Brooke Bourgeois’s cartoon is set under the sea, where a disgruntled octopus has been put in a pillory with nine holes, one for each of his eight tentacles and one for his head. Swimming around the octopus are several fish, one of whom, in the lower-left corner of the drawing, is speaking.
Here’s a pun that alludes both to the pillory’s use as a punishment for convicted criminals and to a way of preparing octopus: “He confessed before they could grill him.”
To humiliate criminals, pillories were erected in public places where crowds could taunt the offender by hurling insults and rotten vegetables. That depressing fact inspired my next two captions (the second of which is also a reference to a James Bond novel):
- “As if having eight limbs and a bulbous head wasn’t humiliating enough.”
- “I dare you to call him Octopussy.”
My last caption is a reference to the color of octopus blood and the fact that members of the elite often escape punishment for their crimes: “They don’t usually do that to blue bloods.”
Now let’s see how you did.
A pillory could not hold an octopus—even one that weighs 600 pounds can squeeze through a quarter-sized hole—as these captions acknowledge:
- “Don’t worry boss, this time I locked him in there extra tight.”
- “Is it me or could he just slip right out of there?”
- “They know he doesn’t have bones, right?”
- “That should hold him for a good minute or so.”
- “He can get out anytime – he just likes the attention.”
- “Let’s see him wiggle his way out of this one.”
That last caption is a fine example of taking a common expression and giving it a new meaning within the context of the drawing.
Like the last six entries, the next two also allude to the fact that the octopus is boneless:
- “But he doesn’t have a bad bone in his body.”
- “He’s not just a scoundrel, he’s a spineless scoundrel.”
Many of you assumed the octopus had been convicted of a sex-related crime:
- “He was getting a little handsy.”
- “Handsy, that one.”
- “I heard it was for groping.”
- “Groping. Multiple counts.”
- “He tried to grab her by the octopussy.”
Based on that last caption, I’m not the only James Bond fan (and Trump critic).
Another Bond fan has the fish verbally harassing the octopus by yelling, “Hey Pussy!” But here’s the problem: the fish that’s speaking does not look like he’s addressing the octopus—he appears to be talking to another fish—and he doesn’t look hostile. Still, I appreciate the idea (but shouldn’t there be a comma after the word “Hey?”)
One of you submitted a disturbing pun suggesting that the octopus was a sex offender who had to stay away from children: “He was warned to stay away from schools.”
Here’s an entry that does not identify the specific crime the octopus committed but suggests it must have been shockingly awful: “Whatever it was must have been bad seeing as eating each other is a way of life here.”
Many of you mistakenly assumed the octopus was in the stocks, which are used only to restrain the offender’s feet. A pillory is (like the device in the cartoon) erected on a post and has holes for securing the offender’s head and hands. Maybe, however, the distinction between the stocks and a pillory is, for the purposes of a caption contest, one without a difference. I’m therefore going to highlight the best of the stocks entries:
- “He’s the last one we have in stock.”
- “It’s not often that we have fresh octopus in stock.”
- “Better in the stocks than in the stock.”
The next two entries recognize that a fish cannot harass the pilloried offender in one of the traditional ways (by throwing vegetables at him):
- “How do we throw things at him?”
- “I wish I had a rotten tomato to throw. And arms to throw it. And no water resistance.”
I love how that rather long second caption identifies every reason it would be impossible to pelt the octopus with produce.
While alluding to the pillory’s wooden frame and the undersea location, the next two puns cleverly refer to a banned interrogation technique:
- “Is that waterboarding?”
- “I thought waterboarding was illegal.”
Here’s a clever reference to both the number of tentacles and a 2018 Sandra Bullock film about a jewelry heist: “They finally caught Ocean’s Eight.”
And whoever submitted this caption knows that an octopus has more brains than tentacles: “With nine brains, you think he’d know better.”
Like I did, one of you recognized that a slang term for interrogating a criminal suspect also refers to a method of preparing an octopus dish: “Take him out and grill him.” Another entrant relied on the double meaning of a term for executing a convicted criminal: “He’s going to fry.”
I’ve already highlighted a lot of puns, but three more that deserve attention:
- “Too bad his lawyer wasn’t a shark.”
- “He’s heavily armed, but not dangerous.”
- “Ok, Dad, I’ll stay in school.”
Finally, here’s a caption that focuses on one aspect of the cartoon that everyone else ignored: “That padlock is just gonna rust.”
This week’s winner is, “That should hold him for a good minute or so.”
Lawrence Wood has won The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest a record-setting seven times and been a finalist two other times. He has collaborated with New Yorker cartoonists Peter Kuper, Lila Ash, Felipe Galindo Gomez, and Harry Bliss (until Bliss tossed him aside, as anyone would, to collaborate with Steve Martin). Nine of his collaborations have appeared in The New Yorker, and one is included in the New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons.