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Who’s behind New Circle Circular, the satirical Lexington news website?

A satirical Lexington news website, a Lexington version of Theonion.com, called New Circle Circular, advertises itself as “fake news you can’t count on” and features headlines such as “Tops in Lex mistakenly prints issue with minority on cover.”

It also offers quizzes such as “Which Lexington food truck are you?” and “Which New Circle Road exit are you?”

The site even suggested that Clark County, home to Ale-8-One soft drinks, is under a “Boil Ale-8” advisory and accused Lexington’s city government of determining that a tightrope would be a safer alternative than a Nicholasville Road bike lane (with an accompanying illustration of same). Ouch.

Attempting to identify the creative forces behind the zaniness was easier said than done.

We started by calling Nate’s Coffee, a small-batch roaster that advertises on New Circle Circular. Owner Nathan Polly denied involvement but urged that an article be written about his roasting operation, which he operates with “bean maven” and vice president Trish Murphy.

He also said he paid “Harold’s” wife for advertising, and that was all he knew.

We then checked with noted local wags with the sense of mature irony needed to suggest that ghosts of employees at the former Sears in Fayette Mall are haunting current employees of the Cheesecake Factory, Lexington’s most buzzed-about restaurant ever. Such a joke was at the center of a recent New Circle Circular article.

“I honestly don’t have a clue,” said Fayette PVA David O’Neill, who is a fan of local Lexington restaurants and is current on food news.

Whit Hiler, the advertising man behind such memorable stunts as the fake 2014 announcement of a sake bar and “throwing star” range, said he’s not Mr. New Circle Circular, either: “Unfortunately, I’m not behind the website,” Hiler said in an email message. “I do like it.”

Nor is it Drew Curtis of the satirical news aggregation site Fark.com, who recently made an unsuccessful bid to become Kentucky governor.

Scott Sloan, a former Herald-Leader reporter with a keen sense of recent Lexington history and local foibles, was up next — but it seems that we introduced Sloan to the site, so that’s on us.

Tim Woodburn, an outspoken former Lexington radio personality who is now in Missouri, repeatedly threatened on radio to run for mayor of Lexington on one platform — to bomb and rebuild Nicholasville Road — and then resign.

Asked about New Circle Circular, Woodburn said via email: “I am not behind that website, but I think it’s ingenious.”

Griffin VanMeter, the Lexington entrepreneur and chief encouragement officer for the resurgence of North Limestone, said he didn’t know who was behind the New Circle Circular: “I wish it was me. It’s great stuff for sure.”

Danny Mayer, a citizen activist and former candidate for mayor, offered a suggestion of a local funny person but said the New Circle Circular wasn’t his.

“I haven’t seen this before, but some of these are pretty funny and have a broad satirical coverage of the city,” Mayer said.

Mayer suggested perhaps it was Atanas Golev, formerly of the University of Kentucky online satirical paper The Colonel. Golev said the New Circle Circular has “some brilliant stuff ... on there. So if you find out, let me know; would love to contribute.”

We probed a bit more on the site itself. Unfortunately, its registration yields no identifying information, and the website appears to be designed out of an easily obtainable blogging kit.

We tried direct email. This only complicated matters, as our author was not only trying to be anonymous but actively trying to mislead us.

The responding party insisted that he was a 60-year-old male married to a woman named Ruth and had a taste for Crank & Boom ice cream: “I haven’t agreed to any interviews thus far because my wife Ruth doesn’t want the fame going to my head of any young women chasing after me.”

But we don’t do anonymous interviews, was our response.

“Unfortunately, the writer behind the NCC being anonymous is part of the value of the publication,” the New Circle Circular responded. “We’d be more than happy to answer any of your questions but could not reveal to you the actual names associated with NCC.”

We probed a bit more around the site. Its author appears knowledgeable about local TV media, as there are repeated references to Lee Cruse, who reports for Channel 18, hosts a daily talk show on WVLK-AM and does stand-up comedy. There are passing references to Rob Bromley, WKYT sports anchor, and Sam Dick, WKYT news anchor.

So we asked Cruse, who responded: “None of my comedy or media buddies know, but we have speculated ad nauseam. Let me know if you find out this comedy caped crusader is.”

Chuck Creacy, the publisher at Smiley Pete Publications, which includes Business Lexington and the Chevy Chaser, said nope, it’s not him or his organization.

“Several people have asked if it’s us, but it’s not. ... I’d love to know, if you happen to find out,” he said

No matter who’s doing the writing, the New Circle Circular might be the most entertaining bit of local satire since Louisville News Doge took the Kentucky Twitterverse by storm in 2014 with his impassioned defense of long-form journalism. Louisville News Doge, a version of the Shiba Inu who introduced the Internet meme of the side-eyed pup speaking in Doge language, apparently deleted his Twitter in 2015.

In a 2014 interview with Chris Humphreys of the Voice-Tribune weekly newspaper, Louisville News Doge maintained his (her?) anonymity. Here’s part of the “interview”:

QUESTION: Does being a dog help you dig up the facts?

ANSWER: Doge superpower is smell. Much things stink.

Just now, the New Circle Circular smells like a brisk roasted peanut wind from the Smuckers’ plant — which the site has not yet mentioned, but can it be far away from an author who recently tweeted that Microsoft had bought “the Mary Todd LinkedIn House”?

We think not.

Think you know who the satirist is? We’re open to hearing your ideas.

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman

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