Two routes are reported for the synthesis of iminocyclobutenones having N-(het)aryl substitution: an addition/substitution sequence starting with cyclobutenediones and an aza-Wittig method. A new synthetic route to N-alkyl derivatives is also presented. This involves O-alkylation of 3-alkylamino-1,2-cyclobutenediones using Meerwein's reagent and subsequent deprotonation under non-hydrolytic conditions. Lithium organyls were found to add to the remaining carbonyl group. The resulting tertiary alcohols undergo ring enlargement on heating in xylene to give 4-aminophenols, 4-amino-1-naphthols, or cyclopenta-annulated quinolines from 4-vinyl, 4-aryl, and 4-alkynyl derivatives, respectively. © CSIRO 2010.