Guardian crossword editor John Graham dies of cancer aged 92 – after announcing illness in puzzle clues

Graham was know to his readers as Araucaria Latin for Monkey Puzzle tree

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The Independent Online

The Guardian’s cryptic crossword compiler, The Rev John Graham, has died at the age of 92.

Graham, who was known by his pen-name Araucaria, passed away this morning among friends.

Graham revealed in January via his crossword that he was being treated for cancer. In a set of special instructions he said: "Araucaria has 18 down of the 19 which is being treated by 13 15."

The clues, when solved, stated that Graham had cancer of the oesophagus which was being treated by palliative care.

His first crossword for The Guardian was published in 1958. He chose the pen-name Araucaria as it is the Latin for Monkey Puzzle tree.

Crossword enthusiasts today paid tribute to Graham. Colin Beveridge, a member of crossword forum Fifteensquared said: "We were lucky to have him for as long as we did, and I’ll turn to Monkey Puzzles whenever I feel like a dose of wit and pleasant frustration."

The Independent’s crossword editor Mike Hutchinson said: "It was his puzzles in The Guardian as Araucaria that got me hooked on crosswords back in the 1980s. I don’t think there’s a single crossword setter who generated as much affection among solvers as John. He was very much one of a kind. I paid my own tribute to John on his 90th birthday in February 2011 by setting an alphabetical jigsaw puzzle [puzzle that Graham invented] for The Independent and you can probably guess the answer that began with A."

In his last interview with The Guardian, Graham said of the crossword: "It's a voyage of discovery. I love the way the word invention both means discovering something and producing something new. That's how it works. Clues are not something you've invented in the sense that they're completely new – they're something you discover, about words and about connections. And that's exciting."