These letters tend to follow a decently formulaic format. We open with a fun anecdote relevant to the issue’s theme. We continue with brief descriptions of the pieces included and then relate them back to the theme. We wrap up by returning to the theme more broadly, musing on its place in our readers’ and our lives. It’s a tried and true design, so solid anyone can do it. So, per the theme, this one’s in (2)’s hands.
I remember being doubled over laughing with my middle school best friend, (3), as we read aloud the ______(4) stories we’d created using a Mad Libs book. We’d take turns asking each other for the filler words; the privileged person who knew the story’s topic, drunk on power, uncontrollably (5) as she wrote down and ridiculed whatever (6) term the fool in the dark had said. The anticipation of the mystery revealed was (7) on both ends; but even though the fun was based on uncertainty, Mad Libs were reliable. We knew we were in for a (8) good time, every time.
As (9) and I got older, though, the mysteries got less fun. The laughs were less (10), the game overplayed. I got into (11), she got into (12). We lost the thrill of the simple uncertainty, shifting our focus to the much more significant (at the time) blanks of our lives—who will be my (13) date? How am I going to convince my mom to let me go to a party at a (14)? What Halloween costume will make me look (15) while still communicating that I’m cool and chill?
In the same vein, the pieces in this issue (16) the ways we try to fill in the blanks of our lives. In Becca Stine’s piece, she describes her experience meeting with four local (17), people who don’t see there being any sort of blank in the future: the end of times is upon us. Courtney Knerr investigates the use of animal lab subjects in (18)’s STEM classrooms, and highlights the importance of informing students of their origins and fate post-lab. Cormac McCrimmon investigates how what our (19) write on our birth certificate impacts our future. Audrey Westby’s adaptation of her thesis ( (20), Audrey!) suggests that companies use influencers to create a standard for beauty, perhaps capitalizing on filling in the blank of the broad and indefinable. In providing an answer to the question of what Wicca is, Emily Kressley also touches on the human tendency to (21) towards the supernatural and unexplained, things that let our imagination fill in the blanks. And Kate Barnes explores the mystery of (22)’s painting, “ (23),” dropping her readers into the work to try to help us understand it, and maybe facets of our own lives, better.
As these writers show, we are able to fill some of the blanks of our lives—I went to (24) with (25); I lied about where the party was; and you can’t go wrong with a (26) costume, am I right, ladies?—but other blanks will always be up in the air. Life’s essential questions have fueled our best (and worst) thinkers for generations, and they will continue to do so until (27) kills us all. What does the future hold? What is truth? What is right and what is wrong? ask (28) students and stoned teenagers alike. We don’t know, and can’t know, the answers to these questions. So while it’s (29) and intellectually fruitful to think about these things, maybe it’s also time to reconsider the pleasures of small mysteries. May this nerdy Mad Libs rip-off do the trick.
Maddie and the rest of the Cipher staff
Fill In The Blank Issue | April 2019
18. School you wish you could attend
19. People you resent
20. Congratulatory word
23. Work by said artist
24. Same stupid event
25. Your Crush :P
26. Most ridiculous noun you can think of
28. Your major
30. Your go-to email sign off
Sexiest man alive
Your middle school best friend
Verb ending in “ing”
Adjective ending in “ing”
Same middle school best friend
Sketchy teen activity