Not the best day for a humor contest that would be based on that day's front page. But Style Invitational Week 233 came through, more or less.

It’s been a long time since The Style Invitational asked readers to write in the style of a certain writer, as we do this week for Bible stories and other old tales in Week 1324. But in the Invite’s early years, my predecessor, the Czar, ran several such contests, and I did at least one, as I see on that marvelous Master Contest List maintained by Loser Elden Carnahan. For your guidance and inspiration this week, here’s a sampling of ink from those contests.

The first of these I found, Week 233, asked readers to recast a single paragraph on that Sunday’s front page — this was before we were thinking about the Internet — in the style of a famous writer. (The Invite was published the previous Friday evening.) And alas, that day, Aug. 31, 1997, was the one in which Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash. For good measure, the front page also had a piece on the AIDS epidemic. Yay, bring on the laughs!

Fourth Runner-Up: Mets Down O’s, 13-6
Their starting pitcher shaky and their bullpen weary, the Baltimore Orioles lost an early 5-2 lead and fell, 13-6, to the New York Mets, who got 19 hits in the interleague game

By Ernest Lawrence Thayer:

The outlook wasn’t happy for the Md.ville nine that day,
The New York Mets had come to town for inter-circuit play.
And though the players were too young to recollect those times,
The fans remembered what went down in 1969. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel, Md.) [I loved “Md.ville nine,” didn’t love the slant rhyme “times/1969”; “Casey at the Bat” exclusively uses “perfect rhyme.”]

Coming in May: Bob Staake's book about a lizard in hiding, for Beginner Books, the imprint begun with "The Cat in the Hat." In today’s Invitational, Bob salutes Dr. Seuss with a Moses Cat.

Third Runner-Up: Today: Mostly sunny, more humid. High 86. Low 70. Wind 6-12 mph.

By Groucho Marx:

Today, mostly sunny, more humid. High 86. Low 70. Inseam 32. Wind 6 to 12. Yankees 12 to 6. Whirlaway 20 to 1. And if you mix horseradish with Cream of Wheat it tastes more like scrambled eggs than oatmeal. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

Second Runner-Up: Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed along with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed in an automobile crash.

By Albert Camus:

Diana died today. Or maybe, yesterday. The people at the hospital said she died at 4 a.m., but in Washington that is 10 p.m. You could call it yesterday. (Noah Meyerson, Washington, and Kevin and Karen Greenberg, Philadelphia)

First Runner-Up:

By Adelaide Crapsey [inventor of the poetic form the cinquain]:

They fled.
Princess and beau.
Through the Parisian night.
But still paparazzi shot them
To death. (Sandra Hull, Arlington, Va.)

And the winner of the cow-pie clock:

Ask not for whom the belle’s tailed, she’s tailed for thee. (Phil Frankenfeld, Washington.)

From the Honorable Mentions:

(key to a story in the Post Magazine) The House of Cooke:

The Redskins start the new season tonight with a new owner. Out from his father’s shadow, John Kent Cooke is in charge -- for now. So who is he, and where is he headed? THE MAGAZINE.

By George Will:

Tacitus wrote that as Hannibal lay dying, he implored his heir to seek an easier route through the Alps when next invading Rome; i.e., to “go with the short pass.” Today, another prodigal son, John Kent Cooke, must lead his brave army to victory while avoiding Clintonian moral decay and Shulerian imprecision. Will he heed my advice? Peruse MAGAZINE. (David Genser, Arlington, Va.)

By Stephen King:

As memories of the past swirled like autumn’s brittle dead leaves, Jack hoped the new football season would end the nightmares. It was the Shadow that made him wonder. It was larger than his own shadow and the Shadow was always lurking. Sometimes it only touched part of him, and he shivered. Sometimes the Shadow engulfed him, almost suffocating him. And as the Shadow moved away he’d catch just a whiff of his father’s after-shave. (Diana Sams, Springfield, Va.)

Her adult life was never really her own.

By Stephen Jay Gould:
Her life was never really her own, beyond the pupa stage. (Greg Arnold, Herndon)

The shopping centers, strip malls and interstate highways that ring Old Town [Manassas, Va.] had nearly choked the City Center to death. But in the last two years a “new Old Town” has begun to take root.

By Shakespeare: Act 2, Scene 1

(A suburb near Old Towne)
See how this paved menace creeps anon
And wraps its fatal choke hold on the town.
Sound alarums lest it maul(1) our hearts.
Marry(2), we can be kings without a Crown(3).

1. maul = mall.
2. marry = an interjection.
3. crown = A. a gold coin. B. a discount bookstore. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington, Va.)

From Week 354, 2000: Write a food review of any of several given dishes in the style of a particular writer:

And the winner of the smorked beef rectum--

Cole Porter on escargots:

If your gal is curvy
And the mood is all hors d’oeuvrey
And you’re nervy for the prelude’s to-and-fro

You could deftly unshell her
With some Oysters Rockefeller
But slip her the escargots.

Strapless stunners in Manhattan
All appreciate a pat in Just the right place,
The Rainbow Room, they say!
When the first wine is uncorked
There is something they want forked.

Slip her escargots, The fore before the play!
With some garlic and some butter
You will find that creeper utterly delicious when on lips you let it glow!
It’s the quo before the quid
And the way to grease the id
When you slip her the escargots! (Phil Frankenfeld, Washington)

Raymond Chandler on SweeTarts:
The dame at the candy counter asked me if I knew what I wanted yet. I told her that I’d known what I wanted since I was 12 years old, but today I’d just take the SweeTarts. And put them on The Post’s tab, I added. She was impressed. She batted her baby blues. “The New York Post?” She was stupid, too. I liked that. I popped one of the candies into my mouth. “What do you think?” she asked. “It reminds me of you,” I said. She giggled like a schoolgirl. “You mean sweet?” I said. “No, a tart.” I was right. (Meg Sullivan, Potomac, Md.)

Week 463 (2002), retell the beginning of any well-known story as some famous person would:

This one contains an honorable mention that would be just right for Week 1324. You can’t use it. Sorry.

First Runner-Up: “Young George Washington decided to chop down a cherry tree -- a strong and purposeful act. However, when confronted, instead of standing up for his right to act against mindless convention, he abjectly apologized and sought mercy. After this, it is not surprising that, as an adult, he sought refuge in government jobs.” -- Parson Weems’s biography, retold by Ayn Rand (Mike Genz, La Plata, Md.)

And the winner of the bra-wearing stuffed gorilla that sings the macarena: “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, grave diggers evil. Then there was Fortinbras. We had a Fortinbras at Delta Kappa Epsilon. He was a major league bunghole.” — “Hamlet,” retold by George W. Bush (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

“In the beginning, all the matter in the universe was compressed into a 10-dimensional black hole approximately 1 Planck unit in radius. The first 20-{4}{3} of a second was characterized by a period of hyper-inflation that caused the universe to expand to the size of a grapefruit. This condition remained static for the next 320 microseconds, until perturbatory Feynman quantum fluctuations resulted in . . .” — Genesis 1:1, retold by Stephen Hawking (Joshua Miller, Sparks, Md.)

“An ignorant girl invaded the habitat of a beautiful and powerful yet endangered wolf, who was cruelly murdered by a self-righteous woodsman for the crime of obeying its natural instincts and protecting its territory.” — “Little Red Riding Hood,” retold by PETA President Ingrid Newkirk (Beth Baniszewski, Columbia, Md.)

Week 494 (2003), rewrite a piece of banal, everyday writing in the style of a famous writer:

The winner of this contest is possibly the most famous Style Invitational entry ever, Jeff Brechlin’s “Hokey-Pokey” as a Shakespearean sonnet. (Here it’s reproduced on, where you can click on individual lines for annotations.)

But there were also ...

Second Runner-Up:
I’m not at home, or I’m asleep,
But do not fret, and do not weep.
Just leave a message at the beep,
Just leave a message at the beep. -- Robert Frost (Paul Dudley, Ellicott City, Md.)

First Runner-Up:
Remove this tag! -- pillow warning, rewritten by Abbie Hoffman (Charles Havekost, Vienna)

Week 657 (2005), write a steamy passage of a novel “by” someone not known as a novelist:

The marble rolled down the chute, striking the lever that turned on the fan. Angela looked up at him, then back at the device, breathing heavily. The dart flew in a perfect arc, as he knew it would, ultimately propelling the two catcher’s mitts toward her chest. It was perfect. Embraced by the mitts, she turned her attention to the second device waiting below, and as the next marble started its journey, she moaned softly. — Rube Goldberg (Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.)

Maybe it was the peyote messing with my brain, but Rosie O’Donnell looked awfully good to me right then. She winked one hooded, reptilian eye and flicked her long, bifurcated tongue at me. If only the stadium weren’t full of careening vampire bats, I would have leapt out of my box seat and taken her right there at home plate. — Hunter S. Thompson (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge, Va.)

Week 1324 requires writing (and talent), and I’m not expecting thousands of entries. But I’m optimistic that I’ll get some classic ones.

*Kevin Dopart’s headline for the same contest in 2014; several people also sent it in this time.

I never get tired of our recurring Questionable Journalism contest, in which you pull some sentence out of the paper (any paper that week) and turn it into an answer for your own out-of-context question. It’s much like our contest Mess With Our Heads, which uses headlines.

This is a contest that requires some research — looking through newspaper articles — and rewards those who do a lot of it (Duncan Stevens, I’m looking at your six blots of ink). And so I wasn’t surprised that fewer than 150 people entered Week 1320 (for comparison, 123 people have entered Week 1323, to shorten a movie title, and there’s still more than half a week to go; most of the entries come in the last couple of days). But we’ve done this contest many times, and it’s never come close to failing us.

Not always, but often, the humor of Questionable Journalism is enhanced when the reader easily recognizes the original context of the sentence and gets the wordplay (this is one reason I tend not to use really weird sentences). Witness the double contexts — both clear to the reader — in this week’s winner (“stopping the run”), second place (“tip-off”) and fourth place (“mugs”). And the third-place entry is clearly a science story.

It’s the first Lose Cannon for Beverley Sharp, but her 13th Invite win over the years (among well over 600 inking entries); I’m glad she finally snagged our current first-place trophy. All 18 people getting ink this week, in fact, are familiar names to regular Invite readers; the name farthest down the Loser Stats list this week is Jon Ketzner with 23 blots, but he started just recently and so he’s actually been popping up almost every week (yes, that is a link to Jon’s personal stats page, just one more new service that Elden Carnahan has been provided the Loser Community).

Vincing Argument: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood is taking in Spring Training this week, and so we got the services of Equally Ace Copy Editor Vince Rinehart. Vince’s two favorites this week were Duncan Stevens’s “first draft” of “Both Sides Now,” and Tom Witte — not exactly a stranger to the double-entendre — reinterpreting”banging the table” and “use that watermelon.” Oh, Tom.

Out of the questions: The unprintables:

A. “I am totally in.” Q. What did Donald Trump reply when Stormy Daniels ask him if he was ready to begin? (Roy Ashley)

A. “We didn’t want to be on top of our daughter.” Q. What is the best way to avoid charges of incest? (Steve Honley)

A: The cascade is predictably picturesque within the greater grandeur of one of the country’s most stunning national parks. Q: Why do you insist on being openly exposed in Yosemite when you pee? (Jeff Contompasis) [This was actually printable, but Jeff asked that we hide it here.]

A: It’s good to keep the wood moisturized. Q: Why are we always out of hand lotion? (Jeff Contompasis) [This was not printable.]

A: But if you err too much on the side of caution, you get a square-looking head. Q: Is emasculation possible from too aggressive a bris? (Jeff Contompasis) [Also this one.]

A. Ron reported, “I thought it was deep enough for a first date.” Q. What did Mr. Jeremy say about being gentle with his new girlfriend? (Tom Witte)

A: She mated with one of them. Q: What happened to those two Jehovah’s Witnesses on Your Mama’s porch? (John Hutchins) [Mostly because I don’t want to make graphic fun of practitioners of a particular religion.]

A: “If it happens, it would be great, but I don’t know much about it, quite frankly.” Q: What are the President’s views on the female orgasm? (Gary Crockett) [This might have been printable, but when there’s so much other good material, why go there? Who knows, maybe he used to be a sensitive lover hahahah.]


The annual Loser outing to Gettysburg is off at least for next month, and so we’ll be brunching closer to home for most of us: Loser Brunch No. 218 is Sunday, April 28, at noon at Denizens Brewing Co., a beer garden in Silver Spring, Md. RSVP to Elden and see the rest of the “social engorgements” calendar here.