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This contest is now closed. But enjoy!

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

Your challenge in this word game is to use twenty-six words to compose a sentence, news clipping, quip, lyric, verse, playlet, novella- whatever your Muse may conjure. But here's the catch: Each of your twenty-six words must begin with a different letter of the alphabet. (It is *not* necessary for your words to be in alphabetical order.) For example:

Youthful, zesty, loinclothed Jane, carving xylophones from green kindling, politely queried:

"What's our dinner?"

And naked Tarzan, his vocabulary extremely underdeveloped, merely said in reply:


Okay, it's not Shakespeare. We know you can do better! So take up your jocular quills, wordsmiths, and pen twenty-six words designed to make us smile at your ingenuity. Send your creation by e-mail to CoxRathvon. The writer of each of our three favorite entries will receive 5 free AOL hours plus a book of his or her choice from the Atlantic's online bookstore. We will continue accepting entries to this contest through Friday, July 14. Results will be posted on Friday, July 21.

--EC and HR

TWENTY-SIX MIX Contest Results

(All names without @ symbols are AOL screen names.)

"To follow your instructions, knowledgeable enigmatologists, zealous cruciverbalists, plus other disencryptors must judiciously quit using alliterative verbal groupings while x rated narratives, however louche, become suitable."

This adventurous sentence by contestant G8ly conveys the gist of our "Twenty-Six Mix" contest. The game's chief challenge, of course, lay in dispatching letters like J, K, Q, X, and Z with as little cramping as possible. Faced with this quirky task, G8ly went on to comment:

"Know what happens after you quote Xenophon's name? Mrs. Socrates instantly becomes Jane Doe, eternally committed to verbal oblivion under guidelines permitting zero first letter repetitions."

Apparently our constraints were not discombobulating enough for everyone; a number of you decided to pursue strictly alphabetical order. RonPippin took a crack at it, and found himself saying:

"Atlantic's bewildering contests deliver enthusiasm, fervent glee. However, I just keep leaving my notions on paper, quickly rendering sentences this ugly: "Veterans wearily X-rayed young zebras." "

We laughingly salute (but at the same time question the sanity of) those of you who set yourselves this extra hurdle. A few mildly crazed souls even attacked the abecedarian course in reverse! An outstanding attempt in this line was from Isabel Is:

"Zoe yelled, "X-ray Warren, Vincent!" Unfortunately, the stupid RN quaked, pleading, 'Oh, not machinery! Let Ken!" Jabbering incoherently, he gave fifty EEGs, definitely causing bronchial asthma."

In the end, we most admired the writers who created elegant contexts for thorny letters and who tossed off their J, Q, X, and Z so nonchalantly that we almost didn't notice. Congratulations to Rickwins, Shmaltzy, and Notbath for outstandingly smooth brainwork in the service of the English alphabet! Each of these winners will receive 5 free AOL hours, plus a book of his or her choice from the Atlantic's online bookstore.

***The Winners***

Siskel: You know, Brando called this past Monday. He's quite upset.
Ebert: Not without justification, Gene. David Lynch is filming an X-rated remake of "Viva Zapata." (Rickwins)

My zany Jewish family doesn't quite understand Xmas is not our holiday, so, like good kosher Christians, we exchange vapid presents round a bogus Yule tree. (Shmaltzy)

Even your least reflective Boston visitor instantly notices fancy hotels queasily juxtaposed with the Combat Zone"'s kinky gamut of X-rated movies, drugs, and seemingly ubiquitous prostitution. (Notbath)

***And Lots More That We Loved***

Couldn't you just kill those unethical monsters who put xanthan gum in everything--not only vegetable lasagna and zucchini quiche, but dandelion ragout, for heaven's sake! (ShedPot)

Here, you keep my Encyclopedia of Bad Taste; I've underlined Xavier Cugat, limos, Pat Nixon's Jell-o recipe, velvet-painting galleries, zoot suits, Queen for a Day--wheeeee! (Mokaplpi)

Not xenophobic, Egypt's young queen barged in, seduced Julius, ditto his fellow Roman. (Zowie!) Three kids later...


Victorious, Octavian pronounced, "Gotcha!"
Cleo uttered, "My asp!" (StefSpad)

Elmer stood triumphant, his nemesis quite dead. Zootomy revealed xylidine poisoning. Justified for killing, but motive undoubtedly omnipresent.
"At last, victowy! I got you, cwazy wabbitt!" (Rudykazoo)

Anna became comatose, deciding every fellow gave her insurmountable jaundice. Kathy listened, making notes. "Oh please quit ranting," she thought, "ungrateful vixen. Wed xantho-guy, you zombie!" (Isabel Is)

America's bizarre cults develop exotic fringe groups hating institutions, justifying killing. Loquatious megalomaniacs now often protect questionable "rights," supplying Terrorism's useless violence with xenophobic young zealots. (RonPippin)

"Zounds! Your xylophone was very ugly," Tim said.
Replied Quentin, "Plus, our new marimba, like karaoke jukeboxes,
is hardly gorgeous. Frankly, eight dollars can't buy appearance." (RonPippin)

English has spelling, you know, that's unique.
Children posed various questions of me:
"Genie's first letter is not really 'J'?"
"Xylophone doesn't begin with a 'Z'?"

Noon jaunt into pines
Over zigzag elk drawn lines
Quietly crushing xanthic monkeyflowers
Kneeling under woodland towers
Repressing velocity, sound
Glorious buck, you are found!

Go understand why most people dont question the value of yearly, icky x rays; Hotzys little jaw *eschews* being zapped and shed rather not know from cavities. (Hotznplotz)

Two unemployed gentlemen discussed jobs. One queried knowingly, "Xavier, would you like spearheading a pavement enterprise?"

"Never, Zachary!" came his very firm reply. "It's beneath me!"

"X-ray! Stat!" Dr. Zola rasped. His ovoid patient lay upon a cart. Very white. Bleeding.
"Just kidding?" Medic Frank quipped.
"I guarantee this egg's no yolk." (JHFrancis)

Zairean veterinarians, with sophisticated x-rays, noticed unpeeled bananas in a queasy chimp's gut. One jaded medic laughed. "Don't you think he'd know eating peels feels rotten?" (Dungarven)

***X-Rays Reveal Unquenched Flames***
Kenyan doctors viewed nine lit candles yesterday within the murky stomach of zoo elephant Jumbo. "Guess it's his birthday," quipped a passerby. (Rk4889)

Looking in ninety X-Files, Scully and Mulder unearth the weirdest, quirkiest case:
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania:
Devil octopus fiendishly killed gardening zealot yesterday, eating her juiciest viscera raw. (Comikest)

EUPHEMISMS: Zealous (randy) Miss Trout (nee Shark) barely juggled five kind (unctuous) gentleman callers (virile young lovers) whose amazing (or incredible) xiphoid ( ! ) parts quite defied hyperbole. (Comikest)

"You philandering xenophile," Zelda eschewed. "French, Romans..."
"Countrymen," John mocked. "Don't omit Norwegians, Greeks, Balinese..."
"Quite unspeakable!"
"Why?" He kissed the air. "Variety is life's spice." (JHFrancis)

["Bad Poetry 101"]
Behold, a zephyr! Yes! The wind!
Howling up, down
Playing golden chimes like notes on mystic xylophones
Violently rumbling earthward
Quietly, it fades
(Just kidding)

(Kaluj Guy)

Charles Foster Kane died yesterday at Xanadu. His last, gasped word: "Rosebud." Presently, undaunted newsmen zealously question everybody. It just might be that very old sled. (Rickwins)

Scene: former Yugoslavia, very possibly Belgrade or Zagreb. Unnerved Dorothy exits her jet, looks mighty quizzical; comments, rather xenophobically, "Tito, guess we're not in Kansas anymore." (Rickwins)

"Newt's office...You got it, kid. Arts funding, broadcasting--zilch. Welfare, lunches, veterans, drug rehab...slash 'em. Jails? Triple! Pentagon? Quadruple! (Honey, Xerox up more Contracts!)" (Rickwins)

Howard: "Xebec"...a multi-masted Greek vessel...forty-three...beat that!
Jane: You know-it-all..."Zibet"...Oriental cat...double-word...eighty!
Rick: Ummmm...."lions"...nine? (Rickwins)

Quickly, Xavier pulled out violets. "Zero, it's done. Good." Before long more started coming. "Jeepers!" While kneeling, firmly yanking, unearthing every root............he tore a nail. (Ms2fy)

The very fastidious Persian kitten, Zodiac, cleaned her long, gray whiskers just after drinking milk. Unusual x-ray eyes of yellow blinked sleepily, quietly insinuating needed rest. (C130Puke)

Yesterday morning, aboard Xavier Nemo's good ship "Topaz," resident zoologist Hillary James peered expectantly into quiet depths looking for blue crabs or urchins within kelp vines. (RK4889)

Zoe journeyed by evening ferry to quiet Lopez Island with her old dog Kiah. She purchased groceries, used Nora's Xerox machine, and visited rustic Yarrow Cove. (RK4889)

"X" marks the geographic spot in New Zealand where famous young explorer James Cook's quest led him past a dry riverbed valley overpopulated by undermature kiwis. (BDPnApril)

Ken made tepid
jests regarding loneliness
until one day he saw
four quiet walls peering
back viciously,
and inside
no x-ray could gauge
yearning, empty zones.

O. J. Simpson, Marcia Clark, Lance Ito, Ron, xanthic-haired Nicole, zonked Kato, DNA, bloody gloves put together equal a very weird yet quite fascinating undertaking. (AGuffaw)

Paddling frantically, Indiana spotted alligators lurking menacingly under Xanthus waters.
"Yonder, near the canoe!" "Quick, row harder!"
Zebras grazed onshore. Vexed, Jones knew... barring escape, death! (Gardenia)

Snow covered hills loomed menacingly.
Driven unmercifully, escapees plodded wearily, zealous in journeys quest of freedom. X-ray binoculars revealed troops gaining!
Veering north, Kerenski yelled, "Advance!" (Gardenia)

Charging desperately, Kerenskis men battled heroically.
Get the scoundrels! Yataghans aloft, escapees rallied.
Westward, onward now, leaving xanthophyll plains. Quick!
Journeying into unchartered Zamboanga, FREEDOM! (Gardenia)

Xenophobic? Hate foreign countries? Join Patriots United, very zealous group. Immigrants deported, aliens ejected, multiculturalism kiboshed. No bombs. Legal strategies only.
Third World queries: Republicans?

Yeltsin vomited whitefish on Hillary's rug, frightening Socks until Chelsea played the xylophone. Bill quickly zipped Al Gore into Edward Kennedy's Jaguar, lying near Dole's Miata. (JOEWIG)

Nietzsche wrote "Thus Spake Zarathustra" and claimed God is dead, but misanthropes often question Jehovah's reality. Hopefully, loving Yahweh practices kind, understanding xenodochy, forgiving vain existentialists. (ApacheKid)

Dazzling lambent ylem: original, real, utter primordial kaleidoscopic soup careens bubbling violently just about to form x-rays, quarks, neutrons, zygotes--wondrous matter including gorgeous holy Earth. (Adechert)

Query: What periodical brings knowledgeable readers divergent views of God's human zoo in essays, letters, unusual journalism...? The Atlantic Monthly's for you!! Subscribe now (Xmas's coming!). (Chin Ho 17)

Vincent read the Atlantic Monthly with quiet fervor, never letting Zelda know of his involvement, crazily xeroxing untold pages. She eventually became jealous yelling "Get Details!" (NonSqwitr)

The distinguished English master zealously commanded: Students using youthful language are out. X-rated words include vibe, "bad" for good, heavy... Just keep rhetoric pure. Now, Quizzes! (RHorton508)

Recently, the local division of "Xenophobes For Just Mistrust" yearly gathering was unknowingly catered by nine incognito aliens serving vichyssoise, zucchini, quail eggs, plus herring kabobs. (AuthorDB)

Yesterday, in balmy Palermo's most glamorous restaurant, Kristin's usual xenophobia was vanquished; nonetheless, she experienced qualms about having just ordered the cholesterol laden zabaglione for dessert. (Zonkerette)

Edentulous sejant griffins, immobile upon fountains betwixt jardiniere and marooned xebec, quietly ruminated whilst nescient knaves zealously deciphered the conundrum of yammering Lady Haverford's vanished palimpsest. (Zonkerette)

Cheerful, musical jesters irritated Queen Katherine. She zealously, nay, gleefully beheaded each xylophonic virtuoso.... oh, untimely decapitation!
Your lesson? Fools and their heads, rapidly, will part! (catberi)

Dusk imminent, Zoe, obviously xenophobic, glances through Yugo windows upon multihued horizons.
Pavement virtually abandoned, she bellows, "Question reality!" eliciting jaded looks from khaki clad naturalists. (CassadyMae)

Focusing with X-ray eyes upon Claudius and Laertes jealously manipulating princely destruction, Hamlet zealously rants, "To be or not...," ghost's quiet vengeance secretly kindling youthful intentions. (Turnberry2)

*Alive!?* Not!?... questioning whether its becomingly ennobling mentally to garner, kneeling, slings cum punches from rotten luck, or vigorously unarm hordes, demolishing juggernauts, yielding-- xysteric zero. (Smchas)

When questionable Norwegian Blue is found staked onto perch, enraged gentleman zealously demands his cash. Young vendor jokes regarding kipping and, ultimately, xenophilia leads to menage. (G8ly)

Quirky xenophobic yodeler jealously guards his echo while zealously bellowing various performances through uncharted mountain ranges. Although fearful of kind strangers drawing close, nobody is listening. (Ellenm5504)

Angelicas' baleful countenance deluded even Father Georges' hapless investigatory journeys, keenly leaving Mediterranean ne'er-do-wells orificially pinioned, Queequeg-like; riparian signposts that undermined vainglorious wandering xebec yachtsmens' zealotry. (Ravensegg)

A beautiful cat does everything finely,
giving help in joyous karmic love,
making neighbors of powerful queens,
resisting saner temptations,
understanding very well. . .
x-raying your zen.

One day Zach Xavier wanted some ice cream. John kindly lent nothing. Grabbing money from the unsuspecting visitors, he effectively purchased a blueberry-raspberry quart yesterday. (Bob4499)

"Going up?"
The elevator door creaked open, beckoning.
Not knowing why, xenophobic Zoe reluctantly stepped forward.
A voice quipped, "Hello young lady. Please join me inside." (Wagsalot)

Gobbling up an elegantly decorated cake, Zoe burped juicily.
Quite possibly, it was fresh rutabagas she tasted. Maybe kernels of Xmas yak?
Hmmmmm. Not very likely. (Wagsalot)

Quite deviant was young Zachary. His lingering perpetual obession towards stomping great big xylophones caused virulent alarm in most neighborhoods. "Find, jump, kill" rang unceasingly everywhere. (DuperGal)

Queen: Replacement bimbo, Charles?
Himself: Yes. This one, while Xerographically mimicking Dianas features, unlike said nauseatingly pompous little killjoy, is gracious, very zesty...and enormous jugs! (Landlord1)

Many kangaroos jump on feather pillows vigorously watching nine bedazzled albino rhinos tanning under yellow igloos. Likewise, xanthic, zesty quails dig elephants having glossy, colorful skin. (Jess0981)

Tragedy has struck. A yellow xylophone nearly killed little John Zarbuck Monday. Unnamed witnesses viewed gruesome injuries before Detroit Police quickly came forward on extensive radio. (Bob4499)

"Happy birds tiptoed merrily along strong lilypads, chattering endlessly while pondering over juicy, inspiring, queer, unusual, falsely delightful gossip," vocalized Xylophone Randy. (J25843)

Xenophon, during his last years' vacation, used to ride an indolent, scruffy black-grey cob jauntily over forest paths every week questing karma (needy zaftig maidens). (SMBarrows)

Abel begged Cain, "Don't endanger fraternal grace!"
His intransigent jealously killed.
Loving murder (not!), our patriarch questioned,
"Remember son two?"
Unrepentant villain: "Why xerox your zoo?" (FDYRHD)

Xanthic acid, unstable colorless oily liquid, dripped near Karen's right ear because she forgot to plug it. Vernon, her quirky man, giggled joyously with youthful zeal. (Sunboyy)

Noble Queen Esther approached King Xerxes unnecessarily worried. Royal proffered scepter gladly, yielding to dinner bid. Villains obsession fails; zero Jews injured. My hero! cried lady. (DebHick)

Patty's boss Vern cried, "Does anyone know who took Quinton's eraser?"
Mary, laughing, replied, "It's on your new zephyr xylophone!"
"Jumping grasshoppers!" he uttered. "Something's fishy!" (Jhutchi281)

Running stealthily, Zeke, the quick brown fox, jumped over X lazy dogs. If woken, each might perfunctorily kill him.
Vixens underestimate canine's yawning as gross nonchalance. (Mztlplx)

*About Being Crass*
Do everything from grumbling heretic insults, judging kinsmen loudly, mocking neighbors, or postulating quelled racist sedition toward unsuspecting visitors while xenophobes yelp zealously. (Paperworx)

Isabelle's younger brother Quentin remarked, " A zebra with stripes, even nurturing kangaroos, consume far more grass than lions running down hyenas or jackals; unscrupulous xenophobes! " (JBaloney)

A xenomanic zeitgeist pervades modern sociostrata, forcing leaders of demology to enucleate hypothetical verity charged with quelling random jihads generated by nescient yahoos, undermining isogenous kenlore. (TinLizzard)

Queen of vixens was Xanthippe,
Justly fabled Grecian hippie;
Zeus's realm lay powerless
Up against this sorceress.
In mythology, you know,
Eagles don't nix bitchy crow. (Glemward)

Newsflash: Revolted, xenophobic investigators juggled their queasiness while lunching extraterrestrials zipped upstairs, pried open veterinarian cages, stewed kittens, and munched barking foxhounds demonstrating horrifying gluttony, yesterday. (SharmanBy)

Frequently yawning, Julia's baby quietly caught some Z's while I viewed Xfiles on a portable TV, leaving me understandably engrossed, however, never really knowing good drama. (JDewees14)

Zero Headway Gained Today.
Curious Question Mark Needs Answering, But Determined Period
Wants Out. Jittery Semicolon Leaves It Exasperatingly Vague.
Further X-rays Reveal Yet Unexplored Kinks. (Mchatter)

Anyone believing Congressional decisions evidence fundamental goodness has irrefutably justified keeping logistic military niches operational, periodically qualifying routine science to understand variable wave x rayed yellow zones. (Splongette)

Kindly Dr. X can be fat and very ugly,
Zesty Renee's waistline extends nine yards,
however, their glowing joyous smiles,
makes optimistic ladies into pretty queens! (Mkiszner)

After our last iguana died, we considered quickly repainting the
vermilion gazebo, especially since xenophobic Katie feared both
hungry Jamaican zombies might yammer nightly until placated. (Skjager)

King Elvis, who is not quite alert today, bares his rockin' soul on "Geraldo," yelling Michael Jackson's very unique, xanthous features complement zany daughter LisaMarie Presley. (GollyGee)

My kind, courageous brother David nicely plays a huge yellow zither for old, underweight Queen Victoria while she goes into the X-ray room eating lime jello. (Lanie 141)

King Xerxes divorces wife Vashti; chooses beautiful, young Esther. New queen's plea rescues Jews from annihilation. Gallows intended to slay laudable Mordecai used on zealous Haman. (BDPnApril)

Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.