February 21, 2006

To get what you wish

Dean has been working on a book about crosswords, and recently he interviewed Stephen Sondheim for it. Now, if you don't know why it makes sense to interview Sondheim for a book about crosswords, I shall explain -- you see, Sondheim used to construct cryptic crosswords for New York magazine, and I believe he was basically the guy who popularized British-style crosswords here in the U.S. His puzzles were collected in a book -- which is now out of print, but which I own. Dean wanted a copy of the book to refer to in the interview, so I lent him mine (after not being able to find it for ages, which caused me a certain amount of agita).

Anyway, I asked Dean if he'd mind trying to finagle me an autograph, if Sondheim was amenable to the idea. You can see the result for yourself:


Too fab. A nice capper to an already-good week.

Posted by Francis at 12:15 AM

Neat! Did Sondheim know that you were a fellow composer/puzzler, or did Dean have to tell him?

Posted by: Ellen at February 21, 2006 12:47 AM

Oh, here's the topper, which I forgot to tell you: he recognized your name.

Posted by: DO at February 21, 2006 08:29 AM

Whoa! Even better! He'd seen me in Games magazine, probably?

Posted by: Francis at February 21, 2006 08:49 AM


That is awesome!

(sorry, just a little fan girl squeeing)

Posted by: michelle at February 21, 2006 08:53 AM

Well, of COURSE he recognized your name *grin*. So here's a new puzzle: does he not self-identify as a composer/lyricist/puzzlist? Was he just saving space by omitting the word "lyricist?" Or is he indicating that "lyricist" is synonymous with "puzzlist?" And if so, why would he be reticent about drawing a connection between musical theatre writing and crosswords? "Why look for answers where none occur?"

Posted by: Lorinne at February 21, 2006 10:14 AM

That made me all tingly....

Posted by: Mona Buonanotte at February 21, 2006 11:12 AM

And to think I knew you when...

(Although, technically, I've never met you.)

Posted by: Orange at February 21, 2006 11:24 AM

wow. *drool*

Posted by: Rob at February 21, 2006 02:41 PM

What a great acquisition! I'm jealous!

Posted by: Todd at February 21, 2006 03:01 PM

Now that Sondheim's in your posse, maybe he'd be amenable to settting Holy Tango to music.

Couldn't hurt to ask.

Posted by: Rich at February 21, 2006 03:26 PM

That is SO cool!

Posted by: saphir at February 21, 2006 03:49 PM


Now you just need to get a collection of Richard Maltby puzzles signed (or maybe your script of "Baby" or "Song and Dance") and you've got what's probably the complete collection of Tony-winning cryptic composers!

Posted by: Lance at February 21, 2006 04:02 PM

Lorinne: Maybe he ommitted "lyricist" because he doesn't consider Francis one!

Posted by: Matthew Sachs at February 22, 2006 02:30 PM

Well, that would show he knows my work well enough to dislike it, which would be interesting in its own way. But it seems more likely that I simply have to kill you now, Matthew.

Posted by: Francis at February 22, 2006 02:49 PM

Yay Francis!

Is this a safe space to admit I have never listened to any Sondheim? Where does one start?

(I assume not with the puzzles.)

Posted by: Erin at February 22, 2006 06:46 PM

I believe Matthew's comment was addressed to ME...show some decorum, Francis! Hmm...A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Decorum...

Erin-no Sondheim at all? *raises eyebrows disbelievingly* I suggest you rent or borrow the DVDs of "Sweeney Todd" or "Into The Woods" (the original 1982 or 1987 videos), or, for a softer start, the movie "Dick Tracy"...he wrote some lovely songs that were only slightly mangled by Madonna.

I just realized that I could TOTALLY teach a Sondheim course. *happy dance*

Posted by: Lorinne at February 23, 2006 09:10 AM

Well done, Francis!

Hmm. Perhaps that's too much of a compliment to you. I mean, Stephen Sondheim is a reliable cryptic puzzle-friendly star, given his excellent past efforts. But, I admit, receiving a personalized autograph from one of -- no, THE -- best lyricist and composer of our generation really, truly, rocks.

All right, I'm going to give up pretending I'm not starstruck. Francis! You got an autograph from Stephen Sondheim! I am so envious that I am greener than a pine tree! If I might say the word: Urrrrgh!

You rock. You so rock. You so, so rock. (Iterate.)

Posted by: Atom at February 24, 2006 11:53 AM

Oh, and lest I forget: OMG! OMG! OMG!

Posted by: Atom at February 24, 2006 11:55 AM

I'm a little late to the party; oops! I was just invited by Orange due to a comment I made on my blog. The comment was about feeling like Sondheim because my life seems to be centering around music and crosswords lately. Would that I might one day write a tune or craft a lyric as exquisite as "Johanna" or "Barcelona"! Congrats on the signing, even at this late a date.

Posted by: Patrick at April 18, 2006 07:16 PM

Actually, I've been looking for a copy of the
Sondheim puzzle book, to give as a gift, for my partner who is both a Sondheim and cryptic crossword fan. I know you would not be interested in giving up your copy, but if you know where I could buy a copy I would be forever grateful. It doesn't have to be pristine new, really, all I want are the puzzles themselves. Any help is appreciated, and thanks!

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