Kashiwara’s crystal graphs have a natural monoid structure that arises by identifying words labelling vertices that appear in the same position of isomorphic components. The celebrated plactic monoid (the monoid of Young tableaux), arises in this way from the crystal graph for the $q$-analogue of the special linear Lie algebra $\mathfrak{sl}_{n}$, and the so-called Kashiwara operators interact beautifully with the combinatorics of Young tableaux and with the Robinson–Schensted–Knuth correspondence. The authors previously constructed an analogous ‘quasi-crystal’ structure for the related hypoplactic monoid (the monoid of quasi-ribbon tableaux), which has similarly neat combinatorial properties. This paper constructs an analogous ‘crystal-type’ structure for the sylvester and Baxter monoids (the monoids of binary search trees and pairs of twin binary search trees, respectively). Both monoids are shown to arise from this structure just as the plactic monoid does from the usual crystal graph. The interaction of the structure with the sylvester and Baxter versions of the Robinson–Schensted–Knuth correspondence is studied. The structure is then applied to prove results on the number of factorizations of elements of these monoids, and to prove that both monoids satisfy non-trivial identities.
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