Fill-In Puzzles: Torture or Teacher?


2014-0226 Fill-In PuzzleAlthough they look like something a two-year-old with a crayon could complete, let me assure you some of the puzzles are much more difficult than they appear. Fill-In puzzles are a cross between word search puzzles and crossword puzzles. I do not like word search puzzles because they get so messy as they are being solved. I do not care for traditional crossword puzzles because they typically require an incredible memory that I simply don’t have. Thankfully, Pamela Denegar-Meryhew introduced me to a type of puzzle that provides the many cognitive advantages of word search and crossword puzzles, but the puzzle requires neither a messy solution nor a photographic memory.


The following steps describe how I solve fill-in puzzles. The solution that I use works well for me, but other people may use a different solution strategy.

  • Step 1: Select one of longest words in the list of words. There are only two eight-letter words “PINNACLE” and “RESIGNED” in the sample puzzle. I chose to start with the first word for no particular reason.
  • Step 2: Find a place on the puzzle where the word might fit. letter word can fit, 20 across and 25 across. I start with 20 across for no particular reason.
  • Step 3: Test whether or not shorter words cross the longer word. If I try to place “pinnacle” in 20 across, I need to find a 5-letter word that ends with the letter “P” for 1 down because that is the first letter in the word “PINNACLE.” There are two 5-letter words the end in “P” (“CLAMP” and “GETUP”), so I am not 100% certain “PINNACLE” is the right word for 20 across. However, when I search 5-letter words ending with the letter “I” for 2 down, “LANAI” is the only word that fits. Similarly “ATTEND” is the only 6-letter word for 3 down that crosses with “PINNACLE.”
  • Step 4: If a few shorter words cross the longer word, repeat steps 1 through 4 until you solve the puzzle. If shorter words do not cross the longer word, select a different long word for the space on the puzzle then repeat steps 1 through 4 until you solve the puzzle. We have shown only that “PINNACLE” could belong in 20 across, but we also need to verify that “RESIGNED” cannot be in 20 across. Thankfully, this is easy to prove. If “RESIGNED” were in 20 across, then the 5-letter word for 17 down must contain a “G” as the second letter. There are no such words in the list of 5-letter words. As such, we know with certainty 20 across must be “PINNACLE,” 2 down must be “LANAI,” and 3 down must be “ATTEND.”
  • Step 5: Remember to cross out words as you find a place on the puzzle where they fit. You many not use a word twice in the puzzle unless the word appears twice in the list of words.

Sample Puzzle by Puzzlexpress

2014-0226 Fill In Puzzle

Solution to Sample Puzzle by Puzzlexpress

2014-0226 SolutionCall to Action

I have already written about many free tools and puzzles that could help survivors, their families, friends, and caregivers, but if you know of any tool or puzzle that might, in any way, benefit survivors, their families, friends, or caregivers, please share your ideas in the comment box below this post.


Click here to read another Beyond Injury post in the Torture or Teacher series,

Thanks to Pamela Denegar-Meryhew for telling me about fill-in puzzles; Google for confirming there are at least 37,800,000 places on the Internet where people can print free fill-in puzzles; Puzzlexpress for providing the sample puzzle and solution used in this post; and all the people who, directly and indirectly made it possible to include the pictures and text I used in this post.


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