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Enjoy a biweekly test of verbal tomfoolery. WWW fame is at stake! Confused? Read all about Word Games in this brief introduction. Brought to you by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, the creators of The Atlantic Puzzler.

Hidden Agenda

This contest is now closed. But enjoy!

(Click here to go directly to the winning entries.)

The idea for this contest was suggested by AOL member OberOber, who is hereby handed a sealed envelope containing five free AOL hours courtesy of The Atlantic Monthly.

OberOber apparently has a secretive bent and wants us all to play a form of hide-and-seek using words. The idea is to write a sentence in which a word or phrase is included covertly, camouflaged among the letters of longer words the way "Dylan" is tucked inside "Candyland" and "astir" is strung across "cast iron." In OberOber's game the hidden element should be at least *eight* letters long (the longer it is, the greater the challenge in both hiding and seeking). And oh yes: your sentence should include a *definition* of that hidden word; or at least a reference to it. Here's an example from OberOber:

"Somewhere in the Midwest," I explain, "Diana polished off the chips." (12)

The number in parentheses gives the length of the hidden word--which in this case is "Indianapolis," tucked inside "explaIN DIANA POLIShed" and defined as "somewhere in the Midwest." Here are three more OberOber examples:

"Big Gun" Congress explains how it zeroed out PBS. (8)

Could Oscar Wilde be esteemed by a gnu? (10)

No mean feat: herd us terrorists with a cleaning device! (7,6)

The answers to these mini-puzzles (as you'll see if you scan the more suspicious-looking phrases) are respectively "howitzer," "wildebeest," and "feather duster" (the numbers "7,6" indicate the two separate words).

Now, here's a recap of the game. To play "Hidden Agenda," write a sentence like the ones above, in which 1) a word, name, or phrase of eight or more letters is concealed, and 2) the concealed item is somehow defined in the sentence. As always, it's good to make us laugh.

Mail your Hidden Agenda sentence to CoxRathvon (for non-AOL players, that's puzzles@theatlantic.com). Multiple entries are welcome, but for our convenience pack your entries into one piece of e-mail whenever possible (and please don't use attached files). Senders of our three favorite entries will each receive five free AOL hours (where applicable) and a free book from The Atlantic Monthly.

Hidden Agenda will remain open through Friday, October 18. Winners and results will be posted on Friday, October 25.

-- EC and HR

P.S. If you like cryptic crosswords, visit our "Puzzles and Word Games" folder on the Atlantic's America Online message board (keyword ATLANTIC) and join the handful of rather crazed clue-writers who are already at play there! Post clues of your own and see if the gang can solve 'em!

Results of Hidden Agenda

Folks, we're much obliged to Ethan, KY, our home sweet home! (5,3)

At first, we thought this contest would appeal mainly to an audience of hard-core cryptic-crossword fanatics, because the gimmick (hiding a word or phrase in a sentence) is very similar to a kind of clue used in cryptic puzzles. But a lot of contestants said they'd never toyed with camouflaged words before and found it both fun and addictive.

We stipulated that the hidden words be at least 8 letters long, but some clever constructions involving shorter words were submitted. For example, djwixted@facstaff.wisc.edu just couldn't help showing us that the word "verse," ironically, appears in this bit of Joyce Kilmer poetry:

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree. (5)

Occasionally someone created a sentence camouflaging many different words of varying lengths. For example, Joy in Ark delivered a long sentence in which sundry flora were disguised. The sentence began as follows (with "begonia," "aspidistra," and "mangrove" variously planted):

"Must I beg on?" I asked, and loosing the foliage from my grasp, I distracted and disarmed the evil nurseryman; "Grovel," said I...

At the other end of the spectrum, the prize for the *shortest clue* (10 letters to cloak an 8-letter answer) goes to guy@research.att.com, for:

Made flat, Ed! (8)

Because the hidden answers are fun to seek and usually not too hard to find, we've listed the contest entries here with their answers moved to the end of each contestant's batch so you won't see them too soon. For our three winning entries below, we've put the answers at the very end of this document. We didn't have room in this document for *all* the entries we received, and where duplicate answers occurred, we often chose just one representative clue.

Our three favorite camouflage artists--where are they hiding? oh, there they are!--emerged as Astorian, levinb@rpi.edu, and GJPDDS. Stand up and take a bow, folks! These are the reigning champions of dissimulation! We award each a pet chameleon!

***The Winners***

I wrote "circumference = diameter times pi" on a geometry test, after spying the answer on another student's paper. (9) (Astorian)

"Whenever I tour New York with Jack Kemp, I rest at every opportunity." --Bob Dole (6,5)


I expressed awe at her van--equipped with everything but a wind direction indicator. (7,4) (GJPDDS)

***And Our Other Top Favorites***

"No one loses," quip Ed, Ali, and the other contestants "when the judges are fond of long words." (14)

Before approaching the cashier arch, I calculate my order. (12)

This is a tool for simple men to use. (9)

(ans: sesquipedalian, hierarchical, implement)


Upon emulating (though with ulterior motives) Dr. Kevorkian, the ever-political Doctor Dean Denag said in a hush, "I, D. Denag, end all misery." (6,6)

(ans: hidden agenda)


There's a jackanapes tickling my feet! (9)

One shouldn't brandish one's typewriter while lying down. (9)

My local cinema ran "The Lion King" and "The Point" opposite "The Sun Also Rises." (9)

(ans: anapestic (like the sentence itself), dishonesty, anthelion)


What is needed besides a bride, a groom, and a ring at an official Chinese wedding? (8)

Is senility indicated by a plain sign, if I can't recall minor details? (13)

Pentagon brass asked to state how a hacker could model a war exercise on the internet. (8)

Drinking booze made me so sick that as a result I'm a teetotaler at last. (8)

Specialist for chest radiology also plays in a string ensemble. (8)

(ans: Mandarin, insignificant, Delaware, ultimate, orchestra)


Can a con dare hide a snake? (8)

Repent! Agony awaits those who wage war! (8)

That extra vest you bought is ridiculous. (8)

She recovered her ring, despite a misleading clue. (3,7)

Chili is fun to imbibe and is hot, too! (4,4)

A robot gave Thoreau tomato nectar. (9)

Unclad miss I once knew made an entrance! (9)

Martine, yes, had owed money for make-up. (9)

This is how man's hips move--with flair! (11)

The sex act in Germany requires precision. (8)

To thrive, get a blend of spinach, for example. (9)

So, a pop era begins on daytime TV? (4,5)

What bugs Mardi Gras shoppers? (12)

He was part a custodian, part a slave. (9)

The mysterious lawman, a tall one, ran Geronimo out of town. (4,6)

How unpleasant--a claustrophobic Kris Kringle! (5,5)

(ans: anaconda, Pentagon, travesty, red herring, bean dish, automaton, admission, eyeshadow, showmanship, exacting, vegetable, soap opera, grasshoppers, Spartacus, Lone Ranger, Santa Claus)


Whether I buy outright or rent, I always hate pouring money down the drain. (10)

As I approach the fruit centerpiece, a pear lies there looking most toothsome and tempting, but a little voice inside me whispers "I'm monitoring you!" (9)

Witchcraft in Salem on a demonic scale was a sour concoction indeed. (8)

My sex drive is normal; thus I anticipate overpopulation problems. (10)

Whenever I meet an orangutan gent, I always step aside. (10)

(ans: torrential, pearliest, lemonade, Malthusian, tangential)


When it comes to sacred cows or icons, I'd eradicate them all, I think (8)

Sticky things, including very sticky buns, often require some syrup--at least a dollop or cup--in each scrumptious portion. (9)

Spotting an empty phone booth, Superman enters, ringing his mom and talking forever (9)

(ans: consider, porcupine, permanent)


Be thankful for the wiretap (pre-CIA technology). (10)

He initiated irritating sex, as per a tingling memo. (12)

Of ten dinette sets, notes found below eight: "Sand Me"--a sure sign of coarse tables. (7,3,8)

Alluring ophthalmologist will cleanse duct--I've got a huge crush on him! (9)

(ans: appreciate, exasperating, weights and measures, seductive)

(Simba eec)

"No, but my favorite boots are part eel!" replied the Texan when asked if he liked sushi. (8)

Charles kills awfully quickly with his favorite murder weapon from the tool shed. (8)

He stole and erased the botanist's computer disk of poisonous plants. (8)

After drying rained-on oriental carpets, shipping companies are relieved to find the dyes have held. (9)

No one cares I dented the community carport where I live. (8)

When asked what his priority was, the director replied,"I must cast a well-known imp or tantalizing unknown young actor for the lead in my upcoming children's film." (9)

(ans: repartee, skillsaw, oleander, ingrained, resident, important)

(Elle Emme)

Warm a dill or kosher pickle, they taste much better than Texas road kill. (9)

I wanted to go to the Floridan Deli on West 1st street, until I heard they served wildflowers. (9)

An arch is the shape of most bridges where the ungoverned usually jump. (9)

Doesn't Flo understand I am allergic to fish? (8)

There must have been a bad mint on that table, because it's causing quite a racket in my stomach. (9)

In truth, E.S.P., I and you know, is an act. (8)

After snorkeling Erie Lake, she realized her underwear were missing. (8)

That hussy plays trumpet. (8)

As a child, did you ever have a Dole scented sticker? (10)

Owen's emblem was stitched onto the group of jackets he designed. (8)

(ans: armadillo, dandelion, anarchist, flounder, badminton, thespian, lingerie, strumpet, adolescent, ensemble)


My Aunt Ruth fulminates deceptively about Democrats. (10)

Over and over again secrecy clings to CIA reports. (9)

For wedding karma, trim on your low-fat diet. (9)

Among us old hands fired by Time, Inc., our age ouster called for a stiff upper lip. (10)

(untruthful, recycling, matrimony, courageous)


What a bubbly champ Agnew was. (9)

Even DOS copes with internal examination. (9)

Very good sex cell entry. (9)

Anathema: Dole's centrist immaturity. (10)

Dumb owl in galley-ship lanes. (7,6)

Michael Chang in groom's outfitters. (8,5)

(ans: champagne, endoscope, excellent, adolescent, bowling alleys, changing room)


The guy who knows if the sweat her man broke will continue. (10)

Seeing red, I entertain the idea of scraping my omelet because of what's missing. (10)

I answered the ad for new spa personnel in the classifieds. (9)

(ans: weatherman, ingredient, newspaper)


The professor suggested that all his students review intern etiquette at www.ama.med.com. (8)

I have a rare addiction: a rye bred (bread?)....d---, I have to find out how to spell that word! (10)

I heard my older sister say, quite above a whisper, "Sis, ten times I have told you this and I will repeat it ten more times if I have to: Stop wearing my clothes!" (10)

After having some tea, Cher supplied us with more information about the other instructors at this acting school. (8)

"No pig, no pig, no," ranted my mother on and on and on, "You can't have a pig, you don't know anything about pigs!" (8)

Oy vay, it's all so insane, Tanya, Hussein wants to set up a Kosher Hot Dog stand in MY tunnel to raise money for HIS weapons, oy vay. (9)

(ans: internet, dictionary, persistent, teachers, ignorant, Netanyahu)


For a breakfast exotic, a Lender's Bagelette can be pressed and toasted. (8)

(ans: calender)


Senor Juan Valdespina, Foreign Ambassador to the United States, was recently spotted donning a scandalous frock in public. (8)

Look at the meteorite spin, stall; at ionization it glows as it crashes in the military base. (12)

Hoisting a recon flag, rational thought long gone, the soldier marched through the ashes of the fire. (13)

Apprentice men take too long to lure. (10)

(ans: pinafore, installation, conflagration, enticement)


Protested the swimsuit model, Rita: "No, Rex, I cannot possibly eat two whole Tic Tacs if I'm to fit into that bikini for tomorrow's shoot!" (8)

When I hear the two members of the Republican ticket rant, I question whether they are familiar with today's world or are simply relics of another era. (8)

On the china salesman's trip, tea sets rattled and clinked as the exotic dancer pounded the table with her stilleto heels. (5,5)

Start rekindling your love of old sci-fi shows. (4,4)

Taking place on a crowded city street, the acid-washed denim ad is on a venue near and dear to the hearts of advertising executives. (7,6)

In a Picasso, my young daughter saw a nag, ram, sow, and bull enjoying a game of tag, suggesting how easily ars magna, when rearranged in one's mind, could yield such delightful play. (8)

(ans: anorexic, antiques, strip tease, Star Trek, Madison Avenue, anagrams)


Coastal towns should spend funds to develop port unity whenever the chance arises. (11)

(ans: opportunity)


My date made a vocal end around play. (8)

These white Levis I only bought because of how they looked on that cable show. (10)

The American ad I answered was actually in French. (8)

The "Umpa" trio tickets sold well to citizens who loved their country. (9)

(ans: calendar, television, Canadian, patriotic)


Did you notice my nasty skin problem in the car, Bun? Clearasil! (9)

Please slow down the car; a pace like this would crush a turtle's shell! (8)

I can't decide how to describe your formal outfit, George. It looks shab--er, dash--er, you know what I mean, don't you? (12)

Please accept my sincerest apologies about the tent pole. Why, here's a stick, we could prop it! I ate it, sorry. (10)

Lackeys are always busy. Co-phantoms galore... (9)

Your quirkiness is so stupid! I--o, sync, rat! I can't hear you. (13)

Have you been stirred into action again by an illegal van? I zealously hope not. (9)

Today I got stuck with a burr. I tossed it into the casseroles. (8)

(ans: carbuncle, carapace, haberdashery, propitiate, sycophant, idiosyncratic, galvanize, burritos)


Pay up--I bet you a ducat he'd rally in front of St. Peter's (9)

The cost in total to get Hercules to perform his bringing down the house act, was huge but we all agreed it was a bargain. (10)

(ans: cathedral, altogether)


Bric-a-brac ad: "A brass lamp that's magic" (11)

At masquerade ball, you trip over minicam... Ouf! Lager beer spills. (10)

Laud a city person for her chutzpah. (8)

Meditate nonstop, Al: Om... I now want to horse around. (8)

(abracadabra, camouflage, audacity, palomino)


According to an apocryphal story, God used gravel, cement, macadam and every other material at His disposal to create the world, but even after he filled it with animals, it seemed empty until he added two people. (4,3,3)

(ans: Adam and Eve)


I wonder, if in a land with the norm

Of walruses talking of pigs that flew,

Is car rollicking in a wabe or two

Any great cause for alarm? (5,7)

If you need Garp, Oedipus, or arctic cold,

You won't find them in the tales he told,

But a cask of wine, a crypt, some mold,

A big black bird, or a bug of gold. (5,3)

The mini Sherman tank with ears is content to dig and creep,

But he'll curl up with flair if he is: startled by a bear,

Mad, ill or merely asleep. (9)

Thus with a grimmer cut iodine would have been bootless to amend, they have made worms' meat of him. (8)

King Mongkut doth ail and Mrs. Anna doth weep. (8)

With their glib rave, hear the critics gush all over the best picture. (10)

(ans: Lewis Carroll, Edgar Poe, armadillo, Mercutio, Thailand, Braveheart)

(Karen Ariz)

From old ones to new, all civil war buffs are familiar with General Thomas J. Jackson. (9)

Juan Peron is a pro-war gent in a general's uniform (9)

The warriors hang hair on their lodgepoles; the railroad workers wish they had stayed in China. (8)

Arnold Schwarzenegger served a term in a torture chamber. (10)

Seinfeld represents life in microcosm, OK? Ram errors, it seems, keep us all offline. (5,6)

Macho cola tends to supply part of my daily caffeine. (9)

In your condition, you could do worse than go very slowly. (8)

Aghast at the outrages of the sex press, I once swore out loud. (10)

Two guys ordered faucets from the city's top lumber store. (8)

Attending church is really a drag. No stick can make me go. (8)

A Type-S tic, I decide, can result from bug spray. (9)

(ans: Stonewall, Argentina, Shanghai, Terminator, Cosmo Kramer, chocolate, hangover, expression, plumbers, agnostic, pesticide)


After he left Synanon, Pa Reilly became a perfect example of successful recovery. (9)

Beset by befuddling dilemma, Jalisco nun drummed nervously on finely carved pew in front of her. (9)

The bus was broken; thus I, as minutes turned to hours, tried to subdue my eager anticipation of the day at the beach that now might not come to pass. (10)

The waiter yelled to the bartender, "Hold the chianti, Mac," as Sarah's head fell woozily back against the antique chair's pretty protective doily. (12)

(ans: nonpareil, conundrum, enthusiasm, antimacassar)


We shall owe entirely too much money after we buy the candy. (9)

(ans: Halloween)


It runs from Memphis to St. Joe, but not from Nassau to Mobile. (10)

(ans: automobile)


Political party appointees are public animals held by private leashes. (10)

(ans: Republican)


"I don't need no shrink! I ain't no psycho," the rapist protested. (15)

I wanted my wife to see sea monsters with me, but as soon as I went to get her, Nessie was gone. (12)

(psychotherapist, togetherness)


Join me and erstwhile friends as we begin haphazard strolls. (8)

If you have ESP, ring timely bells alerting us to a new season. (10)

It will devastate Oklahoma if Enid is asteroid struck! (8)

(meanders, springtime, disaster)


Mom says I'm sassy, but I think I'm pert in entertaining ways. (11)

Make beautiful music with a nickel ode on an lp record. Order our kit today. (11)

It can't be beat. When in de fat I giblet gravy make, it puts de fat free food to shame. (13)

A very mad Eva stated to her shrink, "I was desolate, destroyed and ruined." (10)

I had my car touched up with fancy ornamental work, but I think it's too tacky. (9)

Did you know the famous mountain climber, who could not even read and write, got his start by answering a dare with these immortal words: "An Alp? Ha! Bet I can." (12)

I believe as he enters office, every politician is assigned an imp, each able to lure him into grevious wrongdoing. (11)

Motto for Bonin Islanders, who have togas, a war, a gun: "Tonight we party; tomorrow fight!" (9-5)

(ans: impertinent, nickelodeon, indefatigible, devastated, cartouche, analphabetic, impeachable, Ogasawara-gunto)


I don't know which caliber Al selected for the November shootout. (8)

The post office hired avid letter mangler to process mail to CBS. (5,9)

When you are at the automat, Ed, tell Erma Chinese banks have ATMs too. (9,6,8)

Is that what makes Dole panic? Lint on serge suit? (8)

Is that what it is, Mac? A renal panic outside the locked rest room door? (8)

(ans: Liberals, David Letterman, automated teller machines, Clintons, macarena)


The fair planet was even prettier viewed from above. (8)

(ans: airplane)


Phobic Reg is terrified by the cashier's machine. (8)

Flaming optical illusions! Did you see that bird?! (8)

(ans: register, flamingo)

(LIN 7U)

If right endures we won't be scared. (8)

(ans: frighten)


Giving in to Helen's wishes once more, Miss Brodie sighed, "She's just the most super miss I've ever taught." (10)

(ans: permissive)


The scientists have misgivings, and think we should suppress the number of particles used in hi-bit ion laser beams. (10)

No one knows for sure: either he's cold and dead from falling off that oil rig, or Mort is still out there somewhere. (5,6)

(ans: inhibition, rigor mortis)


"Did an excon stab Leo," sir? (9)

To keep glutes and abs in their top shape, I forsake liquor. (8)

Mate the red ball with the grey pole. (8)

Dateline 1980: Mt. St. Helens is bulging, rumbling, smoking, exploding, and now ashing to new heights. (10)

(ans: constable, absinthe, tethered, Washington)


It is suggested that your Chad visa blends nicely with your prudent passport. (9)

Chase afar, eradicating The Ancient Mariner. (8)

Say Kaddish; a man is meant to practice his native religion. (9)

I'd give you a respected title to latch on, or if I could, a socially superior address. (9)

(ans: advisable, seafarer, shamanism, honorific)


For old times' sake, whenever we connect, I cut up nutmegs to make pumpkin pie. (11)

(ans: Connecticut: the "Nutmeg" State)


In the Congo, Alpo stinks as bad as the New York Jets. (8)

Little girls learn from women to Ring-Around-The-Rosie. (9)

The hombre at her villa rested for a while. (8)

The Columbian drug lord made an uncaring lead error when he tried to make pencils for school children. (10)

I thought I needed 500,000 pounds of flour, but when I got to the mill, I, on second thought, decided to purchase twice as much. (8)

(ans: goalpost, mentoring, breather, ringleader, millions)


In a heavenly place, lest I alter outer space. (9)

A recon noncom man does night work. (8)

A sitcom miser ate in sympathy. (11)

A media critic alarms public. (11)

(ans: celestial, commando, commiserate, diacritical)


Carl Hiassen's at Iona Lewis' party for victims of the National Inquirer. (11)

(ans: sensational)


When picking the pre-season favorites for roundball, one must always be awake for established patterns of success. (4,6)

(ans: Wake Forest)

(4,6) (Carolinal2)

Bric-a-brac ad: a brainchild from a charming "wizard." (11)

(ans: abracadabra)

(gail.koontz@quancon.com )

It was no small feat; her boat sailed at midnight carrying 30 strippers complete with wardrobe and accessories. (7,3)

As I raced home for spaghetti and ice cream, a car on I-95 pulled to over to let me pass. (8)

After spotting the caribou, Levar darted down the next street. (9)

(ans: feather boa, macaroni, boulevard)


Why, just last Christmas (or possibly the past Eve) casein (the basis of cheese itself) was entered as evidence in the lawsuit involving the mail carriers. (5,4)

A little known fact about President Taft: his friends often teased him about his fondness for athletics, with sallies such as "Disrobe, R.T.: do let us see how running has improved your physique!" (6,4)

(ans: Steve Case, Robert Dole)


Isn't it sweet that Father Shey kisses his parishioners and gives them chocolate candies? (7,6)

(Hershey Kisses)


As Professor Higgins ahsked, "Why cahn't a woman be mach (I smote my brow) more like a mahn?" (8)

(ans: machismo)


I was asked last Christmas to donate toys for poor children, so I bought a stuffed elephant. (8)

Polluting the water, raping the environment, big business endangers every type of sea creature! (8)

I consider Christmas sacred, but retailers see it only as a chance to make a killing. (8)

(ans: mastodon, terrapin, massacre)


Since he was a drinking man, I set ten bottles of liqueur out for the evening. (8)

If you want to, for sure, hear salsa played badly, listen to mariachis practice. (9)

Give a narc his time, and he himself will become someone who breaks the rules. (9)

Some die valiantly now, but, fortunately, not as many as in the Middle Ages. (8)

Proctoring the geology test gave the examiner a logy feeling. (10)

She gave the man a gem entirely because she was skilled in the art of controlling the opposite sex. (10)

That pain, Tim, I date tried to threaten me. (10)

If you want to use your best grammar, gin always makes your chances limited. (8)

When I found out that aliens come from other galaxies, it gave me a sure lesson in the vast size of the universe. (11)

After Bret raged, I answered, "Your plays will never sell if you continue to be one who writes such sad endings." (9)

Neither the lily nor the aster thrives in such a strong wind. (11)

Claire, prim and proper, gave a rebuke to her son for chewing with his mouth open. (9)

An "intolerable ache" described what the weightlifter felt before we lightened his load. (8)

(ans: anisette, rehearsal, anarchist, medieval, mineralogy, management, intimidate, marginal, measureless, tragedian, northeaster, reprimand, bleached)


Answers to winning entries: espionage, Empire State, weather vane.

Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.