1. The rack was wobbly, so the torturer put a folded-up bit of paper under the short leg. Can’t have the annoyance of a wobbly table interfering with your torture!

  2. This may cause some thread drift, but . . .

    The Differences Between Rack and Wrack
    Rack and Wrack as Verbs
    As a verb, rack means to torture or cause great suffering, or to place (something) in or on a rack. The verb wrack means to wreck or cause the ruin of something.

    Rack and Wrack as Nouns
    As a noun, rack means a frame, a shelf, an instrument of torture, or a state of intense anguish. The noun wrack means destruction or wreckage.

    Idiomatically, we may rack the billiard balls, rack up points, and roast a rack of lamb. But when it comes to nerve-(w)racking experiences or (w)racking our brains, most writers, dictionaries, and usage guides admit to being (w)racked with uncertainty. See the (sometimes contradictory) usage notes below.

    (I find the same discomfort with ‘wreak’, as in ‘wreaking havoc’, which I so often see written as ‘reak havoc’, or ‘reek havoc’. The former isn’t even a word; the latter is just stinkin’ wrong.)

    Thoughts, O Wise Ones Who Know the English Language?

  3. @ Andréa – I think the synopsis you wrote (or cited) seems right on cue. I would write “nerve-wracking” with the “w”, but I am “wracked with uncertainty” about whether I should “wrack” or “rack” my brain (and I think I would tend toward the latter, even if it is probably “rong”).

  4. Yes – maryellenc noticed the detail that I didn’t. The artwork style is confusing here: the figures looked like babies to me at first before I noticed the body hair on the torturer — but then the visual dissonance still wouldn’t quite let me take it as a “serious” torture situation versus child’s play.

  5. Shoot, I thought he was reading the rack manual and asking for feedback from the torcheree to see if he was doing it right. I still like my version better.

  6. “torcheree”? torturee?

    Yeah, I missed the shim as well. Good catch. Still not great, but sorta typical New Yorker humor.

  7. Yeah, I shared that doubt CaroZ brings up, that these are meant to be kids. It’s like a “you lie down and I’ll tickle you” fun routine has gotten far out of hand.

  8. I got this one immediately. When I was a kid, matchbooks were popular for shimming table legs. They were plentiful and wedge-shaped.

  9. I first thought the guy on his knees was consulting some sort of weird chiropractic manual and seeing if the new tension setting helped the guy on the rack’s back, but then the torn pages in the book put me off. Like many others, I didn’t spot the folded bit of paper under the wobbly rack until I read about it. The drawing would have worked better for the intended joke if kneeling guy had been angled towards and looking at the folded bit of paper, not parked at right angles to it and looking as though he had just risen from a close consultation of the manual.

  10. I thought the same as BrianR – didn’t see the torn paper or the shim at all (despite at least scanning over the comic looking for a point – I only saw it here, so I knew there was something weird about it).

  11. @ Editors – Is there a reason for the line “Edward Steed New Yorker rack torture” under the comic, or are those just misplaced tags?

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