Enigmatic Variations 1466
All That by Poat
KANDER AND EBB anagrams as BREAK AND BEND; their musicals CABARET, CHICAGO, CURTAINS and THE VISIT appear jumbled and bent. The empty cell holds Z to complete ALL THAT JAZZ.
Seasonal greetings to everyone from a summery Melbourne, Australia. This puzzle wasn’t intended as a Christmas tie-in, but I hope its theme provided some gently frivolous entertainment. As it happens there was one clue referring to Santa in the original draft, but that was flagged for replacement by the wise and skilful editor.
I usually have a few puzzles, or at least some half-baked ideas, on the go, but had a bit of a hiatus. There was one particularly intractable concept that I finally knocked into shape early in 2020 (maybe prompted by the strict but effective lockdown here), then suddenly there was a flurry of three others including All That. I enjoy the occasional outing to musicals, and my partner had suggested using that as a theme somehow. Doodling with some names produced the neat anagram here – SONDHEIM and HEDONISM is also available but too hackneyed – so I started the research. I didn’t know the pair had composed the classic song New York, New York, though it makes sense in terms of style, but here I focused on their best-known musicals. Kiss of the Spider Woman is worth a listen (we saw a good production here in 2019), but choosing the shorter names gave me the bones of a grid fairly quickly. Then in one of those serendipitous moments I noticed the letters J-A-?-Z sloping upwards, and with some other minor grid edits, decided to chop an 8-letter answer into two segments to allow a blank cell.
The only major hiccup was that the EV editor came up with a different solution…he had seen an alternative jumble around the same cell, spelling out LIZA’S BACK. That album from 2002 featured a few Kander and Ebb songs including the title track, but was an unintentional coincidence (rather than a red herring on this occasion). My ideal puzzle form would involve normal clues, way-out vocabulary and no need for highlighting, but here we had to get round the ambiguity by rewording the preamble and specifying how many cells were involved.
Not much more to say, other than thanks for the feedback – always interesting to see how one’s puzzle offerings go down.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.