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January 12, 2013 1:53 AM   Subscribe

The Rev John Graham (better known as Araucaria) is the most loved, feared and respected of British crossword compilers. Aged 91, and still at the top of his game, his achievements include the 26-letter anagram that some fans have described as 'the best crossword clue ever'. So it was only natural that he should use a set of cryptic clues in one of his own puzzles to break the news that he is dying of cancer.
posted by verstegan (29 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Others can be harder, but nobody clues with more wit and ingenuity than the Rev. I'll miss him.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 2:16 AM on January 12, 2013


Use gin cocktail with Araucaria, for example (6)
posted by BigCalm at 2:41 AM on January 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had never heard of this guy but he sounds like the Stephen Sondheim of crossword puzzle setters.
posted by MattMangels at 2:47 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, I'm glad I got addicted to crosswords in the US rather than the UK. Reading about this man's work confirms my long held belief that the British are the more intelligent, literate people. For that, Rev Graham, I curse and admire you.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:01 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it was only natural that he should use a set of cryptic clues in one of his own puzzles to break the news that he is dying of cancer.

Natural?
No?
Fitting?
Probably.
Awesome at 91?
Absolutely.

I'm not much of a crossword do-er, but I think this guy is a national treasure. I hope they give him a state funeral.

(Also: fuck cancer).
posted by Mezentian at 3:55 AM on January 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


DA had say, but no surprise (3, 3).
posted by unliteral at 4:13 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sondheim is the Sondheim of crossword puzzle setters.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:04 AM on January 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've been doing cryptics for a few decades, and prefer the easy ones as having a completed grid is more satisfying that a lot of blanks and very little hair left.

Here's what I consider one of the best clues: e (13)
The answer is in here.
posted by arzakh at 5:08 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last night, in the James Street Tavern with my crossword club mates, the shock was I got the answer to 'cancer', which led Kerry to Palliative Care & oesophagus; then I had to persuade her & Val that this was real, not a bizzare joke. Sad news.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:32 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's the best.
posted by unSane at 5:33 AM on January 12, 2013


genius, true enough.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:33 AM on January 12, 2013


My grandfather died just over a year ago from esophageal cancer. Unfortunately, most people only catch it in the late stages after treatment is no longer effective.
posted by jamincan at 6:00 AM on January 12, 2013


.
posted by Renoroc at 6:55 AM on January 12, 2013


91 is pretty great, though cancer is a fucking shitty way to go out.

My grandfather died of cancer (colon, lung) at 87 last August and we knew he was on his way out when he couldn't do crossword puzzles anymore. I got myself a subscription to the NYT puzzles on my iPad for his birthday. Given that I can barely get through a Thursday puzzle, I'm guessing the Brits are too smrt for me. Also guessing that I'd never be able to spell "oesaphageous" or however they spell "esophagus."
posted by sonika at 6:59 AM on January 12, 2013


Araucaria puzzles are pretty tough nuts to crack, but he isn't my favourite Guardian compiler, nor the toughest (which in my opinion would be the mighty Bunthorne). His fondness for having "themes" of cross-linked clues was irritating, to me. I like the clues to stand alone. Still, he's one of the greats for sure, and I'll miss swearing at his damned linked clues as I struggle through his occasionally superbly knotty puzzles.
posted by Decani at 7:11 AM on January 12, 2013


That second link is particularly wonderful. Thanks for the post!
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:13 AM on January 12, 2013


39-Across in the New York Times 1996 Election Day crossword is also a contender for the best crossword clue of all time, but both contenders are very specific to their own national political context. Anybody have a contender for the best crossword clue of all time that's more culturally universal?
posted by jonp72 at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anybody have a contender for the best crossword clue of all time that's more culturally universal?

In 2001 Will Shortz wrote:
The clue "Present time" might suggest nowadays, but in a different sense it might lead to the answer yuletide. Similarly, "Life sentences" could be obit, "Inside shot" is x-ray and my all-time favorite clue, "It turns into a different story" (15 letters), results in the phrase SPIRAL STAIRCASE.
posted by lalex at 8:55 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain how " Food transporter heard to gradually reduce an endless effusion (10)" is "oesophagus"? (Obviously, I'm not a cryptic crossworder.)
posted by pompelmo at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2013


Can anyone explain how " Food transporter heard to gradually reduce an endless effusion (10)" is "oesophagus"? (Obviously, I'm not a cryptic crossworder.)

Food transporter is the direct clue for the actual answer OESOPHAGUS. The rest of the clue is called a charade, meaning that the clues are broken up into separate parts which, when pieced together, will provide the answer. So...

Heard to gradually reduce: The "heard" modifier indicates a homonym. "gradually reduce" is a synonym for "ease off", which is a homonym for OESOPH
+
endless effusion: "effusion" is a synonym for "gush"; the "endlessly" modifier indicates that the solver should remove the "h" leaving you with GUS
posted by lalex at 12:01 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


OESOPHAGUS
abstract clue: "food transporter" == oesophagus

---------------------------------------------------------------
Tricks of the cryptic trade:

    "heard" implies start thinking in homophones
    "endless" implies you're going to drop end letter(s) from a word


SO: to gradually reduce an endless effusion

to "ease off" an endless GUSH (perhaps)
to "ease off" a GUS

OES-OPH-A-GUS

something like that

Preview: oops, too late
posted by de at 12:03 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Nation magazine has a cryptic crossword if anyone is interested in the USA.
posted by Renoroc at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2013


OK, solving goddamned cryptic clues to understand comments is the most meta Metafilter thing I've ever heard of.
posted by maryr at 4:02 PM on January 12, 2013


I actually made a MetaFilter-specfic cryptic clue in an old thread, any takers?

Neat fables are mixed up with first original poster - are we overthinking this? (5,2,5)
posted by lalex at 11:47 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, I've said it before, but in my opinion the best cryptic clues ever are the following:

1. You Eve? (6, 6)

2. Cor! (6, 4)
posted by Decani at 12:32 AM on January 13, 2013


The man himself interviewed for Desert Island discs (probably UK only - but I think it's free on iTunes).

His crosswords have given me a lot of pleasure over the years, when I started I would avoid his work as too hard, but he became my favourite. Not that other setters aren't great, but he is truly special.
posted by devon at 1:09 AM on January 13, 2013


lalex : Plate of beans
posted by arzakh at 2:04 AM on January 13, 2013


.
(brilliant)
posted by doctornemo at 7:10 AM on January 14, 2013


For those who care, the answers to the clues above are:

- Second person

- French Horn
posted by Decani at 4:51 PM on January 21, 2013


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