One of my favorite activities as a boy was to eavesdrop on my dad and his cronies, drinking beer and playing penny-ante poker. The first time I heard one of his buddies exclaim, "Call me butter … cause I'm on a roll!" I cracked up. And it still inspires a chuckle over a half-century later. That was the inspiration for this puzzle — things you find on a roll. Perhaps it will inspire new sayings for card players like, "Call me aluminum foil … cause I'm on a roll!" Then again, maybe not.
Fun Google facts:
As far as I know, Bat Masterson, Diamond Jim Brady and D.H. Lawrence never played the game.
I, on the other hand, played — and played badly. On defense, I was stationed in right field (a PeeWee League no-man's-land). On offense, my lifetime batting average was .000. To opposing teams, I was known as an "easy out" while my team complimented me for having a "good eye" — a term used by parents and coaches to encourage boys like me who were too terrified to do anything other than rest the bat firmly on their shoulders and pray for a walk. Why did I play? Quite simple, really. We had great post-game snacks.
Not much has changed since then. Whether I'm playing baseball (badly) or just creating a baseball-themed puzzle, I still enjoy a good snack. Mmmm.
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. That's not true. You can teach an old dog, it just takes a heck of a lot longer. You have to be patient. Thanks to Will's patience with me, I was able to finally get the hang of this puzzle thing.
This was my 42nd submission to The Times. My previous 41 attempts were rejected for one reason or another. (That's right — 41 rejections in a row — I don't know if that's a record, but it's a personal best!)
Having been a professional comedian for more than a third of a century, I'm no stranger to rejection. The rough and tumble nightclub business is capable of delivering its share of rejections — often accompanied by a flying shot glass and/or an invitation to have one's face rearranged in the parking lot — but 41 "no's" in a row was, to say the least, disappointing.
Will, being Will, was kind and considerate (never once threatening bodily harm) and offered constructive criticism and encouragement with each successive defeat. When he was finally able to respond with a "yes," the relief was palpable … on both our parts. But that relief was short-lived because the "yes" was conditional. I would need to make some revisions.
"Dings," a term I would come to know all-to-well during the 11 subsequent revisions, was not an easy concept for me to grasp. I struggled. And struggled. And struggled some more. Why EMU and not ULU? Or MOI but not TOI? Why was UMA Thurman okay but UTA Hagen not? What did the original Broadway star of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" do to fall from grace in the eyes of The New York Times?
I don't know. But I do know this. Even if that old dog seems completely clueless, hang in there. Who knows? He might just "roll over" by accident.