mighty fine trivia by James Callan

Author: James Callan (Page 1 of 61)

Quiz: Across the Buffiverse

Buffy questions for all! Happiness for some!

  1. Sarah Michelle Gellar is one of two actors to appear in all 144 episodes of Buffy. What costar, who appeared in 208 episodes of a later sitcom, is the other?
  2. Although Buffy is Buffy Summers’ full first name, the name “Buffy” is usually considered a nickname for what perennially popular girl’s name?
  3. What Kevin Smith player, director, and one-time reality show producer made brief appearances in the original Buffy movie as well as an episode of Angel?
  4. One of movie-Buffy’s life goals is to marry Christian Slater. He never appeared on the show, but he did appear in what 1994 slayer-free vampire movie?
  5. What actor who later played the lead in a different, non-Buffy-related Joss Whedon show auditioned for the role of Angel?
  6. What other show still airing in the late ’90s had been set at Torrance High School before its characters graduated?
  7. The character design of the Gentlemen, the creepy bald villains from the silent episode “Hush,” were partly inspired by what creepy bald animated gentleman?
  8. Vincent Kartheiser plays Angel’s son Connor, but is now better known for being a regular on what current TV series?
  9. Buffy and her friends who battle the supernatural take their informal nickname from what Hanna-Barbera cartoon with a similar premise?
  10. “Witch” is the first and “Beer Bad” is the last of eight episodes in which what does not appear?


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Quiz: Triangulation

Can you name the word that fits all three given definitions? Expect wordplay.

Example 1:
a professional degree, Hawkeye’s friend, and a vagabond chimp owner
BJ (bachelor of journalism, BJ Hunnicut, and BJ and the Bear)

Example 2:
a breed of cattle, a shore, and a new state

  1. a political boat, a tinkering Tom, and a hummingbird relative
  2. bond’s counterpart, a kind of photo, and the opposite of race
  3. a specialized cleaner, a bunch of wins, and a dramatic move in The Karate Kid
  4. a chip, a Pynchon novel, and a London vigilante
  5. a mind, a card, and a Buffy Big Bad
  6. copper, a pin, and a Kennedy
  7. a movie Holiday, Nikki’s alter ego, and not italic
  8. a kind of duck, a kind of jeans, and a Godot character
  9. a Velvet Underground song, a Brian DePalma film, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy
  10. a Kelsey Grammar role, a daily news site, and a mode


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Quiz: Fin (Questions about endings, finales, conclusions, etc.)

Questions about endings, finales, conclusions, etc.

  1. What poem concludes with the lines “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea / By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown / Till human voices wake us, and we drown”?
  2. What’s the popular name for the performance of the Catholic sacraments the Anointing of the Sick, the Sacrament of Penance, and/or Viaticum?
  3. ITunes downloads of the 1971 Badfinger song “Baby Blue” increased 2981% after it played over the final moments of the final episode of what TV series?
  4. What company took its inspirational tagline from Gary Gilmore’s last words before being executed by firing squad in 1977?
  5. What DC superhero was presumed dead after being shot by Omega Beams in Final Crisis, though it turns out he’d just been unstuck in time like a goddamn Kurt Vonnegut protagonist?
  6. Muhammed Ali lost his last two professional fights, against Larry Holmes and Trevor Burbick. His final victory came in 1978, when he reclaimed the World Heavyweight title for a third time after defeating who?
  7. Native American chief Uncas, who appears alongside Natty Bumppo, is technically the title character of what classic American novel of the French and Indian War?
  8. What TV series ended when the mysterious and wily Fred Johnson confessed to a murder before falling to his death at an amusement park?
  9. What New York Times bestseller was based on computer science professor Randy Pausch’s lecture Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams?
  10. For a half point each, who are the two monsters at the end of the Sesame Street sequel Another Monster at the End of This Book?


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Quiz: Movies with a Common Actor

  1. What 2006 horror remake replaced Edward Woodward with Nicolas Cage, and spawned the meme known as “not the bees”?
  2. What 2007 drama was the first film directed by Paul Haggis after Crash, and tells the story of a veteran played by Tommy Lee Jones trying to find out who killed his son, an Iraq War vet?
  3. What 2000 high school romantic comedy is based on Cyrano de Bergerac, with Shane West wooing Jodi Lyn O’Keefe with the help of Marla Sokoloff?
  4. What 2014 mystery was greenlit because it earned $5,702,153 on Kickstarter last year?
  5. What 2013 drama is based on the life of Linda Boreman, who made the film Deep Throat before going on to condemn the pornography industry?
  6. What 2010 drama is based on a memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, and was Julia Roberts’ second most successful film that year after the ensemble piece Valentine’s Day?
  7. What 2008 bio-pic won Oscars for its star and screenwriter, and tells the story of the political career and assassination of a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors?
  8. What 2003 movie, Robert Altman’s second-to-last film, centers on the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, and is based on an idea by the movie’s lead, Neve Campbell?
  9. Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens have a dream, and that dream is to spend a week in March wearing bikinis while partying in St. Petersburg. Name that 2013 crime drama!
  10. Who appears in all nine of these movies?


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Quiz: Trivia about Trivia

  1. Baby Boomer, Silver Screen, and All-Star Sports were the first three spinoff editions of what game?
  2. Of these four celebrities, who has won the most money on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Dean Cain, Kathy Ireland, Larry the Cable Guy, or Gene Simmons
  3. What comics creator was first published in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not when he sent in a drawing of his dog, Spike, who ate things like tacks and razor blades?
  4. “A goldfish’s attention span is three seconds.” This mythbusted statement is the first in a series of over 950 Real Facts originally published where?
  5. What quiz show on Discovery Channel was shot around New York City, but filmed some later episodes in Las Vegas and launched a spinoff based in Chicago?
  6. What Comedy Central game show featured Jimmy Kimmel as the original co-host?
  7. What computer quiz game had a short-lived run as a game show on ABC, with Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens starring as the host, though not the title character?
  8. What game, one of the most popular free apps in the iOS App Store since its launch in November 2013, just launched its Android version early in March 2014?
  9. What quiz show is the movie Quiz Show about?
  10. Hot Springs, New Mexico, renamed itself in 1950 after what radio quiz show?


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Quiz: Horror Movie Sequels & Remakes

  1. What activity is undertaken by Jason in the eighth Friday the 13th movie and the Muppets in their third movie, according to the titles?
  2. What kind of lycanthrope was played by Nastassja Kinski in a remake of a classic movie starring Simone Simon?
  3. When the third Ju-on film was remade, the Japanese setting was kept, Sarah Michelle Gellar was brought in to star, and the name was Anglicized to what?
  4. Three of the Halloween sequels are subtitled “the [X] of Michael Myers.” For a half point, name one of the three Xs. For a full point, name two. Name three and get a warm fuzzy feeling inside for knowing a lot about shitty sequels.
  5. Now that he’s retired from directing, Steven Soderbergh has time to do stuff like edit together a mashup of what 1960 horror film and its controversial 1998 remake?
  6. When a Stranger Calls, a movie inspired by the urban legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs, inspired a remake in 2006 and a sequel in 1993. What one word was added to the end of the title to form the title of the sequel?
  7. Big batch of spoilers! Timothy Olyphant, Laurie Metcalf, Scott Foley, Rory Culkin, and Emma Roberts all play masked killers in the sequels to what 1996 slasher film?
  8. What Hebrew and Arabic name meaning “protected by God” became popular in the US after the remake of Ringu came out in 2003? It has the same first letter and number of syllables as Sadako, the original’s ghost girl.
  9. Chloë Grace Moretz is only seventeen, but has already appeared in three horror film remakes. Name the one where she plays the title role for a half point, and one of the other two for another half point.
  10. Jessica Lange and Naomi Watts have each played opposite the title character in remakes of what classic horror movie?


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Quiz: I Am the Law!

A quiz about eponymous laws — those that are named after someone.

  1. Mike Godwin observed in 1990 that as a Usenet discussion grows longer, someone will eventually make an analogy that invokes one of two proper nouns. Name those words for a half point each.
  2. What critic gave his name to this law: a work “is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it.”
  3. What two variables have an inversely proportional relationship when you’re describing a fixed quantity of an ideal gas at a constant temperature, according to Boyle’s Law? Half point each.
  4. Hanlon’s Razor cautions that you should never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by what?
  5. According to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered with what word?
  6. Clarke’s Third Law and Niven’s Law are complementary observations that what two phenomena are indistinguishable from each other?
  7. If you apply Dolbear’s law, you can figure out how warm it is by using the behavior of what insect?
  8. What American journalist, known as the Sage of Baltimore, is sometimes credited with the law “Those who can, do. Those who can’t do, teach”?
  9. Brooks’ Law observes that adding additional people to work on a late software project only makes it later. In an often quoted analogy, Brooks noted that nine women cannot do what specific project?
  10. According to Hofstadter’s Law, coined in the book Gödel Escher Bach, “it always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account” what?


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Quiz: What’s Going On? (Current Events, mid-March 2014)

(This set of questions comes from quiz night at the 418 Public House in Seattle, and was read on March 18. Keep that in mind when defining “current” events.)


  1. What kind of event did Guinness, Heineken, and Sam Adams withdraw their sponsorship from because of organizers’ refusal to let gay people participate?
  2. Former leader of the Westboro Baptist Church Fred Phelps is on his deathbed. He led his church to international prominence in 1998 by picketing the funeral of what Casper, Wyoming native?
  3. Three people were killed and 22 more were injured when a drunk driver plowed into a crowd waiting see the band X outside the Mohawk nightclub in what city?
  4. A video created to promote Wren clothing went viral because it featured 20 models doing what?
  5. What Chinese ecommerce company partly owned by Yahoo announced that they’ll list their possibly record-breaking IPO on the New York Stock Exchange rather than Hong Kong’s?
  6. Sheryl Sandberg, Jennifer Garner, Diane von Furstenburg, Jane Lynch, and Beyoncé have joined forces to ask people to reconsider using what word, disproportionately used to describe girls?
  7. What two administrative divisions declared independence from Ukraine and their intentions to become part of the Russian Federation? For a half point each, name the autonomous republic and the city.
  8. The world’s largest banana producer will be created when the Irish company Fyffes merges with what American company?
  9. What college team from the Southeastern Conference is the top overall seed in this year’s Division I basketball tournament?
  10. What restaurant chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday but is not yet toast, as it plans to stay open while restructuring?


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Eulogy for a Quiz Night: Thoughts on the end of trivia at the Old Pequliar

“Question one: What’s the longest river in Japan?”

It was May 23, 2006, when I looked out on a bar mostly full of strangers and asked them all that question. And then I repeated it, because that’s what quizmasters do.

It was my first-ever time hosting trivia, and after that I was hooked. Trivia Caught

I was surprised, although I shouldn’t have been. Yes, hosting was (ugh) performing in public, speaking in front of a bunch of people. I was awkward and introverted, with the Myers-Briggs score to back it up.

I started the evening as a fill-in host for a friend, and finished the evening desperately wanting to do it again — and with a list of ideas for how next time would be better. Because if you haven’t noticed, or were too kind to think it, that first question was not very good. Too obscure, too dull. (But not just plain cruel, like question 8: “What road, completed in 1986, connects Pakistan with China, passing over the Khunjerab Pass at its highest point?” I can’t remember the answer to that and I just looked at it.)

Being a quizmaster appeals to the part of me that loves being an insider. I like to know how things work, even more than I like figuring them out. I want to know how magic tricks work. I read spoilers.

Quizmastering was perfect. I had all the answers, because I wrote the questions. Playing trivia is fun, and I wouldn’t give it up — in part because playing the quiz makes you a better host. But writing trivia questions is a blast. Learning to do it well is a pain in the ass, because it turns out that writing good trivia is not about showing off how much you know. (When you do it really well, you delight people by revealing to them how much they know. Tough to pull off, but the best.)

If I had to host quizzes so I could write them, it was worth it.

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Spurning Jeopardese; Or, State Your Question in the Form of a Question

“Jeopardy! is the bane of all quiz shows,” declared Ophira Eisenberg on the fantastic NPR quiz show Ask Me Another.

Why? Because its schtick infects contestants on other shows, who sometimes give answers in the form of a question. (If you’re unfamiliar with the show, Jeopardy! requires contestants to respond to clues in the form of a question.)

Every few episodes of Ask Me Another, someone says something like “What’s the Liberty Bell?” instead of just “the Liberty Bell.” And then the hosts sigh, snicker, and point out that they are not, in fact, on Jeopardy.

But contestants aren’t the only people who lapse into Jeopardese. Quiz writers sometimes use their own version of the jargon. And they should knock it off.

Jeopardy contestants respond in the form of a question, which means that Jeopardy clues are written in the form of an answer. (That’s why the show calls them clues, not questions.)

An example clue: “A popular exhibit at the Hall of Fame is the actual cornfield used on this ‘corny’ TV show”

To win that question, the contestant must respond, “What is Hee-Haw?” Just saying “Hee-Haw” doesn’t count.

This also means that the clue itself sounds a little odd. It’s not the way you’d phrase that information in real life, either in conversation or in writing.

It’s perfect for Jeopardy, though. It’s fluent Jeopardese.

Writers who imitate Jeopardy’s clue structure for their quiz night ignore an important point: that kind of clue is not a question.

Sometimes that doesn’t matter and players follow you anyway. But sometimes, it leaves them asking you for clarification: “What’s the question?” Confuse them enough and they’ll insert a vulgar intensifier before “question.”

This is a question: “A popular exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame is the actual cornfield used on what ‘corny’ TV show?”

This is an even better question: “What ‘corny’ TV show donated its actual cornfield to the Country Music Hall of Fame, where it’s a popular exhibit?” (This version is also improved because it can ignore Jeopardy’s space constraints — their clues must be short enough to fit on a TV monitor in Korinna font.)

When people ask you, the host, what question you’re asking, they’re not messing with you. They’re genuinely confused. If you read the question out twice and people can’t figure out what you’re asking, you wrote your question poorly.

(Yes, on Jeopardy Alex reads the clues out loud — but they’re also shown written out on the board, and contestants generally respond to that written form.)

That’s not really surprising, though, when you bury the lead and don’t use a question word.

In my experience, following these three guidelines produces questions that are easier to understand: * Start or end your question with the thing you want them to fill in. Don’t bury it in the middle. * Start the question (or the key part of it) with a question word. What, who, where, when — those are the most common. * Follow the question word as quickly as possible with the kind of information you’re looking for.

Some examples from Ken Jennings, a guy who knows how to write a good trivia question:

“What is the better-known nickname for the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944?” — people know from word one that the correct answer is a nickname, or a word.

“The Everything Store is a new book profiling what American businessman?” — This puts the question at the end, but it’s clear that your answer should be the name of an American businessman.

“In 2011, what soda passed Pepsi for the first time to become the country’s second-most popular soft drink?” — The introductory phrase is short, and an important piece of information. And then you find out that you should be thinking about sodas.

As those questions show, you can vary your syntax a little bit. This isn’t a rigid template. Sometimes supporting bits of information work better before the meat of the question. But the question should sound natural. Players should be puzzled by the information you’re asking for, not by the construction of the question itself.

Quiz hosts: Phrase your questions in the form of a question. Drop the Jeopardese. Unless you’re writing for Jeopardy, in which case put in a good word for me because that’s a dream gig.

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