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Wordplay (2006)

tomatometer

95

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 121
Fresh: 115 | Rotten: 6

You see them hunched over with their brows furrowed, folded newspaper in hand as they attempt to complete the crossword puzzle. This may even describe you. This ingeniously edited documentary introduces viewers to some of the more dedicated fans of this solitary pastime, none more well-known the puzzle editor for the New York Times, Will Shortz. This underground world provides a surprising amount of crowd-pleasing entertainment and suspense, especially at the annual crossword tournament. Didn't know there was one, did you?

98

Average Rating: 7.3/10
Critic Reviews: 41
Fresh: 40 | Rotten: 1

You see them hunched over with their brows furrowed, folded newspaper in hand as they attempt to complete the crossword puzzle. This may even describe you. This ingeniously edited documentary introduces viewers to some of the more dedicated fans of this solitary pastime, none more well-known the puzzle editor for the New York Times, Will Shortz. This underground world provides a surprising amount of crowd-pleasing entertainment and suspense, especially at the annual crossword tournament. Didn't know there was one, did you?

audience

80

liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 21,408

My Rating

Movie Info

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 12-year tenure at the paper.

Nov 7, 2006

$2.9M

IFC Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (126) | Top Critics (43) | Fresh (115) | Rotten (6) | DVD (14)

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

November 24, 2006
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

October 7, 2006 Full Review Source: Salon.com
Salon.com
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A playful, informative and very sweet documentary about the world of words 'across' or 'down.'

July 7, 2006 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

June 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

June 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

June 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A poignant inside look into the world of crossover puzzles of the NY Times.

July 25, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

As pleasant and good-natured as Wordplay is, it's not exactly potent stuff"

August 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer
Cinema Writer

If the movie emphasizes anything, it affirms that common-interest societies like this ... all survive by sharing the traits of community, devotion, and mutual dedication.

April 8, 2010 Full Review Source: ReelTalk Movie Reviews
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

Patrick Creadon's documentary about the New York Times crossword puzzle's creators and fans is a positively joyful movie that will appeal even to audiences who have little affinity for the mind-bending puzzles.

April 23, 2009 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

Similar in structure to the recent movie Spellbound, Wordplay is a fun documentary about an American institution and national habit.

June 8, 2008 Full Review Source: Paste Magazine
Paste Magazine

This movie is done so well that even if you're like me and don't do crossword puzzles, you'll still be entertained.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Three Movie Buffs
Three Movie Buffs

Director Patrick Creadon has turned crossword puzzling into a spectator sport.

November 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Reno Gazette-Journal

A five-letter synonym for this movie: Zzzzz.

November 14, 2006 Full Review Source: EDGE Boston
EDGE Boston

Where Wordplay wins is not so much in the contest footage, but in its interviews with average, everyday crossword puzzle junkies.

November 12, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Intriguing, surprising and stimulating, Wordplay is much more than a documentary about a crossword tournament. Anyone who is remotely interested in the English language will be fascinated

November 10, 2006 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Wordplay gave me new respect for the intelligence of those who solve them well, and admiration for those who create them.

November 6, 2006 Full Review Source: Aisle Seat
Aisle Seat

Their world of puzzles is like an alternate universe and this film offers a window into it.

October 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

A wonderful little documentary that seems fascinated with humanity.

August 30, 2006 Full Review
Norman Transcript

isn't the nail-biter that the 2003 spelling-bee documentary 'Spellbound' was (but) Creadon and editor Doug Blush successfully build suspense and find unexpected drama and comedy in the competition.

August 18, 2006 Full Review Source: Kalamazoo Gazette
Kalamazoo Gazette

So there's this new documentary about crossword puzzles . . . WAIT, get back here!

July 20, 2006 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

Cleverly devised and creatively made in ways that ought to make its subject accessible to anyone.

July 19, 2006 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

It's a movie about crosswords, as seen through [puzzlers'] eyes, and it makes us one of them as we learn how to do crosswords by their side.

July 19, 2006 Full Review Source: Zertinet Movies
Zertinet Movies

I have to admit that for me these self-proclaimed nerds are more interesting and impressive than anything that I have ever seen in a NFL documentary.

July 18, 2006 Full Review
rec.arts.movies.reviews

Audience Reviews for Wordplay

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 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.
April 23, 2011
kiriyamakazou

Super Reviewer

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 hit at the box office :~P
January 14, 2011
aliceinpunderland

Super Reviewer

A fabulous documentary.
July 30, 2010
rjayhutchinson

Super Reviewer

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 matter?" 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.
March 19, 2009
Camus123

Super Reviewer

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