U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE BOARD OF CONTRACT APPEALS Appeal of GENERAL BUSINESS FORMS, INC. GPO BCA 2-84 December 3, 1985 Michael F. DiMario, Administrative Law Judge This is an appeal timely filed by General Business Forms, Inc., 7312 Niles Center Road, P.O. Box 457, Skokie, IL 60077 (hereinafter "GBF" or "Appellant"), pursuant to the standard "Disputes" clause provisions of paragraph 2-18, U.S. Government Printing Office Contract Terms No. 1 (GPO Pub. 310.2 - Revised October 1, 1980), which such "Terms" were incorporated in and made a part of the contract by reference. The appeal is from the final decision of the Contracting Officer, John J. O'Connor, San Francisco Regional Printing Procurement Office, U.S. Government Printing Office (hereinafter "SFRPPO" and "GPO" or "Appellant," respectively), dated September 21, 1984, terminating the contract for "default" under authority of paragraph 2-18, GPO Pub. 310.2, supra, "because of your failure to produce this order on the paper specified and your inability to reprint the order by the date requested." (R4, Item 7) 1/ The jurisdiction of the Board to hear such matters is set forth in GPO Instruction 110.12, dated September 17, 1984. Initially, Appellant elected a hearing pursuant to the provisions of Rule 8. However, at a prehearing conference held February 13, 1985, pursuant to Rule 10, the parties mutually agreed to proceed without a hearing upon the record as settled, supplemented by the oral argument made at the prehearing conference and written briefs to be filed, if desired, by either party. The Appellant elected to file such brief; the Respondent did not. SUMMARY STATEMENT OF FACTS The facts in the case are uncontested. Appellant, GBF, the lowest of three competitive bidders (R4, Item 1), was awarded a contract to produce some 1,075,000 +/- 1%, 4-color process 8-1/2 x 11-7/8 inch U.S. Postal Service Mailers,. entitled "Express Mail Eagle Direct Mail" by the SFRPPO, GPO, by Purchase Order P5014, Jacket No. 790-243 dated 7/17/84 1/ R4 denotes "Rule 4 file" submitted to the Board pursuant to Rule 4 of BCA's Rules of Practice and Procedure, GPO Instruction 110.12, dated September 17, 1984. to be performed "in strict accordance with your written bid and the specifications." (R4, Item 5) The bid was dated 7/9/84 in the net amount of $35,906.45 with additional per thousand rate of $30.40 (R4, Tab 3). The specifications planned and drafted by "G. E." of the SFRPPO (R4, Tab 2) required that the contractor furnish the paper for the product as follows: *Equal to Basis -- 500 Sheets COLOR AND KIND OF PAPER JCP Code Size Weight White Gloss Coated x cover (coated 2 sides) L-lO 25 x 38 80 *Refer to "Government Paper Specification Standard No. 8" dated April 1977. The completed product was required to be shipped "on or before 8-31, 1984" to the SFRPPO and various postal facilities. The copies to the SFRPPO were to be the first 50 completed and were to be considered ss sample copies. On September 6, 1984, the U.S. Postal Service informed the SFRPPO that the completed product had been received by them but that it was printed on the wrong paper (R4, Item 6); i.e., 80 lb. text stock rather than 80 lb. cover stock. The SFRPPO confirmed this fact by inspection of the samples on September 7, 1984 (R4, Item 6). The Postal Service requested that the job be reprinted on the desired paper stock with delivery of 340,000 copies by September 21, 1984, and the remainder by September 28. Thereafter, the SFRPPO contacted.Mr. Richard Lynch, Vice-President, GBF, advising of the rejection of the product by the Postal Service and requesting the reprinting .on the desired stock. Mr. Lynch indicated that GBF could not obtain thestock in time to meet the Postal Service delivery dates. He also indicated his intention to dispute the SFRPPO rejection of the product previously delivered. Apparently, the SFRPPO then recontacted the Postal Service and was advised by them that they would cancel their order if the SFRPPO could not guarantee delivery by the desired date. The SFRPPO explained the administrative procedures necessary to a default action and reprocurement of the desired product to the Postal Service representative whereupon on September 11, 1984, the Postal Service decided to cancel the order due to the improbability of competitively reprocuring the product in time to meet its internal scheduling needs. The SFRPPO Contracting Officer advised Mr. Lynch of the Postal Services' actions and offered to obtain an "Invitation for Bid" for GBF. Mr. Lynch declined the offer again because of the inability to obtain the required paper stock in time to meet the delivery schedule. Mr. Lynch was then informed of the Contracting Officer's intention to reject the entire order and terminate the contract for default. The SFRPPO then sought and received concurrence for such termination action from the GPO Contract Review Board, Washington, DC (R4, Item 6). By letter dated September 21, 1984, GBF was notified of the termination "for default because of your failure to produce this order on the paper specified and your stated inability to reprint the order by the date required." (R4, Item 7) By letter dated October 2, 1984, GBF appealed the decision contending that: In our opinion we have fulfilled the contract paper specifications and request payment of the contract for the following reasons: 1. General Business Forms, Inc. followed the plain language of the specification which read 25 x 38 80#. 2. The specification did not clearly state the paper must meet postal mailing requirements of .007" thickness. (See attached sample GPO bid specifications clearly stating Postal Requirements). [sic] 3. General Business Forms, Inc. cannot assume responsibility for sorting requirements in the Post Office wherein a critical requirement for the operation is only implied or intended and is not correctly stated in the simple language of the specifications. 4. The GPO waived its requirement for a press okay. In our opinion the waiver of the press okay indicated the GPO was satisfied with our understanding of the job specifications and our manufacturing capability. 5. The job was shipped on time and we were notified several days after shipment that the job was to be printed on 20 x 26 cover stock .0072 thickness. The best delivery date of the paper was 10/18/84 and a reprint was requested with a partial 9/21 and the balance 9/28. (R4, Item 8) (Note: The attachment referenced in paragraph 2 was a solicitation and specification for GPO Jacket No. 754-984 for the Department of the Army wherein a handwritten note following the paper description specified a particular paper caliper to meet Postal Service requirements. The reference to "sample" in numbered subparagraph 2 above is not relevant since the attachment was not furnished to the Appellant as part of the solicitation under appeal but came into its possession in an altogether unrelated situation.) The Manager, SFRPPO, by United States Government memorandum of October 11, 1984 (R4, Item 1). responded to GBF's appeal letter as follows: In response to the statements made in the contractor's appeal, the Contracting Officer believes that there are several pertinent facts which should be noted. 1. The paper specifications for Jacket 790-243 clearly state "White Gloss Coated Cover (coated 2 sides), equal to JCP code L- lO, Basis size 25 x 38", weight 80." s. The term "cover" is unmistakable and perfectly clear. b. The phrase "(coated 2 sides)" is used in the industry to describe certain "cover" stocks. It is not used to describe "text" or "book" stocks. c. JCP L-lO (attached) specifically describes "Litho Coated Cover, White and India Tint." In .its detailed specifications, one of the characteristics listed refers to a basis sheet size 20 x 26.. d. The basis sheet size of 25 x 38" is obviously incorrect since this size is used only to describe "book" stocks. It is never used to describe "cover" stocks. 2. The fact that the Government waived its right to a press inspection does not relieve the contractor of his responsibility to produce the order in accordance with the specifications. 3. General Business Forms has indicated that they "followed the plain language of the specifications which read 25 x 38, 80#." In doing this they have obviously applied an unreasonable interpretation to the specifications; i.e. one that ignores all other statements regarding the paper requirements. The Contracting Officer believes this position to be indefensible. a. It has long been held by the courts and Boards of Contract Appeals that the standard of interpretation of an integrated written contract is the meaning that would be attached to the writing by a reasonably intelligent person acquainted with all operative usages and knowing all the facts and circumstances prior to and contemporaneously with the making of the contract. The Contracting Officer does not believe that the contractor's interpretation would be consistent with a reasonably intelligent person. b. Furthermore, it should be noted that one of the primary rules of interpretation is that "a writing is interpreted as a whole and all writings forming part of the same contract are interpreted together. It is improper to interpret a single word, phrase or sentence out of context with the rest of the contract." General Business Forms, in isolating the reference to 25 x 38" from the remainder of the specifications, has violated this rule. 4. It is the Contracting Officer's opinion that the intended meaning of the specifications is clear and based on that fact alone a decision should be rendered in favor of the Government. However, if in the opinion of the Board, the specification is not clear and is considered to be ambiguous, it would undeniably be a case of patent ambiguity. a. With regard to ambiguities, it has been held in numerous cases that, the contractor must demonstrate that the ambiguity was not so patent that he was aware of it at the time his bid was submitted. Failing to demonstrate this, contractors have been held to have assumed the risk of a patent ambiguity if they did not request clarification at the time the bid was being prepared. In other words, a prospective bidder cannot enter into a contract without asking for clarification of a patent ambiguity and then later expect to receive an adjustment. General Business Forms did not request any clarification either at the time of bid preparation or when they asked to review and confirm their bid prior to award. 5. Furthermore, the Contracting Officer feels that it would be impossible for the contractor to demonstrate that he was unaware of this error at the time of bid preparation because: a. He has acknowledged that he followed the basis sheet size of 25 x 38". As a result he furnished "book" stock as opposed to a "cover" stock. b. In the industry this basis sheet size is applicable only to "book" or "text" stocks; never to "cover" stock. c. The stated specifications clearly call for "cover" stock. d. The stated specifications clearly reference "(coated 2 sides)" a term that is only used to describe certain "cover" stocks. e. The reference JCP L-lO specifications describe "Litho Coated Cover Stock." f. The referenced JCP L-lO specifications clearly reference a basis sheet size of 20 x 26". In summary, it would seem virtually impossible to notice the one aspect of the specifications that would denote the use of a "book" stock and at the same time overlook all the other statements which relate precisely to a "cover" stock. The Contracting Officer, therefore, feels that even if the obviously incorrect basis size is considered to constitute an ambiguity, such an ambiguity could only be classified as patent. General Business Forms would have assumed the risk of a patent ambiguity through its failure to request clarification at the time of bid preparation and is, therefore, liable for the correct production of the product. Subsequently, by letter dated November 13, 1984, Appellant in answer to the SFRPPO Manager's letter, filed its complaint and requested a hearing. The letter set forth GBF's position as follows: [O]ur complaint is as follows. The bid was reviewed by key personnel in our organization and confirmed that our quotation was correct based on manufacturing the printed piece on a high speed web perfecting press which has significant cost advantages over sheet fed equipment. The cost factor for labor and material were [sic] within our normal estimating standard. We accepted the order after our review. As matter of record, the original bid specifications that were furnished by GPO were incomplete. Page 2 was missing. We contacted SFRPPO for another set of bid specifications including page 2. The second set of specs came in promptly. The contracting officer in his brief states in paragraph 1a, page 2 that the paper specs were clearly stated as being "White Gloss Coated Cover (coated 2 sides) equal to JCP Code L-lO, Basis 25 x 38, weight 80." On both the first and second copies of specifications used to prepare our bid, as well as the specifications furnished with the purchase order, the word "cover" is incomplete ("C" is missing), and the specifications appear to read "White Gloss Coated, over coated 2 sides". [sic] See Exhibit 1. We did not attempt to read something into the specifications that was not clearly stated therein. The word "cover" is NOT "unmistakable and perfectly clear". [sic] In paragraph lb, it is stated that the phrase "coated 2 sides" is used in the industry to describe certain cover stocks, and is NOT used to describe "text" or "book" stocks. The phrase "coated 2 sides" is applied to "offset" stocks which have the same 25 x 38 basis weight. This is clearly covered by statements in two reference manuals commonly used in the industry. 1. page 167, "Pocket Pal", thirteenth edition, published by International Paper Company. "Coated (25 x 38) This consists of base paper to which has been applied a smooth, glossy coating". Exhibit 2 2. page 253, "Walden's Handbook for Paper Salespeople & Buyers of Printing Paper", second edition, published by Walden-Mott Corporation. "Coated offset - a C2S paper with high resistance to picking and suitable for offset printing". Exhibit 3 These two references clearly indicate that the term "coated 2 sides" is NOT "only" used in the industry in relation to cover stocks. The coated 2 sides offset is a commonly used paper stock in the industry. Paragraph ld states that a "basis sheet size of 25 x 38 is obviously incorrect" because it is only applied to book stocks and never to cover stocks. This would be incorrect only if it were obvious that a cover stock was required. This was not the case, as the word "cover" is incomplete in the specifications. As a 25 x 38 coated 2 sides stock is common in the industry, and 80# basis weight is common for this type of stock there is no obvious error in our interpretation of the specifications. We can only base our quotations on what is clearly stated in the specifications as written, and cannot try to determine the intent of the person who wrote the specifications. The plain language of the specifications, in our opinion, leaves no room for misinterpretation. and therefore cannot be considered as having been taken out of context. The waiver of the press inspection by the GPO, in our opinion, implied acceptance of General Business Forms understanding of the Jacket Specification. In conclusion, the mistakes in the Jacket Specifications, namely a block-out of the letter "C" eliminating the reference to "Cover", the incorrect basis size and the failure to clearly specify Postal Paper caliper requirements of .007" thickness all contributed to our dispute. The Contracting Officer refers to Cover Stock as the correct paper, however, the reason for the Jacket rejection is because of the Postal department machine processing requirement of .007" thickness. The Postal requirement is "not clearly" written only implied. (Original /s/ Richard E. Lynch) (Appeal File, Item 5) The Respondent did not file an Answer to GBF's letter of Complaint. Accordingly, the Board, pursuant to Rule 6.(b), GPO Instruction 110.12 dated September.17, 1984, entered a general denial on behalf of the Government. (Appeal File, Tab 7). Subsequently, the matter in dispute was taken up at a prehearing conference held February 13, 1985, at which time GBF was represented by counsel. At the prehearing conference, both parties agreed that the main issue is the interpretation to be given the specification. GBF acknowledged that the specification might be ambiguous but agreed that is was not patently so. Mr. Lynch contended that the specifications he received read "over (coated) 2 sides" and not "cover" stock. At this time, Mr. Lynch entered into the record the original "xerox" of the specification he received from GPO as their invitation to bid (Exhibit 10). The copy appeared to have been imprecisely photocopied, since many of the characters appearing on the left side of the paper were partially deleted. The undersigned then noted that the Government also contended that the thickness of the paper used by appellant did not comply with Postal Service regulations for mailing. Mr. Lynch stated that this is part of the ambiguity since the contract makes no reference to postal regulations. The Government then contended that if the entire specification had been carefully read by appellant, this would not have been an issue. Government counsel then referred the parties to a copy he had of the JCP L-lO specification as requiring compliance with the postal regulations, but upon looking at the specification in his file he discovered that it did not refer to .007 thickness of paper. Mr. Walker then said that the .007 thickness of paper should not be the issue; rather, the issue is whether the publication was in fact printed on the required cover stock. The undersigned then noted that the specification also refers to "Government Paper Specification Standard No. 8 dated April 1977," and asked whether it might have clarifying data. However, the Government did not have a copy available at that time. There followed much discussion by all parties over whether the photocopy of the specification proffered in evidence by Mr. Lynch was the actual copy sent by the RPPD. To clarify this matter, the undersigned requested Government counsel to obtain an affidavit from the individual who sent the specification to GBF to determine if the paper specification of the IFB actually sent to GBF read "cover" or "over." (Subsequent to the meeting, Government counsel advised the undersigned that all photocopies sent to prospective bidders had partial left hand margins similar to the copy proffered by Mr. Lynch. In so advising, the Government in fact withdrew its contention that the specification received by GBF was worded other than as contended by GBF. The interpretation of that wording still remains for decision.) The undersigned stated, at this point, that he did not feel the need for a hearing since it appeared that an impartial fair reading of the specification could resolve the matter. The appellant, however, felt that a hearing might be necessary to call expert witnesses in the paper industry to bear out the fact that GBF's interpretation of the specification was a reasonable one. At this point Government counsel advised that the JCP L-lO specification referenced a standard sample which the contractor was to match. Government counsel showed the undersigned the sample. The undersigned then expressed his feeling that additional information was needed and would schedule a hearing. At the time of hearing, he would consider the standard sample against a sample of :he paper used by appellant. He also made the point that Exhibit 10 presented by the appellant speaks for itself as to a fair and reasonable interpretation of the text but opined that the ambiguity is more with what L-lO, 25 x 38 80# means with respect to the JCP Code than to how the specification read to the appellant. Government counsel then stated that the 25 x 38 on the specification was a patent ambiguity and should have put GBF on alert that there was a need for further clarification of the specification by Government. GBF objected to this being a patent ambiguity. With respect to a question from the undersigned, Mr. Lynch stated that he and one other individual from his company (a person in the Estimating Department), reviewed the specification. A hearing was then scheduled for February 26, 1985 (Appeal File, Tab 15). However, by letter dated March 5, 1985, counsel for appellant requested that the hearing not be held because the expert witnesses it intended to call could not be in attendance, and that instead the matter be decided upon the written record. She advised that Government counsel had no objection to such request. She further requested that the record be held open for a reasonable time so that it might be supplemented by affidavits, if desired, and that simultaneous briefs be permitted (Appeal File, Tab 16). Permission was granted to these requests and appellant filed such brief on May 2, 1985 (Appeal File, Tab 17). Respondent did not avail itself of the opportunity to brief the issue. Moreover, supplemental affidavits were not filed by either party. The record was administratively closed by the undersigned on September 30, 1985. Appellant's artful brief which is too voluminous to quote here in its entirety sets forth its alternate arguments as follows: ARGUMENT I [T]he termination for default . . . was improperly grounded. The Notice . . . stated the . . . contract was terminated for . . . failure to produce this order on the paper specified . . . . But it was impossible to produce the order on the paper specified because no such paper exists. The contractor could not possibly comply; therefore, he should not be defaulted for failure to comply. ARGUMENT II . . . [T]hough the contract specifications at issue were ambiguous, the contractor interpreted them reasonably and, therefore is entitled to prevail because the risk of ambiguity is placed on the drafting party, the Respondent. (Appeal File, Tab..17) The appeal is before the Board in this form. ISSUE The questions presented by this appeal are: (1) Whether the appellant should have been defaulted for "failure to produce on the paper specified . . . " when no such exactly specified paper existed; or (2) Whether vel non the specification for paper as set forth in the photocopy of the bid solicitation actually received by appellant was ambiguous, and if so, whether the ambiguity was (a) patent so as to have created an affirmative burden upon the appellant at or before the time of its bid submission to seek clarification from the respondent as to the meaning of the specification, or (b) latent so as to lend itself to more than one reasonable interpretation in which case the clause must be read against the interest of the respondent as drafter provided the interpretation given by the appellant was reasonable; i.e., an interpretation which a reasonably prudent printer of ordinary knowledge and experience for the level of work required would likely place upon the language in question, all other aspects of the language of the solicitation being considered as a whole. DISCUSSION We dismiss out of hand appellant's first argument that no default should lie for failure to produce on the paper specified when no such paper exists, although we concede that the argument might be proper had appellant not produced the product at all. The Notice of Termination for Default was drafted by the contracting officer to give reasonable notice to the contractor of his final decision in a contract action and the underlying basis for such decision. The contracting officer is not acting in a manner akin to a grand jury issuing an indictment precisely charging some violation of law which must of necessity make out a crime or fail on its face. Rather, we believe the Notice of Termination was reasonably stated to assert the proposition that the appellant used a paper different from the paper which the respondent intended to be used when it drafted its specifications, and to afford the appellant the opportunity to contest such judgment by way of appeal to this Board which it has done. The resolution of appellant's second argument is more complex. The issue of whether or not the provision of the contract concerning the requirement for paper is ambiguous is a question of law, John C. Grimberg Co. v. United States, 7 Ct. Cl. 452 (1985), and thus any decision by this Board concerning such matter is reviewable by the courts pursuant to the Wunderlich Act, 41 U.S.C. Sects. 321-322 (1964). "Ordinarily, when interpreting a contract, the plain meaning of the contract is binding upon the court unless the contract by its very terms is inherently ambiguous. A contract is ambiguous if it is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation. But it is not appropriate to strain the language of the contract to create an ambiguity." Opalack v. United States, 5 Cl. Ct. 349, 359 (1984). Moreover, the general rule is that a contract is to be interpreted as a whole; that all provisions of the contract are to be.given effect and that no provision is to be rendered meaningless. Ratheon Co. v. United States, 2 Cl. Ct. 763 (1983). In Enrico Roman, Inc. v. United States, 2 Cl. Ct. 104 (1983), the United States Claims Court at 106 et seq stated that: This court can be guided by the opinion of the Court of Claims in George E. Newsom v. United States, 231 Ct. Cl. --- , 676 F.2d 647 (1982), wherein the court said: The analytical framework for cases like the instant one was set out authoritatively in Mountain Home Contractors v. United States. It mandated a two-step analysis. First, the court must ask whether the ambiguity was patent. This is not a simple yes-no proposition but involves placing the contractual language at a point along a spectrum. Is it so glaring as to raise a duty to inquire? Only if the court decides that the ambiguity was not patent does it reach the question whether a plaintiff's interpretation was reasonable. The existence of a patent ambiguity in itself raises the duty of inquiry, regardless of the reasonableness vel non of the contractor's interpretation.3 (Emphasis in original.)  In accordance with the court's reasoning in the Newsom case, this court's first responsibility is to ascertain analytically whether vel non an ambiguity existed regarding the replacement of the floor area under the air conditioning units and the closet walls. Second, the court must ascertain if the ambiguity was so patent and glaring, as to impose an affirmative duty on the part of plaintiff to seek clarification from the designated Government agent before submitting its bid. Only if the court ascertains that a patent ambiguity does not exist, may it proceed to determine f [sic] plaintiff's interpretation of the contract terms is reasonable. The foregoing analysis is ineluctable since the doctrine of patent ambiguity is an exception to the contra proferentem 4/ rule which requires that the contractual language be construed against the drafting party. Policy consideration for this exception to the contra proferentem rule consist of the need to protect bidders so that they are all bidding on the same material; to discourage contractors from taking advantage of the Government; and most of all, to prevent post-award litigation. In this case, the IFB and attached drawings did not indicate the presence of the air conditioning units and closet walls. The rule that a contractor, before bidding, should attempt to have the Government resolve a patent ambiguity in the contract's terms is a major device of prevention hygiene; it is designed to avoid just such post-sward disputes as this by encouraging contractors to seek clarification before anyone is legally bound. [Emphasis supplied.] S.O.G. of Arkansas v. United States, 212 Ct. Cl. 125, 131, 546 F.2d 367, 373 (1976); see Robert L. Guyler v. United States, 219 Ct. Cl. 403, 593 F.2d 406 (1979); Sturm v. United States, 190 Ct. Cl. 691, 421 F.2d 723 (1970). Additional guidance regarding the analytical process to be undertaken by the court in interpreting such language was given in Salem Engineering and Construction Corp. v. United States, 2 Cl. Ct. 803 (1983), at 806 et seq, which is quoted in pertinent part, thus: The contract is ambiguous if it sustains the interpretations advanced by both parties, Max Drill, Inc. v. United States, 192 Ct. Cl. 608, 627, 427 F.2d 1233, 1245 (1970), and in construing it, the court must place itself in the shoes of a reasonable and prudent . . . contractor. Norcoast Constructors, Inc., v. United States, 196 Ct. Cl. 1, 9, 448 F.2d 1400. 1404. (1971); Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. United States, 195 Ct. Cl. 21, 30, 444 F.2d 547, 551 (1971). The language o[ the contract must be given that meaning which a reasonably intelligent contractor acquainted with the circumstances surrounding the contract would derive. Id; Hol-gar Manufacturing Corp. v. United States, 169 Ct. Cl. 384, 388, 351 F.2d 972, 975 (1965). Therefore, the court must consider the purpose of the contract along with its language. . . . It is correct that the court should accept an interpretation which gives a reasonable meaning to all parts of a contract, rather than the one which renders a provision of the instrument meaningless or useless. Hol-gar Manufacturing, 169 Ct. Cl. at 395, 351 F.2d at 979. . . .[D]efendant contends that the work was clearly and unambiguously prescribed by the contract and if it merely had wanted the new roof connected to the existing one, it would have specifically said how to do it. This may have been clear in the minds of the drafters of the contract or defendant's architect, but their subjective intent does not control. The representations of the specifications and drawings govern the interpretation of the contract. Max Drill, 192 Ct. Cl. at 628, 427 F.2d at 1245; L. Rosenman Corp. v. United States, 182 Ct. Cl. 586, 590, 390 F.2d 711, 714 (1968). . . . . . . . . [4.5] The burden of ambiguity is somewhat shifted to the contractor by a provision calling on it to seek clarification of ambiguities. See WPC Enterprises, Inc. v. United States, 163 Ct. Cl. 1, 7, 323 F.2d 874, 877 (1963). But the government cannot require a contractor to notify it of every possible ambiguity or potential difference in interpretation. Max Drill, 192 Ct. Cl. at 625, 427 F.2d at 1244. To do so would be to make the contractor an insurer against all government mistakes. See Mountain Home Contractors v. United States, 192 Ct. Cl. 16, 22, 425 F.2d 1260, 1264 (1970). The most that can be required of a contractor is to notify the government of major discrepancies or errors it detects in the specifications and drawings, or risk an adverse construction. ld. quoting Blount Bros. Construction Co. v. United States, 171 Ct. Cl. 478, 496, 346 F.2d 962, 973 (1965). What constitutes a patent or major discrepancy or ambiguity is defined on an ad hoc basis. Max Drill, 192 Ct. Cl. at 626, 427 F.2d at 1244; L. Rosenman Corp., 182 Ct. Cl. at 590, 390 F.2d at 713.  A government contractor need not exercise clairvoyance to determine its contractual responsibilities. See Corbetta Construction Co. v. United States, 198 Ct. Cl. 712, 723, 461 F.2d 1330, 1336 (1972). It does not bear the burden of interpreting a contract correctly, only of interpreting it reasonably. Max Drill, 192 Ct. Cl. at 627, 427 F.2d at 1245. Accordingly, as drafter of the contract, defendant shoulders the responsibility of seeing that within the zone of reason the words used convey their intended meaning. See John McShain, Inc. v. United States, 199 Ct. Cl. 364, 378, 462 F.2d 489, 496 (1972); Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 195 Ct. Cl. at 30, 444 F.2d at 551. The risk of ambiguity rests on the government. United States v. Seckinger, 397 U.S. 203, 216, 90 S. Ct. 880, 887, 25 L. Ed. 2d 224 (1970); United Pacific Insurance Co. v. United States, 204 Ct. Cl. 686, 695, 497 F.2d 1402, 1407 (1974). If defendant wanted Salem to remove and replace the entire existing roof, it should have said so explicitly. See L. Rosenman Corp., 182 Ct. Cl. at 591, 390 F.2d at 714; Schweigert, Inc. v. United States, 181 Ct. Cl. 1184, 1190, 388 F.2d 697, 700 (1967). To merely say, "remove existing roof," when part of the existing roof would have to be removed to join it to the new addition is not adequate to place a contractor on notice to reroof the entire existing building. More recently in John C. Grimberg Co., Inc. v. United States, 7 Cl. Ct. 452 (1985), the Claims Court at 456: [1,2] The court's first responsibility in a case such as this "is to ascertain analytically whether vel non an ambiguity existed," Enrico Roman Inc. v. United States, 2 Cl. Ct. 104, 106 (1983). regarding the type of test to be performed. Assuming arguendo that an ambiguity were presented by GSA's use of the phrase "across the bags" to describe the test, any ambiguity is not so glaring as to be patent and thereby put plaintiff on a duty to inquire. See e.g., George E. Newsom v. United States, 230 Ct. Cl. 301, 303, 676 F.2d 647, 650 (1982). In the circumstances plaintiff was not obligated to "seek clarification of any and all ambiguities, doubts, or possible differences in interpretation." WPC Enterprises, Inc. v. United States, 163 Ct. Cl. 1, 6, 323 F.2d 874, 877 (1963). [3-6] The familiar rule that a non-patent ambiguity be resolved against the drafter "is subject to the condition that the alternative interpretation tendered by the other party be reasonable one." William F. Klingensmith, Inc. v. United States, 205 Ct. Cl. 651, 657, 505 F.2d 1257, 1261 (1974) (per curiam); Perry & Wallis, Inc. v. United States, 192 Ct. Cl. 310, 316, 427 F.2d 722, 726 (1970). The issue is a question of law for the court to decide. See e.g., William F. Klingensmith, Inc., 205 Ct. Cl. at 656, 505 F.2d at 1260. The alternative interpretation need only be within the "zone of reasonableness," the Government shouldering "the major task of seeing that . . . the words of the agreement communicate the proper notions . . . ." WPC Enterprises, Inc. v. United States, 163 Ct. Cl. at 6, 323 F.2d at 876-77 (quoted in Folk Construction Co. v. United States, 2 Cl. Ct. 681, 688 (1983)). The Government "must bear the risk of an insufficient attempt, even though the plaintiff's obtuseness likewise contributed to the . . . misunderstanding." 163 Ct. Cl. at 11, 323 F.2d at 879. In judging the import of the words of the contract, "the context and intention [of the contracting parties] are more meaningful than the dictionary definition," Rice v. United States, 192 Ct. Cl. 903, 908, 428 F.2d 1311, 1314 (1970), and the contract language "must be afforded the meaning derived from the contract by a reasonably intelligent person acquainted with the contemporary circumstances." Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. United States, 195 Ct. Cl. 21, 30, 444 F.2d 547, 551 (1971). The court frequently must place itself in the shoes of a reasonable contractor in considering the contract language. Id. Based upon the above discussion of the law concerning the interpretation of contracts, it is the Board's opinion that the language in dispute is ambiguous but not so glaringly so as to be deemed patent, thus shifting the burden to the contractor to have discovered the error and alerted the Government to the same prior to submitting its bid. The facts of the case support this conclusion since appellant did not discover the error in specification at all but in fact only became aware of it at the time of the agency's rejection of the completed product. Moreover, there is no evidence that any other bidder responding to the solicitation questioned the specification, nor that the Government Printing Office in its bid review and award phases thought the specification to be anything but clear on its face. To hold now that it was patently ambiguous and shift the burden to appellant would simply fly in the face of reason. This same holds true with respect to the application of the exculpatory contract clause requiring the contractor to notify the Government of errors it discovers, since both the issue of patent ambiguity and the application of such clause presuppose that the contractor is aware of the error or reasonably should have been before undertaking production. In stating this position we point out that our opinion might have been different had the solicitation upon which the appellant based its bid contained the word "cover" rather than "over," since a requirement for cover stock coupled with the 25 x 38 basis size and 80 lb. basis weight for 500 sheets by any standards in the paper and printing industries would have been patently ambiguous. The word "over," however, is a perfectly good English language word standing alone. A contractor as stated above cannot in such circumstances be held to a standard of clairvoyance even where some ambiguity exists as it does here. It is apparent to the Board that the real ambiguity was not between the written description of "white gloss coated" etc., and the basis size and weight, but rather between the basis size and weight 25 x 38 80 lb. and the JCP Code-10 description of the paper stock; i.e., "Basis weight: 20 x 26 - 1,000 . . . pounds . . . 120 160." Here it is clear to the Board that the paper described under JCP Code-10 (the paper the Government intended to be used) does not comport with the basis size and weight set forth in the narrative description in the specification. But to come to this conclusion one must go to the U.S. Government Paper Specifications which are not furnished to the contractor, although on sale by the Superintendent of Documents, GPO, and look up the L-lO description. It is our opinion, however, that an ordinary printer in like circumstances bidding upon these specifications and seeing the basis weight 80 lbs. for 500 sheets, size 25 x 38, accompanied by a noncontradictory narrative description might reasonably conclude out of common experience that the paper was book paper and that the equal to JCP Code-10, a Government citation of mere formality, unnecessary to be further examined. Indeed, the Board believes that appellant did just that. Of course, we could fault the contractor for not raising the question as to what purpose the word "over" served in the descriptive language, especially with respect to its relationship to the appositive parenthetical phrase. The Board sees no purpose in dwelling upon such second guessing and has taken more than enough time in its pensive deliberations on the question of fault. It is clear that the language in question could not in any circumstance be given the reading first asserted by the contracting officer (i.e., 20 x 26 cover stock), and that the interpretation applied by appellant was reasonable although perhaps not the most reasonable. The real fault originated in the Government with sloppy draftsmanship and continued through sloppy photocopying, bid review, and award. The incorrect product thus resulted. Upon being advised of this circumstance by the requisitioning agency, the respondent, rather than acknowledge its fault by terminating the contract for the convenience of the Government, looked to appellant to reprint the product and seek relief, if any, at its expense through the appellate process. The contractor refused to incur the expense of reprinting but did appeal. All efforts thereafter both by the appellant and the Government were by way of argument, whether by contractor, contracting officer, or learned counsel. Accordingly, the Board rules in favor of appellant and directs that it be compensated in accordance with the terms of the contract.