Tag Archives: Columbo

The Mystical Creamsicle

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During my after-supper nap last night, I dreamed I discovered a box of Creamsicles in my freezer: a pleasant surprise. And later, watching a Columbo episode, what does Columbo order for refreshment? Yup–a Creamsicle.

Okay, I’m game. I’ll go to the store today and buy some Creamsicles. Hey, maybe somebody’s trying to tell me something to my advantage…

My Bathroom Sink Is Fixed and I am Beat!

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From time to time I have to take the bathroom sink apart and unclog the drain pipes. It’s not a complicated job, but one thing makes it devilishly hard–the room’s too small! I can’t get into a comfortable position to work. Every move I make turns into some kind of dreadful yoga exercise. And, as Kipling once said, “The heat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl.” Mine were halfway down the stairs before I caught them.

Knowing it was going to be unseasonably roasting hot today, I got up early to take my bike ride before the temperature soared. After my daily conference with my editor, I did a bunch of blogging. Then that torture in the bathroom. Then write and submit my book review for Chalcedon.

And all of a sudden, I’m beat.

I want my “Columbo” episode! I want my Freddy the Pig book! But those delights come later. For the time being, it’s just iced tea and me.


The Answer to Columbo’s Puzzle

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I almost forgot to give you the answer to Columbo’s puzzle.

To recap: You have three bags filled with gold pieces, but the pieces in one of the bags are counterfeit. The only way you can tell the difference is that the genuine gold pieces weigh a pound apiece, but each counterfeit piece weighs one pound and one ounce. You need to discover which bag contains the counterfeits: but all you have, by way of equipment, is an old-fashioned penny scale, like they used to have in drugstores, and a single penny. How do you do it?

Well, no one here came up with the answer, so here it is.

From Bag #1 take one piece; from Bag #2, take two pieces; and from #3, three.

Weigh all six pieces at once.

If it weighs six pounds, one ounce, the counterfeits are in Bag 1. If it weighs six pounds, two ounces, they’re in Bag 2; if six pounds, three ounces, Bag 3.

Don’t feel bad. Columbo had help from his screenwriters.

How Smart Are You?

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Here’s a puzzle that was featured in a Columbo episode we watched last night. Columbo cracked it. Can you? Here it is.

You have three bags full of gold pieces. Two of the bags contain genuine gold pieces weighing one pound each. One contains counterfeit pieces weighing one pound and one ounce each. The only way you can tell them apart is by weighing them.

But all you have is a penny scale and a single penny, so you only get one weighing, no more. Utilizing only your penny and this scale, can you figure out which of the bags contains the counterfeit pieces?

Now the answer to this puzzle is quite simple. “Why didn’t I think of it!” you’ll say, once you know the answer.

Some of you may already know this problem. If you do, don’t spill the beans.

I will reveal the answer after allowing some time for my readers to offer their answers.

And no, I didn’t get it, either! But you and I don’t have the screenwriters on our side.

Johnny Cash, ‘I Saw the Light’

This is from a 1974 Columbo episode called “Swan Song,” guest starring Johnny Cash. Actually it’s a Johnny Cash gospel song from 1966, I Saw the Light–and the lyrics are spot on. The backup is a little overproduced for my taste, but it’s a catchy tune with Johnny Cash’s voice and, most importantly, a solid Christian message.

A Five-Star Mystery With Inspector Ghote

I have just read Doing Wrong, No. 20 in H.R.F. Keating’s Inspector Ghote mysteries, this one published in 1994. There would be a few more before Keating’s death, but not many.

This one is a corker.

Inspector Ghote was Columbo before Peter Falk was Columbo. Ghote works out of the Bombay C.I.D., although, over the years, his investigations have taken him all over India. Doing Wrong takes him to the Hindu holy city of Banares.

Yes, they still burn bodies on the banks of the Ganges, and throw the ashes in the river. If the deceased is too poor for a proper funeral, the body is thrown into the river as is. It is believed that the water of the Ganges has the power to wash away sins, from the dead as well as the living. Persons in search of holiness bathe in the Ganges. They also brush their teeth in it.

Ghote comes to Banares following up a clue in the murder of Mrs. Shoba Popatkar, once a personage in the Indian independence movement. He has very little to go on, and next to no support from his superiors: but Ganesh Ghote, once he has his teeth in a case, never lets go.

This time Keating tells you right up front who committed the murder, and why: a Banares politician, H.K. Verma, strangled Mrs. Popatkar to keep her from broadcasting some embarrassing information that would have ruined his hopes of being appointed a minister in the government.

So where’s the suspense? Well, did you ever have one of those nasty dreams in which you’ve committed a murder and you’re trying to escape the consequences? And the murder in the dream is a given, a fait accompli: it happened before the dream started, and you’re stuck with it.

We have H.K. Verma’s nightmarish experience as Ghote comes closer and closer to a solution to the crime. And we have Verma’s increasingly frantic attempts to rationalize the crime, to justify himself in his own mind. He searches for absolution in the Ganges. He must also deal with a bitterly ironic stroke of fate.

The narrative goes back and forth between Ghote’s point of view and Verma’s, tightly focused on the two of them. The result is suspenseful indeed.

Keating was one of a very few writers who could use dialect without distracting and exasperating the reader. Indian English is not quite the same as American English. Keating’s mastery of it is infectious–and I had better stop thinking-thinking of it only, or it will be seeping into my own writing.

For more than 30 years the Inspector Ghote series was one of the most consistently clever and entertaining mystery series around.

I think it always will be.

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