“ScrabbleGrams” continues as a daily syndicated feature in The Post and many other papers, but all the letters sets we’ve used have come from this one book (there are still enough in there for several more contests).
This neologism challenge is more restrictive than our Spelling Bee contest, whose results run today, since you can’t use a single “tile” more than once. On the other hand, there are more racks to choose from, 40 in all. If you’re new to the Invite, today’s results should provide inspiration and guidance as to what sets the Empress’s funny bone to Vibrate.
Funnycombs*: The Spelling Bee neologisms of Week 1424
*Non-inking headline submitted by both Bill Dorner (who raises bees!) and Jesse Frankovich
Judging from the results of Week 1424, as it did the first time we did this contest (Week 1277 results here) — just before the New York Times Spelling Bee morphed from a low-tech weekly pen-and-paper challenge to a round-the-clock online temptation — the seven-letter “hives” from 30 past Bees provided more than enough neologism fodder to produce a long list of clever, varied additions to the Loser Lexicon. It didn’t hurt that this time I was able to offer so many hives, lifted from an archive shared on the website of software developer and science fiction author William Shunn; in 2018 I provided only 15, the number of weeks I could look up from the paper version.
The large majority of the entrants followed my fervent entreaties to format their entries in a single line beginning with the letter set. (See even more pleading this week.) Those who didn’t — whose entries ended up in two or more widely separated pieces once I ran the list through the alphabetical sorter — might have lucked out anyway if I could figure out what the joke was supposed to say, which word the example went with, etc. Might not have.
Both Spelling Bee mastermind Sam Ezersky and NYT Wordplay blogger Deb Amlen graciously spread the word about the Invite contest on Twitter, and we got a bunch of new entrants this week. Diane Parham of South Carolina and Kevin Davis of California are both First Offenders this week; Diane skips the One-Hit Wonders list with two honorable mentions, the Maybe-Get and the Lint-Mint, and Kevin’s “Enbee” got in a friendly dig at some words on the Spelling Bee lists, like “enhalo,” that one doesn’t tend to see in the Real World. (Hey, at least he did away with “duad.”)
The top four winners this week, though — the Losers’ Circle, in Imperial parlance — are all Invite veterans with a veritable vat of ink among them. Danielle Nowlin’s “foible file” — the database that helpfully pulls out all our previous embarrassments while you’re trying to fall asleep — gives her her 15th Invite win (for 371 blots of ink in all), but her first Clowning Achievement, the new trophy we started giving out a few months ago. Runners-up Frank Osen (“Clam mail,” the DeJoy “improvement” on snail mail) and Mark Raffman (“Miracall,” when your young-adult kid phones and just wants to say hi) are both Hall of Famers with more than 500 inks apiece; Dan Helming (“bun tuba,” yes, a fart joke) is the relative novelty “above the fold” with about 35 blots of ink, including several previous runners-up. (The Loser Stats, kept as a labor of love by Ur-Loser Elden Carnahan, are sort of in the shop right now as Elden transitions to some new format.)
A’s from the Bee man: Sam Ezersky’s favorites
As crossword obsessive since childhood who was hired full time by the New York Times upon graduation from the University of Virginia to edit puzzles, Sam Ezersky certainly landed a dream job. Along with evaluating crossword submissions and improving on the clues of the puzzles slated to run, Sam, at 25, wields a weird sort of power: Seven days a week, day and night, untold (to me) thousands of pathetic word buffs stare into their phones at some letter of the alphabet with six other letters circling it, and attempt to find all the words, four letters or more, that The Great and Terrible Ezersky keeps on his list, denying admission to those he deems too obscure or offensive. (You know what a dado or a loggia or a cleome is, or what sails do when they luff? Sorry, it won’t work for you.) As one Invitational Loser wrote to me: “ As you know, all of us who play the Spelling Bee hate him.” Aww, not really. We don’t have to play the dumb game.
I especially don’t-hate Sam, because he so eagerly endorsed this contest — and he even looked at a 75-item “shortlist” of Week 1424 entries, culled from about 1,700 in all, and weighed in with his faves. Here are his Top 10 (his fave five plus five more), all from this week’s honorable mentions — complete with Sam’s comments!
For starters … to everybody who sent in a Spelling Bee neologism: It’s only fitting to call these Genius! My five favorites, in no particular order:
Lavity: Potty humor. (Sarah Walsh) I can just imagine myself using this jocularly in a sentence … probably would get lotsa crap for it, though.
Faceflap: Mouth of a nonstop talker. “Jeez, will you tie down your faceflap for just one minute already?” (Ann Martin) Wow, do I feel attacked!
Cancún U-turn: A quick reversal of an extremely unpopular decision. “In the face of a backlash from teachers, the superintendent made a Cancún U-turn and declared that learning would remain virtual after all.” (Eric Nelkin) If this ever catches on, I’d be willing to overlook the space and hyphen to allow it.
[The Empress adds: Here’s a good example of using a neologism in a real-life context and beyond its original one; part of the fun is its assumption that you get the just-days-old Ted Cruz allusion — and are already using it to apply to other current situations.]
Mortarboardom: That feeling when it’s been 45 minutes and the dean just started calling up the G’s. (David Peckarsky) This feeling actually starts at the F’s, unless I’m still walking back to my seat. Bonus points for the pangram!
And of course: Beegamy: Equal commitment to your spouse and a certain daily word game. (Steve Langer) How could I not mention this one? My partner knows it well.
[The Empress adds: I’m glad that Steve (who’s also a semi-obsessive crossword person) at least gave parity with Spelling Bee to Ms. Allison Fultz, the ultra-generous co-host of the Loser parties they had at their house for several Januaries running, until you-know-what.]
And these to round out Sam’s Top 10:
Bamarunt: The Crimson Tide lineman who’s only 285 pounds. (Nancy McWhorter)
Febillion: How much Jeff Bezos made last month. (Mike Caslin)
Lay-Zee: The acclaimed nap artist. (Tom Witte)
Nonnounology: The study of how nouns get verbed and then texted, messaged, Skyped, Facebooked and Instagrammed. (Frank Osen)
Logyn: What’s on the first page of the website where you make your pap-smear appointment. (Jeff Hazle)
“A big thanks to all who continue to enjoy this game, and who have found a way here to take anagrams and wordplay just a step further, with some real wit on display.”
We’ll be doing this contest again for sure.
What pleased Ponch: While Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood still recovers from that pesky infarction, Other Ace Copy Editor Panfilo “Ponch” Garcia offers his favorites, also from the honorable mentions: “Buttbra [Kevin Dopart — it lifts but hopefully doesn’t separate] is a toot! … I mean a hoot! Lay-Zee [Tom Witte, on “the nap artist”] is amazing. Lobotomommy [Bill Dorner on a sleep-deprived new parent] is impressive. Making Mortarboardom out of 7 letters is summa cum laudable, and the definition makes it valedictorian [for David Peckarsky]. And Urñata [Jeff Hazle, a festive way to distribute a loved one’s ashes] is a hit with me.”
Not to Bee — the unprintables: While The Style Invitational tends not to be associated with the words “prim” and “tasteful,” even the Invite wouldn’t go here:
YABELNZ > Anybalz: What 43 senators don’t have. (Jon Gearhart)
CAILMNR > Crimanal: A violator of sodomy laws. (Tom Witte)
FACELPT > Fellatte, an especially savored cappuccino and milk. (Mike Gips)
Nope, nope and especially nope.
Thanks to all who entered Week 1424, especially you newbies — and I hope you all give Week 1428 a shot as well. Deadline is Monday night, March 29, one moment before midnight (ish) wherever you are.
And speaking of shots: Wishing you a prompt and easy jab session and a quick aftermath. I’m one Moderna down, one to go. We WILL gaze upon each other again!
Meanwhile, be sure to catch the latest “You’re Invited” podcast — in a truly boffo season finale (Episode 12), Mike Gips interviews serial “Be Our Guest” parodist Mark Raffman, who offers up yet another one. Bit.ly/invite-podcast, or search for “You’re Invited” at Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
The headline “Return of the Seven” was a non-inking entry by Stu Segal for the contest results.