Today is the 16th of December. Sixteen was a number revered by the Pythagoreans, for the unique property of being the perimeter and area of the same square. In classical Indian aesthetics, 16 was the number of signs of beauty, the parts of a compl ete human and the arms of the goddess Pussa.

In ancient Roman measures, there were 16 fingers in a foot, a foot equalling four palms and each palm having four fingers. The easy divisibility of 16 may also account for the 16 anna in an old Indian rupee, and the 16 ounces in a pound.

Sixteen is also the number of: The amendment to the US Constitution that, in 1913, introduced Federal Income Tax; The gestation period, in days, of a golden hamster; The number of chromosomes of a honey bee; The percentage of the world's grapes grown in Italy.

And lest we forget: Anni? Sedecim. Flos ipsus (Terence, 161 BC) - which roughly translates as: "I am sixteen, turning seventeen. Innocent as the day" (The Sound of Music, 1965 AD).

COMPETITION: If J times MAJOR equals RESIGN, and each distinct letter represents a different digit from 0 to 9, what is the value of MAJOR?

We have three copies of the Chambers Dictionary of World History for correct solutions. Entries by 28 December to: Pastimes, Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

Last week's answers: 9 is One Over the Eight; 13 Cards in a Suit; 4 Letters in a Rude Word; 3 Musketeers (Athos, Porthos and Aramis); 7 Deadly Sins. Prizes of Chambers Science and Technology Dictionary to: Mrs Valerie Lane (Lincoln), Rob Worthington (Tring), Mrs A Shadrack (Cornwall).