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:
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.