Today is the 17th of March.

Seventeen is a number of great literary import:

It is the number of years Dr Watson worked with Sherlock Holmes.

It is the number chosen by Shakespeare for one of his greatest lines of gibberish: "Kerely-bonto, sir, betake thee to thy faith, for seventeen poniards are at thy bosom" (All's Well That Ends Well).

It is the number of letters in "Dulcinea del Toboso", which caused Don Quixote such trouble in composing a verse with the initial letters of each line spelling her name. (He resolved to drop a letter to fit the name into four ballad stanzas.)

Competition: Back to the familiar "26 L of the A" (Letters of the Alphabet) style. Can you unravel the following:

13 U F S

15 M E W B F (A W)

21 P on a D

21 S in a G

25 Y for a S W

We have three Chambers Dictionary prizes for correct answers opened on 29 March. Entries to: Pastimes, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

3 March Competition Report :

Answers: 1 a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns; 1 Stone to Kill Two Birds; 3 Line Whip (or Little Words); 7 Pillars of Wisdom; 22 Number of Joseph Heller's Catch. Prizes to Honor Gilbert (Portskewett), Richard Stubbs (Bristol), Jean Richards (Kelvedon Hatch).

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