No. 240: "So Stop and Ask Directions"

No. 240: "So Stop and Ask Directions"

No. 240: "So Stop and Ask Directions"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
May 11 1999 10:55 PM

No. 240: "So Stop and Ask Directions"

Fill in the blank on this thoroughly satisfying explanation from Defense Secretary William Cohen: "None of those maps indicated that it was the Chinese Embassy that was being targeted. It was not a human error or mechanical error--it was a(n) __________ error."


Send your answer by noon ET Wednesday to

Monday's Question (No. 239)--"Terror Train":

"We're not being motivated by what's to come, but a fear of being left out as the train is pulling away from the station, with some exotic station in mind." Who said this about what?

"At which point I always say, 'Mom, if Elderhostel is not something that you continue to enjoy, you do not need to be a participant.' It sounds a lot less formal in Yiddish."--Andrew Silow-Carroll


"The eponymous protagonist says this of his Weltschmerz in the revised-for-the-'90s edition of The Little Engine That Could."--David Finkle

"Hey, you know, at the end of Entrapment, a train pulls out of a railway station, and Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones are on it, and it's in Malaysia. So I'm going to go with: Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, about their train. In Malaysia."--Tim Carvell

"Elizabeth Dole, at a kaffeeklatsch in Iowa. Then she lifted her dress over her head and sang 'They Call Me the Pineapple Princess.' "--John Leary

"I have no joke for this, but may I be the first to weigh in with 'Dana Plato's Retreat?' "--Bill Scheft (M. Pesca had a similar answer.)


Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

Not motivated by what's to come but by the fear of being left out. Puts me in mind of Boswell's description of what in the 18th century was called a hypochodriack, what we'd call a depressive:

His opinion of himself is low and desponding. His temporary dejection makes his faculties seem quite feeble. He imagines that everybody thinks meanly of him. ... He regrets his having ever attempted distinction and excellence in any way, because the effect of his former exertions now serves only to make his insignificance more vexing to him. ... There is a cloud as far as he can perceive, and he supposes it will be charged with thicker vapour the longer it continues. He is distracted between indolence and shame. Every kind of labour is irksome to him. Yet he has not resolution to cease from his accustomed tasks. ... He acts therefore like a slave, not animated by inclination but goaded by fear.


The Hypochondriack, December 1780

ElectroLiteracy Answer

Laurence Kirshbaum, chief executive of Time Warner trade publishing, said it about electronic books. He and his colleagues have to deal with them, but they don't yet know what to think about them. (To find out what Jacob Weisberg thinks about them, click here to go to his piece in Slate.)

One conflict: What royalty are writers entitled to? Because electronic publishing eliminates paper, printing, warehousing, and delivery, costs are lower, say writers, so publishers should take a smaller share of a book's price, and the writer's share should increase. Not so, say publishers, who insist they should continue to take a whopping chunk of the money for no particular reason. Oh, yes: Because they can.


Match Wits With a Times Editor Extra

Below, pertinent details of stories in today's New York Times, each followed by a pair of headlines. Can you determine which is the real headline and which is the amazing simulacrum?

1. "She grabbed her dog, Lucky, and his insulin. Then she and the others simply walked to a nearby apartment complex for foreigners."

A. Let's Throw Stones at Lucky, the Diabetic Dog

B. Envoy Says Stoning Will End, Ties Won't

2. "On Saturday night, at an event called Columbine Surprise Party, players from the Denver Broncos and the Colorado Rockies mingled with students and family. On Sunday, Shania Twain visited. Later, for the second time, votive candles sparked a fire which consumed a canopy tent, bouquets, scraps of poetry and stuffed bears."

A. God Proves Sadistic, but With Sense of Humor

B. Teacher of Colorado Gunmen Alerted Parents

3. " 'More than anything else, Silicon Valley is on the 50-yard-line of the political spectrum,' Mr. Randlett of Technet said."

A. Techno Guy as Articulate as a Doctor

B. Candidates Falling Into the Finally Open Arms of High Technology

4. " 'I tired of getting urine tossed on my back,' said Mr. Fallopa."

A. Disney To Retire Dull Rides at Sao Paulo Theme Park

B. Making Brazilian Soccer a Bigger Deal


1-B, 2-B, 3-B, 4-B.

Common Denominator

Bad service on trains.