Barred Off by Chalicea
Extra letters give PUT BRONTE’S MAD WOMAN IN THE ATTIC, with BERTHA MASON from Jane Eyre being revealed at the top of the grid.
Bertha Mason has fascinated me since I was a child. I have a lovely Collins leather-bound copy of the novel that was a school prize a long, long time ago. In those days, not long after the war, books were rare and treasured possessions and I remember being frustrated as we already had Charlotte Brontë’s complete works at home, and there were lovely art books in the cupboard we chose our prizes from, but the teacher insisted I have this one. Well, although I regard Jane Austen’s works as the real classics of that time, the little volume is a treasure now.
The boarding school (Lowood in the novel) where Jane and her sister were sent (and almost died, as did Helen Burns in the novel) is in Cowan Bridge, a couple of miles from the village where I was born, and our school bus passed it every day so I had graphic images of what Charlotte Bronte described, and, of course, Jean Rhys ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ enriches those images of her demoniacal madwoman. Rhys makes her Rochester’s victim and, teaching the novel, in later years, I have tended to feel sympathy for her and, of course, for Jane in such a male-dominated society.
I had already used Bertha Mason as a crossword theme (Obstacle in EV 1176) but couldn’t resist attempting the theme again in a completely new way for me, with clues leading to two words, one of them sending a letter up into the barred-off attic as BERTHA MASON. It gave me an almost symmetrical grid (bar that attic) and a literary theme after I had set a few engineering Puzzles.
Many thanks for all the warm comments on it.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.