More than 50 million Americans do crossword puzzles each week. Fanatics expose the madness and mirth behind this not-so-puzzling national obsession.

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
October 16, 2007
90 minutes

Patrick Creadon

Patrick Creadon was born in Chicago and is a 1989 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He began his career as one of the youngest cameramen in the history of PBS, shooting and producing cinema-verite style stories for the critically acclaimed series The 90s. He earned his master’s degree in cinematography at the American Film Institute, where his Show more thesis film (on which he served as director of photography) was nominated for a student Academy Award. As a cameraman his work has appeared on every major network, including NBC, CBS, ABC, MTV, VH1, and ESPN. He has also done work for Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Sony, Universal Studios, and Disney. Wordplay, Creadon’s feature-length directorial debut, is a documentary film about The New York Times crossword editor and National Public Radio personality Will Shortz. Wordplay became only the fourth documentary ever to be awarded the “Golden Tomato” from Rottentomatoes.com for “Best Reviewed Documentary of the Year.” Previous winners of this award were Spellbound, Supersize Me, and March Of The Penguins.I.O.U.S.A., Partick Creadon and Christine O’Malley’s second documentary, had its world premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in the American Documentary competition. The film examines America’s current financial situation and explores ways to avoid a financial breakdown for the country. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called it “the most unexpectedly frightening film at Sundance.” Show less


Christine O'Malley

Christine O'Malley was born in Manhattan and raised outside of Chicago. In 2004 Christine served as associate producer on the Academy Award- nominated documentary film Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room. Wordplay was the first feature-length film she produced through her production company O'Malley Creadon Productions. It was a breakout hit at the Show more 2006 Sundance Film Festival and went on to become the second-highest grossing documentary of 2006. Christine's second documentary, I.O.U.S.A., premiered at Sundance in 2008. It had a successful theatrical run and was broadcast on PBS. Show less

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The Film

Known to millions of crossword die-hards as National Public Radio’s Puzzle Master, New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz has built a career on studying, creating, and editing puzzles. Wordplay puts the spotlight on this crossword hero and introduces many of Shortz’s brilliant and often hilarious contributors, including syndicated puzzle creator Merl Reagle.

The film follows several world-class crossword solvers as they compete at the 28th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, CT. Hosted and directed by Shortz, the tournament is the nation’s oldest and largest crossword competition, where nearly 500 competitors from around the world battle it out for the title of Crossword Champ over the course of one long, snowy weekend.

Wordplay also presents interviews with celebrity crossword puzzlers such as Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina, and the Indigo Girls, who reveal their process, insight and the allure of the game.

From Monday-only solvers to Saturday puzzle experts, Wordplay reveals why more than 50 million Americans do crosswords every week.