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- Jon Carroll
Monday, December 25, 2006

So perhaps you do not celebrate Christmas at all, and every year you feel a little bit lost and weird, even though you know it's silly. Or perhaps you do celebrate Christmas, but you've eaten the carbohydrates and opened the presents and everyone is out of conversation. In either event, you need something to distract you. You need something light, yet challenging. You need, in short, the 25th Annual Xmas Quiz, a holiday tradition for a quarter of a century.

(Note to newcomers: There are no prizes for the Xmas Quiz. There is no time limit. All wagering is strictly among friends. Please: no googling. Answers in Tuesday's paper in the usual spot. In case of persistent confusion, stop taking the quiz and consult a masseuse.)

1. Complete the final pair of numbers: 2 & 6; 9 & 23; 17 & 36; 26 & 32; 41 & ?

2. Who was J. Fred Muggs? J. Fred Coots? Fred C. Dobbs? For double secret extra credit, what TV character once went undercover as "Fred C. Dobbs"?

3. What do these things have in common? (a) gour, siphon, dry gallery and lapiaz; (b) HEPAD, sunshade, despun section and radial thruster; (c) volva, hypha, ring and gill; (d) beam, burr, pearls and brow tine.

4. Ditalini, ditali, tubetti and tubettini are (a) four musical notations, (b) four models of Italian racing cars, (c) four types of SpaghettiO's, (d) the third, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, of Dante's circles of hell, (e) the four basic kinds of pipes used in Roman aqueducts.

5. Which is northernmost (or northernmore): The Tropic of Cancer or the Tropic of Capricorn? Sebastopol or Sevastopol? Samarkand or Srinagar? The Hindi Kush or the Great Basin? The stratosphere or the troposphere?

6. My granddaughter, Alice, attends the Charles L. Dodgson School for Valiant Children, which is a name I made up to preserve her privacy. Who was Charles L. Dodgson?

7. What were the three most popular names given to American male babies in 2005? Female babies? How about between 1880 and 1890? How about between 1960 and 1970? For extra credit, what were the 10th most popular male and female baby names in 2005?

8. By population, what are the largest and second-largest state capitals? What are the smallest and second smallest?

9. Dragoljub Janosevic and Efim Geller are (a) two chess players with winning records against Bobby Fischer, (b) the lead singers of the Rolling Beatles, Serbia-Montenegro's most popular cover band, (c) the winners of 2005 Nobel Prize for mathematics, (d) the founders of Double Czech Bank, the most popular online banking service in Europe, (e) the first two men to die during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

10. In 1999, Atlanta's Chipper Jones won the National League MVP, becoming the most recent switch hitter to win the award. Who is the last switch hitter to win the American League MVP?

11. These are all quotes from Shakespeare. What plays are they from? (a) "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse," (b) "True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings." (c) "An honest tale speeds best being plainly told." (d) "I am not in the giving vein today." (e) "Conscience is but a word that cowards use."

12. Who is Tracy Marrow? Who is O'Shea Jackson? Who is Noel Paul Stokey? Who is John Veliotes? Who is Calvin Broadus?

13. What was the original name of Point Bonita, and how did it get that name? How did Point Mendocino get its name? How did Dana Point get its name? How did Alcatraz get its name?

14. "E Clampus Vitus" is (a) the motto of Swarthmore University (it means "From Struggle, Life"), (b) a phrase originally used in Mad magazine as an expletive, similar to the "Great Caesar's ghost" uttered by Clark Kent's boss, (c) the original password for the exclusive Yale organization Skull and Bones -- it was changed after investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed it in a story about the elder George Bush, (d) a nasty and sometimes deadly rash contracted by people with allergies to nuts (peanuts, by the way, are not nuts -- they're legumes), (e) a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of the history of California.

15. After the ratification of the Constitution, which was the first state to seriously consider seceding from the Union?

16. What did the Treaty of Ghent decide? Who signed it? Where is Ghent?

17. How many American presidents have been named George? How many have been named James? How many have been named John?

That's it for this time. Special thanks to Jef Poskanzer, who gets thanks every year because he's so very useful; Randy Alfred; Glen Farmer; Katie Watts; James Hinkin; and Mark Burstein. Special and deep gratitude goes to Chronicle librarian Laura Perkins, who has to triple-check everything because that is her way, and of course to faithful editor Andy Behr, who has to do this every year because she was very bad in a previous lifetime.

E-mail Jon Carroll at jcarroll@sfchronicle.com.

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