Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day 9: You lose some

I played a tough player today and needed my A game, but I brought my B game.

1. The location photographed here was, according to legend, first memorialized in song in 1936, by whom? 

Ugh. I think of the crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil as a legendary intersection of dirt roads somewhere in the backwoods of the Deep South, not a prosaic meeting place of two paved U.S. highways. But that was indeed the right answer.

I could not stop thinking about Route 66. The street signs put me on that road and that song. But 1936 was way too early. I had trouble coming up with a good guess. The Tennessee angle said it probably wasn’t East Coast-bred George Gershwin so I went with Cole Porter, whom I knew to be a native of relatively nearby Peru, Indiana. Give me an E for effort and a G for good intentions along with my W for wrong.

At an average 2.0 this defensed as the hardest question of the day, and I really could have used the 2 my opponent earned here. Only 35% of players got this, which did make it the day's hardest question.

2. The Dutch language in Belgium, as it is spoken by the majority of its citizens (and nearly everyone in the region adjacent to the Netherlands), is known colloquially by what name?

It’s Flemish, which you pretty much knew or you didn’t, and I did. I’ve been to Belgium and pay more attention to it than most Americans because I follow pro tennis. Over the past decade there were two supremely talented Belgians at the top rank of the women’s tour, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters. 

Henin was not particularly likeable — particularly when her poor sportsmanship screwed Serena Williams out of an important point late in the semifinals of the 2003 French Open — but Clijsters is right there with Federer among the nicest and most popular (among both peers and fans) champions of all time. She retired for good this week to spend more time with her family, having left the tour for three years to have a daughter, only to return in 2009 and win her second U.S. Open title after playing only a few warmup tournaments.

I hit the 2004 Australian Open with a girlfriend who'd played Big Ten college tennis. Henin and Clijsters were atop the sport at the time; we referred to the two Belgians as the “Waffle Chicks.”

3. Beginning with the 1987 French Open, and ending with the same tournament in 1990, this German appeared in a record 13 consecutive tennis Grand Slam finals.

What do I know about tennis? Enough to get this one. Whoever missed it likely guessed Boris Becker, but although the swashbuckling German was indeed a top player in the late 1980s, he certainly didn’t play in 13 straight Slam finals. For one thing, a 17-year-old Michael Chang won his only Slam when he beat Ivan Lendl in a five-set classic at Roland Garros in 1989, becoming the youngest men’s major tournament champion of all time and the first American to win the French Open since Tony Trabert in 1955.

The answer lay on the ladies’ tour, where Steffi Graf was the dominant force in question. She won each Slam at least four times, including a “Golden Slam” in 1988 when she ran the table and added an Olympic gold medal.  My opponent and I each nailed this and earned a 0 for our trouble.

4. Companion to Music, Companion to English Literature, Companion to Food, Companion to Western Art -- these are all partial titles to successful books which begin with what name?

I knew I would feel like a fool when I saw the correct answer, and indeed I did. I couldn’t come up with Oxford, instead guessing Norton as in Anthology of English Literature, a clear sign that Companion to English Literature made Norton incorrect, as indeed it was.

5. Sutter's Fort, the final destination of the Donner Party survivors, and abandoned after the discovery of gold (and subsequent rush) at nearby Sutter's Mill, was established in an area that would eventually become what city?

I knew the Donner Party had traveled through north central California and never hit the Bay or the coast (although both are lovely), so I figured Sacramento was a good guess. It turned out to be the best possible guess in that it was the correct answer.

6. To whom did the head in the bottom right of this painting belong?  

My first thought was St. John the Baptist. Then I realized I wasn’t sure whether he had been beheaded or not. So I tried at length to think of well-known people who lost their heads more literally than, say, Sarah Palin trying desperately to prepare for a vice presidential debate. It didn’t feel like Louis XVI was the right answer even though his was the era of the guillotine, and Jean-Paul Marat had died in the bathtub since he was so into Jim Morrison, so I went with Charles I. One of the few things I remember from World History my sophomore year of high school was an odd sequence of British kings (James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II) during which Charles I was beheaded.

This didn’t feel like the right answer either, but I didn’t have a better guess. The answer was Goliath, who was slain by a slung sling, but whom David apparently then beheaded as an extra “F you.” I gave this one the 3 and my opponent hit it with his sling.

He and I each gave up two points above the minimum, but by getting four correct answers to my three, my opponent both ended up with and deserved a 6(4)-4(3) victory.


Gary Sherman said...

Hi Ben,

ShermanG here, your opponent on Day 9. Thought I'd add to the commentary.

1. Looked at this one for a few seconds before figuring out that it was a crossroads and that this must be referring to Robert Johnson. The use of the word "legend" in the question cemented it for me. Like many other LLamas my first exposure to this legend was the movie Crossroads. The one about a musician selling their soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent (the Ralph Macchio version not the Britney Spears remake.....Wait, Britney's version wasn't a remake? Well, it should have been). Thought you might know this so I was reluctant to score it 2.

2. Flemish was pretty easy. I've been to the area as well. In Bruges. It took me a while to figure out why they weren't appreciative of my attempts to communicate in French. Score of 1.

3. Even if I didn't know you were into tennis (which I did) I still would have scored this a 0 since only Steffi Graf was dominant enough to be in that many consecutive Grand Slam finals. I was surprised so many people got this wrong and I assume it's because they fell into the trap of thinking it was a guy.

4. Here I fell into the trap of thinking that it was someone's name I was looking for and as a result I never even thought of Oxford although I did consider Roget, Bartlett, Merriam (and Webster). I felt pretty stupid when I saw Oxford.

5. My first thought, based on no actual information was Sacramento. I knew the Donner Party was headed for California and that seemed like a decent guess. Unfortunately, the more I thought about it the more I convinced myself that it was the wrong answer. I ended up thinking that perhaps the Survovors never actually made it to California and went with Reno instead. I was kind of annoyed with myself after missing that one.

6. I was able to get away from my initial thought of John the Baptist (his head's not on a plate and who's the kid with the sword anyway?). Fortunately I remembered from my Jewish Bible Stories that when David showed Goliath's head to the assembled Philistine army they all scattered and ran. Thought you might have remembered this story as well so I only scored it a 1. On an unrelated note, overconfidence on Jewish trivia would eventually lead to my loss on Day 11.
Good luck for the rest of the Season.


Joon said...

on Q6 i definitely expected the answer to be holofernes before clicking through, but i did click through. having learned my lesson from the paris question on MD1, i noticed that the person holding the sword and severed head was a dude, i.e. not judith, meaning this had to be goliath. i don't recognize the specific painting but i'm guessing it's caravaggio based on its tenebrism.

Ben said...

I totally know what Holofernes and tenebrism are.

(read totally=don't)

Joon said...

don't google holofernes if you are squeamish about severed heads.

Ben said...

p.s. There was a time, admittedly a short time, when I knew what tenebrism was.