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Will Shortz, Merl Reagle, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Indigo Girls ... see more see more... , Mike Mussina , Daniel Okrent , Bob Dole , Bill Clinton , Al Sanders , Amy Ray , Ellen Ripstein , Emily Saliers , Jon Delfin , Trip Payne , Tyler Hinman

This documentary film provides an in-depth look at "The New York Times" crossword puzzle, its editor Will Shortz and the wonderfully unique and loyal fan base Shortz has built and nurtured during his ... read more read more...12-year tenure at the paper.

Flixster Users

80% liked it

21,404 ratings

Critics

95% liked it

121 critics

PG, 1 hr. 34 min.

Directed by: Patrick Creadon

Release Date: June 16, 2006

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DVD Release Date: November 7, 2006

Stats: 1,042 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,042)


  • April 23, 2011
    Recently I've watched films about those obsessed with Scrabble, Chess, and Cinema. This was probably my favorite. First of all, all the people featured in this documentary seem to be able to function. They make friends, relationships, study, have jobs, etc. This makes them easier... read more to relate to and makes their talents more impressive. Unlike Scrabble, where people just memorized words, and not their meaning, here the contestants need some intelligence. The documentary loses points as it focuses too much on just The New York Times crossword puzzle. Which is fair enough, and leads to us seeing the creation and editing of crosswords. However, it comes across as an advertisement sometimes. Luckily, there is a lot of interest here. You wouldn't believe how much work goes into a simple puzzle, and how clever they can be. I never knew a puzzle could be witty until I saw the election of Bob Dole/Clinton section. It all boils up to a fantastic tournament finish. What I loved about this was that I was routing for all three finalists, and it was an unpredictable, heart-breaking, but also uplifting ending. It contained a lot of emotions without the manipulation you find in sport biopics.
  • January 14, 2011
    Oh freakin' man! Such thrilling and fantastic geekery! Special features are totally money. Maybe if Helvetica had solicited the yesman pandering of some late night news comedian or some MVP baseball player or oh, you know, a president or two, it would have been a bigger... read more hit at the box office :~P
  • July 30, 2010
    A fabulous documentary.
  • March 19, 2009
    Documentaries can take on various forms: There are those that are about a topic of interest so you watch. There are those that are hyped so you watch. Then there are those that take on a subject that seems dry and you pause, "Am I really going to be interested in this subject mat... read moreter?" Wordplay takes what might only be a mildly interesting subject to some and through fantastic editing, great cameos, use of humor and intrigue it makes a fascinating watch. We are brought into the world of crosswords and crossword puzzle making with forays into how they are made, the history of and many of the people who live for them. The crossword that is the focus of attention here is arguably the most famous in the world; The New York Times Crossword Puzzle. We get to hear the editor speak as well as the creators. Cameos from the likes of Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton (among others) lend star power and identification. The most interesting focus of the documentary is about the people who don't just enjoy the puzzles, but truly live for them and don't just do them on a whim. There is a big event/contest that takes place yearly in Stamford, CT where these people gather and compete. This whole excursion into this life was fascinating and I never would have thought a crossword puzzle competition could be so exciting! A really fun watch that is just the right length. Watch it when you can.
  • April 12, 2007
    Amazing how suspenseful a crossword puzzle tournament can be, but that's not the best part of this doco. What had me was the sheer genius of the people who create them. Fascinating.
  • July 3, 2006
    An interesting look into the New York Times crossword puzzle, its enthusiastic players and the Nation Crossword Tournament. A great view if you're into crosswords and intellectual stimulation.
  • December 3, 2006
    Beyond excusing myself for further stalling the many stories that really must be shared, the city I'm off to this weekend, posting photos I am to post of my previous travels (which I'm totally holding up hundreds because of a few - I don't like incompletion...this has to be an A-... read morebomb of photos), catching up movie ratings in which I need 3 entries to post all, inviting people to talk about their apparent 'lives' and allowing me an opportunity to deny your collective neglect of my journal...now, this entry has no purpose.
  • July 2, 2006
    Very entertaining and educational. Bust your brains watching this.
  • April 3, 2010
    A look at the world of New York crossword puzzlers, given extra credence by having Bill Clinton one of its many fans. Geeky and harmless.
  • March 20, 2012
    Fond documentary about people obsessed with crossword puzzles, including thoughts from famous enthusiasts like Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, and Bill Clinton. Culminates with the annual national crossword competition of 2006 in Connecticut where all competitors seem like pleasant if s... read moreomewhat dorky individuals. I enjoy crosswords, but if you want to see an engrossing docu that showcases a competition in a pastime in which you have absolutely no interest, check out The King Of Kong instead.

Critic Reviews


Peter Travers
November 24, 2006
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Boy, was I wrong. There's more palm-sweating suspense in one minute of this baby than in all of The Omen.

Stephanie Zacharek
October 7, 2006
Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com

Even though these puzzles are mapped out with utmost precision -- and even though logic is an extremely useful tool for solving them -- they're still, somehow, objects of intrigue and mystery. Full Review

Roger Moore
July 7, 2006
Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel

A playful, informative and very sweet documentary about the world of words 'across' or 'down.' Full Review

Rene Rodriguez
June 30, 2006
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

It manages to turn an internal, solitary activity into fodder for an engaging, even exciting movie. Full Review

Tom Long
June 30, 2006
Tom Long, Detroit News

There's a surface satisfaction to Wordplay that's absolutely undeniable. But there are also just enough smarts here to make you wish for something more. Full Review

Terry Lawson
June 30, 2006
Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

Manages to present lively and entertaining portraits of men and women who think in boxes while working outside of them. Full Review

Kerry Lengel
June 29, 2006
Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic

Thankfully, just when you're ready to nod off, Stewart comes back. Watching him attack the Times with his pen and screaming 'Bring it!' is worth the price of admission. Full Review

Richard Roeper
June 26, 2006
Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper

A sincere, comprehensive look at the inside world of hardcore crossword puzzling. Full Review

Joe Morgenstern
June 23, 2006
Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

What's an eight-letter word for a non-fiction feature that is witty, wise and wonderful? Full Review

Richard Corliss
June 23, 2006
Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine

Every bit as smart as the Times puzzles, puzzlemakers and puzzle solvers. Full Review

Critic ratings and reviews powered by RottenTomatoes.com

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  • This documentary about the New York Times crossword puzzle features appearances from people such as Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Mike Mussina and Bill Clinton.  Answer »
  • This documentary about the New York Times crossword puzzle features appearances from people such as Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Mike Mussina and Bill Clinton.  Answer »

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