Witness the inner workings of Will Shortz, NY Times Editor and NPR Puzzle Master, and his brilliant, entertaining and often hilarious contributors as well as surprising celebrity fans. Wordplay takes us through the Ameri... more »can Crossword Puzzle Tournament where almost five hundred competitors battled it out for the title "Crossword Champ" and showed their true colors along the way.« less
George K. from COLCHESTER, CT Reviewed on 5/19/2014...
A most entertaining movie, but probably not with wide appeal.
If you've got limited (or no) interest in crossword puzzles, have never considered the New York Times Sunday crossword, or find fascination only in obsessions that qualify one for TV spectaculars about hoarding or incest, this movie is not for you.
It's a study of a specialized bunch of nerdish puzzle enthusiasts. It's not unlike the marvelous spelling bee documentary Spellbound (which had far superior production value).
Like its subjects, the film is intelligent, earthbound, quirky, and focused, with no special effects or CGI. Nonetheless, the characters may strike the moviegoer as alien.
Mamie H. (towncar1997) from TAHLEQUAH, OK Reviewed on 1/21/2011...
This was a very entertaining Movie/Documentary. I had NO idea all the work that actually goes into creating Crossword Puzzles.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
The World of Crossword Puzzles Explored - Good Stuff
John R. Linnell | New Gloucester, ME United States | 08/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For me, crossword puzzles have been a casual thing, I might find one in the airline magazine on a flight and work on it to pass the time or my wife, who is a much more avid fan, might have left a partially finished one about, which I will pick up and see if I can find some answers.
Those who appear in this movie find crossword puzzles to be anything but casual. And this is not about just any crossword puzzle. This is the "gold standard." The NYT crossword puzzle. You may genuflect if you wish.
As the movie unfolds we hear how the NYT graduates the difficulty of its puzzles from Monday to Sunday. We learn how they are constructed, how they are made more difficult, what the rules of puzzle building are and how crossword puzzles infect and afflict those who are addicted to them. Celebrities from Ken Burns to Jon Stweart are utilized in cameo pieces, some of which are very entertaining.
This all culminates in the Marriott Hotel in Stamford, CT where the World Crossword Puzzle Championship takes place every year in March. We meet some of the contestants, we are shown how the tournament is organized and the friendships it has engendered during the years it has been held and as the days pass we get to the "A" finals where three finalists try to solve a puzzle against time on large easels set up at the front of the room which will really draws you in to the genre.
Whether crossword puzzles are your thing or not, this is an entertaining and interesting movie to see. It did not encourage me to increase my crossword puzzle activity, but it sure gave me a deeper appreciation of what those who are hooked on it go through. There is something in this movie for everyone."
Pink Plumeria | Cleveland, Ohio | 09/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Crossworders-quel subculture! I had no idea that this world was out there, this competitive bunch of crossworders, but I must say that I am indeed a better person for now knowing! The movie begins by introducing the audience to a group people who are the key players in an annual crossword competition held/hosted by Will Shortz, editor of the NYT crossword puzzle. In following these different people (literally from all walks of life-a homosexual, a mid-west family man, a college student, a single female) the audience almost becomes a part of their group. It was absolutely warming, to say the least (Ellen Ripstein has got to be one of my all-time favorite characters!). Oddly enough, rules of the crossword puzzle are given, and the difficult nature of actually solving one, especially the NYT, is revealed. After leaving the theatre I was determined to solve one (I am embarrassed to say that I started small and have finally solved a Monday puzzle, and am coming close to a Tuesday! It really is a new way of thinking!); it has been a really long road! Aside from being really well made, Wordplay was also salted with cameos from icons of American society such as Bill Clinton, Ken Burns and Jon Stewart. To watch them work on these puzzles was great-as well as putting their pants on one leg at a time, they (sometimes) struggle with the crossword puzzle too!
What a great documentary, and how fun to watch. In an age of vulgar and ridiculous entertainment, there is a shining example of entertainment revolving around a group of inteligensia. Bravo, and two enthusiastic thumbs up!"
John Martin | Stamford, CT USA | 10/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen many hundreds of movies in my lifetime, and I must say, this is very close to being my favorite. It is not a giant movie... it is a small documentary about one interesting subculture. While there are plenty of famous people in the movie and that makes it more entertaining, the real heroes are ordinary people, and the movie makes them all lovable when it could just as easily have mocked them. I am not the least bit interested in doing crossword puzzles, but this movie is about a community, both virtual and real, from all walks of life, that loves to do puzzles, and the movie made me like *them*.
The movie uses brilliant visualizations to show puzzles being constructed and solved. Several reviews in newspapers have mentioned the wonderful cover of a Talking Heads tune by Shawn Colvin at a key point in the movie... I echo that. You will not be able to get it out of your head after you see the movie.
I would not expect a documentary about crossword puzzles to make me laugh out loud and cry in a theatre, but in fact it did both."
Passionate about words
Cubist | United States | 11/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's an episode of MASH where Hawkeye and B.J. become obsessed with solving a New York Times crossword puzzle and go to outrageous lengths to finish it. This episode perfectly sums up the kind of dedication these puzzles inspire and require. Wordplay profiles Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times and explores a hobby that millions of people practice on buses and subways to and from work every day. What is the appeal of crossword puzzles? This entertaining and informative documentary answers this question.
This is a fun, engaging documentary that successfully conveys the passion people have for crosswords. All one needs is a puzzle and something to write with and there is something comforting about that kind of simplicity in this day and age where everyone seems to be plugged into an iPod or a Playstation.
There is an audio commentary by director Patrick Creadon, New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz and crossword constructor Merl Reagle. Shortz comes across as a naturally funny guy who tells some amusing anecdotes. This is a very genial, engaging track that compliments the documentary quite well.
Also included are seven deleted scenes pertaining to Shortz. We see footage of him reading another fan letter, footage of him talking about the difficulty he had taking over at the New York Times and the negative mail he received about how much tougher the puzzles were when he took over.
There are six additional deleted scenes with the other puzzle solvers in the doc. Ellen Ripstein talks about the allure of puzzles for her while Al Sanders speaks about how he is at the perfect age for solving puzzles.
There are three deleted scenes from the Stamford Crossword Tournament including more interviews with other attendees.
The "Interview Gallery" features more footage of the celebrity puzzle solvers. Ken Burns talks about his love for crosswords while Jon Stewart talks about meeting Shortz in person for the first time.
"5 Unforgettable Puzzles from the Pages of the New York Times" features footage of five people who created some of the most memorable crosswords in the newspaper's history. One lady designed a pictorial puzzle and another designs humourous puzzles with puns.
"Wordplay Goes to Sundance" shows the documentary's reception at this famous film festival. Key crew members and interview subjects were there and are shown answering questions from the audience.
There is a music video for the song "Every Word" by Gary Louris.
Also included is the "Wordplay Photo Gallery," a montage of pictures from the Sundance screenings.
"And the Winner is..." presents the finalists from this year's Annual American Crossword Tournament.
Finally, there is "Waiting for the New York Times," a short film by Patricia Erens."
11 ACROSS: TWOTHUMBSUP !
H. Smith | Metro Detroit, MI - USA | 08/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I just returned from seeing this movie at the theatre and was so impressed I wanted to find out more. Unfortunately I see there is no soundtrack available, but I'm hoping that will change, because the music used in the movie was one of the most touching and memorable aspects. Yet, WORDS are the true star of this film, and it was heartwarming to get an inside glimpse at an intellectual hobby that crosses (pun intended) all groups regardless of age, economic status, etc. Not only did I walk away inspired to become an avid New York Times Crossword Puzzler, but uplifted by the positive comradery of the puzzling community. In a world where it seems so easy to find things that divide us, it was wonderfully surprising and satisfying to see this warm film about something uniquely universal. The creators non-judgemental treatment of the pastime and those devoted to it is worth at least 4 stars whether or not you like to engage in wordplay."