There are some moments in life where you hear or see something and it is indelibly linked thereafter. Events such as the Kennedy assassination hold such notoriety for many, but for Eclogue, the now infamous Test Match Special commentary is among the same category. A quick Google will enable the uninitiated to hear this piece of radio gold from now over 23 years ago, when the West Indies were still a good team, not in contractual disputes and England were, well England.
The theme is of course the famous cricket commentary banter between Brian "Johnners" Johnston and Jonathan "Aggers" Agnew at the Oval in 1991 following the Ian "Beefy" Botham "leg-over" incident in which the batsman attempted to leap over the stumps in order to avoid a bouncer from Curtly Ambrose but instead managed to inadvertently remove the bails with the inside of his leg. Agnew's subsequent remark "He just didn't quite get his leg over" led to uncontrollable mirth in the commentary box with Johnners eventually pleading for a cessation: "Stop it Aggers"
Aggers and Johnners
Indeed, at a one-day tournament earlier this year in the West Indies against England, there was presentation of knighthoods to Richie Richardson and Curtly Ambrose who then joined Sir Ian Botham in the Sky commentary box to reminisce on this very incident.
The idea of bringing both the event and the mirth that ensued into crossword form appealed to Eclogue's combined sense of humour. There is of course a certain liberty being taken with the pictorial representation and the 'bails' (STOP IT and AGGERS) are outsize compared to the stumps and in the actual occurrence, Beefy only dislodges one bail while avoiding the Ambrose bouncer, but that aside, the aim is to show stumps without bails, which is 'out, hit wicket'. In addition of course we needed to use some traditional cricket terminology as the event is recorded in the history books as "IT Botham hit wicket b Ambrose" which would lead to some rather irregular sized stumps. So these were regularised as IAN BOTHAM, HIT WICKET and B(owled) C(urtly) AMBROSE.
The puzzle itself was set around 8 months previously with, so any advantage we could have taken with the unique number sequence of 1357 was beyond our foresight, but Eclipse managed a significant theme-pointer with a cricket related clue at 2 across.
Similarly, even though this puzzle coincided with John & Jane's Sloggers and Betters weekend in York, the 13 across clue mentioning an event organised by Jane was purely coincidental.
And finally, some last minute editing to the proofs was conducted in liaison with the Inquisitor's Crossword Editor, John Henderson. In very close proximity to the actual publication date and in very short order the few issues remaining were efficiently resolved. Our thanks to John.