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2007-10-08 13:01
What it's about:

Wordplay gives the world of crosswords a once over, from the casual fan to New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz (also founder of the annual Stamford crossword convention), including interviews with celebrity crossword addicts like Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, and the Indigo Girls. The film also tracks the progress of several contenders to win the annual contest and culminates in a tense final round that will have crossword lovers on the edge of their seats.

What we thought of it:

Wordplay is a breath of fresh air amongst the current crop of documentaries preaching doom and gloom by focussing on the trivial side of life. It might sound like a rather boring subject, but it is as funny and moving as the best of Christopher Guest. It also shows real respect and affection for a pastime many would label as nerdy and inconsequential, which is no mean feat in itself.

Right off the bat we are introduced to the remarkable New York Times crossword editor, Will Shortz, current father of the American crossword. Like the leader of some secret clan, Shortz epitomises the crossword addict. To those who regard such things with indifference, it's a bit of a surprise to see the passion and enthusiasm they generate.

Backing up Shortz is a gallery of celebrities who each give their own approach to crosswords, including former US president Bill Clinton, comedian Jon Stewart, documentary maker Ken Burns, and The Indigo Girls. Clinton and Stewart are both particularly amusing as they pit their wits against Shortz's daily puzzle, and it is fascinating to see the thought processes of these public figures laid bare.

The other main focus of the film is the annual Stamford convention, which introduces the unknown crossword champions. Much like a sci-fi convention, it brings out some strange and quirky, yet lovable people. And the stories of friendships made there over the years gives Wordplay heart and lifts it above a study of a mere hobby. The culmination of the tournament is as exciting as any high profile sports event, with frenzied commentary and action aplenty, showing that even brainiacs can live on the edge.

Wordplay is entertaining, with great pace and a good mix of interesting facts, as well as the human factor. Funny and touching in equal measure, it is a feel good film that celebrates intellect and small achievements, and is highly recommended.

- Ivan Sadler
A documentary that examines the world of crosswords, including interviews with New York Times crossword creator Will Shortz, and fanatics such as Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, and the Indigo Girls.

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