Wordplay (Patrick Creadon). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (June 16). For venues and times, see Movies, page 107. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
For people who can't get enough of the current spate of spelling bee movies, here's a charming documentary about the people who create and solve the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.
The putative star of the show is puzzles editor Will Shortz , but he gets upstaged by a coterie of celebrity crossword puzzlers that includes Jon Stewart , Bill Clinton , the Indigo Girls and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns .
The big treat of the first half of this film is seeing a crossword created by one of the Times' puzzle setters, followed by Patrick Creadon cutting between the various solvers as they work through the very puzzle we've seen created. And the celebrity solvers are genuine. A couple identify the setter from the style, and others make observations like, "This isn't really a Tuesday puzzle - it's more of a Wednesday." (For those of you who don't work the Times puzzle, Monday is pretty easy. Friday most assuredly not.)
In the rest of the film, which could be called Puzzle Geeks On Parade, the filmmakers visit the high-tension world of the annual crossword puzzle tournament in Stanford, Connecticut. This is what happens to those kids from the spelling bee movies when they grow up.
It's a smart movie, but awfully little - it will play just as well on TV or video down the road, and doesn't really warrant first-run prices.