tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
2012-12-04 06:53 pm

Learned League, Mid-Season Review

It's day thirteen of Learned League Season 55. With 12 matches behind me, twelve before me, and one currently pending, I thought I'd take a look at what's been going on.

Learned League is an online trivia contest that features head-to-head competition: everybody gets the same questions on a given day, but you are matched up with a single player, and your success is measured solely against theirs. To make it more interesting, you decide on what points your opponent will receive for correct answers (and vice versa), so even if you answer fewer questions, you might still win on points, if the ones you got right were the ones your opponent thought were the hardest.

(More info: Learned League FAQ)

Normally, players are grouped into "rundles" based on performance in previous seasons, so you can expect that the folks you are facing are at about your same level of triviality. Rookies, however, get lumped together in a big groups, resulting in battles of widely different levels. And this year, I'm a rookie.

Numbers Racket

Here are the stats for my rundle (and here are my stats, registration required). I'm currently in 11th place of 30 with a record of 7 wins, 4 losses, and 1 tie; but at my height a few days ago, I was in 4th. In the two matches since then, I've been really unlucky (on Friday, I could only get one answer right, and received zero points for it), but it looks like I'll be up against softer opponents for a little bit, so I should be able to make up more ground.

One thing that's been bugging me is that I've got a slightly-harder-than-average draw, especially in this first half. There are 25 matches, but 30 players in my rundle, leaving five people I won't face. And all five of those are currently ranked in the bottom half. And I've mostly been facing harder opponents thus far. (I am currently tied at #1 for "Correct Answers Allowed" which is a general indicator of how strong one's opponents have been.) You may notice I've been entranced by statistics, particular. Every day, I import the updated stats into an Excel sheet, so I can see my past and future matches color-coded against the median.

Similarly Erratic Results

After two days of competition, I tweeted:
My first [ profile] LearnedLeague 6 pack comes after a painful loss on day 1. I expect similarly erratic results from now on.
It's turned out to be a good prediction. A 6-pack is, of course, getting all the questions correct on a given day, a relatively rare occurrence in all but the higher echelons of the league. But beyond that, well, see above.

A lot of my success comes from managing to craft good guesses based on the context of clues, rather than being certain of particular knowledge. It can be frustrating, especially when a guess (or two! (or three!!)) goes slightly off. When I first played a live version of this game, it was against a group of pretty serious folks (the NPL), and I left feeling like nothing was in my control, which put me off of the league for a while. But the prospect of settling into a nice matched group is pretty appealing, so I'm eager to finish this season.

Play Along at Home

The LL website has been slowly developing, and now it's really well designed for playing along even if you're not registered. After the day's match is over, the website is updated with the questions and how well all the players did, with the answers concealed by a script. Here are the first day's questions (you can reach other days by using the "Match Day 2" arrow near the top of the page, or by choosing from the calendar on the main page). Individual questions have their own pages with detailed breakdowns of accuracy, the most common wrong answers, and the "best wrong answers." For example, here is Question 3 of Day 9:
The work of what 19th c. English engineer and mathematician on what he called a Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, which are considered today among the first mechanical computers, has earned him the moniker "Father of the Computer"?
Forty-eight percent of players answered correctly; the most common wrong answer was "Charles Turing" at 11%, and the best wrong answers were Charles Widmore, Dr. Emmett Brown, Sir William Computer, and Sir Nigel Speakandspell.

So far, some of my favorite questions have been:
Hey girl, who is the only former MMC (Mickey Mouse Club) Mouseketeer to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting? (Match Day 2, Question 6)

Identify this musical group. [Image] (Match Day 10, Question 2; be sure to look at the best wrong answers)

In the mid to late 1960s, author Arthur Hailey published two simply named novels, which each explored the operation and politics of a single specific location/establishment (different in each novel), and both of which inspired film adaptations (and one a television series). Name both novels. (Match Day 12, Question 6)
Previous seasons are available for review, too, though as you go back further, the display interface gets rougher. There are also themed "minileagues" and one-day competitions that go on between main seasons. One of the things that really excited me about joining the League was kibitzing on [ profile] thedan's hilarious collection of Before & After trivia, where each question contains two parts that merge together. (Ex: "Name the 1960s comedian who was famously convicted for obscenity based on live performances in which he demonstrated his original martial art, Jeet Kune Do." Answer: "Lenny Bruce Lee.") And if you know the answer to this question, you are officially an awesome person:
Name the fictional game show on which the host (played by Bill Murray) asked contestants to determine which of Lorenzo Lamas and Ricardo Montalban is more like WNYX station owner Jimmy James (as portrayed in his poorly translated autobiography).
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2004-07-21 06:15 am

No Va.

So, I've got to take the Metro home today because my car is still in the shop. I was lucky enough to catch a ride from [ profile] wjukknibs here, but I'm on my own the way back.

I keep meaning to write about the Arboretum trip, but I was . . . distracted today. Possibly after I get home, or possibly a bit after. For now, here are the answers to the Lyrics Thing. Go there first if you don't want to be spoiled. Sorry, but I don't have time to link to the lesser-known artists right now. Let the Google be yor frend.
    Here Be Titles )
I hope that clears everything up.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2004-07-18 06:30 am

Fallen Off the Bandwagon.

Hey, remember that meme? The one everyone did? The that involved shuffling your mp3 files and selecting your favorite lyric from the next twenty-five songs? The one I didn't do because I don't have an collection of mp3 files?

Well, I've decided to do it now, since my CD carrying case is packed with travelin' CDs. These are all CDs I know rather well, so I decided to pick my favorite single line from each. Guess at what song they're from, marvel at their poetry, boggle at their inaptness, I don't care. I just want to be one of the cool kids.
    Cut because the cool kids probably don't care anymore )
SunNYTX: 21.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2004-07-18 04:03 am

Of Boston and Beer.

I drank more beer while I was in Boston than I ever had in my life. Now, this isn't saying much. I'm not a big fan of beer, so I don't drink it. I much prefer the taste of a well-mixed cocktail. A Rum and Coke is usually pleasant, and there's nothing that can beat a Margarita mixed with good tequila and a whole lot of machismo. I know there's good beer out there, but since I don't drink often, there's really no point in going out and finding the few kinds that I like amid the amber waves of unappealing brew.

It's kind of like Country Music, in that way.

Anyway, the advantage of going to Boston was that there were lots of people who drank beer a lot and knew what was good. Chief among them was Beer Goddess Hathor who, in addition to giving tips on what to drink where, also brewed some fine beer herself. (She has a website [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""], though I have no idea where in there I'm supposed to look for a homepage.) And when all of the bars are closed, having personalized beer in a hotel room . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story behind the Pub Puzzle Crawl )

So, Monday evening. It was the first chance I got to see people NPLers, mostly locals. Since there were too many people to easily manage, some of them split off into a Ice Cream Puzzle Crawl through Boston. The puzzles, in this case, were provided on the fly by [ profile] tahnan and [ profile] thedan. Sadly, the Ice Cream Crawl had far fewer stops, since the participants got brainfreeze or something. The cool kids ([ profile] wesleyjenn, QED, Sprout, Sue++, Sir+, [ profile] joecab, [ profile] cazique, [ profile] heaneyland, Otherwise, D. Ness, ln sin t, Niff, Ucaoimhu, Artistry, [ profile] foggyb, Hathor, and I) went off and drank for seven hours.

I wish I could tell you more about the bars and the beers, but I can't, really. I know they were good, but since I don't have much experience with beer (for reasons detailed above), I couldn't really tell you why. I can't even recommend things because I was mostly echoing what other, more knowledgeable people were ordering. I can give you the itinerary [link removed; originally ""] of the crawl, since [ profile] foggyb has been kind enough to upload it. The itinerary also has most of the puzzles.

The puzzles were really well designed considering what they needed to do. They were simple and fun and rarely required too much thought. The KISS mentality showed up many places in this Con, to the benefit of all. Certainly, the NPL is not a group that will shy away from the obscure, the complex, the byzantine, or the difficult. But there's a lot more going on at a convention. There are things to see, people to talk to, games to play. You have to make sure that nothing gets to frustrating, or else solvers will start to wonder why you're wasting their time when they could be doing something else with someone else. (Also, of course, everything has to be solved without references.) In this case, the puzzles couldn't overstay their welcome, because people wanted to be able to drink and chat. Also, puzzles had to be specially coordinated so that they could be easily solved after drinking beer for several hours.

One of my favorite puzzles was one of the more complex ones: Boston Beer Works [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""]. It was an early puzzle, and one of the only ones where everyone dug in and did some pencil solving. What I enjoyed the most was that, although solvers were warned that the beer list incorporated into the puzzle was out of date, it still represented the menu very well. Pretty much everyone ordered their drinks off of the puzzle without really looking at the menus. I also sat near Cazique, QED, and the right shoulder of Sprout, triviaites all, who offered and solved variuos sports trivia questions.

At Bukowski's [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""], we settled in for the inevitable Pub Trivia [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""] game. The theme was "Dead Authors," since Bukowski's is the home of the Dead Authors' Club. (Although it wasn't explained then, I now know that some patrons of this bar undertake to sample every beer on the menu, though mercifully not on the same night. Those who succeed get mugs engraved with their names placed on the wall. And by "their names," I mean "the names of dead authors they choose.") I did predictably poorly, especially compared to some of the general knowledge hotshots. But still, I don't think the questions [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""] were balanced all that well. (I'll try to explain more about the balancing trivia, but it's a tough subject and I'll need a separate entry.) Anyway, the balance of the knowledge is definitely a nitpick in this situation. Everyone had fun, even when losing, which is much more important, and difficult to accomplish.

Also, while I was at Bukowski's, I recorded an Audblog. I'd say more about that, but I can't listen to it while I'm work.

The last puzzle I'll talk about is the one from Redbones. This is a fantastic puzzle, though you can't see it or solve it online. Go visit the redbones site, and you'll see lots of wonderful artwork. That original artwork is all over the downstairs barroom. It was the artwork that we were looking at back in January when we thought about a Pub Puzzle Crawl. And it was the artwork that made our last stop an Eyeball Benders-style extravaganza.

We got a huge pile of letters. Each letter seemed to have been cut out of the pictures along the walls. We had to locate, then put them in order according to their position around the room. It was great fun. This might seem a complex puzzle to deal with after seven hours of drinking, but I think that the lowering of the inhibitions helped us to take over the more-or-less empty room staring at pictures. Also, they had great dessert. And great meat. And good margaritas. (Wow, I didn't realize how out of it until I tried to remember it just now. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if someone there told me that I said, "I love you man! You're like my brother! My puzzle brother! Mi hermano de crucigramas!")

At some point at Redbones, I got a picture of QED, Sprout, Toonhead! and somebody's hair. You can see the wacky Redbones artwork, along with the cute and very helpful bartender who decided to be a semi-waitress even though she didn't have to be. Also, at some point earlier, I got a picture of [ profile] wesleyjenn and [ profile] heaneyland, probably in a T station somewhere.

After all of this, those of us who remained were directed by Foggy Blotto to the best beer in Boston. By this time, many of our crew had ducked out to return to their homes or the hotel. Thus, when I snapped a picture, en route to our final destination, only [ profile] foggyb, QED, Ucaoimhu, Hathor, Artistry, and [ profile] joecab. Sprout was also there, though he cannot be seen in this picture. As we staggered toward the terminus, Hathor tried to scare us by saying that once we were there, we were going to have to solve a cryptic crossword by Ucaoimhu, known for his labyrinthine crosswords that involving learning Sanskrit [link changed 8/13/11;"] or decoding Cuneiform [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""].

Well, the best beer in Boston turned out to be at Hathor's house. But the crossword turned out to be no empty threat. We were provided with two beers that were brewed specifically for this convention. (There was a third prepared beer, but it had been part of an auction, and thus, we were not allowed to drink it.) The labels were designed by [ profile] joecab, and as you can see, Hathor's threat turned out not to be empty.

And, with no more puzzles, we just kept drinking without puzzles.

And really, who needs the puzzles? )

I recorded an Audblog after one of these beer sessions. As I mentioned above, I can't relisten to it right now. But I'm pretty sure I talked about Toonhead!, aka [ profile] joecab. I may even have mentioned a picture.

See, I was "cosolving" [ profile] thedan's cryptic with [ profile] joecab very late one evening / very early one morning. I don't know why I thought attempting this was a good idea at all. [ profile] foggyb was there, and I he may have had a hand in convincing me, since it would have been very amusing for him. We actually managed to do rather well, though all together, we found a completely and utterly wrong answer to the end game of the cryptic.

At a certain point, after the grid had been filled and [ profile] foggyb and I had started puzzling through the final steps, [ profile] joecab crawled around us on the bed, then fell down. He didn't get up again. After a while, we noticed.

We took this as a sign of two things: (1) we should probably get out of his room, (2) we should probably take a picture and post it on the Internet.

And here it is:
Man, this Toonhead! guy should learn to hold his liquor better )
tablesaw: Katsuhiko Jinnai, from El Hazard (Jinnai)
2004-02-10 11:53 am

That Was Dumb.

I turned in my old invite codes to pay for an extra two months of paid time for [ profile] johnratite, but had two dollars left over. So, I used them to buy extra userpics for myself.

If I'd actually been thinking about the user pics, instead of focusing on getting full privileges back to my trivia game, I'd have given them away as a gift. I mean, what am I going to do with however many userpics they give?

About to head to bed. I do so with trepidation. I've been unable to sleep past 6 p.m. for the past week, for no discernable reason. Even yesterday, when I got to bed late at three, I woke up at 6:30 p.m. This ain't good.

Well, I've spent most of this weekend trying to sleep. Might as well spend a few more hours.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2004-01-03 08:10 am


It occurs to me that [ profile] johnratite and Mad Mod have quite a lot in common.

Dammit, though, I left my Ratite notes at work.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2004-01-01 12:44 pm

Answer Sheets and Winners

Appropriately enough, there were seven entries into Tablesaw's Christmas Trivia Bonanza, most of which were submitted in the last twenty-four hours. The answers have already been revealed, and here are the answer sheets of the players. For each question, the players are listed in order of their performance on that question. The player's score is given in the form: [Score for the question] / [Total correct answers for the question] ([Cumulative score]). The player's list follows, with correct answers in bold. My explanatory notes are given in [italicized brackets].

Question 1: The Bowls )
Question 2: White Christmas )
Question 3: Arctic Circle )
Question 4: Best-Selling DVDs )
Question 5: Hot Toys )
Question 6: Christmas Definitions )
Question 7: Genealogy of Jesus )
Question 8: Macy's Parade Balloons )

Final Scores )

Thanks and Congratulations to all who played. I'll be contacting the top three finishers to discuss your prizes (so that I don't send you something you already have). I hope you all are having a Happy New Year!
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2004-01-01 12:38 pm

Trivia Answers.

Before I tell you who won, here are the answer lists that I was working from:

All the Answers )

And those are all of the answers that I accepted. Now let's see how everyone did . . .
tablesaw: Katsuhiko Jinnai, from El Hazard (Jinnai)
2003-12-31 08:22 am

Do You Fear?

So far, there have only two people have entered the Christmas Trivia Bonanza. This means that they are going to get stuff, regardless of how well they did. Don't you think you can do better? Don't you think you have a chance at getting some cool swag from the puzzle-related gifts I purchased but ran out of people to give to? Check out the game and send me your answers and maybe you can win! Entries will be accepted by e-mail until tomorrow morning.

A while back, I said that I had a chance of getting a complete for the November issue of the Enigma. Whenever I said this (I can't find the entry), I believe it was true, although the chance hinged on me not abandoning the issue for several weeks and then trying to rush-solve it in the past three days. Oh well. I'll be lucky if I can knock off the new cryptic.

And I need to finish the last John Ratite entry of the year. Now.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2003-12-27 11:16 pm

Christmas Trivia Clarifications

In response to some questions about Tablesaw's Christmas Trivia Bonanza, I've made a few clarifying changes to the questions.

Question 1: On the NCAA website, bowls are listed without their sponsors (e.g., the Orange Bowl is listed as "Orange Bowl", not as "FedEx Orange Bowl." However, there are instances where the entire bowl name is the sponsor; in these cases, it is listed on the NCAA website as such (as in the fictional " Bowl").

Question 6: The Eleventh Edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has an additional entry with the word "Christmastime" in its definition and an additional entry with "Christmastide" in its definition. These entries will also be accepted, bringing the total of acceptable answers to twenty.

Question 7: The name that appears twice in the genealogy can only be used as an answer once.

Players who have already sent in answer sheets will not be negatively affected by these changes.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2003-12-26 11:27 am

Boxing Outside the Think.

It's Boxing Day, and I'm tired.

I'll do cursory posts about gifts when I'm feeling better.

At yesterday's family get-together, I ran a trivia contest that went well. A modified version will be put up here, probably later tonight.

For now, I'm a gonna sleep. One more Christmas festivity to attend tonight.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2003-11-24 07:51 am

Do You Dare Take Up the Challenge?

Sometimes, it's hard to explain puzzles to those unfamiliar with them. Unsurprisingly, Will Shortz, currently the only person with a degree in Enigmatology, has given a perfect answer in an interview for Wired Magazine:
Q: Why are we so drawn to puzzles?
A: We're faced with puzzles every day in life. What's the fastest way to run some errands? What's the lowest price we can get on home repair? Most problems we're faced with, we just do the best we can — we muddle through. We never know if it's the best solution or not. With a human-made puzzle, when you answer the challenge, you know you have a perfect solution. It's satisfying.
Perfect solutions. If you can understand that concept, you'd be a good member of the National Puzzlers' League.

I'll talk in depth about the party later, but first, I want to talk about something else I'm doing here. I mentioned the idea of holding an LJ trivia contest earlier, and I got a chance to talk with brilliant triva man T McAy at the party. He offered me some tips and encouragement, and so now I can proudly announce a journal designed specifically for such a trivia contest: [ profile] johnratite. Check out the announcement, and add the journal to your friends list to become a player. If you're reading this journal, want to play, and don't have a journal, contact me and I'll try to get you a code. (Note: I'll only distribute codes to people I know or who have been vouched for.) I'll probably get things started by the end of this weekend, using the Thanksgiving holiday to prepare the rules of play and such.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
2003-11-15 07:16 am


Work has been hammering me, and combined with recovering from vacation, I haven't had much time to tackle the items on my list. (Before you ask, [ profile] westernactor, Bounce is still low priority.) The Geek Challenge run by [ profile] shawnj has got me thinking that LJ might be a good medium for a John Ratite Trivia Contest. Next week, I'll be meeting T McAy, who presents Mr. Ratite's dementia to the Grey Labyrinth, so I'll ask him for some tips and see how it goes. (For those not willing to slog through the bulletin board, Ratite games are sort of a virtual game show, where contestants move from station to station answering themed trivia questions to open up more locations. Players get disqualified when they're trapped by strategic maneuvering of other players. The last survivor wins. A bit easier than the rush to get a new question under the deadline of the Geek Challenge.)

SatNYTX: 11:45. That's, like, really fast. Got 1A right off the bat, along with two of the 15s.
tablesaw: "The Accurate Tablesaw" (Accurate)
2003-11-14 08:43 am

Pursuing Trivia.

Does anyone among my readers know of a good online, multiplayer trivia game? Trivial Pursuit would be excellent, but any good facsimile will do. Unless I find one, [ profile] shadesong and I will be reduced to writing things like this until our next in-face meeting:

Wedge of the Pie )

FriNYTX: Don't know, the timer disappeared.