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.
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.
- Decorating interior of attic in gold
- Rowing badly without yours truly isn’t right
- Better to be united between two rings
- Settle westbound loser against the east
- Complex riddle solver!
- Trim hedges without a husband
- Fishy fiver ends European economy
- Hear suspicion in the air of a shelter
- Cyborg animal has a harmonica
- Why study before you’re prepared?
- Carbon number?
- Conquer endless hurricane
- Maybe Lancelot didn’t have much to tidy
- Wembley doctor must aid
- Eliminate unusual route around the front of Lincoln’s university
- It makes sense to weirdly coil around George the first
- Begin to feature before tea
- Sounds like I will walk
- In aid, strangely, of the country
- I dunno about the backup plan to go inwards
- Dug a curious hole inside the cheese
- Inside a ship, a dog or cat ascends the staircase
- Row up on a boat and pray
- Germany initially uses bizarre estimate
- Gets odder around the queen that’s organised
- Forget English after ages
- Exclaiming contempt back and forth
- It’s preferable for me to share the cards!
- Beckett’s goal!
- My signal to come in is after “Pea!”
- For initially reading statements, this looks yielding
- Randomly rush mob into shape
- Deck daughter into automobiles
- Big fizzy lager
- Approximately one hundred and one on a ruined arc
- 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.