The Reel World: Competitive word games

Word gaming

Young man sitting doing a crossword puzzle looking thoughtfully at a magazine with his pencil to his mouth as he tries to think of the answer to the clueThe new word game sensation, Wordle, has drawn me in along with thousands of others. When I spotted the documentary The Palindromists innocently sitting on the shelf in the New Books/Media area, I thought why not? Palindromes are words spelled the same both forward and backward like noon, racecar, sagas and kayak. A phrase or sentence can also be a palindrome: Was it a cat I saw?

Why exactly are we drawn to word games such as Wordle, crossword puzzles or scramble words? Are we evitative of our brains slowing and losing their prowess or the thought that an idle brain is the devil’s workshop? Egad! An adage! Personally, I enjoy the challenge of completing a seemingly impossible task and the perks of keeping my brain awake.

The Palidromists

DVD cover Follow nine contestants as they compete for World Palindrome Champion during the 2017 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. On the first day the contestants are given an hour to create an original palindrome sentence, phrase or poem with a certain parameter. Once the first segment is won, the contestants are given a different set of parameters to work on overnight for the final competition.

I admit, the level of some of their palindrome work deified my basic understanding. The larger the palindrome phrase the more I said “huh” instead of “wow.” I found if I took each slowly and read it like I do poetry, I began to understand the phrases and now look at words in a whole new way. James Bond fans will get a kick from one of the winning entries.

This is not a high adventure DVD experience, it’s quite tame, but it does show a group of self-proclaimed nerds enjoying a friendly yet stressful competition to see who can out think the other. As you sit down to watch this DVD with your snack and pop in hand, see if you can tax your gray matter into coming up with a few palindromes on your own. You can also stream this movie with  Hoopla.

More brain teasing documentaries

Word Wars

Follow four Scrabble game fanatics as they advance to the North American Championship. The film is a thoroughly entertaining and hilarious look at a board game that’s an occasional amusement for some – and a serious obsession (or disturbing addiction) for others.


Journey into the world of Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor at The New York Times. Shortz has spent his entire lifetime studying, creating and editing puzzles, and has built a huge following along the way including Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.

Books about word games

Thinking Inside the Box

Almost as soon as it appeared, the crossword puzzle became indispensable to our lives. Invented practically by accident in 1913 when a newspaper editor at the New York World was casting around for something to fill empty column space. It became a roaring commercial success almost overnight. Ever since  the humble puzzle has been an essential ingredient of any newspaper worth its salt.

But why, exactly, are the crossword’s satisfactions so sweet? Blending first-person reporting from the world of crosswords with a delightful telling of its rich literary history, Adrienne Raphel dives into the secrets of this classic pastime. Thinking Inside the Box is an ingenious love letter not just to the abiding power of the crossword but to the infinite joys and playful possibilities of language.

Word Nerd

“Explores anagrams, palindromes, the highest-scoring Scrabble plays of all time, [and] the birth of the World Scrabble Championship, as well as many of the more colorful figures that inhabit this subculture. Die-hard word fans will find tips on how top players see their boards and racks to come up with the best play, how they prepare, and the psychology of tournament competition. Those uninitiated in the mysteries of Scrabble mania will find a memoir about all the fun people have with language and how words shape our lives and culture in unexpected ways.” – dust jacket description

The Puzzler

The New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically goes on a rollicking journey to understand the enduring power of puzzles- why we love them, what they do to our brains, and how they can improve our world.

*Those of you with palindromes already on your radar, I’ve included 13 palindrome words and two palindrome phrases in this brief blog.

You may see me on the Learn & Play Bus, at the Monday Farmers Market or on the Book Bike. You'll also hear me on Call-A-Story. However, my main function at the library is to acquire adult nonfiction items for your enjoyment.