Cliché. Ephemeral. Pretentious.
Just a few words that modern day film critics (something I aspire to be someday) use to describe bad movies. It is words that we put into motion to bring to life our feelings, perspectives and analysis about a particular film. In the case of the documentary Wordplay, none of the aforementioned words would be needed.
Wordplay is like a great crossword puzzle, intelligently crafted and captivating. It seems fitting, then, that the entire purpose of the film is to bring to life the world of crossword puzzles – and the dedicated puzzle solvers who are addicted to them. In the center of it all is Mr. Crossword Puzzle himself, Will Shortz, who makes his living as the crossword editor for The New York Times. Famous for their ingenious nature and their sometimes immense difficulty, Shortz’ puzzles are often heralded as the best around – so great, in fact, that he catches the eyes of some of New York's (and America’s) most notable names. From celebrities like comedian Jon Stewart and Yankees’ pitcher Mike Mussina to political icons like former President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole, it is apparent that Shortz’ fanbase stretches far beyond that kid who you cheated off of in 11th grade English class.
But Wordplay is not just about Will Shortz, but mostly about the large following that exists in the world of crosswords. Every year hundreds of crossword junkies travel to the American Crossword Puzzle Championships, put on by National Public Radio and led by Shortz. It follows the paths of five top notch word-ologists as they vie for the honor of being America’s top puzzle conqueror. What it turns into is some of the most intense and fascinating action in the history of crossword puzzles. It is very interesting to see how dedicated and passionate the contestants are, showing both a true competitive spirit and a genuine love for all things that are puzzling.