This week’s Style Invitational contest, Week 1504, asks you and your fellow Losers to take all 100 Scrabble tiles — the nine A’s, the two B’s, etc. — and write something: not just some words that, whew, use every one of those letters and no more, but some piece of writing that will be fun to read. That will read like normal English and not Yoda-syntax and not be rife with skipped words and strange apostrophes. And that make an interesting or entertaining point. And might even be funny.
Dr. Dave has been doing one of these nigh-miraculous feats every day.
Take a few minutes — not too long; I need you here! — to scroll/page through his Twitter feed and his website: There are what he calls “freestyle poems” that paraphrase works of literature or film (like “To be, or not to be” in the graphic above, or “The Wizard of Oz”), salute noteworthy people such as Aretha Franklin, or muse on the beauty of a hummingbird.
And just this morning, Dave posted this one (why do I have a hunch that Dave might do pretty well at chess?):
SCRABBLEGRAM* OF THE DAY
Sept 1 is American Chess Day, on the anniversary of Bobby Fischer’s 1972 world championship victory (the 1st American to win the title).
— Dave’s Scrabblegrams (@dc_scrabblegram) September 1, 2022
And this past Monday, as a tribute to puzzle master Will Shortz, Dave even came up with a 100-character puzzle: Not only do the 10 answers form a Scrabblegram, but the 10 crossword-style clues also form a Scrabblegram!
But c’mon, I’m not asking you to be Dr. Daily Scrabblegram. I’m just asking for one of these babies. And Dave doesn’t get to play.
And for once, I, a renowned fretter, am not fretting that this contest might bomb; in fact, I’m supremely confident that Dave himself is going to let loose a wow or two. Because I can point to the results of Week 1318, when I asked the Losers to anagram anything they liked beyond just a person’s name …
and this was fourth place.
The opening of “A Tale of Two Cities”: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. [227 characters]
Anagram: Sigh, how to begin? “It was London, it was Paris. It was the stain of woebegone teeth, it was the spot of armpit hair. It was the time of awful foods, it was the time of less cheeky help. It was wan, fetid cheeses, it was soft, soft cheeses.” These spoofs: It is the far, far worse thing I do. (Kevin Dopart)
And this was third place:
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
Anagram: BS! I often itch to gnaw her hot love-tushy. (Mark Raffman)
And this was second (it was 2019):
“I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.” [99 characters]
Anagram: “I, Donald J. Trump, attest that I will offend you, expel the White House staff, and fleece the country for side millions.” (Jesse Frankovich)
And THIS was the winner: an anagram of the entire Gettysburg Address.
Dig this, my men. A few decades back, some hep, cool creative guys hath invented a sovereign country somewhere right around here that was devoted to increasing human equality. It’s true, man; I saw, ah, documentation on the teevee. I call that radical! Too hot, hot, hot!
But now, there’s definitely a bad vibe. Wretched indignation advanced to total hatred, bitter warfare, and terrible attrition. Thousands of hale men, both Northern-trained Federal and hotheaded, pro-apartheid Confederate, everyone frightened, fighting with revolvers and rifles to decide whether survival of that great, progressive doctrine of reform and human tolerance is necessary — or a total menace. We have gathered at the, ah, scene tonight to give high props to a thin, fantastic posse that hitherto laid it all ten-tenths down for the cause. That be word. Word is bond.
Nay, do listen to this oath, congregation: Whatever grateful oration we, ah, bother to deliver ain’t near enough. Not near appropriate or worthwhile. Here, a dreaded Death flowered beneath the feet of, and collected, honored men. The, ah, righteous thugs and heroic hos that we celebrate achieved the whole deal; all we can do is riff charming, insignificant stuff that people will never recall. So we all gotta keep on keeping on, in order to see to it that things evolve better for our, ah, descendants so the worthwhile peeps rule twenty-four/seven. Be real. Yahoo. Whatever. (J.J. Gertler)
One thousand one hundred ninety-seven characters.
You’ll notice that Kevin, Mark and Jesse got ink, as usual, this very week. I’ll make sure J.J. sees this contest. (See the rest of the Week 1318 winners here.)
Dave Cohen was inspired to start Scrabblegramming like a madman after his 23-year-old Scrabblegram-limerick about clowns was featured in a 2020 article about the genre by Beyond Wordplay blogger Eric Chaikin, “Scrabblegrams — Never Be Bored at the Board.” Chaikin’s a Scrabble aficionado and snagged an Emmy nomination for “Word Wars,” a documentary he made about tournaments, and his article not only goes into the history of Scrabblegrams and the various forms they’ve taken, but also offers tips about how to make them. Such as to make sure you don’t waste letters like H, which appears very frequently in words but appears only on two tiles, while figuring out early on how you’re going to fit in that Q and Z.
On the other hand, Chaikin values difficult parameters more than I do: If he were judging this week’s Invite, he might give extra credit to someone who didn’t repeat any letters on each line, something like that. But I’m going to care more about the content: the syntax and the wit and the humor. Of course, timeliness never hurts in Loserland.
One thing you won’t be grousing about in four weeks: She rewrote my joke. I can’t very well tinker with these babies. But if they turn out not to be valid, I’m not going to try to fix them. So do use — it’s an order — the Wordsmith Anagram Checker.
And while you’re there, you might as well have fun and use Anu Garg’s own Anagram Animator, which is super-easy to use: You just put in the source letters followed by an equals-sign and then your anagram and click “Generate Animation.” Click on “Advanced” and you can change the font, the speed, even add background art, and you can create and download a GIF, the constantly moving image that appears at the top of this page.
(By the way: I initially published the online Invite using Dave’s paraphrase of the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy as the example, but an editor was concerned that a quote about someone weighing whether to commit suicide — and in modern rather than 400-year-old language — wasn’t the best lead-in to a humor contest. So I substituted Dave’s synopsis of “The Wizard of Oz,” with that witty observation that Dorothy ultimately appreciates “the exquisite value of red footwear.”)
The Quinze Festival: The 15-point neologisms of Week 1500
Much like its 14-letter predecessor from Week 1402, the challenge to create words whose letters totaled 15 Scrabble points proved as good an excuse as any to add neologisms to the Loser Lexicon. I received a manageable, not-bad-for-summer 1,050 entries, of which no more than 800 were bleah, and I think 43 of them got ink on the web page, and about a half-dozen got axed for space on the print page — which, happily, has lately appearing almost all the time on the back of Arts & Style, which means it’s not buried inside the section and Bob Staake’s cartoon is in color.
A huge shout-out to Hall of Fame Loser and Genuine Nice Guy Jeff Contompasis, who built a spreadsheet — and shared it with both me and his rival Losers — in which you just type in your word, hit Enter, and see how many Scrabble points it adds up to. It took me just a couple of minutes to handle all 43 entries that appear in this week’s results — no fails except for one that accidentally dropped a letter and came in at 14. (And of course, this week’s intentionally wrong second place.)
Because the entries are one-liners, I was able to shuffle all the entries into one big alphabetical anonymous list — meaning that, yes, I picked a Karen Lambert entry five different times without knowing that all five were from the same person.
And, zzzzz, once again I was won over by the work of Chris Doyle, coiner of “dadolescent,” the father who just wants to play with his kids. Chris extends his GOAT of the Invite status with his fourth Clowning Achievement trophy and his Some Unimaginable Numberth all-time win (the Loser Stats team is hard at work updating them as they take the reins from the retiring Elden Carnahan; after that, I’ll have real numbers again).
Erika Reinfeld, whom I remember meeting at a Loser event 2002 or so when she was a college student still in the D.C. area, dropped by from New England to win the dog-butt coat hooks with her “QAnon: It IS 15 points — you counted it wrong.” And Invite regulars Jonathan Jensen and Jeff Shirley snarf up yet more Loser swag with, (dis) respectively, “vegenerates” — what the MAGA crowd would call people who dare eat plant-based sausage at Cracker Barrel, and “subpeony,” a flower that’s currently in bloom in Florida and Georgia.
What pleased Ponch: As he does virtually every week, Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia chose his faves from the honorable mentions: Neil Kurland’s pithily funny “Beetbarf: Borscht”; “Gundamental: Apparently, the only right the Supreme Court believes in protecting absolutely” (Dave Airozo) and Plodometer: My Fitbit, usually. (Karen Lambert)
Next Loser sighting: Kilroy’s, Sunday, Sept. 18, at noon
Even though it no longer offers its brunch buffet, I plan to be at Kilroy’s, the WWII-decorated pub in Springfield-ish where we’ve had many a Loser brunch. Not only is it always fun to meet new Losers and Invite just-fans and of course the brunchin’ regulars, but my favorite Asian supermarket, Lotte, is in the same shopping center, so I’ll have a chance to stop by. The food is Standard Pub, there are interesting pictures on the walls, and it’s easy to get to and park; it’s in the old Ravenswood shopping center just outside the Beltway at the Braddock Road exit. Please RSVP to our new brunch coordinator Kyle Hendrickson at BrunchOfLosers@gmail.com; details on the Our Social Engorgements page of the Losers’ website, NRARS.org.