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Saskatoon one of many "visual jokes" on the cover of the New Yorker

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Saskatoon has arrived in the Big Apple.

The Prairie city is making a cheeky cameo appearance on the April 16 cover of the New Yorker magazine, thanks to a Canadian artist now living in New York.

The cover of the travel issue, by artist Bruce McCall, shows the inside of an airplane with people stuffing ridiculously oversized items — like a car — into the overhead compartments.

Off to the side of the aisle, near the child carrying a Ming vase, is a bag from Saskatoon's duty-free shop.

It was one of many visual jokes on the cover since few people would associate the small Canadian city with duty-free shopping on par with London or Tokyo, McCall said.

"I always want to tweak the Yanks. Saskatoon seemed like the unlikeliest place in the world to have a duty-free shop," McCall said in an interview.

"When you get on an airplane these days, everybody has a duty-free bag, all over the place. But doing Tokyo or London or New York seemed flat-footed. It didn't seem funny. So I looked for some unlikely duty-free shop."

The magazine's fact-checkers initially protested but relented once they discovered the city does in fact have a duty-free shop, albeit not a very big one, he said.

He could have chosen any other Canadian city, like Medicine Hat, but McCall said he chose Saskatoon because of its "charming musical-sounding name."

The joke wasn't lost on many discerning New Yorker readers who are used to scouring the magazine for every detail, McCall added. A friend emailed McCall about the cover, making a joke about "Diefenbaker Avenue," he said.

"A lot of people got it," said McCall, a regular contributor to the magazine. "A lot of people saw it and laughed. It's amazing."

McCall said he did the illustration at the last minute while on vacation in the Caribbean. The frustrations of the airplane flight were fresh in his mind and the idea came to him in a flash.

"I immediately thought of all the problems with travelling and the first one that came to mind was the traffic jam in the airplanes," he said.

"I found the angle that would give it the most jokes, looking right down the aisle and having lots of places where people could be stuffing stuff in. I just filled it out with every other idea I had."

A lot of people seem to share his frustration with travellers who insist of bringing luggage on-board that should be checked, he added.

"It's amazing," McCall said. "That cover has gotten a lot of attention. It struck a nerve, I guess."

— By Chinta Puxley in Winnipeg

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