The answer from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at a recent news conference in Bryant Park: "Nobody, nobody, nobody is, nobody is moving anywhere. Everybody is secure and safe." What was the question?
Send your answer by 10 a.m. ET Wednesday to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday's Question (No. 429)—"A Rare Triple Play":
"____________ is a strange animal. You never know how people are going to react to it. So I think it throws a wrench." Fill in the blank, and also note who said it and where, as in this sample: A drunken monkey, said Jane Goodall, at some disreputable monkey repair shop.
"Adultery, said Bill Clinton, speaking of the latest twists in his wife's Senate campaign."—Michael Doyle
"The vagina, Donna Hanover said at a clandestine rehearsal for The Prostate Monologues."—David Finkle
"A play with vagina in the title, said Rudy Giuliani in line for Jesus Christ Superstar tickets in the company of his mistress."—Michael Maiello
"The philandering mayor, said Raoul Felder, drooling into the nearest microphone."—Gary Drevitch
"My mom, I said from a safe place. I mean it; the woman is nuts. She throws tools, implements, utensils, and anything else heavy and/or sharp she can get her hands on. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you! Ouch."—David Ballard
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Without unclear antecedents, we'd be little better than hand-tool tossing apes. That's the lesson I draw from the way participants pounced on this ambiguous bit of the question: "So I think it throws a wrench." Of course, what the mystery guest meant was that his or her circumstances, not some unnamed animal, throw a monkey wrench into the works. This is but one figure of speech that invokes throwing. To throw in the sponge—i.e., to surrender—is a metaphor drawn from bare-knuckle boxing, when a sponge was kept ringside to mop the blood off a combatant. The corner-man tossed it into the ring to indicate surrender. The more current (and softly absorbent) version of this expression is to throw in the towel. That will, presumably, be supplanted, by throwing in the sanitary hot-air hand dryer. Rip it off the wall, and throw it; I hate those things; everyone hates those things. To throw the book at someone—to hand out maximum punishment—may be drawn from prohibition-era America, when gangsters kept a book ringside to mop the blood off a bare-knuckle boxer and distill it into bathtub gin or "hootch." Or perhaps the gangsters tossed a book through a schoolhouse window to show contempt for the uselessness of formal education during the Great Depression when no one had enough money to buy so much as a towel or sponge. Or perhaps I misread it, and the gangster's nickname (or "monocle") was "Hootch." Or maybe—and I'll just continue to make things up here—it's a corruption of "to throw the crook" at someone—meaning to heave the corpse of a gangland rival at his defeated cronies as a gesture of triumph. Over a wrench-tossing monkey, drunk on bootleg whiskey and looking for a fight.
Unspoiled by Success Answer
(Now with extra context!)
"I just assume if you grew up with me, it's no big whoop. But celebrity is a strange animal. You never know how people are going to react to it. So I think it throws a wrench. My really good friends weren't coming over to me. … I had security open a special room so we could talk. That was the best part for me," said Rosie O'Donnell at the 20th reunion of her class at Commack High School, which she attended with a camera crew.
(Hey—who doesn't like it when security opens a special room? That's half the reason I go to these things.—Ed.)
There will be no News Quiz on Monday while we attend a National Park Service controlled barbecue and house burning. The quiz resumes Wednesday. If the winds don't kick up. As predicted.
Katha Pollitt's Please, Sir, I Want Some More Grim Irony Extra
New York Newsday reports that New York Mayor Giuliani slashed funds for prostate-cancer screening in his current budget, eliminating a $750,000 program to provide free testing to uninsured New Yorkers.
"They're poor: Let 'em die," the mayor did not add with characteristic heartlessness.
Bowling Ongoing Extra
Recently, technological changes have inflated bowling scores as badly as a Johnny Carson joke about Dolly Parton back in the old days. Participants were invited to devise changes to the game to restore its challenge.
"Make the alleys vertical; put the pins at the top."—Francis Heaney
"Two words: overhand delivery."—Andrew Puzzio
"Instead of pins, knock over local celebrities."—Charlie Glassenberg
"Substitute tiny insult-prone elves for pins."—Carl Dietrich
"Goodbye, pins; hello, cheese logs."—Andrew Puzzio
"Gators in the gutters! (Coincidentally, University of Florida's old fight song.)"—Gary Drevitch
"2-7 'Baby Split' results in actual split baby (but on the upside: also some pretty good barbecue)."—Peter O'Toole
"Raise the mound and get rid of that damn AstroTurf!"—Steve Hellerman
"Bowler will wear Roman armor and sandals and slice his way through other would-be bowlers on his way to the toe line. Instead of a ball, the bowler has to use the head of one of his competitors. Guttered balls will result in the bowler being fed to ravenous lions."—Laura Hague
"When participants throw the ball they are required to remain attached to it."—Bryce Newhart
"Screw the ball, just dive headfirst down the lane, you're drunk anyway."—David Black (Dan Kritchevsky had a similar answer, but more prolix.)
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Troubled mayor, duck-billed platypus.