(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)
I've done the New York Times crosswords for years, usually when I'm on a plane and have some time to work on it, but this new documentary, Wordplay was a revelation. I guess a good film maker can take aNew York subject and make it seem exciting and interesting. This is certainly the case with crosswords in this film. Wordplay is a bit similar to Spellbound, the film about the national spelling bee. Spellbound follows several participants throughout the competition after first introducing them and their backgrounds. Half of Wordplay follows this template. There is a national crossword competition each year, and in the film we follow several of the crossword enthusiasts as they prepare for and then particpate in the competition. But the other half of the film is about the history of the New York Times crossword and its present editor, Will Shortz, who also founded and runs the national competition. In addition, a lot of well known people, who do the New York Times crossword each day, are interviewed. These include Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart and Ken Burns. They are quite entertaining. Jon Stewart, in particular, is very funNew York as he tries to fill out the crossword puzzle. In order to better understand the whole process, the film follows the creation of a special crossword, its acceptance for publication in the New York Times, and then shows the celebrity crossworders try to solve it.
I found Wordplay both intimidating and inspiring. I can do the Monday and Tuesday New York Times crossword with little problem, but I am defeated over and over by the Friday and Saturday editions. The serious crossworders featured in Wordplay can do a Saturday puzzle in under 5 minutes. The film does a very good job of sucking you into the world of crossword puzzles. And like aNew York competition, it has the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. In fact, it is quite upsetting in the finals of the national competition when one person who thinks he has won, finds that he forgot to fill in a couple of squares in his puzzle. I have to say that I loved Wordplay. Will Shortz projects a great enthusiasm for crosswords which is infectious. Sinnce I saw the movie, I am trying to do the New York Times crosswords every day! But Friday and Saturday are still a bitch. See Wordplay and find out why.