Monday, November 06, 2006


Last week I saw a doco that I neglected to write about, and that was an oversight I intend to rectify at once!

Wordplay is a documentary about crossword puzzles, and in particular the New York Times crossword puzzle, and in even more particular, the annual New York Times crossword puzzle competition.

As somebody who enjoys crossword puzzles, this doc was a must-see. I don't do crossword puzzles every day, but last summer I did the Sydney Morning Herald Quick Crossword every day for about a month.

That's pretty lame when you compare it to how dedicated some of the people are here.

One guy admits something he never told anybody before, that every day he writes down his time. He then flips through an exercise book with pages and pages of tightly packed columns of figures. He must have been doing it for years. He confessed that part of the reason he did it was to monitor the health of his brain. A pretty good idea, I think!

One of the most interesting parts of Wordplay was the insight into the construction of a crossword puzzle. Maybe it's just me, but I've never thought about these things as being created by somebody, they're just there in the paper, so it was fascinating to watch the scene where the guy starts with a blank grid and proceeds to put down a word, then colour some squares black, and so on. As to the black squares, they must be filled in so that when you turn the puzzle upside down, they are in the same position. I didn't know that, either, so I wondered if this was a general thing or unique to the NYT crossword, so I checked the SMH crossword, and yep, you flip it upside down and the black squares are in the same position!

Celebrity crossword puzzle fans are interviewed here too, like Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina and the Indigo Girls.

The doco builds up to the the main event, which is the previously mentioned annual crossword puzzle competition, held in a hotel on Manhattan Island. The contenders here are regular people, outwardly, ha! ha!, but really they are absolute crossword puzzle wizards!

This was a really great documentary. You may think it would be tough to make a crossword puzzle competition exciting, but they succeeded here. It was real edge-of-the-seat stuff!

1 comment:

CA said...

Very interesting! (This next I'll have to whisper)

I keep three (a hard, medium and easy) crossword puzzle books and a ball point pen in a magazine rack within reach of the throne in my main bathroom. Which one I use depends on the the severity of the situation.