Versione in Italiano

July 19, 2022

6:00-8:00 p.m.

On the evening of July 19, the multilingual WebCrow crossword solver faced off against human experts in live and online session as part of the IEEE World Congress in held in Padua, Italy. 

The WebCrow artificial intelligence software, developed by the University of Siena in collaboration with, challenged professional crossword puzzle developers and solvers, computational intelligence experts, data scientists, crossword puzzle enthusiasts and students. WebCrow was put to the test by participants in both the Italian and English competitions.

How did it go? Let’s take a look at the results.

Artificial Intelligence prevailed at the live, multilingual competition where WebCrow stood out for its ability to solve crossword puzzles in both English and Italian with greater success in terms of quality and less total time to solve the puzzles.

A total of 82 human competitors took part in the Italian crossword puzzle challenge, including 35 in-person and 47 remote. WebCrow participated in 5 different versions, with a total of 87 participants.

For the challenge on American crossword puzzles, there were 58 participations, including 37 in-person and 21 online. WebCrow participated in 2 different versions, with a total of 60 participants.

The challenge on Italian crossword puzzles

Below are the rankings for the Italian (onsite and online) and English (onsite and online) competitions.

Ranking – Onsite Challenge – Italian
Ranking – Online Challenge – Italian

WebCrow placed 4th in the Italian challenge with online participants but still managed to come in second in terms of the “quality” of the proposed solutions, with only one incorrect character out of the two official competition schemes. The details of this error are shown below. Two competitors managed to beat WebCrow in the scoring based on speed of solving, but with one wrong character. Congratulations “Danilo” for solving the two crossword puzzles perfectly and in a remarkable time.

The challenge on American crosswords

When I heard the premise of this competition I was immediately inspired with a concept for a crossword theme. Around the idea of technological advancements there is often a bit of panic: computers are going to replace people, robots are going to replace people, artificial intelligence is going to replace people. I don’t personally think that’s likely anytime soon, but the thought did lead to the puzzle I wrote for this competition, entitled “AI Is Going to Replace People!!” The theme, in some ways, is one that might be tricky for a nonhuman solver, so I will be curious to see how it fares. I can’t say more about that without giving things away, but I can say that both I and Byron Walden — who composed the second puzzle for the competition, a themeless crossword — tried to write puzzles that would, ideally, be fairly accessible to an international audience while still giving the flavor of a modern American crossword. We hope you enjoy them!  (Francis Heaney)

Photo Gallery

Here is a gallery of pictures from the competition.

Want more information about this competition?
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Unpublished and official competition crossword puzzles were provided by:

AVCX Crosswords
AVCX – Crosswords for the (not) faint of heart
Sudoku Edizioni e Sprea Editori

Ranking and awards

All participants received free gadgets and subscriptions to subscriptions, while the top winners will be rewarded with Amazon vouchers for a prize pool of € 400, € 200 for each challenge.


This splendid event would not have been possible without the many people and organizations that have contributed to its organization:

  • WebCrow Team – Giovanni Angelini, Tommaso Iaquinta, Szymon Stefanek, Andrea Zugarini, Marco Ernandes.
  • Università di Siena – Prof. Marco Gori, Prof. Marco Maggini, e tutto lo staff WCCI
  • WCCI 2022 – Prof. Alessandro Sperduti
  • The Technical staff of Fiera di Padova
  • Sudoku Edizioni – special thanks to Giovanni Sordelli
  • AVCX Crosswords – Ben, Francis, Byron, thank you so much!!
  • – promoter, sponsor, coordinator and technology provider.
  • the participants, online and onsite, thanks again!
  • and many others

Press Review

Radio 24 – Si può fare – Intervista al Prof. Marco Gori

Mattino di Padova

La Nazione

Corriere del Veneto

Gazzetta di Modena