Wordsmith.org : the magic of words

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Anagram Times Q&A with our India Bureau Chief Madhu Rao

From time to time we take you behind the scenes at The Anagram Times. Today we sat down with our India bureau chief Madhusudan Hanumantha Rao. He goes by Madhu and is based in Chennai. When he is not reporting for us, (in his spare time) he dabbles in IT. We believe it's an international law -- if you're an Indian and speak English you have to work in IT, software, or a related field.

Q How did you get into anagrams?
A In the early 90s, an article about tips on solving crosswords that appeared in The Hindu, a prominent Indian daily inspired me to solve cryptic crosswords. Since anagrams are central to solving cryptic crosswords, it unlocked my fascination towards anagrams. Ever since, I have obtained thrill and joy in discovering them, wherever possible. I have attempted to narrate my love with crosswords here.

Q Do you remember the first anagram you made?
A I am finding it challenging to stretch my memory to the first anagram. The first cryptic crossword I set was for an event in college and I remember it was heavily loaded with anagrams.

Q Do you have a favorite anagram?
A One of my favorites is "Sachin Tendulkar = And I lack the runs" for its sheer irony :-). For people not familiar with cricket, Sachin is the most prolific run scorer in the game of cricket, widely followed in India. Other favorites include "Astronomer = Moonstarer" and "Internet Anagram Server = I, rearrangement servant".

Q How do you pick a news headline to anagram?
A I browse Google News and pick headlines which I think has maximum anagram potential -- those with an even scattering of key vowels & consonants, that are neither too short not too long, don't have difficult letters such as Q, J, X, etc. and have obvious eye catchers. As an example of the last, one can clearly discern that "Angela Merkel" needs one more letter from another word to make "Germany". I pick headlines that satisfy these criteria but not all of them necessarily end up as good anagrams.

Q How do you make anagrams? Manually, software, a combination, etc.?
A I use the Internet Anagram Server widely to make anagrams, after I have culled out the keywords out of the headline manually. If I do not identify such key words, then I abandon the headline and move to another.

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 The last few letters usually tend to be less than perfect fit to the other key words in the anagram. For this reason, the thrill is maximum in the midst of cracking an anagram. On rare occasions, the last word(s) site perfectly as was the case with "Are you stressed? Probiotics can help = Super bacteria cools thy depression!". The word "thy" was the last to come out and it was quite satisfying to get a word that gave an imperative tone to the statement.

Q Approximately how long do you spend on an anagram?
A On an average, I spend 30-45 minutes on an anagram. Based on my experience, I don't necessarily get good anagrams if I spend more time.

Q What do you do in your non-anagram life?
A Hiking is one of my favorite weekend pastimes, when I am in the US. I have spent quality time hiking in the mountains of the West Coast, especially the Pacific Northwest and several other National Parks across the US. Stargazing has been an interest from childhood and I have had the pleasure of carrying my Orion 6" to Grand Canyon and Death Valley to observe the sky from one of the best viewing spots in the world. I love solving cryptic crosswords and dabble myself into blogging once in a while. I have great passion for Vedic Astrology and the Sanskrit language. I read books on Cold war espionage, Eastern spirituality (to state a few genres), cooking, and travelling on pilgrimage. In general, I love to travel and keep learning from the experiences offered by life.

Q Some people use anagrams for divination. Do you think there's a mystical angle to anagrams?
A Seeing anagrams such as "Mother-in-law = Woman Hitler", it is hard to believe anagrams don't have a deep meaning embedded inside them :-). More seriously, I "believe" that some words do abstract the higher meaning and truth that is not immediately perceptible by our intellect. Only by continuously immersing into this word soup, one might discover their higher meaning.

Q Anything else you'd like to add?
A I would like to congratulate and thank Anu Garg for his excellent work in spreading the beauty of English language. I have used his resources extensively and successfully and wish him all the very best in taking his passion forward to great heights.

Selected anagrams from Madhu Rao: