A Guardian editorial today pays a well-deserved 90th birthday tribute to their brilliant cryptic crossword setter, the Reverend John Graham, MBE – aka Araucaria. And his fellow setters, Enigmatist, Paul and Shed do likewise with a genius-ly themed offering.
9 today, hooray, hooray, for 14 across 24 across, Mr 24 down
It’s not just the playful wit that delights the fans. He is also astoundingly inventive, as the special double holiday crosswords in this paper demonstrate. A crossword based on famous novelists? Or heroes of the South African liberation struggle? (John remains leftwing, and will never work for a Murdoch paper.) He invented the alphabetical crossword: clues for every letter of the alphabet, to be slotted in where by cunning deduction. Or the perimetrical: a long clue gives a 28-letter quote that goes around the edge. As he himself says, you have to have a certain type of mind to create such a thing. But not to solve it: once you have acquired the knack, you can generally manage. He has given his name – Araucaria is the Latin name for the monkey-puzzle tree – to his own style, Araucarian, which contrasts with Ximenean, after Ximenes (DS Macnutt, the Observer compiler who laid down regulations for the modern puzzle). It is looser, less rule-bound. For example, Ximenes would never have allowed John’s favourite clue by another compiler (the late Bunthorne, also a Guardian favourite and a devout Araucarian): “Amundsen’s forwarding address (4)” to which the answer is MUSH.