Bob Staake’s four preliminary horse "breeding" sketches for Style Invitational Week 1016.

In recent years we’ve been skipping an illustration of our foal-naming contest, instead going with a cartoon for the winner in that week’s results — because how many different ways can you illustrate the idea of horses in love or having babies? But Bob Staake asked some time ago if we could get this week’s illustration out of the way earlier, so he could concentrate on preparations for his tour to promote his latest children’s book, “Bluebird,” and I wasn’t finished judging the Week 1012 limericks. So I said, “Well, if you can think of anything we haven’t already done . . . .” The next morning, Bob sent me the sketches pictured above. Given that same week’s Supreme Court deliberations — and especially since this contest always requires you to “breed” two males — the choice was clear.

By the way, Bob’s tour will indeed bring him to Washington in a few weeks: He’ll be at the independent bookstore Politics & Prose in Northwest Washington on Tuesday, April 30, at 10:30 a.m., along with three other picture book authors. “Bluebird” is a departure for Bob in several ways: Its story is told entirely in pictures; it takes on serious, emotional themes, such as loneliness and bullying; it’s done in a muted color palette; and he’s spent a decade working it through. Also, as opposed to certain earlier efforts, any missing teeth the protagonist has would make him look cute.

This week’s contest: (If you’re new to the Invite and don’t know the drill, take a look at some earlier results. Because all horses that run in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes must be 3 years old, there’s a new set of names every year.)
Results of Week 965 (headline is for that week’s new contest, Week 969; ditto the other examples)
Results of Week 914
Results of Week 867

Note that most of the foal names incorporate puns, but there are other jokes as well; for example, the first honorable mention in last year’s results “bred” Discreet Dancer with One Sock Down to produce Amish Stripper.

While judging this contest has become far saner since I began imposing the 25-foal limit per person, it’s still a big production every year because it always gets a huge number of entries from several hundred people, many of whom aren’t regular entrants. I’ve developed a pretty systematic way of judging it:

As usual, I combine all the e-mails of entries into a single file, then make a copy of that file and scroll through it, deleting all the information about who sent the entries, suck-up notes, notification of bribe dropoff points, etc. Then I change all the remaining text — the entries themselves — into the same typeface and type size.

Several days later, I’ll sit down at the computer with a list of the 100 eligible horses, and search through the no-names on Horse No. 1, and select all the combinations I like that feature Horse No. 1, and save them to a list. Then I do the same with Horse No. 2, and so on. Since every entry features two horses, by the end of this exercise I’ll have looked at every entry twice.

A few tips: First, spell the horse’s name right! I do try to search on just a few letters from the horse’s name, to prevent overlooking a name that has a wrong letter, or an apostrophe added. But Losers can get things wrong so imaginatively!

Second, I’ve noticed over the years that there are many more entries that feature horses from the top of the list of names (this is also true of our biennial “joint legislation” contests). You might have a better chance of ink if you use more horses from the final columns.

Third, if you want to add an entry, or correct another one, don’t send your whole list again; since these entries are so short-form, involving no writing, there’s a big chance that some combinations will be sent by four or more people, meaning that I won’t give individual credit to anyone for it, and I might see a double submission as two individual entries. (I’ll try to check for that by compiling the list alphabetically by Loser’s name, but e-mails sent twice do mess up my judging system.)

The list itself, drawn from a nomination list of almost 400 names, is semi-arbitrary: I started by using various lists of top contenders for the Kentucky Derby, helpfully sent me by Loser and Serious Horse Player Wilson Varga — I always have a lot more fun watching the Derby (May 4 this year) when a lot of “our” horses are in the running. So unless a name was really useless for this game (I’m talking about you, Elnaawi), I included the names from these top-tout lists, which accounted for about half the names. Then I filled out the hundred with names that seemed good for jokes and, I hope, weren’t too repetitive.

Scanning the news wires: The limericks of Week 1012

My predecessor, the Czar of The Style Invitational, often used to print out the week’s entries and then judge them beginning at the bottom of the stack. He did this to spare himself worry: It’s because the earliest entries sent in that week were often terrible; they tended to be from readers who looked at the column in the paper, then rushed to send in the first thing that sprang to mind. On the other hand, many of the most dedicated Losers would work on their entries all week, editing and polishing their lists before finally submitting them Monday evening in the final hours of the entry window.

I can’t say I was ever worried during my judging of the Week 1012 limericks on current events, but wow, a lot of the early limericks ... weren’t. They didn’t rhyme properly; they didn’t have a limerick’s characteristic meter; some didn’t even have five lines. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been visiting the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook, where a number of Loser Bards trade limericks all the time — on that day’s baseball game, for example — that perhaps I forgot to stress firmly enough that a limerick has a particular form, and you don’t get to make up your own form.

As usual, I did ask readers to look at “Get Your ’Rick Rolling,” my limerick guidelines, but that’s a pretty long explanation. I’m considering distilling the part about the meter to this:
1. Say “hickory-dickory-dock” out loud.
2. In Lines 1, 2 and 5 of your limerick, find the series of syllables that exactly matches the rhythm “hickory-dickory-dock.” There may be unaccented syllables before and after that phrase, but “hickory-dickory-dock” has to be there clearly, even though it can begin and/or end in the middle of a word.
3. Say “dickory-dock” out loud.
4. In Lines 3 and 4 of your limerick, find the series of syllables that exactly matches “dickory-dock.” Again, there may be unaccented syllables before and after this phrase.
5. You don’t get to ac-CENT the words on the wrong syl-LA-ble to make the rhythm work.

If you had followed these guidelines, you would not have written a limerick beginning, for instance, “There once was an ambitious clergyman,” or with a second line that said “As they affect weather modifications,” or with a last line that said “You can deal with all of the stuff that I have seen,” to quote from three limericks pulled from the early pages of my stack of printouts.

But as I said, while entries such as these were dismaying, I wasn’t worried for a moment that I’d have more than enough well-crafted, varied, clever, funny limericks to use this week, and I’m delighted to bring you 30 of them. (Only 13 will be in the print paper, however, since we have the list of horse names.)

He’s been our No. 1-inking Loser for the past six years, with more than 900 blots total, but I don’t tend to think of Kevin Dopart as a limerick writer. That’s going to have to change, clearly, with Kevin’s three-ink week, and his 20th win overall.

This week’s fourth-place winner, Chris Doyle, is the author of literally thousands and thousands of limericks, dozens of which have appeared in the Invite over the years. On the Devotees page, practically any thread on any subject will feature, somewhere down the list, a limerick on the subject from the Doylean Library.

Our other two runners-up, on the other hand, are both Loser rookie phenoms: Mark Raffman got his first ink this past summer in Week 979, and since then has gotten 36 more, including two victories; and Danielle Nowlin, who didn’t start till Week 995 -- last November — reaches 13 inks with her two this week. Kevin might want to start looking over his shoulder.

The HAW of the week from Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford: David Smith’s limerick on Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster, the best of a number of entries that played on the senator’s “droning.”

The Flushies: Saturday, May 11, Jake’s Grille, D.C., Lunch

That’s the distillation of the invitation you’ll be getting by e-mail, if you're on my list (if you’re not and would like to be, write me at For almost every year of the Invite’s existence, the Not Ready for the Algonquin Roundtable Society — a.k.a. the Losers — has put on a luncheon and award ceremony at which Losers and their designated grown-ups meet one another, sing some song parodies, and present plaques for Loser of the Year, Rookie of the Year, even “Least Imporved.”

This year’s infestivities will be held for the first time at Jake’s American Grille, on upper Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington. Proto-Loser Elden Carnahan tells me that there will be a filter-in-and-mingle cocktail hour starting at noon, with the buffet brought out at 1 p.m., and the presentations starting up maybe an hour after that. I’ll present Inkin’ Memorials to Kevin Dopart and whichever other recent winners will attend, given that several winners have gotten the statuette in the mail lately to find the Bobble-Linc’s head neatly severed from his neck.

Jake’s is about 3/4 mile from the Metrorail station, and parking should be available on side streets. I was delighted to hear that Now Constant Loser Robert Schechter, who lives on Long Island, will be flying down for the day, so we'll be able to meet Bob for the first time. Meanwhile, Flushies organizers Dave Prevar, Pie Snelson and Elden are working out the details, and trying to keep the cost down. Though this isn’t a Washington Post-sponsored event, I’ll be the one sending out the invitation (once we have the details) because I’m the one with the e-mail addresses.

A little Invite every day

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to “Like” the page Style Invitational Ink of the Day, and you’ll get a sampling of a classic entry or three from the Invite archives on your news feed. If you’re not on Facebook, it’s worth it just for this, no?

Poetry in Chinglish

Fifty-one-time Loser Doug Frank shared on Facebook a few days ago a photo of a product maintenance tag that was cryptic, to say the least. And the word shown with dashes did not have the dashes:

Care and Handling:
Washing: Add to
shampoo the vegetable to soak
few minuteses with cold water,
and not twist to squeeze.
Drying: The rap drops the water
bead, nature cool f---.
Styling: It is cool to f--- the empress,
and use the steel needle the comb to
comb the original hair style.

Naturally, the Empress knew about the coolness, but she and everyone else were mystified about the rest, until some Devotees started researching: Diane Wah found out that a translation quirk regularly mis-translates some word for “drying” to “empress,” And Jack Goldberg finally recruited his Mandarin-fluent wife, Lucy, to translate:

1. Washing - Add shampoo to the cold water and put the wig in the water and soak a few minutes. Do not twist to squeeze it.
2. Drying - Tap to drop the water and dry naturally. Do not blow dry with electricity.
3. Styling - After the wig is dry, use a steel-needle comb to comb the hair to the original style.

Takes the poetry out of it, doesn’t it?