The question had to do with dinner, but the answer leapt up and bit Larry Rice at the breakfast table. There he was when, boing! Just like that, a winner was hatched.

What did Larry Rice win? Our December neologism contest, the monthly brainteaser in which Levey readers invent a word to describe a classic situation. As you'll see about two inches south, Larry's coinage was plenty classic itself.

This was the December challenge to which more than 3,000 readers responded:

You and your spouse are hosting a Sunday dinner party. The guests duly arrive at 6 p.m., and dinner is duly served at 6:30. However, the Redskins are playing, in a West Coast game that started at 4 p.m. So while the entree is being served, the 'Skins are probably driving for the winning touchdown. You don't get up in the middle of dinner and turn on the television set because Mama raised you better than that. But the nagging urge to do so is called . . . .

Larry's winning answer: Skinurgey.

That's a neat marriage of "Skins" and "urge," and a neat play on "synergy," the force that develops when two sources of energy combine. Some months I have to stew to choose a winner, but not this time. "Skinurgey" was a standout.

It was to Jean Stewart of Northwest Washington, too. She submitted the same entry. Alas, it arrived four days after Larry's. A faster trip to the mailbox next time, please, Jean.

Our winner is a computer consultant to the Federal National Mortgage Association. He lives in McLean with his wife and two daughters.

The latter have turned him into a thoroughly respectable Dad (he's even the treasurer of the PTA). But once upon a time, Larry played straight man for a male stripper who delivers singing telegrams. As Larry put it, he has been inside every nice restaurant in D.C. and eaten in none of them.

That changed with a vengeance on Friday, when Larry dispatched his victory lunch of grilled chicken at The Palm. He vows to enter again -- and win again. More power to him.

The December Almosts and Nearlies were almost Palm material themselves:

Menu-pause: Tim Jones of Gaithersburg.

Fretskinning: Former champ Jan Sperling of Silver Spring.

Teamtation: Anne S. Rowan of Northwest Washington.

Screen Pass: Pamela Coukos of Northeast Washington.

Fourth-and-tension: Dan Corcoran of Linthicum, Md.

Two-Minute Yearning: Randall Hawkins and Jackie Drucker, both of Arlington.

Gridiron Deficiency: Matthew S. Tietze of Germantown.

Twinge Peeks: Ron Nelson of Silver Spring.

Yendgame: Phil Ehrenkranz of Taylorstown, Va.

Fit of Peek: Neil Shawen of Falls Church.

Skin Squint: Emanuel Mevorah of Silver Spring.

Repast Interference: Bernie Levine of Bowie.

Telly Ache: Keller Grayson of Alexandria.

Skins of Omission: Paul B. Glassco of Bethany Beach, Del.

Jock Itch: Ted Carlson of Beltsville, followed by dozens of imitators.

Skin Flick: Mary Lou Van Derlaske of Woodbridge.

Fanorexia Nervosa: Marina L. Bragg of Chevy Chase.

See Sickness: The team of Doug Macrae of Arlington and Scott Rich of Bowie.

Wait Watching: James J. Hartman of Hedgesville, W. Va.

Peer Pressure: Steven Z. Stark of Rockville.

Unnecessary Roughage: Jeff Gold of Silver Spring.

Mental Gruelty: Lyle Lieberman of Bethesda.

Peekskin: Vicki Jacobson of Alezandria.

Dinneruption: James W. Buckles of Fort Washington.

And Sado Masticism: John Strother Clayton of Rockville.

Neatly, gang! Let's see if we can start the new year in similar style. The January challenge (in honor of the season):

You park your car in the driveway when you come home from work. It snows several inches overnight. When you move your car the next morning, the entire world is white except for the patch of concrete that had been beneath your car. This snow-free area is called . . . .

First prize is the same as ever, regardless of the weather: A free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in or sensibly near Washington.

Rules: You may enter as often as you like, on one piece of paper or many. Each entry must bear a daytime and evening phone number, including area code. All entries become my property. Entries will not be accepted by phone or returned. In case of duplicate entries, the one I receive earliest wins.

Please mail entries to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. Entries for the January contest must be received by Jan. 31.