Trivia Answer of the Day — The Breakdown

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. This time around, I’m focusing answers on the supplemental “Unplugged” version of the contest, which is staged a few times per year in Central Wisconsin. 

breakdown

A side effect of participating in 90FM’s Trivia is that I feel less compelled to hold in my memory banks the most basic facts of the pop culture I consume with its eventual contest usefulness in mind. It wasn’t always the case. At one point, I took ludicrous pride in being able to rattle off the fundamentals of touchstone movies and television series, as if the skill would someday prove heroic. A building is burning down and the only way these people can be rescued is if someone can quickly provide the name of the rival drinking establishment that regularly engaged in a prank war with the gang at Cheers! Now, that information can be readily Googled up before I could even push through the crowd. Whoever has the strongest signal on their phone saves the day.

Things are a little different in the Unplugged competition, though. Material that can be mined from the internet in a matter of moments is unavailable. Suddenly, it’s prime fodder for questions. For example, the question could be “What is the name of the news program co-anchored by Chuck Pierce and Portia Scott-Griffith?” Or maybe something like “What is the name of the network program that is taken over by executive Diana St. Tropez?”

These questions were posed in successive Trivia Unplugged events I attended. I have watched every episode of the television series Great News and immediately recognized it as the source for the questions. The name of the fictional television news program at the heart of Great News is all over the place in every episode: on clothing, on coffee mugs spoken multiple times by various characters, in gigantic letters on walls and in the studio where there characters practice their noble broadcast journalism.

In the first Unplugged in which I was confronted with this should-be-easy question, I quickly and confidently provided my answer: “The Rundown.” That is the title of a well-regarded BET late night program, an E! Snapchat series, and a movie costarring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Rosario Dawson. It is not, however, the name of any fictional program on Great News.

A smart person would learn from this mistake, of course. But my intellect is evidently more in the range of Bart Simpson confronted with an electrified cupcake. Mere weeks later, I was at another Trivia Unplugged, and another Great News question was asked, again seeking the name of the fictional news program. This time I agonized over two options, eventually settling again on “The Rundown.”

I share my pain to cleanse and heal. And I also detail this blundering shame in hopes of putting out the necessary mojo into the universe to deliver unto me a Great News question this weekend that can provide some personal redemption. Because in this nutty game we play, no matter what glories or heartbreaks we have just endured in our answer hunts, there is always the next question.

 

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.

Trivia Answer of the Day — Steve Rogers

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. This time around, I’m focusing answers on the supplemental “Unplugged” version of the contest, which is staged a few times per year in Central Wisconsin. 

bernie

There are a multitude of ways in which 90FM’s Trivia — especially the “Unplugged” version — can leave a participant feeling deeply humbled. For me, few things rankle more than when I am left utterly blank-minded up against a question on a topic that I once mastered with encyclopedic command. It can be tough to accept how decisively I could be bested by the fifteen-year-old version of me.

We were asked to provide the first and last name of the comic book character who was once engaged to Bernie Rosenthal, one of the most talented glass blowers in New Yorker metroplex. Luckily, as I sat there agonizing over gaps in my memory, one of my teammates — whose current comic acumen should inspire envy in all — piped up and said, “That’s Captain America, right?”

Sure enough, the civilian alter ego of the star-spangled Avenger was the correct answer, and we secured a hefty amount of points. Pleased as I was to celebrate with my teammates, I knew the teenager I once was looked on with a touch of disappointment that I wasn’t the one who confidently piped up as soon as the question was read. I guess I need to go back and do some devoted rereading.

 

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.

Trivia Answer of the Day — Pittsburgh

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. This time around, I’m focusing answers on the supplemental “Unplugged” version of the contest, which is staged a few times per year in Central Wisconsin. 

simon garfunkel

In the different iterations of 90FM’s Trivia, missing a question isn’t that troubling. The contests are built to be challenging, and some information is simply beyond the reach of our collection of finely honed minds. There’s no shame in that.

Then there are the instances in which the fumbled response to a trivia question causes deep spiritual agony, even if there were clear impediments to the retrieving the right answer from the data bank of the mind. For my squad, made up of quite a few alumni of the sterling college radio station airing the main contest, I suspect its misfires on the music questions that hurt the most.

For Trivia weekend, with digital resources always the ready, questions about song lyrics have dwindled in  recent years. Typing in a few key words brings the answer up with too much ease to make the strain of questions viable. In the “Unplugged” edition, though, simply asking for a detail found in the words of a familiar song can make for an exceptionally tricky task, especially when the venue’s speakers are booming out a different track than the one that is the subject of the question. It’s hard to run a song, even a beloved song, through the mind while some competing pop monstrosity is bullying its way through the space.

So it was at “Unplugged,” when team were asked to identify the city in which two youthful travelers boarded a bus in the Simon and Garfunkel song “America.”  As time ran out, we scrawled “Saginaw” onto an answer slip, I’m pained to report. As soon as the music in the room dropped away, the whole of “America” came rushing into my head, like a fire hose being twisted open. I knew at once that Saginaw was a starting point for a hitchhiking trip and the Greyhound seats were claimed in Pittsburgh (a city with, as another song asserts, has a “real cool tunnel”). It was too late. All I could do was groan.

I will help answer many questions this coming weekend. But I also know the near-misses — the ones that again make me groan — will make the sharpest memories.

 

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.

Trivia Answer of the Day — TV Guide

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. This time around, I’m focusing answers on the supplemental “Unplugged” version of the contest, which is staged a few times per year in Central Wisconsin. 

tv guide

When I explain the ins and outs of the trivia competition staged annually by student-run radio station WWSP-90FM, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, the detail that inspired the greatest surprise is the ready availability of resources. It’s natural to equate the exercise in retrieving obscure facts to widely known quantities, like Jeopardy! or bar trivia, in which checking an outside source is the most grievous cheating. In truth, my beloved Trivia is more of a research contest, measuring skilled rapidity at Google searching and book scanning as much as any purely cognitive ability.

The exception is the “Unplugged” version of the contest, staged through the fall in various Wisconsin cities to raise funds for local nonprofit organizations. Participants — including many who also engage in the marathon extravaganza every April — gather for a few hours in a space with no reference materials, be they printed or online. It tests a wholly different set of talents, and I’m please to report my teammates do as well or better in the from-the-noggin-only version.

Undone by a conspiracy of geography, it took me many years before I was able to personally participate in this glorious spinoff. But I well remember one of the earliest years of the event, because I was getting updates via the phone from reveling cohorts were taking a break from the competition floor and were therefore allowed to use their communication technology. They did their level best to recount questions to me, a feat in their state of tippled joyousness.

The question that sticks with me from that night, relayed to me as I stood in the autumn chill outside my evening workplace, was roughly this: What is the name of the magazine that annually bestowed the J. Fred Muggs Awards? As someone who spent his youthful years a little too obsessed with a certain weekly slab of broadcast listings, I immediately knew the answer was TV Guide.

At that moment, I knew I needed to join my raucous crew at Trivia Unplugged someday. It would happen, and it would be as grand as I expected. It would also be deeply humbling at times. But that’s a story for later in the week.

 

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.

Trivia Answer of the Day: North Oconomowoc Ocelots

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. Or rather, in past year. Every one of these answers figured in the 2016 edition of the contest.

maddie

There are times when participating in the The World’s Largest Trivia ContestTM may call upon an individual to consume media they might otherwise avoid — or perhaps to which they’d be entirely oblivious. Those ventures might include the woolier reaches of television scheduled pitched at those craving entertainment after a hard week of middle school. Usually, I’ve personally approached those program options with only glancing attention. There is an exception, though — a program that I have watched with uncommon devotion. I am prepared to confess that I have seen every last second of Liv and Maddie.

Why would I tune in religiously to exploits of twins Olivia and Madison Rooney, both played by Dove Cameron? The answer is simple: it is improbably set in Steven Point, Wisconsin, the small, Midwestern college town that is home of the radio station and Trivia. Surely, this show was destined to have questions asked from it.

For many years during its recently-completed four season run, Liv and Maddie did not feature in the contest, to my aching frustration. And yet I kept watching, dutifully recording information and becoming far more well-versed in the romantic travails of these young women who are sisters by chance but friends by choice, as well as the misfit adventures of the entire Rooney clan.

The drought ended last year, as my extensive Liv and Maddie learning finally came into play. I’m hardly the only Trivia player to figure out that the Disney Channel program required attention, so there were not rafts of points to be had for noting that it was the North Oconomowoc Ocelots who were defeated by the Ridgewood High girls basketball team in the Wisconsin state championships. It didn’t matter. No matter the value of the question, asked late in the fifty-four-hour contest, it was a glorious moment. And the triumph was, as the song says, better in stereo.

 

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.

Trivia Answer of the Day: Dave Grusin, “Night-Lines”

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. Or rather, in past year. Every one of these answers figured in the 2016 edition of the contest.

night lines

The World’s Largest Trivia ContestTM officially gets underway on Friday night at 6:00p.m., when “Born to Be Wild” is played, the rules are read, and the first question (inevitably with the answer “Robert Redford”) kicks off fifty-four straight hours. Realistically, though, things begin in earnest when teams register earlier in the week and get their hands on the New Trivia Times, a rulebook that includes a least two dozen pictures of indeterminate origin. Team don’t know what specifically will be asked. They just need to figure out as much as they can about the black-and-white images scattered across the publication’s pages.

Invariably, there are a few we can’t figure out, but there’s always the hope of a clue showing up in the eventual question. When we’re holding an answer that we believe no one else knows, the added identifiers in the question can be heartbreaking. Sometimes, we’re counting on the bolstering details to come across the speakers.

Last year, we spent the whole week agonizing over a a strange image, clearly cropped from a larger landscape that would provide more telling information. It was a hand holding a strange glowing object, roughly shaped like a cylinder. There were spikes of some sort coming in from one side.

Once the question rolled around in the contest, there was indeed some supplemental material in the phrasing, letting us know that it was from an album cover. Better yet — and somewhat atypically — the question added that the album was from a fusion jazz artist.

Our Trivia contest is more of a research challenge than anything else, and my sizable team — knowing there was only six to eight minutes available to call in an answer — charged to it. As someone who has done his time as the Jazz Music Director at the campus radio station loudly listed fusion jazz artists, directing us like a football coach, everyone frantically searched, scouring discographies presented through album covers. Late in our allotted time, the correct answer was found: Dave Grusin’s Night-Lines. With seconds left, we successfully called in the answer. It wound up earning us more points than we managed any other single question during the contest.

Best of all, the experience of hunting for that answer recalled the days of the contest before the internet put everything at our racing fingertips, when knowledge and brainstorming could yield major victories. It may seem silly to those well outside of the experience, but it was a potent example of the sheer pleasure in being part of an utterly fantastic team.

 

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.

 

Trivia Answer of the Day: Zeke and Luther

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. Or rather, in past year. Every one of these answers figured in the 2016 edition of the contest.

zeke

While The World’s Largest Trivia ContestTM is dominated by the kind of topics that would be immediately recognizable and comfortable to anyone who has spent time conjuring up answers at the quiz night at their favorite purveyor of adult beverages, there are a few peculiarities. For instance, I’m not sure how many other major trivia battles devote quite so much time to the vagaries of print advertising. But the commerce come-ons that make magazines fiscally viable — if just barely — are invoked a lot in our endeavor.

We’ve tried different methods of gathering relevant print ad Trivia fodder over the years, including, for a time, heading to the local Barnes & Noble to raid their magazine shelves and feverish take notes on the material is as many titles as we could, trying to stay at least one step ahead of irritated staff members asking us, “Are you going to buy any of those?”

We write things down so we don’t have to remember things. That’s how our contest works. So when a question came across the speakers last year, urging players to call up and identify the television show once promoted in print advertising with the phrase “Skate. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.,” I immediately assumed it would require skillful web-hunting to retrieve the answer. Instead, someone around our assembled tables announced we had it.

There it was, in six-year-old notes: Zeke and Luther. Like yesterday’s “Trivia Answer of the Day,” the question wasn’t worth a dazzling amount of points. But having long-gone effort paying off in an answer held its own satisfaction.

 

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.