In recent years we’ve been skipping an illustration of our foal-naming contest, instead going with a cartoon for the winner in that week’s results — because how many different ways can you illustrate the idea of horses in love or having babies? But Bob Staake asked some time ago if we could get this week’s illustration out of the way earlier, so he could concentrate on preparations for his tour to promote his latest children’s book, “Bluebird,” and I wasn’t finished judging the Week 1012 limericks. So I said, “Well, if you can think of anything we haven’t already done . . . .” The next morning, Bob sent me the sketches pictured above. Given that same week’s Supreme Court deliberations — and especially since this contest always requires you to “breed” two males — the choice was clear.
By the way, Bob’s tour will indeed bring him to Washington in a few weeks: He’ll be at the independent bookstore Politics & Prose in Northwest Washington on Tuesday, April 30, at 10:30 a.m., along with three other picture book authors. “Bluebird” is a departure for Bob in several ways: Its story is told entirely in pictures; it takes on serious, emotional themes, such as loneliness and bullying; it’s done in a muted color palette; and he’s spent a decade working it through. Also, as opposed to certain earlier efforts, any missing teeth the protagonist has would make him look cute.
This week’s contest: (If you’re new to the Invite and don’t know the drill, take a look at some earlier results. Because all horses that run in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes must be 3 years old, there’s a new set of names every year.)
Results of Week 965 (headline is for that week’s new contest, Week 969; ditto the other examples)
Results of Week 914
Results of Week 867
Note that most of the foal names incorporate puns, but there are other jokes as well; for example, the first honorable mention in last year’s results “bred” Discreet Dancer with One Sock Down to produce Amish Stripper.
While judging this contest has become far saner since I began imposing the 25-foal limit per person, it’s still a big production every year because it always gets a huge number of entries from several hundred people, many of whom aren’t regular entrants. I’ve developed a pretty systematic way of judging it:
As usual, I combine all the e-mails of entries into a single file, then make a copy of that file and scroll through it, deleting all the information about who sent the entries, suck-up notes, notification of bribe dropoff points, etc. Then I change all the remaining text — the entries themselves — into the same typeface and type size.
Several days later, I’ll sit down at the computer with a list of the 100 eligible horses, and search through the no-names on Horse No. 1, and select all the combinations I like that feature Horse No. 1, and save them to a list. Then I do the same with Horse No. 2, and so on. Since every entry features two horses, by the end of this exercise I’ll have looked at every entry twice.