Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Wordplay

Wordplay

Rated: PG 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: June 23, 2006 Released by: IFC Films

This enjoyable documentary from Patrick Creadon invites the viewer into the fascination of challenging crossword puzzles, notably the imaginative one in The New York Times.

Apparently, there are plenty of "word nerds" out there into the lingo used in the clues devised by editor Will Shortz, a mustached, very bright puzzle constructor.

Since 1993, under his domain, Shortz has brought more pop-culture and slang for the solver making it more playful for them.

What's really diverting and delightful on view is the interviews with many avid makers and fans, besides some exposition on Shortz.

There's more of an interactive approach for the lay person from what's been displayed in documentaries like Spellbound or the quite appealing, fictionalized Akeelah and the Bee. Anyone can try their hand at the unique format of the crossword puzzle.

Those include Jon Stewart, New York Yankees ace pitcher Mike Mussina, even the Indigo Girls.

An "iconic manifestation" is what Ken Burns calls crosswords, like Manhattan as a metropolis of boxes and grids. Former President Bill Clinton compares the dilemma of working a puzzle to a political one, like diplomatic problem-solving. "You start with what you know the answer to and then you build on it." Start from one corner and work your way out of it.

Perhaps the most intriguing segment of Wordplay includes a discussion by creator Merl Reagle (who also makes cryptograms) about the rhythmic methodology in a puzzle's evolution. Not so unlike what people like Rodgers & Hammerstein have done.

Wordplay lively paces itself to the 28th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut. Creadon gives one a nice cross-sectional look at the clue-breakers, everyday, humorous, sometimes geeky folks who live for this intellectual stimulation in a summer camp kind of environment.

However, the interviews, especially with Clinton and Reagle are able to connect more than the final competition, unlike the spelling movies which dramatized the conflict and impact of the competitors. Cinematically, it's harder for the viewer to get into this kind of tension, but more friendly towards personality drawn from world of examining the English language.

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Wordplay       B       B

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