In reading this week’s column, you might get the impression the poofreader is on vacation. That’s a common enough assumption but a rare occurrence. But look carefully. Your job is to figure out that we mean by these cryptic titles to books, movies, plays and TV programs.
But be warned: Some of the puns and plays on words are atrocious; there’s bilinguality, far-fetchedness and even a few titles made to fit the local scene. Most titles involve changing a single letter; occasionally, you may need to make two changes or even divide a word.
Example: Arnold Schwarzenegger works as a remorseless, opinionated and efficient hairdresser. Answer: The Perminator (The Terminator). Example: George Clooney and his crew go on an expedition to locate absolutely the best bird, even if it spends its life delivering babies. (The Perfect Stork, The Perfect Storm)
Readers’ answers will appear in the Nov. 4 Work of Art. Please e-mail or snail mail your answers.
- This 1991 movie features Lawrence Fishburne and deals with a group that sets up a net and forms a basketball team in a rough section of south-central Los Angeles.
- Humphrey Bogart stars in this 1942 classic film in which he applies pounds and pounds of baby powder to his person, becoming ghost-like, before searching for an old flame.
- Tom Hanks stars as a U.S. platoon leader whose troops storm the beaches of Normandy, to rescue a special ape that somehow enlisted.
- In this 2005 J.K. Rowling’s flick, one of the diners in the cafeteria ingests a turkey morsel that appears to have been soaked in jalapeño juice, during a Thanksgiving banquet.
- Katherine Ann Watson (played by Julia Roberts), a feminist teacher who studied at UCLA, leaves her boyfriend behind in Los Angeles, in 1953. While teaching at a Massachusetts college, she contracts the highly infectious “kissing disease,” and tries to keep it a secret.
- Robin Williams, Kenneth Branagh and Andy Garcia star in this 1991 thriller about a detective who helps a woman casino employee who has amnesia.
- Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci try to work their way up the mob hierarchy in this 1990 movie. The three gain stature by slicking down their hair with pounds of Dapper Dan pomade.
- In this musical, with some memorable tunes, Gene Kelly is overcome by a potent insecticide. But the show must go on.
- A local administrator (or possibly a school board member), with a star-crossed lover, gets caught up in a family feud involving the Montagues and the Capulets.
- In 1915, W. Somerset Maugham wrote about Philip Carey, whose uncle suffers a cut. Philip places his hand on his uncle’s arm to stop the bleeding but never removes it and finds his hand grafted to the arm.
- Scenario 1: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson star in this film in which students meet during detention and give one another hints as to what they’ll eat the next morning. Scenario 2: The three make mistakes by preparing their own recipes for their morning repast, such as using salt instead of sugar in their coffee.
- Teenage sleuths solve their first case to restore their own good names after being suspended from Coolsville High. In this 2009 movie, the children believe in tidying up after their pet.
- More than 150 years ago, Lew Wallace was the territorial governor of New Mexico. He wrote a book about a famous chariot race and about a man who had a sex-change operation. He changed his gender but not his name.
- Hugh Laurie becomes increasingly timid in his bedside manner, and the medical staff in this TV drama give him an unflattering nickname.
- Elvis find himself addicted to Santa Fe style homes and even sings their praises.
- In this 1996 Coen Brothers dark comedy, William H. Macy must give up a new car in order to have his wife kidnapped.
- Morgan Freeman is a psychologist who teams with an escaped kidnap victim played by Ashley Judd. The serial killer they seek has a weird fetish: osculating fish parts. (1997)
- A high-ranking military officer, John Travolta, cannot contain his glee in this steamy cat-and-mouse thriller, upon the solving of a crime.
- Mel Gibson fights to preserve the peace in this American Revolutionary War movie that features a huge battle over marijuana. (2000)
- Before closing its doors, Ludi’s Market found itself the meeting place for local groups called the Jets and the Sharks.
- John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd attempt to put a band together but use the wrong ingredients as they mix flour and water to make several varieties of adhesives.
- In this 1991 comedy, Scott Bakula and Sinbad star. They try to organize a football team after last year’s players and coaches all have quit. Worse, they discover they’re out of charcoal and have to apply a Revlon blusher on their faces to block the sun and glare.
- In this new TV sitcom, two feuding high school teachers become so out of control that their students run away from practice.
- In this thriller, a giant ape opts to shop for a filmy negligee at Victoria’s Secret.
- In this horror flick, an alien monster consumes every e-mail, twitter and text message in its path.