2014 ICT: general discussion

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2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:55 am

This is your general discussion thread for the 2014 NAQT ICT.

We'll start with thanks to the head editors, Seth Teitler and Andrew Yaphe, who made this tournament possible.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Mar 31, 2014 11:33 am

First of all, I'd like to say that playing the 2014 ICT tournament was a truly enjoyable experience from start to finish. Thanks to R, Joel, and Nathan for putting the logistics together, and to Seth and Andrew for putting the set together. Congratulations again to UVA for pulling through in a truly exhilarating finals match. I have no regrets; from the last bonus part until now, I've just been filled with gratitude at being part of such an amazing game and an intense, rejuvenating day of top-flight, no-holds-barred quizbowl.

I'll also say that from a purely functional perspective, the set served its purpose well: distinguishing bad teams from good teams from better teams from the best team in a relatively clear, consistent way (the editorial vision seemed consistently-applied throughout, without major fluctuations between rounds or categories). So I won't say the set was bad. It was good at doing what a national championship set does.

That said, I think that the editorial vision for this set was somewhat subpar or off-base and I would like to discuss suggestions which would make future ICTs better.

To start: I felt like too many tossups in this tournament had some really bizarre and suboptimal answer selection, in that tossup answers were chosen for which there's very little likelihood of teams having varying levels of depth of knowledge about the answer. To some extent, people complain every year about very hard outliers (e.g. Ninurta tossup last year), but it seemed this year like that sort of "have you heard of this?" style outlier was much more frequent. I'm curious whether conversion statistics bear out that there were more dead tossups than last year; from what I recall, the games we played usually had about two per game.

What's more, many tossups on pretty standard answers were clued in such a way that they, too, degenerated into more of a "have you heard of this?" mindset. Particularly in literature, pretty simple answers, such as "To His Coy Mistress" or "Ovid's Metamorphoses" (I actually thought the Metamorphoses tossup was pretty cool despite being singled out as a problem here), were written with many clues on secondary sources, translations, critical essays, interpretations, and single-sentence mentions of hard material, which more or less neutered the advantage a team would gain by reading primary texts in depth. This crowded out a lot of opportunities to test deep knowledge of plots, characters, and themes within the works themselves. And basic author or concept tossups were often loaded with information from 4 or 5 separate texts, making it hard to show anything but surface-level understanding by buzzing in. Now don't get me wrong; I don't think every tossup at a hard tournament has to be a deep investigation of what Ted Gioia would call "Core Works". I also realize the importance of contemporary academic work/criticism, and tend to enjoy hearing those clues when they're well written and interesting. But the combination of tossups which basically functioned as five-line bonus parts, shallow cluing of multiple works, and relentless use of secondary source clues made it seem like a team which browsed lists of important academic essays, or which spent a year doing nothing but attending graduate school cocktail parties, would do just as well as a team that was actually well-read in books of academic import and well-versed in many academic disciplines. And that is decidedly not ideal as far as I'm concerned.

To put it another way: the biggest problem with this tournament is that it systematically treated recognition of obscure knowledge as though it were the same as depth of knowledge. It basically felt like you didn't have to actually read anything to get points -- If Player A were merely aware of the existence of some book and Player B had read that book, there were very few instances where B actually had a significant advantage getting the tossup. Now, the best teams in the top bracket were certainly able to roll with the punches and had, in fact, "heard of that" much of the time. This tournament certainly did not get to ACF Nationals 2011 levels of silliness. And it was edited in such a consistent way that it felt like an eminently fair competition. But I think quizbowl at its best is not merely a contest of who has heard of more discrete entities, and values/promotes many types of learning which this tournament significantly undervalued (most notably: direct, deep study of decidedly important texts and events.). If I were editing a future ICT, I would want FAR more tossups to look like this year's questions on "Christabel," Congreve, and the embassy to Achilles, and FAR fewer tossups which looked like this year's tossups on Kant, Satterthwaite, The Masks of God, and Nergal.

In terms of writing stylistics, there was also a disproportionate number of "fill in the blank" clues with very little elaboration of significance, context, or even content of the work whose blank was to be filled (hypothetical example: "Bob McYapheberg wrote a study of [this phenomenon] and Mental Events"). A large number of the clues which consisted of a secondary academic author and the barest hint of information (h.e. "K. Kurt Hentzelson wrote an essay on this man's "heretical twitchings") ended up functioning more or less as fill-in-the-blanks in practice, even if they were meant to be meatier in theory. I realize it's hard with 500 characters to show within a clue, to people who don't know a clue, that the clue is important enough to deserve to be there, but a lot of clues in this tournament seemed more or less arbitrary and I bet there's a way to tip one's hat the players a little more about the importance of a given clue by rewriting it slightly (hypothetical example revised: "Bob McYapheberg argued that this phenomenon disproves free will in his study of "[it] and Mental Events").

By contrast, I think that the bonuses at this tournament were handled pretty well -- generally much better so than the tossups. In particular, the impulse to ask about hard thinkers or authors by ensuring that at least two parts of the bonus were gettable without direct knowledge of their work (e.g. Jaegwon Kim bonus, Gayle Rubin bonus, that Sloterdijk dude, that Milanese author we screwed up in the final) was a good one, which exposed a lot of teams to interesting material that they otherwise might not run across on their own. It generally felt as though all bonuses were eminently 10able, and while every tournament could probably use some work smoothing out the comparative difficulty of middle parts from bonus to bonus, the overall picture of bonuses at this tournament looked like good work was put into them to make them interesting and reasonable. And stats seem to bear this out, what with there being a uniform increase in bonus conversion at the top of the field.

More specific thoughts:
  • I hated the philosophy questions in this tournament. Hated hated hated hated hated hated them. The "fill-in-the-blank"ism, and focus on obscurity rather than depth, basically ruined this part of the distribution, and made the focus on "concepts" rather than people (certainly a worthwhile editorial choice, to be clear) a frustrating exercise in binary matching. (As a philosophy major, I...)
  • It seemed like trash was generally saner this year in the tossups, and more eminently 10able/20able in the bonuses. This is good. From what I can tell, as an awful trash player who listens to some rock music sometimes, the trash at this tournament was toned down somewhat from the random grab bag of previous ICTs, and focused more on important/notable material, such that a team without a dedicated trash specialist (such as mine) wouldn't always think "well shit, here's a trash question; time to get boned by an instant 0 / time to get set back 40 points by this tossup." It also wasn't all stuck in the 80s or stuck with a myopic lens on the past twelve months, but spanned a broader time span without losing accessibility -- also good. Now, it still seems arguable that trash ought not be at ICT (I'd probably prefer that, frankly), but it seems like the quality of the questions this year isn't in itself an argument against trash's existence at this level. .5 cheers for that.
  • I think the current events at this tournament was also a small but noticeable step up, in terms of quality and focus on things important to the "modern world" writ large, from previous NAQT fare. There were some small misplacements of clues here or there (saying "Massey Energy" so early in the Manchin tossup wasn't ideal) but on the whole it focused on important stuff.
  • This tournament had a pretty high preponderance of Greco-Roman classics and ancient world questions across categories. Perhaps that's only true in the playoff rounds where I started to notice it. I wasn't complaining at the time, since I like classics / the ancient world and I'm pretty good at questions on it, but in more objective terms that's the sort of excess that could certainly skew a match one way or the other. That said, world archaeology is cool and I like that I've gotten to learn more about it from the past few ICTs.
  • NAQT geography invites the same complaints as always: these questions are usually boring lists of "almanac clues" and "atlas clues" which almost never draw any attention to what makes a place distinctive. (Welcome exception: this year's Zambezi river tossup.) They weren't any better or worse this year, but I think a good way to encapsulate my complaints about the rest of the set is that every non-science category felt like it was written in the style of NAQT geography, and that's not a compliment. (That said, I think that a lot of the more interesting innovations in geography writing, or posts about how to produce said innovations, aren't all public -- it might be a good idea if someone on the forefront of "interesting geography", such as Matt Weiner, re-opened the issue in public discussion, using insights from writing it over the past few years at HSAPQ, etc.)
  • If NAQT is having trouble writing 500 character tossups with a good number of interesting, gettable middle clues on subjects that teams can conceivably have depth of knowledge about, it may be worth considering a shift to 550 or 600 characters (Of course, this could just result in one more hard leadin clue and no other major changes to most tossups, if no other changes in editorial vision are enacted.) NAQT also ought to have its ICT editors articulate their ideal vision more clearly to the core group of writers working on the set, so that the bulk of raw questions are written with the editors' ideal view in mind, and the raw questions are less extreme when there are 100+ true needs the week before and people are just writing on whatever comes into their mind to close gaps in the set.
With all that said, I realize that building the ICT is a giant team effort. For everything, there is a season: a time to gripe on the forums, and a time to actually pitch in and make things better. I will not be in school next year, so I'm definitely glad to step up and practice what I preach by writing questions for next year's ICT, so as to help assuage my concerns for future teams and keep this event going strong. I have some ideas already.

Horologium delendum est.
Last edited by Adventure Temple Trail on Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:03 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by vinteuil » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:20 pm

Is there going to be a separate thread for discussing logistics? I get the feeling that there might be several people who would want to discuss this year's prelim bracketing in depth.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:21 pm

I got that sense as well. Since the bracketing has nothing to do with question content, we can have that discussion outside this private forum. I'll post a thread.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Cody » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:26 pm

I would also like to have a public discussion of the extremely unfair practices of: carrying over all prelim games and allowing a team down 2+ games to enter a finals and win the tournament by winning just two games.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:28 pm

Renesmee LaHotdog Voight wrote:I would also like to have a public discussion of the extremely unfair practices of: carrying over all prelim games and allowing a team down 2+ games to enter a finals and win the tournament by winning just two games.
Didn't Virginia only have one loss? Or is this a hypothetical?
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:28 pm

Noted. I'll start another new thread for that.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by vinteuil » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:28 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Renesmee LaHotdog Voight wrote:I would also like to have a public discussion of the extremely unfair practices of: carrying over all prelim games and allowing a team down 2+ games to enter a finals and win the tournament by winning just two games.
Didn't Virginia only have one loss? Or is this a hypothetical?
I think this is supposed to be a hypothetical.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Cody » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:32 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Didn't Virginia only have one loss? Or is this a hypothetical?
This did not happen this year, but I'm told it is possible and did happen at the 2005 D2 ICT (note that Chicago is 12-3 vs Michigan's 12-3 if you discount the tiebreaker game with Harding to get into the final, which you should).
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:06 pm

RyuAqua wrote:[*]I think the current events at this tournament was also a small but noticeable step up, in terms of quality and focus on things important to the "modern world" writ large, from previous NAQT fare. There were some small misplacements of clues here or there (saying "Massey Energy" so early in the Manchin tossup wasn't ideal) but on the whole it focused on important stuff.
I didn't have anything to do with this question, but (AS A WEST VIRGINIAN~~~~) I'm a little surprised that the Massey Energy clue would be that closely connected with WV, especially since they've also done dumb stuff in Kentucky.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:06 am

RyuAqua wrote:To start: I felt like too many tossups in this tournament had some really bizarre and suboptimal answer selection, in that tossup answers were chosen for which there's very little likelihood of teams having varying levels of depth of knowledge about the answer. To some extent, people complain every year about very hard outliers (e.g. Ninurta tossup last year), but it seemed this year like that sort of "have you heard of this?" style outlier was much more frequent. I'm curious whether conversion statistics bear out that there were more dead tossups than last year; from what I recall, the games we played usually had about two per game.

What's more, many tossups on pretty standard answers were clued in such a way that they, too, degenerated into more of a "have you heard of this?" mindset. Particularly in literature, pretty simple answers, such as "To His Coy Mistress" or "Ovid's Metamorphoses" (I thought the Metamorphoses tossup was pretty cool despite being singled out as a problem here), were written with many clues on secondary sources, translations, critical essays, interpretations, and single-sentence mentions of hard material, which more or less neutered the advantage a team would gain by reading primary texts in depth. This crowded out a lot of opportunities to test deep knowledge of plots, characters, and themes within the works themselves. And basic author or concept tossups were often loaded with information from 4 or 5 separate texts, making it hard to show anything but surface-level understanding by buzzing in. Now don't get me wrong; I don't think every tossup at a hard tournament has to be a deep investigation of what Ted Gioia would call "Core Works". I also realize the importance of contemporary academic work/criticism, and tend to enjoy hearing those clues when they're well written and interesting. But the combination of tossups which basically functioned as five-line bonus parts, shallow cluing of multiple works, and relentless use of secondary source clues made it seem like a team which browsed lists of important academic essays, or which spent a year doing nothing but attending graduate school cocktail parties, would do just as well as a team that was actually well-read in books of academic import and well-versed in many academic disciplines. And that is decidedly not ideal as far as I'm concerned.

To put it another way: the biggest problem with this tournament is that it systematically treated recognition of obscure knowledge as though it were the same as depth of knowledge. It basically felt like you didn't have to actually read anything to get points -- If Player A were merely aware of the existence of some book and Player B had read that book, there were very few instances where B actually had a significant advantage getting the tossup. Now, the best teams in the top bracket were certainly able to roll with the punches and had, in fact, "heard of that" much of the time. This tournament certainly did not get to ACF Nationals 2011 levels of silliness. And it was edited in such a consistent way that it felt like an eminently fair competition. But I think quizbowl at its best is not merely a contest of who has heard of more discrete entities, and values/promotes many types of learning which this tournament significantly undervalued (most notably: direct, deep study of decidedly important texts and events.). If I were editing a future ICT, I would want FAR more tossups to look like this year's questions on "Christabel," Congreve, and the embassy to Achilles, and FAR fewer tossups which looked like this year's tossups on Kant, Satterthwaite, The Masks of God, and Nergal.
Matt Jackson articulated well the major problem I had with this set's tossups.

I mentioned in the SCT thread that I thought that this year's DI SCT was the strongest SCT that I've played. I'm afraid that I have to say the inverse statement with regards to at least the literature questions at this year's ICT: they struck me as the weakest I have yet played. To verify that this is not just a result of my possibly becoming more critical with age, I re-read this tournament and then flipped through previous sets. This confirmed that my initial impressions of this year's literature questions-- as being poorer on the whole than those of previous years, and as feeling like a sort of time capsule of bad practices from the mid-2000's style of writing-- were true.

To lay my cards on the table: I believe that main form of knowledge acquisition that literature tossups should reward is reading works of literature, and I think the best way to reward this is by writing lead-in and middle clues that draw upon plot events, snippets of dialogue, memorable moments, and imagery. Let us call these "primary reading" clues. Against these sorts of clues, I would oppose title drops, character names, one-sentence summaries of obscure works, scholarly clues, biographical data, and title fill-in-the-blanks. I am not suggesting that the sorts of clues in this second group are automatically anathema, or that the forms of knowledge they reward are inherently illegitimate. I am merely suggesting that they reward broader awareness of literary culture (i.e. "having heard of things") rather than primary engagement with literature, and that this should not be the main form of literature knowledge we seek to reward in our questions. In the current quizbowl mainstream, this would seem an entirely uncontroversial proposition.

This tournament's literature flouted this idea, more so than that of any of other collegiate tournament I've played. I fared well on the literature questions as a player, but had I not read a single work of literature in the past 6-7 years, I would have gotten exactly one fewer tossups, because the literature tossups were mostly strings of titles and character names that did not require me to have actually read any literature. Instead, I got almost all of my literature points at this tournament by having heard of things.

I have reviewed the 13 packets I played in the prelims and playoffs. There wasn't a single tossup on an individual play. Exactly two poetry tossups cite more than two individual short quotations from any one poem; those are the tossups on "To Roosevelt" and The Bridge. The other poetry tossups are clued from many works (some of them works secondary literature) clued from short snippets. In other words, "To Roosevelt" and The Bridge are the only two poems you could possibly be rewarded for having close-read.

Likewise, there were exactly four tossups on individual novels (if we count the tossup on Bazarov as a Fathers and Sons tossup). One of these was a horrendous tossup on A Hazard of New Fortunes that dropped both Conrad and Every Other Week in the first clue. There were three tossups on individual short stories, the first of which was a badly-structured tossup on "Hills Like White Elephants" that started with the second most-famous line from that story. The tossup on Celine was the only author tossup to test "primary reading" knowledge of its author, by giving more than a surface summary of the works clued within.

So, after combing through all the literature I heard in those 13 rounds: I find 10 tossups that provide opportunities to reward some kind of "primary reading" knowledge (generously defined; I've included even that bad "Hills Like White Elephants" question and some questions that start dropping character names really early) out of 42 literature tossups asked, and most of these 10 are short stories or poems.

NAQT tournaments have always contained a higher proportion of "secondary" clues, but this strikes me as an unreasonably high proportion. And the lack of drama questions is simply unacceptable. This literature distribution's strong emphasis on "having heard of things" rather than "having read things" felt like an outdated relic of years long ago, and felt like a backslide from previous ICT's, which if still below the circuit norm were nonetheless better than this year's ICT.

Given the length of my post already, I don't want to dwell too much on other points, but I should also add that bonus difficulty in the Literature distribution also struck me as more divergent than usual. To pick two examples: there was a bonus that went "Anthem for Doomed Youth / Owen / Strange Meeting", which is easier than pretty much any bonus I've seen in ACF Regionals in years; but there was a bonus that went "Colson Whitehead / John Henry Days / NYC", where the middle part was clearly harder than most of this tournament's hard parts, and which belonged in Chicago Open and not in ICT. This divergence continued throughout, and bespeaks either a disconnection from a modern conception of bonus difficulty, or lack of stringent difficulty control standards.

I understand how NAQT sets are written, and I know that many questions are often written quickly, and close to the deadline for the tournament's completion. Naturally, when this is the case, writers take the easy way out and write a formulaic tossup like the Congreve one that goes: Basic Summary of Work A, Basic Summary of Work B, Title of Work A, Basic Summary of Work C, Title of Work B, Title of Work C; and which rewards you for knowing the basic plot or character names or works A, B, or C. But unless this tournament was generally written rather last-minute, it gives the impression that this was not a matter of being in a rush, but rather a matter of there being little to no commitment on the part of the writers/editors to rewarding "primary reading".

My big worry is that Matt Jackson and my posts are not going to change this fact, because our criticisms either won't filter down to the writers (who generally do not read these boards, and just keep writing like they've been writing, unless an editor or high-up person tells them otherwise) or will be largely discounted. After all, all of us who complain about these things keep playing ICT every year, because within quizbowl culture, it retains status as one of the two most prestigious titles.

So, I'm now addressing the community at large: the best and most likely way for these changes to happen is for more good, young writers who value these principles to start writing for NAQT. I have to say, I'm always frustrated when I meet people who complain about NAQT's collegiate questions but then say that they would never try to write for NAQT themselves to try to effect the changes they want to see. If any of you have played a tournament I have edited in the past three or so years, you likely know that my writing aesthetic is about as far as one can get from that which was displayed at this year's ICT. But the first thing I did when I realized I wouldn't be playing SCT and ICT last academic year was to offer to write lots of questions for them, and then to work closely with them to figure out how to write well for their format. If I could learn to tailor my writing to NAQT's specifications and still produce questions I thought were true to modern principles, so can you.

Obviously, I still have a lot of complaints as a player of NAQT's college questions, but I have no complaints as an employee of NAQT. (To be clear, I am a subject editor for NAQT at the IS-set level.) Their system of tournament construction maybe takes a little bit of getting used to at the beginning, but after that initial period of adjustment, it is actually surprisingly streamlined and effective. I have been treated well as a writer and editor. They have given me lots of constructive feedback as to how to work to make my own writing and editing concerns dovetail with theirs, and have been generally accepting of most of my suggestions. The "culture gap" between NAQT's cluing styles and those of most tournaments in the quizbowl mainstream could be closed very quickly if the community got more involved with NAQT. If every good writer who is ineligible to play these tournaments wrote just a couple of questions for ICT every year, this yearly ritual of complaining about the tournament would evaporate.

So, my post is directed at those responsible for subject and set-editing ICT, who I hope will take my criticisms to heart, but it is also directed at all of you, who I encourage to get more involved with NAQT.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by AKKOLADE » Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:27 am

My big worry is that Matt Jackson and my posts are not going to change this fact, because our criticisms either won't filter down to the writers (who generally do not read these boards, and just keep writing like they've been writing, unless an editor or high-up person tells them otherwise) or will be largely discounted. After all, all of us who complain about these things keep playing ICT every year, because within quizbowl culture, it retains status as one of the two most prestigious titles.
Roughly 3/4 of the lit questions, if not more, were by Yaphe.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 01, 2014 11:27 am

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
To lay my cards on the table: I believe that main form of knowledge acquisition that literature tossups should reward is reading works of literature, and I think the best way to reward this is by writing lead-in and middle clues that draw upon plot events, snippets of dialogue, memorable moments, and imagery. Let us call these "primary reading" clues. Against these sorts of clues, I would oppose title drops, character names, one-sentence summaries of obscure works, scholarly clues, biographical data, and title fill-in-the-blanks. I am not suggesting that the sorts of clues in this second group are automatically anathema, or that the forms of knowledge they reward are inherently illegitimate. I am merely suggesting that they reward broader awareness of literary culture (i.e. "having heard of things") rather than primary engagement with literature, and that this should not be the main form of literature knowledge we seek to reward in our questions. In the current quizbowl mainstream, this would seem an entirely uncontroversial proposition.
To quickly respond to this: In fact, I do take issue with this distinction between so-called "primary engagement with literature" (which appears to reduce to "reading Great Works of Literature in and of themselves, devoid of intellectual context") and some lesser thing identified as "broader awareness of literary culture." Or, to put it another way, I do not think that "primary engagement with literature" consists entirely of communing with individual literary texts in their isolated splendor (any more than I think that "primary engagement with philosophy" consists entirely of communing with individual philosophical texts, even though that appears to be a presupposition of a large component of Matt Jackson's critique of that aspect of the set).

I understand that this notion of vaunting "primary engagement with literature" has become something of a high-level lit player circuit shibboleth, and I'm not under the illusion that I'll be able to overcome it in the course of one glancing post in this discussion forum. I'll simply say that when I crank out my 200-odd ICT questions, which I do in order to insure that there actually is a set, I do so according to my own philosophy of what the lit distribution should look like. And my "philosophy" of that is not unlike my philosophy of the philosophy distribution--i.e., that it should consist of a mix of "descriptions of works purely from intrinsic features of those works" (e.g. the Bazarov tossup), "tossups on authors from descriptions of their works" (e.g. that Celine tossup), and "common-link tossups that cut across a variety of categories and allow me to touch on aspects of literature that wouldn't be askable otherwise" (e.g., presumably, "any number of tossups that infuriated John").

I don't anticipate that the above explanation will satisfy John, Matt, or anyone else--I don't have time right now to produce a fuller account of my thinking (which would also perhaps prove unsatisfactory to John, Matt, et al.). My point here is simply to say that there is a point of view behind the questions in the set. Also, I wanted to say that John's final points about "if you don't like it, write for NAQT!" are ones I can heartily agree with. I would be delighted, as NAQT's upper-level literature editor, to usher into our D1 sets all sorts of questions that "reward primary engagement with literature," were people to write them.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Apr 01, 2014 12:05 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
To lay my cards on the table: I believe that main form of knowledge acquisition that literature tossups should reward is reading works of literature, and I think the best way to reward this is by writing lead-in and middle clues that draw upon plot events, snippets of dialogue, memorable moments, and imagery. Let us call these "primary reading" clues. Against these sorts of clues, I would oppose title drops, character names, one-sentence summaries of obscure works, scholarly clues, biographical data, and title fill-in-the-blanks. I am not suggesting that the sorts of clues in this second group are automatically anathema, or that the forms of knowledge they reward are inherently illegitimate. I am merely suggesting that they reward broader awareness of literary culture (i.e. "having heard of things") rather than primary engagement with literature, and that this should not be the main form of literature knowledge we seek to reward in our questions. In the current quizbowl mainstream, this would seem an entirely uncontroversial proposition.
To quickly respond to this: In fact, I do take issue with this distinction between so-called "primary engagement with literature" (which appears to reduce to "reading Great Works of Literature in and of themselves, devoid of intellectual context") and some lesser thing identified as "broader awareness of literary culture." Or, to put it another way, I do not think that "primary engagement with literature" consists entirely of communing with individual literary texts in their isolated splendor (any more than I think that "primary engagement with philosophy" consists entirely of communing with individual philosophical texts, even though that appears to be a presupposition of a large component of Matt Jackson's critique of that aspect of the set).

I understand that this notion of vaunting "primary engagement with literature" has become something of a high-level lit player circuit shibboleth, and I'm not under the illusion that I'll be able to overcome it in the course of one glancing post in this discussion forum. I'll simply say that when I crank out my 200-odd ICT questions, which I do in order to insure that there actually is a set, I do so according to my own philosophy of what the lit distribution should look like. And my "philosophy" of that is not unlike my philosophy of the philosophy distribution--i.e., that it should consist of a mix of "descriptions of works purely from intrinsic features of those works" (e.g. the Bazarov tossup), "tossups on authors from descriptions of their works" (e.g. that Celine tossup), and "common-link tossups that cut across a variety of categories and allow me to touch on aspects of literature that wouldn't be askable otherwise" (e.g., presumably, "any number of tossups that infuriated John").

I don't anticipate that the above explanation will satisfy John, Matt, or anyone else--I don't have time right now to produce a fuller account of my thinking (which would also perhaps prove unsatisfactory to John, Matt, et al.). My point here is simply to say that there is a point of view behind the questions in the set. Also, I wanted to say that John's final points about "if you don't like it, write for NAQT!" are ones I can heartily agree with. I would be delighted, as NAQT's upper-level literature editor, to usher into our D1 sets all sorts of questions that "reward primary engagement with literature," were people to write them.
Just to be clear about where we stand, is your position:

(A) You care about what the community thinks of your questions, and are willing to take those opinions into account, but you are simply unconvinced that Matt and I are an accurate representation of the community at large and think we are just a particular vocal minority.
(B) It doesn't matter what the community as a whole thinks of your questions, because your philosophy is intellectually valid (and/or you consider the community's philosophy to be inferior or just a fad) and therefore your philosophy should continue to be enacted. While as an editor, you will not reject questions from writers subscribing to other viable philosophies, as a writer, you have no intention whatsoever of altering your philosophy.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 01, 2014 12:46 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
Just to be clear about where we stand, is your position:

(A) You care about what the community thinks of your questions, and are willing to take those opinions into account, but you are simply unconvinced that Matt and I are an accurate representation of the community at large and think we are just a particular vocal minority.
(B) It doesn't matter what the community as a whole thinks of your questions, because your philosophy is intellectually valid (and/or you consider the community's philosophy to be inferior or just a fad) and therefore your philosophy should continue to be enacted. While as an editor, you will not reject questions from writers subscribing to other viable philosophies, as a writer, you have no intention whatsoever of altering your philosophy.
To put it facetiously: a little from column A, and a little from column B.

To put it more seriously, I'm always a little dubious of the concept of "the community" (and generally suspect that there is a tendency of particularly vocal posters on hsquizbowl/participants in the irc to identify themselves with "the community" writ large, whatever that is). I acknowledge that "John Lawrence has a philosophy of literature tossups that differs from my own." I don't necessarily accept that "'the community' has a philosophy of literature tossups that differs from my own."

To put it yet another (Jamesian) way: My own view is that there are multiple "live options" regarding legitimate ways to conceptualize (and thus, reward) knowledge in quizbowl. (There are also "dead options"--e.g., the "For a quick ten points, who wrote Paradise Lost?" option that was an actual thing in the 1980s.) John's is a live option--to my mind it is unduly Puritanical, narrow, and oddly redolent of a Mortimer Adler-esque approach to "knowledge," but obviously reasonable people differ on this. And, to respond a bit more directly to John's post, I am happy (in my role as editor) to "not reject questions from writers subscribing to other viable philosophies." Thus, I have never rejected an NAQT question because it "focuses too singlemindedly on intrinsic aspects of an individual work of literature," even though I don't regard that as the one and only correct criterion for acceptable literature questions.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:00 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I don't necessarily accept that "'the community' has a philosophy of literature tossups that differs from my own."
I don't have a dog in this fight since literature is by far my worst category, but this sentiment is pretty much universal among several strong literature players. I don't want to speak for anyone, but this sentiment has been expressed to me by Evan Adams, Tommy Casalaspi, Matt Bollinger, Saajid Moyen, Ted Gioia (in running commentary during the actual final), John Lawrence, Matt Jackson (more in relation to your philosophy questions, which I take to belong to a similar philosophy), and Matt Weiner at the very least.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:07 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I don't necessarily accept that "'the community' has a philosophy of literature tossups that differs from my own."
I don't have a dog in this fight since literature is by far my worst category, but this sentiment is pretty much universal among several strong literature players. I don't want to speak for anyone, but this sentiment has been expressed to me by Evan Adams, Tommy Casalaspi, Matt Bollinger, Saajid Moyen, Ted Gioia (in running commentary during the actual final), John Lawrence, Matt Jackson (more in relation to your philosophy questions, which I take to belong to a similar philosophy), and Matt Weiner at the very least.
I think the point here is to note what Matt Jackson said, especially in light of the character limit. It's not that criticism and external sources ought to be off limits, it's that by simply naming the criticism and/or its author without a (sufficiently buzzable) description, you're playing have-you-heard-of-this rather than rewarding actual engagement with that scholarship. In my discipline-spanning philosophy of tossup writing, the lead-in to every literature/history/philosophy/mythology/social science tossup would be about a scholarly work related to interpreting or contextualizing the subject of the tossup, but 1. there's not usually space to do that and still have a sufficiently shallow difficulty gradient, and 2. often the authors and titles of such secondary works are by far the most buzzable thing about them, so the writer has to be careful about writing the description in a meaty and delicious way and not necessarily give the title and author if they skew things toward (Matt's Jackson's unfactual but evocative description of) a graduate school cocktail party.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:34 pm

I thought the geography and (contra Matt Jackson) current events seemed weaker at this set than in the past. Geography, as he pointed out, tended to be a slew of uninteresting almanac stuff (a question in the playoffs unironically began with a fucking highest point clue), and to me, the current events were a stream of "do you know the leader of this country? Opposition parties? Governors of this state?" stuff (this was better than geography, but to me, I would write more concept or debate type things here as opposed to just person/place).

Trash was probably better in terms of actually spreading around the trash to reward recent and past stuff. I do think there was some overly specific trash answerlines (a supporting character from Phoenix Wright?), but perhaps that's what the kids like. The sports seemed rather dubious though (Slam Dunk Contest, Oklahoma State, longest field goal).

History was quite good; there were really some quite good ideas like "Joseph Cannon getting shitcanned."
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:41 pm

Cheynem wrote:History was quite good; there were really some quite good ideas like "Joseph Cannon getting shitcanned."
Agreed that this was a good idea, but it should have said "description acceptable."
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Jason Cheng » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:57 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I have reviewed the 13 packets I played in the prelims and playoffs. There wasn't a single tossup on an individual play.
There was a tossup on J.B. by Archibald MacLeish in DII. I thought it was a pretty predictable "fuck you have a 10" in DII, but then again, a lot of tossups last Saturday for me were.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:12 pm

Tees-Exe Line wrote:
Cheynem wrote:History was quite good; there were really some quite good ideas like "Joseph Cannon getting shitcanned."
Agreed that this was a good idea, but it should have said "description acceptable."
Can somebody post this question here to see what the answerline said exactly? I gave a description and it was accepted, but I got the impression that "Cannon Revolt" or something like that was the only answer on the page.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by setht » Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:16 pm

I'm late with this, but I want to thank all of the writers and editors who worked on the DI set this year. This year's set did not saunter jauntily over the finish line with plenty of time to spare. I'm not sure what would have happened without everyone's contributions; I'm just very, very glad that people did pitch in. The warts of the set are ultimately my responsibility, and I apologize for them. I would like to think that if there had been more time, most or all of the things people have complained about would have been caught and fixed. I would also like to think that production of next year's set will be pushed forward in a more timely fashion.

Please keep the feedback coming.

Thanks,
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:18 pm

Sulawesi Myzomela wrote:
Tees-Exe Line wrote:
Cheynem wrote:History was quite good; there were really some quite good ideas like "Joseph Cannon getting shitcanned."
Agreed that this was a good idea, but it should have said "description acceptable."
Can somebody post this question here to see what the answerline said exactly? I gave a description and it was accepted, but I got the impression that "Cannon Revolt" or something like that was the only answer on the page.
answer line wrote:_Cannon_ Revolt (accept equivalents that mention Joseph Gurney _Cannon_)
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:20 pm

Then the impression I got was wrong. I think the answerline is good enough.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:54 pm

It might be helpful to distinguish between what I would term "ideological" criticism of the ICT and what I would term "empirical" criticism. I'll pick a tossup at random to make the distinction more immediate.

A response to this poem by {A. D. Hope} ends with the speaker saying she is "grateful for the rhyme" and wishing this poem's author "better luck next time." In an essay on this poem's author, {T. S. Eliot} said that a "whole civilization resides in" four of its lines. This poem's title figure has a "willing soul" that "transpires / At every pore with (*) instant fires," and its speaker alludes to his "vegetable love." For 10 points--name this poem that begins "Had we but world enough and time," by Andrew Marvell.

The "ideological" critique of this is something like "the first two sentences do not 'reward' readers of 'To His Coy Mistress' itself, and because these clues do not derive from a 'primary reading' of the poem, they do not represent the 'primary engagement with literature' that literature tossups should 'seek to reward.'" (I am quoting--I think, fairly--from John Lawrence's post below.) Again, I disagree with this critique. In this case, for instance, I would argue that Eliot's criticism of Marvell is of major significance, and that people who have "primary engagement with literature [in this case, metaphysical poetry and the early-20th-century critical interventions that raised it to prominence]" either know, or should know, that clue.

The "empirical" critique of this, by contrast, would be something like "regardless of whether the first two sentences are significant or interesting in theory, as a practical matter almost nobody knew them; thus, as a consequence, even very good lit players were unable to buzz on a large swathe of clues in the tossup." I do not know whether this critique is true, but I am much more sympathetic to it and interested in finding out whether it is correct. ("Correct" not just of this particular question, obviously, but of the set in general.)

Insofar as I'm personally implicated in this, another way of putting this point would be something like this: "Remember back in 2005 when you basically wrote ACF nats, and it turned out to be nearly impossible because you assumed that people had much greater depth of humanities knowledge than was in fact the case? Well, 2014 ICT suffered, to a lesser extent, from the same flaws, which meant that very few people were able to buzz on clues that you mistakenly believed would be much more accessible to the field than they turned out to be." If that is the argument, then I am very open to it. If our tossups are producing a subpar distribution of buzzes because they are too "top heavy" with clues that almost nobody knows, that is definitely something we want to fix. My point here, though, is to observe that this is an empirical point (about who is buzzing when), and not an ideological point (about whether the tossups "properly rewarded" the correct mode of "engagement" with the subject).
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:04 pm

I don't have any ideological problem with such a question--I think as to your latter note, yeah, the question does become top-heavy, especially when you consider:

1. These questions are being played in many rooms, including for lower bracket teams.
2. These questions are short, meaning that such lead-ins remove the space for middle clues.

In effect, then, if you are unfamiliar with the Hope or Eliot things (which may be legitimately important, I have no idea), you get one line of the poem and then the most famous bits of it read at game speed to you, which is what happened in our room.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by MorganV » Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:14 pm

Cheynem wrote: I do think there was some overly specific trash answerlines (a supporting character from Phoenix Wright?)
Could I see this tossup out of pure vanity
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:20 pm

DI ICT round 8 wrote:This video game character is the target of Wendy Oldbag's unwelcome crush, and is a fervent Steel Samurai fan. Kay Faraday helps this man break up a smuggling ring in a spin-off "Investigations" game named for him. After he lost his perfect win record in the "Turnabout Sisters" (*) case, he was framed for murder by his mentor Manfred von Karma and was forced to hire his chief courtroom rival as his defense attorney. For 10 points--name this cravat-wearing prosecutor who often opposes Phoenix Wright.

answer: _Miles_ _Edgeworth_ (accept either underlined portion)
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:27 pm

Yeah, as much as I would have loved that tossup, it's just too hard.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:31 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:The "empirical" critique of this, by contrast, would be something like "regardless of whether the first two sentences are significant or interesting in theory, as a practical matter almost nobody knew them; thus, as a consequence, even very good lit players were unable to buzz on a large swathe of clues in the tossup." I do not know whether this critique is true, but I am much more sympathetic to it and interested in finding out whether it is correct. ("Correct" not just of this particular question, obviously, but of the set in general.)

Insofar as I'm personally implicated in this, another way of putting this point would be something like this: "Remember back in 2005 when you basically wrote ACF nats, and it turned out to be nearly impossible because you assumed that people had much greater depth of humanities knowledge than was in fact the case? Well, 2014 ICT suffered, to a lesser extent, from the same flaws, which meant that very few people were able to buzz on clues that you mistakenly believed would be much more accessible to the field than they turned out to be." If that is the argument, then I am very open to it. If our tossups are producing a subpar distribution of buzzes because they are too "top heavy" with clues that almost nobody knows, that is definitely something we want to fix. My point here, though, is to observe that this is an empirical point (about who is buzzing when), and not an ideological point (about whether the tossups "properly rewarded" the correct mode of "engagement" with the subject).
I was planning on posting something regarding the literature, since I didn't care for much of it either, but I also don't necessarily agree entirely with John's ideological arguments, and this actually sums it up nicely. The biggest impression I got was that of top-heaviness--lots of common links with early clues from incredibly hard works, lots of tossups that spent most or all of the power clues describing critical responses, that sort of thing. There were few questions that were really hideous individually, but the overall effect is exactly what your second paragraph describes.

Also, much less importantly, I enjoyed the Colson Whitehead bonus. It was certainly incredibly hard, though.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Tue Apr 01, 2014 5:17 pm

As a person who only moderated at ICT, I also don't particularly have a dog in this fight outside of being an engaged (though certainly in a more regional and specific capacity than most posters here) member of the community. But I'm a big believer in the use of critical, contextual, and intellectual-historical clues for literary works. I tried to use a lot of those for that long-ago first lit singles tournament edited by Jonathan Magin to which I contributed.

I won't try to add to the points made already by Andrew, to all of which I say "super-mega-dittoes" (is that still a thing?). Anyway, my tiny addition to this discussion is that including such clues is a way of rewarding the knowledge accumulated by people who actually major in literature. Granted, I went to a school which, at the time, was known as a theory-centric place (UF in the late 80s and 90s), but I'm confident that undergrads and grad students in literature regularly are assigned or read on their own works of criticism and literary theory nearly as much as they are assigned primary literary texts (well, almost as much, anyway).

I understand that we don't try to align the game specifically to college curricula, but I've always assumed that we want to reward people who do academic study in a specific discipline. So including such non-plot/dialogue/quote clues seems to me a good way of doing that, at least sometimes.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:06 pm

I think that the ideological and empirical criticisms really do merge at ICT length (other people have pointed to this). As people have pointed out, that tossup on "To His Coy Mistress" basically had 2 hard clues, one hardish middle clue and two easy clues including the giveaway. There probably isn't room for much more than that, so it would probably be better to replace one of the hard clues with a hardish middle clue to smooth out the pyramid a bit (and the first easy clue? Who's buzzing on "Marvell" that isn't buzzing on "vegetable love" at ICT?).
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:09 pm

I've never read this poem, so I would not be buzzing on "vegetable love" but still be buzzing on Marvell. I understand your point, though.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Apr 01, 2014 7:57 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:The "ideological" critique of this is something like "the first two sentences do not 'reward' readers of 'To His Coy Mistress' itself, and because these clues do not derive from a 'primary reading' of the poem, they do not represent the 'primary engagement with literature' that literature tossups should 'seek to reward.'" (I am quoting--I think, fairly--from John Lawrence's post below.) Again, I disagree with this critique. In this case, for instance, I would argue that Eliot's criticism of Marvell is of major significance, and that people who have "primary engagement with literature [in this case, metaphysical poetry and the early-20th-century critical interventions that raised it to prominence]" either know, or should know, that clue.
I do not deny that my critique is ideological, but this is a misreading of my post. I also think you are misreading Matt Jackson. Perhaps we are at fault for not being clear enough.

I am not a "Great Books" advocate. I am not some neo-conservative or "Puritannical" (as you call it) disciple of Mortimer Adler. I am neither ignorant of nor in opposition to the forms of literary criticism that have taken root in academia since the 50's. The department in which I did my undergraduate English studies was knee-deep in critical theory and New Historicism. My senior essay in that department was a review of secondary literature on the ending to Henry James' The Ambassadors, rather than a primary interpretation. I am current enrolled in a Music History and Theory graduate program where most of what I do everyday is talk about secondary literature. Unless something has changed in the two years since we were together at Yale, Matt Jackson is not an ivory tower analytic who hates history of philosophy; far from it.

Not only do we not oppose these things as individuals, we very clearly do not oppose these things as editors. In fact, if you look at the tournaments the two of us have edited in the past couple of years, you will probably find an above-average engagement with the work being done within our disciplines. We certainly do not write exclusively single-work tossups, based on deep cluing of single works. We write common-links, conceptual questions, etc. We care about broad engagement within our areas of expertise.

I have no ideological opposition to this "To His Coy Mistress" tossup (although I do agree that it is a pragmatically poor question there is no difficulty gradation between the criticism clues and the textual clues, just a large cliff). I have no ideological opposition to an individual question using a non-primary clue. My ideological position, as I stated above, is that "primary reading" should be the main form of engagement rewarded in literature questions, and I mean "main" as in: across the distribution of an entire tournament. My objection is not that this tournament was pluralistic (a fact that in itself is good), or that it contained non-primary clues; the objection that I stated is that fewer that 1/4 of the literature tossups in this tournament in way rewarded one for reading any work of literature in depth. I'm sure you still reject this as a sound line of criticism (so be it), but I wanted to point out that this is not the view you have ascribed to me in your two most recent responses. This part of our disagreement seems to merely a question of how much to emphasize the different forms of engagement.

However, I find the characterization of the tournament we played on Saturday as actually meaningfully rewarding non-"primary reading" intellectual engagement to be spurious. Your intention may be to reward the diverse forms of engagement with literature that occur in upper-level courses and that are practiced by academic-minded readers, but I don't think that is what your questions end up doing. Only part of this is the "empirical" problem that not enough people have engaged with secondary literature for tossups drawing extensively on those clues, and so those tossups inevitably cliff. The bigger problem is that most of these other clues that occurred in this year's ICT are of the "have you heard of this", "can you buzz on this character name", or "can you fill in this title blank" variety. I'm not suggesting that this tournament rewarded people for reading "the wrong sorts of books"; I'm suggesting that this tournament did a bad job of rewarding reading.

As an example: neither Matt Jackson nor I could possibly object to a question on Kant that draws upon other philosopher's work on Kant rather than on Kant's own work for the early clues. Both of us have written/edited philosophy questions that operate like this. But the early clues in the Kant tossup don't actually test whether anyone has read any secondary literature on Kant; they test whether one knows that Manfred Kuehn, Kurt Stavenhagen, Karl Vorlander, and Ernst Cassirer wrote books on Kant.

The kinds of works you tend to draw upon for your early clues in these categories are things that nearly nobody (or literally nobody, in some cases) in the field has intellectually engaged with. Therefore, the substantive clues on these works (in the cases where they do occur) are ideologically good to my way of thinking (they are trying to reward some form of genuine engagement), but pragmatically bad (no one can buzz on them); and the non-substantive title drop / fill-in-the-blank / character name lead-ins are ideologically bad to my way of thinking (they reward facile word association) but pragmatically good (some people, namely those who memorize titles, can buzz on them).
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:34 pm

I don't see that it's worthwhile to get into a debate about whether I have misread your posts. Your posts are there; my responses are there; people can decide for themselves whether I've mischaracterized what you said. To be clear, I know nothing about your own academic pursuits, nor do I regard them as germane to the discussion at hand--my posts were solely a response to the quizbowl philosophy espoused in this discussion thread. After all, one could presumably be a passionate literary theorist in "real life" and simultaneously advocate for literature questions that solely ask about intrinsic features of individual literary texts. Or one could be the opposite, advocating for traditional close reading of texts in one's "real life" while pushing for a more free-wheeling approach to quizbowl that incorporates a wide range of extra-textual clues; in fact, the latter is basically a description of myself.

Let's take another example of a question that you presumably found objectionable:

{R. P. Blackmur} spent three decades on a biography of this man that he never finished, while Ernest Samuels won a Pulitzer Prize for ~The Major Phase~, the third volume of his biography of this man. This man's own works include biographies of {George Cabot Lodge} and (*) {secretary of the treasury} Albert Gallatin, while his major historical work recounts the administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. For 10 points--name this man who won a posthumous Pulitzer for a book on his ~Education~.

answer: Henry (Brooks) _Adams_

This question undeniably tests some sort of Henry Adams-related knowledge; the question between us is whether it tests the "right" kind of knowledge, or whether it is less legitimate than the counterfactual tossup I didn't write on (e.g.) the novel "Democracy." Again, there are two responses to that question. One is what I am calling "ideological"--that's the one that starts from the premise "invariably, or maybe in general, or maybe just ceteris paribus (I no longer know how strongly you want to express this preference) it is better to have tossups that reward 'engagement' with a discrete literary work itself." On that view, the answer is straightforward: the non-existent tossup on "Democracy" is better than this one. The other response is what I'm calling "empirical." It starts from the premise "whatever clues you use, it would be better if they are distributed such that the question elicits the proper range of buzzes." On that view, the answer is much less straightforward: maybe these hard and middle clues are judiciously chosen, or maybe one or more of them is imperfectly chosen; but there's no a priori way of determining which is the case.

My own position, obviously, is that both the tossup I didn't write on "Democracy" and the tossup I did write on Adams are fine, from an ideological perspective. (Which isn't to say that the actual Adams tossup might not be subpar from an empirical perspective, e.g. if what I thought were "middle clues" were actually too hard.) I don't really know how to defend this position, except to say that I have all the Henry Adams knowledge anyone in quizbowl might be expected to have--I've read Education multiple times; I've read both the novels; I've even read Mont Saint Michel, God help me; I've also read the Blackmur book referenced here and parts of the Samuels. Coming to a tossup like this with that wealth of knowledge, I can only say that I would be just as happy to hear this tossup as to hear the counterfactual one that has a discussion of something amusing that Baron Jacobi says, before working down to "better known" clues about Madeleine Lee, before getting to whatever the "Democracy" giveaway might be.

Whatever the criticism of this kind of tossup might be, I really don't get the objection that it rewards "facile word association" or "those who memorize titles." Is the idea that people are memorizing the titles of Pulitzer winners in the biography category, and they'll get this before people with genuine Adams knowledge? That seems ... unlikely. More generally, I fail to see how asking the kind of questions John appears to prefer will insulate the game from rewarding people who merely possess bad "facile" knowledge. If every lit tossup in quizbowl from now on were based on descriptions of works from "primary reading," then people would still accumulate facile, list-memorization-type knowledge about those works--they would just be facilely memorizing a different set of clues. (Character names, for instance, rather than titles.) Obviously I'm not saying that John is advocating that "every lit tossup in quizbowl from now on [should be] based on descriptions of works." I'm just saying that the quest to produce a kind of quizbowl that will stymie people who want to find shortcuts to "real knowledge," though understandable, is chimeric.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:42 pm

Without getting into an in-depth discussion about whether these clues are Right and Pure (I think they're fine, in moderation), my opinion of this question (and others like it) is that you tend to overestimate how many people have buzz-generating knowledge of biographies and secondary literature, and that the many ICT questions filled with such clues are more top-heavy than is ideal.

EDIT:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:The kinds of works you tend to draw upon for your early clues in these categories are things that nearly nobody (or literally nobody, in some cases) in the field has intellectually engaged with. Therefore, the substantive clues on these works (in the cases where they do occur) are ideologically good to my way of thinking (they are trying to reward some form of genuine engagement), but pragmatically bad (no one can buzz on them)[.]
Yes, exactly this.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by The Ununtiable Twine » Wed Apr 02, 2014 4:20 pm

bird bird bird bird bird wrote:
DI ICT round 8 wrote:This video game character is the target of Wendy Oldbag's unwelcome crush, and is a fervent Steel Samurai fan. Kay Faraday helps this man break up a smuggling ring in a spin-off "Investigations" game named for him. After he lost his perfect win record in the "Turnabout Sisters" (*) case, he was framed for murder by his mentor Manfred von Karma and was forced to hire his chief courtroom rival as his defense attorney. For 10 points--name this cravat-wearing prosecutor who often opposes Phoenix Wright.

answer: _Miles_ _Edgeworth_ (accept either underlined portion)
Auroni wrote:Yeah, as much as I would have loved that tossup, it's just too hard.
OBJECTION!
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by felgon123 » Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:14 am

I’m not one to post extensive breakdowns of individual questions, and I don’t have a copy of the set anyway, so I’ll mostly limit myself to general observations. By and large, I found the science in this set a bit frustrating. I’ll begin by appealing to the useful dichotomy drawn above between empirical and ideological criticism. As I am neither inclined nor qualified to declare Seth’s clues unimportant, unhelpful, or unknowable in any absolute sense, I simply want to call attention to the fact that a considerable number of the science tossups in his categories had 3-4 lines of clues that no one buzzed on, followed by a giveaway or pre-giveaway clue that any mediocre science player, or even any decent generalist, would know. To put it more concretely in terms of my own experience: there were a number of tossups on answers I’m rather familiar with that consisted of four lines of things I didn’t recognize followed by an easy giveaway, often the basic definition of the answer. Even if this is merely indicative of my own ignorance, or the collective ignorance of quizbowlers (since my displeasure seemed to be shared by others), that doesn’t change the fact that a sizeable chunk of the science questions were loaded with clues that didn’t distinguish between the existing levels of knowledge among players, when these differences do exist and very much can be exploited by well-written questions. One need only look at the tournament played a couple hours after ICT, Eric Mukherjee and Co.’s Lederberg 2, which consistently and skillfully distinguished between the knowledge levels of science players on canonical answers, both when written creatively and when written in a more straightforward fashion, as well as on more inspired or difficult answers.

Aside from that, I do have one ideological outcry about a specific question. Our game with Penn was one tossup away from having to be decided by the third tiebreaker question, a truly awful tossup on Hans Bethe, in which the first clue was about how he calculated the Lamb shift, arguably his most important achievement. Players are more likely to know that than they are to know anything at all about Charles Galton Darwin. A buzzer race on an easy lead-in like that would have been a terrible way to lose such an important game, and an embarrassing way to win.

On a more positive note, I did enjoy Selene’s biology more than the rest of the science, and I wish she had handled the chemistry as well. Nevertheless, I very much appreciate the work Seth did for this tournament; regardless of how I felt about some of the questions in his categories, I’m glad they existed and were there for us to play.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by setht » Thu Apr 03, 2014 1:34 pm

felgon123 wrote:I’m not one to post extensive breakdowns of individual questions, and I don’t have a copy of the set anyway, so I’ll mostly limit myself to general observations. By and large, I found the science in this set a bit frustrating. I’ll begin by appealing to the useful dichotomy drawn above between empirical and ideological criticism. As I am neither inclined nor qualified to declare Seth’s clues unimportant, unhelpful, or unknowable in any absolute sense, I simply want to call attention to the fact that a considerable number of the science tossups in his categories had 3-4 lines of clues that no one buzzed on, followed by a giveaway or pre-giveaway clue that any mediocre science player, or even any decent generalist, would know. To put it more concretely in terms of my own experience: there were a number of tossups on answers I’m rather familiar with that consisted of four lines of things I didn’t recognize followed by an easy giveaway, often the basic definition of the answer. Even if this is merely indicative of my own ignorance, or the collective ignorance of quizbowlers (since my displeasure seemed to be shared by others), that doesn’t change the fact that a sizeable chunk of the science questions were loaded with clues that didn’t distinguish between the existing levels of knowledge among players, when these differences do exist and very much can be exploited by well-written questions.
I would very much like to hear from more people whether this was the case (and, if there's some clearly identifiable subpopulation of questions that did/did not suffer from this issue, that would be helpful to know as well). If I'm aiming the bulk of my science clues at discriminating levels of knowledge that are not present in the DI ICT player pool, that's obviously not good.
felgon123 wrote:Aside from that, I do have one ideological outcry about a specific question. Our game with Penn was one tossup away from having to be decided by the third tiebreaker question, a truly awful tossup on Hans Bethe, in which the first clue was about how he calculated the Lamb shift, arguably his most important achievement. Players are more likely to know that than they are to know anything at all about Charles Galton Darwin. A buzzer race on an easy lead-in like that would have been a terrible way to lose such an important game, and an embarrassing way to win.
I'd have said Bethe's most important achievement was his work on stellar nucleosynthesis (which is why that formed the late part of the tossup), and I thought that his work on the Lamb shift was not especially well-known (e.g. I didn't encounter it in physics courses, even ones that discussed the Lamb shift). From a packet search it looks like that clue has come up a decent number of times, so it seems reasonable to think it's become quizbowl-famous regardless of its real-world fame. I apologize for not catching that.

I also would have said that C G Darwin might well be a more canonical figure in physics than Bethe, in the sense that while I never heard about Bethe in undergrad science courses (and I think I barely heard about him in graduate courses) and wouldn't have known almost anything about him if not for some outside science reading and quizbowl, I definitely did hear about C G Darwin in undergrad courses (specifically, the Darwin term, which was the focus of the bulk of that tossup). But perhaps that question was also a bad idea.
felgon123 wrote:On a more positive note, I did enjoy Selene’s biology more than the rest of the science, and I wish she had handled the chemistry as well.
You and me both. Unfortunately she hasn't had time to handle both the bio and the chem.

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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by felgon123 » Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:45 pm

To be clear, I'm not basing my opinion on "this is a thing I've seen in packets," I'm basing it on the fact that Bethe has made regular appearances in the astronomy/physics classes I've taken, both in the context of nucleosynthesis and in the context of the development of QED (and no, I'm not arguing that one is more important or well-known than the other, just that both are much too easy to be a lead-in). Of course, quizbowl exposure is important as well, and by that metric, too, I think most people who have played a fair number of tournaments will have heard of Bethe but not C. G. Darwin. In any case, my experience may be anomalous, and I don't want to complain excessively about a tossup that didn't actually impact the game; after all, it was fortunate that it was in the tiebreakers rather than the packet proper, and it was only by extraordinary chance that it was almost put in such a crucial position.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Apr 03, 2014 4:04 pm

I definitely know the Darwin term from quantum mechanics, but I can't imagine what a tossup on C.G. Darwin himself would look like. Perhaps he's known for a few other things but this seems pretty thin material-wise to me; I've never encountered his name in any other context.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by touchpack » Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:15 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I definitely know the Darwin term from quantum mechanics, but I can't imagine what a tossup on C.G. Darwin himself would look like. Perhaps he's known for a few other things but this seems pretty thin material-wise to me; I've never encountered his name in any other context.
IIRC like 70-80% of the clues were from the Darwin term. I also fall into the camp of "knowing what the Darwin term is but never having heard that Bethe derived the Lamb shift," although my QED knowledge is admittedly not very good.

I definitely think that there were some problematic questions in the sense that no one in the field is buzzing until the end or near the end. (examples off of the top of my head include diffraction gratings and Bell) However, I don't think these questions were very widespread like Tommy seems to indicate. I particularly enjoyed the other science in this set (the questions on pressure forces in the atmosphere and redshift were some of my favorites) and thought it was very creative and yet accessible to people like me that don't have very deep other science knowledge. Some of the chemistry was a little problematic, but I found the science overall to be an improvement over last year's ICT and this year's SCT.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:50 pm

Bethe's work on the Lamb shift was mentioned in several of my quantum textbooks, so I think that's a pretty famous thing, thought not as famous as his astrophysics work.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by The Ununtiable Twine » Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:48 pm

felgon123 wrote:I simply want to call attention to the fact that a considerable number of the science tossups in his categories had 3-4 lines of clues that no one buzzed on, followed by a giveaway or pre-giveaway clue that any mediocre science player, or even any decent generalist, would know.
I'm curious as to which tossups you found to be this way if you can recall without the packets.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by setht » Fri Apr 04, 2014 10:45 am

felgon123 wrote:there were a number of tossups on answers I’m rather familiar with that consisted of four lines of things I didn’t recognize followed by an easy giveaway, often the basic definition of the answer.
I really would like to get a better idea, if possible, of which questions seemed problematic. I understand you don't have the packets readily available; if it would help for me to post a list of tossup answers, let me know.

Or, if there was a clear pattern to which questions were okay/not okay (e.g. "[almost] all the tossups on scientists were bad, [almost] all the tossups on non-scientists were fine," or "the earth science and physics were fine but the chem and astro weren't good"—not that it'll be easy to figure out how some questions were categorized), I'd be interested in hearing that.

I quoted Tommy above, but I do want to solicit this kind of feedback from other science players as well.

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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:16 pm

So I think one thing you said hit the nail on the head; much like the author tossups at this ICT weren't well-received, it seems the scientist tossups were not particularly well-received either (Bethe, Darwin, Seaborg to name a few). Let me try to dissect one of them here, as a case study:

Image

So, there are a few problems with this tossup, in my opinion. First, the only thing anyone knows Darwin for is the Darwin term. This may not be a universal opinion, but at a nationals-level tournament, you can certainly defend a tossup on the Darwin term (especially considering ICTs have had tossups on benzyne, the multinomial distribution, whatever). It's a real thing that people learn. However, since this is NAQT, and you're constrained to 5 lines, there's a few things that make this tossup suboptimal.

1. If you want to write this tossup in a small space, it only makes sense that almost everything in the tossup be about the Darwin term, because it's literally the only thing anyone knows him for. Those leadins aren't helping anyone that's knowledgeable about the Darwin term, and aren't learned in classes anyway. You can argue that for a tournament that allows longer questions, it's fine to throw in some harder material (I certainly did in Lederberg), but that's defensible only because THEN you have a lot of space to go deeply into things that people actually know about the answer.

2. The second clue is a biography/science history clue, in it's purest form. You can debate the merits of these, but I personally believe they should be used as sparingly as possible, and certainly have little place in a confined space like an NAQT tossup.

3. The giveaway is atrocious. If it can't stand on it's own, it shouldn't be a question. This criticism is unique to this question, relative to the others, but it's still worth saying.

Contra Tommy, I wouldn't go as far as to say that the science at this ICT was _bad_, but that may partly be because Tommy is someone whose science game seems to be built around physics, and I am not. In fact, the bio was great - the tossups on desmosomes, Rudolf Virchow, and the ileum were pretty delightful.

I can offer a few comments on the chemistry; there didn't seem to be any systemic problems, but my general feeling was that the questions were occasionally a little top-heavy and/or opaque at the beginning:

Chirality - I guess I should have been buzzing on cyclodextrin, but this was pretty difficult anyway. I'd be interested to see how this question played out, because it seemed pretty top-heavy to me.
Seaborg - lots of biography here, but at least something Seaborg is famous for (island of stability) was in power.
Potential - that titration clue is a little misleading, since you could also say that for pH. Liquid junction potential is a fine leadin, though still very dificult.
Activity coefficient - can't really comment on this one, went early
Vibration - the fact that there are 3N-6 degrees of freedom for these things is the most advanced thing I know about molecular vibrations (and I've taken the p.chem sequence), and cluing of a similar level of knowledge got me a solid power at ICT 2012 (on the "diatomic molecules" tossup). If there's a Masked Birge-Sponer Bandit running around quizbowl, I'd like to know about it.
Unimolecular - awful. The only place I've seen RRKM applied is to redox/electron transfer reactions, so that's what I said. You kind of had to read the mind of the reader to see what was going on here.
Micelles - I've begun to realize there's no way to write a question on micelles that doesn't devolve into racing on a description of the CMC or the Krafft temperature. This isn't really Seth's fault, but it's worth pointing out.
Elimination - great. More like this.
Rearrangement - great.
Azides - great.

As for whether the physics was too difficult or not, I do agree with Tommy that I feel like the leadins were flying over the heads of the field more than you intended, though I don't really have the quantitative data to back it up. One thing I've gotten in the habit of doing is keeping track of my per-tournament subject hit rates. At ICT 2013, of the questions I heard, I powered 66% of the bio, 31% of the physics, and 50% of the chemistry. At ICT 2014, of the questions I heard, I powered 50% of the chemistry (including the rearrangement tossup you read to Penn and Ike off the clock), 66% of the Bio, and 8% of the physics. Obviously, there are confounding variables here (I may just be really bad at physics, I could be being cautious, etc.), but I'll just put that out there. If people like Billy, Tommy, Stephen Eltinge, Ashvin Srivasta, Brian McPeak, etc [EDIT: I keep editing this list. Don't be offended if I forgot you, please!], who actually are physicists and know physics, feel differently about it, I'd be more than happy to listen, but at least from MY experience, the physics was certainly more unforgiving this year than last.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by jonah » Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:30 pm

As long as we're discussing ICT science, I am interested in feedback on the math. I wrote most of it and edited all but one question.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by Ike » Sat Apr 05, 2014 7:44 am

As an example: neither Matt Jackson nor I could possibly object to a question on Kant that draws upon other philosopher's work on Kant rather than on Kant's own work for the early clues. Both of us have written/edited philosophy questions that operate like this. But the early clues in the Kant tossup don't actually test whether anyone has read any secondary literature on Kant; they test whether one knows that Manfred Kuehn, Kurt Stavenhagen, Karl Vorlander, and Ernst Cassirer wrote books on Kant.
John, I wanted to reply to this particular point, because I think it misses something that Andrew is doing with a lot of his ICT questions.

I agree that the Manfred Kuehn clue doesn't test whether someone has actually read Manfred Kuehn or just studied some names of Kant scholars, but there is no need to test such a distinction because on that clue because if you have heard of the name Manfred Kuehn, you must have engaged with Kant in some form. To me this kind of clue is one of those where "the only way you know this clue is by having engaged with the particular scholar or work cited, because they haven't come up in quizbowl at all, or incredibly infrequently, so it doesn't matter if I just name drop it here" clues. (I like to think of them as shibboleth clues.)

As an example of this type of clue working well, I would have buzzed on that Giordano Bruno tossup on the first clue because I have read a bit about Bruno, and the introduction to my book The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast discusses Frances Yates quite a bit. So while it certainly is true that you aren't testing whether or not I have read Frances Yates, there is no need to do so, because a. - Frances Yates hasn't been populating all those Giordano Bruno tossups all those trendy players have been studying, and b. - that Yates clue can be is most likely learned by intellectually engaging with Bruno - which is what you are trying to reward anyway. So I think for the tossup on Bruno, the lead-in empirically and ideologically worked, and that it would be a mistake to try to argue "well that tossup didn't test whether or not you have read Frances Yates."

Practically, I do agree that a lot of the tossups in the set tend toward the hard end in a non ideal way pragmatically- if your clues are of the shibboleth form I outlined above, it's pretty hard to find those good upper middle clues for an ideal distribution of buzzes, because a lot of the great players acquired their knowledge from intellectual curiosity on either "basic" or quizbowl famous things, (ie - I know a lot about Daniel Deronda because George Eliot is someone an English undergrad cares about, or because I have learned a lot about her for quizbowl studying.) I think there are ways to fix this, most of which involves making sure you supply middle clues. For example, in the lit tossup on Flanders, you can talk about A Dog of Flanders or Simon's The Flanders Road for a line max because if anyone buzzes on those, chances are they are familiar with the novel A Dog of Flanders, or the corpus of Claude Simon; it would then be wise to spend the rest of the time talking about deep clues from Moll Flanders to provide some much needed gradation.

Lastly, contra every other lit player who has posted in this thread, I actually find these questions great in the enjoyable sense. They are so much fun! It's the only tournament all year, where you get to play on a somewhat different style of question, and after the tournament is done, you get to go learn an incredible amount of content and figure out if you want to read some of these interesting sounding books. I would hate to see the Mortimer Adler clones of the world ruin one of the last quizbowl bastions of unique experiences.
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by setht » Sat Apr 05, 2014 12:01 pm

I thought we'd already done this, but I can't find it anywhere, so: if you noticed any errors in the DI or DII set while reading or playing, or if you've noticed any since then, please post here (or in the specific questions thread), and/or email errate@naqt.com.

Thanks,
-Seth
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Re: 2014 ICT: general discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sat Apr 05, 2014 12:34 pm

Ike wrote:I agree that the Manfred Kuehn clue doesn't test whether someone has actually read Manfred Kuehn or just studied some names of Kant scholars, but there is no need to test such a distinction because on that clue because if you have heard of the name Manfred Kuehn, you must have engaged with Kant in some form. To me this kind of clue is one of those where "the only way you know this clue is by having engaged with the particular scholar or work cited, because they haven't come up in quizbowl at all, or incredibly infrequently, so it doesn't matter if I just name drop it here" clues. (I like to think of them as shibboleth clues.)
This is certainly true, and it harks back to a discussion I've had with John a long time ago on this forum. But from a practical standpoint, it's not a clue on Manfred Kuehn that's a problem, it's the fact that most of the rest of the clues are about of equal difficulty and you have a limited number of characters. What happens then is that half the question is of about the same difficulty and then there's a steep drop because you give a clue that most good teams will know.
Jerry Vinokurov
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