Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Book Reveal: David's Christmas Present

So yesterday we played the annual Bathroom Monologues Christmas game. I set up a word puzzle, this time being sixteen clues to the twelve letters in a book title. Four clues were red herrings. We had a few players on the blog as well as a few more on Facebook and Twitter, but no one got it this year before my brother - which is fair, since it was the title of his Christmas present. Some people, Richard Bon in particular, got very close. Let's go down the rabbit hole on the answer.

1. It's on the tip of your tongue. It's also in it.
-The letter 'T,' which Elephant's Child guessed. You move the tip of your tongue to pronounce the 'T' in 'tip,' and it's one of the letters in the word 'tongue.'

2. There are four red herrings in this puzzle - letters that don't belong. This is one of them.
-So naturally, this isn't a letter.

3. This letter is something two Christian afterlives have in common.
-Either the 'H' or the 'E' common in both 'Heaven' and 'Hell.' In this case, it's the 'H.'

4. The 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th presidents of the United States all had this letter in common - on a personal basis.
-'George,' 'James,' 'James' and 'Andrew' all have one letter in common: 'E'.

5. If #4 is a red herring, then this letter is one of the three initials from the document that severed the colonies' ties to Britain.
-This is just a red herring, but it would have been 'D,' 'O' or 'I' - the famous Declaration of Independence.

6. Commonly used to freeze things, but you have to keep it under high pressure.
-There are a few plausible answers, but the one in mind is liquid nitrogen. Nitrogen has a single-letter periodic abbreviation: 'N.'

7. This is a letter that occurs more than once in the phrase "red herring."
-Either 'R' or 'E.' This isn't a red herring, and our letter of choice is 'E.'

8. If #7 is a red herring, this is the only vowel in a certain form of precipitation. Do we have any today?
-It's winter in New York, so it would probably be 'snow' or 'sleet,' and thus, probably either 'O' or 'E.' It's the most obvious answer: 'O.'

9. What marks the spot?
It would have been 'X,' but this is a red herring. That's our third red herring.

10. Vote yay or nay.
'Y' or 'N,' the most obvious, right? And now we know it's 'N,' giving us the word 'Neon.' Maybe I'm being too cheeky.

11. Honey producing insect.
-A 'bee,'  or, 'B.' Richard Bon tore up a lot of this list last night, and nailed all of the final five letters to figure out it'd be 'Bible.'

12. Four Romans get drunk at a bar. Three get kicked out. Who's left?
-The punniest: four minus three is one, and in Roman numerals, that's 'I.'

13. If #12 is a red herring, then this is the first letter of the northmost country in Africa.
 -Did you think it was Morocco? Algeria? Tunisia? Actually a red herring in itself, but our final red herring.

14. The only letter used twice in the one-word title of the bestselling book of all time.
-Everyone got this one. It's 'B,' from 'Bible.' While some of you would call up a double 'L' or 'E' from 'The Holy Bible,' I knew David wouldn't, particularly since the final word of the secret book's title is becoming obvious by this point.

15 The only consonant used twice in the name of an animal famous for spitting.
-'Llama' gives us 'L.'

16.  Once you use it here, this letter will be the most common one in this title
-'B' and 'E' appeared twice so far, but 'B' doesn't make so much sense here, does it?

Leaving us with John Kennedy Toole's The Neon Bible.

The clues you couldn't have known are that my brother loved John Kennedy Toole's other novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, and while we were painting the house earlier this year said he wanted to read what else Toole had written before his death. But you were on relatively similar footing, since he forgot he said that to me. He always forgets when he mentions books like that. It's how I know what to pick.

Thanks to everyone for playing!


  1. John, this game you play every year is fantastic! I really love it, and I applaud you for the effort it must take to create the puzzle.

    The only thing that kinda screwed me up was that I thought that the O in clue #8 could only be used if #7 were a red herring, when it turns out both clues are used. However, if I'd ever heard of The Neon Bible, I have no doubt that I would've guessed it anyway instead of The Knox Bible, and in fact I'm really embarrassed to admit that I had no idea Toole wrote a novel other than A Confederacy of Dunces. I'm particularly embarrassed because I'm very aware of the story behind Confederacy's publication and subsequent success: his suicide, his mother's persistence in pushing for its posthumous publication, and then its eventual Pulitzer Prize. Really a remarkable story.

    Now that, thanks to you, I know of The Neon Bible's existence, I just read a little bit online about the very different struggle over its publication and the wacky fact that Toole's mother actually fought to stop it from being published to prevent family members from profiting from its sales. What a story. And how about the fact that The Neon Bible became a movie when Hollywood has been trying for years to make Confederacy for the big screen, prevented by deaths of various actors and who knows how many layers of red tape....

    Anyhow, I'm pretty sure this is the longest blog post comment I've ever written, so thanks for reading it, and thanks for the both the fun game and the recommendation (I'll likely hunt down a copy of The Neon Bible now). Merry Christmas!

    1. I'm sorry for misleading you about numbers 7 and 8. Going back to the comments last night, I was clearly errant about that rule - I wasn't thinking clearly about it since I was setting the table for dinner and about to actually pick my brother up from the train.

      I got a first edition of The Neon Bible for a very reasonable price. It's not too hard to find. Apparently there was a movie based on it. I hope you enjoy it now that it's on your radar!

  2. Ooooh. I also loved A Confederacy of Dunces - and didn't know he had written anything else. Megathanks.

    1. You're quite welcome. I'm sad for his loss, on behalf of all the friends I have who liked his work. This was his only other novel, I believe, written at age 16.


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