ACF Nationals discussion

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ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:59 pm

Hi everyone,

This is your discussion thread for ACF Nationals. Congratulations to Chicago! Congrats also to Berkeley A and Harvard B for their undergrad and division II championships, and to Penn, Yale, and Columbia for an exciting series of runner-up games on the finals packets.

A lot of people made this year's Nationals possible and deserve thanks. My co-editors, Jordan Brownstein, Stephen Liu, Aaron Rosenberg, Andrew Wang, and Ryan Westbrook, put in a ton of work. Those efforts were supplemented by excellent questions from great writers, such as Will Alston, Ike Jose, Kurtis Droge, John Marvin, Chris Borglum, Mike Bentley, Dylan Minarik, and Dennis Loo. I especially want to single out Mike Cheyne, Matt Bollinger, Naveed Chowdhury, Jonathan Magin, Nathan Weiser, and Chris Manners for writing questions in the last few weeks, when we (and especially I) really needed them. Rob Carson and Carsten Gehring's work finalizing the packets was also indespensible. And I rudely forgot to mention Tejas Raje, who not only wrote several history questions, but put me up for two days when I got stranded in Chicago after ICT because of the snowstorm in Minneapolis.

The tournament would not have been possible without the efforts of Sarah Angelo, Eliza Grames, and Bernadette Spencer on the planning side, and without Sarah, Eliza, Ryan Rosenberg, and Rob Carson's great logistical work during the tournament. Gautam Kandlikar, as always, deserves thanks for taking on a ton of administrative work with the payments. Andrew Feist did excellent work with stats. Despite some hiccups with the rooms, I also appreciate MIT's efforts to give Nationals a good home. And thank you to ACF for the opportunity to edit, and for being one of the most worthwhile organizations to be a part of in all of quizbowl.

Finally, a big thank you to all the teams and players. This tournament is ultimately all for you, and I hope we delivered a tournament worth playing.

I'm so sorry if I forgot anyone who deserves to be praised above--this was perhaps the single most collaborative effort I've ever been a part of in quizbowl, and I feel so grateful to everyone involved. Whenever I needed something, someone was there to help, and whenever there was a problem, someone had an idea to fix it.

Use this thread to discuss the tournament. I'll post the packets first thing tomorrow. And if you're interested in joining ACF, either on the administrative or editorial side, please shoot me an email!
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Guile Island » Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:41 pm

Hi friends! I wrote and edited all of the jazz and computer science in this set (with the exception of a guest submission from Ike). This was my first time doing this much work at this high of a level, so I'm looking forward to hearing about what people thought- always feel free to PM/DM me in addition to posting.

I wouldn't really say I had a philosophy for writing the computer science. I had a laundry list of things I had been waiting to ask about, and between that and the quality submissions I got, the category filled itself out pretty nicely. For the jazz, I did my best to be innovative, including writing on things like jazz practice (the bonus on fake books) and education (the bonus part on Stan Kenton).
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:15 pm

Guile Island wrote:Hi friends! I wrote and edited all of the jazz and computer science in this set (with the exception of a guest submission from Ike). This was my first time doing this much work at this high of a level, so I'm looking forward to hearing about what people thought- always feel free to PM/DM me in addition to posting.

I wouldn't really say I had a philosophy for writing the computer science. I had a laundry list of things I had been waiting to ask about, and between that and the quality submissions I got, the category filled itself out pretty nicely. For the jazz, I did my best to be innovative, including writing on things like jazz practice (the bonus on fake books) and education (the bonus part on Stan Kenton).
I thought the collision detection tossup in the finals was a neat idea.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:58 pm

I wrote the majority of the poetry, other visual arts, and myth/legends. I'd love to hear how these questions played (both good and bad), as I wasn't able to staff the tournament. But before I get into the weeds, I want to thank everyone for playing the set. It's an honor to contribute to a question set that holds so much significance. I also want to thank Will Alston, Matt Bollinger, Nathan Weiser, and Jonathan Magin for pitching in some truly excellent questions when I needed last-minute help.

As has become quite characteristic of my writing, my ACF Nationals questions were written with the mixed but equally important goals of (1) unhesitatingly expanding the canon to hit things that are real-world important, but (2) keeping the overall set reasonable, especially middle/late clues, so as to smooth over the introduction of new topics.

This philosophy was most heavily applied in the poetry because I had a well-defined 1/1 to work with. Accordingly, this set brought you things like Sam Riviere's Kim Kardashian's Marriage leading in a tossup on marriage poems (epithalamia) or Gabrielle Calvocoressi's "The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart" to start a tossup on aviators. Hard answerlines (Louise Gluck, Patricia Lockwood) were balanced out with questions on Sappho or Inferno. Then there were more whimsical choices: the bonuses on Inger Christensen's alphabet (hard part: Fibonacci sequence) and Christian Bok's The Xenotext (hard part: Orpheus) come to mind. My hope is that the mix of canonical and extra-canonical made the set simultaneously playable and stimulating.

I don't have much to say about the other visual arts. It should have felt fairly standard, except for maybe a heavy emphasis on film.

Finally, myth: As some of you may know, I've long been a defender of myth's place in the quizbowl distribution. I think there have been two main arguments against myth: (1) that myth is simply not important enough compared to other parts of the distribution, especially those that receive less attention; and (2) that the myth canon has been exhausted. I've never had a satisfying response to (1), but this tournament was meant in part to respond to (2). This weekend you played tossups on the Gordian knot, sailor superstitions, Reynard the Fox, humans believed to have been Quetzalcoatl, the phoenix, the Wild Hunt, Italian folktales, and the miracles of St. Anthony of Padua. You heard bonuses on Alpine folklore, vampire legends, the Baphomet, and the sword of Damocles. What I hoped to show is that there's a vast trove of mythological/folk/legendary belief that has been piling up since the dawn of humanity, including the past 1000 years. For some reason quizbowl has only employed a very narrow definition of what mythology is--perhaps we'd do well to rename the category, as has somewhat been a trend lately.

I hope that these approaches produced enjoyable questions. Whether you agree or disagree, do let me know and I will remember your feedback for future projects.

And of course, congratulations to Chicago A.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Fucitol » Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:30 pm

Guile Island wrote: For the jazz, I did my best to be innovative, including writing on things like jazz practice (the bonus on fake books) and education (the bonus part on Stan Kenton).

As a former, and hopefully future, jazz musician, this was noticed and appreciated although our team did not get to answer either bonus.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:36 am

Mike Bentley wrote:
Guile Island wrote:Hi friends! I wrote and edited all of the jazz and computer science in this set (with the exception of a guest submission from Ike). This was my first time doing this much work at this high of a level, so I'm looking forward to hearing about what people thought- always feel free to PM/DM me in addition to posting.

I wouldn't really say I had a philosophy for writing the computer science. I had a laundry list of things I had been waiting to ask about, and between that and the quality submissions I got, the category filled itself out pretty nicely. For the jazz, I did my best to be innovative, including writing on things like jazz practice (the bonus on fake books) and education (the bonus part on Stan Kenton).
I thought the collision detection tossup in the finals was a neat idea.

Concur, excellent question.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:10 am

Yeah, pre-colonial African history is a quagmire. Different scholars disagree on what was or wasn't an empire, and there's so much intermingling and fluidity. I'm sympathetic to people who said Fulani, or even Sokoto.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:58 am

I didn't have time to post the questions before work. I'll do it later today; sorry for the delay.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:01 am

theMoMA wrote:The tournament would not have been possible without the efforts of Sarah Angelo, Eliza Grames, and Bernadette Spencer on the planning side, and without Sarah, Eliza, Ryan Rosenberg, and Rob Carson's great logistical work during the tournament. Gautam Kandlikar, as always, deserves thanks for taking on a ton of administrative work with the payments. Andrew Feist did excellent work with stats. Despite some hiccups with the rooms, I also appreciate MIT's efforts to give Nationals a good home. And thank you to ACF for the opportunity to edit, and for being one of the most worthwhile organizations to be a part of in all of quizbowl.
I'd like to make sure a couple of other invaluable contributors to tournament logistics got mentioned--Ophir Lifshitz and Auroni Gupta did a great job coordinating buzzers; Katy Peters was invaluable as a local point person to help us handle things like printing and trophies; and Kevin Li did yeoman's work in running the satellite bracket in building 26.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:24 am

I don't have any particular questions/subjects to comment on at the moment, but this was my favorite ACF Nationals that I've played. Thank you to the editors!

If Nationals is ever again held at MIT or any similarly labyrinthine campus, I would recommend printing a map and attaching it to the schedules.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:11 pm

Auks Ran Ova wrote:I'd like to make sure a couple of other invaluable contributors to tournament logistics got mentioned--Ophir Lifshitz and Auroni Gupta did a great job coordinating buzzers; Katy Peters was invaluable as a local point person to help us handle things like printing and trophies; and Kevin Li did yeoman's work in running the satellite bracket in building 26.
Yes, big thanks to Ophir, Auroni, and Kevin! I didn't get the chance to see their work behind the scenes, but I'm very glad that those tricky aspects of the tournament went so smoothly. And I'm so sorry to have left out Katy in my initial post. She picked up the questions and accepted delivery of the trophies. Without her help coordinating question pickup, my job finalizing the set would've been infinitely more stressful. So thank you, Katy!
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:27 pm

This is probably my favorite tournament ever. Thanks to everyone whose hard work made this weekend so enjoyable.

Minor gripes: The tossup on "pharmaceuticals" had a first line that was kind of negbait. Bill Ackman's massive loss on his Herbalife short has been a way bigger story than his loss on his Valeant short. Also, I wasn't a fan of the "sigma-algebra" tossup because based on the pronouns it was difficult to tell whether or not you wanted sigma-algebra or just measure.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by khannate » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:12 pm

Borrowing 100,000 Arrows wrote:Also, I wasn't a fan of the "sigma-algebra" tossup because based on the pronouns it was difficult to tell whether or not you wanted sigma-algebra or just measure.
This tossup confused me too, especially the clue about the Kolmogorov 0-1 law. I've usually heard it as referring to tail events, not tail sigma algebras, but maybe I misheard or misparsed something.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by That DCC guy » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:26 pm

I loved this tournament. The history questions were just fantastic, so shout out to anyone involved in the creation of them. I did have one question though...

For the Welsh Marches Tossup why did it ask for "two domains" at the beginning. This may actually just be a really simple explanation that I've failed to see, but I still would like to know why those that wrote the question decided to say "these two domains" instead of just "this domain". It was a little confusing. Other than that I didn't have that much of a problem with the tossup itself.

I also agree with Shah's point in that the room logisitcs and locations could have been made more clear, but this is at best a minor issue to me because most schools are more straight forward in their building design.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:30 pm

Connecting the clues you've gathered to the answerline you're asking for, precisely and succinctly, is an underrated challenge in question-writing. I wanted to single out this set for praise because the editors did a great job of selecting the correct verbs and providing illuminating context so that each clue pointed uniquely to the desired answer. The prose style overall was crisp and gratifying.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:17 pm

Borrowing 100,000 Arrows wrote:The tossup on "pharmaceuticals" had a first line that was kind of negbait. Bill Ackman's massive loss on his Herbalife short has been a way bigger story than his loss on his Valeant short.
I think you misunderstood the clue, which was: "A company in this industry was accused of inflating its profits through a company called Philidor by Andrew Left at the beginning of a chain of events that led to Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square fund taking a 2.8-billion-dollar loss."

Ackman didn't take a short position on Valeant; he was a major investor in Valeant. (Even though the clue doesn't say that Ackman was an investor in Valeant, rather than betting against Valeant, it stands to reason from the clue that he wasn't short on Valeant because the clue indicates that bad news for the company in question led to losses for Ackman, while obviously bad news for Valeant would've been good news for Ackman had he been short on Valeant.) Ackman also lost much more on Valeant than he did on the Herbalife. And obviously, the clues about Andrew Left and Philidor don't apply to Herbalife. (This clue is drawn from one of the entries in the Netflix Dirty Money series, which has been fairly widely viewed, and the underlying Valeant story is, in my opinion, on par with the notability of the Ackman/Herbalife story.)

I disagree that the clue is negbait, because that's basically suggesting that a clue that is unique to one set of events is problematic if one of the names mentioned is also associated with a completely different set of events. (I don't meant to sound contentious here, because I agree that it's frustrating when you think a clue is asking for one thing but it's actually asking for another; I just think that this clue is unique, worth asking about, and not problematic. And I'm glad you enjoyed the set!)
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:24 pm

Large hunks of the plays quizbowl has decided are "in Sanskrit" are actually in Prakrit (including all of the dialogue spoken by Shakuntala).
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:26 pm

That DCC guy wrote:I loved this tournament. The history questions were just fantastic, so shout out to anyone involved in the creation of them. I did have one question though...
I'm glad you liked the tournament! Credit for the history goes to several people. First, Ryan Westbrook was the editor of the submitted packet history, and aside from a final edits for style and substance on my part, that work is his (and I was really happy with how it turned out, which is obviously a credit to both Ryan and the packet authors.) Second, I was ultimately the editor responsible for the editor-packet history, but I had a ton of help from freelancers, including Jonathan Magin, Matt Bollinger, Tejas Raje, Naveed Chowdhury, Zach Foster, Mike Bentley, Will Alston, Mike Cheyne, and Chris Manners. I absolutely would not have been able to get these questions done without their help, and the fact that their questions were so excellent was I'm sure a bit part of the successes of that part of the distribution.
For the Welsh Marches Tossup why did it ask for "two domains" at the beginning. This may actually just be a really simple explanation that I've failed to see, but I still would like to know why those that wrote the question decided to say "these two domains" instead of just "this domain". It was a little confusing. Other than that I didn't have that much of a problem with the tossup itself.
I think you may have misheard this clue, or perhaps the moderator accidentally misread it. The first clue was: "A woman nicknamed 'the Dark Eyes' married two rulers of these domains." Later clues included: "Two rulers of these domains, Humphrey de Bohun and Roger Mortimer, waged the Despenser War against an adviser of Edward II" and "Shrewsbury and Hereford were the centers of two of these domains, whose namesake lords were stripped of power following the Wars of the Roses." None of these clues were meant to convey, nor did they convey, that the question was asking for two domains. Rather, the question was meant to convey, and did convey, that we wanted a set of multiple domains.
I also agree with Shah's point in that the room logisitcs and locations could have been made more clear, but this is at best a minor issue to me because most schools are more straight forward in their building design.
I agree with this, and I'm sorry we didn't foresee the issue with the labyrinthine MIT building layout before the tournament. It's very difficult to know exactly how a building looks if you don't have the resources to send a tournament director there ahead of time, but this is something we probably could've foreseen with a bit more thought, and the start of the tournament on Saturday would've likely been smoother had people been given maps of the buildings.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Milhouse » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:40 pm

Speaking as a player on a bottom-bracket team, I thought this tournament was really good and had a lot of accessible content combined with harder material, and hope that future Nationals follow that example.

Also, the tossup on whale falls was great and its writer should feel great.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Mon Apr 23, 2018 3:06 pm

Congrats to Chicago on their win and thanks to all the teams who played! I edited the music, other auditory arts except jazz (which I outsourced to Dylan), physics, and other science except CS (also Dylan) and math (Dennis Loo). I can’t thank these two enough for the work they put in, which I think resulted in some excellent and exciting questions. I still looked over their questions myself, so all credit for those categories goes to Dylan and Dennis, all blame goes to me. Jordan allowed me to write 2 lit questions, so a shout out to him, too. I had nothing else to do with the lit, but I thought it was fantastic and I hope other writers use him as an example of how to write deeper questions on core works and authors.

My deepest thanks to everyone who playtested and provided input on my categories. Ophir and Alex Damisch playtested the auditory arts, Bernadette looked over the ballet, and Jonathan Magin provided input on a few music questions. Billy Busse, Ike Jose, Auroni Gupta, Tejas Raje, Dylan (again), Benji Nguyen, and my fellow editor Andrew Wang playtested and/or looked over the science, which turned out far better that it otherwise would have, thanks to their advice. Jerry Vinokurov also helped shore up a few of the physics and astronomy questions. Finally, a big thanks to Andrew Hart, who was just a pleasure to work with and who put in a massive amount of time and effort to bring this set to fruition. If you enjoyed the set and have already thanked him, thank him again. Likewise with the TD crew of Sarah, Ryan, and Eliza, who were awesome.

Before I discuss my editing philosophy for the music, I’d like to apologize retroactively to Jacob Reed (and by extension many others) for my complaints after CO 2014 about throwing out most of the submitted music questions, because I was pretty ruthless here myself. There were 24 packets, divided into 14 by the editors and 10 compiled from submissions, so by definition this tournament was always going to be primarily a housewrite. But even in the 10 submitted packets, I ended up cutting a lot due to a combination of time constraints, repeats, general quality, balancing the subdistribution, and my overall vision for the question set. Still, I used submissions when I could, because there were many good ones (perturbation theory, the harp, the Stravinsky bonus, and the Great Oxygenation Event to name a few).

I had three guiding principles for the music subdistribution:
1.) Follow the “something for everyone” maxim that Tommy laid out in the discussion of last year’s Nats. Some of the music tossups primarily clued from deep musical descriptions, others had more extra-musical history, performance, and criticism clues. Not every tossup needs to be devoid of proper nouns in the first 2 lines.
2.) Give early music its due. Pretty self-explanatory. We can argue all day long about how much space each time period deserves; no one answer will satisfy everyone.
3.) Don’t make it overly Austro-Germanocentric. At least, no more than it needs to be, because history and the music establishment have already elevated that part of Europe to the pinnacle of Western art music.

So, as with most of the other categories, the music featured a mix of more adventurous stuff (serenades for strings, the Appassionata sonata), and more canonical stuff. This will probably be the last set I edit for quite some time if not ever, making this my final opportunity to use many answerlines, so I cast a wide net when grouping answers together for bonuses. I also relaxed the boundaries between categories for certain questions (for instance, the viola d’amore and Berlioz bonuses both touched on opera, while focusing primarily on instrumental clues). I took a similar approach to the opera and ballet (ranging from tossups on Giselle to bonuses on Jessye Norman). I also left some space for classic broadway (Carousel, Cole Porter), and world music.

For the other science, each packet had one question on math/CS and one on astronomy, earth science, engineering, or miscellaneous stuff. The main guiding principle here was balance. In astronomy, I made sure to cover observational tools, the solar system, galaxies, and cosmology. Earth science covered land, water, and air, and you really don’t need another spiel from me about engineering or technology. I also relaxed category boundaries here somewhat in order to create more interesting questions (for instance, I wrote earth science clues for half of the aluminum tossup and materials science for the other half, because I didn’t want a straight-up petrology question that just listed a bunch of “ites.”

Physics was, by far, the hardest category for me to write. When I signed on to edit this tournament, I told Andrew H. that I would place question craftsmanship first and excitement second if at all, especially in this category. I knew I didn’t have the depth of knowledge to be especially innovative. Quizbowl could probably use a thread on “how many fresh answerlines does a tournament need” or “how many hard tossups does a packet need” or “how many hard tossups does a category need?” The thread can wait, but I bet that for physics the answer to the last of those questions is “not a lot.” So I wrote most of the physics tossups were on very canonical, easier answerlines. About one quarter of the tossups were on quantities. In keeping with my post in the announcement thread, there were only two tossups on physicists, and for those I tried to incorporate science history (Airy’s missed opportunity to discover Neptune, Josef Stefan’s work on ice sheets) and applications rather than just listing eponymous things or anecdotes about Nobel prizes. To my knowledge, none of the tossup answers repeated with last year’s. It certainly wasn’t the most exciting physics ever written, but I think my choice to keep things simple was ultimately the right one. In fact, I have proof, because I broke my own rule and tried to get fancy and challenging with that tossup on the Poincare recurrence theorem which just didn’t play well. More to the point, I find that physics just doesn’t lend itself to as wide a range of answerlines as many other categories, because everything is so interconnected. That tossup on the Darcy friction factor started out as a tossup on the Darcy-Weisbach equation, but it didn’t go well in playtesting and even if it did, that equation is really just an application of Bernoulli’s equation which is in turn just a statement of conservation of energy. The Newtonian, Lagrangian, and Hamiltonian forms of classical mechanics are all just different expressions of the same underlying principle. Consider how much of physics as a whole is derived from a few key principles. Symmetry and conservation. Equilibrium, oscillation, and radiation. Taylor expansion. Time’s arrow. Wave-particle duality. The constant speed of light. You get the idea.

Now that I’ve seen the tournament play out, it’s clear that I underestimated the difficulty of at least a quarter of the easy or medium bonus parts, and for that I apologize. There were also a few too many tossups with I would call “seer’s clues”: lead-ins that are unique and helpful to people who know them, but which realistically no one in the field would know unless they hacked the writer’s brain and figured out exactly the kind of hard thing the writer would use to open the tossup. So it wasn’t perfect, but on the whole, I’m still very pleased with how the set turned out. I’d love to hear feedback on my categories. As I said above, this will probably be the last tournament I edit, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to edit a national championship before retirement. Far be in from me to question Weiner’s Law #2, though, so I call this next phrase “semi-retirement” from editing. I’ll still moderate, of course. Thanks again to all the teams and I hope you enjoyed the tournament.

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Apr 23, 2018 3:55 pm

theMoMA wrote:
Borrowing 100,000 Arrows wrote:The tossup on "pharmaceuticals" had a first line that was kind of negbait. Bill Ackman's massive loss on his Herbalife short has been a way bigger story than his loss on his Valeant short.
I think you misunderstood the clue, which was: "A company in this industry was accused of inflating its profits through a company called Philidor by Andrew Left at the beginning of a chain of events that led to Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square fund taking a 2.8-billion-dollar loss."

Ackman didn't take a short position on Valeant; he was a major investor in Valeant. (Even though the clue doesn't say that Ackman was an investor in Valeant, rather than betting against Valeant, it stands to reason from the clue that he wasn't short on Valeant because the clue indicates that bad news for the company in question led to losses for Ackman, while obviously bad news for Valeant would've been good news for Ackman had he been short on Valeant.) Ackman also lost much more on Valeant than he did on the Herbalife. And obviously, the clues about Andrew Left and Philidor don't apply to Herbalife. (This clue is drawn from one of the entries in the Netflix Dirty Money series, which has been fairly widely viewed, and the underlying Valeant story is, in my opinion, on par with the notability of the Ackman/Herbalife story.)

I disagree that the clue is negbait, because that's basically suggesting that a clue that is unique to one set of events is problematic if one of the names mentioned is also associated with a completely different set of events. (I don't meant to sound contentious here, because I agree that it's frustrating when you think a clue is asking for one thing but it's actually asking for another; I just think that this clue is unique, worth asking about, and not problematic. And I'm glad you enjoyed the set!)
Thanks taking the time to write this response. I think you're probably right that this neg is largely my fault looking at the text of the question. I don't really know anything about Ackman's stake in Valeant (which is pretty evident from my first post) and I probably should've realized that an activist investor like Ackman may have many bad positions recently. Anyways, thanks again for the awesome set!
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by brycehwang » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:33 pm

Thank you again to Andrew, Sarah, Eliza, and everyone else that helped make this tournament a wonderful experience!
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by vinteuil » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:46 pm

Lagotto Romagnolo wrote: I had three guiding principles for the music subdistribution:
1.) Follow the “something for everyone” maxim that Tommy laid out in the discussion of last year’s Nats. Some of the music tossups primarily clued from deep musical descriptions, others had more extra-musical history, performance, and criticism clues. Not every tossup needs to be devoid of proper nouns in the first 2 lines.
2.) Give early music its due. Pretty self-explanatory. We can argue all day long about how much space each time period deserves; no one answer will satisfy everyone.
3.) Don’t make it overly Austro-Germanocentric. At least, no more than it needs to be, because history and the music establishment have already elevated that part of Europe to the pinnacle of Western art music.

So, as with most of the other categories, the music featured a mix of more adventurous stuff (serenades for strings, the Appassionata sonata), and more canonical stuff. This will probably be the last set I edit for quite some time if not ever, making this my final opportunity to use many answerlines, so I cast a wide net when grouping answers together for bonuses. I also relaxed the boundaries between categories for certain questions (for instance, the viola d’amore and Berlioz bonuses both touched on opera, while focusing primarily on instrumental clues). I took a similar approach to the opera and ballet (ranging from tossups on Giselle to bonuses on Jessye Norman). I also left some space for classic broadway (Carousel, Cole Porter), and world music.
I appreciated all of this, and thought they made the music and other arts feel nicely well-rounded. It was obvious that a lot of care went into subdistributing like this!
Lagotto Romagnolo wrote: There were also a few too many tossups with I would call “seer’s clues”: lead-ins that are unique and helpful to people who know them, but which realistically no one in the field would know unless they hacked the writer’s brain and figured out exactly the kind of hard thing the writer would use to open the tossup.
Since Aaron said this himself, I'll just say that, although there were a few of these (good lord, the leadin to the Rusalka TU, and the descriptions in the "secondary dominants" bonus), they weren't pervasive and I found Aaron's categories on the whole enjoyable. But I'm mainly quoting to emphasize this portion of his post as a warning to future editors and writers: always always always err on the side of too much information, playtest when you're not sure, and listen to your playtesters.

EDIT: All right, one more nitpick (which I already griped about to Aaron, who was extremely generous and sympathetic)—and again, this is mostly as a warning to future math writers and editors. The second clue of the Poincaré Recurrence tossup said something like "this result can be proven by showing that," followed by the literal statement of the theorem, causing me to think that this was some ergodic thing that's proven using Poincaré, and the question was just being coy.

But I'll refine my day-of complaint that "you can't just state a theorem in the second line of a tossup on it": if the clue had just gone "according to this result," followed by the statement, I certainly would have buzzed, even though I would have thought that that's a strange clue ordering. To make the broader point: unless you really need to be coy about something, use the absolute clearest wording possible.

In exchange for this nitpick: major thanks to Aaron for saving me, in real time from a truly embarrassing (and, I still think, actually deserved) listening-comprehension neg in the 2nd-place game.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by cornfused » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:58 pm

I really enjoyed this tournament - being able to go back into retirement with an emphatic early neg on one of my books just feels right somehow.

I'd like to particularly commend Dylan's writing on jazz questions - that fake/real books question was great, but it wasn't the only good jazz question by a mile. Also, Matt B. beat me to saying this, but this tournament's clarity of prose was the best I've seen. Each question gave the sense that it was sort of sledding downhill toward one particular answer, in a way that really made it easy for me to stay engaged.

Did anyone else feel that the editors' packets and the submissions almost felt like two different tournaments? I'm trying to figure out how much of this difference in feel was just the fact that I played the editors' packets against top-bracket teams... but I think there's more to this than just "great teams are harder to play quizbowl against than good ones are."
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:10 pm

cornfused wrote:Did anyone else feel that the editors' packets and the submissions almost felt like two different tournaments? I'm trying to figure out how much of this difference in feel was just the fact that I played the editors' packets against top-bracket teams... but I think there's more to this than just "great teams are harder to play quizbowl against than good ones are."
I'm not sure how my co-editors went about things, but I hardly used any submissions* (but there was an excellent submitted tossup on "Jabberwocky" that I couldn't resist) and didn't distribute my questions with any editors' packets/submitted packets split in mind.

*This is by no means a knock on anyone's submissions in my categories. It's just that I like to have a very balanced sub-sub-distribution across time, genre, gender, race, and geography for any category I edit. If your submission doesn't fit one of the niches that I still need to fill, I'm not going to use it.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:18 pm

I appreciate Matt B. and Greg's praise of this tournament's prose style. The primary thanks for that goes to the other editors, who are among the best I've worked with at writing things clearly and concisely. (Imagine my surprise when I learned that Andrew Wang is a clear and concise writer!) I also went through and read every sentence of the tournament and made quite a few clarifying changes. Having been involved with quizbowl for so long, I have a fairly well-developed set of preferences for how sentences should read, and I tried to impose that uniformly throughout the tournament without stepping on other editors' toes (I outright cut very few clues, and added almost none). I made a few mistakes, but I hope the tournament was the better for it on the whole.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:18 pm

vinteuil wrote: always always always err on the side of too much information, playtest when you're not sure, and listen to your playtesters.
This. Better a buzzer race than an unhelpful clue. And if someone throws a fit because they've read book X or played piece Y a certain number of times or love thing Z so much but lose a buzzer race, well, that's unfortunate but they should honestly just deal with it. Love does not equal ownership. Quizbowl players don't own works of art.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:27 pm

cornfused wrote:Did anyone else feel that the editors' packets and the submissions almost felt like two different tournaments? I'm trying to figure out how much of this difference in feel was just the fact that I played the editors' packets against top-bracket teams... but I think there's more to this than just "great teams are harder to play quizbowl against than good ones are."
I also spoke to John Lawrence about this at the event, and I agree that the prelims and playoffs had a very different feel. In the prelims, I think a lot of the editors tried to honor the teams' submissions, even if it meant rewriting the question to a large extent. Teams generally tend to submit packets with lots of hard tossup answer lines and the like, and (obviously) with a less coherent vision of how the tournament should play.

With the editor packets, I think we had a much clearer idea of the kinds of questions we wanted to write, and had a blank canvas on which to impose that vision. For instance, I was very interested in writing questions that explored various well-known topics using conceptual angles. I was also interested in bringing new ideas (such as "art history"-style questions in the painting and "methodology"-style questions in the social science) to some categories. Although I didn't entirely abandon those ideas for the submissions, there were times when I used a submitted question that wasn't exactly what I would've written for the editor packets.

I typically tend to be very activist in my editing, and I was in this tournament as well, but having not previously edited a tournament that had so many editor packets, I don't think I accounted for just how much idea selection plays a role in a tournament's feel. If we had another month to edit the tournament, perhaps we could have brought the prelims into line with the vision of the playoffs, but with everyone's other commitments pressing down on us, we just didn't have enough time. In the future, it would be interesting to see if a team of editors would be interested in writing a tournament entirely from scratch to avoid this issue--I believe this hasn't been done since the early/mid-2000s, perhaps not since Subash in I think 2001 (or perhaps Andrew did it in one of the years that followed).
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:03 pm

Aaron Rosenberg wrote:In fact, I have proof, because I broke my own rule and tried to get fancy and challenging with that tossup on the Poincare recurrence theorem which just didn’t play well.
It didn't? I thought it was fantastic!

I'll have more expansive commentary on the science (and other things) later, but in general I thought this set was just wonderful overall. Thanks to everyone who helped put it together, to Sarah, Rob, etc for all the logistical work, and to the moderators and fellow competitors for making this a great ACF nationals.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by west neg, new york » Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:11 pm

I thought this set was consistently entertaining--although I was totally wiped Saturday night and several tossups went dead every packet even in 2nd bracket, 18 rounds of quizbowl over two days went by surprisingly quickly. I really appreciated the drive to include material outside the typical canon (off the top of my mind, the Jersey Devil, whale fall, and eradicating smallpox tossups were all lots of fun). Two points I wanted to raise:

1. Is there a reason the situs inversus bonus didn't accept "midline" for the second part or "Kartagener syndrome" for the third (unless they were mentioned in the question and I didn't hear it)? Not that it matters a ton, but we 30'd, like, 3 bonuses all tournament and I want my STEP studying to pay off somehow.
2. The biology tossup answerlines seemed to skew heavily towards compounds/proteins/complexes, and towards molecular and cell biology in general. Granted, they were still on important answers that I haven't seen pop up a lot before, but it felt more unbalanced than the other science categories. I'd be happy to be proven wrong if someone wants to provide a subcategory breakdown, though.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:21 pm

west neg, new york wrote:1. Is there a reason the situs inversus bonus didn't accept "midline" for the second part or "Kartagener syndrome" for the third (unless they were mentioned in the question and I didn't hear it)? Not that it matters a ton, but we 30'd, like, 3 bonuses all tournament and I want my STEP studying to pay off somehow.
Kartagener was mentioned in the bonus, which I also thought was really unforgiving (I was going to say Kartagener before they said it). I'd have also accepted midline since that's commonly used to refer to the sagittal midline, but I think that's a kind of a term-of-art issue.

Good luck on Step 1, don't forget that giant table of myositis antibodies they love asking about. :shock:
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Emperor Pupienus » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 pm

Thanks to the editors for all the effort they put into the tournament! I greatly enjoyed playing the history and there were lots of cool ideas, like the Abraham Lincoln brigade, the Siwa oasis, Willie Horton, the "New South," Kutuzov, and "Whiteness." It was very well executed on the whole. I only noticed a couple of misplaced clues, like having "Nihil Novi" in the first line of the _szlachta_ tossup.

I also thought that the Misc. Academic and CE/Geo topics were generally well chosen. Stuff like the Houthis, Operation Car Wash, and the Sackler family (pharmaceuticals tu) are all salient and important issues.

It seemed to me that there was an abundance of econ in the SS distribution, particularly in the tossups. I'm curious if this was actually the case, and if so, if this was a conscious editorial decision. There are certainly good reasons to weight econ higher than most of the other SS topics, so this is more curiosity than criticism.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by shmno » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:36 pm

west neg, new york wrote:The biology tossup answerlines seemed to skew heavily towards compounds/proteins/complexes, and towards molecular and cell biology in general. Granted, they were still on important answers that I haven't seen pop up a lot before, but it felt more unbalanced than the other science categories. I'd be happy to be proven wrong if someone wants to provide a subcategory breakdown, though.
From my notes, these are the "compound" tossups:
APC, sigma factors, uric acid, JAKs, glutathione, NFKB, opioids, parathyroid hormone, glutamate

Non-compound but cell/molecular bio-ish tossups (overlaps with genetics/biochem/"medicine")
Cell adhesion, Vibrio, nuclear membrane, photosystem II, proteins, Haldane, V(D)J recombination, alternative splicing, placenta

Other (ecology/evolutionary bio) tossups:
Whale falls
Some content in Vibrio (clue about coral), V(D)J recombination (jawed vertebrates), Haldane, placenta

I think that the compound tossups tended to be some of the harder answerlines in the set (which I think include APC, JAKs, whale falls, NFKB), so that may have skewed it. There is one straight ecology tossup.

Overall I found this to be a hard and enjoyable tournament.
Last edited by shmno on Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Kasper Kaijanen » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:05 pm

This was my first and, unless I play in grad school, likely my only ACF Nationals. I had a great time and this set was a blast to play on. I can't talk about most of the categories, but I really enjoyed the myth and literature in this tournament. Specifically, whoever wrote the hard scifi/Heinlein/New Weird bonus is my personal hero. One minor complaint I have is that the tossup on "Lot's Wife" probably should have had a "description acceptable" at the beginning of the tossup, as I sat for several clues racking my brain over the name of a (usually) nameless person.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Sam » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:18 pm

theMoMA wrote: I typically tend to be very activist in my editing, and I was in this tournament as well, but having not previously edited a tournament that had so many editor packets, I don't think I accounted for just how much idea selection plays a role in a tournament's feel. If we had another month to edit the tournament, perhaps we could have brought the prelims into line with the vision of the playoffs, but with everyone's other commitments pressing down on us, we just didn't have enough time. In the future, it would be interesting to see if a team of editors would be interested in writing a tournament entirely from scratch to avoid this issue--I believe this hasn't been done since the early/mid-2000s, perhaps not since Subash in I think 2001 (or perhaps Andrew did it in one of the years that followed).
I agree with Greg and Andrew and John that there was definitely a stylistic shift between prelims and playoffs. I'm not sure that it's an "issue," though. It would be one thing if there were a huge swing in difficulty, or subject matter, but it didn't feel like that happened. (Personally, playoffs felt a tad more difficult than prelims, but I don't know how much of that is actual difficulty and how much is just playing against harder opponents.) I wouldn't be opposed to an all-editor ACF Nationals, but I have to think it would be more work, and I don't want the editors to have to do that if there's no reason.

This has been the ACF Nationals I've enjoyed playing the most. Shan and I were talking about what set these questions apart during the tournament, and I think the best way to describe it is they are questions that feel like the writers had a lot of fun writing. When I first started playing collegiate quiz bowl I remember there were a bunch of things that would solidly be categorized as "canonical" and yet which I had never heard of, but was excited to learn more about. I'd guess maybe a quarter of the non-school books I read between 2009 and 2011 were "recommended" by questions I heard. I felt similarly excited with this set, and am looking forward to reading the questions when they're posted to see which sources to track down.

Even though I do think "feels like the writers had a lot of fun writing" is the best way to describe the questions, it may not be the most useful in informing future writing, so here are some more specific, more concrete, aspects of the questions I liked:

- Use of "contemporary" clues. Especially in the prelims, I remember there being many clues from recent documentaries, lectures, and criticism (not necessarily academic). Outside of the very narrow field I study professionally, most of my interactions with academic material are through these intermediaries, and I suspect that's true for many people. It felt like a good way to use clues from auxiliary sources that would still be getable to people not in the field.

- Social science. Andrew said he wanted to include more methodological social science questions, and I think he did so very successfully. I don't know if that's What the People Want, but there's definitely a large reserve of subject matter that has thus far gone untapped. I think the economics was very good, too, though I have a harder time separating out "actually good questions" from "questions that I can get comparatively early and make me feel like a big man."
EDIT:
Emperor Pupienus wrote: It seemed to me that there was an abundance of econ in the SS distribution, particularly in the tossups. I'm curious if this was actually the case, and if so, if this was a conscious editorial decision. There are certainly good reasons to weight econ higher than most of the other SS topics, so this is more curiosity than criticism.
This struck me as well (not that I was upset). I don't know if there actually was more than normal or if some of the methodological questions (like on IVs, or surveys) had some overlap with econ topics. In any case I'd be curious to see a subdistribution, if it exists.
END EDIT

- Clarity. As has been discussed before, the questions were usually easy to follow. When I did forget what the question was asking, as is bound to happen a least a few times over seventeen rounds, I normally just had to wait a sentence or two to get back on track. This is especially important for bonuses: it's always frustrating while conferring when players don't agree on what's being asked for, and the bonus parts in this tournament were good about stating usually from the onset what they wanted.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:49 pm

Packets posted: http://collegiate.quizbowlpackets.com/2139/

I have made three corrections (and may reupload various packets to incorporate more minor changes). Besides these, the questions are how you played them.

* In the Maryland packet, I was overeager in my editing of a clue I found confusing and long, and managed to make it factually incorrect by claiming that Sellars wrote the work Making it Explicit, when that is a work by Robert Brandom. Apologies to Jordan for messing up his question.

* In the Oklahoma packet, I meant to write that that the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern (also known as Pea Ridge) led to Union control of Missouri, even though it was fought just south of Missouri in Arkansas. I've updated the question to be phrased accurately.

* In editors 9, our usually-infallible randomizer made an error and pasted in the same tossup twice (the duplicated tossup was on "fasting" in the works of Kafka). As a replacement, you heard the Nikolai Leskov tossup from the tiebreakers, but I've pasted in the original tossup 7 from the packet (which I won't spoil).
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:03 am

Two additional things about the packets:

1. We wrote two additional full editor packets, which we are not going to be releasing. We will be giving these to next year's Nationals editors. I will be contacting everyone who has had access to these packets to make sure that there are no packet-security issues with doing this (and if you know of any, let me know).

2. If you spotted any additional factual errors, or (as a moderator) any egregious typographical errors, please let me know.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:10 am

theMoMA wrote:2. If you spotted any additional factual errors, or (as a moderator) any egregious typographical errors, please let me know.
You may consider adding something about spherical symmetry to the Birkhoff's theorem clue in that tossup on flatness, because as it stands that clue is ambiguous or outright wrong.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Charbroil » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:16 am

theMoMA wrote: We wrote two additional full editor packets...
I'm curious what the rationale was for not using one of these packets to play off the tie between us and McGill.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:32 am

theMoMA wrote: We wrote two additional full editor packets...
I'm curious what the rationale was for not using one of these packets to play off the tie between us and McGill.
We certainly considered doing just that, but we decided that we weren't comfortable risking the exposure of questions that could very well decide who was playing in the finals for the purpose of determining spots that were not in championship contention. I apologize again for our mix-up that led to this situation.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by AGoodMan » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:52 am

As someone who played ACF Nats for the first time ever, I had a meaningful experience. I feel like sometimes you just need to experience some really hard (good, but hard) questions to gain motivation to study. I think this tournament did that for me.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Charbroil » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:58 am

theMoMA wrote:
theMoMA wrote: We wrote two additional full editor packets...
I'm curious what the rationale was for not using one of these packets to play off the tie between us and McGill.
We certainly considered doing just that, but we decided that we weren't comfortable risking the exposure of questions that could very well decide who was playing in the finals for the purpose of determining spots that were not in championship contention. I apologize again for our mix-up that led to this situation.
Okay, I thought what you were saying was that you knew going into the tournament that these packets wouldn't be used this year. It makes much more sense that you were saving them to potentially break ties going into the finals. Thanks for clarifying!
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:11 am

Charbroil wrote:Okay, I thought what you were saying was that you knew going into the tournament that these packets wouldn't be used this year. It makes much more sense that you were saving them to potentially break ties going into the finals. Thanks for clarifying!
Sorry, yeah, should've clarified. These packets would've been used to break any tiebreakers going into the finals (but we didn't end up needing them because of the way the finals situation shook out). Thanks for understanding.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by cornfused » Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:43 am

theMoMA wrote:* In the Oklahoma packet, I meant to write that that the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern (also known as Pea Ridge) led to Union control of Missouri, even though it was fought just south of Missouri in Arkansas. I've updated the question to be phrased accurately.
Oh! There's a convenient recording of NU answering that question "Arkansas" and receiving no points for it. Luckily, the game wasn't within a tossup.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:59 am

I think Sam did a good job of articulating what I really liked about this tournament. I've been thinking about this in the context of philosophy, since I was asked for feedback about that subject, but I think it's true across subjects that a lot of questions clued interesting and important things in ways that successfully emphasized at least some of the things that make them interesting and important. A corollary of that fact is that even brutally hard questions didn't feel like they were gratuitously hard.

On an entirely unrelated note: This was about 85% just me being dumb, but it would have been useful for the question on Italy (in folk tales) to say something like "the 2015 film Tale of Tales" to keep players from assuming it's talking about the also famous Soviet animated movie.
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Cody
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Cody » Tue Apr 24, 2018 5:27 am

Sima Guang Hater wrote:
theMoMA wrote:2. If you spotted any additional factual errors, or (as a moderator) any egregious typographical errors, please let me know.
You may consider adding something about spherical symmetry to the Birkhoff's theorem clue in that tossup on flatness, because as it stands that clue is ambiguous or outright wrong.
It is not outright wrong, and you know it.
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No Rules Westbrook
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:01 am

In fairness to Andrew on that Elkhorn Tavern mixup, it was late in the game and he was trying to make my middle answer choice of Sterling Price easier. (probably not a bad idea)
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Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:50 am

I have a few minor gripes which are barely worth mentioning (e.g. Bletchley Park isn't a park), but in general I thought the set was very good. The most noticeable thing from my perspective is that there were very few tossups which people thought were bad or bonuses which were bad ideas or poorly executed, which felt to me like the positive impact of play-testing a lot of material which helped to purge some of the things which don't have many sets of eyes on them.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:22 am

Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook wrote:(e.g. Bletchley Park isn't a park)
That bonus part says: [10] In 1942, people who solved the Daily Mail’s crossword in a matter of minutes were secretly invited to join the British cryptanalysts at this “park,” where Alan Turing was trying to break the Enigma code.

So it's referring to the fact that "park" is in the name of the place, not suggesting that it's literally a park, although I can see how this wouldn't necessarily be apparent unless the moderator emphasized it a certain way; perhaps "so-called 'park'" would have been clearer.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:28 am

I'm always in favour of air-quotes.
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