Wordplay Review

Jun 19, 2006 | 9:36am EDT

Welcome to the obsessive world of crossword puzzling. If you’re a crossword aficionado you already know who Will Shortz and Merl Reagle are. If not they are respectively the editor and one of the top creators of crosswords for the New York Times and in this film you get to find out what makes them tick. If you’re a puzzle fan--and maybe even if you’re not--this is a fun peek at one of the country’s most popular hobbies. The Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle is the gold standard of crosswords and to crack it on your own in one sitting is a feat anyone can be proud of. It’s a kick to see such famous puzzlers as Daily Show host Jon Stewart and former President Bill Clinton talk about why they enjoy the challenge of a good puzzle and to see them as well as the Indigo Girls and documentarian Ken Burns sit down and crack the same puzzle. We also meet regular joes who take part in the annual crossword puzzle competition in Connecticut from the returning champs to a 20-year-old challenger who would set a new record if he proves the fastest puzzler. You get remarkably caught up in the contestants’ lives--and marvel how they can solve so swiftly without even the aid of a single reference book. The direction is completely no-frills but the story and its participants are compelling enough to keep your interest.

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