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Today is the 22nd of June.

Twenty-two is a remarkable number. It is the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the cards in a small tarot pack and the number of Joseph Heller's Catch (though he changed the name of his book from Catch 18 just before publication).

Twenty-two is, however, perhaps least appreciated as the largest number of pieces into which a pancake can be divided with just six intersecting, straight cuts.

And, as Lord Byron put it in a "Stanza Written on the Road Between Florence and Pisa":

The myrtle and ivy of sweet two-and-twenty

Are worth all your laurels, though ever so plenty.

The relevance of the number 22 in this verse, however, eludes our investigations.

Twenty-two is also:

The yards between the wickets in cricket;

The days in a rat's gestation period;

A hamster's chromosomes ;

The Amendment to the American Constitution that limits a president to two terms;

The percentage of the world's wine made in France, and cheese and beer made in the United States.

The last of these may help to explain why 22 is also the number of times each day the average American opens the refrigerator.

COMPETITION:

"Nastiest Pict emotion heat burns me"

Arrange those six words into three pairs, then rearrange the letters within each pair to form three new words with a strong connection.

Chambers Dictionary prizes for the first three correct answers opened on 3 July. Entries to: Pastimes, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

9 June competition report:

"I waved the large senile trollop" becomes Portillo (I trollop), Waldegrave (waved large), Heseltine (the senile). Prizes to Roger Straker (Hove), Colin Chapman (Gillingham), Chris Jackson (Newcastle).

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