MAGNI Question Discussion

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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Thu Nov 03, 2011 3:51 pm

As far as recent studies go, the ones that show that [insert vitamin or mineral here] is protective against [insert disease name here] come out frequently, are frequently hyped in the news, and in the end don't usually make a big difference in medical care or elucidate something particularly novel about the underlying science. If you're looking to go back to the classroom with disease-oriented or medically relevant tossups and this is the most exciting research that you can feasibly put in a tossup, Dwight's idea about using new papers in bonuses is probably good advice.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Nov 03, 2011 4:41 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Unsurprisingly, I am going to take issue with most of what Eric said. The issue is that I don't think he's right about the content of the questions.
Ok.
grapesmoker wrote:
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:I feel like this tournament went back to the classroom in the absolute exclusion of finding some interesting leadins. Alternatively, this tournament a lot of the time seemed to go back to the classroom - the high school classroom. Let me give you some examples.
This is maybe one thing that I would agree with. You're right, very many of the things that I wrote for this tournament were not "sexy" and I make no apologies for this. I think I've spent a fair bit of time explaining why this choice was made; yes, it was not mind-blowing. You want that, we've got a tournament for you called ACF Nationals, which I promise will be full of exciting science. For this particular set the idea was to a) give good players with solid classroom knowledge the chance to buzz early, and b) make the questions in general somewhat more accessible to the field. I don't know how to write sexy tossups on work or kinetic energy or particles in a box; maybe they are possible but I'm not convinced that the best use of my time is to figure out how to do that.

I think evaluation of this tournament's science should be made in light of the above information. Did this tournament achieve its goal in terms of what it set out to do? I think it did. Your complaint seems to be that it had different goals than what you were expecting (though I'm not sure why, because it's not like this was a hidden secret or anything) but I don't think this is a valid criticism.
I think the tournament did achieve those goals, but you've written tournaments before with similar goals (2010 ACF Regionals) and the questions didn't look like this at all.
grapesmoker wrote:
Furthermore, I would have loved to hear something new about the particle-in-a-box (what happens when you add relativity? I've always wanted to know), which I think is a function that leadins should serve.
So you want me to solve relativistic PIAB for you? If that information had been readily available to me, I would have used it. It wasn't, and I'm not about to sit down and solve the thing just so I can provide you with one fresh clue. This is not a reasonable demand.
I assumed someone had solved it already. I wasn't going to ask you to solve it.
grapesmoker wrote:I also disagree with your claim about what leadins are for. They are for distinguishing between different levels of knowledge, and I think this question did that throughout. If it can be done while teaching you something truly novel, I am totally for that, but this was not the goal of these questions.
I guess we can agree to disagree here. I maintain that leadins are at least partly there for teaching, and I think the teaching aspect of leadins is one of my favorite parts of the game.
grapesmoker wrote:Yes, the n-squared dependency is important; you wouldn't ask "why does this question on Shakespeare ask about tertiary Shakespearean scholarship instead of whether players remember lines from sonnets," and I'm not sure why you're asking for it here.
I agree with the fact that the n-squared dependency is important, but its funny that this is the analogy you use. It seems to me that remembering lines from a sonnet is the equivalent of remembering the formula, and not the other way around. Tertiary scholarship on the particle in a box would probably talk about the Kronig-Penny model.
grapesmoker wrote:
the fact that a particle in a box has a length scale, the fact that a type of light scattering has a dependence on the wavelength (what else was it going to be, particle size?) all have this problem.
This is absurd. I've already addressed the length-scale issue, and I'll do so again: every relevant QM system has a characteristic length scale. You can't get anything from the mention of those words, and if you buzzed there, you got lucky. Just as well, the scattering clue doesn't tell you anything about whether the answer is "wavelength" just by itself; if you've ever solved a scattering problem, you should know that there are many dependencies on many different parameters and you can't just go 1-to-1 on these things. Context matters.
I think you're underestimating the value that luck or general quizbowl know-how has in deciding games. More than one person at the site simply buzzed on the Rayleigh scattering clue and said wavelength because that's the answer that makes sense in that context. If I'm playing against Jonathan Magin, and there's a literature tossup in which the answer is a country, and deviant sexual stuff is going on, I'm going to buzz in and say "Japan", and at a tournament like this I'm probably going to be right. Nevermind that many authors from all over the world write about deviant sexual stuff, I've just beaten Jonathan to that tossup.

I will agree with your overall point, step back, and say that in evaluating these tossups for this context, you achieved your goals. You rewarded classroom knowledge of subjects quite well, and as that's what you set out to do, you've succeeded. I like the fact that you stepped back the leadin race and simply put in clues that people will know based on real knowledge, but I don't think the goals of having novel interesting leadins and rewarding classroom knowledge are at odds with one another. This is mostly an aesthetic point anyway.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Thu Nov 03, 2011 4:45 pm

There's only so much teaching you can do under length constraints and regular difficulty tournaments. I would also surmise that "teaching Eric something" is very different than "teaching first year science student something." I guess you could make the argument that this was a different approach between categories, which I am ill-equipped to comment on.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:01 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:I'll respond to Eric's point, but before doing that let me just refer to this.
I solved the particle in a box tossup in intro chemistry,
To me, this tells me all I need to know about how superlative Eric's schooling, expertise, and depth of knowledge is. The same intro chem where people at UCSD are re-learning stoichiometry, basic thermo, basic kinetics, and some really basic orbital stuff, Eric is solving the particle in a box.
It wasn't my choice. My intro chemistry professor was strange and spent an entire class deriving shannon entropy for no reason.

I've had enough protein folding lectures to fill out a 9 line tossup, which I scaled down to size to write this one. You've had more lectures on that than me, and you have probably paid more attention to it than I have, so you should be buzzing on clue one. I doubt that all structural biochem curricula are so similar as to teach students GroEL-ES for protein folding early on. Indeed, I read this to Dwight and Jeremy, who didn't pick it up til after Levinthal's Paradox. The clues went from straight structural biochem to stuff that people who have used comp sci to tackle biological problems might know, to stuff the general science literate population might know. I don't see a compelling reason to start the slope way higher.

The full leadin reads "In bacteria, this process occurs when each one of seven subunits of a dual-ringed protein is bound to a molecule of ATP, causing a conformation change so that the target is trapped in the GroEL-GroES complex." I guess that there's other heptameric stuff, but I put in some additional info (that the complex is dual-ringed, which is significant, and that ATP binds to it seven times) that uniquely specifies the answer.
I didn't listen clearly enough, it seems. Even worse, the subunits of the MCM complex aren't physically joined to each other. Mea culpa.

What's with all the "Operation" clues? Whoever read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mi ... operations right before the tournament sure had an advantage. That North Vietnam tossup, especially, just seemed like a hailstorm of military jargon until the end.
This was one of those moments where you have a great idea, only to find out that in actuality there aren't a lot of non-military history clues around. One cool clue that I did find was that Ho Chi Minh's Chinese wife was apparently unrecognized by the North Vietnamese government, but I felt that that would have been even more detrimental to the already relatively strict non-acceptance of "Vietnam" as an answer.
About that, I'm a little surprised that you started with strict non-acceptance of Vietnam as an answer. Why?

-The van Der Waals equation tossup kind of falls into the same trap that a lot of Equation of State tossups fall into. You know its a law, you know that modifications of it exist, and you know that said modifications have some unusual numerical coefficients. If you use the Yaphe method you can figure out that tossup without any real knowledge of the van Der Waals equation.
Should I have left that as a 5.5 line tossup without any modification clues? Anyway, you are using a thought process that literally only you and a couple of other people maybe are accustomed to using. I don't see any reason to intentionally keep you on your toes and leave everyone else further out in the cold.
But you don't have to leave people further out in the cold. The 3rd clue mentions the Maxwell construction by name; the fact that the van der Waals equation oscillates around isotherms is something that can be expanded just fine. I'm more taking issue with the fact that your leadin is intentionally forcing me to think laterally, and intentionally forcing me to figure things out. Starting with "an equation incredibly similar to this one..." will force me to use the Yaphe method and reach this kind of conclusion. The leadin's not differentially helpful for people who know what the van der Waals equation is.


Dwight and Hannah covered my thoughts on the Vitamin D thing pretty well, so I'll leave that one alone.

-I wasnt' a fan of the catalysis tossup. There's this chemical process, and you can use it to reduce waste, blah blah blah...
Once again, a fact that only you and a couple of other people have internalized and can buzz on without hesitation.
I'm misrepresenting myself here. There are plenty of good clues in this tossup, but that leadin is too figure-outable. If you know what catalysts do, at all, you can lateral from that leadin.

-I'm not sure that leadin to the fullerenes tossup is unique.
Yeah, that was from organic chemistry portal -- not the best place for leadins, I'm sorry.
I use it all the time. Its not the source I'm objecting to, its just that particular leadin struck me as not particularly unique.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:43 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:I think the tournament did achieve those goals, but you've written tournaments before with similar goals (2010 ACF Regionals) and the questions didn't look like this at all.
Let me suggest that you may perhaps be misremembering something. Because just now I went back and took a look at the editor packets from ACF Regionals 2010, and here are the three physics tossups I wrote:
Editors 1 wrote:In a Fermi gas, this quantity is proportional to h-bar over 2 m times the number of particles raised to the five-thirds power, over the volume raised to the two-thirds power. For a system that obeys the van der Waals equation of state, this quantity contains an additive factor of the particle number squared times the a constant over volume. For an arbitrary system, this quantity is given by the derivative with respect to the thermodynamic beta of the partition function, and the Helmholtz free energy is obtained by subtracting temperature times entropy from the average value of this quantity. For a closed system the change in this quantity is given by the work done by the system plus the heat, and for an ideal gas it is given by the three-halves times the number of particles times Boltzmann's constant times temperature. For 10 points, identify this quantity which represents the total amount of kinetic and potential energy in a gas.
ANSWER: internal energy [prompt on partial answer]
Editors 2 wrote:According to van Leeuwen's theorem, when this state occurs in a magnetic system, all eddies must dissipate. As a consequence of ergodicity, the phase density of a system in this state is given by an arbitrary function of the Hamiltonian. In quantum mechanical systems, the existence of this condition is equivalent to the requirement that the time-derivative of the density matrix vanish. In addition to CP violation and the existence of processes that violate baryon number, the non-existence of this state is necessary for baryogenesis, according to the Sakharov conditions. The transitivity of this state is expressed by the so-called zeroth law of thermodynamics. For 10 points, identify this steady state of a thermodynamic system in which the mean value of the system's temperature does not change with time.
ANSWER: thermal equilibrium
Editors 3 wrote:In polytropic equations, the pressure is given as proportional to this quantity raised to some power, while the virial expansion writes the pressure over the temperature in terms of powers of this quantity. In cosmology, the quantity "3 times the square of the Hubble constant over quantity 8 pi times the gravitational constant," is known as the "critical" type of this quantity. The time-derivative of this quantity balances the divergence of its flux in fluid continuity equations. This quantity appears multiplied by both the square of the velocity and the gravitational acceleration times the height as a counterbalance to the pressure in Bernoulli's equation. Multiplying the volume and gravitational acceleration in the expression for buoyant force, for 10 points, identify this term which denotes how much of something there is per unit volume.
ANSWER: density
So in fact the style of these questions is almost identical to the style of what I wrote for MAGNI. Which is to be expected, I would think. Perhaps some of these questions contain facts you consider more novel or whatever, but I'm guessing that's just a function of the answer line.
I assumed someone had solved it already. I wasn't going to ask you to solve it.
Again, if it had been available, I would have used that information. I like to think that I do due diligence in terms of the amount of research I put into questions; if I find something interesting and useful, I almost always try to incorporate it. I just think that pulling some random fact out and then wondering why I didn't incorporate that fact into the question is not the best possible critique.

In case you really want to know about it, it looks like someone has solved it.

I guess we can agree to disagree here. I maintain that leadins are at least partly there for teaching, and I think the teaching aspect of leadins is one of my favorite parts of the game.
They can be. I don't deny that. These ones were not.
grapesmoker wrote:Yes, the n-squared dependency is important; you wouldn't ask "why does this question on Shakespeare ask about tertiary Shakespearean scholarship instead of whether players remember lines from sonnets," and I'm not sure why you're asking for it here.
I agree with the fact that the n-squared dependency is important, but its funny that this is the analogy you use. It seems to me that remembering lines from a sonnet is the equivalent of remembering the formula, and not the other way around. Tertiary scholarship on the particle in a box would probably talk about the Kronig-Penny model. [/quote]

Oh, shit. There's a very crucial "not" missing there, as in "not ask about tertiary Shakespeare scholarship." Because then what I wrote would actually make sense!

I think you're underestimating the value that luck or general quizbowl know-how has in deciding games. More than one person at the site simply buzzed on the Rayleigh scattering clue and said wavelength because that's the answer that makes sense in that context. If I'm playing against Jonathan Magin, and there's a literature tossup in which the answer is a country, and deviant sexual stuff is going on, I'm going to buzz in and say "Japan", and at a tournament like this I'm probably going to be right. Nevermind that many authors from all over the world write about deviant sexual stuff, I've just beaten Jonathan to that tossup.
I think, then, that a lot of people at your site simply made some bad decisions that will burn them if they continue. Next time the answer will be something else and they'll get negged. That's the risk you run when going with your gut.
I will agree with your overall point, step back, and say that in evaluating these tossups for this context, you achieved your goals. You rewarded classroom knowledge of subjects quite well, and as that's what you set out to do, you've succeeded. I like the fact that you stepped back the leadin race and simply put in clues that people will know based on real knowledge, but I don't think the goals of having novel interesting leadins and rewarding classroom knowledge are at odds with one another. This is mostly an aesthetic point anyway.
Sure, I'm happy to agree that it's an aesthetic point. Again, I did what I thought was the right thing to do in this particular context; I don't think it's the right thing to do for every context, but I also don't think that there's a need, at a regular difficulty tournament, to endlessly pursue leadin novelty. Part of this is obviously selfish since I just don't want to spend more time on this than I already do (which is substantial) but part of it is ideological as well. If you agree that this tournament did a good job of achieving the goal that it set out to achieve, then I'm happy with that; other tournaments might have different goals.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:51 pm

One thing that I would remark on in this thread: there's a lot of talk going on in here about how "you can figure stuff out if you know X" where X actually represents a pretty substantial chunk of background knowledge. I think people who are complaining about this should really think twice; the background knowledge required to "figure it out" is something that is acquired over the course of many years and classes. It's not something like "this Finnish composer" or similar sorts of clues. I don't have problems rewarding people for knowing how to figure out something based on their extensive experience. Perhaps there were questions that really made it too easy, but by and large many of these criticisms strike me as being based on a great deal of knowledge on the part of the player making them, and erroneously generalizing that knowledge.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Auroni » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:54 pm

I'm misrepresenting myself here. There are plenty of good clues in this tossup, but that leadin is too figure-outable. If you know what catalysts do, at all, you can lateral from that leadin.
I think a substantial number of people playing know what catalysts do, both science majors and people who remember it from chem back in high school. I would venture that only a few people buzzed on that leadin.

So there's obviously some disconnect. I think it's because you have encountered catalysts in so many different settings that it's the first thing that pops up into your mind when that clue is read and you seize the opportunity, instead of being one of those people who say "oh yeah, I should have known that" after the fact.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:22 am

I thought this was a very good set that the writers should be proud of producing, but I really wanted to love this tournament because the stated goals of the tournament were so close to my own question writing values and I only liked it. First, there were a lot of good things about this set that deserve recognition:
- The drama tossups were significantly better executed than any regular difficulty tournament (outside of Regionals) in the last few years and really used meaningful textual clues
- This tournament has the first good Brancusi tossup I've heard at the college level that didn't devolve into a buzzer race on titles
- The "science" philosophy tossup was an awesome question
- The bonus on opera singers
- The free and indirect style bonus part was my favorite bonus part of any tournament I've ever played. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've spent 25+ in my academic career discussing this concept across 5-6 different classes. Perhaps the primary reason for Flaubert's importance to modern fiction is because he pioneered free and indirect style, so it was incredibly refreshing to have one bonus part on something you would only get from studying Flaubert rather than a throwaway part on The Temptation of St. Anthony or something.

This tournament's bonuses did a good job of rewarding people for knowledge actually important to academic disciplines. It's somewhat self-serving to say James Wood make a perfect third part because he is my senior thesis adviser, but I think trying to find third parts of bonuses that reward real interest in literary culture is a refreshing way to reward people who study the topic without making it inaccessible.

For me the primary issue at this tournament was the discrepancy between the depth of clues in the music and visual tossups. These were some of the deepest music tossups I've played at a regular difficulty tournament, which might be a good thing but objectively made playing the arts questions a very uneven experience. I think I'm good judge for this issue because I'm a middle tier music player who has edited a bunch of tournaments and knows the recurring clues, but will rarely get anything really fast from real knowledge other than opera. I found myself often buzzing on a clue for topics like Pictures at an Exhibition or Haydn's symphonies on the fifth or sixth line, while usually I would get that tossup--literally on the same clue --on the second or third line of other tournaments. Another example would be the Il Trovatore question (which is one of my favorite operas) and used a lot of musical theory clues and didn't drop a single aria clue in the first half of the question. I'm not saying this trend is necessarily a bad thing, but it became particularly glaring compared to many of the visual art and painting tossups which often featured painfully shallow early clues. The tossups on Manet, Ansel Adams, Klimt, and the Deposition all had problems and several other painting tossups had non-ideal leadin clues. Also, in the twelve games I played there wasn’t a single painting tossup on an individual work, which was incredibly problematic. The Klimt question mentioned "mosaic-like robes" in the second line, the Manet tossup had an annoying leadin about the execution of Maximilian, the Deposition question horrifically dropped Pontormo in the second line. And when I say shallow leadins I don't just mean well-known material but also leadins about nondescript or poorly described paintings.

For an example lets take a look at the leadin to the Masaccio tossup:

In an early painting by this artist, a blushing Christ with ugly blond hair is held by Mary, who sits under a towering figure in pink and red with five angels surrounding the throne. After his death, The Raising of the Son of Theophilus, Disputation with Simon Magus, and Crucifixion of St. Peter were painted by Filipino Lippi

If you are going to describe a Madonna as the leadin for a tossup on a Renaissance artist you can't just say an ugly Jesus sits on the lap of an enthroned Mary; this utterly worthless leadin's only identifying clues are "five angels" and "a towering figure in pink and red." If you want to attempt to use a Madonna leadin clue, you need to be extremely specific. I suspect no one buzzed on the first two-and-a-half lines and a lot of players buzzed on the Lippi clue because this question was constructed to reward exactly the wrong type of knowledge. Basically, it has an unhelpful leadin and then names the three frescoes in the Brancacci chapel (without ay description) that Masaccio didn't finish and are the least important works in the cycle, and then names Lippi, which just isn't a good way to test people about real knowledge of Masaccio's work. I generally think quizbowl needs to have far higher standards for describing details in paintings and this tournament was no worse in this regard than other recent tournaments, but I definitely think the depth of the music tossups made the art tossups come across as particularly weak.

I have more comments about some small details in the literature and social science that I'll post about later if I feel like it
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:50 am

Magister Ludi wrote:- The bonus on opera singers
I actually wanted to ask about this. Was this bonus accessible to non-aficionados? It seemed really hard unless you were really plugged into opera.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Crimson Rosella » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:26 am

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:- The bonus on opera singers
I actually wanted to ask about this. Was this bonus accessible to non-aficionados? It seemed really hard unless you were really plugged into opera.
I thought so. I'd say I'm a better than average music player but a mediocre opera player, and I was able to pull 20 from just seeing Renee Fleming's picture all over the place while persuing the classical section at music stores on occasion. Leontyne Price was definitely a name I was familiar with, but I had no real knowledge of her work, so I felt fairly treated by the question and learned something. Could be a little on the hard side, but definitely not egregiously so.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by cornfused » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:50 am

Oh, and I thought that leading with "The End of Something," even without a title drop, was a very poor choice in Packet 03's Hemingway tossup - that's something that I believe is pretty commonly read at the high school level, even.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Nov 04, 2011 11:40 am

Inna Solomonik wrote:
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:- The bonus on opera singers
I actually wanted to ask about this. Was this bonus accessible to non-aficionados? It seemed really hard unless you were really plugged into opera.
I thought so. I'd say I'm a better than average music player but a mediocre opera player, and I was able to pull 20 from just seeing Renee Fleming's picture all over the place while persuing the classical section at music stores on occasion. Leontyne Price was definitely a name I was familiar with, but I had no real knowledge of her work, so I felt fairly treated by the question and learned something. Could be a little on the hard side, but definitely not egregiously so.
Thats interesting because I would assume it's the other way around and you would know Leontyne Price and not Fleming. I can't overstate Leontyne Price's importance, she is the greatest American opera singer in history and probably the greatest African-American singer period. She is Michael Jordan famous among people who listen to opera. I can go on and on about Price, but basically that bonus is very much in line with this tournament's goal of rewarding people who actually care about a discipline.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Susan » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:05 pm

I think the average person who isn't plugged in to opera is way more likely to know Fleming than Price; Price basically retired from opera before most players were born, and she simply hasn't gotten the kind of popular press attention that Renee Fleming has (certainly not in recent years).
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:11 pm

For an example lets take a look at the leadin to the Masaccio tossup:

In an early painting by this artist, a blushing Christ with ugly blond hair is held by Mary, who sits under a towering figure in pink and red with five angels surrounding the throne. After his death, The Raising of the Son of Theophilus, Disputation with Simon Magus, and Crucifixion of St. Peter were painted by Filipino Lippi

If you are going to describe a Madonna as the leadin for a tossup on a Renaissance artist you can't just say an ugly Jesus sits on the lap of an enthroned Mary; this utterly worthless leadin's only identifying clues are "five angels" and "a towering figure in pink and red." If you want to attempt to use a Madonna leadin clue, you need to be extremely specific. I suspect no one buzzed on the first two-and-a-half lines and a lot of players buzzed on the Lippi clue because this question was constructed to reward exactly the wrong type of knowledge. Basically, it has an unhelpful leadin and then names the three frescoes in the Brancacci chapel (without ay description) that Masaccio didn't finish and are the least important works in the cycle, and then names Lippi, which just isn't a good way to test people about real knowledge of Masaccio's work.
Heh, I manage to write a question that Ted didn't like again. Here's Masaccio's Virgin and Child with St. Anne, probably one of his second tier paintings in terms of famousness. It is the thing being described in the leadin: http://www.aiwaz.net/uploads/gallery/ma ... e-1695.jpg

What I guess I should have done is to give the title for this way earlier, since this is a common scene that at least Da Vinci also did. For that, I'm sorry. The next clues talk about the three paintings in one of his cycles in the Brancacci Chapel that weren't done by him.. and from the titles, you can tell that these are pretty unique scenes. I don't have a problem rewarding people for knowing the names of titles in a series and for actually having art historical clues (that Filippino Lippi finished a set of paintings that Masaccio started) instead of title description title all the time. The real clue was not so much that these specific titles that you should know aren't his works, but that they are entries in a cycle that he did and that was finished by someone else. It was a way to transition into that Filippino Lippi clue, if you know what I mean.

There's more than one way to test real knowledge of Masaccio's work. I took both the standard description/title way and the art historical way. Perhaps it didn't play as well as I had hoped.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:53 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:I generally think quizbowl needs to have far higher standards for describing details in paintings and this tournament was no worse in this regard than other recent tournaments, but I definitely think the depth of the music tossups made the art tossups come across as particularly weak.
I'm interested in seeing some examples of what you'd consider good description in painting tossups.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:06 pm

I'm gonna go with Ted on this one; there are so many Madonnas and they all have such similar descriptions, that unless you've found one that's really unique, it's going to be hard to come up with a useful description of it. I suppose one might conceivably remember that there are five angels in this painting, but I'm not sure how useful this information really is.
Last edited by grapesmoker on Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:10 pm

Well it's not just that there are five angels, it's that she's sitting on a throne and that St. Anne is standing behind her. If pretty much all Madonnas are really similar, then are you suggesting we don't use them as clues?
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:21 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:Well it's not just that there are five angels, it's that she's sitting on a throne and that St. Anne is standing behind her. If pretty much all Madonnas are really similar, then are you suggesting we don't use them as clues?
Well, you describe St. Anne but don't name her; all we have is a sort of "figure" in the background. But yeah, I'd actually move away from the Madonnas unless they're really distinctive. Maybe that's just me, but I find a lot of the descriptions nearly-identical and that makes some sense because most of the religious scenes contain the same elements.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:26 pm

Oh, and I thought that leading with "The End of Something," even without a title drop, was a very poor choice in Packet 03's Hemingway tossup - that's something that I believe is pretty commonly read at the high school level, even.
Hmm. I'm a English prof who teaches Am lit survey courses, and I've never even heard of that story, though I'm not a specialist in Hemingway or anything. But I doubt that work is too well known for a lead-in at a regular difficulty tournament.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:30 pm

ValenciaQBowl wrote:
Oh, and I thought that leading with "The End of Something," even without a title drop, was a very poor choice in Packet 03's Hemingway tossup - that's something that I believe is pretty commonly read at the high school level, even.
Hmm. I'm a English prof who teaches Am lit survey courses, and I've never even heard of that story, though I'm not a specialist in Hemingway or anything. But I doubt that work is too well known for a lead-in at a regular difficulty tournament.
I had a similar thought; I'm not a Hemingway expert or anything but I'm fairly sure this is not one of his best-known stories or anything.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:59 pm

A lot of the time (especially in Northern Renaissance painting) you can find something very distinctive or weird about a religious painting such that it can be described well. Sometimes the clues you think would be useful are kind of generic, though, particularly which saints are flanking Mary.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:01 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote: Heh, I manage to write a question that Ted didn't like again. Here's Masaccio's Virgin and Child with St. Anne, probably one of his second tier paintings in terms of famousness. It is the thing being described in the leadin: http://www.aiwaz.net/uploads/gallery/ma ... e-1695.jpg
I can agree that art depictions in general should be as specific as possible, with the intention of helping players constuct a "mental picture" of what they're hearing clues about. Perhaps a better, wordier way to write this clue would be: "One work by this man shows a gold-clad figure swinging a censer (?) in the lower left; that figure is one of five angels lining the edges of an arch-shaped painting that features an blond blushing Christ held by Mary, who sits under a towering figure in pink and red". Note that this takes up more room, but describes the underlying painting more accurately. Is this what you're getting at, Ted? If so, I can agree in general that many tournaments can do this better.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by cornfused » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:13 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
ValenciaQBowl wrote:
Oh, and I thought that leading with "The End of Something," even without a title drop, was a very poor choice in Packet 03's Hemingway tossup - that's something that I believe is pretty commonly read at the high school level, even.
Hmm. I'm a English prof who teaches Am lit survey courses, and I've never even heard of that story, though I'm not a specialist in Hemingway or anything. But I doubt that work is too well known for a lead-in at a regular difficulty tournament.
I had a similar thought; I'm not a Hemingway expert or anything but I'm fairly sure this is not one of his best-known stories or anything.
I guess my HS was just weird - we read "End of Something" and "Hills like White Elephants" and I was always under the impression that they were equally famous.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:02 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:Well it's not just that there are five angels, it's that she's sitting on a throne and that St. Anne is standing behind her. If pretty much all Madonnas are really similar, then are you suggesting we don't use them as clues?
I know its hard to believe, but I'm actually trying to offer you constructive criticism. The issue is that St. Anne is Mary's mother and accordingly there are numerous depictions of Mary with St. Anne. Off the top of my head, both Da Vinci and Durer have notable versions of the scene. I've been taking a couple art history classes this semester and have been reevaluating the way a lot of people approach painting tossups. I think there are two recurring issues that plague some painting tossups.

1- People need to spend the time to find distinctive paintings for leadins and not just use bland descriptions of generic scenes. As a writer I don't want to find a passable leadin but a leadin that that I can be confident that if someone knows the painting they will recognize the description. For example, I find that too many tossups play like the Klimt leadin from Magni (which admittedly is a better tossup than the Masaccio question), which begins "In one of his paintings, a brown-haired figure on the left buries her head in her hands while red-haired mother cradles a curly-haired child." This isn't an inaccurate description of The Three Ages of Women, but both Stephen Liu and I have seen that painting several times and had no idea because that description could apply to so many possible paintings. Somehow that description failed to capture what is distinctive about that Klimt painting and probably should of been switched with a clue about a painting the writer feels comfortable describing uniquely.

Accordingly, I think certain recurring subjects like Madonnas should be approached with great care and generally avoided as leadins unless it has something very distinctive about it. It's common sense. For example, when I wrote a tossup on Simone Martini I could of tried to describe this painting (http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/s ... index.html) but it would not of been very distinctive so instead I described this Madonna (http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/s ... index.html) in the leadin, "This artist depicted a giant Virgin Mary wearing a huge blue cloak that covers the heads of many smaller saints that peak out of the folds of her shawl in The Madonna of Mercy." I think people need to use more clues that describe distinctive gestures and details in works and use many fewer clues about the number of angels or the color of a figure's hair. I think art questions would be much better if people took a step back after writing a tossup to think if their description unambiguously refers to one painting or if it could apply to lots of possible works.

2- I get the feeling a lot of people just look at a painting for a moment and then just describe what they see thinking their work is done. For some paintings this can be an effective writing strategy, but for many others (especially Renaissance painting) one needs to delve beneath the surface for extra cultural or art history clues. I'm biased towards including these contextual clues because my art history classes/readings devote a lot of time to these types of issues, but the thing I like about them is that the make a clue concrete. For example here is a tossup I wrote on Pontormo's Deposition:

A crouching figure in the foreground of this painting is based on a boy from Michelangelo’s sketch for a never completed painting of the Battle of Cascina and that boy’s naked back is painted bright pink. A bearded man wearing a green cap in the background on the far right is believed to be a self-portrait of the artist. The only landscape visible in this work is a solitary cloud on the upper left. This painting is found above the altar of the Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita surrounded by pendentives featuring the four Evangelists, some of which were finished by the artist’s apprentice Bronzino. Surprisingly no Cross appears in this painting that shows two men on the left carrying away a dead body, while the Virgin Mary swoons in the arms of a contorted group of mourners wearing vivid pink and blue robes. For 10 points, name this Mannerist depiction of Christ being removed from the Cross, by Jacopo Pontormo.
ANSWER: The Deposition from the Cross (prompt on The Entombment)

I tried to manipulate the language in the question to bring attention to the distinctive aspects of this painting and accordingly don''t waste middle clues trying to describe the generic stuff like Mary's attendants wearing blue robes. If I were Auroni Gupta I would just say, "A cloud appears on the upper left in this painting, while the central woman in blue robes is supported by a blond girl in pink robes as one of six females around her." Moreover, I don't just say there is a boy with a pink back or a guy in a green hat on the right, but try to find important secondary clues that are unique to the individual figures in a given painting. I'm not saying everybody has adopt my writing style that draws on a lot of contextual clues, but the key thing is that people need to do a better job of specifically describing paintings and filtering out generic clues that don't help players buzz.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:04 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:Well it's not just that there are five angels, it's that she's sitting on a throne and that St. Anne is standing behind her. If pretty much all Madonnas are really similar, then are you suggesting we don't use them as clues?
I know its hard to believe, but I'm actually trying to offer you constructive criticism. The issue is that St. Anne is Mary's mother and accordingly there are numerous depictions of Mary with St. Anne. Off the top of my head, both Da Vinci and Durer have notable versions of the scene. I've been taking a couple art history classes this semester and have been reevaluating the way a lot of people approach painting tossups. I think there are two recurring issues that plague some painting tossups.

1- People need to spend the time to find distinctive paintings for leadins and not just use bland descriptions of generic scenes. As a writer I don't want to find a passable leadin but a leadin that that I can be confident that if someone knows the painting they will recognize the description. For example, I find that too many tossups play like the Klimt leadin from Magni (which admittedly is a better tossup than the Masaccio question), which begins "In one of his paintings, a brown-haired figure on the left buries her head in her hands while red-haired mother cradles a curly-haired child." This isn't an inaccurate description of The Three Ages of Women, but both Stephen Liu and I have seen that painting several times and had no idea because that description could apply to so many possible paintings. Somehow that description failed to capture what is distinctive about that Klimt painting and probably should of been switched with a clue about a painting the writer feels comfortable describing uniquely.

Accordingly, I think certain recurring subjects like Madonnas should be approached with great care and generally avoided as leadins unless it has something very distinctive about it. It's common sense. For example, when I wrote a tossup on Simone Martini I could of tried to describe this painting (http://www.abcgallery.com/M/martini/martini11.html) but it would not of been very distinctive so instead I described this Madonna (http://www.lib-art.com/artgallery/16812 ... rtini.html) in the leadin, "This artist depicted a giant Virgin Mary wearing a huge blue cloak that covers the heads of many smaller saints that peak out of the folds of her shawl in The Madonna of Mercy." I think people need to use more clues that describe distinctive gestures and details in works and use many fewer clues about the number of angels or the color of a figure's hair. I think art questions would be much better if people took a step back after writing a tossup to think if their description unambiguously refers to one painting or if it could apply to lots of possible works.

2- I get the feeling a lot of people just look at a painting for a moment and then just describe what they see thinking their work is done. For some paintings this can be an effective writing strategy, but for many others (especially Renaissance painting) one needs to delve beneath the surface for extra cultural or art history clues. I'm biased towards including these contextual clues because my art history classes/readings devote a lot of time to these types of issues, but the thing I like about them is that the make a clue concrete. For example here is a tossup I wrote on Pontormo's Deposition:

A crouching figure in the foreground of this painting is based on a boy from Michelangelo’s sketch for a never completed painting of the Battle of Cascina and that boy’s naked back is painted bright pink. A bearded man wearing a green cap in the background on the far right is believed to be a self-portrait of the artist. The only landscape visible in this work is a solitary cloud on the upper left. This painting is found above the altar of the Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita surrounded by pendentives featuring the four Evangelists, some of which were finished by the artist’s apprentice Bronzino. Surprisingly no Cross appears in this painting that shows two men on the left carrying away a dead body, while the Virgin Mary swoons in the arms of a contorted group of mourners wearing vivid pink and blue robes. For 10 points, name this Mannerist depiction of Christ being removed from the Cross, by Jacopo Pontormo.
ANSWER: The Deposition from the Cross (prompt on The Entombment)

I tried to manipulate the language in the question to bring attention to the distinctive aspects of this painting and accordingly don''t waste middle clues trying to describe the generic stuff like Mary's attendants wearing blue robes. If I were Auroni Gupta I would just say, "A cloud appears on the upper left in this painting, while the central woman in blue robes is supported by a blond girl in pink robes as one of six females around her." Moreover, I don't just say there is a boy with a pink back or a guy in a green hat on the right, but try to find important secondary clues that are unique to the individual figures in a given painting. I'm not saying everybody has adopt my writing style that draws on a lot of contextual clues, but the key thing is that people need to do a better job of specifically describing paintings and filtering out generic clues that don't help players buzz.
EDIT: Fix links
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:09 pm

So wait, the Klimt leadin wasn't descriptive enough of his work for you, but "mosaic-like robes" was too descriptive and shouldn't have been used after that? What?
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:39 pm

Have you actually seen the painting in the leadin? If not, how can you definitrly determine that someone who has seen it wouldn't be helped by that clue? People complain all the time about "vague-sounding" things that they don't actually know, when in reality they need to go out and learn more stuff.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:07 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:Well it's not just that there are five angels, it's that she's sitting on a throne and that St. Anne is standing behind her. If pretty much all Madonnas are really similar, then are you suggesting we don't use them as clues?
I know its hard to believe, but I'm actually trying to offer you constructive criticism. The issue is that St. Anne is Mary's mother and accordingly there are numerous depictions of Mary with St. Anne. Off the top of my head, both Da Vinci and Durer have notable versions of the scene. I've been taking a couple art history classes this semester and have been reevaluating the way a lot of people approach painting tossups.
No, you're not. You're here to ramble about aesthetic issues with a tossup that you didn't like by a writer whose questions that you don't like. You're known for doing this and for not offering people specific pieces of advice that they would use to improve particular tossups. I noticed that you didn't bother to respond to Matt's improvement of the St. Anne painting clue, which gives me further evidence of this fact.
Accordingly, I think certain recurring subjects like Madonnas should be approached with great care and generally avoided as leadins unless it has something very distinctive about it. It's common sense.
It actually is distinctive. It's even distinctive among different versions of the scene (I'm confident that people who have seen the Durer and da Vinci versions wouldn't be buzzing at the title). You just weren't aware of the distinctiveness, and that's a fault with you for not knowing facts rather than the question for explicitly stating what those facts are.
For example here is a tossup I wrote on Pontormo's Deposition:

A crouching figure in the foreground of this painting is based on a boy from Michelangelo’s sketch for a never completed painting of the Battle of Cascina and that boy’s naked back is painted bright pink. A bearded man wearing a green cap in the background on the far right is believed to be a self-portrait of the artist. The only landscape visible in this work is a solitary cloud on the upper left. This painting is found above the altar of the Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita surrounded by pendentives featuring the four Evangelists, some of which were finished by the artist’s apprentice Bronzino. Surprisingly no Cross appears in this painting that shows two men on the left carrying away a dead body, while the Virgin Mary swoons in the arms of a contorted group of mourners wearing vivid pink and blue robes. For 10 points, name this Mannerist depiction of Christ being removed from the Cross, by Jacopo Pontormo.
ANSWER: The Deposition from the Cross (prompt on The Entombment)

I tried to manipulate the language in the question to bring attention to the distinctive aspects of this painting and accordingly don''t waste middle clues trying to describe the generic stuff like Mary's attendants wearing blue robes. If I were Auroni Gupta I would just say, "A cloud appears on the upper left in this painting, while the central woman in blue robes is supported by a blond girl in pink robes as one of six females around her."


No, if I were to write a tossup on this subject, it would be similar to or better than this tossup in quality. This is objectively a more important painting with a lot more literature and background to it, and when those things are available I mention and use them in clues. Nice attempt to try to speak for and discredit me, though.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:21 am

Magister Ludi wrote: - The drama tossups were significantly better executed than any regular difficulty tournament (outside of Regionals) in the last few years and really used meaningful textual clues
- The free and indirect style bonus part was my favorite bonus part of any tournament I've ever played. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've spent 25+ in my academic career discussing this concept across 5-6 different classes. Perhaps the primary reason for Flaubert's importance to modern fiction is because he pioneered free and indirect style, so it was incredibly refreshing to have one bonus part on something you would only get from studying Flaubert rather than a throwaway part on The Temptation of St. Anthony or something.
This tournament's bonuses did a good job of rewarding people for knowledge actually important to academic disciplines. It's somewhat self-serving to say James Wood make a perfect third part because he is my senior thesis adviser, but I think trying to find third parts of bonuses that reward real interest in literary culture is a refreshing way to reward people who study the topic without making it inaccessible.
Glad you liked these. Similarly for me, free indirect style is the only concept in English that has come up in at least one of my classes literally every year since junior year of high school, so I thought it was about time someone asked about it.
For me the primary issue at this tournament was the discrepancy between the depth of clues in the music and visual tossups. These were some of the deepest music tossups I've played at a regular difficulty tournament, which might be a good thing but objectively made playing the arts questions a very uneven experience. I think I'm good judge for this issue because I'm a middle tier music player who has edited a bunch of tournaments and knows the recurring clues, but will rarely get anything really fast from real knowledge other than opera.
I would argue that by a real-world metric, the clues for the music tossups are much shallower than are those for the painting questions. I understand, however, that most good players (even arts players) tend to have both deeper repertoire knowledge in visual arts than in music, and have trouble understanding music terminology, and that therefore this real-world metric does not translate to quizbowl. I thought I compensated enough for this; apparently you disagree. I tried to hard to make the questions in both disciplines primarily about familiarity with the core repertoire, with knowing oft-performed pieces of music and famous paintings that a well-travelled museum goer is likely to have seen. I approached neither from a strictly academic standpoint.

I should note that I take these statement from you with a slight grain of salt, because the tournaments for which you have done arts editing are those that I have found to have the biggest discrepancy between music and visual arts in the other direction: i.e. shallow music lead-ins and deep visual arts lead-ins. You have triggered more music buzzer races than any other major arts editor whose questions I've played. I am not attacking this aspect of your writing per se, because if the reality of the field remains as it is, this does little harm to the field at large (so long as this is not a Nationals tournament). However, I am noting this to suggest that I suspect you of coming from the exact opposite approach to the arts from mine: demanding both a depth and scholarliness from visual arts that you do not expect or apply to other genres of art. In other words, I am skeptical of this combined criticism because you are telling me you want my music questions to be more like my painting questions so you can buzz earlier, but you don't like my painting questions because you're buzzing too early.

So far, all of the music questions that have been brought up for discussion are Kevin's rather than mine, but I did have oversight over editing them and I think they're good, so I will say why I disagree with your criticisms:
I found myself often buzzing on a clue for topics like Pictures at an Exhibition or Haydn's symphonies on the fifth or sixth line, while usually I would get that tossup--literally on the same clue --on the second or third line of other tournaments.
The Haydn tossup has been posted previously. The Pictures at an Exhibition tossup is below:
One movement in this work contains two sections marked senza espressione based on the chant “As you are baptized in Christ.” The penultimate movement begins with abrupt fortissimo descending sevenths interrupted by whole bars of rest. It was the longest piece played by Sviatoslav Richter in his legendary 1958 recital in Sofia. Its opening movement introduces a theme that alternates between 5/4 and 6/4 time. That theme, which reappears in minor in the movement “Cum mortuis in lingua mortua,” represents a viewer walking through the title location. That “Promenade” theme recurs throughout this piece that ends with “The Great Gate of Kiev.” For 10 points, name this suite for piano based on images by Viktor Hartmann, composed by Modest Mussorgsky.
ANSWER: Pictures at an Exhibition [or Kartinki s vystavki – Vospominaniye o Viktore Gartmane]
I was really pleased with Kevin's clue selection. The Sofia recital is the single most famous live piano recital recording not made by Horowitz. The 5/4 and 6/4 clue strikes me as very well-known and in the middle of the tossup. May I ask you, what besides the titles of the individual movements do you know about Pictures at an Exhibition that you think should have been the middle clues so you can buzz?
Another example would be the Il Trovatore question (which is one of my favorite operas) and used a lot of musical theory clues and didn't drop a single aria clue in the first half of the question.


Here is the text of the Il trovatore question:
An adagio sung by the title character in this opera features an unusual progressive tonal plan, beginning in F minor and ending in D-flat major. That aria is interrupted by a messenger telling of the capture of the title character’s adoptive mother, whom he and Ruiz resolve to save from being burned at the stake. The lead soprano’s fourth-act aria is interrupted by her beloved singing from the tower in which he is imprisoned and an offstage choir accompanied only by church bells singing “Miserere.” Its most famous number is sung by a group of gypsies as they begin to work at dawn, and is named after its use of a unique percussion instrument. For 10 points, identify this opera that includes the Anvil Chorus and whose title character Manrico loves Leonora, a work by Giuseppe Verdi.
ANSWER: Il trovatore
What are you talking about? The first line is the only clue that contains theory and everything else is an aria clue, most of them musically significant and/or significant to the plot, just not their titles. If you weren't able to buzz until the fifth or sixth line, I'm going to suggest that you don't remember most of the climactic plot moments and don't know these arias beyond their title.
Also, in the twelve games I played there wasn’t a single painting tossup on an individual work, which was incredibly problematic.
I would have to check the final packet randomization to see how this might have happened, but of the fourteen painting tossups, five are on individual works or a series.
The tossups on Manet, Ansel Adams, Klimt, and the Deposition all had problems and several other painting tossups had non-ideal leadin clues...The Klimt question mentioned "mosaic-like robes" in the second line, the Manet tossup had an annoying leadin about the execution of Maximilian, the Deposition question horrifically dropped Pontormo in the second line.
Mea culpa on the mosaic dress coming a bit too early. It slipped my mind that the Stoclet Frieze clue would be mistaken for a The Kiss clue and lead to an early buzz. For Manet, I guess I am underestimating the fame of that painting. Was it the experience of the field in general that that lead-in was too easy, or are these just the complaints of very good painting players? For the Deposition tossup, it goes: Limbourg, Pontormo, Fiorentino, Van der Weyden, Rubens. Based on how I have encountered articles/writings about these outside of quizbowl, I would maintain that this is pyramidal order. Has Pontormo's Deposition filtered down to regular difficulty audiences enough to be a poor second clue for the target audience of this tourament? In this instance, are you sure you're not setting too high standards because you're a good painting player?
For example, I find that too many tossups play like the Klimt leadin from Magni (which admittedly is a better tossup than the Masaccio question), which begins "In one of his paintings, a brown-haired figure on the left buries her head in her hands while red-haired mother cradles a curly-haired child." This isn't an inaccurate description of The Three Ages of Women, but both Stephen Liu and I have seen that painting several times and had no idea because that description could apply to so many possible paintings. Somehow that description failed to capture what is distinctive about that Klimt painting and probably should of been switched with a clue about a painting the writer feels comfortable describing uniquely.
Could apply to so many possible paintings? Can you name a single one? If so, I wrote a non-unique, and therefore bad lead-in. If not, I don't think it's my duty as a writer to assuage your paranoid fears that a straightforward and unique description of a painting you have seen could also apply to some hypothetical, non-existent painting. I'm not going to waste time distinguishing between this painting and a painting that could exist but doesn't.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:32 am

Mea culpa on the mosaic dress coming a bit too early. It slipped my mind that the Stoclet Frieze clue would be mistaken for a The Kiss clue and lead to an early buzz. For Manet, I guess I am underestimating the fame of that painting. Was it the experience of the field in general that that lead-in was too easy, or are these just the complaints of very good painting players? For the Deposition tossup, it goes: Limbourg, Pontormo, Fiorentino, Van der Weyden, Rubens. Based on how I have encountered articles/writings about these outside of quizbowl, I would maintain that this is pyramidal order. Has Pontormo's Deposition filtered down to regular difficulty audiences enough to be a poor second clue for the target audience of this tourament? In this instance, are you sure you're not setting too high standards because you're a good painting player?
I think it's fair to say that Pontormo's Deposition and the Execution of Maximilian should have been later in their respective tossups. The issue with the latter is that besides being a famous painting, it also ends up in a lot of history textbooks next to paragraphs describing the real-life event. The former may be a bit overrepresented in quizbowl, but it's still real-world famous enough that it probably should have been switched with Fiorentino. This seems to be an issue of a couple paintings just being more famous than the writers thought they were, which is a mistake everyone makes.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:01 am

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote: No, you're not. You're here to ramble about aesthetic issues with a tossup that you didn't like by a writer whose questions that you don't like. You're known for doing this and for not offering people specific pieces of advice that they would use to improve particular tossups. I noticed that you didn't bother to respond to Matt's improvement of the St. Anne painting clue, which gives me further evidence of this fact.

It actually is distinctive. It's even distinctive among different versions of the scene (I'm confident that people who have seen the Durer and da Vinci versions wouldn't be buzzing at the title). You just weren't aware of the distinctiveness, and that's a fault with you for not knowing facts rather than the question for explicitly stating what those facts are.
You need to calm down and stop valuing your image as a writer more than your improvement. Contrary to to your paranoia I'm not trying to pick on you, in fact I actually assumed John wrote the Masaccio tossup when I criticized it (though lets say I'm not surprised to learn it was your handiwork). If you had written the question as "this artist's version of the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne is unique for placing a large St. Anne with a robe that is half pink and half red behind an enthroned Mary" that would be a helpful clue, but you formed the question in such a way that it came off as very generic. Once again, I was offering you actual advice about phrasing your questions to bring emphasis to the things that make it unique. It might be a novel change of pace for you to think about improving rather than trying to dismiss every criticism by claiming I'm at fault for not knowing the facts (when in reality I made sure to only critique tossups on subjects that I am extremely knowledgeable about and purposefully avoided critiquing things like the statues of Hermes tossup because I couldn't be sure if the question played badly due to a problem in the content of the question or my lack of knowledge).
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote: You're here to ramble about aesthetic issues with a tossup that you didn't like by a writer whose questions that you don't like.
Unlike my opinions on literature, I actually don't have strong aesthetic preferences about what subjects people should write their art tossups on. As you'll note I didn't make any claims that people should not write on artist X or should more questions on subject Y. I simply think people write about paintings that they can make describe distinctively in a way that will allow people to buzz on descriptions of paintings they know, which you conflate with "rambl[ing] about aesthetic issues with a tossup that you didn't like by a writer whose questions that you don't like" as part of my ostensible vendetta against you. (I would note that I praised you for writing the best packet after Regionals when you wrote good questions and I criticized this tossup assuming someone else was the author---but who am I to challenge your declaration that I desperately try to launch unfounded critiques on your writing at every turn.) Needless to say, you come across as a writer with their priorities in the wrong place when you try to feebly defend a mediocre leadin rather than admit to any mistake. You seem driven to extend my objective critique into a larger personal issue
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote: You're known for doing this and for not offering people specific pieces of advice that they would use to improve particular tossups.
Just because you systematically ignore my advice in attempt to dismiss valid criticisms as wild ramblings doesn't mean I didn't give it. I'll point out I have spent a significant amount of time mentoring younger writers who thanked me for identifying the specific recurring tics in their writing that they could change to improve. Because I want to help you improve despite your virulent personal attacks questioning my integrity as a poster, I'll simplify my advice so even you can't possibly miss these points:

1- Pick distinctive paintings to write on for clues (i.e. don't try to describe a generic Madonna)
2- Use distinctive contextual/iconography/cultural clues that are specific to that painting (i.e. figure X is based on a boy from Michelangelo's Siege of Cascina, figure Y is a portrait of the artist's sister, or object Z represents the "futility of human words")
3- Phrase your question to call attention to its important or distinctive factors. Rather than describing a painting by calling attention to the fact a towering figure stands above Mary's throne and the dazzling detail that there are five angels (which literally applies to thousands of Madonnas), I suggested you should drop the title in the leadin sentence and describe how it differs from normal depictions of that scene since you don't have to worry about title fraud due to numerous versions of the scene.

Hope that helps, but feel free to dismiss anything you dislike as the wild ramblings of my persona vendetta.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:39 am

RyuAqua wrote:So wait, the Klimt leadin wasn't descriptive enough of his work for you, but "mosaic-like robes" was too descriptive and shouldn't have been used after that? What?
There are different problems affecting different parts of the tossup. The first sentence was vague and the second sentence was transparent because it dropped "mosaic-like robes" creating an unfortunate incidence in which the tossup was vague yet transparent. Also, to respond to Auroni's accusation I have a poster of The Three Ages of a Woman on the wall of my dorm room (though I oddly didn't even look at the title when I bought it), so I'm very familiar with what the painting looks like but know nothing about its background information.
ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I should note that I take these statement from you with a slight grain of salt, because the tournaments for which you have done arts editing are those that I have found to have the biggest discrepancy between music and visual arts in the other direction: i.e. shallow music lead-ins and deep visual arts lead-ins. You have triggered more music buzzer races than any other major arts editor whose questions I've played. I am not attacking this aspect of your writing per se, because if the reality of the field remains as it is, this does little harm to the field at large (so long as this is not a Nationals tournament). However, I am noting this to suggest that I suspect you of coming from the exact opposite approach to the arts from mine: demanding both a depth and scholarliness from visual arts that you do not expect or apply to other genres of art. In other words, I am skeptical of this combined criticism because you are telling me you want my music questions to be more like my painting questions so you can buzz earlier, but you don't like my painting questions because you're buzzing too early.
I didn't really have an issue with the music. I was making an observation rather than a criticism, but maybe didn't a do a good enough job of highlighting that I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that music tossups become deeper and more real. I should probably be buzzing much later on the music questions than I usually do anyway, but my criticisms of the painting tossups aren't contingent on the depth of the music clues.
ThisIsMyUsername wrote: Could apply to so many possible paintings? Can you name a single one? If so, I wrote a non-unique, and therefore bad lead-in. If not, I don't think it's my duty as a writer to assuage your paranoid fears that a straightforward and unique description of a painting you have seen could also apply to some hypothetical, non-existent painting. I'm not going to waste time distinguishing between this painting and a painting that could exist but doesn't.
I think you are missing the issue of my constructive critique. I'll go out on a limb and try to explain the nuances of my problem with this leadin, even though my attempts at explaining nuanced approaches to improving one's writing in the past have led to Auroni dismissing my posts entirely as wild rambling about aesthetic preferences.

I have a feeling this description of Klimt's The Three Ages of Woman is analogous to the unhelpful ways I may have written music clues in past. Let me offer a made-up example of the kind of music clue I might use, "the final movement begins with a oboe solo in 3/8 interrupted by an 'allegro giusto' duet between two flute and two violas in time playing arpeggiated F-sharp diminished triads." This seems really unique to me but actually could come across as generic rubbish to a knowledgeable person. I pull most of my music descriptions from some online book or source, so there is a decent chance it might be technically correct and uniquely identifying, but it still might not help someone who knows the piece buzz. In the same way, it's possible (though incredibly doubtful) that The Three Ages of Woman is the only painting by a major artist that has a brown-haired figure crying on the left while a mother cradles her baby, just like it's possible that the aforementioned oboe solo is the only 3/8 oboe solo followed by an 'allegro giusto' duet between two flutes and two violas. However, just because a clue meets the minimum standard of being identifying does not mean it was a successful clue that described something well. I think this phenomenon is somewhat similar to Weiner's criticisms of tossups on social science books that just quote a random sentence pulled from the middle.

The Klimt has an overly generalized description, which may be accurate while being unhelpful. It's so generalized that it is analogous to describing "A Good Man is hard to Find" by saying:"In one of this author's stories, an "older man" who wears "silver-rimmed spectacles" and "blue jeans that were too tight for him" talks on the side of the road with an elderly woman who eventually falls down so "[she] half sat and half lay . . . with her legs crossed under her like a child's.'" While these clues technically uniquely identify "A Good Man is Hard to Find," they are so generalized that it would be fairly easy for a knowledgeable player to process the clues as so general that they could potentially refer to multiple stories. Similarly, the description of the Klimt painting didn't mention the specific aspects of the figure on the left such as her withered and sagging body or the odd vertical composition of figures and their proximity to one another. Instead it just mentioned there is a brown-haired figure crying in her hands on the left and a mother with her child somewhere in the painting. Did that explanation make sense?

Contrary to Auroni's histrionic accusations, the purpose of these post-tournament discussions is not for the writers to vehemently attack anyone who criticizes their tournament, but to have discussions about how writing can be improved in the future. My goal is not to criticize John or undercut the reputation of this very solid tournament but to explain specifically how a few tossups that the writers probably assumed were fine actually turned out to be vague. More importantly, I hope I was able to explain what someone can do to avoid and fix this problem for future tournaments. In the same way, I'd be interested in hearing what suggestions music players have for fixing unhelpful clues I have used in my past music questions.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:38 am

Magister Ludi wrote: I think you are missing the issue of my constructive critique. I'll go out on a limb and try to explain the nuances of my problem with this leadin, even though my attempts at explaining nuanced approaches to improving one's writing in the past have led to Auroni dismissing my posts entirely as wild rambling about aesthetic preferences.

I have a feeling this description of Klimt's The Three Ages of Woman is analogous to the unhelpful ways I may have written music clues in past. Let me offer a made-up example of the kind of music clue I might use, "the final movement begins with a oboe solo in 3/8 interrupted by an 'allegro giusto' duet between two flute and two violas in time playing arpeggiated F-sharp diminished triads." This seems really unique to me but actually could come across as generic rubbish to a knowledgeable person. I pull most of my music descriptions from some online book or source, so there is a decent chance it might be technically correct and uniquely identifying, but it still might not help someone who knows the piece buzz. In the same way, it's possible (though incredibly doubtful) that The Three Ages of Woman is the only painting by a major artist that has a brown-haired figure crying on the left while a mother cradles her baby, just like it's possible that the aforementioned oboe solo is the only 3/8 oboe solo followed by an 'allegro giusto' duet between two flutes and two violas. However, just because a clue meets the minimum standard of being identifying does not mean it was a successful clue that described something well. I think this phenomenon is somewhat similar to Weiner's criticisms of tossups on social science books that just quote a random sentence pulled from the middle.

The Klimt has an overly generalized description, which may be accurate while being unhelpful. It's so generalized that it is analogous to describing "A Good Man is hard to Find" by saying:"In one of this author's stories, an "older man" who wears "silver-rimmed spectacles" and "blue jeans that were too tight for him" talks on the side of the road with an elderly woman who eventually falls down so "[she] half sat and half lay . . . with her legs crossed under her like a child's.'" While these clues technically uniquely identify "A Good Man is Hard to Find," they are so generalized that it would be fairly easy for a knowledgeable player to process the clues as so general that they could potentially refer to multiple stories. Similarly, the description of the Klimt painting didn't mention the specific aspects of the figure on the left such as her withered and sagging body or the odd vertical composition of figures and their proximity to one another. Instead it just mentioned there is a brown-haired figure crying in her hands on the left and a mother with her child somewhere in the painting. Did that explanation make sense?
That explanation makes more sense. I found the way you initially framed this issue to be emphasizing an odd part of this question (and I think you still slightly are). Your earlier post seemed to suggest that the problem with the Klimt lead-in is that it applies to too many painting (something that you reassert here). I do not think this is true. The position of the three figures and the description of the color and quality of all three figures' hair ensures that this description does not apply to another painting. The issue, as I understand it, is not that you recognized this description of the painting, but then refused to buzz, because you thought it could apply to other paintings. Rather, the issue is that the lead-in either did not capture enough distinctive features of the painting to evoke the painting for you to begin with, or mentioned a mixture of things that you knew applied to that painting and things you didn't remember and therefore didn't feel confident buzzing off of. This to me is also the issue with the lit tossup you invented there: it's not that players are going to recognize the quotes and think they could apply to other stories too; the problem is that players are too unlikely to recognize the quotes to begin with. This strikes me as less an issue of being "vague" in the sense of describe something that is giving an inaccurate or non-unique description of a work, but more about getting to the heart of what kind of descriptions can trigger the memories needed to buzz.

This is a fair criticism, although one that surprises me in this one case, because I think it is a fairly good summary of what that painting looks like. However, I will admit that throughout this tournament I over-relied on using elements like color and spatial placement of figures in my descriptions, because they are objective. I often shied away from the describing the left-most figure as "sagging", because that seemed a more subjective judgment. (And I have such terrible associations with that in music. The worst clues in music tossups are the one that think that describing a theme as "cheerful" constitutes a clue.) However, in this case I think describing her body as "sagging" would have helped.
Contrary to Auroni's histrionic accusations, the purpose of these post-tournament discussions is not for the writers to vehemently attack anyone who criticizes their tournament, but to have discussions about how writing can be improved in the future. My goal is not to criticize John or undercut the reputation of this very solid tournament but to explain specifically how a few tossups that the writers probably assumed were fine actually turned out to be vague. More importantly, I hope I was able to explain what someone can do to avoid and fix this problem for future tournaments.
I solicited criticism in my first post to help me improve as a writer. I was not just saying that. I am interested in hearing reactions to my questions and learning from the feedback. I defended Kevin and my questions in my previous post not out of reflex defensiveness, but because I disagreed with some of your criticisms and premises (especially your critiques of Kevin's music questions). Please believe me when I say that I mentioned your writing trends not as any kind of ad hominem attack, but to put this in the correct context of a dialogue between divergent approaches to writing. There are still criticisms you made that I do not agree with, but after your subsequent post, I also see several reasonable critiques that you made that I can use to improve my writing. I don't interpret your criticisms as an attack, I hope you don't interpret my responses as counter-attacks, and I'm glad to have had this dialogue and to continue it if you think there is more to be gained.
In the same way, I'd be interested in hearing what suggestions music players have for fixing unhelpful clues I have used in my past music questions.
I used to post incessantly my freshman and sophomore year about music in a way that I recognize was unhelpful because it reflected too much the realities of my discipline in the larger world and did not sufficiently take into account the mechanics of quizbowl itself. After I realized this, I started posting music critiques a lot less. I also starting posting a lot less on this subject out of frustration: after nearly every tournament I've played, I could post a list of music clues from that tournament that either meant nothing or were outright lies. The basic standards for accuracy in music questions are still dismal in today's quizbowl, and I don't feel like fighting a solo crusade. However, I do think I'm in a better place now to offer helpful criticism in many areas. If you're curious about critiques I have of specific questions from tournament you've editing, I'm happy to e-mail you. However, if other music writers would be interested, instead of e-mailing you, I can start a separate thread in which I discuss the many different ways to write music clues with specific examples from tournaments I've played of this being executed well and poorly.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Auroni » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:02 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:If I were Auroni Gupta I would just say, "A cloud appears on the upper left in this painting, while the central woman in blue robes is supported by a blond girl in pink robes as one of six females around her."
I'm not going to offer a reasonable rebuttal when you say things like this. You wouldn't have posted this unless you meant to vent/ramble/just say stuff. It invalidates the content of the rest of your post.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:39 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:If I were Auroni Gupta I would just say, "A cloud appears on the upper left in this painting, while the central woman in blue robes is supported by a blond girl in pink robes as one of six females around her."
I'm not going to offer a reasonable rebuttal when you say things like this. You wouldn't have posted this unless you meant to vent/ramble/just say stuff. It invalidates the content of the rest of your post.
Dude, no it doesn't. If you cut through the needless vitriol Ted actually has some decent ideas on how to write painting clues.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:54 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: That explanation makes more sense. I found the way you initially framed this issue to be emphasizing an odd part of this question (and I think you still slightly are). Your earlier post seemed to suggest that the problem with the Klimt lead-in is that it applies to too many painting (something that you reassert here). I do not think this is true. The position of the three figures and the description of the color and quality of all three figures' hair ensures that this description does not apply to another painting. The issue, as I understand it, is not that you recognized this description of the painting, but then refused to buzz, because you thought it could apply to other paintings. Rather, the issue is that the lead-in either did not capture enough distinctive features of the painting to evoke the painting for you to begin with, or mentioned a mixture of things that you knew applied to that painting and things you didn't remember and therefore didn't feel confident buzzing off of. This to me is also the issue with the lit tossup you invented there: it's not that players are going to recognize the quotes and think they could apply to other stories too; the problem is that players are too unlikely to recognize the quotes to begin with. This strikes me as less an issue of being "vague" in the sense of describe something that is giving an inaccurate or non-unique description of a work, but more about getting to the heart of what kind of descriptions can trigger the memories needed to buzz.
I'm glad we've moved beyond the yelling phase and can actually have a productive discussion. Just to re-iterate, I didn't think the painting at this tournament was bad but rather a few tossups suffered from some vagueness problems that I've seen chronically affecting painting tossups at many recent tournaments and for whatever reason I decided to talk about the issue after this tournament. I used the literature example not to show vague clues but rather to highlight needless specific clues that are focused on the wrong aspects of the work. I think hair color is often analogous to tempo markings in music questions since they are usually not important and rarely help someone buzz unless it's very specific, noticeable hair color (just how tempo markings don't help much except rare instances such as "saltarello" movement in the Italian Symphony). As I understand it, the issue with using tempo markings as clues is it focuses the question on a needlessly specific detail that doesn't help players make distinctions. This misguided specificity affects a lot of painting tossups by focusing on hair color or the number of angels in a massive altar, which don't really help people make distinctions though they are technically accurate.

The description of the Klimt painting wasn't helpful because it only described the old woman as "a brown-haired figure on the left buries her head in her hands." It doesn't do much to help one visualize the specific sagging nude body of the elderly woman, but leaves it so general that I was mentally flipping through Degas and Cassatt paintings. It seems pretty obvious that the most striking difference between the two women is not the contrast between their brown and red hair colors, but the distinction between their ages as seen manifested in their nude bodies. In fact, the title of the painting, The Three Ages of Woman, offers some pretty strong support that the difference in generations is important. I understand it might be difficult for people to determine the most important/distinctive parts of a painting, but a little common sense can help simply by asking yourself if a description like "a brown-haired figure on the left buries her head in her hands" will definitely evoke this specific work and couldn't be applied to other works. Like I suggested earlier in this thread, one key to being a good visual arts writer is the stamina to reject works whose descriptions might be overly vague (save those for bonuses) and try to find a painting you feel confident will be specific.
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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by setht » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:38 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Is the ability to do dimensional analysis quickly something that you want to see rewarded, though (at least in early clues)? This strikes me as sort of close to the sort of "applied-skills" knowledge that (as I understand it) quizbowl seeks to avoid testing (kind of like computational math, I guess).
I think Matt Bollinger has very eloquently articulated my own position on this issue. Some time ago, I had a discussion on this forum where I advocated for rewarding what I called "engagement with the material" (this was in the context of music but intended to be generally applicable). From my perspective, being able to do dimensional analysis is that kind of engagement that I do want to see rewarded. When you perform such an operation, you are not merely doing a mechanical calculation, you are drawing on a great deal of background knowledge and demonstrating that you know something important about the question at hand. I have no problem giving you points for that.
I also think that science questions that can be answered early on through dimensional analysis are not inherently problematic. In the particular case of the pressure tossup I believe there was a typo in the lead-in that messes up attempts at dimensional analysis. I guess the cautionary note here is that it's not uncommon for fluid dynamics textbooks to talk about quantities per unit mass (or per unit volume) without always stating clearly that they are doing so, and writers/editors need to be careful about that so they don't mislead players who are trying to carry out dimensional analysis.

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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by setht » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:59 pm

I think the answer lines for some of the bonus parts--especially hard bonus parts--could have benefited from loosening up a bit: I'm thinking of stuff like "churning of the ocean of milk," which I think should have accepted "churning of the ocean," and "interplanetary dust," which could have been changed to just "dust" with a small tweak to the intro ("Unlike its interstellar and primordial counterparts, the interplanetary form of this material...").

I also think some of the literature bonuses did a good job of including hard parts on characters who are noteworthy (e.g. Lady Bracknell), while others did not (e.g. Lane Coutell). I guess I'm basing that on my hazy memory of reading Franny and Zooey years ago, so perhaps I'm wrong and Lane is actually more important than I remember.

I didn't play this tournament, but I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed it if I did. The set had lots of good, solid questions, and a healthy dose of better-than-good questions (e.g. that iron tossup; maybe the binding energy stuff came up earlier than is ideal, but I don't really care because the stuff before that is all great).

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Re: Individual Question Requests and Discussion

Post by Smuttynose Island » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:48 am

I know that it's not the most constructive criticism, especially after all mirrors have been run, but the Theodore Weld clue in the Second Great Awakening TU isn't that great clue. Weld was a prominent abolitionist and the Lane Rebels were fighting over how the Lane Seminary should approach slavery and its abolition, so I can see someone buzzing in with "abolitionism" (or more appropriately "abolitionist movement") and getting screwed over, but still being correct, so far as that clue is concerned.
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