How fortunate to have received so many good neologisms from our first — but likely not last — ScrabbleGrams contest. As I noted on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook, the Royal Consort and I will be visiting Northern California for eight days starting Friday, June 14, and I have to have the next two weeks of Invitational ready to go by next Thursday.
My initial plan was to judge three contests in the space of two weeks, and, I don’t know, just let the trip fall into place on its own. Meanwhile, I finished the Week 1021 results for the print page, with dozens of inkworthy results left over. Hmm, too many, even, to add to the online version.
So here’s my somewhat complicated plan: Next week (Thursday, June 13/Sunday, June 16): as scheduled, the results of the Week 1022 compare-and-contrast contest, but no new contest. I’ll do a short Style Conversational but probably won’t have much to discuss. Then the week after that (June 20/23), we’ll have the second set of ScrabbleGrams results, plus a new contest that I’ll work out this weekend. No Conversational that week. I’ll judge the haiku on the plane.
Why am I not running the two ScrabbleGrams results in a row? Because I like things to be unnecessarily complicated, okay? Anyway, by July 21 we’ll be back to our usual four weeks between announcement of the contest and posting of the results.
Meanwhile, we return to the venerated genre of the backronym, which basically pretends that some existing name or other word or term, which has been just standing around being a word, actually is an acronym for some sentence or phrase. Backronyms have been around for ages, often totally bogusly explaining a word’s derivation: I remember my mother telling me that “news” stood for “north, east, west, south,” while it really stands for, duh, “new stuff.” It’s often said (primarily by club-wielding troglodytes) that the word “golf” was created to mean “gentlemen only; ladies forbidden”; it actually most likely comes from an old Scottish word meaning to hit something, as in cuffing someone. This meaning was in use even before Elin Nordegren’s time.
Of course, the key to making a backronym funny is that the phrase should be a funny observation about the original term. If you’re spelling out, say, “beagle” and you make some clever remark about President Obama’s drone policy, that’s not going to work unless the phrase itself manages to tie in some analogy among Obama, drones and beagles.
Looking back at the results of Week 632, the previous time we did this contest (with product names), I remember some grousing about how we presented the results: We didn’t say what the product was in each entry; the reader had to spell it out from the first letters of each word. We’d figured that the joke would be more fun if the reader discovered the answer on his own. We did try to help by both capitalizing and boldfacing each initial letter (see here on a PDF of the print page; there’s no online version that I can find), but I don’t know how if that was more helpful or confusing. When I chose the inking entries I used as examples for this contest, I decided to put the product name at the end of the entry; I’ll probably do that again for these results. Puzzling something out is fun for a short time; doing it 30 times over can become tedious.
When he pitched this contest to me — helped create it, really — Way Over The Top Loser Jeff Contompasis sent me an Excel spreadsheet containing 181 “tile sets” that he’d found in either the ScrabbleGrams puzzles he’d seen in The Post or from a book he’d specially ordered, “The Big Book of ScrabbleGrams.” He’d chosen only the sets for which there were no seven-letter solutions (in a typical ScrabbleGrams daily puzzle, three of the four sets yield seven-letter words).
It wouldn’t have bothered me if there’d been an actual real word lurking in the scrambled tiles, but perhaps the absence of a real word made it easier for the Losers to find lots of fake ones. The 100 sets I offered brought me back probably 2,000 words, not all that many of them duplicated. It turned out to be a novel and effective way to bring forth dozens of clever neologisms.
As with other Invite contests that involve various combinations of items that I supply — the horse-“breeding” contests, for example — often it’s the variations on a theme, or in this case the different ways the seven letters can be arranged, with vastly different meanings, that make the results more interesting than any single entry. This is why, for the most part, I’m grouping the results by “rack.” But if your entry was the only brilliant solution I found for a particular tile set, don’t worry; I’ll run some singles two weeks from now as well.
It’s the second first-place win for Frank Osen, who seems to be descending more and more deeply into the Invite maw; I hope it doesn’t distract him tooooo much from his work as a serious poet. It’s Frank’s 31st (and 32nd) blots of ink, four of them “above the fold.” Even more addicted, it seems, is the on-a-roll Danielle Nowlin, who’s been mopping up the ink in alarming amounts since she started playing just a few months ago. This week Danielle gets to add four blots to her previous 24; I can’t remember if more are on the way for this contest two weeks hence. And nabbing a mug or Grossery Bag are runners-up Neal Starkman and Jeff Hazle, who both have remarkable ratios of above-the-fold winners to total ink: Neal is 5 for 19, including two wins; and Jeff is 9 for 35 (including two inks today), with three first prizes.
But we also had four First Offenders this week as well (after just one for last week’s grandfoals); Michael Jacobs, who recently joined the Style Invitational Devotees, had a particularly impressive list of entries.
A too-inside entry I particularly liked came from Jeff Shirley: EEITDCP: “Pec-edit: Removing those offensive little dots from the artist’s renderings of women’s chests.” Jeff was alluding to the last-minute radical mastectomy given to a cartoon in the Week 1010 caption contest.
With Malitz toward ... “LOL-par,” the expected number of Facebook “likes,” was this week’s favorite of Sunday Style editor David Malitz. I predict that one day in the next five years, David and I will choose the same entry as our favorite.
Of course, I wouldn’t go all the way to San Francisco without taking in the area’s most amazing sights. And by that, of course, I mean at least three Bay Area Losers: The Royal Consort and I will be visiting Malcolm Fleschner and his family in Palo Alto, as well as David Smith and his wife and little one in Santa Cruz. And on Saturday, June 15, Dixon Wragg will be coming down from Santa Rosa to join us for dinner: Malcolm has chosen a Loser dinner spot that’s oddball enough for several people wearing various models of Loser T-shirts: the diner Buck’s of Woodside, in the midst of Silicon Valley, famed “quirkily decorated” haunt of the quirkier techies and dressed-down venture capitalists. We will share pictures, perhaps.
If anyone out there in the Greater Loser Community would like to join us, e-mail me and I’ll give you more details.
It’s been almost three months that I’ve been running Invite excerpts on Facebook on the page Style Invitational Ink of the Day. And lately, along with listing a half-dozen entries to a particular classic contest, I’ve also been publishing memes — little online posters containing a single entry. They’re all credited to the Losers who wrote them, of course. Don’t miss out: Click “Like” on the page to make sure you’re notified of a new post. Here’s an example. Note that the address of the Invite is on there; the idea is that when people share these memes and mini-lists with their friends, we’ll get some new readers, maybe even new entrants, for the Invitational.
There were a bunch of taste-challenged entries this week. Among them:
AOLBWMN: Blowma: A bit shy of a MILF. (Jim Lubell)
AUETCPN: Nutcape: A loincloth. (Bird Waring; Rob Huffman)
AALTSMP: Lapmast: Second most common event in a strip club. (Jeff Contompasis)
AEOVFRL: Arflove: Doing it doggy style. (Jeff Contompasis)
AOCBLGM: Galcomb: A merkin pick. (Jeff Contompasis)
AOLBWMN: Blowman: A fluffer for gay porn movies. (Jeff Contompasis — yes, he really went to town on this contest)
EOOGNLB: O-bone: 1. What I call my favorite reed instrument. 2. A succulent cut of meat from the loin area. (Tom Witte)
EUITSNH: Uneshit: Colloquial French for “Gérard Depardieu.” (Stephen Dudzik)
UUANCTM: Tunacum: Organic material used by ancient Hawaiians to wax their surfboards. (Bird Waring) Also, a Japanese delicacy. (Tom Witte) Also, what collects at the bottom of fishing boats during a long voyage (Elden Carnahan)
EEILFRH: EILF: An attractive judge of a newspaper humor contest. (John Folse)