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With: Will Shortz, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Ken Burns, Jon Stewart, Mike Mussina, Indigo Girls, Merl Reagle, Daniel Okrent, Tyler Hinman, Al Sanders, Trip Payne, Jon Delfin, Ellen Ripstein
Written by: Patrick Creadon, Christine O'Malley
Directed by: Patrick Creadon
MPAA Rating: PG for some language and mild thematic elements
Running Time: 84
Date: 04/06/2006

Wordplay (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Crossed Words

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Patrick Creadon's documentary Wordplay -- about crossword puzzlers -- rides on the coattails of a fascinating new trend: taking intellectual pursuits and turning them into competitions. But since this territory has already been so well covered in Spellbound (as well as numerous other spelling bee movies) and Word Wars (the Scrabble movie), Wordplay comes across as too little, too late. It's also a bit on the meek side, portraying its nerdy contest entrants as the best of friends rather than competitors. Where Wordplay wins, however, is not so much in the contest footage, but in its interviews with average, everyday crossword puzzle junkies like President Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart and Ken Burns. We also get a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the puzzles are created for publication in the New York Times every day. That paper's crossword editor Will Shortz provides the movie's most interesting perspectives.

DVD Details: IFC's new Wordplay DVD comes with an extraordinary list of extras, beginning with five of the most legendary crossword puzzles of recent years. They are available in digital form, downloadable through the Interactual Player (although I was unable to access them), as well as in good old-fashioned paper form in the DVD liner notes. Five short documentary featurettes describe the creation of each puzzle. Director Creadon and Shortz contribute a commentary track, and there are rolls and rolls of deleted scenes, interviews and other featurettes.

Best Buy Co, Inc.