The acting was creepy and superb, and the Bedlam theatre itself, being a decommissioned Neogothic church, was an ideal location, but what really blew my mind was the way the actors were not confined to the stage. Characters made dramatic entrances or exits by walking straight down the aisles, between the rows of audience members. During the intermission, one character skulked by the bar in the lobby, his demeanor growing more and more disturbed until, intermission nearly over, he made a conspicuous departure.
The troupe didn’t quite break the fourth wall—that invisible, imaginary wall that divides the actors from the audience—but they made us feel its fragility.
But something I hadn’t really thought of until I started teaching courses is that in cryptic crosswords, as in theatre, there is a kind of “fourth wall”—an invisible barrier between the setter and the solver that, when broken, connect the setter with her solver in an unexpectedly personal way.
I don’t know why I didn’t realize this before because there are so many examples of it happening.
Last year, LR stepped right out through that fourth wall into the audience to shake everyone’s hand, exhausted and ecstatic (or so I picture it, anyway) when he became a father and shared his baby’s name with the world in a clue.
A few years ago, Fraser Simpson published a fantastic themed puzzle which, he said, marked a “grand occasion”. Solvers discovered, as they worked, that there was an extra letter in 16 of the answers. Putting these together, in order, revealed this message: THOUSANDTH PUZZLE. A remarkable achievement that deserved recognition.
A9: Shift focus this writer put into paper purchase (5)
D5: Hearten crossword solver beginning to buck up (4)
You can’t solve this if you don’t adopt Mr. Simpson’s point of view. When you do, it becomes clear that “this writer” in A9 is “I” and “crossword solver” in D5 is “you”.
What’s your favourite example of the fourth wall of cryptic crosswords being broken?