Halsted is host tonight, and his guest is Jeremy Atwood, a retired civil engineer. He has a nephew who teaches English, and this information sets Rubin off on a rant throughout the dinner about the deficiencies and failings of those who teach English literature.
After dinner, the brandy is served and Trumbull grills Mr Atwood. His friend has recently passed away, and left him one last puzzle. Mr Atwood's friend, Lyon Sanders, loved games and puzzles. He would constantly invite Mr Atwood over to play Board Games, Card Games, and games of his own devising. In his will, Mr Atwood's friend left him one last puzzle; he must find "The curious omission in Alice.", and solving that would allow him to collect ten thousand dollars. The reference to Lewis Carroll is immediately figured out, and the rest of the meeting is spent trying to figure out what is missing from the famous story. Henry starts his solution to the mystery by asking Mr Atwood if he is Episcopalian.
This story has been reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (December 1991).
Tropes that weren't omitted from the story:
- Driving Question: What is the curious omission in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?
- Dying Clue: a dying man leaves a friend a legacy and says that the location of the safe deposit box where it is held can be found in "the curious omission in Alice". Justified as the dying man loved games, and wanted to leave his friend one last puzzle to solve. Rubin refers to it as "a dying hint". He also takes steps to make sure Mr Atwood didn't mishear him by including the same condition in his last will.
- Exact Words: The members (and Mr Atwood) assume that "Alice" is a reference to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but the sequel's full title isn't Through the Looking-Glass, it is Through the Looking Glass, and what Alice Found There, and that's where the titular omission is.
- Fairplay Whodunnit: The clues are all presented during the grilling, and if the audience is familiar enough with games and Lewis Carroll's Alice stories, they can deduce where Mr Atwood's friend had hidden the name of the bank before Henry asks Mr Atwood about being Episcopalian.
- Fancy Dinner: The Black Widowers meet every month at the Milano, a fancy restaurant in New York City, tonight's dinner begins with kidney and cream of leek soup, leading to roast stuffed duck and wild rice, and for dessert they have poire au vin and coffee.
- King of Games: Mr Sanders would apply his engineering focus and methodology to mastering every game to a high level. Because he had outlived his wife and didnt have any children, hed play those games with Mr Atwood, teaching him to be good enough to be a challenge to defeat.
- The Namesake: The title refers to the fact that Through the Looking Glass, and what Alice Found There has Chess pieces: pawns, rooks, knights, queens, and kings, but doesn't have any bishops.
- On One Condition: Mr Atwood's friend left him ten thousand dollars, on the condition that he withdraw it from a safe-deposit box within one year from the reading of the will, otherwise it would go somewhere else.
- Phone-In Detective: Henry is able to deduce what unusual and interesting thing was absent from Alice because the problem was entirely a logic puzzle constructed for Mr Atwood to solve.
- Raised Catholic: Mr Atwood and his friend were raised in different Protestant religions, but had become lapsed many years before this story. Despite this, his friend would often tease Mr Atwood about the differences between the Churches that they didn't attend.
- Mr Atwood lists a number of Tabletop Games that he would play with Mr Sanders; Chinese Checkers, Parcheesi, Backgammon, Monopoly, Checkers, Chess, Go, three-dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe, Bridge, and gin rummy.
- The mystery revolves around a clue in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.
- While trying to solve the mystery, the characters mention the Disney adaptation, Alice in Wonderland.
- When Henry presents the solution, he says they should check Through the Looking Glass, and what Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll.
- Title Drop: The title is used as the Driving Question of the work, Mr Atwood must discover "the curious omission" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, because that's the condition for collecting the ten thousand dollars that his recently deceased friend left him.
- Snow Means Cold: In a mix of telling and showing, the outside temperature is established as very cold due to the half-inch of snow outside of the Milano, which delayed Halstead and Mr Atwood.
- Sore Loser: Mr Atwood's friend, Sanders, would rarely lose, but when he did, he'd be angry or embarrassed, and spend several days in intense focus analysing the game he had lost so that he could best Mr Atwood the next time.
- The Summation: Henry is prepared to explain where the information is hidden once he learns that Mr Atwood is Episcopalian, because it relates to both the omission in Through the Looking Glass, and what Alice Found There and the dead man's tendency to mock Mr Atwood's religion.
- Worthy Opponent: (Invoked Trope) According to Mr Atwood, if his friend was winning too many games or too easily, he would teach Mr Atwood some of his strategies so that the games they played would be more interesting.