Novice Tournament Packets

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theMoMA
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Novice Tournament Packets

Post by theMoMA »

Discuss packet set...?

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Summoned Skull
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Post by Summoned Skull »

Overall, I thought the packets played very well, and I was generally impressed with the quality of the questions and the answer selection.

Did all the mirrors fall on the same day, or are we still not to discuss specific questions?

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Mr. Kwalter
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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Well, I guess I will post this after all, since it needs to be said.

This question set was a travesty. Yes, most of the tossups were largely pyramidal and had appropriate answers (although there are several notable examples of the opposite), but the problems I'm talking about have to do with grammar and simple proofreading. Did someone take those packets, run them through babelfish, then run them back through and send them out? It almost seems like nobody could have produced a set that riddled with truly atrocious grammar, spelling, and other general proofreading mistakes (including conspicuously absent clues, like in the first question of the alphabetically first packet). Yes, I know a lot of the packets were late. Mine was one of them, and it was our fault that it was late. But really, reading this tournament was a serious chore that involved interpreting nonsensical sentences and inventing clues on the fly to keep the game moving at all.

Yeah the difficulty was uneven, there were a few terrible four-line tossups, there were some questions that just decided to go ahead and invert the pyramid, and there were some topics that really didn't belong, but all of that would have been at least tolerable had the set not been so damn sloppy. Sorry, dude, Sorice, but there had to be someone you could have run them through. You had to know this was a problem. I will be happy to post examples upon confirmation that the set is open for discussion.

EK

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Post by pray for elves »

Yeah, there were a lot of bad flow mistakes, including many missing words, repeated words, and confusing sentences. Of course, I've never edited a tournament, so I'm not the most qualified to make this criticism.

Also, there were at least two repeated questions, and that's on the ten packets we played at the Brown mirror.

However, the questions were, as said, pyramidal, and they had decent to good answer selection. There were at best a marginal number of strange/obscure bonus parts, so I really don't have anything to complain about in terms of question/answer selection.

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Post by Matt Weiner »

No, I don't think we can expect people to worry about stylistic niceties when 10 packets come in during the 48 hours before the tournament. It's the fault of the teams for not proofreading their own shit before turning it in and for taking so long. Also we couldn't have a final at VCU because someone who was supposed to send 2 packets only decided to send 1 and didn't inform the world of that fact until the tournament had already started, so I'm not too interested in complaining about anyone besides the writers here. We were able to run 14 rounds without the start of any round being delayed, and that's the most timeliness I can ask for from the editor when he has less than 50% of the raw questions in hand on Wednesday. Given the timeframe, the fact that Sorice was able to get what were presumably a lot of terrible questions from first-time writers up to the content standards of a modern event is nothing short of heroic--asking for grammar checks at that point is ridiculous. I was able to correct on the fly because I'm used to reading shitty questions where the grammar is bad and the content is bad too, so I hope the experienced moderators at other sites could do the same with the grammar and be happy that the clues themselves were more than adequate.

There were a very small handful of too-early clues in the tossups but for the most part this set was, as advertised, appropriate for the novice difficulty that it was supposed to be for without compromising its academic rigor. The most important thing is that a set which met the distribution and style standards of ACF was able to provide a fun experience for most everyone that I saw play yesterday, even if they weren't winning a lot of their games.

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Post by Mike Bentley »

Before I post my comments, could someone validate that we can discuss question specifics?
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Post by Captain Sinico »

Kit Cloudkicker wrote:...Sorry, dude, Sorice, but there had to be someone you could have run them through. You had to know this was a problem. I will be happy to post examples upon confirmation that the set is open for discussion.
There's no need to; I already know what you're saying is true to some extent. All I can say is that I did what I could with what I had, which was a whole bunch of very, very late packets. I know, from previous experiences, that what happened here is what happens when you try to edit half a tournament in two days, but I wasn't left with much choice but to try and do that this time. In fact, it seems like that just keeps happening...
Anyway, I am very sorry about the grammar stuff. It was rampant and caused the questions to be rather difficult to get through in places; I am disappointed in myself for that. It did not, however, occur as a result of just me having looked at this set. It's just that people who were gracious enough to work beside me on the packets were just as exhausted and pressed to get through the set on time as I was, so they were prone to making the same errors. That stuff really is just straight up trying to do too much in too small a time.
I really didn't see any big factual errors (other than one answer being misplaced. Oops) or too much really un-pyramidal stuff. I also won't apologize for trying to keep question length down at what was advertised as a novice tournament (especially given that every question was within the advertised length requirements...) The teams at my site didn't seem to mind either of those things, anyway.
I'll say that the things that were wrong with this one are symptomatic of a tournament relying on packets that come in very late and/or aren't that great. Those things having happened are, to some extent, my fault and I accept blame for them as far as that goes. Anyway, perhaps we'll talk some more about that later.

MaS

PS: All mirrors being complete, you may post specifics if you like.

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Post by DumbJaques »

For what it's worth, I haven't actually seen the set yet. But as someone who's helped try to crunch out a tournament at which people go back on commitments or don't send their stuff until the 11th hour, I would applaud the editors hammering out a solid tournament set in terms of pyramidality and accessibility rather than coming down on them for the grammar. Sure, it's annoying, but not as annoying as bad questions (or no questions), and I imagine that the packets that were sent (most in the last few days) weren't exactly the epitome of The Elements of Style. I guess this just underlines the problem of people not submitting their packets/submitting them at the last minute. It certainly seems like a very serious problem, but I'm not sure how we can go about solving it. There was an idea somewhere about making teams endure penalties in beginning points, but I don't like the concept of crossing over into the actual gameplay. Is there any other way we can get more strict about enforcing stuff?

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Post by BuzzerZen »

The Elements of Style is a little book of lies.
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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

I should make it clear that I appreciate Mike's hard work on the packets and know that he had serious time problems that largely weren't his fault. My recommendation is that any editor should write lots of extras before the editing starts, or, in a case like Mike's this time, anticipate the lateness through sheer lack of faith in humanity and use time previously allotted to editing for writing spares.

Also, I wouldn't have posted had the grammar been a minor issue. The problems were so bad that several of my moderators thought that the only way it plausibly could have happened was through intentional crapifying of the grammar, which obviously didn't happen. The submissions also could not on the whole have been that grammatically poor, especially since some of the errors seemed to happen repeatedly. Like I said, I appreciate the problems Sorice had with late packets, as an editor I have definitely been through that and it's extremely frustrating. But after I went through those things I realized that there were steps I should have taken to protect against those things. After not doing this myself in a couple of the tournaments I've been involved with, I have realized that it's actually a necessity.

As for content, there were a few things I dislike but there was one tossup I saw in the packet that I thought was pretty much upside-down.

13. The novels A Wreath for Udomo and Mine Boy are set in this nation, as is a drama concerning the waiters Sam and Willie and novels about the communications professor David Lurie and a gardener named Michael. In another work set here, Julie Summers’ car breaks down and Abdu works as an auto mechanic, while in yet another novel, the Smales family is rescued by their servant July. For ten points, name this country featuring such authors as Peter Abrahams, J.M. Coetzee, Athol Fugard, and Nadine Gordimer.
Answer: South Africa

The first criticism of this tossup has to be the absence of Alan Paton, who is clearly the best-known South African author. Cry the Beloved Country appears nowhere in this tossup. Additionally, July's people is not easier than Master Harold and the Boys or either of the Coetzee novels mentioned, and I have never in my life heard of "The Pickup." The final criticism is that the author lists four authors in a row in the last line. You need to have authors earlier in the tossup if you're going to write a literature tossup on a country. A literature tossup on South Africa is perfectly acceptable, especially at the novice level, but this one is completely apyramidal and reflects an author who either knows very little about South African literature or maybe read some Nadine Gordimer in a class. Inexperienced authors are ok, though, because you have to start somewhere and learning about these authors is a great way to do that, but the editor(s) should have seen this and just rearranged it if nothing more.

One last thing. It seems that there was a genuine effort made to include middle clues into the tossups. Unfortunately in a number of instances they were followed by harder clues. Be careful, it's not enough to just make sure there's something gettable by decent/good players before FTP, it has to actually fit into the pyramid as well.

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Post by wd4gdz »

Here is the original tossup:

LITERATURE Tossup 4. This country is the setting of the stories "Debbie Go Home" and "Life for a Life." In a novel set here, Julie Summers' car breaks down and Abdu works as an auto mechanic. Also in this country lives an ecologist with thyroid cancer named Paul Bannerman. Those novels, The Pickup and Get a Life are set in this country, as is a novel in which the Smales family is rescued by their servant named July. Perhaps most famously, this country is home to a novel in which the son of James Jarvis is murdered by Absalom, the son of Stephen Kumalo. For ten points, name this nation home to works by Nadine Gordimer and Alan Paton.
Answer: South Africa

Presumably, the tossup had to be tweaked because there was already a question on Cry, the Beloved Country. FWIW, The Pickup was mentioned in Tossup #22 of 2004 ACF Fall. Where have you been Kwartler?!

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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

That tossup is much better and more pyramidal, and I guess I didn't see the packet with the Cry tossup. ACF rules still would have allowed Paton, though, if you were clever with clues. I still think that's heavy on Gordimer and gives clues about two fairly obscure works. For a novice tournament I'd say for Gordimer go with one of the big three, even if you give a secondary character. There are more than two authors from South Africa though, and I think mentioning Coetzee and Fugard is key to maximizing conversion and pyramidality.

Edit: Oh, and ACF Fall 2004 in this region was in Fayetteville, AR, specifically in the main building of the Sam Walton School of Business. I must have been blinded to Gordimer works by the shrine to Sam Walton that stands in the lobby.
Last edited by Mr. Kwalter on Sun Mar 11, 2007 6:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by grapesmoker »

As someone who recently edited a tournament, I sympathize with Mike's predicament of the late packets, and, regrettably, I was one of the offenders as far as lateness was concerned, at least with respect to the last packet my team sent in. All I can say is that I did my best to get my team to write questions and pre-edit them to some reasonable standard before sending them in.

That said, I think the tournament was generally fine for the audience for which it was intended. The majority of the questions were reasonably pyramidal and the answer selection was appropriate. The grammatical errors are unfortunate, but did not really derail any of our readers to a great degree.

On that note, I wonder if the errors are artifacts from the editing or whether people actually submitted packets in this form? I notice, for example, that in the Brown packet there are no grammatical problems that jump out at me, and I'm pretty sure that the original version of that packet was fairly good on grammar as well. I can understand if Mike didn't have time to catch all the grammar mistakes, but what I don't understand is how those mistakes came about in the first place. Do people really write like this, incoherently and leaving key words out of sentences? This issue was a notable problem at several other tournaments over the years. Besides the obvious encouragement to have packets in on time, I would also advise people to read what they write and make sure it actually sounds correct.
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Post by grapesmoker »

wd4gdz wrote:Here is the original tossup:

LITERATURE Tossup 4. This country is the setting of the stories "Debbie Go Home" and "Life for a Life." In a novel set here, Julie Summers' car breaks down and Abdu works as an auto mechanic. Also in this country lives an ecologist with thyroid cancer named Paul Bannerman. Those novels, The Pickup and Get a Life are set in this country, as is a novel in which the Smales family is rescued by their servant named July. Perhaps most famously, this country is home to a novel in which the son of James Jarvis is murdered by Absalom, the son of Stephen Kumalo. For ten points, name this nation home to works by Nadine Gordimer and Alan Paton.
Answer: South Africa
As long as we're on the topic of grammar and style...

I think this is a fine tossup on South African literature, better than the one that was actually heard at the tournament, but what on earth possessed you (or whoever) to write the first fragment bolded above? That's a completely backwards phrasing and it sounds really awkward. Just say it to yourself a couple times. Why not write, "This country is also home to..." instead? Also, "this country is home to a novel"? I understand the meaning, but why not, "This country is the setting of a novel..."?
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Post by vcuEvan »

There were other examples of unpyramidalness. The only one I remember off the top of my head started something like:

This chief god of Babylonian mythology did blah blah...
A: Marduk

The reason the Cry the Beloved Country questions was edited out was probably a bonus on the Kumalo family in another packet.

Overall though the questions were pyramidal(at least compared to most of the questions my team hears) and our moderators were capable enough to handle the grammar.

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Post by cvdwightw »

grapesmoker wrote:On that note, I wonder if the errors are artifacts from the editing or whether people actually submitted packets in this form.
I noticed a couple of minor grammatical problems in my packet (UCLA 1), which I sent in before the original deadline of February 10, so it wasn't exactly late. However, I think both of those were caused by rearranging and deleting phrases and not making sure the resultant tossup made grammatical sense. My only real beef with my packet was the following:
Dwight wrote:Answer each of the following about a certain letter for ten points.
1. With a subscript w, this letter denotes the ionization constant of water, while with a subscript s, this letter denotes the solubility product.
Answer: K
2. Both the ionization constant of water and the solubility product are general types of this constant, which gives the ratio of products to reactants at a certain point in a reaction.
Answer: equilibrium constant
3. A lowercase k denotes this constant, approximately equal to 1.38 x 10-23 joules per Kelvin, or the ideal gas constant divided by Avogadro’s number.
Answer: Boltzmann’s constant
Bonus 14 wrote:Answer each of the following about a certain letter for ten points.
1. Discovered by Guldberg and Waage, this rule from chemistry states that the reaction rate is proportional to the effective reactant concentration raised to the power of the number of atoms of reactant participating.
Answer: law of mass action
2. The law of mass action may be used to define this constant, symbolized K and equal to the product of the reactant concentrations raised to the stoichometric coefficients, divided by the product of the product concentrations raised to stoichiometric coefficients. It may be used to find final species concentrations from initial values.
Answer: equilibrium constant
3. The change in this for a reaction is equal to the negative of its kinetic temperature, RT, times the natural log of its equilibrium constant.
Answer: standard Gibbs’ free energy (prompt on “Gâ€

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Post by Mike Bentley »

I personally felt that this was the best novice level (sub-ACF Fall difficulty level) tournament I've ever attended. Granted I’ve only attended about five of them (two SNEWTs, two NAQT Div-II Sectionals, and this one), but this one was by far the best. I think if NAQT Div-II sectionals was more like a better proofread version of this tournament, a lot more people would be happy about it.

I appreciated that the editors kept the questions tight, choosing not to include the difficult opening clues that really have no place in novice tournaments. This kept the rounds moving, and we were able to do 14 rounds in a pretty short amount of time. The tossups were pretty good from an answer selection point, although as has already been mentioned there were the occasional problems with pyramidality and things being overly difficult. The bonuses were pretty appropriate for this level, although it seemed that some gave more softball questions (“Who refused to move to the back of a bus…”) than others.

Once again, I'll do my standard complaining that there weren't enough Computer Science questions in this set (in 15 rounds, the comp. sci tossups consisted of a question on heaps that I wrote, Turing Machines, and Boolean algebra, and I heard one bonus on polymorphism). Math had a few more questions but was still underrepresented. But it’s not even really worth complaining about comp sci. under representation since it seems to happen so often.

By the way, could someone more knowledgeable than me tell me if the clue that only 20% of quasars are radio strong is correct? A cursory look over to Wikipedia and Google didn't mention this. Being quasi-stellar radio sources, it seems like more than that would be radio strong, but, again, I don't really know that much about it.
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Post by Chico the Rainmaker »

First of all, this (the Brown mirror) was the first collegiate tournament I've attended, so keep that in mind when reading my comments.

My biggest problem was, as many people have mentioned, the grammatical errors that led to the moderator have to pause mid-question in virtually every round to try and make sense of what was written. Also, the amount of philosophy and economics questions was a lot higher than I'm used to (this is probably a function of me only having played NAQT questions in my life). That said, I very much enjoyed the tournament, despite our relatively poor (though we certainly didn't expect to place well going in) performance. I also really appreciated the Brown staff being willing to stay after and read extra questions after all the other teams had left. And finally, how could I not enjoy any tournament that has tossups on Who and John Corey (the latter of which I regrettably didn't get to play on)?
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Post by ValenciaQBowl »

"Also in this country lives an ecologist with thyroid cancer named Paul Bannerman."
what on earth possessed you (or whoever) to write the first fragment bolded above?
FWIW, the sentence above is not a fragment; it's just inverted, which indeed makes it awkward. However, I presume Billy (if he wrote it) structured it this way to emphasize the type of answer (a country) again.

Speaking of that emphasis, did it seem to anyone else that a ton of questions began with the construction "this person"? I get that if one is trying to hide gender for a reason, but in the overwhelming majority of cases the person was a man. Further, in a lot of cases the profession (scientist, composer, writer, etc.) was usually made clear before the sentence was over, making me wonder why folks didn't just say "This composer" or whatever right off the bat. No biggie, just something I was wondering about.

[/quote]

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Post by Rothlover »

I actually like the occasional using of "this person" on tus on a dude because it helps remove the transparency of the pronoun rule. It may be grammatically awkward, but I'm guessing it helps push out some fake buzzes.

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Post by grapesmoker »

ValenciaQBowl wrote:FWIW, the sentence above is not a fragment; it's just inverted, which indeed makes it awkward. However, I presume Billy (if he wrote it) structured it this way to emphasize the type of answer (a country) again.
I didn't mean fragment in the sense of "sentence fragment" I meant "this part of the larger sentence." Anyway, writing, as I would have, "This country is also home to..." accomplishes the same purpose.
Speaking of that emphasis, did it seem to anyone else that a ton of questions began with the construction "this person"? I get that if one is trying to hide gender for a reason, but in the overwhelming majority of cases the person was a man.
Unfortunately, some time ago, a trope entered question writing according to which if the answer was a woman, one would write "this person" to obsucure the gender. Everyone has quickly caught on to this, of course. I personally think that if you're going to employ this construction, you should do it regardless of the gender of the person being asked about, because it's worthless otherwise.
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Post by Captain Sinico »

The "this person" stuff is on purpose. I find that I can use the pronoun for the answer as a clue itself, so that maybe the first pronoun is "This person," then maybe "this artist," then maybe "this musician," then maybe "this composer," so that, if you're not picking off an answer from the clues, you're constantly narrowing down the field until, finally, you're down to the smallest non-trivial group that I care to include. I think this helps push buzzes from less knowledge toward where they belong, but also keeps people involved, since you have to pay attention since, even if you think you have no knowledge, the question could make things a lot easier for you. Do people think that's a good or bad idea?

As for where the grammar errors came from, the bulk of them are doubtless artifacts of editing. Even editing under good circumstances, I'll introduce a lot of that (I'm not sure if other people do, too, but I suspect they do from reading student papers and stuff.) I am aware this is a problem and I attempt to correct for it; I didn't see that it was so big a problem as it was until I was reading at the tournament itself. There just wasn't enough time to do it right this time, unfortunately.

As for the phrasing and couple bad questions and bonus whose leadin I (apparently) forgot to change, yes, those were bad and I missed them and would have fixed them if I'd had time. Sorry about those.

MaS

[Edit: grammar. Heh.]
Last edited by Captain Sinico on Sun Mar 11, 2007 10:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by ValenciaQBowl »

Sorry for misreading your post, Jerry. My internal grammar nag is a constant goad.

The "this person" thing is fine. I'm of the opinion that it's not necessarily bad to actually say "this composer" or "this writer" from the get go, as these are pretty large groups, and admitting this status is unlikely to add too much to one's ability to buzz early, as one usually still needs to wait for something concretely recognizable, and in a novice tournament in particular there may not be as much need to differentiate the best players within the first eight words. However, I understand the motive behind it.

Anyway, I thought the toss-up answers were almost all appropriate for the players' level, but some third bonus parts were harder than necessary. Still, these instances weren't over numerous. (I don't have the packets, so I can really only generalize). The grammar/style stuff could be mildly frustrating, but most could be overcome with a quick scan of the questions before the round. Thanks to all the writers and to Mike for editing.

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Post by magin »

My only problem with "this artist" was when it occurred in tossups on authors (without having the packets in front of me, the Pinter tossup began that way, as well as a few others). When I think "artist", I think fine arts, not literature, and it might have thrown some people off.

On a separate note, I thought that most of the questions did a good job of including solid middle clues, especially for a novice-level tournament. Also, I may not be the best person to judge this, but I thought the science questions were very well done.

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Post by theMoMA »

I was really impressed by this set. The readers in the UIUC version did a great job of plowing through any dense regions that may have been in the questions; I felt like the flow of the game was rarely if ever interrupted.

As for the questions themselves, I'd echo the sentiment that this is definately the best tournament I've attended, and probably the best I've heard all year (and I've heard the entire packetsets of most recent tournaments similar in difficulty). The question writers and selectors/editors created a set with accessible answers, ample middle clues, and leadins that rewarded knowledge but were occasionally buzzable. What really seperated this tournament from similar ones in my mind was the blend of canonical answers with less-conventional answers that were still pyramidal and convertible.

As a side note, I definately noticed the "this person" thing, and I think that's a great innovation because there are few things worse than early pronoun or label buzzes.

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