No. 413: "Talk Talk"

No. 413: "Talk Talk"

No. 413: "Talk Talk"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
April 11 2000 3:00 AM

No. 413: "Talk Talk"

Yohei Kono, Japan's foreign minister, assesses them this way: "If the talks actually take place, they will be the first such talks in history and have an epoch-making significance." Who may be talking to whom about what?

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Send your answer by noon ET Tuesday to newsquiz@slate.com.

Thursday's Question (No. 412)—"Science Friction":

"There needs to be some caution here," said Dr. Fred Gould, a member of a 12-person panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences. "Not all tomatoes are equal." What was the panel's task?

 "The National Academy of Sciences is judging the Miss America Pageant now?"—Francis Heaney

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"To perfect a Ketchup Martini."—Michael Mannella

"Assist in Bush campaign's search for 'intellectually compatible' running mate."—Rachel Barney (Doug Ingram and Ellis "Reserving this space for News Quiz-worthy nickname when I can think of one" Weiner had similar answers.)

"To get the first tomato accepted into active duty in the New York Police Department."—Merrill Markoe

"Put me down for 'similarly' on all those sexist answers."—Carl Dietrich

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Randy's Wrap-Up

Before considering the tomato, one is bound to note that ballheaded clubs were the original tomahawk designs; such is the impetus of alphabetical order. Baldheaded clubs are an unconvincingly jaunty attempt by hairless guys to persuade themselves that they don't mind the mockery that is their portion; such is the impetus of self-deception. The tomato was domesticated by what the 1960 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia calls the "Indians" of Central America. If they'd wielded their tomahawks more effectively, they might now be referred to in a more respectful way, perhaps Madam Indian or Sir Handsome-Pants Indian. Baldheaded men are domesticated by whatever women can love them despite their hideous deformity. The tomato spread to both North and South America before the arrival of Columbus, although that's probably not the reason. Seeds of the tomato were taken to Europe where it was thought to be poisonous and was known as the "love apple," perhaps because whoever named it had a tragic amorous experience, although probably not with Columbus, known for his lush head of hair. American colonists planted tomato seeds in Virginia. Thomas Jefferson is said to be one of the first people to eat tomatoes, although how this would be determined is a mystery to me. Jefferson was also said to have been called "love apple," perhaps by Sally Hemings. I believe that was said by me. The World Book notes that "probably no other garden product has so many uses," presumably referring not to Thomas Jefferson but to the tomato. Although I'd have thought an ordinary garden spade was more versatile: If you were attacked by a rabid muskrat, you could stun it with one swift blow of the garden spade (or tomahawk), surely a more effective tactic than pelting it with tomatoes. And that's just one use. Of course, you wouldn't want to bake a garden spade into a pie, but then again, who wants a tomato pie? The World Book also notes that the tomato is "a large, round smooth fruit that is used as a vegetable." Put that way, it sounds slightly perverse, but perhaps that's why it's called the "love apple" and, when dead, will be interred in a tomb.

Beefsteak Answer

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The panel was to write a report recommending how the Environmental Protection Agency should regulate bioengineered plants.

The report concluded that while biotech foods currently on the market are safe, such foods have the potential to pose safety risks and to harm the environment, and therefore they should be regulated. In order to do this effectively, the EPA's rule should be strengthened.

Reporters covering these developments were able to use the terms "biotech squash" and "super weed" and then go off and have a drink with their cronies, knowing that they'd done an honest day's work.

Most Impressive Streak Since Lou Gehrig's Extra

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What is the meaning of this series?

7, 4, 7, 1, 4, 7, 1, 5, 8, 4, 5, 2, 16, 2, 2, 3, 2, 5, 4, 18, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 2, 18, 4, 8, 3, 2.

Hint

The numbers tally the daily mentions on each of the last 31 days of something the New York Times covers with assiduity. What?

Hint

It is not something of obvious concern to the paper, like the president or The Sopranos. Nor is it something in which it has shown goofy but persistent interest, like the pope.

Hint

The double-digit numbers occur on Sundays, an uptick due to weddings, benefits, book reviews, and that big fat business section.

Answer

Harvard.

This figure would have been inflated still further if, when the Times was adding its many colorful supplements, they'd included the weekly "Dunster House Doin's." Nor does it include the mentions in the weekly, albeit nonexistent supplement to the youth edition of the paper, a comic book called The Blood-Soaked Hands of Henry Kissinger, Merchant of Death.

Illustrative Example

Here is the lone Harvard reference from April 1, from the corrections page:

"An obituary of the Harvard historian Adam Ulam yesterday referred incorrectly to the city of Lvov, which was part of Poland when he was born there in 1922 and is now Lviv, Ukraine. It is not the largest city in Ukraine; Kiev is."

A Project You Can Do at Home

Review the New York Times over the last 30 years. What is the longest unbroken string of Harvard mentions? What is the current streak? Check the paper each day and update News Quiz on the current streak.

What you'll need: a NEXIS account, plenty of free time.

(Thanks to Jack Shafer for his deft use of NEXIS, a skill he developed, for all I know, at one of our fine state universities.)

Common Denominator

Vegetable Farm, breasts, the antiquated slang of a gentler era.