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Black and White World

Me and the mister got with a couple of friends yesterday and trekked all the way out to Scottsdale to see the film Wordplay. I knew I was going to enjoy it since crosswords and puzzling have always fascinated me, but this documentary is one of the livelier and better made ones I’ve seen in recent years. Movies that have genuine heart and make you leave the theater with a smile are hard to come by, and this one has that in spades. Basically it covers all aspects of the current crossword puzzling world, with New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz guiding the viewer through a brief history of crossword (including a nice section on the Times‘ puzzling grande dame, Margaret Farrar) and what goes into the making and editing of puzzles. As editor of Games magazine in the ’80s, Shortz was responsible for popularizing a new kind of crossword that sparkled with overriding themes, cleverly worded clues and a sense of whimsy — qualities that make the Times puzzles in particular so addictive for their many fans. The film’s second half follows the major annual crossword puzzle tournament with an increasing intensity. The contestants profiled were appealingly geeky and not borderline-freaks like the Scrabble tournament players in Stefan Fatsis’ Word Freak and its companion documentary, Word Wars.

Based on this movie’s appearance of famous puzzlers like Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton, I have a theory. Crosswords tend to attract a more liberal, intellectually curious audience, while devotees of the inexplicably popular sudoku tend to be a more Republican bunch. That’s the only way I can figure it.

One Thought on “Black and White World

  1. Now that you mention it, I have noticed the conservative/sudoku connection while in airports and at the office. The only people I see doing crosswords in public are the obvious liberal types.

    There is a third type you missed, the word search folks. You can spot them a mile away, tongue slightly out the side of their mouths, trying to get that last pesky diagonal.

    I look forward to seeing that movie – thanks for the review.

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