One popular feature of Dirty Linen is the “spine tickler” — the little words of wisdom (or something) on the spine where one would normally expect to see a list of contents of that issue. When Dirty Linen changed from saddle stitched (stapled) to perfect bound (with a spine) starting with issue #26, we chose to use the space differently. Over the years many people have asked what they mean, so it’s time to explain.

1) If you read them all in a row they tell a story. You need to fill in a few minor gaps, though. This was a clever marketing trick to make people buy every issue for fear of not being able to follow the plot. (Years later this idea was stolen by the producers of “Lost.”)

2) That part of the cover was intended to be blank. The spine ticklers were added by aliens between the time we sent the magazine to the printer and when it arrived at the printer. We attempted various solutions, including the trilithium gonkulator ray, tin foil (shiny side out, of course), and various Babylonian incantations spelled out in a bowl of Rice Krispies one morning, all to no avail.

3) They are clues that will be included in a better book than The DaVinci Code. A high-budget Hollywood film will follow starring Tom Hanks as Uncle Biff, Cecil will be played by Big Bird, and James will play himself.

4) It’s one small way for the editors to remain sane in the face of a looming deadline.

5) It’s a manifestation of #4 not working.

You have to decide…
Spine Tickler
#26: Sitting ducks in a bathtub.
#27: Can we have our ball back, mister… pleeeze?
#28: Oops, wrong telephone pole!
#29: Aimless beepers, we’ve got your dollar
#30: Keep talking, the water balloon is loaded and ready
#31: Don’t manhandle that troll
#32: Surfing Across Kansas — the dream isn’t over
#33: A sailor’s nightmare — floodwaters reach Nathan’s knee
#34: Three months pregnant and she knows Latin!
#35: If we don’t lock our car doors, who will?
#36: Mom never told me your name
#37: They always said you were lumpy
#38: I don’t even think of chipmunks anymore
#39: Stan didn’t supervise his pet ants during swimming lessons
#40: Rent a folk star before 2 PM and save $2.00!
#41: Focus on spinach: Our leafy friend!
#42: Now available: Books on Tapeworm!
#43: Tinkerbell ran stop signs
#44: Uh oh, it’s crawling away!
#45: 2,000 year old man found inside jar of fruit
#46: “What is folk music?” ~ See special pull-out section, page 99
#47: Alone with a toad and pieces of George’s banjo
#48: 3 M.P.H. in Iowa and only a Barry Manilow tape
#49: We take our eggplant fairies seriously
#50: Elvis and three cats named Jake: Their secret room of horror
#51: Busy as beavers on ice with blowtorches
#52: Sarah had no idea her parents were carrots
#53: Look to your left and heave the sprouts overboard!
#54: Hmmm… another mother mad about clams
#55: Mean Mr. Trouser and his automatic dog, Drip
#56: Innocent clams attacked by mice
#57: Mom, there’s another jar of dill pickles in the wash!
#58: The karma trolls are spooked again…
#59: Loose ties at a weenie roast
#60: Clear throat and try again in five minutes
#61: Eleven-step program to lose that annoying hum
#62: Three whistles, a stray tooth, and a crane named Cecil
#63: Pumping iron for Lead Belly
#64: Lizards in my pants and the laundry’s not done!
#65: Nothing will happen if you take your hands off that gnome!
#66: Alone and snuggly — Mr. Tripp’s brave ordeal
#67: Painted the knobs… what now, dear?
#68: Homeless mice: Do we really care?
#69: Weird scenes in Nantucket goat cave
#70: Ice tooth got me screaming big!
#71: Monkey chow vending machines in a field of worms
#72: Crinky Man rockets to fame!
#73: Euphoria gets out of the gate slowly
#74: Skipping rope and playing with a melon
#75: From Paintings to Robots: The Story of Cheese Art
#76: Nobody came to Sammy’s tag sale
#77: Maybe the little weasel was right!
#78: Jack, gimme that weed whacker!
#79: Cabbage heads ignite in Des Moines
#80: No room in the trunk for Uncle Marty!
#81: Nobody hurt in marble flinging mêlée
#82: Batch of hot cookies found in alleyway
#83: Every time I wake up I see those socks
#84: Chapel is on the left, car wash is on the right
#85: Strange gingersnaps near Uncle Biff’s peccaries
#86: Oh, it’s only you…
#87: Curious Thelma and the bottle opener
#88: People imagine us to be somewhere else
#89: Saving time by swimming backwards
#90: Drop that hammer, the plumber is missing again!
#91: Slow ticks on Uncle Bob’s clock
#92: Danger toads cruise Route 37 at high noon
#93: Baked Nebraska, yum!
#94: Anxious to locate missing uncle. Answers to “Snippy.”
#95: Space critters on Officer Ted’s tricycle.
#96: Clocks don’t run on water?
#97: Planet Zhodé has enough trouble with that grumpy parrot!
#98: “The Man From O.E.D.I.P.U.S.” premieres Tuesday at 8.
#99: Mr. Bubbers, your Chia Pet® is whining.
#100: Beware of melons with big pointy seeds.
#101: So long, Nurse Ratchett, your cluephone is ringing.
#102: James! No more harmonica till the mouth stops bleeding!
#103: It’s just a little bit the way it is.
#104: Millions of people can’t possibly be right
#105: The truth was never out there.
#106: Quick, hand me the garden troll stun gun!
#107: I’d like a nice shrubbery, nothing too expensive
#108: No need to lather up the prunes this year…
#109: Get your grubby purple spangles out of the bank vault!
#110: We will always remember the day we lost our memories
#111: Stomping oboes at the zoo
#112: Silence, you starry-eyed waffle snarfer!
#113: Ants can’t dance to bebop
#114: Midnight moonlight madness on the Oatmeal Express
#115: Gotta sing, dance, and iron Elmer’s shorts
#116: Sixteen coats and still the lobster boat is leaking…
#117: Just another thought crashing through space and time
#118: Got no time for belt loops
#119: Susie waited too long for the Tiddlywinks Express
#120: Binka Murka and his gang of 3½ pawned the electric toe brush
#121: Why do you feel the need to include exotic fruit?
#122: Professional sponge diver on a closed course
#123: Cousin Harry has a thing about gyrometers.
#124: Cheesy Puffs cure Uncle Billy’s skin condition
#125: Aunt Sammy strikes jalapeño pepperjack while mining for goat cheese
#126: Dancing to the beat of a lumberjack’s rap
#127: Certified 100% Brangelina free, with no MSG
#128: OK, Uncle Norbert, I’m swooshing, I’m swooshing!!!
#129: Gumper Filister’s getting hitched next Wednesday at two
#130: Aunt Mildred’s car runs on cooking sherry
#131: Shhh! Don’t wake the piper!
#132: Just kickin’ it back in the elevator…
#133: Monday isn’t much better than Wednesday
#134: Nothing’s going down in Plonkville.
#135: Black is the color of my true love’s turtleneck
#136: Who put the cat in the gravity tube?
#137: My moose ate my flying squirrel
#138: Mom, there’s a do-it-yourself bird kit on the front stoop…!
#139: What part of “meow” don’t you understand?
#140: O’Bama! Drop that bodhrán! You’ll wake the moose!
#141: Why not give cufflinks to the llamas?
#142: Not for all the tea in Teaneck!
#143: Binney Montgomery’s in math class decoding
#144: Bailouts for Banjos
#145: Sizzling fries on the bored walk
#146: The Toast Advisory Board cautions: Buttered toast is slippery when wet

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