Style Conversational Week 1052: Gridness thrust upon you with another Clue Us In

December 19, 2013

I and all my Postie colleagues have had to change our passwords since it was discovered yesterday that “hackers” had broken into The Post’s computers yet again. And so at this time I would like to reiterate that there is no proof, at this time, that any members of the Loser Community have hacked into other Losers’ e-mails and replaced incisively witty, original bust-a-gut funny entries with observations about parking on a driveway and driving on a parkway, as well as inserting misspellings of extremely familiar names and other terms.

However, it does seem to be the most logical way to explain the several e-mails from what seem to be adult United States citizens that included references to “Barak Obama,” “Barrack Obama” and a just-the-last-name “Oboma.”

(And hmmmm! Someone thing managed to delete, as of noon today, all the extra entries I’d added for the Web version of the Week 1048 Ask Backwards results, including three whole categories that didn’t make it into the print paper. They’ve now been restored, but I’ll be writing a lot less here this afternoon.)

Okay, it’s Clue Us In time — our 10th crossword contest, starting with Week 691’s “Haven’t Got a Clue” (the name changed as our headline space shrank). And this Week 1052 contest should be a welcome change from the anagram challenge of Week 1051, which I’m told is impossibly difficult (even though we did the same contest 10 years ago). Clue Us In, on the other hand, is a contest essentially comprising 74 little Ask Backwards answers, each inviting an entry of just a few words; just about anyone should be able to think of some clue for some word in there. Not that it’ll get ink, of course. But you do have more of a chance with any given entry.

If you’re new to the Invite game, it’ll definitely behoove you to look at some of the results of previous years. They’re all available from Loser Elden Carnahan’s Master Contest List at nrars.org. Just search on “Clue Us In,” note the week number on the left side of the table; then look a few items down on the right side of the table for that same week number, and click on that to see the results. To save you a bit of trouble, here are links to a few of them (scroll past the new contest to get to the results):

Week 691, (“Haven’t Got a Clue), 2006

Week 899, 2010-11

Week 1007, January 2013, our most recent installment

A few things to note about the contest:

— While the clues aren’t necessarily short enough to be used in a conventional crossword, they’re still fairly pithy. And also note that they don’t use question marks to indicate wordplay; it’s a rare entry that’s not wordplay.

— There’s a strong likelihood that one or even many other entrants made the same joke you did. When this happens, I’ll either double- or triple-credit people (if four or more people sent the same entry, I’ll toss it, or run it and credit no one in particular) or I’ll choose the one whose wording was superior in some way to the others.

NOTE: The way I like to judge this contest is to search through and compare all the entries for a particular word; copy out my favorites onto a separate list; and then go on to the next word. Therefore, please cite the word in your entry as a single word, as it appears in the grid, even if your clue interprets it as two or more words. That way I’ll be sure to see your entry during the search. It doesn’t matter whether you capitalize. I will always search on as small a unit as possible — ROCK rather than ROCKCANDY; PLUS rather than APLUS — so I’m likely to see the entry anyway. But if I’m searching on SEEN and you send me SE EN, that’s more of a danger; I can’t really search on SE or EN without having to deal with hundreds of irrelevant words. (I do scan the whole list one more time to look for oddball spaces, misspellings, etc. But please help me out here.)

— You may send only 25 clues; I don’t care if they’re 25 clues for the same word, or all different words, or what. Don’t write them up for the entire grid. If I see this, I’ll use the first 25 on the list and delete the rest. (Every year at least one person does an entry for every word on the grid, though we’ve had the 25-entry limit in place for several years.)

— Please double-space between the entries. It's not as crucial when I’m not working from a printout, but it's still a lot easier to read the items when they’re not all squished together with 24 others.

— I very probably won’t be running a complete list of entry-clues. Always, there are some words (most of them) for which I got a bunch of great entries, and some for which there just wasn’t anything as thrilling. One year I did run a separate, complete list of clues so that readers could try to actually work the puzzle using those clues. It was an enormous amount of work to produce, and hardly anyone tried solving it anyway.

— Note that the clues, however lengthy and however much wordplay is involved, are all American-style rather than British-style: They’re definitions or synonyms, and they’re of the same part of speech that the words are: i.e., if the word is a noun, the clue is in noun form; if it’s a verb, the clue would begin “to” or have “-ing.” British-style clues are very different, often being a non-definition sentence that includes an anagram of the word in question. Please use American-style clues.

In deform of a question: The results of Week 1048

As usual, the Ask Backwards yielded plenty of imaginative questions from a dozen oddball phrases. The category “An answer for the next Ask Backwards” did provide a bunch of “answers” that I plan to use in future contests, with credit and a magnet. If I ran them now, your weirder people would start writing the questions today.

For the fourth time, Mark Raffman gets to be the only kind of non-Loser he wanted to be. This week’s win plus an honorable mention gives him 89 inks in all, since just Week 979. I hope I’ll be able to give him his Inkin’ Memorial in person at the Losers’ Post-Holiday Party on Jan. 11 in Olney, Md. (invitations imminent; save that date). Barry Koch takes second place twice in a row, with his 140 Characters on Baloney, complete with perfect rhyme and meter. (And the poem does consist of exactly 140 characters, if you don’t count the spaces; you do have to count spaces on Twitter, but “140 characters on baloney” doesn’t specify a tweet, does it?)
Either the My Cup Punneth Over mug or the brand-new (currently being shipped) Whole Fools Grossery Bag goes to Jeff Wolfson, who got his only previous ink in a jointly submitted entry 15 years ago (“What is the difference between the human navel and the 1998 VW bug? The human navel has slightly more storage space”) and to our expat-in-Australia Brad Alexander, as well as to fourth-place Loser Jonathan Hardis, who snarfs us Inks 31 and 32 today.

With Malitz toward. . . This week’s fave from Sunday Style Editor David Malitz? It’s the other inking entry from Mark Raffman, for Omaha bin Laden: “What is the CIA’s name for an “enhanced interrogation” technique involving an ear of corn?”

And before we slip into the ewwwws ....

Have a fabulous Christmas! I believe that the Invite will publish online next Thursday as usual. And watch your e-mail for the party invite; Charles the Post E-mail Guru has to set it up so that it will go to all you hapless targets.

Some questions should not be asked: The unprintables

There weren’t too many terrible-taste entries this week (that’s okay, I know y’all will bounce back). These two were certainly tasteless enough, though:

From Bill Verkuilen of our Twin Cities bureau: 4 miles, 27 pounds: What were the dimensions of what I left in the toilet two hours after my mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving dinner?

And from First Offender but longtime Style Invitational Devotee David Patch: Men at Twerk: Which new pop band comes from a “land down under” and sings about “vagimite sandwiches”?

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