Friday, July 31, 2015

Regarding quizzes . . . .

Ah, the Sherlockian quiz. From almost the first breath of two Cro-magnon Sherlockians meeting, they were testing each others knowledge upon the Canon of Sherlock Holmes. It is an abominable practice, one I doubt would have come about so quickly had the original Baker Street Irregulars been an all-female troop -- geek testosterone has been known to enter into it. And yet it persists, and yet even those of us who know better find ourselves drawn in once more, handing over the reins of our happiness to the domination of some quiz-ruler.

Do I seem a little bitter about the quizzes? Ask a devout ex-smoker how they feel about cigarettes, and you might get a similar reaction. For the Sherlockian quiz and I . . . oh, we have danced.

One of the worst occasions came early in my career at a local club meeting, where our every meeting featured a test upon one of the tales. I had determined to go home in the winner's role that night, so I had memorized every noun in the story, and a great many of the adjectives and verbs. And when the quizzing was done, I had scored one hundred percent. My trusted companion, the good Carter, had studied alongside me, and also scored one hundred percent. And the notorious cat-man, Ed Connor, who had apparently also decided this was his night, scored one hundred percent. During the rounds of tie-breaker questions that followed, the good Carter fell from the winning ranks, but Ed and I continued, tie-breaker after tie-breaker, not missing a question, until all the club members were bored to tears and it was apparent there was nothing in the story we did not know. The winner was awarded by random coin toss or some other such meaningless gesture.

And then there was one of the greatest Sherlockian quiz tournaments the world has ever seen, the Shaw Bowl in Kansas City, where Sherlockian societies from all across the land competed with teams of three in elimination matches. The final round saw Peoria's Hansoms pitted against the Stranger's Room from New York and the Norwegian Explorers from Minnesota, and as the round progressed, Quizmaster Shaw actually ran out of questions. In a make-do attempt to finish the tournament, he opened the Canon to a particular story and began tossing out questions from that story . . . a tale that happened to be the basis for the recited ritual of a club one of the Stranger's Room team members belonged to. As the Explorers first fell away, and then my own team, I remember there being some bitterness, alcohol, and rude behavior later stemming from that loss. (Though I won't say from whom or just what, in case I was among the guilty.)

And now comes "The Annual John H. Watson Canonical Treasure Hunt" and I find myself back in the thick of Sherlockian quiz world tomorrow. I had been asked to help with a particular question or two in years past by a participant or two who shall remain nameless, and then I remember the questions being particularly tormenting. And I think I heard that Regina Stinson is on a team, a quiz-taker extraordinaire whom I have never beaten at the massive quizzes they used to have in Dayton (and perhaps still do . . . I've been away a while).

Not exactly sure how the game is played, but it all starts at noon tomorrow and I'll be taking a "hare" approach from the Aesop's fable . . . though not by choice. Due to a particular event at my job, my time won't be my own until three and then the latest Mission: Impossible movie may have me for another two hours. But such is my hare-like confidence that I'll let others have a head start (Sorry, team-mates -- didn't look at the schedule when I said "yes.")

Will this go-round end in joy, or more alcohol and rude behaviour?

Or perhaps finally going the route of the Occupants of the Empty House, and swearing off quizzes forever. We shall see.

1 comment:

  1. You'll enjoy it, Brad, but it will take days (maybe weeks) to complete. It's not your typical quiz. I was on the winning team last year with several members of The Sound of the Baskervilles. My dear friend Don Libey (our late "Buttons" of the JHWS) constructed that 150-question Hunt, and even though he was a dear friend, our team could not always maintain generous feelings toward him during the Hunt.

    This year, I was honored to help one of my teammates, Margie Deck, in the production of the Hunt, though I merely played Watson to her Holmes, marveling at her questions, acting as her sounding board, and helping her edit and hone the wording in places. I am not myself luminous, but hopefully she found me an adequate conductor of light.

    This year there are only 100 questions, but they are elegantly done. Margie brings an ingenious sophistication to the Hunt. She is not known as "The Pawky Puzzler" for nothing! Happy Hunting!