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Today is the 16th of November.

Sixteen was a number of deep significance in ancient India. A complete person was considered to consist of 16 parts, there were 16 signs of aesthetic beauty and the ideal adornment was considered to comprise 16 pieces of jewellery.

In the case of the 16-armed goddess, Pussa, these might presumably all be bracelets. Sixteen was also the number of annas in a rupee.

For its fine halvability, 16 was considered, both in India and ancient Rome, a number of perfection and wholeness.

Computers, which are built to think in twos, find the hexadecimal system, based on 16, a natural extension. The usual way of designating numbers to base 16 for computing purposes is to append the letters A, B, C, D, E, F to the numbers from 0 to 9. Last century, however, a logical fellow called JW Mystrom, proposed that we should all count to base 16. If you want to try, he recommended renaming the numbers 1-16 as: an, de, ti, go, su, by, ra, me, ni, ko, hu, vy, la, po, fy and ton.

Other useful 16s include the following:

"Sixteen String Jack", a highwayman (Jack Rann) hanged in 1774, wore eight foppish tags on each knee.

Sixteen is the age of consent. As the Roman poet Terence wrote: "Anni? Sedecim - flos ipsus" (Age? Sixteen - the very flower of youth). Sixteen is also:

The gestation period, in days, of a golden hamster;

The number of chromosomes of the honey bee;

The pawns in a chess set;

The average length in centimetres of an erect penis;

The amendment to the US Constitution that introduced income tax.

Competition: More "26 L of the A" teasers with Chambers Dictionary prizes.

1 O T E

2 H in a G of F

4 L F (H N L Y D)

8 H in a N T F W D

16 O in a P

Entries by 28 November to: Pastimes, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

2 November answers: 2 For Tea (and Tea for Two); 3 Medals (Gold, Silver and Bronze); 10 Pin Bowling; 15 Love (Tennis Score After One Point); 21 Points to Win at Table Tennis. Winners: Pamela Price, Bill Moore, Jean Craft.

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