Crossword Masterclasses

Follow in the footsteps of alumni like Angel, Basilisk/Jack/Serpent, Bluth/Fed/Django, Bucko, Carpathian/Vigo, Daedalus, Hudson/Julius/Knut/Magnus, Karla/Leonidas/Prism/Wire, Navy, Soup and dozens of others …

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. These 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.

Whether you’re a relative newcomer to setting or nearly ready to have your work published, or if you’re just a keen solver curious to know more about how your favourite puzzles are created, you can look forward to a fun and stimulating eight hours of study with a small group of like-minded people. 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 and membership of an exclusive online community for news, support and clueing challenges.

Masterclasses take place either online at a cost of £150 or in person in leafy Sussex at a cost of £180. They’re normally split into two four-hour afternoon sessions, giving time for reflection between sessions and questions afterwards.

There is also an occasional advanced session for previous masterclass graduates, which costs £80.

NEW – Sponsorship Scheme

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, I can offer one place in the November online class free of charge. The scheme is open to anyone who would find the cost of the class a barrier, and particularly welcomes applications from groups that are currently under-represented in crosswords (for example women, LGBTQ+, people of colour, disabled people and under 25s).

Please use the form on this page if you’d like to be considered for the place and include a short note to support your application. The deadline for applications is 31 August 2024.

Alan Connor’s Blog

Great day … such a complete course

Encyclopaedic … wonderful to see in action

A fascinating afternoon … if only all educators were as thoughtful and thought-provoking

Such a powerful way to learn

Good to meet people who are trying to learn to play the same instrument and 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

The best birthday present I’ve ever received

My favourite seminar (on any subject) of all time!

Next Dates

In-Person Masterclass in Sussex

Friday 28 and Saturday 29 June 2024

Two sessions, 2pm to 6pm

8 hours in total

This class is now fully booked. The next in-person class in leafy Sussex won’t be until some time in 2025, so you may like to consider booking a place in the November online class instead – we’ll cover the same material, and you’ll get to meet fellow crossword enthusiasts from anywhere in the world.

Online Masterclass

Saturday 2 and 9 November 2024

Two sessions, 2pm to 6pm

8 hours in total

Another chance to join me online – make sure of your place by booking now, or get in touch using the contact form to make a provisional reservation.

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 occasional clueing challenges. Click here to go to there now.

Alan Connor on Knut, Navy, Brockwell, Carpathian and Soup

Dave Gorman in the Telegraph

Julius in the FT

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 about Classes, Sponsorship Applications and Provisional Reservations

For more information about classes, to apply for a sponsored place or to make a provisional reservation without a final commitment, just drop me a line using this form. If you’re applying for a sponsored place, please use the Message box to write a short statement in support of your application.

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.