Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lucas Amory -- a Puzzlemaker's Best Friend

When eight-year-old Lucas Amory performed Aram Khachaturian's Bitter Biddies Battle in recital a few months ago, I was moved to tears because:  1) He played the piano piece from memory, with extraordinary musicality; and 2) He established a new, youthful baseline for crossword solvers familiar with ARAM (clued as "Composer Khachaturian").  I wept with gratitude.  Thank you, Lucas!

A few months ago, Lucas made headlines when he responded to Anthony Tommasini's list of Ten Top Classical Composers. In a  letter to The New York Times, Lucas offered his list of Top Ten Composers.

Lucas's list would make a great puzzle theme, and a fine opportunity to keep ARAM in circulation.  Big stuff here -- only a Sunday-sized grid would do.

Here's Lucas's Top Ten List:  Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt.  I constructed the preliminary grid like so, using surnames and full names in combos that allow for symmetry:

As the grid started to populate, HAYDN had to be shoehorned in, er . . . balanced with something classical music-related, like, er, SMILE (as shown in the final grid).  It's right next to SITAR, a crossword-y instrument, for sure. What's a puzzle without a sitar, lute or tabla?  Besides, Haydn's  Surprise Sitar Symphony is one of my Top 10 favorite pieces of the Classical Era.

This are starting to get complex. Hmm . . . I fiddled with the construction for quite a while.  In his YouTube interview, Lucas said that he wants to be an architect. Aha! ARCHITECT perfectly balances BEETHOVEN.  That particular symmetry made me smile.  (Lucas, did you know that Frank Lloyd Wright considered Beethoven a great architect?  See Ken Burns' Frank Lloyd Wright documentary.  True story!)

Now, ARAM was added, with a corresponding entry -- LEAH, the crossword perennial, was a perfect fit. :)

Now, the grand finale:  I needed a 10-letter entry in the southeast of the grid to balance FRANZ LISZT. The crossword gods grinned as LUCAS AMORY floated ever so transcendentally into the "signature" area of the grid. 

With the theme anchored in place, it was time to construct the fill  . . .

. . . and there it is!  It's especially appropriate to see JS BACH cross LUCAS AMORY, as Lucas performs a Bach fugue at the end of this video interview. Bravo, Lucas, on a job well done!



Anonymous said...

Young Lucas plays Bach with wonderfully independent dexterity in each hand. If he ever takes up crosswords, he could probably solve two at once -- perhaps the only way to beat Dan Feyer.

-- Jim Horne

La Liz said...

Jim, I think you've figured out how to beat the Great Dan Feyer. Perhaps puzzle construction is also in the cards, since 8-year-old Lucas can play and spell KHACHATURIAN. Wowie!

(I still have to look up the spelling ...)

Joanne said...

Oh my gosh, he is ADORABLE. I am so glad that kids like this still exist and aren't all brainwashed by Hannah Montana and Sponge Bob Square Pants.