advertisement | your ad here

The 29th Annual Xmas Quiz

Friday, December 24, 2010

I am aware that today is not Christmas, but we work in a weekday framework around here, so the Xmas Quiz will be a little early this year. My suggestion would be to put it away for a day, and then, during one of those inevitable lulls that mark any lengthy feast day, pull it out again and try your hand.

It's not an easy quiz; it's not meant to be an easy quiz. It's meant to be an interesting quiz. It will tune up your mental facilities at precisely the time that overconsumption of both consumer electronics and carbohydrates have dulled them. Then on Monday, the answers will appear and the ritual recriminations will begin. Sounds almost like a real holiday, doesn't it?

1. There may be many restaurants or hotels or boutiques called the Blue House, but there's only one politically significant Blue House. What is it?

2. Many familiar cultural icons had other names before the ones the world knows them by today. I give you the original name; you give me the name today. (Comforting note: None of these companies or products are obscure, and educated guesses can yield impressive results - sometimes.) Blue Ribbon Sports? BackRub? Delirium Vulgaris? Baby Gays? Soundabout? Pocketlink? Pants and Discs? Brad's Drink? Dippy Dawg?

3. You are in Panama City. If you fly due north, what is the first U.S. state that you reach? If you fly east, what is the first country that you reach? If you fly south, what is the first country that you reach? If you fly west, what is the first non-Central American country that you reach?

4. What are Sticklebract, Tettnanger, Saaz, Fuggles, Warrior and Magnum?

5. Audrey Hepburn, David Niven, Paulette Goddard and James Mason all share the same distinction. What is it?

6. Alligator, Wolf, Tiger, Rosebud and Lightning Bolt are all names of: (a) Frank Zappa's children by his second marriage, (b) car models proposed by American Motors to replace Nash Rambler, (c) Jerry Garcia's guitars, (d) code for the members of the Cabinet under George Bush, (e) members of the Harlem Globetrotters, or (f) defensive formations used by the 1985 Chicago Bears.

7. We know that "Cuervo" is the name of a Tequila. But what does the word mean in Spanish?

8. Who are Thomas Woodward, Maurice Micklewhite, Reginald Dwight, Gordon Sumner and Richard Starkey, and what official governmental honor did they each receive?

9. Asta and Fala: Compare and contrast.

10. Over the course of their lives, these animals are known first as alevins and then as fry, parr, smolts, grilse and finally kelt. What are they?

11. OK, slight twist on an old game. You are in a city. If you fly due east, you hit Bolivia. If you fly due north, you hit Ecuador. If you fly due south, you hit Antarctica. And if you fly due west, you hit Papua New Guinea. What city are you in?

12. Here's this year's literary quiz: Who wrote "Island Landfalls"? Who wrote "The Man With the Night Sweats"? Who wrote "The British Museum Is Falling Down"? Who wrote "Arcadia"? Who wrote "Alias Grace"? (Note: Because book titles cannot be copyrighted, there may be more than one book with the above titles. I want to indicate that, in every case, I'm talking about the good one.)

13. Not as hard as it seems: What do these four personages have in common: Cathy Lane, Slowpoke Rodriguez, Goober Pyle and Gus Goose?

14. Boring, Drain,, Zigzag and Idiotville are: (a) the names of Jim Carrey's dogs, (b) towns in Oregon, (c) informal names given by Google employees to buildings within their complex, (d) nicknames given by Stanford basketball coach Tara VanDerveer to her players, (e) border crossings into Canada, (f) streets in a derelict area of Palm Desert.

15. California is, as we all know, the Golden State. But what is Utah? What is North Dakota? What is Missouri? What is Kansas? What two names does North Carolina enjoy? What three names does Nevada enjoy?

That's it for this time. Please, no quarrelsome e-mails until after the answers appear Monday. I need a Christmas too. If there's some subject the quiz does not cover adequately, please drop me a line with a sample question from your area of specialty - unless it's hydrology. I had some hydrology questions, but they just didn't seem fair.

Boring and Drain and Asta and Fala - what could go wrong except for a little brain freeze here and there?

Goneril: Put on what weary negligence you please, you and you fellows. He flashes into one gross crime or another that sets all at odds. This solstice quiz, now; wherefore does he tax our brains so? Methinks he is a knave, and a not overbright one, the

This article appeared on page E - 12 of the San Francisco Chronicle