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

Week 953: A backward crossword is to a crossword as Ask Backward is to Jeopardy (i.e., not)

By the E, Pat Myers

Happy 2012, the year in which, if all goes as planned, we’ll hit Week 1,000, just in time for our next retrospective contest (Dec. 2), not to mention pass the 973-contest mark set by the New York Magazine Competition before its demise in 2000; that will happen in June. (We aren’t even going to think about the contest in the Spectator, the ancient British magazine, which just issued Contest No. 2731. We think that perhaps even Year 1 Losers Tom Witte and Stephen Dudzik would stop entering by then.)

We’ve done the backward crossword six times since Week 691 in 2006, and it’s always drawn a huge number of entrants, because it’s just not very hard to think up SOME moderately amusing definition to one or two words out of a grid of about 75. I was thinking that maybe this contest had worn out its welcome, so I put it to the Losers on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook: Should we do another one? And I received such responses as: “1 Across: Performed ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’” — Kip Davenport (pseudonyms ARE allowed on the Devotees page, especially when they’re the anagrams of Losers’ names).

After years of arranging for a grid that featured both letters and numbers, and making the grid large enough for the teeny numbers to be legible, I finally realized that we didn’t need the numbers at all — in fact, it would drive me crazy when people would send in an entry for “26A,” without listing the word, and I’d have to look it up in the grid. (Of course, we don’t really need the grid itself — we could instead have just listed the words — but that just wouldn’t be as fun.) Anyway, in this first “Clue Us In” contest since the Invite returned to the Sunday paper and lost some column inches in the process, the smaller grid gave us room for 35 entries of results in the paper.

There should be a link in the online Invite to the last set of results, to Week 899 If you don’t get the idea from that, here are the previous set, to Week 869, That should be plenty. If any of the words in those grids are repeated today, please don’t use the clues that got ink already. Duh.


I wasn’t all that confident about the Week 949 “A is to B as C is to D” contest. For one thing, the results from our first foray into this genre, Week 131, didn’t blow me away, and frankly, neither did most of the ink in the recent contest in this same form. And the structure of the contest was clearly a challenge — the connection between the two pairs had to be left unstated. I just figured that the Greater Loser Community SHOULD be able to do this thing.

Good news. Not only did the Losers deliver, but there was a sizable contingent of newbies who also had the idea. I counted about 25 brand-new or long-absent entrants.

I’ll acknowledge it up front, preemptively: Some of the entries are not exactly how-you-say logical. They make up for it, however, by being funny. Case in point: Euro is to Europe as screw is to screwup (Gary Crockett). Just chill, Mr. Spock, and enjoy.

It’s the second Inker, and sixth ink “above the fold,” for Edmund “Don’t Credit Me as Ed” Conti of Raleigh since he made his Invite debut 59 inks ago in Week 729. Edmund, a transplanted New Englander who’s also a regular on the Devotees page, is a longtime light-verse poet as well. And he may well be the senior regular Loser these days — he turns 83 on Jan. 13.

The three runners-up are all pretty unfamiliar names on the top of the page, though none is a First Offender and one got his first ink in Week 497. That would be two-Inker winner Peter Jenkins, who gets the pair of magical breath sprays and his 12th and 13th blot of Invite ink. Meanwhile, shirts or mugs (or one for each) go for the first time to Nancy Schwalb, who’d run up seven honorable mentions since she started last year; and to Scott Poyer, who had just his FirStInk award for his honorable mention in Week 937. Poor Scott still hasn’t been able to get a magnet! Scott’s lovely parallel between the glories of middle age and the glories of bugs hitting a windshield also drew this week’s “Haw!” choice, the fave of Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford.

There was a lot of screediness this week among the many political entries, basically comparing the entrants’ various least favorite candidate to assorted avatars of evil, stupidity, ugliness, etc. While perhaps it’s not the fairest thing in the world to compare Dick Cheney to Othello’s treacherous ensign, at least we didn’t speculate in The Post, as one Gene Weingarten did, that the veep was paid for his memoir in “unblemished human heads” (later corrected to “the severed heads of the last 700 remaining East African mountain gorillas”). Cheney didn’t sue.


Let’s split the Scarlet Letter three ways (don’t fight over who gets only the little bar of the A):
Fox News is to news as scat sex is to sex. (Neal Starkman)
Dromedary is to camel toe as quahog is to bearded clam. (Roy Ashley)
Bongos are to banging as bimbos are to hitting on. The other permutations work, too. (Kevin Dopart)


Loser Holiday Party host Dion Black posted a list of karaoke tracks — show tunes and oldies — and suggested that the Losers write up some parodies with which some adequately lubricated soul might entertain the troops. And I know that at least a few Losers have taken up the gauntlet.

But despite this drawback, more than 40 Losers and their orderlies — including some people making their Loser-event debuts — are on the guest list for the Jan. 14 potluck at Dion and Jen’s house in the District. And it’s still not too late to RSVP to Me, I’m just trying to figure out which of my tiaras to wear.

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