The other featured crossword fanatics include an editor who’s a bit too self-deprecating, calling himself an “obsessive creep” who uses his watch to record his completion time for each day’s puzzle as a way to check his own level of “mental deterioration.” Others are oblivious to their condescension. A former competition champion acknowledges that her crossword expertise may be due to nothing more than the accumulation of “useless knowledge,” but in the next breath recounts how she once challenged an ex-boyfriend who questioned her passion for crosswords, asking him, “What are you the best in the country at?”

Most of the contestants appear to be altruistic, although one contestant’s roommate says he “wouldn’t do [the competition] if he couldn’t win. It’s all about winning.” The film culminates with a pressure-cooker championship, including an act of unselfish unanimity after a scoring mistake is discovered.

"Wordplay," like the fictional "Akeelah and the Bee" from earlier this year, portrays the development of particular talents through practice and diligence. Although the personalities on display are not all entirely admirable, the film’s focus on dedication, joy and community is inspirational. It’s more fun than most summer blockbusters and a respite from the other nonfiction films ("An Inconvenient Truth", "The Road to Guantanamo") currently in release.

AUDIENCE:  10 and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  Shortz reads mail that includes profanities; a few scatological terms are mentioned as inappropriate for the Times puzzle; “kick butt.”
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  A college-aged puzzle fan has beer-themed magnets on his refrigerator.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None, but two male homosexuals describe each other affectionately and kiss briefly.
  • Violence:  None.
  • Politics:  None that are applicable to the subject matter, but it’s notable that nearly all of the celebrities interviewed are known to lean to the Left. Don’t Conservatives like crossword puzzles, too?