Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 8: Fail Whale


Today I discovered a new and exciting, that is to say an old and tiresome, way to lose: inferior defense.

My opponent was Amy Reynaldo, a fellow Chicagoan, noted crossword blogger and author of How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. She also authored a narrow victory over me that went like this:

1. Provide the two words that fill in the blank in the following full title of a novel as it was published in the United States on November 14, 1851: Moby-Dick; or, ___________

The answer was The Whale, which I know from reading this book during my junior year of high school in Mrs. Huggins’ class. (I also knew there was a hyphen after Moby, which you often (don’t) see omitted.) Probably my favorite chapter, for the wrong reasons, is the one where Melville spends about 10 pages rattling off the provisions and supplies aboard the Pequod.

2. Saint Eustachius and Saint Hubertus, the patron saints of hunters, are referenced in what liqueur brand's logo, which consists of a glowing Christian cross between the antlers of a caribou?

I had never heard of Sts. Eustachius or Hubertus, never having paid attention in church because I grew up Jewish, nor did I know about the glowing cross or the hunters, but it didn’t matter. As with my man Yuri Gagarin the other day (“Russian … cosmonaut ... whom?”), this question boiled down to “blah blah liqueur logo antlers caribou?”

I don’t even drink, but I have a black Soul Asylum t-shirt (still!) from college for which the Jagermeister logo is the artistic inspiration. Rather than "Jagermeister," "Soul Asylum" is spelled in forbidding Germanic calligraphy under the minorly famous caribou antlers. Underneath the band name are the words GUITAAR – LIQUEUR. It's a pretty sweet t-shirt, dudes, but so menacing that I was afraid to wear it for several years after I bought it. Frankly, I also knew that I was not yet cool enough. But I eventually wore it and was immediately hired as a Motörhead roadie, plus it helped me nail this question. 

3. In 1978, who won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress -- Miniseries or a Movie for her work in the miniseries Holocaust, which would be the first of a vast multitude of nominations and awards this actress would receive in her career?

Another giveaway from the details. “blah blah Emmy Award … Lead Actress … vast multitude of nominations and awards…” Who could it possibly be but Meryl Streep? It wasn’t Susan Lucci. I didn’t know the first thing about the Holocaust miniseries and it didn’t matter. I also knew Kramer vs. Kramer was 1979 and Manhattan was no earlier than 1978, so neither of these would necessarily have preceded the TV miniseries even if she’d earned nominations for them.

78% of players knew or correctly guessed this gimme. Incidentally, “in miseries” is an apt anagram/container for many miniseries.

4. According to their official wedding registry of April, 2011 (and per the surnames of the bridegroom's parents), what is the surname of William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge?

This question was a problem area. I thought the answer was Windsor and so obviously so that I gave this one the 0. The answer was in fact Mountbatten-Windsor, and my answer was properly deemed incorrect. When I saw the correct answer, I did recall hearing something about a hyphenated name during the royal wedding, by which I mean the marriage of Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

"This is the most stirring display of gallantry and sportsmanship since Mountbatten gave India back to the Punjabs."
British-accented commentator at a miniature golf tournament championship match between Bart Simpson and Todd Flanders

Amy and I got the same four questions correct today, but she gave this one a 1 while I gifted her a 0 on this Gordian knot. A mere 7% of players in the entire league got this one.

5. As defined in classical mechanics, speed is a scalar quantity defining how fast an object is moving, while velocity is a vector describing the object's speed and direction. Likewise, as distance is a scalar quantity of length, what is the term for the vector describing distance and direction?

OK, I’m going to embarrass myself here in front of all the science nerds, experts, PhDs, Nobel Prize winners (I assume), etc. who play in our league.

First of all, as I quickly scanned the question, I felt confident that the correct answer was Vector. When I saw that word twice in the question, I had a sinking feeling, a downward vector if you will. Reading the question more carefully, I also learned to my surprise that speed and velocity are not the same thing. Velocity is directional?!  (I did take physics as a junior in high school but apparently I was reading Moby-Dick that day.)

My hope of salvaging a correct answer started out dim, then faded further the more I thought about this. I briefly considered guessing Thrust, but that felt like power and acceleration, not merely distance and direction. I also thought about Force, but I recalled that was Mass x Acceleration, so it too involved derivatives and integration and stuff, and was more than a mere directional (tips cap). But I still didn’t have a good play until I came up with what felt like a decent guess: Momentum. It was pure bullshit, but maybe if the Commissioner was drunk when he graded my paper, I could get away with it.

The correct answer, however, was Displacement/Position. I take strong exception to the term Position as a correct answer, as that connotes to me a zero-dimensional location, not a relative measure as Displacement seems to be; Position only seems directional and distanced relative to an origin. Richard Feynman would surely agree with me, except for the part about me being completely wrong and clueless on this whole subject.

The only good thing that happened here was that Amy missed it too, so I didn’t take a huge bruise by giving this the 3.

6. The White Sea, off the northwest coast of Russia, is the fourth-largest sea in the world (in area) whose name in English is a color. What are the three largest that fit this description?

Black Sea is an XTC album. Wait, what?

God, do I suck at geography. In this case, I thought the Red Sea was too small because I constantly confuse it with the super-salty (so people easily float) Dead Sea in Israel, as opposed to what it actually is, a big sea between Africa and the Middle East. Black Sea sounded good, and I was pretty sure there was a Yellow Sea to go along with the Yellow River. I (w)racked my brain to think of other colorful seas but came up with nothing, so I went with Red after all, along with Yellow and Black, and it was correct. Coral would also have been accepted and I don’t even know why.

Not knowing I can’t find Yemen on a map, Amy gave me the 0 for it. Thanks, but I actually got this one. A whopping 86% of players got this one and few of them were as worried about it as I was.

Although we both had four correct answers, Amy allowed one point above the minimum to my two and handed me a 6(4)-5(4) defeat. ETTU, Amy?


Martin said...

I haven't bothered to look it up or anything, but I believe the Yellow Sea is known in its original language as the Yangtze.

Ben said...

Thought that was the river. Maybe both. We're smart.

Joon said...

the yellow river is known in chinese as the huang he. the yangtze is the yangtze. neither one is the yellow sea, although the huang he empties into the yellow sea.

the coral sea, off the NE coast of australia, is much larger than the black, red, or yellow (all of which are about the same size). and coral is a color. so it has to be acceptable.

and ben, believe it or not, you are exactly right about the distinction between position and displacement. feynman would indeed agree with you on that much.

Ben said...

Nice to hear that, particularly from one who knows.

On another note, how is Mountbatten-Windsor reflective of the surnames of the bridegroom's parents? I thought it was Diana Spencer.

Orange said...

My guess is that Diana lost the Spencer upon marriage and she and Charles were both Mountbatten-Windsors at that point. But who knows? It's news to me.

Ben said...

If that's the case, then arguably it's misleading surplusage even to mention the bridgegroom's parents, even if the intent was presumably to steer players away from Middleton.

Dan said...

I was so pleased that I knew Philip's proper surname that I didn't take the hint about the bridegroom's parents, which I thought was a clever way to indicate that you need two parts to the answer.

I also think WHALE FAIL is a better fake subtitle. But only because it was my guess.

Ben said...

It is also a better title for this blogpost.

H-Bomb said...

Jagermeister was also an instaget because it comes up often in trivia that the name of that potent potable is translated as "Master of the Hunt." So once I saw "blah blah blah patron saints of hunters," it was over.

Ben said...

Never knew Jagermeister had a translation, though the caribou implied it. For all I knew it was alcoholic Häagen-Dazs.

Ben said...

(Or for that matter the bridegroom's. Confounded iPhone. And everywhere else I make typos.)

Elaine said...

I followed the romance fairly closely-- well, I read about it if it made the Sunday papers-- but I would have guessed Wm's college/military surname of WALES. So I would have missed it.
As if I would ever enter the LLeague.

Ben said...

They called him William Wales in college? That seems kind of obnoxious. "Hi, William Wales. My dad's the prince of it, you know."

Elaine said...

It is also his surname in the military service. I guess they were going for convenience? Shorter length?

Royals have Houses, not 'family names,' (as in House of Windsor, House of Lancaster) but in more modern times have made some changes. The Battenburgs, during the ugliness surrounding WWI, changed their name to Mountbatten--basically a translation. Lord Louis, instead of using 'Louis of Mountbatten,' dropped the 'of.'

Ben said...

I don't know... you certainly sound like a LearnedLeague player to me.

GoodreauS said...

I took objection to the alternative answer of "position" as well... at first. You're exactly right about a position only having distance and direction relative to an origin, but there is such a thing as a "position vector" that expresses just that. So if you make the starting point an origin, the displacement vector of the ending point will be the same as its position vector. And since the question said "what vector," a response of "position" must be interpreted as referring to a type of vector.

(I'd never heard of either vector before this question, and I managed to pull out "displacement" by just trying to think of a word that could mean "distance" in a slightly more nuanced way.

Love the blog!)

GoodreauS said...

Whoops, managed to misquote the question in two words. An ellipsis might have helped.