playing against the packet

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playing against the packet

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Dec 10, 2007 8:01 pm

Having played two tournaments in brief succession recently (PARFAIT and BoB), I have noticed that many packets in both of those tournaments suffered from the same kinds of errors. During play, I would often say things like "the packet wins again" in a facetious manner, but I want to develop this idea of "playing against the packet" some more. Instead of trying to develop a rigorous definition of what that entails and thus risk being drawn into semantic arguments, I\'m going to give some characteristics shared by such packets and present paradigmatic cases.

First off, packets which "compete against the players," if you will, typically share several characteristics. Such packets will usually have badly written tossups which frequently degenerate into buzzer races and wildly fluctuating bonus difficulty; however, they can be extra-treacherous due to the presence of good questions intermixed with bad ones which result in confusion when you\'re trying to figure out whether to buzz or not. A common feature of these packets is question transparency, which is something I also want to expand on.

The transparency issue is particularly problematic in these packets, because it\'s not clear what that really means. In another thread, Dave Letzler presented what he claimed might be construed as an example of a transparent Milton tossup. In fact, I think that was a poor example; the chain of reasoning required to go from "dude who may have written about Presbyterians at some point" to "Milton is that dude" is by no means simple. To make that kind of deduction, Dave himself presented something like 3 or 4 separate steps, each of which required a non-negligible amount of extratextual (i.e. external to the question) knowledge. Someone making that kind of deduction isn\'t really "guessing" by any means; he or she is drawing on a serious depth of knowledge about both Milton and the political situation in England around his time.

So in the interests of furthering this discussion, I\'d like to present what I think are good examples of such phenomena, drawn from the aforementioned two tournaments.

1)
[quote:811cf349c0][b:811cf349c0]The central figure in this painting, a man wearing a red sash, extends his left hand toward the viewer. Near the back, Jan Visscher Cornelisen serves as a flag bearer.[/b:811cf349c0] Left of center is a woman clad in gold, with a chicken attached to her belt, emblematic of the group she accompanies. To the viewer’s right of the flag bearer is a self-portrait of the artist, one of his more than seventy-five self-portraits. This painting, so identified with Holland, was the victim of a disgruntled sailor who slashed the painting in an effort to take revenge on the country itself. For ten points, identify this work which depicts a militia company led by Captain Banning Cocq, a Rembrandt van Rijn work.

Answer: The Night Watch[/quote:811cf349c0]

There are several problems with this question, including the complete misplacement of the slashing clue (is it really so well known that it needs to be in the second half of the question? does it really help anyone in any way?) but what I want to focus on is the bolded part. I don\'t know who Jan Cornelisen is, but the linguistic clue tells me he\'s Dutch, and the fact that this painting includes the carrying of the flag really narrows down the possibility for what it could be depicting. Now, you might say that this is not necessarily a good reason to buzz at this point; you might say that Dutch people in military garb are depicted in several other works, such as Frans Hals\' [i:811cf349c0]The Archers of St. Hadrian[/i:811cf349c0] and Velazquez\'s [i:811cf349c0]The Surrender of Breda[/i:811cf349c0]. Granted, but given that previous tossups in the packet included one on Smetana that began with a clue about [i:811cf349c0]From My Life[/i:811cf349c0] and another on Markovnikov\'s rule which within two sentences obviously became "name this chemical rule formulated in the 19th century," you would be foolish not to buzz with [i:811cf349c0]The Night Watch[/i:811cf349c0].

2)
[quote:811cf349c0]He served as a military tribune, quaestor in Transalpine Gaul, and plebeian tribune early in his career and was born in 157 BCE. According to legend, as a teenager, he found an eagle’s nest with seven chicks, which was later seen as an omen predicting his election to the consulship an unprecedented seven times. For ten points, name this Roman well known for his military campaigns and reforms, a novus homo, popularis, uncle by marriage of Julius Ceasar and rival of Sulla.

Answer: Gaius Marius[/quote:811cf349c0]

I include this question because it\'s a great example of a tossup that lacks any useful historical information on an ostensibly important figure of Roman history. Being military tribune and quaestor could conceivably describe many famous Romans; in particular, Gaius Gracchus held both positions, and was even born around the same time as Marius, 154 B.C.E. (As an aside, who memorizes dates of birth, especially of ancient Romans?) Then we have a curious anecdote which may or may not be useful if you know curious anecdotes about Marius, but is of dubious historical interest or importance. Finally, we are told that this is a Roman military guy (we knew this already since he was military tribune), and only at the very end are his reforms mentioned and some substantive information allows one to buzz with certainty.

I can\'t really stress this enough: please make sure your questions contain specific, germane information. Don\'t say things like "he was a general until he decided to go into politics" (for example) because that could be anyone! Give details about the person\'s activities that would allow someone who knows the history to answer the questions instead of trying to guess what you mean.

3)
[quote:811cf349c0]A reformulation of it by Frederik Kortlandt accounted for such features as the glottal stop before the final consonant in words like “help” and “leap” and suggested that it led to the loss of voicedness as a distinctive feature. Apparent exceptions to it for voiceless stops following unstressed syllables were categorized by Verner. First discovered by Friedrich Schlegel and Rasmus Rask, FTP, identify this rule describing sound changes that affected stops in Proto-Indo-European, named for a writer of fairy tales.

ANSWER: Grimm’s law[/quote:811cf349c0]

It\'s a law. It\'s a law of linguistics. Is it Werner\'s law or Grimm\'s law? Take your chance at the roulette table. This is the paradigmatic case of the transparent question, which allows someone with almost no knowledge of the answer except that it exists to get the tossup immediately. This leads me to a question from the same packet:

4)
[quote:811cf349c0]Of its A, B, and C manuscripts, scholars view the second, from St. Gall, as the most authentic. Its heroine invites her brothers to a feast and murdering them. The hero takes the ring and belt of his king’s wife, whom he defeated thanks to an invisibility cloak. After an argument between two characters over precedence in entering the Worm Cathedral, that hero is killed by the Burgundian vassal Hagen von Tronje, while Dietrich von Bern’s weapons master Hildebrand kills the heroine at the end of, FTP, name this Germanic poem featuring Gunther, the princess Kriemhild, and treasure thrown into the Rhine, later made into a series of operas by Richard Wagner.

ANSWER: Nibelungenlied or The Song of the Nibelungs[/quote:811cf349c0]

Why do I present this question? Most of it is actually ok, except for the first part. The thing is, [i:811cf349c0]Piers Plowman[/i:811cf349c0] is also made up of A, B, and C manuscripts, so of course when I heard that, I buzzed immediately; questions like the one on Grimm\'s law above had led me to believe that this should be the correct strategy. Of course, I was negged. This is a situation in which some bad questions lead one to expect future questions to be bad, thereby engendering these kinds of buzzes. Of course, ideally, every question should be viewed as an independent event, but in reality, during the play of a packet one forms a particular impression of what the packet is like, and sometimes it\'s just reasonable to buzz early (especially in a situation in which you know the information just given definitely matches the answer you have in mind). It\'s not hard to put a little disambiguation in the front of your tossup to avoid this.

I picked these questions because I thought they were good examples of some common problems I\'ve seen in these last two tournaments (the first two are from PARFAIT, the last two from BoB). These are some examples, and there are others, but I didn\'t really feel like running through every tossup I thought had problems and dissecting it. I\'m just trying to present these questions in the hopes that people will understand the commonality on some sort of intuitive level and will learn to avoid these problems in the future.
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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:00 pm

This is a fine post. People should read it. It really helps get at why some arguments made in posts lately are wrong-headed. Like I said before, this game's a lot more fun when you don't have to "play the packet"...hopefully, this post can give people a better idea of how not to create packets which force you to do this.

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Post by yoda4554 » Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:26 pm

Just for clarity, the point I was trying to make about the Milton tossup is precisely the one Jerry makes here, not that the tossup was transparent (I think it's quite good) nor that transparency is never a problem. My comparison for that was with questions like the Michael Vick one, which also requires nontrivial knowledge to buzz early with, if perhaps a tad less, even though you can construct a logical series by which it seems transparent. Certainly the tossups here all suffer from the problems Jerry notes, and this is borne out in gameplay situations he relates. I was simply noting that we might use game results as one indicator (though not an all-powerful one) of the line between real transparency and faux-transparency; for instance, if there had been powers at BoB, I can't imagine that a lot of rooms wouldn't have powered Grimm's Law and Night Watch.
Last edited by yoda4554 on Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:27 pm

yoda4554 wrote:Just for clarity, the point I was trying to make about the Milton tossup is precisely the one Jerry makes here, not that the tossup was transparent (I think it's quite good) nor that transparency is a problem. My comparison for that was with questions like the Michael Vick one, which also requires nontrivial knowledge to buzz early with, if perhaps a tad less, even though you can construct a logical series by which it seems transparent. Certainly the tossups here all suffer from the problems Jerry notes, and this is borne out in gameplay situations he relates. I was simply noting that we might use game results as one indicator (though not an all-powerful one) of the line between real transparency and faux-transparency; for instance, if there had been powers at BoB, I can't imagine that a lot of rooms wouldn't have powered Grimm's Law and Night Watch.
I guess I kind of missed the point, not knowing much about Michael Vick. But yeah, looking back at it, I see that we are in agreement.
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Post by DumbJaques » Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:58 pm

Jerry, your post is awesome and not only on the money, but pretty timely. Moreover, transparency is probably the biggest problem in college qb that's committed by people whose hearts are really in the right place. This is a good thread for people to look over, because transparency can be a very hard thing to really grasp if you're in your first few years playing and writing at this level.
I can't imagine that a lot of rooms wouldn't have powered Grimm's Law and Night Watch.
Yeah, unless they were mixed in with non-transparent questions on more difficult material. That's personally my least favorite type of packet, because it leads to exactly the situation Jerry posits above. For example, when we played Brown at Parfait, I got a Miller-Urey tossup off the second or third clue off of some combination of the words evaporation, gas, and something else that made me think about Miller-Urey. It seems unlikely I know more about the Urey-Miller experiment than Jerry and Eric, and I certainly don't know the kind of non-basic information that should be the leadin to such a question. It really boiled down to "who can decide this probably sounds like Urey-Miller first based on the most fundamental aspects of the experiment," and then, "who can decide they should take a chance and buzz."

What I tell prospective DACQ writers about transparency is basically this:

Try to look at each clue, and even more closely at the leadins, and try to imagine if there are any characteristics other than the actual knowledge of that clue that might suggest the answer. Does it establish that the guy in this painting is a dutch soldier to everyone, regardless if they actually KNOW who he is? Does it suggest that a book is by an African author even if someone has never heard of the particular work? I think that's the kind of fundamental check you should try to use when working to avoid transparency in tossups.
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:07 am

yoda4554 wrote:I was simply noting that we might use game results as one indicator (though not an all-powerful one) of the line between real transparency and faux-transparency
Sure, but that's not much use if you are trying to edit transparency out of a packet that nobody has played yet (say, a packet that will be used in a tournament of the future).
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Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:56 am

Given that I agree with everything posted above, there's one problem: many teams who are writing packets simply don't know what clues are easy and which ones are hard. Case in point is the Darmouth packet from BoB; I'm guessing they didn't realize that the pre-exponential factor in the Arrhenius equation, Pierre Menard in Ficciones, the Burning of the Houses of Parliament painting, Henry the Fowler as the father of Otto I, etc., etc. were well-known.

I'm basing this off of my observation that said team generally shows up to good tournaments (Fall, EFT, Regionals, WIT, whatever) and expressed disgust at other questions that had easy leadins; in short, they like "good quizbowl". To further belabor the point, this packet was submitted quite early, so the Yale people would have had time to change these leadins. I personally am guilty of writing several tossups where the leadin was an instant giveaway (see my "black holes" tossup and "Han dynasty" tossup from EFT); is there some solid way of telling whether a given clue is too early or too late?
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Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:10 am

I personally think the page on the wiki with stick clues on it could be helpful, although as it is its more stock clues that are dumb. Maybe another, similar page to this? Also, if you have questions, I don't see why it would be too hard to ask a more experienced writer what is OK, assuming they aren't going to the tournament. I mean, the "ACF cabal" is actually a bunch of decent people, shocking as that may seem, and I've run things by better writers to try and fix some problems in my questions before they are used. Also, I don't see why a good editor wouldn't do the same thing in subjects that he doesn't know about.
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Post by NoahMinkCHS » Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:34 am

I don't know if it's the cause of the problems Jerry mentioned, but I think ToStrikeInfinitely has a good point. It's pretty hard for inexperienced writers (not sure if that's what Dartmouth is, but well, I guess I am) to gauge how difficult clues are. I think it's easy to write at levels below where you are, but really hard to write at "aspirational" levels -- so, for me, it was very easy to write a high school tournament last year, somewhat harder but not too bad to write for ACF Fall, but it would be nearly impossible to write good questions for ACF Regionals or Nationals, just because I don't know (and may not know that I don't know) how easy/hard some clues are. I know this is something you get better at with experience, and certainly that's a goal, but it seems like most of us really have to rely on editors to fix that stuff. Unless, of course, the editor doesn't know, and then I guess all hell breaks loose.

Another question I had, and this is something I've wondered about before, is the example of "A, B, and C manuscripts". If the question writer knows a lot about the work he's writing about, but maybe doesn't know anything about Piers Plowman, how can he determine that the clue isn't uniquely identifying when -- to me, someone who knows nothing about either work -- it sounds pretty unique? How much due diligence can/should writers do on this type of thing? I certainly respect the idea of asking experienced writers about specific instances, but if you really don't know you don't know, it seems then the only option would be to send your whole packet to somebody to pre-edit, and I don't see that being a viable option.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:32 am

NoahMinkCHS wrote:Another question I had, and this is something I've wondered about before, is the example of "A, B, and C manuscripts". If the question writer knows a lot about the work he's writing about, but maybe doesn't know anything about Piers Plowman, how can he determine that the clue isn't uniquely identifying when -- to me, someone who knows nothing about either work -- it sounds pretty unique? How much due diligence can/should writers do on this type of thing? I certainly respect the idea of asking experienced writers about specific instances, but if you really don't know you don't know, it seems then the only option would be to send your whole packet to somebody to pre-edit, and I don't see that being a viable option.
Or you could send your packet to an "editor," who theoretically will fix such problems in an effort to produce a good set. You make a good point, Noah, and the answer is that an inexperienced writer isn't expected to know that. The burden there is on the tournament editor(s).
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Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Dec 11, 2007 5:47 am

Kit Cloudkicker wrote:Or you could send your packet to an "editor," who theoretically will fix such problems in an effort to produce a good set. You make a good point, Noah, and the answer is that an inexperienced writer isn't expected to know that. The burden there is on the tournament editor(s).
The problem is that many of the same inexperienced/poor/whatever writers are editing tournaments. With the exception of official ACF events and anything edited by Chicago, Maryland, Illinois, etc (don't feel bad if I've left you out; I'm just tired), the same people handing in questions on Calvino with "Path to the Nest of Spiders" in the first line are the ones editing the set. The ACF cabal or whatever you guys call yourselves can only do so much; you can't be expected to have a hand in every packet sub event across the country.
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Post by First Chairman » Tue Dec 11, 2007 9:56 am

ToStrikeInfinitely wrote:
Kit Cloudkicker wrote:Or you could send your packet to an "editor," who theoretically will fix such problems in an effort to produce a good set. You make a good point, Noah, and the answer is that an inexperienced writer isn't expected to know that. The burden there is on the tournament editor(s).
The problem is that many of the same inexperienced/poor/whatever writers are editing tournaments. With the exception of official ACF events and anything edited by Chicago, Maryland, Illinois, etc (don't feel bad if I've left you out; I'm just tired), the same people handing in questions on Calvino with "Path to the Nest of Spiders" in the first line are the ones editing the set. The ACF cabal or whatever you guys call yourselves can only do so much; you can't be expected to have a hand in every packet sub event across the country.
True... but that's where a "Bootcamp" comes in handy. :)

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Post by Dartmouth College Bowl » Tue Dec 11, 2007 11:47 am

ToStrikeInfinitely wrote:I'm guessing they didn't realize that the pre-exponential factor in the Arrhenius equation, Pierre Menard in Ficciones, the Burning of the Houses of Parliament painting, Henry the Fowler as the father of Otto I, etc., etc. were well-known.
Admittedly, the Ficciones question was poorly structured and perhaps the Arrhenius one as well, but in our defense, we had placed the Turner clue much later in the Houses of Parliament question, and the same goes for the Henry the Fowler clue.

In reading the packet, I was quite surprised by how the Ficciones one was not edited while the Houses of Parliament one was. Perhaps a new point to be addressed is editorial responsibility - and not just ignoring poorly written TUs (like my Ficciones one) but changing well written TUs (like I think my original HoP one was). This is nothing against Yale since our entire team felt that, while some questions were a little too obscure or even pointless, the editing throughout the tournament did not merit much complaint. One problem they seemed to have, as do all tournaments, is that packets were submitted late and in less-than-perfect shape.

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Post by Dartmouth College Bowl » Tue Dec 11, 2007 12:15 pm

By the way here are the TUs that my teammates are mentioned above that were edited to include these giveaways (my intention is by no means to impugn Yale):

Originals:

Early in his reign, this put down a rebellion led by his younger brother Henry, who later fled to France for protection. After the death of Lothair II, he invaded Italy and married Lothair’s widow, Adelaide. Near the end of his reign, he was crowned Emperor by Pope John XII, but after John conspired against him, this man installed a new pope. The son of Henry the Fowler, he halted Magyar raids into central Europe by defeating a much larger Magyar army at Lechfeld. FTP, name this second ruler of a namesake dynasty, generally considered to be the first Holy Roman Emperor.
ANSWER: Otto the Great or Otto I

Its stonework was originally a yellow-ish limestone, taken from South Yorkshire and its total area is about 250,000 square feet. One of its architects commented that it is “all Grecian, Sir. Tudor details on a classical body,” a surprising quote considering the usual style attributed to this work. J. M. W. Turner depicted the 1835 conflagration of these buildings, which led to its rebuilding by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. FTP, name this London political landmark, the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
ANSWER: The Houses of Parliament (accept equivalents)

Edited:

10. The son of Henry the Fowler, early in his reign, he put down a rebellion led by his younger brother Henry, who later fled to France for protection. After the death of Lothair II, he invaded Italy and married Lothair’s widow, Adelaide. Near the end of his reign, he installed Leo VIII as pope after a conspiracy against him by Pope John XII, who had earlier crowned this man. He halted Magyar raids into central Europe by defeating them at Lechfeld. FTP, name this second ruler of a namesake dynasty, generally considered to be the first Holy Roman Emperor.
ANSWER: Otto the Great or Otto I

5. A Woolsack sits in front of a throne in this structure, the burning of which was depicted by Turner in 1834. This fire led to its rebuilding by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. Built on a site known as Thorney Island, among its many towers are St. Stephen’s and the Jewel. Its stonework was originally a yellowish limestone, taken from South Yorkshire. FTP, name this London political landmark, the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
ANSWER: The Houses of Parliament or Palace of Westminster (accept equivalents)

I agree with Eric that it is hard to ascertain which clues are giveaways and which are relatively obscure, but I would suggest that we might have some sort of searchable recent questions database that would allow younger players to look at good questions on topics that they are writing on. They could use these questions as parameters for clue placement.

Also I will include the Arrhenius and Ficciones q\'s with admittedly have bad lead-ins. I am wondering if they might have been salvaged with the movement of later clues to the beginning of the question or something like that.

The units of pre-exponential factor in this equation vary depending on order of the reaction. The pre-exponential factor can either be denoted by the letter A, when determined experimentally and Z, when it represents the collision factor. This equation was first postulated by van’t Hoff in 1884, but its namesake provided the experimental evidence for it five years later. This equation expresses the rate constant is inversely related to temperature and directly related to activation energy. FTP, name this equation of collision named for its Swedish discoverer.
ANSWER: Arrhenius Equation


It discusses Pierre Menard, “Author of the Quixote,” as well as “The Circular Ruins” and “The Babylon Lottery.” Its two most famous parts illustrate a fascination with theoretical literary constructs that were perhaps influenced by this author’s time spent working as a librarian. In one of those two works, the titular object is sought by a German Spy, Dr. Tsun, and is a novel that tries to chronicle what happens when multiple events occur simultaneously. That work is immediately preceded by one about the titular construct which features books containing every combination of characters, arranged in interlocking hexagonal rooms. FTP, name this anthology that contains “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “The Library of Babel,” written by Jorge Luis Borges.
ANSWER: Ficciones (accept Fictions)

Here are the BoB edits:

17. It discusses Pierre Menard, “Author of the Quixote,” as well as “The Circular Ruins” and “The Babylon Lottery.” Its two most famous parts illustrate a fascination with theoretical literary constructs that were perhaps influenced by this author’s time spent working as a librarian. In one of those two works, the titular object is sought by a German Spy, Dr. Tsun, and is a novel that tries to chronicle what happens when multiple events occur simultaneously. FTP, name this anthology that contains “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “The Library of Babel,” written by Jorge Luis Borges.
ANSWER: Ficciones (accept Fictions)

18. The units of pre-exponential factor in this equation vary depending on order of the reaction. The pre-exponential factor can either be denoted by the letter A, when determined experimentally and Z, when it represents the collision factor. This equation was first postulated by van’t Hoff in 1884, but its namesake provided the experimental evidence for it five years later. This equation expresses the rate constant is inversely related to temperature and directly related to activation energy. FTP, name this equation of collision named for its Swedish discoverer.
ANSWER: Arrhenius Equation

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Post by Bigfoot isn't the pr » Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:13 pm

Cookie Monster brings up an interesting point. It seems that sometimes the problems with the question are caused by unknowing editors and not unknowing writers.
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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:27 pm

Re: the Dartmouth questions, both the Otto I and the Houses of Parliament tossups were made way worse through editing. I'm not sure what the rationale was for changing them; they look fine to me as they are, perhaps a little short, but certainly all the clues are in the right order. The Arrhenius equation and the Ficciones tossups were mostly left alone but they were problematic to begin with, since they start with very well-known clues.
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Post by cvdwightw » Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:34 pm

Obviously in any question there's going to be some clues that have extra-textual associations that help narrow down the range of possible answers to a player that hasn't recognized a clue as uniquely identifying yet (like, "this guy did important work in the sixteenth century" or "this is a work by a Japanese author"). The issue of transparency is when a clue allows players to buzz with the "most logically correct answer" before players with real knowledge can buzz. However, as more and more clues are added (thus increasing the chances of a player with real knowledge to buzz with the correct answer), more and more extra-textual associations are also added (thus increasing the chances of a player to answer with the most logically correct possibility). Ultimately, the giveaway unites "this is the correct answer" and "this is the most logically correct answer" - the buildup of both clues and context should allow a player who's merely heard of the answer to get it. I guess the question is, at what point should this tradeoff start moving more toward the "this is the most logically correct answer" buzz?

When I finished this question (I fleshed out a half-written question from about 2 years ago), I thought it was well written except for a possible transparency issue:
Titanomachy Packet 6 Tossup 3 wrote:A Miguel de Unamuno work begins with an essay describing a group’s unsuccessful quest for this man’s tomb; the work draws parallels between him and Christ, and ultimately he claims "I know who I want to be." "Madame Bovary is [this man] in skirts" according to Ortega y Gasset, whose first major work was a "Meditation" on the book in which this character appears.
Spanish author + Spanish author + "this character" = Quixote: is that too transparent, especially considering we're about halfway through the tossup now?

Just so we're clear, here's the rest of the question:
Rest of Question wrote:This character’s history was written by the Arab Cide Hamete Benegeli according to the ninth chapter of Part One, which along with that part’s thirty-eighth chapter were the only two chapters completed by Pierre Menard in a Borges short story. For ten points, name this character faithfully accompanied by his horse Rocinante and squire Sancho Panza, the title character of a Cervantes work.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:44 pm

cvdwightw wrote:Spanish author + Spanish author + "this character" = Quixote: is that too transparent, especially considering we're about halfway through the tossup now?
I don't think so. I guess you could hazard a guess with that combination, but who knows? At a high level tournament, I would be very loathe to take that gamble, because there's no reason that there wouldn't be a tossup on some other character that all those writers wrote about.
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Post by vandyhawk » Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:53 pm

cvdwightw wrote:When I finished this question (I fleshed out a half-written question from about 2 years ago), I thought it was well written except for a possible transparency issue:
Titanomachy Packet 6 Tossup 3 wrote:A Miguel de Unamuno work begins with an essay describing a group’s unsuccessful quest for this man’s tomb; the work draws parallels between him and Christ, and ultimately he claims "I know who I want to be." "Madame Bovary is [this man] in skirts" according to Ortega y Gasset, whose first major work was a "Meditation" on the book in which this character appears.
Spanish author + Spanish author + "this character" = Quixote: is that too transparent, especially considering we're about halfway through the tossup now?

Just so we're clear, here's the rest of the question:
Rest of Question wrote:This character’s history was written by the Arab Cide Hamete Benegeli according to the ninth chapter of Part One, which along with that part’s thirty-eighth chapter were the only two chapters completed by Pierre Menard in a Borges short story. For ten points, name this character faithfully accompanied by his horse Rocinante and squire Sancho Panza, the title character of a Cervantes work.
I pretty much agree with Jerry on this specific example. We read this in practice last week, and I actually buzzed at the point where you divide the question, but b/c I actually (very randomly) know that Ortega y Gossett wrote Meditations on Quixote, and not b/c I was thinking about it being transparent. One could imagine a character like Don Juan possibly fitting the general idea too.

Here is another example of a tossup from a tournament earlier this year that initially really doesn't say anything concrete but lends itself to the obvious guess:

"By the age of twenty in 1356, he was already an accomplished reader of the Qur'an, and by twenty-four he was leading his first military campaigns. He then began his lifelong conquest of central Asia, which led to the butchery of Neyshâpûr, Delhi, and Baghdad, among other cities. He truly consolidated his power with his decisive victory at the Battle of the Kur River where he defeated longtime rival Tokhtamysh, the leader of the Golden Horde. FTP, identify this conqueror that founded a Turko-Mongolian empire with a capital at Samarkand."

In the first line we learn that it's a Muslim conqueror of the 14th century. Even though it's not so uniquely identifying, unless we're at a much more difficult tournament, it's not going to be someone like Bayezid I or Tokhtamysh (who is actually mentioned later), so it's pretty easy to guess Tamurlane. At a tournament where difficulty wildly fluctuates, though, I suppose something like this actually could be someone besides Tamurlane, and I guess the packet would win again, as Jerry put it.

It is admittedly pretty tough for inexperienced people to figure out how to avoid vagueness by using uniquely identifying clues of the right difficulty without also being transparent, but that's where feedback again becomes important. Most college qb players don't read this board, so I continue to think that the best solution is to provide people specific feedback on their submitted questions when there are systematic errors like transparency, vagueness, etc.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Dec 11, 2007 7:05 pm

vandyhawk wrote:"By the age of twenty in 1356, he was already an accomplished reader of the Qur'an, and by twenty-four he was leading his first military campaigns. He then began his lifelong conquest of central Asia, which led to the butchery of Neyshâpûr, Delhi, and Baghdad, among other cities. He truly consolidated his power with his decisive victory at the Battle of the Kur River where he defeated longtime rival Tokhtamysh, the leader of the Golden Horde. FTP, identify this conqueror that founded a Turko-Mongolian empire with a capital at Samarkand."

In the first line we learn that it's a Muslim conqueror of the 14th century. Even though it's not so uniquely identifying, unless we're at a much more difficult tournament, it's not going to be someone like Bayezid I or Tokhtamysh (who is actually mentioned later), so it's pretty easy to guess Tamurlane. At a tournament where difficulty wildly fluctuates, though, I suppose something like this actually could be someone besides Tamurlane, and I guess the packet would win again, as Jerry put it.
Actually, I probably would have negged very early on with Murad I on this question; he's a near-contemporary of Tamerlane (maybe 10 years' difference in age?) and the first clue isn't very useful anyway. Of course, the middle clues place on in Central Asia rather than Ottoman lands, so from then on it's pretty reasonable to buzz with Tamerlane.

I think this question can be rectified by doing two things: finding specific clues on Tamerlane to replace the first part, and making those clues unhelpful from a linguistic/geographic perspective to make it harder to guess where the action is taking place. I won't give away any such clues since I'm guessing there's more than one tossup on Tamerlane remaining to be written in my future, but I hope people get the idea.
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Post by Kyle » Tue Dec 11, 2007 7:26 pm

vandyhawk wrote:"By the age of twenty in 1356, he was already an accomplished reader of the Qur'an, and by twenty-four he was leading his first military campaigns. He then began his lifelong conquest of central Asia, which led to the butchery of Neyshâpûr, Delhi, and Baghdad, among other cities. He truly consolidated his power with his decisive victory at the Battle of the Kur River where he defeated longtime rival Tokhtamysh, the leader of the Golden Horde. FTP, identify this conqueror that founded a Turko-Mongolian empire with a capital at Samarkand."
I really think this is kind of different. This is just bad. Before giving a single clue, we have established that he was a 14th-century Muslim conqueror of Central Asia, which is indeed pretty much what Tamerlane was. That's certainly more famous than the fact that his rival was Tokhtamysh or even that his capital was Samarkand. But this isn't "playing the packet" as Jerry defined it...it's just a question that does not have a single clue in the first three lines.

Clues are when you refer to people, places, events, etc. "By twenty-four he was leading his first military campaigns" is not a clue.

I was impressed (negatively) with this question from the Columbia packet at BOB because it does not have a single clue in it:
Born in 1847, he served in both the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars, but retired in 1911. He was however, still accused of causing Germany’s downfall in WWI. A monarchist, he felt bound by the Weimar Constitution, and hoped that one of the Prussian Princes would succeed him as head of state, but none stepped up. Coming out of retirement in 1914 to head the German army, and again in 1925, in 1930 he dissolved the Reichstag and appointed a cabinet responsible only to him. FTP, name this historical figure who died in office in 1934, the namesake of a dirigible which exploded over New Jersey.
ANSWER: Paul von Hindenburg
We're talking about different issues here. The Dartmouth questions are full of precise, legitimate, interesting clues that are out of order (evidently in some cases with some help from the editor). The Tamerlane and Hindenburg questions suffer from a very different problem: they have no clues for anyone to edit.

The constructive part of my post is that I think new teams should make an effort, above all else, to compile a long list of interesting, specific, accurate, precise, notable, etc., etc. clues. For the newest question-writers, that's more important than putting them in the right order. (This assumes, of course, an experienced and active editor) So the issue isn't, "How do young teams know what order to put their clues in?" They can't, really, but that's okay because they'll learn over time. I think it's good enough to send an editor a list of ten really good clues and let him or her make a question out of it.

EDIT: Jerry said the same thing about Tamerlane faster.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Dec 11, 2007 7:56 pm

Kyle makes an excellent point. While I think that new players should definitely give some thought to clue placement, I think it's even more important to properly formulate the wording of the questions so that it's concise, useful, and specific. If the only problem is that the clues are out of order, a competent editor can change that quickly, but a question that lacks useful information just has to be rewritten from scratch.
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Post by vandyhawk » Tue Dec 11, 2007 8:19 pm

What I ineffectively tried to get across (or at least thought about in my head before posting) is that the Tamurlane one is transparent even without any "real" clues. I suppose that's slightly different than something like the Grimm's Law tossup that has concrete but transparent info, and I agree (if anyone said this) that it's very different from, say, the edited Otto I question, which just has concrete clues out of order. All 3 of these are problems of inexperienced writers, though the lack of concrete clues is by far the easiest to fix for most people, I would think, as Jerry and Kyle have suggested. Not using transparent, but real, clues is something learned with a little experience, and getting proper clue placement really only comes about through a lot of experience, and even then, can sometimes be off at times.

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Post by STPickrell » Wed Dec 12, 2007 9:13 am

grapesmoker wrote:I think this question can be rectified by doing two things: finding specific clues on Tamerlane to replace the first part, and making those clues unhelpful from a linguistic/geographic perspective to make it harder to guess where the action is taking place. I won't give away any such clues since I'm guessing there's more than one tossup on Tamerlane remaining to be written in my future, but I hope people get the idea.
The problem is that pretty much anything obscure Tamerlane does (wives, battles, parentage, dynastic drama before taking power) is going to have Central Asian-sounding names somewhere in there.

You can avoid mention of names, but then you fall into the potential trap of being vague and non-specific. I'd rather commit the error of being transparent than being vague and non-specific.

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Post by NatusRoma » Wed Dec 12, 2007 10:53 am

It would be unfair to the writers of that packet for me not to take responsibility for the disastrous Grimm's Law tossup. I should have known better.

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Post by Kyle » Wed Dec 12, 2007 1:00 pm

STPickrell wrote:The problem is that pretty much anything obscure Tamerlane does (wives, battles, parentage, dynastic drama before taking power) is going to have Central Asian-sounding names somewhere in there.

You can avoid mention of names, but then you fall into the potential trap of being vague and non-specific. I'd rather commit the error of being transparent than being vague and non-specific.
Yes, you're right. But just because a name is Central Asian doesn't mean it sounds Central Asian. Go up to someone on your team and ask what language "Gur-i Mir" is from.

In any event:
Harvard Fall Tournament 2007 wrote:Descriptions of him by Clavijo and Ibn Khaldun were partially confirmed when archaeologists excavated his tomb at Gur-i Mir and noted that his right shoulder and right thigh were deformed. He legitimized his reign with the title kurgan, or son-in-law, a reference to his wife’s Chinghizid descent. His first victory came when he took Herat in 1381, but he is better known for his minaraha, skull pyramids that he built in Baghdad and Damascus. Ruling from Samarqand, this is, FTP, what 14th-century Muslim conqueror of Mongol descent who devastated the Middle East?
ANSWER: Timur-i Lang (accept Timur the Lame; accept Tamerlane; accept Tamburlane)
You can argue about the placement of the deformed thigh clue, but I think in general this question solves the biggest problems with writing about Tamerlane: the first proper name is Spanish (Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo was a Spanish diplomat only famous for visiting Tamerlane and then writing about it), the first date comes after the halfway point of the question, and skull pyramids and Samarqand are left to come after clues that require more precise knowledge.

Oh. One thing about transparancy, given the tossup above: if you know that Ibn Khaldun died in 1406 and that Tamerlane died in 1405 but not that they had a famous meeting in Damascus in 1401, and you think, "Okay, I'm going to buzz because the answer is probably a 14th-century Muslim leader," and this sequence of logic occurs in your head in just a few seconds --> then, yes, you're taking advantage of some degree of transparancy in the question...but you deserve ten points.

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Post by grapesmoker » Wed Dec 12, 2007 2:15 pm

Kyle wrote:Oh. One thing about transparancy, given the tossup above: if you know that Ibn Khaldun died in 1406 and that Tamerlane died in 1405 but not that they had a famous meeting in Damascus in 1401, and you think, "Okay, I'm going to buzz because the answer is probably a 14th-century Muslim leader," and this sequence of logic occurs in your head in just a few seconds --> then, yes, you're taking advantage of some degree of transparancy in the question...but you deserve ten points.
If you're going through this kind of reasoning, you're no longer in transparency land; you're drawing on a whole bunch of knowledge and whatever "guess" you have to make to buzz there with "Tamerlane" is pretty minimal.
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Post by STPickrell » Wed Dec 12, 2007 3:22 pm

Kyle wrote:Yes, you're right. But just because a name is Central Asian doesn't mean it sounds Central Asian. Go up to someone on your team and ask what language "Gur-i Mir" is from.
I repeated 'Gur-i Mir' to myself and though 'Lord of the Rings.' :)

I'd probably hear 'kurgan' and think that it sounds Mongol, though, and buzz in somewhere between there and Chinghizid. Which sounds about where I should be buzzing in giving my middling skills as an actual player, and this is about the time mid-level associations should be made. If I let it get past 'skull pyramids' I'm having an off day.
You can argue about the placement of the deformed thigh clue,
If you can associate Clavijo, ibn Khaldun, and deformed thigh, you deserve 10 points, IMO.
Oh. One thing about transparancy, given the tossup above: if you know that Ibn Khaldun died in 1406 and that Tamerlane died in 1405 but not that they had a famous meeting in Damascus in 1401, and you think, "Okay, I'm going to buzz because the answer is probably a 14th-century Muslim leader," and this sequence of logic occurs in your head in just a few seconds --> then, yes, you're taking advantage of some degree of transparancy in the question...but you deserve ten points.
I think if you know ibn Khaldun died in 1406, you possess superior knowledge that allows you to give a date to the person being asked about.

The reason so much is transparent to the posters on this board is that they are above average players, able to make the leaps of logic so quickly that it appears transparent. It's one thing if you have a 4-8 person buzzer race during the power part of a question between two average teams. (Consider a leadin from the mid-1990s, 'At this World War I naval battle...')

My question is this: is it transparent, or are players just that freaking good?

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Post by theMoMA » Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:09 pm

I mean, that deformed thigh clue is misplaced (and does make the tossup transparent...lame Central Asians, you say? No one deserves to get ten points for that at a regular-difficult college tournament.).

But it does avoid the issues that made the original question bad, and at least it's more of a buzzer-race on a misplaced clue than an exercise in playing chicken.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:38 pm

On the topic of transparency vs. deep knowledge ACF figure it out, I think this thread

http://www.hsquizbowl.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=2192

is worth mentioning. In the course of expounding on question length Andrew does a pretty good job of outlining how ACF and mACF questions do and should include clues that promote lateral thinking. Sorry for derailing this Tamerlane bit...though not really.
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:55 pm

I agree with Kyle that names don't have to be dead giveaways. You can use early names that will downright throw lateral thinkers off track. Let me pimp a Tamerlane tossup of my own:
GOA wrote: This ruler, who may have been converted to the Nusayri sect by Sayyed Barakah, fought two wars against his arch-rival Tokhtamysh, destroying Sarai and winning climactic victories at the Battles of Orenburg and the Kur River. This leader of the Barlas tribe destroyed one dynasty when he viciously sacked the capital of the Tughlaqs, and another when he captured Heart and Khorasan and destroyed Neishapur after the death of Abu Said. Before being succeeded by his son Shah Rukh, he caused an interregnum with his victory at the Battle of Ankara, after which he reportedly brought the defeated Sultan in a cage to Samarkand. For ten points, name this warlord who conquered much of Central Asia in the 1300’s.
Answer: Tamerlane [accept: Timur, Timur the Lame, Timur-i-lenk]
Nusayri and Sayyed Barakah sound vaguely Islamic, but the Islamic world is enormous, so that's not an issue. Sarai is vaguely foreign, could be anywhere in Asia. Orenburg actually sounds like its in German-speaking Europe, which would lead a lateral thinker to conclude that this is probably an Ottoman Turk who attacked Austria. Abu Said sounds downright Arabic. Tokhtamysh is far too early (but in my defense I think he was less famous at the time (I read this to the Jerry/Meigs team and they didn't buzz there), but I don't think that even that name sounds like a stereotypical name from anywhere.

Somebody who doesn't know these places or people can, at best, conclude that it's some Asian dude from a tribal society who traveled a lot in Eurasia. That could be a lot of Mongols.

Another strategy I use is Anglicizing names.
Harvard Fall Tournament 2007 wrote: One ruler of this nation was deposed in Operation Panzerfaust. That man, a naval officer, was replaced by a member of the Arrow Cross Movement, this nation’s fascist party, which objected to the Treaty of Trianon that this nation was forced to sign after World War One. Apart from Francis Szalasi and Admiral Nicholas Horthy, its previous rulers included a king who was killed by the Mongols at the Battle of Mohi, as well as Matthias Corvinus and his father, John Hunyadi. Following the Battle of Zenta, the Treaty of Karlowitz transfered it from the Ottoman Empire, which had conquered it at the Battle of Mohacs, to Austria, which in 1868 was forced to give it significant autonomy under the ausgliech, or dual monarchy. For ten points, name this European nation with capital at Budapest.
Answer: Hungary
I changed "Ferenc Szalasi" to "Francis Szalasi" and "Miklos Horthy" to "Nicholas Horthy" (Horthy signed his autobiography as "Nicholas von Horthy", so that last one is even more justified). Ferenc and Miklos, as I understand, occur only in Hungarian, and what I didn't want happening was some kid saying "well, the Hungarian dude down the street from me has a pet puli named Miklos, so this country with some guy named Miklos in it is probably Hungary."

(BTW, please keep writing those Bartok tossups with the clue "he had a friend named Tibor", so I can keep getting points on music tossups using only my knowledge of eastern european linguistics)
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Post by grapesmoker » Wed Dec 12, 2007 5:18 pm

Kit Cloudkicker wrote:On the topic of transparency vs. deep knowledge ACF figure it out, I think this thread

http://www.hsquizbowl.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=2192

is worth mentioning. In the course of expounding on question length Andrew does a pretty good job of outlining how ACF and mACF questions do and should include clues that promote lateral thinking. Sorry for derailing this Tamerlane bit...though not really.
Eric is absolutely right. Andrew's first post in that thread should be a model for how to think during a question, whatever it may be on.
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Post by Sir Thopas » Wed Dec 12, 2007 6:52 pm

Kyle wrote:Yes, you're right. But just because a name is Central Asian doesn't mean it sounds Central Asian. Go up to someone on your team and ask what language "Gur-i Mir" is from.

This didn't register to me as central Asian, and I'm somewhat notorious for making stupid connections off of linguistic transparencies. In fact, when I first heard the tossup, it didn't really register as special at all. However . . .

In any event:
Harvard Fall Tournament 2007 wrote:Descriptions of him by Clavijo and Ibn Khaldun were partially confirmed when archaeologists excavated his tomb at Gur-i Mir and noted that his right shoulder and right thigh were deformed. He legitimized his reign with the title kurgan, or son-in-law, a reference to his wife’s Chinghizid descent. His first victory came when he took Herat in 1381, but he is better known for his minaraha, skull pyramids that he built in Baghdad and Damascus. Ruling from Samarqand, this is, FTP, what 14th-century Muslim conqueror of Mongol descent who devastated the Middle East?
ANSWER: Timur-i Lang (accept Timur the Lame; accept Tamerlane; accept Tamburlane)
You can argue about the placement of the deformed thigh clue,
I did pick up on this, and buzzed accordingly right about "reign", it having taken me a second or two to make the connection.

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Post by trphilli » Wed Dec 12, 2007 10:03 pm

Kyle wrote:
I was impressed (negatively) with this question from the Columbia packet at BOB because it does not have a single clue in it:
Born in 1847, he served in both the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars, but retired in 1911. He was however, still accused of causing Germany’s downfall in WWI. A monarchist, he felt bound by the Weimar Constitution, and hoped that one of the Prussian Princes would succeed him as head of state, but none stepped up. Coming out of retirement in 1914 to head the German army, and again in 1925, in 1930 he dissolved the Reichstag and appointed a cabinet responsible only to him. FTP, name this historical figure who died in office in 1934, the namesake of a dirigible which exploded over New Jersey.
ANSWER: Paul von Hindenburg
I'm going to disagree with Kyle here. Somewhat as a devil's advocate. Somewhat as someone who believes there is room for a more complex history cannon (Come on Bruce, we can do it!) While I agree this question could use significant improvement. It does indeed contain clues.

Clue 1 = "bound by the Weimar Constitution"
Clue 2 = "head of state"
Clue 3 = "head the German Army"

When you take clues 1, 2, and 3 the together you get an Answer space of 1. Hindenberg was the only Weimar President who was also a leader in the German Army. So as Andrew said in his post the conjunction of these three clues could yield a succesfull buz.

And again, this question could be edited. Here is some quick work I put into it. The lead-in could be better, but it is now more logical and clue dense while still retaining significant parts of the submitted question.
This leader was called out of out of retirement in 1914 to lead the German Eighth Army during the early days of the Great War. With the assistance of his deputy Erich Ludendorf he became the Army's Commander in Chief in 1916. After the war, he felt bound by the Weimar Constitution, and hoped that one of the Prussian Princes would succeed him as head of state, but none stepped up. This forced him to run for re-election in the presidential campaign of 1932 against Adolf Hitler. FTP, name this German President whose death in 1934 allowed Hitler to declare himself Fuhrer, and the namesake of a dirigible which exploded over New Jersey in 1937.
ANSWER: Paul von Hindenburg
Well, I've said my piece. Let the pillory of the niche history player begin. :)

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Post by Important Bird Area » Wed Dec 12, 2007 10:53 pm

more complex history cannon
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Post by Kyle » Thu Dec 13, 2007 2:13 am

trphilli wrote:It does indeed contain clues.

Clue 1 = "bound by the Weimar Constitution"
Clue 2 = "head of state"
Clue 3 = "head the German Army"

When you take clues 1, 2, and 3 the together you get an Answer space of 1.
See, I think it's only a clue if you don't have to take it with something else to make the answer space 1.

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Post by Bigfoot isn't the pr » Thu Dec 13, 2007 5:42 am

In reference to Timur there was a question a few years back (I think maybe from a TJ in-house tourney [not the previously stated one]) that started off with how he was crippled (something about getting shot in the leg with an arrow) and a reference to his childhood as a thief in some Central Asian city (I am in no means a Timur scholar, but thats what the question said). I quite liked that question and would like to know where it came from.
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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Fri Dec 14, 2007 2:02 am

I'm going to disagree with Kyle here. Somewhat as a devil's advocate. Somewhat as someone who believes there is room for a more complex history cannon (Come on Bruce, we can do it!) While I agree this question could use significant improvement. It does indeed contain clues.

Clue 1 = "bound by the Weimar Constitution"
Clue 2 = "head of state"
Clue 3 = "head the German Army"

Sigh, can we please stop making this argument? Do not start questions with these types of clues. Start them with definite specific clues that uniquely refer to one answer (without being transparent).

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Post by trphilli » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:33 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
more complex history cannon
Image
Okay, so I typed myself into that one. My apologies.
Kyle wrote: See, I think it's only a clue if you don't have to take it with something else to make the answer space 1.
Okay, I accept that we have differing definitions of "clue". Filed under quizbowl aesthetics.
Ryan Westbrook wrote:Sigh, can we please stop making this argument? Do not start questions with these types of clues. Start them with definite specific clues that uniquely refer to one answer (without being transparent).
Ryan, I was not making the argument that any of those three were a sufficient lead-in clue. I was only making the argument that the clues were intermediary clues sufficient to define the answer in opposition to Kyle's statement that original question had "no clues."

When I edited the question on the fly, I did not use any of those three clues as the lead-in. I found another clue for the lead-in that was uniquely identifying of the answer. Maybe it's a little too transparent, but I was just trying to make the point it was editable.

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Post by theMoMA » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:57 pm

If you ever find yourself suggesting that one part of a question must be used in conjunction with another part to uniquely determine the answer, chances are you've written a bad question.

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Post by Sima Guang Hater » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:21 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
more complex history cannon
Image
Image
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Post by STPickrell » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:30 pm

theMoMA wrote:If you ever find yourself suggesting that one part of a question must be used in conjunction with another part to uniquely determine the answer, chances are you've written a bad question.
Maybe it is not two incomplete parts but instead one long part. Now I can understand objecting to a clue that takes nearly two lines to explain.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:47 pm

Maybe it is not two incomplete parts but instead one long part. Now I can understand objecting to a clue that takes nearly two lines to explain.
Huh? Most clues take nearly two lines to get out there. Anyway, what MoMa is quite reasonably saying is that questions should not be mystery novels where you have to add up the clues. It's fine for a player to say that "clue x plus clue y" led me to think the answer had to be "this" - but questions should generally feature lots of uniquely identifying clues, not force you to engage in funn process-of-elimination thinking.


Also, I meant to say something in response to Bruce's suggestion of Anglicizing names - I think this is actually a really bad idea. In fact, in general, I support using the most common name/title/spelling for whatever you're referring to. It's confusing and frustrating for a player (like me) who "sees" words in their mind when you start messing with those words without good reason...it's easy to get thrown off when what you hear doesn't match with what you see, and then you have to work your way back into the question. For example, translating a title that is almost always seen in French into some very rarely used English phrase is a bad idea. I know it can difficult, especially with certain answers, to avoid transparency - but there are ways to do it and still use non-vague uniquely identifying clues, without resorting to coy little tricks.

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Post by btressler » Sat Dec 15, 2007 4:00 pm

Bigfoot isn't the preferr wrote:In reference to Timur there was a question a few years back (I think maybe from a TJ in-house tourney [not the previously stated one]) that started off with how he was crippled (something about getting shot in the leg with an arrow) and a reference to his childhood as a thief in some Central Asian city (I am in no means a Timur scholar, but thats what the question said). I quite liked that question and would like to know where it came from.
TJ 2004, somewhere around round 3 in the tiebreakers.

(We just played it last week, if that's the one.)

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Post by theMoMA » Sat Dec 15, 2007 8:18 pm

Ryan Westbrook wrote:Also, I meant to say something in response to Bruce's suggestion of Anglicizing names - I think this is actually a really bad idea. In fact, in general, I support using the most common name/title/spelling for whatever you're referring to. It's confusing and frustrating for a player (like me) who "sees" words in their mind when you start messing with those words without good reason...it's easy to get thrown off when what you hear doesn't match with what you see, and then you have to work your way back into the question. For example, translating a title that is almost always seen in French into some very rarely used English phrase is a bad idea. I know it can difficult, especially with certain answers, to avoid transparency - but there are ways to do it and still use non-vague uniquely identifying clues, without resorting to coy little tricks.
While I don't think that Anglicizing names is a great policy in general, I do think that what Bruce is talking about is acceptable. Two instances that I can remember Anglicizing names were questions on the Aviz dynasty and the battle of Lutzen. It's not fair to players with legitimate history knowledge to say "Joao" or "Torsten Stålhandske" in the first line of such a question.

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Post by Important Bird Area » Sat Dec 15, 2007 9:03 pm

theMoMA wrote: the battle of Lutzen. It's not fair to players with legitimate history knowledge to say "Joao" or "Torsten Stålhandske" in the first line of such a question.
If there are that many players with "legitimate history knowledge" at your tournament, the right thing to do is to write a harder leadin clue. Don't make them angry by randomly translating personal names into other languages.

In short: what Ryan said.
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Dec 15, 2007 9:56 pm

If there are that many players with "legitimate history knowledge" at your tournament, the right thing to do is to write a harder leadin clue. Don't make them angry by randomly translating personal names into other languages.
Again, the issue is not that a player with deep history knowledge might know who a particular Joao was. The issue is that a player with very little history knowledge but a strong command of Iberian linguistics might realize "hey, this is a tossup on something Portuguese" and then buzz on that. Indeed, the particular Joao mentioned might be a completely obscure figure and an otherwise solid clue.
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Post by grapesmoker » Sun Dec 16, 2007 1:27 am

Linguistic clues are only useful in situations where they narrow down the answer to either one or two obvious choices. If the answer is supposed to be "Portugal," then "Joao" is a poor clue before the end of the question, but a generic bit of linguistic information might help a player by localizing to a country but won't help for situations where there are many plausible answer. In particular, I can't imagine what linguistic clue would help you for "Lutzen." Even if you hear a Scandinavian name, there are many possibilities for a battle that involves Scandinavian generals, so buzzing on "Lutzen" at that point might get you points once in a while, but it's hardly a good policy.
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Post by Matt Weiner » Sun Dec 16, 2007 2:08 am

theMoMA wrote: Two instances that I can remember Anglicizing names were questions on the Aviz dynasty and the battle of Lutzen. It's not fair to players with legitimate history knowledge to say "Joao" or "Torsten Stålhandske" in the first line of such a question.
I can't imagine any such situation where it would not be preferable to just say "one king of this dynasty did such-and-such" to reward deep knowledge, and leave out the Joao/John thing entirely (or put it at the end). By saying John you are potentially misleading people who may want to buzz with Aviz into thinking it has to be something from an Anglophone country.

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Post by Deviant Insider » Sun Dec 16, 2007 9:35 am

I wrote questions on Hindenburg and Tamerlane for my tournament this year.
Recalled to service after three years in retirement, he led his armies to victory at the Battles of the Masurian Lakes and the Battle of Tannenberg. With Erich von Ludendorff and Max Hoffmann under him, he led the early successes for Germany against Russia in World War One. He later became the 2nd President of Germany, serving from 1925 to 1934. Despite failing mental health in his final years, he served until his death. Name this leader who was succeeded by Adolf Hitler.
Of this man’s four sons, Shah Rukh was the only one to significantly outlive him. He had many enemies, including Bajazet, who headed the Ottoman Empire, and Tokhtamysh, who led the Golden Horde. This ruler was able to defeat the Golden Horde, but he died while planning to attack the Ming Dynasty. During his lifetime, his attacks damaged Delhi, Damascus, Baghdad, and several other places. Name this 14th Century ruler from Samarkand.
I think that early clues should only fix a time and place for knowledgeable players. If you say that somebody was called out of retirement to be a general for Germany in World War I, then everybody knows his time and place, and a lot of unknowledgable players will start wondering about Hindenburg. If you say that he was victorious at Tannenberg, then only knowledgeable players know his time and place, which is what you want at the beginning of a question. If I was writing for the college level, I might put a more obscure battle in place of Tannenberg that early in the question, which would not be hard to do given the number of battles Hindenburg was involved in.

The Tamerlane question would have to be substantially rewritten for the college level. At the high school level, Tokhtamysh is not a stock clue and many players cannot attach a time period to the Golden Horde. However, it's not that difficult to come up with a bunch of Tamerlane's enemies, and if you name some Chinese rulers/generals, only knowledgable people will know that they are from the 14th century.
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