Saturday, June 24, 2006


First-timers, director Patrick Creadon and writer Christine O’Malley, have created an endearing film about crossword puzzles and the people who love them. Some are even obsessed by them. Everyone in the film plays him or herself.


At the center of the film is Will Shortz, editor and puzzler extraordinaire, of the New York Times’ Crossword Puzzles and the annual Crossword tournament held annually at the Marriott Hotel in Stamford, Ct.



Throughout the 90-minute documentary we meet former tournament winners and people who have been members of this unique community since its beginning in 1978. The final part of the film is about the surprise winner of the 2005 tournament.


I noticed some things about the puzzlers who are interviewed (including Jon Stewart who is hilarious, as well as former President Bill Clinton who said he likes to do the NYT crosswords because it lets him know what people are thinking about these days.)  Puzzlers (and winners of the tournament) as shown in the film are mostly white males, and many in the film are left-handed (does this say something about why they like to do puzzles? I don't know...)


Someone in the film says that generally puzzlers in the U.S. are either musicians or experts in the computer field. The consensus of the opinions expressed about why people do crosswords puzzles is because they appeal to the human desire to figure things out and solve mysteries. The puzzle constructors, those who make the puzzles and submit them to the NYTimes are fascinating, as are the how and why the rules of creating puzzles came about. Did you know that the Sunday Times’ crossword does not have any words that are body parts or functions? It just won’t do.


Is it a Monday, or A Tuesday puzzle, asks Will shortz when puzzles are submitted. Or a Saturday or Sunday puzzle? Wonder what the difference is? Try them....


Like Spellbound, and Mad Hot Ballroom, it’s a joy to see a film about people having innocent fun doing something that makes community, promotes civility and learning, and can inspire people to be good at something different than the usual competitive fields (like football!) and that doesn’t include violence.

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