July 18, 2006

He moves his words like a prizefighter

Let me start by saying that although I am a force to be reckoned with with certain kinds of puzzles and games (Jeopardy, um, checkers), I HATE the New York Times crossword puzzle (and no, I am not using that word too strongly). Clues like “slant differently” and “Banquo, e.g.” just make me feel stupid. So I avoid it and we are all happier people. That being said, Wordplay made me want to give it a second chance and sharpen my pencil.

Wordplay is a new documentary about championship crossword puzzlers that I saw this weekend. No, really. AND here’s the rub: It is actually vastly enjoyable and entertaining with quite the deluxe soundtrack (you knew I was going there).

From the opening notes of the perfectly placed Cake song (“Adjectives on the typewriter/He moves his words like a prizefighter/The frenzied pace of the mind inside the cell“) to the Eels & They Might Be Giants in the middle, Talking Heads covers by Shawn Colvin (has Sunny come home yet?) and the original compositions by Gary Louris (The Jayhawks & Golden Smog), it’s fantastic.

This movie explains what the little nerds of Spellbound aspire to when they grow up. It’s crazy to hear these people speak in such reverent terms of their annual gathering in the Stamford, CT Marriott; it is the Holy Grail, American Idol, and the prom all rolled up into one. But it’s played with a light touch by director Patrick Creadon, and is overall a lot of fun to watch. You end up rooting for your favorite competitor, and as my friend is rumored to have said, “I never expected to cry in a movie about crossword puzzles.”

If I cried at all, by JOVE, it was due to laughing at Jon Stewart, who stars in the movie as well as other crossword-puzzlers like the Indigo Girls, Bill Clinton and (Yankees’ pitcher) Mike Mussina. Jon Stewart’s comments about what he perceived famed Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz to be like before he met him were worth the price of admission alone: “You picture this guy who’s like . . . 13, 14 inches tall, doesn’t care to go more than 5 feet without his inhaler. But then you meet him and, wow! He’s tall. He’s like the Errol Flynn of the crossword puzzle world.” I wonder if I could somehow get Jon Stewart to come live at my house.

Shadow Stabbing – Cake
Originally from Comfort Eagle (2001), possibly my favorite song on that album.

Saturday Morning – Eels
Originally from Shootenanny! (2003)

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) – Shawn Colvin
Talking Heads cover, originally from Cover Girl (1994)

Plus, you can listen to songwriter Gary Louris perform three other songs from the movie (“Read Every Word” from the ending credits, “Listen Joe,” and “Tarpit”) on Minnesota Public Radio.

13 Across: Good fun.

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  • Thanks for the links to the music. I also LOVE the soundtrack! I put a link to your blog on my blog. :0

    Ellen — July 18, 2006 @ 6:33 pm

  • word…i wanna check this too. didn’t know the OST was good too though…thanks Heather!

    Dodge — July 19, 2006 @ 7:17 am

  • I can do the NYT myself Monday and Tuesday. Wed and Thur it takes a group. Friday is inhuman.

    Chief Scientist — July 19, 2006 @ 8:48 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

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