44 user 46 critic

Wordplay (2006)

PG | | Documentary | 21 July 2006 (USA)
2:01 | Trailer
An in-depth look at The New York Times' long-time crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and his loyal fan base.


Patrick Creadon
1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Will Shortz ... Self
Merl Reagle Merl Reagle ... Self
Tyler Hinman Tyler Hinman ... Self
Trip Payne ... Self
Al Sanders Al Sanders ... Self
Ellen Ripstein Ellen Ripstein ... Self
Jon Delfin Jon Delfin ... Self
Jon Stewart ... Self
Ken Burns ... Self
Amy Ray ... Self
Emily Saliers Emily Saliers ... Self
Daniel Okrent ... Self
Mike Mussina Mike Mussina ... Self
Bob Dole ... Self
Bill Clinton ... Self (as William Jefferson Clinton)


A documentary that focuses on the world of crossword puzzles: those that construct them, those that love to solve them, those that compete in the annual Crossword competition in Stamford and also on Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword since the early 1990s. Shortz actually has a university degree in games and organized the first crossword championship in 1978. Some of the contributors to the Times puzzle explain how they go about building them while some aficionados, including former President Bill Clinton and comedian Jon Stewart talk about their love of solving them. The film also introduces several past champions and near champions competing in the 2006 tournament and it takes you from the preliminary rounds to the final where the top three contestants compete in front of a room full of admiring contestants. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A wildly entertaining documentary about crossword puzzles, the people who make them and the people who love them See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some language and mild thematic elements | See all certifications »


Official Sites:






Release Date:

21 July 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Word Play See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,847, 18 June 2006

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Tyler Hinman would eventually work for Google for a few years. See more »


Jon Stewart: [solving a puzzle] Come on, Shortz! Bring it!
See more »


References American Idol (2002) See more »


Saturday Morning
written by Mark Oliver Everett (as Mark O. Everett) and 'Koool G. Murder'
performed by Eels
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User Reviews

Biased Documentary, But It Got Me Back Doing These Puzzles Again
22 March 2007 | by ccthemovieman-1See all my reviews

Being someone who has enjoyed figuring out crossword puzzles here and there over the last 20 years, I was enthused about watching this documentary and wondered if it would renew the passion I used to have for doing these puzzles. Yes, it did, so kudos to the documentary to make it interesting enough.

Is it enough to hold the interest of a non-crossword player? I doubt it. If the puzzles aren't fun to you, I doubt this movie would be entertaining, either.

The film is in two parts: a look at "celebrities" who play, and some of their comments and to the man who puts together the daily New York Times puzzle. The second part - the largest segment - is devoted to USA Crossword Championships held in each in Stamford, Conn. We see the top players profiled and then are witness to the 200- tournament with it's dramatic 3-person playoff finals.

The first part is simply an unabashed Liberal love-fest with big plugs for the Times and NPR, and the celebs are all big Liberals, from Bill Clinton to Jon Stewart to Ken Burns, the Indigo Girls, etc. If one can ignore the obvious political bias, it's still interesting.

Then, we get profiles of the top players, from the young prodigy who first entered the tournament at 16 and is one of the favorites to win at 20; the veteran who always is in the finals but never can do better than third; to the gay guy who is seen at home playing pinball with his roommate. They kiss each other on the lips. What was the purpose of inserting that in the movie? What did that have to do with the story? Nothing, obviously, and it wasn't necessary but when have Liberal filmmakers ever exercised good judgment?

Also profiled is an interesting woman who won this tournament once but hasn't been close since. Then, we have others such as a guy who plays a guitar and sings and another who is extremely introverted, on and on. Many of them fun to watch. Many of them are amazing crossword talents who can zip off thee answers to a fairly tough one in just a few minutes.

Although not hard to predict given their "past performances," the finale was still dramatic and interesting to watch.

Overall: puzzle devotees - highly recommended; non-players: not recommended.

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