Sunday, August 16, 2015

Oh, torturous August!

At the end of last month, I wrote about my little bitterness with the Sherlockian quiz and past encounters with that devilish device. I thought I had seen the worst punishments a quiz could inflict. I thought there was no more damage a quiz could do.

I thought wrong.

Every other quiz I cited in that previous post had one thing in common: They were administered live and in person, and the quizmaster was forced to stay in the room for us for every minute that their tortures were going on. At the point the quizmaster could take it no more, time was called, and we were all free to win or lose and go on with our lives.

I've seen long-form tests of Sherlockian knowledge before with no time limit, administered by one entity or another with the inducement of some title or honorific bestowed by the quizmaster if one completed the test. Sherlockians who want to prove themselves are never in short supply, so such things do get done . . . eventually . . . and often with the help of every ally the test-taker can muster. But I've avoided those monsters, choosing to spend my time enjoying Sherlock Holmes in other fashions.

But as I wrote back in July, this year I thought "what the heck" and agreed to participate in the Annual John H. Watson Society Canonical Treasure Hunt, not fully considering the fact that the hundred-question quiz goes on for the ENTIRE MONTH OF AUGUST. And as one plays this game on a team, it's a little less conducive to just walking away . . . one can't let one's team down, can one?

My team has got most of the questions done, but now we're coming down to those vexing matters where one is just trying, not to test one's knowledge of the Holmes stories, but to just understand what the question-writer is getting at. And putting down PRECISELY THE RIGHT ANSWER. We've all been busy this month, so time is a hot commodity and one can only comb through a particular story so many times. And let's not even get into matters of editions.

Straight-forward questions have never been the staple of the most notable Sherlockian quiz. John Bennett Shaw was famous for tormenting attendees of his workshops with trick questions like "Case history of a character in Gone with the Wind" or "If baseball was played in southern England, the man who would 'call em' would be?" Shaw liked puns and word-play, and it helped to have a certain looseness of the mental faculties to pick up his train of thought. But, as I mentioned earlier, Shaw was usually there, giving you the answers within an hour or less, and letting you laugh at the places he'd tricked you.

Perhaps Shaw knew that Sherlockiana contains among its ranks some dangerous obsessive-compulsives who would gnaw at a puzzling bone for years on end, should you challenge them just so. So he didn't put out his quizzes WITH A MONTH LONG TIMELINE.

My fellow Peoria Sherlockian, Melissa Anderson, commented earlier that "my team could not always maintain generous feelings toward [the Treasure Hunt's previous quiz-master] during the Hunt," so I hope that she and Margie Deck, this year's interrogator, take my all-caps statements with the understanding that THEY'RE BEING MADE UNDER DURESS.

And this is just the mid-way point of August.

I should have known better. Truly, I should have.


  1. I don't do quizzes - like trivia - somebody with the answers wants to show you how smart they are.

    1. You are a wise man, sir. Wise indeed.

    2. Call me crazy, Brad, but I am doing it also. Ms. Deck really decked us with this one. However, I like rifling through the canon, but I am thinking of putting a few pock marks in my Doubleday. I'll keep going, though, till the very end. Cheers, JHWS Daisy/SOB Annie Harrison

    3. Oh, you're not crazy . . . not crazy at all! This quiz might push some of us over the brink, though!