Did you ever read “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? The ones where you, the reader, get to decide what the main character does at various junctions? As a child of the 1980s, I have fond memories of using my fingers as placeholders in the pages of these books, trying to keep track of each decision branch so that I could go back and choose differently the next time.
Choose Your Own Adventure fiction, or interactive fiction, as it’s known, is experiencing a renaissance thanks to the ubiquity of e-readers. The open-source software Twine lets you write your own interactive stories, and companies like Inkle Studios (which produced the gorgeous, award-winning game 80 Days), Choice of Games, and Delight Games are bringing them to the world.
Because I tend to filter everything through the lens of cryptic crosswords, I took one look at these platforms and thought: “why not have an interactive cryptic crossword tutorial?”
I tend to take the English language for granted.
It’s hard not to. Because English is my first language, I speak it without thinking. It is my packhorse for the daily grind, carrying me from one exchange to another, and as such I rarely consider the larger meaning behind certain words.
I only see English words anew in two situations. The first is when I learn a new French word, which leads me to compare it to its English counterpart. (For example, in French, when a woman goes into labour, you say “elle entre dans le travaille”, she is starting the work. Which is exactly what the word “labour” means: work.)
The second time I consider words anew is when I do cryptics.
I'm a writer, explorer, amateur setter of cryptic crosswords, and new mom.