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1 item from 2006


9 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY - Eight-letter word for the award this Sundance documentary entrant will likely win.


You don't have to finish the N.Y. Times Saturday crossword puzzle in under three minutes like some of us (just kidding) to enjoy this witty ditty about the importance of crossword puzzles. A welcome respite from the high-issue entrants in the Documentary Competition here - Gaza Strip, Death Penalty - that generally bark out at you as "important issue," "Wordplay is a delightful diversion.

In this frothy amusement, filmmaker Patrick Creadon focuses on "The New York Times" crossword puzzle editor William Shortz and the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, he hosts in Stamford, Conn, Shortz designed his own major at Indiana University, dubbing it "enigmatology" because even as a teen he knew that crossword puzzles were his life.

While puzzles are not most peoples' lives, they are truly an essential part. "Wordplay" goes up/down and across on the varied reasons why more than 50 million Americans do a crossword puzzle every week. Filmmaker Patrick Creadon not only fills in the empty spaces but arranges the blocks in such a way that unveils not only the puzzles' addictive pleasures but its origins and aesthetics

Centering on the Competition, Creadon rolls out the long line of different-folks who sharpen their pencils, click their pens or partake in whatever personal ritual applies to their crossword "approach." It's a pleasurable and, sometimes, maddening part of their lives. There is no such thing as a "crossword puzzle"-type, as some might expect. True, there are compulsive nerds who grind away at crossword puzzles like taking an SAT, but the range of aficionados is a wonderfully puzzling cross of lines - class, age, personality. However, those in the math professions and music have their brains wired in such a way as to generally lead the pack.

Smartly mixing puzzle construction arcana with idiosyncratic personal asides, Creadon unspools insider puzzle facts with idiosyncratic asides. He presents a wide range of exuberant puzzle-heads who offer commentary: filmmaker Ken Burns, piano man Joe Delfin, ex-President Bill Clinton, Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina, The Indigo Girls, and "The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, among many others. Each expounds on the particular appeals, pleasures and lessons they enjoy from their daily crossword rituals. Clinton exudes that he tries to start at core places where he knows the answers and builds from there, likening it to diplomacy and political problem solving.

While it's smart, "Wordplay" is not too serious about itself. Under filmmaker Patrick Creadon's sharp approach, the technical contributions are graceful, particularly composer Peter Golub's zesty, sounds which are perfect counter-point to any big illuminations on why these doggone things are so fun and addictive.


O'Malley Creadon Prods.

Director/Director of photography

Producer:Christine O'Malley

Music: Peter Golub

Editor: Doug Blush

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 90 minutes »

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