collects stories and ideas from John Kelly

Crossword master Araucaria reveals in puzzle that he is dying of cancer

Quietly, ingeniously and, of course, cryptically, the beloved – and sometimes feared – crossword setter Araucaria has used one of his own puzzles to announce that he is dying of cancer.

Above cryptic crossword No 25,842 sat a set of special instructions: “Araucaria,” it said, “has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15”.

Those who solved the puzzle found the answer to 18 was cancer, to 19 oesophagus, and to 13 15 palliative care. The solutions to some of the other clues were: Macmillan, nurse, stent, endoscopy, and sunset.

This is very sad, but also strangely uplifting. I hope when my time comes, I can face death with the same playful, pleasant attitude.