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A documentary that focuses on the world of crossword puzzles: those that construct them, those that love to solve them, those that compete in the annual Crossword competition in Stamford and also on Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword since the early 1990s. Shortz actually has a university degree in games and organized the first crossword championship in 1978. Some of the contributors to the Times puzzle explain how they go about building them while some aficionados, including former President Bill Clinton and comedian Jon Stewart talk about their love of solving them. The film also introduces several past champions and near champions competing in the 2006 tournament and it takes you from the preliminary rounds to the final where the top three contestants compete in front of a room full of admiring contestants. Written by
This delightful documentary, directed by Patrick Creadon, is a dream come true for people that enjoy to solve crossword puzzles. It centers around Will Shortz, the current New York Times editor, who has revolutionized the way we do the puzzles today. The film was co-written by Christine O'Malley, who with the director, takes us to meet some of the people behind the scenes.
We must make a confession from the start, we are one of those addicted to solving the daily crosswords in the paper. The New York Times puzzles are the best of all the ones published by any newspaper. Of course, we are not in the league of the likes of Tyler Hinman, Trip Payne, or Al Sanders, who were the three finalist in the 2005 competition, but we are happy with just the idea of solving them every morning.
There are many personalities that speak about their addiction to the crosswords of the New York Times. Among them, we hear from former President Bill Clinton, a man that has always been notorious for his quick mind. David Okrent, the former public editor of the Times, makes a surprise appearance. Jon Stewart is also funny in the way he deals with clues and how he blames Will Shortz when he doesn't get them. Mike Mussina, The Indigo Girls, Bob Dole, and other celebrities also are seen.
The great fun of "Wordplay" is watching a master constructor of the stature of Merl Reagle creating a daily crossword right in front of the camera, and explaining the logic behind it. There is a funny moment when Ellen Ripstein, a former winner, tells us that in spite of having won, she keeps going every year to participate in the tournament. Her performance in the entertainment part of the competition brings a light and goofy moment to the film.
The only thing we don't get too much of is the master himself. Will Shortz appears all too briefly as the emphasis of the documentary seems to be the annual competition at the Marriott in Stamford. Some of Mr. Shortz observations are funny, especially when he shares his typical weekly correspondence from frustrated people that are "puzzled" by his clues.
"Wordplay" is a film that will resonate more with crossword puzzle lovers, but it is a fun movie to sit through because the witty material and the pace it was given by its creators.
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