Crossword Masterclasses

Follow in the footsteps of alumni like Angel, Aver, Basilisk/Jack/Serpent, Bluth/Fed/Django, Bucko, Carpathian/Vigo, Daedalus, Dutch, Hudson/Julius/Knut/Magnus, Karla/Prism/Wire, Kenmac, Kite/Windsurfer, Navy, Raider, Serpent, Skinny, Soup and S.park …

Compiling puzzles is not the black art that it may seem to be. You need to know some basic techniques, and you need some structure to the way you work. Those things can be learned, as long as you have the type of mind that reads “Car Park” but pictures a fish sailing a boat, a carp-ark.

If you join one of my masterclasses, you can look forward to a stimulating day with a group of people representing a range of experience from relative newcomers to those who are nearly ready to have their work published. Class sizes are kept small, and you’ll receive individual attention and a critique of your work in progress, with suggestions of where to focus next.

In addition to your place in the class itself, you’ll receive over 250 pages of course material, written notes on your work and membership of an exclusive online community for news, support and clueing challenges.

All masterclasses are currently taking place online, but I’ll run occasional live classes in Brighton for those who prefer them, once Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted. The online class is split into two four-hour afternoon sessions instead of one intensive day. This gives extra time for reflection and questions, and I pass on any savings in the costs of venue hire and catering, which means that the cost is £135 per person instead of the usual £165.

There is also an advanced session for previous masterclass graduates, which costs £65.

Fun for Solvers Too

If you’re an advanced solver, you can enjoy seeing how a crossword is put together and getting an insight into how compilers think. You’ll find out about the tricks that compilers use when they’re trying to throw you off the scent, and you’ll increase your pleasure whenever you see a really well-constructed grid or a clever theme. Think of it this way: if you love music, you’ll get new insights from attending an instrumental masterclass, even if you don’t play yourself.

Alan Connor’s Blog

Excellent day, loads of useful information

Great day … such a complete course

Encyclopaedic … wonderful to see in action

Invaluable – such a powerful way to learn

Good to meet people who are trying to learn to play the same instrument and also get an insight into a maestro’s approach

Absolutely brilliant … I really feel ready to step up a level now

I’m really happy I signed up for this. I definitely feel motivated to keep going on my crossword setting quest

Next Dates

Online Masterclass

Saturday 12 and 19 March 2022

Two sessions, 2pm to 6pm

8 hours in total

Now taking bookings for the spring masterclass – get in touch for more information or to reserve your place!


Friends’ Meeting House

One-Day Masterclass

Saturday to be rescheduled

09:30 to 16:00

While uncertainty remains about the duration of social distancing measures, all live classes are currently suspended, but join the next online class – they’re just as much fun!

Brighton Friends Meeting House

My favourite venue for live classes: the Meeting House is in a quiet corner of the historic centre of Brighton, where we have our own room for the day and lunch is brought to us by one of the characterful local cafés.

Click here for directions

Masterclass Graduates

Keep in touch with your fellow masterclass alumni by joining the exclusive online community, where you can ask questions, share news and enjoy tricky clueing challenges. Click here to go to there now.

Alan Connor on Knut, Navy, Carpathian and Soup

Dave Gorman in the Telegraph

Confirm Your Place

Click here to buy a place on the next class in my online shop – this will guarantee you a place, whether or not the date of the next class has been announced. If the date hasn’t been announced yet, I’ll do my best to give you a chance to influence the choice.

Questions and Provisional Reservations

For more information about the classes, or if you have any questions about whether they’d be suitable for you, to put your name on the waiting list or make a provisional reservation without a final commitment, just drop me a line using this form.

Course Content

One-Day Masterclass

  • A brief history of wordplay
  • Why do people do crosswords?
  • Crossword Compiler and other software
  • Ximenean and Libertarian traditions
  • Issues and pitfalls with common types of wordplay
  • Definition and surface reading
  • Misdirection
  • Two methods of annotation
  • Creating a grid from scratch
  • How setters filled grids before computers
  • Strategies for filling a library grid
  • Introduction to themes
  • Publication basics
  • Your work in progress
  • Resources

Advanced Session for Masterclass Graduates

  • The differences between creative, interesting and merely competent puzzles
  • Unusual types of wordplay
  • Alternative software for grid filling
  • Advanced themes and gimmicks
  • Managing the creative process
  • Setting as a profession
  • Beyond competence: the crossword as art form

This is a general indication of the material that we cover in each of the sessions. In practice, the content is driven by the interests and experience of the students on the day, and every class is unique.