WORDPLAY FOLLOW-UP. It isn't every day that I see a movie for free just because I sent someone an email with the word "scumbag" in it. No, it was yesterday that I took advantage of the passes I won last month and enjoyed Wordplay at the IFC Film Center. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in modern-day crossword puzzles and the people who create and solve them. It's largely New York-centric, focusing on a number of puzzle people from around town and perhaps even overstating the importance of New York Times crossword puzzles. (I mean, I'm not sure the London Times crossword was acknowledged even once.)
As someone with an interest in human-computer chess challenges, I was intrigued by a section of the film that suggested that computers would have a tougher time with crossword experts than chess experts. It has to do with the human ability to recognize and interpret clues that are cryptic and punny. So consider adding that to your list of what makes humans human.
The film's a lot of fun, but I was a little saddened by sections featuring Bill Clinton. The suppleness of his mind is another reminder of how unqualified the current president is. Clinton's intelligence might well be overrated (and seriously undermined by his recklessness), but it does seem much closer to the type one would want from a powerful leader.
A number of Wordplay's players have staked out territory on the Internet. Ellen Ripstein maintains a blog called Putting the "blah blah blah" in blog. (Scroll around for lots of observations about her ongoing Wordplay experience.) Norman "Trip" Payne maintains a blog. (Brian Dominy, his partner, maintains a blog that links to photos of the Wordplay opening.) Current champ Tyler Hinman maintains this blog. Also represented is Kiran Kedlaya at Kiranistan. And here's the website for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
Don't fret too much if you can't catch Wordplay at a movie house. It's the type of movie that, I think, could be greatly enhanced by DVD extras.