Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My "Says You" Questions, including some about music

Last Saturday, I attended a taping of the NPR game show “Says You”. A few days before, I had sent them some puzzles. The last time I did that, and told them that I’d be in the audience, they used one of my puzzles. This time, they used one right at the beginning. Then they used another. And another, and another – five in all (three puzzle rounds and two of the bluffing words). By the time they’d finished, I’d written an entire one-hour show…!

'Twas definitely a major hoot.

They gave me credit of course. This caused one of the ushers (who hadn't heard the show and didn't know audience members could send in puzzles) to assume that they'd chosen my name at random and were just picking on me for some reason. She said I was a good sport about it.

Anyway, four of the questions contained material about music (actually six did originally, though they didn't ask the one about Axl Rose and they edited the music out of another), so it’s suitable for posting in this blog. Here, then, is the complete set of questions that I’d written for that evening. I've put the answers separately at the end for any reader who’d like to try to figure them out first.

Round One: Odd One Out (Which one doesn’t belong in the list? Why?)
1. Marty, Melvin, Michael, Morton
2. Cephalopod, Gigantic, Monopoly, Preposterous, Sophomore
3. Anime, karaoke, karate, Pokemon
4. Bruce Dern, C. S. Lewis, H. G. Wells, Jody Foster, John Cage, Rachel Carson
5. Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas, Oregon
6. Esmeralda, Nostromo, Pequod, Titanic, The Book of Job

Round Two: Bluffing
“Frob” is a real word. Which of the following does it mean? (Two of these definitions were invented on the spot by the panelists.)
1. to randomly move the controls of an electronic device, to see what they do
2. counterfeit money or goods
3. Facebook status: “finally rid of boyfriend”

Round 3: “Stuff” or “Things” that may not actually exist – Tell me all that you know about these (possibly) fictional substances or ideas.
1. The Ether
2. The Great Inuit Vocabulary Hoax
3. The Philosopher’s Stone
4. Piltdown man
5. Plebney
6. The (original) Planet Vulcan

Round Four: Bluffing
“Bloob” is a real word. Which of the following does it mean? (Two of these definitions were invented on the spot by the panelists.)
1. a professional wrestling chokehold
2. coffee shop slang for a blueberry muffin
3. to make a humorous noise

Round Five: “Doppelnyms” – Names shared by two (or more) famous people, real or fictional
1. Espionage ace and ornithologist/author.
2. Actor and literary giant’s spouse.
3. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, and (spelled slightly differently) inventor of potato chips.
4. Philosopher/politician, and painter.
5. Former NBA star, and revolutionary-era newspaper publisher who performed the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence and was the founder of the American Antiquarian Society.
6. Magazine mascot, and Academy-Award nominee film composer.


Odd One Out:
1. Melvin. The others all share a last name: Marty Feldman, the comedian; Michael Feldman, the radio personality; and Morton Feldman, the composer. There’s no famous Melvin Feldman that I’m aware of.
NOTE: This question was the result of some friends and I having a game retreat; the prize package for the winner of one tournament was a Michael F. “Whadya Know” game package, a CD of Morton F., and a DVD of “Young Frankenstein” starring Marty F.
2. Gigantic. The others are (self-contained) oxymora: cephalopod is “head-foot”, monopoly is “one-many”, preposterous is “before-after-(ous)”, and sophomore is “wise fool”.
NOTE: Another blogger commented (below) that the etymology of "sophomore" might be different, which is possible, so I'll say it could mean "wise fool".
3. Karate. It’s the only one of these Japanese words that doesn’t contain any English. Anime is short for “animation”; the “oke” in “karaoke” is from “orchestra”; and “Pokemon” is “pocket monster” with a few letters missing.
NOTE: Incidentally, the “kara” in both “karaoke” and “karate” means “empty” – “karaoke” is an “empty orchestra” – missing a vocalist, I guess – and “karate” is “empty hand” – no weapons.
4. H. G. Wells. As far as I know, he didn’t do anything with “Silent” or “Silence” in the title. Jody Foster starred in “Silence of the Lambs”; Bruce Dern starred in “Silent Running”; C. S. Lewis wrote “Out of the Silent Planet”; Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring”; and John Cage wrote “Silence: Lectures and Writings” and “Four Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds” (which is 4’33” of silence, though it isn’t in the title).
NOTE: They didn’t use “John Cage” in the clues; it would have been too easy and there were other questions about music.
5. Cincinnati. The others are (or were) well-known bands.
NOTE: There was some confusion about this one. I'm sure I heard them answer "Oregon, because the others are bands". During the intermission several other audience members approached me and stated that Oregon was a band but Cincinnati wasn't, which I knew. Just before the second half started, I asked Richard Sher (the host of the show) what he'd heard the panelists answer for the one about the cities/bands. He said the answer was "Cincinnati, because the others are bands", which is, of course, the correct answer. So I don't really know what happened there. Maybe we'll have to wait until it goes on air to hear it for real. In the meantime, is there a band called Cincinnati that I should know about?
6. Titanic. “…and I alone escaped to tell the tale”. The first chapter of the Book of Job contains this phrase four times; the others (except the Titanic) all end with only one escapee to tell the tale. The Esmeralda was Robinson Crusoe’s ship; the Pequod was the ship in “Moby Dick”, and the Nostromo was the spaceship in “Alien”.
NOTE: The audience booed this one for some reason.

Frob: to randomly move the controls of an electronic device, to see what they do.
NOTE: One of the panelists pointed out that if it had actually meant “finally rid of boyfriend”, then it could have had a sister word "frog".

“Stuff” or “Things” that may not actually exist
The Ether: a medium that, in the wave theory of light, permeates all space and transmits light waves and other forms of energy. Proved not to exist by Einstein’s theories.
The Great Inuit Vocabulary Hoax: The “Eskimo” language doesn’t have five hundred words for snow. It doesn’t even have one hundred. It has about twelve, which (if you count the specialized usage by skiers, snowboarders and weather forecasters) is about the same number as English.
NOTE: The word “Eskimo” is considered to be pejorative by some, who prefer “Inuit”.
Philosopher’s Stone: a legendary alchemical substance said to be capable of turning base metals (lead, for example) into gold or silver.
Piltdown man: a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England. The Latin name Eoanthropus dawsoni ("Dawson's dawn-man", after the collector Charles Dawson) was given to the specimen. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan deliberately combined with the skull of a modern human.
Plebney: (also recalcitrant plebney or demeaning plebney) – A fictional disease invented by Don Martin of Mad Magazine.
The (original) Planet Vulcan: a small planet proposed to exist in an orbit between Mercury and the Sun. Attempting to explain peculiarities of Mercury's orbit, the 19th-century French mathematician Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier hypothesized that they were the result of another planet, which he named "Vulcan". No such planet was ever found, and Mercury's orbit has now been explained by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Bloob: Coffee shop slang for a blueberry muffin.
NOTE: One of the panelists (I believe it was Carolyn Faye Fox) called the definitions for this word “bloob jobs”.

Round Five: “Doppelnyms”
1. James Bond: Ian Fleming got the name of the (fictional) spy from the (real) ornithologist.
2. Anne Hathaway: movie actress, and wife of William Shakespeare.
3. George Crumb: Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, and (without the “B”) inventor of potato chips.
4. Francis Bacon
5. Isaiah Thomas
6. Alfred E. Newman: Mad Magazine mascot, and Academy-Award nominee film composer.
NOTE: The unused one about Axl Rose (see beginning of this post) was one of these. His real name is Bill Bailey, as are two major-league baseball players, a comedian, and a character in “West Wing” (also called Will Bailey). I also included one about two presidents and two composers (all John Adams with various middle names), though it would have been redundant by this time and probably too easy.

Addendum 11/10/2014: A couple of days ago I heard another of my questions that they'd asked (at another taping), on the radio broadcast. They didn't give me credit for it, though. The question: "Odd One Out": which one doesn't belong?

Sarcastic fringehead, diabolical nightjar, invisible rail, screaming piha

Answer: sarcastic fringehead; it's a fish and the others are all birds.


  1. Good puzzles! I liked the Japanese one in particular.

    FYI not everyone agrees with your view of "sophomore":

    What's the origin of "sophomore"?

    .....Though the first part does come from the Greek word sophos ("wise"), there is no direct relation to the Greek word for "foolish" as is commonly believed. In truth, sophomore is a variation of sophist, a word that has a long and twisted history in itself.

    Originally, a sophist (Greek sophistes) was a man who had achieved wisdom. The sophist Protagoras is said to have been the first professional teacher, charging only what his students thought he had earned. He, and many sophists who came after him, were serious thinkers but not on the level of, say, Socrates. Later, professional teachers in ancient Greece became generally known as sophists, but many of these were more pretenders to wisdom than truly wise. These guys were the original insufferable know-it-alls. The sort of plausible yet unsound arguments they were fond of using are called sophisms and the use of such arguments is called sophistry. Other ancient Greek thinkers, more interested in finding truth than winning arguments, were less comfortable claiming to have achieved wisdom. They called themselves philosophers ("lovers of wisdom").

    Greek sophisma ("sophism") seems to have entered English two ways, first from the Old French sophime (or soffime), and later from that word's source, the Latin sophisma (or perhaps from a different Old French form, sophisme, which is also the modern French form.) So English had both sophume and sophism as synonyms, and also had the synonymous pair sophumer and sophister for what we would now call a "sophist." Do you see where I'm going with this yet?

    In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, debate and argument (as an educational exercise, not necessarily as a path to knowledge) was considered an important part of education at Cambridge University. A first-year student at Cambridge, who was not expected to engage in such arguments, was called a fresh-man, which originally meant a novice at any activity. Second- and third-year student were assigned points that they were expected to defend in debate, and clever new arguments were called sophisms. From this, the upperclassmen were called sophisters ("users of sophisms"). This group was later divided into junior sophisters (or junior sophs, second-year students) and senior sophisters (or senior sophs, third-year students). In the seventeenth century, the designation sophumer (essentially a synonym of sophister, as noted above) was inserted between freshman and junior soph. This does not appear to have been an extra year, but seems to have been one or more terms at the end of the first year or beginning of the second, or both. The bachelor's program at Cambridge has traditionally had just a three-year course of three terms per year (but some programs now require four years to earn a bachelor's degree there).

    On this side of the Atlantic, the Cambridge designations were used at the first American college, Harvard. It may not be mere coincidence that the school's namesake and benefactor, John Harvard, was a graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

    By 1726 sophumer had become sophomore in America, the modern spelling probably being influenced by the false etymology from Greek moros ("foolish"). The upperclassmen's "sophister" designation was gradually dropped, disappearing by about 1850. That leaves us with the familiar freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors we have today. High school students had to wait a bit longer. These designations weren't applied to them until about the turn of the twentieth century.

  2. I indicated your correction in the post, and directed readers to it. Thanx!