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Wordplay: The Official Companion Book
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
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.

I think that anyone who enjoys crosswords would enjoy this book regardless of whether or not they had not seen the movie, although of course the book makes you want to see the movie (and vice versa).
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 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 wordplaythemovie.com. 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
VINE VOICEon 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
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
VINE VOICEon 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. Among the crosswords included in the book are:

* The first puzzle Will Shortz published in the New York Times

* The first puzzle Shortz edited for the Times--a puzzle which, we're told, "caused quite a stir, because it couldn't be completely solved with an ordinary pencil"

* The first crossword puzzle ever published (in 1913)

* Samples of puzzles edited by Shortz's three predecessors at the Times, Margaret Farrar, Will Weng, and Eugene Maleska

* The "Wordplay" puzzle that was created for and featured in the movie

* The 1998 puzzle, "Engagement," which was written for Manhattan attorney Bill Gottlieb and concealed in its answers Bill's marriage proposal to his girlfriend

* The ingenious Clinton/Dole puzzle that was published on Election Day in 1996

* The eight puzzles that contestants were set at the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, with directions for scoring your solution

Plus a lot more. In short, the book is a treasure trove of historically interesting puzzles. If you've been solving the New York Times puzzle religiously for decades, you may have seen all of this before. But for many of us relative newcomers to cruciverbalism, Wordplay is a great source for some of the best puzzles ever constructed.

Debra Hamel -- author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece (Yale University Press, 2003)
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2006
This book has lotsa puzzles and is very informative. Merl Reagle's explanation of Making a Crossword Puzzle was an eye-opener. These geniuses explain things like the, ahem, common folk could do same. RAVE review for this great companion book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2007
This companion book to the film available on DVD adds so much value to the film that it is an absolute must! Although I'd suggest not worth buying if you haven't seen the film and don't intend buying the DVD, as throughout it depends absolutely on a knowledge of references to the film. I'd advise buying both even if you haven't heard of the film! Great value, on a subject so rarely covered in this manner. Even if you've seen the film, the DVD is worth buying just for the extras! And the book is worth buying because you won't be able to absorb all the good stuff from the film alone; you will get an extra insight into so much of the film. I consider we're really fortunate the producers of the film have done so much for us in producing this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2008
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 ever created along with fascinating tidbits on crossword puzzle-making. Yummy!
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on December 6, 2013
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. Excellent companion piece to the movie, and great for anyone who enjoys clever crossword puzzles.
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on April 16, 2013
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. I look forward to every puzzle I tackle.
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