Listen With Others

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Listener No 4636, Monkey Business: A Setter‘s Blog by Skylark

Posted by Listen With Others on 27 Dec 2020

In sixth-form our head of English was so concerned that us scientists might stop reading that one lunchtime she dictated to us a Recommended Reading List. Rather disgruntled by her mediocre rating for Right Ho, Jeeves, I nevertheless took it to our local library that night, and found one book with a particularly intriguing title: Cold Comfort Farm.

Reading it that night had me howling with laughter. Jokes like:

The wind was the furious voice of this sluggish animal light that was baring the dormers and mullions and scullions of Cold Comfort Farm

…and the invented language which urbane Flora struggles to understand, such as Reuben’s statement:

I ha’ scranleted two hundred furrows come five o’clock down i’ the bute

…delighted me, as did the skewering of rural novels, though not knowing Mary Webb, I assumed the target was DH Lawrence – the mollocking certainly seemed to fit.

For a while I considered it my favourite book – and writing to Miss Gibbons to tell her so, was thrilled to get a reply, saying that over half a century later, she could hardly believe that she had written it, but expressing pleasure that it was still entertaining readers then.

CCF still entertains me now, so I stuffed the grid as full of thematic words and characters as I could (though the editors wisely eradicated the names of Adam Lambsbreath’s four cows I had artlessly shoehorned into clues: Graceless, Aimless, Feckless and Pointless).

The title was inspired by the author’s unusual surname, and in homage to the book, I did aim to get ream, page and letter into the grid, but some of the other examples Tim / Encota cleverly highlighted were completely unintentional – though mother’s ruin wasn’t. Reading Shirley’s kind blog, I was thrilled to learn that I can join other Listener Setters at the Oenophile Bar.

I was particularly thrilled this puzzle was published, since shortly after I’d submitted it, I’d feared it was as doomed as the Starkadders, following the publication of Augeas’s excellent Inquisitor 1640: A Spot In The Country, with the same theme, although it was very differently executed, which may have been my saving grace.


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