John Galbraith Graham

John Galbraith Graham

The Reverend John Galbraith Graham MBE (born February 16, 1921) is a British crossword compiler, best known as Araucaria of "The Guardian". He is also a Church of England priest.


Graham was raised in Oxford, where his father held the post of dean of Oriel College. He obtained a place to read classics at Kings College, Cambridge, leaving to join the RAF when the Second World War began. After the war he returned to Kings to read theology. In 1949 he joined the staff of St Chad's College, Durham as Chaplain and Tutor where he worked until 1952. On Graham’s departure the Principal, Theo Wetherall, paying tribute to his good nature, wrote that ‘he squandered his sensitive taste and knowledge of Classics on 1B Greek with unfailing patience enlivened by rare expressions of nausea’. He later became a vicar in Huntingdonshire. [cite web |url=,3604,438558,00.html
title=The Monkey Puzzler |publisher=The Guardian |accessdate=2007-03-04

Writing his first puzzle for "The Guardian" in July 1958, he eventually took to compiling crosswords full-time when his divorce in the late 1970s lost him his living as a clergyman (he was reinstated after the death of his first wife). In December 1970, "The Guardian" began publishing its crosswords under the pseudonym of its writer, at which point Graham selected the name "Araucaria".

Besides Araucaria's cryptic crosswords in the "Guardian", for which he produces around six per month, he also sets around a third of the quick crosswords for the "Guardian", cryptic crosswords as Cinephile in the "Financial Times" and puzzles for other publications. [cite web |url=,,1945574,00.html| title=Review:Collins A-Z of Crosswords| publisher=The Observer| accessdate=2007-03-04]

He takes his pseudonym from the monkey-puzzle tree, whose Latin name is "Araucaria". Another name for this tree is the "Chile Pine", of which "Cinephile" is an anagram, demonstrating his love for film.

Graham now lives in Somersham, Cambridgeshire. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2005 New Year's Honours, for services to the newspaper industry. [cite web |url=| title=Space explorer honoured with CBE |publisher=BBC| accessdate=2007-03-04]


Graham's clue-writing style has made him one of the best-loved of all setters. His style falls into a grouping sometimes referred to as "Araucarian" in which – to a degree – "anything goes" as long as the answer can be readily and unambiguously determined. This style, of which "The Guardian"'s Bunthorne was another notable exponent, contrasts with the more rigid "Ximenean" style in which strict clue-writing rules must be adhered to.

Widely admired for his clever use of cross-references and special themes, he is usually called upon to produce the extra-large puzzles printed in the Guardian on bank holidays; these sometimes even include two grids, with complicated rules governing the placing of answers in each.

He is also credited with creating a new format of crossword, the "alphabetical jigsaw" in which the clues are labelled with letters rather than numbers, and the grid has no markers to indicate the placement of solutions. Instead the clues are arranged in alphabetical order of their answer — usually labelled with the beginning letter, with either one or two clues for each letter. The answers are to be placed "jigsaw-wise, however they may fit," though of course only one arrangement will work. In a few puzzles, an additional clue is given which describes a phrase or set of words placed around the edge of the grid (alternate squares of the perimeter being black) to give a starting point for placing some of the answers. Araucaria's clues to the alphabetical jigsaws are often in the form of rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter.

His clues often include long anagrams, with his favourite appearing in a Christmas puzzle: :"O hark the herald angels sing the boy’s descent which lifted up the world",an anagram of "While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground".

Another much-quoted example of his brilliance in clue-setting is the following::"Poetical scene has surprisingly chaste Lord Archer vegetating (3, 3, 8, 12)"which yields "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester". This is the title of a poem by Rupert Brooke. The anagram wittily includes a topical reference to Lord Archer who was the vicarage's current owner and was lying low there at the time following a sex scandal.


Several collections of his crosswords have been published. His crosswords have also been included in many other compilations, not listed here.

*"Monkey Puzzles" (2002)
*"Monkey Puzzles volume 2" (2004)
*"Chambers Book of Araucaria Crosswords Volume 1" (2003)
*"Chambers Book of Araucaria Crosswords Volume 2" (2005)
*"Chambers Book of Araucaria Crosswords Volume 3" (2006).


External links

*" [,3604,438558,00.html The Monkey Puzzler] " - 80th birthday tribute from "The Guardian".

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