Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” may be a classic horror story, but it’s full of “weird wine howlers,” according to Clifton Fadiman.
Fortunato, who is immured in the story, “prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine,” and Montresor, who does the immuring, adds, “I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.”
But Fortunato tells him, “Luchesi is quite incapable of telling Amontillado from Sherry,” and, later, “Amontillado! You have been imposed upon; and as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado.”
But Amontillado is a sherry! H. Warner Allen points out that André Simon’s wine encyclopedia defines Amontillado as “one of the most popular types of Sherry, neither too dry nor too sweet.”
Compounding this error, Montresor tells Fortunato that he wants Luchesi’s opinion of a pipe of Amontillado that he has received. But a pipe is a cask of port; a cask of sherry is a butt.
Also, Poe seems to have thought that Amontillado is an Italian wine, perhaps judging by the look of the word. Fadiman writes, “What he thought ‘a flagon of De Grâve’ could be is almost beyond conjecture.”
(Clifton Fadiman, Dionysus: A Case of Vintage Tales About Wine, 1962.)
In 1960, MIT mathematician George B. Thomas Jr. received a letter from a waterfowl farmer in Maine. The farmer thought he had discovered an error in a problem in Thomas’ influential textbook Calculus and Analytic Geometry. A little bewildered, Thomas looked into it and discovered that there was indeed an error. He thanked the writer and promised to correct the mistake in future editions.
The two corresponded intermittently thereafter, but four years went by before Thomas realized that the farmer was novelist Henry Roth, author of Call It Sleep. Suffering a disastrous case of writer’s block, Roth had turned to farming and tutoring to support his family, and he had worked his way through every problem in Thomas’ book, ninety per chapter, “often struggling long into the night before arriving at the solution,” according to biographer Steven Kellman.
A copy of the textbook, “inscribed with notes,” is listed among Roth’s papers. In the preface to the fourth edition, Thomas wrote, “One of the author’s friends, Mr. Henry Roth, wrote that he feared that the new edition would be ‘rife with set theory.’ I believe that he, and others who have used the third edition, will find that only modest additions of set theory have been made.”
Nearly everyone in Whittier, Alaska, lives under the same roof. The 14-story Begich Towers was built after World War II, and the building was converted to a condominium when the military withdrew. About 200 people live in 150 two- and three-bedroom apartments, and they can go weeks without leaving the building, which contains a post office, a grocery, a medical clinic, the mayor’s office, a general store, the police department, a Methodist church, a laundry, a small hotel, a conference room, and a play area with an indoor pool. A tunnel system leads to the community school and a general store.
By most accounts, life in the tower is pretty agreeable. But “because we have four elevators, sometimes people pull pranks on you and hit every button,” resident June Miller told CBC News. “And it’s like, ‘Really? This again?'”
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Australia’s Westfield ultramarathon had a surprise entrant in 1983: A 61-year-old potato farmer named Cliff Young joined a field of elite professional runners for the 500-mile race from Sydney to Melbourne. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Young’s fortunes in the race and the heart, tenacity, and humor that endeared him to a nation.
We’ll also learn the difference between no and nay and puzzle over a Japanese baby shortage.
Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.
Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
“People will tell you that science, philosophy, and religion have nowadays all come together. So they have in a sense … they have come together as three people may come together at a funeral. The funeral is that of Dead Certainty.” — Stephen Leacock
A Mrs. Harris published this verse in Golden Days on Oct. 10, 1885:
He squanders recklessly his cash
In cultivating a mustache;
A shameless fop is Mr. Dude,
Vain, shallow, fond of being viewed.
‘Tis true that he is quite a swell —
A smile he has for every belle;
What time he has to spare from dress
Is taken up with foolishness —
A witless youth, whose feeble brain
Incites him oft to chew his cane.
Leave dudes alone, nor ape their ways,
Male readers of these Golden Days.
It reads so naturally that it’s surprising to find that it contains a double acrostic: Taking the fourth letter of each line spells out QUANTITATIVE, and taking the last letter spells out HEEDLESSNESS.
David Hagen offered this puzzle in MIT Technology Review in 2007. The MIT logo can be thought of as a slider puzzle. In the figure above, can you slide the tiles about so that the gray I can escape through the opening at top left?
Review reader Brad Edelman offered this solution. First number the tiles 0 to 6, left to right, with pieces in the same column numbered in sequence from top to bottom. Now:
2 – down, down
4 – down
6 – right
3 – down, right, down, down
1 – right, right
2 – up, up, left
4 – left, down
3 – left
1 – down, right, down
2 – right, right
4 – up, up
3 – left
2 – down
5 – left
6 – up
1 – right
2 – right
3 – right
4 – right
0 – right, right, down, down
5 – left, left, left, down, down
4 – up, left, left, left, up
The original puzzle was posed in the November/December 2007 issue; the solution was presented two issues later.
At the time, readers made some interactive tools, in Word and Flash, to aid in the solving, but those don’t seem to be available any longer. If anyone knows of any, please let me know and I’ll add a link here.