George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Ike wrote:
I don't think even this lone source you've found is completely clear on the question. This example doesn't even approach the level of "it's unsportsmanlike to not insist that the moderator award me points without looking into it."
I'm not making the point about the Proust specifics to my overall point, but to the suggestion that I was "correctly negged." I had a whole post typed up about the specifics of why you should take that answer, but strictly from a rule reading: there is no "things have a name" rule since this character literally doesn't have a name - he's an unnamed narrator for every volume of the books! The idea that my answer should be negged because he's not called Proust is invalid, since he isn't called Marcel in the books. Therefore, Auroni's rationale for accepting Marcel has to be that "people often referred to him as Marcel" in academic discussion. Well, my reasoning for accepting "Proust" is the exact same: my professor once called that character "Proust" in discussions as well, and I was providing a print source that actually does so. I can only imagine that one doesn’t call him Proust that often in print because of the ambiguity it would create in most formal papers by having to distinguish between “Proust the author” and “Proust the character.”

By the way, Evan, I didn’t say what you put into your own quotes, and that quote is not even a paraphrase of my overall point about sportsmanship.
That's what you argued, though. You complained about opposing players not telling the moderator to give you points when you were obviously right, then used the Proust incident as your example of unsportsmanlike conduct.

I don't like these "backroom deals" to award points for an answer that's not on the page. In my experience, this usually happens when a decorated player gives an answer that's not completely right, then tries to pressure the moderator and opposing team into awarding him points anyway. For one thing, this is just unfair, because it allows quizbowl's aristocrats to use their community status to extract points out of less-known staffers. For another, it makes us look deeply unprofessional when we handle potential game-swinging decisions in such a haphazard way - there's a lot more gnashing of teeth involved in this process than in marking it and moving on. To me, it seems totally reasonable to just mark these complaints as protests and have the TD resolve them at the end if they matter.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by Muriel Axon »

Yeah, to me it seems prudent for moderators to be very conservative when prompting or accepting answers not listed on the page. I think I've done this maybe once or twice in all the tournaments I've moderated. The reason is that there could be some reason, however technical, that the answer given by the player is incorrect, even if it has the superficial appearance of correctness on a fast read-through. To some extent, I trust the judgment of a complete non-expert who's writing with the benefit of time, books and/or a computer over a moderator who's knowledgeable about the topic but has no time and none of those resources. I'm not doubting the knowledgeable moderator's ability, just noting that it's easy to make mistakes at the pace of a quiz bowl game.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by Ike »

That's what you argued, though. You complained about opposing players not telling the moderator to give you points when you were obviously right, then used the Proust incident as your example of unsportsmanlike conduct.
me wrote:One of the most annoying things that actually is off-putting is when moderators don't take answers that are obviously correct. At Oppen, for example, I gave an answer of Proust for the narrator of In Search of Lost Time and was promptly negged. If one of my opponents buzzed in with that, I would have instructed the moderator to give them the points - no protest needed.
I began with the Proust example to discuss how frustrating it is to not get points when you have clear knowledge in general. In this case, the other team was not unsportsmanlike. In fact the only time I used the word unsportsmanlike in that post was referring to that one person who literally tried to strongarm me into not fixing an obvious error.
I don't like these "backroom deals" to award points for an answer that's not on the page. In my experience, this usually happens when a decorated player gives an answer that's not completely right, then tries to pressure the moderator and opposing team into awarding him points anyway. For one thing, this is just unfair, because it allows quizbowl's aristocrats to use their community status to extract points out of less-known staffers. For another, it makes us look deeply unprofessional when we handle potential game-swinging decisions in such a haphazard way - there's a lot more gnashing of teeth involved in this process than in marking it and moving on. To me, it seems totally reasonable to just mark these complaints as protests and have the TD resolve them at the end if they matter.
Here are some examples of what I consider sportsmanlike conduct:

- A question on "Enrico Fermi" had an answer of "Dolly Parton" or something equivalent due to some really funny copy paste job. The other team buzzed in and gave the correct answer. I just said, fuck it, give them the points.
- I played against a decent team where the answer was "oxygen" and I had negged the tossup. The moderator said "FTP, name this oxygen gas that comprises ozone" I said, fuck it, just give one of the opposing players the points because they obviously knew the answer and would have gotten it without moderator error.
- A team once said "The Marriage of Cana" for the Veronese painting even though the page only had "The Wedding at Cana." I didn't even bother to let them protest - I just gave it to them.

Technically, you have to protest the first case, and read a replacement for the second case and protest the third case, but I just wanted to give the other team the satisfaction of correctly answering a question and demonstrating knowledge.

In fact, going out of the way to reward teams for knowledge is something that I think makes this game much, much more welcoming, to a wider audience. If you're wailing on a team 500-100, and they say an answer that you know is correct or are 95% sure - just give them the points. A lot of times it's a team featuring players who get 4-6 tossups an entire a day, and having their actual knowledge rewarded is something that means a lot to them, and you should encourage it even if it's a "backroom deal."
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

NickConderWKU wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:Victor's original point - "experienced players, please don't just try to bulldoze your way into points (and think about if that's how you're coming off even if it's not your intent)" - was a good one.
It's a good point, but I'm pretty sure everyone who has been in quizbowl for a while has been on both sides of the "bullshit intellectual wankery for the sake of getting points" phenomenon and it certainly starts well before people get to college. It's very frequent that somebody expresses displeasure when packets/officials/rules of quizbowl/whatever prevents them from getting points regardless of how good the rule or the specific application, and if we're being honest I think a lot of us end up making opposite arguments about these ideals depending on the situation we find ourselves in. These things usually end up starting an argument in the middle of the game and half the time people run to the internet to argue about whatever happened for the next several weeks.

Since this phenomenon seeps into lower levels of quizbowl, it's fair to say that nearly everybody who has played quizbowl for some length of time (regardless of how new they are to college quizbowl) probably falls into specific faux pas you've mentioned here. Whether or not anything can be done about it, I'm less sure. Nothing in this thread actually encourages me to say much will change.
I'm sorry, but this attitude completely drives me up a wall. The whole point of having these discussion forums, as opposed to just a tournament announcement board for TDs and results pages, is to point out problems with quizbowl as it exists now and figure out ways to improve them for the future. A lot of things in quizbowl, and in human history writ large, have changed for the better even when a subpar status quo seemed like it would continue forever. Rarely (if ever) has that happened in instances where people just threw up their hands and insisted that nothing could ever change. If these behavioral dominance-asserting issues are have been a problem for a wide number of people for a long time, that's all the more reason for people to take responsibility for their own behavior, and to praise (rather than cynically dismiss) people like Victor for taking the steps towards helping the community function better from now on, such as posting about it and getting others to think more.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

Matthew Jackson wrote:
NickConderWKU wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:Victor's original point - "experienced players, please don't just try to bulldoze your way into points (and think about if that's how you're coming off even if it's not your intent)" - was a good one.
It's a good point, but I'm pretty sure everyone who has been in quizbowl for a while has been on both sides of the "bullshit intellectual wankery for the sake of getting points" phenomenon and it certainly starts well before people get to college. It's very frequent that somebody expresses displeasure when packets/officials/rules of quizbowl/whatever prevents them from getting points regardless of how good the rule or the specific application, and if we're being honest I think a lot of us end up making opposite arguments about these ideals depending on the situation we find ourselves in. These things usually end up starting an argument in the middle of the game and half the time people run to the internet to argue about whatever happened for the next several weeks.

Since this phenomenon seeps into lower levels of quizbowl, it's fair to say that nearly everybody who has played quizbowl for some length of time (regardless of how new they are to college quizbowl) probably falls into specific faux pas you've mentioned here. Whether or not anything can be done about it, I'm less sure. Nothing in this thread actually encourages me to say much will change.
I'm sorry, but this attitude completely drives me up a wall. The whole point of having these discussion forums, as opposed to just a tournament announcement board for TDs and results pages, is to point out problems with quizbowl as it exists now and figure out ways to improve them for the future. A lot of things in quizbowl, and in human history writ large, have changed for the better even when a subpar status quo seemed like it would continue forever. Rarely (if ever) has that happened in instances where people just threw up their hands and insisted that nothing could ever change. If these behavioral dominance-asserting issues are have been a problem for a wide number of people for a long time, that's all the more reason for people to take responsibility for their own behavior, and to praise (rather than cynically dismiss) people like Victor for taking the steps towards helping the community function better from now on, such as posting about it and getting others to think more.
I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about it, but I'll admit I'm probably unreasonably cynical about the matter.

If the community wants to make change in the status quo, we can start by acknowledging that most of us have been on both sides of the behaviors being discussed in this thread. We would need to understand and accept that there exist community-wide tendencies to: 1) demand staffers prompt on answers that players feel should be in the answerline instructions 2) denounce what a player feels to be an unfair interpretation of the rules in the middle of a quizbowl game. No problem should arise when a person is so obviously in the right that even the opposing team thinks the ruling should be changed, but in cases where this is more ambiguous it typically devolves into brief spats that are best settled after the game; the problem is the fine line that exists between obvious and ambiguous in no way changes the vociferousness of quizbowl players' arguments about the ruling in question.

I think both of these tendencies can come from a place of wanting the rules to be properly enforced to ensure the winner of the game is fairly decided, frequently motivated by an individual or team's fear of being screwed out of points that may lose them the game. While there isn't anything inherently bad about this desire, it does manifest itself in the aforementioned demands, and I'm sure this can be interpreted as imposing behavior by staffers and opposing teams. In this case, Victor is referencing an argument he apparently made during an interjection where he stopped a game to lecture the moderator about the rules, which honestly probably comes from the same motivation that led Jake to request a prompt in error. If the community wants to discuss sportsmanship, then of course we should, but I don't see any reason to believe that "behavioral dominance-asserting issues" are only personality flaws of specific assholes rather than situation-dependent reactions to events in a quizbowl match that can be exhibited on a varying scale by nearly everybody active in the game.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by DumbJaques »

To me, a lot of this debate misses the larger point that you can't really count on "sportsmanship" or whatever to carry the day even if we agreed it was desirable (I share some of Matt B.'s reservations that it isn't). Like, will I always try to behave in the way Ike describes? Yes, because I think it's stupid to penalize right answers. I hate when that happens to me, and I hate it when it happens to other people. It seems the most secure way of ensuring this doesn't screw someone over is to have prompt standards that can take care of human error.

For instance: While reading a Gaddis packet in practice a few weeks ago, I buzzed in and said "fluids" for "non-newtonian" fluids. Of course, just about ever clue was equally true for both (basically because the clues were things like "one of these is governed by the Mustard-Shampoo relation, or whatever). I think the first line said something that wasn't technically true for "fluids" (like, "the most famous of these was the subject of Eric Mukherjee's thesis to earn a Degree in Ketchup Studies," or whatever, and it's not true that the thing was the most famous fluid). The question author had decided, based on his particular philosophy of prompting, to write "do not accept "fluids," because the first clue isn't technically about fluids and only a moron would think this tournament would have a tossup on fluids."

While the evidence suggests our author was at least right on the latter point, this situation demonstrates a number of problems to me:
(1) Someone is penalized for not knowing this one random thing five lines up the page didn't refer to the promptable answer even though everything else did. I think this is terrible reason not to prompt someone, as it's utterly illogical. I recognize not everyone agrees. I still think it's better to allow a protest and let the TD/editor decide.
(2) As I have been told, the rules currently state that you can't protest that a "do not prompt" is in error. This may or may not be true; I think it depends on how one reads the rules. We should probably clarify that.
(3) At some point, you're deferring to the value judgment of somebody. I think a lot of the debate here isn't logically consistent about that.

-Like, Ike wants to defer to the value judgment of players to decide when things are not obviously correct (which seems clearly inadequate for the assuredly numerous situations in which I don't fucking know if Eric Mukherjee gave a right answer because it was in some scientific moon language).

-Auroni wants to defer to the value judgment of the writer, for some reasons that seem somewhat strangely tied up in personal identity. I mean, really? Why would you want to punish someone for saying "Proust?" That's silly. I don't understand you, Auroni Gupta. You are an enigma. At the video games tournament, it took me berating you tooth and nail to resolve an extremely obvious protest about the protagonist of GTA III not actually having a name in that game. I literally only got you to agree to this when you requested the entire script of the game and it turned out some asshole with even less self-respect than either of us had actually put it online. Indeed, when I told people about the protest, the common refrain I heard was "yeah, you're right, but it's Auroni so you probably won't get it." I bring this up mostly in jest, but also because I can't figure out why the writer making an error seems like such an existential thing for you. Like, you've written a lot of tournaments. You've fucked up. I've written a lot of tournaments. I've probably fucked up more. It happens. When it happens, why should others suffer for our mistakes?

-I want to defer to the value judgment of the editor/TD/protest committee, who has the benefit of time to investigate, access to relevant resources, and freedom from bias (since you don't know who's protesting and perhaps didn't even write the question's prompt instructions to begin with). I don't dispute this is also deferring to a value judgment, but since that is inevitable, I'd rather defer to a judgment that has a chance to be based on logic and principle rather than random inattentiveness or luck about which bad answerline instructions the editor had the subject expertise to catch. Further, I don't think I've heard a good argument for why you SHOULDN'T allow people to do this.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by theMoMA »

The argument has been, and continues to be, that in all but a few circumstances, a prompt is a courtesy given by the writer, not an absolute right on which a protest can be based. Would it have been nice for a writer to prompt you on "fluids" in that tossup at practice? Sure, and I'd hope that most writers would take that approach. But if the writer is mean and fails to prompt on a related answer that does not precisely fit the given clues, your protest is based on a courtesy that was not extended to you. Yes, that may make the question bad or unfair. But I tend to fall into the camp that bad questions might be unfair, but they're generally not protestable, because there is no consistent workable standard to adjudicate protests based on things like "I should have been prompted," and a harsh-but-fair rule is superior to a lenient-but-inconsistent one.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by Mewto55555 »

It seems to me that accepting both "Prompts are a courtesy" and "Anti-prompts are a courtesy" is logically inconsistent with pyramidality.

Let's just say, in an ABSURD hypothetical that would NEVER happen, a writer includes midway through a tossup on B a clue about A, which is a proper subset of B, and fails to make it clear whether they want the sub- or super-set. The player buzzing knows this clue but not the ones before it. What should he do? If he says A, he's banking on the courtesy of the writer to anti-prompt. If he says B, he's banking on the courtesy of the writer to prompt. You can't say he should know which is which from the earlier clues, since the whole point of a pyramidal tossup is that if it gets there, he didn't know them.

In Chris' specific example, I'm pretty sure he knew the clue he buzzed on was about non-Newtonian fluids, but tried to play it safe by going with the general class first, expecting to be prompted.

These sorts of ambiguities over whether or not prompts will be properly included are precisely why people will bully the mods in the manner that is so distressing to the people upthread. You can bet your bottom dollar that if I'm put in a situation like this, I'm going to be buzzing in, saying B, then when the moderator looks to be deciding whether or not to prompt, I'm going to elucidate the relationship between A,B, and the clue that I buzzed on until I get my points. Jake Sundberg aside, I'm even willing to wager that in the majority of these cases, the expert quizbowl player actually does know better than the question writer who forgot to flesh out the answerline.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by The Ununtiable Twine »

I'm not some sort of expert history player, Schindler. I just made a misstep in the heat of the game because I was antiprompted on a similar clue that came up in the question in a previous tournament. (While I'm at it, do you want your $5? :party:)
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

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DumbJaques wrote: -Auroni wants to defer to the value judgment of the writer, for some reasons that seem somewhat strangely tied up in personal identity. I mean, really? Why would you want to punish someone for saying "Proust?" That's silly. I don't understand you, Auroni Gupta. You are an enigma. At the video games tournament, it took me berating you tooth and nail to resolve an extremely obvious protest about the protagonist of GTA III not actually having a name in that game. I literally only got you to agree to this when your requested the entire script of the game and it turned out some asshole with even less self-respect than either of us had actually put it online. Indeed, when I told people about the protest, the common refrain I heard was "yeah, you're right, but it's Auroni so you probably won't get it." I bring this up mostly in jest, but also because I can't figure out why the writer making an error seems like such an existential thing for you. Like, you've written a lot of tournaments. You've fucked up. I've written a lot of tournaments. I've probably fucked up more. It happens. When it happens, why should others suffer for our mistakes?
Because I want proof before admitting that I'm wrong? I didn't resolve that GTA protest because you were yelling at me to do so, I resolved it when I saw for myself the evidence that I needed to make my decision. The same thing applies here. Two times in the text itself, the character in question is referred to as "Marcel," which is why I provisioned for that answer in the question. Ike's argument seems to be that there is overwhelming evidence that critics refer to the character name the exact same way they refer to the author -- Marcel Proust -- that that answer should have been accepted. Ike pointed to one source backing this claim (by inference, not outright), but when I wrote the question, and chanced upon these sources, I did not see the character being referred to as "Proust" by anyone. If more evidence is brought in, then I will admit that I'm wrong. I won't admit that I'm wrong just because individual people are saying so.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Jake Sundberg aside, I'm even willing to wager that in the majority of these cases, the expert quizbowl player actually does know better than the question writer who forgot to flesh out the answerline.
Sometimes they do. Other times they misheard a clue, or misunderstood the relation of the clue to the answerline, or added a "g" to the name of "Till Eulenspiegel."

Either way, I think you're arguing for a consistent standard in resolving protests, which I agree with. But I want to stay away from the trope that "This player is an expert in [x] field, so if he messed up a question on it there must be a problem with the tossup." Sometimes random stuff just happens to your memory in a fast-paced competition.
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by Cody »

Mewto55555 wrote:Jake Sundberg aside, I'm even willing to wager that in the majority of these cases, the expert quizbowl player actually does know better than the question writer who forgot to flesh out the answerline.
Not based on what I've seen in games and with protests...unless the key distinction here is that the question writer is already assumed to be wrong.
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Re: Specific Question Discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line »

DumbJaques wrote:or Marshall being utterly insane and accusing Matt of being Richard Fucking Nixon
Yeah, it was definitely off-base for me to compare Matt to a power-hungry rageaholic who went down in flames.

And now, to substance: it's obvious that as this debate has ranged over people's expertise, there is quite a lot of subtlety about what should count as a right answer. YOU HAVE TO SAY THE RIGHT ANSWER TO GET POINTS is obviously not a workable dictum. Is it completely infeasible to empanel a protest committee not consisting of the tournament's head editor as standard practice for "good quizbowl?"
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Re: Specific Question Discussion

Post by Cody »

Tees-Exe Line wrote:YOU HAVE TO SAY THE RIGHT ANSWER TO GET POINTS is obviously not a workable dictum.
...yes it is? Since when has this not been how [good] quizbowl works? Please provide examples where you don't have to "say the right answer to get points". You did play quizbowl at one point or another, right?
Tees-Exe Line wrote:Is it completely infeasible to empanel a protest committee not consisting of the tournament's head editor as standard practice for "good quizbowl?"
Yes it is. And more importantly - it's unnecessary given the rules (good rules, I might add) that are in place.

The protest rules we have now are designed so that anyone, anywhere, any time, of any level of expertise will make the right call. And that right call will be the same no matter who is deciding it. That's a good and necessary property.
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Re: Specific Question Discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line »

Cody wrote:The protest rules we have now are designed so that anyone, anywhere, any time, of any level of expertise will make the right call. And that right call will be the same no matter who is deciding it.
This and other threads have demonstrated that if that is the aim of the current protest regime, it is manifestly an empirical failure.
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Re: Specific Question Discussion

Post by Cody »

Tees-Exe Line wrote:This and other threads have demonstrated that if that is the aim of the current protest regime, it is manifestly an empirical failure.
If you say so buddy.
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Re: Specific Question Discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line »

Cody wrote:
Tees-Exe Line wrote:This and other threads have demonstrated that if that is the aim of the current protest regime, it is manifestly an empirical failure.
If you say so buddy.
I do indeed. Right upthread you have literature players at the highest level of expertise disagreeing over whether the right call was made regarding the acceptability of "Proust" as the narrator of Remembrance of Things Past.
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Re: Specific Question Discussion

Post by Cody »

Tees-Exe Line wrote:I do indeed. Right upthread you have literature players at the highest level of expertise disagreeing over whether the right call was made regarding the acceptability of "Proust" as the narrator of Remembrance of Things Past.
"Things you would allow during a game" is not the same as "things you would allow on a protest after doing a lot of research".
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Re: George Oppen: The Essence of Prompting

Post by minusfive »

Seems to me that the nature of quizbowl is to resist absurdity whenever possible, and to read the (apparently transcendent) "quizbowl rules" to avoid them conflicting with each other, similar to constitutional interpretation. Therefore, we can get our first principle by stating that not all prompts technically necessary should be given, such as a prompt on an outrageously early buzz of "a human" for, say, George Washington (who is a subset of humanity) or "a place in the Universe" for Oregon (which is generally thought to be in our Universe).
I would argue that from there, prompts are mainly the result of poor writing. When I began writing, I became obsessed with avoiding ambiguity, and so my admittedly shitty tossups were at least able to be differentiated (I achieved this using extremely poor techniques including listing atomic weights, dates, etc.). Prompts are necessary if people are going to write questions where all clues are applicable to two different things (infamous prompts: "Relativity," and "Gases" [for Ideal Gases]) such as "Germans" being promptable for "German Nazis." But the real failure is an inability to elucidate from the description what the writer is looking for. Find a clue that applies to only that subset and stick it in early. For example, titles are good for that. It's unwieldy to say "this x from this y" or "distinguished from a similar x by y" but at least it gives a solid footing to the moderator to not get bullied. As an aside, if you're bullying moderators, who are volunteers who ensure that quizbowl can be played and often get nothing in return, stop it.
So, bad writing can take many forms, but this "you have to know all the clues to get prompted," as pointed out above, risks being overly pedantic. John Lawrence's examples are good ones, but I have a couple I would like to use. DRAGOON 2013 featured a tossup on the Safavids, which contained the editor's error well into the tossup stating something like "this dynasty's longest ruler Selim the Grim." I negged with the Ottomans. By the logic of some of these posts, I couldn't complain because despite that clue being incorrect, I had had plenty of opportunities to hear real clues about the Safavids before this point. Secondly, I recently played an un-cleared-for-discussion tournament that had a trash tossup on, let's say (things changed to protect the set-JP) "speeches of Soviet leaders." I buzzed in pretty early on a speech I knew, and said something along the lines of "speeches...speeches by Stalin." But not all the speeches (again, this isn't the real answer line) were by Stalin. I was given the points. It seems like a Catch-22 to neg someone who buzzes in on a clue of "these things" by describing exactly what one of "these things" are, as opposed to giving them points even though their answer isn't technically correct.
In sum: answerlines with wildly varying subsets which are exclusionary from each other but are not excluded by the question is BAD WRITING, and instead of agonizing over the last name of the narrator of Remembrance of Things Past [oh yeah, I went there] we should simply encourage better writing habits.
Jordan Palmer, Nick Penner's Hero.

Pass by, and curse thy fill, but pass and stay not here thy gait.

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