Crossword puzzles are a favorite pastime for millions of people, and with good reason. As almost any puzzle fan will readily tell you, it is relaxing and enjoyable to fill in those blank squares on a rectangular or square grid—while using mainly clues to identify the words. In addition, solving crosswords offers an always-welcome sense of accomplishment.
Now, IEEE-USA E-BOOKS has gone one important step further, with the publication of Engineering Crossword Puzzles for Students. This book is a collection of 25 puzzles designed to nurture young minds, while also being fun. Myles Mellor, one of the most admired professional puzzle constructors currently working, developed the puzzles especially for IEEE-USA E-BOOKS.
Mellor created Engineering Puzzles for Students to appeal primarily to young people from ages 14 through 21, along with what he describes as “smart” 12- and 13-year-olds. He also designed Engineering Crossword Puzzles for Adults, which IEEE-USA E-BOOKS recently published.
“Crossword puzzles are an ideal tool for building step-by-step reasoning, critical thinking and working memory skills among students,” says Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager; and Manager and Editor, IEEE-USA E-BOOKS. “Moreover, educators often use crosswords to encourage student interest in vocabulary and spelling–two critical skills for young people should develop–especially in this era of texting, which can hinder a young person from developing comprehensive language skills.”
Because solving crosswords requires being able to identify and understand the terms being used, acquiring new vocabulary or terminology is often necessary. It may also entail making distinctions between similar words or phrases. To achieve success, the puzzle solver must be able to make inferences, evaluate choices and draw conclusions—all learned abilities in thinking logically and strategically.
Engineering Crossword Puzzles for Students adds to the enjoyment, as well as the mental challenge, by using technological topics that young people are already coming across in their coursework. As with the previous crossword puzzles book he created for IEEE-USA E-BOOKS, Mellor first went online to research authoritative, engineering-related topics. He says that one of his best resources was IEEE Spectrum. From telecommunications and cybernetics to aerospace and basic electrical engineering concepts, he gathered thousands of words, their meanings and various associated facts and terms.
“The first step I take when creating puzzles for younger audiences is to try to get into their shoes,” he explains. “It can be tough, since younger people may have quite different vocabulary levels and comprehension of engineering terms. At the same time, I have to ensure that the puzzles are solvable–while also making them challenging.”
To accomplish this delicate balance, Mellor includes some easy words and clues, so students can get started on the puzzle. He says he also tries to ensure that easier clues for words will intersect with ones that are more difficult; this way, puzzle solvers can make some progress in finding letters that will help to solve the harder clue.
Sometimes, Mellor will feature clues that involve wordplay, meaning the puzzle solver can take the clue as a figure of speech; or in some sense other than the literal meaning. This requires the solver to use some form of lateral thinking–solving problems through reasoning not immediately obvious. “When the word is ultimately found,” says Mellor, “the surprise often generates both laughter and a new insight. For a student, learning how to use a different thought pattern–one that wasn’t obvious at first–can be especially meaningful.”
Choosing the theme for each of the 25 puzzles in Engineering Crossword Puzzles for Students is an important step for him. “The theme is the unifying motif among many of the words in that puzzle, and they are usually the longest answers,” he explains. For adult solvers, Mellor may choose a complex theme not quickly recognized; for younger people, he opts for a more easily identifiable theme. Each of the crosswords in the student e-book has a technological theme; plus a title, such as “Gravity,” or “Databases,” indicating what it’s about. However, given the constraints within which puzzle constructors must work, some words may be shared with other technologies.
Myles Mellor has been delighting his fans both in the United States and abroad for more than 16 years. In his native United Kingdom, his puzzle-enthusiast father introduced him to crosswords. Years later, Mellor moved to the United States and started creating puzzles to send to his father. In turn, his father encouraged him to make a full-time profession out of what formerly had been just a hobby.
At present, some 80 of his crossword puzzles appear in publications each month. They reach more than two million people. His specialty is theme crossword puzzles, and he has created them on a wide range of subjects–from lighthouses to finance—and now, engineering. He also creates other types of word puzzles, such as sudokus, word searches and anagrams.
Unlike some crossword constructors, Mellor uses a computer only to create the puzzle’s grid; and when it is complete, to create the file of word clues. “I can think of entries that haven’t made it yet into electronic data bases,” he says.
Engineering Crossword Puzzles for Students is available in the IEEE-USA Shop — for $2.99 for members and $4.99 for non-members.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.