This contest, featuring a cartoon by Ernio Hernandez, may be the most challenging yet. I stared at the drawing for an hour, trying to figure out what was going on.
There are two fish; that much I know. Though they appear to be on the outside of a fish tank—more on that in a bit—they are floating because their bodies are casting shadows on the floor below. Also, they’re not gasping, so I assume they’re in water.
On one of the walls of their room is a window through which we can see a starfish and seaweed, which is why I initially thought they were on the outside of a fish tank.
Their room has a door, on which there’s a sign that reads, “Danger—Keep Out.” The door also appears to have a doorknob.
The fish on the right is speaking.
I initially focused on the fact that the fish could not, for obvious reasons, exit the room:
- “Even if we wanted to leave, how could we?”
- “We can’t open the door, so why the sign?”
I then suggested that the warning on the door was there to protect the fish from a dangerous threat on the other side: “It’s a toilet.”
Now let’s see how you did.
A few of you suggested that the sign was less a warning than a temptation:
- “I feel like we’re being baited.”
- “They’re baiting us.”
- “Shall we take the bait?”
- “Don’t take the bait.”
- “It’s a trap.”
Like I did, many of you noted that the fish don’t have the ability to let themselves out, at least not easily:
- “As if having to turn the doorknob with our mouth wasn’t enough of a deterrent.”
- “How does he think we’re going to open the door?”
- “Do I look like I have a key?”
- “Like we could turn a doorknob.”
This entry goes in the other direction, suggesting that one fish could let himself out if he weren’t intimidated by the sign: “And I had just mastered using doorknobs.”
Here’s a reference to the Catholic prohibition against eating meat on the last day of the workweek: “It must be Friday again.”
And here are the best puns of the week:
- “You just came from a school. What does that sign say?”
- “This never came up in school.”
- “I don’t like wading rooms.”
Like I did, a few of you took a stab at identifying the threat on the other side of the door:
- “I think it’s a Japanese restaurant.”
- “That’s the sushi bar.”
- “Nets. I saw nets.”
These final two entries suggest that the fish are parents, and the door leads to their adolescent child’s room:
- “Every teen puts that sign on their door, right?”
- “He’s been in there for over an hour. Should we knock?”
I have never highlighted so few entries—just nineteen—but that’s not bad for such a challenging contest. This week’s winner is, “That’s the sushi bar.”
Lawrence Wood has won The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest a record-setting seven times and been a finalist four 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.