I am detecting something quite dangerous in this thread: the idea that every tossup has to include something that very few people know. On one level, that is a true statement, because it's a bad idea to lead that Great Gatsby
tossup off with something about good ol' TJ Eckleburg. But writers of high school material must not fall into the trap of "hey, I'm a good player and stuff. Using a clue that I've never heard of is an excellent way to begin a tossup, because, it will, like, make sure only the really awesome people will even be tempted to buzz." You have not failed in your question writing endeavor if State College or Charter or MLWGS is buzzing on the leadin. You are rewarding them for the time they have put into improving. Every clue should be buzzable.
Graham advocated harder leadins in this thread. That is, in and of itself, a noble cause, but it really only rewards the top 5% of teams, because lower level teams will most likely zone out or otherwise incapacitate their buzz reflex during these leadins*. I know that, during my freshman and sophomore years, when I was good but hardly excellent and downright poor in everything that wasn't trash or history, I would not pay nearly as much attention during, say, philosophy questions. As a result, my lack of knowledge begat a lack of knowledge. This happens even more with teams that are on a lower level of quiz bowl. So, hard leadins would appear, if my logic is working, to increase the gap between good and bad. I am not intending to advocate some sort of quiz bowl society in which every team has a perfectly equal chance of winning, because the questions have been dumbed down; I am intending to advocate a lack of change in the status quo, as far as high school questions are concerned. I feel that the teams that should win are the teams that go outside of just playing high school questions in tournaments, i.e. the teams that play college tournaments or practice intensively or write questions or what have you. So, what I'm trying to get at is that a "leadin arms race" is a bad thing, because it will harm not good teams far more than it will help good teams. Also, good teams don't need to learn from regular high school questions, because they most likely possess somewhat greater intellectual curiosity or other means for learning things.
For an example of this leadin arms race that I speak of, look at this tossup from From Here to Eternity:
FHtE wrote:2. One lawyer in this case wrote A Fool's Errand and Bricks Without Straw. Chris Cain arrested the plaintiff in it, and David Brewer recused himself from this case. William Rehnquist said it should be reaffirmed and Henry Brown delivered the majority opinion against Albion Tourgee. It occurred because a man who was one-eighth black refused to stay in a blacks-only car while on a train. For ten points, name this decision affirming the "separate but equal" doctrine and was overturned by Brown v. Board.
ANSWER: Plessy v. Ferguson or Ferguson v. Plessy
The leadin to this question is ridiculous. Bricks Without Straw
is one of those nutty books that Matt Weiner and others always trot out as an example of something that is way too hard. Who precisely is going to buzz on this clue? No one, certainly not at this tournament, which had, by my count, 0 top 30 national teams. Would the tossup be weaker if the leadin were removed and the Cain clue became the leadin? No. It would be strengthened. To sum all that up in context of this tossup, it really isn't necessary to have a really hard leadin that will make us all learn something deep and important, because there just aren't that many high schoolers who know it. Ideally, every tossup should have a realistic buzz on just about every clue. That doesn't mean that the tossup has to have someone first line it, but it should be possible. The set of high schoolers who know that Albion Tourgee wrote Bricks Without Straw
and was involved in Plessy was, before this post, really small, thus leading to no buzzes, which makes the clue useless. If no one knows it**, then is it even worth mention? Sure, people will learn afterwards, but is the learning worth confusing everyone and helping no one until after the fact?
People who are better at this than me/not really sleepy: How's the logic here? Am I missing something crucial?
* Yes, I realize that they shouldn't do this and that not all teams do this. I am merely trying to imply that, if one has no clue what the tossup is about, one might pay less attention than they should, because, hey, they aren't going to answer it here, are they?
** I mean "no one" in the sense of "people aren't going to buzz on it because they out and out don't know it", not in the sense of "people know it, but due to brain farts/confusedness/not paying attention/whatever, they don't buzz"
EDIT: In case this didn't come through, I was vaguely piggybacking on Chris's post and saying that there is no need to cater exclusively to the great teams through very hard clues that will greatly challenge them at the expense of worse teams. Allowing people to get a tossup on the first clue is okay; it is not necessary to smash even the best teams with your leadin.