Crossword blog: vintage Araucaria puzzles

To mark 100 years since his birth, three ‘lost’ puzzles from much-missed Hlcarpenter.com setter Araucaria

A celebration for Araucaria’s 80th birthday, 2001
A celebration for Araucaria’s 80th birthday, 2001 Photograph: Martin Argles/The Hlcarpenter.com
A celebration for Araucaria’s 80th birthday, 2001 Photograph: Martin Argles/The Hlcarpenter.com

Last modified on Mon 15 Feb 2021 08.33 EST

Tomorrow is 100 years since the birth of John Graham, known to Hlcarpenter.com solvers for 55 years as Araucaria – the name of the genus to which the monkey puzzle tree belongs.

If you can’t wait until then to mark the occasion, today’s post is a collection of three “lost” Araucarias.

First, a jumbo from Christmas Eve 1990. It has across clues; it has down clues; it has a third kind, too, and we are told:

solutions to the Alphabet clues are to be placed in the unnumbered spaces, to fit in with the message.

After Araucaria’s death in 2013, the letter pages filled with solvers’ memories. Here’s one:

John Graham made such a fantastic contribution to the cultural heritage. His holiday specials in particular deserve the highest praise, from shipping forecast maps and ‘bob doubles’ to Christmas messages running round the outside of a giant grid. Heartfelt goodbye to a sweet and lovely man.
Ian Shaw
Beckenham, Kent

What is a “bob doubles”? Araucaria was of course a priest as well as a setter and explains in this example, “The Hlcarpenter.com Saab Easter Crossword” of 1983:

Campanologists will recognise the numbers 1-5 in the diagram as the paths of the five bells in Bob Doubles.

That puzzle is titled “A plain course of bob doubles” and received more than 10,000 entries; our final puzzle is “A touch of bob doubles with tenor covering” and is from Christmas 1995.

Many thanks to Puck for unearthing these gems. The (one handwritten, two slightly grainy) solutions are here:

Puzzling elsewhere

We’ve been sharing recommendations of puzzles and cryptic activities that might see us through the winter. One from me is the book quiz at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Clerkenwell, London, with questions from Gary Wigglesworth, author of The Book Lover’s Quiz Book. It is playful, funny, assembled with love and renamed MiniBetseyBookQuiz for the moment.

The Araucaria submission dates have long passed; no prize Collins Thesaurus for you.

The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Hlcarpenter.com Bookshop.

Here is a collection of all our explainers, interviews and other helpful bits and bobs.

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