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Welcome to 1996. For readers having problems, when dating cheques for example, with the transition from 1995 to 1996, here are some convenient aids to remembering the difference.

Whereas '95, hereinafter to be known as last year, was equal to 5 times 19, or, to put it several other ways, the number of baseball gloves that can be made from one cow multiplied by the number of acres of pizza eaten each day in the United States; or the minutes it takes a good vet to castrate a cat times the gestation period of a laboratory mouse; or the different ways the letter "f" may be pronounced in Icelandic times the number of stations on the Baku underground system...

Ninety-six, or this year, is equal to 2 times 48, (the number of times Diana said "Charles" in her Panorama interview times the average weight in pounds of an elephant's heart); or 3 times 32 (the number of baths taken by Louis XIV in his life multiplied by the number of times Gladstone liked to chew each mouthful of food); or 4 times 24 (the frogs eaten each year per capita in France times the letters in the Korean alphabet); or 6 times 16 (the months of his life the average American spends waiting for red lights to change times the chromosomes of the honeybee); or 8 times 12 (length in feet of a koala's appendix times tons of jellybeans bought by the White House in the Reagan years). We trust this clarifies the matter.


Another set of puzzles from our "26 L of the A" (Letters of the Alphabet) collection. What are the missing words in the set that follows?

3 W in a H T

3 B S (C E and A)

3 S Y and T

3 L on a T

3 I T W G

Three Chambers Dictionary prizes will be awarded to correct disentanglements. Entries should be sent, to arrive by 16 January, to: Pastimes, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

7 December competition:

Answers: 20 Questions in a Panel (or Parlour) Game; 30 Old Pence in Half a Crown; 40 Days of Lent; 50 Pounds to Get Out of Jail in Monopoly; 60 Degrees at Each Corner of an Equilateral Triangle.

Winners: Mrs N Worth, John Caddick; RR Whitworth.

14 December competition:

We asked: If GOOSE plus GOOSE equals TURKEY, what is the value of PORK. The only solution that leaves a non-zero digit for P is 64475+64475= 128950, and PORK = 3489.

Winners: PA Baggaley, Bill Quantrill, AH Moore.

Plenty of correct answers to both of these, which is why this week's are just a tiny bit more difficult.