Jill Dennis thought it was a pretty fair entry. But she had thought the same about other entries, and had never gotten around to mailing them. So why bother to submit this one?

Jill admits she probably wouldn't have if her husband, Jay, hadn't encouraged her. But he did, so she did. And pretty soon, the phone rang. It was a certain gray-haired typist, calling to tell Jill she had just won this month's neologism contest with surpassing ease.

Here was the challenge that Jill met so well:

You place a phone call, and a machine answers. Oh, well. Happens a lot these days. But this doesn't: You wait for the beep like a good little boy or girl, and start dictating your message. About 10 words later, the person you were trying to call picks up the phone, says hello and starts talking to you as if nothing had happened. People who use their answering machines to screen calls (and who don't even admit it, or apologize for doing so) are known as . . . .

Jill's almost-unsubmitted answer:

Hear Whether Friends.

That is the work of a wordsmith -- which is exactly what Jill Dennis happens to be. She is the production chief for a group of medical magazines published in Rockville. On the side, she edits a magazine for the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. Around the edges, she admits to being a Type A Crossword Puzzle addict -- the kind of person who, if she can't do a puzzle that morning, will cut it out and save it to do that night.

Jill grew up in Falls Church and graduated from the University of Virginia three years ago. She shares a bungalow in Wheaton with her encouraging husband and their two parakeets. When crossword puzzles don't beckon, Jill and Jay are passionate volleyball players. However, they don't agree on music. Jay plays in a Top-40 band on weekends. Jill's taste runs to anything and everything else.

However, mine ran straight toward friends of the hear-whether variety. Which ran Jill straight toward a front-room table at Duke Zeibert's, where she demolished a glass of chablis and a plateful of London broil with admirable dispatch. As we parted, Jill promised to enter the neologism contest again. If her maiden entry is any indication, she will be a force to be reckoned with.

I hope the following Almost and Nearlies enter again, too. They came awfully close, with these:

Screening meanies: Many, many, oh-so-many of this month's contestants proposed this answer. In fact, fully one-fifth of all the entries contained this suggestion. A special consolation prize to all Meanies, Screening and otherwise. As the saying goes, you know who you are.

Converse Sneaker: Dave Rosser of Columbia.

Impersona Non Grata: Russell Martin of Laurel.

Dunce Ex Machina: Brian Pierce of Rockville.

Slease Droppers: Patty Ryan of Rockville.

Wizards of Pause: Kurt Rabin of Northwest.

Gefilter Fish: James B. Donnelly of College Park.

Phoney-Come-Lately: David M. Gibson of Alexandria.

Tape Worms: David M. Eisenstadt of Northwest and Sam Petuchowski of Bethesda.

Beeping Toms: Sandra R. Bond of Burke, Sara Lee Gerber of Wheaton, P. Michael Nugent of Arlington, Ruth Berman of Potomac and Jonathan Jensen of Baltimore.

Bell-Whether: Anne Bolgiano of Derwood, Md.

Extracensory Reception: Kim Baker of Silver Spring.

Phony Balonies: Timmy Tessier (age 9) of Williamsburg.

Dictaphonies: Chuck Squires of Falls Church.

Snoopercallafraidtomissitnoexcuseabusers: Mike McVey.

Peeves Dropper: Richard Efthim of Lovettsville, Va.

Creepy Callee: Judie Pratt of Muskegon, Mich.

Grate Communicators: Marjorie Ross of Baltimore and Tim Hermetz.

Listenerds: Don Duggan of Silver Spring.

And Screen Gems: Beth Pascal of Gaithersburg.

From those strokes of genius, we plow on, through the snowdrifts of February, in search of others. Here's the new challenge (courtesy of Ginger Burch of Waldorf):

Your back is itching like crazy, but you can't reach the itch. You throw yourself on the mercy of the nearest available human being. You proceed to issue directions ("To the left! . . . .Now up just a smidgen! . . . .Now right! No, silly, MY right!). By the time the hapless helper finally locates The Spot, the itch has disappeared. This phenomenon is called . . . .

As always, you may enter as many times as you like, and as always, the prize is Lunch with Levey, at a restaurant inside or within hailing distance of the Beltway. Warning: a back scratch is not part of the bargain.

Please be sure to include your phone number on all entries. Mail them to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. Deadline for the February contest is Feb. 28.