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Help me make them think
March 14, 2011 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Please give me your favourite trivia questions that really make you think and scratch your head.

I run a pub / general knowledge / trivia quiz every few weeks for a mixed group (nationality-wise). One type of question everybody enjoys are the ones that have a definite answer but take a fair bit of thinking to get to, such as "In theory what is the minimum number of strokes needed to win a set in tennis?" or "What is the most likely number to throw with 2 dice?".

They need to be unambiguous and easy to explain without too many technical or country-specific terms - the quiz is in English but not everybody is a native speaker.
posted by jontyjago to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (44 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Counting both sides, how many grooves are there on the average vinyl LP record?

2
posted by Thorzdad at 9:30 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


"What is the greatest negative integer?" This usually throws people because they get confused by the apparent oxymoron of "greatest negative," and many people don't remember the definition of an integer. Some may even think that zero is negative.

So, what is the greatest negative integer?

-1
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:40 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Q: What is the maximum number of apps an iPhone running iOS 4 can display?

A: 2149.
Logic: 11 pages of apps * 16 folders/page * 12 apps/folder PLUS you can have folders for the 4 "anchor" apps at the bottom of each page, so add 4 * 12, which gets you to 2160.
HOWEVER, there's no way to create the last folder on the last screen, because you don't have two icons to drop onto one-another. So subtract 11 from 2160 to get you to the final answer of 2149.

I think I am correct in my logic that there would be no way to create that final folder, but would love to get confirmation...
posted by Ike_Arumba at 10:01 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Find some type of neon light and put it in the room, innocuously if possible.

Put a glass of water/beer (or whatever) on the counter. "There are four states of matter - all are represented in this room. The glass is a solid. The water/beer is a liquid. The air we breathe is a gas. Point out the fourth."

The answer is the plasma in the neon light. There are other examples of plasma in everyday items but thats an obvious one.
posted by elendil71 at 10:24 AM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


What is the only city in the US which has 3 professional sports teams (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS) that all share the same colors?

Pittsburgh. Black & Gold (based off the flag of Pittsburgh)
posted by patrad at 10:25 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Define trivia. Is it really something that makes you think? Or is it just, well, trivial?

Q: From the TV show "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis", what was Maynard G. Kreb's middle name?

A: Walter. The "G" is silent.

Q: Why is trivia called trivia?

A: Tri = 3, via = Latin for roads. In ancient times, old codgers would sit at the junction of three roads and watch life pass by. When life wasn't passing, they'd quiz each other on small matters of life. The questions assume the name of the intersections - tri via.

(No, I don't think this second one is true, either, but like a lot of trivia, you can make up your own answer and see how far it gets you. The site funtrivia.com actually reports something close to this answer.)
posted by Man with Lantern at 10:30 AM on March 14, 2011


Q: Into what body of water does the western end of the Panama Canal open?

A: The Caribbean Sea. (Most people don't realize that the Central American peninsula makes such an S shape that the Canal runs from the Caribbean in the NW to the Pacific in the SE.)
posted by nicwolff at 10:33 AM on March 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Q: What is the world's largest lake?

A: The Caspian Sea.
posted by Gilbert at 10:37 AM on March 14, 2011


@Ike_Arumba You can create the last folder in iTunes. And actually, you can keep installing apps beyond that number, they just don't show up on any screen. You can still find them using spotlight though, if you know they are there.
posted by langeNU at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Q: If a couple have two children, and one of them is a girl, what are the odds that the other child is a boy?

A: 2/3, or 66.7%.

Explanation: There are four equally likely ways to have two children: Two boys, older boy and younger girl, older girl and younger boy, and two girls. The information that one child is a girl eliminates the first (two boys), leaving three equally likely scenarios, two of which include a boy.
posted by rocket88 at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Q: How much does a cloud 1 kilometer long and 1 kilometer high weigh?
A: 2.2 billion pounds (cite)
posted by stoneweaver at 11:40 AM on March 14, 2011


Q. What US state has the longest name?

A. The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
posted by Leezie at 11:42 AM on March 14, 2011


Which two countries that share a land border have the greatest distance between their capitals?

Moscow, Russia and Pyongyang, North Korea
posted by chrisulonic at 11:50 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Q: If you head due south from Detroit, Michigan, what is the first country you come to?

A: Canada.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:53 AM on March 14, 2011


Q. What is the minimum set of coins you need (quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies) to definitely be able to have exact change (any value between $0.01 and $0.99)?

A. 3 quarters, 2 dimes, 1 nickel, 4 pennies.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:56 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Q: If a couple have two children, and one of them is a girl, what are the odds that the other child is a boy?

A: 2/3, or 66.7%.

Explanation: There are four equally likely ways to have two children: Two boys, older boy and younger girl, older girl and younger boy, and two girls. The information that one child is a girl eliminates the first (two boys), leaving three equally likely scenarios, two of which include a boy.
posted by rocket88


Age isn't mentioned in the question, so the real answer would be %50.

Older girl and younger boy and younger girl and older boy are the same as far as this "bit of trivia" goes.

That being said, I love Elendil71's demonstrative question about the four states of matter.

I hate indefinite questions, such as: Which number is larger, the possible permutations of a snowflake or the number of atoms in the universe? If you can't tell me the answer to either one, how the hell is this a trivia question?

/personal rant
posted by Sphinx at 12:06 PM on March 14, 2011


Based on new info from langeNU, I submit the following updated iPhone app trivia question:

Q: What is the maximum number of apps an iPhone running iOS 4 can display?

A: 2160.
Logic: 11 pages of apps * 16 folders/page * 12 apps/folder PLUS you can have folders for the 4 "anchor" apps at the bottom of each page, so add 4 * 12, which gets you to 2160.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2011


How many pieces need to be correctly placed to solve a Rubik's Cube?

Answer: 20. (The centers are all fixed and cannot move in relation to each other, thus 8 on the bottom layer, 8 on the top, and 4 middle layer edges).
posted by yeti at 12:15 PM on March 14, 2011


The ones I've marked best answer are the ones that will work best for me given the audience, but I love 'em all - keep 'em coming!
posted by jontyjago at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2011


If you shoot a bullet from a gun and just drop a bullet from the same height at exactly the same time which hits the ground first?

They both hit the ground at the same time.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:45 PM on March 14, 2011


Age isn't mentioned in the question, so the real answer would be %50.

Older girl and younger boy and younger girl and older boy are the same


It would be 50% if age was mentioned. If you treat G/B and B/G as "the same" then the scenarios are no longer equally likely.

Anyway: here's another: Counting the four major North American sports leagues, NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL; on what two days of the year are no games played?

A: The day before and the day after the baseball All-Star game.
posted by rocket88 at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2011


Q: What is the time zone at the South Pole?
A: New Zealand Time (to be specific, NZST, GMT+12, April-September; and NZDT, GMT+13, September-April.)

Rationale: All flights to and from the US's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station have their other terminus at McMurdo Station, in the NZ-claimed region of Antarctica. McMurdo in turn is supplied from Christchurch.

(For a bit more thought, and perhaps a better defined answer, simply ask, "what time is it right now at the South Pole?")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:47 PM on March 14, 2011


If there is a time limit here is a good one: What is the sum of every number between 1 and 100 inclusive. There is a quick way to figure this out and that is to add numbers so they equal 100. E.g. 1+99, 2+98, etc. Clearly there are 49 of those times 100 = 4900. Then you also have the final 100 so it is 5000. Plus 50 because it has no mate, ending at 5050.

Re the states of mater question: There are other states of mater, see here. I suppose though that people would either be unaware of the other states or be able to figure out your intent.
posted by d4nj450n at 1:00 PM on March 14, 2011


Taken from a Final Jeopardy "answer" in the past week or two:

Q: Which countries have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics?
A: United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

(The Final Jeopardy answer was phrased as "Three of the six countries that have..." You can make it more or less difficult depending on how many countries you require.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:21 PM on March 14, 2011


In a game with no balls thrown and no fielded outs (ie: all outs are strike-outs), what's the fewest number of pitches thrown in a 9-inning game of baseball.

154. 82 pitches by the Away team (3 strikes per out x 3 outs x 9 innings +1 pitch thrown as a home run) + 72 pitches by the Home team (3 strikes per out x 3 outs x 8 innings).
posted by yeti at 1:35 PM on March 14, 2011


One more easy one:

How many legal moves are there to open a game of chess?
Answer: 20 (2 for each pawn & 2 for each Knight)
posted by yeti at 1:36 PM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Q: What happend on September 3rd, 1752 in London?

A: Absolutely nothing. There was no September 3rd, 1752 in the British Empire. Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 and synchronizing the new dates required the dropping of 11 days. September 2nd was followed by September 14th.

Which two countries that share a land border have the greatest distance between their capitals?

Awesome question! What about the reverse:

Q: What two countries that do not share a border have the shortest distance between their capitals?
A: Don't know. I'm thinking it's Finland and Estonia.

And your question reminded me of:

Q: What country has the most time zones (ignore colonies and protectorates and deal with the country proper)?
A: Russia
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:33 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Q: What is the most number of pitches a batter can face in a single at-bat if he hits no foul balls?

A: 11. Call this batter player A. This happens in the scenario where there is a man (say player B) on base with 2 outs. He can take 2 strikes and 3 balls while up to bat. Then player B tries to steal or something, and is thrown out, retiring the side. When player A's side comes up again, it is still his turn at the plate, and it is considered the same at-bat, since there was no "resolution" when he was at the plate previously. Then, player A can take 2 strikes and 3 balls this time, followed by one final pitch (which he either hits, strikes on, or is a ball) for a total of

2 + 3 + 2 + 3 + 1 = 11 pitches.

NB: we say "no foul balls", otherwise he can face infinite pitches by just fouling off every pitch.
posted by King Bee at 2:34 PM on March 14, 2011


I also like (sort of going off of yeti's thing) asking for the fewest number of pitches a pitcher can throw if he throws every pitch for his team in a single game.

The answer is 25.

He needs to be on the visiting squadron. His team is inept, and scores no points through all 9 innings.

For the first seven innings, say our pitcher throws a single pitch to a batter, and the batter is thrown out at first every time. This accounts for 21 pitches. In the eighth, the first guy up hits a home run on the first pitch thrown to him, then the next three batters act just as they were in the first seven innings; one pitch, one out.

The home team doesn't come up to bat in the ninth, because they are winning 1-0. Thus, our pitcher doesn't come to the mound again, and he has pitched every pitch for his team, throwing 21 + 4 = 25 pitches.
posted by King Bee at 2:39 PM on March 14, 2011


Q. Which major league baseball player who was a regular pitcher hit the most home runs, and how many did he hit?

A. Babe Ruth, 714. (He broke in as a pitcher and had 99 wins.)
posted by KRS at 3:41 PM on March 14, 2011


More baseball: How many different legal ways can a player on offense get to first base?

A: Ten.

1. Hit
2. Walk
3. Hit by Pitch
4. Fielder's Choice
5. Reached on Error
6. Dropped Third Strike
7. Catcher's Interference (hindering the batter while in the batter's box)
8. Fielder's Obstruction (hindering the batter while he is running to first base)
9. Going in as a Pinch Runner
10. Overturned Out Call
posted by rocket88 at 4:47 PM on March 14, 2011


Yeti,
The home team always pitches more in that situation, not the away team.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:41 PM on March 14, 2011


Question: There are 10 nations that have a name that is 4 letters long. Can you name all 10?

Answer: Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Mali, Fiji, Chad, Togo, Laos, Oman, Peru
posted by clair-de-lune at 7:06 PM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Q: There are x many nations with a hyphen in their name?

A: 1 (that I know of) - Guinea-Bissau (there may be more)
_______________________________

Q: What is the common name for the chemical trimethylxanthine?

A: Caffeine
_______________________________

Q: What is the minumum number of moves necessary to checkmate your opponent in chess?

A: I think its 2, but I may be wrong.
posted by robotot at 8:01 PM on March 14, 2011


You forgot Niue in your list of 4 letter countries
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niue
posted by tiburon at 9:26 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you head directly south from the southern tip of Greenland, which country do you hit first?
posted by tiburon at 9:26 PM on March 14, 2011


Name the 5 Cy Young Award winners who are convicted felons
posted by tiburon at 9:26 PM on March 14, 2011


From 1912 to 1933, the 10-foot high mound known as "Duffy's Cliff" stood in front of which New England Landmark?

Who is Barbara Millicent Roberts?
Hint: She has 39 pets

Category: "Technology"
What do the following countries have in common? .hk .id .ie .in .jp
.mz .nz .pk .uk .za

According to a 2009 CDC report, what are the 2 most-smoked cigarette brands among US middle and high schoolers?

Name the 4 Div I football teams that have never played a lower-division school.

Which Baltimore Oriole admitted to writing the words "Fuck Face" on the bat with which Billy Ripken appeared on his 1989 Fleer baseball card?

What were the only 2009 car models with bench seats in the front?

What is the current world record for holding an Iron Cross (duration)?

What is the largest city in the US without a professional sports franchise?

What drug's name is derived from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation?
posted by tiburon at 9:38 PM on March 14, 2011


King Bee.......... "followed by one final pitch (which he either hits, strikes on, or is a ball)".......or gets hit by the pitch.
posted by Taurid at 10:59 PM on March 14, 2011


Supposedly there's as many as 23 ways to get to first base. There was even an ESPN book which based its title on that. My favorite is the runner on first who's not able to participate in a resumed game, and thus is replaced by another runner.

Which Baltimore Oriole admitted to writing the words "Fuck Face" on the bat with which Billy Ripken appeared on his 1989 Fleer baseball card?

I think the better question would simply be, "What's written on his bat?"

The "2 days of the year with no game" might be my favorite sports trivia question, but that was taken.

This was brought up in a previous thread, but it goes, "What do Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr have in common?" You could also add Sutcliffe to that group, but not Best or Preston.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:18 AM on March 15, 2011


Oh, here's another one that drove me nuts, and even more so after I found out the answer... What comes in the row after this sequence? (It probably helps to read it out loud)

1
11
21
1211
111221
312211
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:38 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Q: Name the two doubly landlocked countries (i.e. countries surrounded only by other landlocked countries).

A: Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan.
posted by ocha-no-mizu at 10:03 AM on March 15, 2011


Q. What is the minimum set of coins you need (quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies) to definitely be able to have exact change (any value between $0.01 and $0.99)?

A. 3 quarters, 2 dimes, 1 nickel, 4 pennies.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:56 PM on March 14 [1 favorite +] [!]


Um, I think there's a better answer here.

3 quarters, 1 dime, 2 nickels and 4 pennies.

Both of our answers add up to 10 coins, but your set of coins has a value of $1.04 and mine has a value of $0.99, so I think mine better meets the criteria of a "minimum set of coins".
posted by marsha56 at 6:44 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are three movies that have won all five of the major Oscar categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay. Name one/two/three of them (depending on difficulty level of the quiz).

Answer: It Happened One Night, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Silence of the Lambs
posted by soonertbone at 7:21 PM on March 16, 2011


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