Also back in May — as we’ve been doing every year since 2006 — we followed up with the “grandfoals” contest, to “breed” any two of the names that got ink that week. As usual, the entry pool diminished by almost half from the previous month, but 2,000 entries are still a ton for an Invite contest (remember, I’m the only person who judges the entries, and I do like the occasional hour of sleep).
But then sheez, I figured that Week 1382, Week 1386 AND Week 1400 would be enough horses for a while! So I ran one of our recurring Ask Backwards contests instead. But then sheez no. “When do we get to do the grandfoals for these horses?’ I was asked by some of the more dedicated members of the Loser Community as soon as I printed the Week 1400 results. After that, I even heard from just-readers. And believe me, I’m not ordinarily besieged with requests for certain contests, and so here we are a week later with Week 1405, with the foal names compiled in a handy list.
Though your odds of getting ink might be better in the grandfoal contest than in the first round because there will be fewer entries, coming up with a good name is a bit more challenging, because so many names on the 67-horse list are full of puns. For inspiration and guidance for this time around I thought I’d go over some of the grandfoal names that got ink this year.
One note first: Usually, the grandfoal contest runs the same week as the results of the foal contest, so you can see the combination of names that produced the wordplay. Since we’re a week late, I encourage you to look back at last week’s results at wapo.st/invite1404 so you don’t end up running the same joke that produced the foal in the first place.
So here are a few grandfoals from this past spring’s contest, Week 1386 (complete results here).
Au! Au! Au! x Extremely Average = Oh. Oh. Oh. (Hannah Seidel) There have been lots of wordplays involving the abbreviations for chemical elements (Au is gold); this week we have Hg Wails. But Hannah’s grandfoal doesn’t have to be about gold, although it works on that level as well: Extremely Average also works as a transformer to reduce the exclamation points to periods.
This one explicitly uses Au as gold, and also even the pun on the name of the legendary quarterback Joe Namath: Au! Au! Au! x Joe Maimeth = Gold Man Sacks (Hildy Zampella)
Stubble Stubble x Tank Array = Rubble Rubble (Jonathan Hardis) Tank Array was originally a play on Tanqueray gin, but Jonathan ignores that easily, since it also works on a literal level.
Avast! Waistland x Make Up Your Mind! = Bulge ‘n’ Waffle (Steve Fahey) That this entry won the Lose Cannon shows that you can ignore elements of the pun even when it doesn’t make sense on a purely literal level: I was able to read right over the maritime reference in “Avast! Waistland” (War Admiral x Middleground, by Roy Ashley) and enjoy Steve’s use of the already-a-pun “Waistland” toward “Bulge ‘n’ Waffle.”
Fred Austere x Top Gum = Gingervitis (Matt Monitto) Here Matt ignores the pun “Austere” in the first name and goes directly to the original Astaire (partner of Ginger Rogers), but then ignores the original “Top Gun” in the second element, using “gum.”
All of those approaches work. What you don’t want to do is ignore the most conspicuous part of the name. For “Fred Austere,” for example, you could play on “austere” and ignore “Fred,” but you couldn’t just make a joke on “Fred.”
How hai were they? The joke haiku of Week 1401
Given the thousands of entries that have poured in for some of our recent contests, I was a bit surprised to receive one of our smallest entry pools of late for Week 1401, our contest for jokes roughly in the “X is so Y” genre and written in haiku form, oversimplistically defined as merely three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Still, as this week’s results show, fewer entries don’t necessarily translate into weaker ink.
While haiku — especially as we’re defining it — doesn’t present the challenges of rhyme and meter that most of our other verse and song challenges do, it clearly presented opportunities for incisive wit, including some mordant zingers that pushed the envelope of what we’re calling a joke. I tried to mix up the gallows humor of some topical entries with lighter, more playful fare.
Frank Mann’s Lose Cannon winner — his third Invite win and 155th blot total, according to Elden Carnahan’s Loser Stats — falls into the first group for sure: “I’m so embarrassed …” — note the economy in not needing to say what he’s embarrassed about … “When I fly abroad I say/ I’ve been deported.” Maybe because it doesn’t immediately seem that outlandish anymore?
Among the runners-up: Steve Smith’s joke about blue-state mailboxes being turned into recycling cans brings him his eighth ink “above the fold” and 57th total; Sarah Walsh’s quarantine musing on Rapunzel is her second trip to the Losers’ Circle, and 27th (and with her honorable mention, 28th) ink all-time; and then there’s Duncan Stevens, Man of the Invite Hour, once again earning Invite swag that he’s sanely started to decline as he closes in on his 600th blot of ink, 62 of them above the fold.
While contests with fewer entries usually have drawn mostly the Usual Suspects, I was delighted to find that we have a First Offender this week in Leif Picoult, who channeled the ever-busier political metaphor Pinocchio: “He’s so dishonest/That his nose campaigned across/ Four swing states at once.” And Madelyn Rosenberg hops off the One Hit Wonders list in just three weeks with her joke about being so stressed, “my doctor asked. If I took my blood pressure/ In an Instant Pot.” Minturn Wright, with his very dark joke about dead voters, took a little longer; his first ink was in Week 1040.
We’re delighted that both now get to sit at the grown-ups’ table.
Did you notice that some of the haiku begin with “He” rather than the person’s name? It’s just so obvious that the name doesn’t have to be uttered; I think less repetition reads better over 33 haiku.
What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood enjoyed all the top four haiku, and also singled out Mark Raffman’s “WAP” (“So NSFW / I’m SMFH”); Tom Witte’s ” ‘Math for Dummies’ for Dummies”; and David Young’s sly “Such a narcissist/ That in prison he’ll only/ Print vanity plates.”
Just halfscore days away: Outdoor Loser brunch/tour at Gettysburg
Weather permitting, we’re still counting on having our first in-person Loser gathering since last winter: our annual visit to made-for-October Gettysburg, Pa., on Sunday, Oct. 18, where Loser Roger Dalrymple will greet us at the outdoor-seating area of the Appalachian Brewing Company pub on Steinwehr Avenue, followed by his annual expertly guided tour of the Civil War battlefield. The National Park Service’s visitor center/museum is open till 4, so perhaps we make a quick stop there as well. Roger is setting a noon starting time, but the pub won’t take reservations, so he hopes that someone could get there at 11:30 or so to help claim a couple of the picnic tables, where we’ll sit generously spaced. The Royal Consort and I plan to be there and hope to see lots more of you over your masks. As with all Loser events, anyone reading this is welcome; please RSVP to Roger at rogerandpam [at] comcast [dot] net and feel free to cc: me at email@example.com.