Everybody’s got to lose sometime

It was fun while it lasted.

I made it all the way to Match Day 12 of LearnedLeague Season 56 before losing a match, exceeding my initial expectations by roughly a factor of 11. The fact that my opponent on MD12 “drank the beer” — answering all six of the day’s questions correctly — made my first loss inevitable, given that I only went four-for-six. (My opponent, a six-time Jeopardy! champion and 2010 Tournament of Champions finalist, will run the table frequently, I suspect.)

Let’s review the set of questions that wrought my first crushing defeat.

  • Question 1: The 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning Master of the Senate, by Robert Caro, is the third volume of a mammoth biography of what American?
  • Question 2: The 32-song soundtrack to what film, released in July 1994 and filled with American artists such as Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, The Mamas & the Papas, Bob Seger, and Aretha Franklin, peaked at #2 on the Billboard chart, and was ultimately certified 12x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America?
  • Question 3: The only blemish in what thoroughbred racehorse’s 21-race career was a place at the 1919 Sanford Memorial Stakes in Saratoga Springs, New York, behind a horse named, appropriately enough, Upset?
  • Question 4: The scientific field of nuclear physics was born, one could argue, in 1896, when radioactivity was discovered by what Frenchman, for which he shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with his doctoral student Marie Sklodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre?
  • Question 5: Name the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran who was ousted in August of 1953, in a coup d’État orchestrated by intelligence agencies of the United States and United Kingdom.
  • Question 6: What is the most common term in mathematics for the type of number that is the sum of a real number and an imaginary number, typically expressed as x + iy, where i is the square root of negative 1?

Got your answers ready?

Okay then, let’s check them off.

Answer 1: A fair chunk of my pleasure reading consists of biographies. Although I’ve never read any of the books in Robert Caro’s series on President LYNDON JOHNSON, I’ve certainly heard of them. Caro is probably one of the three or four best-known biographers of this era, and he’s won pretty much every award that one can win for writing such books. Although, why anyone would want to write four thick volumes about LBJ (with a fifth and final still to be published) is beyond me.

Answer 2: I have a difficult time remembering numbers — I have to look up our home phone number every time I order a pizza — but the two categories of numbers I do well with are the sequence of U.S. Presidents and the release years for movies. The key to this question is the year the film was released — 1994. The two biggest Hollywood hits of that year were Disney’s The Lion King, whose soundtrack consists of several now-famous show tunes written by Elton John and Tim Rice, and FORREST GUMP, whose soundtrack boasts a wealth of classic rock songs. Clearly, the latter was the correct response here.

Answer 3: Here’s another of those questions for which The Daughter, a horse-racing aficionado, would never forgive me if I didn’t know the answer. It’s also a familiar etymology factoid. One of racing’s most legendary horses, MAN O’ WAR, lost his only match against a little-regarded challenger named Upset. Prior to this event, the word “upset” only meant “angry” or “irritated.” Afterward, sports fans started referring to an overwhelming favorite’s loss to an underdog as “pulling an Upset,” and the word gained a new meaning — one that’s almost as common in usage today as its original ones.

Answer 4: This is where the first wheel fell off for me. I know about the Curies, of course — Marie Curie remains to this day the only individual to win Nobel Prizes in two different fields of science. (A frequently handy nugget of trivia, that.) But the name of her mentor? I hadn’t a clue. After assuring myself that this snippet of information wasn’t in my memory banks anywhere, I typed in the name of the only French scientist from the relevant time period that I could think of — Louis Pasteur. Yes, I know Pasteur had nothing to do with radioactivity, but at least I filled in the blank. My esteemed opponent, conversely, had no difficulty in coming up with HENRI BECQUEREL, whom I might have thought invented one of the mother sauces in French cuisine.

Answer 5: There’s only one reason I knew this. Just last weekend, the Pirate Queen and I finally got around to viewing Argo, the reigning Best Picture Oscar winner. Without that very recent hot dip into modern Iranian history, I’d have never known that the Shah’s predecessor was the duly elected MOHAMMAD MOSSADEGH. I still didn’t know how the man’s surname was spelled, but the Commissioner of LearnedLeague took pity on me and gave me credit for a correct response despite the mangling.

Answer 6: I probably shouldn’t admit this in print, but my future opponents will quickly figure it out anyway: Math is not my element. I need the calculator on my iPhone to figure out the tip on a restaurant check. Algebra and other higher mathematics? Please. When I see a question with an equation in it, like this one, my eyes glaze over. I put down one of the terms floating about randomly in my skull — irrational number — which proved to be incorrect. (I felt better after learning that my response was the most common wrong answer to this question. At least a number of other players knew as little about math as did I.) My esteemed opponent, who apparently has no gaping holes in his knowledge base, accurately identified the correct answer as COMPLEX NUMBER. Me, I only have a complex about numbers.

Having been soundly thumped for the first time in LearnedLeague, I’m off to lick my wounds. But before I dash, here’s a bit of bonus trivia for you:

What was the name of the British one-hit wonder whose song title I parodied in the heading of this post?

The first person to answer correctly in the comments wins… well… nothing material. But I’ll give you my undying admiration, which you’ll have to admit is priceless.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Jeopardy!, LearnedLeague, Listology, SwanStuff, That's Cool!, Trivial Pursuits

One Comment on “Everybody’s got to lose sometime”

  1. Rob Barker Says:

    I don’t think you need to LEARN much, matey.


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