“Wordplay” starts as the story of the New York Times crossword puzzle, and the current and historical creative forces behind it. But as it dances across the story, filling it in as one of its devotees might across the puzzles, it reveals an entire amazing world behind its practice, creation, and history, from the annual crossword convention in Stamford to the breadth of individuals who enjoy it daily.
What is an eight letter word for a film that is sure to educate, entertain and inspire? “Wordplay!”
As soon as I get my daily paper, I turn right to the puzzle section. I then carefully fold it up isolating the superfluous information from the beauty of the black and white squares. The rest of my evening is spent counting the minutes until I can be alone with my beloved crossword puzzle. If you like crossword puzzles as much as I do, you will truly take pleasure in this film. But you don’t need to be a puzzle aficionado to enjoy watching this creative piece of film.
The filmmaker crafted this documentary like a sports film. At first we are introduced to the competition, in this case the New York Times annual crossword championship. Then we meet the major contenders through back stories and interviews. There’s the respected past winner, the struggling player who always makes it to the final but hasn’t yet won, the cocky favorite, and the upstart college student who couldn’t possibly have enough knowledge in his young life to compete at this level. Woven throughout is fascinating background information on the history of crossword puzzles. Did you know the first official puzzle was created in 1913? Or the unwritten rules applied to the creation of a puzzle – such as, not more than one-sixth of a puzzle can be made of black squares?
There’s something very compelling about watching all these like-minded people assemble at the Stamford Marriott. You can tell they are thrilled to be among others that have the same passion. Over the years they have become like a family and look forward to the annual competition. Some even compete in the annual talent show held between events.
The film does have a little offensive language, interestingly only when letters-to-the-editor are read aloud. And as noted below, there is a prominent gay character. For those reasons, and because this really isn’t a film that young children will enjoy, Dove can approve this film for ages 12 and older.