Directed by: Patrick Creadon
Featuring: Will Shortz, Merle Reagle, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina, The Indigo Girls, Tyler Hinman, Patrick Jordan, Norman 'Trip' Payne, Ellen Ripstein, Al Sanders
MPAA: Rated PG for some language and mild thematic elements.
DVD Technical Specs.
Format: Region 1 (US and Canada) Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (matted)
Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitle Tracks: English / Spanish
Wordplay, the new documentary by Patrick Creadon, takes us into the strange and mysterious world of those who enjoy solving the New York Times crossword puzzle. Its main 'character' is Will Shortz, Puzzle Master extraordinaire. When he's not busy editing crosswords for upcoming editions of the New York Times, Mr. Shortz can be heard puzzling millions of listeners on National Public Radio.
The supporting cast of crossword fanatics includes a former U.S. President, a Major League baseball pitcher, a pair of popular folk-rock singers, and a well-known fake news anchor. Interviews of these famous fans add to the fun of the film, but at the true heart of Wordplay are the nearly 500 everyday people who have come to compete in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Yes, with the help of Will Shortz, these daring individuals have taken a solitary hobby and, for one week a year, turned it into an incredible social event. Now, that's what I'd call a six-letter word for an often poignant difference or incongruity!
Director Patrick Creadon knows that attempting a documentary about crossword puzzles is, quite fittingly, tricky business. In fact, I can think of few subjects that have the potential to be less visually interesting. Watching paint dry is one of them. Watching dry paint is another. Fortunately, Creadon's directing style, along with dynamic graphics and great music, allows the events to unfold as a wonderful human drama. By the end of the film, even those who have never picked up a crossword puzzle may find themselves rooting for their favorite to be crowned "Crossword Champ".
I must admit that crossword puzzles are not really my idea of 'fun'. I'm more of a "fill-in-all-the-squares-with-random-letters-in-less-than-two-minutes-then-wad-up-the- page-and-throw-it-away-while-others-watch-in-stunned-amazement" kind of guy. However, as far as true-life documentaries are concerned, Wordplay is more fun than an entire flock of an eight-letter word for flightless waterfowl. Bravo!
DVD Features Review
Feature Commentary: Director Patrick Creadon, New York Times Crossword Editor Will Shortz, and Crossword Constructor Merl Reagle discuss the stories behind the story of Wordplay in a commentary that is easily as entertaining as the film itself. Warning: Watch the documentary first. This commentary is rife with spoilers!
Deleted Scenes: Even more from the cutting room floor! Random snippets not included in the film, including a couple scenes that were 'reshot' before the final cut, proving that not every documentary moment is completely spontaneous.
Interview Gallery: Essentially, these are deleted or extended scenes from the celebrity interview portions of the film. Fun stuff!
Photo Gallery: Stills from Wordplay. The movie in convenient non-moving form!
Music Video: "Every Word" by Gary Louris.
DVD ROM Enabled: 5 Unforgettable Puzzles from the New York Times to solve!
*5 Unforgettable Puzzles - Fascinating shorts about the making of five of the most memorable New York Times crosswords. Spoiler alert! Thinking of solving one of them? Don't watch these featurettes until you do! (or until you give up trying)
*Wordplay goes to Sundance - Join the cast & filmmakers as they host the premiere of Wordplay at the Sundance Film Festival.
*Waiting for The New York Times - A short film by Patricia Erens.
Subtitles: Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
By far the best special feature of Wordplay is the commentary track, which is like getting an entire second movie about crossword puzzles. (yes, that's a good thing!) Coming in second would be the "5 Unforgettable Puzzles" featurettes, which provide wonderful insight into the making of these black & white brain busters. Overall, a splendid DVD presentation!
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