Three Rivers Crossword
In the 1930's the English critic William Empson noticed how 'the fashion for obscure poetry … came in about the same time as the fashion for crossword puzzles; and it seems to me that this revival of interest in poetry, an old and natural thing, has got a bad name merely by failing to know itself and refusing to publish the answers.’ The best art always seems to be, paradoxically, a mixture of play and complexity – questions and answers squashed into one. Making crosswords with pupils and a crosswordsmith expert like Sandy Balfour we learned how to come at a word from many – often odd – angles and in doing so, how to open words up. Once you know how to solve a clue, or even better, to write one, then you know all the ways that a word can fit into the jigsaw of language. Once you know how to play with it you own all it's meanings.
- Alec Finlay
Three Rivers Crossword is the second of Alec's word-map crosswords. It adapts the form of the cryptic crossword to create a map of the North East of England, following the course of the river Tyne, Tees and Wear. This major art project was conceived by Alec and made in collaboration with Sandy Balfour (The Guardian), Beth Rowson, Ira Lightman and pupils from Westlea Primary Scholl (Seaham).
Three Rivers Crossword is an adventure in cryptic thought, with over two hundred clues that refer back to the locale. It offers website links to help guide readers to solutions, allowing anyone in the world to navigate this crossword map. The crossword schema follows the course of the three rivers as they flow past towns and villages, castles, bridges, battles, follies, schools, museums and local flora and fauna. The words include place names (Latin, Old English, Viking, Norman), local history, hills and valleys, landmarks and buildings.
Three Rivers Crossword was released December 2005 (platform projects, morning star, Creative Partnerships and Nexus)
Selected clues from Three Rivers Crossword were presented as an artist project by Alec as 'cove cards' in metro carriages throughout Tyne & Wear, commissioned by Nexus and locator as part of the NewcastleGateshead Festival of Visual Arts.
Buy a copy of Three Rivers Crossword
Photographs by Ginny Reed © 2005
Essay by Sandy Balfour
Detail (River Tees)
Alec's other Crosswords