Critics Consensus

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?



Reviews Counted: 120

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 21,558


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.3/5

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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.

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Critic Reviews for Wordplay

All Critics (120) | Top Critics (40)

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

    Nov 24, 2006 | Rating: 3/4
  • 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.

    Oct 7, 2006
  • A playful, informative and very sweet documentary about the world of words 'across' or 'down.'

    Jul 7, 2006 | Rating: 4/5
  • It manages to turn an internal, solitary activity into fodder for an engaging, even exciting movie.

    Jun 30, 2006 | Rating: 3/4
  • 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.

    Jun 30, 2006 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Manages to present lively and entertaining portraits of men and women who think in boxes while working outside of them.

    Jun 30, 2006 | Rating: 3/4

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.

Luke Baldock
Luke Baldock

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

Alice Shen
Alice Shen

Super Reviewer

A fabulous documentary.

Jay Hutchinson
Jay Hutchinson

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.

Dean L
Dean L

Super Reviewer

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