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Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Anagram Times Q&A: Tony Crafter

Tony Crafter is an alchemist of songs. He transmutes songs from Beatles, from Abba, folk songs, and more ... into songagrams that often offer a commentary on present times. His creations are works of art, they are songs that you can sing to the original tune. We sat down for a virtual chat with Crafter to talk about his craft:

Q How did you get into anagrams?
A I've always been a lover of words and, when I was 30-ish, I read a newspaper article about people who regularly won prizes of exotic holidays, cash, goods etc by writing snappy slogans for consumer competitions. Being married with 2 young daughters, and a not terribly well paid job, this seemed the only way of possibly getting a decent holiday. It took two years and scores of entries, but finally I won a family holiday in Florida, and others followed. Then, one day, I entered a competition that required you to write an anagram (rather than a slogan) about holidays. After that, I was hooked on anagrams.

Q Do you remember the first anagram you made?
A The first anagram I made was the one that won the aforementioned competition. It was:

















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Two-piece bathing costumes = We spot cute mini beach togs!


Q Do you have a favorite anagram?
A My favourite has to be the anagrammed poem of Kipling's Mandalay. I've always loved 'Mandalay' and I'd had ambitions to anagram it for some time but, with 1931 letters to contend with, it seemed far too daunting! When I eventually started, I didn't even know where I intended to go with it but, as frequently happens with creative writing, it just seemed to write itself and I'm quite proud of the outcome.

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 I think I'm still waiting for my first outstanding anagram! Some of the shorter anagrams, like: 'The beaches of Normandy = Death on some French bay' come fairly quickly and seem as though they were just waiting to be discovered.

















You must turn on Java or have a Java-enabled browser such as Firefox to be able to see this Java applet.

When I'm working with something like 'Mandalay' (or any long anagram) I start by creating my own alternative piece without even considering the anagram aspect. With poems and songs, I try to keep the same structure, meter and rhyming pattern as the original. Afterwards, I run it through an anagram checker to see how the letters match up. Then comes the really meaty and time-consuming bit, of tweaking, twisting, juggling and rewriting until you finally get that longed-for exact letter match. When this happens, I tend to shout 'Hooray!', punch the air, then have a stiff drink.

Q Your specialty is songagrams. What turned you into turning whole songs into anagrams?
A When I was introduced to the anagrammy.com website five years ago, it was like taking a quantum leap in anagramming. I'd only ever done short 'grams, but people on this site were anagramming Shakespeare's sonnets and some were 'gramming the odd song as well. Being a lover of music, I thought I'd have a crack at a songagram. My first effort was an appallingly disjointed version of Elton John's 'Nikita'. But the more I did, the easier they got and the better I became and now I love doing them. The only problem when working with a songagram is that the song gets into my head and I find myself humming it continuously. For this reason, my wife dreads me doing them!

Q Some people use anagrams for divination. Do you think there's a mystical angle to anagrams?
A No, I don't think there's anything mystical or prophetic about anagrams, although it may seem so at times.

Q What do you do in your non-anagram life?
A I live in Sevenoaks, Kent in England. I'm a retired banker, with a wife and two grown-up daughters. I also love short-story and poetry writing as well as anagrams, and I swim several times a week too keep the body active as well as the mind!

Q Approximately how long do you spend on an anagram?
A The shorter anagrams take a few minutes. An average songagram probably takes about 6-8 hours, depending on its length.

Q Anything else you'd like to add?
A Never mind the Sudoku and the crosswords, there's no finer way of keeping the brain active than anagramming. One warning though -- it's addictive!

Some of Tony Crafter's recent anagrams for The Anagram Times:
Diversity Beat Boyle To Win Britain's Got Talent
Jacqui Smith resigns as home secretary
Have questions, comments, or suggestions? Post them below. Also see Q&A with more anagrammers: Jeffrey Barnes, Dharam Khalsa, Adie Pena, Mark Spurlock