It’s Follow-Up Friday: Crossword Art edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of crossword-inspired art!

A few weeks ago, I dedicated an entire post to crossword art, exploring paintings, mixed-media collages, and sketches that all had their roots in crossword grids and the wordplay contained therein.

What I neglected to mention is that there have also been crossword-fueled works of performance art.

In 2006, the Steven Wolf Fine Arts gallery in San Francisco — now sadly closed — hosted twin performance artists Kevin and Kent Young in an exhibition they called “Another Monozygotic Experiment in Telepathic Conveyance.”

[Images (this and the one below) courtesy of Art]

And what, pray tell, is a monozygotic experiment in telepathic conveyance?

Simple, really. One of the twins randomly selects a crossword puzzle and attempts to psychically project each clue to the other twin, who then fills in the answers to those clues on an oversized grid.

This goes on for 40 minutes, at which point they end the attempt and compare notes to see how well their telepathy worked.

But they’re not done. Oh no.

They then proceed to dance, performing some sort of choreographed display reminiscent of country line dancing.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I first stumbled across “crossword performance art,” but I assure you, dancing never even crossed my mind.

Then again, how else would you celebrate tag-team solving a crossword psychically?

Clearly the Young Brothers have their own unique way of puzzling, but it was kind of them to share it with the world at large, contributing to the overall world of crossword art in an unexpected way.

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A hallmark of puzzles to come…

Cleverness abounds in the puzzle community, both in those who create puzzles and those who solve them. But the advent of the Internet has truly raised the bar in what you can accomplish with a puzzly mindset and some serious ingenuity.

From Easter Eggs concealed in DVD menus (like the blooper reel hidden in the silver box DVD release of the original Star Wars trilogy) to viral marketing campaigns that conceal plot details and exclusive scenes for industrious fans (as Christopher Nolan’s Batman films frequently employed), there are delightful little entertainment nuggets secreted away in all sorts of media these days.

But only a select few of these hidden puzzles reach the level of complexity and elegance embodied by a series of puzzles lurking within the game Portal (which eventually unlocked details regarding the upcoming sequel).

Portal, itself widely regarded as a masterpiece of outside-the-box puzzle-solving wizardry and gameplay, demands a great deal from its players, so any hidden game designed for these players would have to be something special.

Adam Foster did a thorough and fascinating write-up on both the hidden puzzle game itself (known as the Portal ARG) and the process behind creating this dastardly electronic scavenger hunt, and you can read the full details here.

What’s particularly brilliant about this particular multitiered puzzle is that it incorporated rewards for both mid-level gamers — collecting all the radios in the game and locating where they received broadcasts — as well as the stunningly devoted fans who were willing to chase the puzzle farther down the rabbit hole, delving into top-tier decryption and deduction puzzle-solving.

This sort of chain-reaction puzzle-solving is becoming more and more commonplace. For a simpler example, you need go no further than PuzzleNation’s own Guessworks game. You start with a Hangman-style guessing and deduction game, which leads to clues to be solved, which then lead to a quotation to be unraveled.

As you build upon these earlier steps, you not only challenge yourself in new ways, but you develop multiple puzzle-conquering skills at once. Tackling a puzzle as wily as the Portal ARG is some serious mental exercise.

By pushing the boundaries of what form puzzles and games can take, people like Adam Foster are redefining and rejuvenating the puzzle-solving experience for a new generation of savvier solvers.