Monday, January 08, 2007


During the first minutes of New Year's Day, just moments after the clock initiated 2007, my wife, her brother - who'd been visiting us in New York for the holidays - and I sat down to a movie. Wordplay, which was one of last year's most talked about documentaries, examines the phenomenon of crossword puzzles as seen through the eyes of Will Shortz, the New York Times' and NPR's puzzle editor.

While a movie about people doing crossword puzzles probably sounds as interesting as watching the proverbial paint dry, that is far from the truth here. Aside from those ferocious fans who can plow through a puzzle in less than two minutes, the film also spends time with such puzzle-players as President Bill Clinton, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and documentarian Ken Burns. The need to unravel the mystery and crack the code drives many to daily take up the Times and its challenges. It turns out Wordplay was fantastic. And inspiring.

It was high time we began. It was, as far as I know, our only New Year's resolution.

We greeted the new day and year properly (after a few hours sleep) with brunch at Sarabeth's, one of Manhattan's most sought-after restaurants. Over an amazing breakfast and tall mimosas, we unfurled our copy of the Times that we snagged from a corner vendor on the way over, found the puzzle, folded the paper properly and set to work with a carefully procured pencil.

The three of us finished the puzzle by the end of brunch. We were elated. Though we knew the puzzles got progressively more difficult as the week went on, Stephanie and I had never done one before - at least in adulthood - and felt a certain amount of empowerment. It was fantastic to watch the white spaces disappear as we racked our brains successfully for the answers.

Tuesday's was indeed more difficult, though we were still able to complete it with a few helpful hints from the internet. We seemed to be getting the hang of things on Wednesday, easily finishing over 3/4ths of the puzzle. Turns out we were just being lulled into a false sense of security. Thursday's puzzle incorporated peculiar punctuation that confused us to no end, and Friday's involved mostly and nearly impossible to comprehend long or multi-word answers. What began as an enjoyable exercise quickly devolved into a frustrating conundrum. We were lucky if we properly answered a handful of clues. I'm afraid that Saturday's puzzle was only given a half-hearted and cursory glance and though Sunday's expansive (and expensive) paper sits on the kitchen table, we have yet to open it.

It's only January 8th. So much for that resolution.

Then again, today is Monday. Perhaps it's time for a fresh start. The disillusionment and despair can wait until later in the week. For today, we're an 10-letter word, across, meaning "unable to defeat, cannot overcome."


Blogger Beth said...

I LOVE words!!! I love Scrabble, I love crosswords, I love word finds - don't give up!! My husband kicks my butt regularly in Scrabble (as does anyone else who plays me) yet I still love it! I am a self-professed word geek - making Lanny tape the National Spelling Bee for me when I can't watch it and NetFlixing films like "WordPlay" and the like.
Oh, and Brandon? Forecast for Colorado at the end of the week? Snow Thursday - Sunday with the possibility of 16 to 20 inches. Yes, my friend the weather pattern has turned back to the days of elementary school!
Maybe with all the snow I'll make my husband beat me in Scrabble......

12:20 PM  
Blogger Tanya said...

fun post. thanks for making me giggle :)

4:07 PM  
Anonymous nate said...


Wordplay was great. Did you like the part with the Bob Dole/Bill Clinton clue?

7:10 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant--the presidential bit, not your word guess. Though, in all honestly, you're right.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Tanya said...

Have you seen Akeehlah and the Bee?I thought of this post last weekend as I watched(the movie)...and played countless games of Boggle. Definite exercise for the brain.

4:49 PM  

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