News Quiz

No. 282: “It’ll Take a Miracle”

An inquiry into Mother Teresa began in Calcutta, India, Monday, as Pope John Paul II opted to fast-track her canonization, waiving the five-year post-death waiting period. Beatification, the first step toward sainthood, requires a confirmed miracle, and one has already been “authenticated.” Name that miracle.

Send your answer by noon ET Wednesday to

Monday’s Question (No. 281)–“Sign Here”:

Five years ago, at a cost of $1,200, Vicksburg, Miss., erected two identical signs. Now one has been spray-painted with the word “hypocrite,” and the other has been smashed to pieces. What do the signs say?

“Three Days of Peace, Love, and Music.”–Ken Novak

“Lott for Sale–Soft Money Welcome.”–Charles Kenher

“Vicksburg’s Pledge: No Unnecessary Signs.”–Francis Heaney (Peter Carlin had a similar answer.)

“In five years, please spray paint ‘hypocrite’ on one of these signs, and smash the other to pieces. Thank you.”–Richard Nikonovich-Kahn (similarly, Francis Heaney, Floyd Elliot, R. Hastings, Lonnie Cooper, and Bill McDermott)

“Kirk Fordice hates sex, violence, and guns! And he loves Pat Fordice!”–Molly Shearer Gabel

Click for more answers.

Randy’s Wrap-Up

A city’s signs may be smashed and spray-painted–and where I grew up they were often pockmarked with buckshot–but this sort of treatment is generally reserved for public property. It is surprising how seldom one sees enameled profanity splashed across a private car. There is the occasional graffiti-covered van (and once the first scarlet streak appears, others swiftly follow), but not many. Our vandals apparently lack class consciousness. They are great respecters of private property. They refrain from defacing Mercedes or Lexuses, these being objects of envy, not resentment. Donald Trump walks the streets unafraid that someone will scrawl some harsh architectural criticism across his vast backside. Even in the suburbs, where dogs run free, no poodle comes home with a hammer and sickle spray-painted on his side. There really is no Left in America.

Civic Pride Answer

“Home of Governor Kirk Fordice”

Gov. Fordice, whose adulterous affair is nothing at all like President Clinton’s adulterous affair, continues to irritate the home folks.

Sam Habeed, a city alderman, wants to get rid of the signs “to remove the mixed or ambiguous messages that are out there about marital loyalty.” Robert Wilbur, the governor’s spokesman, urges Mississippians to look at “the big picture.”

Tom Williams’ World of Signs

A sign here in Seattle says, “No Dumping Whatever,” but it’s printed on two lines, so it’s easily read as “No Dumping (Whatever).” By confusing “Whatever” with “Whatsoever,” the author of this sign has created a monument to late 20th-century civic cynicism: the self-mocking sign. No one’s going to obey it anyway, so why bother? Embrace the futility.

Others that come to mind:

“Speed Limit 35 mph (Yeah right)”

“Men Working (As if)”

“Falling Rocks (No shit)”

Ellen Macleay’s Suburban Bliss

My parents were original owners of a Levittown home–it was my first home! There were thousands of kids on the block. When my mom made her weekly trip to the emergency room to have doctors patch up one of my four brothers injured in a game of King of the Hill or Catch the Arrow, it was a given that another mother would “look after” us kids, even though we were all running in opposite directions.

My dad would drive to Jones Beach to load up on sand for the sandbox that he built in the backyard. The greatest thing about the price of the home, my mom would say, was that it included a washer and dryer. It was the only way veterans who didn’t have two nickels to rub together could own a home–no down payment. Mortgages ran about $57 a month. The table where we ate every meal was a picnic table! And, yes, the ice cream man stopped right in front of the house. I had a little chrome coin changer just like he did–I would click out two nickels and he would click out three pennies change. Levittown was the happiest place on earth.

Kieran Healy’s Erratum

In Monday’s News Quiz, “Errata” should read “Erratum.”

[If you count the “carybdis” spelling as one error, and “errata,” the plural, as another error, then there are two mistakes, and thus errata, the plural is correct, in which case there is only one mistake, in which case errata, the plural, is now incorrect, in which case my head starts to hurt and I have to go lie down.–Ed.]

Common Denominator

Some kind of crazy paradox.