The 2nd World Palindrome Championship

Trump-Bashing Palindromes Dominate as Aussie Is Crowned World Champion

Anti-Trump palindromes won four of the six "top spot"s as Australian programmer Martin Clear won the 2nd ever World Palindrome Champion Saturday.
Clear nosed out Salt Lake City bassoonist Lori Wike by the smallest possible margin - one third of one point - at a live competition in Stamford Connecticut. Wike, the first woman in the finals, charged back from the middle of the pack with the biggest vote getter of the final round:

Dastard stuns? I nodded, "Nah, Lil Handed Don is nuts!" Drat! SAD

Washington, D.C. photographer Mike Maguire also scored big with two anti-Trump palindromes, one of which managed the near-impossible task of reversing the phrase "Trump sucks." The audience wasn't put off by his need to refer to an obscure ex-congressperson (John Murtha) twice in order to make that possible:

Ah, Trump sucks! Irate groper. Prison? Ah, Trump is so gross. Old ass. Sad! Loss or gossip, Murtha? No sir, prep or get a risk cusp, Murtha!

The event was part of puzzlemaster Will Shortz' 40th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and was filmed for an upcoming feature-length documentary. In each round, Shortz gave contestants several constraints or topics, such as "include a Q" or "use no words with fewer than four letters;" they had an hour to create new verses in round one, and overnight (19 hours) in round two.

Clear, a computer programmer who swears he composes without machine aid, won Friday's first round with a one-liner than managed to rhyme its first and last words:

Ono, miked, unaware, damned, ruby burden made raw: a nude kimono.

In the final round, his epic 93-word poem -- a description of the event itself -- gave him just enough adjusted audience votes to hold off the rookie, 194 to 193.7 points.

Tides reverse, I reverse.
Rise, demitasse for piety,
Locate spun words,
Drowsy as re-papered evil.
I, to get a mad raw award, am a god!
Potter freely, assess a madness, drown in word wars.
Alas, reverse many revered is no cosmetic:
I, to read a 'drome (gem or dada erotic item)
so consider every name's reversal as raw.
Drown in words: send, amass, essay, leer, fret.
Top Dog - a mad raw award a mate got.
I lived ere paper says "Words Drown Upset Acolyte."
I profess a time desire's reveries reversed it!

Actuary Doug FInk finished third on the strength of his admittedly misspelled Star Wars palindrome:

A lad: "I'm Anikin, Amidala"

The previous champion, Portland comic Mark Saltveit, finished out of the money with an apolitical pet tale:

Mood? Reviled. Stacy's saga: gassy cats deliver doom.

Other contestants including retired math teacher Win Emmons and British poet Anthony Etherin, who connected with an elegant haiku:

Loot, as I rob a
Legacy. Art’s a stray cage.
Labor is a tool.

Best-selling author and illustrator Jon Agee took second-place on the first night with a clever answer to the Q constraint:

007 saw Q’s DNA. Lands! Q was 700.

Shortz' World Palindrome Championships have inspired other competitions, including the annual SymmyS Awards (the Oscars of palindromy). And this year, the prestigious Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Oregon (May 4-7, 2017) will include a show called "Palindrome Fight!" featuring 4 professioinal comedians: Myq Kaplan (Conan, Letterman), Zach Sherwin ("Rap Battles of History"), Mark Saltveit ("The Tao of Chip Kelly"), and Dax Jordan (NPR, Sirius/XM Radio). They will write palindromes based on an audience suggestion for a topic or constraint.


Wike Saltveit Maguire Etherin
Fink Emmons Clear Agee

Superstar musician "Weird" Al Yankovic considered entering, and comedian Myq Kaplan (Conan, Letterman) was set to compete, but other obligations prevented it. Both have been interviewed for a feature-length documentary film about the competition, currently in production. The competitors are:

- Jon Agee of San Francisco, a best-selling author and illustrator who has published 5 popular books of palindrome cartoons starting with "Go Hang a Salami, I'm a Lasagna Hog"
- Mark Saltveit, editor of the Palindromist Magazine. He is also a standup comedian and writes about football, Daoism, health, science and pop culture.
- Doug Fink, Connecticut actuary who won Will Shortz' first palindrome contest in 1991 in Games Magazine with "Lisa Bonet ate no basi."
- Martin Clear, a Sydney, Australia programmer and prolific palindromst who has won many SymmyS Awards
- Lori Wike, a Salt Lake City bassoonist know for her "palimericks" (reversible limericks). She has also won several SymmyS Awards.
- Anthony Etherin, a U.K.-based poet and musician who runs Penteract Press and posts constrained poetry on Twitter;
- Mike Maguire, a palindromic poet from Washington DC who authored the collections "Drawn Inward" and "11" and the novel "Three Days Breathing"
- Win Emmons, a retired math teacher, former actuary and amateur actor who runs the web page Palindromania.

WPC 2 Preview

Will Shortz has announced the second World Palindrome Championship to held March 24th and 25th of 2017, during the 40th American Crossword Puzzle tournament. Eight word wizards from 3 continents will compete in the live, 2-day event.


There will be two rounds. On Friday night, competitors will have one hour to create new palindromes matching a topic or constrainst that Will Shortz will spring on them. When the winners (by audience vote) are announced, Shortz will reveal a new topic or constrain for the final round. Entrants will then have until Saturday night to complete their masterpieces. The audience vote Saturday night will be weighted as 2/3rd of the fnal score.

The Documentary

A film crew led by filmmakers Vince Clemente and Adam Cornelius will be recording the event for a feature-length documentary. They are already filming participants from WPC I in preparation. Their award-winning short documentary on reigning champion Mark Saltveit is online at

World Palindrome Championship #1

Will Shortz' hosted the first World Palindrome Championship on March 16, 2012 as part of the 35th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.

It was inspired by the brash and highly publicized claims of Boston's Barry Duncan to be "the world's first Master Palindromist," though Agee had already published several best-selling palindrome books at that point. Duncan finished last among the 7 WPC entrants and did not respond to an invitation to the current event.

Will Shortz hosted his first palindrome competition in print, back in 1991 as editor of Games Magazine; Connecticut's Doug Fink won with "Lisa Bonet ate no basil." Fink also competed in WPC1 and will repeat in WPC2.

WPC 1 featured seven competitors who had 75 minutes to create up to three palindromes each with one or more of three constraints. Pictured, L to R: Jon Agee, Nick Montfort, Mark Saltveit, Barry Duncan, Doug Fink, Martin Clear. Not pictured: John Connett.

WPC finalists


4th place: Nick Montfort, for his epic poem The Millenium Falcon Rescue

3rd place: Jon Agee ("ZONING" IS MR. AL AXE'S SEX ALARM SIGN IN OZ)  84 votes

2nd place: John Connett ("Not Newt!" Ron's snort went on.)   165 votes

1st place: Mark Saltveit (Devil Kay fixes trapeze part; sex if yak lived.)  169 votes


All palindromes had to follow one of these rules:

1) Use an x and a z in the palindrome;

2) Write a palindrome on a person or event prominent in the news during the last 12 months; or

3) Write a palindrome about this competition (which could be interpreted either as the WPC, or the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament of which it was one part).

Complete List of Palindromes

Each competitor introduced themselves and read their 3 palindromes, with a brief introduction for each. They then picked one favorite for the audience to vote on (above). The palindromes, in reverse order of length, were:

John Connett: 

"Not Newt,' Ron's snort went on.    (prominent person)

Yen more to vote Romney ?  (prominent person)

Sex Rex, Roz, or Xerxes. (x and z)


Jon Agee:

MITT'S ART? NO CONTRAST, TIM. (prominent person)


A HOST? NO WILL, I WON'T! SO – HA!  (about the competition next year)


Doug Fink:

I risk row work, Siri.  -- (prominent person or event -- the iPhone/iPad robotic assistant Siri)

On Hugo lists, I log, “Uh, no”   (prominent person or event -- the film Hugo)

Deny barb to hero Will: I wore hot bra by Ned. [Will Shortz, that is -- about competition]


Martin Clear: 

"Sex attacks," I rewrote, "misuse jazz if I fizz a Jesus I met or we risk cat taxes." (x,z)

Some metal boxes I fill (I wore zero) ... will I fix oblate memos? (x,z)

Sexes, red, let a fez amaze fat elders' exes. (x,z)


Mark Saltveit:

Devil Kay fixes trapeze part; sex if yak lived (x,z)

I tan. I mull. In a way, Obama, I am a boy -- a wan Illuminati. (prominent person)

Gal, smiles are stellar ere crossword rows sorcerer Al lets era's elim's lag. (this competition) -- A prediction of victory in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for Al Sanders, who tragically lost in the film Wordplay, eliminated for accidentally leaving two squares empty.


 Nick Montfort:

One long poem for the x,z constraint, about Hans Solo and other Star Wars characters (57 words):

"The Millennium Falcon Rescue"

"Wow, sagas ... Solo's deed, civic deed.
Eye dewed, a doom-mood.
A pop.
Sis sees redder rotator.
Radar sees racecar X.
Oho! Ore-zero level sees reviver!
Solo's deified!
Solo's reviver sees level: ore-zero.
Oho: X, racecar, sees radar.
Rotator, redder, sees sis.
Pop a doom-mood!
A dewed eye.
Deed, civic deed.
Solo's sagas: wow."



Barry Duncan:

One long untitled palindrome (70 words):

"7, no? Do! Past I? How? Oh, now I spat! Fired, no?
Will: a foe? Not! Ah, then a fair event now (i.e., solid).
One tilt on Sat (oh!), Sun. It is “7 across: Orca.”
7 sit in. Us. Hot as not. Lite. Nod.
I lose? I won't! Never!
I: a fan, eh? That one, of all.*
I wonder if: Taps? I won? How?
(Oh, it's “a pod” on 7.)"

*He pointed to Will Shortz when he read this line.

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Duncan