Category Archives: Quiz

I’m dumb and the rest of the world is dumber

Or rather, the part of rest of the world that is dumb enough to take the Slate news quiz — which as we know is a terrible test, because I seldom do well on it.

I had to be especially dumb to turn there for validation after doing particularly badly on the weekly NYT quiz. Sometimes I do well on that, but usually not.

I had already tried making myself feel better by taking the latest Flashback quiz, also at NYT. I love that one because it tests whether you have a clear sense of the overall flow of history, rather than happening to know random facts of the moment. I was in luck, in that I had two I hadn’t done yet — the one for Oct. 29, and the one for Nov. 4, which had been released early for some reason.

Trouble is, I got one wrong on the 29th, which seldom happens. Getting a perfect score on the one for Saturday didn’t make me feel all that much better, since I’ve grown to expect that, proud so-and-so that I am.

So, weakly, I turned for solace to the Slate quiz, which overall is the worst place to seek it. And unsurprisingly, I did particularly badly.

But you know what? Everybody else did worse.

Maybe at some point, those Slate people will see that their test is seriously lacking. Maybe not. Anyway, g’day, mates…

All hail the Flashback quiz! Again!

As I said previously

I only have one beef about it… they’re supposed to be sending me emails to let me know when it comes out, and this week they didn’t. I had to think of it, and go hunt it down.

And then, I slew it!

I confess I have not thoroughly slain it every week since I discovered it. A couple of times there have been two events that I knew happened in something B.C., and I failed to get them in the right order. And this time, I might easily have gotten confused about which of these came first — Althea Gibson winning the U.S. Open, and Ike visiting India — but I didn’t. So there.

I was particularly glad to find it because Slate has made its weekly quiz less accessible. Today I couldn’t even find it. Other days they wanted me to pay for Slate, which I’m not going to do. I pay for too many things already.

Speaking of paying — I hope you try this, because I want to find out whether you have to access to do so. I don’t know what is allowed to nonsubscribers. I hope you can, and that you have fun with it.

Now that I’ve thoroughly boasted and bragged and otherwise enjoyed this one, I’ll sit in dread for the other weekly NYT quiz, which comes out on Fridays, and pretty much always defeats me…

Now HERE’S a proper quiz — NYT’s Flashback!

And really, I’m only partly saying that because I got a perfect score — whereas I usually bomb out on the NYT’s weekly news quiz. And I mean “bomb” as in “Oppenheimer.”

That’s because this quiz plays to my own particular sort of intelligence — to the extent that I possess any, and we can argue about that later. It’s about the Big Picture. It’s not absurdly specific esoterica like, “Which left-handed chess player with a limp won a big competition last week while whistling a show tune from the 1930s?” It’s not designed to trip you up if you were paying attention to more important events. It’s about whether you grok the overall flow and thrust of history. The forest rather than the trees.

So I like it. I only hesitated on two of them, but I was pretty sure, and I got it right. So, yay for my team.

I hope you can play it. Let me know. I don’t know what people who don’t subscribe can and can’t do…

Whoa! Slate needs to review its hiring and promotion policies

A person who scores 220 on the Slate News Quiz should never be designated a “winner.”

And yet that’s what Slate did this week, when I racked up that painfully humiliating result. That’s because the publication’s designated staff “ringer” only scored 191. This one even holds an “editor” title. I think maybe she was asleep or something.

Of course, I still shouldn’t have been crowned the “winner,” since the average score, we are told, was 377.

I’ve never been fond of this quiz, because I seldom do well on it. But now I’m really starting to doubt its legitimacy…

Who da man? I da man, according to da NYT

Or one a da men. That is to say, one of the 23 percent of New York Times readers who scored 100 percent on the weekly news quiz.

Which is nice, since my score on the Slate quiz today was… not memorable.

They must be slipping up there in the Big Apple, considering the way I’ve done in the past on the NYT quiz.

Try it yourself. I hope you do well. Although obviously, you can’t do any better than yours truly did.

Of course, if you read this blog, you should know the first one…

Call this a quiz? Gimme a break…

Utterly humiliating…

First, I’ll confess that I haven’t been paying much attention to news that, for most of my life, completely absorbed me.

In fact, I found myself deeply shocked on Thursday when I read that Benjamin Netanyahu was taking power again. I mean, I totally missed that there had been an election in Israel, and his party had won. This kind of blew me away. When I told my wife, she couldn’t believe it was news to me. But it was.

I mean, I’m the guy who, late at night in Wichita, used to hold the presses in Wichita awaiting interesting developments in the Philippines (note that these were the days, the mid-80s, when there were really interesting things happening there — Cory Aquino being elected, Imelda’s shoes, etc.). Knowing this, Clark Hoyt in the Washington Bureau would ask me to call him at home and wake him up if anything big happened over there, because he knew I’d be on it, and Wichita had the advantage of being on Central Time.

But now I didn’t know who was running one of the most strategically important countries in the world. Made me feel a bit like Jamie Tartt on Ted Lasso:

Jamie: The second that I found out that George Harrison had died, I realized that I had to stop waiting for life to begin. Start taking chances. Living life to the fullest.
Holly: But George Harrison died 20 years ago.
Jamie: Yeah, but I only just found out.

No, I’m not that clueless about most things in the news, which is why this was such a shock.

However, I am too clueless for The New York Times‘ Great News Quiz of 2022. I suspected this would be the case, and was actually rather pleased when I got any of the questions right (which I did more than 60 percent of the time — but that’s still a failing grade). As for the ones I got wrong, I wonder what’s wrong with people who got them right.

An example, which involves something that I probably would have done badly on even in my days of being hyper-informed. Because I just never have been particularly interested in such a topic (because money), and even if I had in spite of myself, I wouldn’t have memorized the details to this degree:

I mean, are you freaking kidding me? I can see if you had asked me to click on the areas that had seen marked increases in prices, leaving out those that had not. But to know the precise percentages of each, and to put them in the correct order? That’s nuts.

I put two of the five in the right places — the third and the fifth. I put the No. 1 item in second place — which isn’t so bad. I screwed up slightly worse by putting No. 3 in the first position, and by placing what should have been the second in the fourth position. So… not awful, but it looks pretty bad when only two of your five choices are green, meaning they were right.

SPOILER ALERT: Skip this graf if you don’t want the answer sort of given away before you take the quiz… I also messed up — but only slightly — on the question about how long it took the cops to move in during the school shooting in Uvalde. I knew it had been a shockingly long time, and roughly how long that had been, but I was one position off. I know there are people who think in numbers the way I think in words, and the precise number of minutes is perhaps engraved on their brains the way a date such as Dec. 7, 1941, is engraved even upon mine. To someone like me, the important thing was that the cops hung back for more than an hour. I knew that. That’s meaningful. The precise number of minutes is not, to me.

You know how a text such as this strikes me? It’s like a Jim Crow-era “literacy test.” And in this case, the NYT is the local county election official, and I’m the black man who just wants to be allowed to vote. It’s like expecting me to know that George Washington was our first president, so you ask me what kind of wood his false teeth were made from. (OK, so they weren’t really made of wood, but you get the idea.)

And it kinda ticks me off…

Forgot to brag yesterday

Yesterday, I actually managed not to embarrass myself completely on the Slate news quiz — and then got all busy and forgot to brag about it.

Not that 373 is normally anything to strut about (I’d rather it be something like this), but I did beat the average and the staff ringer, and that’s at least worth a self-pat on the back, right?

I think so. Even though I missed something I should never have missed — the name of the Astros pitcher with the credit for the no-hitter I had, in misery, watched just the night before. My only excuse is, when you take a guy out in the sixth inning, and then use a small army of relievers after him, anybody can lose track of the starter’s name. Or at least, I can.

(Here’s a question: Should a guy get credit for a no-hitter when he doesn’t pitch the whole game? Yeah, I know we’re a long way from the days when my grandfather would pitch a double-header, but still — isn’t this kind of no-hitter more of a team effort than an individual achievement?)

Of course, I balanced that out by knowing something I should never, normally, have known — the name (or at least, the pseudonym) of the rapper who had been shot and killed.

Anyway, let us know how you do…


Speaking of stupid, I’m even dumber than I look

Remember, folks, when I write about stupidity, you should listen — I really know what I’m talking about.

As bad as my score was on the Slate quiz — lower than the picked staffer’s very low score, and way lower than the average — I knew even less than the number indicates.

I got six right, as you can see above. But three of them were just blind, lucky guesses. And a fourth was a sort of educated guess. I could see a certainly likelihood that the answer I tried was right, and I got lucky again. But I had not idea on the other three.

So I basically knew the answers on two out of 12.

And having the staff guy perform poorly — but not quite as badly as I did — is little consolation. Those people at Slate have all been in a slump lately…

This is more MY kind of quiz — but I still blew it

I think I got a little overexcited, and hurried a bit too much. How else do I explain missing the one that asked, “The Pantheon, rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, is a major landmark in which European capital city?”

That was really, really stupid. If only I’d read it a tad more carefully. But I was going to miss a couple of others anyway. People who concoct these tests all seem to think to themselves, Let’s throw in a football one, so Brad misses at least that one. So they do. And I did, because I’d never heard of any of the four people I had to chose from.

I had a similar problem with this: “Which song is the highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 for the band Panic! at the Disco?” Really? That’s a band?

But still, I appreciate the shift to a more general trivia test — since I read less news now, and never read some of the things Slate counts as “news” — and was really enjoying it for the first few questions, thinking I was going to ace it.

Notice that they didn’t go with a staffer as the “ringer” on this one. They went with a “Slate Plus Member,” which is really unfair. We’ve established in the past that the average Slate reader is often smarter than the average Slate editor (and smarter that yours truly, but let’s not get into that).

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see how some of y’all like it

Well, I had a leg up on THAT question, anyway…

And I did really well — 10 out of 12 questions right!

But it wasn’t good enough. My score of 40 on the Slate News Quiz was edged out by Bill Carey, who is the editorial director for strategy (whatever that is) at Slate, and Mr. Average just squeaked by at 408.

Of course, I wouldn’t have done even that well if not for the gimme question you see above. And I admit I got lucky on guesses on a couple of others. Educated guesses, of course.

Here’s hoping you do better. As practically everyone does, time after time…


I creamed the competition on the Slate quiz — slightly

Hey, y’all. I’ve been back from Boston for a couple of days now, but I’ve been way too busy for blogging. It’s not just catching up with work. The first night we were up there, there was a big thunderstorm down here, and it struck several trees in our front yard. My neighbor across the street saw it happen, and said it was amazing — the glow was multicolored, and seemed to last about 10 seconds. He was sorry he wasn’t shooting video. I’m sorry, too, because I would have liked to post it here.

It damaged our upstairs HVAC system. When our son checked on it the next day, it was 102 upstairs. A damaged valve was causing heat to blow instead of AC. Fortunately, that wasn’t terribly expensive to fix. I’m now dreading what an expert might tell us about the trees (a friend is sharing with me the name of an arborist, so I can get him to look at them before we call the tree-felling guys). Meanwhile, I’m glad none of them fell on the house.

I’ll tell you about my Boston trip later. In the meantime, I DID find a minute to take the Slate quiz, and managed to triumph — crushing the appointed Slate staffer by two whole points! (But what do you expect from someone who spells it “Werthan?”)

Of course, I was still 49 points below average, so I’m not planning to throw a party to celebrate my victory.

See how y’all do. I expect y’all will all do better than I did. But hey, aside from reading about the Red Sox in the Globe over the past week, I haven’t been intentionally following news. So cut me a break….

Well, at least I know more about history than THESE guys…

You know how, for the last three weeks, I did really badly on the Slate News Quiz but still beat the Slate staff person assigned to compete that week?

Well, half of that happened this week. I only got five right out of 12, for an embarrassing 186. But this time, I got creamed by Technology Editor Jonathan Fischer, who scored a 370.

So let’s not talk about that.

Let’s talk about history. I’m a lifelong student of it, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how very, very little I know about it. Even with the small slices in which I’ve taken a particular interest through the years — World War II, the first years of our republic at the end of the 18th century, Rome in the time around Julius Caesar’s assassination — I am constantly shocked at the major things I suddenly learn that I did not know. Happens all the time.

For instance, reading all those Patrick O’Brian novels has made me try to learn more about the Napoleonic Wars, and particularly the Royal Navy during that period.

Well, I was over visiting my Mom the other night, and she always watches “Jeopardy” in the evening. This night, the Final Jeopardy question — or rather answer — was the one you see above, under the category, “The Early 19th Century”: “Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve signaled ‘Engage the enemy’ around noon & surrendered at 1:45 PM during this battle”.

So we know he’s French, and it’s the early 19th century, and one can reasonably assume that this was a battle of some significance — a fleet action, say, as opposed to a meeting between a couple of frigates, where you wouldn’t have an admiral in charge. And Villeneuve’s name was vaguely familiar to me, but I wasn’t sure which significant battle he had lost. As far as I knew, it could have been the Nile, or Algeciras. Although I don’t think those were known for being brief.

So I just went with the biggest one of all, and said “Trafalgar.” The climax (and end) of Nelson’s life, his greatest triumph — the one that got him the column.

But I didn’t know, and I felt bad about that.

Soon, though, I felt better.

The three contestants all answered some variant of “What is Waterloo?”

Seriously, they did. These were three fairly bright people — they did well on plenty of other answers — and all three of them had bet money that an admiral was in command at Waterloo.

Oh, and it was Trafalgar. But I should have known, as a Jack Aubrey fan.

Anyway… if y’all want to take the Slate quiz, here’s the link. If you don’t do any better than I did, you don’t have to share…




I’m dumber than ever, but still a winner, folks!

Things are increasingly weird over at the Slate News Quiz.

For the third week in a row, I have been declared a “winner” for having scored higher than the designated staff ringer. Each time, I have done this in spite of having scored below the reader average.

And this week, I outdid myself. I’m pretty sure I scored my worst grade ever, by a substantial margin — 182 points. Really. However, Senior Advice Editor Paola de Varona had, amazingly, only scored 139. I am not making this up, as Dave Barry would say. Meanwhile, the average slob out there had scored 302 points — pathetically low, but a genius level compared to Paola and yours truly.

And I had started out so well! I got all of the first three (out of 12) right, and done so very quickly. I felt I was on my way, maybe, to a record high…

And then I got only one of the next nine questions right! You’ve gotta be impressed by that, right?

I think it’s time Slate took a long, hard look at the quiz. Maybe they’ll realize that they need to start asking questions about things that reasonably observant people can be expected to know. Here are some of the questions I missed:

  • The U.K. government has granted permission for the sale of the Chelsea soccer team to Todd Boehly for more than $5 billion. Boehly is also the co-owner of which Major League Baseball team? Really? I’m supposed to not only know who is buying a British soccer team, but I need to know further trivia about him?
  • Which actress has been selected to receive the 2022 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre at the June 12 awards ceremony? First, it’s an awards show, and I don’t follow those. Second, it’s the Tonys, and if I followed an awards show, it wouldn’t be that one. Third, and I stress this, it hasn’t even happened yet!
  • Researchers have developed which gene-edited plant that may provide a new vegan source of vitamin D? I don’t know about you, but I have a condition that causes my brain to turn off when I see the word, “vegan.”
  • Which petroleum company’s annual shareholder meeting was interrupted by dozens of climate protesters chanting slogans and holding banners? It could have been ANY of them, right? Is this not a routine occurrence when oil shareholders meet? This is so dog-bites-man, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the protest was on the official agenda of the meeting.

And so forth. I had kinda followed the news. But not this stuff. And obviously, based on everyone’s horrible scores, I’m not alone on this…

… but again, I’m dumber than average. Dang!

The Slate news quiz is fixed!

You may not have noticed this because it’s fixed in a reverse of the usual pattern. Instead of being rigged in favor of an insider, it’s somehow manipulated to make the general public win! Which is just perverse and counterintuitive. That’s why it took me a while to suss it out. Fiendish, ain’t it?

Again, I beat the ringer — the site’s “Future Tense Editor,” whatever that means — but was stomped by Joe Six-Pack out there.

Make of that what you will. And let us know how you do on the quiz…

Yeah, I ‘won,’ but I’m still below average

Unable to resist the impulse to constantly humiliate myself, I take the Slate News Quiz most Fridays. Since it’s timed, which I hate, it only takes a moment.

And sometimes, when I do slightly better than usual, I share the result with y’all.

Today is one of those days. As you see, I defeated the “senior editor” who was this week’s star contestant.

But I still lagged behind the average reader. Of course, I suspect that a lot of them are hiding behind their anonymity and cheating. I just don’t know how.

This test is ridiculous, though. Seriously — I’m supposed to know which of four weird names starting with Z is that of the racehorse that “is the early favorite to win this year’s Kentucky Derby?”

I wish they’d stick to actual, relevant news that serious people could be expected to know. Of course, even then, I’d often miss because of the time pressure. I’m not a quick-draw artist. I have to think about things.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering how senior you have to be to be a “senior” editor at Slate, the answer is “about 29, apparently.” Whenever I see the title “senior something” next to a picture of a kid, I look that kid up. She graduated from college in 2015, so she’s probably about 29, but I can’t know for sure, can I?

We old guys are pathetic, aren’t we?…

Oh, yeah? Well, YOU spelled your name wrong…

I haven’t been posting any scores from the Slate news quiz lately, for two reasons:

  1. I really don’t like the new format. Try it, and see what you think.
  2. My scores really, really suck. This may be because of my recent aversion to pretty much all the news I encounter, thereby causing me to read less of it. But that’s probably not all of it.

See if you can do better. Actually, I expect a bag of hammers could do better.

Even that kid they call their “audience engagement editor” did better. Way better. But I comfort myself with the observation that she doesn’t even know how to spell her own name. I mean our own name… whatever…

Hey, I aced the Slate News Quiz! For once…


In keeping with my policy of posting the results on the rare occasions when I do well on the Slate News Quiz, and ignoring the whole business when I don’t, I share with you today’s result.

Of course, a lot was at stake today. They had taunted me with the challenge, “Think You’re Smarter Than a Slate Staff Writer?”

A “staff writer?” Are you kidding me? Obviously, the honor of editors everywhere was at stake!

I still went into it with some trepidation, given my record with these quizzes, but I kinda lucked out: Seems like there was only one sports-related question (which I suppose are gimmes for most people), and I guessed right on that one.

See how you do

I was smart today. But so were other people


Just thought I’d brag a bit. I got every answer right on Slate’s weekly news quiz! Which I haven’t done in awhile, or maybe ever.

I didn’t rush myself, which helped — but cost me points. Still, I scored higher than the average, and higher than the Slate staffer who was the designated guy to beat this week.

But not much higher. They did well, too. Which suggests maybe the questions were just unusually easy this week.

Check it out and see how you do…


I may not be bright, but I’m not quite as dumb as these guys


I never truly excel at the weekly Slate News Quiz, unlike our friend Doug. I’m just too deliberate, and this test rewards celerity.

Also, I sometimes get the answers, you know, wrong.

So I take satisfaction from such modest results as today’s. I came out looking pretty dumb, but not as dumb as certain other people.

Although I’m still kicking myself for getting the below question wrong, when I KNEW the answer. I had used the correct answer in something I was writing for an ADCO client (one in the insurance industry) just a few days ago.

But… I was trying to be fast, and that was my undoing. I saw the name of a corporation that I knew had been in the news in relation to the opioid crisis, and clicked on it, and even as my finger was applying pressure to the mouse button my brain saw the correct answer and screamed “NOOOOooooo!” But it was too late.