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- Jon Carroll
Thursday, December 29, 2005

Usually, the Xmas Quiz is on Xmas, but this year it was later, so the answers are later still. If you missed the questions, they are still available here. Or, you know, you could read the answers and guess the questions. So many ways to have fun.

1) It's the first meal eaten by a human on the moon.

2) The answers are both (b) and (d). Bluetooth ruled Denmark in the 10th century, and he conquered Norway because its king had been very mean to his sister.

3) The two words mean the same thing: "delirious picking of bedclothes, as in a fever."

4) The whiffletree, flurry filter, wear compensator, interposer and golf ball are all parts of an IBM Selectric typewriter, a device for recording words and thoughts used by many historical figures.

5) U.S. Highway 395 goes from California through Nevada and then back to California. U.S. Highway 50 goes from Maryland to West Virginia and then back to Maryland. They are the only two U.S. highways that re-enter a state.

6) Kazakhstan extends both the farthest east, where it borders on China, and west, where it borders on the Caspian Sea. The legendary city of Samarkand lies within Uzbekistan. Both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan border the Tian Shan mountains. All of the nations mentioned are north of Tibet -- except Khalikistan, which does not enjoy the advantage of being real.

7) They are all makes of school buses.

8) The answer is a) "Tis a foolish thing to make a long prologue, and to be short in the story itself," which is from the Second Book of the Maccabees, which is part of what is called the Deuterocanonical Apocrypha, which is a fine phrase to hurl about at your New Year's Eve party. Without getting into technical terms, the Deuterocanonical Apocrypha can be defined as "part of the Bible but not really."

9) He would be Charles III. The Charles after whom he is named, Charles I, got his head chopped off during a misunderstanding; presumably, Prince Charles does not want to plant any ideas in the minds of his subjects.

10) "Dendrochronology" is the science of the studying tree rings. "Mogigraphia" is more commonly known as writer's cramp.

11) They're all baseball players: Vinegar Bend Mizell, Three Fingers Brown, Steamboat Dreisewerd, Big Train Johnson; Pee Wee Reese. Four of those are well-known; Steamboat just had a cup of coffee in the big leagues, but I liked his name.

12) Cheryl James was Salt; Sandy Denton was Pepa. Biggie Smalls, or the Notorious B.I.G., was born Christopher Wallace. Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman. Little Eva's real name was Eva Narcissus Boyd. Jerry Lee Lewis' real name is Jerry Lee Lewis.

13) Best picture was "Dances With Wolves." Best actor was Jeremy Irons in "Reversal of Fortune." Best actress was Kathy Bates in "Misery." Best supporting actor was Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas." Best supporting actress was Whoopi Goldberg in "Ghost." We pause briefly to meditate on the nature of art.

14) The Peloponnesian Wars were fought by Athens and Sparta. Sparta won, although it wasn't easy. Peloponnesia is the name for a bit of Southern Greece almost entirely cut off from the rest of the nation by the Gulf of Corinth. Sparta was located in that area, so it got to name the war.

15) "The Barber of Seville" was written by Rossini, "Tosca" was written by Puccini, "Norma" was written by Bellini, "Lucia di Lammermoor" was written by Donizetti, and "Rigoletto" was written by Verdi.

16) That's amore.

17) The merry-go-round was invented as an alternative to jousting after Catherine de Medicis' husband was killed during a tournament. Knights would sit on wooden horses and try to spear effigies of Turkish soldiers.

18) Far Tortuga is now called the Cayman Islands. The Sea of Cortez is between Baja California and the rest of Mexico. The Sargasso Sea lies between the Azores and the West Indies, and is generally coterminous with what is called the Bermuda Triangle. The Spanish Main is the sea off the Spanish Colonies in the New World. There were 16 men on that dead man's chest sharing one bottle of rum, yo ho.

Thanks are due to Peter Moore, Myles Nye, Tracy Johnston, Michael Ross, Jimmy Barnes and countless others for their contributions. All carps and cavils should be sent to a nice person in Nome, Alaska. There are lots of them; pick one.

Finally, it's time for the answers to the 24th Annual Xmas Quiz, which will be immediately followed by swift attacks upon the answers, the usual follow-up conciliatory column, and bad feelings all around.

Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down -- from high flat temples -- in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond jcarroll@sfchronicle.com.

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