Crossword Setter Araucaria Sets Cancer Clue

A well-loved national newspaper crossword setter has used one of his own puzzles to announce that he is terminally ill.

The Rev John Graham, who goes by the pseudonym Araucaria – from the Latin for the monkey puzzle tree – as The Guardian’s puzzle setter, revealed he was dying of cancer in Friday’s crossword.

Above a cryptic crossword was the message: “Araucaria has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15.”

Readers who solved the puzzle discovered this meant he had cancer of the oesophagus, and was receiving palliative care.

Mr Graham, from Cambridge, told the Guardian: “It seemed the natural thing to do somehow. It just seemed right.”

Doctors do not know how much longer he has to live.

The 91-year-old said he was touched by the reaction to his crossword, which first appeared in the 1 Across puzzle magazine in December.

“People have been ringing and sending me cards,” he said. “It’s been very nice, but I can’t reply to them all.”

He says he does not intend to refer to his illness in future crosswords.

“I should think this is a one-off because I don’t know what else there will be to say,” he added.