This coming weekend, I’ll participate in The World’s Largest Trivia ContestTM. As per tradition, this week is filled with idle reminiscing about memorable answers in past years.
There was a time when participating in Trivia meant assembling a lot of books. By its nature and difficulty level, the WWSP contest is less of a top-of-the-head activity, like those that often anchor a programming night at the local pub, and more of a test of rapid research skills. In the days before information found the onramp to the superhighway that runs through internet tubes, a towering stack of reference tomes was practically a requirement to compete at the highest levels of the contest. For the two sticklers who have been writing the contest for decades, having a set of printed pages remains a necessity for anyone who wants to prove that one of their answers is faulty.
A couple years back, they asked a question that went something like this: An old story told of a hunter who meets an old woman in the woods. She asks for money. He gives her what he can. When he traveled further, he came to tree with nine crows chewing on a blanket. If he shoots into the blanket, the crows will fly away, except for one. What is the name of this story?
With a little artful online searching, we determined the answer to be “The Salad.” We called it in. When the on-air announcer closed the question, they gave the answer as “Donkey Cabbages.” We called the contest’s complaint line, which rings straight through the primary architect of this odyssey of the obscure. He believed our claim that the story in question had multiple titles, but stuck to his policy. We needed to bring him a book.
So we went out and got a book. Several members of our team spent time out and about during the contest in pursuit of the points that come from successful completion of the Trivia Stone, a sort of scavenger hunt on wheels. They made it a mission to secure the printed-and-bound evidence we needed. We got regular dispatches from this remote squad as they acquainted themselves with different Central Wisconsin libraries. Before long, they reported they had four book that definitively proved the story was published as both “The Salad” and “Donkey Cabbages.” One trip to the station later, and the question was thrown out of the contest. We didn’t get any points for this, but we prevented some of our competitors from potentially edging ahead of us on the basis of a flawed question. That’s part of the game, too.
I will admit, however, that “Donkey Cabbages” is a far more entertaining answer.
More info about 90FM’s Trivia can be found at its official website or at the radio station’s online home. There’s also a feature documentary about the contest, but it’s fairly hard to come by these days. To see how my team is faring over the weekend, Twitter is probably the best bet.