After a great day of running errands, doing laundry, wrapping presents, and working out, Heather and I sat down last night with a new documentary – World Play. It was a cleverly done film that I found to be really enjoyable on a number of levels.
The film tells several stories within a greater story. There are stories of individual crossword puzzlers preparing for the National Competition, there are stories of crossword creators and their craft, and there are stories of famous persons (Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, The Indigo Girls, John Stewart, and Mike Mussina to name a few) who love their Crossword puzzles. At it’s core though, the film is the story of Will Shortz, the Crossword Puzzle Editor for the New York Times and founder of the National Tournament.
Shortz is a unique brand of person who knew early on in life what he wanted and set out to pursue it. As a young boy growing up in Indiana he said he wanted to go to college to get a degree in Puzzles. When he was accepted into Indiana University he began designing his own degree program and ended up crafting a degree in Enigmatology – the study of puzzles. To date, he is the only person to have received this degree. At one point, early in the film, Will reflects, I knew what I wanted to do and was prepared to be poor for the rest of my life doing it.
As is often the case with people like him, Shortz has found great success doing what he loves to do and people seem to be naturally drawn to his passion as well as to him. In the end, one of the things that impressed me the most about the film was the way in which it portrayed the Crossword Puzzling Community as such a close-knit, supportive network of folks who are as much family for as they are competition to one another.
These things – passion for your work and play, commitment, creativity, and the support of community – are at it’s core what life is about.