Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Movie Log: Wordplay

I saw Wordplay sometime last week (Wednesday?) and it's already getting hazy in my mind. It's a pleasant documentary about crossword puzzles, concentrating on Will Shortz (New York Times puzzle editor) and an annual puzzle competition he runs at a Connecticut hotel.

The one thing I kept expecting someone to mention, but no one ever did, was the difference between American-style and British-style crosswords. Maybe British-style puzzles are little-known over here, but failing even to mention the great divide made the movie seem very parochial to me.

It is a nice, light documentary, but anyone who wants to see it should know that all of those famous people on the box cover (and a few more) only show up for a scene or two each -- the movie is about lesser-known folks competing at the aforementioned competition. I didn't mind that at all, but in today's celebrity-crazed culture, I'm sure there are people who will be suicidally depressed that we only see Jon Stewart three or four times in his office.


Øystein said...

I didn't know there was any notable difference between British and American crosswords.
Are you thinking of cryptic crosswords, which are fairly popular in Britain? Great stuff, those, though I'm no good at them.

_Wordplay_ was a pretty decent movie. The second half where we follow some people to the championship reminded me of the 2004 movie _Word Wars_ which follows a group of people to a Scrabble championship, which in turn reminded me of the 2002 movie _Spellbound_ which follows a group of kids to the national spelling bee finals.

Seems I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, as I quite enjoyed all three. I could've done without most of the celebrity stuff in _Wordplay_.

Robert Hutchinson said...

I'm pretty sure that cryptic crosswords are "British crosswords". I know that I've seen a bunch of UK-type folks call them simply "crosswords" with no confusion.

After watching Wordplay, I tried timing myself on some crosswords. I found that I'm pretty good at it--right up to the point where I hit something that I'll never think of in a million years. My usual strategy (come back to the puzzle a week later and have the answer magically pop into my mind) doesn't work too well on the clock.

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