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Today is the 12th of October.

If you square 12, you arrive at the answer 144 which, strangely enough, is the reverse of what you get - 441 - if you square 12 reversed, 21.

Twelve is the number of Apostles, Zodiac signs, Days of Christmas, Labours of Hercules, inches in a foot, months in a year, tones in a 12-tone scale, good men and true on a jury.

Twelve is also:

The number of tons of jellybeans bought by the White House during Ronald Reagan's presidency.

The minutes a bedbug takes to feed.

The letters in the Hawaiian alphabet.

The islands in the Dodecanese group in the Aegean (though not, curiously enough, the number of islands in the "Twelve Apostles" group in Lake Superior, of which there are about 20).

The number of randomly tuned radios needed for a performance of John Cage's Imaginary Landscape No 4.

The gallons of saliva excreted each day by an average cow.

The pints of blood in an average adult human.

The square kilometres of Africa that are always covered by snow.

Competition:

1 T M

2 S to E Q

3 P O F (A V of P)

4 L C for G L

5 G R

What do the letters stand for? The first three correct answers opened on 24 Oct will each win a Chambers Dictionary. Entries to: Pastimes, Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

28 September answers: 2 Wheels on a Bicycle (or Wings on a Bird etc); 2 Bottles in a Magnum; 2 Lenses in a Pair of Spectacles (Laces in a Pair of Shoes etc); 2 Cyclists on a Tandem; 2 Front Teeth I Want for Christmas. Winners: Roger Newman, Sue Pearce, Lesley Hurst.

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