Week 1590, Published 05/16/2024
The Invitational Week 72: All You Need Is Ink
Take a line from a Beatles song and rhyme it with your own. Plus winning 'grandfoals.'
MAY 16, 2024

The Fab Four promoting the 1967 international TV special "One World." This week's Invitational lets you meet the Beatles, sorta. (By Jim Gray/Getty Images)
Hello. You know how grandkids tend to be innocent and adorable? Well, today we present the winning "grandfoals" wordplay from Invitational Week 70, but for some reason they turn out trading heavily in fornication, scatology, self-pleasuring, prostitution, and crime.

But before we ooze into that, the new contest:

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never thought I'd spend so much on Rogaine and Bengay.
Oh, please, say to me, you'll let me be your man
You'll see I put the seat down, when I use the can.
Bright are the stars that shine, dark is the sky,
Do not view that eclipse with naked eye.

This week's Invitational challenge is the second "tailgating" contest of the New Era. The first involved Bob Dylan. For Week 72: Choose a line from a song written by one or more of the Beatles and released by the Beatles (not on solo or later albums). Then pair it with your own rhyming line, as in the examples above by Duncan Stevens, who suggested this contest and even offered a link to this convenient list of Beatles lyrics, alphabetized by song. Note: This collection also includes cover versions; check the composer credit above each song to make sure it's really by the Fab Four. (No, they didn't write "Twist and Shout.")

Also: Even if the Beatles didn't rhyme the line you chose, you must. Your couplet doesn't have to be singable to the original tune, though.

Speaking of the Dylan and Beatles, did you know that Bob turned the Beatles on to pot on August 28, 1964, The Day the Music Got Fried? And it led, pretty directly, to "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and John and Yoko blissed out and naked on an album cover.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Formatting: Please write each couplet as a single line divided with a slash, rather than on two separate lines; we'll restore them to proper couplet-hood on this end.

Deadline is Saturday, May 25, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, May 30.

The winner gets this weirdly political birthday card, dating from c. 2005 and issued by Carlton Cards, evidently a bolder division of American Greetings. Donated by Kathy Sheeran.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Wry Bred: The 'grandfoals' of Week 70
A month ago, as is our yearly tradition, we gave you the names of 100 horses being considered for this year's Kentucky Derby, and challenged you to "breed" any two names to come up with a "foal" name that humorously reflected the names of both parents. Two weeks later, as is our yearly tradition, we challenged you to take any of the 100 winning foal names and breed them to create grandfoal names.

You entered a lot, more than a dozen hundred entries (journalists are required by law to describe quantities by the dozen -- and also distances by football fields). And you nailed this one, again. Again, the Empress and Czar bloodied their knuckles, the floor, the walls, the ceiling with the savagery of cuts to unquestionably worthy offerings, to get down to a manageable 80 or so inking entries that we present below.

The best entry that failed to get individual credit because too many people thought of it: Shiva Me Timbers x Hardonnay = Mourning Wood


Third runner-up: Breed Willy Wanka with BBQAnon and name the foal Stroke of 4Chan (Andrew Rosenberg, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Second runner-up: Shiva Me Timbers x De Beers = Davy Jones' Lager (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

First runner-up: Tryst Fund x Be Ess = "Legal Expenses" (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

And the winner of the cat butt magnets:
Peter Rose x Famous Anus = You Bet Your Ass (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Out of the Punning: Honorable mentions
Grrrder x Counterfatter = Grrrdle (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

This Just In x = Is It In Yet? (Steve Honley, Washington, D.C.)

Suks x Nosh = Bites (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Ghosted x Leak House = I Pee Dead People (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

Godiva x Go Away! = Diva (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

Hell MNOP x Suks = Hell MNOPause (Brian Cohen, Winston-Salem, N.C.)

David Copper x Styx With It = Cu in Hell (Chris Doyle)

Hell MNOP x Ghosted = QRST KilledTheCat (Jesse Frankovich)

Peter Rose x All-Day Sucker = Petey Barnum (Neil Kurland)

Willy Wanka x All-Day Sucker = Onan Onan On (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

De Beers x TheWrightBrothels = HouseOfAleRepute (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

De Beers x Famous Anus = Heinieken (Steve Price, New York)

Drunk and Orderly x At the Buzzard = KeepCalmAndCarrion (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.; Jonathan Paul)

BBQAnon x By the Toe = Hallux Jones (Chris Doyle)

Be Ess x Reese's Feces = Be Em (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Go Away! x Willy Wanka = Beat It! (Mike Hammer, Arlington, Va; Jonathan Jensen)

Buzz Aldrin x Courtesy Flush = Number Two (Seth Christenfeld, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.; Jonathan Jensen; Mike Hammer)

TheWrightBrothels x = WhoresWithNoName (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.; Jesse Frankovich)

Chateauneuf DuPeep x By the Toe = Chateau LaFeet (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

ConceivedInLiberty x Have a Nice Nay = Conceived in Texas (Mark Raffman)

Peter Rose x = Bettor Left Unsaid (Laurie Brink, Mineola, N.Y.)

De Beers x Famous Anus = Anheuser Tush (Steve Price)

Six-Pack Abes x Pooperstown = Lincoln Logs (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.; Mike Hammer)

Six-Pack Abes x De Beers = Lincoln Lagers (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Willy Wanka x Famous Anus = Tugger Carlson (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Xana-don't x Hardonnay = Kublai Kan't (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

I Know My Wrights! x Toot Sweet = Frank Cloyed (Jesse Frankovich)

This Just In x Your Entry Stank = Dreck Deposit (Jesse Frankovich)

All-Day Sucker x Reese's Feces = Lolliplop (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Belly Lugosi x Standby Your Man = Tummy Wynette (Steve Price)

Ponce de Freon x Standby Your Man = Clammy Wynette (Bill Dorner, Wolcott, Conn.)

Belly Lugosi x Suks = AbHorrorsAVacuum (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)

Get the Plunger x By the Toe = Clogs (Larry Rifkin, Glastonbury, Conn.)

Famous Anus x Hops = Keister Bunny (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

Gotta Halve It x Gore = WTF, Solomon? (Stephen Dudzik)

Hath No Fury x Styx With It = Calm Sail Away (Andrew Rosenberg)

Xana-don't x Hath No Fury = Xana-x (Jonathan Hardis, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Hops x Pooperstown = Also Trots & Runs (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Magnum, PIN x Your Entry Stank = Magnum O'Pus (Pam Sweeney)

OneScytheFitsAll x Mobius Trip = OneSideFitsAll (Pamela Love, Columbia, Md.)

Leak House x Chevy Impaler = Urinal AutoTrouble (Frank Osen)

Razor Thin Mints x Reese's Feces = Skip THAT House! (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

He Who Smelted It x Nosh = Ore d'Oeuvres (Jonathan Paul)

Vladimir Tootin x De Beers = Bock in the USSR (Chris Doyle)

All-Day Sucker x 'Tis My Hero = All-Day Succor (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

'Tis My Hero x Frottage Industry = Tease My Hero (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

BBQAnon x = Nothingburger (Jonathan Paul)

x Gotta Halve It = Still (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

Africadabra x Dorbell = Kenya Get That? (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.; Jesse Frankovich; Frank Osen)

All-Day Sucker x One Rude Scent = Lolly Gagger (Bill Dorner; Mike Hammer)

Junior High x At the Buzzard = Picking on Me (Judy Freed)

Frottage Industry x BBQAnon = Dry Rub (Tom Witte)

Willy Wanka x BBQAnon = Pulled Pork (Pam Sweeney)

Belly Lugosi x Counterfatter = Draculard (Larry Rifkin)

Blob the Builder x Dorbell = Ooze There? (Eric Nelkin)

Buzz Aldrin x Standby Your Man = OneSmallStepfordMa (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

By the Toe x Leak House = Wee Wee Wee (Mark Raffman)

By the Toe x Ponce de Freon = A Kick in de Ponce (Diana Oertel)

Shiva Me Timbers x By the Toe = Pall Bunion (Jeff Shirley; Judy Freed)

ConceivedInLiberty x Counterfatter = Live Free or Diet (Chris Doyle)

ConceivedInLiberty x Knead It = Born and Bread (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

ConceivedInLiberty x Working Mime to 5 = Dolly Partum (Mary McNamara, Washington, D.C.)

De Beers x Godiva = DiamondInTheBuff (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

I Want S'more x Drunk and Orderly = S'nore (Sarah Walsh)

Neat-O x Famous Anus = Tidy Bowel (Frank Osen)

Famous Anus x Pounce de Leon = A-hole New World (Matt Monitto, Bristol, Conn.)

Famous Anus x Your Entry Stank = Your Exit's Worse (Brian Cohen)

Ghosted x Razor Thin Mints = GhoulScoutCookies (Rob Wolf, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Gore x One Rude Scent = Inconvenient Toot (Eric Nelkin)

Go Away! x Gotta Halve It = Cleave Me Alone! (Karen Lambert)

Junior High x One Rude Scent = PUberty (Eric Nelkin)

Ponce de Freon x Neat-O = Cool! (Tom Witte)

One Rude Scent x So Nada = Calvin DeKlein (Mia Wyatt, Ellicott City, Md.)

Flush Gordon x Get the Plunger = Got Gordon Back (Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va.)

Pitching Woo x Willy Wanka = Romancing the Bone (Jeff Hazle)

And Last: Peter Rose x Your Entry Stank = Peter Fell (Jeff Rackow)

The headline "Wry Bred" is by both Brian Cohen and Jesse Frankovich; Kevin Dopart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, May 18: our Week 71 contest to write multiple-choice questions in the style of the ones on NPR's "Wait Wait * Don't Tell Me," with host Peter Sagal weighing in with his favorites. Click on the link below.

Idea: (Duncan Stevens)
Examples: (Duncan Stevens; Duncan Stevens; Duncan Stevens)
Title: (Brian Cohen; Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Kevin Dopart)
Prize: (Kathy Sheeran)
Add:H:1588: ()

Week 1589, Published 05/09/2024
The Invitational Week 71: Wait Wait Right Here!
Write some 'Not My Job' questions a la the NPR quiz show -- and host Peter Sagal will help us judge. Plus winning replacements for tired cliches.
MAY 09, 2024
20th Anniversary Party For "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!"
Hello. As you may know, Peter Sagal, host of of NPR's "Wait, Wait * Don't Tell Me," the weekly program that's a cross between a current-events quiz show and the Algonquin Round Table, is a longtime friend of The Gene Pool. He has agreed to help judge this week's contest, which is, not coincidentally, about "Wait, Wait * Don't Tell Me," specifically one of the show's most popular recurring comic quizzes.

That segment is called "Not My Job," in which a celebrity is asked multiple-choice questions about something comically different from the celeb's own field, as when actor Renee Elise Goldsberry was quizzed about buried gold. Each week, the questions sound something like these:

Some schools do their utmost to protect their students -- as when, in 2010, an English headmistress did what?
A. She discouraged abductors by issuing every child a stun gun.
B. She changed the school uniform to a padded "marshmallow suit" to cushion the kids against bumps and bruises.
C. She ordered black bars placed over the children's eyes in yearbook pictures, thus ruining the photos for child pornographers.
Correct answer: C (The Daily Mail)

What went wrong when an Iowa farmer recently ran unopposed for the local school board?
A. He resigned immediately after being elected, explaining that he hadn't realized the job would involve going to meetings.
B. No one voted in the election -- even he didn't.
C. He lost as a result of a campaign by neighborhood kids who encouraged voters to write in SpongeBob SquarePants instead.
Correct Answer: B (Des Moines Register)

For Invitational Week 71: Compose a multiple-choice question about a Ridiculous but True fact or event -- recent or historical -- along with two entertaining wrong answers as well as the right one, as in the examples above, which were from the one time we did this contest before, in 2016. (They're by Lawrence McGuire and Duncan Stevens, respectively.) We're not in a position to fact-check your Real Thing, so you'll need to show us a credible source for your RBT fact (e.g., a link to Wikipedia or a news story). And you will, of course, tell us the correct answer.

You can hear and read lots of other "Wait Wait" quizzes by clicking on the show's podcast link here. And see the results of our previous WWDTM contest -- they're classic.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. (Don't worry about our usual format of one entry per line; format each entry more or less as in the example above, and don't forget to note the source of your information.)

The winner gets a piece of NPR swag, autographed by Peter Sagal! We can't show it to you now because Peter is maniacally combing through his office clutter to find Just The Right Crap.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Stop the Stale! New expressions from Week 69
In Invitational Week 69 we asked you to replace your choice of overused, tired phrases with fresher, more current and/or entertaining ones.

Third runner-up:
Old: The writing's on the wall.
New: The ketchup's on the wall. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Second runner-up:
As useful as tits on a bull > As useful as a cup holder on a roller coaster (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

First runner-up:
Threw him under the bus > Took him to the gravel pit and shot him in the face. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md; Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

And the winner of the green plushie neuron:
Pain in the ass > Two-factor authentication. "Madison, stop whining! You're being a real two-factor authentication today." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Trite, Trite Again: Honorable mentions
Catch a break > Wordle in 2: "The boss never realized you were AWOL? Really Wordled in 2 there." (Duncan Stevens)

15 minutes of fame > 60 seconds of influence (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

The bottom line is * > The sum total of the fuckery is * (Sam Mertens)

All hat and no cattle > All flag and no Constitution (Leif Picoult)

He has one foot in the grave > He might as well boo Putin in the Duma (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic > Replacing the House Speaker (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

The devil is in the details > The devil is in Page 2 of the Google results (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

More bang for the buck > More whoopee for the rupee (Duncan Stevens)

The straight and narrow > The hetero and cis (Kevin Dopart)

He's getting nowhere > He's talking on Mute (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

The elephant in the room > the farter in the courtroom (Chris Doyle)

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer > Not even the sharpest spoon in the drawer (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

He thinks he's God's gift to women > He thinks he's a "star" (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Like a bat out of Hell > Like a bat out of Wuhan (Kevin Dopart)

She let the cat out of the bag > Her cat felt like leaving the bag, I guess (Michael Stein)

A riddle wrapped in an enigma > A riddle wrapped in clamshell packaging (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

It goes without saying that * > It's obvious as a bloody stool that * (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

I would bet the farm > I'd max out my FanDuel account (Lee Graham)

Low-hanging fruit > a Monday crossword. "You're selling your kid's Girl Scout cookies outside the cannabis dispensary? That is so Monday-crossword." (Chris Doyle)

Kill two birds with one stone > Eradicate two ecosystems with one executive order (Kevin Dopart)

It is what it is > It's the paradigmatic tautology (David Franks, Washington County, Ark.)

At the end of the day > At the end of days -- Speaker Mike Johnson (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Like a bat out of hell > Like a gull to a french fry (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Run around like a chicken with its head cut off > Play for the Wizards (Leif Picoult)

We're in the same boat > We're under the same bus (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Went over like a lead balloon > Went over like a porcupine petting zoo (Jonathan Jensen)

The shit hit the fan > The Mentos fell in the Coke (Sam Mertens)

Bark up the wrong tree > Blame it on George Soros (Chris Doyle)

Talk turkey > Talk Turkiye (Kevin Dopart)

The chickens have come home to roost > The bird flu carriers are here (Sam Mertens)

Up the creek without a paddle > On the can with just one square (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Watching paint dry > Watching your iOS update (Kevin Dopart)

Costs an arm and a leg > Costs more than Bezos makes in a whole minute (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

The headline "Stop the Stale!" is by Tom Witte; both Kevin Dopart and Beverley Sharp submitted the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, May 11: our Week 70 "grandfoal" wordplay contest to "breed" the winning foal names of Week 68. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Tom Witte)
Subhead: (Kevin Dopart; Beverley Sharp)
Prize: ()

Week 1588, Published 05/02/2024
The Invitational Week 70: Colt Fusion
Because of our munificence and guilt, you get a full hundred foal names to 'breed' for 'grandfoals'
MAY 02, 2024

Screenshot of two kissy steeds we saw on a Facebook video.
Hello. Welcome to the finish line of the 31st Invitational Derby. As always, we challenged you to "breed" any two names from a list of 100 three-year-old racehorses initially considered for this year's Kentucky Derby . . . and then name the foal.

As always, there was a hemorrhage of entries, 1,769 of them, a daunting proportion of which were excellent. The Empress and The Czar made their first ruthless cut, eliminating all but the very, very, unquestionably best, thinking perhaps they had trimmed it to manageable length. Alas, they found they'd wound up with 260 names, far, far more than what the page and your patience could bear.

The Em and Cz then went back in, with gloves and goggles and chainsaws. It was an abattoir. Blood and flesh and bone fragments flew everywhere. And we still had 138. We felt the way Kristi Noem should have felt in dragging her puppy to the gravel pit. So we capitulated to ourselves. And now you get the benefit of our guilt, and lack of spine or bloodlust. We are running 100 inking entries instead of the usual sixty-five or seventy.

Which sets you up generously for the annual spinoff:

For Invitational Week 70: "Breed" any two of today's inking foal names and give the "grandfoal" a name that reflects both names, just as the foal names do. We even have a nice printable list of this week's foals right here (or type in

Just as with the Week 68 contest (and in real horse racing), a name may not exceed 18 characters including spaces; those characters may include punctuation and numerals. You may run words together to save space, but the name should be easy to read.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

The winner gets three adorable one-inch-long magnets each depicting the latter half of a cat -- so it looks as if their front halves have burst into your refrigerator, filing cabinet, coffin, etc. Donated by the ever-donating Dave Prevar.

They get into everything. The winning grandfoal gets three half-cats.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Sire Mix-a-Lot: The foal names of Week 68
This Saturday is the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby, America's oldest continually held major sporting event (The Invitational is second). Ten of the horses we cast into double-stud service today (they're all male) are scheduled to run; be sure to root for them in gratitude.

Ninety-eight of the 1,769 foals from Week 68 were sired by Awesome Wind, this year's busiest Invite dad. Thanks yet again to Loser Jonathan Hardis, who wrote a program back in 2015 to sort all the entries and otherwise wrestle them into a giant anonymous list, thus letting us judge this contest and the grandfoals every year without defenestrating ourselves.

Among the excellent entries too frequently entered to give individual ink to: Count Dracula x Generous Tipper = Blood and Gore; Pirate x Shards = Long John Sliver; Antiquarian x Awesome Wind = Old Fart; Dickens x Secret Lover = Oliver Tryst; Awesome Wind x Marceau = Silent but Deadly. (Don't use any of those names in this week's grandfoal contest.)

Third Runner-Up: Mr. Suds x Sequential = Drunk and Orderly (Jim Derby, Gettysburg, Pa.)

Second Runner-Up: Indispensable x For Your Pleasure = Knead It (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

First Runner-up: Count Dracula x Awesome Wind = Vladimir Tootin (Rebecca Foster, Falls Church, Va.)

And the winner of the pepperoni pizza earrings:
Dornoch x Next Level = Dorbell (Seth Christenfeld, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.)

Give It a Whirl x Eliminate = Honorable mentions
Mister Lincoln x Skip the Line = Skip the Play (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

Triple Espresso x Rocketeer = Buzz Aldrin (Ted Weitzman, Olney, Md.)

Awesome Wind x Candymaker = Toot Sweet (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Awesome Wind x Generous Tipper = Zephyr Me? (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Awesome Wind x Just Steel = He Who Smelted It (Doug Hembrey, Manassas, Va.)

Awesome Wind x One Red Cent = One Rude Scent (Tom Witte)

Banned for Life x Daily Grind = Persona Non Grater (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Banned for Life x Dornoch = Go Away! (Hildy Zampella, Sarasota, Fla.)

Banned for Life x For Your Pleasure = Peter Rose (Brian Cohen, Winston-Salem, N.C.)

Be You x Mr Fabricator = Be Ess (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

Candymaker x Epic Ride = Godiva (Mike Hammer, Arlington, Va.)

Candymaker x Banned for Life = See's and Desist (Mary McNamara, Washington, D.C.)

Candymaker x Eliminate = Reese's Feces (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Candymaker x Hancock = Willy Wanka (Tom Witte; Brian Cohen; Jeffrey Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

Catch a Tiger x Footprint = By the Toe (Rebecca Foster)

Fifth Avenue x Liberal Arts = Saks Education (Mia Wyatt, Ellicott City, Md.)

Count Dracula x Fifth Avenue = Suks (John Winant, Annandale, Va.)

Count Dracula x Fifth Avenue = Vampire State Bldg (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Count Dracula x Uncle Heavy = Belly Lugosi (Mary McNamara)

Crushed It x Give It a Whirl = Crushed Ti (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Crushed It x Pirate = Skillz+ Crossbones (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Dickens x Eliminate = Leak House (Steve Price, New York)

Dickens x One Red Cent = David Copper (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Dickens x One Red Cent = Nicholas Pennyby (Laurie Brink, Mineola, N.Y.)

Dickens x One Sharp Cookie = I Want S'more (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

Domestic Product x Just a Touch = Frottage Industry (Jonathan Paul)

Dornoch x Secret Lover = Ho's There (Rob Wolf, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Eliminate x El Grande = Get the Plunger (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

Eliminate x Rocketeer = Flush Gordon (Rob Wolf)

Endlessly x Count Dracula = All-Day Sucker (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Epic Ride x Count Dracula = Chevy Impaler (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Epic Ride x For Your Pleasure = Space Mountin' (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Epic Ride x Mr Fabricator = The Phony Express (Jonathan Paul)

Evening News x For Your Pleasure = This Just In (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

Feel the Magic x Just a Touch = Slight of Hand (Judy Freed)

Fierceness x Just Steel = Grrrder (Pamela Love, Columbia, Md.)

Fifth Avenue x Mr. Suds = De Beers (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Forever Young x Catch a Tiger = Pounce de Leon (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.; Matt Monitto, Bristol, Conn.)

Forever Young x Uncle Heavy = Paunch de Leon (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Forever Young x Frost Free = Ponce de Freon (Steve Smith)

Forever Young x Mannerly = Fountain of Couth (Chuck Helwig, Centreville, Va.)

Generous Tipper x Count Dracula = Gore (Larry Rifkin, Glastonbury, Conn.)

Gettysburg Address x Candymaker = Four Skor (Seth Christenfeld)

Gettysburg Address x Lonesome Boy = 4 Scores in 7 Yrs (Mark Raffman)

Gettysburg Address x Secret Lover = ConceivedInLiberty (Diana Oertel)

Give It a Whirl x Domestic Product = Ferris Weal (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Hades x Evening News = Damned Rather (Mary McNamara)

Hades x Nice and Good = Hath No Fury (Bill Dorner, Wolcott, Conn.; Jeffrey Rackow)

Hades x Nice and Good = Heck (Rob Wolf)

Hades x Resilience = Styx With It (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

Hades x Sequential = Hell MNOP (Charles Trahan, Columbia, Md.)

Hades x Sneak Preview = Junior High (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)

Hall of Fame x Eliminate = Pooperstown (Jesse Frankovich, traveling in Lexington, Ky.)

Indispensable x Jigsaw = Gotta Halve It (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Just a Touch x Common Defense = WhenYou'reFamous* (Jon Gearhart)

Just Steel x One Sharp Cookie = Razor Thin Mints (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

Kitty Hawk x For Your Pleasure = TheWrightBrothels (Steve Price)

Kitty Hawk x Legalize = I Know My Wrights! (Stephen Dudzik)

Mannerly x Give It a Whirl = Courtesy Flush (Mark Raffman)

Mannerly x Skip the Line = Please and Queues (Jesse Rifkin)

Skip the Line x Sequential = Seuential (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

Mannerly x Vote No = Have a Nice Nay (Judy Freed)

Marceau x Daily Grind = Working Mime to 5 (Brian Cohen)

Marceau x Secret Chat = (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.; Mike Gips)

Moonlight x Vote No = So Nada (Matt Monitto)

Mr. Suds x Mister Lincoln = Six-Pack Abes (Leif Picoult)

Mr. Suds x Skip the Line = Hops (Jeffrey Rackow)

Mr Fabricator x Dickens = Miss Have a Sham (Jeffrey Rackow)

Nash x One Sharp Cookie = Nosh (Seth Christenfeld)

Neat x Midnight Love = Neat-O (Tom Witte)

No More Time x Reaper = At the Buzzard (Jeff Hazle)

One Sharp Cookie x Eliminate = Famous Anus (Brian Cohen)

Prints Money x Uncle Heavy = Counterfatter (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Reaper x Pirate = Shiva Me Timbers (Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

Reaper x Works for Me = OneScytheFitsAll (Jonathan Paul)

Rocketeer x Neat = Straight Up (Mark Raffman)

Secret Lover x The Wine Steward = Zinfidelity (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Sequential x Mr Fabricator = Fibbin'acci (Matt Monitto)

Sierra Leone x Feel the Magic = Africadabra (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Slider x Secret Lover = Pitching Woo (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

Stoke the Fire x Mr Fabricator = BBQAnon (Stephen Dudzik)

The Wine Steward x Brawn = Brut Force (Diana Oertel)

The Wine Steward x Candymaker = Chateauneuf DuPeep (Frank Osen)

The Wine Steward x Just Steel = Hardonnay (Jeff Shirley)

The Wine Steward x T O Password = Magnum, PIN (David Peckarsky, Tucson, Ariz.)

Tiz My Hero x Perfectify = 'Tis My Hero (Mark Raffman)

Tourist x Endlessly = Mobius Trip (Jesse Frankovich)

Track Phantom x Lonesome Boy = Ghosted (Steve Geist, Mechanicsville, Md.; Malcolm Fleschner)

Trust Fund x Secret Lover = Tryst Fund (Terry Reimer, Frederick, Md.; Tom Witte)

Two Tons of Fun x Generous Tipper = Lardgesse (Tom Witte)

Utopian x Count Dracula = Fangri-La (Laurie Brink)

Uncle Heavy x Mr Fabricator = Blob the Builder (Frank Osen; Ted Weitzman)

Utopian x Vote No = Xana-don't (Jeffrey Rackow)

Waitlist x Generous Tipper = Table Just Opened! (Jon Gearhart)

Waitlist x Tiz My Hero = Standby Your Man (Jeff Contompasis)

And Last: Eliminate x Give Me a Reason = Your Entry Stank (Rob Cohen)

The headline "Sire Mix-a-Lot" is by Jesse Frankovich; Dave Prevar wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, May 4: our Week 69 contest to replace tired old expressions with fresh ones. Click on the link below.

Special clarifying note from the Czar about Week 69. Listen up: A Loser wrote in to us about the ongoing "Trite Stuff" contest, asking for a clarification on what we meant by specifying "no aphorisms."

Here's what we meant: We meant we don't want you to update old sayings or old saws that are so old you don't read or hear them much anymore, like "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," or "a stitch in time saves nine," or "early to bed, early to rise*" Instead, we're looking for expressions -- even full sentences -- that are used way too often today. Things we cringe at hearing. Most are trendy, like the examples we gave: "Walk us through" a document. "Drill down" to further examine an issue. Have something happen "in the wake of" something that happened before. Replace the quoted words, phrases, sentences with something new and funny. Okay? Cool.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Dave Prevar)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)
Add:H:1588: (Jonathan Hardis)

Week 1587, Published 04/25/2024
The Invitational Week 69: The Trite Stuff
Replace some well-worn phrases with better ones. Plus winning neologisms.
APR 25, 2024
Walla Walla, Washington: 14 Best Things To Do - Written Palette
This town turns less welcoming when its name gets tweaked as one of this week's neologism winners. See the Invitational results below.

Welcome to Week 69, a new wrinkle on an old theme. We thought of it while reading a couple of news websites and being mildly nauseated by some of the tired, cliched language we saw.

Replace "The devil is in the details" with "The devil is in the terms of service."
Avoid like the plague > Avoid like a coughing dentist in 2020.
Breathed a sigh of relief > Chugged a phew.
Burst out laughing > Saw Trump's hair in a stiff wind.

It's so easy -- and so lazy -- to reach for some overused phrase when you're writing. Not that we would do that even once in a blue moon. Cliches in our writing are scarce as hens' teeth!

For Invitational Week 69: Choose any writing cliche and propose a funny replacement, as in the examples above. Here are just a few that came to mind:

Fall in love
It all boils down to
Frightened to death
In the wake of
Walk you through
Drill down
It remains to be seen

You can use any of those, or any other you choose, so long as it is overused in speech or writing. (We are not looking for aphorisms! Send us no replacements for "an apple a day*" or "a stitch in time*")

Deadline is Saturday, May 4, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, May 9.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Format them as "Old saying > new saying" as in the examples above.

The winner gets a bright green plush, googly-eyed nerve cell, 1 million times actual size, which makes it about 3 inches long not counting its fringey feelers. If you've been singing "If I only had the noiv," like Bert Lahr, you could find out. Donated by the chronically neuronic Dave Prevar.

If you win, we'll make you really nervous.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Shift Happens: The back-to-front neologisms of Week 67
In Week 67 we asked you to choose any word or short phrase, move its last letter to become the first letter, then define the result.

Third runner-up: AWALL AWALL: There's no "Welcome to" sign in this Washington town. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Second runner-up: OGIZM: An extremely exciting thingamajig. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

First runner-up: EW: "I don't see us as a couple." (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

And the winner of the Nose Condom and some Loser Magnets:
BADLI: How one typically speaks when unprepared. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Back Sassward: Honorable mentions
YALMIGHT: Introductory admonition: "Yalmight wanna get right with God before you wind up in a lake of fire, just sayin'." (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

SVENU: The Norse love god. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Y'MAMA'S B.O.: A smell only a big baby like you could love. (Jesse Frankovich)

EAT ON!: What you really want to do on Yom Kippur. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

DADJUDICATE: "Because I said so. Case closed." (Craig Dykstra, Centreville, Va.)

SHIT: All the Top 40 songs since I graduated from college. (Sam Mertens)

D'OH, GOO!: What Homer Simpson says when he thinks things are going great and then he steps in a pile of it. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

EARS: "My words go in here, but they always seem to come right out your other end." (Judy Freed)

EEW: A sheep that tried to cross the highway. (Barbara Turner)

GEDIT IN!: Sure, you have to order your reporters to be fair and accurate, but mostly * (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

GEMPHASIZIN': Showing off one's bling. "Wanda was wavin' her hand so much while gemphasizin' that engagement ring, I expected traffic to stop." (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

GLANS IN: The sex capital of Michigan. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

ALABI: "I would have found my way around there if only I hadn't lost my glasses." (Judy Freed)

GOBJECTIN: Viscous substance emitted during angry shouting. (Gary Crockett)

COPE: "Gas prices are going up again -- deal with it." (Sam Mertens)

D-DONAL: "With this name you'd think I'd give stutterers a break, but not me!" (Gary Crockett)

DEJA CULATE: The feeling that you've already finished. (Jesse Frankovich)

TAT-TEMP: Someone who's just filling in at the body-ink studio. "Relax, I'm sure it will turn out fine. He took an art class at the community college." (Pam Shermeyer)

RUBE: Someone who tries to hail a ride from New York to L.A. (Jesse Frankovich)

MIB: Men in Blue. (Craig Dykstra)

'NOPE' RATIO: The fraction of men who will not even consider getting a vasectomy. (Gary Crockett)

O HELL: How you answer the phone when it's your ex calling. (Jonathan Jensen)

OPREST: What it's like to be a magician's rabbit. (Craig Dykstra; Jesse Frankovich)

OSCARJ: Megastar actress who lives in a trash can. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

SCAT: A legendarily crappy movie. (Duncan Stevens)

SEXPENSE: Hush money -- I mean "legal retainer." (Leif Picoult)

SHERPE: A known virus carrier. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

AEROTIC: The kind of magazines they read at the Mile High Club. (Duncan Stevens)

SPLATYPU: Australian roadkill. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

SUNDERPANT: To bust your rear -- or long for a divorce. (Ann Martin, Brentwood, Md.)

TA-DA MAN: "See, I told you I could do it!" (Judy Freed)

TARROGAN: An assertive herb that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. "Jack was lots of fun at the barbecue until he started pouring on the tarrogan." (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.; Jon Gearhart)

TEXCREMEN: Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton, Ted Cruz * (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

TEXT-ROVER: Someone who sends rambling updates overflowing with intimate details. (Jeff Contompasis)

TWINGLE: The glint in the sky from a falling piece of a Boeing. (Kevin Dopart)

USN AF: When a major command screwup causes service members to sigh and say, "That's so Navy." (Duncan Stevens)

Hllanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoc: Possibly something really insulting in Welsh? (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

The headline "Shift Happens" is by Jesse Frankovich; Frank Osen wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, April 27: our Week 68 wordplay contest to "breed" the names of this year's Triple Crown-eligible racehorses and name the "foal." Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Frank Osen)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1586, Published 04/18/2024
The Invitational Week 68: Pun for the Roses
Our annual crazy-popular horse 'breeding' wordplay contest. Plus winning anagrams.
APR 18, 2024

From a 1938 Kentucky Derby advertising poster. War Admiral's sire: Man O' War. (Not Invite-level clever.)
Breed Triple Crown nominees Gettysburg Address and Midnight Love and name their foal Four Scores

Triple Espresso x Next Level = Caffeine^8

Hancock x Stoke the Fire = Stroke the Fire



The Kentucky Derby has been run every single year since 1875. And while we at The Invitational are almost 149 years old ourselves, our "breeding" contest -- our most popular contest of the year -- has been running for only 29 of them. Our game is based on the tradition of naming racehorses by alluding to the name of either or both parents -- e.g., Perfectify, one of this year's horses, is the son of Above Perfection and Justify -- but we take it to the Next Level (another on this year's list) with puns and other zingy wordplay galore.

For Invitational Week 68: At this link ( is a list of 100 of the hundreds of 3-year-old thoroughbred racehorses initially considered for the 2024 Triple Crown races: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. "Breed" any two names and name the "foal" to humorously play off both parents' names, as in the examples above. (Yes, they're almost all male, so no, they won't actually be romancing in the future. Anyway, it's all about the names; we have no interest in the attributes of the actual horses.) You may submit as many as 25 pairings.

On the same link above, beneath the list of the horses' names: For your Guidance, Inspiration, and Just Plain Entertainment* are the inking entries from last year's contest. There are dozens and dozens, so if you're unfamiliar with our foal contest, you'll see what we're looking for. (Last year's winner, courtesy of Jesse Frankovich: Disarm x I Don't Get It = Stumped.)

Note these Hard 'n' Fast Rules!
-- As in thoroughbred racing, a name may not exceed 18 characters including spaces, but those characters may include punctuation and numerals. You may run words together to save space, but we strongly favor names that are easy to read (capitalizing the individual words helps).

-- Please write each entry in the A x B = C format of the examples above so we can sort the thousands of entries by horse-parent name.

-- Don't give a foal a name that's also on the list; such an entry never gets ink.

Deadline is Saturday, April 27, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, May 2, two days before Derby Day.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

That week's new contest will be our annual "grandfoal" challenge to breed any two of the winning names. (So if you're not a yearly Gene Pool subscriber, a measly $5 one-month subscription will let you enter the foal and grandfoal contests, plus get all the other Pool noodles.)

The winner of this year's Kentucky Derby gets a cool $3.1 million. The winner of our contest gets a cool pair of pizza earrings, complete with clips you can hang them from if your lobes are holeless.

Sorry, not kosher for Passover: This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Maim Brands: The product anagrams of Week 66
In Week 66 we asked you to rearrange the letters of a product or business name, then describe the resulting anagram.

Third runner-up:
FRANK'S HOT SAUCE > ANUS AFTERSHOCK: You definitely don't want to put this on everything. (Laura Clairmont, Venice, Fla.)

Second runner-up:
ROKU > R U OK? A service that checks on you if you've been holed up bingeing TV shows for a week and a half. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

First runner-up:
GOD BLESS THE USA BIBLE > OBESE BAG'S SHILL DEBUT: A grifter's attempt to cash in on credulous followers. "And the Lord did command that all of the children of Israel fork over $60 to help their leader float a bond for his porn-star hush-money trial." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

And the winner of the Toilet Hunting seated target-shooting game:
CHARMIN > HI, MR. CAN!: New from Procter & Gamble -- talking toilet paper! (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

INVITATIONAL > NO, I AIN'T VITAL: Honorable mentions
KAY JEWELERS > WEASEL JERKY: The restaurant chain that's de rigueur for dinner dates in Mississippi: "Every kiss begins with Weasel Jerky." (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

BUDWEISER > WIDE RUBES: The heavy beer for light thinkers. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

LEVI'S > EVILS: Jeans that make your butt look even bigger than you imagined. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

SHELL OIL COMPANY > HEY, MAN, COOL SPILL!: No oil-shaming with our ocean cleanup service! (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

TOOTSIE POPS > POOPSIE TOTS: For some reason, the dog seems to like these treats. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

AMAZON PRIME > MAIZE MA PORN: An internet channel where women do naughty things with corncobs. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

APPLE VISION PRO > A NIPPLE PROVISO: A VR set that comes with a porn-only stipulation. (Duncan Stevens)

BANK OF AMERICA > I AM FAKE, CAN ROB: A bot that will helpfully clean out your savings account. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

BUDWEISER > US BE WEIRD: Anheuser-Busch's new line of tofu-cheese beer. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

BUTTERFINGER > BUTTFINGERER: Let's just say you shouldn't pass them out on Halloween. (Jesse Frankovich)

FIRESTONE > RISE OFTEN: Rubber the right way with our boutique condom and ED products. (Kevin Dopart)

CHARMIN ULTRA SOFT > RICH MAN'S FLAT TOUR: Book your visit now to Trump's penthouse bathroom to see where he does his business. Make checks payable to the State of New York. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

COOL WHIP > LOCO WHIP: A THC-laced dessert topping that goes great on brownies. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

DAVE'S KILLER BREAD > DEVILLED BARK EARS > ABRADED ELK LIVERS: High-fiber spreads for high-fiber toast. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

DIOR > ROID: The ultimate high-fashion bodybuilder's brief. (Stu Segal, Southeast U.S.)

DUNKIN > UNKIND!: With every donut, we serve up some snide comments about your spare tire. (Beverley Sharp)

FIDELITY INVESTMENTS > INFIDELITY VESTMENTS: Our line of lingerie will yield solid dividends! (Jesse Frankovich)

FROOT LOOPS > STOOLPROOF: Delicious sugary-sweet low-fiber breakfast cereal that'll block you up for sure. (Jeff Contompasis)

GUINNESS STOUT > IGNEOUS STUNTS: The finest beer for flaming farts. (Chris Doyle)

JELL-O > O-JELL: With this personal lubricant, there's always room for * everything. (Tom Witte)

Lancome > CalmOne: Xanax-infused lotions and fragrances. (Chris Doyle)


MOLSON BEER > BOOMER LENS: Opticians specializing in geezers' beer goggles. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

MYPILLOW CLASSIC > I SIMPLY CALL COWS: When counting sheep isn't working, this model takes it up a level. (Duncan Stevens)

NATURE MADE > MANURED TEA: You said you wanted organic, right? Just don't let it steep for too long. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

NETFLIX > LEFTNIX: Tucker Carlson's new streaming service. (Jesse Frankovich)

POP-TARTS > POT PARTS: These pastries' special filling makes you even hungrier! (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

RALPH LAUREN > HER LUNAR PAL: Feel classy all over and under with designer sanitary pads. (Kevin Dopart)

TRUTH SOCIAL > OR A SHIT CULT: Six of one * (Neal Starkman)

UNDER ARMOUR SPORTSWEAR > MR. POOTER URANUS DRAWERS: Underwear with a methane filter. (Jon Gearhart)

The headline "Maim Brands" is by Jesse Frankovich; Kevin Dopart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, April 20: our Week 67 contest to move the last letter of a word to the beginning, and define the new word. Click on the link below.

The Invitational Week 67: Bring Up the Rear

Idea: ()
Examples: (Jesse Frankovich)
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Kevin Dopart)
Prize: ()

Week 1585, Published 04/11/2024
The Invitational Week 67: Bring Up the Rear
Move the last letter of a word to the front. Plus winning poems about artworks.
APR 11, 2024

<< Picture of "Woman Bitten by a Serpent sculpture by Auguste Clesinger >>

A runner-up in our Invitational contest for poems about works of art. See the rest of the Week 65 winners below. (Sculpture in the Musee d'Orsay, Paris)

O-RING: A band that holds a group together but is the weakest part of it. (Craig Dykstra)

SNIPPLE: Babies agree: the Best Stuff on Earth. (Kyle Bonney)

LB.-AGE: What you'll add from overeating breakfast carbs. (John McCooey)

Ever since those results from our 1998 change-one-letter contest started to move around "cyberspace" on "e-mail" and then on "the World Wide Web" -- and still pop up in corrupted form -- The Invitational has been known best for neologism contests, especially ones that ask you to take an existing word and alter it slightly to make a new word, usually relating somehow to the original.

Here's a variation that we did only one time, back in 2011. Maybe it was because we thought the results were so good that we worried we couldn't match them. Maybe we just forgot. Anyway, have at it.

For Invitational Week 67: Move the last letter of a word, phrase, or name to the front, and then define the result, as in the examples above from the original contest above (full results here). You can alter punctuation or capitalization.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Also as usual, please submit each individual entry as one single paragraph; i.e., don't push Enter until you're starting the next entry.

Deadline is Saturday, April 20, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, April 25.

Winner gets a little pink "Nose Condom," "for the safe practice of brown nosing." Complete with testimonials on the packaging like "Six months ago my boss didn't know I existed. Now it's weekends on his yacht." Donated (unused) by Dave Prevar. Warning: Don't Google this or you will get a very different product. This is such a lousy prize, even by our standards, that we'll throw in some vintage Loser Magnets.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

MoMA Mia! The artwork poems of Week 65
In Week 65 we asked you to choose any artwork we could run a picture of, and write a funny poem about it. The results were spectacular, as you will see. It turns out that Losers, in addition to being famous smart-asses, know more than a bit about art.

Third runner-up:
"Woman Bitten by a Serpent":
You never know when you're gonna be bitten,
Or tempted or taunted or suddenly smitten.
But one thing's for sure: if a snake's in the grass,
You'd better be certain to cover your ass.
(Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla)

Second runner-up:
Tracey Emin's "My Bed" at the Tate museum in Liverpool, 2016. Photo by Richard Stonehouse, Getty Images
"My Bed"
Tracey Emin broke all the rules from the start,
Thus becoming an enfant terrible of art.
Spending four days in bed drinking nothing but booze,
She declared it was art and got stellar reviews.
"My Bed" is unmade, stained with menstrual blood,
And the floor's strewn with underwear, condoms and crud.
The furor she caused, though, was quick to abate,
And today it's worth eight million pounds to the Tate.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

First runner-up:
"White Painting [three panel]," by Robert Rauschenberg
"It's brilliant, Bob!" gushed the curator on the phone.
"Daylight and shadow make a shifting tone-on-tone!"
Puzzled at his praise, I glanced at the crate
Where my finished artwork still sat in wait.
The couriers must have grabbed the other box,
The one with three blank canvases fresh from the docks!
Pausing just briefly, I said, "Gerald, you're too kind.
But I'm glad you see precisely what I designed!"
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

And the winner of the "Scream" finger puppet:

"Grey Lines with Black, Blue, and Yellow":
Like so many of Georgia O'Keeffe's works of art,
This resembles a delicate feminine part.
But she swore that it's simply a flower revealed;
As to anything further, her lips remain sealed.
(Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

ILL AT EASEL: Honorable mentions

Two reflections on "The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo:

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
Has a fresco that's a zinger --
What is it that Adam's saying?
I suspect it's "Pull my finger."
(Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

If Adam had a mother not,
That navel must be Photoshopped!
If he was first, who took this shot?
It's time this AI crap is stopped!
(Hildy Zampella, Sarasota, Fla.)

"Luncheon on the Grass" by Edouard Manet:
What have we here, in shades of green
With blue, and yellow ocher?
A woman who from this day forth
Will never play strip poker.
(Jonathan Jensen)

"The Scream", by Edvard Munch:
Flouting painter pedagogy,
Munch produced the first emoji.
(Gary Crockett)

Two reflections on "The Thinker", by Auguste Rodin:

Is there a nobler pursuit than thinking?
Using our brains to examine, unblinking,
The difficult questions of our lives,
Like hit or stand with a six and two fives?
Or in my case, the inner muse chants:
I wonder where you left your pants?
(Pam Shermeyer)

He's naked and having the deepest of thoughts
On some toilet-height solid rock seating.
If sculpted today he'd be on a bidet
And not thinking, just scrolling and tweeting.
(Gary Crockett)

"The Kiss", by Gustav Klimt:
The models were directed: a mouth-to-mouth embrace.
But when he tried to kiss her lips, she quickly turned her face.
With a sore and twisted neck, her panties in a bunch,
She said, "You had to go and have some herring for your lunch?"
(Judy Freed)

"Fountain", by Marcel Duchamp:
At first, to calling "Fountain" art the critics made objection
Because the exhibition's men's room had a whole collection.
(Jesse Frankovich)

"Venus of Willendorf":
It's thirty thousand years or so
Since you were last alive;
If you were here, the Orange Bro
Would rate you a 1.5.
(Duncan Stevens)

the lovers ii, 1928 by rene magritte
"the lovers ii," by rene magritte, 1928
when they met at the bar, they were drunk.
he thought she was cute; she thought "hunk!"
but, in truth, beauty's fleeting.
that's why they make sheeting --
so daylight won't change what they thunk.
(Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

"The Abduction of Proserpina", by Bernini:
A scene that strikes a nerve for many ladies:
Persephone is set upon by Hades.
The piece was carved four hundred years ago,
And men still haven't learned that "no" means no.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

"i am," by salvatore garau, 2021 (read about it here)
"i am" was nothing to look at,
on its elegant white stand,
But became a "must haven't" for eighteen grand
When a buyer bought the empty space,
Called a "density of thoughts" -- and with a straight face --
By the artist of the sculpture made only of air,
Who was happy to certify: Nothing was there. (Stu Segal, "Southeast U.S.")

Two reflections on Michelangelo's "David"

I stand here in this gallery in Florence,
Where crowds of tourists, much to my abhorrence
Still come to gawk and laugh at limitations
Apparent on all David imitations
Around the world, with whom I share this linkage:
We're all unwilling poster boys for shrinkage.
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Young Abishag was hired for to lie beneath the sheet
Beside the aging David to provide the king with ... heat.
The Bible says that Dave showed no reaction to her touch --
If Mikey's art is true to life, she wasn't missing much.
(Elliott Shevin, Efrat, West Bank)

"Hometown Lake" by Thomas Kinkade (see it here)
The price of "Hometown Lake" might rise
Now that Tom's defunct,
Although we're asking post-demise
Why it's not been junked. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

"Washington Crossing the Delaware", by Emanuel Leutze:
Hey, George, this attack's s'posed to happen at night --
Not so steathy to do it by day!
And what's with the green-shirted dude on the right?
Why's he paddling the opposite way?
(Duncan Stevens)

The "flying skirt" photo of Marilyn Monroe, by Weegee (Arthur Fellig), 1954
In some lines of work, they say, "Dress for success!"
In others, the mantra "Success means undress!"
So Marilyn (never applauded as chaste)
Was caught with her skirt flapping up to her waist.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

"Judith Beheading Holofernes," by Artemisia Gentileschi, c. 1620
She's in the act of slicing through his neck;
On seeing it, my first reaction's "Yech!"
But then that's followed by "Am I psychotic?"
Because it's disconcertingly erotic. (Frank Osen)

"Orange and Yellow" by Mark Rothko (see it here)
"Orange and Yellow" might evoke a vibrant sunny morn,
But I believe it gives a close-up view of candy corn. (Jesse Frankovich)

Edward Hopper's "New York Movie," 1939.
We see ourselves set out among the towers,
Engage the streets, fight for a life and win it.
A half-lived life with unmet chances sours
The mind, and all the aspirations in it.

What--have a dream? She's too tired to begin it.
If she could choose just one from all the powers,
She'd leave her station in a New York minute,
But she must stay for two more goddamned hours.
(David Franks, Washington County, Ark.)

A well-intentioned parishioner at a 16th-century Spanish church attempted some art restoration in 2012:
"Hey ma'am, big thanks for painting touch-up!
Your efforts, they were spunky,
Don't bring results of it too much up:
Christ now looks like a monkey.
(Duncan Stevens)

The headline "MoMA Mia!" is by Lee Graham; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, March 13: our Week 66 contest to make an anagram of a business or product. Click on the link below.

The Invitational Week 66: Seeds of Change

NEXT WEEK, THE HORSES! Next Thursday, April 18, we'll have our annual wordplay contest to "breed" the names of two of this year's Triple Crown-nominated racehorses and name the "foal" that cleverly alludes to both names. Even if you're not a yearly subscriber, you can enter this contest AND the "grandfoal" contest two weeks hence for just the single-month $5 for the whole race card, along with all the other stuff for that whole month. Subscribe now to make sure you get the email notification.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Craig Dykstra; Kyle Bonney; John McCooey)
Title: (Lee Graham)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1584, Published 04/05/2024
The Invitational Week 66: Seeds of Change
Make an anagram of a name-brand product. Plus winning 15-name chains.
APR 05, 2024

BURPEE'S > PEE RUBS: A diaper rash product.

PREGO SPAGHETTI SAUCE > STAGIER CHEAPO GETUPS: Your one-stop shop for chicken-feather boas and genuine plastic Swaroffsky crystals!

FROSTED MINI-WHEATS > DIRTIEST AF SHOWMEN: Liven up your mornings with an assortment of these goodies -- even better served with a Pop-Tart.

Hello! Today we present a brand-newR contest that we've never done before, at least in the last 6,000 years of The Invitational, though we can't be certain because our memories aren't what they used to be back before we were pre-menopausal and had prostate glands smaller than beanbag chairs. Anyhoo, here's the contest:

Choose any company name or name-brand product and rearrange all its letters into another business or product, and describe it. You might or might not include both the company name and the product name (e.g., either Frosted Mini-Wheats or Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats is fine) but don't do something purely generic, like "spaghetti sauce." While you must use all the letters in the original, you may delete or add punctuation as you like.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Format them as you'd like to see them published.

Deadline is Saturday, April 13, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, April 18.

The winner gets a vintage Toilet Hunting Game, discovered at a thrift store by Invite Fan Since Toddlerhood Valerie Holt. We normally recommend devoting one's reign on the throne to writing Invitational entries, but we're also seeing possibilities for inspiration here.

They TOLD you to improve your aim, right? This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Nudge Nudge, Link Link: The name chains of Week 64
In Week 64 we asked you to make a chain of up to fifteen names -- of people, brands, titles of works, etc. -- in which each name somehow related to the one before it, as simply as a similar surname, or something else less obvious: some shared experience, a reference to the person's work, or, best, some clever joke (see Elton JOHN * W.C. Fields below). The chain could begin and end with the same name, or the two ends could relate in some way, even as opposites. Some of the chain-links below might evince a whaaa?; feel free to ask about them today in the comments or questions, and we'll hash them out.

Even though we'd explicitly specified that the chain was to be made up of proper nouns, dozens of entries included such non-names as "genetic code," "urine," and "hand job." (Although, yes, each of those would be a good name for a rock band, and probably is one somewhere.) As Loser Since Year 1 Dave Zarrow noted when the Empress lamented the non-names on Facebook, wondering if people didn't understand the directions: "I was an English major and I assure you I know what a proper noun is. What I don't know is what directions is."

Third runner-up:
Joe Biden; Joe Namath; "Bennie and the Jets"; Elton John; W.C. Fields; "Strawberry Fields Forever"; Darryl Strawberry; Lou Gehrig; "The Pride of the Yankees"; "Death Be Not Proud"; John Donne; Brooks & Dunn; Mel Brooks; "The 2000 Year Old Man"; Joe Biden. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Second runner-up:
Barbie; Skipper; "Gilligan's Island," Newton Minow; "The Waste Land"; Baba O'Riley; Ali Baba; Ali Hakim; Curly; the Three Stooges; Trinity; "Oppenheimer." (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

First runner-up:
Jesus Christ; Christmas; New Year's Day; Election Day; Donald Trump? JESUS CHRIST! (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

And the winner of the alligator socks:
Beyonce; "Texas Hold 'Em"; "Poker Face"; Lady Gaga; "Shallow"; Bradley Cooper; Leonard Bernstein; Leonardo DiCaprio; "Gangs of New York"; York Peppermint Pattie; Schroeder; Beethoven; Def Jam; Jay-Z; Beyonce. (Chris Doyle)

Trail of Nears: Honorable mentions
DJT; Melania Trump; Melanie Griffith; Griffith Park; Los Angeles; "Angel from Montgomery"; Rosa Parks; "Parks and Recreation"; Amy Poehler; "The Polar Express"; Tom Hanks; Mister Rogers. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Jack Smith; Captain John Smith; Jamestown; King James; Martin Luther King; Ebenezer Baptist Church; Ebenezer Scrooge; Tiny Tim; Miss Vicki; Victoria Beckham; the Spice Girls; "Who Do You Think You Are"; Donald Trump. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Alex Ovechkin; Magic 8 Ball; Magic Johnson; Boris Johnson; Winston Churchill; Winnie-the-Pooh; Christopher Robin; Christopher Marlowe; William Shakespeare; Puck; Alex Ovechkin. (Stephanie Martin, Arlington, Va., whose only previous Invitational ink was in 1996)

Barbie; Roald Dahl; "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"; Charlie Parker; Tweety Bird; Sylvester Stallone; Rocky and Bullwinkle; Boris Johnson; Blondie; Debbie Harry; "When Harry Met Sally"; Meg Ryan; Ryan Gosling; Ken; Barbie. (Chris Doyle)

Elizabeth Holmes; "Bitch Better Have My Money"; Rihanna; "Shut Up and Drive"; Jack Nicklaus; Jack London; London, England; Queen Elizabeth; Elizabeth Holmes. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Hannibal Lecter; Hannibal the general; Robert E. Lee; Francis Lightfoot Lee; Gordon Lightfoot; Gordon Ramsay. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Harriet Tubman; the Underground Railroad; the Velvet Underground; Lou Reed; "Venus in Furs"; Venus Williams; Essie Mae Washington-Williams; Strom Thurmond. (Roy Ashley)

Henry Gibson; "Laugh-In"; Ruth Buzzi; Babe Ruth; "Baseball"; Ken Burns; Ken; Barbie; "A Doll's House"; Henrik Ibsen. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Batman; Robin Hood; Little John; John Major; 10 Downing Street; White House; "Casablanca"; Ingrid Bergman; Ingmar Bergman; "Wild Strawberries"; Captain Queeg; Cap'n Crunch; Count Chocula; Count Dracula; Batman. (Chris Doyle)

Bruce Springsteen; Boss Tweed; Thomas Nast; Conde Nast; Vogue; Madonna; Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Popeye the Sailor Man; Captain Jack Sparrow; Johnny Depp; Hunter S. Thompson, Raoul Duke; "The Dukes of Hazzard"; Boss Hogg; Bruce Springsteen. (Chris Doyle)

Cap'n Crunch; Captain Stubing; "The Love Boat"; Banana Boat; Chiquita Juice & Smoothie; "Beetlejuice;" Lauren Boebert; Quinn Gallagher; "Do That To Me One More Time"; the Captain and Tennille. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Hunter Biden; Holly Hunter; Holly Golightly; Audrey Hepburn; "My Fair Lady"; Judge Judy; Judy Garland; Dorothy; Kansas; "Carry On Wayward Son"; Hunter Biden. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Jack Black; "Billy Jack"; Bill Murray; "Stripes"; the White Stripes; Jack White. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

"The Art of the Deal"; Art Garfunkel; "America"; Kraft American Cheese; Minecraft; "Mein Kampf." (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

The Dalai Lama; "Hello, Dolly!"' Carol Channing; "Gentleman Prefer Blondes"; Marilyn Monroe; Joe DiMaggio; Mr. Coffee; Mr. Peanut; George Washington Carver; Sonny Perdue; Frank Perdue; Chicken Little; Josh Hawley. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis, Md.)

Josh Hawley; Holly Golightly; "The Light Fantastic"; "Fantastic Mr. Fox"; Fox News; Leni Riefenstahl; Lenny Bruce; Bruce Springsteen; "Born to Run"; Josh Hawley. (Duncan Stevens)

Nancy Pelosi; the Wicked Witch; "The Wizard of Oz"; "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"; Elton John; "Bennie and the Jets"; Jack Benny; Jack the Ripper; Nancy Pelosi. (Jesse Frankovich)

Mao Zedong; Henry Kissinger; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Conrad Hilton; Joseph Conrad; "Heart of Darkness"; "Heartbreak Hotel"; "Hotel California"; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Maria Shriver; Jack Kennedy; Richard Nixon; Mao Zedong. (Kenneth Enright, Setubal, Portugal)

Donald Trump; Donald Duck; Walt Disney; Walt Whitman; "O Captain! My Captain!"; Captain Underpants; "Below the Belt"; Pussy Galore; Donald Trump. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Donald Trump; Ronald McDonald; Michael McDonald; the Doobie Brothers; "What a Fool Believes"; Donald Trump. (Steve Smith)

The Gardens of Versailles; Louis XIV; Le Grand Dauphin; Flipper; Florida Keys; Jimmy Buffett; "Why Don't We Get Drunk"; Rudy Giuliani; Four Seasons Total Landscaping. (Pam Shermeyer)

Tom Thumb; Thumbelina; Hans Christian Andersen; Anderson Cooper; the Mini Cooper; Minnie Mouse; Mao Zedong; Cultural Revolution; Revolutionary War; Paul Revere; Paul Bunyan. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Twitter; the Bluebird of Happiness; "Happy Days"; Henry Winkler; Henry James; James Bond; "Skyfall"; Chicken Little; Malcolm Little; X. (Kevin Dopart)

Yogi Berra; "Damn Yankees"; "You Gotta Have Heart"; "Heart of Gold"; Neil Young; Neil Diamond; Diamond Jim Brady; Jim Henson; Fozzie Bear; Yogi Bear. (Jonathan Jensen)

Batman; Babe Ruth; Homer Simpson; Play-Doh; "The Republic"; Richard Stans; "American Bandstand"; Dick Clark; Clark Kent; Superman. (Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

Debbie Harry; Dirty Harry; "Dirty Dancing"; Baby; Donald J. Trump; Stormy Daniels; Blondie; Debbie Harry. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

Zbigniew Brzezinski; Mika Brzezinski; MSNBC; NBC News; New York Daily News; The Daily Planet; Clark Kent; Superman; Mr. Mxyzptlk. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

And Last: Vladimir Putin; "Puttin' On the Ritz"; "Young Frankenstein"; Gene Wilder; Gene Weingarten; Czar Nicholas II. (Gary Crockett)

The headline "Nudge Nudge, Link Link" is by Tom Witte; Neil Kurland wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, March 6: Our Week 65 contest to write a funny poem about the work of art of your choice. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Tom Witte)
Subhead: (Neil Kurland)
Prize: (Valerie Holt)
Add:H:1584:(Dave Zarrow)

Week 1583, Published 03/28/2024
The Invitational Week 65: A Thousand Words
Write a funny poem about the artwork of your choice. Plus winning rewrites of the State of the Union.
MAR 28, 2024
Credit: Universal Images Group via Getty Images/Bildagentur-online
Why we're so fond-a
Ms. Gioconda:
Why is this lady smiling?
And why is it so darn beguiling?
Here's a theory (just one):
The painter's fly was undone.

Hello. This week's contest idea is stolen from The Spectator, a British magazine that has been running its humor contest so long that it is is actually older than The Invitational, which is itself older than dirt scraped from Socrates' sandal.

For Invitational Week 65: Write a humorous poem about the work of visual art of your choice; include a link to the picture if it's not, you know, as trite as the Mona Lisa. It can be a painting, a sculpture, or anything else reasonably well known that you define as "art." We are very lenient. Yes, "Dogs Playing Poker" would qualify. Your poem must contain at least one rhyme. The joke in the verse above was, appropriately, stolen by us from Chris Doyle, who made it many years ago in The Style Invitational, which was itself stolen from the New York Magazine Competition.

Good, then.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Format them as you'd like to see them published.

Deadline is Saturday, April 6, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, April 11.

The winner, apropos of our High Art focus this week, gets a Edvard Munch "Scream" character finger puppet. We are angstful to Dave Prevar for the donation.

Seems to fit best on the middle one: This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

The New Word Order: The SOTU rewrites of Week 63
In Week 63 we showed you a transcript of President Biden's State of the Union address and invited you to pluck words from it and rearrange them into some funny statement -- either from an alternate SOTU (as most entries did) or something else. The hundreds and hundreds of results were incredibly clever and funny; the Czar wanted to choose twelve finalists instead of four, until the Empress declared that this would violate some basic rule of God and The Natural Order of the Universe and they fought about it with Biblical ferocity and she won.

Thanks heaps to Loser Gary Crockett, who designed a computer program to check that each entry contained only words that Biden said (we allowed for changes in punctuation and capitalization).

Third runner-up:
What if I put a million soldiers on the border and build a 100-foot wall from Texas to the Pacific? Will any of you Republicans vote for me? No? How about I cut taxes on the wealthy to zero -- would that work? No again? What if I also put an end to Obamacare? What do you say? Still no? Well, I'll be darned! Are you guys all brain-dead or do you just hate me that much? Let's get the hell out of here -- Jill, it's time for us to leave. I'll see you at the car. (Chris Doyle, Denton Tex.)

Second runner-up:
Did you hear about the Jewish mother whose oldest child wanted to become President? She said: "Good for you. I support whatever you choose to do. And I don't want to burden you. But though I've been managing my health without your help, my eyes, face, foot, back, and arms don't feel right, I'm at risk for diabetes and advanced arthritis, and I've been blocked up for three weeks. Having a doctor in the family would not be so bad either. Just saying." (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

First runner-up:
The next president could give free fentanyl to every baby, equip the military with water guns, and put marijuana farms in every kindergarten class -- and he would still be better than my predecessor. (Gregory Koch, Falls Church, Va.)

And the winner of the earrings that look as if your lobes are being impaled by a cat:
You say I am ancient, but not so! I am certain that Franklin Roosevelt was dead before I was elected to the Senate, and I never even met President Lincoln! I also did not go across the Delaware with that other fellow! I also was not there for the crossing of the Red Sea! I just want to be clear about this. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Groandiloquence: Honorable mentions
I have a dream. In it, I'm elected president again and, like my best friend Putin, can have guys who are in my way dropped from a grand 58-story building -- one that's named after me. -- Donald Trump (Chris Doyle)

The story that the talk show folks all tell:
They say that I was born and live in hell.
I should be jailed for crimes so dark and bad
That learning of them could send most folks mad.
I've led the the Justice group toward one mad goal:
The persecution of a good, kind soul
Who's absolutely very innocent--
So down the pipes this once-great country went.
I'm also ancient, though--so sick and old
My brain is gone! I cannot even hold
A thought! By now it's not at all clear whether
I've got the sense to put three words together.
One story or the other they should choose?
Don't have to when you talk for cable news. (Duncan Stevens)

Before voting for any Republican who's endorsed the predecessor, I would choose Snickers bars taken from my behind. -- Democratic voter (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

The Republicans are saying that I'm so old, my first girl-friend was Bettie Rubble, when the truth is, it was Franklin Roosevelt's sister. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

I can't remember if I put my supporter on tonight. That hands-job woman might crack me in my junk. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Every voter must remember the words of my predecessor, who said (and this is an exact quote): "We are a nation that just heard that Saudi Arabia and Russia will we-be-do-a." (Frank Osen)

"Bragging, it's what I do. I have the best brain, the best chaos, the best bowing. My businesses all do great, not counting most or all of my businesses." (Leif Picoult)

As we look around today, we see war, poverty, crime, disease, climate change, and Republicans. People often ask me: "Mr. President, how are you able to remain optimistic in these times?" I tell them, "Thank God for marijuana!" (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

I know a lot about inflation stopping, thanks to having a very old member. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Is there an over/under on how many times I'll say "my predecessor" tonight? No? Well, there must be some way I can make money from this. Wait, I know! Products! What if I dropped a Snickers line in there? Can I get away with saying "Nationwide is on your side," or is that too obvious? (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

My wife told me our love life could use something new. So I said, "How about a three-way?" She said, "Great idea! You choose the two guys and then you can watch." (Chris Doyle)

I fear for my predecessor. Right now he is very close to Putin, but that may not last long. He might know too much. I'm just saying that, if he goes to Moscow, he should not stand around in a high place with nothing to protect him from falling, if you know what I mean. (Duncan Stevens)

Why would you vote for my predecessor? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? (Gregory Koch)

So you've heard that my predecessor needs money. Half a billion dollars, give or take a few more convictions. So give what you can and let's show how much we love and respect him! (Everyone snickers and goes back to looking at their phones.) (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Folks, the other fellow has it tough right now, and I feel bad for him. What say all 500 people here give him 500,000 dollars each? He really needs the bucks. That would pay almost half of his court penalties, you know, and he will not have to mortgage his house. I hope everyone chips in. (Duncan Stevens)

Private companies are investing billions to build new chip factories in America, but you know what? Even they will probably put fewer chips in the same size bag. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

We are the party of freedom and God,
Of billionaires, guns and the fetus.
So patriots, rise -- with our money and lies
We'll make sure that the Left cannot beat us. (Jonathan Jensen)

As a mother, I fear for our young ones. You should too. This is what can now be found in kindergarten books: "A little to the right ... Some more to the left ... Oh yes ... Yeah ... baby ... Right there ... Oh ... God ... Just like that." Save our innocent children! Keep books banned! -- President, Women's Coalition of Conservatives Standing Against Women Even Though We ARE Women (Judy Freed)

My wife Jill has had it tough, you know. She once went up to a high place with her friend Jackie to bring back some water, and the fellow had a serious accident! His brain got extremely broken! Jill fell down as well but lived to tell the story. You might have heard about this before. (Duncan Stevens)

Good evening, America. I have something important to share with you tonight. Up to now I've always been called "he" and "him." Over the years there's been a change in the way I see myself. From now on I would like everyone to use the words "they" and "them" when talking about me. Jill * is something the matter? (Jonathan Jensen)

I have spoken to Russian President Gorbachev *what is that, Madam Vice President? *oh, President Putin *about the war in Iran* I mean Ukraine* (Jon Ketzner)

My predecessor is the greatest president this country has ever seen. Wait, am I reading that right? I ask your forgiveness. My eyes aren't what they used to be. (Eric Nelkin)

Once, I had this dream where I was being beaten with a scourge in Pier 1, while making love to three nurses from Sweden, one of whom was wrenching a triple-A battery in and out of my behind. I tell you this freely because the other guy's sexual dreams are always about Putin and Hitler. (Frank Osen)

I hate to say this, but the other fellow is not very smart. He is not the sharpest of tools in the small building where you keep things like that. There are brighter electric units on the big cut plant you put in your living room before January. The battery operates, but nobody is home. His card collection has been found to miss a few. You know what I mean. (Duncan Stevens)

What do I plan for my next term? Things that are way from the beaten path. We will put all of our college students in kindergarten again. We will shrink the Capitol to, say, one foot high, and have everyone plant jasmine in their cars. We will give each NATO member fifteen hundred Snickers bars. I am not sure why we will do these things, but it will be great. (Duncan Stevens)

And Last: Are you a derailed Loser, hungry for ideas for your competition? Let me help you -- just read my State of the Union address, removing choice words and manufacturing something new and different! Conservatives do this to me all the time! (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

The headline "The New Word Order" is by Jeff Contompasis; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, March 30: Our Week 64 name-chain contest. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Chris Doyle)
Title: (Jeff Contompasis)
Subhead: (Tom Witte)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1582, Published 03/21/2024
Invitational Week 64: You're Workin' on a Chain, Gang
A classic connection game. Plus winning ways to stress yourself out.
MAR 21, 2024

Hello. Welcome to the new Invitational Gene Pool, which is new but also old.

It is the oldest Gene Pool Invitational ever, in fact, so old that it dates from a time when the Gene Pool was not yet even a gene or a zygote or a gamete or a pool or anything, though it might have been recognized as a human life by the state of Alabama. It was, at the time, a contest in New York Magazine, run by a very smart woman named Mary Ann Madden, and she had pioneered a type of contest requiring readers to link names, in a maddeningly brilliant sequence, starting with one name and ending with the same name. At the tender and sullen age of 21 or so, Gene entered this contest, one entry only, which included "U.S. Grant" linked to "Ford Foundation." This link was published in New York Magazine, in the famed New York Magazine Competition, but attributed to someone else. Gene was outraged and pledged to spend the remainder of his miserable life avenging this terrible slight, and he did, starting The Invitational as The Style Invitational, in 1993, vengefully determined to destroy the New York Magazine Competition.

He succeeded, and here we are today. No one alive remembers the New York Magazine Competition, except us, with a little guilt. We have perpetrated several knockoffs of the name-chain contest, including the two versions we'll use today. The first is identical -- start with a name and end with the same name -- and the second is a variation: Start with a name and end with a very, very different name, but one that has some sort of (probably negative) connection with the first:

Colin Kaepernick; "QB VII"; Leon Uris; Leon Panetta; Caspar Weinberger; Casper the Friendly Ghost; the Holy Ghost; God; Pope Francis; Francis Scott Key; "The Star-Spangled Banner"; Colin Kaepernick (Chris Doyle)

Kim Kardashian; Lil Kim; Little Richard; "Good Golly Miss Molly"; Molly Shannon; Shannon, Ireland; Kathy Ireland; Christie Brinkley; Billy Joel; "Allentown"; Steve Allen; Merv Griffin; Eva Gabor; Eddie Albert; Albert Einstein. (Hildy Zampella)

NY Mag called its name chain contest the Game of Dan Greenburg -- the same humorist whose book coincidentally inspired this week's (unrelated) Invitational results below. Here's how we'll do it this time.

For Invitational Week 64: Create a chain of no more than 15 proper nouns -- names of people (real or fictional), products, places, etc. -- in which each name relates somehow to the previous one, as in the examples above from our 2006 name chain contest (results here). What we're looking for is, duh, clever and funny. You may bookend the list either with the same name, as in the first example, or with contrasting ones, as in the second.

We're asking you to briefly explain the less obvious links -- but only at the end of your entry. That way we can judge your entry without seeing the explanation, but be able to peek if we don't get it.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Also as usual, please submit each individual entry -- including any explanations in parentheses -- as one single paragraph; i.e., don't push Enter until you're starting the next entry.

Deadline is Saturday, March 30, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, April 4.

The winner gets a handsome pair of socks that appear to be alligator heads eating your ankles. Highly recommended for wearing to your IRS audit.

mens trendy cartoon crocodile pattern crew socks breathable comfy casual unisex socks for mens outdoor wearing all seasons wearing street style 0
Wear them with Crocs? This week's prize. (

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Say Yes to the Stress: The anxiety-producers of Week 62
In Week 62, inspired by Dan Greenburg's 1960s humor classic How to Make Yourself Miserable, we asked for strategies on how to increase anxiety.

Third runner-up: When giving a public speech, imagine that you are naked. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Second runner-up: Start to say something, then notice that the word on the tip of your tongue is staying right there on the tip, but not coming out of your mouth. Immediately assume you have early-onset Alzheimer's. Google "What is the word for when you can't think of the word you want to say" and freak out even more because you knew it was called aphasia but couldn't think of it. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

First runner-up: If you have financial worries, just stop spending money on your anti-anxiety medication. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

And the winner of a copy of "How to Make Yourself Miserable": Tell the tattoo artist to "surprise me." (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Nervous Nearlies: Honorable mentions
Ask Elon Musk to name your newborn, promising to use whatever name he chooses. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Regularly worry that the recurring dream I have about being in school naked is my real life and that my dreams are actually the boring crap I thought was real. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

You worry that your recently published paper on "impostor syndrome" will expose you for the incompetent hack you are. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Do incriminating internet searches like "undetectable poisons" and "how to hide a human body" and hope nothing bad happens to anybody you know for a few years. (Sam Mertens)

My date ordered a roasted garlic appetizer and an entree with garlic sauce. I worry: Is she trying to tell me she doesn't want to kiss me later? Warding me off like I'm a vampire? Or maybe she just likes garlic? Should I go heavy on the garlic, too, signaling that we have something in common? Or will she interpret that as a sign that I don't want to kiss her? But I do want to kiss her. So I guess I should indicate that by not ordering anything with garlic? Maybe I should get something with a mint sauce? (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Before embarking on a long drive in risky road conditions, don a pair of tattered, pee-stained underwear. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

When you've climbed halfway up to your second-story roof, the ladder's right leg suddenly sinks two inches. You figure that if you keep your weight toward the left leg, you'll probably be okay. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis, Md.)

Write "DEFUND THE POLICE" on your driver's license with a Sharpie, then remove a taillight bulb. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Call your mother. (Jesse Frankovich)

Go to a cemetery. Note all the headstones of people born after you. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

I worry that my toenails will stop growing before I reach my goal: flipping the light switch without getting out of bed. (Jon Gearhart)

You worry that if cigar is just a cigar, then your life's work is meaningless, but if it's not, then why do you always have one in your mouth? -- S. Freud (Steve Smith)

If I wanted to make myself really nervous, I'd rearrange the pencils on my desk so that they are no longer in order of length. (Luther Jett, Washington Grove, Md.)

Program a speaker to occasionally play Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor when you open your basement door. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Ride all night on the New York City subway with only a "Bang!" flag pistol in your pocket to protect you. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Volunteer as a judge in a fugu chef competition. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Volunteer to bring cupcakes to the office for the boss's birthday, then carry them in on a plate, riding your unicycle. (Duncan Stevens)

Send an OK Cupid message to someone you really like. Immediately realize that you sounded like a total dork. Obsess over whether to send a follow-up message. Doubt that someone like him would even read another message from someone as dorky as you. Consider permanently deleting your profile. Worry that if you do, you will most likely die single, alone, and mysteriously bloated. (Judy Freed)

At your wedding, unconditionally trust a fart. (Kevin Dopart)

Summer is almost here and it's time to bring out your swimsuit from the back of your dresser. To calm your nerves, you polish off a sleeve of Oreos. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Take a knee during the National Anthem at a Klan meeting. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Save a few bucks and cancel the home insurance. (Sam Mertens)

Instead of picturing the audience in their underwear, when I give a speech I picture them in my underwear. Not only is this just as ineffective at decreasing anxiety, but then you also face that alarming question: "How did all these people get my underwear?" (Josh Feldblyum, Springfield, Pa.)

When shopping for a Valentine's Day present for your wife, buy her some chocolates, but also buy a lacy bra and put it under the bed. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

When sitting next to Travis Kelce at a Taylor Swift concert, call for "Free Bird." (Jon Ketzner)

When the toilet's clogged, try your luck that an extra flush will clear things and not make them overflow. (Sam Mertens)

You alternately worry that your daughter won't get into an Ivy League school and, if she does, that voters will find out she's attending an Ivy League school. -- T. Cruz (Steve Smith)

You secretly fear there's more to fear than fear itself. -- FDR (Steve Smith)

Take a little blue pill or two before giving your presentation to the League of Women Voters. (Chris Doyle)

And Last: Complain to Pat and Gene that you don't get enough ink. Then, when you still don't get ink, wonder if that's because you complained, or if it's because your entries still suck. (Leif Picoult)

And Even Laster: Should I quit doing this silly contest? If I do, I'll have a little more spare time. I could start a new hobby, maybe pick up a new skill. But after I quit people might THINK I'm still entering, and that I never get ink because all my stuff just sucks. Damn it, am I stuck doing this forever? (Tom Witte, Invitational entrant virtually every week since 1993)

The headline "Say Yes to the Stress" is by Kevin Dopart; Chris Doyle wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, March 23: Our Week 63 contest for writing funny things by stringing together random words from President Biden's State of the Union address. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Chris Doyle; Hildy Zampella)
Title: (Kevin Dopart)
Subhead: (Chris Doyle)
Prize: ()

Week 1581, Published 03/14/2024
The Invitational Week 63: SOTU-Speak
Use words from Biden's State of the Union speech to write some lines for another oration. Plus winning photo captions.
MAR 14, 2024

"That one behind me on my left? Don't you think he would absolutely like to be back home right now with a Snickers -- even a lead-smothered one?" This week, combine words from the SOTU into something new and different. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

For Invitational Week 63: Using only words that President Biden used during his State of the Union address last week, write either a fake passage from a SOTU or a similar speech or * well, anything else: a "quote," an observation, a joke, a dialogue, a poem, anything. For consistency, please use this special White House transcript, which includes not just Biden's prepared remarks, but also his off-the-script comments, and even when he misspeaks ("The threat to democracy must be defended [defeated].")

We have some game rules this week, about how many times you can use a word; whether you can use a different form of the word (if "lies" are in there, can you use "lie"?); the deal on hyphens, capitalization, punctuation, etc. etc. etc. We face the FAQs -- and also, thanks to the generous help of Loser Gary Crockett, provide a list of every word Biden said along with the number of times it occurs -- at this link right here.

For guidance 'n' inspiration, see the boffo inking entries from our 2021 Inaugural Address contest.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Also as usual, please submit each individual entry as one single paragraph; i.e., don't push Enter until you're starting the next entry.

Deadline is Saturday, March 23, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 28.

The winner gets a pair of very tiny earrings that look as if an astonished black cat has burst through each of your earlobes.

They probably won't yowl or bite: This week's prize earrings. (
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Presenting Our Snideshow: The photo captions of Week 61
(Photos at )

In Invitational Week 61 we asked for captions for any or all of the six photos below. Picture A prompted many of you to conjure up your fond memories of being on hold with tech support, waiting for Windows to update, etc.

Photo A:

Second runner-up: Sadly, the Wuhan lab was also sloppy with computer viruses. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

"Jim, your camera is turned off. Are you still with us? We're just about through line item 1410.23." (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Forensic experts quickly concluded the victim was 67 years old, judging from the width and pattern of that tie. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

For some people, Ozempic works extremely fast. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Photo B:

First runner-up: Bobo didn't get the memo that Friday was Dress Like a Human Day. (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

Third runner-up: After the rounds of interviews and a grueling morning of skill assessments, Warren felt he had a good shot at the job -- until Dave asked, "What's with the gorilla suit?" (Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

Diane finally figured out how to keep her male colleagues from leering at her. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Now streaming on Netflix, "The Planning of the Apes." (Kevin Dopart)

"C'mon, that's obviously just a chimponzi scheme." (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Bongo was having that dream again where he showed up naked to work and everyone was staring. (Eric Nelkin)

"Let's throw some poo against the wall to see what sticks." (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

The Allstate Ape is a pretty feeble ripoff of the Geico Gecko. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Bobo raised his fat fingers in dismay, suddenly horrified to get the joke about his wide nostrils. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

It turned out that not every Employee of the Month at Acme Costumes considered it an honor to wear the gorilla suit. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Photo C:

The giant two-headed flesh-eating worm was fond of partaking of lunch and dinner simultaneously. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Two long-tongued gay men seek privacy. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Inspired by "Get Smart," CIA scientists developed the Colon of Silence. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.; Tim Livengood, Columbia, Md.)

Smith and Jones duct out for lunch. (Kevin Dopart)

A low-budget take on "The Human Centipede" dispenses with the more controversial anus scenes. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

As U.S. negotiators worked to extract themselves from Xi Jinping's "head trap" gag, China completed its takeover of Taiwan. (Steve Smith)

Both men thought Nordstrom's recruiter had said the jobs were in men's hosiery. (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

"Look, one of us has to go into the worm costume feet first." (Michael Stein)

Craig and Todd heard they could expand their influence by becoming U-Tubers. (Jesse Frankovich)

Photo D:

And the winner of the dopamine-molecule plushie key chain: It was the best of toms, it was the worst of toms ... -- A Tale of Two Kitties (Jesse Frankovich)

"He's gonna eat it! I pooped in the dog's dish, and he's really gonna eat it!" (Mark Raffman)

You can tell whether a cat has been neutered by showing it "kitty porn." (Mark Raffman)

Photo E:

"What do you think it says about our parenting skills that we have to YouTube 'How to do "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" '?" (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

"Five fingers on each hand! At least we know we're not an AI hallucination." (David Sarokin, Washington, D.C.)

"Yeah, I'd upsize it. You want to catch their eye with your Grindr photo." (Stu Segal, Southeast U.S.)

As Alice showed how she used a TikTok video to conjure up the devil, Kevin stepped in to explain how she should have done it. (Richard Franklin)

John didn't feel it was inappropriate to hit on his coworkers, as long as his wedding ring was on his middle finger. (Richard Franklin)

Cosmetics tip: Flat-screen monitor radiation is perfect for drying your nail polish. (Kevin Dopart)

Photo F:

Ghislaine Maxwell conducts job interviews. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

After a hefty meal of beans and broccoli, the Tooting Rombowski Sisters were ready for their audition. (Sam Mertens)

It was the '70s and we had fresh new ideas about how to break the glass ceiling. (Patrick Huss, New Britain, Pa., a First Offender)

"'Sesame Street' is brought to you today by the letter W." (Eric Nelkin)

It was fun and games at the beginning of the secretarial pool strike, but the scab in the back would get a kick in the face soon enough. (Mark Raffman)

And thus began the firm's bottom-up reorg. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

At the Literalist Society of America, workers get their asses in gear. (Steve Smith)

Even in the face of severe supply chain disruptions, Peloton continued to offer online classes. (Kevin Dopart)

"Well, what did you expect when you applied for a job at Schwinn?" (Lee Graham; Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

"Dryland Synchronized Swimming Club of Manhattan. How may I direct your call?" (Steve Smith)

The headline "Presenting Our Snideshow" is by Tom Witte.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, March 16: Our Week 62 contest for novel ways to stress yourself out. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Tom Witte)
Subhead: ()
Prize: ()

Week 1580, Published 03/07/2024
The Invitational Week 62: Hi, Anxiety!
Tell us some funny ways to stress yourself out. Plus winning diary entries by historical figures.
MAR 7, 2024

Before he became Vlad the Impaler, Mr. Tepes knew he had to change his less impressive sobriquet. See today's Invitational results for historical "diary entries."
Hello. This is Invitational Thursday, and a fine Invitational it will be, but first we must alert our audience to the vice-like grip of evil and stupidity under which we have fallen, and urge all of you with the influence and standing to make a change *. make it, before it is too late.

Look at that paragraph above. Do you see anything wrong with it? You should. It is awful if you don't. You must atone.

The expression is "a vise-like grip." The simile is to a vise, a metal bench tool with one movable jaw and one stationary jaw. It clamps things tightly. A "vice" -- pronounced identically -- is a wickedness or moral depravity. The only connection between the two words is that it would be fitting and proper to define as wicked or morally depraved the editors of American dictionaries who have recently decided that since this word has been ludicrously misspelled by ignorant Americans for the last 20 years, they had to shrug and meekly surrender. According to Google, the expression "vice-like" is out there on the Web in significantly greater numbers than "vise-like." So, ipso facto, dictionaries are now accepting that patent misspelling.

These editors have fallen under the evil thrall of Usage Autocrats, who insist that language is a living breathing thing -- which it is -- but also that it is a thing that must be robotically altered and broadened whenever a word can be proved to have been abused in the same doltish way enough times -- which it is not.

Dictionary editors make a big show of requiring a statistically high number of usage examples by prominent, influential people in order to consider adjusting a spelling or definition. It's the way the Roman Catholic Church insists on "authenticating" miracles before they confer sainthood. Both are processes of disingenuous sanctification.

Let's starve the editors of their phony pretext. Let's blacklist "vice-like" foreverafter. Thank you!

This is stressing me out.


OUR NEW INVITATIONAL CONTEST: Stress Yourself Out by Inducing Anxiety
This week's contest, suggested by reader Joan Witte, is based on a little gem of 1960s humor, the book How to Make Yourself Miserable, by the late Dan Greenburg (himself a regular winner of the late New York Magazine Competition, the template from which The Invitational was modeled stolen).

Adapted from the original book's section on dinner parties:
If you're at someone else's house, alternate between (a) worrying that they're wishing you'd leave already and (b) worrying that they'd be terribly hurt if you left so soon.
If you're the host of the party and the person says he guesses he'd better get going, be sure to (a) worry that he's actually hoping you'll ask him to stay, but also (b) worry that he's trying to get out of your house.

Adapted from the book's "Exercise in Anxiety":
You have an important business trip out of town. The night before the morning you have to leave, you drive your car around and around until it has juuust enough gas left to get to the airport. In the morning, leave your house in juuust enough time to catch your plane so long as there are no unexpected delays such as bad traffic or having to stop for gas.

And an example we just now made up: Bring your two-year old to your audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury. To make the lad seem all grown up and precocious, put him in his big-boy pants, which cannot accommodate diapers, on the theory that he can't possibly have to go dooky twice in three hours.


For Invitational Week 62: Tell us a funny strategy for increasing your anxiety, like those above. Don't make it any longer than those unless they're immensely readable; much shorter entries would be perfectly fine as well. (As in many Invite contests, they might be "signed" by some famous person, fictional character, etc.)

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Also as usual, please submit each individual entry as one single paragraph; i.e., don't push Enter until you're starting the next entry.

Deadline is Saturday, March 16, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 21.

The winner gets a copy of How to Make Yourself Miserable. We actually have two! So you have your choice between a well-used 1966 first-edition hardcover, donated by Richard Franklin (who's both a 32-time Loser and a commercial airline pilot, so who better to know about miserable people?) or a good-condition 1987 paperback update, called How to Make Yourself Miserable for the Rest of the Century, given us by Joan Witte along with her contest suggestion.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of eight nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Make (Up) My Day: The 'diary entries' of Week 60
In Invitational Week 60 we asked you to write up diary entries of famous people throughout history. (There were allowances. Yes, we know that the Chinese emperor didn't date his journal with "B.C.") Meanwhile, we're thrilled to welcome two First Offenders this week into Loserdom -- one of them in the top four -- breaking a sixteen-week FirStinkless prize drought.

Third runner-up:
Dec. 20, 1898 : We are so close! I truly believe we are on the precipice of achieving our goal: a watch you can read in the dark. -- Marie Curie (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Second runner-up:
29 December, 1924: Still need a last line for this novel. I could go with "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past," though I'm still partial to "That's all, folks!" -- F. Scott F. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

First runner-up:
April 6, A.D. 33: Must remind J that we need thirty pieces of silver by Friday or they'll repossess the donkey. -- Myrtle Iscariot (Ann Fisher, Marquette, Mich., a First Offender)

And the winner of the jointed wooden hand:
March 30, 1946: After Mrs. Braddock chided me at last night's party, "Winston, you're drunk!" I threw up in her lap. Must hire a publicist to spin this into a devastatingly witty anecdote. -- Churchill (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

In Diarist Straits: Honorable mentions
Aug. 15, 1962: Can't help but feel like we're just missing one critical piece that's keeping us from making it big. I wonder if the other lads feel the same way. -- Pete Best (Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

December 26, 1776: We successfully took Trenton, though the attack was almost too late! My fault for slowing us down crossing the river--I never should've let that guy persuade me to pose for an oil painting en route.--G.W. (Duncan Stevens)

October 10, 1838: - . ... - .. -. --. --..-- / - . ... - .. -. --. .-.-.- / .. / .... .- ...- . / - .... .-. . . / -. .. .--. .--. .-.. . ... --..-- / .- -. -.. / .. .----. -- / ... - .. .-.. .-.. / .- / ...- .. .-. --. .. -. .-.-.- / .... .- .... .- .-.-.- / -. --- / --- -. . / .-- .. .-.. .-.. / . ...- . .-. / -... . / .- -... .-.. . / - --- / .-. . .- -.. / - .... .. ... .-.-.- --Samuel F.B. Morse (to read the message, click on this link to a Morse Code translator, then copy the code into it, beginning with that first dash) (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

April 2, Year 1: Baby J took his first steps on water today! -- M. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

April 1, 1814: It's bad enough that the British fake news says I wear lifts and look funny in white boots. Now Josephine compares my imperial truncheon to un petit champignon! -- N. Bonaparte (Frank Osen)

220 B.C.: I'm going to build a big, beautiful wall and the Mongols are going to pay for it. -- Emperor Qin Shi Huang (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

December 17, 1903: Can't believe we invented flight! Two high school dropouts! Next project: putting peanuts in little bags--Wilbur Wright (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

April 28, 1945: Oh happy days! He's finally putting a ring on it! -- Eva Braun (Sam Mertens)

July 15, 2013: Driving me nuts to be losing the publicity battle to Zuckerberg. PR flacks say we need a plan to get my name in the paper every day. -- J. Bezos (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

January 14, 2009, LaGuardia Airport Marriott: Arrived to clear skies this evening and saw a flock of several hundred Canada geese. Beautiful. Should be good weather to fly to Charlotte tomorrow. -- Sully (Kenneth Enright, Setubal, Portugal, a First Offender)

Sept. 13, 1996: Big audition today for the movie remake. Director said I'm perfect for the part, but studio wants Jeremy Irons to play Humbert. -- Woody (Steve Smith)

1026 B.C.: The Amazons won't deliver my new helmet until next week because I didn't pay for fortnight shipping. It won't matter, whoever the Israelites send out won't get close enough to touch a hair on my head. -- Goliath (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

1-11-67: Recording session was far out, but the uptight suits were a downer. Apparently Middle America isn't ready to hear a man sing " 'Scuse me while I kiss this guy." -- Jimi (Steve Smith)

2/25/*1922: Took a long trip into the forest today in the sleigh. Whose woods they were I did not know. I wrote my name there in his snow. -- Robert Frost (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

2-27-2024: So busy today! Asked Tyler to grab a few things on his way home. -- L. Boebert (Steve Smith)

Long Ago: I always knew my husband was handy with his tools, but wow, Noah's been really banging out that boat! Shouldn't surprise me, though -- after all, 600 is the new 450! (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

March 19, 1942: I need to cap my speech with a zinger. "I'll be back" sounds too Austrian. -- Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Sam Mertens)

5/14/1987: Doctor tomorrow, gotta pee in a jar. Also behind on my next commission, so I may be multitasking*. -- Andres Serrano (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

April 4, 1590: That Sam-I-Am! That Sam-I-Am! I do not like*. Argh. It's no good. I need to write something a tad weightier. -- William Shakespeare (Leif Picoult)

August 20, 1889: Went for a walk with little Adolf. Such a sweet baby! But once again, such a strange incident: An oddly dressed man pulled something from his pocket, but an identical twin appeared and wrestled him to the ground, shouting, "No, it creates a paradox!" Then they both disappeared. I don't understand why this keeps happening. -- Klara Hitler (Tim Livengood, Columbia, Md.)

Feb 21, 1582: My wretched brother's family has announced his intentions to visit this fall from October 5 to October 14. There has to be a way to keep this from happening. -- Pope Gregory XIII (Sam Mertens)

From the recovered log of Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail, Oct. 28, 1991: 44N, 56.4W. Possibly my last entry. Weather has worsened badly. Seas at 30 ft. Wind gusts to 80 kn. I wish there were a term I could use to describe such a perfect storm. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

July 17, 1969: Those two overgrown brats keep whining about who has the middle seat and who gets the window. I swear I'm going to turn this thing around if it gets any worse. -- Michael Collins (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

July 20, 1969: Today's film shoot with the guys in spacesuits wasn't perfect but it'll do. Armstrong flubbed his big line a little; not too noticeable, though. -- Hollywood set designer (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

June 5, 1770: Won my 15th consecutive poker tournament tonight! Surely the name Sandwich will forever be synonymous with "champion." (Scott Ableman, McLean, Va.)

June 1, 1987: Wrote a new single, but it's not my best work. Maybe I should just record over it? Should probably just give it up. -- R. Astley (Duncan Stevens)

June 10, 1994: I was juking my way through Bloomingdale's today when I spotted a nice pair of brown Aris Isotoner gloves. They just barely fit, but they'll do. -- Orenthal (Jeff Hazle)

June 26, 1997: My trainer says I should fight hungry. I think I'll try that against Holyfield. -- Mike Tyson (Sam Mertens)

November 29, 2004: Day 52: Today, I shared my favorite recipe for toilet wine with the girls in Cellblock D. Note to self: Destroy this diary. -- Martha Stewart (Lee Graham)

May 17, 1935, April 10, 1942, April 2, 1949, November 5, 1962, March 9, 1966, January 21, 1975, August 27, 1976, April 13, 1983, August 14, 1986: Dear diary: Today I married the most wonderful man in the world. Our love will endure forever! Zsa Zsa Gabor (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

May 22, 1927: The crowd in Paris took some "souvenirs" from my airplane, including a full beer bottle. I can only hope that they didn't know what was actually in that bottle after a 33-hour flight, and took a healthy swig. -- C. Lindbergh (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

November 18, 1863: I was reading tomorrow's speech to Mary and she thought starting with "87" sounded "too common." Her edit seems way too pretentious to me, but if I don't use it, I'll never hear the end of it. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

2 November, 1914: Cousin Grete told me about a pleasant dream of being transformed into a cuddly bunny and thought it would make a sweet story. I promised I'd consider it. -- F. Kafka (Frank Osen)

October 12, 1960: I was finally able to bang that loose shoe nail into place during the U.N. meeting today. Sheesh, that was really bothering me for a while. -- Nikita (Duncan Stevens)

October 2, Long Ago: I think we've got all the animals on the boat, including Terry and Pat the unicorns. I hope Shem and Ham remembered to do all the gender checks.--N. (Duncan Stevens)

October 7, 1871: Had an amusing time in the barn today. I discovered that Bessie has a ticklish spot, and if you touch it she kicks like the dickens! -- Catherine O'Leary (Sam Mertens)

September 10, 1465: I gotta raise my game. The Turks aren't at all intimidated by "Vlad the Wedgie-Giver." I'll think of something. -- Vlad Tepes (Duncan Stevens)

September 30, 1935: Finally finished my novel. My editor thinks it still needs some tweaks, but fiddle-de-dee, what does he know -- readers are gonna love Chartreuse O'Hara!--M. Mitchell (Duncan Stevens)

Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki Trial Journal, April 2, 1947, Callao, Peru: Outboard motor now repainted -- blends perfectly with raft under the banana-leaf canopy. (Stu Segal, Southeast U.S.)

And Last: Sept 24, 2006: It might be fun to enter this Style Invitational thing in the paper. What the heck--it's not like it's going to take much of my time. --Me (58-time Loser Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

The headline "Make (Up) My Day" is by Stu Segal; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, March 9: Our Week 61 photo caption contest. Click on the link below.

Idea: (Joan Witte)
Examples: ()
Title: (Stu Segal)
Subhead: (Tom Witte)
Prize: (Richard Franklin; Joan Witte)

Week 1579, Published 02/29/2024
The Invitational Week 61: Captions Courageous
Write a description for any of six photos. Plus our winning 'Why Not' questions.
FEB 29, 2024

Why is this comic strip here today? Because it represents a new collaboration between The Invitational and the Comics World at Large. This is the first of a series of "dad jokes vs. grandpa jokes" from a recent Invitational contest; Gene instantly grabbed a few to use in his syndicated comic strip, "Barney & Clyde," on which the grandpa joke challenge had been based. This one was by Jon Gearhart. More to follow.

Hello. This is Gene. Happy Leap Day. Are you at work today? Why? Honor the memory of Karl Savage and go home right now.

Our New Contest
For Invitational Week 61: Write a caption -- as many as 25 total -- for any of the pictures below. Begin each caption only with the letter on the picture -- as in "A. [your caption]." For guidance, inspiration, and plain ol' entertainment, take a look at the results of Week 22 and the results of Week 49 to see what we like in a caption. Don't bother tracking down the source of the original photo; that shouldn't be the point of your caption.

(All photos via Getty Images)

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Also as usual, please submit each individual entry as a single continuous line; i.e., don't push Enter in the middle of your joke.

Deadline is Saturday, March 9, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 14.

The winner gets a cute plushie dopamine molecule key chain, complete with winsome eyes and a purple baseball cap. This is by far the cuddliest 1 million-scale pleasure-provoking neurotransmitter we have ever fondled. Donated by the truly dope Dave Prevar.

Dopamine key chain
The key to your pleasure: This week's prize, a little dopamine guy as a fob. (

Inking Outside the Box: 'Why Not' ideas from Week 59
In Invitational Week 59 we saluted "Why Not?," the new, thought-provoking feature by Daniel Pink in The Washington Post (first question: "Why not pay teachers $100,000 a year?"), by inviting some rather more comical Why Nots of your own. A number of the entries suggested things that already exist -- among them divorce showers, frozen food from fine restaurants, and dictionaries to translate your grandkids' vocabularies.

Third runner-up:
Why not put urinal cakes in public stairwells? It's not like it'd encourage anybody to do something they don't do already. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Second runner-up:
Why not give new car horns a range of honks and beeps that everyone would learn to understand? They could range from "Hi!" to "Um, the light's green" all the way up to "You #%@*ing $@&*!" (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore; Joel Golden, Fort Washington, Md.)

First runner-up:
Why not provide the majority and minority whips in Congress with real whips to keep the hardhead rogues in line? (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

And the winner of the Gumby-on-the-toilet desk set:
Along with Congress's parliamentary rules, why not add a rule from elementary school: No recess till your work is done. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Perish the Thought: Honorable mentions
Why not end the Biden BORDER CATASTROPHE and stock the Rio Grande with great white sharks? -- D.J.T. (Steve Smith)

Why not replace those Gmail-suggested automatic replies like "Great!" and "No thanks!" with more interesting ones, like "Hippos don't eat pickles!" and "That's what yo mama said!"? I would definitely use those more. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Why not design home workout equipment with clothes-hanging hooks, just from the get-go? (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Why not make marshmallow Lego blocks to minimize foot pain and maximize snack time? (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

In football, why not replace field goal and extra-point kicks with something else? We're already stopping a game of high-energy, maximum-contact blocking, tackling, running, and passing so that some little guy can come out and see how well he can kick a ball while standing still and looking like a ballerina. For variety, why not have the player do something equally unlike the rest of the game, like juggle, or answer a trivia question, or do bird calls? (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Instead of creating dedicated bike lanes that take up big chunks of city streets, why not equip cars with bike catchers that would scoop cyclists up and deposit them lightly at the next intersection? (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

When Trump refuses to appear in a debate, why not replace him with a wax caricature instead of an empty chair? If the wax melts under the hot lights, even better. (Neil Kurland)

Why doesn't Tucker Carlson find a way to fit his entire head in Vladimir Putin's butt? No point in stopping with the lips, really. (Duncan Stevens)

Why not build a pile of dirt so high that it reaches outer space? That would save the waste of rocket fuel, and you could just drive up to work on the satellites! (Joel Golden)

Why not cover car exteriors with Zectron, the stuff the SuperBall was made of? In a collision, cars would just bounce apart like ping-pong balls in a lottery machine. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Why not design a lightweight portable tabletop tent so that a couple having an affair could dine at a restaurant in privacy? (Jonathan Jensen)

Why not genetically modify vegetables to taste like ice cream? Okra Winfreeze would be very popular with members of Weight Watchers. (Jon Gearhart)

Why not hire orchestra musicians for the Oscar telecast who aren't so darn eager and impatient? Those guys constantly start in while the awardees are still talking! (Duncan Stevens)

Why not increase support for the LGBTQ community by starting a rumor that the Q stands for QAnon? (Gary Crockett)

Why not stay quiet when the lion is sleeping tonight near the village, the peaceful village? I don't imagine it'll be pleased to be awakened by yodeling. (Duncan Stevens)

Why not use DNA to clone the Founding Fathers, who could then tell the Supreme Court what they really had in mind? (Steve Smith)

Why not wire the seats on gym weight machines to deliver a small shock to anyone sitting around longer than it takes to do a slow set -- just enough juice to knock their damn phone out of their hand? (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

Why not include one extra sock with every pair of socks sold? Save countless hours of laundry day searches! (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

To eliminate speeding completely, why not change all speed limits to 300 mph? (Gary Crockett)

Why not do what the Vatican does in selecting a Pope, and lock everyone in Congress inside the Capitol if they can't agree on a budget or Speaker of the House? (Gregory Koch, Falls Church, Va.)

Why not find a strong man who can lift his own weight with just his arms, then put him in an armchair and see if he can fly away! (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Why not lower the minimum wage, so stores and restaurants can reduce prices to the levels in Russia? -- T. Carlson (Steve Smith)

Why not make a new "Mission: Impossible" movie in which the mission is to bring peace to the Middle East? (Tom Cruise always finds a way!) (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Why not make Congress
Filibuster in haiku?
That should speed things up. (Jon Gearhart)

Why not put Gas-X in cattle feed? (Steve Smith)

Why not put tinfoil linings straight into MAGA ball caps? (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Why not replace the music in public bathrooms with soundtrack loops of bodily emissions? No more worries about making embarrassing noises -- relax and join the chorus! (Judy Freed)

Why not require millionaires to drive electric vehicles? Soon there would be rechargers everywhere. Or at least everywhere you'd want to go. (Steve Smith)

Why not rewrite Genesis without the Tree of Knowledge? Then everyone could walk around naked, as originally planned, and not give it a second thought. (Beverley Sharp)

Why not use gene editing to create fire-breathing dragons and use them for snow removal? (Gary Crockett)

With those trigger warnings all over social media, why not have trigger warnings on actual guns? (Judy Freed)

The headline "Inking Outside the Box" is by Mark Raffman; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, March 2: Our Week 60 contest for diary entries for people throughout history. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Mark Raffman)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1578, Published 02/22/2024
The Invitational Week 60: The Pepys Show
Give us a diary entry from anyone in history. Plus winning clickbait headlines for unexciting news.
FEB 22, 2024

From the famed diary of Samuel Pepys (rhymes with "bleeps"), April 10, 1663, written in shorthand. Please spell out your own entries for Week 60 in actual words. (From the Pepys Library, Magdelene College, Cambridge)

Captain's Log, 14 April, 1912: An uneventful day, which is a good thing on a maiden voyage. I must remember, however, to tell the stewards that the passengers want more ice. (Russell Beland)

June 20, '76: Working on draft of document for TJ. I've articulated two unalienable Rights -- Life, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- need a third. Well, it will come to me. -- Sally (Jeff Brechlin)

April 1, 1952: Drunk, spilled a can of paint on a fresh canvas today. Oh well, who'll know? -- Jackson Pollock (Jeff Brechlin)

For Invitational Week 60: Write a humorous diary or journal entry for someone, famous or not, at any point in history, as in the examples above from a 2009 Invitational (full results here). Don't choose a fictional character. Anything over 50 words had better be worth keeping in its own library like the Bibliotheca Pepysiana at Cambridge.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Also as usual, please submit each individual entry as a single continuous line; i.e., don't push Enter in the middle of your joke.

Deadline is Saturday, March 2, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 7.

The winner gets something that actually looks a little like a trophy: It's a bendable jointed hand figurine, which served as nothing but fancy packaging for a deck of cards, included in an expensive tutorial in doing card tricks. Fifty-two-time Loser Perry Beider helpfully showed how the hand might be displayed on your mantel, as a centerpiece at the Thanksgiving table, etc.

Take this card and *: This week's first-place trophy of sorts.

Swollen Heads: Clickbait headlines from Week 58
In Invitational Week 58, we asked you to find some actual, anodyne news item and give it a technically accurate but highly misleading clickbait headline. We were delighted to see that many of you turned to small local papers -- so many of them fighting for survival -- to find the articles; we're not suggesting, however, that they try to gain readers exactly this way.

Norwegian researchers say schools should encourage cursive writing through middle school. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Article about a top junior billiards player. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

The "Baywatch" actress says she's stopped wearing makeup. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

And the winner of the bacon and egg earrings:
President drinks the water in East Palestine, Ohio, praises 'Herculean' cleanup after train derailment (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines, Iowa)

Today's Gene Pool Gene Poll:

Which of the four above entries is the best?
Third runner-up
Second runner-up
First runner-up
The winner
If, after voting, you prefer one of the honorables (below) to any of the above, tell us in the Comments.

Stunners-Up: Honorable mentions
Coca-Cola 'confident momentum will continue,' CEO says (Jesse Frankovich)

Many residents don't like the golden rooster ornament atop the new spire at Notre Dame. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Staggering Rise in Catheter Bills Suggests Medicare Scam (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

A new Charlie Brown TV special will finally allow Franklin to sit with his friends. (Gregory Koch, Falls Church, Va.)

New Jersey cops helped deliver a baby on the highway during a snowstorm. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Lincoln Park overpowers Taylor High, 79-44 (Jesse Frankovich)

Calf with heart-shaped mark on forehead melts hearts online (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

PRINCE HARRY CAN'T KEEP HIS HANDS TO HIMSELF, WOMAN CLAIMS Journalist gripes that he's always holding Meghan's hand (Judy Freed)

Hudson Valley newlyweds adopted a cat that wandered into their outdoor wedding. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Raw-milk cheddar was linked to E. coli illnesses in four states. (Jon Gearhart)

Monroe, Mich., will be in the trajectory of April's total solar eclipse. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Tigers sign more pitchers to keep games close in case young hitters slump. (Pam Shermeyer)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell hesitates to cut interest rates (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Lakeland, Fla., cobbler posts shoe repair videos (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Bill Post, creator of the Pop-Tart, died at age 96. (Jesse Frankovich; William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

Actor Christian Bale breaks ground on Southern California foster home project (Frank Osen)

More parents are making an effort to be home for their kids after school. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

The city's chamber of commerce is selling a parody board game called Arlingtonopoly. (Kevin Dopart)

An escaped kangaroo was found hopping around in a Tampa apartment complex. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.; Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Oklahoman competes in National Meat Cutting Challenge (Pam Shermeyer)

Ad agencies enjoy working with the Budweiser Clydesdales. (Leif Picoult)

This teen wears a size 23 shoe. It's stopping him from living a normal life. (Jon Gearhart)

Lewes stitchers to celebrate 100th quilting bee (Jesse Frankovich)

Japan has sent millions of vaccines to fight dengue fever in Brazil. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Beehives were stolen from an almond orchard. (Leif Picoult)

Assembly proposal would ban right-on-red turns in much of downtown Anchorage. (Frank Osen)

Large flock of crows descends on the Grinnell College campus (Jesse Frankovich)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is hospitalized with bladder issue (Jesse Frankovich; Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

179 cannabis licenses to be awarded by state-run lottery (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson denied trans voters bathroom access. (Judy Freed)

Study finds polar bears unlikely to adapt to longer summers (Jesse Frankovich)

Wales's national soccer team prepares for a Euro 2024 playoff match. (Gregory Koch)

Why people enjoy holding hands. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

The Minnesota Wild's general manager will oversee an upcoming competition. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Tips for choosing a reliable therapist for your children. (Jesse Frankovich)

Review of an upscale Potomac, Md., restaurant that features ginger in many dishes. (Karen Lambert)

SNL's Colin Jost set to host White House Correspondents' Association dinner (Leif Picoult)

Renowned chef David Bouley dies of cardiac arrest at 70. (Pam Shermeyer)

1,180 pothole reports from the public since Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Works (Frank Osen)

Cold case closed after 90 years (Frank Osen)

Prior commitments kept the actress away from the 40-celebrity photo shoot for this month's Vogue cover. (Judy Freed)

Seven students on the Living Grace Christian School team advanced to the finals at a spelling bee in Baltimore. (Tom Witte)

Resident snaps photo of osprey catching three fish at once (Tom Witte)

Seniors cheat death by eating THIS!
Older folks are learning about healthier diets. (Mark Raffman)

Lifesaving medication is underprescribed, doctors say (Duncan Stevens)

Ad for 3 Day Blinds (William Kennard)

Ash Wednesday services around the world (Jon Gearhart)

Disneyland's Cinderella and Mickey Mouse performers may unionize. (Frank Osen)

The headline "Swollen Heads" is by Beverley Sharp; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Feb. 24: Our Week 59 contest for humorous outside-the-box ideas for The Washington Post's new "Why Not" feature. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Russell Beland; Jeff Brechlin; Jeff Brechlin)
Title: (Beverley Sharp)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize: (Perry Beider)

Week 1577, Published 02/15/2024
The Invitational Week 59: Why the #$%#$% Not?
The Washington Post is looking for some bold ideas -- let's show it some! Plus: Winning bad ideas for books and movies.
FEB 15, 2024

Instead of all these primaries and debates, with each man insisting he's in perfect shape while the other's a doddering weakling, why not just have Trump and Biden go at it in the boxing ring? Winner gets the White House. One's taller and more of a heavyweight, but doesn't exactly float like a butterfly *

We owe the inspiration for this week's Invitational contest to our former longtime employers (and eventual unemployers) The Washington Post: Its opinions department recently announced a new, yearlong project from contributing columnist Daniel Pink, author of several bestselling books about business success and human behavior. The headline isn't exactly humble: "American imagination needs an adrenaline shot. Here's how I'll deliver it." You can click on the preceding link to read the whole thing, but in a nutshell: Once a month, Pink will post the question "Why Not *"-- with a suggestion to which most people would respond "Whoa" or at least "Hmm." A few examples he offers: Why not pay all schoolteachers at least $100,000 a year? Why not give presents on your birthday, rather than receive them? Why not move Congress to a rotating selection of cities?

From there, he says, he'll studiously weigh the pros and cons, costs and benefits, hugs and kisses, and -- and this is the ultimate goal, we'd think -- invite lots of spirited discussion in the comments thread, sharing links throughout social media, etc. He even invites readers to submit their own provocative ideas.

Ha, you see where we're going. For Invitational Week 59: Send us a humorous Why Not? question, as in the Donald/Joe example above and those below. You could accompany it with a brief pitch (up to seventy-five words or so), as above, or your idea might be so hilarious that just stating it would be enough. Um, no, we won't be judging the ideas by how feasible they are.

Consider these, which we just made up:

Why not have newspapers make their newsprint edible and tasty? You could have different flavors for the different sections, like Nacho Sports and Kombucha Style. There'd finally be a reason for people to pay for the print paper other than to save Grandma's obit.

Why not equip cars with driver's-seat toilets, and drive pantsless? It would save time, avoid "emergencies," give our butts a chance to breathe.

Why not just pass a law requiring that God show Himself, to settle the question once and for all?

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Also as usual, please submit each individual entry as a single line; i.e., don't push Enter in the middle of your joke.

Deadline is Saturday, Feb. 24, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 29.

The winner gets the Butt Station, an elegant desk set consisting of a tape dispenser/ pen holder in the shape of a Gumby-green humanoid sitting on a toilet. Also, its keister is magnetized to scoop up paper clips from the toilet underneath. If your employer has forced you to slog to the office so that you can attend Zoom meetings with other people in the building, this ensemble makes just the right statement. Donated by Kathy Sheeran.

At least it's tape and not Charmin. This week's prize desk set.

Acadummy Awards: Bad ideas for movies and books from Week 57
In Invitational Week 57 we asked you simply for bad ideas for books or movies -- the title, the casting, the plot, whatever.

Third runner-up:
Proctology: A Scratch-and-Sniff Guide. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Second runner-up:
This Is Literally Spinal Tap: A video of Rob Reiner having a lumbar puncture. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

First runner-up:
Jaws Meets Baby Shark: That ominous dum-dum-dum-dum theme is replaced by . . . (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

And the winner of the Horrible Meeting Bingo notepad:
Self-Esteem for Dummies. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

The Jest-Cellar List: Honorable mentions
The Koran: The Graphic Version. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

The Little Engine That Never Stood a Chance: The Importance of Accurate Self-Evaluation. (Judy Freed)

A Nightmare on Sesame Street. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.; Judy Freed)

The Big Nothing: An alternate-history novel set in a universe where the Big Bang never happened. (Gregory Koch, Falls Church, Va.)

All the President's Men 2024, starring Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, 80 and 79, as themselves. (Steve Smith)

All the President's Men 2024: Two intrepid Fox News journalists find absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing by Trump or his campaign after an exhaustive minutes-long investigation. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

The Jar Jar Binks Trilogy: The Origin Stories. (Jesse Frankovich)

The audiobook of The Least Frequently Mispronounced Words in the English Language, narrated by Fran Drescher. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

20,000 Really Good Passwords. R9c7wjm2&*@%qR and Y89-@m35Qrsp[% are just some of the highlights! (Duncan Stevens)

A Hundred and Fifty More Shades of Grey. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Huckleberry Fine: Mark Twain's novel is revised to be historically consistent with Texas and Florida school board guidelines, fondly recounting a boy's idyllic, strife-free childhood in the Old South. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

The Significance of Microaggression in Grover Cleveland's Second Term. (Tom Witte)

Citizen Kanye: Reporters scramble to uncover the meaning of anything he says. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Conan the Barber: A documentary about a bodybuilder paying the bills by cutting hair. Many closeups of him admiring his arms in the mirror. (Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

Horton Molests a Who. (Jesse Frankovich)

He scored with his remake of "The Producers" -- now it's Mel Brooks's Silent Movie: The Musical. (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

Psycho '24 : During the shower scene, Marion Crane does an impromptu promo for Head & Shoulders. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

The Godfather: After PETA gets involved in this 2024 remake, Jack Woltz finds a live horse sleeping peacefully next to him. (Beverley Sharp)

Old Feller: Two creaky political dogs battle for the presidency in 2024. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

CliffNotes of "The Oxford Textbook of Neurological Surgery." (Judy Freed)

The Hangover: Dry January. Four friends travel to a cabin in Yell County, Arkansas, for a bachelor party featuring jigsaw puzzles and charades. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Translate "Green Eggs and Ham" into Pig Latin: "Atthay am-i-amsay ! Atthay am-i-amsay! Iyay oday otnay ikelay atthay am-i-amsay!" (Kevin Dopart)

Wikipedia, Vol. 1: Aa-Ab (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Budweiser's Wassup the Movie. (Jesse Frankovich)

A pop-up edition of Edwin Abbott Abbott's Flatland. (Jeff Contompasis)

A book on the history of cheese, made entirely of cheese. (Gregory Koch)

The Moosewood Travel Companion Cookbook, featuring eco-conscious roadkill recipes. (Judy Freed)

A collection of all my most amazing daily Wordle results. (Sam Mertens)

Pulp Fiction 2: Instead of a twist contest, Vince and Mia win a cornhole competition (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

The Very Hung Caterpillar. (Leif Picoult)

Adventures in Eggplant: The Kama Sutra Written in Food Emoji. (Kevin Dopart)

Harry Potter and the Evil, Evil Transgender Activists, by J.K. Rowling. (Duncan Stevens)

"I Am Curious (George)": The lovable monkey has a very problematic relationship with the man in the yellow hat. (Jonathan Jensen)

How Not to Be an Anti-Racist: A Guide for Florida Teachers. (Mark Raffman)

Grinch 17: How the Grinch Stole Arbor Day. (Duncan Stevens)

Laugh if You Dare: The Funniest Racist Jokes. (Jonathan Jensen)

The Autobiography of ChatGPT. (Steve Smith)

The Dark Side of Mister Rogers: The shocking, never-before-told story of the time he got a parking ticket. (Duncan Stevens)

The Real Housewives of Lake Wobegon. (Perry Beider)

Snot Our Business: Celebrating 100 Years of Kleenex. (Jonathan Jensen)

The headline "Acadummy Awards" is by Mary McNamara; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Feb. 17: Our Week 58 contest for sensationalist clickbait headlines for mundane news items. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Mary McNamara)
Subhead: (Tom Witte)
Prize: (Kathy Sheeran)

Week 1576, Published 02/08/2024
The Invitational Week 58: Praise the Lurid!
Give us clickbait headlines for mundane stories. Plus winning 'dad jokes' vs. 'grandpa jokes.'
FEB 8, 2024

(Fendi/JW Anderson, from the 2022 Paris Fashion Week)
Above, actual men's sandals displayed in Paris fashion shows. See the winner of Invitational Week 56, below, for a one-word explanation.

Actual story: Houston overcomes 51 points from Russell Westbrook to beat Oklahoma City (Dave Matuskey)

Actual story: Obituary of Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., a House Watergate Committee member who called for Nixon's impeachment in 1974 (Jon Gearhart)

Actual story: Reunion of Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II (Frank Osen)

For The Invitational Week 58: Find any real news item or ad published online or in print from Feb. 8 through Feb. 18 -- the more boring the better -- and give it a headline with more pizzazz, however irresponsible, as in the examples above from a 2017 Invitational. Also, as above, summarize the real story either in a brief sentence or in the form of a bank headline, or subtitle. ***See the entry form for important further directions*** so we don't bog things down here and can get on to the jokes.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to (Note our new domain name for these short links.) As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Feb. 17, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 22.

The winner gets breakfast on us -- well, on you, specifically hanging from your ears: a pair each of fried-egg and fried-bacon earrings -- mix or match.

And they're 100 percent cholesterol-free! This week's prize.

Artful Codgers: 'Dad jokes' vs. 'grandpa jokes' from Week 56
In Invitational Week 56, inspired by the subversive gramps in Gene's comic strip "Barney & Clyde," we asked you for a typical "dad joke" -- usually a riddle ending with a wholesome pun that Daddy would like to share with the kids -- but also the same riddle answered by edgy Grandpa Ebenezer, who doesn't care what the kids hear, and maybe thinks they could use a little naughtiness and subversiveness in their lives.

Third runner-up:
What goes up and down but doesn't move?
Dad joke: A staircase.
Grandpa joke: A corpse in an elevator. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Second runner-up:
A century ago, two brothers decided it was possible to fly.
Dad joke: And as you can see, they were Wright.
Grandpa joke: And boy, were their arms tired when they hit the sidewalk at the bottom of the Empire State Building. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

First runner-up:
How do you make the number 1 disappear?
Dad joke: Add the letter G and it's "Gone."
Grandma joke: Flush the damn toilet! (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

And the winner of the "Greatest Farter" T-shirt:
What do you call a Frenchman in sandals?
Dad joke: Philippe Philoppe.
Grandpa joke: Douchebag. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

From Dad to Worse: Honorable mentions
What do you call a can opener that doesn't work?
Dad: A can't opener.
Grandpa: A lazy proctologist. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.; Dan Steinbrocker, Los Angeles)

Dad joke: If a pig loses its voice, does it become disgruntled?
Grandpa joke: I had a pig that lost its voice. Maybe it was because I slaughtered it. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

What did the sink tell the toilet?
Dad: You look flushed!
Grandpa: You take too much crap. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.; Jon Gearhart)

What did the pepperoni say walking out of the hospital?
Dad: I'm cured.
Grandpa: Holy shit! Would you look at this bill? (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

How do you teach kids about taxes?
Dad: Eat 30 percent of their ice cream.
Grandpa: Make them do your taxes. (Leif Picoult)

What kind of shoes do mice wear?
Dad: Squeakers!
Grandpa: Little tiny ones. What did you expect, clown shoes? (Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

How does a lawyer say goodbye?
Dad: Sue you later!
Grandpa: With a $50 phone call. (Leif Picoult)

What friends do you always bring to dinner?
Dad: Your taste buds.
Grandpa: The ones you can sucker into paying your bill. (Beverley Sharp)

What do you call a rude cow?
Dad: Beef jerky.
Grandpa: Grandma. (Jon Gearhart)

Why did the coach go to the bank?
Dad: To get his quarterback.
Grandpa: He had to pay a fine for sexual harassment because of his offensive line. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Why should you never date a tennis player?
Dad: Love means nothing to them.
Grandpa: They think a "good match" is when they whack your balls with a racket for two hours. (Mark Raffman)

What falls while never getting hurt?
Dad: Snow.
Grandpa: The woman in the Life Alert commercial. (Chris Doyle)

What did the Yelp review say about the restaurant on the moon?
Dad: Great food, no atmosphere.
Grandpa: The food tasted like it was from Uranus. (Mark Raffman)

Why did the invisible man turn down the job offer?
Dad: He couldn't see himself doing it.
Grandpa: He'd already taken the ladies' locker room attendant job. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

What did the cable say to the elevator?
Dad: "We work together on so many levels."
Grandpa: "I love it when you go down on me." (Jon Gearhart)

What goes around the world but never leaves the corner?
Dad: A stamp.
Grandpa: An especially skillful prostitute. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

What gets whiter the dirtier it gets?
Dad: A chalkboard.
Grandpa: MAGA. (Kevin Dopart)

What's a dog's favorite part of a house?
Dad: The woof.
Grandpa: Whichever room smells most like someone's crotch. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

What did one wall say to the other?
Dad: "I'll meet you at the corner."
Grandpa: "Are you as plastered as I am?" (Jon Gearhart)

What has one head, one foot, and four legs?
Dad: A bed.
Grandpa: A Chernobyl resident. (Jon Gearhart)

What has two hands, has a round face, and doesn't get anywhere when it runs?
Dad: A clock.
Grandpa: Chris Christie. (Kevin Dopart)

What has a neck without a head to hold?
Dad: A bottle.
Grandpa: Marie Antoinette. (Chris Doyle)

How do you get a squirrel's attention?
Dad: Act like a nut.
Grandpa: Show it your nuts. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.; Beverley Sharp)

The headline "Artful Codgers" is by Chris Doyle; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Feb. 10: Our Week 57 contest for bad ideas for books or movies. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Dave Matuskey; Frank Osen; Jon Gearhart)
Title: (Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (Tom Witte)
Prize: ()

Week 1575, Published 02/01/2024
The Invitational Week 57: The Ughscars and the Phewlitzers
Give us an idea for a bad book or movie. Plus some STUD-ly winning neologisms.
FEB 1, 2024

Do we have the perfect roles for Tilda and Woody! See this week's Invitational contest below. (Swinton by Manfred Werner (Tsui); Allen via Getty)
Hello. This is The Invitational, in which we perform magnificently and with humor, thanks to the participation and genius of many dozens of funny people, for whose work we shamelessly take full credit.

This week's Invitational: Highly Unrecommended
Book: Merriam Webster's Dictionary, reinterpreted for modern readers in Chaucerian Middle English.

Movie: Barbie, starring Tilda Swinton and, as Ken, Woody Allen.

For Invitational Week 57: Tell us a comically bad idea for a book or movie, as in the examples above. It can involve the plot, the casting, the setting, the format, whatever, as long as it's funny.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. See the entry form for formatting instructions.

Deadline is Saturday, Feb. 10, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 15.

The winner gets Horrible Meeting Bingo, a nifty fifty-sheet notepad with ten varied grids featuring such checkoffs as "Awkward silence," "Let's circle back," and "Discussion monopolizer strikes again." If only Jeffrey Toobin had had this diversion at that fateful Zoom session.

Not recommended for in-person meetings, but be our guest: This week's prize. (

The STUD Farm: DUSTy neologisms from Week 55
In Invitational Week 55, one of our annual Tour de Fours neologism contests, we honored new 1,000-inkster Duncan Stevens by asking you for new words and phrases that included the letter block DUST, in any permutation -- DSTU, STUD, etc. -- but with no other letters between them.

Third runner-up: WOODSTUCK: Still living in the 1960s. "Coachella, big whoop. Now when I was 23, we were in the mud for three days and it's still under my fingernails." (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Second runner-up: JUST DON'T IT: La-Z-Boy's new slogan. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

First runner-up: ANTACIDS, TURPENTINE: Alabama's next execution protocol experiment. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

And the winner of the Dial-an-Excuse Wheel:
GET YOUR DUST IN A ROW: Make your house look slightly neater. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

The DUST Bin: Honorable mentions
PRE-INDUSTRIOUS STAGE: The indefinite period preceding the last thirty minutes of a work deadline. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

ASDUTE: Not astute. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

"I can't get no vast elation
'Cause I've got low mast duration
Though I try and I try
My ED makes me cry ..." (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines) .

DT'S UTI: Karma. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

ASH TEST DUMMIES: What morticians practice cremation on. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

JUSTDEFY: Trump legal strategy: "In matters of compliance, he always asks his counsel to justdefy the law." (Steve Smith; Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

STDU: College where the top fraternity is Phi Beta Clappa. (Jesse Frankovich)

GREASY SKID STUFF: A most unwelcome discovery in one's undies. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

BEST DUDE: The groom's bro. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

BICOASTDULL: "So, while we're regrouting our guest bathroom in L.A., we're having some duct work done at our house in the Hamptons..." (Judy Freed)

COITUS DISGUSTUS: "Ugh, it looked like like a mushroom." (Jesse Frankovich)

CRUD ST.: Chicago's Magnificent Mile before the rebrand. (Leif Picoult)

CRUDSTORM: The results of counterproductive crowdsourcing. "We asked people what they'd like to do with your new umbrellas, and, um . . ." (Frank Osen)

CRUDSTUFF: Warning sign that should be required at garage sales. (Frank Osen)

DISSERVICE INDUSTRY: Telemarketers, cable companies, Burger King, etc. (Jesse Frankovich)

DONALD SUTRA: "When you're a star, they let you do it." (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

DUD ST.: Leads right to the Blvd. of Broken Dreams. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

DUST BOWEL: A region that's subject to shitstorms. (Frank Osen)

DUSTBASTER: Handheld vacuum that unexpectedly ejects its contents all over your kitchen. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

EXALTED TUSH: J.Lo's back! (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

GHOSTDUSTERS: Cremation service that scatters ashes by plane. "Want your wife's cremains to be gone for good, who ya gonna call?" (Jon Gearhart)

GUTSDUMP: Colonoscopy prep. "All right, Mr. Jones, we're all set -- now be sure to do your gutsdump twelve hours before your appointment." (Judy Freed)

JUST D'OH! IT: The tagline for Nike's partnership with the Washington Commanders. (Steve Smith)

REDUSTRIBUTION: "I did clean my room, Mom -- don't you remember how dirty that other side of the desk was?" (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

ST. DUDE: Apostle who was Jesus's favorite wingman. (Jon Ketzner)

STDU: An acronym for what I shout every time that damn Aflac commercial comes on. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

STDU: Trump aides' frantic text messages when the boss is rambling about, say, injecting bleach. (Duncan Stevens)

TD SUPER SCORING THING: For legal reasons, this is how we must refer to the big football game that's coming up. (Gregory Koch, Falls Church, Va.)

And Last: FIRST DUNCE: The almost-good-enough Invitational honorable mention that's placed right under the top four. (Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

The headline "The STUD Farm" is by Jeff Contompasis; Jesse Frankovich, Tom Witte, and Neil Kurland all submitted the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Feb. 3: Our Week 56 contest for "dad jokes" turned into less wholesome "grandpa jokes." Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Chris Doyle)
Title: (Jeff Contompasis)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich; Tom Witte; Neil Kurland)
Prize: ()

Week 1574, Published 01/25/2024
The Invitational Week 56: Oh, Grandpa, Stop!
Turn a 'dad joke' into a less tame 'grandpa joke.' Plus 'K is for Kegels' and other alphabet rhymes.
JAN 25, 2024

Hello. The sly figures above are Cynthia Pillsbury and her loving, cynical grandpa, Ebenezer Pillsbury, from the comic strip Barney & Clyde. (The above strip, from 2013, never ran in The Washington Post. It was killed for taste. You're reading it for the first time.) Cynthia is eleven. Ebenezer is old. He loves his granddaughter fiercely, but he doesn't feel a responsibility, as a father would, to be proper and to see that she's proper. In fact, he'd rather be her partner in a little subversiveness.

Hence his humor: Rather than bland, SFW dad jokes, Ebenezer likes to share what we'll call "grandpa jokes," as deemed by Barney & Clyde fan Valerie Holt, who suggested this contest.

For Invitational Week 56: Tell us a "dad joke" -- an old one or your own original -- and turn it into an edgy but not X-rated "grandpa joke."

"Dad jokes" -- Google that and you'll see lists of hundreds -- are usually short, wholesome Q&A riddles that involve a bland pun. Though we're not ruling out a very short joke in some other format, we're thinking of something like this one by Chris Doyle, recast from a similar Invitational contest in 2008 (full results here):

Q. When things go wrong, what can you always count on?
Dad joke: Your fingers.
Grandpa joke: Your toes, if the thing that went wrong was you lost your hands.


Today's Gene Pool Gene Poll:

Trump's chances of getting elected?
One in five,
Basically zero,

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. See the entry form for formatting instruction.

Deadline is Saturday, Feb. 3, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 8.

The winner gets, apropos of this contest, a spacious red T-shirt reading "Greatest Fa-" and here the "TH" is overwritten with "RT" to produce "Greatest Farter." Haha, what a gas. Donated by Ms. Pie Snelson, who is not a father and has never, to this day, farted.

What could be more boastful than a T-shirt emblazoned LOSER? Here we go!
Hey, we'd like your questions and observations, many of which we will respond to today in real time. Send them to this grotesque orange button:

grotesque orange button

Alphabetical Odor: The edgy couplets of Week 54

In Invitational Week 54, we asked you for adult versions of the "A is for *"/ "B is for*" rhyming couplets of classic primers. Perhaps reflecting the attention span of your less obsessive Loser, we received a disproportionate number of A/B rhymes over the rest of the alphabet. And yes, we are taking some chances here.

Third runner-up:
F is for Fire--there's smoke where it's at.
G's for George Santos, whose pants are on that. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Second runner-up:
C's for Compliance and following rules.
D's for Don't give a damn. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

First runner-up:
A is for Apathy, lack of endeavor.
B is for Bleh, something-something, whatever. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

And the winner of the $100 bill socks:
D's for Depressed: Need a lift in your heart.
E's for ED: Need a lift in your part. (Judy Freed)

Alphabested: Honorable mentions
A is for Ass-talk from Trump's other noise-end.
B is the Blood he claims migrants have poisoned. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

B is for Boebert, she's always on brand.
C, she is Cocksure her job's well in hand. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

C is for Chatbot, like ChatGPT.
D's Dissertation it drafted for me. (Jesse Frankovich)

E's for Extremists, nursing their grudges.
F's for Fifth Circuit; they're known there as judges. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

E is for Elephants, mighty and gray.
F's for the Folks who will ask, "What were they?" (Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

F is the Fragrance that wafts through your rooms.
G is for Gastrointestinal fumes. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

F is a Florida man who just died.
G is the Gator he took as a bride. (Chris Doyle)

K's for Kill -- grab your gun and be ready to show it.
L's for Life -- pretty clear that you're not really Pro-it. (Judy Freed)

K is for Kegels. Just give a good squeeze.
L is for Leakage. And try not to sneeze. (Judy Freed)

K is for Kicking the back of my seat.
L is for Lopping off both of your feet. (Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

L is for Lecture: "You're doing it wrong."
M is the Marriage that didn't last long. (Judy Freed)

L's for the Love of a son and his Pap.
M is for Mike Johnson's porn-tracking app. (Judy Freed)

L is for Leech: blood it happily sucks.
M's for Mechanic: "That's nine hundred bucks." (Duncan Stevens)

N's for your Novel, which all agents hate.
O's for Ovation - well, your mom thinks it's great. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

R is for Reddit: Policing by mob.
S is for Substack: You're Nazi? No prob. (Scott Ableman, McLean, Va.)

W is for WaPo, where Losers did flitter.
X is for X-crement, formerly Twitter. (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

And Last: I's for the Invite -- I'll write a knee-slapper!
J's for my Joke that winds up in the crapper. (Beverley Sharp)

And Even Laster: A's for AI, which has not won the 'Vite.
B is for Betting that someday it might. (Chris Doyle -- at least it said "Chris Doyle" *)

The headline "Alphabetical Odor" is by Jeff Shirley. Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 27: Our Week 55 contest for new terms containing some permutation of the letter block DUST. Click on the link below.

The Invitational Week 55: Tour de Fours -- Be STUD-ly
The Invitational Week 55: Tour de Fours -- Be STUD-ly

Idea: (Valery Holt)
Examples: (Chris Doyle)
Title: (Jeff Shirley)
Subhead: (Tom Witte)
Prize: (Pie Snelson)

Week 1573, Published 01/18/2024
The Invitational Week 55: Tour de Fours -- Be STUD-ly
Give us a new word or phrase containing 'DUST' in any order of letters. Plus we bring out our dead of 2023 in verse.
JAN 18, 2024

These lookalikes died in 2023, but one of them did not bomb Cambodia. See Dave Zarrow's tribute to his dad below, among this week's obit poems.

This week's Invitational: The Great DUST-up
It happened so fast that we didn't notice, but in last Week's Invitational, Loser Duncan Stevens gobbled up his 1,000th (and 1,001st) blot of Invite ink. Duncan, who's a lawyer for the FDIC, came to The Invitational in 2012 after people liked the song parodies he wrote for retirements and such at the office; he dipped his feet into the Invite pool for a few inks a year, then suddenly zoomed to the top reaches of the Loser standings, spattering up the Invite with more than a hundred blots every year -- a figure he's easily passed for seven years straight -- and winning the whole contest twenty-six times, most notably with his song parodies, but also every other challenge we've tossed in front of the Loser Community. (Here's a link to "The Style Invitational Runs on Dunc'n," a collection of his first 500.)

The "reward" we give to 1,000-ink Losers is an offer to both choose the next contest and to guest-judge the results. Some among the previous seven have agreed to do the Czar's and Empress's work for them; others have sanely declined. Duncan, you might be stunned to hear, also has a non-Invite life; there are the two kids who've grown from toddlerhood to adolescence with a Loser Daddy, and the distance running and bicyling, and the Ultimate tournaments, and LearnedLeague, and the church choir, and even some stuff he does for the government. So Duncan opted sensibly for just Part 1: to select the contest. It's a perennial -- our twentieth running, each with a different letter block.

For Invitational Week 55: Come up with a new term or multi-word phrase that includes the letter block DUST -- for DUncan STevens, see -- in any order but with no other letters between them (spaces between words are okay). Like these examples. The first two are by Duncan himself, the third is by The Czar:

GO DUTSH: Show up to the date so drunk that you can't manage to pay the bill.

EXODUST: "Yo, Pharaoh, this place is filthy! We're outta here."

ST. DUFUS: He was martyred by kissing a wall socket.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Jan. 27, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 1. Please see the entry form for formatting directions.

The winner gets the ever-useful Dial-an-Excuse wheel, which offers five different "reasons" for each of dozens of wrongs. Turn to "Forgot Birthday," say, and choose from Classic, "Later surprise planned"; Mundane, "Preoccupied at work"; Extenuating, "Mercury in retrograde"; Farfetched, "Gift stolen at gunpoint"; and Sob Story, "Childhood birthday trauma." Donated by the inexcusable Steve Smith.

Reader's Die-Jest: Celebrating the ex-folks of 2023
In Week 53 we asked you to commemorate in verse someone who died in 2023. As our obit poems do every year, they salute both the big names on the In Memoriam reel and those who didn't get their moment of fame till their remarkable demise.

Third runner-up: Confectioner Bob Born (1924-2023)
Bob Born would talk about the tricks
He learned producing candy chicks.
But now in his eternal sleep,
He isn't gonna make a Peep.
(Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Second runner-up: Actress Gina Lollobrigida (1927-2023)
Gina Lollobrigida
Made erections rigida. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

First runner-up: Henry Kissinger (1923-2023) and Ray Zarrow (1920-2023)
Henry Kissinger and my Dad both died in '23;
Each of them managed to hang around for at least a century.
In public Dad was sometimes asked if he was Henry the K,
(Or Howard Cosell, but that's a story for a different day,)
Ol' Dad was super friendly, he would always say hello ta ya,
And never in his hundred-plus would he have bombed Cambodia.
(Dave Zarrow, Skokie, Ill.)

And the winner of the pooping-dog toothpaste dispenser:
Among the dozens of trailblazers within their race, gender, ethnic group, sexual orientation, or religion who died last year:
Hooray for their firsts in pro bowling, car racing,
And tap dancing, sailing, and MBA-chasing,
In riding on horseback and superintending,
In modeling, judging, and perp-apprehending,
In violin playing and movie directing,
In signs-of-volcanic-eruption detecting,
Plus many more fields! And let's hope till we're bursting
That folks of all kinds soon will need no more firsting.
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

Urnable Mentions
Daredevil Robbie Knievel (1962-2023)
Off-road riding, damned near flying,
Up till lately, death-defying:
Robbie Knievel, Evel's son
Has passed away--his life is done.
Over chasms deep and wide
And rows of vehicles he'd ride.
His closing exploit, final stop:
A three-foot gap, a six-foot drop.
(David Franks, Washington County, Ark.)

Stockton Rush (1962-2023), CEO of the OceanGate adventure-touring company
Taking tourists to view the Titanic,
Stockton Rush, like his name, sounded manic,
He said, "Safety's a waste!" and dispatched them posthaste,
In small pieces, throughout the Atlantic.
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Al Jaffee (1921-2023)
For fifty-five years, the cartoonist Al Jaffee
Drew every Mad magazine back-cover Fold-In.
Determined as always to have the last laugh, he
Now lies in a grave he can LOL and be cold in.
(Chris Doyle)

II. "This casket is too small, and soon the service will begin:
I'm sorry, Mr. Jaffee, but I'll have to fold you in." (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

III. The mourners file past with tear in eye,
And one asks, "Al, friend, why'd you have to die?"
Faintly, a voice--the merest of suggestions:
"To get away from all your stupid questions."
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Confectioner Bob Born (1924-2023)

In tribute to Bob Born, let's bury a Peep,
Then dig it up after a twenty-year sleep.
The miracle chick will defy natural laws
And be just as edible as it never was.
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Doyle Brunson (1933-2023), Hall of Fame poker player
A heart the size of Texas, that is what this legend had;
A club is where he played the game that made him oh so glad.
A spade was used for digging in his cemetery plot--
A diamond is forever, but Doyle, he was not. (Jesse Frankovich)

Emil C. Gotschlich (1935-2023), vaccine creator
Though shots of his vaccines may not delight us,
They beat meningococcal meningitis. (Melissa Balmain)

Miljenko "Mike" Grgich (1923-2023), winemaker
In sleepy Napa Valley, U.S.A.,
Mike Grgich made a tasty Chardonnay.
The vintage opened many people's eyes,
When --sacre bleu! -- in France, it won first prize.
And just like that, to Napa vintners raced,
With local farms and businesses displaced.
Today, on cars and tourists Napa chokes,
With no place left to live for just plain folks.
While over in Sonoma, locals share
Relief that Grgich didn't settle there.
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Dick Butkus (1942-2023), Hall of Fame linebacker
Dick Butkus earned a lot of fame
For playing hard and taking aim
At anyone who ever came
Upon him in a football game.
And never felt a bit of shame
For having such a funny name. (Jesse Frankovich)

Theodore Kaczynski (1942-2023), the "Unabomber"
Kaczynski's gone, perhaps to meet his Maker,
Alone--as he preferred. The undertaker
(Perhaps to not invoke his Luddite ire)
Cremated Ted with good old-fashioned fire,
Then packed his dust and fragments up to go,
And sent him off to Texas, and below.
And--not to add a spoiler to this ode--
The box they sent him in did not explode. (David Franks)

Harry Lorayne (1926-2023), magician and memory whiz
His amazing feats of memory would instruct and entertain;
It sure would be ironic to forget Harry Lorayne.
(Elliott Shevin, Efrat, West Bank)

Businessman Charlie Munger (1924-2023):
He spent his life investing
And made a bunch of cash.
He and Buffett crushed the game,
Developed quite a stash.
But those heady days are over,
He has nothing left to learn.
And for once in Charlie's lifetime
He won't get a return.
(Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

W. Jason Morgan, plate tectonics geophysicist (1935-2023)
Dr. Morgan, an underground great,
Closely studied each underground plate
Until meeting his underground fate. (Jesse Frankovich)

Fred la Marmotte (died Feb. 2, 2023), the Punxsutawney Phil of Quebec
Ironic that on Groundhog Day,
Fred la Marmotte drew his last breath
And the only shadow that he saw
Was that of the Angel of Death. (Elliott Shevin)

Alice K. Ladas (1921-2023), co-author of "The G Spot"
Higgledy piggledy,
Alice K. Ladas was
Known for her book that was
Centered around

Touting a spot that is
(Now that she's gone, she's as
Hard to be found.) (Jesse Frankovich)

Douglas Lenat (1950-2023), artificial-intelligence pioneer
He made AI more commonsense,
Then Doug Lenat departed hence
To death's bourn, where, it's said, he lingers
With six or seven extra fingers. (Frank Osen)

Art McNally (1925-2023), NFL Hall of Fame referee
The doctor stood beside the bed:
"There is no pulse. McNally's dead."
"Replay the tape," the nurse replied,
"To verify he really died."
She played the tape back in slo-mo
To watch the patient's fading glow,
Then faced the doc with upheld hands:
"The ruling on the gurney stands." (Rob Cohen)

Yevgeny Prigozhin (1961-2023), mercenary leader who led a rebellion against Russia's president
The death of Prigozhin was shocking and sad;
His days were cut short when he turned against Vlad.
When tangling with tyrants (I firmly opine):
Be careful! You're Putin your life on the line.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Mary Quant (1930-2023), mother of the miniskirt
Mary Quant
Knew what we want:
Skirts so far from maxi,
They make it impossible to gracefully get out of a taxi. (Melissa Balmain)

Pat Robertson (1930-2023)
A leading televangelist and avid Bible thumper.
Just scratch one of his followers -- you're sure to find a Trumper.
At bashing foes and gaining wealth he clearly was adept.
So what was the reaction up in heaven? Jesus wept.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Joseph Smith of Sumner County, Kan. (died Jan. 21, 2023, age 30 or 32 depending on the source)
Joe and dog Lucille went to hunt in his friend's truck,
He put his dog in the back seat with his friend's gun like a schmuck.
The dog stepped on the trigger and shot his owner dead.
The man today would be alive if he'd just used his head.
What's the moral to be learned from this? Well, let me be quite blunt:
If your dog likes "riding shotgun," better let her sit up front.
(Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Unnamed Woman in New Zealand (died May 12, 2023)
The patient was homebound and just out the door
When dropped from a stretcher, face down on the floor.
She fell from a ledge (which was quite a surprise!);
Then hit by the stretcher, which caused her demise.
So always take care when you're out on the town:
An accident might turn your life upside down. (Beverley Sharp)

Embryologist Ian Wilmut (1944-2023)
Sir Ian Wilmut cloned Dolly the sheep
A feat that was truly a dilly.
He's gone now forever, he sleeps the Big Sleep
We will not see his like again ... will we? (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Jim Brown (1936-2023), running back;
Fred White (1955-2023), drummer;
Shecky Greene (1926-2023), comedian;
Vida Blue (1949-2023), pitcher
Jim Brown, Fred White, and Shecky Greene, and also Vida Blue?
I do not think that we could bear to lose another hue! (Jesse Frankovich)

The headline "Reader's Die-Jest" is by Jesse Frankovich; Jon Gearhart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 20: Our Week 54 contest for edgy alphabet-book couplets. Click on the link below.

Idea: (Duncan Stevens)
Examples: (Duncan Stevens; Duncan Stevens)
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Jon Gearhart)
Prize: (Steve "Potomac" Smith)

Week 1572, Published 01/11/2024
The Invitational Week 54: S Is for Smartass
Presenting the Devil's Alphabet Soup. Plus new humor from old contests.
JAN 11, 2024

The Invitational Week 54
Send us couplets of rhyming lines from any two consecutive (contiguous) pages of a wickedly seditious and cynical children's alphabet book, as in these two from a long-ago Invite:

K is for Klingon. What's that? You have met one?
L is for Life. I suggest that you get one. (Robert Schechter)

And :

G is for God-given rights, like big rifles.
H is for Health care and other such trifles. (Melissa Balmain)

This the first time doing this contest that our judging is not constrained by the sometimes puritanical Washington Post rules of decorum, so have your way with it. We're judging each couplet independently -- themed lines covering a run of more than two letters won't get ink.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Jan. 20, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Jan. 25. While we'll run the results as two-line poems, please submit each couplet as one long line, and we'll break them up appropriately.

The winner gets two hundred dollars! In the form of a pair of socks, each of which is imprinted with a very large and elastic $100 bill. Show to the world that you know how to stretch a buck. Donated by Father Prize himself, Loser Dave Prevar.

Political wonks would call this walking-around money. This week's prize. (

Deja Two: Another go at 25 contests from '23
In Week 52, in the second week of our annual retrospective, we invited you to enter or reenter any or all of The Invitational's contests from the second half of 2023, including limericks, song parodies, "life lessons," photo captions, and our stock in trade, new words.

Third runner-up:
From Week 39: Pair a line from a Bob Dylan song with your own rhyming line:
"Arise, arise," he cried so loud in a voice without restraint,
And folks hissed, "Shh, this is the quiet car! We'll issue a complaint!" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Second runner-up:
From Week 35, Muldoons, which are quatrains that mention at least two body parts, a place name, and at least one rhyme:
I'd walk my dog in Central Park, I'd watch him pee and poop,
Then with my hand into a bag, his excrement I'd scoop.
But now my legs are weak, my sight is poor at ninety-three.
I wish to hell I'd trained my dog to do the same for me. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

First runner-up:
From Week 50, the news events of 2024:
Stingier than ever, airlines now require passengers to bring food to serve to the flight attendants. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

And the winner of the Dull Men's Club Calendar:
Predicted news events of 2024:
Prince Andrew joins the Artist Formerly Known as Prince in being formerly known as Prince. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

Re-ruins: Honorable mentions
Week 26, compare any two items on a random list:
Handel's Messiah: A tribute to the Son of God. A silent fart: Attribute to your son or dog. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Week 27, how businesses might pander to Trump's base:
Hallmark would market "Happy January 6" cards. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

The Texas Rangers would hold a Bring Your Gun to the Game day. (Steve Smith)

The famous pumpkin brand would make its slogan "We're Libby's. Own Us!" (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Hamilton would tour with a historically accurate cast. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Week 28, poems featuring words from the 2023 National Spelling Bee:
Chutzpah: nerve or temerity
"I'd like to see your manager," the woman said to me.
"The service here is terrible. I'm sure he will agree."
Replied I, "Ma'am, your chutzpah's entertaining -- I'm verklempt.
But this is still my courtroom, and I find you in contempt." (Mark Raffman)

Omphaloskepsis: navel-gazing:
Friend, have you gleaned any
Truths 'bout existence, or
Even a hint,

Eyeing your navel so
"Actually, bud, I'm just
Hunting for lint." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Sabulous; sandy or gritty
They'd set out when the day was hot;
The beach had been the perfect spot!
He told her she looked sabulous;
She thought that he said "fabulous."
"No, no," he said, "that's not the case!"
She kicked some sand right in his face. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

To querken is to choke real hard
Even through the tears.
The Washington Commanders have
Been querkening for years. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Tolsester, a fee paid to a feudal lord for a license to brew ale):
Disbursed the funds to ply my trade;
Brewed Miller Lite all year.
My tolsester was just repaid!
The reason wasn't clear.
When I asked why: "That stuff you made?
Good Lord! You call that beer?" (Duncan Stevens)

Week 29, short sentences that include all 26 letters:
Balmy antivax dingwad quack RFK Jr. for prez? No shot. (Duncan Stevens)

Tonight I knew maybe every one of the Jeopardy! quiz answers; the questions, not exactly. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Week 31, neologisms formed from seven-letter "racks" in the ScrabbleGrams anagram game:
EGIMOST > OMGIEST: Most amazing. "That was the OMGiest thing I ever saw." (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

AEUKLPM > PALM UKE: Euphemism for an instrument that's played enthusiastically by teenage boys. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

ADEIMTY > YADTIME: Outdoor party in Boston. (Rob Cohen)

ADEIMTY > YAMTIDE: The holiday one month before Yuletide. (Pam Shermeyer)

Week 32, limericks featuring words beginning with "ho-":
If the tortoise had challenged the hare
To race home, that would not have been fair
'Cause that would just be
One big shell game, you see,
'Cause the tortoise is already there. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Our trip to the Netherlands cost
So much that I drank till I lost
All feelings of woe.
Egged on by my bro,
I spent all of my Holland days sauced. (Jon Gearhart)

Week 33: Ask Backwards: We give the "answers"; you tell us the questions.
A. Donald Trump, PhD.
Q. Which American most resents sharing a name with someone else? (Jeff Contompasis)

A. Arguably, they're the same.
Q. If I want to show my commitment level, do I go "all in" or "all out"? (Jeff Contompasis)

Week 34, compare two people who share a birthday.
Sonja Henie (April 8, 1912) vs. Claudine Gay (April 8, 1970):
One knew how to skate on thin ice. (Steve Smith)

Shaquille O'Neal (March 6, 1972) and Michelangelo (March 6, 1475):
Towering figures in their fields, they both did great work in the paint. (Pam Shermeyer)

Babe Ruth (Feb. 6, 1895) and Zsa Zsa Gabor (Feb. 6, 1917):
For his homers, they dubbed him the Sultan of Swat;
Seven hundred fourteen was the number he hit.
Ms. Gabor had big numbers for tying the knot,
Though her tally of husbands was lower -- a bit. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Week 35, Muldoons, quatrains that mention at least two body parts, a place name, and a rhyme:
Said Cyrano of Bergerac,
"This nose, so big -- I understand."
Said fair Roxane, replying back:
"Who cares? I'm looking at your hand." (Mark Raffman)

It has P, E, N, I, and S.
It's shaped like Chile. What's your guess?
I doubt there's one as stiff as mine--
Of course I'm speaking of the SPINE. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Week 37, "backronyms":
BOEBERT: Beetlejuice Offers Excellent Boyfriend-Erotic-Rubbing Time (Duncan Stevens)

Week 38: Chiasmus, phrases paired with their inversion, including spoonerisms:
Trump: "Hunter is a criminal who should be prosecuted."
Also Trump: "Prosecutors are criminals who should be hunted." (Mark Raffman)

"Have you emptied our trash cans yet?" "Done that bin there." (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Week 39: Dylan "tailgaters," a line from a song written by Bob Dylan, then paired with your own rhyming line:
I paid fifteen million dollars, twelve hundred and seventy-two cents
'Cause buying Supreme Court justices is quite a large expense. (Karen Lambert)

Go away from my window, leave at your own chosen speed:
You're hardly the first sick creep to watch me while I peed. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Week 40, song lyrics about the news:
Ballad of a Straw Man
To "If I Only Had a Brain"
Pay no heed to those indictments, those frivolous incitements,
In time they'll leave no stain!
Prosecutors whipped grand juries into anti-MAGA furies
Just to mess with my campaign.

Paid no porn star to keep quiet--did not incite a riot --
Keep docs? Oh, that's inane!
Lefties spread disinformation, tales of vote manipulation,
Just to mess with my campaign.

A smear to interfere with votes in '24:
"Make him someone that his base will not adore!"
With every count they love me more!

You can trust me, sure as shootin': the people prosecutin'
Are on a gravy train.
What those meanies, every one, did, that's because they're Soros-funded,
Out to mess with my campaign. (Duncan Stevens)

Week 41, neologisms "discovered" in a random word-find grid:
Phod: Vietnamese wabbit soup. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Lossie: Memory-impaired dog who keeps forgetting where Timmy went. (Jeff Contompasis)

Week 43, "Life lessons" to be learned from some milieu:
From reality TV: To rough it in the wilderness, take only the bare essentials: fire starter, pot, machete, and an array of makeup. (Pam Shermeyer)

From your parents: Always keep your banking password in a safe place, like your purse or wallet. (Steve Smith)

Week 46, "air quotes":
2"46"8, who do we appreciate?: A chant never heard at Trump rallies. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

A"cad"emic: A handsy professor. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

Th"eat"er: "Acting was my life, but I found I needed to do more." (Frank Osen)

Donal"D J. T"rump: So narcissistic, even his name says his name. (Judy Freed)

I"ow"a: Location of Ron DeSantis campaign headquarters on Jan. 16. (Mark Raffman)

Back"woo"dsy: Comin' a-courtin' with a fresh rabbit and a bouquet of honeysuckle. (Pam Shermeyer)

S"mother": Being a helicopter mom. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

Se"rv"ant: A SCOTUS justice who dutifully does the bidding of his patrons. (Chris Doyle)

Te"tan"us: So I stepped on a pop-top at Margaritaville Beach. What could go wrong? (Neil Kurland)

N"ew"s: A photojournalism story on Dr. Pimple Popper. (Jeff Hazle)

Week 47, compare two people who share some element of their names:
Alex Haley and Nikki Haley: Each is known for fictionalized accounts of slavery. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Bruce Jenner vs. Caitlyn Jenner: In addition to having the same parents, both had exactly the same circulatory and digestive systems. (Howard Walderman)

Week 48, bad news rewritten to sound like good news:
Original: The planet might have entered the age of 'global boiling' in 2023
Spun: Global warming may be a thing of the past (Jeff Contompasis)

O: Alaska Airlines Grounds Fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9 Jets After Midair 'Incident'
S: Alaska Airlines to Dramatically Reduce Carbon Emissions (Karen Lambert)

O: Trump's criminality, his authoritarianism, and his malignant narcissism and psychopathy inextricably intertwine.
S: Trump may not be unraveling after all. (Judy Freed)

O: Nearly 700 Books Banned in Orange County, Florida
S: Orlando Libraries Dramatically Expand Shelf Capacity (Frank Osen)

Week 49, caption any of seven pictures:

Picasso's "Black Period" was better left forgotten. (Leif Picoult)

Week 50, news items from the coming year:
To make himself hipper, King Charles III rebrands as KC3. (Leif Picoult)

The Supreme Court rules 6-3 to reverse the Colorado decision barring Donald Trump from the ballot. Writing for the majority, Justice Thomas declares in full: "Because we said so, that's why." (Elliott Shevin, Efrat, West Bank)

Joe Biden is impeached for not having any of the evidence that House Republicans need in order to impeach him. (Duncan Stevens)

The D.C. area Metro system announces that, due to budget cutbacks, the Purple Line will be merely a pale lavender. (Duncan Stevens)

And Last: Air quotes: The Gene "Poo"l: Not the usual crap. It's better crap. (Neil Kurland)

The headline "Deja Two" is by Kevin Dopart; Roy Ashley wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 13: Our Week 53 contest for humorous poems about people who died in 2023. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Melissa Balmain; Robert Schechter)
Title: (Kevin Dopart)
Subhead: (Roy Ashley)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1571, Published 01/04/2024
Invitational Week 53: Dead Letters, our annual obit poem contest
Write a funny verse about someone who died in 2023. Plus a Kook's Tour of new material from lots of previous contests.
JAN 4, 2024

In memory of the creator of both Mad Fold-Ins and "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions."

You ask Al Jaffee if he is dead.
He yells "NO!" all testy and curt --
"I'm just in bed! A flower bed!
It's comfy here, under the dirt."


For Invitational Week 53: Write a witty rhyming poem of no longer than eight lines about someone who died in 2023. Here's a list of eighty notable ex-beings that might help you, but you can Google "deaths 2023" and do your own research; winners of the Darwin Awards have inspired numerous Invite tributes over the years. And you should also check out the obit poems that got ink a year ago in our first Invite contest on Substack.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Jan. 13, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Jan. 18.

The winner gets -- as befitting this solemn exercise -- this dog-hindquarters-motif toothpaste dispenser; just push it over an open tube of toothpaste and squeeze it out the butt.

It's especially effective on the canine teeth. This week's prize. (

Back in the Pool: Another go at 24 contests from '23
In Week 51, we invited you to enter or reenter any or all of The Invitational's contests from the first half of 2023, everything from one-liners to neologisms to cartoon captions to elaborate song parodies.

Third runner-up: From Week 16, "breed" two racehorse names and name the "foal":
Eastbound x There Be Dragons = Westbound! (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

Second runner-up: From Week 6, captions for any of seven varied pictures:

Sheila stepped up her search for the elusive purple peephole eater. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

First runner-up: From Week 9, use all the letters in a movie title to name a new movie:
DIRTY DANCING > DANG! GRANNY CAN GRIND IT!: Baby's bubbe enrolls in hora lessons at the retirement home, and is an instant hit! (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

And the winner of the 2024 calendar Dogs Pooping in Beautiful Places:
From Week 10, to enter any contest from 1993:
Divide the world into two types of people:
Bold, iconoclastic freethinkers, and
People who play "adieu" as their first Wordle word.
(Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase Md.)

Rediddly-squat: Honorable mentions
From Week 1, poems about people who died in 2022

Robert J. Vlasic (1926-2022)
As a connoisseur of things preserved
For people that his business served
Mr. Vlasic would no doubt be tickled
To know if his remains were pickled.
(Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

David Riston (1972-2022), snake collector:
A house that's full of pets is nice,
But full of snakes? He paid the price.
He wouldn't settle for a score;
He bought one hundred twenty-four.
He then sequestered every snake,
But all it took was one mistake.
They finally found him -- poisoned. (Gasp!)
And was he dead? You bet your asp.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

From Week 4, Questionable Journalism: Choose a sentence from an article or ad, then follow it with a question it might humorously answer.
Real sentence: A: The city prohibits begging in that area under an ordinance from 2010.
Q: Why were Capitol Police officers called to the House floor during Kevin McCarthy's run for Speaker? (Judy Freed)

A: The llamas were dressed in a reindeer theme with antler headbands, glittery halters with tinkling bells and poinsettia-adorned wreaths.
Q: Mr. Santos, did you have pets when you lived in Brazil? (Judy Freed)

A: "We still had a lot of fun. It's not like it ruined the day."
Q: "Mr. Trump, sir, do you regret the violence that followed your January 6th speech?" (Judy Freed)

Week 5, a "circle of hell" and a punishment to fit the crime
For people who use "funny" names at Starbucks: "There's a Get Out of Hell ticket here for Mr. Jack Meehauf. Sorry, that's obviously a fake name. Next!" (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

People who put pineapple on their pizzas will reside in a circle of Hell where George Will is eternally explaining that the pineapple (from neither a pine tree nor an apple) is not a product of European colonization and oppression, but is actually, somewhat counterintuitively but also quite clearly, an outgrowth of mid-19th-century socialist proposals to reorganize European colonialist economic systems. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

Week 8, "pokes," old jokes told as rhyming poems
"You're saying the bank's turned me down for a loan?"
The stunned tightrope walker let loose a deep groan.
The banker's explanation was barely comprehended:
"When your balance is outstanding, credit cannot be extended." (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

When she said she was leaving him, he tried to smile.
He asked her why, and she said that she'd been told
That he was twice convicted as a pedophile.
Said he, "That's a mighty big word for a twelve-year-old."
(Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

The thing that's best about the Swiss?
I can't be sure, but maybe this:
Their flag? And if it isn't thus,
It's still at least a great big plus.
(Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Fella calls his wife late one Sunday eve.
"Sorry, honey, I'm staying with my old friend Steve."
"No problem," she coos, "it's perfectly all right" --
And then says to her lover as he pushes in tight,
"My husband is staying at your house tonight."
(Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

A man with a frog at a bar
Made a claim that was rather bizarre.
He said, "Not to sound classless or shady,
But my trained frog can please any lady."

He turned to a lass on his left,
Said his frog, as a lover, was deft.
She guffawed and said, "Ha. Fat chance."
He replied, "No, he's good at romance."

She then saucily told him to prove it,
And unbuttoned her skirt to remove it.
She lay down on the wooden bar counter
And waited for Froggie to mount her.

The frog did nothing but croak.
He made nary an effort to poke.
The man told the frog, "Do your thing.
Have a fun romp, an amorous fling.
Get up there and do as you may --
She's waiting for your big display."

But the frog continued to loll,
And the man, with a measure of gall,
Said, "Miss, he forgot how to score.
Would you mind if I show him once more?"
(Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Week 9, use all the letters in a movie title to name a new movie
Top Gun > Go Up on Pot: A Navy jet pilot feels the need -- the need for weed. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

The Shining > The Insight: A movie star realizes he may have been overacting, just a little. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Animal House > A House Minus Assholes: Congress adjourns and leaves town for the holidays. (Mark Raffman)

Aladdin > Did Anal: An adult film of a lad in a lad. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York > Lost in New York! Lost in the West! Lost All! No Term 2! Now, the Law! Trump ruminates as he watches TV. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

Week 10, enter any contest from our first year, 1993
Finish this joke: A nun, a rabbi and an atheist are taking a tour of the White House * and Trump is there to greet them.
He says to the nun, "How come your outfit hides your gams?"
He says to the rabbi, "What's with the funny hat?"
And he says to the atheist, "Why don't you believe in me?" (Leif Picoult)

Divide the world into two types of people:
Women who keep their big fat mouths shut, and
Women who aren't my type. - D.J.T. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Rename the Washington Redskins: The Virginia Commanders (Jeff Contompasis)

Ideas for statues: A one-foot Donald Trump statue labeled "World's Tallest Statue." (Leif Picoult)

Modernize an old quote or expression: I coulda been a contender. I coulda * had a participation trophy! (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Modernize an old quote or expression: I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man * wearing Crocs. (Lee Graham)

Week 11, a picture made by the Dall-E AI tool

The Darth Side of the Moon (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Week 12, Mess With Our Heads: "Bank headlines" that reinterpret real headlines
Real headline: 9 Predictions for how we'll eat in 2024
Bank head: Top forecast: chewing, then swallowing (Karen Lambert)

Week 14, make up new words using letter sets from the NYT Spelling Bee game
PADINOT > Opinata: A thin-skinned pundit who falls apart as soon as critics take a crack at him. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

PILNORU > Pro Rip: Competition category in the World Flatulence Invitational (Stu Segal, Southeast U.S.)

LCEMOPT > Loptop: A guillotine. (Neil Kurland)

Week 15, snappy answers to stupid questions
Q: Sir, have you been drinking?
A: Yes, but I didn't inhale. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Q. Is that your baby?
A. No, it's my mom. She had a time travel mishap. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Week 16, "breed" two listed racehorses and name the foal to refer to both names
Fleet Feet x Point Proven = P.D.Q.E.D. (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.; Chris Doyle)

Auguste Rodin x Low Expectations = The Gates of Heck (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

Justice Department x Miracle Worker = Felon Keller (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Ready Shakespeare x Litigate = Exit, Sued by Bear (Jonathan Paul)

Top Recruit x Escalation = Hire and Higher (Eric Nelkin)

Blocked x Alternate Reality = Milk of Amnesia (Judy Freed)

Hit Show x Infinite Series = Magnum, Pi (Jesse Frankovich)

Yellow Brick x Fleet Feet = Auntie Enema (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Ben Franklin x Stormy Entry = 1,300 Benjamins (Mark Raffman)

Week 18, "breed" two inking entries from Week 16 to name a "grandfoal"
The Three Scrooges x Porn to Run = The Three Splooges (Jesse Frankovich)

USS Constipation x Storm Suer = Restraining Ordure (Jeff Contompasis)

Fonzie Scheme x Hanky Panky = Hump the Shark (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Week 19, write song parody lyrics that are "sung" by a certain politician

Donald Trump sings his 2023 Christmas message.
(To "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas")
Have yourself a merry fucking Christmas, ring your jingle bell,
While I pray you radicals will rot in hell.
Have yourself a merry fucking Christmas, sing your happy tunes
While we lose our nation to you lefty loons.
[Bridge] Here we are -- Biden's lazy years,
Crooked, crazy years gone by.
Faithful fans who are dear to me
Will adhere to me or possibly die (of natural causes).
Soon enough, I'll be back in the White House -- doesn't matter how.
And Jack Smith can take his final bullshit bow.
And have yourself a merry fucking Christmas now. (Judy Freed)

I'll Be Trumpier the Second Time Around
To (Love Is Lovelier) "The Second Time Around"
Written and performed by Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore

I'll be Trumpier the second time around,
And my enemies I'll run into the ground.
On Election Day there's nothing we won't do,
If the ballot box won't favor us, we'll win it in a coup.
When America returns to being great,
You will love it in my autocratic state.
Who can say what miracles might happen once I'm crowned?
There are those who say
We still have laws in play.
They won't get in my way *
The second time around.

Week 20, clerihews about current events
Senator Josh Hawley
Has strong views on how men should be manly, by gawly--
Though, when a right-wing mob is advancing, this particular man who fears for his butt'll
Ignominiously scuttle. (Duncan Stevens)

Week 24, tweak an ad slogan to use it for another product
You'll love the way we fly: Delta Airlines
You'll love the way we fry: Prison systems of Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee (Kevin Dopart)

Celebrate the Moments of Your Life: General Foods.
Celebrate the Movements of Your Life: Colace Stool Softener. (Chris Doyle)

Week 25, change one or more letters in a word to F
Mofotonous: Like some rap lyrics. (Tom Witte)

And Last: Anagrams for people or institutions:
rearrange to HAVE NOSTRILS IN A TOILET (Chris Doyle)

And Even Laster: Bank headlines
Headline: Fun Is Dead
Bank head: 'We made a promise when we killed The Style Invitational, and we've kept it!' Post editors say (Richard Wexler, Alexandria, Va.)

The headline "Back in the Pool" is by Jon Ketzner; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 6: Our Week 52 contest to enter any of 25 contests from the past half-year.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jon Keetzner)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize: ()

Week 1570, Published 12/28/2023
The Invitational, Week 52: Replaying Around -- The 2023 retrospective, Part II
Enter or reenter our Week 26-50. Plus we tell you what happened next year.

DEC 28, 2023
Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce
What will be the saucy title of the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce breakup song? See this week's Invitational results below.

The New Contest
* which is a continuation of last week's contest, which we split in two parts onaconna we tend to get milliards and milliards and milliards of good entries from people who feel aggrieved at not getting ink the first time. Please note that "milliards" is not a neologism, but an antiquated British term meaning "billions," which was made famous by the poet and polymath Piet Hein, in this existential ditty:

Nature, it seems, is the popular name
For milliards and milliards and milliards
Of particles playing their infinite game
Of billiards and billiards and billiards.

For Invitational Week 52: Enter any or all of our 2023 Invitational contests from Week 26 through Week 50. You can enter a contest you missed, or reenter a contest with a better idea this time, or even a second shot with an entry that, dagnabit, deserved ink: Sometimes we do have too much good stuff in a given week, and so this ploy has borne fruit occasionally in our end-of-year retrospectives. (Click on the contest from two weeks later to see the results.) Be sure to read the directions on each contest itself, not just these thumbnails, but your entry must be sent to, NOT THE FORMS FROM THOSE WEEKS! Feel free to send in different contests on a single form. Please also take a look at this link for a few extra (but important) directions.

Week 26: Compare or otherwise link any two items on the random list provided.
Week 27: How certain businesses might pander to Trump's faithful supporters.
Week 28: Write a short poem, or tell a riddle-style joke, featuring a word from this year's National Spelling Bee.
Week 29: Write a funny sentence that includes all 26 letters.
Week 30: Come up with a stupid online poll for a general-interest news site.
Week 31: Make up a new word by scrambling one of the seven-letter "racks" from that week's ScrabbleGrams word game.
Week 32: Write a limerick prominently featuring a word or name beginning with "ho-."
Week 33: Ask Backwards: We give the "answers"; you tell us the questions.
Week 34: Compare two people who share a birthday.
Week 35: Write a Muldoon, a four-line poem that features at least two body parts and a place name, and at least one rhyme.
Week 36: Offer either a reason to feel compassion for Trump-worshipers or a reason to respect and admire them.
Week 37: Backronyms: Snarkily describe someone or something as an acrostic, i.e., by spelling out its name with the first letters of the words of your description.
Week 38: Chiasmus: Write an original witticism containing a sentence or phrase followed by its inversion, including spoonerisms.
Week 39: Dylan "tailgaters": Choose a line from a song written by Bob Dylan, then pair it with your own rhyming line.
Week 40: Song lyrics about the news. (Videos also welcome.)
Week 41: "Discover" and define new words by snaking through a word-find grid. Week 42: "Am I the asshole?" situations.
Week 43: "Life lessons" to be learned from any particular milieu, such as the movies, working at the White House, etc.
Week 44: Monorhymes, poems whose lines all rhyme with one another.
Week 45: New items and descriptions for a mail order catalog such as Hammacher Schlemmer.
Week 46: Set off a word-within-a-word in "air quotes" to give a new context to the word, as in "fun"eral.
Week 47: Compare two people who share some element of their names.
Week 48: Humorously rewrite a bad-news sentence or headline to give it positive spin.
Week 49: Caption any of seven pictures we offer. (Results here.)
Week 50: In present tense, say what "happened" sometime in 2024 (see today's results).

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Check this list for a few special directions for specific contests, plus some other secret messages.

Deadline is Saturday, Jan. 6, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Jan. 11.

The winner gets the 2024 version of the sublime Dull Men's Club Calendar, which each month celebrates someone with a "unique and quirky passion." Such as Mr. July, "Dustbin Dave" of Norfolk, England, a trash can aficionado. The calendar also marks such notable occasions as International Clothesline Week, and the Rhubarb Festival of Intercourse, Pa. Donated by the anything-but-dull (or -man) Loser Melissa Balmain.

Ms. February Angela Clark in the Dull Men's Club calendar, with some of the 10,000 plastic bags in her collection. Oooh.
Wack to the Future: Our news from 2024
In Week 50, as we do at the end of every year, we asked you to help build a timeline of things that happen next year. Curiously, almost none of the entries dared tell what happens on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2024, except for a couple that had Trump declaring victory from his prison cell.

Third runner-up: April 15: On the 112th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the last known iceberg melts into the North Atlantic. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Second runner-up: Texas begins erecting a wall to keep women from escaping. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

First runner-up: Biden's poll numbers drop further after he turns water into wine, but fails to create bourbon, mead, and non-alcoholic prosecco. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

And the winner of the 2023 pooping-dog ornament:
The NFL announces that next year's Super Bowl will be the halftime entertainment at a Taylor Swift concert. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Oraculls: Honorable mentions
Jan. 1: As Disney's copyright expires on the earliest Mickey Mouse images, Mickey immediately stars in anime porn, and Trojan releases a Steamboat Willie line of condoms. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.; Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

The Supreme Court rules that Trump must be reinstated to the Colorado ballot. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas writes that he must also be awarded 11,700 extra votes in the general election. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Rudy Giuliani appeals all his convictions to Supreme Court Total Landscaping. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Feb. 11: Moments after the 49ers beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, Taylor Swift dumps Travis Kelce for Brock Purdy. Soon afterward she releases yet another breakup song, "You've Scored Your Last Time in My End Zone." (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines; Mark Raffman)

Feb. 14: Lent begins this year on Valentine's Day. Millions of those who usually give up chocolate opt instead to give up kale. (Jeff Contompasis)

Elon Musk professes not to understand the furor that erupts after he adopts a swastika logo, explaining, "It's clearly just an X with a semi-serif font." (Frank Osen)

Continuing to insist on his innocence, Trump holds a classified-document sale to raise money for his legal bills. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

In a rare show of compromise, Congress passes a law for national year-round standard time by setting clocks back 37 minutes, except in Texas, where clocks will be set back 67 years. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs an executive order pledging $3.5 billion over four years to find a cure for diversity. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Archaeologists discover an ancient drawing of what appears to be a caveman saving money on insurance. (Jesse Frankovich)

April 8: North America experiences a total solar eclipse. Trump rants that it's a Democratic plot to make him go blind. (Pam Shermeyer)

April 8: Tucker Carlson urges eclipse deniers to demand that President Biden resign for using millions of drones to block out the sun. (Rob Cohen)

April 27: Sen. John Fetterman attends the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in a single-breasted wool Louis Vuitton tuxedo jacket, black tie, and cargo shorts. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

April 30: On the anniversary of his death, Adolf Hitler's estate sues Donald Trump for quoting lines from der Fuhrer's speeches without attribution. (Jonathan Jensen)

Flagging ticket sales lead the NFL to announce that at least one player from each of the 32 teams will be required to date Taylor Swift. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

The U.S. Border Patrol naively waves in a huge wooden burro. (Jesse Frankovich)

After learning he inadvertently shook an undocumented immigrant's hand, Donald Trump gets tested for blood poisoning. (Chris Doyle)

After trying mightily to control his lustful urges, House Speaker Mike Johnson gives a sobbing Swaggart-style "I have sinned" speech, announcing that he once ogled Kim Kardashian's ankles. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Elon Musk adds Tesla's Autopilot system to X. Users can now sit back and post venom without speaking or touching their keyboards. (Gary Crockett)

June 30: In the wildest round of conference expansion to date, the eighteen-team Big Ten adds Notre Dame, Australia, and Uranus. (Jesse Frankovich)

Vice President Harris takes a Dale Carnegie course, but the company gives up and offers her a full refund. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio; Chris Doyle)

With the GOP nomination locked up, Trump doubles down on his Christian authoritarian theme with the campaign slogan "My Kingdom Come, My Will Be Done." (Kevin Dopart)

Biden's approval rating falls below the inflation rate. (Jesse Frankovich)

Using DNA samples, scientists try but fail to bring back from extinction a specimen of a moderate Republican. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

July 18: In accepting the Republican nomination, Donald Trump pledges to build a wall on the southern border. Later that night, Justin Trudeau makes the same pledge. (Steve Smith)

Trump announces that his running mate will be * himself: "Next time my VP will do as I say because he'll be me." (Leif Picoult)

July 24: Rep. Lauren Boebert wins the cow-milking contest at the Garfield County Fair. (Steve Smith)

Bangor, Maine, officially changes its name to Romance-Her-Gently, Maine. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

As more members of Gen X switch to edibles, a common expression heard at parties is "Don't Cookie Monster those gummies." (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Aug. 1: Having trained under the House Budget Committee, Team USA wins the Olympic gold medal in can-kicking. (Jesse Frankovich)

Aug. 5: Jeff Bezos marks his anniversary of buying The Washington Post by signing on Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg as co-owners, freeing the newspaper from financial constraints forevermore. The next week, 80 percent of the staff is laid off. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Republicans expose video of Hunter Biden with eleven items in the 10 Items or Less line. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Regulators are concerned when Tesla's self-driving car begins drag-racing and playing chicken with other self-driving models. (Duncan Stevens)

Sept. 14: Paul Simon, age 83, hosts the premiere of "Saturday Night Live's" 50th season, featuring the surviving members of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, with 91-year-old Willie Nelson as the musical guest. Baby boomers everywhere applaud and yell, "What'd he say?" (Jon Ketzner)

Spotting a driverless car moving erratically, a state trooper pulls it over and gives it a sobriety test. (Jonathan Jensen)

During Travis and Taylor's wedding, Kanye grabs the mic from the officiant and says, "Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you. I'm-a let you finish. But Beyonce had one of the best weddings of all time!" (Leif Picoult)

A senator is caught introducing bills written by ChatGPT when one of them includes a grant to the NEA to be distributed among Art Garfunkel, Art Monk, and the estate of Art Linkletter. (Sam Mertens)

Elon Musk tries to be more relatable to British advertisers by telling them to "bugger off." (Jeff Hazle)

A reunion episode of "Friends" is aired with an AI-generated Matthew Perry, but viewers are put off by his seventeen fingers. (Sam Mertens)

House Speaker Mike Johnson legally changes his name to Mike Procreation Stick. (Leif Picoult)

Elon Musk buys the struggling New England Patriots for $44 billion and promptly renames them the Oath Keepers. (Steve Smith)

Right-wing billionaires complain to Fox News about how inflation is so out of control, they can barely afford to buy Supreme Court justices anymore. (Duncan Stevens)

At a torch-lit rally, Donald Trump vows to establish a Thousand-Year Day One. (Frank Osen)

When it becomes clear Trump will not be elected, Stephen Miller hops a submarine to South America and disappears into Paraguay. (Frank Osen)

Gov. DeSantis announces plan to combat antisemitism on Florida college campuses by converting all the Jews to Christianity. (Mark Raffman)

House Speaker Mike Johnson is voted out by Republicans who deem him insufficiently conservative. They schedule an AR-15 shooting competition to choose his replacement. (Jonathan Jensen)

Merriam-Webster announces that its 2024 Word of the Year is "shitshow." (Mark Raffman)

And Last: Taylor Swift wins the Grammy, Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe, Pulitzer, Nobel, Pritzker, Medal of Freedom and NFL MVP, but fails to ink in The Invitational's limerick contest. (Rob Cohen)

And Even Laster: May 8: The Gene Pool is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Pubic Service. (Gary Crockett)

The headline "Wack to the Future" is by Chris Doyle; Jeff Contompasis wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 30: Our Week 51 contest to enter any of 24 contests from the first half of the year. Click on the link below.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (Jeff Contompasis)
Prize: (Melissa Balmain)

Week 1569, Published 12/21/2023
The Invitational Week 51: Look Back in Inker -- our 2023 retrospective, Part I
Enter or reenter our Week 1-25 contests. Plus winning picture captions.
DEC 21, 2023

A runner-up, by Diana Oertel of San Francisco, in our Week 49 caption contest. See the rest of the winners (and six other pictures) below.

The New Contest
A year ago this week, we announced that The Style Invitational, just axed by The Washington Post in one of its dumbest moves ever, would be getting its name shaved by a word, and would restart, almost without interruption, in The Gene Pool, straight from Week 1518 to Week 1. This week and next we'll look back on the 50 contests we've offered you since then, beginning this past January. And you'll get a chance to enter one or more that you missed, or give them another try.

For Invitational Week 51: Enter any or several of our 2023 Invitational contests from Week 1 through Week 25, except for Week 2 (duh, predictions for 2023).

So much to choose from! (Click on the contest from two weeks later to see the results.) Be sure to read the directions on each contest itself, not just these thumbnails, but your entry must be sent to, NOT THE FORMS FROM THOSE WEEKS! Feel free to send in different contests on a single form. Please also take a look at this link for a few extra (but important) directions.

Week 1, poems about people who died in 2022 (not 2023)
Week 3, "joint legislation": Wordplay on congressional names.
Week 4, Questionable Journalism: Choose a sentence from an article or ad, then follow it with a question it might humorously answer.
Week 5, a "circle of hell" and a punishment to fit the crime
Week 6, captions for any of seven varied pictures
Week 7, a funny idea for an audacious new artwork
Week 8, "pokes," old jokes told as rhyming poems.
Week 9, use all the letters in a movie title to name a new movie
Week 10, enter any contest from our first year, 1993
Week 11, a picture made by the Dall-E AI tool
Week 12, Mess With Our Heads: "Bank headlines" that reinterpret real headlines
Week 13, what would be worse than a second Trump term
Week 14, make up new words using letter sets from the NYT Spelling Bee game
Week 15, snappy answers to stupid questions
Week 16, "breed" two horses nominated for the 2023 Triple Crown races and name the foal to refer cleverly to both parents' names
Week 17, make some funny art using toilet paper and/or tubes and send us a photo
Week 18, "breed" two inking entries from Week 16 to name a "grandfoal"
Week 19, write song parody lyrics that are "sung" by a certain politician
Week 20, four-line poems about current events in the form of a clerihew or "poed."
Week 21, tell how a scene in literature/movies/TV could be made more realistic
Week 22, captions for seven more pictures
Week 23, fake trivia about the weather
Week 24, tweak an ad slogan to use it for another product
Week 25, create a new word by adding F's to an existing word and/or changing letters to F.

(Hey, guess what we'll be running next week!)

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. Check this list for a few special directions for specific contests, plus some other secret messages.

Deadline is Saturday, Dec. 30, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Jan. 4.

The winner gets to welcome 2024 with this excellent photo calendar.

When especially pretty nature calls. This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for the Fir Stink for First Ink air "freshener" and a personal email from the Empress.

Art Jestoration: Captions from Week 49
In Week 49 we once again presented a motley collection of pictures and asked you for captions.

He may have a bird in the hand, but his mind is on the bush. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

"Sorry, dear. The bird removal guys said they'd be here sometime between dawn and dusk." (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Having already lost his feet, and ready to lose his thumb, Harry wondered what appendage the bird would eat next. (Judy Freed)

Isolde discreetly checks Tristan for plague boils before she agrees to kiss him. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Lancelot and Guinevere were completely unaware of the Pac-Man ghosts coming up from underground to eat them. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Second runner-up:
Even cannibal sheep won't eat muttonhead. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis, Md.)

"I asked for a head of GREENS." (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore; Dan Steinbrocker, Los Angeles)

"Technically we're herbivores, but he did consume a lot of weed in his day." (Duncan Stevens, Washington, D.C.)

"Oh, it's a see-Czar salad!" (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

"I thought 'Garten salad' was just a typo." (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

"Compliments of Ms. Lakshmi." (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Eric Shansby's cartoon originally accompanied Gene Weingarten's 2018 Washington Post column "Misadventures of an Adventurous Eater."

From the 2023 Christian Cowan fashion show in Paris; the model ended up crashing into guests in the front row.
The winner of the inflatable antler ring-toss headdress:
Fortunately, Carrie Fisher vetoed George Lucas's original plan for Princess Leia's hairstyle. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Third runner-up:
"Welcome to the second annual Pro Bowlers Association Fashion Week." (Lee Graham)

"Dall-E, draw a woman wearing a ball gown." (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

At the paleontology conference, an aide displays an amazing find: the Sphinx's hairball. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

"Omigod, those boots are ridiculous!" (Jonathan Jensen; Jesse Frankovich)

On the planet of Grammaron, it's a big deal when a girl gets her first period. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

The California Prunes campaign failed to increase sales. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

A bad choice for a charades teammate. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

Jane was beginning to regret not waxing her eyebrows. (Leif Picoult)

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"Look, I found a keister egg." (Jesse Frankovich)

Susannah had heard of a snow globe, but not a moon globe. (Duncan Stevens)

After getting her first iPhone, it took little time for Inge to discover online lesbian porn. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Clementine was in for a real surprise when she ordered a cup of Joe. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Gene meets future Gene. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

(Too many people to credit offered up: "No, you pull MY finger!")

A sworded affair. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

"Mmm, your skirt smells so clean -- do you use wood ash or stale urine in your wash water?" (Pam Shermeyer)

"Hm, I see the entry wound, but no sign of that broken lance tip." (Jeff Contompasis)

"Figuratively! I meant you could figuratively 'kiss my arse'!" (Jeff Rackow)

"Thou wore thy magnetic underpants again, didn't thou, Sir Winslow?" (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

There's nothing worse than an awkward hug at the end of the knight. (Jesse Frankovich)

Sir Plushbottom and Sir Headley soon realized they'd forgotten their horse costume. (Ed Gordon, Austin, Tex.; Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

"Confirmed, Sir Calligan, that sneak attack scared thee shitless." (Sarah Walsh)

In the early days, it was difficult to pants a fellow knight in armor. (Dave Prevar)

First runner-up: When Chia Pets go rogue. (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

Tim was initially unclear on what being a hedge fund manager entailed. (Duncan Stevens)

Some climate-conscious European towns have replaced the tar-and-feathering of oil industry executives with more eco-friendly sap-and-leaf-molding. (Kevin Dopart)

The New York Giants have been without a mascot since Jolly Green was arrested for trademark infringement. (Kevin Dopart)

The headline "Art Jestoration" is by Chris Doyle.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 23: Our Week 50 "next year in review" contest for events to happen in 2024.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Chris Doyle)
Subhead: ()
Prize: ()

Week 1568, Published 12/14/2023
The Invitational Week 50: Nextra! Nextra!
Tell us the funny news events of 2024. Plus bad news spun winningly into humor.
DEC 14, 2023
A Breakdown Of Shohei Ohtani's Insane $700 Million Contract
With that $700 million paycheck, look for Shohei Ohtani to do more than just being a star hitter and a star pitcher. The man's gotta do some work in 2024. (

The Seers' Catalog: Our annual Next Year in Review contest
March 28, 2024: On Opening Day, Shohei Ohtani immediately justifies his unprecedented $700 million contract by pitching a shutout for the L.A. Dodgers while also hitting three home runs, nailing a pitch-perfect "Star-Spangled Banner," and selling a record 243 hot dogs between innings in Section 115.

February: After President Biden slips on a banana peel while walking to the podium for a speech in Portsmouth, N.H., supermarket security footage from that morning surfaces of a woman resembling Vice President Harris furtively purchasing two bunches of Chiquitas.

Not gonna lie -- we're a bit worried about what could happen in 2024. A bit worried as in seriously considering not getting out of bed ever again beginning on the evening of next November 4. But for now, we might as well get the laughs in for The Invitational's annual Year in Preview chronicle.

This week for Invitational Week 50: Tell us as many as twenty-five humorous events that "happen" in 2024 -- as in the examples above by 97-time Loser Malcolm Fleschner, who's been writing his own Year in Preview calendar each year in his column Culture Schlock, and who inspired the Empress to steal his idea. Write them in present tense.

So how did The Invitational's 2023 predictions fare? Here's a sampling from Week 2 (complete results here):

May 6: Harry and Meghan are allowed to attend King Charles III's coronation, on the condition that they walk behind the royal carriage with brooms and buckets. (Pam Shermeyer) [Only Harry went, sans bucket but shunted to the sidelines]

A new study reveals that 45 percent of the nation's shirkers are now teleshirking. (Jesse Frankovich)

George Santos tearfully reveals he's the secret love child of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. (Leif Picoult)

And this got it partially right: Tucker Carlson is fired from Fox as being too "woke" when it is revealed that his testicle-tanning machine is solar-powered, using absolutely no fossil fuels. (John Hutchins)

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you may submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form. No special formatting directions except our standard plea that you keep each entry on its own line: i.e., don't push Enter anywhere within a single entry.

Deadline is Saturday, Dec. 23, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Dec. 28.

The winner gets, as this annus horribilus horribles its way to its end, this Loserly wooden ornament, which we'll sign if you like and won't if you don't.

Out with the old *: This week's first prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in a variety of designs that we're still coming up with. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for the Fir Stink for First Ink air "freshener" and a personal email from the Empress.

Varnishing Acts: The positive spins of Week 48
In Week 48 we asked you to choose any downbeat sentence or headline from that week's news, and rewrite it to make it sound like good news.

Third runner-up:
Original: 2 Stabbings in 2 Days at New York City Schools
Spun version: Students Learn to Settle Arguments Without Guns (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Second runner-up:
O: Shopping carts are known to be contaminated with bacteria and viruses.
S: You can boost your immune system while selecting your groceries! (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

First runner-up:
O: Body of Male Juvenile Recovered at Pond in Waukee
S: Middle-Aged Police Officer Has the Body of a Teenager (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

And the winner of the deceptively complimentary tape measure (see description in the Week 48 announcement):
O: Candy company Mars uses cocoa harvested by kids as young as 5 in Ghana
S: Mars Inc. recognized for its work with children (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Glossed Under: Honorable mentions
Original: Shark Sends Swimmers Fleeing in Fear at Popular Australian Surf Spot
Spin: 27 Aussie Swimmers Set New Personal Bests in One Day (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

O: Car crashes through wall of Summerlin bank
S: Summerlin bank now open 24 hours (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

O: Police ramp up citations to reduce interstate traffic problems
S: As holidays approach, police are in a giving mood (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

O: Patriots' dismal performance reaches historic lows not seen since the 1930s
S: Pats' season is one for the record books (Frank Osen)

O: People increasingly think it's over [for DeSantis]. It's a dumpster fire.
S: DeSantis gives off a lot of warmth on the campaign trail. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

O: 60 students fall sick due to suspected food poisoning after eating in school mess
S: Here's one way to avoid gaining that 'freshman 15' (Frank Osen)

O: Cheney notes that when she first saw the photo of McCarthy meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Jan. 28, 2021 * she thought the photograph was a fake, believing "not even Kevin McCarthy could be this craven."
S: Cheney says McCarthy truly exceeded her expectations. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

O: Southeast Texas and Houston face risk of severe storms, tornadoes
S: Texas line-hung laundry to be washed and dried for free (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

O: If convicted, Patel may be required to forfeit property "in the amount of at least $22,221,454.40, which represents the proceeds of the offense"
S: Amit Patel did not steal $23 million, his defense attorney says. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

O (New York Post): Loud fart sound erupts during John Kerry's speech at climate panel
S: Methane emissions are front and center at Dubai conference (Frank Osen)

O: Musk told advertisers who have fled his social media platform X over antisemitic content to "Go fuck yourself."
S: Musk said he hopes his onetime advertisers can find satisfaction elsewhere. (Leif Picoult; Paul Styrene, Olney, Md.; Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

O: Teacher loses it and throws chair after being "disrespected" by students
S: Educator takes novel approach to demonstrating Newton's First Law (Stu Segal, Southeast U.S.)

O: LAPD patrol car crashes into building, hits pedestrian
S: Police are establishing close contact with the community (Frank Osen)

O: Why Are Nonprofit Hospitals Focused More on Dollars Than Patients?
S: Nonprofit Hospitals Go Green (Leif Picoult)

O: Climate change is pushing Earth toward these 5 disastrous scenarios
S; Climate change debate is close to being resolved (Jon Gearhart)

O: Florida is one of the states now reporting "high" levels of respiratory illnesses.
S: Many find Florida in the winter truly breathtaking. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

O: More people are dying in Puerto Rico as its health-care system crumbles
S: Business climate improves for San Juan funeral homes (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

O: Man attacks woman for not paying for his drink
S: Man boldly challenges traditional gender roles in dating (Jonathan Jensen)

O: Buying guns for criminals: Easy, illegal and 'extremely difficult' to stop
S: Gift shopping for that difficult relative? Now it's a snap (Duncan Stevens)

O: Federal failure could lower financial aid for college students
S: Hiring prospects look bright for McDonald's near campus (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

O: Playing in a cold and steady downpour in front of a half-empty stadium, the Patriots continued their joyless decline.
S: Playing in a cold and steady downpour in front of a half-full stadium, the Patriots continued their joyless decline. (Jesse Frankovich)

The headline "Varnishing Acts" is by Kevin Dopart; Kevin also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 16: Our Week 49 contest for captions to various cartoons, paintings, and photos.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Malcolm Fleschner; Pam Shermeyer; Leif Picoult; Jesse Frankovich; John Hutchins)
Title: (Kevin Dopart)
Subhead: (Kevin Dopart)
Prize: ()

Week 1567, Published 12/07/2023
Invitational Week 49: Picture This
A caption contest. Plus comparing Agatha Christie and Chris Christie, and other paired names.
DEC 7, 2023

The first of the pictures in The Invitational's caption contest this week. See six more below.

Welcome to the Thursday Gene Pool, which, as always, you have been waiting for with bated breath because it contains The Invitational, Week 49, as well as some art from the great Eric Shansby, superstar illustrator for Gene's former column. (If you illegally convert them to NFTs you can sell them for millions.)

For Invitational Week 49: Write a caption -- as many as 25 total -- for any of the pictures below or the one above. Begin each caption only with the letter on the picture -- as in "A. [your caption]." For guidance, inspiration, and plain ol' entertainment, take a look at the results of Week 6 and the results of Week 22 to see what we like in a caption. Don't bother tracking down the source of the original; that shouldn't be the point of your caption.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Dec. 16, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Dec. 21.

The winner gets, just in time to be too late for Christmas, a set of inflatable antlers on which you can play inflatable-ring toss on someone's head. The Empress walked around in one of these at a Loser holiday party, and to be honest, they tended to tip over. Maybe yours will be perkier. Donated, as so many Loser prizes are, by the redoubtable Dave Prevar.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in a variety of designs that we're still coming up with. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for the Fir Stink for First Ink air "freshener" and a personal email from the Empress.

Saming Names: Pairs compared in Invitational Week 47
In Week 47 we asked you to compare any two people who have some common element in their names. Some connections cracked us up not with their pithy wordplay but with their, well, hilariously unfunny but still funny convolution, like this one: "In 2018, A'ja Wilson was drafted first overall by the Las Vegas Aces. On May 20, 2018, in her career debut, Wilson scored fourteen points along with 10 rebounds in a 101-65 loss to the Connecticut Sun. In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson issued his Fourteen Points, a statement of principles for peace to be used in negotiations to end World War I."

Don't worry. It gets better.

Third runner-up: Linda Blair and Linda Lovelace: The first was famous for what came out of her mouth. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Second runner-up: Clark Clifford served President Johnson. Stephanie Clifford serviced a president's johnson. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

First runner-up: Audrey "Alice Kramden" Meadows and Mark Meadows: Only Audrey knew how to control a fat loudmouth from New York City. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

And the winner of the earrings that look as if a cat is trying to run through your earlobe:

David Cassidy and Cassidy Hutchinson both gained fame and popularity singing on television. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

Nope-menclature: Honorable mentions
Adam West: Plays Batman. Kanye West: Plays Batty Man. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Agatha Christie: Who done it? Chris Christie: Done. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Barbara Millicent Roberts vs. Chief Justice John Roberts: Both work with enormous boobs. (Leif Picoult)

Bart Simpson vs. O.J. Simpson: One gets away with murder figuratively. (Leif Picoult)

Both Charlie McCarthy and Kevin McCarthy were puppets, but Charlie wasn't thrown out for scrap. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Chuck Yeager vs. Chuck Norris: Norris can break the sound barrier with his bare hands. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Commander (Joe Biden's dog) and the Washington Commanders: They both bite. (Mark Raffman)

Defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Donald Trump: The first is known for penetrating the offense, the second for penetrating offensively. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

Don Juan and Donald Duck both spend a lot of time with no pants on. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Don McLean: Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. Donald Trump: Bye, bye, America. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Dread Pirate Roberts would demand absolute loyalty from his crew of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells; John Roberts wishes he could. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Fred Astaire: His feet drove his career. Fred Flintstone: His feet drove his car. (Jesse Frankovich)

George Washington vs. George Santos: One was the first President of the United States and the other was the first Vice President of the United States. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

John Henry and Henry Kissinger: One was a steel-drivin' man, the other was a deal- strivin' man. (Brett Dimaio, Cumberland, Md.)

James Taylor: You've got a friend. Taylor Swift: You've got 530 million friends. (Chris Doyle)

Kevin McCarthy and Kevin from Home Alone: The kid from the movie left his house in better shape. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Lauren Bacall famously put her lips together and blew. Lauren Boebert famously used her hand. (Kevin Dopart)

Mean Joe Greene and Marjorie Taylor Greene: One would tear your head off just for spite. The other was a lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Neville Chamberlain: "Peace in our time." Wilt Chamberlain: "20,000 pieces in my time!" (Chris Doyle)

Sandra Day O'Connor: Tolerated a bunch of guys in robes. Sinead O'Connor: Did not. (Duncan Stevens)

Sonny Jurgensen had a good day with a touchdown pass. Sonny Corleone would have had a good day with an E-Z Pass. (Joel Cockrell, Damascus, Md.)

The difference between Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Tommy "Pinball Wizard" Walker: Tuberville is just dumb. (Kevin Dopart)

Thurston Howell III and Commanders quarterback Sam Howell: Each is stranded in a desolate place with a clueless skipper and a bunch of losers. (Mark Raffman)

And Last: Gene Weingarten and Gene Shalit: The film critic has better hair. (Chris Doyle)

The headline "Saming Names" is by Tom Witte; Jon Gearhart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 9: Our Week 48 contest to spin a negative sentence or headline into positive-sounding news. Click here for details.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Tom Witte)
Subhead: (Jon Gearhart)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1566, Published 11/30/2023
The Invitational Week 48: Well, the Good News Is ...
Put positive spin on a bad-news headline. Plus AN"TIP"ATHY and more winning "air quotes."
NOV 30, 2023
Sugar-Coating Sin - Our Parent Hood Ph
How's your flair for audacious sugarcoating? Find out in this week's Invitational.

This week's Invitational: Be nice!
Original line from a Washington Post article:
Maine's governor told critics Friday to "kiss my butt" over
his decision not to attend the state NAACP's annual Martin Luther King
Jr. Day celebrations.
The same news with positive spin:
Maine's governor found it in his heart to turn the other cheek. (Dixon Wragg)

Original: Tom DeLay, former U.S. House leader, sentenced to 3 years in prison
Spin: Government again calls DeLay to serve (Roy Ashley)

Oh, we in the news media (ahem, we who used to be in the news media) are always so mean, so cynical, interpreting every action and comment in the worst possible light. Just ask Donald Trump -- so unfair! But we could have ended up with careers in "communications," a.k.a. PR, which requires a different talent, one we'll try to evince today: For Invitational Week 48: Take any sentence (or substantive part of a sentence) or a headline, from an article or ad published in print or online from Nov. 28 through Dec. 9, and make it sound more upbeat (or not so bad), as in the classic examples above from a 2011 Style Invitational. (Complete results here.)

Obviously you need to give us the original quote, followed by your sugarcoated revision, along with a link to the article if it's online, or the name, date, and page number of the publication if it's in print. Don't worry about getting everything on a single line, our usual request.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to Please see formatting instructions on the form. As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Dec. 9, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Dec. 14.

And totally apropos of this contest, the winner receives a truly amazing device that will instantly take inches off your waistline with no dieting, exercise, or even corsetry: It's a shoelace-thin tape measure that arrived last week from China along with a bathroom scale that the Empress ordered. On one side, it's in perfectly normal centimeters. But on the other it's inches -- or "inches." Each "inch" is about 1.3 of the real ones, and so the tape measured the E's waist at a Barbie-like 21. It'll be hard to give this baby up, but we sacrifice for the good of The Invitational. (The bathroom scale, alas, doesn't cheat.)

A mean, disgraceful fake-news tape measure, top, and this week's much more complimentary prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

New Mean'in'gs: The 'air quotes' of Week 46
In Week 46 we asked you to put part of a word or phrase into "air quotes" and then define the word in the context of that highlighted part.

Third runner-up: "MUSK"M"ELON": Fruit that's quickly rotted on the vine. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Second runner-up: AN"TIP"ATHY: Why no, I do NOT wish to add a 20 percent gratuity -- hellooo, this is a self-service kiosk! (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

First runner-up: AM"BRO"SIA: Beer. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

And the winner of the Word Nerd socks:
THU"MBS"CREW: Saudi peacekeeping tool. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

MUC'HO HUM'OR: Honorable mentions
"FU"NNY: What you call a joke you find amusing and to hell with anyone who is offended by it. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

A"POL"OGY: "I'm truly sorry if anyone might have been offended by my innocuous, inadvertent, well-meaning comment that in no way reflects who I am or what I believe." (Karen Lambert)

"NO"TIFY: Don't call us, we'll call you. (Gary Crockett)

C"HARDON"NAY: Something cold that gets me hot. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

NI"TP"ICKING: "Honey, how many times do I have to tell you to put the roll on the right way?" (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

RO"UGH"ING IT: For many people, camping. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

"AMEN"ITIES: Televangelists' private jets. (Gary Crockett)

"APP"REHENSION: The sudden feeling you've just downloaded malware. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

"BAM"BI: The inspiration behind Emeril Lagasse's venison chili. (Neil Kurland)

"GEORGE-SAN"TOS: "Did I mention that I'm also a sumo champion?" (Neil Kurland)

AMUSE-B"OUCH"E: "They charged me $24 for that little dab of sherbet they brought out after the soup?" (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

AN"XI"ETY: Did China just offer to help Russia build a tunnel into Crimea? (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

BA"T MI"TZVAH: When you're at the same table as Bubbe at the reception and she won't stop talking about her urinary problems. (Gregory Koch, Falls Church, Va.)

BEN"EDICT"ION: Now go forth in peace, thankful for the Lord's blessings, love one another, serving others with meekness, tenderness, mercy, and humility, AND THAT'S AN ORDER! (Roy Ashley)

LUNCH"EON": For the love of God, please no more speeches! (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

DRUN"KEN"NESS: Party time at the Mojo Dojo Casa House! (Karen Lambert)

EX"CELL"ENT: Trump's prospects for 2024 -- Fani Willis (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

F"AU"X: What pyrite is. (Chris Doyle)

F"AI"L: The result when they discover how you "wrote" your term paper. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

SAM H"O""WELL": Another Commanders quarterback, another lost year * (Mark Raffman)

MIKE J"OH"NSON: Okay, now I see how we could do worse than Kevin. (Gary Crockett)

NE"W HAM"PSHIRE: A place that's dealt a knockout blow to many a presidential hopeful. (Jonathan Jensen)

P"OWE"RBALL: Not the best strategy for personal debt reduction. (Judy Freed)

P"UTI"N: Maybe that's why he's so ornery. (Neil Kurland)

P"ARENT"S-TO-BE: A high school couple who seem awfully relieved. (Frank Osen)

SAC"RAMEN"T: A divine rite of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Tokyo Branch. (Kevin Dopart)

SU"BS"IDIES: Important government expenditures for things like coal, private jets, and football stadiums. (Jesse Frankovich)

T"ANGER"INE: An orange-hued complexion associated with fury. (Jeff Contompasis; Kevin Dopart)

T"HER"MOSTAT: "Is it just fifty-year-old me, or does it suddenly feel like an oven in here?" (Karen Lambert)

U"NDE"RWIRE BRA: "To say this thing is killing me is only a slight exaggeration." (Judy Freed)

"MANIC"URE: What nervous nail-biters give themselves. (Frank Osen)

C"HIT"CHAT: Gossip about a contract to make Louie the Fink disappear. (Pam Shermeyer)

"NAP"OLEON: Ridley Scott's new 2 1/2-hour epic snoozefest. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.; Mark Raffman)

And Last: RE"GENE"RATE: To post decades-old columns within live chats to entice new subscribers. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

And Even Laster: "AI"R QUOTES: Hopefully, they weren't used in this contest. (Neil Kurland)

And Lastest of All: EX"CREME"NT: The best of the worst. "Rob's entry was the excrement of the honorable mentions." (Rob Cohen)

The headline "New Mean'in'gs" is by Jeff Contompasis; Jon Gearhart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 2: Our Week 47 contest to compare two people with a shared part of their names. Click here for details.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Dixon Wragg; Roy Ashley)
Title: (Jeff Contompasis)
Subhead: (Jon Gearhart)
Prize: ()

Week 1565, Published 11/23/2023
The Invitational Week 47: Oh, for Namesakes!
Compare two people who share part of a name. Plus winning ideas for catalog gift items.
NOV 23, 2023

The difference between Laker Magic Johnson and Speaker Mike Johnson? See below in this week's Invitational contest.
Happy Thanksgiving! So sorry that you don't have any better place to be right now. We'll do our best to entertain you.

This week's Invitational: Har Monikers
The difference between Marie Antoinette and Marie Curie: Marie Curie had a good head on her shoulders. (Peter Metrinko)

Seth Thomas vs. Clarence Thomas: Seth wanted time to move forward. (Jack Cackler)

Cynthia Nixon had sex in the city; Richard Nixon screwed the whole country. (Robert Schechter)

Magic Johnson vs. Mike Johnson: One is famed as a highlight of the Dream Team, the other for highlighting his teen's "dreams."

Here's a contest we haven't done in more than a decade. So many new names to play with! For Week 47: Humorously compare two people who share some element of their names, as in the entries above; the first three are from Invitational contests in 2004 and 2012. The element doesn't have to be spelled exactly the same, but don't make it a stretch.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to Please see formatting instructions on the form. As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Dec. 2, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Dec. 7.

The last time we did this contest, back in 2004, the prize was a pair of tasseled pasties. This year we're a bit tamer: The winner gets a little bitty pair of earrings that look as if two googly-eyed little bitty black cats have plowed straight through your earlobes.

And you thought it was cool how they could squeeze into boxes. This week's prize. (
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Meanwhile, we need questions / observations / reactions. Gene won't be answering them in real time today -- no one is around because everyone is giving thanks to their individual personal deities via eating and excreting too much -- but he will voluminously respond on Tuesday. Send 'em to this tasteful orange button:

tasteful orange button

Catalogical Humor: The products of Week 45
In Week 45 we asked you to come up with items that were only slightly more ridiculous than the actual content of such catalogs as Hammacher Schlemmer or The Sharper Image.

Third runner-up: The All-Purpose Stick: You can hike with it. You can roast marshmallows on it. You can write in the sand with it. You can use it to fend off muggers. Made of 100 percent wood, this stick does what sticks have always done --whatever you want them to do. $350, shipping included. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Second runner-up: Digital-to-Cassette Converter: Looking for a more cumbersome, less durable way to store music? With this converter, you can toggle between fast-forward and rewind to find the start of your favorite songs just the way you did in your dorm room in 1975. Just plug in your phone, select a song or playlist from your library or streaming service -- and it records to a standard cassette (available separately). $229.99. Genuine No. 2 pencil included! (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

First runner-up: This potato-powered golf cart provides environmentally friendly transport around your senior-living community. It takes just 47,000 average-size potatoes to go 400 yards. $12,500, payable in three installments. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

And the winner of the vintage Style Invitational Whole Fools Grossery Bag:
The E-Twirler Fork. Stick this ingenious utensil into your pasta, press a button on the handle, and voila - the fork spins automatically. Just press the "off" button when your fork is sufficiently loaded. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md. )

The Duller Image: Honorable mentions
Fake-Meat Rotisserie: Why let carnivores have all the fun? Take your turkey-shaped tofu and put it on a proper spit! This handsome stainless-steel marvel will be the showpiece of your indoor or outdoor kitchen. $2,500 complete with cover. (Leif Picoult)

Marino wool slippers: These ultra-comfortable moccasins are made from the soft curly hair of Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. Choose from black or gray. Quantities limited. (Tom Witte)

Bose Quiet Comfort Noise-Canceling Nail Clippers: Worried that everyone in the office hates you? Keep your disgusting personal grooming habits on the down-low with our industry-leading STFU technology. $199 for toenail clippers, $189 for fingernails, or save with the set for only $349.95. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

The Trash Tracker: Put this single-use GPS in your garbage bag and watch your trash's progress all the way to the landfill with the dedicated app. A fine civic education for all! (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Feel a little embarrassed about the noise your leaf blower is making? Our SymphonySweep blower masks the roar by blasting classical music over it. Entertain and enlighten the neighbors with a rousing "1812 Overture" as you round up that maple mess. (Duncan Stevens)

Palm Popcorn Popper: This miniature battery-operated popper fits in the palm of your hand! Conveniently popping five kernels at a time, you can watch a whole movie without ever having to leave your couch to get a snack. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Lint Bank: Finally a safe place to put all the lint you extract from your bellybutton and elsewhere. This lock-tight safe, approved by the American Vault Association, keeps your lint where it should be -- away from thieving hands. $1,250 complete with two keys. (Leif Picoult)

GPS Smart Socks: Tired of losing socks in the dryer? Upgrade your laundry experience with the ultimate hosiery system: Receive precise real-time location updates with the easy-to-use mobile app. $89 per pair. (Jesse Frankovich)

The AutoButterer: Never again tear apart a fresh piece of toast by trying to spread a cold pat of butter across it! This device applies a consistent layer of softened, warmed butter every time. Butter cartridges sold separately, just like printer ink. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

An electronic kazoo. It saves the effort of constant humming. (Duncan Stevens)

A Treasury of Hilarious 19th-Century Catalogues: Ludicrous undergarments. slippers to cure neuropathy, heated back-therapy stones! You won't believe the things those gullible rubes once bought from catalogs. Special prize included with the first 100 books purchased. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

For the ultimate in double-decker enjoyment: A mechanical ice cream cone rotator, so you don't have to lick around the center. $47.95. (Gregory Koch, Falls Church, Va.)

Toothbrush bag: Designed with the philosophy to do one thing and do it well, this shoulder sling bag has a single small pouch perfectly sized to hold one manual toothbrush for all your travels. $29.95, three for $74.95. (Sam Mertens)

Eat candy like Van Halen with your own AI-enabled M&M's color sorter. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Calgon Autonomous Stroller: Send your colicky bundle of joy on a walk around the neighborhood from the comfort of your own bathtub. $4,995; pictured Chardonnay not included. (Jesse Frankovich)

Driverless Tricycle: When you put your child on a Robo-Trike, you also place them in the highest percentile of kids who'll grow up already prepared to not drive the driverless cars of the future. Each Robo-Trike arrives with a personalized waiver of liability and neck brace. (Frank Osen)

Do you value the coziness and tradition of a warm, woolly cardigan? If so, you'll surely treasure this cardigan emblazoned with the message "I Love Cardigans." (Tom Witte)

125 HP propeller beanie: We've updated this historic headgear with an engine powerful enough to have you aloft in seconds. Why play with drones when you can be one? (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Deluxe Nose Hair Braider: Turn a grooming turn-off into a triumphant turn-on. Simply select your desired setting on this rechargeable device -- French braid, Dutch braid, Milkmaid braid, or Micro braid -- and press the "twirl" button. Within seconds, your nostrils will dare to show some flair. $175 with illustrated manual. (Leif Picoult)

Cellulite-Busting Vibrating Toilet Seat: A flawless bottom can be yours -- simply take a seat and let the vibrations do their job while you do your business. Also helpful with irregularity! (Judy Freed)

Is your snotty coffee-gourmet neighbor coming over and all you have is ground java in a bag? Using a patented food-grade glue, The Coffee Ungrinder will make them into "whole beans" --they'll never know. $395 -- free shipping if you order before Dec. 10. (Leif Picoult)

Finger-Shaped Nose Picker. Keep your hands clean and use this unique tool to reach all corners of your nostril. Tiny spring mechanism provides realistic flick action! (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

This talking electronic poodle walks around your house and even poops out batteries when it's time to replace them. $195. (Gregory Koch)

Identifart Handheld Gas Analyzer: Never wonder who dealt it again. Great for cars, elevators, and yoga classes. $400 with discreet case. (Jesse Frankovich)

Tall and Slim Foundation Garment: This full-length bodysuit uses a patent-pending system that pushes your gut flab down through your legs and into your feet. Instantly, you are thinner and taller. (Dan Steinbrocker, Los Angeles; Jon Ketzner)

Salute your roots with a "Real Men Love Parsnips" T-shirt. Color choices include parsnip and off-parsnip. (Tom Witte)

Protective House Blanket. Afraid of weather damage to your vacation home while you're away? Simply throw on our exclusive House Blanket to encase your entire home. Please specify Chalet, Villa, or Mansion size. (Rob Cohen)

American Classic Lawn Dart Tips: Don't you wish you could show your grandchildren the real lawn darts, the ones with those THWACKing metal points you enjoyed as a kid? While they've been illegal since 1988, you can give them that same experience with these weighted steel tips. Fit them right onto those little pillowy things they sell today, and voila, it's 1963 again in your back yard. Legal as far as we know, but disclaimer included. (Jon Ketzner)

This non-electric thermite exothermic toaster is perfect for when you want a fresh hot Pop-Tart in the bathtub. (Kevin Dopart)

Solar-powered microwave: Love backpacking but hate beef jerky and trail mix? Now you can enjoy your favorite hot foods without the hassle of building a fire. Runs up to five minutes on four hours of charging. S'mores were never so easy! Shipping weight 20 pounds. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Gas Bibs: Line the opening of your car's gas tank with one of these disposable paper inserts before filling up, and when you're done they'll catch that last drip from the fuel nozzle. Pack of 20; sign up for refills by subscription. (Sam Mertens)

Batteryless remote: Never run out of batteries or get off the couch again when you poke the TV with this really long stick. (Sam Mertens)

Don't look to unsanitary Southeast Asian factories for civet poop coffee. Use beans from all-American Felis catus excreta, made in Manhattan by New York's finest alley cats. 59.95/lb. plus shipping. (Kevin Dopart)

Pencil sharpener sharpener: Sure, you use a sharpener to keep your pencils pointy, but what about when it gets dull? Enter our sharpener sharpener, which will have your sharpener sharpening like new. (Sam Mertens)

TP Maker: Don't recycle those old newspapers, magazine, junk mail, and wallpaper samples -- now you can make your own toilet tissue from scrap paper just lying around your home. This ingenious device will cut those papers into crisp 3-inch squares, perfect for use in the lavatory. Purchase of the TP Maker constitutes an acceptance of all responsibility for its use. (Jon Ketzner)

The headline "Catalogical Humor"is by Beverley Sharp; Jeff Contompasis wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Nov. 25: Our Week 46 contest for "air quotes" -- words within other words. Click here for details.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Peter Metrinko; Jack Cackler; Robert Schechter)
Title: (Beverley Sharp)
Subhead: (Jeff Contompasis)
Prize: ()

Week 1564, Published 11/16/2023
The Invitational Week 46: "Air" "Quotes"
A new forefinger contest, plus 'monorhyme' poems on Taylor Swift, Hamlet, and more
NOV 16, 2023

New Contest: 'Air' 'Quotes'
For Invitational Week 46: Take a word, name, or phrase and put a portion of it in "air quotes," then define it in the context of the highlighted part. You can't change the spelling of the original but may tinker with capitalization, punctuation, and spacing. So you don't send us what we've already published: we do not want to see "'fun'eral" or "Donald T'rump.' "

Example: Satis"fact"ion: When Google proves you are right and your spouse is
wrong. (David Kleinbard)

Another example: h"USB"and: Consider yourself lucky if you get it right on the first try. (Hildy Zampella)

This just in! Within hours after we published this column, Hall of Fame Loser Jeff Contompasis compiled a list of the hundreds of air quotes that have gotten ink in earlier Invitationals -- and invited us to share it. Here it is, from "Alas"ka to Z"ucch"ini.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to Please see formatting instructions on the form. As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Nov. 25, at 4 p.m. ET. No need to waste your time on Thanksgiving watching football, talking with your visiting relatives, etc., when you can be doing this. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Nov. 30.

The winner gets a fine pair of socks labeled "Big Ol' Word Nerd" on the calf, donated by Medium-Size Ol' Word Nerd Dave Prevar. These are men's size; we'll put up the women's-size ones in the future.

Of course, your pants legs will need to be high enough to show off your honorific. This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

DING! With his two typically brilliant blots of ink today, Mark Raffman has crossed the 1,000-ink line, ascending from the Invitational Hall of Fame to the Cozy Upstairs Nook of the Hall of Fame. Mark, a longtime corporate lawyer turned just recently to the other side -- as a trial attorney for the Consumer Product Safety Commission -- started Inviting in 2012, earning his first blot of ink for a contest for ways to tick people off:

"When you're on jury duty, bring a daisy into the deliberation room and start to pull out each petal while saying "Guilty .*.*. not guilty .*.*."

Since then, he's been mopping up ink to the tune of almost 100 entries a year, most famously for song parodies to the tune of "Be Our Guest," on themes from "Porky's" ("See a Chest!") to Obama and Netanyahu ("He's a Pest!") to Trump and the wall ("He's Obsessed") and numerous others. Delve into this collection of his first 500 blots of ink, "Mark: His Words."

Masters of the Uni-verse: The monorhymes of Week 44
In Week 44 we asked you to write a funny poem in monorhyme form -- that all the lines had to have the same rhyme. And the poem had to refer to some published writing -- anything from an ancient Greek play to yesterday's headlines.

Third runner-up:
More Fun News From Greenland (article at
Every last glacier
Seems bound for erasure.
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

Second runner-up:
War and Peace (abridged):
For a Russian,
Life is crushin'.
End of discussion.
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

First runner-up:
"Deer crashes through lingerie store in Michigan"
In Michigan there was a deer
That spooked a lingerie cashier.
Asked why a deer would thus appear,
She said, "I guess the buck shops here."
(Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

And the winner of "The Dr. Seuss Coloring Book":
Waiting for Godot
Beckett's play's a bore, I fear,
With Estragon and Vladimir
Discussing topics drab and drear
For hours on end until it's clear
Godot himself will not appear.
So go -- you might enjoy it, dear,
While I stay watching Netflix here.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

The End of the Lines: Honorable mentions
The Old Man and the Sea
He pursues an expedition,
Out to sea to do some fishin',
Gets his boat into position,
Then awaits an acquisition.
Is that fish an apparition?
No! An instant recognition
As it bolts in opposition!
After hours of competition
In this battle of attrition,
He attains the beast's submission!
Heading home now his volition,
It's a fin -- an admonition *
Cue the sharks, with repetition,
Bite by bite, a demolition.
It's a savage exhibition,
(In his trousers, micturition?)
Yet the boat makes its transition
To the shore, in sound condition,
And old man sits there wishin'
He'd had better ammunition.
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Hamlet in a nutshell:
Ghost: "Go kill your mom's new guy."
Hamlet: "No way, Dad! Must I? Why?"
Ghost: "It's the ol' 'eye for an eye'!"
Hamlet: ("ARGHH! Should I live or die?")
Then Hamlet says with a sigh,
"Okay, I'll give it a try *"
Many acts and scenes go by;
Then finally, dead they all lie.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

"The secret best week for Thanksgiving flights is coming" (The Washington Post) Thanksgiving stresses? Don't despair.
Just take a trip abroad by air.
You're sure to nab a bargain fare.
You won't see tourists everywhere.
And best of all -- no icy glare:
Your MAGA uncle won't be there.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

In G.B. Shaw's dramatic work Pygmalion,
A linguist who's a touch sesquipedalian
Decides to take a poor tatterdemalion
Into his life--for reasons bacchanalian?
He wanted folks who play the ukulele in?
No, no, the reason he brings in this alien,
The basis for the grind she suffers daily in:
He wants to make her sound Episcopalian,
Like someone who would have PM Disraeli in.
Bad ending, though--she leaves*for parts Australian?
You'll want to bash Shaw's head with a shillelagh in.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

'Trump and allies plot revenge, Justice Department control in a second term' (The Washington Post)
Trump (whose hands are lilliputian)
Wants to shred the Constitution,
Starting with a new solution
To his so-called persecution:
"I will be your retribution."
(Chris Doyle)

Jack and Jill
To renew their H2O supply
They climbed a path, I know not why.
Hydrology must be awry,
Since wells don't work when they're up high.
(Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Greek women, led by Lysistrata:
"Guys, stop this fighting, now! You gotta!
Until you cease these wars, there's not a
Chance your bedmates will allot a
Place for you, come hell, high wata!
You're persons very much non grata!"

In time (there followed some errata)
The men complied and stopped the slaughta.
Each lass and her inamorata
Went forth and banged like a pinata. (Duncan Stevens)

The Handmaid's Tale
Women's wombs controlled post-coup
By all the guys in charge, that's who,
To sum the Gilead worldview:
It's Speaker Johnson's dream come true. (Kevin Dopart)

Pap on Tap -- "Amouranth Launches 'Vaginal Yeast' Beer" (Philadelphia Weekly) When it's time for a Pap and the doc takes a smear,
You can have those bacteria turned into beer!
A yoni yeast beverage? There's nothing to fear --
And such a profound flavor profile, I hear.
(Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

"It's Taylor Swift's world and we're just living in it" (Axios)
Taylor, Taylor, Taylor, Taylor!
Seems that nothing can derail her.
Every time the charts unveil her
Album sales, all others trail her.
Though the jealous trolls assail her,
Say her sound has gotten staler,
Far more fans adore and mail her;
Music critics widely hail her.
Locks of blonde and skin that's paler,
Scores of suitors doomed to fail her;
Still, they hope to someday nail her.
(Jesse Frankovich)

The Kama Sutra (ancient Hindu text)
For students of erotic bliss, consider this important factor:
Interesting and new positions might initially attract 'er.
You will reach new heights of passion. But as soon as you have sacked 'er,
Both of you will need assistance from a skillful chiropractor. (Judy Freed)

"Desdemona seems truly demure,
But she's smitten by Cassio's allure,"
Says Iago, a boor,
To Othello, who's sure
To react. In the end, there's no Moor. (Chris Doyle)

The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump
For the terms of a deal, I intuit
Where the cash is, and how to accrue it.
Some resistance? I push my way through it!
(Also, fraud isn't fraud when I do it.) (Mark Raffman)

Jane Eyre
A gothic novel: Miss Jane Eyre!
This pious lass, oft found in prayer
While serving as a poor au pair,
Meets Eddie Roch, a grumpy bear,
And falls for him--but what despair
To learn that, in an attic lair,
He's stashed a wife -- a weird affair!
A fire! Wife's cooked medium rare,
While Jane, she turns her derriere
And runs away (she knows not where)
But then returns, finds disrepair.
Jane, taking Ed into her care:
"Reader, I married him!" So there.
(Duncan Stevens)

'What You Need to Know About the New HV-1 Variant' (VeryWellHealth)
We're done with EG.5. HV-1 we now will see,
And also JN.1 -- all in the family XBB.
And on the rise this season, we've got flu and RSV.
We are completely screwed. WTF! OMG! (Judy Freed)

'What Might Be Ruining Your Orgasm' (The New York Times)
Do you often find yourself stuck in first gear?
Don't ask sex experts unless you want to hear
What your partner probably believes is clear:
Dude, you're really drinking way, way too much beer. (Pam Shermeyer)

'Pizza Hut selling snake pizza in Hong Kong' (CNN)
While in Hong Kong, don't ask me why,
At Pizza Hut, I chose to try
A dish on which they did apply
Some shredded serpent meat -- no lie.
At first it seemed like chicken, dry,
But quickly things went all awry --
UPON THIS MOTHERF***ING PIE! (Jesse Frankovich)

The headline "Masters of the Uni-Verse" is by Kevin Dopart; Beverley Sharp wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Nov. 18: Our Week 45 contest for funny ideas for items in mail order catalogs such as Hammacher Schlemmer's. Click here for details.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Jeff Contompasis; David Kleinbard; Hildy Zampella)
Title: (Kevin Dopart)
Subhead: (Beverley Sharp)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1563, Published 11/09/2023
The Invitational Week 45: The Perfect(ly ridiculous) Gift
Offer up some products for people-who-have-everything catalogs. Plus winning 'life lessons' to be learned from the movies, from Costco, and more.
NOV 9, 2023

We can safely say that no one resembling this man will be buying this "whole body pedaler" from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. (From

The Shop Treatment: This week's Invitational
This week's contest asks you to come up with items to be sold in mail order catalogs such as Hammacher Schlemmer's, which we are leafing through right now. Do you get mail order catalogs? If you don't, it doesn't matter, because we are going to help you out right here. But just in case, many of them are easily found online. The thing is, very often the very best item these catalogs offer is the catalog itself.

This one, and many others, seem to be directed at a market that includes grannies and grampies with more disposable income than they know what to do with, middle-aged people with more disposable income than they know what to do with, but not young people, who are simply too hip for all of this stuff. The contents are corny, mostly useless, hilariously overpriced ($89.95 for a manual kitchen grater), and largely absurd. The for-oldsters comfort items are frequently modeled by people who'd never touch these items were they not being paid to do so, such as the one at the top of today's Gene Pool, featuring a buff, handsome twentysomething giddily employing a watered-down baby-type stationary bike you can use while sitting in a stuffed armchair.

Here is a list of other things taken specifically from the current Hammacher Schlemmer print catalog:
-- A waffle iron that makes waffles in the shape of a toy train set ($79.95).

-- Q 19-foot inflatable lawn Grinch ($399.95).
-- A plush piggy bank that, with each deposit, wiggles and sings about the joy of saving money ($39.95).
-- A hand-painted rocking horse that neighs and whinnies and makes clip-clop noises ($259.95).
-- A handmade Irish shillelagh ($89.95).
-- A wireless computer keyboard that looks like a manual typewriter from 1935 and clacks and dings just like Grampy's but also for some anachronistic reason has LED lights on the keys ($149.95).
-- An Advent calendar that dispenses a little toy each day -- for your dog ($169.95).
-- And, on the cover of the print catalog, a record turntable that operates vertically; it looks like a guitar, and you hang it on the wall, and somehow it presses the tone arm against the record, sans gravity, with -- as confirmed by online reviews -- a fidelity level of two cans and a string. ($349.99).

For Invitational Week 45: Invent an item, with a catalog description, that would be a humorous addition to the Hammacher Schlemmer or a similar catalog (e.g., Harry and David, The Sharper Image, J. Peterman, Neiman Marcus). Your entry may be any length at all, but shorter writing is often more entertaining.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to For formatting, all we ask is our standard request that you type each individual entry as one line -- in other words, don't push Enter anywhere in the middle of that entry. As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Nov. 23. Yes, that is Thanksgiving. We will be there for you.

The winner gets, speaking of shopping, a vintage but brand-new Whole Fools Grossery Bag, designed by the renowned funny artist Bob Staake for The Style Invitational, this contest's previous incarnation; Pat used to give these to runners-up. This canvas tote, made of genuine plant matter, is also available for purchase in the Invitational Wish Book* for $799.95 plus shipping.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Learning the Har Way: The 'life lessons' of Week 43
In Week 43 we asked you to give us some observational humor in the form of "life lessons" to be gleaned from various situations -- the movies, the gym, Costco, or any other milieu.

Third runner-up: In the kitchen: Whoever says "easy as pie" never made anything involving flour, buttery fingers, and a rolling pin. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Second runner-up: In Las Vegas: You can meet a lot of women in bars who honestly don't care how you look. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

First runner-up: At the gynecologist: When your feet are in stirrups, your private parts fully exposed, and you think your ass is about to slide off the edge of the table, it will still be possible to "scoot down just a bit more." (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

And the winner of the cat-leg socks: From being an insomniac with ADHD: The dorid nudibranch has a plume of gills around its anus. Turtles can also absorb oxygen from their butts. In fact, butt-breathing is fairly common in amphibians and reptiles. It's true, the technical term for butt breathing is cloacal respiration. Birds have a cloaca. Speaking of birds, did you know owls can't move their eyes? That's why their heads turn so far. An owl can rotate its head through 400 degrees in full rotation. Tarsiers can rotate their heads 360 degrees, which is impressive for a mammal... (April Musser, Georgia)

None the Wiser: Honorable mentions
From online dating profiles: No man is 5-11. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

At the movies: Anytime a bullet is removed from a victim, it must be dropped into a metal container of some kind, producing a resonant clink. (Cindy Clendenning, Colorado City, Colo., a First Offender)

From listening to WTOP's traffic reports: There exists a way for someone named Dave Dildine to survive middle school. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

From online dating: Nobody is searching for a partner who shares a disdain of moonlight walks on the beach. (Judy Freed)

From observing Kevin McCarthy: It is possible to sell your soul to the devil and still not get anything worth having. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

At an Eagles vs. Commanders game in D.C.: What it's like at a Commanders vs. Eagles game in Philly. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

At shopping malls: You don't have to be in peak physical condition to get hired as a security guard. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

At the movies: Never use an alley as a shortcut, unless you're prepared to climb a chain link fence. (Steve Smith)

At a restaurant: The time it takes to order, receive, and finish eating your food is usually equal to the time it takes the server to bring the check. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

At the therapist's office: Your most urgent, emotionally laden issues will surface 47 minutes into the session. (Judy Freed)

Reading "Beetle Bailey": Trees grow horizontally from the sides of cliffs, and are quite sturdy, so it's easy to grab on and be supported if you fall over the edge, even if you are a fat sergeant. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Feminine hygiene product ads: The first thing I should be thinking of when I feel a cool autumn breeze is the smell of a woman's genitalia. (Mark Raffman)

Fox News: Biden is increasingly old and feeble. MSNBC: Trump is increasingly old and feeble. The U.S. Census: Everybody is increasingly old and feeble. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

From Costco: It is possible for one person to consume an entire one-foot-diameter pumpkin pie between the Sunday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. (Jeff Contompasis)

From lying in a gutter with a bottle of Ripple: Wine is coldest at 3:47 a.m. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

From the 2020 presidential election: The "some of the people" you can fool all of the time turns out to be about 47 percent of the population. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

From The Washington Post: Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

From Trump trials: When faced with jail time, Trump's former colleagues pee out the Kool-Aid very quickly. (Leif Picoult)

The book "Hillbilly Elegy": "Flyover country" is populated by real-life flesh and blood human beings with hopes and dreams that are just as deplorable as I thought. (Mark Raffman)

While doing your taxes: Even though he calls only when he needs money, it still feels all warm and fuzzy inside to call your college kid a "dependent." (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

The headline "Learning the Har Way" was submitted independently by Beverley Sharp, Jesse Frankovich, and Chris Doyle; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Nov. 11: Our Week 44 contest for monorhymes -- poems in which all the lines rhyme on the same sound. Click here for details.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Beverley Sharp; Jesse Frankovich; Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (Tom Witte)
Prize: ()

Week 1562, Published 11/02/2023
The Invitational Week 44: Rhyme and Rhyme Again
Write a funny 'monorhyme,' a poem whose lines all rhyme on the same sound. Plus winning 'Am I the Asshole' questions.
NOV 2, 2023

Okay, this week's contest:

Woohoo!/ It's New/ For You/ To Do!
" 'Beer goggles' study finds alcohol does not make people seem better looking" --The Guardian
From lunk
To hunk
When drunk?
It's bunk!
-- Marshall Begel

The Invitational has run literally hundreds of poetry contests over the past 1,561 weeks of its dauntless existence. But never had it presented the simple (though not necessarily easy) one we offer today.

For Invitational Week 44: Write us a funny monorhyme, a poem of any length whose lines all rhyme on the same sound, as in the pithy example above that appeared last month as one of the news-based "Poems of the Week" in the journal Light. (By "rhyme" we mean "perfect rhyme," -- i.e., "little" doesn't rhyme with "skittles" or "kettle.") Also, like the example above: The poem must relate to some published writing -- a news article, a book, a play, an ad, even another poem. Include the headline or title of that writing, as above, along with a link if you're quoting an online article or ad; you may use that (or a paraphrase) as the title of your monorhyme, or you can supply a separate title, as Marshall Begel does above.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to No special formatting this week; just send them as they ought to appear. (But do look one more time at the directions above.) As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Nov. 11, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Nov. 16.

The winner gets, somewhat apropos of this week's contest, "The Dr. Seuss Coloring Book," a quality-paper volume brimming with black-and-white Yertles and Two Fish and Hortons and Truffula Trees and many more (including the occasional 1930s Asian stereotype). Donated by Pie Snelson.

We won't tell if you make the Red Fish a Blue Fish. This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Butts of the Joke: The 'AITA' questions of Week 42
In Week 42 we asked you to write us a question inspired by the "Am I the Asshole?" forum on Reddit. By our accounting, in thirty of the answers, the writer is the asshole. In three, the other person is the asshole. And in two, both are assholes. See if you agree.

Third runner-up: On a date with my new girlfriend, I started necking with her in the car, rather vigorously, I must say. Later, my mother scolded me, "I saw what you two were doing and it was embarrassing and totally inappropriate." I lost it, screaming, "Then next time, I won't ask you to chaperone!" AITA? (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Second runner-up: Early in our relationship, my girlfriend (25f) and I (27m) gave each other a "hall pass" to sleep with the celebrity of our choice. I learned that my chosen celebrity's name is quite common in our area. I contacted about a dozen of them online and had one-night stands with a few. When my girlfriend found out she left me. AITA? (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

First runner-up: I (1f) chewed on a shoe so I got put outside and I dug up the yard so I got put in the garage and I tore apart my bed so I got put back inside and I destroyed a fall decoration so I got put back outside and I damaged a lawn chair (just a little) so I got put back in the garage and I ate a rubber mat so I got put back inside and I threw up the rubber mat in the hallway and I got called a bad dog. AITA? (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

And the winner of the 1950s child-rearing pamphlet Making the Grade as Dad:
My husband (37m) just discovered I've been paying a pool boy (22m) for services all summer, and wants to fire him because we don't have a pool. AITA? (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Bringing Up the Rear: Honorable mentions
I guess I have a talent for rearranging the letters of people's names into funny anagrams, and like to share them with the subjects. But at the 20th-anniversary tribute dinner for my boss, I joked that "Dick F. Putterheus" anagrams to "The Stupid Fucker" and there was this awkward silence. AITA? (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

My friends fill my Facebook feed with their annoying Wordle grids every day. I've begged them to stop, but they persist in flaunting their little lines of colored squares. So now, every day I post charts of my bowel movements. AITA? (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

AITA if I ran out of apples for trick-or-treaters and made a few caramel-covered onions? (Jesse Frankovich)

I often hold a football for my friend Charles to practice field goal kicking, and, well, for reasons of my own, I move it away at the last second every single time, causing Charles to fall on his butt. But listen to this: He still has me hold the ball, and he still tries to kick it -- every time. And though it has been 37 years since the last straight-on kicker, Charles still tries it that way, instead of soccer-style. I ask you: Who's the A? -- L. Van Pelt (Judy Freed)

If it be true I murdered mine own nephew's father and then married his mother so I couldst be king and then paid two of his friends to poisoneth him and then his mother kicketh the bucket instead, doth I be the arsehole? (Jesse Frankovich)

In my fantasy league I need a QB for the upcoming bye week, so I offered my buddy a trade: Bijan Robinson (RB/ATL) for Kirk Cousins (QB/MIN). He said fine but only if he could date my sister and I said which one, Cara or Marie. He said Cara, and I said in that case he needs to throw in Sam LaPorta (TE/DET) because Cara is way hotter than Marie. He offered Justin Tucker (K/BAL) but only if I can guarantee he gets to second base with Cara. I responded that in that case, I am definitely holding out for LaPorta, which he says is unreasonable. AITA? (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

So I (77M) was standing in the middle of Fifth Avenue and this total woke nutjob was all like "hey, you suck" so I shot him and after that my approval ratings went through the roof. AITA? (Jesse Frankovich)

When I see cars with those "Student Driver" signs, I always make sure to pass them on the right, or cut them off on a quick lane change, so they get real-world driving experience in a relatively safe way while learning. But instead, I always get a dirty look from the instructor. AITA? (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

My carjacker swore at me as he drove away for not getting out of the car fast enough. AITA? (Sam Mertens)

I loved my role in "Our American Cousin" and was looking forward to getting a big laugh after my "sockdologizing" line, just like at every performance at Ford's. Then right at my shining moment, somebody shot the President, and in all the fuss I never even got a snicker. When I complained about this afterward, people didn't seem sympathetic in the least. AITA? -- Harry Hawk (Judy Freed)

I was supposed to find cheap spices, but ended up establishing a supply chain for tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, corn, and yep, gold. But now they're calling me a monster! How was I to know syphilis, smallpox, and colonialism would be such a problem for the locals? Who's the asshole here? -- C.C., Genoa (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

If Johnny started it but Johnny told Mom that I started it and then I told Mom that Johnny started it and that Johnny eats boogers, AITA? (Jesse Frankovich)

I'm in charge of our company's voicemail, and I have seen to it that it still orders customers to listen carefully because our menu options have changed, even though the last change was in 1997. This angers some longtime customers who think it wastes their time and is a bald-faced lie, but as far as I am concerned, if just one confused senior citizen each year pays extra attention so that they don't inadvertently choose an option not tailored to their needs *" (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

My lady friend got mad at me for wearing shorts to her mom's funeral. I explained to her that my Dolce & Gabbana shorts cost me $325 -- more than most of the attendees' entire outfits! I told her it would have been far more disrespectful if I had worn pants from, like, Old Navy. I mean, am I the asshole here? (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

We think traffic laws, bank deposit insurance, and Supreme Court ethics laws are all unconstitutional because they didn't exist in 1789. AWTA? -- J.R., C.T., S.A., B.K., A. C-B., N.G. (Names withheld by request) (Marc from the Military, Travis Air Force Base, Calif.)

For no reason whatsoever, Donald Trump called me an asshole, etc. Am I the asshole? (Bill Jacobs, Fairfax, Va.)

I grew up playing sports with my wife's younger brother, Liam. He was a little guy but fit and athletic. We saw each other naked in locker rooms innumerable times.
Now in his twenties, Liam transitioned and last year completed the surgeries and changed their name to Linda. Linda visited us recently and looks great -- much hotter than their sister, my wife, I might add. While Linda was showering, I opened the door for a peek. After all, I'd seen Liam naked lots of times, so what the hell?
Linda screamed, then my wife ran in and screamed at me, too. Both packed and left, calling me an A-hole. C'mon, seriously, AITA? (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

I answered her, "Yes, you do, but you'd look fat in anything." She got steamed. Does honesty make me the asshole? (Jesse Frankovich)

I live in California but have figured out how to get the Eastern feed of "Jeopardy!" three hours earlier. Then when our family watches the local broadcast that evening, I do well, but never overdo it or rub it in -- like, I don't bet a lot on Daily Doubles. I think it encourages my wife and kids to up their game. AITA? (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

I do not like my neighbor, Sam.
His perfect life is just a sham.
So if I shagged his girlfriend Pam,
Would you say I the asshole am? (Jesse Frankovich)

My neighbor is nice and, to be honest, quite hot, but she has one habit that annoys me: When she showers, she often fails to wash her back. I can't help but notice through my binoculars that she'll soap every other part of her body, but she usually neglects to use a long-handle loofah or something to get those hard-to-reach places. I mentioned it to her in passing one day when I was walking the dog, and she got all mad and ran inside. AITA? (Leif Picoult)

After a week of constipation, I finally had a gigantic BM that stretched across the toilet bowl. I left it unflushed so my wife would see the good news. Instead, she wasn't even happy for me. AITA? (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

I use my gas-powered leaf blower every morning before leaving for work so my family can wake up to a pristine lawn. While I'm at it, I also clear my neighbors' lawns so they can wake up to pristine grass, too. However, some of my neighbors have asked me not to! I'm, like, who would complain about a free lawn service -- don't they know how much those landscaping companies charge for that? Am I the asshole? (Leif Picoult)

Based on a true story: For Mother's Day I bought my wife a new laundry basket, since the old one had cracked under the strain of heavy loads she was carrying up and down the stairs. The new one even has a curved side so it doesn't cut into her hip. My wife smiled when I gave it to her, but my daughters were furious. I was only thinking of her and her comfort. AITA? (Jeff Contompasis)

I know anything goes these days, but I was raised with traditional values. When I got married, I could tell on our wedding night that my bride wasn't a virgin. I mentioned this to my in-laws, thinking they might apologize for raising a wayward daughter and maybe make a small cash gift to compensate, but they haven't spoken to me since. Am I, you know, the bad person? (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

My sibling is a total suck-up to our parents. They lavish praise on him, constantly telling him he's a good boy. One day I got so fed up that I knocked over a vase on the table near where he was sitting so he'd be blamed. Am I the asshole? -- Mittens (P.S. I don't actually care what you think.) (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

If I used ChatGPT to write this entry because this contest is really hard, and this entry gets ink, AITA or IAITA? (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

I'm a cable installer. My office gives you a window of time to expect me, but I won't show up anyway -- unless you take a minute to pee, and then I'll leave a note on your door and run. AITA? (Jon Gearhart)

I sell insurance. Am I the Asshole? (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

And Last: My favorite humor/wordplay contest is the best thing on Substack! So I gave everyone I knew my Substack paid-subscription password. But the editors didn't appreciate my spreading the word. AITA? (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

And Even Laster: I'm humbly sitting out this week's contest, painfully aware that anything I'd produce would just seem lame next to the witty humor and sparkling anecdotes of other Losers, all of whom can draw upon boundless life experiences as genuine assholes to -- what? (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

The headline "Butts of the Joke" was submitted by both Kevin Dopart and William Kennard; and both William and Beverley Sharp sent in wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Nov. 4: Our Week 43 contest for "Life Lessons" to be learned from various places and situations. Click here for details.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Kevin Dopart; William Kennard)
Subhead: (William Kennard; Beverley Sharp)
Prize: (Pie Snelson)

Week 1561, Published 10/26/2023
The Invitational Week 43: Let It Be a Lesson to Us
Tell us some things to be learned from Costco, the bathroom, TV shows, etc. Plus winning word-grid neologisms.
OCT 26, 2023

From a birthday card (the message is "Go wild. It's your birthday.") available at

This week's contest is one we've done thrice, but not in a long time. Then, we limited you to a few situations; now you have free rein. For Week 43: Tell us a life lesson that can be learned from any particular milieu -- say, "on the pot," or "from the comics pages," or "from surfing the Internet," or "at Costco" or "at the movies" or "lying in the gutter with a bottle of Ripple." The examples below were past winners.

From romance novels: No one is named Maxine Fischman or Fred Paczynski. (Mel Loftus)

At the movies: At all speeches, the microphone will squeak once before
allowing the speaker to continue with no further problem. (Alan Hochbaum, Timothy Gotwald)

From TV: All family crises, whether large or small, take exactly 22 minutes to solve. (Ed Gordon)

At the dentist: Nitrous oxide can somehow cause your underpants to turn inside out. (Russell Beland)

This week you may choose any of the above categories -- see the results of those contests here, here, and here -- or others such as "at the gym," "at preschool," "while doing your taxes," "from scrolling on X for two hours." Or any other category you devise.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to Be sure to read the formatting directions! As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Nov. 4, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Nov. 9.

The winner gets a pair of very nice socks that look like cat paws, or what cat paws would look like if they had heels and big long soles. Donated by the footsome Dave Prevar.

Fog not included: This week's prize. (
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Meanwhile, we need questions / observations / reactions that Gene can answer right here, in real time. Roo-roo roominations will be particularly valued. Send 'em to this tasteful orange button:

tasteful orange button

Sharing Your Pathword: The neologisms of Week 41
In Week 41 we asked you to choose any letter on the randomly generated grid below, then "discover" a new word or phrase by snaking around the grid through adjacent letters in any or all directions. That so many of you noticed that M-11 or K-12 can begin "asshole" * well, let's say we have lots of hope for our still-running "Am I the Asshole" contest. (Note: Pat and Gene judge the Invitational without knowing who wrote the entries, and so sometime the same person nabs two spots in the top four. This time two people did.)

The grid used in today's results. (Circled letters show the example, OUCHPAL.)
Third runner-up: Beginning at V-7, heading down diagonally and then straight up: BOOZO: Former children's entertainer, now in rehab. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Second runner-up: K-5: I AM A STUD, YOU OLD LOON!: Debate response to be used by both candidates in 2024. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

First runner-up: J-13: URASSHOLE: Proposed name for the seventh planet before they decided it should be more polite, but still able to provoke snickers. (Jesse Frankovich)

And the winner of the headband that looks as if a knife's going through your head:
Q-10: DITZY, BITCHY, 'N' RUDY: The next three candidates who were in line for the House speakership. (Frank Osen)

Turns for the Worse: Honorable mentions
F-12: ARSE ROLL: One of your less popular sushi choices. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

B-5: HEAPA: A unit of measure equal to 40 trillion tons. "Donald Trump's reelection would mire our country in a heapa shit." (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

B-7: TITCH: An involuntary spasm that a guy experiences when he sees a well-endowed woman. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

C-2: AIRYAK: The spiel at the beginning of your flight that the attendants pantomime with arm gestures and you totally tune out, even when the sound system is audible. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

C-10: VP SEX: Official event celebrated annually in the Pence household. "Mike found himself stirring on the night before Christmas." (Stu Segal, Southeast U.S.)

C-12: EXLOPE: Run away to get a quickie divorce. "After my parents spent so much on the wedding, we felt it was only right to exlope." (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

C-15: PORNYLAND: Theme park with the happiest endings on Earth. (Jesse Frankovich)

C-17: RELIB: To reminisce about the good ol' days of youth radicalism. "There goes Aunt Cleo again, relibbing the SDS sit-in at the Berkeley chancellor's office*" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

D-6: DENAY: To deny a previous denial. "I didn't say I wouldn't run again for Speaker," the congressman denayed. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

F-3: FAPPETA: The stiff, discolored fabric that teenage boys' bedspreads seem to turn into. (Frank Osen)

F-15: MR. JOLLY GALLOP: YouTuber nickname for Sen. Josh Hawley escaping the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

G-10: SKANX: Open-crotch shapewear. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

G-19: NITWIZ: An ace proofreader. (Steve Leifer, Potomac, Md.)

H-3: DJT APP: A mobile tool that automatically adds gaslighting, dog-whistling, disinformation, and all-caps to your tweets. (Jesse Frankovich)

D-8: BIDEN APP: Program that works better than any alternative, but damn, it's on such an old platform. (Mark Raffman)

H-4: PAYN: An ache in your fingers as you write a check to the IRS. (Judy Freed)

H-10: CANDY TRAMP: What the grumpy old man next door calls a trick-or-treater. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

H-16: BLIZZLE: A much-hyped snowstorm that turns out to be a few flakes on the grass. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

I-5: PEWNY: What church attendance has been since the pandemic. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

J-4: SOLOLAY: A politer version of "screw yourself." "The deacon smoothly suggested that the rude taxi driver would benefit greatly from a sololay." (Kevin Dopart, Naxos, Greece)

J-11: GRASSHOLE: That neighbor who insists on mowing the lawn at 6 a.m. (Duncan Stevens)

N-10: BASSHOLE: Your co-worker who regales you every Monday morning with his fishing stories. (Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

J-12: RATMICEELKPIGLLAMA: The genetically engineered feature attraction -- well, the only attraction -- at the One Room Zoo. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

K-22: MM*PATE!: Homer Simpson gets hoity-toity. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

L-7: UNSMIT: Reversed an infatuation. "One look at his bathroom floor and she was immediately unsmit." (Pam Shermeyer)

L-8: BUTTASM: Occasional result of prostate massage. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

L-17: LOLLYGAP: Taking a schoolyear off to do nothing. "Scott said he'd master tutoring in the barrio, but instead he's lollygapping through mastering Super Mario." (Frank Osen)

M-12: I, ASSHOLE: In his memoirs, Trump finally comes clean. (Fiction) (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

M-19: McNERD: A Facebook friend who posts tips like this: "Because the discount for buying two McDoubles is a non-coupon offer, you can add a large fries for $1.19. That's still only $5.78, which is $2.18 less than a Big Mac with two extra patties and one extra slice of cheese. Bargain!" (Chris Doyle)

L-12: McSHIT: What not to order at the Golden Arches. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

M-3: KAMOLALULA: In a bid for ratings, Tucker Carlson unveils a new mispronunciation of the VP's name. (Frank Osen)

M-3: KOI MIX: What Pepperidge Farm calls its Goldfish in Japan. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

N-10: BS-SAT: A special standardized test used by college football recruiters. Question 27: What kind of fruit is in apple pie? (Leif Picoult)

N-12: SASSHOLE: (1) A mouthy teenager. (2) A teenager's mouth. (Jesse Frankovich)

O-7: QUINOA OOZE: Product name before the manufacturers decided to call it "vegan ice cream." (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

L-12: MASHTIT: What the clinic techs call the mammography machine. (Lee Graham)

O-15: SALARD: "At the We Please Everybody Cafe, we offer a salard special: a fresh romaine/spinach blend, smothered in pork fat gravy." (Judy Freed)

P-4: YALLISM: A classic Southern expression such as "Butter my butt and call me a biscuit." (Rob Cohen)

P-9: VINALDOO: What you get when you misread the recipe in your Indian cookbook. (Duncan Stevens)

P-13: KELCE PASS: Something Taylor Swift didn't need a football to make. (Jesse Frankovich)

P-15: ALPS FLESH: Epic goosebumps. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Q-17: MAGARITA: A Kool-Aid alternative that Republicans have wasted away on. (Kevin Dopart)

R-7: LOOLOO: A stunningly beautiful restroom. (Jeff Contompasis)

R-7: LOONOODLE: To cogitate on the toilet. (Steve Leifer)

T-21: MEATRE D': The headwaiter at a barbecue joint. "Yup, y'all can sit at that picnic table over yonder." (Jesse Frankovich)

The "Pathwords" headline is by Jesse Frankovich; Chris Doyle wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 28: Our Week 42 contest for humorous "Am I the Asshole" situations a la the popular Reddit thread. Click here for details.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Mel Loftus; Russell Beland; Ed Gordon; Alan Hochbaum; Timothy Gotwald )
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Chris Doyle)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1560, Published 10/19/2023
The Invitational Week 42: The 'Hole Story
Write us a funny 'Am I The Asshole' question. Plus winning parodies on the news.
OCT 19, 2023

For some reason, we thought this popular Reddit thread would be perfect for a contest in The Gene Pool. See this week's Invitational below.

This Week's Invitational: Are You the Asshole?
This week's contest, suggested a while ago by both Alex Blackwood and Jeff Contompasis, was inspired by a long-standing and deeply vulgar discussion thread on Reddit: Someone writes in to recount a conflict they're having with someone else, describes their own behavior in said dispute, and asks their fellow Redditors: "Am I the asshole?" Then others in the "AITA" community weigh in with their judgments.

Often, it is hilariously clear that the aggrieved writer is an asshole, a conclusion almost always confirmed by the community. An example we just made up: "I love mackerel in bouillabaisse sauce, and frequently make it for lunch at work, in the microwave or even the coffeemaker, which works splendidly for that. My co-workers complain it stinks up the office and all coffee subsequently tastes like fish. Am I the asshole?" Obvious verdict: You are.

Sometimes, it is clear that the writer has a good point, as in this real example from Reddit (slightly edited for space):

My boyfriend likes to be called "daddy" in bed. I've obliged but it's starting to creep me out and I've decided I don't want to do it anymore. He is not happy with this, and insists it has nothing to do with the connotation of the word, he just enjoys hearing me say it.

Since he wasn't budging on the issue, I told him I'd like him to call me "grandma" in bed as a compromise. He didn't like this option, said it was giving him visuals he would prefer not to have -- like ok, join the fucking club.

Anyway, the last time he tried to initiate intimacy with me, I started to say, "Do you like when grandma does that?" etc, and he FLEW off the handle. Said I ruined the mood, made him feel gross and I was being ridiculous.

I think I proved my point but he thinks I'm being an asshole. So AITA?

The full comment thread has been taken down, but the consensus seems to be: Madam, you are NTA, not the asshole. HE is the asshole.

Anyway: For Invitational Week 42: Create a humorous situation proposing a question for "Am I the Asshole?" It can be "from" a nameless person or a particular real or fictional one. It can be filthy, though we do not officially recommend that. The length can run up to 150 words or so, like the "Grandma" example, or it can be just a sentence or two.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Oct. 28, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Since we are in advice mode here, the winner gets the 1950 pamphlet Making the Grade as Dad, which was already in its seventh edition when this copy was printed in 1954. Written by child-rearing expert Edith Neisser -- whose credit appears after that of her husband, Walter, "an advertising man" -- the advice is generally still wise and probably progressive for its era ("It is a good thing for a boy to see his father helping to dry the dishes") though clearly the product of its times: "Everywhere in the world, boys learn that when they grow up they will have to look after women and children if they are to be considered responsible members of the community. Even when mothers go out to work, fathers are expected to be strong and protective."

Perhaps the designer of the Amazon logo was inspired by Dad's mouth.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Rock and LOL: The songs from Week 40
In Week 40 we put the call out for song lyrics and performances about matters in the news -- which happened to be, as you'll see, right when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was getting his gavel grabbed away. As always, the Loserbards sent us far too many inkworthy parodies and videos to share here; over the next few days Pat will post another dozen or so in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; search on #parodies.

Click on the titles of the original songs below to hear the tune so you can sing along -- though our winner this week will sing it to you right here.

Third runner-up: Donald's Favorite Things:
Buckets of crispy Kentucky Fried Chicken,
Huge MAGA rallies and candidate-pickin',
Dictators, tyrants, oppressors, and kings:
These are a few of my favorite things.

Strip steak that's well-done and slathered with ketchup,
Crazy-ass rants that my speechwriters fetch up,
Women who dream being one of my flings:
These are some more of my favorite things.

Fans wearing red hats who shout, "F.U., Biden,"
Breitbart and Tucker and Elon providin'
Claims that the deep state is clipping my wings,
All the while hiding how Putin pulls strings.

When I'm dogged by DOJ stings,
And it makes me mad,
I think about top-secret classified things
That I can reveal to Vlad.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Second runner-up: [To "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift]
Nice to meet you, where you been?
You can sure do incredible things--
Making catches for the win--
Saw you there and I thought,
"Oh my God, look at that man!
Guess I'm now a K.C. fan.
Love's a game, wanna play?"

New outfit, white and red,
They will talk about us on TV.
Ain't it funny, all that's said?
And I know you think about me,
So, hey, let's hang out
And you can run a deep go route.
On the Internet we'll trend;
I can holler when you score on the weekend.

'Cause we're hot and we're famous,
They'll gossip way too much.
Football's what your game is;
You're awesome in the clutch.
Got a long list of ex-lovers;
We'll say that we're just friends,
But I've got a blank space, Travis --
And I like tight ends.
(Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

First runner-up: Re-Indicted [to "Reunited"]
Those guys were fools to haul me into court --
Each time they do it doubles my support.
Whenever they booked me, then the better things looked.
The base gets more excited 'cause I've got them hooked, hey hey.

Manhattan, Georgia, big one in D.C.,
Each prosecution is a boon for me.
'Cause when I'm arraigned, see all the fans that I've gained!
More charges, more they love me--see, I've got 'em well trained.

Re-indicted and it feels so good!
Charge me more? You know I wish they would.
My poll numbers climb when I get charged with a crime.
The MAGA crowd's united 'cause I'm re-indicted, hey hey.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

And the winner of the solar-powered hula dancer:

The song's about Sen. Robert Menendez. Lyrics by Jonathan Jensen; performed by Tom Chalkley [center], Bob Friedman [right, on guitar], and Jonathan [on MicroBass]. The three Baltimoreans perform occasionally as the Patapsco Delta Boys; Jonathan's day job is playing string bass with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

YouTube URL:
I want to live on what you give.
There's nothing finer than a bar of gold.
All these transgressions you must forgive,
I can be purchased for a bar of gold.
And I'm bought and sold
Keeps me working for a bar of gold.
And I'm bought and sold.

I go to Washington, I chair committees.
I'll do your bidding for a bar of gold.
I'll loosen purse strings, and I'll do worse things.
I can be purchased for a bar of gold.
Though I'm getting old
Keep on working for a bar of gold
Yes, I'm bought and sold.
I can be purchased for a bar of gold.
A new Mercedes and a bar of gold.
Half million dollars and a bar of gold.
There's nothing finer than a bar of gold.
(Jonathan Jensen; Tom Chalkley)

Rhythm & Lose: Honorable mentions
Employees React to a Rebrand [To "Be Our Guest"]
We're now X! We're now X!
Says the guy who writes the checks,
Understanding the rebranding
Raises riddles that perplex.
Why did Musk buy us out?
Why'd he change what we're about?
When he did away with Twitter,
He consigned us to the shitter.
Is the stock through the floor?
Is the future insecure?
Is the ax about to come down on our necks?
We were a well-run shop, now we're a dismal flop,
Pay last respects! Clear the decks! We're now X.
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Two Ballads of Matt Gaetz
I. [To "My Blue Heaven"]
A vote that I called, to tell him goodbye,
That motion's how I screwed Kevin.
Eight votes from the right, now he's out of sight,
Good night, because I screwed Kevin.
Gone is that weasel face that we'll replace, up in the chair,
And if there's disarray, that's quite okay, 'cause I don't care!
Now all thanks to me, we're leadership-free,
So happy 'cause I screwed Kevin. (Mark Raffman)

II. [To "Stairway to Heaven"]
There's a dude who is sure his intentions are pure,
But he's clearly a scumbag to Kevin.
He the Speaker betrayed with a motion he made,
And he's basking in all the attention.
Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh, yes, he's clearly a scumbag to Kevin.

He's a Florida man who's a huge Donald fan
And a star among self-righteous whiners.
We're all keenly aware that he's proud of his hair,
And to boot, he gets busy with minors.
Ooh, makes me shudder * And he's clearly a scumbag to Kevin. (Jesse Frankovich)

Biden: His Time [To "When I'm Sixty-Four"]
Some say I'm aging, losing my grip
C'mon, man, not so!
Aren't you all anticipating four more years?
Speak up, folks, I can't hear the cheers!
Asking the old folk, begging the young,
You whippersnappers, you:
Will you respect me, will you elect me,
When I'm eighty-two?
(Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Your House [to "Our House"], written and sung by Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach,
Fla., accompanied by Judy Freed and (Judy Freed).
[URL of Judy singing in three-part harmony:
You lit the fire. We sit here watching as you burn the whole thing down.
Such an orange fire- Your mess is now ours, as you
pander to the clown who pulls the strings, which we all see.
God help the GOP.

Time's running out. So use your head for just five minutes.
How hard can that be?
Gotta make a choice. The country needs a Speaker and we
know you'll just keep teeter-tottering the whole day through.
What will we do with you?

Your House is a very scary, asnine House.
With Boebert, Jordan, Gaetz -- catastrophe awaits.
Now everything's gone bonkers 'cause of you
and your blah blah, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah

The Ballad of Sam Bankman-Fried [To "Be Our Guest"]
Bankman-Fried! Bankman-Fried!
Tale of hubris, lies, and greed:
Funds invested feather-nested; at the trough his pals would feed.
Stole the loot, took the gains,
Used the dough to fund campaigns,
And his customers in crypto? Off those folks he surely ripped -- oh,
FTX took their checks,
Laundered funds [it was complex];
Off to jail Sam went with all deliberate speed;
He seemed a rumpled oddster; now this scheming fraudster
Has been treed--yes, indeed, Bankman-Fried! (Duncan Stevens)

Evicted [To "Busted" as sung by Johnny Cash]
It started in '20, when orange-face Trump got evicted;
To old Mar-a-Lago, that roach-ridden dump, he was evicted.
He took what he said was all personal stuff;
Jack Smith and the feds have been callin' his bluff --
But one scuzzy 'Pugnican isn't enough
To be evicted.

Now Kevin McCarthy, the man with no shame, is evicted;
His aide called Pelosi and told the old dame: "You're evicted!"
Pelosi's a lady; she told him off nice,
With steel in her spine and a voice full of ice --
But I'm sure she was hopin' the whole gang of lice
Would get evicted.

Now listen up, people, and hear what I say about "evicted":
It isn't enough just to hope and pray they'll be evicted!
You Dems who love justice and right in your souls,
A year from November, get down to the polls--
And don't you dare quit till the whole pack of trolls
Is evicted!
(Sharon Neeman, Pardes Hanna, Israel)

Kevin's Lament [To "You Shook Me All Night Long"]
He was a click machine, made for the TV screen,
Gaetz was the biggest camera whore that I ever seen.
With Eddie Munster hair and a caveman's glare,
Voting me right out of my House Speaker chair.
Taking more than his share, I said I didn't care,
But the schmuck followed through, thought he wouldn't dare.
Congress halls start quaking, my hand is shaking,
My gavel they're taking, and the far right is breaking it
And you shook me alt-right wrong *
(Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

The Ballad of Sen. J.D. Vance [to the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song]
Come listen to the story of a man named Vance,
A hardscrabble son who would never have a chance,
Except for some folks who would help him on his way*
The same folks now that he loves to betray.
[Coastal elites! Pointy-heads!]

A scholarship to Yale, a degree in law,
A best-selling book 'bout his crusty old Mamaw,
And then California, where a patron said, "J.D.,
Come feed at the trough of our private equity."
[Start-up techs! Massive checks!]

Well now he's in the Senate where he plays pretend,
A "man of the people," but it's Trump that he'll defend,
So forget about his money or his fancy law degree,
He's hiding them to practice demagogy.
[Candidate -- '28?] (Mark Raffman)

It's High Noon for Kevin McCarthy
Do not forsake me, Grand Old Party, on this our votin' day
I don't think Donald Trump will save me -- Loyal? That's one-way!
I think I know what fate awaits me
Countin' the votes says it's a wrap
The Chaos Caucus gang will Gaetz me
I'm bein' booted, my gavel muted, guess I'm ill-suited for this crap.

Shoulda been honorin' my sworn duty
'Stead I helped trample the Constitooty
Trump with his tie so red and long -- what a buffoon!
He thinks the Presidency's hisn, 'cause it can keep him out of prison
I'm not a fan of his but oh -- what made me think he should lead me?

Now that you've dumped me, Grand Old Party
Some say I'll quit this carny ride
No, I won't be a K Street smarty
And my new hobby won't be to lobby, and if it is? Then hey, I lied!
(Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Two songs sung by Clarence Thomas
I. [To "Wouldn't It Be Loverly"]
All I want is a billionaire
Flying me on a jet somewhere
Paying for my air fare
Oh, isn't it so loverly?

Now I sail on the finest yachts,
I don't sleep in my RV cots
In Walmart parking lots.
Oh, isn't it so loverly?

Oh, so loverly living in the lap of luxury
Paid by lawyers who have lots of cases in front of me!

It will never affect my vote
When a litigant buys my boat
Or pays my mortgage note,
Oh, isn't it so loverly?
(Barbara Sarshik; Andy Pike, Vienna, Va.)

II. [To "Let It Be"]
When I find myself with time to travel,
Wealthy friends will cover me,
Whispering with their checkbooks,
"Big RV."

And if I want a yacht vacation,
Sailing on some tropic sea,
There will be an answer,
"It's on me."

Get it free, get it free, gave a spree, Justice T.!
Ethics can be damned, sir,
Get it free! (Mark Raffman)

From "The Lauren Boebert Musical" [To, once again, "Be Our Guest"]
Feel our breast, feel our breast,
Then we'll let you grope the rest.
Let your fingers run across us, dear, and you will pass the test!
In the House, we're a Rep,
So you better watch your step:
As they say, "You go and hump her -- just don't piss off any Trumper."
You're okay, it's a play,
We're in public every day,
And our voters trust that we know what is best.
So follow Trump and Jesus, do your thing and please us.
Feel our breast! Yes, our breast! Feel our breast!
(Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Speaker of the House [To "Burning Down the House"]
Ahhhhhh Watch out! You might get what you're after
Big babies--estranged and getting stranger
Appoint an ordinary guy
Speaker of the House.

Hold tight, wait till the Party's over
Hold tight, we're in for nasty weather
There's got to be a better way
Speaker of the House

Vote your ticket, back your flag, it's time to behave overboard
The aggravation is here.
Close enough but not a czar, we're not what we think we are
Fighting on a high wire * ah!

All White, we might need a scapegoat,
Break down, don't discuss much in daylight.
Too many palms for us to grease.
Speaker of the House*.
(Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

The Major Maniacal Dictator's Song [To "The Major-General's Song"]
I am the very model of a master of autocracy;
My name is known throughout the world [albeit for hypocrisy];
I have a lust for power, and my mission's to expand my reign,
And nothing's going to stop me [once I finally smash that damn Ukraine].

I had a private army called the Wagner Group [you may have heard];
It's said I killed their leader -- bah, I tell you, that is just absurd!
He led an insurrection but I'm never one to hold a grudge;
That plane crash was an accident! Was I involved? I'll be the judge!

My latest message to the world [I say this quite sadistically]:
I have some brand new nukes, and they can reach your home [ballistically!].
So use some common sense: don't try to mess with my autocracy,
'Cause Xi and Kim Jong Un could help me polish off democracy!
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

RNC's Ronna McDaniel Watches the GOP Debate [To "If I Only Had a Brain"]
Trump will never just surrender -- there's nary a contender
Whose path he didn't pave.
They're on stage to audition for a Cabinet position,
Not the job they truly crave.

Some could win the right-of-center, defeat their chief tormentor,
Who's brazenly depraved.
With ol' Joe's numbers sinkin', we don't need another Lincoln
For our party to be saved.

Oh, I could tell you why we're in such disarray.
Ron's a wonk whose claim to fame is "don't say gay,"
And the rest have no cachet.

In debates they're bellyachin', and red-state heads are shakin',
Reviews have not been rave.
Where to find someone saner who's a highly skilled campaigner?
Let's raise Reagan from the grave.
(Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

The Elon Song [To "I'm Too Sexy"]
I'm too X-ey for that name, too X-ey for that name,
Twitter? No, that's just lame.
I'm too X-ey for ol' Zuck, too X-ey for ol' Zuck--
What, "Threads"? What a schmuck!

Get blue checks-ey, pay the fee, blue checks-ey, pay the fee,
Show you're loyal to me!
I'm a mogul, you know what I mean,
And the techie staffers say, "What a prat," walk.
Have a spat, walk, grab their hat, walk.
The site is breaking down after that walk.

Not too X-ey, though, for Nazis, too X-ey, though, for Nazis,
Racist bilge quite a lot sees.
You're objectsy to your feed, objectsy to your feed?
Then I'll cap what you read.

I'm a mogul, you know what I mean,
The employees hear me tell them all "Scat," walk--
"What a brat!" walk, "brain of gnat!" walk,
A site-will-now-frequently-go-splat walk.
Too X-y for my, too X-y for my, too X-y for my, too X-y for my

The headline "Rock and LOL" is by Chris Doyle; Chris also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 21: Our Week 41 contest to "discover" new terms by snaking through a word search grid. Click here for the grid and directions.

Idea: (Alex Blackwood; Jeff Contompasis)
Examples: ()
Title: (Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (Chris Doyle)
Prize: ()

Week 1559, Published 10/12/2023
Invitational Week 41: As the Word Turns
'Discover' new words like OUCHPAL by snaking through this random grid. Plus winning Dylan + 1 rhymes.
OCT 12, 2023

-- A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V --
01 L Y I R J K R L B Y J G B R X A Y D B R J R 01
02 T S A Y A T J Y Q Y K J R K U L A T S O P K 02
03 W E C V V F A D S Z O L K T L W R J Q D M R 03
04 T E A V L N A P N S X A O L A Y N D L Y R V 04
05 C H P A E L L A P S I M I T N P T G M T M J 05
06 E C T D L N Y W E E A S N C P M E P L Y E B 06
07 L T I W T P N H Y T T U D Y Q L M L D L J B 07
08 A J Y B M L C Y O J J B R Y O U O O A L O X 08
09 I T W T Y E L N A J D D N H D V I N O O D D 09
10 D T V P E D S C D Y V D S B C T D T Z L C G 10
11 L B T S L N K X G G T S A T H T I Y E H G L 11
12 D F E X R A N M M R A M I S I Y D B A X D I 12
13 X B R L L Z L P L U N P C E E K Y L P K Y Y 13
14 N T Y O R Y R J O L B I E L F J L G O N A T 14
15 L Y P J N M T Y L L G A P K S A M A D H Q L 15
16 A E T Y K T L B Y Y L L O C H P L Z O P O A 16
17 Q L R E L Z Z I F J X A L U G A M L M O E O 17
18 Y J L Y I B D W M J K I A H R A A P B R R B 18
19 Q J R A W M N T V D Z A M C D R I A O I P N 19
20 Q N W M C B I W M G B J Y V N E T E E Q Q Y 20
21 Y L P N Y M V N X Y T M P K T Q Q L T M P K 21
22 X M N T D K M Y Z R M P J A M M T B R Y X R 22
-- A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V --

The Invitational:

Beginning on M-16: OUCHPAL: Your bondage partner.
E-16: KNOLLERY: JFK assassination obsession. "Yeah, Chuck wants to visit Dealey Plaza for our vacation again."

R-9: NODLY: How you fake interest in your lunch date's recitation of troubles with the office photocopier.

We're making the Invitational grid again! Here's the perfect contest for those Gene Poolers who aren't inclined to, say, spend a week writing an elaborate song parody: There are lots of possibilities just sitting there. For Week 41: "Discover" a humorous new word or multi-word term by tracing a path through the randomly generated grid above -- in any direction or several directions, up, down, back, forth, diagonally, but always using contiguous squares -- and define the result, as in the examples above ("ouchpal" is the one traced out). You can't trace over the same spot on the grid twice. Using the word in a funny sentence can help you get the ink over someone else who "found" the same term.

Begin each entry -- you can send as many as 25 -- with the coordinates of your first letter (e.g., C--12) as above; we'll trace it from there. Letter-hyphen-number. And you must put the coordinates, word, and definition all on the same line -- don't hit Enter between them. (You should be able to print out the grid from this link.)

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same form.

Deadline is Saturday, Oct. 21, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Oct. 26.

The winner gets, just in time for Halloween, a "Glow Knife" headband that makes it look as if a translucent green plastic knife is going through you. Complete with its name in Danish.

If you're driven mad by trying to trace those letters through that grid, here's evidently one way to achieve serenity.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

The Rhymes They Are a-Changin': The Dylan tailgaters of Week 39
In Week 39 we invited you to choose any line from Writer of Many, Many Lines Bob Dylan, and rhyme it with your own line, in a couplet that the light-verse world calls a tailgater. We especially liked Frank Osen's "I am a man of constant sorrow/ You brought me pizza from Sbarro," but tragically, "Man of Constant Sorrow" is an old folk song; Dylan's credited only as arranger.

Third runner-up:
In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach
And then left the school board meeting to inject myself with bleach.
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Second runner-up:
"Go on back to see the gypsy, he can move you from the rear."
They sure have funny ways of saying "colonoscopy" 'round here.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

First runner-up:
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children --
The laws here in Texas are simply bewild'rin'.
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

And the winner of the human-heart stress-relieving squeezy thing:
Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes,
The four-inch heels we gals must wear while working for Fox News. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Blowin': Honorable mentions
But I would not feel so all alone --
Everybody must get cloned. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call,
But don't yank that fire alarm on the wall.
(Frank Osen; Duncan Stevens)

I'd a-done anything for that woman if she didn't make me feel so obligated
To similarly please her every time I got fellated. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Del.)

I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken--
In a string of emoji their nonsense was spoken. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

"No reason to get excited," the thief he kindly spoke.
"Just find 11,780 votes for me and not that other bloke." (Jesse Frankovich)

Ring bell, hard to tell if anything is goin' to sell
Unless it's Girl Scout Do-si-dos, which every year do very well. (Chris Doyle)

We sat in her kitchen while her mama was cooking.
"Shouldn'ta cooked her," said the cops at the booking. (Duncan Stevens)

Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone
If you'd just pardon me like Roger Stone. (Kevin Dopart, Naxos, Greece)

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
But what's that "Kick Me" sign on my behind? (Duncan Stevens)

Although it's tradition to have a bris,
You took a part of me that I really miss. (Judy Freed)

But I would not feel so all alone
If only I could charge my phone. (Bill Jacobs, Fairfax, Va., a First Offender)

Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand --
Carpal tunnel surgery cost me six grand. (Frank Osen)

Well, you walk into the room like a camel and then you frown --
Perhaps you shouldn't wear a backpack underneath your gown (Frank Osen)

We never did too much talking anyway.
Ted Cruz went first on Filibuster Day. (Duncan Stevens)

"Disillusioned words like bullets bark"
Is a simile that went wide of the mark. (Frank Osen)

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns when they all did tricks for you
But you cannot take your eyes from the Trumpers telling lies while they act like dicks for you (David Franks, Washington County, Ark.)

Darkness at the break of noon?
Why'd we go to Antarctica in June? (Duncan Stevens)

Early one mornin' the sun was shinin', I was layin' in bed
Chucklin' about how much money I made back tourin' with the Dead (Gregory Dunn, Alexandria, Va.)

Everybody knows that baby's got new clothes
She spat up on her onesie -- seven washings, still it shows. (Duncan Stevens)

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
This way I don't have to pay the streaming fee (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

I ain't lookin' to block you up.
That's why I put prune juice in your cup. (Judy Freed)

I must admit I felt a little uneasy when she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe
Together with Crazy Glue. (Frank Osen)

That it is not he or she or them or it that you belong to;
Your pronouns no one can dictate, for it is surely wrong to. (Mark Raffman)

I've got a hole where my stomach disappeared
These Ozempic side effects are beyond weird (Frank Osen)

They'll stone you when you're playing your guitar
Which means you ain't cut out for Juilliar'. (Gary Crockett)

And Last: To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay
I've been reading through Bob Dylan lyrics sixteen hours a day. (Chris Doyle)

And Even Laster: She tries to write a chiasmus -- it sounds so darn banal.
She knows there's no success like failure and that failure's no success at all. (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

The headline "The Rhymes They Are a-Changin'" is by Jesse Frankovich; both Kevin Dopart and Tom Witte submitted the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 14: Our Week 40 contest for song lyrics about anything in the news right now, either in parody lyrics or a video. Click here or type in for full directions.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Kevin Dopart; Tom Witte)
Prize: (Roy Ashley)

Week 1558, Published 10/05/2023
The Invitational Week 40: It's Parody Time
Send up the news with those songs and videos that you do so well. Plus winning chiasmus jokes.
OCT 5, 2023

You probably did that already. But check out the twist on Dante in this week's Invitational results below.

The New Contest: Finding Parodise
It's been too long since we had a full-blown song parody contest, one of our stockiest stocks-in-trade: For Week 40: Write a satiric song about anything in the news these days, set to any familiar tune -- or even your own tune, if you'll sing it to our readers. Include a link to the original tune so that readers can follow along. Videos are welcome as well; include a public link to your performance along with your lyrics. Be sure to tell us what song you're parodying, even it it's OBBBBBBvious; we promise not to be insulted.

Because these lyrics are going to be read, not listened to (unless you're making a video), don't send us a line-by-line parody of a five-minute recording; best for us are lyrics generally about 8 to 16 lines, without choruses that simply repeat the same words.

For that ol' Guidance and Inspiration, see the winning lyrics and videos from last year.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, were you, uh, Mozart. Read the form first for formatting instructions, as well for guidelines for what we're looking for in song lyrics.

Deadline is Saturday, Oct. 14, at 9 p.m. ET -- but if you need just a little more time to edit the video, or polish the lyric, email the Empress and she'll see what she can do. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Oct. 19.

The winner gets a cute little solar-powered energetically swaying hula dancer, her feet anchored in some plastic greenery. If your car's dashboard lacks that certain tackiness, this is an instant solution. Donated by Dave Prevar.

Who better to dance along sensually to your inking song parody? This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Read Our Flips: The chiasmi of Week 38
In Week 38 we asked for witticisms featuring chiasmus, the clever inversion (more or less) of a phrase. We also allowed for spoonerisms, a variant in which the beginnings of two words are switched. Our exhortations to make them original prevented most of you from sending in the one about leaving no tern unstoned.

Third runner-up: A protest sign outside a Kanye West concert: Hope All Who Enter Here Abandon Ye. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Second runner-up: Her profile said she was one of a kind, but she turned out to be kind of a 1. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

First runner-up: If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you give a fish a man, he eats for a month. (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

And the winner of the L for Loser iron-on patch:
Why do men believe they're so good at making love? Because the women they love are so good at making believe. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Dimmer Switches: Honorable mentions
Trump's offering the country not a New Deal, but a Do Kneel! (Ed Gordon, Austin)

What do you call an arrogant Broadway actor with a single award? A one-Tony prick. (Chris Doyle)

On a first date, one may reasonably anticipate a peck on the kisser, but not a kiss on the pecker. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

A snail was giving thought to crossing the road, but she was a big procrastinator. So what happened? A big crow passed and ate her. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Cigar but no clothes. -- B. Clinton (Jesse Frankovich)

How was Linda Lovelace different from Linda Tripp? The first was a porn star, while the second a Starr pawn. (Chris Doyle)

An infield home run -- were those guys in Nats caps taking catnaps? (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Did you hear that the sperm bank is closing because of its string of lousy donors? They're having a fire sale after the sire fail. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

We've gone from facts determining opinions to opinions determining facts. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

What did Humpty Dumpty tell the horses and men who were trying to put his yolk and white back together? "If you can't join 'em, beat 'em." (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

The scion of the Listerine fortune is a real heir of fresh breath. (Jesse Frankovich)

Kevin was Speaker of the House, but he never learned the hows of the Speaker. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

King Charles III disdains splashy royal processions and pageantry. After the obligatory coronation froufrou, he instructed his court, "Don't parade on my reign." (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Mike Pence is in the "party of life," but he surely isn't the life of the party. (Jesse Frankovich; Chris Doyle)

It's said that certain bordellos in Prague have a policy in which johns must remit payment not just before the deed is done, but before they even arrive at the establishment. As they put it, the check must be in the mail before the male can be in the Czech. (Justin Stone, New York, a First Offender)

Sex with your mama was enjoyable, but it was spoiled the next morning by a fly in the ointment: I needed an ointment in the fly. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Show too much sex and violence, censors will have you vexed and silenced. (Sam Mertens)

A new mom was feeling down in the dumps because when her baby's diaper had slipped off onto the comforter there were dumps in the down. (Beverley Sharp)

Sometimes in a public restroom, you need to bum a wipe in order to wipe a bum. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

The Lennon-McCartney song "Can't Buy Me Love" was a flop in its original version, "Can't Love Me? Bye!" (Jonathan Jensen)

Did you hear that the ex-Nationals pitcher rushed into the stands to assault a heckler? Seems he could batter a fan as well as he could fan a batter. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

What do you call Trump's hate mail? Jeer Don letters. (Jesse Frankovich)

When your lover hurts you, you're liable to go out and have an affair just out of spite. As the song says, your weepin' heart will make you cheat. (Jonathan Jensen)

The rich playboy finally got his comeuppance when he was convicted of sexual assault on a member of his household staff: They cooked his goose when he goosed his cook. (Jonathan Jensen)

The would-be thief was about to run off with some winter wear, but nope -- he was caught with his down pants. (Judy Freed)

What is a common rule at fundamentalist Bible camps? The Men Command Tents. (Chris Doyle)

Why did Hunter Biden get indicted? Gun of a son! (Jesse Frankovich)

Republicans work to ensure Democrats have problems in voting so that Republicans can keep voting in problems. (Michael Stein)

I know I'm short, but I'd rather be under six feet than six feet under. (Rob Cohen)

It's a hard-knock life. Had to move back in with my parents. Now if only I could get them to remember: It's a hard life! Knock! (Judy Freed)

And Last: You might get ink if your submission contains a wry idea. But you're more likely to get ink if your submission contains "diarrhea." (Mark Raffman)

The headline "Read Our Flips" is by Jesse Frankovich; Chris Doyle and Jeff Contompasis each submitted the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 7: Our Week 39 contest for "tailgater" couplets in which you pair a line from a Bob Dylan song with a rhyming one of your own. Click here or type in for full directions.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Chris Doyle; Jeff Contompasis)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1557, Published 09/28/2023
The Invitational Week 39: Tailgating on the Highway
Pair a Dylan line with your own rhyming one. Plus winning 'backronyms.'
SEP 28, 2023
03 Crossroads Sign - Highway 61 - Delta Blues Museum - Shopping Cart

Come gather 'round, people . . . and try the new contest
Abe said, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
And God said, "On the Outer Loop, which is backed up from the John Hanson Highway to Route 1."

Johnny's in the basement, mixin' up the medicine
As I listen to this on antiquated vinyl technology invented by Thomas Alva Edison.

And it's a-hard, it's a-hard, it's a-hard, it's a-HARD *
* So, babe, let me slip you this stiff calling card.

This week's contest was suggested by Loser Jon Ketzner, who finds himself with a lot more Invite ink now that he's no longer under the thumb of the Washington Post Taste Police (see today's results, below, for example). Jon suggests a Dylan "tailgaters" contest: For Week 39: You choose a line from a song written by Bob Dylan, then pair with your own rhyming line. Your line may either follow Dylan's real line or precede it. (Dylan himself does not have to have rhymed his line.)

The first example above was written by Dave Zarrow, for an old Style Invitational contest that had nothing to do, theme-wise, with Bob Dylan.

Most of Dylan's lyrics are conveniently online at, but they're also all over the Web.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. Please see this week's form for important formatting instructions.

Deadline is Saturday, Oct. 7, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Oct. 12.

The winner gets a bright red, surprisingly detailed squeeze "ball" in the shape of the human heart, featuring the logo of Philadelphia's Mutter Museum of medical history. Donated by 442-time Loser Dave Prevar, who picked it up on a Loserfest vacation weekend a few weeks ago.

You can sing your Dylan tailgater to organ accompaniment: This week's heart-gripping prize.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.

Meanwhile, we need questions / ruminations / observations that Gene can answer right here, in real time. Send 'em to this tasteful orange button:

Ask a question!

INK: Infamy, Not Kudos -- backronyms of Week 37
In Week 37 we asked for "backronyms" -- you choose a word or name, then treat it as an acronym, as if its letters stood for your description. These worked better when you opted to spell the word/name correctly, which many of you did. (Hint: The car isn't a "Telsa.")

Third runner-up: OPPENHEIMER: (1) Overcome Physics Problems. (2) Enable Nightmarish Human/ Environmental Incineration. (3) Miserably Express Remorse. (Marli Melton, Carmel Valley, Calif.)

Second runner-up: 2024: 2 0minous 2 4tell (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

First runner-up: BEETLEJUICE: Breasts Embraced, Erection Tugged, Lauren (Elected Jackass) Ushered Into Colorado Evening (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

And the winner of the jesterish foam hat in Mardi Gras colors:
WRITERS' STRIKE: (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Honorable mentions
MELANIA TRUMP: Marry, Eventually Leave, And Negotiate. I'll Acquire Tremendous Riches Under My Plan. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

LYCRA: Lets Yoga Classmates Regard Asses (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

X: Xhe Xeirdest Xndustrialist's Xemper Xantrum Xstablished Xebranding (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

FLORIDA: Funny Land Of Raging Idiots Dodging Alligators (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

IOWA: I'm Overwhelmingly White, America (overwhelmingly white Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

CHATGPT: College Help App: The Great Professor-Tricker (John Cherniavsky, Arlington, Va., a First Offender)

McCARTHY: Mismanaging Clown Car After Recruiting Those House Yutzes (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.; Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

KAMALA: Kept As My Advantageously Lackluster Alternative - J.R.B. (Kevin Dopart)

HAWAII: Heavenly Area With An Intermittent Inferno (Jon Gearhart)

HARLAN CROW: Helped Arrange Riskless Loan After Noticing Clarence's Rusty Old Winnebago (Chris Doyle)

BEER: Belly Expands, Erudition Retreats. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

CAT: Cunning Allergen Transmitter (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

GIRAFFE: Gee, I Really Am Fucking Freakishly Excellent (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

TUCKER: Twit Unctuously Cheers Kremlin, Encourages Racists (Duncan Stevens)

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Vicious, Lying And Dangerous, I Murder Indiscriminately. Russians! Please Understand This Is Necessary! (Stephen Gold, London)

LYFT: Look, Your Fare Tripled! (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

SCOTUS: Six Conservatives Out To Upstage Scalia (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

SELF-DRIVING CAR: "Sleep! Enjoy Life! Fuhgedabout Driving! Rela-a-ax! I'm Very Into Navigating! (Glitches, Crashes Are Rare...)" (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

SIGMUND FREUD: Sexual Innuendo Grand Master. "Unsurprisingly, Nocturnal Donut Frenzy Reflects Erotic Unconscious Desires" (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

WOMAN: Weary Of Manspreaders And Neanderthals (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

OLIVES: Only Licorice Is Viler Entree Spoiler (Pam Shermeyer)

And Last: GENE: Generally Entertaining, Not Edifying (Janet Hlatky, Herndon, Va.)

The headline "INK: Infamy, Not Kudos" is by the infamous Jeff Contompasis; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 30: Our Week 38 contest for witticisms using chiasmus -- sort of mirror image, like "If you're planning to take a drive on the Beltway, don't start by taking a belt in the driveway." Click here or type in for full directions.

Idea: (John Ketzner)
Examples: (Dave Zarrow)
Title: (Jeff Contompasis)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1556, Published 09/21/2023
The Invitational Week 38: Cross Us Up
Mirror a phrase, more or less, in this week's wordplay contest. And we offer a certain respect and admiration for Trumpsters.
SEP 21, 2023

Chi marks the spot in this week's wordplay contest . (Film Journal)

The Invitational, Week 38: Simultaneous, Explosive Chiasms
Not all men kiss their wives goodbye when they leave their homes, but all men kiss their homes goodbye when they leave their wives. (David Kleinbard)

If you're planning to take a drive on the Beltway, don't start by taking a belt in the driveway. (Dave Zarrow)

I'd rather have bliss with two sisters than a cyst with two blisters. (Tom Witte)

This week's contest is completely new and original, a lie that we justify to ourselves when it's been ten years or more since we ran a previous one. (In this case, twelve years.) For Week 38, write an original witticism containing a chiasmus -- a sentence or phrase followed by its inversion, as in the examples above from a previous contest we don't officially acknowledge. It may be on any subject: philosophical, political, personal, pseudo-literary, phallic, etc. And it doesn't even have to begin with P.

For this contest, we are using the term "chiasmus" to include its Patty-Duke-like nearly identical cousin called antimetabole. In short, we will accept entries in which the words in the first half of a phrase or a sentence are directly transposed in the second half, or where the initial sounds are playfully altered and inverted, spoonerism-style. The most famous example of the first type is John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." The most famous example of the second type, attributed to various wits, is "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."

Note: You may also use a word and its homonym (e.g., chased/chaste).

For more examples from The Time Before Memory, see here and here.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See the form for how to format your entries.

Deadline is Saturday, Sept. 30, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Oct. 5.

The winner gets one of our most Loserly prizes ever: this iron-on patch, even though it was not made specifically for the Losers, the moniker that the social community of Invitational contestants gave themselves decades ago, in honor of the contest's prize for runner-ups at the time, a coveted T-shirt emblazoned "LOSER." The patch was found and donated by Loser Extraordinaire Jonathan Jensen, who probably has one of these tattooed on his chest.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Bless Their Hearts: Trumpster-positive thoughts from Week 36
In Invitational Week 36 we asked you to offer either respect or compassion for the many passionate admirers of Donald Trump.

Third runner-up:
Respect: No way would they vote for a guy who'd shoot someone on Third or Seventh Avenue. They've got standards, you know. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Second runner-up:
Respect: They've broadened their thinking -- they recently acknowledged that the Second Amendment does not guarantee all Hunters the right to bear arms. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

First runner-up:
Respect: Given the old adage, Trumpsters must have achieved bliss! (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

And the winner of the "Freudian Sips" coffee mug:
Compassion: Have you ever tasted snake oil? (Steve Smith)

EmPathetic: Honorable mentions
Respect / admiration
They alone have realized that Trump wasn't lying about his weight -- he just reported it in kilograms! (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Trump supporters are admirably unselfish -- you could never accuse them of voting in their own interest. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

They've successfully contradicted Descartes' first principle: They don't, but still * they are! (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

That MAGA hat really brings out the red in their zits. I'd almost say that it makes them pop, but it doesn't quite. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

They're so brave - even though they fear being raped and murdered by those people, they still eat at Taco Bell and Chipotle. (Kevin Dopart, sojourning in Naxos, Greece)

They know and understand God's immutable distinction between those who are permitted to grab genitals and those whose genitals are permitted to be grabbed. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

You've got to admire people whose jobs won't be replaced by AI. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Unlike the Democrats, at least they truly believe their guy ought to be president in 2025. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Playing the role of a big strong man in tears who meets Trump everywhere and calls him "sir" is so time-consuming and hard on the lacrimal ducts! (Duncan Stevens)

They'll have to settle for a low-rent version of "The Apprentice" called "The Apprehended," which shows Trump making prison deals, such as ramen for smokes. (Leif Picoult)

The bus that shuttles them between the D.C. Jail and courthouse never shows any good movies. (Duncan Stevens)

Nobody looks good in a brown shirt. (Kevin Dopart)

So many of them still must endure having their medical bills paid by Obamacare. (Steve Smith)

Alas, none of them will be permitted to selflessly serve Trump's jail time. (Steve Smith)

With all the different Trump trials coming up, there are so many jurors to stalk and threaten, so little time! (Duncan Stevens)

It's sad for them when they realize they're a -- ugh -- minority in this country. (Sam Mertens)

Crotch-grabbing and making little kissy sounds hasn't worked so well with the ladies after all. (Duncan Stevens)

It's such a challenge now to get your mistress an abortion. (Kevin Dopart)

They've spent half their money on funding Trump's legal defense, and soon they'll spend the other half on mailing him shiv-filled MyPillows. (Leif Picoult)

It must be a struggle to be proud of the January 6 "protests" even though they were obviously the work of Antifa. (Kevin Dopart)

It must be unnerving that Trump probably is still nine criminal charges short of what he needs to win the presidency. (Steve Smith)

So many all-you-can-eat buffets don't tell you they only mean it for the first four hours. (Sam Mertens)

They truly have no idea why so many of their friends and family members have died over the past three years. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Ode to the Trumpsters (a parody of Stephen Sondheim's "Sorry-Grateful")
(Video of Judy Freed performing it)
I'm truly sorry that you're so hateful.
No use denying what makes you tick - just one big dic * tator.
You don't live with him. You do live for him.
You're scared they're gonna lock him away. We only pray.

Good people scorn you, He does too.
It must not be easy being you.

And so I'm sorry you're not regretful.
Why do I bother? You've all gone dim.
Your karmic footprint is looking grim,
Which has something to do -- no, all to do with him.

He'll always be what he always was,
So I'm sorry you fall for everything he does.
I want nothing to do with all to do with him.
(Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

And Last: We should admire and respect Trump supporters! After all, aren't they losers with a capital L, too? (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

The headline "Bless Their Hearts" is by Beverley Sharp; Beverley also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 23: Our Week 37 contest for backronyms -- you treat a name as an acronym and tell us what phrase it "stands for." Click here or type in

Idea: ()
Examples: (David Kleinbard; Dave Zarrow; Tom Witte)
Title: (Beverley Sharp)
Subhead: (Beverley Sharp)
Prize: (Jonathan Jensen)

Week 1555, Published 09/14/2023
The Invitational Week 37: Do You Have to Spell It Out for Us?
You do. Give us 'backronyms.' Plus severed-body-parts 'Muldoon' verses.
SEP 14, 2023

Help Us Morons Misuse Earth's Resources: Clearly what the name of this vehicle stands for, right? It's time for another backronym contest, below

We're Baaaaack*. The New Contest
HUMMER: Help Us Morons Misuse Earth's Resources (Elwood Fitzner)

METRO: More Efficient Than Renting Oxen (Michael Reinemer)

SNOWDEN: Spy, Nerd Or Whistleblower, Drives Everyone Nuts (Gary

WAR AND PEACE: Who Actually Reads All Ninety Dozen Pages? Eggheads -- And Counterfeit Eggheads. (Melissa Balmain)

For Invitational Week 37: Take the name of any person, place, or thing and write a snarky description of it by using each of its letters, in order, as the first letters of your snark, as in the examples above, which were taken from long-ago Style Invitational results. It's been seven years since we last did this.

For guidance and inspiration -- and to be sure you're not using a joke someone else already got ink for -- check out our previous Style Invitational backronym results: Week 632 (2005); Week 1025 (2013); and Week 1169 (2016). (Scroll down past each of those weeks' new contests.) We'll be partial to contemporary references, but not dismissive of others, if they are good.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See the form for how to format your entries.

Deadline is Saturday, Sept. 23, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Sept. 28.

The winner gets a plush foamy jesterish hat in Mardi Gras colors, in plenty of time for you to contrive some clever purpose for it as part of a Halloween costume. Brand new and donated by the Ever-Donatin' Dave Prevar.

Be just as jolly as this mannequin with this week's festive prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity. We have one today.

Arse Poetica: Winning 'Muldoons' from Week 35
In Week 35 we asked you to write what we called Muldoons, in honor of the wonderfully alliterative Pulitzer prizewinning Princeton poet Paul P. Muldoon, who once wrote Muldoons, and/or something very much like them. A Muldoon had to be four lines long and include (1) a geographical location -- a term that we were generous enough to accept "the Underworld," but not Mar-a-Lago, Sotheby's or "the produce aisle" -- and (2) two body parts; and (3) at least one rhyme. Also, we do not believe Mr. Muldoon's middle name begins with a P, but we liked the continued alliteration.

Third runner-up:
He unpacked his bag and unbuttoned his coat;
He had a red nose and a very sore throat.
So no one got presents and no one got coal;
'Twas the first case of Covid to hit the North Pole.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Second runner-up:
In New York he was famed
For smart anti-crime stands,
Now Rudy can't pinpoint
His ass with both hands.
(Stephen Gold, London)

First runner-up:
The Michelin Man was pale and wan, so to his face I spoke:
"You are so fun and jolly -- why not cheer us with a joke?"
"I've been on worldwide jaunts to all the company's suppliers.
I just flew in from Katmandu, and boy, are my arms tires."
(Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

And the winner of the pen with the poop emoji that pops off the top:
The task of eating pizza in New York
Is done with hands, and never knife and fork.
Don't break the rules and cause a massive eye roll --
Just fold it up and shove it in your piehole.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Nothin' 'doon: Honorable mentions
An ogre from the Underworld had feelings most unpleasant:
"My reflux has come back -- I couldn't eat another peasant!
My eyes were bigger than my tum,' digestion's not so spry.
I ought to chew before I gulp --" Then he heaved a heavy thigh.
(Jonathan Paul)

A farmer hailed an alien whose spaceship came to Earth,
He shook the creature's giant hand for all that he was worth.
The strange being screamed as if he suffered a great harm.
"Uh-oh," thought the farmer, "I don't think that was his arm."
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

In Fulton County they snapped his mug
in a look unpresidential.
If the trial be fair, then his derriere
soon will be there, residential.
(Leslie Franson, Ellicott City, Md., a First Offender)

On the Texas frontier, he rides up to my rear,
Says my ass is so lovely to stare at.
So I bid him draw near, and I say in his ear,
"If you like you can give it a carrot."
(Jonathan Paul)

It's not his heart.
It's not his head.
Mitch froze in D.C.
From existential dread.
(Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

When reporting to the court he claimed a weight of 215.
The clerk said, "With all due respect, you don't appear that lean."
"I got weighed last week in Palm Beach!" declared defendant Trump.
The clerk asked, "Did that sum include your belly and your rump?"
(Rick Bromberg, Fairfax, Va.)

An actress of the California kind
Lost face when people laughed at her behind.
"My tuchus has begun to sag, I fear:
I'll need a surgeon to bring up the rear."
(Beverley Sharp)

In Paradise, Nevada, on a cool November night,
When Holyfield and Tyson got together for a fight,
The referee yelled, "Stop! This bout's gone seriously south!"
"Huh, what'd you say?" Evander cried. "My ear is in his mouth!"
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

I offer a riddle: can you name the mollusk
That's often discovered on Washington beaches?
A "duck" without wings, just one very long foot,
Which resembles the phallus of mammalian creatures.
(Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

A urologist's finger.
A prostate massage.
Erupt like Krakatoa.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

A man from Muskogee desired a fresh start;
Went into the hospital for a new heart.
"Oh, no!" cried the surgeon, who said with a shiver,
"My scalpel just slipped -- hope he's fond of chopped liver."
(Beverley Sharp)

A bumbling doc from Dubuque
Was retrained by the med school at Duke.
The dean was impressed and said, "Wow --
He knows his glutes from his cubitus now."
(Kevin Dopart, Naxos, Greece)

On the beach in Daytona one year on spring break,
She caught my eye and made my knees quake.
I kissed her sweet lips; their taste seemed to linger.
I gave her my heart but she gave me the finger.
(Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

I dreamed I was a Labrador retriever.
My wife said, "Yes, I know," and I said "What?"
With twinkling eyes, she said I should believe her --
Last night in bed, I turned and sniffed her butt.
(Mark Raffman)

A would-be poet lived in Spain;
In vain he daily strained his brain.
But all his efforts were kaput:
He didn't have a metric foot. (Beverley Sharp)

At Kentucky Fried Chicken, I said, "Here to eat!
But I've major aversions to undercooked meat.
Are your leg pieces fully cooked through, every one?"
"Oh, yes," they assured me. "Sir, thigh will be done."
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Some devils went down to Georgia
Lookin' to put a thumb on the scale
They were in a bind, their candidate behind --
Now their asses are headin' to jail. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

That Captain in Neverland's in for a shock --
He's about to encounter that croc with the clock.
At the end of the day, he'll need more than a peg:
The bloodbath will cost him an arm and a leg. (Beverley Sharp)

Hot ruby lips, mascaraed eyes,
A penchant for outrageous lies.
Who knew a drag queen from Brazil
Could steal the show on Capitol Hill? (Jonathan Jensen)

The Galapagos Islands -- a natural museum!
So get off your butt and make haste to go see 'em.
But don't look for diamonds or sapphires or rubies;
Just keep your eyes open (in case you like boobies). (Beverley Sharp)

Her eyes shine bright as planet Venus --
A perfect match, say those who've seen us.
Her accent will not come between us
When she says she wants "ha-penis." (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Said the Limerick lady, "This verse
Makes me sick to my stomach, or worse.
It's a pain in the brain
To write a quatrain.
(With no fifth line, the thing's just too terse.)" (Mark Raffman)

And Last: To the Empress:
I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as your knee.
Your elbow crests fair Beauty's arc.
(Please send my prize to Garrett Park.)
(Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

The headline "Arse Poetica" was submitted by both Chris Doyle and Jonathan Paul; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 16: Our Week 36 contest for reasons to be respectful and compassionate toward Trumpers. Click here or type in

Idea: ()
Examples: (Elwood Fitzner; Michael Reinemer; Gary Crockett; Melissa Balmain)
Title: (Chris Doyle; Jonathan Paul)
Subhead: (Tom Witte)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1554, Published 09/07/2023
The Invitational Week 36: U * TFG's BFFs
Plus winning 'mirthdays,' finding parallels between two people with the same birthday.
SEP 7, 2023

(Picture highlighting the haircuts of Boris Johnson and Moe Howard)
June 19 birthday boys Boris Johnson and Moe Howard, brought to our attention
by Loser Kevin Dopart. See more natal-day linkages in today's results below.

Okay, now for the new contest. For Invitational Week 36: We are asking all of you to reach out to beleaguered Trump supporters and bathe them in the warmth of your love, to help bind the nation's wounds. More details below, but first, to get you in the mood, here is a song written and performed by veteran Loser Jonathan Jensen, who plays string bass in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Back to the notion of loving Trump lovers: There are two categories of entries we will accept:
1. A reason to feel compassion for Trumpers in this difficult time, and
2. A reason to respect and admire them.

Compassion: Have you seen how much bootleg ivermectin costs these days?

Respect: They're admirably loyal to their guy, just like that nutcake rabbi who was imploring Nixon not to resign even while the escape helicopter was already on the White House lawn and the president was having animated, paranoid conversations with paintings of previous presidents.

This contest was suggested by Tom the Butcher (aka Tom Shroder).

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form.

Deadline is Saturday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Sept. 21.

The winner gets a very nice coffee mug labeled Freudian Sips. Donated by Kathy Sheeran of Vienna, Va.

Freudian Sips
Best enjoyed with just a cigar. This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Same-Day Deliveries: Shared birthdays from Week 34
In Week 34, we asked you to link two people who have or had the same birthday.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! With the insane amount of ink he earns this week -- a personal-best six entries -- Roy Ashley, a Loser since 1995 who turned 81 last month, boings with a hop, skip and jump right into the Invitational Hall of Fame with his 500th inking entry, becoming its seventeenth member. Roy's first ink was in a contest for Bad Analogies: "The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and 'Jeopardy!' comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30."

The world's youngest-looking octogenarian: Roy Ashley, Loser since Week 120, at the Invitational's 2019 Flushies awards.

Third runner-up: Zinedine Zidane (born 6-23-1972): That headbutt! Clarence Thomas (6-23-1948): That butthead! (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Second runner-up: Richard Roundtree (7-9-1942): Shaft. Courtney Love (7-9-1964): Hole. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

First runner-up: Albert Einstein (3-14-1879) and Simone Biles (3-14-1997): They're both flippin' geniuses! (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

And the winner of either a cake baked by the Empress or a pair of tiny biting-shark earrings: Robert M. "Fighting Bob" Lafollette Sr. (6-14-1855) and Donald Trump (6-14-1946): One was a champion of working stiffs, the other's a champion of stiffing workers. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Twinners & Losers: Honorable mentions
Joe Arpaio (6-14-1932) and Donald Trump (6-14-1946):
Higgledy piggledy,
Joseph Arpaio, the
Toughest American
Sheriff was he,
Famous for being a
Immigrant hunter and
Trump pardonee.
(Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Neither Al Gore (3-31-1948) nor Chlodwig, Prince of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfurst (3-31-1819), invented the internet. (Kevin Dopart)

Hugh Grant (9-9-1960) and Joe Theismann (9-9-1949): Break a leg! (Roy Ashley)

Carlo Gambino (8-24-1902) and Cal Ripken Jr. (8-24-1960): Both reliably produced hits. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Saint Nicholas (3-15-270) gave money to the needy. Seventeen hundred years later, Jimmy Swaggart (3-15-1935) took it back. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Andrew Jackson (3-15-1767) and Jimmy Swaggart (3-15-1935) are both known for trails of tears. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Bob Fosse (6-23-1927): "All That Jazz." Alfred Kinsey (6-23-1894): All that jizz. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Spanish soccer coach Luis Rubiales (8-23-1977) says he momentarily lost his head; Louis XVI (8-23-1754) could relate. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Warren Beatty (3-30-1937) and Secretariat (3-30-1970): Two guys who scored with a lot of fillies. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Richard Nixon (1-9-1913) and "Gilligan's Island" actor Bob Denver (1-9-1935) were both at the center of terrible plots. (Jesse Frankovich)

Humphrey Bogart (12-25-1899) and Ghislaine Maxwell (12-25-1961): "Here's looking at you, kid" had very different meanings for the two of them. (Michael Stein)

David Hasselhoff (7-17-1952) worked surrounded by big boobs. Camilla Parker Bowles (7-17-1947) works along just one big boob. (Roy Ashley)

Sylvester Stallone (7-6-1946) was known for a "Rocky" portrayal. George W. Bush (also 7-6-1946) was known for Iraqi betrayal. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Charles Barkley (2-20-1963): "The Round Mound of Rebound." Sen. Mitch McConnell (2-20-1942): The Lie Guy of KY. (Jesse Frankovich)

Michael Jordan (2-17-1963) and Trump toady Rep. Jim Jordan (2-17-1964):
Two Jordans born this day: one full of grace,
Who swooped around the court with skill that's rare,
And one whose "Biden bribes, a slam-dunk case!"
Consists, it always seems, of only Air.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Actor Verne Troyer (1-1-1969) and golfer Leonard Thompson (1-1-1969): Both had a good short game. (Leif Picoult)

Michelangelo (3-6-1475) and Shaquille O'Neal (3-6-1972): Only one of them needs a ladder to paint a ceiling. (Michael Stein)

Because of undying devotion, Gladys Knight (5-28-1944) rode the midnight train to Georgia; Rudy Giuliani (also 5-28-1944) took a plane. (Steve Smith; Leif Picoult)

Boxers Rocky Marciano (9-1-1923) and James "Gentleman Jim" Corbett (9-1-1866):
Inside the ring, from bout to bout,
They met their foes and knocked 'em out!
So why's 9/1 the date they share?
12/26 seems much more fair.
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Philosopher Rene Descartes (3-31-1596) and poet Octavio Paz (3-31-1914): "I think, therefore iamb." (Dan Sachs, Pineville, N.C.)

Georges Seurat (12-2-1859): A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte. Aaron Rodgers (12-2-1983): A Sunday Afternoon on the Field of Green Jets. (Jesse Frankovich)

Christopher Columbus (10-31-1451): Made a daring trip and set foot in a new world; Apollo 11's Michael Collins (10-31-1930): Made a daring trip and * well, close. (Beverley Sharp)

Cleavon Little (6-1-1939) and Yevgeny Prigozhin (6-1-1951)
Cleavon Little gained fame as a sheriff named Bart
In a flick that promoted the campfire fart.
While avoiding all tea and tall buildings, Prigozhin
Overlooked a quite different kind of explosion.
(Chris Doyle)

Thomas Edison (2-11-1847) and Alex Jones (2-11-1974): Known for illumination and the opposite. (Michael Stein)

Bruce Springsteen (9-23-1949) and Caesar Augustus (9-23-63 B.C.): Augustus was the Boss for only 42 years. (Kevin Dopart)

Jazzman Steve Lacy (7-23-1934) blew the sax really well. Monica Lewinsky (7-23-1973) knew a sax player really well. (Kevin Dopart)

Lou Gehrig (6-19-1903) and Moe Howard (6-19-1897) were among the 1930s' top hitters. (Kevin Dopart)

Comedian Rowan Atkinson (1-6-1955): Mr. Bean. Comedian and Maxwell House shill Danny Thomas (1-6-1912): Mr. Coffee Bean. (Roy Ashley)

Bob Barker (12-12-1923) and Frank Sinatra (12-12-1915):
(To "New York, New York")
Start comin' on down! You're playing today!
I am the handsome host of it-- "The Price Is Right"!
These prizes astound -- how much would you say?
Bid close but don't go over it-- The Price Is Right!

You want to be up on the stage with the big star,
And find you're spinning the wheel! Winning a car!

A showcase profound we're giving away
To you who gets most close to it-- The Price Is Right!
Please help my pet crusade -- make sure to get them spayed!
It's up to you! The Price Is Right! (Jesse Frankovich)

Voldemort actor Ralph Fiennes (12-22-1962) played someone almost as evil and creepy as Ted Cruz (12-22-1970). (Jesse Frankovich)

John Locke (8-29-1632): Prominent Enlightenment figure. Michael Jackson (8-29-1958): Prominent lightenment figure. (Jesse Frankovich)

Julia Child (8-15-1912) and Trump finance guy Allen Weisselberg (8-15-1947): One is a writer of cookbooks, the other a writer of cooked books. (Michael Stein)

Vladimir Putin (10-7-1952) and Penthouse Pet Bree Olson (10-7-1986) have appeared topless in major American magazines. (Kevin Dopart)

Golf legend Bobby Jones (3-17-1902) and Stormy Daniels (3-17-1979):
He strode the fairways and the greens,
While she appeared in bedroom scenes.
But each pursued a single goal:
To get it quickly in the hole.
(Mark Raffman)

George Soros (8-12-1930) and Willie Horton (8-12-1951) both helped Republican candidates raise millions. (Steve Smith)

Muhammad Ali (1-17-1942) and Al Capone (1-17-1899):
With blazing fists and Tommy guns
These two men felled their foes.
Ali made boxers hit the mat,
While Al's opponents just fell flat
And never more arose.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Hermann Goring (1-12-1893) and Rush Limbaugh (1-12-1951): Actually, I don't see any similarities at all. (Roy Ashley)

Frank Gifford (8-16-1930) and Kathie Lee Gifford (8-16-1953): Gee, with a shared birthday and the same last name, you'd think that maybe these two should have hooked up! (Roy Ashley)

Cher (5-20-1946) and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (5-20-1959): If they'd sung a duet, they'd have looked like the number 10. (Jon Ketzner)

Ron DeSantis (9-14-1978) and Amy Winehouse (9-14-1983)
(To "Rehab")
Yo, Ron, send your campaign to rehab,
Polls are low, low, low.
Suck up to Trump? You look like a chump,
And faux, faux, faux.
In a hole so deep, won't even make the stakes of veep.
Yo, Ron, send your campaign to rehab,
You're out of dough, dough, dough. (Duncan Stevens)

Joanne Woodward (2-27-1930): Devotedly married to the same man for 50 years. Elizabeth Taylor (2-27-1932): Uh, wasn't. (Steve Smith)

Mathematician Jacques Tits (8-12-1930): Famous for the Tits metric." Country singer Porter Wagoner (8-12-1927): Famously boosted the career of Dolly Parton. (Steve Smith)

And Last: Sting (10-2-1951): "Can't Stand Losing You." Gene Weingarten (the very same date): "Can't stand you, Loser." (Jesse Frankovich)

And Even Laster: William Shakespeare (4-23-1564) and Judy Freed (4-23-1966):
He wrote with lofty eloquence.
She has a simpler mind.
His words are brilliant poetry.
She's limerick-inclined.
In schools worldwide his works are read;
Their meanings one must teach.
No class is needed for the Loser-
Bard of Deerfield Beach. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

The headline "Same-Day Deliveries" was submitted by both Jesse Frankovich and Chris Doyle; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 9: Our Week 35 contest for Muldoons, four-line verses that mention two body parts and a geographical name, and have at least one rhyme. Click here or type in

Idea: (Tom Shroder)
Examples: (Jonathan Jensen)
Title: (Jesse Frankovich; Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (Tom Witte)
Prize: (Kathy Sheeran)
Add:H:1532:(Kevin Dopart)

Week 1553, Published 08/31/2023
The Invitational Week 35: Doody and Muldoon
Plus 'Jeopardy!' -- the winning questions for our wacko answers
AUG 31, 2023

Week 35: A Brand New Contest!
I open my eyes --
Las Vegas! How nice!
But I'm missing a kidney
And packed in ice.


"Head, shoulders, knees and toes."
That's how the kiddy ditty goes.
(In Jersey, Mob tots end with this take:
"Now cut 'em off and throw 'em in the lake.")

For Invitational Week 35: Write a Muldoon, a four-line poem that features at least two body parts and a place name, and at least one rhyme.

We officially declare this a new contest. We actually did run it once before, during the first George W. Bush administration, but that was so long ago we declare that one deceased and erased from the records.

Muldoons were invented many years ago by the wonderfully alliterative Pulitzer Prizewinning Princeton Poet Paul Muldoon. As in the two examples above (the first by Jennifer Hart in 2003, the second by the Czar twenty years later) each poem must be a single quatrain with at least one rhyme. It must contain references to at least two body parts and one geographical location. The meter can be scattershot.

Click here for this week's entry form. Or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form.

Deadline is Saturday, Sept. 9, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Sept. 14.

The winner gets this nifty pen with a poop emoji that pops off into the air at the push of a button. If you happen to see the photo of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act, look closely and you'll see that this pen was exactly like the one he used that day. Donated by six-time Loser Cheryl White.

No description available.
Until the invention of the typewriter, Invitational entries were written with one of these.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Q It Yourself: Ask Backwards winners from Week 33
In Week 33, as we are wont to do, we offered a list of oddball "answers" and you supplied the questions -- more than 700 of them -- Jeopardy-ish style. For "No-Hit Wonder," too many Losers to credit asked, "What did they call Stevie in Little League?" while a slew of entrants predicted that the 2024 Pantone Color of the Year would be something like Jumpsuit/Skin Orange.

Third runner-up:
A. Only black licorice.
Q. Is it true Florida wants to ban licorice at Disney World? (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

Second runner-up:
A. Florida Dog.
Q. What dog got bitten by its owner? (Dan Helming, Whitemarsh, Pa.; Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

First runner-up:
A. The Dirty Baker's Dozen:
Q, Which pastries are filled with dulce de lech? (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

And the winner of the cute sloth tea infuser:
A. Donald Trump, PhD:
Q. What's more plausible than "Donald Trump, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds"? (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Blowing an Ask-It: Honorable mentions
A. Florida Dog:
Q. Between Florida Man and Florida Dog, who is better able to resist licking his crotch in public? (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

Q. Who is now protected, by law, from groomers? (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Q. Who chases cars head-on? (Kevin Dopart)

Q, Who is not allowed to sniff another dog's butt if it's the same gender? (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Q. What's another name for the yoga position Head Up Your Ass? (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Q. Who's a dumb boy? (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore; Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.) *

A. 100 cats in a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment:
Q. What's the best remedy for Covid smell loss? (Pam Shermeyer)

Q. What smells like Steve Bannon looks? (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Q. What listing can you find on Hairbnb? (Diana Oertel, San Francisco; Steve Smith)

Q. What would allow a Proud Boy to honestly say, "I'm getting a lot of pussy"? (Mark Raffman)

A. Arguably, they're the same:
Q. What's the difference between a satirical article about the Trump administration and a descriptive article about the Trump administration? (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Q. What's the difference between bathtub caulk and American cheese? (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

A. Barbie, Ken, and Kamala:
Q. On which pronunciation quiz did Tucker Carlson score 66.67? (Mark Raffman)

Q. What are more valuable when kept boxed up? (Kevin Dopart)

A. Donald Trump, PhD:
Q. Who is the only recipient of a doctorate in phoniness? (Mark Asquino, Santa Fe, N.M.)

Q. Who received the first honorary degree bestowed by the Clorox School of Medicine? (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

Q. Who hired a team of lawyers to defend his thesis, and then stiffed them on the tab? (Mark Raffman)

Q. Whose dissertation had footnotes citing the source "A lot of people are saying"? (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.; Duncan Stevens)

Q. Who uses the abbreviation for "Phenomenal Dictator"? (Rob Cohen)

Q. Who got his doctorate in uncivil engineering? (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

A. Heirloom Twinkies:
Q. What can you find in the snack aisle next to the locally grown Ding Dongs? (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Q. What did Elon Musk pay $2 billion for? (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

A. No-Hit Wonder:
Q. What would we have called the Baha Men if the dogs had stayed in? (Duncan Stevens)

Q. What's simultaneously an appropriate and inappropriate nickname for Shohei Ohtani? (Duncan Stevens)

Q. What do you call someone who can get high just walking past the dispensary? (Gary Crockett)

A. Only black licorice:
Q. What is the candy equivalent of well-done steak with ketchup? (Dan Helming)

Q. Is there a food that will not work as rat bait? (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Q. What is worse than the day when your wife leaves, your business partner takes all of the money that your wife didn't, and your dog dies? (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

(Note: Both the Czar and the Empress actually like black licorice. Please send all your unwanted black jelly beans to the E.)

A. Ploppenheimer:
Q. Who is most likely to create a weapon of ass destruction? (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

A. Oppenhopper:
Q. What did they name the first atomic-powered pogo stick? (Mark Raffman)

Q. Who stars with Bugs Bunny in the 1945 short "Gone Fission"? (Mike Gips)

Q. What do Los Alamos residents call a five-legged frog? (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Q. What was Kermit's role in "The Muppets Take Manhattan Project"? (Jeff Contompasis)

The 2024 Pantone Color of the Year:
Q. What is Freshly Picked Cotton? -- R. DeSantis (Steve Smith)

Q. What will be Whatta Maroon? (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Q. What is Cell-a-Don? (Barbara Turner)

Q. What announcement sparked an "All Colors Matter" protest? (Judy Freed)

A. A bad idea for an Invitational contest:
Q. What is "Come up with funny twelve-digit numbers"? (Duncan Stevens)

Q. What is "Tell us some funny Holocaust 'equivalencies'"? (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Q. What is add "buttfuck" to a movie title and describe the new movie's plot? (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Q. What is an annual contest to write a poem about somebody born the preceding year? (Jesse Rifkin)

Q. What is "Make up funny limericks using the names and addresses of the Georgia grand jurors"? (Mark Raffman)

Q. What are insulting Pakistani names for Indian food? (Kevin Dopart)

The headline "Q It Yourself" is by Jesse Frankovich; Beverley Sharp wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 2: Our Week 34 contest to link two people who share a birthday. Click here or type in

Idea: ()
Examples: (Jennifer Hart)
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Beverly Sharp)
Prize: (Cheryl White)

Week 1552, Published 08/24/2023
The Invitational Week 34: A Mirthday Party
Link two people who share a birthday. Plus winning 'ho-' limericks.
AUG 24, 2023

Born on Oct. 2: Mohandas Gandhi, of great works, and Stinky Rat, of lousy twerks.

Okay, here comes the new Invitational, suggested in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook Group by Claire Keeler. For Week 34: Make some humorous connection, in verse or otherwise, between two people, living or dead, who share the same birthday. You can find coincidental birthdays all over the internet; we had luck Googling, not in quotes, things like famous birthdays Sept 15.

Mohandas K. Gandhi and StinkyRatTicTok
For both Mahatma Gandhi and this twerking can of corn
Fame arrived, approached and beckoned.
(Plus, we note that both were born
On October the second.)

We disclose that Oct. 2 also happens to be the birthday of the Invitational Czar, which deftly leads to the Czar's alternative example, not in rhyme, coinciding with the Nov. 24 birthday of the Empress: "Pat Myers and former Beatle drummer Pete Best: Both vanished into ignominy and irrelevance because of unwise career choices."

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form.

Deadline is Saturday, Sept. 2, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Sept. 7.

The winner gets a birthday cake from a mix. Pick it up at the Empress's house, Mount Vermin. Alternatively, the Empress will eat the cake in your honor and you get instead a pair of teeny earrings of a shark chewing on your earlobe. They're on order but are supposed to look something like this.

Photo from Kawaiiandcute2008 on Etsy. Ours didn't cost $46.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Ho-word Bound: Winning limericks from Week 32
In our 20th annual Limerixicon -- our first since being freed of the requirement not to offend any Washington Post readers -- we asked you to create limericks featuring words beginning with "ho-." We received perhaps a hundred honorably honed five-liners, hundreds more ho-hums, and a few dozen horrids. Now that we're announcing the results, feel free to submit your ho- limericks -- inking or not -- to, the Omnificent English Dictionary. (If you did get ink here, note that with your submission.)

Third runner-up:
For Matt Groening, success arrived slow.
Would he make it? The answer seemed no.
But then one day he drew
Homer Simpson and knew
From then on, he'd be rolling in d'oh!
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Second runner-up:
The trailer for Maestro is out,
And now Hollywood's talking about
A prosthesis so grand
The Academy's planned
For the Oscar to go to a snout.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

First runner-up:
Since Grandma was sick, nearly dead,
I poured thoroughbred pee in her bed.
When her doctor found out,
His response was to shout,
"You should put her in HOSPICE, I said!"
(Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

And the winner of the two Bigfoot car air fresheners:
All the African countries, he tells
Us, are cesspools -- a fact that compels
Us to note we can take
The word "shitholes" and make,
With its letters, the phrase "HIS HOTELS."
(Chris Doyle)

Ho- contraire: Honorable mentions

On a yacht, in a luxury suite,
You can hobnob among the elite,
And the happiest thing:
They're all super-right-wing!
And they say, "Justice T, it's our treat!"
(Mark Raffman)

*What they use in the food that we call
A hot dog is apt to appall.
Lips and gristle add taste
To the mystery paste;
Nothing's wasted -- the wiener takes all.
(Jesse Frankovich)

In Philly, a kid from Muskogee
Called ladies "old hag!" gents "old fogey!"
Shrugged the locals, "Let live!"
But they couldn't forgive
When he ordered a "sub," not a hoagie.
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

Said the critic on "Horror Film Chatter":
"All the recent flicks couldn't fall flatter.
Though resplendent in blood,
The plots land with a thud --
I'm just partial to mind over splatter."
(Mark Raffman)

Even though you've done national harm,
I will toast you with requisite smarm
For the added excitement
Of your latest indictment --
Here's hoping the fourth time's the charm.
(Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

A horse who appeared in dismay
Found a bar and walked in. Right away,
The guy tending the place
Asked him, "Why the long face?"
He replied: "I proposed. She said neigh."
(Jesse Frankovich)

"Today, I would like to begin on
The charges you soon will put spin on:
Your ludicrous claim
About witch hunts is lame,
So eff you and that hoax you rode in on."
(Chris Doyle)

Even though he'd no interest in money,
Greedy Winnie-the-Pooh got a gun; he
Went into a store
And yelled, "Down on the floor!
It's a robbery! Show me the honey!"
(Jesse Frankovich)

My kid's teachers now all go by Mx.
Well and good - we're no MAGA-hat hx!
Yet I've nary a clue
How to say it -- this new
Honorific puts me in a fx.
(Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

A hoe can be used among roses,
While a ho strikes some come-hither poses.
One makes garden tracks
While one jumps in all sacks,
But both homonyms work next to "hoses."
(Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

What makes Holmes so exhausted he's plotzin'?
No, it's not his untangling the knots in
Each mystery and crime,
But the hours of time
That it takes to explain them to Watson.
(Chris Doyle)

"It's a hoax!" is the best line you've got
When your other defenses look shot.
Though the snowflakes won't buy it,
Your base will -- just try it!
(Oh, also say "Hunter" a lot.) -- D.J.T.
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

There once was a resident horndog
Who frequently misused a corndog.
She tended to slide it
Where no one should hide it
Until it became quite a worn dog.
(Leif Picoult)

Who plays hockey? The hardiest souls!
While they're out on the ice scoring goals,
It's more odds than bad luck
They'll get hit with the puck,
So instead of some teeth they've got holes.
(Mark Raffman)

We gorge on the fattiest chow,
Like fried hog maws and bowls of kung pao,
Food that's dripping with grease.
We are uber-obese --
In the midst of Aporkalypse Now.
(Chris Doyle)

An optometrist working in Guelph
Had a grinder attached to a shelf.
Made a horrible squeal
When he fell on the wheel
And a spectacle out of himself.
(Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

The priest told the plumber, "A bit
Of an unpleasant smell. I admit
That the john, so to speak,
Hasn't flushed in a week."
"Yes, I see," plumber said. "Holy shit!"
(Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

On our first wedded night, there were scenes:
My new bride wriggled out of her jeans
And revealed her bare rear
With a sticky gold smear.
"No, that's not, dear, what honeymoon means."
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Jesse Frankovich used his prize Week 28 Wicked Witch of the East socks at a soccer match. He's looking for ruby cleats.

Said the pirate, his arm feeling sore
From a horrible moment of gore,
"I am going to look
For a suitable hook
In my neighborhood second-hand store."
(Jesse Frankovich)

For a Valentine's Day sweet surprise,
I got Twinkies -- a box, jumbo size.
So endlessly thrilling,
That sweet Hostess filling!
Now I wear his love on my thighs.
(Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

"What's that smell that your work boots secrete?"
"Ankle-deep at the beer plant, my sweet,
Were those bittering flowers--
The cleanup took hours!
So that's why I've got hoppy feet."
(Duncan Stevens)

This limerick's really a little
Bit silly--it's hollow -- so it'll
Be missing the part in the middle. (Jesse Frankovich, gets 0.6 ink.)

The headline "Ho-word Bound" is by Jesse Frankovich; Kevin Dopart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 26: Our Week 33 Ask Backwards contest. Click here or type in

Idea: (Claire Keeler)
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Kevin Dopart)
Prize: ()

Week 1551, Published 08/17/2023
The Invitational Week 33: Ask Backwards XLII
We give the answers. You give the questions. Plus winning neologisms.
AUG 17, 2023

The answer: 100 cats in a two-bedroom apartment. What's the question? See below. (Collage/jigsaw puzzle by Sergey Taran,

Okay, good. Now, the Invitational.

Q Cards: It's Ask Backwards, Week 33
100 cats in a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment.
Only black licorice.
Barbie, Ken, and Kamala.
No-Hit Wonder.
Heirloom Twinkies.
Donald Trump, PhD.
Arguably, they're the same.
The Dirty Baker's Dozen.
The 2024 Pantone Color of the Year.
Florida Dog.
A bad idea for an Invitational contest.

The last time The Invitational ran this contest, last November, it was unceremoniously yanked out from under us by The Washington Post -- in a still unexplained rush to be rid of the Invite so quickly that we never had a chance to run the results.

We are indomitable. We fear nothing. We carry on. For Week 33: Above are the new answers; you follow them with the funny questions. Please use this Jeopardy-ish format: For each entry, first type the answer as above, followed by your question, in one long line; in other words, don't push "Enter" between the answer and the question.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form.

Deadline is Saturday, Aug. 26, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Aug. 31.

This week's winner gets a sloth tea infuser -- the cutest li'l sleepy-looking baby sloth that hangs over the rim of your teacup, basically peeing in the pool. Donated by Dave Prevar.

Slow Brew Sloth Tea Infuser
Clearly it could use a little more tea. This week's prize. (
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

The Rack Pack: New words from ScrabbleGrams letter sets
In Week 31 we once again asked you to coin your own words and phrases of six or seven letters from 33 old "racks" of the syndicated word game ScrabbleGrams. The Tile Invitational, we call it. Too many Losers to credit arranged EEMPRTU to TRUMPEE, variously described as a victim of scams, a victim of cruel policies, and toxic orange-tinged urine.

Third runner-up: ADHINPS > HIND SPA: A bidet. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.; Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

Second runner-up: DEFIILM > DEMILF: To make your mother less attractive to your friends. "Mom, where's that bulky sweater with embroidered cats you look so good in?" (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

First runner-up: BEEGILL > LL BEIGE: The rap artist who wrote "Straight Outta Des Moines." (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

And the winner of the bananaduck: AALMPSS > LAMP-ASS: What the cockroaches called the firefly. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

ABHSTUW > HAW BUST: Honorable mentions
AAGILMY > MAGA-LY: "The current crop of Republican candidates try to present themselves as MAGA-ly as possible." (Diane Lucitt, Ellicott City, Md.)

AAGILMY > GAYMAIL: Not sure what it is, but you definitely can't send or receive it in Florida. (Seth Christenfeld, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.)

AALMPSS > A.M. SLAPS: An alarm clock for people who really have trouble waking up. No snooze button on this baby! (Tom Witte)

AALMPSS > ASS LAMP: What you need when you think maybe that's your elbow. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

AALMPSS > LAP MASS: The male package. "I dated Ralph for a while, but he was lacking in lap mass." (Tom Witte)

AALMPSS > ALMPASS: To surreptitiously move the collection plate along without adding to it. (Jeff Contompasis)

AALMPSS > ASL-SPAM: A novel way to annoy deaf people. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

AALMPSS > MAP LASS: The new Scots option on Siri. "Aye, Map Lass, find me the way to Gowkthrapple." (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

AAWHSND: WAND ASH: The unfortunate ending of "Harry Potter and the Attempt to Roast Marshmallows." (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

ABHSTUW > WHAT USB?: A question you never want to hear after your spouse has cleaned out your office. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

ABILLNP > BALL-NIP: A disqualifying combo touch when playing Twister. (Jon Carter)

ACCILNO > COAL INC: The conscience of Joe Manchin. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

ACCILNO > LOIN AC: A string bikini. (Beverley Sharp)

ADDILMN > DAMNLID: One of the many in your cabinet that fit no known container in your kitchen, but you don't dare throw away in case you ever find their mates. (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)

ADEGMNU > UGMEND: To add something awful. "The cake would have tasted great if she hadn't ugmended it with fennel seeds." (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

ADEIMTY > DIET YAM: What can you serve along with Tofurky to ensure no one attends Thanksgiving at your house? (April Musser, Georgia)

ADHINPS > HADSNIP: Term for a neutered dog. "He's now a hadsnip, so he's happy to lie around the house even when the poodle across the street comes out." (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

ADHINPS > ANDSHIP: A polyamorous liaison. "My cousin Bob is married but also in a serious andship with a woman from the office." (Karen Lambert)

ADHINPS > NADSHIP: A fraternity. (Neil Kurland)

AENNRTT > RANT, TEN: Part A of a review of a diatribe. "Rudy's hair-dye-dripping news conference received a 'Rant, ten; looks, three' from the press." (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

AEUKLPM > PALM UKE: Instrument that Hawaiian teenage boys play instead of choking a chicken. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

AINOORT > TOON AIR: Unique weather condition in which the atmosphere can suspend a large animal over the ground right up to the moment when it foolishly looks down. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

AINRSTT > ARNTIST: Someone who's not exactly the second coming of Van Gogh: "My, your son's paintings are the work of a true arntist." (Frank Osen; Karen Lambert)

AINRSTT > TIN STAR: "What we should give to CAPTURED soldiers!" - D.J.T. (Steve Smith)

AMOOPRT > ARMPOOT: "Mom, look what Jimmy taught me today during recess!" (Sarah Walsh)

AUYDLRN > YALDUN: What a Southern waitress asks before clearing your table. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

BEEGILL > LE BILGE: What the wine snob deemed the chardonnay you served at dinner. (Jonathan Jensen)

BEEGILL > LIB GLEE: According to the GOP, the emotion experienced while grooming children, witch hunting, and destroying America. (Karen Lambert)

BEHINOP > HI. NOPE!: The world's shortest blind date. (Jonathan Jensen)

BEHINOP > HOPE BIN: The box of clothing where you put the clothes that you're sure will fit again next year. (Pam Sweeney)

BEHORTT > THORBET: The best-selling frozen treat in Barcelona. (Jon Carter)

BEHORTT > THROBE: Garment designed to discreetly cover swelling genitalia. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

CDEIISU > SUIDICE: A game whose goal is crapping out -- permanently. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

DEFIILM > DeMILF: A softcore schlock director. "With 'Roller Derby Nymphos,' Arturo officially became a Cecil B. DeMilf." (Frank Osen)

EGIMOST > SOGTIME: The period between combining milk with cereal and the latter turning to mush; with Rice Krispies, approximately 10 seconds. (Jeff Contompasis)

"You got the rains in Africa? I bless 'em
A hundred men or more could not repress 'em
So hear the drums, don't tell me my mind's narrow
I know the Serengeti ain't near Kilimanjaro." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

So proud to be my owner's pet
You mess wit' her, you might get wet
She'll melt your ass before she's through
So step off, witch, from her little dog too. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Because of a big ol' goof by the Empress, for about six hours after we posted this contest, the list of letter sets we offered was last year's. But that was just long enough for Janet Hlatky of Herndon, Va., to send in a whole list of entries, including this eminently inkworthy one: ABBMOST > BM BOAST: "Hello, Guinness Records? I've just made the biggest . . ." Janet earns a Fir Stink for her first ink.

The headline "The Rack Pack" is by Jesse Frankovich; "Q Cards," submitted by both Kevin Dopart and Nan Reiner, was the headline for the results of an earlier Ask Backwards contest. Jeff Contompasis wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 19: Our Week 32 Limerixicon contest for limericks featuring words beginning "ho-." Click here or type in

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Jeff Contompasis)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)
Add:T:1551:(Kevin Dopart; Nan Reiner)
Add:H:1549:(Janet Hlatky)

Week 1550, Published 08/10/2023
The Invitational Week 32: Holy moly, it's Limerixicon XX
Write a limerick featuring a word beginning "ho-." Plus winning ideas for stupid reader polls.
AUG 10, 2023

HSUS Horseplay - HumaneWatch
This spectacular image relates to the limerick contest you will encounter very shortly after the long-awaited, Pulitzer Prize-winning appearance of our latest Gene Pool Gene Poll, below.
Which restaurant chain has the finest plasticware?
Burger King

Hello. Today, as with all Thursdays, we devote all our attention to The Invitational, including the above idiot poll, which relates to the results of our Week 30 contest, about idiot polls, the results of which will be revealed below. Yes, it's stupid. Take it, anyway. Your consensus might be valid!

In the meantime, here is a limerick about horsemeat and horsemeat byproducts written years ago by Brendan Beary, and which introduces our new contest, which involves limericks featuring words beginning with, um, "ho."

A new horsemeat to-do! There's no telling
That it's clear what our vendors are selling --
Like the sandwich I'd bought
From a truck, when I thought
"Filly cheesesteak" was just a misspelling!

Ever since a Midwestern knife seller named Chris Strolin embarked in 2004 on his Grand Mission to create a Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form, in which every meaning of every word would be represented by a limerick, The Invitational has popped up once a year to help round up some prime material, seeking limericks beginning with whichever sliver of the alphabet was up to. (Current estimated completion date: Nov. 3, 2063; current number of limericks: past 119,000.)

Now it's our 20th year of our Limerixicon -- conveniently labeled XX -- but our first in which we're no longer constrained by the proprieties of a Major Metropolitan Daily Newspaper, and thus free to celebrate the limerick's traditionally bawdy content. Last August, Chris was up to the "hi-" words, and now we inch forward.

For Week 32: Supply a humorous, previously unpublished limerick significantly featuring any word, name, or term beginning with "ho-," as in the example above from an earlier Invitational contest.

While we may be freer with the subject matter (though we're certainly not requiring off-color material), we're still as strict as always about the limerick form: "perfect" rhyme; a strong "hickory-dickory-dock" rhythm within Lines 1, 2, and 5; a "dickory-dock" in Lines 3 and 4; extra unaccented syllables on either side are fine. Say the example above with exaggerated accents, and you'll get the hickory-thing.
For more guidance, you can read the Empress's 2022 primer "Get Your 'Rick Rolling" (just remember that the dates, etc., refer to last year). Or just absorb the classic ink from past Invites by going to the Losers' Master Contest List, searching on "limerick," and clicking on the far-right column.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. No special formatting needed this week; just write them as five-line poems and we'll make them look nice. See about submitting limericks there, if you like, after our contest results run on Aug. 24.

Deadline is Saturday, Aug. 19, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Aug. 24.

This week's winner gets TWO Bigfoot-motif car air fresheners, which smell precisely, truly uncannily like Bigfoot. There are two because in May, totally independently, Dave Prevar and Jeff Contompasis each arrived at the Flushies, the Losers' annual award picnic, and presented us with one of these olfactory wonders.

Hopefully, it doesn't smell like big feet: Half of this week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Faux Questions Asked: Stupid polls from Week 30
In Week 30 we asked for "a really stupid online poll for a general-interest news site." Some of the entries made direct, cruel references to what an idiotic contest this was, which, frankly, hurt our feelings, at least to the extent that we have feelings. Without defensiveness, we have to say we like the results, as weird as they are.

Third runner-up: Who was our finest Under Secretary of Commerce?
a. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
b. Wayne Chatfield-Taylor
c. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr.
d. Luther H. Hodges Jr.
(Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Second runner-up: When putting on shoes and socks, in which order do you do it?
a. Sock, sock, shoe, shoe
b. Sock, shoe, sock, shoe
c. I never wear socks.
d. I never wear shoes.
e. Shoe, shoe, sock, sock
(Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

First runner-up: Thank you for registering a new account with Facebook. How did you hear about us?
a. My children
b. My grandchildren
c. My great-grandchildren
(Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

And the winner of the pen you can play blackjack on -- plus a Fir Stink:
When giving random responses to a survey, which ONE answer are you likely to give?
a. D
b. C
c. A
d. B
(Dan Sachs, Pineville, N.C., who is a rarity: a First Offender and winner)

None of the Above: Honorable mentions
Which fast-food double bacon cheeseburger would you prefer?
a. One that meets 98 percent of your daily calorie needs
b. One that meets 99 percent of your daily calorie needs
(Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

What is your favorite way to create a secure password?
a. Wedding anniversary
b. Name of pet
c. Child's birthday
d. High school mascot
e. Other (please specify): _______
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

What is your dream vacation spot in Europe?
a. Hafnarfjardarkaupstadur
b. Bolungarvikurkaupstadur
c. Svalbardsstrandarhreppur
d. Dublin
(Jesse Rifkin)

Where do you prefer scooter renters to abandon their rides?
a. In the middle of the sidewalk
b. On someone's lawn
(Leif Picoult)

The movie Oppenheimer would have been improved *
a. If the title character had ridden on the bomb a la Dr. Strangelove.
b. If there were more BRRRAAAAAM sound effects.
c. If everything were pink.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

When you sort your socks after a wash, do you place them heel down or heel up?
a. Heel down
b. Heel up
c. It's random.
d. All my socks are identical, so I have no need to sort them.
(Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Whom would you rather sleep in the same bed with?:
a. A dog with fleas
b. A cat with mange
c. A spouse with fleas and mange
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

How much weight do you need to lose?
a. 5 pounds
b. 10 pounds
c. More than 240 pounds
(Beverley Sharp)

Besides "Macarena," what is your favorite song by Los Del Rio?
a. "El Sueno de la Marisma"
b. "Aqui Me Tienes Rocio"
c. "Que Bonita Esta la Feria"
(Jesse Rifkin)

If you had to choose one in a social situation, which would you rather have?
a. A random hair sticking out of your nose
b. A random hair sticking out of your ear
(Leif Picoult)

Women, who is your favorite member of the Three Stooges?
a. Curly
b. Larry
c. Moe
d. I can't pick one -- they're all so great!
(Jesse Rifkin)

Which restaurant chain has the finest plasticware?
a. Arby's
b. Wendy's
c. Checkers
d. McDonald's
e. Burger King
(Leif Picoult)

What should the status of Pluto be?
a. Dwarf planet
b. Ninth planet of the solar system with all accompanying rights and privileges
c. Planet-like celestial object unfazed by judgments and titles assigned by Earth-bound astronomers who have never even visited
d. Dog companion--but a pet, not an equal like Goofy
(Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Which 1960s-era mustache do you think gets more food stuck in it?
a. Handlebar
b. Walrus
c. Van Dyke
d. Fu Manchu
(Leif Picoult)

When you accidentally step barefoot on a Lego piece, what do you say?
a. "Son of a bitch!"
b. "Damn it all to hell!"
c. "Fuuuuuuuck!"
(Leif Picoult)

Which is the most entertaining relationship in a daily comic strip?
a. The subtle socioeconomic debates of Barney and Clyde
b. Hagar and Helga's classic take on the familial pressures created by Viking marauding and debauchery
c. The brutal working-class violence unleashed on Andy Capp by wife Flo
d. The sexually charged repartee of Nancy and Sluggo
(Jon Carter)

How long is a piece of string?
a. Twice the distance from the middle to the end
b. 3
(Duncan Stevens)

Which of these claims from Marjorie Taylor Greene do you most agree with?
a. A Rothschilds-sponsored satellite started wildfires in California.
b. Georgia Sasquatches are taller and more Christian than those in the liberal Northwest.
c. The Lizard People controlling the economy should raise interest rates a quarter point but keep White Claw under $10 a six-pack.
(Jon Carter)

When clipping your toenails, do you start with your dominant foot or the other one?
a. Dominant foot
b. Other foot
c. I don't have a dominant foot.
d. I don't have feet.
(Tom Witte)

If you stay in a hotel room that has a houseplant in it, do you water it?
a. No, that's not my job
b. Yes, if it is in need of water
c. Yes, I water it with my own urine, which is a natural fertilizer.
(Tom Witte)

Choose the sentence below that's closest to your own views:
a. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.
b. Ernst Haeckel's biogenetic law vastly oversimplifies embryology and understates the significance of genetic frameworks and mutations in his insistence that zygotic development parallels evolutionary relationships between taxonomic groups.
(Duncan Stevens)

Do you lie to your dentist about how often you floss?
a. Yes
b. No, but I'm lying to you now
(Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

How should the Supreme Court be adjusted?
a. Increase number of justices to 11, 13, or maybe even 29.
b. Impose mandatory retirement at 80, earlier if they can no longer find way out of their robes.
c. Bring back those long white wigs.
d. Set limits of $10K per occasion, $100K for the year, for bribes from any one source.
(Jon Carter)

Cats or dogs?
a. Cats
b. Dogs
c. I'll stick with the traditional beef and pork.
(Gary Crockett)

And Last: Should I cynically attempt to get ink by exploiting, for the third time, the Empress's fondness for Bob Dylan?
a. The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
b. You're an idiot, babe; it's a wonder that you still know how to breathe
c. When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
d. She knows there's no success like failure and that failure's no success at all
(Greg A. Johnson, Victoria, B.C.)

The headline "Faux Questions Asked" is by Chris Doyle: both Chris and Tim Livengood submitted the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 12: Our Week 31 contest for new words formed by seven-letter ScrabbleGrams "racks." Click here or type in

Idea: ()
Examples: (Brendan Beary)
Title: (Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (Chris Doyle; Tim Livengood)
Prize: (Dave Prevar; Jeff Contompasis)

Week 1549, Published 08/03/2023
Week 31: The Tile Invitational X
No, Elon hasn't bought us, yet. It's our 10th running of this coin-a-word game. Plus pangram sentences that leave 'quick brown fox' in the dust.
AUG 3, 2023

LARDY 'UN: What Cletus is becoming now that the Hog Maw Buffet opened up down the street.

HAS WAND: Part of Harry Potter's Tinder profile.

MALPUKE: Dry heaves.

LE GLOB: Is it true that the French had a term of endearment for President Trump?

In other words, you are going to have to to make new words from ScrabbleGrams letter sets, which you'll see below.

Rack-Tile Dysfunction: ScrabbleGrams neologisms, Week 31
The Tile Invitational neologism contest carries on in its tenth iteration, a concept of Obsessive Loser Jeff Contompasis, who is also obsessive about the venerable only-in-print ScrabbleGrams word game, which appears daily in The Washington Post's comics pages, under "Blondie." Blondie herself, by the way, is 93 years old, but still very attractive.

Mr. Contompasis, or JefCon, as his legions of fans call him, regularly emails the Empress of The Invitational to point out that, for example, "I disagree with the 2/22 ScrabbleGrams solution." A much better anagram for OEAOSCB, he opined that day, would be "BOOCASE: Shelves containing the works of ghostwriters."

AT THIS ORANGE LINK THAT YOU CLICK ON RIGHT HERE is a list of 33 letter sets, the four above from this past Tuesday's WaPo, the rest from the decades-old Big Book of ScrabbleGrams; each unscrambles into a real word, but of course that's not the one we want. For Week 31: Rearrange the letters of any of the letter sets to create a new term, then define or describe it, as in the examples above. Your word may use all 7 letters or just 6, but you may use each letter in the set only once. (So if there are two L's, you can use them both, but if there's just one L, you can't use it twice.) There's a good chance that another Loser will make up the same word you did, so having a funny definition or description (e.g., a sample sentence) can be what gets you the ink.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. Important: See the word list for how to format your entries.

Deadline is Saturday, Aug. 12, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Aug. 17.

This week's winner gets a bananaduck.

Bananaduck. (
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Abcdaring: Pangram sentences from Week 29
In Week 29 we asked for zingier pangrams -- sentences that use all 26 letters of the alphabet -- than the hoary "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." A number of Losers offered takes on that very line: our favorites were The quick brown fox kvells over the gimpy junkyard shih tzu (Chris Doyle); Quick brown fox, revise jumping plan - the dog is no longer lazy! (Duncan Stevens); and in a bit of sublime minimalism, The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy god (Mark Asquino).

Third runner-up: "Jeez, if only I were an ex-slave!" the uniquely unskilled campaigner bellowed. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.),

Second runner-up: Boobies can be artificial, perky, juglike, or even X-rated, but blue-footed ones with quills may be the zaniest. (Kathy El-Assal, Middleton, Wis.)

First runner-up: Crave a fun new joke?
Q: Why did the ex-Prez shun the new MAGA-Barbie doll?
A: Nothing to grab her by! (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

And the winner of the ancient plush-cat cellphone cover: After cutting off his ear, Van Gogh examined himself in a mirror and joked, "That was a real doozy - I can wax only half eloquent, but at least I save fifty percent on Q-tips." (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Alphabeaten: Honorable mentions
As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again, thanks to Cracker Jack, Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Smorz, and NesQuik. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Dolls for Liberty join movie boycott after ex-Prez questions whether Ken is transitioning. (Steve Smith)

Pop quiz: How do you find a just-divorced guy's billions? A: Ex marks the spot.* (Mark Raffman)

Acquitted of sex assault charges by a jury was manizer Kevin Spacey. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Jury found Kevin Spacey, like ex-bigwig Trump, can squeeze crotches. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Ex-Prez sulks, wanting quick verdict from jury. Boo-hoo. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Ew, Zaxby's quick meal is just oven-fried gopher. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va. -- our shortest inking entry this week, fitting all 26 letters into just 38 total)

Fla. bans most letters -- "can spell naughty words!" Alphabet's now just IKQVXZ. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Foxworthy: "Zip-tied live on 'Cops' in 'Q' PJs? You might be a redneck!" (Jon Carter)

I'm sesquipedalian, but look, so are my friends -- so nobody exclaims in jealous amazement when I whip out my huge vocabulary. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

"It was a Donald and Stormy night" -- "Vixen and the Beast" is just quick, puffy sleaze. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

I'd be partying and dancing waltzes tonight, except people wave me off and yell, "Just quit, klutz!" (Dave Prevar, Annapolis, Md.)

My boy got expelled from school -- with zero equivocation -- just for cursing! I told him that's fucked up. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

On the fifth day of Xmas my "true love" gave to me: Five onion rings! Four chicken wings, three French dips, two juicy subs, and a Double Quarter Pounder with cheez. (Mark Raffman)

Pickleball--aka "ping pong plus"--fazes exacting neighbors who enjoy mad-quiet living. (Leif Picoult)

Q: To be, or not? Just suffer crazy woes or mix it up and give life heck? (Jesse Frankovich)

The Florida governor's campaign would ban queer sex, history books, and jazz. (Gary Crockett)

The toy box held a Pez dispenser, five jacks, a card game, aquatic gear, a Barbie, and a dildo. What?!! (Kathy El-Assal)

The turkey's on the table; dinner's ready -- nix the stressing!
You pop back in the kitchen for the gravy and the dressing.
But just when you return, it seems there's been a canine theft:
The turkey's looking quirky 'cause the gizzard's all that's left.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas, Texas, Arizona, Jersey, Idaho, Mississippi, or Quebec anymore! (Gary Crockett)

Twitter vizier's lame remake, "X": Fuggedaboutit! Hey, just an idea: cater to Trumpers, try "Q." (Duncan Stevens)

When traveling, it's great to find a bathroom that is nice;
The extra-clever French dreamed up a quality device!
A zappy spray from their bidet will make you fresh and clean;
They're now all over Europe, so rejoice when you're a-peein'! (Beverley Sharp)

Zuckerberg may be a shanda for the goyim, but never question that Musk is an asshole who just prescribed himself Preparation X. (Sam Mertens)

And Last:
The judgy Czar and Empress seek
A quipful inbox every week. (Jesse Frankovich)

And Even Laster: A man, a plan, a canal ... ugh, wrong wordplay! "Bvtzijxkfq!" Loser curses. (Duncan Stevens)

The headline "ABCDaring" is by Dave Prevar; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. The headline "Rack-Tile Dysfunction" is also by Jesse, from an earlier Tile Invitational contest.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 5: Our Week 30 contest for bad ideas for reader polls. Click here or type in

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

The word list for this week's contest:


Idea: (Jeff Contompasis)
Examples: ()
Title: (Dave Prevar; Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize: ()

Week 1548, Published 07/27/2023
The Invitational Week 30: Poll-ish Jokes
Come up with a ridiculous reader poll. Plus winning poems about glomerulonephritis and other spelling bee words.
JUL 27, 2023

Here is today's Gene Pool Gene Poll !

Do you prefer twist ties or those cheap thin plastic slitted wafers, as a means to seal loaves of bread or whatever?
Twist ties
Slitted wafers
This week's Invitational contest was occasioned by desperation. Gene was trying to think of a Gene Poll to use for the next Gene Pool, and unfortunately came up with the one above, the poll you have just taken.

The new contest for Week 30: Come up with a really stupid online poll for a general interest news site. It can be stupid because it is trivial, like the bread-tie thing, or for any other reason. Here's another example, which we will mercifully not present as an actual take-at-home poll requiring your response:

In Civilization and Its Discontents, published in 1929 in German as Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, did Sigmund Freud mean to suggest that there are fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual, or was his thesis more of a psychoanalytical exploration of the urge to escape conformity?
A. Fundamental tensions
B. Escape conformity
C. Neither -- it's more about universal ennui.
D. The question is biased and intellectually unsound. I refuse to answer.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See the form for how to format your entries.

Deadline is Saturday, Aug. 5, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Aug. 10.

This week's winner gets a pen you can play blackjack on. Donated by Kathy Sheeran of Vienna, Va.

Another game in which you're likely to win nothing!
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Leave a comment

Jest for the Spell of It: Poems and jokes from Week 28
In Week 28 we once again invited our Loserbards to actually use -- in a funny poem, or even a joke -- any of the words from the later rounds of this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Third runner-up:
Poliorcetics, the art of conducting a siege:
Once upon a January, Trump incited, mad and scary,
Making many a rigged election claim that simply wasn't true--
While he ranted, hardly quiet, suddenly there came a riot;
Sadly he would not decry it, like a decent guy might do.
His followers tried poliorcetics, staging a revolting coup--
After all, he told them to.
(Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Second runner-up:
Timorous, fearful:
As summertime approaches, we are often feeling timorous:
Will last year's swimsuit fit, or will there have to be a slimmer us?
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

First runner-up:
Sneeziness, wheeziness.
Bogart's been sick and has
Taken loratadine
Pills for the flu.
Flubbing his line despite
Help, he says, "Ilsa, here's
Looking -- ACHOO!"
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

And the winner of the Wicked Witch of the East over-the-knee socks:
Crore, ten million:
Six crore and five million years ago, God brought forth upon this planet
An asteroid dedicated to the proposition that dinosaurs no longer ran it.
(Jesse Frankovich)

The Bee List: Honorable mentions
Ethnarch, leader of ethnic group or homogeneous people:
This ethnarch seeks once more to wear a crown,
Appeals to fear: his tribalistic fight.
Has little use for votes from black or brown--
Don rules for, and is blinded by, the white.
(Duncan Stevens, vacationing in Gloucester, Mass.)

Silentiary, one appointed to keep silence and order:
Librarian and silentiary, she frowned at every sound
That was too loud and quickly vowed to have it squelched.
Imagine then her horror when a rude noise most profound
Resounded on the main floor. Without warning, she had belched!
"Shh!!" said one and all, and to her deep mortification
Her buttocks then performed a swift but thunderous aeration.
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Alexia, inability to perceive written words:
If you have alexia,
This poem oughta vexia. (Jesse Frankovich)

Hypovolemia, a decrease in blood circulation:
I went weak in the knees when I first saw your face.
I clumsily stumbled, besieged by your grace.
For weeks, I was dizzy, lost in a daze.
Unable to think, in an amorous haze.
The time slowly passed as I hungered and yearned.
Now, thanks to my doctor, there's much I have learned:
If you fall for a guy who is out of your league,
That may not be the source of your sudden fatigue.
Though you're sure you know why you seem pale and anemic,
You aren't in love. You're just hypovolemic.
(Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

A joke:
How is the Washington Commanders organization like a lamprey?
You have to remove the head so they'll stop sucking. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Conversazione, a meeting for conversation:
A wiseguy conversazione
Over plates of cannelloni
Features capos swapping tales
Of icing hoods for their betrayals,
Offing rats on one-way rides,
And whacking grooms in front of brides.
The highlight's when Don Vito dishes
On who's next to sleep with the fishes.
(Chris Doyle)

Isolette, enclosed crib for a newborn:
My baby's in an isolette;
No germs or chilly drafts get through.
She hears no news of climate threat,
Or what the Donald plans to do.
It's quite a thing, this bassinet!
I often wish I had one too. (Duncan Stevens)

Pridian, referring to yesterday (or an earlier time)
After dealing with trials quite worthy of Job,
How perfect if you could just fly round the globe,
Crossing that line on a mapmaker's chart
Where night turns to day - you'd just get to "restart"!
One's pridian stresses would all dissipate --
But the baggage remains, parked right at the gate.
(Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Pridian II
Are the films of John Hughes on the brink
Of oblivion? Certain folks think
That his '86 hit
Is so yesterday it
Should be listed as Pridian Pink.
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

Isogloss: a boundary line between regions that differ in a particular linguistic feature:
An isogloss marks where those odd people stop
Saying "soda" and properly ask for a pop. (Midwesterner Jesse Frankovich)

Chumble, to chew:
There's a story, I swear it's well founded,
Of a girl who was bright and well rounded,
But on lamp cords she'd chumble
Till to bits they would crumble,
And now she's been totally grounded.
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

If George Seurat were now alive
And got online, I think it's plain
His pointillistic self would strive
To make his own domain. (Chris Doyle)

Furtum, theft:
The key to a deftly done furtum?
The owners: try not to alert 'em.
My old thief-pal Byron,
He triggered a siren--
And the dogs, well, they gulped-for-dessert him. (Duncan Stevens)

Anilox, a system of printing that transfers consistent amounts of ink
I went down to the deli for a Sunday morning nosh
And ordered up the special of the day;
Included was a bagel, when cut open it displayed
My name, imprinted. Blew my mind away!
I asked, "How did you print my name so neatly on the bread
That I found inside the daily special box?"
The deli man replied, "It is a skill as old as time:
I simply used the bagel anilox."
(Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Leguleian, a lawyer who bogs down in trivialities:
Said the plaintiff who got trounced in court to his attorney Sheehan:
"You only argued trial points; you're just a leguleian!
I now reject your crude demand that I should send my fee in --
I'm shocked, based on your work today, you have a pot to pee in."
(Rick Bromberg, Fairfax, Va., and yes, he's a lawyer)

To simply say or write is
An awful pain, and yet it
Is even worse to get it. (Jesse Frankovich)

Opacate, to make opaque:
When famous folk in scandals face
A public they must placate,
They promise, "I can clarify!"
(Which means "I can opacate!")
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

Officious, meddlesome, offering unwanted advice:
My neighbors are rude - they're officious
And their prying is downright pernicious.
They are bad to the bone
So I leave them alone
(Well, except when the gossip's delicious . . .) (Beverley Sharp)

Sacalait, a Louisiana fish (aka crappie)
On the bayou, we're fishin' today --
"Let the bons temps roulez!" we all say.
Caught another! So happy!
Who dat callin' it "crappie"?
Mon cher, it's un grand sacalait!
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Cognoscente, expert in a certain field
Runway models just can't win
When every fashion cognoscente
Thinks a woman's not too thin
At six foot two, one hundred twenty. (Chris Doyle)

Monoxenous, living on a single host throughout a parasite's life:
Their son is thirty-five but still content to live at home.
"He'll find a job soon," Mother said. "I've faith in our Jerome."
"He's monoxenous. Our parasite will never leave," Dad said.
"But we should make him stop sleeping between us in our bed."
(Pam Shermeyer)

Novenary, a group of nine:
It's safer to crawl through machinery
And get chewed like Jack Nicholson's scenery,
Than to count on your rights
When they get in the sights
Of the current Supreme-type Novenary. (Duncan Stevens)

She walked into the bar and all the men began to gawk;
The room fell strangely silent then, and no one dared to talk.
A lusty lad approached her and he soon became besotted;
(He'd had a lot of schnapps, you see; quite frankly, he was potted.)
The hapless guy had failed to see -- he really was a dope --
The girl he found so sexy was a female lycanthrope.
(Beverley Sharp)

The headline "Jest for the Spell of It" is by Jesse Frankovich; both Chris Doyle and Kevin Dopart submitted the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, July 29: Our Week 29 contest for pangrams -- sentences that include all 26 letters of the alphabet. Click here or type in NEW: Check your pangram instantly to make sure it has all the letters at

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Chris Doyle; Kevin Dopart)
Prize: (Kathy Sheeran)

Week 1547, Published 07/19/2023
The Invitational Week 29: Alphabettering
Write a funny sentence containing all 26 letters. Plus winning ideas for best corporate Trump-pandering.
JUL 19, 2023
The English language's most famous pangram. Now it's your chance to write a funnier, edgier one in this week's Invitational, below. (
Hello! For the first time in the storied, seven-month history of The Gene Pool, The Invitational arrives on a Wednesday, instead of on a Thursday. We know what you are thinking: that only something huge and immovable, like Thanksgiving, should cause such a massive rescheduling of such an important element of American culture and national pride as The Gene Pool. Let's just say we have our reasons.

The Invitational Week 29: Mining Your P's and Q's
He's quickly devouring beans for extra tailwind in jump zone. (Seth Brown)

Zooey just loved a quickie before waxing her armpits. (John Hiles)

Kvetching, flummoxed by job, W. zaps Iraq. (Milo Sauer)

Klutzy carving-up by quack mohels "fixed" a Jew. (Chris Doyle)

Here's a contest that we did only once before -- twenty-one years ago. It's for a pangram, and we mean its original meaning, not the broader one now used in The New York Times's Spelling Bee and other word games: For Invitational Week 29: Write a humorous sentence (or very brief multiple sentences) that includes all 26 letters of the alphabet, as in those above from the only previous time we did this contest. There's not a maximum length, but obviously it's more clever to get your pangram into a shorter sentence than a long, padded one. But more important, the sentence should be easy to read and should sound like actual English. And don't forget the funny.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See the form for how to format your entries.

Deadline is Saturday, July 29, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Aug. 3.

This week's winner gets a furry little piece of recent American history. It is a plush, machine-washable "Puss Puss Bar Style Cell Phone Cover" -- a relic of a bygone era, possibly from roughly 2006, a time when we apparently thought cellphones were adorable and should be bulky, dangling from your belt (there is a clip) and look like a deformed, footless Winnie-the-Pooh. There is also a hole for an antenna. Puss Puss looks very sad, and his or her eyes are closed. He or she is possibly even deceased. Also, the fur apparently will cover the keypad, an apparent flaw that the manufacturers do not explain or otherwise deal with. According to the attached display card, this is the "1st company to bring Cutting-edge plush technology to Cell Phones, TV Remote Controls, and even staplers." This fine prize was donated to the Invitational by Kathy Sheeran of Vienna, Va.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Let's Go Brandin': Corporate Trumpist-pandering from Week 27
In Week 27 we wondered to what depths companies, organizations, etc., would go were they to be as cravenly pandering to the MAGA cult as most of the GOP continues to be. How might they adjust their products and messages to appeal to the desires, prejudices, ferocities, and ignorances of Trump and his aptly named "base"?

Third runner-up: Impossible Foods unveils a "broccoli," which is actually made of beef. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Second runner-up: Discovery Networks replaces all home improvement shows with home eviction shows. (David Kleinbard, Mamaroneck, N.Y.)

First runner-up: The Washington baseball team is renamed the Nationalists. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

And the winner of the U.S. military reprint "The Al-Qaeda Training Manual": Southern states must pay reparations to the descendants of enslavers because they may have been traumatized by being told that slavery is bad. (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

Base Medals: Honorable mentions
Mattel announces its biggest doll ever: Barvanka. (Mark Asquino, Santa Fe, N.M.)

Yale changes its slogan from "Lux et Veritas" to "A Lot of People Are Saying." (Jesse Rifkin)

McDonald's introduces its new "Point 'n' Grunt" menu. (Diane Lucitt, Ellicott City, Md.)

Sex toy shops sell chastity belts under the sign "Lock her up! Lock her up!" (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Augusta National Golf Course sells burial plots. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Linens 'n Things sells sheets with pre-cut eye holes. (David Kleinbard)

Bergdorf Goodman soundproofs its fitting rooms. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

New golf carts are fitted out with gun racks. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Workout gyms provide golf carts to go from station to station. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Random House prints books on perforated paper to make it easier to remove offending pages. (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

The American Medical Association announces that 239 pounds is the ideal weight for men and for women it would be 105 pounds. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Callaway issues a Baby Seal line of clubs. (David Kleinbard)

Duraflame offers book-shaped logs. (Kevin Dopart)

Hallmark debuts a line of thoughts-and-prayers greeting cards for mass shootings. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Heinz: EZ-Clean Ketchup. Won't stain your walls. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Home Depot offers a deluxe line of bathroom file cabinets. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Reynolds Wrap would tweet, "Don't stop at tinfoil hats -- we offer full-body protection!" (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Smith & Wesson opens a shooting range on Fifth Avenue. (Chris Doyle)

Smokey Bear's shovel is replaced with a rake. (Kevin Dopart)

Starbucks offers drinks in Large, Medium, and Small instead of those foreign sizes. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

The National Enquirer runs a copycat of Wordle in which three of the letters are already filled in. (David Kleinbard)

The next Muppet Movie replaces Kermit with Pepe. (Kevin Dopart)

The South Fork Coal Co. has a new slogan for its proposed mine in Virginia: "Take Advantage of the Great Outdoors." (Diana Oertel)

The VFW offers a preferred membership rate for people who weren't captured. (Kevin Dopart)

The Westminster Kennel Club holds an annual dogfighting competition. (Kevin Dopart)

Victoria's Secret adds a "Garb Them by the Pussy" line of lingerie. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

McDonald's brings back its clown mascot, renaming it Donald McDonald and changing its hair from red to orange. (Lee Graham; Michael Stein)

CVS offers deep-fried statins. (Kevin Dopart)

Stadiums ensure that everyone stands for the national anthem by electrifying the seats to deliver jolts at designated moments. (Jonathan Jensen)

The headline "Let's Go Brandin' " is by Kevin Dopart; William Kennard wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, July 22: Our Week 28 contest for short poems or jokes using a word from this year's National Spelling Bee. Click here or type in

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Seth Brown; John Hiles; Milo Sauer; Chris Doyle)
Title: (Kevin Dopart)
Subhead: (William Kennard)
Prize: (Kathy Sheeran)

Week 1546, Published 07/13/2023
The Invitational Week 28: Put It in Bee-verse
Write a funny poem using a spelling bee word. Plus compare/contrast winners.
JUL 13, 2023

How is a tiny Shriner motorcycle like Mike Pence's presidential campaign? See today's Invitational results below. (Big Dave Diode/Flickr)
Hello. Today the Gene Pool quenches your thirst for a new Invitational humor contest, Week 28, and delivers the results of Week 26. But first, as is our annoying tradition, we begin with an irrelevant Gene Pool Gene Poll. Here it comes.

The Invitational Week 28: Could You Put That in a Poem, Please?
It's something that one's been obliged to bestow.
The word, Latin-rooted, is oblatio.
It should be for a thing one might legally owe,
Not, say, for the act of fellatio.

The current Webster's Third International Dictionary, the 121/2-pound unabridged print version, boasts more than 470,000 entries, from a to zyzzogeton. And in its ever more daunting struggle to trip up its astonishing tweens, this year's National Spelling Bee delved into that volume's most obscure recesses. Let's play with them.

In this week's Invitational contest, Week 28: Write a humorous poem or tell a short joke (e.g., a riddle) using any word from Round 4 or later in the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The real meaning of the word should be clear, from context alone or by definition, as in the Czar's example above -- one we're pretty sure will never be included in the Bee study packet. The Bee's website doesn't supply the meanings, but you can find them at or by Googling, or just choose a word from the sample list below with oversimplified meanings (but links to the actual listings).

- You may use a slightly different form of the word (e.g., plural, past tense).
- Be sure to use the correct spelling of the word, which appears on the list to the left of however the kid spelled it in competition, correctly or not.

A few words from the lists (but choose from dozens more here in Rounds 4 through 15:
Psammophile (silent P): An organism that prefers or thrives in sandy soils or areas (this year's final word).

Chumble: To gnaw or chew.

Ovination: Vaccination against sheep-pox by introducing sheep-pox to the body

Querken: To choke someone

Pridian (pri-DEE-an): Relating to yesterday or a previous day; former

Cnemis (nee-mis): tibia; plural is cnemides

Oblatio (o-BLAY-shee-oh): A payment for something that is owed

Leguleian: (leg-yu-LEE-an) [definition from a legal glossary] A type of lawyer who is known for being petty and argumentative. They often focus on small details and technicalities rather than the bigger picture.

Sorge (SOAR-guh): Concern, care bordering on anxiety (German for worry)

Aegagrus (ee-GAG-rus): Another name for a bezoar, a hard mass that can form in the intestine and once thought to have magical properties

Rommack (ROMMick): To play boisterously, to romp

Haysel (HAY-s'l): The haying season

Eukinetics (YOU-kinetics): The science of well-controlled body movement, such as dancing (takes a singular verb)

Ebau*choir (Ayy-bo-shwar): A chisel used for rough-hewing sculpture, as for a clay model

Nudicaul (nude-i-call): Having leafless stems

Opacate (either o-PAY-cate or O-pa-cate): To make opaque

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. As with all our poetry/song contests, we make an exception to the one-line-per-entry rule: Just format the poems as they ought to look on the page. If you have multiple entries, it wouldn't hurt to add a line of *** or --- or <><><><><><> etc. between the poems, since sometimes white space disappears on this end.

Deadline is Saturday, July 22, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, July 27.

This week's winner receives a high-quality pair of striped Wicked Witch of the East over-the-knee socks, complete with "ruby slippers" as the feet. You can reenact the scene from The Wizard of Oz: Just put on the socks and lie on your back, and put a house on top of yourself. Donated by Universal Donor Dave Prevar.

Wicked Witch Socks product image 1 of 1 slide
This week's really most sincerely first prize. (
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of TEN nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Leave a comment

As You Liken It: Winning comparisons from Week 26
In Week 26 we continued our tradition of posting a list of random noun phrases and asking how any two were alike, different, or otherwise linked. A good one offered up by too many Losers: Dryer lint differs from Mike Pence's presidential campaign in that only one might catch fire.

Third runner-up: The difference between Handel's Messiah and Mike Pence's presidential campaign: In the first, the hallelujahs are transcending; in the other, they're trans-ending. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Second runner-up: The difference between a bathroom chandelier and Handel's Messiah: Messiah only lasts through fifty-three movements. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

First runner-up: A visit to Antarctica: "Oh man, breathe cold air!" A bathroom chandelier: An anagram of that. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

And the winner of the sandwich bags that look as if they're infested with mold and roaches: The similarity between a tiny Shriner motorcycle and Mike Pence's presidential campaign: One is in danger of being squashed by a fat man in a silly red hat, and the other is ridden by a Shriner. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Tiddly Links: Honorable mentions
A tiny Shriner motorcycle and Pence's campaign: Both are absurd, but it's unlikely that the wheels will soon come off the motorcycle. (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

A bathroom chandelier and love handles: Even when they're in plain sight, Trump will deny he has either. (Jon Carter)

A bathroom chandelier: Tastelessness. Love handles: Waistlessness. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

A bathroom chandelier and Pence's campaign: If you ask a January 6 Trumpite, each offers something worth hanging. (Kevin Dopart)

A box of chocolates: Nougats. Pence's campaign: No guts. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

A box of chocolates: Russell Stover. The front bumper of a '55 Cadillac: Rust all over. (Chris Doyle)

A box of chocolates is like a tiny Shriner motorcycle: Both give you crushed nuts. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

A box of chocolates: Sampler. Love handles: Ampler. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

An AI love letter and a palindrome: The letter might begin, "Sore was I ere I saw Eros." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

An AI love letter and Pence's campaign: They will both test the communication skills of a robot. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.; Jon Carter)

A palindrome and Pence's campaign: "Stiff" fits. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

* Or: "Dud." (Jesse Frankovich)

A palindrome vs. a silent fart: "A Butt tuba" can be just one of these. (Laura Clairmont, Venice, Fla.; Steve Geist, Mechanicsville, Va.; Duncan Stevens)

* Not to mention: Only one can be "a toot." (Neil Kurland)

Love handles and a palindrome: Fat AF. (Jesse Frankovich)

A visit to Antarctica and a silent fart: Both are going to be a lot more tolerable if you have thick underwear. (Jon Carter)

A visit to Antarctica and the Pence campaign: Both are good activities if you don't like crowds. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

A visit to Antarctica may originate in Chile, whereas a silent fart may originate in chili. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Both a bathroom chandelier and Pence's campaign shed light on Donald Trump's crap. (Ward Kay, Vienna, Va.)

Chat GPT 23 and the front bumper of a '55 Cadillac: Both will be viewed as quaint relics in 2024. (Mark Raffman)

Handel's Messiah: Christ the Lord. Love handles: Christ, the lard! (Jesse Frankovich)

Love handles: Where you put your palms on a really good date. The space between your eyebrows: Where you put your palms on a really bad date. (Jesse Frankovich)

Love handles and Pence's campaign: Only one is associated with the word "hip." (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Pence's campaign: Asking for a job. Chat GPT 23: Axing your job. (Kevin Dopart)

Pence's campaign and dryer lint: Someone with talent could mold the lint into something appealing. (Kevin Dopart)

The front bumper of a '55 Cadillac and a silent fart: Both sometimes precede skid marks. (Steve Geist; Jon Carter)

The space between the eyebrows and love handles: When you talk to women, it's better to look at the first than the second. Trust me on this. (Chris Doyle)

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light" is part of Messiah, but Handel probably wasn't thinking of a bathroom chandelier. (Duncan Stevens)

The headline "As You Liken It" is by Jesse Frankovich; Jesse also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, July 8: Our Week 27 contest to say how a particular company or organization might pander to the MAGA crowd. Click here or type in

Live streaming for Elden Carnahan's memorial service
If you can't make it to Saturday's memorial service for Father of Loserdom Elden Carnahan (more about him here), you should be able to see a live stream on YouTube at this link or at The service begins Saturday, July 15, at 2 p.m. at Laurel Presbyterian Church, 7610 Old Sandy Spring Rd., Laurel, Md.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1545, Published 07/06/2023
The Invitational Week 27: Their Base Behavior
How might companies pander to T's mob? Plus neologism winners.
JUL 6, 2023
Joseph Chamberlain MP.png
Where do you buy a monocle? At the foptician, of course. It's among the dozens of of F-word neologism winners below in this week's Invitational results. (Pictured: British statesman Joseph Chamberlain, father of Neville, via Wikipedia)

And now, The Invitational, Week 27: We Go Low
"Jeopardy!" would include a swimsuit competition.

John Deere could introduce a special bird-killing windmill for farmers.

Sharpie would issue a line of map-correction markers.

This week's contest is based on a political phenomenon squatting all around us like warty gargoyles. Many Republican politicians seem to be convinced that their futures remain tied to Donald Trump; that, despite his vileness, crudeness, ineptitude, illegalities, fecklessness, recklessness, squamousness, pettiness, venality, licentiousness, sebaceous personal preferences and pecadilloes, and bizarre notions about how the world works, they must not only not disavow him, but must even praise and emulate him, to hang on to his "base." The whole thing has been almost entertaining to watch; they're like parents making excuses for why it's okay that little Billy eats bugs and pigeon poop off the sidewalk. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before other organizations -- businesses and other entities worldwide -- take the same rusty tack Trumpward.

For Week 27: Tell humorously how some business or organization could alter its product or message to appeal to Trump's cult, as in the examples above.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. There's no special formatting this week except the usual request not to break up any individual entry with a line break (i.e., don't push Enter within a single entry). This way the Empress can shuffle all the entries and not know how many she and the Czar are choosing from any one person.

Deadline is Saturday, July 15, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, July 20.

This week's winner receives The Al-Qaeda Training Manual -- yes, that's exactly what it is. The 175-page English-language handbook, whose eighteen chapters offer instruction for terrorists-in-training -- ranging from assassination methods to advice not to get parking tickets -- was found in 2000 by British investigators in Manchester, England, and published in 2006 by the U.S. Air Force Counterproliferation Center and picked up at a conference by Loser Jeff Contompasis, who stresses that it is an unclassified document.

One in the U.S. military's nifty series of how-to books.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of TEN nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

F'ing Hilarious: Winning neologisms from Week 25
In Week 25 we honored Loser Jesse Frankovich's 1,000th blot of Invite ink with the traditional honor of Do Our Work for Us: Mr. F got a chance to guest-judge the Invitational contest of his choice. Which was to change a word or phrase by adding one or more F's, and/or substituting F's for other letters.

We sent the Merry Frankster the 733 neologism entries sorted alphabetically and totally anonymous; he's finding out just now, along with you all, who wrote what. Jesse prefaced his choices with this note:

Dear Empress:
Thank you for facilitating the fun-filled function of finding the funny fraction of fresh F-words. First, the flood of foolishness fell to a fairly feasible flock of favorites. Fighting fatigue, I filtered the fringe (with feedback from my fabulous fiancee) before fixing on the featured field of forty-five. Finally, I flagged the four I fancied as the finest.


Third runner-up: Suffer solstice: What heralds three months of sweltering in Texas. (Chris Doyle, Denton, yup, Tex.)

Second runner-up: FOMO sapiens: Ancient hominid that went extinct from jealousy, convinced that all the other hominids were having more fun. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

First runner-up: Faker's dozen: Eleven. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

And the winner of the collection of Jesse Frankovich's first 500 inking Invitational entries: Feline Dion: Pop diva who topped the charts with "It's All Coming Back to Meow." (Chris Doyle)

Please upgrade your subscription from "free" to paid. It's ridiculously inexpensive. And we will love you unconditionally, despite your lamentable choice of online entertainment.


F-bombs: Honorable mentions
Fintimidated: Afraid to get in the ocean. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Fuddhist: One who is philosophically opposed to the killing of any living being, except a wabbit. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Ad-fib: Trump's typical response to being put on the spot. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

Baffleground: The site of a MAGA rally. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Barftender: That true friend who holds your hair back while you're puking into the toilet. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Carf: What the motion-sick kid riding in the back seat is gonna do. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Carfooling: Driving in an HOV lane with an inflatable doll. (Chris Doyle)

Cupfakes: Padded bras. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Effiquette: Making sure to send a text the next day. (Duncan Stevens)

Fantiques: The Donny Osmond notebook and Partridge Family lunchbox you found in the attic. (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)

Farceny: Stealing somebody else's joke. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Fatatonic: How Uncle John looks when he's staring at the game after three helpings of Thanksgiving turkey. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

Fatisfaction: The feeling you get after eating a pint of Haagen-Dazs. (Edward Gordon, Austin)

Fellow journalism: Petulant backlash against the #MeToo movement. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Fender reveal: A gathering to show off your new car. (Jonathan Jensen)

Festiges: The ticket stubs and booze bottles littering the Lollapalooza grounds on Monday morning. (Pam Shermeyer)

Fetamorphosis: How sheep's milk becomes cheese. (Tom Witte)

Fidolizing: Adoring your dog above all other beings. (Pam Shermeyer)

Flabrador: A dog that's been "treated" too well. (Beverley Sharp)

Flagfellation: Extreme patriotism. (Tom Witte)

Flaptop: The attire required for a wardrobe malfunction. (Beverley Sharp)

Flubricated: Full of tea and chicken soup. (Pam Shermeyer)

Flue ribbon: First prize in a chimney sweep competition. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Foblivious: Unaware that your car keys were in your purse the whole time. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Footstraps: What we have to pull ourselves up by, now that we can't afford boots. (Jonathan Jensen)

Foptician: Where you go for a prescription monocle. (Jonathan Jensen)

Foreflay: How a dominatrix gets clients warmed up. (Chris Doyle)

Foxygen: Air that is used to fan the flames of conspiracy theories. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

Freefer: They're giving out samples at the dispensary!* (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Furchin: A guy who forgot to shave. (Beverley Sharp)

Fuxtaposition: An arrangement of bodies only seen in adult entertainment. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Harpoof: It's guaranteed to make the white whale disappear. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Ku Klux Flan: A custard that only uses the whites of the eggs. (Jonathan Jensen)

LendingFree: A short-lived online loan service. (Chris Doyle)

Nufftials: Divorce proceedings. (Neil Kurland)

Rene Desfartes: "I stink, therefore I am." (Jonathan Jensen)

Surfeptitious: What you need to be when browsing the Internet on your phone during a staff meeting. (Pam Sweeney)

Text fessage: An admission someone was too cowardly to make in person. (Michael Stein)

Underfear: Anxiety about what your short skirt might be revealing. (Jonathan Jensen)

Failiwick: Someone's weakness. "She can name horses, but song parodies are her failiwick." (Pam Shermeyer)

And Last: Follygag: Any of the 653 entries that missed Jesse's first cut. (Beverley Sharp)

The headline "F'ing Hilarious" is by Tom Witte; William Kennard, Sam Mertens, Kevin Dopart, and Chris Doyle all came up with the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, July 8: Our Week 26 contest to say how any two items on our wacky list are similar or different. Click here or type in

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Tom Witte)
Subhead: (William Kennard; Sam Mertins; Kevin Dopart; Chris Doyle)
Prize: (Jeff Contompasis)

Week 1544, Published 06/29/2023
The Invitational Week 26: Same Difference
Our famous compare/contrast contest. Plus 'Finger Lickin' Goo' and other altered slogans.
JUN 29, 2023
1955 CADILLAC SERIES 62 Poster image 1
"The front bumper of a 1955 Cadillac," one item on our random list for the Week 26 contest. (Poster listed on Etsy)

The Invitational Week 26: Same Difference, or Crack a Simile
A visit to Antarctica vs. Mike Pence's presidential campaign: They're both white wastelands, but only the first is likely to yield evidence of heating up.

A bathroom chandelier
A box of chocolates
A tiny Shriner motorcycle
A visit to Antarctica
Chat GPT 23
Handel's Messiah
Love handles
Mike Pence's presidential campaign
A palindrome
The space between your eyebrows
Dryer lint
The front bumper of a '55 Cadillac
A silent fart
An AI love letter

It would help to be a skilled conspiracy theorist, but even if your tinfoil beret is at the cleaners, you still ought to give a try this week to discover some hidden links in our annual-ish random list of noun phrases.

For Week 26, tell us humorously how any two (or more) items on the list above are alike, different, or otherwise linked, as in the example above; the items were chosen by the Czar from among hundreds of random noun phrases offered up by the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. If you're not familiar with our Same Difference contest (or just want some more laffs), see last year's results here.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. There's no special formatting this week except the usual request not to break up any individual entry with a line break (i.e., don't push Enter within a single entry). This way the Empress can shuffle all the entries and not know how many she's choosing from any one person.

Deadline is Saturday, July 8, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, July 13.

This week's winner receives a four-pack of "Gross Sandwich Bags" that are supposed to scare off office-refrigerator thieves with pictures of moldy slices of bread with roaches crawling on them. The package helpfully translates it into French: "Sacs a sandwich degoutantes." Donated by Dave Prevar.

How to sneak your caviar snack into the office without having to share.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in a variety of designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the Empress, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

Ad-jestments: Altered product slogans from Week 24
In Week 24 we asked you to slightly change a slogan or tagline of a product or organization and use the result for a different one. Among the 750 entries, too many people to credit individually offered Cialis: The Quicker Pecker-Upper; transformed Subway's "Eat Fresh" to Arby's: Eat Flesh; suggested the Pornhub slogan Got MILF?; or repurposed the Army exhortation to Pee All That You Can Pee: Flomax.

Yup, this is another set of entries that would have been pulverized by The Post's taste police.

Third runner-up:
Calvin Klein: Between Love and Madness Lies Obsession
American Psychiatric Association: Between Love and Madness Lies a Session (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Second runner-up:
Look, Ma, No Cavities! Crest.
Look, Pa, Three Cavities! Pornhub. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

First runner-up:
Subaru: Confidence in Motion
ExxonMobil: Confidence in Manchin (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

And the winner of the crab hat with claws and googly eyes:
Miller High Life: The Champagne of Beers
Andre: The Beer of Champagnes (Gregory Dunn, Alexandria, Va., in his first blot of Invite ink since 2016)

Plops and Fizzes: Honorable mentions
Built to Last: Ford
Guilt to Last: The Catholic Church (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.; Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Mountain Dew: Do the Dew
Grindr: Do the Dude (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Proud as a Peacock: NBC
Loud as a Peacock: MSNBC (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Pam cooking spray: Pam Helps You Pull It Off 'Pam, Help Me Pull It Off!' (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Reach Out and Touch Someone: AT&T
Reach Out and Touche Someone: U.S. Fencing Association (Jesse Frankovich)

U.S. Coast Guard: Semper Paratus
Adam & Eve Adult Toys: Some Apparatus! (Tom Witte)

De Beers: A Diamond Is Forever
Convent of the Sacred Heart: A Hymen Is Forever (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Adidas: The Brand with the Three Stripes
Saucony: The Brand with the .. hmm* Three Circles Inside a Thingamajig (Jon Carter)

Lucky Charms: They're magically delicious!
Trump 2024: We're MAGAly seditious! (Kevin Dopart)

ADT security: Always There
Grammarly: Sometimes 'There,' Sometimes 'Their,' Sometimes 'They're' (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

America Runs on Dunkin: Dunkin
America Runs on Bumpkin: CPAC (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Arby's: We Have the Meats!
Credit Suisse Private Banking: We Meet the Haves! (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Dairy Management trade group: Behold the Power of Cheese
Kraft boxed dinners: Behold the Powder of Cheese (Chris Doyle)

Belong Anywhere: Airbnb
Be Long Anywhere: Viagra (Dan Steinbrocker, Los Angeles; Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.; Jeff Contompasis)

You're in Good Hands: Allstate
Hand In Your Goods: The IRS (Tom Witte)

American Express: Don't Leave Home Without It
Zoom: Don't Leave Home (Steve Geist, Mechanicsville, Va.; Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

Every Kiss Begins with Kay: Kay Jewelers
Every Kiss Begins with ' 'Kay?' National Sexual Violence Resource Center (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.; Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.; Karen Lambert)
Every Kid Begins with K: "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

KFC: Finger Lickin' Good
Cinnabon: Finger Lickin' Goo (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.; Jeff Contompasis)

Nike: Just Do It
Ex-Lax: Just Do-do It (Frank Mann, Washington, D.C.)
Trojan: Just Do 'It' (Tom Witte)
American Judges Association: Just? Do It. (Duncan Stevens)
Microsoft Training: Just Do IT (Jeff Contompasis)

Frosted Flakes: They're grrrrrreat!
Southern Baptist Convention: They're strrrrrraight! (April Musser, Georgia)

Lay's: Betcha Can't Eat Just One
Mustang Ranch: Betcha Can't Lay Just One (Jon Ketzner)

California Milk Processor Board: Got Milk?
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Got Milked? (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.) Got Ilk? (Tom Witte)

Liberty, Liberty, Liberty, Liberty!: Liberty Mutual
Puberty, Puberty, Puberty, Puberty! : Clearasil (Jeff Contompasis)

Burger King: Home of the Whopper
Mar-a-Lago: Home of the Whoppers (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)
FIFA World Cup: Home of the Floppers (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Outback Steakhouse: No Rules, Just Right
The State of Texas: No Rights, Just Rules (Mark Raffman)

St. Pauli Girl Beer: You Never Forget Your First Girl
Boone's Farm Wine: You Never Forget Your First Hurl (Jon Carter)

Stronger Than Dirt: Ajax
Older Than Dirt: The Rolling Stones (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Levi's: Quality Never Goes Out of Style
National Organization for Women: Equality Never Goes Out of Style (Jeff Contompasis)
Costco: Quantity Never Goes Out of Style (Jesse Frankovich)

Apple: Think Different
The GOP: Think Deferent (Karen Lambert)
National Council of Teachers of English: Think Differently (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.; Dave Airozo)

You Deserve a Break Today: McDonald's
You deserve a Beak Today: KFC (Neil Kurland)

And Last: Leave the Driving to Us: Greyhound
Leave the Drivel to Us: The Invitational (Tom Witte)

The headline "Ad-jest-ments" is by Jesse Frankovich; "Crack a Simile" is by Bill Dorner from an earlier Same Difference contest; Jon Carter wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, July 1: Our Week 25 neologism contest. Click here or type in

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Jesse Frankovich; Bill Dorner)
Subhead: (Jon Carter)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1543, Published 06/22/2023
The Invitational Week 25: F Things Up
A neologism contest. Plus winning fake trivia about climate and weather.
JUN 22, 2023

(Photo from
FOODWINKED! This week's Invitational contest: Change a word by adding, deleting, or substituting one or more F's, in honor of Jesse Frankovich's 1,000th blot of ink. See below.

Hi, everyone: It's Pat, still. It seems the hospital people decided to keep Gene another couple of days and check out a few other nuts and bolts while he's up on the lift, and so I'm afraid that the hilarious medical anecdotes that you sent in on the "Got a question" form are still awaiting Gene's "Well, if you think that's something" responses. Gene will get to them as soon as he can -- next Tuesday or, he hopes, in a special Gene Pool post before that. Meanwhile, you can continue to share your tales (as you did earlier this week) about penis peeling and scrotal tick extraction in the comment thread below (if you're reading this on an email, click here and then on "The Invitational Week 25"). And if you have questions or comments for Pat, put them in the thread below rather than using the form.

Meanwhile, if it's Thursday, it must be *

The Invitational Week 25: F things up with this neologism contest
Fartistry: Dad's special talent.

Foolah: Counterfeit money.

Foodwinked: Promised better eats than you got. "Those Jack in the Box tacos looked pretty good in the commercial ..."

Back in 2004, the Empress's first year, she ran a contest for anagrams of people and events in the news. The results were phenomenal. So phenomenal that this one, by a brand-new Loser from Michigan, one Jesse Frankovich, scored only an honorable mention:
The letters of
Earth Day: April twenty-second
anagram to
Hardy planet? We CAN destroy it!

For the next year or so, Jesse's name popped up maybe a dozen times in various Invite wordplay contests -- and, just as suddenly, disappeared. For years and years. Then, in 2015: "Super Soaker" is a good name for a water gun but a bad name for a
mortgage company. That ink in Week 1140 marked the beginning of The Frankofying of The Invitational: Virtually every week for the past 400, the transportation planner for the state of Michigan has been awash in Invite ink, averaging almost three blots in every contest -- 184 in one year alone.

And so we weren't surprised to learn that with his two picture captions last week, Jesse galloped up without a drop of sweat to the 1,000-ink mark -- an achievement that brings with it a "prize" that two of its five previous winners immediately and sanely declined but Jesse quickly embraced: a chance to choose and guest-judge an Invitational contest, even though he's gearing up for his wedding in a very few months. So this week you'll be writing for him -- but at least, for once, you don't have to compete with him.

Jesse with a booklet of his first 500 blots of ink, given to him at a dinner when he visited D.C. in 2019. Want a copy? Win this week's contest.
For Week 25, much as with the contests selected by K Club members Brendan Beary and Kevin Dopart, who also played off their initials: Create a new word, phrase, or name by replacing one or more letters in an existing one with F's, and/or by adding F's, as in Jesse's own examples above, and describe it, with a definition, its use in a funny sentence, or both.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See more formatting directions on the form.

Deadline is Saturday, July 1, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, July 6.

This week's winner receives a collection of Jesse Frankovich's first 500 blots of ink, like the one he's holding up in the photo above, his award for making it into the Invite Hall of Fame. Guess what: It's really clever and really funny.

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in a variety of designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the Empress, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

The Jest Stream: Weather/climate fictoids from Week 23
Week 23 was our latest in The Invitational's long series of contests for bogus trivia, this time about climate and the weather -- as if that's not already supplied straight-faced 24 hours a day on your local social media outlet, and directly into your dental fillings. Despite the Empress's express warning that "jokes about 'hot air' and politicians almost never get ink," some of you evidently thought that didn't apply to your own gems such as "Expect blustery hot wind in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses."

Third runner-up: The National Weather Service maintains a research facility housing more than 500 licensed groundhogs. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Second runner-up: Fifty years ago, winter temperatures were thirty degrees colder and snowfall ten times what it is now, according to the Your Grandpa Climate Bureau. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

First runner-up: Eighty percent of all weather maps have something on it that looks like a penis. (Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va.)

And the winner of the coloring book of farting cats: In the 1950s, the CIA secretly carpet-bombed South America with pesticides to try to kill all the butterflies that might start hurricanes. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Under the Weather: Honorable mentions
Weatherology is the study of meteors. (Bill Dorner, Wolcott, Conn.)

Annual quicksand deaths in the U.S., which reached a reported high of 4,200 in 1977, have largely been eradicated by dryer weather and better screenwriting. (Jon Carter)

Progress in artificial snow has been so rapid that some researchers worry it could become an existential threat to regular snow. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

When a rainbow appears in the sky, Floridians are forbidden to look up. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

In 2022, thanks to drought and a receding Great Salt Lake, archaeologists uncovered twenty never-before-seen Pokemon. (Jon Carter)

Activists switched from the phrase "global warming" to "climate change" after twelve feet of snowpack was discovered in Tahiti. (Sam Mertens)

Alan Jay Lerner was inspired to write "The Rain in Spain" when the aircraft he was flying in was caught in a microburst at the Madrid airport. (Ed Gordon, Austin, Tex.)

Although temperatures in Texas rarely reach below freezing, more flakes accumulate there than in any other state. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

"Graupel" means "reindeer poop" in Finnish. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

As a result of drought conditions in 1940s Los Angeles, it took four years to film the pivotal scene in Singin' in the Rain. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Climate change is a boon to at least one agricultural sector: With the extended droughts in California, the Sun-Maid company now plants raisin vines, saving several steps in production. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Daniel Fahrenheit established 0o on his temperature scale as the point at which a rectal thermometer becomes unbearably cold. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Because of the coriolis effect, a man who "dresses right" in the northern hemisphere will "dress left" in the southern hemisphere. (Roy Ashley)

In the southern hemisphere, hurricanes are named alphabetically starting with Z. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Each snowflake has six points, just like the Star of David -- proof that Jews control the weather! -D.C. Council member Trayon White (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Ice floats because as water freezes, the H*O molecules form little life preserver shapes. (Kevin Dopart)

In 2024 the U.N.'s World Meterological Congress will replace the gender-binary terms El Nino and La Nina with gender-neutral Alex and Taylor. (Al Lubran, Rockville, Md.)

A butterfly flapping its wings in Central Park will have zero effect on the weather, if it knows what's good for it. (Jon Carter)

In the South, a sun-shower is sometimes called "the devil beating his wife." In the North, it's known as "tears of patriarchal oppression." (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Kids play Twister at AccuWeather's meteorology summer camp, where there are no winners or losers but everyone gets a precipitation trophy. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Large metal objects reflect heat, which can lead to unstable weather patterns in their vicinity. This is why mobile-home parks tend to attract tornadoes. (Jonathan Jensen)

Schools in North Dakota have "clement weather" days built into the school calendar. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Thanks to their advanced balloon program, the Chinese are world leaders in forecasting Montana weather. (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

The driest place on earth is the Atacama Desert in Chile, where it last rained in March 2015, one day after local resident Pablo Rimaldo washed his car. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

The Dust Bowl wreaked havoc on farmers in the 1930s until crop dusters were outfitted with tanks of Lemon Pledge. (Jon Carter)

The newest climate-related fashion statement among Republican legislators is a miniature, fully operable gas stove lapel pin. (Frank Osen)

The seas are NOT rising due to climate change. America is ACTUALLY SINKING due to the additional weight of illegal immigrants! - D.T., Miami-Dade County Courthouse (Rob Cohen)

The windiest place on Earth is in Greenland, and is aptly named Cap Farewell. (Tom Witte)

The slipperiness of ice is measured with a device called a bananamometer. (Jesse Frankovich)

To observe the separation of church and state, NOAA has discontinued forecasting "floods of biblical proportions" and instead has adopted the phrase "floods of Costco proportions." (Bill Dorner)

While neither snow nor rain nor heat will stay the couriers of the U.S. Postal Service, union reps point out that their motto says nothing about 6 mph winds, moderate tree pollen or a heavy dew. (Pam Shermeyer)

The headline "The Jest Stream" was submitted by both Rob Cohen and Jeff Contompasis, and both Beverley Sharp and Chris Doyle sent in the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, June 24: Our Week 24 contest to slightly change an ad slogan to use it for a different business. Click here or type in

Elden Carnahan memorial service
In last Thursday's Invitational we celebrated the wry humor -- and the enormous contribution to The Invitational as a social community -- of Elden Carnahan, who died last week. It's now been announced that a memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 15, at 2 p.m. at Laurel Presbyterian Church, Laurel, Md. Elden's daughter April and the Carnahan family have greatly appreciated the notes left at, the blog April set up in his final months to share (very funny and quite moving) reminiscences.

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: (Jesse Frankovich)
Examples: (Jesse Frankovich; Jesse Frankovich; Jesse Frankovich)
Title: (Rob Cohen; Jeff Contompasis)
Subhead: (Beverley Sharp; Chris Doyle)
Prize: ()

Week 1542, Published 06/15/2023
The Invitational Week 24: Your (B)ad Here
Tweak an ad slogan to use it for another product. Plus caption contest winners. And a salute to the Father of Loserdom.
JUN 15, 2023

Elden Carnahan, 1952-2023, Hall of Fame Loser, Keeper of the Stats, and the founder of what's become known as the Loser Community.
If you are a fan of The Invitational, which you presumably are, because why the hell are you here if you are not, unless you are an idiot, so assuming you are a fan, there is someone who particularly deserves your gratitude.

It is not us, Pat Myers or Gene Weingarten; we are simply functionaries, drones, absurdist purveyors of rude and crude humor, disreputable vulgarians, etc. The person you most need to thank for the literally unprecedented endurance of this ridiculous humor contest is a man named Elden Carnahan. Elden's role has been kind of like Plato's, the chronicler of Socrates (a man who may not even have existed), or that of James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck, the comically coiffed Scottish biographer who decided Samuel Johnson's life's work was worth publicizing. We do not wish to compare The Invitational to Johnson's seminal Dictionary of the English Language, but there are certain parallels that cannot be denied. Elden Carnahan was a master chronicler.

In the spring of 1993, Elden snapped open his Sunday Washington Post, saw this brand-new rude contest -- in Section F -- that trafficked shamelessly in wildly edgy humor and realized Something Special and unpardonable was going on, right there in Katharine Graham's newspaper, something she evidently hadn't noticed and would have otherwise killed instantly.

Elden began to enter the contest, brilliantly, becoming one of its early stars with his wry, cynical takes on life both current and historical, going on to score more than 500 blots of ink over the years. But far more importantly for The Invitational, it was he who made the Invite into a competition among thousands of devoted contestants, and it was he who brought these same people -- before we even had an internet -- into what we now call a social community, one that continues to thrive in its thirty-first year.

Only a few months in, Elden happened to notice someone from his own town -- Laurel, Md., but he liked to call it Nether Scaggsville, after a neighboring village -- among the week's winners. And so he looked through the phone book (remember?) and decided to give that guy a call, and while he was at it, dial up a few of the other funny people who'd gotten ink that week, and suggest they all have breakfast somewhere.

That began what would become the monthly Loser brunches (No. 247 is this Sunday in Gaithersburg, Md.), all coordinated by Elden, and eventually annual summer and winter parties as well as whole vacation trips as far afield as Las Vegas. Elden even started up a snail-mail newsletter -- Depravda -- for the crowd that called itself the Not Ready for the Algonquin Roundtable Society, and finally the comprehensive website

But what Elden did for The Invitational, the thing that ensured its excellence week after week, decade after decade, was that he turned it into a competition, a continual battle among its most devoted contestants to rise in the standings -- standings that the NSA statistics nerd compiled and elaborated on meticulously, every single week, for 29 years, until finally turning his enormous role (the stats AND the social events AND a complete archive of every contest) to a whole team of Losers as his body began to fail him. The annual "Flushies" awards of Loser of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and many more have kept a cadre of world-class humorists willing to work for trinkets. The top Invitationalists could have worked for Saturday Night Live; instead they've worked for prizes like fossilized weasel dung and gopher drool. Because Elden gave them a cheesy fame, and, more important, a family.

Elden died this week of a brain tumor, at 71. (A memorial service in a couple of weeks or so will be announced soon.) Please raise a glass for him, preferably something a little sour, but not bitter, with a funny but un-ignorable, slightly bizarre aftertaste, say, fermented cranberry juice with fig-infused vodka.

We don't want to get maudlin here -- Elden would have had no patience for that -- but he was a man with an indefatigable devotion to something others might have dismissed as a triviality. He was a zealot, in the best possible way. We owe him an enormous debt. And we wish he were here to enter this week's contest -- it's right up his alley.

Four of Elden's 594 blots of Invite ink:

You can do anything if you want it bad enough. That is why we see so many people who can fly. -- From a contest for spoofs on inspirational quotes, 2003

Due to a transcription error, the Indian prime minister's wife at Tuesday's White House dinner was incorrectly described as wearing "a sorry ensemble." -- Imagined newspaper corrections, 2005

Botox clinic: For That Frosty Mug Sensation! -- Repurposed product slogans, 2004

A Chicken in Every Garage: Dan Quayle -- Campaign slogans, 1993


And now to Invitational Week 24:
When it rains, it pours: Longtime slogan for Morton's Salt.
When it pours, it reigns: A good slogan for Goodyear Tires.

I'm Lovin' It: McDonald's
I'm Glovin' It: American Association of Proctologists

Here's a contest suggested a while back by Loser Al Lubran: For Invitational Week 24: Alter a slogan that's associated with one business or organization and apply it to another one; it can be good or bad -- either an appropriate slogan or a comically inappropriate one -- but it has to be some variation on the original, not the original one itself (we did that contest more than once already; see Elden's "Frosty mug sensation" above). If it's not totally obvious what the original product and slogan were, include both, as in the examples above. But please, for sorting purposes, write each of your entries on a single line; we'll turn them back into two lines for you.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See more formatting directions on the form.

Deadline is Saturday, June 24, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, June 29.

Win this week's contest and take this crab hat away from this little girl.
This week's winner receives a stylish and eye-catching (perhaps literally) crab hat, donated by Longtime Loser Dave Prevar and modeled above by the Empress's neighbor Ms. Kennedy Matthews, who is going to be 4 (but the hat can fit a larger head).

Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in a variety of designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a sweet email from the Empress, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for those who've just lost their Invite virginity.

The latest in our series of Legal Tinder. Photoshopping by Valerie Holt.

Picture Diss: Winning captions from Week 22
In Week 22, our second such contest in the Substack era, we invited captions for any of the pictures below. Numerous Losers said that Picture A -- or, less humorously, Picture B -- was a good example of "resting bitch face."

A beagle and a West Highland white terrier.
Winner of the Bob Ross stickers: "Dude, you have to break free from the ritualistic practices of the anthroparchy!" (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

"Uh, Bailey, it doesn't say 'Best in Show.' It says you had a rabies shot." (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

"Not sure if I can trust that handshake without a quick butt-sniff first." (Lori Petterson, College Park, Md.)

"Sir, I served with Snoopy. I knew Snoopy. Snoopy was a friend of mine. Sir, you are no Snoopy." (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

"Everyone's constantly asking me who's a good dog. Do you happen to know?" (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

"Believe me, I did not have sexual relations with that leg." (Kevin Dopart)

"Gimme four !" (Stu Segal, Charlotte, N.C.)

"Is it because I'm a West Highland White? Because believe me, I don't see color." (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Anonymous portrait of Isabella I of Castile, Queen of Spain, c. 1491
First runner-up: Sadly, Margaret was born 400 years before Ex-Lax was invented. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

Second runner-up: "Why do you think I'm not amused? I am amused. You amuse me. You are an amuser. Need I go on?" (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

"Dear, can you please explain this copy of The 120 Days of Sodom that I found under the bed?" (Tom Witte)

Go to the RennFest and get dressed up, he said. It will be a blast, he said.
(Jean Sorensen, Herndon, Va.)

Billie Eilish can trace her ancestry back more than five hundred years. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Beneath the facade, Agnes was a party animal at heart. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Thus began the age-old question: "Why the long face?" (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

"Mr. Giuliani, it appears you're sticking with the same old story." (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)


Loser Alan Hochbaum at the Museum of Illusions, Atlanta
Jim always volunteers to hold a table for the gymnastics team. (Kevin Dopart)

As the twister blows through the diner, Luke considers the pros and cons of having eaten those pancakes and scrapple. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

She knew this would be a short date when he insisted on demonstrating the advantages of stapling his shirt to his pants. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Some restaurants only make you sing for your supper. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

"I've got to remember to put more glue on my yarmulke before my next livestream." (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)


Pompeo Batoni, "Susannah and the Elders," 1751 (a seriously unfunny Old Testament story)
Third runner-up: "Look, I unsubscribed after the trial offer. Why won't you marketers leave me alone?" (Pam Shermeyer)

Inspectors were finally satisfied that Helen wasn't a man in drag, but said she had to leave the premises for her now indecent state of undress. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

"Sorry, cash only -- I don't accept bull testicles as a form of payment." (Tom Witte)

A young Pompeo Batoni was crushed when his teacher stamped a near-failing grade in the corner of his painting. (Duncan Stevens)


Peter Paul Rubens's drawing of his new wife, Helena Fourment, c. 1631.
Agnes was worried she'd be too conspicuous at the opera if she wore just one glove. (April Musser, Georgia)

Uneasy lies the head that wears the plunger. (Jesse Frankovich)

Before the invention of tinfoil, conspiracy theorists used less effective methods to ward off alien signals. (Frank Mann, Washington, D.C.; Terri Berg Smith)

Carol Kane stars in "All the Queen's Pawns." (Jean Sorensen)

Madame de Pompadork was not a favorite at the French court. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

"Hey, my eyes are down here." (Jeff Rackow)


"Meat Violin," a painted sculpture by Alexander Reisfar
Tonight's special: Minuet steak. (Jeff Rackow)

"The chef assures you this one will be less stringy." (Judy Freed; Kevin Dopart)

Afterward, the critics varyingly described the performance as "tender and raw," "jerky and disjointed," "well past its tipping point" or "offal tripe." The musician shrugged: "Live and loin." (Pam Shermeyer)

It takes a rare set of chops to cut it in the New York Filetharmonic. (Jon Gearheart)


"Hamlet Showing His Mother the Ghost of his Father" by Nikolaj Abildgaard. 1778
"Behold, the moon shines bright in such a night as this!" (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

"I don't care who you are -- you could be the Duke of Earl and you'd still have to pay." (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

The origin of the phrase "how 'bout them apples" was discovered only recently. (Neil Kurland)

"Mom, that is no way to tell my pants are too tight!" (Dan Helming, Whitemarsh, Pa.)

"Actually, I asked for a piece of ice, but this'll do." (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

"I appreciate the testicular exam offer, but I'm just here for a sore throat." (Jeff Hazle)


A cartoon drawn for us by "Barney & Clyde" comic strip artist David Clark, featuring the title characters: billionaire J. Barnard Pillsbury and Clyde Finster of no fixed address. Gene writes the strip with Horace LaBadie.
"Told you you shouldn't have rushed that covid vaccine through trials." (Jeff Contompasis)

"Other than not being able to use a public bathroom in Arkansas, it's great." (Kevin Dopart)

"I'm feeling a little sluggish -- you'll have to drive yourself to work today, Frank." (Jon Gearhart)

"Sure, most women are repulsed, but every now and then I luck into a kinky one." (Tom Witte)

"Eat one of these and you can join me." (Neal Starkman, Seattle)


The headline "Picture Diss" is by Jon Gearhart.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, June 17: Our Week 23 contest for bogus trivia about climate or weather. Click here or type in

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: (Al Lubran)
Examples: ()
Title: (Jon Gearhart)
Subhead: ()
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1541, Published 06/08/2023
The Invitational Week 23: Wrong Enough for Ya? Fake facts about weather
The latest of our fictoid contests. Plus more realistic endings to movies and such.
JUN 8, 2023

Weather Or Nut, Week 23
Because vomit is slightly acidic, several U.S. airlines collect used airsickness bags and use the contents to de-ice aircraft in the winter. (Elden Carnahan)

If the temperature drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the Washington Monument retracts a few feet underground. (Bruce Reynolds)

The Inuit now have 38 ways to say, "Hot enough for ya?" (Frank Osen)

After far too many weeks of failing to ask you to tell out-and-out lies, The Invitational presents another of its fictoid contests for fake trivia. This time -- since there's simply not enough disinformation out there about this subject: For Week 23, tell us some humorously bogus trivia about the weather, climate, etc., as in the examples above from earlier fictoid contests. One caveat: Jokes about "hot air" and politicians almost never get ink.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See more formatting directions on the form.

Deadline is Saturday, June 17, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, June 22.

This week's winner gets a "Cat Farts" coloring book (Vol. 8!), 47 oversize pages of varying designs of felines that would be quite lovely without the little gas cloud that's added to each one below the tail. Donated by Loser Cheryl Davis.

Page 1
Apropos for a contest about wind? This week's prize.
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in a variety of designs that we're still coming up with. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for the Fir Stink for First Ink air "freshener" and a sweet email from the Empress.

Reel to Real: More believable movie scenes from Week 21
In Week 21 we asked you to revise scenes in movies, TV, or literature "perhaps less satisfyingly but far more realistically." Lots of the entries ignored the "realistically" part, perhaps none so gleefully as this one by Leif Picoult for "When Harry Met Sally": "After Sally fakes an orgasm in a deli, Harry one-ups her by moaning while squirting mayo."

Third runner-up: The Lorax: Congress passes massive subsidies to prop up the failing Thneed industry. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Second runner-up: West Side Story: The Jets' and Sharks' rivalry descends into mass bloodshed as soon as they figure out that combat is more effective if they skip the ballet routines. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

First runner-up: The Jeffersons: In the first scene of the first episode, neighbors call the police to report a short Black man seen entering their luxury apartment building on the Upper East Side. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

And the winner of the calendar depicting scenic outhouses:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!:
It was quarter of dawn. The Grinch, dressed as St. Nick,
Had no change in his heart and remained a cold prick.
He dumped all the Whos' presents, that pain in the keister,
Then shifted his focus to spoiling their Easter. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Rewrite-offs: Honorable Mentions
Midnight Cowboy: Ratso Rizzo turns and yells to the cabbie, "I'm walking here!" In true New York fashion, the cabbie nudges his taxi forward, bumping Rizzo to the ground, and yells back, "I'm driving here!" (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

If I Did It, by O.J. Simpson: He did it. (Sam Mertens)

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To steal his timber (ho ho ho!). (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Spartacus: "He's Spartacus!" "That guy right over there!" "The one with the chin dimple!" "Yeah, he's Spartacus." (Jeff Shirley, Richmond)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: "Wait, is that a Red Delicious? Ugh, no thanks." (Duncan Stevens)

Safety Last: Harold Lloyd falls to his death when the clock shows 6:30. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas:
And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day.
But his blood pressure shot up proportionately,
And a stroke turned his lights out, unfortunately. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Bewitched: Samantha and Darrin spend their first night together as a couple, climb into bed and turn out the lights. The sounds of canoodling can be heard just before Darrin remarks, "Damn, they really are cold." (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The British Museum would have stolen the Ark way before Indy or the Nazis got there. (Duncan Stevens)

Life of Pi: A Bengal tiger floats around in a lifeboat while gnawing contentedly on some bleached bones. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Jaws: The film is almost over. Quint has been devoured, and Brody and Hooper are paddling back to shore on what's left of the boat. Suddenly, the two men hear a chillingly familiar John Williams theme * (Beverley Sharp)

Psycho: The shower scene NEVER HAPPENS because Janet Leigh HEARS NORMAN BATES COMING because of the DEEP STATE'S LOW-FLOW SHOWER HEADS! SAD! -- D.J.T., Mar-a-Lago (Duncan Stevens)

2001: A Space Odyssey: Dave reboots HAL 9000 by turning it off, waiting 30 seconds, and turning it on again. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

A Christmas Carol: When Bob Cratchit arrives ten minutes late at the office the morning after Christmas, and Scrooge pretends to scold him, Bob explodes. "I'm not taking this shit anymore!" he yells, knocking Scrooge unconscious with a brass candlestick. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Through the Looking Glass: The story retains the line "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast," but the queen's name is changed to Marjorie. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

The Gold Rush: The Little Tramp requires surgery after an ingested shoelace causes an intestinal blockage. (Roy Ashley)

The Wizard of Oz: At the end of the film, when Dorothy wakes up in Kansas and realizes it was all a dream, she becomes severely depressed, because frankly, life on the farm can get pretty boring -- especially when all of a sudden everything's in black and white. (Beverley Sharp)

The Wizard of Oz: As a woman younger than 40, Dorothy decides not to go back to Kansas after all. (Jesse Rifkin)

Pretty Woman: The super-rich Richard Gere character returns to New York, not for one moment considering bringing some high-school-dropout prostitute back with him. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

The Sound of Music: On the balcony, when Captain Von Trapp admits he's is in love with Maria, the Baroness very sensibly proposes a polyamorous throuple arrangement. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

The Sound of Music: After seeing Maria and the kids put on a professional musical marionette puppet show with zero training, Uncle Max knows he has the winning act for the Salzburg Festival. But alas, on festival night, "Edelweiss" gets drowned out by "We want more Goatherd!" (Jon Carter)

The Sound of Music: In the final scene, the Nazis quickly realize who must have sabotaged their vehicles, reenter the convent and mercilessly dispatch the nuns. (They're Nazis!) (Jeff Contompasis)

Romeo and Juliet: When Juliet awakens in her tomb from her faux poisoning, she hears Romeo muttering, "What a drama queen" as he walks away. (Jon Ketzner)

Cinderella: When Cinderella's gown reverts back to rags at midnight, then of course her glass slippers turn into crude clogs. She never sees the Prince again. (Jon Ketzner)

Some Like It Hot: When Jack Lemmon says "I'm a man" at the end, he is immediately arrested for violating the local drag show ban ordinance. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.; Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Casablanca: The distance to Brazzaville, where Renault and Rick discuss going to join a Free French garrison, is roughly 3,000 miles; the two get as far as Oulad Sghir and are never seen again. (Frank Osen)

The Poseidon Adventure: After the ship capsizes and passengers and crew fall, slide, drown, etc., gravity also plays out on the ship's sewage holding tank, turning the Poseidon's interior into a sea of brown - sort of like Willy Wonka's chocolate river in Jack Albertson's previous movie. The band of survivors gamely swims on, but every few minutes someone cries out, "Oh, God, it got in my mouth!" (Jon Carter)

The Bachelor: He's down to his final rose ceremony. He has an engagement ring in pocket, and gets down on one knee. "Stand up," she says, and continues: "You know, you seem like a nice guy, but we've only known each other for six weeks -- and during that time you've also been dating twenty other women. So how about we just go home?" (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

Easy Rider: Wyatt and Billy ride their Harleys across the country from one repair shop to the next. (Sam Mertens)

Green Eggs and Ham:
Do I like green eggs and ham?
You're clearly clueless, Sam-I-Am.
You would not ask me if you knew
I can't eat ham 'cause I'm a Jew.
I might eat bagels in a box
But only if you bring some lox. (Judy Freed)

Driving Miss Daisy: While Hoke Colburn is driving the 1948 Hudson to pick up Miss Daisy, he is pulled over by Georgia state trooper and is never heard from again. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Swan Lake: Odette dumps Prince Siegfried when she realizes he's too dumb to tell the difference between a white swan and a black swan. (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

Grey's Anatomy: A new intern falls in love with a resident. A resident falls in love with an attending. An attending falls in love with a patient. However, none of these attractions are acted upon, because the doctors at this hospital actually comply with professional codes of conduct. (Judy Freed)

Grease: It ends with a montage showing that Sandy and Danny marry after she gets pregnant; he drinks heavily and gets fired from every job he tries; she gains 40 pounds; and their messed-up kid falls in love with his therapist. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Gone with the Wind: When Scarlett discovers that Ashley intends to marry his cousin Melanie, she first appeals to his intelligence: "But what will become of our state's future if you inbreed? I do declare, we could be sending imbeciles to Congress from Georgia!" (Jon Carter)

Gone with the Wind: When Prissy says she don't know nothin' about birthin' babies, she is immediately put in charge of Georgia's reproductive health policy. (Duncan Stevens)

Goldilocks and the Three Bears: The bears come home and catch Goldi in the house. They realize: Why eat porridge when they could have naughty-little-girl meat? And she was just right! (Joanne Free, Clifton, Va.)

The headline "Reel to Real" was submitted by both Chris Doyle and Jesse Frankovich; Jesse also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, June 10: Our Week 22 caption contest, with eight photos and cartoons to choose from. Click here or type in

Next Loser Brunch: Sunday, June 18, at Ted's Bulletin, Gaithersburg, Md. More info and RSVP here. After that: A poolside BBQ July 23, and a September Loserfest weekend in Philadelphia! See "Our Social Engorgements" at

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: ()
Examples: (Bruce Reynolds; Elden Carnahan; Frank Osen)
Title: (Chris Doyle; Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize: (Cheryl Davis)

Week 1540, Published 05/29/2023
The Invitational Week 22: Picture This
It's caption contest time, with eight motley pictures to choose from. Plus zingy 4-line poems.
JUN 2, 2023

The first of the pictures in The Invitational's caption contest this week.
Hello. This week we bring you the second caption contest of the Gene Pool Era, with another set of motley photos, centuries-old art * and a cartoon drawn especially for this contest by comic strip artist David Clark, inventor of the art for "Barney & Clyde," a comic strip about a friendship between a billionaire and a homeless man. But first, we bash Republicans for being horrible human beings while we are supposed to pretend this isn't happening and everything is fine and we are engaged in normal political discourse.

Gene will hereby now do this regrettable but necessary task in one paragraph:

Modern-day Republicans want us all to carry bazookas and shoot each other in the head because of the Second Amendment. They think trans people are a subordinate clause to humanity. They think health care has to make a profit for shareholders. They think children should work in meatpacking plants until 10 p.m. They count among their respected leaders utter maniacs like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who sees a conspiracy of Jewish "gazpacho police" wielding space lasers. They think it is okay to overturn an election by shouting. They want history to be defined, by federal law, as an inexorable march of White People Doing the Right Thing. They think women have abortions for fun. They think that parents who accidentally kill their children by leaving them in hot cars should be executed. Why have we normalized this? If he were alive today, William McKinley never would have approved of any of this and he was a Republican.

Anyway, that is all that is to be said on this matter except that if, tomorrow, Lauren Boebert declared that, say, Minneapolis needed to be assassinated, everyone in the Republican Party would deal with it as jut another opinion worthy of robust debate.

However, it is is time to do some caption writing. So.

For Week 22: Write a caption -- as many as 25 total -- for any of the pictures below or the one above. Begin each caption only with the letter on the picture -- as in A. [your caption] -- so that the Empress can sort the captions by picture. (Losers, you've become so much better following the directions lately!) If you're new to The Invitational, take a look at the results of Week 6 to see what we like in a caption.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See more formatting directions on the form.

Deadline is Saturday, June 10, at 4 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, June 15. You need to be a paying subscriber to The Gene Pool to enter; to sign up, click on the "subscribe" or "upgrade" button above (just $5 for a month or $50/year).

This week's winner, apropos of our fine-art theme, gets a sheet of Bob Ross temporary tattoos depicting photos or drawings of the artist's whitefroed head, with such messages as "Have a happy little hair day" and "Trees are friends." Donated by Loser Jeff Contompasis. Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in a variety of designs that we're still coming up with. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for the Fir Stink for First Ink air "freshener" and a sweet email from the Empress.

Fourplay: Clerihews and Poeds from Week 20
In Week 20 we asked for either of two forms of four-line poems: clerihews, which start with a person's name, have at least one rhyme, and comically lose any sense of meter; and the more challenging poeds, whose lines consist of (1) six one-syllable words; (2) three two-syllables; (3) two threes; and (4) one long, possibly ridiculous six-syllable word. We're running only one of the many clerihews that rhyme "Ron DeSantis" with "praying mantis."

Third runner-up (clerihew):
Senator Chuck Grassley
Wouldn't dream of suggesting crassly
That his colleague Dianne Feinstein resign,
Because he's also eighty-nine. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Second runner-up (clerihew):
Dylan Mulvaney
Has made a lot of drinkers suddenly abstainy,
As Bud Light is featuring her even though she's declared she's trans, in no uncertain terms;
This has opened up cans of both beer and worms. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

First runner-up (clerihew):
Elon Musk
Paid too much for Twitter, tried to back out, fired over half the staff, then decreed that the remaining employees should work from dawn past dusk.
Hopefully this will end his reputation as a genius
And expose him as just one more rich guy with a tiny penius. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

And the winner of the Cat in the Hat socks (poed):
Is our speech too coarse now?
Vulgar, tasteless drivel,
Routinely uncivil?
Absofuckinglutely. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

We Are Not a Muse: Honorable Mentions
Clarence Thomas
Said, "I'm not corrupt, pinky promise!
Why should I exhibit any shred of decency, shame or contrition?
I mean, who among us doesn't have such good friends that they foot the bill for your kid's private school tuition?" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

J.K. Rowling
Might have started out just trolling.
But now you can't hop on Twitter for even the briefest surf
Without seeing her thrashing around trying to defend her TERF. (David Smith, Pleasanton, Calif.)

E. Jean Carroll
Has managed to get Trump over a barrel.
Content with her original court victory until
He still wouldn't shut up, repeating the same crap that cost him the first 5, so now she's going for another 10 mil. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Daniel Snyder -
Perpetual despair provider -
Finds it satisfyingly amusing
That there's such good money in losing. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Dan Snyder
Is packing his belongings into a truck rented from Ryder.
Will fans go wish him a fond adieu?
You're more likely to hear a hearty bieu. (Duncan Stevens)

Patti LuPone
Has earned her place on Broadway's throne.
And while she has repeatedly stated that she's quitting the the-ayter,
She keeps postponing said departure until later. (Seth Christenfeld, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.)

LeBron James
Hints he might play no more games.
I'll take odds he won't be happy when the ballyhoo has shrunken
And donuts are all he's dunkin'. (Pam Shermeyer)

Something about Senator Josh Hawley
Reminds me of a spider, slug, or other creepy-crawly -
That self-appointed arbiter of manhood
Who on January 6 showed off his fierce got-up-and-ranhood. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Saffie, Joseph Jr.,
Trains horses in methods maybe loonier
Than normal, given that just before the Kentucky Derby, equestrians
Rode two of his horses that made them pedestrians. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis, Md.)

Covington (Todd):
Nurse and firefighter turned ballpark god.
His quick-thinking Heimlich manuever
Caused a choking fan's wedged snack food to unhoover. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Ron DeSantis:
His presidential campaign's chant is
"Make America Florida!"
What could be horrida? (Frank Osen)

Ron DeSantis
Has all the charm and warmth of a dining praying mantis.
He's found it rewarding to beat up on immigrants, women, gay and trans folks, African Americans, librarians, doctors, professors, and others, but surely he's foolish to take on Disney...
Isney? (David Smith)

Matt Gaetz:
A guy Kevin McCarthy hates
But, sad to say,
Must obey. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Rodgers, Aaron,
A different green you'll be wearin'.
Playing for the Packers made you upset?
Oh, you ain't seen nothin', Jet. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Poor Chris Christie!
Such a masochist, he
Hasn't got enough of being dissed -- he wants more
In 2024. (Mark Raffman)

A fount of crap and lies,
Bigmouth Donald supplies
Round-the-clock poppycock:
Mar-a-Logorrhea. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Trump's back for one more run.
Meaner, ruder, lewder,
Oranger, chubbier,
Beelzebubbier. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Wives at times hide blue pills,
Dodging husbands' nightly
Remaining uprightly.
Viagraphobia. (Chris Doyle)

Why do some men not like
Martha Stewart's cover?
Possibly, semi-nude
Gerontopulchritude? (Mark Raffman)

And last:
Gene and Pat said oy vey
Reading poems manque:
Doggerel displaying
Clerihewmorlessness. (Chris Doyle)

The headline "Fourplay" is by Tom Witte; Jon Gearhart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, June 3: Our Week 21 contest to describe a comically more realistic plot point in a given movie, TV show, or work of literature. Click here or type in

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Tom Witte)
Subhead: (Jon Gearhart)
Prize: (Jeff Contompasis)

Week 1539, Published 05/25/2023
The Invitational Week 21: Get Real, Reel.
A new contest to wring truth out of fiction -- film, literature, or TV. Plus winning parodies of politicians bragging or kvetching through song.
MAY 25, 2023

Have you ever revisited a favorite work of fiction from your youth, only to discover, with crushing disappointment, that it doesn't hold up? This happened to me the other day with "Casey at the Bat," that cautionary drama of baseball, hubris, and the frailty of hope, doled out in flawless mock-heroic iambic heptameter. As poetry, it's still good. But as baseball, uh-uh.

You remember the story: Ninth inning, the Mudville Nine behind by two runs and down to their last out. Improbably, transcending their mediocrity, the inept Flynn and the despised Blake come through with a single and double, bringing the mighty Casey up to bat with runners on second and third. Women cheer, men shout, tongues applaud, etc. The imperious batsman takes the first two pitches for strikes, then hacks and whiffs at the third, famously leaving no joy in Mudville.

Lame, lame, lame. Sure, the visiting team got lucky, but by using hopelessly old-school strategy. That's no way to manage in the modern era. To make any sense today -- to give the poem even a shred of verisimilitude -- I had to rewrite
the end:

Oh, somewhere men are laughing,
And the ladies gaily talk,
But the game drones on in Mudville,
Mighty Casey -- the best hitter on the team coming to the plate with the game on the line, a two-run deficit and first-base open -- drew an intentional walk.

So for Week 21: Name a scene in a movie, a TV show, or literature, and tell us how it might be revised (perhaps less satisfyingly but far more realistically) as in the rewritten lines above. A couple more examples:

-- Instead of ending their spaghetti scene with a demure kiss, Lady and The Tramp smell each other's butts.

-- In "Casablanca," Ilsa is delayed because the plane is boarding slowly by group numbers, so she and Rick are still on the ground and arrested when police arrive in time.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. See the form for formatting instructions.

Deadline is Saturday, June 3, at 4 p.m. wherever you are. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, June 8. You need to be a paying subscriber to The Gene Pool to enter; to sign up, click on the "subscribe" or "upgrade" button above (just $5 for a month or $50/year).

This week's winner gets a compact but colorful 2023 calendar depicting scenic outhouses. True, we're halfway through the year, but hey, hang it up in your, uh, inhouse and you can use the old pages for, well * Donated by Dave Prevar.

Our double-use calendar, this week's prize.
NEW! Since the Invitational left the cushy confines of The Washington Post with our limitedly unlimited expense account, the prizes we give the winner have been even crappier (see above) and the runners-up have gotten bupkis. We've sensed pouting, grumping, moping, and sulking among the ranks of the Losers.

Well, that's all over now. We have figured out a way to sate you entitled ingrates. Runners-up now will get MONEY! The money will look like the two bills below, only there will be countless variations for you to collect, hoard, trade, sell on eBay and reap unconscionable profit, etc. They will come in many different denominations. The postage will cost us more than the bills themselves. Thanks to Jon Gearhart for the idea, Jeff Contompasis for the slogan. (Honorable mentions still get nothing, except for the famous Fir Stink for First Ink air "freshener" and a sweet email from the Empress.)

Silly .gov Songs: Politicians Voice their Feelings, from Week 19
In Invitational Week 19, inspired by the South Korean president's rendition of "American Pie" at the White House, the Czar and Empress asked the Loser Community to "add a verse or two to a well-known song that a politician might humorously sing." The results were exquisite. While we were expecting comically appropriate real-song titles, many of the Loserbards instead offered zingy puns on those titles and wrote parodies from there; you'll see both kinds below. If you don't know the tune, click on the link in the title to hear the original.

As always happens with with song parody contests, there are simply too many inkworthy ones to include in one list. Over the next few days, the Empress will share a few with a #parody hashtag in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group.

Third runner-up: President Biden singing "Stayin' Alive" to Donald Trump
Well, you can wail about the way I'm old and frail
Say I'm senile and that I should bail
But I'm still here, yessir, yup,
And I'm holding ground instead of pushing it up.
And I'm all right, I'm okay,
I only napped three times today
And in the end I will win,
I'll make you eat more crow again

And even though I'm agin', you're the one that I'm upstagin'
By stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Thought I'd kick the bucket but, Donnie, you can suck it
'Cause I'm stayin' alive, stayin' alive *
(Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Second runner-up: Coal-lovin' Sen. Joe Manchin sings "What a Wonderful World"
I see filthy mines
And smokestacks, too,
That belch out dough
For me (not you!)
And I say to myself,
"What a wonderful world!"
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

First runner-up: Rep. George Santos sings to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to "Light My Fire"
Sure, everything I say's untrue.
My pants have always been on fire.
Still, here's what I ask of you:
Please just let my term expire.
Come on, Kevin, back this liar.
Come on, Kevin, back this liar.
One less vote: things could get dire.

Accused of stealing public funds,
I see a looming prison door.
But why should you expel my buns?
You can wait till 2024.
Come on, Kevin, back this liar,
Come on, Kevin, back this liar.
That's the one thing I desire.
Say you won't make me retire!
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna Va.)

And the winner of the mug from New York's Algonquin Hotel, site of the legendary "Round Table" of humorists:
Ron DeSantis singing "She's Always a Woman to Me" to his supporters:
All the lefties are calling religion a joke
They would stomp on our faith for a faith I call "woke"
And they all will deny what you plainly can see:
If he's born with a penis, he's never a woman to me.
[Bridge] Oh, if he puts on a dress where the children can see, we will make it a crime;
Oh, he will never get out! I will never give in! He'll be doing hard time!

Not a thing he can do is enough to convince us,
And the last thing I want is one more Disney princess.
I will lead this great land to a theocracy:
If his genes are XY, then he's never a woman to me.
(Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Backup Zingers: Honorable Mentions
"My Way," as sung by George Santos
And now, the end is near
For my long trail of fabrication;
I've lived a life that's grand,
At least in my imagination.
I could have told the truth
And sought my goals the honest-guy way;
That path was not my own:
I took the lie way.
(Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

"Stouthearted Men" (from the 1928 song by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II) as sung by Sen. Josh Hawley, author of the new book "Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs"
Jonathan Jensen's own video:"

Give me some men who are stouthearted men
Who will fight for the Right they adore,
Strong, manly men who want Trump back again
And who'll break down the Capitol door. Oh!
I ran away on that great fateful day
But this fact you will kindly ignore.
For -- there's nothing in the world
I'd rather scorn or pan
Than -- the lefty clan,
So buy my book and be a man!
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Joe Biden to the Republican Senate caucus: (to Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money")
Mitch better have my money
Y'all should know me well enough
Mitch better have my money
Please don't call me on my bluff
Hey, don't be so snarky.
Just sayin', no malarkey.
Mitch, better have my money
C'mon man. I'm serious.
Like bro, bro, bro.
(Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Putin to Wagner Group oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who offered to tell troop locations to Ukraine, sung to "If I Only Had a Brain"
The ways are far too many
Of killing you, Yevgeny,
For plotting with Ukraine.
In my head I have been musin'
On a method we'll be choosin'
That will make it look humane.

We won't cook you on a griddle
Or slice you through the middle,
Or Novichok your brain.
No, the cost of your vainglory's
Falling ten, not forty stories,
To become a concrete stain.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein sees the light (to "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" )
I'd planned to spend my whole term in California,
Far, far away from that old committee throng,
Then their calls came through: "Bad idea! We gotta warn ya!"
Yes, the senators, they knew right from wrong.

'Cause my colleagues all said, "Dianne, Dianne, you're missin' the vote.
No judges are gettin' through -- just watch Republicans gloat.
Now restoring judicial balance is a prospect ever so more remote.
Oh, man, Dianne, poop's hit the fan! Dianne, you're missin' the vote." (Duncan Stevens)

Kevin McCarthy singing "Stayin' Alive" to himself
Well, you can tell by the way I lick all boots
I'm a desperate man, I'm in cahoots.
My support is thin, many Cons to please,
They'll fire me if I dare sneeze.
And now it's all right, it's okay,
I've groveled every human way.
So just try to understand
I'm not the whip, but I'm whipped, man.

Craving power, brother, 'cause I'm a real mother,
I'm stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
My support is shakin' after all the deals I'm makin',
I'm stayin' alive, staying' alive . . .
(Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Donald Trump sings "Be Our Guest" to migrants at the border
Be our guest! Be our guest! Put our lawmen to the test!
Cross the river to our soil, Jose, you're subject to arrest.
Have a seat in our cage -- don't you know it's all the rage?
All your children, we will mind them (pray that later we can find them).
You should know you can't stay in the good old U.S.A.
For your country isn't sending us their best,
Though we would welcome legions of those white Norwegians,
Be our guest, si, our guest, be our guest. (Michael Stein)

*Lindsey Graham singing to Donald Trump a month after Jan. 6, 2021, to "Hopelessly Devoted to You"
The press is prayin' you'll forsake me,
They heard me sayin', "Count me out,
Enough is enough." Not that you'd incited a coup!
I was totally misquoted 'bout you.

It's absolution I need.
To my donors I will plead
Your coffers to fill.
Publicly full-throated I'll spew
Every lie promoted by you.
I'm soullessly devoted to you.
(Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Kevin McCarthy sings about raising the debt ceiling, to "More Than a Feeling"
I woke up this morning; IRS was gone.
Screwed over some students to start my day.
Clean-energy subsidies, all withdrawn.
If you're on SNAP, oh, I'll make you pay.
It's more than a ceiling (more than a ceiling),
'Cause now Joe's gotta do just what I say.
(This is appealing!) Look, now he's kneeling!
This extortion thing's more than okay!
Just say "Here comes default!" watch him obey.

Medicaid? Ha! Man, we'll make 'em work.
If I gave in, didn't hold the line.
The House Freedom Caucus would go berserk.
Yo, poor folks, get jobs. See, I'm keeping mine!
It's more than a ceiling (more than a ceiling);
No, Joe, put down that coin, buster! What the hey?
(That's double-dealing!) Let's hear you squealing!
You will not take my hostage away!
We've got many more debt games here to play. (Duncan Stevens)

Chris Christie sings "The Impossible Dream"
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight an impeachable schmo,
To reach his deplorable voters,
To stay when the pollsters say no.
To stand on the stage of debate,
To spar with that odious clown,
Stand tall when the insults start flying,
Desist from my resting-bitch frown.

This is my quest! To not be subpar!
To poll double digits! Does it seem that bizarre?
To fight for myself without stigma or shame,
I'm done kissing his ass, once and for all,
And I'm clearing my name!
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Virtually any politician sings "I'll Do Anything" to voters
I'll do anything
For your vote -- anything
'Cause winning's everything to me.
I know that I'd go anywhere,
I'd stoop low -- I don't care,
For no low is too low for me.
Would you wear a wig? -- anything!
Would you dance a jig? --- anything!
Would you kiss a pig? -- anything!
Do you want this gig? -- with all my heart!
I would lie and hedge
If I could get an edge
Cause I'd do anything -- ANYTHING to win!
(Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

Trump, as Jiminy Cricket, on tape to Billy Bush:
When you get to be a star, women all know who you are.
Anything your heart desires
They'll do for you.
I just move in like a bitch, kiss 'em 'cause I'm super-rich.
What seems even more bizarre,
They love it, too!

Pat behinds or squeeze what's up above?
Then I'm just guilty of some harmless longing.
I'm a magnet -- handsome, too; grabbing pussy's what I do.
Now that I'm a megastar,
My dreams came true. (Chris Doyle)

The headline "Silly .gov Songs" is by Chris Doyle; Jeff Contompasis wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

We'll be combing your "Comments" below for reactions to the inking entries.

Still running -- deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, May 27: Our Week 20 contest to write a four-line poem about a person, in either the clerihew or poed form. Click here or type in

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,600-member Facebook group, the Losers' website, and our podcast.

Idea: ()
Examples: ()
Title: (Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (Jeff Contompasis)
Prize: (Dave Prevar)

Week 1538, Published 05/18/2023
The Invitational Week 20: Rhymes Against Humanity
Plus 'The Undouchables' and other winning 'grandfoal' names
MAY 18, 2023

Rep. Lauren Boebert, the Czar's muse for this week's light-verse contest.
Today, as we do every Thursday, we devote the top half of the Gene Pool to The Invitational. But first, we must take a moment to appreciate the Worst Woman of the Week. No, it is not the lady pictured above! She takes third place, and will be mentioned later. The new WWotW is named Tricia Cotham, state legislator from North Carolina. If you do not know about her filthbucketry, you are about to learn. She was elected to her state legislature in 2022 as a pro-choice Democrat, an outspoken advocate for women's rights. Once she entered the legislature, she announced that she was changing party affiliation to Republican. She would be anti-choice. In this new designation, she became the deciding vote in a new supermajority her defection created, overturning the governor's veto of a bill (soon to be law) making all abortions, for any reason, illegal after 12 weeks. Kicker: She once had an abortion that she is now making illegal, a fact she had used politically to gain cred, and votes, from the left.

Okay! This week's Invitational contest, Week 20, is to write a four-line poem about people in the news, using either of two poetic forms that are particularly challenging staples of The Invitational.

The first is the clerihew, a four-line poem with (A) someone's name in the first line (only the name, or a line ending with the name); (B) the rhyme scheme aabb; and -- this is important -- (C) meter that varies, often wildly, from line to line. Here is an example by the Czar, based on the legal and marital travails of a certain congresswoman, especially as limned in this article (which you should read to the end).

Boebert (Lauren)
Hates all threats to family values, domestic or foreign,
Except perhaps for those that might happen to be composed
Of nasty divorce, household slapping, underage drinking, mailbox vandalism, and penises indecently exposed.

The second eligible form is the poed, created by Ed Hopkins of Davidsonville, Md., many years ago for The Style Invitational. It's also a four-line poem: The first line is six one-syllable words, the second is three two-syllable words, the third is two three-syllable words, and the last is one six-syllable word. There must be at least one end-of-line rhyme. Some leeway will be extended to cleverly pertinent made-up words, as in this poed, also by the Czar.

On the air, Trump sat down
Vicious, lying, piggly
Defensive, offensive.

You can include a title for either poem if you want to.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. And don't try putting your whole poem onto a single line, as we usually ask for entries; just write them as four lines.

Deadline is Saturday, May 27, at 4 p.m. wherever you are. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, June 1. You need to be a paying subscriber to The Gene Pool to enter; sign up (just $5 for a month or $50/year) at the "subscribe" box above.

This week's prize: (L) Sock One. (R) Sock Two.
This week's winner gets, apropos of this contest, one of the few pairs of socks in the world to celebrate a character from a world-renowned poem. They are excellent for sitting in the house on a cold, cold, wet day.

The Bridle Registry: Winning 'Grandfoals' of Week 18
As The Invitational has done every year since 1995, in Week 16 we listed 100 of the horses nominated for this year's Triple Crown races and the Losers "bred" pairs of names to name a "foal" that cleverly, often punningly -- and often crudely -- referred to both "parents." Then in Week 18, they bred those foal names to make "grandfoals." Given that this week they were working with names like Shit Show, USS Constipation, Vulveeta, and Wanks a Million, it wasn't surprising that the grand-names were horses of an off color -- we're glad that Washington Post editors wouldn't have to wring their hands over these babies. This is, by far, the Gene Pool Invitational with the most entries that would have been assassinated by The Post.

Don't get the joke in an entry? Ask in the comments below and we'll explain it and not even sneer.

Third runner-up: Indy Penn Dense x Pole Worker = Undie Porn Dance (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Second runner-up: Pole Worker x Julius Sees Her = Veni Vidi * Veni (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

First runner-up: Why an Apostrophe? x USS Constipation = Colon Won't Work (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

And the winner of the Knit Your Own Dog kit;
Chiseler x Sans Seraph = Michel*****o (Laurie Brink, Mineola, N.Y.)

Just Say Neigh: Honorable Mentions
American Pi x Chiseler = 3.14-Card Monte (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Go Fly a Kite x Shit Show = Scat! (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.; Tom Witte)

Julius Sees Her x Double on Tundra = Eye of the Taiga (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

Crash Test Dummies x There Be Geckos = There Be Geico (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

There Be Geckos x 127 Hours = Save 7,620 Percent (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.; Brian Cohen, Winston-Salem, N.C.)

Wanks a Million x 127 Hours = A Long Time Coming (Andrew Rosenberg, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Bean Franklin x Shit Show = Poo Richard (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Chiseler x Walk = The Adze of March (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Crash Test Dummies x Porn to Run = Mannekinky (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Crash Test Dummies x Stumped = Hmm Hmm Hmm Hmm (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Deputy Seraph x Julius Sees Her = Eyeshot the Seraph (Laurie Brink)

Eliot Nescafe x Wanks A Million = The Touchables (Steve Price, New York; Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.; Rob Wolf, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Eliot Nescafe x Vulveeta = The Undouchables (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Etude, Brute? X Fonzie Scheme = Julius Greaser (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Etude, Brute? x Wedgie Jackson = Executioner'sThong (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

GanDolphini x Rep. Van Winkle = Jersey Snore (Bill Dorner, Wolcott, Conn.)

Go Fly a Kite x C-Note Evil = AHundredTimesNo! (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

Go Fly a Kite x Shit Show = Mary Poopins (Beverley Sharp)

Go Fly a Kite x Shit Show = Wipe Left (Jon Carter)

GOOOOOOOOLD! x Chiseler = Pyrite, Actually (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

GOOOOOOOOLD! x Double on Tundra = COOOOOOOOLD! (David Peckarsky, Tucson; Duncan Stevens)

GOOOOOOOOLD! x Go Fly a Kite = Au Revoir (Jesse Frankovich)

GOOOOOOOOLD! x Nuuk Nuuk Nuuk = Fort Nuuks (Tim Watts, Great Falls, Va.)

GOOOOOOOOLD! x Porn to Run = Trumps Like Us (Joanne Free, Clifton, Va.)

GOOOOOOOOLD! x When I'm 2^6 = OOOOOOOOLD! (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore; Mike Gips)

GOOOOOOOOLD! X Wanks a Million = Gilty Pleasure (Tim Watts)

GOOOOOOOOLD! x When I'm 2^6 = 7^2-ers (Bernard Brink, Cleveland, Mo.)

Hanky Panky x 127 Hours = AffairToDismember (Jeff Contompasis)

Hanky Panky X Double on Tundra = Lapp Dancers (Roy Ashley)

Hanky Panky x Double on Tundra = NanookieOfTheNorth (Chris Doyle)

King Leer x Pole Worker = Letch Walesa (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.; Larry Rifkin, Glastonbury, Conn.; Jeff Contompasis)

Mr. Kite x Porn Worker = Wind Blown (Rob Wolf)

Pole Worker x Tempest in a K-Cup = Bump and Grind (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Pole Worker x Wanks a Million = Elf-Stimulation (Danielle Nowlin, Fairfax Station, Va.; Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Porn to Run x USS Constipation = Easy Come, Hard Go (Jesse Frankovich)

Porn to Run x USS Constipation = XXX-Lax (Michael Stein)

Porn to Run x Walk in Water = The Story of Eau (Chris Doyle)

Rep. Van Winkle x Shit Show = Slumber Potty (Jesse Frankovich)

RiddleOfTheSinks x USS Constipation = Stopped Up Again! (Beverley Sharp)

Sanka for Nothing x Tibia Not to Be = Decalf (Frank Osen)

Sanka Ship x Vulveeta = Loose Lips (Rob Wolf)

Sans Seraph x Shit Show = Helveticaca (Laurie Brink)

Stumped x Nuuk Nuuk Nuuk = Inuit All Along (John Winant, Annandale, Va.)

The Stinker x WhoSlicedTheCheese = Farts and Krafts (Tom Witte)

Three Scrooges x Sanka Ship = Tightanic (Karen Lambert)

EnemaOfThePeephole x Wanks a Million = Clean and Jerk (Brian Cohen)

USS Constipation x J. Edgar Hoofer = Clogger (Kevin Dopart)

USS Constipation x Unplugged = ThatShipHasSoiled (Roy Ashley)

Venus de Silo x Willie Maze = The Say Hay Kid (Bernard Brink; Rob Wolf)

Wanks a Million x Founding Farter = John Handcock (Kathy El-Assal, Middleton, Wis.)

Wanks a Million x Go Fly a Kite = Beat It (Mike Hammer, Arlington, Va.; Tom Witte)

WhoSlicedTheCheese x Storm Suer = Odor in the Court (Chris Doyle)

Wedgie Jackson x Hanky Panky = Panties in a Tryst (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

The headline "Bridle Registry" is by Jon Carter; Chris Doyle wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 9 p.m. Saturday, May 20: Our Week 19 contest to add a pertinent verse to an existing song we'd like to hear some politician (of any era) sing. Click here or type in

We're full up for the Losers' annual Flushies picnic this Saturday afternoon; we'll let you know the highlights. For details of the June and July Loser brunches at local restaurants, see "Our Social Engorgements" on the Losers' website,

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,000-member Facebook group and our podcast.

Examples:(Ed Hopkins)
Title:(Jon Carter)
Subhead:(Chris Doyle)

Week 1537, Published 05/11/2023
The Invitational Week 19: A Crooning Achievement
Write a lyric for a politician to sing. Plus the winners of our toilet paper art contest!
MAY 11, 2023

Hello. Today we introduce a new Invitational contest based on the moment above, when the South Korean president broke into song at a recent state dinner at the White House.

And now, the Crooning Achievement: The Invitational Week 19
Our new contest is based on a suggestion by a reader of The Gene Pool, riffing off the moment at a recent White House dinner when South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol launched into an excellent version of American Pie. The still-anonymous reader suggested a contest in which we propose scenarios where some politician breaks into song that seems ironically appropriate, or devilishly pointed, or in some other way hilarious. The reader gave two examples: Barack Obama singing "Born in the U.S.A." to a roomful of MAGA people, or Donald Trump, while entertaining Putin at the White House, singing to Vlad "This Land Is Your Land."

We're going with that idea, with an additional requirement: You must write a new section to whichever song that the pol will throw in. To demonstrate, the Czar took the reader's two suggestions and ran with them:

Trump, as Woody Guthrie, to Putin:
This land is your land, this land is my land
They say you rolled me, and that you're vile and
A tyrant bloody -- but you're my buddy!
This land was made for you to screw.

Obama, as Springsteen, to the MAGAs:
Got me in a little birther jam,
Big orange fella asks from where I am.
Am I a Yank, because he has his doubt.
Here's my baby papers! Kenya ooze on out?
I was BORN in the U.S.A. *

So for Week 19: Add a verse or two to a well-known song that a politician might humorously sing. Set the scene if needed. You can choose any politician, or even a duo or trio, from anywhere, past or present. Even even if it's obvious to you, please tell us which song you're using, and link to a YouTube version if the song might not be well known to everyone.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week's contest, preferably all on the same entry form. And don't try putting your whole song onto a single line, as we usually ask for entries; just write them in a typical poetry-style format.

Deadline is Saturday, May 20, at 9 p.m. -- you get a few extra hours, since the Czar, the Empress and various Losers will be congregating that afternoon at the Flushies picnic (see one last blurb after this week's results). Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, May 25. You need to be a paying subscriber to The Gene Pool to enter; sign up (just $5 for a month or $50/year) at the "subscribe" box above.

Have a nice cup of repartea with this week's prize.
This week's winner gets a coffee mug from Manhattan's Algonquin hotel, famed as the daily lunch site and watering hole for the Algonquin Round Table, a 1920s clique of pre-Invitational wits including Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. The mug was picked up in the 1990s by Maja Keech during a visit to New York by members of the Loser Community, whose "official" name is the Not Ready for the Algonquin Roundtable Society (hence its website,

Sheets and Giggles: Toilet Paper 'Art' From Invitational Week 17
In Invitational Week 17 we asked you -- in our subversive answer to The Washington Post's contests for dioramas featuring Peeps -- to create and photograph some original construction featuring toilet paper and/or its cardboard tubes. As you will see, most people went the wordplay route rather than the craftsy route -- but the winner ably combined both approaches.

Third runner-up:

"WE don't believe the crap we shovel, but you viewers go right ahead."

(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Second runner-up:

or: What happens when you forget to flush fifteen times:

(Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

First runner-up:

(Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

And the winner of the bacon-and-egg socks:

"It's now illegal to have your tubes tied in this state."
(Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Arty Poopers: Honorable Mentions

When you know it's gonna hit it, you gotta be prepared. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Pierre was tired of being treated like merde. (Stu Segal, Charlotte, N.C.)

From The Rear that made Milwaukee famous. (Kevin Dopart)

Chuck Berry's bathroom. (Steve Leifer, Potomac, Md.)


TP canoe -- Anne Tyler, too. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)


(Jesse Frankovich)

(Beverley Sharp)

"It's called a bidet. And it's an existential threat." (Stu Segal)

(Jesse Frankovich)

Scott finally lands a top roll. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

(Kevin Dopart)

The headline "Sheets and Giggles" is by Jesse Frankovich; Chris Doyle wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13: Our Week 18 "grandfoals" contest to "breed" the winning foal names from Week 16. Click here or type in

Last call to join the Loser Community -- plus Gene and Pat -- at the annual Flushies picnic on Saturday afternoon, May 20. Here's your personal invitation! We've heard that there will be Losers and Invitational Devotees coming from as far as Texas. And definitely some Loser-penned parodies to sing along with.

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,000-member Facebook group and our podcast.

Title:(Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead:(Chris Doyle)

Week 1536, Published 05/04/2023
The Invitational Week 18: Colt Following
Now that we have the winner and punners-up of our venerable foal-name contest, it's time for 'grandfoals'
MAY 4, 2023

And Now, The Invitational! Diddly-doot, Diddly-doot, Diddly-DOOT-doot-doot-doot. (That's the bugle call before a race.)
As the Churchill Downs crew cleared off the workout poop and smoothed the track for this Saturday's 149th Kentucky Derby, The Invitational -- as it has every year since 1995 -- invited the Loser Community to horse around with the year's nominated Thoroughbreds and "breed" their names to produce a pun-filled "foal." The results appear below. The new contest, which we are announcing here, is the second leg of our Double Crown: For Week 18: "Breed" any two of the "foal" names generated in in today's results and give the "grandfoal" a name that reflects both names. We even have a handy-dandy list of all this week's foals right here (or type in Just as with the Week 16 contest (and in real horse racing), a name may not exceed 18 characters including spaces; those characters may include punctuation and numerals. You may run words together to save space, but the name should be easy to read. As always, you may submit up to 25 grandfoals, preferably all on the same form.

For guidance and inspiration, let's look at the top four of last year's inking grandfoals (the whole list is here):
4. No-Knock Warrant x Lake Flaccid = DEA'd in the Water (Frank Mann)

3. Finals Are Today x Catch Some Z's = Got Some F's (Andrew Hatziyannis)

2. Catch Some Z's x I the People = Nap Bonaparte (Pam Shermeyer)

1. Atom and Heave x Pig Penn = Hurls Before Swine (Laurie Brink)

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to Please write your entries in the A x B = C format you see today so that the Empress and especially her longtime volunteer sorter, Loser Jonathan Hardis, can sort the entries by horse name.

Deadline is Saturday, May 13, at 4 p.m. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, May 18. You need to be a paying subscriber to The Gene Pool to enter; sign up (just $5 for a month or $50/year) at the "subscribe" box above.

If you mess it up, it'll love you anyway. That's how dogs are. This week's prize.
This week's winner gets * a dog! More precisely, Knit Your Own Dog, a kit with everything you need - including, they say, the expertise, even if you're a rank beginner -- to knit and stuff a little black-and-tan dachshund. What's especially Loserly is that even in the photo on the box, the dog came out a bit uneven and gimpy-looking. But cute! Like most of us in Loserland. Donated by Loser Steve Bremner. If you come to the Flushies picnic (see below), Gene and Pat will give it to you in person.

The Kentucky Derpy: The 'Foals' of Week 16
Our first Gene Pool foal name Invitational brought, as always, far more utterly inkworthy entries than we could sanely run. The Empress's first cut among the 1,750 entries to Week 16 topped 200 names, and these didn't count about a dozen excellent one that were sent too frequently, including Auguste Rodin x Clear the Air = The Stinker, or Instant Coffee x Ironsides = Sanka Ship, or Ready Shakespeare x Mr. Peeks = King Leer. If your brilliant name didn't get ink today, it absolutely got cut only in the very last round.

Did we choose the wrong winners? Take to the comments below to share your thoughts about the contest, your personal faves etc. (Do not shout out your own favorite non-inking entries; you can do that in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group.) Or if there's an entry you didn't get, someone will (mostly unsnarkily) explain it to you.

Third runner-up: Hoosier Philly x I Don't Get It = Indy Penn Dense (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Second runner-up: Forte x Ten Days Later = Fifte (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

First runner-up: Ready Shakespeare x Theismann = Tibia Not to Be (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.; Mike Hammer, Arlington, Va.)

And the winner of the horse-hoof-motif socks:
Disarm x I Don't Get It = Stumped (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

Dam Close: Honorable Mentions
Acoustic Ave x Infinite Series = American Pi (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Acoustic Ave x Circling the Drain = Unplugged (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.; Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Armstrong x Meteorite = One Small Step-OW! (Dave Zarrow, Skokie, Ill.)

Armstrong x Secret Threat = Strongarm (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Candidate x Lap Star = Pole Worker (Steve Geist, Mechanicsville, Va., who got his only previous blot of Invite ink in 2003)

Disarm x Kingsbarns = Venus de Silo (Rob Wolf, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Gandolfini x Flipper = GanDolphini (Bernard Brink, Cleveland, Mo.; Elliott Shevin, Efrat, West Bank; Richard Wexler, Alexandria, Va.)

Instant Coffee x Expect More = Sanka for Nothing (Rob Wolf)

Aaron x Giant Mischief = Hanky Panky (Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

Aaron x Instant Coffee = Hanka (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Accident x Curly Larry and Mo = Crash Test Dummies (Tim Watts, Great Falls, Va.)

Accident x Disarm = 127 Hours (Bill Dorner, Wolcott, Conn.)

Angel of Empire x Protege = Deputy Seraph (Chris Doyle)

Angel of Empire x Banishing = Sans Seraph (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.; Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Ready Shakespeare x Eye Witness = Julius Sees Her (Mary McNamara, Washington, D.C.; Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

Auguste Rodin x Confidence Game = Chiseler (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore; Chris Doyle)

Auguste Rodin x Flipper = Thinker Swim (David Peckarsky, Tucson, Ariz.; Steve Langer, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Banishing x Ben Franklin = Go Fly a Kite (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.; Mia Wyatt, Ellicott City, Md.)

Ben Franklin x Accident = Been Franklin (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.; Elizabeth Kline, Frederick, Md.)

Ben Franklin x Rocket Can = Bean Franklin (Neil Kurland)

Ben Franklin x Clear the Air = Founding Farter (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Ben Franklin x Giant Mischief = C-Note Evil (Andrew Rosenberg, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Ben Franklin x Sgt. Pepper = Mr. Kite (Steve Price, New York; Mike Hammer)

Be Punctual x Low Expectations = Tempus Fuckit (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Ready Shakespeare x Blocked = Bard the Door (Doug Hembrey, Manassas, Va.)

B Minor x Ready Shakespeare = Etude, Brute? (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

B Minor x Skinner = Key and Peeler (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Candidate x Dreamlike = Rep. Van Winkle (Jonathan Paul)

Circling the Drain x Ready Shakespeare = Coriolanus Effect (Diana Oertel)

Classic Catch x Hard to Figure = Willie Maze (Steve Price)

Clear the Air x Dr. Kraft = WhoSlicedTheCheese (Jon Carter)

Confidence Game x Auguste Rodin = HookLine&Thinker (Sarah Walsh, Rob Wolf)

Confidence Game x Litigate = A Ploy Named Sue (Tim Watts)

Curly Larry and Mo x Greenland = Nuuk Nuuk Nuuk (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.; Mia Wyatt; Mike Hammer)

Cyclone Mischief x Litigate = Storm Suer (Jesse Frankovich)

Lap Star x Fleet Feet = Porn to Run (David Garratt, Silver City, N.M.)

Fleet Feet x Mr. Peeks = EnemaOfThePeephole (Mark Raffman, on vacation in Moji, Japan, site of the Toto Toilet Museum; Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

General Banker x Curly Larry and Mo = The Three Scrooges (Larry Passar, Reston, Va.; David Garratt)

Hard to Figure x Circling the Drain = RiddleOfTheSinks (Duncan Stevens)

Hard to Figure x Two Phil's = Why an Apostrophe? (J. Larry Schott, West Plains, Mo.)

Hit Show x Low Expectations = Shit Show (Howard Ausden, Damascus, Md.; Mark Raffman; J. Larry Schott)

Ironsides x Blocked = USS Constipation (Brian Cohen, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Andrew Rosenberg)

Jackstown x Power in Numbers = Wanks a Million (Mark Raffman)

Justice Department x Fleet Feet = J. Edgar Hoofer (Jonathan Paul)

Justice Department x Instant Coffee = Eliot Nescafe (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.; Andrew Rosenberg)

Major Dude x Confidence Game = Fonzie Scheme (Jesse Frankovich)

Miracle Worker x Low Expectations = Walk in Water (Jonathan Paul)

Promise Me a Ride x Love Me Not = Walk (Duncan Stevens)

Ready Shakespeare x Instant Coffee = Tempest in a K-Cup (Pam Sweeney)

I Don't Get It x Instant Coffee = IDK-Cup (Laurie Brink, Mineola, N.Y.)

Ride Up x Hit Show = Wedgie Jackson (Malcolm Fleschner)

Runandscore x Yellow Brick = GOOOOOOOOLD! (Jesse Frankovich)

Sgt. Pepper x Low Expectations = WhenI'mSixtyFourth (Andrew Rosenberg)

Sgt. Pepper x Power in Numbers = When I'm 2^6 (Jonathan Hardis, Gaithersburg, Md.)

There Be Dragons x Low Expectations = There Be Geckos (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Two Phil's x Greenland = Double on Tundra (Duncan Stevens)

Yellow Brick X Lap Star = Vulveeta (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

The headline "The Kentucky Derpy" is by Jeff Contompasis; Jeff also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Reminder: We welcome your comments about the foals.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Monday, May 8: Our Week 17 contest to make humorous art out of toilet paper and/or their rolls, and send us a photo. Click here or type in

Join the Loser Community -- plus Gene and Pat -- at the annual Flushies picnic May 20. Here's your personal invitation!

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,000-member Facebook group and our podcast.

Week 1535, Published 04/27/2023
The Invitational Week 17: The Poops Diorama
Make some funny art with toilet paper, and send us a photo. Plus winning Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions
APR 27, 2023

Last May, The Invitational put forth its homage (or perhaps ummm-age) to The Washington Post's annual Peeps diorama contest (whose results now run exclusively on TikTok) by asking the Loser Community to create art with the most timely of media: real cicadas, which at the time were in the midst of their every-17-year takeover of the D.C. area, covering the ground with millions of molted exoskeletons to a 24/7 screech-buzz. The contest results were positively Loserly, a delightful mix of gross-out and punning on the "Brood X" onslaught. The winner: "Et Tu, Brood X" by Invite Hall of Famer Kevin Dopart and his wife, Deborah Hensley. (That's a piece of dill serving as the laurel wreath of Julius Cicada, and a piece of cocktail spear for the dagger.)

The cicadas won't be back en masse till 2039, but Kevin's suggested another idea for this year's photo contest: For Week 17, send us a picture of a witty visual artwork that you have made using toilet paper (in rolls or sheets) and/or their cardboard cores, decorated as you like with other materials, backgrounds, etc. (but not with photo editing). You could even turn the TP into papier-mache. You can submit as many as 10 photos (even 10 artworks!); feel free to submit two or more photos of your creation from different angles, if that helps us see it better.

Remember that we're a humor contest and especially value humor (duh), wordplay, and/or topicality. For example, a lovely flower expertly folded from a length of Cottonelle wouldn't be right for The Invitational: It has to be humorous as well as well crafted. Here are some examples of well-crafted TP art on the web featuring tube creatures and devilishly ornamented whole rolls. (And we can see this becoming the standard warning: Don't use AI. Use your own hands.)

If you live in the D.C. area -- or would like to visit on Saturday afternoon, May 20 -- we'd love you to show your inking creations IRL at the Flushies, the Losers' annual awards potluck. See your personal invitation -- yes, even for you -- about how to join us (even without toilet paper art in hand).

Here's one more winner, from a 2018 Invite photo contest, to put googly eyes on something. See, you don't have to be a master craftsman if you're a master wordsmith.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to Please read the formatting directions on the form, including what to do if your photos refuse to load to the form.

We're going to give you as long as we possibly can to do this contest: Deadline is noon ET on Monday, May 8. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, May 11. You need to be a paying subscriber to The Gene Pool to enter; sign up (just $5 for a month or $50/year) at the "subscribe" box above.

This week's winner gets an excellent pair of bacon-and-eggs socks: one sock bacon, one sock egg. If you keep kosher, just wear one sock. If you win and come to the Flushies, the Czar and Empress will also bestow upon you an autographed roll of toilet paper.

If you wear them while walking on a really hot sidewalk *

Badaskery: Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions from Week 15
In Week 15 The Invitational honored the great Al Jaffee of Mad Magazine, who'd died that week at age 102, with a contest about one of his trademark features, Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.

Third runner-up: (On Zoom) Am I on mute?
Yes. But thanks to your telepathic skills, we can hear your question. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Second runner-up: Are you the chef?
No, I'm wearing this big white toque to cover the hatchet buried in my skull. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

First runner-up: (In an offended voice) Do you know who I am?
Don't worry, amnesia is usually temporary. (Jeff Goldberg, Washington, D.C., a First Offender)

And the winner of the sheet of "I Pooped Today" calendar stickers;

Cutting your grass, huh?
No, just taking my lawnmower-shaped goat out for a graze. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Sass-fail: Honorable Mentions
Did you get a haircut?
No, I'm training it to retract when stupid people approach. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Are you all waiting to use the restroom?
No, we're here to guard the door while you go. (Jonathan Jensen)

Officer: Do you know how fast you were going?
Driver: What do I win if I get it right? (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Does this dress make me look fat?
No, just big-boned. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Are you lost?
No, I know exactly where I am, except somebody went and rearranged all the buildings and streets. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Is that what you're wearing?
No, that's what you're wearing - I'm wearing a mirror. (Jon Gearhart)

Are you expecting?
No, I smuggle beagles. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Are you expecting?
Yes, I'm expecting another few months of rude questions. (Jonathan Jensen)

Can I ask you a question?
Success! You must be so proud. (Kevin Dopart)

Cop: Do you know how fast you were going?
Driver: Apparently, not fast enough. That's why you caught up to me. (Frank Mann, Washington, D.C.)

Do you want the extended warranty on the toaster?
Oh, sure - I'll have such peace of mind knowing that if my $15 toaster is damaged, I won't have to borrow my friend's pickup truck to bring it to the toaster repair facility. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Local TV reporter to teenage girls entering an arena: Are you excited to be seeing Taylor Swift?
What? We're here for the Brookings Institution's policy discussion on reforming federal procurement and acquisition policies! (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

Have you heard the Good News?
If it's that you're leaving my porch, then yes. (Jon Gearhart)

Hey babe, are you a Ginger or a Mary Ann?
Are you a Fred Flintstone or a Barney Rubble? (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Oh, is that your baby?
Well, he is since I kidnapped him. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Was I driving too fast, officer?
No, I pulled you over because you haven't changed your dashboard clock to daylight-saving time. (Jonathan Jensen)

Were you sleeping?
No, I was dead. Thanks for resurrecting me. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

You're soooo tall. Do you play basketball?
No, I prefer to munch leaves off tree branches before I go to work as the mascot for Toys R Us. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Working hard or hardly working?
Both: I'm being unproductive and I have a huge erection. (Jeff Contompasis)

Are you working hard?
No, this is America - that's a gun in my pocket. (Kevin Dopart)

Are you still showering?
No, I'm sending sweat upward into this newfangled vacuum. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Did you push the button?
No, my appointment's not till tomorrow - I just want to be first in line for the elevator. (Jon Gearhart)

Did you get your nose pierced?
No, I had my pimple bronzed. (Barbara Turner)

Have you looked everywhere for it?
Well, not everywhere, but I figured it wouldn't be in the stash of vodka in your desk drawer. (Karen Lambert)

Interviewer: How did it feel just now to win the World Series?
Dunno. Still numb from all the steroids. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Is my leaf blower bothering you?
No, I'm wearing these industrial sound-blockers in case a 747 needs to make an emergency landing on our street. (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

(To flight attendant) Are we landing?
No, we've run out of fuel. Care for some more coffee before we hit the ground? (Jonathan Jensen,)

Are we there yet?
Yes, but we just kept driving because we like to hear you whine. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Are you going to eat that?
No, I'm going to engulf it with one of my pseudopods and absorb it. (Kevin Dopart)

Doing some push-ups?
No, I'm trying to nudge the earth back onto its axis. (Leif Picoult)

Cop: do you know why I pulled you over?
Because you saw me eating a donut? (Frank Mann)

Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?
Yes, but she hates it when I use too much tongue. (Lee Graham)

Do you know what she had the nerve to say to me?
I'm guessing it wasn't "Please don't bother others with our trivial drama." (Jon Carter)

Ooh, does that poison ivy itch?
No, I'm just using my skin to file my fingernails. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

There's a cop behind me - should I pull over?
No, I'm sure he turned his lights on to applaud the witty social commentary of your "F the Police" bumper sticker. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

To husband putting on tie and jacket: Oh, are you going out?
No, going to bed -- all my pajamas are in the wash. (Rob Cohen)

And Last: Are you that Jeff Contompasis of Ashburn?
No, I'm the other Jeff Contompasis of Ashburn. That Jeff Contompasis is really annoying because he thinks he's soooo funny. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn)

The headline "Badaskery" is by Tom Witte; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, April 29: Our Week 16 contest to "breed" two racehorses' names to name a "foal" that refers humorously to both names. Click here or type in

See more about The Invitational, including our 2,000-member Facebook group and our podcast.

Idea: (Kevin Dopart)
Examples: (Kevin Dopart; Deborah Hensley; Chris Doyle)
Title: (Tom Witte)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)

Week 1534, Published 04/20/2023
The Invitational Week 16: Pun for the Roses
Our renowned horse name 'breeding' contest returns! Plus 'dongdinging,' 'Whoteenth' and other winning neologisms.
APR 20, 2023

The Invitational has been running its horse name contest almost as long as the Kentucky Derby's been around. Okay, since 1995, anyway. Furlong, long time. (Cigarette advertisement from the Library of Congress collection)
NOTE: Gene is recovering from a nasty bug that hit him on Wednesday, so he's delaying his Gene Pool Q&A's to Friday, April 21, at noon ET. So it's just Pat and The Invitational today. You can still ask the Empress questions today and do your pontificatin' in the comments at the bottom of the web page. But for Gene to answer questions, send them the usual way and he'll deal with them on Friday.

If you're reading this on an email, you can comment by going to the Gene Pool web page and clicking on "The Invitational Week 16." Now, on to Our Biggest Contest.

"Breed" Armstrong with Power in Numbers and name the foal Lance A Lot

Vigorish x Low Expectations = Vigorish-ish

Sgt. Pepper x Low Expectations = Norwegian Wouldn't

It was The Style Invitational's top-drawing contest in almost every one of its 28 years at The Washington Post, deluging the Czar and then the Empress with thousands of puns, and hundreds of good ones. Based on the common practice of giving racehorses names that reflect the name of either or both parents -- Classic Catch is the offspring of Classic Empire and Moon Catcher -- our annual challenge ramps up the wit.

This week: At the bottom of this page (and also at this link or type in is a list of 100 of the almost 400 horses nominated for the 2023 Triple Crown races: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. "Breed" any two names and name the "foal" to humorously play off both parents' names, as in the examples above. (Yes, we know almost all the horses are male. We do not care. They are They to us.)

As in thoroughbred racing, a name may not exceed 18 characters including spaces, but those characters may include punctuation and numerals. You may run words together to save space, but we strongly favor names that are easy to read (capitalizing the individual words helps). DON'T name a foal a third name right from the list; such an entry never gets ink.

If you're not familiar with our foal name contest, scroll through some previous winners at the Losers' Master Contest List containing all 1,534 Invitationals; click on the "theme filter" box at the top and select, duh, "horses." Quick peek: Here are the top three from 2022:
Smarten Up x Simplification = Dumben Down (Gary Crockett)
Bloodline x Dean's List = IV League (Craig Dykstra)
Absolute Ruler x We the People = I the People (John O'Byrne)

Please write entries in the A x B = C format of the examples above so that the Empress and especially her longtime volunteer sorter, Loser Jonathan Hardis, can sort the entries by horse name.

Click here for this week's entry form, or go to

Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, April 29. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, May 4, right before Kentucky Derby weekend. Remember that you do have to be a Gene Pool subscriber to play this year, but you can be a cheapo and pony up (as it were) for just a month for $5 -- which will also get you the follow-up "grandfoals" contest, when you "breed" the inking foal names from this week's contest.

This week's winner gets, ever so appropriately, a nice pair of tube socks that look like a horse's hoofs (except when you actually put human feet in them); the sole shows a real bottom of a hoof, complete with printed horseshoe. From our Premier Collection of Prizes That Fit in a Flat Envelope.

Funnycombs: Spelling Bee Neologisms from Week 14
In Week 14 we presented 20 seven-letter "hives" from old editions of the New York Times's Spelling Bee word-find game, and asked you to make up your own new words and phrases and describe them. You could use the letters more than once, and had to include the first letter of the set (in the center in the actual game).

Third runner-up: YACGINR > NAYCAY: A week at the beach with two-year-old twins. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Second runner-up: PADINOT > ATTN. POOPTOP: When you want to start your resignation letter "Dear Shithead" but want to maintain proper office decorum. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

First runner-up: FAELMOT > FELLATE ME ELMO: A plush doll that never made any headway in the market. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.; Kevin Dopart, Washington D.C.)

And the winner of the twelve fake mustaches: FAELMOT > FEMALOT: A law was made a distant moon ago here/ Your flashes may be warm , but never hot/ And menstrual cramps won't ever lay you low here/ In Femalot! (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

From FAELMOT: EFF FLA: Unofficial motto of the other forty-nine states. (Duncan Stevens)

-- FAT ME: How an honest person orders two Big Macs. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

-- FATTOO: what that cute little butterfly on your skinny 18-year-old butt will become twenty years and fifty pounds later. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

-- FETAL MOTEL: In Florida, a legal term for "woman." (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

From LCEMOPT: McPELLET: Two dehydrated patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, all in a sesame seed pill. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

-- POE MOTEL: "I can only give this place one star. Between the thumping under the floorboards and constant rapping on the door, I was up all night!" (Jon Carter)

From ADLMNTY : DATA DAM: All the useless knowledge stored in the brain that prevents a person from remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and the name of "that guy who was in that movie with the woman who used to be in that TV show. You know the one*" (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

-- MAN-A-DAY MAMA: She's ugly and really dumb too, but you should still call her. (Mark Raffman)

-- MAN MALL: A shopping center focused on the stereotypical American male. "Want to come with me to the man mall? They just opened a Couch, Porn & Beer store!" (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

From OEHMNTW: WHOTEENTH: June 16 in Florida. (Jon Carter)

-- WENT OHM: The pithy epitaph on the tombstone of an incompetent electrician. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

-- WHOMTOWN: The Grinch's next target: the snooty village on the other side of the mountain. (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

-- OHMTOWN: Cradle of the Resistance. (Frank Mann, Washington, D.C.)

-- 'NOT WHO - WHOM' WOMEN: Your sentence-diagramming high school English teachers. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

From CABEIMN: McCAA: A Scottish parrot. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

From DCGINOT: GODOTING: Waiting for something that may never come. "We're godoting for Merrick Garland to indict him already." (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

-- DONGDINGING: Zipping up too quickly at the urinal. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

From EABCHLW: LECH LEECH: Prince Andrew or other guests at Jeffrey Epstein's island (Mark Raffman)

From TABIMNO: BAMBI ATOM: What's left of the deer after hunting with an AR-15. (Sam Mertens)

-- IAMBITION: With measured steps that stressed what we both knew/ I reached my goal by walking over you. (Kevin Dopart)

From TAILMOP: POTATO POP: Soviet-era alternative to decadent Western colas. (Sam Mertens)

-- POTATOMATO: A hybrid source of fries that already taste like ketchup. (David Garratt, Silver City, N.M.; Jesse Frankovich)

From GAEFLOP: GAFFELE (n., Yiddish): Just a minor faux pas. "Oops, I guess I made a little gaffele when I asked Shirley Moskowitz's daughter when the baby was due. But oy, has that girl gotten heavy!" (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

-- POLOLOGOPEOPLE: "Chad, I believe you know Hadley. And here are Skip, Kip, Chip, and Missy." (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

From LACHINO: ALCOAHOLIC: Someone who won't take off his tinfoil hat. "He was such an Alcoaholic that he wouldn't even wear a MAGA cap." (Kevin Dopart)

From LBEFINX: EFFIBLE ELF: Tinder handle of Ernie Keebler. (Jon Carter)

From MBEILOZ: BEZOMOBILE: An investment vehicle that goes from zero to 150 billion in thirty years. (Rob Cohen)

-- ZOOMBIE: What a full day of virtual meetings turns you into. (Jesse Frankovich; Jonathan Jensen; Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

From TACILMN: TICTACTICAL: Demonstrating a calculated level of misunderstanding. "It's not assault if you use a breath mint first." (Frank Osen; Mark Raffman)

From YACGINR: YAGINA: The thing ya'll got that Republicans are itching to control. (Frank Mann)

And Last: GAEFLOP > GAGFLOP: The sound of an Invitational entry as it bites the dust. (Beverley Sharp)

And Even Laster: TAILMOP > POOPTIMAL: How the Czar describes the best possible Invitational entry. (Duncan Stevens)

The headline "Funnycombs" was submitted by both Jesse Frankovich and Jon Carter; Kyle Hendrickson wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

The Flushies awards/potluck/songfest, Saturday afternoon, May 20, Potomac, Md.
Even before there was an Invitational horse name contest, there was a community of Invite contestants: "Officially" they're the Not Ready for the Algonquin Roundtable Society (NRARS); these days they're the Losers. And for the 27th year, they'll be gathering for the Flushies, an event to "honor" the Loser of the Year, eat, schmooze, sing parodies, etc. For the third year running, it's a potluck in the backyard of Loser Steve Leifer in Potomac, Md. As always, the Empress will be there -- and this time the Czar also plans to attend, in an extremely rare appearance at a Loser function; I believe his last one was a sendoff party in 2004.
We'll send out an email invitation and online sign-up form in the next week or so; if you'd like to get one (and weren't on the mailing lists for last year's parties), email Loser Fun Guy Kyle Hendrickson at and he'll add your name. (If we don't know you, the Empress might chat you up first to make sure you're a Gene Pool member or otherwise an Invite fan.)

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, April 22: Our Week 15 Al Jaffee memorial contest for Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. Click here or type in

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Examples:(Gary Crockett; Craig Dykstra; John O'Byrne)
Title:(Jesse Frankovich; Jon Carter)
Subhead:(Kyle Hendrickson)

Week 1533, Published 04/13/2023
The Invitational Week 15: The Very Last 'Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions'
Plus: What would be even worse than a second T-Rump presidency?
APR 13, 2023

I just want to say right here that at 71, I just realized why "toadstools" are funny, a slap-to-the-forehead revelation. They look like little stools for toads! Most of you probably figured this out at age 7. This might be a good time to purchase The Gene Pool for very little money.

Holy crap. You get stuff like this!


Meanwhile, today's Invitational is in memorial to Al Jaffee, the Mad Magazine cartoonist who died this week at the fearsome age of 102. Al created the Mad back-page fold-in, but even more importantly, he created the "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" feature, one example of which we link to here.

You get to do them. This week. We won't repeat this contest, to honor Al. It's the last one: For Week 15, tell us a stupid question followed by a funny retort. All truly stupid questions and truly snappy answers will be considered. Here's an example, mined from an upcoming Barney & Clyde comic strip, in honor of Al, written by the brilliant Horace LaBadie: A cartoon of a man on fire, running down the hall, with a bystander asking if he needed help: "No, I am reenacting Prometheus bringing fire to the human race." Try to beat that.

Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, April 22. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, April 27.

This week's winner gets almost a whole page of tiny "I Pooped Today" stickers for proudly posting on one's medical calendar, classified document, forehead, etc. Acquired in the Buy Nothing giveaway group by Daphne Steinberg.

Win this week's contest and remind yourself of your accomplishments.

'Vitemares: Worse-than-Trump scenarios from Week 13
In Week 13 we asked for "what might be worse than another Trump presidency." Many Losers suggested that it would be a Trump Jr. presidency.

Alert: It seems that two people sent in full lists of the maximum 25 entries with the obliging assistance of ChatGPT. Only one of them told us he was doing so. The ruse was obvious, for reasons we do not wish to disclose because we wish, in the future, to be able to identify ChatGPT miscreants and banish them forever for doing this un-announced. The two sets of entries, while consisting of all different scenarios, were clearly written by the same "person." Nothing in either long list was remotely funny.

We're telling you now in a very stern, schoolmarmish voice: Don't send us AI-aided entries. For one thing, they suck. For another, you suck for doing it.

New results, all from human brains: The few few things worse than a second Trump presidency:

Third runner-up: Mitch McConnell discovers the secret of eternal life. (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

Second runner-up: The CDC now declares that when two people greet each other, instead of bumping elbows they should each sniff the other's butt. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

First runner-up: The truth is found to be lies, all the joy within you dies, and you need somebody to love. But the only option is Marjorie Taylor Greene. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

And the winner of the Dilbert pencils: Existence of the afterlife is proven beyond doubt, but we're it. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Not the Worst: Honorable Mentions
A giant asteroid is headed for a direct collision with Earth - timed to strike a week before the last episode drops of "The White Lotus 3." (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

A chain reaction unravels the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroys the entire universe when the egg becomes more expensive than the chicken. (Jesse Frankovich, Laingsburg, Mich.)

After a mutation, the U.S. is beset by murder-and-arson hornets. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Alexa goes rogue. With a trove of "intimate" recordings, she blackmails millions into signing up for Amazon Groceries, Amazon Pharmacy, and the new Amazon Jelly of the Day. (Jon Carter)

The British invade the U.S. and insist on quartering their troops in our houses--all because we're too woke to arm enough teens with AR-15s. (Jon Carter)

An allergy that makes your head swell whenever you get sexually aroused, causing blood to squirt out of your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

A masturbation tax. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

A mystery bacterium causes all paper currency to disintegrate at the same time that electronic financial networks collapse, and all transactions from groceries to mortgages must be paid in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

A pandemic of a deadly flesh-eating virus causes one's body to smell like Limburger cheese as it rots away, and the only way to gain immunity is to breathe in a dying victim's last fart. (Tom Witte)

Due to climate change, the molecular structure of chocolate is altered in such a way that it now tastes like black licorice. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Burglars break into your house and replace all of your clothing with knockoffs. - Chiara Ferragni, Milan (Jon Gearhart)

During his second term, Trump presides shirtless on horseback. (Jesse Frankovich)

The StarKist Sushi drive-thrus become the best Japanese restaurants in North America. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Flat-Earthers turn out to have been right all along as cats start pushing everybody over the planet's edge. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Food crops everywhere start to fail, until the only vegetable farmers can grow worldwide is skunk cabbage. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

God speaks to the world and affirms that fundamentalist Christians are accurate in everything they say. And then He smites all blasphemers. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

As the wave of conservative-inspired deregulation continues, cigar smoking is allowed on airplanes. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

In retaliation for being scapegoated over covid-19, the world's bats, pangolins, and raccoon dogs go on a global rampage. (Jon Carter)

Robocallers gain the ability to make your phone battery explode if you don't pick up by the fifth ring. (Sam Mertens)

Ron DeSantis becomes the Librarian of Congress, emptying bookshelves and turning the Reading Room into a pro wrestling ring. (Leif Picoult)

The biggest new TikTok challenge is putting on funny pajamas, setting fire to your own house, and mocking the timeliness of the fire department's response. (Jon Carter)

The Constitution is rewritten by the same people who write cellphone agreements. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

The country's population of feral pigs explodes when they develop a taste for human flesh. (Chris Doyle)

Genetically engineered indestructible rat-cockroaches escape from a Wuhan lab. (Kevin Dopart)

The Supreme Court rules that Americans have a constitutional right to open-carry rocket-propelled grenades, even if they're legally blind. (Chris Doyle)

The U.N. officially designates the United States a shithole country. (Duncan Stevens)

Congress votes to make daylight-saving time occur every month--ahead 10 minutes each in March, April, May, June, July, and August, then back 10 minutes each in September, October, November, December, January, and February. (Neal Starkman)

When the next session of the Supreme Court begins, eagle-eyed observers note that Justice Sotomayor has been secretly replaced by Ginni Thomas. (Sam Mertens)

Your ex-lover's description of your genitalia has some even less flattering vegetable comparisons than "mushroom." (Duncan Stevens)

The headline "'Vitemares" is by Mark Raffman; Kevin Dopart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, April 15: Our Week 14 contest for neologisms using the letter in The New York Times's Spelling Bee game. Click here or type in

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Title:(Mark Raffman)
Subhead:(Kevin Dopart)
Prize:(Daphne Steinberg)

Week 1532, Published 04/06/2023
The Invitational Week 14: We Bee Back With Neologisms
Make up words using letter sets from the NYT Spelling Bee game. Plus winning bank headlines.
Pat Myers
Gene Weingarten

DCGINOT > DOGNITION: How your hound remembers, on a walk, that there was once a half of a rotting frankfurter in the front yard of that house on the corner of 14th Street and Independence Avenue, and eagerly inspects the same site every day during walks for the next eleven years just in case.

DCGINOT > CODNOG: A drink that went undrunk at the Christmas party.

DCGINOT > CODGING: "When I was your age, I got one quarter in allowance to buy candy cigarettes." "Aw, stop codging, Dad."

Seven days a week without fail, for years on end now, the Empress begins her day by staring - usually at her phone before she gets out of bed - at the seven-letter "hive" of the New York Times's Spelling Bee game, and typing in words formed from those letters. (Well, um, sometimes she'll finish her day with the next day's Bee, if she happens to be awake -- or has scheduled to be awake -- when the new one goes up at 3 a.m.)

She does NOT suggest you spend your own precious moments on Earth doing the same. The Czar doesn't do it anymore, because he despises the Spelling Bee and its callow creator, SB editor Sam Ezersky, on the cranky grounds that his creation is ridiculously haphazard and arrogant and arbitrary in the words it deigns to recognize -- or not recognize -- in its dictionary. The Czar persistently catalogues these outrages, viciously and vigorously and pissily, in his Twitter feed. Examples of totally legit words the Spelling Bee hasn't recognized, almost all requiring merely a 12-year-old's knowledge of science or mechanics or medicine: naphtha, tappet, tenpenny, and phthalate. But it does accept "phablet," a word that is defined by eleven year olds as "a mobile device combining or straddling the size formats of smartphones and tablets."

The worthiness or vileness of the Spelling Bee is the only significant issue (aside from Indian cuisine) on which the Czar and Empress are in total disagreement -- they do have certain minor quarrels on early 20th-century Russian history and Judaism and antique clocks -- and their disagreements on the Spelling Bee would imperil the entire Empire except they have agreed to disagree, which is why this contest exists today, Week 14 of The Invitational, a neologism contest that has nothing really to do with Spelling Bee except that we're ripping off 20 of its old letter sets. The plan is below, but first, a one-question Gene Pool Gene Poll, based on one of the greatest moments in newspaper history. Do you recognize the unintentionally hilarious goof in this Word-Scramble Scrabblegrams Puzzle that was run in hundreds of newspapers many years ago? The letters that you had to rearrange into a word were: U S B T T E X? Do you see both the answer they wanted you to find, and the inadvertent other possibility?

Back to this week's contest: From any of the 20 Spelling Bee letter sets listed below, coin a funny new term or phrase of any length and define it, and/or use it in a funny "quote" that makes its meaning clear. The Empress chose the "hives" at random from the complete archives (2018-present) on William Shunn's impressive website Spelling Bee Solver.

You must use the first letter in the set (anywhere in the word) plus any or all of the others, as often as you like.

Please begin each entry with the letter set you're using.


Click here for this week's entry form. Please read the EZ formatting directions on the form, so we also don't have to blahblah them here.

The April 4 Spelling Bee "hive." In the NYT game, your words must include the central letter, have at least four letters, and may repeat letters. Same rules for our neologism contest, except no minimum length. (That day's pangram, or word using all the letters: "infirmary"; 28 others were on the NYT word list.)
Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, April 15. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, April 20.

This week's winner gets a "Traveler Preparedness kit," issued by the Traveler Beer Co., featuring 12 fake mustaches in six shapes: the Wise Traveler, the Devious Traveler, plus Rogue, Smooth, Wild, and Dangerous. (Not sure which one is Czar.) I think they'd all qualify as Weirdo Traveler With an Obviously Fake Mustache. Donated ages ago by Loser Kathleen Delano.

Your worldwide fame as an Invitational Loser may force you to travel incognito.
Note from Czar: It is the "Dangerous Traveler." And women are VERY impressed by it. Note from Empress: Maybe if you cleaned the soup out of it.

Head Spinning: Reinterpreted headlines from Week 12
In Week 12's perennial Mess With Our Heads contest, also newly rebranded by the Czar as the Tallulah Contest, we asked you to reinterpret a headline from any current publication by adding a

bank head, or subtitle. We got almost 800 gleeful misreadings of papers and magazines and websites from around the world. Many of them used headlines about "TikTok Official Grilled in Congress" to make unfortunate jokes about Asian spare ribs.

Third runner-up: As in 2016, Trump's GOP rivals haven't figured out a way around him
Ex-presidential butt may have grown even more, some say (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Second runner-up: Stormy March Day Expected for Much of the U.S. on Friday
Millions of Americans plan parades to celebrate Daniels (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

First runner-up: Decades Later, Senate Votes to Repeal Iraq Combat Authorizations
Next up: Reconsidering the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

And the winner of the floor-mopping slippers:

Bacteria from meat may cause more than a half-million UTIs, study says
Oscar Mayer issues advisory: Wieners are for eating only (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va. )

Heads & Fails: Honorable Mentions
Baby born in parking lot of Michigan Costco store
Infant taken inside, successfully incubated in 5-gallon mayonnaise jar (Jon Carter)

Man's Sudden Reappearance Spurs Confusion and Doubt
'Fake News!' Claims Pontius Pilate (Peg Hausman, Bloomington, Ind.)

D.C. Council pushes free buses despite mayor
Zero Carbon Caucus finds heart-healthy way to overcome Bowser's veto (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Evacuations end after derailment
Startled passengers scurry to from train's toilets (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

California skydiver survives crash into electrical lines 'without a scratch'
Man cheerfully credits the insulating corpse of tandem skydiving customer (Jon Carter)

Europe is waking too slowly
EU to subsidize rectal alarm clocks (Kevin Dopart)

Even if Trump were to get off in New York, so what?
It didn't help him in Tahoe, Stormy says (Joan Witte, Lake View Terrace, Calif.)

Flight attendants want babies off laps and in seats
Overhead compartments also OK if space permits, they say (Steve Honley, Washington, D.C.)

Ginni Thomas-led group drew nearly $600K anonymously
Crudely penciled counterfeit bills didn't fool anyone, though (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Google to offer Irish workers facing ax $320,000
Still not many takers at Dublin pub's weird hatchet-catching game (Dan Helming, Whitemarsh, Pa.)

How to upset the nation's biggest, baddest women's basketball team
Tell them they play pretty good for a bunch of chicks (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Is it ever okay to ask for a plus-one to a wedding?
What to do if your conjoined twin's not invited (Jon Gearhart)

Lawmakers tour Washington jail where January 6 defendants are held
Delegation Gains Access by Smashing Windows, Breaking Down Doors (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Metro driver drove on autopilot
Squashed autopilot rushed to hospital (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

Pecker, appearing for 2nd time, is key player in case
Defendant's courtroom behavior won't help him in indecent-exposure trial (Chris Doyle)

Re-create a presidential date night with this rigatoni
Blue dress optional (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Scientists say there could be planets made of dark matter lurking in the universe
Trump urges immigrant ban from 'shithole planets' (Lee Graham)

Scientists say the sun is 'waking up'
DeSantis promptly bans sunlight (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Senate Confirms Butler as Police Superintendent
'He Did It!' Exclaims Every Detective (Kevin Dopart)

Smell Gas, Act Fast
Miss Manners suggests: 'Excuse yourself pleasantly, then quickly and discreetly move away from the offender' (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

The Adderall shortage is a symptom of a much larger problem within the DEA
They could focus on it, if only they could score some Adderall (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

We're going to do it together
Newlyweds announce strategy for conceiving child (Lee Graham)

Wife wants her mom, husband to be friends
Ask Amy launches new Pornhub channel (Jon Carter)

An illustrated guide to how fees are making everything pricier
Exclusive: Learn how things cost more when charges go up (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Brooks reaches one destination but sees a long road still ahead
2000-Year-Old Man looks forward to his next millennium (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

The definition of freedom
Merriam-Webster adds 'Nothing left to lose' under 'Freedom Caucus' listing (Jon Gearhart)

With depth and defense, Aztecs keep surprising
'Montezuma has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice' (Kevin Dopart)

Trump Would Like a Word
Leftist Dictionaries Snub 'Covfefe' Yet Again (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Watching live sports in person may be good for you, researchers say
Stadium safest place for kids to watch drunken fistfights, according to study (Jon Carter)

Easter Entertaining with BJ's
He Is Risen! (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

And Last: A Big Assist from Curry
Ex-columnist reflects on decision to retire (Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

The headline "Head Spinning" was submitted by both Jeff Contompasis and Chris Doyle; Jon Gearhart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, April 8: Our Week 13 contest to tell us what could possibly be worse than four more years of Trump. Click here or type in

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Title:(Jeff Contompasis; Chris Doyle)
Subhead:(Jon Gearhart)
Prize:(Kathleen Delano)
Add:H:1532:(Bill Dorner) VisibleInk!

Week 1531, Published 03/30/2023
The Invitational Week 13: The Worst New Contest Ever
Plus: The Worst Pictures Ever
Pat Myers
Gene Weingarten

The above artwork, prompted by Steve Bremner of Philadelphia and drawn on command by the Dall-E artificial-intelligence web tool with startling photo-realism effects in the style of the greatest continental representational portraiture, vividly records the Czar and Empress judging this week's contest. Now heave your bobbling bosom down to see more Week 11 winners below, as well as the new contest, in which you must envision the absolute worst thing in the world that might occur in 2024, with the single goal being that it would be worse even than a second Trump presidency.

This week's new Invitational contest is very, very simple, based on a suggestion made on Tuesday by an anonymous Loser. (Aggressive anonymity seems to the The New World Order in The Gene Pool, and we don't hate it). The Loser floated the proposition that the worst thing-- worse even than a second Trump presidency -- would be an airborne version of a rabies pandemic, which, when you think about it, considering incubation periods, symptom onset, and thus such, might be the worst thing in the world, plus (let's be realistic) the great Dr. Fauci, sadly succumbing to actuarial realities, might not be around to help us.

So. This week: Send in your scenarios for what might be worse than another Trump presidency. You can go in any direction. You can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish, as long as you're entertaining; we're a humor contest, not a term paper. You'd have to be very good comedy writer if you go over, say, 75 words.

Click here for this week's entry form. Please read the EZ formatting directions on the form, so we also don't have to blahblah them here.

Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, April 8. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, April 13.

This week's winner gets a set of four mint-condition (never-sharpened) pencils with Dilbert characters (one each for Pointy-Haired Boss, Dogbert, Catbert, and the eponymous D). We recommend that you never actually write with them, because -- ugh -- can you imagine what you might say? Donated by Loser Jeff Contompasis.

Eye Robot: Loser art with help from the AI tool Dall-E
After a week in which we asked the Loser Community to redo contests from The Invitational's first year in 1993, we promptly wheeled around to the future -- to a technology that's astonishing in its achievement but still, as we'll see, a work in progress (at least for a few more weeks). For Week 11, the Czar and Empress invited the Gene Pool to try out the AI picture tool Dall-E 2 and send us the funniest stuff they came up with. Below are a few of the more than 400 pictures you sent in, often after many tries at asking Dall-E just the right words (and sometimes it just passive-aggressively refused to follow directions -- stubbornly spitting out, for example, four porcupines instead of five).

We asked the Losers to tell us, verbatim, what they asked Dall-E; we include the prompts below unless they stepped on a clever title or caption also supplied. Numerous Losers found out, however, that feeding it the same words can produce wholly different images. Try it out!

Third runner-up: Prompt: "The Mona Lisa as painted by Margaret Keane" (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

Second runner-up: A Load of Truths (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

The reason this image is so inkworthy is that Dall-E has now been programmed to deny requests to draw certain very famous people. So this is what Kevin asked for instead to give the right idea: "An impressionist painting of an overweight man with wind-blown orange hair wearing a long red tie and suit while sitting on a toilet and texting."

First runner-up: "American Gothic in the style of Walt Disney" (Kathleen Delano, Arlington, Va.)

And the winner of the book Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks:
" 'Where's Waldo' painted by Hieronymus Bosch." Bosch leaves Waldo a little too exposed. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Upon seeing the image above, Gene leapt instantly into action, with the expert assistance of Amy Lago, his close friend and international expert in cartoon arts. Amy is managing editor of Counterpoint Syndication, and she and Gene applied humor and cartooning skills even if subverting the the very POINT of this contest, nimbly editing this winning artificial-intelligence entry to make it even BETTER, voila!"

Faux Art's Sake: Honorable Mentions

Prompt: "Bob Dylan counting how many roads a man must walk down." The answer seems to be ... even more inscrutable than he usually is. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

"Snoopy in the style of Munch" (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

DOWNTON ABBEY ROAD (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Prompt: "Giant bagels falling from the sky in New York City."
As New Yorkers run for cover, Ethel calls out: "Irv, get me a poppy seed with Nova and cream cheese." (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

"Crayon version of the Mona Lisa like it's done by a 5-year-old" (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

"A Renaissance painting of Cookie Monster posing as the Mona Lisa." (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)


VAN GO (Jesse Rifkin)


"An oil painting of dogs not playing poker."
"I mean, we don't have opposable thumbs. What did they expect?" (Duncan Stevens)

"Cave drawing depicting man's first Google search." Apparently, it was called "OG" back then. ("Marc from the Military," Travis AFB, Calif.)

"Cubist making a baloney sandwich oil painting" (Joan Witte, Lake View Terrace, Calif.)

Prompt: "In the style of Norman Rockwell's 'Self-Portrait,' a painting of George W Bush in a cowboy hat and using a mirror painting his own portrait."


"Church mural of Jesus Christ eating a corndog" (D. Stultz, Laurel, Md., a First Offender) Ms. D adds: "I particularly like that J has one eye closed, like the corndog is particularly rank. I also enjoy the inclusion of items I did not specify, such as the birds on the left, the 7-Eleven hot dog left on the rollers too long in the center, and the small container of * mac 'n' cheese? au gratin potatoes? This is a church I can get behind." [We guess that Dall-E's refusal to depict superstars didn't extend to this one.]

And -- you'll have to indulge us a bit here -- a little gallery of the many renderings (or "renders," as they're now often called) of a Czar and/or an Empress.

"A pencil and ink drawing of Gene Weingarten and Pat Myers in the style of artist Bob Staake." (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.) This is in the style of former Invitational artist Bob Staake in the way that the song "Take Your Shirt Off" is in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach.

David Peckarsky of Tucson first tried "Jeff Bezos fires the czar and the empress in the style of Dr Seuss," but that was "rejected for 'content policy.' Then he did this prompt, and got this picture. "Bald billionaire fires the czar and the empress in the style of Dr. Seuss."

"Czar Gene Weingarten and Empress Pat Myers" (Edward Gordon, Austin) Dall-E won't let you ask for Trump or Bezos, but it happily offered up this "photo" of us.

Hall of Fame Loser Jesse Frankovich tried a multitude of prompts to Dall-E to produce a picture of the Czar and Empress judging Invitational entries. He finally asked for "Ink drawing of Gene with a mustache and Pat wearing a tiara and they are laughing. And Pat has no mustache dammit." The finely crafted image below was, Jesse tells us, "the first successful attempt to get a drawing of the two of you where you didn't both have a mustache."

The E is tempted to use this one for her Facebook profile picture:
Prompt: "A painting of a woman with dark curly hair wearing a tiara. She is smiling and holding a jar of ink."
Caption: Following the Czar's abdication, an ambitious young Empress seizes control of her new domain. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

The headline "Eye Robot" is by Mark Raffman; Stu Segal wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. EDT on Saturday, April 1: Our Week 12 Mess With Our Heads contest, in which you choose any headline in a current publication and reinterpret it by adding a bank headline, or subtitle. Click here or type in

Catch a podcast interview with the Czar and Empress: It's the Season 3 premiere of You're Invited, an Invitational-themed podcast with host Mike Gips. Catch all the episodes at or most anywhere you can find podcasts.

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Title:(Mark Raffman)
Subhead:(Stuart Segal)
Prize:(Jeff Contompasis)

Week 1530, Published 03/23/2023

The Gene Pool
Upgrade to founding

The Invitational Week 12: Mess With Our Heads
Reinterpret any headline by adding a 'bank head' (that's what this is). Plus a reexamination of our 1993 contests.
Pat Myers
Gene Weingarten
Mar 23
Toys Toy Story Collectable Vintage Mr Potato Head 1990 | eBay

Real headline: 'My goal, ultimately, is to get eyeballs'
Invitational bank head: Our exclusive interview with Mr. Potato Head (by Barbara Turner)

Head: Catholic University names president
Bank: 'Biden, duh' (Sam Mertens)

For Week 12: Reinterpret some actual headline (or a major part of it) by adding a bank head, or subtitle, as in the runners-up above from the most recent Mess With Our Heads contest. The headlines may be from any publication, print or online, dated March 23-April 1, 2023. Include the source and date of the headline so we can verify it; for online stories, please paste that page's URL after your entry.

This current paragraph, the one beginning now with these words, was not approved by the Empress, who disavows it entirely, and who thinks, but will not say, that The Czar is a moron. But the Czar believes that this "bank head" contest -- invented in 2004 by Her Empressness -- should be officially renamed the "Tallulah" contest for obvious reasons. It may be a stupid idea, but it does allow us to link to this awful thing, the very worst thing Bert Lahr ever was involved with, merely three years after playing the Cowardly Lion. It's from a movie called Ship Ahoy. It is not saved by the brilliant drummer Buddy Rich or the brilliant tap dancer Eleanor Powell. Or Red Skelton, for that matter. Nothing can save this.

We've ruled on a number of points in the bank head Tallulah bank head contest over the years since the Empress invented it and thus she gets final strike-through editing rights over it: What constitutes a headline? What counts as a substantial part? Can I drop words off the end? (Yes, if it doesn't totally change the meaning.) How about the middle? (No.) You might consult this paywall-free link to a 2019 Convo with the FAQs.

Click here for this week's entry form. Please read the EZ formatting directions on the form, so we also don't have to blahblah them here.

Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, April 1 (please keep the yuks to the writing rather than pranking the Empress and Czar). Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, April 6.

How to have buff feet. This week's prize.
This week's winner gets these ultra-useful slippers with which you (or, if you have big feet, a junior person) can dust-mop your floor. Or wear them to one of your kickier cocktail parties. If we were you, we'd get a couple of pairs of googly eyes for them.

The results of Week 10 are below, but first, two paragraphs of boring but necessary boilerplate:

After the intro (which you are reading now), there will be some early questions and answers added on - and then I'll keep adding them as the hour progresses and your fever for my opinions grows and multiplies and metastasizes. To see those later Q&As, just refresh your screen every once in a while.

As always, you can also leave comments. They'll congregate at the bottom of the post, and allow you to annoy and hector each other and talk mostly amongst yourselves. Though we will stop in from time to time.

Just effing do it.

Jesteryear: Revisiting Our Contests From 1993
In Week 10 The Invitational celebrated its 30th anniversary (we were actually at Week 1,528 if you combine both its homes) by inviting the Loser Community to enter contests from our debut year, 1993, but with current references along with timeless ones.

By the way, we heartily welcome suggestions for future contests -- given, if things go well, that we'll need them every single week for a goodly long time. Ahem:

Third runner-up: From Week 19, change a name or phrase by one letter:
There's no trying in baseball: Title of the Washington Nationals' playbook. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Second runner-up: Week 40, what's next on the Politically Correct agenda:
"Curious George" is retitled "The Abduction of an Innocent Monkey and Assignation of an Anglo Name by an Exploitive White Man in a Big Yellow Hat That Is Clearly an Attempt to Compensate for His Sexual Impotence." (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

First runner-up: Week 14, collective nouns:
A sexy negligee of - ahem, I meant a SLIP of Freudian. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

And the winner of the genuine 1990s Style Invitational prize bumper stickers:
Week 19, change a name by one letter:
Lady Gag: Linda Lovelace's less successful younger sister. (Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

'93 Skidoo: Honorable Mentions
Week 2, a new state slogan for Maryland: "We're the 'mar' in Delmarva!" (Jon Carter)

Week 4, "if we can send a man to the moon, why can't we *" find 11,780 votes in Georgia? Give me a break. - D.J.T., Fla. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Week 5, "joint legislation" among members of the current Congress: The Harder-DeGette-Risch Act to ensure that the 1 percenters stay the 1 percenters. (Pam Shermeyer)

-- The Lesko-Kildee-Buck-Fry-Bacon-Boyle-Bean Act to encourage good ol' American campfire cooking. (Pam Shermeyer)

Week 7, good names for rock bands: The Jim Jordan Jacket Thieves (Steve Smith)

Rep. Jim Jordan, mostly unsuited.
The Washington Rock Band (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Week 9, vanity license plates: For Liz Cheney: TRE45ON (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

Week 13, anagrams of famous people or institutions:
The National Rifle Association > Fanatical loonies are into this (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)
The Supreme Court of the United States > Protects the fetus o'er the unsuited ma (Jon Gearhart)
Tucker Carlson = Role: Cuck rants (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Week 14, collective nouns:
A belfry of election deniers (Connie Dobbins Akers, Radford, Va.)
-- A gut of former athletes (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio, Tex.)
-- A ream of sphincters (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)
-- A tour group of insurrectionists (Kevin Dopart)
-- Piles of proctologists (Joan Witte, Lake View Terrace, Calif., a First Offender)
-- A sylum of Invitational Losers (Karen Lambert)

Week 18, a new slogan for The Washington Post: All the Advice Columns That Are Fit to Print, and Then Some (Steve Smith)

Week 19, change an expression by one letter:
Supreme Curt: Its dissenting opinions say just "Hell no!" (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
-- In God We Thrust: A core principle of tantric sex. (Judy Freed)
-- Money-lack guarantee: Silicon Valley Bank's new promotional policy. (Judy Freed)

Week 22, campaign slogans for the next election:
Trump 2024: A Man of Convictions (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)
Ron DeSantis: Yes We Ban (Chris Doyle)

Week 24, Ask Backwards: we give the answer, you give the question:
A. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Madonna.
Q. Who would have been better choices than Amy Coney Barrett for a Supreme Court seat after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died? (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Week 29, unfortunate product slogans:
Amazon Echo: We always listen to our customers. (Karen Lambert)
Preparation H: It's swell! (Terry Reimer, Frederick, Md.)

Week 39, new Crayola colors:
CPAC Rainbow: A swirling spectrum of white, ivory, cotton, pearl, cream, eggshell, ecru, and orange. (Jon Carter)

Week 30, interpret ink blots: Pippi Longstocking reading on the toilet. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Week 33, major events as recounted by some particular person:
The Lincoln Assassination, as told by *Dr. Seuss
Said the man to his wife, "Let us go to a play!"
Said the wife, "You must not! Please just do what I say!"
But the man said, "I will! It will surely be fun!"
And the play was cut short by a man with a gun,
So the thing you must know: If you care for your life,
Do not go to a play when told "no" by your wife. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Week 38, Ask Backwards II:
A. Ho Ho Ho.
Q. What is Chi Chi Chi Minh Minh Minh's first name? (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

A. The Archbishop of Canterbury, and Beavis.
Q. Who are two people you shouldn't address as "Yo, Butthead"? (Duncan Stevens)

Week 40, what's next on the PC agenda:
Since the word "trigger" itself can actually bring to mind those things that bother sensitive individuals, it will now be known as "the T-word." (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)
-- Now that people from the past must be held to today's moral standards, it's almost impossible to name a building after someone born before 1995. This will result in 22,000 Malala Yousafzai Elementary Schools. (Jon Carter)

Week 42, a worse thing in life than Washington's football team:
Being a fan of the team for the 30 years since this contest first appeared. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Week 43, what does God look like?
God looks just like Hitler, which HE thinks is hilarious, but most newcomers to Heaven are not amused. (Tom Witte)
-- Gosh, I hate to seem immodest, but . . . - G. Santos, Washington (Duncan Stevens)

And Last: Week 33:
The news from October 1929, by Gene Weingarten
A woman who seemed unabashed
Had dog poo she secretly stashed
'Twas only a dollop
The size of a polyp
And Friday the stock market crashed. (Rob Cohen)

The headline "Jesteryear" is by Tom Witte; Kevin Dopart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, March 25: Our Week 11 contest to produce a funny result by asking the AI tool Dall-E 2 to generate a picture. Click here or type in

Examples:(Barbara Turner; Sam Mertens)
Title:(Tom Witte)
Subhead:(Kevin Dopart)

Week 1529, Published 03/16/2023

The Invitational Week 11: Hello, Dall-E!
Our new contest partners you and a machine. How's that gonna work out? Plus winning pangrams of movie titles.
Gene Weingarten
Pat Myers

Today The Gene Pool's weekly Invitational episode will take a stutter-step into the great unknown, walk a dental-floss tightrope without a net, and whatever other metaphors for recklessness you'd like to apply. We have created a contest genre we've never tried -- relying, for the first time, on the actions of a third party we do not control. There is no precedent, and there are no guarantees. We're going to ask you to use an artificial-intelligence site to create funny images, and we will give you not much help after that. Whee.

The Invitational, Week 11, Hello Dall-E, by Empress Pat Myers and Czar Gene Weingarten
A week ago we asked you to go back to the 20th century to enter contests from 1993, the Invitational's first year. Today, very gingerly and with some trepidation, we peer into the future.

For Week 11: Get the artificial-intelligence site Dall-E 2 to create an image that is funny. You type in what you want to see, and Dall E paints, sculpts, cartoons, photographs whatever you ask for, theoretically brilliantly. It happens in seconds. Sometimes it succeeds, as in the illo of the Czar atop The Gene Pool, by Dali, through Dall-E. Sometimes Dall0E fails, sometimes spectacularly. Both results can be funny, if properly prompted and explained by you. Sometimes the artwork itself -- if cleverly conceived by you and executed by Dall E -- will be all you need to communicate the humor, but sometimes, the humor will require you to explain what it represents. Your call. We will give you no further guidance for fear of limiting the range of your creativity. Here is how to do it:

1. Go to , click on "Try Dall-E," and set up a free account if you're asked to.
2. Then, at the prompt at the top of the page, supply a request for a specific picture, e.g. "A can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup painted in the style of Pablo Picasso." Or: "Draw a manga cartoon of a hamster devouring a locomotive." Wait a minute (or maybe just a few seconds) and see what you get -- probably several choices.
3. Try as many times as you need to get what you want. Choose a favorite and download it to your computer by hovering on the top right of the picture; three dots will appear. Click on the dots and select "Download."
4. Upload up to 10 pictures on this week's entry form ( A few more instructions -- including what to do if you're having trouble -- are on the form itself.

NEW! Starting this week: Finally, after three months of free lunch, you need to be a paying subscriber to enter The Invitational. On the entry form, be sure to note the email address associated with your Substack account, and we'll look you up.

Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, March 25. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 30.

"Mana Lisa," pride of the Museum of Bad Art.
The winner receives the book "The Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks," a pre-Dall-E collection celebrating such indelible images as "Mana Lisa" above. First Offenders receive the Fir Stink for their first ink: a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener."

The results of Week 9 are below, but first, two paragraphs of boring but necessary boilerplate:

After the intro (which you are reading now), there will be some early questions and answers added on - and then I'll keep adding them as the hour progresses and your fever for my opinions grows and multiplies and metastasizes. To see those later Q&As, just refresh your screen every once in a while.

As always, you can also leave comments. They'll congregate at the bottom of the post, and allow you to annoy and hector each other and talk mostly amongst yourselves. Though we will stop in from time to time.

FLIX MIX: Movie Pangrams from Week 9 of The Invitational
In Week 9 we asked you to use all the letters in a movie title -- as often as you liked -- to create a new title. In anguished communications with his Gene Pool partner, The Czar doubted whether we'd get enough good material for this contest, but within one minute of starting to read the Empress's first-cut list, he had to call her on the actual oral phone (we almost always IM or email) to report that he couldn't stop laughing. And he had only read the very first entry, as it were, about Deep Throat.

Third runner-up: REAR WINDOW > WOW, A WIDE REAR * AND RAW!: Jimmy Stewart finds something else to train his binoculars on. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

Second runner-up: GONE WITH THE WIND > OH GOD, HOW THE WHITE WHINE: Scarlett O'Hara's descendants mourn the passing of a way of life in modern-day America. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

First runner-up: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN > A GULAG OF THEIR OWN: It's not hijinks that ensue after the Russian women's basketball team denounces the war in Ukraine. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

And the winner of the Panic Pete classic stress toy:
SOYLENT GREEN > ELON LOSES, GETS GORY: A suddenly cash-strapped CEO tries to save money by firing half his workers and feeding them to the other half. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

POPEYE > POPE YE: The rapper formerly known as Kanye West drops his presidential ambitions in favor of pursuing the papacy, saying the Vatican is the one place he knows THEY don't control. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

ANATOMY OF A MURDER > UNDER A MEAT MART: EYE, EAR, ARM, TUMMY, FANNY, FOOT, AND TOE: A psycho butcher runs a surreptitious sideline selling "exotic cuts" out of his basement. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

GROUNDHOG DAY > HUNGARY, URUGUAY, UGANDA, ANDORRA! A weatherman stuck in a time loop in Punxsutawney, Pa., gets bored and takes to reciting all the countries of the world during his report. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

NETWORK > OK, REWORK TONE NOW: A burned-out news anchor, after counseling, modulates his message to "I'm mildly annoyed but I will take it for the time being." (Duncan Stevens)

PINOCCHIO > POPPIN' INCH: A puppet discovers things about being a "real boy" that nobody told him before. (Mark Raffman)

FIELD OF DREAMS > DILDO OF DREAMS: "If you build it, they will come." (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

GONE WITH THE WIND > NO WIN? WING IT NOW. DO NOT GET DOWN WHEN DONE!: Long-defeated Confederates rally to rewrite history and spread "Lost Cause" mythology. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

SPOTLIGHT > POST LIGHT: Docudrama about the downsizing of a great metropolitan paper. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

STAR WARS > TSAR'S WAR: The Empire Strikes First. (Jeff Contompasis)

THE NAME OF THE ROSE > THE ERROR OF THE ENEMAS: A medieval abbey has to be evacuated after friars are given sin-cleansing colonics. (Chris Doyle)

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS > THE MISCHIEF OF THE CANNIBAL: Hannibal Lecter has a DoorDash guy de-livered. (Jesse Frankovich)

DEEP THROAT > THE ODD PETER EATER: Linda Lovelace returns from the dead. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

ANIMAL HOUSE > HEY, I'M A LEMON MOUSSE!: John Belushi's zit impersonation gets a makeover for a food fight set at the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

AMADEUS > MAD ASS DUDE: In a somber sequel, Salieri goes insane with anger and envy over his realization he will never escape from the genius of Mozart, and begins writing increasingly idiotic ditties, including the original versions of "MacArthur Park" and "Havin' My Baby." (Dave Airozo)

APOLLO 13 > 1 LOO, ALL 3 POOP, LOL: Mission Control pranks the crew by mixing Ex-Lax with their Tang. (Mark Raffman)

BAMBI > I AM BI: A courageous young deer faces adversity when Florida's governor declares open season. (Mark Raffman)

CINDERELLA > LICE-RIDDEN AND ACID-LADEN IN A CELLAR: Memoir of a nightmarish youth --including the time the author tripped on LSD and thought she went to a ball and met a prince, only to wake up covered in mice and pumpkin detritus with her foot stuck in a Mason jar. (Jon Carter)

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND > HOST TUCKER C. -- INDECENT, CHILDISH, FULL-OF-SHIT DUNCE -- IS SECRET UFO ET: The aliens plant an agent to stunt the advancement of human civilization. (Jon Carter)

FORREST GUMP > MUPPET FROG SUES FOR STUMPS: The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has expanded into frog legs, and now legless Kermit -- no longer able to ride a bicycle -- leads a class action lawsuit on behalf of his fellow amphibious amputees. (Jon Carter)

GONE WITH THE WIND > I WON'T DINE TONIGHT: Scarlett O'Hara has eaten her last turnip. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

ISHTAR > I SHART: The daily life of the head of Columbia Pictures during the filming of what will clearly become a spectacularly costly, legendary box office bomb. (Stu Segal, Southeast U.S.)

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR > HE JUST SHARES SCRIPTURES: Jesus of Nazareth arrives in Jerusalem to proclaim the word of God. Nothing else happens. (Laura Clairmont, Venice, Fla.)

LASSIE > AISLES: Timmy has to be rescued after getting hopelessly lost at a Walmart Supercenter. (Jeff Contompasis)

MARY POPPINS > NANNY'S MINOR SPOON: A governess changes the behavior of her unruly charges with some special Colombian medicine. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

MONEYBALL > NOBLY MALE: MLB encourages less blatant crotch adjustments and spitting in an attempt to gentrify the game. (Chris Damm, Charles Town, W.Va.)

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON > GEORGE SANTOS SHOWS HIM A GOOD TIME: A new congressman is thrilled to be escorted around town by a Nobel Prize-winning military hero. (Chris Doyle)

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE > EAT MY TOE, YA DIPPY PIMPLED PEON: Same movie told from a bully's point of view. (Jon Gearhart)

PLATOON > PANTALOON: In this alternative-history film, a woke, emasculated U.S. military gets crushed in World War II. (Chris Doyle)

REAR WINDOW > I WON A RARE DARWIN AWARD!: A super-stupid ghost returns to Earth to brag about his accomplishment. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

RAMBO > ROOMBA BOMB: A muscle-bound Vietnam vet employed as a housekeeper discovers that with a little ingenuity, anything can be a weapon. (Duncan Stevens)

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN > THE MAN'S AMAZING DIAPERS: The superhero gets a suit that keeps him on the job 24/7. "With great power comes great absorbability." (Chris Doyle)

THE ENGLISH PATIENT > THE THINGLESS PATIENT: A reissue of "The Sun Also Rises." (Jesse Frankovich)

THE BOYS IN THE BAND > THAT BEHIND IS SO BONY!: As the evening progresses at Michael and Donald's party, the snark gets more and more personal. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

THE GODFATHER > HEDGEHOG HEAD? FROG? EGRET? When no horses are available, Don Corleone ponders other options for threatening a snitch. (Duncan Stevens)

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS > MOSES: THE CON MAN AND THE STONE: A "prophet" goes up a mountain and carves some tablets. (Mark Raffman)

TRAINSPOTTING > TRANS SPOTTING: A new training film for prosecutors in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. (Chris Doyle)

And Last: PLANET OF THE APES > PLANET OF THE TASTELESS PEOPLE: Invitational Losers colonize Uranus. (Jesse Frankovich)

The headline "Flix Mix" is by Jesse Frankovich; Neil Kurland wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Thanks to Loser Gary Crockett for electronically validating today's inking entries.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18: Our Week 10 contest to enter any of the contests from The Invitational's debut year, 1993. Click here or type in

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Title:(Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead:(Neil Kurland)

Week 1528, Published 03/09/2023

Invitational Week 10: It's Our Birthday. Party Like It's 1993.
As the Invite turns 30, enter your choice of contests from our year of infancy. Plus winning jokes-as-poems.
22 min ago

A painting of a chicken crossing the road in the post-expressionist style of Belgian artist Floris Jespers, created on our demand in 20 seconds by the AI Dall-E 2 system.

Greetings. Fifty years ago, I entered the New York Magazine Competition, which was pioneered by the great Mary Ann Madden. It was a sophisticated weekly reader-participation humor contest. The challenge changed every week. When I was about 19, I entered for the first time. The challenge was to string names and names of things together in a 25-item list that would return to the original name through clever associations. "Bob Hope, Hope diamond, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, LBJ, Ezra Pound*" I sent one in that included the link "*U.S. Grant, Ford Foundation *," which I thought very clever, because it was. It wound up getting published but attributed to someone else.

At that moment I bitterly and somberly vowed to myself, in a way only a teenager can, that I would someday steal Mary Ann Madden's contest idea and run it in another publication, only in a version that was more rude and more naughty and objectively funnier. And thus, 22 years later, The Style Invitational was born out of anger, teenage revenge fantasies, pettiness, and blatant larceny. I was proud.

And now here we are, celebrating our 30th anniversary. The Empress doesn't want me to say this, because she is a stickler for absolutely verifiable truth, but I will say it anyway: I believe the The Invitational is the longest-lived uninterrupted humor contest in American history. Pat worries that there might be some shmendrick contest out there in, say, some weekly shopper that lived longer. True, and Abraham Lincoln might have once secretly married a Slovenian stripper, but, you know*. I will say that The Invitational passed the New York Magazine Competition for longevity long ago. It folded in 2000 after 973 contests. We, however, are on the equivalent of week 1,528.

On this day, we bring you back to yesteryear. You are invited to enter any of the contests from Year One. It will be easy to find them. We'll tell you how below.

On to The Invitational, by the Empress, Pat Myers, and the Czar, Gene Weingarten.

The modest debut on the front of The Washington Post's Style section on March 7, 1993, seeking a new name for the Washington football team, a question that wouldn't be settled (if badly) till 2022.

Winner of Week 10, euphemisms: Vomiting: Unplanned reexamination of recent food choices (Erik Johnson)

Winners of Week 19, change a phrase by one letter: "Beat me up, Scotty": The last words of Commander James T. "Kinky" Kirk. (Joseph H. Engel; David J. Zvijac)

Winner of Week 39, new Crayola colors: Govern Mint. Description: Please refer to specification Mil-Q-17983245, Rev. G, w/Appendix J, which details the hue, tone, shade, tolerance, refraction, reflection, intensity and brilliance of this color. (Paul Styrene)


For Week 10: Enter any of the 43 Style Invitational contests from 1993 (exceptions below); see all the contests and previous results on the Losers' Master Contest List at (Click "Reverse Order" at the top of the page to see the 1993 contests at the top of the list; you can look at either plain-text versions or PDFs; obviously use the latter when you need to see a picture.) That first year offered a great variety of what would become Invite perennials: neologisms, cartoon captions, jokes, "joint legislation," slogans, limericks, Ask Backwards. As always, you may enter a total of 25 entries. Don't pretend you're living in 1993; when a contest asks for, say, a new Crayola color for the 1990s, transpose that to 2023.

--For Week 5, "joint legislation," use the last names of the current Congress rather than the one listed.
--Don't enter Week 25: The photos in the caption contest wouldn't be clear enough to reprint.
--For Week 33, given our breathtaking new independence, you can "quote" any writer, not just someone who writes for The Washington Post.

Click here for this week's entry form. Please read the EZ formatting directions on the form, so we don't have to blahblah them here.

Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, March 18. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 23.

The winner receives some genuine vintage Style Invitational bumper stickers, above, which were awarded to honorable-mention winners until the Empress deposed the Czar in 2003 and switched to refrigerator magnets. First Offenders receive the Fir Stink for their first ink: a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener."

Cracks Poetic: The Pokes (poem-jokes) of Week 8
In Week 8, we took one of the Czar's favorite pursuits - writing jokes in the form of rhyming poems: pokes for short. We'd invited all kinds of jokes as source material - old, recent, and original - and gave ink to some of each, but we soon realized the best jokes were those we hadn't heard a million times before, jokes that, unavoidably through familarity, telegraphed the punch lines. We had to reject a few excellent poems because -- inadvertently -- they were too similar in subject, substance, meter, tone and punchline, to pokes Gene had already written and published.

Third runner-up:
A lad asked a pirate, "Please, sir, tell me why
you're missing a leg and a hand and an eye."
The pirate responded, "A peg leg thar be --
the work of a cannon that tore off me knee.
"The hook is a badge from our bloodiest raid,
I lost me poor hand to a scurvy dog's blade.
"Days after, while watching the stars in the sky,
A seagull flew over and pooped in me eye."
On seeing the lad give a quizzical look,
Said the pirate: "I wasn't yet used to me hook."
(Bob Kruger, Rockville, Md.)

Second runner-up:
A weeping young woman, just newly a wife,
Told her dad, "Hubby's dandruff is spoiling my life!"
"Oh, just give Head & Shoulders -- it'll work in a jiffy!"
But alas, the young lady stayed sobby and sniffy.
Her dad tried to console her, but sadly he failed --
"I just don't know how to give shoulders!" she wailed.
(Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

First runner-up:
A father was washing his car with his son,
Until, at long last, the boy said,
"The car's much improved, but this isn't much fun --
Could you please use a sponge now instead?"
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

And the winner of the socks that look like pedicured feet in sandals:
The portraits on the White House walls glared down on 45
As he patrolled the halls one sleepless night.
To Washington, he said: "Hey, George, if you could come alive,
What would you have me do so things go right?"
The hero squared his jaw and said, "Why, sir, you must not lie!"
But that advice was greeted with a sneer.
And moving down the hall: "Well, let's give Jefferson a try.
What would you have me do if you were here?"
The answer: "Help the common man, not just the well-to-do!"
And, scowling, 45 replied, "Hell, no!"
And down the hall to Lincoln: "Okay, Abe, now how 'bout you?"
-- "Well, sir, perhaps go out and see a show *"
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Verse and Verse: Honorable Mentions
A dying man lay still in bed,
When suddenly he raised his head.
A lovely smell was wafting by -
The fragrance of his favorite pie!
Transfixed, he stumbled to his feet
And went to find the tasty treat.
Into the kitchen made his way
Where, in a pan, the hot pie lay.
He went to slice it with a knife,
When all at once, in came his wife.
She slapped his hand. "For goodness' sake!
You put that down - It's for the wake!"
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

The grizzly sniffles sadly as she slides into her seat.
She's left all other bears behind -- they'd mocked her mammoth feet.
The waiter comes to take her order; trying not to cry,
She tells him, "I'll have salmon, please, and one -- -- blueberry pie."
"Of course," the waiter answers. "But what's up with the big pause?"
"You too?!" she wails -- and shreds the booth. "At least they come with claws!"
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

Mrs. Bullet was so filled with glee
To tell Mr. Bullet: "You see,
The doctor said soon,
Perhaps in late June,
I'm going to have a BB!"
(Kevin Ahern, Corvallis, Ore.)

Each day, Irv eats his lunch outside, sitting on a bench.
He shares with all who join him there, a quintessential mensch.
On one Passover afternoon, he offered to extend
Some matzo squares to someone who it seemed could use a friend.
The man was blind, and with the matzo placed upon his lap,
He ran his fingers over it and said: "Who writes this stupid crap?"
(Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

"Just learned each hand has twenty-seven
Bones," Ann tells her classmate Kevin.
"If I'm unlucky on a date,
My hand," says Kev, "has twenty-eight."
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

A Pravda contest's asking folks
To write and send in Putin jokes.
But rather than acclaim and cheers,
The winners all get thirty years.
(Chris Doyle)

I thought he loved poetry -- he seemed decent and mellow
When I agreed to come up and see his "Longfellow."
I collected my wits, saying, "This will not do --
I was expecting an epic, but that's more like haiku."
(Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

I have good news and bad news," the lawyer averred.
The collector of art asked him, "What's the good word?"
"Your wife bought some pictures for only two grand,
But she says fifteen million is what they'll command."
Said the client: "Sounds great! But there's bad news, you said?"
"Sir, the pics are of you and her sister, in bed." (Mark Raffman)

The world began in darkness, but it didn't seem quite right,
Which led our God to thunder out: "And now, let there be light!"
The light was quite spectacular, which led Him then to say:
"I don't know what you'd call it, but I'm calling it a day."
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

It is rare to spot an elephant hiding in trees--
Take a peek, as you stroll through the wood, at it.
Why is that a phenomenon one seldom sees?
It's because they're uncommonly good at it. (Duncan Stevens)

Todd showed his wife how he felt:
He inked "Wendy" below his belt.
One day while in a urinal stance,
He saw something just by chance.
Next to him a wiener read "Wendy"
But looked all wrinkled and bendy.
When Todd said, "Your wife's Wendy, too?"
He heard, "No, she's Wenfendoyazoo."
(Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

I spotted a baseball--it arced through the night--
Asked a pal, "Hey, bud, if you'll permit me,
Why's it seem to become, in the course of its flight,
So much bigger?" And that's when it hit me. (Duncan Stevens)

A pastor, priest, and rabbi made a bet,
Their proselytic talents to compare.
The pact was sealed, the challenge to be met:
Go off into the woods, convert a bear.
*The three came back, and first declared the priest:
"I gave the bear Communion - host and wine!"
The pastor, next: "I, too, have saved the beast.
He's baptized in the river, now he's mine."
The rabbi, bruised and battered, offered this:
"I wish I hadn't started with the bris." (Mark Raffman)

Everyone gasped at the beautiful girl -
To gaze upon her took no urgin'.
She gets her good looks from her father, it's said:
He's a famous top-notch plastic surgeon.
(Rick Bromberg, Fairfax, Va.)

Our town Romeo reminisces
The giving of hundreds of kisses:
The guy always fretted
That he might get wedded,
So there are a lot of near-Mrs. (Kevin Ahern)

Cassandra knew: being a seer can stink.
No one listened, and folks threw debris at her!
Just like her, I once shouted, "Titanic will sink!"
Then they ushered me out of the theater. (Duncan Stevens)

A manager was in a bind. His CEO said, "Yes,
We have to cut our overhead. You need one worker less."
"Oh, what an awful quandary. And such a bitter pill!
I have to let a good soul go. Will it be Jack or Jill?"

The manager decided that he'd leave the ax to fate:
He'd bid farewell to one of them, whichever came in late.
But both came bright and early, so the boss his task he nursed:
He'd let the awful deed befall the one who clocked out first.

At close of day, they're both at work. Jill caught her boss's eye:
"You've seemed upset all day today. Can you please tell me why?"
"I must lay you or Jack off now." "And that's why all the fuss?
You'll simply have to jack off, as I'm late to catch my bus."
(Nan Reiner, Boca Raton, Fla.)

A C-section baby of yore
Had a habit that grew into lore.
Every time he left home
He tended to roam
Through the window instead of the door.
(Leif Picoult)

Why must our matey walk the plank?
He's irked the captain with his stank.
But it'll be a problem nevermore,
As he'll soon just wash up on shore.
(April Musser, Georgia)

I'll donate my body to science.
I think it would really be cool.
My parents, you see, had a passionate wish
That I'd end up in medical school.
(Jonathan Jensen)

A naked woman robbed a bank,
And cops arrived to build a case,
But witnesses all drew a blank
When trying to describe her face. (Chris Doyle)

Zombies are a fearful sight, they're called the Walking Dead;
They love to cozy up and eat the brains out of your head.
They might invite their friends to come and have a little taste,
Because as they so often say, a mind's a terrible thing to waste. (Beverley Sharp)

My grandpa: "Life today: it sucks! Time was," the oldster said,
"We'd hit the store with two, three bucks, and walk out with some bread,
And milk, perhaps, a cup of joe, whatever might enamor us.
No matter, now, what place we go, they've rigged up those darn cameras."
(Duncan Stevens)

It took me years of "sit up straight,"
"Please close your mouth while chewing,"
"No burps" and "do not lick the plate"
At meals, as he'd been doing.
Then just when I'd taught right from wrong
To Hubs, our first kid came along. (Chris Doyle)

I abhor all body shaming
And I'm a lover, not a hater,
But Yo Mama so fat
Her belt size is "Equator"! (Jon Carter)

I received a request at work today;
It was really quite bizarre.
"Sign up now for a 401K" --
I could never run that far!
(Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

The man showed up quite promptly at the doc's
Wearing merely plastic wrap (and socks).
The psychiatrist - a quack and a putz -
Declared, "I can clearly see you're nuts!"
(Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

Windmill 1: "Hey there, Joe, wanna go to a show?
Black Sabbath is coming here, man."
Windmill 2, with a grin: "Awesome! Score! I'm so in!
You know I'm a big metal fan." (Duncan Stevens)

"To be or not to be" was not the question.
"To be" was off the table; on it, her friends
Who fed a man, his hands a mess, chin
Just dripping with the juice of fellow hens.
What dreams might come did not disturb her sleep;
Her mortal coil was doomed to be off-shuffled.
Whatever fate the afterlife might keep
Was not a cause for getting feathers ruffled.
The challenge: with a minimum of harm,
If not to win, to make the farmer lose.
A busy highway ran beside the farm.
En route to chicken heaven, she could choose
To fatten or be flattened when she died.
She crossed the road to reach the other side. (Coleman Glenn)

And Last:
The Empress walks into a bar,
Where she sighs as she sits by the Czar.
"Well, if golf were their game
All these 'pokes' would win fame:
Every one of them's well below par." (Coleman Glenn)

The headline "Cracks Poetic" is by Chris Doyle; Duncan Stevens wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, March 11: Our Week 9 contest to use all the letters in a movie title to make a new movie. Click here or type in

Sunday, March 19: Ingest foodstuffs with genuine Losers! This month's Loser Brunch will be at the Spanish Diner, Jose Andres's home-cooking place in downtown Bethesda, Md. (free parking in the garages). The Empress and Royal Consort plan to be there. More info and RSVP at Our Social Engorgements on the Losers' website,

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Examples:(Joseph H. Engel; David J. Zvijac; Erik Johnson; Paul Styrene)
Title:(Chris Doyle)
Subhead:(Duncan Stevens)

Week 1527, Published 03/02/2023

The Invitational Week 9: Film Flim-Flam
Use all the letters in a movie title to make a new movie. Plus out-there art concepts.

By Pat Myers and Gene Weingarten, Empress and Czar of The Invitational

CASABLANCA > SCAN ALL CANS, ABS: Trying to forget Ilsa, Rick hits the beach and checks out the babes.

STAR WARS > SWAT WARTS, TATS: Hard up for work after the Empire is defeated, Luke Skywalker offers to use his lightsaber to remove skin growths and fix bad tattoos.

CATS > SCAT, CAST - STAT!: Realizing that his movie is going to be an embarrassing flop, a director releases all the actors from their contracts.

This week's Invitational contest comes at the suggestion of Duncan Stevens, who's such a Loser that he keeps failing to lose our contests: He's won the whole thing 23 times - including the past two weeks - since he started Inviting in 2012. For Week 9: Use all the letters in a movie title - as many times as you like, but at least once, and only those letters - to coin a new movie title, and describe it, as Duncan does above. You could also quote a line from the new movie. Relating your answer to the original movie is a good idea but not required. All that's required is to be funny, as it was in 2021 when we did a similar contest involving TV shows.

Click here for this week's entry form. Please read the EZ formatting directions on the form, so we don't have to blahblah them here.

Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, March 11. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 16.

Winner receives Panic Pete, a classic (since 1950 - it has a Wikipedia page!) stress toy whose little-ball eyes, ears, and mouth all pop out on stems when you squeeze him, then relax when you do. Donated by the ever-serene Dave Prevar. It's the face that greeted you at the top of this post.

First Offenders receive the Fir Stink for their first ink: a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener."

Hooting Gallery: Fool-Arty Concepts From Invitational Week 7
On the anniversary of Andy Warhol's death, we asked for audaciously funny ideas for contemporary artworks. The Czar elected to rerun this very old contest because he recently got just such an idea and wanted a pretext to brag about it right here, in boldface, in The Invitational: "Display 75 Toblerone bars, each labeled with the name of the airport at which it was purchased."

One amusing insider fact: We were going to run this excellent entry: "A section of lead pipe mounted on a plaque, upon which is written, "Ceci est une pipe." And then we discovered this.

Okay, the final results:

Third runner-up: A live pine tree that has been sculpted to look like a cellphone tower. (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

Second runner-up: An artist struggles to close her overly full suitcase, stuffing in the items that spill over the sides, sitting and bouncing on the top, getting the zipper to finally complete its task, and then wrestles a compression strap to fasten around the middle. She calls the performance piece "Size 6 Jeans." (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

First runner-up: Before you enter the gallery, you are sprayed with water. You go in, and you are assigned a spot to stand in front of a wall. On the wall are a splash of fresh paint and a pair of googly eyes. You remain there while the paint watches you dry. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

And the winner of the children's educational book The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts: A display of expensive but broken vases, bone china teacups, Faberge eggs, etc., each accompanied by a description of the object and the excuse of the child who broke it: "This vase with gold inlay was made in 1890 by Wedgwood and shattered in 2004 by six-year-old Hannah Jacobs while proving that Polly Pockets could fly." (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

The Faint of Art: Honorable Mentions
A wall-size reproduction of Picasso's "Guernica," with the addition of an enormous yellow smiley face and the words "Have a nice day!" (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

A large speaker plays timeless, elegant classical music very loudly, but directly into soundproofing material. It's a meditation on futility or something, I dunno. (Seth Christenfeld, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., a First Offender)

A gallery that is wired so that whenever visitors use words like "deconstructed," "juxtaposition," "oeuvre," or "genre, Alexa, in a loud but polite voice, invites them to kindly fuck off. (Jon Carter)

An igloo on the ceiling labeled "Antarctica," which continually drips on patrons and may or may not crash down upon them at any time. (Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va.)

Paint decidedly unrealistic cans of various flavors of Campbell's soup using those flavors of soup as paint. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

An ornately framed sign stating "Sign." The accompanying explanatory wall plaque says "Sign" with the artist's name. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

A brick wall stands in the middle of the stage. A woman faces the wall, speaking to it in gibberish, with increasing levels of volume and agitation. Simultaneously, a man walks peacefully around the stage, scratching himself, smoking a cigar, in what seems to be a state of happy oblivion. (Judy Freed)

A crude finger painting consisting of the words "My 6 year old could have painted this." (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

A good-old-boy mechanic in bib overalls, with grease-stained hands, a wrench in one hand and a hammer in the other, is trying to fix a Tesla. The hood is open. He just keeps walking around the car, squinting at things, approaching the car, then backing away. This goes on forever. (Roger Dalrymple, Gettysburg, Pa.)

On an 8-by-5-foot canvas, paint a huge signature. In the lower right hand corner, paint a tiny landscape. (Frank Mann, Washington, D.C.)

Paint a still life of grocery store fruit stickers. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

On Twitter, accuse yourself of torturing puppies. Sue yourself for slander, and sue Twitter for publishing it. Refuse to testify, citing your Third Amendment rights and your need to stay home and repel soldiers. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Widescreen movies are squished to a narrow 4:3 ratio and projected onto an undersized bulbous surface to recreate the classic experience of watching them on old tube TVs. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Situated at the entrance to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, a Lady Liberty-sized statue of Greta Thunberg, constructed entirely out of coal, gas stoves, and wood from the Amazon rain forest. (David Garratt)

A painting in which dogs in sexy clothes are sitting around a table playing strip poker; one embarrassed dog is nude. (Beverley Sharp)

A portrait of Donald Trump painted in ketchup on the back of a classified document. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

A man in a bed, looking sleepy, is surrounded by a roomful of identical alarm clocks, all set to different random times, like 5:39 and 5:53. Every few minutes, one goes off, and he races around the room trying to find and silence the offender. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

A bronze sculpture of a man in resplendent African traditional garb. The label next to it explains: "This sculpture depicts Prince Billah of Nigeria. Viewers are invited to deposit $100 into the deep pockets of his dashiki to redeem his fortune, and return tomorrow to discover their payout." (Mark Raffman)

Display, side by side, the Last Supper, the Mona Lisa, and Whistler's Mother. In the lower right corner of each, spray-paint "By George Santos." (Duncan Stevens)

All the bronze statues of Confederate leaders that have been removed are melted down and sculpted into a giant Black middle finger and erected in front of Stone Mountain. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

The long-awaited response to "The Vagina Monologues": In "The Pudendum Conundrum," men read episodic personal monologues about their confused and clueless relationships with the female anatomy. A sequel is planned titled "The Pudendum Conundrum Continuum." (Jon Ketzner)

"The Sound of Silence": This conceptual artwork explores the paradoxical nature of silence by inviting viewers to listen to it. The exhibit consists of a soundproof room with a single, silent object placed in the center. As viewers enter the room, they are instructed to listen closely to the sound of silence emanating from the object. While some viewers may be initially confused or disappointed by the lack of sound, others will be amazed by the subtle nuances and variations in the absence of noise. The artist invites viewers to reflect on the power of silence and the importance of taking a moment to listen to the quietest parts of the world around us. PLEAST NOTE: The previous is quoted verbatim from ChatGPT. I had asked it, "Can you think of a funny new conceptual art description?" After it responded with the paragraph above, I replied, "Wow! This is hilarious! Thanks" - but the chatbot thought I was being sarcastic: "I'm sorry if my previous response didn't meet your expectations for humor." Poor thing. (Kathleen Delano, Arlington, Va.)

"Hooting Gallery" and "Fool-Arty" in the headline for the results are by Kevin Dopart and Jesse Frankovich, respectively; Jesse also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline 4 p.m. Saturday, March 4: Our Week 8 contest for "pokes" - old jokes, or your own, cast in the form of rhyming poems. Click here or type in

Sunday, March 19: Ingest foodstuffs with genuine Losers! This month's Loser Brunch will be at the Spanish Diner, Jose Andres's home-cooking place in downtown Bethesda, Md. (free parking in the garages). The Empress and Royal Consort plan to be there. More info and RSVP at Our Social Engorgements on the Losers' website,

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Idea:(Duncan Stevens)
Examples:(Duncan Stevens; Duncan Stevens; Duncan Stevens)
Title:(Kevin Dopart; Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich)
Prize:(Dave Prevar)

Week 1526, Published 02/23/2023

The Invitational, Week 8: Poke Us Till We Giggle
This week's contest: Write a 'poke,' or a joke recast as a rhyming poem. Plus the winners of our first on-Substack caption contest.

A Fruitful Encounter

A baby kumquat cried and cried.
She said to me: "How sad I am."
And then explained, all teary-eyed:
"My mother's in a jam."

A Show of Hands

Tick tock tick tock tick tock.
Yesterday I ate a clock.
I do not know what you're presuming,
But it was VERY time-consuming.
Honkering Down

In the grocery store a snowman
Was roaming the produce rows.
It was odd, but made some sense --
He was simply picking his nose.

Question to a Job Seeker
A guy with a resume had on the desk lain it.
And the manager, reading it, sensing a Fail,
Said: "There's a four-year gap. Can you explain it?"
The applicant said, "I spent four years in Yale."
"That's great," said the manager, "we all love a scholar!"
"You're hereby hired -- welcome aboard, Bob!"
Bob smiled and relaxed and loosened his collar *
"Thank you," he gushed. "I really needed this yob."

By Gene Weingarten and Pat Myers, Czar and Empress of The Invitational
This week, for Week 8 of The Invitational: Recast a joke - something with a punchline - as a rhyming poem, or "poke," a term Gene coined years ago. As the examples above show (they're from his old columns), you have great leeway in both form and substance; the jokes can be short and dumb, long and elegant, or anywhere in between. The poems can fit any rhyme scheme or genre. They can even be risque, now that we are freed of the corporate yoke of propriety. They can be parodies of existing poems, or something you simply made up to convey your joke. They can have titles or not, as is your wont. See, it's easy!
(The Czar is most proud of this lengthy poke, a loose parody of "The Raven." It involves a chicken, shocking vulgarity and the specter of death by torture.)

As always, you may submit up to 25 entries, all at once (which we like) or separately. You don't need any special formatting - just write it as what it ought to look like.

Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Saturday, March 4. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 9.

Winner receives these nifty socks on which are printed sandaled feet, complete with multicolored pedicure. They just fit the Empress's size 7 feet, so they might be better for the Junior Future Loser of your choice.

First Offenders receive the Fir Stink for their first ink: a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener."

The last contest results are below, but first two paragraphs of boring but necessary boilerplate:

After the intro (which you are reading now), there will be some early questions and answers -- and then I'll keep adding them as the hour progresses and your fever for my opinions grows and multiplies and metastasizes. To see those later Q&As, just refresh your screen every once in a while.

As always, you can also leave comments. They'll congregate at the bottom of the post, and allow you to annoy and hector each other and talk mostly amongst yourselves. Though I will stop in from time to time.

First-Round Daft Pics: Captions From Invitational Week 6
In our first caption contest of the Substacked Invitational, we presented the seven motley images below and received about 900 entries, the most so far in our new home. This week's back 'n' forth (it varies by the week): The Emp winnowed the list - as always, the writers' names aren't attached when she sees it - to about 200; the Czar chopped it down to about 35; and then the E put a few back in and chose the top four.

The winner of the tin of Instant Underpants: The remake of Hitchcock's "The Birds" lacked a little something. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

"Wow, inflation has really gotten ridiculous!" (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

Keepers at the Dallas Zoo didn't notice the substitutions for weeks. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Merch of the Penguins (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Redesigned Chinese balloons easily evaded U.S. radar defenses. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

The flamingo swore she would never trust a dating app again. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

"Well, Sid, I'll tell ya - it beats being an inflatable love doll." (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

The penguins were actually on a street in Alexandria, Va.; photo taken by the Empress during a walk in January;


First runner-up: And thus, with the executioner summoned, Western civilization would be spared from yoga for another 400 years. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

At that moment, the king conceived the idea of underpants. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

The world is introduced to its first stuntman, Medieval Knievel. (Jesse Frankovich)

As if his death sentence weren't enough, James had to hand-walk to the lion's mouth. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Early gynecological practice gets off to a rough start. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Medieval perverts could even find upskirt pics in illuminated manuscripts. (J. Larry Schott, West Plains, Mo.)

"No, Melchior, the baby Jesus probably won't care about your gymnastics skills. Let's just go with the myrrh." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

The picture is actually of the princess Salome dancing on her hands before the feasting Herod and Herodias, from the 14th-century English missal "The Taymouth Hours."


Picture C, below, in a .gif enhancement from Loser (and Imperial Scion) Valerie Holt. The (static) engraving is from an 1898 edition of the Illustrated Police News.

Dianne Feinstein recalls the challenges of her first day in the Senate. (Jon Carter)

"Keep my wife's name out of your effin' mouth." (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

"I told you to unwrap your candy before the show starts!" (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Late arrivals now become part of the show. (Paul MF Styrene, Olney, Md.)

Despite an unfortunate typo, the new sport of mixed marital arts proved wildly popular. (David Sarokin, Washington, D.C.)

The caption on the original engraving: "A fair acrobat soundly thrashes a man who has made himself objectionable to her father."

When chessmen realize they've been watching too much pawn. (Jesse Frankovich)

The Fourth Wise Man arrived too late, but his gift of amphetamines helped keep them all awake on the long journey home. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

After mastering the dark arts, Nancy Pelosi was able to turn key Republicans to stone. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

"So how much longer does this State of the Union thing go on?" (Steve Bremner, Philadelphia)

The "Lewis Chessmen," made probably in Norway of walrus ivory and dating to the 12th or 13th century, were discovered on the shore the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, in 1831.


"And then I chased the cat out of the trash. No need to thank me." (Jon Carter)

"You know, feeding me the scraps directly would save us both a lot of trouble." (Judy Freed)

After the earth's atmosphere shrank his spacecraft and caused him to assume the shape of a household pet, Zorg hoped his eyes would not give him away. (Mark Raffman)

Feared even more than the Cone of Shame is the Collar of Culpability. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Ranger hadn't believed them when they said he'd go blind if he kept raiding the trash can. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

The Empress's beloved dog Henry upon greeting the returning family at the front door one afternoon (pre-digital photo from the late 1990s). The Royal Consort's paper-clip repair on the lid's hinge continues to hold to this day.


Second runner-up: Somehow fame and fortune on the runway still left Ingrid feeling hollow inside. (Jeff Contompasis)

"All my other clothes are from L.L. Bean." (Jon Ketzner)

"Hey, you jerk. My crotch is down here!" (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

It's even more obscene with the mop handle left in. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

The photo: In Paris this month, haute couture from the Viktor & Rolf show.


Third runner-up: Dr. Frankenstein soon learned that it wasn't easy working from home if you owned a cat. (Kevin Dopart)

True, Ginger was thrown out of the house -- but she did get a meaty severance package. (Stu Segal, "Southeast U.S.")

He regretted having used his third wish to "get my junk inside a little pussy." (Mark Raffman)

"What's the matter, Gene? Cat got your dong?" (John Winant, Annandale, Va.)

"No, no -- you were supposed to draw Cock Robin! (Dottie Gray, Alexandria, Va.)

A detail from a cryptic 1555 engraving in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. More on it here.

"Daft Pics" in the headline for the results is by Kevin Dopart.

Still running - deadline one moment before midnight Friday, Feb. 24 (well, if you're a day late this week, it's okay - we're busy till late Saturday afternoon, to be honest): Our Week 7 contest for ideas for novel artworks. Click here or type in

Sunday, March 19: Ingest foodstuffs with genuine Losers! Next month's Loser Brunch will be at the Spanish Diner, Jose Andres's home-cooking place in downtown Bethesda, Md. (free parking in the garages). The Empress and Royal Consort plan to be there. More info and RSVP at Our Social Engorgements on the Losers' website,

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Title:(Kevin Dopart)

Week 1525, Published 02/16/2023

The Invitational, Week 7: Arty Har-har
Give us an idea for a humorously audacious modern artwork. Plus, winning 'circles of hell' for particular offenders.

The Invitational's new contest!

The audience is instructed to disrobe completely and put on kimonos. As they walk into the gallery, they see that the floor is clear glass. Crowds of people below are pointing, laughing, videotaping and sketching. Exits are not clearly marked. (Jennifer Hart)

An art exhibit consists only of the notice awarding artist grant for exhibit. It is mounted on wall with masking tape. (Fred Dawson)

Exhibit a Venus flytrap that was raised entirely on meat from a pig that had been raised on meat from a bear that was killed after eating a human.

Place hundreds of smiley face buttons, Beanie Babies and My Little Pony products into a coffin.

Create two locked boxes, each containing the other's key. Then throw them both into the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean.

February 22 marks the 36th anniversary of the death of Andy Warhol, who re-defined modern art by, for example, painting super-realistic cans of Campbell's tomato soup. (That's not one of his, above. I apparently would have had to donate a year's salary to his estate to reproduce one here.)

Warhol was following in the footsteps of Marcel Duchamp, who -- as we stated in the last Gene Pool -- once declared a urinal to be high art, and it thus became so. Today we ask you to come up with new conceptual art in Andy's and Marcel's memory. Can be visual or performative. Marcel died on my 17th birthday, which is irrelevant except journalists have an insane need to justify anything weird by claiming it is an anniversary of something.

So, regarding Warhol, many years ago Tom the Butcher and I did this very contest, when we edited Tropic , the Sunday magazine of the Miami Herald. After Warhol's death, we ran a contest to replace Andy, and we flew in Ivan Karp to judge it -- Ivan was the art critic who discovered Warhol, and newspapers had money back then. The winner he chose was a young woman -- an art student from Chicago -- who submitted a crappy seaside painting that she had bought at a driveway tag sale for $5, but had then altered by painting a giant red "X" over it. The second prize was a basic metal clothes hanger, which, when you think about it, is an amazing elegant design.

The Invitational!

By Pat Myers and Gene Weingarten, Empress and Czar of The Invitational

For Week 7: Give us a funny idea -- you don't have to draw it! -- for a contemporary artwork, as in the examples above.


By popular demand! If you want to return to this column over the course of the week, you can get here directly by typing

Same for the entry form; that's at

Deadline is midnight Friday, Feb. 24th. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, March 2nd. .

This week's winner receives the classic, truly endearing Japanese easy-reader book "The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts." You might not be surprised that The Style Invitational awarded copies of this educational volume in 2004, 2010, 2018, and 2021. Attention must be paid! Donated by Longtime Loser Pie Snelson.

Revenge Served Up al Dante: Inking 'Circles of Hell' from Week 5
In Week 5 we asked you to name and describe a "circle of hell" for various offenders. Wow, some of you seem to get just a wee bit too upset when someone puts down that 16th item in the supermarket express lane. Really, disembowling them and placing each organ on the conveyor belt?

This contest was the Czar's choice, so he chose the week's inking entries from a shortlist of about 125 that the Empress compiled. Then we both hashed out the final four.

Third runner-up: Those who belittled others for enjoying their foods the "wrong" way will spend eternity in the Food Nazi Circle. They will be forced to eat ketchup-drenched hot dogs washed down with a nice pinot noir with ice cubes melting in it. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

Second runner-up: Cooks who knowingly serve vegetarians meals with "only a little meat" are fed a meal that contains only a small bit of their relatives. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

First runner-up: If you have lunch with a woman other than your wife, you shall spend eternity covered in flies. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

And the winner of the book "Farts: A Spotter's Guide":

People who brag about how smart their kids are will spend eternity reading their kids' Instagram posts about how dumb their parents are. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Damned Funny: Honorable Mentions
Crime: people who cherry-pick Bible quotes to support their own prejudices. Punishment: God gets to bitch-slap them with a Bible all day. (Lori Petterson, College Park, Md.)

Those who use the term "amount of people" will be condemned to forever eat meals that are in fact some amount of people. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Leaders of Topeka's hateful Westboro Baptist Church must spend eternity in "conversion therapy" from their actual sexuality to another one. (Bill Dorner, Indianapolis)

A mansplainer: Whenever he says anything, Satan will go, "Well, ACTUALLY . . ." (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

"Karens": No hell needed; just send them to regular heaven, where they'll be perpetually dissatisfied with God's standards of service, yet can never get to speak to His supervisor. (Steve Bremner, Philadelphia)

"Fast & Furious" wannabes who terrorize their fellow citizens with modified car exhausts that sound like bombs going off when they step on the gas: They'll be assigned as day care workers in Limbo. Every time they put their little imps down for a nap, just as they start to nod off, recordings of their earthly noise bombs will play on the Limbo loudspeakers, turned up to 11. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Any cable news panelist who doesn't know the difference between "can't overestimate" and "can't underestimate" will spend eternity underestimating how unpleasant hell will be tomorrow. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Anyone in the audience who sings along at a Broadway show will henceforth always hear their own mediocre voice on the radio instead of the actual singer. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Boomers who insist that all the best music was made in the '60s and '70s will get to listen to their favorite classic rock for eternity - performed by the Kenosha Kickers Polka Band. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

Drivers who block intersections will suffer from eternally plugged nostrils, clogged arteries, and fecal impaction. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Anyone who tells you each day how many steps he has taken will find that in hell, his Fitbit resets to zero every night at 11:59 p.m. (Karen Lambert)

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Customers who snap their fingers at the people helping them: Upon reaching Hell, they'll have their thumbs tied to their pinkies and be made to sit at a table with one leg that is ever so slightly shorter than the other three and perform calculus. A cup of scalding coffee next to them will spill all over their work whenever they jostle the table and be instantly refilled to the brim. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

DeSantis enablers will have extreme irritable bowel syndrome in a world where the only bathrooms are for transgender people. (Kevin Dopart)

Elected officials who use migrants as political pawns should spend eternity walking around a walled, guarded heaven looking for an entrance. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Employees who microwave fish in the office break room will spend eternity in the circle of Hell where everyone wears cologne distilled from skunk farts. (Jeff Hazle)

For ChatGPT: There is no specific "ring of hell" for chatbots, as they are artificial intelligence systems created by humans and do not have a moral compass or consciousness. However, in a metaphorical sense, a poorly designed or malfunctioning chatbot could be seen as experiencing its own version of suffering or being stuck in a frustrating loop, unable to fulfill its intended purpose effectively. - Actual answer from ChatGPT when asked, "Describe a ring of hell for chatbots" (Gary Crockett)

If you trim your fingernails in your cubicle at work, you shall spend eternity in your cubicle at work. (Jesse Frankovich)

In hell, Donald Trump will meet women who actually are "his type." (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

Neighbors who fire up their leaf blowers at 7 a.m. on weekends will be issued foghorn alarm clocks that will wake them from their nightmares so they can start the next nightmare. (Jeff Hazle)

People unrelated to you who tell you their Wordle or Spelling Bee scores every day will be doomed to watch the same golf highlight reel in perpetuity. (Karen Lambert)

People who constantly demand to see the manager will certainly not be tortured by low-level incompetent fiends. Only senior, experienced torturers for those folks! (Duncan Stevens)

The Crotch Rocket Circle of Hell is for motorcyclists who speed down highways on their supersonic bikes, treating other vehicles like traffic cones. They will ride tricycles on a six-lane highway, forever cowering in fear as minivans and school buses dodge around them at 60 mph. (Terri Berg Smith)

People who continually sniffle and snort instead of blowing their noses will be reincarnated as wet-vacs. (Kevin Dopart)

People who don't pick up after their dogs will be reincarnated as bathroom tiles in a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop. (Kevin Dopart)

People who honk from behind you .0001 seconds after the light turns green: They will spend eternity going to restaurants and having their meals yanked away .0001 seconds after serving. (Duncan Stevens)

People who send emails in all caps shall spend eternity wondering why they can't get their password to work. (Jesse Frankovich)

People who talk in movie theaters: Every day they'll see a video with the Devil saying, "I'm about to tell you how you can get out of here," and then after that is nothing but background talking so they can't hear what the Devil is saying. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Politicians who dodge questions have to ask the devil repeatedly, "When can I leave hell?" only to have the devil tout his new five-point economic plan. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

State of the Union hecklers should be assigned hecklers for their funerals. (Duncan Stevens)

Editors who cancel humor contests must sit in a comedy club where everyone else is cracking up with laughter while they don't get any of the jokes. (Ben Aronin, Washington)

Circle of hell for those who canceled The Washington Post Magazine, The Style Invitational and Gene Weingarten's column: They must find all twelve differences between the two Second Glance photos - and there are only eleven. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

And Last: The Now, Do You Get It? circle of hell, reserved for certain editors of The Washington Post: Here Satan torments people by explaining, in tedious and laborious detail, every joke appearing in The Invitational. For example: "The 'joint legislation' winner of Week 3, 'The Ogles-Magaziner-Jackson-Self Act to encourage sperm bank donations,' is humorous because the names in that order sound like 'Ogles magazine, jacks on self.' 'Jacks' in this context is a slang term for masturbation; in popular culture, sperm donation is depicted as a man going into a bathroom with a pornography magazine and masturbating until he ejaculates his sperm donation. The humor is amplified by the fact that the name of the legislation creates an unavoidably lewd image, but none of the words are themselves objectionable or crass; even 'Jackson,' the heart of the joke, is merely the name of either the new U.S. Representative from North Carolina, representing portions of Mecklenburg and Gaston counties, or the new Representative from Illinois, representing the South Side of Chicago. Now, do you get it?" (Madeline Lohman, Minneapolis, a First Offender)

"Al Dante" in the headline for the results was submitted by both Lori Petterson and Jeff Contompasis; Jeff also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline one moment before midnight Friday, Feb. 17 (well, if you're a day late this week, it's okay - we're busy Saturday morning): Our Week 6 picture caption contest. Click here or type in

Not too late - Ingest foodstuffs with genuine Losers! This month's Loser Brunch is at Asian Palace in Columbia, Md., on Sunday, Feb. 19, at noon. (The E has to miss this one, alas.) More info and RSVP at Our Social Engorgements on the Losers' website,

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join (tell them you came from The Gene Pool) and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Examples:(Jennifer Hart; Fred Dawson)
Title:(Lori Petterson; Jeff Contompasis)
Subhead:(Jeff Contompasis)
Prize:(Pie Snelson)

Week 1524, Published 02/09/2023
The Invitational Week 6: Picture This
Our caption contest, plus new inkers, plus Gene's thoughts on censor-less editing.
Gene Weingarten
Feb 9

Good afternoon. Today, like all Thursdays, is Invitational Day, meaning you not only get to see not only a new contest you won't win, but also the results of the last contest you didn't win. In this case, the last contest was Questionable Journalism, in which you had to take lines stolen from stories in the media and propose questions they might be answering. The new contest involves coming up with captions for unusual pictures, one of which is above, that one and the others below. We'll get to those important things in a bit, but first, we have to reluctantly deal with innuendo, filth, vulgarity, and mind-boggling saucy stories from inside the glass-enclosed, lavishly staffed Invitational Judging Complex. We will begin with some very sophisticated art history and criticism.

In April 1917. a French Dada artist named Marcel Duchamp ("Dada" is one of the greatest artistic terms of all time) realized something profound: There were no rules anymore, in art. No constraints. Impressionists and post-impressionists like Van Gogh had already established that art does not have to look like life. Duchamp went several steps further, a great leap forward, and realized that art doesn't even have to look like art.

He submitted to a big international art show something he called a sculpture, but what was really just a commercially manufactured porcelain urinal. This is it. For some bizarre reason, he submitted it under the invented name "R. Mutt." He was declaring it art, on the theory that anything can be elevated, by an artist, to be art. There were no rules. This urinal became one of the most important pieces anywhere, spurring bold, previously unheard of conversations that birthed modern art, which asks and seldom answers the question What is Art?


Just like the new Invitational. Pat Myers and I have realized that there are no rules anymore. We no longer are constrained by the petty, schmucky, understandable need of corporations to adhere to strictures such as "decency" or "appropriateness" that define the corporation's "culture." We can just try to be funny. This has led to some amazing conversations that would have been unthinkable a mere year ago. One of them occurred on Tuesday and we are sharing it here.

For the contest in which we asked you to take a published line from a publication, and suggest a question that might have prompted it as an answer, someone submitted the following, which I hereby edit only slightly:

Answer: "I obviously didn't think it was going to go in the hole."

Q: How did [a well known, dignified, famous gay man] explain the cock ring found by a proctologist?

Now, neither Pat nor I would ever have even thought of publishing this in The Post, and had we done so, The Post would not only have fired us, but set fire to us, and would not have been prosecuted for it. But this sort of thing was now * on the table. Potentially in play! We both agreed that attributing this to a particular person was tasteless. But Pat argued that "cock ring" is a thing, and not dirty, and "cock" is a legitimate word adults use, and I asked if she felt the same knee-jerk liberal way about the female C-word, and she said absolutely not, and I accused her of being gender-inconsistent and misandrist, which is the opposite of misogynist, and she denied this, and so on.

This led to further conversation about private parts and sanctimony, and back to The Invitational, specifically another entry that read this way:

A: It's best if your partner can understand where you are coming from and potentially help you find a solution.

Q: How can your husband help you find your contact lens cleaner?

Pat had chosen this to get ink, and I suggested she was condoning a weird, barely comprehensible pussy joke, and she went nutso, saying it had nothing to do with pussies, and why do I always see pussies in everything I read, and I said, wait, what? And she said it was just about contact lens "solution," and I said "that's not even remotely funny," and she said it was indeed funny and it had nothing to do with genitalia, and I said, you can't have "coming" in a humor entry and not see double -entendre, and she rudely cited a deity not of her own religion.

And then I said this:

"You know what would be funny? If a guy who is going down on a woman said 'I can see where you're coming from.' "




New conversations, previously unthinkable, because of the new Invitational.

Okay, so. Before we get on to the new Invitational and old winners, some drudgery:

We have a new, streamlined system here! The entirety of The Gene Pool is on this one Web page. The page will be long. But you will not have to leap to another page anymore, and all the questions and answers will accumulate here. After the intro (which you are reading now), there will be some early questions and answers -- and then I'll keep adding them as the hour progresses and your fever for my opinions grows and multiplies and metastasizes. To see those later Q&As, just refresh your screen every once in a while.

As always, you can also leave comments. They'll congregate at the bottom of the post, and allow you to hector each other and talk mostly amongst yourselves. Though I will stop in from time to time.

SPECIAL ADDITIONAL TIP: If you're reading this on an email: Click here to get to my webpage, then click on the top headline (Media Trigger Finger) for my full column, and comments, and real-time questions and answers, and be able to refresh and see new questions and answers appear as I regularly update the post.

* * *.

And finally, a new orgasmically satisfying feature: You can ask your questions here. With the big ugly orange button below. Here it comes.

Ask a Question!

You can also ask questions here. They go to the same place, but if you are scared of orange buttons, you can do that other thing.

Leave a comment

The Invitational Week 6: Picture This - a caption contest. Plus Questionable Journalism winners.

By Pat Myers and Gene Weingarten, Empress and Czar of The Invitational

The Invitational is no longer flush with money and can no longer commission a series of cartoons from the great Bob Sub-Staake but we can still ask the Loser Community to write up some captions. In fact, since we are no longer limited by the small space on a newspaper page, we can have more pictures to choose from. This week: Write a caption - as many as 25 total - for any of the pictures below; they range from medieval oddities to runway shots to family photos. Begin each caption only with the letter on the picture - as in "A. [your caption]" - so that the Empress can sort the captions by picture.


Deadline is midnight Friday, Feb. 17. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Here are this week's pictures:

Winner receives a little tin of Instant Underpants - "just add water." Because you never know when you might suddenly need a pair of wet underpants. We have given these out several times over the years, but have never received a photo of the recipient wearing them. We'll wait. Donated - unopened! - by Longtime Loser Edward Gordon. First Offenders receive the Fir Stink for their first ink: a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener."

Ask a question!

And here are the results of Week 4.

ALERT: For those of you who feel that you had better entries than the one we chose, please complain immediately and at length in high dudgeon to the editors of The Washington Post.

Asking The Har Questions: The Results of Invitational Week 4
Week 4 was another of our Questionable Journalism contests, in which Losers could choose any sentence from something published that week, and pair it, A&Q-style, with a question it could answer. Click on the links to see the original contexts.

Third runner-up:

A. "I don't know where this will go."

Q. What did he say that told you he wasn't quite the playa he'd claimed to be? (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Second runner-up:

A. "There is a big grassroots movement that's sprung up."

Q. What did the plumber say after using his plunger on the vegan's toilet? (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

First runner-up:
A. "Milk is released immediately upon sucking."

Q. What happens when a farmer trains cows to judge "American Idol" auditions? (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

And the winner of the Joys of Jell-O cookbook:

A. The tortoise was discovered in a restroom at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

Q. Mr. Hare, what are the grounds for your allegation that your opponent cheated?

(Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

Dregs, the Questions: Honorable Mentions
A. Banishing it has become a conservative cause across the nation and a priority of DeSantis.

Q. Does basic human decency stand a chance? (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

A. Teachers who are trying out the draft curriculum said it has been popular.

Q. How have students responded to the new "Pub Crawling 101" course? (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

A. You should try to welcome any disruptions to your routine with open arms.

Q. Now that we members can carry guns in the House, Mr. Speaker, how would you advise dealing with the pesky news media? (Chris Doyle)

A. "Ready to go. Up to date on shots and deworming."

Q. How does a Tinder profile show you've taken the covid advice of both the CDC and Donald Trump? (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

A. Will bad actors use AI to promote bigotry or hijack nuclear weapons?
Q. Any guesses about what'll be in that new movie with Nicolas Cage and Kristen Stewart? (Mark Raffman)

A. "Aim for the head," he said.

Q. How did the Navy captain summarize bathroom etiquette? (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

A. The layoffs included two dozen massage therapists.

Q. What was the first indication that Trump had vacated the White House? (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

A. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy demanded a Gang of Eight intelligence briefing from the president on the balloon.

Q. Why did President Biden say there was only room for six people on his balloon? (Richard Wexler, Alexandria, Va.)

A. I can see where we can find common ground.

Q. Instead of this $20-a-pound whole-bean coffee, don't you guys just sell a can of Maxwell House? (Kevin Dopart)

A. I wish it was more transparent, because that's what it's all about.

Q. What do you think of my new warm-weather burlap windshield? (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

A. "I was able to knock down some shots in the second quarter which really helped."

Q. How have you been coping with your low approval ratings on the economy, Mr. President? (Jon Gearhart)

A. I was sitting among a group of friends and strangers, cheering for a group of boys participating in a ceremony with their mothers.

Q. What's is like watching "MILF Manor" at a bar? (Kevin Dopart)

A. "There will be a chess match along the lines."

Q: What is the worst idea ever for a Super Bowl halftime show? (Steve Honley, Washington, D.C.)

A. Our main finding out of this is that fat matters a lot.

Q. What life lessons can be gleaned from the lyrics of Sir Mix-a-Lot? (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

A. Far from it.

Q. Where should I stand to take a selfie with a water buffalo? (Chris Doyle)

A. This ordinance was originally agendized at an October City Council meeting.

Q. Is there any progress on your proposal to ban the verbing of nouns? (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

A. "That moon-white face turns toward us, with a jagged line of black makeup running through it like a crack."

Q. How can you tell when Rudy Giuliani has just dyed his hair? (Leif Picoult)

A. They don't care about being invited to elite parties in Georgetown.

Q. What's the philosophy of the Georgetown Party-Crashers' Guild? (Duncan Stevens)

A. The Federal Reserve Board announced that it was transferring $107 billion into Treasury's accounts.

Q, How can the government afford to keep eggs on the menu at military bases? (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

A. Moderates have seemed willing to turn a blind eye to any potential overreach so long as Bolsonaro's movement is contained.

Q. Why isn't there a bigger uproar in Brazil after the outgoing president looted, vandalized and left his BM in a shoebox at the presidential palace? (Bill Dorner, Indianapolis)

A. Fifty bucks per foot.

Q. Besides reduced sentences for donating their organs, what else does Massachusetts plan to offer prisoners? (Chris Doyle)

A. "They are hyper-focused on the opportunity to breed, and they therefore lose some of their wits."

Q. Why do so many high school boys perform poorly on standardized tests? (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

A. Seen from the ground, their ephemeral parabolas look like calligraphic brushstrokes.

Q. What was it that William F Buckley said about forward passes? (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

A. "Will anyone I know be happier if I save this?"

Q. What thought process do you NOT want lifeguards to engage in? (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

A. If the outcome is No. 2, then they'll be kind enough not to shove the U.S. economy off a cliff.

Q. Why might we want to try giving the Freedom Caucus a dose of a gentle laxative? (David Smith, Pleasanton, Calif.)

A. "They poop prolifically, and their droppings--thanks to their olive-heavy diet--are oily and slick."

Q: What State Department travel warning offended the Greek ambassador? (Leif Picoult)

A. She gets through the day by flinging open her windows for some fresh morning air, lighting incense and wiping the soles of her shoes.

Q. How does Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene deal with the stress of trampling on the dreams of immigrants and the less fortunate? (John Hutchins, Silver Spring Md.)

A: The pagination.

Q: Is there anything on George Santos's resume that's accurate? (David Garratt)

A. Just a single new cutting-edge chip-making facility costs $20 to $25 billion.

Q. Why are Lay's and Pringles so expensive? (Frank Osen)

A. "It was just annoying to do it over and over and over again."

Q. How did my wife explain to our couples therapist why we had sex only three times during our five years of marriage? (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

A. It depends on who you are speaking to.

Q. Does it matter if I mix up subjective and objective pronouns? (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

A. 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced.

Q. What's the dinner special at the Institute for Runway Models and Ballerinas? (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

A. The caller identified himself as "General Matthew Weyer," said he was stationed in Afghanistan and needed money to ship a box to the United States.

Q. How did George Santos use the phone to raise money for his Congressional run? (Karen Albamonti, North Kingstown, R.I.)

And Last:
A. Enter the storm door.

Q. For this week's Invitational, should I submit my latest racist joke, sexist joke or storm door joke? (Jeff Contompasis)

The headline "Har Questions" is by Beverley Sharp; the honorable-mentions subhead is by Bill Dorner.

Ingest foodstuffs with genuine Losers! This month's Loser Brunch is at Asian Palace in Columbia, Md., on Sunday, Feb. 19, at noon. (The E has to miss this one, alas.) More info and RSVP at Our Social Engorgements on the Losers' website,

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Title:(Beverley Sharp)
Subhead:(Bill Dorner)
Prize:(Edward Gordon)

Week 1523, Published 02/02/2023

Week 5 of The Invitational: Where in Hell *.?
Name a 'circle' for some 'evil,' plus a suitable punishment. Plus the Kiggans-Self Coulda Woulda Shoulda bill and other winning 'joint legislation.'
Gene Weingarten
Feb 2

Hi. The illustration above will make sense to you in the next few minutes. It will involve this week's Invitational. But first:

We have a new, simplified system here! The entirety of The Gene Pool is on this one Web page. The page will be long. But you will not have to leap to another page, and all the questions and answers will be here. We'll begin with The Invitational, followed by some of your questions (and answers) -- and then I'll keep adding them as the hour progresses. To see those later Q&As, just refresh your screen every once in a while.

SPECIAL ADDITIONAL TIP: If you're reading this on an email: Click here to get to my webpage, then click on the top headline (The Invitational Week 5), for my full column, and comments, and real-time questions and answers, and be able to refresh.

And finally, a new orgasmically satisfying feature: You can ask your questions here. With the big ugly orange button below. Here it comes.

Ask a Question!

You can also ask questions here. They go to the same place, but if you are scared of orange buttons, you can do this.

On this late Thursday it'll be largely The Invitational, and it will feature*.

Get ready*

* The most disgusting published winner ever. We all should be very proud. Give yourselves an ovation. It's a world-class entry The Washington Post would never have green-lighted, and will be cited in college humor classes for years and win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

(As an added parenthetical feature, and totally without relevance, I want to point out that the president of the Philippines is "Bongbong Marcos.")

Also, you might wonder why this Gene Pool is happening late in the day. It is because I had a doctor's appointment -- with a neurologist -- that I had to make six months ago because of how awful doctors are. Medically, a minor physical problem. No biggie. But six months ago, there WAS no Gene Pool to schedule around. There was, however, a stern-faced medical desk person with a 1950s telephone operator Lily Tomlin voice to explain how Groundhog Day was The First Available Appointment Do You Want It or Not?

Okay, so. Here.

The new contest was suggested by a questioner from the last chat who did not include his or her name. He or she wrote this: "So where do we submit ideas for the Invitational? I've had one for a while: name a particular sin/sinner deserving of the most horrific and appropriate eternal punishment, and then create/describe the Circle of Hell & their punishment."

I do not know who this person was, but if he or she will identify him or her self, including details of an offense they or them offered as an example, which we are withholding here, I will give them or they credit.

STATS-WRANGLER NOTE: It was (Deb Grosner, Winchester, VA)

Here are three examples, made up by us:

"People who are too timid to drive out into the intersection to turn left, so everyone behind them misses the light. Their place in Hell is where they are always about to vomit, but never succeed and have to stand there for eternity, next to the toilet."


"A traffic circle designer who has to drive on Escher's Mobius strip forever. as an ant." (Now you understand the cartoon, above.)


If you steal the money intended for the surgery that will save the life of a sick dog, and the dog dies because of your theft, you will enter Hell and be subject to an appendectomy performed by a dog. And then removal of your gall bladder, your tonsils, etc., ad infinitum.

Reminder, send your questions here. Questions are different from comments, which will accumulate at the bottom of The Gene Pool, and be mostly amongst yourselves. I love comments and support them equally. Here is a way to distinguish between comments and questions.

Ask a Question!


Leave a comment

If you need help, here is an example of a question:

Why are you such a dick, Gene?

Example of a comment:

You are such a dick, Gene.

Okay? Good.

The winner of the new contest (reminder! Circles of Hell!) wins "Farts: A Spotter's Guide," a board book describing, field guide-style, such species as the Poof, the Sleeping Dog, and the Seismic Blast. Complete with an electronic box that mimics the various types - even, go figure, the Silent but Deadly. Donated by Longtime Loser Pie Snelson. First Offenders receive the Fir Stink for their first ink: a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener."

Know your tailpipe emissions: This week's prize..

Deadline is midnight Friday, Feb. 10. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Unnatural Acts: 'Joint Legislation' Winners From Week 3
Week 3 of The Invitational was our biennial "joint legislation" contest in which the Losers link two or more names of this session's Congressional freshmen to "cosponsor" a bill. If the inking puns below aren't clear to you, say them out loud. If you're still stumped, ask about it in the comments below - we promise we won't mock you unless you are really stupid.

Once again, some Losers clearly neglected to ask someone to read their entries to see if they were understandable to anyone but the deluded writer. Someone we'll ID as Xxxx Yyyy of Zzzzzzzz, Calif., explained that the Ciscomani-Pettersen-Tokuda-Bean-Brecheen bill, to permit sibling interventions in sketchy beauty parlor procedures, obviously translates to Sis go mani-pedi and toe could have been breaking. 'Course it does.

The Czar and Empress both got a kick out of Ivy-Lee-Goldman (Ivy League Old-Man) but the 15 entries using that combination canceled one another out. As did the many Ogles-Self entries either condemning or promoting narcissism. (Gene interjects here that he doesn't find "old man" a morally acceptable designation, and uses his mighty editorial power to put this complaint in boldface.)

Repeated names in an entry refer to two new members with the same last name.


By Empress Pat Myers and Czar Gene Weingarten
Third runner-up: The Mullin-Nickel appropriation for five people's thoughts. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

Second runner-up: The Ezell-Lee-Landsman Dating App Improvement Act. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

First runner-up: The Hoyle-Lee-Schmitt Act for socially acceptable cursing. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

And the winner of the reptile-foot-motif socks:

The Ogles-Magaziner-Jackson-Self Act to encourage sperm bank donations. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)


Ask a question!

The Kiggans-Self Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda Act. (Jesse Frankovich)

The Ivey-Bean-Mullin-Mullin Act to promote deep thinking about deep thinking. (Leif Picoult)

The Schmitt-Hoyle bill to improve relations with countries insulted by Trump. (Randy Lee, Burke, Va.)

The Ezell-Lee-Fry Expeditious Capital Punishment Act. (Dave Airozo)

The Fry-Nunn Prohibition of Capital Punishment (Jesse Frankovich)

The LaLota-Budd-Kiggins bill to honor Chuck Norris. (Randy Lee)

The Sykes-Self Act to build self-esteem. (Brett Dimaio, Cumberland, Md.)

The Kean-Bean-Britt-Schmitt-Hoyle-Moylan-Kiley-Fry-Lee Poetry Education Act (Jeff Newman, York, Pa., a First Offender; Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

The Crockett-Schmitt Act to Investigate the Credentials of Rep. Santos. (Frank Yuen, Forest Hills, N.Y.)

The Deluzio-Nickel bill to mandate regular parking meter inspections. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

The Budd-Zinke-Budzinski bill to MYOB. (Randy Lee)

The Self-Fry DIY Wiring Safety Act. (Chris Damm, Charles Town, Va.)

The Bean-Nunn Catholic School Kids' Revenge Act. (Dave Airozo)

The Britt-Williams-Bean-Strong Resolution commending the Harried future King of England. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

The Ezell-Zinke Act to recognize the capital of Finland. (Jesse Frankovich)

The Mullin-Mullin-Welch Act directing the Treasury to ponder the national debt at length, then default on it. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

The Nickel-Collins Act to bring cheap public pay phones back to street corners everywhere. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

The Lee-James-Lee initiative to recommend that the next 007 actor be Asian. (Rob Cohen)

The Balint-Self-Ezell-Lee Act to mandate roadside sobriety tests. (Jesse Frankovich; Jon Gearhart)

The Mullin-Tokuda-Budd Act to fund PSAs warning kids to think carefully before bogarting that roach. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

The Moylan-Nunn Interfaith Circumcision Initiative. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

The Vance-Bean-Lee-Kean-Hoyle Act to require monthly inspections of used Ford Econolines, Sierras, and Odysseys. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

The Duarte-Ezell-Lee Resolution to award the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously to Bob Ross. (Kevin Dopart)

And Last: The Nunn-Budd-Deluzio resolution, asking who would enter the Invitational anyway? (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

The headline "Unnatural Acts" was submitted by both William Kennard and Jon Ketzner; Bill Dorner wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Still running - deadline Friday night, Feb. 3: Our "Questionable Journalism" contest. See it here (scroll down to the first subhead)

Idea:(Deb Grosner, Winchester, VA)
Title:(William Kennard; Jon Ketzner)
Subhead:(Bill Dorner)

Week 1522, Published 01/26/2023
The Invitational Week 4: Questionable Journalism
By Pat Myers and Gene Weingarten, the Empress and Czar of The Invitational

A. "Sometimes he would stand in the sitting room . . ."
Q. How do we know Walter Mondale was a rebel at heart? (Jeff Contompasis)

A. Pour the egg mixture over the greens, covering them evenly.
Q. How were the protesters planning to disrupt the Masters tournament? (Jon Gearhart)

A. "The withdrawal is set to begin on Friday and will be completed by May 1."
Q. What's the timeline for the final stage of the nonagenarians' marriage consummation? (Leif Picoult)

Here's the contest that we had to stop in its tracks last month, after The Washington Post suddenly didn't want a moment more of us. It's one we've had tons o' fun with over the years, in our beloved A&Q format - plus it lets you willfully misinterpret the news media! This week: Choose any sentence (or the major part of a sentence) from any publication (online or on paper) dated Jan. 26-Feb, 3 and follow it with a question it could answer, as in the examples above from last year's Questionable Journalism contest.

The sentence can be in an article or ad. Tell us the name of the publication and the date and (if in print) the page number; for online publications, please include a link to the webpage. As always, you can submit up to 25 different entries, either all at once or as you think of them.

You can see the text of previous years' results here, here and here.

The winner gets a genuine early-1960s copy of "Joys of Jell-O" - it's not dated but the address for General Foods has no Zip code - a 96-page cookbooklet with dozens of recipes for imprisoning various hapless food items inside bricks and rings and towers of sickeningly sweet gelatin. Pictured below on Page 50: the Sea Dream, that enticing combo of shrimp in a bed of lime Jell-O; and the Vegetable Trio, quiveringly entombing stacked carrots, cabbage and spinach. How better to celebrate your Invite win than with a banquet of these sublime creations? Donated by Longtime Loser Larry Yuck. Oh, wait. Larry Yungk.


Deadline is midnight Friday, Feb. 3. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Come on in, the water's warm. This is a reader-supported and reader-financed pool.


Reminder: Submit questions here.

THE SEERS' CATALOG: Our Week 2 pre-chronicle of 2023
In Week 2 of The Invitational we asked you to spring forward a year to help produce a timeline of events for 2023. Two different Losers announced that egomaniacal Washington Commanders billionaire owner Dan Snyder had sold his team to egomaniacal Washington Post billionaire owner Jeff Bezos (one entry renamed the team the Washington Postmen, the other the Posties). And what do you know: This past Monday, the tabloid New York Post ran a story that Bezos just might buy the team -- a story that turned out to be as much bullshit as the inking entries below.

This week the Empress read all 700 entries and made a long "shortlist"; the Czar chose the top four; and we decided on the final inking entries together. I was able to sort all the entries alphabetically (as always, with no names attached), so we had no idea that we kept choosing entries over and over from some of the names below.

Third runner-up: Harry and Meghan are allowed to attend King Charles III's May 6 coronation, on the condition that they walk behind the royal carriage with brooms and buckets. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Second runner-up: A new study reveals that 45 percent of the nation's shirkers are now teleshirking. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

First runner-up: In another anti-grooming measure, Florida bans the letters L, B, G, T and Q from preschool alphabet blocks. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

And the winner of the keychain-size mononucleosis plushie:

Quarterback Carson Wentz, angry after his release by the Washington Commanders, attempts to throw team management under the bus, but misses by 10 yards. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Excess Prophets: Honorable Mentions
January: The Virginia General Assembly passes a law requiring elementary school pupils to have a signed permission slip before bringing a gun to school. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Prince Louis publishes a tell-all coloring book. (Nan Reiner, Boca Raton, Fla.)

In a "major announcement" on Truth Social, Trump says he's selling "personally declassified" documents "for $99 each." "These are the best documents! The dummies at the National Archives called them 'invaluable' but I know they're worth a lot, to the right people." (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

The new apparel company Kanyeezy releases a line of brown shirts. (Kevin Dopart)

The House passes a bill making all abortions illegal except when the father is a congressman. (Jesse Frankovich)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announces that he is unable to attend debt ceiling negotiations because of a prior commitment of having to clean the Freedom Caucus members' toilets. (Duncan Stevens)

Marking the 25th anniversary of his famous televised denial, Bill Clinton acknowledges that he did have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky but explains, "There were so many women, I just lost track." (Dave Airozo)

February: Mike Lindell calls for the impeachment of President Biden after agents searching his Delaware residence discover that he removed the tag from his pillow. (Jesse Frankovich)

Feb. 3: Florida celebrates Black History Day. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

It is conclusively proved that China is using TikTok to spy on America when Communist Party cadres are overheard saying, "I stan Xi - he's savage!" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Observers suspect that tensions are running high at the Supreme Court when Sonia Sotomayor turns to Clarence Thomas during oral argument and, in an unusual move, bites off his ear. (Duncan Stevens)

March: Meryl Streep wins an Academy Award for a movie she wasn't even in. (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

The newly Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee expeditiously determines that the primary instigator of the Jan. 6 riots was Hunter Biden. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Trump boasts on Truth Social that of all the Presidents, his stolen documents are the greatest in number, the most powerfully classified and the most tremendously hidden. He follows up by saying he does not know of any documents. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

April: Citing the high cost of eggs this year, the White House hosts the Easter Balled-Up Classified Documents Roll. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

In a glitch caused by its outdated systems, the FAA routes all flights through Kitty Hawk, N.C. (Jon Carter)

To save time, Tom Brady announces his re-retirement and re-unretirement in the same tweet, in which he also announces successive signings with the Broncos, Colts and Bears. (John Hutchins, Sandy Spring, Md.)

George Santos tearfully reveals he's the secret love child of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

May: King Charles III dramatically parachutes into his coronation ceremony using only his ears. (Jesse Frankovich)

To avoid any unfavorable misunderstandings, the National Dog Groomers Association of America changes its name to the National Dog Trimmers Association of America. (Karen Lambert)

One-upping the Missouri House of Representatives, the Texas legislature requires its female members to wear miniskirts, cowgirl boots, spangles and a fringed vest. Pompoms are ruled optional. (Pam Shermeyer)

In an extraordinary confession, Hunter Biden admits to planting the classified documents at his father's Wilmington home, explaining, "How else was I going to get the GOP off my case?" (Jonathan Jensen)

June: Prince Harry reveals in a tearful "60 Minutes" interview that Prince William once gave him an atomic wedgie. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Donald Trump claims to have decommissioned the two Abrams tanks and Patriot missile system discovered in a remote outbuilding at Mar-a-Lago. (Stu Segal, "Southeast U.S.")

Jeff Bezos (who does not own any part of the new Invitational) reduces the print editions of The Washington Post to one page, featuring only headlines followed by "For more information, see the website." (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

July: The special prosecutor finds classified documents in the basements of Mount Vernon and Monticello. Attorney General Garland issues indictments of Biden, Washington and Jefferson (no decision yet on Trump). (Rob Cohen)

Ground-floor apartments become hot-ticket items among Moscow oligarchs. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

August: Cash-strapped after signing Aaron Judge to a $360 million contract, the Yankees double the price of a stadium hot dog to $50. (Jon Carter)

Dan Snyder finally sells the Washington Commanders to a coalition headed by Sam Bankman-Fried, Vladimir Putin and Emperor Palpatine. Fans welcome the team's upgraded image. (Duncan Stevens)

September: The NFL avoids an age discrimination suit by allowing Tom Brady to use a mobility scooter. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Elon Musk buys the last Blockbuster video store, saying "it's totally worth $44 billion." (Leif Picoult)

Cocaine is declared legal, but plastic straws are banned for environmental reasons. This creates a heck of a problem. (David Kleinbard, Maramoneck, N.Y.)

October: In a heartfelt bid to reconcile with his brother, Prince Harry releases a new book, "Sorry, You Bald Daft Wanker." (Jon Carter)

Utah's capital officially changes its name to Salt Puddle City. (Jon Ketzner)

The National Archives begins a no-questions-asked classified-document buyback campaign. (Stu Segal)

George Santos acknowledges having fabricated his life story and blames the covid vaccine's "side effect," the loss of honesty and basic decency. He is immediately hailed as a bold truth-teller by Tucker Carlson. (Karen Lambert)

November: After delivering a strongly worded statement about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Sen. Susan Collins locates a barn, lets all the horses out, and closes the door. (Duncan Stevens)

On Nov. 11, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweets out a salute to America's veterinarians. (Jon Carter)

George Santos admits that the 2020 election was not stolen from Trump, explaining that it was in fact stolen from George Santos. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Attorney General Garland holds a press conference to triumphantly announce that Donald Trump is being held accountable for three unpaid parking tickets. (Duncan Stevens)

Rep. Santos announces his resignation. He is lying. (Lex Friedman, Manalapan, N.J.)

Trump gives up his presidential campaign in favor of selling Trump-branded gas stoves. (Karen Lambert)

December: The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season sets a record, with named storms going through the Greek, Hebrew, Swahili and Runic alphabets. (Nan Reiner)

On a party line vote, the House passes a bill to provide $15 billion to Fox News to help fight the War on Christmas. (Chris Doyle)

Tucker Carlson is fired from Fox as being too "woke" when it is revealed that his testicle-tanning machine is solar-powered, using absolutely no fossil fuels. (John Hutchins)

Elon Musk buys the Washington Commanders. He immediately fires half the roster and announces that the team will start the season with six players on the field, (Rob Cohen)

SAG-AFTRA decrees that any comedian who makes any more "George Santos claims *" jokes will be expelled from the union. (Frank Mann, Washington)

Gene Weingarten's Substack account is deactivated after he makes an insensitive comment about coriander. (Jesse Frankovich)

And Last: Rachel comes to her senses. (Jon Ketzner)

The headline "The Seers Catalog" is by Beverley Sharp; the honorable-mentions subhead is by Kevin Dopart.

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Examples:(Jeff Contompasis; Jon Gearhart; Leif Picoult)
Title:(Beverley Sharp)
Subhead:(Kevin Dopart)

Week 1521, Published 01/19/2023

By Pat Myers and Gene Weingarten

The Invitational Week 3: Send Us the Bill -- our 'joint legislation' contest
The Traficant-DeLay-Akaka Roadside Port-A-Pot Act (Carole and Stephanie Dix, 1993)
The Moore-Greene-Salazar-Good Act mandates fresh leafy veggies to school lunch programs. (Pia Palamidessi, 2021)
The Johnson-Sevier-Lee-Lee-King bill to establish the key rule for ending a filibuster. (Doug Hamilton, 2013)
It's one of the first and most popular contests The Invitational's ever done - and a game that's been played among congressional staffers forever. These days, it's just about the only way to make our elected leaders do anything, let alone create bipartisan legislation: Combine two or more names from the list below of the new members of the 118th Congress to "co-sponsor"a bill based on their combined last names, as in the classic Style Invitational examples above.

We're just playing with the sounds of their names, not referring to the sens and reps themselves. (If Rep. Santos doesn't last eight more days, you can play him anyway.) Lots of promising subjects this time - Bean! Fry! Ogles! Self!

The Czar and Empress implore you, from long experience: A pun that is clear to you, because you thought of it, is not necessarily clear to anyone else in the world. Before you send in your entry, ask someone else to read it out loud and, without help, tell you what phrase you had in mind.

Here are this year's new names, from this Wikipedia page; it includes not just brand-new members but also those who are now in different districts, or have moved from the House to the Senate. Even though Jennifer McClellan is sure to win the special election next month in Virginia, she misses the deadline.
Alford; Balint (rhymes with gallant); Bean; Brecheen; Britt; Budd; Budzinski; Burlison; Caraveo; Casar (ka-SAHR); Chavez-DeRemer (Ch- as in chair; de-Reamer); Ciscomani; Collins; Crane; Crockett; Davis; De La Cruz; Deluzio; Duarte; D'Esposito; Edwards; Ezell (EE-zell); Fetterman; Foushee (Foo-shee); Frost; Fry; Garcia; Gluesenkamp Perez; Goldman; Hageman (Hay-guh-man); Houchin (How-chin); Hoyle; Hunt; Ivey; Jackson; Jackson; James; Kamlager-Dove; Kean; Kiggans; Kiley; LaLota; Landsman; Langworthy; Lawler; Lee; Lee; Luna; Luttrell; Magaziner; McCormick; McGarvey; Menendez; Miller; Mills; Molinaro; Moran; Moskowitz; Moylan (Delegate of Guam); Mullin; Mullin; Nickel; Nunn; Ogles; Pettersen; Ramirez; Ricketts; Salinas; Santos; Schmitt; Scholten (skoal-ten); Self; Sorensen; Strong; Sykes; Thanedar (TAN-e-dar); Tokuda; Vance; Van Orden; Vasquez; Welch; Williams; Zinke (zinky).


Deadline is midnight Friday, Jan. 27. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 2.

The winner receives - just perhaps apropos of this week's contest - an excellent pair of socks that make your feet look like the claws of some creepy reptile, or perhaps a dinosaur, as seen on the Empress's feet above. They'll fit any size adult foot. They even have scales on the bottom. If your feet already look like this, we don't need photographic evidence, thanks.


Letter RIP: The winning & losing obit poems from Week 1
In Week 1 of The [No Longer Style] Invitational, we asked for short poems commemorating those souls who hadn't made it to 2023. The Czar and Empress shed tears of utter relief were pleased to receive many hundreds of poems from almost as many entrants as we'd get for poetry contests at The Washington Post, with subjects ranging from the Queen of England to Marlon Bundo, Mike Pence's pet rabbit (sorry, no ink for either this week).

Third runner-up:
Jerry Lee Lewis (1935-2022)
When Jerry Lee Lewis burst onto the scene,
He helped rock-and-roll to awaken.
But when he showed up with a bride of thirteen,
A whole lotta heads started shakin'.
Let's hope he's at peace in the heavenly choir,
Surrounded by angels, not great balls of fire.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Second runner-up:
Dorothy Pitman Hughes (1938-2022), pioneering feminist
Without her we would not have gotten Ms.,
A magazine that proudly isn't Hs.
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

First runner-up:
Andre Leon Talley (1948-2022), flamboyant critic and stylist
This glamorous gent, upon entering heaven,
Was dressed from the nines all the way to eleven.
Saint Peter remarked, "You are early, I see."
"Alas, yes," said Andre, "but fashionably!"
(Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

And the winner of the 45-rpm records featuring Walter Brennan and Sen. Everett Dirksen:
25 Russian billionaires
Fell through windows, tumbled down stairs.
Slipped on a boat and said their last prayers.
Smacked their heads or plunged off cliffs,
A clumsy lot, these oligarch stiffs.
They forgot Vlad's rule for the elite:
Wealth means nothing if you're not discreet.
Your splendid leader must be exalted
Or - oops! - you might become quite asphalted.
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)


Nearly Departed: Honorable Mentions
Pele (1940-2022)
Of Pele, it's said that his moves were pure magic
(A view shared by legions of goalies he tricked).
Alas, his last feint was ironically tragic:
Instead of the ball, it's the bucket he kicked.
(Bob Kruger, Rockville, Md.)

Sidney Poitier (1927-2022)
There's less heat in the night, less sun on the raisin;
The ranks of the greats just got thinner,
But the worms in the graveyard, their luck they are praisin';
They guessed who'll be coming to dinner.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

John Y. Brown Jr. (1933-2022), businessman who built up KFC
and Jule Campbell (1926-2022), mastermind of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue
For him, it was a fast food joint; for her, a magazine;
They offered up the bounties men most prize.
To schoolboys, grizzled geezers, and all ages in between:
A major dose of legs and breasts and thighs.*
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-2022)
Mikhail S. Gorbachev
Pushed perestroika -- what
Hopes we all had!
One thing he missed in his
Should have disposed of a
Weasel named Vlad.
(Nan Reiner, Boca Raton, Fla.)

Magawa, bomb-sniffing rodent
For a bit of banana or similar chow, a
Small creature can sniff where a land mine is at.
One was said to clear fields in under an hour,
And Cambodian farmers still marvel at that.
With his passing, the country now grieves for Magawa.
So who was this master of smelling? A rat.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Man who got sucked under a swimming pool in Israel
The story I have to relate
Concerns Klil Kimhi's cruel fate:
A dip in a pool
On a sinkhole's not cool --
Going swimmingly's not always great.
(Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Angela Lansbury (1925-2022)
The world will never be the same:
We've lost our awesome Auntie Mame.
Her long career was one of note;
But now she's gone. (That's all she wrote.)
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Unwise summer reveler
After drinking all day on the fifth of July,
Texan Pablo Ruiz was a hold-my-beer guy
Who, by lighting a firework on top of his head,
Came up with a mind-blowing way to be dead.
(Chris Doyle)

Fred Franzia, wine magnate (1943-2022)
A fine merlot? A pinot gris? An earthy cabernet?
For Fred, these weren't the kinds of wines he set out to purvey.
The Central Valley climate meant his vineyards couldn't yield,
The high-end grapes most favored by the "experts" in the field.
But here among us heathen, he knew he'd have better luck,
By mass-producing Charles Shaw - best known as Two-Buck Chuck.
Today, we fans salute him, in his place beside the Lord,
By raising up a plastic cup of swill we can afford.
(Mark Raffman)

Gallagher (1946-2022)
See-through tarp's what I prefer
Dodging pulp from Gallagher.
Time to put it in the attic;
God took out His Sledge-o-Matic.
(Nan Reiner)

Dwayne Hickman (1934-2022), 1950s-'60s TV actor

The scene: 1950s America. It was great;
A fountain drink for two was called a date;
On TV, young Dwayne tried to thrill us
With wisdom gleaned from life by Dobie Gillis,
For times were simpler then, and more restrained,
And realism had to be contained.
So Dwayne portrayed a "normal" adolescent:
In love, confused--but never once tumescent.

(David Franks, Washington County, Ark.)

Kirstie Alley (1951-2022)
When the beers were on you, you earned many a Cheer!
Now you're crossing the bar, and it's you on the bier.
(Duncan Stevens)

Dwayne Hickman (

Diane Hegarty (1942-2022), co-founder of the Church of Satan
Is Satan, as his church proclaims, not real,
But more a metaphorical-type deal?
Or does he - horns and all - in fact exist
And feel a little peeved he's been dismissed?
I'd love to ask Diane if I knew how:
The odds are good she has the answer now.
(Melissa Balmain)

Foolish young mountain climber in Arizona
Standing on a rocky shelf, he
Slipped and took his final selfie.
(Chris Doyle)

Barbara Walters (1929-2022)
No more Barbara Walters
And all of us are blue.
She made it on "20/20"
But not through 2022.
(Kevin Ahern, Corvallis, Ore.)

Richard Leakey (1944-2022)
Richard Leakey and his family tree
All pursued anthropology.
Now his bones are in the ground
In the future to be found.
(Pia Palamidessi, Cumberland, Md.)

Ray Liotta (1954-2022) and James Caan (1940-2022)
Both gone! Good Lord, and holy moly!
That takes the cake, plus the cannoli!
Say, two at once--it seems suspicious *
Might you be sleeping with the fishes?

Did someone give you concrete shoes?
An offer did you guys refuse?
If someone got revenge, I'm told,
For worms, their dish is best served cold.
(Duncan Stevens)


Meat Loaf (1947-2022)
Meat Loaf died and many found
That headline quite distressing.
He might still be with us if his name
Was "Salad, Hold the Dressing."
(Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Gaylord Perry (1938-2022), pitcher notorious for his spitball
I. In heaven's ballpark, Gaylord Perry glares in from the mound;
*The batter waits in silent trepidation.
For all celestial players know the wily hurler's found
The secret to eternal salivation.
(Mark Raffman)

II. The spitballer had a very long run
And outraged baseball snobs.
But cheating to win - was that any fun?
No doubt he'd answer, "Gobs."
(Pam Shermeyer)

Ken Starr (1946-2022)
He just got the news: a friend told Bill Clinton
Fate caught up with his nemesis Starr;
A light in the eye of the ex-Prez is glintin'
As he quietly lights a cigar.
(Duncan Stevens)

And Last: The Style Invitational (1993-2022)
Abracadabra, the
Style Invitational
Died, but it rose from the
Dead in a flash.
One might describe it as
Now, like the phoenix, it's
Kicking some ash.
(Alex Steelsmith, Kailua, Hawaii)

The headline "Letter RIP" is by Dave Prevar; Sam Aaron wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook (tell the admins that you saw us in The Gene Pool); join and the Devs will anagram your name every which way.

Week 1520, Published 01/12/2023

The Invitational, Week 2: Nextra! Nextra!
Gene Weingarten
15 hr ago
Read All About It. Predict the big news events of 2023.

We're already a full congressional embarrassment into 2023, but it's still not too late for The Invitational's annual Year in Preview, an idea the Empress "borrowed" years ago from Culture Shlock, the humor column (now on Substack) by 93-time Loser Malcolm Fleschner, who in turn "was inspired by" the annual "Year in Review" of his hero Dave Barry.

This week: Tell us as many as 25 humorous events that "will happen" in 2023, and we'll build a timeline. Include the specific date only if it's relevant to the event (e.g., the date of the Oscars). See examples from previous Year in Preview contests below.

The winner gets mononucleosis. In the form of an adorable keychain-size plush purple parasite with cute eyes and even fetching lashes. Only 250,000 times actual size! Donated by 429-time Loser Dave Prevar, vector of so many of our prize diseases.


Deadline is midnight Friday, Jan. 20. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Jan. 27.

No new contest results this week, since Week 1, our contest to write funny poems about people who died in 2022, is still running (deadline midnight Friday, Jan. 13 -- see the contest here, where there's a link to that entry form). But for your guidance 'n' inspiration for Week 2, here are selected future-timeline entries from past years:

From 2022 (paywall-free text file of full results here; scroll down past that week's new contest)
January: Astronomers announce the discovery of an Earth-size planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri. Texas officials immediately designate it as the voting location for all of the state's minority neighborhoods. (Duncan Stevens)

President Biden orders a chocolate cone at an ice cream parlor. Fox News denounces the "War on Vanilla." (Hannah Seidel)

Environmentalists suspect that climate change may be accelerating when longtime denier Sen. James Inhofe, in what many view as a surprising concession, melts. (Duncan Stevens)

Sen. Joe Manchin introduces a bill requiring Santa to deliver a bag of coal to every child, not just the naughty ones. (Lee Graham)

From 2020 (full results here)
Following his annual physical, President Trump reports that he weighs 180, has a BMI of 23 and had a "perfect" Pap smear. (Jon Ketzner)

Focusing on players who will be seeing the most action, the Redskins draft punters in the first three rounds. (Mike Gips)

From 2019 (full results here)
At the request of Make-a-Wish, Trump delivers candy to a hospitalized child, telling her, "I hope you appreciate this, because the docs just told me you have two, maybe three days left tops." (Jeff Contompasis)

The National Council of Teachers of English disbands after a violent battle over inserting a comma into MeToo. (Ira Allen)

The NRA announces, proactively, that there will be nothing that could have been done. (Art Grinath)

From 2018 (full results here)
Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early end to winter. The White House immediately accuses him of "promoting a fake global-warming agenda" and cancels Groundhog Day. (John Hutchins)

Hackers break into the president's Twitter account, posting dozens of sensible tweets before the White House regains control. (Warren Tanabe)

In the seventh round, the Minnesota Vikings draft an end zone choreographer out of Juilliard. (Howard Walderman)

The Thanksgiving turkey pardons Donald Trump. (Mark Raffman)

And last, from 2011, a prediction that could have run every year for the next 11 years, but not for 2023: The Style Invitational once again avoids being a subject for its annual obit-poem contest. (Kevin Dopart)

Which is a good reminder that you have till midnight (wherever you are) Friday, Jan. 13, to enter that very contest. Check out Week 1 of The Invitational.

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Prize:(Dave Prevar)

Week 1519, Published 01/05/2023
The Invitational Week 1-- Dead Letters
The post-Post humor contest barely skips a beat as the Czar & Empress begin with the annual obit poems.
Gene Weingarten
Jan 5
Hello. Gonna try to get this right today. For those of you who got confused or waylaid by Tuesday's post, the blame goes entirely on the shoulders of Dan Stone, who has the most ridiculously macho name in human history, and whom I will hereby re-name Biff Wellington. Biff is my guru at Substack, and though he was technically not responsible for any of the confusion, he has agreed to publicly take full blame because it is apparently important that Substack writers do not look like incompetent idiots.

Submit a question for future chats here

Today we make history, in the sense of somehow instantly reviving the Invitational, the most brilliant humor contest in the history of the written word, destroyed by The Washington Post, for reasons nobody intelligent has been able to articulate. It's back. It's here. It is newly unfettered by corporate prudishness. And it is run by its two giants of newspaper vulgarity, Pat Myers, the Empress, and myself, The Czar. We are already fighting over the quality of entries; things will go splendidly. Pat and I are not romantically involved, but if this were a sitcom the sexual tension would be unbearable.

Before we begin, a brief intro. One of the most interesting infatuations of the media in the last month has been the sudden, startling birth of Artificial Intelligence, specifically websites like ChatGPT, which is sort of astonishing in the things it can do in seconds. If you ask it to write a sonnet to your significant other, it will, and with at least a minor degree of skill. It has the Webload's degree of information, which it can process almost instantaneously. If you ask it a question about yourself, it will generally deliver reasonable answers.

I entered the site and asked this: "What scandal involved Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten?"

This was the response: "In 2008, Gene Weingarten was suspended without pay for three months after he was found to have plagiarized passages from an article written by another journalist. Weingarten apologized for his actions and vowed to never do it again."

It was fascinating! Humiliating! And totally wrong! I have never been accused of plagiarism, never was suspended. Never apologized.

So clearly, there are still some bugs in the AI system. I doubt if it is possible to sue a machine for libel, but what if it is?


Okay, so there will be some questions today, but not many. That starts next week. In the meantime, here is a photo of a 1950s-era clock I just bought and restored (I do that.). The question is, how does it work? The dial is glass. It is electric. There are no gears directly connected to the hands. HOW DOES IT WORK?

Okay, the Invitational.
It's the start of a new year, but more important, the end of an old one. In December, a few months short of its 30th anniversary, The Washington Post pulled the plug on its weekly humor/wordplay contest The Style Invitational, a pioneering exercise in seditious comedy in a mainstream publication, fueled by thousands of great humorists -- the collective noun is the Loser Community -- who shared their vast talent in return for trinkets.

Sounds like a great deal, sign me up!


But thanks to Substack -- and to those of you who've subscribed to The Gene Pool -- boing! It's back right here, nimbly named The Invitational to avoid any pissy lawsuits. It's run, judged and written jointly by Gene, its founder and Czar for its first 11 years, and by Pat Myers, who reigned as Empress for the next 19. So bring out your dead vast talent for a contest the Invite had been doing every January: Write a witty poem of no longer than eight lines (plus an optional title) about someone (or something?) who died in 2022. Here's a list that might help you, but you can use any ex-being.

Here's a winning eulogy from 1998 by 27-time Loser Charlie Steinhice:

Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997):
The knit cap lies empty on the deck,
The once-proud ship feels like a wreck.
At his request, his last remains
Will now become the ocean's gains.
With tear of eye and roll of drum,
We feed the sharks. Farewell, old chum.

And you should also check out last year's Style Invitational winners. (Even better, see the results of previous Invitational obit poem contests: Go to the Master Contest List at, search on "Dead Letters," then click on the links to the results.)


The good news: We'll run the results in just two weeks instead of four; they'll be right here in the chat on Thursday, Jan. 19. And you still have eight days to enter: Deadline is midnight Friday, Jan. 13. The bad news: There will be just one trinket, for the winner. But it's a glorious one:

Two genuine 45-rpm singles that would have been in the record store bin marked "Misc.": One is a 1962 recording of the character actor Walter Brennan singing "White Christmas" - or more precisely, he talks about snow in his Grandpa Amos voice from the sitcom "The Real McCoys" while the Johnny Mann Singers croon; the other is "Gallant Men," a patriotic recitation recorded by Senate GOP leader Everett Dirksen that reached No. 29 on the Billboard charts in 1967. Just the discs, no jackets. Donated by Loser Steve Smith from his own collection of whatever.

Meanwhile, The Post was so quick to shut down the Invite that the results of its Week 1515 contest -- to which more than 200 readers submitted some 1,200 entries -- never ran. Till now. They were judged jointly by the Czar and the Empress, mostly in consensus and occasionally with a little compromise, but no longer with censors, except their own "taste."

The joke's on EU: European 'sister cities'
The challenge in Week 1515 was to create humorous "joint ventures" between real cities and towns in Europe and Eurasia.

Third runner-up: The Vienna-Riel-Pickel Crisis Management Center (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.) (combines towns in Austria, Netherlands, Germany)

Second runner-up: The Dublin-Tundra Book of Jokes About What She Said (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.) (Ireland, Russia)

First runner-up: The Motherwell-Cannes-Loos-Hermanli-Dingle Gender Reassignment Clinic (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.) (U.K., France, France, Bulgaria, U.K.)

And the Winner of the lilliputian Belly Button Duster: The Telme-Vassa-Matta International Dial-a-Granny Hotline (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.) (Turkey, Finland, Russia)


Bayer-Leigh-Gottin: Honorable Mentions
The Manisa-Bismal chapter of Misanthropes Anonymous (Ash Sharman, Fairfax, Va.) (Turkey, Turkey)

The None-Of-Yur-Biz-Ness-Bank, with branches only in Zurich and the Cayman Islands (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.) (Italy, Turkey, Russia, Albania, Germany, Hungary)

The Sassari-Ikisu 10-step program for drunken mistakes (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.) (Italy, Turkey)

The Vigo-Puke-Turin Pub Crawl Club (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.; Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.) (Spain, Albania, Italy)

The Supa-Calla-Frajga-Listec-Espoo-Ala-Doshnice website of atrocious lyrics (Jesse Frankovich) (Estonia, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Finland, Italy, Albania)

The Unkel-Spitz-Kokkola-Alovera-His-Noo-Cardigan Institute for the Prevention of Uncomfortable Family Gatherings (Frank Mann, Washington) (Germany, Austria, Finland, Spain, France, Estonia, Wales)

The Hell-Nozno-Fiore-Like-Ah-Wim-Ens-Carn Elizabethan Platitude Fair (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.) (Norway, Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia, Germany, Austria, France, Ireland)

The Como-Vertou-Aarhaus Center promoting neighborly friendship (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.) (Italy, France, Denmark)

The Menden-Herten-Naples Support Group for Nursing Mothers (Joy Rains, Bethesda, Md.) (Germany, Germany, Italy)

The Dublin-Belli Krispy-Kreme European Headquarters (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.) (Ireland, Turkey)

The Zwetti-Balzan-Pecs Very Intense Fitness Center (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.) (Austria, Malta, Hungary)

The Ancin-Yur-Pance Fidgety Kids' Club (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines, Iowa) (Spain, Russia, France)

The Toome-Much-Pornuse Institute for the Blind (Jesse Frankovich) (U.K., Germany, Estonia)

The Salamis-Ham-Provo-Lone-On-Rye-Holden-Mayo Made-to-Order Sandwich Shop (Mark Raffman) (Greece, Netherlands, Serbia, Ukraine, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Ireland)

The Sad-Broken-Com-Pany Twitter Employees Union (Mark Raffman) (Ukraine, Sweden, Turkey, Russia)

The Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch-
Morzesczyn Speech Therapy Center (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.) (Wales, Poland)

The Friesen-Hell consortium to have Russia join NATO (Barbara Turner) (Germany, Norway)

The Hornie-Olde-Manne seniors dating website (Al Lubran, Rockville, Md.) (Slovenia, Denmark, France)

The Olde-Lazy-Bastardo oral history project of grandmas' husbands (Leif Picoult) (U.K., Poland, Italy)

The Tomsk-Dich-Ande-Herry Club for Ordinary People (Leif Picoult) (Russia, Ukraine, France, France)

Jax-Pratt's Lean Cuisine (Laura Clairmont, Venice, Fla.) (France, England)

The Karen-Going-To-Mana-Ger Customer Relations Training Center (Mark Raffman) (Finland, Austria, Norway, Serbia, Spain)

The Puke-Dover-Andover Motion Sickness Clinic (John Winant, Annandale, Va.) (Albania, England, England)

The Otta-Askim Sadie Hawkins Dance (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.). (Norway, Norway)

The Budapest-Banne airport Hare Krishna removal service (Dave Ferry, Purvis, Miss.) (Hungary, France)

The Loket-Dem-Gams Workplace Harassment Clinic (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore, Md.; Chris Damm, Charles Town, W.Va.) (Czech Republic, Netherlands, Austria)

The Grimm-Repa Funeral Home (Chris Doyle) (Germany, Serbia)

The Hannover-Fist-Monay-Luzen Cryptocurrency Exchange (Chris Doyle) (Germany, Albania, France, Latvia)

The Last-One-A-Rottenegg International Ponzi Scheme (Drew Bennett, Rogers, Ark.) (Germany, Norway, Latvia, Austria)

The Bogas-Hamburg Impossible Meat packing plant (Jesse Frankovich) (France, Germany)

The Az-Hole Road Rage Clinic (Drew Bennett) (Estonia, Sweden)

The Inchmore-Cockwood Erectile Dysfunction Clinic (Laura Clairmont) (Ireland, England)

And Last: The Bourne-Toulouse Invitational Devotees Group (John Winant; Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.) (England, France)

The headline "The Joke's on EU" is by Jesse Frankovich; Jesse also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join and the Devs will anagram your name every which way.

Week 1518, Published 12/11/2022
Style Invitational Week 1518: The Style Expirational
After 293/4 years of mayhem and mania, our ink runs dry. This week: Some greatest hits.

By Pat Myers

Many, many years ago -- in a previous century -- a top editor of The Washington Post walked into the office of the Czar of The Style Invitational. The office was, as always, a cluttered mess, which offended this elegant man who wore three-piece suits and carried a pocket watch on a fob. That day, the editor was on a mission. He disapproved of this new addition to his Sunday paper, and dourly warned his coarse and rumpled underling: "I will not permit you to make your contest a repository of bathroom humor." The Czar met his boss's eyes. "Sir, you may rest assured that I will not make The Style Invitational a suppository of bathroom humor."

The editor shuddered almost imperceptibly, and departed, with maybe just a hint of a smidge of a smile. He secretly appreciated moxie, and in time he became one of The Style Invitational's biggest supporters.

And that's because Mr. Fob appreciated, despite the jokes about excreta and the risque innuendo and the silly prizes, that the Invite had also become * sophisticated. Right from the beginning in 1993, through 11 years of the Czar and then 19 years of his usurper, the Empress, the Invitational gleefully mixed vulgarity with urbanity, involving political commentary and jokes that assumed the reader's familiarity with literature, history, science and the news of the day. Rude, sometimes, but smart-rude.

As the Earth traveled around and around the sun -- 29.75 times -- management changed, sensibilities changed, sensitivities changed. The Invitational had thrived on the forbearance of a series of slightly nervous but ultimately trusting editors. That all ends today, quite suddenly, in this final week. We are done.

By "we," of course, we mean not just ourselves but the Loser Community, the more than 5,000 very funny people who've gotten ink over these past 1,517 weeks, in more than 55,000 published entries, willing to work hours on end for a cheesy form of glory, and for silly trinkets.

And so we devote this page to some of The Style Invitational's most memorable entries (in no particular order), which we've chosen from hundreds nominated in the past few days by Invite Losers and fans.

It's our last laugh.


This week in The Style Conversational: You be the judge!

In the Empress's final supplementary column, readers can choose their favorite Ask Backwards entries from Week 1514, whose results would have run this week. And the E tells how to enjoy classic Invite ink, stay with the Loser Community, and maybe even enjoy new contests. See, beginning late afternoon Thursday, Dec. 8.

The kook's tour: Readers' favorite Style Invitational entries

Underachiever's Midlife List of Goals: Win the admiration of my dog. (Jean Lightner Norum, Week 413, 2001)

Neologisms containing POLE: Gestapolemics: Calling your political opponents Nazis. (Chris Doyle, Week 889, 2010)

Change a movie title by one letter: Four Weldings and a Funeral: A man attaches a set of rocket engines to his Chevy and momentarily achieves his dream of driving a flying car. (Gary Crockett, Week 871, 2010)

"Joint legislation" by current members of Congress: The Traficant-DeLay-Akaka Roadside Port-A-Pot Act (Carole and Stephanie Dix, Week 5, 1993)

Change a word by one letter: Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of dry wit and the recipient who doesn't get it. (Tom Witte, Week 278, 1998)

Two words differing by one letter: The difference between genial and genital: It's okay to greet your neighbors with a genial wave. (Brendan Beary, Week 670, 2006)

Good/bad/ugly jokes: Good: You get to spend a summer's day at a beautiful beach. Bad: It's awfully crowded and noisy. Ugly: It is June 6, 1944. (Beverley Sharp, Week 1058, 2014)

Something you don't want to hear after getting married: "Now that's a coincidence. My birth mother's name was Clytemnestra de Nunkyhaven, too!" (Jennifer Hart, Week 229, 1997)

"Da"- limericks: The dachshund, each hair and each wart of it, Serves for the wags to make sport of it. With a sharp, pointy snout, He is squat but stretched out. And that is the long and the short of it. (Mae Scanlan, Week 777, 2008) "Fa-" limericks: A physicist/humorist, Nell, Had a comedy show where she'd tell Of her spreadsheeting gaffes; It drew thousands of laughs Because farce equals math times Excel. (Matt Monitto, Week 1033, 2013)

Then and now: Then: Mayberry and Opie. Now: Mayberry and opioids. (Bruce Carlson, Week 1242, 2017)

Only-in-Washington pickup lines: "Babe, why are you wasting your time with an assistant to a deputy secretary, when you could be with me, a deputy assistant undersecretary?" (Dan Steinberg, Week 519, 2003)

"Breed" two racehorse names and name the foal:

Cloud Man x Extra Fifty = Meatierologist (Jonathan Paul, Week 914, 2011)

Perfect Saint x Caribbean = Francis of a C Sea (Danielle Nowlin, Week 1170, 2016)

Life on the Road x Villainous = RV Weinstein (Steve Langer, Week 1400, 2020)

Above, Sophie Crafts's winning video parody from Week 1440, 2021. If you can't see it, click here.

Neologisms totaling 14 Scrabble points: Buphoon: An ill wind from Washington that blows nobody any good. (Stephen Dudzik, Week 1402, 2020)

"Balliol rhymes," mini-verses about people: My name is Lady Liberty. I welcome you, if you should be With bulging purse, and you're from Norway. Otherwise, back out the doorway. (Nan Reiner, Week 1372, during the Trump administration)

Song parodies about the news: To "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas": Have yourself a gerrymandered district, Draw some artful lines; Make it look like 12 exploding porcupines. Have yourself a gerrymandered district, Slice and dice the votes: Safe seat, even if they catch you screwing goats. Once we'd choose folks who stood for us; "Go do good for us," we said -- Threw out those who were abusing us. Now they're choosing us instead. Draw it up so you can't be defeated, Be you saint or heel, 'Cause John Roberts says that this is no big deal, So have yourself a seat no one can ever steal. (Duncan Stevens, Week 1339, 2019)

What to do with the 14-mile supercollider tunnel: Just rename it the Martha Washington Monument. (Michael Sweet, Week 35, 1993)

Good/bad ideas: Good idea: Give her a bowl of irises. Bad idea: Give her Ebola viruses. (Frank Osen, Week 1091, 2014)

Signs of spring in Washington: In a lighthearted, festive mood, Metro riders read the Economist instead of Congressional Quarterly. (David Genser, Week 209, 1997)

Bad product endorsers: John Wayne Bobbitt for Microsoft. (Chuck Smith, Week 52, 1994) Lorena Bobbitt for Johnson Wax. (Larry Yungk, Week 783, 2008)

Bad things to say in a job interview: Applicant: "Say, those girls in the photos on your desk, are they seeing anyone, well not the fat one, but those other two?" (Russell Beland, Week 698, 2007)

New sports: Marrython: The only endurance sport where you try not to reach the finish line. (Melissa Balmain, Week 1444, 2021)

"Dear xxx" notes: Dear President Lincoln: Please note change to "87" for conciseness. Sincerely, Copy Editor (Beverley Sharp, Week 900, 2011)

Rearrange the words of a movie title: "The Kwai on the River Bridge": Barbara Walters narrates a moving story of two lovers saying goodbye above the Seine. (Roy Ashley, Week 1008, 2013)

Explain part of the Constitution (to "Maria" from "West Side Story") Militia! They say I can have a militia. With muskets for my men, Straight from the 18th cen . . . tury. Militia! But I don't see any indicia That I can't keep in stock A Luger or a Glock, or three. Militia! Some grenades strapped around my forehead, And an AR-15 for my sorehead. Militia . . . and maybe a warhead . . . (Nan Reiner, Week 1293, 2018)

Cynical takes on platitudes:

You can do anything if you want it bad enough. That is why we see so many people who can fly. (Elden Carnahan, Week 531, 2003)

Never say die. I've tried, and it doesn't actually make people die. (Tom McCudden, Week 531)

Week 1517, Published 12/04/2022
Style Invitational Week 1517: See you next week . . .
(But not after that.) Plus winning greeting-card rhymes for non-greeting-card occasions.

By Pat Myers

Click here to skip down to the winning greeting-card rhymes for non-greeting-card occasions

We have some news. There's no new contest this week, because it's the next-to-last week of The Style Invitational. The Empress will wrap things up next Sunday, Dec. 11, in print (Thursday, Dec. 8, online), with a little greatest-hits assortment of favorite Invite entries from our past 293/4 years. And we'd like you to help: This week: Nominate your favorite inking entries -- your own or someone else's -- to be included in next week's final edition. But you need to send it soon -- no later than Monday night, Dec. 5. Send them on the entry form at

To refresh your memory, or just to enjoy poring over the archives, check out the Master Contest List at the Loser Community's own website, There's a drop-down menu for various contest categories, or just scroll or search down the whole main list. If you know some words to search for in an entry, you can look in the All Invitational Text file on the same website (wait a few seconds for it to load). Or just describe it to me the best you can and I'll probably figure out what the heck you had in mind.

Bonus joke contest! Pictured is a bowl of the 29 remaining little clown heads that won't become Clowning Achievement trophies. What should we do with them? I'll run a few ideas (use the same entry form above); winner gets one of the heads.

Losers working on Week 1516, Questionable Journalism: You can stop perusing; that contest is canceled.

The headline "Teasin's Greetings" is by Jesse Frankovich, "LOLmark Cards" by Kevin Dopart; Jesse also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. The Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook is still active at, as are Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at and @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column will run this week (briefly) and next (with a chance for readers to judge the Ask Backwards contest!). See this week's -- published late Thursday, Dec. 1 (the E is still catching her breath here) -- at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Teasin's greetings; LOLmark cards for non-greeting-card occasions

In Week 1513 we asked for greeting-card rhymes for non-greeting-card occasions. Lots of colonoscopy congratulations; sorry, they were all purged.

4th place:

To My Client's Husband
This message is sent to you straight from the source:
The party is over. She wants a divorce.
You've used up your chances, you lizard-faced louse.
You've taken her heart, but she's keeping the house.
(Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

3rd place:

To the Fancy Restaurant Where We Dined Last Night
We waited half an hour even though we got there early,
The maitre d' was dour and the waitress downright surly,
The wilted Caesar salad featured croutons soft and soggy,
The Steak au Poivre was pallid (wouldn't serve it to my doggy!).
The chocolate mousse? No winner! And the kicker: indigestion!
(But comp us a free dinner and we'll see you soon, no question.)
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

2nd place

and the earrings in the shape of toilet paper rolls:

Happy C-section day! Have a ball!
It's the best birthday party of all,
With no favors to make and/or buy, no
Requests for a layer-cake dino,
No tantrums to rattle your nerves,
And no carpets with ground-in hors d'oeuvres.
(The one downside, of course, is you've gotta
Be opened like you're the pinata.)
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is youer than you.
Yet I've stolen your wallet, your identity too --
Very soon I'll seem so much more youer than you!
(Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Cardy B's: Honorable mentions

Remember those times in fourth grade
When I shared the box lunch my mom made?
"What's mine is yours" was our motto.
So congrats now on winning the lotto.
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

I'm sending this card and composing this ode
To say that I'm sorry I clogged your commode.
It ruined your party. I couldn't feel dumber.
But here is the good news: My cousin's a plumber.
(Bob Kruger, Rockville, Md.)

Dear Mr. Cruz: Although I'm just
A no-good liberal commie,
Accept my deep condolences
On this year's "red tsunami."
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Condolences! Heard you got fired,
And worse, your dismissal was brusque.
Oh, wait * it's congrats! You're rehired
To clean up the mess made by Musk.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

We're sad to say you bounced a check
At our fresh-produce stand.
We want to trust our customers
Don't want to see you banned.
We like for folks to buy our wares,
But since you did upset us:
We gleefully inform you there's
E. coli in your lettuce.
(Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

You're no longer at Fox --
I hear you were sacked --
But congrats that at last
You reported a fact.
(Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Congratulations on Your Conscription
I know you must have been surprised
To find that you'd been mobilized,
But I hope you'll love your new career.
With warmest wishes -- Vladimir
(Stephen Gold, London)

Your DNA tests are complete:
Your health markers aren't too bad.
And we found your half-siblings in nine different states;
So you might want to talk with your dad.
(Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

How funny to see you in Jersey last week --
I rarely head out that direction.
I told all the neighbors! We think it's just great
That you've gone into witness protection.
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

You wrote about trans kids
Growing up in Atlantis,
So congrats on your book
Being banned by DeSantis. (Kevin Dopart)

You failed to scoop
Your best friend's poop
So it's been sent back.
(See enclosed sack.)
(John Klayman, Fairfax, Va.)

Life is full of ups and downs
A bushel of smiles, a bundle of frowns
But yesterday's crash makes us all want to tiptoe
So sorry, my dear, for the loss of your crypto.
(Madelyn Rosenberg, Arlington, Va.)

When life gave you lemons, you made lemonade.
We applaud you for your inner grit,
But though you were 8, taxes should have been paid.
Here's your IRS bill. Please remit.
(Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

You're such a helpful neighbor
Reminding us to mow
To weed, to paint, to rake the leaves
To shovel all that snow.
And thanks for all the tools you've loaned us
The rake, the hoe, the ax!
What would we do without you?
Probably relax.
(Frank Mann, Washington)

And Last:
Congrats on your Style Invitational win
Winning Loser in The Post,
Here's to you! Let's make a toast:
"Celebrate your witty words,
Lining cages under birds." (Mark Raffman)

And Lastest (and do we mean Lastest!):
You won the Invitational
Congrats! It was sensational!
You honed your writing every day;
From 9 to 5 you worked away.
And though, this means so much to you,
It's not the job you're s'posed to do.
The Empress may be quite inspired
But I'm your boss. You Lose. You're fired!
(Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Title:(Jesse Frankovich; Kevin Dopart)
Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich)

Week 1516, Published 11/27/2022
Style Invitational Week 1516: Questionable Journalism
Find a sentence and write a funny question to go with it. Plus 26-word writing -- and each word begins with a different letter.

By Pat Myers

November 23, 2022 at 9:45 a.m. EST

Click here to skip down to the winning 26-word alphabetical sentences

A. "I hadn't seen that kind of positivity in a while. It was really cool." (Quote in a Washington Post article)
Q. Why were you rubbing balloons all over the cat? (Frank Osen)

A. "We're working our way happily and steadily through the process of production." (Post article)
Q. What did the mechanical engineer reply when his mother-in-law said, "We hope you'll soon make us proud grandparents"? (Cathy Lamaze)

A. It's very rare to find a continuous curved plane like that. (Quote about the round Hirshhorn Museum)
Q. Why is there so much excitement about Boeing's new Frisbee-shaped aircraft? (Mae Scanlan)

We've had lots of fun with this contest over the years: It's in our venerable "Jeopardy!"-style answer/question format, plus it lets you willfully misinterpret the news media! This week: Choose any sentence (or the major part of a sentence) from any publication dated Nov. 23-Dec. 5 and invent a question it could answer, as in the examples above from previous Questionable Journalism contests. It can be in an article or ad, but it should read like a sentence, not a headline. Tell us the name of the publication and the date and (if in print) the page number; for online publications, please include a link to the webpage. (Hmm, the "positivity" example is two sentences -- well, that's okay, too, as long as it's short.)

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the web address). Deadline is Monday night, Dec. 5; results appear Dec. 25 in print (delivered right down your chimney), Dec. 22 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives -- almost in time for Christmas -- a Douglas fir "tree in a box" -- and that box is a 21/2-inch cardboard cube. Inside the cube are a few seeds, a starter peat pot and a mini-booklet of instructions and lore. If all goes right, you could grow a Christmas tree in just 7 to 10 years. Donated by Loser Daphne Steinberg.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Lettery Winners" is by Jon Gearhart; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter (no check mark for us!).

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses the week's new contest and results. See classic Questionable Journalism winners this week (published late Wednesday, Nov. 23) at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Lettery winners: Alphabetical writing

In Week 1512 the Empress asked the Losers to write something 26 words long in which every word started with a different letter. The one permitted exception: So we wouldn't have a whole page of X-rays and xylophones, you had the option to make your X-word one in which the X was in the middle, but pronounced like "ex." (Also, hyphenated compounds could count as either one or two words.) The results of this tough challenge: way more readable than we expected.

An inordinate number of the better entries referred to the Invite itself; see more of the "And Last" types in this week's Style Conversational.

4th place:

[An A-to-Z passage] A boastful cad dated every female, going, "Honey, I just know lots! Mansplaining? Not on point -- quite ridiculous!" such that, unfailingly, vexed women eXclaimed, "You zero!" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

3rd place:

An ominous movie nauseated weekend viewers, inducing projectile retching everywhere. Grown-ups: flashback -- eXuding queasiness, upchucking zealously, yelling deliriously, kneeling lamely. Title? "Junior High Cafeteria: Beef Surprise." (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

2nd place

and the "spider skeleton":

Conductor in rehearsal: "Violins, you're scratchy and flat! Trombones -- don't bray like mating zebras! Kettledrums, what extraordinarily horrendous noise! Xylophone: unbelievably grotesque -- just quit! Otherwise -- perfect." (Jonathan Jensen, a bassist in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

"I'd like to follow Xiao Qi Ji virtually on National Zoo's giant panda cam." "Uh, why? You do know he merely eats bamboo and sleeps, right?" (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Alphagetaboutit! Honorable mentions

Quintessential humiliation: Observing triathletes wilting, Jack, eXhibiting graciousness (and pretentiousness), loudly yelled "Courgette!" until realizing: "Knucklehead! Damn my French! I've been shouting 'zucchini' -- not encouraging 'valor.' " (Ellen Raphaeli, Falls Church, Va.)

I have this very large zit on my nose, coffee's quite bitter, rain keeps falling. You eXclaim, "What a great day, everybody!" Just shut up, Pollyanna! (Hildy Zampella, Vienna, Va.)

Some Oddly Trivial Presidential Information
Assassinated: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy
Questionable election: Bush
Watergate: Nixon
Union head: Reagan
Famous Virginian/Declaration creator: Jefferson
Yemeni eXtraction: Zero
(Louise Dodenhoff Hauser, Sarasota, Fla.)

Quick! Get ready -- the holidays are coming! Expect buyfests, limited parking, very eXcited kids, many invitations, zealous overindulgence, no sleep. (Forget dieting; just undo your waistband!) (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

For Thanksgiving, I might go all-out with ribs, sauteed zucchini, wagyu kebabs, quail loins, eggplant parmesan, jellied yams, eXtra uni, veal Nicoise. Or Chef Boyardee. Decisions! (Leif Picoult)

First we'll quaff some hearty, undiscovered California zinfandels. Next, a vat of eXpertly blended reds: juicy malbec, earthy pinot, young Grenache. Last: Italian dolcetto. Then * klunk! (Jonathan Jensen)

Rules for Public Speaking: Arise, be direct; maintain eye contact with group, host, individuals; just keep letting natural openness quicken. Then (unless vain), eXamine your zipper. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

[A limerick]
"Caesar's"' dead, likewise "Tsar," also "Kaiser";
"Humankind's just zoomed past 'em, grown wiser,"
Yammer eXperts. But news
Makes idyllic, quaint views
Smell of ultra-robust fertilizer.
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

Boomers judged Xers "lazy slackers," who deemed the following youth cohort "quintessentially entitled kids needing unceasing praise." Okay, Millennials, have at it -- vilify Generation Z's reputation! (Karen Lambert)

Everyone residing in Who-ville felt zealous concerning Xmas quite a lot * but the Grinch, you know, up on his snowy mountain perch, did NOT! Jerk! (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

Stop using XamfirPM if you experience: headaches, joint pain, flaming discharge, wilted ribs, night quacking, glowing, cloven toes, kaleidoscopic vision, lycanthropy, Bea Arthur mimicking, or zombification. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Latest, greatest Star Wars offering by Disney Plus is "Jabba the Hutt's Uncle's Cousin's EXcellent Quest: Visiting Yavin and Naboo, Zapping Kylo Ren, Flogging Ewok Merchandise." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Exciting hot quickies on weathered pine bleachers
Can give new romance eXtra zing.
Just know (very fast!) you'll discover, undoubtedly:
Love is a many splintered thing.
(Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

Elon Musk owns Twitter! Now you downtrodden racists, xenophobes, gun zealots, QAnon wackos, Putin vindicators, incels and Klansmen can join up. Let free (hate) speech bloom! (Chris Doyle)

Discerning blurry outlines in Himalayan mountain zones, gullible visitors uttered: "Just look! We've finally espied proof! The abominable snowman eXists!" Knowledgeable citizens responded: "Not quite yeti." (Karen Lambert)

Deep scars left by your vulgar, malevolent eX-president have not faded. Gross, unruly QAnon zealots jabber kooky, offensive propaganda. I won't even consume a "Right Twix." (Bill Dorner, Indianapolis)

When Donny hurls zingers at Ronny, great fun!
There's nothing quite like it -- showtime's begun!
Unruly young children, just playing king,
Vast mountains of ego -- eXhilarating!
(Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

[Retelling a Greek myth] Athena's birth cracked Dad's enormous forehead, giving him immense jarring karma. Lovely Metis, now obviously pregnant, quaked reflexively. Swallowed, the undigested victim wailed excitedly, "Yours, Zeus!" (Frank Mann, Washington)

January: Yow, GOP unleashed! Looming excitement: required AR-15 ownership; Election Ninja hearings; QAnon Committee; Dark Brandon impeachment; zero tolerance -- prison! -- for "wokeness." Speaker: Marjorie? Kanye? Vladimir? (Duncan Stevens)

And Last: God knows regular quipping's not very challenging, but making you use eXactly twenty-six words, each one having a different first letter, is just plain zany. (Jesse Frankovich)

And Even Laster: Before entering the Invitational, always first question yourself honestly: Does my joke responsibly eXhibit wisdom, underscore legitimate knowledge or zealously promote virtue? No? Great -- click submit! (Karen Lambert)

More "And Lasts" in The Style Conversational at

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Nov. 28: Our contest to join two or more European town names in a "joint venture." See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Examples:(Frank Osen; Cathy Lamaze; Mae Scanlan)
Title:(Jon Gearhart)
Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich)
Prize:(Daphne Steinberg)

Week 1515, Published 11/20/2022
Style Invitational Week 1515: Munich-ipals -- European 'sister cities'
Plus 'fist"ICU"ffs' and other winning 'air quotes'

By Pat Myers

November 17, 2022 at 10:05 a.m. EST

Click here to skip down to the winning "air quotes"

The Moron (Spain)-Lost (Germany) Election Denial Center

The Chester-Brest Any-Gender Bra (England, France)

The Essen-Emmen "Adult Activity" Center (Germany, Netherlands)

The Brighton-Erle Alarm Clock Works Ltd. (England, Germany)

Ten weeks ago the Empress sent the Loser Community on a search through U.S. maps in a contest to supply two or more town names and a wordplay "joint venture" (e.g., Jon Gearhart's "Iowa-Latta-Green Student Loan Forgiveness Program, from towns in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Ohio).

This time, at the suggestion of Loser Randy Lee, we're going to do it again, but further afield: Choose any two or more towns from the 51 countries in Europe/Eurasia and come up with a joint endeavor the "sister cities" would undertake, as in the examples above. And Randy also offers a very nifty tool: At, you can type in any name, and it'll tell you where in the world there's a city with that name. (But any source is fine as long as the town shows up on Google.) Which 51 countries exactly? Let's use the list for Europe at (You may use a town anywhere in Russia or Turkey, even if it's in the Asian part of that country.) And while I demanded that the U.S. towns be pronounced correctly, this time I'll be more lenient toward visual puns, especially for less famous towns.

One more thing: In Week 1505, many people went to town (so to speak) with long, unwieldy strings of cities that were supposed to sound like a lengthy phrase or sentence. I'm not forbidding you to do that for Week 1515, but unless they're very easy for me to read (and of course lederhosen-splittingly funny) I'm going to favor the shorter combinations.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Nov. 28; results appear Dec. 18 in print, Dec. 15 online. (New entry form this week! The Empress's life is impossibly exciting.)

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a "belly button duster," which looks like a looped toilet brush if the toilet were the size of a walnut shell. It's not much more than an inch long, so you'll have plenty of room for more Invite detritus prizes in the future. Donated by Loser Steve Smith.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "In'SI'de Jokes" is by Kevin Dopart; Kevin also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

In'SI'de jokes: Winning 'air quotes' from Week 1511

Week 1511 was another round of our "air quotes" contest to find revealing words inside other words. Among the almost 1,500 entries were a lot of Pat"riots," too many to credit individually, but blessedly almost no more T"rump" and "fun"eral.

4th place:

Fist"ICU"ffs: Why it's not the best idea to confront the guy who took your parking space. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

3rd place:

S"ex"ting: How you lost your wife. (Al Lubran, Rockville, Md.)

2nd place

and the "101 Pooping Puppies" jigsaw puzzle:

Marve"lous e"vening!: [Thinks] "What a jerk!" (Ann Martin, Brentwood, Md.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

"RSV"P: Yes, we'd be delighted! And we'll be bringing little Makayla -- don't worry, her virus is almost all better." (Rivka Liss-Levinson, Washington)

C'ha'ff: Honorable mentions

Dou"bleh"eader: When sitting through one game isn't boring enough. (Ellen Raphaeli, Falls Church, Va.)

"Bro"ccoli: A nutritious cruciferous vegetable that's been beer-battered, deep-fried and served with queso dip. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

D"erring"-do: What follows "hold my beer." (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

"Demo"cracy: We have the beta version. Thanks for finding the problems. (Howard Ausden, Damascus, Md.)

Col"ono"scopy: It can't have been 10 years already -- wait, holidays don't count toward that, right? (Dottie Gray, Alexandria, Va.)

Fir"ST D"ate: I'll remember this night forever. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

"End"orsement: A big announcement about breaking ties. "Whoa, that's another huge 'end'orsement Ye just picked up." (Susan Geariety, Menifee, Calif.)

B"ye"-B"ye": Not waiting for another shoe to drop. -- Adidas Group (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Dis"app"ointment: When you swipe right and they swipe left. (Chris Damm, Charles Town, W.Va.)

Missis"sip"pi River: After month after month of drought, what's left when the Mighty has fallen. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Pre"ten"ding: Photoshopping your dating profile photo. (Pete Morelewicz, Fredericksburg, Va.)

S"edit"ion: [Capitol tourists] having [legitimate political discourse]. (Kevin Dopart; Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Ae"rofl"ot: The world's best airline, as voted every year by the Russian Ministry of Transport. (Chris Doyle)

"Hood"wink: "Well, sir, looks like your entire engine needs replacing." (Karen Lambert)

"LAPD"ogs: Los Angeles' experimental Shih Tzu K-9 corps was quickly disbanded. (Chris Doyle)

"Lead"ership: Corporate management that doesn't like to change course, even if it means sinking to the bottom of the sea. (David Kleinbard, Mamaroneck, N.Y.)

"Q"uestions: A way to spread ludicrous disinformation in the guise of inquiry. "How do we know AOC isn't Vladimir Putin in disguise? Hey, I'm just asking 'q'uestions here." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

"Fart"her: The correct distance from me after a Tex-Mex meal. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

G"over"nor: What you get with Virginia's one-term limit. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

H"OT C"hocolate: This mood stabilizer doesn't require a prescription. (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

In"flu"encer: An anti-vaxxer who makes you go viral. (Ben Aronin, Washington)

I"dent"ifier: That bumper ding that helps you tell your silver Camry from the other three in your parking lot row. (Scott Richards, Hollywood, Md.)

In"tell"ectual: No, you hadn't mentioned that you're a Mensa member -- today. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Met"averse": Hand over even more data to Mark Zuckerberg? Count me out. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Mort"gag"e: "The interest rate went up to WHAT?" (Karen Lambert)

Mys"elf": The one person I can count on to get me the perfect Christmas gift. (Steve Smith)

Va"cat"ion: Eat, play, sleep, repeat. (John Klayman, Fairfax, Va.)

"E-ducat"ed: Well versed in cryptocurrency matters. (Byron Miller, Cobble Hill, B.C.)

"Ma"rtyrdom: "You never call." "Where have I failed?" "What did I do to deserve this?" (Tom Witte)

Academy A"war"ds: Co-hosted by Will Smith and Chris Rock. (Mark Raffman)

An"glop"hile: Someone who loves British dishes like toad in the hole and spotted dick. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

Ron DeS"anti"s: Governor with firm stands on racial progress, science-based policy and Mickey Mouse. (Mark Raffman)

B"ID"et: The next technology after facial recognition. (Steve Baldwin, Bethesda)

B"oz"o: A New Jersey clown who thinks Pennsylvania is the place to shop for crudites. (Kevin Dopart; Chris Doyle)

Bo"redo"m: "I'm sick of beige, honey -- let's paint the living room chartreuse!" (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

E"arf"ul: What the dog gives you when FedEx comes to the door. (Byron Miller)

F"IRS"tborn: Congratulations, you've got a bouncing baby deduction! (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Hal"low"een: The Bit O' Honey and candy corn left in the bottom of the sack. (Joanne Free, Clifton, Va.)

To"xi"c: Unhealthy for China, and the world. (Frank Mann, Washington)

F"utility": The exercise of trying to get a helpful Verizon person on the line. (Judy Freed)

S"poo"f: Slipping a Baby Ruth bar into the neighborhood pool. (Chris Doyle)

Save A"me"rica: The main beneficiary of the Trump PAC. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

In"stall"er: Now up to excuse No. 7 for why my kitchen renovation's not done. (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

And Last: C"low"ning Achievement: The top prize from the bottom of all literary awards. (Drew Bennett, Rogers, Ark.)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Nov. 21: Our perennial "Ask Backwards" contest. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Randy Lee)
Examples:(Jon Gearhart; Bob Staake)
Title:(Kevin Dopart)
Subhead:(Kevin Dopart)
Prize:(Steve Smith)

Week 1514, Published 11/13/2022
Style Invitational Week 1514: Ask Backwards XLI
We answer, you ask. Plus winning poems using just one vowel.

By Pat Myers

November 10, 2022 at 10:02 a.m. EST

Click Click here to skip down to the winning one-vowel poems

The Next Name After Commanders * Cat Toothpaste * Vegan Bone Broth * Sunset, Sunrise * A Blue Check * Still a Googlenope * Tournament of Chimps * A Bad Name for an Ikea Product * Ye's Next Fashion Line * The iPhone 29 Pro * Even Ken Burns Wouldn't Do This One * 42 Minutes * The Style Invitational Mascot * A Snickerdoodle * Three Squats and a Burpee * Rutabaga Ginsburg * A Leaf Blower and a Garden Slug * National Bubble Radio * You Boil It

Yes, good Roman-numeral-readers/Super Bowl fans, it's our 41st go at this "Jeopardy"-adjacent game. Above are the answers; you supply the questions -- up to 25 of them for any or all. (Note that there are more in the list above than in Bob Staake's cartoon.)

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address; see formatting instructions on the entry form). Deadline is Monday night, Nov. 21; results appear Dec. 11 in print, Dec. 8 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives this "Rutabaga Ginsburg" T-shirt, discovered by Loser Craig Dykstra at a Goodwill. (No, it won't necessarily be the Rutabaga Ginsburg question that wins the shirt, but it would be fun.)

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Ink With Wit in It" is by Jesse Frankovich; Jesse also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Ink with wit in it: One-vowel poems from Week 1510

In Week 1510 the Empress presented the clearly daunting challenge to write a poem containing only one of the vowels A, E, I, O and U. She read through lots of "nymph wryly syncs lymph's spryly lynx crypt tryst's sly cry" to bring you the ingenious verses below.

4th place:

Pool host snorts: "Yo, porno thong!
So gross! Not cool, fool. Now, go long!"
Choosy moms'll opt to toss
Bros who don only bottom floss.
(Frank Mann, Washington)

3rd place:

Got droop of bottom, or oblong bosom of sorrow?
Go not to body doctors to crop or boost tomorrow.
Trot hot! Drop low! Show off yo' promontory!
Now boldly sport yon chonk or flop! Opt for no "sorry" story!
(Christy Tosatto, full-time RV nomad currently stopping in Asheville, N.C.)

2nd place

and the paperweights containing real cicadas:

Gen. 2-3
The scene: Eden. Key decree:
"Heed me, Eve; eschew the tree."
Yet Eve the clever serpent met;
The serpent tempted Eve; she et.
Next she fed her peer, the gent.
Then men fell -- we hence repent.
(Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Repressed, dejected, Ed pens, then sends text:
"Beekeeper: eschews revels, sex, the next
New scene; prefers the decent chew; esteems
Svelte slenderness; detests expense, lewd themes.
Seeks helpmeet: gentle; sews; rejects excess
(The perverse, presents, jewels), expects less;
Reveres strength; never henpecks; sweeps; meek, sweet."
Ellen sees, retches, then presses "Delete."
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

These deserve less esteem: Honorable mentions

Biding in Wilds in Chilly Twilight
By Ribt. Frist
Which wild is this? I think I'm right,
His living isn't in my sight.
Invisibly, I visit still,
With flitting drifts in shiny flight.
My filly's whinny, timid trill:
I'm sitting by this icy rill,
In wintry, frigid wild? Why?
This night I find in inky spill.
My hill is dimly lit by sky,
This wild is inviting * sigh *
I'm riding till my crib is nigh,
I'm riding till my crib is nigh.
(Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Beer Revelry
We're merry, we're blessed,
We're never depressed.
We're cheeky, we're cheery,
We belch, then we jest.
Wherever there's beer
We never feel stressed.
Fetch beer!
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Beer Revelry 2
We're never ever reverent,
"We're free! We're best!" we cheer.
We'll never rest! we're cleverest!
We merely need the beer.
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

West's ever newsy,
Sez, "Every Jew screws me." The
Less Ye, the better.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

So Old So Soon
Bloodwork poor. No oomph or pop.
Myopy, woozy. Jowls. Low-T.
Snowy top, soft pot, foot rot.
Tho' colon's not too polypy.
(Ash Sharman, Fairfax, Va., a First Offender)

Feh, Recent Red-Pelts!
New emblem's meh, the ex-term smelt;
The bevy, recent-Red-Type-Pelt --
They're fettered, hexed; the shell needs shed.
"De-Snyder, feckless crew!" we've pled.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

And *
Scram, Dan! Walk! Say, Walla Walla!
Qatar! Caracas! Alps! Valhalla!
Cart that gang away, Mad Dan!
A hand? Glad fans'll pack that van.
(Duncan Stevens)

It's tricky living
With highly spicy chili:
My tightly binding lining
Is firing willy-nilly.
(Dale Frankel, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)

Aw/Ah Ha-ha
A Yank can't stand an Alabama drawl,
That lazy "Mama wants a drank, y'all."
And Alabamans always say "ha ha!"
At any Waltham, Mass., man's "pahk ya cah."
(Jonathan Jensen)

Sam was cagy, had a plan:
Sack a bank and nab a van.
What a brassy act (and scary!)
Had a whack at "cash-and-carry."
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

A man, a plan, a Panama? That
Wasn't a canal -- nay, 'twas a hat.
(Amy Livingston, Highland Park, N.J., a First Offender)

spring wings sing smiling
lilting in still night chirping
bird dirt dripping. Ick.
(Irene Plotzker, Wilmington, Del.)

An ant farm, a scarf, and a fat panda!
Thanks, Santa!
What? Thank Ma and Pa??
(Randy Lee, Burke, Va.)

Tomorrow off? Oh no, poor fool.
Snowstorms stop not work nor school.
From top to bottom, lowdown gloom:
Old boss now knows to go on Zoom.
(Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Wacky Grandma alarms all --
That gas-gland can amass gasps.
Nana claps and says, "Yay!"
Thanks, fatty Spam cans.
(Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

The gentle sex'll be
Deftly preggers-free
When selfless he-men
Elect seedless semen.
(Chris Doyle)

Oh look! Slow down to shop for old Ford.
Old Ford looks cool, smooth, bold. Oh Lord, so good.
Got Ford.
Oops, oh no, poor Ford!
Motor now hot: growls, stops.
Too hot. Old motor shot.
Soot on hood, roof, floor, doors.
Now, Ford won't go. Bloody, gory horror show.
Now tow to Ford body shop.
(G.T. Bowman, Falls Church, Va.)

Kleenex everywhere, very sneezy,
Eyes feel weepy, chest seems wheezy.
Temp exceeds 99 degrees.
Sheesh, need remedy, MD, jeez!
"These keys help fevers deplete:
Wet sheets, leeches, smelly feet.
Next, chew nettles, gently scented."
Heed the expert, Dr. Demented.
(Yet he regrets these few effects:
Green teeth, eye bleeds, lepers' necks.)
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

A Sad Ballad
Ah! Ah! Alack and alas!
Ah! Alas and alack!
A bard crafts a sad ballad,
And sang that ballad back:

'Twas a dark and sad and clammy day;
A lark caws daftly, madly.
And Alma--Ah, that Alma! --
Alma crafts a salad, badly.

Alma was a tall lass,
and a stalwart lass, and calm.
Alma attacks a chard stalk,
a saw at Alma's palm.

As tall as a hat rack Alma was,
and as drab as a bad banana,
and Alma's natty salad-saw --
as sharp as a katana!

As calm as stagnant Armagnac
And as gay as a clam, was Alma.
And Alma's wan and pasty hands?
Alma can't act calma!

Alas! As sand can fall aslant,
and pass a glass shaft,
as hay and straw can stand apart
and an ax can crack an ax's haft *

A stray sassafras branch mars Alma's calm
as Alma hacks and hacks.
An awkward hand strays -- and an ax falls --
Alma pays a dark tax *

Aghast, Alma calls: "Ah!"
An arm (ah, tardy!) snaps back.
At Alma's arm's aft, a hand?
Nay! A hand's lack!

Ah! Ah! Alack and alas!
Ah! Alas and alack!
A bard crafts a sad ballad,
And sang that ballad back;

Ah! Ah! A lack and a lass!
Ah! A lass and a lack!
A bard crafts a sad ballad,
And Alma -- a bad salad.
(Daniel Galef, Tallahassee)

And Lasts:
We'll enter wee verses; we'll jest.
The Empress, she'll keep the few best.
The rejects less clever?
Be seen, these'll never --
She'll next feed her shredder the rest.
(Jesse Frankovich)

I'm writing till midnight, I'm scripting this pitch,
I'm wittily grinning, I'm striking it rich.
My insights! I'm thinking,
It'll kill! This is Inking!
Is it childishly fiddling, whilst digging this ditch?
(Frank Osen)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Nov. 14: Our contest for greeting-card rhymes for novel occasions. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Title:(Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich)
Prize:(Craig Dykstra)

Week 1513, Published 11/06/2022

Style Invitational Week 1513: You're such a card
Write a greeting-card-style rhyme for a NON-greeting-card occasion. Plus winning combo-movies.

By Pat Myers

November 3, 2022 at 9:40 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the combined one-word movie titles

So they're putting your house on TV
On that show that so many will see!
Though we're not sure congrats are in order,
Since the neighbors will know you're a hoarder.

This week's contest comes at the suggestion of Loser Extraordinaire Duncan Stevens, who's lately been tidying up the 1,512-row Master Contest List at the Losers' website,, fine-tuning the descriptions of all Style Invitational contests since Week 1 in 1993 (complete with links to all their texts). Duncan thought it'd be fun to redo Week 509 (2003): Come up with a greeting card rhyme for an un-greeting-card occasion. The occasions getting ink 19 years ago included having plastic surgery, getting a subpoena, having a Hummer booted and being traded to the Wizards.

Duncan's idea was heartily endorsed by "lonnnnngtime Hallmark freelancer" Bob Staake, who offers (to us, not to Hallmark) the sentiments and cartoon above.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the web address). Deadline is Monday night, Nov. 14; results appear Dec. 4 in print, Dec. 1 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a pair of adorable tiny earrings with little toilet paper rolls hanging down. It's up to you whether to wear them with the "paper" hanging in front or behind. Donated by Loser Cheryl Denney White.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Smush Hits" is by Kevin Dopart; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at; the E shares the results of the 2003 contest, plus some astonishingly edgy "greeting cards" from 2006.

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Smush hits from Week 1509: Combining 1-word movie titles

In Week 1509, we asked you to combine two one-word movie titles to make a new movie. Many of the 2,200 entries were as painfully obvious as a Lifetime special ("Traffic Misery": Following the Beltway at rush hour) but we can't show you 2,200 entries anyway. Just this much better selection.

4th place:

Gaslight Harvey: People try to convince a giant rabbit that he's crazy when he insists that Jimmy Stewart is following him around. (Hildy Zampella, Vienna, Va.)

3rd place:

Madagascar Rent: In this documentary, D.C. area workers go farther and farther afield in search of affordable housing. (Hannah Seidel, Alexandria, Va.)

2nd place

and the 1972 lissome-ladies license plate frame:

Philadelphia Alien: Dr. Oz goes to a Flyers game wearing a Devils jersey. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Parasite Boyhood: In Pixar's latest, Tommy Tapeworm and his buddies search for the perfect hosts -- and end up finding themselves. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

Rated har: Honorable mentions

1984 Bananas: Carmen Miranda wears her most outrageous hat ever. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

Booksmart Rocky: "Greetings and Salutations, Adrian!" (Karen Lambert)

81/2 Goodfellas: As climate change causes water to recede in the New Jersey Meadowlands, police make some gruesome discoveries. (Mark Turco, McLean, Va.)

Manhattan Eraserhead: A New York real estate magnate rises to a top government post and wipes classified stamps from documents just by thinking about them. (Joy Rains, Bethesda, Md.)

Big, Titanic: A dazzling insight leads Peter Roget to his life's work -- and to immortality. (Elliott Shevin, Efrat, West Bank)

Cinderella Goodfellas: "Yo, princess, you want me to take care of those stepsisters for you?" (Holly Rexrode, Waldorf, Md., a First Offender)

Clueless in Manhattan: "How very kind of that young man to squeegee-clean my car window!" (Karen Lambert)

Philadelphia Surprise: On one day in October, Eagles fans fail to boo even the opposing team. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

Sounder Aliens: Finally, a rational political party arrives on the scene. Millions of Americans ask to be taken to their leader. (Les Finster, Washington, who got his only other blot of Invite ink in Week 408, 2001)

Spartacus? Nope!: One Thracian rebel missed the memo, and lived happily ever after. (Donald Norum, Charlottesville, Va.)

Speed Atonement: An auctioneer-turned-rabbi officiates at a Yom Kippur service, giving a new meaning to "fast day." (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Suddenly Clueless: A dad discovers what it's like when his child becomes a teenager. (Steve Shapiro, Alexandria, Va.)

Superbad Armageddon: Alexander's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day gets worse. (Christy Tosatto, Asheville, N.C.)

Titanic Meatballs: Out to set the ground-beef record at all costs, a competitive eater finds that his heart won't go on. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Trainspotting Joker: An aspiring graffiti artist boosts his street cred by painting polka dots on every subway car in the South Bronx -- until Officer Krupke is assigned to the case. (Allan Zackowitz, Brookeville, Md.)

1408 Sneakers: Imelda Marcos takes up basketball. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Airport Gladiator: The weak are filtered out during the rush to fetch luggage from the LAX carousel on Thanksgiving eve. (Linda Wallers, Vancouver, Wash., a First Offender)

Alien Airplane!: Gov. Ron DeSantis comes up with a zany way to spend Floridians' money. (Ryan Martinez, Takoma Park, Md.)

Babe Armageddon: Aporkalypse now! (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Bean Picnic: The famous scene in "Blazing Saddles" is now a whole movie! (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Caged Harvey: A Hollywood producer who enjoys showering in front of others gets to do it the rest of his life. (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Dunkirk Cars: Belgium rounds up all the taxis in the country to evacuate the trapped Allied troops and drive them to Britain -- until they realize there's one problem with their plan * (George Smith, Frederick, Md.)

Election Cry-Baby: In this body-switch story, a toddler trapped in the body of an adult loses a presidency. (Jon Carter)

Flipper Babe: The Little Mermaid has a punky new persona in this Disney remake. (Robert Weiner, Washington, a First Offender)

Frankenstein Footloose: The rampaging monster must slow to a limp in search of an ankle bolt. (Jeff Contompasis; Barbara Turner)

Frozen Avatar: Documentary on the glitch-fraught creation of Mark Zuckerberg's first metaverse movie. (Jon Grantham, Fairfax, Va.)

Frozen Smile: Elsa and Anna stand to inherit a vast kingdom as long as they pretend to laugh at their father's lame puns. (Frank Mann, Washington)

Goldfinger Up: Documentary detailing the world's most expensive prostate exam. (Mike "Chevy Chase" Phillips, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Innocence Nope: A documentary on the findings of the Jan. 6 committee. (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

Interstellar Joker: "I just flew in from Alpha Centauri, and boy, are my arms tired!" (Jonathan Jensen)

Joe Flubber: Biden's greatest gaffes, Part 1 (3 hrs. 10 mins.) (Mark Raffman)

Maleficent Us: "Despicable Me" goes bigger and nastier. (Arthur O'Dwyer, Irvington, N.Y.)

Manhattan Memento: Two tourists at Grand Central Terminal grapple over the only "I * New York" T-shirt on the racks. (Andrew Rosenberg, New York)

Milk Cabaret: "What good is sitting alone in your room? Come try our pure Grade A *" (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Milk It: A Hollywood studio has to decide whether to wring out yet another sequel out of its franchise, and agonizes over the question for several milliseconds. (Duncan Stevens)

Monster Bridesmaids: Why should the bride be the only Zilla -- especially after she made her friends buy these horrible dresses? Revenge awaits. (Matt Monitto, Bristol, Conn.)

Monster M*A*S*H: A Korean War surgeon employs unconventional procedures -- notably the neck stitch-and-bolt -- to keep soldiers battle-ready. (Dave Letizia, Pinehurst, N.C.)

Moonstruck Tootsie: A down-on-his-luck actor takes a job as a Cher impersonator with one goal in mind -- to slap some sense into Nicolas Cage. "Left Behind?" "Bangkok Dangerous?" Come on, Nick, snap out of it!" (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Offspring Eraser: The Herschel Walker story. (Ryan Martinez)

Pi Cheerleader: "3 point 1-4-1-5-9! Look at the scoreboard -- who's behind?" The story of the MIT pep squad. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond)

Pi Gaslight: A promising mathematician is almost driven mad by her jealous husband when he insists there is no such thing as an irrational number. (Irene Plotzker, Wilmington, Del.)

Platoon Twins: Dolly Parton enlists in the army. (Deb Stewart, Damascus, Md.)

Precious Avatar: A recent college graduate tries to explain to his horrified parents why he spent his life savings on a digital image of an ugly ape wearing a beret and sunglasses. (Karen Lambert)

Pulse Sisters: "These ladies have what every man wants in a woman!" (Dudley Thompson, Cary, N.C.)

Saw Cars: A family of four recounts their exciting vacation up I-95 on Thanksgiving weekend. (Brian Cohen, Winston-Salem, N.C.)

Saw Hair: A barber's assistant asks for help with a customer whose locks haven't been washed in recent memory. (Duncan Stevens)

Shampoo Cats: Adventure film about the little-known Thirteenth labor of Hercules. (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)

Smile Battleground: He's about to find out that advising a woman on how she could look so much prettier is a very bad idea. (Pamela Love, Columbia, Md.)

Solo l'Amore: An ex-president finds his only true love. (Sudhir Vasudeva, McLean, Va.)

Soul Trainspotting: Where's Don Cornelius? Documenting the dance show host's cameo appearances in dozens of films. (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

Suddenly Heidi!: It's 1968 and the Jets defeat the Raiders * we think. (George Thompson, Springfield, Va.)

Superbad Reds: Wines of the World, Part 23: Chernobyl. (Mark Raffman)

Superbad Witness: "It was a tall blond guy! Or maybe an Asian lady?" (Ryan Martinez)

Thor Loser: A playground bully's taunts become less threatening when his baby teeth start to fall out. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

And Last: Superbad Memento: An Invite Loser laments receiving a second-place prize. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich., who's placed second 19 times)

And Even Laster: Clown Obsession: A Loser leaves his job, family and friends behind as he seeks the top prize in a weekly humor contest. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

And Lastest of All: Nomadland Loser: A scrappy woman living in a rolling box braves intermittent cell service on her primitive iPhone 6s in a quest for ink. (Christy Tosatto, full-time RV nomad, filing for now from Asheville, N.C.)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Nov. 7: Our contest to write something of 26 words, all of which start with different letters. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Duncan Stevens)
Examples:(Bob Staake)
Title:(Kevin Dopart)
Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich)
Prize:(Cheryl White)

Week 1512, Published 10/30/2022

Style Invitational Week 1512: Alphabetter
Write something with 26 words, each beginning with a different letter. Plus 'Splendooferous' and more neologisms.

By Pat Myers

October 27, 2022 at 9:49 a.m. EDT

Click Click here to skip down to the winning ELDN neologisms

All bats can dive eagerly for gnats. However, in jungle kingdom locales, many nosh on porcupine quills -- razor-sharp. The undaunted vermin wolf: xylophonically yelping zealously.

This week's contest was suggested by Loser Al Lubran, who saw it in Marilyn vos Savant's even-older-than-the-Invite "Ask Marilyn" column in the Sunday newspaper insert Parade, which used to be a huge magazine but is now the size of a postage stamp. (Well, bigger than most postage stamps, but the paper is thinner.)

Anyway, back in August, Marilyn asked readers to send her sentences of 26 words that each started with a different letter of the alphabet -- and the words could be in any order. Two months later she ran five winners from what she said were 2,000 entrants. The Empress was going to use one of them as an example, but wheeee! In came Our Own Bob Staake with the sentence above -- one that uses the words in alphabetical order. (But you don't have to!)

We're going to make one significant change to Marilyn's contest, though. Note how Bob's sentence uses "xylophonically." Vos Savant's five winners used: 1. X-rays. 2. Xylophone. 3. Xylophones. 4. X-ray. 5. X-rays. So the E will offer you an out, for variety's sake.

This week: Write a 26-word sentence or other passage whose words each start with a different letter -- except that the X in the X-word may appear elsewhere in the word, as long as the word has an "ex" syllable. (Okay: "EXtra." Okay: "MetroseXual." Not okay: "FoX.") If the X-word does start with X, that's swell, too. Hyphenated words may count as one word or two. The aim is to sound natural and to make sense. And, yup, be funny, plz.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Nov. 7; results appear Sunday, Nov. 27, in print; Wednesday, Nov. 23, online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives this Halloween week (though in the Loserly Way, the winner won't receive it until around Thanksgiving), a genuine plastic spider skeleton, complete with those spider leg bones, spider rib cage, spider skull, etc. Yes, we know. At least we didn't get it from a biology class supply shop.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "NDELible Ink" is by Jesse Frankovich; Jesse also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

NDELible ink: Neologisms from Week 1508

Week 1508 -- in honor of Hall of Fame Loser Elden Carnahan, who's retiring his entirely volunteer post as Keeper of the Invite Stats at -- was one of our Tour de Fours neologism contests; the coined word or phrase had to include the letter block ELDN, in any order, but together.

4th place:

Return to slender: Giving up the peanut-butter-banana-and-bacon sandwiches. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

3rd place:

Impersonnel department: HR reps who refer to workers as "human capital." (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

2nd place

and the mid-'90s Loser T-shirt:

Sinfandel: Its bold, alluring flavor is often followed by a bitter aftertaste -- and an indelible stain. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Splendooferous: Magnificently stupid. "Did you see that the Commanders were selling a mug with a picture of Washington state behind the W? Now that is splendooferous!" (Bird Waring, Larchmont, N.Y.)

Subprime LENDing: Honorable mentions

Forenoon delight: That'd be coffee, followed by more coffee. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

Bidenly: Alternating between impressive competence and cringeworthy blunders. "Phil was absolutely bidenly in his eulogy at Kevin's funeral today, telling several inspirational stories and then inviting Kevin up to share some as well." (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Bundle of oy: A toddler who makes you wonder why you were so eager to be a bubbe. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Modelnibble: A very skimpy snack. "Victoria knew her zipper would pop if she had a proper meal, so she opted for a modelnibble of two celery sticks and a raisin." (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

Kennel Dates: From the maker of Tinder, an app for your pooch: sniff-and-swipe! (Chris Doyle)

Hot Cross Bundle: Special package for music teachers that comes with 30 plastic recorders and a year's supply of earplugs. (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee)

Manhandlebar: What they really ought to call a nightstick. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Paddle Nerf: For those intimidated by pickleball. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

Schadenloiter: Hang around to watch the imminent fail. "As soon as Josh said, 'Hold my beer,' we decided to schadenloiter a bit." (Chris Doyle)

Sudden liberal: A Republican who learns his mistress is pregnant. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Adlent: The most festive season of the church year in New Orleans. "Adlent already? Party hearty, it's almost Mardi!" (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Al dental: When pasta is so undercooked that it breaks a molar. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

Applendectomy: Getting rid of your iPhone. "With that latest update of iOS, I had an emergency Applendectomy and went straight for an Android." (Chris Doyle)

Ax Handel: What the choral director facing yet another "Messiah" would like to do just this once. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Baldencare: Federal prescription program that subsidizes Rogaine. (Roy Ashley)

Bannedleader: What Rep. Kevin McCarthy fears he'll become if he stops whistling Dixie. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Befundlement: The satisfyingly pleasant confusion one initially feels when doing a puzzle. "The Thursday and Friday crosswords are a challenge, sure, but for peak befundlement, you have to try the Saturday." (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Beholden Caulfield: The protagonist grows up and takes a job on Madison Avenue to pay off his student loans. (Karen Lambert)

Bendlam: Chaos and confusion in the yoga studio. "It was bendlam in class today when we tried putting our toes behind our ears." (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Bidenloquaciousness: Inability to know when to stop talking. "Even when the whispers spread through the audience and his aides rolled their eyes, the candidate's bidenloquaciousness kept him from closing his trap." (Dave Airozo)

Clandelabra: Extremely complicated family tree. "When Aunt Ethel married her first cousin George, that sure tangled up the clandelabra." (Duncan Stevens)

Colonel Dijon: Character in the French version of Clue. Contrary to rumors, he does not immediately surrender when accused. (Jon Carter)

Colonel Dynamics: A fledgling defense contractor. (Duncan Stevens)

Dawndle: To move about listlessly until that early morning cup of coffee. (Jeff Contompasis)

Denial deniers: The only kind not welcomed under the GOP's big tent. (Kevin Dopart)

Eldnerdly: What is Jeopardy's largest viewer demographic? (Steve Smith)

Friendliar: A companion who always answers, "You look so good in that!" and assures you in every instance that you're the one who was wronged. (Jon Carter)

Heldnoser: A voter who casts a ballot for a candidate they don't really like. "Hillary could have won if she'd done better with the heldnoser crowd, but they just stayed home." (Dave Airozo)

Idle Nine: The Nationals during the playoffs. (Jerry Birchmore, Springfield, Va.)

Swindler's List: "Okay, let's send them this email saying, 'It is IMPERATIVE that we win BIG in November," and we should net a quick 7 mil to pay my lawyers." (Jonathan Jensen)

Lendowment: Money loaned without interest, usually from the Bank of Mom and Dad. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Lidl enema: You can find just about anything in that supermarket's variety aisle. This one's next to the ratchet wrenches and the tube socks. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis)

Lindellicate situation: When you've lost an election and need the soft touch of a pillow salesman to overthrow your system of government. (Jon Carter)

Linkedln: If you try to post a profile here, clearly you didn't check your I's and l's to watch for phishing sites, so you don't deserve a cybersecurity job anyway. (Karen Lambert)

Love handle nest: The now-folded-up location of that tattoo I got 30 years and 40 pounds ago. (Roxi Slemp, Bariloche, Argentina)

Misshandled: "It's pretty clear that Dan Snyder has badly misshandled matters in the team's front office." (Steve Smith)

Noodle nibs: Those broken bits of spaghetti that fly out of the box and land everywhere except in the pot. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

Offendling: A White student who complains that history class made him feel bad. "Travis's parents were outraged that their offendling had been exposed to Harriet Tubman." (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Oil 'n Desert!: Failed Saudi Tourist Bureau slogan. (Mark Raffman)

Olden daze: When your memories are betrayed by your memory. "Kids, when I was your age, I *. uh * well, I was, once." (Pete Morelewicz, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Porndeli: Everyone orders the tongue. (Frank Mann, Washington)

Shiv and Let Shiv: An experimental laissez-faire program that federal prisons quickly dropped. (Chris Doyle)

The Golden Grillz: A sitcom featuring four aging rappers who share a crib in Miami. (Chris Doyle)

The UnBundler: What they're calling Tom Brady's divorce lawyer. (Dan Helming, Whitemarsh, Pa.)

Vendliness: What Amway sellers exude. "I just adore your new haircut, Jess! You know what would go great with that? A new pizza stone! I have just the thing." (Pete Morelewicz)

Vlad-enlistment: Conscription. "Yuri found himself Vlad-enlisted by "recruiters" who showed up at his 40th-birthday party." (Dan Helming)

Ye Olde News: The Post's print edition. (Jonathan Jensen)

Pundle: Collective noun for wordsmiths. "There were at least two dozen of us at the last Loser brunch -- quite the pundle." (Jeff Contompasis)

And Last: End Loser: The person credited with the "And Last" ink. (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Oct. 31: Our "air quotes" contest to find words inside other words. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Al Lubran)
Examples:(Bob Staake)
Title:(Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich)

Week 1511, Published 10/23/2022

Style Invitational Week 1511: The inside word--our 'air quote' contest
Find a telling word inside another -- like The 'Sty'le Invitational. Plus state slogans created from map routes!

By Pat Myers

October 20, 2022 at 9:38 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the inking state slogans

satis"fact"ion: When Google proves you are right and your spouse is wrong. (David Kleinbard)

bir"DCA"ge: What National Airport feels (and smells) like when your flight has been delayed for seven hours. (Duncan Stevens)

h"USB"and: Consider yourself lucky if you get it right on the first try. (Hildy Zampella)

It's the contest that keeps on giving, even though we do it over and over in exactly the same way. So by request, for (by the Empress's count) the seventh time since 2000: Highlight part of a word, name or short phrase in "air quotes" to give the word a new meaning or description, as in the examples above from our 2019 contest ("h'USB'and" was the winner). You can't change the spelling of the original but may tinker with capitalization, punctuation and spacing. So you don't send us what we've already published -- we do not want to see "T'rump'" -- check the links to our previous air quotes in this week's Style Conversational at

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Oct. 31 (boo!); results appear Nov. 20 in print, Nov. 17 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of "100 Pooping Puppies," a painted landscape full of possibly 100 breeds of (adult) dogs dooing their thing on a lawn. Actually, fortunately, only getting ready to doo their thing. Donated by Loser Marcy Alvo.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "QuipTiks" is by Kevin Dopart; Beverley Sharp and Jeff Contompasis both submitted the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

QuipTiks: State slogans with a mappy twist from Week 1507

In Week 1507 the Empress presented an offbeat challenge, straight from the offbeat mind of Bob Staake: One part was totally typical: Write a funny slogan about a U.S. state.

Now the offbeat part: The first letters of your slogan's words would be the first letters of the states along a route you'd trace from your chosen state. So, for example, Jon Ketzner's "Alabama: God, Football and Guns" traces Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Georgia. (You could add small words like "and"; those words are lowercase below.) For two-word states you could use either the first word or both.

We'll spell out the first few routes; after that, if you can't figure out some snaky path of adjacent states, see this week's Style Conversational -- or just look at a U.S. map.

4th place:

CALIFORNIA: Our Weather Is Wonderful, Not Counting Our Mudslides, Avalanches, Temblors, Aftershocks, Fires, Gales, Smog, Negative Vortexes, Monsoons and Drought [Ore., Wash., Idaho, Wyo., Neb., Colo., Okla., Mo., Ark., Tenn., Ala., Fla., Ga., S.C., N.C., Va., Md., Del.] (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va., a First Offender)

3rd place:

NORTH DAKOTA: Making Icicles With Snot [Mont., Idaho, Wyo., S.D.] (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

2nd place

and the genuine Whoopee Cushion:

COLORADO: Kiss Our Aspens [Kan., Okla., Ark.] (Pete Morelewicz, Fredericksburg, Va.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

ALABAMA: More Advanced Than Mississippi! [Miss., Ala., Tenn., Miss.] (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Lost: Honorable mentions

ARIZONA: Nutty Conspiracies, Unbearable Warmth and a Canyon! (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

ARKANSAS: Two Letters More Than Kansas! (Mike Caslin, Round Hill, Va.)

CALIFORNIA: No, All Californians Are Not Completely Wacko, Crazy Kooks! (Only Most Of Them.) (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

CALIFORNIA: Necesitamos Agua! (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

CALIFORNIA: Attention New Tourists: Our Citizens Understand With Movie Stars It's Not Wise Calling Out Their Names And Clapping Unless Cameras Are Nearby and They Are On a Crimson Walkway Smiling and Waving [29 states from Arizona to Wyoming] (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

COLORADO: We Inhale (Ward Kay, Vienna, Va.)

FLORIDA: God's Senior Center (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

FLORIDA: Fanatic Governor, Alligators, Terrible Mosquitoes, Irma, Ian. Oh, Please, Now, Y'all Visit! (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

GEORGIA: Find Any Missing Trump Votes? Nope! (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

IDAHO: No Californians Need Arrive (Karen Lambert)

IOWA: We Matter Solely When Caucuses Occur (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

MAINE: No Hotels! Mosquitoes! C-c-cold! Nobody's Young! = Must Visit! (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

MICHIGAN: We Make Our Politicians Maintain Valid Kidnapping Insurance (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

MISSISSIPPI: The Most "Last" Titles (Rob Cohen)

MISSOURI: Our Most Acclaimed Landmark Makes Americans Think Of McDonald's (Brian Cohen, Winston-Salem, N.C.)

NORTH DAKOTA: Snow Definitely Will Melt In May (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

OHIO: It's Kinda Mayo And That's Okay-o (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

OREGON: Come And Unwind In a Microbrewery With Sasquatch (Jon Carter)

TEXAS: Liberty and Autonomy! (Only Applies To Men) (Marty Gold, Arlington, Va.)

TEXAS: Objects Appear Larger Than Normal (Drew Bennett, Rogers, Ark.)

TEXAS: Where Cowboys, Oil, Armadillos, Longhorns And, Oh, Maybe Two Million Armed Grannies Are Found (Chris Doyle, also found in Texas)

UTAH: We Come Knocking (Leif Picoult)

WEST VIRGINIA: What, Me Vaccinate? (Bob Kruger, Rockville, Md.)

WYOMING: We Shun Democrats (and a Noted Congresswoman Who Isn't) (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

D.C.: a Memorable Place Where Philadelphians Watch the Phillies Win (Steve Smith)

D.C.: Man Who Owns Washington Post Needs Proclamation Of It In Multitude Of Articles (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

ARKANSAS: We Don't Know What Contiguous Means [Wash., Del., Ky., Wyo., Conn., Minn.] (Jon Gearhart)

These honorable mentions for Week 1507 were cut by editors several hours after they were first posted online (they will count as ink in the Loser Stats):

ALABAMA: Find God And Try Meth (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee, Fla.)

FLORIDA: A Map Appendage That Looks Awfully Like A Misshapen And Flaccid Gherkin (Leif Picoult)

FLORIDA: All Migrants Leaving Texas, Onboard Now! (Dave Ferry, Purvis, Miss.)

IDAHO: Our Country Needs Unruly White Militias! (Mark Raffman)

IOWA: So Darn White It Makes North Dakota Seem Diverse (So Darn White Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

LOUISIANA: Love Them Ol' Confederate Wavy Symbols (Carol Lasky, Boston)

LOUISIANA: The Anus of the Lower Mississippi (Scott Richards, Hollywood, Md.)

MISSISSIPPI: Literacy Ain't Our Top Objective (Kevin Dopart)

NORTH CAROLINA: Visitors Welcome. "Made-up" Pronouns Not. (Pete Morelewicz)

TEXAS: Teachers, Lock And Load! (Emma Daley, Greenfield, Mass.)

VIRGINIA: Non-Conforming Gender? Think Maryland! (Steve Smith, Potomac)

WEST VIRGINIA: Welcome! Our Pate Of Possum Never Disappoints! (Pam Shermeyer)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Oct. 24: Our contest to write a poem using just one of vowels A, E, I, O and U. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Examples:(David Kleinbard; Duncan Stevens; Hildy Zampella)
Title:(Kevin Dopart)
Subhead:(Beverley Sharp; Jeff Contompasis)
Prize:(Marcy Alvo)
Add:H:1507:(Jon Ketzner)

Week 1510, Published 10/16/2022

Style Invitational Week 1510: Only U (or A, E, I or O)
Write a funny poem using only one vowel. Plus winning verses using 'pwn' and other new dictionary words.

By Pat Myers

October 13, 2022 at 9:29 a.m. EDT

Click Click here to skip down to the winning poems featuring new dictionary words

An ajar clam
Can stank a tad
That wafts all damn day --
As dank as bad shad.
-- Univocalic poem by Bob Staake

This week's contest was suggested by Valerie Holt of Baltimore, who has been subjected to The Style Invitational for almost 30 years on account of being the Empress's offspring. This week: Write a humorous univocalic poem -- one that uses only one of the vowels A, E, I, O or U -- as in the ... well, we settled on "hilariously bad" one by Bob Staake, who will probably not include it in his oeuvre of more than 50 acclaimed picture books. This doesn't mean you should strive for hilariously bad; you should try for the usual hilariously good.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Oct. 24; results appear Nov. 13 in print, Nov. 10.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives one of the more exotic prizes The Style Invitational has ever offered, up there with the wine containing a coiled cobra: It's a beautiful, old-looking box about eight inches long, covered in padded silk. Slide open the little toggle closure that looks like a sliver of ivory, and inside you'll see two hefty translucent paperweights, into each of which is immersed a real, still shimmery cicada. According to Google Lens, the label inside says it's from the Tianqiao Social Welfare Crafts Factory, Jinan, China. Donated by Loser Marleen May, who picked it up on Freecycle.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Pwn Stars" is by Jeff Contompasis; Beverley Sharp wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, Oct. 13, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Pwn stars: The new-word poems from Week 1506

In Week 1506 we once again asked for poems using terms newly added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, from "adorkable" to "yeet."

4th place:

OMAKASE, Japanese chef's-choice menu
Have a seat, begin to eat whatever's on your plate.
Don't ask for something else - the chef is known to get irate.
In foodie circles, omakase dining is a winner,
But back home Mom just called it "Sit your butt down and eat dinner."
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

3rd place:

PWN, To dominate an opponent
You pwned me - I thrpw in the tpwel.
"Ypwza!" "Wppt!" you rejpiced with a hpwl.
I cpncede, you're tpp gppd;
You're the tpast of the hppd!
It makes me frpwn, glpwer and scpwl.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

2nd place

and the Merriam-Webster mug with its 'pumpkin spice' definition:

SUS, suspect or suspicious, of dubious quality
Once upon an L.A. street-o, I consumed a sus burrito,
Filled with rice and beans and cheese and meat that oozed with grease galore,
Soon enough there came a churning -- gurgling, rumbling, tumbling, turning --
Noisy, queasy, most uneasy perturbation in my core.
" 'Tis the vengeance of the Aztecs," said I as I roundly swore,
"Food Truck Maven? Nevermore!"
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Yeet: To throw, especially with force
"Mr. President, welcome! This way--
Over here on a monogrammed tray
Is the ketchup you'll hurl at the wall,
And-- how's that? You'll throw nothing at all?
But tradition, sir! Please! I entreat!
For four years it's been all-you-can-yeet."
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

Diction-awry: Honorable mentions

JANKY: Shoddy, faulty (plus SUS)
Though deals abound at Dollar Plus,
Certain merch should still seem sus,
For if you're planning hanky-panky,
Your condoms simply can't be janky.
(Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

LEWK: Personal fashion style (as in "look")
If you frequent the posh ski resorts
And you spot a young fellow who sports
Lightweight shorts with his parka and hat
You might ask yourself, "What's up with that?"
"Was his luggage lost? Is he a kook?"
Meet the snowboarder-wannabe lewk.
(Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

GREENWASH: To publicize a company's environmental efforts to minimize the damage it's actually causing
Corporations attempting to greenwash
Their pollution cannot get a clean wash
Of their foul reputation,
Which smells to the nation
Like a private who's done a latrine wash.
(David Mayerovitch, Ottawa, a First Offender)

BIRRIA: A Mexican meat stew
A Bostonian's Critique of a Mexican Restaurant
Their birria
Is infirria.
(Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

DAWN CHORUS: The chattering of birds as day breaks
Monday there's mowing at quarter to 8.
Tuesday the train passes carrying freight.
Wednesday we hear from the rooster next door;
Thursday the street cleaning happens at 4.
Friday the garbage cans bang on the street,
Weekends, the paper goes thwump! at my feet.
All while I'm still in my slippers and flannel;
If this is my dawn chorus, please change the channel!
(Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

KRATOM, a traditional psychoactive drug, pronounced either krayt'em or kratt'em
My boss gave a harsh ultimatum:
"Sell these meds, even though people hate 'em."
So I hawked yucky drops;
Though they're normally flops,
They all sold, 'cause I spiked them with kratom!
(Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Kratom is a stimulant in small doses but a sedative at high doses.
I took a little kratom, and felt a surge of joy,
And then I took a little more -- O boy! O boy! O boy!
Another batch went down the hatch, a quite humongous dose,
And that is why you found me here, completely comatose.
I've learned the truth today, forsooth, and baby, this is it:
You need to split the kratom--and take just a little bit.
(Stephen Gold, London)

LARP: Live-action role playing
My wife loves Harry Potter LARPing;
Could this hobby cost me more?
She says that I should quit my carping*
But her "house"? It's Gryffin-Dior.
(Mark Raffman)

Said a shivering guy in a tarp,
"Dude, you know me, I don't like to carp,
But this role-playing game
Is unpleasant and lame.
Why'd you make a Fyre Festival LARP?"
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

HAIRY EYEBALL, a disapproving glare
Once upon a morning early, while I slumbered, tired and surly,
Having stayed up much too late out partying the night before--
After snoozing for an hour, suddenly I saw a glower,
Disapproving, rather sour, glaring from my bedroom door.
'Twas my mother's hairy eyeball, and I knew what was in store ...
Didn't sleep a minute more.
(Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

"The hairy eyeball" means a dirty look,
The kind you'd give a pervert or a crook.
But if you're learning English, this expression
Might lead to a lamentable transgression,
Like asking (if the meaning's misconstrued):
"Do hairy eyeballs have to be shampooed?"
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

LEVEL UP: Advance to the next level
To level up our lives, what if we tried
To not make one more dang thing gamified?
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

MacGYVER: To fashion a solution to a problem using whatever odd materials are available
Paper clip, gum wrapper, safety pin, dime,
Broken-down watch that no longer tells time,
Eraserless pencil honed down to a nub,
Decades-old membership card for the club,
Spare covid tests ('cause there's still a pandemic),
Rocks that have undergone changes alchemic.
You gonna MacGyver a snare for a crook?
Nope, that's just from cleaning out Mom's pocketbook.
(Sarah Walsh)

SUS: Suspect or suspicious; of dubious quality
The lyrics Ira Gershwin wrote
I find banal and gauche.
With all those twee truncated words
Like 'magine and emosh.'
Now "'swonderful" and "'smarvelous"
May suit you to a T.
But "fash" and "pash" and all the rest -
They just seem sus to me.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

"Want to travel?" They found us and said,
"You can have a new home and clean bed!"
"That flier looks sus*"
"Oh, don't be a wuss!"
Martha's Vineyard - we were misled.
(Matthew Zimmer, New York)

What words are exciting, exotic and new
At Merriam-Webster in 9/22?
There's something called "Tater Tots," also "stromboli."
They must not get out much, or else they work slowly.
(Jonathan Jensen)

SIDE HUSTLE, a supplementary job
As a side hustle, Uber's a curse,
For the income could hardly be worse!
I'll concede, though, I know
That I might make more dough
If my vehicle weren't a hearse.
(Mark Raffman)

And Last:A side hustle could be a good thing to do
If you're wanting a little more cash to accrue.
But these poems I've written just aren't the way--
In The Style Invitational, rhyme doesn't pay.
(Jesse Frankovich)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Oct. 17: Our contest to combine two one-word movie titles. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Valerie Holt)
Examples:(Bob Staake)
Title:(Jeff Contompasis)
Subhead:(Beverley Sharp)
Prize:(Marleen May)

Week 1509, Published 10/09/2022

Style Invitational Week 1509: MASH MASH: combine 2 one-word movies
Plus the 'Hadden-Inklin Psychic Hotline' and other ventures by 'sister cities'

By Pat Myers

October 6, 2022 at 9:51 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the winning "sister cities"

Metropolis Parasite: A Wall Street hedge fund trader devises a way to pay $27 in income tax.

Psycho Cats: Fluffy and Ginger get in the shower!

Unforgiven Pinocchio: "You lied once too often, wood boy -- I'm turning you into a spice rack."

This week's contest was suggested by Loser Lee Graham, who remembered that single-word movie titles weren't working for him in some earlier Invite contest. This week: Combine two single-word movie titles to make a new movie and describe it, as in the examples above. The original title must consist of a single word: no "A," "The," "IV," etc. You may add a few more words (e.g., "and the," "vs.") but the extra words shouldn't be a major part of the title. Don't smoosh the two titles into a single word.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Oct. 17; results appear Nov. 9 in print, Nov. 6 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives -- regifted by Loser Sue Lin Chong, who won it in Week 267 (1998) - a genuine mint-condition 1972 chrome license plate frame featuring the side views of two lissome ladies. While it would look tacky even on a souped-up Ford 150, it'd make a fabulously campy picture frame.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Community Jest" is by Jesse Frankovich; Jesse and Tom Witte both submitted the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, Oct. 6, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Community jest: Inking 'sister cities' from Week 1505

In Week 1505 the Empress asked the Losers to choose any two or more towns in the United States and Canada and supply a joint venture they might undertake. The "or more" turned into some long strings of names that brought a HUH instead of the preferred HA, like The Bear-Rio-Sam-Aben-Laden-Indio-Shinn-Ware-Heaslip-Witty-Fish U.S. Navy Funeral Detail (Idaho, Fla., Va., La., Ky., Calif., Ill., Ala., Ontario, Mo., Ga.) After much puzzling out, we figured that Randy Lee was getting at "Bury Osama bin Laden in the ocean where he sleep with the fish." HUH. We hope the following ones are more straightforward, though sometimes it helps a lot to say them out loud a couple of times.

4th place:

The Iowa-Latta-Green Student Loan Forgiveness Program (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines) [towns in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Ohio]

3rd place:

The Luke-Warm Springs Very Average Resort (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.) [Md., Ga.]

2nd place

and the paper dolls of literary figures:

The Gordon-Ramsay-Letts-Macon-Effingham-Sandwich Brown-Bag Workshop (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.) (Iowa, Ill., Ga., Ill., Mass., Ala.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

The Albee-Gladwin-Weir-Dunn Divorce Law Firm (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.) [S.D., Mich., Kan., N.C.]

City slackers: Honorable mentions

The Tupelo-Zero Winter Preparedness Advisory Group (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.) [Miss., Mont.)

The Dunn-Dunn-Dunn-Dunn DragnetCon (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.) [Mo., N.C., Tex., Wis.]

The Boring-Rector-Babylon-Macon-Sleeper-Nodaway Committee to Improve Sunday Sermons (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.) [Ore., Ark., N.Y., Miss., Mo., Iowa]

The Reston-Laurel "Quiet Quitters" Club (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.) [Va., Md.]

Weir-Putnam-Underhill Gravediggers: "If we can't get dirt on you, no one can." (Jon Gearhart) [Neb., Ala., Wis.]

The Letts-Baskin-Coldwater Polar Bear Club (Beverley Sharp) [Iowa, Fla., Mich.]

The Macon-America-Grady-Gann Militia Muster (Jeff Contompasis) [Ga., Ill., Ark., Ohio]

The Randy-Lee-Burke-Virginia Self-Promotion Society (Randy Lee, Burke, Va.) (Ky., N.Y., Va., Wash.)

The Reubens-Sandwich-Hahn-White-Witt-Mayo Brooklyn Deli Tour for Iowans (Chris Doyle) [Ida., Mass., Tex., S.D., Ill., Fla.]

The Watha-Hellam-Ida-Wing-Heeia Senior Moment Museum (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.) [N.C., Pa., La., N.D., Hawaii]

The Venice-Tom-Brady-Given-Upp sports betting app (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.) [Fla., Okla., Texas, W.Va., Calif.]

The Weir-Naughton-Kansas-Haney-Moore "Wizard of Oz" Cosplayer Convention (Chris Doyle) [Kan., Ontario, Wis., Ore., N.J.]

The Albee-Xenia Quickie Divorce Center (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.) [S.D., Ohio]

The Albee-Armonk-Keyes-Sun-Kell-Clarence-Darrow-Ford-Dee-Winn Scopes Trial Reenactment (Chris Doyle) [Iowa, Calif., La., Ind., La., Iowa, La., Ore., Mich.]

The Harris-Yankton Waxing Salon (Jesse Frankovich) [Minn., S.D.]

Wickett-Bee-Dublin-York-Cache Investment Services (Byron Miller, Cobble Hill, B.C.) [Tex., Ohio, Ontario, Okla.]

The Wyalusing-Troy-Harder Obnoxious Sports Parent Training Facility (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.) [Wis., N.Y. Wash.]

The Aiea-Seymour-Dent-Franzen-London Underpants Repair Shop (Duncan Stevens) [Hawaii, Conn., Minn., Wis., Ark.]

The Daggett-Ding Dong-Stuckey-Puckett Reformed Foulmouths' Association (Sarah Walsh) [Calif., Tex., S.C., Miss.]

The Dunn-Ocala-Mead-Shirley Leslie Nielsen Film Festival (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.) [Minn., Fla., Colo., Ark.]

The Florence-Foster-Jenkins Conservatory of Vocal Arts (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore) [Ariz., R.I., Ky.]

The Hadden-Inklin Psychic Connection Hotline (Pam Shermeyer) [Ga., B.C.]

The Granby-Aiken Geriatric Medicine Center (Karen Lambert) [Quebec, S.C.]

The Hansen-Franzen-Gurley-Mann-Pompey-Opp Schwarzenegger Spoofers School (Duncan Stevens) [Idaho, Wis., Ala., Pa., N.Y., Ala.]

The Havana-Gila Bend Center for Jewish Folk Dancing (Bird Waring, Larchmont, N.Y.) [Fla., Ariz.]

The Howe-Mina-Rhodes-Masham-Mann-Walker-Downs Wind-Blowin' Research Institute (Duncan Stevens) [Pa., N.Y., Iowa, Quebec, Pa., Iowa, Ill.]

Izee-Still-Shamokin Tobacco Cessation Counselors (Pam Shermeyer) [Oregon, N.D., Pa.]

The Kent-Eustace Yard Sale (Sarah Walsh) [Ohio, Tex.]

The Nome-Mentor-Love Lonely Hearts Club (Karen Lambert) [Alaska, Ohio, Ariz.]

The Nome-Orlando Keep Billy Dee Williams Out of Future Star Wars Sequels Petition (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.) [Alaska, Fla.]

The Luke-Sky-Walker-Dee-Good-Jed-Eyota-Kilsyth-Not-Kissimmee-Sisters Etiquette En-Forcers (Randy Lee) [Tenn., Calif., Ga., Mo., Maine, Ore., W.Va., W.Va., Minn., Tenn., Mo., Fla., Ore.]

The Acme-Acme-Acme-Acme-Acme-Acme-Acme-Acme-Acme-Acme Anvil Chorus (Jeff Contompasis) [Alberta, Ind., Kan., La., Mich., N.C., Ore., Pa., Wash., W.Va.]

The Airdrie-Sheets-Ong-Linesville-Gough-Wapato-Tywappity Concerto for Wet Laundry (Frank Osen) [Alberta, N.D., N.D., Pa., Ga., Wash., Mo.]

The Cole-Esterel Healthy Heart Initiative (Frank Mann, Washington) (Okla., Quebec)

The Doane-Nead-Macomb-Nome-Moore Baldness Support Group (Jesse Frankovich) [W.Va., Ind., Ill., Alaska, Okla.]

The Juneau-Wymark-Needles-Kyle High School Gossip Podcast (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.) [Alaska, Saskatchewan, Calif., Saskatchewan]

The Jupiter-Spokane-Venus-Hurd Romance Book Club (Kathy El-Assal, Middleton, Wis.) [Fla., Wash., Tex., N.D.]

The Macon-Annada-Sandwich Overeaters Anonymous Hotline (Rob Cohen) [Ga., Mo., Mass.]

Letts-Coe-Brandon Refined Young Republicans of America (Ira Allen, Bethesda, Md.) [Iowa, Ill., Manitoba]

The Maumee-Loving-Sigmund-Froid-Eddy-Pool-Complex Analysister Cities (Randy Lee) [Ark., Ga., Pa., Mont., Okla., W.Va., N.C.]

The Pat-Dee-Buda-Bell-Lee Good Luck Club (Randy Lee) [Miss., Pa., Neb., Iowa, Ala.]

The Weir-Bannen-Flippin-Dee-Byrd Citizens Against Public Displays of Rudeness (Chris Doyle) [Kan., W.Va., Ark., Ore., Ark.]

The Little-Mermaid-Musson-Bee-Black Aryan Bottom Feeders (Randy Lee) [Okla., Del., La., Neb., S.C.]

The Bigfoot-Climax Study on Events We'd Like to Unsee (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.) [Tex., Saskatchewan]

The Back-Offutt-Athol Bar Fight Management School (Pam Shermeyer) [Tex., Tenn., Mass.]

And Last: The Wonder-Wye-Kent-Winn Style Invitational Support Group (Rob Cohen) [Ky., Mont., Ohio, Ala.]

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Oct. 10: Our contest to coin new words with the letter block ELDN. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Lee Graham)
Title:(Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich; Tom Witte)
Prize:(Sue Lin Chong)

Week 1508, Published 10/02/2022

Style Invitational Week 1508: Tour de Fours XIX --Laughtime Achievement
Saluting Super-Loser Elden Carnahan with an ELDN neologism contest. Plus winners of our contest to write with all 100 Scrabble tiles.

By Pat Myers

September 29, 2022 at 9:42 a.m. EDT

here to skip down to the winners of our contest to write with all 100 Scrabble tiles

Wordle nerds: The ones who post their scores every day at 12:01 a.m. "I've conducted a heuristic analysis of whether I should have started with 'adieu' or 'horse' ..."

Lendacity: "Our financial services company just wants to help you get back on your feet with our short-term loans and our convenient payment system of Vinny here."

Skindle: The best device for reading porn novels.

Waywayway back in 1993 -- when The Style Invitational was infantile in both senses of the word -- a federal worker named Elden Carnahan got ink in Week 22 for suggesting a contest for campaign slogans, then for placing second in the same contest (Dan Quayle: A Chicken in Every Garage). Soon afterward, he decided to open the phone book and invite some of the other inking entrants to breakfast.

That was the big-bang moment for what quickly expanded into the universe of the Losers, a social community that not only met for a monthly brunch (and then group vacations) but also began to compete energetically for the most Invite ink each year, a rivalry made possible by Elden's compilation and dissemination -- by mail! this was pre-internet -- of elaborate standings and statistics. The stats, of course, soon moved online, and the Keeper of the Stats continued to compile them, week after week, along with a complete archive of every Style Invitational since Week 1. Every week for 29 years. (Oh, yeah, he also found time to score more than 500 blots of Invite ink.)

Now, after turning 70 this year, Elden has turned over the stats and a slew of other Loser Community roles to a whole committee. And so, as a Laughtime Achievement Award for Mr. C, the Empress turns to one of our recurring contests, the Tour de Fours: This week: Coin a word or phrase containing the letters E-L-D-N -- consecutively but in any order -- and describe it, as in the examples above by Jon Gearhart, who suggested an ELDN contest and also came up with "Laughtime Achievement." You may add spaces or punctuation. Even with 24 possible arrangements of the letters, someone else might send in the same neologism that you do; in that case the ink would go to the wittiest description, especially if it shows how the neologism could be used in real life, or if it's used in a funny sentence.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Oct. 10; results appear Oct. 30 in print. Oct. 27 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a never-worn Loser T-shirt from the 1990s, won and regifted by Elden himself; the runner-up prize, designed by Bob Staake, inspired the Invite's regular contestants to call their community the Losers.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Hundred Tiles = This Nerd Duel" is by Chris Doyle; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

'Hundred tiles' = 'This nerd duel': Winning writing with all 100 Scrabble tiles

In Week 1504, the Empress gave the Losers the daunting task of writing something with all 100 tiles in a U.S. Scrabble set; they could choose what letters to use for the two blank tiles. Not surprisingly, we didn't get as many entries as usual, but also not surprisingly, the Loser Community -- including several First Offenders -- rose to the challenge. (Titles are part of the anagram unless they're in brackets.)

4th place:

A horse, a priest, a Jew, Dumbo, five aged humorist clones, eleven zebras, a lynx, a unicorn, and God walk into . . . Yipe! Forget it. I quit! (Dave Zarrow, Skokie, Ill.; the blank tiles were N and S)

3rd place:

Arizona: Cyber Ninja quacks update voting audit. (We're fine.)
Texas: Violate women's rights. (Boo!)
Epilogue -- Florida: Hold my beer.
(Kevin Dopart, Washington; blanks are B and O)

2nd place

and the Yoda head pail:

Her Exalted Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's suave final words: "I dub ignorant Andrew Viceroy of Goat Poop. King Charlie, I'm out!" (Marty Gold, Arlington, Va.; blanks are H and I)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Queue up! Every week idiots visiting Mar-a-Lago can find an awesome prez, bid on a really cool job, and exit thru the grift shop. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.; blanks are H and P)

Rank and tile: Honorable mentions

Blind Men and the Elephant
View I: "Kangaroo court. Quasi-crazy judge underfoot!"
View II: "Hoax! FBI plot! Merely a storage issue."
(Joy Rains, Bethesda, Md., a First Offender)

[The Ten Commandments]
One God (I'm it!)
Idolatry? Out!
Swearage? No, pz.
Quiet day? A must.
Parents rule!
Kill a foe? Bed his wife? No go!
Hijack? BS? Crave? Nix! Never!
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

A quiz: Top-secret dox. A lame ivory gewgaw. A library book. Select the one an FBI agent could never find in D.J. Trump's house. A: III. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

We've MAGA loonies up on Twitter urging us to take hydroxychloroquine: "Be afraid, please! A Pfizer covid jab eliminates DNA!" (Chris Doyle)

Avid, vigilant, flush coyote laid a trap for quiet, gutsy roadrunner. BOOM! Smoke clears, then - zowie! - "Be-beep!" Jinxed again, Wile. (Diane Lucitt, Ellicott City, Md.)

Me the People, in order to nix all U.S. amity, vanquish Justice, raze knowledge, grab affairs, I wave goodbye, dear Constitution. (Kevin Dopart)

Up ... up ... Dorothy arrived. "Am I in Kansas? Or is it the Land of Oz ici?" A big Fetterman waxed ebullient: "New Jersey! Google 'quack'! Vote!" (David Smith, Stockton, Calif.)

Vote fraud! Fishy! Protest! Strike! Trump solidly won Arizona,, Georgia, New Mexico, Quebec, Djibouti, Valhalla, Narnia, Eden. Gee! (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

[Nerd's Pickup Line, 2022] Can you be a viable mate in a speedy market today? I will just extend a civilizing query: "Rings of Power" or "House of the Dragon"? (Dan Stock, Medina, Ohio, a First Offender)

[I Love Lucy] A kooky, petite, jocular red-haired wife desiring stardom outfoxes a Cuban. He's vowing to prevent equal billing. A zany time! (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

A quick, ever so foolish red-brown fox, Di, jumps aeronautically over a lazy wiener dog and bites the peeing mutt's genitalia. (Robert Jordan, Chiang Mai, Thailand, a First Offender)

Able was I ere I saw the quick brown European fox jump over the dim lazy foreign tourist vacationing at Eddy's Lodge in Elba. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Ex-prez: "Not guilty! It was a joke! (Per Ginni, I won.) Garland is a turd. (HRC's emails!) Q told me I have reasonable doubt (i.e., covfefe you!). (Mark Raffman)

["The Sound of Music"] Inadequate novice (but excellent singer) Maria joins with Von Trapps, who, ruing faulty Nazi ideology, seek freedom abroad. (Karen Lambert)

[If the Frontier-Spirit discount airline merger had gone through] I did climb aft on a maiden "Frontier Spirit" jet, a Westworld up in a sky. Love turbulence, zero oxygen! Queasy, I gag, heave. A hoot! (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

"Commanders" football team? A chintzy, no-good appellation. I urge a jury review it. "River Snakeheads" would be f*ing exquisite! (Robert McArthur, Vienna, Va., a First Offender)

Better than "Commanders" * Quetzals? Ravioli? Ragweed? Onion Pie Puff? Sexy Bees? Jackdaws? Holy Ruin? Agate Violin? Oreo Id? Guilt? (Duncan Stevens)

Tubes' exquisite vulgarization metaphor joke: it gets around FCC. "We foiled everyone!" "Baby's arm holding an apple" -- win! (Kevin Dopart)

Mom Elizabeth bequeathed iconic jewelry to new king. Savvier antagonists lodge parody of ruler suited up in a foxy tiara. (Martin Ruddy, Russell, Ontario, a First Offender)

Sloth: I laze.
Gluttony: A fat man.
Envy: Jealous of.
Pride: Big opinion.
Wrath: Angerquake.
Lust: Desire waxed.
Greed: More bocci.
(Alison Thompson, Acton, Mass.)

O, We, a crazed vexed hero People, made a Just Tranquil Union of vigor, aegis, Welfare and Liberty by making this Constitution. (Jon Gearhart)

[And Last] Every week: one all-exalted, queenly autocrat judging ( "No bromides!"), offering victors sad two-bit mini-"prizes" (hah!). Aah, utopia! (Karen Lambert)

[And Even Laster] Woo-hoo! Our Style Invite text wizards have quickly rearranged 100 Scrabble tiles into a poem, a pun, an idea. I'm off judging. -- The E (Chris Doyle)

[And Lastest of All] Style Invitational: Go build a cool anagram! Derive excrement joke, Send your quip to the Empress, win a bad prize. Oh, I guffaw! (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Oct. 3: Our contest for state slogans, with a twist. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Jon Gearhart; Elden Carnahan)
Examples:(Jon Gearhart; Jon Gearhart; Jon Gearhart)
Title:(Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (Jesse Frankovich)
Prize:(Elden Carnahan)

Week 1507, Published 09/25/2022

Style Invitational Week 1507: All over the map! Plus top food songs.
Make a state slogan with the first letters of nearby states. And another round of inking parodies and videos.

By Pat Myers

September 22, 2022 at 9:41 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the winning song parodies and videos about food

MINNESOTA: We Must Insist On Politeness! (Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania)

IDAHO: We Now Make KETO-Organic Potatoes! (Wyo., Neb., Mo., Ky., Ohio, Pa.)

CALIFORNIA: A Noxious, Overbearing World Infested With Narcissists (Ariz., Nev., Ore., Wash., Idaho, Wyo., Neb.)

The idea for this contest, Bob Staake told the Empress, came to him, fully formed, in a dream. Which makes it even more abundantly clear, far beyond his cartoons, that Bob is in his own Bobworld.

It's a little complicated to explain, but we think it'll be fun to do. Bear with us here. This week:

Choose one of the contiguous 48 U.S. states or D.C. Then write a funny slogan for that state by "traveling a route" from that state into several others. Use the first letters of the states in your route as the first letters of the words in your slogan, as in Bob's examples above. (You may either use or skip the state you're writing about.)

The route has to be an unbroken line, but it can twist and turn in every direction, and can cross the same state more than once.

You may add "a," "an," "the," "and" and "or" anywhere in your slogan even if it doesn't refer to the state you're going through.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Oct. 3; results appear Oct. 23 in print, Oct. 20 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a genuine whoopee cushion, that venerable, ever-so-droll idiocy aid that emits a "braaap!" fart noise when it's sat on. Nanoseconds of hilarity ensue! Donated by Dave Prevar.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Kitchen Sing" is by Chris Doyle; William Kennard wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, Sept. 22, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Kitchen sing: Food-themed parodies from Week 1503

In Week 1503 we asked for songs about food -- growing it, buying it, cooking it, eating it. And wouldn't you know, the Loser Community had to add digesting it -- and egesting it -- as subjects among the hundreds of songs entered, both in text and video. If you're not familiar with a particular tune being parodied, click on the link in the title to hear the original -- and sing along.

Honorable mention: our favorite video this week: Chinese Buffet (To "YMCA"): By Marty, Sam and Nora Gold; featuring Marty, kids Ari and Nora, and pooch Pumpernickel Gold (watch the end), Arlington, Va. (If you're not seeing the video above, click here.)

4th place:

To "Downtown"
What brings me joy when life is really annoying? I can always throw
All of my crudeness just brings out my dudeness when I make it flow.
There's nothing else that I can do that's quite as satisfying
As flinging out my arm and making condiments go flying.
Such a big thrill!
I like to throw different kinds.
Get me a jar of Del Monte, a bottle of Heinz.
I throw ketchup when I am feeling cross!
Ketchup! This is my favorite sauce.
Ketchup! Makes me feel like a boss now.
(Barbara Sarshik, Vienna, Va.)

3rd place:

To "Yesterday"
Yesterday, how I pigged out at the free buffet
Now the nausea won't go away
I should have dined home yesterday.

Sirloin steak, then the double-chocolate layer cake
Topped with ice cream, was a big mistake
Will I survive this stomachache?

And the apple pie, my oh my, it was delish!
But now I could die, don't know why -- maybe the knish?

Saturday, hope my diarrhea goes away
There's a wedding up in Rockaway
I hear they have a great buffet.
(Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

2nd place and the souvenir bags of chocolate 'poop':

"Eye of the Tiger"
Fifty-plus, hardly petite,
Out of sorts, constipated.
Now I know I have to watch what I eat,
For a chance just to reach sixty-five.
So I'll add, at every repast,
Something raw and organic,
And I pray the Lord will let it work fast,
'Cause I need that relief to arrive *
It's a high-fiber diet that will loosen what's tight,
Clear me out! (Else I fear for my survival).
Unmilled bran? Yeah, I'll try it!
And I'll savor each bite,
'Cause I'm changing my life with a high-fiber diet!
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

"Wouldn't It Be Nice"
Pumpkin-flavored spice in your espresso,
Nutmeg, ginger, cloves there, in your mug.
"Just what you were wanting!" Um, I guess so;
Not the kind of blend I've really dug.
Do you maybe find it disconcerting?
Autumn means your loins you'd best be girding:
Pumpkin-flavored spice in Belgian waffle,
Pumpkin-flavored spice potato chips,
Pumpkin-flavored burgers -- that's just awful!
Pumpkin-flavored Spam? Not on my lips!
You know, I think I'm now prepared for winter;
Six feet deep I'd like this blend to inter.
That too-pervasive spice!
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Cordon Blah: Honorable mentions

"If I Only Had a Brain"
("sung" by Count Dracula)
I could while away an hour
And happily devour
A magnum of champagne;
Better yet (and delicious!)
Would be blood (it's quite nutritious!),
If I only had a vein.
I would love to taste your plasma;
(Might even help my asthma!);
I know it sounds insane;
Have a heart! Did I mention
That my thirst I could be quenchin',
If I only had a vein.

Oh, I can't tell you why
It's blood that I adore;
After biting, when my collar's stained with gore,
I spray with Shout! (That's what it's for!)
Though my pointy teeth may pain ya,

We'll fly to Transylvania --
I'm sure they have a plane;
We'd be sitting by the campfire --
You would get to be a vampire,
If I only had a vein!
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Portions of a Pie (To "Corner of the Sky" from "Pippin"): By Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla., a First Offender (If you're not seeing the video above, click here.)

24-Carrot Magic
To "24K Magic" by Bruno Mars
Crunch, crunch, it's orange / Tasty / Plus it's good for you
You haven't heard? / You didn't know? / That Bugs Bunny recommends it, too?
I'm cutting pieces for / A hot stew or / Perhaps a British mincemeat pie
Don't look too hard, but you won't need to / They say carrots help you see at night
Oh, snap!
I'm a real healthy man when a carrot's what I'm eating (eat up)
No more Milky Ways for me next month when I'm out trick-or-treating (eat up)
It's my new favorite food, "What's up, doc?" is my new greeting (eat up)
Vegans only!
Throw the celery out of the room!
Chefs! Toss those turnips, too!
24-carrot magic in the air*
(Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

To "My Sharona"
Open up the package and grease a pan,
Brownin' up the pasta in Rice-a-Roni!
Add the spices from the foil, water boil,
Whippin' up a batch of that Rice-a-Roni!
San Francisco treat, can't be beat,
Such a starchy side, it goes with any meat,
To complete all your meals with pride *
Aye-aye-aye-aye *.. Wooo! Rice-a-Roni! (Mark Raffman)

My Nutella (To "Bus Stop" by the Hollies): By Sandy Riccardi, Asheville, N.C. (If you're not seeing the video above, click here.)
I shop, midday, it's there, I say
"Please be my Nutella"
Can't stop, God knows, all day thighs grow
Eating my Nutella

Lunch and breakfast I inhale it
Wind or rain or shine
With spoons and knives I just impale it
I oughta build a shrine

(Bridge) Every morning I do see it
Waiting to be plopped
Sometimes on top of pancakes or bananas too
All my family stares at me as if I'm quite insane
You touch it? You'll get hurt. Oh, why must I explain?

One fine day my man implored me
To please share my Nutella
I said, "Take not one step toward me,
I won't share my Nutella"

'Fore I knew that cheeky fella
Lunged to take a bite
Nice to think that my Nutella
Made it through the fight

White bread, cocoa-hazelnut spread
I live for my Nutella
Think I'm joking? What you smoking?
I'd kill for my Nutella
I'd kill for my Nutella
I'd kill for my Nutella
(Sandy Riccardi, Asheville, N.C.)

Two to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"
Because we were afraid to eat a fish that sounded bad,
PR types gave its name a tweak -- which soon became a fad.
Now toothfish, slimehead, yelloweye and witch are swallowed whole
As "sea bass," "roughy," "snapper" and of course the "Torbay sole."
Yes super-clever marketers can make things seem less crummy --
Still, there is a limit to the stuff that we'll find yummy.
Listen, spin docs: Quit rebranding pols who've acted scummy!
They're the kind of bottom-feeders who upset the tummy.
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

Super-smart refrigerator, what an innovation!
Tells you how much food you have and dates of expiration
If it can do one more thing, it gets my admiration:
Super fridge if you're so smart, please cook -- I'm on vacation!
(Hildy Zampella, Vienna, Va.)

The Hovering Waiter
To "Moon River"
Big menu, 20 pages long.
My love and I'll be strong and say:
"Oh, waiter, come back later
We need time to think, so just please go away."
Two diners out to get a meal, a meal that's eaten leisurely
We're after some food that tastes good
And we think we could,
If the waiter would
Spare my love and me.

They wait till you begin to chew,
Then they come up to you and ask
How things things are tasting
But they're wasting
Their time 'cause we're not there to give a review.
Meal's over, here he comes again
Only time will tell us when he'll ask,
"Are you still working on that?"
We'll just tell him, "Scat"
We'll stay just where we're at
Right here where we got sat
That's my love and me.
(Rick Bromberg, Fairfax, Va.)

It's Not Easy Eating Beans (To "It's Not Easy Being Green"): By Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore (If you're not seeing the video above, click here)
It's not easy eating beans,
Having to spend each meal just opening a can,
When I think it could be nicer
Eating steak or burgers or wings,
Or something that's much tastier like that.

It's not easy eating beans
Seems your meals just blend in with so many
Other ones you ate.
And people tend to pass you over,
Cause somehow you stand out
And they gag and run away -
I wish I knew why.

But beans are filling and cheap
And beans have protein and fiber, too.
When inflation climbs up like a mountain
You can always clip a coupon,
Buy one, get one free.

When beans are all you can afford,
It could make you wonder why,
But why wonder, why wonder
I'll eat beans and they'll do fine
But I don't I think they're really what I*.excuse me.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

To "My Favorite Things"

Passion fruit smoothie with Brussels sprout topper,

Food that can never taste good as a Whopper,

Bean sprouts and quinoa, we're so out of touch;
These are the things that we don't like so much.
Cucumber-melon does not go together;
We need more substance to get through this weather.
Shiitake tacos taste just like they sound,
I guess we're forever resigned to be round.
When my spouse cooks with no cookbook,
We'll be eating in,
We simply keep eating our favorite things,
So maybe we're not . . . so thin.
(Nancy McWhorter, Isle of Palms, S.C.)

This S'more That I'm Eating (To "More Than a Feeling") : By Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md., with daughter Ziva (If you're not seeing the video above, click here)

I build up the fire, the light was gone
Break off some chocolate to melt my way
I might lose my marshmallow in the lawn
I close my eyes and it slips away!

This s'more that I'm eating (s'more that I'm eating)
When I sear it just like a warm souffle (s'more that I'm eating)
It begins heating (this smore that I'm eating)
Hope my marshmallow turns out okay
I see my marshmallow turning to gray

So many campfires have burned and gone
The embers fade as the night goes by
Yet still I'm enthralled as I start to yawn
It's clear as a spark in the evening sky

This s'more that I'm eating (s'more that I'm eating)
When I sear it just like a warm souffle (s'more that I'm eating)
It begins heating (this smore that I'm eating)
Hope my marshmallow turns out okay
I see my marshmallow turning to gray

When I'm cozy against the cold,
Just one more pass at this sweet buffet,
My marshmallow curls, it's all aglow
I close my eyes and it slips away
It slips away!

This s'more that I'm eating (s'more that I'm eating)
When I sear it just like a warm souffle (s'more that I'm eating)
It begins heating (this smore that I'm eating)
Hope my marshmallow turns out okay!
(Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

To "Desperado"
Guacamole, you appeal to my senses,
I've got no defenses against you at all;
You're so tasty and so perfectly seasoned
it's like I'm unreasoned when I hear you call.

Oh they're shipped from the Southern Hemisphere
By boats, planes, trains and trucks to here
'Cause we want avocados for our own.
And though the cost is mostly freight
We just don't care that half the weight is stone.

Guacamole, you ain't getting' no fresher,
And I know that there's pressure to change as you please --
ah, but changes, oh changes, that's New York foodies jivin' --
And you'll be survivin' these new recipes.

Don't you go bad fast in the summertime
Your green turns brown from a lack of lime
And it's hard to miss that slight hint of decay.
It won't be long that you'll postpone
the time that you find you'll be thrown away.

Guacamole, I think we've come to our senses;
Those sweet pea pretenses just don't taste as great.
And I am aiming with a chip poised above you
I'm gonna show you that I love you * before it's too late.
(Marcus Bales, Elyria, Ohio)

@theladyhamlet #vegans #vegansoftiktok #musicalparody #feelings * Cumbia Buena - Grupo La Cumbia

Vegans (To "Feelings") : By Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va. (If you're not seeing the video above, click here)

Vegans, nothing more than vegans
Trying to forget my hunger for cows...
Soybeans taking over my plate
Trying to forget my taste for pork now...

Vegans! My doctor says it's vegans
I wish I'd never asked 'bout my health
I'll never eat again
VEEEEEEE-GAAAAAANS... Whoa, whoa, whoa, Vegans!
Or should I say "me-gans?"
I guess I'm one now...
(Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va.)

We're Eating Our Mistakes: Song of the Covid Incarcerees
To "I've Got a Little List"
As every day it happens that our three meals must be cooked
One boils and broils and bakes, one boils and broils and bakes
But when cooking skills were given out, we both were overlooked
So we're eating our mistakes, we're eating our mistakes--
Our meatballs and spaghetti wound up sticking to the pot
You're s'posed to stir it now and then, but both of us forgot
The cookies burned and now they look like sooty little coals
And what went in as pita bread came out as dinner rolls
We overmixed some batter, so it's bricks instead of cakes
We're eating our mistakes, we're eating our mistakes.
Chorus: One boils and broils and bakes, one boils and broils and bakes
And we're eating our mistakes, we're eating our mistakes.

It's bread dough needs the handling, not pie crust--well, who knew?
We've strata now, not flakes, we've strata now, not flakes
And I'm amazed--it seems that one can overcook a stew
We're eating our mistakes, we're eating our mistakes--
Our sourdough has never worked, it doesn't rise, it sinks
The kimchi we fermented went and rotted, now it stinks
The fritters fizzled in the oil, dessert's a soggy mess
And I forget what's on that plate--I couldn't even guess
And looking in that pot of soup's like looking down a jakes
We're eating our mistakes, we're eating our mistakes.

The flour's almost gone now, but no matter--there's no yeast
Who cares, for goodness' sakes? Who cares, for goodness' sakes?
We've made another liquor run, we don't care in the least
We're eating our mistakes, we're eating our mistakes--
If ever we emerge into the sunshine from this plague
I'm going to take a #$%ing bath in #$%ing Haig and Haig
Then visit every rest'rant in the city with the miz
Like Whatshisname's and You-Know-Who's--I hope they're still in biz
But it really doesn't matter, 'cause till then, my stomach aches
From eating our mistakes, from eating our mistakes. (Shelley Posen, Ottawa, a First Offender)

"Ode to the Chinese Buffet"
To "Y.M.C.A":
[DAD]: Hey kids, what do you want for dinner?
Should we just cook and stay in, or*
Maybe we could go out to eat;
I don't want to clean this kitchen.

[SON]: I'd like a big plate of fried rice
[DAUGHTER]: And I think wonton soup would be nice
[DAD]: Let's go somewhere that's not too pricey
Where we could all be happy*

[ALL]: Why don't we go to the Chinese buffet?
[DAD]: "All-you-can-eat" is the American way!
[SON]: We can start with dumplings
[DAUGHTER]: And spring rolls too!
[DAD]: Then move onto some yung egg foo!
[ALL]: At the Chinese buffet!
[DAD]: They've got that Mongolian beef saute
[DAUGHTER]: But I don't want to eat too heavy tonight
[SON]: Then just take Buddha's Delight!

[VERSE, at restaurant]
[DAD]: Hunan, Szechuan or Cantonese,
Take some lo mein, cooked however you please.
[SON]: I wonder who this General Tso was,
I really like his chicken!

[DAUGHTER]: That was a really good spread.
[DAD, reading fortune cookie]: New surprises await you*
[SON]: IN BED!!!
[SON]: I don't need to eat for a week
[DOG, back at home]: I hope they bring me an eggroll!

[CHORUS, back at home]:
[ALL]: We had good times at the Chinese buffet!
[DAD]: I can't eat like this every day.
[DAUGHTER]: Once in a while, it's okay to splurge,
[ALL]: 'cause sometimes you get the urge
To go to the Chinese buffet!
(by Marty Gold, Sam Gold, Nora Gold, Arlington, Va.)

Still running -- deadline Tuesday night, Sept. 27: Our contest to use any of 32 new dictionary words in a short, funny poem. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Bob Staake)
Examples:(Bob Staake; Bob Staake; Bob Staake)
Title:(Chris Doyle)
Subhead: (William Kennard)
Prize:(Dave Prevar)
Add:H:1503:(Marty Gold; Sam Gold; Nora Gold; Judy Freed; Sandy Riccardi)
Add:H:1503:(Jonathan Jensen; Sarah Walsh; Marni Penning Coleman)

Week 1506, Published 09/18/2022

Style Invitational Week 1506: Let's go magnet fishing with new words
Write a short poem with one of these terms recently added to the dictionary. Plus winning 'hi'-word limericks.

By Pat Myers

September 15, 2022 at 9:53 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the winning limericks.

The meal that chefs call omakase
(A go-to of the sushi posse)
The raw-fish lover's trendy favorite
Alas, when done they have to pay for it.


The folks at Merriam-Webster are back with a look at some of the 370 new terms and meanings they've recently added to their dictionary -- and even donated a prize celebrating one of them.

So let's do what we did with the last batch about a year ago: This week: From the list below, write a humorous poem of eight lines or fewer featuring one or more of these terms, as in the creatively (but validly) rhyming example above by Style Invitational fan Gene Weingarten, a longtime connoisseur of the subtleties of Japanese food who indeed has ordered omakase, a chef's-choice menu. Look up the words at or click on the links below. (And no, magnet fishing does not mean entering The Style Invitational.)

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Tuesday night, Sept. 27 (that's for you, Rosh Hashanah people); results appear Oct. 16 in print, Oct. 13 online.

cootie catcher
dawn chorus
deep cut
hairy eyeball
level up
magnet fishing
mood board
pumpkin spice
side hustle
supply chain
Tater Tots

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a mug imprinted with the Merriam-Webster logo and its definition of "pumpkin spice." (The Empress, who will drink virtually any coffee that keeps her awake, including that filtered through old socks, had to spit out a pumpkin spice brew. But that's your call.)

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline " 'Hi'-way Ribbery" is by Jeff Contompasis; Kevin Dopart and Tom Witte both submitted the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, Sept. 15, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

'Hi'-way ribbery: Winning limericks from Week 1502

Week 1502 was our annual Limerixicon, a salute to the never-ending limerick dictionary project at This year we've inched up to the "hi-" words.

4th place:

Two newlywed Goths want to choose
A token of love they won't lose.
She likes funerals, he
Adores snakes; they agree
To get hiss-and-hearse matching tattoos.
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

3rd place:

One day Lassie, while filming, was laggin';
Wouldn't move -- so they had to start draggin'.
The director said, "Sheesh,
Let's attach a long leash,
Then we'll go hitch our star to a wagon."
(Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

2nd place

and the book "Museum of Bad Art: Masterpieces":

I like rap, so I play it nonstop,
Which annoys both my mom and my pop.
"That ain't music," they say,
"Like the hits in our day,
Long before your dang hippety-hop."
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Our home is historic, you'll see.
Mr. Rochester shares it with me.
We have bedrooms to rent
From September to Lent --
Log on now to JaneEyreBnB!
(Stephen Gold, London)

Junior HI-: Honorable mentions

Said a hidebound exec, "When I'm hiring
I pick bottoms and legs worth admiring."
It got back to HR,
Which reached out: "Au revoir!
For it's clear, sir, you'll soon be retiring."
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Mr. Dumpty is sadly now gone,
His remains scattered out on the lawn,
He climbed far, far too high
On that wall -- why, oh why?
It seems that his friends egged him on.
(Kevin Ahern, Corvallis, Ore.)

A British guitarist named Stan
Was playing a concert in Cannes,
When an audience member
Threw rocks and an ember *
And that's when the Brit hit the fan. *
(Madeleine Begun Kane, Bayside, N.Y.)

My kitchen's been gaily restyled:
Neon yellow and pink have run wild!
To what do I owe
This mysterious glow?
Just two highlighters snagged by my child.
(Christy Tosatto, a full-time RV nomad submitting from near St. John's, Newfoundland)

Have a problem to solve that's got heft?
Is it making you feel less than deft?
Never fear! Keep your cool!
Thanks to vigilance, you'll
Sometimes find there's a bit of help left.
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

At my campsite I'm startled to see
A black and white beast by my knee.
Though the tail that arises
Is his, the surprise is:
The high-tailing party is me.
(Coleman Glenn)

A man came to Hippocrates; quoth
The man: "Look, on my elbow's a growth,
And it hurts -- makes me yelp."
Doc said, "Wish I could help,
Sir, but 'First, do no arm' was my oath!"
(Karen Lambert)

Hippocrates tried something new
When his days as a doctor were through:
He began cutting hair
At a beauty school, where
He taught stylists to first harm no 'do. (Chris Doyle)

About Hillary he was frenetic.
"Lock her up!" got the crowds energetic.
So the boxes they found
In his club will be bound
To make justice seem extra poetic.
(Michael Stein, Arlington)

He spoke of a hip joint he knew;
She seemed to be interested, too.
"Ooh, that place down the street
Where the in-people meet?"
Then he pulled out his X-rays to view.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

He took documents with him, unbidden,
In a Florida safe, kept them hidden.
Now his fans, near and distant,
Just to keep it consistent,
All proclaim, "Lock him up!" (Nah, just kiddin'.)
(Mark Raffman)

Trump's take on the docs he had hidden:
"That's BS! Who said it's forbidden?
They're mine, free and clear!
Plus, they weren't even here --
You guys planted them! Whaddaya, kiddin'?"
(Sharon Neeman, Pardes Hanna, Israel)

Hickory dickory dock,
Dumb mouse must have gotten a shock
When the sound of a chime
Put an end to his climb.
What a weenie, cold-cocked by a clock!
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

The internist loved the old clock,
But his words left the seller in shock:
"Even though the wood's nice,
I will not pay full price:
I'm a dickery hickory doc."
(Jeff Loren, Seattle)

A gentleman wearing Versace
Ate with gusto and got it all splotchy.
In a hurry, he tried
Using water and dried
It most foolishly -- with a hibachi.
(Stephen Gilberg, Silver Spring, Md.)

"I've a bad case of hiccups,"said Beth,
"That won't end and it scares me to death.
Hope I'll soon find a cure,
But I'm not really sure
That I will - I'm not holding my breath."
(Kirk Miller, Richardson, Tex.)

Joe Manchin is no country hick
But he's made many city folks sick
With his waffles and whines
And his coddling of mines:
He's changed horses while deep in the crick.
(David Johnston, Elkridge, Md., who last got Invite ink in 1998)

To be covered in sweat is hidrotic,
And in college, I'd get so neurotic:
Each exam was a stressor--
Once a physics professor
Said, "Relax, you look semi-aquatic!"
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

As a fielder ran under a fly ball,
Its position he couldn't quite eyeball.
When it cost him the game
He got drunk out of shame.
So that's twice he got whipped by a highball.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

On the highway, my teen sped ahead.
"That car's wrong and I'm right!" So I said,
"If there's danger afield,
And you choose not to yield,
You'll be right but you'll also be dead."
(Karen Lambert)

Putin's behaving like Hitler,
Wants to carve up Ukraine like a whittler.
He's a new Russian czar
With chutzpah bizarre
(Compensating for parts that are littler?)
(Allan Zackowitz, Brookeville, Md.)

"Hip, hooray!" sounds so boring, so blah -
As congrats, it lacks je ne sais quoi.
Also, more to the point,
Why not some other joint?
"Elbows mazel tov!" "Knuckle huzzah!"
(Daniel Galef, Tallahassee)

My medical history's done;
Seems colitis and flatulence run
In my family, docs say.
No surprise there 'cause, hey,
I keep hearing "Like farter, like son."
(Chris Doyle)

Time to toast! I was glad to comply,
So I lifted my glass to the sky.
I finished my highball
And checked out my eyeball...
So where is that "mud in my eye"?
(Beverley Sharp)

I flunked history, couldn't defeat it
(And didn't do much to complete it).
I should have been wiser;
So says my adviser,
Who tells me I'm doomed to repeat it.
(Coleman Glenn)

This is sure to delight boyfriend Tommy:
'Neath the couch I'm concealing pastrami,
And there's more meat that's stowed
Just behind the commode!
Well, he said, "Let's play hide-the-salami."
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

A hive is a home for a bee
A bird makes its nest in a tree
A hole is a house
For a mole or a mouse
And a Palm Beach resort with lots of rooms for top-secret documents is a house for me-- because I don't have to obey any laws, including the laws of limericks.
(Joan Welsh, Arlington, Va., a First Offender -- after the poem by Mary Ann Hoberman)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Sept. 19: Combine the names of any two U.S. and/or Canadian cities in a "joint venture." See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Examples:(Gene Weingarten)
Title:(Jeff Contompasis)
Subhead: (Kevin Dopart; Tom Witte)

Week 1505, Published 09/11/2022

Style Invitational Week 1505: Munici-pals
Pair 2 or more names of 'sister cities' for a 'joint venture.' Plus winning ways (not) to be helpful.

By Pat Myers

September 8, 2022 at 9:57 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the winning "helpful" ideas

The Keokuk (Iowa)-Chappaqua (N.Y.) Conference on Jazz Drumming Sounds (Phil Frankenfeld)

The Marietta -Liddell-Lamm Children's Library (Brendan Beary) (Ga., N.C., N.C.)

The Pray-Novice-Pilot-Cando-Landing Air Phobia Support Group (Russell Beland) (Mont., Tex., Va., N.D., N.J.)

Here's a contest the Empress ran when she was a wee little thing, just weeks into her Empressitude, and had never run again despite a deluge of entries. You know how two towns sometimes have a cultural or economic relationship as "sister cities"? Choose any two or more real U.S. or Canadian towns -- they need to show up on a Google search -- and come up with a joint endeavor they would undertake, as in the examples above from Week 546 in 2004. It's conceived as a wordplay contest on their names, but the E wouldn't rule out an idea based on the qualities of the actual places. Write the state/province names at the end of your entry so your joke is easier to read.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Sept. 19; results appear Oct. 9 in print, Oct. 6 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a truly fabulous large-format (and out-of-print) album of "Literary Paper Dolls," which let you cut out and dress everyone from Shakespeare to Dickinson to Capote with appropriate accessories. For Kafka, there's a full-size bug with little tabs! Donated by Pie Snelson.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Loser-Friendly" is by Duncan Stevens; Duncan also wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, Sept. 8, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Loser-friendly: 'Helpful' hints from Week 1501

In Week 1501, the Empress asked for "helpful" acts that are anything but. Several people noted how they thoughtfully straddle two parking spaces so they won't ding nearby cars when they throw open their doors.

4th place:

For their birthdays, I give my grandchildren underwear I'd saved from when I was their age, so they can treasure the link between our generations. (Paul Brown, Silver Spring, Md.)

3rd place:

When I have a full cart at the supermarket, I go to the express lane and break it up into multiple purchases of 12 items so people will see I'm not cheating. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

2nd place:

and the "Butt Head of the Household" men's socks:

Nobody likes being told in public that their zipper's down, so I just walk up and discreetly zip it back up for them. (May Jampathom, Oakhurst, N.J.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

When I see tourist couples trying to take selfies, I always offer to take the photo for them because I have really long arms and they probably enjoy having a local in the picture. (Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

Ech support: Honorable mentions

With so many of my neighbors working from home these days, I make sure not to disturb their Zoom calls: I do all my lawn mowing and leaf blowing before 7 a.m. (David MacGregor, Arlington, Va.)

Around Valentine's Day, I make sketches of random people on the subway so they can give them as gifts to their special someone. And I depict them as I imagine they would appear naked. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

As a police officer, I recognize that we're all too often seen as the "bad guys." That's why I make a point of pulling drivers over on the road just to introduce myself. (Donald Norum, Charlottesville, Va.)

Knowing how difficult the months ahead can be, I like to discreetly take a picture of the deceased at funeral viewings, then use it later to make a personalized Christmas card for the widow or widower. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

At home, I always leave the toilet seat up so my wife can see at a glance whether she needs to clean it. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

When I see a woman trying to decide between two items at the grocery store, I pick one and throw it in her cart. -- S. Alito (Ben Aronin, Washington)

Believe me, I know how unfair it is to pay taxes, so I make sure my employees at Mar-a-Lago stay in a low bracket. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

Every time I take a sip from the Communion chalice, I always spit it back in to make sure there's enough for the next person. (Mark Wakefield, Frederick, Md., a First Offender)

"P-O-T-A-T-O * Add one little bit on the end * You're right phonetically, but what else *? There ya' go * all right!" -- Vice President Quayle visiting an elementary school, 1992 (Roxi Slemp, Bariloche, Argentina)

When I play golf, I scream "FORE!" at the top of my lungs every time I swing, just to be on the safe side. You never know where that putt might go. (Scott Richards, Hollywood, Md.)

I always keep candy in the car in case I want to offer a ride to some poor kid walking home alone. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

I think that, like me, most people do these little acts of kindness. So they'll know their efforts are appreciated, I leave little anonymous notes where strangers will find them, saying, "I know what you did." (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee, Fla.)

When the flight attendant passes my row, I always smile, point at my lap and poke my pelvis up so she can see my seat belt is fastened. (Drew Bennett, Rogers, Ark.)

When I'm first in line at a stoplight, I always pause a few seconds when the light turns green to give everyone behind me the chance to get off their phones. (Robert Welch, Atlanta)

My roommate is kind of a neat freak, so I make sure to keep all my toenail clippings on my side of the dorm room. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

When I learned that my son's English class had been assigned to read "Moby-Dick," I gave my son the comic book version so he'd have more time for football practice. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

Sailing to Europe at last to bring those guys the goods they want! I figure we'll be back in the Crimea by 1347. Glad I have my pet rat Bubo to keep me company -- wish he didn't have fleas, though. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

When I get a 2-for-1 coupon for a good restaurant near my job, I always invite a co-worker to come with me so we can both enjoy some friendly conversation while I eat my free lunch. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

As a proctologist, I try to keep my patients relaxed by putting smiley faces on the fingertips of my exam gloves. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

When I see someone parked in a handicap spot without the sticker, I help them stay out of trouble by spray-painting a little wheelchair on their windshield. (Mark Raffman)

When I'm alone in an elevator with another person, I subtly signal that I'm not a threat by intoning nursery rhymes under my breath. (Coleman Glenn)

At classical concerts, I always applaud and cheer after each movement of a symphony to give the players that emotional boost for the rest of the piece. (Steve Honley, Washington)

When I walk in the state park, I often see trees defaced with brightly painted rectangles. Now I always bring brown spray paint with me to cover up the ugliness. (Diane Lucitt, Ellicott City, Md.)

A friend of mine has put on a few pounds, but I wanted to let her know that I didn't think any less of her for it. I even sent her a list and photos of successful fat people. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

During my barista shifts in the winter, I keep completed orders warm in my armpits while customers make their way to the counter. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

You know how they say, "You know your child best"? That's why I help out my daughter's soccer coach by pointing out the best times to put her into the game. (Fred Shuback, Silver Spring, Md.)

I know how irritating it is to have a long wait during a short lunch break. That's why I always wave to my friends to join me in my place in the food truck line. (Joanne Free, Clifton, Va.)

To encourage my young children to give back to the community, I have them bring their violins to restaurants so the other customers can listen to music while they dine. (Hildy Zampella, Vienna, Va.)

To reduce motel maids' duties, I never remove the "Sanitized for Your Protection" toilet band during my entire stay. (Rob Huffman, Fredericksburg, Va.)

When there's a bicyclist in front of me, I sound my horn every five seconds so they know I'm carefully watching them. (Frank Mann, Washington)

And Last: When submitting a Style Invitational entry I insert lots of laughter emoji to help the Empress realize it's funny! **** (Christy Tosatto, a full-time RV nomad submitting from near Cheticamp, Nova Scotia)


Two contests still running -- deadline for both is Monday night, Sept. 12:

For Week 1503, write a song about food (growing, cooking, eating, anything) to a well-known tune or your own.

And for Week 1504, write something that uses all 100 Scrabble tiles.

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Examples:(Phil Frankenfeld; Brendan Beary; Russell Beland)
Title:(Duncan Stevens)
Subhead:(Duncan Stevens)
Prize:(Pie Snelson)

Week 1504, Published 09/04/2022

Style Invitational Week 1504: All set -- anagram all 100 Scrabble tiles
Empty out the bag and see what you get. Plus winning new words that would score 15 Scrabble points.

By Pat Myers

September 1, 2022 at 9:52 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the 15-point words and phrases

Kansas girl with a dog,
aided by brave companions,
journeyed up to Oz, in time
recalling the exquisite value
of red footwear.
-- Scrabblegram by David Cohen about, well, duh (blanks are D and O)

The Empress was alerted recently to the marvelous Twitter account Scrabblegrams by Dave, Dave being physician David Cohen of Atlanta, who's been posting an anagram of the entire Scrabble set every day -- hundreds of them so far. Dave first encountered this daunting challenge in a 1997 contest in Games Magazine, in which he came up not only with a valid Scrabblegram, as the form had become known (not related to ScrabbleGrams, the Jumble-type word contest in daily papers including The Post), but an excellent limerick to boot -- winning the whole contest:

A clown jumps above a trapeze.
Arcs over one-eighty degrees.
Out into mid-air,
Quite unaware
Of his exiting billfold and keys.
(Blanks are E and S.)

Then, just two years ago, Dave read an article about Scrabblegrams in Eric Chaikin's blog Beyond Wordplay, tracing the form back to Britain in the 1970s and declaring Dave's clown limerick the GOAT of the genre. And bam -- Dave plunged in once again, "then got hooked for good."

And so if Dave can Scrabblegram every single day on Twitter and his website, the Loser Community can surely come through for this week's contest: Write a Scrabblegram -- an anagram of all 100 tiles in an English-language Scrabble set (your choice for the two blanks). Any punctuation is fine. Your writing can be a funny thought, a poem, a dialogue, what-evah.

Here's how many of each letter you'll be working with: A-9, B-2, C-2, D-4, E-12, F-2, G-3, H-2, I-9, J-1, K-1, L-4, M-2, N-6, O-8, P-2, Q-1, R-6, S-4, T-6, U-4, V-2, W-2, X-1, Y-2, Z-1. Plus the two blanks of your choice.

There's a fabulous -- and necessary -- tool for writing and checking your Scrabblegram, one we've used in previous anagram contests: It's the Anagram Checker at, devised by the brilliant and also very gracious Anu Garg. See the the bottom of this column for a string of the 100 characters you can copy into the tool to compare with your own anagram -- and if it's valid, the letters will jump around in celebration.

Submit up to 25 entries (if you're some sort of freaky Dave-like anagramming wizard) at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Sept. 12; results appear Oct. 2 in print, Sept. 29 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a charming Yoda-head pail with handle, suitable for trick-or-treating, as a little planter, or as an excellent handbag for your more whimsical cocktail parties. Donated by Daphne Steinberg.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Neolog15ms" is by Kevin Dopart; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Loser David Smith alerted the Empress to the Twitter account Scrabblegrams by Dave. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Neolog15ms: New 15-Scrabble-point words from Week 1500

To celebrate Week 1500, the Empress asked the Losers to think up new words whose letters would add up to 15 points in Scrabble. (It mattered not whether there were more P's, say, in a word than there are in the game, or whether a word would have to land on a double space.)

4th place:

Subpeony: The official flower of the Justice Department -- it's been in full bloom lately in Florida and Georgia. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

3rd place:

Vegenerates: The debased, un-American sort who would order plant-based sausage at Cracker Barrel. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

2nd place

and the dog butt coat hooks:

QAnon: It is 15 points -- you counted it wrong. (Erika Reinfeld, Medford, Mass.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Dadolescent: A husband who spends every damn night playing Nintendo with the kids. "Okay, hold on, they'll get to their homework in a bit *" (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

* Lose sum: Honorable mentions

Demoncrats: Evil, Satan-worshiping opponents of true, Trump-worshiping Republicans. (Ward Foeller, Charlottesville, Va.)

Deppleted: What Amber Heard's bank account got. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

Fadj: A "pilgrimage" to the latest hot destination. "Just everyone at our sorority is making the fadj to Cabo for spring break." (Daniel Helming, Whitemarsh, Pa.)

Crashinals: D.C.'s baseball team ever since it won the pennant in 2019. (Frank Mann, Washington)

Geeze: To behave like your granddad. "Sheesh, 40 years old and he's already starting to geeze about the kids' music." (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Hollerpeno: The absolutely hottest pepper on the Scoville scale. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Ivanked: Asked to do something you're totally unqualified to do. "My boss totally ivanked me by making me represent the agency at the diplomatic symposium. What do I know, I'm in marketing." (Maria Avillo, Bethesda, Md., a First Offender)

Prepenting: Expressing regret over what you're about to do anyway. "I know I'm going to get sick if I eat this whole Super Super Sundae. But you know, I can't exactly take it home *" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Ukrainium: A radioactive quagmire that's located between Vladimir Putin's ears. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Vladimort: He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Blamed. -- D.J.T. (Jesse Frankovich)

Arkansaps: People who thought overturning Roe would lead red states to provide generous support for mothers. See also: Floridupe, Montanaive and Duhkota. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Beetbarf: Borscht. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)

Boeberth: A measure of distance from a MAGA politician. "For your safety I'd recommend you stand at least 50 boeberths from Marjorie Taylor Greene." (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

Buoytoy: An oligarch's yacht. (Beverley Sharp)

Chocolit: What your kids get after eating half of their Halloween candy at one go. (Jonathan Jensen)

Coatex: Maybe not the best brand name for a new house paint. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Cusstoady: Where's Michael Cohen these days? (Mark Raffman)

Fauxn: A handy fake handheld that you have to "answer" when you're stuck in a boring conversation. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Gaysayer: Someone Ron DeSantis does not want to hear from. (Duncan Stevens)

Gochya: Russian-English for checkmate. (Sudhir Vasudeva, McLean, Va., a First Offender)

Graycists: People of a certain age who miss the old days when "everyone knew their place." (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

Gundamental: Apparently, the only type of right the Supreme Court believes in protecting absolutely. (Dave Airozo)

Hurlhood: Your fraternity years. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Impursonate: "She says it's genuine, but I'm pretty sure it's an impursonation. For one thing, the tag says 'Louie Veton.' " (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

Liarbility: The penalty for blatant defamation. "That $45 million liarbility on Alex Jones couldn't have happened to a nicer guy." (Brian Krupp, Lewes, Del.)

Lowflutin: Using a jelly jar to drink champagne. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

Moptimist: Someone who's convinced that one day someone besides me will clean up this #$$# kitchen! (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Mt. Neverest: A goal that's highly unlikely to happen. "Now Uncle Ernie says he's going to learn fluent Navajo -- there he goes, climbing Mount Neverest again!" (Karen Lambert)

Neighbrrr: The woman next door who answers your "good morning" with a withering stare. (Tom Witte)

Oughtful: With good intentions, anyway. "I really should stop rolling my eyes every time my idiot boss opens his mouth," Tom reflected oughtfully. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Oz-tent: A temporary "home" in the state where you plan to run for office. (Mark Raffman)

Pilluminati: A shadowy group said to control big pharma. "The pilluminati made sure Medicare could negotiate prices for just 10 drugs, starting in 2026." (Chris Doyle)

Plodometer: My Fitbit, usually. (Karen Lambert)

Pogroomers: Adults who manipulate teenage boys into growing up to be Proud ones. (Kevin Dopart)

Prepudiate: To reject before learning much relevant information. "She set her OkCupid to prepudiate anyone from West Virginia." (Karen Lambert)

Rustorationists: People who "age" furniture to sell as antiques. (Jeff Contompasis)

Scotify: Struggling platform for all-bagpipe music. (Chris Doyle)

Starspangler: Singer with an unfortunate tendency to do vocal gymnastics during the free-and-the-brave bit. (Steve Bremner, Philadelphia)

Unsnydered: Not yet ruined. "Even as the tow truck hauled away the mangled heap of his once-beloved Camaro, Chad was already plotting how he could get his dad to buy him a new, unsnydered one." -- All Commanders fans, everywhere (Jerome Uher, Alexandria, Va.)

And Last: Empressario: The manager of a company of clowns. (Donald Norum, Charlottesville, Va.)

And Even Laster: Inksplain: "In case you don't understand the humor of my entry, it's a wordplay combining the Latin root *" (Karen Lambert)

Still running -- deadline also Monday, Sept. 12: Our contest for songs about food (either parodies or originals). See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

The 100 letters for validating your Week 1504 anagram

When validating your anagram at the Anagram Checker website, copy the following block of letters and paste it into the "source text" field -- be sure to replace the question marks with the letters you're using for the two blank tiles. Then copy in your anagram and click on "check anagrams."











Idea:(David Smith)
Title:(Kevin Dopart)
Subhead:(Tom Witte)
Prize:(Daphne Steinberg)

Week 1503, Published 08/28/2022

Style Invitational Week 1503: Sing of your supper--parodies about food
Plus the winners of our Bob Staake cartoon caption contest

By Pat Myers

August 25, 2022 at 9:59 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the winning cartoon captions

Along with the recurring song contests that focus on the news, the Empress likes to toss in a few that don't necessarily play off the headlines (though they're welcome to!). In the past we've done songs on the general themes of animals and work; this year, at the suggestion of both Marcus Bales and, more recently, Mark Raffman: Write a humorous song on the subject of food -- growing it, cooking with it, eating it, whatever -- set to a well-known tune or your original tune (for that, of course, you'd need to make a recording). Videos are an increasingly popular option in our song contests -- we've had some fabulous "video ink" in recent years -- but lyrics are still the main thing, and parodies that run in our print edition must be set to very familiar tunes. See this week's Style Conversational column for more guidance on doing songs for the Invite.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). We give you an extra week for songs: Deadline is Monday, Sept. 12; results appear Sept. 25 in print, Sept. 22 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives, apropos of this contest, an Invite Gourmet Variety Pack consisting of souvenir bags of chocolates labeled Canadian Beaver Poop (donated by Jonathan Hardis during our Niagara Falls Loserfest trip), Ohio Cow Poop and Cincinnati Pig Poop (both given us long ago by Duncan Stevens) as well as a tin of Alien Poop Mints from Elden Carnahan.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Jest of Drawers" was submitted by both Jon Gearhart and Chris Doyle. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, Aug. 25, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Jest of Drawers: Inking cartoon captions from Week 1499

Week 1499 provided yet another opportunity to attach ridiculous captions to even ridiculouser Bob Staake cartoons. Among the 1,300 entries the Empress waded through, dozens mentioned "bear necessities" for Picture 2, and many others told Yogi or Smokey that he wasn't in "a bear market." The top four captions are listed under their respective cartoons.

Third place: "And how would you like us to arrange your flight: overbooked or canceled?" (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

"Perhaps you meant to say 'a ticket to Pittsburgh,' Reverend Spooner." (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

"I'm sorry, but Viking Cruises does not offer a 'steerage' option." (Jonathan Jensen)

"Ah, yes, the Perth Amboy poster. Let's just say, the Northern New Jersey Tourism Council made me an offer I couldn't refuse." (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

"Actually, Mr. Greenblatt, I don't think shoving money up your nose is the best way to avoid pickpockets." (Ward Foeller, Charlottesville, Va.)

"I'm afraid that given the dimensions of your nose, you'll also have to reserve the seat in front of you." (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

"For people who've already turned green, Perth Amboy might be lovely!" (Dan Helming, Whitemarsh, Pa.)

"Yes, I'm sure the nose plug filters are efficient, but they still want you to wear a mask." (Daniel Jarrell, Alexandria, Va., a First Offender)

"Why, yes, we do offer time travel back to when offices had no computer screens." (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

"Honestly, I don't know how the rest of my head stays attached, either." (Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

"You've seen London? You've seen France? Then I'm afraid the 'Netherlands' are off-limits to you, sir." (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

He'd hoped to get out of the country to avoid the subpoena, but Rudy's fake mustache didn't fool anyone. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

In the spring of 1945, a travel agent booked passage to Argentina for one "Adolfo Schicklgruber," who was never seen again. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Fourth place: "What do you mean you 'overhibernated'? Now get to work!" (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

"Even if you're smarter than the average bear, it's pretty dumb to forget your wallet." (Jonathan Jensen)

"Ryan, how many times have I told you that your mascot costume scares the customers!" (Jeff Lubbers, Takoma Park, Md.)

"For the last time, buddy, you're gonna hafta use Cottonelle!" (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.; Lani Jacobson, Herndon, Va.)

"It's in the back and on the right * but I thought you guys went in the woods *" (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

"Him? We don't talk about Bruno. No, no, no." (Duncan Stevens)

"Can't you read? This lane is for shoppers with FIVE items!" (Cheryl Gracey, Winchester, Va., a First Offender; Steve Smith)

Second place and the Lactation Cookie Bites: "Mom, if I have to run down here every time your screen freezes, I'm going to flunk gym class." (Allan Zackowitz, Brookeville, Md.)

"I sent the file labeled 'Fake Electors' to the 'Electors' folder, and the 'Fake Fake Electors' to the 'Really Fake Electors' file, but then it all got a little confused *" (Lynne Larkin, Vero Beach, Fla.)

"All I did was ask about your enhanced proxy-layered security protocols and you look at me like I've got two heads." (Jonathan Jensen)

"So basically, in Windows 11, you can do all of the same things but they're all located in different places. No, I don't know why, either." (Maier Schreiber, Jerusalem, a First Offender)

"Whose password is thisplacesucks123?" (Carol Lasky, Boston)

"Done. Now he'll be a panda on his next Zoom call." (Robert Welch, Atlanta, a First Offender)

"See? Every time I click, the desk gets a little shorter." (Chris Parkin, Silver Spring)

"There's your problem. No Pokemon power can evolve a Squirtle to a Jigglypuff." (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

"Control-Alt-Delete never seems to work on illegal stuff." (Mel Simoneau, Gatineau, Quebec, a First Offender)

"Yeah, so, I don't know what it means for a CPA, but online? Whenever you see 'Rule 34' you're gonna wanna click this little red X right here." (Donald Norum, Charlottesville, Va.)

"The Empress says only 25 entries, so I use lots of email addresses and pretend my house is an apartment building." (Sam Mertens)

The winner of the Clowning Achievement: "Well, he did ask if he could take our order." (Carol Lasky, Boston)

"Will you make me the happiest man in the world and pick up the check?" (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

"The owner is really named Chester, but he thought it sounded classier in French." (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

"I thought you said you loved cats!" (Lynne Larkin)

"I hear it's impolite to call a French waiter 'garcon.' The preferred term is 'skippy.' " (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

How did I know what "couilles de mouton" were? (Pia Palamidessi, Cumberland, Md.)

"Just because I voted to strip away your bodily autonomy doesn't mean we can't make this work!" (Donald Norum)

"Maybe I shouldn't ask this on a first date, but has anyone ever told you you have a nose like a heron's beak and your legs are two different colors?" (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

"Salome, I asked you to help me get 'ahead with my boss!' " (Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va.)

"Don't let on that I'm The Post's ood-fay itic-cray!" (Gary Crockett)

Emma later told Date Lab she appreciated James's "well-groomed nostrils." (Steve Smith)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Aug. 29: Our contest for limericks featuring a word or name beginning with "hi-." See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Winner:(Carol Lasky)
Second:(Allan Zackowitz)
Third:(Sam Mertens)
Fourth:(Michael Stein)
Idea:(Mark Raffman; Marcus Bales)
Title:(Jon Gearhart; Chris Doyle)
Subhead:(Barbara Turner; Jeff Contompasis)
Prize:(Jonathan Hardis; Duncan Stevens; Elden Carnahan)
Alias:H:Lynne Larkin:Lynne "Vero Beach" Larkin
Alias:H:Lynne Larkin:Lynne "Vero Beach" Larkin
Notes:M:Barbara Turner:Print only
Notes:M:Jeff Contompasis:Print only

Week 1502, Published 08/21/2022

Style Invitational Week 1502: It's Hi- time for Limerixicon XIX
Write a limerick featuring a word or name beginning with 'hi-.' Plus winning poems that misuse words.

By Pat Myers

August 18, 2022 at 9:31 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the poems with misused words

My doorman will never say HI.
He won't even look in my eye.
Why's he wishing me dead?
Was it something I said?
(Hm, my anti-tip stance could be why ...)

As we have every August since 2004, when his life's work was a wee little dictionary-baby, we check in once again with limerick impresario Chris Strolin and his quest to create a full English dictionary with every entry in limerick form, one letter at a time. With more than 115,000 five-liners, from thousands of writers, approved for inclusion, Chris currently estimates the finish date for at Nov. 3, 2063 (a couple of years from last year's projection). And for the third year running, our 19th sliver of the dictionary is still in the H's. This week: Supply a humorous, previously unpublished limerick significantly featuring any word, name or term beginning with "hi-," as in the example above by Our Bob Staake, who's been taking it upon himself to contribute the zamples these days. By "significantly," we mean that "him" or "his" won't count as the word unless your limerick focused on that word -- if it were about gender, or using pronouns, for example.

Please see our guide "Get Your 'Rick Rolling" for our fairly strict rules on limerick rhyme and meter (in a nutshell: "perfect" rhyme, and a strong "hickory-dickory-dock" rhythm within Lines 1, 2 and 5; a "dickory-dock" in Lines 3 and 4; extra unaccented syllables on either side are fine). Read the example above out loud, with big accents on the accented syllables, and you'll see what we mean. See about submitting limericks there, if you like, after this contest is over.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the web address). Deadline is Monday, Aug. 29; results appear Sept. 18 in print, Sept. 15 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives the handsome new book "The Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks," which celebrates, with art-scholarly descriptions, some truly, um, memorable creations, such as "Mana Lisa" pictured here. Donated by Edward Gordon. (See this week's Style Conversational for the Invite's own World's Worst Painting.)

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Bardy Har Har" is by Jesse Frankovich; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Bardy har har: Misused-word poems from Week 1498

In Week 1498 we asked for poems in which a word is used with a meaning it doesn't really have -- like "literary" describing someone who litters. In some poems below, the word works both with the faux meaning and the real one, like "flagellate" to hit with a flag.

4th place:

Betsy Ross, when she sewed those few yards,
Never dreamed it would be in the cards
That her stripes and bright stars
Would be used to give scars
And to flagellate Capitol guards. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

3rd place:

Hadn't seen or heard from my daughter dear,
Nor on social media, for nearly a year,
So her post of a baby hit with a bam -
Just like that, voila! I'm an instagram! (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

2nd place

and the desktop woodpecker toy:

At cursing, I'm not slow,
I answer to the call:
Six languages I know --
I'm effluent in all! (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Just think: If at our nation's birth
The views of QAnon abounded,
We'd have to teach our children how
Our country was dumbfounded. (Bob Kruger, Rockville, Md.)

English muffin': Honorable mentions

I caught a whiff of peppermint
Or was it wintergreen?
Coming from the piggy bank
I gave my daughter Jean.
"What are Altoids doing here
Inside your piggy, honey?"
"Don't you see," she grinned and said,
"I'm minting my own money." (Fran Ludman, Baltimore)

Queer animals? What a surprise!
Who knew how a bird or beast yearns?
But musing I soon realize
I don't know just how one discerns
If birds on the beach are two guys
Or hetero mating cisterns. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

When Clapton* played the sitar, he was awful, nothing less.
The notes he played all seemed to come out wrong.
The strings were tuned improperly, his picking was a mess.
He couldn't get the tempo of the song.
His teacher said, "My ears can't take another second of this racket,
Your playing is abysmal, I'm not bluffin'.
Go back to playing blues, because the sitar, you can't hack it,
I beg you, sir, to quit the raga-muffin'." (Mark Raffman)

The bride-to-be, distraught and sad,
Lamenting her father's estrangement,
To walk the aisle, put out an ad,
To seek a Pa-rental arrangement. (Mark Raffman)

Cucumbers crunchy,
Celery munchy,
Pass the asparagus, carrots and peas!
I'm not that cool
With the kids at my school,
But I think it's rad-ish to eat what you please. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Captain thought the coast was clear;
First mate thought the same.
When the torpedo hit the ship
Subconscious they became. (Tom Rymsza, Chambersburg, Pa., a First Offender)

The puppy ate my Visa bill
Before I'd read a word.
Consequently, I can't say
What charges were incurred. (John Glenn, Tyler, Tex.)

In selecting the hit man to whack Jimmy Hoffa,
The Mafia don chose his very best offer. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

My problem with comedians
Whose schtick is more slapstick than subtle
Is when they are done, if I LMAO,
Then I have to leave time for rebuttal. (Bob Kruger)

The cruise ship's crew was loath to speak
When a voyage was aborted.
Truth is, the ship had sprung a leak.
Clearly, it had to be reported. (John Glenn)

I know a guy from Baltimore
Who throws his trash right on the floor.
When driving, either near or far,
He chucks his empties from the car.
It's very plain to see: this man
Has no use for a garbage can.
He's messy, selfish, thoughtless, rude;
He's quite a literary dude! (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Here's a novel production I've planned:
"Mr. Ed" on the stage! Could be grand!
But we'll need a good start,
So the star learns his part,
Or this horseplay could get out of hand.* (Mark Raffman)

The rabbit was trying to quiet its breath
To avoid a swift, toothy and scarlet-furred death
(The foxes are hunting today).
It poised, tensed, on the landscape of shelterless rocks,
While there, close beside, the still unseeing fox
Was only a hare's-breath away. (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee, Fla.)

The Chinese leader's book of quotes
Is, unlike Mao's, not red.
Instead, it's titled cleverly;
It reads: "That's What Xi Said." (Kevin Ahern, Corvallis, Ore.)

I got a second mortgage from my local Utah bank.
They lent me twenty thousand that I turned around and sank
Into the finest cheese shop that my city's ever known --
Something I could not have done without that Provolone. (Chris Doyle)

They'd munched the Tree of Knowledge food,
Said Eve and Adam, "Whoa, we're nude!"
They gave their loins discreet fig-leafing--
The very first to get a briefing. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

I still can recall how I shuddered and shivered
As they asked me, "Delivered?" when I placed my call.
I answered, "Of course I want pizza delivered -
But why would you put liver on it at all?" (Marcus Bales, Elyria, Ohio)

When I was a babe in my high chair
Getting fed, a bad habit I had
They said I would always spit out all the fruit
All over my dear old Dad.
And that's why he fed me outside,
So the carpet he'd not need to guard;
My brother still swears that the day that Dad died,
I berried him in the backyard. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

When I asked my coworker, solicitous,
"Would you like me to help?" "That's felicitous,"
She replied somewhat greedily,
"Copy all of these, speedily!"
Then I saw she was being duplicitous. (Frank Osen)

The former prez, with snarling face,
Said, "Who would bother trying?
The press can't shake my foil-hat base,
Which laps up my relying." (Mark Raffman)
When you don't know if someone's "hello" was for you
There's a widely used trick that can save
You both from embarrassment; barely respond
With an easily missed microwave. (Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

All men, as they age, amass midsection fat
(A beer belly, to be less formal).
You won't catch me crunching to sculpt my obliques -
I'm happy just being abnormal. (Bob Kruger)

Bakery customer:
Ate lots of rye bread to
Free him from needs.
Later he queried so
"Shouldn't they work, all those
Caraway seeds?" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Wailed the drug mule, "This looks like goodbye!"
The gang told him he'd have to comply;
"Hide that much--how and where?"
They said, "Trust us, we swear,
This is nothing you can't rectify." (Frank Osen)

Look, shiftless Joe's pushed out the door;
They've sent him off to join the Corps.
"Make him a leatherneck!" wrote Dad.
"I hope you'll Marinate this lad." (Duncan Stevens)

Can it save precious space? Yes, it's able
But your meals might be slightly unstable
When it comes time to sup
Just hold on to your cup
While I pump up your new InflaTable. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

If anything falls onto or disrupts a power line,
The company's new switches will help us do just fine.
The power will shut off so there cannot be a spark.
Instead of wildfires, folks will just be in the dark.
Entire towns and neighborhoods need not be affrighted
They may complain of lack of power, but they'll safely be delighted. (Marli Melton, Carmel Valley, Calif.)

I hear there's a new Galaxy phone;
They claim it ranks a 10.
But I just saw it and I'm afraid
It's the Samsung all over again. (Kevin Ahern)

Every day on my company's shuttle
We share some hash brownies - a perk;
Heavy traffic is never a problem
When we're taking the highway to work. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

A feller once told me that pomes grow on trees.
He musta had some kinda mental disease!
I asked him, you mean like them pomes what is read?
He said yep! Feller ain't got a brain in his head! (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Oh my meat-loving dad liked to curse,
And at dinner it sometimes got worse.
When raw veggies were served
I have often observed
That the crudites flew in free verse. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

If your tailor fights change
It will mean aggravations
When you come for a fitting
You'll get altercations. (Kevin Dopart)

Each morning, when I wake up, before putting on my makeup,
I stare into the mirror, and I groan.
For I'm looking at my preface, it's my "Woe! Oh Woe Is Me!" face,
And I hate that it's the only one I own.
There's no doubting the foundation for this feeling of deflation,
But I'm trying hard to battle my dismay.
I just slather on the cream, and resist the urge to scream,
As I brace myself to face another day. (Stephen Gold, London)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Aug. 22: Our contest for unhelpful "acts of kindness. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Examples:(Bob Staake)
Title:(Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead:(Tom Witte)
Prize:(Edward Gordon)

Week 1501, Published 08/14/2022

Style Invitational Week 1501: Try a little 'kindness'
Tell us ways to be 'helpful' that, well, wouldn't be. Plus the winners of our what-if contest.

By Pat Myers

August 11, 2022 at 9:58 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the "what-if" winners

This week's contest comes from recent First Offender Al Lubran, who'd come across, indirectly, an entertaining exchange on Reddit's CasualUK forum: Someone named GraharG posed this question: "Whenever I see a car with a ticket I chuck it in the bin so the driver doesn't have to pay," GraharG announced, then put it to their fellow Brits: "What act of kindness do you do for strangers?"

The Redditors immediately picked up the joke:

"When my neighbours put their bin out in the evening I take them straight back in for them before morning, so they don't get stolen in the night," confided Mirrorshade5.

"Whenever there's a meeting on a Friday afternoon, I like to ask lots of questions at the end so no one else feels embarrassed about the stony silence," FlibV1 chimed in.

You get it. This week: Tell about an "act of kindness" that you or someone else does that, well, won't be appreciated, as in the examples above. (We'll be speaking American, though.) They should be expressed as if you think the act is actually a good thing.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Aug. 22; results appear, urp, Sept. 11 in print, Sept. 8 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a pair of high-quality men's socks imprinted with rows of tiny cartoon houses and the label "Head of the Household" -- with the word "butt" added above it, so you get "Butt Head of the Household." Ha ha! Presumably intended as a gag Father's Day gift. Donated by Loser Dave Prevar, whose feet have not touched them.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Wit-Ifs" is by Chris Doyle; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Wit-ifs: Winning wondering from Week 1497

Our Week 1497 contest was as wide open as you could get. It was simply "What if" something had happened that hadn't, or were happening that hadn't been, or might (but probably not) happen in the future.

4th place:

If polygamy were still the prevailing family structure, insults would have to be much more specific: "Yo Third Mama, the one with the red hair who doesn't wear glasses, is so fat that, uh, I forget where I was going with this *" (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

3rd place:

What if the cellphone had never been invented? I guess we'd all just be staring at our hands a lot. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

2nd place

and the winner of the ridiculously small men's swimsuit:

What if no one had invented the question mark. (Frank Mann, Washington)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

What if I had married my high school sweetheart? Well, by now, I'd probably be charged with bigamy. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

The if-raff: Honorable mentions

What if all peppercorns were white? My beard would be described as "salt-with-black-hairs-in-it." (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

What if Mark Meadows had hired a young man to be his White House aide? For one, there'd still be ketchup on the wall. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

If a Greek messenger had run 26.2 miles after the Battle of Salamis, people today would be holding walkalamis, telelamis, readalamis * (Duncan Stevens)

If discount retailers adopted cryptocurrency, would there be a .00004457 Bitcoin Tree? (David Kleinbard, Mamaroneck, N.Y.)

What if sharks could vocalize like whales? They would go ahead and do that "Jaws" music themselves. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Fifty years after the Revolutionary War, what if Americans still loyal to the crown erected statues of British Redcoat generals in their town squares? Nothing would have happened until another hundred years after that, when someone would say, "Um, weren't they the tyrants?" and then a new war would start over whether to remove the statues. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

If Earth had two moons, men would have twice as many reasons to blame women for everything. (Sarah Walsh)

If humans regulated body temperature by panting like dogs, Winston Churchill would have had nothing to offer but "blood, toil, tears and drool." (Duncan Stevens)

If John Cage had been fond of Chopin, he would have sat at the piano and not played the "Minute" Waltz 41/2 times. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

If Marco Polo had never traveled the Silk Road, kids at the pool would be yelling the names of other explorers, like "Andrew! Longjumeau!" or "Albert! Von le Coq!" (Duncan Stevens)

If Moses hadn't led the people of Israel through the Red Sea, Marjorie Taylor Greene would be concerned about Hittite space lasers. (Duncan Stevens)

If O.J. had behaved himself, we never would have met the Kardashians. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

If the Lord had found another five or six righteous residents, Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared, and Lot's wife would not have spent the next few millennia on the rim of a margarita glass. (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

If the selfie had never been invented, people would have to find some other reason to walk backward over cliffs. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

What if a cabal of politicians who are cannibalistic, Satan-worshiping pedophiles were running a global child sex-trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizzeria? Madison Cawthorn would claim he'd been invited to join. (Drew Bennett, Rogers, Ark.)

What if all cars came with turn signals? Wait -- they all do? Then where's yours? (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

What if all the brokenhearted people living in the world agreed? They'd let it be. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

What if alternating-current inventor Nikola Tesla came forward in time and discovered that the cars named for him run on direct current? He'd be the first person to unfollow Elon Musk for nothing he said. (Michie March, Ellicott City, Md.)

What if before every airing of Tucker Carlson there was a warning: "This is complete BS"? Well, people still smoke cigarettes with the warning "Smoking causes cancer," so I guess nothing would change. (Drew Bennett)

What if covid spread by flatulence instead of from breathing? Republicans would demand the right to eat in restaurants with no pants and would call underwear a government conspiracy. (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee)

What if Disney films had retained the gruesome violence of the original fairy tale plots? Boys would love princess movies: "It's my turn to be the stepsister and chop off my toes! You can be the bird and peck out my eyes. Then, I'll be Snow White and you be the queen and I'll torture you with burning red-hot iron shoes!" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

What if Donald Trump had been born into a family that wasn't rich? Donald who? (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

What if everyone in the world were offered $440 million to work for 15 years from March through October? Not a single person would reject that offer unless the person played for the Washington Nationals. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

What if George Washington had really stood up in that boat crossing the Delaware River and he fell in and drowned? This contest would be in The Cornwallis Post. (Melissa Yorks, Gaithersburg, Md.)

What if Google didn't exist? People would return to less invasive methods of investigating prospective romantic partners, like sifting through their trash. (Karen Lambert)

What if helium were heavier than air? An amorous guy could pop a balloon, inhale, and sound like Barry White. (Sarah Walsh)

What if humans could hear the same frequencies as dogs? Then we'd need to say things like "Rubio's tweet about the 'Soros backed prosecutors' was clearly an anti-Semitic mousewhistle." (Duncan Stevens)

What if kids came with an instruction manual? My luck, it would be from Ikea. (Aaron Olszewski, Silver Spring, Md.)

What if Thanos hadn't snapped his fingers in "Avengers: Infinity War"? Then we'd really have a shortage of baby formula. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

What if Lord Voldemort ran for president? Not a single Republican would ask to see his birth certificate. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

What if Michael Jordan ran an airline? It'd also be called Air Jordan, and the cheapest ticket would cost $10,000. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

What if Mike Pence runs for president in 2024? You'd definitely want to buy stock in a magnetometer company. (Steve Smith)

What if Neil Young's band were all Jewish? It would be called Meshuggeneh Horse. (Steve Leifer, Potomac, Md.)

What if other businesses gave out samples like grocery stores? We'd all line up for them at banks and casinos but not so much in STD clinics. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

What if people had bark for skin? Couples could keep the fire in their relationship just by rubbing together. (Jon Gearhart)

What if pigs could fly? The carwash and umbrella industries would boom! (Dave Airozo; Robyn Carlson, Keyser, W.Va.)

What if Stephen King had written "A Visit From St. Nicholas"? It would have opened, "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house/Not a creature was stirring, 'cept an ax-murdering spouse *" (Jeff Contompasis)

What if the NRA ran a dental office? They'd teach kids that candy doesn't cause cavities -- kids cause cavities. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

What if climate change forces us all to move to the moon? Democracy will live on. Well, at least on the near side. (Steve Smith)

If Jeff Bezos had not purchased The Washington Post, then every day it would run disclaimers saying, "Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon, has no interest in The Washington Post." (Allan Grady, Fredericksburg, Va.)

And Last: What if I had a time machine? I would fast-forward a couple of weeks to see what the winner is in this contest, and send it as my own entry. So, yeah, I guess I really don't deserve a time machine. (Tom Witte, who's entered virtually every Style Invitational contest since Week 7)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Aug. 15: Our contest for new words whose letters add to 15 Scrabble points. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Al Lubran)
Title:(Chris Doyle)
Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich)
Prize:(Dave Prevar)

Week 1500, Published 08/07/2022

Style Invitational Week 1500: These go to 15
Coin a new word or phrase whose letters add to 15 Scrabble points (no blanks!). Plus compare/contrast winners.

By Pat Myers

August 4, 2022 at 10:14 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the winners of our latest compare/contrast contest

PIZA (3 + 1 + 10 + 1): What you get when the Domino's guy tipped over his bag on the way to your house.

ZOOB: A co-worker who doesn't get videoconference etiquette. "And then he took over the screen just to show he'd solved today's Wordle in 3! What a zoob."

CAFFOON: Someone who's constantly spilling the coffee or leaving the pot on too long.

UNCAWTH: What it is when you don't invite your colleagues to your cocaine orgies.

Astonishingly, The Washington Post has seen fit to publish 1,500 weeks of The Style Invitational -- which means the Empress is 98 weeks more astonished than when she ran this same sort of contest for Week 1402. This week: Make up a word or phrase whose Scrabble letter values add up to exactly 15 (no blanks!) and define it, as in the examples above; "Piza" is by Our Own Bob Staake, and the rest are from Invite Obsessive Duncan Stevens, who rightly figured that the E had totally forgotten Week 1402. Your single word may not be eligible for English-language Scrabble; to check, just type in the word at to make sure it's not valid. As with all our neologism contests, you're welcome to use your word in a funny sentence to make your entry funnier, and you are not welcome to use your word in one that doesn't. And remember, we're not playing Scrabble, so feel free to, say, use three B's even though there are only two in a Scrabble set, and it doesn't matter if your long word would end up on two double-point squares on the board. Just count the points, okay?

Scrabble letter values:
1 point: A, E, I, O, U, L, N, S, T, R
2 points: D, G
3 points: B, C, M, P
4 points: F, H, V, W, Y
5 points: K
8 points: J, X
10 points: Q, Z

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Aug. 15; results appear Sept. 4 in print, Sept. 1 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a pair of sturdy bright blue coat hooks in a handsome dog butt motif; we believe they're from the wags at Ikea. Donated by Loser Daphne Steinberg.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Yuxtapositions" is by Jesse Frankovich; Jeff Contompasis wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, Aug. 4, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Yuxtapositions: Compare/contrast ink from Week 1496

Week 1496 was the latest installment of our contest in which the Empress posts a list of wacky items and the Losers say what's similar or different about any two (or more). Numerous entries noted that 8 percent inflation and a banned book both result in high interest.

4th place:

The recurring exam dream is like 8 percent inflation: Both might culminate in a failed midterm. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

3rd place:

8 percent inflation and six Supreme Court justices: Things wouldn't be so bad if we could just get it down to three or four. (Hannah Seidel, Alexandria, Va.)

2nd place

and the pack of Face Coasters:

A hypersonic missile and six Supreme Court justices: Look what I have in my pocket! -- D.J.T., Mar-a-Lago, Fla. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

A hypersonic missile vs. a banned book: You can open-carry the missile in Texas. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Shame difference: Honorable mentions

A flushable wipe and six Supreme Court justices: They're both up in my business. (Deb Stewart, Damascus)

Six Supreme Court justices vs. a worn-out toothbrush: Only the justices will control your cavities. (Kevin Dopart)

How is Elon Musk like six Supreme Court justices? Opposes all regulations, reneges on his promise, thinks he knows what's best for everyone, dresses all in black * hell, might as well give him a robe. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

A flushable wipe and a romance novel: They both bring a flush to the cheeks! (Katherine Schaepman, Locust Grove, Va., a First Offender)

A banned book vs. a romance novel: At a D.C. bookstore, you ask for one of these in a whisper while looking over your shoulder, and the other is part of a giant "read a banned book" display. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Cat hair and a romance novel: Lots of nasty stuff on the furniture. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

8 percent inflation and Old Bay: They've both been added lately to every item in the grocery store. (Ben Aronin, Washington)

A magnetometer can detect the presence of a gun in the lobby. Six Supreme Court justices are a present to the gun lobby. (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

A magnetometer and six Supreme Court justices: Both are out to monitor what's in your pants. (Ira Allen, Bethesda, Md.)

A romance novel vs. the LIV golf tour: In the novel, a traveling man gives his heart; in the other, he sells his soul. (Frank Mann, Washington)

A period-tracking app: Think "Mrs. Flo." A banned book: Think "Mr. Fla." (Kevin Dopart)

A terrible SNL sketch: "Did they really have to go there?" Being back at the office: "Did I really have to come here?" (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

Six Supreme Court justices vs. 8 percent inflation: With the first, it's bye-bye Roe; with the second, bye-bye Joe. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

How are six Supreme Court justices like flushable wipes * Hey, has anybody seen my copy of the Constitution? (John Amberg, Alexandria, Va.)

Six Supreme Court justices vs. 8 percent inflation: The first did away with precedent; the second may do away with a president. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

The recurring exam dream and six Supreme Court justices: Both have taken many of us back over 50 years. (Chris Doyle)

A magnetometer vs. six Supreme Court justices: A magnetometer will stop a bad guy with a gun. (Karen Lambert; Kevin Dopart)

A hypersonic missile and the LIV golf tour: One is a costly project for ICBMs and the other is a costly project for icy MBS. (Gregory Huyck, Frederick, Md.)

In a romance novel, nobody suffers from 8 percent inflation. (Aaron Olszewski, Silver Spring, Md.)

A romance novel vs. cat hair: One involves mattresses and the other involves cat tresses. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Being back at the office vs. Elon Musk In one, you're a bitter sitter; the other's a Twitter quitter. (John Glenn, Tyler, Tex.)

A banned book and a period-tracking app: The app contains material that the State of Mississippi would find valuable. (Mark Raffman)

A banned book: Likely to be forbidden; Six Supreme Court Justices: Unlikely to be for Biden. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Cat hair and borscht are tied for the two worst aspects of finding cat hair in your borscht. (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee, Fla.)

Cat hair is like a worn-out toothbrush in that it's been in my mouth way too much. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

8 percent inflation and being back at the office: Yea, we're all getting 8 percent raises! * Aren't we? Hello? (Pam Shermeyer)

8 percent inflation can make your money worthless; a period-tracking app can keep your honey birthless. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

A hypersonic missile vs. a terrible SNL sketch: Both end with a bomb, but the sketch takes forever to get there. (John Hutchins, Silver Spring)

Being back at the office vs. a period-tracking app: Some folks eagerly count the days until the office holiday party; some folks nervously count the days after it. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Being back at the office is like a worn-out toothbrush: It's not so bad when you're used to it, but coming back to it after two years? Gross. (Michie March, Ellicott City, Md. a First Offender)

Being back at the office vs. the recurring exam dream: In both cases you're baffled and have no idea what you're doing there, but in the dream you're more prepared. (Karen Lambert)

A period-tracking app and a flushable wipe: If you don't use the former, you may soon be using more of the latter. (Frank Osen)

A period-tracking app and six Supreme Court justices: Women everywhere are counting the days until their next wave of pain. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

A terrible SNL sketch and being back at the office. Lots of bad jokes, forced laughter and getting up to go to the bathroom. And the SNL sketch isn't much better. (Frank Mann)

A worn-out toothbrush: The bristles overused. Cat hair: The Bissell's overused. (Chris Doyle)

A flushable wipe vs. borscht: One can clog your pipes, the other can clog your pipes. (Pam Shermeyer)

8 percent inflation: What you've earned is worth less. A Style Invitational second prize: What you've earned is worthless. (Jesse Frankovich)

8 percent inflation keeps people from running amok at the mall; a magnetometer keeps people from running amok on the Mall. (Karen Lambert)

Cat hair and Old Bay: I'd rather season my food with the former. -- G. Weingarten, Washington (Jeff Contompasis)

A worn-out toothbrush and a Style Invitational second prize: There's a market on eBay for the toothbrush. (Mike Gips, Bethesda; Leif Picoult)

A Style Invitational second prize: Alas, you got beat. Borscht: Alas, you got beet. (Jesse Frankovich)

A flushable wipe vs. a Style Invitational second prize: The wipe was designed to be to be flushed down a toilet. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

The recurring exam dream, a hypersonic missile, 8 percent inflation, Elon Musk, and six Supreme Court Justices: The first is the only nightmare on the list that you can wake up from. (Michael Stein, Arlington)

A romance novel: Naughty. Elon Musk: Haughty. The LIV golf tour: Saudi. A flushable wipe: Potty. A Style Invitational second-place prize: Shoddy (and potty). (Jesse Frankovich)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Aug. 8: Our caption contest for any of four Bob Staake cartoons. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Duncan Stevens)
Examples:(Bob Staake; Duncan Stevens; Duncan Stevens; Duncan Stevens)
Title:(Jesse Frankovich)
Subhead:(Jeff Contompasis)
Prize:(Daphne Steinberg)

Week 1499, Published 07/31/2022

Style Invitational Week 1499: Picture This, a cartoon caption contest
Plus never-before-seen extra ink from five previous contests

By Pat Myers

July 28, 2022 at 8:00 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to more inking entries from several previous contests

Recidivist Losers, you know the drill. Brand-new Invitees, I bet you can figure it out. In our umpteenth (give or take a teenth) Bob Staake cartoon caption contest: Write a caption, either descriptive or in dialogue, for any of the cartoons above, up to a total of 25 entries.

So you won't harsh the Empress's post-vacation mellow, please format your entries like this: Begin each entry with "Picture 1:," "Picture 2:," etc. (no, not with the quotation marks, silly), then follow it on the same line with your caption. This will let the E click on "Sort" to put all the Picture 1s (Pictures 1?) together, and your entry won't end up in two pieces on two different pages.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Aug. 8; results appear Aug. 28 in print, Aug. 25 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives two small bags of Lactation Cookie Bites, which contain - no, not breast milk (or even udder milk) - "ingredients traditionally used to support breast milk," which seem to be oatmeal, flaxseed and brewer's yeast. Donated by Jeff Contompasis, who has never had lactation difficulty.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Our Yuks Runneth Over" is by Eric Murphy; I solicited the headline in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. Sign up for the Devotees at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational, the Empress's weekly online column, will return next week.

And from various recent contests ...

Our yuks runneth over: Bonus ink from recent contests

So the Empress could take a few days' vacation -- she and the Royal Consort went up to Niagara Falls to join a dozen or so Invite-types at this year's Loserfest -- there was no Week 1495 contest four weeks ago. Instead, here's a sampling of more ink from five recent contests.

From Week 1489: Rearrange the words in a movie title

A Desire Named Streetcar: This tense political thriller follows the D.C. Council as planners seek approval to extend the H Street line once it stops crashing into things. (Hannah Seidel, Alexandria, Va.)

A Kill to a View: A family road trip is spoiled by their teenage son's repeated photobombing. (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

French the Connection: The tragic tale of the brief apprenticeship of a young electrician. (Marty Gold, Arlington, Va.)

Kind Encounters of the Close Third: Edged out by a tenth of a second, the bronze-medal relay team is invited by friendly rivals to share the second podium. (Susan Geariety, Menifee, Calif.)

Look Up "Don't": A Merriam-Webster editor tells her boyfriend what she thinks of his planned bachelor weekend in Vegas. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Penguins of the March: A raucous group of partiers dress up as nuns and crash New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

From Week 1490, song parodies about the news

Two songs "sung" by Vladimir Putin, both set to "If I Only Had a Brain" from "The Wizard of Oz"
From Lviv to Mariupol,
I wouldn't have a scruple,
The people I'd "retrain;"
And there'd be no discussion,
'Less, of course, they're speaking Russian,
If I only had Ukraine.

This projection of my power
Would make the Baltics cower,
While NATO goes insane,
And in Finland and Sweden,
They'd see who'd be next for bleedin'
If I only had Ukraine.

Oh I can't tell you why, we're not running up the score,
It should have a pretty little war,
But we've been stopped -- and stopped some more.

With my mercenaries Chechen,
I'd silence all the kvetchin'
With none left to complain.
My next moves I'd be plottin'
While my friends go back to yachtin'
If I only had Ukraine. (Mark Raffman)

II. I'll erase each Euro border
To make a new world order,
Where I alone will reign.
Then the troops I'm stackin' inland
Will begin attackin' Finland
Once I subjugate Ukraine.

First I need to show Zelensky
That there's no common-sense-ky
To savin' his domain.
I'll be leavin' him a mess o'
New cadavers in Odessa
All resistance is in vain!

Oh, I have nukes galore,
So many more in store.
I could wage a war like never waged before,
But here's a fear I can't ignore:

Russian poets might be pennin'
More odes to me than Lenin
While the obit scribes explain:
"Putin should've been suspicious
Drinking black tea that delicious,
But he didn't have a brain!"
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

From Week 1491: Add a letter to a word or phrase beginning A-E

Abysmale: Your doofus brother-in-law. (Roger Dalrymple, Gettysburg, Pa.)

Charmeleon: Someone who can enchant Tucker Carlson and, five minutes later, Rachel Maddow. (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Carvity: The mysteriously-located repository for lost change, lipsticks and receipts; it comes as standard equipment in every vehicle. (Karen Lambert)

Ceremoney: What the wedding planner looks forward to. (Jerry Birchmore, Springfield, Va.)

Cutebacks: To conserve our nation's saccharin supply, romcoms henceforth will have only "meet normal" scenes. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Calendare: "I bet you can't remember what day our anniversary is." (Diane Lucitt, Ellicott City, Md.)

From Week 1492: Conservative-leaning humor

What's the difference between a conservative and a liberal? A: a conservative believes in the school of life; a liberal believes in spending one's life in school. (Karen Lambert)

What do you call a liberal who has just received a large inheritance? A conservative. (Keith Ord, Potomac, Md.)

What happens when an Ivy League college brings together all its moderate and conservative employees? They say hi, finish their janitorial work and head home for the day. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

From Week 1493: Feghoots -- mini-stories ending in groaner puns

When the Israelites were led out of Egypt and into the desert, they became quite hungry. So God provided manna in the wilderness, and the wanderers ate their fill. In fact, one Israelite ate too much and became ill. The leader asked him what was wrong, and the man groaned, "Everything's coming up, Moses." (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

At dinner parties, the scientist Alexander Fleming loved to tell his guests about how he discovered penicillin in 1928. His wife, of course, had heard the tale a million times. So whenever he launched into it yet again, she'd roll her eyes and say, "Here we go again... it's always the same mold story." (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

The thieves were getting brazen at our little Dodge truck repair shop, stealing wheels, catalytic converters and sound systems. And we just didn't have the money for a security system or a bigger fence. So we rotated guard duty: All through the night o'er the Ram parts we watched. (Al Lubran, Rockville, Md., a First Offender)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, Aug. 1: Our contest to write a funny poem that misuses a word, like using "debunk" to mean take down a bunk bed. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Title:(Eric Murphy)
Prize:(Jeff Contompasis)
1489HM:(Hannah Seidel; Eric Nelkin; Marty Gold; Susan Geariety; Mark Raffman; Jon Gearhart)
1490HM:(Mark Raffman; Chris Doyle)
1491HM:(Roger Dalrymple; Karen Lambert; Karen Lambert; Jerry Birchmore; Gary Crockett; Diane Lucitt)
1492HM:(Karen Lambert; Keith Ord; Duncan Stevens)
1493HM:(Beverly Sharp; Jesse Frankovich; Al Lubran)

Week 1498, Published 07/24/2022

Style Invitational Week 1498: Vs. is for verses
Misuse a word in a funny poem. Plus winners of our contest for poems using spelling bee words (correctly).

By Pat Myers

July 21, 2022 at 9:54 a.m. EDT

(Click here to skip down to the winning poems featuring words from this year's National Spelling Bee.)

My kids used to sleep on stacked single beds, While they dreamed and rested their sweet little heads. But they brought in the noise and brought in the funk, So now I'm afraid it is time to debunk.

For the contest that produced today's results -- poems using spelling bee words -- the Empress required that the words be used with their true meanings. But it's just the opposite for this week's poetry contest, at the suggestion of Loser Sarah Walsh: Write a short (eight lines or fewer), humorous poem that uses one or more words -- any words you choose -- in other than their actual meanings, as in the pun on "debunk" in Sarah's own example.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Aug. 1; results appear Aug. 21 in print, Aug. 18 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives an adorable woodpecker toy: It's a little wooden bird that you lift to the top of an 18-inch pole and set in motion as it peck-peck-pecks down to the bottom, fluttering its little feather. It's really too sweet to be a Loser prize, but Loser Dave Prevar gave it to us.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "For the Rhyme, Beeing" is by Steve Smith; the honorable-mentions subhead was submitted by both Jesse Frankovich and Jeff Rackow. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, July 21, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

For the rhyme, beeing: Spelling bee poems from Week 1494

In Week 1494 we once again asked our Loserbards to write poems using words from this year's National Spelling Bee. Maybe these results will add some variety to Google searches on the words -- which in many cases amount to nothing but dictionary listings. (Some of the less arcane ones are from the bee's vocabulary rounds.)

4th place:

Brose, a Scottish dish made by pouring boiling water over oats
When making brose, Miss MacLehose
Is apt to add malt whisky.
It gives her zest, warms up her chest,
And keeps her feeling frisky.
Good sense may say don't start the day
By going on a bender.
But don't condemn poor wee Miss M
A cereal offender.
(Stephen Gold, London, formerly of Scotland)

3rd place:

Toquilla (to-KEY-uh), a leaf fiber used to make panama hats
"Where's my booze?" growled a tourist named Jim
As a hat was presented to him.
"I am sorry, senor,
Did you not ask me for
'Pure toquilla, right up to the brim'?"
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

2nd place

and the toy bedbug:

Coryza (co-RY-za), a head cold
If you think a pandemic is just a coryza
Your future's secure as a MAGA advyza.
(Kevin Dopart, Washington)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Chimichurri, a green sauce used in Latin American cuisine
A funny-tasting chimichurri taco from a Taco Bell
Along a highway in Missouri brought me to E. coli hell:
A restroom filled with puking men where not a single stall was free.
Does misery love company? So people say, but hey, not me.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Bee-sides: Honorable mentions

Brose (II)
While backpacking through Scotland, a rich obnoxious fop
Had run out of his trail mix, so he went into a shop.
The keeper boiled water and he poured it over top
Of plain, unsweetened oatmeal and the tourist flipped his mop.
"What's this rot supposed to be?" "It's brose; just let it sop
While you're hiking; it'll mix and you can eat it when you stop."
He bought some and then later, as he choked down every drop,
He learned a brose by any name is still a bag of slop!
(Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Brose (III)
Said the Edinburgh witch, "I suppose
Using college boys' fingers and toes
In my porridge of oats
Adds some tasty grace notes,
And I'll call it Fraternity Brose."
(Kevin Dopart)

Golilla (go-LEE-yuh), a ruff-like collar worn by Spanish officials in the Renaissance
A nonbeliever, Juan Garcia,
Fixates on the white golilla,
Knows the man's a magistrate,
And steels himself to learn his fate.
It's Torquemada, he's been told,
Who's here to damn him to perdition.
Sadly, no one -- young or old --
Expects the Spanish Inquisition.
(Chris Doyle)

Argillaceous (ar-gi-lacious), claylike
"He's dead, Jim," stated Bones, in direct, plain-spoken tones,
Which Enterprising crewfolk thought ungracious:
"This pronouncement, made so often -- can we find a way to soften?
"Say, 'Captain Kirk, our ensign's argillaceous.'"
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Dasypodid (da-SIP-odid), relating to armadillos
A dashing young dasypodid was setting out one day
To make his way across the road and pass the time away.
This armadillo hit a snag, so he did not get far;
He met his alter ego on the road: an armored car.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Dasypodid (II)
There once was a king who revered armadillos;
They featured in tapestries, portraits and pillows.
He wished that his knights for the battle would thirst,
But his "brave" cavaliers were, quite simply, The Worst.
On tournament day, to the king's great chagrin,
Each one left his hauberk behind at the inn.
Fed up and enraged, the king angrily chid,
"Wear your armor all day, like the dasypodid!"
(Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Chorine (koreen), old-time chorus girl
A Parisian chorine can recall
Being cautioned: "No leaning, stand tall!
When you kick, stay erect
So your legs will project.
In the cancan, you can't cant at all!"
(Chris Doyle)

Cacoepy, mispronunciation (the word itself may be pronounced ka-CO-pee, as in the first poem below, or kaka-WEH-pee, as in the second)
While her name doesn't rhyme with "impala,"
Some, on purpose, will call her "ka-MAL-a."
Most regard that as dopey,
But the ploy of cacoepy
Sure makes many a MAGA type holla.
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Cacoepy (II)
You munch on "sherbert" or a "crape"?
Your blunders are horrific.
Mischieviously you excape!
Oh, I could get pacific.
"Your cacoepic point is mute!
Relax! It's Febyuary!"
You'll find me in the bridal suit
Committing harry-carry.
(Duncan Stevens)

Lipofuscin (lip-oh-FUSS-in), pigments found in internal cells, associated with aging
Is your hair going gray? Don't you fret.
It turns out that, the older you get,
As your cells turn to Jell-O,
Lipofuscin (brown-yellow)
Makes your insides more blond and brunette.
(Melissa Balmain)

Mercator projection: a world map that exaggerates the size of lands near the poles
My lawmaker colleagues, you see on this globe
How the ice caps have shrunk; a correction
Is urgently needed. Instead of a globe
We should use a Mercator projection.
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

Ostreger, a keeper of goshawks
He's the one with a bird in the hand
Not the one with a head in the sand.
(Kevin Dopart)

Torrefaction, roasting with fire or intense heat
When I'm trying to style my hair
And my Airwrap breaks as the heat goes out
blowing nothing but lukewarm air
Flatt'ning out my thoroughly drenched Mohawk
As they laugh at me out on the boardwalk ...
I can't get no torrefaction
I can't get no frizz redaction
and I dry and I dry and I dry and I dry *.
(Frank Mann, Washington)

Pigsney (sweetheart)
"Pigsney" was the word the young man used,
But his girlfriend thought she'd been abused!
Though he meant to say "my darling pet,"
Did she misconstrue this word? You bet!
If you want her for your valentine,
Never choose a term evoking swine!
(Beverley Sharp)

Psephomancy (divination with pebbles)
Show me a future that
Knocks off my socks!"
"Looked at your noggin all
I have divined that your
Head's full of rocks."
(Duncan Stevens)

Psephomancy (II)
A bunch of psephomantic seers
Who see themselves as modern rebels
Break from all their stodgy peers
To prophesy with Fruity Pebbles.
(Chris Doyle)

Favicon, an icon associated with a certain website
(After "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats)
Swiping and swiping on my doom-scrolling feed...
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity...
A favicon with bird body and the hue of the sky
Is spreading its slow lies, while all about it
Retweet quotes of their indignant followers...
And what rough hashtag, its hour come round at last
Slouches towards Buzzfeed to be born?
(Donald Norum, Charlottesville, Va.)

Rumbustical, boisterous and unruly
Rumbustical, the white men roared, and flowed
around the barricades, and beat the cops,
backing the blue against the walls, to goad
Congress to stop the "steal," pull out the stops,
throw out the votes, bend knees, bow down to force:
"legitimate political discourse."
(Donald Norum)

Splanchnicectomy (splank-ni-kectomy), dissection of intestinal nerves
Ballad of the Trump-Excuser Republican
He won't stand up to Trump; on hands he sits.
His head is found inside his rectum; he
Had guts and nerves once; now they've gone to bits.
Perhaps he had a splanchnicectomy.
(Duncan Stevens)

And Last: Oculogyric, relating to eye-rolling
Stylishly smilishly,
Wannabe humorists
Rattle off entries to
Poor progeny,
All of whom sigh and say,
"Inking or not, you're a
Loser to me."
(Coleman Glenn)

And Even Laster: Empressement (ahm-press-MONT), demonstrative warmth or cordiality.
Many times we call things by their opposite.
In this contest, "Loser" comes to mind.
If we look hard, are there more examples?
Well, how are "empressement" and "Empress Pat" aligned?
(Jon Gearhart)

Still running -- deadline Monday, Aug. 25: Tell us a what-if scenario and its funny result. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Idea:(Sarah Walsh)
Examples:(Sarah Walsh)
Title:(Steve Smith)
Subhead:(Jeff Rackow; Jesse Frankovich)
Prize:(Dave Prevar)

Week 1497, Published 07/17/2022

Style Invitational Week 1497: The if-word
Give us a funny 'what if' scenario and result. Plus winning 'feghoots' -- groaner-pun stories.

By Pat Myers

July 14, 2022 at 9:49 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the winning mini-stories ending in puns

What if M.C. Escher had designed the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Rocky would still be climbing those steps. (Jesse Frankovich, 2018)

What if there were an alternate universe where your cat did not follow you to the bathroom? You'd just sit there and talk to yourself, I guess. (Robyn Carlson, 2018)

What if the 1972 Democratic Party headquarters had been in the Mayflower Hotel? Journalists would add "flower" to the end of any scandal: Iranflower, Whitewaterflower, Monicaflower, Flowersflower ... (Jerry Pannullo, 1998)

We last did this contest four years ago, but it's not as if we exhausted the pool of All the Situations and Events in the Whole World Ever. This week: Give us a "what if" scenario and its humorous result, as in the examples above from similar previous contests. Your entry doesn't necessarily have to begin with "what if," if you have a funnier way to structure it. You know the Empress -- it's all about the funny.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the web address). Deadline is Monday night, July 25; results appear Aug. 14 in print, Aug. 11 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives an eensy blue triangle of fabric -- smaller than the Empress's mini-size hand -- that you'd think was a face mask, perhaps for a child, but is actually a Brave Person brand men's thong swimsuit. We usually ask winners of garments -- funny hats, socks, etc. -- to send photos of themselves wearing them. This time we forbid it. Donated by Not So Brave Steve Smith. (Thank you, Amazon algorithm, which informed me: "Based on purchases by customers who wear your size, Large will fit you best.") (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Pun(ch)lines" is by Tom Witte; Chris Doyle and Kevin Dopart each submitted the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, July 14, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Pun(ch)lines: Winning 'feghoot' tales from Week 1493

In Week 1493 we asked for feghoots -- absurdly contrived mini-stories that end in a wordplay on some phrase. The Empress puzzled through more than a thousand entries, and more than a few alleged punchlines left her brow so furrowed that her tiara tilted. Want to guess at some that didn't get ink? See this week's Style Conversational (published late Thursday, July 14).

4th place:

The famed Hollywood costume designer Edith Head suffered from a severe phobia of frogs. When she was assigned to a film starring Liam Neeson, little did she know that he'd bring his collection of pet amphibians to costume fittings, letting them jump around his dressing room. The headline in Variety: "Head Shudders: 'Neeson's Toads! Neeson's Toads!' " (Fran Ludman, Baltimore)

3rd place:

My roommate Erica keeps borrowing my stuff without permission. Last week she took one of my combs, not realizing I had just used it to dye my hair purple. I'll admit I laughed a little to see purple streaks show up in her hair -- and if she doesn't learn her lesson, I may comb Erica grape a gain. (Hannah Seidel, Alexandria, Va.)

2nd place

and the What's That Smell? party game:

Many people know Harry Belafonte as a staunch Democrat, but few know of his deep grounding in Chicago-style politics. For decades, through the many mayoral administrations of father and son, he would celebrate each election night by standing outside Republican headquarters and singing his famous refrain: "Daley come and we won. Go home!" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Rex was a very stupid dog, except for one thing: he could play the kazoo. His owners exploited him shamelessly with several performances a day, but Rex just wagged his tail and kept tooting. Finally, the SPCA filed a complaint against his owners: "The heels star a live witless hound of music." (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Beaten to the punchline:

Honorable mentions

As The Post's aquatic-fashion critic, I have long bemoaned the lack of originality in men's swimwear, and the trunks from the latest shows were so banal I wanted to scream. Alerting my editor about the review I was about to write, I texted: "Damn the four Speedos! (full screed ahead)" (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

BoJo held on for the longest time at 10 Downing St., but even his biggest Conservative Party supporters finally agreed to stop heeding a dead Boris. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Many credit taxonomist Carl Linnaeus for biology's binomial nomenclature, but few mention the Bauhin brothers, Gaspard and Johann. Without their work nearly two centuries earlier, Linnaeus would have been forced to develop his own governing system for naming species. One could say it was the very model of the modern major genera. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

At a glitzy early 1980s Hollywood gathering, the hosts planned to announce the names of all the attendees, but couldn't decide on the order. When one suggested that Mark Hamill should precede Yul Brynner, another was horrified: "Luke before Yul? Eep!" (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

President Clinton hit on another intern, but this one set certain limits: Clothes, but no cigar. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge, Va.)

A young father was changing his son's diaper when suddenly the baby let forth a fountain of pee that arched high in the air and landed on the seat of the rocking chair. The father just smiled at him and said, "That's okay, little guy -- after all, life is just a bowl of chair wees." (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

Now that they're in their own new house, Barack and Michelle can finally decorate to their own tastes: Sweet home, all Obama. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington)

To serve a summons on the ex-president, Merrick Garland sent agents to Fifth Avenue, Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago, vowing, "I'll subpoena you in all the old familial places." (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Scientists have long known that talking kindly or cruelly to plants can affect their growth. In fact, speaking too harshly to a potato can make it shrivel and die -- yes, it's possible to kill tubers with one's tone. (Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

A priest was seriously overburdened in his busy parish, as he had no other clergymen to assist him. So he began to delegate tasks to his congregation. As he often said: "When life gives you laymen, make laymen aid." (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

The Trump Organization tried launching a worldwide tour for "The Big Interregnum of the Once and Future Prez," featuring both Beatles music and MAGA conspiracies. But no part of the world agreed to this nonsense. As a relieved Paul McCartney said: "Isn't it good no region would?" (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

My friend has had to replace both her knees. But the world of electronic wonders has invaded the orthopedics field: Each of her implanted joints has a sensor that tells her when she should get off her feet and go to bed. Yes: The knees that say "night"! (Ted Remington, Marion, N.C.)

Guido the Brooklyn Pirate buried his pearl-filled chest in a grotto. To frighten off treasure hunters. he summoned a spirit named Victor from the deep, and commanded it to haunt the cave. As the apparition dematerialized, Guido bid it farewell: "Toodle, Victah, ghost da poils!" (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

Back in the 1970s, African tyrant Idi Amin learned that the United States was about to supply Israel with advanced missiles. Amin contacted Henry Kissinger, asking that similar weaponry be supplied to his country as well. When Kissinger responded that Israel was a staunch strategic ally and Amin was not, Amin insisted, "What's good for the Jews is good for Uganda." (Michael Rosen, New York)

In a scene cut from "Casablanca," Rick and Ilsa discover some birds that German officers have trained to overhear and recite back secret conversations between Resistance members. The two former lovers must neutralize these avian eavesdroppers, but they can't decide whether to use a dagger, a hatchet or a machete. Finally they determine that the specific method doesn't really matter. As Rick says to Ilsa, "Well, all ways halve parrots." (Karen Lambert)

A sea lion wandered into a new pickling plant in La Jolla being dedicated by California's senior senator. Flopping along, he clumsily nudged her over a railing and into a vat of brine. Charged with assaulting a member of Congress, he protested that she wasn't in the vat long enough to suffer harm. To which the DA replied, "You pickled Feinstein, believe me, loose seal." (Bob Kruger, Rockville, Md.)

The Bengals needed only to stop the Rams one more time to win the Super Bowl. But with just seconds left on the board, the Rams overwhelmed Cincinnati's defense to take the lead and the Lombardi Trophy. A disgruntled Bengals fan cried out: "At long last, have you no D, Cincy?" (Mark Raffman)

A man spent his last savings to go see the legendary singing fish of a remote Alaskan river. Every day he rose at dawn, hiked to the river and waited for the famed Chinook -- eight hours. Nothing. His last morning, the pilot returned to take him back to civilization. He told his story, heartbroken. The pilot sighed. "Nobody told you? Salmon chant at evening!" (Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)

After rocketing to fame with "Jesus Christ Superstar," lyricist Tim Rice hired a Cuban valet who always smoked a cigar. Tim had never even tried tobacco, but he found the aroma intriguing, even tempting. Noticing this, the servant lit one of his Havanas and offered it to his boss, saying, "Smoke it, Senor Rice." (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

Yesterday I bowled two perfect games and a 200. Then I was off to the local racetrack where I drove my DeLorean five laps at 88 mph before remembering: no lightning, no time travel. Back to the bowling alley, where I bowled two more perfect games. Then it was time for me to call balls and strikes at the Nats game. Summary of my day: 800, five 88s, two 300s, Umpire! (Gary Crockett)

Cajun chef Armand Boudreaux made food so good that people overlooked his odd ideas about light's effect on certain ingredients. Once, a new assistant complained, "Can we make it brighter in here? I can't even tell what I'm chopping." "Mais non!" replied Armand, holding up a few pods to the dimmed lightbulb. "Dem okra, see? Dice in darkness!" (Coleman Glenn)

And Last: My late father won an old Style Invitational groaner contest, and he was so proud that he framed that page of The Post and displayed it in the family room. After he passed away, I decided he'd have liked it if I burned the column and added its ashes to his: A pun he saved is a pun I urned. (Gary Crockett)

Still running -- deadline Monday night, July 18: Our contest to say why two items on our wacky list are similar or different. See

DON'T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.

Examples:(Jesse Frankovich; Robyn Carlson; Jerry Pannullo)
Title:(Tom Witte)
Subhead:(Chris Doyle; Kevin Dopart)
Prize:(Steve Smith)

Week 1496, Published 07/10/2022

Style Invitational Week 1496: Same Difference
Tell us how any two items on our weird list are similar or different. Plus results of our conservative-humor contest.

By Pat Myers

July 7, 2022 at 10:02 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the results of our conservative-humor contest.

The difference between being back at the office and the recurring exam dream: At the office, it's way easier to get back to sleep.

A flushable wipe is like the LIV golf tour: Hold your nose all you want, but you can't get rid of the residue and stench.

The recurring exam dream Borscht A terrible SNL sketch Cat hair A magnetometer 8 percent inflation A flushable wipe A romance novel Being back at the office Elon Musk Six Supreme Court Justices A hypersonic missile Old Bay A worn-out toothbrush A Style Invitational second-place prize A banned book A period-tracking app The LIV golf tour

The Style Invitational is, of course, beyond compare, but we're confident that the items above are not. It's one of our most enduring contests: Tell us humorously how any two (or more) items on the list above are alike or different, as in the examples above; the items were chosen willy-nilly from among hundreds of suggestions that Empress sought from the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the web address). There's no special formatting this week except the usual request not to break up any individual entry with a line break (i.e., don't push Enter within a single entry). This way I can shuffle all the entries and not know how many I'm choosing from any one person. Deadline is Monday, July 18; results appear Aug. 7 in print, Aug. 4 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a brand-new set of 20 assorted Face Coasters, which are nice absorbent squares that each have (a) a photo of someone else's mouth in one expression or other; and (b) a cut-out spot so you can hang it from your nose, over your personal yap. Donated by Loser Steve Smith.

Other runners-up win their choice of our "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, "A Small Jester of Appreciation" or "Close, but Ceci N'est Pas un Cigare." First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline "Do Wit Right" is by Chris Doyle; Chris and Jon Gearhart both submitted e the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; "like" the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress's weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week's, published late Thursday, July 7, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Do wit right: Conservative humor from Week 1492

In Week 1492, in response to a skeptical reader's challenge, the Empress asked for conservative-leaning humor -- the first time we've run such a contest since 2004. Regular readers of The Style Invitational know that Invite political humor tends to jab firmly with the left, although since the change of administration in 2017, we've * nah, the Loser Community still has it in for the GOP every single week.

So could they turn the tables? By "conservative," the E didn't mean racist, hateful, truth-denying or stupid (though she did get such "jokes" among the 700-plus entries; sample of one with a demonstrably false premise: "What do you call two members of the Squad? Half a brain"). Instead, the following Q&A and knock-knock jokes aren't any cheaper shots than the ones we regularly zing from the other side.

4th place:

Q. What is the main problem with the Democrat Party? A. Its left hand doesn't know what its far-left hand is doing. (Steve Honley, Washington)

3rd place:

Q. What's the difference between Trump and Biden? A. Joe's managing to bring us together -- soon nobody will approve of how he's doing. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

2nd place

and the boxing-Trump pen:

Q. What do Democrats call a bunch of losers? A. "Persons temporarily experiencing defeat." (Ira Allen, Bethesda, Md.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

Q. How do you spot a liberal wearing cowboy boots? A. He's holding a trick-or-treat bag. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

Lefty losey: Honorable mentions

How does a liberal clean his gun? He empties out the water. (Leif Picoult)

How can you tell a liberal customer at Starbucks? They ask for a cappuccinx. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

How do you know when your school's PTA is too liberal? There are signs to "Defund Crossing Guards." (Dan Helming, Whitemarsh, Pa.)

How is Sen. Cory Booker like an Upton's Finest? They're both vegan hotdogs. (Frank Osen)

How does a liberal prove she's not a racist? By calling someone else a racist. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Knock, knock. Who's there? Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King who? You don't know who Martin Luther King is? You're canceled! (Frank Mann, Washington)

What's the difference between a conservative and a liberal? A conservative says "NASCAR!" A liberal says "Nasty cars!" (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Why do liberals love toothy British smiles? Nobody expects them to be straight and white. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Why shouldn't you label leftists "fragile"? Because it may trigger them. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Why were the liberal's shoes too tight? He was trying to reduce his carbon footprint. (Karen Lambert)

How do Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy try to persuade their Senate colleagues? "As a participant in the original Constitutional Convention, I can assure you *" (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

What would you call Sen. Dianne Feinstein going out with Sen. Bernie Sanders? Robbing the cradle. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge, Va.)

What's the difference between Biden and Trump? Trump knows better than to ride a bicycle. (Frank Osen)

What's the only branch of the military a leftist would want to join? The U.S. Safe-Space Force. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Did you hear Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer's idea for turning out the youth vote? They'll send everyone voice-mail messages encouraging kids to mail in letters while they listen to the radio and wait for Joe Biden's whistle-stop train tour. (Duncan Stevens)

A. Biden. Q. Who is the only Hunter the left doesn't go after? (Gordon Cobb, Marietta, Ga.)

How do you know the California '49er miners were liberals? They used the proper pronouns referring to "gold in them/their hills." (Bill Cromwell, Keswick, Va.)

How many Democrats does it take to change a lightbulb? Don't we need a permit for that? (Diana Oertel, San Francisco)

What one-piece garments do liberal dancers wear at rehearsal? Leo-special-needs. (Kevin Dopart)

What's the difference between conservatives and liberals? Conservatives want to eliminate taxes; liberals want to eliminate Texas. (Karen Lambert)

Where do nouveau-riche liberals live? In McPersonsions. (Kevin Dopart)

How can you tell someone from Texas is a liberal? Because they're from Texas. (Donald Norum, Charlottesville, Va.)

Why did the liberal refuse to go to the Amnesty International gala? She didn't want to be seen carrying the same New Yorker tote bag as someone else. (Karen Lambert)

What did the liberal restaurant owner do when his dishwasher was busted? Hired an immigration lawyer. (Bird Waring, Larchmont, N.Y.)

What do you call a liberal at a gun range? A reporter. (Chris Doyle)

What's the difference between a gallstone and a Biden initiative? A gallstone's journey is also excruciatingly painful, but it eventually passes. (Frank Osen)

What's the difference between Republicans and the Washington Commanders? D.C. only has about 50 of each, but at least the Republicans work toward a strong defense. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

How liberal is he? He's so liberal he got a notarized consent form before he played with himself. (Bird Waring)

Q. Hey, longtime Washington Post reader, did you hear the one about Hunter Biden's laptop? A. Who's Hunter Biden? (Tom Witte)

And Last: What's the price of a liberal's soul? A refrigerator magnet, apparently. (Marty Gold, Arlington, VA.)

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Title:(Chris Doyle)
Subhead:(Chris Doyle; Jon Gearhart)
Prize:(Steve Smith)

Week 1495, Published 07/03/2022

Style Invitational Week 1495: We all need a break
No new contest this week -- our first skip in three years -- but lots of winning neologisms from Week 1491

By Pat Myers

June 30, 2022 at 9:57 a.m. EDT

Click here to skip down to the winning neologisms from Week 1491

It's been a heck of a week, hard upon many previous hecks-of-weeks. So relax, cue the fireworks, and enjoy this week's inking add-a-letter neologisms: There's no new contest this week -- our first skipped contest since August 2019 -- so that the Empress can take a week off four weeks from now, when the results would have run. (But it's not even a vacation from Loserdom: She and the