First Annual SymmyS Awards

Australia's Martin Clear Dominates;
But First-time Writer Takes Grand Prize
With Serious Message On Pill Addiction;
Discovered Via Tweet

PORTLAND, OR – March 11, 2013.

Aric Maddux of Indianapolis, Indiana won the Grand Prize for Best Palindrome at the 2012 SymmyS Awards Sunday night with the first palindrome he ever wrote. His winning entry, a rare “word-unit palindrome,” was a dark warning about the dangers of prescription pill addiction:

“You swallow pills for anxious days and nights,
and days, anxious for pills, swallow you.”

Maddux, a computer technician and poet, tweeted his debut effort to M.I.T. Professor Nick Montfort, who took fourth place in Will Shortz’ World Palindrome Championship last year. Montfort, recognizing Maddux’ talent, nominated the beginner for the SymmyS – and then lost to him in the finals.

An Ymmy Award (the singular of SymmyS) was awarded in four categories -- Short, Long, Poetic, and Word-Unit Palindromes – in addition to the Grand Prize for Best Overall Palindrome.

Maddux spoiled an otherwise dominant night for Australian Martin Clear, who won the Long Palindrome YmmY outright, tied for first in Poetry, and placed second in both Short and Long Palindromes. He wrote fully 10 of the 40 total finalist entries, spread among all four categories. Clear’s short palindrome, which came within half a point of winning that division, dipped into pop culture:

“I made Rihanna hirsute, familiar, frail: I'm a fetus Rihanna hired, am I?”

Popular author Jon Agee (“Go Hang A Salami, I’m a Lasagna Hog”) won first and third place in Short Palindromes, scoring with both “A Slightly Violent To-Do List” and this “Igloo Dialogue:”

“’An igloo costs a lot, Ed!’
‘Amen. One made to last! So cool, Gina!’”

Statistics professor John Connett, of the University of Minnesota, took both 3rd and 2nd place in the Word-Unit category with an offcolor entry and an epigram, but could not hold off the hard-charging Maddux's momentum.

3rd place: Prick your finger? Mother your goose? No, Sir, No! Goose your mother, finger your prick!

2nd place: Fishing for excuses? No need. You need no excuses for fishing.

A word-unit palindrome is one where entire words reverse, instead of individual letters. The motto of the Three Musketeers -- “One for all, and all for one!” – is a famous example. “Surprisingly,” Saltveit noted, “the fiercest competition was among the word-unit palindromes. Before this competition, they did not get a lot of attention. Nick Montfort has worked hard to popularize them, and it ended up costing him an Ymmy.”

The SymmyS are produced by The Palindromist Magazine, the world’s leading palindrome periodical. Hundreds of entries were assembled from direct submissions to the magazine as well as a worldwide search for new talent. Competitors hailed from Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

“We created these awards to showcase the great new palindromes being written every year,” explained to Palindromist Editor Mark Saltveit. “Many people think all the good palindromes were written years ago. These great new works show how wrong that is. And word-unit palindromes are a good way for a beginner to get involved, as Aric showed tonight.“

The night’s biggest controversy involved the disqualification of an entry. A little-known article in a 1984 issue of Word Ways magazine was found to have a palindrome very similar to a Short Palindrome contender by the little-known Anne Tenna.

“Ottoman Empire: We Rip Men!” (a motto)

Tenna’s entry was leading the category and in second place for the grand prize at the time of its disqualification. “No one is suggesting that plagiarism was involved,” noted Palindromist Editor Mark Saltveit. “The earlier palindrome was very obscure, and parallel invention is not uncommon. But we hold the highest standards for originality, and this entry had to be withdrawn.” Tenna nonetheless tied for first place in the Poetry category, and had four nominations total among the 40 finalists.

The ceremony, held at Portland, Oregon’s Funhouse Art and Beer Cabaret, featured Los Angeles comedian Dax Jordan, star of the upcoming show DaxTV on the MavTV network, and tap dancing saxophonist Michael “Shoehorn” Conley. Both added original palindromes, written for the occasion, to their performances.


Complete list of 40 nominees

Complete list of 12 winners


Celebrity Judges