Style Invitational Week 1380: Both sides now
Pull some letters from a word to find another one. Plus more fun messing up Shakespeare.
Image without a caption
(Bob Staake for The Washington Post)
Pat Myers
April 16, 2020 at 10:31 a.m. EDT
(Click here to skip down to the contest to add a character to a Shakespeare play)

PANdemIC: A knockdown brawl in Aisle 6 over the last package of toilet paper.

MELANcholIA: Being married to the best husband in the history of husbands.

Family nIGHT: When you play a game of Monopoly after two weeks in isolation together.

Here’s a brand-new contest that’s the opposite of one of our favorite recurring contests: In our “air quotes” challenge, you find a word inside another word, and relate it to the first word. This week: Delete one or more letters (in a row) from a word or brief phrase to find another word, and define it, as in the examples above by Jesse Frankovich, who last week got NO ink, for the first time in … one hundred weeks. (He’s back.) You could delete the letters from one end of the term instead of the middle, but you need the reader to be surprised by the discovery. This contest was first suggested by Roy Ashley and in a slightly different form by Kenji Thielstrom.


The Empress's Royal Consort, Mark Holt, sports a modified natural.
The Empress's Royal Consort, Mark Holt, sports a modified natural. (From “The Moustache Grower's Guide” by Lucien Edwards, Chronicle Books)
Submit up to a total of 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, April 27; results will appear May 17 in print, May 14 online.

Winner gets the Lose Cannon, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives just the thing for a guy in isolation: a little book called “The Moustache Grower’s Guide,” describing 30 different hairy-lip looks; donated by the totally smooth-lipped Ms. Pie Snelson; AND an alternative: a bacon-scented stick-on mustache. “Extra manly!” assures the packaging. Because … well, I don’t know why. Donated by Bill Dorner, who was cleanshaven (even on his head) last time I saw him.

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, “Too-Weak Notice” or “Certificate of (de) Merit.” First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline “Flip the Bard” is by Chris Doyle; Tom Witte wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the Devotees group on Facebook at “Like” the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.


The Style Conversational: The Empress’s weekly online column, published late Thursday afternoon, reviews each new contest and set of results. This week, a tribute to the newest (15th) member of the Style Invitational Hall of Fame, Frank Osen, who scored Ink Blot No. 500 last week. We may have to take a drive down to Pooperstown and bump out the end of the hall, just so everyone can social-distance. Check out the Convo at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago …

Flip the Bard: Report from Week 1376
In Week 1376 we asked the Losers to add a character to a Shakespeare work and insert a line of dialogue. Let’s just say that the Bard proved more timely than ever.

4th place:
Hamlet: I must be cruel, only to be kind: Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.
Chief of Staff Mark Meadows: Let’s strike that and just say: “We have very few people with it, and the people that have it … they’re all getting better.” (Frank Mann, Washington)


3rd place:
Hamlet: And my imaginations are as foul as Vulcan’s stithy.
Mr. Spock: Although humans do not possess them, I assure you my stithy is maintained in a hygienic state. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

2nd place
and the Rocket Launcher toilet game:
Antony in “Antony and Cleopatra”: Perchance to-morrow you’ll serve another master.
Anthony Fauci: Not soon enough. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon:
Duke of Gloucester in "Henry VI, Part I": Mayor, farewell: thou dost but what thou mayst.
Pete Buttigieg: In four years shall America vote in the gayst. (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

More matter, less art: Honorable mentions
Orlando in “As You Like It”: I cannot speak to her, yet she urg’d conference.
Texting Co-worker: Did you unmute your Zoom mic? (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)


“A Lover’s Complaint”: O, how the channel to the stream gave grace!
Millions of Americans: Binge-watching Netflix helps us shelter in place! (Mike Gips)

Aaron in “Titus Andronicus”: Villain, I have done thy mother.
Oedipus: Ha, beat you to it! (Jeff Contompasis)

Antony in “Julius Caesar”: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
Mr. Potato Head: You still haven’t returned my nose! (John Hutchins, Silver Spring, Md.)

Benedick in “Much Ado About Nothing”: A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.
President: Why do you think I spend so much time tweeting from the toilet at 3 a.m.? (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Biron in “Love’s Labour’s Lost”: Greater than great, great, great, great Pompey! Pompey the Huge.
Secretary of State: Uh, there’s an O at the end.” (Kevin Dopart, Washington)


Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: But, notwithstanding, haste; make no delay: We may effect this business yet ere day.
Mitch McConnell: No. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Caliban in “The Tempest”: How does thy honour? Let me lick thy shoe.
Trump: That was pretty good. Now watch Lindsey. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

Viola in “Twelfth Night”: Make me a willow cabin at your gate.
First Contractor: Okay, but we can’t start until October. (Rick Foucheux, Silver Spring, Md.)

Emilia in “Othello”: I must needs report the truth.
Trump: I say that you are a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. (Mary Giorgis, Crofton, Md., a First Offender)

Domitius Enobarus in “Antony and Cleopatra”: Thou art so leaky, that we must leave thee to thy sinking.
Kellyanne Conway: I prefer to call it alternative nondisclosure. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)


Escalus in “Measure for Measure”: I shall desire you, sir, to give me leave to have free speech with you.
Barack Obama: Sorry, my honorarium is $400,000. (Mark Raffman)

Falstaff in “Henry IV, Part II”: I will turn diseases to commodity.
Sen. Richard Burr: Ooh, good idea! (Duncan Stevens)

Claudius in “Hamlet”: His liberty is full of threats to all — to you yourself, to us, to every one.”
The GOP: “So?” (Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va.)

Hamlet: I shall not look upon his like again.
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah, he didn’t just unfriend you, he blocked your account. (Mark Richardson, Takoma Park, Md.)

Lord Sands in “Henry VIII”: ’Tis time to give ’em physic, their diseases are grown so catching.”
Trump: Nah. It’ll hurt my ratings. (Marni Penning Coleman)

King Lear: Five days we do allot thee for provision to shield thee from diseases of the world.
Fauci: Actually, I’m afraid we’re looking at a longer time frame …” (Alex Steelsmith, Kailua, Hawaii)


King of France from “All’s Well That Ends Well”: Why, then, young Bertram, take her; she’s thy wife.
Henny Youngman: Take mine too, prithee. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

King Lear: Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.
Ralph Northam: I tried that once. The year was 1984 … (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

Macbeth: Swords I smile at, weapons laugh to scorn,
Brandish’d by man that’s of a woman born.
Coronavirus: I hail from pangolin, perchance from bat.
So tough luck, sucker: I’ma knock you flat. (Nan Reiner, Boca Raton, Fla.)

Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: My gentle Puck, come hither.
Alex Ovechkin: That’s how you sissies play hockey in England? (Richard Franklin, Alexandria, Va.)

Clerk in “The Merchant of Venice”: I never knew so young a body with so old a head.
Ted Williams: I hope to be able to say that myself someday. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)


Othello: O ill-starr’d wench! Pale as thy smock!”
Flo from Progressive: Slow down, buddy! I never promised I could save everybody money! (Rob Huffman, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Ariel in “The Tempest”: Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.
Mark Meadows: Okay, Mr. President, we can start the meeting. (Roger Dalrymple, Gettysburg, Pa.)

Malvolio in “Twelfth Night”: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.
Trump: And some of us hit the trifecta, am I right? (John Hutchins)

Decius Brutus from “Julius Caesar”: If Caesar hide himself, shall they not whisper “Lo, Caesar is afraid?”
Trump: I think that’s a very nasty question. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. (Drew Bennett, West Plains, Mo.)

Othello: Speak … of one whose hand like the base Indian threw a pearl away richer than all his tribe.
Cleveland Manager: I know, I know, we never should have traded Rocky Colavito to the Tigers. (Mark Richardson)

Titus Andronicus: For pity of mine age, whose youth was spent in dangerous wars, whilst you securely slept.
Trump: I had very bad bone spurs; otherwise I would have been a great soldier, believe me. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

Hubert de Burgh in “King John”: My lord, they say five moons were seen to-night; four fixed, and the fifth did whirl about the other four in wondrous motion.
Audience Member: Yeah, they got the fanciest acts at this strip club. (Sam Mertens)

Lafeu in “All’s Well That Ends Well”: And they were sons of mine, I’d have them whipt, or I would send them to th’ Turk to make eunuchs of.
Donald Jr. and Eric: “Dad, what’s he saying? Are we gonna go hunt turkeys?” (Mark Raffman)

Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: I have a venturous fairy that shall seek the squirrel’s hoard, and fetch thee new nuts.
Patient: Actually, I was hoping a prescription for Viagra would do the trick. (Mark Raffman)

Sir Toby Belch in “Twelfth Night”: I hope to see a housewife take thee between her legs and spin it off.
Peloton CEO: Thanks, but I think we’ll stick with our current marketing campaign. (Mike Gips)

Cassius in “Julius Caesar”: Think of the world.
Melania: Might as well — I already tried thinking of England. (Duncan Stevens)

Hamlet: Bloody bawdy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
Sen. Susan Collins: Oh, but I’m sure he’s learned a pretty big lesson. (Duncan Stevens)

Macbeth: Duncan is in his grave; after life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.
Empress: Yet he still submits 25 Style Invitational entries every week. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

And Last: Duke of Milan in “Two Gentlemen of Verona”: And think thee worthy of an Empress’ love:
Bill Dorner, Indianapolis: Most weeks my jokes receive no part thereof.

Two contests still running — deadline for both Monday, April 20:
— Week 1378, songs (and optional videos) about Life in the Age of Corona:
— Week 1379, tell a joke whose punchline involves a song title or lyric:

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