Across and down

Following in the tradition of Spellbound (about kids participating in a national spelling bee) and Word Wars (about Scrabble players), the charming small-scale documentary Wordplay captures the fervor with which many Americans approach the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.

Director Patrick Creadon focuses on dapper, unflappable Will Shortz, crossword editor of the Times since 1983, who as a college student devised a major in enigmatology at the University of Indiana. He also follows one of the most frequent and resourceful “crossword constructors,” Merl Reagle, who provides a lesson in how to assemble a puzzle around the theme of wordplay. We see the glee and the admiration of several devoted puzzlers as they figure out the theme of Reagle’s puzzle.


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