my twin brother Jason create anagrams for this headline: Oscar Pistorius heartbroken, uncle says. My contribution was: Think care - nauseous Boers carry pistols. From then on I have been hooked. My alter ego/alias on the Anagrammy Forum is "Snafu I'll Jot". If I include my middle name Argus the best anagram is Lost sinful jaguar.

Elvis ~ lives Q Do you have a favorite anagram?
A I love the simplicity and profundity of: Elvis ~ lives.

Q How do you pick a news headline to anagram?
A I will sometimes see a bizarre headline while reading the morning paper but often I will scour the weird news on the Huffington Post site. I look for obscure, funny, polarizing headlines that pose more questions than answers. I'm looking for the back story.

Q Describe the moment when you are working on anagramming a phrase and the last few letters just fall into place and you realize that you have an outstanding anagram on your hands.
A It's an exultant event, extremely satisfying like those sports replays you see on TV. I will often yell out loud and punch the air. Haven't quite mastered the Rafael Nadal "starting the chainsaw" maneuver.

Pet anagram = a pentagram Q Some people use anagrams for divination. Do you think there's a mystical angle to anagrams?
A I never cease to be amazed by the so-called hidden messages that anagrams divulge, seemingly by virtue of me putting pen to paper. I keep meaning to look for the real truth within horoscopes.

Q What do you do in your non-anagram life? Do you see any parallels in what you do and in anagramming?
A I'm a plastic and reconstructive plastic surgeon in real life and this involves some amazing morphing techniques. The Greek word plastikos means to mold. I make breasts from abdominal fat or back muscle. I also restore faces after accidents or rejuvenate the aged ones. I once reconstructed a nipple from an anal skin tag! Still haven't quite worked out how to give up my day job just yet.
In my spare time I am learning how to play jazz trumpet. You would be horrified at how useless I am at improvisation (musical version of anagramming). One day I hope to run a jazz club like Haruki Murakami did before he became a famous novelist.

Q Approximately how long do you spend on an anagram?
A Generally 1-2 hours so I can often complete two headlines in one evening, depending on how much tequila or red wine I have consumed. I sometimes rely on the power of the subconscious and go to sleep stuck on a problem only to have worked it out when I wake up.

Q Anything else you'd like to add?
A I find the anagram checker and advanced anagramming programs on Wordsmith.org invaluable. Can't do without my iPhone and mini iPad either. I am very grateful to you, Anu, for the opportunity and encouragement to be a 'gramsmith. As my brother Jason said recently, we both enjoy "shooting out the lights and trashing the bar at The Anagram Times saloon."

Selected anagrams from Julian Lofts: