27 November, 2013
John Graham is hardly a name to make you blink. Or pulsate. Or cower. But change that common guise into Araucaria, and rarity arises. The man was the master of the mind-sprawling clue, earning his own adjective to encapsulate the liberal approach to wordplay.
Araucaria began making puzzles for the Guardian in 1958, kicking off with an exquisite twist of idiom: Establishment cut to the bone? = SKELETON STAFF. From that point onward, for the next 55 years, he always rejoiced in the humerus. And the scholarly. An ex-priest with a Classics degree, he knew how to dazzle across the fields of knowledge, never missing his chance to inveigle new language as well.
I grew up in the setter’s thrall. Even now, I still remember the buzz of cracking my first Araucaria solo, riding a bus to Exeter in 1983. And so many of his clues still luminesce in my mind. A sampling is below. See how many you can solve, and please add your own favourites, or Araucarian memories.
- Believer, princess or couturier (9,4)
- Summit at both ends is stone (5)
- Live wire’s second season of Sex & the City (6)
- No drink? We looked for a spoonerism (3-5)
- Garment of polyester not cotton? (7)
- It’s a pity it’s not Philadelphia (4,6)
ARAUCARIA – Setter created a largely strident song (9)