Thursday, January 18, 2007


Thinking inside the box

By Edward Copeland
Though I had heard Wordplay was fun, I didn't imagine how a documentary about people obsessed with The New York Times crossword puzzle could be that interesting, but director Patrick Creadon certainly has created one.

Is this a probing film of great importance like many of the best documentaries? No, but it sure is a helluva lot of fun.

It even teaches you things you might not have ever considered such as how the puzzles are constructed and builds genuine suspense with its climax set at annual crossword contest where hundreds attempt to fill in the blanks better than everyone else. (One note: Unless I missed it, the film never says what the prize is for winning the competition.)

Focusing on Will Shortz, the current editor of the Times' puzzle, Wordplay also provides thoughts from many famous enthusiasts such as Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, the Indigo Girls, Ken Burns and baseball player Mike Mussina.

Still, the celebrities aren't what make Wordplay so fascinating — it's the everyday puzzle obsessives and the insights it gives into how the puzzles actually are made and the minds behind them. It's not an important documentary with a weighty subject such as the environment or the Iraq war, but it certainly is an enjoyable one.

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