7.4/10
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Wordplay (2006)

PG | | Documentary | 21 July 2006 (USA)
An in-depth look at The New York Times' long-time crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and his loyal fan base.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Merl Reagle ...
Tyler Hinman ...
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Al Sanders ...
Himself
Ellen Ripstein ...
Herself
Jon Delfin ...
Himself
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...
Himself
...
Herself
Emily Saliers ...
Herself
...
Himself
Mike Mussina ...
Himself
...
Himself
...
Himself (as William Jefferson Clinton)
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Storyline

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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Discover a world that thinks inside the box See more »

Genres:

Documentary

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some language and mild thematic elements | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

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Release Date:

21 July 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Word Play  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,847, 18 June 2006, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,117,666, 22 October 2006
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Tyler Hinman would eventually work for Google for a few years. See more »

Quotes

Merl Reagle: [On why bodily functions and other possible unpleasant words have been banned from the NY Times crosswords] They're sitting there relaxing and here comes RECTAL? I don't think so.
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Connections

References Happy Days (1974) See more »

Soundtracks

Crossword Puzzle
written by David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr.
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User Reviews

 
a delight for linguists and fans of words, not bad for everyone else
9 July 2006 | by See all my reviews

Crossword puzzles, and the many people who make them popular, are the focus in Wordplay, including the editor of the NY Times puzzle (the most notorious of them in the USA), celebrities and politicians, and the general public obsessed with them. As a documentary Wordplay is good, not great, film-making about its subject with a couple of montages and interlocking scenes that are weak. But the subject matter, and usually how its presented, sparks a fine interest even in a non-crossword puzzle player like myself. As words are all that we have to work with in communication and just everyday discourse, it's also attached here to the idea of testing, of competition, and how different and varying crosswords can get. Like the documentary Spellbound from a few years back, the director is also after the kind of irony of making such an isolated experience of finishing a puzzle into an event with hundreds of players once a year with friendships and acquaintances- a social event as much as a match-up.

Many parts are amusing as well; we get interviews from Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, and the editor of NY Times Crossword himself, Will Shortz, and they all give some insightful, funny little bits of interest into making the puzzles and playing them. But for the most part we're into the mind-set of several key players, real people whom will all come together for the tournament in Jaunary. What makes all of this work, and what actually makes crossword puzzles become good enough for cinema, is watching smart people, un-cluttered for the most part with problems, who can focus all of their attentions on this one activity, to the point of obsessive compulsive behavior. It's really fun, in a nerdy way, trying to guess some of these words (or rather watching them guessing the words) along with the players. And the way the puzzles are created sparks a little interest too, as it's one of those parts of life I myself could never, ever accomplish. Worth a look, though probably more so for fans of the activity.


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