There’s the confinement of the grid, which is typically square and symmetrical, with clear conventions on the placement of lights (white squares). Then there are the clues, which require mathematical precision in their construction (if you’re a Ximenean constructor like me, anyway).
One might think that confinement like this would squash any creative instinct. But instead, creativity thrives.
Just think of the all-lights grid that Fraser Simpson created for The New Yorker when told that the print magazine could not support a typical 15x15 grid. Just think of the endless parade of clever clues we read every week. A few Saturdays ago, my favourite part of Fraser Simpson’s puzzle was the way in which he used the answer of one clue as the definition portion of the next:
3 Down: Going it alone, Han? (6, 4)
4 Down: Foreign capital 3-Down (4)
When the lockdown first happened, it was still winter here and Montrealers were told not to leave their neighbourhoods. To motivate my kids to go outside, I wrote an interactive neighbourhood mystery story that is played using local landmarks as hints. I made it freely available to everyone in the community and it was so popular that I wrote a second. (You won’t be able to solve them unless you actually play the games -- sorry, non-Montrealers!)
Then, one day, I found a gorgeous locking leather briefcase being given away. The question came to me immediately: could I create an Escape Room-style game that could be played at home, without any fears of COVID exposure? Rather than break OUT of a room, could I create a game in which players break INTO the briefcase (and the myriad other locks inside)? And could I make it something that would entertain and maybe even educate kids, who have been forced to endure so much boredom during the pandemic? And couples who are longing for a fun Date Night?
The reception has been incredible.
And knowing that I'm helping to create some fun where previously there was boredom is a real thrill.
Have you noticed the same thing about creativity in confinement? What has the lockdown done for your sense of creativity? And what creativity have you seen from others that's been a balm when you needed it?