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This contest is now closed. But enjoy!

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

Well, folks, we've had our Labor Day picnic, and now it's back-to-school time! While the memories of summer are still fresh, we'd like you to write us a little composition entitled "What I Did on My Summer Vacation."

But here's the deal. Your composition may use only the letters in the first half of the alphabet (A through M) *or* only the letters in the second half of the alphabet (N through Z). You'll find that being limited to 13 letters puts a certain crimp in your style! The challenge of this contest is to get out of that trap as cleverly (or at any rate, as sanely) as possible.

Since it's been rumored that we're half-wits, we'll take the first crack at this assignment. Here's "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" using just the first half of the alphabet:

***"Me? I bagged big game. I bagged a llama--a Chile llama. I had a big meal--a bagel, a lime, a llama baked. Ah!"***

As usual, we expect you can do a lot better. Your essay may be as short as two words or as long as one hundred words--and you may lie as extravagantly as you please about your summer exploits. In fact, in choosing our winning entries, we will look for bold imagination and humor. But don't wiggle out of the trap by inventing "creative" spellings and abbreviations. See what you can come up with using ABCDEFGHIJKLM or else NOPQRSTUVWXYZ in normal English.

If you've half a mind to play along, e-mail your entry (or more than one, if you wish) to CoxRathvon. This "Half-Baked Themes" contest will remain open through Friday, September 22. Results will be posted one week later, on Friday, September 29.

--EC and HR


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

You fine folks outdid yourselves on this one! Our tough assignment (to write an essay entitled "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" using only half the alphabet) inspired some of the best brainwork yet devoted to these word games. We've received so many lovely, strange, funny, and compelling entries that it maddens us to limit our favorites to a mere three!

The day after our contest closed, we ran all the entries through a "Search" procedure, looking for letters that had sneakily intruded from the wrong half of the alphabet. Correspondent G8ly, a second-halfer, wrote, "Sorry, you two, you won't spot typos"‹but many wonderful entries did have an infiltrator lurking in their midst. An essay safe from this danger was the one submitted by SSAPhD, whose placid summer vacation was summarized as follows: "Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz." And speaking of jokey entries, we also loved this one from MWillett (who apparently isn't going to win many Spelling Bees): "Maid F. Faled Emglich agim."

After many rereadings, we were most enduringly delighted by the casual aptness of Seigster's seaside journal, the comedy of Obfusco's rock tour, and Glemward's "topsy-turvy zoo." Congratulations to these three winners, who will each receive 5 free AOL hours courtesy of the Atlantic Monthly! Very honorable mention goes to MJH12656, Bobwey, and AprilWeeks for creative short stories with interesting plots; to TinLizzard for the ancestral search; to Becka58 for the punchy slang; to Kesrith1 for the new computer game; to KnKreader for the swell telegram; and to Arglbargl for the mock-pathetic litany of misfortunes (let's hope for a happier vacation next summer!). But really, all the entries below show terrific ingenuity, and we thank you all for many moments of laughter and amazement!--EC & HR

***Our Three Big Winners***

A dim, gilded beam licked a big, beige beach. Magical Jamaica had called me! I climbed a high hill. A bleached beach hailed. I hiked a mile back. Flaccid like a dead eel, I baked. A famed, bald chef made me a big meal: mahi-mahi, beef, lamb, cake. He made each meal alike. A high bill made me flee. I had a ball!

Sony sponsors Worn-Out Tour: Ozzy, Styx, ZZ Top (Toto opts out). Two stops on tour: Toronto (Ont.) Roxy, Provo (Ut.) Opry. SRO? Not!
On Provo stop (our town), nutty Y. Ono turns up, purports to spout prosy Proust opus on soup spoons. Not to worry--Ozzy runs Ono out pronto.
On to tour... Ozzy snorts protozoons, trots out sour, torturous "Turn, Turn, Turn." ZZ Top 'n' Styx vow to stun, try "Row, Row, Row Your--" Oops, too torporous. Our stupor won't stop!
Tour poops out. Too woozy (or snoozy) to uproot, our torsos--our story too--stop.

Our town won NO sports, to our sorrow, so our story runs to torturous stunts, spy trysts, worn-out vows, non-support pops, toys put out to rust. Won't our soppy opry soon stop? No. Our zoo's topsy-turvy: Our pony struts on sprouts; our ox spurns soup; our trout turns on to pot; our runt stoops to tutor US; our puppy usurps our potty.
Trust us: our zoo's not on tour stops now!--
Two poor nuts.

***And Our Other Favorites***

A medical debacle befell me:
High decibel Bach made me deaf.
A jai alai game fall made me lame.
Middle age made me bald, acid made me flaccid.
I had a headache, called mild Jack;
He filched, fed me half a Big Mac.
Bad beef: damage (ileac).
If I became embalmed... I'd be calmed.

On Tour! Our Top Stops:
€ Pop's Pour-Your-Own-Won Ton-Soup Spot
€ Tony's Two-Story Wurst Roost
€ Rust R-Us
€ Toto's Oz Tour

I became middle-aged. ME! I feel baffled, mad, jaded, miffed, lame, labeled, failed, hacked, jagged, meek, bilked.
He made me giggle. He made me a cake. He ... I... a fabled field, a calm lake ...each magic. He held me. He killed a facade. He led me back. I am healed. I am a middle-aged me! I am able. I am calm. I am ideal.
Call me.

I became a Mime. I made like a caged jackal. I climbed a hill. I killed a bee. I hiked, hid, hailed a cab, faked a chill, kicked a ball, made a face.
Gee, me, a Mime! I feel high. I like life. I'm a big kick. I'm magic! (MJH12656)

I maimed a mime. Big deal. Ha ha ha. (Shmaltzy)

Our vow: no tours! Our son put us out (potty row), so on to Tours--on our own! Sunny Tours!
No wurst, no ports, no yurts, no snotty, pouty son. Stony tors. Tony town!
Tony Upson

I emailed Jack. He came.
"Gimme a meal!" he called.
I had ham, lime jam, a cake.
"Feed me! Feed me!"
"Gimme a gem?" I made a deal.
"Hah! Ham? Blaah! Made me feel ill! Feed me a lamb leg, lame hag mama!"
"Mime-like algae ball," I heckled. "Lice-headed egg-face!"
Jake deemed me a mad gal. He decked me.
I had him jailed. I'd be glad if he did life.

Abigail called.
"Hi, Bill. I'm back! Call me a cab?"
I claimed a big alibi. "I'm ill--headache."
I'm baffled. Abigail bilked me--bagged a bald medic. A big academic gem--Cadillac, Bach. I'm a beach head--faded MG, Abba.
Abigail begged.
I hemmed. Hell, I'm game.
"Miami Beach, Abigail."
Abigail befell me.
"Hi, kid." I'm calm. "Did Adam flee?"
"I fled Adam."
"Bad Abigail," I chided.
"Bifacial jackal fibbed. Made a maid. Chimed a belle. He defamed me."
"Ah," I gleamed. Fickle Adam. Fickle Abigail.
"Claim me back, Bill!"
"Lame game, Abigail."
I fled Miami.
"Ah, Jamaica!"

A Bahama cafe ... a calm beach ... a blackjack deck ... ale ... feed ... all glee ... deja bill??? HELL! (TinLizzard)

Roots! Our tour to town on our own to sort out our roots won no post on zoo stop, nor row to port, nor sport spot. Trust us, our tour to town won't spout our roots' story. Oy! Pots won't spurn to pour soot on our tops on our sunny tour to town. Roots not sown upon our sons our poor trust woo. Our town woos us not.
Pox on town!
Pox on roots!
Pox on soot too!!
Ours not to woo our roots. Ours now to roost upon our own stoops.

Eddie came back. Alice baked a llama-milk cake. Eddie had a caged bald eagle he called Alabama! He fed him a lamb he had killed. A Fed (he had a badge!) called Eddie a bad fella. He had Eddie jailed. Alice bailed Eddie. Eddie blamed me! He fled.
Me? I cabled L.A., made a film deal. Big check, mama!!!--
a e egg

Jack, jailed a decade, bilked a bleached Alabama chick, "Chili". Fickle Jack begged me, "Make bail." I feel defiled, a child.
I had a cache, a gem -- "ice." I called a legal beagle, a leech -- fleeced me like a lamb!
Licked, I bake a cake, add a file, mail a jailbag, ice legal ace, highjack a cab, FLEE!
Cab flagged, I hike a mile, macadam madam, a faded, jaded belle.

A blackjack game claimed me. Ace-high, I gambled BIG. I made like I had a cache (a bald-faced lie). I faked a bad check. A mafia gal killed me. (ShedPot)

Call me Magic Mel. I did a mad Cabala dabble. Ma became a high, beaded Deadhead, Dad a female black lab. (Rickwins)

I had a big deal LA Bach fiddle gig. Bag LA, dad... Like Kafka, dig? (Rickwins)

Beach: Baja, Bali, Miami (liked 'em all)... Lake: Baikal (blah)... Film: Gigi, Lili, Babe, Alice (each a gem), Big Chill (eh). (Rickwins)

Aced Gaelic, Chem Lab. Bill, Al cabled "Hail, hail!" Dalai Lama E-mailed "L'Chaim, kid!" (Rickwins)

I called a big, bald, deaf clam "Ed." He called me "Babe." He claimed me; I claimed him. Biblical! (HrtsDlite)

I fed face: cabbage, challah, babka, dill, bagel, jicama, flambé, mahi mahi, fig, lichee, macadamia, falafel, leek, milk, chili, dahl, hibachi beef.

Am I bad??? I had Jack, Ed, Mike, Dale, a cabbie, Jamie, a deadhead, Jake, Millie. I faked, I lied. A ha ha ha ha!
I made a bad call, killed Jack, had a big fall, did a jig. Feel like a heel. (Lynnbo2)

Us?? Won tons on topsy turvy NY pony. Tony struts on to WV, son puts rusty spoons on putz's nuts, outruns nuns to NV. Turns sour on Tony, rows to sunny PR nonstop, sups upon wontons, purports to put our puppy on Sony TV soup-to-nuts spot. Wow! Now, onto OR, UT, nutty TN . Sorry your poor town sports no UPS. Pssst, won't you post us soon. (Lynnbo2)

I decided I am half female. I'm called Maggie/Michael McGee. (Tori Lady)

Trust us, Toots, our story won't wow you: tours to Toronto, Provo; sports (no trout, Sox won); two or so zoos. No snow, no sun. Worn out. (StefSpad)--

Wow! Pop! Pop! Nuns on porno TV!--
Nuns? Son o....Oops. You run on now, Roy, to your own TV!
:::Son's out:::--
Porno TV! Yup, yup, yup!

Nowt you spot on St. Purnzy; no towns, no yurts, nowt. No soup, no ouzo, no wurst...too poor. Your worst post on your tour. Noons, you post vows; so you pour your trust out... to nowt. Soon posts not so worn you swoop onto. Quo pro quo? So soon you roust your worst. So soon your tour turns up. St. Purnzy, rot! (Daasek)

I had a fab chef. I had beef, chili, cake, falafel, milk, baked lamb flambe. Bad feed, dig? I fed Ma. I fed Dad. I fed a child. I fed a deaf geek! I fed all, Babe. I jammed! All deemed chef a bad, def, ice-chill mack Dad. I called chef a cab. All chilled. I like a meal deal, eh? (Becka58)

I made a likeable, edible meal. (A jaded fella like me!) Chilled limeade, black-bellied jackal, baked eel (ah, did he jiggle!), a jellied fig ball, macadamia flambe. I feel edified! Deified! (Am I a Dalai Lama?) (Bugsy22312)

I made a meal (fed Dad ale, mead, a bagel, a lamb leg, mahi-mahi, iced limeade), baked a cake, made jam, hailed a cab. I baled alfalfa, biked, hiked, led a clambake. I liked a female! I bagged food, made a bed, aided a child. I begged a dime, made a call (billed Ma Bell), made a deal. I fell, bled, healed. I killed a camel! I gambled a big bad bill (ace high, dice). Ack! Dad, Ma, Gail, Jack all came back! Me? I'm glad fall came! (Sinecosine)

Had a Big Mac each meal, a big cake, a big calcific egg, Decaf. I made a meal; a big, big meal. Baked eagle (half-baked); cabbage, calf. I gambled, giggled, glided, dabbled, deified a fabled, diademed dik-dik. Gamed! Bagged me a biggie; a bi-facial, black limed eel. Baked him; bibbed me. Ick! Gag! (HrtsDlite)

Bag filched. I babbled bilge, iambic bilge. I blabbed, blamed Black Flag Meg. Meg mad. I killed Meg. (A big, blade-like icicle!) Bleak! Dame Emma called me a "damaged dahlia," a debacle. Hee Hee! I cackled; dallied; decided. Decked Dame Emma, blamed Ida; called a cab... fled. (HrtsDlite)

I, dead Cecil B. DeMille, made--ad-libbed--a cliched Dada film, like Dali did:
"Delilah: Belle de Jedidiah."

WV zoo--ox & sow STOP OR port-- trout, & noon sun STOP Tour NY--story town = uptown nonstop turn on, wow! STOP Try UT- tortuous outpost; SOS! STOP Turn to TX--nonstop tour & sport STOP Try out VT--nutty syrup STOP Out to WY--puny pony trot (pout pout pout) STOP On to NV-- ouzo = torpor & stupor & woozy; vows?? NOT!! STOP Stoop to TN--so-so so poop out, opt out STOP Worn out, poor, & nuts STOP :-)

Rut? Tour uptown! Worst port stop you or your own put out upon. Zoo, nun's strut trust, stout sons snort, runts pout...pros tout "yo, up yours." Run up on top, out on sun-town, wow! No pot nor rot stop us now.
Town's own sort support stunts sour or not. Porn upon rusty post, proxy toys you trust not. You sport your own tux to stun, to trot out on town. Toss or punt, so sun or not, no trust, you run out not. Your soy, sour soup you pour out spout spot, not two, on rout to your own zoo. (Washmore3)

Our troop put out to sunny ports. Our puppy, Snoopy, put out too---poo on our poop! (TAZZMAT)

Our rusty worn 280Z snorts, stops upon Zoo stop on Sun. Wow, two ox rut, strut, out on sunny Sun. Ox porn! You stop Zoo, too? Worst Zoo! Our Zoo worn out. Soup up 280Z to run, run run!

I, a lad; Meg, a maid; I, a cad, did lie. (OakCal)

A bad gal I am. I killed a bee. (Nilaja)

I like a mead I made,
A jam I jelled,
A hake I baked,
A maid I held.


Top Tours Won:
Won two zoo tours to Oz. (Toto won too.)
Won two tours to ports.

Spotty Tours:
Won two tours to town.
Won two tours to Troy, N.Y.

Worst Tours:
Won two Tours to Wurst.
Won two torturous tours to Truro.

(Trust you won tours too)

Hi! I am Mike. I like L.A. A feeble child begged me: "Gimme a dime!" I fled. He made a face. He kicked me; I giggled. Game, I kicked him back. He became mad. He had mace. Mace he fed me. Face like hell! Life became hell! Heal me, heal me, kick me, kill me!

A male I faced, a lad, a cad.
A bell chimed,
A hill he climbed.
Ahead he fled, high, a mile.
All bile, I called,
I biked, I climbed, I hiked.
I came, all lame, all mad.
I faced, I maimed, I maced.
He bled, he fled, he fell, he died.
Hell, I lied.
A balm, all calm,
A game.

I, Kim, a Bali Hai hack
Cabled Bahama Mama--He'll call me back.
I made a film deal;
I climbed a mile high hill.
I faced a eagle bill...
I filmed a big black llama.
I became a mama...
I bagged a camel.
I milked a beige mammal...
I made a flambe cake.
I iced a back ache...
I made a lace bag.
I became a hag...
I biked... I hiked...
I HAD A LIFE !!!!!!!!!!

I failed chem. lab. I flaked. I had Jim Beam. I baked a cake. I hailed a cab. I fled a mad bee. I bled a bad flea. Egad! I made a film called Jihad. I became a dad. A lad came. Me? Glad. I cadged a meal. Had jam. I did a flim-flam game, faked lame. I beheld a famed dame. A gem. Badge came. I'm dead. (LostnAustn)

I hid a BIG bead. I had jail mail. Me fiddle made jail gal flee. I had beef jam. Beef jam made me feel bad. Jail be hell. (LIL SOW)

I did a beach. Had clam. Hiked a high hill a mile. Biked a back field. Laid calm ... (fade) (BrenSierra)

I had a half-baked fig. A bee came. He climbed me. I had. Bee all mad. I came back. Hacked a leaf. A big ball flamed high. I baked. Big ball faded, clime mild. I came back. I dig. I dig and dig, make fig big. Big fig die. I blamed bee. Big, bad, mad bee came back. Jabbed me. I hid. (Falimar4lf)

I made media madam Millie cackle.
I filmed cable cad Cecil maim a mime-a fake debacle.

I had a ball! I hacked a big game, *Acme*:
Hekla, a baldheaded B.E.M., had a magic mace. Aceldama, a chief mage, had a gilded blade.
"Hick!" gibed Aceldama.
"Geek!" hailed Hekla.
Aceldama jabbed bald Hekla. Hekla flailed aged Aceldama.
"Maim him!" I heckled.
Each heeded me. Each died.
"Ha-Ha!" I acclaimed. I liked *Acme Game*!
"Gimme!" Dad decided.
"Debacle..." I declaim.

Ma Made chili; Dad added bad beef.
Had chili.
Big chill.
Called M.D.
Big bill.

I fed Jack, a camel, & Lil, a female llama. "Gimme milk!" called Jack! I fed him milk, bad jicama, & a big fig. I fed Lil a lime bagel & baked mahi mahi.
Jack, Lil, & I biked amid a dim, mild & calm elm bed. I filmed Jack & Lil. A high elm fell & killed Jack! Aah, aah, aah!! He died! (Star456)

I made "Mac" amalgam. I called "life--a beech". I claim alchemical malice, Alice. I made Galahad glad--aha! I made a beagle legal. I baked Kegel a bagel. Alabama belle, Celia, deemed Eli fallible geek. I licked chief chef flick flack kick. I milked ham. I made JFK flimflam. I dialed Mike; I made him giggle. I e-mailed; I de-mailed; I led; I bled. I mimicked each gimmick, embedded, beheaded. I kidded, I dabbled, I babbled cliché. I liked each game E/H had. I made a deal: I became me, me, me. I had a ball. I'll be back!

Hi, I am Jack. I hijacked a CA cab. I had a fall film. I made a milk filled kid jiggle a dead head. He had a mad dad. Bell became a mamma. I begged Jeff; he had a deck laid. If I had a dime, I'd bag a lime. I had a ball. (GlryB2God)

Blackjack deal
made me feel
like each ace
had a face.

Calm ball game.
Glad dad came.
Mild, I'll be.
He'll blame me!

Ice chilled me;
Cake filled me;
Life hailed me;
Head failed me.

I lied....
I died.

I liked Abe, a black-clad cad.
A gaffe! He fed me fake film gab.
He climbed a leg, I balked, he begged.
He made me mad, I bailed a cab.
A jam--I called Big Bad Dad.
Bad idea--a blade he had!
Jabbed Abe, jailed Dad, a lame deal, I call.
Ah life! A male hell. A ball!

I baked me a face I liked. I faded. I faked a baked face I liked.

I babied a kid, I dabbled a dab.
I hacked, hiked, billed, gabbed.

Jam, ham, dill, eel,
Ah, Jack a mad, fab, meal.

Bibbed a kid, gagged a keg.
Jacked a Mack, blabbed a Meg.

Felled a lamb, flim-flambed a ma'am.
Jabbed a back, made a dam.

Filled a dell, fibbed like hell.
Fed a lab, called a cab.

Did Bama,
Had a Ham'a,
Called a fella,
Had lime jell'a.

I had a clambake. I baked chili. I imbibed a keg. I died. (MMartin804)

I had lace. I had lamé. I lacked... chic. I had an idea. I begged; I jiggled; I baked a cake. "Big Dad" balked. I claimed I had a headache. I called a cab. "Big Dad" decided he'd mail me a big check. Mmm... Blackglama made me biddable. I came back. I'm glad I did.

Jack, Jill faced ice-milk lack
Climbed a glacial hill, "Big Mac"
Eek eek! Jack (amiable hack)
Fell, damaged head--
Agile Jill ambled back

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