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Wordplay

Patrick Creadon

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Wordplay
Directed by: Patrick Creadon
(IFC Films)
One montage in Wordplay shows various celebrities—including the Indigo Girls, Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton and documentarian Ken Burns—hunkered down over the New York Times crossword. Burns breaks into a delighted smile as he notices a hidden pun. “They’re playing with us here,” he says. “That’s wonderful.” That delight’s really what Wordplay is all about—the celebrity crossword enthusiasts are beside the point. The famous faces only show up briefly, possibly intended as a hook for a subject that director Creadon suspected audiences might find boring. But Stewart and company aren’t needed. The crossword-puzzle editors, creators and competitors that populate the rest of Wordplay are fascinating enough on their own. Creadon sets up the movie in the familiar sports documentary style—its first hour introduces the major movers and shakers in the world of competitive crossword-puzzle solving, and the rest shows them competing at the 28th Annual American Crossword Puzzle tournament. Many point out that solving a crossword puzzle is a relatively solitary pursuit: As such, it’s also one that doesn’t seem to lend itself to interesting cinema. However, Creadon makes his subject matter engaging and fun—rather, he artfully conveys fun that already exists, but few would ever think to examine.
—Lindsay McCarney

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