This week EQMM’s 75th-anniversary issue went on sale. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can read about it here, and of course we hope you’ll pick up a copy! There was one story written specially for the occasion that we were unable to incorporate in the issue. The visual nature of its content made it a better fit, we thought, for this site, and so we decided to turn it into a contest. The story’s author, Arthur Vidro, has written for EQMM before; that earlier tale, “The Ransom of EQMM #1,” is still available on our Web site, where its own important visual elements could be properly displayed.
As you read the following story, “The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1,” pay close attention. The first three readers to e-mail us with the correct answer to the challenge it poses will win a free year-long subscription to EQMM! For more details, please refer to the rules posted at the end of this story.
A warm thanks to longtime EQMM fan Arthur Vidro for providing us with this celebratory tale!—Janet Hutchings
The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1
by Arthur Vidro
“Have any of you heard of the Valley News?” Professor Harv Tudorri scanned the blank faces before him.
A girl chewing on a pencil slowly raised her hand.
“Are they the ones who published DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN?”
“No. We covered that headline last week. Perhaps you weren’t here.” Tudorri sighed. Emmeline Dupre was the only student with perfect attendance in his Journalism 365 course, but she seldom paid attention. If he had known the attention span of the typical student at Wrightsville Community College, he wouldn’t have offered to create and teach “Published Mistakes: The Issues Newspapers and Periodicals Would Like to Redo.”
Professor Tudorri strode to the drawn-down projection screen, which was blocking a portion of the blackboard. “Not too long ago, the Valley News had an edition with a minor spelling mistake. However, it was in the largest type possible. And on page one.”
He raised the screen back into the ceiling to reveal what he had written on the blackboard before class had begun:
A few giggles escaped from his audience. The confused look on burly Jeep Jorking’s face betrayed his failure even to spot the spelling error.
“Yes,” continued the professor. “On page one on an otherwise typical news day, the Valley News misspelled—its own name.”
Al Brown raised his hand, displaying a sleeve stained with ice cream. “How could that be? Why would they do that? Was it an April Fools edition?”
“Good question, Al. No, it wasn’t an April Fools gag. It happened on July 21, 2008. It wasn’t intentional. The newspaper acknowledged its mistake but did not explain how it happened.”
Ed Hotchkiss raised his hand and waited to be called on.
“But Professor, a daily newspaper has a lot on its plate. Shouldn’t we cut it some slack?”
“True,” announced the professor. “We should hold magazines to a higher standard than we do daily newspapers. But magazines, too, make mistakes. Not just weekly magazines. Not just monthly magazines. Even quarterly magazines. Take, for instance, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.”
For some reason, mention of this periodical caused a stir among the students. Most of them were roused from their typical stupor. This startled the instructor.
“I gather,” he began, “that some of you have heard of this publication and of Ellery Queen?”
A few students shrugged, and a couple were too catatonic even to do that, but the majority nodded.
“My neighbor,” said J.C. Pettigrew, stretching his long legs and extending his size-twelve shoes, “has every issue ever published. His collection was written up in the Shinn Corners Courier.”
The instructor allowed himself a rare smile. “Splendid. And have any of you ever seen the magazine?”
“I sell it at my father’s newsstand,” said Grover Doodle.
“I read the latest issue,” said Milo Wiloughby, a serious sophomore who wrote a medical column for the school newspaper. “I borrowed it from Danny here.”
“I subscribe, Professor,” explained Danny Nathan.
“Me too,” said Manford Lepofsky, adjusting his eyeglasses. “Ellery Queen was a fictional detective, but the two men who wrote the Queen stories used Ellery Queen as their joint byline.”
Professor Tudorri beamed. “I’m pleased you know so much about it. For extra credit, who were the two men who wrote the Queen tales?”
The bespectacled student didn’t hesitate. “One was Manny Lee, and the other was—”
“—his first cousin Fred Dannay.” Danny Nathan had completed Lepofsky’s sentence.
“That’s right,” said Professor Tudorri. “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine is still going strong. It began before any of you were born—even before I was born. The year was nineteen forty-one. For most of its history it’s been a monthly, though nowadays there are ten issues a year. When it began, it was a mere quarterly. Now, you would think that a magazine published every three months would have the time and resources to get its cover perfect before going to press. However, the cover of the first issue contained a mistake.”
He turned to a gum-chewing girl in the front row whose hair was a combination of red and brown, with a blond streak. “Nikki, would you please hand these out?”
“Sure, Prof.” Nikki Porter distributed to each student a black-and-white photocopy of the issue Tudorri was discussing:
“Whoa!” said Tom Anderson, who sometimes showed up half-drunk. “Only twenty-five cents? Why so cheap?”
“Twenty-five cents was a lot of money then,” said Tudorri. “A cup of coffee cost five cents, a daily newspaper two cents, a comic book ten cents. The minimum wage was twenty-five cents an hour.”
“So buying this magazine in nineteen forty-one might have set you back a full week’s allowance,” said Gabby Warrum.
“That’s one way to look at it,” said the professor. “However, there is some dispute as to whether the first issue sold for twenty cents or twenty-five cents. I have seen samples of both. It is likely that a few issues were published with a twenty-cent price on the cover, but then the decision was made to change it to twenty-five cents before mass distribution began.”
“Is that the mistake?” asked Carter Bradford.
“Whatever price was on the cover, that’s the price the vendor would charge. So no,” said the professor. “I’m not considering the price to be a mistake. Yet there is a mistake. I want you to find it. Your assignment is to identify and correct the error on the cover. You have until the bell rings—about ten minutes—to turn in your answer.”
Nikki popped her bubblegum. “How about a hint, Prof?”
Tudorri sighed. “Very well. The mistake is a misspelling. But that’s all I’ll say. Now it’s up to you to find it.”
WHAT WAS THE MISTAKE?
The first 3 readers to e-mail us (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the correct answer by October 11 will win a free year-long subscription to EQMM! Visit us then for the remainder of the story.
Ellery Queen Characters Copyright (C) 2016 by the Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee Literary Property Trusts.