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Listener 4257: A Short Entertainment by Ferret

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 September 2013

Here we had Ferret’s second Listener, and, with help from his Inquisitor puzzles, he has already become a firm favourite with me. His first Listener (#4207 Loco) required us to draw the National/British Rail logo in the grid. This week, we had a rather spiky looking grid with a box underneath captioned ‘Surname’. The clues were Letters Latent, with the appropriate letter (not given by the wordplay) moved to the perimeter, and that would help to reveal the theme. One clue would turn out to be Member Latent. Surprisingly, the number in brackets was for the answer not the entry, a bit of help that I don’t think is normally given with LL clues.

Listener 42571ac was an immediate help, the wordplay being an anagram of ‘classic alto’ and SC[H]OLASTICAL popped up fairly quickly. Of course, not many of the clues were that easy. However, having moved on to the down clues — I often do that if I get a long answer across the top of the grid — ANTI-T[E]RRORIST and INSTALLATI[O]NS gave me further strong footholds in the grid. Unfortunately, Dyspnoea annoying child — hospitals initially flush sinuses regularly (14) for BR[E]ATHL[E]SSN[E]SS across the bottom of the grid (BRAT + H[ospitals] + fLuSh SiNuSeS) wasn’t such an easy solve.

I got the Member Latent clue reasonably early on, AL[LEG]ES at 8dn, but that didn’t help me with the theme. I suppose if I’d sat back and cogitated for half an hour, my mind might have said “What was that video you were watching on YouTube last Thursday? That had a leg in it, didn’t it. In fact it was indeed a missing leg, like here, and was the fabulous Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch, One leg too few with the unidexter auditioning for the role of Tarzan.” My brain might then have continued “Now I know it would be too much of a coincidence for a Listener crossword to have such a theme only a couple days after you watched the clip, but everything fits.” Indeed, the first thought did happen, courtesy of a video link on Twitter. I don’t know the exact reason for the tweet — perhaps it was the 40th anniversary of Beyond the Fringe, which I believe is where the sketch was first performed.

Listener 4257 My EntryBut, as I said, my brain wasn’t given time to come up with that, and probably wouldn’t have thought of it if I had given it the time. It needed me to get most of the letters of ONE LEG TOO FEW from the bottom row of the perimeter before the light dawned. From there, seeing that BEYOND THE FRINGE appeared up the left, across the top and down the right of the perimeter was straightforward. Dudley MOORE completed the unclued entry in the bottom left corner, which left the brilliant Peter COOK to be written in the space under the grid. And of course the three ‘members’ mentioned in the preamble were the three legs of the two performers.

I believe Peter Cook wrote the sketch when he was 18 and considered it one of his best pieces of work. I probably wouldn’t disagree, so thanks for the puzzle, Ferret.
Listener 4257 One Leg


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