I deposed the Czar of The Style Invitational at the end of 2003, but before the coup, I filled in for a couple of stints as “Auxiliary Czar” for a few weeks in 1995 and for, I think, 13 weeks in early 2001. It was during that later interregnum that I judged my first horse-names contest, the perennial favorite in which we give a list of the horses nominated for that year’s Triple Crown races, and ask you to “breed” any two names and then name the “foal.” I was truly overwhelmed with entries that week — this was before the 25-entry limit, and the nominee list was more than 300 rather than the 100 we use now — and some people sent in hundreds of names. Posting extra entries online for the first time ever, and lacking the coldhearted discipline I wield now, I published a supplemental list of more than 150 worthy honorable mentions in addition to the dozens that ran in the paper.
I wasn’t surprised at the great work from some of the Losers that week. Having read and helped edit the Invite since Week 1 in 1993, I was familiar with the dominance of Russell Beland, who’d routinely send in more than 100 entries a week, and had hundreds of inks to show for it since 1994. Russell sent close to five hundred names for this contest alone — resulting in ink for 20 of them.
But who was this guy who sent exactly 100 names — practically every one of them an ingenious pun? I had remembered reading Chris Doyle’s name regularly in the past year’s Invites, but I wasn’t really conscious of it until I realized that I was checking off almost every entry on the two-page printout containing his submissions for Week 396.
Here are the inking entries from that week by (Chris Doyle, Burke, Va.):
1. A Life in Music x Phone Ruler = Yo-Yo Ma Bell
2. Comic Genius x West Order = Go West Youngman
3. Jamaican Rum x Dr Greenfield = Bacardiologist
4. Mercenary x Celtic Silence = This Gun for Eire
5. Affairintheforest x Orientate = Affairinthefareast
6. Bank x Solitary Vision = Savings and Lone
7. Freud x Dream Run = Run for Neuroses
8. Hemingway x Norway = The Sun Oslo Rises
9. Ideal Cut x Proud Man = Hugh Bris
10. Impressionist x Abduction = TakeTheMonetAndRun
I1. Impressionist x Comic Genius = Debussy Fields
12. Jamaican Rum x Le Grande Danseur = BalletUpToTheBar
13. Mozart x Divine Spirit = Amadeus Ex Machina
14. Standing Applause x Bay Eagle = Rah Rah Avis
And that’s when he was still working. The next year, 2002, he and wife Karen Bracey retired from their federal jobs — Chris was the chief actuary of the Department of Defense — and decided to see the world, taking four extended trips over the next two years — two to Europe, one to Australia, and the one to New Zealand and across the South Pacific islands — followed by month-long journeys to various other ports of call. And through all this time, remembers Chris in an e-mail today, “I submitted entries to most contests while we were traveling and from countries on every continent. At least a dozen in Europe. At first, it was mostly Internet cafes, then hotels/inns in Thailand, Japan, China, India, Turkey, South Africa, Zambia, Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Easter Island, IIRC.”
Chris first got Invite ink way back in Week 79, but he didn’t start entering in earnest till the retirement in 2000 of the New York Magazine Competition, of which he had been one of the mainstays, with hundreds of entries published under his own name and various pseudonyms. Then he turned to his local daily rag, getting 77 Invite inks that first year and never looking back; in Year 12 alone he spilled 169 blots of ink. Last year he got his smallest take since then, with “only” 91. Along the way, Chris has racked up an incomparable amount of “above-the-fold” ink: 45 first-place prizes plus a ridiculous 157 runner-up prizes, including today’s second place for his “mayor culpa” cinquain; long ago he asked me to forgo sending him any more prize crap.
We could make up a whole book just with Chris’s limericks: He used to send 100 each year for our annual Limerixicon contest, and he clearly was culling only his favorites. In the only week the Invitational has lived up to his name (in 2006), he was edged out by Brendan Beary in a two-man Limerick Smackdown in which each had to write a limerick in each of 10 specific forms or topics (Results here.)
When Russ Beland was the first Loser to reach 1,000 (in 2006), I let him judge a contest himself , but Chris (as well as Tom Witte) declined that dubious honor upon reaching the same milestone several years later. But Chris was happy, as Russell was two years ago upon hitting 1,500, to choose some of his personal favorites from over the years to commemorate this Triple Hall of Fame induction.
Not only do we include Chris’s faves below, but now I’m able to share them with the not-so-Inviting public through a series of posts on the new Facebook page Style Invitational Ink of the Day. I’ll start doing that tomorrow. (If you haven’t done so already, click “Like” on the page to get your daily classic entry or set of entries from the Invite archives.) It was Loser Cheryl Davis’s idea to honor Chris this way.
Chris’s favorites, all winners or runners-up from his first 1,000 inks:
Week 408, 2001: Use only the letters in a politician’s name to say something about that politician: As he did an amazing number of times, Chris managed to turn the entry into a double-dactyl verse.
Johnny F. Kennedy
Hero at thirty-three,
Hat in the ring.
Rake or a leader?
Joker or king?
Week 496, 2003: Put a portion of a word in quotes and redefine it:
Ses“quip”edalian: “Good evening, ladies and microorganisms.”
Week 499, 2003, Horse names:
Mate Occult with Rapid Proof and name the foal E.S.P.D.Q.E.D.
Week 521, 2003: Hyphen the Terrible: combine the beginning and end of two words in an article:
Mex-ecution: Getting refried in the electric chair.
Week 527, 2003: Amusing things to say to defuse tension in any of several given situations:
When realizing your zipper has been open for some time: “Sorry, I thought this was casual fly day.”
Week 532, 2003: Movie reviews in four words or fewer:
“Cast Away”: Man overbored.
Week 586, 2004: Variations on “If God . . .” jokes:
If God hadn’t wanted men to be thoughtful, romantic lovers, God wouldn’t have invented halftime.
Week 674, 2006: Limericks containing a word beginning with ca-:
At Oxford, Bill Clinton dug classes,
The campus, the culture, the lasses.
When he told us a tale
(“Ah didn’t inhale”),
He was looking through Rhodes-scholared glasses.
Week 708, 2007: Horse names:
Esoteric Thinker + Hanky Panky = Coito Ergo Sum
Week 714, 2007: Combine two or more companies into a new firm:
Whataburger, Pizza Hut, Workmate benches, Izumi sushi and Manwich sauces join forces and become WhataPizzaWorkIzuMan.
Now at 1,502 inks, Chris has but 22 blots to go to surpass Russell’s once seemingly unreachable total. I’d like nothing more than for Russ to start entering again to preserve his lead. But it may be just a couple of months before Chris will top the Invite leaderboard for the first time.
My long lead-in to the results of Week 1030 tells about the assortment of funny and not-so-funny poems submitted for this contest. I hadn’t the slightest fear that the Loser Community would deliver a variety of great stuff. While cinquains don’t have to rhyme or have particular meter — and lots of the inking ones don’t — they certainly enhanced the cleverness of a number of entries that get ink today.
As you can see from the results, lots of people were inspired by the sure-to-be-eternal-fodder Anthony Weiner and his jaw-dropping conclusion that lots of people would still vote for him to be mayor of New York City. But the “hubris”/ “needs a new bris” was just sooo clever, sooo apt, that it was my mortal lock for first place. Though my hunch was that Chris Doyle had written it — Chris has done so many bris/mohel jokes over the years that I started calling him Chris Dohel — I wasn’t surprised to find out that it was by Nan Reiner, a latter-day Invite phenom whom I seem to be writing about every week in this column. This gives Nan her 139th ink since her debut in Week 877. And the two other runners-up are also Invite fixtures: Craig Dykstra was a runner-up just two weeks ago, and this week ratchets his total to 286, and Gary Crockett to 151.
But we also have three brand-new people among the 22 published poets this week: Congratulations to First Offenders Randy Arndt, Linda Neighborgall and Stan Capper.
The Royal Consort and I will be joining Losers Roger Dalrymple, Marty McCullen and the never-before-glimpsed William Collinge of the Invite’s Gettysburg bureau — I’m telling you, we are everywhere — for brunch at the Appalachian Brewing Company followed by a battlefield tour personally given by Roger, who gives tours regularly and whose talk we enjoyed immensely two years ago, even though I was sort of a wet blanket that day, having decided to come down with a stomach virus for Civil War-era historical authenticity. Also scheduled to muster: Perennial Loserbrunchers Elden Carnahan and Pie Snelson, and northern-Maryland Losers Kyle Hendrickson and Larry Gray. If you’d like to join us, that would be fab — just let Elden know at elden [dot] carnahan [at] gmail [dot] com ASAP.
Douglas likes to
Vacation in the sun.
In other words, he likes to go
Down South. (Roy Ashley)
Sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles,
Onions on a sesame seed
Bunghole. (Randy Lee)
And Diet Coke
Are just like congressmen
Thrown together they release gas
And blow (Stephen Dudzik)
And a very nice one that’s not risque at all, but we’re not allowed to say “ass” in the paper to mean butt:
We Heard That
So you may snooze,
And be less threatened by
The folks who want to blow your ass
Sky-high. (Walt Johnston)