In this 4-part lecture series, learn how to build an American-style crossword puzzle from start to finish.
Join crossword creators Natan Last and Brooke Husic for a behind-the-scenes, step-by-step look at how a themed, American-style puzzle goes from a collection of concepts to its final presentation. Together as a class, we’ll co-create a crossword of our own, exploring the form as we go. We’ll look at the historical context that gave rise to it, technical considerations and clue conventions, and the variety of modes of expression we as creators must consider. By the end of our time together, you’ll not only have an understanding of the intricate, creative process of building a crossword, but also a co-created puzzle published on Atlas Obscura that you can send around to your family and friends.
This course is open to all students regardless of prior familiarity with crossword puzzles. Please note that this course will be looking at American-style crossword puzzles exclusively; British (cryptic) crosswords will not be covered in this class.
Syllabus At A Glance
This course includes four total sessions, each lasting 1.5 hours.
Session 1 (Monday, 3/4, 8–9:30 PM ET)| Why Make a Crossword?: Form, voice, and seed clue development
Session 2 (Monday, 3/11, 8–9:30 PM ET)| Squaring Up: Grid conventions, technical considerations, and black square placement
Session 3 (Monday, 3/18, 8–9:30 PM ET)| Fitting It All In: Keeping the solver in mind
Session 4 (Monday, 3/25, 8–9:30 PM ET)| Getting a Clue: Clue conventions, audience, and difficulty
Outside of class, students may find it helpful to explore and familiarize themselves with online resources and databases that help with crossword construction. In the second half of the course, students will be asked to reflect on their internal biases and to propose clues.
There are no required materials for this course. However, those who wish to begin working on their own, or mirroring what we do during class, may choose to download crossword construction software. The instructors will be using an application called CrossFire; many other crossword creators use an application called Crossword Compiler, as well.
This course is available at three ticket prices. This tiered pricing model is designed to increase access for a wider range of students as well as to support our instructors. In addition to tiered tickets, we offer a limited number of no-pay spots for students who would not otherwise be able to take this course. No-pay spots are selected via a randomized drawing two weeks before each section begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.
Community Guidelines for Students
Please take a moment to review our community guidelines for students, which aim to share our classroom ethos and help set the stage for the best possible learning experience.
Atlas Obscura Online Courses
Atlas Obscura Courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses. For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.
Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura created the definitive community-driven guide to incredible places across the planet and is now an award-winning company that shares the world’s hidden wonders in person and online.
Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.
Natan Last creates crossword puzzles for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other venues. He is a writer, researcher, and organizer in the migrant rights movement and currently serves as the Director of Development for the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. His essays, poetry, and research appear in Los Angeles Review of Books, Narrative, The Atlantic, and elsewhere.
Brooke Husic is a computational chemist who creates crosswords for The New Yorker, The New York Times, USA TODAY, and a variety of “indie” platforms. She edits puzzles at Inkubator Crosswords and The American Values Club and co-hosts the Crossnerds podcast.
This lecture series is designed so students can participate live or watch a recording of each session, after it airs, at a time that is convenient for them. Sessions will take place live over Zoom, with dedicated Q&A segments for students to ask questions via video or chat. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes.
Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions.
We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at email@example.com if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.
Mon, Mar 4, 20248:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m.$70