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23.1.07

Film: Wordplay

available at Amazon
Wordplay, directed by Patrick Creadon (released on November 7, 2006)
available at Amazon
Will Shortz (ed.), The New York Times Little Black (and White) Book of Crosswords
It is probably no surprise to anyone who reads Ionarts that I am a crossword fanatic. When the first trailers for Patrick Creadon's wacky documentary Wordplay started appearing, it was clear the movie was right up my alley, but it took a while for me to get around to seeing it. We all know that crosswords are the best way to stave off the onset of Alzheimer's disease, but who could resist this movie's appeal? One after another, Creadon records the impressions of famous cruciverbalists, including former President Clinton, TV personality Jon Stewart, filmmaker Ken Burns, pitcher Mike Mussina, the Indigo Girls. At the same time, the movie follows the process of how the best crossword in the world, the New York Times puzzle, is created from week to week, with commentary from the puzzle's editor, Will Shortz. We watch a puzzle constructor designing a puzzle -- on the theme of Wordplay -- and get a history of the New York Times crossword.

Jon Stewart solves the Times crossword in pen, Wordplay, directed by Patrick Creadon
Other Reviews:

New York Times | Village Voice | Washington Post | Rotten Tomatoes

Free Online Crosswords:

Washington Post | Chicago Sun-Times

Much of the movie is taken up with a look at several of the top competitors in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, this year celebrating its 30th anniversary at its annual March meeting, in Stamford, Conn. Whenever the focus shifts from famous people who happen to enjoy the daily activity of crosswords to everyday people who may like crosswords too much, the interest flags a bit. This is not to say that the skill level of the crossword tournament competitors is not impressive, because it certainly is. Like any obsession, puzzling can go too far, although there is no real harm in the tournament, of course. In any case, for Patrick Creadon's first foray into directing, after mostly shooting soft porn for Maxim -- previous credits as D.P. include Maxim's Girl Next Door and two installments of Maxim Hot 100 -- Wordplay is an admirable achievement. (Maxim's 100-word review of Wordplay is a fascinating document, too.) Even for a non-crossword nut, this unlikely documentary is informative and fun.

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