the anaesthetist
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Today is 21st September

But I was one-and-twenty,

No use to talk to me.

(AE Housman, A Shropshire Lad)

If you are ever short of 21s, take two 508853989s and multiply them together. The last 10 digits of the product are 2121212121. The only other two-digit numbers that can quintuplicate themselves at the end of the square of another number are 61 and 84.

Twenty-one is a number associated with perfection, being the product of seven, the number of creation, and three, the number of synthesis: beginning, middle and end.

Twenty-one is also the number of years the Twenty-One Years War ran between Russia and Sweden from 1701-1721. This must on no account be confused with the Hundred Years War between England and France which ran, on and off, between 1337 and 1453.

Twenty-one is the number of guns in a royal salute, originating in the "ships of the line" which had a maximum of 21 guns along one side of the vessel.

Twenty-one is also the card game, vingt-et-un or pontoon, and the number of the amendment to the US Constitution that repealed Prohibition in 1933.

Finally, 21 is the number of spots on a die.

Mixed Doubles Competition:

White sled hero mixed risky sorcerers

Those six words may be grouped into three pairs, then the letters within each pair rearranged to give three words, linked by a common theme.

The first three correct answers opened on 3 Oct will win a Chambers Thesaurus. Pastimes, Independent, 1 Canada Sq, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

7 September answers: 1 Armed Bandit, 1 Way Ticket; 1 Horse Town; 1 Night Stand; 1 Man Band (or 1 Meat Ball). Winners: Mrs S Fairchild, Lesley Hunt, FW Woodhead.

31 August winner: P Carter.