Though a festive, post-prandial institution, the riddle in a Christmas cracker rarely musters more than smile these days. Devotees can now carry the fun beyond the pudding and stilton though thanks to Harry Pearce’s book, Conundrums.
Coming from Pearce, a Pentagram partner and member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale, the Conundrums are a far more sophisticated affair than anything you’d find in a cracker. The book contains 171 visual wordplays, each confined to their own box, using just two colours and one font (AG Old Face). Some are quite obvious – ‘close shave’ – others are more obscure – ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ kept us guessing for a long time. As a collection they’re charming, amusing and addictive in equal parts.
Pearce is a devoted conundrum-collector, citing a childhood immersed in the ‘nonsense that made sense’ by the likes of Spike Milligan, Edward Lear, Peter Cook and Monty Python, as the seed. “These little games seem to have a life of their own,” says Pearce, “I started them years ago, a love affair between typography and phrase, and they’ve been one step ahead of me ever since…So I have to keep following in their footsteps but always sticking to the rules: one box, two colours and a single typeface. Sometimes the more cornered you are, the more fun you have.”