Crossword Masterclasses

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

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 come to 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.

The intensive one-day class for aspiring setters and advanced solvers costs £150 including lunch, drinks and snacks, or £125 for the online version, and the advanced class for previous masterclass graduates costs £120.

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

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

Alan Connor on Knut and Navy

Next Dates

Online Masterclass

Saturday 21 November and

Saturday 28 November 2020

2pm to 6pm

8 hours in total

In light of the current restrictions on live events during the Covid-19 outbreak, all masterclasses are currently taking place online. The contents of the class are essentially the same, including individual advice and the same extensive course materials, and there’s plenty of interaction with other participants. The main difference is that 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 £125 per person instead of the usual £150.

The November class is now fully booked, but please get in touch using the contact form and I’ll reserve a place for you when the next date is released.


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 other classes are postponed until later this year. I’ll review the risks again during the summer and announce a new date as soon as it’s safe to do so – in the meantime, please use the contact form on this page to stay in touch and to receive updates as soon as I have them.

Online Masterclass – World Edition

Available Now

Either Two or Four Sessions

Timezones to Suit Participants

8 hours in total

The new online version of the one-day masterclass is now available for participants in other timezones – the class can be split into either two morning or afternoon sessions or four shorter sessions, depending on the location of the participants.

If you think you might be interested in joining the first international class, please use the contact form to put your name on the waiting list.

Brighton Friends Meeting House

My favourite venue for 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.

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
  • 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 Workshop for Masterclass Graduates

  • The differences between creative, interesting and merely competent puzzles
  • Unusual types of wordplay
  • Misdirection
  • Alternative software for grid filling
  • Maximising theme grid fills
  • Issues with and attractions of types of theme
  • Managing the creative process
  • Developing a style
  • Setting as a profession
  • Your progress in getting noticed as a new setter
  • 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.