Because a bunch of them sure weren’t obvious in mine.
Obviously, I figured out the punchlines in today’s 25 inking stories (about 20 fit on the print page in Sunday’s Arts & Style Section) and got a kick out of all of them. But just in case you didn’t know the reference — as in the ubiquitous carpet commercial for Empire carpet that Gary Crockett used so creatively — I embedded explanatory links into most of the punchlines. (Don’t complain to me that your intelligence is insulted.)
In fact, my first-pass shortlist numbers close to 100 inkworthy feghoots, most to be robbed of ink. (I’ll have room for a few more in two weeks, when I’ll run some extras from several recent contests.) But on the way to finding these gems, a pretty constant refrain was “Huh?” When I was stumped as to what expression the writer was punning on, I’d say the line out loud. Sometimes I’d get it and say “Oh, I see. No.” Other times, the Royal Consort got it first.
Here are some of the entries that stumped me. YMMV, as they say; the puns might jump right out at you. If so, or if you just want to guess, leave a comment right here at the bottom of the column, rather than in the usual forum of the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. I’m reprinting the entries as they came in, with no editing except to fix spelling, typos, etc. I didn’t check at all who wrote them, though if their authors want to reveal themselves in the comments thread, fine with me!
— “Who’s the stupidest person you know?” “Easy! Arsehead (them dumb).”
— Eileen unwrapped the crackling plastic, clattering the lozenge into her mouth, and was promptly wracked by raucous, raspy hacking and rowdy, gravelly croaks. As these subsided to harsh, screechy wheezing, she gurgled, “Wow, what great cacophony drops!”
— An apocryphal book of the Bible recounts the time Satan attempted to destroy the world’s original woman so that the human race would be unable to multiply. He sent to Eden one of his demonic minions: a cannibalistic, wizened old troll. And Satan did whisper into his servant’s ear: “Eat Eve, oh gnome.”
— An elderly Oklahoman gentleman decided to sell erectile enhancement pills from his home. He used outside speakers to advertise it loud and clear to the neighborhood. A local paper picked up the story and called it: The audio Viagra feed of an Okie.
— A young woman from Bulgaria came to the U.S. to work caring for a family’s young children in their home. Her real ambition was to use the family computers for a variety of online scams. The family was unaware of her activities, but the police found out and went to arrest her. She put up a fight and had to be subdued with a taser. A journalist on the scene caught it all on his phone, but to his dismay the officer in charge confiscated the device. The journalist objected loudly that this was an outrageous violation of the First Amendment. The policeman responded that this was just stun dart au pair raiding press seizure.
— A woman accidentally used Pledge on the wooden floor at her husband’s parents’ house. It was an honest mistake, but she felt like she had to make it up to them since they’d slipped and fallen. When the husband’s parents arrived to spend the day telling her, in excruciating depth, all about their trip to the ER, the husband called out, “Oh, Mama! I’m in here. Bore my wife, plumb the wrong harm of in-laws.”
— At his latest rally, Trump had to keep pushing his loose dental plate back in. But this was no surprise to either his base or detractors as any First Amendment restrictions would have applied to Trump only if he had been a private citizen. The former president’s mouth has always threatened public safety as a “glarin’ press-in denture.”
— After Cecil Rhodes, the founder of De Beers, became wealthy, he always had a haberdasher’s carriage accompany him to social functions for any last-minute changes he might need to avoid a fashion faux pas. This was a point of fascination around town. When asked by a passerby about a large pile of neckwear in his carriage, the haberdasher said, “A tie mound is for error.”
— A wool producer noticed cracks around his animals’ mouths most likely caused by the local weather to which they were unaccustomed. After several attempts, he created a balm containing petroleum jelly. When he tried marketing the treatment, investors stayed away because no one wanted to be responsible for producing a clear shine of the alpaca lips.
— A family of British giants loved nothing more than to feast on Jordanian royalty. But the kids always squabbled over who got to eat whom. One day Tommy came to his parents complaining about his sister: “Jill et the best Amman king yet!”
— Donald Trump wouldn’t eat Justice Alito’s pancakes, complaining fluffy flapjack batter might upset his digestion at that afternoon’s golf tournament. He relented after Alito promised he’d be fine. Later, though, Trump’s golf pants told another story. Newspapers headlined: “Batter Too Light! Alito Scandal — Don Tuchus Too Dark!”
— Doug tried a variety of healthy cooking. One day he said he hated quinoa so much. It was just a big nothing in taste and texture, he said, and if he could go back in time, he’d buttonhole any ark-builders and say “Quinoa, How long are you gonna keep working on that groat? You’re crazy, Noah, it’s never gonna be a grain.”
— Doug went through a Walter Raleigh phase, hair and goatee. He longed for a Three-Musketeers outfit to complete it, but with diabetes and heartbreak going on, he said he’d just settle for just one Musketeer and a promise of a Babe Ruth.
— Noel and his son crossed the pond for a visit to the Big Easy. After days of jazz clubs, étouffée and jambalaya, Noel started limping. His son asked: “Pater, do your feet hurt from keeping the beat at the clubs?” Noel replied: “No. Bad dogs and crayfish mean gout in the body, son.”
— The first ambulance service was instituted in New York City in 1865. From the moment their horse-drawn carriages hit the streets, lawyer Vinnie “The Shark” Guiliani was there, “looking out for the poor victims.” He brought so many frivolous lawsuits to trial that “ambulance chaser” became a household word. The next time you’re quick to distrust a lawyer or about to tell a baseless joke about them, just remember: Attorney tags of “louse” and “vile” began with a single schlub.
— Returning to my rented cabin, I found that the door had been kicked in and the storage chest with my food had been ransacked, but everything else was undisturbed. I asked the park ranger if this was unusual and he said, “Nope. Bears know hutch Pringles’ve real crunch.”
— I took my munchkin cat on a road trip to southern Mexico. He ran away but, fortunately, a flock of birds brought him back. He’s so freaked out though that he’s spending the rest of the day in the back seat trying to cuddle with the food: Toucans’ fetched dwarf lies with a kneaded Yukon within a car.
Then there are the ones that I managed to figure out, or the Royal Consort did, but really, noooo.
— “Ma’am, uh, Thor’s speedo is FULL. Need a spread.” Compare with Gary Crockett’s inking entry ending “Damn the four Speedos! (full screed ahead).” NOW it seems clearer, right? Because you already know what it’s supposed to be.
— “Taekwondo-in’ pastor Owen: date ye eight bottles of beer, and thaw all!” (TAKE ONE DOWN AND PASS IT AROUND, 88 bottles of beer on the wall!!! Nononono.)
— Marilyn Monroe and Alfred Hitchcock [zub zub zub] “Die, Monza-Ray! Gulls, bash Fran!” (Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. This is not a girl’s best feghoot.)
— Billy Joel loved fish and chips — particularly the Treacher’s fast-food variety — and never more than when he had lit up a spliff. He bought himself a franchise, which his friends called his “weed-interest Arthur fryer.” (The Billy Joel reference helped toward “We didn’t start the fire,” but it still doesn’t work; “interest” has too many sounds that aren’t in the original.)
— In Athens, birthing professionals celebrate Midsummer’s Night by entertaining the children they’ve delivered over the years with silly mechanical, chimeric animal toys. The children laugh at what fools these medics be, but sometimes they are disappointed when a toy contraption fails. This year for example, “duck-horse of doula never did fun moves.” (I guess this has to be a play on “the course of true love never did run smooth.” It provoked from me a midsummer night’s scream.)
— Having given chef the night off, Evelyn Waugh decided to make Christmas dinner himself. Waugh was a bit prickly, and got infuriated by little things — like recalcitrant salsa or dribbling Worcestershire. And so, as the carol tells us, “Cooking when the sauce oozed out often cheesed off Evelyn.” (I credit the Royal Consort for discerning “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen.”)
— One of Santa’s helpers needed a ride, so he called for an Uber. It was driven by a very contrary woman, and Mike Tyson was in the passenger seat. Suddenly Tyson reenacted a scene from one of his famous fights, leaving the poor little passenger with a pained expression. It was the story of “Half-ears Elf, a Mary-limo grimace.” (“Half-ears Elf” works, but you don’t have to be the Grinch to insist that “limo grimace” is not “little Christmas.”)
One Loser helpfully explained that “Yo, Stan, we have a prop plane” was punning on “Houston, we have a problem.” At least the person realized that nobody could be expected to get that otherwise.
I’m charitably saying that some people must have come up independently with “This is the awning of the cage of asparagus” (which I’ve seen a million times online) or even “only Hugh can prevent florist friars” or “the beer that made Mel Famey walk us,” which I heard as a child in the late Triassic period. (Anyway, jokes that rely on contrived names like “Mel Famey” tend to telegraph the punchline and just not be that clever. I got one entry about a man named “Depottle Black.”)
If one of today’s inking entries is an old joke, oh, well. But please, people, one more time: Don’t send me the best joke you ever heard. Send me the best joke you ever came up with on your own. Really, do you want to look like a thief in The Washington Post with your name right there?
While the pun didn’t have to sound exactly like the original, it had to be pretty close. “A turd in a can is worth more than George Bush” is not a pun. Or “Crime’s tried when you have no funds.” Or “Tantalizing Jane” for “little Liza Jane.” Or — aaack — “when Damon hits Yuri” for “when the moon hits your eye.” That’s a-misery.
So you can appreciate even more the cleverness of today’s inking Losers. It’s the fourth Clowning Achievement for Mark Raffman — he gets a little “IV” flag to attach to the base of his Disembodied Clown head trophy — and his, erp, 28th first-place finish all-time. And yet another stellar week for Rookie Phenom Karen Lambert, who wins the probably terrible party game What’s That Smell? for second place. All three runners-up this week are women; along with Karen, we have recent-years regular Hannah Seidel and just-her-third-blot Fran Ludman. Given the Invite’s disturbing wild imbalance over the years toward male-won ink, I’m delighted to see a string of feminine names in the Losers’ Circle. (I don’t see the writers’ names until after I make my picks.)
What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia, who thought he knew from puns because “I’m a dad,” found himself in a whole new realm this week. “Some of the devotees must smoke a lot of weed,” Ponch posited. He enjoyed the tour, though, and singled out these as favorites: Duncan Stevens’s “Luke before Yul? Eep!”; Chuck Smith’s “Clothes, but no cigar,” a phrase we’ve run before but not in the Clinton intern context; Coleman Glenn’s warning about speaking cruelly to your potato plants because you can “kill tubers with one’s tone”; and Kevin Dopart on the happy worldwide refusal to accept a Beatles/MAGA tour, “Isn’t it good no region would?”
Just imagine: The Week 1497 ‘what if’ contest
The main challenge for this week’s “what if” contest might be in its almost endless scope: if something in history had gone another way; if some sort of thing existed that hasn’t yet been created; if people did something they didn’t really do. But we’ve had lots of success with earlier contests, all the way back to Week 140 in 1995:
Sample ink from Week 140:
What if, instead of air bags, they put sharp metal spikes on the steering column? Seat belt use would go way up. (Art Grinath)
What if instead of the speed of light, the “c” in Einstein’s equation had been equal to the maximum safe speed of a Ford Pinto? Then, by traveling at a mere 70 mph, we could go back in time to prevent past mistakes. Such as the Ford Pinto. (John Kammer)
What if “what could have been” were not the saddest words? Then the words “the Jerry Lewis Telethon is on again” would have to move up. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)
If the glove had fitted / They still wouldn’ta convitted. (Russell Beland)
You can see the rest of that week’s (pre-internet) inking entries in a plain-text version here; scroll down past the new contest.
And a contest for alternative history, from 1998 (complete results here in another text file);
What if Germany had not attacked Russia during World War II? The expression would be “As American as apple strudel.” (Chuck Smith)
What if Johnny Appleseed had planted marijuana instead of apples? Our national pastime would be Hacky Sack. (Steve Fahey)
What if Adam and Eve don’t eat the apple? [“History” was interpreted broadly by the Czar.] Worms eat the apple, obtain Knowledge, and rule the planet. The Macarena and the high-five are never invented. (Ned Bent)
What if television had been invented in 1832 instead of 1932? “Our American Cousin” is broadcast live. In front of cameras, John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln in the ear, and jumps to the stage shouting, “Sic semper tyrannis!” The crowd responds by leaping to its feet and stadium-clapping while yelling “Woof! Woof! Woof!” Later, Jerry Springer’s great-great-grandpa interviews Booth and asks him about his feelings. He tries to arrange an on-air reconciliation between Booth and Mrs. Lincoln. Booth becomes an instant celeb. After a jury acquits him, he gets a running part in Springer’s show, sneaking up behind people and shooting them in the ear. (Andrew B. Gibson)
And, in the modern era, from 2018 (full results of Week 1304 here):
What if night suddenly became day, and day became night? I’m sorry, what were you saying? I was checking my phone. (Ivars Kuskevics)
What if anagrams always came true? Robert Mueller could TRAP A FOUL MAN just by using PAUL MANAFORT. (Jon Gearhart)
What if instead of the Stanley Cup it was a Stanley Jockstrap? It would be easier to hold above your head, but players probably wouldn’t drink out of it so much. (Jeff Shirley)