"We can't even begin to say how thrilled we were with the puzzle which you did for our wedding day. Our very own Araucaria puzzle takes some beating! We were amazed at how many words you managed to fit in, and how you worked things about us into the clues - something we'll treasure. Thank you!"
Alice and Matthew Harper
"From time to time people congratulate me on writing "Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8)" but mostly they just look jealous and ask how I got to have an Araucaria puzzle with my name in it."
"Meg was thrilled to find an Araucaria puzzle dedicated to her on her 18th birthday. I know that long after the expensive camera is obsolete and long after the party is forgotten, she will be telling her grandchildren about the time she appeared in a puzzle by the greatest setter of our times."
"A delightful email correspondence resulted in a wonderful and totally unexpected sixtieth birthday present. The whole enterprise was a joy!"
Tony and Suki Pay
Custom crossword puzzles by Araucaria
"I know this is a strange request, but is it by any chance possible to commission you to do an individual crossword? My friend has a special birthday coming up and it would be just the thing to mark the occasion."
Over the years, I have been approached several times with some such messages as this. It is perfectly possible: I have been able to give a lot of pleasure this way, and have myself enjoyed doing such puzzles, so it seems a good idea to let a wider public - that's you - share in the fun.
How it works
Creating a puzzle does, of course, take time, so it's best to start at least a couple of months before the event. I need as much information about the 'target' as possible, such as names of family, pets, etc; names of significant places; favourite books, music, etc.; hobbies, sports, general interests; words or catch phrases with personal significance - or anything else you like! You should also indicate if there are any words which really must be included. It's usually possible to get about 11-12 words into a grid, and other words can be alluded to in the clues.
I'll then produce a grid and a draft of the clues, and send it to you for approval. Once you're happy with the end result, I'll tidy it up and supply you with the finished puzzle, either in Microsoft Word format (click to download a sample) or, if you wish, by post. For an extra £25, I can arrange for it to be typeset in a style similar to the puzzles in The Guardian, and sent over as a PDF (click to download a sample).
What it costs
As I said before, creating a puzzle takes time! The price for a cryptic crossword similar to those published in the quality daily newspapers is £300, of which I will donate £100 to a charity of your or my choice. NB I only do 'proper' crosswords - if you want the cheaper option of a few linked words strung together, you can find details on the Personal Crosswords website and elsewhere.
What to do next
If you'd like to go ahead with a custom puzzle, then fill out the details on the 'Enquire about a custom puzzle' page; I'll get in touch with you.