On Day 3 of the current LearnedLeague trivia season, I had a couple of near misses.
1. Ten youngsters tell ten stories each over ten days in what 14th c. allegory, whose name comes from Greek and alludes to the nature of this peculiar frame story technique?
Even if I didn't know this was the Decameron, I might have been able to guess it from the "Deca-" prefix what with all the hinting going on here. Of course, it helped that I had heard of the Decameron. (A buddy of mine, who hadn't, multiplied the three 10s and guessed "Millipede" just for a laugh.)
Do you ever notice how a given random thing will sometimes come up repeatedly within a short span of time? This just happened to me in re the Decameron. A few weeks ago I had a medical test performed at the University of Chicago's outpatient hospital known as the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, or DCAM. A friend of mine has a U. of C. PhD and continues to work with DCAM, so I texted her a pun/riddle about a 14th Century allegory whose answer was "The DCAMeron." Hey, I never said I was funny.
2. The Haber process is used industrially to react hydrogen and nitrogen (using a catalyst) for the manufacture of what?
This one was frustrating because I knew they were going for NH3, I just couldn't remember its common name. Failing to think of anything else with a nitrogen-derived name, I guessed nitroglycerin knowing it was wrong. I tend to play first thing in the morning, and maybe this time I should have thought about it further through the course of the day — it might have come to me eventually, which has happened before — but I didn't. The correct answer was ammonia.
3. In addition to the tenuous Muslim Dervish state in inland Somalia, at the turn of the 20th c. (early 1900s) there were only two independent states on the continent of Africa. Name them both.
I was out to sea on this one, perhaps off the coast of Madagascar. The only thing I did right here was to figure that the Boer Wars in South Africa might have extended into the 20th Century, so South Africa might be a bad guess. (Of course, I was wildly guessing that the autonomy of South Africa was even at stake in the Boer Wars.) Thinking "old school Africa," I guessed two countries with ancient cultures: Egypt and Morocco. Apparently I should have gone with Ethiopia and Liberia. If you say so!
I did know that, as others have pointed out, Liberia was founded by freed slaves as the name implies, so I should probably have at least thought of that one. But I took one look at the question and was all, "I'm not getting this one right." With that wrongheaded approach, I didn't.
4. The historical region of Transylvania is located within what modern-day European country?
A gimme I've known since I was a kid: Romania. I actually had a restaurant server at O'Donovan's Pub last Thursday evening who recently moved from Transylvania to Chicago. We briefly discussed Bram Stoker and Vlad the Impaler. (She didn't seem like a vampire until she bit my neck.)
5. The 2000 Year Old Man is a comedy skit created by what two comedy writers and performers?
Another gimme: Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Did you see the Brooks-Cavett special on HBO a few months ago? Good stuff.
6. Chevon is a term used in culinary circles occasionally to refer to the meat of what animal?
Second frustrating one of the day. I happen to speak French, which helps from time to time with this trivia league. Much like mutton, i.e. sheep meat, takes its name from Romance languages (mouton is French for sheep), I figured the same was true of chevon. I thought of cheval, French for horse, and chevalier, horseman or knight, and although you don't often hear of people eating horse meat, you also don't often hear the term "chevon" either. It seemed so obviously correct that I didn't think past this guess. I should have, though, as chèvre is French for goat, which was the correct answer.
My opponent had a rough day, going 0 for 6, so despite my bumpy ride I escaped with a win.