News Quiz

No. 341: “Beat the Press”

The headline in the London Mirror is “Joy of Six.” What is the lead?

Send your answer by noon ET Tuesday to

Thursday’s Question (No. 340)–“Say What?”:

It’s a common expression, says Mahmoud el-Azzazzay, a Queens travel agent: “We say it probably 200 or more times a day.” What expression?

“Please take me to Kew Gardens. I promise I’m unarmed.”–Alex Balk (Molly Shearer Gabel had a similar answer.)

“I’ve already contributed to the Bush campaign.”–Mitchell Dolin

“No, no, that’s three a’s and four z’s!”–Bill McDermott (similarly, Charles Star, Jim Derby, and Ben Perry)

“No shitting on the food cart.”–Gina Duclayan

” ‘Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line.’ Then we put you on hold for an hour and go to lunch. God how I love this country.”–Michael Keenan (similarly, Jon Delfin, Tim Carvell, and Vani Ramakrishnan)

Click for more answers.

Randy’s Wrap-Up

Many responses raged against aviation–the cramped seats, the awful food, the plummeting. When air disasters occur, there is an investigation to determine the cause, much as, at the end of a relationship, we try to understand why it failed, but without the advantage of voice recording, so we’re left to squabble endlessly over who said what. There is a theory that this search for a cause is an essentially superstitious act, an almost mystical hope that to name the cause is to ensure that disaster won’t recur. But in anything as complicated as aviation or romance, there are infinite possibilities for debacle. That’s why there is much to be said for rail travel. Not even the most depressed engineer can steer a locomotive off the rails. You can get on and off right in the middle of the city, avoiding the hassles of that trip to the airport. Railroads provide the happy erotic metaphor of the train going into the tunnel; air travel offers the grim symbolism of “crash and burn.” On a train you’re not trapped in your seat; you can stroll the aisles or amble to the bar car and meet an attractive stranger with whom to initiate what is certain to be a disastrous relationship. Just like the last one.

Cultural Context Answer

Tawakilt ala Allah.

Heard on the cockpit voice recorder of EgyptAir Flight 990, this Arabic sentence–in English, “I put my trust in God”–was uttered by Gamil al-Batouti, the relief co-pilot, just before the autopilot was shut off and the flaps adjusted to send the plane into a dive.

It might be a prayer before dying, as Batouti deliberately plunged the plane into the sea. And then again, it might be just an ordinary figure of speech, like the American “Oh my God” or the New York “Fuck you”–said many times during the day with no real theological or erotic significance.

According to Vincent Cornell, an associate professor of religion at Duke University, “It’s typically used to initiate something, if you’re embarking on a situation where you don’t know the outcome.”

“I say it as soon as I get into my car to pick my daughter up from school,” says Hala Arafa, an employee of the Voice of America. “I also say it when I start cooking in the kitchen and when I arrive at work and start my assignments.”

Dizzy Pheasant Leftover and Plug for a Fine Magazine:

“Timothy McSweeney’s Tipsy Pheasant Fantasia. The birds are tagged for later tracking, and each tag has a tiny, tiny short story on it!”–Zach Hooker

Angry Greek Extra

President Clinton’s visit to Greece was marred (or enlivened, depending on your point of view) by what the New York Times described as “virulent anti-American protests.” Which of the following are genuine sources of Greek animosity?

1. NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia

2. American support of the junta that tyrannized Greece from 1967-1974

3. Clinton’s cozying up to Turkey earlier in the week

4. At state dinner, Clinton declined baklava, demanded “real cake, and plenty of it, baby”

5. Proposed ABC game show, Who Wants To Make Catty Remarks About Melina Mercouri?

6. Fed up with constant giggling at the phrase “Greek style”

7. Resent use of their alphabet by beer-swilling frat boys

8. New Sesame Street character, Zorba the Geek, wears unstylish clothing, seldom bathes, curses a blue streak

9. Athenians still pissed about Peloponnesian War, taking it out on everyone

10. Too much Pokémon, not enough Zeus


1-3 actually figured in the chants and placards of demonstrators, but I’ll bet they were thinking 4-10.

Common Denominator

Petty humiliations of flying, living in Queens, dealing with the public.