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.”