Hard to believe, isn't it? The Style Invitational, which began as a disreputable little newspaper contest with crummy prizes and no sense of decency, has now become a disreputable little 10-year-old newspaper contest with crummy prizes and no sense of decency.

The contest began humbly on March 7, 1993, with a challenge to redress a cultural affront and rename the Redskins. The winning entry, by Douglas R. Miller of Arlington, was suitably contrarian: "Call them the Baltimore Redskins -- No, don't move the team, just change the name and let Baltimore worry about it."

That was 495 contests ago. In the interim, The Style Invitational -- run autocratically by a mysterious, reclusive figure known only as "The Czar" -- has staked out a position as the least Washington Post-like feature ever to weasel its way into The Washington Post. It is sometimes subversive, occasionally mean-spirited, frequently rude, often immature, always arrogant, and at times just about inexcusable. We are not sure why it has survived; it's possible Donald Graham does not read the inside of the Style section.

Over the years, The Style Invitational somehow managed to launch the international stardom of cartoonist Bob Staake, an otherwise negligible talent whose scramble-featured characters suggest the work of a blind man.

Calling itself "the last pure meritocracy on Earth," and stubbornly resisting complaints of favoritism, the contest has also made minor celebrities of a handful of fiendishly clever and uncommonly persistent readers. These include Chuck Smith of Woodbridge, Russell Beland of Springfield, Tom Witte of Gaithersburg, Chris Doyle of Burke, Stephen Dudzik of Olney, and, of course, J. Ha -- Jennifer Hart of Arlington, The Style Invitational's most decorated woman.

The contest for this week is to submit new entries to any of the old contests mentioned below, and try to beat The Very Best of the Past 10 Years. There's the usual deadline of a week and a day, and the usual e-mail address, losers@washpost.com. (Just call it "Week 496." Roman numerals are now history.) The prize, in honor of our Tin Anniversary, is a dented tin cup imprinted with the illustration above.

If you're reading this, Don, there's nothing much below. Nothing to see here. Just move on along to Book World.

Bad ideas for Christmas toys (Dec. 18, 1994):

The Learn-About-Puberty Chia Pet.

(Paul A. Alter, Hyattsville)

Inept Valentine's Day sentiments (Feb. 27, 2000):

My darling, when assisted by highly supportive undergarments and, after factoring in the inevitable results of pregnancies combined with a genetic disposition toward excess weight in the hips and buttocks, for which you must be held blameless, you are still a strikingly lovely woman when compared with others in your age group. (Ben F. Noviello, Fairfax)

The start of a pretentious sentence (May 12, 1996):

"As Jesus Christ once said, and rightly so -- " (Mike McKeown, Reston)

Revised, upbeat modern-movie endings to classic films (Nov. 12, 1995):

"Citizen Kane": The reporter discovers that Rosebud was Kane's sled. He rescues it from the furnace and uses it to enter the Olympic luge event, winning a gold medal. (Jerry Podlesak, Arlington)

An elegy for someone who died in 1997 (Nov. 30, 1997):

Jacques Cousteau:

The knit cap lies empty on the deck,

The once-proud ship feels like a wreck.

At his request, his last remains

Will now become the ocean's gains.

With tear of eye and roll of drum,

We feed the sharks. Farewell, old chum.

(Charlie Steinhice, Chattanooga)

A well-known story as retold by a famous person (Aug. 18, 2002):

Hamlet and Ophelia were a good couple. Claudius and Gertrude were evil. Polonius was good and so was Horatio, but Laertes was evil. Clowns good, gravediggers evil. Then there was Fortinbras. We had a Fortinbras at Delta Kappa Epsilon. He was a major-league bunghole.

-- George W. Bush

(Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

Good idea/bad idea (April 9, 1995):

Good idea: Showing pictures of your kids at a private party.

Bad idea: Showing pictures of your privates at a kids' party.

(Ira Moskowitz, Lanham)

Explain the differences between any two items on a list (July 19, 1998):

The difference between a human navel and a 1998 VW Bug: In the case of the navel, most people would rather have an innie. In the case of the Bug, most people would rather have an Audi.

(Russell Beland, Springfield)

The difference between a chain saw and Marion Barry's brain: With a chain saw, you can actually HEAR the buzz.

(David Smith, Greenbelt)

Put part of a word in quotes and redefine it (March 5, 2000):

G"angst"er: Someone torn by inner conflict, and bullets.

(Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

What politicians say and what they really mean (May 2, 1996):

What they say: I don't believe in polls. What they mean: My polls tell me to say I don't believe in polls. (Frank Bruno, Alexandria)

A question that should never be asked at a presidential debate (Nov. 26, 1995):

What is the most ethnically offensive word or phrase you have ever heard, and will you please use it in a sentence?

(Meg Sullivan, Potomac)

Ideas that never made it off the drawing board (July 14, 1996):

Singing mammograms. (Dudley Thompson Jr., Rockville)

The Slim-Fast Blimp. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

Euphemisms (Aug. 16, 1998):

Undressing someone with your eyes: "Checking out Lois Lane." (Joe Kobylski, Gaithersburg)

A makes about as much sense as B (Jan. 21, 1996):

Telephone sex makes about as much sense as eating a menu. (Steve Cohen, Reston)

"Whuh-oh" lines (Sept. 6, 1998):

From your new next-door neighbor: "I never could have afforded to buy this house on my own. My old neighbors chipped in to buy it for me." (Philip Vitale, Arlington)

Tabloid headlines written using only the keys on the left side of the keyboard (Dec. 27, 1998)


(Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Something you'll never hear an 8-year-old say (Jan. 17, 1999):

"Nana, will you spit on your hankie and wipe the gravy off my face?" (Beverly Miller, North Clarendon, Vt.)

Poem about a current news event (April 21, 2002):

The male panda's aggressively randy behavior:

Mei Xiang, I am so very sorry

My advances to you were too crude.

Though your well-rounded haunches still thrill me

I will try now to act more subdued.

Could we possibly catch us a movie?

And you'll be my sweet, sweet bamboo.

Please forgive me, my dear one and only

Or I'll have to go courting a gnu.

(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Attention-grabbing first lines of a dissertation (March 7, 1999):

In order to purge all traces of phallocentrism from this project, I have castrated myself. (David Genser, Arlington)

Dumb letters to the editor (Dec. 13, 1998):

URGENT, HAND DELIVERED: Do not let them bury the people whose pictures you showed in Sunday's obituaries! Most of them look like they are still alive! (David Genser, Arlington)

Expressions that rely on the reversal of two words or phrases (May 16, 1999):

I'd rather have bliss with two sisters than a cyst with two blisters. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Not all men kiss their wives goodbye when they leave their homes, but all men kiss their homes goodbye when they leave their wives. (David Kleinbard, Washington)

Spoonerisms (Aug. 20, 1995):

How is adoration of a pop group like a PBS documentary on an obscure European country? One is Beatlemania; the other is "Meet Albania!" (Steven Papier, Wheaton)

Old and new concerns for baby boomers (Jan. 24, 1999):

Then: Getting out to a new, hip joint. Now: Getting a new hip joint. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

Great ideas for avant-garde art (Dec. 24, 1995):

Exhibit consists only of notice awarding artist grant for the exhibit. It is mounted on the wall with masking tape.

(Fred Dawson, Beltsville)

A woman advertises a major speech on health care reform. When the 10,000-seat arena fills up, she stands at the lectern clearing her throat, ta-tapping the mike, and saying "Hello, hello, is this thing on?" for hours until the entire audience gets embarrassed and leaves. (Tom Gearty, Arlington)

Bad poetry (Feb. 23, 1997):

The world's great mathematicians assembled for a lecture

To hear a rising star prove the Taniyama Conjecture.

And the young man astounded those who did hear him

By also casually proving Fermat's Last Theorem!

And for this achievement, everlasting glory and acclaim

Will forever go to, y'know, whatsizname.

(Charlie Steinhice, Chattanooga)

Really bad excuses for moral lapses (April 10, 1994):

You are not guilty of DUI if you thought someone else was driving. (Helen Sheingorn, Washington)

New Mafia-type expressions (April 28, 1996):

Poured gasoline on someone and lighted a match: "Escorted him to the smoking section." (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Hiding out: "Rentin' the old Kaczynski place."

(Moe Hammond, Falls Church)

Ruin a famous line by adding to it (Aug. 26, 2001):

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee. Moby, I've had it up to HERE with you. (Cynthia Coe and Ray Aragon, Bethesda)

Jesus wept buckets. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

A sign of a dire condition, and then a sign of further deterioration (June 10, 2001):

Sign you are oversexed: Your wife pretends to be asleep when you enter the bedroom. Sign you are really oversexed: Your wife pretends to be asleep when you enter the delivery room. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

What Neil Armstrong should have said when he landed on the moon (Aug. 7, 1994):

"One hundred eighty-seven thousand six hundred forty-four bottles of beer on the wall . . . " (Stu Segal, Vienna)

Explain the illustration (Oct. 28, 2001):

After the tragic accident with the trash compactor, there were only 100 Dalmatians. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

A passage about a politician, created entirely from the letters in his name (July 29, 2001):

Fiddledy diddledy,

Johnny F. Kennedy

Hero at thirty-three,

Hat in the ring.

Idol, Lothario,


Rake or a leader?

Joker or king?

(Chris Doyle, Burke)

Cutesy signs for men's and ladies' restrooms (Jan. 14, 1996):

At a Catskills resort: "Ladies" and "Germs"

(Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

At the Burning Tree Club: "Men" and "Exit" (Susan Reese, Arlington)

Create a story around these illustrations (Feb. 11, 2001):

Once upon a time there was a wonderful, happy little boy (C) who lived with his mommy, who loved him very much. His daddy (A) also claimed to love him, even though he was consistently late with his child support and Mommy couldn't afford to have the washer fixed and she had to agitate the wash herself (E). Well, the judge said that the little boy had to spend every other weekend with his daddy and that cheap floo -- , uh, lady he married. The lady didn't like having a little boy running around, and decided to make sure he would never run around her house again. She pretended to be nice to the little boy all day, and then put sleeping pills in his dinner (B). After the little boy went to sleep, she mixed up a batch of cement (F) and when the little boy woke up he was (D) cemented into a big washtub! And he was never able to run around and play again. Wasn't it too bad that he got fooled by that lady his daddy married and actually ate something she cooked? Now, did you remember to put your toothbrush and toothpaste into your backpack? Daddy will be here any minute to pick you up. (Sarah W. Gaymon, Gambrills)

Give us the setup to this punch line: "No, you moron, you were supposed to wear it." (July 14, 2002):

Explorer No. 1 (returning from bushes): You were right, profethor. The pith helmet thertainly came in handy!"

Explorer No. 2:

(William Zamojcin, Vernon, Conn.)

Change a famous quote by one letter (Jan. 25, 1998):

Michael Jackson: "Here's looking at your kid."

(Meredith Robinson, Springfield)

Aliases celebrities can use when checking into hotels (Sept. 29, 2002):

Barbara Walters: Faye Swift (Steve Fahey, Kensington)

Bad ideas for useless products (July 30, 1995):

Seeing Eye giraffes (Blair Thurman, Reston)

Update an expression for the new millennium (Dec. 3, 2000):

Old expression: What goes around comes around. New expression: RE:Fw:FW:Fw:Fwd:FW:Fwd:FWD:Fw

(Twyla Vernon, Verona)

Dumb questions (June 1, 1997):

Excuse me, does this pharmacy carry that "date rape" drug? (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Washington Post headlines from the year 2050 (Dec. 24, 2000):

Great and Benevolent Galactic Ruler Reveals Anal Probes Were 'Just for Fun' (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

Why this cartoon might be offensive (Oct. 27, 2002):

Using a miniature hand-held steamroller to kill babies before collecting their blood in a bucket is fine, but it is insulting to suggest that such a workman would not be wearing the proper safety goggles. Union men are not all incompetent. (Seth Brown, Williamstown, Mass.)

Names for the high school football team in a real city:

The Eutaw (Ala.) Puddytats

(Jennifer Hart, Arlington, Nov. 13, 1994)

The Assinippi (Mass.) Guard Dogs

(Karla J. Dickinson, Springfield, Nov. 13, 1994)

The Weehawken (N.J.) Loogies

(Helene Haduch, Washington, Feb. 23, 2003)

The difference between any two items in a list we supplied (Sept. 8, 2002):

The difference between the Pennsylvania Dutch and a mole on one's butt is that in a Pennsylvania Dutch neighborhood, there's probably no crack.

(Chris Doyle, Burke)

Cinquains, revoltingly precious poems in successive lines of two, four, six, eight and two syllables (June 16, 1996):

Bob Dole,

Old but virile;

Tyrannosaurus Sex,

O, dark, rapacious veloci-


(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Oh dear,

Sylvia Plath,

Down went your spirits, and

Up went the gas, and now life you

No hath.

(Christine Tabbert, Woodbridge)

Phrases from a foreign-language English phrasebook that would be of no help to persons visiting the United States (Dec. 1, 1996):

"You puny American, I am here to overthrow your government and thrust your nation into chaos. Myooo ha ha ha! May I borrow from you a dime for the parking meter?" (Jacob Harley, Landover)

New elements for the Periodic Table, with their symbols and properties (Feb. 1, 1997):

Canadium (Eh): Similar to Americium, but a little denser. Much more rigid. Often called Boron.

(Joel Knanishu, Hyattsville)

Innofensium (Pc): Precisely equal numbers of electrons, protons, neutrons, leptons, quarks. Completely inert, utterly useless, but smells like a rose.

(Irwin Singer, Alexandria)

Sentences you don't want to hear the end of (Nov. 15, 2002):

"Sir, uh, me and your daughter . . . "

(Bill Chang, Ithaca, N.Y.)

Lines you wouldn't want to hear after getting married (Aug. 24, 1997):

"Now that's a coincidence. My birth mother's name was Clytemnestra de Nunkyhaven, too!"

(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Mottoes for the backs of the state quarters (Sept. 7, 1997):

Missouri: "This is the back of the quarter."

(Bob and Lydia Faulkner, Washington)

What is this object? (July 9, 2000):

A handy product for drunks on teeter-totters.

(Jean Sorensen, Herndon)

Annoying Nerdspeak (July 1, 1999):

One should not say "Today is my birthday," since a person has only one birthday, the very day he was born. More properly, one should say "Today is the ANNIVERSARY of my birthday." Assuming, of course, it is the anniversary of one's birthday. (Beth Baniszewski, Columbia)

Whenever a woman tells me that she loves me with all her heart, I patiently explain that the heart is an autonomic blood pump incapable of emotion, and that her statement is therefore without meaning. No woman has made that mistake with me twice.

(Joseph Romm, Washington)

Poeds, consisting of one line of six one-syllable words, one line of three two-syllable words, one line of two three-syllable words, and a final line containing one six-syllable word. There must be at least one rhyme (July 21, 1996):

Mom, a Jew. Pop a WASP.

Easter, Pesach, Christmas.

Communions, tallises,


(Roger L. Browdy, Kensington)

Propose a use for the 14-mile long, 15-foot wide tunnel for the aborted supercollider project (Nov. 21, 1993):

Just rename it the Martha Washington Monument. (Michael Sweet, Rockville)