Saturday, 12 January 2013

Oh Araucaria

Arucaria has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13,15.  This puzzle was first published in the December edition of the magazine 1 Across (c) and is repeated here by kind permission.


That was the preamble to yesterday's Araucaria Cryptic in the Guardian.

18 down was a write in:- 'Cancer'.

Here is how much I managed over all (not quite all of it, as you can see).
This was so hard to do - not because the clues were extra hard - although I failed to get two solutions.  But because of the theme.

I've posted about the estimable John Graham before, of course, a number of times.  But even for this extraordinary setter, this was an extraordinary crossword (as Tramp said on the Fifteensquared discussions of this puzzle).  To use his own terminal disease as the theme was typical of him, I guess - but even so substantially disconcerting (to say the very last).  It made the National News (the 'Today' program this morning, Guardian front page) and there are, unsurprisingly, letters in today's Guardian (and lots of comments on the Web site).  According to one of the other posts on Fifteensquared he is likely to be around (and puzzling) for a while yet, which does seem good news.

I can remember (I think) the first Araucarian clue I ever solved - "Begin Description of a Dining Room", (8) (*) - in the library at school when I was new sixth-former.  I've been attempting to match the man ever since (and usually struggling).

More than most setters, there always seems to be a playful, emotional heart to many of his puzzles - they are sheer fun, pleasurable, frustrating and satisfying by turns but  rarely merely mechanical tests.

This was no exception and there are many fine clues scattered around it (see 7D and 27A).  But I have never felt so sad when doing a crossword as I did with this one yesterday.

(*) - Initiate.

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