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Crossword setter (91) uses puzzle to reveal he has terminal cancer

The legendary crossword setter Araucaria told readers that he had “18 down of the 19″ – cancer of the oesophagus.

Image: Crossword photo via Shutterstock

ONE OF THE most well-known and celebrated crossword setters in Britain has used one of his own puzzles to tell readers that he is dying of cancer.

Araucaria, whose real name is the Reverend John Graham, included a special instruction above his crossword published in the Guardian yesterday.

The note read: “Araucaria has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15″.

The answers to the puzzle revealed that 18 down was cancer, 19 down was oesophagus, and 13 15 across was palliative care.

Araucuria, who takes the name from the Latin word for the monkey puzzle tree, has been setting crosswords for more than 50 years. He told the Guardian that letting readers know about his illness through a crossword “just seemed the natural thing to do somehow. It just seemed right”.

The 91-year-old was born in Oxford and flew planes for the RAF during World War II before becoming a vicar. His first puzzle for the Guardian was published in July 1958, originally anonymously, but under the Araucaria pseudonym from December 1970. He was made an MBE in 2005 for services to the newspaper industry.

His cryptic crosswords have been lauded for their wit and fiendish difficulty. He produces around six cryptic crosswords and several quick crosswords per month for the Guardian as well as cryptic crosswords for the Financial Times and crossword magazine 1 Across.

He told the Guardian that he plans to continue producing the puzzles for as long as he can, telling the paper, “I’m not actually doing much else”.

He said his doctors have decided not to pursue surgery or chemotherapy to treat the cancer, which he welcomed.

“There isn’t a prognosis, really,” he told the paper. “I asked them last week how long I’d got, but nobody knows how long you’ve got! They’ve said it won’t be years and years, but it could be a large number of months”.

Read: Can’t get harder than this: Sudoku puzzles must have 17 clues >

Read: Did a crossword maker try to encourage people to kill the president of Venezuela’s brother? Probably not >

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