There's an episode of MASH where Hawkeye and B.J. become obsessed with solving a New York Times crossword puzzle and go to outrageous lengths to finish it. This episode perfectly sums up the kind of dedication these puzzles inspire and require. Wordplay profiles Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times and explores a hobby that millions of people practice on buses and subways to and from work every day. What is the appeal of crossword puzzles? This entertaining and informative documentary answers this question.
This is a fun, engaging documentary that successfully conveys the passion people have for crosswords. All one needs is a puzzle and something to write with and there is something comforting about that kind of simplicity in this day and age where everyone seems to be plugged into an iPod or a Playstation.
There is an audio commentary by director Patrick Creadon, New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz and crossword constructor Merl Reagle. Shortz comes across as a naturally funny guy who tells some amusing anecdotes. This is a very genial, engaging track that compliments the documentary quite well.
Also included are seven deleted scenes pertaining to Shortz. We see footage of him reading another fan letter, footage of him talking about the difficulty he had taking over at the New York Times and the negative mail he received about how much tougher the puzzles were when he took over.
There are six additional deleted scenes with the other puzzle solvers in the doc. Ellen Ripstein talks about the allure of puzzles for her while Al Sanders speaks about how he is at the perfect age for solving puzzles.
There are three deleted scenes from the Stamford Crossword Tournament including more interviews with other attendees.
The "Interview Gallery" features more footage of the celebrity puzzle solvers. Ken Burns talks about his love for crosswords while Jon Stewart talks about meeting Shortz in person for the first time.
"5 Unforgettable Puzzles from the Pages of the New York Times" features footage of five people who created some of the most memorable crosswords in the newspaper's history. One lady designed a pictorial puzzle and another designs humourous puzzles with puns.
"Wordplay Goes to Sundance" shows the documentary's reception at this famous film festival. Key crew members and interview subjects were there and are shown answering questions from the audience.
There is a music video for the song "Every Word" by Gary Louris.
Also included is the "Wordplay Photo Gallery," a montage of pictures from the Sundance screenings.
"And the Winner is..." presents the finalists from this year's Annual American Crossword Tournament.
Finally, there is "Waiting for the New York Times," a short film by Patricia Erens.