The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Week 1007: Grid irony, and some nifty ad-justment

By the E, Pat Myers

It’s the eighth go-round for our backward-crossword contest, in which we put up a filled-in grid for an actual puzzle, and you get to make nuttier, zingier clues than you’re likely to get from even creative constructors like Bob Klahn, who’s required to keep them shorter and saner for mass audiences. Bob has even entered our Clue Us In contests in the past that used his own grid, and gotten ink with an entry that was very different from his original. I hope he gives it yet another go, and of course I’m terribly grateful for all his help in providing me the grids and the clues, and just for letting his high reputation in the crossword world be tainted by his association with this silliness.

Yes, I know: The grid format itself isn’t necessary for this contest; I could have just given you a list of words, just as you’re going to give me. The graphic just stresses the theme of crosswords, and I hope it will catch the eyes of puzzle buffs who aren’t in the habit of reading the Invitational. But I can make the letters bigger on the grid by leaving out the clue numbers, which we don’t need anyway — and it spares me the irritation of reading entries marked merely “42 down” without giving the word, forcing me to find it on the grid, something I ended up doing innumerable times no matter how strongly I told people to include the words with their *(^%$ing clues.

What kind of entries am I looking for? Obviously, funny and clever ones, or at least possessing one of those attributes. Here are links to our last two sets of results, from Week 953 (scroll down past the Week 957 contest introduction) and from Week 899 .

Note that I occasionally, but not often, used clues incorporating two of the words on the grid. But remember that you have to spell out the words in the clue, since we can’t say “With 25A ...,” so it’s a more challenging to make a funny entry that way. Kevin Dopart did it in Week 899, though: “MINIMAL: With ARIA, disease transmitted by tseensy flies.”

As with this week’s results, a lot of the entrants will send basically the same clues; I’ve occasionally included such entries, if they happen to be really funny, right in the list of results, but not crediting anyone individually. Also, in more recent runnings, I didn’t try to include a clue for every last word in the grid if there wasn’t anything especially brilliant for it, while I did include multiple clues for the same word, if there were two or more clever but very different approaches. That will probably be my practice again.

One year I went to the trouble of posting, in addition to the regular Invite, a full set of results — one clue for each word — but with an empty grid, so that people could try to solve the puzzle by using the Invite clues. Almost no one bothered to do so, and really, I’m not judging the clues on whether they’d be usable in an actual crossword. So I won’t be repeating that experiment.

In 2010, Week 873, we ran a spinoff contest in which we posted the grid again for the results, as we always do, but many of the boxes were shaded. For that new contest, you were asked to come up with new words, replacing the shaded letters with your own, and leaving the unshaded letters in place. So for DEADLAST you had to run something that fit D - - - L - ST. I ran three entries in the results for that one: “DREDLUST: How Stella got her groove back. (Christopher Lamora); DONTLUST: What it took a clubbing to teach Tiger (Steve Gorman, Falls Church); and DADALUST: Being hot for MoMA. (Judy Blanchard) Dang, those are clever. Maybe we should do that contest again, even though some contestants griped at the challenge at the time.


*slogan for Radio Times

“Is this the first SI contest to not require any original writing?” wondered veteran Loser Ben Aronin. I’m sure it’s not, but it explains how I ended up with 26 identical entries suggesting that “What’s in your wallet” would be a nice slogan for Trojans as well as for PNC Bank. Fortunately, there were enough ad slogans (or tag­lines; I wasn’t nitpicking) that entrants remembered or dug up, and enough distinctive takes on them, that I was able to fill our new full page in Sunday Style with almost 40 entries in addition to the 10 or so funny-but-too-frequent entries I cited at the beginning of the results. And we had the crossword grid! And we had Bob’s Staake’s cartoon for the winner!

Some of the slogans are comically bad ideas for a certain product — such as “Like a Rock” for Bisquick (by Ed Rader, one of numerous First Offenders this week). Others would be pretty much apt, or at least not a terrible idea, like the Volkswagen/Viagra idea from Dana Austin, or “Behold the Power of Cheese” for Nikon, by another newbie, Daniel Bender. I didn’t see a reason to exclude either type.

With all the repetition, I ended judging this contest very systematically, sitting at the computer while I searched through my file of all 267 e-mails for the week — many of which contained the full 25 entries — and pulling out all the entries I liked that played on “I’m Lovin’ It,” and then starting over with “Have It Your Way,” and so on. Once a good idea turned up too often, I moved it to the “too many” list. Still, it’s quite possible that I failed to credit you for an entry that’s identical to an inking one; in that case, e-mail me at myerspat [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll make sure you get your points in Elden Carnahan’s Amazingly Comprehensive Loser Stats, as well as a prize.

It’s the 4.2 zillionth win for Brendan Beary, who once got 179 inks in one year. I loved the “Find Your Own Road” joke, how the four words are transformed from an inspiring challenge toward new horizons into a rude “get lost” retort from a can’t-be-bothered city agency. My only concern was that it wasn’t being fair to the D.C. government, and actually I didn’t hear about any obliterated streets in the city limits after this morning’s dusting. But it ‘s going to take a long time to erase our fond memories of three winters ago.

It’s the 13th (and 14th) ink, but already the fourth “above the fold,” for Neal Starkman of our Seattle bureau, since he started Inviting in Week 944, with his perhaps surprisingly unique car-alarm joke. And it’s just the third for Dana Austin, who offered up what my son the Loser Scion termed “possibly the most tasteful Viagra joke ever” with his VW link. Dana gets his choice of the Cup Punneth Over mug or the Grossery Bag,.

As does — along with the FirStink for his First Ink — Steve Heyman of Chicago, who’s someone I introduced to the Invite myself just a few weeks ago. Steve lived across the street from me when I was in high school in Rockville; I didn’t know him all that well — he was friends with my stepbrother — but I reconnected with him via Facebook, prompted by one of those “People you may know” links, and we struck up an e-mail correspondence (he’s now a law professor). I told him about the Style Invitational and sent a link, and soon afterward, he sent in entries for this contest.

I’m always a little worried when I encourage people to enter the Invite — suppose they’re embarrassingly bad at it? But it’s on occasions like this that I most feel that it’s worth the time to detach all the ID info from the entries so that I can judge them blindly. Not only did Steve end up with ink for two unique ideas — the Pop Your Own Bubble for Fannie Mae, and Handbuilt by Robots for the Romney campaign — but his entry included several other strong ideas as well. (Incidentally, Pop Your Own Bubble gets the HAW this week as the favorite of Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford.)


I thought we’re being pretty bold this week for what’s running in the paper — there aren’t any Web-only entries, so the eminent tastefulness of using a slogan for toddler toys to be used in the context of erectile dysfunction is there for all to enjoy. But of course, the Loser Community could provide much worse:

“For that deep down body thirst,” for Replens vaginal moisturizer (Brendan Beary)
TriPath Pap Smear Products: “Finger- lickin’ good” (Andrew Ballard — plus others along this line)
“Biggest news since the bone (Pedigree Meaty Bites) for Viagra (David Garratt) (well, maybe)
Catch the Wave , for Tampax (David Genser)
“Nothing says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven.” -- Cremation Association of North America (Kevin Dopart)
It takes a Licking but Keeps On Ticking -- Big Boss Vibrating Dildo (Jane Auerbach)

And for the Scarlet Letter: “Let your fingers do the walking,” for the Canadian Paraplegic Association. Thank you so much, Mr. Robert Schechter.


This Sunday at 10 at Mango Mike’s, on Duke Street right near 395 in suburban Alexandria. It’s a brunch with steel-drum entertainment. Usual brunch coordinator Elden Carnahan is patching up houses in New Orleans with his church group, so please RSVP to me at myerspat [at] gmail [dot] com, even if you’ve already RSVP’d. Thanks and I hope to see you there, especially if it’s for the first time.

By the way, the Conversational might have a different look starting as early as next week: On Monday I’m getting a class in using The Post’s new blogging software, which makes columns like this one look like any other Post story, without the itty-bitty type, lack of art, lack of italics, etc., that I’ve been stuck with in this “interactivity” format that we haven’t been using for interactivity, anyway. My friend Joel Achenbach’s Achenblog will give you an idea what it should eventually look like. And the link I’ll give out will probably always be to the index of columns, like this one, so there doesn’t have to be a different URL each week.

Active Discussions Posts
Week 1007: Grid irony, and some nifty ad-justment 0 posts
Week 1006: Summit of the superpowers, and a search for meaning(s) 0 posts
Week 1005: Enacting up with our joint-legislation contest, and OMG are there lots of abbreviations 0 posts
Week 1004: It’s time to be R.I.P.-roaring 0 posts
Week 1003: Here’s absurd from our sponsor 0 posts
Week 1002: Get your huff-duff out of your izzard and get jubbing! 0 posts
Week 1001: I’d rather not PIMPL, but I’ll be happy to LMAO 0 posts
Gimme an M! Gimme a K! Gimme a G! It’s Week 1000! 0 posts
Week 999: The Year in Reuse 0 posts
Our New Metal of Honor, and some liberties of statute 0 posts
Week 997: Wit charity for all 0 posts
Week 996: I’d like two-issue a merry week 0 posts
Week 995: Ask me again ... and again; and many ounces of dEVOTion 0 posts
Week 994: Beautify your refrigerator now! 0 posts
Week 993: See, we’re not ALWAYS about limericks 0 posts
Week 992: Mister Romney’s Neighborhood? 0 posts
Week 991: VOTE now! Or VETO now! Or OTVE now! Whatever! 0 posts
Week 990: Haw in the family 0 posts
Week 989: Notes from a poop joke wrangler/ comma-obsessive 0 posts
Week 988: Get your game on 0 posts
Week 987: Rearing our ugly heads 0 posts
Week 986: Homophonia — and a plethora of peachy parodies 0 posts
For Week 985, a Name That Toon Contest 0 posts
Week 983: The doggerel days of August continue with Limerixicon IX 0 posts
Week 982: Are you ready to parody? If not, add it to the list of annoyances. 0 posts
Week 981: Testing, testing — and the march of the news in the Week 978 ‘framed couplets’ 0 posts
I’m giving you a week off. (via Bengali:) I’m close to you in a week. 0 posts
Week 980 — Imporve* on the Losers’ neologisms 0 posts
Week 979: Lend me your irritants 0 posts
Week 978 — Five lines, no waiting (unless we run more limerick results later); and news by the foot 0 posts
Week 977: Say it in English ... and out ... and in(-ish) 0 posts
Week 976 — For once, this column is actually usable (for the Join Now contest) 0 posts
Week 975: Swing for a myth 0 posts
Week 974: Longevity isn’t everything, but it beats the alternative 0 posts
Week 973: Capping a year of heavy breeding with a third foal-name contest 0 posts
Week 972: Momentary hookups with ‘trending topics’ 0 posts
Week 971 — making it another double 0 posts
Week 970: Once again, we turn for the verse 0 posts
Week 969: The studliest of this year’s horse names, and it’s back in the saddle 0 posts
Week 968 — Grant us some funning, and a sack of Grossery Bag ideas 0 posts
Week 967: A second helping of mashups 0 posts
Week 966: The morph the merrier — and a bounty of ink-queries from Week 962 0 posts
Week 965: Another time around the track — but what will the grand prize be? 0 posts
Week 964: Our most marketable prize yet — a grocery bag; and our voyage into Amazon 0 posts
Week 963: Portmanteau names, joined at the quip; and we get with the programming 0 posts
Week 962: Ask us about our news! And the winning wellerisms 0 posts
Week 961: A string of 4-letter words (or 3, 5, 7, whatever — we’re easy): The anti-rhopalics 0 posts
Week 960: The delights of dish cloths! Encomiums to emery boards the file on emery boards! And you know it’s a pretty good contest when . . . 0 posts
Week 959: Change the channel already; and untwisting the anagrams of Week 955 0 posts
Week 958: What the dickens is a wellerism? 0 posts
Week 957: Grading on a curve with symmetrical sentences; and across and down with the backward crossword 0 posts
Week 956: We’re going ‘bad’ this week — but our obit poems are downright lively 0 posts
Week 955: We’ll always have pairs 0 posts
Week 954: Dem’s fightin’ words we’re looking for; plus the winning nervy ones 0 posts
Week 953: A backward crossword is to a crossword as Ask Backward is to Jeopardy (i.e., not) 0 posts
Week 952: The poems they’re dying to have written; plus the kook’s tour of our past year 0 posts
Week 951: Saying double; and the NOEListic Tours de Fours of Week 947 0 posts
Week 950: Going for the bold with some real chutzpah, and we chew over the winners of Week 945 0 posts
Is To! Week 949 is to a fail-safe contest as ... 0 posts
Week 948: A yearlong ink quest; and yes, it was just you after all 0 posts
Week 946: Definitive zingers, and those singular contests of Week 942 (or are they?) 0 posts
Week 945: Gimme some oven — our gingerbread (and other edible-art) contest 0 posts
Week 943: Our laughs in Jeopardy; and the box office returns of Week 939 0 posts
Week 942: Hit a single and win — and the Lear Jetsam 0 posts
Week 941: What Mary Ann Madden would never say ... and what Bob Staake just might 0 posts
Week 940: Mess with our deads ... heads! heads! And mon doo — all those foreign-phrase neologisms 0 posts
Week 939: Doubled-up features, and a flood of natural-event poems 0 posts
Week 938 — you can write Learly now; and how IS a toilet brush like Misty of Chincoteague? 0 posts
Week 937: We’re stuck on (or at least with) Staake 0 posts
Week 936: Mon dieu-dieu! And the mother of all contest results 0 posts
Week 935: At 400 weeks, the E is getting verse 0 posts
Week 934: Playing with matches once again 0 posts
Week 933: You might not have a novel in you, but how about 56 words? 0 posts
Week 932: Of all the mother-lovin’ ideas — can you come up with a new one? 0 posts
Week 931: Limericks and Burma-Shave rhymes: Fridays could be verse 0 posts
Week 930: Are you going to complain stupidly about the stupid-complaint contest? And don’t add ‘in bed.’ 0 posts
A look at Week 929: Fun-Themely behavior, and the inking redefined words 0 posts
A look at Week 928 — Questionable Cinema — and those history fictoids of Week 924 0 posts
Week 927: The road to Burma-Shave signs, and the Peridiotic Table of Week 923 0 posts
Week 926: Outrageous fortunes, and our Banner week of National Anthem parodies 0 posts
Week 925: Redefine; print. And all those nasty Little Willies. 0 posts
Week 924: Let’s make history! 0 posts
Week 923 — The Invitational’s science project; and the 13-letter(ish) neologisms 0 posts
Week 922: Bring out your parody hats for a ‘Banner’ week; and reviewing the ‘grandfoals’ 0 posts
Week 921: Give us Willies; and the winning haiku of Week 917 0 posts
Week 920: A turn of phrases, and a special guest competitor 0 posts
Week 919: Good luck with 13; and the Week 915 cartoon captions 0 posts
Week 918: Back to the starting gate with ‘grandfoals’ 0 posts
Week 917: Wryku; and the ‘Bringing up the rear’ neologisms from Week 913 0 posts
Week 916: Bank headlines, and all those ‘pair-a-phrases’ 0 posts
The Week 915 caption contest and the results of the 911 calls 0 posts
Week 914: It’s horse-names time, and the results of the Week 910 ad slogans 0 posts
Week 913: Bring up the rear; and the ‘Reprizing’ results of Week 909 0 posts
Week 912: Pair-a-phrasing, and the results of Week 908, movie recasting 0 posts
Watch Your Pthep, Vol. 8: Talk to Pat the Perfect About Languagey Stuff 0 posts
Week 911: Help! And more ‘leschnerf’ neologisms from Week 904 0 posts
Style Invitational Week 910: Your ad there — play with a slogan 0 posts
About the Style Conversational 0 posts

Most Read

The Post MostMost-viewed stories, videos, and galleries in the past two hours