Thursday, July 27, 2006


A few weekends ago, I saw Wordplay. I left the theater itching to get my hands on a copy of the New York Times and a pencil, which isn't something I generally feel. I used to do them in college when I was bored during class. I was always pretty good at them, but the crossword puzzles in my college newspaper are child's play compared to the holy grail of crossword puzzles, The New York Times.

There's a performance of a song in Wordplay about crossword puzzles with the refrain, "If you don't come across, I'm gonna be down." So, yeah, it's that kind of movie, but it was surprisingly entertaining and suspenseful. There are interviews with all sorts of celebrity crossword lovers like Bill Clinton, the Indigo Girls and Jon Stewart who delivers the funniest line of the movie when he says "I'll do USA Today, but I won't feel good about it." When you get to the actual tournament in the second half of the movie, there is a thrill in witnessing the contestants throw hissy fits when they overlook important words or pretend to enjoy each other's company when the cameras are around. There's the super-hyper college kid, Tyler, who really needs to take a chill pill. There's former champion Ellen who's this kind of nerdy girl who twirls a baton, but came up with the best come-back line when she told her condescending boyfriend, "Well, what are you the best in the country at?" My favorite player is Jon, the mellow bespectacled piano player who's won the tournament a record seven times. He never practices for the tournament. He just comes and tries to do the best he can each time. He seemed to be the least off-puttingly cutesy and most importantly least ego-centric of all the contestants, which was like a breath of fresh air after listening to Trip go on and on and on about his obsession with crosswords.

The funniest thing about me and crossword puzzles is that I once banned them at my old job. I had a pretty large staff on my last case at the last job I worked at. And inevitably, there was some downtime. I was kind of a neat freak in the caseroom, because I couldn't stand seeing papers lying all around. I'd proclaim, "If you don't know what it is, just throw it away." Of the many papers I'd throw away were photocopies of the New York Times crossword puzzles. Why the hell are there copies of these everywhere? I even had to declare it as a rule in the caseroom because I was so tired of seeing them everywhere.

Now I feel bad for depriving all the guys on my staff of their fun. I might have stunted the development of a future champion. I feel so guilty.


tim said...

Bad, TCho, bad... let young kids play with crossword.

Aaron Weber said...

Man, I'd hate to work for you.

When I was temping in DC for a summer I did the Washington Post crossword online every day. And I once accidentally hung up on Harrison Ford. And they still kept me around for some reason.

Now, I do the Globe crossword on Sundays, which is not too hard. The NYT is easiest on Mondays, and hardest on weekends...

EM said...

my mom and i used to do the ones in c'ville's Daily Regress. now i buy books of them. but i buy the easy ones edited by Will Shortz that are pretty obviously all from the beginning of the week. where's the satisfaction if you can't actually finish it?

Anonymous said...

From Jayne: Never fear, champions are not stunted by administrative bans: they find a way to do what they want to do. :-)