Crossword Setting

The writing exercise I experimented with, creating a short monologue using all the words from a crossword, was a satisfying writing experience and worked well for keeping within the theme of my show whilst going onto tangents about different subjects. However, a standard crossword has such a variety words, some of which would be difficult to fit into my script without sounding awkwardly forced. For this reason, I decided to create a crossword myself, keeping in mind a rough idea of what my show would be about so I could ensure that all the words would be possible to fit into the narrative. I wanted to make sure I hid a “Nina” in the crossword that I could reveal at the end of the show. A “Nina” is when a word or phrase is hidden within a crossword. The concept is explained in further detail in this article:

After making a blank template crossword I firstly put the letters “I BEAT THE CUBE” down the diagonal which I would reveal at the end of the show after attempting to solve a Rubik’s cube.


From my earlier crossword monologue writing exercise, I liked how the word “EXIT” was used as a stage direction at the end. I wanted to possibly do this with some other words in the crossword I will use in the show. The first word I added to the crossword was “FIN” and I intend for this be the final word I complete the crossword with in the show without vocalising the word to show a clear end of the performance. The word “fin” is iconic for being used in cinematography to mean the end of a film. I also added the word “START” as a way of beginning my performance and then tried to add more words that could somehow be related to puzzles. As the crossword developed, this became harder as the range of words that would fit with the overlapping cells became more limited. Some of the words I’ve included such as “ICING”, “INDIA”, and “GOUDA” seemingly don’t have much relation to my topic so I will require some metaphors or tangents in order to fit them in. Playing with the use of words as stage directions, I would like “TUT” to be triggered by an actual tut and “ORGAN” to be triggered by the version of the Tetris theme played on an organ. The word “CUE” as a technical cue is also quite interesting and could lead to something quite metatextual within the script.

My Full Cryptic

Once I had my finished crossword, I needed to go back and write clues for the crossword so that the puzzle element was there. I decided to make it a cryptic crossword as I personally have a fascination with the wordplay of cryptic crosswords and brings the game more into the realm of puzzle solving rather than general knowledge. I have never written my own cryptic clues before so this was a new fun challenge for me. As I wrote each clue I discussed them with my friends to check they parsed well and after my first draft I sent the blank crossword and clues to friends and family that identified as veteran cryptic crossword players. I received confirmation that the crossword was solvable and took onboard notes to change some wording to help them parse better.


  1. Decorating interior of attic in gold
  2. Rowing badly without yours truly isn’t right
  3. Better to be united between two rings
  4. Settle westbound loser against the east
  5. Complex riddle solver!
  6. Trim hedges without a husband
  7. Fishy fiver ends European economy
  8. Hear suspicion in the air of a shelter
  9. Cyborg animal has a harmonica
  10. Why study before you’re prepared?
  11. Carbon number?
  12. Conquer endless hurricane
  13. Maybe Lancelot didn’t have much to tidy
  14. Wembley doctor must aid
  15. Eliminate unusual route around the front of Lincoln’s university
  16. It makes sense to weirdly coil around George the first
  17. Begin to feature before tea
  18. Sounds like I will walk


  1. In aid, strangely, of the country
  2. I dunno about the backup plan to go inwards
  3. Dug a curious hole inside the cheese
  4. Inside a ship, a dog or cat ascends the staircase
  5. Row up on a boat and pray
  6. Germany initially uses bizarre estimate
  7. Gets odder around the queen that’s organised
  8. Forget English after ages
  9. Exclaiming contempt back and forth
  10. It’s preferable for me to share the cards!
  11. Beckett’s goal!
  12. My signal to come in is after “Pea!”
  13. For initially reading statements, this looks yielding
  14. Randomly rush mob into shape
  15. Deck daughter into automobiles
  16. Big fizzy lager
  17. Approximately one hundred and one on a ruined arc
  18. Egg custard starters in pastry completes the puzzle

I won’t explain every clue in this blog post but I do have some favourites:

Complex riddle solver (7) = OEDIPUS = Two definitions: Complex (Oedipus complex) + Riddle Solver (Oedipus was famously the first to solve the riddle of the Sphinx)

I like the briefness of the clue and that it makes sense as a statement. Also as a lover of puns, I’m quite fond of clues that have double meanings.

Big fizzy lager (5) = LARGE = “fizzy” indicates an anagram of (LAGER)

Another short and simple clue with a fun anagram indicator. Some fizzy lager is also interesting imagery.

Beckett’s goal (7) = ENDGAME = Two definitions: A play by Beckett + Goal

One for the drama students.

For initially reading statements, this looks yielding (7) = FIRSTLY = F[or] I[nitially] R[eading] S[tatements] T[his] L[ooks] Y[ielding]

The whole clue is both a straight definition and an indicator of an acronym.

Fishy fiver ends European economy (3) = FIN = Five definitions: Part of a fish + Slang for a five-dollar bill + Icon for the end of a film + Abbreviation for Finnish + Abbreviation for financial

Clues with double meanings are common place in cryptic crosswords, triple meanings are rare, but a quintuple meaning is something I’ve only seen once before and thought was really clever so when I saw an opportunity to write my own, I had to include it.

Explaining how cryptic clues something I really enjoy doing and demonstrates the obsession with puzzle solving, even if I do come across like a smart alec. I would definitely like to quickly explain at least one clue in the show as I do think it is something that’s interesting to an audience. My performance touches on the human desire for knowledge out so it is important that I provide opportunities in my show for the audience to feel that. I was originally planning on having the crossword physically printed out, propped up during the performance for me to fill in with a pen as I say each word. However, I think it would be more feasible for me to have the crossword projected at the back of the space. This would save me from constantly having to move over for every word, it would be faster, and I could somehow animate the wordplay of the clues. This will be something I will try out in future experimental technical rehearsals.

Crossword Setting

Chris Goode

I researched the work of Chris Goode as a solo performance practitioner. I compiled this research and some thoughts on his shows into a PowerPoint presentation which I shared with the group and have attached here.

Chris Goode PowerPoint

The honesty from Chris Goode in his performances is something I really appreciate and want to be conscious of in my performance. I want to speak as myself directly to the audience and when I write the script it won’t be something I am forced to stick to perfectly in order to keep the monologue natural. In Hippo World Guestbook, the main script of his show isn’t even something he wrote. He forms his script from comments from strangers on a website. Similarly, if I use a crossword, then I will be using words sourced from elsewhere and just threading them together.

Chris Goode also uses a fun sense of humour in humour which is light and unaggressive. His performances also transition between humour and more thought provoking moments. For example, the duration of Hippo World Guestbook creates a sombre ending. The subject matter is still the same thing which we are initially laughing at for something trivial being taken so seriously. However, because Goode builds an attachment with the comedy through the duration of the piece, the audience can feel something when something painful happens to this trivial thing. Likewise, in my performance, taking trivial puzzles seriously will be comical but the ending will be unexpectedly thought provoking.

Chris Goode

Crossword Monologue

The variety of words that can come from a single 32 word crossword is unfathomably large. Dave Gorman demonstrates this in his show Googlewhack. In the show he talks about his obsession with finding google-whacks (a combination of two words that when searched on Google return a single result). Finding one involves coming up with two obscure words from the dictionary that are completely unrelated (e.g. “francophile namesakes”). One of the techniques he shares in the show is going through a crossword and combining any two of the words within. Inspired by this, I set out to write a short monologue around the theme of my show using all the words in a crossword. I thought this would be a challenging writing exercise even if I don’t use the monologue in my performance. This was the crossword I used:

Empty Crossword

Once completed, the list of words were the following:


I set about by writing all the words down onto paper and drawing lines between words that could connect somehow and making notes of how a narrative could be formed around them. I admit that the finished product is a little clunky in places but could be neatened up with more time. Despite this, it became surprisingly easier to write once I stopped thinking about the overall product and focused on each step from one word to the next. This was the monologue I created:

For my tenth birthday, I received a parcel from my aunt. Auntie Susie has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and her teeth are a pearlised white. Nowadays, she’s a fully trained a physician, but back then she was a medical student and spent the weekends working as a nurse’s aide in a hospital. This involved making beds, serving meals, and fetching anything that the nurses need. If someone needed a towel, she would know where to get one. It wasn’t much, but it was experience that clearly worked out well for her. Whenever she had a free moment on the ward, she would do the Sudoku in the latest issue of The Times and it was her who introduced me to the puzzle. So, my tenth birthday. I opened the package from my auntie and sure enough it was a book of Sudoku puzzles. Inside the front cover, she’d written the dictum “Life’s about the journey, not the destination” accompanied by a doodle of a caged dove. I’d heard the saying before but wasn’t sure what it had to do with Sudoku. Was the bird in the drawing meant to be me? I felt like if I was a bird, I’d be more of a tomtit than a dove. Nonetheless I chose to get on with the puzzles. I was upbeat to have something to focus my mind on. Each puzzle I solved was like another point scored, putting each problem to rout. The real problem, however, was not the location of a three on a nine by nine grid, but rather whether this obsession was healthy. Whenever I was stuck on a tricky puzzle, it was like my brain would constrict and coil up around the integers in the grid, paying attention to nothing else. As soon as I filled in one grid, I’d start the next and I certainly couldn’t desert a puzzle mid-way through. I started losing sleep because of it. My head ached and in my rare times of sleep I would dream of what could only could be described as never ending unsolvable Sudoku. One night I dreamt of a young horse presenting me with killer Sudoku puzzles and if I got any wrong, the colt would pummel me repeatedly until I woke up with ague, shivering, a drip of sweat running down my forehead. I felt utterly demoted. And even though I knew that Sudoku was just a paltry thing in the grand scheme of the universe, I was addicted. So, I went on my laptop and searched for a cure to help me recoup. The best solution to any addiction is to not just ration out the thing you’re addicted to, but to dredge your life of it completely. I never touched the stuff again. Sudoku is to me as pollen is to a hay fever sufferer or lactic fluids are to China.


Crossword Monologue