Delve into a world of horrific puzzles, mindbending discoveries and the strangest people on the planet. Wordplay examines the people who love crossword puzzles so much that they are willing to compete in cage matches to show their dominance to the world.
In reality, the people who enjoy crossword puzzles are neither the strangest people in the world, nor strange at all. Still, when someone can complete an entire crossword puzzle in two minutes, they are either extremely bright or have too much time on their hands - or both. Then again, aside from those competing for world domination (or just a few-thousand dollar prize), the crossword puzzle cult also contains such members as Jon Stewart ("The Daily Show") and some guy called Bill Clinton.
Wordplay revolves around the central man, a.k.a. The Man, a.k.a. Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor at The New York Times. He has diehard fans, people who can't stand his puzzles (apparently some are too difficult), and a fight-to-the-death competition. Personally, I don't do crossword puzzles nor do I read the Times, but apparently he's popular stuff, and apparently the puzzles get increasingly harder with each passing day of the week to the point where, on Friday, the rate of suicides in New York goes up dramatically. Just kidding. Or am I?
The movie, while focusing on Shortz, includes a whole lot more, and director Patrick Creadon, whose claim to fame thus far has been a variety of Maxim videos (the lucky bastard), does a terrific job of packaging everything together. While the last act is devoted mainly to the competition, the first two acts set the stage, combining an examination of what makes puzzles so interesting, a look at the variety of fans that Shortz has attracted over the years, and a variety of interviews with well known celebrities. Jon Stewart is the highlight of these, as he goes all out to be extra-entertaining in this time of need.
Wordplay doesn't push the limits nor deliver any spellbinding accounts of near-death experiences, but it does a good job considering the subject, and respects said subject. A documentary about crossword puzzles may sound a bit dry, but Creadon, apparently tired of filming nearly naked women, has made a great little film here. There tends to be more and more documentaries hitting theaters that examine the more obscure professions in life, and they are getting better and better as they go along, too. For anyone who likes puzzles or just likes to be entertained by a lighthearted documentary, Wordplay will have your mind spinning.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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