Happy Kentucky Derby weekend: Even though just this minute I heard that Hoppertunity has been scratched from Saturday’s Derby with a hoof injury, the Week 1066 Loser List of 100 names drawn from the full list of more than 400 Triple Crown nominees will be well represented: A dozen Loser steeds will be entering the starting gate among the 20-horse field. When I watch the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, I always root for one of “our horses” to win, especially one who got ink in an entry this week.
Before I get into this week’s results, though, I need to make an urgent appeal to local Losers and the Merely Curious: If you’re coming to the May 10 Flushies award luncheon in College Park — and please do! — contact organizer Elden Carnahan right away; all the info is at bit.ly/flushies19. Elden and especially fellow organizer Dave Prevar are worried because not enough people have signed up so far to cover the 50-person minimum, and it’s Dave’s own $500 non-refundable deposit. Because of that deposit, it’s really too late to do some sort of busted-play move like moving the event to a park or someone’s house.
So if you were thinking of going but hadn’t replied, now is the time. If you weren’t thinking of going, change your mind: It’s a convenient location with tons of free parking, and there’s lots of fun stuff planned, including poems and songs written expressly to salute the new Loser of the Year and other “achievements,” plus a bunch of door prizes. And I will personally see to it that you have a chance to punch the Empress in the face.*
Okay, the horses: Horse racing has famously been associated with disappointment and a sense of betrayal, and I’m afraid I’ll be supplying both to literally hundreds of people as they look over the results of Week 1066, our 20th annual name-“breeding” contest, even though I’m running a way-more-than-anyone-wants-to-read 67 entries.
It’s not just that a whole lot of people sent entries — I received more than 300 e-mails — and not just that a lot of those people sent in the maximum of 25 names (do the math). It’s that so many people sent so many good entries, using funny wordplay, making a wry joke. Literally hundreds of these entries were inkworthy. But they couldn’t all get ink.
I judged the contest as I normally do: I combined all the entries into one giant file, and then methodically searched on each horse name — some names appeared in close to 200 entries — and pulled out combinations I liked onto a short list (not the best term this week; it reached at least 200 names). I was also on vacation last week, and so the judging took place in fits and starts, in the airport, on the plane, in the hotel room, on the plane back, and a big chunk of it when I got home. One new thing I did this time was to highlight in yellow each entry that I’d pulled for the short list, so that I wouldn’t end up copying it out twice, for the search on Parent 1 and then again on Parent 2. (I wanted to mark every entry that I read, so I didn’t have to read it again when searching on Parent 2, but everything I tried took too many seconds or keystrokes to do the marking; it was better just to give it a second look.)
Later, though, I scrolled back through the list and saw big clumps of yellow — as many as eight or 10 horses from a single person that had made the short list. I checked some of them against the master list that included the entrants’ names, and most of the yellow-speckled people did end up with at least one blot of ink today. (Some have as many as three.) But it pains me that a number of deserving horse breeders went inkless: Among those in this category are Jonathan Hardis, Barbara Turner, Frances Hirai-Clark, Mark Sheppard, David Shepherd, Jerry Gidner, Mae Scanlan, Richard Hamilton, Susan Thompson, Sandra Hull, Rick Haynes; Grace Gray, Harold Mantle . . . and maybe you.
When I got the list down to about 100 names, I asked the Czar to mark his favorites. That helped me winnow the list to the final 67, and choose the top winners, though I included some horses he didn’t choose and ended up cutting a few that he did. The Czar agreed that the level of wordplay and humor was really high this year, and that’s coming from someone who judged eight of these contests himself from 1995 through 2003 (I did the 2001 as Auxiliary Czar while he was on leave that spring).
For next year, I’m strongly considering using a pool of 50 horse names rather than the current 100 (we used to use the entire 400-horse list!). Another possibility is to accept fewer entries per person — maybe 10 instead of 25 (we used to do this with no limit at all, though the Czar and I could not have possibly looked at all the entries back then with the proper care). Given that many a horse this year yielded a dozen or more inkworthy, varied entries, I can’t see how cutting the pool in half would hurt the contest. This week, for example, we’ll be working with 67 names for the “grandfoals,” and even those have historically been a little harder to work with, I have no fear that we won’t come up with a great list of results.
As always, there’s a whole lot of wordplay among this week’s entries, lots of punning. It’s hard to get ink without it: for example, several people bred Candy Boy and Smack Smack to make Hershey’s Kisses, but that was one-upped by breeding Vicar’s in Trouble with Smack Smack to make Heresy’s Kisses (and even that was sent by two people). Also well represented, including — huh! — really all four of the top winners: using the second name as an “operator” to alter the first name (or vice versa): Thus Jim Stiles took Toast of New York, then “operated on it” with General A Rod to alter it, in a small but hugely significant way, to Toast in New York.
In addition to the too frequently offered foal names I cited in the introduction to this week’s results, there were many others. Crushed It x Constitution produced a long list of resented authority figures from the NSA to Pervez Musharraf. Lots of people bred Commandment to All Tied Up for Thou Shalt Knot, but only Dudley Thompson went for the roller coaster and bred Commandment to Superlooper for Thou Shalt Knot Steel. A whole lot of people bred Oogeley Eye with Sportscaster to make a joke about Bob Costas’s eye infection during the Winter Olympics. Ick.
It’s the first Inkin’ Memorial for Jim Stiles, who just started Inviting in Week 1025 but already has 14 blots of ink, including a runner-up. I was happy to meet Jim at the Losers’ Postt-Holiday Party in January, and hope to see lots more from him.
Second place goes to someone who’s a bastion of the Loser Community: Pie Snelson comes to almost every month’s Loser Brunch complete with name tags and a camera, and serves as an unofficial Loser Historian. Pie also has taken it upon herself to obtain and distribute the slew of door prizes at recent Flushies — in fact, she’s supposed to drop by at my house today to pick up two bags full of assorted leftovers from the Invitational Prize Stash. This is Pie’s 55th ink, and fifth “above the fold.”
Two Invite veterans share third place: Gary Crockett and Pam Sweeney have more than 400 blots of ink between them. Pam has been especially successful with horse names: She won this contest in 2010 — and, kinda freakishly, given the odds — won the grandfoals contest in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011. And even veteraner Roy Ashley pays off with fourth place (we’re nicer than real horse racing) and his 315th (and 316th) blot of Invite ink.
A number of people enter only or almost only the horse name contest (or have stopped entering the other ones), but they do it almost every year. Among them this year are Laura Bennett Peterson, Steve Price and Mia Wyatt, all of them wildly interested in real-life horses; and longtime big-name Losers Jonathan Paul and Andrew Hoenig. And we certainly must note Mary Lee Fox Roe, who back in the day would send as many as 600 entries in a single contest — and only the horse contest — but only sometimes got ink. I was delighted to see that she did so today, and with only 25 entries. (Mary Lee was so famous in the Invite world that top Loser Sarah Gaymon named her own flesh-and-blood horse Mary Lee Fox Roe.)
With Malitz toward ... The favorite of my editor David Malitz this week was Chris Doyle’s Commanding Curve x Deceived = Pitch Set Me Up.
One last thing: Considering the size of this enterprise, there’s certainly a chance that I failed to credit the right person for an entry or, more likely, didn’t give double credit. If your entry is exactly what got ink for someone else’s name, let me know and I’ll get you credit at least online and in Elden’s standings.
Among the many:
Mr Speaker x Rise Up = Big Boehner (Peter Jenkins)
Got Lucky x Firestarter = Hot Piece Of Arson (Jeff Contompasis)
Effinex x Intense Holiday = Effin’ Xmas (Dudley Thompson)
General A Rod x Harpoon = Major Prick (Mark Hagenau)
Guggenheim x Got Lucky = Frank Laid Right (Andrew Hoenig)
Vicar’s In Trouble x Chitu = Holy Chit (Konrad Schwoerke)
Chitu x No Nay Never = I Chitu Not (Anthony Yeznach; Kevin Dopart)
Kowboy Boots x Chitu = Chitkickers (Mia Wyatt)
Icy Ride x Rise Up = Zamboner (David Komornik)
Rise Up x No Nay Never = Contested Erection (Neal Starkman)
Hope to see you — and you and you — at the Flushies on May 10.
*Loser and this year’s Flushies emcee Nan Reiner has provided an inflatable pop-up punching bag with a picture of the Empress’s face pasted on.