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Friday, May 13, 2016

The Anagram Times Q&A with reporter Josiah Winslow

From time to time we take you behind the scenes here at the world headquarters of The Anagram Times so you can meet reporters, correspondents, and editors who help us make sense of what's happening in the world.

Today we sit down for a Q&A with our youngest reporter, Josiah Winslow. He's a sophomore in high school, but don't let that fool you. Besides being a full-time reporter, he programs elite computer games. Not sure when he gets the time to do his homework, but we have never heard a complaint from his teachers. Perhaps they are simply afraid of his awesome powers of anagramming.

Q How did you get into anagrams?
A Back when I was about six or seven, I was given this book by my cousin: Never Odd or Even: Palindromes, Anagrams, and Other Tricks Words Can Do. Among other things, it included many examples of great classic anagrams, and I was extremely fascinated with them from then on out. I'm a sucker for a good wordplay game.

Q Do you remember the first anagram you made?
A The first one that I tried to make was of my own name, Josiah Winslow. My best result out of all of them was "I join law shows", which made it seem to me like I'd somehow end up on CSI: West Allis at some point. When I included my middle name, Ryan, I got "Joy! His raw son-in-law!"

Q Do you have a favorite anagram?
A I can't really say, it changes from day to day. I suppose I'm a fan of "Roast turkey? = Try our steak", or perhaps "He's a legend in his own mind = Neil Diamond, when he sings". Short anagrams also have a special place in my heart, and I rather like the apt example "Alive = La vie".

Q How do you pick a news headline to anagram?
A Sometimes I go out of my way to search for recent news articles with interesting topics, but many of my eventual picks are found on the Google News homepage. I look for headlines with interesting topics, like science and entertainment. However, if there's any huge current-events topic (like Prince's death or the 2016 election) that people are talking about, I just have to give it an anagram treatment at least once.

Q How do you make anagrams? Manually, software, a combination, etc.?
A I usually use a combination of Anagram Artist and Anagram Genius. I start with Anagram Artist, and I try and make anagrams with keywords I see in the letters. If I have some good ones after that, that's where it ends, although I usually also try and see if Anagram Genius spits something interesting out. In fact, my recent story "The White House Correspondent's Dinner = The President, our chosen winner, hosted" was made using Anagram Genius, giving it the compulsory keyword "President".

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 hand.
A I wish I could say a giant trumpet fanfare would play around me, and then confetti would drop onto my head while I'm running all over the place screaming "Woooo!" But I don't have the allowance to pay for that. So usually, I silently celebrate to myself, show my mom, and then post it on the Internet (here, if it's a news story).

Q Approximately how long do you spend on an anagram?
A It really depends on how well the letters want to fit together. I could have a 60+ letter anagram and have it take a couple minutes (like with "Obama approves sending up to four hundred and fifty more US troops to Iraq = President's for moving a thousand equipped army troops out abroad for fun."), or I could have a 10- or 12-letter anagram take over an hour (like with "Prince is dead = I ascended. RIP."). It all depends on whether the letters cooperate with me.

Q What do you do in your non-anagram life?
A When I'm not working at school, I like to sing and dance to Michael Jackson songs. I'd like to say I'm pretty good. As well, mathematics is an interesting subject that I like to explore in my free time. Finally, I like to program games and learning tools on my TI-84+ calculator. I'm a member of CodeWalrus, and I'm currently an Elite Coder. My latest project is This Is The Only Level, the hardest one-level game you'll ever play, so if you're reading this, check it out!

Q Some people use anagrams for divination. Do you think there's a mystical angle to anagrams?
A There may be, but just a bit. Some anagrams are freaky predictions of events or names, like "The Russian Revolution = The over-ruinous Stalin" or "Nessiteras rhombopteryx = Monster hoax by Sir Peter S.!", so perhaps there's something to those. Some anagrams can really be random, however, like "Meg Ryan = Germany", so I'm not sure if there's a total mystical element to anagrams in general. I'll believe it once I either get cast in Law and Order: SVU or get a son-in-law.

Q Anything else you'd like to add?
A I am a devout Tau-ist. As well, even though I'm not old enough to vote yet, I can assure you there's one person I would NOT be voting for in 2016. If you've seen my recent stories, you know who exactly that person is.

Selected anagrams from Josiah Winslow: