Like many lovers of The New Yorker, Eric Poses, 33, found himself starting at the back of the magazine, in the section where readers are invited to come up with clever captions for quirky cartoons.
Poses' punch lines never made the magazine's shortlist, but he's hoping his obsession with the contest will pay off this holiday season. His company, All Things Equal, recently launched a board game called The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.
While the likes of PlayStation 3 and Tickle Me Elmo X-treme hog headlines and spark riots, Poses is hoping his brand of low-key, creative fun (no batteries required) will help his company claim a bigger chunk of the $22 billion toy market.
If you've never heard of Poses - a Miami native who graduated from Ransom Everglades in 1991 - you may have answered some of his Loaded Questions. The game - the company's first and still most popular title - rewards players for accurately guessing how competitors responded to a series of bemusing questions such as: "If you were invisible where would you go?" and "What hidden talent do you have?"
Poses' hidden talent, it turns out, has been the ability to spin that simple game idea into a thriving company with annual sales of $1.5 million.
Wearing blue jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt on a recent weekday at a Barnes & Noble where the New Yorker game is on sale, Poses said he has resisted the urge to let his company swell with its achievements.
The company is profitable, although Poses will not disclose further financial details. Almost a decade into business, he works from his Miami Beach home and is the venture's sole employee.
"I'm the one that meets with the Target buyer and the Toys-R-Us buyer and I'm always reachable, " he said. "That is part of my success."
Success in the fickle toy industry is no easy feat. Most board games - particularly ones based on licensed material - have a shelf life shorter than your average round of Monopoly. But Tina Benitez, the senior correspondent at Playthings, a trade magazine that covers the sector, said The New Yorker may buck that trend.
"I'm hearing a lot of buzz in the industry about how different this game is, " said Benitez. "The New Yorker is a well-known brand . . . And this game has the potential to become a classic."
While most of the toy industry drools over children aged zero to seven - who account for 60 percent of all sales - Poses' instinct to aim for adults is also on target, said Benitez.
"Kids have so many options - there are video games and technology and gadgets, " Benitez said. "But when [adult] friends get together there are very few options outside of [board games] that fit in the 20- to 30-year-old range."
The rules of The New Yorker game are simple enough for kids of any age: Players are asked to secretly write captions for one of the 189 New Yorker cartoons contained in the game and then the roller has to guess who wrote what and pick the winning caption.
What sets the game apart are the classic and quirky cartoons that mix the mundane with the strange: clowns at cocktail parties, diminutive men who live in fishbowls.
It's not often that businessmen talk about business transactions being "an honor" but that's how Poses describes his meeting with New Yorker Cartoon Editor Robert Mankoff to discuss a licensing agreement.
"They basically threw out a very high number that they would demand on a project like this, " said Poses, "and I looked at that number and was frightened."