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Wordplay: The Official Companion Book [Paperback]

by Will Shortz
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 13, 2006 0312364032 978-0312364038 1st
Think Inside the Box!
Solve Puzzles from the Hit Movie, Learn to Construct Your Own Crosswords, and Much More
"Irresistible...punsters, linguists, and crossword puzzle fanatics everywhere couldn't ask for a more bracing tribute.... Buoyant and exhilaratingly brainy."
---Variety on the movie Wordplay
Are you a crossword fan? Or have you always wondered about the appeal of these puzzles but never tried them yourself? With the premiere of Wordplay, a documentary about crossword puzzles, legendary New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz, and the legions of solvers who devour his creations, here's your chance to become a part of the puzzle craze!
• Featuring some of the greatest puzzles from The New York Times and the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
• With an introduction by Will Shortz; the story of how he created the famous "Wordplay" crossword from constructor Merl Reagle; the inside crossword dope from Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, and others; and the inside story of the movie's creation from producer Christine O'Malley and director Patrick Creadon
• Learn how to create your own crossword; read what Bill Clinton and Bob Dole thought of the famous 1996 "Election Day" crossword; try the only New York Times crossword that can't be solved completely with a regular pen or pencil (hint: it features the Indigo Girls), and much more!
"Wordplay [has] potential to capture the commercial audience that made hits out of documentaries such as Spellbound and Mad Hot Ballroom."
---Associated Press
Visit the Wordplay movie Web site at

Frequently Bought Together

Wordplay: The Official Companion Book + Wordplay + The New York Times Will Shortz's Favorite Sunday Crossword Puzzles: From the Pages of The New York Times
Price for all three: $26.11

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Will Shortz has been the crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times since 1993. He is also the puzzlemaster on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and is founder and director of the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He has edited countless books of crossword puzzles, Sudoku, KenKen, and all manner of brain-busters.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (June 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312364032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312364038
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, intelligent, curiosity-satisfying September 9, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What an enjoyable book! It is so intelligently done, and provides so many satisfying answers for this curious reader. It is not a book version of the movie, nor is it an advertisement for the movie.

It is truly _complimentary to_ the movie. Everything in the book should be interesting to anyone who would be interested in the movie, and vice versa, but there is practically no overlap.

It is almost as if the filmmakers gathered and organized the material that they thought would be interesting to people who like crossword puzzles, and sorted it out into two piles, one labelled "cinematic" and one labelled "literary" (or "cruciverbal?"), and made the movie using the material in one pile and the book using the material in the other.

It illustrates the different editing styles by showing puzzles edited by Margaret Farrar, Will Weng, Eugene Maleska, and Will Shortz. It illustrates the ascending difficulty level by giving New York Times puzzles from Monday through Sunday. (I'm not a puzzle fanatic, I'd always assumed the Sunday puzzle was the _hardest_).

It gives a number of examples of some puzzles that champion solvers and enthusiasts considered their favorites. And I like them, too. In a way this book is a "best crossword puzzles"--as chosen by the people you saw in the movie.

It also gives you a chance to solve the puzzles that flashed by in the movie, including the "Wordplay" puzzle itself, and the puzzles that Ellen Ripstein solved to win the championship.

It gives information on how people construct puzzles, and what the rules for a properly constructed puzzle are considered to be. It gives directions for submitting puzzles to the Times--even telling us that the Times pays $135 for a daily puzzle, and $700 for a Sunday puzzle.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very much a companion to the movie June 19, 2006
A reversal of the common "loved the book? See the movie!" setup, this is a nice way to continue the movie experience after leaving the theatre. In its attempt to be a stand-alone volume for folks who can't get to the movie, however, it gets a bit redundant for those of us who have had the chance to see it.

Each main player in the film has a Q&A section, similar to the video at For those interested in construction, Merl's on-screen puzzle is fleshed out with lists of discarded theme clues and unused diagrams. For those interested specifically in Times puzzle construction, a small chart supplies Monday, Wednesday, and Friday clues for the same fill, and the requirements for submission to the Times are clearly laid out.

The puzzles included are some of the constructors' and competitors' favorites, a few written specifically for the book, and all eight puzzles of the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Each tournament puzzle lists both the champions' time AND the time you'd need to finish it in to make the top 50 (for most people, this is a more reasonable goal time than trying to hang with the top 3 or 4).

In short, a handy stopgap between theatre release and DVD release. Or, something to do between tournaments.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hand in hand... August 21, 2006
... with the movie, does this Wordplay book fit in. If you enjoyed the movie, then you will certainly enjoy the companion book to it. Will Shortz, puzzleman extraordinaire, has edited the NYT crossword for the last umpteen years, and the movie and companion book celebrates his humble brilliance.

The book features each of the people in the movie in a brief Q and A session, and includes over 50 crossword puzzles for a solver to enjoy, some of them featured in the movie, including the infamous Clinton/Dole puzzle. I had purchased Will Shortz' favorite puzzle book immediately after seeing the movie (I literally walked straight to the nearest bookstore to purchase it!), and some of the puzzles repeat.

I loved Wordplay. I loved the book. And you will too!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A breezy read, nothing too in depth July 26, 2006
I was able to finish this book in one sitting in the middle of a heatwave one afternoon. I'm not sure what I was hoping for after I saw the movie, and found out about this book. As an enthusiast in crossword puzzle, solving and constructing, I had some queries about Merl Reagle's Wordplay puzzle. So the book was able to fill in the timeline for my interest. Otherwise, the book had some profiles and Q&A about the people shown in the movie as expected.

I guess, the main point I can make is that, if you already know a lot about crossword puzzles, and saw the movie, then you will probably find the information here unsurprising. However, if you want to learn more after seeing the movie, this book has a good number of choice puzzles, history of puzzles, and interesting tidbits about people who spend a lot time doing crossword puzzles. Not to spoil the surprise, the punchline is generally how nice and normal and quirky they are at the same time.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Treasure trove of interesting crosswords January 20, 2007
Wordplay is the companion book to the 2006 documentary of the same name. It was written by Christine O'Malley and Patrick Creadon, respectively the movie's producer and director. Will Shortz,the crossword editor of the New York Times (and "the Errol Flynn of crossword puzzling" according to Jon Stewart), contributes a foreword, and the book features interviews with a number of people who appeared in the film--crossword constructors and celebrity cruciverbalists and contestants in the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. The book's 12 brief chapters include a thumbnail history of crossword puzzles and discussions of, among other topics, Will Shortz's tenure at the Times, crossword puzzle construction, and the 2006 Sundance Film Festival at which the documentary premiered. I have not yet seen the movie, so I can't say for certain how much of the information in the book rehashes what appears on film, but much of it appears to be new--a number of those featured in the book discuss their reaction to seeing the film, for example, and crossword constructor Merl Reagle writes about the process of creating a puzzle for the film.

The text of the book reads very quickly, but finishing the 50 puzzles that are included in Wordplay will be the work of weeks, if not months. And it's the puzzles, for each of which a little background is supplied, that make Wordplay a book you'll want to own.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great companion book!
If you're a fan of the movie Wordplay, you'll love this book! It includes all of the crossword puzzles featured in the movie, plus more. Read more
Published 4 months ago by WILady
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Challenging
I loved the movie. It is entertaining to learn more about the 'cast,' and the puzzles are harder than I expected. I am a big fan of Will Shortz. Read more
Published 12 months ago by CultureVulture
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book For Crossword Puzzlers
Even though this book shares the title and alludes to the movie "Wordplay", there is little connection to it. Read more
Published on April 2, 2011 by Ron Nussle
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I was surpised to see ther types of puzzles in the book as well. I loved it
Published on October 28, 2008 by Rebecca H
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply genius.
Loved the acclaimed "Wordplay" documentary, and bought this companion book on an impulse. Readers are treated to a collection of some of the most clever and memorable crosswords... Read more
Published on April 27, 2008 by A. S. Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific! Fabulous!
This companion book to the film available on DVD adds so much value to the film that it is an absolute must! Read more
Published on May 8, 2007 by Rodney G. Stevenson
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT book...
This book has lotsa puzzles and is very informative. Merl Reagle's explanation of Making a Crossword Puzzle was an eye-opener. Read more
Published on September 6, 2006 by Gwenn Ward
4.0 out of 5 stars If you liked the movie......
Then you know what to expect from the book and of course you want it.
Published on August 31, 2006 by ChemiSteve
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