After clawing my way from the bottom of the pack to somewhere near the, um, bottom of the middle, I begin the final week by handing my opponent the three-point question and misassigning the zero. The result: A 4(3)-7(4) romp.
1. This Italian composer of the Renaissance and Baroque eras is celebrated today for his madrigals and sacred Vespers of 1610, but is perhaps best known for being one of the earliest great operatic composers.
What I know about Italian opera can be summed up in one word: Pagliacci. That’s it — just the title. Oh, I suppose I know this opera features a singing clown. But I don’t know who wrote it, and even if I did, I had my doubts that this opera debuted as early as the 17th century. In short, I didn’t even attempt to muster a guess. The answer: Claudio Monteverdi. This was the three-point question that my opponent knew handily.
2. The metal known as electrum, which occurs naturally and can be produced artificially, is an alloy of what two precious metals?
Just as a surprising number of questions are actually theater questions in disguise, my route to this answer came via the games/sports category. Specifically, Dungeons & Dragons. Electrum was one of the precious metals used as currency in the game. Copper was the least valuable, followed by silver, then electrum, then gold, and then platinum. (This is strictly old school D&D I’m talking about — a glance around the Web shows that electrum has been retired from the game.) It made sense, then, that electrum should be an alloy of gold and silver. And thus it was.
(I’m smoothing out my thought process a fair amount here: Actually I underwent quite a bit of agony as I tried to recall whether electrum was more or less valuable than gold. Finally made the right decision, but “gold and platinum” was in my answer box for at least a little while.)
3. The first song that featured a drum machine using digital samples of acoustic drums (the iconic Linn LM-1) to reach number one on the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100 did so in 1981/82. It was a single by the pop group Human League — what was the song’s title?
This is a mighty roundabout route to the question “What was Human League’s first hit song?” I don’t know from drum machines, iconic or otherwise, but in 1981 I was just the right age to have “Don’t You Want Me?” implanted permanently into my brain, whether I wanted it there or not.
I much preferred Human League’s later hit, “Fascination.”
4. Give the name of the executive cabinet position in the United States which was created in 1953, and renamed Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1979.
Well, I didn’t know this, but I was pretty sure the first thing I typed — “Secretary of Disease” — was going to be incorrect. So I spent some time trying to puzzle it out. What word is synonymous with health and human services? I finally thought of “welfare” and liked it.
And… whoa! I was actually sort of close. The correct answer is “Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.”
5. This quintessential example of gothic architecture is located in what European city?
Here’s why I answered Barcelona: Because my neighbor recently went there and came back with many gorgeous pictures of cathedrals. I didn’t think this question referred to anything he showed me, but if the answer was Barcelona, that would have certainly made for an amusing story. Alas, the answer was Cologne.
6. The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour was the name of a 2010 comedy tour of North America headlined by what comedian?
Easy. Conan O’Brien. Easy for me, anyway — this was the zero that baffled my opponent. Ah well.