Crossword Masterclasses

Follow in the footsteps of alumni like Angel, Aver, Basilisk/Jack/Serpent, Bluth/Fed/Django, Bucko, Carpathian/Vigo, Daedalus, Dutch, Grecian, Gumm/Skinny, Hudson/Julius/Knut/Magnus, Hippogryph, Karla/Prism/Wire, Kenmac, Kite/Windsurfer, Navy, Raider, Serpent, 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 eight hours of study 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.

Most masterclasses take place online and cost £135, and I run occasional live classes in Brighton and Sussex for those who prefer them at a cost of £165. Classes are normally split into two four-hour afternoon sessions, giving time for reflection between sessions and questions afterwards. Alternatively, the in-person classes can also be presented as a single intensive day.

There is also an advanced session for previous masterclass graduates, which costs £70.

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

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

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

Next Dates

Online Advanced Session

Saturday 17 September 2022

2pm to 6pm

This is a special session for graduates of previous masterclasses, looking at theme & gimmick development, unusual clue types, alternative software and creative development.

In-Person Masterclass

Ditchling, Sussex

Fri 23 & Sat 24 September 2022

Two sessions, 2pm to 6pm

8 hours in total

This will be my first in-person class for over two years, and will be held at my home in leafy Sussex, just a few miles outside Brighton and easy to get to by car or train. I can give you recommendations for places to stay in Brighton if you’d like to combine the class with a seaside weekend, or in Ditchling itself if you’d prefer to explore the South Downs National Park and local vineyards.

This class will be split into two four-hour afternoon sessions, to give plenty time for reflection between sessions and questions afterwards.

Make sure of your place by booking now, or get in touch using the contact form to make a provisional reservation.

Online Masterclass

Winter 2022 – Date to be Announced

Two sessions, 2pm to 6pm

8 hours in total

Most masterclasses are currently taking place online. The contents of the class are essentially the same as the in-person class, including individual advice and the same extensive course materials, and there’s plenty of interaction with other participants.

This class will be split into two four-hour afternoon sessions, to give plenty time for reflection between sessions and questions afterwards.

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 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.