Crossword editors often have very strict rules concerning the appearance or non-appearance of famous persons.
Crossword editors are not stupid. They recognise that sometimes crossword setters are.
No editor wishes to be subjected to libel cases. I was once requested not to refer to tennis players in a themed puzzle as ‘racketeers’. Perhaps this is over-sensitive. But one also has to judge whether or not discovering Martina Navratilova is an anagram of ‘variant rival to a man’ is too good to miss, or just plain uncomfortably unpleasant. I considered it the latter, and omitted it.
Generally in cryptic crosswords one is discouraged from using living persons, as they may not be living by the time a paper reaches the news-stands. Years back, a Guardian colleague clued Indira Gandhi, who unfortunately was assassinated the day before the puzzle’s publication. And it was I who penned a Monster Raving Loony Party themed effort twenty-four hours preceding its leader Screaming Lord Sutch’s suicide.
Perhaps most worrying of all, I do remember my mum calling me on September 10, 2001 asking who this ‘Bin Laden’ entry in my puzzle of the previous week was. Next day the FIB (anagram) never called. Thankfully.
So we tend to stick with those who have long gone. However, The Times allows references to The Queen. After all, how on earth would crossword setters be able to function without the ubiquitous ER reference?
Dead or Alive, with Britney Spears being an anagram of ‘Presbyterians’, how can one resist? Perhaps you can come up with a clue for her that doesn’t use the anagram? Be kind.
All the best,