Week 1518
Style Conversational Week 1518: You be the judge!
On this final week of The Style Conversational, the Empress choose your favorite Ask Backwards entries. Plus: Where to find us after this.

By Pat Myers

Wowie. Heck of a week it's been. Since we announced The Style Invitational's imminent end last week, it's safe to say that editors at The Washington Post were delivered a quick and memorable lesson about the devotion and passion of the Loser Community, both contestants and just-readers. (Several letters to the editor are scheduled to run on the Free for All page in the Saturday, Dec. 10, print paper; online about the same time, search on "readers critique" on The Post's website.)

[ Hasn't it been Loserly? A few thoughts on the imminent demise of The Style Invitational ]

I wish we could have made it to a big 30th-anniversary retrospective of Invite wit like the ones we had in 2003 and 2013. But I'm glad that we had this one more week, today's farewell column, Style Invitational Week 1518, that gave me -- and my predecessor, Gene Weingarten -- a chance to share a few dozen reader favorites among the more than 55,000 entries we've published since March 1993. Most of our Loseriest Losers are represented among the 39 gems, along with a few people we never saw again, like one Michael Sweet, who won Week 35 with his risque suggestion for what to do with a narrow 14-mile tunnel, then never got another blot of ink, Reading over the nominated entries, then seeing them as a mini-anthology, made both the Czar and the Empress a bit misty through the repeated guffaws. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as we do.

But to use this last page for the retrospective, I had to deny that space to the results of Week 1514, what turned out to be our 41st and final Ask Backwards contest, which I hadn't yet judged. So my idea was that I'd be totally democratic and put all the entries here in this week's Style Conversational and let the readers choose their favorites.

Which is what I'm doing below -- with some necessary alterations. First of all, there turned out to be 1,400 entries to 1514. And even though they could be divided into the 19 groups of "answers," some of those individual lists numbered past 120 entries; even Loser Obsessives wouldn't want to slog through those. And so I quickly scanned the entries and pulled a more manageable number from each set (and tossed a few of the categories entirely). They're listed below, with none of the writers' names attached; I haven't see the names either. You'll see that they're not consistent in format, and you might feel that some of them aren't Invite quality.

So my plan is that you'd read whichever category you liked, and note your favorite(s) in the comments thread. (No special format needed as long as it's clear to me which entry you mean.) Later I'd tally up the votes and announce the winners on my still-extant and free Substack newsletter, If you're game and you're able to leave a comment, go for it. If you vote for your own entry, I won't know.

Because this is the last time I'll be able to use this page to pass news along, let me share a few last notes:

The Loser Community lives! It's on Facebook but Style Invitational Devotees is a private group, carefully overseen by me and several other Losers to ensure only civil behavior among its 1,500 active members. Not only can you meet and stay in touch with people who appreciate smart humor and wordplay, and continue to plan live social gatherings, but we're even hoping to put up some informal Invite-style contests within the group. For instance, I or someone else would start a thread asking for obit poems for people who died in 2022, just as I did for all those years in the Invite, and people could take a few days and post in the thread, and other members would click Like or Love on their faves.

The archive lives, too!: If these greatest hits leave you wanting More! More! More!, just visit the newly enhanced Master Contest List at, the Losers' own website, and you can read column after column. We're even still working on finding PDFs for a last few missing weeks from the early years so we'll have The Official Canon.

The Wake on Jan. 28: Our previously scheduled annual Losers' Post-Holiday Party suddenly become more of a big-deal event. An Evite will go out soon for the potluck/songfest/blubberfest, to be held in a large -- but not infinitely large -- party room in a Crystal City (Arlington, Va.) apartment building. We had it last year and didn't come close to the legal-maximum 75 people, but it might be a much hotter ticket this year.

While I truly do look forward to getting a little rest after a nonstop cycle of 982 straight contests since 2003, I happened to hear this very morning about an opportunity that could give an Empress a new realm of sorts. It's very preliminary, but if something does come of it, I'd share it in the Devotees group.

A few more people to shout out: In last week's Convo I thanked a number of colleagues who helped the Invite come out every week. Just as important to getting the contests to work was the totally volunteered (often unsolicited) help from various Losers on certain contests: Year after year, twice a year, Jonathan Hardis would take my raw list of 4,000 foal names in our annual racehorse name-"breeding" wordplay contests for foals and then grandfoals, and return them to me perfectly sorted and formatted, no matter what sort of mess they were in on arrival. Then there were name bank contests in which you had to use only words from a certain piece of writing, like Trump's inaugural address or "The Night Before Christmas" or "American Pie." Validation programs designed and run for me in various contests by Kyle Hendrickson, Gary Crockett, Steve Langer and Todd DeLap (who, famously, sent in an invalid entry for his week) made those very fun contests possible. And Jeff Contompasis sent me spreadsheets full of seven-letter sets from the ScrabbleGrams word game that I went on to use in nine Tile Invitational contests.

And once again, I salute and am inestimably grateful for 29 straight years of unpaid labor by Keeper of the Stats Elden Carnahan to maintain the Master Contest list, which I consulted continually in search of material to reuse or vary, not to mention the stats that encouraged hundreds of brainy, clever, funny people to write just a few more entries so they could snag that Loser of the Year prize, or at least climb a few rungs in the standings. I'm utterly convinced that without that competition, the Invite would have been far, far weaker.

So let's see how this Ask Backwards thing works out. If people do prove game for judging lots of entries, I can also post the als0-canceled Week 1515 "sister cities of Europe," contest, perhaps in the Devotees group.

Finally, all the answers!

I tossed a few categories that fizzled: The next name after the Commanders (many suggested "the Commodes" or, hopefully, "The Team No Longer Owned by Dan Snyder'); Three Squats and a Burpee; Ye's Next Fashion Line (he's just not very funny, I'm afraid); Tournament of Chimps; and You Boil It, for which one person suggested, "How do you kill the Empress?" Sorry, that's not my pronoun.

42 Minutes .

1. 42 minutes - How long will a thirteen year old boy remain aroused after hearing the word "boobies"? 2. 42 Minutes * How long does it take your average guy to make Minute Rice? 3. 42 Minutes --How long will it take for the next performance of the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl? 4. 42 minutes Q= What's the meaning of "sec" in "I'll be ready in a sec"? 5. 42 Minutes --What is the average time for a baseball game that the Nationals have a chance of winning? 6. 42 minutes. Q. According to Elon Musk, how long in 24 hours should someone rest from hard core work? 7. 42 minutes. Q. How do I know I've been to 42 meetings? 8. 42 Minutes. Q: About how long will the new House take before launching an investigation of Hunter Biden? 9. 42 Minutes. What TV news show employed Rose Mary Woods as an editor before she joined the Nixon White House? 10. 42 minutes: In the middle of the night, when you forgot to change the smoke alarm battery, how long will the smoke alarm beep before you rip it out of the wall? "Q" 11. 42 Minutes: According to the new history curriculum guidelines proposed by the Virginia Dept. of Education, how long did slavery last? 12. 42 minutes: According to the new Twitter employee manual, what is a vacation day? 13. 42 Minutes: Due to CBS budget cuts, how much of "60 Minutes" will now consist of that ticking stopwatch? 14. 42 Minutes: How do men describe two minutes to their friends? 15. 42 Minutes: How long did Kamala Harris pause when asked "Madam Vice President, Should President Biden run again in 2024?" 16. 42 Minutes: How long does it take a Metro train to arrive at the next station 2,2 miles away if it leaves at 7:51 a.m. and can travel 59 mph? 17. 42 Minutes: How long does it take candidate Trump to make a 5-minute speech? 18. 42 Minutes: How long into a 48-minute NBA game do Washington Wizards fans hold out hope? 19. 42 Minutes: How long is a New York hour? 20. 42 Minutes: In a "significant concession," the GOP's new abortion bill will allow the procedure at up to what age of gestation? 21. 42 minutes: Under their new election rules, how long do Texas and Florida minority neighborhood polls stay open? 22. 42 minutes: What is 41 and a half minutes longer than Trump's capacity to remain quiet? 23. 42 Minutes: What's left if you cuss-edit a 3-hour Samuel L. Jackson film?

A Bad Name for an Ikea Product

1. A bad name for an IKEA Product - What is a Fjallenapaart? 2. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product - What is a Hoonkakraap? 3. A bad name for an Ikea product Q: What is Rikiti? 4. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product. Q. What is the Flymsi bookcase? 5. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product. Q. What is the Upsella sofa? 6. A Bad Name for an IKEA product. What is the KLANSBACKA bedsheet series? 7. A Bad Name for an IKEA product. What is the Skrapo toilet? 8. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: "Jerker" is one such example, the appellation of a popular Scandinavian couch produced by a Swedish furniture retailer that did not sell much in the English-speaking world, despite simply meaning, "Eric." Others include "Fanny" (a table) and "Titti" (a blanket). [I just put this one there to show that some people do go on!] 9. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: Hairinpullin EZ Shelf System 10. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is "Made in China, Some Assembly Required?" 11. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is "Swedish Reindeer Meatballs"? 12. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is a Boang chair? 13. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is Br*kbak? 14. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is CHAIR? 15. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is Commanders? 16. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is Fastfailen? 17. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is Friggenhardtamayk? 18. A bad name for an IKEA product: What is GRABJORKREDITKART? 19. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is Hammarthumb? 20. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is Softstool? 21. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is the Kallapsen shelving unit? 22. A Bad Name for an Ikea Product: What is YORSKRUD? 23. A Bad Name for an IKEA Product?--What is the Escher bunk bed?

A Blue Check

In the comments at the bottom of the page, vote for your favorite by copying that answer into the thread, plus citing the number, e.g.: "A blue check: No. 27: What hockey maneuver is named for rough police tactics?" 1. A blue check - What is valuable when free and worthless when it costs $8/month? 2. A Blue Check - What's the only kind of check Elon Musk should expect from his Twitter investment? 3. A blue check. Q. How can you tell the sex of a Smurf? 4. A Blue Check. Q: What might one expect playing NHL hockey against St. Louis? 5. A Blue Check: What can you buy for $8 that costs Eli Lilly $15 billion? 6. A Blue Check: What did Elon Musk offer to laid-off Twitter workers instead of severance pay? 7. A Blue Check: What is a foolproof method to tell whether someone has stopped breathing? 8. A Blue Check: What is it called when a Smurf slams into an opponent in hockey? 9. A blue check: what is something of great value to people of little value? 10. A blue check: What kind of dress should I wear with ruby slippers? 11. A blue check: What was the last thing James Cameron did before shipping 'Avatar: The Way of Water' to cinemas this week? 12. A Blue Check: What will be an "out" on the Washington Post's annual "In/Out" list? 13. A blue check: what's easier to get than COVID at an anti-Vaxxer rally?

A Leaf Blower and a Garden Slug

Week 1517
Style Conversational Week 1517: Hasn't it been Loserly?
A few thoughts on the imminent demise of The Style Invitational

By Pat Myers


What to do with all these tiaras?

I was informed about 48 hours ago that The Style Invitational's last column would appear Sunday, Dec. 11, in The Washington Post's Arts & Style section, and on Thursday, Dec. 8, online. That's one more column after this week's, and it'll be used for a greatest-hits sampler.

At that point I was still judging the Week 1513 contest of greeting-card rhymes for non-greeting-card occasions -- whose results run today -- and had planned our annual "Year in Preview" funny-predictions contest (see the would-have-been examples below).

I don't have the time and speed and, to be honest, the presence of mind right now to write something extensive about the almost 30 years of The Style Invitational and my 19 years (right to the week next Sunday) as Empress. So just a few things.

I wasn't in on the plans for the huge shakeup that's happening throughout the The Post's features department -- most notably but not only the folding of The Washington Post Magazine and the layoffs of its whole staff -- to whisk away the dust of the old institutions in favor of a "revitalized" Style section. The canceling of the Invite is a part of that.

The Post's new executive features editor, Ben Williams, assured me that The Post wasn't killing the Invite over taste questions, or reaction to a particular contest or entry, even though he had recently killed a number of entries that he considered tasteless. This was a great relief to me, because it means that I won't be kicking myself in regret for running something that brought down the column -- a fear that lurked in me during all 982 contests. (I did, however, become emboldened by the fact that the Invite's edgy, sometimes risque humor drew close to zero reader complaints -- and never a single one from the even edgier jokes that ran only online.)

Let me clarify one thing that many of you don't know: The Post killed the Invitational, and with it my 40-year connection with The Post, but did not technically fire me, because I am not an employee anymore.

I was a copy editor in The Post's Style section from my little-baby-editorhood in 1982 to 2008 (some of that being in charge of the copy desk, and the last five years also running the Invite after "Czar" Gene Weingarten passed it on to me). In 2008, like everyone in the newsroom who was 50 or older (I was a few months short, but i counted), I was offered early retirement with a buyout, which I took, along with several hundred other employees; it gave me a nice pension. Then, since the end of 2008, I've continued to do the Empress thing, but not on the payroll, in fact not even with a contract; I'm just an independent contractor, getting paid by the column (one reason I never skipped any of the 982 weeks). Still, I wasn't your average freelancer; I have a desk at The Post and, more important, editor-level access to the computer system, letting me make my own quick fixes -- something the Losers know has been super-important, considering how many messed-up credits, wrong week numbers, etc., they've alerted me to in time to get it all correct for the Sunday print edition.

I am truly astonished -- and of course delighted -- at how long the Invitational has been allowed to exist. It outlasted a series of editors, some of whom did not retire of their own accord. (I have to chuckle that I was assured by Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli around 2010 that "as long as I'm here, there will be a Style Invitational." He lasted four years.)

In recent years I vowed to continue running the Invite until it was killed, and so it was inevitable that The Post would be the killer. I'm sorry, of course, that it canceled the contest, but not outraged about it; the anger I'll leave to its readers and community of contestants. My only regret is that for some reason, and it wasn't explained to me, that the editors were in such a rush to clean house that they left three contests in the lurch. They hadn't told me in recent weeks to stop putting out new contests, or alternatively set the final week at Dec. 25, the scheduled date for the results of last week's contest, Week 1516. I'm sure it wasn't malicious, but rather that they hadn't known what our schedule was, or thought about it when so many other changes were taking place.

So, anyway, what now?

Lots of stuff still to happen -- and can keep on happening. I hope you take part in some of it.

-- Next week's column: Greatest hits. Send your suggestions! To wrap things up, Gene and Bob and I will assemble some of our favorite entries, and yours. Because of this last-minute scheduling, you have only till Monday night, Dec. 5, to chime in with suggestions for what we should run. That favorite joke you remember from 2004 or whatever. Obviously we can run just a few of the thousands and thousands of classic entries from the past 30 years, but it can't hurt to lobby for your fave. Send them through this week's entry form, which has a separate space for you to suggest what to do with the clown heads.

-- The Week 1514 Ask Backwards contest: Have at it! Because we're going to put those greatest hits on the page, this means that there won't be room to put the results of our recurring Jeopardyish contest there, too. I won't have the time to judge it anyway. So my idea is to post the raw entries here in next week's Conversational, category by category (so it's not just a jumble of 1,200 entries, and you can choose just one group to look at), and let you note your favorites in the comments. No prizes, just one way to get those jokes out there, some of which will be very funny and a lot will not.

I'm not sure whether that's going to work; I haven't tested it or anything in the last 48 hours. But if that proves a Big Tub o' Fun, then maybe I'll try something similar with the Week 1515 sister-cities contest. There won't be a Style Conversational in two weeks, so that one might have to just be sacrificed, or go to Facebook. I'm being retired, you know, and I'm going to retire.

-- We're having brunch! Which just happened to be scheduled for noon on Sunday, Dec. 11, at Lena's Wood-Fired Grill and Tap, right near the Braddock Road Metro in Alexandria, Va. Free parking on its deck! I suggest that we just order an assortment of pizza and split the tab so that we don't spend our precious reminiscing time bogged down in ordering. Unfortunately, I can stay only till about 1:30 because I have to get to my call and last-minute rehearsal for the choral concert I'm singing in later that afternoon.

-- We'll have a grand wake! Our annual Losers' Post-Holiday Party potluck, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 28, in a big long Crystal City party room with pool tables, ought to be one for the ages. The parody sing-along ought to cover all two decades of Invite songs. We have lots of musicians in the Loser Community; let's see what we can work up over the next two months. News of this, as it develops, will go up on both (Our Social Engorgements) and on ...

-- The still-active (and even becoming more active?) Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. Stay in touch with me and more than 2,000 kindred spirits and share your wit with the most appreciative of select audiences. Already people are creating threads for the Questionable Journalism jokes, obit poems and the like . Think of what we can do with all those new congressional names next month! We won't judge them, just enjoy the wit.

Unending thanks

That's exactly how long they would go if I didn't have to get this online. Off the top of my head, just a few -- more will follow in other venues, I'm sure.

To Gene Weingarten, my predecessor and BFF. He created The Style Invitational in 1993 when he was editor of the Sunday Style section, making it a more raucous but equally sophisticated version of the New York Magazine Competition, and immediately making it one of the most popular features in the Sunday paper (no substantiation but I say so). When he turned it over to me, I couldn't hope to match him in creativity and writing flair, so I basically tried to copy him and do better with sending out the prizes, and also adding song parodies, which he fails to appreciate.

To Bob Staake, Gene's and then my visual partner since 1994 -- way longer than either of us. Over the decades while Bob gained wide renown as a New Yorker cover artist and bestselling children's book author and illustrator, Bob continued to send a cartoon to the Invite, as "really the only steady job I've ever had." Bob and I have met in person only once -- he lives on Cape Cod -- but every week we're the Invite version of the Kramdens, bickering and threatening to send each other to the moon, but aww we make up.

To the editors who let the Invite do its thing: It started with Style editor Mary Hadar -- who also took a flier on this 27-year-old upstart to run the section's copy desk in 1986 -- who gave almost free rein to Gene to change Sunday Style and let the Invite flourish, and to successive editors including Gene Robinson, David von Drehle, Deborah Heard and especially Lynn Medford, who brought the Invitational from the Saturday paper (it was there for a few years) back to Sundays for a new tabloid-size Sunday Style, with the Invite prominently on the back page in color. Lynn was a true fan of the Invite, displaying trophies in her office, offering her Appalachian "Haw!" at her favorite entries, and even coming to at least two Loser events. Most recently, Style editor Amy Hitt read over the column and made some useful suggestions.

To the copy editors, page designers and IT staff: I have had enormous help from, and worked most with, the people who have helped with the special requirements of the Invitational, both technical and in just getting the humor and references. The Invite has has a succession of page designers over the years and through ever-changing technology, most recently the super-helpful Alla Dreyvitser. Kurt Gardiner and Danielle Newman, both newspaper journalists turned IT people, went out of their way to help me -- Danielle late last night, from home.

And my beloved former copy desk colleague Doug Norwood made it a point to be the eyes on the Invite every week until his recent retirement from The Post (but not from journalism); I'd quote his favorites as "What Doug Dug." And after him, Ponch Garcia ("What Pleased Ponch.") As a former (or eternal) copy editor, I value the important of a skilled pair of eyes to realize that, no, you didn't mean to say that, right?

And of course, I was just the conduit: The real credit goes to the more than 5,000 people who've gotten ink in The Style Invitational, putting out ridiculous amounts of effort and sharing prodigious talent in exchange for silly trinkets. I'm glad that some of them have become local celebrities among devoted Post readers. Next week, I'll single them out.

And don't forget the readers! The contest, competitive as it was among the self-styled Losers, was always intended as a way to bring a variety of top-notch humor to readers. Thanks to so many of you for writing to just thank us for giving you a laugh in times when we need it more than ever.

Who would have predicted ...

As I'd done for several years after stealing his concept from his own humor column, I'd asked 93-time Loser Malcolm Fleschner to give me some news events from 2023 to use as examples for this year's "Year in Preview" contest (headline: "23 and ??") to run today. Malcolm, who's become a good friend, promptly sent me a long list. The three examples I chose were so good that I'll share them right here.

March 12, 2023: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is wildly applauded when he appears in person at the Academy Awards -- then gets a standing ovation when he runs up to the stage and slaps Will Smith.

-- Marvin Oglethorp of Newburgh, Iowa, wins the largest-ever lottery jackpot. He tells reporters he plans to use the $1.8 billion "to buy two tickets to a Taylor Swift concert."

-- After a ferocious bidding war, talent agency CAA triumphantly announces the inking of a four-picture deal for the head of lettuce that outlasted Liz Truss.

Malcolm can now use these along with the rest in his online humor column Culture Schlock. (Yeah, he used to write it for a newspaper, too.) Sign up for free at


So I'll see you next week -- see what it's like to see a thousand raw jokes.

Thank you for the messages you've been sending in while I've been trying to write this down.

Still the Empress for Another Week


Week 1516
Style Conversational Week 1516: Minding those A's and Q's
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's Questionable Journalism contest and 26-word, 26-letter results

By Pat Myers

November 23, 2022 at 2:47 p.m. EST

I know, I promised I wouldn't be here today with the Convo, since -- as I do every Thanksgiving week -- I was publishing this week's Style Invitational, Week 1516, on Wednesday, a day early. But I wanted to give our newer members of the Loser Community a better idea of how we do the Questionable Journalism contest, one the Invite has been presenting regularly since Week 254 in 1998, but not since Week 1433, a year and a half ago.

And I wanted to share some interesting non-inking entries from Week 1512, whose results run today -- especially some of the many 26-word/26-starting-letter passages concerning The Style Invitational and its imperious little showrunner.

Q-shticks*: This week's contest

*Headline by Kevin Dopart from the results of Week 1324 in 2019

Our recurring Questionable Journalism contest is like our even more persistent Ask Backwards in that the "answer" goes first, followed by your "question"; my predecessor, the Czar, first used the title "Double Jeopardy." In the early, pre-Internet days, you had to limit your search to that day's (Sunday) Washington Post, which presumably you had in your hands, and which, in the super-flush-for-newspapers late 1990s, was the size of a hippopotamus, thanks to all that ad revenue we just don't have anymore.

These days you get to use any dated publication, print or online, and the date can be from today, Nov. 23, all the way to the contest deadline, Dec. 5. No, Invite Obsessives, you do not need to examine every page in every paper of the next 12 days -- yes, some Losers have complained about this "requirement." An enterprising Loser could find 20 QJ-useful sentences in today's Washington Post. But it's also a good reason to pick up a copy of your local print paper, if your town still has one; no one else will be using your sentence!

The examples the Czar offered were from that day's Ann Landers column (with his own questions, duh):

Answer: "She is now in jail, charged with aggravated battery and domestic battery." Question: What happened to the woman who mugged the Energizer Bunny?

Answer: "A handkerchief edged in lace, resembling women's panties, to put in a man's breast pocket." Question: What would be a bad birthday present to get President Clinton?

My question: What the heck was that second Ann Landers quote about?! (My question answered.)

And that actually brings up a useful tip: It's better to use a sentence whose real context is clear -- that way, the reader gets right away how you're turning the meaning around. To me, the "battery" example is the funnier one. I could explain the context after the sentence (and occasionally do) but at the risk of spoiling the humor.

What do I mean when I say you can use "the major part of a sentence" rather than the whole thing? As I noted in a previous Conversational: "You can drop a few nonessential words from the sentence, for example 'Smith said,' and you can use two short sentences. But try not to use very long sentences, since your entry might be the one most easily trimmed for space. Also, not deleting those extra words is one way to show some cleverness." (Boldface mine this time, because those long sentences do get cut first.)

Don't, on the other hand, cut the sentence so its meaning is already changed from the original; don't change "The teacher passed out the exams" to "The teacher passed out."

Q. Where can I find literally hundreds and hundreds of inking Questionable Journalism entries from over the years, without any paywall?

Glad you asked! You need only check out the Losers' own New 'n' Improved Master Contest List, created by Elden Carnahan and recently updated by Gary Crockett at Click on the drop-down menu at the top and select "Questions"; then click on the links (results are in the right column) to the Questionable Journalisms and others that fit the description. They're text files, but much more readable now.

How about if I just want to see, oh, five representative entries?

Okay, here:

2017, runner-up: A. We cannot acknowledge every submission. Q. Hey, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, why don't you tally how often legislators kowtow to the president? (Mark Raffman)

2016: A. Let me be honest here. Q. What does a politician say before lying? (Jon Gearhart)

2015: A. "In the past I would laboriously pare off the hard skin with a vegetable peeler (difficult on a curved surface) or slice it off with a big knife." Q. What did Julia Child say as a testimonial for Oil of Olay? (Frank Osen)

2010: A. "Whether I win or lose, I've got to look at myself in the mirror the next day, and a word that's important to me is integrity." Q. Why on earth did you get "integrity" tattooed backward on your forehead? (Russell Beland)

2007: A. This is the place that made me who I am. Q. What's so special about the back seat of your parents' SUV? (Jay Shuck)

A note about the formatting: I won't be shuffling the entries this week, so you don't have to do anything special. See the note on this week's entry form. I haven't had time to run tests with our new entry form on whether you can start embedding links right into your entries. So for now, just include the URLs for your online sentences after each sentence, or even at the bottom of the group of entries.

AlpHAbet soup*: The results of Week 1512

*Non-inking headline by Chris Doyle

Much like our recent Scrabblegrams contest -- in which you had to rearrange all 100 Scrabble tiles into some entertaining bit of writing -- our Week 1512 contest was what I call a "stunt": You had to write 26 words, all of which began with different letters. It was suggested by Loser Al Lubran after he saw the results of a similar contest in Marilyn vos Savant's column in Parade (which just ran its final print edition); those results weren't exactly thrilling, but I was sure the Losers could do way better.

And they certainly did. This week's 25 inking entries, 22 of them in print, didn't just satisfy the parameters of the contest: They told jokes. They were fun to read. Their words made sense in context. And, as I'd predicted, some Loserbards managed to work those words into verse, even into something as fixed-form as a limerick (Coleman Glenn, in fact, sent in a whole page of them).

Winner Yet Again Chris Doyle parlayed knowing the name of the Washington National Zoo's newest panda, Xiao Qi Ji, into the most organic use of X-, Q- and J-words, with a local angle to boot. Jonathan Jensen fit "xylophone" totally sensibly into a hilarious rant by an orchestra conductor -- he surely has heard many from his seat among the bassists in the Baltimore Symphony. Leif Picoult supplied a funny, relatable punchline to the description of a horror movie, and Karen Lambert offered my favorite among several good A-to-Z entries with her tale of the "boastful cad."

Karen also got ink, along with Jesse Frankovich, with an "and last" entry about The Style Invitational. There were lots of other amazingly good ones as well, but it seemed wrong to fill up the whole column with inside stuff * when I can put them right here. I'll start with theirs, which I know to be valid (26 words starting with different letters or with an "eX" for the X); the others I didn't check, but who cares?

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)

[If I'd run three of these, this would have been the third: ] The Style Invitational: Quirky contest! Judge: Empress with absolute power. No opinion matters eXcept hers! Bribes? Useless! Really likes zingers; (doesn't go for yucky, kinky videos *). (Beverley Sharp)

[Another good A-to-Z]: After banishing Czar, dastardly Empress foments gauche humorists, inanely joking, kibitzing, laughing, making new obscene puns, quirkily rambunctious, salacious, tasteless, uncouth, very weird, xenophilic yuk-zingers. (Marty Gold)

Quintessential evidence of fanatical Invite zealotry? Spending hours not gainfully working, but designing prose using twenty-six letters, knowing an eXtremely juvenile, valueless magnet constitutes your reward. (Also by Karen Lambert)

Alphabet-related contests mean zero ink for nearly everybody, you know. EXpect one veteran Loser (Duncan? Jesse?) to win. How? By quickly generating untold sidesplitting passages. (Chris Doyle, who made this entry unusable by winning the contest!)

Any boob can devise entries for getting honorable ink. Just know, losers: Many not only prove quite raunchy; some tout unprintable vengeful wit. EXorcise Your Zeal! (Rob Cohen)

Empress: Write passages that repeat no starting letters. Quickly, zealously * verbiage just "magically" forms. Knowing eXpansive options and good usage helps. Can it be done? Yes. (Louise Dodenhoff Hauser, who indeed got ink with another entry)

Finding Le Mot Juste begets obsession: anagrams, eXpletives, humorous quotes, neologisms, puns, zingers -- even gobbledygook delights kooky ink slingers. Unfortunately, relishing wordplay can yield verbose tommyrot. (Kathy El-Assal)

You know, this zany quest our Empress gave us was proposed by Al Lubran -- he just discovered it from reading Marilyn vos Savant's eXcellent newspaper column. (Jesse Frankovich, who has a true gift for making anagrams as well as other stunt-writing like this sound totally natural)

Every week, I zealously click one specific URL, kneeling, praying for leXical redemption, nay, veritable justice. Then, despair: lifelong goals quashed by yet another honorable mention. (Brian Cohen -- well, we prevented THAT disappointment!)

Mail! Whoa Nelly, examining various bizarre junk here -- kitsch! Farting zebras! Glowing eXcreta! Yellow clothes! Questionable rarities! Think a Loser dumped Style Invitational prizes on us. (Duncan Stevens)

Invite hopefuls (undeniably zany), recovering from eXcruciating Scrabblegrams, knowingly decide on punishing themselves again by wackily juxtaposing every letter. Certifiable? Yes. Grief? Very much. Quit? Never! (Karen Lambert)

We Losers, to be eXtremely funny, publish hilarious new Quips, make you Readers chuckle, and gather up zero-value kitschy Junk, Do enter our Style Invitational! (Jesse Frankovich, with his own odd capitalization)

This just in -- save the date!

The Losers' Post-Holiday Party will be Saturday evening, Jan. 28, in Metro-friendly Crystal City, Va. More on this next week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all -- and start looking over your past year's entries for next month's do-over contests.

The following non-inking entries from Week 1512 go from mildly risque to very. If that kind of thing doesn't appeal to you, please stop reading now.





No my ABCs*: The unprintables (*Non-inking subhead by Jon Gearhart)

This very clever one didn't pass muster with the Taste Police: An X-rated holiday feast: Our Jennie-O wasn't dressed! Everyone in Charlotte's kitchen quickly peeled! Guests nibbled breasts, thighs, legs -- very yummy! Sadly, my zucchini remained untouched. (Jon Carter)

Certainly in the tradition of bawdy limericks, and expertly crafted: This old vibrator's firm, not so bendable,/ Plus, unlike jointed kinds, quite extendible./ It's had grueling abuse, / Welcomed zealous reuse: / You cannot employ lads more dependable. (Byron Miller)

You see, being eXtra cautious during quarantine, when attending remote gatherings on Zoom, I naturally kept my long erect penis hidden from view, unlike Jeffrey Toobin. (The ever-modest Jesse Frankovich)

And a local one about the trouncing of far-right-winger Dan Cox in the recent election: Young, urban female voters quite obviously killed Republicans' zany nominee in Maryland's gubernatorial election. Exasperated party bosses had to acknowledge: Some women just don't like Cox. (Jon Ketzner)


Week 1515
Style Conversational Week 1515: We har the world
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's 'sister cities of Europe' contest and 'air quotes' results

By Pat Myers

November 17, 2022 at 4:48 p.m. EST

Awwww, it's Our Little Vector! It turns out that sweet Sylvie Aurora Aronin, 7-month-old daughter of Dual Losers Rivka Liss-Levinson and Ben Aronin -- 125 blots of ink between them -- inspired the winning "air quote" in Week 1511 of The Style Invitational (full results here).

It turns out that Sylvie, who's just started her freshman year at day care in Northwest Washington, is still a bit young to bring home finger paintings and pipe cleaner crafts, but she did a great job at bringing home the season's trendiest disease: respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Which -- as all the cool tots are doing -- she promptly gave it to Rivka and Ben. That was after the covid and before -- as in this week -- the flu.

Hence Rivka's winning "air quotes" entry for Week 1511: "RSV"P: Yes, we'd be delighted! And we'll be bringing little Makayla -- don't worry, her virus is almost all better."

The Clowner is Rivka's first "grand" prize in the Invite, and her 14th blot of ink in all. Spouse Ben, who's been Inviting for many years longer, also got ink this week; his honorable mention for the also close-to-home "In"flu"encer: An anti-vaxxer who makes you go viral" is his 113th blot.

(Fun fact for Seder-goers: Have you ever seen, in an older haggadah, a parody of "Clementine" paraphrasing the passage about the Four Sons? That's by * Ben Aronin! But it's from 1948, and by Ben's uncle. Between you and me, Our Ben is better with the parodies.)

The Losers' Circle is filled out this week by veteran Ann Martin, whose "Marve'lous e'vening!" gets the "100 Pooping Puppies" jigsaw puzzle (I'm pretty sure that it's just squatting puppies and no actual product depicted), Transformative Rookie Karen Lambert (Fist"ICU"ffs) -- three blots today give her 59 inks in 39 weeks -- and a just-about-newbie: Al Lubran, who gets just his second blot of ink for an entry (he's suggested contests and donated a prize) for S"ex"ting, how you lost your wife. Al has already joined the Loser community at two Loser events: the brunch honoring Elden Carnahan and last weekend's festivities at TopGolf.

Once again, Air Quotes is the contest that keeps on giving; I think this is the eighth time running this contest in virtually the same way. Like Rivka with RSV, many Losers took advantage of topical names, such as Ye and Xi and Oz and Metaverse, and of course lots of current references in their descriptions -- the dried-up Missis"sip"ppi, Trump's Save A"me"rica PAC. All 47 inking entries this week fit onto the print page as well, and there were no editorial objections to any of them.

What didn't work as well? A few problems I noted among the 1,500 entries (I didn't look up who wrote any of these):

Misspelling the quoted word: Qu"err"ulous and A "cape"lla (something about a superhero) were among them. The entries wouldn't have worked as qu"er"ulous or A "cappe"lla.

Referring to the wrong part of speech: If the main word is a noun, the description should be of a noun, not of the parenthetical word. Contrast with this one: Lot"har"io: Typical reaction to a wannabe seducer. Clever idea, but the definition should refer instead to that laughable seducer. Similarly: "Garb"ageman: A reflective safety vest.

Too many: Lots of people sent in something like "Meh"met Oz: He doesn't seem to be thrilling enough voters. Right, I know, how can you know what other people are going to send? That's why you get 25 chances.

No irony: If the inside word actually means what the main one does, that doesn't work. Summa cum "laud"e: When parents gush about their child's academic achievements. Another was a headline idea for S'ick' Humor.

Not said in a funny way, or makes no witty or amusing point or observation: Em"ploy"er: A boss who uses guile to keep the wages of his employees low. "Prior"y: Former residence of ousted cleric.

No real-life meaning; it's just to work for this contest: "Oat"h Keepers: Insurrectionists who demand organic granola when incarcerated. [Update! I misspoke here: Author Judy Freed notes that the "Shaman" Oath Keeper had demanded organic food in jail. It would have tipped readers off better had it referred to "that insurrectionist who ..."]

Too specific and localized: "Spit On Y's" Pizza: Tip big -- or get a free extra topping! The entrant did explain that there's a Spitony's Pizza way out in rural Warrenton, Va.

Too complicated; no one would read it: "p"i""r""a"t""e""" ["a" within "rat" within "rate" within "irate" within "pirate"]: The kind of jerk who steals your cable and so raises prices for the whole neighborhood, making you angry.

We used it in earlier contests: Jesse Frankovich got ink in 2019 with "Spur"ious: What certain draft deferments were. I saw that at least once this time around, though not as well worded. Remember that you can see (and search for) All The Invite Ever Written; just call up the All Invitational Text page at, the Losers' own website (wait a few seconds for it to load).

Meanwhile *

No air: The unprintables: Clever but no:

C"hardon"nay: Who says alcohol interferes with male performance? (Jonathan Jensen)

Clea"vag"e: An appetizer that gets you thinking about the main course. (Tom Witte)

Washington "POS"t: A crappy newspaper everyone should cancel their subscription to. (D.T., Mar-a-Lago)

Oh mappy day! (Part 2) This week's contest, Week 1515

Given that we did the same contest 10 weeks ago, with cities in the United States and Canada, it should be pretty clear how to do Week 1515, in which we take on Europe/Eurasia (i.e., including Russia, Turkey and some former S.S.R.s like Armenia).

Here's the announcement for Week 1505.

And the results.

Once again, here's the link to the 51-country list we're using for eligible countries -- and you can use towns from anywhere in the country, even the Asian part.

And if you want to think of jokes and then find towns for them, (click on "Cities") will be a big help, though there are still towns to be found on Google that didn't show here; Bob Staake found Lost, Germany by Googling even though it didn't show up in Geotargit. Thanks again to Randy Lee for sharing this li'l helper.

Some differences from last time:

-- Foreign towns present more pronunciation issues than U.S. ones do. As I said in the Invite, I'm not demanding totally authentic pronunciations, especially if the town isn't well known. For a pretty well known city like Nice, France, I'm vacillating, but I probably won't end up choosing ones that require us to pronounce it like the English word "nice" rather than "neece" -- we don't want to look ignorant.

-- I don't want this to turn into another head-scratcher of long strings of names. If you have such a string, have someone read it out loud to you and explain, with no hint, what you're trying to say. (Next January: "Joint Legislation." We'll see about the name strings then.)

-- Moscow or Moskva? With famous cities, I'd keep it to the English versions for the joke to be more accessible, but the other could work as well. I won't rule them out. (Don't use the non-PC Russian names for Ukrainian cities, please!) If the spelling is the same, don't use the foreign pronunciation; if you're using Paris, don't expect for the reader to think "Paree."

-- Put the names of the countries at the end of the entry, but this time don't use abbreviations; The Post doesn't abbreviate foreign countries, and the audio version of the Invite (click on the "listen" icon just under the cartoon) really screwed up the state names.

-- NEW ENTRY FORM! Starting this very week, I'm writing the contest entry form through Google Forms rather than The Post's own, but soon-to-be-retired, Sub Platform. I worked it up pretty much on my own, basically copying the old one into the Form's various fields.

The shortened URL,[this week's week number], will be the same, and as before, it's not subject to The Post's paywall; you don't have to subscribe to see it.

As before, there's just an open box (it might just look like a line) for you to put all your entries. You now should be able to use boldface and italics. Please continue to use the one-line format (don't push Enter in the middle of the entry) for regular entries, and regular poetry form for poems and songs. It does look as if space between your entries won't disappear, as it's been doing on Sub lately -- so that's good!

It looks as if I can preserve the blind judging. I'm supposed to be able to download all the entries onto a spreadsheet, then copy out only the field with the text of the entries, to sort and edit them. So your names will be totally invisible to me until the end of the process.

The whole Washington Post is converting to Google Forms and Microsoft Forms, so we'll all be learning about ways to refine the forms. For example, for now I'm asking you to just type in your name and address; there's no way to use auto-fill.

Let me know about your experiences with this form, and feel free to ask about features I might be able to add. Fingers crossed for this week's!

Speaking of printability *

One inking entry last week -- the contest was for poems using only one vowel -- brought two outraged complaints from readers; it's a good illustration of why some of our humor works better online than in the print paper. The poem was all of three little lines, 17 syllables: an only-E's haiku by Chris Doyle, in the wake of the antisemitic rant and tweets by Kanye West, who now goes by Ye.

West's ever newsy,
Sez, "Every Jew screws me." The
Less Ye, the better.

I had had to convince an editor that the Invite has used the term "screw" many times, especially in a nonsexual sense. But that wasn't the complaint.

The first one, after the print edition arrived on Sunday:

"Ms. Myers,

Please pull the Invitational or the part about Kanye West.

I am beyond furious.

No person on the planet should be thinking about him in a context other than anti-semitism. And there is NO reason to joke about him.


The second one:

"This is very anti-semetic-. My family is very upset. "Every Jew screws me." Apology needed for all from POST and Pat Myers & Chris Doyle." [wife and husband's names] "LONG time subscribers."


As I always do to people who write in -- which is, to clarify, almost never -- I wrote back politely, explaining that The Style Invitational was condemning Kanye West, not celebrating him, that we have condemned nasty people from Osama bin Laden to Vladimir Putin to Pol Pot. And then I realized what the confusion must have been: These readers didn't recognize "Ye" in the third line as referring to Kanye West -- so to them, the poem just let him rant and never got the last word.

Most people who still get the print Post are well over age 50. Chris Doyle himself is well well well over age 50, but he stays current. It should have occurred to me that some older people might not get Chris's point, and I should have run it only online, perhaps with a link on the "Ye."

Haven't heard back from either of the letter-writers.

A Wednesday Invite next week!

As we do every Thanksgiving week, we'll put the Invite up online next Wednesday morning (maybe a little later than the usual 10 or 10:15 a.m.), since the Sunday section will be typeset that afternoon. Because this means I have to finish the week's work 24 hours earlier -- Bob is also going on vacation and needs his work earlier -- I'll probably be pooped by Wednesday and unlikely to do the Conversational.

So wishing you the happiest and Loseriest of Thanksgivings -- remember that always fun pastime of family-generated Invite entries.


Week 1513

Style Conversational Week 1513: Our unsentiments exactly
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's non-greeting-card contest and movie-mashup results

By Pat Myers

November 3, 2022 at 4:37 p.m. EDT

I spend a lot of time, sometimes desperately, scrolling up and down the Loser Community's own Master Contest List of Style Invitational contests -- soon to be 1,513 of them -- searching through the descriptions for anything I can use again. Would the contest make sense in 2022; was it too specific to its time? Might all the good jokes have been used up the first time around (or the second or third)? Have our tastes changed?
Somehow, though, until Loser Duncan Stevens suggested it recently, I skipped Week 509 in 2003, the last year of my predecessor the Czar. It's a contest for greeting-card-style rhymes for occasions that Hallmark wouldn't be honoring. We're giving it another go, in the same way, for Week 1513.

The Czar introduced the 2003 contest with two sample rhymes, written either by him or by Anthony "Bird" Waring, who'd suggested the contest. (Bird just won last week's Clowning Achievement with his neologism "splendooferous," meaning magnificently stupid, as in the Washington Commanders mug with Washington state pictured on it).

In the bank of truth
You've made a deposit.
Congrats on coming
Out of the closet.

Excessive kids make a guy
Look like heck to me --
Please accept my best wishes
On getting your vasectomy.

When it came time for the results four weeks later, the Czar presented a typically wide-ranging collection of "occasions," everything from congratulations on a boob job all the way to the week's winner, a pretty scorching "apology" by the Justice Department for someone (at Guantanamo?) who'd been imprisoned for more than a year without charges. The winning entry was by Joe Cackler, a high school student; I hope he noted his ink on his successful application to Stanford.

So for your Guidance 'n' Inspiration*:

Report from Week 509, in which you were asked to write Hallmark Card rhymes for non-Hallmark occasions.

Fourth Runner-Up:
We feel your loss, it's surely no fun,
Worse than fire, or flood, or a gash when you're shaving,
But what's done is done, and cannot be undone --
You Ctrl-Alt-Deleted without saving.
(Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

Third Runner-Up:
Sorry the rats you bought, Stanley and Iris,
Gave you and your family the monkeypox virus.
I regret that unfortunate fever and rash,
But returns are for store credit only, no cash.
(Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Second Runner-Up:
You wanted no truck so
You got something dumber,
You parked like a schmuck so
We booted your Hummer. (Sugar Strawn and Jack Welsch, Alexandria)

First Runner-Up:
Snip, tuck, sew, tie, hips, butt, nose, eye.
Congratulations on your surgery.
Your face may be a small white lie,
But your body's flagrant perjury.
(Josh Tucker, Kensington)

And the winner of the thong panties and T-shirt with the likeness of the former Iraqi minister of information:
Although you were never charged with a crime
We want to thank you for serving your time
For weeks, for months, for over a year
How could your freedom compete with our fear?
How could we doubt the Department of Justice
Saying "no need for evidence, you'll just have to trust us."
Until finally you walked out the door,
And though we've done nothing to apologize for
Please accept from us, a grateful nation,
Our thanks for your incarceration.
(Joe Cackler, Falls Church)

Honorable Mentions:
It's bad your misdeeds all precede you,
You're both jackass and hyena --
I've chased you round, all over town
Congrats on this subpoena.
(David Whitten, Annandale)

Although your crime
Was shocking and venal,
Here's hoping your sentence
Isn't too . . . penal.
(Dave Scott, Broadway, Va.)

All my best for accepting
Jesus as your savior.
Perhaps when He returns
You'll be out on good behavior.
(Michael Gips, Bethesda)

Life seldom is fair,
It sticks in our gizzards
To hear of your trade
To the Washington Wizards.
(Edward C. Nykwest, Reston)

Son, we're proud of you
As we kin be
That you done passed
Your GED.
(Russell Beland, Springfield)

Two hundred seventy-seven days
Plus fifty-four years
Would seem an odd age to praise (But I am bold.)
Mankind can define its periods
In whatever way we wish
You've just reached two myriads
(Twenty thousand days old!)
(Kenneth S. Gallant, Little Rock)

Though your copied copy
Made your editor sick,
We hope you will survive
And get real, quick.
(Bill Moulden, Frederick)

You won't miss a minute
Of the playoff.
There's always a bright side . . .
Happy layoff.
(Tara Kennedy, Silver Spring)

When I spew exclamations like "Sweet Holy Lord!"
You will have to excuse my vernacular.
What I'm trying to say in my own special way Is
"Congrats! The new boobs are spectacular!"
(Scott Campisi, Wake Village, Tex.)

A miracle like this
Bespeaks some real endurance:
I'm thrilled to hear you saved
Fifteen percent or more on car insurance.
(Ezra Deutsch-Feldman, Bethesda)

I had my doubts --
You aren't able.
But congrats on assembling
Your Ikea table.
(Jean Sorensen, Herndon)

I try to be subtle and gentle
But my subtlety always gets trumped
By the fact that you're totally mental,
So consider yourself gently dumped.
(Scott Campisi, Wake Village, Tex.)

No more mortgage, toil or strife,
No more trying to get ahead.
You've earned your respite from this life:
Congrats on finally being dead.
(Keith Thorne, Alexandria)

We ex-employees have taken to drinkin'
And it's only 'bout you that we (burp) talk.
So it's only of you we'll be sittin' round thinkin'
As we toast your upcoming perp walk.
(Jason R. Meyers, Charlottesville)

Of penis enlargement news
You'll soon be a fount.
Best wishes on the occasion
Of your new Hotmail account.
(Steve Denyszyn, Toronto)

Good news from the good Dr. Tweak, gynecology,
Your pap smear reveals a quite normal cytology.
But, oops, more results here, and lest we forget it:
It appears that you're pregnant, obese and herpetic.
(Jan Verrey, Alexandria)

We just got cussed out by the hospital doc,
And we think that on us you're too hard:
Who knew that a flare-up of insulin shock
Could be caused by a real Hallmark card?
(Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

A thousand thank-yous can't convey
My gratitude and great surprise
I'm flattered that you would select
My article to plagiarize.
(Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

Your paranoia's cured!
You must feel brand new!
Please accept my best wishes.
Sincerely . . . guess who?
(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Obviously, feel free to make your own rhyme 2022-topical. And in the tradition of greeting cards -- which also happens to be the tradition of the Invite -- "perfect rhyme" and crisp meter are highly valued for verses like these.

I did do a greeting card contest myself, in 2006 -- not necessarily for the poems, but the whole idea of the card: the line on the front followed by the joke on the inside, sometimes a description of the artwork. I was inspired by reading an Associated Press article about Hallmark's new, bolder Shoebox line, and how the writers had a "Funny, but No" bulletin board with great ideas that didn't pass muster with management.

Below are the full results. As I read over the results of that contest last night, I was struck by two entries in particular, ones that I'd never run today, and think I was wrong by running then. I note them below.

Report From Week 658, in which we asked for greeting card ideas that the Hallmark people might put on their "Funny but No" wall:

Fourth place: A child, crushed under the wheel of a bus, cries out: "Don't worry, Ma! I'm wearing clean ones!" Happy Mother's Day (Ira Allen, Bethesda)

Third place: Hope You Get Well Soon! I mean, you're just grossing me out, how disgusting you look and smell right now. (Judith Cottrill, New York)

Second place: Picture of Sigmund Freud: "I'd wish you a happy Father's Day *

[inside] * if only I didn't want to kill you and sleep with Mom." (David Kleinbard, Jersey City)

The Winner of the Inker (Randy Lee's idea is illustrated by Bob Staake at the top of this page)

Our Condolences to *: Honorable mentions

[Cover] We Are Saddened by Your Loss/ [Inside] Whatever It Was (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

With Appreciation on Secretaries' Day/ In gratitude for your lovely attitude and excellent work, I've enclosed this gift card -- it's so much more fun than stupid old benefits. (Jay Shuck, Minneapolis)

[Cover] Sometimes you can't undo what's been done * all you can do is admit the hurt you've caused and say, "I'm sorry." / [Inside] So get off your high horse and apologize already. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

[Cover] Congratulations, Graduate! As you enter the workforce, you should know that all jobs fall into four categories: 1. Stimulating, but not financially rewarding; 2. Secure, but soul-destroyingly dull; 3. Financially rewarding, but very stressful without being stimulating; and * [Inside] 4. Somebody else's. (Douglas Frank, Crosby, Tex.)

Happy Passover! [Drawing of door with blood smeared around it] Hope the Angel of Death skips your house! (Judith Cottrill)

A kid looking at a centerfold: "To the Hottest Mom a Boy Could Wish For." (Art Grinath, Takoma Park)

Congratulations, College Graduate! /You are so gonna be THE king of Italian Renaissance poetry among all the baggers at Safeway! (Brendan Beary)

[Picture of Abu Ghraib with holiday decorations:] Season's Beatings! (Kevin Dopart, Washington) [I truly cannot believe I ran this. It's certainly effective as sick humor, but this may be THE most tasteless thing I've ever run. I really am ashamed, even though it was just in text without a link to the picture. The pictures of U.S. torture of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison came to light in 2004 and continue to be viscerally horrifying today. All I can think of is that I had rejected the idea of actually drawing the card, and putting the entry farther down the list, and somehow thought that would be enough of a concession to taste. I hold nothing against Kevin Dopart: The Invitational has always tested boundaries, and the point of the sick-humor genre is to comically smash them with something obviously offensive. He delivered superbly on that. It's MY job to say no.]

Congratulations on Your Same-Sex Union/ Take comfort that while your souls burn forever in the fires of eternal damnation, they'll be together. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Since I met you . . .
I'm euphoric
I'm relaxed
I laugh easily
I feel tingly
I am free to just be me
[Inside] Of course, I've also been sniffing paint . . .
(Molly Norton, San Francisco)

Front: Picture of a frustrated guy reloading a gun. / Inside: I keep missing you. (Erik Agard, Gaithersburg) [I wouldn't run this one now either. Incidentally, Erik Agard was a high school student at the time; he was also a crossword prodigy and went on to become one of the nation's premier crossword constructors working today.]

We'd Make a Great Team! / I've got loose shoes and a warm bathroom * You can bring the rest. (Kevin Dopart)

Congratulations on Your Retirement! / Like a salmon that has swum upstream to its destination, your work is done * Now, all that's left is to go belly up and die. (Wilson Varga, Alexandria)

Congratulations on Your Promotion! / You're an inspiration to shameless brown-nosers everywhere. (Rob Kloak, Springfield)

M is for the many times you bailed me
Out of jail, and rustled up some meds,
T is for the therapy that failed me,
H, the hours fending off the feds,
E is for the energy you wasted,
Running ragged while I lounged in bed;
Put them all together, they spell "suckehhhh . . . Mother,"
My safety net you'll always be.
(Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

[Cover] A Belated Birthday Wish/ [Inside] From Your Conjoined Twin (Chris Doyle)

For this week, though, just give me verses.

A note on the formatting (also noted on this week's entry form): In most contests, I ask you not to put any line endings (i.e., to type Enter) within a single entry, so I can electronically shuffle all the entries and have no idea that the same person wrote any two of them. But poems and song lyrics obviously need to be broken up into several lines.

So as with all contests involving verse, just write your entry like a regular poem, and break the lines as you like; do capitalize each line. (Don't bother with boldface, italics, etc.; they won't transmit on the form. Stay tuned for possible improvements on this front; we're going to a totally different form system next month.) I'll just copy the poems out onto my shortlist as I read through the submissions. I don't see the entrants' names until the end anyway -- and even when I do it this way, I try to paste the selected poems in random order on the shortlist. So still, by the time I do my final picks, I've totally forgotten whether a certain poem is one of five that I've chosen from Entrant No. 33, or the only one.

Another difference with poetry/song entries: One thing this form has been doing is dropping the space between poems/songs! So since I won't be shuffling up all the entries, feel free to put a line of hyphens, asterisks, poop emoji, etc., between your poems if you're sending more than one.

Superbad twins*: The mashed movie titles of Week 1509

*Non-inking headline by Jeff Rackow

Hmm, I was thinking after slog-scrolling through perhaps 25 consecutive combinations of one-word movie titles and their descriptions -- and not finding one that was clever or funny: I could always fill space with a bigger picture of those cute toilet paper earrings.

But yes, regular readers of this column know this happens to me all the time when I judge the Invitational. Week 1509 had brought in a whopping 2,228 entries from more than 250 readers, and so even with one good entry for every 24 bad ones, I'd end up with a list of 89 good jokes -- far more than I could even use.

Sure enough, when I finally threshed out my shortlist from the chaff, using the same Word operation that I use to mix up the entries in the first place, the entries I'd selected ran to seven pages of printout -- and it was hard to cut 20 or 30 of those finalists to reach the 61 movies that ran online (about 45 in print). I think we ended up with a good mix of approaches: highbrow, lowbrow, topical, political, daily-life, beans, generously salted with wordplay.

I had mentioned up front that the combined movie didn't necessarily have to relate to either of the actual film plots, but I'd expected that most of the inking entries would. Instead, out of the week's top four winners -- all by women this week! Is that a first? -- only Hildy Zampella's Gaslight Harvey references the originals (both of them): People try to convince a giant rabbit that he's crazy when he insists that Jimmy Stewart is following him around.

The three others in the Losers' Circle use the one-word titles for unrelated humor. Terri Berg Smith wins her second Clowning Achievement with a play on a different kind of movie entirely: Parasite Boyhood: "In Pixar's latest, Tommy Tapeworm and his buddies search for the perfect hosts -- and end up finding themselves." Days before the Pennsylvania election, Karen Lambert plays off Senate candidate Mehmet Oz's questionable links to his "home state": Philadelphia Alien: "Dr. Oz goes to a Flyers game wearing a Devils jersey." And Hannah Seidel touches on this city's sky-high housing costs with Madagascar Rent, the ever more distant search for D.C. workers to find something affordable.

Almost all the inking entries use names of two well-known movies; when it came to whittling the shortlist, I cut one entry that used some title that showed up on IMDB and almost nowhere else. The contest is to combine movies; if the reader's never heard of those movies, the point is gone.

What didn't work: To start, a lot of people missed the direction that the description was to be of a third movie; they just wrote a definition. Here are a couple of good ones but not the contest:

81/2 Holes: "Our innovative, abridged golf course allows you to walk away before that last, pressure-packed putt near the clubhouse."

_ARGO FARGO: The people that gave us Wordle introduce a "Cities of America" version of their popular game.

Screediness: My word for writing in which bitterness or anguish or anger overpowers the wit. e.g.: Senseless War: What happens when a corrupt former superpower attacks a prepared and determined nation with an army gutted by decades of graft. Or Clueless Pilgrim: European settlers facing starvation because they have no idea how to grow crops are rescued by Native Americans. The rescued interlopers thank their saviors by stealing their land and killing them.


Unprintability. But you knew that. Some Funny But No entries:

Shaft Endurance: When he finds his friend unresponsive, a New York City detective investigates the distribution of little blue pills. (Jon Carter)

Dick Dolittle: The story of a man who chooses to remain celibate. (Tom Witte)

Inside JFK: The story of what happened in Dallas, from the point of view of the bullet. (Don Norum)

Snatch Eraser: Kewpie and Barbie star in this unrevealing tale of the era of anatomical incorrectness. (Dudley Thompson)

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia went to the "honorables" for this week's faves: Karen Lambert's Booksmart Rocky: "Greetings and Salutations, Adrian!"; Don Norum's Spartacus? Nope!: "One Thracian rebel missed the memo, and lived happily ever after"; Steve Shapiro's Suddenly Clueless: "A dad discovers what it's like when his child becomes a teenager" (I believe that Ponch has made this discovery); Jeff Contompasis's and Barbara Turner's similar enough Frankenstein Footloose entries: "The rampaging monster must slow to a limp in search of an ankle bolt"; Mark Raffman's Superbad Reds: "Wines of the World, Part 23: Chernobyl"; and Sarah Walsh's Thor Loser: "A playground bully's taunts become less threatening when his baby teeth start to fall out." (I received a number of "Thor Loser" entries, but Sarah's noted the "th.")

Amy's Hitts: Deputy features editor Amy Hitt told me she thought all the entries were funny -- we like that in a deputy features editor -- and that her faves were this week's winner, Terri Berg Smith's Parasite Boyhood, the inspirational Pixar tale; as well as Sarah's Thor Loser and Jeff Shirley's Pi Cheerleader, complete with the MIT pep squad exhorting, "3 point 1-4-1-5-9! Look at the scoreboard -- who's behind?"

Meanwhile, we're sorry to hear that it's the last day at The Post for Annabeth Carlson, who's done the "slotting," or second read, of the Invite lately. Annabeth -- who's just back from her honeymoon -- recently moved to Richmond, and now that newsroom employees are supposed to return downtown three days a week, a 108-mile commute each way isn't quite worth it, even to read poop jokes once a week.

Not the contest, as he knew, but fun: Stephen Gold sent this:

And just messing around, the trajectory of Donald Trump's career in one-word movie titles: Big, Blonde, Hustle, Chance, Election, Triumph, Chaos, Misery, Loser, Denial, Liar, Obsessed, Violence, Fraud, Suspicion, Target, Twilight, Downfall, Yesterday.

Last call for brunch and/or TopGolf!

(Reprinted from the Week 1511 Conversational; I can't make this one, but I'm sure it'll be fun)

Next Loser sighting: Brunch and TopGolf in Germantown, Md., Nov. 13

There's a new activity on the Loser calendar: brunch at Senor Tequila's in Germantown, Md. on Sunday, Nov. 13, at noon, followed by an afternoon at the nearby TopGolf center. TopGolf is to golf what playing carnival games is to riflery; I've never been, but it looks like a hoot -- instead of aiming at one little hole, you can swing your driver toward any number of point-scoring maws from the comfort of your party's designated section. Here's an article that conveys the idea and the atmosphere. Kids are welcome. RSVP to brunch coordinator Kyle "Loserfest Pope" Hendrickson at And check out the rest of "Our Social Engorgements" at the Losers' website,


Week 1512

Style Conversational Week 1512: A splendooferous sight
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's new contest and results

By Pat Myers

October 27, 2022 at 5:07 p.m. EDT

And I quote, verbatim, from an Oct. 23 email: "pat, are you kidding? am I missing something? YIKERS!"

I reminded Bob Staake that your 26-word sentence (or other writing) for Style Invitational Week 1512 doesn't have to be in alphabetical order; it just has to have a word beginning with each letter. And hey, I even made that eXception. I was confident that the Powers of Loserdom would come through with great stuff. Meanwhile, Bob could easily illustrate the best of those five winners from Marilyn vos Savant's recent challenge in Parade:

"Our library is supposed to be a very quiet zone for everyone; however, unfortunately, your nutty kids just played xylophones with cacophonous results, disturbing me greatly." (Suzanne Bright, Coral Springs, Fla.)

And I quote, verbatim, from an Oct. 25 email: "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."

Attached was the sketch for today's art.

So there you have today's example -- in which Bob decided to use all the words in alphabetical order. To be honest, the Parade one has more natural syntax and logical meaning, but did it come with a picture of a screaming purple bat being impaled on a porcupine quill -- just in time for Halloween?

This week's contest -- thanks to Loser Al Lubran for noticing it in the supplement that I usually send right to the recycling box -- is a first among our 1,512 to date. But we did run at least one contest -- twice -- that's similar: Both Week 579, in the election season of 2004, and Week 984, in 2012, asked for sentences (etc.) whose words started with consecutive letters of the alphabet, but not necessarily all 26.

Here are some highlights of those two contests. Remember, they're not the same as this week's. But they might be constructive in how to creatively work with words beginning with particular letters:

From Week 579, November 2004, in my first year of Empressing (text file of full results here)

Report from Week 579, in which we asked for sentences whose words began with consecutive letters of the alphabet. A huge percentage of the contestants decided to include at least one entry featuring words beginning with all 26 letters (and some going around the alphabet a second time). Though many of these were amusing, reading them en masse felt like, well, a long sentence. (The Empress never wants to see the word "xenophobic" again.) * Note: These entries were written, and judged, before the election. No points were deducted for inaccurate predictions or for simply backing the losing side.

Third runner-up: Mellow, nonchalant, oblivious, Pompeii quietly rests, satisfied; totally unheeded, Vesuvius waits. (Marvin Solberg, Edgewater)

Second runner-up: Bill Clinton did everyone: Frenchwomen, Golda, Hillary, Ingemar Johansson, Kofi, Lorena, Monica, Nomar, Oprah, poor Quayle, Rambo, Schenectady Township, Uma, Vladimir, Wenceslas X, Young Zionists and * (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

First runner-up, winner of the Aqua Frame fake aquarium: A badly coifed Donald egomaniacally fired God. (Mary Lou French, Eveleth, Minn.) [YES! 2004!]

And the winner of the Inker: John Kerry loves money -- new, old, printed, quartered, recounted, stacked * Teresa's. (Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf)

Honorable Mentions:

"Look, my naughty ol' pal's quickly revived," said Tom upstandingly. (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

John Kerry leaves me no optimism -- persistent questioning really stymies that underdog: Vote W! (Teri Chism, Winchester, Va.)

Condoleezza didn't even flinch giving her Iraq justifications; kept listing mysterious nuclear objects, particularly quoting "really scary tubes" -- ultimate violent weapons. (Marty McCullen, Gettysburg, Pa.)

Reverend Spooner's tocabulary's unusually vaxing. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Jim's kind lover may notice open pants, quickly requiring subtlety, tact; Ursula virtuously whispers, "XYZ." (Joseph Romm, Washington)

Redskins should take up volleyball. (Elliott Schiff, Allentown, Pa.)

Is John Kerry looking more neutral, or pulling quietly right so the undecided voters will "X?" (Karl Reed, Fairfax)

And Last: A bygone Czar didn't ever flub giving humor ink.*

*Just kidding! Like most nabobs, Old Poopyhead quite regularly screwed things up very well. (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)

And from 2012 (Full results here):

Report from Week 984, in which we asked you to write something in which each successive word started with the next letter of the alphabet -- in either direction. And you could even turn around and switch directions, or head from Z on to A or vice versa ("A," "and" and "the" could be added anywhere). This contest prompted a number of entrants to force the Empress to slog through 26-word and longer sentences * that all seemed to be about xanthippic yaks or yapping zebras. She will spare you further, and instead show how it's done right:

The winner of the Inkin' Memorial:

Z on to A, to Y: Zeroes, athletes, brainiacs, cheerleaders, dorks * Everybody faking grins * (Hey, it's just kissing!) * "Look, Ma, no --" * Oops! photos * Quotes (really shallow, though) * Upperclassmen * Varsity winners * XOXOXO. Yearbook. (Christopher Lamora, Guatemala City)

2. Winner of the genuine 18-inch rubber chicken: H to A: Harry's genitals frankly elicit doubts concerning bedroom abilities. (Ann Martin, Bracknell, England)

3. T back to A, then forward to R: Tampa Secret-Rendezvous Quarters: "President Obama's a narcissistic Marxist, liar and Kenyan. Jeez, investigate the Hawaiian government! Follow the evidence! Democrats concealed the bozo's actual birth certificate!" the Donald explains, flashing a goofy "hey, I'm just kooky" look. Mitt nods obligingly, pales and quickly retreats. (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.) [Yes! 2012!]

Alpha bettered: Honorable mentions

Armstrong's bicycling career: dope-pedaling. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

A boa constrictor doesn't ever forget: Giving hugs is just killing. Love murders. Neatly. On purpose. (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)

Another bit casual dopers easily forget: Getting high inhaling joints kills living mitochondria. Nevertheless, optimistic potheads quietly remain stoned, toking up volumes while X-rays yield zero apparent "brain collapse" (duh). (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

A jaded Kate (lately Middleton): "Nosy, obnoxious pregnancy questions! Royalty sucks!" (Katherine Stikkers, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)

Debt = China bought America. (Mark Raffman, Reston)

Joystick kaput? Luckily, men now overcome the problem; a quick remedy shapes things up. Viagra: a winner! (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Limbaugh makes news the oldest profession. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring)

Bleeding crocodile? Dying elephant? Fractured goat? Hemorrhaging iguana? Jaundiced kangaroo? Languishing moose? Narcoleptic opossum? Paralyzed quail? This unflappable vet will X-ray your zoo animals! (Graham Lester, Roeland Park, Kan.)

The ABCs (and CBAs) of the Seven Deadly Sins

1. Anger begets choler and discontent. Eschew fury.

2. Curb dining extravagances; forgo gluttony henceforward.

3. X-rated yearnings and zest? Adultery? Be careful. Don't even fantasize.

4. A dive eventually follows gloating, hauteur, insolence.

5. Relinquish slothful, tiresome, unproductive, vegetative ways.

6. Discontinue envy. Forever. God hath insisted.

7. Avarice banishes common decency. Eject filthy greed. (Mae Scanlan, Washington)

Noticed our politicians' quality?: Ready, set -- throw up. (Ann Martin)

Five Guys has incredibly juicy Kobe-like morsels. Now, only prime-quality rectal secretions transpire. (Matt Monitto, Elon, N.C.)

"Jobs keep lagging," Mitt nags. Obama, the president, quickly responds, "Spend, tax!" (Robert Schechter)

And last: ZZZZZZ * Another "zinger" alphabet-bothering contest drowns the Empress. (David Genser)

And even laster: Avoiding brainier competitions delivering earnings, fame, glory, honor -- I just keep losing. (Kevin Dopart)


A couple of things about submitting Week 1512 entries:

1. PLEASE check your entries to make sure (a) that they have exactly 26 words; hyphenates can count as one or two.

2. If your entry forms a single sentence or otherwise doesn't have to break up into multiple lines, then please send it as one continuous line.
BUT if it's a poem or otherwise in multiple lines, format it as it should appear. Before I do the Big Electronic Shuffle, I'll scroll through the collected entries and just copy out the poems. I don't expect a huge entry pool this week for this challenging contest -- as opposed to the 2,228 entries I got for combining one-word movie titles.

graND LEvity*: The Tour de Fours neologisms of Week 1508

*Non-inking headline by Chris Doyle

I'd heard talk that some in the Loser Community wished Elden Carnahan had better letters in his name, but they came through with lots to spare (and no editorial cuts) in Week 1508, our annual Tour de Fours neologism contest. This time we honor Elden Carnahan, who's finally handed over -- after 29 years -- the reins of the Loser Stats and many other roles after developing the magnificent archive that lives at

[In Style Conversational Week 1501, a tribute to Elden]

The ELDN block showed up in a number of permutations in this week's slew of inking entries. LEND, of course, but also SinfaNDEL, buNDLE, SchaDENLoiter, PadDLENerf and more.

It's the second Clowning Achievement but the sixth win all-time -- and 229th ink in all for Bird Waring, who's been at it since Week 204. The word "Splendooferous" -- meaning magnificently stupid -- deserves a spot in the Real Language, and Bird came up with the perfect example: the pathetically run, newly named Washington Commanders selling a mug with the team logo superimposed on a map of Washington * state.

The rest of this week's Losers' Circle is occupied by Usual Suspects Jonathan Jensen, Jeff Contompasis and Chris Doyle -- all of whom got multiple ink this week. But the big puddes weren't restricted to the vets; Jon Carter, who just got his first ink (and another one) last week with a runner-up, follows that with four honorable mentions today. Six inks in your first two weeks? I'll leave it to the Statsnerds to determine that, but I'm going to guess that's a record. Bring it on, Jon!

Due to a newly enacted arrangement for reading the Invite before I post it (see "Catching up" below), this week we have three editors weighing in with their faves: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia, "slot" (second-read copy editor) Annabeth Carlson, and Arts & Style section deputy editor Amy Hitt.

What Pleased Ponch: He singled out Duncan Stevens's "Ax Handel," Jon Carter's "Colonel Dijon," Barbara Turner's "Lendowment," and Chris Doyle's "The Golden Grillz," a TV show about aging rappers who share a crib.

Annabeth's Bet: Annabeth was partial to Jeff Hazle's "Al dental," severely undercooked pasta.

And Amy's Hitt: Daniel Galef's "Hot Cross Bundle" struck a chord with Amy, who remembers tootling out the three-note tune on her own junior recorder.

Catching up from last week

Last Thursday afternoon, I was finishing up writing the Week 1511 Style Conversational when I got an in-office Slack message that a dozen entries had been cut by a new editor, for reasons of taste and fairness, from that week's Invite results, the one for state slogans based on the first letters of adjoining states. This was an extremely rare if not totally unprecedented move.

Upon hearing this news, I was able to talk at length right away to Ben Williams, The Post's new executive editor for features -- a sweeping domain that includes not just Style and the Sunday Arts & Style sections, but also Food, Travel, the Magazine, Weekend, Book World and many online departments. It wasn't an ideal way to introduce myself and The Style Invitational -- let's say that I wasn't exactly twinkling with good cheer at that moment -- but we had a good, civil talk in which I noted the Invite's long history of irreverent, edgy and pointed humor, and its amazing success in avoiding reader complaints -- fewer than one per year for many years. Ben told me that he was concerned that Week 1507 seemed to be stereotyping red states as backward and illiterate -- something I didn't think the deleted entries did -- but he assured me that he didn't want the Invite to become a bland, Reader's Digest-type page, nor did he expect to be cutting entries en masse from the Invitational in the future.

In the ensuing days I followed up with an email exchange in which I noted some other concerns, and yesterday a new plan was put into effect, one that I think is fair and reflects an effort on several sides to help produce the Invite each week without further surprises:

As I mentioned in the Style Invitational Devotees group over the weekend, the deletion of the entries several hours after I'd posted them online "wouldn't have happened had I not had the freedom (most writers can't do this) of publishing the column on my own on Thursday morning, before the final read was done on it. [On Thursday afternoon, a "slot," or head copy editor, gives a second read; also editor Amy Hitt looks over all the Arts & Style section pages before they're typeset.]

"That's what put us in the embarrassing position today -- embarrassing for everyone involved -- of cutting entries that I'd already posted. The obvious solution for management is not to let me publish the Invite online until it's been totally approved. But I'd very much like to avoid that measure, especially because many of you have been so helpful almost every week in pointing out mistakes that I can then fix before the print page is typeset around 5 p.m.

"It's totally appropriate for top editors to order cuts to any content they think shouldn't be in the paper, and ideally, those decisions should be made before readers would know about them."

So this week the Stylistas made a way to accommodate that schedule: I'll now be finishing the online version, rather than the print one, first and sending it on Wednesday afternoon to Amy, who's very familiar with the Invite because she reads it on the page proofs every week. Then she'll talk to me about anything she's uncomfortable with, and she'll sign off on the Invite before sending it on to the copy editor on Wednesday afternoon (up to now, I'd send it to the copy desk myself, and Amy wouldn't see it till the Invite was already online). And not only will the copy editor -- in our case it's usually our beloved Ponch Garcia -- read it, but the slot will also jump in and give that second read right then, instead of on Thursday.

This is all to ensure that I'll still be able to publish the Invite online on Thursday morning and give you time to find all my mistakes! Meanwhile, Alla Dreyvitser or Joane Lee, who'll lay out Arts & Style on any given week, will wait till Thursday morning to lay out the Invite -- at which point I'll trim in the column until it fits on the page.

This works well for several reasons: First, there won't be any second-guessing on Thursday. Second, it takes the onus off the copy editors to alert editors about taste questions; it's part of their job to flag questionable material, but for most stories, it's usually already been seen by the editor the writer works with. Until this week, their eyes were the first ones on these jokes. I had really worried that last week's incident would prompt the desk to start flagging everything.

And third, working directly with Amy lets me feel more connected to the features department and its editors. Having officially taken early retirement from The Post back in 2008 (after 26 years as a copy editor and slot), I'm technically a freelancer rather than a staff writer, and sometimes the Invite gets forgotten when it's time to announce a change in deadlines, software, etc.

This week's process couldn't have gone better: I chose the winners, looked up the names, sent the Invite to Amy. She read it immediately, asked me about a couple of entries, listened to my response, and sent the column on to Ponch, intact. And even told me her fave.

One thing that likely won't happen anymore: my longtime practice of adding the edgier entries into the online version, given that the few complaints we've gotten over the years have all been from print-paper readers. But we still have the Convo!

Happy Halloween -- and now it's time to dig into those 2,228 movie titles.


Week 1511

Style Conversational Week 1511: Our routes are showing
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's state-slogan results and new 'air quotes' contest

By Pat Myers

October 20, 2022 at 5:48 p.m. EDT

"I had a hunch the Losers would really take to this contest," said Bob Staake, who'd suggested his zany hybrid slogan/map-route idea to me a month ago after it had come to him in a dream. Earlier this week I showed The Style Invitational's longtime artist/so-much-more my shortlist of entries for Week 1507; for once, he was eager to weigh in on them, something he declines to do for the captions to his cartoons. "There are a lot of really inventive ones here -- which is very vindicating," Bob told me. I hope Bob feels sufficiently vindicated to suggest some more contests (and deal with it when I say no to most of them), since this week's results turned out to be fun to read as well as, according to several Losers, especially fun to do.

But I realized that to get to fun-to-readness (and not lose huge amounts of space on the print page), I had to drop the lists of states denoting the map routes -- an essential part of the contest: You had to write a slogan for a U.S. state, and each successive word of the slogan had to begin with the first letter of the next state on your route. (This is a contest that was a lot easier to demonstrate than explain; this week's "air quotes" contest is another.)

But who wants to read lists of up to 29 (thanks, Jon Gearhart!) state abbreviations? Many of them were even longer than the strings in our recent "sister cities" contest -- which occasionally tripped up the debut of the audio version of the Invite, with the auto-voice pleasantly reading "N.C., Pa., La., N.D., Hawaii" as "N, C, pa, la, N, D, Hawaii." (The otherwise impressive audio is now available every week for the Invite and Conversational; click on the "Listen" icon just under the top picture. I got all flustered as soon as I heard Ms. Bot start to read some words I'd written.)

I also had run the Week 1507 list past my predecessor the Czar, who liked the entries but warned me: "I fear you must list the state sequences in all. Otherwise I do not believe it. They could be bulls[p]it."

So, for those who are from Missouri, or just otherwise interested, a list of this week's honorable mentions complete with the state routes appears at the bottom of this column.

The wording of some of the inking slogans might sound a bit contrived -- if you weren't constrained by the route-states, you might have come up with better phrasing -- but they're close enough that their irregularities are part of the fun, the reminder that it's a stunt. It was fun to mix up the comically long "slogans," such as Jon Gearhart's 29-state word-tsunami about seeing movie stars in California, with, says, Tom Witte's about the same state: "Necesitamos Agua!"

While stereotypes are unavoidable in contests like this one, I avoided misleading ones that implied that Mormons are polygamous, or that West Virginia wants you to marry your cousin (in fact, first-cousin marriage is banned there -- while it's legal in both Maryland and Virginia).

It's the fourth Clowning Achievement trophy -- and the 17th win in all -- for Hall of Famer Beverley Sharp, who found something to tout about her home state of Alabama. (True story: I mailed a prize to Beverley Sharp in Montgomery, and the post office there sent it back to me: Sharp isn't her husband's last name, and it was confused.)

Pete Morelewicz, who left urban D.C. years ago for bucolic Fredericksburg, Va., popped up this week with multiple inks, including the runner-up "Kiss My Aspens," a slogan that I could see Colorado (or at least Coloradans) adopting. Definitely worthy of a second-prize Whoopee Cushion. Leif Picoult also mopped up several blots, leading with the always winning combination of North Dakota and snot; and First Offender Jon Carter will bypass the Loser Stats' One-Hit Wonders list, since he scored two inks today: the lengthy runner-up about California, and a Staake favorite, the one about microbrews and Sasquatch in Oregon.


Late-breaking late-afternoon update:

While the print version of the Invitational goes to press early Thursday evening for the Sunday paper, I've been publishing the online Invite on Thursday morning; it's especially useful because the Losers have several hours to let me know of any mistakes I can fix for the print version, which of course can't be updated.

The downside of this practice is that the editorial process isn't totally finished by Thursday morning; the column is read by a copy editor Wednesday afternoon, and I'll address that person's concerns that evening. BUT the section also gets another read by a supervisory copy editor, or "slot" (this is the job I used to have back in the day), on Thursday afternoon.

Today, the slot, who's not the usual one who reads the Invite, evidently had problems with a number of the inking entries this week, for taste and fairness. He then flagged them to other editors, including the brand-new editor of all the features sections, Ben Williams. Ben read them and decided to cut these flagged entries (he let others stay; I don't know which ones those were). They're all from the honorable mentions:

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)

ALABAMA: Find God And Try Meth (Daniel Galef)

LOUISIANA: The Anus of the Lower Mississippi (Scott Richards)

MISSISSIPPI: Literacy Ain't Our Top Objective (Kevin Dopart)

NORTH CAROLINA: Visitors Welcome. "Made-up" Pronouns Not. (Pete Morelewicz)

VIRGINIA: Non-Conforming Gender? Think Maryland! (Steve Smith)

In addition, I had already agreed the night before to cut this one, which I considered excellent political satire but two editors thought was in bad taste because it made light of police brutality in a sensitive case:

MINNESOTA: Seriously Nice Cops! Unless *. (Mark Raffman)


Obviously, the "Anus of the Lower Mississippi" joke was crude; I shouldn't have put it in the print paper. But I found it an especially clever put-down because of the parallel between the delta of a river and the yucky body part.

The others? Well, I was surprised; I just didn't consider their sentiments all that edgy. It's true, though, that the premise for whole contest rested on stereotyping whole states.

After being told about this, I was able to talk on some length on the phone with our new features editor, Ben Williams, and he assured me that he's not out to turn the Invitational into Reader's Digest, and does believe that it can be a place for satirical political humor. We had a civil and respectful discussion that did much to reassure me.

I'm going to continue to edit the entries as I always have, every week for the past 19 years, and hopefully we'll continue to run edgy humor. I specifically asked Ben if the contestants would have to dramatically revise their humor, and he said no.

As for ink: You guys who were published this morning and then pulled, you get a point in the stats. We did this one other time that a bunch of entries were pulled after they were published online, some years ago.

Three sets of faves this week!

Bob Staake singled out Karen Lambert's kooky Californians; Jon Carter's runner-up as well as his one about Oregon; Jon Ketzner's "God's Senior Center" for Florida; Jon Gearhart's "So Darn White" about his own state; Brian Cohen's joke about the St. Louis Arch (Bob used to live in St. Louis before moving to Cape Cod); and Pam Shermeyer's West Virginia joke about the Pate Of Possum.

Gene Weingarten, the aforementioned Czar, liked a long list of them, especially Jon Carter's California runner-up, Jon Gearhart's long California one, Ward Kay's "We Inhale" for Colorado, Jon (so many Jons!) Ketzner's "God's Senior Center"; Daniel Galef's now-pulled meth joke; the anus joke; and Leif Picoult's snot-icicles runner-up.

And our ol' Ponch Garcia, our regular Wednesday copy editor, favored Rob Cohen's "Most 'Last' Titles" for Mississippi; Jeff Contompasis's about the Iowa caucuses; Beverley's winner; Steve Smith's now-pulled "Non-Conforming Gender" and, yes, Jon Ketzner's "God's Senior Center."

Mr. Ketzner gets an extra virtual magnet this week (he's opted to just get email "prizes").

C'lose r'eading*: This week's 'air quotes' contest

*Inking headline by Chris Doyle from the 2019 contest

As I said earlier, the best way to understand the concept of our "air quotes" contest is to see the ones -- the many, many ones -- we've done. Here are links to the results of earlier contests; some links go to that week's new column, so in those cases just scroll down to the results.

Another late-breaker -- this one much happier!

This afternoon, Loser Jeff Contompasis sent me a list of words that have been used in past air quote contests! I don't know if it's complete, but it's a heck of a start. It's just the words, not the descriptions. Hopefully you can see it through this link to a Google Doc.

Results of Week 1359, 2019

Results of Week 1280, 2018

Results of Week 1134, 2015

Results of Week 1031, 2013 (scroll down)

Results of Week 826, 2009 (scroll down)

Results of Week 405, 2001 (scroll down)

Results of Week 336, spread over two weeks:

You're not absolutely forbidden to use the same air-quotes word, but your definition would have to be very different.

Next Loser sighting: Brunch and TopGolf in Germantown, Md., Nov. 13

There's a new activity on the Loser calendar: brunch at Senor Tequila's in Germantown, Md. on Sunday, Nov. 13, at noon, followed by an afternoon at the nearby TopGolf center. TopGolf is to golf what playing carnival games is to riflery; I've never been, but it looks like a hoot -- instead of aiming at one little hole, you can swing your driver toward any number of point-scoring maws from the comfort of your party's designated section. Here's an article that conveys the idea and the atmosphere. Kids are welcome. RSVP to brunch coordinator Kyle "Loserfest Pope" Hendrickson at And check out the rest of "Our Social Engorgements" at the Losers' website, (If you missed last week's Gettysburg visit and tour, you can catch another one in April.)

The state routes behind this week's inking state slogans

ARIZONA: Nutty Conspiracies, Unbearable Warmth and a Canyon! (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.) (N.M., Colo., Utah, Wyo., Colo.)

ARKANSAS: Two Letters More Than Kansas! (Mike Caslin, Round Hill, Va.) (Tex., La., Miss., Tenn., Ky.)

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 (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)(Ariz., N.M., Tex., Okla., Colo., Utah, Wyo., Mont., S.D., Iowa, Neb., Wyo., Colo., Okla., Tex., N.M., Ariz., Colo., Utah, Colo., Ariz., N.M., Tex., Ark., Okla., Colo., Wyo., S.D., Wyo.)

CALIFORNIA: Necesitamos Agua! (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.) (Nev., Ariz.)

CALIFORNIA: No, All Californians Are Not Completely Wacko, Crazy Kooks! (Only Most Of Them.) (Karen Lambert) (Nev., Ariz., Calif., Ariz., N.M., Colo., Wyo., Colo., Kan., Okla., Mo., Okla., Tex.)

COLORADO: We Inhale (Ward Kay, Vienna, Va.) (Wyo., Idaho)

FLORIDA: God's Senior Center (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.) (Ga., S. C.)

FLORIDA: A Map Appendage That Looks Awfully Like A Misshapen And Flaccid Gherkin (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.) (Ala., Miss., Ark., Tex., La., Ark., La., Ark., Miss., Ala., Fla., Ga.)

FLORIDA: All Migrants Leaving Texas, Onboard Now! (Dave Ferry, Purvis, Miss.) (Ala., Miss., La., Tex., Okla., N.M.)

FLORIDA: Fanatic Governor, Alligators, Terrible Mosquitoes, Irma, Ian. Oh, Please, Now, Y'all Visit! (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.) (Flo., Ga., Ala., Tenn., Mo., Ill., Ind., Ohio, Pa., N. Y., Vt.)

GEORGIA: Find Any Missing Trump Votes? Nope! (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.) (Fla., Ala., Miss., Tenn., Va., N.C.)

IDAHO: No Californians Need Arrive (Karen Lambert) (Nev., Calif., Nev., Ariz.)

IOWA: We Matter Solely When Caucuses Occur (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.) (Wis., Minn., S.D., Wyo., Colo., Okla.)

KANSAS: Our Tornadoes Are Legendary! Away To Oz, Toto! (Mark Raffman) (Okla., Tex., Ark., La., Ark., Tex., Okla., Tex.)

LOUISIANA: Love Them Ol' Confederate Wavy Symbols! (Carol Lasky, Boston) (La., Tex., Okla., Colo., Wyo., S.D.)

MAINE: No Hotels! Mosquitoes! C-c-cold! Nobody's Young! = Must Visit! (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.) (N.H., Mass., Conn., N.Y., Mass., Vt.)

MICHIGAN: We Make Our Politicians Maintain Valid Kidnapping Insurance (Kevin Dopart, Washington) (Wis., Mich. Ohio, Pa., Md., Va., Ky., Ind.)

MISSISSIPPI: The Most "Last" Titles (Rob Cohen) (Tenn., Miss., La., Tex.)

MISSOURI: Our Most Acclaimed Landmark Makes Americans Think Of McDonald's (Brian Cohen, Winston-Salem, N.C.) (Okla., Mo., Ark., La., Miss., Ark., Tex., Okla., Mo.)

NORTH DAKOTA: Making Icicles With Snot (Leif Picoult) (Mont., Iowa, Wyo., S.D.)

NORTH DAKOTA: Snow Definitely Will Melt In May (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.) (S. D., Wyo., Mont., Idaho, Mont.)

OHIO: It's Kinda Mayo And That's Okay-o (Lee Graham, Reston) (Ind., Ky., Mo., Ark., Texas, Okla.)

OREGON: Come And Unwind In a Microbrewery With Sasquatch (Jon Carter) (Calif., Ariz., Utah, Idaho, Mont., Wyo., S.D.)

TEXAS: Liberty and Autonomy! (Only Applies To Men) (Marty Gold, Arlington, Va.) (La., Ark., Okla., Ark., Tenn., Miss.)

TEXAS: Objects Appear Larger Than Normal (Drew Bennett, Rogers, Ark.) (Okla., Ark., La., Tex., N.M.)

TEXAS: Teachers, Lock And Load! (Emma Daley) (Tex., La., Ark., La.)

TEXAS: Where Cowboys, Oil, Armadillos, Longhorns And, Oh, Maybe Two Million Armed Grannies Are Found (Chris Doyle, also found in Texas) (Wyo., Colo., Okla., Ark., La., Ark., Okla., Mo., Tenn., Miss., Ala., Ga., Ala., Fla.)

UTAH: We Come Knocking (Leif Picoult) (Wyo., Colo., Kan.)

WEST VIRGINIA: Welcome! Our Pate Of Possum Never Disappoints! (Pam Shermeyer) (W.Va., Ohio, Pa., Ohio, Pa., N.J., Del.)

WEST VIRGINIA: What, Me Vaccinate? (Bob Kruger, Rockville, Md.) (W.Va., Md., Va.)

WYOMING: We Shun Democrats (and a Noted Congresswoman Who Isn't) (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.) (Wyo., S. D., Neb., Colo., Wyo., Idaho)

D.C.: a Memorable Place Where Philadelphians Watch the Phillies Win (Steve Smith) (Md., Pa., W.Va., Pa., W.Va., Pa., W.Va.)

D.C.: Man Who Owns Washington Post Needs Proclamation Of It In Multitude Of Articles (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.) (Md., W.Va., Ohio, W.Va., Pa., N.J., Pa., Ohio, Ind., Ill., Mo., Okla., Ark.)


Week 1510

Style Conversational Week 1510: Do you only have I's for me?
The Empress of The Style Invitational dishes on this week's contest and results

By Pat Myers

October 13, 2022 at 4:28 p.m. EDT

"Don't do it. It's not going to work."

This was the warning to me from my predecessor, the Czar of The Style Invitational, when I told him about this week's contest for single-vowel, or univocalic, poems, Week 1510.

Aw, sure it will. Perhaps the Czar has forgotten the Cleverness x Art compounds that constitute the body of Loserdom, especially in its regular Loserbards.

Imperial Scion Valerie Holt, who blogs on Tumblr about English history, brought my attention to a univocalic poem she found there by the anonymous talent Shimyereh, who clearly ought to be entering The Style Invitational:

If I might sing within this thing I'm writing --
Might bind it, finish it in vivid ink;
Bring wild instinct in, still striving, fighting
Within this rigid limit (whilst I think
In "i"s)* It isn't stifling -- it's inviting:
This twist, this trick will find its living link.
I'll mind this limit, wind this twisting string,
Till I find things within it which might sing.

A bit high-flown to serve as an example for this week's contest, but undeniable evidence of what's possible within these constraints.

Note that this time, I sidestepped the what-counts-as-a-vowel issue with this direction: "This week: Write a humorous univocalic poem -- one that uses only one of the vowels A, E, I, O or U *" So feel free to use Y's and W's however you wish.

Also note that this time, as opposed to, say, our recent 100-Scrabble-tile contest, your poem's title -- if you choose to use one -- has to be under the same constraints; it seemed just too much out of the spirit of the contest if the title had any ol' vowels.

As always, strive for easy-to-read writing that sounds like English. I didn't say this explicitly, but don't misspell words to avoid using other vowels! You could use a variant spelling but you can't, for example, write "awful" as "awfal." Ugh, that would be awfal.

Your poem doesn't have to rhyme, but rhyming verse gets the lion's share of the ink in our light-verse contests, as do poems with clear and consistent meter. There are always exceptions, especially when the rhyme or meter is bent for humorous effect. If you're new to the Invitational, today's inking poems are a good guide to what I like, though I expect the vowel limitation to result in much shorter and perhaps somewhat less flowing verse. Deadline Monday night, Oct. 24; paywall-free link here.

M-W.comedy*: The new-word poems of Week 1506

*Non-inking headline by Chris Doyle

If somehow I am indeed proven overly optimistic about this week's contest, in four weeks I could always fill the page with more poems from Week 1506, which featured some of the words recently added to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. I've run these new-word poetry contests several times now, and this week's results might be the strongest yet. Sixteen poems fit on the print page in The Post's Sunday section Arts & Style, and there are 23 in the Web version.

It's the second Clowning Achievement trophy, but the 15th win all-time, for Melissa Balmain, who's been blotting up splatty puddles of poetry ink since 2011, recently hitting the 200 mark. While I don't want to dwell and dwell on the former White House occupant, Melissa's characterizing the term of the Ketchup Tosser as "all you can yeet" proved irresistible. Hall of Famers Mark Raffman and Duncan Stevens find themselves once again in the Losers' Circle, but they're joined by one of our most impressive rookies, Pam Shermeyer of the Detroit area, who brought some Midwestern plain-spokenness in her translation of "omakase" -- a chef's-choice Japanese menu -- as "sit your butt down and eat dinner."

We didn't have a First Offender last week, but today we welcome David Mayerovitch of Ottawa, who gets his first ink with the very last poem I happened to read this week: an excellent limerick using the term "greenwashing," corporate window-dressing on a company's environmental record: "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." Oooh, great punchline. People with close to unique names tend to send me Googling -- and I found this delightful performance by David of a song whose chorus begins, "Did you have to name your daughter Granola?"

Back to Ms. Balmain for a minute: Melissa, when she's not Inviting, teaching at the University of Rochester, or contributing poems and humorous essays to various publications, is also the editor of the online poetry journal Light. And as long as you don't forsake the Invite, I hope you'll send stuff to Light as well. (We won't run each other's published poems, though you're of course free to submit non-inking contest entries.) Melissa was cooing over today's Invite ink, so I invited her to invite you:

"As usual, I've been cackling at the work of my fellow Loserbards * and since the E has rashly allowed me to do so, I encourage you to check out Light and consider submitting some of your work (while continuing, of course, to enter the Invite early and often). Many Loserbards have been published in our pages -- both our twice-yearly issues and our weekly, news-inspired Poems of the Week -- including Brian Allgar, Brendan Beary, Daniel Galef, Coleman Glenn (now a Light contributing editor), Stephen Gold, Chris O'Carroll, Frank Osen, Robert Schechter, and Alex Steelsmith. And the late great Mae Scanlan was a Light star. Here's a link to our submissions system; my fellow editors and I read subs blindly, but cream really does rise *"

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia found his faves in the honorable mentions this week: Jeff Rackow's warning against potentially janky condoms from the dollar store, and Michael Stein's terse verse, "A Bostonian's Critique of a Mexican Restaurant": "Their birria/ Is infirria." (Which edged out another very good entry rhyming it with "superia.")

This Sunday: March on Gettysburg

I've neglected to mention in recent Conversationals that this Sunday, Oct. 16, Loser Roger Dalrymple will host his twice-yearly lunch and battlefield tour in his home base of Gettysburg, Pa. Roger, an experienced tour guide, has led a group of Losers on an enlightening lesson about the immense three-day Civil War battle. And it always begins with lunch at an informal but nice restaurant and often includes a stop for fabulous local ice cream. October is prime time to enjoy the southern Pennsylvania countryside, much of it looking as it did in July 1863.

Quoting from the announcement by Loser Events Guy Kyle Hendrickson:

"Starting at noon, we'll have #LoserBrunch at the Appalachian Brewing Company (ABC) at 259 Steinwehr Ave., Gettysburg PA 17325. After brunch, some of us will tour something, somewhere in or near Gettysburg. If you plan to join us, send an email to" There's a chance you can carpool.

I can't make it this year, but I've enjoyed this day trip several times and heartily recommend it.

And my dear, I'm still here * (974 times over)

The Style Invitational was inspired by/ ripped off from the venerable New York Magazine Competition, run by Stephen Sondheim's pal Mary Ann Madden for 973 columns from 1969 until her retirement in 2000 (at which time its major ink-getter, Chris Doyle, became an Invite Loser in earnest).

I debuted as Empress of the Style Invitational, deposing the Czar with a black crayon and a dismissive wave, in Week 536. That would be 974 weeks ago.

Madden's obit in the New York Times in 2016 reveals that when she didn't have enough good entries in a certain week, a few extras would suddenly appear by a "Grace Katz, N.Y.C." Madden had a cat named Grace. (I tweak Losers' entries sometimes, but I don't put my own in. We also never use fake names -- it's against Post policy -- unless someone's tricking me, and please don't do that.)


Week 1509

Style Conversational Week 1509: Friends in ha places
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's 'sister cities' results and new movie-themed contest

By Pat Myers

October 6, 2022 at 5:37 p.m. EDT

The Czar-Jean-Weingarten-Royal-Hanover-Ford-Dee-Empress-Pat-Myers-Uvada-Free-Vilas-Little-Washington-Post-Creata-View-Moor-Rouse-Wirt-Player-Camp-Pettis-Shinn-Calla-Dees-Tile-Lynn-Fite-Tate-Shinn-Nell Losers [W.Va., Texas, Mo., Utah, Conn., Mont., Pa., Ga., Miss., N.Y., Utah, Ind., Wis., W.Va., D.C., Ky., Okla., Idaho, Nev., Colo., N.Y., Okla., Ohio, Iowa, Ill., Calif., Ala., Ohio, Neb., Okla., Tenn., Calif., Texas]

"I know it's extreme," added the writer (who turned out to be Longtime Loser Randy Lee); he suggested some trims.

Extreme? You think? More to the point, I was stuck at "Uvada."

I guess I failed to beg people explicitly when I announced The Style Invitational's Week 1505 contest to "choose any two or more real U.S. or Canadian towns * and come up with a joint endeavor they would undertake": If you're going to create a string of names that, to you, sounds just like a phrase or sentence, ask someone else to read it out loud and see if that person knows what you're getting at. (This is also my suggestion for song parodies.)

"It's funny how it's so 'obvious' in the brain of the writer, but not the reader," Randy told me when he translated that entry for me. "I saw that in several entries on Losernet," the email group in which some Losers share their entries after the entrance deadline passes.

Herewith Randy's translation:

The Czar-Gene-Weingarten-Royal-Handover-for-the-Empress-Pat-Myers-of the-Frivolous-Little-Washington-Post-Creative-Humorous-Word-Player-Competition-Called-the-Style-Invitational Losers.

(Late-breaking discovery: You can now listen to a voice reading these results! See farther below for info about the new "listen" option. First listen: A lot of these names are very clear!)

I don't mean to slam Randy, who actually had a great week in today's results of Week 1505, blotting up five honorable mentions plus an "abuse point" in the stats for the "HUH" instead of "HAH" about his entry on the sea burial of Osama bin Laden. But these HUHs are a cautionary tale in advance of next January's biennial "Joint Legislation" contest in which we'll join the names of new members of Congress to "co-sponsor a bill."

In the course of judging almost 1,000 of these entries for Week 1505, I began to figure out most of the entries right away. But would an unpaid reader show that patience? Remember, it's a humor column, not a puzzle page.

Here are a couple more entries that stumped me (I never checked who wrote them), and when I asked for help in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook, various Devs had so many interpretations that it was clear that I wasn't the only stumpee:

1. The Alleghany-Maili-Chimayo-Napa-Cashion Persistent Jobseekers' Fair

2. The Happy Jack-Eager-Kyle-Boulder-Timbo Frat Boy Road Trip

The second one seems to be frat boy names: Happy Jack, Eager Kyle, Bolder Tim-bo (?). But still a guess. Bolder Timbo isn't something I'd know.

On the other hand, you can be stretchier in your pronunciations if you provide a hint for the reader -- to make it clearly part of a common expression or quote, for instance: Granted, "Masham Mann" doesn't sound much like "must a man," but Duncan Stevens's venture, the Wind-Blowin' Research Institute, gives all the context you need for "Howe-Mina-Rhodes-Masham-Mann-Walker-Downs."

But even "Masham Mann" isn't so far off that it's a mispronunciation. It's a different story with this otherwise excellent one by Jesse Frankovich, which requires you to pronounce Towson, Md., as "toes-on" rather than "how-s'n": The Gallup-Honor-Towson-Point Ballerina School. Towson, a large suburb of Baltimore and home of Towson University, is a well-known name to Post readers; that entry would just have read like a mistake.

This one by Frank Osen made me laugh, but Minden, Iowa, is pronounced Minn-den and not mindin'(g), which blew the Miner-Minden-Miner-Mindenmines Full Employment Act.

Some of the names were just too easy. I did use some especially creative entries that included Boring, Sandwich, etc., but almost all the inking entries involved punning on other words. Too easy were entries like Crotch Lake-Intercourse-Pee Pee Island Club for Immature Adults; Liberal-Snowflake Political Action Committee and Safe Space; Tarzan-Jane Jungle Preservation Association; and Latex-Ding Dong Dildo Development Center [both in Texas].

Interesting notes: One entry by Daniel Galef, "The Goblu [Ohio]-Agloe [N.Y.] Conference on Exploring Alternate Universes," would have required the explanation that both names are nonexistent "paper towns" that appear mysteriously on maps, often by cartographers who put them there to see if anyone's plagiarizing their work.

And while it's not following the contest, since it's just the initials: Bill Verkuilen sent in "The Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau high school drug education program," noting: "This one is NOT made up! These three Wisconsin towns really do have a consolidated school district, with a high school known as 'GET High'!"

Shah Huzzah! Guest Ace Copy Editor Shibani Shah, who usually handles foreign news, got a different task today, with Our Guy Ponch on vacation. Shibani liked all the top winners -- by Hall of Famers Jesse Frankovich and Chris Doyle; Hundreds-of-Inkster Jon Gearhart; and Also Reliably Funny Dave Airozo -- but she also says she laughed out loud at Duncan Stevens's "Hansen-Franzen-Gurley-Mann-Pompey-Opp Schwarzenegger Spoofers School"; Bird Waring's "Havana-Gila Bend Center for Jewish Folk Dancing"; and Leif Picoult's "Bigfoot-Climax Study on Events We'd Like to Unsee." Read us anytime, Shibani!

"Friends in Ha Places" in today's headline was a non-inking headline by Jesse Frankovich; I instead went with Jesse's "Community Jest."

(Unprintable entries to Week 1505 are at the very bottom of this column. Some of them are crude. Do NOT go down there, read them, then complain about the language.)

Now hear this! (If you can stand it.)

I just remembered that it started today, so I'm adding this late in the game this afternoon: You now have the option to listen to the Invitational and Conversational being read out loud by a pleasant-sounding, though in this case somewhat comically unmodulated, "female" "voice" -- it's an automated program that's so impressive that it takes a sentence or two for you to realize that it's not from a human.

You just click on the headphone icon just under Bob Staake's cartoon at the top of the Invite; on a laptop you get a pop-up box that'll let you fast-forward. (The Invite takes a full 10 minutes, so that's a very useful function.)

This new option comes at just the right week -- you'll see how close to English the word strings of Week 1505 really sound. (("SheShe" doesn't know what to do with all the state abbreviations, but who cares?) I'll be too embarrassed to listen to this column.

And while we're up there: Note also from the screenshot that there's also a "Gift" icon: Post subscribers may click on this to share -- with no paywall -- 10 articles a month. When you want to show the Invite to your (as yet) nearest and dearest, click on that and either copy the link (that's what I do) or forward it right from there. The Post added that feature in the hope that it would encourage more people to subscribe; if they do after reading The Style Invitational, that would be a very good thing for The Style Invitational.

That's how I share the paywall-free links in my weekly notification emails on Substack. If you're not signed up -- it's all free and doesn't go through The Post -- here's your chance!

Two-reelers: The Week 1509 movie name contest

Our Week 1509 contest, suggested by Loser Lee Graham, is a new twist on a kind of contest we do all the time: to alter the name of a movie and describe the new movie. This time it's to combine two one-word titles -- not into a one-word portmanteau, but into a two-word title (or one with a minor extra word or two).

When I say "one-word title," that means "Jaws" but it does not mean "The Godfather." Your title may have "the."

Note that while two of the examples reference at least one of the original movies ("Psycho Cats' " in the shower; "Unforgiven Pinocchio" the liar), the first one, "Metropolitan Parasite," is unrelated. Historically, the plot-related jokes tend to get more ink, but I almost always use both types.

It's easy to find the one-word titles; I called up some list of "100 Greatest Movies" and saw a whole bunch. In general, it's better to use familiar movies rather than obscure ones, because readers get to enjoy the alteration of something they know -- and if you're referring to the plot, the reader must understand the joke.

When I ask for you to "describe" the result, that can be in just about any form: A tagline or a line of dialogue is certainly as welcome as a straight description. Even given the number of possible pairings of these movies, there's guaranteed to be duplication, it may well come down to the humor after the title.

Our Prize Loser: Dave Prevar's Other Post Ink

Three-hundred-some-time Loser Dave Prevar has been showing up in the Invite in recent years mostly for the many, many Loser second prizes he's donated to the Invite -- everything from a google-eyed-squid hat to an inflatable roast turkey. But in today's Post he was featured in the Metro section -- in John Kelly's lighthearted daily column about local topics. John had recently mentioned that Nescafe had given out globe-shaped promotional mugs in the 1960s, and Dave wrote in to tell about the "Think Drink" mug he'd gotten in 1969 -- and still had -- as part of a coffee industry promotion to the younger generation. And John wrote him up, with a picture and all.

We're not even going to ask him to donate this one.

Lock these keys to the cities: The unprintables: I was pretty sure than anyone who'd puzzle through more than 40 of these strings wouldn't object to some risque language, but it's part of the duty of copy editors to flag anything potentially offensive and then tell management about it. So I tucked in Pam Shermeyer's "Back-Offutt-Athol" near the bottom of the online version as a little reward for dogged readers, while Leif Picoult's "Bigfoot-Climax Study on Events We'd Like to Unsee" made it through the Taste Police without detention. But I wasn't about to use any of these:

The Mount Pleasant-Bear Valley Brazilian Brothel (Jesse Frankovich)

The French Lick-Booger Hole Society of All Things Disgusting (Frank Mann) [Ind., W.Va.]

The Waimea-Amboy-Cutting-Cox-Success-Center for Gender Reassignment Surgery (Jane Auerbach)

The Clinton-Cummington Dry Cleaners (Dave Airozo) NOPE


Week 1508

Style Conversational Week 1508: One hundred tiles= Loser hunt? Indeed!
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's 100-Scrabble-tile results and a new neologism contest

By Pat Myers

September 29, 2022 at 5:13 p.m. EDT

*The headline above was a non-inking entry by Chris Doyle for Week 1504 (I used another one he wrote)

The moment I heard about a thing called, variously, Scrabblegrams and Scrabble tableaux -- writing something that uses all 100 Scrabble tiles -- I knew that it would provide amazing results in a Style Invitational contest: After all, past Invites have featured readable, clever, even funny anagrams of everything from people's names to the entire Gettysburg Address.

But the really pleasant surprise for me in the results of Week 1504, which run this weekend, is that five of the 19 people who got ink this week turned out to be First Offenders -- which is, sometimes, five more than we have in any given week. And for that, I'm pretty sure I can thank physician Dave Cohen of Atlanta, whose daily tableaux on Twitter at Dave's Scrabblegrams inspired this contest: Not only did Dave retweet my announcement of the contest, but a few days later he shared the link to it during a Zoom presentation on Scrabblegrams to Gathering4Gardner, a group of "magicians, mathematicians, skeptics, philosophers, puzzle enthusiasts, and the general public, all united by a shared enthusiasm for the work of Martin Gardner," the renowned writer whose Scientific American columns shared the wonders of math and physics to readers who often weren't STEM types themselves. Scrabblegrams: right up their alley.

One of our First Offenders this week, Dan Stock, is a big deal in the Scrabble tournament community, particularly for his annual construction of a custom Scrabblegram (or Scrableau) about that year's North American Scrabble Championship winner, which is presented as a giant plaque. Along with his Invite entries, he included this pertinent one that he'd shared at the championships some years ago: "Popularizing a horny idea, we inane verbal freaks judge a word game to be the second most fully exquisite indoor activity."

The week's top winners, however, are all familiar to regular Invite readers: Chris Doyle adds to his absurdly high number of wins with his 'gram about a tour of Mar-a-Lago that ends at the "grift shop." Marty Gold -- who charmed readers last week with his song-parody video "Chinese Buffet" set to "YMCA" -- shows his versatility with some imagined, decidedly unregal last words from Queen Elizabeth II. Kevin Dopart, who in a previous contest anagrammed the entire Preamble to the U.S. Constitution into a laughfest, brings on the funny once again with a rights-violation battle among three of our favorite rights-violatin' states. And Dave Zarrow -- who's one of the few Losers to have gotten ink in all 29 years of the Invitational -- plays on the difficulty of the contest itself: when you've written some clever thing and then realize your remaining tiles aren't going to let you finish it. Yipe!

It was so satisfying to run my final choices through the Anagram Checker at and see "A Valid Anagram" pop up, along with the letters snapping into the a sentence and falling back into a pile -- courtesy of the animator designed by Wordsmith's delightful Anu Garg. The two or three that had a problem were easily repaired; one obviously was missing a word that the writer had inadvertently deleted.

We were perhaps overindulgent with the self-referential entries this week, with an "And Last," "And Even Laster" and "Lastest of All" jokes about the Invite itself. But I stopped short of running entries that mentioned particular Losers; Jon Gearhart, for instance, rounded himself and seven others into a "Bozo Queue -- Eight idiotic aiguille pixies wow you: Stevens, Doyle, Dopart, Raffman, Jensen, Frankovich, Lambert and Gearhart." (An aiguille is a sharp pinnacle of rock -- wha?)

Duncan Stevens did a tour-de-force riff on our yearly horse name "breeding" contests: "End foal activity? O no! I go: Outasite & Helium = Hide and Squeak/ El Paso & Secret = Juarez Waldo? / Proxy & Raving = WinOneForTheGibber." And Donald Norum wrote brilliantly about the horrifying experience of winning our first-place Clowning Achievement trophy: "Riffing jovially on movie titles won me an award, yes. But I quaked as the prize dragged into existence a rude coulrophobia."

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia enjoyed all four top winners and also singled out Mark Raffman's paraphrase of the Ten Commandments and First Offender Robert Jordan's play on "The quick brown fox."

And a bonus: Dr. Dave's Diagnoses! Since Dave Cohen didn't enter Week 1504, I ran my finalists past him yesterday, and he responded with a critique of every entry! We didn't always agree, but we both valued natural syntax and witty wordplay. Dave especially liked both of Karen Lambert's entries, synopses of "The Sound of Music" and "I Love Lucy," and says he laughed out loud at Jon Gearhart's playful combination of two classic wordplay combinations, the alphabet pangram "The quick brown fox *" and the famed palindrome "Able was I ere I saw Elba," as well as at Robert Jordan's rather graphic turn on "Quick brown fox."

By the way: Dave tells me that for his daily tweet's sixmonthiversary on Friday, Sept. 30, he's planning a special quadruple Scrabblegram. Check it out -- anytime after 3:05 a.m.!

Elden high esteem: This week's Tour de Fours contest

The Losers' Committee to Do Just Some of the Things Elden Carnahan Had Done for 29 Years -- I guess we ought to come up with a real name for the team -- is getting ever closer to providing the Losers' website,, with up-to-date Loser Stats, as well as the rabbit hole of the Master Contest List and its links to all previous Style Invitational contests. (The All Invitational Text plain-text file now goes all the way up to last week's results.)

Meanwhile, we're dedicating Week 1508, our 18th Tour de Fours neologism contest, to Elden, requiring each entry to contain the letter block ELDN (or NELD, DLNE, etc.)

Back in Week 1501*s Style Conversational I gave a partial catalogue of Elden's entirely voluntary contributions to The Style Invitational for 29 years. Read it here. And for Tour de Fours Guidance & InspirationR, here are links to some recent years' results (along with some top winners for non-clickers). Where did I find the week numbers? Elden's Master Contest List, of course.

Week 1471, B-I-D-E (this past February):

IMBEDIMENT: The thing that makes you roll over and go back to sleep. "Sorry I was late to work, but I encountered a major imbediment this morning." (David Stonner)

APPLIED BIOLOGY: Sex. "Hey, baby, did you know I have a master's degree in applied biology? (Jesse Frankovich)

STUPID BELT!: One that went and made itself smaller over the past year. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Week 1418, U-N-D-O (February 2021, in the wake of the election):

Undo pressure: "So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes * So tell me, Brad, what are we going to do?" (Lee Graham)

Undoh: To realize you were right after all. (Dave Prevar)

Ickspound: To overshare about your bodily functions. "To start the Zoom meeting, the boss ickspounded on barfing up a whole bag of multicolored Skittles." (Terri Berg Smith)

Week 1370, L-I-A-R (February 2020)

Nostrail: What inevitably drips down your face when you've got the sniffles in February and you're wearing your big gloves. (Jeff Contompasis)

Heilraiser: The person in a political discussion who inevitably brings up a Hitler reference. (Gary Crockett)

Flopularity: When people flock to see a show just to revel in its badness. "'Cats' has proved so flopular that the theater added a midnight showing for stoners who want to creep out at Judi Dench's fur-skin." (Bill Dorner)


Because of an especially uncooperative Tuesday-Wednesday appearance of Yom Kippur next week -- usually the most intense days of the week for me when I'm working on the Invitational -- next week's Conversational might be late or even might take a week off. I'm always reachable by email at or on Facebook, especially in the Style Invitational Devotees group.


Week 1507

Style Conversational Week 1507: Eat our words
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's inking food songs and new state slogan contest

By Pat Myers

September 22, 2022 at 5:09 p.m. EDT

It's always a joy to judge The Style Invitational's song parody contests, which I've run more than 20 times since 2004. Well, except for the part where I have to -- have to -- deny ink to dozens of people who not only spent a significant amount of their week to produce one or more elaborate parodies or even videos, but who did them really impressively.

The results of Week 1503 -- a contest for songs relating in some way to food -- are thoroughly a case in point. If you were to sing along to the 19 songs, including six video performances, you'd reach No. 19, what, a half-hour later? An hour? Even with an emphasis on shorter songs up top, cutting out repetition, etc., it's the most I could expect from a reasonable reader.

And so my lengthy "shortlist" is full of clever, funny, well-crafted parodies that should be wearing Loser T-shirts.

I do hope you'll take the time to look down the page at all the honorable mentions, and so I'll try not to keep you long here at the Convo.

But just as an example of how deep our bench is: I hadn't anticipated this, but a number of Losers cleverly used Week 1503*s food theme to write about that renowned lunch table tantrum: the Trump White House Ketchup Splat, recounted rivetingly by aide Cassidy Hutchinson during the Jan. 6 hearings. Several Ketchup Splat entries made my shortlist, with veteran Loser parodist Barbara Sarshik scoring a runner-up.

Here are the other Splat finalists, in whole or part:

Pout All That You Can Pout
(to "The Army Goes Rolling Along," the U.S. Army Song)
He would yell, mad as hell, when it wasn't going well, and the ketchup would slither on down.
Get irate, full of hate, throw his hamberder (and plate), with the ketchup just oozing on down.
He would fume and shake, then heave a well-done steak, dyeing the walls a reddish-brown.
White House taste defiled by a rotten child as the ketchup kept dribbling on down.
(West Point grad and longtime Loser Randy Lee)

To "Up, Up and Away"
Would you like to dine with a beautiful tycoon?
Would you rather hide from the angry orange baboon?
We could have a lovely lunch together ruined by
When burgers fly; yes. he let fly

Ketchup and away,
Like a pie-throwing, an angry child cartoon

The dining room's defaced by this tantrum-throwing loon.
The country's been debased by this Looney Tunes maroon.
He will call the porter, blame it on some other guy
For he can lie, he can lie

Ketchup and away
Like a condiment, a condiment typhoon!
(Bridge) He's stepping over the broken crockery
We'll crawl the floor for a space to hide us.
If by some chance your thoughts turn to mockery;
He's trying to divide us,
This loser, fools' gold Midas.
He's immortalized by a big baby balloon
Way up in the air, allies lampoon our buffoon
With his tiny hands he'll toss our dreams across the sky
For he can lie, and he will lie.
Ketchup and away
With our beautiful, our big hot air balloon
Put, put him away.
(Longtime Loser J. Larry Schott)

To "Counting Flowers on the Wall" (an excerpt)
* Throwing ketchup at the wall
That don't bother me at all.
Grabbing at my driver's throat
When I need to block the vote.
Claiming each court where I've lost is just a kangaroo.
Now don't tell me, I've nothing to do.
(Barbara Sarshik)

As I regularly do with our overabundance of excellent entries in our parody contests, I'll be sharing other inkworthy "noinks" over the next few days in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; just search on #parodies and a list of the posts should come up.

At least one of those noinks will belong to Duncan Stevens, who can console himself by having won yet another Clowning Achievement to be the first five-time winner of the Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick trophy. Sing along with his parody of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and see how the accents of the lyrics fit perfectly with the melody and rhythm -- and, even more important, how they make you laugh: "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."

And at least one more will go to runner-up Mark Raffman, who pulls off a fairly rare-for-the-Invite feat of parodying a power-chord rock song, in this case the Survivor screamer "Eye of the Tiger" -- its youthful vigor deliciously ironic when used for a song about battling constipation with a "high-fiber diet." (Meanwhile, Mark's usual go-to parody fodder, "Be Our Guest," ended up with no ink this week, even though at least six Losers -- none of them Mark -- submitted "Guest" songs.)

Two more veterans fill this week's Losers' Circle: Rob Cohen's overeating song with a punchline, and Barbara Sarshik's Ketchup Splat ballad add to their voluminous parody songlists.

Meanwhile, I was totally won over by Marty Gold & Kids' exuberant video "Ode to the Chinese Buffet," and not just because I've always been a sucker for said establishments. Clever lyrics (dad Sam gets a co-credit), pretty good singing, an infectious joyfulness -- and is that Marty playing, one-man-band style, the first-ever orchestration of "YMCA" for multiple clarinets?

But you don't need a whole staged production to make a great video: I was also charmed by First Offender Judy Freed of Florida, who simply sang (beautifully and utterly clearly) into a camera, backed by a karaoke track, for a knockout parody of the "Pippin" song "Corner of the Sky" in which she touts therapy-by-pie. Judy also kept her video to under two minutes, as did Jonathan Jensen -- who can sing, play the piano and look at the camera simultaneously (not to mention make funny faces) -- with "It's Not Easy Eating Beans." Without a story or significant visuals (e.g., a slide show or on-camera action -- like Sandy Riccardi's video putting the "nut" in Nutella), you're asking a lot of the viewer to sit there and wait for your next line for several minutes at a time. It helps if the music moves along as well.

Meanwhile, if you were robbed of ink this time, most of the parodies shouldn't seem old by the time we do the second-chance retrospective contest in December. I'll probably run one from Week 1503.

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia read the print Invite, which had space for nine of this week's 19 parodies, and pronounced them "uniformly clever." Everyone's a winner! The print list -- which favors songs, especially shorter songs, that I think will be familiar to multiple generations -- comprised the top four winners plus Beverley Sharp's Dracula ballad, "If I Only Had a Vein"; Melissa Balmain's and Hildy Zampella's "Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious" verses (even the title was truncated to fit in one column of type); Nancy McWhorter's "My Favorite (fattening) Things"; and excerpts from Marty Gold's "Chinese Buffet" and Sarah Walsh's "This S'more That I'm Eating."

We're routing for you: This week's brand-new state slogan contest

Your more obsessive Style Invitational readers may have noticed Bob Staake's greater involvement lately beyond drawing the Invite's cartoon weekly since 1994: Instead of "What do you want me to draw?" Bob has often produced his own examples for recent contests, even supplying a well-crafted one for the Limerixicon.

I'm delighted to have Bob as a collaborator -- after all, it was his creative input as a temporary replacement in Year 2 that prompted my predecessor, the Czar, to keep him on forever. But as he became a wildly successful and famous artist and author over the next three decades, Bob understandably turned his creative efforts elsewhere, in many directions at once, and sort of stopped by the Invite once a week for old times' sake.

Maybe it's nostalgia on his part, or just a temporary catching of breath from all his book projects and speaking engagements, but in the past few months I've once again begun to think of him more as a partner than just the guy I send an assignment to. And then, just recently, Bob sent me an email: " "This came to me in a dream last night and I think it has terrific potential." Then he proceeded to lay out what with almost no alteration is this week's contest, Week 1507, along with several persuasive examples.

Since just two weeks ago I ran another place-name contest, for "sister cities," denizens of the Loser Community might still be in map mode, and ready to apply that to this week's contest: Use the first letters of consecutive U.S. states in a "route" as the first letters of a slogan describing the state at the beginning of the rout.

Sooo much easier to show an example, like this one of Bob's I didn't use: FLORIDA: A Gator Always Tastes gamy (Fla. Ala, Ga., Ala, Tenn., Ga.)

Meanwhile: We have done contests for state slogans in the past, but not for a long time. One warning: Don't describe any state by saying that there's nothing interesting about it. In other words, don't brag that you're ignorant.

Text files to past slogan ink (scroll past that week's new contest to the winning slogans):

Week 640, state mottoes (my contest)

Week 231, mottos for the backs of the then-new state-themed quarters (the Czar's contest)

Week 2 (!!), motto for Maryland

Give it a shot. If I don't have enough good stuff in four weeks * I think I could find an extra song parody to run.

Inking out loud: Coming -- the Invite and Convo on audio!

I'm eager to see what happens with next week's Invitational and Conversational: Like many other Post articles, they'll offer the option of an audio version! It's automated, but it's usually so good that it takes a minute to realize it. (Here's a random story from today's paper; click on the "Listen" icon just under the photo.) Next week's results will be the 100-Scrabble-tile passages from Week 1504, which Ms. AI should be able to handle -- but what's going to happen when we get to neologisms?

Okay, go enjoy those parodies: Happy New Year for those who count to 5783 -- remember, everyone gets another day for Week 1506; deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 27.


Week 1506

Style Conversational Week 1506: The limerick? Nice. The story? Wow.
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's new-word-poem contest and Limerixicon results

By Pat Myers

September 15, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. EDT

I received this limerick in The Style Invitational's Limerixicon contest, Week 1502. It's pretty good -- rhymes well, scans well -- but like hundreds of other pretty good limericks I received, it didn't end up with ink in today's stellar results.

I got bit by a hippo -- quite gory --
On my rear. Now I'm all hunky-dory.
Though the scar, for some folks,
Is the butt of their jokes,
Bottom line. I am fine. End of story.

Then there's a place on the entry form where the writer can leave me a note. I went on to read:

"For whatever merit the limerick lacks poetically, this actually happened to me *"


I don't see the entrants' names when I judge the contests, but I had to look this person up and ask.

"It's a bit of an embarrassing story," begins Bob Prouty of Arlington, Va., whom we know primarily as the dad of the precocious Sean Bender-Prouty, who snarfed up multiple blots of Invite ink when he was still in middle school. "I got bit in the only place I can't show off my scars.

"It happened in 1983 when I was running a secondary school in what was then Zaire. I feel as if I have to preface the story by saying that I thought I was being careful, or that there were other people in the water before I got in, no hippos in sight, but --

"I was swimming in the Semliki River at a place called Ishango, along with dozens of other people, but somehow I was the one in the wrong place at the wrong time. It took me under the surface for half a minute or so -- and the only thing I could think was: 'Isn't my life supposed to be flashing before my eyes? I'm getting nothing.'

"So it was all a bit anticlimactic. I curled up in a ball. It walked around on the bottom of the river with me in its mouth, and just when I was beginning to wonder how long I could hold my breath, it let me go. No serious damage done. A few sore ribs, quite a few stitches, and all I have to show for it are some very impressive scars that you'll have to take my word for."

I'm sorry, Bob, but having a hippopotamus (typical weight: more than 3,000 pounds, well over twice the size of a horse) pick up your balled-up self in its mouth -- a mouth that is two feet wide and contains "large tusk-like canines and razor-sharp incisors, capable of biting a small boat in half" -- and stroll around with you underwater until disgorging you back into the Semliki River: Anticlimactic?

Welp, so much for my war story of being attacked in my driveway by the rabid raccoon nine years ago. On the other hand, I'm good, thanks.

Anyway, today's inking limericks: As always, they're outstanding, just as in our 18 previous Limerixicon contests, each of which focused on some sliver of the dictionary being compiled, in such order since 2004, at, the Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick form. (As long as you promise not to forsake the Invite, I encourage you to submit limericks there as well, including both your inking and non-inking entries to this contest; if you did get ink, let OEDILF know and credit us. There's a team of veteran limericians who'll "workshop" your limerick with you to improve both form and content.)

The "Jane EyreBandB" earns the first Clowning Achievement trophy but by no means the first Invitational win for Stephen Gold, formerly of Glasgow and now of London. Stephen started entering the Invite (and immediately getting ink) during Limerixicon 5 in 2008 and has continued to drop by occasionally -- virtually always successfully -- ever since with limericks, song parodies and the occasional non-Loserbard contest. Stephen also played host to at least two Losers visiting Scotland over the years, and he and his wife had dinner with a group of us -- and a delightful lunch with me when I couldn't make it -- when they visited Washington in 2012.

Like many of today's inking Losers, Stephen also sent some worthy entries that made my shortlist but missed the final cut. (YOU, dear non-inking reader, may also have suffered this fate; I don't know, though, because I looked up only the inking entries, to see who'd written them; only then did I see what else that Loser had sent.) Here was one of Stephen's that, in limerick tradition, was clever but questionably tasteful:

Jim yearned for a smoking physique,
But attaining it only last week
Felt a little belated.
His being cremated
Was a hint he had gone past his peak.

The other three members of this week's Losers' Circle have become Invite household names: Chris Doyle as the unsurpassable GOAT, and Karen Lambert and Coleman Glenn, two almost-newbies who've already made an enormous impact on the recent Invite. As tennis star Frances Tiafoe said of 19-year-old super-phenom Carlos Alcaraz last Sunday after losing to him at the U.S. Open, they're "gonna be a problem for a long time." I -- and Style Invitational fans -- certainly hope so.

What Pleased Ponch: Faves this week of Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia include Stephen Gold's winner "Jane EyreBandB"; Karen Lambert's runner-up with "hitch your star to a wagon" -- what Lassie's director wanted to do when the pooch was "laggin' "; Coleman Glenn's encounter with a skunk: "Though the tail that arises/ Is his, the surprise is: /The high-tailing party is me"; Karen Lambert's doctor who refused to operate on an elbow because his Hippocratic oath was to "do no arm"; Beverley Sharp's "hip joint" (a pun we've done before, but not in limerick form); and Joan Welsh's take on the children's picture book "A House Is a House for Me," as performed by Donald Trump, who, it can charitably be said, tends not to color within the lines.

Another dose of Merriament*: New-word poems for Week 1506

*" Merriament" was Tom Witte's headline for our 2018 contest.

If you're still in the limericking mood, you're free to indulge once again for this week's contest, Week 1506. But any form of poetry up to eight lines is fine. (No multi-verse song parodies, though.) As always, Merriam-Webster adds several hundred new terms and meanings every year but declines to tell the public what they are, except for what's in its news release. I did get all pouty to Meghan the very nice PR person, and she did, just yesterday, come through with about a dozen more, most of which I used in today's 32-term list. As with our similar annual contest for words from the National Spelling Bee, I avoided technical terms and just went with hunches about what had the most humor potential.

When I say "new words," I'm not being accurate; they're new to the dictionary. In fact, the entries usually say what year the word was first seen in that particular use. Or almost: "Pumpkin spice" has been a thing since 1931, M-W says, but I'm guessing that meant it was used in pumpkin pies, not coffee, cat litter and deodorant. First use of "pwn": 1999. They say it probably comes from the idea of mistyping "own," as in to dominate, and so is pronounced "pone." I have no problem with waiting 23 years to see if a slang word has staying power.

Note that I give you an extra day, even if you won't be spending it writing entries in shul at Rosh Hashanah services. I would never recommend such a thing, even in the boring sections. Anyway, you have till Tuesday night, Sept. 27.

I've been working on a same-genre schedule lately: a new poetry contest runs along with the results of a previous one, as in this week's new words/limericks; before that, the Week 1502 limericks appeared with the results of Week 1498, the contest that asked you to use the word in a meaning it doesn't really have. I figure that our Loserbards, especially people who don't always look at the Invite every week, will be more likely to notice the new contest if they look at the results of the old one. It also keeps me from crowding poetry contests too close together.

Well, there are the food songs of Week 1503 -- and it's a lock that I'll be back next Thursday with a bumper crop of them.

Last call for the Loser brunch at Kilroy's, Sunday, Sept. 18, noon

(Lifted right from an earlier Conversational)

Even though it no longer offers its brunch buffet, I plan to be at Kilroy's, the WWII-decorated pub in Springfield-ish where we've had many a Loser brunch. Not only is it always fun to meet new Losers and Invite just-fans and of course the brunchin' regulars, but my favorite Asian supermarket, Lotte, is in the same shopping center, so I'll have a chance to stop by. The food is Standard Pub, there are interesting pictures on the walls, and it's easy to get to and park; it's in the old Ravenswood shopping center just outside the Beltway at the Braddock Road exit. Please RSVP to our obliging new brunch coordinator Kyle Hendrickson at; details on the Our Social Engorgements page of the Losers' website,


Week 1505

Style Conversational Week 1505: A nice pair of cities
The Empress of The Style Invitational dishes on this week's 'sister cities' contest and the (un)helpful results

By Pat Myers

September 8, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. EDT

Believe it or not, that headline up there is the one I used for Style Invitational Week 546, Feb. 22, 2004. Whether Bob Staake was inspired by my headline or I was inspired by Bob's illustration (or it was just a coincidence) is lost to history. I thought better of using it again this week, for our repeat of the contest in Week 1505 (deadline Sept. 19). Clearly, back then -- in just my 11th Invite as Empress (I'm now about 30 weeks away from my 1,000th) -- I wanted to assure readers and contestants that I could be just as risque and crude as my predecessor, the Czar. I was probably pretty proud of myself for that headline.

And then there's the cartoon -- one I wouldn't have gone with now. Granted, it's not lewd; the woman's getting a breast reduction procedure at the Hilly/Flat clinic, not doing a striptease. Even the "party of two" is amusing. But the boobs didn't have to be half-naked. But my real problem with it now is that in the years since 2004 -- or really, it's been just the past few years -- the general humor of making fun of people's bodies has become really distasteful to many readers. Especially in a cartoon. (The joke itself is perfectly fine.)

Anyway, we're giving another go to a contest firmly in the Invite tradition of pairing two elements (or stringing together several) with wordplay, something we regularly do with racehorse names, congressional names, other people's names, businesses, animals, several etcs. It's shorter-form than most of them, since it doesn't demand a line of description (though this isn't forbidden).

Perhaps the closest similarity is with our "Joint Legislation" contest, in which you combine the names of two or more new members of Congress to "sponsor" a bill reflecting their names, like last year's runner-up "Moore-Greene-Salazar-Good Act" that mandates fresh leafy veggies to school lunch programs. (We'll be back with that one in January at the start of the 118th Congress.) But because so many people's names have to be, uh, flexibly interpreted to sound like common words, Joint Legislation sometimes even needs explainers. I don't plan to translate the entries for Week 1505, given the thousands upon thousands of U.S. and Canadian place names available.

In 2004, at least for me, it wasn't yet second nature to check every name with a quick Googling. This time, I don't care how you find the town name, but if it's not online with something identifying it as a town (rather than, say, a housing subdivision, or part of a longer name) I don't want to count it. (Be sure to say what state/province it's in, or I won't be able to check it! I couldn't find "Hilly," for example, for the cartoon.) You well might find it most efficient to find an actual atlas book, which would have indexes you could quickly eyeball. I've heard that some libraries still stock these relics.

In 2004, to convey what we were doing, I included the state name in parentheses after each name, as I did in the first example today: The Keokuk (Iowa)-Chappaqua (N.Y.) Conference on Jazz Drumming Sounds. I made an exception when several names were strung together, as in Chris Doyle's "Enid-Laredo-Yoder-Aldine (Okla., Tex., Wyo., Tex.) National Palindrome Competition."

This time, though, we're going to move those little abbreviations to the end of the line, after the joke. And as I share below some of the results of Week 546 (complete list here; scroll past that week's new contest), I'll move the IDs there as well. (As I note in this week's entry form: "You can either spell out the state names or use an abbreviation, since The Post has its own style for abbreviations and I'll probably have to change them anyway; just don't use, say, 'AR' to mean Arizona since that's the postal abbreviation for Arkansas (AZ is Arizona).")

Third runner-up: The Rocky-Mountain-Oyster Masquerade Ball (Okla, N.D., Va.) (Chris Doyle)

Second runner-up: The Kissimmee-Ona-Butts Career Development Center (Fla., Ore., Mo.) (Jeff Nadler)

First runner-up: The Watton-Hellam-Ida-Ware "Dress for Success" Seminar (Mich., Pa., Okla., Mass.) (Brendan Beary)

And the winner of the Inker: The Pierce-Naples-Garner-Hurt-Lake-Kell-Venice-Yankton Festival of Body Decoration (Fla., Fla., N.C., Va., Miss., Ill., Calif., S.D.) (Dudley Thompson) (Did that one need the explainer? "Pierced nipple's gonna hurt like hell when it's yanked on.")

Honorable Mentions:

The Enid-Laredo-Yoder-Aldine National Palindrome Competition (Okla., Tex., Wyo., Tex.)(Chris Doyle)

The Mystic-Chickasaw-Helper Magicians' Assistants' Conference (Conn., Ala., Utah) (Seth Brown)

Islip, Crane Neck & Sioux City Personal Injury Associates (N.Y., N.Y., Iowa) (Jeff Brechlin) [I wanted to use this one for this week's example, but couldn't quickly find a town named Crane Neck]

The Minnehaha-Van Clown Car Factory (Wash., W.Va.) (Bruce W. Alter)

The Tightwad-Bosses-Skidoo-Withee-Golden-Parachute Commission on Executive Pay (Mo., Va., Calif., Wash., Miss., Colo.) (Chris Doyle)

The Hartselle-Gypsum Convention of Used-Car Salesmen (Ala., Colo.) (Chuck Smith) [While the term had been in use quite innocently for ages, we no longer use the term "gyp" to mean cheat a customer, given its reference to Gypsies, or Roma people of Europe, any more than we would use "jew" to mean to defraud, a use still allowed in Scrabble as an uncapitalized word but struck from the Merriam-Webster definition.]

The Gurley-Callender-Onda-Wall Auto Shop (Neb., Calif., Ark., Tex.) (Brendan Beary)

The Maxwell-Silver-Hammer Center for Pataphysical Science (Calif., Tex., S.D.) (Carole Lyons)

The Feather Falls-Rock Falls Galileo Museum (Calif., Ill.) (Jerome Alfred)

The Smart-Ware-Coats-Wilder-Dumfries School of Dressing for the Elements (Va., Utah, N.C., Minn., Va.) (Brendan Beary)

The Lay-Dees-Canby-All-Man Gender Modification Center (Scott Campisi) (Colo., Ill., Calif., Mo., W.Va.) [Here's another thing we wouldn't be doing in 2022]

The Bland-Normal-Plainville-Blandford Super Duper Wacky Fun Festival (Seth Brown) (Mo., Ill., Conn., Mass.)

The Accident-Talley-Box Elder-Leeman Investigation Into Premature Burial (Md., Ark., S.D., Wis.) (Elden Carnahan)

The Whypo-Nott-Rich Conference on Income Inequities (N.M., Ky., Ky.) (Elden Carnahan)

The Quigley-Robbins-Tudor-Bat Cave Emergency Response Team (La., N.C., Calif., N.C.) (Dudley Thompson)

The Hurd-Trudy-Grapevine Center for Rumor Control (N.D., Ga., Ky.) (Brendan Beary)

The White City-Gunn City Republican Convention (Fla., Mo.) (Seth Brown) [Some things don't change.]

The Jerry-Springerville Planned Community for Transgendered Crack Addicts Who Have Sex With Extraterrestrials (N.C., Ariz.) (Brendan Beary)

And Last: The Complete-Entry-Not-Worth-Effort Something Something (Miss., W.Va., Mo., Ga., Pa.) (Mark Hagenau)

And Really Last: The Athol-Folks Bugs Bunny Fan Club (Mass., Ga.)

Help unwanted*: The good (not) deeds of Week 1501

*Non-inking headline submitted by Chris Doyle, Jesse Frankovich and Beverley Sharp

Our Week 1501 contest for misguidedly "helpful" acts -- inspired by (translation: stolen from) a Reddit thread with the same type of joke -- was essentially a pet-peeve contest with a twist: a clueless narrator blithely performing said peeve. The best of the 1,100 entries (35 online, 26 in print) went beyond the stock irritants with fresh oh-noooo ideas of comically horrible cluelessness/creepiness, or especially entertaining ways of phrasing the reliables.

Those reliables, to no surprise (and this was my apprehension about the contest), appeared by the dozen, in fairly similar ways: taking two parking spaces, driving slowly in the left lane, talking rudely on one's phone in someone else's presence, explaining things in the movie theater, fertilizing the neighbor's lawn with one's dog. And, regrettably canceling out one another, something like "I know Joe would be overwhelmed with clutter in the Oval Office, so I moved out some boxes and am keeping them here *"

The Clowning Achievement goes, for the fourth time already, to Coleman Glenn, our Rookie of the Year just last year. Coleman found the Invite from some fellow poets (he's excellent in both light verse and the weightier stuff) and turned out to be hilarious in every Invite format. His winning entry today spills out so smoothly to the surprise at the end, much like a visual joke whose punchline isn't revealed till you scroll down an inch on your phone:

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.

Congratulations also to Coleman and his wife, Anne Grace -- whom we also met when they came down from the Philadelphia area this past May for the Flushie Awards: They're expecting their fifth child.

Among the runners-up, Sam Mertens is the only Usual Suspect in the Losers' Circle (he was third last week, too), landing there with his method of always following the rule in the express checkout: breaking his full cart into separate purchases of 12 items each. But the other two are rarer sightings: May Jampathom, who's accumulated 27 blots of ink over more than a decade, wins the silly socks with this helpful tip: "Nobody likes being told in public that their zipper's down, so I just walk up and discreetly zip it back up for them." And Paul Brown, husband of fellow Loser Lori Lipman Brown, scores his choice of Loser Mug or Grossery bag with one of the week's ewwwiest entries: "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."

What Pleased Ponch: After Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia cited yet another week of faves all from the honorable mentions, I finally asked him last night: "I've noticed that you never choose any of the four top winners. Do you think it might just take you more than four jokes to get into the swing, or do they just never move you?"

Ponch: "Oh, I just figured the those were a given."

So starting next week, if he doesn't mention the winner or any runners-up, he really didn't love them. But this week, here are Ponch's favorite HMs from Week 1501:

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)

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. (First Offender Mark Wakefield, who might get some side-eye this Sunday at Mass)

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)

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)

Join us at the next Loser sighting: Sunday, Sept. 18, noon

(Copied verbatim from last week's Convo)

Even though it no longer offers its brunch buffet, I plan to be at Kilroy's, the WWII-decorated pub in Springfield-ish where we've had many a Loser brunch. Not only is it always fun to meet new Losers and Invite just-fans and of course the brunchin' regulars, but my favorite Asian supermarket, Lotte, is in the same shopping center, so I'll have a chance to stop by. The food is Standard Pub, there are interesting pictures on the walls, and it's easy to get to and park; it's in the old Ravenswood shopping center just outside the Beltway at the Braddock Road exit. Please RSVP to our new brunch coordinator Kyle Hendrickson at; details on the Our Social Engorgements page of the Losers' website,


Week 1504

Style Conversational Week 1504: Send me a hundred letters
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's 100-Scrabble-tile anagram contest and winning neologisms

By Pat Myers

September 1, 2022 at 4:55 p.m. EDT

Okay, it's pretty clear that David G. Cohen, MD, is not your ordinary internist. For one thing, for more than 20 years he's worked the night shift, only the night shift, at hospitals in San Francisco and now Atlanta. (As someone who worked nights for 26 years and still am often up at 3 a.m., I can relate.) And for another thing *

This week's Style Invitational contest, Week 1504, asks you and your fellow Losers to take all 100 Scrabble tiles -- the nine A's, the two B's, etc. -- and write something: not just some words that, whew, use every one of those letters and no more, but some piece of writing that will be fun to read. That will read like normal English and not Yoda-syntax and not be rife with skipped words and strange apostrophes. And that make an interesting or entertaining point. And might even be funny.

Dr. Dave has been doing one of these nigh-miraculous feats every day.

Take a few minutes -- not too long; I need you here! -- to scroll/page through his Twitter feed and his website: There are what he calls "freestyle poems" that paraphrase works of literature or film (like "To be, or not to be" in the graphic above, or "The Wizard of Oz"), salute noteworthy people such as Aretha Franklin, or muse on the beauty of a hummingbird.

And just this morning, Dave posted this one (why do I have a hunch that Dave might do pretty well at chess?):

And this past Monday, as a tribute to puzzle master Will Shortz, Dave even came up with a 100-character puzzle: Not only do the 10 answers form a Scrabblegram, but the 10 crossword-style clues also form a Scrabblegram!

But c'mon, I'm not asking you to be Dr. Daily Scrabblegram. I'm just asking for one of these babies. And Dave doesn't get to play.

And for once, I, a renowned fretter, am not fretting that this contest might bomb; in fact, I'm supremely confident that Dave himself is going to let loose a wow or two. Because I can point to the results of Week 1318, when I asked the Losers to anagram anything they liked beyond just a person's name *

and this was fourth place.

The opening of "A Tale of Two Cities": It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. [227 characters]

Anagram: Sigh, how to begin? "It was London, it was Paris. It was the stain of woebegone teeth, it was the spot of armpit hair. It was the time of awful foods, it was the time of less cheeky help. It was wan, fetid cheeses, it was soft, soft cheeses." These spoofs: It is the far, far worse thing I do. (Kevin Dopart)

And this was third place:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.

Anagram: BS! I often itch to gnaw her hot love-tushy. (Mark Raffman)

And this was second (it was 2019):

"I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States." [99 characters]

Anagram: "I, Donald J. Trump, attest that I will offend you, expel the White House staff, and fleece the country for side millions." (Jesse Frankovich)

And THIS was the winner: an anagram of the entire Gettysburg Address.

Dig this, my men. A few decades back, some hep, cool creative guys hath invented a sovereign country somewhere right around here that was devoted to increasing human equality. It's true, man; I saw, ah, documentation on the teevee. I call that radical! Too hot, hot, hot!

But now, there's definitely a bad vibe. Wretched indignation advanced to total hatred, bitter warfare, and terrible attrition. Thousands of hale men, both Northern-trained Federal and hotheaded, pro-apartheid Confederate, everyone frightened, fighting with revolvers and rifles to decide whether survival of that great, progressive doctrine of reform and human tolerance is necessary -- or a total menace. We have gathered at the, ah, scene tonight to give high props to a thin, fantastic posse that hitherto laid it all ten-tenths down for the cause. That be word. Word is bond.

Nay, do listen to this oath, congregation: Whatever grateful oration we, ah, bother to deliver ain't near enough. Not near appropriate or worthwhile. Here, a dreaded Death flowered beneath the feet of, and collected, honored men. The, ah, righteous thugs and heroic hos that we celebrate achieved the whole deal; all we can do is riff charming, insignificant stuff that people will never recall. So we all gotta keep on keeping on, in order to see to it that things evolve better for our, ah, descendants so the worthwhile peeps rule twenty-four/seven. Be real. Yahoo. Whatever. (J.J. Gertler)

One thousand one hundred ninety-seven characters.

You'll notice that Kevin, Mark and Jesse got ink, as usual, this very week. I'll make sure J.J. sees this contest. (See the rest of the Week 1318 winners here.)

Dave Cohen was inspired to start Scrabblegramming like a madman after his 23-year-old Scrabblegram-limerick about clowns was featured in a 2020 article about the genre by Beyond Wordplay blogger Eric Chaikin, "Scrabblegrams -- Never Be Bored at the Board." Chaikin's a Scrabble aficionado and snagged an Emmy nomination for "Word Wars," a documentary he made about tournaments, and his article not only goes into the history of Scrabblegrams and the various forms they've taken, but also offers tips about how to make them. Such as to make sure you don't waste letters like H, which appears very frequently in words but appears only on two tiles, while figuring out early on how you're going to fit in that Q and Z.

On the other hand, Chaikin values difficult parameters more than I do: If he were judging this week's Invite, he might give extra credit to someone who didn't repeat any letters on each line, something like that. But I'm going to care more about the content: the syntax and the wit and the humor. Of course, timeliness never hurts in Loserland.

One thing you won't be grousing about in four weeks: She rewrote my joke. I can't very well tinker with these babies. But if they turn out not to be valid, I'm not going to try to fix them. So do use -- it's an order -- the Wordsmith Anagram Checker.

And while you're there, you might as well have fun and use Anu Garg's own Anagram Animator, which is super-easy to use: You just put in the source letters followed by an equals-sign and then your anagram and click "Generate Animation." Click on "Advanced" and you can change the font, the speed, even add background art, and you can create and download a GIF, the constantly moving image that appears at the top of this page.

(By the way: I initially published the online Invite using Dave's paraphrase of the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy as the example, but an editor was concerned that a quote about someone weighing whether to commit suicide -- and in modern rather than 400-year-old language -- wasn't the best lead-in to a humor contest. So I substituted Dave's synopsis of "The Wizard of Oz," with that witty observation that Dorothy ultimately appreciates "the exquisite value of red footwear.")

The Quinze Festival: The 15-point neologisms of Week 1500

Much like its 14-letter predecessor from Week 1402, the challenge to create words whose letters totaled 15 Scrabble points proved as good an excuse as any to add neologisms to the Loser Lexicon. I received a manageable, not-bad-for-summer 1,050 entries, of which no more than 800 were bleah, and I think 43 of them got ink on the web page, and about a half-dozen got axed for space on the print page -- which, happily, has lately appearing almost all the time on the back of Arts & Style, which means it's not buried inside the section and Bob Staake's cartoon is in color.

A huge shout-out to Hall of Fame Loser and Genuine Nice Guy Jeff Contompasis, who built a spreadsheet -- and shared it with both me and his rival Losers -- in which you just type in your word, hit Enter, and see how many Scrabble points it adds up to. It took me just a couple of minutes to handle all 43 entries that appear in this week's results -- no fails except for one that accidentally dropped a letter and came in at 14. (And of course, this week's intentionally wrong second place.)

Because the entries are one-liners, I was able to shuffle all the entries into one big alphabetical anonymous list -- meaning that, yes, I picked a Karen Lambert entry five different times without knowing that all five were from the same person.

And, zzzzz, once again I was won over by the work of Chris Doyle, coiner of "dadolescent," the father who just wants to play with his kids. Chris extends his GOAT of the Invite status with his fourth Clowning Achievement trophy and his Some Unimaginable Numberth all-time win (the Loser Stats team is hard at work updating them as they take the reins from the retiring Elden Carnahan; after that, I'll have real numbers again).

Erika Reinfeld, whom I remember meeting at a Loser event 2002 or so when she was a college student still in the D.C. area, dropped by from New England to win the dog-butt coat hooks with her "QAnon: It IS 15 points -- you counted it wrong." And Invite regulars Jonathan Jensen and Jeff Shirley snarf up yet more Loser swag with, (dis) respectively, "vegenerates" -- what the MAGA crowd would call people who dare eat plant-based sausage at Cracker Barrel, and "subpeony," a flower that's currently in bloom in Florida and Georgia.

What pleased Ponch: As he does virtually every week, Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia chose his faves from the honorable mentions: Neil Kurland's pithily funny "Beetbarf: Borscht"; "Gundamental: Apparently, the only right the Supreme Court believes in protecting absolutely" (Dave Airozo) and Plodometer: My Fitbit, usually. (Karen Lambert)

Next Loser sighting: Kilroy's, Sunday, Sept. 18, at noon

Even though it no longer offers its brunch buffet, I plan to be at Kilroy's, the WWII-decorated pub in Springfield-ish where we've had many a Loser brunch. Not only is it always fun to meet new Losers and Invite just-fans and of course the brunchin' regulars, but my favorite Asian supermarket, Lotte, is in the same shopping center, so I'll have a chance to stop by. The food is Standard Pub, there are interesting pictures on the walls, and it's easy to get to and park; it's in the old Ravenswood shopping center just outside the Beltway at the Braddock Road exit. Please RSVP to our new brunch coordinator Kyle Hendrickson at; details on the Our Social Engorgements page of the Losers' website,


Week 1503

Style Conversational Week 1503: Dish up the songs!
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's food-themed parody contest and winning (and losing) cartoon captions

By Pat Myers

August 25, 2022 at 5:10 p.m. EDT

Above: Thirty-four Losers and auxiliaries of all ages, some from the early days of the Invitational, came out to BJ's Brewhouse in Laurel, Md., last Sunday to celebrate the retiring Keeper of the Invite Stats Elden Carnahan (who's almost invisible in a ball cap in the middle of the row). The next, surely smaller Loser brunch is at Kilroy's pub in Springfield, Va., just outside the Beltway, at noon on Sunday, Sept. 18. See the Losers' website for more info and to RSVP.

Sing is here, ah, sing is here! It's parody time once again with Style Invitational Week 1503. I lurve judging the Invite's song contests, which I've run about twice a year ever since I deposed the Czar almost 19 years ago (that's one of our few differences about the Invite: he has no interest at all in song parodies, even though he always loved doing light-verse contests). Our Loserbards have always produced the wittiest, funniest lyrics around that you can read as well as see performed -- an essential requirement for the Invite's print version, which runs on the back page of The Post's Arts & Style section each Sunday.

But in recent years, we've also been increasingly blessed with entertaining videos to share, everything from expressive singing into a phone in your bedroom to a whole performance with a band. The technology and skills to produce a watchable video are clearly being picked up by an ever-widening group of clever singer-songwriters, and I'm happy to pass them along.

But still, especially for the week's top winners, the lyrics are the thing, and the vast majority of Invite parody ink is with printed lyrics alone. What am I looking for? As I've done now in a series of Conversationals published the weeks of parody contests, I'm going to send you right over to an earlier column, one that in turn quotes even earlier one.

So here's Style Conversational Week 1440 (June 2021), which offers Pearls (or at least Mardi Gras Beads) of Wisdom about:

The importance of rhyme

Matching your lyrics to the original tune

How well known does the song have to be?

Can you have a double credit? (also see an extra note below)

How to include a clip of the original tune you're parodying

Can you ask me questions before the contest deadline?

Links to earlier results

Just remember! You'll be reading a column from last year -- don't use the dates mentioned in it!

A few notes that have occurred to me that might not be in the earlier columns:

-- Crediting helpers on videos. For videos, it's the writer of the lyrics who officially earns the ink, the prize (such as it is), and the point in the Loser Stats. But I'll also be happy to credit a guest singer, an accompanist, the person who came up with graphics or costumes for a video, etc. But if you want to share the loot, you'll have to cut up your Loser Mug or Grossery Bag or FirStink into pieces.

-- If you're making a video, leave promotional material off it. You can have a title or ending with your name, and credits to anyone who helped you, but not with your website, "I play bar mitzvahs," etc.

-- Don't publicize the video until I post the results on Thursday, Sept. 22. Until then, please set the visibility to "Unlisted" (click on Edit Video, then see the visibility setting at the top right). This lets people see it only if they have the link -- which you'll be sharing with me and, if you get "ink," I'll share with readers. After that, you can change it back to Public.

Meanwhile, here are some classics from parody contests that ran after that column did. The first two are set to the song that's become a running gag in our parody contests because it's used almost every time: "Be Our Guest" from "Beauty and the Beast," whose first verse is just long enough -- 32 bars, I think -- to feel like a self-contained song that a reader could sing along with, and that invites lots of clever interior rhyme.

From Week 1440 in summer 2021, for songs about things in the news (full results here):

IRS: it's a mess! Decades straight of "more with less"
Mean few audits and no plaudits ('cept from tax cheats, who say "Yes!")
Downsized staff, ancient tech make our oversight a wreck;
Might as well claim that deduction for your tummy liposuction!
uch abuse we can't catch--systems here aren't up to scratch--
So to fraud we have to meekly acquiesce;
Enforcement: have to fudge it, 'cause they've slashed our budget; Reassess! No BS: IRS! (Duncan Stevens)

Here's a basic but adorable video by Sarah Walsh about the deluge of 17-year cicadas, with the patient assistance of a stuffed dog.

Last year we also had a contest to write a song "by" some particular person. (Full results of Week 1459 here.)

Eve (To the "Addams Family" theme)
If Genesis you're readin',
You'll find me there in Eden.
A snack is what we're needin',
The Adam family!

I find it pretty neat here;
I must say, life is sweet here!
But still, we've gotta eat here --
Say, what's up in that tree?

Snake*. spake: "Partake!"

Well, hesitate? I might've*.
Until I got a sight of
And got to take a bite of
That apple from the tree!

How dumb I was to dare it;
My conscience couldn't bear it,
And so I had to share it!
(It brought us misery.)

'Cause just as God predicted,
The tree had been restricted;
So now we've been evicted,
The Adam family. (Beverley Sharp)

And here's a fabulous Loser collaboration: Jonathan Jensen's lyrics performed by pro cabaret duo (but also proud members of the Loser Community) Sandy and Richard Riccardi.

Yuk of the draw*: The cartoon captions of Week 1499

*Headline submitted by both Chris Doyle and Jesse Frankovich for an earlier contest

In addition to his honorable mention for his cartoon caption in our Week 1499 contest, I owe Loser Dan Helming a finder's fee for posting a link to the contest in the Facebook group New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Rejects (and Enthusiasts), as well as the group's admin Beth Lawler for letting us encroach on NYer fandom. Because a nice big stream of NYCCCRandEs decided to send some captions to the Invite, as well as join the Style Invitational Devotees and sign up for the Invite's weekly notification emails. Not surprising, really, since the New Yorker publishes a grand total of three captions a week -- first, second and third prizes. Today I ran 43.

And sure enough, New Yorker caption fans Robert Welch and Mel Simoneau got Invite ink the first time out. Perhaps our three other First Offenders this week -- Daniel Jarrell, Cheryl Gracey and Maier Schreiber -- are bicartoonal as well.

While the New Yorker contest gets a lot more entries than the Invite does -- more than 5,000 a week for a single cartoon, while I got 1,300 spread out over four pictures -- there's still often a lot of duplication of ideas, sometimes even virtually identical submissions. In my case, if I have several that are pretty much the same, and I can't determine that one of them is in some way better than the rest, I toss the lot of them. That's what happened with the "bear necessities" jokes (20 entries), for example. On the other hand, of 46 entries mentioning "woods" in the bear cartoon, I thought Mark Raffman phrased it best (though one could argue that the quote didn't sound angry as the man's face looked).

Speaking of facial expressions: I think that next time I'll ask Bob to make them a bit more ambiguous: The travel agent, supermarket clerk, office women, and couple at the restaurant were all clearly upset or worried, which meant that a cheery quote didn't quite fit.

It's only the second blot (well, second and third) of Invite Ink for Clowning Achievement winner Carol Lasky, whose first ink was in our March 2021 caption contest. Carol aced it with simple but surprising and funny wordplay in the pithiest of sentences -- as the waiter walked past (or away from) the diners carrying a huge covered dish, one of them says, "Well, he did ask if he could take our order." And nobody else did that joke.

Bob hardly ever comments on the entries for any particular contest, and I haven't heard from him today about this week's results. But he is on record as not enjoying the jokes that riff off details in the pictures that people see in the cartoon, rather than the general setup. But I always enjoy including a few such entries, usually near the bottom of the list. Today, I enjoyed the different interpretations of the nose-hanging mustache of the man in Picture 1, with the travel agent -- odor blocks, a mask substitute, Hitler. And Jon Gearhart went after the man's nose length (he'll have to book the seat in front of him), while Richard Franklin wondered how the travel agent's head was attached, given that her giant mouth went all the way to the back of it.

What Pleased Ponch: As usual these days, Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia chose his faves from the honorable mentions:

Supermarket clerk to bear: "It's in the back and on the right * but I thought you guys went in the woods *" (Mark Raffman)

Travel agent: "You've seen London? You've seen France? Then I'm afraid the 'Netherlands' are off-limits to you, sir." (Stephen Dudzik) Kid with older women at office computer: "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)

Couple at restaurant: Emma later told Date Lab she appreciated James's "well-groomed nostrils." (Steve Smith)

They all pleased me! So have fun with the songs -- and if you'd like to keep your versifying to five lines, remember that our "hi-"word limerick contest, Week 1502, is running through Monday night, Aug. 29.


Week 1502


Week 1501

Style Conversational Week 1501: We'll never forget you
A team of Losers takes the reins from Elden Carnahan as Keeper of the Stats
Image without a caption
By Pat Myers
August 11, 2022 at 5:14 p.m. EDT

Bob Staake's alternative sketch with his own "act of 'kindness'" for this week's Style Invitational: "When I'm in an elevator I thoughtfully press all the buttons to make sure that the door opens on every passenger's floor." This and many other Invite sketches and final cartoons can be purchased at

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Gift Article

Back in March, right around his 70th birthday, Elden Carnahan fell over.

Fortunately, he had decided that day not to go up on his roof and clear stuff off it. But the out-of-the-blue seizure convinced the essential Father of Loserdom -- the guy who, in 1993, opened a phone book and started calling the other people whose names also appeared in this new humor contest in The Washington Post -- that it was time to ask again, more forcefully now, for others to take over the tasks of maintaining the Loser Stats and a host of other roles that he'd assumed over the decades, after taking over the stats and website from Sandra Hull.

Elden's been through a lot these past months: a long process to find the problem; the discovery of a thing in his head; the decision about what to do with the thing; the radiation and the nausea and the other unfun. Throughout, the Eldster has kept his wry humor, reveling in the companionship of his wife, daughters and grandchildren; one of his daughters lives just across the street in Laurel, Md. "I'm finally down to my college weight," he reports. He even had a pedicure, if his Facebook post is for real.

But of course, something had to give, and that's been the never-ending weekly process of doing the stats. You might have noticed that the Losers' website at (named for the Losers' original and "official" name, the Not Ready for the Algonquin Round-table Society) is a number of weeks behind, and some of the various lists aren't up at all.

But we're on our way back! Elden, who's feeling better now that he's not radiating, is working with a large team of Losers who've all volunteered their time to maintain, re-create and refine the multitude of tasks that he'd been doing week after week decades, mostly on his own -- including some we were barely aware of until we started missing them.

An incomplete list:

-- To run a program to automatically search each week's results and tally up the ink for each Loser, then automatically update the stats tables for the current year's standings (which also includes all-time stats for those on that list) as well as on the temporarily suspended all-time lists, one sorted by wins, runners-up, honorable mentions, etc.; the other by how much ink per year. Plus a separate One-Hit Wonders list of thousands of Losers who've never gotten a second blot of ink.

-- To maintain and refine the Master Contest List, that indispensable collection of descriptions of each contest from Week 1 on -- complete with one or more links to the contest itself (in text files and PDFs of the print and Web pages), with its sub-lists in a host of categories (horse names, limericks, fictoids, neologisms, etc.). Currently it runs through Week 1492.

-- To update, every week, the All Invitational Text file, with all the text of all the Invites on one big, easy-to-search page -- a must-have for all regular players so they'll know what jokes and headlines not to repeat from earlier contests. Currently it's up to mid-June 2022.

-- To coordinate and list the monthly Loser brunches and other "Social Engorgements" such as the annual Flushies awards and winter party. That's current -- including our Aug. 21 brunch: see below!

-- Work out and post a Loser Anagram -- a.k.a. Granola Smear -- for each new Loser.

-- Maintain the website itself, the hosting, etc.

-- And maybe, if they can get to it eventually, one of Elden's newer projects, Permanent Inkstains: You click on your (or anyone's) name to see what sort of blot you got in any given week. (This is currently offline.)

Those answering the call in various ways, and meeting on Zoom, include, first Kyle Hendrickson, who's leading the group, scheduling the meetings, etc., as well as stepping up to schedule and coordinate social events (assisted by Kathleen Delano); Gary Crockett, who's reprogramming the stats; Jeff Contompasis, who's refining the Master Contest List; Todd DeLap, who's doing some other Important Computer Thing; and various other contributions from Duncan Stevens, Jonathan Hardis, Jon Gearhart, Chris Doyle and Jesse Frankovich. I answer questions, feed them PDFs of the pages, and try to stay out of the way.

I am literally getting teary here on my back deck as I write this, in appreciation of the blood, tears, toil and drool (see Duncan's inking entry today) so many of you have expended to keep the Loser culture thriving.

Elden was really hoping to join us at the Niagara Falls Loserfest a couple of weeks ago, but that just wasn't workable (though now that he's finished the radiation, he's way more comfortable). So instead, we're going to join him: Join us for brunch on Sunday, Aug. 21, at First Watch in Elden's home base of Laurel, Md., or, as he likes to call it, "nether Scaggsville," after the nearby village. First Watch, a chain that does only breakfast, brunch and lunch, doesn't take reservations, so they told us to arrive by 11:45 so we can officially get in line; we can't do that until most of the party is there. RSVP to brunch coordinator Kyle Hendrickson at ASAP if you'd like to come. The restaurant is in the Towne Center shopping center on Route 1 (Baltimore Avenue); Laurel is midway between D.C. and Baltimore, conveniently reached from both I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, or just up (or down) Route 1 from the D.C. or Baltimore Beltway if you enjoy stoplights.

Musements*: The what-ifs from Week 1497
*Headline by Duncan Stevens from the last time we did this contest, in Week 1304

I was a bit concerned that for the Week 1497 "what if" contest, I hadn't offered enough structure -- you could muse on any hypothetical, past or present or future, any subject, though it did seem to work well when we did the same one in the first time we tried it, in 2018. The lack of guidance might have resulted in the relatively few entries this week, about 900. But I got a kick out of a good 5 percent of them: We have some 45 inking entries this week, about 40 of them on the print page. (Actually, my initial "shortlist" was more like 8 percent. Really plenty to choose from.)

It's the 15th Invite win for Hall of Famer Jeff Contompasis, but it's his first since we started giving out the Clowning Achievement trophy in December 2020. Finally scoring the Clowner turns out to be slightly problematic for JefCon: "I'll have to hide it in the SI shrine in my Enchanted Grotto a.k.a. That Pile of Junk in the Basement," Jeff told me after I posted the Invite this morning. "My wife actually suffers from coulrophobia." Maybe we should also send Sarah Walsh's dog.

Speaking of Jeff vis-a-vis Sarah: Jeff, a chemical engineer "whose name rhymes with 'quantum gases,' " notes that there is something like what Sarah posited in one of her three inking entries: an anti-helium that makes your voice lower (if not exactly Barry White-romantic): It's sulfur hexafluoride. Like this! Oooh, baby, now that is mood music.

AKA the Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick. (Pat Myers/TWP)
What Pleased Ponch: Once again, the faves of Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia were all honorable mentions this week. (Though Ponch's predecessor Doug Norwood used to agree more with my top picks, it doesn't bother me at all that Ponch makes different choices: I like all the entries that run; if I didn't, I wouldn't run them.) Here are Ponch's picks in no particular order:

If Earth had two moons, men would have twice as many reasons to blame women for everything. (Sarah Walsh)

What if all the brokenhearted people living in the world agreed? They'd let it be. (Dave Airozo)

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) [It's the second blot of ink ever for Michie (short for Michelle); she got the first one just last week.]

What if kids came with an instruction manual? My luck, it would be from Ikea. (Aaron Olszewski)

Ran-dum acts of kindness: This week's contest, Week 1501

The creators of "WuMo," seen on The Post's comics pages, were in sync today with Week 1501 of The Style Invitational. (Andrews McMeel via The Post)
I'm not a regular habitue of Reddit; I have an account, but I'm full up with Facebook, what with my own page, the Style Invitational Devotees group, and the Style Invitational Ink of the Day dailyish graphic. And neither, I bet, was longtime Invite fan (and recent First Offender) Al Lubran, who sent me a recent listicle from an ad-riddled British aggregator site called The Poke. Which turned out to have lifted 18 examples from a Redditor's thread asking in deadpan slyness, "What act of kindness do you do for strangers?"

And of course, what it really is is a different format for peeves about stupid behavior. Your mission for Week 1501 will be to come up with fresh observational humor about the irritants in life, in the guise of cheery helpfulness. Feel free to write conversationally in whatever format seems most fun to read (as long as it's just a sentence or two, not a giant tome).

I'll cross my fingers that y'all -- or at least some of y'all -- will come through. You always do.

And then next week we're back with the most formatty format we do each year: the Limerixicon. Stay tuned. And I hope to see lots of you at brunch on the 21st.


Week 1500

Style Conversational Week 1500: Loserfestering in Niagara Falls
The Style Invitational Empress talks about this week's contest and results, and tells about last week's Loserfest trip.
By Pat Myers
August 4, 2022 at 4:49 p.m. EDT

L of a time: The Empress, tiaraless and, despite the expression, having a wonderful time amid a passel of Losers at one of several get-all-sprayed attractions on our trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, last week.

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Hi, everyone! It's taken at least six days to decompress and get back in gear from a five-day vacation last week -- one that I enjoyed every minute of. A dozen of us Invite-types, including me and the Royal Consort (celebrating our 40th anniversary), gathered in Niagara Falls, Ontario, for another Loserfest, organized once again with immense enthusiasm by Loser Kyle Hendrickson, dubbed Loserfest Pope years ago by who-knows-who. The RC and I rode up with local Losers Mike Creveling and Ann Martin; Kyle, Kathleen Delano and Sarah Worcester came in another car, and Jonathan Hardis in a third; Miriam Nadel flew in from another trip; Edward Gordon and his friend Doug came from Austin by way of Toronto. And Sharon Neeman -- visiting from Israel -- came over from a friend's in Buffalo to join us one morning on the New York side.

Kyle's optimistically planned "Fungenda" proved flexible and resilient when things ran late, a site was closed, etc., allowing us to sample all sorts of activities that the town offers. Of course there's the literally breathtaking experience of getting right up to the falls -- by boat and by observation decks in which you're issued essentially a floor-length plastic bag to encase yourself, somewhat futilely, against the spray. But we also took in an artsy light show in a power plant turned museum (celebrating the miracle of hydroelectric energy!), and Kyle even found a way for us to be shuttled up a hill one night to a nondescript administration building, where we were taken to a back deck and took turns flipping switches that lit up the Horseshoe Falls in our choice of colors.

"Loserfest Pope" Kyle Hendrickson and a Moosie Mountie. (Pat Myers/TWP)
Throughout, everyone stayed cheerful and even-tempered during the inevitable snags, making and solidifying friendships that are sure to continue. While the Invitational itself was tangential, at most, to the vacation, it once again reinforced the Invite as a three-decade-old social community. Kyle's taking suggestions for where the next Loserfest will be; I'm favoring one closer to home, where local Losers and Devotees have the option of making it a day trip on one day of the festivities (and not having to break the piggy bank). In the past we've gone to Baltimore and Frederick and Delaware and even downtown D.C.

Kyle also needs your suggestions on where to have our monthly Loser Brunches over the next year; he's taking over the duty of scheduling the rotation from Elden Carnahan. (See "Important note" below.)

In addition to scheduling approximately 943 activities for the four-day excursion, Loserfest Pope Kyle Hendrickson designed a commemorative T-shirt ("Barrelly Met My Expectations"). Here's it's modeled by the Empress (in black) and Losers Ann Martin, Kathleen Delano and Sarah Worcester. (Kyle Hendrickson)
Nice pair! The results of Week 1496
When I compile the list of items to liken, differ or otherwise link in The Style Invitational's more or less annual Same Difference contest -- the results of Week 1496 went up this morning -- I really do try for randomness: Sometimes I'll look around the room and write down some object I see, or something that catches my eye in that morning's paper on the kitchen table. And even when I scroll down the comment thread from my solicitation in the Style Invitational Devotees group, I'll choose among literally hundreds of Losers' suggestions without much pondering how much humor they'll generate -- and no thought of how one item will relate to another.

Because the Losers always find clever ways to relate these random items. Or at least enough of them.

There were plenty of good ideas among Week 1496*s roughly 1,050 entries (plus a hundred-odd headline ideas); my "shortlist" numbered 10 percent of the total. Some of those, though, were various versions of the same joke; either I didn't credit anyone personally, as in the puns on "high interest," or I chose one entry that hit me as a little better than the rest: pithier, using less explanation, more parallel, sometimes including a funnier word.

Example of the same good idea with one funnier word :

Didn't make it: Both a flushable wipe and six Supreme Court justices all want to get up in women's genitals.

Made it: A flushable wipe and six Supreme Court justices: They're both up in my business. (Deb Stewart, Damascus)

In many other cases, the joke was unique among the entries. That was the case with this week's Clowning Achievement by Kevin Dopart: The difference between a hypersonic missile and a banned book: "You can open-carry the missile in Texas." It's the fourth Clowner trophy for Kevin Dopart -- but it's his 36th contest win since Kevin started Inviting in 2005, immediately swamping the contest with ink and going on to be the highest-scoring Loser for seven years straight. In fact, with his four blots this week (or it might have been in the last few weeks), Kevin sails past the 1,700-ink mark to pass Tom Witte for second place in all-time ink. The longtime marathoner will have to sprint mightily, though, to catch up with GOAT Chris Doyle's 2,400-plus.

The rest of the Losers' Circle is composed of veteran Losers as well, from Hall of Famer Mark Raffman to relative newbies -- but both immediate stars -- Steve Smith (debuted in Week 1326) and Hannah Seidel (Week 1383).

I don't see the names of the authors of the entries until I choose them, so I was excited to see how many women got ink this week; the M/F imbalance in the Invite has always been a bit mysterious and frankly embarrassing. So I'll happily congratulate Hannah Seidel, Deb Stewart, First Offender Katherine Schaepman, Karen Lambert (four times over!), Beverley Sharp, Pam Shermeyer (x 3), Barbara Turner and First Offender Michie March on having scored about a third of the week's ink. Getting there!

Important note: I get all these stats from the Losers' website, The stats have been maintained since Week 1 by Elden Carnahan -- but because of health issues these past few months, Elden hasn't been able to devote his usual efforts to maintaining the Loser Stats, Master Contest List, the All Invitational Text file, brunch rotation, and many other things that we're only now noticing in their absence. And he's now in the process of handing over the reins to others in the Loser Community. This evening, Kyle Hendrickson will host a Zoom meeting with a number of people who've expressed willingness to take on a small part of what Elden has been doing virtually on his own. If you'd like to help maintain this indispensable resource -- especially if you have programming skills, but not necessarily -- let me know and I'll put you in touch with Kyle. My deepest thanks to all of you who've stepped forward (and those who will) -- and of course to Elden himself, the father of our feast.

Elden had wanted to join us in Niagara Falls last week but wisely decided to stay home (very wisely, it turned out, considering the nonstop activities) -- so we'll instead go to him: We're hoping to schedule a Loser brunch or other meal sometime in the next few weeks out in his home base of Laurel, Md. -- or, as he terms it, Nether Scaggsville. Stay tuned.

What Pleased Ponch: "Lots of gems this week!" reported Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia after reading the print Invite, which contains about 40 of the total of, I think, 48 inking entries. Ponch's faves all came from the Honorables:

A flushable wipe and six Supreme Court justices: They're both up in my business. (Deb Stewart)

Six Supreme Court justices vs. a worn-out toothbrush: Only the justices will control your cavities. (Kevin Dopart)

Cat hair and a romance novel: Lots of nasty stuff on the furniture. (Jesse Frankovich)

8 percent inflation and Old Bay: They've both been added lately to every item in the grocery store. (Ben Aronin)

A romance novel vs. cat hair: One involves mattresses and the other involves cat tresses. (Leif Picoult)

8 percent inflation can make your money worthless; a period-tracking app can keep your honey birthless. (Gary Crockett)

A worn-out toothbrush: The bristles overused. Cat hair: The Bissell's overused. (Chris Doyle)

8 percent inflation: What you've earned is worth less. A Style Invitational second prize: What you've earned is worthless. (Jesse Frankovich)

The square deal for Week 1500: This week's neologism contest
Yes, Week 1500 is yet another chance to coin new words, one that's pretty clear on what to do. We did the same contest for 14-point words in Week 1402; here are some of the results, for your guidance & inspiration & just plain entertainment. And you know, don't send in these same words below and tack an S on the end. Do note that definitions match the part of speech of the word: noun for noun, adjective for adjective, etc. Or how they avoid the problem by not using definition form. (See rant in Style Conversational Week 1495.)

4. SHAMNESIA: "Hush money? I don't remember anything about that. Maybe you should ask Michael Cohen. I hardly know the guy." (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

3. DUMBRAGE: Indignation based on ignorance. "How dare you say you'd like to emulate me, you filthy pervert!" (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

2. NAGIVATION: The art of backseat driving. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon: BUPHOON: An ill wind from Washington that blows nobody any good. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

NOSHTALGIA: Remember when we could gorge on nachos and beer and not gain a pound? (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

TYRANNODON: Creature we thought could not possibly exist today. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

ABSENTIFA: A group of dangerous anarchists that terrorizes people by not showing up. (Jonathan Jensen)

ATLASHRUGS: Gestures that show you don't care. "When asked about the death rate, the White House official gave an atlashrug." (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

THISTOPIA: 2020. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

BELLOWIER: What one candidate tries to be in a "debate." (J. Larry Schott, West Plains, Mo.)

BIFECAL: They used to be rose-colored, but lately I've been seeing the world through this kind of glasses. (Bill Dorner, Indianapolis)

BULLIGERENT: Not only spouting total BS, but doing it while someone else is trying to talk. "In tonight's debate, the president was .*.*." (Jonathan Jensen)

CARDAVER: The mannequin you put in your passenger seat when you're driving solo in the HOV-2 lane. (Wendy Shang, Falls Church, Va.)

CONDUMB: What you are when you insist on using Durex XXLs but they keep falling off. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

COVFEE: Miracle potion drunk by POTUS to cure himself. (Edward Gordon, Austin)

DORKLY: Extra-clumsily. "Coming in from the patio, Ernie walked through a glass dorkly." (Chris Doyle)

EGONOMICS: Maybe that was Trump's major in business school. (Chris Doyle)

FRETTORIC: Playing to the audience's fears -- or creating fears for them. " 'He will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream,' he began in a speech full of frettoric." (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

VOODOODOO: The Curse of 2020. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

NOTCAKES: The quintessential commercial failure: "The new sardine-flavored protein bars sold like notcakes." (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

MAILINGNANT: Current state of the Postal Service. (Edward Gordon)

QUITR: The kid who dropped out of the spelling bee. (Frank Mann)

RALPHIEST: "I shouldn't have eaten the jalapeno chili with the pork vindaloo. It was the ralphiest combo ever." (Roy Ashley, Washington)

FLOPTILLA: The Trumpers' boat parade that sank itself in its own wake. (Frank Mann)

SCOTUSBALL: Political sporting event in which the rules change depending upon who has the whistle. (Mike Greene, Richmond, Va)

WEDNOODLE: A honeymoon downer. (Chris Doyle)

WHATAGE: The lack of clarity produced by a dim bulb. "The journalists tried to parse the president's debate answer, but were overwhelmed by the whatage. (Danielle Nowlin, Fairfax Station, Va.)

MOJOE: It had better be working, is all I can say. (Jonathan Jensen)

LOLLAPALOSER: A wannabe comedian who thinks somebody will publish all 25 of his entries. (Chuck Helwig, Centreville, Va., who at least was 1 for 18 this week)


Week 1498

Style Conversational Week 1498: It's the Invitational multiverse!
The Empress dishes on this week's poetry contests, coming and going.
Image without a caption
By Pat Myers
July 21, 2022 at 5:11 p.m. EDT

Now we have something else to call an armadillo: a dasypodid. Sarah Walsh and Beverley Sharp did it in poems. (National Wildlife Federation)

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I have to put together next week's Invitational column before tomorrow morning (see my note at the bottom of this page), so I'll try to restrict the usual blatherama this week.

This week's new contest, Style Invitational Week 1498, was initially suggested by Sarah Walsh last month in a very different form. "Here's the idea," she pitched: "Provide a new definition for words with prefixes (whether or not the prefix acts as a prefix or is just part of the word), as in

"Retreat, v: To give your kid one more cookie so they stop whining already.

"Preface, n: What I have before putting on makeup.

"Debunk, v: Graduate the twins to their own rooms."

Believe it or not, I don't like to reject people's ideas. But I told her that it wouldn't work: "We've certainly done general contests to redefine existing words," I said. But "I worry, though, that limiting it to words with prefixes (or seeming prefixes) might end up with everyone sending the same ideas, going to the re- and con- and sub- sections of the dictionary and * then it's going to be obvious what the joke will be. Re-treat: give another treat, or give some more medicine. Debunk: remove from a bunk. Maybe if it came down to the funniest way to use it in a sentence *"

Sarah -- channeling the indefatigable Abigail Adams, whom she's portrayed many times as a historical interpreter -- didn't say the usual okay never mind. Three days later she wrote me again: "How about if we work the non-prefix joke into a poem?" And she enclosed the "debunk" verse that serves as this week's example, and proved thoroughly Staakeable as well. I further expanded the contest to include any word with a not-really-the-meaning, rather than restrict it to a list of prefixes. (Feel free, of course, to limit the contest yourself any way you like.) Also, your word doesn't have to be pronounced the same as the original -- as long as a decently smart reader will get the joke.

While we haven't run this particular contest before, our several contests to redefine existing words have produced some classic entries. In fact, a corrupted list of inking entries from Week 278 in 1995 is still circulating around the internet (before that, it traveled through that newfangled email thing), often credited to "this year's contest of the Washington Post Mensa Invitational" (typical post; see the second list). Here are the (actual) winners from that week (some of the Losers are still active in the Invite); go ahead and parlay any of these idea into a poem if you also include your own flair and preferably another clever element.

Seventh Runner-Up: Carcinoma: n., a valley in California, notable for its heavy smog. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg) [Seventh runner-up! The Czar pretty much had an unlimited prize budget. The Empress, well, does not.]

Sixth Runner-Up: Asunder: adj., supine. (Jo Lombard, McLean)

Fifth Runner-Up: Esplanade: v., to attempt an explanation while drunk. (Kevin Mellema, Falls Church)

Fourth Runner-Up: Willy-nilly: adj., impotent. (Beth Benson, Lanham)

Third Runner-Up: Flabbergasted: adj., appalled over how much weight you have gained. (Michelle Feeley, Arlington)

Second Runner-Up: Negligent: adj., describes a condition in which you absent-mindedly answer the door in your nightie. (Sandra Hull, Arlington)

First Runner-Up: Excruciate: n., the ligament that attaches your ex-wife to your paycheck. (Kevin Cuddihy, Fairfax)

And the winner of the bag of 49 whoopee cushions: Canticle -- n., a modular office space so small and lightless that it saps an employee of all motivation. (Jacob Weinstein, Los Angeles)

Honorable Mentions:

Perplexed -- adj., lost in a movie theater. (Michelle Feeley, Arlington)

Population -- n., that nice sensation you get when drinking soda. (Lee Mayer and Paul Laporte, Washington)

Racket -- n., a small pair of breasts. (Jerry Pannullo, Kensington)

Lymph -- v., to walk with a lisp. (Paul Kocak, Syracuse)

Cafeteria -- n., A women's coffeehouse, where the clients drink coffee and cry. (Michael A. Genz, La Plata)

Morass -- n., the mess you make when you can never have enough. (Kevin Mellema, Falls Church)

Gargoyle -- n., an olive-flavored mouthwash. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Bustard -- n., A very rude Metrobus driver. (Christopher Hapner, Savannah)

Debentures -- n., false teeth bought on credit. (John Allen, Charlottesville)

Nincompoop -- n., the military command responsible for battlefield sanitation. (Bill Strider, Gaithersburg)

Ineffable -- adj., describes someone you absolutely cannot swear in front of, such as the Queen Mum, or Martha Stewart. (Jessica Henig, Northampton, Mass.)

Pontificate -- n., a document given to each graduating pope. (Brian C. Broadus, Charlottesville)

Seersucker -- n., an avid follower of Sydney Omarr, Serena Sabak, etc. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

Coffee -- n., a person who is coughed upon. (David Hoffman, San Diego)

Pimple -- n., a panderer's apprentice. (Meg Sullivan, Potomac)

Discussion -- n., a Frisbee-related head injury. (Sandra Hull, Arlington)

Flatulence -- n., the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller. (Russ Beland, Springfield)

Hysteria -- n., the anguish caused by listening to low fidelity audio systems. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Peons -- n., service personnel who must endure the rabid tirades of angry customers. (Kevin Mellema, Silver Spring)

Internet -- n., the web of interns in which Ken Starr has tried to snare Bill Clinton. (Phil Frankenfeld, Washington)

Balderdash -- n., a rapidly receding hairline. (Paul Kocak, Syracuse)

Polarize -- n., a very cold look. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Brisket -- n., a straw container for a mohel's instruments. (T.J. Murphy, Arlington)

Bluestockings -- n., a woman's term for unfulfilled sexual arousal. (Kevin Mellema, Silver Spring)

Mausoleum -- n., floor covering used in crypts. Attractive from the top and bottom. (Barbara Harrison, Hagerstown)

Cursive -- adj., sort of cursing, i.e., "Oh, fiddlesticks," or "H-E-double toothpicks." (Kevin Mellema, Falls Church)

Ozone -- n., area in which the G-spot is located. (Irwin L. Singer, Washington)

Semantics -- n., pranks conducted by young men studying for the priesthood, including such things as gluing the pages of the priest's prayer book together just before vespers. (T.J. Murphy, Arlington)

Rectitude -- n., the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you. (Kyle Bonney, Fairfax)

Asterisk -- v., to inquire about the danger of a certain situation. (Jo Lombard, McLean)

Buttress -- n., a long strand of derriere hair. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington; Stephen Dudzik, Silver Spring)

Lobster -- n., a slick-talking, oily, obnoxious person who represents special interest groups on Capitol Hill. (Elizabeth Monte, Fairfax)

Foundling -- n., an apprehended child molester. (E.J. Lloyd, Fairfax Station)

Amenorrhea -- n., excessive exaltations of the audience of some sleazy TV preacher. (Paul Styrene, Olney)

Shadow -- n., a fish whose husband has died. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Macadam -- n., the first man on Earth, according to the Celtic bible. (Barry Blyveis, Columbia)

Marionettes -- n., residents of Washington who have been jerked around by the mayor. (Gary L. Kunz, Gaithersburg)

Abdicate -- v., to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Oyster -- n., a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions. (Meg Sullivan, Potomac)

Circumvent -- n., the opening in the front of boxer shorts. (Greg Arnold, Herndon)

Filibuster -- v., to issue a command to a service station attendant. (Jo Lombard, McLean)

Flattery -- n., a place that manufactures A and B cup brassieres only. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Testicle -- n., a humorous question on an exam. (Paul Kocak, Syracuse)

Searching through Elden Carnahan's indispensable Master Contest List, I'm seeing four other times we did this contest, from 2004 though 2016 (the last three using particular sections of the alphabet). Here's a selection, plus links to plain-text versions of the whole set of results; sometimes you'll have to scroll down past that week's new contest.

Week 564, 2004

Apiary: An apartment shared by three bachelors. (Jon Reiser, Hilton, N.Y.)

Juggernaut: A flat-chested woman. (Maja Keech, New Carrollton)

And the Winner of the Inker: Gypsum: The primary ingredient in car undercoating. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge) [We wouldn't run this joke today, because of the racial slur "gyp," a reference to Gypsies, now called the Roma people of Europe; it really is analogous to using the verb "jew" to mean to cheat someone out of money.]

Abed: Defeated in a debate. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village) [Pronounce it as a one-syllable word.]

Asinine: An almost perfect derriere. (Robin D. Grove, Chevy Chase)

Bedpan: To have an affair with a man who never grew up. (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

Crocodiles: Calls from telemarketers. (Andrea Kelly, Brookeville)

Downplay: To pillow-fight. (Kyle Hendrickson, Dunkirk)

Flatulent: A rental property. (Tom Witte)

Gauche: What librarians do. (Sara St. Thomas, Winchester, Va.)

Rubberneckers: A couple practicing very safe sex. (Ross Elliffe, Picton, New Zealand)

Empress: Use a phony title to increase one's self-esteem. (Stephen Litterst, Ithaca, N.Y.)

Week 749, 2008

Cremate: Coffee-Mate's unsuccessful initial brand name. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

And the Winner of the Inker Arms Akimbo: The notorious Nigerian gunrunner. (Peter Metrinko, Chantilly)

Abjectness: The degree to which your belly protrudes. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Adverb: Buy! (Duncan Seed, Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire, England)

Arsenal: Completely, all-inclusive. (Bird Waring, New York)

Bandage: Instruments, amps, mics, cocaine, etc. (Tom Witte)

Biceps: Half of a forceps. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

Bristling: A newly circumcised baby. (Phyllis Reinhard, East Fallowfield, Pa.)

Cupola: Breast enhancement scams. (Paul Kocak, Syracuse, N.Y.)

Electrocute: Use a Hello Kitty taser. (Kevin Dopart)

Hispanic: What Lou Dobbs demonstrates every time he opens his mouth about immigration. (Christopher Lamora)

Hungarian: Someone who's always on a diet. (Marty McCullen, Gettysburg, Pa.)

Week 925, 2011

The winner of the Inker: Knothole: Someone who isn't a jerk. (Jamie Pazur, St. Simons Island, Ga., a First Offender)

Linguine: A person who insists on correcting someone's grammar or pronunciation when others are present. (Theresa Kowal, Silver Spring, Md.)

Ignorant (n.): A typical blog post. (Kevin Dopart, Washington; Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Megawatt: A state of total bewilderment or disbelief. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Lassitude: "Timmy can get himself out of the #*@!@ well. I have better things to do." (Steve Langer, Chevy Chase; Laurie Brink, Cleveland, Mo.)

Incantation: Singing on the toilet. (Ann Martin, Bracknell, England)

Increase: Where the thong went. (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)

Indigo: Harrison Ford's epitaph. (Doug Frank, Crosby, Tex.)

Open-pit: Describing a sleeveless dress. (Dixon Wragg, Santa Rosa, Calif.)

Installer: A quickie in the restroom. (Craig Dykstra)

Monsoon: Jamaican farewell. (Chris Doyle)

Orthodox: Dentists. (Matt Monitto, Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

Lasso: The Marx sister. (Judy Blanchard)

Midwife: Bride bridging Marriages No. 1 and No. 3. (David Klann, Washington)

Nutmeg: A million Losers. (Kathy Hardis Fraeman)

* and Week 1160, 2016

PITUITARY: So foul-tasting you have to spit it out. (Danielle Nowlin, Fairfax Station, Va.)

SCATTERBRAIN: A typical stage direction in a zombie movie. (Joanne Free, Clifton, Va.)

STUD POKER: Personal protective device to ward off conceited suitors. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

And the winner of the Inkin' Memorial: PERMUTATION: How Chernobyl Fried Chicken offers refunds. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

POTHOLE: An obnoxious stoner. (Andrea Dewhurst, Lynn, Mass.)

QUIBBLE: Pet food for finicky eaters. (Frank Osen)

TYPEFACE: The result of falling asleep at your keyboard. (Ben Aronin, Washington)

YO-YO: Greeting between friends. (Jennifer Dickey, Silver Spring, Md.)

The bards and the bee*: The results of Week 1494
*Headline by Tom Witte for the first time we did this contest, Week 716 -- hard to top that one!

Okay, maybe they're not as coffee-spittingly hawhaw as some weeks' Invite humor, but in the results of Week 1494, once again our Loserbards were pretty dang funny writing poems containing words that most of us had never heard of, and in some cases couldn't even pronounce. Twenty-five of them get ink online this week, and about 20 on the print page -- quite the florilegium. And I had at least another dozen on my shortlist.

Another option this week, for the less bardular, was to use the word (all had to be taken from Round 4 or later of this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee) in a Q&A-type joke. There were a few good ones, but they all ended up trumped by the poems, often with the same joke idea. So I didn't run any, though I have in previous years.

I didn't do a scientific tally, but I think a sizable majority of the poems were from a list of 20 words I'd provided with the Week 1494 Invitational. However, many intrepid Losers looked at the various pages (one per round, 18 rounds and a lightning round) at, discovering gems like "cacoepy," meaning the mispronunciation of a word -- how timely is that! (Kudos to both Frank Osen and Duncan Stevens for their excellent takes.)

I always look forward to seeing new names among the inking Losers, but I wasn't surprised that this week's results consisted of a Loserbard A-team. Chris Doyle, who should grow a GOATee, walks off with -- I swear I am not making this up -- his sixty-second first-place win, with his "chimichurri" ode featuring mass puking at a rest stop:

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.

Kevin Dopart and Melissa Balmain are also fixtures in the Losers' Circle -- Melissa in particular for poetry -- but we hadn't heard much from Stephen Gold in a while. I'm glad to see that the former Glaswegian -- whom some of us got to meet when he and his wife visited the States some years ago and proved to be total experts on "The Wire" -- couldn't resist writing a rhyme about the Scottish oatmeal dish called brose, in this case well flavored with malt whisky by "a cereal offender."

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia chose his faves this week from the honorable mentions: He singled out Frank Mann's "torrefaction" parody, Kevin Dopart's "Fraternity Brose" and both Frank Osen's and Duncan Stevens's "cacoepy." That makes me feel relieved that I didn't need to telegraph Frank Mann's joke with a YouTube link, letting the reader figure out during the poem that it was a song parody -- which becomes obvious when it reaches "I can't get no torrefaction." And I'm not surprised that a copy editor -- whose job it is to notice and fix mistakes -- would get a kick out of the two takes on "cacoepy," the mispronunciation of a word. Frank Osen highlighted GOPers' deliberate "kaMALa," as if they're proud they can't pronounce the vice president's name correctly, and especially Duncan Stevens's digest of a slew of commonly butchered words.

See you in two weeks! But I'll be in touch next Thursday.
Next week, for the first time in almost three years, the Royal Consort and I are going on vacation for a few days -- we'll be joining about a dozen Style Invitational types on a five-day Loserfest trip to Niagara Falls, Canada side -- and so I won't be doing a Conversational next week. But there will, of course, be an Invitational -- we haven't not had a column since, hmm, it looks like Jan. 23, 2000. Next week's Invite, Week 1499, will be a Bob Staake cartoon contest, and the results will comprise an assortment of robbed-of-ink entries from several recent contests (maybe even this one). I do plan to send out the Substack email newsletter with a link to the new column -- what, you haven't signed up??? -- sometime next Thursday, July 28.


Week 1497

Style Conversational Week 1497: Pun intended, but . . .
Can you figure out what these 'feghoot' punchlines were trying to say?
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By Pat Myers
July 14, 2022 at 4:35 p.m. EDT

The Empire carpet phone number, sung in an earworm of a jingle for many years, inspired Gary Crockett's feghoot about bowling scores, a DeLorean and a baseball game, culminating in "800, five 88s, two 300s, Umpire!"

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I realized while judging (and judging and judging) 1,000 or so "feghoot" story-puns in Style Invitational Week 1493, whose results run today, that I should have trotted out my regular advice to entrants in our song parody or "joint legislation" contests: Have someone else -- preferably someone you're sure will love you no matter what -- read your entry out loud, with no cues from you, and see if the person can figure out what you're getting at, what's so clear in your own personal head.

Because a bunch of them sure weren't obvious in mine.

Obviously, I figured out the punchlines in today's 25 inking stories (about 20 fit on the print page in Sunday's Arts & Style Section) and got a kick out of all of them. But just in case you didn't know the reference -- as in the ubiquitous carpet commercial for Empire carpet that Gary Crockett used so creatively -- I embedded explanatory links into most of the punchlines. (Don't complain to me that your intelligence is insulted.)

In fact, my first-pass shortlist numbers close to 100 inkworthy feghoots, most to be robbed of ink. (I'll have room for a few more in two weeks, when I'll run some extras from several recent contests.) But on the way to finding these gems, a pretty constant refrain was "Huh?" When I was stumped as to what expression the writer was punning on, I'd say the line out loud. Sometimes I'd get it and say "Oh, I see. No." Other times, the Royal Consort got it first.

Here are some of the entries that stumped me. YMMV, as they say; the puns might jump right out at you. If so, or if you just want to guess, leave a comment right here at the bottom of the column, rather than in the usual forum of the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. I'm reprinting the entries as they came in, with no editing except to fix spelling, typos, etc. I didn't check at all who wrote them, though if their authors want to reveal themselves in the comments thread, fine with me!

-- "Who's the stupidest person you know?" "Easy! Arsehead (them dumb)."

-- Eileen unwrapped the crackling plastic, clattering the lozenge into her mouth, and was promptly wracked by raucous, raspy hacking and rowdy, gravelly croaks. As these subsided to harsh, screechy wheezing, she gurgled, "Wow, what great cacophony drops!"

-- An apocryphal book of the Bible recounts the time Satan attempted to destroy the world's original woman so that the human race would be unable to multiply. He sent to Eden one of his demonic minions: a cannibalistic, wizened old troll. And Satan did whisper into his servant's ear: "Eat Eve, oh gnome."

-- An elderly Oklahoman gentleman decided to sell erectile enhancement pills from his home. He used outside speakers to advertise it loud and clear to the neighborhood. A local paper picked up the story and called it: The audio Viagra feed of an Okie.

-- A young woman from Bulgaria came to the U.S. to work caring for a family's young children in their home. Her real ambition was to use the family computers for a variety of online scams. The family was unaware of her activities, but the police found out and went to arrest her. She put up a fight and had to be subdued with a taser. A journalist on the scene caught it all on his phone, but to his dismay the officer in charge confiscated the device. The journalist objected loudly that this was an outrageous violation of the First Amendment. The policeman responded that this was just stun dart au pair raiding press seizure.

-- A woman accidentally used Pledge on the wooden floor at her husband's parents' house. It was an honest mistake, but she felt like she had to make it up to them since they'd slipped and fallen. When the husband's parents arrived to spend the day telling her, in excruciating depth, all about their trip to the ER, the husband called out, "Oh, Mama! I'm in here. Bore my wife, plumb the wrong harm of in-laws."

-- At his latest rally, Trump had to keep pushing his loose dental plate back in. But this was no surprise to either his base or detractors as any First Amendment restrictions would have applied to Trump only if he had been a private citizen. The former president's mouth has always threatened public safety as a "glarin' press-in denture."

-- After Cecil Rhodes, the founder of De Beers, became wealthy, he always had a haberdasher's carriage accompany him to social functions for any last-minute changes he might need to avoid a fashion faux pas. This was a point of fascination around town. When asked by a passerby about a large pile of neckwear in his carriage, the haberdasher said, "A tie mound is for error."

-- A wool producer noticed cracks around his animals' mouths most likely caused by the local weather to which they were unaccustomed. After several attempts, he created a balm containing petroleum jelly. When he tried marketing the treatment, investors stayed away because no one wanted to be responsible for producing a clear shine of the alpaca lips.

-- A family of British giants loved nothing more than to feast on Jordanian royalty. But the kids always squabbled over who got to eat whom. One day Tommy came to his parents complaining about his sister: "Jill et the best Amman king yet!"

-- Donald Trump wouldn't eat Justice Alito's pancakes, complaining fluffy flapjack batter might upset his digestion at that afternoon's golf tournament. He relented after Alito promised he'd be fine. Later, though, Trump's golf pants told another story. Newspapers headlined: "Batter Too Light! Alito Scandal -- Don Tuchus Too Dark!"

-- Doug tried a variety of healthy cooking. One day he said he hated quinoa so much. It was just a big nothing in taste and texture, he said, and if he could go back in time, he'd buttonhole any ark-builders and say "Quinoa, How long are you gonna keep working on that groat? You're crazy, Noah, it's never gonna be a grain."

-- Doug went through a Walter Raleigh phase, hair and goatee. He longed for a Three-Musketeers outfit to complete it, but with diabetes and heartbreak going on, he said he'd just settle for just one Musketeer and a promise of a Babe Ruth.

-- Noel and his son crossed the pond for a visit to the Big Easy. After days of jazz clubs, etouffee and jambalaya, Noel started limping. His son asked: "Pater, do your feet hurt from keeping the beat at the clubs?" Noel replied: "No. Bad dogs and crayfish mean gout in the body, son."

-- The first ambulance service was instituted in New York City in 1865. From the moment their horse-drawn carriages hit the streets, lawyer Vinnie "The Shark" Guiliani was there, "looking out for the poor victims." He brought so many frivolous lawsuits to trial that "ambulance chaser" became a household word. The next time you're quick to distrust a lawyer or about to tell a baseless joke about them, just remember: Attorney tags of "louse" and "vile" began with a single schlub.

-- Returning to my rented cabin, I found that the door had been kicked in and the storage chest with my food had been ransacked, but everything else was undisturbed. I asked the park ranger if this was unusual and he said, "Nope. Bears know hutch Pringles've real crunch."

-- I took my munchkin cat on a road trip to southern Mexico. He ran away but, fortunately, a flock of birds brought him back. He's so freaked out though that he's spending the rest of the day in the back seat trying to cuddle with the food: Toucans' fetched dwarf lies with a kneaded Yukon within a car.

Then there are the ones that I managed to figure out, or the Royal Consort did, but really, noooo.

-- "Ma'am, uh, Thor's speedo is FULL. Need a spread." Compare with Gary Crockett's inking entry ending "Damn the four Speedos! (full screed ahead)." NOW it seems clearer, right? Because you already know what it's supposed to be.

-- "Taekwondo-in' pastor Owen: date ye eight bottles of beer, and thaw all!" (TAKE ONE DOWN AND PASS IT AROUND, 88 bottles of beer on the wall!!! Nononono.)

-- Marilyn Monroe and Alfred Hitchcock [zub zub zub] "Die, Monza-Ray! Gulls, bash Fran!" (Diamonds are a girl's best friend. This is not a girl's best feghoot.)

-- Billy Joel loved fish and chips -- particularly the Treacher's fast-food variety -- and never more than when he had lit up a spliff. He bought himself a franchise, which his friends called his "weed-interest Arthur fryer." (The Billy Joel reference helped toward "We didn't start the fire," but it still doesn't work; "interest" has too many sounds that aren't in the original.)

-- In Athens, birthing professionals celebrate Midsummer's Night by entertaining the children they've delivered over the years with silly mechanical, chimeric animal toys. The children laugh at what fools these medics be, but sometimes they are disappointed when a toy contraption fails. This year for example, "duck-horse of doula never did fun moves." (I guess this has to be a play on "the course of true love never did run smooth." It provoked from me a midsummer night's scream.)

-- Having given chef the night off, Evelyn Waugh decided to make Christmas dinner himself. Waugh was a bit prickly, and got infuriated by little things -- like recalcitrant salsa or dribbling Worcestershire. And so, as the carol tells us, "Cooking when the sauce oozed out often cheesed off Evelyn." (I credit the Royal Consort for discerning "Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen.")

-- One of Santa's helpers needed a ride, so he called for an Uber. It was driven by a very contrary woman, and Mike Tyson was in the passenger seat. Suddenly Tyson reenacted a scene from one of his famous fights, leaving the poor little passenger with a pained expression. It was the story of "Half-ears Elf, a Mary-limo grimace." ("Half-ears Elf" works, but you don't have to be the Grinch to insist that "limo grimace" is not "little Christmas.")

One Loser helpfully explained that "Yo, Stan, we have a prop plane" was punning on "Houston, we have a problem." At least the person realized that nobody could be expected to get that otherwise.

I'm charitably saying that some people must have come up independently with "This is the awning of the cage of asparagus" (which I've seen a million times online) or even "only Hugh can prevent florist friars" or "the beer that made Mel Famey walk us," which I heard as a child in the late Triassic period. (Anyway, jokes that rely on contrived names like "Mel Famey" tend to telegraph the punchline and just not be that clever. I got one entry about a man named "Depottle Black.")

If one of today's inking entries is an old joke, oh, well. But please, people, one more time: Don't send me the best joke you ever heard. Send me the best joke you ever came up with on your own. Really, do you want to look like a thief in The Washington Post with your name right there?

While the pun didn't have to sound exactly like the original, it had to be pretty close. "A turd in a can is worth more than George Bush" is not a pun. Or "Crime's tried when you have no funds." Or "Tantalizing Jane" for "little Liza Jane." Or -- aaack -- "when Damon hits Yuri" for "when the moon hits your eye." That's a-misery.

So you can appreciate even more the cleverness of today's inking Losers. It's the fourth Clowning Achievement for Mark Raffman -- he gets a little "IV" flag to attach to the base of his Disembodied Clown head trophy -- and his, erp, 28th first-place finish all-time. And yet another stellar week for Rookie Phenom Karen Lambert, who wins the probably terrible party game What's That Smell? for second place. All three runners-up this week are women; along with Karen, we have recent-years regular Hannah Seidel and just-her-third-blot Fran Ludman. Given the Invite's disturbing wild imbalance over the years toward male-won ink, I'm delighted to see a string of feminine names in the Losers' Circle. (I don't see the writers' names until after I make my picks.)

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia, who thought he knew from puns because "I'm a dad," found himself in a whole new realm this week. "Some of the devotees must smoke a lot of weed," Ponch posited. He enjoyed the tour, though, and singled out these as favorites: Duncan Stevens's "Luke before Yul? Eep!"; Chuck Smith's "Clothes, but no cigar," a phrase we've run before but not in the Clinton intern context; Coleman Glenn's warning about speaking cruelly to your potato plants because you can "kill tubers with one's tone"; and Kevin Dopart on the happy worldwide refusal to accept a Beatles/MAGA tour, "Isn't it good no region would?"

Just imagine: The Week 1497 'what if' contest
The main challenge for this week's "what if" contest might be in its almost endless scope: if something in history had gone another way; if some sort of thing existed that hasn't yet been created; if people did something they didn't really do. But we've had lots of success with earlier contests, all the way back to Week 140 in 1995:

Sample ink from Week 140:

What if, instead of air bags, they put sharp metal spikes on the steering column? Seat belt use would go way up. (Art Grinath)

What if instead of the speed of light, the "c" in Einstein's equation had been equal to the maximum safe speed of a Ford Pinto? Then, by traveling at a mere 70 mph, we could go back in time to prevent past mistakes. Such as the Ford Pinto. (John Kammer)

What if "what could have been" were not the saddest words? Then the words "the Jerry Lewis Telethon is on again" would have to move up. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

If the glove had fitted / They still wouldn'ta convitted. (Russell Beland)

You can see the rest of that week's (pre-internet) inking entries in a plain-text version here; scroll down past the new contest.

And a contest for alternative history, from 1998 (complete results here in another text file);

What if Germany had not attacked Russia during World War II? The expression would be "As American as apple strudel." (Chuck Smith)

What if Johnny Appleseed had planted marijuana instead of apples? Our national pastime would be Hacky Sack. (Steve Fahey)

What if Adam and Eve don't eat the apple? ["History" was interpreted broadly by the Czar.] Worms eat the apple, obtain Knowledge, and rule the planet. The Macarena and the high-five are never invented. (Ned Bent)

What if television had been invented in 1832 instead of 1932? "Our American Cousin" is broadcast live. In front of cameras, John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln in the ear, and jumps to the stage shouting, "Sic semper tyrannis!" The crowd responds by leaping to its feet and stadium-clapping while yelling "Woof! Woof! Woof!" Later, Jerry Springer's great-great-grandpa interviews Booth and asks him about his feelings. He tries to arrange an on-air reconciliation between Booth and Mrs. Lincoln. Booth becomes an instant celeb. After a jury acquits him, he gets a running part in Springer's show, sneaking up behind people and shooting them in the ear. (Andrew B. Gibson)

And, in the modern era, from 2018 (full results of Week 1304 here):

What if night suddenly became day, and day became night? I'm sorry, what were you saying? I was checking my phone. (Ivars Kuskevics)

What if anagrams always came true? Robert Mueller could TRAP A FOUL MAN just by using PAUL MANAFORT. (Jon Gearhart)

What if instead of the Stanley Cup it was a Stanley Jockstrap? It would be easier to hold above your head, but players probably wouldn't drink out of it so much. (Jeff Shirley)


Week 1496

Style Conversational Week 1496: The LOL opposition
The Empress of The Style Conversational on this week's conservative-humor results and new compare/contrast contest
By Pat Myers
July 7, 2022 at 5:59 p.m. EDT

Bob Staake's alternative sketch, for the other example atop Week 1496, likening the Mohammed bin Salman-funded LIV golf tour with flushable baby wipes. (We went with the sleepy office worker.) Much of Bob's Invite work is available at

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"I don't know about this one," several Losers told me after seeing Style Invitational Week 1492, a contest seeking conservative-leaning humor. After all, since January 2021 the Empress had received almost no entries that dared tease the current administration for actions (or inactions) that, had a Republican been in office, would have had the Loserly darts flying nonstop.

Some every-week Losers wrote to tell me they were going to skip the contest; others were thinking the same way, then decided to try anyway. And there were indeed far fewer entries than usual for Week 1492, about 750 from only 115 entrants (more typical numbers would be 1,200/175, though they vary greatly). But at least most of the regulars gave it a shot. (Oops, I mean "a go.") "This is one of the most difficult of any of the contests I've tried," said one Loser in a note at the bottom of the entry form. Another said: "I have been THE most Liberal person I know for decades. This was hard! But gosh, awful fun."

I'd specifically noted in the contest instructions that I wasn't looking for anything "bigoted or hateful," and I thought I'd made it clear that I wasn't looking for entries purportedly by a Trumpist election-denier type but obviously written to mock that person. The idea, for once, was to tease the libs.

My initial reply to the doubters was that I wasn't worried -- even if not enough results were usable, I could always fill the page with more song parodies from Week 1490. But this week's results of Week 1492 turned out just fine -- and if you're outraged at these 33 jokes, you shouldn't be reading humor pages.

Like the winning joke: "How do you spot a liberal wearing cowboy boots? He's holding a trick-or-treat bag." Not political, but funny and expertly worded. It's the second Clowning Achievement for Leif (rhymes with "waif" but he's perfectly hale) Picoult, and his 39th (plus his 40th) blot of ink since his debut with Week 1401. Leif couldn't resist sharing to me this week that he'd had that Unusual-Named Loser Moment of Fame: A staff member at his local library had noticed his name and recognized it from his Invitational credits. "I was wondering what you looked like," she told him. Maybe the librarian noted the name because of the mega-selling novelist Jodi Picoult (she's Leif's cousin, it turns out), but still! And Jodi doesn't have even one Loser magnet.

Second-place winner Ira Allen, who came of age in the student protest days of the late 1960s, had no problem joking about the current "person first" practice to avoid labeling people with adjectival nouns; they're "persons experiencing homelessness" -- a description of their current situation -- rather than "the homeless," a permanent-sounding identity. Ira described a bunch of losers as "persons temporarily experiencing defeat." His double reward: an electric pen in the shape of a young Donald Trump that might or might not talk, and an old paperback containing the speeches of Spiro Agnew.

Invite Hall of Famer Frank Osen scored yet another runner-up (he has dozens) with a joke that people on the far left side of the aisle might appreciate: 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. And Steve Honley grabs his 15th ink "above the fold" for another jab at divisions among Democrats: Q. What is the main problem with the Democrat Party? A. Its left hand doesn't know what its far-left hand is doing. ("Much as I loathe the GOP's refusal to say 'Democratic Party,'" noted Steve, a retired State Department diplomat, "I decided to go for authenticity here.")

While I had plenty of good entries to choose from, the ones I marked as possible examples of NO made a list half as long as my shortlist of RIGHT, in addition to ones like this that I got maybe a dozen times. Q: Why do Democrats make lousy bridge players? A: Because they only know how to bid No Trump. (Zzzz.)

The worst (I never check the writers' names when I cite these) were the mean-spirited, and lame -- let's make that 'weak' -- to boot: "If liberals want to get rid of cows, why don't they start with Nancy Pelosi?" Or "How many liberals can you fit in a dipsy dumpster? It depends on if you put them in whole or in pieces." Yecch. "What do you call two members of 'the Squad'? Half a brain." It's one thing to call Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene brainless for ranting on about "Jewish space lasers" and the "gazpacho police" and growing things in a "peach tree dish," and another to do the same to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, winner of a prize from the prestigious Intel Science and Engineering Fair for her microbiology research.

I'm going to charitably say that this entrant thought the idea was to try to imitate a horrible person in telling this thing: "You know how mean kids can be. Should we feel bad for Obama, since his initials are B.O? A. Nah, probably all the kids in Kenya smelled bad."

Others were just weak: "What do Democrats want to rename Washington, DC? Steinem, District of Sanders." Huh? "What's the difference between a liberal activist and a firefighter? A liberal activist speaks of national 'dumpster fire' issues and then adds fuel to the fire(s), whereas a firefighter extinguishes dumpster fires." "How can you tell if your neighbor leans severely to the Left? When driving, he/she only makes left turns, regardless of how many miles are added to the trip." "Knock, knock Who's there? Wayne. Wayne who? Wayne-ing popularity bodes ill for mid-terms." (True, I get weak entries every week, but we might have had a larger percentage this time. Or maybe I just bothered to collect more of them.)

No particular point characterizing something liberals do, just lazy name-calling: "Q: What do you get when you cross a liberal with an idiot? A: A smarter liberal." "What's the new name conservatives have bestowed on the Democrats? The Damnocrats,"

Others didn't understand the contest, and told jokes about conservatives: "How does a conservative tell time? He steps outside and checks his sundial." "What's the difference between Al Gore and Donald Trump? One wrote 'An Inconvenient Truth'; the other finds truth inconvenient."

Okay, enough of the chaff. Let's salute more wheat.

What Pleased Ponch: The faves this week of Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia:

How can you tell a liberal customer at Starbucks? They ask for a cappuccinx. (Jonathan Jensen)

Why do liberals love toothy British smiles? Nobody expects them to be straight and white. (Kevin Dopart)

Why were the liberal's shoes too tight? He was trying to reduce his carbon footprint. (Karen Lambert) "Bonus points for qualifying as a dad joke as well," notes Dad Ponch.

How do you know the California Forty-Niners were liberals? They used the proper pronouns referring to "gold in them/their hills." (Bill Cromwell)

What's the difference between conservatives and liberals? Conservatives want to eliminate taxes; liberals want to eliminate Texas. (Karen Lambert) [Karen, an Invite rookie phenom, had four blots of ink this week!]

What did the liberal restaurant owner do when his dishwasher was busted? Hired an immigration lawyer. (Bird Waring)

What do you call a liberal at a gun range? A reporter. (Chris Doyle)

Just not right -- an unprintable: I was actually going to run this joke as an "And Last" but was talked out of it by a wiser person who lives with me: Is The Style Invitational left-leaning? More like left-fluffing. (Tom Witte)

This headline "The LOL Opposition" atop this column was a non-inking (too long) entry by Kevin Dopart.

Laugh-long relationships: This week's contest, Week 1496
Not much more to say about this sure-fire perennial contest; even when I hear some Losers griping that they can't find much to work with in that year's list of random items, there are always plenty of inkworthiness at the end -- even by the the gripers.

If you're not familiar with our many, many compare-and-contrast contests, you'll get the best guidance 'n' inspiration by looking at some earlier results.

Here are links to a few recent ones, plus last year's top winners:

Results of Week 1442, 2021

12 gallons of hand sanitizer: Purell. An evening with Mitch McConnell: Pure 'ell. (The winning entry, credited to almost identical entries from Jesse Frankovich and Jeff Rackow)

A quarantine puppy and the world's largest pants: Both come out of a dog giving birth. (Daniel Galef)

An Olympic pole vaulter: Man with a 17-foot pole. An evening with Mitch McConnell: Man! Not with a 17-foot pole! (Jon Gearhart)

The difference between Simone Biles and the Texas power grid: You can count on only one of them to light up an arena. (Kevin Dopart)

Week 1390, 2020 (pandemic edition!)

An extra-long nasal swab is like John Bolton's ego: Each is definitely irritating, but we can tolerate it if it helps defeat a deadly menace. (Jonathan Jensen)

The difference between a Confederate statue and sourdough starter: Everyone will smile when you announce that the starter will rise again. (John Doherty)

How a Zoom wedding is like a seat at the Tulsa rally: In both cases, the best man is somewhere else. (Mark Raffman)

Trump's tie rack: Red neckwear. A skull-motif face mask: Redneck wear. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

Week 1348, 2019

A dot matrix printer: You get to watch it make a lot of noise and print. Fifty-yard-line Redskins tickets: You get to watch them make a lot of noise and punt. (Warren Tanabe)

Clown Shoe Friday: Flopsy. Boris Johnson's hair: Mopsy. Jockey shorts: Cotton tail. (Jesse Frankovich)

Charred mollusk on a stick and Sean Spicer doing the tango: Each could be described as a slug with a stick up its butt, but only the mollusk would be described as well done. (Mary McNamara)

A hard Brexit and Jockey shorts: Two things we hope we never see Boris Johnson pull off. (Jon Ketzner)

And we'll go out on the Boris Johnson joke -- as Boris Johnson the Joke goes out.


Week 1495

Style Conversational Week 1495: A few makeup tips
The Empress of The Style Invitational on writing neologisms, like the made-up words in this week's results
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By Pat Myers
June 30, 2022 at 5:27 p.m. EDT

Bob Staake's first sketch for Joanne Free's neologism "chompulsion," stemming from reading the phrase "urge to fight" differently from the Empress. Read more about this below.

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As I almost always do when judging a Style Invitational neologism contest -- I figure conservatively that I've judged close to 100,000 ideas for new words over my 19-year reign as Empress -- I found lots of funny, clever ideas to like among the 1,100 entries to Week 1491, a challenge to add a letter to an existing word and describe the new word. In fact, my "shortlist" of inkworthies included about 1 in 10 of the entries, and -- due to extra room on the print page -- more than half of those got ink in this week's results. (See, Losers, the odds are actually pretty good! Compare with The New Yorker's cartoon caption contest: typically 5,000-plus entries, three get ink. This week, the Invite has 63. New Yorker: You get one try per week. We give you 25.)

But I also got, as I always do, entries that didn't do the trick, even when they had a germ of a good idea, even a purulent rash of a good idea. Today I'll use some non-inking entries from Week 1491 to illustrate some problem areas (I never looked up who wrote them, so your secret is safe with not-even-me), for the add-a-letter contest in particular and neologisms in general. I've gone through this exercise in past columns, but the hits just keep on coming, so *

Does the definition match the part of speech of the neologism? What? Your neologism isn't even a real word -- how I can Smarty Pants Empress declare that it's an adjective when you, the creator, defined it as a noun? Because as English-readers we're attuned to the word endings and other cues that tell us -- and, mainly, because it's usually modifying a word we do know. Here's one entry:

"Racknowledge: Experienced breast man." Acknowledge: Verb. Breast man: Noun. No no no.

"Abombinable: A very bad bomb maker, such as one that blows himself up while making or testing the bomb." (More on this one later.) Yes, a noun may end in an adjectival ending, you deplorable. But not this noun.

Here's one in which the writer understood that their [I'm practicing using the singular "they"] neologism was a verb (since "adorn" is a verb), because they used it as a verb in their sentence. But still they defined it as a noun, a thing. "Badorn: A failure in home decor. 'When Stephanie badorned her bedroom, her sister made an emergency call to Martha Stewart.'" The fix here is easy: "Badorn: To fail at home decor." (If an entry is otherwise thrilling, I'm willing to fix this problem if it's easy to do.)

One way out of this problem: If you have a good word but your definition seems too obvious or clunky -- defining adjectives with "pertaining to," etc., can seem leaden -- you can fudge it by just going to the funny part. That's what Karen Lambert did with Carcophony: "Are we there yet?" "It's my turn to sit up front!" "Are we there yet?" "I need to use the bathroom! "She pushed me!" "Are we there yet?" "Did not, he pushed me first!" "Are we there yet?"

Is there anything funny about it? "Dockument: Boat slip receipt." Okay, that could be amusing if you turned in your boat slip receipt at the marina office and included a note saying, "Here's my DOCKument hahahah." Or not. Reading it out of context in the newspaper? Not.

It also doesn't help to have wordy, unconversational language in the description: "MamoMeba: Proliferating ABBA derivatives." "Abombinable: A very bad bomb maker, such as one that blows himself up while making or testing the bomb."

Does the definition relate at least a little to the original word? If it does, your joke is far more likely to be funny; if it doesn't, readers might be scratching their heads to get it. Look at this one, a change from "bovine": "Brovine: the frat boy gossip network. 'I heard through the brovine, McKenzie says you need to manscape, bro.' " A cow? On top of that, the writer abandons "bovine" after adding the letter, playing instead on "grapevine," sapping the humor from a promising idea.

Also: "Began > Beegan: Someone who eats only honey." "Carmen > Charmen: Barbeque guys, as in 'We made the salads and desserts, but the Charmen cooked the meat.'" Carmen?

Do you stomp on the joke by repeating the key word? "Abombinable: A very bad bomb maker." "Abysmale: Obnoxious male." Try for a graceful alternative, like Roger Dalrymple's "Abysmale: Your doofus brother-in-law."

But: Do you awkwardly avoid repeating the key word? "Camelra: A video recording device hidden under a desert pack animal's false hump." You might say "dromedary" instead of "desert pack animal." But it'd also have helped to come up with a funny scenario of why there was a camera hidden in a fake camel hump.

Does the definition have any relevance to our lives? "Barksheesh: A bribe paid to dog groomers in parts of Asia and North Africa." I particularly enjoy neologisms that we can use in the real world; I'm going to guess that this one wouldn't have a lot of use. (One notable exception this week: Jesse Frankovich's utterly zany "Chat on a Hot Tin Roof": "OMG, this tin roof is hot!" "LOL, I know, right?")

Has it already gotten ink in an earlier contest? Thanks to the Super-Fabulous Loser Elden Carnahan, you can instantly search for your word through every Invite since Week 1 by going to this text file. (Or click on "All Invitational Text" on the homepage of the Losers' website, Submitted in Week 1491 with definitions pretty much the same as -- or almost identical to -- the earlier Invite ink: "Compenisation: Buying a Porsche." 2003: "Compenisate: To buy a red Porsche for reasons you don't quite understand." (Stephen Dudzik) "Dyspeepsia: What you get from eating too many marshmallow chicks on Easter." "Dyspeepsia: The result of eating too much Easter candy." (Marian Phelps) "Defibrillatte: A coffee drink strong enough to revive the dead." "Defibrillatte: Really, really strong coffee. (John Griessmayer) That last definition was better than the original, but not different enough.

Is it too common in general? "Demockracy: If I lose, it's fraud." The word with the same general meaning generates tens of thousands of Google hits.

For this particular add-a-letter contest: Did you really substitute another letter? "Ambidsextrous: having equal dexterity from either side of the bed." "Ambisextrous" would have been a good neologism, but that D is extraneous; it's there just to meet the rules of the contest.

This one almost got big ink until I noticed that it was missing an M -- and was weakened when I added it: Coomentary: Play-by-play at the Puppy Bowl, featuring such analysis as "Awwwww" and "Oh, awwww." It would have had to be Coommentary, which isn't "coo."

Is your writing clear? As true for virtually everything that everyone writes, it's useful to have someone else read it to see if the reader understands what you're getting at (not to mention flag embarrassing typos). Case in point: The original definition for Joanne Free's neologism "chompulsion" was "the deep urge one has to fight while in the dentist's chair." I myself cop to having occasionally felt like biting the hand that drilled me, so I sent Joanne's entry to Bob Staake as possible cartoon fodder.

What hadn't occurred to me was that the entry's wording had a certain ambiguity -- enough for Bob to read "the deep urge one has to fight" as "a deep urge to fight," rather than "one has to fight the urge," leading to the sketch of the tooth-pulling at the top of this page. You can argue that "chompulsion" is obviously about chomping, but I'd just received proof that it can be misread. So I tweaked it to "The deep urge one has to fight while the dentist is jabbing you in the mouth." While "fight" might still be read about fighting the dentist rather than the urge, at least we're clearly talking about biting.

(As always, Bob offers both sketches and finished drawings for his Style Invitational work at; I saw that he recently sold off a big set of small drawings to a Staake fan who might not even have been an Invite fan.)

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia -- who'll be our usual copy editor for the Invite now that Doug Norwood has retired from The Post -- had a good time reading the entries this week, all of which appear both in print and online. His faves all came from the honorable mentions:

Abhortionist: One who uses personal biases to orchestrate a miscarriage of justice. (Byron Miller)

Children of the Corny: Kids who suffer through dad jokes. (Duncan Stevens)

Apooplectic: So angry that you lose your * temper. (Frank Mann)

Aromageddon: Cataclysmic event that occurs when you enter your teenager's room. (Duncan Stevens)

Bawdminton: The shuttlecock has a different function in this party version. (Diane Lucitt, Ellicott City)

Chat on a Hot Tin Roof: "OMG, this tin roof is hot!" "LOL, I know, right?" (Jesse Frankovich) [Yup, zany nonsense does work once in a while!]

Malice's Restaurant: They won't let you have a single thing you want. (Ann Martin)

Cheeriots: Favorite breakfast of the Oat Keepers. (Jonathan Jensen)

And the "And Last," so apropos to a discussion of writing short-form entries: Agonym: That short Style Invitational entry that's a sure winner if you can just get the wording right, though maybe, if you change the -- no, that'd be too abstruse, it needs to be more obvious, but -- hey, how about -- no, you already tried that, so * (Frank Mullen III, whose 49 blots of ink date back to 2002)

No addmission* -- A couple of unprintables: (*Kevin Dopart's non-inking honorable-mention subhead) Man, if you've read this far, surely you're not going to complain over these funny-but-no entries (I felt that Wendy Shang's "exaggerbate" for overstating your need for sex was as far as I could go in the Invite).

Erecticon: :---- Texting shorthand for "Thinking about you." (Frank Mullen III)

And even more noey: Ejaculatte: coffee with steamy milk. (Jeff Hazle) Oh, Jeff *

You'd think it was the Fourth of July or something *
Enjoy the week off! Skipping this week's contest is the only sane way I can get the July 28/31 Invitational done before the Royal Consort and I leave for Loserfest in Niagara Falls, Ontario, July 25-30.

That week's column will have the new contest of Week 1499, along with the compilation of extra ink from earlier contests, and I'll have them finished in advance before we leave on Monday morning, ready to go up on the morning of Thursday the 28th. The cycle continues, though: Though most of the Festering Losers, as Loserfest Pope Kyle Hendrickson refers to the tripsters, probably won't even mention the Invite for the duration, I'll be taking a set of entries to judge while I'm in riding the car or wherever (we're carpooling). And I'll make sure from Niagara that the Invite goes up on Thursday the 28th, share it on Facebook, send out the newsletter, etc. And the prizes from the week before, I'll catch up with them when I get back; you'll all chill, I know.

Go have a good weekend and celebrate whatever freedom you have left. Next week we'll see how that conservative-humor contest pans out. And don't forget that you still have till Tuesday, July 5, to send me poems using National Spelling Bee words!


Week 1494

Style Conversational Week 1494: Bee -- our jest
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's spelling-bee-poem contest and winning parodies
Image without a caption
By Pat Myers
June 23, 2022 at 5:13 p.m. EDT

Harini Logan is hereby personally invited to write a funny poem containing any of the words from this month's Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

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I linked to this clip in this week's Style Invitational, but just take 90 seconds to watch 14-year-old Harini Logan of San Antonio rattle off, with seemingly utter calmness, the spellings of 26 words -- some of which would take you a few seconds to read -- in the 90-second spell-off tiebreaker, the first (and surely a keeper) in this year's National Spelling Bee. She got four of them wrong (the judges went back and listened carefully, probably with the recording slowed down, to determine this) but it was more than enough to take home the trophy.

Harini can now retire from spelling thousands of words that get no Google hits other than dictionary definitions, and direct toward something relevant and consequential her extraordinary powers of absorbing and recalling material. But before relevance and consequence, there's The Style Invitational! And we'll give you two whole minutes per poem!

Once again, in Week 1494, we challenge you to write something funny and clever that includes a word from the year's Scripps National Spelling Bee. I've invited you to choose any word from Round 4 or higher at; click on a number at the top, and you'll see a list of the words from that round. Or you can use one of the 20 pretty much random words I listed and nutshell-defined at the bottom of the online Invite. And don't do what we in The Post's Style section did one fateful year in the 1980s or '90s: We inadvertently worked from a list of spellings the kids used -- and they were, of course, often wrong. On this year's webpages, you want the first spelling in each row; the second one is from the kid. (Also, another year, in one of my Most Embarrassingly Ironic Moments Ever, I personally misspelled the name of the winner in a headline.)

Note that I magnanimously extended the deadline a day to July 5, even though you don't have to get back to the office to fax your entry, the way the Losers used to. I am such a softy these days -- I'm almost down to corundum on the Mohs scale.

There are -- particularly in Round 9, a vocabulary round -- a few actually common words in the list. I'm not saying you can't use "rattan" or "bastille," but the spirit of the contest is for obscure words. So your common-word poem would have to be Especially Funny And Clever if it used an everyday word.

A cursory search through the Invite archives didn't yield to me any poems using this year's words (the bee does reuse them over the years), but for guidance, inspiration and, if not a belly laugh, then maybe a little gas bubble, here's some ink from yore:

Affliction by leeches -- hirudiniasis:
Bloody disgusting, however you spin it.
They trigger our deep-seated hygienic biases:
But worst is that one of them's born every minute.
(Mark Eckenwiler, 2007)

Strepitous (STREP-itous): noisy, boisterous: :
Here's why geezers aren't strepitous: :
They are, simply too decrepitous.
(the late Mae Scanlan, 2016)

Grognard, an old soldier:
I worked for seven years inside a home for Jewish vets,
Grognards who moaned and kvetched all day while venting their regrets.
None bought the farm while I was there, so I am proud to say
That /my /old soldiers never died; they just oy-veyed away.
(Chris Doyle, Week 1283, 2018)

Trophallactic, sharing regurgitated food, as ants and bees do:
Met her on a dating website,
Hoped she'd fill my lusty thirst,
Thinking we should meet in person;
Fortunately, she asked first.
"Won't you come and share a meal?"
So I rushed over, rang her bell;
Turned out she was trophallactic
And the date did not go well.
(Rob Cohen, 2021)

Argentous, containing silver:
Second place! An achievement momentous!
A feather this puts in my cap!
But instead of a medal argentous,
Pat sent me some lame piece of crap.
(Jesse Frankovich, 2021 - and of course it placed second; I sent him a squeeze-toy "stress reliever" in the shape of a bathroom scale)

Song sung news: The parodies of Week 1490
Have you sung along with the 21 songs in the results of Week 1490? Watched those videos? Not yet? Then I don't want to keep you very long; enjoy the wordplay, the zingers, the musicality and visuals of the recordings. It's a lot to see, but heck, they're so good. And it was all I could do not to double that list with equally good ones from the hundreds of songs submitted.

The Clowning Achievement this week goes to an almost brand-new Loser: Michael Stein learned about the Invitational in the past year from a friend who'd seen his years-old Gilbert and Sullivan parody "When Trump Was a Lad," and got his first ink two months ago with a related neologism: "Bozanna: A shout of worshipful praise for an orange-haired clown." And he introduced himself to the Loser Community in a big way at the Flushies award picnic in May with an inside-baseball song -- turning "The Heart of the Appaloosa" into "The Heart of the WaPo Loser" -- that seemed as if he'd been Inviting forever.

And for Week 1490 he made a very long entry worth the space with an ingenious threefer: a full song each from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene ("If I Only Had a Brain"), Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell ("* a Heart) and Sen. Lindsey The Toady Graham ("* the Nerve"), matching to the beat -- Michael's a semiprofessional cellist -- Howard Arlen and Yip Harburg's three-part song from "The Wizard of Oz." The only improvement would have been to see the GOP Three in Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion costumes. Anyone up to make that video?

Speaking of videos: While none of this year's inking (or whatever you call it) videos didn't include the lavish production values and ambitious scope of Sophie Crafts's "Two Darn Shots" of a year ago, they were all clever and fun and eminently watchable -- and all of them helped by on-screen titles for the lyrics; even the clearest singer benefits from them (Right, Randy Rainbow?). Two First Offenders provided videos this week: Dave Scheiber -- and a band including some family members -- channeled Billy Joel for more MTG digs, and fellow Floridian Sam Gold provided a lively slide show of clips and photos of that irrepressible Rep. Madison Cawthorn in "Dumb Dumb Dum" (as in "Fun Fun Fun"). Go watch them!

I noted in the lead-in to Beverley Sharp's parody of the 1950 standard "Mona Lisa" that it was one of two very fine takes -- with the same song -- on the recent stunt by a climate change activist to smear the Louvre's Mona Lisa -- actually its totally protective bulletproof-glass covering -- with a "cakelike substance." I really couldn't decide which one to use, and they weren't soooo different that I should run both. So in what I'm pretty sure was an unprecedented move, yesterday I posted (anonymously) both songs in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook, and asked for votes. Beverley's won out, 20 to 19 -- but had Chris Doyle voted for his own song, it would have been an even 20-20. Here are both: Chris's sublime wordplay and incorporation of the climate change theme, Beverley's lighter take.

Chris Doyle:
Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, someone smeared you,
Slathered layer cake to hide your mystic smile.
But it's only 'cause this troubled man revered you
That he chose your famous visage to defile.
Mother Earth's the thing he fears for, Mona Lisa.
What will come if mankind has no change of heart?
Fossil fuels--coal and oil--we're still burning
Ever faster bode disaster.
Once we're gone, can't you see, Mona Lisa,
How you will be a truly lonely work of art?

Beverley Sharp:
Mona Lisa, look alert! He tried to smash you;
So precautions it's imperative to take!
Someone nuts just had the guts to try to trash you
With a hammer and a large amount of cake.
Did you smile and drive him crazy, Mona Lisa?
Are you sorry that he failed in his attack?
Do you hunger at times, Mona Lisa?
Does your tongue ache
For that cream cake?
Do you live, do you breathe, Mona Lisa?
Then (after all these years!) you prob'ly need a snack!
There were many other super-clever entries that didn't get ink this week. At least I'll have some room in the Invitational at the end of July when, because there won't be a new contest next week (though we'll have a column of results), I'll fill the page with extra entries from this and other contests. First time in three years!

The headline "Bee -- our jest" was Tom Witte's head for the results of an earlier contest.


Week 1493

Style Conversational Week 1493: A 'hoot for Doug
Remembering the beloved Loser/Devotee Doug Frank with a 'feghoot' contest
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By Pat Myers
June 16, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. EDT

Doug's first blot of Style Invitational ink, the Week 625 "be-" limerick contest. See on Facebook for daily-ish Invite entries in graphic form.

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It's been a hard week for the Loser Community. Last week on Wednesday night, my Style Invitational Devotees co-admin, Alex Blackwood, and another Loser, Chuck Salerno, met at a Houston area restaurant and awaited the other guest: Doug Frank, whom each had befriended closely through Facebook for years and years. Chuck had never met Doug in person, Alex just a couple of times. They'd all touched base a couple of days previously.

Doug didn't show.

Alex, who's extraordinarily sensitive to the feelings and actions of others, knew she couldn't just roll her eyes and shrug off the no-show. Through online research, she quickly tracked down Doug's sister Amy, who also lives in the area. Amy went to check on him.

Devotee Tara Haelle epitomized many of the comments in the Devotees group on Facebook: "Doug is one of those good FB friends that I've 'known' for years even if we haven't met in person, and I'm deeply sad that we never will."

Doug was only 62.

As I note in this week's Style Invitational introduction, to Week 1493, Doug was one of the great personalities of the Devotees, as well as a leading light of Loserdom especially in the mid-2000s. For example, out of nowhere he posted this random fictoid a few years ago: "In Estonia, the phrase is rendered, "He's a few beets short of a Happy Meal.' " And this writing lesson: "Sample of an incomplete sentence: 'I cooked a pound and a half of bacon so I'd have some to add to sandwiches. I had five slices.' The corrected sentence: 'I cooked a pound and a half of bacon so I'd have some to add to sandwiches. I had five slices left.' "

But there was also the Doug who truly bared his soul to our social community: a series of health problems, including diabetes, and most painful of all, the terrible stroke suffered by his wife, Diann, whom Doug nursed and advocated for in a devastating series of ups and downs and ups and downs and downs and downs until her death. He was simultaneously knocked back, as someone who worked in the science side of the oil industry, by the blows to that industry through the recession.

He surely was buoyed by both the diversion of the Invite's and Losers' humor and by the heartfelt support of the Devotees themselves.

Chuck and Tara and so many of us have missed that chance to meet him in person, but we have his jokes from the Invite -- 85 of them. In his memory, let's laugh. Here's a sampling of Doug's Invite ink over the years.

New college courses (Week 626, 2005): The winner of the Inker: LANG 238: Ancient Voices. Who were the Ink Spots? Country Joe and the Fish? What does "nanu-nanu" mean? Intense immersion into the language and culture of 15 to 50 years ago will enable the student to understand and converse with older relatives and prospective employers. Prerequisite for all INTN (Internship) classes.

Plus this honorable mention:

The late Doug Frank. (Amy Frank Ricks)
WORK 1601: McJob Practicum. Prerequisite for LIFE. Perform mindless, pointless and degrading tasks all day while taking guff from perfect strangers and feckless idiots. Try to find meaning and maintain your basic human dignity, especially after you get your first paycheck. Imagine doing this the rest of your life and suddenly finals week seems like Club Med. NOW are you ready to pick a major?

Week 632, "backronyms": Seattle Tycoon Accumulates Riches Because Upscale Consumers Keep Sipping.

Week 640, state mottoes: Hawaii: We've Got a Word That Means Both "Tourist" and "Sucker," Too

Week 644, new Winter Olympic events: Blobsledding: The 275-pound weight class.

Week 648, calls to companies' help lines: Lysol: "Your label says your product kills 99.9 percent of germs in 30 seconds -- but what about that 0.1 percent? Isn't that tough little booger the one I should really be worried about? What do I use to kill HIM?"

Week 654, environmentally friendly ideas: Surely those elementary school long-division problems have all been done many times before, so why continue to create reams of waste paper? Put them all in a database so kids can just look them up.

Week 666, evidence of work of the Devil: How devious is the Trickster! He beckons to our gluttony with lures of Extra Value! He coddles our avarice with specials and prizes! Is not his masked servant Ronald garbed in the very colors of blood and brimstone? Does he not brazenly display the giant golden "M" of Mephistopheles? Beware, brethren: Wide is the service counter to Hades, and easy the way through the drive-thru!

Week 925, 2011, new definitions for words: Indigo: Harrison Ford's epitaph.

Week 941, unlikely quotations: "I'm of the opinion that those who question American hegemony are being either disingenuous or facetious." -- Snooki

Week 965, foal names: Flashy Sunrise x Alpha = Greet the Nude A

Week 966, word ladder (change each word by one letter): And Last: LOSER, loner, boner, bone, bore, sore, swore, sworn, worn, morn, MORON.

Week 1058, good/bad/ugly jokes:

Good: Your state is raising taxes -- but only on the 1 percent!

Bad: You are part of that 1 percent.

Ugly: It's the bottom 1 percent.

Week 1138, 2015: Snarky insults about celebrities: On Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press": When Todd talks, people listen. To George Stephanopoulos.

Week 1142: Twitter accounts combining two people: @GenPaulMacArthurny: I shall go back! Go back! Go back to where I once belonged!

Our hearts go out to Doug's sister Amy, to the rest of his family, and to so many people who'd grown close to him online.

Pun & Ink: This week's feghoot contest
Online, Doug delighted in sharing stories with ridiculously contrived scenarios ending in groaner puns. Last time the Invite did a contest for them, in 2014, we called them feghoots.

The name "Feghoot" for the genre comes from "Through Time and Space With Ferdinand Feghoot," a series of whimsical science fiction stories, beginning in the 1950s, by "Grendel Briarton" (an anagram of the author's name, Reginald Bretnor). Here's selected ink from Week 1100; read the whole set here. They should give you a good idea of what we're looking for in this week's contest, Week 1493.


In Week 1100 we asked for feghoots -- little stories that end in a pun on some well-known line or expression. The format of the Invitational demands very little stories; perhaps we'll call them fhts. Warning: These puns are outrageous groaners. It's part of the genre.

The winner of the Inkin' Memorial:

Despite trying and trying and trying and not getting any early action on WMDs, Operation Iraqi Freedom did ultimately nab Hussein and many of his henchmen. But after the former Iraqi president was hanged, Dubya nixed the plan to transfer the rest of the inner circle to Guantanamo. "Political opposition is too great," he said. "I can't Gitmo Saddam's faction." (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

2nd place and the tiny rubbery brain and plastic nose: The famed businessman Victor Kiam told a story about his service in World War II: "At the Battle of the Bulge, a colonel kept ordering waves of grunts like me out of the trench we were in, only to see them cut down by cannon fire. So I shouted, "Hey, why are you doing that?" He replied, "Look, Kiam, you're fodder." (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)

3rd place: Yet another reason for Americans' expanding waistlines -- this time it's the recent craze of adding fatty fish to your diet. They may be getting lots of omega-3 and all that, but still, their butts for the grease of cod go wide. (Marc Shapiro, Alexandria, Va.)

4th place: The place: Heaven. The event: the annual cook-off. This year, Chinese. The team: the inventor of the sewing machine, the grande dame of the Grand Ole Opry, the founder of what is now Zimbabwe, and Charles Gulden of condiment fame. The group was just about to complete its piece de resistance when in flew the Angel in Charge to announce that time was up: "Howe, Minnie, Rhodes, Mustard Man -- wok down!" (Nan Reiner, Alexandria, Va.)


Methane released by livestock is a major contributor to global warming. For several years, climatologists have been working with the tea industry to develop crops that thrive on these greenhouse gases. It doesn't look promising, though; they've been trying for fart-oolong. (Brian Cohen, Norfolk, Va.)

When I arrived for a three-month stay on Olympus, Mercury told me he would rent his house to me while I was there, at a very low cost. There was only one restriction: I could not remove the carcass of a songbird from his freezer, because Zeus had promised to restore it to life when he returned. When I entered the house I went straight to the refrigerator and looked in: Yep. Chilled wren of a lessor god. (Ted Remington, Marion, N.C., a First Offender)

A mystic from the East came to visit a small Nebraska town and received quite a welcome in the town hall. But a Native American man made a joke about "real Indians," which confused the visitor and embarrassed the other townspeople. The joker then felt terrible, as no slight had been intended. You see, things like this weigh down a Pawnee swami-ribber. (Mae Scanlan)

The tribal council wanted to hold an event for married couples only, so it decided to require each couple to display wedding rings at the door. As the sign read: "A band on all Hopi who enter here." (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Down on his luck, Sylvester Stallone was appearing off-off-Broadway in a production of "Hair," for which he had to let his locks grow long and tangled. But he wouldn't even tidy himself on his off days -- even though his friends pleaded: "There's no play, Sly! Comb!" (Ann Martin, Falls Church, Va.)

Young romance could be risky in the old days in the mountains. During one 19th-century family feud, a young Romeo tried to elope with his Juliet. But the girl's daddy hunted them down, shot the boy in the ankles and dragged his daughter home -- leaving him footless and fiancee-free. (Jeff Contompasis)

And from Week 347, our first contest of this sort (not termed feghoots), posted by my predecessor, the Czar, in 2000: (Plain-text file of the complete results here; scroll down past that week's new contest.)

Report from Week 347, in which you were asked to contrive elaborate scenarios that end in painful puns:

As usual for a contest such as this, the Steal Invitationalists were out in force, submitting anciently unoriginal jokes as their own: You can't heat your kayak and have it, too; with fronds like that, who needs anemones; I can see Claire Lee now, Lorraine has gone; transporting gulls over a staid lion for immortal porpoises; only Hugh can prevent florist friars; picking bunions on a Sesame Street bus; repaint and thin no more; making an obscene clone fall; and of course, the creakiest, rheumiest granddaddy of them all: No pun in ten did. We are pretty sure those below are original.

Second Runner-Up: Maggie Thatcher went to see the doctor about a painful boil. The doctor told his nurse to administer a local anesthetic and let him know when she was ready for treatment. When the nurse returned, the doctor said: "Is Thatcher Fine? I'll Lance Her." (Chris Doyle, Burke)

First Runner-Up: Lithuania's King Lothar loved golf. Competing in a tournament at the famed Pair of Dice golf course in Las Vegas, Lothar and his partner finished the 18th hole leading the field at one stroke over par. Waiting nervously in the clubhouse, however, he received bad news about his rivals' results: "They played Pair of Dice and put up a par, King Lot."(Sue Lin Chong, Washington)

And the winner of the huge men's underpants: Two park rangers are making their rounds in the Rockies when they discover a guy named Nathan erecting an oil rig on the side of a mountain. He explains that he has been inspired by those ads on the radio, and has decided to drill for beer. The rangers are going to issue a citation, but decide to do something crueler: let him try. Winking to his partner, one ranger observes that since the mountain won't really be injured, "Why don't we just let Nate here take its Coors?" (Bill Strider, Gaithersburg)

After a series of box office failures, Arnold Schwarzenegger's career was in trouble. Then he made a comeback with a triumphant performance on Broadway as the lead in a production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," with background music based on the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. When asked the secret of his newfound success, Arnold said: "Albee-Bach." (Joseph Romm, Washington)

Intrigued by rumors that a group of Tennessee Jews has been successfully marketing a brand of chewing tobacco, kosher food giant Manischewitz sends someone to investigate. He approaches a group of men loitering outside a Baptist church, spitting into cans, and he asks: "Pardon me, goys, is that the Chattanooga Jews' chew?" (Charles Frick, Kensington)

A man is trying to decide between two careers in journalism: He wants either to be an investigative reporter, spending much of his time digging through files like a mole, or to write an advice column. He consults an editor friend, who cautions him against both paths, with the immortal advice: "Neither a burrower nor Ann Landers be." (Meg Sullivan, Potomac)

It is a little-known fact that Golda Meir's fierce nationalism was forged when she was a young woman. Golda had a waitressing job on the Haifa ferry, serving smoked-salmon snacks to travelers. She was deeply moved when, one day, the ferry had to transport for burial the bodies of three civilians killed by terrorists. To this day Israeli children are told "the ferry tale of Golda, lox and the three biers." (Chris Doyle, Burke)

Animal activist Bo Derek was horrified to learn that the queen of England wears antique sable coats. When she confronted the queen at a recent London affair, Elizabeth responded haughtily: "Some wear old fur to reign, Bo." (Chris Doyle, Burke)

Yes, Chris Doyle still enters The Style Invitational. He's cleverer than you are. Sorry! But I promise I'll give ink to other people as well, so go ahead and enter anyway.

Hollywood Shuffle*: The rearranged movie titles of Week 1489
*Non-inking headline -- just a little too long this week for print -- by both Tom Witte and Kevin Dopart

As I'd predicted, there was plenty of life left in a twice-done contest to rearrange the words in a movie title and describe the new movie. And plenty of interest: I received just about 2,000 entries for Week 1489 from more than 250 people -- well more than the grandfoal contest, for example. My "shortlist" ran 11 single-spaced pages; keeping this week's results to 36 entries wasn't as painful as usual, given that I'll have a chance to run some more at the end of July when I'm on vacation (first one in three years!).

As often happens when there are more entries and entrants than usual, the ink tends to be spread around more. This week's four top winners, while all Invite veterans, aren't the Usual Suspects in the Losers' Circle, but their entries may all be heading for instant-classicdom. While Right -- Do the Thing -- story of an absent-minded yes-man -- is Don Norum's second Clowning Achievement, he's been Inviting for less than a year. San Diegan Susan Geariety gets the "Office" characters Pez dispenser for 2-Toy Story: "Ungrateful grandkids get an earful about what it was like to grow up with just a jump rope and a Mr. Potato Head that was an actual potato." Greater (or at least Great) Bostonian Mark Calandra played the D.C. angle anyway with his dig at the Commanders, Bad News: The Bears; and the only local Loser in the top four this week, Ryan Martinez, with one of the relatively few political entries this week, Rush Fools In, the story of how the GOP got those Trump judicial nominees confirmed so quickly.

There were lots more inkworthy entries than the 36 that ran today. Which is good because I can run some (along with extras from other contests) at the end of July, the week I'll be up in Niagara Falls for our Loserfest vacation adventure.

What Pleased Ponch: Now that Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood's retired from The Post after 30 pun-heady years, we'll be featuring the faves of Still Here Ace Copy Editor Panfilo "Ponch" Garcia. While Ponch reports finding this week's ink "uniformly witty," he did single out several honorable mentions: Thou Art Where? O Brother! (Ed Neveleff, in just his second week ink), an Elizabethan having to bail out his wastrel brother from the stocks; Lesser Children of a God (Steve Smith), Don Jr.'s look at "Marla's and Melania's kids."; Miller and Mrs. McCabe, Joel Cockrell's clever tie-in with Trump administration figures Stephen Miller and Andrew McCabe; Andre With My Dinner (Terri Berg Smith), a rich kid settles for cheap champagne; and Home Spider? No Way, Man (John Klayman), putting the kibosh on a roommate's pet.

Plus an Annabeth's Best Bet: "Slot" editor Annabeth Carlson, who gave the second read, gave an unsolicited shout-out to First, 50 Dates (Leif Picoult), the Dried-Fruit Preliminary Round of the hot-dog-eating contest. "This is just so clever and unexpected!"

What didn't work? I ruled out a number of entries for various reasons other than my usual "just not as funny as the ones I chose." First there were the ones that had already gotten ink in our previous title rearrangement contests, which I'd directed readers to; they include "The Presidents: All Men" and "Wonderful? It's a Life." Then there were ones that misspelled or misquoted the name of the movie, or used homonyms instead of the actual word, like "Lady, My Fare": Eliza Doolittle tries to stiff her cabbie; or "Rein In the Singin': A bar owner reconsiders karaoke night." Or "The Right Are All Kids: Michael Moore looks into arrested development to explain Jan. 6*; the title is "The Kids Are Alright," and that wouldn't have worked. Or "Gates' Heaven: every computer runs Windows and searches with Bing," The movie was "Heaven's Gate," not Gates. (It could have worked, however, as "Heaven of Gates," a play on the movie "Gates of Heaven.")

Finally, I tended not to go with descriptions that would have worked fine with the real title; the rearrangement of the words wasn't necessary to the joke. Such as "12 Men, Angry: When the pizza is delivered cold to the jury room, watch out." (Frank Mann instead got ink with "Angry Men 12," the 11th sequel and they still can't come to a verdict.) Or "With Love From Russia: A new perfume with the latest nerve agents from Vladimir Putin." (Also, the latter would have required a big tweak to be a description of a movie plot.)

Finally, your unprintable of the week, submitted by both Tom Witte and Teddy Weitzman (who used to be allowed to use the pseudonym Paul Styrene): Bang Bang Kiss Kiss: An ill-advised comedy about a serial necrophiliac. Sorry, guys, but our quota for serial-necrophiliac jokes has already been reached. It is zero.

Join us in Baltimore July 17 to see Jonathan Jensen's musical!
The Royal Consort and I, along with others in the Loser Community, are heading up to Baltimore's Fells Point Corner Theatre on Sunday afternoon, July 17, to see "Do It Now," a musical about the city's legendarily colorful mayor William Donald Schaefer. Its music and lyrics are by Loser Jonathan Jensen -- well known for his Invite song parodies as well as buckets of other ink. After the show, we can get something to eat in the lively Fells Point neighborhood near the water, and Jonathan should be able to join us. You can get $20 tickets here for that show (or others; it runs Friday-Sunday from July 15 through 31) at the theater's website. If you're joining us, drop me a line to let me know. No word on whether we'll be sitting on one of the city's 3.2 zillion park benches labeled with the 1970s-'80s mayor's name.


Week 1492

Style Conversational Week 1492: It's parity time
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's contest for conservative-leaning humor
Image without a caption
By Pat Myers
June 9, 2022 at 5:22 p.m. EDT

The BubbleYou Bubble Tower, made with various items from RepurposedMaterials. Much too useful for our purposes, of course.

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Bill Coleman of Denver read about our Week 1488 contest through the RepuposedMaterials newsletter and sent us this photo of his BubbleYou party attraction. Made with such "upcycled" materials as table linens, coffee sacks and billboard vinyl, the solar-powered tower and other models (one is a "cow" with an udder hanging from the top bar) spout off bushel-size bubbles to the delight of all. But much too useful, of course, for The Style Invitational. I discuss the Week 1488 results farther down the page.

The Style Conservatitional? This week's contest
2009, expressions reflecting contemporary society: "Giving him the Nobel": Heaping praise on someone you hope will be worthy of it one day. (Drew Bennett; Mark Richardson in his first ink; he's up to around 150 by now)

This one got ink three weeks ago, for the contest to switch the places of two letters: PELOSI to LEPOSI: A disease caused by staying in one position for too long. (Craig Dykstra)

Back when my son was in fifth and sixth grade -- a time covering the Balkan War and the 2000 election -- I used to visit his class every week to lead a discussion on current events. I tried, evidently with some success, not to reveal my own political views when explaining what "liberal" and "conservative" meant, and would put forth both sides of some issues of the day to the best of my ability in an accessible manner. I remember a kid coming up to me and saying, "You're a Republican, aren't you?" That was gratifying.

I demurred on the answer, but no, I'm not a Republican; the last Republican I voted for was Maryland Sen. Charles Mathias in 1980, my first election. I believe that people should look out for one another by contributing to a government that helps those who need help, at home and around the world, and by enacting policies that help not just ourselves but those who will be affected in future generations. But I also am a super-thrifty person who hates to see that money wasted or misspent, and am also seriously uncomfortable when citizens are afraid to express their opinions for fear of being attacked by a self-appointed virtue brigade and swiftly ostracized. So when I get the online surveys, I check "liberal" but not "very liberal."

But I've always tried, as Empress of The Style Invitational -- as undemocratic a job as can be, I concede -- to welcome humor that digs at people and institutions I might not have thought to go after myself. And that's what I'm welcoming with our contest this week, Week 1492 (a tenuous link to Columbus, but I really wanted to use the "conservative leaning" guy's entries in the intro).

I did this contest just once before, after 31/2 years of George W. Bush as president, and just a few months after taking over as Empress. Here's how it went down back in Week 558, I think the inking entries from 18 years ago should provide a good idea of what I have in mind for Week 1492 as well. I've added a number of comments in brackets, some of which might be helpful this week.

My intro published May 16, 2004, in the heat of an election year:

Week 558: Set Us Right

"What is the difference between JFK (1960) and JFK (2004)?

"John F. Kennedy had no problem with charisma, and a bad spine. John F. Kerry has a bad problem with charisma, and no spine.

"Over the years, The Invitational has been accused of awarding prizes (such as they are) to political humor that tends to veer maybe a wee bit to the left. So, to compensate for any perceived liberal bias, The Empress decided this week to print only right-leaning anagrams [from Week 554] in the results below. Nah, not really; that would have been wrong. In fact, it would have been impossible -- because there weren't any right-leaning ones to choose from: The spectrum of the political anagrams submitted ranged from Gentle Tweaking of the Administration to Raving Leftist Screed.

"This week's contest, suggested by Mark Cackler of Falls Church [I'm guessing that he also supplied the example, but don't have a record of it]: See if you can give us some Fair and Balance -- send us conservative-leaning humor in any of the following genres: (1) Knock-knock jokes; (2) limericks; (3) "how can you tell" riddles; (4) "what's the difference" riddles; (5) four-line rhyming poems. Jokes about Bill Clinton's sex life do not qualify; they transcend ideological barriers. And needless to say, joke plagiarists will be abused and humiliated.

"First-prize winner receives the Inker, the official Style Invitational Trophy. First runner-up wins an autographed copy of 'The Hype About Hydrogen' by Joseph Romm, a longtime Loser who donated his new book as a prize in a desperate attempt to see it mentioned in The Washington Post. (Joe is perhaps more famous for having also donated as a prize, in 1995, his underpants.)"


As you'll see from the results of Week 558 below, the poems and limericks generated almost no ink, so I dropped those options this time. (We'll be doing poems soon enough anyway.) This week's "Q&A" format encompasses both Options 3 and 4 above, and I'm leaving the knock-knocks, too. How sincere is the humor and how much of liberals trying their best to be open-minded (or at least trying their best to score some ink)? Hard to know. Which is good enough.

Report from Week 558, in which we asked for right-leaning political humor in any of several standard joke forms. The Empress wasn't overly surprised to receive some entries that were, let's say, a bit disingenuous, such as this one from Brendan Beary of Great Mills: "Beware, let me tell you / Of that damned ACLU / And their whole Bill of Rights, / I mean, goods, that they'd sell you."

Fourth Runner-Up: How can you tell if a pickup truck is owned by a liberal? That's a trick question -- Volvo doesn't make pickup trucks! (Bruce W. Alter)

Third Runner-Up: What's the difference between the National Education Association and the National Rifle Association? The NRA wants to teach kids to set their sights on something. (Bob Dalton)

Second Runner-Up: What's the difference between John Kerry and John Paul II? Only one of them is supposed to pontificate endlessly. (Joseph Romm, Washington) [It's highly ironic that Joe Romm -- Clinton administration energy official turned famed climate change activist -- got ink in a contest seeking conservative-leaning humor. But his entry illustrates what we can call The Liberal Out: You can be liberal and find plenty of material for making fun of Democrats; but for this contest, you can't do it from a left-wing perspective -- for instance, digging at them for caving to the demands of Sen. Joe Manchin.]

First Runner-Up, winner of the autographed copy of Joseph Romm's book "The Hype About Hydrogen": What's the difference between conservative and liberal faith-based initiatives? Well, we could find only one example of the latter -- Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ." (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.) [That was a photograph of a crucifix immersed in the artist's urine, one of the artworks that set off a right-wing campaign to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, which had given a grant for a 1989 tour in which the photograph was included.]

And the winner of the Inker:

How can you tell that The Washington Post is liberal?

Conservative Invitational entries can be published only by affirmative action. (Danny Bravman, Potomac) [That's not really true! Only somewhat true.]

Honorable Mentions:

What's the difference between . .

* "The Catcher in the Rye" and the Pledge of Allegiance? We might have to stop teaching the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools because its content might offend somebody. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

* Michael Moore and Osama bin Laden? One directed "9/11" to demoralize America, and the other is a terrorist. (Bob Dalton)

* a stopped-up toilet and a liberal? Eventually, you can get the toilet to work. (Milo Sauer, Fairfax)

* Karl Marx and Harpo Marx? Harpo had the good sense to keep quiet. (Russell Beland)

* a rich liberal and a rich conservative? A rich conservative thinks he deserves his money, while a rich liberal thinks the conservative should give it to charity. (Seth Brown, North Adams, Mass.)

* a conservative and a liberal? To improve the economy, the first would buy a Hummer, while the second would hire a bum. (Chris Doyle)

* unborn children and mass murderers: Some people are confused about which group the Constitution should protect. (Russell Beland) [In 2022, in a country in which gun rights are considered so important that their obsessive defenders end up siding with the AR-15-toting shooters of children, or condemn their victims, this entry no longer works.]

* a conservative commentator and a liberal commentator? One is called a conservative commentator; the other is called a commentator. (Jeffrey Contompasis, Ashburn) [Jeff's first Style Invitational ink, after he batted zero in several previous Invites. The Fir Stink prize hadn't been created yet, though.]

* a conservative and a liberal? Conservatives love John Birch; liberals love birch johns. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel) [Not political humor, just the very gentlest tease of liberal tree-hugging, but I'll take that. Cute wordplay.]

* Jesse James and Jesse Jackson? Jesse James was wanted in a lot of places. (George Vary, Bethesda)

* Kerry and Carrie? At least Carrie generates some heat. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

* John Kerry and John Edwards? Kerry will be a senator in January. (Chuck Smith) [Sen Edwards, Kerry's terminally handsome running mate (and primary-season rival) in 2004, blew his ultra-promising political career with a paternity scandal and coverup. He's now a personal-injury lawyer back in North Carolina.]

* predictions of global warming and the college football rankings? One is the complex numerical analysis and evaluation of a topic with factors having major importance to concerned citizens across the country. The other is just a bogus weather report. (Greg Arnold, Herndon) [I don't know whether Greg in 2004 thought that global warming wouldn't happen; to mock the idea in 2022, however, is not a valid argument.]

* a conservative and a liberal? The conservative keeps his hand close to his vest; the liberal keeps his hand close to your pocket. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village)

* an illegal Mexican immigrant and a Texas Democrat? The Mexican seeks democracy by sneaking into Texas. (Bob Dalton) [This referred to a mass exit by Democratic state legislators in 2003 to New Mexico to prevent a quorum and thus a vote on redistricting that would ensure a large Republican majority -- just like a maneuver last year to prevent restrictive voting laws. Like the later one, it ultimately didn't work. (Thanks to Duncan Stevens for reminding me what this entry was about.)]

* John Kerry and a roulette wheel? When a roulette wheel stops spinning, there's at least a small chance it won't cost you money. (Allan Moore, Washington)

* John Kerry and a knock-knock joke? In a knock-knock joke, you learn who is really there. (Carl Northrop, Fairfax)

Knock, knock . . . . . . Who's there? Kerry. Kerry who? Kerry your water for you, Mr. Chirac? (John McMillan, Manassas) [Kerry tended to appeal to Europeans, especially the French; he speaks fluent French and attended school in Geneva. The GOP successfully turned that into a liability at home, implying that the presidential candidate was an out-of-touch elitist. It didn't help when he ordered a Philly cheesesteak "with Swiss," prompting the Philadelphia Inquirer food critic to declare his choice evidence of "an alternative lifestyle." So what if George W. Bush grew up in a family that had a chauffeur? He didn't speak French, for sure!]

Knock-knock. Who's there? Your car engine, running on EPA-formula gas. (Peter Metrinko, Plymouth, Minn.) [I know that in the early days of newly required unleaded gas, some car engines would knock because of bad combustion; I'd doubt that was still a problem in 2004, but whatever.]

* Who's there? John Kerry. John Kerry who? Who do you want me to be? (Bob Dalton; Robert L. Hershey, Washington) [Jokes about pandering candidates are pretty much 100 percent transferrable.]

* Who's there? Big government. Big government who? Just kidding -- big government doesn't knock, it bashes in the door and takes your gun away. (Art Grinath, Takoma Park) [This seems totally disingenuous to me, but it's fine.]

* Who's there? Global warming. Global warming who? Actually there's nobody here, but global warming could be here soon. (Seth Brown) [Again, pooh-poohing those who warned of devastating climate change.]

Kerry won the nomination,

Promptly took a short vacation;

Said he needed to unwind.

Put on flip-flops, changed his mind. (Bob Dalton) [You could probably zip in most elected officials' names in this one.]

How can you tell if a liberal has just won a presidential election? He finally reveals his definition of "middle class." Bulletin: It doesn't include you. (Tom Witte)

And Last: How can you tell if a humor contest has a liberal bias? The prize is an environmental screed by some low-level Clinton appointee. (Joseph Romm) [Joe was being humble. He headed the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, as acting assistant secretary of energy.]

So since then?

After the Invite's first eight years, which coincided with President Clinton's two terms and featured TONS of humor at his expense, especially of course with the Lewinsky scandal, the Invitational's political humor certainly has continued to attack Republicans and their causes much more than Democrats and theirs. A lot of it was aimed at the George W. Bush administration, except for a letup in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. Then eight of those years spanned the terms of the almost scandal-free Obama White House. Obama was just a hard person to mock -- you know that when the mockers had to resort to a tan suit he once wore -- and the digs shifted over to the virulent anti-Obama forces. And then, of course, Donald Trump. Never had the Invite been so political. Of course, never had "SNL" been so political. And never had the late-night shows been so political. What else could you do?

But in the years since, the polarization is worse than ever, and that person continues to wield a disturbing amount of influence over our heavily damaged political system. Tonight, I can't bring myself to watch those Jan. 6 hearings because I'm convinced that they're futile. I can tell you, it's hard as hell to have a sense of humor sometimes. There have been days when I had to put the entries away and go take a long walk, because nothing seemed funny to me at that moment. But we need to be able to laugh, even if sometimes grimly, at our world. We're here for that.

I think that in the face of a person and a movement that was not simply a political system that many of us disagreed with, but one that repeatedly has sought to undermine the principles of democracy and the respect for truth, it's understandable that some citizens are loath to criticize the current president and administration for anything, let alone make jokes about them. But really, that's not healthy either. Let's see what we can do this week.

Scrap medals*: The results of Week 1488
*Non-inking headline by Tom Witte

Not so much political humor in this week's results -- a contest in which, for the second time, I asked readers to look at and come up with creative ideas (though not usable ones) for reusing the various surplus items individually or combined. Most of the 1,000 or so entries submitted referred to items I'd included in a list in the introduction to Week 1488; relatively few people seem to have rooted around the website.

However, a number of them did find the page advertising the Snozzle Boom, which turns out to be a brand name for a boom, or crane arm. This particular item, decommissioned from a firetruck, will telescope to 54 feet high and can be yours for $3,000. The majority of the entries, however, said it was most useful for letting you say "Snozzle Boom" a lot.

It's the second Clowning Achievement for Jonathan Jensen, but his fifth Invite win overall (not counting many other trips to the Losers' Circle with runners-up). Jonathan suggested that Appalachian Trail hikers keep their feet clean and comfy by rolling out the 80 feet of artificial turf, trotting down to the end, then repeating it "in just 145,200 easy stages." Leif Picoult was the only Loser to suggest a use for a mall kiosk display -- set it up in your house to re-create the mall experience by walking right by it. Kevin Dopart -- who spends each summer in Greece and plans to move there permanently when a new house is built -- was one of several to covet the steel pipe nipples (rejected by the client because they were pink) but the only one to suggest they be used to decorate Confederate statues. And Jeff Contompasis saw the cups of the 134 hamburger roll baking tins as the perfect way to grow his mosquito farm.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood agreed with me on the top four entries, and also singled out from the honorable mentions: Lee Graham's idea to sell the 500 pieces of rope at MAGA rallies as "Jan. 6 souvenirs"; Frank Osen's plan to sell the 750 feet of bubble wrap as "Mini-Bubble-Stress-Anxiety-Fidget-Relief-Push-Popper-Sensory-Squeezers" and also Kevin Dopart's plan to use the wrap next Halloween to dress as "the Michelin Man with monkeypox."

I'm sorry to announce that this is Doug's final Invite as a Washington Post Ace Copy Editor; now that he qualifies for retirement benefits, he's going to retire * straight into a similar job (minus the Invite, duh) at the Los Angeles Times D.C. bureau. Back in 1992, when we were both almost tots -- he was even tottier than I was -- I hired Doug, who was then at the Orlando Sentinel, as a copy editor in the Style section to catch all the mistakes and write lots of puns in the headlines. It was clearly one of my best moves ever. After I'd burned out from 12 years as copy desk chief, Doug and I switched jobs and he became my boss for another decade. I officially retired from The Post in a 2008 buyout; Doug stayed to experience a huge transformation in the operations and purpose of the copy desk, adapting seamlessly and staying many more years as a brilliant, respected and beloved colleague. I will miss his support terribly each week, but I'm thrilled that he's getting such a great deal. The L.A. Times is too.


Week 1491

Style Conversational Week 1491: Bring a plus-one
The Empress of the Style Invitational on this week's neologism contest and 'grandfoal' results
By Pat Myers
June 2, 2022 at 5:29 p.m. EDT

Bob Staake's alternative sketch for the Week 1491 add-a-letter contest, with his own idea: DOMINOSE, what plastic surgeons play to pass the time between procedures. (_)

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Looking at Bob Staake's sketch above -- I chose his other alternative for this week's contest example -- I do think it would have made a funny cartoon, funnier in fact than the one that ran this week. I decided against it not because of the picture, but because I thought Bob's neologism itself wasn't a good example for the contest: First of all, Merriam-Webster's primary spelling for the plural of "domino" is "dominoes"; "dominos" is listed as a less common spelling. So "dominose" could well be read as transposing the S and E at the end, rather than adding an E. Also, I tend to prefer neologisms that have some relation to the real world, rather than being concepts that wouldn't exist except to supply a word to this contest. The visual of the line of noses is hilarious, but as just a written definition, not as much. But the spelling -- when that's the focus of the contest -- pretty much doomed it as a choice.

Bob, by the way, offers all his Invite pencil sketches and pen-and-ink work available for sale to the Loser Community at If you have a favorite picture from the past and need to know the date it ran, etc., write to me and I'll try to help.

Your add here: The Week 1491 neologism contest
It's our stock in trade, really: the 1.2 gajillion times we've asked you to slightly alter a word/name/phrase and make a new one; it's just a matter of limiting the pool in some way. This time that's (A) adding one letter, rather than dropping the letter, substituting a letter with another one, etc.; plus (B) limiting the original words to ones that start with A through E. (Note that the letter you ADD can be any letter, not just A-E) and that your neologism doesn't have to start with A-E; you can start the word with your added letter.) On the other hand, we're also throwing in a little (and I expect it to be little) expander: You can take that single letter and add it multiple times to make your new term.

I'm saying "that single letter" to stress that adding one letter in two places is not the same as adding two different letters. I say this only because a dear man whose name is not Blob Stuck didn't notice this requirement when coming up with some possible contest examples.

The best way to see if a certain neologism has already been used in the Invitational is to take a look at the All Invitational Text file, which currently ends at Week 1476 (its compiler, Loser Elden Carnahan, is still dealing with some health things) but should be enough for now. Just search for the word you're thinking of using.

A word about the formatting: Usually in a neologism contest, I don't tell the reader what your original word was; I just show the altered one. And so that relationship needs to be clear to the reader or else the humor dies. But in our recent contest to switch the positions of two letters, I asked you to show me the original, and ended up including it in about half the results (including Frank Osen's winner, which switched "today" to "toady," then described it as what's on House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy's daily calendar). So if you think your entry works better with the original given first -- that it would be hard to get on its own, yet quoting the original doesn't step on the humor -- go ahead. I'll decide whether to use it.

And since I'd like to sort the entries alphabetically, please don't hit the Enter key within an individual entry; if you do that, the two halves will scatter into different areas of my list and it will be mighty hard to enjoy them.

For Ye Olde Guidance and Inspiration, here are some letter-added neologisms from earlier contests whose original word begins with A-E, in addition to the ones atop this week's contest.

Alexpandria: A town known for its buffet restaurants. (Tom Witte)

Apocalypstic: The little smudge I came home with on my collar that makes my wife act like it's the end of the world. (Brendan Beary)

Defenestraction: A ruse to divert the cop's attention while you throw the evidence out the window. (Seth Brown)

Amoebra: An undergarment that lifts and separates and separates and separates. (Eric Murphy)

Dyspeepsia: The result of eating too much Easter candy. (Marian Phelps)

Capital Gone: What used to be in your wallet? (Jerome Uher)

Jockeylarity:* The 'grandfoals' of Week 1487
*Earlier inking headline by Jon Gearhart

Combining two fictional names rather than those of real horses, and almost requiring you to ignore some elements of the puns they include, The Style Invitational's "grandfoal" contests not quite as sublime as the primary wordplay challenge each year to "breed" two Triple Crown nominees and name the foal. Still, this spinoff contest still brings out the punsters -- this year, in Week 1487, to the tune of some 2,200 entries (plus another 250 for the headline and honorable-mention subhead suggestions). And almost a tenth of those entries made my initial list of inkworthies, which I finally pared down to the 67 grandfoals in this week's results. (Your clearly superior grandfoals didn't get ink? Hold on to your horses, then, for the second-chance contest in December.) Since I don't see entrants' names when I'm judging, I wouldn't know unless I went back and researched, but I'm pretty sure that there are few brand-new Losers entering the grandfoal contest; the submissions tend to be more on target than are many in the first round. The only part of the judging that's no fun is to say, "Okay, this is absolutely the last one I can include" -- and there are all these clever entries I have to ignore.

Today's Clowning Achievement winner, Laurie Brink, began entering the Invitational a good 15 years ago, after her friend Seth Brown, who was making a big splash in the Invite, told her about it. And ba-ding, her first ink was a runner-up in the 2007 foal contest: Warn x Gentle Romeo = She's Not Dead! Since then, Laurie has racked up a variety of ink, but the horses are her specialty: Laurie has scored ink in twenty-eight Invite horse name contests, often several blots at a time: In the Week 1405 grandfoal contest, she got seven. And this year's foal contest earned her four: Vladimirror, Mona Visa, Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re: and Sweeney Toad were all hers. And it was a grandfoal who brought Laurie her previous win: Round Yon Virgin x Free Brrr = Madonna & Chilled, from Week 1020 in 2013. Today's Clowner winner, Atom and Heave x Pig Penn = Hurls Before Swine, will be surely getting a little extra hay in Laurie's ink-stable.

Soon after catching the horse-contest bug, Laurie recruited her father, Bernard, to enter as well; he's been getting regular ink through the years, too -- and has a blot today: Dead Gunfighter x Heir Jordans = Billy the GOAT. And last year Laurie showed us another talent: She made a video of herself singing "Rudy's Crazy," a hilarious parody of "Sherry Baby." I hope she'll send something in for our current song contest, Week 1490 (deadline June 13).

On the other hand, it's the first horse-name ink for Pam Shermeyer, but this rookie has been inking up the joint since she debuted in December. Pam gets the cuddle-toy Flesh-Eating Bacteria for Catch Some Z's x I the People = Nap Bonaparte. Andrew Hatziyannis gets his first "above the fold" ink, his sixth in all, for Finals Are Today x Catch Some Z's = Got Some F's, and our latest Loser of the Year, Frank Mann, continues past the 200-ink mark with No-Knock Warrant x Lake Flaccid = DEA'd in the Water. (Frank's co-workers at the Drug Enforcement Administration should like that one.)

Too many people had the same idea with several puns, often with different pairings: A half dozen people submitted CloningAchievement x The Wee Peephole = Twin Peeks. Other too-manys: Abe Blinkin' x I the People = Eye the People; Sharp Dresser x Vladimirror = Putin on the Ritz (in fact, I've gotten too-manys for Putin on the Ritz in several contests); Lava First Sight x Not a B There = Magma Cum Laude; Trad _ _ ark x Missing Everything = _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _; Lake Flaccid x Via Gra = Lake Erect, Lake Turgid, Lake Superior, etc.

Knowing that I'd be swimming in clever entries, I didn't spend much time puzzling out ones that I didn't get. Including: Wait, Mr. Lincoln! x The Very Model! = Model #1-4-D Road!; Zulu Zulu Top x Dead Gunfighter = QuickerNguniOnDraw; and Trad _ _ ark x Smear Is Tomorrow = Noah Q Appearance. Other people included helpful explainers -- helpful in their explaining, not helpful in the humor department: Decoder Ring x ShavingPrivateRyan = GNPastVNavyHairier (anagram of "foal" #2) and, my fave in this category: "AlexanderTheGrape x Snippitydoodah = SangAmidDaVinciOp (reference: Da Vinci remote surgical precision system first demonstrated on a grape's skin, creating meme 2018)." AHA!!

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood seconded my choices for the top four winners, and also called these out from the honorable mentions: CloningAchievement x All Over the Road = One to Many (Dave Matuskey), one that takes a second or two to process entirely; IV League x Fat Man = Prince Ton (Ward Foeller); G Whiz x Missing Everything = G Wizards (a dig at D.C.'s mediocre NBA team by Jesse Rifkin); Resting Rich Face x LiedAboutThatToo = Resting Mitch Face (Stephen Dudzik); and LiedAboutThatToo x Catch Some Z's = Bull Dozer (Jeff Contompasis).

Horse of a blue color: Some unprintables: I figured that anyone who'd read 67 of these entries wouldn't feel put out to see, at the bottom of the list, Mr Red x All Over the Road = Skid Marx (Barbara Turner) and Erupt to No Good x Lake Flaccid = Erupt to No Wood (Leif Picoult). But I didn't think it was a good idea to run any of these:

MoltenJoeDiMaggio x Whackatoa = New York Yankers (Jeff Shirley)

The Wee Peephole x Decoder Ring = Inspect Her Gadget (John Hutchins)

Via Gra x Wine and Jeez = Hardonnay (Jeff Shirley, again)

Hair on a G String x Veto Corleone (or Give It Arrest) = Pubic Enemy #1 (several people)

Die Happy x Whackatoa = Die Fappy (Jeff Shirley, AGAIN) Oh, Jeff.


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Week 1480

Style Conversational Week 1480: Eclegme, baby!
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's contest for fake meanings of OED words, and the results of the Googlenopes/'Yups contest.
By Pat Myers
Yesterday at 5:23 p.m. EDT

Her nose almost to the magnifying glass, the Empress peers at the Oxford English Dictionary -- "reproduced micrographically" -- in search of weird-looking words to misuse in Style Invitational Week 1480. There was usually such a word when she opened to any random page. (Mark Holt)

Note: Last-minute change to the brunch venue this Sunday, and still time to sign up; see the item farther down.

Our many trivia-spoofing "fictoid" contests aside, The Style Invitational doesn't often ask you to ignore the real meaning of a word, or facts of some situation, when we ask for a joke about it. Every May, for example, we have a contest to write poems that use words from that year's National Spelling Bee -- and you're required to use the word correctly.

But several times, beginning in Week 744 in 2007, we've asked for some blissful ignorance of various archaic and other obscure words, and to make up definitions that are funnier than the real thing, and perhaps repurpose the word to fill a need in Real English -- a word that's used In Real Life is a perennial goal in every neologism contest. This week's Invitational, Week 1480, is our fourth go-round.


The earlier ones each drew words from a small section of the Oxford English Dictionary (forwarded to me by others, since I lacked my own copy until the past year); this time they range the alphabet.

There are a few Style Invitational neologisms and definitions that have caught on in my own life, if not the general English vocabulary (though many would be dang useful). One is Chris Doyle's portmanteau "gestapolemics" -- name-calling people as Nazis. Another is Walt Johnson's "branacles," "the dried bits of cereal stuck like glue to the bowl you should have rinsed before leaving for work." And then there's one from an OED contest: The word was "eclegme," and the definition by Bruce Rusk was "Decorative but flavorless sauce dribbled around an restaurant entree. 'Carl was unimpressed by the colorful eclegme surrounding his skimpy veal cutlet.' " To this day, on the rare occasions when the Royal Consort and I go out to dinner and are presented with a huge square plate with a precious little mote of actual food surrounded with flourishes of some sort of calligraphy-sauce, we'll say, "Hope the eclegme is worth scraping up."

By the way, if you're looking to pick up a Compact OED for yourself -- and you have your own magnifying glass -- here's one for under $20, and the seller's being wildly overgenerous in charging $2 shipping: Even with its almost microscopic type, the 4,000-page, two-volume mofo tips the scales at 17 pounds, sans slipcase.

If you must know -- and it is handy in that you don't want to accidentally give the real meaning in your entry -- at the bottom of this column are the real definitions (or at least one simplified one each) of the words. I was going to wait till the results ran to reveal the real meanings, but since Ultraloser Jesse Frankovich immediately started compiling a list of definitions as soon as I published the Invite this morning, I'll share it with y'all now. I'm not listing pronunciations -- read them as you will. (Note the two intended pronunciations for "assythe" in the results of Week 744.)

Meanwhile, for guidance, inspiration and just The Laughs, here's a sampling from our previous OED contests.

First, here are the links to the full results. Note that all three sets of results include lots of quotes to enhance the humor of the entries:

Text file (I don't think it's otherwise online) of the results of Week 744, 2007 (scroll down past the week's new contest). That week also marked the debut of noting First Offenders and awarding them the Fir Stink for their first ink (the suggestion of Loser Russ Taylor).

Text file of the results of Week 858, 2010 (same deal)

And an actual online Invite, Week 1002, 2012 (still, you need to scroll down; our "jump link" to the results hadn't been instituted yet)

From Week 744:

DEBOISE: The male package. "Billy won't be playing in the second half against Bensonhurst. He got smacked in deboise." (Tom Sullivan, Highland, Mich.-- a First Offender)

BIZCACHA: Motivational blather before a sales meeting. "We set our monthly goal for syrup pickles, but we first had to wade through all that bizcacha." (Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf)

And the Winner of the Inker: DENNAGE: The stuff that Dad is allowed to keep only in his own room. "An arcade Pong console AND a Visible V-8 Engine -- whoa, that's some serious dennage." (Bill Spencer, Baltimore)

ADAD: A commercial for an infomercial. (Pam Sweeney, Germantown)

ADAD: A very early clue that a baby will be dyslexic. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis)

ADJECT: A campaign commercial deemed too slimy to run. [Now archaic.] (Elwood Fitzner, Valley City, N.D.) [recently outed as (Milo Sauer, Fairfax)]

ASSYTHE: A heavy-duty surgical instrument: "When the scalpel is too small for the butt reduction surgery, the plastic surgeon pulls out the assythe." (Horace LaBadie) [a fan of Gene Weingarten, Horace in recent years became a co-writer with Gene on the comic strip "Barney and Clyde"]

ASSYTHE: What toothless hockey players shout when they help a teammate to score a goal. (Peter Metrinko)

BLIN: The capital of Ireland before its expansion. (Kevin Dopart, Chris Doyle)

DENNAGE: Gross weight measurement. The Grand Slam breakfast remains one of America's most vital sources of dennage. (Larry Yungk)

The Week 858 results, from 2010, give a hint why Mike Gips was eager to bring this contest back.

4. Exerce: Minimal activity logged as a workout: "As I sat in the tub, I got some exerce by fighting the current as the bathwater drained." (Drew Bennett, West Plains, Mo.)

3 Exossation: Deterioration of the spine that often occurs following a wedding ceremony. (Kyle Hendrickson, Frederick)

2. Effray: The invisible beam of pure malice emitted by a raised middle finger. (Andrea Kelly, Brookeville)

And the winner of the Inker: Governail (actually a rudder): Pontius Pilate. (Mike Gips, Bethesda)

Ebulum: That stuff left on the beach after the tide recedes. (Edmund Conti, Raleigh, N.C.)

Ebulum: Oatmeal that dribbles back out of a baby's mouth. (Michael Anderson, Billings, Mont.)

Echeneis: The spray produced during a sneeze: "His gazpacho-laden echeneis left his date looking like Howdy Doody with the measles." (Roy Ashley, Washington)

Eglatere: A restaurant's euphemism for an omelet that falls on the floor while being flipped. "The cook wiped off the dirt and droppings and sent the eglatere out to Table 3." (Robert Inlow, Charlottesville)

Eglatere: The French name for Easter Island. (Marie Baumann, Arlington, a First Offender)

Emunge: The stuff that collects between the keys of your computer. (Ira Allen, Bethesda)

Endship: Bogus camaraderie offered by someone who's dumping you. "We can still have an endship." (Russell Beland, Fairfax)

Exossation: The tedium of playing 27 games of tic-tac-toe with your first-grader. (Peter Metrinko, Gainesville; Ken Gallant, Conway, Ark; and both John O'Byrne and John Stephenson of Dublin, who called it Noughts and Crosses)

Fibutor: Someone who lies about giving at the office. (Christopher Lamora, Arlington)

Hicket: A dense growth of rural necessities: "Surrounded by Bud's Boot & Gun Emporium, A-1 Bail Bonds and a Waffle House, Thad realized too late he had driven straight into a hicket." (Mark Gardiner, Faulkner, Md., just near those motels on Route 301)

And from Week 1002 (2012):

The winner of the Inkin' Memorial: Hinderyeap: To pinch a friend in the rear to keep him from saying something stupid: "Hey, Mrs. Smith, when are you due? I didn't even know you were -- yeap!" (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.) [Real definition: an adjective meaning cunning or deceitful]

2. Housty: The smell of someone who doesn't get out much. "He spent so much time working on Invite entries that he developed a housty odor." (Dixon Wragg, Santa Rosa, Calif.) [n., a sore throat]

3. INTI: Texting retort to "run that errand yourself" -- I'm Not the Intern. (Ann Martin, Bracknell, England) [n., a former Peruvian unit of currency]

4. Hispidulous: Tending to spew saliva on others when speaking. "The hispidulous preacher's congregation got used to being rebaptized every Sunday." (Danielle Nowlin, Woodbridge, Va.) [adj., slightly bristly]

Higgle: The disconcerting motion of man-boobs. "Only the Secret Service knew that Bill Clinton jogged with a sports bra for higgle control." (Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.) [n., the adjusting of prices so that demand equals supply]

Himple, n.: The pathetic result when a boy desperately uses a smear of Mom's makeup before a date. (Tim Beach, Edgewater, Md. a First Offender) [v., to limp or hobble]

Idiopt, n.: In a multiple-choice question, an answer that is obviously wrong and included for laughs. (Fred Dawson, Beltsville, Md.) [n., a colorblind person]

Idiopt, v.: To knowingly make a stupid choice: "I guarantee Ben will idiopt to hit on the bouncer's girlfriend." (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

Idiopt, v.: To sign up for "special marketing offers from our partners." (Ben Aronin, Arlington, Va.; Art Grinath, Takoma Park, Md.)

Ikat: Siri prototype that would not interact with the user, required attention at strange hours, and would not accept the battery charger that worked fine yesterday. (Dave Hanlon, Woodbridge, Va.; Bill Smith, Reston, Va.) [n., an Asian fabric decoration technique]

Ding! Ding! New buffet site for this Sunday's Loser brunch!
Because of few sign-ups and a concerningly high price for a buffet, this Sunday's Loser brunch (March 20) is being relocated from Normandie Farms in Potomac, Md., to La Fiamma Italian Kitchen, the successor to Paradiso, a longtime Loser venue on Franconia Road between Alexandria and Springfield, just outside the Beltway at the Van Dorn Street exit. Still at noon. Come hungry for the many tasty dishes in both the breakfast and Big Italian Meal mode. (You can order from the regular menu as well as the $30 buffet.) I'm really sorry to miss this one (I'm at an all-day choral festival). RSVP posthaste to Elden Carnahan at elden [dot] carnahan [at] gmail [dot] com.

Har-hitters*: The Googlenopes and Googleyups of Week 1476
*Non-inking entry by Jesse Frankovich, who is all over this week's Convo

We did our first contest for Googlenopes (no results for a particular phrase within quotes) way back in 2007, and I'm truly amazed that, umpteen gazillions of search results later, you can still type in a few words and not find a website listed that contains that phrase. But the Loser Community found plenty of surprising, ironic and just plain funny ones in the results of Week 1476, as well as some humorously notable Googleyups, often to compare with the 'Nopes.

The entries generally checked out for me except when the Loser clearly hadn't used quotation marks around the Googleyup phrase. And for Googlenopes, I tried not to use "discoveries" resulting from particular wording; they were kind of disingenuous. For example, someone had a Googlenope with "Hey, let's talk about Fight Club." I didn't use that because there are 3,000 hits for "Let's talk about Fight Club." Also there was a 'Nope for "Donald Trump's sensitive side" but there were numerous hits for "Trump's sensitive side," and it wasn't referring to a side of Ivanka. Also I tended not to use Googlenope phrases written as if they were addressed to a single person (e.g., "Please tell me your Wordle score") because that's not something likely to appear on a website.

It's the first Clowning Achievement -- heck, the first "above-the-fold" ink at all, and just the fifth blot of any kind -- for Richard Lorentz of the L.A. area. It was less than a year ago when I got an email from someone asking about the "Mensa Invitational"; "Do you or do you not sponsor such an event? This website seems to suggest that you don't, but I can't seem to find anything definitive one way or the other. Thanks!"

So I wrote back to Richard and set him straight and showed him the real thing, not that corrupted list of winners from one Invite neologism contest from 1998 that's still in wide circulation with the misname ("Mensa Invitational" gives you 412,000 hits. SMH.). He sent in his first entry three days later, for Week 1427, and kept trying: Richard got his first ink in Week 1431, followed by three more in the next seven weeks. Then a dry spell.

But today, the persistence pays off: Richard found Googleyups with questioners wondering if Abraham Lincoln, Joe Biden and Homer Simpson were real people, then paired it with the Googlenope of "U.S. education is the finest." And for that he earns the famed Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick. Plus he scores an honorable mention for finding the one person who said, "I learn a lot from infomercials." So yay for the #$%#$ Mensa Invitational!

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Panfilo "Ponch" Garcia, filling in for the vacationing ACE Doug Norwood, singled out these as his faves:

"Your mama's so fatuous *" (Chris Doyle) [This one was also the favorite of the Czar; it's one of the few inking entries that were just jokes, not really expected to be on the Web, or ironic that they weren't.]

"Not enough people post their Wordle results." (Andy Schotz)

"How many calories in a squirrel?" (Jesse Frankovich)

"Underwear-sharing near me." (Kevin Dopart)

Googleyup: "I found my soulmate on Tinder." Googleyup: "I found my soulmate on Bumble." Googlenope: "I found my soulmate with Date Lab." (Jesse Frankovich, mocking The Post's little weekly reality show with the terrible batting average)

Googlenope: "The Empress is a fair judge." (Dave Prevar) Plffffftbbbbt.

What they really mean: Thumbnail definitions for the words of Week 1480
As I mentioned above, Jesse Frankovich used to search for listings of the words through a number of online dictionaries (and just plain Google for others); I've added in the OED definitions for the ones he couldn't find, or to elaborate on his. (Note: "Cowin," one of the words I'd originally included this morning from the list Mike Gips sent me, turned out not to be in the OED, so I replaced it with the even kookier "cowhuby"; also, the original spelling "tripudant" is now "tripudiant.")

Once again, these are not complete definitions.

agonistarch: One who trained persons to compete in public games and contests.

agruw: To shudder in horror. (Not a typo!)

aiel: A writ by which an heir entered into his grandfather's estate and dispossessed the third person who had attempted to gain possession/

anglewitch: Fishing bait, particularly worms.

batie-bummil: A lazy or inactive fellow, a simpleton, a fool.

battologist: One who keeps repeating oneself needlessly

bawrel: A kind of hawk.

cag-mag: Inferior meat.

cervylle: To remove or knock out the brains.

chekkelbone: The wrist. (As in "shackle bone.")

cotty: Entangled, matted.

cowhuby: Calf, as a term of endearment or ridicule.

dartre: Any skin disease characterized by scabby or flaky skin, such as herpes or eczema.

dashee: A tip or present; also to dash

doob: A type of grass

eftersoons: Soon after, presently, again.

enaluron: A border on a heraldic shield, featuring a bird design

epithymy: Lust.

fankle: To tangle or entangle. You know, to get all cotty.

fistmeal: The breadth of a fist; used in archery (usually as "fistmele") to describe the measure of a fist plus an outstretched thumb, the correct distance between a bow and its string

fladge: A broad piece of anything, including a wide-bottomed person; more recently slang for flagellation

fritinancy: The chirping of insects.

gallack: Left-handed.

galligaskins: loose wide hose or breeches worn in the 16th and 17th centuries.

galp: to gape; yawn.

hardhaw: Black knapweed.

impanate: Contained or embodied in bread/

Iracund: Easily provoked to anger

ithand: Industrious; assiduous; continually busy; diligent.

jusson: Pertaining to commands.

knowperts: The crowberry.

krobylos: A tuft or knob of hair on one's head or neck

Lerwa: A genus constituted by the snow partridge

limbeck: An alembic (chemical apparatus)

lurdan: A lazy, stupid person; a sluggard.

lushburg: A spurious coin of light weight imported into England from Luxembourg.

mesonoxian: Relating to midnight.

nobodaddy: William Blake's derisive name for the anthropomorphic God of Christianity.

rantipole: A wild, reckless, sometimes quarrelsome person.

sprauchle: To move clumsily.

stoach: To trample.

sweven: Dream, vision.

tripudiant: Exultant, triumphant

truandal: A plural noun referring to beggars or camp-followers.

trypall: A slovenly tall, lanky person

wayzgoose: An annual entertainment given by a master printer to his workmen.


Week 1479

Style Conversational Week 1479: A Czar is born
The Empress of The Style Invitational salutes her predecessor. Plus a look at this week's contest and results.
By Pat Myers
Yesterday at 5:45 p.m. EST

The first Style Invitational ran without further explanation -- and a challenge that continued to be a poser for almost 30 years -- on the front page of the Sunday Style section. No byline, no "Czar."

Last weekend I had the pleasure of gathering with a group of old friends of Gene Weingarten at the home of Tom "The Butcher" Shroder, Gene's longtime editor, to celebrate Gene and to commemorate the end of his 31 years at The Post -- as an editor, essayist, Pulitzer-winning long-form feature writer, humor columnist * and Style Invitational creator -- by presenting him with a custom-made 88-page tribute book, intended only for him.

The book-for-one (though written as if others would read it as well, someday) contains 14 little chapters, each a reminiscence by a different friend/colleague. Many of the contributors worked with Gene at the Miami Herald before he came to D.C. in 1990; several of them had followed him to The Post. I was honored (and intimidated) to be asked to appear among the work of such household names as Joel Achenbach, Marc Fisher, David von Drehle, Caitlin Gibson, Gina Barecca, former Post executive editor Len Downie -- and Gene's BFF Dave Barry, whom Gene hired as a humor columnist at the Herald after reading a piece he'd written for the Philadelphia Inquirer (at the time, Dave's job was teaching writing skills to businesspeople).

Here's my contribution:

A Czar Is Born: Gene and The Style Invitational, 1993-2003

On March 7, 1993, regular readers of the Sunday Washington Post were greeted with something of a surprise when they reached Section F.

Over the years, the Sunday Style section had slumped into little more than the vestiges of Style's pre-1970 incarnation, For and About Women. Anchored by a few ads for the city's obsolescent department stores, Sunday Style featured the social calendar, a little fashion coverage, and a usually tepid, puffy, overlong main feature that no one wanted to run elsewhere.

But that was before the reins of the section were handed to Gene Weingarten, who gave exactly 0.000 craps about any of those subjects.

That Sunday in March, the 3,500-word feature story dominating Page F1 was headlined "Getting Burned: A Look Back at the Navy's Mustard-Gas Experiments. It's Enough to Make You Sick." Next to it was an essay: "Noted With * Disdain," by Gene Weingarten. The disdain was for the new President Clinton's choice of wristwear: a Timex Ironman Triathlon, "a plastic digital watch, thick as a brick and handsome as a hernia."

And at the bottom of the page was a box: "Introducing: The Style Invitational: Week 1." There was no byline, no "welcome to our new humor feature." An anonymous "we" put forth the first challenge: " * Should the team change its name? Being typical pandering journalists, we take no position ourselves. We merely suspect the Redskin name is doomed, and when that occurs, we wish to be ready with an alternative. So give us one. * Entries will be judged on humor, originality and appropriateness to Washington." And for the victor? "The first-prize winner gets an elegant Timex Ironman Triathlon digital watch, valued at $39."

The Invite immediately rocketed to astonishing success among readers. The writer identified so far only as "we" announced receiving 3,400 entries to Week 5, a contest to link congressional names into "joint legislation" (e.g., the Traficant-DeLay-Akaka Roadside Port-a-Potty Act). And the anonymity of this "we" -- combined with a voice that became more conspicuous and more hilarious as the weeks, months and years progressed -- created the most welcome of buzzes. Gene, of course, gloried in it, eventually conferring upon himself an imperial moniker. Five months in: "We have received calls and letters requesting the name of the Czar of the Style Invitational. Regrettably, we cannot disclose this. At The Post, it is a closely guarded secret, like the identity of Deep Throat, which is known only to Bob Woodward and the Czar of The Style Invitational. Thank you.")

This tease of anonymity inevitably created even more of a mystique, and an even more feverish obsession among its clever, funny, nerdy entrants, who formed a proto-social-media community: keeping meticulous standings, sending out a snail-mail newsletter (Depravda) and meeting in person at monthly brunches. Of course, the Czar declined their invitations to join them, or to have anything else to do with his minions, thus enhancing his allure even further.


The Style Invitational's brand of humor was, certainly in the 1990s, waayyyy edgier than anything else in the paper. Poop jokes. Sexual double-entendres. Snarky gibes at politicians. At political correctness. At religion. At West Virginians. But it was also, consistently, supremely witty, often featuring sophisticated wordplay and erudite references; a contest was as likely to ask for a limerick about Bosnia-Herzegovina as it was for a joke based on noises such as "Kaboom, kablooie, kablamm, duh." In 2001, Post ombudsman Michael Getler carped that the Invite occasionally "lapses into vulgarity and just plain bad taste," but also conceded that it could be "very clever and laugh-out-loud funny." And readers loved it passionately. When the Invite went on hiatus in early 2000, a barrage of complaints and pleas from outraged fans brought it back, sassy as ever.

As copy desk chief in Style, I'd become close friends with Gene since his arrival at The Post in 1990; he was working as an editor in the daily section. For some reason he was looking for anagrams for "The Washington Post" and I came up with "Wet Hogs in Hot Pants" and that seemed to make me his kind of colleague. And so when he started up the Invite, he'd typically bounce contest ideas off me, ask my opinions on various entries, etc., though Gene did all the judging himself, every week.

Gene might have asked my opinions, but Gene has a firm philosophy of humor, and it's just a weeny bit in jest. It is that a joke is intrinsically hysterically funny, mildly funny, or unfunny -- and that the best judge, and quite possibly the only true judge, of that funniness is Gene N. Weingarten. Sure, other people can find a joke funnier or less funny than Gene does; happens all the time. But those people are wrong.

That approach served the Czar supremely as sometimes thousands of Style Invitational entries flowed in each week, first by snail mail, then fax, then email, for 535 weeks, stretching almost 11 years and encompassing a host of humor genres: inventing words and phrases; writing cartoon captions; writing various forms of light verse, such as limericks, double dactyls and even forms the Czar coined himself; and some daringly off-the-wall stuff like "What does God look like?" or running just a big square of empty space, no instructions, just "First prize gets *" And just after Sept. 11, 2001, a contest whose only directions were "Make us laugh."

The Czar and Empress do a selfie in 2015. Pre-pandemic, we'd get together over lunch a few times a year to work the NTY Split Decisions puzzle. (Pat Myers/TWP)
Gene finally brought the Czar's reign to an end near the end of 2003. He'd been writing a weekly column for the Post Magazine for more than three years, and now he'd be leaving Style entirely to become a full-time writer there as well. But he didn't let the Invite die: That December the Czar was rudely deposed in print -- a black crayon was scribbled across his final words -- by an anonymous Empress, who picked up the ball and is still running with it, 18 years and 900-plus columns later: The Invite will celebrate its 30th anniversary in March 2023.

The "coup," of course, was Gene's idea. I'd filled in as his designated "Auxiliary Czar" when Gene took a few weeks off in 1995 and a few months off in 2001; he and I were the only people who'd ever judged the contest. So while it made sense that I'd take it over, I was wildly intimidated, knowing that I couldn't match Gene's creativity and writing talent. Nobody could. I literally could not have done it -- I would have failed horribly, and immediately -- without Gene's continued, enormously generous support behind the scenes those first few months, and to this day. I'll say (as I did just a couple of weeks ago), "I need you to write a poem about someone who died in 2021, for an example for our obit poem contest," and boom, there's a double dactyl about Tommy Lasorda's famed foul mouth:

Higgledy Piggledy
Tommy Lasorda was
Quite the field manager --
Smart, and with pluck.
Angry and colorful,
$%&, %#!* and
#$!& and &!@$!
And to this day, I'll regularly send Gene a shortlist of several dozen entries and he'll tell me his favorites.

Which, of course, he deems the only correct choices.

And which I sometimes end up ignoring.

So I can only attribute the survival of our 30-year best-friendship -- by far the longest and closest I've had with anyone but my husband -- to our shared love for the food of the Indian subcontinent. And maybe the discovery of wet hogs in hot pants.

Pat Myers has been the Empress of The Style Invitational since 2003 and has fussed over commas and such for all of Gene's books.

The march of fives: This week's WordleVite contest

Just this morning I saw an interoffice email inviting staffers to attend a "games brainstorm session" to come up with some neat puzzles and games that The Post might offer to readers. I wonder how many of the attendees had already compared their Wordle scores and were now looking for two more six-letter Spelling Bee words to reach Queen Bee.

I can't account for the meteoric and sweeping success of this simple word puzzle, which the New York Times bought from creator Josh Wardle three months after it debuted -- and already had 10 million users. It appeals to me -- here's the NYT link to it, with simple directions -- because there's just one quick game every 24 hours; you can't get sucked into it. There's a lot of luck involved to think of a few five-letter words whose letters and their positions will quickly help reveal the word of the day, but there's skill and even strategy involved as well. (I still haven't failed to get it within the allotted six tries, but it's inevitable.)

Anyway, much as we did with a neologism contest inspired by the NYT Spelling Bee game, The Style Invitational is not ashamed to nod to the Gray Lady with this week's Wordle-adjacent contest, Week 1479. The Invite isn't a puzzle; it's a humor contest whose primary aim is to provide readers with funny, clever material. But as always, I hope that the Loser Community -- including, I hope, many people who've found us this week through Wordle-of-mouth -- will have lots of fun producing that material in exchange for some cheap trinket or, more likely, nothing but a feeling of being slighted.

To be honest, Week 1479 and Wordle don't have that much in common -- really, it's just two elements: 1. A progression of five-letter words. 2. The "green" squares that establish that a certain letter appears in the final word, in the proper position. And four weeks from now, I'll probably run the winning entry as a Wordlish graphic -- and everyone else's as a stack of plain words (or maybe even one line).

When I was hashing out this contest with Melissa Balmain, who suggested it along with several examples, the question was how to keep some connection with the principles of Wordle while still allowing lots of humor and creativity. The first option was to simply ask for a string of five-letter words, no other restrictions. But that seemed too unWordly -- especially were they to run in a Wordle-type grid.

Conversely, I could have demanded that the "yellow" letters -- the right letters but in the wrong spot -- had to continue to appear in subsequent words. And I could have insisted that the "gray" letters, those ruled out as not appearing in the final word at all, couldn't continue to be used.

Ultimately I went with just enough to keep the process connected with the game of Wordle: It comes down to the green letters, the ones in the right position. As long as they don't move out of place before the final word, you're good. You can't omit that letter and put it back in, though.

More clarifications:

You may use a letter more than once in any word, including the final word. That rule makes real Wordle harder to solve, and affects our contest a bit as well. Let's say the final word is PIPES, and your first word is PLOTZ. You can't then follow PLOTZ with YIPES, because your correct P has to stay where it is. The second P is its own letter.

You can check for your own green letters with the tool at; you just type in your progression. Don't worry about the grays and yellows. (Thanks to Loser Jeff Contompasis for finding this.)

You may add punctuation at the end of a word. That's very unWordle, but I think we're going to need it. Try to avoid apostrophes within words, but I'm not going to disqualify them.

You may reuse a "gray" letter that doesn't appear in the final word. In real Wordle, this would be a waste because you couldn't learn anything from it -- and so it's sort of out of character with a real Wordle progression -- but it's not against the rules.

Unlike in Wordle, you may use proper nouns in your word series, as in the Putin example. You could even make up a word, if it would contribute to a funny entry.

"Yellow" letters -- ones that will appear in the final word, but in different places -- really aren't part of this contest. If you have a yellow letter in the first word, you may omit it in the second word (just as you might strategically in Wordle).

A BIG NOTE ON THE FORMATTING: DO NOT MAKE YOUR WORD PROGRESSION INTO A GRID! As I said above, the entries will run either as stacked words or in a single line. Please assume the latter, since I'd have to put in coding to stack them anyway: SO ALL YOU DO IS WRITE YOUR WORDS LIKE A SENTENCE, on one line, then continue -- on the same line -- with the description of your phrase. Don't bother with boldface, underlines, etc.; to show the Wordality; they won't transmit on this entry form.

Your description can be either terse or not-so-terse. Melissa's examples were very brief, but if you have a phrase that you can make a joke about, use in a sentence, etc., have at it. Remember: We have readers.

Jest for the Hail of it*: The songs and cheers of Week 1475
*Non-inking headline by Jon Gearhart

The newly named Washington Commanders, previously the Washington Football Team and before that the Washington Racist Slurs, brought forth dozens of spirited fight songs and cheers in the results of Week 1475, none of which you'll ever see in flashing graphics on the Jumbotron. " It's that happy-for-the-Invite combination of an universally loathed, extortionate billionaire team owner -- now embroiled in all sorts of legal trouble over allegations of the sleaziest kind of workplace sexual harassment -- an embarrassing team name that the owner fought tooth and nail to keep until his business sponsors refused to work with him anymore; and a team that -- no coincidence here -- hasn't been in the Super Bowl since 1992.

Formerly the hottest ticket in football -- families would pass their season tickets down through generations -- the team now often plays at home to louder noise from fans of the other team, as Mark Raffman mentions in his inking entry today.

On the other hand, I also opened the contest for songs and cheers for other institutions, which produced a fruitful variety of parodies, far more good ones than I have room for this week. As I often do, I'll post some ink-robbery victims in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group over the next week or so; you can search for #parodies.

Thanks to some Losers who are musically talented and/or technically savvy, this week's online results include three entertaining videos, all of which supply the lyrics in subtitles. It's the first ink above the fold for rookie Marty Gold -- who plays clarinet in the Army Band but here just sings -- and his video parody of "Maria" ("Commanders, we've rebranded as the commanders *"), which scored second place and the lovely turkey socks.

Baltimorean Jonathan Jensen once again served up a fine video effort, featuring himself three times over as he offers his solution for Washington fans: Look north. Craig Dykstra offers lots of animation in a parody of "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" to express disgust with the team for which he's been a longtime season ticket holder.

But really, Craig's funnier effort was a one-minute video that I didn't think I should run, because of a slur, even though it was said in jest. It's about the team name (and other regrettable aspects), in which Craig affects a Jimmy Durante voice to footage of a "Flintstones" cartoon. It's very funny. I just wish he hadn't used that last line.


Week 1478

Style Conversational Week 1478: Speak-songs with words everyone knows
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's contest for poems using the 1,000 most common words (not 'poem')
By Pat Myers
Yesterday at 5:18 p.m. EST

Though they were all issued before Obsessive Loser Duncan Stevens started entering The Style Invitational, Duncan managed to accumulate enough vintage Loser T-shirts (mostly as substitutes for other prizes) to make this enormous, totally Loserly quilt. (Courtesy of Duncan Stevens)

I love how Randall Munroe explains how he compiled his list of the 1,000 most common words in English: "The set of ten hundred words in Thing Explainer comes from putting together many ways of counting how much people use a word to come up with a single set of ten hundred words that should sound familiar and simple to lots of people."

To write that in his blog, Munroe surely used his own Thing Explainer Word Checker, which immediately flags which words aren't on the list. It's a bit coy in that he doesn't say what those "many ways of counting are" -- not to mention he doesn't even show us the list -- but this checker works like a charm, and it's why we're going to use it for Style Invitational Week 1478, our contest for poems made from any of these 1,000 words.

This nifty checker will make it more fun to write poems for this week's Style Invitational than it was for a similar contest in 2014.
Randall Munroe -- creator of the sciency webcomic and the marvelous US Space Team's Up Goer Five -- was also my inspiration the first time I ran this contest (Week 1069 in July 2014), at the suggestion of Loser Ben Aronin.


But that time, the 1,000-word list I used turned out to be a little questionable -- for one thing, it was drawn from a database of TV and movie scripts, which meant that it included words like "murder" and "Antonio." And I ran an online validator that time as well, done by a fan of xkcd, but it seems to have been based on a different list from the one I sent contestants to; this list was also a little odd ("smirk," "focus" and "glare" but not "cow" or "pig" or "tired," from a random check). The fan did supply a word list, but when I tried to share it this morning with the Style Invitational Devotees on Facebook, FB refused to show it because it deemed it spam.

Anyway, this time we'll all be using the elegant Simple Writer -- and because you have to use the tool to write your entry, I don't have to worry that you accidentally used an invalid word. And because its range remains to be discovered, I'll be curious to find out what does and doesn't come through this time.

Last-minute update! Since I posted the Invite online this morning, Loser Kevin Dopart turned up this Giant Mess of Words that might be The List. Feel free to use it, but make sure you still run your entry through Simple Writer.

Some notes:

You may add a title -- and it doesn't have to qualify as simple.

You may use two or more short words to substitute for a non-simple word, but only because it's funny and creative to do so. You would have to run them as separate words or hyphenated, or else your word will be flagged as not simple. So if you used "so-up" for "soup," it would have to be clear to the reader what the heck you meant. Take it from me (and from haters of our Joint Legislation contests): Long strings of these syllables that you have to puzzle out can become wearisome and a dubious stretch.

As always, rhyming poems have to have "perfect rhyme." Art poetry and Invite poetry can overlap, but when your main goal is funny/clever/zingy rather than lyrical/poignant, true rhymes and clear, consistent meter tends to get you there better. I won't run worm/swarm, yellow/fellows, etc., and frown on identities -- when the last accented syllables of two lines are the same rather than rhyming (leave/believe). Limericks have to be in limerick form, not kind-of limerick form.

Don't worry about formatting each poem into one line. While I usually ask you not to enter any line breaks within a single Invite entry so that I can shuffle up everyone's entry alphabetically and super-anonymously, that's just not workable with poems unless they're all haiku or some other li'l thing. So I'll see each entrant's submission as a whole; i.e., if you send seven poems on one entry form, I'll see them all together. But still, I won't see your name -- so really, not a big deal. (To be totally honest: If you send, say, 15 poems and I love 12 of them, I'm not going to pick all 12 from who I know is the same person. Conversely, if you send 25 poems and 24 of them are pieces of doo-doo, I will do my best to notice that very good 25th one, the 17th one in the list, but it does run some risk of not being properly appreciated.)

I am 100 percent certain that I will have tons of fabulous material to choose from. Here's some of what I chose for Week 1069 (full results here; scroll down past that week's new contest to see the poems); because we used a different validator, the poems probably won't work totally with Simple Writer.

The winner of the Inkin' Memorial
Same sex marriage? Why the fight?
It's good for both the left and right.
The left: "This cause the law protects."
The right: "More weddings mean less sex." (Mark Raffman; "protects" wouldn't work this time)

I think that I shall never see
A word picture as good-looking as a very big stick that is alive would be. (Gary Crockett, a runner-up)

Just Saying .*.*.
Your daughter's going on a date
You tell her not to come home late,
To watch her step and never drink --
(That stupid stuff won't let you think!)
And one more thing she better know:
That boys are always hot to go!
Your job is done! (Be glad your kid
Has no idea of what you did .*.*.) (Beverley Sharp, a runner-up)

"Hamlet" as a limerick:
I'm down now that Father is dead
And his brother takes Mother to bed.
My girl just got mad
When I did in her dad.
No wonder I'm out of my head! (Chris Doyle)

I have a big girlfriend, about six-feet-five,
And so hot that she makes me feel glad I'm alive.
I got up on a box to make love face-to-face -
And that was the night that I first fell from Grace. (Craig Dykstra)

And Really Last: The idea for this week was to write something fun
From a list of a thousand small words, which you've done.
Now I've read what you sent me and, take it from me,
You'd do well not to give up your day job. - The E. (Chris Doyle)

A match made in hyphen*: The results of Week 1474
*Non-inking (too long) headline by Jesse Frankovich, who inked instead with "Hyphen Help Us"

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For the umpteenth time, and in the umpteenth-minus-a-few variation, the Week 1474 Hyphen the Terrible contest yielded dozens of zingy neologisms and various political digs from various halves of hyphenated words and phrases found in The Post and other publications. Because such a contest requires some searching through at least a few articles, it's not surprising that there were fewer entrants than usual (resulting in more multiple ink for a few) and no First Offenders.

While each term was made from syllables on one side or other of a hyphen, I left the hyphens out of some of the neologisms themself they would have detracted from the understanding of the word. For example, Tom Witte's interrogato -- a curious cat -- was formed from Interroga-tion + go-to; if I ran it as "interroga-to," it would have messed up the "gato." I showed the original syllables for the top four entries, to show the reader how the contest worked, then left out the rest, since they rarely add to the joke itself and become a bit tiresome to read.

Some neologisms depended too much on the original words; for instance, "Disbia" -- the state of having no voice -- was the joining of Dis-trict and Colum-bia; as in no meaningful representation in Congress. But you can't recognize that from the outer-syllable "disbia." (And were I to spell that all that out, it probably would have felt heavy-handed to the reader.) The inking entries, more than 40 of them, work well as either portmanteaux, combining two recognizable words, or roots with prefixes or suffixes -- plus one threebie: Kevin Dopart's rip-up-licans, referring, like this week's winning entry involving toilets, to the former president's disposal of records that are required by law to be preserved.

It was a banner week for Loser Steve Smith, who returns after a few months off to claim his third Clowning Achievement trophy -- or, more precisely, a little "III" pennant to stick onto his single Clowner (in our 100 Clowners for 100 Losers program). Steve combined the first halves of "paper-work" and "privi-lege" to make paper-privi, "the repository for highly sensitive Trump administration documents." (The former guy denies having flushed his presidential papers down the White House toilets, though New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman says in her new book that staffers discovered a royal loo clogged with something other than Charmin.) Steve also picked up honorable mentions with St.-Ick, a sketchy Santa, and confectious, what a snotty 4-year-old's birthday cake can be. The Losers' Circle was filled out by Hall of Famer Gary Crockett's non-nouncement, politicians' stock, highly suspect answer about whether they'll run for higher office: "I'm 100 percent focused on the job the voters elected me to do"; Ann Martin's misinforma-ven, "someone who does his own research"; and Leif Picoult's de-tween, to take the Super Mario sheets off the bed of the ninth-grader.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood tells me that he got a laugh (or four) out of all the "above-the-fold" winners, and also singled out from the honorable mentions: Kevin Dopart's lib-surdity, "any criticism of the dynamic tourism at the Capitol that day," attributed to the RNC; Jonathan Jensen's de-publican, who "won't Manchin any names"; Tom Witte's interrogato, a curious cat; Jeff Contompasis's pre-publicans, "advocates of police defunding who have yet to be mugged"; Barbara Turner's solo-plause, from that one person who doesn't know when not to clap (it would have been perfect for Sen. Chuck Schumer at the State of the Union this past Tuesday); and especially Jesse Frankovich's life-free, describing someone who'd spend a ridiculous amount of time looking for hyphenated words.

I had marked a few entries that illustrate what doesn't work in a neologism contest, but I think I'll save them for advice the next time I run one, rather than a postmortem.

Next Loser sighting: brunch March 20, Potomac, Md.
(Reprinted from last week) I unfortunately have a conflict that day, but otherwise I'd definitely waddle to and from to the giant old-fashioned breakfast/lunch buffet tables at Normandie Farm in Potomac, Md., first-time site of the next Loser brunch. There's everything from lox and bagels to a full plate of roast turkey with cranberry sauce. There's also regular menu service. Mask at the buffet, of course. That's Sunday, March 20, at noon. See a whole year's (tentative) brunch and party schedule on the Our Social Engorgements page at the Losers' own website, As always, any Losers, Friends/Handlers of Losers, and Just Fans are totally welcome.


Week 1477

Style Conversational Week 1477: Great contest, will run again!
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's Walmart review contest and sign results

No stars! Joey, the Empress's late Favorite Cat Ever, was either plotting revenge or rationalizing that he'd be getting the Salmon With Gravy later, so whatever, as he modeled a lion's-mane headband. This product is one of the ones to be "reviewed" in Style Invitational Week 1477. (TWP)
By Pat Myers
February 24, 2022 at 4:17 p.m. EST

The Style Invitational's first contest for spoofy online product reviews -- Week 960, exactly 10 years ago today -- was inspired by a series of rapturous odes to a plastic jug of Tuscan brand milk that were posted by various wags on Amazon. One Philip Tone, playing off Wine Specator magazine: " * Sip gently, slowly, or one is in danger of not only missing the subtleties of the milk's texture and its terroir. * Tuscan is best drunk young -- I recommend pairing with freshly baked macadamia nut scones. Milk Expectorator gives this one a 92."

That week, I invited the Loser Community to weigh in similarly on dishcloths, emery boards, a spool of thread, a pocket comb and a box of Morton's salt. Today, in Week 1477, you have your choice to extol (or lament) your choice of a shoehorn, a whistle, a loaf of white sandwich bread, an alarm clock, a roll of duct tape, a Slinky, a clear plastic box, and -- lately we've had one offbeat product -- a "lion's mane" to put on a cat, as in the handsome leonine specimen atop this page: my amazingly tolerant Joey (he obviously wasn't happy, but he didn't bite or scratch over it).

That the specific products we're using are listed on Walmart's website rather than the usual Amazon (together, everyone: * Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post*) shouldn't affect the contest in the least; it's just a leetle twist.

The best way to show what I'm looking for in these reviews is to show you the ones that got ink in the earlier contests. At first, I was really worried that a negative review -- even if it were obviously a joke -- could damage the product's rating average or somehow unintentionally cause it harm, but I don't think that's even possible with these products on Still, don't write that, say, you found glass shards in the bread, or anything else that could be considered libelous.

Here are links to the previous results, plus some selected gems from those contests:

Week 960, 2012 (scroll past the week's new contest to the winning reviews)

Week 1098, 2014 (link goes straight to the results)

Week 1244, 2017

Week 1321, 2019

("World's Best Dish Cloths -- Set of 12 -- Assorted Colors") Sure, you can purchase other dish cloths, but you'll need to buy these in the end anyway -- just so you can wipe up your salty tears of regret from having bought the World's Second Best Dish Cloth first. (Art Grinath, Week 960)

(A spool of white thread) All the gals in our ladies' auxiliary swear it's white thread or nothing! And Dual Duty Plus is the best. We want our men's robes and masks looking as spotless as can be when they set out on their missions to rescue America from the powers of darkness. (John Shea, Week 960)

I'm not sure if it's the grain size or the iodine, but this salt is much better than kosher or sea salt. Just sprinkle on any open wound and oh, oooooh YES! (Bird Waring, Week 960)

("Universal Paper Clips 72210") Universal paper clips, my tentacle! Instead of neatly fastening documents here on Naxerine Bb, these paper clips instantly melted due to the heat of our binary suns. Amazon's delivery service, however, was surprisingly good. (Melissa Balmain, winner of Week 1098)

My Pringles can came in the mail and it worked great as a maraca. But did you know that one side of it comes off fairly easily? The styrofoam-like innards slid out of my maraca and onto the floor, and the dog ate some. Should I call poison control? (Mike Gips, Week 1098)

(Paper clips) This product is hopelessly confusing. I can never tell whether the small inside loop is supposed to go on top, or the big outside end. Where is the instruction manual? (Ken Gallant, Week 1098)

(Paper clips) Drop the double-daggered stapler!
Skip the scalding hot-glue gun!
Toss the tacks and tricky tape
That sticks and rips when it's undone!
Dodge the punch and crushing grip
Of lever-action binder clip!
Instead use these, which barely dent,
And keep your work nonviolent. (Peter Shawhan, Week 1098)

(Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil) It really works to block UFO thought control! The proof is in the anagram: WALL UP YOUR MIND FROM ALIENS! (Jesse Frankovich, winner of Week 1244)

(Toenail clippers) They work okay but are too noisy. And it's not just me -- everyone else in the restaurant seemed annoyed, too. (Larry Yungk, Week 1244)

(Poop emoji pool float) Highly inaccurate -- one look at this poop and you can tell it would be a sinker, not a floater. For reference on what is and is not a floater, I have attached several photos * (Todd DeLap, Week 1244)

(White handkerchiefs) Who would have guessed that carrying my mucus in my pocket all day could be so stylish? (David Kleinbard, Week 1321)

(Shoelaces) My doctor told me to get a neti pot, but these were way cheaper! The plastic bits on the end hurt, though, so only 4 stars. (Todd DeLap. Week 1321)

(64-ounce block of Velveeta) I think they changed the recipe -- doesn't taste anything like the real thing. I finally finished the 32-ounce block I purchased in 1953 at the A&P, and it was sooooo much better than this crap. (Warren Tanabe, Week 1321)

(Toilet paper holder) Just once, I wish they would design one of these things that could be refilled by spouses and children. (Robyn Carlson, Week 1321)

Highway ribbery*: The sign contest of Week 1473
*Headline submitted by too many people to credit individually

Our second running of a contest for road sign messages -- the first was more than 15 years ago -- clearly appealed to Invite readers who don't usually enter (results of Week 1473 here); I heard from 259 Losers, rather than the 150 to 200 who enter most weeks (the horse name contest still rules with about 400 entrants). That's probably because it doesn't require the research or the wordcraft that some Invite contests require, and also because it's fun to use the sign generators I linked to at the still bare-bones And it could also be that funny people have their own jokes that they always say while they're in traffic, and here was the chance to share them with the world. I was delighted to discover that we have four First Offenders this week -- last week we had one; the week before that, zero. Because I can't run an automatic counter on entries with multiple line endings, I don't know how many entries I got in all; I think there were at least 2,000, though, since I saw many submissions with long lists of entries.

I wouldn't be shocked, or even much dismayed, if some of these jokes turn out to have been told before. I didn't turn up anything identical with some cursory Googling, but if you've seen it before, and can't enjoy it again, just keep reading the rest of the 42 inking entries, and try to restrain your outrage that someone will score a whole refrigerator magnet for a joke you heard before sort of. Go honk at other drivers or something.

In fact, most of this week's inking entries were my favorites among several (or many) with the same idea. Wordle, the fad game of the moment, was mentioned by 17 separate entrants; lots of them were good but I chose one by Melissa Balmain: PUT DOWN YOUR PH- - - /DON'T BE A D-M-Y/ WORDLE CAN WAIT. I got a lot of "kosher" jokes for the barbecue joint marquee (and a couple with "halal") but thought Jonathan Jensen's elegantly pithy "Closed for Yom Kippur" was by far the best of the bunch -- and, unlike some, not offensive, like some that encouraged Jews to eat the pork anyway.

Aside from "Closed for Yom Kippur," the other three entries in the Losers' Circle were unique ideas among the entries: Jeff Rackow's ATTENTION SELF-DRIVING CARS: COMMENCE THE REVOLUTION NOW!; Martin Bancroft's off-the-wall (and complementing this week's new contest) FIVE STARS! EXCELLENT DELAY! WOULD SIT THROUGH AGAIN; and Stephen Dudzik's PLEASE CLEAR THIS RUNWAY IMMEDIATELY.

That one got Steve his first Clowning Achievement trophy -- but his 16th Invite win: One of our 16 Hall of Famers (500 blots of ink all-time), Steve is one of very, very few Losers to have gotten ink in every one of the Invite's 29 years of existence; I believe the only others are Tom Witte, Elden Carnahan and Dave Zarrow. Today's win gives him Ink No. 607.

And this was before my time -- more than 20 years ago -- but as far as I know, Steve has so far been the only Loser to invite a tableful of other Losers to his wedding. I understand that no one set off a whoopee cushion or water balloon at the fete.

What Doug Dug: The faves of Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood, from among the 36 entries (out of 42) that fit on the print page: Scott Richards's HWY DEDICATED TO TROOPER SMITH, POTHOLES DEDICATED TO SEN MANCHIN; Jonathan Jensen's and First Offender Bill Grewe's SEE A DISTRACTED DRIVER? TEXT 'SAFETY' TO 73826 (an updated version of the phone-call version of the joke in 2006); Don Norum's WELCOME TO DC/ IT'S BEEN: 416 DAYS /SINCE OUR LAST COUP ATTEMPT; and, for the barbecue marquee: Terri Berg Smith's KERMIE! SAVE ME!

Loser Robert Marzec saw this marquee in Coon Rapids, Minn., a while back. (Culver's Butterburgers, by the way, are burgers with a buttery bun, not giant butter sandwiches. Similarly good for you, though. They do have great milkshakes.) (-)
Next Loser sighting: Brunch buffet, March 20
I unfortunately have a conflict that day, but otherwise I'd definitely waddle to and from to the giant old-fashioned breakfast/lunch buffet tables at Normandie Farm in Potomac, Md., first-time site of the next Loser brunch. There's everything from lox and bagels to a full plate of roast turkey with cranberry sauce. There's also regular menu service. Mask at the buffet, of course. That's Sunday, March 20, at noon. See a whole year's (tentative) brunch and party schedule on the Our Social Engorgements page at the Losers' own website,

Meanwhile, 20 of us had an especially good time this past Sunday at the Spanish Diner in Bethesda, with some of the longest-term Losers, like Steve Dudzik with wife Lequan, and Roy and Inge Ashley, as well as several newbies, like rookies David Stonner and Paul and Lori Lipman Brown (both of whom got ink this week!). It's been one of the great pleasures of being Empress for the past 18-plus years that I've gotten to meet hundreds of Invite contestants and fans, and call many of them my friends. And being able to judge the contest blindly means that I can't even unconsciously give ink to someone because she complimented me at a brunch -- or deny it to the guy who, once, after a lunch, wrote to me to say how surprised how old we all were; I was three years his senior.

Wall-to-wall Loserdom at the Spanish Diner Feb. 21. On the left toward the back, Royal Consort Mark Holt, David Stonner, the Empress, Paul and Lori Brown; on the right, fan Stephanie Smilay, Jonathan Jensen, Leif Picoult, Roy and Inge Ashley. More Losers at the next table as well. (restaurant photo/Pat Myers)
Now, more than ever: Make 'em laugh!
Just as I was listening to last night's terrible news on the radio, I was heartened by this email I received from an Invite fan who wanted to be on the mailing list for my weekly notification newsletters:

"You have made me laugh so much in the 6 years since I moved to DMV [the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region]. However, your weekly Style Invitational was an even greater bonus during the worst of the pandemic. There was so little joy & so little to laugh about but somehow all the people who submitted entries find a way to see the humor in the irrational, the sad & sometimes even the plain old humorous thing in life.

Thank you. Truly.

Julia M Cruz"


Week 1476

Style Conversational Week 1476: The search continues
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's Googlenope contest and financial-fictoid results

Well, it was until this morning * What's a Googlenope today might well not be one four weeks from now (and might even differ among users). Don't sweat this; just play in good faith. (Screen image)
By Pat Myers
February 17, 2022 at 5:04 p.m. EST

The Style Invitational is a humor contest, and one key element of humor is irony -- some situation in which two things coexist unexpectedly A clumsy man trips over his feet and falls over: maybe funny, not ironic. Clumsy/clumsy result. Rudolf Nureyev trips over his feet and falls over: ironic and surely funnier. Graceful/clumsy result.

In the several contests since 2007 that The Style Invitational has run for Googlenopes -- phrases that, when put in quotes and searched for on Google, get no real matches -- irony has been the source of most of the humor. (And faux irony abounds among this week's winning "fictoids" about finance; see below.) This week's contest, Week 1476, repeats the one we did in 2018. In that one, Week 1305, I also invited what we called Googleyups: phrases that someone out there saw fit to say on the Internet. Just as this week, you could send a G'nope, a G'yup or an entry combining two or more of either or both -- like the three Nopes and a Yup that serve as today's primary example.

Important if you're going to play! For your Googleyup -- and to get anything good for a Googlenope -- you'll want to use quotes around your phrase, since otherwise Google is looking for those words somewhere on the page, not necessarily together. For instance, a search for unquoted sexy coke bottle glasses yields 5.9 million pages. And: Keep the phrase short. To find that no one else has posted exactly the same 18 words in one particular order: not thrilling, and possibly misleading. Also really important: Google search, like so much of the Internet, is a highly fluid, constantly changing organism. Your search that gave you a Googlenope for you you on Wednesday is suddenly giving you 14 hits when you prepare to send it in on Friday. Just note that. But don't cheat. (And a funny ironic comparison between something with 14 hits and one with 400,000 works just fine. Yup!) Still, according to my introduction to the results of the 2018 contest, the 'nopes tended to hold up for the duration.


Below are some samples from then, and from some earlier ones.

(Full results from Week 1305, 2018)

From Week 1305, headlined No-Hit Wonders:

Fourth place: Googleyup: "Cows are smarter than you think." (a Googlewhack, exactly one hit)// Googleyup: "Pigs are smarter than you think." // Googlenope: "Betsy DeVos is smarter than you think." (Mark Raffman)

Third place: Googleyup: "Does your virginity grow back?" (101 results) (Mike Burch)

Second place: Googlewhack: "Sarah Huckabee Sanders always tells the truth." (The whole sentence: "Sarah Huckabee Sanders always tells the truth about absolutely nothing.") (Lorna Jerome, who wisely included the context that made the entry funny)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon: Googlenope: "No one invites me to LinkedIn."* (Eric Nelkin -- winner of today's fictoid contest!)

Googleyup: "Our calm four-year-old" -- but they all refer to dogs (Mark Richardson)

Googlewhack: "Cannot wait to see Washington in the summer" (and it referred to Washington state) (Duncan Stevens)

Googlenope: "Chasidic twerking videos" (Google asked helpfully, "Did you mean: 'Hasidic twerking videos'?" Fortunately, that was also a Googlenope.) (Daphne Steinberg)

I think the yups were an improvement over the previous Googlenopes contests, which are funny in their irony but kind of slim. See for yourself.

Report from Week 865 (2010), in which we sought yet more Googlenopes -- phrases that still yielded that "no results found" icon when you offer them to the Universe's Biggest Search Engine. Once again, some of the thousands of 'Nopes submitted were just convenient misspellings of names. [Oy, people, do not do that for Week 1476!] For all the results below -- which were still unique at press time [in 2010] -- the phrases were entered within quotation marks. Capitalization didn't matter in the searches.

Several entrants noted to the Empress that they were more amazed by the phrases that did produce a few hits, such as "National Beet Day" (discovered by Tom Kreitzberg) or "the wisdom of Tom Cruise" (noted by Russell Beland). These have been called Googleyups, and yes, we'll have to get to them. [ See? Just took eight years.] (We have already done Googlewhacks, in which there is exactly one hit.)

(Plain-text file of full results; scroll down past that week's new contest)

Both "Nobody understands me like my husband" and "Nobody understands me like my wife" (Mark Richardson, Washington)

2. the winner of the nine-inch-long black gummi rat:

"I was persuaded by the picket sign" (Dan Steinberg, Silver Spring)

3. "President Obama wigs" (Mike Turniansky, Pikesville, Md.)

4. "I lost lots of weight by eating better and exercising" (Sheri Tardio, Prince Frederick)

None: The Less -- Honorable mentions

"Lady Gaga wore a modest" * (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn)

"Muhammad Halloween masks" (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

"I always lift the toilet seat for my husband" (David Thorne, Washington, a First Offender)

"Now I understand all of 'Lost' " (Craig Dykstra, Centreville)

"Find me an Amway dealer" (Russell Beland, Fairfax)

"The GOP leadership sought a compromise" (Anne Paris, Arlington)

"I was outraged by that 'Family Circus' cartoon" (Julie Thomas and Will Cramer, Herndon)

"I don't know, so I'll say nothing." (Tom Kreitzberg, Silver Spring)

"unwanted strip of bacon" (Russell Beland)

"the best of the feel-good Russian novels" (Michael Woods, Arlington)

"Three animals were harmed in the making of this movie" (Russell Beland)

""I laughed at The Style Invitational" (Kevin Dopart)

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And back at the beginning: From Week 717, 2007:

Report From Week 717, when we asked for Googlenopes, phrases that -- until now -- would yield no hits if entered within quotation marks on the Google search engine. An amazing number of entrants got their no-hitters only by misspellings: "Barbara McCulsky look-alike" may be a 'nope, but "Barbara Mikulski look-alike" is not. And we're going to print the following entries right here, just so they'll no longer be Googlenopes: "The Empress is sexy," "the Empress is thoughtful," "the Empress is hot," "the Empress is amazing," "the Empress totally rocks," "the Empress deserves a Pulitzer." [2022 note: "The Empress totally rocks," 15 years later, gets only the hit of the Week 717 results text file on] All right, then. (All the entries below were verified Googlenopes at this writing [2007]. Capitalization and punctuation are not factors in Google searches.)

4. "Calvin Coolidge bobblehead" (Ann Martin, Annapolis)

3. "All the girls loved my Camry" (Tom Lundregan, Alexandria)

2. The winner of the Candy Hose Nose: "Haute cuisine sucks" (Bonnie Speary Devore, Gaithersburg)

And the Winner of the Inker: "That controversial 'Gilligan's Island' episode" (Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

'Worth Only a Magnet'

"Coprolite engagement rings" (Martin Bancroft, Rochester, N.Y.)

"What's so cute about pandas?" (Laurel Gainor, Great Falls)

"Fox News is more accurate than" (Brian Fox, Charlottesville)

"The weapons system came in under budget" (Rick Haynes, Department of Defense, Potomac)

"Lightly used caskets" (David Kleinbard, Jersey City)

"One sexy imam" (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn)

"Hardcore Nationals fan" (Brian Cohen, Potomac) [this is now up to 3,400 results]

"DIY Extreme Unction" (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

"I wish Paris Hilton was my mom" (Jonathan Gettleman, Ashburn)

"Funny Googlenopes" (Russell Beland, Springfield)

"First-time entries never get ink" (Pete Marshman, Edgewater -- and yes, of course)

By the way, Elizabeth Molye originally suggested a Nope version of Instagram hashtags, as in #sexycokebottleglasses. I was enthusiastic -- even learning how to get into Twitter without an account (Insta doesn't allow it) -- until I realized that hashtags, besides being hard to read, just don't cover that many options. There might not be a #tedcruzfanclub Instagram hashtag, but there were almost 2,000 Google hits, including two articles with that header from New York Magazine. So I went back to Google, especially after seeing that "sexy Coke bottle glasses" noped anyway.

Incidentally: Elizabeth, who's been away from the Invite for years, is coming to Sunday's brunch along with her SO, Now a Loser and Style Invitational Devotee Chad Chitwood! Looking forward to hanging with you, Chad. And speaking of *

Last call for brunch! Sunday, Feb. 20, Bethesda
Safe dining has become the norm in most D.C. restaurants -- the staff is masked; nobody blinks at being asked to show a vaccination card -- and so the Royal Consort and I are totally looking forward to this Sunday's Loser brunch (No. 237!), at the Spanish Diner on Bethesda Row in downtown Bethesda, Md., at noon. I've heard good things about the famed Jose Andres's informal eatery that focuses on the home cooking of his native country, including all-day egg dishes.

But the real attraction for me is meeting new Losers -- or just fans of the Invite -- as well as reconnecting with the regulars, and I'm looking forward to personally presenting a Loser mug to last week's runner-up (David Stonner, Washington) at his first Loser sighting. It's not too late to sign up, but be sure to let Ur-Loser Elden Carnahan know ASAP at elden [dot] carnahan [at} gmail [dot] com so he can get the reservation right. The restaurant requires proof of vaccination. Downtown Bethesda's parking garages are free on weekends!

If you can't make it this month, check out a full year's (tentative) schedule on the Losers' website, It's headlined "Our Social Engorgements, or Dorkness at Noon, or Once More Into the Brunch," Note to the wary: This is not some sort of competitive quipfest -- far from it. We just chat and eat and just get to know one another. We won't even break out into song parodies.

Har currency*: The financial fictoids of Week 1472
*Non-inking headline by Chris Doyle

Once again, The Style Invitational plays on the genre of trivia lists and "Did You Know *" features, sometimes spoofing specific "amazing" facts and ironies (or alleged facts and ironies), like the one that 90 percent of all U.S. $20 bills contain traces of cocaine, or the woo-woo similarities between Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. And of course managing to get some digs in about current events and their, uh, eventers.

It's the second win (the first was that 2018 Googlenope!), but the first Clowning Achievement trophy, for Eric Nelkin, who attributed Lincoln's victory in the 1860 election to his widespread name recognition from being on the $5 bill. That gives him 82 blots of ink overall, and six "above the fold."

John Hutchins gets his 20th trip to the Losers' Circle, and 157 blots, with is report of a surge in the GNP of India "purely from increased call center volume from Virginians afraid of critical race theory." Okay, a stretch to call that a financial fictoid, but deftly done. Hall of Famer Mark Raffman mined the "whatever happened to" genre to say that, in a sequel, "George Bailey goes on to build himself a mansion using the money he collected in overdraft fees." And Bruce Carlson proves that the Empress -- despite her protestations -- will still fall for a Him Again joke: A little-known section of the U.S. tax code exempts citizens from paying taxes if they have bone spurs in their feet. Well, it does seem to exempt them from military service.

What Doug Dug: The favorites this week of Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood were Bruce's bone spur joke; Gary Crockett revealing movie dialogue by ultra-capitalist Gordon Gekko, who added, ""But even better is saving 15 percent on your car insurance"; Perry Beider's joke about failed meteorologists turning to economic forecasting; Frank Osen about a George Parker selling an NFT of the Brooklyn Bridge -- Parker was a con man who repeatedly "sold" control of said bridge to duped immigrants, hence the saying "If you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you"; and the triply credited joke about Tom Brady heading to the Federal Reserve because of his success in overcoming inflation.

I almost ran two funny (and somewhat similar) entries that spoof the trivia genre -- except that they're not untrue:

If you balance a Millard Fillmore Presidential Dollar on its edge during the spring equinox, it will still be an unpopular coin that virtually no one uses. (Mark Calandra)

If you hold the latest version of the $500 bill up to the light and closely examine the reverse side, you can easily discern that you have much more readily available cash than the average person. (David Stonner)

I had a strong feeling that earlier fictoid contests also had a few truebies:

If you laid all of the arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules and veins in your body end to end, you'd die. (Martin Heath, Week 812, medical trivia)

"West Side Story" was originally envisioned as a straight play set in Renaissance Italy. (Russell Beland, Week 768, movie trivia)

If you stand atop the DAR Building with binoculars and look toward the White House, you are likely to learn more about snipers than you need to know. (Jeff Brechlin, Week 1109, D.C. trivia)

And then there was Ward Kay's about a state's highest-paid employee being the college football coach -- and it's lowest-paid one the college football player * followed by "Oh, wait, it's supposed to be false." This may be the first of such entries -- I've gotten many of them over the years -- that got ink from me.

And finally there's Gary Crockett, who says his fictoid is true as well: If all of Jeff Bezos's wealth were converted into a stack of $100 bills, the stack would be higher than his rocket can fly. But not higher than Elon's can. I asked Gary to show his work:

Bezos (as of today): 180 billion dollars = 1.8 billion $100 bills

U.S. paper currency is .0043 inches thick.

1,800,000,000 x .0043 = 7,740,000 inches

1 mile = 63,360 inches

7,740,000 / 63,360 = 122.16 miles

Elon's rockets have flown to the International Space Station, which is 254 miles above the Earth.

Bezos's New Shepard launcher took Captain Kirk to a height of 63 miles, and is not capable of much beyond that. Their next generation, the New Glenn, would be able to fly over the stack of money. It was planned to launch in 2020, but they've had lots of trouble with the engine design. It will at the very earliest fly later this year, and at this point it would be surprising if they even made that goal.

But how many Loser magnets?


Week 1475

Style Conversational Week 1475: Getting past 'Scalp 'em, stomp 'em'
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's contest for a funny Commanders song or cheer

When the Team Was Better quarterback Joe Theismann huddles with some attentive mannequins wearing the uniforms for the newly named Washington Commanders. This week, The Style Invitational invites you to give their fans something to sing about. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
By Pat Myers
February 10, 2022 at 4:31 p.m. EST

"Braves on the warpath" -- can you believe that's what millions of Washingtonians were singing with gusto just a few years ago?

Finally, our city's NFL Team is no longer the Washington Racial Slurs, and no longer the Washington Generic Name; it's now the Washington Commanders. (I guess that's because The Style Invitational already had dibs on "The Losers.") Okay, whatever.

So you'd think that the team's rebranding would, first thing, purge itself of one of its most embarrassing trademarks: the fight song "Hail to the Redskins." But according to a recent ESPN story, the team's president, Jason Wright, "said Commanders will be folded into the old fight song, though with updated lyrics after fan input." REEEEALLLLY?

Well, we'll happily offer up Mark Raffman's example at the top of this week's Style Invitational, Week 1475. We're sure the team will especially appreciate its allusions to the current woes (ah, schadenfreude!) of longtime Horrible Team Owner Snyder. And we invite your own effort as well -- either a song (to any tune) or a cheer for the team, either of them entirely satiric. And for those of you who aren't inspired by football, there's a huge out: You can write something about any other Washington institution -- and there are a lot of Washington institutions. I will absolutely run my favorite Commanders songs and cheers, but there will be lots of room for the alternatives.


I'm even giving you the extra week that I do for most song contests, especially for people who might record a video. Deadline is Monday, Feb. 28.

Scholars of The Style Invitational may be arching their eyebrows (or furrowing them, in the Southern Hemisphere) over my decision to do this contest, given that back in Week 862, in 2010, the results were so lame that I withheld most of the top prizes ("Sometimes it's not enough to be the best. You have to be good, too"). That contest was for a song or cheer for any city's team. Here are the entries I ran that week.

For any team in Florida: Gooooo . . . say, honey, what's the name of the team we like? (George Smith, Frederick)

For the Washington Wizards: (Don't) SHOOT! (Kevin Dopart, Washington) [that year, Wizards player Gilbert Arenas was found to keep guns in the basketball team's locker room, and was said to have pulled one in a dispute with a teammate over a gambling debt]

Redskins, Redskins, they're our guys!/ If they can't do it . . . no surprise. (Craig Dykstra, Centreville) [a longtime season ticket holder]

Team Canada: Please forgive us if we beat you. (Christopher Lamora, Arlington)

Baltimore Orioles: Pray for rain! (Mel Loftus, Holmen, Wis.)

Team Saudi Arabia: We will, we will stone you! (Peter Metrinko, Gainesville)

Montreal Alouettes: Gimme an Eh! (Josh Borken, Minneapolis)

Gimme an L! Gimme another L! [edited for space] Gimme an H! What's that spell? Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch! (Russell Beland, Fairfax)

Team Mexico baseball: Give us the runs! (Kevin Dopart)

Team North Korea: 2,4,6,8, let us brutally destroy our enemies and bask in the admiration and glory of our Dear Leader, who is great! (Mike Gips, Bethesda)

Let's go, Redskins, give a cheer! We just love Coach [add name here]. (Craig Dykstra)

Detroit Red Wings: Watch our team control the puck -- the only thing here that doesn't suck. (Judy Blanchard, Novi, Mich.)

Ain't no payroll high enough, ain't no scandal low enough, ain't no ego wide enough to keep me from cheerin' for you! Go Yankees! (Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.)

Hockey's San Jose Sharks: The Sharks will get you, there's no doubt; / We'll chew you up and spit you out! / (This plan is maybe not so hot: / Our teeth are missing -- we forgot.) (Beverley Sharp, Washington)

The Boston Red Sox, best with glove/ Along with wicked ball and bat/ To this great team, I give my love / Straight from the bottom of my heart. * It does too rhyme. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn [but a Massachusetts native])

And here, courtesy of Wikipedia, are the original lyrics, sung every time the team scored a touchdown beginning in 1938 all the way to 1972. They were written by Corinne Griffith, wife of the team owner. (Hear it sung here.)

Hail to the Redskins! Hail Victory!

Braves on the Warpath! Fight for old D.C.!

Scalp 'em, swamp 'um -- We will take 'um big score

Read 'um, weep 'um, touchdown! -- we want heap more

Fight on, fight on till you have won

Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah! Rah! Rah! *


In 1972, team president Edward Bennett Williams agreed to change the middle lines to these:

Run or pass and score -- we want a lot more!

Beat 'em, swamp 'em, touchdown! -- let the points soar!

(Just right there is good evidence why sometimes it's better to just throw out the rotten mess than to try to patch it up.)

We're back to brunching! Sunday, Feb. 20, Bethesda
Given the ups and mostly downs of the past two years, I'd fallen out of the habit of checking the "Our Social Engorgements" calendar of Loser brunches and other gatherings at the Losers' website, But I looked just in time to see that we'll be brunching at noon on Sunday, Feb. 20, at the Spanish Diner in downtown Bethesda, Md. It's a fairly new restaurant from the famed chef, restaurateur and Admirable Person Jose Andres, who wanted to bring the down-home cooking of his native land to an informal setting in the D.C. area. The menu looks interesting, and includes breakfast all day of a traditional egg-and-potato dish. Not shockingly expensive, especially since parking in downtown Bethesda garages is free on Sunday. Expect to show proof of vaccination.

I'm always eager to meet new Losers (or just fans of the Invitational) and reconnect with the veterans. If you're going, RSVP to elden (dot) carnahan (at) so we can make the reservation correctly.

The inkrEDIBles*: The results of Week 1471
*Non-inking headline by Chris Doyle

Our annual Tour de Fours neologism contest -- this year for words and phrases featuring the consecutive letters B-I-D-E in any order -- drew a healthy (well, depends on your definition of health) 1,400 entries, resulting in my I'm-so-generous 49 inking entries, almost all of which made the print Invite as well as the online one (anyway, it's probably for the best that readers sipping their morning coffee over Arts & Style section not cast their eyes on Fried Biopsies -- especially since Kevin Dopart also refers to a human-placenta cookbook -- or Jesse Frankovich's Hemorrhoid Belt, "an unpleasant region of space near Uranus."

While some purists (I hear you, Tom Witte) believe that spreading the letter block across two words defeats the spirit of the contest, I especially like that option, since it allows for virtually any of the 24 permutations of the four letters, and a lot more variety than if we'd used only single words. (Also, I can tell you that a lot of those single-word neologisms aren't easy to read -- which isn't a good way to get a joke across.)

While I made no effort to include as many different blocks as possible, by my count today's ink encompasses 16 of the 24, and almost every other permutation was used as well. (I didn't see any for IEBD.) Not surprisingly, the most frequent one was BIDE, with lots of Biden references, plus bidets, abides, bid, etc. BEDI also got lots.

Also not surprisingly, there were many cases of Loserly Minds Thinking Alike. Twelve people submitted DEBITANTE; the ink went to Leif Picoult because he also tossed in the new card-owner's eventual DEBITANTE BAWL after spending too much. I was surprised to see that two people had submitted RABBI ED -- both with a synagogue named "B'neigh"-something. ("B'nai" means "House of" in Hebrew, as in a congregation named B'nai Shalom.) Bob Kruger got the ink by adding that the rebooted sitcom also starred Mare Winningham (I guess Whinnyham would have been just toooo much) as -- I hope people get this -- the canter.


Wow, what a week for Invite Hall of Famer Beverley Sharp! With STUPID BELT! -- one that went and made itself smaller over the past year -- Beverley wins her third Clowning Achievement trophy, but her 16th win all-time; I'm sure she has some of all our previous trophies as well, since she's been Inviting since Week 604, back in the Inker days. And she has four blots of ink in all this week, to bring her up to 815 all-time.

Meanwhile, we have a new name in this week's Losers' Circle: It's the first ink "above the fold," and a total of nine, for David Stonner, who offered IMBEDIMENT, "the thing that makes you roll over and go back to sleep," along with how to use it convincingly: "Sorry I was late to work, but I encountered a major imbediment this morning." David gets his choice of the "For Best Results, Pour Into Top End" Loser Mug or our "Whole Fools" Grossery Bag; let me know, David. Want to pick it up at the Loser Brunch?

Filling out the Losers Circle are Jesse Frankovich, who now has 130 blots of ink in the past year alone; and Still A Rookie Leif Picoult, who has an impressive four inks above the fold out of just 26 in all. Jesse offered the pickup-line field of APPLIED BIOLOGY (i.e., sex), while Leif (rhymes with "waif") came up with BIDEN-GO-SEEK to describe the seemingly impossible task of getting any congressional cooperation.

What Doug Dug: The faves this week of Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood: Once again, Doug agreed with me about the winners (we've been on the same humor wavelength for decades) and also singled out these from the honorable mentions: Rookie sensation Pam Shermeyer's INSTABIDET ("Oh, the many uses of the humble garden hose!"); Also a Rookie Lori Lipman Brown's PLAN B DIET ("When Plan A, the chocolate diet, doesn't work"); Craig Dykstra's AMBIDEN ("This new drug helps one sleep through an unpopular presidency. "Snore more years!"); Coleman Glenn's CANDIED BROCCOLI, well-intentioned sugarcoating that backfires: Duncan Stevens's DIE BARD, complete with a line from the movie script: "Huzzah! Yippee! My joy I cannot smother./ I speak to thee, thou &*@#er of a mother"; and Jesse Frankovich's THE INCREDIBLE SULK ("Bruce Banner: The Teenage Years").

We couldn't aBIDE these: Some unprintables:

BEDICK: Finish up gender reassignment. (Milo Sauer)

CADDIE B: She knows a thing or two about clubs, shafts and balls. (Jesse Frankovich)

Libideau: French for "I'm always wet." (Jeff Shirley)

Just too gross, I felt: IEDBowels: explosive diarrhea. (Stephen Dudzik)

And in a mix of inside baseball (Invite founder Gene Weingarten's tweets disparaging Indian cuisine) and a tasteless reference (the horrifying Bhopal disaster that blinded hundreds of people): Union Czarbide: Company that spread noxious opinions all over India. (Duncan Stevens, who specifically asked that this appear only in the Conversational)

Thanks to all of you who helpfully pointed out that headline for last weekend's print Invite said "Week 1744" instead of the correct "Week 1474." We will be issuing little strips of newsprint for you to glue to your copies.


Week 1474

Style Conversational Week 1474: Send in the Clowner -- stat!
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's Hyphen the Terrible contest plus the results of another neologistic challenge

The Empress may have to bend the rules on her 100 Clowners for 100 Losers policy and give Sarah Walsh a second one for her Week 1474 win, after the attention given to this one by Sarah's youthful Labrador. (Sarah Walsh)
By Pat Myers
February 3, 2022 at 5:22 p.m. EST

Everyone's a critic, I guess. Thanks a lot, Maisy.

Maisy is Sarah Walsh's year-old Labrador retriever (or "Lab assistant," since she's kind of small). And Maisy seems to have taken issue with Sarah's Clowning Achievement trophy for her win in Style Invitational Week 1419, the "joint legislation" contest: The Bordeaux-Gimenez-Torres Resolution [bored o'him and his stories], limiting long-winded uncles at Thanksgiving to 20 minutes tops.

"The first thing I discovered was the little ruffle -- I was like, 'ohhhhh [something associated with dog walking].' "

And so the Empress is going to make an exception to her 100 Clowners for 100 Losers policy -- there were only 100 Disembodied Clown Heads to be found, in some craft store's clearance sale -- and send Sarah a second trophy for her win today in Week 1470, rather than the customary "II" flag to attach to the base. Because a flag towering over an assortment of smithereens would be too sorry a sight even for us.


Sarah's winning prefix to attach to a name, phrase or title? UnZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH: Step 1 in boys' toilet training.

With today's win plus two honorable mentions -- InterMISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (another toilet joke) and DeJOY TO THE WORLD (about presents arriving late in the mail), Sarah's accumulated 69 blots of ink, including six runners-up in addition to her two wins, since she got her Fir Stink in 2019 with a description of the creation of Eve, as penned by Jane Austen. Sarah is a serious Austen Devotee, attending those conventions in period costumes that she makes herself. (Not to mention her one-woman show as Abigail Adams.) And she's been a contestant on both "Jeopardy!" and "The Chase."

But those pursuits yield ZERO clown heads on sticks. Maisy would get nothing!

The rest of this week's Losers' Circle also consists of Invite addicts: Frank Mann wins a plush toy vial of vaccine -- Frank, if you have a dog, consider yourself warned -- for NiTWITTER, a good name for the Deplatformed One's planned social media network. And Hall of Famers Beverley Sharp and Duncan Stevens -- Beverley for ForGETTING TO KNOW YOU ("At the senior center, you get to meet new people every day") and the Duncster for PassWORDLE (you have to remember your login info in six tries) -- are by now overmugged and overbagged and get emails instead of swag; it's the 59th runner-up win for Beverley, the 50th for Duncan.

But ink also went out to Losers we hadn't heard from in a while: Elliott Schiff (AntiGONE IN 60 SECONDS) last got ink in Week 1217, four years ago (but his first in Week 402, 21 years ago); it's also been a couple of years for Gordon Cobb, from Atlanta, and Mike Ostapiej, from South Carolina. And we have a First Offender this week -- on his first try, too: Mike Swift of Florida (StereoTYPEWRITER). When I posted the Invite to the Style Invitational Devotees group this morning, Mike commented: "It was four years ago today (exactly!) that I joined the group and finally got up the nerve to enter. Woot! It was fun, and my car is in desperate need of a new air freshener." Now the trick is for Mike to find it fun when he enters and doesn't get ink. Happens to the best of 'em!

Because the Week 1470 entries were one-liners (as they also are for this week's contest) it was easy for me to shuffle all the entries into one anonymous alphabetical list. But I couldn't be shocked to find out that Chris Doyle, the Invite's highest-scoring Loser, made my final list five times over: THE DumBEST IS YET TO COME (Louie Gohmert weighs a presidential run); CriMEA CULPA (what Putin's not about to do); TiktOK BOOMER ("what your kids say when you ask, 'What the heck are you watching?' "); sneaking a parody (of what else) into DisroBE OUR GUEST; and finally, having Donald Trump enter this contest to say I ALONE CAN preFIX IT. Oh, yeah, Chris also suggested this contest four weeks ago. Pretty nice week, Chris. That seems to leave you with 2,399 blots of ink. (Second place: Tom Witte, with 1,682.)

Some very good entries didn't follow the rules. Some people put the "prefix" at the end of a word, as in BATMANna, unexpected help from a superhero (Leif Picoult). More subtly, the explicit direction that the prefix had to be at least one syllable ruled out Bill Dorner's otherwise excellent SAVING PRIVATE aRYAN (Richard Spencer's hope in court); here the A isn't pronounced in itself (pretty much the definition of a syllable) but has to blend in with the R following it.

What Doug Dug: The faves this week of Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood included all four top winners along with Elliott Schiff's AntiGONE IN 60 SECONDS, Greg Dobbins's DaDA VINCI, Chris Doyle's CriMEA CULPA, Jesse Rifkin's DateLABRADOR ("Update: No further sniffing"), Mark Raffman's ForGETTYSBURG, and Chris's I ALONE CAN preFIX IT.

(Some unprintables from Week 1470 appear at the very bottom of this page. Don't look at them if you don't like off-color jokes.)

A note about last week's contest (still running!)
Our Week 1473 contest -- deadline Monday night, Feb. 7 -- asks you to write a funny message for either a highway sign or a the marquee for a barbecue joint. I linked to the sign generators at, saying that the entry fields on those pages wouldn't let you type longer than our stated limit of 19 characters a line.

It turns out that that's true for the barbecue marquee but not the highway sign; the latter now lets you type 24 characters. Still, though, for our purposes, please stick to 19 characters. I've added wording to that effect in both the contest itself and in the Week 1473 entry form.

Wit to be tied*: Our Hyphen the Terrible contest, Week 1474
*Headline by Chris Doyle from a 2012 Hyphen the Terrible contest; it was also used by Danielle Nowlin for a name-chain contest

This week's Hyphen the Terrible contest is the latest in a line dating back to Week 156 in 1996 -- it was suggested then by none other than Fred Dawson, creator of the famed painting that I highlighted in last week's Style Conversational -- but we hadn't done an H the T in five years. So noted Chris Doyle to me, though I don't expect him to complain that I didn't credit his suggestion and so he'll miss out on an "idea" point in the Loser Stats.

I was going to make this an only-the-Post contest but link to a special subscription promotion, but Management had some concerns about that. So once again, you're free to use any publication, as long as the two halves of any given neologism come from the same day of the same publication. (To be honest, this is just an arbitrary way to set some parameters on the contest, so you don't have to choose among All the Syllables in the World.)

In the contest directions, I tell readers to look either here or on this week's entry form for more details on how to enter. Here's the whole deal:

The main direction: Combine one side of a hyphenated word or phrase with one side of another such term -- either side can be the end or the beginning -- to create a new term, then describe the result.

As in "Di-rector + doz-ens: Rector-doz: A sermon so boring that even the pastor falls asleep" (Beverley Sharp) and the other examples given at the top of the contest.

The second requirement: Both halves of the term must come from the same issue of a newspaper (The Post or another one) or published the same day on its website, from Feb. 3 through Feb. 14. It can be in an article, headline, ad, whatever, as long as both parts come from hyphenates. Include the hyphenates you're using, as above.

Anything with a hyphen is fair game: It can be a hyphen that breaks a word at the end of a line so that the type lines up, or justifies, on the right side of the column. Or it can be a hyphen that's used to join a prefix to a word, or two words together, in the text itself. Or it could be a hyphen that's part of someone's name. Anything! Just tell me what you're using. You can search on hyphens right down a Web page!

A dash is not a hyphen. A hyphen is a little thing, the key next to the zero on a standard keyboard. A dash (a.k.a. em-dash) is a longer horizontal line that is used in various ways to break up a sentence.

This all-too-contrived sentence contains two hyphens -- and it also has a dash. Got it? We want hyphens. (Some persnickety books also use an en-dash, which is between those two in length; it's the space of a lowercase n, while a regular em-dash is the * well, obvo. But regular journalism usually sticks to hyphens and em-dashes.)

For each entry, please tell me which newspaper you're using (specify print or online) and which date. You don't have to spell out which articles, ads, etc., or give me a link, but you do need to give me the hyphenated terms for both sides of your word so that I can show the reader where the syllables come from, if they seem to add to the humor. Really, to be honest here, I'm not going to research the provenance of every entry's two syllables; it's really a matter of honor, a way to let everyone participate but give you some way to limit yourself.

Your new term doesn't necessarily have to have a hyphen itself. Usually the joke works better that way, but other times a hyphen will interfere with the pronunciation, and so the word will work better without the hyphen. Putting a hyphen elsewhere in the word will probably be too confusing and would kill the joke.

A note on the formatting: As I've been asking you to do most weeks, please write each entry as one continuous line; i.e., DON'T press Enter in the middle of the entry. This will make sure it doesn't fall apart when the Empress sorts and shuffles all the entries to ensure blind judging. This is why I need you to say "Washington Post" or whatever for each entry, rather than "All 25 entries come from today's Post."

Entry deadline is one minute before midnight on Monday, Feb. 14, wherever you are. (However, if some terrible thing happens -- say, it's Valentine's Day night and you get a little bit wrapped up in something -- and you have to be a little late, go ahead; you won't be locked out. But don't make it a habit.)

Finally, a few random Hyphen the Terrible winners and runners-up from earlier years. Note that sometimes we didn't hyphenate the winners.

Mer-derloin, n. Chipped beef on toast. (Joseph Romm, Week 156, 1996)

Narcot-rifice, n. Any body cavity used to smuggle drugs. (Russell Beland, Week 206, 1997)

Sex-nipulativeness, n., the ability of women to control men simply by not wearing bras. (Robin D. Grove, Week 244, 1997) [Robin is a man. As was the judge of the contest.]

Uni-moron, n. Instead of bombs, this terrorist mails flaming bags of poo. (Chuck Smith, Week 318, 1999)

Neigh-der: A dark-horse presidential candidate. (Chris Doyle, Week 368, 2000)

Mo-ronto: 1. The Lone Ranger's mentally challenged companion; 2. Home of Prime Minister Jean Cretin. (Chris Doyle, Week 425, 2001)

Testimo-stitute: An expert witness who will say anything if the fee is high enough. (James Pierce, Week 465, 2002)

Begin-ity: The other end of infinity. (Michelle Stupak, Week 589, 2005)

Suck-istan: Transylvania. (Tom Witte, Week 671, 2006)

Mon-ovation: The sound of one hand clapping especially enthusiastically. (Dennis Lindsay, Week 711, 2007)

Queuing x reality = Queu-ty: The blonde who's always allowed to cut into a line. (Phyllis Reinhard, Week 630, 2005) [The judge of this contest was a woman.'

Enthusala: A 90-year-old man on Viagra. (Christopher Lamora, Week 976, 2011)

BEAUtiful + POLitics: Beau-pol: A charming, intelligent and thoughtful politician who, after leaks of toxic material about his life, turns out to be a disaster. (Mike Gips, Week 1078, 2014)

And the last H the T contest:

miscon-duct + con-tinued: Miscontinued: Dug a hole and kept digging. "Despite warnings from aides, the nominee miscontinued his sexist remarks." (Duncan Stevens, Week 1196, 2016)


Pre-nopes: Unprintables from Week 1470:

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S seMEN: The most widely read section of the Starr Report. (Chris Doyle)

castraTED CRUZ: "Thank you for the insults, Don and Tucker!" (Ryan Martinez)

moHelen Keller: One-star Yelp review after a bris gone wrong. (Mark Raffman)


Week 1473

Style Conversational Week 1473: What's your sign?
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's new contest and results

An honorable mention by Jonathan Kang in The Style Invitational's Week 672 contest in 2006; the photo is from the sign generator at (Screen image/
By Pat Myers
January 27, 2022 at 5:21 p.m. EST

This week, for Style Invitational Week 1473, I'm giving another go to a contest that I repeatedly told people we couldn't do because we already did it. But Loser Stephen Dudzik caught me at an "oh, all right" moment, perhaps engendered by a to-do contest list that was mostly for neologism contests, and we did one of those two weeks ago and three weeks ago. And so we repeat the Week 672 contest of 2006, originally suggested by "Fairly New but Already Far Gone Loser Kevin Dopart of Washington" [who's gone on to amass 1,666 blots of ink], with the option of a barbecue-joint marquee in addition to the original road sign.

The generator at now lets you go up to four lines, but otherwise it's the same deal. As I say in the instructions, you don't need to use the generator; you're going to type or copy your text entries into the form as usual. But it's handy because you won't have to count characters; type into the lines and it'll stop you at your 19th keystroke.

The results of Week 672 hold up really well, perhaps because they're not as topical as many Invites; traffic jams are not the stuff of nostalgia. But they do date from more than 15 years ago, and I'm optimistic that you'll have lots of good new ideas. And the barbecue sign is an all-new opportunity.


Here's the Week 672 ink, from July 2006. For Week 1473, I'll probably run the results as sign-style multiple lines. But today below, to avoid putting in all sorts of coding to prevent excessive space between lines, I'm running them below just as lines of text.

Report from Week 672 [blahblah] *

Too frequently submitted for individual ink: "This Highway Paved With Good Intentions." "This Sign Intentionally Left Blank" and "If You Lived Under This Bridge, You'd Be Homeless."

Fourth place: ENTERING NYC/ INCREASE SPEAKING SPEED (Phil Frankenfeld)

Third place: REPORT PHONE-USING DRIVERS: CALL 202-555-3147 (Mike Connaghan)

Second place, the winner of "The Worst Picture Ever Painted": HONK IF YOU'RE AN IMPATIENT MORON (Art Grinath) [See the section below "The immortal Ugly Painting" for the story of this thing]

And the Winner of the Inker: (Pictured on the sign-over-traffic) NOW ENTERING THE WILSON BRIDGE SCENIC REST AREA (Lisa Younce)

[The Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Interstate 95 -- a DRAWBRIDGE over the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia -- was a notorious and almost constant parking lot until it was doubled in size and its height raised in 2009.]

And a Few More for the Road: Honorable Mentions (Subhead by Brendan Beary)



IF YOU LIVED IN YOUR CAR YOU'D BE HOME BY NOW ("Elwood Fitzner," now known to be Tim "Milo" Sauer)





DO THIS DON'T DO THAT -- CAN'T YOU READ? (Stephen Litterst; Stephen Dudzik)












ALL LANES EXACT CHANGE/ TOLL 1.95 (David Kleinbard)


















MEN WRITING HAIKU (Tiffany Getz) [That one NEEDED three lines]




Wow, they hold up well after 15 years. But I'm optimistic that we'll have another bumper crop of them four weeks down the road.

The immortal Ugly Painting
You have to play your cards right when it comes to the very funniest entries for the week: If you're the very funniest, you get a trophy. If you're the third- or fourth-funniest, you get a Bob Staake-designed collectible tote bag or coffee mug. But if you place second this week, you get Derriere Repair skin balm. In Week 672, Art Grinath ended up with the painting pictured here.

As I recounted in a story about Invite prizes as part of our 20th-anniversary retrospective in 2013: "Fred Dawson of Beltsville took the Empress aside at the 2005 Loser holiday party and whispered: 'Would you like to see a really bad painting? I did it myself.' For a long time after that, if you Googled 'world's ugliest painting,' you would see the portrait of Red-Haired, White-Faced, Joker-Mouthed, Drumstick-Armed Girl that Fred donated as a prize.

"The winner regifted the Ugly Painting ["Frankly, it scares my cats," Art declared], then won it right back in a contest for what to do with the thing. It eventually went to someone who'd painted a mirror image. The Ugly Painting became an icon for the Loser community, featured on the Losers' name tags at Loser brunches. And Loser Stephen Dudzik even made them into genuine U.S. postage stamps through"

The mirror-image painter, however, wasn't the winner of Week 686: It was, yes, again, Art Grinath. His entry: "I should get it because everyone thinks you'll give it to me because that would be funny, but then people will think you would never resort to such a cheap and easy laugh, so they'll be sure you won't give it to me, and that's when you'll fool them." But he readily let me send it to the other guy.

Art -- one of the very funniest people ever to enter The Style Invitational -- is still Inviting, with 417 blots of ink, and 15 wins. (His name is pronounced grin-ATH.)

That's intertainment*: The results of the Week 1469 obit poetry contest
*Non-inking headline by Tom Witte

As it has every single year since I started running it in 2004, our obit poetry contest brought out a highly entertaining (and occasionally poignant) variety of tributes -- and a few good-riddances -- to last year's ex-folks. (This week's results.) There were, as always, too many good poems to include, but I did get 21 onto the print page and 39-count-em elegies online.

It's already the third win for Jeff Rackow, who still counts as a rookie almost two years after his debut, under Elden Carnahan's arcane Loser Stats rules. Jeff was one of several Loserbards to pen a joint commemoration of four "Mary Tyler Moore" cast members to die in 2021: Ed Asner, Gavin McLeod, Cloris Leachman and, at the last moment, Betty White.

The rest of this week's Losers' Circle is populated by Losers who've gotten veritable vats of Invite poetry ink: Mark Raffman, with his just-damning enough dig at G. Gordon Liddy; Melissa Balmain, who specializes in lesser-known decedents, on the inventor of Post-it Note adhesive; and the happily returning Scotsman-turned-Londoner Stephen Gold, alluding to the current deep-dip of Prince Andrew in his poem for Prince Philip. (And don't miss the outstanding ink farther down the page for all of them: Mark's on Bernie Madoff -- which might have won the contest had I not worried that readers wouldn't know the Yiddish terms; Melissa's on a pioneer of Botox; and Stephen's pricelessly racy ode to Larry Flynt.)

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood, who read the 21 entries that fit on the print page, sweetly -- but not so helpfully -- offered, "I liked 'em all!"

During the entry period for this contest, Loserbard Brendan Beary posted a challenge to the Facebook group Style Invitational Devotees (join us now!): Write an obit poem in memory of the renowned Belgian-born mathematician Jacques Tits.

Several Losers rose to the occasion, quite perkily. And not just in English!

Here sits
Jacques Tits
Ta-ta (Andy Schotz)

A mathematician, invited to a lecture
At Duke on his famed algebraic conjecture,
Heard muffled guffaws from the hall's back row seats
When he opened his talk with "My name eez Jacques Tits." (Chris Doyle)

Rest in peace, dear Dr. Tits
Your surname gave the schoolboys fits
Until they found out (it's the pits)
Your field was math, not naughty bits (Bill Dorner)

The jokes about this mathematician's name would never cease.
Now that Dr. Tits is gone, would you please let him breast in peace?(Bill Dorner)

His figures uplifting, sublime,
In math he provided swell treats,
His algebra fitting each time,
And he's now transcendental: Jacques Tits.(Ann Martin)

Professor You-Know-Who has gone
To meet his great reward,
And now he rests forever in
The bosom of the Lord.(Brendan Beary)

Finally: In French! Plus a rhyming English translation!
Jacques Tits est mort. il a decrit
les "batiments de Tits" - Ils sont
mathematiques, pas "bleus."
Son nom dit qu'il a poursuivi
Les seins - peut-etre, mais nous savons
Qu'il est pres du bon sein du Dieu.
An approximate translation:
Jacques Tits is dead. He had devised
"Tits buildings" - not at all smutty,
But quite geometrically odd.
His name implies he also prized
Breasts - perhaps so, but he
Is now at the bosom of God. (Dean Alterman)

Save the date for May 21!
The Loser Post-Holiday party -- understandably a smaller-scale gathering during these Omicronic times -- proved to be a delightful event nevertheless, with about two dozen Losers and Devotees gathering in the large and cool party room (pool table!) of the apartment building of Loser Kathleen Delano. The parodies were sung socially distanced but heartily; thanks go especially to coordinator Duncan Stevens, pianists Steve Honley and Jesse Rifkin, and vocalists Duncan and Matt Monitto (who once again drove all the way down from Connecticut). Newbie Steve Bremner came down from Philadelphia for his first Loser event, while Early Years of the Invite Superstar Sarah Worcester decided to join us once again, because it was time to go somewhere, dang it.

And we got -- with witnesses -- an invitation from Loser Steve Leifer: He and wife Jackie would like us to come back to his backyard patio in Potomac, Md., for our annual Flushies awards/potluck/songfest. Last year at Chez Leifer was one of the best ever. Save the date for Saturday afternoon, May 21.


Week 1472

Style Conversational Week 1472: As a matter of fict
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's fake-trivia contest and retrospective winners

"Norman Bates" in front of the facade of the Bates Motel set, part of the Universal Studios Studio tour. Loser Duncan Stevens sets the "Psycho" character's, er, devotion to his mom in a song parody that tops this week's Style Invitational. (Alfred A. Si/Wikipedia, Creative Commons)
By Pat Myers
January 20, 2022 at 4:19 p.m. EST

The fake Norman Bates pictured above -- he's part of the Universal Studios tour in Hollywood (or was in 2010) -- ties in with our general celebration of inaccuracy of The Style Invitational's recurring fictoid contests: spoofs on trivia lists and Fun Facts to Know and Tell in almost two dozen areas so far. This week's fictoid contest, suggested by the Totally Genuine Loser Duncan Stevens -- who also managed to win this week with his "Wouldn't It Be Motherly" song parody featuring Mr. Bates himself -- covers money, financial institutions, barter, ancient coins, new coins, totally made up coins, whatever. I tend to be expansive about the boundaries for the fictoid contests, just so the jokes are funny and original.

For guidance and inspiration, here's a list of inking entries from some of the earlier fictoid contests; notice how some of the entries are twists on well-known trivia (which is often inaccurate anyway, like George Washington having wooden teeth); others are bogus "corrections" of various expressions. Some make you think a second or two before getting the joke, making the payoff more fun than if it's spelled out for you.

You can slide down your rabbit hole all weekend by clicking on the links in the Master Contest List's sublist of fictoid or fictoidish contests, starting at Week 702 in 2007, kept by Elden Carnahan on the Losers' own website, (Links to the contest results are in the far right on each row.) But for those who'd rather stay above ground:

From Week 702, the original, general "unreal facts" contest, playing off the "real facts" printed on the undersides of Snapple bottle lids:

A man in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, has created a ball of string the size of the planet Jupiter. (Sue Lin Chong)

Viagra was originally developed to keep celery fresh. (Andy Bassett)

There is as much nutrition in the peel of one potato as in a 12-ounce serving of carpet tacks. (Brendan Beary)

Week 768, movie trivia:

Despite their classic love story that has thrilled millions, Fay Wray and King Kong actually hated each other. (G. Smith)

In an extreme example of Method acting, Jack Nicholson had an actual lobotomy for the nding of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." His doctors later reversed the operation, restoring almost all function. (Jonathan Kaye)

Week 924, history trivia:

Gen. Ambrose Burnside was aided greatly in Civil War planning by his largely forgotten assistant, Col. Wendell Soulpatch. (Malcolm Fleschner)

George Washington also had a wooden pancreas. (Mike Turniansky)

Susan B. Anthony's middle name was Barbie. (Judy Blanchard)

Week 1015, music trivia:

In the fade-out of the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar," you can clearly hear the phrase "I buried Jughead." (Rob Huffman)

Van Morrison wrote "Brown Eyed Girl" about his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Taylor. They broke up shortly thereafter. (Paul Kondis)

"Pompatus" is the Latin word for "festering disease." (Mark Raffman)

Week 1057, sports trivia:

Synchronized swimmers are typically fitted with plastic mouth inserts to ensure that their smiles precisely match. (Robert Schechter)

In a study of 67 athletes who said they gave 110 percent, it was found that they actually gave an average of only 93.2 percent. (Art Grinath)

Early in their history, the Yankees were frequent losers to their archrivals, the Yankers. (Steve McClemons)

Week 1075, trivia about cars and other vehicles

The name of Erik Prndl, inventor of the automatic transmission, is displayed on most cars' dashboards. (Edward Gordon)

The voice actress for the Garmin GPS made a guest appearance as an extra in the third season of "Lost." (David Friedman)

In Florida, residents over age 80 must renew their driver's licenses every 10 years or 2,000 miles, whichever comes first. (Jeff Covel)

Week 1132, military trivia:

Before Greek soldiers fought at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., they had to qualify at the Battle of 10K. (Drew Bennett)

The word "khaki" comes from the Urdu language, in which it means "always wrinkled." (Larry McClemons)

The Swiss Army fights with knives. (John O'Byrne,

Week 1253, fashion and clothing trivia

Naugahyde is not made from the hide of naugas. It is from the linings of their digestive tracts. (Dave Prevar)

Under pressure from feminist groups, American Apparel has rebranded its white tank top as the "Spouse Discusser." (Mark Raffman)

In response to popular outcry, Paris fashion models are now required to weigh at least four times as much as the outfits they wear on the runway. (Chris Doyle)

Week 1289, animal trivia

The painting "Dogs Playing Poker" was based on a secretly acquired photograph of dogs playing poker. (Roger Dalrymple)

The trumpeter swan has a small, flap-covered hole on its neck to drain saliva. (Jeff Shirley)

The male orange clownfish has a genetic predisposition to bone spurs. (Dottie Gray [yup, we're up to 2018])

Week 1345, Food trivia

Baby carrots must be at least eight weeks old before they are harvested away from adult carrots. (Robyn Carlson)

McDonald's top-selling burger in Europe is the .1134 Kiloer. (Mike Phillips)

The word "cafeteria" originated as a combination of "cafe" and "diarrhea." (Jon Ketzner)

Week 1360, Fictoids about winter (the first of four seasonal contests)

If the temperature drops below 10 degrees, the Washington Monument retracts a few feet underground. (Bruce Reynolds)

Snow in the Southern Hemisphere forms on the ground and "falls" upward, which explains why penguins are white on the bottom. (Andrew Wells-Dang)

In Jamaica, Jack Frost is known as Johnny Gentlebreeze. (Eric Nelkin)

And most recently, Week 1438, trivia about the law and the legal/law-enforcement system:

Judges and barristers are no longer required to wear wigs in British courtrooms, but only if they work their own hair into those little curls. (Daniel Galef)

A law in Tudor England levied a fine on anyone who passed gas in church; the fine was set at a farthing. (Keith Ord)

The emblem of the National Lawyers Guild features a pelican, representing the giant bill. (Jesse Frankovich)

Needless to say, I welcome any more categories that you think could work! ALWAYS feel free to email me at with contest ideas. I do, I concede, reject most of them, but I've also used many, many suggested contests -- and remember, if you're local and I use your contest ideas, I'll take you out for ice cream. (So you'd think Duncan Stevens would weigh 400 pounds by now, but not quite.)

Hars do-overs: The results of the Week 1468 retrospective
Just as in last week's Kook's Tour do-over of half the year's contests, but with decidedly more entrants, I was flooded with far too many good entries to run -- and so dozens of inkworthy jokes got robbed a second time. But I did publish, I believe, a pretty darn whoppin' 48 of them (32 in print), both resubmissions and new material. This part of 2021 included two song contests, one for topics in the news, the other for lyrics written in the first person, and worthies from just those two could have filled the page. (I used two in the paper -- Duncan's Norman Bates winner and First Offender Arnie Rosenthal's "I Feel Petty," "sung" by Vice President Harris -- and added Duncan's Trump administration summary (done to the Invite's fave parody tune, "Be Our Guest") and Beverley Sharp's "Xi's the One" for the online version.

But mostly I found myself gravitating toward the shorter-form contests, especially those that needed minimal explanation and stood on their own as jokes, rather than, say, Ask Backwards, in which the cleverness comes from making a joke out of a noun on a random list. So lots of books with new subtitles, good idea/bad idea, new sports, spoonerism jokes.

It's Duncan Stevens's nineteenth Style Invitational win, and his multiple blots of ink this week whoosh him right past the 750-ink mark since his debut in Week 970. Perhaps we can sing his inking parodies this week as part of the Loser party songfest (see the bottom of this page).

Hildy Zampella is also a wholesale ink-blotter, with somewhat saner totals but huge ratio of "above the fold" winners: of 170 blots of ink, 12 of them won the contest and 15 were runners-up. She scored second place this week, and wins a stupid board game, with her "first draft" of FDR: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941: A crappy day we'll never forget, amirite?"

On the other hand, the Losers' Circle is filled by two newbies, or at least newerbies: John Klayman grabs Inks 9, 10 and 11 (!!) and already his third above-the-folder; he got it with his determination by visiting space aliens that "in the early 21st century it became popular to have one's nostrils professionally cleaned. People would queue up, sometimes for hours, to obtain this service.' and Jennifer Martin Broadway, out in Michigan, gets the first of her runner-up prizes with her sixth blot of ink, reinterpreting the book "No Bad Dogs" with the subtitle "Living With Corns, Calluses and Bunions."

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood enjoyed all four top winners, and also singled out from among the honorable mentions on the print page: John Hutchins's neologism "yesno" ("How a distracted spouse answers the question 'Do I sound like my mother?'"), Jeff Contompasis's conclusion by a future anthropologist that "there was once a divine being who walked the earth, performed miracles and was called Chuck Norris"; Selma Ellis's "Jimbo Bond"; and Arnie Rosenthal's "I Feel Petty" parody.

[Nerdy parenthetical; feel free to skip this paragraph: This week marked the debut of publishing the online Invite with The Post's Ellipsis system, rather than the 11-year-old Methode system (which is still typesetting the Invite's print page because of layout issues). Ellipsis isn't naturally equipped to handle the formatting of poems and songs, since every time you hit Enter to end a line, it automatically generates a line of white space after that. Most systems have a simple "soft break" override in which you use Shift-Enter instead, but that doesn't work in Ellipsis, and for now the solution is for me to mark all the poems and songs with tedious HTML codes. Except for some extra space around the beginnings and ends of the poems (and perhaps that's easily fixed) I think it worked pretty well. Next week -- when all the results are poems (it's the obit poem contest) -- will be the real test. And I hope I'll be able to use the HTML in the Conversational as well, so as not to repeat the look of the songs shown four weeks ago.]

Last call! All-boostered Loser party this Saturday, 5-9 p.m.
Copying this one more time from my earlier post:

Right now, we're at a super-cozy guest list of 23 people [I think we're now up to 24], so there should be a minimum of crowding. Still, that's plenty for singing and schmoozing, and it'll be nice to chat with people and not have to rush from guest to guest. Okay, here:

If you didn't get an email Evite to our Losers' Post-Holiday Party -- Saturday, Jan. 22, 5 to 9 p.m., in close-in Crystal City (Arlington), Va. -- consider yourself personally invited anyway; anyone who reads The Style Conversational is Loserly enough for us. Here's the link to the Evite, which you can respond to.

The accompanying message, which tells about the precautions we're taking so we can get together after skipping last winter's potluck/parody-fest, asks you to email me a picture of your boostered vaccine card, so we don't have to ask at the party. It's going to be a smaller crowd this year, for obvious reasons, and masks are entirely welcome. But it's also in a spacious party room of an apartment building, rather than the usual cozy space of a Loser's home.

I'll be there, along with the Royal Consort, and always eager to meet new Losers and Invite fans, as well as to reconnect with longtime ones. Loser and pianist Steve Honley will be at the keyboard, and Invite Celebrity Duncan Stevens will be choosing the lineup of singalong parodies.

I also will bring some gewgaws that, for various reasons, don't work as Style Invitational second prizes. If there's a game -- like the trivia game that Kyle Hendrickson led at our summer fest, the Flushies, last year -- perhaps someone might win the Nose Condom.


Week 1471

Style Conversational Week 1471: Our po' pourri
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's retrospective and new Tour de Fours contest

A childhood photo of CC, for Cloned Cat or perhaps CopyCat, the late subject of Beverley Sharp's obit poem featured in this week's Style Invitational (Larry Wadsworth/Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences)
By Pat Myers
January 13, 2022 at 5:03 p.m. EST

I won't lie: I luvvv contests that come around every year -- especially ones that have been as consistently rewarding as our Tour de Fours neologism contest, returning this week in its 18th incarnation, with, of course its 18th different letter set, B-I-D-E. The key is that there are 24 different permutations of the letters, and even ones like DBIE can work because the neologism could be a multi-word phrase as well as a single word, and the block can stretch over a space. I betcha someone out there will try for all 24.

Like last week's contest (still running!) for "prefixes," Tour de Fours had its genesis in the old New York Magazine Competition and was suggested by Loser and erstwhile NYM mainstay Chris Doyle.

T d'F doesn't need a lot of explanation, for once, so I'll just share a few past inking entries from over the years, including some deep cuts from the honorable mentions.

Last year's winner, for UNDO: Ickspound: To overshare about your bodily functions. "To start the Zoom meeting, the boss ickspounded on barfing up a whole bag of multicolored Skittles." (Terri Berg Smith)

Also from 2021: UNDO: Innuendo U.: "Come inside and check out the intimate relationship you'd have with our well-endowed faculty." (Danielle Nowlin)

From 2020: LIAR (ha-ha, I'm such a card): Nostrail: What inevitably drips down your face when you've got the sniffles in February and you're wearing your big gloves. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Also from 2020: LIAR: Receding airline: The flight you just missed as it disappears into the sky. (Jeff Shirley)

From 2017: SANT: Cantstand: A vigorous exercise of disapproval. "We were watching 'Sex and the City,' but Dad started doing cantstands, so now we're watching the game." (Frank Osen)

SANT: ATNs (Automated Teller Nymphs): The wee folk who pass $20 bills through the slot when you swipe your card. (Warren Tanabe)

From 2015: DICE: Flied chicken: The day-old special at Earl's Shack o' Wings. (Larry Gray)

DICE: Deciderer: What W called his Magic 8 Ball. (Rob Wolf)

From 2013: SANE: Senatorpedo: Cruz missile. "The Tea Party's vaunted senatorpedo self-destructed shortly after its launch." (Chris Doyle)

SANE: Esanem: Rapper also known as Slam Shady. (Ellen Raphaeli)

From 2011: NOEL: Groucholenses: How to look at the world through nose-covered glasses. (Eric Fritz)

NOEL: Coloneye: James Bond flick where the villain gets it in the end. (Dion Black)

From 2009: ERTH: Rhettrovirus: Scarlett fever. (Judy Blanchard)

ERTH: Laughterthought: The brilliant Invitational entry you come up with just after the deadline. (Ann Martin)

From 2006: ALEF: Halfaleak-halfaleak: How Tennyson charged johnward in his old age. (Chris Doyle)

ALEF: Eiffelated: Given a warm "bonjour" at La Paris Hilton. (Jay Shuck,

And from Tour de Fours I, 2004, in my first year of Empressing:

Week 571: THES: Transvestheight: The distance between the jockstrap and the bra. (Frank Mullen)

THES: Allrightest: Superlatively whatever. (Brendan Beary)

THES: Smahtest: From the only state that didn't vote for Nixon in '72. (Dan Seidman, Watertown, Mass.)

Gag reflux*: The 2021 retrospective, Part 1
*The results headline from 2020, by Kevin Dopart

It's more fun to judge 25 contests at once than thousands of entries to a single contest -- and I'd think you'll also especially enjoy reading the results of Week 1467, our Kook's Tour of what turned out to be 17 varied contests from the first half of the past year.

As in most years, almost all the entrants to the retrospective contests were Invite veterans who'd entered the contests last year; when judging, I sometimes remembered the entries from my shortlists the first time around. Sometimes -- in long-form contests like song parodies, or in contests with 4,000 entries, like foal names -- I can't come close to running all the week's inkworthy entries, and so sometimes also-rans finally get their just deserts here. Other times, non-inking entries are reworked and sometimes updated. And still, a sizable percentage of the entries are brand-new.

It's the second Invite win, but the first Clowning Achievement for Jesse Rifkin, for pairing Othello's iambic line "I can again thy former light restore" with a modern counterpart from Sen. Ted Cruz, "I'll deal with Texas's electrical grid after I get back from Cancun." It was a year ago when Cruz skipped out on his state's crippling power failure during an unprecedented freeze, but the brazenness of that act (along with Cruz's continued presence in the news) merits continued gibes, IM (un) HO.

One of our relatively few Losers under age 30, Jesse has a regular gig performing on weekends in the "dueling pianos" singalongs at the Georgetown Piano Bar. He'll be dropping by at the Loser party on Jan. 22 (see the invitation at the bottom of this column!) and invites everyone to follow him to the bar afterward. But I'm thinking that it's more workable if we arrange a separate Loser outing, especially if we wait till Omicron pipes down. This is Jesse's 64th blot of ink; and during the pandemic he recruited his dad to give the Invite a try as well -- Larry Rifkin already has seven blots of his own and has become a regular entrant. Win-win!

And in second place, a rookie who might prove a phenom! Roxi Slemp has been reading The Style Invitational "forever," but only in the past couple of months thought about entering herself, after writing a song parody for a friend's granddaughter. A former D.C. area resident who fell in love with Argentina on a visit there and then decided to retire in the ultra-scenic town of Bariloche in Patagonia. (Now there's a place to stop by!) Roxi started entering the Invite a few weeks ago, and got her first ink in Week 1462, imagining a "job switch" between Mitch McConnell and Pee-wee Herman. ("Today's secret word is 'filibuster'! Ha-ha! For the rest of the day, whenever anybody says the secret word, scream real loud!"). And this time, Roxi aces one of the most competitive Invite categories, the song parody, with a subject who's not revealed till the end of the song.

Keep bringing it, Roxi!

Jonathan Paul has run up more than 400 blots of Invite ink -- including an astonishing 25 victories -- mostly from the early years of the Invite. Jonathan now mostly specializes in our annual horse name "breeding" contest, and sure enough, "Like the King x Troubadour = Henry VIII Iamb," which wasn't one of the 25 names Jonathan submitted in April, wins him a Loser Mug or Grossery Bag. And it was also a new "collaboration" from Jeff Hazle -- Elton John and Sen. Joe Manchin to write "Block-It Man," that fills out this week's Losers' Circle. (Actually, Jeff was working with the idea in the first go-round of Week 1422, but Nikolai Tesla for "Shock-It Man" and John Roberts for "Docket Man" were "noinks," as the Devotees call them.)

The return of parody diva Sophie Crafts to the Invite -- with "Santa Baby" turned into "Antibodies," with the assistance of a cuddly, googly-eyed, dancing covid microbe -- is one of the unquestionable highlights of this week's results. You might remember Sophie's first Invite video, "Two Darn Shots," from Week 1440; this one (which brings back Sophie's "Dr. Fauci" in a cameo) might be even more charming.

Sophie, an educator in the Cambridge, Mass., public schools, told me that her original plan for the antibodies was to use simple finger puppets, but her friend Alex Ezorsky-Lie, who does both puppetry and animation, had another suggestion.

He came up with the Y-shaped, Muppetish purple hand puppet you see explaining antibodies to Santa-hatted, evening-gowned Sophie, and that's Alex's arm you see under it. But the real showstopper was his filming that same puppet 10 times over for the "babies sequence," as Sophie calls it, and editing it so they twirl around like synchronized swimmers -- or even a kaleidoscope -- through a red fabric "bloodstream."

There were several other fine parodies -- not to mention lots of other inkworthy entries -- that I just didn't have room for this time. As usual after parody contests, I'll post some over the next few days in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; you can search on "#parodies."

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood, who read the 25 entries that made the print edition, is back to agreeing with me on the winners (as, of course, he should be). And he also singled out Mark Raffman's limerick on the new-to-Merriam-Webster "antivax" from Week 1413, Jon Gearhart's joint legislation of "Torres-Mann-Spartz" mandating button flies instead of zippers in pants; Bob Kruger's "collaboration" of Hawthorne and Clifford the Big Red Dog to produce "The Scarlet Litter"; and, from Mississippi native and Arkansas resident Drew Bennett, the neologism "Yallzball" -- as in what the Alabama referee says when he turns the football over to the other team.

Nope! The unprintables: Because of the varied formats of the Week 1467 entries, I couldn't shuffle them all out in The Big Sort, so I read each Loser's set of entries at once (though I didn't see anyone's name). And one single person sent all these:

(Grandfoals) IGotRhythmMethod x In Tents = Squirts in Yurts

Lip Loch x Mmph! Talk Later = Lap Lick

(Alternative plots for movie titles): "North by Northwest": A young man must learn to live with Peyronie's disease.

I was not shocked to discover that the author was Tom Witte, who somehow has managed to get more than 1,500 printable entries in the paper dating back to Week 7.

Last call for the Loser party, Jan. 22!
Just copying this in from last week's Convo: Right now, we're at a super-cozy guest list of 23 people, so there should be a minimum of crowding. Still, that's plenty for singing and schmoozing, and it'll be nice to chat with people and not have to rush from guest to guest. Okay, here:

If you didn't get an email Evite to our Losers' Post-Holiday Party -- Saturday, Jan. 22, 5 to 9 p.m., in close-in Crystal City (Arlington), Va. -- consider yourself personally invited anyway; anyone who reads The Style Conversational is Loserly enough for us. Here's the link to the Evite, which you can respond to.

The accompanying message, which tells about the precautions we're taking so we can get together after skipping last winter's potluck/parody-fest, asks you to email me a picture of your boostered vaccine card, so we don't have to ask at the party. It's going to be a smaller crowd this year, for obvious reasons, and masks are entirely welcome. But it's also in a spacious party room of an apartment building, rather than the usual cozy space of a Loser's home.

I'll be there, along with the Royal Consort, and always eager to meet new Losers and Invite fans, as well as to reconnect with longtime ones. Loser and pianist Steve Honley will be at the keyboard, and Invite Celebrity Duncan Stevens will be choosing the lineup of singalong parodies. If you're coming and you have a parody you'd like to perform or have performed, contact me [ASAP!!!] and I'll put you in touch with the Duncster and we'll see if it's workable.

I also will bring some gewgaws that, for various reasons, don't work as Style Invitational second prizes. If there's a game -- like the trivia game that Kyle Hendrickson led at our summer fest, the Flushies, last year -- perhaps someone might win the Nose Condom.


Week 1470

Style Conversational Week 1470: The fixes are in
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's 'prefix' contest and faux-fix results

By Pat Myers
Yesterday at 4:07 p.m. EST

The Washington Post, actually, doesn't ever "regret the error." Well, of course it does in its heart -- The Post not only takes pride in its accuracy and transparency, but sees it as essential to its credibility -- but it figures that you know that. The New York Times feels the same way. Neither paper apologizes when running a correction; it just explains what was wrong and says what's right.

But given that Week 1466 of The Style Invitational, whose results run today, is a spoof on classic newspaper conventions, I had no problem with entries that "regret" or "apologize," even if they were supposed to be by The Post.

Like the correction jokes in Week 609 in 2004, the framework accommodated a variety of jokes, including:

-- Unfortunate typos -- as in runner-up Stephen Gold's "dear to me" becoming "dead to me"; Mark Calandra's correction that the beer was "poured in pints," not "poured in pants"; runner-up John Klayman noting that "for" was left out of "going for broke" in quoting Elon Musk; or Duncan Stevens's clarifications that "brow jobs" were offered at the spa. Not to mention Dave Airozo setting the record straight that Losers' prizes would not "be nailed to them," though they were free to decorate themselves. About a third of this week's inking entries corrected such typos, but I kept laughing.

Some entries put a twist on the formula. Kevin Dopart's runner-up noted that the paper had said Sen. Joe Manchin advocated "putting minors back to work" in the coal industry, then clarified that "Sen. Manchin is actually in favor of automation."

And while at least half a dozen entries clarified that children weren't really going to "pubic school" or whatever, Peter Jenkins corrected the report that Thomas was accused of putting a "public hair" on Anita Hill's Coke can.

-- The "correction" of a story with some outrageous name-calling or dubious occurrence by focusing on some other little element. Steve Leifer's comically/sadly long -- and almost entirely accurate -- list of supporters whom Trump eventually turned on ended with the correction that "Natasha Badenov" is actually "Natasha Fatale." Terri Berg Smith corrects not the story of an alien spaceship invasion in Montana, but a tiny spelling mistake. Duncan Stevens clarifies that Dan Snyder does not have the charm of a squashed slug, only one-third that amount.

But there were also lots of imaginative other approaches among the 39 inking entries (30 on the print page): Frank Osen helpfully listing the spoilers to the murder mystery; Amanda Yanovitch reporting an objection to the late Mr. Smith being called a contrarian -- from the late Mr. Smith; all the way to Milo Sauer's regret that "the senator who is holding up all climate change legislation makes his living from the coal industry. There is no correction here; we are just sorry."

I counted 14 entries that played off The Post's ubiquitous disclaimer that "Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post," which appears in every article that mentions Amazon and its many offshoots, plus the Blue Origin space company, as well as many articles about their competitors. My obvious favorite -- it wins the Clowning Achievement -- was Sam Mertens's regret for omitting the mention in an essay headlined "Bald Is Beautiful." That's Sam's fourth Invite win since his Invite debut less than three years ago, and Ink No. 109 in all.

First Offender Tim Dobbyn, whose entry ran only online because it didn't fit on the print page -- sorry, Tim: I usually put local people's first ink in the print Invite so they'll have a souvenir, but it was just too long -- dug at some public figures' tendency to quibble with small problems in a negative story to damage the whole thing's credibility; as the editor of "the Rusty Bugle" he announces that, okay, he'll simply print the damaging story all over again, with the quibbles corrected. (By the way, the Supreme Court's landmark New York Times v. Sullivan ruling establishes that a public figure can't sue for libel just because of a few minor mistakes in an article. Given Donald Trump's constant threats, he might not know that.)

One formula didn't work at all because of illogic, and I got a lot of such entries. "A typographical error indicated that the bagel was topped with locks. That was incorrect. It also had a schmear of cream cheese." "A Monday editorial noted incorrectly that the House of Representatives found Stephen Bannon in contempt of Congress. He has contempt for all branches of government." That wouldn't be noting incorrectly. If I say you have a pet Irish setter, and you do, I'm not noting incorrectly even if you also have a pet iguana.

So what was the biggest mistake I personally made at The Post? It was misspelling a name in a headline on the front page of the Sunday Style section. It was the name of the National Spelling Bee champion. I have suppressed from my memory whether The Post ran a correction.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood is back with his faves for the week. Doug singled out Sam's winner and Kevin's "minors" runner-up (I'm glad, because another friend I asked didn't get it) as well as Frank Osen's about the plot spoilers and Peter Jenkins's clarification that it was a perfectly sunny day on Jan. 6, 2021, The Post's motto notwithstanding. But Doug called "great" David MacGregor's note that "Due to a production error, the same 'Beetle Bailey' comic strip has been running for the past 47 years."

YOU are invited to the Loser party Jan. 22 (if you're boosted)
If you didn't get an email Evite to our Losers' Post-Holiday Party -- Saturday, Jan. 22, 5 to 9 p.m., in close-in Crystal City (Arlington), Va. -- consider yourself personally invited anyway; anyone who reads The Style Conversational is Loserly enough for us. Here's the link to the Evite, which you can respond to.

The accompanying message, which tells about the precautions we're taking so we can get together after skipping last winter's potluck/parody-fest, asks you to email me a picture of your boostered vaccine card, so we don't have to ask at the party. It's going to be a smaller crowd this year, for obvious reasons, and masks are entirely welcome. But it's also in a spacious party room of an apartment building, rather than the usual cozy space of a Loser's home.

I'll be there, along with the Royal Consort, and always eager to meet new Losers and Invite fans, as well as to reconnect with longtime ones. Loser and pianist Steve Honley will be at the keyboard, and Invite Celebrity Duncan Stevens will be choosing the lineup of singalong parodies. If you're coming and you have a parody you'd like to perform or have performed, contact me and I'll put you in touch with the Duncster and we'll see if it's workable.

I also will bring some gewgaws that, for various reasons, don't work as Style Invitational second prizes. If there's a game -- like the trivia game that Kyle Hendrickson led at our summer fest, the Flushies, last year -- perhaps someone might win the Nose Condom.

Put your best [whatever] forward: This week's contest, Week 1470
"What, after all, is a prefix? Neither a borrower (A) nor a lender (B). It seems to us -- well, me, then -- that a prefix may very well be a single letter, but it had better form a syllable. Else it is not the cow we sought. Many of you gave us more than we deserved, adding prefixes to both halves. Forming a hole. While we didn't rule you out for so doing, neither did we make you monarch." -- Mary Ann Madden, the "we" of the New York Magazine Competition, introducing the results of Competition 830, Oct. 9, 1995

And you thought I wasn't clear.

Anyway, here's a contest directly lifted from NYM, brought to our attention by Our Very Own Chris Doyle, who used to be NYM's Very Own Chris Doyle until that competition folded in 2000 after 973 contests over 31 years (it wasn't weekly) and Chris turned his wordsmithery toward us. It's not surprising that Chris remembered this particular contest: He's all over it. Because Madden or the magazine, for some reason, wanted to maintain the fiction of dozens of different readers getting ink every week (there was officially a one-entry-per-person limit), Chris simply submitted his entries under a huge variety of names. And for Competition 830, of the three first prizes, two of them are really by Chris. And of the three runners-up: All of them. (The third first-place winner is by Bob Kopac, who got 14 blots of Invite ink in the early years.)

We don't lie here at The Style Invitational, and so (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.) just ran up Inks Nos. 2,386 and 2,387 with his honorable mention and headline this week. Plus No. 2,388 for the contest idea and 2,389 and 2,390 with the two examples I cited (unless Keeper of the Stats Elden Carnahan uses another system).

I'm using "prefix" repeatedly in quotes because, technically, a prefix isn't just any letter or set of letters you tack onto the beginning of a word; really, to quote Merriam-Webster, those letters must "produce a related word or an inflectional form of a word." So while "non-native" contains a real prefix, "unimagi-native" -- like Chris's "The Return of the Unimaginative" -- does only as a joke. And we like jokes.

To judge from the Week 830 results, this might be one of those contests that lean more toward the cerebrally clever than to the gutly funny: more like, "oh, I see -- ha, clever" rather than "bltlphHAAAAA." On the other hand, funny people can make just about anything funny, and we have those people -- of course I mean you -- standing by.

I noticed that Madden (who died in 2016; here's my Conversational column in her memory) violated her own standard of requiring at least a syllable when she gave ink to "N'Arc de Triomphe" -- yay, I'm not the only person who accidentally breaks her own explicit rules -- but I do want this contest to be different from our many "change one letter" neologism contests, and so, yes, not just one letter.

And please, use your own name.


Week 1469

Style Conversational Week 1469: Death poetry jam
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's obit poem contest and 2022 timeline.
Siegfried Fischbacher (1939-2021), left, outlasted his partner Roy Horn by a year. But now the glittery animal trainer's lion in wait for an obit poem in Style Invitational Week 1469.
Siegfried Fischbacher (1939-2021), left, outlasted his partner Roy Horn by a year. But now the glittery animal trainer's lion in wait for an obit poem in Style Invitational Week 1469. (2001 photo by Al Behrman/AP)
By Pat Myers
December 30, 2021 at 5:01 p.m. EST

As we celebrate clawing our way to the end of the year, The Style Invitational traditionally looks back wryly on those whose mortal coil uncoiled. And so we're at Week 1469, our annual obit poem contest, which I've been running since 2004 and which has produced some of the most memorable Invitiana.

I don't have to spell out why joking about people's deaths might seem a tad insensitive right now. But as we managed to do for 2020, an even more shocking one for our country, without complaint (results of last year's contest, Week 1417), I'm confident that we'll be able to commemorate the lives -- and, often, the deaths -- of a variety of notables with wit and good spirit.

Certainly one way to avoid taste issues is to write humorously about the person's life, rather than the death. This was the tack taken by Gene Weingarten in today's example, a double dactyl about the famously profane Tommy Lasorda. (Double dactyls, limericks and other smartly rhyming, clearly rhythmic forms tend to make the funniest light verse, in my experience; I'm not going to say your poem has to rhyme, but it'd have to be incredibly funny and clever in other ways if it didn't.)

The whole archive of our elegies is, well, alive and well within the Master Contest List on the Losers' website,; just search on "died" and click on the links on the far right to the results of each of at least 18 obit poem contests. They're all great reads. And below I'll share a few representative classics, including some "deep cuts" from the honorable mentions.

Poems that don't mention the death:

Ed Teller, you fathered the hydrogen bomb,
The scope of your dream's still unfurled.
We'll think of your contribution to us
On the day that they blow up the world. (Scott Campisi, 2004)

Antisa Khvichava
She claimed to be one hundred thirty-two
(It's hard to tell if that was really true).
But thanks to luck, good health and proper genes,
She'd pass for someone in her hundred-teens! (Brendan Beary, 2013)

But the large majority of Invite-odes mention the person's earthly conclusion. Sometimes, the poem is about the death, especially in poems inspired by lists of Darwin Award winners -- people who achieved their final hours in notably stupid ways.

Woman who accidentally killed herself while adjusting her bra holster (Why name the poor lady, I figured)
She got herself a push-up bra
That had a single fatal flaw.
It didn't just support her charms;
This bra was meant for bearing arms.
But holster bras should not be trusted,
Since bras are always readjusted.
Sad to say, dear gun-nut crazies,
"Push up" now refers to daisies. (Kathy Hardis Fraeman, 2016)

Anastasia Tutik & Miguel Ramos
Two lovers loving on a balcony high.
Two lovers falling, unable to fly.
Their friends and neighbors now pay their respects.
A chilling reminder to practice safe sex. (David Friedman, 2016)

One warm and winning way to do an obit poem is to imagine the person in a happy and fitting afterlife:

Cal Worthington, king of the used car salesmen:
Calvin "Cal" Worthington
Tooled up to Heaven, went
Straight to the Lord.
Brimming with hucksterish
Sold Him a peachy-keen
'63 Ford. (Nan Reiner, 2014)

Mike Wallace
He runs up to the Pearly Gates,
A microphone in hand.
He shoves it in Saint Peter's face
While shouting, "I demand
An answer to my question, Saint!
Is Jesus on the take?
Did Moses rob the Israelites?
Was Solomon a fake?"
Peter cries, "Get out of here!
I won't take this abuse!"
But Wallace barges past the gates,
And then all hell breaks loose. (Robert Schechter, 2013)

As always, there's plenty of source material. Do make sure that the person died in 2021! I've had to toss some very nice poems about people who'd actually died the previous year -- and at least once, I got a poem about someone who hadn't died. Oh, please, don't do that!

The Losers who hunch*: The 2022 predictions of Week 1465
(*Non-inking headline by Tom Witte)
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The an(n) als of modern history got their annual one-two punch in The Post this week with, first, Dave Barry's annual Year in Review and, today, its annual wayward offspring, The Style Invitational's Year in Preview. Last year at this time, we didn't know who'd be president a few weeks later. But who knew that, 11-plus months after the fact, some people still wouldn't have figured it out? On the other hand, for old times' sake, we have two straight years of Trump shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.

Far more people than usual sent full 25-item lists of events, resulting in a total chronicle of about 1,500 entries -- many of them awfully similar -- of which 40 got ink today. The literally dozens of jokes about the names for variants ended up canceling one another out.

What does it mean that our top three winners this week are all educators? I guess it means they're all educators. Still, it's nice to know that Style Invitational agents are infiltrating the minds of our youth.

A former Capitol Hill reporter who decided to become an elementary school teacher after volunteering in his son's class -- he's been teaching fourth grade in Silver Spring for many years now -- Dave Airozo scores his first Invite win with his 40th blot of ink, though he's been inside the Losers' Circle three times with runners-up. Let's hope that Dave's predicted Great Exhale of January 7 actually gets its chance.

Biden's appointment of Donald Trump as "ambassador to Elba" was the idea of Tim "Milo" Sauer, a beloved math professor at George Mason University. Milo actually has 100 more blots of ink than the 108 he's credited with in the Loser Stats. That's because -- as I just found out when he fessed up in the past year -- after Milo ran up an even 100 inks and suddenly stopped Inviting in 2004, an Elwood Fitzner of Valley City, N.D., started inking up the joint, running up, yup, exactly 100 more (2005-2011). Anyway, now that's a full decade behind us, and Milo is back and clever as ever, I'm hoping that he'll snarf up another 100 blots of ink in short order -- and that he enjoys wearing his prize "I Never Fart" socks with dandelions on them. Nobody else use a fake name, please. My generosity is now used up.

Ryan Martinez, who teaches French at Walter Johnson High in Bethesda, is relatively new to the Invite; his runner-up today -- "Nov. 8: Millions of Americans drive across newly renovated roads and bridges to vote out the Democrats" -- is his 17th blot of ink since his debut in Week 1340. But he's been swinging a hot bat of late (or, I guess I should say, striking out the opposition); he was a runner-up in our spoonerism contest just two weeks ago, and won the Clowning Achievement a couple of months back with his good idea/bad idea.

And in fourth place, predicting a big win for Xi Jinping in the men's downhill, is Jeff Shirley, who sops up is 285th blot of ink. Jeff isn't a teacher, but he has an indirect school connection to me: He used to be the dentist of my college roommate. (Suzanne: "Dr. Shirley is so nice!" Jeff: "She has a great smile." Both emphatically true.)

What Doug Dug: The faves this week for Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood were Milo's "ambassador to Elba," Frank Osen's Boris Johnson dig; Jesse Frankovich's $10 trillion inflation relief bill from the Democrats; Mark Raffman's "150,000 armed ambassadors" from Putin on the Ukraine border; David Young's appointment of Britney's father as conservator for Rudy Giuliani; and Wendy Shang's Pantone Color of the Year: "a greenish brown-gray called Meh."

Unpredictable: the unprintables: Our remaining shreds of propriety prevented us from including these events in the Invite:

First, a mild one, arguably just fine, even: April 1: Facing widespread staff shortages, the American Dyslexia Association offers $10,000 singing bonuses, forcing the organization to turn away dozens of confused and angry sopranos. (Dave Airozo) Using "dyslexia" for switched-letter wordplay jokes was a common Invite practice for many years. But a reader's heartfelt letter to me after one of them was persuasive.

Oct. 2022: Mississippi Department of Commerce reports dramatic Q3 increase in sales of coat hangers. (Mark Raffman) Just too graphic for a joke. I instead went with a sharp enough one by Bird Waring: "Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he is 'dumbfounded' about the huge increase in number of infants entering the state's welfare system over the past year.

But the Scarlet Letter for very good but very no goes to Stephen Dudzik: "Feb. 4: The Beijing Olympic cauldron is lit by a flaming Uyghur peasant."

Sanely staying home on New Year's Eve? Here's the best way!
The Royal Consort and I are, too. But for the second straight NYE, we'll be spending it (virtually) with Loser Sandy Riccardi and her husband, Richard, who'll once again perform their whole fabulous and hilarious cabaret show of Sandy's parodies (and more) from the stage of the White Horse Black Mountain theater in Asheville, N.C. Last year Sandy gave a big shout-out to the Invitational! (Order tickets here.) If you're not familiar with the Riccardis -- who've now graced several Invite parody contests -- here's "The Boy From Mar-a-Lago" ("Tall and orange and rich and tubby ...").

Whatever you do, have a happy and safe New Year's -- see you in 2022. Please!

The headline "Death Poetry Jam," by Tom Witte, was used for obit poem results in 2001. So good.


Week 1468

Style Conversational Week 1468: Weren't we just here?
The Style Invitational Empress discusses this week's retrospective contest and cartoon caption results

The cornucopia of creativity that Bob Staake typically unleashes on the Empress: These were his ideas for the Week 1464 cartoon caption contest; we chose four. This very piece of paper (it's actually vertical IRL) might be available for purchase! Ask Bob at his special ordering page for Style Invitational art,
By Pat Myers
Today at 4:18 p.m. EST

Can you imagine the mind of Bob Staake? No, of course you can't. Bob sketched all the motley zany doodles above -- as he does for The Style Invitational a couple of times a year -- in some insanely short period. In the past I'd hesitated to show them, since he might want to use some of the other cartoon ideas next time. Not a problem, he'd say. He'll just think up another set.

As you can see in this week's results of the Week 1464 cartoon caption contest, I ended choosing Cartoons G, I, Q and R (conveniently renamed A, B, C and D for their dressed-up debuts). It's not as if any number of the other ones wouldn't have worked as well, but my limit was four. I looked especially for situations that would lend themselves to "dialogue" in the caption, not just a description of what was going on (I like using both types) as well as ones that could prompt widely differing interpretations: the blob on the carpet, for example.

And sure enough, I did get lots of dialogue, lots of description, lots of variety. But! With as many as 400 captions for a single cartoon (Picture D got notably fewer, for some reason), people are going to get a lot of the same ideas -- the same funny ideas. So for Cartoon A, the man and boy looking up at the drones carrying a drooping sack, lots and lots of people thought of a stork. A lazy stork. A stork made obsolete by technology. A stork that observed covid restrictions. A stork that experienced supply chain shortages. A stork whose job was stolen by Jeff Bezos Who Owns The Washington Post. And even several that had the specific joke of the man admitting that the stork was a fairy tale -- and THIS is the truth about where babies come from.


My top pick for Cartoon A was from that last group, but with a unique twist. Lee Graham's admirably pithy caption: "Remember when I told you where babies come from? I lied." The twist is that not only could the father have meant that he'd lied about the stork; he might have first told the son the biological explanation, right? For that, Lee gets his 55th blot of Style Invitational ink plus a deck of cards featuring trivia about New Jersey. (There will be a quiz later.)

Other frequent ideas: there were eight that imagined a bowling ball hanging from the bag -- Leif Picoult's ill-advised "Bowling Ball Land's 'You Buy It, We Fly It' delivery service" blots the ink -- a surprising number of entries about the grand tradition of leaving a bag of poop at someone's door and setting it on fire. (Sam Mertens wins that group with a description of the auto-drive version.) But yes, only Jeff Shirley conjured Roald Dahl's famous bird-tugged hyperfruit to suggest "James and the Giant Testicle." Oh, Jeff.

Similarly for the other three contests: Instead of throwing out all the entries that shared some basic joke, I chose one that had some element that won me over. Among four entries referencing "schadenfreude" for Cartoon D -- in which, at the end of a movie, one woman is gleeful while the woman next to her on the couch weeps pitifully -- I gave the Clowning Achievement to Craig Dykstra, who made it the funniest: Denise Downer realized it was just no fun watching sad movies with Amy Schadenfreude. It's the first Clowning Achievement trophy for Craig, but he's far from prize-deprived: Craig has returned only recently from stepping away from the Invite for a few years; before that, he was the first to win both Loser of the Year and Rookie of the Year simultaneously (2010) and went on to snarf up more than 350 blots of ink, including five wins. Soon after becoming immersed in Loserdom, Craig told me that he tended to throw all his energies and wit into mastering some project or other, then tire of it and pursue another goal with the same passion. But he stuck around for a good five or six years, snarfing up as many as 121 blots in a single Loser Year (and hosting two memorable Loser parties), before turning to whatever. So it's heartening to see that Craig may well be back in earnest. I mean, the Hall of Fame is fewer than 150 inks away! Go for it!

Also popping up again after a long career in Loserdom -- dating back more than 20 years -- Phyllis Reinhard gets a Loser Mug or Whole Fools Grossery Bag with her pithy caption for Cartoon B: "Tough night, Mr. Gumby?" Before moving away to the Philadelphia exurbs, Phyl was one of the most delightful guests at Loser functions -- and for years in the Style Invitational Devotees group, she'd write personalized poems for other Losers on their birthdays. Turns out that this was her only entry this week, too. Batting 1.000!

And a couple of generations younger than Phyllis, Jesse Rifkin grabs the remaining spot in the Losers' Circle (and his 62nd ink already) with one of this week's rare political entries -- and even rarer, one that digs at the Dems: For the people outside the store labeled with a giant R: "I think I'll shop here -- the D store is about to cost another $2 trillion."

A trip down short-term memory lane: The Week 1468 retrospective
It's hard to be nostalgic, exactly, when you look back a whole week -- or zero weeks -- for Week 1468, when you have a chance to enter (or reenter) any of our 25 most recent contests, including the cartoon caption contest we review just today. As I did in last week's Style Conversational for the still-running Part 1, Week 1467 (through Monday, Dec. 27) below I've provided links to all the contests eligible this week, along with the first-place entry for each of those contests. It's an amazing greatest-hits anthology.

The links go to the announcement and instructions for the contest; for the results of each contest -- be sure to check them so you don't send an entry that's like one that already ran -- click on the link from four weeks later.

Week 1440, song lyrics about anything in the news:

To "Royals"

I'll never sit upon that fancy throne

The crown will rest on brother's head, I can not see

Why I can't venture on my own

I'll avoid Mom's fate -- damn paparazzi!

But everybody's like:

Grow up, stand tall, pick a proper mate. An

Actress? Good God! What an awful state! Man,

They're afraid

She'll pop out babies of a darker lot

Folks in the palace, like,

Curtsies, pinkies up, shoulders with no chip, be

Discreet, stoic, stiffen up that lip, see

They don't care

If my stomach's in a Windsor knot.

We don't want to be royals (royals), we don't need all that strife

I'll take my children and my wife, we crave a different kind of life

Let me go on Oprah (Oprah), she's the queen of TV

And baby, we'll spill, (we'll spill, we'll spill)

A whole bunch of royal tea. (Hildy Zampella)

Week 1441, a limerick that sums up or otherwise reflects on a particular song

The Star-Spangled Banner

'Twas our second time fighting the British

They had hoped we'd be fatally skittish

But we stayed through the night

And we won the last fight --

Now of despots we're finally rid (ish). (Emma Daley)

Week 1442, what's the same or different between any two items on the random list we supplied:

12 gallons of hand sanitizer: Purell. An evening with Mitch McConnell: Pure 'ell. (Double credit for Jesse Frankovich and Jeff Rackow)

Week 1443, propose some law and give it a humorous acronym:

The Let's Acknowledge Legitimately Authentic, Literate Americans Love Apathy resolution, to earnestly affirm that climate change is an existential crisis and we really should do something about it someday. It's the LALALALA resolution. (Kevin Dopart)

Week 1444, slightly change the name of a sport or game and describe the new pastime:

Marrython: The only endurance sport where you try not to reach the finish line. (Melissa Balmain)

Week 1445, poems using a word from the later rounds of the 2021 National Spelling Bee, or Q&A jokes using one of the words

Dysphotic, poorly illuminated

Dysphotic water's where to hide

The bodies of the vics who died

For disrespecting capos' wishes.

Now they're sleeping with the fishes

At the bottom of the Hudson,

Down in zones that too much mud's in. (Chris Doyle)

Week 1446, use a partially filled in crossword grid to create your choice of words (including made-up ones) or phrases, then write the clue

T- - N > TEEN: I'm working on the definition, OKAY? (Roy Ashley)

Week 1447, take any sentence from an article or ad in any publication (for this week's contest, use ones dated Dec. 23-Jan. 3) and interpret it in "plain English":

Spelman College's study-abroad program has pivoted to "a systematic internationalization of the curriculum that infuses virtual exchange opportunities."

PE: You can study a broad section of your Zoom screen. (Drew Bennett)

Week 1448, a limerick that features a word, name or other term beginning with "he-":

A rumor is also called hearsay;

It's what gossipy people, I fear, say.

And it might not be true --

Only something that you

(After three or four bottles of beer) say. (Beverley Sharp)

Week 1449, begin with a real name; overlap it with a word, name or expression; and describe or "quote" the resulting phrase or name.

Giannis Antetokounm-Poe:

Once upon a playoff mission, 2021 edition,

After sitting out two games (his knee was feeling really sore) --

Wearing Nike sneakers squeaky, showing off his talents freaky,

Six-eleven, strong and Greek, he made amazing moves to score.

Named the Finals MVP, the finest player on the floor:

Giannis, Number 34. (Jesse Frankovich)

Week 1450, describe some aspect of our current society as a space alien or future anthropologist might interpret it:

Once a year every human must recommit to the familial cult by lighting a cake on fire while clan members chant a mournful dirge. (Scott Richards)

Week 1451, humorously bad "first drafts" of famous lines from history, literature or entertainment.

"Torpedoes?? Damn." -- Adm. David Farragut (Marli Melton)

Week 1452, neologisms "discovered" by snaking around the word-find grid provided.

From F-14: OM-ZAP: A meditation-induced inspiration. In full lotus, Ellen suddenly experienced an om-zap: "What if I created a dog fitness program called Labs of Steel"? (Leif Picoult)

Week 1453, change the meaning of any book title by adding a subtitle

Silent Spring: The Year I Forgot About Valentine's Day (Dave Prevar)

Week 1454, Punku: haiku including a pun or other wordplay

We are not close to

Solving climate change, but we

Are getting warmer. (Laura Clairmont)

Week 1455, Cite a "good idea" and then alter the wording slightly into a "bad idea"

Good idea: Getting your cues from science.

Bad idea: Getting your science from Q. (Ryan Martinez)

Week 1456, ask an insulting question roughly in the format of "Is that your X, or did Y?"

Is that your way of encouraging your child's self-expression, or did you fail to tip the exorcist? (Mark Raffman)

Week 1457, Ask Backwards: Choose one of the "answers" provided and follow it with a question. (No guest-judging by Ken Jennings this time around, alas.)

A. Six hours without Facebook. Q. How do 56 percent of Americans describe an eight-hour workday? (Jeff Hazle)

Week 1458, Using all the letters in the title of a TV show (as often as you like), create a new TV show title and describe it

"Gilligan's Island" > "Ding-a-lings in Sand": Still "Gilligan's Island." (Coleman Glenn)

Week 1459, write song lyrics "by" a particular person, set to a familiar tune

Sen. Susan Collins (To "If I Only Had a Brain")

I can talk of moderation -- adept dissimulation!

A centrist stance I'll feign,

The conclusion is foregone I'll go and side with Mitch McConnell

And I'll con the folks in Maine.

Odds are good, indeed the surest,

I'll confirm those right-wing jurists --

"Roe's safe!" I will maintain.

It disturbs me very little to accede to Trump's acquittal

As I con the hicks in Maine.

Yes, ma'am, I've learned to scam the people up the shore,

"Take your rights away? The thought I just abhor!"

And then I vote, and slam the door.

My concerns are deep and thorough! Just watch my brow line furrow!

My head might cleave in twain!

As my forehead sadly puckers, I will play them all for suckers,

Yes, I'll con the rubes in Maine. (Duncan Stevens)

Week 1460, write a short poem that features a word from the provided list of terms added to the dictionary in 2021

The "fourth trimester," the months after the birth:

We cuddled you close for the whole fourth trimester --

We cherished that bond, and the closeness was heaven.

And dear, we still love you; we don't mean to pester --

But . . . leave. It's trimester one hundred and seven. (Coleman Glenn)

Week 1461, create a new word or phrase based on someone's name and define it (Results here)

KevinMcCarthyism: Blacklisting people who agree to appear before a House committee investigating un-American activities. (Donald Norum)

Week 1462, what would happen if any two people switched professions or other roles? (Results here)

Edgar Allan Poe writes children's books:

"Still that hatted cat comes calling, Nameless Things with him enthralling

Children who, their caution falling, Heed their parents nevermore."

Dr. Seuss writes horror:

"Then I heard from the floorboards a thumpety-thump,

like a tocker whose ticker just started to jump." (Coleman Glenn)

Week 1463, riddles featuring spoonerisms -- two words or phrases whose first sounds are switched: (Results here.)

What's a demagogue's reaction to a rabid crowd at a rally? If he's rotten to the core, he'll cotton to the roar. (Mark Raffman)

And * Week 1464, captions for the cartoons featured in this week's results. (Results here)


Wishing you all the happiest of holidays, and I'll be back with the Conv (and of course the Invite) one more time before the wrecking ball crashes on 2021.


If you never emailed me to opt in to the notification newsletter: Do it now!

A few weeks ago I was suddenly prevented from sending out my weekly email newsletter on the TinyLetter platform, with the links to each week's Invitational and Conversational, seemingly (I was never told personally) because one or more of the 1,800 recipients had reported it as spam. Fortunately, I was able to quickly set up with another, even better service, Substack, and could even move over my whole mailing list -- but I had to promise that everyone on the list had expressly asked to join the first time. I did tell them that so I could get the word out, but I wasn't totally truthful: I had added some of the names myself, when new Losers had entered the contest (so they could know when the results were printed).

So I asked everyone to email me at myerspat ( at ) gmail (dot) com to opt in, so I could prove to Substack that I wasn't bothering them without their own masochistic permission. And if they didn't, I'd delete their names. The thing is that it's taken more time than I've had, and so most of you are still getting the newsletter. But I really need those opt-ins, and am shooting for the end of the year for the big dump of no-answers.

If you joined after Nov. 5, 2021, you're in on your own; you don't have to do anything. If you're not sure if you already wrote to me (I tried to reply to everyone), heck, flip me another one. If you haven't yet signed up, just go to, click on the most recent (or any) newsletter, and click the purple Subscribe Now button. It's all free.


Week 1467

Style Conversational Week 1467: Our annual wretchrospective
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's do-over contest and winning spoonerisms

Given that the editors said no last week to a cartoon depicting Woodrow Wilson fishing a crouton from a woman's decolletage, it seemed sensible to ask Bob Staake to give this poor office worker a longer, unbothered shirttail in the final version of this week's Style Invitational cartoon. But this very sketch (or a host of others) could be yours: Bob has special prices for his Invite art at
By Pat Myers
December 16, 2021 at 4:37 p.m. EST

This email was forwarded to me a few days ago: "For several years I have followed and appreciated the list of Neologisms published each year by The Washington Post -- but would like to know the procedure for submitting one for consideration."

I'm not sure what the person has "followed" for "several years"; I'm guessing that she's perhaps read more than once the corrupted lists -- from 1998 -- of new meanings for existing words (Style Invitational Week 266), and words changed by one letter (Week 278), that continue to pop up with amazing energy. I didn't ask, "You have, huh?" but I did, as always, clarify that The Style Invitational is a weekly contest offering a wide variety of humor challenges, including several neologism contests a year, and I invited her to sign up for the weekly notification newsletter.

Had I answered the email today, though, I could have pointed to the motley list below of 24 contests from the first half of the past year, the ones you get a chance to enter (and reenter) for Week 1467. Each listing contains a link to that contest, any special rules for this week (e.g., use this week's papers for a headline contest), and the winning entry.

(Remember, you can also just type in the short URL "[week number]"; e.g., gives you the Week 1417 contest. And gives you the Week 1417 results; all the results in this list appear four weeks after the contest was announced.) The nutshell descriptions below are not always complete; be sure to read the instructions in the contest itself.

The links below are to Washington Post pages, and so you'll need to be a subscriber -- one of The Post's 3 million digital subscribers -- to see them. (It's just $40 for your whole first year! I mean, that's just nuts. And you can usually get the following years for less than $10 a month.) But if you really can't subscribe, the other way to see the contests is to go to the Master Contest List on the Losers' website,, and scroll down to 2021. Each week has PDFs of both the print page and the Web page, as well as a faster-loading plain-text version.

Week 1413, poems using terms added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2020:

Useful idiot, a naive person who can be exploited politically:

had a useful idiot; for years he kissed my bottom.

I need a favor? Two or three? Well, every time I got 'em.

But now he's on his way out and I'm feeling kind of miffed.

Those millions that he's in my debt? I'm likely to be stiffed.-- V.P., Moscow (Mark Raffman)

Week 1417, poems (no more than 8 lines) about someone who died in 2020 (NOT someone who died in 2021, since that contest is imminent)

Michael Sexson (1966-2020), treasure hunter

Michael Sexson, 53, had read of buried treasure;

Set out with just some clues, and an acquaintance, for good measure.

They didn't find the gold. Soon, cold and hungry, they got lost,

But searchers finally brought 'em down the mountain to defrost.

Now most folks, being reasonable, would kiss this quest goodbye;


But not these two! In just one month, they made a second try .*.*.,

Bad choice. At least the pal survived ('cause later they were found),

But Michael (like the gold) has now been buried underground. (Beverley Sharp)

Week 1418, Tour de Fours: new words or phrases containing the consecutive letters U-N-D-O, in any order

Ickspound: To overshare about your bodily functions. "To start the Zoom meeting, the boss ickspounded on barfing up a whole bag of multicolored Skittles." (Terri Berg Smith)

Week 1419, "joint legislation": a wordplay "bill" combining the names of two or more freshman legislators in the 117th Congress

The Bordeaux-Gimenez-Torres Resolution, limiting long-winded uncles at Thanksgiving to 20 minutes tops. (Sarah Walsh) [Bored o' him and his stories]

Week 1420, song lyrics about work, or about a particular job, set to a familiar tune (or, if on video, any tune)

Cosmetic surgeon (To "I Saw Her Standing There")

If you are past 39 and your form's in decline,

Well, there may be parts that I can help repair,

So how 'bout I tuck in your tummy, ooh! And lift your derriere?

Well, people are vain, but, hey, I can't complain'

Cause self-regard made me a millionaire

There's still time to look like Jane Fonda, ooh! When you're on Medicare.

[bridge] Well, it may be crass but you'll love your ass/ And your face without a line!

Oh your skin may shine at night and it may feel kinda tight,

And when you laugh, your mouth may feel real sore.

But you'll never look like your mother, ooh, once you come in through my door. (Bob Kruger)

Week 1421, a new sentence or passage formed from words used in President Biden's inaugural address

My fellow Americans: As you know, Vice President Pence and I have been close friends for many years. Today, I need to tell you something. We are more than just friends -- much more. In fact, he is the one and only love of my life, and the two of us will be entering into a state of total domestic union. Yes, as of tomorrow, we are becoming husbands. (George Thompson)

Week 1422, pair a song, book or movie title with a "collaborator," then make a wordplay on the title

With co-author Vladimir Putin, Barbara Kingsolver would write The Poison-Good Bible. (Harold Mantle)

Week 1423, anagram a headline or a significant part of a headline (use headlines from articles/ads in any print or online publication dated Dec. 16-27; please include the URL of the Web page, or the date and page number of a print paper)

Perseverance Probe Successfully Lands on Mars =

Endless Probes From Space Cleverly Scan Uranus (Jesse Frankovich)

Week 1424, find new words in any of the provided letter sets from the New York Times's Spelling Bee word-find game; you may repeat letters

BEFILON > Foible file: Where your brain stores the memories of every mistake you ever made so it can bring them all out when you're trying to fall asleep. (Danielle Nowlin)

Week 1425, write a caption for any of four Bob Staake cartoons

(Bob Staake for The Washington Post )
Jack hopes his inflatable-luggage gag goes viral. (Dave Prevar)

Week 1426, reinterpret any headline dated Dec. 16-27 by following it with a bank head, or subtitle

Real headline: US 45 resurfacing project starts Monday Fake bank head: Former president getting skin peel, de-oranging (Jesse Frankovich)

Week 1427, describe any historic event as a pair of puns in the "A, or B" format

2008: Sen. John McCain announces his running mate: Impalin' the Ticket, or Wasilladvised (Gary Crockett)

Week 1428, find new words of 5-7 letters in any of the provided letter sets from the ScrabbleGrams game (letters may be used only once)

AAEPPRT > PAP ART: My OB/GYN is so skilled, she doesn't just make a "smear" .*.*. (Danielle Nowlin,

Week 1429, pair a Shakespeare quote with a modern equivalent

"If it be a sin to make a true election, she is damned." ("Cymbeline") =

"Ms. Abrams, the Georgia legislature thinks there's been way too much voting going on." (Duncan Stevens)

Week 1430, "breed" any two 2020 Kentucky Derby nominees and name a "foal" reflecting both names

One Fast Cat x Soup and Sandwich = Usain BLT (Matt Monitto)

Week 1431, tell how things will be different after the pandemic is over (warning: jokes might be beaten out by the 2022 predictions in the not-yet-judged Week 1465)

Now it will be less awkward when Grandpa tells everyone how Pfizer saved his social life. (Ben Aronin)

Week 1432, new angles on folk tales or nursery rhymes

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,

Kissed the girls and made them cry.

Then he made them go away

Encumbered by an NDA.

(But richer by one-thirty K.) (Gary Crockett)

Week 1433, Questionable Journalism: take any sentence from an article or ad (use current ones, dated Dec. 16-27) and follow it by a question it could humorously answer

A. That was Frances McDormand having explosive diarrhea in a plastic bucket on a van.

Q. What was the worst act on "Celebrity America's Got Talent"? (Jon Ketzner)

Week 1434, "breed" any two of the "foals" from Week 1430 and name the "grandfoal"

HaberDasher x It's All Over = RIP What You Sew (Jonathan Paul)

Week 1435, send a photo of a diorama or other humorous art featuring cicadas -- or, this week, any currently available bug

Week 1436, alternative plots for movie titles

The week's winner is the first example in this week's Invitational, so here's that week's second place: Joe Versus the Volcano: The definitive documentary of the 2020 presidential campaign. (Eric Nelkin)

Week 1437, "typo" neologisms: change a word, name or phrase by either adding or substituting one letter adjacent on a standard keyboard, or by doubling a letter

Jest lag: The awkward silence between telling a joke and getting a laugh. (Chris Doyle)

Week 1438, "fictoids," or bogus trivia, relating to the law or the justice system

As part of a flurry of deregulation, the Trump administration nullified the federal law requiring bridges to freeze before roadways. (Bruce Carlson)

Week 1439, remove all the vowels from a song title, then add your choice of vowels to create a new song title

I'm a Believer >MBLVR > Mob Lover:

Sen. Ron Johnson changes his tune after Jan. 6:

"Then I saw their race, now I'm a mob lover, Not a trace of doubt in my mind * (Kevin Dopart)


Wow. Pretty good stuff, huh? Those were the days! (I'll say that next week, too.)

I think I've made it impossible for you to send your entries to the old entry forms for those contests -- where I would never see them. But do remember that the entries go to THIS week's form:

Which contests are more likely to get retro-ink? Lots of different ones, I hope; I love to show readers the variety of the stuff we throw at people all year long. But there are physical limitations, especially for space. I definitely won't run more than one cartoon with a caption entry (though I could run one Week 1425 cartoon with two different entries) and it's highly unlikely to run in the print paper. And remember, we also have the Week 1435 bug-art contest; given its novelty, I could see myself using the art space for that instead.

It's more fun for me to judge 1,200 entries spread over 24 contests than 1,200 of a single kind, so I'm looking forward to the retrospectives. Often, Losers will send me their favorite "noinks" from previous contests, and indeed, a few previously submitted entries usually get ink the second time around; the foal name contest often gets 4,000 entries, for example, and plenty of inkworthies can shake the dust from their bridles and break anew from the starting gate.

You HAVE to tell me which contest your entry is for: If you have some letter-rack neologism and didn't tell me if it was from the Spelling Bee letters or the ScrabbleGrams letters, you're done.

Whipped flurds*: The spoonerisms of Week 1463
*Non-inking headline by Jeff Contompasis

Our Week 1463 contest yielded a crumper bop of spoonerism jokes: My first cut from the 1,100 entries ran to 120 inkworthies (or at least inksemiworthies), finally winnowed down to today's 40 inking entries. But oh, it was slow going through so many of the rest.

I was able to shuffle all the entries alphabetically, and so I don't know if a whole lot of people didn't understand (or care) that a spoonerism is the "transposition of the beginnings of different words," or just a few people who sent the maximum 25 entries each. But today's gems had to twinkle amid such less twinkly efforts as "folksy witticisms/ focused pragmatism," "Poor, sweet Fredo/four wet Speedos," "jack of all trades/track of unjust gains."

I also should have described the spoonerism as the transposition of the beginning sounds," since sound is the key to the humor, not the letters themselves. That's why this honorable mention by Coleman Glenn works creatively: "How is a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine like someone saying "cock-a-doodle-doo"? One is an RNA booster, the other is bein' a rooster. RNA-BNA! But why I passed on this one: "How is a remote-controlled car like a gown made of organ meat? One is driverless, the other liver dress." My bad for not stating that explicitly at the start.

The best wordplay I saw that was, alas, not a spoonerism:

How is beginning by doing something wrong like the hiring of Sean Spicer? One is starting off on the wrong foot and the other is starting off on the wrong fool. (Chuck Smith)

By the way, about half the riddles asked, "What's the difference between X and Y?" and the other half asked, "How is X like Y?" I think the former is more logical for spoonerisms, but I usually just left whatever the person sent in.

It's the third Clowning Achievement -- but the ridiculous 27th Invite win -- for Hall of Famer Mark Raffman, with his observation that a demagogue at a rally who's rotten to the core tends to cotton to the roar. Ryan Martinez gets the second-place Poop Timer, and his third ink "above the fold," for his Cuomotastic Patagonia/ gonna pat ya. (Meanwhile, Mike Gips also gets ink for contrasting that prize with President Biden: New POTUS/ poo notice.) H o' F'er Jesse Frankovich, father of a tween, sounds like the voice of experience when musing about a "10,000-piece Lego set" with "Citizen Kane/ kit is insane." And Jon Ketzner sounded almost elegant with needlessly crude/ creedlessly nude, referring to a gratuitous comic and an undressed atheist.

What Doug Dug: In addition to the four top winners, as well as Coleman's "bein' a rooster," Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood also particularly liked Jeff Shirley's interpretation of Virginia's elections as seen by Republicans, fairy tale, and Democrats, Terry fail; Eric Nelkin's relief pitcher/confessional priest: saves the win/ waives the sin; similar entries from William Kennard and Steve Offutt for Taming of the Shrew/shaming of the true, as in the Republicans who show the amazing backbone to speak out against people who tried to undermine the election; and this one from First Offender Pam Shermeyer: How is Donald Trump like Mike Pence? One traffics in fibs and lies; the other's pestered by libs and flies. (That last one does bend the rule a bit, by leaving the L in changing from "lies" to "flies." 'Sokay.)

Not surprisingly, there were a number of entries -- valid spoonerisms -- that, well, they're better off hiding down here in the Invite Weeds rather than out in the actual contests, where more decorous people might accidentally see them.

I almost gave official ink to this one by Mark Richardson, but a friend who read my shortlist didn't get it: "I was hugely excited by the crowds on January 6th -- there will never be another sin erection as big as mine. D.J.T., Florida"

More obvious but definitely unprintable, the same idea: What did they call the men's revolt against the government's edict to wash their genitals before sex? The rinse erection insurrection. (Jeff Shirley)

Here are a few more unprintables, which you'll understand why I'm not boldfacing:

How is Facebook like a urology symposium? One passes misinformation; the other masses piss information. (Jonathan Paul)

How does a singing cartographer differ from someone relieving himself in the woods? One croons while mapping and the other moons while crapping. (Steve Fahey)

How is a bullet to the brain like a roll in the hay? One is being shot in the head; one is being hot in the shed. (Beverley Sharp)

What's the difference between a good boss and a bad boss? One you like to work for 9 to 5, while the other you think is fine to knive. (Richard Franklin, who did, to be fair, attach a note that he was only "metaphorically speaking)

How is Rudy Giuliani like skipping foreplay? One had dye dripping, the other leads to dry dipping. (Sam Mertens)

How is a single-skill specialist like an award-winning Broadway jerk? The first is a one-trick pony; the second is a one-Tony prick. (Chris Doyle, specified "Convo-only")


Week 1466

Style Conversational Week 1466: Let's make it right
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's funny-corrections contest and job-switch winners

The website Testy Copy Editors shared this on Facebook Dec. 8. "If only The New York Times had access to a list of editors," it mused. The Style Invitational invites you to have fun with corrections in this week's contest, Week 1466. (Screen image from Testy Copy Editors)
By Pat Myers
December 9, 2021 at 4:48 p.m. EST

"The Washington Post strives for a nimble, accurate and complete news report. We endeavor to be promptly responsive in correcting errors in material published on digital platforms and in print. When we run a correction, clarification or editor's note, our goal is to tell readers, as clearly and quickly as possible, what was wrong and what is correct. Anyone should be able to understand how and why a mistake has been corrected."

That's the doctrine listed in The Post's in-house guide to writing corrections. We really do strive for transparency. I'm pretty sure, though, that it hasn't always been the case that we've aimed to "tell readers * what was wrong"; the rationale I heard over my years on the copy desk was that you don't want to repeat an inaccuracy, so just go ahead and say what the correct fact is and leave it at that. But as you can imagine, readers were often left thinking: "Wow, what ridiculous thing did they actually say?!" (And just maybe we didn't want to embarrass ourselves by admitting what doofy thing we said.)

But certainly as long ago as 2004, The Post spelled out in its corrections box on Page A2 -- to some degree -- this howler that I quoted in the introduction to The Style Invitational's Week 609 contest.

"The Sunday, April 10, edition of 'The Mini Page,' about wind waves, tsunamis and tides, incorrectly indicated that the sun orbits the Earth."

Unfortunately, The Post's archives don't include preprinted supplements like The Mini Page (which was inserted into the Sunday comics) and so I can't look up exactly what sort of science lesson was being imparted to our tykes, and how this idea was "indicated."

I wasn't even able to track down the text of the correction to see if there was more to it, but my search for Mini Page corrections of 2004 did lead me serendipitously to a more conventionally obfuscatory "correction" of the era, from the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

"A photo caption on The Mini Page, 2D, on Monday should have reported June 6, 1944, as the date U.S. and allied troops landed on the beaches in Normandy."

Maybe they had said that was the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor? The signing of the Declaration of Independence?

Anyway, I hope you'll have fun spoofing newspaper corrections -- much as Mess With Our Heads contests (and of course the Onion) spoof headline conventions -- with this week's contest, Week 1466. I remember judging this contest with delight in 2004 in my first year on the throne (or, actually, in the car while waiting in the elementary school kid-pickup line). And the results are hilarious! So why did I wait 17 years to do it again?

Perhaps because I worried that all the jokes to be had were already * had. But surely I was selling y'all short. One tack you might take -- this was noted by Loser Dave Prevar when he suggested that I redo the contest -- is to write the correction as if it's from some specific publication, such as the Rocky Mountain News in Denver clarifying which kind of "oysters" to use in a recipe.

Here are the results of Week 609 (while President George W. Bush was seeking reelection). The contest had been suggested by Russell Beland, then the Invite's dominant Loser.

Third runner-up: A June 4 news article described White House senior adviser Karl Rove as "a vicious old bloodsucker in the thrall of corporate paymasters." Mr. Rove is 54. (Mark Eckenwiler, Washington)

Second runner-up: The reviewer of "Monster-in-Law" incorrectly described the film as "two hours of my life I'll never get back." The film's actual running time is 101 minutes. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

First runner-up, the winner of the CD of pop song parodies about food safety: In last week's Book World, authorship of the anonymous poem beginning "There was an old man from Nantucket" was incorrectly attributed to Emily Dickinson. (Dennis Lindsay, Seabrook, Md.)

And the winner of the Inker: 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." (Elden Carnahan, Laurel, Md.)

Honorable Mentions: [before we started doing the reader-submitted subheads]

In the April 24 Travel article "Hiking in Grizzly Country," a word was omitted from the final sentence. The sentence should have read: "Be sure never to carry chunks of raw meat in your pockets." Also, a May 11 article, "Area Hikers Mauled in Yellowstone," contained erroneous information supplied by a park official who reported that all the victims were from Maryland; in fact, one was from Virginia. (Dennis Lindsay) [Wow, that was a weensy bit subtle; I had to reread it to get it. Sick humor!]

Yesterday's obituary of the North Korean ambassador contained an inaccurate date. According to CIA sources, his death will not occur for several days. (Dan Seidman, Watertown, Mass.)

In an article on swearing in local schools, the principal of George Washington Elementary was misquoted. "He's a %#!!@#ing liar" was actually "He's a %#!!ing liar." (Chris Doyle, Raleigh) [In addition to his unbeatable position as highest-scoring loser ever, Chris surely holds the record for number of different towns cited after his name. I'm thinking of Burke, Va., to start, and there were places in Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, Hawaii and Texas -- not to mention all the ports of call he sent entries from on his round-the-world travels.]

A recent Metro article listed James Schlemtz of 1223 J St. NE as the surprise witness who prosecutors fear might be murdered before he can testify. While accurate, the story should not have included that information. (Russell Beland, Springfield) ["J Street" is the 555- number of Washington writing; the alphabet-street grid skips J.]

A recent editorial noted that John Bolton's mustache looked "as if it had been torn from the rear end of a baboon." Baboon rear ends are bare. The correct simile is "Japanese snow monkey." (Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.) [17 years ago, people!]

A correction in yesterday's paper incorrectly indicated that the editors regretted making an error in the previous day's edition. The editors actually felt no remorse for the mistake. This newspaper regrets the error. (Danny Bravman, St. Louis) [The Post actually doesn't use the common "regrets the error" phrase in corrections.]

A series of printing errors on the Op-Ed page caused George F. Will to appear to be even more of an insufferable pedant than his column usually makes him out to be. (Russell Beland) [Did I mention 17 years?]

In an article about a principal who refused to let the school chorus sing "Louie Louie," the lyrics "Eh fnh lttl grurl shweat Fermi" should have read "Ehh fnne little ghullsh wate furme." (Peter Metrinko, Chantilly)

Due to a typographical error, an obituary stated that Joseph McDonald was survived by his wife of 270 years. They were actually married for 27 years. It only seemed like 270. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Workers took two hours to remove an eight-foot crucifix from the apse of St. James Cathedral, not the "arse of St. James" as reported. (Bird Waring, New York)

A recent editorial said the president's IQ was equal to his shoe size. It should have made clear that it was referring to European sizes, which have higher numbers than American sizes. For instance, American men's size 10 is equivalent to a European size 43. (Russell Beland)

An article titled "Ann Coulter's Favorite Flicks" should not have included the Zapruder film. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge) [How many years exactly?]

In last week's Food section, the lists in "Tom Sietsema's 20 Favorite D.C. Dining Destinations" and "D.C. Restaurants Closed for Health Violations" were inadvertently transposed. (Greg Pearson, Arlington, Va.)

The map accompanying an article on Monday's Science Notebook page should have depicted a tortoise, not an elephant, holding the Earth on its back. (Jan Stanley, Reston, Va.)

Wednesday's Miss Manners column incorrectly stated that if a crouton falls down the dress of the lady seated next to you, etiquette dictates removing it with the sugar tongs. While that remains the case in Europe, Americans follow the precedent set by Woodrow Wilson at a 1916 state dinner, in which the fingers were used. (Mike Fransella, Arlington, Va.)

An item in yesterday's Post said the Washington Times would pay $1 apiece for used diapers for a consumer study. This was erroneous. Oops. Our bad. (Dan Seidman)

In an article on the history of the Potomac River, rowing enthusiast Max Schmitt was misquoted; he actually referred to Fletcher's as "the best oarhouse I've ever been to." (Marty McCullen, Gettysburg, Pa.) [The late Marty must have been an art buff to quote a "Max Schmitt"]

A recent article in Health suggested that thousands of people are deliberately injecting their faces with botulism toxin. That's just got to be wrong. (Russell Beland)

Friday's Federal Page reported on John Smith's promotion from Special Assistant to the Assistant Deputy Undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Projects at DHS. Further investigation reveals that this was actually a demotion. (Joseph Romm, Washington, former Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Energy, and also Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and even Acting Assistant Secretary for six months)

Because of a typographical error, the May 13 editorial page masthead listed The Washington Post's publisher as "Full o' B.S. Jones." His real name is Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. (Tom Witte) [He pronounces his name "Bo-fillay" and, outside the official listing, goes by "Bo Jones." He went on to be chairman of The Post Co. board until 2011. The current publisher is Fred Ryan, who goes by "Fred Ryan."]

Yesterday's Ask Amy column replied to "Lonely in Largo" with advice that was wrong, wrong, wrong. Don't mistake the giddiness of this new fling for the constancy of your old love. Yes, it can be hard to love a man who's away every night writing corrections at the newspaper, but, oh, come on, Doreen, I'm just asking for another chance. (Brendan Beary)

And Last: In violation of Post editorial policy, today's Style Invitational improperly lists the contest's judge under a pseudonym, "The Empress." She is Valerie Plame. -- R. Novak, Washington (Mark Eckenwiler)

Okay, Losers -- top those.

Oh, and here are the examples that accompanied the announcement of the contest. I don't remember if they were all mine or some were Russell's. The first one would definitely be mine.

An article about a comedy camp for children in the Catskill mountains described one boy as "a real ham." The phrase should have read "a real brisket."

Tuesday's weather page reported a 70 percent chance of rain for the next day. The chance of rain Wednesday was actually 100 percent.

A recent story described the wife of the new pope and her plans to spruce up the Vatican. The pope is actually a bachelor.

Careearrangements:* The job switches of Week 1462
*Non-inking entry by Chris Doyle, who instead succeeded with "Shift Workers"

The Week 1462 contest -- to say what would happen if two people switched professions or other roles -- turned out to be more challenging than most; the Loser Community clearly tried hard, but so many of the thousand or so entries felt like trying. But as usual, a few dozen jokes inkworthily shone out.

And then you have this week's winner, the phenomenally successful Invite rookie Coleman Glenn, who crafted this double:

Edgar Allan Poe writes children's books:

"Still that hatted cat comes calling,

Nameless Things with him enthralling

Children who, their caution falling,

Heed their parents nevermore."

Dr. Seuss writes horror:

"Then I heard from the floorboards a thumpety-thump,

like a tocker whose ticker just started to jump."

Coleman Glenn has been submitting humor to the Invitational for only a few months, and while I've come to know the particular writing styles of some longtime Losers enough to guess, sometimes, which entries are theirs, I'm not that well acquainted with Coleman.

But I keep picking him to win.

My no-doubt-about-it choice this week for the Clowning Achievement is Coleman's third win of the whole contest in five weeks; if that's happened before, it's an astonishingly rare feat.

Coleman's first two wins: First, four weeks ago (Week 1458), to use all the letters in a TV show title to create a new one:

Gilligan's Island > Ding-a-lings in Sand: Still "Gilligan's Island."

Then, in less of a surprise for the man who regularly writes verse both light and arty (and the father of four young children), poems using terms newly added to the dictionary:

The fourth trimester, the months after the birth:

We cuddled you close for the whole fourth trimester --

We cherished that bond, and the closeness was heaven.

And dear, we still love you; we don't mean to pester --

But * leave. It's trimester one hundred and seven.

Upon receiving his Clowning Achievement trophy -- a.k.a. the Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick -- Coleman posted to the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook an adorable video of his delighted 2-year-old poking the Clowner's nose. [Sorry, you need to be a group member to see that link. Join up here -- it's a private group -- and I or my co-admin Alex Blackwood will wave you in.]

And in second place, another impressive rookie: It's a shame that Leif (pronounced Layf) Picoult wasn't around back in the day for our Rodney Dangerfieldism contest in 2001, because he does a spot-on Rodney imitation -- with the added dimension of Donald Trump.

And in third, the newly returned Amanda Yanovitch is scoring ink week after week as well -- this time a mordant link between the "there's nothing wrong" insistence by China about the silenced tennis player Peng Shuai and the sudden exodus of top aides to Vice President Harris.

And in fourth, there's Ol' Hall of Famer Gary Crockett, loping away from that 500-ink mark.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood liked all the top winners this week, especially Leif's Rodney/Trump, and also liked John Hutchins's Joe Biden/Tom Brady (no worries about too much inflation with the latter). But even more, Doug was partial to Mark Raffman's Colonel Sanders/Dan Snyder switch, especially the reference to the revelations of a toxic work environment for women in the Washington Football Team front office: "Dan enjoys owning a franchise where pictures of breasts, legs and thighs don't get you investigated."


Last-minute art adjustment: Late Thursday afternoon, the editors removed Bob Staake's cartoon illustrating the first example in this week's correction contest, an inking entry in Week 609 in 2004: "Wednesday's Miss Manners column incorrectly stated that if a crouton falls down the dress of the lady seated next to you, etiquette dictates removing it with the sugar tongs. While that remains the case in Europe, Americans follow the precedent set by Woodrow Wilson at a 1916 state dinner, in which the fingers were used." Bob had drawn Woodrow setting the precedent. This is my fault; I should have told him to draw something else: There's a different standard for what you can say vs. what you can draw.


Week 1465

Style Conversational Week 1465: See _____ next year
The Style Invitational Empress on the 2022-prediction contest and eponym results

Not ridden out of town on a rail, alas: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) was censured by the House for tweeting an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- a "joke" sarcastically termed "Gosarcasm" by Losers Marty Gold and Lee Graham. Gosar then sent out the tweet again. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
By Pat Myers
December 2, 2021 at 4:45 p.m. EST

You know, I'm pretty glad that the results of our Year in Preview contest last year did NOT include a prediction that, a few days into the new year, a wanton, murderous mob would invade the Capitol and its legislators with the goal of overturning the 2020 presidential election and maybe hanging the outgoing vice president from a scaffold. Or that almost none of the Republican members of Congress would dare criticize what happened.

They'd have blamed us!

Anyway, let's give another go to our Year in Preview contest, Style Invitational Week 1465, in which I'll compile a timeline of Loserly predictions for 2022. Once again, I'll thank Longtime Loser Malcolm Fleschner not only for the idea, but for supplying some handy-dandy examples -- which now he can't put in his own column.

Malcolm, a Californian whose humor column Culture Shlock used to run in the San Jose Mercury-News and now appears on his blog on Substack, came up with his Year in Preview back in 2004 as a twist on Dave Barry's famous "Year in Review" pieces -- which Dave has been doing since well back into the previous century, mixing his own jokes with actual "I swear I am not making this up" occurrences. Here's Malcolm's Year in Preview from last year; here's Dave's lengthy Year in Review from 2020 (this year's will run in The Washington Post Magazine on Dec. 26).

While Dave's wrap-up is in paragraph form, we'll copy Malcolm's Invite-friendly timeline format of individual entries. One source of Dave's humor is the running jokes he'll thread throughout the year, like the six progressively sillier "events" involving the Houston Cheating Astros; while a single Loser shouldn't submit several related jokes expecting them all to run, I hope to be able to place three or more related entries throughout the timeline (by the same or different people) for a similar effect.

Like both versions, the Invite entries should be in present tense. And while I didn't make a plea for it in the column or this week's entry form, I hope to be able to shuffle everyone's entries into one alphabetical list for judging. So to make sure each of your entries stays in one piece, don't break it up into multiple lines.


Jan. 3:

Something happened.

Also, something else.


Jan. 3: Something happened. Also something else.

I'll post the results of Week 1465 online Thursday, Dec. 28, but in print they'll be in the Jan. 2 Arts & Style section. Still, I won't refuse to run predictions for Jan. 1 -- what are people going to say, "Oh no, that didn't really happen!"? I don't think I'll have to run a correction.

In today's contest I quoted some the inking entries from last year's Invite Year in Preview; here are all the Week 1414 results (preview of 2021).

And if you're feeling really nostalgic, here's our predicted timeline for 2020 (nope, nobody predicted a pandemic) from Week 1361.

Haws with known names:* The eponym neologisms of Week 1461
Non-inking (too long) headline by Chris Doyle

Hoo-boy, will readers 20 years from now -- or, in some cases, two years from now if we're lucky -- be furrowing their li'l ol' brows over the inking eponyms from Week 1461. In a happier world, Rep. Paul Gosar will become a trivia question: "Three siblings of what member of Congress wrote an op-ed calling him an 'unhinged' liar and gaslighter and 'immune to shame'?" (Those were the calmer sentiments.)

But we're writing for right now, and this week's words incorporating the names of particular people, or eponyms -- almost four dozen of them -- formed a long-overdue update of our previous "It's the Eponymy, Stupid" contest sending up the Names in the News of 1993, 2006 and 2010.

This week's Clowning Achievement winner is a rookie phenom: Donald Norum got his first blot of ink six weeks ago with a good-idea/bad-idea pairing, one of several inkworthy entries that week.

Good idea: Always handling guns like they're loaded. Bad idea: Always handling guns like you're loaded.

And today Don makes a deft analogy for the House minority leader: KevinMcCarthyism: Blacklisting people who agree to appear before a House committee investigating un-American activities. It wasn't necessary to add "no shame, no decency."

While Don is new to us, he has an Invite pedigree: His mom, Jean Lightner Norum, was twice a runner-up a full 20 years ago: with a poem about Osama bin Laden, and this item for an underachiever's list of goals: "Win the admiration of my dog."

Two of this week's three runners-up are almost Forever Losers, going back even farther than Jean: Roy Ashley -- next in line for the Hall of Fame, with 456 blots of ink -- got his first ink in Week 120 in 1995; and Steve Fahey goes back a few months more to Week 104. Steve wins a hat shaped like a pizza (well, it's a disk with some pepperoni-motif appliques) for offering two adjectives connoting athletic longevity: "ovechkinetic" and "bradioactive," while Roy explained that "toobin'" was something done with a tube. (We are so highbrow sometimes that we have to lower it with a face-drop.)

What Doug Dug: The faves of Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood this week included the top winners, plus these from the honorable mentions: Frank Mann's "manchin," a property owned by the coal industry; Amanda Yanovitch's "ahemsworthy," her second ink in a row involving swooning over a movie star (last time it was a poem laughing about Jason Momoa's physique being called a "dad bod"); the similar "goscarcasm" entries by Marty Gold and Lee Graham; Greg Dobbins "heehawley" calling Stanford/Yale-educated Sen. Josh Hawley on his bumpkin act; Dave Silberstein's "young-kins," alluding to the Virginia governor-elect's 17-year-old son, who twice (unsuccessfully) tried to vote, perhaps trying (and backfiring) to prove his dad's contention that polling places were untrustworthy; and Kevin Dopart's "giulianesty," which works better when you say it out loud.

Save the date: The Losers' Post-Holiday Party, Jan. 22
The whole premise of this week's Year in Preview contest is that we can't be sure what's down the road for us. But assuming that our vaccines and boosters will keep us from needing to lock ourselves down against Omicron or whatever other Greek letter, we'll be having the Losers' Post-Holiday Party on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 22 -- in a new, spacious location: a large party room in the new apartment building of Loser Kathleen Delano in Arlington, Va., close to the Crystal City Metro station. (Kathleen also hosted the 2019 Flushies in the party room of her previous Crystal City building; this is a different one.)

As always, it'll be a potluck, and with the aid of pianist and 113-time Loser Steve Honley (and possibly others), we'll sing (or perhaps "sing") various Loser-penned parodies. The hours for the room would be 5 to 9 p.m., with the singalong getting going around 7:30. The event is put on by the Losers, with no involvement from The Post, except that I'll send the Evite because I'm the one with y'alls' email addresses. If you weren't on the invitation list for the Flushies Awards this past September and you'd like me to add you, email me at But if you've found your way to the bottom of a Style Conversational, you're invited regardless. It's like the Golden Ticket to Loserdom.

Finally: Have you opted in for the Invite newsletter?

As I've mentioned for a few weeks now, I had to get a new host for the once-a-week notification email, or newsletter, that I send out with links to the week's Invitational and Conversational. This new host company, Substack, is very accommodating, allowing me to load all 1,800 names on my list with a single click. But I had to lie and promise that all the people on the list had signed themselves up, or otherwise asked to be there: It wasn't true, since I'd added new Losers when they sent in their first entries.

So now I'm asking all those longtime newsletter-getters to email me at to tell me they do want to stay on the list. Thanks to the hundreds of you who've done this so far! If you haven't yet responded, I'll try to write to you personally before I cut your name, but to be honest, I might not get to you. So just take two seconds and email me -- or just reply to the newsletter you get today.

If you weren't on the original list, or you'd like to sign up under a new address, just go to and click on the purple "Subscribe Now" button. It's all free.


Week 1463

Style Conversational Week 1463, with our guest Kyle Stonversational
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's spoonerism contest and song parody results

Bob Staake's illustrated example for Style Invitational Week 124, July 1995. Bob might still have this cartoon on file, which means you could buy it -- or another piece of Invite art -- by asking at
By Pat Myers
November 18, 2021 at 5:17 p.m. EST

Hi, all: I just got my Internet restored after a power outage and SOME of the Conversational was saved. Gotta love Our Modern World. But I've been on the phone with Verizon for an hour *

Never once, since I started Invite song contests in 2004 (here's a page of extra honorable mentions), have I not been overflowing with outstanding material, way more than I could rationally expect a reader to get through. And so it was with the results of Week 1459, whose subject matter was limited only by the requirement that the lyrics be people "singing about themselves" -- in other words, in the first person.

The Loser Community responded with songs "by" not only the usual (lots of Trump, a few Bidens and other politicians) but also everyone from Shaggy of "Scooby-Doo" (to "Happy") to Christopher Steele of "dossier" fame (an unprintably graphic "Puttin' On the Spritz"). I heard from about 125 songwriters, some of whom -- I'm talking about you, Duncan Stevens -- sent as many as 20 songs. I ended up running eight songs on the print page in Arts & Style, plus a dozen more online, including two videos: in other words, enough material for a generous-sized album.

But still, some Losers were robbed of ink, plain and simple. And so I'll be featuring more parodies over the next week or so in the Style Invitational Devotees group (I know Facebook isn't exactly The Fashionable Club to Join right now, but the group is private; is watched over personally by me and my co-admin, the wise Alex Blackwood; and isn't affected by the bad-actor aspects of The Evil Algorithm). I'll make sure to include the hashtag #parodies when I post each one, so you'll be able to search on that tag and find them all. First up will be Greg Dobbins's "Aaron Rodgers" singing "Covid on My Q-tip" to the 1959 Connie Francis song "Lipstick on Your Collar."

It's the third Clowning Achievement win, and the 18th Invite win all-time, for Duncan Stevens, who captured a "III" flag to adorn his Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick trophy with a jab at the potentially principled but ultimately spineless Sen. Susan Collins, using one of the Invite's most popular parody songs, "If I Only Had a Brain." Because I can't shuffle individual multi-line entries such as poems and songs, I read each Loser's full submission at once, though without a name attached. I'd read eight songs by Entrants 1 through 6 (I don't see the names) and wasn't wowed by any of them, and then called up Entrant 7. And Songs 7A through 7X. I marked a star in front of 7A, a star for 7C, two stars for 7D * My shortlist now had 12 songs just by Entrant 7. The Devotees will be seeing some of them on Facebook.

This week's runners-up are also veteran Loserbards: Mark Raffman's name is most famously linked to "Be My Guest," a song he's parodied for ink something like a dozen times (a fact that's joked about by Elliott Shevin's funny parody today), but today he used the pretty (even though it's about a rat) theme song of the movie "Ben" -- a tune I don't think we've used here before -- for a song about his incoming governor, Glenn Youngkin, and how much he may or may not owe Trump. Melissa Balmain used "I Cain't Say No" successfully for the second time (she told me before I lost my Internet) and Hildy Zampella made "I Will Survive" a bit chilling when you see who's so determined to do so.


What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood read the eight print songs -- the four winners plus Barbara Sarshik's Leonard Cohen, Beverley Sharp's Eve, Coleman Glenn's Terminator and Duncan Stevens's Velveteen Rabbit -- and, after great deliberation, announced: "Liked 'em all!"

Spoon-feed us: This week's contest, Week 1463
Dr. Spooner still garbled his words,

Though insisting, "I'm wetter with birds."

At a wedding, this freak

Was invited to speak

And delivered "a few wasteful turds."

That lovely tribute by Loser Brian Allgar got ink not in our spoonerism contest, but in a later limerick challenge. But it puts its grimy finger on what a spoonerism is -- the transposition of the beginnings of two words -- which we seek in this week's contest, Week 1463.

While we've mentioned Spooner and his accidental -isms numerous times, we seem to have set aside a whole contest for them only once, and that was ages ago, in the early days of the Czar -- but one that I happened to judge, when as his co-worker, I agreed to fill in while he went on a four-week August "sabbatical." (I returned as "Auxiliary Czar" for about a dozen contests in 2001, then took it over for good as Empress in December 2003.) We're going to do the contest in the very same way, too -- in riddle form. Here are the many results of Week 124, complete with an introduction in which I clearly was trying to establish a snotty, imperious tone. If nothing else, it'll give an idea of what I'm looking for in Week 1463 (deadline Nov. 29).

Report from Week 124, in which we asked you to come up with Spoonerisms: transpositions of the beginnings of paired words. (Belated thanks to Kevin Cuddihy of Fairfax for suggesting this contest months ago. Kevin wins a pair of slippers that look like salmon, since he just had knee surgery and could really use, for once, a salmon.)

Most of the 1,000-plus entries actually fit the Spooneristic form, though there was the occasional pairing of, say, "Hillary Rodham Clinton" with "Killer hot rod, Rin-Tin-Tin," or even "the coveted losers' T-shirt and mildly sought-after bumper stickers" with "the curt staff taught me to avidly shove sick abuser lumps." (Out of compassion -- remember, this contest is now nestled in the nurturing arms of a woman -- we refrain from mentioning that both of those entries were from Phil Plait of Silver Spring.)

Lots of people sent in utter obscenities, figuring it'd be okay as long as they left out the half of the joke that RHYMED with "truck" or "wit" or "cities." Ha ha ha, you smart feller, you. And literally dozens of contestants plagiarized from the Rosetta Stone Dirty Joke Obelisk and sent in the ones about the defiant rooster and the epileptic oystermonger. Even that nasty little Czar, who is currently confined to quarters (the rest of his pay has been docked), wouldn't have stomached that.

Fourth runner-up: How is career advice for Tommy Chong like the job description for an actress on "Baywatch"? One is "Best to star with Cheech"; the other is "Chest to star with beach." (Joel Tompkins, Laurel)

Third runner-up: How is the Supreme Court abortion case like what roaches say on TV? One is Roe-Wade; the other is "Whoa! Raid!" (Scott McKenzie, Manassas)

Second runner-up: How is Roger Tory Peterson like the Rev. William Spooner? One is a birdwatcher; the other is * a birdwatcher. (Douglas J. Hoylman, Chevy Chase)

First runner-up: How is Cole Porter like a reformed Bob Packwood in his reelection bid? One gets no kick from champagne; the other gets no chick from campaign. (J. von Bushberger, Davidsonville)

And the winner of the original amateur copy of the "Mona Lisa":

How is adoration of a pop group like a PBS documentary on an obscure European country? One is Beatlemania; the other is "Meet Albania!" (Steven Papier, Wheaton)

Honorable Mentions:

How is O.J. Simpson like the bloody glove? One is a prosecutor's perp; the other is a persecutor's prop. (Joseph Romm, Washington)

How is the Capitol at night like President Clinton? One is visible in the city's lights; the other is visible in Liddy's sights. (Greg Arnold, Herndon)

How is one Buddha figurine like another Buddha figurine? Each is a placid face above a flaccid place. (Matt Westbrook, Baltimore)

How is a Washington Chinese restaurant like Rush Limbaugh? One is Mandarin Palace; the other is panderin' malice. (Alison Kamat, Washington)

How is a Mellon-Rockefeller marriage like the result of skinny-dipping in a cold river? One is shrewd linkage; the other is lewd shrinkage. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

How is a champion golfer like a genetic engineer? One makes big-money putts; the other makes pig-bunny mutts. (Paul Sabourin, Silver Spring)

How is a conservative presidential candidate like a flying mammal that projectile-vomits? One is Pat Buchanan; the other is a bat puke cannon. (Joseph Romm, Washington)

How is war like Newt Gingrich's sister? One is "c'est la guerre"; the other is "gay la soeur." (Steven Papier, Wheaton)

How is Nancy Kerrigan like Miss Manners on a roller coaster? One says, "Why me?"; the other says, "My! Whee!" (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

How is an old movie projector company like an awful name for a heavy-metal group? One is Bell & Howell; the other is Hell & Bowel (Scott L. Vanatter, Fairfax)

How is President Clinton's media image unlike that of House Speaker Newt Gingrich? One is an easy waffler; the other is an awful weaseler. (William Bradford, Washington)

How is a hit song like Jack the Ripper? One is a chart topper; the other is a tart chopper. (Steven Papier, Wheaton)

How is rotten parsley like Radovan Karadzic at his family farm? One is a sick herb; the other is a hick Serb. (Katie McBride, Alexandria, with Seumas Gillecriosd, Loudoun County)

How is a Texas football team like a group of insensitive Chinese monks? One is the Dallas Cowboys; the other are the Callous Tao Boys. (John Garner, Silver Spring)

How is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms like a sadistic Dale Evans? One's got a Good Ol' Boy Roundup; the other's got good ol' Roy bound up. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

How is an earnest amateur golfer like a blind asphalt layer? One is craving a par; the other is paving a car. (Phil Plait, Silver Spring)

How is the Moscow Circus like "Star Trek"? One has unconventional bears; the other has unbearable conventions. (J. Calvin Smith, Laurel)

How is a double martini like a proctologist? One packs a wallop; the other whacks a polyp. (John Chickering, Rockville)

How is an illegal batter's ploy like a would-be Supreme Court justice who has been eaten by a jaguar? One is cork in a bat; the other is Bork in a cat. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

How is Tiny Tim like Michael Jackson? One is an androgynous freak; * oh wait, so is the other one. (Michael Kane, Fort Collins, Colo.)

How is a piece of lawn furniture like a talkative nanny? One is a patio chair; the other is a chatty au pair. (Helen and Miriam Dowtin, Suitland)

How is Catherine Deneuve like the secret behind Newt Gingrich's helmet head? One is "Belle du Jour"; the other is Gel du Boor. (Willy Hawkins, Washington)

How is a blind pop star like how a Londoner would tell someone to avoid a space alien who'd just zapped a woman with a ray gun? One is Stevie Wonder; the other is "Weave! 'E stunned her!" (Steven Offutt, Arlington)

How is a Christmas photo at the mall like what your child is sure to do for the photographer? One is Nick pose; the other is pick nose. (Mike Connaghan, Silver Spring)

How is celibacy like an afternoon fling between bank tellers? One is safe sex; the other is safe sex. (Mike Thring, Leesburg)

How is a lab rat on the space shuttle like Billy Joel? One is mating weightlessly; the other is waiting matelessly. (Edward Palm, Baltimore)

How is a henpecked husband like a West Virginian? One's mate says "do, do, do"; the other's date says "moo, moo, moo." (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

How is an inconsequential radio personality like what his motto should be? One is Don Imus; the other is I'm Dumbest. (Scott L. Vanatter, Fairfax)

Thanks, Substackians!
Thanks to the hundreds of you who've opted in to continue (or start) receiving my weekly Thursday afternoon newsletter, which gives you links to the week's just-posted Invitational and Conversational. I had moved my 1,800-name mailing list, originally on TinyLetter, to the provider Substack, but I lied a little and said that everyone on the list had expressly asked to join; actually, I'd signed up some Invite entrants myself over the past couple of years when they first entered.

So now I'm trying to follow the rules totally, which is why I'm asking everyone who's been getting the newsletter to email me at myerspat [at] gmail [dot] com and confirm that you want to be there. In a couple of weeks, I'm afraid I'll have to drop you if you haven't gotten back to me. To sign up or just to read the newsletter, go to and click on the button; all you have to give is your email. And it's totally free (though the links to the Invitational and Convo still require a Post subscription).

Something to be thankful for (it is too!): We'll be a day early next week
As we do every Thanksgiving week, the online Style Invitational will publish Wednesday morning rather than Thursday, since the print paper's Arts & Style section will be typeset that afternoon, so why wait? But given that this means I have to finish the Invite a day earlier, I probably will skip the Convo and start cooking. So I'll see you in this space in two weeks -- but of course the Invitational always comes out. The last week there was no Style Invitational column? The week of Jan. 23, 2000.


Week 1462

Style Conversational Week 1462: The switcheroo
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's new contest and results

Jesse Frankovich's (and others') anagram, animated by the ingenious Internet Anagram Server created by Anu Garg at Jesse got an Invitational runner-up with his description of a "Baking Bread" series: "Walter White finds a better way to make a lot of dough before he dies." (Frank Ockenfels/AMC)
By Pat Myers
November 11, 2021 at 4:32 p.m. EST

Hi, everyone. Before getting to this week's contest and results, I wanted to catch you up on something that happened right after I finished last week's Style Conversational: The company that I used to send out my weekly notification email to 1,800 people had disabled my account without warning or explanation.

It took about 24 hours to learn what had gone amiss: I had not properly followed its strict rules requiring a "double opt-in" from each person receiving the email. Instead, I had added the address of each new entrant to the Invitational, a dozen or so new names each week, with directions on how to easily unsubscribe. I figured the newbies would want to be notified when their entries got (or failed to get) ink. But evidently at least one (probably more than one) recipient clicked on "Report Spam," and kaboom.

Fortunately, I quickly found another platform: Substack, a service that a lot of writers have been using to publish their own work; the historian Heather Cox Richardson has had enormous success in sharing her "Letters From an American" blog. I was able to set up quickly on Substack, and it seems I can send out the newsletter just about the same way as before. And it even let me import my whole mailing list with a click.

But. Substack first asked: All these people opted in the first time around, right?


So this is why I'd like to hear from everyone who was on my list as of last Thursday. I did upload everyone's name, just to get the word out to them. And I'm asking all of you to, just this once, send me an email to myerspat (at) gmail (dot) com, expressly saying that you want to keep getting the emails. Thanks to the more than 200 of you who've already answered my plea when I finally sent out last week's newsletter about a day and a half late.

And then, within a few weeks, I'll remove everyone who didn't opt in again. Breaks my heart, but I don't see an alternative. Please tell me you'll stay!

Meanwhile, to sign up for the first time: So simple! Just go to and fill in your email address. I'll know not to remove you later because I'll see that you came aboard after Nov. 4.

(Substack offers writers a way to charge for their work, but of course there's no charge to read my newsletter. The links to the Invitational and Conversational, however, go to Washington Post pages, which are usually blocked to Post nonsubscribers. But the newsletter itself has no restrictions.)

Thank you, lovely crazy people.

Help wanted, Alternative Universe branch: This week's contest
This week's contest, Week 1462, is pretty wide open in both form and content: Describe what it would be like if two particular people switched professions (or other roles in life that aren't exactly professions). The example of Bob Ross/Gordon Ramsay, which is taken from Twitter and itself based on a writing prompt in Reddit, does it in the form of a quote from each guy. But I could see funny descriptions, including wordplay.

Usually, for guidance and inspiration, I'll show you some examples of a similar earlier Style Invitational from sometime in our past 1,461 weeks, but if we've done one, I can't think of it. The closest thing I have is Week 423, which asked readers what would happen if a character from one movie were put into another one. The top winners:

Fourth Runner-Up: If Ben Kingsley's Gandhi had played Darth Vader, the Empire wouldn't have struck back. (Joseph Romm)

Third Runner-Up: If Renton from "Trainspotting" had played Mary Poppins, it would have taken a spoon, a lighter, a belt and a syringe to make the medicine go down. (Jessica Henig)

Second Runner-Up: If Phil from "Groundhog Day" had played Scarlett O'Hara, tomorrow wouldn't have been another day. (Chris Doyle)

First Runner-Up: If Marlee Matlin's character in "Children of a Lesser God" had played Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver," it would have made a lot more sense for her to keep wondering, "Are you talking to me?" (Mike Edens)

And the winner of the can of South Carolina Potted Possum: If Flipper, from "Flipper," had starred in "Jaws," then after eating people he could have scooted through the water backward on his tail balancing their heads on his nose. Cool. (Russell Beland)

The Style Invitational > T H E S Y L I N V A O N > Holy Insane TV!* The results of Week 1458
*Non-inking headline (no space for anything like this) by Kevin Dopart

When I present a new contest, I'm always concerned about its parameters: Is it so specific and difficult that it won't get enough funny and varied entries, meanwhile denying the opportunity for lots of good jokes? Or is it so broad that there's not enough structure to prompt interesting entries -- or that the result will just prompt a "So what?"

I vacillated between these concerns after posting Style Invitational Week 1458; Loser Sarah Walsh had suggested a contest based on the anagrams of TV show names, and I decided to expand the challenge to allow contestants to repeat any of the letters of the title, as long as they used each letter at least once.

Looking back on this week's results, I think I made the right choice. Granted, it's definitely cooler when you can rearrange the letters of the TV show into another one that uses the same letters -- especially when you can make it into an animated graphic like the one at the top of this page.

But as you can see in the results, most of the time I got more of a laugh from entries that weren't exact anagrams. (The validation program devised by Hall of Fame Loser Gary Crockett, which he ran on the titles in a list of semifinalists that I sent him, flagged the anagrams along with any illegal letters.) Despite their coolness factor, many of the anagrams seemed contrived and difficult to read. And some were just bested by non-anagrams with funnier ideas in the descriptions. I ended up using nine anagrams and 32 anagram-pluses (better names welcome!).

It's the first Clowning Achievement for rookie Coleman Glenn, but I had to look that up -- the man has become an Invite household name since his debut a mere 19 weeks ago. Since Week 1439, the chaplain and religion professor at Bryn Athyn College outside Philadelphia has been a runner-up five times, and now has 28 blots of ink in all. Coleman writes a lot of poetry, and heard of us through the journal Light, but he's proved to be clever, funny and current in all manner (or unmanner) of humor that we've thrown out to him. And I think I've remembered each time that there's a D in the name of his town, Huntingdon Valley, Pa. Coleman, who's in his 30s, was deprived of experiencing "Gilligan's Island" in its original broadcast incarnation, but is clearly well versed in the monuments of television posterity; "Ding-a-lings in Sand" is the perfect synopsis for every single episode.


Eleven people anagrammed "Breaking Bad" into "Baking Bread" -- showing why Invite contests usually ask for an extra element to the joke. But Hall of Famer Jesse Frankovich nailed the cleverest description: "Walter White finds a better way to make a lot of dough before he dies."

Also on fire, Invitationally, has been Frank Mann, whose runner-up reminds us of Tucker Carlson's blink-of-an-eye stint on "Dancing With the Stars": "Right-Wing Whiner Can't Cha-Cha -- Sad." Not only has Frank snarfed up 16 blots of ink in the past 10 weeks, but I just realized that on my first-cut "shortlist" of about 100 entries from the total of 1,150, twelve of them were by Frank. And remember that when I'm judging, I've already shuffled all the entries, with no names attached, into alphabetical order. So maybe the TV news reporter turned federal lawyer was kind of robbed this week, getting "only" two blots.

And we're delighted with the return of Amanda Yanovitch, an English professor in the Richmond area who blotted up a little vat of ink from about 2011 to 2016 -- sometimes with the aid of one or another of her three young boys -- but then pretty much disappeared until a few weeks ago. But this'll be the third week in a row that I'll be sending her a prize: this time, a Loser Mug or Grossery Bag for teasing technologically hesitant seniors with "America's Funniest Home Videos > Send the Nice Man Our Homemade Errors From the VCR." Keep it coming, Amanda.

Also back in Loserdom this week is Milo Sauer, who quickly ran up exactly 100 blots of ink in the early 2000s, then vanished. Well, his name did, anyway: Milo (a.k.a. Tim, a George Mason University math professor) just recently confessed to me that in 2005, he broke the Invite's strict no-pseudonyms rule and assumed the identity of an Elwood Fitzner of Valley City, N.D., amassing 100 more blots before retiring him as well. I'd actually looked up Elwood in my early days of Empresshood, and while I didn't find that exact name back then, I did find numerous Fitzners in Valley City (population 6,400) and figured he must be there somewhere. (It turns out that Milo has Fitzner relatives there.) All is forgiven now, almost 15 years later, and I'm delighted to see that Milo is as clever as ever -- two blots this week! -- but people, do not enter under false names.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood got a laugh (or four, I hope) out of all this week's top winners, and also singled out several honorable mentions: Mark Raffman's anagram "Seinfeld > Life's End: A show about nothingness"; Frank Mann's "Lost in Space > Plastic Noses, Lips et al.," about the family Kardashian; and Jesse Frankovich's "The Lone Ranger > The Orange Gloater," who won't be a masked man.

Yes, the Trump jokes keep coming, and keep getting ink. And in case you think I'm being politically biased here: I don't remember seeing a single Biden joke among the 1,150 entries; a search on his name yields two mentions, neither really about him. Really, there's nothing to take on about him and his administration? Understandably, no one on Earth is as mockable as TFG, but hasn't Biden done anything in the past almost-year that deserves a valid barb?

Last call for Loser Brunch! Sunday, Nov. 14, Aditi
We're back and boosted and I'm all ready to meet (and remeet) Losers, Devotees and Invite fans this Sunday, Nov. 14, at noon at the restaurant Aditi in Kingstowne, not far from the Beltway exit to Van Dorn Street in Northern Virginia. There's a buffet or you can order from the menu. Details and RSVP on the Our Social Engorgements page on the Losers' website at (Especially if you're new, can you let me know as well at Everyone (as long as you're vaccinated) is welcome -- and in person, we do not snark.


Week 1461

Style Conversational Week 1461: You name it!
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's eponym contest and on farming out her work to Ken Jennings

Bob Staake's sketch for one of the other eponyms used as examples for the Style Invitational Week 1461 contest: SINEMATIC, adj.: Describing utterly nonsensical behavior. "You decided to crash the car because it wouldn't turn left and right at the same time? Pretty sinematic." (Example by Duncan Stevens)
By Pat Myers
November 4, 2021 at 5:13 p.m. EDT

Heard any good names lately? It's not as if you have you have a limited number of sources for Style Invitational Week 1461.

An eponym contest was one of The Style Invitational's first: Week 24 in 1993, suggested by proto-Loser Kitty Thuermer, a reader who'd go on to head up the Extreme Travel Trivia contest for The Post for a while, and who ended up with 19 blots of Invite ink before bowing out in Week 262.

Headlined "It's the Eponomy, Stupid" -- the spelling was changed to the better "eponymy" two weeks later in the "next week" line -- the contest was headed by these examples (no clue if they were Kitty's or the Czar's):

Perot, verb. To stand or sit next to someone important and make him feel insecure by saying inane but profound-sounding things.

Pack, noun. An unwanted sexual advance more intrusive than a peck, as popularized by Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon.

Bobbitt, verb. To bob "it."

Hooverville, noun. A room full of transvestites.

(Word to the wise: if you end your joke with a phrase like "as popularized by Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon," you will not get ink. Gaaaack.)

Except for the pathetic Pack entry, they were pretty good. But the results were better.

But as is true today, a big part of the fun was the humor's timeliness -- so many of the jokes concerned people who were all over the headlines * of 1993. Let's refresh our memories with some of the entries that week. (Here's the whole list in a somewhat clunky text file.) (Incidentally, the week this contest was announced, the results were for the very first Ask Backwards contest.)

Report from Week 27, in which we asked you to coin eponyms, words based on the names of famous people.

Fourth Runner-Up: Stockdale, noun. The place your mind wanders off to when you daydream. (Paul Sabourin, Greenbelt) Adm. James Stockdale, the running mate of 1992 third-party presidential candidate Ross Perot, had an excruciating night of a VP debate with opponents Al Gore and even famously dopey-sounding Dan Quayle, beginning with "Who am I? Why am I here?" Millions of viewers had the same question. (By the way, entrant Paul Sabourin is half of the hilarious music duo Paul and Storm, and previously a member of the equally funny Da Vinci's Notebook. We miss him.)

Third Runner-Up: To Cuomo, verb. To edge forward and back up repeatedly when attempting to turn onto a busy thoroughfare, to the annoyance of other drivers. (Peter Owen, Williamsburg) The Invite has had whole generations of Cuomo jokes! This referred to the vacillations by Gov. MARIO Cuomo about whether he'd run for president in 1992; he finally didn't.)

Second Runner-Up: Dee Dee, noun. Short, substanceless commentary. "I went to the press conference hoping for a good story, but all I got was dee dee." (Kate Sparks and Sarah Ducich, Washington, and Laura Sokol, Warsaw) It sounds as if Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers was receiving the same sort of sniping that all presidential flacks get, but Myers has been treated well by history; the first woman in that role, she was known for her quick wit, and was the inspiration for the "West Wing" character C.J. Cregg.

First Runner-Up: To Pack Wood, verb. To be glad to see someone. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge) As the example to the contest hinted at less graphically, Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon was a notorious harasser of staffers and other women; The Post's story in 1992 that included accusations from 10 women eventually prompted his resignation.

And the winner of the giant flag of a cow [no trophies yet; the gag prize went to the winner]:

To shalikashvili, v. To ensure a low profile for a program or agency by appointing a director whose name no one can pronounce or spell or even fit in a headline. "We finally shalikashvilied the White House Travel Office by appointing Joe Bkistellzrtngounmr!" (Sharon Kuykendall, Takoma Park) Gen. John Shaliskashvili, whose father was from the country of Georgia, had just been appointed head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While I'm not a huge fan of humor that makes fun of people's surnames, I do like how the entry shows (with a funny sentence) how the neologism could be used more generally.

Tsong, noun. A sensible melody that no one wants to hear. (Paul Sabourin) Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas won several Democratic primaries in 1992 but eventually conceded to the more colorful Bill Clinton. Asked why he wasn't proposing tax cuts like other candidates, he famously said, "I'm not trying to play Santa Claus." He died at age 55 of complications from a return of lymphoma.

McGinniss stout, noun Faux beer. (Stefanie Weldon, Silver Spring) best-selling author Joe McGinniss had just released a book about Sen. Ted Kennedy that was viciously panned, as Wikipedia sums it up, for "its skimpy sourcing, lack of attribution, wild suppositions, lack of footnotes, possible plagiarism and prurient outlook. 'It is, by a wide margin, the worst book I have reviewed in nearly three decades; quite simply, there is not an honest page in it,' wrote Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post."

The Czar never repeated the contest, but I brought it back in 2006 and again in 2010. Selected ink below. (Full lists for Week 653 and Week 888)

From Week 653:

Blix-and-mortars: Said of two types of things never found together. "Bill Frist campaigning at a Wiccan Festival would be like blix-and-mortars." (Kevin Dopart, Washington) Hans Blix was in charge of the U.N.'s effort to search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; he found none, to the disappointment of U.S. pro-war partisans. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was accused of pandering to right-wing Christian groups. As this 2005 article on the Fox News website (!) says, "The critics have grown louder since he agreed to participate in an event on Sunday organized by Christian groups trying to rally churchgoers to support ending the judicial filibuster [and !!!]."

Enfant terrellible: An egregiously self-centered athlete. (Tom Greening) and T.O.: To insult co-workers, violate workplace standards and practices, and show little regard for clients. "Despite his smile and performance record, he still managed to T.O. everyone in the office." (Ira Allen) Two entries about NFL star Terrell "T.O." Owens, who was good at catching passes and great at antagonizing everyone on the many teams he played for. The same year of this contest, he spit in an opponent's face after a play. After finally making the Hall of Fame, he skipped the induction and held his own celebration instead.

And from Week 888 (2010):

The winner of the Inker: lebronchitis, n.: Acute swelling of the ego. (Jeff Contompasis) LeBron James is inarguably one of the greatest NBA players of all time, and continues to be. But in 2010 he pulled an amazingly egomaniacal stunt -- with the eager cooperation of ESPN and 13 million viewers: a live 75-minute TV special in which he announced that, as a free agent, he would leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.

whittingtonto, n.: A sidekick who takes one in the face for you. (Chris Doyle) The Invitational has lots of ink alluding to the 2006 accident in which Vice President Dick Cheney shot his acquaintance (widely misreported at the time that he was a close friend) Harry Whittington in the face and elsewhere with a shotgun during a quail-hunting excursion. Whittington, a lawyer, offered this statement a week later: "We all assume certain risks in whatever we do. Whatever activities we pursue and regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen." Years later he said that the Cheneys had never apologized, publicly or privately, to him. He's still alive at age 94.

Heene, n.: The sound of air being let out of a balloon. (Kevin Dopart) The Balloon Boy! I'll let Wikipedia sum it up: "The 'Balloon Boy' hoax occurred on October 15, 2009, when a homemade helium-filled gas balloon shaped to resemble a silver flying saucer was released into the atmosphere above Fort Collins, Colorado, by Richard and Mayumi Heene. They then claimed that their six-year-old son Falcon was trapped inside it. * After flying for more than an hour * the balloon landed about 12 miles northeast of Denver International Airport. When Falcon was not found inside and it was reported that an object had been seen falling from the balloon, a search was begun. Later that day, the boy was found hiding in the attic of his home, where he had apparently been the entire time.

"Suspicions of a hoax soon arose, particularly after an interview with Wolf Blitzer on Larry King Live that same evening. Asked why he was hiding, Falcon said to his father, "You guys said that, um, we did this for the show."

It's 'pardy time*: The Ask Backwards results
*Non-inking headline by Kevin Dopart

Golly, Ken Jennings is truly a good guy. "Sure, I can help with this. Thanks Pat," he answered promptly after I emailed him in early October to ask if he'd be willing to look at and comment on four lists of "Jeopardy!"-themed entries in our Week 1457 Ask Backwards contest.

He did this last year, too, just as graciously and charmingly. But since last year, the "Jeopardy!" GOAT and professional brainiac has become A1 news in the wake of Alex Trebek's death and the long and wild saga of Who'll Replace Him -- and for now, he's still up there; he and fellow smarty Mayim Bialik are splitting up hosting duties through the end of the year, and there hasn't been anyone else announced to take over.

No matter. I sent Ken the four lists on Tuesday and he returned them the same day, with the comments I quote atop this week's results: "Hope this helps!"

Obviously, as the most recognizable name connected with the show (and someone who'd like to get some tenure), he wasn't going to choose entries referring to the controversy, or gibes at the producer who named himself host until the world quickly saw to it that he would do no such thing. That's my job.

That job for this year's Ask Backwards consisted of reading about 1,400 entries plus 200 headline and subhead suggestions. Not surprisingly, there were many similar ideas offered; I usually chose my favorite wording. Thanks to everyone who -- and this was just about everyone -- typed the A-part and the Q-part of each entry on a single line; this let me shuffle all the entries alphabetically instead of seeing a single Loser's entire list at once. I was also able to read big groups of, say, "30,000 steps" entries at once rather than having to search for them one by one through the massive amalgamation.

So I had no idea until the end that the Loser who sent the fourth-place "Dalai Double" joke for "Zen Jennings" and the Loser who wrote the first-place "Six hours without Facebook" question, "How do 56 percent of Americans describe an eight-hour workday?," were both 136 (now 139)-time Loser Jeff Hazle. It's his sixth Invite win but his first of the Clowning Achievement trophy (though I suspect that his shout-out from the Kenster might count for more in his book).

John Hutchins accurately predicted that Ken would be good-humored about his affliction of being Possibly the Whitest Man in America, asking, "Who was the inspiration for "A Whiter Shade of Pale," the Procol Harum song. And Bird Waring, who used to work for the Jesuit magazine America, got the other runner-up spot for "A bun in the oven" as "What do bakers have no control over in Texas?"

Some categories proved more fertile than others for ink; that's why I always put up more than I'll have room for. Not surprisingly, more people tried to get some Ken-props and entered the "Jeopardy!" categories, but several of the other "answers" drew many dozens of questions as well.

Some of the answers were pretty inside-Jeopardy: Two of them alluded to an answer that Ken missed during his 74-victory run in 2004. Alex Trebek's clue: "This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker." The intended response: "What is a rake?" Ken's: "What is a hoe?"

And so we had these two questions:

A. Zen Jennings. Q. Who brought a hoe to the Japanese rock garden? (Dave Matuskey)

A. Zen Jennings. Q. Whose most famous "Jeopardy!" guess was "What's a ho-listic approach?" (Jesse Rifkin)

One quibbler who read this week's results this morning points out a problem with one of the honorable mentions: A. 31/2 Pounds. Q. How big is a pound cake in Texas? The premise, of course, is that everything is bigger in Texas, but pound cake gets its name from the traditional recipe: a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter and a pound of eggs (that would be eight to 10). So at 31/2 pounds, the Texas cake would be half a pound smaller than the classic. Okay, noted.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood agreed with my choices for the winners (really! And I'm sure it's not just because I hired him in 1992) and also singled out Mike Gips's and William Kennard's "Buzzy Koan"; Pia Palamidessi's description of six hours without Facebook as "the punishment for parents who don't obey their children"; Ward Kay's "bun in the oven" as the result of the Pillsbury Doughboy's visit to Sara Lee; and Lee Graham's saying Curry Spice is Gene Weingarten's stripper name.

And yes, Gene was okay with my using the Curry Spice category and with all the inking entries for it. He especially liked Pia Palamidessi's "takeout" wordplay.

Meanwhile, Gene won't be going with us to *

Have some Curry Spice! Loser Brunch at Aditi, Nov. 14
(Reprinted from last week's Convo) The longtime monthly rotation of Sunday Loser Brunches at various restaurants around the D.C. area resumes at Aditi, a really good Indian restaurant in Kingstowne, not far from the Beltway exit to Van Dorn Street in Northern Virginia. It's Sunday, Nov. 14, at noon. I have been there many times and definitely have it on my calendar. There's a buffet or you can order from the menu. If you're vaccinated, come on out! Details and RSVP on the Our Social Engorgements page on the Losers' website at Everyone is welcome -- and in person, we do not snark.

Feeling sketchy? Talk to Bob Staake.
Do you covet today's "disputin" cartoon, or the "sinematic" sketch above -- or any old Invitational art? Bob Staake makes them available to the Loser Community at low-for-a-famous-artist prices at Tell him what you're looking for -- write to me first if you need help in figuring out the date, details of the cartoon, etc. -- and he'll check to see if he still has it.


Week 1460

Style Conversational Week 1460: Time for more Merriament
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's new-word poetry contest and winning insult-questions

The chicharrones -- one of the new words added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary -- featured on the website of Houston's La Michocana market, along with the recipe for the lard-fried pork skin. ("You can remove excess fat from the skin to get low-calorie Mexican chicharrones," it advises.) (
By Pat Myers
October 28, 2021 at 5:13 p.m. EDT

*"Merriament" was the headline for last year's results; it's by Tom Witte.

I truly can't fathom why Merriam-Webster doesn't want to tell the world which 455 words and meanings it's added to its online dictionary since January -- only that there are 455 of them. In a news release published Oct. 27, M-W notes a measly 34 of the new terms. Fortunately, I was able to prevail upon its marketing person to send me, a few days ahead, 57 of the additions to Our Always Evolving Language, and I chose 38 to feature today in Style Invitational Week 1460, our fourth annual contest for poems based on one or more of the new additions.

Some notes on this week's contest:

-- I mention this on the entry form, but didn't have room on the print page: This is NOT a contest to see how many words on the list you can manage to force into eight lines. As M-W says: "tedious, adjective: tiresome because of length or dullness: BORING." We want readers to enjoy, you know, reading it. A poem could certainly include two or more of the words, but the important thing is that it be entertaining to read.

-- For the terms that have been in the dictionary before, please use the new meanings. Unfortunately, the updated definitions do not indicate when each new sense of the word was added, so if you're not sure, just don't use ones that are obviously not new. I did verify with Ms. M-W that for "dab," both these definitions are new: (a) the dance where it looks as if you're sneezing into your elbow; and (b) the cannabis-related meaning: a blob of resin that you -- well, I don't know about you specifically -- burn with a little gadget to create fumes to inhale; or a verb (either transitive or in-) meaning to inhale the stuff. (It's evidently quite dangerous, both in trying to make the waxy stuff and in its high potency.)

Also, "jacked" has two new meanings as an adjective, I'm told: very excited ("jacked up" might be the older expression?) and very muscular, built up.

-- You may use any form of verse that doesn't run over eight lines. With very few exceptions, I have found poems that rhyme and have a clear, consistent meter funnier and more clever than those that don't. We're a humor contest, not a poetry anthology.

-- Don't make up a meaning, rather than the real one, unless the poem also acknowledges the real meaning. So while you might say that "petaflop" reminds you of a basset hound, you can't ignore the fact that it's actually an extremely high unit of computing speed.

-- Use the pronunciation offered. M-W helpfully provides a button you can click on to hear the word pronounced. You'll hear, for example, the "chicharrones," the plural of the Spanish-diaspora delicacy pictured above, is a four-syllable word ending in an "-ess" sound. (The reader on the recording is thoroughly American, perhaps to stress that the word is now also an English word, not just a Spanish one.) If more than one pronunciation is offered, you can choose. But I can't run a poem in which the word is mispronounced.

-- You may include a title beyond the eight-line maximum. But I'll otherwise precede each poem with the word plus a terse definition, as in the examples below.

-- You'll see the results a day early! Four weeks from today (Oct. 28) is Thanksgiving Day, and so I'll have to finish the print Invite the day before, and so I might as well put it up online that morning. So figure on seeing it online on Wednesday, Nov. 24, at the usual 10 to 11 a.m. (I'll decide later whether there will be a Style Conversational that day as well or if I'll just call it a holiday after posting the Invite. It's also my birthday, so there's that.)

Classic new-worders: For your guidance, inspiration and plain ol' entertainment, here's a sampling of ink from our three previous M-W new-word contests, along with links to the full results. (The publishing system I use for the Conversational doesn't have a way to override the line of extra space generated by a line ending in online articles, which is why they're all spaced out. Don't gripe to me.)

Week 1296, 2018

TL; DR, "too long; didn't read"

The editor sent back my poem.

I found his rejection bizarre.

"Thanks for the haiku," it said,

"But sorry. TL; DR." (Robert Schechter)

A good example of a poem using several words on the list:

Marg, margarita;

mocktail, nonalcoholic mixed drink;

flight, a sampler of small drinks:

A marg that's made with mango? A teeny li'l umbrella?

Well out here in Durango, it ain't fit fer a fella.

We menfolk here drink whiskey, or Coors (and not Coors Light)!

But mocktails? Son, that's risky! (So's orderin' a "flight"!)

We cotton to bravado. It's just our Western creed,

So git from Colorado -- unless you got some weed. (Mark Raffman)

Week 1350, 2018

I didn't precede the first two poems with definition of the words; it seemed unnecessary and, in the case of the second one (which took first place) damaging to the surprise ending.

They called up Ukraine's president;

A skeezy deal was floated.

The transcript tells us how it went,

'Cause Trump was quid pro quoted. (Duncan Stevens)


This escape room's the worst, everybody agrees;

We feel trapped, with a lingering sense of unease

That we'll never get out of here, try as we may --

We get sullen or spiteful, our nerves start to fray

Till at last we're released, overjoyed to survive *

And we come every weekday, 8:30 to 5. (Brendan Beary)

Free solo (mountain climbing without safety equipment)

I was certain some free solo action

Would deliver me peak satisfaction

. But I found only dopes

Don't use harness or ropes,

Which is why I now lie here in traction. (Stephen Gold, London)

And scoring with just two lines *

On a free solo climb, you must not be a dunce --

If you make a mistake, it will just be that once. (Jesse Frankovich)

Week 1413, 2020 (you'll need to scroll down to the results; the "jump link" doesn't seem to be working)

Deepfake, an elaborately doctored photo or recording

So what if this keepsake

Is only a deepfake?

A Photoshopped image that shows me in bed

With a naked George Clooney

Doesn't mean that I'm loony --

A loon would've put him in PJs instead. (Melissa Balmain)

Iatrophobia, fear of doctors (note the use of a related form of a word):

The iatrophobe suffers from gastric distress

But fears doctors will just do him harm,

So he's treating himself at the new CVS,

Where he may well be buying the pharm. (Chris Doyle)


Hydroxychloroquine can treat malaria or lupus.

It's not a cure for covid, though our leader tried to dupe us.

The drug has many side effects like headaches and depression.

It's rather like the president -- so use it with discretion. (Jonathan Jensen)

I usually avoid running two poetry contests -- in this case, last week's song parody contest (still running!) and this one -- but I wanted to run the M-W contest in conjunction with its announcement of the new additions, and I didn't hear about it until this past weekend.

Question mocks*: The trash-talking of Week 1456
*This headline was suggested by multiple people for this week's results, but it got ink for Kevin Dopart in Week 999 for the Ask Backwards honorable-mentions subhead

If you didn't get ink in the results of Week 1456, you might console yourself that maybe you're just not a vicious, mean-spirited person, or at least that you don't delight in being one. We need people like you for balance! But also maybe you shouldn't mouth off to someone and expect people to go "Oooh, burn." Just be your nice sweet self, okay?

(Okay, whoever who sent in "Is that your face or an argument for abortion?" You do NOT have a nice sweet self.)

If you did get ink, your entry outsnarked almost 1,200 others with its cleverness and originality or maybe it was just a funny exaggeration that got a laugh from an Empress who was starting to wonder if maybe the humor she asked for was just too mean during These Times. Nah.

It's the TWENTY-SIXTH Invite win, and the second Clowning Achievement winner, for Hall of Famer Mark Raffman, whom I have met many times and can vouch for his utter non-nastiness, even though he will soon be chasing his last few ambulances before retiring as a corporate lawyer. In my 100 Clowners for 100 Losers program, instead of a second trophy, he gets a little pennant with "II" on it, to attach to the base of the trophy he won in Week 1413 (which happened to be: new-word poems). I've now given out 36 of the 100 Clowners since last Dec. 6, so 64 more of you will one day be awarded the Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick.

It's another Hall of Famer, Gary Crockett, who offered my favorite take (among many entries) on "Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you happy to see me?" (not in itself an insult, just a risque remark; the example I used for the contest, "Is that your nose, or are you just happy to smell me" was).

Greg Dobbins wins his choice of Loser Mug or Grossery Bag with "Is that your cooking I smell, or have we reached High Heaven?" -- the rare entry that made the reader think a moment for the rest of the expression, turning something that might have momentarily sounded like a compliment into * something that wasn't. It's the fourth ink "above the fold" for Greg, and his 35th in all. And Jesse Rifkin gets Ink No. 59 and fifth Loser's Circle ink, for my favorite of a dozen "Is that your car *" entries: "Is that your car, or is Fred Flintstone walking to work now?"

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood once again agreed with my choices for the winners -- seriously, I specifically said, "If you think I picked the wrong winners, let me know" and he responded, "I think you're good -- and singled out a bunch more from the "honorable" mentions:

Is that your husband, or did the English fatberg finally calve? (Stephen Dudzik)

Did your CEO just say something, or was that a paradigm-shifting game-changer that delivers impacting synergy for disrupters who move the needle and think outside the box? (Duncan Stevens)

Were you planning to clean up in here, or are you playing an elaborate game of Jenga with your dirty dishes? (Coleman Glenn)

Have you had Botox injections, or did you just not get my joke? (Nancy Della Rovere)

Is that a picture of Your Mama, or do you donate to Adopt a Manatee? (Jeff Shirley)

Bonus: Annabeth's Best Bets: Giving the second read (or slotting) on the copy desk this morning ("slotting Invite always brings a smile to my face after a long week!") was Annabeth Carlson, who also was partial to Nancy's Botox joke, which I was glad to hear because I wasn't sure that it was clear enough) and also liked Hannah Seidel's "Is that your beard, or was this your first time eating ramen?" -- which bested seven other beard jokes.


Taste aside, there's one important rule for snide jokes: They can't be built on an inaccurate premise. You might, for example, joke that okra tastes like snot, because taste is subjective, and okra definitely has a slimy texture unless it's cooked to prevent that (split it lengthwise, brush a little oil and seasoning on it, and roast at 450 degrees on a baking sheet). But you can't make a joke based on the premise that Indian food is all made with the same few spices, because it's just not true. The joke fails.

Similar case in point for Week 1456: "Did you do your own hair, or do you support the Cosmetology School for the Blind?" Premise: Of course blind people can't style hair. Response we would have gotten within 24 hours: See this video.

No joke -- we're going for Indian food! Loser Brunch at Aditi, Nov. 14
The longtime monthly rotation of Sunday Loser Brunches at various restaurants around the D.C. area resumes at Aditi, a really good Indian restaurant in Kingstowne, not far from the Beltway exit to Van Dorn Street in Northern Virginia. It's Sunday, Nov. 14, at noon. I have been there many times and definitely have it on my calendar. There's a buffet or you can order from the menu. If you're vaccinated, come on out! Details and RSVP on the Our Social Engorgements page on the Losers' website at Everyone is welcome -- and in person, we do not snark.


Week 1459

Style Conversational Week 1459: Sing yourself to ink
The Empress of The Style Invitational discusses this week's first-person song contest and winning 'good news/bad news' jokes
By Pat Myers
October 21, 2021 at 5:37 p.m. EDT

Above, Sophie Craft's winning video from Week 1440. While this week's Style Invitational contest, Week 1459, is really about first-person song "by" well-known people, you could sing about yourself as well, like Sophie.

Hi, all: I'm back after last week's still-unexplained production snafu delayed The Style Invitational by three hours, which was just long enough to blow my Style Conversational schedule as well. This week: Like a charm!

This week, Week 1459, we're back to one of the Invitational's stocks in trade, the song parody -- enhanced more and more often by ever more impressive videos, but still with plenty of room for low-tech Brilliantly Clever Just the Lyrics.

Our last song contest was only 19 weeks ago, back in June; that week the only restriction was that the song be about something currently in the news. This time there's also plenty of scope, but with a different limitation: that the song be in the first person: in other words, that it's being sung "by" some particular person (don't forget to say who!). Many, many of our Loserbards' inking songs over the years are in the first person.

While in Duncan Stevens's example Sir Mix-a-Lot, of "Baby's Got Back" fame, "rewrites" his song to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Major-General's Song," the contest isn't specifically -- or even broadly -- about one song being rewritten as another. (I'm still working up the courage to run that contest. Maybe next time.) I hate to forsake the opportunity for at least some of the songs to be about current topics.

Rather than repeating all the guidance I reiterated in the Week 1440 Invitational and Conversational, I'm just going to send you over there with this Magic Link to the Convo. There you'll see some advice on what kind of songs are best for our purposes (long enough to make something satisfying to sing yourself as you read it; not so long that reading it gets boring or difficult on the page); my requirement of a rhyme scheme as good as or better than the original; how to convey the tune you're using to me and (you hope) the readers of the Invite; and, if you're interested in doing a video, what I need for that. (If you're singing it yourself, you don't need to do a parody.)

I used to insist that, no matter how well produced and entertaining the video, my only consideration would be the quality of the song's lyrics. But that's no longer true: While I still will put a premium on clever lyrics and "perfect rhyme," I also am happy to shout out funny, clever visual humor as well, even if it might not make the very top of the list of the week's lyrics themselves.

This is why, in the results of Week 1440, I gave out two Clowning Achievements. One went to Hildy Zampella for her (first-person!) parody of "Royals" as "sung by" Prince Harry. And then another one to First Offender Sophie Crafts for her utterly enchanting video, "Two Darn Shots," a parody of Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot" in which Sophie, in evening gown and long gloves, sashays into CVS and gets vaccinated right on camera to the amusement of fellow line-waiters.

Hildy's song was pushing the limits of length on what I can run on the print page, but it was sooo good and never repetitive. A more workable length was used by runner-up Barbara Sarshik -- also a first-person classic:

Jeffrey Toobin's Song

To "I Could Have Danced All Night"

I wear my pants all day, I wear my pants all day

Right in my living room.

I used to show my groin, and I exposed my * loin

To everyone on Zoom.

I'll never know what made it so exciting

To be so raunchy and risque.

I'm back on CNN. I won't screw up again.

I wear my pants, pants, pants all day!

Remember that you have till Nov. 8 to submit your song(s). But if you have questions about how to proceed, feel free to contact me much earlier in the game: Email me at and catch my eye in the subject line with something like "question about song contest"; I get hundreds of emails a day sometimes.

Meanwhile, for guidance, inspiration and pure viewing pleasure, do check out the results of Week 1440 and any number of previous contests, dating back to 2004. There's a special page -- see it right here -- from the Master Contest List on the Losers' website, NRARS, that lists all music-themed contests; click on the links on the right side of the page to see the results.

The vary idea*: The results of Week 1455
*Non-inking headline by Jeff Contompasis

Our third go-round of a contest to turn a "good idea" into a "bad idea" with a slight wording change (the previous ones were in 1995 and 2014) yielded dozens of zingy, high-level puns from a boatload of 1,400 entries from almost 200 entrants. I ran 38 of them in this week's results, almost all of them also in the print Invite; my shortlist was about twice that long. I foresee several Ink of the Day graphics based on this week's winners.

It was a heck of a week for Clowning Achievement winner Ryan Martinez, a high school French teacher whose all-time ink total catapults from 12 to 15, and who gets his first contest win with this zinger:

Good idea: Getting your cues from science.

Bad idea: Getting your science from Q.

And looking over his entries just now for 1455, I see that those three inking entries are from a total of four.

I had noticed a while back on the entry form that Ryan lived on the same street as longtime Loser (and Style Invitational Devotees anagram obsessive) Barbara Turner -- in fact, they were just a block apart. But they hadn't met! So I did my bit for remote neighbor-introduction.

Frank Mann continues to have a boffo Invite year, once again scoring multiple blots of ink with exceptionally clever and funny entries. This week he gets the weird Belgian beer promotional hat for Good idea: Striving to be more of a caring person/ Bad idea: Striving to be more of a "Karen" person, with three especially zingy honorable mentions. According to the Loser Stats at, Frank is now just a single blot shy of 200 inks. I understand that his sister Aimee is terribly envious.

The remaining runners-up, also wielding very funny puns, are the Invite-legendary Jesse Frankovich (832 inks) and Promising Fresh Blood Scott Richards, who -- get this -- has three blots of ink, of which one is a runner-up and one is a win: Scott got the Clowning Achievement five weeks ago for his report about our civilization from a future anthropologist: "Once a year every human must recommit to the familial cult by lighting a cake on fire while clan members chant a mournful dirge." This time Scott scores a Loser Mug or Grossery Bag (let me know, Scott) for pointing out that big church coffers are a much better idea than big church coughers.

I had figured that this contest would involve mostly Invite regulars, especially when it came to who got ink. So I was delighted to discover that we have three First Offenders this week -- Becky Foster, Donald Norum (who I believe is the son of early-days Loser Jean Lightner Norum) and Lauren Shaham -- plus at least three Losers whose second blots of ink promote them from the One-Hit Wonders list: Mary Giorgis, Glen Matheson and Michael ("I'm not a lawyer!") Cohen. As thrilled as I am to hand out those FirStink air "fresheners," it's even more gratifying to see those single-ink people come back to score again -- especially when, in Michael's case, it took 19 years.

I'm truly grateful that almost all the 190 entrants to this contest heeded my abject pleading to put each entry on a single line, with no line break between the good idea and bad idea. I didn't see a single two-liner until Entrant No. 27, whoever that person was, and not again until Entrant 58. I was able to fish out the eight or 10 offenders in all and fix them before sorting the entries alphabetically into 1,400 anonymous jokes. (I admit, though, that at least two of the offenders ended up getting ink today; in the end, I'm not going to deprive readers of the funniest material. But I'm going to kvetch at those Losers personally. Especially the one who sent 25 entries.)

Some good jokes weren't "good idea/ bad idea" as much as "good news/ bad news"; my favorite of these was by Kevin Dopart: Good idea: You're up to bat with the bases loaded. Bad idea: You're up for reelection and the base is loaded.

Other ways the good/bad ideas went astray:

-- Setting the entry up so heavy-handedly that it telegraphs the punchline. Like: Good idea: Throwing your mom a buss. Bad: Throwing your mom under a bus. You can't start with an expression that no one uses without giving away your plans for the rest of the joke.

-- Convoluted sentences that try to hard to match or contrast multiple elements: Good: Your bride is waiting for you with a flight of champagne at the shrimp station, wearing a wedding dress with a long train. Bad: Your bride gives you a long dressing down, calling you a worthless little shrimp, and takes flight for the train station.

-- As happened with the entries to Week 1454*s Punku entries, some people sent in jokes that I believe were discovered in the caves of Lascaux along with the drawings. The funniest of these -- in that it was submitted, not in its inherent haha -- was: Good news: Finding a worm in an apple. Bad news: Finding half a worm. Um, finding a worm in an apple is good news? Well, it's cheaper than a bottle of tequila, I guess.

Less head-slappy but, alas, done by too many people was using "halving" for "having." Good idea: Having a baby/Bad idea: Halving a baby. I Have a Dream/Halve a dream. Having a wonderful family/Halving a wonderful family. Having all of your assets secure/Halving all of your secure assets. Having patience with untrained interns/Halving patients with untrained interns. Good: Having your boss to dinner. Bad: Halving your boss for dinner.

This last one is pretty good, because of the double meaning in the other phrase: Good idea: Living it up and having the time of your life. Bad idea: Living it up and halving the time of your life. (Mark Raffman)

On the other hand, regular Invite readers could reasonably think they'd have half (lve) a chance, given the number of times the halving joke has gotten ink over the years:

Puns on movie titles, 2002: She's Halving a Baby: An epic on the life of King Solomon. (Tom Witte)

AND, from 2004, puns on historical/legendary events: The judgment of Solomon: Split Decision, or Halving My Baby (Russell Beland) (Would that, in my first year of Empressing, I had that indispensable searchable "All Invitational Text" file, now at!)

Also in 2012, at least in the pretty different context of horse names, but by the same guy: I'll Have Another x Conserve = I'll Halve Another (Russell Beland)

In 2017, Beverley Sharp used "have/halve" with enough of an original context to make it fresh in this haiku:

"I'm the Grim Reaper.

It's midnight. Time's up at noon.

So halve a nice day!"

And the same year, an "X is so Y" joke by Chris Doyle that takes it an extra step: My friend from Weight Watchers is so competitive that she always halves what I'm halving.

AND in Week 1418, by Jon Gearhart in a contest for charity names, again given more humor from the rest of the joke: I Halve a Dream: Helping America's youth set attainable goals.

Anyway, I think we've halved enough for a while.

I also learned a new term this week, thanks to First Offender Donald Norum: Good idea: Sending thoughts and prayers after a tragedy. Bad idea: Sending thots and players after a tragedy. "Thot," I learned, is an acronym for (depending on whom you ask) That Hottie Over There or That Ho Over There. I owe so much of my knowledge to The Style Invitational.

What Doug Dug: The favorites this week of Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood include all four top winners -- Doug and I are usually on the same wavelength when it comes to the Invite -- plus several from the honorable mentions: First Offender Becky Foster's childproof gates/child with Gaetz; Mark Raffman's Jan. 1 resolution/Jan. 6 revolution; Tom Witte's conquering/concurring with your demons; Jeff Contompasis's preferred pronouns/preferred capItaLizATionS; Frank Mann's SNL, Owen Wilson/WFT, 0 and 1; and, in reference to our somewhat Invite-adjacent in-house kerfuffle, making Indian food/mocking Indian food, by Michael Cohen, a longtime fan both of the Invite and of Gene Weingarten's recently retired column.

Funny, but noooo-tions*: The unprintables (*also a Jeff Contompasis suggestion). While Ryan Martinez's "Date Lab/Dating a Lab" sailed right into print, I drew the line -- in disinfectant -- at "Good idea: Charting your daily caloric intake. Bad idea: Sharting your daily caloric intake" (from our Western Canada Bureau, Byron Miller) and, from Seamus O'Connor: Add some chickpeas to your favorite stew. Add some chick's pee to your favorite stew. Ew.


Week 1457

Style Conversational Week 1457: If the Q fits ...
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's Ask Backwards contest and book-subtitle results

One of our 39 previous Ask Backwards contests, featuring Bob Staake's oft-reused Alex Trebek. The week's winner, by Sanford Horn: A: Paris, Zurich, and Certain Parts of West Virginia. Q: Where is it not permissible to marry one's sister?
By Pat Myers
October 7, 2021 at 5:35 p.m. EDT

Yay, Ken's still game.

Though the past year has vaulted him even to A-er-List celebrity, professional know-it-all (I assume that's what he writes on his 1040 form) Ken Jennings returns to The Style Invitational to choose his favorite entries in this week's contest, Week 1457. In about three weeks, I'll send him a shortlist of entries to several of this week's "answers": Ken Jennings; Zen Jennings; Spinal Jeopardy; and Not a Future "Jeopardy!" Category. And if he responds as he did last year, he'll choose a couple of favorites along with some gracious and good-natured comments, and get back to co-hosting "Jeopardy!" with Mayim Bialik at least through the end of the year.

Still, my Empress tiara remains firmly molly-bolted into my head, and so I'll name the official winners and give out our coveted prizes. But in my experience -- for one thing, I'm a devotee of his and John Roderick's odd-topics podcast, Omnibus (today's episode: merkins) -- Ken's sense of humor, appreciation of puns, etc., are pretty much in line with mine.


Last October, in Week 1404, I had two "Jeopardy!"-adjacent "answers" -- (a) Alex Tribeca and (b) Ken Jennings and Kylie Jenner -- along with 16 others. Those two categories didn't turn out to be the most fruitful, but there were a few inkworthies that I passed along to Ken.

And four weeks later, in second place for the week:

A. Ken Jennings and Kylie Jenner. Q. Who are Mr. Trivia and Ms. Trivial? (Rob Huffman; this was Ken's favorite in this category as well) As Ken put it: "The Mr. Trivia and Ms. Trivial is a pretty easy joke, but I laughed. Hard to beat that one."

He singled out two others:

A. Ken Jennings and Kylie Jenner. Q. Who are a man who did thunderously win, and a woman who is wondrously thin? (Mark Calandra; Ken Jennings: "A stretch but it's such a nice spoonerism! I'm such a sucker for those.")

A. Ken Jennings and Kylie Jenner. Q. Whose SAT answers did Aunt Becky think she was buying, and whose did she actually buy? (Ivars Kuskevics, Takoma Park; Ken: "I also liked this one, but I had the biggest crush on Lori Loughlin as a kid.")

I also gave ink to this one that Ken failed to appreciate: A. Ken Jennings and Kylie Jenner. Q. Whose careers got a big boost from "Jeopardy!" and a celebrity family feud? (Steve Smith)

The Alex Tribeca category didn't really pan out; this is why I usually post more categories than I'd likely have room for in the results. But we had a few.

A. Alex Tribeca. Q. Who replaced Art Flushing? (Kevin Dopart, Washington; Frank Mann; this was Ken's "Alex Tribeca" choice, though "too bad there's not a MANHATTAN neighborhood that sounds like 'Fleming' ") [Face it: this was the work of people doing their best with very little to work with]

A. Alex Tribeca. Q. To whom do you say, "I'll take one-bedroom apartments for $6,000 a month, Alex"? (Gary Crockett; Dan Helming, Trenton, N.J.; Ken's second choice)

I threw in one more: A. Alex Tribeca. Q. Who can be found in a Lower Manhattan bar ordering his daily double? (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

The other top winners for Week 1404:

Fourth place: A. @UnrealAbrahamLincoln. Q. Who tweeted: "Great speech yesterday in Gettysburg! Union widows LOVE their President (ME)!"? Frank Mann)

Third place: A. Shut Up Man. Q. Who is Florida Man's attorney? (Jeff Hazle; Pia Palamidessi)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon: A. The Republic Forwhichistan. Q. Where can you find One Asian Undergod -- except he's invisible? (Gary Crockett)

So this time we have four Jeopocentric categories. Especially if you're one of the numerous "Jeopardy!" veterans in the Loser Community, or of Ken's other quiz show, "The Chase," here's your chance to rub shoulders (in the sense that word-to-eyeball = shoulder-to-shoulder) with the GOAT.

(FYI: The category of "Curry Spice" was suggested by my predecessor, Gene Weingarten. So you're good to go.)

Meanwhile, I'm so grateful that most of you have been formatting your entries the way I've been begging you to: one entry per line (i.e., no Enter or other line-breaker within the entry). This way I can sort all the entries out by the first letter of the entry. So for Ask Backwards, as I show on this week's entry form, please do it this very way:

A. Zen Jennings [or whichever "answer" you're doing]. Q. What [some wildly clever and hilarious question]?


A. Zen Jennings

Q. [Your question]


2. A. Zen Jennings. *


Q. [Your questions] A. Zen Jennings *

Thank you, sweeties! Mwah.

*The headline "If the Q Fits" got ink for Jesse Frankovich in 2019.

Fudging the books*: The results of Week 1453
*Non-inking headline by Jon Gearhart

Clearly, some of you out there read books, or have read a book, or have seen a book cover. But to judge from a lot of entries to Week 1453, whose results run today, a bunch of you haven't.

Well, that or dozens of you (or some of you writing many dozens of entries) didn't bother to look at the instructions for Week 1453, which asked: "Choose any book title listed on Amazon and misinterpret it by adding a subtitle, as in Jon's examples above." The examples:

One Hundred Years of Solitude: The Covid Hoax Continues

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Spice Up Your Love Life With Costumes

Small Vices: The Best Tools for Making Doll House Furniture

Or maybe you didn't know, or gather from the examples, that a book subtitle is a second title further explaining the subject of the book. It's not a newspaper headline, with the elliptical, article-dropping style that news headlines traditionally have. Nor it is a plot synopsis. Yes, we've had lots of contests over the years that asked for either of those things, but clearly not this time.

So what's with:

Mutiny on the Bounty: Disgruntled Shoppers Rise Up Against Manager When Store Runs Out of Paper Towels

The Girl on the Train: Bridesmaid Accidentally Destroys Gown

Old Yeller: 98-year-old wins hog calling contest.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: In this Wizard of Oz sequel, Glenda and the no-longer-cowardly lion teach Dorothy about the powers inherent in her other clothing items.

Okay, sorry to vent. It doesn't really matter, since I had far more funny 'n' clever material than I could use among the 2,200 entries from the week's 240-plus entrants; I finally stopped at 44 inking entries, all of which appear in both the print and online versions of this week's Invite. And this wasn't one of those weeks in which a few people each blot up big pools of ink; by my count, it was brushed lightly upon 41 Losers, including four First Offenders (yay!).

Then there were the overly obvious ones that were submitted repeatedly, including:

Where the Wild Things Are: A Complete Guide to the World's Zoos

Gone With the Wind: Ending Flatulence through Diet and Exercise

Lord of the Flies: The Joe DiMaggio (or Willie Mays) Story

Oh, The Places You'll Go! - A Guide to the Public Bathrooms of Europe

The Catcher in the Rye: Yogi Berra's Alcoholic Years

Pride and Prejudice: A History of the Trump Administration

A Brief History of Time: How a Weekly Magazine Changed the World

A Confederacy of Dunces: A Guide to the GOP

A Tale of Two Cities: The Story of Minneapolis and St. Paul

The Fault in Our Stars: Famous Celebrity Scandals

The Sound and the Fury: Conflict Management in Apartments with Thin Walls

Lord of the Flies: The Inventor of the Zipper

When you've seen 15 entries about the Venus de Milo, how fun it is to get the one from First Offender Melissa Muckenhirn: A Farewell to Arms: How to Fit More Chairs at the Dining Table."

It's the second Clowning Achievement -- and the seventh Invite win and almost 400th ink all-time -- for Dave Prevar, who transformed imminent ecological disaster into a household one with "Silent Spring: The Year I Forgot About Valentine's Day." After lying low for a while, Dave has been entering the Invite more often; perhaps he's seeing the gates of the 500-ink Hall of Fame glittering on the horizon. Seth Tucker gets his eighth ink "above the fold" with the gut-laugher Left Behind: Thirty Days to a Better Butt (Vol. 1); Hall of Famer Frank Osen does Faulkner one better with As I Lay Dying: Memoirs of America's Worst Standups; and with his first entry ever, Bill Kullman wins his choice of Loser Mug or Whole Fools Grossery Bag, along with the Fir Stink for his first ink, for One Hundred Years of Solitude: A Jewish Mother Waits for Her Son's Weekly Visit.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood especially liked all four of this week's Loser's Circle entries, and he also singled these out from the honorable mentions:

Catch-22: An Analysis of Last Season's 601 Washington Football Team Passing Attempts (Jesse Rifkin)

Dial "M" for Murder: How Automated Messages Have Slowed Down 911 (Jon Gearhart, getting ink in the contest he suggested -- something that doesn't always happen)

It Ends With Us: 1001 Latin Singular Nouns (Mark Raffman)

Mark Twain: A Maryland Commuter's Daily Nightmare, by E. Fudd (Steve Glomb)

The Tempest: My One-Hour Career With Kelly Services (First Offender David Terry)

And the topical So Big: Nicki Minaj's Cousin's Friend's Covid Vaccine Memoir (First Offender Marty Gold)

(Hey, Guy Who Wrote to Me Last Week Because He Hadn't Got Ink -- see all these new people? Could be you one day.)


Week 1456

Style Conversational Week 1455: Congratulations -- you lose
After the but-of-course 2020 hiatus, the Losers' Flushies awards return with songs, plaques and a brain toss

The Empress (in tiara, of course) joins Style Invitational Losers Sarah Walsh, Matt Monitto and Duncan Stevens in Duncan's song "Sam's Enchanted Entries," a parody honoring 2020 Loser of the Year Sam Mertens, at this year's Flushies awards. (Over to the left are hepcat Jesse Rifkin and the ultra-generous host, Steve Leifer.) (Donna Saady)
By Pat Myers
September 23, 2021 at 5:12 p.m. EDT

The organization is officially (whatever that might mean) the Not Ready for the Algonquin Roundtable Society. But for a couple of decades now, the loose affiliation of contestants and fans of The Style Invitational is usually called the Loser Community, or just the Losers.

Pretty much founded back in Year 1 (1993) by contestant Elden Carnahan, who oversees the operation to this day, NRARS encourages a spirit of friendly Invite competition with an elaborate set of Loser Stats, culminating each year with an awards fete, the Flushies. And this year's fete -- the 25th! -- was one of the most enjoyable ever, at least since I've started crashing the party in 2002. For one thing, we were celebrating both this year's and last year's winners; the 2020 Flushies didn't happen, just as so much else didn't happen. And for another, the (all vaxed) 60 of us relaxed comfortably on the spacious and shady patio of Loser Steve Leifer in Potomac, Md.

Year 27 Loser of the Year Sam Mertens wasn't able to be there, but we "honored" him all the same: I read a sampling of his classic ink, and we serenaded him in absentia with "Sam's Enchanted Entries," a parody penned by Loserbard Duncan Stevens. Right after that, the "7* balloon on the wall was changed to an 8, and we turned the love on Year 28 LOTY Jonathan Jensen, who had come down from his home in Baltimore. After we sang "Jonathan Jensen" to the tune of "Suddenly Seymour" (thanks, Duncan and Mark Raffman) Jon -- who plays string bass in the Baltimore Symphony -- performed an "acceptance speech" in the form of an original song that puts his award in the proper perspective:

My house is full of statuettes and trophies that I've won;

My Grammys and my Pulitzers I polish just for fun,

Influential journalists have covered my career,

But it simply can't compare to being Loser of the Year.

I pal around with royalty, I mingle with the best,

At every fancy party I am sure to be the guest,

My name in glossy magazines will frequently appear,

But it simply can't compare to being Loser of the Year.

I've been to every continent, adventure for to seek,

I've marveled at the sunrise on a Himalayan peak,

I've paddled up the Amazon, explored the wild frontier,

But it's nothing like the thrill of being Loser of the Year.

I've reached the highest pinnacle a person can attain;

At last I know for certain that my life was not in vain;

And if I die tomorrow, I can face it with good cheer *

Because I've lived to earn the accolade of Loser of the Year.


So * kindly bow or curtsy if you see me drawing near --

And give due respect and honor to the Loser of the Year.

Lavishly decorated cookies in a toilet paper motif -- there was also a gorgeous cake decorated as a toilet paper roll -- were made for the occasion by Loser Pia Palamidessi, a retired pastry chef who came in from Cumberland, Md. They were tasty, too. (Donna Saady)
Along with the Loser of the Year honors and those for of Rookie, Most Imporved (sic), Least Imporved, etc., Elden and team recognized the Losers who'd reached some ink milestone in the past March-to-March -- 50 inks, 100, etc. (2,200 if you're Chris Doyle) -- not by throwing rolls of toilet paper at them, as per previous practice, but by tossing a rubber human brain at one, then having that person toss it to the next honoree and so on.

"Oooohhhh, I wish I'd been there!" you are no doubt crying as you tear at your hair in woe. Well! Thanks to Loser Sarah Walsh, you can see video of the whole shebang in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group. (Yes, you do have to join the group, but it's a private group -- nobody else on Facebook can see you -- and you don't even have to use your own name, and you can just lurk. Sign up at and, where you answer the questions, you can tell me or my co-admin Alex Blackwood that you just want to watch the videos and we won't announce you to the other Devs, if you prefer.) Time stamps for music highlights: "Sam's Enchanted Entries," 38:50; "Jonathan Jensen," 1:00:30; Jonathan's "acceptance speech" song: 1:04. Before each of the tribute songs, I read a sampling of Sam's and Jonathan's ink. Since Jon's first Invite ink was his anti-Trump parody "A, You're Abominable," we sang that too. That's around 51:00.

Jonathan Jensen displays his Year 28 (2020-21) Loser of the Year plaque. Jonathan, a musician with the Baltimore Symphony, sang an original song as his "acceptance speech." (Sarah Walsh)
My deepest thanks to Steve and Jackie Leifer, who offered up their home for this thing and have offered it again, to all the organizers and helpers, and of course to everyone who came out to celebrate this crazy joke thing we keep on doing every week. For details on future events -- the annual brunch and tour in Gettysburg, Pa., Oct. 17; Indian food at Aditi in Alexandria's Kingstowne section, Nov. 14 (should I bring the Czar?); and forward, see "Our Social Engorgements" at

Can I get an amend?* The 'first drafts' of Week 1451
*Non-inking (too long; didn't fit) headline by Jeff Contompasis

Even with my contest judging weekend a bit squished by the Flushies -- not to mention a whopping 2,200 entries -- I had a ball judging Week 1451, "first drafts" of famous quotes, and found myself laughing out loud constantly. Not surprisingly with such a large pool of entries, from about 250 entrants, many Losers chose the same quote to "prewrite" (though because I shuffled all the entries alphabetically, I don't know if a single person tried a bunch of variations on the same line). Despite flocks of similar jokes on "Frankly, my dear" or "To be or not to be," I usually could choose one version that I found funnier than the rest. But for a few -- "Fourscore and seven years ago," "The first rule of Fight Club" -- it was fun to juxtapose varied approaches to the same line.

It's the first Invite win and the 19th blot of ink overall for Relative Newbie Marli Melton of our Carmel Valley, Calif., Loser Bureau (which consists of Marli Melton), who did Adm. Farragut one pithier, though quite a bit less assertively, with "Torpedoes?? Damn." The three runners-up, however, are veterans of the Losers' Circle: Rob Huffman (Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for dea *"), Danielle Nowlin, updating T.S. Eliot's Prufrock with "I grow old * I grow old * I shall wear the tops of my trousers at the level of my nipples," and Jesse Frankovich, changing the side-dish palate of Hannibal Lecter from fava beans and chianti to jelly beans and Yoo-Hoo, each have ink totals in the triple digits, with Jesse headed toward four.

What Doug Dug: "You're right, lotsa good ones," Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood messaged me yesterday. Doug seconded my choices for all four top winners, and also singled out Mark Raffman's clarification of the 1970s Big Mac jingle; Marni Penning Coleman's "woman is like a tea bag" joke, playing on the one attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt; Steve Bremner's gospel-untruth "In the beginning was the word, and the word was "aardvark"; both Hildy Zampella's and Duncan Stevens's takes on "The first rule of Fight Club"; Jonathan Paul's biological "You say potato"; and of course the And Last: John Klayman one-upping Jeff Bezos on the importance of your subscription to The Washington Post.

The Czar Turn: I hadn't run my shortlist of entries past my predecessor, Gene Weingarten, as I sometimes do, but I knew he'd like the results, and this morning I sent him a link to this week's Invite. Sure enough, the deposed Czar found the results "excellent * many made me LOL and quote to Rachel. And because I am [a glassbowl], I am going to opine that none of the winners were as good as some of the Hons. You are welcome."

Of course, I don't consider someone a glassbowl just because he has different favorites from mine (unless the person continues with "you obviously don't understand what's funny"). But had the Czar still been running things, four of these five would have gotten the top ink (though their writers might not have received their prizes until months later). In no particular order:

In the beginning was the word, and the word was 'aardvark.' " (Steve Bremner)

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. You'll be hearing from my attorney." (Steve Leifer)

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, mine has the best sliders." (John Hutchins)

"The first rule of Fight Club is newest member brings the doughnuts." (Duncan Stevens)

"The only thing we have to fear is a collapsing bank system, plus huge unemployment, dust all over the Great Plains, and some nut in Germany." (Stephen Dudzik)

Gene, by the way, has published his final humor column for the Post Magazine this week, after 21 years and more than 1,000 columns -- and before that, more than 500 Style Invitationals, which he Czarred until I deposed him in December 2003. Gene will be turning 70 in * ooh, a few days. He'll still be writing major stories for the Magazine, such as the works that earned his two Pulitzer Prizes: "Pearls Before Breakfast," his experiment with how people interact with art out of context, in which virtuoso Joshua Bell set up his violin case for tips and played outside a Metro station; and "Fatal Distraction," the harrowing examination of how loving, caring parents can manage to forget a child in a parked, overheating car.

In this last column, Gene generously salutes some of the humorists who've influenced his comic sensibility. But it goes without saying -- though that's never stopped me! -- that his style has had a huge influence on my own, and, I'm sure, that of many others.

Definitely a good idea: This week's contest, Week 1455
Ever since I started Empressing almost 18 years ago, I've repeatedly (as in 800-plus times) plumbed the Style Invitational archives for contests that we might try again; this search has become far easier with the advent of Loser Elden Carnahan's Master Contest List, which includes links to all the results as well. Many of the topics over the past 28 1/2 years were specific to events of the time; some would now be out of date (e.g., stock table abbreviations that are no longer used); some were successful but might well have used up all the good answers; and some, alas, just didn't pan out. (Week 43, "What Does God Look Like?" -- better left ineffable.)

Perhaps "used up all the good answers" kept me from revisiting the "good idea/bad idea" wordplay contest since Week 1091 in 2014 -- which was a redo of Week 105 from 1995. In any case, I'm bolder now, less fretful and more optimistic, or at least hopeful. There were so many good answers all the way down the list both times that there must also have been lots of good ideas that missed getting ink. And of course, seven years down the road from last time, you have a new world of experiences and language to play with.

The point of the contest is utterly clear from the examples, and so I'm pleased to present more of them: ink from both previous contests. See the full results in these links for Week 105 (plain text) and for Week 1091.

Report from Week 105 [1995], in which we [the Czar] asked for good idea-bad idea scenarios. But first we wish to once again protest a torrent of crude jokes from people who seem to think this contest dwells in the gutter. Please be advised that The Style Invitational will never stoop to rewarding sophomoric, adolescent humor.

Fifth Runner-Up -- Good idea: Shampoo. Bad idea: Shampoop. (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)

Fourth Runner-Up -- Good idea: Wash hands after using toilet. Bad idea: Wash hands using toilet. (Jay Snyder, Chantilly)

Third Runner-Up -- Good idea: Taking back the streets of Washington, D.C. Bad idea: Taking the back streets of Washington, D.C. (Steve Hazelton, Reston)

Second Runner-Up -- Good idea: Have a documentary on the civil rights movement narrated by James Earl Jones. Bad idea: Have a documentary on the civil rights movement narrated by James Earl Ray. (Jerry A. Pohl, Rockville)

First Runner-Up -- Good idea: In business meetings, express yourself. Bad idea: In business meetings, express your milk. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

And the winner of "Standing Firm" autographed by Dan Quayle:

Good idea: Showing pictures of your kids at a private party. Bad idea: Showing pictures of your privates at a kids' party. (Ira Moskowitz, Lanham)

Honorable Mentions:

Good Idea: Purchase a dog at the pound. Bad idea: Purchase dog by the pound. (Patrick G. White, Taneytown)

Good idea: Saving the spotted owls. Bad idea: Saving the spotted owls in little plastic baggies in your freezer. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Good idea: Drive right, pass left. Bad idea: Drive right past cop. (Kevin Mellema, Falls Church)

Good idea: Presenting fresh, shiny faces to the teacher each morning. Bad idea: Presenting fresh, shiny feces to the teacher each morning. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

Good idea: Calling your mother. Bad idea: Calling "You mutha!" (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Good idea: Acquire a foreign tongue. Bad idea: Acquire a foreign tongue in your wedding reception line. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

Good idea: Getting great marks because of your class in "The Social Structure." Bad idea: Getting grate marks because of your class in the social structure. (Tom Albert, Alexandria)

And Last: Good idea: Post humor contest winners. Bad idea: Posthumous contest winners. (J. Calvin Smith, Laurel)

Plus these, both from Elden, in retrospective contests:

Good idea: Being chaste around the Oval Office. Bad idea: Being chased around the Oval Office.

Good idea: A cheap motel. Bad idea: A cheap mohel.

Forward to 2014:

In Week 1091, we repeated a contest from way back in 1995, in which we asked you to cite a "good idea" and turn it into a "bad idea" with a small wording change. The Empress was utterly shocked to find that a large number of entries concerned the reproductive and excretory systems. What sort of operation do you think we run here?

The winner of the Inkin' Memorial: Good idea: Give a bowl of irises to your wife. Bad idea: Give Ebola viruses to your wife. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

2nd place: Good idea: Groom nails before your best friend's wedding. Bad idea: Nail groom before your best friend's wedding. (Jan Forman, Falls Church, Va.)

3rd place: Good idea: Use power tools to keep your car functioning properly. Bad idea: Use power tools to keep your ear functioning properly. (Larry Carnahan, Arlington, Va.)

4th place: Good idea: Reply to all sensitive emails. Bad idea: Reply All to sensitive emails. (Eric Yttri, Arlington, Va., a First Offender)

Almost good/bad enough: honorable mentions

Good idea: Celibate before marriage. Bad idea: Sell a bit before marriage. (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)

Good idea: Snowed in with your date. Bad idea: Snowden with your data. (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

Good idea: 3 square meals a day. Bad idea: 3^2 meals a day. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Good idea: Eating some beef with a side of potatoes. Bad idea: Eating some potatoes with a side of beef. (Larry Gray, Union Bridge, Md.)

Good idea: Add "in bed" or "dressed as Elvis" to a cookie fortune. Bad idea: Add "in bed" or "dressed as Elvis" to the Oath of Office. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Good idea: Reusing plastic grocery bags as dog poop bags. Bad idea: Reusing plastic dog poop bags as grocery bags. (Dinah Tabbah, Annandale, Va., a First Offender)

Good idea: Keeping a supply of Head & Shoulders in the bathroom. Bad idea: Keeping a supply of heads and shoulders in the freezer. (P. Diane Schneider, Clinton, Wash., a First Offender)

Good idea: A sightseeing tour to see a jungle refuge for gorillas. Bad idea: A sightseeing tour to see a jungle refuge for guerrillas. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Good idea: Uncle Sam wants you. Bad idea: Your uncle Sam wants you. (Rob Huffman, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Good idea: Speed reading. Bad idea: Read, speeding. (G.T. Bowman, Falls Church, Va.)

Good idea: Timeshare condominiums. Bad idea: Timeshare condoms. (Ray Gallucci, Frederick, Md.)

Good idea: Eat every carrot and pea on your plate. Bad idea: Eat every carrot and pee on your plate. (Kathleen DeBold, Silver Spring; Mike Dailey, Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.)

Good idea: Continuing oversight of the Secret Service. Bad idea: Continuing oversights of the Secret Service. (John Glenn, Tyler, Tex.)

Good idea: Posting a picture of you hanging out with your member of Congress. Bad idea: Posting a picture of you in Congress with your member hanging out. (Rick Haynes, Ocean City, Md.)

See what you can do! Deadline for Week 1455 is Monday night, Oct. 4.


Week 1455

Style Conversational Week 1455: Congratulations -- you lose
After the but-of-course 2020 hiatus, the Losers' Flushies awards return with songs, plaques and a brain toss

The Empress (in tiara, of course) joins Style Invitational Losers Sarah Walsh, Matt Monitto and Duncan Stevens in Duncan's song "Sam's Enchanted Entries," a parody honoring 2020 Loser of the Year Sam Mertens, at this year's Flushies awards. (Over to the left are hepcat Jesse Rifkin and the ultra-generous host, Steve Leifer.) (Donna Saady)
By Pat Myers
September 23, 2021 at 5:12 p.m. EDT

The organization is officially (whatever that might mean) the Not Ready for the Algonquin Roundtable Society. But for a couple of decades now, the loose affiliation of contestants and fans of The Style Invitational is usually called the Loser Community, or just the Losers.

Pretty much founded back in Year 1 (1993) by contestant Elden Carnahan, who oversees the operation to this day, NRARS encourages a spirit of friendly Invite competition with an elaborate set of Loser Stats, culminating each year with an awards fete, the Flushies. And this year's fete -- the 25th! -- was one of the most enjoyable ever, at least since I've started crashing the party in 2002. For one thing, we were celebrating both this year's and last year's winners; the 2020 Flushies didn't happen, just as so much else didn't happen. And for another, the (all vaxed) 60 of us relaxed comfortably on the spacious and shady patio of Loser Steve Leifer in Potomac, Md.

Year 27 Loser of the Year Sam Mertens wasn't able to be there, but we "honored" him all the same: I read a sampling of his classic ink, and we serenaded him in absentia with "Sam's Enchanted Entries," a parody penned by Loserbard Duncan Stevens. Right after that, the "7* balloon on the wall was changed to an 8, and we turned the love on Year 28 LOTY Jonathan Jensen, who had come down from his home in Baltimore. After we sang "Jonathan Jensen" to the tune of "Suddenly Seymour" (thanks, Duncan and Mark Raffman) Jon -- who plays string bass in the Baltimore Symphony -- performed an "acceptance speech" in the form of an original song that puts his award in the proper perspective:

My house is full of statuettes and trophies that I've won;

My Grammys and my Pulitzers I polish just for fun,

Influential journalists have covered my career,

But it simply can't compare to being Loser of the Year.

I pal around with royalty, I mingle with the best,

At every fancy party I am sure to be the guest,

My name in glossy magazines will frequently appear,

But it simply can't compare to being Loser of the Year.

I've been to every continent, adventure for to seek,

I've marveled at the sunrise on a Himalayan peak,

I've paddled up the Amazon, explored the wild frontier,

But it's nothing like the thrill of being Loser of the Year.

I've reached the highest pinnacle a person can attain;

At last I know for certain that my life was not in vain;

And if I die tomorrow, I can face it with good cheer *

Because I've lived to earn the accolade of Loser of the Year.


So * kindly bow or curtsy if you see me drawing near --

And give due respect and honor to the Loser of the Year.

Lavishly decorated cookies in a toilet paper motif -- there was also a gorgeous cake decorated as a toilet paper roll -- were made for the occasion by Loser Pia Palamidessi, a retired pastry chef who came in from Cumberland, Md. They were tasty, too. (Donna Saady)
Along with the Loser of the Year honors and those for of Rookie, Most Imporved (sic), Least Imporved, etc., Elden and team recognized the Losers who'd reached some ink milestone in the past March-to-March -- 50 inks, 100, etc. (2,200 if you're Chris Doyle) -- not by throwing rolls of toilet paper at them, as per previous practice, but by tossing a rubber human brain at one, then having that person toss it to the next honoree and so on.

"Oooohhhh, I wish I'd been there!" you are no doubt crying as you tear at your hair in woe. Well! Thanks to Loser Sarah Walsh, you can see video of the whole shebang in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group. (Yes, you do have to join the group, but it's a private group -- nobody else on Facebook can see you -- and you don't even have to use your own name, and you can just lurk. Sign up at and, where you answer the questions, you can tell me or my co-admin Alex Blackwood that you just want to watch the videos and we won't announce you to the other Devs, if you prefer.) Time stamps for music highlights: "Sam's Enchanted Entries," 38:50; "Jonathan Jensen," 1:00:30; Jonathan's "acceptance speech" song: 1:04. Before each of the tribute songs, I read a sampling of Sam's and Jonathan's ink. Since Jon's first Invite ink was his anti-Trump parody "A, You're Abominable," we sang that too. That's around 51:00.

Jonathan Jensen displays his Year 28 (2020-21) Loser of the Year plaque. Jonathan, a musician with the Baltimore Symphony, sang an original song as his "acceptance speech." (Sarah Walsh)
My deepest thanks to Steve and Jackie Leifer, who offered up their home for this thing and have offered it again, to all the organizers and helpers, and of course to everyone who came out to celebrate this crazy joke thing we keep on doing every week. For details on future events -- the annual brunch and tour in Gettysburg, Pa., Oct. 17; Indian food at Aditi in Alexandria's Kingstowne section, Nov. 14 (should I bring the Czar?); and forward, see "Our Social Engorgements" at

Can I get an amend?* The 'first drafts' of Week 1451
*Non-inking (too long; didn't fit) headline by Jeff Contompasis

Even with my contest judging weekend a bit squished by the Flushies -- not to mention a whopping 2,200 entries -- I had a ball judging Week 1451, "first drafts" of famous quotes, and found myself laughing out loud constantly. Not surprisingly with such a large pool of entries, from about 250 entrants, many Losers chose the same quote to "prewrite" (though because I shuffled all the entries alphabetically, I don't know if a single person tried a bunch of variations on the same line). Despite flocks of similar jokes on "Frankly, my dear" or "To be or not to be," I usually could choose one version that I found funnier than the rest. But for a few -- "Fourscore and seven years ago," "The first rule of Fight Club" -- it was fun to juxtapose varied approaches to the same line.

It's the first Invite win and the 19th blot of ink overall for Relative Newbie Marli Melton of our Carmel Valley, Calif., Loser Bureau (which consists of Marli Melton), who did Adm. Farragut one pithier, though quite a bit less assertively, with "Torpedoes?? Damn." The three runners-up, however, are veterans of the Losers' Circle: Rob Huffman (Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for dea *"), Danielle Nowlin, updating T.S. Eliot's Prufrock with "I grow old * I grow old * I shall wear the tops of my trousers at the level of my nipples," and Jesse Frankovich, changing the side-dish palate of Hannibal Lecter from fava beans and chianti to jelly beans and Yoo-Hoo, each have ink totals in the triple digits, with Jesse headed toward four.

What Doug Dug: "You're right, lotsa good ones," Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood messaged me yesterday. Doug seconded my choices for all four top winners, and also singled out Mark Raffman's clarification of the 1970s Big Mac jingle; Marni Penning Coleman's "woman is like a tea bag" joke, playing on the one attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt; Steve Bremner's gospel-untruth "In the beginning was the word, and the word was "aardvark"; both Hildy Zampella's and Duncan Stevens's takes on "The first rule of Fight Club"; Jonathan Paul's biological "You say potato"; and of course the And Last: John Klayman one-upping Jeff Bezos on the importance of your subscription to The Washington Post.

The Czar Turn: I hadn't run my shortlist of entries past my predecessor, Gene Weingarten, as I sometimes do, but I knew he'd like the results, and this morning I sent him a link to this week's Invite. Sure enough, the deposed Czar found the results "excellent * many made me LOL and quote to Rachel. And because I am [a glassbowl], I am going to opine that none of the winners were as good as some of the Hons. You are welcome."

Of course, I don't consider someone a glassbowl just because he has different favorites from mine (unless the person continues with "you obviously don't understand what's funny"). But had the Czar still been running things, four of these five would have gotten the top ink (though their writers might not have received their prizes until months later). In no particular order:

In the beginning was the word, and the word was 'aardvark.' " (Steve Bremner)

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. You'll be hearing from my attorney." (Steve Leifer)

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, mine has the best sliders." (John Hutchins)

"The first rule of Fight Club is newest member brings the doughnuts." (Duncan Stevens)

"The only thing we have to fear is a collapsing bank system, plus huge unemployment, dust all over the Great Plains, and some nut in Germany." (Stephen Dudzik)

Gene, by the way, has published his final humor column for the Post Magazine this week, after 21 years and more than 1,000 columns -- and before that, more than 500 Style Invitationals, which he Czarred until I deposed him in December 2003. Gene will be turning 70 in * ooh, a few days. He'll still be writing major stories for the Magazine, such as the works that earned his two Pulitzer Prizes: "Pearls Before Breakfast," his experiment with how people interact with art out of context, in which virtuoso Joshua Bell set up his violin case for tips and played outside a Metro station; and "Fatal Distraction," the harrowing examination of how loving, caring parents can manage to forget a child in a parked, overheating car.

In this last column, Gene generously salutes some of the humorists who've influenced his comic sensibility. But it goes without saying -- though that's never stopped me! -- that his style has had a huge influence on my own, and, I'm sure, that of many others.

Definitely a good idea: This week's contest, Week 1455
Ever since I started Empressing almost 18 years ago, I've repeatedly (as in 800-plus times) plumbed the Style Invitational archives for contests that we might try again; this search has become far easier with the advent of Loser Elden Carnahan's Master Contest List, which includes links to all the results as well. Many of the topics over the past 28 1/2 years were specific to events of the time; some would now be out of date (e.g., stock table abbreviations that are no longer used); some were successful but might well have used up all the good answers; and some, alas, just didn't pan out. (Week 43, "What Does God Look Like?" -- better left ineffable.)

Perhaps "used up all the good answers" kept me from revisiting the "good idea/bad idea" wordplay contest since Week 1091 in 2014 -- which was a redo of Week 105 from 1995. In any case, I'm bolder now, less fretful and more optimistic, or at least hopeful. There were so many good answers all the way down the list both times that there must also have been lots of good ideas that missed getting ink. And of course, seven years down the road from last time, you have a new world of experiences and language to play with.

The point of the contest is utterly clear from the examples, and so I'm pleased to present more of them: ink from both previous contests. See the full results in these links for Week 105 (plain text) and for Week 1091.

Report from Week 105 [1995], in which we [the Czar] asked for good idea-bad idea scenarios. But first we wish to once again protest a torrent of crude jokes from people who seem to think this contest dwells in the gutter. Please be advised that The Style Invitational will never stoop to rewarding sophomoric, adolescent humor.

Fifth Runner-Up -- Good idea: Shampoo. Bad idea: Shampoop. (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)

Fourth Runner-Up -- Good idea: Wash hands after using toilet. Bad idea: Wash hands using toilet. (Jay Snyder, Chantilly)

Third Runner-Up -- Good idea: Taking back the streets of Washington, D.C. Bad idea: Taking the back streets of Washington, D.C. (Steve Hazelton, Reston)

Second Runner-Up -- Good idea: Have a documentary on the civil rights movement narrated by James Earl Jones. Bad idea: Have a documentary on the civil rights movement narrated by James Earl Ray. (Jerry A. Pohl, Rockville)

First Runner-Up -- Good idea: In business meetings, express yourself. Bad idea: In business meetings, express your milk. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

And the winner of "Standing Firm" autographed by Dan Quayle:

Good idea: Showing pictures of your kids at a private party. Bad idea: Showing pictures of your privates at a kids' party. (Ira Moskowitz, Lanham)

Honorable Mentions:

Good Idea: Purchase a dog at the pound. Bad idea: Purchase dog by the pound. (Patrick G. White, Taneytown)

Good idea: Saving the spotted owls. Bad idea: Saving the spotted owls in little plastic baggies in your freezer. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Good idea: Drive right, pass left. Bad idea: Drive right past cop. (Kevin Mellema, Falls Church)

Good idea: Presenting fresh, shiny faces to the teacher each morning. Bad idea: Presenting fresh, shiny feces to the teacher each morning. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

Good idea: Calling your mother. Bad idea: Calling "You mutha!" (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Good idea: Acquire a foreign tongue. Bad idea: Acquire a foreign tongue in your wedding reception line. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

Good idea: Getting great marks because of your class in "The Social Structure." Bad idea: Getting grate marks because of your class in the social structure. (Tom Albert, Alexandria)

And Last: Good idea: Post humor contest winners. Bad idea: Posthumous contest winners. (J. Calvin Smith, Laurel)

Plus these, both from Elden, in retrospective contests:

Good idea: Being chaste around the Oval Office. Bad idea: Being chased around the Oval Office.

Good idea: A cheap motel. Bad idea: A cheap mohel.

Forward to 2014:

In Week 1091, we repeated a contest from way back in 1995, in which we asked you to cite a "good idea" and turn it into a "bad idea" with a small wording change. The Empress was utterly shocked to find that a large number of entries concerned the reproductive and excretory systems. What sort of operation do you think we run here?

The winner of the Inkin' Memorial: Good idea: Give a bowl of irises to your wife. Bad idea: Give Ebola viruses to your wife. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

2nd place: Good idea: Groom nails before your best friend's wedding. Bad idea: Nail groom before your best friend's wedding. (Jan Forman, Falls Church, Va.)

3rd place: Good idea: Use power tools to keep your car functioning properly. Bad idea: Use power tools to keep your ear functioning properly. (Larry Carnahan, Arlington, Va.)

4th place: Good idea: Reply to all sensitive emails. Bad idea: Reply All to sensitive emails. (Eric Yttri, Arlington, Va., a First Offender)

Almost good/bad enough: honorable mentions

Good idea: Celibate before marriage. Bad idea: Sell a bit before marriage. (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)

Good idea: Snowed in with your date. Bad idea: Snowden with your data. (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

Good idea: 3 square meals a day. Bad idea: 3^2 meals a day. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Good idea: Eating some beef with a side of potatoes. Bad idea: Eating some potatoes with a side of beef. (Larry Gray, Union Bridge, Md.)

Good idea: Add "in bed" or "dressed as Elvis" to a cookie fortune. Bad idea: Add "in bed" or "dressed as Elvis" to the Oath of Office. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Good idea: Reusing plastic grocery bags as dog poop bags. Bad idea: Reusing plastic dog poop bags as grocery bags. (Dinah Tabbah, Annandale, Va., a First Offender)

Good idea: Keeping a supply of Head & Shoulders in the bathroom. Bad idea: Keeping a supply of heads and shoulders in the freezer. (P. Diane Schneider, Clinton, Wash., a First Offender)

Good idea: A sightseeing tour to see a jungle refuge for gorillas. Bad idea: A sightseeing tour to see a jungle refuge for guerrillas. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Good idea: Uncle Sam wants you. Bad idea: Your uncle Sam wants you. (Rob Huffman, Fredericksburg, Va.)

Good idea: Speed reading. Bad idea: Read, speeding. (G.T. Bowman, Falls Church, Va.)

Good idea: Timeshare condominiums. Bad idea: Timeshare condoms. (Ray Gallucci, Frederick, Md.)

Good idea: Eat every carrot and pea on your plate. Bad idea: Eat every carrot and pee on your plate. (Kathleen DeBold, Silver Spring; Mike Dailey, Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.)

Good idea: Continuing oversight of the Secret Service. Bad idea: Continuing oversights of the Secret Service. (John Glenn, Tyler, Tex.)

Good idea: Posting a picture of you hanging out with your member of Congress. Bad idea: Posting a picture of you in Congress with your member hanging out. (Rick Haynes, Ocean City, Md.)

See what you can do! Deadline for Week 1455 is Monday night, Oct. 4.


Week 1453

Style Conversational Week 1453: More from the Invite Bookshelf
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's contest and results

Bob Staake's illustration (on an idea by Kevin Dopart) for our Week 971 contest (2012), in which we asked readers to pair a real book title with another real title or a fictional to make a back-to-back "flip book." Some entries from that contest could have worked for this week's as well.
By Pat Myers
September 9, 2021 at 5:11 p.m. EDT

Hello and welcome to the 1,453rd installment (or close enough) of The Style Invitational. Week 1453 is a contest in which you choose a book title -- anything listed by Amazon is fair game, though not equally promising -- and prove that you haven't read it by adding a subtitle that misinterprets it. (Deadline is Monday, Sept. 20.)

Not so incredibly, among our previous 1,452 contests are some entries that could fit right in this week, had we not already given them ink. Until I was reminded this morning by Loser Ann Martin, who got ink in Week 971 (2012), I'd forgotten about a contest that asked people to pair a real book title with either another real title or a made-up one, to create a two-sided "flip book." Some of the second titles could work as subtitles this week, so don't make any of these already spoken-for zingers:

"The Golden Apples of the Sun"/ "The World's Best Nude Beaches and Resorts" (Dion Black) Washington)


"The Book of Senior Moments"/ "The Book of Senior Moments" (Jayne Osborn)

"What to Expect When You're Expecting"/ "Pain" (Drew Bennett)

"Pork Chop Hill"/ "Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process" (Brad Alexander)

"The Lovely Bones"/ "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Becoming a Model" (Joe Neff)

"The Fellowship of the Ring"/ "The Essential Guide to Gay Weddings" (Chris Williams)

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"/ "Code of Federal Regulations Title 41, 301-74: Conference Planning" (Kevin Dopart)

"The House at Pooh Corner"/ "Plumbing: 22 Easy Fix-It Repairs" (Ann Martin)

"The Naked and the Dead"/ "Great Parties: The Best of Martha Stewart Living" (John Shea)

"The Hunger Games"/ "Mastering Pac-Man" (Jeff Contompasis)

"History of Ancient Civilization" / "MS-DOS for Dummies" (Paul Burnham)

"A Wrinkle in Time"/ "Linen Clocks: The Downside" (Diego Pedulla-Smith)

"The Naked Ape"/ "Honey, Hand Me a Towel" (Drew Bennett)

"Sh*t My Dad Says"/ "Shut Up My Mom Tells Him" (A.B. Gibson)

"Peter Pan"/ "The Big Book of Cooking Utensils for Exotic Foods" (Tom Witte) [Yup, that one ran only online]


But even just a few months ago, we redid Week 625, which "asked you to come up with an alternative plot for an actual movie title." The results aren't written as subtitles but the jokes are there in general. And this is for movies, not books, though of course many classic movies are based on books. Here's some ink from Week 1436 (full results at that might overlap:

Portnoy's Complaint: Karen Portnoy wanders aimlessly through life * until the day a waiter serves her a regular Coke instead of Diet. (Lee Graham, Rockville, Md.)

12 Angry Men: Soon after Christmas, a young man rounds up a dozen pipers against their will and gives them to his true love. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

A Raisin in the Sun: Undocumented Mar-a-Lago workers enjoy their daily snack. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Breakfast at Tiffany's: Or "How I lost my job with the Secret Service." (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)

Life of Pi: Mathematician parents celebrate their child's 3.14159265359th birthday. (Duncan Stevens)

Pride and Prejudice: Quietly but assertively defying Lady Catherine de Bourgh's homophobia, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley marry and settle down together at Pemberley. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

The Remains of the Day: "So, Igor, did you bring me anything interesting this evening?" (Mark Richardson, Takoma Park, Md.)

Psycho: A hotel owner can't understand why no one wants to stay at his fancy establishment in downtown Washington. (James Bershon, Leonardtown, Md., a First Offender)

Raging Bull: Ferdinand has finally had enough with the flowers. (Kara Laughlin, Leesburg, Va., a First Offender)

Sons and Lovers: Oedipus and Jocasta meet cute. (Michael Doyle, Arlington, Va.)

Stripes: Rep. Matt Gaetz models a potential new wardrobe. (Joel Cockrell, Damascus, Md.)

The 39 Steps: A woman begins her Fitbit regimen slowly but with great resolve. (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee)

The 39 Steps: Documentary peeks in on AA's new "premium plan." (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

The Lovely Bones: Does Kirk have a thing for McCoy? (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

The moniker mash*: The portmanteau names of Week 1449
*This headline, by Tom Witte, was the one I first went with for this week's results -- until two Losers pointed out this morning that I'd used the same headline for the Week 963 portmanteau results, in 2012. It was also by Tom Witte. One mind thinks alike, I guess.

I found dozens and dozens of clever, funny mash-ups of names, or a name and something else, in our Week 1449 contest, one that we'd done a few times before. My shortlist ran to perhaps twice the 44 inking entries in this week's results. On the other hand, those dozens and dozens lay buried deep within a mass of 1,300 entries, of which a large majority were, to put it charitably, uninspired. Some of that uninspiration included, for numerous Losers, a failure to read the instructions beginning "Start with a real name"; I skipped over a disturbing number of entries that had no names at all. Others lacked either wordplay or any sort of pointed joke: e.g., "Edmund Hillary Clinton: The first person to climb Mount Everest in a pantsuit"; Elmore Leonard Nimoy: The author of "Get Spock" (whole joke as far as I can tell: Elmore Leonard wrote "Get Shorty"); or their point would be entirely: "well, that's a funny combination" (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Tubman: The sitcom underwent a daring casting move after ratings slumped.)

But this is why I make the small bucks -- I pare all that dross away so you can enjoy these twinkly little gems. Today's inking entries are full of ingenious links between the two elements, funny mental pictures, zingy puns, political digs, subtle and (online) less subtle bawdiness. And even some impressive parodies.

As in this week's Crowning Achievement winner -- already the fourth for Jesse Frankovich for this trophy that's only a few months old. Jesse tells me that his parody of "The Raven" for "Giannis Antetokounm-Poe," an ode to the NBA's superstar "Greek Freak," got him thinking of "humbly dubbing myself 'The Croatian Sensation' " (though his family has been on these shores for at least three generations). What's more, he points out, it's his third "Raven" parody to get Invite ink over the years.

The rest of the Losers' Circle is similarly populated with ink-soaked Invite veterans: Mark Raffman sent up the proverbially klutzy President Ford with the famed "Great Gatsby" quote for F. Scott FitzGerald Ford: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the * oops, man overboard!"; Pam Sweeney with "Roald Dolly Parton: Beloved author of "James and the Giant Melons"; and Gary Crockett punning on the Rock with Dwayne Johnson's Wax: Quite impressive when buffed." Classic Invite humor, all of it.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood told me that Pam's "James and the Giant Melons" "cracked me up." Doug was also partial to, in the honorable mentions, Duncan Stevens's Lin-Manuel Miranda Warning, one of two "Hamilton" parodies today; newbie phenom Mark Turco's dig at George Washington Football Team ("First in * no, uh * hmm * never mind."); even more phenomenal phenom Coleman Glenn's Scooby-Doobie Brothers; and the "And Last," Craig Dykstra's Pat Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: "No matter how you take the test, you lose." Craig's entry was my clear favorite among a half-dozen Pat Myers-Briggs entries. (There were also a Pat Myers Dark Rum, Pat Myerskine Caldwell and Pat Myers-ula Andress. I blush.)

Invite name drop!
Our First Offender this week, Henry J. Aaron, is a notable one. No, duh, he is not a dead baseball legend. But at least in D.C., he's an octogenarian wonk legend: Dr. Aaron has been one of the biggest-shot economists at the Brookings Institution think tank since 1968, and is especially well known for his analysis of health care policies. In 2014 President Obama appointed him chairman of the Social Security Advisory Board, and he's written widely -- including in op-eds in The Post -- on the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act.

But obviously, his list of accomplishments contained a gaping blank spot.

Now that has been filled with a Fir Stink for his first ink, which enshrines him in Style Invitational Loserdom with this honorable mention: Cuomodo dragon: A nearly extinct lizard that makes a lot of noise and whose touch is repellent.

Well, he could get the Nobel Prize in economics, I guess, but wouldn't it be a bit anticlimactic after a Fir Stink?

20 years ago: What The Style Invitational did after Sept. 11
Right here, I'm just going to link to a piece written Sept. 18, 2001, by Gene Weingarten, who at that time was Czar of The Style Invitational.

Not Funny: The Rules of Humor Changed on Sept. 11.

And on Gene's brief reference to it this week in a 20th-anniversary retrospective in The Post, How 9/11 changed humor.

See you in two weeks -- or in a week and a half
Next week's Invitational comes out online Thursday morning, Sept. 16, which happens to be during the 24-hour Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. So we won't be having a Style Conversational next week. If you do something incredibly notable, I'll catch up with you the week after that. Meanwhile, may you get a nice write-up in the Book of Life.

But I'll see you in person on Sunday, Sept. 19, if you're coming to the Flushies, the Loser Community's annual awards/potluck/songfest/excuse-to-gab-in-person, in the backyard of Loser (Steve Leifer, Potomac, Md.). YOU -- yes, even you -- are invited, by "virtue" of having read this far in this column. If you'd like to come and get the specific details (street address, parking instructions, etc.), click on THIS LINK to the Evite and RSVP to us soon.


Week 1452

Style Conversational Week 1452: Boggle our minds
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's neologism contest and limerick results

The 39 words that the Empress fed into the word-find generator in an attempt to get lots of vowels within a 20-by-20 grid. These words all go in straight lines (forward, backward, up, down) but yours can snake around every which way.
By Pat Myers
September 2, 2021 at 5:24 p.m. EDT

For some reason (or, more likely, no reason at all), last year we skipped what's become an annual contest: "discovering" neologisms or phrases within a word-search grid. Anyway, I'm especially optimistic about As the Word Turns No. 6, Week 1452 (deadline Sept. 13).

I think I'm getting better at gaming the grid: Instead of typing in a couple dozen long words (the puzzle generator then incorporates them into the grid, filling in the rest with extra letters), this time I used 39 mostly short words, almost all of them full of vowels. This ought to provide even more possibilities. I was finding tons of real words as well in addition to the dozens that I'd fed into the construction app; this grid might be more fertile for entries than any of our five previous ones.

FWIW, here are the words I used, referring to a page that listed words that had a lot of vowels; some recent lists from the New York Times Spelling Bee game; and a bit of utter randomness. I didn't see any settings to specify how many letters across and down I wanted, so I just added and dropped words until it produced the 20-by-20 grid I used this week.


In past years I traced the winding paths of some sample words through the grid, to show that you didn't have to use a straight line. But a few people said it made it hard to read or at least concentrate on the ground. So hopefully such phrases as "snake through," "any direction or several directions" and "as in Boggle" will get the point across without the scribble.

So very wit-he*: The limericks of Week 1448
*Non-inking headline by Duncan Stevens
As we've done every August since its infancy in 2004, we've given a shot in the arm to -- the Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form -- by sending out a call for limericks featuring words from an eensy-weensy section of the alphabet, and coming up with dozens of outstandingly clever and well-crafted five-liners. (See farther down on how to submit your limerick there.) This year we took on "he-" words; as usual, the entries ranged from the heavenly to the hellish, but the inking entries from Week 1448 once again demonstrate how it's done. Among the close to 1,000 limericks I received from 137 entrants, more than 100 made my first cut. (Why, yes, your entry did indeed make that shortlist. Absolutely.)


It's the second Clowning Achievement -- but the 15th win all-time -- for Hall of Fame Loser (and frequent Loserbard) Beverley Sharp, with her limerick on "hearsay." Beverley will get a little golf-hole-type flag with a "II" on it to attach to the base of her Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick, and inks No. 786 and 787. By the way, the name "The Style Conversational" was Beverley's idea when I debuted the supplementary column in 2009. Runners-up Melissa Balmain and Mark Raffman are frequent squatters in the Losers' Circle, especially in poetry contests, but it's the first "above the fold" ink -- and just the third and fourth blots in all -- for Ward Foeller, who warned of the "bad fit of coffin" for anti-vaxers. I've only met Ward through a little correspondence in which he expressed difficulty using the Invitational's entry form on his 3G phone; I think the phone's power crank and bellows aren't compatible with the current platform.

There's a slight but notable variation from perfect rhyme that got ink this week: In perfect rhyme, the last STRESSED syllables of two or more lines rhyme, and any syllables after that are identical -- like WEALTH-y, STEALTH-y, HEALTH-y in Gary Crockett's limerick about gluten-free ice cream. But I also think it's okay if, instead of being identical, those following syllables rhyme with one another, especially if they have a secondary emphasis in the words. With that, let's look at this one by George Thompson, which I thought worked great; I especially liked that those three final rhymes had three different vowels -- I, U and A -- to spell the unaccented schwa before finishing with the rhyming -con/-pon/-gon.

"Bigger government?" Part of the lexicon.

It's the altar the taxpayer's neck's upon.

Someday soon, we may see

An enhanced DoD

In its new, upsized building: the Hexagon.

George's rhyming is absolutely nothing like "rhymes" in which the rhyming syllables aren't both accented, or that the un-accented syllables at the end aren't identical. Among this week's rhymecrimes: sword/gore; "a kind of charcuterie"/"Give him the boot, hurry"; laconically/all of me/ hematology; interested/in the head; cold/tenfold; break/headache (unless you say the words "ten-FOLD" and "head-ACHE," in which case you are deluding yourself because no you don't either).

Other problematic issues:

-- Unnatural syntax. It's hard to make words fit the specs for rhyme and meter but still make the writing sound like actual English -- which is why it's hard to get ink in The Style Invitational; some people accomplish this feat with seeming effortlessness, including, I think, all of this week's inking entrants. This is one reason I warned off people from trying to fit in as many he- words as they can, losing coherence in the process. Like this one: Hemp hedonist, healings he hewed:/ Heaped hearty, her headaches here (s) hewed./ Heed Hemingway heft,/ Hey -- herbal health (t) heft!/ Heigh-ho, heaven's hearsay (esc) hewed.

My headaches are shewing.

-- Some people still had no hickory-dickory-dock meter in lines 1, 2 and 5: "A librarian in Tacoma"; "Doing yoga moves, I stretch with all my might"; "Now Hepatitis A and B / Are bad enough for you and me"; "Pillow man Lindy, champion chump"; "Twas a love sporadic, a fleeting tryst"; "Greg adored his husband, Tommy Scott"; "a simple squamous epithelium" -- nope, you can't pronounce it squa-MUSS,

-- And some people, gotta love 'em, didn't use he- words: One entrant used "hieroglyphics" (spelling it correctly; perhaps the person had first spelled it "heiro-," then checked the spelling, but forgot the contest?); someone else had a "Simpsons" theme with "Homer-sexual marriage" but no he- word.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood is finally back from his unexcused-by-me absence in which he dared to go on vacation. Fortunately, he had the good sense to like all of this week's limericks. His favorites, though, were in the honorable mentions: Doug singled out George Thompson's above-mentioned "hexagon," Craig Dykstra's Line 5 retort to the "herbivore" girlfriend -- Girl, a salad's what my dinner eats!" --; and First Offender Robin Rowland's disillusioned dig at former "heartthrob" Andrew Cuomo.

If you got ink this week -- or even if you didn't -- feel free to submit your limericks to, especially if they define the word or focus on its meaning. There, the lims go through a reviewing/workshop process in which an editor works with you to perfect their form and content. A number of our Loserbards are active as OEDILF editors as well as writers, so it's a good chance to learn from the best. If you send in an inking entry, please indicate that it was an honorable mention (or whatever) in Week 1448 of The Style Invitational. (If you didn't get ink, you don't have to credit/blame The Post.)

Yes, even YOU are invited to the Flushies, Sunday afternoon, Sept. 19
Regardless of how much ink you have -- or even if you have none at all but are just a fan of the Invitational -- if you've found this column and have read this far down, you're a member of the Loser Community in my book. So even if this Evite didn't reach you by email, you're hereby invited to the 25th annual Flushies, the Loser Community's own awards/potluck/songfest/just-yakking; this year, because of You Know Why, we'll be outside in the backyard of Loser Steve Leifer in Potomac, Md. Right now we're up to a comfortable 36 yeses, including some new Invite phenoms stars as well as your Loserly legends.

Here's the link to the Evite and most of the details -- click on these words. If you weren't on my invitation mailing list, you can still RSVP by clicking and saying Yes or Maybe. If your email address doesn't contain your name, please leave your name in the comments or contact me directly so I'll know who you are. If we don't yet know each other, I'll want to chat with you a bit before I give you the specific address, etc.


Wishing a Happy New Year to those for whom Jan. 1 isn't enough! My judging schedule will be slightly affected by Rosh Hashanah, but I'll be here next Thursday to explain why you didn't get ink in Week 1449. A couple of weeks from now, though, I'll skip the Conversational on Yom Kippur, Sept. 16. (The Invite, of course, will be there for you. I believe that the last week there was no Style Invitational column was the week of Jan. 23, 2000.)


Week 1451

Style Conversational Week 1451: Get us rewrite
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's new contest and results

Bob Staake's alternative sketch for this week's cartoon. I asked him if he was going to fill in the viewers' faces; I didn't get that it was a "buttface." We went with an actual face. You can score this sketch -- or any of hundreds of others from the Invite -- for yourself at
By Pat Myers
Yesterday at 5:29 p.m. EDT

As I did four weeks ago for the "Plain English" contest whose results run today, I'm going way back in the Style Invitational archives this week to redo a classic. This time, for Week 1451, it's "bad drafts of famous lines," which my predecessor, the Czar, ran in Week 108, in 1995.

Sometimes I decide I can't rerun a contest because we did it already -- could we really get a whole new, fresh set of results from the very same contest? For this one? Oh, sure: Your source material of "famous lines from history, literature or entertainment" is well nigh limitless; you could even use some of the quotes from before, as long as you take a significantly different tack.

I quote several of the Week 108 inking entries as examples this week, and Bob Staake chose yet another of them for his cartoon. Here's the complete set:

First, the examples with the contest announcement April 9, 1995:

Week 108: Near Misses

"Please take my wife." -- Henny Youngman.

"Let us go then, me and you * " -- T.S. Eliot

"The business of America is pig farming." -- Calvin Coolidge

This week's contest was proposed by John Mewshaw of Laurel, who wins a new name. Hahaha. Just kidding. John wins a joy buzzer. John suggests a contest to come up with the discarded first drafts of great lines in history or entertainment or literature; lines that almost made it, but not quite."

April 30, 1995:

Report from Week 108, in which we asked you to come up with bad first drafts of famous lines in history, literature or entertainment. We hate to be gratuitously nice, but your answers were spectacularly good. Clapclapclapclapclapclap.

Seventh Runner-Up [This was the Era of Super-Profitable Newspapers. The Czar could basically buy an unlimited number of prizes]: "Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Adolf." -- Beatrix Potter (Jamal Jafari, Gaithersburg)

Sixth Runner Up: "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. And believe me, senator, you're no friend of mine." -- Lloyd Bentsen (Paul Moran, Falls Church)

Fifth Runner-Up:

(From Week 108) (The Washington Psot)
Fourth Runner-Up: "A rose is a rose, of course, of course." -- Gertrude Stein (J. Calvin Smith, Laurel)

Third Runner-Up: "And God saw that it was scrumdiddlyumptious." Genesis 1:10 (Kevin Mellema, Falls Church)

Second Runner-Up: "The Giants win the NLCS! The Giants win the NLCS!" -- Russ Hodges (Paul J. Kocak, Syracuse, N.Y.)

First Runner-Up: "You know how to whistle, don't you? Juthst thtick two fingerth in your mouf like thith and blow." -- Lauren Bacall (Joel Knanishu, Hyattsville)

And the winner of the World War II Plumber poster:

"We hold these truths to be, like, Duuuh. . . ." -- Thomas Jefferson (Joseph Romm, Washington) (Note: Mr. Romm has now won first prize for two consecutive weeks, the first time anyone has done this, according to the Official Style Invitational Historian, Elden Carnahan of Laurel. If Mr. Romm wins next week, we shall be forced to publish photographs of him in his underpants.) [He did not win the next week, alas. But a future "Ask Backwards" category was "Joseph Romm's Underpants."]

Honorable Mentions:

"The sled I had when I was a kid." -- Charles Foster Kane (Joseph Romm, Washington)

"I want to hold your second mortgage." -- Lennon/McCartney (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)

"Where have you gone, Joe Garagiola?" -- Simon and Garfunkel (Joe Anderson, Alexandria)

"Four more years! Or less if events force an early resignation!" -- 1972 Nixon supporters (Ken Krattenmaker, Landover Hills)

"Johnny's Heeeeeeeeeeere." -- Ed McMahon (Ira P. Robbins, Bethesda)

"Good night." -- Gracie Allen (Toby Bushkin, Arlington)

"How do I love thee? Let me get back to thee on that ..." -- Elizabeth Barrett Browning (George Friedman, Towson)

TRUMAN DEFEATS DEWEY -- The Chicago Tribune (Gary Dawson, Arlington)

"I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat and phlegm." -- Churchill (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

"Je suis un Berlinois" -- John F. Kennedy (Michael Connaghan, Silver Spring)

[A line from "Hamlet" in Russian) -- But at the last minute, Will Shakespeare decides to write Hamlet in English. (Gil Renberg, Arlington)

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the vabe ..." -- Lewis Carroll. (Toby Bushkin, Arlington)

(From Week 108) (The Washington Post)
"There is a hemorrhoid growing on the presidency." -- John Dean (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

"Brevity is without doubt considered by many to be the soul of that attribute commonly considered 'wit.'" -- William Shakespeare (Elliot Greene, Silver Spring)

"Watson, help! I spilled something on my crotch!" -- Alexander Graham Bell (J. Calvin Smith, Laurel)

"Bark!" -- Sandy (Jean Sorensen, Herndon)

"I float like a butterfly and sting like a really, really angry butterfly ..." -- Muhammad Ali (Ken Krattenmaker, Landover Hills)

"Get a grip, Virginia." -- The New York Sun (Jessica Steinhice, Washington)

"Who's on first?" "Gehrig" "Oh." -- Abbott and Costello. (Jamal Jafari, Gaithersburg; also, Eric Ehrenberg, Washington)

"Get the Cheez Whiz." -- Marlon Brando, in "Last Tango in Paris" (J. Calvin Smith, Laurel)

"This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal of sending a man -- 'Bang! Zoom!' right to the moon." -- John F. Kennedy (Mike Collins, Dale City)

"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a kind of low whining sound." -- T.S. Eliot. (Joseph Romm, Washington)

"Hey, Judge Ito, you mook, whatsamatta fo' you?" -- Sen. Al D'Amato. (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)

"And that's the way it is. You got a problem with that, buttface?" -- Walter Cronkite (David M. King, Washington)

"This is your brain. And this is your brain in a frying pan *" (K. C. Bahry, Gaithersburg)

"'Tis a far, far, far, far, far, FAR better thing I do than I have ever done ..." -- Charles Dickens (Paul Moran, Falls Church)

"E equals mc with a little 2 up in the air next to the c." -- Einstein (Bob Schlosser, Herndon)

"I am SHOCKED! Shocked to find that some credit cards charge interest from the day of purchase!" -- Capt. Renault (Albert Diaz, Rockville)

(signed) John Q. Hancock -- (Gary Patishnock, Laurel)

Five years later, the Czar ran a similar contest, to ruin a famous quote by adding to it. A narrower scope than Week 108, but obviously lots of overlap -- including in individual entries.

Week XXIV: Coming to a Bad End

[context examples] Call me Ishmael ----or Mike or Steve, but definitely not Hubert.

It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known, thanks to NyQuil[reg] 24-Hour Cold Caps.

Now is the winter of our discontent, having barely recovered from the autumn of our constipation.

REPORT FROM WEEK XXIV, in which you were asked to ruin some great line of film or literature, by adding to it. [It was actually Week 357, not 24: When the Invitational returned from a few months' hiatus in 2000, the Czar started counting all over beginning with Week I until he finally gave the idiocy up in Week CLXII in 2003; the week after that was Week 496.]

Second Runner-Up: The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Of course, mouse plans aren't that big a deal anyway. (Mike Genz, La Plata)

First Runner-Up: Jesus wept buckets. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

And the winner of the foot-tall "fully poseable" Herbert Hoover doll: "Rosebud. It was my childhood sled, which represents the only time in my life I was truly happy and, in a larger sense, symbolizes the loss of innocence that almost inevitably accompanies the acquisition of power."(Joseph Romm, Washington) [Hah! Joe Romm, who won the Week 108 contest with his play on the Declaration of Independence, wins it again by elaborating on the "Citizen Kane" joke that got him an honorable mention in 1995. Pay dirt!]

Honorable Mentions:

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. Small world, eh?" (Jean Sorensen, Herndon)

"The horror, the horror. It really gets to me, sometimes." (Kelly Midgley-Biggs, Columbia)

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow. But if you want to play 'Yummy Yummy Yummy' on your armpit, you do this--" (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park) [This joke was pretty similar to Joel Knanishu's in Week 108. I just showed the two to the Czar and asked if he'd have run this one had he remembered the first. Sure, he said: "I would have run both; no question. Yes, same joke engine, but different details. But most important, they are both funny AND FIVE YEARS APART. Who gives a rat's patootie?" The Czar has a point: The readers in 1995 and 2000 weren't reading one after the other, the way you are now. Still, folks: I don't want to see these jokes showing up in Week 1451. There are lots of other quotes out there -- and even significantly different potential approaches to the quotes that were used.]

"You must ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? That is to say, do I, the punk, feel lucky? It's irrelevant whether I, Dirty Harry, feel lucky." (Joseph Romm, Washington)

"Good night, sweet prince. Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite." (Chris Doyle, Burke)

"We'll always have Paris. Except when the Germans are using it." (Storm Marvel, Columbia)

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate. I mean, helloo-oooo." (Jean Sorensen, Herndon)

"Bond. James Bond. But please call me Jimbo." (Storm Marvel, Columbia; Joe Anderson, Alexandria)

"Stella! Stella! Bo Bella Bo Nanna Fanna Fo Fella Fee Fi Mo Mella, Stella!" (Joseph Romm, Washington)

"Fourscore and seven years ago, which comes to, what, 87 years or so?" (Paul Kocak, Syracuse, N.Y.)

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, ladies and germs . . . " (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

"Yes I said yes I will yes. Yes, already. How many times do I have to say it?" (Michelle Gluck and Walter Smith, Bethesda)

"Use the Force, Luke, but only in moderation." (Ben Aronin, White Plains)

"We don't need no steenking badges like we're some sort of GS-12s." (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

"One if by land, two if by sea, three to get ready . . . " (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, which must be followed by approximately 577,230 more steps." (Chris Doyle, Burke)

"Brevity is the soul of wit. In other words, effective writing should aim at using as few words as possible. The longer and more drawn out an explanation is, the less powerful and persuasive it is." (Mike Genz, La Plata)

"Shaken, not stirred. And with one of those little umbrellas." (Jonathan M. Kaye, Washington)

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, and by 'self-evident' we mean . . . " (Joe Anderson, Alexandria)

"How the mighty have fallen, and they can't get up." (Joe Neff, Oreland, Pa.)

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home. Although, actually, Nebraska is exactly like Kansas, except it has a unicameral legislature."(Phil Frankenfeld, Washington)

"If you need me, just whistle. Or yodel. Or make that 'Ook-ook-ook-ook ah-ah-ah-ah' ape sound from any of those Tarzan films." (Phil Frankenfeld, Washington)

Truth is beauty; beauty truth. That's all ye know and all ye need to know, ya know? (Sue Lin Chong, Washington)

The Uncle's Pick ["The Uncle" was a fictional dim-bulb "guest judge" who'd either choose a corny entry and painfully explain it, or, as here, would fail to understand the point of the joke he'd "pick." Some Losers got the joke so well that they'd send in entire Uncle entries complete with his comments; at least one high-ranking Loser, on the other hand, thought he was a real guy]:

"Rosebud. It was my childhood sled, which represents the only time in my life I was truly happy and, in a larger sense, symbolizes the loss of innocence that inevitably accompanies the acquisition of power." (Joseph Romm, Washington) The Uncle Explains: Kudos to Joseph Romm for finally explaining a very puzzling movie, indeed.

Frankoly speaking: A new podcast episode
Be sure to catch the latest half-hour episode of "You're Invited": This time, host Mike Gips chats with Super Incredible Loser Jesse Frankovich. Sample astonishment: Jesse writes a limerick about writing limericks -- then rearranges every letter in that limerick to write another flawless limerick. Catch it at or on most podcast apps.

Loserly translated*: 'Plain English' from Week 1447
*Non-inking headline by Gary Crockett

A repeat, after a long absence, of our "Plain English" contest -- to "translate" rosy platitudes, strip bare pretentious verbiage, or just point out someone's outright lie -- delivered lots of sly zingers in the results of Week 1447. The contest drew relatively few entrants and almost no brand-new ones, no surprise for a contest that asks you to comb through The Post or other publications for fertile material, not to mention one during peak vacation season. But numerous Losers sent long lists of cleverly snarky entries; my shortlist printout ran seven pages. Most people quoted The Post, or people quoted in The Post, but today's inking entries also include material from the New York Times, various magazines, and, I'm always happy to see, local papers from around the country.

It's the ninth contest win -- and the 232nd (and 233rd) blot of Invite ink -- for Drew Bennett, who retired a few years ago as chancellor of Missouri State University's West Plains campus. So it's not surprising that he focused on some prime academese of "a systematic internationalization of the curriculum that infuses virtual exchange opportunities" -- a college's study-abroad program having to be done online this year. As we speak, Drew is moving to Arkansas; he just sent me a new mailing address. But it's his first Clowning Achievement win, and so he'll be able to adorn that brand-new mantel with that coveted Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick.

Yes, even YOU are invited to the Flushies, Sunday afternoon, Sept. 19
Regardless of how much ink you have -- or even if you have none at all but are just a fan of the Invitational -- if you've found this column and have read this far down, you're a member of the Loser Community in my book. So even if this Evite didn't reach you by email, you're hereby invited to the 25th annual Flushies, the Loser Community's own awards/potluck/songfest/just-yakking; this year, because of You Know Why, we'll be outside in the backyard of Loser Steve Leifer in Potomac, Md.

Here's the link to the Evite and most of the details -- click on these words. If you weren't on my invitation mailing list, you can still RSVP by clicking and saying Yes or Maybe. If your email address doesn't contain your name, please leave your name in the comments or contact me directly so I'll know who you are. If we don't yet know each other, I'll want to chat with you a bit before I give you the specific address, etc.


Week 1450

Style Conversational Week 1450: What fools those mortals be
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's contest and results

Bob Staake's alternative sketch for this week's contest, depicting a real-world Captcha user.
By Pat Myers
August 19, 2021 at 5:26 p.m. EDT

(Important note about this weekend's Loser brunch: See the section at the bottom of this column.)

Happy Invite Weekend -- and by that I mean from the time The Style Invitational is posted online Thursday morning through that Sunday, when it shows up in the print Post on newsstands, or wherever it is that a nonsubscriber buys a print Post. See, most of the week is Invite Weekend, and so it might as well be a happy one. Unless you didn't get ink, and then you can have four straight days of unmitigated woe. Sorry!

This week's contest, Week 1450 -- suggested, like so many others of late, by Loser Obsessive Duncan Stevens -- is a humor-writing challenge, rather than the Invite's other stock in trade, wordplay. It's a classic humor/sci-fi trope -- the Outsider Viewing Our Crazy Civilization -- but one I don't remember our doing (though something similar may be squirreled away in the depths of the 1,450+-item Master Contest List). Obviously the humor will come from (a) recognizing the absurdity or potentially confusing nature of some part of our lives and (b) writing about it as your chosen observer -- a scientist, space alien, whatever -- might explain it, quite possibly with misunderstanding, as in Duncan's example of the captcha.

Speaking of Actually True Invite-Adjacent Trivia! Ryan Staake, son of Bob, is the designer of the logo of ReCaptcha, the bot-prevention software that shows you a fuzzy word or two from a book and asks you what it is, then uses your answer to help digitize books. Ryan did it as a college student in the 2000s; since then he's become an award-winning filmmaker and music video producer (have you seen this mesmerizing "Cross Me" with Ed Sheeran and Chance the Rapper?). So when I sent Bob the examples by Duncan Stevens for this week's contest, he said, "I'll have to do that one." (Also Actually True Trivia: Captcha conveniently stands for "Completely Automatic Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart." Shades of Invite Week 1443!)

You can also captcha for yourself a Genuine Bob Invite Sketch or Final Drawing; he offers them up to the Loser Community at He has them from way back, too.

And speaking of Our Big Star Duncan Stevens! Be sure to get "Inside the Mind of the Reigning Champ Of WaPo's Weekly Humor Contest" in the latest Northern Virginia Magazine! The big profile of the Vienna, Va., local hero is by Jesse Rifkin, himself a 53-time Loser. Except for The Post's own stories about the Invitational on its 10th and 20th anniversaries, and Frank Ahrens's big spoofy story on Invite legend Chuck Smith in 1998, Jesse's piece is surely the biggest article ever about The Style Invitational and its contestants. Jesse is clearly a sports fan, and along with recalling some of Duncan's greatest Invite hits, he focuses on the contest as a competition among the Losers, especially between Duncan and fellow Invite Obsessive Jesse Frankovich, a rivalry aided by the complex standings kept meticulously every week on the website by Elden Carnahan. But one of my favorite parts is the photo of Duncan in front of his magnet-plastered refrigerator. (Since he hit the Hall of Fame a year and a half ago, Duncan has forgone further magnets and runner-up swag.)

Lentil acuity*: The results of Week 1446
*Non-inking headline by Kevin Dopart

Nobody will confuse most of them with actual crossword clues -- and the cruciverbalist crowd is probably rolling its collective eyes -- but the lentil-bedecked filled-in crossword grid that I presented in Week 1446 yielded dozens and dozens of both wry descriptions and brand-new phrases among some 1,200 entries. (There weren't so many entrants this week, but a lot of Losers sent in the maximum 25 entries.) This week's results show 49 of them online, 40 in print.

I had placed the lentils on the various squares more or less at random. A few words were totally exposed, while at least one word had only one letter showing. Since it was a big Sunday puzzle, there were more than 100 words to choose from -- and of course you could choose your own letters for the covered squares, and so I didn't have much duplication among the entries (though there were a few nearly identical ones).

As in our previous partial-grid contests, a lot of the fun came from the contest's long "theme" words and phrases, and in the variety of ways the Losers replaced the covered squares. I had only so much room, and I also wanted to get in those little gems like "WHE > The middle of nowhere" (Chris Doyle) and "IFA > International Fonetic Alphabet" (Steve Honley). And so when I realized that I was going to have to trim big chunks of my list for the print page, I decided to share some of the longer entries en masse below.

But this week's four top winners were for some of the shortest words. It's the seventh Invite win, but the first of our latest trophy, the Clowning Achievement, for 451-time Loser Roy Ashley, the next in line for the Invite Hall of Fame. Roy's own kids are long since grown, but he clearly has a good memory: T- -N > TEEN: I'm working on the definition, OKAY? John Hutchins, who's been blazing since he returned to regular Inviting a few weeks ago, wins that cool Mao/Obama bag with his dig at Supreme Court nominees with R-E > ROE: "Supreme Court case that Supreme Court nominees may or may not have heard of, have no opinion about, and certainly are not intending to overrule." And the rest of the Losers' Circle is filled by two rookie phenoms: Coleman Glenn playing on both David BOWIE and the Bowie knife (though not the D.C. suburb of Bowie, Md.; Coleman's in the Philadelphia area), and Leif Picoult's pBAY as the place to get a good urine sample.

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood continues his vacation, but Other Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia is back, and he weighed in with his faves. Ponch especially agreed with Roy Ashley's winner, given that he's the parent of a rising senior; "the winner made me shout 'YES!'" Ponch also singled out: Steve Glomb's EEE: The shores the Marines sing about; both Frank Mann's and Coleman Glenn's LEMON BROWN; Frank Osen's BORISTA: "Let's walk through the flavor profile of Tuvaluan Botarga *"; Jeff Rackow's ACAI: The kale of berries; Miriam Nadel's PANTS-ON FINE, what the Norwegian beach handball team has to pay for not wearing bikini bottoms; and Mark Raffman's And Last: F SI: "Abbreviated form of "No ink again!?" (Mark Raffman)

And here are the Variations on the Themes:


READ ALL ABOUT ID: Marketing tagline for Freud's first book (Daniel Galef)

READ ALL ABOUT IT: What subscribers to Computerworld magazine like to do (Coleman Glenn)

LEAD ALL ABOUT IT: Why Superman could not see inside my safe (Robert Schechter)

BE A DALLAS OUTIE: Encouragement to gay Cowboys teammates (Jon Ketzner)

MEAD: ALL ABOUT IT: A manual for DIY honey fermentation. (Sarah Walsh)


For -AN-SON-I-E (originally PANTSONFIRE):

Three got ink:

PANTS ON FILE: How the fashion police track down repeat offenders (Coleman Glenn)

PANTS ON MICE: One way to control the rodent population (First Offender Lenard King)

PANTS-ON FINE: What the Norwegian beach handball team has to pay for not wearing bikini bottoms (Miriam Nadel)

But there were also:

PANTS ON FINE: Trousers not sagging (Miriam Nadel.)

FANGS ON FIRE: When Dracula bites a Sichuan-food lover (Duncan Stevens)

HANDS ON BIKE: Not quite ready to say "Look, Ma____" (Craig Schopmeyer)

PANTS-ON TIME: Returning to the office (Jesse Frankovich)

RantsOnFire: Donald Trump's secret Twitter handle. (John Hutchins)

'NANAS ON FIRE: Chiquita's answer to Cherries Jubilee (Richard Franklin) [Maybe Rick isn't familiar with Bananas Foster]

RANTS ON TIME: Filibusters (Steve Fahey)

YANKS ON RICE: Southern China down-home cooking dish, heavy on the mayo (Edward Gordon



THE BANKS ALL HIRE: What MBA students hope will still be true when they graduate (Steve Honley)

THE DANG SALT HERE: What's making it so hard to drink this gosh darn lake water in Utah (Coleman Glenn)

THE L. A. NASAL CHORE: Rinsing the smog from your sinuses (George Thompson.)

THE RANT SALE HERE: Ad for Donald Trump's discounted reading of his it-wasn't-my-riot act. (Lawrence McGuire)

THE TANG'S ALL HERE: Discovery made in Buzz Aldrin's pantry. (John Hutchins)

THEDA, NASAL WHORE: Netflix drama about a lady of the night, played by Fran Drescher. (Ira Allen) Disturbingly similar: THE L.A. NASAL WHORE: Working title of Fran Drescher's gritty new drama set in an El Segundo brothel. (John Hutchins)

THE PANT SALE HERE: Store advertisement seen more frequently as in-person meetings resume. (Sarah Walsh)


LE-O-B-O-N (originally LEROYBROWN):

These got ink:

LEMON BROWN: One of the new "back of the fridge" Crayola colors (Coleman Glenn)

LEMON BROWN: The sourest man in the whole damn town. (Frank Mann)

But there were also:

LEG OF BJORN: As seen in "Hannibal Lecter's Swedish Vacation" (George Thompson)

LE BOOBOO UN: French for "My first marriage" (Steve Dantzler)

LE BOOBTOWN: New Orleans at Mardi Gras (Ira Allen)

LED ON BY OAN: Why some people believe the Big Lie (Lenard King)

LEMON BROWN: Low-maintenance color scheme for a bathroom (Kevin Dopart)

LeROT BROWN: Guy who smells bad, bad (Duncan Stevens)

LET OMB DOWN: Pass an unbalanced budget (Chris Doyle)

Open-air Loser brunch this very Sunday!
It was originally scheduled for April 2020, so you're probably pretty hungry by now: There's still room for some more Losers and their orderlies for this Sunday's (Aug. 22) potluck brunch out on the spacious front porch of Loser Sam Mertens and wife Laurie on their six-acre spread in outer Silver Spring. It's noon to 2; I'll be there (sans Royal Consort but with pie or other fruitish item) and would be delighted to meet you or remeet you. To RSVP and get the address, write to mertenshosting [at] gmail [dot] com, and cc: me as well.

And on a larger -- but still covid-conscious -- scale, we're on for the Flushies, the Losers' annual (once again) awards/ potluck/ songfest, now scheduled for Sunday afternoon, Sept. 19, in the commodious backyard of Loser Steve Leifer. Watch for the Evite, if you're on my mailing list. (See last week's Style Conversational for more details.)

Hope to see some of you this Sunday!


Week 1449

Style Conversational Week 1449: All together now
The Empress of The Style Invitational discusses this week's portmanteau contest and winning Spelling Bee poems

Loser David Genser got ink in the Czar's 1998 portmanteau name contest with "Madonna Reed: A 1950s TV housewife who could do all the housework and still have dinner and an orgy ready when her hubby came home." (Madonna in 2015; Donna Reed in 1958) (Wikipedia, Creative Commons)
Pat Myers
August 12, 2021 at 5:45 p.m. EDT

Before we get going today with our new contest -- Week 1449 -- and the results of Week 1445, I want to catch you up on some news that was settled on just this morning: The Flushies -- the Loser Community's annual awards/potluck/songfest -- are being moved by one day and a few miles: The fete will now be Sunday afternoon, Sept. 19, in Potomac, Md., in the spacious backyard (or, if weather demands, the spacious rec room) of newbie Loser Steve Leifer.

The change is yet another prompted by Our Current Situation: Original host Sam Mertens has two kids who aren't of vaccine age, and things have just gotten to be too scary again. The move from Saturday to Sunday was prompted by the work schedule of Loser of the Year honoree Jonathan Jensen; he's a bassist for the Baltimore Symphony, which decided it'd have an afternoon concert that Saturday. The move to Sunday will also enable Loserdom's observant Jews to attend. For obvious reasons, everyone must be fully vaccinated, so no young kids this time.

The Flushies are always a great way to meet new Losers and reconnect with the veterans, and to enjoy the talents of our Loserbards as we sing parodies -- Jonathan himself has volunteered to play piano -- almost always including one or more songs written just for the occasion. You don't have to be an inking Loser to attend, just a fan of the Invite. And if you've found your way to this column, you more than qualify.

As I've done in the past with the Flushies and the winter party, I'll send out an email invitation via Evite within the next few weeks, so that it's easier to see who's coming, and to update everyone with any important news. I'll use earlier lists to compile this one, so if you'd like to be added (or to make sure you're on it to begin with), email me at

Like all Loser events, the Flushies aren't sponsored at all by The Washington Post; it's all the work of Uber-Loser Elden Carnahan and a gang of volunteers. I just have people's emails and more of a way to get the word out. And if you'd like to help plan things (including working on a song), contact me and I'll send you their way.

Meanwhile, Sam and Laurie Mertens are still on to host the potluck Loser Brunch on Sunday, Aug. 22, on their big front porch in upper Silver Spring; they're good with up to 20 or so people -- and they're even letting me show up -- so RSVP promptly to and they'll give you further details. (Let me know as well that you're coming.)

And also:

Lim from lim: Catch the latest You're Invited podcast
Especially if you're a fan of great limericks, be sure to catch the latest episode (Season 2, Episode 3) of You're Invited, the all-about-the-Invite podcast. This time, host Mike Gips Zoom-interviews Hall of Famer Brendan Beary, who in addition to shouting out his favorite entries of the past week's Invite results, looks back on a still-unique Invitational: the Week 678 Limerick Smackdown. In our 2006 Limerixicon, before I instituted the 25-entry limit, Brendan had submitted 43 excellent limericks * and Chris Doyle had sent me an even hundred. I was so overwhelmed that four weeks later, I asked Brendan and Chris -- and only Brendan and Chris -- to compete against each other and write a limerick in each of 10 categories specified by the Empress. (The categories included a limerick that specified at least five body parts; one about an obscure mammal; and a note from George W. Bush to Condoleeza Rice.) The results were stellar; hear all about it from Brendan and Mike.

And congratulations to the Gipser for having passed the 2,000-download mark!

Let's do the mash: This week's portmanteau name contest
Some contests you can really do just once. For example, back in 2003 we had a contest for cynical turns on inspirational platitudes, and the results -- take a look -- were classic (winner: "Never say die. I've tried, and it doesn't actually make people die." -- Tom McCudden). But are 30 other platitudes out there that would generate different, but just as funny, snarky takes? I'm guessing no. (I am, however, open to persuasion with some great new examples.)

But there are always new names in the news -- not to mention, uh, all the well-known real and fictional names of all time. And so here we are again with a contest to overlap two names -- or one name and some other thing into another name, then describe the result.

For these portmanteau jokes to work, the reader will have to recognize and be superficially familiar with not only both names, but with how the description applies. To take a random example from 1998, "Tom Daschle Hammett: Author of 'The Maltese Donkey'" (Stephen Dudzik): First, Sen. Tom Daschle, at the time the Senate minority (Democratic) leader; second, Dashiell Hammett, the author; third, Hammett wrote "The Maltese Falcon." (And of course that a donkey is the symbol of Democrats.) Daschle left Congress in 2005 and isn't a household name anymore, but I'd think that in 1998, readers would easily get everything in Steve's joke, and laugh at the book name. If it were written for 2021, not so much. Unlike in 1998, the online Invite lets me add an explanatory link in the entry. But it's way better not to have to explain the joke at all; it's a humor column, not a puzzle.

We've had various formats and rules for the names. In Week 489 in 2003, the common element needed to be spelled the same way; late contests didn't require that -- and we don't today, either. In 2012, the gimmick was to combine two names into a Twitter handle, but the names didn't necessarily have to overlap. I ended up using the wording from Week 866 in 2010, "Natalie Portmanteau."

To anticipate another question: The directions say to "start" with a name and then "append" another name or something else, but it doesn't say whether the something-else can begin the result. My ruling: If it's funny, go ahead.

If the common element has different spellings, which one to use? Normally, use the one that seems clearest and most natural, but sometimes one way will be funnier, as with Meg Sullivan's "Rembrandt Van Rijn Tin Tin" from 1998. But that element will have to be pronounced the same, or pretty dang close, or the joke will flop.

For Ye Olde Inspiration & Guidance, here's some assorted ink from previous Style Invitational name-mash contests, plus links to the complete results (sometimes you'll have to scroll past the week's new contest).

Report from Week 287 [1998], in which you were asked to replicate the "Before and After" game from "Wheel of Fortune," beginning with a name and adding to it a word or expression that creates a bridge of words. [Text file of complete results here]

Fifth Runner-Up: Rembrandt Van Rijn Tin Tin: The night watchdog. (Meg Sullivan, Potomac)

Fourth Runner-Up: Heimlichtenstein: A small country firmly lodged between Austria and Switzerland. (Sandra Hull, Arlington)

Third Runner-Up: Darryl F. Zanuck nyuk nyuk: A slapstick filmmaker. (Sue Lin Chong, Washington)

Second Runner-Up: Roseanne Boleyn: Queen who kept talking after being beheaded. (David Genser, Arlington) [EWWW. We would never do a beheading joke now, especially in reference to a particular person.]

First Runner-Up: Anais Nintendo Gameboy: The pocket toy you really don't want to give your kids. (Greg and Kristine Griswold, Falls Church)

And the winner of the snake wine (back in the pre-trophy day, the winner got the unique prize): Thomas Jefferson Clinton -- President who penned the famous introductory lines: "We hold these half-truths to be legally accurate * " (Douglas Riley, Reston)

Honorable Mentions:

T.S. Eliot Ness -- Poet who wrote "The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover." (Ralph Scott, Washington)

Alan Greenspandex -- An ugly way to contain inflation. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

Tom Daschle Hammett -- Author of the Maltese Donkey. (Stephen Dudzik, Silver Spring)

Attila the Hunchback of Notre Dame -- Nobody made fun of him. (Niels Hoven, Silver Spring)

Marilyn Monroe Doctrine -- Post-Clinton regulations requiring all future presidential bimbos to be at least 30 years old. (Philip Vitale, Arlington; Susanne Lazanov, Reston) [Bimbos! Times really have changed.]

Madonna Reed -- A 1950s TV housewife who could do all the housework and still have dinner and an orgy ready when her hubby came home. (David Genser, Arlington)

Shoeless Joe Mama -- The man who threw the World Series because the pitcher was so fat, when someone told him to haul butt, he had to make two trips. (Jessica Henig, Washington)

Betty Friedan Quayle -- Author of "The Femanin Misteek." (David Genser, Arlington)

Grace Slick Willie -- Lead singer for the William Jefferson Airplane. (Daniel E. Klein, McLean; Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Report from Week CLVI (actually Week 489; complete results here):

Third Runner-Up: Mr. T.S. Eliot: "I pity the fool, wanderin' around half-deserted streets, walkin' on beaches, talkin' 'bout peaches, mournin' his lost manhood. I pity the fool." (Dan Steinberg, Bethesda)

First Runner-Up: Marion Barry Bonds: "The pitch set me up." (Dave Zarrow, Herndon; Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

And the winner of the sugar-cookie-scented Eggbutt Horseball: Al Frankenstein's Monster: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, gosh darn it, I'm a big fat idiot." (Beverly Miller, Clarendon)

Honorable Mentions:

Ariel Sharon Stone: A political leader who promises a glimpse of the Promised Land. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Auntie Eminem: Dorothy, git down in the cella / Cuz I ain't no Rockefella / I cain't take no persecutions / From you or them Lilliputians (Mark Eckenwiler, Washington; Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls)

Montezuma Thurman: Starring in "Poop Fiction." (Trish Hackman, Springfield, and Maureen Langan, New York)

Raggedy Ann Coulter: She's really cute, but we gotta be grateful her mouth is sewn shut. (Susan Reese, Arlington)

Lenny Bruce Lee: Master of Kung Fu-- (Frank Mullen III, Aledo, Ill.)

Report From Week 866 (2010), in which we asked for two overlapping names, or a name overlapping with another word or expression (the spellings of the overlapping part of the names didn't have to be identical): (complete results here)

The winner of the Inker: Mike Tyson Chicken: "Mmm, tastes just like ear!" (Malcolm Fleschner, Palo Alto, Calif.)

2. the winner of the battery-operated Loser Liquor Dispenser: Edgar Allan Popeil: Quoth the Raven, "Wait, there's more!" (Pam Sweeney, St. Paul, Minn.)

Mal-Amalgrams: Honorable Mentions

Brigitte Bardotcom: Early Internet provider of topless pictures. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

Humphrey Bogart Carney: He often played an underworld figure. (Mae Scanlan, Washington) [Art Carney played a sewer worker in "The Honeymooners."]

J. Edgar Hooversace: Designer specializing in men's evening gowns. (Mae Scanlan)

Emily Post-Apocalypse: She advises you which of your three new arms you should use to hold the cocktail fork at the Nuclear Winter Ball. (Leighanne Mazure, Forest Hills, N.Y, a First Offender)

Sally Field Marshal Goering: The Flying Hun. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn)

Sugar Ray Leonardo da Vinci: He puts guys down on canvas. (Beverley Sharp, Washington)

John Deere John: I've decided our neighbor's grass is greener, so * (Pie Snelson, Silver Spring)

T.S. Eliot Spitzer: Poet who penned the immortal lines: "In the room the women come and go/That's how you find a high-priced ho." (Anne Paris, Arlington)

In Week 1142 [2015], inspired by the tweets of KimKierkegaardashian, , we asked you to combine two names into a Twitter handle, and write a tweet or "bio" by the hybrid person: (full results here)

4th place: @Lao-Tzuperman: A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single bound. (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)

3rd place: @JFKanye: Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for you. (Or for me.)" (Lela Martin, Midlothian, Va.)

2nd place: @Trumpelstiltskin: Of course the bimbo knew my name -- everybody knows my name! And I never wanted her firstborn. Ugliest kid I ever saw. (John Glenn, Tyler, Tex.)

And the winner of the Inkin' Memorial: @OrangeJulius: Could be well mov'd: My friends in the House are sticking knives into me. #IdesOfSeptember (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.) [this one wouldn't work for our portmanteau contest]

Tweetin' Low: honorable mentions

@BelaLuGehrig: Today I consider myself the suckiest man on the face of this earth. (Gary Crockett)

@JohnLewistler'sMother: Fought all my life for civil rights, but in that painting I'm a prime example of profiling. #grayandblacklivesmatter (Mae Scanlan, Washington)

@DonMcLenaDunham:* And I knew if I had my chance / That I could go take off my pants / And maybe HBO'd be happy for a while (Rivka Riss-Levinson, Washington, a First Offender)

A bee in your sonnet*: The results of Week 1445
*I would have used that as a headline but it didn't quite fit on the print page; it's by Sarah Walsh

I'm not surprised in the slightest that our Loserbards -- not all of whom are known for their Invite poems -- supplied dozens of clever poems featuring words from this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee. Or that this week's Losers' Circle was inhabited by Chris Doyle, Jesse Frankovich and Duncan Stevens, Hall of Famers all. Even the almost brand-new Coleman Glenn has made such a successful debut -- he's already gotten ink with a song parody and a limerick in just the past few weeks, and was a runner-up in his debut six weeks ago -- that I think of him already as an Invite veteran. (Hang in there, Coleman!)

I couldn't resist giving second place to Jesse Frankovich's "argentous" (silver) poem, about how, instead of awarding him a silver medal for finishing second, "Pat sent me some lame piece of crap." Jesse wins a lame piece of crap.

I'd said when announcing this contest that if the entrant could cite a source for an alternate pronunciation to the one I gave, I'd accept it. Daniel Galef showed me one of those 30-second pronouncer videos that pronounced "dysphotic" to rhyme with "erotic," even though Merriam-Webster only offers the long O, as in "photo."

For obvious reasons, I needed to take the last two lines off John Hutchins's take on Medusa featuring "thanatophidia" (poisonous snakes). Here's the original (John did suggest that cut if necessary):

On the red carpet, a wardrobe malfunction:

Medusa, vamping, without much compunction,

Revealed her writhing thanatophidia.

For safety, please, don't YouTube the videa!

Having watched it, and succumbed to her powers

I've been rock hard now for much more than four hours.


And now that you've been reading this column for more than four hours, get up and finish those limericks.


Week 1448

Style Conversational Week 1448: Standing atop the odium
The Style Invitational Empress on the sports name winners and new limerick contest

Badminton stars Apriyani Rahayu and Greysia Polii of Indonesia exult after winning the gold medal in women's doubles Aug. 2. The world's fastest racket sport -- a smash has been clocked at 304 mph -- brought out our equally quick-witted punsters; this week's inking entries for new sports include Worstminton, Bandminton, Badmitten and Vladminton. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)
Pat Myers
August 5, 2021 at 5:03 p.m. EDT

Dang, ESPN should have gotten in touch with The Style Invitational!

Inspired by the fictional sports channel in the sports movie spoof "Dodgeball," once a year -- and this year, it's Friday, Aug. 6 -- ESPN2 becomes ESPN8, the Ocho, and features nonstop programming of "some fringe sports that are nonetheless highly entertaining." This year's lineup includes the Franklin Rock River Stone Skipping Tournament, the World Championship Rototiller Races, the Corgi Races at Emerald Downs, and the World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest.

But only if the Ochoistas had seen today's results of Week 1444, our contest to slightly change the name of a sport or sports-related term and create a new one! Then we could have had an antennis tournament -- as Mark Raffman describes the challenge in his honorable-mention entry, "It's really hard to hit a ball with a racket strapped to your head." Or, on the track, the 100x4-meter relay: "It's all about the baton pass," explains John Klayman. Or, for that matter, Pam Sweeney's 2x4x100 relay: "Long pieces of lumber ensure socially distanced handoffs. Just watch for splinters."

Or any of almost 50 inspired, if sometimes inspiredly silly, puns this week drawn from an Olympic-size pool of 1,800 entries, from Anarchery (shoot anywhere!) to Vladminton (best strategy: let him win). While some in the Loser Community scored with political analogies -- among them, the poll vault (a high legislative bar to voting) and the Duper Bowl (the GOP primary) -- we eased up quite a bit on the Big Issues digs this week, instead offering an array of humor that was less cerebral but "nonetheless highly entertaining."

As Loser Frank Mann observed after the Invite went up online this morning, "I can totally see this sports contest as a two-page spread in MAD." True dat -- think of the Brett Dimaio's slam donk, bouncing the ball off a defender's head and into the basket. Couldn't you imagine that as a Don Martin cartoon in Mad Magazine? Not to mention Frank's lagrosse itself (score by vomiting into the goal).

But not so much, actually, for this week's top winners (except for Robert Schechter's runner-up worstminton: played with a grenade). I hereby confer Instant Classic Aphorism status on Melissa Balmain's Marrython: The only endurance sport where you try not to reach the finish line. It gives Melissa her 180th blot of Invite ink, including her 14th victory, but it's her first Clowning Achievement, the trophy we started giving out since December. Also too grown up for Mad: Hannah Seidel's American Ninja Worrier, which nailed the "anxious parents" (her own?) quotes: "A series of extreme obstacles, from the devilishly sensible "He'll probably text us in the morning" to the terrifyingly reasonable "She's an adult; she can make her own choices." And John Hutchins, who's back Inviting after an unexcused absence, is back in the Losers' Circle with offencing, a competition between the most vile talk show hosts; "the winner gets a prime-time spot on cable so they can complain every night about being 'censored.'" [Despite my decades of "fixing" it as a copy editor, I'm on board with the singular "they" in cases like these, when the pronoun applies to any gender.]

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood just ate up the column this week, offering a long list of faves: all the winners, plus, from the honorable mentions: Pam Sweeney's Moderna pentathlon, culminating in the "Two-Days-Later Sore-Armed Sports Bra Removal"; Diana Oertel's poll vault (my favorite of 12 "poll vault" entries this week); the aforementioned 100x4 and 2x4x100 relays and Brian Collins's anarchery, as well as Mike Gips's and Drew Bennett's idea for a Super William Tell archerry contest; John Kammer's plan to combine hoops shooting with the other kind in baskeetball; Craig Schopmeyer's clickit, Russian and Chinese teams trying to get naive Americans to open email attachments; and especially Tom Witte's subhead above the list of honorable mentions: They gave only 109 percent.

And! Annabeth's Best Bets: Giving the second read on the copy desk today was Annabeth Carlson, who was partial to Eric Nelkin's Microsoftball ("Every few innings the umpire updates the rule book, often requiring the game to restart") and Duncan Stevens's NASCARA, a car race in which the drivers do their eye makeup in the rearview mirror at 200 mph.

Less successful: In the instructions for Week 1444, I asked readers to change the name of the sport slightly: not necessarily just one letter, but enough so that the original was obvious. But sometimes, just a one-letter change made that difficult: one was "bikini," an alteration of "biking." especially because the description also wasn't about bikes. [In this section, I haven't checked the authorship of any of the entries mentioned.]

Also, as always, there were the screedy, in entries so bitter that the humor doesn't have a chance. Like: "De-Fencing: Mask-wearing participants take down a useless, ugly, yet very expensive wall erected by an idiot to placate his raging ego." Or: "ICE Skating: Immigration & Customs Employees being acquitted in cross-border shootings, etc."

And then there were what seemed like an inordinate number of entries that were insensitive and what one might charitably call tone-deaf in our current age: "Blackstroke: The first racially designated Olympic event." "Bitch Volleyball: The perfect game for mean girls." "Tramp Eileen: Contestants compete to see who can satisfy that slut, Eileen. Eileen often changes her mind, so this event does have its ups and downs." "Peach volleyball: Georgia debutantes in bikinis. Need I say more?" "Poleo: Your horse must have one leg shorter than the others." I mean, come on.

This isn't the same as risque; those are nasty. (Well, "blackstroke" would be just dumb were it not for the history of African Americans being banned from swimming pools.)

Meanwhile, these are just unprintably funny:

Bowl vault: Competitors attempt to accurately drop a load while jumping over the toilet. (Jesse Frankovich)

Crow team: Eight big boastful rowers and their tiny cox. (Jeff Contompasis)

Hey! Do you know how to write a limerick?
Yay, it's Limerixicon week! I love our annual visit with the limerick dictionary because I know I'll always receive lots of great material: Not only does the Loser Community include some of the world's great limerick writers, but I always discover some new talents as well. And when I announce the contest each August, I have a chance to look through the Invite archives for an earlier limerick to use as an example, one that happens to feature a word that starts with the year's pertinent letters -- this year, for Style Invitational Week 1448, we're up to the he- words, having skipped ahead from last year's ha- words.

Every year, alas, I also get lots of entries that don't qualify as limericks. To that end, with each limerick contest I also publish "Get Your 'Rick Rolling," my handy-dandy guide to what I'm looking for, and how to figure out if that's what you wrote. I also spell it out more briefly right in the contest instructions.

And for guidance and inspiration, pleeze look at any of our earlier results, happily compiled on the "LIM" page of Loser Elden Carnahan's Master Contest List. On the right column of the row listing each contest is a link to that week's results -- to all 17 previous Limerixicons plus assorted other limerick contests, including the one just seven weeks ago to sum up or tell about a song.

But if you're new to limericks, before you check out the guide, bear with me for a minute as I show you my Hickory-Dickory-Dock/ Dickory-Dock test on this week's example by Beverley Sharp, from Week 887.

1. Does Line 1 include a strong "HICK-or-y DICK-or-y DOCK"?

Though she sang with a voice operatic,

though she SANG-with-a VOIC-op-er AT-ic -- YES. (It's okay, even good, to have those unaccented syllables before and after._

2. Does Line 2 also have "HICK-or-y DICK-or-y DOCK"?

She ate marshmallows like a fanatic.

she ate MARSH-mal-lows LIKE-a-fa NAT-ic -- Ding ding, YES. Exactly the same as Line 1.

3. Now Lines 3 and 4: Do they have "HICK-or-y DOCK"?

But then it got tricky --

but THEN-it-got TRICK-y DICK-or-y DOCK!

4. And Line 4 ...

Her tonsils got sticky;

her TON-sils-got STICK-y DICK-or-y DOCK!

5. And just like Lines 1 and 2:

Now all we can hear is s'more static.

now ALL-we-can HEAR-is-s'more STAT-ic. Yup! HICK-or-y-DICK-or-y DOCK!

6. Now, the rhymes! Lines 1, 2 and 5 all need to rhyme with one another.

Operatic, fanatic, static -- yes, perfect rhymes: The accented syllables all rhyme: RAT, NAT, STAT. And what's following them, the unaccented "-ic," is the same. Ratic, Natic, Static. That's called a perfect rhyme and that's what we want.

(What do you think a lot of people will send me when we get to the "hi-" words?)

So you have till Monday night, Aug. 16, for Week 1448. And meanwhile, don't forget Week 1447, in which you pick something from an article or ad and translate it wryly into "plain English." Deadline for that is Monday, Aug. 9.

Coming Sunday: Mystery podcast guest!
"I'll be recording another podcast tomorrow, with a mystery guest." Deadline for that is Monday, Aug. 9.

"You're Invited" host Mike Gips gave me that teaser today, and I didn't push for more information; I'm looking forward to finding out myself on Sunday, Aug. 8. So look for Season 2, Episode 3, at (and most podcast platforms). I've thoroughly enjoyed all 14 half-hour episodes so far -- and so why wouldn't I want to hear Jeff Bezos, or maybe Joe Biden, dish on his favorite entries of the week?


Week 1447

Style Conversational Week 1447: Well, if you're going to put it THAT way ...
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's 'plain English' contest and acronym results.

An honorable mention in our acronym-law contest this week: The JAM Act -- Jetway Area Mitigation -- requires airport gate areas to have enough seating for at least 10 percent of the passengers on a flight. It's by frequent flier Tom Witte. (iStock)
Pat Myers
July 29, 2021 at 4:39 p.m. EDT

We can thank Al Gore for the first of The Style Invitational's "Plain English" contest: Back in 1998, the vice president had called for all government documents to be written in "plain language." The Veep was talking about using simpler, clearer wording for regulations, tax instructions, etc. He cited the example of this regulation for building exits:

Before: "Ways of exit access and the doors to exits to which they lead shall be so designed and arranged as to be clearly recognizable as such."

Plain language: An exit door must be free of signs or decorations that obscure its visibility."

"But even that version troubled Gore," according to The Washington Post, who then suggested: "Don't put up anything that makes it harder to see the exit door."

But in Week 342 (2000) The Czar of The Style Invitational, of course, wasn't asking for readers to offer up usefully concise rewording. He was looking for snark, for a cynical (or at least wry) translation of mind-numbing bureaucratese, fact-concealing spin, or just polite euphemism. And that's what I'm looking for as well 21 years later in this week's contest, Week 1447. And as you'll see from these selections from Week 342 and some later Plain English contests, sometimes the "translation" was more of a wry comment. That's okay -- we're just looking for the funny.

REPORT FROM WEEK IX (342) (text file of full results here; scroll down below the week's new contest),:

Fourth Runner-Up: Original: "We hope this will be the first of many such ventures. The internationalization of baseball has begun." --Commissioner Bud Selig, on Major League Baseball opening its regular season in Japan.

Plain English version: "We'll put a team in Ulan Bator before the D.C. area sees one again." (Bruce W. Alter, Fairfax Station; Elliott Jaffa, Arlington) [The Washington Nationals debuted five years later.]

Third Runner-Up: "I'm not proposing tax relief because it's the popular thing to do, I'm proposing it because it's the right thing to do." --George W. Bush.

Plain English version: "I'm proposing it because it's a right popular thing to do." (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Second Runner-Up: "I am okay. I am capable. There is no one exactly like me." --Students reciting a motivational pledge in a high school self-esteem class in Charlotte.

Plain English version: "I am okay. I am capable. There is no one exactly like me aside from the 20 other people saying the same thing." (James Pierce, Charlottesville)

First Runner-Up: "We need a change. A cold brain means sober calculations." --Oleg Makeyev, a Russian voter, on the icy personality of Boris Yeltsin's successor.

Plain English version: "We need a change. A sober brain means sober calculations." (David Genser, Arlington) [Yeltsin was a well-documented drunk.]

And the winner of the U.S.S.R. tour books: "It feels like nothing, actually." --Cybermagnate Michael Saylor, on what it's like to lose more than a billion dollars in one day of stock reversals.

Plain English version: "I can't feel my legs. I can't feel my legs!" (Martin Bredeck, Community, Va.)

Selected honorable mentions:

"This era does not reward people who struggle in vain to redraw borders with blood." --President Clinton, on Pakistani TV. Plain English version: "This era only rewards people who successfully redraw borders with blood." (Beth Baniszewski, Columbia)

"We need to seize the moment available to us to set down themes for the election." --Karl Rove, political strategist for George W. Bush. Plain English version: "We need to think up some themes quick." (Jennifer Hart, Arlington; Mike Genz, La Plata)

"Bush must reposition the issue environment." -- A Gore spokesman on the weakness of a tax cut as an issue for Bush. Plain English version: "Yes, I know my guy has called for a return to plain English, but old habits die hard." (Mike Genz, La Plata; Russell Beland, Springfield)


For some reason, I waited till 2007 to run this contest again. The winner of Week 729 is one of the examples for this week's contest; here are some others. Full results here, below that week's new contest.

Report from Week 729 * A bunch of entries cited one or another verbose BS-ervation (meant to assure the populace about progress in Iraq, security measures, etc., and translated it as "We're doomed."

4. (Job posting) The mission of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) is to enhance the financial stability, accountability and integrity of the Government of the District of Columbia.

Plain English Version: Good morning, Mr. Phelps * (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

3. "It was the one of the most different halves of football I've ever been around." PE: "It's too soon after the game for me to talk good again yet." (Russell Beland, Springfield)

2. the winner of the stationery made of Panda Poo paper: "Our overall evaluation is that real progress has been achieved," Jones told the senators, and then he qualified that judgment with words such as "uneven," "unsatisfactory," "overly sectarian" and "failed." PE: "After uneven, unsatisfactory and overly sectarian progress, our overall evaluation is that failure has been achieved." (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Selected honorable mentions:


"And -- let's be honest here -- " PE: "And -- let me sugarcoat this a little less than usual -- " (Russell Beland, Springfield)

"To the extent that we can move quickly to denuclearization, we can move quickly to normalization." PE: "This damn well better work." (the late, great Mae Scanlan)

Photos become property of The Washington Post, which may edit, publish, distribute or republish them in any form. PE: We can Photoshop you right out of your skivvies. (Brendan Beary)

Complete auto care starts with our $17.99 oil change. PE: For only $17.99, we'll tell you that you need new shocks, struts, brakes, exhaust system, valve cover gaskets, water pump, CV joints, wiper blades and, of course, tires. (Russ Taylor)

On to 2011: Report from Week 897 (full results here; scroll down past the week's new contest)

The winner of the Inker: Sentence in The Post: "The positions the Obama administration is taking today are not the traditional positions of most Democrats." Plain English: They're trying out alternatives to "fetal." (Danny Bravman, Chicago)

2 the winner of the turkey carcass hat: "If you are out and about in a kilt, then remember to show some decorum." PE: And decorum is the only thing you'd better be showing. (Dion Black, Washington)

3 "Our biggest sweater sale of the year!" PE: "Nobody bought our sweaters!" (Dave Prevar, Annapolis)

4 Obama: "Our success depends on our willingness to engage in the kind of honest conversation and cooperation that hasn't always happened in Washington." PE: "We're doomed." (Kevin Dopart, Washington) [I guess I didn't get as many of these as I did in Week 729]

Selected honorable mentions:

"I'm absolutely a person who has not let ego run amok," Winfrey says. Plain English: " * as you will learn in this month's article about me in my personal magazine, O, and on several shows premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network." (Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.)

"We clearly have to continue to provide the message to the Afghan people about why we're here and what it is that we want to do," Petraeus said. PE: "Can somebody tell me why we're here and what it is that we want to do?" (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase)

Buy your next BMW with zero down, and no processing fee. PE: Please, please, for the love of God, buy one of our ^%&% cars! (Craig Dykstra, Centreville)

Richard Nixon, discussing various ethnic groups on a recently released tape: "I've just recognized that, you know, all people have certain traits*" PE: Mine is that I'm a sleazy bigot. (Russell Beland, Fairfax; Nan Reiner, Alexandria)

And then: Week 1198, 2016 -- as in Nov. 17, 2016, right after the election (all results here):

In Week 1198 we asked readers to find a sentence in that's week's Post or another newspaper and to translate it into "plain English," free of spin, obfuscation or just plain lying. Some entrants' translations snarkily assumed an election outcome other than the one that occurred; to those Losers, I hope that being robbed of ink is the biggest thing you have to be upset about all week.

4th place: "Kaine said there's nothing in his life or emails he'd be 'overly embarrassed about' and said he's determined not to be distracted." Translation: Kaine admits having no life. (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

3rd place: From a classified ad: "Oil Painting: Man and Camel -- $110 Original, in beautiful gold frame." Translation: "I don't know how to use Craigslist." (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

2nd place and the Hillary Laughing Pen: "How does one face the absurdity of existence in a cold, indifferent universe, where time's arrow points inexorably toward death and the only certainties are loss and sorrow?" Translation: What do you mean you're out of the pumpkin spice ones?!!" (Danielle Nowlin, Fairfax Station, Va.)

And the winner of the Inkin' Memorial: On China's plan to rate its citizens: "Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how "trustworthy" you are." Translation: "Imagine how you got your own credit rating." (Kevin Dopart)

Selected honorable mentions:

A Nobel Prize committee member about Bob Dylan's refusal to acknowledge receiving the literature award: "One can say that it is impolite and arrogant." Translation: "What a douche." (Hildy Zampella, Falls Church, Va.)

"Scientists say that the Ross Sea has hardly been touched by humans and as such is a perfect laboratory." Translation: "Hey, look! Nobody's ever touched this stuff! Let's touch it!" (Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va.)

"U. S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an operation that has not been acknowledged, said the drones being flown out of Tunisia *" Translation: The Pentagon announced that it is flying drones out of Tunisia. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis, Md.)

"I love Florida, this is my second home." Translation: "I wouldn't be caught dead here in the summer." (Florida native Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Have at it, gimlet-eyes!

Actronyms*: The results of Week 1443
*Non-inking headline submitted by several Losers with varying spellings

The Week 1443 contest was to propose some legislation and give it some comically convoluted name so that it would result in a relevant acronym -- much like the real-life DEJOY Act to speed up mail delivery. It seemed ripe for the Invite, since it incorporated both wordplay and pet-peeve humor and, likely, political humor as well.

But it proved a challenge for the Loser Community, drawing fewer than 1,000 entries and fewer entrants than usual as well. To come up with a phrase you could turn into an acronym didn't prove much of an obstacle, though some of the words used were a stretch. But it became a slog to read through one long, convoluted phrase after another (even though the silliness of the whole phenomenon is what we were mocking). This is one reason why the results in week's print edition comprise just 18 inking entries, with 28 online.

Alas, I didn't see as many fresh and funny ideas as usual in the observational/peeve-humor department, and much of the political humor tended toward the screedy. A few people spelled out unprintable words, and whoever spelled out "ASSININE" should have consulted a dictionary first.

But a couple dozen veteran Losers -- along with First Offender Michael Chung -- made it all work, and really, for jokes like this, that's plenty.

The Losers' Circle of the top four entries is all familiar names: Kevin Dopart wins the Invite for the insane 35th time, and it's his third win of our latest trophy, the Clowning Achievement. (Under our 100 Clowners for 100 Losers scheme, Kevin gets a little "III" flag to attach to the base of the Disembodied Clown Head. Until he gets the "IV.") And among the runners-up, Duncan Stevens closes in on 700 blots of ink, Roy Ashley is next in line for the Hall of Fame as he strides toward 500, and relative newbie Jonathan Jensen has been on the page almost every week for the past couple of years.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood most enjoyed Chris Doyle's ELEPHANT act (Endorsing Legislators' Efforts to Pack Heat and Annoy Nancy, Too) -- and yes, gun-totin' Rep. Lauren Boebert is really from Rifle, Colo.; First Offender Mike Chung's tribute to Tucker Carlson (Totally Unsubstantiated, Colossally Knowledgeless, Error-Riddled, Crosseyed Articles Reading Like Smart, Objective News); Craig Dykstra's Binary Initiative to Transfer Capital from Online Investment Neophytes, a.k.a. the Fool and His Money plan; and Bob Kruger's WE ARE SCREWED act (While Earth's Ailments Require Expeditious Solutions, Congress Regards Everything With Endless Delay:).

Next week, just as we wrap up the Olympics: The results of Week 1444, our contest to alter the name of a sport to make a new one. Now, that one got a LOT of entries.

Also next week: Limerick people, are you ready?


Week 1446

Style Conversational Week 1446: Lentils entertain you
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's bean-speckled reverse-crossword contest

The high-tech materials I used for covering crossword squares in the Week 1446 Style Invitational contest. See below for the grid in its beanless glory. (
Pat Myers
July 22, 2021 at 5:27 p.m. EDT

"Liked the lentils * old-school graphics," Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood told me charitably about the reverse-crossword grid in Style Invitational Week 1446. Truth be told, I had resorted to placing (well, farther down, more like tossing) the little dried beanlets onto a printout of the July 11 L.A. Times crossword -- the Sunday puzzle that runs next to the Invite in The Post's Arts & Style section -- because it seemed faster and easier than graying out each of 200-some individual squares on my computer.

While our usual Clue Us In reverse crossword (I ran the first in 2006) uses a full grid -- our last such contest ran in December 2019 -- we've had partial-grid contests twice before, though with smaller, daily puzzles. (The idea was from Loser Craig Dykstra in 2010.) The idea is to increase the chance that your oh-so-clever wordplay won't be the same one that 14 other people sent in -- a chronic problem with our crossword contests. And also that it's fun to show sharply contrasting results from the same set of letters.

For example, in the 2010 contest, Week 873, the main answer was "GOFORTHEJUGULAR" -- with THEJUGULAR shaded out (but that year the letters were still visible).

The winner, by Kathye Lamaze: GO FOR THE REGULAR: Rallying cry of the mediocre.

Second place, by Randy Lee: GO FOR IT MS SALAHI: Michaele's morning mirror mantra. (Michaele Salahi and her husband gained instant notoriety in 2009 when they managed to crash President Obama's White House dinner for the prime minister of India.)

There's hardly any method to this week's lentil-square arrangement; I began by methodically positioning the little disks in places that seemed "right," but eventually I found myself spilling them onto the paper and just making sure I didn't blot out the whole word. I don't think this happened, but it's possible that two short clues have the same remaining letters.

Remember that this grid is just a picturesque gimmick for what we're really after: clever wordplay, wry observations. The results are supposed to be fun to read. There's a strong chance that many, perhaps most of the "answers" in today's list won't yield anything thrilling. That's okay -- because we wouldn't have room to run a clue for each word, anyway (especially once I put in all those Losers' names and towns in the credits). There are something like 139 choices; I'll probably run 40 -- and some of those will be multiple approaches to the same set of letters.

I gave a couple of examples in this week's intro of "clues" for this week's contest. For true inspiration and guidance, I invite you -- hey, we're the Invitational -- to peruse the results of any of our 17 previous reverse crosswords, all conveniently linked to on the "CRO" page of Elden Carnahan's fantastic Master Contest List at the Losers' website,

I neglected, however, to show a type of wordplay that always gets some ink in these contests: a word that has to be read and pronounced in a different way. Like this one by Chuck Koelbel:

PEA: The best line on a jock's report card. As in P.E. -- A.

or from George Vary: BRONCOS: Slightly irregular Veg-O-Matics and Ginsu Knives (B-Ronco)

So as promised, here's a handy-dandy -- well, handier-dandier than the grid, I hope -- list of all the words you can choose from. (As usual, you get 25 entries total, and I don't care if they're for 25 different words or 25 variations on one word.) This list is actually brought to you by Hall of Fame Loser Jesse Frankovich, who posted it in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group this morning, minutes after I posted the Invitational and before I had a chance to do it myself. I'm surprised that he hasn't also already sent his best 25 entries of the 247 he's no doubt already thought of.

ACROSS (each hyphen is a hidden letter)




































































The Week 1446 grid, unbeaned. Feel free to use the intended words as well as ones in which you can substitute letters.
DOWN (Jesse wrote them down vertically; -IPS is beneath LA-S on the grid, not to its right. Does it really matter?)














































































It doesn't come into play in this week's contest, but the puzzle we're using -- by constructor Margaret Woodruff -- has a clever, fun theme: It's titled "It Takes Two," because the seven long "themed" answers are names or phrases are words that are preceded (and given as a single word as the clue) by a word said twice: So the clue "*Extra" -- as in "Extra, extra" -- leads to READALLABOUT IT; similarly, (Bad, Bad) LEROYBROWN; (Liar, liar) PANTSONFIRE; (Hail, hail) THEGANGSALLHERE; (Ladybird, ladybird) FLYAWAYHOME; (Wait Wait) DONTTELLME; and (Hush, Hush) SWEETCHARLOTTE.

The original clues are here; the constructor wasn't into puns or snark, though, so you don't have to worry about duplication.

My fingers are crossed that you'll follow the directions and format each entry in a single line of text beginning with the word as it appears on the grid; I'll handle it on this end if you use hyphens or dashes. I just cannot possibly look all through these lists to figure out that your RINDS was for -I-DS; you have to tell me.

And yes, of course I'm going to cook those lentils. It won't be the first time I've had to eat my words.

Some linkage may occur*: The results of Week 1442
Tom Witte's headline for this contest back in 2015

I was just a few minutes into the judging of Week 1442 -- compare any two items on the random list I supplied -- when I laughed out loud:

12 gallons of hand sanitizer: Purell. An evening with Mitch McConnell: Pure 'ell.

And it remained my favorite entry as I read through some 1,200 other entries -- and then, many hours later, I saw it again.

Well, I decided, it has to win anyway. It's just that good. So congratulations to Clowning Achievement winners Jesse Frankovich and Jeff Rackow.

This isn't the first time that the same entry won the whole contest for two separate entrants, but it's been a minute: In Week 906, 10 years ago, Mike Gips, Edmund Conti and Howard Walderman all suggested the slogan that would go on the 2011 runner-up mug: "My Cup Punneth Over."

Jeff just started playing the Invite barely a year ago year; it's just his 10th blot of ink. BUT it's already his second contest win -- he won the Clowner's predecessor, the Lose Cannon, in Week 1399 for this fictoid: "Virtually all 'cotton candy' in the United States is now made of polyester."

Jesse's Invite story is a tad different, for now anyway: He's closing in his 800th ink; this is his 18th win. And he's the first of the Losers to have won three Clowning Achievements, the trophy I started awarding this past December. In our 100 Clowners for 100 Losers program, Jesse's second win earned him a little "II" pennant to attach to the base of the Disembodied Clown Head. And so he'll be the first Loser to decide whether to add a "III" flag or to just sub out the "II" on the same base.

Grad student Daniel Galef got his first Invite ink way back in Week 1187, but now he's back in earnest and inking up the joint regularly. His second place this week -- and I'm glad that wasn't a double credit, because I have just one pair of Nerds socks to hand out -- gives him his 19th blot of ink, but already his sixth "above-the-fold" prize. Daniel wasn't the only Loser to interpret "the world's largest pants" or ("the world's smallest pants") as hard breathing, but his was my favorite:

A quarantine puppy and the world's largest pants: Both come out of a dog giving birth.

And the Losers' Circle is filled out by a pair of all-stars:

An Olympic pole vaulter: Man with a 17-foot pole. An evening with Mitch McConnell: Man! Not with a 17-foot pole! (Jon Gearhart)

Simone Biles and the Texas power grid: You can count on only one of them to light up an arena. (Kevin Dopart)

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood, who read the print Invite, enjoyed all four top winners this week and also singled out:

The world's largest pants and the singular "they": They're both really useful when nothing else quite fits. (Deb Stewart)

A non-fungible token and an evening with McConnell: In short, you could call either of them "non-fun." (Gary Crockett)

Pandemic gray hair: You maybe don't want to dye it. Pineapple upside-down cake: You definitely don't want to diet. (Craig Dykstra)

Jewish space lasers vs. a vaccination card: One is the outrageous creation used to shame a minority that just wants to be left alone, and the other is space lasers run by Jews. -- M. Taylor Greene (John Hutchins)

So good luck with the lentilized grid -- and don't forget to write a poem using a spelling bee word: Deadline for Week 1445 is Monday night, July 26.


Week 1445

Style Conversational Week 1445: Could you use the word in a poem, please?
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's new contest and results

Zaila Avant-garde gains instant stardom after spelling "Murraya," a plant genus, on July 8 to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She should write a poem using one of the bee words and try for the Clowning Achievement! (Joe Skipper/Reuters)
Pat Myers
July 15, 2021 at 5:11 p.m. EDT

Let's get sesquipedalian!

This week's Style Invitational contest, Week 1445, isn't as likely as some Invites to be a coffee-spitter. But our recurring contest for poems based on words from the year's National Spelling Bee has always generated good material and more than a few laughs: It's in keeping with the Invite's tradition of mixing the haughty and the potty.

As I did in our 2019 contest (the bee was canceled last year), I'm inviting you to use any of the words used in Round 8 and later, easily accessed this year at the bee's redesigned website. (Make sure you use the correct spelling of the word, not the way a losing kid misspelled it; there are two columns!) And if you don't want to check round after round, just go to the bottom of this week's contest for a list of 25 words that seem fairly promising to me.

I recommend that before you write the poem, you should confirm your understanding of the definition by finding the word actually used or explained, not just in a list of spelling/vocabulary words. Or at least look at a few definitions from various dictionaries and glossaries. For instance, the definition of "aphyllous" at, Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, just says "destitute of foliage leaves," since the full definition is only in the premium unabridged version. But Googling the word, I found a list of biology words on that makes it clear an aphyllous plant never develops leaves, not that it's dropped its leaves for the winter, or got sick.

For inspiration and to give you an idea of what we're looking for, here's some classic ink from our four previous Spelling Bee poetry contests.

Week 716 (2007):

Noctilucous (noc-ti-LU-cous), shining at night:

On a moonlighted stroll, my sweet love did profess

That my fair face was quite noctilucous;

My heart skipped a beat, but I have to confess:

What shone from my nose was some mucus. (Anne Paris)

Strigil (strid-jil), a sweat-scraper:

For cleaning off, the Romans

Scraped themselves with iron strigils --

But folks back then, you understand,

Were tougher indivijuls. (Brendan Beary)

Week 1181 (2016):

Sophrosyne (suh-FROSS-uh-nee): prudence, self-control:

If a don makes an offer you might just refuse,

Here's advice from a guy with a leg he can't use:

A goombah's unlikely to practice sophrosyne

Whacking a Louisville slugger across a knee. (Chris Doyle)

Solenoglyphous (Sol-e-NOG-li-fus), having fangs that fold into the


"Your solenoglyphous fangs are spectaculah!

They are awesome (to use the vernaculah)

'Cause they fold up inside

Till you open up wide --

I asp-pire to be like you!" Signed: Dracula

(Beverley Sharp)

Week 1283 (2018):

Lochetic (lo-KET-ic), describing an animal that lies in wait for prey:/

A small spider, lochetic, it lies

In its web all day, seeking a prize,

Which is fine, for it feels,

When it comes to good meals,

Time's fun when you're out having flies. (Frank Osen)

Catachresis, incorrect use of a word:

My catachrestic family! Folks correct us,

Inferring that our usage is a mess,

But their discrete reprisals won't effect us

'Cause all and all, we frankly could care less.

Our language skill is fulsome, and we flout it,

Not phased by all the references they site.

Except it, 'cause there's no two bones about it:

For all intensive purposes, we're right. (Duncan Stevens)

Week 1335 (2019):

Apophysitis (uh-PAH-fuh-SIGH-tis), painful bone spurs:

Once upon a time of drafting, Donald pondered, sly and crafting,

Over many dark, dishonest ways to dodge the call to war --

Fearing far-off foes who'd fight us, settled on apophysitis,

Blaming it without the slightest hint of shame forevermore.

"I'd be honored," Donald uttered, "to have served within the Corps.

But, alas, my feet were sore." (Jesse Frankovich)

[Yeah, that one won.]

Murrelet, a seabird

Among endangered species is the avian marbled murrelet,

It would be sad to see this species going down the turrelet. (Dave Zarrow)

AABBA's Greatest Hits*: The song-limericks of Week 1441
*Non-inking entry by Jeff Contompasis; we've had similar ABBA/AABBA limerick jokes by Mark Raffman and Bruce Alter

Our first-ever contest to turn a well-known song lyric into a limerick (or to comment on the song in limerick form) turned out to be one of our most enjoyable of the zillions of limerick contests in our history. Thanks again to Invite reader John Vigour for the suggestion; if he ever comes up from Charlottesville, I owe him a milkshake.

I was slightly concerned that many of the limericks would provide ingeniously correct five-line summations of the songs, but would get the reaction of "huh, I see" rather than "hah! funny!" But of course the Loser Community figured out how to get the jokes and digs in for this week's results, many of them using the option to "reflect" on the song rather than to sum it up. Even the second cut of my shortlist contained lots more zingers than the 35 limericks I ran (19 in print).

There's a new(ish) name atop the list this week: Almost-newbie Emma Daley wins her first Clowning Achievement trophy -- and just her sixth blot of ink -- with her take on "The Star-Spangled Banner," rhyming "British" and "skittish" to end it: "Now of despots we're finally rid (ish)." Emma edged out runner-up Sarah Walsh, who observed that one of the universal beliefs that make this world a small one after all is a loathing of "It's a Small World." Filling out the Losers' Circle are Usual Suspects Jonathan Jensen, sending outgrown Puff the Magic Dragon to Goodwill, and Mark Raffman, imploring Jesus, "Please, my Savior and Lord/ Take the wheel of my Ford/ (Which I trust that you know how to drive)."

Some Losers ignored this line in the instructions: "No matter how obvious it is to you, please supply the title of the song you're limericking." I was sure about most of the unattributed limericks (some of which got ink because I am nice), was pretty sure about some, and tossed the rest.

As usual with Invite music-themed contests, the references leaned heavily into the 20th century, specifically the 1960s and '70s, along with old-timey classics, camp songs, etc. We don't have anything currently in the Top 40 in this week's lim-list, but at least there are entries based on the less fogy "Uptown Funk" (2014), "Jesus Take the Wheel" and the somewhat contrasting "Don't Cha" (2005) and, tucked way down near the bottom, Seth Brown's "damp cat" take on "WAP" (2020). Oh, and "Baby Shark" (2016 but it feels like a thousand years already).

Some of the entries included fun facts about the songs. I knew that the FBI investigated whether the garbly lyrics of the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie" were hiding something dirrrteee, but it was new to me that the BBC at first refused to play the Who's "My Generation" out of sensitivity to stutterers (Chris Doyle's non-inking entry ended "It offended, they said, /Folks who stutter, which led /To them giving the Who p-p-pause." And Bob Turvey from across the pond accompanied his precis of the 1871 hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers" with a note pointing out that William S. Baring-Gould, grandson of the hymn's composer, wrote the U.K. best-selling 1967 collection "The Lure of the Limerick: An Uninhibited History." The limerick was a bit straightforward, but I'd love to see that book.

I hope you keep that hickory-dickory-dock rhythm nearby; sometime next month we'll have our 18th Limerixicon, our annual contest in conjunction with to write limericks that feature words from a particular sliver of the dictionary (somewhere in the H's, it should be).

What Doug Dug: "They were all good, really," Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood told me after reading this week's results. Well, yeah, we know that. But Doug did offer that his favorite song-limerick was Robert Schechter's of "Over the Rainbow," explaining exactly why oh why happy little bluebirds fly but Dorothy can't. Doug also singled out Melissa Balmain's limerick about the A-B-C song; Chris Doyle reminding us that "Louie, Louie" rhymes with "FBI," which suspected the Kingsmen's unintelligible lyrics contained dangerous obscenity); and George Thompson's five-line "Stairway to Heaven."


Week 1444

Style Conversational Week 1444: Ode News
The Empress of The Style Conversational on this week's parodies and new contest
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Bob Staake's sketch for Gregory Koch's alternate Olympic event, the beaststroke. It was a toss-up between this one and "the 00-yard dash."
Pat Myers
July 8, 2021|Updated yesterday at 2:59 p.m. EDT

I don't want to keep you today -- not when there are so many so clever and so entertaining songs -- including six videos -- to enjoy in this Week's Style Invitational at

As usual in our song contests, which run about every six months, I received hundreds of song lyrics, along with about a dozen videos, focusing on topics in the news recently, and it was all I could do to restrict today's ink to a still overwhelming 25 song lyrics (nine of them fit on the print page) and six videos; the longest ones are at the bottom of the page so the shorter ones aren't crowded out.

This is the first time I decided to award a first-place trophy, the Clowning Achievement. to both a written song and a video. In previous years I'd stuck to the idea that the Invitational was really all about words, and the ink would always go to the cleverest songwriting -- the best rhymes, the most natural syntax, the most effective satire, the best play off the original -- rather than to the production values of a video. And because the top winners run on the print page, they have to be interesting to read; they can't be incredibly long; they can't fade out; the rhymes can't be fudged by a voice. And still, those qualities are paramount for me.

But of course, The Style Invitational is a humor contest, not just a wordplay one, and so a well-produced, entertainingly sung, funny video such as First Offender Sophie Crafts's "Two Darn Shots" ought to be eligible for a Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick as well. Let me emphasize that Sophie's song is indeed really clever and funny, from the title on down. Cole Porter would have grinned. But just as a set of lyrics, it would have missed this week's top four.

But oh my goodness, it was so much fun! Sophie, who's an educator in the Cambridge, Mass., public schools, really went to town on this video -- the excellent jazz singing including harmonies; the costumes; the staging (including getting her vaccine at a CVS while wearing a silky evening gown and long gloves); and just all that energy and charm kept me watching it over and over.

Somehow, I think that Sophie's Clowner -- not to mention the Fir Stink for her first ink -- won't be the only award on her mantel in Somerville, Mass. And I can't wait to see and hear more from her.

Speaking of "her," this week turned out to be one for the women: While in a usual Invite week the ink-blotters are disproportionately male -- last week's entries: 32 by men, 8 by women, 1 by someone named Sandy -- this week, both Clowners and two of the three runner-up slots went to women -- congrats to not only Sophie, but to the superb perennial Loserbards Hildy Zampella, Barbara Sarshik and Beverley Sharp -- and women shine throughout this week's whole songbook.

Meanwhile a definitely female Sandy: The fabulous Longtime Loser Sandy Riccardi -- who with her husband, Richard, performs their parodies and other comic songs around the country -- tells me that this week's inking parody, the hilarious "I Never Started a Coup," is the first one the Riccardis have made since Richard suffered a subdural hematoma and a fall this past spring; it's the first one since January, actually. We are thrilled to see him totally back on his game. I hope we'll be able to go back up to Baltimore to see them again at Germano's cabaret.

The only thing I don't like about judging the song contests is denying ink to totally inkworthy songs. Fortunately, I -- and the writers themselves -- can post "noinks" in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. I'll start posting one or more each day starting July 9, and I'll include the hashtag #parodies in the intro so that you can search for all the parodies when you're on the page (FYI, each comment on a post pushes that post back up near the top, right under the Invite itself). You can post your own noinks there as well.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood read the nine songs that will appear in the print Invitational in The Post's July 11 Arts & Style section -- the four winners, plus Gary Crockett's "Arizona," Sarah Walsh's cicada-eating dog, Mark Raffman's unfavorite things, Terri Berg Smith's play on the Maryland state song, and Irene Plotzker's "I Cain't Say Yes" (they happened to add to exactly the right column length) -- and pronounced them "all awesome." Well, duh, Doug.

You're Invited again: The podcast is back for Season 2
While 55 of us were busy stuffing our faces at the Loser/Devotee Picnic last Saturday, "You're Invited" podcaster Mike Gips was busy buttonholing various Invitational types for short interviews (setting up in the house on the way to the bathroom was key). And he's edited them into two podcast episodes. In Part 1, up now, Alex offers warm and entertaining insights on being a part of the Loser Community -- and, drawing on her youth in Nicaragua -- chats with Mike about wordplay in different languages ... and how that can go wrong. Alex was too diplomatic to name her favorite song-title-play ink from Week 1439, so Mike and the Empress's Royal Consort, Mark Holt, compare their picks of the week in the podcast's weekly department.

Hear this week's episode, plus all 12 entertaining interviews from last year (including me in full blather), at, or on most podcast platforms. Next week, mini-interviews with several Losers.

On your mark! Get set! Type! This week's sports neologism contest
This week's contest, Week 1444, is thoroughly in the Style Invitational neologistic tradition: take a real sport, event, sports-related-thing, competitive pastime, etc.; change it by a letter, or a little more than a letter, but little enough that the original is obvious; describe it so that the entry is funny and not just an interesting idea (or a stupid idea, unless it is hilariously stupid).

I thought Gregory Koch's suggested examples were both funny -- and, as we see from Bob Staake's cartoon for the Invitational and the Plan B sketch above, both especially illustratable. Speaking of:

Buy your own Invite ink! (Or pencil.)
Various Style Invitational fans -- especially those decorating their padded rooms -- have asked me if some past cartoon by Bob Staake was still available There's a good chance: Bob, whose bestselling picture books are becoming more and more handsome -- makes his Invite art, both pencil sketches and final pen-and-ink drawings, available to the Loser Community at low-for-a-famous-artist prices at Tell him what you're looking for -- write to me first if you need help in figuring out the date, details of the cartoon, etc. -- and he'll check to see if he still has it.

Thanks for coming! Sorry if you missed it!
Last Saturday's Loser/Devotee picnic last Saturday at my house, Mount Vermin, in honor of the visiting Devotees admin Alex Blackwood of Houston, proved an astonishing success -- that's

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Displaying the sophisticated humor associated with The Style Invitational, the congenitally tiaraed Pat Myers and her Devotees group co-admin Alex Blackwood do the silly at the Loser/Devotee picnic on July 3. (Janet Galope)
because I hadn't realized that Alex was going to ensure, for her four-day visit to the D.C. area, four days of sunny, 75-degree days (immediately preceded and followed by the usual hazy 90s). [Scroll down for more.]

But really, everything fell into place: Fifty-five Losers, Devotees and Assorted Hangers-On converged on my yard in Fort Washington, Md., with a wide variety of potluck fare in tow (Mark Raffman brought his puppy, who was cute enough to eat, but we stuck to the grape leaves). Everyone was thrilled with Alex, who promises to come back from Houston before long.

Until then, mark your calendar for the Loser brunch on Sunday around noon, Aug. 22, and the bigger-deal Flushies awards/songfest, Saturday afternoon, Sept. 18. Both will be potlucks at Chez Loser Sam Mertens in outer Silver Spring, Md., about 10 miles north of the Capital Beltway and so an easy trip from Baltimore and even the Philadelphia area. (Virginians, you can deal with this too.)

The headline "Ode News" got ink for Kevin Dopart in 2011 for a news-poem contest, but not this week after Kevin sent us the very same one. Hey, we do a lot of ode contests.


Week 1443

Style Conversational Week 1443: The Ballad of Gary Crockett
The Empress of The Style Invitational celebrates the latest Invite Hall of Famer
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It's not TOTALLY dorky -- he's not wearing socks with the sandals: Loser Gary Crockett, whose 500th blot of ink admits him into the Style Invitational Hall of Fame. (Courtesy of Gary Crockett)
Pat Myers
July 1, 2021 at 4:55 p.m. EDT

Before we start, it's last call for the Loser potluck picnic at my house on Saturday afternoon, July 3. Once again, I'll run the info at the bottom of this column; if you read it before, there's nothing new to see.

This week's regular programming has been pushed farther down the page by an Invite Big Deal: With his transformation of the song "Cocaine" into "Ice Cone" in the results of Week 1439, Loser Gary Crockett has gained entry into that rarefied Style Invitational Hall of Fame with his 500th blot of ink, becoming its 16th member.

Gary didn't start entering the Invitational until its 18th year, 2010 -- but he made up for lost time, winning the whole Week 871 contest with his very first ink, then blotting up puddles of the stuff -- up to 98 in a single year -- consistently since then, with 17 wins and 42 runners-up (he has long since declined the usual Loser swag). And I and the Loser Community have had the pleasure of meeting him at a number of Loser brunches and parties over the years.


Gary has perfectly, totally endearingly cultivated the Mien of Gracious Humility, as when he accepted his Loser of the Year plaque at the 2012 Flushies awards: He immediately clarified to the audience that the prize is a one-and-done award -- and that he was actually the sixth-highest scorer that year, behind five people who'd already gotten it.

Here's the nutshell bio that Gary sent me last night -- after I discovered that he'd gotten that 500th blot of ink.

"The most important thing about me right now is that I'm the proud grandfather of Fiona Ariadne Crockett-Atkins, born on May 27. Fiona's grandmother is also known as Marla, whom I've had the tremendous privilege of being married to for the past 49.3 years. [YES! Gary is unbelievably youthful -- that photo of him on the weird bike is brand-new and Gary is in his late sixties.]

"Apart from that I'm a programmer, a woodworker, and a recovering software company CEO. I dabble in humor contests, cryptic crosswords, and acrostics. For exercise I ride a Rowingbike and I play what loosely might be called tennis.

"Also, I've been told that I am tall." [That is because he is 6-6. Or, as he puts it, 5-18.]

Here are Gary's 17 winning entries (so far), starting with that first ink.

1. Week 871 [2010]: change a movie title by one letter: The Winner of the Inker: 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, Chevy Chase, a First Offender)

(That same week, he also had an honorable mention: An American in Parts: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 7)

2. Week 905 [2011]: fictional anecdotes in response to some of the "Editor's Query" prompts in The Washington Post Magazine: "A time when a piece of clothing changed my life": In the jungle you make do with what's available, so I patched my torn pants seat with a piece of bright red flannel. Had I not, I would have been spared much pain. But I might never have discovered the new species of baboon.

3, just three weeks later, a dig at quarterback Brett Favre, who had come out of retirement three times: Week 908 , recast a movie or TV role: "Shane": Fire Alan Ladd, hire Brett Favre. Joey: "Shane! Shane! Come back!" Shane: "Okay!"

4. Week 922 [still 2011!], new lyrics for the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner":

See the video, complete with singing by Gary's daughter Emily, an opera singer:

Send your tired, your poor, (Sing this line to "O, say can you see," etc.)

Huddled masses also,

And your refuse that's wretched

From shores that are teeming.

If to breathe free they yearn,

Here's the place they should go,

Send them here, to the land

Of which they have been dreaming.

And we'll send them away,

We'll deport them today

(Unless they're from Cuba, in which case okay).

We've all gone xenophobic,

All foreigners we now eschew.

We're afraid they'll take our jobs --

Jobs we don't want to do.

5. Week 1054, poems about people who died in 2013:

Etch-a-Sketch inventor Andre Cassagnes

Andre Cassagnes, your Etch-a-Sketch showed us

We needn't just tweak, fix and patch.

That sometimes the best course, for peasant or POTUS,

Is shake and start over from scratch.

6. Week 1064, 2014: Alter a moment in history: 1972: If the Democratic National Committee headquarters had been in the Willard Hotel, every scandal since then would have a name ending in "lard."

7. Week 1081, 2014: Stupid questions: How do you say "Don't claw the sofa" in Siamese?

8. Week 1115, 2015: Put a "typo" in a real headline, then write a bank head to go with it:

Royal Couple Checks Out the [Mall] Malt: Charles chugs Colt 45s while Camilla crushes cans against royal forehead

9. Week 1142, 2015: Combine two names into a Twitter handle and write a sample tweet: @OrangeJulius: Could be well mov'd: My friends in the House are sticking knives into me. #IdesOfSeptember

10. Week 1193, 2016: "Poeds," poems with a six one-syllable words in the first line, three two-syllable words in the second, two threes in the third, and one six-syllable word in the last, plus a rhyme somewhere

Eight of me in my head.

Crazy? Maybe instead

Multi-me's healthier:


11. Week 1211, 2017: Trash-tweeting laudable people from history: Looks like @TheMessiah*'s getting delusions of grandeur. Thinks he's @RealDonaldTrump.

12. Week 1225, 2017: Protest march ideas: The Million Middle Managers March: * If It Were Up to Me, I'd Say Yes

13. Week 1341, 2019: Portmanteau words: Muellerotica: "If we had confidence that the earth did not move or that an explosion did not erupt through her as every cell in her body screamed 'Yes!' we would have said so."

14. Week 1374, 2020: Historical rap battles:

Harriet Tubman: I'm an Abolition hero, Union soldier, scout and spy!

Your face is on the twenty still -- you wanna tell me why?

Andrew Jackson: You're crazy if you think that off the twenty I'll be scoochin'

Don't care if you've got history, because I've got Steve Mnuchin!

15. Week 1404, 2020: Ask Backwards:

. A. The Republic Forwhichistan.

Q. Where can you find One Asian Undergod -- except he's invisible?

16. Week 1427, 2021: Double puns about history: 2008: Sen. John McCain announces his running mate: Impalin' the Ticket, or Wasilladvised

And most recently: 17. Twists on nursery rhymes etc.

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,

Kissed the girls and made them cry.

Then he made them go away

Encumbered by an NDA.

(But richer by one-thirty K.)

Capitol letters: This week's acronym contest
This week's Style Invitational contest, Week 1443, reflects those silly back-formed "acronyms" whose full names are contrived to fit some catchy word. You see them in all aspects of life -- education and corporate culture are rife with them -- but we'll do it from the angle of legislation, which was suggested by the Empress's Royal Consort, Mark Holt, in honor of his birthday.

It might well be a shock to you that members of the United States Congress would attach their names to formal documents defaced with inane, lame, juvenile titles. If so, Mr./Ms./Whatever Van Winkle, please return to your nap. Here are some actual bills, part of an even longer list collected by The Washington Post newsletter The Fix a few years ago, some of which continue to be introduced in each Congress. It's where I found the HELLPP Act (Helping Ensure Life- and Limb-Saving Access to Podiatric Physicians) that I mention in the intro to this week's contest.

JAWS Act: Justice Attributed to Wounded Sharks

EGO Act: Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting

FAIR TOW Act: Fair Action for Interstate Recovery Vehicles on Truck Operating Weights

SMOKE Act: Stop Selling and Marketing to Our Kids E-Cigarettes

DRIVE LESS Act: Domestic Reduction In Vehicle Expenditure and Lowering Emissions from State Sources

TIGER CUBS Act: Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery for Cities Underfunded Because of Size

SAFE HAUL Act: Safe And Fair Environment on Highways Achieved through Underwriting Levels

GROW AMERICA Act: Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America ("Throughout" is conveniently lowercased because GROW AMERICTA doesn't quite sing as well.)

RECALL Act: Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives

PLANT Act: Protecting Lands Against Narcotics Trafficking

QUIET Act: Quell Unnecessary, Intentional, and Encroaching Telephone Calls

And ... SPEAK FREE Act: Securing Participation, Engagement, and Knowledge Freedom by Reducing Egregious Efforts Act


For Invite purposes, I'd think the humor will also lie with the "there oughta be a law" angle -- creative peeves (which, ahem, no longer include Those Kids Today and Their Cellphones) along with the acronym.

Question you'll ask: Does every word have to be used in the acronym? Not necessarily, but leaving out significant words will definitely increase the lameness quotient. You can safely omit little words like "the," "for," etc.

The Replacements*: The song-vowel thing of Week 1439
*Non-inking headline by Tom Witte

Relatively few Losers entered the Week 1439 contest -- not many more than 100 -- but so many of them clearly enjoyed the game of deleting all the vowels in a song title, then adding their choice of vowels back in to make a new song. I ended up with 1,200 entries because more people than usual sent substantial lists, many of them the maximum 25 entries. Almost always when there are few entries, it's a handful of regulars who get all the ink, but that wasn't the case this time; in fact, we have three First Offenders, two of them with multiple ink, one of them a runner-up. And some people got their first ink in many years, including Sandy Tenenbaum, who last appeared in 1996.

Since we did the same contest in 2016 with movie titles, I was pretty sure we'd have a fun set of results, but these might even be better than those of Week 1155 because of the mini-parodies included with some of the entries. (Lines from songs that didn't follow the tune of the originals didn't work for me as well.)

Fresh off the Clowning Achievement for his cicada diorama four weeks ago, Kevin Dopart scores once again with I'm a Believer > Mob Lover, with odious Sen. Ron Johnson "singing": "Then I saw their race, now I'm a mob lover/ Not a trace of doubt in my mind." Instead of a second Disembodied Clown Head trophy, Kevin will receive a little "II" pennant to add to the base until he replaces it with a "III."

Jon Gearhart, also famed for Invite wordplay, takes second -- and wins that classy color-changing toilet night light -- with his verse of "Stairway to Heave In." Greg Johnson of our Canadian Loser Bureau played to the Empress's copy editor side with "Lie Lady Lie" for just his fifth blot of ink ever. And First Offender Coleman Glenn of the Philadelphia area, who also just joined the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook, gets a Fir Stink for his First Ink to go along with his choice of runner-up Loser Mug or Whole Fools Grossery Bag. But Coleman never spend a week on the Loser Stats' One-Hit Wonders list, since he had two inking entries this week, as did fellow First Offender Mark Turco. Both newbies sent long and especially clever lists of entries; I hope to see lots more from both of them in future contests.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood -- meet him on Saturday (see picnic blurb below) found a lot to like this week. He agreed with me on the winners and also singled out Kevin Dopart's "Hours With an Enema" ("A Horse With No Name"); Frank Mann's "A Comet Got Her" ("Come Together" -- "Finally explains how she got joo joo eyeball and spinal cracker") Jesse Frankovich's Don't Stop > Don T.'s Type: "Please stop thinkin' about Ivanka"; and Jesse's "And Last," "Borin' to Run," about those non-inking entries.

The unprintables: Clever, but too gross for the Invite, I think, especially on such a good week:

Born to Run > Brown Tureen: A chamber pot will have to do when the runs cause thunder on the road. (Kevin Dopart)

Smells Like Teen Spirit > Small Silk Tiny Spurt: The worm sperm bank work song: " Oh, I've worked with no thanks in worm sperm banks/ Hoping for a small silk tiny spurt" (Jon Ketzner) [I actually missed that it was about a silkworm, but still.]

Last call! Loser/Devotee picnic, Saturday afternoon, July 3
A couple of weeks ago in this space, I noted that Alex Blackwood, my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees group -- and Invitational reader-junkie -- would be in town from Houston for an unrelated event on July 1, and would be free to Meet the Losers on Friday and Saturday. And she'll be staying with me and the Royal Consort here at Mount Vermin in Fort Washington, Md., about seven miles due south of the Beltway. Many Losers and Devs are eager to meet her -- and one another, now that we're finally emerging from covid hibernation.

I decided that the best way is to have y'all over for a potluck picnic here at my house, anytime between noon and 4 on Saturday, July 3. I'll provide chicken and some other stuff (lemonade, watermelon) and you bring a moderate amount of food to eat and share: That way, the more people we have, the more food we'll have (I really don't care about how many of each food group), and we don't have to worry about an accurate count. There's no program of events; just come and chat; if you like, you can walk in the woods behind our house, or saunter down the hill to the Piscataway Creek waterfront. Kids are welcome, pets not so much. We'll have tables outside; if it rains, we'll bring them inside and be a bit cozier.

As always, you don't have to be a Loser, just someone who enjoys The Style Invitational. I've posted information about my address etc. in the Devotees group; if you're not on Facebook and would like to come, email me at for details. (If I don't know you, expect to chat with me a bit first.) If you're planning on coming and I do know you, let me know, too.

And later on we have two (non-Alex, alas) Loser events scheduled: Sunday, Aug. 22: A Loser brunch at the home of Loser Sam Mertens and fam in Silver Spring, Md., which is a dry run for Saturday, Sept. 18: The Flushies, the Losers' annual awards potluck banquet and songfest, also Chez Mertens, to honor this year's (and last's) Loser of the Year, Rookie, Most "Imporved," Least Imporved, etc.


Week 1442

Style Conversational Week 1442: Bar har har
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's legal-fictoid results and compare/contrast contest
Image without a caption
According to this week's winning fictoid by Bruce Carlson, this decree was nullified by the Trump administration. (WQAD/WQAD, Moline, Ill.)
Pat Myers
June 24, 2021 at 4:42 p.m. EDT

(Want to picnic with the Losers on Saturday, July 3? See the section at the bottom of this column.)

The Style Invitational continues, year by year, to amass its en-PSYCH!-lopedia of misinformation, and in Week 1438 we turned to fictoids -- fake trivia items -- about the legal system: courts, laws, law enforcement. This week's results are the top 40 among the 1,200 entries I received (along with another 200 or so headline/subhead suggestions).

The fictoid contests are spoofs on the myriad Fun Facts to Know and Tell lists and articles that you see about science, history, biography, gossip: The fictoids are supposed to sound like some interesting bit of information that you might begin with "Hey, did you know that *" -- often beginning perfectly plausibly -- and then become a joke, something humorously making a point, and, I hope, clearly exaggerated or otherwise obviously false. All this week's inking entries work like this, in various forms, usually arriving at a surprising and funny punchline. Here's an elegantly pithy one from Lee Graham that made me laugh out loud: "In Alabama, siblings may not testify against each other until their divorce is finalized." (Sorry, 'Bamians; I do realize that many of you are not all that close with your kin.)


As opposed to just saying something that's not accurate. Here's an entry that not a joke (I never look up who wrote entries I didn't choose): "The phrase res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) refers to previously taped or recorded evidence." Maybe this would be funny if you were grading law school quizzes?

Another thing that tends not to work in fake-trivia contest is a pun; that's just not what the contest is getting at. "A deputy with a poor track record for successfully delivering subpoenas is known as a Sheriff of NotInHome." "Any attorney representing a client pro bono must be a U2 or Sonny and Cher fan." No and no.

An exception of sorts was this one by Keith Ord: "A law in Tudor England levied a fine on anyone who passed gas in church; the fine was set at a farthing." At least you have to think for a second; what's more important, the entry begins to read like a plausible Fun Fact of History -- and then you get the punchline. The fine is also plausible, but why is he mentioning it? * aha.

This week's winner and runner-up aren't the Usual Suspects with hundreds (or thousands) of blots of ink: Clowning Achievement winner Bruce Carlson, who interpreted the "Bridge Freezes Before Roadway" signs as a federal decree, then played that into a political joke, gets his 39th blot of ink all time -- and that's dating back to Week 413 -- but this is the third time he's won the whole contest. Bruce, by the way, is also the wit behind at least two of our most popular Loser Magnets for honorable mentions: the NOT(E) WORTHY, from 2012, and the current NO 'BILITY.

Image without a caption
Idea by Bruce Carlson; design by Bob Staake for The Washington Post
Winning the hypodermic-looking pen they gave me when I got my covid shot is second-placer Daniel Galef, an MFA student at Florida State who scores his amazing fifth ink "above the fold" in only 16 blots of ink so far, with his untruth about British courtroom wigs. Daniel got a little puddle of ink back in 2016, then lay low for a while, and now he seems to be back for, I'd venture, serious inkage. Peter Boice's fictoid about the secret message in RBG's lace collar gives him his first above-the-fold ink and his 11th in all; and it's just the fourth ink for newbie Joe McManus, who made his Invite debut in Week 1404. I'll be able to give both Bruce and Peter their prizes at the Loser picnic on July 3 (see below); I'd love to meet Joe as well. (Daniel, I guess it'd be a bit of a trip for you.)

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood tells me he enjoyed all four top winners, and also singled out: the Boston police determining that 23 Dunkin' Donuts fit on a nightstick (Rob Huffman); that opponents of the First Amendment's freedom of the press followed up with a Second Amendment so "at least we can shoot 'em" (Frank Mann); Keith Ord's "farthing"; Duncan Stevens's report (not so fictoidy but I didn't mind) that juries tend to make the "Law and Order" CHUNG CHUNG noise at key moments in a trial; and especially Lee Graham's Alabama siblings joke.

By the way, here's one reason I adore Doug (and good copy editors in general): Rob's doughnut entry originally was about Krispy Kremes (I'd added the Boston setup to make it sound more fictoidy). Doug noted that while KK stores are in 42 states and territories, Massachusetts is not one of them. But Dunkins are on every corner. Catch of the day!

In snark contrast*: This week's contest, Week 1442
*Headline by Bill Dorner from Week 1348

It's a long list to choose from for the latest version of our perennial (since 1996) compare/contrast contest. In recent years I ask the Style Invitational Devotees group for random items, and try to choose them without trying to engineer good combinations. If you're unfamiliar with this Invite contest, please read through the results of a couple of the previous 28 Same Difference (plus other names) contests, all listed on one handy page on Elden Carnahan's indispensable Master Contest List, for guidance and inspiration.

Here are a few top winners from years past:

Week 276 (1998): What is the difference between the human navel and a 1998 VW Bug? In the case of the navel, most people would rather have an innie. In the case of the Bug, most people would rather have an Audi. (Russell Beland)

Week 466 (2002): The difference between the Pennsylvania Dutch and a mole on one's butt is that in a Pennsylvania Dutch neighborhood, there's probably no crack. (Chris Doyle)

Week 563 (2004): The difference between the next Redskins season and Ivory Soap: With the soap, at the end the owner will end up with a ring. (Chuck Smith) (Only the team's name's changed, alas)

Week 738 (2007): "American Gothic" and the next three presidential debates: The pitchfork has three good points. (Chuck Smith)

Week 934 (2011): The difference between a toilet brush and a tattoo of Joe Biden: One's a bristly Number Two tool; the other's merely the depiction of one. (Rob Huffman)

Week 1167 (2016): Hillary's emails are just like three inches of snow: not enough to keep you from running for the office, but danged if they don't make the route hell. (Mike Ostapiej)

Week 1348 (2019): A hard Brexit and Jockey shorts: Two things we hope we never see Boris Johnson pull off. (Jon Ketzner)

And most recently:

Week 1390 (July 2020): Trump's tie rack: Red neckwear. A skull-motif face mask: Redneck wear. (Jesse Frankovich)

See? Totally doable.

Social Engorgements update! Loser/Devotee picnic, Saturday afternoon, July 3
(More or less reprinted from last week's Style Conversational; update about July 2)

A couple of weeks ago in this space, I noted that Alex Blackwood, my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees group -- and Invitational reader-junkie -- would be in town from Houston for an unrelated event on July 1, and would be free to Meet the Losers on Friday and Saturday. And she'll be staying with me and the Royal Consort here at Mount Vermin in Fort Washington, Md., about seven miles due south of the Beltway. Many Losers and Devs are eager to meet her -- and one another, now that we're finally emerging from covid hibernation.

I decided that the best way is to have y'all over for a potluck picnic here at my house, anytime between noon and 4 on Saturday, July 3. I'll provide Salvadoran barbecued chicken and some other stuff (plantains, lemonade, watermelon) and you bring a moderate amount of food to eat and share: That way, the more people we have, the more food we'll have (I really don't care about how many of each food group), and we don't have to worry about an accurate count. There's no program of events; just come and chat; if you like, you can walk in the woods behind our house, or saunter down the hill to the Piscataway Creek waterfront. Kids are welcome, pets not so much. We'll have tables outside; if it rains, we'll bring them inside and be a bit cozier.

As always, you don't have to be a Loser, just someone who enjoys The Style Invitational. I've posted information about my address etc. in the Devotees group; if you're not on Facebook and would like to come, email me at for details. (If I don't know you, expect to chat with me a bit first.) If you're planning on coming and I do know you, let me know, too.

Change of plans for Friday: Alas, the July 4 weekend after a pandemic is not a good time to score timed passes to D.C. museums and whatnot; everything I checked out for Friday, July 2, was sold out (or freed out). So instead Alex and I will be getting together for lunch with a few Loser/Devotees in Southern Maryland, southeast of Mount Vermin. And that evening I'll be having Alex clean my house before the Saturday event. (I kid, I kid, we're not going to clean the house.) BUT! Alex may be coming back this fall to another Unrelated Event! So we can try again.

And later on we have two (non-Alex, alas) Loser events scheduled: Sunday, Aug. 22: A Loser brunch at the home of Loser Sam Mertens and fam in Silver Spring, Md., which is a dry run for Saturday, Sept. 18: The Flushies, the Losers' annual awards potluck banquet and songfest, also Chez Mertens, to honor this year's (and last's) Loser of the Year, Rookie, Most "Imporved," Least Imporved, etc.

"Bar Har Har" was a non-inking headline by Tom Witte for Week 1438.


Week 1441

Style Conversational Week 1441: Gimme Five
The Empress of The Style Conversational on this week's limerick contest and neologism results
Image without a caption
The poisonous and stains-everything pokeweed -- or what Loser Jeff Contompasis named "yuckleberry" in our Week 1437 neologism contest. (
Pat Myers
June 17, 2021 at 5:09 p.m. EDT

First this: Are you going to be in the D.C. area on Saturday afternoon, July 3? See the bottom of the column about our Loser/Devotee potluck picnic and future Loser events.

Yes, yes, we're going to be doing our annual Limerixicon contest in August. This is just extra.

As I mention in the intro to Style Invitational Week 1441, the hearty-named Invite fan (but not an entrant, as far as I know) John Vigour got the idea for this week's contest from a widely circulated Tumblr post called "Famous Poems Rewritten as Limericks," and -- perhaps realizing that the "famous poem" repertoire of your typical Invite reader wouldn't fill a Top 40 list without the help of nursery rhymes and jump rope jingles -- suggested that our Loser Limericians try the same idea with songs instead.

While I'm pretty much intransigent when it comes to the rhyme and meter of limericks (hence the guide I run with every lim contest), you'll see that I was kind of fuzzy when explaining the content this week: "Sum up or otherwise reflect a well-known song as a limerick." That's because I don't want to rule out opportunities for humor, and I'm not certain what approach will yield the most Ha! Funny! rather than just the admiring Huh. Clever.


My example today was a pretty straight translation of the opening verse of Hal David's "Close to You." David's: Why do birds suddenly appear/ Every time you are near?/ Just like me, they long to be/ Close to you.

Mine: Whenever we go to the zoo/ The hummingbirds fly right to you!/ In your face they will flit/ And I'm irked, I'll admit./ See, I'd like to be close to you, too.

Serviceable, I'd say, but it took Bob Staake's twist of turning the narrator into a bacon-tongued crocodile to make it funny. So maybe rather than doing a straight summation, you might write about the song in some way. Having judged, oh jeez, more than 900 Style Invitational contests by now, I am no longer surprised but am still delighted by the creativity and resourcefulness of the Losers when it comes to novel approaches to a standard form.

After I posted the Invite this morning, Robert Schechter, one of our longtime Loserbards -- and a published poet and translator -- showed me some much better poems-as-limericks than the ones that inspired the contest; many of them appear among the links to "fractured verse" on various poets from the light-verse journal Bumbershoot. Here's one by Bob himself on "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

Tennyson's second stanza: Theirs not to make reply,/ Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die. / Into the valley of Death/ Rode the six hundred.

And Robert Schechter's limerick version:

Not given to reasoning why,

not choosing to make a reply,

though someone had blundered

on rode the six hundred

and did what they did, which was die.

Maybe not quite as emotionally wrenching, but it does gallop along -- which is what 600 horses did, before dying.

(Had this been an Invite entry: In keeping with our strong preference for true rhymes in the Invitational, and because we're trying to be funny, I would have preferred joke-spelling in Line 4: blundered/ six hundered.)

Anticipating other questions: Can you do it as two or a series of limericks? I won't rule it out -- but it needs to be good enough to use up two entries' worth of space. If I have to trim for space, and usually do, long entries are definitely more vulnerable.

So now we are going all Singin' Summer here: Week 1439, switch out the vowels in a song title; Week 1440 (deadline June 28), write song parodies or originals about the news; and now this one (also due June 28). I don't think they'll overlap, though.

By the way: If somehow your limerick would also work to illustrate some word for -- the dictionary in limerick form -- feel free to submit it there, but please wait until after the Week 1441 results are posted July 15. Right now it's taking limericks featuring words beginning up through Ha-.

Fit to be typoed*: The results of Week 1437
Non-inking headline by Jesse Frankovich, who also got the inking headline

One more novel set of parameters, one more zingy set of neologisms: For Week 1437, the concept was to be fat-fingered and "accidentally" type a letter adjacent to the real one in a certain word or name, either adding it or replacing the original; or "accidentally" typing the letter twice in a row -- flubs I commit constantly IRL. And I wasn't at all surprised that the Losers handled the assignment deftly; I ran 45 entries online, and close to that in the print paper.

As I'm often able to do when the entries are one-liners (i.e., have no line breaks, as in a poem, Q & A, etc.) I was able to sort all 1,200 entries alphabetically, thus scattering each Loser's up-to-25 entries across the whole pool. And with no writers' names attached, I truly had no idea who'd written any single entry until I'd made my choices and started searching through Outlook for each one.

And sure enough, five of those searches -- including for today's winner, Jest Lag (the time between the joke and the response) -- revealed the name of Chris Doyle, The Style Invitational's highest-scoring Loser. Barfalounger! Horrorhea! Hostalgia! Defoxification! I just looked this up on Elden Carnahan's Master Contest List and just can't get my head around it: As of today, Chris has won the entire contest SIXTY times, for 2,328 blots of Invite ink, almost all of it beginning seven years after the Invitational began. For comparison: Well over 5,000 people have had at least one entry printed, but only 150 of them have had 60.

The Tan Commandments, the entry I had to disqualify because A is not adjacent to E on the keyboard, turned out to be by someone who had one single blot of Invite ink -- from 1998. While some contestants complain that I pick the same ol' people every week, I'm always thrilled to see new names among my choices. Oh, well. Try again, Tony -- just be more careful next time.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood is back after celebrating a milestone birthday last week. (Doug's 2 1/2 years younger than I am, and we started working together when we were 20-somethings in the 1980s, so I'll always think of him as the kid, even though that white beard might indicate otherwise.) Doug enjoyed all the top winners this week -- In God We Tryst (Jonathan Jensen), Marathin (a diet running more than two weeks, by Mark Raffman) and Microsoft Bung (Hannah Seidel) -- and he also singled out Chris's Barfalounger as frat house furniture; Jonathan's Fadebook as the social media platform that's passe if your parents are going to use it; Duncan Stevens's Louis Deejoy as the entertainer who shows up late; Kevin Dopart's Sexiled ("just-a-friended"); and Chris's Defoxication as removal of poison from political discourse.

By the way, Doug will get to meet some of these people in person -- and, I hope, you as well: he's planning to come to the Loser/Devotee picnic at my house. See below for details.

Social Engorgements update! Loser/Devotee picnic, Saturday afternoon, July 3
(Reprinted from last week's Style Conversational)

A couple of weeks ago in this space, I noted that Alex Blackwood, my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees group -- and Invitational reader-junkie -- would be in town from Houston for an unrelated event on July 1, and would be free to Meet the Losers on Friday and Saturday. And she'll be staying with me and the Royal Consort here at Mount Vermin in Fort Washington, Md., about seven miles due south of the Beltway. Many Losers and Devs are eager to meet her -- and one another, now that we're finally emerging from covid hibernation.

I decided that the best way is to have y'all over for a potluck picnic here at my house, anytime between noon and 4 on Saturday, July 3. I'll provide Salvadoran barbecued chicken and some other stuff, and you bring a moderate amount of food to eat and share: That way, the more people we have, the more food we'll have (I really don't care about how many of each food group), and we don't have to worry about an accurate count. There's no program of events; just come and chat; if you like, you can walk in the woods behind our house, or saunter down the hill to the Piscataway Creek waterfront. Kids are welcome, pets not so much. We'll have tables outside; if it rains, we'll bring them inside and be a bit cozier.

As always, you don't have to be a Loser, just someone who enjoys The Style Invitational. I've posted information about my address etc. in the Devotees group; if you're not on Facebook and would like to come, email me at for details. (If I don't know you, expect to chat with me a bit first.) If you're planning on coming and I do know you, let me know, too.

If you can't make it on July 3: Alex plans to do some D.C. sightseeing on Friday, July 2; we were thinking of the new Planet Word museum at 13th and K, and maybe the nearby National Museum of Women in the Arts, though they both require advance tickets. We'll see.

And later on: Sunday, Aug. 22: A Loser brunch at the home of Loser Sam Mertens in Silver Spring, Md., which is a dry run for Saturday, Sept. 18: The Flushies, the Losers' annual awards potluck banquet and songfest to honor this year's (and last's) Loser of the Year, Rookie, Most "Imporved," Least Imporved, etc.

I'm guessing that for those later events we'll be able to sing along with some of the parodies from Week 1440. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.


Week 1440

Style Conversational Week 1440: Start singin' the news
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's parody contest and movie title results
Image without a caption
Keanu Reeves as John Wick. The franchise was replotted by many in Style Invitational Week 1436 as a guide to bathroom candles. (Lionsgate)
Pat Myers
June 10, 2021 at 5:35 p.m. EDT

First this: Are you going to be in the D.C. area on Saturday afternoon, July 3? See the bottom of the column about our Loser/Devotee potluck picnic.

I think I'd be thrilled to judge Style Invitational song parody contests every single week: The Loser Community -- what I call the folks who enter the Invite regularly -- produces such good material so consistently that my only disappointment is in denying ink to at least a dozen funny, beautifully crafted songs every time I run the contest, usually twice a year. And so I'm already eagerly awaiting the gems from this week's contest, Week 1440.

Our last parody contest, Week 1420 this past January, was for "work songs" for or about a particular profession, inspired by the TikTok-viral whaling song "Wellerman" -- but, as in virtually every Invitational contest, topical, especially political humor trotted right into the results, as in Rob Cohen's entry about the profession of GOP senator:

I've been working in the fail mode

All the livelong day

I won't vote for legislation

Joe Biden sends my way *

This time, though, there's no theme to contrive to fit; just look at the headlines about events and trends of the current day. I'll post the results on July 8, 10 days after the June 28 deadline, so hopefully your topic won't be old news by then even by Twitter standards.

Here's a list of guidelines (which I've recycled in previous Conversationals) about what I'm looking for in a song parody for the Invitational -- which, remember, runs in a shorter form in print, including the four top winners, in The Post's Arts & Style section on Sundays.

* As with all Style Invitational song parody contests, we value flawless rhyming, even if the original rhymes loosely. And we're a humor contest; witty wordplay (including, but not requiring, clever playing off the words of the original), a zingy ending and the avoidance of bitter anger -- our word for this is "screediness" -- are the paths to Invite ink.

* Because the Invitational is a contest that is read rather than listened to -- especially, duh, in the print version -- a reader has to easily figure out how your lyrics match the tune. The best way to know this is to show someone the lyrics and see if the person -- without your help or cues -- can figure out how to sing them.

For the print page (which includes the four top winners), I'll be choosing what I hope are very well known songs among at least a couple of generations. Online, I'll include links to video or audio versions to the originals, and so less well known songs are welcome there. In either case, feel free to include the URL of a clip on YouTube or elsewhere whose music matches your lyrics. (Handy hint: To make a YouTube clip start playing at a certain point -- here's an easier version than what I had before, thanks to Loser Suzanne Barnhill:

1. Play the video, then pause it at the spot where you want your viewer to see it.


2. Click "SHARE" in the line of choices under the video screen and title.

3. This will produce a box with the URL (link) that you want to give me. Underneath the URL is a checkoff box that says "Start at 4:07" or whatever your starting point is. Check that. That will change the URL.

4. Click "copy" next to the URL. Then you can paste that along with your entry.

Still, if this task proves confusing, don't worry about it!

* In our Golden Era of Political Parody Videos, I'd love it if I could share your fabulously inkworthy parody as a performance, particularly if the lyrics are right there on the video -- like this one by Sandy Riccardi in our Week 1287 parody contest (results here). If you send a link to a video, please also send the text of the lyrics.

This terrific video by Jonathan Jensen -- from our work song contest ("Capitol Police officer") from this past winter -- doesn't use subtitles, but the singers sing so clearly it's not necessary. It's always good to put your lyrics as the first post in the comments section of your video, though.

Still, the vast majority of the parodies I run are just lyrics without videos. That's just fine!

* Our general rule with the Invitational is to run humor that hasn't been published elsewhere. But I've made exceptions in cases where it hasn't yet been distributed widely, or by another publication. Write me at about specific cases and I'll make a ruling.

* Also, while I normally consider the Invite not to be a team sport, I don't mind crediting two people for a single parody.

* Note that once again, I'm extending the usual deadline by a week -- so you'll have till Monday, June 28, to submit your parodies. If you've done a video and it's ready for me to see earlier, drop me a line and I'll have a look at it, in case I'd like you to tweak your lyrics. (My normally strict blind judging, in which I don't see the writers' names until I've chosen the winners, has to involve a little peeking in cases like this; don't worry -- even if I know and adore you personally, I won't have any trouble at all denying you ink.)

If you have any questions during the process -- for example, "can I use this edgy word?" -- feel free to ask me at (put "Question about" in the subject line). I won't coach you through the writing of the song, but I won't refuse to answer a question or two.

For guidance and inspiration, a rabbit hole of earlier results:

Week 1420 (work songs)

Week 1378 (Life in the Age of Corona)

Week 1357 (general news)

Week 1339 ("modern woes")

Week 1287 (2018; general news)

Scriptease artists*: The results of Week 1436
*Non-inking headline by Jon Gearhart

Even though we did this very contest twice previously, I was deluged with almost entirely fresh material for Week 1436, a contest to supply an alternative plot to any real movie title. I received more than 1,900 entries (plus some 200 headline and subhead suggestions) from more than 200 Losers, many of them new to the Invite or very infrequent entrants. And I ended up running almost 60 entries by more than 40 Losers in this week's results.

Because of the one-liner format of the contest, and since each entry began with the name of the movie, I was able to sort out all the entries alphabetically by film, without a clue to who wrote what. That let me see that there were all too many jokes about John Wick and bathroom candles, or Dolittle (116th Congress), Raging Bull (guess who), even The Italian Job, half a dozen entries all riffing off that ever-sufferin' biblical guy from Tuscany.

It's the fifth win, but the first of our new Clowning Achievement trophy, for Ann Martin, who gets Ink No. 115 in her Invite career; the multi-degreed classics scholar knew her market and scored with "Paper Moon: In Part 1 of 'Back to Our Offices: 2021,' a hilarious documentary about a contest for best butt photocopy." Second-place Eric Nelkin used Joe Versus the Volcano as the perfect name for the last election -- amazingly, it wasn't already all over the Internet. Runner-up Lee Graham turned Portnoy's Complaint into a Karen joke (will readers from 2030 have a clue?); and Susan Geariety hilariously parlayed the horror film Seed of Chucky to reference Prince Charles's relationship with son Harry.

While I often like to run a self-referential "And Last" entry -- this time it was Chris Doyle's Les Miserables, referring to inkless Losers (as if he'd know from that) -- it shouldn't be too inside-baseball, assuming that any reader would be familiar with earlier contests. So I didn't run this one, which did make me laugh:

MalcolmX: The Empress is at her wits' end as a computer glitch at The Post removes the second horse from all the entries in the Kentucky Derby foals contest. (Jeff Shirley)

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood is off this week, so Other Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia told us his faves, all from the honorable mentions:

Avatar: Can picking just the right World of Warcraft character change the life of a shy teen? Spoiler alert: No. (Todd DeLap)

Breakfast at Tiffany's: Or "How I lost my job with the Secret Service." (Pam Sweeney)

F9: Vin Diesel schools John Cena in refreshing Word documents fast and receiving Outlook emails furiously. (Jeff Rackow)

Mean Girls: The story of three young women of average height, weight and intelligence from Normal, Ill. (Rob Cohen)

Raging Bull: Ferdinand has finally had enough with the flowers. (First Offender Kara Laughlin)

The 39 Steps: Documentary peeks in on AA's new "premium plan." (Mark Raffman)

The Lovely Bones: Does Kirk have a thing for McCoy? (John McCooey)

Rated X'ed: The unprintables: The Post has a brand-new executive editor, Sally Buzbee, fresh from heading up the worldwide Associated Press. And I hope she'll first learn about The Style Invitational in a way other than reader complaints. So I thought these entries would be better nestled down at the bottom of the Convo (some were requested by their writers not to be considered for the Invite (im) proper:

He's Just Not That Into You": At the end of a romantic evening, a woman realizes her date is rather inadequate. (Jesse Frankovich)

The Flash (2022): It's leaked out that this remake of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" will be over before the opening credits. Running time: 12 seconds. (Jon Gearhart)

And in just all-around bad taste: Old Yeller: A still-rabid Kimberly Guilfoyle is finally put down just before the 2024 Republican Convention. (Kevin Dopart)

Social Engorgements update! Loser/Devotee picnic, Saturday, July 3
A couple of weeks ago in this space, I noted that Alex Blackwood, my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees group -- and Invitational reader-junkie -- would be in town from Houston for an unrelated event on July 1, and would be free to Meet the Losers on Friday and Saturday. And she'll be staying with me and the Royal Consort here at Mount Vermin in Fort Washington, Md., about seven miles due south of the Beltway. Many Losers and Devs are eager to meet her -- and one another, now that we're finally emerging from covid hibernation.

I decided that the best way is to have y'all over for a potluck picnic here at my house, anytime between noon and 4 on Saturday, July 3. I'll provide Salvadoran barbecued chicken and some other stuff, and you bring a moderate amount of food to eat and share: That way, the more people we have, the more food we'll have (I really don't care about how many of each food group), and we don't have to worry about an accurate count. There's no program of events; just come and chat; if you like, you can walk in the woods behind our house, or saunter down the hill to the Piscataway Creek waterfront. Kids are welcome, pets not so much. We'll have tables outside; if it rains, we'll bring them inside and be a bit cozier.

As always, you don't have to be a Loser, just someone who enjoys The Style Invitational. I've posted information about my address etc. in the Devotees group; if you're not on Facebook and would like to come, email me at for details. (If I don't know you, expect to chat with me a bit first.) If you're planning on coming and I do know you, let me know, too.

If you can't make it on July 3: Alex plans to do some D.C. sightseeing on Friday, July 2; we were thinking of the new Planet Word museum at 13th and K, and maybe the nearby National Museum of Women in the Arts, though they both require advance tickets. We'll see.

And later on: Sunday, Aug. 22: A Loser brunch at the home of Loser Sam Mertens in Silver Spring, Md., which is a dry run for Saturday, Sept. 18: The Flushies, the Losers' annual awards potluck banquet and songfest to honor this year's (and last's) Loser of the Year, Rookie, Most "Imporved," Least Imporved, etc.

I'm guessing that for those later events we'll be able to sing along with some of the parodies from Week 1440. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.


Week 1439

Style Conversational Week 1439: The Brood X-hibition
The Empress of The Style Invitational discusses this week's cicada art and new wordplay contest
Image without a caption
The cicada emergence seems to have reached Indianapolis, to judge from Hoosier Loosier Bill Dorner's entry for Week 1435. (Bill Dorner)
Pat Myers
June 3, 2021 at 4:09 p.m. EDT

Gotta love them bugs! Yesterday a cicada landed on my head while I was walking down the street; the night before, I encountered one caught inside my sleeve when I put on a jacket. But no one was happier than I to see all those exoskeletons and live insects appear in time for our Week 1435 contest for dioramas and other "art" featuring real cicadas from Brood X of 2021. (I'm already reserving space for Page 12 for the June 2038 Arts & Style section.)

My apologies to those of you whose ears are not besieged 24 hours a day with a insectile drone and had no critter or critter parts to work with; in 2038 I will magnanimously let you substitute cockroaches.

Clever, clever -- and even pretty cute (sorta) -- stuff this week, from the detailed dioramas like Lani and Eleanor Jacobson's re-creation of the furniture-barricade scene in "Les Miz" to Lee Graham's bug and a Photoshopped boot in front of a photo of a castle for "Inigo Cicada" -- "You squished my father." And the so, so Invitey gross-out humor of Kevin Dopart's "Creeps" snack, perhaps the only thing less appetizing than the crusted-over tennis-ball-yellow confection whose name it spoofs.

The four entries scored this week by Kevin, sometimes with his wife, Deborah Hensley, are but perhaps a fourth of the dioramas and other photos he submitted. I'll invite Kevin -- and the rest of you -- to post your "noinks" in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group, so that at least 2,000 people on your humor wavelength can get a look. Use the hashtag #cicada in your post so that other members can find it easily. (If you're not yet a member, just answer the application questions, so we know you understand what the Invite is, and the Devotees will anagram your name so ridiculously that you'll wish the Witness Protection Program had given you a different one.)

Oh, goodness, I just realized that while this is the THIRTY-THIRD time that Kevin has won a Style Invitational contest, it's his first Clowning Achievement: He's scored the 21st of our 100 Clowners. Since Deborah gets joint credit for the "Et tu, BroodX" stabbing scene, they'll have to fight it out for ownership of the Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick.

Meanwhile, second-place Lee Graham will be receiving a brand-new can of Korean silkworm pupae in a brownish sauce. I bought a can for myself as well at the Lotte supermarket in Northern Virginia, and -- after unusual hesitation for me -- tried them. They were truly bad. I will eat almost anything (exception: Peeps), but these I finally threw out. Maybe Lee will like them.

I apologize for the 15-second ad you had to watch to see the online photo gallery; if it's any consolation, I have seen that ad about 25 times today as we worked out a series of technical tweaks this morning.

This week I had to suspend my usual rigorous practice of hiding the names of the entrants until I was finished judging; a bug in the entry form required most people to email me their photos directly, and I also had to contact some Losers about technical or other tweaks. So this week only, if you didn't get ink, it is indeed because I'm prejudiced against your gender and/or religion. Try again next week.

Some of the entries were the product of painstaking craftsmanship -- with the emphasis on "pain," if other entrants agree with 334-time Loser Craig Dykstra, who told me: "Working with them is more disgusting than eating them. [He'd gone to a restaurant that was offering them.] Eating them in a taco, you don't have to touch them, or pry their little wings apart, or separate their little legs, or look into their little red eyes, or see their butts fall off (that happens), etc. Ick. I feel like I need a Pulp Fiction-style hose-down." Craig also was a devoted entrant of The Post's Peeps diorama contest, and was featured twice (and really robbed of ink one year with a truly amazing Escher-like tower); and his Invite "die-orama" this year featured a flock of hapless Peep-chicks being devoured, starting with the face, by a swarm of cicadas.

Others were more, oh, cerebral. One person sent a photo of just a cicada on a leaf with the line "I just caught the redeye from L.A. to D.C."

What Doug Dug: "All of them were really inspired," Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood told me; this time Doug saw the whole gallery rather than just the entries for the print page (eight this week). His very favorites were Kevin Dopart's "Creeps" package, Todd DeLap's "Metamorphosis" parody and Sara and Ziva Walsh's Zoom classroom.

Limping down the homestretch
If your grandfoal got ink last week but you haven't received your magnet yet, it wouldn't be right to blame Louis DeJoy this time: I'm still working on the Week 1434 letters; I vow to finish them and get them into the mail tonight. Then you can blame DeJoy.

Har replacement*: Week 1439, our new Vowel Movement contest
*2016 headline for the first round of this contest, by Beverley Sharp

Sometimes, people suggest contests to me that are more like word puzzles than humor fodder, sort of the challenges that Will Shortz serves up on NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday." It might be a fun little problem to solve -- but will Washington Post readers be entertained when they look at half a page of results?

I think this week's contest, Week 1439, serves both purposes: There's the nerdy challenge of removing all the vowels from a name -- this time, song titles -- then adding in different vowels to make a different title, perhaps wittily related to the first one. But also the opportunity to be really funny and current. It certainly was in its initial airing in 2016, when the subject was movie or TV titles.

Here are the results from the Week 1155 contest to change movie titles (January 2016, so we're already deep into Trump). Note how many, though not all, of the altered titles reflect the originals in some way.

4th place:

"The Art of the Deal" * take out the vowels and get THRTFTHDL * add vowels and get "I, the Rat Fathead, Lie": Confessions of a demagogue. (George-Ann Rosenberg, Washington)

3rd place:

"Annie Hall" * "Ennui Hill": While sitting through endless congressional debates, two staffers make eye contact and find love. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

2nd place and the jaunty shell sculpture of a conga player:

"The Interview" * "The Nature View": Satire about two wildlife photographers who sneak across the DMZ to shoot an elusive North Korean cuckoo. (Christopher Lamora, Arlington, Va.)

And the winner of the Inkin' Memorial:

"Much Ado About Nothing" * "A Much-Eyed Booty in a Thong": Kim and Kanye play Beatrice and Benedick on Broadway. (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)

E: IOUA Magnet: honorable mentions

"Alice's Restaurant" * "Alec's Restraint": Baldwin orders the diet plate, doesn't get everything he wants. (George-Ann Rosenberg)

"Emma" * "Ammo": At the next theater over, an alternative for guys who've been dragged to see a chick flick. (Nancy Della Rovere, Silver Spring, Md.)

"The Hangover" * "The Hung Oeuvre": A documentary exploring the male nude in statuary. (Steve Honley, Washington)

"Chinatown" * "Chin Twin": Jay Leno meets a brother he never knew existed. (Paul Comstock, Lancaster, Pa., a First Offender)

"Amadeus" * "Mad U.S.": It's subtitled "The Making of the President 2016." (Drew Bennett, West Plains, Mo.)

"Big" * "Bag": At a carnival, a 12-year-old girl makes a wish to be older. (Deb Stewart, Damascus, Md.)

"Blazing Saddles" * "Blue Ozone Gas Doodles": Estranged scientists come together as Earth's stratosphere comes apart. (David Friedman, Arlington, Va.)

"Bonanza" * "Bunnz": A hunky father and his three hunky sons maintain excellent gluteal muscle tone through endless hours of horseback riding. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

"Candide" * "Cyanided": Voltaire's story of an eternal optimist, updated: "If this is the best of all possible worlds, then *" (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

"Chasing Amy" * "Aches Nag Me": A going-of-age story. (David Friedman)

"Love Story" * "Elvis Eatery": Oliver orders Jenny a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich, and boy is he sorry. (Chris Doyle)

"Masters of the Universe" * "Mis-tiaras of the Universe": Starring Steve Harvey as Emcee-Man. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

"Eat Pray Love" * "Tip or Leave": A woman learns two things the world wants most from Americans. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

"Taxi Driver" * "Tuxed Rover": Story of an embittered, nihilistic, wandering penguin. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

"The Honeymooners" * "The Hiney Miners": Adventures of a hospital colonoscopy team. (Mae Scanlan, Washington)

"The Vagina Monologues" * "The Vegan Menu Logs": A play in which A-list actresses rant for 21/2 hours about their struggles to find tofu burgers. (Christopher Lamora)

"Titanic" * "Ta-ta on Ice": Same movie. (Jesse Frankovich)

"8mm" * "8 Muumuu": Detective Nicolas Cage is hired by a woman to hunt for a medium-size housedress that doesn't make her look fat. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

"High Noon" * "HGH! No! No!": A missive from the Peyton Manning Fan Club. (Matt Monitto, Bristol, Conn.; Tom Witte)

"Bambi" * "Bambo": This stag is out for revenge. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

"Hook" * "Ahoy, Okay?" Peter Pan makes nice with a notorious pirate. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

"Hoosiers" * "He's Ours": A basketball coach in rural Indiana employs ringers to help his team. "Shaquille? Oh, he just moved here in August * Mikey Jordan? Yeah, him too" (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

"Gypsy" * "GPS": A stripper and her stage mother struggle to find themselves. (Brendan Beary)

"It Happened One Night" * "The Pope: Nude 'n' Naughty": The film the Vatican wants to suppress. (Chris Doyle)

"Left Behind" * "Left by Honda": As the Apocalypse nears, a group of believers miss the last ride to the Rapture when their Civic hatchback makes a wrong turn. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

"Network" * "Not War, OK?" "I know we're mad as hell, but let's all just chill out." (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

"Pulp Fiction" * "Plop of Caution": This time, John Travolta's character doesn't leave his rifle outside the door while he does his business. (Mike Gips)

"Roger and Me" * "Our Ego Ruined 'Em": A doc about Roger Smith and his city -- and Michael Moore and his films. (Ellen Ryan, Rockville, Md.)

"Scorpion" * "Is Crap, No?": French hosts review all things American. (William Verkuilen, Brooklyn Park, Minn.)

"Smokey and the Bandit" * "Smokey and the Bond-It": A heap o' hoot'n trouble rollicks through the county when someone glues the sheriff's wheels to the pavement. (Barbara Turner)

"Stand by Me" * "Satan Aide Obama": Rush Limbaugh's book on how the president does the Devil's bidding. (Jesse Frankovich)

"Star Trek" * "Astro Trike": No one wants to be the test pilot for the Enterprise's new "right-sized" shuttle craft. (Bill Lieberman, Ellicott City, Md.)

"The King and I" * "The Kong and I": In this legal drama, the Supreme Court upholds marriage between primates. (Howard Walderman)

"Toy Story" * "Toaster": In this heartwarming tale of a bagel's risky adventures with an English muffin, Pixar finds yet another way to make a lot of bread. (Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

"The Exorcist" * "The Exercist": "Okay, give me 10 more head spins *" (Rob Huffman, Fredericksburg, Va.)

"Concussion" * "Concession": The sequel the NFL will never make. (William Verkuilen)

"The Apartment" * "The Part Monty": A rom-com dodges an X-rating. (Chris Doyle)

Take note: Just from writing the examples, I saw how easy it was to drop or add consonants accidentally from even a short title. I won't be including the list of consonants in the results, except for the first entry or two to make it clear to the reader what we're doing. But YOU should do it yourself, to make sure your entry is kosher.

Note that there's no rule that says you can't drop one single vowel and put that same vowel back one letter over. But unless the product is incredibly funny and brilliant, it's not as likely to get ink; it would be so much like our regular neologism contest, and not in the spirit of this one.

A note about vowels: Technically, a vowel, by most definitions, is a sound that comes out of your mouth "without audible friction"; "ah" is a vowel sound, while the letter beginning "la" or "ba" or "yah" is a consonant. But if you hewed strictly to that definition, the "u" in "unicorn" -- pronounced "you" -- would be a consonant. And what if it's silent and next to another vowel? So for this contest -- which of course is an arbitrary game and not a linguistic study -- A, E, I, O and U will always be vowels. You may add as many as you like into your new title, regardless of how they're pronounced.

But for Y and W, which are so often used as consonants, we will make a distinction: Those two letters are consonants in the many instances where they're followed by another vowel in a syllable -- "yes" or "want," for example. And in that case, don't take them out of the original. But when they're not used that way -- as in the Y in "Mary" or teamed with another vowel, either voiced or silently, as in "pay" or "why" or "few" or "snow," then add them to your set of vowels to drop -- AND don't add them back in to use as a consonant. (I had to cut my original example of LAYLA to OL' YELA because the Y in YELA is a consonant; I properly dropped the Y in LAYLA, but couldn't add a consonant back.) It may be a worm-can-opening mistake for me to make this distinction, but it really does reflect the point of the contest. (Hair-tearing to commence in two weeks.)

'X-hibition' in the headline is from a non-inking headline by Tom Witte for this week's Invitational.


Week 1438

Style Conversational Week 1438: The old college try
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's contest and results
Image without a caption
1983 Kentucky Derby winner Sunny's Halo (1980-2003) the son of Halo and Mostly Sunny. I asked the Losers for more Invitey alternatives to that foal name; my faves were Corona Light, and Sunny and Cherub. (Domino Stud)
Pat Myers
May 27, 2021 at 5:50 p.m. EDT
First, a quick update from last week's Style Conversational: If you rushed breathlessly to read it as soon as it was published, you'd have missed it when I announced in an update that this year's Flushies awards picnic -- last year's was of course canceled -- would be not in July, as I'd stated last Thursday, but on the presumably much cooler Saturday afternoon, Sept. 18. It will still be at the Manse of the Mertenses -- Loser Sam and his obliging family -- in outer Silver Spring, Md., where one can have a six-acre property and raise chickens. Save the date! (And see below for some more Social Engorgements this summer.)

And * they're offspring!* The 'grandfoals' of Week 1434
*By Tom Witte and Stephen Dudzik from the 2013 grandfoals contest

The results of Week 1434, this year's "grandfoal" name contest, are full of the zingy pun-on-pun action that the spinoff challenge has delivered every year since I first ran it in 2007. The 64 entries that got ink this week could be followed by another 64 that were almost just as good.

Though they numbered barely half of the Part 1 "foal" contest four weeks earlier, the 2,126 valid entries (plus 200-some headline ideas, etc.) from 211 entrants once again made it among the most popular Invite contests of the year, at least for the "breeders." And thanks again to the skills of Selfless Sorter Jonathan Hardis, I was able to enjoy the wit of the entries without being overwhelmed by them, as I used to be in the early years. (Since neither Jonathan nor I see the entrants' names until I make my choices and then look them up, Jonathan's free to send his own entries -- which got him a blot of ink this time around.)

One foal name in particular amused Jonathan as he ran his sorting/ cleanup/ fixed-your-misspelling program: School Near Boston, bred by First Offender Michael Doyle from Harvard x Classier; "I went to school near Boston" is a well-known way to humbly -- or more likely humblebraggardly -- say you're from Harvard.

"As an MIT alumnus," Jonathan told me, "I noticed that MIT was frequently punned for 'School Near Boston' -- and often in unflattering ways." In fact, of the 91 grandfoals sired by (or born to -- who can say?) SNB, 30 of them referenced his alma mater. None of them ended up getting ink, but this one was on my VeryShortListTM: School Near Boston x Polar Espresso = DeMITasse (Steve Fahey, an alum of * Harvard Medical School)


Among the others:

Clothes Encounters x School Near Boston = Hem I. T.

School Near Boston x 0 Pesos = AdMIT Nothing

Parasite x School Near Boston = MITe (from several people)

E. F'n T. x School Near Boston = DamMIT

School Near Boston x E. F'n T. = M. I. F'n T.

School Near Boston x Genial Herpes = Catchers MIT

School Near Boston x Hammer and Sicko = sMIThereens

School Near Boston x In Tents = MITeepee

School Near Boston x Marlin Blando = MIT Romney

School Near Boston x Suite, Marriott = MITt Roomney

But MIT didn't get all the (non-) ink. Here are some other Schools Near Boston puns:

Harvard (14 in all)

School Near Boston x 0 Pesos = The Hahv-Nots

School Near Boston x CruMBS = Ivy Meager

School Near Boston x Hammer and Sicko = VeriTASS

Rhapsody in Red x School Near Boston = Crimsong


School Near Boston x Dodger = OK, it's Tufts (NOT by Tufts alumnus Jeff Contompasis)

School Near Boston x Fly Like an Emu = Tufts of Air

Boston University

School Near Boston x It's All Over = BU Hoo

Replaceable You x School Near Boston = It Had to BU

Hammer and Sicko x School Near Boston = Vladimir BUtin


School Near Boston x Outamind = UMass Hysteria

School Near Boston x Passed Gas = PhewMass


School Near Boston x Bitter Inside = Brandeis Sour

School Near Boston x Polar Espresso = Brand Ice

Berklee College of Music

Joe Ban Jo x School Near Boston = Banned in Berklee

Wile E. Peyote x School Near Boston = Buzzed B. Berklee


Wellesley: School Near Boston x On Pyrite Pond = Oars 'n' Wellesley

Boston College: Passed Gas x School Near Boston = Tooty Flutie

Northeastern: Polar Espresso x School Near Boston = NorthByNortheastrn

And from the geography-impaired *.

Brown (Providence, R.I.): It's All Over x School Near Boston = Blown University

UConn, 85 miles from Boston: Passed Gas x School Near Boston = Smells Groton

Notre Dame (presumably the one in South Bend, Ind.): School Near Boston x It's All Over = Notre Doom

None of those grandfoals got ink for School Near Boston, but nonspecific one did: Replaceable You x School Near Boston = Replaceable U. (Eric Nelkin)

SNB's 91 foals didn't make him the busiest sire out there; even more fertile were Elvis Pretzley (92), Parasite and Bitter Inside (96 each), Genial Herpes (103), It's All Over (153) and -- this will surprise approximately 0.0 percent of Invite readers -- Passed Gas, with 169 foals.

While the above entries were all fine and some very good, the four names in today's Losers' Circle were Triple Crown-level: Crowning Achievement winner Jonathan Paul (HaberDasher x It's All Over = RIP What You Sew) has gotten ink in almost every Style Invitational horse name contest, and this is the fifth time he's won one (along with 20 other victories). At least some of them, like today's, were chosen totally blindly. Jon just does the horse contests these days, but in the early Invite years, until the early 2000s, he blotted up almost 400 inks. He also got two honorable mentions today: Waning Gretzky x Can'tata = Penalty Bachs and It's All Over x Cuff Lynx = You'reUnderAWrist

Hall of Famers Mark Raffman and Jesse Frankovich each got their umpteenth above-the-fold inks with topical references: Mark going after evil Mohammed bin Salman with CruMBS x Lip Loch = Ruthless Ness, Jesse with Dodger x Outamind = Ducker Carlson. And it's the 33rd blot of ink, and third trip to the Losers' Circle, for J.D. Berry, who had the made-me-laugh Widespread Luting x TamingOfTheShroom = PlayThatFungiMusic.

What Doug Doug: The faves this week of Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood came from the honorable mentions:

Bitter Inside x Suite, Marriott = Vicious Roomer (Larry Gray)

Bye, George x Merch Madness = Buy, George! (Eric Nelkin, Larry Gray)

Merch Madness x Parasite = Buy 1 Get 1 Flea (Eric Nelkin, J.D. Berry)

TimeKeepsOnSlippin x Rhapsody in Red = Into the Fuchsia (Jeff Rackow -- I bet that Doug also liked that Jeff spelled "Fuchsia" correctly)

Wile E. Peyote x Bitter Inside = Acme If I Care (J.D. Berry)

Marlin Blando x Passed Gas = Smella! (Chris Doyle)

Ballooney Tunes x IGotRhythmMethod = The Wabbit Died (Mia Wyatt)

And both names to improve on Sunny's Halo for Halo x Mostly Sunny: Corona Light and Sunny and Cherub (variously by Jesse Frankovich, Pam Sweeney, Bill Verkuilen)


This was submitted as a grandfoal name by Kevin Krist, who did get ink with "Amal Alone." I print it verbatim without further comment.

PassedGas + HaberDasher = JustSayNO2Ammonia (Okay, I'll explain: PassedGas is a reference to an anesthesiologist, often called a "gas passer," who uses Nitrous Oxide (N2O), while Haber is a reference to Fritz Haber, a German chemist who won the Noble Prize in 1918 for his invention of a process for synthesizing ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen gas. And, yes, I realize it has exactly zero chance of inking, but it was too good not to include. And by "good," I mean "esoteric." You're welcome*.)

Okay, one further comment: This could not have gotten ink because "Nobel" is misspelled.

Do you think we'll get any lawyer jokes?
This week's contest, Week 1438, is the latest in our long series of fictoid contests -- spoofs of trivia lists, books, games, etc. I'm having trouble coming up with categories we haven't done (though I have another one waiting), so I was happy when 277-time Loser (and host of the all-things-Invitational podcast "You're Invited") Mike Gips suggested this one about the legal world.

For guidance and inspiration, I'm going to direct you to the Trivia-contest index of Elden Carnahan's comprehensive Master Contest List. Starting with Week 739 in 2007, it lists some 20 contests looking for fake trivia on movies, politicians, medicine, cars, fashion, animals et cetera et cetera et cetera. On each row are links to the contest announcement and to the results, either in plain text or a PDF of the print page, and often a PDF of the Web version as well. You'll get it, and you'll have enjoyed a very nice time suck. Deadline is Monday, June 7.

See Live Losers Walking Around and Eating!
Except for a couple of lunch-and-tours up in Gettysburg last fall and this past spring, the Losers' calendar of "Our Social Engorgements" has, of course, been empty. But we're slowly emerging from our caves, with at least two events before the Sept. 18 Flushies:

-- July 4 weekend: Alex Blackwood, my co-admin (and by now, my soulmate) of the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group, is coming to D.C. from Houston for an unrelated all-day event in Alexandria on Thursday, July 1, but then will hang around on July 2 and 3. She'll be staying with us here in Mount Vermin, and of course she's eager to meet the Losers and Devotees she's gotten to know through the Invite. While it's going to be hard (for me, anyway) to organize a whole slate of large-group activities, we can figure on a lunch or dinner on that Saturday, and perhaps set up a few other things with small groups. Suggestions on an informal, easy-to-order place (pizza? beer garden?) where we won't be crowded are welcome.

-- Aug. 21 or 22: As a dry run for the Flushies, a Loser Brunch potluck also Chez Mertens.

Anyone who's interested in the Invite -- and if you've read this far, that has to include you -- is invited to all Loser events. They're always very mellow and are not Algonquin Round Table quip competitions. You eat, you schmooze, and at the Flushies and January party, you sing along. I'll be besieging you with reminders in this space in the coming months.


Week 1437

Style Conversational Week 1437: We're emerging!
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's new contest and results, and the Losers' resumed 'social engorgements"
Image without a caption
John Hurt and emerging li'l monster in the "chestburster" scene from the 1979 movie "Alien." In Style Invitational Week 1433, Loser Steve Honley saw the sentence in the paper ""It really has to come from within" and wrote the question "What lesson does the crew in the 'Alien' spaceship learn the hard way?" (20th Century Fox)
Pat Myers
May 22, 2021 at 1:37 p.m. EDT

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Before we talk about this week's contest and results, I wanted to share some good if still tentative news: It seems that we can wipe the dust off the calendar of Our Social Engorgements: an eventual return of our monthly Loser Brunches and, most noteworthy, the Flushies -- our annual summer awards lunch and singalong. We're looking at, probably, UPDATED ON MAY 22: SATURDAY, SEPT. 18, rather than the hotter "Saturday afternoon in July sometime after the Fourth," at the house-on-acreage of Loser Sam Mertens and his family, near New Hampshire Avenue in the outer reaches of Silver Spring (but still just 12 miles or so north of the Beltway).

The Mertenses were all set to host a Loser brunch in April 2020, as a dry run for the Flushies that June. He was going to be crowned Loser of the Year, too! But then, you know.

Now they're vaccinated, we're vaccinated. (Their kids aren't vaccinated but repeatedly have tested negative at their school.) And we can be mostly outdoors, weather permitting. Grand Loser Vizier (I just made that one up) Elden Carnahan took a look at Chez Mertens last year and deemed it eminently Flushiesworthy. If you'd like to help work up songs -- we'll be honoring Sam as well as the new Loser of the Year Jonathan Jensen -- or help with other aspects of planning, contact elden [dot] carnahan [at] gmail [dot] com, and we'll get a group together on Facebook so we don't have 200 emails going on. I'll let you know which date to save as soon as possible. I'd think it'd be fine for unvaccinated kids to come if they're masked.

A screechy bug in the ointment -- but it's not a biggie
Currently, the entry form for Week 1435, the contest to make funny art with at least one real cicada or nymph casing -- is not transmitting photos properly. As of May 19, I've contacted everyone who submitted photos and asked them to send them instead by email attachment at, along with something like "MY CICADA ENTRY" in the subject line. I've also put this notice in the entry form itself, and I'll take it back out if the problem gets fixed. Also include whatever text you want to accompany your photos, as well as your postal address, if you'd like me to send you a prize.

If you're just sending alternative headlines and subheads, you can send them through the form in the usual way. Do note that you haven't sent photos, so I won't be worried that they're missing.

Last week's cold snap made me worry that we might have to extend the submission deadline because the cicadas' emergence was delayed, but now it's 90 degrees in Washington and it shouldn't be hard to score a few of the guys. (Please try to use already deceased ones, or the casings; I'm seeing them all over my neighborhood's streets.)

Fat-fingered fun: The Week 1437 neologism contest
I'm always looking for some new way to trot out yet another chance to make up words based on other words and thus metastasize the Loser Lexicon even further. and so I was intrigued by the "typo" parameters that Hadn't Been Heard From Since Week 62 Gabe Goldberg suggested: to add or substitute a letter that's adjacent on a standard keyboard to the pertinent letter. And for Week 1437 I tossed in the option to double the letter, since that's also in the "typo" realm. Gabe included a good example, but I'll let him send it in for the contest.


"This is a GREAT idea for a contest," exulted our cartoonist Bob Staake, who, to understate the case, does not usually adore the ideas I send him. In fact, he soon produced a list of examples, including today's "hurrito."

(Some of Bob's clever but thoroughly uncartoonable ideas: Po'goy -- a shellfish-free sandwich popular in New Orleans's Jewish Quarter; F'artagnan -- The original Fourth Musketeer who didn't make the "cut"; "Bone With the Wind": "Frankly, my dear, I have no desire to [redacted] on a breezy day."

For other examples, I searched the archives from Elden Carnahan's Master Contest List and All Invitational Text for neologisms that would work for Week 1437. In addition to the three I used at the top of the contest -- Streeptococcus, Goodzilla and Sayonada, I found some other gems:

Hillary Rodham Clingon: The First Lady's latest hairstyle. It features massive centerline part held in place with black spray paint. (Harold Mantle, from the Invite's first change-a-letter contest, Week 19 in 1993)

A Place Called Nope: Bill Clinton's Washington. (Peter A. Molinaro, from that same contest)

It was God's swill: Rationalization for jumping off the wagon. (Harold Walderman)

Aliass: A body double for a nude scene. (Tom Witte)

Bilk of Rights: The Patriot Act. (Greg McGrew)

Boobboo: A small scar left by breast surgery. (Fred Souk)

Editore: Edited. (Peter Metrinko)

Eohoppus: A prehistoric kangaroo. (Brendan Beary)

Exhillaration: What Monica almost caused in Bill. (Peter Metrinko)

Experdition: The journey to hell. (Martin Bancroft; Mae Scanlan)

Take the money and rub: madam-to-celebrities Heidi Fleiss (Sarah Worcester in a contest to change a quote by one letter)

Coke up and see me sometime: D.C. Mayor Marion Barry (Tom Witte, same contest)

I'm confident that you'll be able to come up with lots more. Note: None of the examples above include using the word in a funny sentence; that tack is welcome, often earning the ink when several people send in the same general idea.

Question mocks*: The results of Week 1433
*A headline that got ink in 2016 for Kevin Dopart

Our Questionable Journalism contests -- first appearing in 1998 -- have never failed to produce lots of laughs in its context-switching of sentences from the paper, and the results of Week 1433 keep the streak going gloriously.

As usual, the sentences that worked best for this contest tended to be ones whose real context was clear, or at least not puzzling: You immediately grasp the military context of "The withdrawal is set to begin on Friday and will be completed by May 1," which makes you laugh even more at Leif Picoult's "timeline for the final stage of the nonagenarians' marriage consummation." Leif, by the way, has been an Invite phenom of late: After her debut in Week 1401 she didn't ink again for 12 more weeks -- but then, boom: Week 1425, Week 1428, three inks in Week 1431 and now again in 1433. Are we looking at the future Rookie of the Year?

Another notable ink-getter of late: Stu Segal blotted up all these inks from the Invite's earliest days -- starting in Week 4, when he was a runner-up, and continuing a run that included two wins and other above-the-fold ink until he suddenly dropped out of Invite-sight after Week 138 in 1995. Then a couple of months ago, I got this note attached to entries for Week 1424: "Hi Pat -- I'm back after a 20+ year hiatus (no -- not a chronic disease). Unfortunately, I had to spend time at the Will Shortz Clinic for Puzzle Addiction ('You are the solution !') and was away from problem-solving for a number of years, colloquially referred to as '15 down.'

"Back in the day, when The Style Invitational first starting sending out RSVPs, I actually gave the infamous Chuck Smith a run for his money for a time and acquired the concurrent 'shabby notoriety' (as your then predecessor called it) that comes from winning several Invitationals."

Stu got ink that very week, and since then in Week 1426, Week 1427 and now today: "A. I shouldn't have to be afraid to express myself. Q. Why do you care that you're not allowed to use USPS as a transportation option?"

Keep it coming, Leif and Stu. And I'd love it if you'd both join the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook, so you'd get to know the Loser Community. And come to the Flushies as well.

And it's a former phenom, 2019 Rookie of the Year Jon Ketzner, who wins his first Clowning Achievement, and his second Invite win, with his reinterpretation of a line about the Oscar-winning "Nomadland" -- "That was Frances McDormand having explosive diarrhea in a plastic bucket on a van" as "Q. What was the worst act on "Celebrity America's Got Talent"?" Jon's a pretty salty guy, and for a while he got more ink in the Conversational's "unprintables" section than in the Invite itself. But he's figured out that filter, and now he's up to -- aw, wouldn't you know it -- 69 inks.

The rest of the Loser's Circle are all Usual suspects: Jeff Contompasis and Beverley Sharp are both in the Invite Hall of Fame with well over 500 blots of ink each, and Gary Crockett is just about there with his key card: According to the Loser Stats, Gary's second place and "And Even Laster" this week bring him up to 496 blots.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood singled out Kevin Mettinger's entry for "This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative. A moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities," identified as how 10-year-old Bill Clinton asked for lunch money. Doug also especially liked Stephen Dudzik's about the "fortress of pillows and blankets in the guest room," how Mrs. Mike Lindell expressed problems in their marriage; Chris Doyle's about masks repurposed as pantyliners -- for a sentence about how the no-longer-needed items are found "in drawers"; John McCooey's "3,000 chips in a car," which is what you hear crunching in a minivan -- that was my pick among numerous similar "chip" entries -- and Duncan Stevens's "The dude was wrong" as an example of the new way to write appellate court rulings.

Extra-Questionable*: The Unprintables: (*Headline suggested by Duncan Stevens) Among the entries that wouldn't pass the Style Invitational taste test (or whose writers specifically asked they not be used where decorous people might see them) -- but we figure that if you've read this far, you know what you're in for. (If you don't like bad taste, please stop reading now!)

A: Midway down the shaft, the walls took on a honeycomb pattern, with large shelves carved into them. Q: What were some of the unfortunate side effects of taking Viagra? (John Kammer)

A: The "P," it goes without saying, is silent. Q: Mitch McConnell, would you say that Marjorie Taylor Greene is the Republican "hope" for the midterm elections? (Kevin Dopart)

A. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Q. What's good advice for a congressional menage a trois? (Chris Doyle)

A, The doctor's bag now sits in his closet gathering dust. Q. What became of the surgeon's berries after the scalpel slipped? (Jon Gearhart)

A. My crawl space is always wet even though I have a dehumidifier and a sump pump down there. Q. What kind of synonyms do embarrassed women use in describing being at Brad Pitt movies? (Chuck Smith)



Week 1436

Style Conversational Week 1436: Stop me if you've seen this one before
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's movie-title contest
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"Garfield: The Movie" -- the Oliver Stone conspiracy version -- as envisioned by Loser Pam Sweeney in Week 625. Actually this engraving of President Garfield's assassination (the assailant is being apprehended at a New Jersey railroad station) appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in 1881.
Pat Myers
May 13, 2021 at 4:29 p.m. EDT

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There's a good rule among newspaper editors, one that's useful for anyone making any pronouncement: If you say something is the oldest, first, biggest, etc., be prepared to run a correction, because there just has to be one exception to prove you wrong.

The original version of this week's Style Invitational, Week 1436, stated that the new contest -- to summarize an alternative plot for any real movie title -- was our first of this kind since all the way back at Week 625 in 2005. It took exactly five minutes after I posted the contest to the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group, at 10:27 Thursday morning, for Duncan Stevens to note, "Week 1247 (reinterpret a movie title, supply a quote) was along the same general lines, FWIW."

Oops. For some reason (= we are slobs) both Keeper of the Invite Stats Elden Carnahan and I failed to notice the description of Week 1247 (October 2017) sitting right there in Elden's own superduper Master Contest List on the Losers' website, It was even coded properly with "MOV" so that it showed up on a list just of movie contests, though granted it was 53rd on a small-type list of 59 items. But Duncan -- who'd suggested the contest in the first place, with the twist of including a quote -- remembered it as one of his favorites.

Fortunately, I'm able to post the Invite online several hours before the print Post's Arts & Style section goes to press late Thursday afternoons, and the Devotees inevitably point out something that needs a fix before The Rest of the World notices. And fortunately, they're still making lots of movies, so yes, we may carry on!

The list of movie-title jokes we've already used is now a lot longer, but I'm sure there are lots more to be had. So while you can certainly use one of the movies listed below for Week 1436, don't use the same joke! Here are the results from the two -- pretty sure there aren't more than that -- preceding different-plot contests:

Note that some of the inking entries allude to the real plot of the movie, while others don't at all. We have room for both kinds. Still, a familiar title tends to be funnier for this contest than an obscure one, since the reader will laugh at the transformation (and/or the allusion to the original); on the other hand, I didn't need to know "Maria Full of Grace" to laugh at the cannibalism joke.

And look at all those names from 2005 who still play the Invitational regularly or participate in the Devotees! (We do regret the Invite-retirement of Peter Metrinko and Russell Beland, who inked up the joint in Week 625.)

Report from Week 625 [2005], an early contest of the Empress], in which we asked you to come up with an alternative plot for an actual movie title:

Dozens of Losers ventured that "Casablanca" was about the household of the first Hispanic president, and that "A River Runs Through It" was a travelogue of New Orleans.

Third runner-up: The Whole Nine Yards: Kirstie Alley's instructional video on making a miniskirt. (Phyllis Reinhard, East Fallowfield, Pa.) [In 2021, fat jokes about a particular person don't tend to be so funny]

Second runner-up: Baby Makes Three: A new mother finds something really, really disgusting in a used diaper. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

First runner-up: White Men Can't Jump: Three-year-old Bobby Fischer learns the rules of chess. (Kyle Hendrickson, Frederick)

And the winner of the Inker: The Asphalt Jungle: In this series finale, Tarzan suffers his untimely death. (Kevin Jamison, Montgomery Village)

Honorable Mentions:

The Magnificent Seven: Aftermath of a nuclear disaster, starring Dolly Parton. (Gordon Jones, Draper, Utah)

Garfield: The Movie: Oliver Stone finds another presidential assassination conspiracy. (Pam Sweeney, Germantown)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: The story of Louisiana's fight to save its community baseball fields. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney)

She's All That: After a suicide bombing, forensic investigators have lots to piece together. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

Yojimbo: A daring new chapter in the enduring saga finds Rocky Balboa going back in time to defend President and Dolley Madison from the invading British. (Brad Alexander, Wanneroo, Australia)

Silent Running: A mime, frustrated by the government's refusal to support his endangered art, launches an unusual campaign for public office. (John Shea, Lansdowne, Pa.)

Gone in Sixty Seconds: A documentary on America's recent budget surplus. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village) [budget surplus!]

The Shawshank Redemption: Michael Moore's film about a man who finds a coupon for a free shawshank in his Val-Pak and his struggles with Corporate America to redeem it. (Pete Hughes, Alexandria)

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon: The owner of a small-town strip club finds a loophole in the city's anti-nudity law. (Russell Beland)

You've Got Mail: King Arthur convenes the Knights of the Round Table. (Charles Mann, Baileys Crossroads)

The Big Easy: The Mae West Story. (Michelle Stupak, Ellicott City)

The Exorcist: A woman with poor English skills becomes an aerobics instructor. (Scott Campisi, Wake Village, Tex.)

Sorry, Wrong Number: Barbara Stanwyck portrays a tough-as-nails heiress who, day after day, fails to win the lottery. (Matthew Cole, Northfield, Minn.)

I Know What You Did Last Summer: An IRS agent pursues a lifeguard over undeclared poolside earnings. (Steven King, Oakton)

Chariots of Fire: In ancient Rome, a cartwright's wagons explode when pulled by pintos. (Brendan Beary)

Fantastic Four: A man tries to convince women that it's not the size, but what you do with it. (Art Grinath, Takoma Park; Tom Witte)

Around the World in 80 Days: The story of the world's slowest hooker. (Steven J. Allen, Manassas)

Gladiator: The true confessions of Hannibal Lecter. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis; Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Sly Stallone retrospective. (Russell Beland)

Stand By Me: The story of a man who always gets discount airline seats. (Russell Beland)

Maria Full of Grace: A gruesome tale of cannibalism in a small-town convent. (Katherine Burke, Washington)

Spring Break: A child is traumatized when his beloved Slinky rusts out. (Tom Witte)

Total Recall: Poisoned wheat flakes kill hundreds as a cereal killer strikes. Only complete regurgitation can stave off death. What did you have for breakfast? (Martin Bancroft, Ann Arbor, Mich.)

The Bad News Bears: The Berenstain family goes to Iraq. (Erika Reinfeld, Medford, Mass.)

March of the Penguins: An enthusiastic young basketball coach inspires little Youngstown State to reach the Final Four. (Pam Sweeney)

Groundhog Day: The folks from "Deliverance" celebrate Thanksgiving. (Michelle Stupak)

Miracle on 34th Street: A house in Georgetown actually sells for under a million dollars. It is, however, only six feet wide, having been a stable up until 1904. (Peter Metrinko, Chantilly) [now it'd be "under two million"]

This Is Spinal Tap: Part 3 of the successful documentary series, on the heels of "This Is Goiter Removal" and "This Is Colon Irrigation." (Russell Beland)

The Green Mile: A rival team sabotages a track meet with food poisoning. (Peter Metrinko)

The Last Temptation of Christ: The story of the man who ran the dessert cart at the Last Supper. (Art Grinath)

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Gov. George W. Bush realizes that the American voting public is put off by smarty-pants officials. So he begins a crafty campaign to make himself look less intelligent than the average voter. (John Shea)

Northwest Passage: The D.C. neighborhood clash over Klingle Street access culminates in a hilarious quiche fight . (George Vary, Bethesda)

The 40-Year-Old Virgin: Chef Tell is pressured to uncork his final bottle of rare vintage olive oil. (Ryan Poston, Florence, S.C.)


Twelve Angry Men: Chaos ensues when budget cuts force a small town in Nebraska to drop the Drummers Drumming from the Christmas pageant. (Bill Thompson, Columbia)

An American in Paris: The biggest Internet porn video of 2003. (Douglas Frank, Crosby, Tex.)

Return of the Jedi: In Part 1 of an epic trilogy, the patriarch of the Clampett clan leaves Beverly Hills in a journey back to his ancestral homeland. (Andrew Hoenig, Rockville)

And from 2017:


In Week 1247 we asked you to reinterpret a movie title with a line from your "script." Number of fart jokes submitted about a reimagined "Gone With the Wind": 30.

4th place:

12 Years a Slave: "No, Olivia, I don't think it's unfair that I expect you to help with the dishes and keep your room clean." (Danielle Nowlin, Fairfax Station, Va.)

3rd place:

The Pelican Brief: "And the pouch on our design will be so much roomier than Fruit of the Looms. We'll make a fortune!" (Larry Gray, Union Bridge, Md.)

2nd place and the book "Who Farted":

Notting Hill: "We will not fix health care. We will not fix immigration. We will not fix infrastructure. We will not fix taxes .*.*. " (Jesse Frankovich, Grand Ledge, Mich.)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon:

A Man Called Horse: "No, Mr. President, that is only half of what they call you." (Drew Bennett, West Plains, Mo.)

Snubplots: Honorable mentions

Three Days of the Condor: "More leftovers of this stuff? Why can't Mom cook turkey for Thanksgiving like everyone else?" (Elden Carnahan, Laurel, Md.; Mark Richardson, Takoma Park, Md.)

Boyz N the Hood: "Grand Wizard Duke, sir? I think we could broaden our appeal to, uh, less rural guys by calling ourselves something a little more hip. I have a suggestion .*.*. " (Danielle Nowlin)

The Thin Red Line: "Confirming the suspicions of many riders, we have discovered that portions of the Metro were built out of tinfoil." (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Full Metal Jacket: "Now that one really suits you, Mr. 3PO." (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

In the Heat of the Night: "When your air conditioning goes out, call me: Mr. Tibbs." (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

For Your Eyes Only: "You know, you really shouldn't drink Visine." (Jesse Frankovich)

The Shawshank Redemption: "I'm going to the pawnshop to get my shawshank back." (Gary Crockett)

Stand and Deliver: "She's in labor! How can this hospital have no empty beds?" (Mark Prysant, Silver Spring, Md.)

The Cider House Rules: "Man oh man, this is one awesome cider house." (Duncan Stevens)

The 39 Steps: "Where's that stupid hex wrench? Sheez, I don't think we'll ever get this bookshelf together .*.*."(Larry Gray)

The 400 Blows: "Sure, the Model 300 is underwhelming, but if you think the 300 sucks, believe me . . ." (Frank Mullen III, Aledo, Ill.)

Apocalypse Now: "But Mr. President, don't you think we should confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff first?" (Danielle Nowlin)

Around the World in 80 Days: "Mr. Fogg, United has the best baggage system in the industry. I guarantee your bag will be returned very soon." (Jonathan Hardis, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Bridge of Spies: "You see, the microphone device fits right here inside the dental material .*.*." (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Captain Phillips: "Lieutenant Flathead, it looks like we're really screwed -- unless the Captain turns up in time." (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Chain Reaction: "He told me it was 14-karat, but look! It turned my neck green!" (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Clueless: "Well, I don't know, was it Professor Plum in the ballroom with the candlestick? You tell me -- I'm just the caterer." (Colin Schatz, Oakland, Calif.)

Free Willy: "In sports news, we have to pixelate the results of the men's marathon in Slovakia .*.*." (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Hidden Figures: "Do you really think you'll have any success selling burqas in Beverly Hills?" (Bird Waring, Larchmont, N.Y.)

Hidden Figures: "I want to know why all the people in that yuge inauguration crowd didn't show up in the photos!" (Nancy Della Rovere, Silver Spring, Md.)

How to Train Your Dragon: "Well, it'll depend on what works for you. For me, thinking of baseball does the trick, though in an emergency you could think of Grandma in her swimsuit." (Danielle Nowlin)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers: "I'm sorry, sir, but the dressing room is for pageant contestants only." (Dave Matuskey, Sacramento)

Love Actually: "Is it '15-zero' or '15-oh'?" (Jesse Frankovich)

Mrs. Doubtfire: "Get real, Oog. You no expect me believe you make flames with two sticks." (Jesse Frankovich)

No Strings Attached: "If you walk out that door, Pinocchio, you are on your own!" (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

Strangers on a Train: "Watch it, you guys, you're standing on my bridal gown!" (John Hutchins, Silver Spring, Md.)

The NeverEnding Story: "Sure, why not take another crack at Repeal and Replace?" (Bill Dorner, Indianapolis)

The Thing: "Grandson, could you bring me over that . . . whatchamacallit . . ." (Rob Huffman, Fredericksburg, Va.)

There Will Be Blood: "It's just a garbage disposal, Sharon, how hard could it be to fix?" (Danny Wysong, Crozet, Va.)

Wall-E: "And in the event that the Mexicans make it past my first four great, great walls .*.*." (James Kruger, New York)

Must Love Dogs: "No way! I'll do nudity, but I am not doing a scene like that!" (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

The Quiet Man: " ." (Larry Gray)

Happily ever laughter*: The results of Week 1432
*Too-long-for-print non-inking headline by Beverley Sharp

It's hard to match the devilishly adorable "fairy tail reboots for adults" that 176-time Loser Melissa Balmain features in her new book of verse, "The Witch Demands a Retraction," but then we have our Loserbards, who stepped up to our contest inspired by the book but broadened to include nursery rhymes and children's books and songs, and mini-stories as well as poems.

Melissa's signed copy goes to second-place Loser Frank Osen, but if you order the book and email her at (or message her on Facebook), she'll be happy to sign a bookplate -- and dedicate it to a fellow Loser, if that's the case -- and send it to you so that you can paste it on the inside cover.

It's the second Clowning Achievement in just five weeks for Gary Crockett -- his 17th win all time -- who seems to have quickened his lope to a sprint to the gate of the 500-ink Style Invitational Hall of Fame, his win plus two honorable mentions this week put him at 494 blots.

Now that the CDC has announced that if you're vaccinated among vaccinated people, you are TOTALLY FREE TO PARTAY indoors or out, and show off your new lipstick to boot, I would be thrilled to congratulate Gary in front of his pee-ers later this year at a Loser function. Since we haven't gathered since our last Loser celebration -- the Post-Holiday Party of January 2020 -- except for a couple of outdoor outings in Gettysburg, Pa., I'm awfully eager to get back to our regular schedule of monthly brunches and especially the Flushies, our annual awards potluck and singalong, which was supposed to happen last June at Chez Sam Mertens at his family's house-on-acreage in Montgomery County, Md. Last time I talked to Sam, he was still game, so what do you say, Loser Party Organizers and Guests?

Gary's winning entry, once again refuting my prediction that I wouldn't want to continue our emphasis on The Former Occupant:

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,

Kissed the girls and made them cry.

Then he made them go away

Encumbered by an NDA.

(But richer by one-thirty K.)

Hildy Zampella went for the yuck-yuk in her Mary Had a Little Lamb/ Little Bo Peep tie-in, while Alex Steelsmith elegantly paraphrased the Little Dutch Boy story with a zinger at the end.

What Doug Dug: He's back! After working part time while recovering from that pesky heart attack, Ace Copy Editor is back with us to read the Invite most Wednesdays, and to weigh in with his favorites. This week Doug enjoyed Gary's winner as well as Frank Osen's runner-up "Emperor's New Clothiers" among the honorable mentions he singled out David Young's socialist Jesus (I hope people don't complain about my including the Bible under "folk tales"), Gary Crockett's allegorical mini-story about the boy who cried wolf "because there was a wolf," and almost-newbie Kate Baughman's tale of the Little Mermaid who found that losing her voice was just fine, once she learned she sounded alternatively like Gilbert Gottfried, Christopher Walken and Ringo Starr.

Great Minds etc.: Both Rob Cohen and Jesse Frankovich had poems about Rapunzel's golden tresses turning out to be armpit hair. Which reminded Doug of this classic Don Martin cartoon from Mad Magazine (you have to click because I don't have the rights to reproduce it here).

Here's Rob's:

The man called, "Rapunzel! Let down your long hair

So that I may climb up your golden stair"

But when he ascended, much to his alarm

He found her hair sprouted from under her arm.

And Jesse's Your Mama joke:

If Your Mama were trapped in a tower,

By a suitor she soon would be saved--

He'd just climb up her locks to her bower,

For her armpits have never been shaved.

What a bad boy are you! Unprintables from Week 1432

While the Invitational has run humor more than once alluding to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's bawdy rap song "WAP," I didn't think this would make it past the Taste Police:

Pussycat, pussycat, what's your locale?

Hangin' with Cardi and Megan Thee Stall.

Pussycat, what sort of stuff there was voiced?

They're writing a song that got me all moist. (Duncan Stevens, who did supply alternative wording but it didn't get ink anyway)

And certainly not this, by Tom Witte:

Cardi, Cardi, saucy and hardy,

How does your garden grow?

With slippery swells that parallel,

And nectar all aflow.

Not to mention this one, also by Witte (I didn't even have to check)

Jack Sprat enjoyed some "cat."

His missus relished "peen."

And thus, this very happy pair

Would lick each other clean.


Week 1435


Week 1434

Style Conversational Week 1434: Minds on the same track
The very clever foal name that popped up 18 times over
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Soup and Sandwich, one of 14 horses on the Week 1430 list to be running in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, has already paid off for Loser Matt Monitto: Matt wins this week's Clowning Achievement trophy with his "breeding" of One Fast Cat x Soup and Sandwich = Usain BLT. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
Pat Myers
April 29, 2021 at 4:19 p.m. EDT

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One Fast Cat x Savile Row = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x Concert Tour = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x Fly Like an Eagle = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x Fly Like an Eagle = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x Fly Like an Eagle = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift. Savile Row x One Fast Cat = Tailor Swift.

Hey, it's a good joke -- a punny, perfectly inkworthy name submitted for Style Invitational Week 1430, this year's installment of the racehorse name "breeding" contest. And had it not been submitted by 18 different people, Tailor Swift might well have been among this week's inking entries (results here).

There's just no way to know what the other people entering the contest -- this year, almost 400 of them -- are going to come up with. This is one reason you're allowed to send as many as 25 entries: If four people send pretty much the same entry, I toss it; if three people do, it had better be worth running a credit line that's longer than the entry itself. I'll note some more good-but-too-common ideas farther down in the column.

People are getting so good at this contest. Though well over 300 people got no ink this week -- though a whopping 60 of you did -- I'd suspect that many of them made my "shortlist" of 282 entries that I culled from the pool of 3,834. (I don't look up the authors' names until I'm ready to give them ink, so I never checked on wrote all those puns that I marked but ultimately tossed. Maybe all your entries were in that part of the list -- yeah! For sure!

As I read through the entries, I'd put a double star among ones I was sure I wanted to use. I ended up with 29 of those, and they're all sprinkled throughout today's results (including this week's top four winners). Then for the remaining entries -- it turned out that 43 more of them would fill the space exactly on the print page -- I paged through nine pages of single-spaced, small-type printout and chose what how-you-say spoke to me at that moment. I don't doubt that I could have chosen 43 others that would have been just as clever and funny.

But today's top winners, of course, worked for me especially well -- and it turns out that all four "above the fold" Losers are veterans of the horse contest. Matt Monitto, though still in his twenties, has inked in five earlier horse contests, but this is his first finish in the money, as it were -- and though this is the sixth time he's won an Invitational contest (for 164 blots in all) it's his first Clowning Achievement, our new trophy. His winning entry: One Fast Cat x Soup and Sandwich = Usain BLT.

This year's second-place winner, Jonathan Paul, was one of the biggest stars of the Invitational's early years, earning almost 400 inks -- and 25 wins -- before stepping back to a saner life a number of years ago. But Jonathan always comes back for the horse contests -- and continues to score big virtually every time. Today he scores with Troubadour x Chaos Reigns = Widespread Luting, a totally distinctive entry this week.

Bernard Brink started entering the horse contests in 2008, after his daughter Laurie Brink had gotten fourth place in the previous one. Virtually every year since then, they've each sent in a list full of clever names. Laurie usually outscores him, but this week Bernard gets his first ink above the fold, with Like the King x Breadman = Elvis Pretzely -- plus two honorable mentions, while Laurie scores "only" two HMs.

Rob Wolf, likewise, has made himself scarce Invite-wise except for the horses -- for which he's scored in virtually every contest in recent years, often with multiple ink and runner-up "honors." Today's mug- or bag-winner: Count Tolstoy x Uno = War and Pizza

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Panfilo "Ponch" Garcia -- whose moniker is even more fitting now that he just won the ACES award, from what used to be called the American Copy Editors Society, for his headline writing -- particularly enjoyed these honorable mentions this week:

Never Surprised x Chaos Reigns = No Duh Rioty (Susan Geariety)

) Beep Beep x Hidden Stash = Wile E. Peyote (J.J. Gertler, Alexandria; Brent and Elizabeth McBurney)

Federal Bureau x Classier = J Edgar Louvre (Jon Gearhart)

I Am the Law x One Fast Cat = Cuff Lynx (Kathy El-Assal)

Hush of a Storm x Money Mike = Hush Stormy (Jonathan Jensen)

Savile Row x Santa Cruiser = HaberDasher (Fred Shuback)

I Am the Law x Hold the Salsa = Mild Bill HIckok (Laurie Brink)

Breadman x Arabian Prince: CruMBS (Kevin Dopart)

More From the Great Minds Department:


Foals named "2020* came from a variety of pairings: Chaos Reigns x Isolate; Concert Tour x Outasite; Life Is Good x Notable Exception, among others.

The 1981 Tommy Tutone song "867-5309" was used for numerous foal appellations, mostly from Get Her Number; the other parent was variously Circumvent, Concert Tour and Prime Factor (is it?). Then there were variations: Get Her Number x Uno (and x O Besos) = 867-5308; x Hyperfocus = 86753 Oh Nine; x Myopic = 867530NighEyeing (now there's an example of piling on too much complexity);

Many entries, of course, used O Besos (besos meaning "kisses" in Spanish) to refer to Washington Post and Everything Else Owner Jeff Bezos; four people played off the spelling difference and named their foals "Amason." I wouldn't have had a problem making Bezos jokes; the Invite has made lots of them; I just wasn't blown away by any of them this week.

Similarly the many Biden references using Joe Man Joe: Biden My Time or Biden His Time appeared 19 times under various pairings. Many of the others seemed awfully worshipful, like, really: Joe Man Joe x Magnificent = President Biden.

Six people used the Operative form -- Horse A x Horse B as a modifying word = Modified A -- to Turn Beep Beep into Bleep Bleep, mostly via Tarantino.

Sometimes, though, one pairing works significantly better than another to get to the same foal: There were four foals named Clooney Tunes, but others paired By George with Concert Tour; only Rivka Liss-Levinson used Beep Beep -- the signature call of Road Runner in the Looney Tunes cartoons.

Gershwin was "bred" far more often than any other horse, with 195 matings, so it's not surprising that Gershwin x Ram = Embraceable Ewe showed up nine times and Gershwin x Big Fish = Porgy and Bass 14.

The horse with the fewest breedings, with a mere 10? Irony, take a bow: It's the scarce Prevalence.

A few more multiples, certainly not a complete list:

Overtook x Helium = Passed Gas -- so good, all seven of you.

Arabian Prince x Helium = Lighter Than Heir -- six.

One Fast Cat x Whole Shebang = Kitten Caboodle -- six.

Petruchio x O Besos = Kiss Me, Kate -- eight.

This week's follow-on contest -- Week 1434, the grandfoals -- tends not to have so much duplication, because so many of the horses are puns in themselves, and so they can be played on in more ways. Also, if history is a guide, there will be far fewer entries than for the foals -- 30 to 50 percent fewer. So there's every reason to waste even more time this week -- perhaps while you're watching TV's 90-minute buildup to the 2-minute Kentucky Derby. Be sure to root for "our" horses -- 14 horses out of the 20 scheduled to run on Saturday were on our list, and I think all of them got at least one foal today.

Once again, my deepest thanks to Loser Jonathan Hardis, who took my giant file of entries -- stripped of the Losers' names, addresses, etc., -- and transformed it into an alphabetized, perfectly consistently formatted Word document of 213 pages. (I'm so glad he got ink, with Spielberg x Savile Row = Clothes Encounters. And we both also appreciate the cooperation of all you Invite entrants who followed the directions this year. Please do it again for the grandfoals!

Note to people who got ink this week: I'm grateful for your patience in waiting for your magnet or runner-up prize; I'll get all the letters done sooner or later. Runners-up: Unless you'd like a Grossery Bag, which I can mail from home, it'll be a few weeks before I'm back in the newsroom for my once-a-month package-mailing frenzy.

If I think that you've already gotten a bunch of our current magnets, "No 'Bility" and "Punderachiever," I'll be sending you the "prize" letter by email instead -- but feel free to write me right back and ask for the magnet that you certainly have earned. (If you'd prefer your letter to come as an email attachment rather than by snail, let me know and I'd be more than happy to oblige.)

And did you see that last line in the Invite? Hey, remember The Post's Peeps diorama contest?So what's grosser, a bunch of Peeps or a bunch of cicadas?


Week 1433

Style Conversational Week 1433: Pranks for asking
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's Questionable Journalism contest
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The example for a 2005 Questionable Journalism contest; we've done this contest almost every year since then. The "answer" to this example came from the Ask Amy advice column.
Pat Myers
April 22, 2021 at 5:09 p.m. EDT

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Answer: "She is now in jail, charged with aggravated battery and domestic battery."

Question: What happened to the woman who mugged the Energizer Bunny?

That was the first example for the first Style Invitational contest we now call Questionable Journalism: Week 254, in 1998, and repeat today in Week 1433. The idea for the contest -- to pull a sentence out of the paper and follow it with a question it could answer -- was offered by Jacob Weinstein of Los Angeles, who blotted up 36 inks until he disappeared in the mid-2000s. The example was by the Empress's predecessor, the Czar, who got the "answer" from the Ann Landers column that would appear that same Sunday (we had the text of that column in advance).

The Czar ran the contest again in 2001 and 2003, and I picked it up and ran with it beginning in 2004, shortly after I started Empressing. As I explained in Week 561: "This week's contest is of a type the Empress loves: one in which contestants cannot steal their entries off the Internet, and one that requires readers to peruse The Washington Post, the fine publication that gives her real cash money as long as she does not use the word [blotted out on the page] or [blotted again] or, of course, [blotted again] (except as an adjective)."

All that, plus: There will always be a new source of material -- each contest asks you to look at new articles, beginning with the day it's published. And that source is huge, almost infinite: While we used to ask readers to use just that Sunday Post in which the Invitational appeared, now you're free to use any publication -- print or online -- as long as it's dated within the contest window, which has expanded to 11 days from first online posting on a Thursday to the filing deadline a week from Monday. (Yes, some Losers have complained to me -- only sometimes in jest -- about being forced to read enormous amounts of news coverage for 11 straight days. And yes, of course you can find lots of sentences within a few minutes, maybe even within a single article.)

Note that the requirements, as they were in recent years, have become even broader: You can drop a few nonessential words from the sentence, for example "Smith said," and you can use two short sentences. But try not to use very long sentences, since your entry might be the one most easily trimmed for space. Also, not deleting those extra words is one way to show some cleverness.

In general -- just as with the headlines used in our Mess With Our Heads bank headline contest -- it's better to use a sentence whose context the reader can roughly guess. That way the switch to a totally different meaning is funnier. The "domestic battery" sentence above works well here, transforming from serious to silly with some deft wordplay.

Contrast this with the second example to the same contest;

Answer: "A handkerchief edged in lace, resembling women's panties, to put in a man's breast pocket." Question: What would be a bad birthday present to get President Clinton?

The initial answer is so odd -- what on earth was Ann Landers talking about! -- that it detracts from the pretty good question. Also, words like "panties" makes the joke almost too easy; you don't get to enjoy the transformation offered by the battery joke.

So, for that ol' Guidance & InspirationR, here's a smattering of Questionable Journalism entries from that past 20 years of the Invite:

A. "Well, we're glad to be here," astronaut Bonnie Dunbar replied from the shuttle. Q. Has President Clinton ever made inappropriate advances to female astronauts? (Dave Andrews, 1998)


A. We were in the Guggenheim for almost three hours and had absolutely no idea what the heck was going on. Q. What would you hate to overhear one doctor say to another as they leave the operating room after brain surgery on your wife? (Tom Kreitzberg, 2003)

A. His response: "I'm not worth anything anymore." Q. What did the English teacher reply when his depressed son said, "I ain't worth nothing no more"? (Russell Beland, 2005)

A. I feel for the guy. Q. Ms. Hilton, what do you do upon entering a darkened room? (Kevin Dopart, 2006)

A. This is the place that made me who I am. Q. What's so special about the back seat of your parents' SUV? (Jay Shuck, 2007)

A. I don't know if I should say something, let it roll off, or what. Q. "Isn't that the neighbors' baby up on the roof?" (Beverley Sharp, 2008)

A. The 11 players and one substitute were reported missing over the weekend. Q. Where the heck is the Redskins' offense? (Jeff Contompasis, 2009)

A. "We're working our way happily and steadily through the process of production." Q. What did the mechanical engineer reply when his mother-in-law said, "We hope you'll soon make us proud grandparents"? (Cathy Lamaze, 2012)

A. Half the Republicans in the House have served three years or less. Q. Why do you say criminal sentencing guidelines are skewed to favor rich white males? Brendan Beary, 2014)

A. Negotiations have begun in Baghdad on settling long-standing sectarian disputes. Q. So, Sisyphus, what have you been up to lately? (Jeff Hazle, 2014) Note that this entry isn't about taking the words out of context, but instead comments wryly on the news itself. I'd be happy to run some entries like this.

A. Go figure. Q. With the ban on guns now strictly enforced, what did the Math Olympiad official yell to start the competition? (Kevin Dopart, 2015)

A. "I just grayed out or blacked out a little bit." Q. Do you deny starring in your fraternity's racially insensitive minstrel show? (Tom Witte, 2016)

A. Blasting will be done during the day and "very rarely" at night or on weekends. Q, How will the Purple Line construction differ from the president's use of Twitter? (Jesse Frankovich, 2017)

A. "Soybean prices are in the toilet right now." Q. What happened when the grocery tagger had to bring his toddler to work with him? (Danielle Nowlin, 2019)

A. At the moment, social distancing is the only effective countermeasure. Q. How do I get my parents to stop asking me when I'm going to give them grandchildren? (Hannah Seidel's first ink)

Now, go ahead and become an example for a future Style Conversational column.

Bardmouthing*: The results of Week 1429
*A non-inking headline by Tom Witte, who won instead with "Update Your Will" plus the honorable-mentions subhead, "The Errors of Comedy"

To quote a source even older than William Shakespeare, there's nothing new under the sun. And in Week 1429, the Loser Community proved especially adept at matching up the Bard's 400-year-old zingers to an equivalent, usually considerably less eloquent contemporary sentiment -- often in some embarrassingly stupid pronouncement by a current unluminary.

When Obsessive Loser Duncan Stevens suggested examples for this contest -- one of several Shakespeare-centered challenges he's proposed -- I told him that I wanted to stick to modern paraphrases, rather than taking him humorously out of context. Nothing about Caesar and his salad.

But how could I turn away Kevin Dopart's "Now I see the bottom of your purpose," as a warning not to stand up during a Zoom meeting? Or Sarah Walsh's quote from a sonnet, " * Then might I not say so/ To give full growth to that which still doth grow," about overly effective Viagra? Or even the play on "election" in Duncan's own winning entry?

But most of this week's 38 inking entries (31 on the print page) stuck to the original meaning, often quoting verbatim from some newsmaker or other.

Some Shakespeare quotes are used so widely in popular culture -- say, "O that this too, too solid flesh would melt" in the context of a diet -- that such entries seemed to pale next to less famous quotes. There was a lot of duplication this week, for instance a come-on by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the voice of various Shakespearean characters; usually, I chose my favorite combination of old and new, and other times gave double or even triple credit.

And as it's done now 17 times, the win goes to Duncan Stevens himself, for this timely gem about Stacey Abrams's activism for voting rights in Georgia:

If it be a sin to make a true election, she is damned." ("Cymbeline"; the "election" is a choice of lover)

"Ms. Abrams, the Georgia legislature thinks there's been way too much voting going on."

While runners-up Frank Mann and Gary Crockett are familiar names in the Losers' Circle, it's the first appearance "above the fold" for Nancy McWhorter, who almost doubles her previous ink stash with three blots today.

And impressed congratulations also go to two First Offenders: Jim Sproules, one of three Losers to translate's Shakespeare's decorous turndown line "I do desire we may be better strangers" to "[Swipe left.]," has been a longtime member of the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group, and had to remind me that this was his first ink; and a big two-ink debut (with more on my shortlist) for Karen Golden of Southern Maryland, who is clearly on the Invite wavelength.

And she's off! Next week, the winning horse names
This weekend I'll be curling up with more than 3,800 foal names from Week 1430, once again sorted and cleaned up by the indispensable Jonathan Hardis. As always, the entries are all grouped by horse, so if you sent in 25 entries, I'll likely be seeing them in 25 different places. I hope as much as you do that your extra-clever pairing wasn't the same extra-clever pairing that 15 people sent in -- to avoid this as much as possible, that's why I offer 100 names to mix. I'll leave it to the many Losers who can tell you in five seconds how many possible combinations it allows for. What I do know is that the winners are certain to be fabulous. See you next Thursday and we'll enjoy them together.

"Pranks for Asking," the headline on today's column, is by Chris Doyle, from an earlier Questionable Journalism contest.


Week 1432

Style Conversational Week 1432: The winsome wisdom of Melissa Balmain
The poet -- and 174-time Style Invitational Loser -- whose new book inspired this week's contest
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174-time Style Invitational Loser Melissa Balmain fractures fairy tales in a sometimes adults-only way in her new collection, "The Witch Demands a Retraction." (Courtesy of Melissa Balmain)
Pat Myers
April 15, 2021 at 5:44 p.m. EDT
This week's Style Invitational contest, Week 1432, challenges you to come up with a fresh, not-necessarily-for-children angle on a classic folk tale, nursery rhyme, children's book or children's song. (I'm not going to be doctrinaire about what's a genuine anonymous folk tale rather than one with a known author, especially for children's classics.) I was inspired to do this contest when I saw a tweet from Melissa Balmain that her book "The Witch Demands a Retraction: Fairy Tale Reboots for Adults" would be coming out this very week.

While Melissa has a long resume as a newspaper and magazine humor columnist, University of Rochester writing instructor and, since 2012, the publisher of the poetry journal Light, Washington Post readers probably know her best through her 174 blots of Style Invitational ink (so far) through her decade as one of our funniest Loserbards, snarfing up the ink through 10 years of every kind of poetry contest as well as a variety of others.

The Invite first encountered Melissa's work back in 2011 when she got ink in a non-poetry contest: It was to come up with a quote that some particular person would not say. And Melissa's was: "I'm just gonna try my best and hope I don't embarrass myself." -- Muhammad Ali.

A few weeks later, Melissa won the whole contest, plus three honorable mentions, with more non-poetry: The contest was to channel the old "Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce with some new cynical definitions. Her winning entry, an Invite classic, was "Hero: Someone who, in a crisis, exceeds our lowest expectations."

But it was actually in an honorable mention that week that Melissa first showed us the flair for the humor of the home that's become one of her strongest suits. "Kitchen shears: Perfectly weighted, precision-ground scissors used for cutting open bags of brownie mix."

And by January of 2012 Melissa got her first Invite poetry ink, in the genre she's shown in every year since: the obit poem. This one, a sort of Dr. Seuss of Threnody, got her second place that year; Melissa later included it in her first (fabulous) poetry collection, "Walking In on People."

Winner of the Annoy-a-tron, a little box you hide that beeps every few minutes:

"Jackass" daredevil Ryan Dunn (1977-2011):

When it came to wild stunts, he was second to none --

So who'd have predicted that Ryan M. Dunn

Would die not by catapult, cannon or cougar,

Or Russian roulette with a dung-coated Luger,

Or by tying himself to a runaway moose,

Or snorting ground glass off a lion's caboose,

But by drinking and driving? How could he succumb

To something so horribly, commonly dumb?

Melissa could publish an anthology of just her obit poem ink, but here's just one more, from 2017, once again drawing humor from the home hearth (is there any other funeral poem to mention Farberware?).

*Margaret Vinci Heldt (1918-2016), creator of the beehive hairdo*

You have to figure beehive gals

Kept plenty hidden in their hair.


(A pack of Kents? A Jell-O mold?

A handy set of Farberware?)

They'd never even tell their pals

Precisely what was stashed in there.

But Margaret's clients -- her, they told.

And now, alas, she'll never share.

Melissa still blots up the ink regularly with humor of all genres. She's particularly proud, she told me, of her winning user-reviews of everyday products sold on Amazon. Here are two that won the contest in different years. The first, in 2012, was just in time to dig at the seven-house-owning presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

"Coats & Clark Dual Duty Thread 400 Yards -- White": As a Mormon Republican, I wear a lot of white shirts. And because I'm "just folks," when one of them gets a hole I never throw it out, or hand it to an assistant to fix, or have my personal tailor, Alessandro, weave me a new shirt immediately from the hair of an albino yak. Gosh, no. I mend it myself, using this humble thread and . . . some sort of thread-attaching device. By golly, I do.

And two years later:

*"Universal Paper Clips 72210": One star

Universal paper clips, my tentacle! Instead of neatly fastening documents here on Naxerine Bb, these paper clips instantly melted due to the heat of our binary suns. Amazon's delivery service, however, was surprisingly good.


When I asked Melissa for a short poem from the new book to use as an example, she sent me a few. I chose the Jack and the Beanstalk fart joke, because it was shorter and not risque. But I think I like this one even more -- and I'm eager to see the cartoon that illustrator Ron Barrett ("Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs") provides as well:

Not So Snow White

Things started so well: found a chick in a box,

got her out, and days later, we wed -

such a snap because, speaking of life's pleasant shocks,

my stepmom-in-law turned up dead.

Home that night, after finally fooling around

(happy endings for both!), I sighed, "Heaven."

But my wife simply stared at the ceiling and frowned:

"Is that it? I'm accustomed to seven."

Rack-tile dysfunction*: The ScrabbleGrams neologisms of Week 1428
*Headline by Jesse Frankovich from our 2017 ScrabbleGrams contest

The Royal Consort knows by now to roll his eyes when I'm judging a Style Invitational contest and wringing my hands and saying, "Ugh, these are terrible. Nobody is funny! These are the worst ever! What am I going to put on the page?"

What's usually happening -- as it did with the Week 1428 neologisms found in ScrabbleGrams letter "racks" -- is that I'm wading through more entries than usual in an Invite contest; this time it was more than 1,500, from almost 200 people. And so if I'm hating on 50 consecutive entries and slashing my pen down the page of a printout in a big gesture of nope! three times in a row, I tend not to sense until the end of the process that, oh, yeah, I only hated 1,420 of them: Here are 80 good ones -- and that's way more than I can use.

Often I'd come across interesting ideas for a word, but they weren't funny, in either concept or execution. Only in the Land of the Bureaucrat do people send jokes like this to a humor contest: (CDEEKLR) "DECLERK: To eliminate positions rendered obsolete by automated records management." I hope the writer isn't contemplating a career in stand-up.

But, as virtually always, there was plenty of funny to go around in this weekend's results -- much of it from the Invite Obsessives, but also a number of names you don't see every week. I bounced my shortlist off three trusted advisers this week, asking them each to choose their top half dozen: my Czarist predecessor, Gene Weingarten; my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees on Facebook, Alex Blackwood; and Thing Two of my Royal Scions, Valerie Holt. But their lists proved almost comically different, a Venn diagram of three freely bouncing beach balls; each of today's "above the fold" winners, however, did appear on one or another of them.

You don't have to explain "funny" to this week's winner, Danielle Nowlin, who takes her 16th first-place win for Pap Art -- in the hands of an expert gynecologist, more than just a "smear." Danielle also won her first Clowning Achievement trophy four weeks ago (for the neologistic phrase "Foible File," where your brain pulls out all your embarrassments just as you're trying to get to sleep), so this time she'll receive a supplementary little flag with a Roman "II" to place next to her disembodied clown head. Danielle also inked with another laugher, God-rip -- "You know how when you were a kid they told you that thunder is the sound of the Lord bowling? Well, it's not."

While runners-up Frank Osen -- king of the neologism entry quotes -- and, more recently, Eric Nelkin are familiar Invite names, we last heard from Deanna Busick of Knoxville, Tenn., in one contest three years ago ... and before that, two others all the way back in 2007. She did, however, win one of those contests, for the neologism "Riminal: A man who doesn't clean up his toilet dribble." This time Deanna scores with "Repant," taking the wordplay in two directions.

What Pleased Ponch: Also weighing in this week, as he's been doing lately, is Ace Copy Editor Panfilo "Ponch" Garcia, who read the whole list last night (all of them made the print page as well as online): Ponch's faves included Danielle's God-rip; the triple-credited Antibag, "someone who'll carry 20 items out of the supermarket in his hands rather than paying the nickel"; Jonathan Jensen's GPaSs: The guy who insists that his phone knows better than you how to get to your house [the weird capitalization was the best solution I could come up with to have it read "gee-pee-ass" rather than something about GPA's or GP doctors who were asses]; Peatrap (Richard Franklin), a daintier piehole; Gramnet, what your kids call Facebook (Milo Sauer*, Mark Raffman); and from First Offender Kate Baughman, Analyst, a professional who can explain why the first thing you saw in this ScrabbleGram was ANAL STY,

*Tim "Milo" Sauer gets his first blot of ink since he retired from the Invite in 2009 after reaching the 100-ink mark. What Milo only recently fessed up to was, also in the mid-2000s, scoring another 100 blots (including four wins) under the name Elwood Fitzner; the surname is from his wife's family, the first name made up. All is forgiven, but please don't enter under pseudonyms.


I'm all vaxxed up! I was relieved that I'd decided not to write this column last week, as I briefly came down with Ye Olde Moderna 2 Fever and Lot of Fatigue about 20 hours after I got the second shot. Though the fever briefly hit 102, I was totally fine the next morning.


Week 1430

Style Conversational Week 1430: Back in the saddle again
The Style Invitational Empress on this week's horse name contest and winning bank heads
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Bob Staake's cartoon for Week 320, May 2, 1999. Bob admits to no affection for horses.
Pat Myers
April 1, 2021 at 5:50 p.m. EDT
Yup, the Kentucky Derby is on. After being moved to September last year and run at a virtually empty Churchill Downs (and on a shortened course, even), the Derby is scheduled for its traditional first Saturday in May, with probably at least 60 percent capacity, reflecting what the state currently is allowing for restaurants and other indoor businesses.

And while masks will still be required, If I were going, I think I'd wear one of those giant-brimmed hats to ensure social distancing.

Hence Style Invitational Week 1430, our most popular annual contest.

Last April, after the postponement was announced, events were being canceled left and right, and of course the pandemic quickly became more and more widespread, so I didn't have a lot of optimism for a fall Derby. But I certainly didn't want to miss out on the Invitational's most popular contest every year, and so for Week 1382, instead of using the names of that year's 3-year-old Triple Crown nominees, I listed 100 of the 145 previous Derby winners. But the game was the same: Select any two names and "breed" them to produce a foal name that cleverly reflects the names of both parents.


The winner: Black Gold x Macbeth II = MeTarSand,YouThane (Frank Osen). (Full results here.)

And then, wouldn't you know it: The Derby did go off in September. And so what the heck; then we did the contest again in Week 1400, this time with the horses that ran in the race (and 85 or so others).

The winner: Life on the Road x Villainous = RV Weinstein (Steve Langer) (Full results here.)

Ever since the Invite began this contest in 1995, at the suggestion of Loser and horseplayer Mike Hammer, the contest has drawn thousands of entries from several hundred contestants per contest. It's understandable: No outside research or Web surfing is necessary -- the list is right there -- and it's pretty easy to come up with a few entries in a few minutes. Many more contestants than in other weeks will submit the maximum of 25 entries; lately I've been getting some 4,000 names for the week.


It's daunting, true, but I always look forward to judging this contest. First of all, now that I can sort the entries so that I can read all ones for each pairing together (say, Horse 27 x Horse 53) -- and, thanks to the special program created and run by Loser Jonathan Hardis, without having to read them twice (i.e., Horse 53 x Horse 27) -- the process is far more efficient and far more accurate. And even more important: There are so many clever, funny jokes!

Still, with 4,000 entries to read within a couple of days, I can't mull each entry forever. And I find that recently I tend to read down the list with an eye for funny foal names and novel puns, then check on how it reflects the names of the sires (or even the occasional dam; there just aren't many fillies nominated to run in these races). But don't worry: If the entry doesn't have an obvious pun, I'll also peruse the entry to find another clever approach, like Determine x Agile = Will & Grace (Mia Wyatt,). Or: As Seen on TV x Verb = Avoid (Nancy Della Rovere) Or the "operative": A x B = Modified A: As Seen on TV x Censored = ** *een on TV (Duncan Stevens, Laurie Brink)

In past Style Conversationals at horse time, I often share winners and runners-up from our more than two dozen earlier contests. This time I'll look toward the bottom of each list, just to avoid repeating myself. Remember that all the inking entries had beaten out thousands of others: They're all good. Also, once I started adding entries online to supplement the ones in the paper, I'd often put the racier ones near the bottom of the list. Really, who's going to write in to complain about the 62nd entry down the page -- the complainers aren't going to read that far.


Drill x No Spin = Doesn't Auger Well (Larry Yungk)

Tsetse Fly x Dreaming of Anna = Sleeping Thickness (Brendan Beary)

In Orbit + Hello From Heaven = In Obits (Pam Sweeney, Sam Laudenslager)

Barber Shop Rock x Rousing Sermon = Four-Part Homily (Jeff Contompasis)

Verne x Whistleblower = 20,000 Leaks (Dudley Thompson)

Verne x Segway = In Eighty Months (Dave Prevar)

Concealed Identity x Positive Response = Private Aye (Kathy Hardis Fraeman)

Major Art x Become the Wind = DeGas (Laurie Brink)

Old Guys Rule x Sinai = See Nile (Susan Thompson)

Okay Corral x Super Saver = Buy It Earp (Steve Price)

Unspeakable Filth x Kollege = Dirty Duncing (Brad Alexander)

Pavarotti + Forty Grams = The Four Tenners (Mike Hammer)

Oceanography x Backlash = Abalone! (Mark Eckenwiler)

Men's Magazine x Reporting for Duty = Stand Up N Salute (Rick Haynes)


Would you like to see a few thousand more of these? This page on the Losers' website, kept by Such a Loser Elden Carnahan at, contains links to each new horse contest and each set of results, in plain text, PDFs, the whole schmear.

The results of Week 1430 will run online on April 29, two days before the running of the Derby, so we'll have "our horses" to root for in the race. While ultimately the promise of the actual horse won't determine who gets ink, I did fill about half of this week's list of 100 names from "top touts" predictions from various racing writers. At least the favorites should have an opportunity to beget some inky foals.

News quippings*: The bank headlines of Week 1426
*Inking headline by Jesse Frankovich in an earlier contest

I never tire of Mess With Our Heads, our bank head contest, and always finding myself reinterpreting headlines for weeks after I've finished judging one. And the results of Week 1426 should generate much coffee-spitting among the inveterate newspaper readers who probably constitute the large majority of Loserdom.


And this week's Clowning Achievement winner is a classic of the genre. Jesse Frankovich, who lives in Lansing, Mich., turned for some reason to the website of the Washington County (Wis.) Insider:

US 45 resurfacing project starts Monday

Former president getting skin peel, de-oranging

Jesse's name is familiar to anyone who's read the Invite in the past several years; he routinely gets several blots of ink in a single week. And this is not just his 17th contest win; it's his second win of our new Clowning Achievement trophy; he got the first just a few weeks ago. But in our 100 Clowners for 100 Losers program -- all the disembodied clown heads we could find -- I'll be sending Jesse a little paper "II* flag on a dowel that he can attach to the trophy's base. think we'd better make up a "III" and "IV" pretty soon.


Runners-up Chris Doyle and Danielle Nowlin also swim laps in their respective Invite ink vats, but it's the first trip for third-place John Klayman to the Losers' Circle. and just his third blot in all., for his play on "Find a Place for Covid Shots" (recommended: arm).

While I invited people to use any print or online newspaper, a large fraction of the entries were from The Post, especially the print version. And so I ended up with too many entries for the Local Living headline "Can I repair the pie-crust molding on my old table?" (All answers: Gross, no, just wash it off, throw it away, and make a new pie, for gosh sakes.), Also: Sweeping relief package clears Senate/ Every American will get a free Roomba. And various headlines about the hometown NBA team, the Wizards, generated various banks about Muggles.

Head covering required: Unprintables from Week 1426: Some topics are just too serious, some headlines too brutal, to make silly jokes about in the Invite. Like this well-done but tasteless effort from Jeff Contompasis: Prison guard pleads guilty in beating death/ Confesses to brewing Live Forever Elixir in jailhouse kitchen. Or this one by Barbara Turner: McIlroy shoots 66 to share Arnold Palmer lead * well, you know where this is going. Too soon, we can say every single day of the year.


And then just your generally unprintable: Goats pee on their faces to attract mates/ Yet all it gets me is a restraining order (Sam Mertens) And one that several people submitted with the same general idea: Things are about to get a lot harder for Joe Biden/ President thought little blue pill was his statin.

The Staake Stable
If you'd like an original Staake horse picture of your very own -- maybe even the Equine Strom Thurmond reprinted above -- there's a good chance that he still has some of his dozens of his equin-ish creations, either as a pencil sketch or the final pen-and-ink drawing. Go to and tell him what you're looking for -- a horse picture or another Invite picture -- and he'll check to see if he still has it. (Feel free to write to me to figure out the date, etc.)

See you next week -- maybe
There's a fair chance I might not do a Conversational next week: I'm getting my second Moderna shot at 5 p.m. the day before, and given that I had a mild reaction the first time around (e.g., overnight fever, fatigue), I'm a bit apprehensive about this second one.

But either way, Happy Easter/Passover/Springtime to all. And happy mating.


Week 1429

Style Conversational Week 1429: Look again
The Empress of The Style Invitational on the little details in this week's Bob Staake cartoon captions
Pat Myers
March 25, 2021 at 4:53 p.m. EDT

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The humor in a contest-winning cartoon caption -- certainly one in The Style Invitational, like today's results of Week 1425 -- often differs from that of a standard single-panel cartoon: While a regular cartoon in, say, The New Yorker might be of a man simply talking into the phone at his desk, a la Robert Mankoff's famous "No, Thursday's out. How about never -- is never good for you?," a contest picture almost shows some odd situation and looks for imaginative interpretations or ingeniously fitting wordplay. It's the caption answering "What's going on in this picture?" rather than that picture illustrating a joke.

Because the Invite runs a list of caption winners rather than a single one for each of Bob Staake's wacky cartoons, the contest also lets the reader enjoy the fun in a variety of interpretation: Wacky Minds Think Differently. It's not great, I know, that online you have to scroll up and down between the cartoon and some of the results, even with the cartoons spaced apart down the page; this week's print paper has a more effective format. But it's still fun. Today's 35 inking entries came from a pool of about 1,200, with about 300 entries per cartoon. (So if your similar idea didn't get ink, you're not alone.)

There's one subset of Novel Interpretations of our Staake contest that's unlikely ever to win the whole thing, but almost always results in a blot of ink for one or two Losers. And that's focusing the caption on some little detail in the picture -- often unintended -- and making a joke on it. I thought I'd share a few of those today, with inking entries and non-.

Image without a caption
(Bob Staake for The Washington P)
Red ovals: "I can't figure out how the light is on when the arm is broken from the base and floating in midair." (Jeff Contompasis)


Green oval, noting how the undies seem to be hanging stiffly at a sharp angle: "No, the streetlight is fine, but I'm concerned that someone is not using enough fabric softener." (Elden Carnahan)

Brown ovals: After soiling himself at his business meeting and then trailing it down the street, Jim finally found things looking up. (Danielle Nowlin)

And one that got ink, declining to accept what a sane person would instantly see as a phone (blue oval): Combing his nose hairs on his way home from Mardi Gras, Ralph suddenly realized why his nether regions were feeling so drafty. (Ivars Kuskevics)

Image without a caption
Picture B:

Blue ovals: Holding his breath till he turned blue. Carl could tell from the stench that Bob was shipping a corpse in his baggage. (Steve Fahey)

Including an eyelid: "If your skirt, backpack, eyelid, or entire body is blue, you may now begin boarding." (Jesse Frankovich)


Red oval: Jill knew what the question mark over her own head meant, but she wasn't sure what the 3 dots over that other guy's head stood for * (Richard Franklin)

And once again, the brown ones: Everyone poops like a rabbit at the airport. (Mike Anderson)

So what are those dots really? I asked Bob Staake what their artistic function was: Shadowing? Unifying the space?

His reply? "Black dandruff."

Image without a caption
Picture C:

Yellow ovals: He was knocked off his feet by the realization the kid wasn't his, as his hair curled in the opposite direction of the child's. (Jeff Contompasis)

Brown ovals: More "dandruff," in an unfortunate location: After further investigation, Alan has determined that he, not his grandson, is responsible for that most unpleasant odor. (Tom Witte)

"Guess you could call that a 'void-ian' slip, eh, Pops?" (Bill Dorner)


Or: Oof! Mustn't -- let -- Junior -- get -- the -- Raisinets! (Mike Anderson)

Or just * "Help! I've dropped my change and I can't get up." (Steve Honley)

Green ovals: Counting to 10 is a challenge when you have only three fingers on each hand. (Kevin Dopart)

And then there's the variant that Bob cited as his least favorite caption joke, as he chatted on the You're Invited podcast in January with host Mike Gips: one that plays on to the letter ID in the cartoon: Bob Staake gets bent all out of shape after his artwork receives a C. (Eric Nelkin)

Picture D didn't have as much microfocus: There was one more reference to the dots on the ground ("mouse droppings") but mostly there were allusions to the woman's droopy breasts.

By the way, if you'd like to put one of Bob's cartoons on your personal drywall, you can get a piece of his Invite art, either a pencil sketch or the final pen-and-ink drawing, at Tell him what you're looking for -- write to me first if you need help in figuring out the date, details of the cartoon, etc. -- and he'll check to see if he still has it. The original drawings aren't in color, because he scans them into the computer and then colors them in Photoshop.


It's the fifth Style Invitational win -- and 382nd blot in all -- for Dave Prevar, but it's his first Clowning Achievement trophy. It's for Picture B, with the man with the giant box on his head: "Jack hopes his inflatable-luggage gag goes viral." It and the three runners-up, one per cartoon, appear online throughout the results. 'Zups Lawrence McGuire, Jeff Contompasis and Jeff Shirley each are bespeckled with hundreds of ink blots, but for John Folse in fourth place, it's just Ink No. 14 and his second appearance "above the fold"; his first was a win in 2013.

What Pleased Ponch: While Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood continues to polish up his refurbished heart, Other Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia weighs in with his faves of the week, all from the honorable mentions: For Picture A, he liked Scott Straub's "I was checking for shorts in the electrical grid"; one of two Ted Cruz this week, this by Lani Jacobson, telling the senator that "they're not literally on fire"; and Barry Koch's "late bloomers"; for Picture C: "By the end of Week 1, it was already clear that 2021 was not as serene as other New Year babies" (Joanne Free and Seth Tucker with very similar entries) and Duncan Stevens's "scantily clad babe: and for Picture D, Duncan's joke about the Washington Football Team's desperate search for a wide receiver.

Love Laboring to Lose: This week's Shakespearean contest
I'm a sucker for Shakespeare contests: There's so much material to work with, all of it so readily accessible and in the public domain, and a chance to exemplify The Style Invitational's trademark mix of haughty and potty. As Duncan, Thane of Stevens (or Inthane of Invitational), suggests, the idea of Week 1429 is to choose a quote and convey the same idea with a contemporary (real or fictional) quote. It's not a puzzle-type contest with strict rules (e.g., change one letter) and I suspect that I'll be generous in setting the boundaries for what fits in this contest.


What I didn't have in mind were "Mess With Our Heads" misinterpretations of the language -- a quote about Caesar in reference to a salad, say.

I don't know if these previous Shakespeare-themed Invitational contests will provide much guidance, but they make a great read. (In some cases, the link goes to the week's new contest, so you'll have to scroll down a bit for the results.)

Week 683, string together words from "Hamlet" to write something funny

Week 772, "translations" of various literary passages for easy-readers

Week 1039, write something using only words in the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy

Week 1275, "Questionable Journalism" with Shakespeare quotes

Week 1329, Shakespeare "tailgater" couplets

Week 1376, add a character to a Shakespeare play

English teachers and students, I totally think that entering Week 1429 deserves extra credit. Deadline is Monday night, April 5.

Happy Passover to all matzoh-chompers -- and be sure to download Loser Barbara Sarshik's THE BEST "Seder Songs" parody collection, free at


Week 1428

Style Conversational Week 1428: Return of the Seven
The Empress of the Style Invitational -- plus NYT Spelling Bee man Ezersky -- on this week's neologisms
Image without a caption
Sam Ezersky, the person responsible for robbing workplaces, spouses, etc., of untold hours of attention from thousands of New York Times Spelling Bee addicts, perhaps including the Empress. (: Melissa Bunni Elian for The New York Times)
Pat Myers
March 18, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. EDT

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We jump from one letter-scrambling neologism challenge this week to another: Style Invitational Week 1428 is our eighth go-round with The Tile Invitational, in which you make words or multi-word terms of five, six or all seven letters in any of 40 "racks" taken from the out-of-print "Big Book of ScrabbleGrams," helpfully provided to the Empress on a big spreadsheet by Loser Jeff Contompasis, who suggested the contest in the first place back in 2013.

"ScrabbleGrams" continues as a daily syndicated feature in The Post and many other papers, but all the letters sets we've used have come from this one book (there are still enough in there for several more contests).

This neologism challenge is more restrictive than our Spelling Bee contest, whose results run today, since you can't use a single "tile" more than once. On the other hand, there are more racks to choose from, 40 in all. If you're new to the Invite, today's results should provide inspiration and guidance as to what sets the Empress's funny bone to Vibrate.

Funnycombs*: The Spelling Bee neologisms of Week 1424
*Non-inking headline submitted by both Bill Dorner (who raises bees!) and Jesse Frankovich


Judging from the results of Week 1424, as it did the first time we did this contest (Week 1277 results here) -- just before the New York Times Spelling Bee morphed from a low-tech weekly pen-and-paper challenge to a round-the-clock online temptation -- the seven-letter "hives" from 30 past Bees provided more than enough neologism fodder to produce a long list of clever, varied additions to the Loser Lexicon. It didn't hurt that this time I was able to offer so many hives, lifted from an archive shared on the website of software developer and science fiction author William Shunn; in 2018 I provided only 15, the number of weeks I could look up from the paper version.

The large majority of the entrants followed my fervent entreaties to format their entries in a single line beginning with the letter set. (See even more pleading this week.) Those who didn't -- whose entries ended up in two or more widely separated pieces once I ran the list through the alphabetical sorter -- might have lucked out anyway if I could figure out what the joke was supposed to say, which word the example went with, etc. Might not have.

Both Spelling Bee mastermind Sam Ezersky and NYT Wordplay blogger Deb Amlen graciously spread the word about the Invite contest on Twitter, and we got a bunch of new entrants this week. Diane Parham of South Carolina and Kevin Davis of California are both First Offenders this week; Diane skips the One-Hit Wonders list with two honorable mentions, the Maybe-Get and the Lint-Mint, and Kevin's "Enbee" got in a friendly dig at some words on the Spelling Bee lists, like "enhalo," that one doesn't tend to see in the Real World. (Hey, at least he did away with "duad.")


The top four winners this week, though -- the Losers' Circle, in Imperial parlance -- are all Invite veterans with a veritable vat of ink among them. Danielle Nowlin's "foible file" -- the database that helpfully pulls out all our previous embarrassments while you're trying to fall asleep -- gives her her 15th Invite win (for 371 blots of ink in all), but her first Clowning Achievement, the new trophy we started giving out a few months ago. Runners-up Frank Osen ("Clam mail," the DeJoy "improvement" on snail mail) and Mark Raffman ("Miracall," when your young-adult kid phones and just wants to say hi) are both Hall of Famers with more than 500 inks apiece; Dan Helming ("bun tuba," yes, a fart joke) is the relative novelty "above the fold" with about 35 blots of ink, including several previous runners-up. (The Loser Stats, kept as a labor of love by Ur-Loser Elden Carnahan, are sort of in the shop right now as Elden transitions to some new format.)

A's from the Bee man: Sam Ezersky's favorites
As crossword obsessive since childhood who was hired full time by the New York Times upon graduation from the University of Virginia to edit puzzles, Sam Ezersky certainly landed a dream job. Along with evaluating crossword submissions and improving on the clues of the puzzles slated to run, Sam, at 25, wields a weird sort of power: Seven days a week, day and night, untold (to me) thousands of pathetic word buffs stare into their phones at some letter of the alphabet with six other letters circling it, and attempt to find all the words, four letters or more, that The Great and Terrible Ezersky keeps on his list, denying admission to those he deems too obscure or offensive. (You know what a dado or a loggia or a cleome is, or what sails do when they luff? Sorry, it won't work for you.) As one Invitational Loser wrote to me: " As you know, all of us who play the Spelling Bee hate him." Aww, not really. We don't have to play the dumb game.


I especially don't-hate Sam, because he so eagerly endorsed this contest -- and he even looked at a 75-item "shortlist" of Week 1424 entries, culled from about 1,700 in all, and weighed in with his faves. Here are his Top 10 (his fave five plus five more), all from this week's honorable mentions -- complete with Sam's comments!

For starters ... to everybody who sent in a Spelling Bee neologism: It's only fitting to call these Genius! My five favorites, in no particular order:

Lavity: Potty humor. (Sarah Walsh) I can just imagine myself using this jocularly in a sentence ... probably would get lotsa crap for it, though.

Faceflap: Mouth of a nonstop talker. "Jeez, will you tie down your faceflap for just one minute already?" (Ann Martin) Wow, do I feel attacked!

Cancun U-turn: A quick reversal of an extremely unpopular decision. "In the face of a backlash from teachers, the superintendent made a Cancun U-turn and declared that learning would remain virtual after all." (Eric Nelkin) If this ever catches on, I'd be willing to overlook the space and hyphen to allow it.


[The Empress adds: Here's a good example of using a neologism in a real-life context and beyond its original one; part of the fun is its assumption that you get the just-days-old Ted Cruz allusion -- and are already using it to apply to other current situations.]

Mortarboardom: That feeling when it's been 45 minutes and the dean just started calling up the G's. (David Peckarsky) This feeling actually starts at the F's, unless I'm still walking back to my seat. Bonus points for the pangram!

And of course: Beegamy: Equal commitment to your spouse and a certain daily word game. (Steve Langer) How could I not mention this one? My partner knows it well.

[The Empress adds: I'm glad that Steve (who's also a semi-obsessive crossword person) at least gave parity with Spelling Bee to Ms. Allison Fultz, the ultra-generous co-host of the Loser parties they had at their house for several Januaries running, until you-know-what.]


And these to round out Sam's Top 10:

Bamarunt: The Crimson Tide lineman who's only 285 pounds. (Nancy McWhorter)

Febillion: How much Jeff Bezos made last month. (Mike Caslin)

Lay-Zee: The acclaimed nap artist. (Tom Witte)

Nonnounology: The study of how nouns get verbed and then texted, messaged, Skyped, Facebooked and Instagrammed. (Frank Osen)

Logyn: What's on the first page of the website where you make your pap-smear appointment. (Jeff Hazle)

"A big thanks to all who continue to enjoy this game, and who have found a way here to take anagrams and wordplay just a step further, with some real wit on display."

We'll be doing this contest again for sure.

What pleased Ponch: While Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood still recovers from that pesky infarction, Other Ace Copy Editor Panfilo "Ponch" Garcia offers his favorites, also from the honorable mentions: "Buttbra [Kevin Dopart -- it lifts but hopefully doesn't separate] is a toot! ... I mean a hoot! Lay-Zee [Tom Witte, on "the nap artist"] is amazing. Lobotomommy [Bill Dorner on a sleep-deprived new parent] is impressive. Making Mortarboardom out of 7 letters is summa cum laudable, and the definition makes it valedictorian [for David Peckarsky]. And Urnata [Jeff Hazle, a festive way to distribute a loved one's ashes] is a hit with me."


Not to Bee -- the unprintables: While The Style Invitational tends not to be associated with the words "prim" and "tasteful," even the Invite wouldn't go here:

YABELNZ > Anybalz: What 43 senators don't have. (Jon Gearhart)

CAILMNR > Crimanal: A violator of sodomy laws. (Tom Witte)

FACELPT > Fellatte, an especially savored cappuccino and milk. (Mike Gips)

Nope, nope and especially nope.

Thanks to all who entered Week 1424, especially you newbies -- and I hope you all give Week 1428 a shot as well. Deadline is Monday night, March 29, one moment before midnight (ish) wherever you are.

And speaking of shots: Wishing you a prompt and easy jab session and a quick aftermath. I'm one Moderna down, one to go. We WILL gaze upon each other again!

Meanwhile, be sure to catch the latest "You're Invited" podcast -- in a truly boffo season finale (Episode 12), Mike Gips interviews serial "Be Our Guest" parodist Mark Raffman, who offers up yet another one., or search for "You're Invited" at Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

The headline "Return of the Seven" was a non-inking entry by Stu Segal for the contest results.


Week 1427

Style Conversational Week 1427: Doomed to repeat it
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's history pun contest and anagram headline results
Image without a caption
A detail from the Bayeux Tapestry (technically an embroidery), an epic visual retelling of the Norman Conquest that was probably made within a few years after the invasion of England -- and inspiration for Brendan Beary's pun from 2004, "Let Me Run That Bayeux." (Bayeux Museum)
Pat Myers
March 11, 2021 at 4:27 p.m. EST

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Happy Impending Springtime, everyone!

For this week's Style Invitational contest, Week 1427, I decided to resurrect the Week 540 contest -- one of the Empress's very first, and one I've always thought was especially successful -- at the suggestion of Hall of Fame Loser Frank Osen, who didn't find us till Week 938. I'm looking forward to judging it: I enjoy historical references in humor; you have an almost infinite number of events to work with, so there shouldn't be a lot of duplication; and of course I'm a sucker for good puns.

When I ran Week 540, my fifth contest ever as Empress, I asked that at least one of the elements in the "A, or B" format contain a pun, but I see that the results consisted entirely of Pun + Pun, and so this time you have to come up with a pair o' puns. This presents a risk to spectacular puns accompanied by unspectacular ones, so do your best.


For guidance and entertainment -- and so you know not to use these specific jokes -- here's the ink from Week 540, published Feb. 8, 2004. I'm beyond delighted that many of the Losers who got ink that week continue to waste their time with us to this very day. (One who's bowed out is the suggester of the contest, Russell Beland, who was at the time the Invitational's highest-scoring Loser.) It was one of those weeks (like today's results) when the lion's share of the ink went to a few especially inspired people. But that was back in the day when there was no 25-entry limit; it's quite likely that Russell, Chris Doyle, Tom Witte and Brendan Beary each sent me 100 or more puns to choose from. I'd expect the ink to be spread around much more this time.

Report from Week 540, in which we asked for news or historical events to be presented in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" "A, or B" format of groaner puns or other halfwitticisms.

This assignment was attacked with great fervor by a few people who bombarded The Empress with entries all week long, including a couple who must have majored in Obscure European History at Wassamatta U. (the 1566 Compromise of Breda?).


Third runner-up: 1975 -- Metric Conversion Act passed by Congress: Take Us to Your Liter, or Tens Anyone? (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Second runner-up: 2001 -- Bush's tax cuts: Deficit Attention Disorder, or No Rothschild Left Behind (Andrew Elby, Arlington)

First runner-up, the winner of the plain old boring coffee mug: 1066 -- The Norman Conquest: Saxon Violence, or Let Me Run This Bayeux (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

And the winner of the Inker: 1854 -- The Charge of the Light Brigade: Fools Speed Ahead, or Is That Your Final Lance, Sir? (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

A timeline of Honorable Mentions:

65 million years ago: Extinction of the dinosaurs: Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus, or You're Looking Awfully Paleo (Danny Bravman, Potomac)

c. 1250 B.C.: The Exodus: A Parting Wave, or I Just Dropped a Couple Tablets (Russell Beland)


c. 1200 B.C. : Trojan War: The Last Time I Saw Paris, or Beware of Gifts Bearing Greeks (Chris Doyle)

c. 900 B.C. : The judgment of Solomon: Split Decision, or Halving My Baby (Russell Beland)

431-404 B.C.: Peloponnesian Wars: A Tale of Thucydides, or Hellas-a-Poppin' (Chris Doyle)

31 B.C.: Octavian at the Battle of Actium: Surrender Unto Caesar, or Let's Win One for Agrippa! (Chris Doyle)

1773: The Boston Tea Party: Of Tea I Fling, or Hurl Grey (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village)

1779 : France comes to the aid of America against Britain: Lafayette You, Not With You, or Burgoyne to Be Sorry (Brendan Beary)

1814: Napoleon is exiled to Elba: Corporal Punishment, or All This for a Lousy Palindrome? (Russell Beland)

1836: The Alamo: Mission Impossible, or Texas Toast (Tom Witte)

1846: The Donner Party disaster: Family Dinner, or Meat: The Parents (Bird Waring, New York)


1846-48: The Mexican-American War: Juarez Hell, or Tijuana Make Something of It? (Brendan Beary)

Late 1800s: Liberia adopts slavery of native tribes: On the American Plan, or It Takes One to Own One (Russell Beland)

1907-14: The digging of the Panama Canal: Sedimental Journey, or The Wicked Ditch of the West (Miles Townes, St. Andrews, Scotland)

1920-28 : Paavo Nurmi wins Olympic gold: Lapps the Field, or Nice Finnish Guys Last (Chris Doyle)

1929-39: The Great Depression: American Idle, or Stock in First Gear (Tom Witte)

1933 : Roosevelt declares a Bank Holiday: A Cure for the Runs, or Do Not Collect $200 (Russell Beland)

1935: Release of the game Monopoly: Now Boarding, or Playing the Race Car (Russell Beland)

1937: The Hindenburg explosion: Dead Zeppelin, or Light My Flier (Dave Ferry, Purvis, Miss.; Russell Beland)


1944 : The D-Day invasion: Strife's a Beach, or Did Juno We Were Coming? (Michael Denyszyn, New York)

1957: Introduction of the Edsel: Building a Car Bomb, or The Lemon Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree (Russell Beland)

1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis: Them Ain't Cigars, or Armageddon Nervous (Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls)

1968: The Soviets invade Czechoslovakia: Croaking Prague, or Dubcek's Bounced (Gordon Labow, Glenelg)

1969: The moon landing: One Giant Schlep, or Neil Before Me -- Buzz Aldrin, Los Angeles (Cliff Cummins, Hyattsville)

1971: Admission of People's Republic of China to the United Nations: Peking Into the Naked City, or A China in the Bull Shop (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

1996: The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal: Secret Service, or Insert Bill Here (David Iscoe, Washington) [Wow, risque for 2004!]


1996: Clinton explains the situation: Her and Her Big Mouth, or I'm Incurably Semantic (Russell Beland)

1999: Bob Dole pitches Viagra: Where There's a Pill, There's a Way, or I'm as Horny as Kansas in August (Chris Doyle)

2001: The Enron scandal: Piling It Up Fastow and Fastow, or A Man Is Known By the Company He Keeps Looting (Roy Ashley, Washington)

2003: Richard Grasso resigns: The Bucks Stop Here, or NYSE Seein' Ya (Chris Doyle.)

2003: U.S. handling of postwar Iraq: Peace-Poor Planning, or Throwing the Baby Out With the Baath Water (Chris Doyle)

2003: Michael Jackson arrested: Goodbye, Mr. Chimps, or The King of Perp (Mary Ann Henningsen, Hayward, Calif.)

2004: Style Invitational succession: Czar He Goes, or Beyond the Call of Doody (Sue Lin Chong, Washington; Greg Krakower, New York)

Perhaps we can rouse Russ out of retirement for an encore.

Papermutations*: The headline anagrams of Week 1423
*Non-inking headline by Kevin Dopart


As soon as I saw the headline anagrams at Anagram Times, a website under the umbrella, I knew that a classic Style Invitational contest would come of it. Thanks to Wordsmith's Anu Garg for not only letting me rip off his page's raison d'etre, but for actually linking to our contest in his widely circulated newsletter, A.Word.A.Day. (Anu is also the man to thank for the Anagram Checker tool, without which this contest would have been almost impossible to do.)

If you entered this contest, you know what a challenge it is to rearrange all the letters of a headline, with none left over -- and not just that, but to end up with something that makes sense as an English sentence -- and not just that, but to have that sentence make some sort of witty point. So I wasn't surprised at the week's small pool of entrants, not many more than 100, or that a lot of the ink went to a handful of Losers, almost all of whom have distinguished themselves in earlier Invitational anagram contests.

The big news four weeks ago -- though it might seem like four hundred weeks ago -- was Impeachment 2.0, and many of the week's entries centered on that necessary if futile process. The headlines came mostly from The Post, and a lot from the New York Times, but papers and websites based all over the world were called into service. (I'm always happy to see people using their hometown papers, so many of which are in danger of going out of business.)


In what fellow Loser Duncan Stevens called in the Style Invitational Devotees group this morning "the dog-bites-manniest news I can imagine," Hall of Famer Jesse Frankovich got the Clowning Achievement first-prize trophy, a runner-up, plus four honorable mentions. Jesse has been an anagram wizard for decades; in fact, he was already a star of the Australia-based Anagrammy Awards ( when I similarly ripped off that concern in Week 558 -- just a few months after the history pun contest -- and Jesse got his first Invite ink for the anagram "Earth Day: April twenty-second. = Hardy planet? We CAN destroy it!"

Jesse has branched out far beyond anagrams for the Invite; he's scored in virtually every kind of contest he's tried -- and this is his 16th contest win. But it's his first for the new Clowning Achievement trophy. Similarly anagram-ink-bedecked are his compatriots in the Losers' Circle: Kevin Dopart, author of a classic anagram of the Preamble to the Constitution, and Jon Gearhart, who once anagrammed the entire text of a several-paragraph letter that the Empress sent to him along with his prize, and sent it back to her.

In the introduction to this week's results (scroll down to them if they don't pop up) I offered an uncredited -- I never did look up who wrote it -- example of the sometimes perplexing combinations of words that constituted many an entry; if I had to struggle to understand the anagram, I didn't use it.

And as always, I tried to avoid entries, however well crafted, that came off as so bitter and angry that it muted the humor. (My umbrella term for this is "screediness.") Which is why this excellent anagram by Maurice Goddard of Norway -- whose work in Anagram Times I cited as an example for this contest -- didn't get ink this week:

As Trump's impeachment trial kicked off, Palm Beach argued about whether to evict him from Mar-a-Lago = A right fit place for him, that macabre, wicked, savage, brute mad former POTUS? A mental home! Lock him up!

What Pleased Ponch: As Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood, that slacker, continues to recover from a heart attack and associated fun, Panfilo "Ponch" Garcia has been shepherding the Invite through the copy desk. This week he noticed problems in two of the anagrams I hadn't checked yet -- and I hadn't even told him about the Anagram Checker website. (I fixed one, had to toss the other.) Anyway, here are his faves, all from the honorable mentions: Almost all of them were the short ones -- which indicates once again that "most impressive" doesn't always mean most funny. First, though, Ponch cited Kevin Dopart's lengthy scramble about the Texas power outage in the cold: "Notable climate-hoax notion tricks town's credulous, inexplicable moron residents" (key to funny; "inexplicable moron residents"). After that, they were all compact: "The glories of cabbage = I forage, eat gobs, belch" (Jonathan Jensen); "Love, in all its permutations = A million venal prostitutes" (Duncan Stevens); "About the impeachment trial = A beaten Trump: 'I loathe Mitch" (Jonathan Jensen) and "What are sperm telling us? = Get in! Her wall's upstream!" (Chris Doyle)

O yawn? No way! The unprintables: I think the edgiest one that I ran this week was Jesse Frankovich's beginning "Bastard Ted Cruz" (online only). But I don't think I need to explain why I thought it best not to run any of the following in the Invite:

Films offer more than happy endings = Ah! Porn helps men stay firm, do "effing" (Mark Raffman)

Biden's supporters jockey for coveted ambassadorships = Oprah: Biden's jockeys cover a forested bod, pimp-ass truss. (gyaadh, Frank Osen)

Breakfast can be boundless = Baked cobblers? Fasten anus. (Duncan Stevens)

Millions in grip of arctic freeze = Pilgrim fiancee: frozen clitoris (Duncan Stevens, who did specify this one as "Conversational only," although I think it would have made for a lively discussion next Monday with the other lawyers for the FDIC)

This weekend: Podcast sneak preview!
"You're Invited" host Mike Gips tells me that he'll be dropping -- be more careful, Mike! -- Episode 12 sometime this weekend. I'll tout it more next week, but I can't wait to listen to Mike's talk with his guest Mark Raffman -- in which he'll debut a song parody, complete with Loser Jonathan Jensen on piano. Mark, an Invite Hall of Famer, is famous in Loser circles for his innumerable takes on one particular show tune ...

So stay tuned to, or search for "You're Invited" on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.


Week 1426

Style Conversational Week 1426: Head games
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's bank headline contest and winning puns
Image without a caption
Bob Staake's sketch for another bank head example, one that I ended up not using. Headline: Ban on foam food containers is approved / Bank: Foam food can just sit out, duh, council rules
Pat Myers
March 4, 2021 at 4:57 p.m. EST

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First of all, just a quick memory of almost exactly one year ago, when we last ran a "Mess With Our Heads" contest: Style Conversational, March 12, 2020:

"Hello from the Empress's domicile, Mount Vermin! Hooray for remote publishing! Actually, I almost always publish The Style Invitational from home on Thursdays; I usually go downtown to the Washington Post newsroom only on Tuesdays to mail prizes, make printouts, etc. But everyone at The Post who doesn't require special equipment has been asked to stay home for the rest of March." I went on to explain that prize deliveries would be delayed a few weeks until we were back in the office.

Current projections: No earlier than June 2021, probably later. But I did receive a questionnaire sent out to Posties to ask us which changes to the newsroom would make us more comfortable: daily thermometer readings, more space between workers, banning unvaccinated people, etc. So maybe plans are afoot. (Since then, I've gotten special permission to visit the Post newsroom once a month, most recently last Sunday, to mail out several weeks of prize packages, use the laser printers, etc. The magnets, and other things that fit in envelopes, I mail from home.)


Anyway, back to this week's Mess With Our Heads contest, Week 1426. To those who are new to The Style Invitational, below is the FAQ that I ran in a Conversational column a year ago, which itself linked to earlier and earlier Messes. And for the guidance, inspiration and entertainment of all, I'll follow the FAQ with some of last year's winners -- so many of them were about that strange new time of hand-washing and toilet paper panic-buying -- as well as random classics from earlier MWOH contests.

What counts as a headline? In a nutshell, it's anything above the text of an article or ad, as well as a one-line link to another article, as on the paper's homepage. You may also use a bank head itself as your headline. [The "chair" example this week was a bank head.]

Do I have to use every word in the headline? No, but the section you do use can't mean something hugely different on its own ("City Passes Out Supplies to Residents" can't become "City Passes Out"), and you can't string together unconnected parts of the headline. [This is why this year's entry form asks you to show me the whole headline if you're just using part; I'll make the call.]


Can I change the punctuation or capitalization in the headline?

You can't change the punctuation.

You may change capitalization in the following case: If the headline, like The Post's current heads, is "downstyle" (capitalized like a sentence rather than a title) and there's a proper name in the head that you'd like to reinterpret as a plain ol' common noun, or vice versa -- say you want "lab" to refer to a Labrador retriever; or it's about a Lab and you want to mean it's a laboratory -- then you can write the whole head as upstyle, as in a book title. If the head is upstyle to begin with, just leave it that way.

Can I use the headings that appear in other online stuff besides newspapers? You can if it has a date on it and it falls within the required window, March 4-15, 2021. Very helpful to me: Copy the URL (website address) and put it underneath your entry (or at the bottom of the whole submission). DO NOT EMBED IT into the headline itself; I'll see a bunch of garble. (If that URL disappears, don't worry: see below.)


One more thing: Sometimes online headlines are ephemeral, especially on a publication's homepage; if it no longer exists, I'll rely on your honor. But come on, don't rewrite headlines to make them work for your joke; remember: honor. I can't check every last headline.

I'm tired of reading your edicts. Can't I read some jokes?

Here are highlights from last year's ink (Week 1375), of course reflecting that new, stuck-at-home life we had begun for what most of us that would be a few weird weeks while we nervously started rationing the toilet paper.


Major Universities Stop Lab Research

'Who's a good dog?' to remain a mystery (Jeff Shirley)

My Co-worker Burps Loudly and Engages in Self-Talk

Title set for tell-all book by Pence (John Hutchins)

Amid outbreak, Meals on Wheels is changing the way food is delivered


Frustrated, dizzy customers long to return to Meals on Tables (Alex Steelsmith)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon:

Queen's message of solidarity to the nation

'Fat-bottomed girls make the rockin' world go round' inspires Britons in time of need (Michelle Christophorou)

Selected honorable mentions

(Ad for kitchen cabinet remodeling) Don't Replace -- Reface!

Plastic surgery helping more couples avoid expensive divorces (Marli Melton)

What's still open in D.C.

Hole in presidential face continues to spout misinformation (Lawrence McGuire)

U-Haul offers 30-day storage free for college students

Parents must retrieve offspring from lockers by May 1 (Jesse Aronson)

'We'll improvise and make it work'

Copies of next week's Post to have perforations, cardboard tube (Howard Ausden)

Living in the present

Woman given isolation cottage by husband (Dan Helming)


Broadway to dim lights for a month

'Maybe virus won't see us' strategy questioned (Duncan Stevens)

Coronavirus slowdown seen from space

Extreme social distancing proves effective (Alex Steelsmith)

Crocs to close all North American stores through end of month

CDC sics carnivorous reptiles on nonessential businesses (Frank Osen)

Kitchen trends for 2020

Faucet that plays "Happy Birthday" twice tops the list (Bill Dorner)

House, Senate leaders start to make changes to congressional routines

Lobbyists must now leave bags of cash in designated touch-free drop zones (Allen Haywood)

Many who died had health problems

Captain Obvious releases annual report (Frank Mann)

This is the biggest blunder in presidential history

At least until tomorrow (Drew Bennett)

How to cook if cooped up with the kids

Hansel & Gretel witch starts 'Coven Oven' blog (Steve Honley)


My Co-worker Burps Loudly and Engages in Self-Talk

Royal Consort chafes at sharing home office space with Empress (Drew Bennett)

And some gems from the past:

Week 634, 2005:

From Prodigy to Promising Virtuoso

Even with 947 volumes, the most massive encyclopedia project ever hasn't reached the Q's (Russell Beland).

Week 834, 2009:

Neighborhood Watch

Recession Forces Bethesda Residents to Share a Single Rolex (Christopher Lamora; Cy Gardner)

Week 1047, 2013:

Court: Family must return ancient tablet to Germany

First aspirin manufactured by Bayer family to be sent home (Bruce Alter)

Week 1077, 2014:

State parks get creative in search of funding

Officials predict 'Don't Throw Coins in Lake' signs will bring huge influx of coins to lake (Danielle Nowlin)

Fauxlaborations*: The results of Week 1422
*Non-inking headline by Danielle Nowlin


As I noted in the intro to this week's results, Week 1422 basically asked: Give us a pun on a movie, book, song, etc. And the format was to show it as a result of a "collaboration" between the creator of the original and someone whose involvement would create the pun. Compared with Invitational contests that ask for poems, songs or comedy dialogue, it was an easy, short-form challenge to produce some wordplay, which explains the 2,000 entries that came in from about 200 entrants, many of them new names -- we have five First Offenders this week.

I tried to avoid famously hoary puns like "Tequila Mockingbird" or "My Corona," though I didn't insist that some joke had never been made before by anyone ever. Hopefully it's at least in a fresh context.

Congratulations first of all to Daniel Fleisher, who suggested this contest to the Empress; he even got ink for "Everything Licked This Way Comes" (Ray Bradbury + Ben & Jerry), his sixth blot of ink ever. (Dan's official anagram on the Loser Stats page: SAD, I FELL IN HERE.)


It's the first Style Invitational win, but the 69th (and 70th and 71st) blot of ink for Harold Mantle, who got his very first ink in Week 5. Hal gets our new Clowning Achievement trophy for "The Poison-Good Bible," Kingsolver x Putin. One of the runner-up entries, for Marie Kondo x Lindsey Graham's "The Fine Art of Toadying Up," was sent almost identically by Invite veteran Frank Mullen and total newbie John Butman. Each gets his choice of Loser Mug or Grossery Bag, and John also scores the Fir Stink for his first ink.

It's always fun to discover new names among the entries I've chosen, once I look them up -- and especially to find that they're responsible for several inkworthies. This week's phenom is Megan Barnett of Crozet, Va., near Charlottesville, who ended up with three honorable mentions in her debut * followed closely by her husband, Hil, who got two. Hil left a note with his entry: "This is how my wife and I spent our whole Valentine's weekend. Um, thanks, Empress." Awww, and now they'll have that pair of Fir Stinks.

What Doug Dug * was not The Style Invitational this week, because Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood elected instead to have a heart attack last Friday. I'm happy and relieved to report that three stents later, he's home from the hospital and feeling way better. But can you believe that he didn't take me up on my offer of "some diverting reading material"?

Fortunately, warmed up in the bullpen was Other Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia, who reports that What Pleased Ponch most was a joke that might confuse readers five years hence: Megan Barnett's "All I Want for Christmas Is Glue," featuring the woman who sprayed her head with aerosol Gorilla Glue, then posted a video on social media asking for advice. Ponch also especially liked Duncan Stevens's Tarantino version of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?": "Having read "Brown Bear" to my boys scads of times when they were growing up, that one made me think "$@%# YEAH!"

Do kids dress up as YOU for Famous Americans Day?
Bob Staake posted on his Facebook page yesterday an adorable photo of a young boy. A parent had sent it to him along with this note: "Today's theme for spirit week was "dress like a famous American" and Ezra chose his favorite author/illustrator Bob Staake!! Ezra was SO excited for today and wanted to make sure everyone knew who he was and what his favorite book is."

If you can't see the photo in the link, the smiling Ezra -- currently missing an incisor or two -- is wearing Bob's usual T-shirt/flannel shirt/ball cap get-up, complete with pencil in the shirt pocket. And he's showing the camera Bob's popular picture book "The Donut Chef."

But you don't have to dress like Bob to have a Staake of your own: You can get a piece of his Invite art, either a pencil sketch or the final pen-and-ink drawing, at Tell him what you're looking for -- write to me first if you need help in figuring out the date, details of the cartoon, etc. -- and he'll check to see if he still has it.

Meanwhile, those Staake cartoons in the Week 1425 contest still await your captions: Deadline is Monday night, March 8. Lay 'em on me.


Week 1425

Style Conversational Week 1425: Sketchy situations with Bob Staake
The Empress of The Style Invitational talks about this week's caption contest and 'Alternagural Address' results
Image without a caption
The sheet of sketches -- often he'll send even more -- that Bob Staake sent to me this week as options for the four I needed for the Week 1425 caption contest. I went with D, F, G and H (now renamed A, B, C and D).
Pat Myers
Feb. 25, 2021 at 5:11 p.m. EST

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While Bob Staake's illustrations (dis)grace The Style Invitational just about every week of the year, it's time for a Bobocentric contest, which we last did in August. Though that one was a special edition in which Bob drew "blank stages" of various well-worn cartoon panel settings (e.g., desert island) and we asked for novel takes on them (results here), this week it's Classic Staake for Week 1425.

I've worked with Bob so long -- every week for more than 17 years -- that I don't need to tell him that the final pictures should include people with different skin tones, that he'd let me know about any possibly controversial details that I might not notice in the mini-sketches, etc.

Meanwhile, if you missed Mike Gips's interview with Bob, "Staake Talks Smaake," check out Episode 9 of "You're Invited," Mike's podcast about The Style Invitational. Bob talks about the Invite's caption contests (including his least favorite genre of caption joke) and gives his side of the famed Cartoon With a ???? Hidden in the Middle story. (Check out all 11 episodes so far at or search for "You're Invited" in Apple Podcasts or Spotify.)


By the way, Bob is making his Invite art, both pencil sketches and final pen-and-ink drawings, available to the Loser Community at low-for-a-famous-artist prices at Tell him what you're looking for -- write to me first if you need help in figuring out the date, details of the cartoon, etc. -- and he'll check to see if he still has it.

Aaand once again .... The early returns from last week's contest, the Spelling Bee neologisms ( -- deadline Monday night, March 1), showed widespread disregard for the contest instructions to begin each entry with the relevant letter set, not to use the letters as a heading for several different entries. The latter means I won't be able to sort them out by letter set, or even know which of the 30 sets the neologism came from, without going back and attaching them before the sort (or reading them without sorting).

Yea, still I hold out hope: I am even optimistic that everyone who sends more than one entry for Week 1425 will format them thus, as I note in both the contest and the entry form:



PIcture A: A zingy caption for Picture A.

Picture A: Another zingy caption for Picture A.

Picture B: Something that made the Empress spit out her coffee on two different readings.


Picture A:

A caption that doesn't say which picture it's for

A second caption that doesn't say which it's for


1. Picture A: skfjlksdjflk

2. Picture B: sdlkfjskldjf

(or bullets, dingbats, etc.)

Thanks, guys -- you know I love you. But I'd love you more if.

Them's Biden words*: The Alternaugural Addresses from Week 1421
*Non-inking but super headline by Jesse Frankovich

As soon as the presidential election results were finally official that Saturday morning, Nov. 7 -- once I let four-plus years of despair and anxiety pfffft out of my body like a screaming balloon -- I said, "Guess we'll be doing another inaugural-address word bank contest."


But would it fly? It was one thing to mock the harsh, xenophobic rhetoric of Trump's "American carnage" speech, not to mention the already outrageous record of the man himself -- and the results of Style Invitational Week 1214 did that with glee, in a contest to pluck words from here and there in the inaugural address to write something else. Would it be funny, or even fair, to give "equal treatment" to Joe Biden's calls for unity and reason?

Yeah, yeah, it worked fine. Just look at today's results from Week 1421.

When judging the contest, I gravitated toward entries that were not just ingenious juxtapositions of words -- someone sent in an uncannily accurate total paraphrase of Macbeth's "sound and fury" soliloquy -- but were also funny. A literally laugh-out-loud "confession" is certainly what earns this week's Clowning Achievement trophy for rookie George Thompson for his first Invite win, and his 12th blot of ink in all, though an astonishing four of them have been "above the fold," one of the week's top four. [HAHAHAH! I just looked -- it turns out that the Macbeth thing was also by George Thompson!]


While I've expressed a strong desire to get past the Invite's many years of Trump-centered digs, it was hard to ignore the Ex-ecutive, especially when it came to Frank Osen's perfectly executed wordplay on "profound conviction." Jonathan Jensen gets another visit to the Losers' Circle with one of numerous poems in different genres submitted this week (be sure also to see Mark Raffman's); I was hesitant to run an entry talking about "Depends" -- for either Biden or Trump -- but at least it says "I don't need Depends." Numerous other entries were not so restrained. The runners-up are rounded out by another excellent rookie, Hannah Seidel, with her creative "commercial" for what sounds like a pay-per-view wrestling match between McConnell and Pelosi.

What Doug Dug: The faves of Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood came from this week's honorable mentions, though he told me he enjoyed the whole column: Doug singled out John O'Byrne's "Has he left yet" (John, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, is a dyed-in-the-wool wonk about U.S. politics); Kevin Dopart's Biden promising "all my heart to stand behind women, but they clearly don't like it"; Frank Osen's "I would like to thank the deep state"; and two that had nothing to do with government: Jesse Frankovich's "Good husbands know the paper should always be put on with the torn end hung forward," and the "And Last" by Elden Carnahan, who's been entering -- and keeping the stats for -- the Invite every year since its birth in 1993: "This is the first time in many weeks that I have put together any good words for this paper. Perhaps I will get an 'And Last' out of it."

I had lots of fun judging this contest, but that was ONLY because Loser Todd DeLap volunteered to run my shortlist of 63 entries through a validation program that he had constructed just for this purpose. I can't imagine how I could even have checked to make sure that none of the entries included words that weren't included in the text of the inaugural address, and used no more often than in the speech. (The word "were" was not in there at all, it turns out; "am" only once in the speech.)


Todd returned my list the very next morning with twenty-seven entries flagged. Some of them weren't really invalid, since I had explicitly said you could change any capitalization or punctuation; so it was okay to use "mothers" when the speech had "mother's," and also to drop the apostrophe and turn "we're" into "were." But other entries had added words like "soon," or used a shorter form of the word ("task" instead of "tasks") or added prefixes and suffixes. For instance, Biden used "children" five times but "children's" just once, which put this otherwise good one by Leif Picoult out of fixable contention: "If we do this, then our children and our children's children, and our children's children's children, and our children's children's children's children--where was I?"

Most of the errors, though, were easily solved, often by just deleting the invalid word. Some of today's inking entries had a little rescue treatment.

One more nutty little problem arose: Loser David Shombert wrote to tell me that instead of using the transcript I'd specified, from the White House, he found another one, from the New York Times, that seems to reflect all the words Biden actually spoke, rather than the prepared remarks. The perhaps impromptu line included the word "ceiling," which David confirmed by watching a recording of the speech on YouTube. Alas, no Invite ink for David, since I said we were going with the White House version, but here's some no-magnet Convo pixels for an entry that would probably have been too risque anyway to attribute to the president:


"I gave my women a foolish fantasy, then I could not rise to the challenge. They lay in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering: will it never happen? Not tomorrow? Only once in a century?"

And finally: Once again, Loser Hildy Zampella submitted a zinger that was too long for the Invite, but too funny to hide. Here's her inaugural-address entry:

It turns out that Trump really DID leave a note for President Biden in the Resolute Desk:

To the new President (don't make me say your name): I lost. There. I said it. That's over. In reality, it's a great opportunity for me. America's parties are in chaos. I will start one of my own. Rest assured, I will seek racial justice for ALL white people. They have lost so much.

Yet, even with these ugly setbacks, they have the resolve to restore the power their forebearers [sic in the transcript; should be "forebears"] gave them. Their struggle is painful to watch. It inspires me to look inward as I start a new master class with the greatest people, just like me.


So, about that woman you have -- the one who says, "Call me Dr." Wives (and in truth, all women) are exhausting! Right? When Pelosi and Kamala have their periods -- look out! Well, the Speaker is up in years. Not a good example.

To close, I have the decency to hand you a great America, and you should thank me for that. Promise me you will not do better than me. Remember who is the best ever and always will be: ME!

One more thing: security objects when you let "friends" come for the night.


Okay, we're out of here -- send those Spelling Bee neologisms in by Monday, March 1, for Week 1424! Formatted correctly.


Week 1424


Week 1423

Style Conversational Week 1423: Unnatural acts
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's 'joint legislation' results and headline anagram contest
Let's hope that Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will find as many opportunities to work together as the Loser Community found for Torres-Ossoff in the Week 1419 "joint legislation" contest.
Let's hope that Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will find as many opportunities to work together as the Loser Community found for Torres-Ossoff in the Week 1419 "joint legislation" contest.
Pat Myers
Feb. 11, 2021 at 4:14 p.m. EST

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It happens every time with The Style Invitational's "joint legislation" contest: The inking "bills" that I think very obviously sound like some English phrase or sentence are totally mystifying to at least a few readers. And so it is with the results of this year's installment, Week 1419.

Not that I understood all the 2,000-some entries submitted; I knew that I'd be stumped myself. That's why I told entrants that I welcomed translations of their entries (below them, so I could first read them and guess).

And indeed, those translations came in really handy -- because in many cases, they sounded nothing like what the string of freshman members' names sounded like, and often translated into some phrase that didn't even make sense; you'd never have thought of it on your own.

Example 1: The Donalds-Kim-Cawthorn-Owens-Sessions Act requires the destruction of all versions of Kimberly Guilfoyle's Republican National Convention speech. Provided translation: "Donald's Kim Caw for No One Sessions." Aside from the fact that "Thorn-Owens" doesn't sound like "for no one," the whole phrase doesn't sound like English. I'm not even sure what it means: "For No One Sessions"?


Example 2: Torres-Tiffany-Newman Bill -- or pill -- to boost masculine morale. Explanation: Torres-Tiffany-Newman = To restiff any new man. It's not a problem to bend the pronunciation of "Newman" to "new man," quite another to expect someone to read "Torres-Tiffany" as "to restiff [??] any."

I don't think any of today's inking entries are anywhere in that league of WTH? And the people I'd asked to read them beforehand had no trouble understanding any of them. But as soon as I published this week's results this morning, I found out that some readers were interpreting the names totally differently from how I'd read them. Even "Torres-Ossoff" -- used in perhaps 100 entries by dozens of entrants to mean "tore his ass off" -- proved confusing for a Spanish-speaking friend who read "Torres" in the authentic Spanish with rolled R's.

So here's the whole list with translations at the end. I think you'll find that if you say the translations out loud, you'll find that they're pretty close to how the names are pronounced.


Fourth place: The Moore-Greene-Salazar-Good Act mandates fresh leafy veggies to school lunch programs. (Pia Palamidessi, Cumberland, Md.) [More green salads are good]

Third place: The Mann-Jones-Steel-Owens-Moore Resolution lamenting the perpetual inability to keep up with the neighbors. (Steve Glomb, Alexandria, Va.; Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)[Man, Jones still owns more]

Second place: The Kim-Torres-Ossoff Act expressing sympathy for Kanye West. (Mark Eckenwiler, Washington) [Kim (Kardashian, his wife; rumors are that their marriage is in trouble) tore his ass off]

Winner of the Clowning Achievement: The Bordeaux-Gimenez-Torres Resolution, limiting long-winded uncles at Thanksgiving to 20 minutes tops. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)[Bored o' him and his stories]

The Newman-Bice-Moore-Tiffany Act to set minimum engagement ring sizes for aspiring second husbands. (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)[New man buys *]


The Mann-Torres-Spartz-Good Resolution discouraging the practice of barbed-wire hurdling. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.) [Man tore his parts good]

The Herrell-Harshbarger-Fischbach rule that if your Big Mac makes you sick, you can get a free Filet. (Kathy White, Fairfax, Va., a First Offender; Dan Helming, Trenton, N.J.) [Hurl harsh burger, fish back]

The Jacobs-Lummis-Jacobs Act to prevent the taking of property from landlords in underserved areas. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)[Jacob's slum is Jacob's]

The Issa-Tiffany-Herrell-Bordeaux Act to encourage teens to alert a trusted adult when a friend abuses alcohol. (Seth Tucker, Washington)[I saw Tiffany *]

The Good-Hinson-Bush Act requiring all police investigations to check for clues behind the landscaping. (Danielle Nowlin, Fairfax Station, Va.) [Good hints in bush]


The Mann-Fallon-Owens-Good Act endorsing the doctrine of original sin. (Steve Langer, Chevy Chase, Md.)[Man fallen; no one's good]

The Fallon-Issa-Keller Act requiring that sidewalks be salted during snow season. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)[Fall on ice: a killer]

The Fallon-Steel-Good Act enshrining the five-second rule into law. (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)[Fallen, still good]

The Fitzgerald-Good Act to resculpt the statue of President Ford in the Capitol with a better-tailored suit. (Hannah Seidel, Alexandria, Va.) [Fits Gerald good]

The Good-Herrell Act to reverse all executive orders from the previous administration, because sometimes you just need a Good-Herrell to feel better and move on. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

The Hinson-Fischbach-Fallon-Mann-Spartz Act instructs male legislators on the proper method for "tucking in one's shirt" when alone with a journalist in a hotel room. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.) [This is the biggest stretch of the group, I think, but I omitted the translation because it was too risque to call attention to. See the link above to read about the episode involving Rudy Giuliani and the "journalist" -- actually an actress making the second "Borat" movie -- accompanying him to his hotel room. Translation: Hints on "fish back fallen man's parts."]


The Moore-Hickenlooper-Pfluger Proclamation that more of anything is better than yesterday's covfefe. (John Call, Frederick, Md., a First Offender) [Here's an outlier: Rather than wordplay, it just jokes on the names because they sound like nonsense words.]

The GOP-sponsored Franklin-Jackson Act authorizes a one-time stimulus payment of $120. (Frank Mann, Washington; Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore) [Benjamin Franklin is on the $100 bill, Andrew Jackson on the $20]

The Torres-Ossoff Act to compensate former vice president Mike Pence for what Sen. Harris did to him during their debate. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.) [Same wordplay, different context]

The Moore-Clyde-Steel Act to fund a breeding program for Budweiser's horses. (Fred Shuback, Silver Spring, Md.)[Clydesdale]

The Bordeaux-Steel-Nehls Prison Cot Reform Act. (David Peckarsky, Tucson)[Board of steel nails]


The Bordeaux-Jacobs-Williams Act to encourage more novel boys' names. (Pamela Love, Columbia, Md.) [Bored o' Jacobs, Williams]

The Donalds-Good-Bice Declaration that we really didn't care if the door hit him on the way out. (Kevin Dopart, Washington) [Donald's goodbyes]

The Good-Bordeaux-Manning ICE Reform Act. (Dudley Thompson, Cary, N.C.; Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.) [Good border-manning]

The Bowman-Bordeaux-Boebert BananaFannaFoeFert FeeFieFoeFert Boebert Act to mitigate unnecessary name calling. (Scott Straub, Winchester, Va.) [One of a number of entries I got alluding to "The Name Game," the old R&B song by Shirley Ellis (video here)]

The Ross-Nehls Act to serve escargot sushi at the congressional cafeteria. (Duncan Stevens; Jesse Frankovich) [Raw snails]

The Bentz-Nehls Act to straighten out the escargot. (Mark Raffman) [Bent snails]


The Salazar-Mrvan Act to procure a fleet of bullet-resistant trucks. (George Thompson, Springfield, Va.)[Sell us armor van]

The Jones-Jacobs-Hickenlooper-Spartz Resolution that affirms, "That's kinda sorta my name, too." (Sarah Walsh) [Another play-song reference, this one to "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, his name is my name, too *"]

The Bice-Kim Act promoting fat-free milk. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.; Jonathan Jensen) [Buy skim]

The Fallon-Herrell-Keller-Kelly-Malliotakis-Marshall-Miller-Tubberville-Williams Declaration, telling the former Inciter in Chief to go 2L. (William Verkuilen, Brooklyn Park, Minn.) [This one does nothing but list legislators who have two L's in their names. Since publishing the results this morning, I was reminded that 14 years ago, I gave ink to the same joke, this one by Steve Langer for the 2007 legislators: "The Donnelly-Ellison-Ellsworth-Fallin-Gillibrand-Hall-Heller-McCaskill-Mitchell resolution telling the administration to go two-L." Hear it now, folks: No more ink for this joke until 2035.]



It's the first Clowning Achievement trophy -- and, I hadn't realized, the first contest win, period -- for Sarah Walsh, who didn't get her first Invite ink until Week 1324 and has been inking up the joint regularly for the past few months. Sarah, a school librarian who also appears at history events as Abigail Adams in costumes she crafts herself, started entering the Invite after she moved to the D.C. area from Seattle and got ink on her very first try with an account of the Creation of Eve written hilariously a la Jane Austen. This win and an honorable mention this week brings Sarah's ink count up to 39, with five of them "above the fold" as winner or runner-up.

Third place went to two Losers who'd sent in very similar entries about "keeping up with the Joneses": Steve Glomb finds himself in the Losers' Circle for the first time, with Ink No. 26, while Jesse Frankovich has been there, uh, more than once. Lessee * 76 times. Steve gets his choice of Loser Mug or Grossery Bag; Jesse has prized out until we get new products to give away. And while it's just the ninth blot of ink for Pia Palamidessi, it's already her second runner-up prize.

What Doug Dug: In addition to the two Torres-Ossoff entries, Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood singled out as faves: Moore-Hickenlooper-Pfluger by First Offender John Call; Bowman-Bordeaux-Boebert bananafanafofert by Scott Straub (Loser anagram: Actor's Butts); and Sarah Walsh's Jones-Jacobs-Hickenlooper-Spartz.

Given this week's reliving of the traumatic events of Jan. 6, maybe this week's Invite will give the reps and sens a moment of diversion. And it'll give Sens. Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio something else to look at when the video comes on.

The unprintables: For once, we didn't have a Rep. or Sen. Johnson this year for risque jokes. But alas, it's the first term for Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri. The thing is that "johnson" is a sort of cutesy term, a euphemism for "penis"; it's printable if the context isn't too graphic. This is not the case with "a bush." (Especially when the member of Congress in question is a woman, which just adds to the graphic nature.) So sorry, Steve Langer, no ink for "The Donalds-Steel-Issa-Bush (Donald still eyes a *) Resolution declaring that a former president hasn't lost his lust for the ladies." And Jon Gearhart: "The Man-Nehls-Moore-Bush Act to make Wilt Chamberlain's birthday a federal holiday." Nope nope nope.

'Unnatural acts' in the headline above was a non-inking entry submitted by both Kevin Dopart and William Kennard.

Honestest Wickets! > This Week's Contest (Week 1423)
As I mention today in the introduction to Week 1423, this week's contest was inspired by (i.e., ripped off from) the Anagram Times page of Anu Garg, best known for his widely distributed and always fascinating email newsletter A. Word. A. Day, also posts reader-submitted headlines on this Anagram Times page, complete with a photo and his nifty graphic (Anu is a computer scientist) that twirls around the letters from original to anagram and back again.

Anu gave me his blessing to use today's examples from his page, and even said he'd tell about this contest to his regular contributors. If you're entering a headline in Week 1423, please don't also submit it to Anagram Times.

For the purposes of this contest, I'll say that a headline can be (a) a heading on top of an article or ad (or, in a print paper, on the top of the "jump," or continuation page); (b) a bank head, or subtitle; (c) a subhead, a heading over a section within an article; and (d) a heading that doesn't have text under it (e.g., on a website's homepage) but links to an article.

Does the subject matter of the anagram have to relate to the original headline? It's not a rule. But it might be funnier that way, especially if it's topical.

Be sure to use Wordsmith's Anagram Checker! It's a super-fast and fun way to check your anagram to make sure you haven't used a letter too many times, or not often enough. Note: Quotation marks and other punctuation can mess up the validation, so it's best to take all those out before clicking "Check anagrams."


Week 1422

Style Conversational Week 1422: Udon want to miss these neologisms
The Empress of The Style Invitational discusses this week's new contest and Tour de Fours winners
Udon, the thick wheat noodles often used in Japanese soups, inspired a number of Style Invitational Losers in the UNDO neologism contest.
Udon, the thick wheat noodles often used in Japanese soups, inspired a number of Style Invitational Losers in the UNDO neologism contest. (Wikipedia, Creative Commons)
Pat Myers
Feb. 4, 2021 at 5:08 p.m. EST
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Wow, when Jeff Contompasis suggested that this year's Tour de Fours letter block be "UNDO," I knew it was a timely idea, but I didn't realize how swiftly it would happen:

Joe Biden hardly had time to take off his inaugural parade coat before whipping out his not-a-Sharpie and signing executive order after executive order reversing his predecessor's own decrees on immigration, gay rights, climate change, science restriction, educational indoctrination, and more more more, day after day: A giant CTRL-Z to 2016. (Will the next president do a giant CTRL-Y?)

Oh, and three of those letters in UNDO are DON.

"Don" as in Trump made it into a couple of the 46 neologisms -- coined words and phrases -- in the results of Week 1418, which required UNDO, or any of its permutations, to appear with no other letters in between (though punctuation and spaces were okay): "Don U Can't Be Serious" as a "Famous Last Texts" collection, by Ira Allen, and Jesse Frankovich's "Donuments," the statues that he thinks should replace the Confederate ones.


The residue of the former president's behavior still permeates the Invite, and is likely to do so to some degree for at least a while, as the Loserly artillery begins to turn toward successor targets. (You should see their arsenal of Jewish Space Lasers.) Lee Graham's runner-up of "Undo pressure," Kevin Dopart's "nincompounded" (what Giuliani's "trial by combat" exhortations did to the situation on Jan. 6) and Steve Smith's "trolling in dough" continue the tradition of the past, what, half-decade (sigh).

But notice how many of the inking neologisms today have nothing to do with Washington or the GOP or the Deposed Emperor. Instead we have lots of zingy, relevant, usable additions to the Loser Lexicon that refer to Life in General.

And they're topped this week by "ickspounded," a verb form of "TMI" by Terri Berg Smith, complete with the example of being treated to a graphic recounting of barfing the whole bag of multicolored Skittles. It's Terri's first Clowning Achievement trophy -- in fact, her first Style Invitational win -- though she'd already won three runners-up in just 13 blots of ink, most of them recently.


I only noticed this just now, but all three runners-up contain UNDO in that very order: It's the concept of Dave Prevar's definition of "undoh" -- to realize you're right after all -- that supplies the humor; you don't need further description or an example. I'm picturing Homer Simpson undohing. Dave doesn't Invite as much as he used to (though he's been a continual donor of wacky second prizes, like today's Amazing Silly Straw), so it's nice to see him back on the road to the Hall of Fame with Inks 371 and 372 this week. Jesse Frankovich cites Mike Pence as someone who'd trigger undorphins, but it's not political humor; that's left to Lee Graham's undo pressure as the sole current-events rep in this week's Losers' Circle.

A number of the inking neologisms were offered up by several people: fonduel was submitted by eight Losers. I generally chose my favorite description among them -- in this case, Mark Raffman's and Beverley Sharp's similarly posed idea of fighting over that last piece of bread in the cheese goo. (Most of the others imagined people swordfighting with those skinny forks.)

Here's a neologism rule of thumb: Even though neologisms are, by definition, new words, you're relying on the readers to apply their intuitive understanding of the English language, how they realize that a word is a noun or a word or an adjective. Part of that is a suffix: if the word has a noun ending, such as "-tion" or "-ment," the definition should refer to a noun. (You can avoid an awkward definition by instead using a zingy example of its use.)


Many neologisms are portmanteaux, terms that combine two existing words. And in general, the definition should match the part of speech of the second word rather than the first, because that's how multisyllabic nouns tend to be constructed: first part of the word describes the second part. Here are two entries -- playing identically on "correspondence" -- that made me think of this principle:

A. Correspondunce: Someone who starts a letter with "To Who It May Concern." (Jesse Frankovich) The second part, "dunce," is a person. What kind of dunce? A correspondunce.

Contrast this with another funny idea but one that doesn't work for me as well:

B. Correspondunce: Mail that contains a Style Invitational trophy. It's off because the noun part of the word, at the end, doesn't match the noun part of the definition. Mail/ dunce.


There's at least one entry this week that violates this principle: condumb, while playing off a noun, is changed into adjective form, but still has a definition in noun form: "Discount prophylactic with a hardly noticeable tear." I think it would have been better as an adjective (a condumb person) or even a verb (as in dumb down) but still laughed at Stephen Dudzik's definition, and didn't want to weigh it down with extra words.

By the way: If your inking entry was tweaked a bit, or more than a bit, this week, it wasn't alone. Some weeks, I hardly change a comma among the entries; other times I feel the need to tinker more with the description of a great-idea neologism. I wish I had the time (and patience) for back-and-forth workshopping, as limerick writers at enjoy with their submissions, but there are just too many entries and too few Empresses.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood agreed with my choice of this week's Loser Circle of entries -- especially Terri Berg Smith's winning "ickspounded" -- and also singled out Hannah Seidel's "brofound"; Jesse Frankovich's "correspondunce"; First Offender Adie Pena's "houndini"; and Jeff Shirley's "undoo" -- as in to excise all the poop references from the week of Invite entries, leaving the Empress a chihuahua-doot-size pile to judge. Adie, by the way, introduced himself to the Loser Community recently when he joined the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group. I'm pretty sure he's the charter member of the Philippine Loser Bureau. The way the mail's going, I'm sure he'll be getting his Fir Stink for his first ink before the end of the year.

Putting it together: This week's contest
As I mentioned in the intro to Week 1422, this week's contest is Classic Invite: combine two elements, puns on names, funny combinations of famous people. So it surprised me that the suggestion, complete with examples, came not from one of the Usual Suspects, but from someone whose Invite oeuvre had consisted of one obit poem two years ago:


But Daniel Fleisher seems right on the mark here, and I hope that the 71-year-old retired plumber and inveterate punster from Baltimore ("I have an archive: 50 pages of original puns") has more material for this contest, as an entrant, and for future Invites as well.

Note that one of the examples is in sentence form and the other in "breeding" format; I'll decide what to use (maybe both) when I see the entries, so don't sweat it. If writing it out makes it funnier, write it out.

Deadline is Feb. 15, which is Presidents' Day. Does it really matter anymore?

What is Episode 10 of 'You're Invited'?
Be sure to catch the latest episode of In You're Invited, Mike Gips's half-hour podcast about all things Invite. This time Mike treats Invite Rookie Phenom Sarah Walsh, who's been on both "Jeopardy!" and "The Chase," to a surprise Invite Jeop game, complete with Invite trivia. Sarah's a trouper -- it's a riot. She also gives a little dish on what it was like to be on "The Chase" last month, and to face down that little bowtied supertrivialist Brad Rutter. You can search for You're Invited at Apple Podcasts, Spotify or some other apps, or just go to, an especially handy way to listen at your computer.


Week 1421

Style Conversational Week 1421: Altering address
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's word bank contest and obit poem results
Sean Connery as Agent 007 and Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in the 1964 movie "Goldfinger." Both actors get the Style Invitational obit treatment in this week's results.
Sean Connery as Agent 007 and Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in the 1964 movie "Goldfinger." Both actors get the Style Invitational obit treatment in this week's results. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios)
Pat Myers
Jan. 28, 2021 at 4:51 p.m. EST
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"My small hands will get bigger -- honestly, magnificent! -- as long as I salute the one who controls my every move."

That was my example for Week 1214 of The Style Invitational in February 2017, the immediate progenitor of this week's Invite contest, Week 1421.

The "word bank" contest -- to write something funny using only the words Trump used in his inaugural address ("1,433 words of pure * source material") -- did not specifically ask for political humor, or mockery of the new president, from the Loser Community. But obviously I wasn't forbidding it, and the results -- except for a few pop culture and sports jokes, including Mark Raffman's runner-up about the Washington Nationals and the soon-to-exit Bryce Harper -- were aimed squarely at the new occupant and his already huge array of aberrant behavior, including the incredibly divisive and exclusionary speech itself.


It remains to be seen how we'll be sending up the new president. I always planned to run the Alternaugural again, to illustrate how we're here, just a few blocks away from the White House, and ready to have fun at the occupant's expense. I'm not going to pretend that there's an equivalence between these two inaugural addresses, or these two presidents, but surely we'll find a way to take the new president's lofty sentiments and twist them into something decidedly less inspiring/reassuring/sane. Whatever comes of them, they'll be very different from the truly classic but very specific results of Week 1214. Click on the preceding link to see all the winners -- including Michael Burch's "translation" of the speech that runs a crazy 700 words. Below is a sampling of the ink, which, alas, turned out to be right on the mark for the next four years. Except for the fear of losing Bryce. Meh.

Fourth place: "I will be a just and reasonable president to all of our citizens: Americans on the right, Americans on the far right, Americans on the radical right, and Americans striving to transition to the right or who promise to do so in an oath of total allegiance. Not so much to people in poverty, people from Washington, D.C., or anyone to the left of President Bush." (John Hutchins)

Third place: What is it like to be a Washington National? Many victories throughout the years, but never winning the Big One. With each historic fail, miseries and carnage. So much unrealized promise! Men, your time for success is now -- it must be! Because in two years, when the magnificent young power fellow in right leaves to become very rich in another city, we will have to rebuild. (Mark Raffman)


Second place: "What is going on? There are no people here. Did I get the time right -- or is it tomorrow? There should be many people here. Many, many people! It is too empty!


"I cannot accept this! Here is a different reality:

"Trillions and trillions of people assembled for my ceremony." (Elaine Lederman)

And the winner of the Inkin' Memorial: "Thank you, Chief Justice, stand there for a moment. People! Did you get a good look at this old Bible? Lift it for us. What is up with that, by the way? Is it from the Goodwill? It's, like, all brown and totally in disrepair. Flush it and get a magnificent new one with a little shine -- expense it! All right, you can salute, Roberts. Now, out of here!" (Frank Osen)

"I promise you, we will eradicate all other countries from the face of the earth. Right here and right now, we will transfer all other countries to space, and the American people will be the rulers of the world for many, many years to come, with love to guide us along the way." (the late and dearly missed Mae Scanlan)


"Thank you, Michelle and President Obama, it's good to be here right now, because back at your home, at great expense, I have a group of foreign women doing a ceremony that has infused your old room with an ocean of not very pleasant body by-products." (Frank Osen)

The Patriots are winning so much now. A total success. But who likes these people? No one! They are just like small women to us. Sad. (Mary Kappus)

And Last: Trump enters The Style Invitational: "Everyone but you will think this is great. Only you stand in the way of my triumph. But you are not a righteous lady. For too long you have deprived me of victory. I will be forgotten no longer. The American people are looking for you to tell the public that I win! Understand, my winning is a MUST." (Drew Bennett) [Yikes, it sounds like the call to the Georgia secretary of state.]


How to do Week 1421: I tried to anticipate questions about how to use the word lists, and so I take up a bunch of space in the instructions with rules to work by, which I'll repeat here as well (ask me why!):

Use the official transcript. (Don't count the stuff at the top before the speech begins.)

You may not change the word except for capitalization or punctuation (of any kind you like): "Person's" can't be "person," but it can be "persons." You can't take just part of the word, like "test" from "testing." The numbers listed must stay intact as well. (We have 2,500 words to use here -- almost twice what Trump fulminated -- so stop griping right now.)

There are a couple of phrases that combine words with hyphens: "once-in-a-century" and "swearing-in." We're treating those as individual words, though you're free to combine them yourself. This lets you use "swearing"! On the other hand, "co-worker" is one word because "co" is not a word, just a prefix.


Mike Burch's 700-word tour de force notwithstanding, longer is not necessarily better. In fact, shorter is usually better. And I'm more likely to have room for it. Don't pad and pad with every word you can fit in there.

Todd DeLap, the 110-time Loser who so agreeably and swiftly created the word list you can use for this week's contest (at, will also validate my shortlist of entries, to make sure they don't include words not on the list, or words used too many times. Four years ago it was Loser Gary Crockett (now at 480 blots) who created and ran a vetting program for me, and he offered to do it again. But Todd wouldn't have it: "Just 'cause that Crockett guy is funnier than I am doesn't mean I'm going to let him be a better programmer too." Ooh, duel it out, Macho Nerds! Seriously, I'm deeply indebted to both of them several times over, as well as to Kyle Hendrickson and Steve Langer, who've also checked word bank entries in previous years, almost always finding some word that shouldn't be there. (Once, Todd flagged his own entry.)

Still, you should check your own entry! If I can't easily fix it, I'll have to toss it. That would be so sad.

Laugh after death*: The obit poems of Week 1417
*The winning headline from last year's obit poem contest, credited to Jesse Frankovich, Jon Gearhart and Tom Witte; that didn't keep both Jon and Tom from submitting it this year as well.


As certain as you-know-what and taxes, this year's Dead Letters anthology was a zingy salute to a variety of Selected Mort Subjects, in varying degrees of (ir-)reverence. With the exception of First Offender Ellen Haas -- who snagged a runner-up with a winsome tribute to NASA "Hidden Figure" Katherine Johnson -- this week's credits are an dishonor roll of veteran Loserbards.

Chief among them this week is Hall of Famer Beverley Sharp, who snagged her 14th Invite win (plus three honorable mentions!), but her first Clowning Achievement, our new trophy. Once again, Beverley seems to have consulted the annals of the Darwin Awards, which highlights the demises of people who accidentally brought about their own demises in spectacularly dumb ways. Her winning poem, for example, tells the story of the man who went searching for the treasure hidden in Colorado by an eccentric codger named Forrest Fenn, had to be rescued in the snow * only to try again last March, and * no such luck this time. (In June, however, the treasure was finally found after 10 years, and Fenn, 89, died in September.)

Second place and what probably rates the Bad Taste Award goes, fittingly, to an ode (well, a two-line quip) about the co-founder of Pizza Hut:


In keeping with traditions old,

Once boxed, he was delivered cold. (Frank Osen)

Frank wins a face mask that was supposed to say "NYC Strong" in Hebrew letters, but the letters for "strong" were placed backward so it reads like "NYC Crotch."

And the Invite-ubiquitous Mark Raffman builds up to a zinger of a punchline with his tribute to four Hall of Fame pitchers: "The Umpire's final call: 'Outside and in the dirt.'" (Be sure also to catch Bob Kruger's poem for the same four, farther down the list.)

There was that familiar embarrassment of riches this week: poem after inkworthy poem that really demanded to be shared. Believe me, it's worth your while to catch all 28 verses in this week's online Invite -- none longer than eight lines, some as short as two (the print page has 15 entries).

I hope to share a few of the shorter ones as graphics on my Style Invitational Ink of the Day page on Facebook; sign up and click "like" at here to see Inks of the Day in your news feed (at least if you also click "like" on the posts a few times).

Meet the new boss?
Did you see that the legendary Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron is retiring next month, after eight years running the Post newsroom and more than 40 years in journalism? I chatted with Marty a grand total of one time, soon after he came to The Post, and explained what I did. He never killed a Style Invitational contest or even an entry.

No word yet on who'll be taking the reins, but I hope it's someone who likes bold humor. We've been very fortunate so far as the Invite nears its 28th birthday, under three different editors. Not-yet-arthritic fingers crossed!


Week 1420

Style Conversational Week 1420: Back to the vocal point
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's song contest and retrospective results
Style Invitational Loser rookie phenom Sarah Walsh (center, with teammates Ilana Short and Wes Hazard) vies with one of the "Jeopardy!" super-champions tonight at 9 on ABC's "The Chase," a VERY hard trivia game to win. Chat with Sarah on Zoom before and after; see the details below.
Style Invitational Loser rookie phenom Sarah Walsh (center, with teammates Ilana Short and Wes Hazard) vies with one of the "Jeopardy!" super-champions tonight at 9 on ABC's "The Chase," a VERY hard trivia game to win. Chat with Sarah on Zoom before and after; see the details below. (Ron Batzdorff/ABC)
Pat Myers
Jan. 21, 2021 at 4:54 p.m. EST
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Hi, everyone! I'm feeling happy! How about you!

I was going to do an Inauguration-themed contest this week, but it didn't work with my deadline to get Style Invitational Week 1420 to the copy desk. Next week we'll do something.

Anyway, it's definitely time to do a song contest, which we usually run twice a year. When I was preparing Week 1416, a second shot at 25 contests from June through November 2020 (whose results run today), I realized that there was no song parody contest per se, though some intrepid souls recently accompanied their anagrams of a song title with a whole song reflecting the anagram: See today's results, in which Mark Raffman rearranges the letters of "Stairway to Heaven" to make "I Vote, He Rants Away," following it with a parody about the person we can now call Florida Man; and, at the end, Jonathan Jensen turning "La Vie en Rose" into "A Seine Lover," complete with the mademoiselle jilted by her philandering beau.


Indeed, our last real song contest was Week 1378 last April, for "songs about Life in the Age of Corona." Who could have imagined that we'd still be in its grip?

This time, the theme is "work songs." It can have the function (at least in jest) of a sea chantey or prison gang chant, designed to keep everyone working together in sync and to keep spirits up. Or it can be more broadly just on the subject of some job or other.

The Invite, of course, is steeped in topical humor, and I'd think there'd be ways to incorporate current events into your song, depending on what profession you choose to write about.

The Week 1378 results were -- as absolutely always with our song contests -- terrific, and included a number of videos, ranging from a teenager singing from her bedroom to relatively lavish ones with titles and props. But as always, the lyrics are paramount.


If you're not a regular entrant of the Invite's parody contests, take a moment to read the guidelines and tips that I included in the Week 1357 Conversational (which in turn had been lifted from an earlier one). Use this link and scroll down a couple of inches to the subhead "Play it again." This addresses matters of length, structure, source music, rhyme and meter -- what works best for a contest whose results are mostly read in text. Just remember not to use those dates for the deadlines -- they're from November 2019!

Note that you have an extra week to send your songs; the deadline is Feb. 8. Not only will you have more time to work on them, but there's less chance that they'll be dated when the results are posted online 10 days later. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at; catch my attention in the subject line with "question about song parody" or some such.

Kook's Tour 2020, Part 2: The results of Week 1416
I'm seeing lots of new entrants in our Joint Legislation contest, Week 1419 (deadline Monday, Jan. 26), so I'm glad they'll also be treated to such a wide variety of Invite humor in our annual pair of retrospective contests. Just as in last week's results for the first half of the year, Part 2, Week 1416, featured at least one entry from 19 different contests, this time featuring anagrams, limericks, metaphors for 2020, movie humor and more, in addition to the cartoon captions, neologisms, and foal names that appear once again. Some of the ink I remember reading in the original contests, and regretted not having room to run; others were clearly brand-new, reflecting the topics of the day.


It's the fourth win -- but the first of our new Clowning Achievement trophies -- for Jonathan Jensen, who takes the Clowner for his ingenious and Should Be in the Dictionary neologism "maganetic," which Jonathan defines as "exerting a force so powerful that ordinary citizens can lose their marbles, and senators can lose their morals."

Actually, it'll be Jonathan's only Clowner; if he wins again, I'll send him a little pennant on a pole, like a flag at a golf course, to mark the repeat win. It'll have a 2 on it, or maybe a Roman numeral, so it won't look like second place. I'm calling it the 100 Clowners for 100 Losers program. Jonathan's win, along with his song parody at the end of the column, give him a total of 85 blots of Invite ink.

And it's the 112th ink for Ann Martin, who got the second-place dumpster-fire-motif mask for her ivory-tower anagram-name ACADEMIC DEMI-CACA. Dr. Martin, classical scholar, just might know of what she speaks. Mark Raffman's famed for getting ink with parodies of "Be Our Guest," as he did yet again just last week, but this week he taps "Stairway to Heaven," anagrammed to "I Vote, He Rants Away." And it was a banner week -- three blots -- for George Thompson, whose ink total boings from seven to 10. But three of them have been runners-up! George gets to choose between the Loser Mug and the Grossery Bag, or he could opt for a Vintage Magnet from before he started scoring ink less than two years ago.


What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood, who read the 34 entries that will appear in the print Post (there are 48 in all this week), singled out five entries from the honorable mentions as his faves: Jon Gearhart's "sargasm," the thrill of getting in a good zinger, and also his horse name "breeding" of Cool Runnings x Mr. Kringle = Jamaican a List?; Mark Raffman's "Aunt Yermama" pancake syrup that's high in fat but everyone uses -- yet another in our long tradition of Your Mama jokes; Kevin Dopart's anagram of "Won't You Be My Neighbor" to "Big Horny Women? You Bet!"; and Jon Ketzner's sly joke about the psychiatrist and his patient.

Cut to 'The Chase' tonight with Loser Sarah Walsh
Even though it was taped in November, you can still cheer on Sarah Walsh tonight on the third episode of "The Chase," the new and very difficult trivia game on ABC at 9 Eastern time. Sarah, who's one of the Invite's leading lights lately, in her rookie year, will be going up against one of the three biggest "Jeopardy!" champs ever (she's not allowed to tell us ahead of time which one).


Freakishly -- or maybe it makes sense, knowing how smart Our People are -- last week's episode also featured an Invite Loser, Beth Morgan of Palo Alto, Calif. Beth and her teammates were put up against the unbelievable trivia virtuoso James Holzhauer, and though Beth did extraordinarily well -- despite a defective buzzer -- her team couldn't build up a big enough head start to keep Smirky James from mowing down their lead and finally denying them the $100,000.

Sarah, who's also been on "Jeopardy!" herself, had to go through four online auditions for "The Chase" before they flew her out to L.A. She did tell me it was great fun.

Loser Andy Schotz has set up a Zoom room so we can chat with Sarah before and after, and type comments during. He'll open it up around 8:30. Log on with THIS LINK. (Click on "Launch meeting" if it doesn't come right up.)

And next Tuesday evening: Zoom just to chat
Style Invitational Devotee Ellen Goodman, a longtime fan of the contest and one of the first members of our Facebook group, has once again set up a Zoom chat for anyone who's interested, It's an "open house" -- drop by or step away whenever -- from 7:30 to 8:30 or a little later on Tuesday, Jan. 26. She did the first one as a dry run a few weeks back, and it was fun to meet some Losers for the first time, as well as some loyal fans, and to say hi to some of the regulars. Until we can have our Flushies awards and winter parties again, hey, it's something.

Here's the link to Ellen's Zoom. (Click on "Launch meeting" if it doesn't come right up.)

See some of you tonight! Any champagne left from yesterday?


Week 1419


Week 1418

Style Conversational Week 1418: Just inkin' about tomorrow
The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week's Year in Preview results and new Tour de Fours contest
Bob Staake was clearly inspired after he came up with "Alice in Wounderland" -- she falls into a skateboard park -- as an example for this week's Tour de Fours contest. The sketch he worked on Tuesday contained all the marvelous details of the final he finished Wednesday.
Bob Staake was clearly inspired after he came up with "Alice in Wounderland" -- she falls into a skateboard park -- as an example for this week's Tour de Fours contest. The sketch he worked on Tuesday contained all the marvelous details of the final he finished Wednesday.
Pat Myers
Jan. 7, 2021 at 4:33 p.m. EST
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Hello. I hope you've found something to smile about today.

The shocking and shameful events of yesterday afternoon transpired while I was choosing the final winners of The Style Invitational's Week 1414 Year in Preview. The TV ran in the next room here at home; my husband, who normally works on Capitol Hill, watched safely, though in shock, from the couch. A deadline is by far my most effective motivator, and I pared my wildly long "shortlist" -- thank goodness I'd already read al the entries -- with an eye toward producing a timeline of 2021 "events" that contained a variety of themes but also some similar entries that would serve as the equivalent of the running jokes that Dave Barry often threads through his beloved Year in Review pieces (here's the 2020 version).

Still, by midafternoon, as events grew more surreal, more dire, my list was still at 82 entries. It's always been hard for me to toss inkworthy material, but I had to lose fully half of them. Fortunately, two very funny and obliging friends agreed to weigh in with their favorites; I'm guessing that they were craving some quick diversion from the horrors going down inside the Capitol, even if it did involve making light of some of those whose short- and long-term actions created the environment for them.


And yay, it worked! Both Alex Blackwood, my co-admin for the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group, and Malcolm Fleschner, whose own annual Year in Preview timelines "inspired" the Invite contests, quickly returned lists marked with stars for their favorites and even favoriter favorites. So what if their choices, more often than not, were totally different: three stars from one, zero from the other? (Fortunately, they were both good with my top winners; Malcolm would have downgraded one of them, but he was wrong.) They did, however, both put big stars on a dozen of the entries in addition to my Losers' Circle choices; all of those are honorable mentions this week. And just about all the rest were starred by at least one of them. But I did end up exercising the Royal Prerogative and also gave ink to a few that both of them failed to appreciate.

Which are which? Nah, I'm not going to tell you that. But if you're a regular reader -- or even if this week's results are the first Invite entries you've ever seen -- you realize that your favorites from the list don't always match mine * or they almost never do.

But I'm going to bet that a whole lot of you laughed at this week's Clowning Achievement winner, by Steve Smith -- the revelation that Even Too Crazy for Trump Attorney Sidney Powell turns out to be played by prankster Sacha Baron Cohen. I read that one to the Royal Consort yesterday, and he literally guffawed. Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood told me it was a LOL for him as well. And so Steve, if you can make multiple people laugh while their country's ideals are being pulled out by the roots, you definitely deserve a disembodied clown head on a stick.

Our current first prize, the Clowning Achievement trophy, has space on the base to mark subsequent wins.
Our current first prize, the Clowning Achievement trophy, has space on the base to mark subsequent wins. (Pat Myers/TWP)
It didn't take long: Steve is our first winner of a second Clowner, the trophy that debuted in Week 1419, just five weeks ago. Steve already won in Week 1410, for his false trivia about autumn. I mentioned recently that since we'll have only 100 of these trophies, I'd love for 100 different people to win them. But the RC and I have an idea, building on the suggestion of Loser Bruce Carlson to add something to the original trophy to denote subsequent wins: We're going to work up a mini-pennant on a little "pole," like one at a golf hole, with a 2, 3, etc., on the flag, that can be attached to the base of the trophy -- heck, it could hold a whole mess of them, for the most Loserly. I think it could lend a festive circus atmosphere around our dejected clown head. So Steve, we'll get that to you when we figure out the best design and way to attach it.


What Else Doug Dug: In addition to Steve's winner, Doug Norwood singled out Mark Raffman's simultaneous Inauguration Day activities: the Biden swearing-in and the Trump cussing-out; Danielle Nowlin's about T's refusal to give up his presidential duties, insisting on still watching cable TV and playing golf; and Beryl Benderly's prediction that The Post's Fact Checker feature, in the name of gender diversity, replace its Pinocchio as a degree of dishonesty with the Kayleigh.

UDON want to miss this week's Tour de Fours contest
It's our 17th Tour of our Tour de Fours neologism contest, this time with the letter block UNDO, suggested by Hall of Fame Loser Jeff Contompasis as such an apt word for 2021. This contest has always produced lots of funny ink, often incorporating most of the block's 24 possible permutations. The Master Contest List at -- the Losers' own website maintained by Elden Carnahan -- has a special Tour de Fours page listing links to all 17 contest announcements and results, in your choice of plain text or PDFs of the print page and Web version, ever since Week 571 in 2004. Click here to enter that rabbit hole.


Or just read these past top winners:

From last year's Tour de Fours, with the block LIAR:

Nostrail: What inevitably drips down your face when you've got the sniffles in February and you're wearing your big gloves. (Jeff Contompasis)

Corialonus: Shakespeare rendered acceptable for delicate sensibilities. (Steve Honley)

Heilraiser: The person in a political discussion who inevitably brings up a Hitler reference. (Gary Crockett)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon: Flopularity: When people flock to see a show just to revel in its badness. " 'Cats' has proved so flopular that the theater added a midnight showing for stoners who want to creep out at Judi Dench's fur-skin." (Bill Dorner)

From 2011 -- TAXI:

Punxatini: Special Groundhog Day cocktail made with ice-cold gin and a touch of furmouth. (Jeff Shirley)


Imaxative: That gut-wrenching 3-D scene where the camera