Anti-Match Game: Announcer’s Test


This quiz contains ten categories representing different areas of knowledge. Each category requires you to choose one answer from a range of possible correct answers. Your goal for each category is to choose a correct answer that is chosen by as few other players as possible. A correct answer scores 1 point plus 1 point for every other player who chooses the same answer. An incorrect answer receives a penalty score: the highest correct-answer score for the given category plus 1. The player with the lowest total score wins.


The questions are inspired by items in a variation of the “Announcer’s Test,” though familiarity with this cumulative verse recited as a tongue twister and memory game is not required. The notation “11C” refers to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

Research is not allowed. Reasonably close spelling is acceptable unless otherwise indicated. Email answers to me at tmcclar [at] before Sunday, August 12, 2018, 11:59 p.m. (MT)

1. One hen
Choose a boldface 11C entryor explicit, boldface inflected form of an 11C entrythat has exactly six letters and fits the cryptogram pattern 123432. In other words, the answer must have exactly four different letters with the second matching the sixth and third matching the fifth. Answers may contain capital letters, apostrophes, hyphens, and spaces. Answers that appear in 11C as parts of multiword entries but are not stand-alone entries/inflected forms in 11C are not acceptable.

2. Two ducks
The lettered list below contains phrases from Disambiguation pages on the Internet site Wikipedia. In each case, the phrase describes a term that can also be the name of a traditional children’s game. For example, the phrase “A steamer captured by the Union Navy during the American Civil War and used as a hospital ship” appears on the Disambiguation page for Red Rover, which is also “a children’s game.” All the games in questions are featured on the Wikipedia page List of Traditional Children’s Games. Terms may have slight spelling variations between the game name and the sense described in the lettered list. Choose one of the phrases and identify the related children’s game name. Your answer must contain the phrase letter followed by the game.

A – A 13th-century Italian explorer
B – A 1963 novel by Kurt Vonnegut
C – A 2004 American sports comedy film starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller
D – An afterlife condition hypothesized by Medieval Roman Catholic theologians
E – An American television series starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby
F – An educational toy company
G – An episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone
H – A fictional character, one of Snoopy’s siblings from the comic strip Peanuts
I – A form of graffiti signature
J – A single by alternative metal band Godsmack
K – A social networking website
L – A soft drink
M – Various small, oily fish in the herring family

3. Three squawking geese
The lettered list below contains bird call transliterations that appear in David Allen Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. Choose one of the calls and identify the bird associated with it in Sibley’s guide. Your answer must include the letter of the call followed by the name of the bird. As a solving aid, the initials of the bird names appear (in a separate order) after the list of calls. Some modifiers of the bird names are in parentheses and do not need to appear in your answer. For example, if the list included “Atsip klseewi ptik” and the bird name initials included “(P-S) F”, you could answer “A – Flycatcher” rather than “A – Pacific-slope flycatcher.”

Abru-u-ooo / p-p-p-prooo
Bcaaw / cahrrr
Cchika dzee dzee
Dg-prrip prrEE / pwip
Eho hoo hoo hoododo hooooo ho
Gjaaaay / toolili
Ktyeeeeee deew deew / teewdew / didideeer / didideeer
Lwoit woit woit chew chew chew chew chew / pichew pichew tiw tiw tiw tiw tiw tiw tiw tiw

B J / (A) C / (M) C / (N) C / (Y-B) C / (R) D / ( W ) D / (C) G / (H) H / K / (G H) O / W-P-W

4. Four limerick oysters
The image below is taken from Edward Lear’s 1846 poetry collection A Book of Nonsense. Each colored rectangle conceals one word in the verse. Identify one of the concealed words. You do not need to reference the image in your answer.

limerick_oysters.jpg5. Five corpulent porpoises
U.S. News & World Report publishes an annual ranking of the best diet plans. The 2018 list ranks 40 diet plans, with some identified as commercial brands (e.g. Zone) and others as generic descriptions (e.g. glycemic-index). In each of the 18 images below, the name of the pictured food combined with the superimposed string of letters will anagram into the name of one of the diet plans on the list (not including the initial article “The” or the word “diet”). The images appear left to right and row by row based on the alphabetical order of the pictured foods. Choose one of the diet plans represented by an image. You do not need to indicate the image corresponding to your answer.corpulent_porpoises.jpg
6. Six pair of Don Alverzo’s tweezers
The image below displays a fully-expanded SwissChamp Swiss Army knife manufactured by Victorinox/Wenger. The SwissChamp has 33 functions annotated in the image.


Some of those functions,  numbered per the annotated image, appear in the list below as blanks representing enumerations with the letters A E I O and U properly placed. Choose one of the listed functions and identify its complete description by adding the consonants. You do not need to include the corresponding number with your answer.

3 –   _ O _ _ _ _ _ E _
4 –   _ A _     O _ E _ E _
8 –   _ I _ E     _ _ _ I _ _ E _
9 –   _ E _ I _ _     A _ _
12 –   _ O O _ _ _ I _ _
16 –   _ I _ _     _ _ A _ E _
17 –   _ O O _     _ I _ _ O _ _ E _
18 –   _ U _ E _
20 –   _ A I _     _ I _ E
24 –   _ _ I _ E _
26 –   _ _ I E _ _
29 –   _ A _ _ I _ _ I _ _     _ _ A _ _
30 –   _ _ E _ _ U _ I _ E _     _ A _ _ _ O I _ _     _ E _
33 –   _ _ I _ _ I _ _     _ _ _ E _ _ _ I _ E _

7. Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array
Choose one of the military actions in the lettered list below and identify the modern-day country that is home to the action site. Please include the corresponding letter with your answer.

A – Battle of Bitter Lakes (925 BCE)
B – Battle of Nineveh (612 BCE)
C – Battle of Megiddo (609 BCE)
D – Siege of Tyre (332 BCE)
E – Battle of Ephesus (258 BCE)
F – Battle of Utica (238 BCE)
G – Battle of Ebro River (217 BCE)
H – Battle of Tao River (205 BCE)
I – Battle of Alesia (52 BCE)
J – Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (9 CE)
K – Battle of Watling Street (61 CE)
L – Iwai Rebellion (527 CE)

8. Eight brass monkeys from the ancient, sacred, crypts of Egypt
The image below contains excerpts from definitions in 11C. Names of chemical elements have been replaced by emboldened letters in brackets. Some element names appear more than once in the excerpts; an element appearing multiple times is represented by the same bracketed letter. Choose a bracketed letter and identify the corresponding chemical element. Please include the both the letter and element in your answer.  Note that letters are assigned by an element’s first appearance in the image and are NOT meant to suggest element names or symbols.


9. Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic, old men on roller skates, with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth
Women’s Flat Track Derby Association has 416 leagues headquartered in cities around the world. The logos below represent 15 WFTDA leagues, and the logos are arranged left to right, row by row according to an alphabetical list of their home cities. Identify the home city of one of the leagues depicted below. You do not need to reference the logo or include a country, province, or state in your answer. Some of the logos have been modified to conceal city name information.


10. Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who all stall around the corner on the quo of the quay of the quivvey, all at the same time.
The images below feature characters from the 1989 animated Disney film The Little Mermaid. Choose a character and identify the character by name. You do not need to reference the image in your answer.

At the 2016 International Association of Memory European Open, Katie Kermode set a record for memorizing random words from a list after 15 minutes of study. How many words did she memorize? Tie scores will be broken by the guess closer to the record.


This Cons In Wisconsin Badges


I wrote some memories of the 2018 National Puzzler’s League Convention in “badge” format, I may add more later on.

Con Queso Badge
I didn’t sample much of the local cuisine while I was in Milwaukee, yet I still found opportunities to enjoy Wisconsin cheese. On Monday night I joined a group at a restaurant about a block from the hotel called the SafeHouse. The restaurant has a spy theme and requires a password for entry. If you don’t know the password you can earn it by completing a stunt in the lobby. Our group danced a simple can-can and we were soon escorted through a false bookcase to a table underneath a Cold War-themed Sam Loyd wall puzzle that shifted between displaying 12 and 13 agents with the touch of a button. The food was okay, the drinks were not as okay, and the decor was full of 1960s kitsch whose political incorrectness left me a little queasy. A printed card that appeared to be a walkaround puzzle turned out to be a scavenger hunt encouraging patrons to find the gift shop and post photos to social media. I appreciated Trip Payne’s assessment of SafeHouse: TGI Spy Days. On Tuesday I took a day trip to Wisconsin Dells, a town constructed entirely of cheese. Every block of the town boasted a water park or rope course or go-kart track or funnel cake stand or some similar carnivalesque tourist trap. Our group playe miniature golf, had a meal at a Sprecher’s restaurant, and visited some “$5 Today Only” walk-through tours of an Aztec temple and rat maze. The SafeHouse and Wisconsin Dells satisfied my hunger for cheese, and I did not need to pick up any squeaky curds on the road trip back to Milwaukee.

Escape the Expectations Badge
I played three escape rooms during the vacation. One was Wizard Quest in Wisconsin Dells, which featured high-concept fabricated sets and playground amusements (including a ball pit that one of my teammates was temporarily stuck in). The other two were traditional escape rooms in corporate suites. None had remarkable puzzle content, but the two traditional rooms had interesting approaches used by the game masters. Sherrick at Escape MKE had an elaborate comedy routine for the briefing followed by a very detailed debriefing report that included calling out individual players by name for their contributions. I was impressed by the diligent note-taking but the report went on a but long for my taste and I noted that a player whose name did not get mentioned in the report might feel slighted. Shlomo Levin at Save MKE was the most committed game master I have ever encountered. His briefing for the “Device” escape room was the first I’d encountered with jump scares, caused by his intense narration punctuated by bursts of anxiety-ridden emphasis. Our mission was a success and after our celebratory photo I shop-talked about business and room design and so forth. He adamants stayed in character claiming no knowledge of an escape room “business” or any artifice of the world-saving experience. We shrugged and departed, with teammate Todd Etter whispering to me, “Maybe there’s such a thing as TOO immersive.” In escape rooms good staffing is more important than good puzzles so I was glad to get some field data to bring back to Puzzah!

Be Lucky or Be Around Badge
I had the good fortune to play most of the hot-ticket after-hours games this year. Darren Rigby’s What’s the Big Idea is a very creative reimagining of the board game Concept. My teammate Gary Levin and I took a while to break in but made some successful insights toward the end of the game. Dave Shukan’s Dilemma (featured my most recent top ten games list) was a delight as always, and I managed a respectable second place to Ken Stern’s perfect score. Adam Cohen’s Jeopardy! was solid though it didn’t feature a category I could get a firm toehold in. Katherine Bryant and Ken Stern’s Last Minute Jeopardy! was explained early on as a “Celebrity” version, though I didn’t understand what that meant, or how amazingly inventive the theme was, until after the final clue. Sandor Weisz presented his tabletop escape room Galleries in Denver on the Wednesday before Con. I thought I was going to miss it, since I was already going to be Milwaukee, but Sandor flew from Colorado to Wisconsin with puzzle sets in tow and presented his artistically rendered and beautifully constructed game for the NPLers! Todd Etter and Evan Davis, with bartending support from Jonathan McCue and delightful lounge singing from Summer Herick, offered sample rounds from a DCPHR puzzle hunt. The puzzles all had top-notch production values and answer extractions. Jen McTeague has presented suitcase escape rooms at previous con that I have missed, so I was immensely excited to secure a spot in Escape the Jeopardy!, which combined a trivia round with escape room puzzles that required information from the trivia to be solved. I spent most of my time at the escape room table but was able to hear the trivia questions when I spectated a subsequent round. I didn’t get to play all of the after-hours games that I wanted but was delighted to find seatings for so many of them.

Code of Conduct Badge (pending)
Mike Selinker and Gaby Weidling drafted a Code of Conduct statement and presented it at the business meeting on Saturday. The statement represents a standard amenity of conventions in the modern era (and I extend my appreciation to Mike and Gabby for their work on the document) but in the case of the NPL it is also a reaction to specific and awful incidents in which the safety of attendees has been violated. I saw a draft of the statement several months before the convention and appreciated the diligence but dismissed it as unimportant reading for a supposedly enlightened and inclusive individual like myself. Wow, I sure became aware during the Con how easy it is for me to initiate a handshake or embrace that makes another feel uncomfortable or use an improper pronoun. My suggestion is that we all need to review the Code of Conduct and realize that we may not have the opportunities in our daily routines to practice the sensitivity required for occasions such as NPL Con. I will do better.

NPL Convention Top Ten, Part 2


Just before the National Puzzlers’ League convention in 2008, I made a top-ten list of NPL Con puzzles and games featured at the ten conventions I had attended up to that point. The list was posted on LiveJournal and included the following:

#10: Going to Extremes (ConGA) |
#9: A Hard Day’s Flat (Concouver)
#8: Scroggle (BosCon)
#7: No Contest! (MichiCon)
#6: Telephone Pictionary (NYNJA)
#5: Texas Jeopardy! (TexSACon)
#4: Concerto for Orchestra (IndyCon)
#3: Small-Town News (IndyCon)
#2: Puzzle Treasure Hunt (Contana)
#1: Pyramid (Contana)

ETA: In an earlier version of this post I erroneously stated that the 2008 list was posted on Friendster. I regret the error.

I am traveling to Milwaukee next week for my 21st NPL Con and decided to make a new top-ten list of puzzles and games representing conventions 11 through 20.

My list includes puzzles and games that I solved or played at the convention. I excluded (with a few exceptions) activities I presented or spectated without actually playing.  Subjective factors, such as my performance or who I played with, influenced an activity’s inclusion/placement on the list. 

10. Dilemma (SiLiCon)
Tinhorn’s elegant game, like Wits & Wagers, presents itself as a straightforward trivia exercise but is really about strategy. The task of placing correct and incorrect answers on an answer sheet seems simple at first but soon becomes fraught. Tinhorn’s vocal delivery of “A” and “B” answers, reminiscent of an eye doctor asking which lens is clearer, adds to the tension in a delightful way. Delimma debuted at an LA minicon, has been presented at several Cons after hours, and was an official game in Salt Lake City.

9. What (SiLiCon)
In What, teams try to solve a ten-word clue (the first word is always “What”), but only get to see some of the words. This limited-information theme has been used before, but Spelvin simplified the mechanics such that What could be played as an after-hours pickup game.

8. Makeshift Jeopardy! (MaineCon)
This is one of the exceptions I alluded to in the introduction. I actually played this game at a Las Vegas minicon nearly a year before it was presented in the unofficial program of MaineCon. I played subsequent installments at later NPL conventions, but the original version left the most powerful impression. Arcs sheepishly asked the Vegas group if he could run some questions from his partially written Jeopardy! game. We agreed and sat around a crudely drawn Jeopardy! game board to pass the time with some trivia questions. We chuckled forgivingly every time we selected a square for which a clue hadn’t been written, but then strange things began happening and we suddenly realized that we were being played. Everything in the game, which started with Jeopardy! but soon ventured into other classic game shows, was a deliberate and elaborately constructed puzzle suite. This was a brilliant combination of top-notch content and presentation!

7. Bar Exam (Beacon)
The Willy Wonka-themed extravaganza created by Navin, Shaggy, Spelvin, and Zebraboy had a cute opening skit and excellent puzzles, but why bury the lede: The Oomphitheatre is what everyone will remember about this event. Every participant made at least one trip to the breakout room to see the looping video presentation of ingenious cryptic clues via song parody. A Bar Exam highlight for me was being on a stroller team with Story’s daughter and my nephew. Watching the young solvers delight in the handout puzzles and the glass elevator metapuzzle was a heartwarming experience.

5 (tie). Color Ado (Conorado) and Middle of the Road (Recouvery)
I gave two cryptic crosswords on the list, constructed by Wombat and Trick respectively, the same ranking. I wrote a piece several years ago that describes both of these puzzles.

4. Suffer for Your Art (Conorado)
The extravaganzas of Manx and Jo the Loiterer always feature great puzzles, but the production values tend to be simple when the extravaganza is prompted by last-minute request from the program committee. Suffer for Your Art was no last-minute request and the results were spectacular. Manx and Jo’s collection of art themed puzzles included an actual mobile suspended from the ceiling, a wall hanging of “Birth of Venus” made by combining paint-by-numbers grids of the full set of teams, a Warhol puzzle with pieces retrieved from a sealed Campbell’s soup can, and a puzzle that required a phone call to the Rembrandt Toothpaste customer service line.

3. Puzzling in the Dark (Recouvery)
WXYZ’s team communication challenge was a feast for the senses, except sight. A group of blindfolded solvers sat around a table filled with animal noisemakers, scented markers, pieces of sandpaper, and other objects. With minimal instructions, the group worked together to make sense of the objects and find a final answer. The game was full of satisfying discoveries. WXYZ shared positive postmortem observations and encouraged participants to watch subsequent sessions.

2. Exquisite Fruit
I introduced this trivia-by-committee game at a friend’s house eight years ago. It is played in many different settings but has a manifest association with NPL Con and remains an after-hours staple. I think the Krewe embraces Exquisite Fruit because it is a vehicle for silliness that has just enough mindful game-play to make it legitimate. It’s not as profound as the cryptic crosswords or extravaganzas that appear on this list but it reflects the character of Con in a significant way, which is why I rank it so high.

1. Doubles Jeopardy!/It Takes Two
Maso was a beloved game presenter. One reason I think he was so successful in that role is that he stayed on the sidelines and allowed the players to be the stars. When Doubles Jeopardy! debuted at BaltiCon, he introduced the exercise with a casual, unassuming manner. He didn’t talk a lot during the game as many of the rounds featured clues printed on index cards. He was almost a non-presence during parts of the game, and yet he devised challenges that had players singing, dancing, drawing, doing celebrity impersonations, and consuming jelly beans with flair. Maso made new versions of Doubles Jeopardy!, later renamed It Takes Two, very year until his tragic death in 2015. Krewe continue to create It Takes Two sets in appreciation of the format and its creator who showed that game presenters don’t have to be centers of attention. The game tops the list based on how at has inspired more Krewe to share content at conventions.

I look forward to being at convention next week where I will talk to other members of the League about their favorite activities from the last ten years, and experiencing puzzles and games that will make my next top-ten list.