Research: Crossword

Crossword puzzles are one of the most popular word games that people play. They are interesting from a cognitive perspective because they involve two distinct pathways of accessing word information: meaning and orthographics.

I have studied crossword players, and how word games can be used for training. As part of this research, I attended and collected data at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and tested some of the best crossword players in the world.

We have also tested “normal” humans. Below is a video showing a typical novice player solving the same puzzle that an expert solves. Note that the expert is in real-time, but the novice has their play sped up by a factor of 4!

We have also examined how crossword games can help people learn vocabulary, including STEM and second-language. Some relevant publications are below:


Mueller, Shane T

A Cognitive Examination of Skill and Expertise in Word Games and Puzzles Book Chapter

The Oxford Handbook of Expertise, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Links | BibTeX


Khaewratana, Warat; Mueller, Shane T; Veinott, Elizabeth

Wait Until Tomorrow: Exploring the Size of Delay on the Effectiveness of Crossword Games for Learning Scientific Vocabulary Conference

Meaningful Play, East Lansing, MI, 2018.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Mueller, Shane T; Veinott, Elizabeth S

Testing the effectiveness of crossword games on immediate and delayed memory for scientific vocabulary and concepts. Inproceedings

Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society, 2018.

Links | BibTeX


Thanasuan, Kejkaew; Mueller, Shane T

Investigating and simulating the effect of word fragments as orthographic clues in crossword solutions Inproceedings

The 2016 International Conference on Cognitive Modeling, pp. 100–106, 2016.



Thanasuan, Kejkaew; Mueller, Shane T

Crossword expertise as recognitional decision making: an artificial intelligence approach Journal Article

Frontiers in psychology, 5 , pp. 1018, 2014.



Mueller, Shane T; Thanasuan, KA

Model of constrained knowledge access in crossword puzzle players Inproceedings

Proceedings of the 2013 International Conference on Cognitive Modeling (ICCM12), 2013.



Thanasuan, Kejkaew; Mueller, Shane T

An Exploration of Crossword Skill. Inproceedings

CogSci, 2012.