An Exploration of Crossword Skill


Past research has established how different lexical skills (word-stem completion, anagram solutions, etc.) correlate with crossword puzzle expertise. However, little is understood about the cognitive processes involved in crossword play. We hypothesize that clues are solved either through an semantic or an orthographic route, but not both simultaneously. To help us test and develop this model, we conducted an initial study examining novice crossword puzzle performance, along with a secondary word-stem completion task. We found that our participants word-stem completion correlated reliably but modestly with puzzle solution, suggesting that a number of other factors may be involved. Moreover, in our study, most responses (66%) were made with little or no orthographic constraints, suggesting that novice crossword players relied heavily on the semantic route for solving clues. The results show evidence for both routes, and provide direction for testing whether a dual-route interactive memory search is possible.

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