Yesterday I remarked that “Homer and Marge have marital problems” is a massive cliche on The Simpsons at this point.
Today we have another massive cliche: “Homer isolates himself from Lisa after a thoughtless action”.
But really, this episode shows that both Lisa and Homer have hidden talents.
For Lisa, it’s crossword puzzles. After she and Bart find their lemonade stand shut down due to a lack of permit, she jumps the line at the permit office to finish the cranky clerk’s crossword puzzle before the office closes at 5. That’s a good thing since Dr. Hibbert left a patient in surgery to renew a just-expired medical license.
Homer, meanwhile, wanders down to Moe’s and helps Mrs. Krabappel break up with Principal Skinner (wait, again?). Edna wasn’t having much luck, so she offers a beer to anyone who could do it for her. Homer steps up and does it, doing it in such a way that Skinner left feeling better than he did before. Next up, Homer does the same for Lenny since some never-before-seen girlfriend won’t take a hint even though she’s been cheating on Lenny with every guy in town who isn’t Moe.
Lisa’s new crossword obsession gets the notice of Superintendent Chalmers, who in turn gets Lisa into a competition for crossword puzzle enthusiasts, a hobby she may or may not have picked up from Grampa.
Homer is being asked, first by his gay former roommate Grady (returning guest star Scott Thompson) to end a relationship as Grady would rather be with…Duffman? Really? OK, we’ll roll with it. And since Homer is so good at the break-up thing, he even starts a service for $100 a pop. Looks like Officer Gloria had enough of Snake, too. But after making a lot of money, a suggestion from Marge led to a bad dream of disappointed people who were dumped, children who would never be born, and antiques that would never be purchased scaring Homer out of that business. So, what can Homer do with that money?
Actually, the bar off the side of the crossword puzzle competition has betting going on, and Homer bets heavily on Lisa. That is, until Lisa reveals to her father that the prospect of happiness tends to make her choke. Homer then goes and bets against Lisa for the finals, and that bartender taking bets on a crossword puzzle competition sure can be judgmental.
But Lisa loses in the finals anyway because Gil of all people actually hustled her as his sad sack routine hid crossword greatness. Homer won the money.
Too bad Lisa notices he’s got some new shoelaces. And some other small, incidental things that only a man with disposable income can come across. She says she’s not mad, until Homer remembers that when a woman says she isn’t mad, that means she is incredibly mad. She’s so mad, she changes her name to Lisa Bouvier.
Did you know Marge had no idea she shared her maiden name with Jackie Kennedy?
But one thing Homer does know is that the best advice to fixing problems with kids comes from childless drunks, so the guys at Moe’s give him an idea.
Does it work?
What is it? Homer manages to get an apology put into The New York Times Sunday Crossword, from both the answers and the clues. Furthermore, this was revealed thanks to guest stars Will Shortz, the Times crossword editor, and puzzlemaster Merl Reagle. I assume these are actually them and they are who Lisa says they are. I don’t know. Shortz seems like a real slavedriver.
Point is, it works. No surprise. Homer is a good dad again.