While our usual Clue Us In reverse crossword (I ran the first in 2006) uses a full grid — our last such contest ran in December 2019 — we’ve had partial-grid contests twice before, though with smaller, daily puzzles. (The idea was from Loser Craig Dykstra in 2010.) The idea is to increase the chance that your oh-so-clever wordplay won’t be the same one that 14 other people sent in — a chronic problem with our crossword contests. And also that it’s fun to show sharply contrasting results from the same set of letters.
For example, in the 2010 contest, Week 873, the main answer was “GOFORTHEJUGULAR” — with THEJUGULAR shaded out (but that year the letters were still visible).
The winner, by Kathye Lamaze: GO FOR THE REGULAR: Rallying cry of the mediocre.
Second place, by Randy Lee: GO FOR IT MS SALAHI: Michaele’s morning mirror mantra. (Michaele Salahi and her husband gained instant notoriety in 2009 when they managed to crash President Obama’s White House dinner for the prime minister of India.)
There’s hardly any method to this week’s lentil-square arrangement; I began by methodically positioning the little disks in places that seemed “right,” but eventually I found myself spilling them onto the paper and just making sure I didn’t blot out the whole word. I don’t think this happened, but it’s possible that two short clues have the same remaining letters.
Remember that this grid is just a picturesque gimmick for what we’re really after: clever wordplay, wry observations. The results are supposed to be fun to read. There’s a strong chance that many, perhaps most of the “answers” in today’s list won’t yield anything thrilling. That’s okay — because we wouldn’t have room to run a clue for each word, anyway (especially once I put in all those Losers’ names and towns in the credits). There are something like 139 choices; I’ll probably run 40 — and some of those will be multiple approaches to the same set of letters.
I gave a couple of examples in this week’s intro of “clues” for this week’s contest. For true inspiration and guidance, I invite you — hey, we’re the Invitational — to peruse the results of any of our 17 previous reverse crosswords, all conveniently linked to on the “CRO” page of Elden Carnahan’s fantastic Master Contest List at the Losers’ website, NRARS.org.
I neglected, however, to show a type of wordplay that always gets some ink in these contests: a word that has to be read and pronounced in a different way. Like this one by Chuck Koelbel:
PEA: The best line on a jock’s report card. As in P.E. — A.
or from George Vary: BRONCOS: Slightly irregular Veg-O-Matics and Ginsu Knives (B-Ronco)
So as promised, here’s a handy-dandy — well, handier-dandier than the grid, I hope — list of all the words you can choose from. (As usual, you get 25 entries total, and I don’t care if they’re for 25 different words or 25 variations on one word.) This list is actually brought to you by Hall of Fame Loser Jesse Frankovich, who posted it in the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group this morning, minutes after I posted the Invitational and before I had a chance to do it myself. I’m surprised that he hasn’t also already sent his best 25 entries of the 247 he’s no doubt already thought of.
ACROSS (each hyphen is a hidden letter)
DOWN (Jesse wrote them down vertically; -IPS is beneath LA-S on the grid, not to its right. Does it really matter?)
It doesn’t come into play in this week’s contest, but the puzzle we’re using — by constructor Margaret Woodruff — has a clever, fun theme: It’s titled “It Takes Two,” because the seven long “themed” answers are names or phrases are words that are preceded (and given as a single word as the clue) by a word said twice: So the clue “*Extra” — as in “Extra, extra” — leads to READALLABOUT IT; similarly, (Bad, Bad) LEROYBROWN; (Liar, liar) PANTSONFIRE; (Hail, hail) THEGANGSALLHERE; (Ladybird, ladybird) FLYAWAYHOME; (Wait Wait) DONTTELLME; and (Hush, Hush) SWEETCHARLOTTE.
The original clues are here; the constructor wasn’t into puns or snark, though, so you don’t have to worry about duplication.
My fingers are crossed that you’ll follow the directions and format each entry in a single line of text beginning with the word as it appears on the grid; I’ll handle it on this end if you use hyphens or dashes. I just cannot possibly look all through these lists to figure out that your RINDS was for -I-DS; you have to tell me.
And yes, of course I’m going to cook those lentils. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to eat my words.
Some linkage may occur*: The results of Week 1442
Tom Witte’s headline for this contest back in 2015
I was just a few minutes into the judging of Week 1442 — compare any two items on the random list I supplied — when I laughed out loud:
12 gallons of hand sanitizer: Purell. An evening with Mitch McConnell: Pure 'ell.
And it remained my favorite entry as I read through some 1,200 other entries — and then, many hours later, I saw it again.
Well, I decided, it has to win anyway. It’s just that good. So congratulations to Clowning Achievement winners Jesse Frankovich and Jeff Rackow.
This isn’t the first time that the same entry won the whole contest for two separate entrants, but it’s been a minute: In Week 906, 10 years ago, Mike Gips, Edmund Conti and Howard Walderman all suggested the slogan that would go on the 2011 runner-up mug: “My Cup Punneth Over.”
Jeff just started playing the Invite barely a year ago year; it’s just his 10th blot of ink. BUT it’s already his second contest win — he won the Clowner’s predecessor, the Lose Cannon, in Week 1399 for this fictoid: “Virtually all ‘cotton candy’ in the United States is now made of polyester.”
Jesse’s Invite story is a tad different, for now anyway: He’s closing in his 800th ink; this is his 18th win. And he’s the first of the Losers to have won three Clowning Achievements, the trophy I started awarding this past December. In our 100 Clowners for 100 Losers program, Jesse’s second win earned him a little “II” pennant to attach to the base of the Disembodied Clown Head. And so he’ll be the first Loser to decide whether to add a “III” flag or to just sub out the “II” on the same base.
Grad student Daniel Galef got his first Invite ink way back in Week 1187, but now he’s back in earnest and inking up the joint regularly. His second place this week — and I’m glad that wasn’t a double credit, because I have just one pair of Nerds socks to hand out — gives him his 19th blot of ink, but already his sixth “above-the-fold” prize. Daniel wasn’t the only Loser to interpret “the world’s largest pants” or (“the world’s smallest pants”) as hard breathing, but his was my favorite:
A quarantine puppy and the world’s largest pants: Both come out of a dog giving birth.
And the Losers’ Circle is filled out by a pair of all-stars:
An Olympic pole vaulter: Man with a 17-foot pole. An evening with Mitch McConnell: Man! Not with a 17-foot pole! (Jon Gearhart)
Simone Biles and the Texas power grid: You can count on only one of them to light up an arena. (Kevin Dopart)
What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood, who read the print Invite, enjoyed all four top winners this week and also singled out:
The world’s largest pants and the singular “they”: They’re both really useful when nothing else quite fits. (Deb Stewart)
A non-fungible token and an evening with McConnell: In short, you could call either of them “non-fun.” (Gary Crockett)
Pandemic gray hair: You maybe don’t want to dye it. Pineapple upside-down cake: You definitely don’t want to diet. (Craig Dykstra)
Jewish space lasers vs. a vaccination card: One is the outrageous creation used to shame a minority that just wants to be left alone, and the other is space lasers run by Jews. — M. Taylor Greene (John Hutchins)
So good luck with the lentilized grid — and don’t forget to write a poem using a spelling bee word: Deadline for Week 1445 is Monday night, July 26.