Rated 3.0

Enough scandal has ruffled the New York Times’ integrity of late that it’s tempting to read Patrick Creadon’s debut feature—yes, actual reading is required—as a sly bit of ballyhoo straight from the gray lady herself. Wordplay could be a commercial for the crossword of record, as overseen by Will Shortz, an unflappably pleasant man who actually did major in puzzles in college. Times-toady though it is, admittedly, Wordplay without Shortz and co. would be like March of the Penguins without the penguins. With Shortz and co., it’s like Spellbound without the alertness to issues of race and class. That’s probably OK; political sanctimony is the last thing a pleasant movie about crossword puzzlers needs. Creadon also has lively face time with one of Shortz’s essential contractors, the sportive puzzle-maker Merl Reagle, plus a handful of celebrity puzzle fiends and some hard-core types who actually compete in yearly crossword competitions. Watching them work is fun and impressively interactive. Too bad the movie lacks sufficient exploration of their inner lives.