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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Amherst, Massachusetts Parking Sign Puzzler

It’s 9 p.m. on Sunday night. You’ve finished the Sunday Times crossword and double acrostic. Time for one more puzzle: When can you park on Amherst, Massachusetts streets with the above-pictured sign?

If you’re wavering, that’s just what the good people in Amherst town government who cooked up the signs, hoped you’d do. The signs are in residential neighborhoods just beyond the legions of parking meters in downtown Amherst. The signage police want you to be uncertain so that you’ll exorcise all doubts by moving your vehicle to those meters. (Amherst residents, of course, know the solution to our puzzler, so they won’t need to hedge like you.)

At the meters you’ll pay a quarter for 35 minutes of peace of mind. (If you’re willing to pay for it, you may buy up to two hours of grace at your meter.) Perhaps the town will get luckier and sock you with a $10 ticket for overstaying your welcome. Parking revenues, of course, are a necessary evil among today’s cash-strapped municipalities. But here’s an alternative moral to our cautionary tale: Signage Can Intentionally Deceive as Well as Edify!

And the solution to our puzzler: If you don’t have a residential parking permit (and you don’t!), you can park on Amherst streets with those Mensa-teasing signs from September 1 – May 31 on Mondays through Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. On the weekends, you can park there around the clock. From June 1 through August 31, park whenever you please.

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