Written by Joe Pranevich
Welcome back to Nord and Bert! This is a strange game: last time out, we defeated Jack Frost to rescue a mermaid and conquered agricultural idioms to save a family farm. That’s three episodes completed with five more to go before Punster is saved and I can move on to Plundered Hearts and Beyond Zork. I respect Infocom and Jeff O’Neill for choosing to do something different and the individual episodes help by letting us play in small chunks, but they are not quite the types of puzzles that I enjoy solving.
Before I get into it, let me admit upfront that this post was a rough six hours of idioms and idiocy. The two episodes, “Eat Your Words” and “Act the Part”, were more difficult for me than the previous ones and I needed to take hints to put them to bed. Fortunately, Nord and Bert features a first-of-its-kind hint system! If you want to know what kind of devilish idioms tripped me up, you’ll just have to read on for more.
|Short and stout.|
Eat Your Words
Just as before, we return to the main menu when we defeat a chapter. The next episode on the list is titled, “Eat Your Words”. Let’s get to it!
> eat your words
Indeed, eat your words. So widespread has this language virus become in the Town of Punster, the simple act of going out for a bite to eat turns into a whole new adventure on its own. Enjoy.
First, you arrive in front of a large, two-story Teapot with wisps of smoke drifting out of its spout. As you walk inside you’re nearly broadsided by a waitress who’s all in a rush, which seems odd since you see no one else in the restaurant. Nevertheless, the waitress does not smile and say hello, does not introduce herself as Jenny, does not even acknowledge your existence with a tip of her headband.
You are on the first floor of the Teapot Cafe, standing next to your table under the shadowy umbrage of the second floor balcony, which can be reached by a stairway that is marked with a blue neon sign.
Your table is only partly covered by a skimpy tablecloth.
A red velvet curtain appears to mark the entrance to the kitchen.
A waitress here is trying to look busy.
We’re in a cafe shaped like a teapot! I love the setting already. Back in the 1980s, they used to do custom builds for places like Pizza Hut; having a cafe chain shaped like a teapot would have been a great idea. I can already imagine sipping overpriced coffee while writing on my laptop in that balcony area. Amazingly, someone built a cafe almost exactly like this in South Korea, the “En Rogel Cafe” (에느로겔) in Jangseong, in southwest South Korea. Despite having been to Korea a handful of times, I have never been in that neck of the woods, but it looks beautiful. The pictures inside the cafe look amazing.
Cute balcony seating! The cafe opened in the 2000s and was not an inspiration for O’Neill.
More importantly: what type of wordplay is needed here? Could it be more idioms? Other than the waitress seeming rude and distracted, we don’t have much to go on. I try to enter the kitchen, but the waitress prevents me. I ascend to the balcony instead. There I find a carpet in front of a warm hearth, an olive tree in the corner, and a rake. I’m not sure if the rake is for the tree or the fireplace, but it must be for one or the other. Sensing some potential wordplay, I pluck an olive branch off the tree and give it to the waitress. I score my first point! Olive branches have been a symbol of peace since the ancient Greeks. What else can I find to do?
Sitting uneaten on a nearby (and not-yet-bussed) table are “just desserts”. That’s an idiom! I give the waitress her “just desserts” (an appropriate reward or punishment for an action) and she immediately becomes upset. She expected a tip, but all she found was my ire. For some reason, this inspires her to fetch me a hatchet.
What is going on here? Am I supposed to make peace with the waitress (the olive branch) or be mean to her (just desserts)? Or both? Should I be mean to her first and then apologize? I got points for both, so perhaps the order doesn’t matter? I’m uncomfortable with the premise that I should humiliate an underpaid staff member at a locally-owned (and very attractive!) teapot-themed cafe. This is perplexing. Will the hint images help?
What is the wordplay here?
I turn to our book of Kevin Pope hint images and only one seems to fit: “The Chef’s Surprise”. In that image, a chef is stalked by a headless and possibly already cooked chicken. Is it a zombie? We missed Halloween. If there’s a pun or an idiom in there, I don’t see it. I keep thinking of James Howe’s 1983 book, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, but that just proves that my brain is in completely the wrong place. Does anyone see a pun or an idiom that I am missing?
Even without the hint, I think I get the idea. Seeing the hearth filled with hot coals, I “rake the waitress over hot coals” (to scold harshly). She disappears for a moment and returns (for some reason) with a pie. I examine it to learn that it is “humble pie”, so I of course eat it. (To “eat humble pie” means to make a humiliating apology.) If you are keeping score, that is two attacks and two apologies so far, but I have scored four points. I think I’d feel better if I was attacking her first and then apologizing, but the game doesn’t have my delicate sensibilities. Now that I get the idea, I return downstairs to look for more idioms about arguing or apologizing.
I find a few now that I know what to look for:
- The tablecloth is described as being too small for the table, a “short shrift”. I give the waitress the “short shrift” (a curt dismissal) and she runs to the kitchen to bring back lion meat. I am being pedantic, but none of my dictionaries have “shrift” as a synonym for tablecloth and I am not sure where O’Neill got this pun from.
- The lion’s meat is from a pride of lions so I know to “swallow my pride” (apologize humbly).
- I try to “bury the hatchet” (make peace), but the game thinks I want to bury it in her head and that hardly seems sporting. The game describes the hatchet as stopping just as we were about to slice into her mohawk. Did anyone else imagine that the waitress had a mohawk, because I certainly didn’t. I get no points for this attempt. (If I bury the hatchet in “me”, the game ends immediately by suicide. We don’t even go back to the episode menu.)
Given my surprise at the woman’s hairstyle, I take a closer look:
She is a hatchet-faced young woman with a purple mohawk and a pink woolen headband worn low on her forehead. A stray wood chip, apparently having been picked up from the kitchen, sits upon her shoulder, which is otherwise sprinkled amply with dandruff, or dander.
That gives me so many ideas!
The 80s had amazing hair but no mohawk here.
Let’s work our way through this description. First, I can “pull the wool over her eyes” (fool her) by yanking down the hairband. I can then “get her dander up” (annoy her). There must be something I can do with the chip, but I fail to phrase it properly. Meanwhile, she drops a fortune cookie and a salt shaker on the table. Opening the cookie reveals “advice”. I sprinkle salt out of the shaker and then “take advice with a grain of salt” (to listen to something without fully believing it). I’m on a roll! She leaves and brings a small black bird to the table, so I “eat crow” (admit my mistakes). Unfortunately, the crow is “nitty-gritty”. They’re making a pun off the word “grit” here (and no one likes to eat grit), but I can still “get down to the nitty-gritty” (tackle the most important details). She leaves and returns with a white napkin. The napkin is vaguely flag-ish, so I “wave the white flag” (surrender) and my impressive little run of idioms has concluded. She does not leave and return with anything else. What’s next?
Given that there was so much to do with her description, I turn to my own:
You’re cross-eyed with anger, which means a jaundiced eye points this way and an evil eye points that way. You can trace a strong burning sensation in the area of your spleen.
My spleen? I have to assume there’s an expression there, but I cannot think of one immediately. Even so, it’s easy enough to “give waitress the evil eye” (stare of death) and also “give waitress the jaundiced eye”. The second was just a guess because I’ve never heard of a “jaundiced eye” before, but it apparently means to look on with prejudice. I learned something!
While I wrack my brain trying to think of spleen-based idioms, she brings a badly-cooked rump roast to the table: it’s burned on one cheek but only well-done on the other. I naturally “turn the other cheek” for our second Bible verse of the game. The waitress steps away but doesn’t come back immediately with anything. Where did she go? I have no idea!
Chefs in a decent restaurant.
With the waitress out of the room, I am no longer blocked when entering the kitchen. Inside, I discover a cook desperately preparing all of the crazy dishes that she has been bringing out to me. I try to talk to him or really do anything, but I cannot because there is “too much bad blood” between us. What does that mean? Should I have been trying to anger the waitress but calm the cook? Or am I missing something else?
I return to the dining room and look for more things to do. This takes time, but I check everything carefully to look for word clues. The game is generous in that there is often more than one hint if you look closer or a phrasing that gets closer to something we might recognize and guess at. I realize that I started the game sitting at a table so I “turn the tables on the waitress” (to reverse a position of good/bad fortune). That gets me one more, but that’s not enough. Heading upstairs, I observe that the balcony area has a low ceiling so I “hit the ceiling” (suddenly become angry). This triggers something slightly new in her response:
> hit ceiling
The full brunt of your impact is taken by your head and shoulders, and the entire teapot rattles loudly as you raise the roof. “Well, if you’ve really reached the boiling point,” shouts the waitress, “why don’t you take it up with the cook!”
Does this let me do something else with the cook? On the way back down, I notice the neon sign next to the balcony says “Comeuppance”. I couldn’t do anything with it before, but it seems that since I pulled the wool over the waitress’s eyes (by pulling down her bandana), I can take the sign and then “give waitress her comeuppance” (what they deserve for their actions). The joke is clearly that the sign means you can “come up” the stairs, but I’ll take the pun.
As I head back into the kitchen, I need to admit one thing: I was weak. I knew there was an expression about a spleen and it’s just been on the tip of my tongue for an hour. I try so many combinations before resorting to Google to remind me what the key word is: it is to “vent your spleen” (to show anger) and doing so wins me yet another point. I’m only at 18 of 31 points now and there is plenty more to go. This scenario is long!
|I could really just fill this post with images of this completely unrelated teapot-shaped cafe in South Korea. It’s so cute!|
Returning to the kitchen, this time I think to “clean the bad blood” which works now that I’ve picked up the red curtain that marked the entrance to the kitchen. This causes the cook to cut off his nose to spite his face (to hurt oneself while trying to hurt another) and then toss the amputated noggin into the pot of whatever he is cooking. Eww. I look inside and it’s all disgusting stuff: insects, entrails, and more. That must be for another idiom or expression, but if so I cannot think of one immediately. At this point, the cook’s two “pet peeves” enter, a goose and a goat. I naturally “cook his goose” (to give no chance for a positive outcome) and “get his goat” (make someone angry). Those score me more points but do not trigger anything new that I can respond to.
I become stuck here for a while at 22 of 31 points. I restart the scenario from scratch and carefully go through everything once again. With time and patience, I find a few more:
- If we “make a tempest in a teapot” (get angry about something trivial), we are told that is the point of this scenario. No additional points are rewarded, but it’s still cool.
- Recalling that the waitress has a chip on her shoulder, I finally discover the right verb: “knock the chip off her shoulder”. Having a chip on your shoulder means to be easy to enrage but that knocking it off means that you are starting a fight. That’s obviously what we’re doing here.
- The pot of entrails is clearly a “stock pot” and I think to “make the cook a laughing stock” (to humiliate). I like the pun here although this was a bit of a logical leap.
- I wave the curtain at the cook and this results in him “seeing red” (to become angry suddenly).
- And finally, there is a grindstone in the kitchen and I can “grind axe” (to have a private reason for doing something). This was tricky because I actually am carrying a hatchet (and suspect that I’ll have to bury it eventually), but “axe” is used here as a synonym. The dictionary describes a hatchet as a short-handled axe.
That gets me up to 26 points, but I can think of no more idioms and find nothing new to do, even after another playthrough. I waste a lot of time but eventually give up. I’ll try the next chapter and come back later.
I used to love watching the Dick van Dyke Show on “Nick at Night” when I was a kid.
Act the Part
I type “beginning” to take us back to the main menu of Nord and Bert. As before, the completed episodes are no longer on the list, but “Eat Your Words” remains so that I can try again later. I select “Act the Part” instead. I hope this section will be less frustrating than the previous one:
> act the part
The foremost star of stage and screen in Punster, Brad Watkins, has left behind our small-town difficulties in search of fame and fortune beyond the purple horizon. We of course wish him the very worst of luck. It has been very dashing of you to take the stage in his absence. With the proper make-up applied, you’re a side-splitting image.
Your Living Room
Glaring bright lights bake down upon the stage.
The living room of your apartment is furnished with the drab period style of the 1950’s situation comedy. Luckily, there’s not much furniture on the set for you to bump into. However, one brass lamp with a rather ostentatious lamp shade stands here. A flimsy, union-constructed front door leads out of the apartment, another door leads into the bathroom. Both are closed. Your kitchen is at the other side of the stage.
Your favorite chair sits here facing the television.
You hear a man’s voice from the other side of your front door, “Knock knock.”
We’re in a 1950s situation comedy! Let’s place this in some historical context. In the United States, “situation comedies” started on radio before the first TV sitcom emerged in 1947, Mary Kay and Johnny. Sitcoms evolved from sketch comedy, but with a focus on an ensemble of recurring characters. The game places us specifically in a 1950s-style show, presumably something like The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950-1958), I Love Lucy (1951-1957), The Honeymooners (1955-1956), or Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963). As a kid, I watched too many of these on Nickelodeon (or Nick at Night) and I think I can understand the aesthetic that O’Neill might be aiming for.
For no particularly good reason, I’m going to interrupt my own narrative with Infoboxes! I immediately picked up on the bathroom door in the description.
I suppose I should actually play the game, right? Almost immediately after the episode begins, there is a knock at the door… or rather, someone stands outside and says “Knock, knock.” How do we respond?
> who’s there
> bob who?
“Ba ba ba, ba ba ba-ran…”
The door swings open and in walks in your irrepressible, long-lost (“but not long enough”) brother-in-law Bob. “Howdy, Sammy! Just flew in from Pittsburgh. Boy are my arms tired,” he says, flapping and smiling goonily. Bob extends his hand to you in greeting.
I shake Bob’s hand and he zaps me with a joy buzzer before running off into my kitchen. Thus far we have a knock-knock joke and a joy buzzer; there is no pun or idiom in site. What do we do? (Should I complain that the Beach Boys’s version of “Barbara Ann” came out in 1965? Nope.) What type of wordplay do we have? Let’s consult our Kevin Pope images.
No puns here, only slapstick comedy.
This episode can really only be “Pie in the Face”. That image depicts two characters on a sitcom-style soundstage playing jokes on each other. One character tossed a pie in the other’s face; he responded by tossing a bowling ball instead. It’s not exactly subtle but it gives the impression that we’ll be dealing with practical jokes and lowbrow humor. Will there be wordplay as well? I’m not sure what to expect.
While I work out what to do, Bob emerges from the kitchen and pops himself down in “my favorite chair” to watch TV. Why he cannot watch TV at his house is an exercise in comedy. I try to turn off the TV, but someone whispers from offstage that I cannot do that. This is interesting! I have to keep to the script. I have no idea what is in the script, but the unseen director and crew should keep me in bounds. Maybe.
I don’t have too much to work with. There’s a lamp, a chair, and a TV in the room, none of which immediately inspire situational comedy. I check my inventory to discover that I am wearing a coat and have a single unlit match. Bob is sitting with his feet up. He’s well-dressed, except for a small hole in the toe of his shoe. I think about practical jokes. He joy-buzzered me so I try to give him a hotfoot: I light the match and stick it in his shoe. He leaps up, in pain and alarmed, runs around the room… and sits right back down again. Unseen in the studio, a crowd laughs uproariously. I now have two of ten points! Will I need to find eight more practical jokes? That shouldn’t be too bad, right? (The 31 separate jokes in the previous episode were a bit much.)
What else is there to do? I saw the lamp earlier, but now I notice that it has an oversized shade. Thinking immediately of the trope, I pick up the shade and place it on my head. The audience laughs (though not as much as the hotfoot) and I collect one more point.
I do not see anything else that I can do in the space:
- Bob is unwilling to get up for any reason. He also prevents me from seeing or interacting with my chair. I am similarly prevented from doing anything with the TV.
- The front door is held closed by stagehands and no amount of pushing, knocking, or begging gets them to open the door for me.
- The bathroom door is locked. This might be a reference to the “no bathrooms” censorship of early television, but I cannot help but be concerned if the bathroom is locked and no one is in there.
With the living room done, I migrate into the kitchen. This gives me a strange clue:
There’s a bottle in front of you. Your mind echos the phrase, “a bottle in front of me,” which gives you ideas.
Does it now? I’m not sure how obscure this is, but I know the phrase from a 1980 novelty song that was popularized by Dr. Demento, “I’d Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me (Than a Frontal Lobotomy)”. The kitchen also contains a scalpel, a sponge, and rubber gloves. I pick everything up and prep for surgery.
When I return to the living room, I discover that Bob has redecorated. My lamp is now on the other side of the room, right next to the kitchen door. I trip over it (very Dick van Dyke!) and the crowd laughs, but I don’t get any more points. It’s broken now, its power cord severed between the lamp and the wall. No time for that right now! I put on my rubber gloves and “give bob a frontal lobotomy”. I pull out the scalpel and pretend to slice right above his head. This show doesn’t expect us to do actual surgery, but the crowd loves it anyway. The whole bit is over quickly and nothing new happens.
I check out the lamp. With the cord now severed, I see the potential for a deadly (and funny?) shock. I pick up the cord in my gloved hand and touch Bob with it. Not only is it attempted murder, it’s also funny enough for a point: he shoots up into the air, his hair stands on end, and then he falls right back into the chair as if nothing happened. He’s unharmed, fortunately. That also brings me to the halfway point of this very strange episode.
While in the kitchen, I also picked up a sponge. I thought it was for the lobotomy joke, but did not see it used. What happens next is weird:
> examine sponge
The crowd erupts with laughter as you seem to equate your brother-in-law Bob with a sponge.
I get another point for that but honestly have no idea what happened. Nothing else I do with the sponge seems very funny. When replaying while checking my notes, there is a little hint when you look at the sponge asking “which one do you mean?”, and then when you specify that you mean the real sponge, you get the joke. It feels like a parser joke that wasn’t well-executed and I stumbled onto it by accident.
This is also where I get stuck. Thanks to the “bottle in front of me” joke, I was visualizing the bottle as a glass beer bottle. I suspect that most of us immediately think of a hard container when we hear that word. What the game seems to be going for is more like a plastic hot water bottle, like the kind that you would use as a warm compress if you pulled a muscle. It doesn’t take too much imagination from there (especially thanks to a few hints in the description) to imagine the bottle as a whoopee cushion. I inflate the thing and try to put it under Bob, but we cannot do this until Bob stands up. Despite waiting (and waiting), Bob never stands up again. I do not find any trigger that convinces him to get up. There must be something that I need to do first. I try to attack Bob, pick the lock on the bathroom door, and do mischief to the stagehands. Nothing works. While experimenting with the water bottle, Bob complained once about having a fly in his soup. I assumed (incorrectly) that this was just flavor text as the game otherwise does not recognize the words “fly” or “soup”.
Eventually, I give up and consult the in-game help system:
|Not quite “invisible” in white text on blue.|
Just like in the physical “Invisiclues”, we have to identify our clue category and then we get a list of questions. We can choose to get one hint at a time so that we do not spoil too much, plus there are fake categories in there that don’t relate to anything in the game. Looking at this doesn’t help much. The section on “Water Bottle” just confirms that I am on the right track, but doesn’t help me to understand how to trigger him standing up. I eventually consult a real walkthrough and discover the issue: I somehow locked the game.
When Bob complains of a fly in his soup, he is actually setting me up for a joke. He wants to know what the fly is doing there, and the correct answer is “the backstroke”. This is a very old joke and one that I am aware of from kids joke books, but I didn’t interpret the prompt as a joke. This may have been because I was distracted with the water bottle and sponge puzzles at the time. When replaying this section again, I see that Bob is very persistent and will ask the question over and over again until you answer. In my first playthrough, that didn’t happen. Was it a bug? My best guess is that I went to the kitchen after he asked and that puts the game in a bad state. Either way, answering the question prompts him to stand up and allows me to successfully place the whoopee cushion. I replay from the start, Bob sits on the cushion, we get a “Bronx cheer”, and the game continues.
No sooner does the audience stop laughing thanks to my fart joke, but there is another knock at the door. Or rather, another “Knock, knock” joke:
> who’s there
> gorilla who
“Girl of your dreams!”
The “girl of my dreams” is my wife! Unfortunately, she sizes up the situation quickly and talks with her brother. He tells her how nasty I’ve been to him and all of the practical jokes that I’ve played. She gets upset and leaves to spend the night at her mother’s (this, the game tells us, will be resolved in a future episode). Meanwhile, Bob hides in the bathroom. He’s not there too long before he starts up a third “Knock, knock” joke:
> who’s there?
> dwayne who
“Dwayne the bathtub, I’m dwownin’!”
You hear a suppressed cackle from behind the bathroom door, which slowly opens to reveal the figure of your Bob, looking sheepish but with his hurt feelings mended. He shuts the door and slides back into your chair.
“Cut-Cut!” booms an offstage, directorial voice. “It’s a wrap.” Drenched in the sweat of your comedic toil, you bask in the adoration of the cheerful Punster audience. Having milked this bit for the maximum number of cheap gags, namely 10, you have achieved the status of King of Comedy.
And that is it! The ending comes out of nowhere, but it’s done. I just can’t believe that the final puzzle of the chapter was a “Knock, knock” joke! I have mixed feelings on this episode, but I’ll think about it more after I finish up with the Teapot Cafe. Now that I’ve broken the seal on using hints, I’d like to try to solve that episode before I close out this post. (I don’t know how this will land after editing, but it is quite a long one!)
Eat Your Words (Part Two)
I hope you weren’t too attached to random Infoboxes, because I’m back in the Teapot Cafe and looking for a final few points. As before, I try the Invisiclues first before becoming lost and just looking at a walkthrough. In the end, it looks like I only missed one joke: “call the waitress onto the carpet”, which I could have done up in the balcony area. That means “to criticize someone for doing wrong” and that seems applicable in this case. I’ve even heard the idiom before, but I didn’t think of it.
When I get back to the cook, this triggers a new sequence where he places me into a giant frying pan. I don’t need a walkthrough to know that I need to “jump into the fire” (from an expression that means to make a bad situation worse). The cook then attacks with a myriad of cooking devices (blenders, microwaves, etc.), but I can “leave cook to his own devices” easily enough. Finally, an ox arrives and threatens me. Remembering the “bury the hatchet” idiom that I tried to use hours ago, I try it again here:
> bury the hatchet in ox
Okay, you bury the hatchet in the animal and his ox is gored, leaving quite a mess, but also a bone of contention. Immediately, both you and the cook see an end to it, and each of you take a slimy end of the bone of contention. With your eyes closed, you make a wish, as does the burly cook.
“Snap!” The bone breaks jaggedly, and the cook is left with the short end of the stick.
He drops to the floor, mopping up the entrails of the ox and apologizing profusely and promising never again to wield another kitchen utensil as long as he lives.
Congratulations are in order, you are ranked as… Satisfied Customer.
I win! I’m frustrated by the process as these two episodes took longer than the previous three combined and I still needed to take hints. I’m also frustrated that I seem to have been foiled in the sitcom episode by a bug which locked me out of the “Fly in the Soup” puzzle, plus I just missed one tiny idiom in the Teapot and ended up at a dead end. This has not been as fun as the previous sections. I just hope that quality picks back up again for the remaining episodes.
My next post will be a long-awaited continuation of Dracula Unleashed. If you have not yet put in a score bet, please do so now.
Also, I apologize for the quality of the Infoboxes. Blogger ate them badly when uploaded to the blog and I was unable to get them working as text in a way that didn't break either the main view, the mobile view, or both. The editor for Blogger is one of Google's less well-maintained products. I hope they are at least okay this way and I'll try to fix them later. That's what I get for trying to do something different!
Time played: 5 hr 55 min
Total time: 7 hr 55 min
Score: 22/22 (Bizarre), 11/11 (Jacks), 19/19 (Farm), 31/31 (Teapot), 10/10 (Theatrical)