A NEWSPAPER crossword setter has revealed the sad news of his terminal cancer to fans of his puzzles through the medium he knows best: a crossword.
The Rev John Graham, who sets the Guardian’s cryptic crosswords under the pseudonym Araucaria, wrote the clue: "Araucaria has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15.”
The answers to the special set of instructions for cryptic crossword No 25,842 were cancer, oesophagus and palliative care. The solutions to some of the other clues were: Macmillan, nurse, stent, endoscopy, and sunset.
Speaking from his home in Cambridgeshire, the 91-year-old told the newspaper that the puzzle had not taken him long to devise, adding that a crossword had seemed the most fitting way to break the news.
He said: "It seemed the natural thing to do somehow. It just seemed right.
“I should think this is a one-off because I don't really know what else there will be to say."
He said he was pleased his doctors had decided against surgery or chemotherapy as he had been dreading the prospect of undergoing either.
But he does not know how long he has left to live.
"There isn't a prognosis, really," he said. "They simply don't know how long it's going to take. I asked them last week how long I'd got, but nobody knows how long you've got. They said it won't be years and years, but it could be a large number of months."
In the meantime he plans to continue setting several puzzles a month, as he has done for more than 50 years already.
A string of supportive comments were posted underneath the online version of the crossword, with fans expressing their sadness.
One person wrote: “I hope for both an uneventful recovery and the balls to be able to exhibit such aplomb if it is ever my fate to be in a similar position. Thank you for the joy you have brought to my life, sir.”
Another wrote: “What a piece of sad news about a wonderful person who has given us so much pleasure and entertainment. Let's hope for a total remission and many more years of bemusement and gentle torture.”