Crossword book club: AP Herbert’s Uncommon Law

An old legal comedy gives the bishop a bad name, in clue form, in our latest reading for puzzlers

Our author, AP Herbert, was a lot of things. An independent MP from 1935 to 1950; a head of various public bodies; a campaigner for reform of divorce laws. His blue plaque in Hammersmith, London, though, begins: “Author, humourist”.

Some of that humour takes place in the legal system, a world Herbert knew well, having studied jurisprudence and being the grandson of a lord justice of appeal. In his Misleading Cases series for Punch magazine, he offered accounts of fictional trials that became bestselling books in 1927 – and which remain funny almost a century later.

… as ‘a prosy humbug’, as ‘an intolerably hearty and overpaid clergyman’, ‘the world’s worst golfer’, ‘canting Tommy’, ‘the sniffing parson’, and other vile expressions of the kind.

… the names of mythical animals and biblical characters, prepositions, foreign towns, classical writers, obscure musical instruments, vegetables, little-known adjectives, and so forth.

… this unhappy victim of the defendant’s spite had not even the satisfaction of a principal (and horizontal) place in the puzzle, but was degraded to the position of a word in four letters, reading downward, an indignity intolerable, milord, to a man of his years and sensibility.

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