Irritatingly picky pub quiz questions
May 23, 2018 4:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm assembling a selection of "Annoying Pub Quiz Questions". These are questions which sound like straight forward trivia questions, but hinge on a annoying quirk of phrasing. What examples of the genre can you think of?

A couple of examples:
How many people have been elected president of the USA? or
How many people have been president of the USA?
are both different questions to how many presidents of the USA have their been?
(41, 44 and 45 respectively, I think?)

Or:
How many miles (to the nearest 10) did Philleas Fogg travel in a hot air Balloon?

Which city is the official residence of the head of state of new zealand?
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Grab Bag (85 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm sure that something can be made of the number of Apollo astronauts on moon missions vs number that walked on the moon as a question like this.

One that came up in Trivial Pursuit was "What country was the Titanic nearest when she sank?" - the answer is Newfoundland, as the Dominion of Newfoundland didn't unite with Canada until after WW2.
posted by Vortisaur at 6:19 AM on May 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


What is the maximum number of strikeouts that can take place in an inning of baseball?

Wrong answers include 3 (if someone thinks of half inning instead of inning) 6 (if someone thinks of a full inning but not the dropped third strike rule) 10 (if someone thinks of a full inning *and* the dropped third strike rule but doesn't know about the second clause of the dropped third strike rule.)

The correct answer: There is no maximum. Some folks will know that a runner can attempt to advance to first base on a dropped third strike and if he makes it, no out is recorded. This allows for more that 3 strikeouts in a half inning. This rule only applies if first base is empty. However, if there are two outs, the rule applies again if there's a runner at first.

As such, once you get to two outs, it's theoretically possible (although incredibly unlikely) that a third strike could be dropped and all four runners could advance, and this could continue forever.

Citation
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:20 AM on May 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


How many Queens of England have there been?
v.
How many Queens have ruled England?
posted by threetwentytwo at 6:30 AM on May 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


For reference, I would definitely argue with you from the back of the pub if what you're suggesting is that Grover Cleveland counts as two different presidents of the USA.
posted by spielzebub at 6:31 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am. He does.
The current president is number 45. Grover Cleveland was 22 and 24.
Therefore 44 People have been president. But there have been 45 presidencies.
But now that I think of it that makes the answer to How many people have been elected president 40, not 41. Oops.

Though since these questions all rely on irritatingly picky details please feel free to criticise them, because I might well be wrong, and I need to have my facts at hand to defend them from angry quizzers.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:36 AM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


What you're looking for are basically "trick questions", right?
QI is probably a good source of these.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:39 AM on May 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


How many American presidents have Jefferson in their name? (3: Thomas J., William J. Clinton, and J. Davis -- I said American, not USA!)
posted by ubiquity at 6:42 AM on May 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


One question that killed at a pub trivia night a couple years back: "How many planets are there?" Of course, people thought it was a Pluto trick question, not a "um, there are a lot of planets" trick question.
posted by General Malaise at 6:42 AM on May 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


The current president is number 45. Grover Cleveland was 22 and 24.
Therefore 44 People have been president. But there have been 45 presidencies.


A president is a person. A presidency is a thing (belonging to a person). So while there may have been 45 presidencies, I think a person who held two of those is still one person, so there have been 44 presidents of the united states, and 44 is the number of presidents of the united states there have been. If you wanted to change that to "how many presidencies of the united states" have their been, then you can have your 45.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:50 AM on May 23, 2018 [8 favorites]


"How many golf balls did Neil Armstrong hit on the moon?" (Zero... Alan Shepard hit three.)
posted by bondcliff at 6:50 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


This one is a bit complicated, I'm afraid. A presidential term consists of 1461 days. A president might server fewer by dying in office or resigning, or replacing another president. What four presidents served shorter terms for OTHER reasons?
  • George Washington. His first term started two months late, for personal reasons.
  • FDR. He lost 43 days from his first term by the movement of Inaguration Day from March to January.
  • John Adams and William McKinley each lost one day from their first (and in Adams' case, only) term because 1800 and 1900 were not leap years.

posted by ubiquity at 6:52 AM on May 23, 2018


Where is the highest point in the Netherlands? Answer: on Saba, in the Caribbean Netherlands.
posted by boudicca at 6:57 AM on May 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


This one is a bit complicated, I'm afraid. A presidential term consists of 1461 days. A president might server fewer by dying in office or resigning, or replacing another president. What four presidents served shorter terms for OTHER reasons?

Surely whichever presidential terms covered by the leap-days that didn't happen in 1800 and 1900 would also have irregular terms.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:58 AM on May 23, 2018


It's not a picky or weirdly phrased one, but my friend's pub quiz team nearly got a perfect score a few weeks ago, but for one question: (lightly paraphrased, I wasn't there to hear it)

"How old was Carrie Fisher when she played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars?"

The correct answer is 19, as that was her age when she filmed her scenes in Spring/Summer 1976, and is also the age given in countless production sources and Fisher's own memoirs.

But their answer was 20, based on how old she was when the film was released in 1977.

It's absolutely based on a faulty understanding of multiple things (not the least of which is how much time it takes to produce a major motion picture), but a pub quiz setting wasn't the right time or place to get pedantic about this kind of thing, so it stood.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:59 AM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, this one may be too obvious: Which president received the smallest number of votes in a national election? Ford, who never ran in a national election. He never ran in any area larger than his congressional district (Michigan's 5th), where the most votes he received was 131,461.
posted by ubiquity at 7:00 AM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


On the leap day thing, I just realized that you could use it to write a much shorter question. Assuming the 1800 and 1900 presidents weren't irregular in any other way: A normal presidential term is 1461 days. Which two presidents have had terms of 1460 days?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:01 AM on May 23, 2018


"how many presidencies of the united states have their been"

I did think of that, and that may be the safer way to go, but Presidents are styled as the XXth President.
Obama is styled as "44th President of the United States"
Trump is styled as "45th President of the United States"
Cleveland is styled as "22nd and 24th President of the United States"

so.... not sure

anyway, I'll stop threadsitting now and go and do some work
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:01 AM on May 23, 2018


Surely whichever presidential terms covered by the leap-days that didn't happen in 1800 and 1900 would also have irregular terms.

Wasn't that my third bullet?
posted by ubiquity at 7:02 AM on May 23, 2018


Huh...missed that...my bad...Well, you can still write the simpler question about exactly 1 day shorter. I stop sitting in this thread, too. Sorry mods (and OP).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:04 AM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


World’s largest desert? Antarctica.
posted by whitewall at 7:14 AM on May 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Annoying one that came up on HQ the other night:

Who is the head of state of Canada?

It's Queen Elizabeth. Trudeau is the head of government in Canada, but the Queen heads up the affairs of the state.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:32 AM on May 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


There are no internal tricks to these, but...

What North American port is closest to Rio de Janeiro by sea?
Answer: Halifax, Nova Scotia

As you transit the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific, what direction are you traveling?
Answer: Southeast.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:48 AM on May 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, this one may be too obvious: Which president received the smallest number of votes in a national election? Ford, who never ran in a national election. He never ran in any area larger than his congressional district (Michigan's 5th), where the most votes he received was 131,461.

39 million people from 1976 would like a word with you.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:59 AM on May 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Occupation with the highest on-the-job fatality rate?

US President (8 out of 44)
posted by Twicketface at 8:07 AM on May 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


If I say go to the first floor, wether you leave ground level might depend on your location. The USA generally considers the ground level "first floor" while a bunch of other places call that the ground floor or some such.


There is probably a trivia question about "what did the USA Air Force do in ww2?" and the answer is, of course, nothing since it was created in 1947.


When did the Roman empire end? 1453, with the fall of the Byzantine empire.
posted by Jacen at 8:19 AM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


What’s the largest country that has a land border with France? Answer: Brazil (French Guiana is not an independent country but an overseas département and full-fledged part of France).
posted by letourneau at 8:24 AM on May 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


39 million people from 1976 would like a word with you.

Hmmm, good point, but he lost that election. I'm sure there is some way to reword the question to spell out yet at the same time gloss over the fact that he became president with no votes whatsoever, since he was appointed to the vice-presidency and then assumed the presidency.
posted by ubiquity at 8:27 AM on May 23, 2018


And what’s the largest country that shares any border at all with France? Canada (Saint Pierre and Miquelon, by the same logic as above).
posted by letourneau at 8:27 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Occupation with the highest on-the-job fatality rate?
US President (8 out of 44)


My favorite dispute with this one isn’t that kings and popes have a near-100% on-the-job death rate, it’s that they don’t have a 100% on-the-job death rate. A handful (more than a handful, in the Netherlands) have abdicated, sometimes even voluntarily.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:40 AM on May 23, 2018


"If Christmas is on a Wednesday in a given year, what day of the week is New Year's Day that year?"

Of course, New Year's is 7 days after Christmas, but (by definition) it's not in the same year.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:58 AM on May 23, 2018 [5 favorites]



"If Christmas is on a Wednesday in a given year, what day of the week is New Year's Day that year?"

Of course, New Year's is 7 days after Christmas, but (by definition) it's not in the same year.


But in order for that to have an unambiguous answer, you'd have to specify a leap year or non-leap year, which in turn might give the trick away.

An actual one I encountered at pub trivia, but unfortunately can't remember all the details of the question: In what movie does Tom Hanks's character learn he has a terminal disease and [other details]? Tom Hanks + terminal disease would lead one to think of Philadelphia, but our team realized that [other details] didn't fit and the correct answer was Joe vs. the Volcano.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:31 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Who's buried in Grant's Tomb? (Ulysses S. Grant, but also his wife Julia Dent Grant.)
posted by clavicle at 9:32 AM on May 23, 2018


WAIT NO I'M WRONG. Double-checked and the correct answer is no one, because the Grants are not buried, they're in sarcophagi.
posted by clavicle at 9:33 AM on May 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


How many American presidents have Jefferson in their name? (3: Thomas J., William J. Clinton, and J. Davis -- I said American, not USA!)


I would argue that the question as interpreted in this way is not answerable. If "president" is just interpreted as "a person with the title of president" then any American who has been a president of a fan club or a PTA, for example, should be included.
posted by phoenixy at 9:40 AM on May 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Who is the only President of the United States who was born a King?

Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. was born Leslie Lynch King Jr., but took his stepfather's name.
posted by Etrigan at 9:53 AM on May 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Who was the last Vice President of the United States to assume the powers of the President of the United States?

Dick Cheney was Acting President under the 25th Amendment while George W. Bush was having surgery in 2007.
posted by Etrigan at 9:59 AM on May 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


These are all good. Bear in mind they don't need to be president related. I can maybe do a whole round on Presidents at this point. :) (Not that that's a problem)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:01 AM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


But in order for that to have an unambiguous answer, you'd have to specify a leap year or non-leap year, which in turn might give the trick away.

The asker can just use the current year. Problem solved, right?
posted by Emmy Rae at 10:07 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


What’s the largest country that has a land border with France? Answer: Brazil (French Guiana is not an independent country but an overseas département and full-fledged part of France).

Similarly, which two countries that share a land border have the longest distance between their respective capital cities?

Many people will come up with Russia and China. Smarter people will realize that Russia and North Korea share a (short) land border and suggest Russia and North Korea (Moscow and Pyong Yang are further apart than Moscow and Beijing).

The correct answer is France and Brazil.

Prepare for violent arguments when you trot that one out.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:34 AM on May 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


What middle name did Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson give their son, future President and Civil War General, Ulysses S. Grant?

The wording is important, because he was born Hiram Ulysses Grant, so his middle name was Ulysses. When he applied to West Point he either mis-signed his name or was misunderstood, because he entered as Ulysses S. Grant. He then acquired the nickname "Sam" (because if a military man sees "U. S. Grant" they are going to think "Uncle Sam", although many/most people think that it stands for "Simpson", which is definitely wrong. He then became known as "Unconditional Surrender" Grant after his victory at Fort Donelson.

It's not clear (to me) if he ever officially changed it or just started going by "Ulysses S. Grant" or even if it was possible for him to make the legal change. Anyway, my wording is deliberate, because you need to know his name at birth (if someone can come up with better wording, be my guest).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:47 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ford, who never ran in a national election. He never ran in any area larger than his congressional district (Michigan's 5th), where the most votes he received was 131,461.

Sorry, not true. Gerald Ford ran against Jimmy Carter in the 1976 Presidential race. Ford lost to Carter by two percentage points in the popular vote.
posted by John Borrowman at 11:32 AM on May 23, 2018


Echoing QI will be a good source of these questions.

It can get insufferably smug quickly but that's a risk you'll have to embrace.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


  • Q: What is the largest U.S. city named after a president? A: Houston, named after Sam Houston, first president of the Republic of Texas.
  • Q: Traveling due south from downtown Detroit, Michigan, what is the first foreign country you would reach? A: Canada; the Detroit River flows southwest at Detroit.
Also, there's the question "Which former actor was succeeded by Jerry Brown as governor of California?", which seems so specific that it shouldn't have two correct answers, and yet it does.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:38 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


This one's tricky to word in a way that is unambiguous but also doesn't give away the trick, but you could use something like:

"Everyone knows that German orders to invade Belgium on August 5th 1914 began the fighting on the Western Front of the First World War. The fighting in the East began twelve days later. What date did the Russians order the invasion of East Prussia to kick off the Eastern Front?"

The obvious answer is 5 + 12 = August 17th, 1914, which is correct if you're working in the Gregorian calendar. But the Russian Empire was still on the Julian calendar, which was 13 days out of sync, so the annoyingly pedantic correct answer is August 4th.
posted by firechicago at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2018


But the Russian Empire was still on the Julian calendar, which was 13 days out of sync, so the annoyingly pedantic correct answer is August 4th.

Along the same lines: "In what month did the October Revolution take place?" The answer, of course, is November.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:53 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


You could probably construct a question relying on the fact that Michigan and Minnesota share a border (over open water in Lake Superior), or similarly for Michigan-Illinois in Lake Michigan.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:04 PM on May 23, 2018


Some version of this one is actually pretty common in basic trivia books:

Which U.S. State is a) furthest north; b) furthest south; c) furthest east; d) furthest west?

a) Alaska; b) Hawaii; c) Alaska; d) Alaska

(c) Alaska being easternmost is the tricky one; the Aleutian Islands extend beyond the 180th parallel into the Eastern Hemisphere.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Er, 180th meridian, not parallel.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2018


Question writers have to be careful when dealing with Academy Awards and years, since the year the award is given is the year after the film is released, so just something like "2014 Oscar" can be ambiguous.

You could play off of this, especially when someone has won the same award in two consecutive years. Tom Hanks + Best Actor Oscar + 1994 could be Forrest Gump (if 1994 is the year of the film's release) or Philadelphia (if 1994 is the year the award was given).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2018


There were thirty cows on our hobby farm, and twenty ate chickens. How many didn't?
posted by flabdablet at 12:55 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Twicketface: "Occupation with the highest on-the-job fatality rate?

US President (8 out of 44)
"

Not even close. EG: Romainian soldier in WW1: 30%
posted by Mitheral at 1:46 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Which of these US Presidents was NEVER impeached?

(A) Andrew Johnson (B) William Clinton (C) Richard Nixon

C: Nixon.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:11 PM on May 23, 2018


Here's a pop culture one:

Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, and Jonathan Banks all held roles on this 2005 television show that ran for 5 seasons.

People will say Breaking Bad. The answer is Ghost Whisperer.
posted by phunniemee at 5:31 PM on May 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Q - Which US state holds the first primary during a presidential election?

A - New Hampshire (Iowa holds a caucus, not a primary)
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 10:18 PM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Similarly, which two countries that share a land border have the longest distance between their respective capital cities?


Hmm, does the Antarctic territories (British antarctic territory overlapping with Argentina?)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:51 AM on May 24, 2018


I think the Antarctic territories have a different status. French Guiana is as much a part of France as Hawaii is part of the US. The Antarctic territories (and the various other British overseas territories) are not part of the UK or the EU (and Britain's claim over them is not universally accepted anyway).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


If only I had a penguin...: "so there have been 44 presidents of the united states, and 44 is the number of presidents of the united states there have been."

Forty-five shalt thou not count, nor either count thou Forty-three, excepting that thou then proceed to Forty-four.
Forty-five is right out.
----------------------
To answer OP:

- What's the tallest mountain on Earth? (A: Mauna Kea in Hawaii. A mountain's height is measured from sea level to its summit, but its tallness (?) is measured from its base. Mauna Kea's base is underwater. Also, you could ask where in the surface of the Earth is farthest from its center. This isn't Everest as one may think, but Chimborazo on Ecuador, due to the irregular shape of our planet)
posted by andycyca at 3:59 PM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


This may be too late for you, but I just thought of a good (and topical) one:

Who won the 1950 (Soccer) World Cup Final?

A. Nobody.
Uruguay famously beat Brazil 2-1 in the Maracanã Stadium in Rio to win the World Cup. But that wasn't the final. The four teams that made the semi-finals played each other in a mini-league to determine the winner. By chance, the tournament came down to the last game, with Brazil only needing a draw to lift the Cup. But it wasn't actually a final.
posted by Pink Frost at 12:16 AM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've been putting these on the work whiteboard. I had good results with the closest two capitals with land bordered countries. The closest country to the Titanic went well as did Easternmost USA State.

I'm currently trying a followup question.
So, They got Alaska as Easternmost state in the USA to which I added "Also Northernmost and Westernmost".

Below that I've gone with:
"What is the southernmost American State?"

To which I think the answer would be Chile, since it's a sovereign American state.
Or possibly Rio Grande do Sul (the most southern state of Brazil) which do you think is the better answer?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:16 AM on June 1, 2018


Most common crop grown in the US? Lawn.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:26 AM on June 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


That's a good one, and reminds me of:

Which company manufactures the most tyres?

Lego
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:42 PM on June 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm going to try and get away with

"Where is the worlds largest dessert?"
Answer = Texas
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:08 AM on June 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


Note, the linked article identifies it only as the "world's longest ice-cream dessert." If Guinness tracks a record for largest dessert, period, I couldn't find it. Also, I would argue against the use of the present tense in that question.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:34 AM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


ALso, that says longest. Longest and largest aren't the same.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:46 AM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think the largest Dessert question isn't going to work, as covered by the responses here. Though it was a fun one.

I've been trialling them on my work whiteboard and one person thought they were being very cutting criticising my spelling of dessert, but then kept guessing deserts. So that was fun. But yeah, it didn't really work.

Equally, I think the most common crop in the US suffers from a definition problem. I can't find a decent source that says that commercially grown turf outstrips corn and I don't think private lawns can be defined as crops.

Today's question has been:
What was the first name of England's longest reigning dead head of state?
Answer = Alexandrina (Queen Victoria's first name)

But a smart cow-orker just got that almost straightaway. So now I need to think of a replacement for tomorrow.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:08 AM on June 13, 2018


Just thought of a way to questionize one of my half-baked ideas above:

Q: How many US states does Michigan border?
A: 5 (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio. The borders with Minnesota and Illinois are over open water only.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:41 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I know I'm late to the party, but...

From which US city can you travel north, south, east, or west from and end up in the same (different) state?

Stamford, CT: because it's in Connecticut's panhandle, you end up in New York state. Of course, to "travel" east to Long Island, you'd need a boat...but the answer still applies.

There are probably even sneakier ways to phrase this.
posted by Seeking Direction at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


And to add to DevilsAdvocate's post, Rhode Island technically borders three states, not two, since it has a water border with New York.
posted by Seeking Direction at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Largest US city in a state that lies entirely south of Canada: Houston.
posted by Seeking Direction at 4:04 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


From which US city can you travel north, south, east, or west from and end up in the same (different) state?

Might have to clarify either a) the largest such city, or b) this is true starting at any point in the city. I've found two other, much smaller, cities for which this is true for some points in the cities:

West Alton, MO - for points sufficiently north within the city, you reach Illinois travelling in any of the cardinal directions.

Elwood, KS - for points sufficiently north or sufficiently south within the city, you reach Missouri travelling in any of the cardinal directions.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:19 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


We've derailed a bit from "picky wording" to merely "surprising geography facts," but along those lines:

Q: If you fly due north from Santiago, Chile, what is the first US state you will encounter?
A: Massachusetts
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:57 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Today's question was "Name the Longest-reigning and shortest dead British monarch" the answer to which is, of course Victoria.

Prior to that: "What title did the longest lived dead British monarch use"
which got a bunch of Queen, Empress, HRH answers, but of course the answer is Lord Protector because it was Richard Cromwell. (Who ruled for 254 days, but lived till 85)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:03 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


What hit Red Hot Chili Peppers single, with a three-word-title starting with the letter S, is a track on the 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik?

The answer is "Suck My Kiss", not "Soul to Squeeze". "Soul to Squeeze" was recorded in the same sessions, but is not on the album, was originally a B-side, and wasn't released as a single until the Coneheads soundtrack two years later.
posted by Seeking Direction at 4:25 PM on June 27, 2018


How many years after the Civil War did pensions from the VA for the war stop going out?

The answer: as of this writing, it seems like one person is still receiving a pension from the Civil War over 153 years later!

(More of a fun fact that an irritating question, but neat nonetheless!)
posted by Seeking Direction at 5:00 PM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Q: Besides uranium, neptunium, and plutonium, what chemical element was named after a planet?

Trap answer: mercury. Nope, mercury was named after the Roman god, as the planet was.

A: Cerium, named after the asteroid/dwarf planet Ceres, which was considered a planet at the time the element was named for it.

There's even a subtle clue in that plutonium is named after a body that was at the time, but no longer is, officially considered a planet.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:55 PM on July 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


What about Tellurium?
"named in 1798 after the Latin word for "earth", tellus."

And I guess Pallas was never considered to be a planet?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:44 AM on July 30, 2018


Whoops, yes, you're right that both tellurium and palladium would be valid answers as well.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:27 AM on July 30, 2018


Upon thinking about it, I might rephrase it this way:

Q: Plutonium is a chemical element named after a planet. Name three others.

A: (Any three of uranium, neptunium, tellurium, cerium, and palladium)

I like this phrasing because:
* Mentioning plutonium keeps the subtle clue that you are asking for elements named after bodies that were considered planets at the time the element was named, not necessarily named after bodies that are considered planets now;
* Plutonium might lead people a little less familiar with elements to the two other "obvious" ones, uranium and neptunium
* Requiring three means that the two "obvious" ones are not sufficient, and gives people the opportunity to fall into the trap answer of mercury, and requires at least one of the three non-obvious ones
* It does not state that there are only three possible answers
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:41 AM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've tried it out on the work whiteboard.
So far 5 out 6 have been got with Palladium being the hold out.

Wrong answers include:
Mercury, Krypton, Selenium, Helium, Titanium and Gorillium (Planet of the Apes)

So far one of the strongest whiteboard questions.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:12 AM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Cromwell didn't live till 85
posted by Wilder at 9:03 AM on August 2, 2018


Cromwell didn't live till 85

Oliver Cromwell didn't. Richard Cromwell (his son, and for about nine months his successor as Lord Protector) did.
posted by firechicago at 2:06 PM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


That's the beauty of that question.
Everyone automatically equates English kings and queens longevity with their reign and also don't think about Richard Cromwell being overthrown. So it's quite a nice sneaky little technicality hiding out in the middle of the facts.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:52 AM on August 3, 2018


Just came across another good one:

"Which US State has the oldest building still standing?"

You'll get a lot of "Massachusetts" and "Virginia", but the real answer is Colorado, where the Mesa Verde Cliff Palace was built between 1190 and 1260.
posted by firechicago at 1:48 PM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oliver Cromwell was anti-monarchical: he was offered a crown and declined it. I'm not really sure it's fair to call either of the Cromwells a monarch, particularly when "military dictator" is closer to the mark. (A dictatorship can be inherited; for example the Kims of North Korea, whose third generation is in charge.)
posted by ardgedee at 8:47 AM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


I agree completely. I actually used the word "Ruler" when I put it up on the board and should have said ruler here also. Getting the wording right so as to hide the technicality but not invalidate it seems to be the trick for most of these questions.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:09 AM on August 10, 2018


« Older Advice on medicating or not medicating a pre-teen?...   |   How to remove or cover up a tiny stain on a white... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.