Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Ultimate Cruciverbalist

araucariaA “cruciverbalist” is a term for someone who compiles crosswords, or who enjoys word puzzles. I was so sorry to read that Araucaria,  compiler for over 50 years of Guardian crosswords, is very ill.

He gently announced this in Friday’s Crossword by way of cryptic clues [here] He is[I think] one of the best compilers around.

Our family have always been keen on crosswords- as a child, I’d sit on my Dad’s lap as he solved the Daily Telegraph cryptic- and then he’d explain clues to me, till I was able to start solving them for myself. Mum was good at solving too [she was a codebreaker, after all] and games like Scrabble, and Boggle, were popular at home.

When I got to Grammar School, the Telegraph and Guardian were on a big stand outside the staffroom. I used to go in [with permission] and attempt to fill in the DT puzzle. Then one term, I kept finding that someone else had got there before me! It was a new teacher. After that, we met daily to solve tem together – and he helped me to get my head round the Guardian puzzle – and we would alternately bless, and curse, Araucaria for his amazingly clever clues. Half the fun was coming back the next day to find out the answers of the ones we couldn’t solve. I learned so  much. In my student years, I became fond of the Times cryptic crossword too – written in yet another style, equally challenging.

In his ‘other’ life, Araucaria is 91 year old Rev John Graham, a retired C of E priest. But even in retirement he has continued to conduct services and be involved in church life. I love the fact that when he is not doing cross-words, he is speaking words-about-the -Cross.

CrosswordThe technical terms for the black and white squares are ‘darks and lights’. John knows there will be some ‘darks’ ahead- but can look forward confidently to the Eternal Light ahead of him. May God give him wisdom and grace, as he faces this final illness.


  1. I think my brain must have slowed down, as I do find cryptic crosswords quite difficult now, but I try to do the Telegraph one. Somtimes!

  2. I have never been able to do cryptic crosswords,even after Dad explained over and over how I should be thinking,I could never figure them out!
    Jane x

  3. I've never got on with the Guardian cryptics but we do like a good Everyman in the Observer on a Sunday! (Being frugal I download it + print it out of course!) I only stand a chance of completing it if I can pick my far cleverer Dad and brother's brains. Love the story of your crossword solving education and of Araucaria.

  4. This is a beautiful post, Ang. I think Rev. Graha would be most touched by it too.

  5. I think he would be really proud to read this, Ang.

  6. My grandfather loved them. He passed away sadly but it was his favorite pass time.



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