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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.

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Week 1007: Grid irony, and some nifty ad-justment 0 posts
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Week 958: What the dickens is a wellerism? 0 posts
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