I have no cross words for Patrick Creadon, director of “Wordplay.” But his documentary is no more exciting than you’d expect a film about crossword puzzles.
“Wordplay” is built around the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Conn. It was started in 1978 by the reigning King of Crosswords, Will Shortz, puzzle editor of The New York Times since 1993. Shortz is the “star” of the movie.
The first and longer half of “Wordplay” introduces us to puzzlers and puzzlemakers. In the latter category is Merl Reagle, one of over a hundred people Shortz buys puzzles from annually. Someone says Reagle is so good he should be writing the more difficult weekend puzzles instead of the simpler ones for Mondays and Tuesdays. (Shortz sometimes tweaks clues to adjust the level of difficulty.)
The puzzlers introduced fall into two categories, celebrities and tournament contenders. In the former group, INDIGOGIRLS were pleased to find themselves in a puzzle (“Closer to Fine” singers); and CLINTON and BOBDOLE figured in a classic 1996 election results puzzle where either name would have fit, with crossing vertical words having corresponding alternate answers.
Even if you’re not a puzzle geek yourself you’ve probably known someone who buys the New York Times for the crossword puzzle and throws the rest away. For this reason “Wordplay” is always at least mildly interesting, but it’s never indescribably good.
Opens June 23 at Landmark Magnolia and Angelika-Plano.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 23, 2006.