Saturday, September 02, 2006

The joys of quizzing

Often when I tell people that I'm going to a quiz or just returning from one, they groan and go, "Oh no, how boring." And I feel like picking up the nearest car and plonking it down on them and screaming, "It's not boring! You're boring! Boo!"

Many people have the impression that quizzing is about how much you know, and that questions like "What is the capital of Pretoria?" or "How many Maigret books did George Simenon write?" predominate. If you know it, you're cool. If you don't, it's boring. Well, it's not like that at all.

Quizzing, the kind I enjoy, is not about knowing stuff but about working out stuff: as Dhoomketu says in his post here, about "lateral thinking" and "problem solving." A good question is framed in such a way that even if you don't know the answer, you have a chance of guessing what it is. Typically, the question itself will have some clues. And that process is great fun, especially the Eureka moment when you crack a question, or even hear the answer.

J Ramanand, the former Mastermind winner, made three great posts on it which are recommended reading if you enjoy quizzing, much of it reproducing a primer written by the genial Pune quizzer, Niranjan Pednekar. Check them out: 1, 2, 3. As an example of what I mean by a good quiz question, let me take an example from the first of those posts:
This product was originally called 'Bib label lithiated'. To rename it, six alternative names were considered. What is it called now?
Now, chances are you won't know the answer to this. (I didn't when I first heard it.) But can it be worked out? Look for clues in the question: the most important information it contains is that 'Bib label lithiated' was one of seven names considered for the product. Seven? Eureka moment: Could it be 7 UP? And indeed, that's the answer.

As Niranjan writes, consider how boring the question would have been if framed thus: "What was 7-up called initially?" No way of working that out if you don't know it.

And that's why a good quiz can be so much fun: if it contains 60 questions, that's 60 problem-solving exercises for you, often in collaboration with one or two or three other people. You also get to see the way other teams solve these problems, and even if you don't win, the intellectual stimulation it provides is worth the few hours you spend at a quiz.

While I've been doing much of my quizzing in Pune, over the last few months much activity has taken place around the Bombay Quiz Club. We have two interesting quizzes coming up (Armageddon, which I won three years ago thanks entirely to my choice of partner, and a sports/entertainment quiz), and you can see some reports of past quizzes here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. If you're in Mumbai and wish to check out what it's all about, drop in at any of our forthcoming quizzes: the Bombay Quiz Blog will generally have latest details, as will our mailing list, which you're welcome to join.

I shall end this with an easy trivia question that I'm sure you will work out: Sometime in early December 2004, J Ramanand became the first person to blogroll two particular blogs. One of them was The Middle Stage. Name the other one.

Cross-posted on India Uncut.

1 comment:

Anirudh said...

'Tis true what you say. But I've had nobody coming and saying "Oh no, how boring" to me. :)

By the way, here is an interesting quiz blog: