Just to make sure I don’t bury the lede: my team, How I Met Your Mothra, won Geek Bowl VIII. It was unreal. 147 teams competed, and we came out on top. The second place team, I kid you not, was made up of Jeopardy! champions. That is some trivia firepower! Any quizzer will tell you, though, that you’re never going to get everything right, no matter how smart you are. The close wins come down to getting asked the right questions, and this time, we got asked enough of the right questions to edge the Jeopardites by one point. Considering it made the difference between a $3,000 team prize and a $6,666.66 team prize, that one point ended up being pretty important!
Our team this year had some shakeup in its makeup, which may have affected the outcome as well. A married couple (Dave and Lori) that has been part of our Geek Bowl team for the past 5 years dropped out this time for various reasons, and teammate Larry recruited a couple of new members (Don and Jonathan) who are very strong indeed. We hung out together in Austin the night before and day of the Geek Bowl, and as usual that was a lot of fun. Thanks to teammate Don’s organizing efforts, several of us had even brought practice rounds of trivia questions to quiz each other with. So we toddled around different Austin locations, warmup questions flying.
We also went to the Geeks Who Drink pre-party (the “Freak Bowl”) on Friday night, at a place called Recess Arcade Bar — the Geeks had rented the upstairs space, away from the arcade games. That kind of party is not really my scene — my introverted self would much rather hang out someplace quiet with a few people than someplace bludgeoningly loud with a boatload of people. They did have a good live band, though — Guilty Pleasures, an all-girl rock & roll cover band who did a fine job with Blondie, AC/DC, ZZ Top, Beastie Boys, Nazareth, and so forth. They also had these dancers called The Hell Katz, who slung fire, showered sparks, and so forth, which, wow. It was awesome to see, but I was kind of glad I was in the balcony.
As for the Bowl itself, it was held in easily the nicest venue it’s ever had, the Moody Theater in downtown Austin, where Austin City Limits is filmed. The place was gorgeous, roomy, and had absolutely top-notch sound and video, which is especially important in an event like this, where the ability to see and hear clearly can mean the difference between a right and wrong answer. A beautiful building won’t compensate for a poorly organized night, but lucky for us, Geek Bowl 8 was a beautifully organized night, even before it ended so well for us. The early Geek Bowls were pretty rough going, but at this point the organization seems to have solved whatever problems needed solving, allowing them to accomplish some pretty remarkable feats of logistics, like getting 8 different live acts on and off stage quickly enough that we never felt like we were waiting for anything, even though each act only played for 25 seconds. (Well, they each did their thing twice, so I guess 50 seconds.) I feel like GWD hit a peak last year in event management, and it was gratifying to see them not slip an inch, and even improve in some areas.
Then there were the questions. The GWD signature tone is one I often describe as “self-consciously edgy.” They go to great lengths to position themselves as “not your father’s trivia game,” which means you are pretty much guaranteed to hear some combination of f-bombs, sexual references, and scatological humor, along with general irreverence and attitude. This has tended to be my least favorite GWD quality, because it has often felt like a bunch of well-written questions interspersed with two scoops of lowest-common-denominator crap. Over time, though, at least in the Geek Bowl, I feel like they’ve figured out how to integrate those themes well enough that they end up with a bunch of well-written questions that just happen to have raunchy elements. The question-writing has hit a very strong, very consistent stride, and this year’s quiz was no exception.
As I’ve done in previous years, I’m going to recap the questions and answers here. A few caveats about this, though. First, the Geeks are pretty careful about their intellectual property, and the agreement we’ve worked out is that I won’t post these recaps until at least a week has elapsed since the Geek Bowl. (Though all things considered I’d have a hard time getting this together in less time anyway!) Second, I consider these recaps a tribute to the excellent question writers of the Geek Bowl, and an advertisement for a really fun event, but I am in no way officially associated with Geeks Who Drink, and I have not been supplied with question material. The recap below is not a verbatim representation of the Geek Bowl 8 questions. They are reconstructed from my notes and memories, which are very fallible. I am certain I have left out some of the cleverness, some of the humor, and some of the pinning precision. Anything in the questions and answers below that is wrong or crappy is my fault, not theirs.
Quoting myself from 2012, here’s the format: each team has its own small table, with 6 chairs. Quizmasters read questions from the stage, and the questions are also projected onto large screens throughout the venue. Once all the questions in a round have been asked, a two minute timer starts, by the end of which you must have turned in your answer sheet to one of the roaming quizmasters. The game consists of 8 rounds, each with its own theme. Each round contains 8 questions — usually, each question is worth one point, so there’s a maximum possible score of 8 points for each round. However, some rounds offer extra points — for instance, Round 2 is traditionally a music round, with 8 songs played, and one point each awarded for naming the title and artist of the song. In a regular GWD pub quiz, it’s only Round 2 and Round 8 (always the “Random Knowledge” round) that offer 16 possible points. However, in this year’s Geek Bowl, one other round was upgraded from 8 potential points to 16 — we could see from the pre-printed answer sheets that Round 5 would have 16 answers.
Finally, teams can choose one round to “joker”, meaning that it earns double points for that round. Obviously, you’d want that to be one of the 16-point rounds, unless you really believed you wouldn’t score above 8 in any of them, which is highly unlikely. We discussed our jokering strategy ahead of time, and decided on thresholds. The Round 2 threshold was 14 — in other words, if we felt very confident about 14 out of 16 answers in Round 2, we would joker it. The threshold for Round 5 would be 13, and of course for Round 8 there was no threshold — if we hadn’t jokered by then, we certainly would do so.
Now, for posterity and enjoyment, the questions of Geek Bowl 8. I’ll note our team’s experiences in [square brackets.] I’m also going to try something a little different this year and put the answers in a separate post, since this one gets long enough as it is.
Round 1: These Team Names End Tonight
Remember how I said that the GWD tone is intentionally raunchy? Well, that carries over to some of the names people give their teams, and sometimes you see these names week after week, year after year. Often, they weren’t that funny to begin with, but even the ones that are funny tend to wear out their welcome after a while. So the Geeks, to their credit, mock them mercilessly, and in this round they announced (tongue in cheek, I assume) that the team names mentioned in these questions are herewith banned forever, and anyone with one of those team names will score 0 points for this round.
1. Banned team name: My Grandma Doesn’t Wrestle, But You Should See Her Box. If your boxing grandma were 124 pounds, she would be in what boxing weight class, in between bantamweight and lightweight? [We batted this one around for a while, and then Don nailed it.]
2. Banned team name: Cunning Linguists. Noam Chomsky was a very cunning linguist, who was born in the latter part of what decade? [Jonathan had an answer for this one, but alas, it was not correct.]
3. Banned team name: My Couch Pulls Out, But I Don’t. Even if you did pull out, your method of contraception would be rated very poorly on what scale, which shares its name with a pretty mineral ball?
4. Banned team name: Kitten Mittens. In the nursery rhyme where three little kittens lose their mittens, what food is withheld from them as punishment?
5. Banned team name: Turd Ferguson. In that SNL sketch which we have apparently all seen, Turd Ferguson is the alias used by what film star, being played by what SNL cast member? BOTH answers are required.
6. Banned team name: Ramrod. In the movie Super Troopers, which half of “RamRod” was also the director: Ram or Rod? [None of use knew this movie, so it was basically a coin flip. 50/50 was good to us that time.]
7. Banned team name: Hermaphrodite Barbie Comes In Her Own Box. The more widely accepted word for someone who cannot easily be categorized as male or female is what “I” word, which has its own advocacy group, the ISNA? [I was first out with this one, but I’m sure others at the table knew it.]
8. Banned team name: Just The Tip. Now that she’s split from Al, you could play “just the tip” with Tipper Gore, but her predecessor as second lady is still married. Give that predecessor’s first name.
[We ended up with 7 correct answers in this round.]
See the answers
Round 2: Sexy Songs Of SEX
Round 2 of the Geeks Who Drink pub quiz is always a music round, and in the bar that tends to mean mp3s played over speakers. At Geek Bowl, though, it’s live music all the way. Each year in Austin, they’ve actually brought in eight different live acts, each one of which plays for about 25 seconds, then repeats that same 25 seconds. Obviously there’s no way to present that here without giving away the answers, unless the Geeks choose to put up some video. So it’s all descriptions here — our one hint was that all the songs would be about sex in some way. (Ah, Geeks.) I will note that I am just awful at identifying songs when they’re played without lyrics and in a different style. Lucky for me, Brian, Jonathan, and especially Don are awesome at it.
1. A xylophone-and-drum group called The Djembabes played “Girls” by the Beastie Boys.
2. The best group name of the night was: Cello, Is It Me You’re Looking For? That was an ensemble of six cellists, but they seem to have no web presence, so no link on their name. (Maybe a pickup group of cellists? Can that happen?) Anyway, it was six cellos playing “Push It” by Salt-n-Pepa. [Don recognized this right away, and was kind of annoyed when the cellists went on to play a much more recognizable phrase from the song.]
3. Reggae band Tribal Nation played a rastafied version of Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On.”
4. Then there were the bagpipes. A peck of pipers (and drums) called Silver Thistle played Monty Python’s loving anthem, “Sit On My Face”. [We were absolutely clueless on this one. We ended up guessing “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael.]
5. Afghani group Atash played a lovely and rather haunting bit of “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye.
6. At this point, the MC introduced something called The Gams. I can’t find anything on the web about them either, but maybe that’s not too surprising. Essentially, what happened was that a guy came on stage cradling what looked like a case of soda. “Hot Legs” by Rod Stewart started to play. Then, as the vocals began, a puppet popped out of the case to sing “Who’s that knockin’ on my door?” And that was it. This was probably the lamest part of the night.
7. The next act made up for it. This was a country outfit called Horse Opera, who played a perfectly country-fried version of “Too Drunk To Fuck” by the Dead Kennedys. [Don latched onto a lyric about getting into a fight at a party and was calling the answer as “Kiss Me Deadly” by Lita Ford. However, on the second listen, it became apparent that was wrong. Suddenly Jonathan jolted to life, grabbed a piece of paper, and scribbled down TOO DRUNK TO FUCK. At which point Brian said, “Yes! Dead Kennedys!” And we were off. Awesome.]
8. The final act was The Capital City Men’s Chorus. The amusing thing about this act was that a line of men walked up on the stage, and then behind them another line of men walked up on the stage. Then, behind them, another line of men walked up on stage. And AGAIN. They just kept coming. Very funny. Then they started into their number, but flubbed the beginning. Their conductor turned to the audience, flashed an imaginary Men In Black neuralyzer and said, “That didn’t happen.” Heh. Anyway, the second time the song came off fine, or at least as well as it could considering it was “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd. [Don ROCKED this one. He recognized it almost immediately. From the verse, mind you.]
[We felt very good about 14 of our 16 answers this round, and since that met our previously-agreed-upon threshold, we jokered the round. That gave us 28 points, to combine with our previous 7 for a total of 35.]
Round 3: Lather and Rinse, But No Repeats
Round 3 of Geeks Who Drink is typically some kind of a gimmick round. Sometimes that means a speed round (name everything in some category in 2 minutes), sometimes it’s a “stop” round (the quizmaster reads increasingly-obvious clues to an answer until somebody in the bar shouts “stop”, and then everybody has to answer — something that obviously wouldn’t work at Geek Bowl.) Most often, though, it’s some kind of 50/50 round — true or false; real or made-up; multiple-choice with two answers; or some mix of these. Sometimes it’s even something very specific like 8 South Park questions to which the answer is either Timmy or Jimmy. Round 3 at Geek Bowl 8 followed this trend: it was a 50/50 round about hygiene.
1. In those old toothpaste ads, who fought the Cavity Creeps: Colgate or Crest?
2. True or False: The average cellphone has more germs on it than the average toilet seat.
3. Which one was a real slogan for Irish Spring soap: “Smell like you’re worth exploring” or “Get a little Irish on you”?
4. When you go take a shit during the next scoring break, which toilet should you select if you want the lowest bacteria levels on it: the one closest to the bathroom door or the one farthest from the bathroom door?
5. According to the American Congress Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is better: to douche or not to douche?
6. True or False: A recent study by the FDA found that antibacterial soap gets your filthy self cleaner than regular soap.
7. Which has more blades: the manual Gilette Fusion or the Schick Quattro?
8. Who wrote an 1867 paper entitled “On The Antiseptic Principle of The Practice Of Surgery”: Oliver Wendell Holmes or Joseph Lister? [Larry knew this one before they even read the names.]
[We got #3 wrong, but all the rest of them right — a 7-point round which brought our total to 42.]
See the answers
Round 4: I Went To Geek Bowl And All I Got Was This Lousy Anal Probe
This was a round about the paranormal (titled in classic GWD fashion), and lucky for us, George has a particular interest in the topic. He was very strong in this round, though everyone contributed.
1. Before being thoroughly debunked, what spoon-bending Israeli proto-douche insisted that his abilities were a gift from extraterrestrials?
2. 108 Ocean Avenue, formerly 112 Ocean Avenue, is an infamous house in what New York town of 10,000, located on an inlet of South Oyster Bay?
3. Shadow people keeping you from moving? Don’t worry, it’s probably just this phenomenon. [This was another question where Jonathan scribbled something down, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was correct.]
4. The Zapruder film is to the JFK assassination as the Patterson-Gimlin film is to what? [George nailed this one.]
5. Peruvians may have been communicating with aliens, or maybe they were just high, when they created what UNESCO-recognized geoglyphs? [I had never heard of these at all, but George was all over it.]
6. The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature said to stalk what area of southern New Jersey, also the name of a classic Sopranos episode?
7. The Time/Life books series Mysteries of The Unknown had this many volumes, the same as one of the best episodes of Battlestar Galactica as well as a Smashing Pumpkins song. Coincidence? We think not.
8. This volunteer, nonprofit, paranormal-investigation organization is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, has Dan Aykroyd as a Hollywood consultant, and has a 5-letter acronym for its name, the middle three letters of which are “UFO”. Name it. [Hilariously, George knew about two different such organizations with “UFO” in the middle, and decided to go for the better-known one. Good decision!]
[We nailed this one. 8 points, for a new total of 50.]
See the answers
Round 5: A Pervert’s History Of The United States
Round 5 of Geeks Who Drink is always a visual round. At a bar, that means half-sheets of paper, usually with some kind of photoshopped craziness on them. At Geek Bowl, it has tended to mean images displayed on large video screens. This year, though, they upped the ante with a full-blown video. Each clue was a still picture, but the camera panned over them in a lingering fashion. This is one of the ways Geek Bowl 8 improved upon its predecessors, especially last year. Geek Bowl 7 showed pictures into which famous faces had been photoshopped, but the pictures went by super fast, and depending on where you were sitting it could be hard to see enough detail in the images to have a reasonable shot at answering the question. By slowing it down and doing documentary-style pans, they solved both these problems and made the round way more fun.
As it turned out, this year was another version of “familiar faces in an unfamiliar context,” but this time the faces were pasted into vintage porn pictures — nothing super graphic, but plenty porny. (Boy, there really was a lot of sex stuff this year.) The idea was that each picture would show a couple, but the faces of the couple would be people who were somehow linked in American history, with the picture sometimes putting a funny gloss on the relationship. Each question was worth two points — one for each face.
Oh here, let me just show you, at least until YouTube gets wind of the content and takes it down. In case you hadn’t figured this out yet, you probably shouldn’t watch this one at work:
[We got everything but #6, wrongly guessing Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. So that was 14 points, for a total of 64.]
See the answers
Round 6: William Shakespeare, Product Support Specialist
This was my favorite round of the night. Eight different quizmasters walked onto the stage, along with one or two others whose job it was to explain the concept, which is as follows: each clue consists of support instructions for eight different modern products, but the clues are written in Elizabethan English, even iambic pentameter sometimes. In any case, the clues were very well-written and extremely clever, and each one was read by a separate quizmaster in fine Royal Shakespeare style. Sometimes the screen would show an additional hint to provide a little context, along the lines of “Name this product whose first model debuted in 2008.” Unfortunately, the style of the round makes it basically impossible to reproduce from memory. I tried scribbling down notes, but they are woefully insufficient.
However, lucky for me, when they showed the answers, they repeated a bit of the prose from each question, so I was able to snap pictures once I figured out that was the thing to do. (Cameras are allowed at Geek Bowl as long as they are not capable of receiving information.) So, because I’m unable to fully reproduce the questions, my recap of this round will display the answer along with just a snippet of the question. (I’m winging it on #1 because I only have notes.) Just take it from me that each one had quite a bit more amusing quasi-Shakespearean diction.
1. “In bouncing the coil just move thy wrist / For hours and hours of fun, what ho!” Slinky
2. “Cook the noodles, eight minutes or so / Stirring occasionally as they soft’n and swell…” Kraft Macaroni & Cheese [I recognized this one right away.]
3. “Grip thou the handle if thou wouldst transport / This technologic dream in Bondi blue…” iMac
4. “Eleven lets thee swap spots with thy foe / Unless he be inside the safety zone…” Sorry!
5. “Swipe the temple touchpad to and fro / And perhaps with thy mouth thou could go ‘whoosh’…” Google Glass
6. “Two hundred miles or farther may thou go, / Before thou must recharge the thing again…” Tesla Roadster
7. “Music, Podcasts, Photos, touch them all / Or ‘FM’ to the radio turn on…” Sony Walkman [We were tossing around things like the iPod touch or iPhone, but the screen indicated that the product’s first version was released in 1979. I thought of the Walkman as the only thing that came out in 1979 and might have the listed capabilities today. I managed to talk my team into it, too — I think this question is the contribution I’m happiest about for myself.]
8. “Should its magic work beyond four hours / Seek help, if thou wouldst not thy todger maim…” Viagra
[We got all 8 on this one, for a total of 72.]
Round 7: Even More Celebrities (We Could Get!)
In the bar version of Geeks Who Drink, round 7 tends to be a second audio round, usually of clips from movies, or tv shows, or commercials, or some such. (Though I hear that some lucky venues get video round 7s — sadly my home bar is not one of these!) In any case, the first several Geek Bowls I went to had movie clips for round 7, but last year they had a little breakthrough and managed to get 8 minor (but geekily beloved) celebrities to read questions, people like Wil Wheaton, Katee Sackhoff (from Battlestar Galactica), and Will Shortz. This year, they repeated the feat with 8 new celebs:
Just in case that video ever evaporates, here were the questions:
1. Levar Burton: In the Reading Rainbow theme song, following the words “I can” are a couple of two-word phrases. What are they? [We struggled on this one. Jonathan came up with “go twice as high”, but that’s not two two-word phrases. Still, nothing else we could come up with, so that’s what we put.]
2. Steve Inskeep: The day before Morning Edition came on the air, the Iran hostage crisis began. The hostages were held for a multiple of 111 days. How many days were they held for? [This felt like a real softball. We would have known it even without the “111 multiple” thing.]
3. Mondo Guerra: Every Project Runway designer is familiar with Tim Gunn’s famous three-word catchphrase, when he’s less than impressed with a design’s progress. Hint: it shares one word with RuPaul’s. What is it? [Brian knew that RuPaul’s catchphrase was, “You better work,” but from there we didn’t have much. I suggested “This doesn’t work,” and since nobody else had anything better, that was what we went with. Not big Project Runway watchers over here.]
4. Rich Sommer: The man who plays my boss is named Robert Morse. He first rose to fame in 1961, playing a window-washer who rises through the ranks to become a big business executive in what big Broadway musical? [Don knew this as soon as the guy said, “Robert Morse.”]
5. Jim O’Heir: Historically, the Pawnee people lived mostly along the North Platte river, in the territory that became what great plains state?
6. David Koechner: You might know me as Champ Kind from Anchorman, or Todd Packer from The Office, but I was also Uncle Earl, from what? [We were again clueless on this one. I knew he was an SNL cast member for a year, and that is the only thing any of us knew, so we put down SNL]
7. Elijah Wood: Alfred Hitchock’s North By Northwest and my early film North are both rightly hailed as classics of American cinema. How many years elapsed between the films’ release dates: 25, 35, or 45? [Larry knew exactly when North By Northwest was released, and Don knew North, so there you go.]
8. Jim Parsons: You probably remember me as a Medieval Times knight in Garden State. A few years earlier, Janeane Garofalo played a Medieval Times waitress in what film that Ben Stiller directed between Reality Bites and Zoolander?
[This was the toughest round for us. We ended up getting 5 correct, for a total score of 77.]
See the answers
Round 8: Random Knowledge
Round 8 of Geeks Who Drink is always a “random knowledge” round, and always worth 16 points. It’s a last chance to joker if a team hasn’t already, and kind of an equalizer in that it is a total potpourri. In the bar version, the points are all over the map — a question can be worth anywhere between 1 and 4 points. In Geek Bowl, it’s a little more stable: each question was worth two points.
1. Giorgio Moroder worked on the soundtracks of two different movies with “Top” in the title, one in 1986 and one in 1987. Name them both.
2. Adam is the first prophet of Islam. What two famous dudes are the last prophets of Islam?
3. Louis Sullivan was an American architect known as the “father of the skyscraper.” First, with what alliterative three-word phrase is he most closely associated? Second, what devoutly midwestern guy was Sullivan’s most famous protege?
4. What child development word comes from the Latin for “speechless”? Before babies leave the hospital, they are usually vaccinated against what form of hepatitis? [We felt good about our second answer, but struggled on the first. We put “aphasia”, since that does mean inability to speak, but had qualms about the fact that you couldn’t really call it a “child development word.”]
5. What subatomic particle was thought for a few months in 2011 to have been measured traveling faster than light? What is the name for the edge of the solar system, where the solar wind is stopped by the interstellar medium?
6. What monarch instituted the tradition of the white wedding dress by wearing a white lace dress at her 1840 wedding? What Romantic composer wrote the theme most of us know as “Here Comes The Bride”, or the “Wedding March”?
7. What old bearded man was the subject of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Portrait Of A Man In Red Chalk”? Vincent Van Gogh’s “Man In A Red Beret” was a portrait of what other artist, who was involved in the ear-cutting incident? [Larry had a great pull on the Van Gogh question.]
8. Finally, here’s that Friends question you’ve all been wanting. Which two of the 6 central characters on Friends also worked as servers at Central Perk?
After those eight questions came probably the best innovation of Geek Bowl 8: the pre-emptive tiebreaker. In previous years, there would very frequently be a tie among some of the top-placing teams, and that was handled by giving them 5 additional questions, letting them huddle, and then breaking the tie based on who got more of them right. However, this method was logistically awkward, and involved a lot of sitting around waiting for everyone else in the audience. So this time, the Geeks asked this extremely convoluted question:
Pre-Emptive Tiebreaker: Take the number of years Facebook has been a company as of February, and add the number of years Hitler served as Fuehrer of Germany. Multiply the total by the year in which the Colosseum was built, and then subtract the resulting number from the actual population of Amityville, New York as of the 2010 census.
They simplified it a bit with this expression, projected onto the video screens:
Amityville 2010 – [(years of FB + Hitler as Fuehrer) x year of Colosseum] = ?
[We amazed me by getting 15 points in this round. The child development word was the only one we missed. So, combined with our 77 points so far, we had a final total of 92 points.]
See the answers
And there you have it, the questions of Geek Bowl VIII. Before we move on to the answers, let’s enjoy this awesome “In Memoriam” video which played at the Geek Bowl. WARNING: spoilers within for True Blood, Dexter, Downton Abbey, Sons Of Anarchy, The Walking Dead (so, so much), Game of Thrones, Homeland, Doctor Who, and especially Breaking Bad.