Jon Carroll

Jon Carroll

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It is a challenging time of year. If you celebrate Christmas, you have to deal with all the confusing rituals and interesting family dynamics and, most probably, retail goods of dubious utility. If you don't celebrate Christmas, you have to wrestle with your resentments while pretending that everything is fine, thank you, fine. In either event, you're going to need a nice Xmas Quiz to tide you over, and lo, we have one.

1. Many airports are named after prominent people. There's John Wayne International Airport in Orange County, for instance. So, I name the person, you name the location of the airport: Mother Teresa, Simon Bolivar, Frederic Chopin, Merle "Mudhole" Smith, Wiley Post/Will Rogers (two names, one airport), Marco Polo, Bud Day.

2. Where did Wyatt Earp die?

3. What do these things have in common: valley, mountain, petal, rabbit ear, squash, reverse, crimp, sink, inside reverse, outside reverse, pleat?

4. As you know, the Romans borrowed all their gods from the Greeks. So, I give you the Greek name, you supply the Roman: Zeus, Aphrodite, Artemis, Ares, Hermes, Nike, Apollo, Uranus.

5. What item are these all part of? Biofilter, site-to-site transport interlock, targeting scanner, pattern buffer, phase transition coil, primary energizing coils, molecular imaging scanner, Heisenberg compensator.

6. Time for Caribbean fun! What is the southernmost Caribbean island? What is the easternmost? If I were to travel due south from Manzanillo, Cuba, what island would I encounter first? Is Puerto Rico bigger or smaller than Cuba? Is Martinique north or south of Antigua? What is the strait between Haiti and the Dominican Republic called?

7. Fred Astaire made his movie debut in a film also starring which of the following: Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Robert Benchley, Nelson Eddy, Eve Arden or the Three Stooges? For extra credit, what was the name of the movie?

8. Many of you already know that the California poppy is the state flower and the California valley quail is the state bird. But what is the state insect? The state reptile? The state marine fish? The state rock? The state mollusk?

9. Which of these statements is false: (a) A record 21 co-inventors received the original patent on the computer. (b) Abraham Lincoln was awarded a patent for ship underwater bellows that would inflate in shallow water. (c) Actress Hedy Lamarr patented a complex communications system to guide torpedoes. (d) Comedian Red Buttons received a patent for his Harmonigun, combining a harmonica and a squirt gun. (e) General Electric owns a record 50,000-plus patents; founder Thomas Edison holds a record 1,093. (f) Orville Wright patented a flying doll that somersaulted through the air.

10. Which point on Earth is closest to outer space? Hint: It's not the top of Mount Everest.

11. Only two vice presidents served under two presidents, but neither completed his second term in office. Who were they? Under whom did they serve? And why did each not serve out his term?

12. More vice presidential fun! Who was Adlai Stevenson's running mate in 1956? Who was Barry Goldwater's running mate in 1964? Who was Gerald Ford's running mate in 1976? Who was George H.W. Bush's running mate in 1992?

13. What item are these all part of? Diatium power cell, power field conductor, power vortex ring, energy gate, primary crystal, focusing crystals, focusing crystal activator, blade energy channel, cycling field energizers, energy modulation circuits, blade arc tip.

14. Who wrote: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."

15. Who were the members of the band Fleetwood Mac in its most successful period, 1975-1987? How did the group get its name? Bonus question: How did the Wu-Tang Clan get its name?

16. Where are Becher's Brook, Canal Turn, Melling Road and the Chair? For extra credit, who is Numbersixvalverde?

17. What is the shortest international border in the world?

18. Who wrote, "And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past." What work is it from? What happens to the title character?

19. I stole this from, and I think it very fine indeed: Mike Batt and John Cage have each composed a musical piece consisting entirely of silence. Which one is better?

20. Speaking of Australia: The United States and Australia are sort of the same shape. To what American city do each of these Australian cities most closely map, geographically speaking: Sydney, Perth, Broome, Adelaide?

Answers Wednesday; please wait for them before bombarding me with quibbles. My gratitude and thanks to Nancy Friedman, Ed Addeo, Michael K. Stone, Jef Poskanser, Tim Hagg, Barbara Carey, Chuck White, Randy Alfred, Mark Burstein, Seth Rosenblatt and all those zany Australian skeptics.

It's the 26th Annual Xmas Quiz, this year celebrating Roman gods, American pilots, British singers, Caribbean islands, the Three Stooges and somersaulting dolls.

She makes the sign of a teaspoon, he makes the sign of a wave; the poor boy changes clothes and puts on after-shave to compensate for his ordinary shoes. And she said, honey take me dancing, but they ended up by sleeping in a doorway by the bodegas and the lights on upper Broadway, wearing diamonds on the soles of

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