Hey Cecil, here’s one that’s been bugging me: Did Wile E. Coyote ever catch the Road Runner? I’ve seen one “sanctioned” cartoon by Warner Brothers where the Coyote has been shrunk and catches the Road Runner’s huge leg, but I’ve heard rumors of a cartoon where he actually catches and eats the damn bird. Supposedly, it was shown to soldiers heading off to Vietnam, to boost morale. Does this thing exist?

–Keith Nielsen

Other than the episode you mention, no Road Runner-finally-gets-it cartoon has ever been released by Warner Brothers. But surely some animator somewhere has given it a stab. Supposedly an underground Road Runner cartoon has been making the rounds at college film societies, which often show shorts before the feature. After a few minutes of the usual high jinks, one of Wile E. Coyote’s harebrained schemes actually works, and he catches and eats the Road Runner. The audience sits in stunned silence for a moment, then breaks into wild applause, whooping and cheering.

But none of the hard-core Road Runner buffs I consulted–and these are people whose answering machines say, “We can’t come to the phone right now, because either we’re out chasing after roadrunners, or we’re trying to recover from our latest runaround with Wile E. Coyote…”–had any knowledge of it.

Maybe someday something will turn up. In the meantime people will have to content themselves with the one legit episode in which Wile E. honest to God gets the Road Runner. Here’s the word from Jerry Beck, who with Will Friedwald wrote Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons (1989): “No, the Coyote never ate the Road Runner. He did, however, catch the bird in one cartoon, produced in 1980 by creator Chuck Jones. That film, Soup or Sonic, was part of a TV special called Bugs Bunny’s Bustin’ Out All Over. In that film the Coyote shrinks to tiny size but manages to grab the Road Runner’s giant (to him) leg. Unfortunately the Coyote is like a tiny insect to the bird. He holds up a sign to the audience: ‘Okay wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him. Now what do I do?'”

How do they get the papers inside fortune cookies? As paper will ignite around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and yellow and crinkle at temperatures approaching that point, they can’t bake them in there. My guess is that they stuff them in after the cookie is made. If this is so, there must be a fairly high mortality rate in fortune cookies, as they can’t possibly stuff them perfectly every time or consistently bake them where they are ideal for stuffing.

–Robert in Nevada

This is a question only a guy would ask. Any woman with more than ten minutes’ experience in the kitchen knows that you make fortune cookies by baking the cookie first–at which point it’s a disk–placing the fortune in the middle, and then wrapping the cookie around the fortune to produce the familiar fortune cookie shape. You can do it yourself using the recipe available from Wonton Food Inc., one of the leading makers of fortune cookies (two million a day! 5.1 billion a year!), at www.wontonfood.com.

Be warned, however, that this is a job best left to experts. According to the recipe, “You have about 15 seconds working time before the cookie hardens.” Karen of the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board writes:

“I’ve actually made homemade fortune cookies. I do NOT recommend it. You’ll burn your fingerprints off folding those suckers, and in the end you’ll have wasted all afternoon to get about two dozen greasy, tasteless, misshapen fortune cookies when you could have gotten two pounds of yummy fortune cookies in Chinatown for 50 cents. But you can put in great fortunes like these:

“‘You will die soon.’

“‘Look out behind you!’

“‘Disregard previous fortune.’

“‘This fortune intentionally left blank.'”

Almost justifies the pain. But no need, says Karen. She’s perfected a method of using tweezers to extract fortunes from Chinatown fortune cookies and then shoving in her own.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.