First, I'd like to thank you all for writing your comments on the tossups of my two packets from this year.
I think we have some difference in philosophy of our ideals of what a tossup is intended to be. The predominant view expressed here seems to be that a set of tossups should be like an examination
. In a conventional competitive examination, of course, a bunch of people are given the same set of questions, and the winner is the examinee who gets the most correct answers. A set of quiz bowl tossups is similar to this, but on each question, points are given only to the team that buzzed in first with the correct answer, and players take a risk in deciding when to buzz in. None of what I've just said is controversial, but the view expressed by other people here seems to be that the ideal of a set of tossups is just like the ideal of a set of questions on a written examination: it should be a fair test of who knows a certain set of material, and how well they know it, with clues in each tossup getting easier as they go along. How can anyone disagree with that? Well, I don't really disagree with it, but I don't think tossups should be judged only
on the basis of whether they're a fair test of knowledge, and nor do I think clues
should be judged only
on the basis of their usefulness in determining who has a greater command of the material. Nobody sits down to read a test
(much less take
a test) on a certain subject for the purpose of learning something about the subject. A set of tossups that is ontologically perfect
as a test
of depth and breadth of knowledge is not necessarily fun to play on if you're on a low-scoring team. So I try -- not necessarily saying that I succeed -- to write tossups that will make the players glad that they heard them, because they might have learned something interesting. I'd like people to hear the beginning of a tossup and think, "Hm, I don't know what the answer might be, but it piques my curiosity, and even if I don't get it after more clues, I'd like to know what the answer is!" If a tossup I've written gets read to the end and the players don't care to know what the answer is, and even after they've heard the answer they still don't care and they don't respond like "oh, that's what that is", then I consider that I haven't written a good tossup. Maybe everyone already agrees with everything I've just written, but I think it needs to be said. If quiz bowl tossups are written with only the examination ideal in mind, then the game will be attractive to people who like to take examinations -- but it won't be attractive to others, who will be more inclined to stay away. I think that this is what might have happened with list tossups falling out of favour over the past few years: the quiz bowl "establishment" looks more and more to the examination ideal, and as they do so, the type of people who want to play quiz bowl are more and more the type of people who want it to be like an examination.
Six letters to Ronald McDonald. A list of all 3-letter legal Scrabble words, plus one "non-regulation word". All the 5-digit prime numbers, with one non-prime among them. The first hundred thousand digits of pi, with exactly one digit wrong. Five assignments for a course at Kwantlen College. All these are in a novel narrated by Ethan Jarlewski about himself and five co-workers at a videogame company in Burnaby, B.C., whose surnames all begin with the same letter. For 10 points, name this 2006 book that begins, self-referentially: "Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel."
List tossups are bad. I don't know anything about Douglas Copeland's latest novel, but if I were listening to this question, I wouldn't even know until halfway through that we're talking about a novel. Why is this necessary? All these clues can be turned into clues of the form "in this book" instead of leaving people guessing what the hell these things have in common. Notice please that list tossups have disappeared from virtually all respectable tournaments in the last 3 or 4 years.
I learned something here: I actually didn't know that list tossups have disappeared from respectable tournaments! Maybe I lack taste, but I like to have a few list tossups in a packet, and I didn't hear any complaints about them when they came up at VETO. Again:
I wouldn't even know until halfway through that we're talking about a novel. ... All these clues can be turned into clues of the form "in this book" instead of leaving people guessing what the hell these things have in common.
That is actually the whole point of a list tossup like this one -- to leave people guessing what they might have in common. Wondering what the category of the answer might be is supposed to be part of the fun.
As it was, by the way, the question was answered pretty early, because the book got quite a bit of publicity in Canada.
For the past two years, this country has had the highest real economic growth rate in the western hemisphere. The expansion follows the country's deepest ever economic contraction in 2002 and 2003, with low points including a two-month general strike and the 47-hour presidency of Pedro Carmona, who fled to Colombia after his coup d'Ã©tat failed. For 10 points, what country is, not coincidentally, the western hemisphere's biggest exporter of petroleum?
Answer: Bolivarian Republic of VENEZUELA
I find it odd that a tossup on Venezuela doesn't give the stock giveaway clues of "Chavez" and "Caracas" but whatever.
Whenever I write a tossup with the answer being a country, I try never to include the capital of the country, because capitals of countries are the
preÃ«minent example of list knowledge. I might have included Chavez, though.
The first two clues I find to be throwaways, although some may dispute that. My opinion is that clues like "it experienced stellar economic growth in year x" are like "this lake is 12345 square miles" or something.
Other commenters wrote about this, but I suppose I should say that the whole reason I wrote the question was that I heard the first sentence somewhere, and thought it would make a good, interesting clue (after I checked its accuracy, of course). It's a fact that seems counterintuitive given the political turmoil there, but the explanation of course is in the last clue of the tossup. Now, I probably wouldn't have written this if Venezuela had the highest growth rate only for the past one
year, because there are different reporting periods, etc., but since it's two years, I can take it as solid.
I should also add that it would be very bad to write the actual words "it experienced stellar economic growth in year x" -- one should give the actual rate. Two years ago
, I had a tossup about a country that mentioned its 71% [sic] GDP growth rate in 1997, and I think growth that stellar is not "throwaway" info.
There's not much before "Pedro Carmona" to inform even knowledgeable people that this is Venezuela.
Some people buzzed in early with "Argentina" after hearing about the deep economic contraction, and actually Argentina has had quite high economic growth in the past couple of years, so it was an oversight on my part not to realize that this would have been a good guess. I should have thought of more Venezuela-specific clues.
Matt Weiner wrote:
Actually, the fudging of numbers by Venezeula's economic ministries is both a big controvery right now and a useful way to include that clue in a more gettable context (it's easy to forget dry lists of how one country's growth compares to another, but anyone who's run into the Venezuelan statistics debate will probably remember at least that it exists).
I didn't know about this controversy until you mentioned it, but just in case anyone's interested, an article
that I just found on AlterNet says, "While the poverty statistics are a matter of some dispute, numbers like GDP growth are collected or audited independently by the international financial institutions, and are reliable.
"It would be appropriate to recommend strongly that those who are destined for this country not be in any way ill favoured by nature, that they not be outwardly repulsive, that they be healthy and strong enough for country work or that they at least have some skill in manual work." So wrote Jean Talon to Jean-Baptiste Colbert in 1670 about some recent arrivals in Quebec, who had been recruited mostly from orphanages. Transportation costs and fifty livres each were paid by Louis the Fourteenth to, for 10 points, what prospective marriage partners of French settlers?
Answer: FILLES DU ROI (or the KING'S DAUGHTERS)
Opening questions with quotes is bad practice especially if you just start right into the quote. Who is speaking and what are they speaking about, and, moreover, in what context would one recognize this quote? A good thing to have done here would have been to shorten the quote substantially and open with something like "in reference to them, Jean Talon wrote to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, 'yada yada' etc." Otherwise, half the question is a throwaway, since I can't imagine anyone is going to be intimately familiar with full-blow quotations from letters to Colbert.
I was a little worried about this question, for the very reasons you bring up, and I think the early -5's that it elicited (with answers like "New France") show that it wasn't well written. Now I think my solution would be to begin it with "A letter written about them in 1670 states, quote:
Talon and Colbert are too well known to mention before the quote: I wouldn't want people to be able to guess the correct answer before hearing the quotation. More generally, though, the quotation is not exactly a throwaway -- I was amused by what Talon wrote in this letter, and that's why I wrote the question.
It was established by a decree of Catherine the Great in 1791, and expanded in 1794 and 1795 after the second and third Partitions of Poland. Caucasia and Astrakhan were added by Czar Alexander the First, then removed by Nicholas the First, who also excluded the city of Kiev. University graduates, retired soldiers, merchants of the first guild and artisans were allowed to live outside it, but for 10 points, what was the only part of the Russian Empire permitted for residence by all other Jews?
Answer: PALE OF SETTLEMENT (or CHERTA OSEDLOSTI)
This question is just anti-pyramidal. The clue about its establishment belongs in the end, not the beginning. My thought process here would go, "Catherine established the Pale, I don't know what else she 'established', time to buzz."
Well, I didn't know that Catherine established the Pale before I wrote the question. The articles about her in the Britannica
and the Wikipedia
do not even mention the Pale -- you can look them up to see what else she "established". How, specifically, would you reorder the clues in this tossup?
This poem won the Newdigate Prize at Oxford in 1845 and made John Burgon's reputation as a literary one-hit wonder, but actually only one line of this work is ever usually quoted, and the second half of that line was cribbed from a description of temples in Samuel Rogers' poem "Italy". For 10 points, name the poem that contains the couplet, "Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime / A rose red city half as old as time."
I have no idea what this poem is or who John Burgon is, but I guarantee that if he's only known for this poem, it's a bad idea to put that into the first clue.
This question wasn't very successful in getting answered, either. The line "rose red city half as old as time" was not as well recognized among the players as I thought might be, even though it turns up 959 hits on Google
I don't understand "if he's only known for this poem, it's a bad idea to put that into the first clue.
" I'd say that among people who do
recognize the line, very few know who wrote it.
Since its founding in 1931 under federal auspices, researchers at this institution have discovered the antiproton and the antineutron and the first element ever named after a living person, its long-time associate director, Glenn Seaborg, the co-discoverer of nine other elements here including those named after the institution's city and state. For 10 points, what U.S. Department of Energy facility boasts ten Nobel laureates and dramatic views of the Golden Gate and San Francisco from above the campus of the University of California?
Answer: (Ernest Orlando) Lawrence BERKELEY National LABoratory (or LBL or LBNL)
(Do not accept University of California, Berkeley; that is separate)
Anti-pyramidal, especially to me since I came from Berkeley. Regardless, Chamberlain's discovery of the antiproton is very, very famous, and would of course result in a quickfire buzz at the very beginning.
But it did not result in a quickfire buzz at the very beginning. Again, if it's anti-pyramidal, how, specifically, would you reorder the clues?
"You cannot legislate against geography." (pause) "More revolutions have been caused by Conservative obstinacy than by Liberal exaggeration." (pause) "For us, sons of France, political sentiment is a passion; while, for the Englishman, politics are a question of business." (pause) "The nineteenth century was the century of the United States. I think we can claim that it is Canada that shall fill the twentieth century." These are all quotes by, for 10 points, what turn-of-the-century prime minister?
Answer: Sir Wilfrid LAURIER
Tossups written around nothing but quotes are awful. See above discussion of quotes.
See above discussion of lists.
Previously discharged from military service for being a certified imbecile, he is making a living selling mongrel dogs with forged pure-bred pedigrees when he is again drafted into the army as war breaks out. He finds that a lunatic asylum offers "real freedom" where "you can be whatever you want: God, the Pope, the King of England, or Saint Vaclav ['VATS-laff'], although the last was constantly straitjacketed." Expelled for faking lunacy and put back on duty, he gives himself up to the Russians. For 10 points, who is this title character in a novel by Jaroslav Hašek ["HA-sheck"]?
Answer: the Good Soldier ŠVEJK ["shvaik"]
Anti-pyramidal. Anyone familiar with Svejk would buzz on the first clue.
Whatever else one might say about this question, the claim that it is "anti-pyramidal" just baffles me. Again, show me how the clues could be reordered to make it pyramidal. And your second statement is contradicted by the empirical fact that when played (three separate experiments), it was answered late in the question.
The probability that it could have arisen by chance is one in ten to the two-hundred-and-thirty-fourth power, according to William Dembski, a mathematician at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Touted by biochemist Michael Behe as an example of "irreducible complexity", it consists of a short hook, a reversible rotary motor embedded within the cell wall, and a long helical filament that acts as a propeller. For 10 points, name this organelle used for motion by bacteria.
Answer: bacterial FLAGELLUM
This is probably an issue of taste, but as far as I'm concerned, proponents of intelligent design should never appear in questions, especially science questions, unless being explicitly ridiculed. Anyway, this tossup is devoid of useful clues about flagellum biology, consisting instead of clues about what various cranks and charlatans think of flagella. No one with half a brain will be familiar with those clues (and it also invites a neg on "blood clotting" since Behe is also famous for making irreducible complexity arguments about that system).
These are good criticisms. I have nothing but contempt for Dembski and his business model, and I was aiming for subtle ridicule with my description of him as "a mathematician at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary" -- a description he can't even dispute. I think this was the only actual calculation that Dembski did to show irreducible complexity, but you're right, Behe's favourite example is not this but blood clotting. I got my actual description of the flagellum
from a crank or charlatan
who is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and Herchel Smith Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University.
He picked up a giraffe in Africa, which he visited from the Mozambique Channel up through the Red Sea to Egypt. In Ceylon he picked up King Alagonakkara and brought him home as a prisoner too. His explorations took him through the Persian Gulf, along the Arabian coast, and throughout the islands of southeast Asia. Commanding over three hundred ships and twenty-seven thousand people, for 10 points, who was this admiral during the Ming dynasty?
Answer: ZHENG HE or CHENG HO or MA SANBAO
An admiral who sailed in Asia and Africa? Clues basically give the tossup away in the first line and a half.
Not really. There were famous Europeans who sailed to Asia via Africa.
On the website urban dictionary dot com, this four-word phrase is defined as "a complete and total screw-up." It's the title of Calvin Trillin's 2006 book of poetry subtitled "More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme". First applied to the work of Bob Riley, Haley Barbour, and Kathleen Blanco on September 2, 2005, for 10 points, what ambiguous phrase did President Bush most memorably also apply moments later to the accomplishments of FEMA Director Michael Brown?
Answer: a HECK OF A JOB
(Accept as much as "Brownie, you're doing a HECK OF A JOB", as long as the last four words are given.)
References to ubrandictionary are like wikipedia references; don't do it.
Well, what can I say; we have low standards.
I see urbandictionary as the best resource on the latest slang, and that's why that clue is there. I agree with you, though, that Wikipedia references shouldn't be used unless the question is actually about something to do with Wikipedia.
There is probably a good way to write this question, and the Trillin clue is good, but after that it becomes obvious that it refers to Katrina and everything is downhill from there.
If I understand you correctly, "downhill" is a synonym for "pyramidal". I tried to put the governors in pyramidal order. Keep in mind that the names of the governors of Gulf Coast states are not common knowledge in Canada.
Nalbant in Turkish, SeppÃ¤nen ["SEP-pan-en"] in Finnish, Haddad in Arabic, Pandai in Indonesian or Tagalog, Kuznetsov in Russian, Kovar in Czech, Kovacs ["KO-vatch"] in Hungarian, Gough ["goff"] in Irish, Ferraro in Italian, Herrera in Spanish, Lefevre in French, and Schmidt in German are all, for 10 points, names referring to what profession?
Answer: SMITH (accept BLACKSMITH)
Ugh, another list tossup. What is the purpose of this question? Some random person will recognize one of the word forms and buzz, and that will be it.
Well, that's one thing that could happen, and when the question was played, it did. But someone could recognize that these are pretty common surnames in their respective languages, and could form a guess based on knowing that. If you really want to know the "purpose" of the question, it was that if someone who's heard the question meets someone named Haddad, for example, they can show off by saying "Your name is Arabic for Smith." Then in response to the question, "How did you know that?", they can say, "From a quiz bowl tournament called VETO."
Plus, in regards to the Russian word for "smith" this question isn't even right. "Smith" in Russian is simply "kuznets." "Kuznetsov," is a common last name that may be translated as "of the smiths."
There's a problem with Lefevre, too. That's why I chose the slightly vague phrasing "referring to what profession" instead of a straight "meaning what profession".
At one thousand five hundred and sixty metres above sea level,
In addition to the things Jerry mentioned, it's never a good idea to begin a tossup with statistics like this, because it either wastes everyone's time or rewards memorization of almanacs.
I don't agree with this. First, if anyone really
is dedicated enough to memorize the elevations of minor towns, then they deserve to be rewarded. Second, without the 1560 metres clue, it would just begin with "it's the highest town in Europe". If I heard that, I would want to know how high (roughly) the town is; I think it's moderately interesting that "the highest town in Europe" is actually lower than at least one well-known North American metropolis, not to mention quite a few cities in South America that are much higher.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
It contains medial and collateral menisci ["men-ISS-sky"] made of fibrous cartilage that act as cushions. The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments restrict forward and backward motion and rotation. The medial collateral ligament prevents it from buckling inwards, and the lateral collateral ligament is the primary restraint to varus stress. For 10 points, name the human body's largest joint, connecting the fibula and tibia.
Mentioning the ACL in the second sentence of a "knee" tossup is pretty much a giveaway. Who hasn't heard of an athlete tearing this ligament?
I haven't. And yeah I know it's a lame question, but I couldn't think of how else to write a tossup with KNEE as answer.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
In 1992 he published his first novel, Burden of Desire, set in the aftermath of the 1917 explosion in Halifax, where he grew up. His next novel, The Voyage, follows an amorous adventure by David Lyon, the Canadian consul in New York, the author's adopted home town. In 1999, four years after retiring from his day job, this author published his third novel, Broadcast News, whose protagonist, Grant Munro, had the same job as the author. For 10 points name this former News Hour anchorman on PBS.
Answer: Robert (Breckenridge Ware, "Robin") MacNEIL
OK, I don't hate this, but "first novel" clues are pretty bad. Because this dude isn't exactly known as a novelist (in fact, is he known at all?) it's not a horrible leadin.
"is he known at all?" Showing my age, I guess; he retired from what used to be called the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour in 1995.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
This city contains the world's largest forest inside an urban area, the thirty-two square-kilometre Tijuca ["tee-ZHOO-ka"] Forest, within whose limits are an eight hundred and forty-two metre high granite rock with unexplained inscriptions called the Pedra da Gavea ["GAV-ay-a"], and another granite rock, the seven hundred and ten metre high Corcovado, which is topped with a statue of Christ the Redeemer. For 10 points, what city of six million people was founded in 1565 at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain?
Answer: (SÃ£o SebastiÃ£o do) RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (prompt for more information on "RIO")
This is just kind of weird towards the end. Surely Christ the Redeemer is better known than Sugarloaf Mountain, and surely there are easier giveaways than that for Rio?
Visually, Christ the Redeemer may be better known than Sugarloaf Mountain, but I think it's different when you just hear the words. Anyway, Sugarloaf doesn't seem to ring as many bells as I thought it would, so I guess I could have ended this with Ipanema and Copacabana.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
In the second and third millennia B.C., this city was best known as a religious centre, with its temple of E-Mashmash dedicated to the goddess Ishtar. In the eighth century B.C., a library was founded here by king Sargon II, but it was his successor, Sennacherib, who moved his court here, to the eighty-room "Palace without a rival". Until it was sacked by the Scythians and Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C., for 10 points, what was the capital of the Assyrian Empire?
The leadin is not at all uniquely identifying. There were several religious centers then.
That's a good point. The beginning is too general.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
After his death at age 32 from wounds he received in battle with the Spaniards, it is said that Londoners who came out to see his funeral procession cried, "Farewell, the worthiest knight that lived." Starting out as cupbearer to Queen Elizabeth, he also served her as ambassador and master of the ordnance and was best known for exemplifying the ideal courtier. Two hundred elegies were written in his honour, including Edmund Spenser's Astrophel, A Pastoral Elegie. For 10 points, name this author of the sonnet cycle Astrophel and Stella and The Defence of Poesie.
Answer: Sir Philip SIDNEY
Too much "fluff" biography here. The first two sentences don't strike me as particularly helpful, as they relate some sort of anecdote. It makes me groan when a tossup on an author doesn't have any mention of works (or even that he was like, a poet) until the final few words.
Well the focus of the question is Sidney's image and personality, not necessarily what he wrote. You could call the whole question "fluff biography", but these clues are not a distraction.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
Israeli sources say that a quarter of all suicide bombings in Israel in the Second Intifada have been carried out by people from this city of thirty-six thousand. Israeli Defence Forces have killed at least ninety-six Palestinians here since April of 2002, when fifty-two more Palestinians and twenty-three Israeli soldiers lost their lives. For 10 points, name this West Bank city where a quarter of the residents of its refugee camp were made homeless by Operation Defensive Shield.
Answer: JENIN ["jen-EEN"], West Bank, Palestine
O hey name a West Bank city where lots of Palestinians live. You're either getting this on the first clue or not at all, I would think.
No, I don't think so. The main clue is the description of what happened in 2002. I think the biggest problem with this question is that it's old current events. I also thought I should describe Jenin's location in more detail, but I couldn't think of a simple way to do that, so I didn't. There were too many early buzzes with "Gaza".
Leo Wolpert wrote:
Warning: TWO ANSWERS REQUIRED. For most of their lengths, they are roughly parallel, running southeast about three hundred kilometres apart until the longer one makes a ninety-degree turn at Zaporizhia ["zap-or-IDGE-ee-a"]. Their estuaries are separated by about one hundred kilometres on the Black Sea's Odessa Bay. The shorter one forms part of the border between Moldova and Ukraine. The longer one passes through Kiev. For 10 points, what are these two rivers with very similar names?
Answers: DNIEPER ["NEE-purr"] (or DNEPR or DNIAPRO or DNIPRO)
and DNIESTER ["NEE-stir"] (or NISTRU or DNESTR)
Too "cute" for my taste. I mean, they're similar sounding rivers of Eastern Europe. You're going to get (more like "figure out") this one early or not at all.
I think people are way too quick to predict 'You're going to get (more like "figure out") this one early or not at all.' On this tossup, the first guess in one room was "Amu Darya and Syr Darya", before someone else got it right.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
If you hike up the creek of this name, you'll reach the lake of this name, which is fed by the glacier of this name in the provincial park named after it. It means "red fish" in the Kootenai language, and in English it refers to the freshwater salmon abundant here. In 1998, an avalanche into the lake claimed the life of Michel Trudeau. For 10 points, name this B.C. glacier and nearby brewery.
OK, I may be an ignorant American, but was this even famous in most parts of Canada? Seems ungodly obscure to me, especially when its giveaway is that there's a brewery named for it.
If Ronald Reagan (rough equivalent to Pierre Trudeau) had a son who died when an avalanche swept him into a lake, I think a lot of Americans would remember the name of the lake. Also, the word kokanee
is in Merriam-Webster
. The giveaway refers to a brewery that for many years has run TV commercials showing the Sasquatch traipsing around the Kokanee Glacier.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
After serving as a decorated U-boat captain in the First World War, he commanded a Freikorps batallion in MÃ¼nster in support of the right-wing Kapp putsch. When it failed, he took up theology. As pastor in Berlin-Dahlem, he praised the Nazi program as "a renewal movement based on a Christian moral foundation" â€” before falling out over issues of ecclesiastical independence and founding the Confessing Church, which got him put into concentration camps for eight years. For 10 points, name this Lutheran pastor who was neither a Communist, nor a Social Democrat, nor a trade unionist, nor a Jew, but the Nazis still came for him.
Answer: Pastor Martin NIEMÃ–LLER
Dude's only famous for one quote and absolutely nothing else, I doubt anyone will get this til the end. I guess this is OK if you absolutely must write on this dude.
That was sort of the point. Most people who can recognize his famous line don't know anything else about him. He was a rather prominent activist long after the war, though. One problem with this tossup is that some people buzzed in early guessing "Bonhoeffer". It would have been good to include some early clue that would disambiguate them to those without detailed knowledge, but all I can think of is to say that Niemoeller survived WW2. The trouble is that an early clue mentioning that would mess up the orderliness of the tossup.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
In addition to a guard, two messengers, and a chorus, this play has six other characters, three of whom die by suicide. Eurydice kills herself in grief over the loss of her son, Haemon, who has killed himself over the suicide of his betrothed, who is the title character. As predicted by Teiresias, Creon loses his wife and son despite a decision of mercy that doesn't reach the title character in time. For 10 points, in this play by Sophocles, who commits the capital crime of burying her brother Polyneices?
The first sentence is useless, except you can probably narrow it down to something Greek because there' a chorus and suicide and stuff. And then it falls off the difficulty cliff when Eurydice and Haemon come out of fucking nowhere.
Yeah, well, I'm not very familiar with the subject myself. How would you write a tossup about Antigone, using these or other clues?
Leo Wolpert wrote:
It was first invoked by John O'Sullivan in 1845 in an essay titled "Annexation", which called for the United States to accept Texas into the Union, and also predicted that within a hundred years, Canada would "swell the still accumulating momentum of our progress". For 10 points, what is this two-word phrase suggesting that the U.S. would "overspread the continent allotted by Providence"?
Answer: MANIFEST DESTINY
Leadin is really, really famous.
Not famous enough that I'd recognize the reference from the clue that it's from an essay by O'Sullivan, although people did buzz in early.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
Also, this is a two sentence tossup. That's really, really short. CBI-esque.
I've never believed that the number of sentences is a useful measure of the length of a tossup. (So when writing question guidelines, tournament directors shouldn't specify the minimum or maximum number of sentences in a tossup.) Our guidelines
said: "Do not exceed six (6) lines if writing in ASCII with 79 columns per line.
" If I write this tossup in ASCII with 79 columns per line, I find that it requires ... six (6) lines. This is (or used to be) a pretty standard length limit.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
"I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. / I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. / I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. / I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset." For 10 points, name this poem by Langston Hughes.
Answer: The NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS
Wow, who would have thought that this poem would mention famous rivers? Perhaps everyone. Quoting famous lines from a famous poem as the leadin for a tossup on said poem is really, really bad. People are going to get this immediately, or not at all.
This tossup went dead in Canada. I thought people might get it off Langston Hughes's name.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
A pamphlet inviting people to a Ku Klux Klan meeting to discuss a "final solution" turned out to be a hoax. Instead, residents of this town who were unable to use Argyle Street responded in kind on Highway 6 by setting up a barrier of their own. Henco Industries was prevented from completing work on two hundred and fifty homes in the Douglas Creek Estates on land claimed by the Six Nations reserve in, for 10 points, what Ontario community?
Answer: CALEDONIA, Ontario
Again, I have no idea if this was a big deal in Canada, but it seems obscure to me. It would be like me writing a tossup on Fairfax, Virginia off of some incidents that happened there.
This was a big news story in Canada this year. I think the biggest problem with this question is that it doesn't say anything about when the events happened. I always tell quiz bowl writers that questions should include names, dates, and places
, and in this case, dates were missing.
Leo Wolpert wrote:
It's a number between zero and one. StatsCan has determined that in Canada in 2003 it measured zero point three eight nine. To calculate it, draw a graph where the x-axis is the cumulative fraction of all households, and the y-axis is the cumulative fraction of all income. Find the area between this curve and the line y equals x, and then multiply by two to get, for 10 points, what number that measures the level of income inequality?
Answer: GINI COEFFICIENT (or GINI INDEX)
There's a lot of stuff between zero and one. Just saying. Why bother putting that in as a leadin?
Just to narrow down the possibilities, so people wouldn't think it might be something else like inflation rate, population density, or mean IQ. We start tossups with words like "This novel ..." for similar reasons. I could have written "This number between zero and one was determined by StatsCan in 2003 to measure ..." but the wording I did choose was much clearer.
In a post dominated by Modernist ideas,
Anecdote clues are usually bad not because anecdotes are inherently pointless, but because they tend to take up a lot of space. There are more efficient ways to use your time than to write two sentences which amount to a single clue. A five-line tossup is superior to a seven-line tossup if they have the same clues except that the former condenses a two sentence anecdote into ten words that convey the same level of information. It doesn't matter how cute or funny or clever the story is.
I don't necessarily share these priorities. When I play quiz bowl, I want to hear a few cute or funny or clever stories that I haven't heard before.
As for the writer personally expanding his horizons, I would say that all you have to do is look on the Stanford/ACF archives to see whether your question has been written this way before. If the answer is yes, you should look for other clues.
Maybe this is bad practice, but when I write questions for VETO, I avoid looking at the Stanford/ACF archives. I try to write about things and use clues that I do not recall having come up in quiz bowl before. If I check the archives, I might find that somebody has written something on this topic using some of the same clues, and then I'd feel bad about giving people a product that isn't new.
It's been good to get your points of view here, but overall I was expecting something a bit more constructive, in the sense that if someone didn't like a tossup for some reason, they'd be more specific about how to fix it to their satisfaction, and we both might even agree that their suggestions would improve the tossup.
As you may know, for the past few years, we've had a policy at VETO -- at the Vancouver site, anyway -- that if your team hasn't won a VETO championship before, then you have to send the organizing committee a couple of packets of old, used questions that were written by your team's members. We do this because VETO is a guerrilla tournament, and we want to make sure that total novices don't contribute packets that embarrass themselves and irritate the other teams. On the organizing committee, we go through the old packets we get sent and point out any problems we see with it, such as you've got this fact wrong, it should be such-and-such; or you should put this clue before this other clue; or these clues are too vague and you should include the name or date or place of such-and-such; or this question is too long for our format, so if this were used in our tournament, you could omit the part about blah blah blah; or this question is too hard, but instead of having X as the answer, you could ask about something else mentioned in the question and use X as a clue. The reason we do all this is of course that we want them to know what kinds of things make good or bad questions so that they'll write questions that players will enjoy when they show up at our tournament. But the feedback we give is always quite specific, not just in pointing out what we don't like about a question, but in trying to show that the question would be better if you made such-and-such changes to it. So how's that for a challenge to this list, to apply to the VETO tossups just discussed?