Farewell to Araucaria

I was just thinking this morning that it’s been a while since I posted about crosswords, and then an email arrived from Prof. Monica Grady pointing out the sad news of the passing (on Tuesday, 26th November, at the age of 92) of Johh Galbraith Graham, better known to crossword fans as Araucaria of the Guardian. I had missed the announcement of his death because I’ve just been too busy recently to look at the papers except at weekends.

For those of you not aware, the pseudonym Araucaria is the “Monkey Puzzle ” tree. Those of you who were aware already of that, I’ll add that another name for this tree is “Chile Pine” whence John Graham formed the anagram CINEPHILE, under which pseudonym he also set puzzles in the Financial Times for many years. Not a lot of people know that.

John Graham was an undoubted genius as a crossword setter, one of the few whose clues have made me laugh out loud when working out the solution not only because of their cleverness but also because of the wonderful sense of humour with which they were composed. His clues didn’t always abide by the strict conventions laid down by the father of the crossword puzzle, Derrick Somerset MacNutt (aka Ximenes) but he was a compiler whose transgressions in this regard were easy to forgive when so many of his clues were so brilliant.

Here’s a nice video made about a year ago featuring the man himself talking about the art of crossword setting:

I switched from the Guardian to the Independent some time ago so haven’t done any of Araucaria‘s recent puzzles – my only regret for having switched allegiances, as it happens. I’ve actually won prizes from the weekend Independent competition over twenty times subsequently, which has given me a steady supply of dictionaries. More importantly I do find their crosswords generally more challenging and more entertaining than the Guardian‘s. But the irreplaceable Araucaria was in a class on his own. Having given so much pleasure to so many people for such a long time, he has certainly earned his status as national treasure.

Rest in peace John Galbraith Graham (1921-2013).

2 Responses to “Farewell to Araucaria”

  1. Monica Grady Says:

    One of my heroes since I was a teenager. His last crossword for the grauniad was a couple of weeks ago, with answers that included ‘nil by mouth’ and ‘time to go’. What a sense of humour, and what strength of character. The crossword world is a poorer place without the anticipation of one of Araucaria’s special puzzles.

  2. Peter, for your information. A Memorial Service for the Reverend John Graham, MBE, (Araucaria/Cinephile) will be held in the church of St John the Baptist, Somersham, on Saturday 4th January 2014, at 2.30pm. – See more at: http://announcements.thetimes.co.uk/obituaries/timesonline-uk/obituary.aspx?pid=168309968#sthash.wGW6Ye4L.dpuf

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