on June 16, 2006 by Bridget Byrne
"Wordplay" really does fill in the blanks all across the board. This entertaining documentary about the people who dream up the across and down clues of the New York Times crossword puzzle and the fanatics who struggle to solve them, both privately and at tournaments, is bright, concise and to the point. It's written in confident ink, not maybe or maybe-not pencil.

At its center is Shortz, editor of the Times' puzzle and National Public Radio's "Puzzle Master," who makes his brain-teasing jobs seem to have worth beyond just providing an addictive jolt to the faithful filler-ins and phoner-ins. There is good drama and good humor to be found in the progress of the 28th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament competition, hosted and directed by Shortz. The rising tension of who will eventually come up with the correct answers fastest is threaded through the movie, enhanced by show-and-tell interviews with puzzle-makers and -solvers of various ilk and levels of fame and skill, but a united and infectious passion. Here's a movie that actually makes it seem fun to try to be clever. Featuring Will Shortz, Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, Mike Mussina and some really great (crossword) players. Directed by Patrick Creadon. Produced by Christine O'Malley. An IFC release. Documentary. Rated PG for some language and mild thematic elements. Running time: 90 min

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