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Copyright The Washington Post Company Jul 24, 2005

Except for maybe slide rule manufacturers, there's hardly an industry whose doom is prophesied with more certainty than that of the daily newspaper. Although these predictions may be considerably overblown -- look, there are dozens of you reading this column in the print edition right now -- there's no arguing that The Post's circulation, like that of many of its counterparts, has been falling off since its peak in the mid-1980s. This week's contest was suggested, pretty much on a dare, independently by Losers Russell Beland of Springfield and Mark Eckenwiler of Washington: Suggest some original, creative ways that The Post could increase its circulation. (Note: Despite the decline, The Post still does sell more than 1 million copies of the paper every Sunday, so don't worry that no one will see your fine work. Unless, of course, the Empress deems it insufficiently interesting.) With the cartoon above, we hope to preempt 24,342 suck-up entries along this line.

Winner receives the Inker, the official Style Invitational trophy. First runner-up receives, courtesy of the aforementioned Dr. Beland, a genuine, highly detailed Lenox porcelain figurine of a bald eagle, its talons gripping a stars-and-stripes shield, that would be truly patriotically inspiring except that (a) the eagle possesses roughly the same facial expression as Big Bird, and (b) it is sitting on a big ball of brownish something between its legs, perhaps an ostrich egg, or a very old grapefruit.

Other runners-up win a coveted Style Invitational Loser T-shirt. Honorable mentions get one of the lusted-after Style Invitational magnets. One prize per entrant per week. Send your entries by e- mail to losers@washpost.com or, if you really have to, by fax to 202- 334-4312. Deadline is Monday, Aug. 1. Put "Images/circlei3.gif" border=0>Washington Post. Entries may be edited for taste or content. Results will be published Aug. 21. No purchase required for entry. Employees of The Washington Post, and their immediate relatives, are not eligible for prizes. Pseudonymous entries will be disqualified. The revised title for next week's contest is by Tom Witte of Montgomery Village.

Report from Week 616, a contest that turned out to be well nigh impossible. But only well nigh. Okay, extremely well nigh. One Loser who shall go nameless except for "Brendan Beary (Great Mills, Md.)" submitted this entry: "The Most Excellent Royal Holiday": When the Empress of Invitania plans a vacation over the July 4 weekend, her kooky yet adoring subjects stage an impossibly nonsensical contest to make sure she's not bothered with tons of pesky e-mails." Tsk- tsk, so, so cynical. The fireworks were especially satisfying this year, particularly after that all-day pool party.

Anyway, the contest was to look at the accompanying "sketchbook page" containing five cartoons, allegedly all planned for a children's book that Style Invitational artist Bob Staake was working on. Your mission -- and indeed, not many of you chose to accept it -- was to describe in a sentence what the book was about, name the title and, if you liked, include sample text for the cartoons. A number of Losers made a truly valiant effort to unite all these cartoons that clearly have nothing to do with one another. Valor can earn you a medal but not necessarily a T-shirt.

{diam}Second runner-up:

"The Energy Crisis That Never Was": Congressman Pork Barrel and his guide dog, Big Energy, are able to secure funding to produce gas- guzzling, roll-prone SUVs by buying energy credits from dwarf Antarcticans; meanwhile, President Bush plays with his dog. (Eric Murphy, Chicago)

{diam}First runner-up, winner of the mustachioed coffee mug and 1982 World's Fair mini-mug: "Can You Pick Out the Upside-Down Picture?" Another in the best-selling Low Threshold series for underachievers. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

{diam}And the winner of the Inker:

"Stay Inside!" A book for children whose parents are just concerned, that's all.

Text under the cartoons:

Those with disabilities

Fill me with a vague unease.

Their seeing-eye dogs sometimes bite

And carry rabies, ticks and blight.

Do not ride the bus to school

For fear of wrecks and leaking fuel.

Also, I have often heard

Of kids pecked by a flightless bird.

Hats, e.g., the stovepipe version,

Hint of sexual perversion,

Whereas clowns with large behinds

Have kidnapping on their minds.

And finally, you must beware

Of the dread child-eating hare.

I did not make this up, my pet:

I saw it on the Internet.

(Ron Stanley, Reston)

{diam}Honorable Mentions

"Abraham Lincoln": This book examines how history would have drastically changed if Abraham Lincoln had instead been born a penguin -- except that strangely enough, in the South, people would still park their cars on their lawns upside down. (Marc Leibert, New York)

"Twilight of the Dogs": As global warming melts automobiles and forces polar inhabitants to don protective headgear, the Bush administration blames the dog days of summer on canine terrorists. (Dave Kelsey, Fairfax)

"The Mad Mascot Masquerade": When they need money for the new gym, the kids at Birch Lake School enter a contest to come up with a more appropriate mascot for the Washington Redskins -- and win, giving rise to the new Washington Submissive Clowns. (winner and 4 runners-up pictured) (Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.)

"Who's the Bone Smuggler?" If you guessed the rabbit, you're wrong. (Chuck Smith)


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