Thanks for all the kudos and congrats on yesterday’s six pack. With today’s questions, alas, I have reverted back to form — my 2/6 could have been a solid 4/6 if I hadn’t tossed aside not one but TWO correct answers.
1. What is the past participle of the intransitive verb lie, when used as a synonym for ‘rest’ or ‘recline’?
I used to think I was pretty good at grammar. That was before I started writing books. My first manuscript came back from the copyeditor with red ink on every single page. At first I was ashamed — did I once think I knew how to write? But then I realized that the author and the copyeditor are doing two different jobs. The author gets the words down with a certain degree of clarity. The copyeditor is a highly trained specialist who takes those fairly clear words and makes them even clearer.
It’s like looking through a window that you believe is clean, but then some amazing person comes along who really knows how to clean a window, and after she is done, it’s like, holy cow, I had no idea that window was so filthy.
The best part of this: The existence of the copyeditor means that I, the author, don’t need to know what a past participle is. This is a wonderful thing. Except when a question comes up about it on Learned League.
I wrote “laid,” looked at it and thought, nah. Switched it to “lain.” But that… that didn’t even look like a word. Lain? No. I switched it back to “laid” and called it good. Correct answer: Lain. For my next trick, I will take this grammar handbook and smack myself over the head with it.
2. This photograph appeared on the cover of a 1993 alternative rock album by what band?
Hopeless. Maybe if I had thought of that Simpsons episode that takes place at the alt-rock-fest Lollapallooza, I would have come up with the Smashing Pumpkins.
I only know one song by this group, and only that because of its video, which remains glorious:
3. The U.S. government-sponsored financial services corporation officially named the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation is also known by its initials, but is best known by what term?
Hell if I know. The Fmmhllmc? Oh, wait — when I said that out loud that just now, the final syllable sounded like mac. Ha! This is Freddie Mac!
That was a satisfying way to get the answer.
4. A result of buoyancy and surface tension, the clumping phenomenon in fluid mechanics where small floating objects have a tendency to attract one another is known as the ________ Effect, after a popular breakfast brand (fill in the blank).
I don’t even know how I knew this. I think it’s one part “heard it somewhere at some point” to two parts “Cheerios is what I think of as America’s Default Breakfast Cereal.”
5. The Yalu River (as it is called on the north side) or Amrok (as it is called on the south side) forms much of the border between what two nations?
Well, I won’t be answering two geography questions in a row. I didn’t really consider the clue hidden in the fact that the two countries call the river two different things. Even if I had considered it, though, I’m not sure I would have arrived at the border of China and North Korea.
6. Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the official Maitresse-en-titre of French King Louis XV, lent her name — or more precisely, her title — to what hairstyle?
Phooey: As with “lain,” above, I thought of the correct answer here but simply didn’t go with it: I dismissed pompadour, despite the fact that the word screams “I am clearly of French origin!” I couldn’t tie the word to either this woman’s name nor her title, and furthermore a pompadour is more closely associated, these days, with men. I tossed the word aside and went with the truly lame “French braid.”