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Free trivia questions and puzzles
Free trivia questions and puzzles
Table of contents
1.5. the paintings puzzle
1.6. the spotlight puzzle
1.6.1. see also
free trivia questions and puzzles answers for team building games and quizzes 
Here are free answers to trivia questions and puzzles on the businessballs puzzles section. Use these free puzzles and games for challenging quizzes, team building games, ice-breakers, and warm ups. Use these trivia questions and puzzles sparingly - they more complex and contain more parts than normal trivia quiz questions. Asking too many questions and puzzles in team-building situations reduces the benefit individuals and teams get from thinking about them.
See the Quizballs quizzes with free questions and answers, for quicker quiz questions normally associated with trivia and pub quizzes.
Quizballs also contains business and management quizzes which can be used for fun, learning and tests.
Puzzles are great ice breakers for training sessions, meetings, workshops, seminars or conferences. This selection of free trivia and puzzles questions and answers can be used as one-off lateral thinking puzzles for light relief in a meeting or training session, or you can put together a number of different trivia questions and puzzles for quizzes and team building games or exercises. Email your own games, tricks, puzzles, warm ups and exercises. See also the ditloids puzzles page, the tough complex puzzles, the team building games section for team building and employee motivation ideas, and try the expressions derivations quiz.
Giving groups or teams a set of puzzles gets people working together and using their brains and each other's strengths. These puzzles are great for competitive team building exercises. Most of the puzzles can be adapted, enlarged or shortened, or made easier by turning into multiple-choice. Have fun ...
These puzzles and answers are free provided you acknowledge copyright (alan chapman) and the businessballs.com website. You are not permitted to sell them or copy them in any form for general publication without permission. More puzzles are added so come again.
If you need a warm-up quiz quickly, here's a free ready-made Quick Ten-Questions Trivia Quiz in MSWord, with questions and answers sheets featuring questions from the list below.
If you want quick questions and answers for quizzes - or stand-alone ready-made quizzes - you'll find hundreds of quiz questions and answers at the Quizballs section.
(answers are below - the questions without answers are here)
See also the Quizballs quizzes with free questions and answers, which are designed for use in conventional quizzes. The questions and answers below are not all ideal for quick quizzes because many of the questions are more complex and time-consuming, and test problem-solving as well as knowledge.
What's special about 4th May 2006, and specifically two minutes and three seconds after one o'clock in the morning?It's the only time for a hundred years (before or after) that the time in the UK will read as 01:02:03 04.05.06. In the US and Canada of course this happens on 5th April due to the way the date is shown there (day and month are inverted).
What are the astrological star signs and the two months that each sign represents? (The symbols and precise dates are optional details and not necessarily required in quiz answers, especially since precise dates are open to debate.)
- Aries, the Ram - 20 Mar to 19 Apr (precise dates for all signs can vary according to interpretation)
- Taurus, the Bull - 20 Apr to 20 May
- Gemini, the Twins - 21 May to 20 Jun
- Cancer, the Crab - 21 Jun to 21 Jul
- Leo, the Lion - 22 Jul to 22 Aug
- Virgo, the Maiden - 23 Aug to 22 Sept
- Libra, the Scales - 23 Sept to 22 Oct
- Scorpio, the Scorpion - 23 Oct to 21 Nov
- Sagittarius, the Archer - 22 Nov to 21 Dec
- Capricorn, the Goat - 22 Dec to 19 Jan
- Aquarius, the Water-bearer - 20 Jan to 17 Feb
- Pisces, the Two Fishes - 18 Feb to 19 Mar
Who wrote: "Bring me my bow of burning gold: Bring me my arrows of desire.." ? William Blake (1757-1827, English poet, painter and mystic.)
What famous slogan was originally devised by Patrick O'Keefe for the Society of American Florists? "Say it with Flowers."
What connects the words sitcom, smog, brunch, muppet and cyborg? They are all 'portmanteau' words, ie., combinations of two different words. (Sitcom is derived from situation and comedy; smog from smoke and fog; brunch from breakfast and lunch; muppet from marionette and puppet; cyborg from cybernetic and organism. The term portmanteau as description of word combinations was devised by Lewis Carroll when it first appeared in Carroll's book 'Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There', dated 1872, appeared in 1871. More about portmanteau words, and how to use them in creativity and development activities.)
What symbolic item did Lauren Bacall put into the urn containing Humphrey Bogart's ashes? A whistle (the gold whistle was engraved with the words "If you need anything, just whistle" - reference to Bacall's lines spoken to Bogart in their first film together To Have And Have Not, released in 1944. Bacall was Bogart's fourth wife and they remained married until Bogart's death in 1957.)
Which one of these is on the coast: Cairo, Johannesburg, Tripoli, Sarajevo, Nairobi, Khartoum? Tripoli (Libya)
Which one of these is not on the coast: Venice, San Diego, Reykjavik, Marrakesh, Helsinki, Lisbon? Marrakesh (Morocco)
What upper case (capital) letter of the English alphabet (in plain sans serif font) requires that the pen be lifted from the paper twice (providing no lines are re-traced)? H (There are other letters such as A, F, K, N whose capitals can be drawn in three separate strokes, but H is the only sans serif capital which is impossible to draw without lifting the pen twice unless re-tracing a stroke already made. In serif font the letter I - and a few others like S and U - would also require two pen-lifts. Interestingly this font, Tahoma, is sans serif, but contains a serif I. The letters S and U in Tahoma are sans serif. In Times they would be S and U. Note the additional strokes. Thanks M Portwood for helping me clarify this puzzle.)
A famous leader's first name of Mohandas is commonly replaced by a first name that means 'great soul'; who was he? Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian statesman and spiritual leader).
Who was the 'The Wizard of Menlo Park' who said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."? Thomas Edison (1847-1931, US inventor of the gramophone, electric valve, a megaphone, a storage battery, a system of electricity generation and distribution, and first person to produce talking motion pictures).
Paul McGann, Peter Davidson and William Hartnell have each played the same famous sci-fi role. What's the character's name? 'The Doctor', or 'Doctor'. (Not Dr Who. Dr Who is the name of the series. The character is called The Doctor).
What is the largest English town or city never (as of 2005/06) to have been represented in the top English football division (the old First Division and now the Premier League)? Hull City. Supplementary question: What is also unique about this full club name in the entire professional football league system? All other club names when written in upper or lower case contain at least one letter that includes a complete 'loop' (eg' letters like e, a, b, d, g, p, etc), as could be 'filled in, (if you had such a mind to do so). The words 'hull city' and 'HULL CITY' contain no holes or complete loops.
There are four (known to us - perhaps there are more) perfectly recognisable and understandable words in the English language having one of each vowel in reverse alphabetical order (UOIEA), what are the words? Subcontinental, Unoriental, Uncomplimentary and Unnoticeably. (Ack P Fowler for Subcontinental, and R Murphy for Uncomplimentary and Unnoticeably. If you know any other UOIEA words please send them.) See also the AEIOU word puzzle answers.
Why would the following stand no chance of being approved as official names for British racehorses? - Salisbury Cathedral, Wonderful Terminator, Sexy Disciplinarian or Sea Bee. The first three names are all longer than 18 letters including spaces. 18 letters including spaces is the maximum allowed by the Jockey Club, so as to fit onto race programs. Sea Bee would not be allowed because words that sound like letters are not permitted either.
How much time elapses between any Sunday 29 February and (going forward in time) the next respective Tuesday 29 February? (This is not a trick question and is reasonably straight-forward to work out if you have that sort of brain...) 24 years. Given that after every normal year the days of the week advance by one day, and after leap-years by two days, then leap-year days advance by five days each time (every four years). Tuesday is 5 days back from Sunday and therefore one leap year short of a full 28 years cycle (28 years because there are seven different days in the cycle, and seven x four years = 28 years). Anyone not knowing that after every normal year the days advance by one day needs only to calculate that 365 days ÷ 7 (days per week) = 52.142857. The 0.142857 equals one-seventh of a week, ie., a day, which is effectively used from the next year's day cycle, which means that each new year starts one-day forward compared to the previous year (other than after leap-years, when effectively two days are used from the next year's day cycle). A supplementary question is: what year was the last Sunday 29 February? (Again this is straight-forward to work out if you know the current day and date, and have the right sort of brain....) Answer: 1976. The 28 February in the 2004 leap-year was a Saturday, which is not so difficult to work out (two days back from Monday 28 Feb 2005, or three days back from Tuesday 28 Feb 2006, (depending on what calendar you are looking at). Therefore 29 February in the 2004 leap-year was a Sunday. The last time there was a Sunday 29 February was 28 years before that, ie, 1976, and the next Sunday 29 February will be 28 years after 2004, ie, 2032.
This is a very impressive trick; especially because the solution is for real; it's not a trick in the usual sense.
Ideally use a craft knife and a cutting mat or board and a suitable ruler or straight edge. A simpler quicker variation of the trick is possible with scissors and a larger piece of paper, such as a compliment slip, instead of a business card.
See also the 'Sheet of Paper Step-Through Game' which uses this exercise as a group activity (for meeting icebreakers, teambuilding, problem-solving, togetherness, kids' scissor-skills, etc).
Here are the instructions.
Fold the business card in half, and cut it through both sides of the card, as shown in the diagram, in the following sequence:
Cut 10-12 slits, from the folded edge up to about 3mm of the open edge, each slit about 5mm apart.
Cut a slit between each of the above slits, from the open edge up to about 3mm of the folded edge.
Open the card and cut the folded edge, but not the ends marked with blue circles.
You should then be able, gently, to open the card into a ring, which unless you are a very large person, you should be able to put your entire body through.
Here's one I made earlier.
This is a normal business card, measuring 85mm x 55mm.
This example opens into a ring with a circumferance of 166 cms, almost 5'6", enough for two people, at a squeeze.
You need quite good cutting skills for this trick, and quite a slender intimate friend if you want to get two bodies throught it at the same time.
The pen is for scale.
You can use a bigger sheet of paper to practice and see how it's done.
The trick is equally impressive using scissors and a sheet of paper, around A5 size. A compliment slip also works well.
The trick also provides an amusing basis for various team games.
(Thanks to Howard Hughes)
The 'Sheet of Paper Step-Through Game'provides additional information about this exercise, and shows an alternative solution to the puzzle.
An art gallery features a modern work of 'moving art'. The artist stands by a stack of paintings, each featuring a different number. One of the paintings is displayed on the wall. At certain times the artist removes the painting from the wall and replaces it with a painting from the stack. At 11am, the artist hangs a painting of the number 30. At 4pm he hangs a painting of number 240. At 7.30pm he hangs a painting of number 315. What painting does the artist hang at 9.20pm?
The answer is 200. The explanation is that the painting number equates to the number of degrees between a clock's hour-hand and minute-hand (measured in a clockwise direction). The first three examples are easy if you sketch the clock hands on a clock face and plot the hours around the clock face (bear in mind there are 360 degrees around a circle; the 12 on the clock-face equates to 360 (or zero) degrees, and each hour equates to 30 degrees, being one-twelfth of 360). The puzzle question (9.20pm) is more difficult to calculate than the first three time examples. Here are my two attempts to explain it:
method 1- Each hour on the clock face equates to 30 degrees (12 x 30 = 360). From 9 to 4 on the clockface moving clockwise is 210 degrees (7 hours x 30 degrees = 210 degrees). But the hour hand is not on the 9, it's one-third of the way to 10 (the time being 9.20, not 9.00). This one-third (being 20 minutes of a 60 minute hour) equates to 10 degrees (10 is a third of 30 degrees). Therefore the angle in degrees between the hour hand and the minute hand at 9.20 is 200 degrees (210 - 10).
method 2 - At 9:20 the minute hand is at the number 4 which is 120 degrees from zero (4 is a third of 12, hence a third of 360 degrees is 120 degrees). The hour hand is at a position equating to 560/720 minutes (there being 720 minutes in 12 hours, and 9hrs 20mins being 560 minutes). 560/720 equates to 280/360 (360 is half of 720, and half of 560 is 280), so the hour hand is at 280 degrees from zero (remember zero is 12 on the clock face). Measured in a clockwise direction, the number of degrees (or angle) between the hour hand and the minute hand is 80 degrees around to to the 12 (at zero degrees), plus 120 degrees from the 12 to the 4 (which we previously established). Then simply add: 80 + 120 = 200.
(If you know the origins of this puzzle please contact us)
A conference room contains three separate wall-mounted spotlights - right, left and front of stage. Each is controlled by its own on-off switch. These three switches are numbered 1, 2 and 3, but they are in a back-room which has no sight of the the spotlights or the conference room (and there are no reflections or shadows or mirrors, and you are alone). How do you identify each switch correctly - right, left, front - if you can only enter the back-room once?
Switch on number 1 and leave it on for 30 seconds, then switch it off. Switch on number 2 and leave it on. Enter the conference room. The spotlight that is on is obviously number 2. The spotlight that is warm is switch 1, and the other spotlight is number 3. (Adapted from a suggestion by D Thomasson)
What famous UK business institution has the postal code CF14 3UZ? Companies House (Crown Way, Cardiff, South Wales), a division of the UK Department of Trade and Industry, responsible for keeping company records and accounts of firms registered in England and Wales.
Months of the year that begin on a Sunday (other than February in non-leap-years) always have five Sundays. What other notable feature do they (including all Februarys) contain? Friday the 13th.
What connects these words?... Dram, Colon, Won, Dong, Kip.They are currencies (as at May 2005), specifically: Dram (Armenia), Colon (Costa Rica, El Salvadore), Won (North Korea, South Korea), Dong (Vietnam), Kip (Lao People's Democratic Republic, formerly Laos).
Hedy Lamarr achieved what notable cinematic 'first' in 1933? (If you can state any of her other interesting claims to fame, then award yourself a bonus point for each...) Hedy Lamarr was the first woman to appear completely nude on the big screen in a major production in the 1933 Czech film 'Extase' ('Ecstasy'). Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna on 9 November 1913, Hedy Lamarr's other claims to fame were fascinating: her first husband was a wealthy Austrian armaments magnate Fritz Mandl. They lived in Salzburg Castle where they hosted parties for Hitler and Mussolini. The castle was later used as a principle location in the film The Sound Of Music. After escaping to London in 1937, and then moving to the US, with her second husband George Antheil, Lamarr designed and patented missile guidance anti-jamming technology in 1942, which the US military used for development work after Lamarr's patent expired, prompting Lamarr to sue (unsuccessfully) the US government. Lamarr's radio-frequency-based concepts contributed to the development of various modern-day communications technology, and Lamarr was finally recognised for her invention by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in March 1997. She died in January 2000.
With what papers do you associate Sam Weller? Sam Weller is a character in the book The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens.
What do these Shakespeare plays have in common?... Julius Caesar, Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth. Each features a ghost.
Where was Britain's first escalator installed? Harrods department store, Knightsbridge London, around 1900.
'Dieu Et Mon Droit' appears on which daily header? The Times Newspaper (of England). 'Dieu Et Mon Droit' is now commonly and wrongly translated as 'God and my right', but the original meaning was based on medieval French: 'God and my duty', which in addition to The Times' more recent usage, was much longer ago adopted by past monarchs, and various other families and institutions, appearing on crests, coinage and other symbols of grand authority.
What do these items have in common?... Arrow, Ladder, Spanner, Hockey-Stick, T-Square, Crutch. They all feature as objects to be picked up in the table game 'Jack Straws'.
The drummer with little known 1960's high school rock group the Iguanas became which music and style icon? Iggy Pop. The nickname Iggy came from his days with the Iguanas.
Christopher Leyland's discovery on his brother-in-law's estate near Powys, Wales in 1888, was what? The Leylandii conifer, source of so many disputes between next-door-neighbours. Interestingly and probably very fortunately, this plant is a hybrid (of the macrocarpa and the nootka cypress) and so does not not reproduce naturally - it can only be grown from a cutting; which also means that all Leylandii are in fact directly descended from Leyland's original six seedlings.
Scientist Dr Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, had what well known unit of measurement was named after him? The bel, from which: the decibel (a decibel is one tenth of a bel). The bel or decibel is actually a measurement of relationship between two values of power - it is not a constant unit like a metre or a pound or a volt. When we see noise levels shown in decibels, the noise (power) is normally shown relative to a nominal zero (0dB) which is based on the quietest sound perceivable by the human ear - the threshold of hearing. A bel is a power ratio (relationship measurement) of ten times. The decibel is more widely used simply because it enables measurements in smaller increments. In decibels, here are some values of different noises: normal breathing 10dB, toilet flushing 80dB, chain saw or rock concert 120dB, shotgun 170dB. Amazingly a baby crying is 110dB.
What is the connection between Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton and riot control? They were two chemists who in 1927 invented CS gas, which takes its name from the initials of their surnames.
What was Pall Mall before it was a famous London street and brand of cigarettes? Pall Mall was game similar to croquet, featuring an iron ball, a mallet, and a ring or hoop, which was positioned at the end of an alley as a target. Pall Mall and The Mall in London both owe their names to the game, whose name was adopted into English from the French Paillemaille, in turn from the original Italian Pallamaglio, derived from the root Italian words palla, meaning ball, and maglio, meaning mallet. The game was a favourite of Charles II (1630-1685) and was played in an alley which stood on St James's Park on the site the present Mall, which now connects Trafalgar Square with Buckingham Palace. Pall Mall incidentally runs parallel to The Mall, and connects St James's Street to Trafalgar Square. Brewer's dictionary of 1870 (revised 1894) lists Pall Mall as 'A game in which a palle or iron ball is struck through an iron ring with a mall or mallet' which indicates that the game and the name were still in use at the end of the 19th century. According to Chambers, the word mall was first used to describe a promenade (from which we get today's shopping mall term) in 1737, derived from from The Mall (the London street name), which seems to have been named in 1674, happily coinciding with the later years of Charles II's reign.
The bacillus-based invention of French bacteriologists Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin, and the reason for their invention gave rise to two well-known abbreviations, what are they? BCG and TB (the BCG vaccine, named after Bacillus-Calmette-Guérin, and the disease it was invented to counter - TB, or Tuberculosis.
A maritime poser: Homo-Sapien ÷ Rent = ? Man overboard.
What do these words have in common, and what does each word mean in that common context? They are collective nouns for living creatures:
- string of ponies
- ostentation of peacocks
- smack of jellyfish
- pitying of doves
- crash of rhinosceroses
- unkindness of ravens
- murmuration of starlings
- drove of cattle
- pod of seals
- murder of crows
- knot of toads
- colony of ants
- grist of flies
- brood of hens
- shrewdness of apes
- school of fish
- siege of herons
What 15-letter word contains the letter 'E' five times and no other vowels? Defencelessness.
To circus people, what is a 'First of May Joey'? A new clown that has just joined a circus - the expression was used by circus folk: 'Joey' after Joseph Grimaldi, 'The Father Of Clowns', 1779-1837, the famous pantomime clown who never actually appeared in a circus ring, but who provided the blueprint for circus clowns by his costume, make-up and performances in English pantomimes in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. And 'May', because the 1st of May was traditionally the start of the circus season.
What is deoxyribonucleic acid? DNA.
What is the only US state which borders with just one other US state? Maine.
JCB is the name of the famous earth-moving machines; what does JCB stand for? Joseph Cyril Bamford, the company's founder (1916-2001).
What word ends with an S in its plural masculine form, but changes to singular feminine when another S is added to the end? There are now two examples of this known to me. Princes/Princess (Ack D Robinson) and Ogres/Ogress (ack M Trollope).
Many flags of European countries have three stripes, vertical or horizontal - how many of the following do you know?
(vertical stripes left to right - technically first colour is the one at the 'hoist', i.e., nearest the flagpole)
black/yellow/red - Belgium
blue/white/red - France
green/white/red - Italy
green/white/orange - Ireland
(horizontal stripes top to bottom)
red/white/green - Hungary
black/red/yellow - Germany
white/green/red - Bulgaria
red/yellow/red - Spain
yellow/green/red - Lithuania
blue/black/white - Estonia
red/white/blue - Luxembourg, Netherlands (Holland)
(Thanks for corrections Anna and Ned.)
What is the capacity of a 'barrel' as commonly referenced for crude oil production? Also, what does OPEC stand for, and what are the eleven member countries (as at October 2004)? The capacity of a 'barrel' of crude oil is 35 UK gallons or 42 US gallons, or 159 litres. The OPEC abbreviation stands for the Organisation of Petroleum Expoirting Countries. Current members (as at October 2004) are Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. OPEC was officially formed on 14 September 1960 in Baghdad, Iraq, by the five founder member countries: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, and the OPEC organisation was registered with the United Nations Secretariat on 6 November 1962 (United Nations resolution number 6363). (Thanks for US/UK gallons correction JDQ)
Whose dogs? -
- Albie - The Beverly Hillbillies (Albie was Ellie Mae's mongrel. Duke was Jed's bloodhound. The Drysdale's had a poodle called Claude)
- Argos - Odysseus
- Bagel - Barry Manilow
- Bimbo - Betty Boop
- Blondi - Adolph Hitler
- Boatswain - Lord Byron
- Checkers, Vicky and King Timahoe - Richard Nixon
- Gnasher - Dennis the Menace
- Gromit - Wallace
- Kasbec - Pablo Picasso
- Krypto - Superman
- Mafia - Marylin Monroe
- Muttley - Dick Dastardly (in Wacky Races)
- Nana - the Darling Family (in Peter Pan)
- Nipper - RCA (the dog with the gramophone in the 'His Master's Voice' corporate image)
- Peritas - Alexander the Great
- Precious Pup - Granny Sweet (in The Atom Ant Show)
- Rambler - Grizzly Adams
- Snert - Hagar The Horrible
- Snoopy - Charlie Brown
- Snowy - Tintin
- Susan, Emma, Linnet, Holly and Willow - Queen Elizabeth II
- Turk - Swiss Family Robinson
What are these cities? There is more than one answer for some (I've attempted to reflect the most common globally recognised associations; if you have local interpretations that you feel are more appropriate then that's fine - no need to let me know unless you feel especially strongly):-
- City of Dreaming Spires - Oxford, UK.
- City of Magnificent Distances - Washington DC, USA.
- City of the Angels - Los Angeles, USA.
- City of Churches - Adelaide, Australia.
- City of Love - Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Calcutta, India.
- City of Peace and Justice - The Hague, The Netherlands.
- City of the Tribes/the Eternal City/City of Love - Rome, Italy.
- City of the Violated Treaty/Stab City - Limerick, Ireland.
- City of the Violet Crown - Athens, Greece.
- Crescent City - New Orleans, USA.
- Empire City - New York, USA.
- Fair City - Dublin, Ireland. (Also Perth, Scotland)
- Forbidden City - Beijing and Lhasa, China.
- Granite City - Aberdeen, Scotland.
- The Harbour City/Emerald City - Sydney, Australia; (Wichita, USA is also known as Emerald City).
- Monumental City/Charm City - Baltimore, USA.
- Mormon City - Salt Lake City, USA.
- Orchid City - Shah Alam, Malaysia.
- Quaker City - Philadelphia, USA.
- Soul City - Harlem, New York, USA.
- The Stampede City - Calgary, Canada.
- Windy City - Chicago, USA.
- Motor City - Detroit, USA.
- Music City - Nashville, USA.
- The Steel City - Sheffield, England.
- The White City of the North - Helsinki, Finland.
Where would you find stags and kites (along with a couple of other creatures that would surely give the game away)? The London Stock Exchange - a stag is a speculator who buys initial allotments of shares in the hope of selling them immediately for a premium upon listing while risking a loss if they fail to meet initial allotment price; a kite is a cheque, or originally a dud cheque drawn on a fraudulently established bank balance; and the other two creatures more commonly associated with financial markets are bulls and bears.
What was 'Sphairistike'? (The word is Greek, loosely meaning 'ball-game', and an earlier version was known by the French as 'Jeu de Paume'). 'Sphairistike' was the name of the portable outdoor game, and particularly the set of equipment, devised by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield and patented in 1874, now known as Lawn Tennis. His brand name never caught on, soon being shortened to 'Sticky' (from the pronunciation sfer-is-ti-kee) before the name quickly reverted to its historical roots. The word tennis had been used to describe other versions of the game since about 1500, and even earlier as 'tenyes' (1300's) possibly from the French 'tenez', from tenir, to hold or receive (the serve). Interestingly, the language and history writer Bill Bryson maintains that Arthur Balfour, prior to becoming British Prime Minister, suggested the name Lawn Tennis. Arguably it was the 'portability' of the Sphairistike equipment set that was responsible for the game's speedy introduction (by Mary Outerbridge) to the USA, also in 1874. She obtained a 'Sphairistike' set while on holiday in Bermuda and took it back to her Staten Island home. Meanwhile, the Wimbledon Club adopted Lawn Tennis after hosting a tennis event ostensibly to raise money for a pony-drawn roller for its croquet lawns in 1877.
What icon of 20th century design was the Chapman Root Glass Company of Indiana responsible for introducing in 1915? The Coca-Cola bottle; also known variously as the 'hobble skirt', the 'Mae West', the 'Thanksgiving' and the 'Christmas' bottle. By the 1990's it had become almost certainly the most recognizable corporate identity symbol on Earth, known to 90% of the world's population. The bottle itself was trademarked by Coca-Cola in 1960.
Who were the famous riders of these horses? - Bucephalos - Alexander the Great; Black Bess - Dick Turpin; Arion - Hurcules; Copenhagen - The Duke of Wellington; Marengo - Napoleon Bonaparte; Babieca - El Cid; Dapple (an ass) - Sancho Panza (friend of Don Quixote); Incitatus - Caligula; Pegasus - Perseus, Bellerophon, Apollo; Trigger - Roy Rogers; White Surrey - Richard III; Midnight - Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates (in Rawhide).
What twelve animals feature in Chinese astrology? horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake.
These seemingly unpronouncable sounds actually appear in common English words; what are the three words? - sthm, tchphr, tchst. asthma, catchphrase, matchstick. The less common alternative word with the 'sthm' letter set is isthmus, which is narrow connecting-piece between two larger pieces, normally land (as in the geographical term), but the word also can apply in an anatomical or botanical context. (Ack JP)
These very old iconic symbols were responsible for what modern system? - the moon, the sun, the planet Saturn, and the Anglo-Saxon gods: Thor, Tiw, Woden, and his wife Frig. The days of the week.
Cryptic anagram puzzles answers (the clues are in the questions): dirty room = dormitory; here come dots = the morse code; lost cash in, me = slot machines; alas, no more z's = snooze alarms; I'm a dot in place = decimal point; eleven plus two = twelve plus one.
A father took his son to hospital for emergency treatment after an accident. The doctor greeted them, but on seeing the boy, exclaimed, "I can't operate on him - he's my son!" How can this be? (The son was not adopted, nor a step-son.) The doctor was the boy's mother.
The 'Frying Pan' was a 1931 prototype and early production nickname for what item of electro-magnetic equipment? The electric guitar. The prototype's body was made of maple wood; production models were of cast aluminium.
Hartnell and Troughton did it on TV. Who did it in a movie film in the same decade? Peter Cushing (played the Doctor in the 1965 film 'Dr Who and the Daleks', and in 1966 'Daleks - invasion of Earth 2150AD'. William Hartnell was the Doctor in the TV series Dr Who from 1963-66, and Patrick Troughton took the role from 1966-69. Jon Pertwee was the Doctor from 1970-74; Tom Baker 1974-81; Peter Davidson 1981-84; Colin Baker 1984-86; Sylvester McCoy 1987-89 and in the 1996 TV movie; Paul McGann also played the Doctor in the 1996 Dr Who TV movie; Christopher Ecclestone 2005; David Tennant 2005. Thanks M Portwood for you help with this. Thanks also P Threadgall for an additional typo correction.)
What do these British people have in common? J S Lowry, David Bowie, French and Saunders, Nigella Lawson, Vanessa Redgrave, Albert Finney, Jon Snow, John le Carre, Aldous Huxley, Roald Dahl, Evelyn Waugh and George Melly. They have all refused to accept honours (such as OBE, MBE, Knighthood, etc) offered by the state. Others who have turned down awards include poet Benjamin Zaphania, novelist J G Ballard, playwrights Michael Frayn and J B Priestley, artist David Hockney, actors Jim Broadbent, Honor Blackman, Alistair Sim, and Trevor Howard. (It is not normal for refused nominations to be announced, and the people concerned certainly didn't publicise their refusals - the information was contained in honours committee notes, leaked to the British press in December 2003.)
Lincoln's stunning 1955 Futura convertible concept car appeared in motor shows to wide acclaim until 1959, when it achieved even greater notoriety, featuring the 1959 film 'It Started With A Kiss' starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. The car later became even more famous for what reason? It became the Batmobile. The Futura had been acquired by Hollywood car builder George Barris from the studio after its apprearance in 'It Started With A Kiss', and Barris decided to use it as the donor vehicle for the famous Batmobile when he was given the project in 1965 for the Batman TV series launched in 1966. Barris was too busy to build the car himself (he was given just three weeks to do it), so he specified the adaptations and the work was carried out by Barris's competitor Bill Cushenberry. Incredibly, Barris retained the rights to the car and leased it to the Batman studios on a week to week basis.
What is remarkable about this phrase? - Anger? 'Tis safe never. Bar it. Use Love. When reversed, supposedly, it translates into Latin with the same meaning: Evoles ut ira breve nefas sit; regna. (Ack Richard Lederer)
Name a common word with five consecutive vowels. Queueing. Less common is miaoued (pertaining to a cat's cry, found in some dictionaries). Words with four consecutive vowels include sequoia (giant redwood tree) and aqueous.
What morbid coincidence occured at 12 Curzon Place, Mayfair, London? Singer 'Mama' Cass Elliot died there in 1974, age 33; she suffered a heart attack caused by obesity (not from choking on a ham sandwich as reported at the time and now a popular urban myth - thanks A Taubman). Keith Moon, drummer of 'The Who' rock band, also died there in 1978 from a drugs overdose, age 32 - in the same upstairs room, flat number 9, 12 Curzon Place. An interesting footnote was sent to me by Dale Newton: "... regarding 12 Curzon Place, and the deaths of Mamma Cass and Keith Moon - what is not widely known about that address is that it belonged to the singer Harry Nilsson. Cass and Keith were both house guests of his. I know because I was a good friend of his and actually brought the place for him from keyboard player Gary Wright ..." (with thanks to Dale Newton, 14 Oct 2004)
Catholic bishops are allowed seven of them, priests five, and ordinary people one; what are they? Crosses on a tomb.
Why do we say 'Bless you' to someone who has sneezed? While there are variations around the theme, the main origin is that sneezing was believed in medieval times to be associated with vulnerability to evil, notably that sneezing expelled a person's soul, thus enabling an evil spirit - or specifically the devil - to steal the soul or to enter the body and take possession of it. Another contributory factor was the association of sneezing with the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) which ravaged England and particularly London in the 14th and 17th centuries.
Whose secret ingredient is code-named 7X? Coca-cola.
Why did so many sailors have a crucifix tattooed on their backs in the 1700's? In the hope that the ship's captain would be merciful in the event of having to administer punishment by whipping.
What unique feature do the words PRECEPTOR and DILLYDALLY have in common? By converting letters into numbers, on the basis that A=1, B=2, etc., these two words produce the same numerical answer when the values of the letters are multiplied together: 1,866,240,000. This is the highest number found on this basis between any pair of two relatively normal words in the English language, and incidentally these words have not one letter the same.
What's the longest word in the English language with only one vowel (which appears once only in the word)? Strengths. ('latchstrings' is said to be the longest word with two vowels, and also the word with the most consecutive consonants, however [thanks A Anderson] the word disrhythmic beats this on both counts, depending on interpretation of the term'vowel', and if not [thanks PM Lawrence] then 'Knightsbridge' also contains six consecutive consonants.)
What do the words ALMOST and BIOPSY have in common? Their letters are in alphabetical order.
What's the only word in the English language having four consecutive double letters? Subbookkeeper. (bookkeeper, bookkeeping and tattooee are the only words having three consecutive double letters.)
Draw a capital T over a capital C so that the down-stroke of the T ends in the centre of the C. What historial event does this represent? The Boston Tea Party, of 16 December 1773, when a group of US colonial political activists disguised as Mohawk Indians dumped 342 chests of Darjeeling tea, then worth about £10,000, into Boston harbour in protest against the British tax policies, introduced by the British government to save the ailing British East India Tea Company, who were thus enabled to export £½m of tea to the American colonies free of duty, undercutting Amercian traders. Incidentally, the tea was shipped by an exporter in London, still in existence, which today sells a tea called "Boston Harbour." This type of puzzle is called a rebus.
What five odd figures when added together make fourteen? 11, 1, 1, 1. (Five figure ones.)
The time displayed usually on watches and clocks in adverts is what?, and why? Ten minutes past ten, because it looks like a smiling face.
What are the only four commonly used words in the English language ending in 'dous'? (There is a fourth not-so-common word, and a fifth very uncommon one, which also has one of each vowel in the correct order)Tremendous, horrendous, stupendous and hazardous. The not-so-common word is jeopardous. The uncommon word with all the vowels in the correct order is Annelidous (pertaining to annelid, which is a segmented worm).
What is the only word in the English language that ends in 'mt'? Dreamt.
What are the longest one-syllable words in the English language?Longest single-syllable words questions often appear in quizzes and trivia pages. The most commonly referenced single-syllable, ten-letter word, that appears in dictionaries and is actually used in speech sometimes, is scraunched (ack C Bullard) referring to a crunching noise having been made, such as walking on gravel. Other ten letter single-syllable words which can be found in dictionaries but are much less used (in fact virtually never), are for example: schmaltzed (imparted sentimentality), scroonched (squeezed), schrootched (crouched), and strengthed (old variant of strengthened). There are others because language is continually expanding and dictionaries with it. There are several commonly used single-syllable words with nine letters, strangely most beginning with the letter 'S', notably: screeched, strengths, straights, scratched, stretched, scrounged, scrunched, and the less commonly-known: scraughed, scrinched, scritched, scrooched, sprainged, spreathed, throughed and thrutched. As at 2009 Wikipedia contained these somewhat dubious suggestions, which for one reason or another probably fail to qualify: schtroumpfed, twelve letters (a non-dictionary word, based apparently on a reference to the French word for a Smurf and how a Smurf's behaviour might be described); squirrelled, eleven letters (which appears in a dictionary but only in very lazy pronunciation has less than two syllables), and broughammed (a contrived non-dictionary double-m spelling for a similarly contrived non-dictionary word, made up in its single-m version, apparently by George Bernard Shaw, referring to being transported by a Brougham, which is a horse drawn carriage named after its inventor Lord Brougham, although neither broughammed or broughamed appear in a dictionary, and anyway the OED gives a pronunciation for Brougham equating to 'broo-em' which is two sylllables even before the contrivance is added). (Thanks also PT)
Words that sound exactly the same and have opposite meanings. (They are spelt differently but phonetically - they sound - the same): There are several examples:
- Raise (build up) and Raze (destroy to the ground).
- Wave (dismiss) and waive (allow).
- Sent and Scent (as in 'dispatch to' and 'receive from' - not quite so clear-cut as the first two pairings, and not the same tense, but opposites nevertheless - thanks Rachel Sharkey).
- Pair and Pare (to increase by doubling-up, and to reduce by cutting or trimming away - thanks Kari Caron).
Words which without changing the spelling or sound have two opposite meanings - There are a surprising number examples of words spelled the same which have two opposite meanings. These words are called autoantonyms, or contranyms or antagonyms, (less correctly contronyms and antaganyms). English language expert and writer Michael Sheehan in his wonderful book Words to the Wise credits Richard Lederer (language and word-play expert and writer) and Charles Ellis (university professor, dermatologist and antagonyms expert) respectively for coining the terms contranym and antagonym. Here are some very common autoantonym (or contranym or antagonym) words:
- Cap (limit or stop) and Cap (add to or increase)
- Outstanding (satisfactory - standard exceeded) and Outstanding (unsatisfactory - standard not met). (Thanks J Molloy)
- Oversight (check, monitor) and Oversight (neglect, forget)
- Weather (endure - stand test of time or resist storm or pressure) and Weather (erode - wear down or denude).(Thanks L Bell - thanks also for pointing me towards the antagonym term)
- Clip (join two or more things together as with a paper-clip) and Clip (divide something into two or more pieces, as in clip an article from the paper or clip someone's hair).
- Dust (remove a layer of powdery substance) and Dust (apply a layer of powdery substance, as in dusting crops or dusting for finger-prints).
- Trim (add to or embellish, as in trim the Christmas tree) and Trim (cut away something, as in trim someone's hair or a hedge).
- Cleave (split apart or break) and Cleave (stick or adhere). (See the explanation under cliches origins for more detail.)
- Ravish (to violently abuse) and Ravish (to delight)
- Fast (quick) and Fast (stuck tight)
- Sanction (a permission) and Sanction (a preventative penalty)
- Sanguine (cheerful) and Sanguine (bloodthirsty)
- Bolt (fixed, secure in place) and Bolt (move fast, run away).
- Garnish (add to - embellish or decorate) Garnish (remove from - as in legally serving notice to seize money or assets). (Acknowledgements to P Merison, G Comstock, C Klahn, and Bill Bryson's book Mother Tongue.)
- Bound (fixed) and Bound (moving, as in travelling).
- Left (gone) and Left (remaining).
- Mad (angry about) and Mad (attracted to).
- Livid (angry) and Livid (pallid - lacking colour and spirit). (Thanks L Prinos)
- Wind-up (start something, like a clock or an argument) and Wind-up (finish something, like proceedings or a talk).(Arguably not a single word and so technically not a proper contranym)
- Blow up (inflate - create - a balloon) and Blow up (destroy with explosives) (Definitely not a single word and so technically not a proper contranym, but an interesting one nevertheless.)
My acknowledgements to the work of Michael Sheehan, Richard Lederer, Charles Ellis, Bill Bryson and the various contributors to this growing section. An extensive and more specialised list of contranyms is maintained on Charles Ellis's excellent antagonyms webpage. I welcome any new suggestions that are new to both collections.
What trades or occupations are associated with these surnames? (easy ones first) Turner (lathe operator), Joiner (carpenter), Glazier (Glass fitter), Draper (cloth seller), Cartwright (cart maker), Bowyer (archery bow maker or seller), Fletcher (maker of arrows), Wainwright (cart maker - a wain is a cart), Tanner (converter of hides and skins into leather), Wakeman/Waite (watchman - wake and waite referred to a 'watch' in that sense), Scrivener (writer of legal documents), Sexton (church maintenance worker), Cooper (barrel maker), Horner (maker of animal-horn items, such as spoons and combs), Chandler (candle seller or grocer), Mercer (textile dealer), Hayward (protector of land or woodland), Franklin (substantial landowner), Fuller/Tucker/Walker (dresser of cloth - to 'full' cloth was to trample or beat it for cleaning and thickening), Hine (servant), Bicker (beekeeper). (Thanks K Lord for Fuller addition)
The sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 incorporates another sequence: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2. Why? Normally this is the number of times the pen is placed on the paper to form each number.
What connects Wedgwood pottery and The Origin Of Species? Josiah Wedgwood (Wedgwood pottery founder) was grandfather to Charles Darwin (author of The Origin Of Species).
What do these letters mean? ABZ, BGO, HAJ, MEL, ORD, SPK. They are all airport codes, respectively for Aberdeen (Scotland), Bergen (Norway), Hanover (Germany), Melbourne (Australia), O'Hare (Chicago USA) and Sapporo (Japan). (Thanks ADS for Melbourne correction)
How did the TVR sports car firm get its name? It's an abbreviation of the founder's first name, Trevor (Wilkinson).
What is 'trichlorophenylmethyliodisalicyl' more commonly known as? TCP antiseptic.
Name the Wacky Races cars and drivers: Car 1 - Boulder Mobile, driven by Rock and Gravel Slag. Car 2 - Creepy Coupé, Big and Little Gruesome. Car 3 - Ring-a-ding-convert-a-car, Professor Pat Pending. Car 4 - Crimson Haybailer, Red Max. Car 5 - Compact Pussycat, Penelope Pitstop. Car 6 - Army Surplus Special, General Sergeant and Private Pinkley. Car 7 - Bulletproof Bomb, Clyde and the Anthill Mob. Car 8 - Arkansas, Luke and Blubber Bear. Car 9 - Turbo Terrific, All-American Peter Perfect. Car 10 - Buzz Wagon, Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth. Car 00 - Mean Machine, Dick Dastardly and Muttley.
What order is denoted by the following prefixes? First, Middle, Morning, Forenoon, Afternoon, First Dog, Last Dog. Watches at sea.
Complete the sequence (three more needed): S, H, S, M, C, D, P, R, O, ... T, R, D. Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog, Pig, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon - the Chinese years (Dragon was 2000 - the cycle repeats every 12 years).
In 1860 Frederick Walton named his new product after the latin words for its two main constituents, flax and oil. What was it? Linoleum (Lino floor covering) - from latin 'linum' (flax) and 'oleum' (oil).
Why was Dr Who's 'Tardis' so called? It's an acronym - Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.
Shepherd and Turpin invented something that derived its name from theirs, and the name of the factory where it was first produced in 1941. What was it? The Sten gun, named after the combined first letters of the names of the designers, R. V. Shepherd and H. J. Turpin, and the Enfield Royal Small Arms Factory.
BUNCH was an acronym at one time representing the big names in the computer industry competing with dominant market leader IBM, can you name them? Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data and Honeywell. (Thanks PM Lawrence for clarifying that this group was the chasing pack behind a dominant IBM)
What was the origin of the 3M company name? It was originally the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.
Who was Lady Creighton-Ward? Lady Penelope from TV's 'Thunderbirds'.
Reinhard Goerdeler, Piet Klyjnveld, James Marwick, and William Barclay Peat founded businesses which merged to become what famous four-letter acronymic global corporation? KPMG (the accountants firm - thanks PM Lawrence for clarification)
What did Mikoyan and Gurevich design? The Russian MiG jet fighter aircraft.
What's the difference between a rhombus and a rhomboid? (They are both four sided parallelograms, ie having parallel sides especially with oblique angles) - a rhombus has equilateral sides (all four sides of the same length); a rhomboid has unequal adjacent sides.
The first Englishman to be killed in a plane crash had another claim to fame, what was it? He was Charles Stewart Rolls, who with Henry Royce founded the Rolls Royce motor car company in 1906. (Rolls also made the first non-stop return flight across the English Channel in 1910 shortly before his fatal plane crash in July of that year. His French-built Wright biplane broke up mid-air, and while he only came down from 20 feet, he cracked his skull and was killed, becoming Britain`s first aircraft fatality.)
What's special about the words 'reverberated' and 'stewardesses' in relation to typing? They are the longest words that can be typed with the left hand (left side of the keyboard) on a UK qwerty keyboard. (I am grateful to David Montgomery for pointing out that Lollipop is not the only 9 letter word that can be typed with the right hand, assuming the right hand types the letter Y, which mostly is the case. Other 9 letter right-hand words include Monopoly, Polyonomy and Polyphony, and no doubt there are others. If anyone can suggest a reasonably useable ten letter word which can be typed with the right hand please let me know.)
Name a fifteen letter word containing fifteen different letters. Uncopyrightable, or more unusually (thanks R Andaya), Dermatoglyphics (the study of skin ridges on fingers and hands, ie., fingerprints and handprints; the word is from the Greek words 'derma' meaning skin and 'glyph' meaning carving).
Complete the sequence (five more required): deca, hecto, kilo,.... They are the metric prefixes: deca, hecto, kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, exa, respectively ten to the power of 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18. The minus scale is deci, centi, milli, micro, nano, pico, femto, atto.
What do these pairings have in common and what is the odd pair in the sequence? - AA, AI, IO, OU, OX, BO, KI. They're all two letter words: AA is the odd one because it's not a living thing (it's a rough light basaltic volcanic lava, pronounced ah-ah, from the original Hawaiian word 'a-'a.) An ai is a sloth, an io is a moth, an ou is a bird, an ox is a cow or bull, a bo is a fig tree, and a ki is a plant of the lily family.
What is it?: the people who make it don't want it, the people who buy it don't use it and the people who use it don't know. A coffin.
What do these items have in common? - Vivien Leigh's 1939 Oscar for her performance in Gone With The Wind; Marylin Monroe's dress that she wore when she sang Happy Birthday to President John Kennedy at Madison Square Gardens in 1962; Leonardo da Vinci's 16th century Codex Hammer notebook. They are respectively the most expensive film memorabilia, dress and book ever sold at auction: Vivien Leigh's Oscar was sold for £380,700 at Sotheby's in 1993, Marylin Monroe's dress went for £900,000 at Christie's in 1999, and Leonardo da Vinci's notebook was bought for £19.25m at Christie's in 1994 (by Bill Gates incidentally).
What is assessed by the international grading system known as the Four C's, and what does each of the C's represent? Diamonds - American Richard Liddicoat designed the International Diamond Grading System for evaluating finished stones in 1953 - the Four C's are Cut, Colour, Clarity, and Carat-weight.
What's special about these sets of letters: SA - DK - XLNC - NV - NME - FND - XPDNC? Spoken aloud they all make words: essay, decay, excellency, envy, enemy, effendi (effendi is a man of education or standing in the Arab world), and expediency, which is the longest word that can be represented in this way.
To ensure a fair division between two people (for dividing chocolate bars between children for instance) you might use the 'one cuts, the other chooses' method. How do you ensure a fair division between three people? (Thanks David Grech) The first cuts into three, the second selects a portion for the cutter, the third person selects a portion for him/herself, and the second person left with the remaining portion.
Who were 'Too Much' and Norville Rogers? 'Too Much' was the original script name for Scooby-Doo; Norville Rogers was the character Shaggy's real name in the series.
There are lots of countries and continents that begin with the letter 'A'. Two of them differ from the rest; which two and why? Afghanistan and Azerbaijan - all the others end with 'A'. Here's the full list, amazingly: Angola, Algeria, Armenia, Albania, Andorra, Austria, Antigua, Australia, Argentina, Aruba (Aruba is a small island (193 sq km) off the the coast of Venezuela, discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, acquired by the Dutch in 1636, and becoming an autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1986. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's request in 1990 - thanks DC), Africa, Asia, Antarctica, and arguably America and Australasia.
Who has appeared more often than any other woman on the cover of Time magazine? The Virgin Mary.
What do these pairs have in common? Lenny Henry and Michael Jackson - Peter Gabriel and Stevie Wonder - John Motson and Virginia Wade - Stanley Kubrick and Danny La Rue - Charles Dance and Chris Tarrant. Their dates of birth, ie, each pair was born on the same day.
What oversized onomatopoeically-named mechanism was put on display for people to use at the British Empire Wembley Exhibition in 1924, in order to reassure the public as to its safety and reliability? The zip fastener. ('Onomatopoeic' describes a word which sounds like what it is.)
A pair of red shoes were sold at auction in 1988 for £90,000. What made them special? They were worn by Judy Garland in the film 'The Wizard of Oz'.
What is unusual and probably unique about British postage stamps? They don't have the nation's name on them.
A man is walking home with his dog at a steady 4mph. With 6 miles to go the dog is let off the leash and runs all the way home at 6 mph. The dog immediately turns and runs back to the man at the same speed, and upon meeting him it turns and runs home again. It continues to run back and forth at the same speed until the man reaches home. What distance has the dog run since being let off the leash? 9 miles (the man takes one and a half hours to walk 6 miles at 4mph, and a dog running at 6mph for one and a half hours would cover 9 miles in that time.)
What word (in the English language) has six vowels, and every one is 'A'? Taramasalata - it's in the English dictionary - (it's a Greek food dip made of cod roe).
Each of these people is related (not by marriage) to one other in the list. How many relationships can you identify? Warren Beatty = Shirley Maclaine's brother; Crystal Gayle = Loretta Lynn's sister; Eden Kane = Peter Sarstedt's brother; Angelina Jolie = Jon Voigt's daughter; Francis Ford Coppola = Nicolas Cage's uncle; Ginger Rogers = Rita Hayworth's cousin; Ingrid Bergman = Isabella Rossellini's mother; Debbie Reynolds = Carrie Fisher's mother; Christopher Lee = Ian Fleming's cousin; Stanley Baldwin = Rudyard Kipling's cousin; Tippi Hedren = Melanie Griffith's mother; Shimon Peres = Lauren Bacall's cousin; Richard Briers = Terry Thomas's cousin.
What year when written in Roman numerals uniquely contains one each of the Roman number symbols in descending order? MDCLXVI = 1666 (M = 1000, D = 500, C = 100, L = 50, X = 10, V = 5, I = 1.)
Irrespective of sheet size, what is the most number of times a square piece of normal stock paper can be folded in half? (And not by repeatedly folding and unfolding it which would be cheating...). Seven. Eight folds are apparently possible with extremely light-gauge specialist stock paper. And as a supplementary question, what's the most number of folds in half achieved for a piece of normal stock paper irrespective of length and shape? (achieved in 2004) The record for folding in half a piece of non-square shape (very long in other words) is twelve times, achieved by high-school student Britney Gallivan in Pomona, California, in 2004. She used 4,000 feet of toilet paper and it took her and her parents seven hours to achieve the twelve folds (ack P Fowler). More about the twelve folds and the maths behind it at the fascinating pomona historical webpage.
What did each of these brand names originally represent? Athena, Nike, Vesta, Mercury, Vulcan, Flora, Mars. Athena was Greek goddess of wisdom; Nike was Greek goddess of victory; Vesta was Roman goddess of the hearth; Mercury was Roman messenger of the gods; Vulcan was Roman god of fire; Flora was Roman goddess of flowers; Mars was Roman god of war.
With no pre-selection, and excluding February 29th, what's the smallest number of people in a group required to ensure a better than even chance of at least two having the same birthday? That's birthDAY, not birthDATE. Just 23. Each person has a 343 in 365 chance of no other person having the same birthday. When you multiply together each of the 23 person's chances of having a different birthday, you arrive at value of 0.493, ie 49.3%. Therefore there is a 50.7% likelihood of two birthdays being the same.
Does a bullet fired straight up into the air take longer to go up or to come down, or the same time, and why? The bullet takes a lot longer to come down because its return speed is limited to the force of gravity against air resistance, ie., 'terminal velocity', of just 300 feet per second, which is substantially below the muzzle velocity of any gun. For example the muzzle velocity of a 2nd World War Lee Enfield rifle is 2,350 ft/second.
How many different batting orders are possible in a team of eleven cricketers? Nearly 40 million: the calculation is 11 x 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 39,916,800.
What famous confrontational sporting ritual traditionally began (until changed in 2005) with the words, "Ka Mate Ka Mate..." (mate is pronounced 'mattay') The 'Haka', as performed by the New Zealand 'All Blacks' rugby union players when they confront their opposition before kick-off. The Haka words and body movements are based on a Maori war chant, said to derive from the exploits of Maori Ngati Toa tribal chief Te Rauparaha who apparently hid in a hole and was rescued by a fellow with hairy legs. Until altered in 2005 the full All Blacks traditional Haka wording was (with loose English translation):
Ka mate, ka mate (It is death, it is death)
Ka ora, ka ora (It is life, it is life)
Tenei te tangata puhuruhuru (This is the hairy man)
Nana i tiki mai whakawhiti te ra (Who caused the sun to shine again for me)
Upane, upane (Up the ladder, up the ladder)
Upane kaupane (Up to the top)
Whiti te ra. (The sun shines.)
How many of the novels can you name in which these characters appear? (they get harder...) Quasimodo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), d'Artagnan (The Three Musketeers), Scarlet O'Hara (Gone With The Wind) , Phileas Fogg (Around The World In Eighty Days), Jim Hawkins (Treasure Island), Yossarian (Catch-22), Lemuel Gulliver (Gulliver's Travels), Randall McMurphy (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), Philip Pirrip (Great Expectations), Jude Fawley (Jude The Obscure), Captain Ahab (Moby Dick), Eliza Doolittle (Pygmalion), Blanche Dubois (A Streetcar Named Desire), Edmund Dantes (The Count Of Monte Cristo), Holly Golightly (Breakfast At Tiffany's), Percy Blakeney (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby), Leopold Bloom (Ulysees), David Balfour Kidnapped), Charles Ryder (Brideshead Revisited), Holden Caulfield (Catcher In The Rye), Richard Hannay (The Thirty-Nine Steps), Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Tom Joad (The Grapes Of Wrath), Maggie Pollitt (Cat On A Hot Tin Roof), Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair), Dorothea Brooke (Middlemarch), Josephine March (Little Women), Rupert Birkin (Women In Love), Maggie Tulliver (The Mill On The Floss), Jimmy Porter (Look Back In Anger), Arthur Seaton (Saturday Night, Sunday Morning).
Can you put these British aristocratic titles in the correct order of seniority?... Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Prince, Duchess, Lord, Baron, King, Marchioness, Duke, Prince, Queen, Lady, Earl, Princess, Baroness, Viscountess, Countess. In descending order; King, Queen, Prince, Princess, Duke, Duchess, Marquess, Marchioness, Earl, Countess, Viscount, Viscountess, Baron, Baroness, Lord, Lady. (In certain situations, eg baroness, where title is conferred on a women rather than her husband, she would assume the women's title but hold the same seniority as the male counterpart. A useful mnemonic to help remember the male titles in order is 'Did Mary Ever Visit Brighton Beach?' = Duke Marquess Earl Viscount Baron Baronet.)
What do these names have in common?..... Winnebago - Tobacco - Chinook - Laguna - Mobile - Mono - Yazoo. They were/are all native American Indian tribes.
A game-show contestant reaches the final challenge: Two security guards are each holding identical closed brief cases. In one there is $1m of banknotes; in the other a few of last week's newspapers. The guards know what is in each case. The contestant is told that one guard will lie and the other will tell the truth - but not which guard is which. He is then told that he can ask one guard just one question, and then he must choose one case or the other. What question should he ask? He should ask either guard: Does the guard who has the money tell the truth? If the guard replies 'yes' he should choose that guard's case. If the answer is 'no' he should choose the other guard's case. (The enjoyment of this puzzle is often more in the analysis after the answer is given than before!) Alternatively (suggested by John Fisher - thanks), he should ask either guard: Which bag will the other guard say contains the money? Then choose the opposite one. (Try it, it works).
A man took the bus every weekend to go fishing either to the lake or the river. Initially he tried to guess which would offer the best conditions, but frequently guessed wrong. So he decided that as the buses to each place ran every ten minutes, and from the same bus-stop, he'd simply leave it to fate, and jump on the first bus that came along. After several weeks he was puzzled that he hardly ever got to go to the lake - in fact it was only about one week in ten - despite the fact that he got to the bus-stop at all different times, and that all the buses to both places ran on time (this is only a story...). So why was this? Both bus services did indeed run every ten minutes, but the buses to the lake ran on the hour, then ten past, twenty past etc., whereas the buses to the river ran at one minute to the hour, then nine past the hour, then twenty-nine past, etc., so the chances of the man arriving at the bus stop in the one minute gap after the river bus and before the lake bus were pretty small - one in ten to be exact.
How many times would a football rotate if rolled around the middle circumference of another football of the same size? Once exactly - try it with a couple of the same sized coins. (For several years, inexplicably to me, the wrong answer - 'Twice' - appeared here - I can recall checking it - the mind plays tricks is my only excuse - I am grateful to C Pearson for alerting me to the error - 17 Oct 2012)
Numerically, what's the difference between a hind and a hart? A hind is a three year-old deer, and a hart is a five year-old deer, so the difference is 2.
Why do buses come in twos and threes? Despite good time-tabling and buses leaving depots on time, bunching is unavoidable because of the following effect: Whenever a large group of passengers gather at a stop, the first bus along will be delayed while people board, allowing the bus following to catch up a little. When this second bus arrives, passengers will have had less time to gather, which allows it to pick up and go quickly. When the first bus reaches the next stop another large group will have gathered due to its late arrival, allowing the following bus to catch up further. This continues until the two buses are together, at which point it behaves like a single late big bus, which then allows a third bus to catch up.
Why do we clink glasses when we say 'cheers' (or 'skol' or 'good health' etc)? In ancient Greece, poisoning was a common method of dealing with one's enemies, so the precautionary practice developed for both guest and host to pour a little of their wine into each other's glasses. As a sign of trust, glasses were merely clinked, as if to say that the precaution was not needed.
It is said to be bad grammar to finish a sentence with a preposition (ie., a word that expresses the relation from one noun or pronoun to another, 'of', 'with', 'to', 'over' etc). Can you think of a sentence which makes sense and finishes with seven consecutive prepositions? A mother goes downstairs to find a book for her son's bed-time story; when she returns with a book about Australia, her son says, "Why did you get a book to read out of about down under up for?" (even without the 'down under' cheat - because in this context 'down under' is arguably a noun - this would be a viable sentence ending with five consecutive pronouns, which not many people could beat).
A new street is built with one hundred new houses, numbered 1 to 100. How many number 9s are required to number all the houses (upside-down 6s are not allowed)? Not 10 (people forget the 90), not 11 (people forget the 90s): The answer is 20: 9,19,29,39,49,59,69,79,89,90,91,92,93,94,95,96,97,98,99(99's 1st digit),99(99's 2nd digit).
Can you be mathematically certain that at least 100 people in the UK with a full head of hair have exactly the same number of hairs on their head and why? Yes you can be sure, simply because there are around 500 times more people in the UK than the number of hairs on a human head (100,000 hairs against nearly 60m people), which ensures that only a tiny fraction of the population would account for every possible different number of hairs.
There are several fascinating similarities between the assassinations of American Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy - what ones can you name? Both were shot on a Friday while with their wives. Both were shot in the head from behind. Lincoln became president in 1860; Kennedy in 1960. Both lost children while at the White House. Both successors were named Johnson, both Southerners and both in the Senate. Andrew Johnson was born in 1808; Lyndon Johnson in 1908. Both assassins were themselves assassinated, and both before trial. Both assassins were known unusually by three rather than two names: John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. Both assassins were southerners, by birth or sympathy (Oswald was born in New Orleans; Booth indentified himself as a 'southerner' although technically was from Maryland, part of the Union - thanks P Pappas). Both Presidents' names have seven letters. Both assassins' names have fifteen letters. Booth was born in 1838 or 1839 (sources vary) and Oswald in 1939. Kennedy's secretary was named Lincoln. (It is said also that Lincoln's secretary was named Kennedy, but this seemingly is not true - apparently Lincoln's secretaries were John G Nicolay and John Hay - thanks P Pappas). Both secretaries advised their boss not to go to the places where they were shot. Booth killed Lincoln in a theatre and ran away to a warehouse; Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and ran away to a theatre. Also (ack BG) Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater, Kennedy was assassinated in a (Ford) Lincoln limousine. And finally, an amazing fact about Lincoln: a few months before Booth killed Lincoln, Booth's younger brother, Edwin, saved a young man's life when he'd fallen in front of a train at Jersey City. The young man was Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, the President.
What politician, noted for his wit, when told that his trouser fly was open said, "Dead birds don't fall out of their nests..." ? British 2nd Word War Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
There are four fairly common ten-letter English words (unless you know more, in which case tell me) that can be made from the top row of letters on a normal QWERTY keyboard, what are they? (a clue for one of them is in the question) Typewriter, Repertoire, Perpetuity, and Proprietor (Thanks B Thompson, A Breck-Paterson and R Murphy for the second, third and fourth answers to this puzzle. Incidentally, the layout of the QWERTY keyboard was originally designed to reduce jamming of the typewriter hammers, by limiting typing speed.)
Why are buttons on women's and men's clothing such as jackets and shirts on different sides (and for the same reason, why do bras fasten at the back?) Because when garments of these types were first worn, men traditionally dressed themselves, so buttons were placed on the right side, (for the right-handed majority). Women were often dressed by maids, so the buttons were put on the opposite side to make it easier for the maid. Bras were made rear-fastening to preserve the dignity of both maid and mistress.
A part of a wheel is a SPOKE, another word for people is FOLK, so how do you spell the word for the white of an egg? Not yoke or yolk - the white of an egg is called the albumen.
What do these words have in common: pint, skeleton, limited, restaurant and oblige? None has a word that exactly rhymes with it. Incidentally the words orange, silver and purple are commonly cited (including here until recently) as words for which there are no rhyming alternatives, however rhyming words do seem to exist for these: sporange (a receptacle for spores used in botany), chilver (a type of lamp or a sheep/goat-type animal depending on source), and curple (a rump or a person's backside, or part of a horse's harness - connected with mouth, saddle or tail, depending on the source), hurple and hirple (apparently Scottish words for walk with a hobble or limp). Sources are various, including Michael Sheehan's 'Words To The Wise' for sporange, chilver lamp and curple rump.
A man knew he was bankrupt the moment he stopped his car outside a railway station. How? He was playing Monopoly.
A stamp collector paid $100,000 for a stamp and then deliberately destroyed it. Why? To make the other one unique and therefore dramatically increase its value. (There were only two in the world and he owned the other one.)
Two chess masters played fifteen consecutive games of chess. No games were drawn, every game was finished, yet both players won and lost the same number of games as each other. How could this happen? They were each playing other people.
There are five 'f's in the next sentance, and they're two errors in this one. - "It's often easy for folk to miss the finer points of life." - How many errors are there in the first sentence? There are four mistakes in the first sentence - they are: there are six 'f's not five; 'sentence' is spelt wrong; 'they're' should be 'there are'; and the statement that there are two mistakes is wrong, which makes four mistakes in all.
Can a man marry his widow's half-sister? No - if he had a widow he'd be dead.
A bucket and spade together cost £25.50. The spade costs £20 more than the bucket. What is the price of each? Spade £22.75, Bucket £2.75.
A brick weighs 1kg plus half a brick. How much does it weigh? 2kg.
George Bernard Shaw's FISH - GHOTI: F as in 'enough' I as in 'women' SH as in 'station'.
Why is £88.88 special? (And for those with knowledge of Scotttish and Channel Islands currency, £190.38?) This question is based on UK currency as at May 2005 (no doubt there will be changes in the future). £88.88 is the sum of money made by one of each of the English banknotes and coins (£50, £20, £10, £5, £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, 1p - as at May 2005). I am indebted to Phillip Williams for pointing out that this answer was previously incorrect because it referred to 'British' banknotes and coins, in which case the sum would be £190.38, arrived at by adding the Scottish £100 and £1 notes, plus the Jersey 50p note (again as at May 2005).
Complete the sequence: O, T, T, F, F, S, S, ... Eight Nine Ten . . .
Sentence with five consecutive Ands: The owner of the 'Hare and Hounds' bar complained to the artist who had just painted a new sign: "There should be more space between the Hare and 'and' and 'and' and Hounds..."
Eleven hads: (Scenario is an English Language test, when John and David answer differently on the question of whether to use "had" or "had had"): John, where David had had "had had", had had "had"; "had had" had had the better effect (on the examiner).
What do these words have in common? CALMNESS INOPERABLE DEFER BURST LAUGHING STUPID - Each word contains three letters in the correct alphabetical order.
Odd letter out: ABCMNOTUV - N has no line of symmetry. The others do. And an alternative recently suggested by a visitor Max Bracher: "v" is the only letter without a curve when written in "Lower Case".
AEIOU word puzzle: Words in the English language, each having one of each of the vowels (aeiou) in the right alphabetical order: The most common known are probably facetious (meaning sarcastic), abstemious (meaning sparing or moderate), arterious (pertaining to artery) and annelidous (pertaining to annelid, which is a segmented worm). There's also anemious, abstentious, acheilous, acherious, acleistous, affectious, aerious, arsenious, bacterious, caesious, caespitosum, caespitosus, fracedinous, gareisoun, gravedinous, majestious, materious, parecious, placentious, tragedious, and vaceious. Certain medical dictionaries would also yield the even more obscure arsenicosum, arteriosum, arteriosus, and catechicorum. For variation, the words unoriental, subcontinental, uncomplimentary, unnoticeably and quodliteral all contain each vowel in reverse alphabetical order. (From a variety of sources including Making The Alphabet Dance, the wonderful wordplay book by Ross Eckler, and also from Thomas Mhire, who pointed out a couple of additional AEIOU words for the list. 'Adventitous' appears in some lists of AEIOU words, including here previously - thanks for the correction J Lerner - however this is a misspelling; properly spelt the word is adventitious, which means, incidentally: happening by chance.)
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