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The Day After... My Xmas Quiz Explained

Happy Boxing Day. That's the day after Christmas, supposedly so-named in Britain because of the tradition of employers giving boxes of gifts to their servants on Dec. 26. Here it makes for a nice long weekend this year if you have the day off, which I don't.

It's also the tradition in England for newspapers to run quizzes--quite difficult ones--during the lead up to Christmas, the inspiration for the DC-centric quiz I had in my column yesterday. Most of the people I heard from thought the quiz was too hard. Some asked: "Did you know all the answers?"

Well of course I knew all the answers. I wrote the thing. But I didn't necessarily know them ahead of time. I knew I wanted to include certain aspects so I did some research to come up with questions. I didn't have room yesterday to explicate the answers so I will today:

1. How tall is the Washington Monument? 555 feet. Every Washingtonian should know this. It's actually 555 feet 5 and 1/8 inches tall, though I have my doubts about that last 1/8 inch.

2. Match the memorials with the years they were dedicated. The key was to get the Washington Monument first (1885) and the WW2 Memorial last (2004). What I find interesting is how relatively quickly after the end of the Vietnam War its veterans memorial was dedicated, compared to how long it took for WW2. I wonder if future wars will be memorialized sooner. If so, expect to see Iraq go up sometime next year.

3. Which of these is not a planned community: a. Columbia b. Reston c. Greenbelt d. Annandale. Columbia was built by James Rouse. Reston was built by Robert E. Simon, who named it after himself (RESton). Greenbelt dates to the 1930s, when it was built by the Federal government as part of FDR's New Deal.

4. What word is missing from this quotation by Gore Vidal: "I date the end of the old republic and the birth of the empire to the invention, in the late thirties, of [?]. Before [?], Washington was deserted from mid-June to September." The answer is "air-conditioning" and it here's the rest of the quote: But after air conditioning and the Second World War arrived, more or less at the same time, Congress sits and sits while the presidents—or at least their staffs—never stop making mischief." I think there's something to that.

5. What message did Samuel F.B. Morse send when he officially opened the first telegraph line, from Washington to Baltimore, in 1844? Answer: "What hath God wrought?" I plucked answers a. and c. from the Bible; d. is from a TV ad. I assume Morse wanted something short and sweet to transmit. My hat's off to him for choosing something prescient.

6. Who said this of her sojourn in Washington: "I came there as prime steak and now I feel like low-grade hamburger"? The answer is Joycelyn Elders. She was President Clinton's surgeon general and she got in trouble for recommending such things as teaching kids masturbation techniques as a way of preventing pre-marital sex. Clara Peller is the woman from the Wendy's "Where's the beef?" commercials.

7. Which band was featured on the very first release by Dischord Records, Washington's seminal punk rock label? The answer is Teen Idles. You'd think the answer might be Minor Threat, since Dischord honcho Ian MacKaye achieved fame with that band (and even greater fame with Fugazi). But he was also in Teen Idles, whose members I used to run into at the old 930 club.

8. How did "Godfather of Go-Go" Chuck Brown get his first guitar? Answer: He traded five packs of cigarettes for it at Lorton prison. I made up those other choices. I wanted to include Brown since, with hardcore, go-go is D.C.'s most well known musical creation. I was going to ask which job he didn't have prior to launching his music career: bricklayer, boxer, cab driver, dental hygienist. But though I knew he'd been the first three I couldn't be sure he'd never done the last one.

9. The George Washington Masonic Memorial was designed to resemble what wonder of the ancient world? Answer: The lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt. This one was easy if you knew that the GWMM is in Alexandria, Va. I cut a second question asking what's odd about the memorial's elevators. They run at an oblique angle up to the observation deck.

10. Passengers who line up to catch rides into Washington with a driver hoping to use the HOV lanes are known as... Answer: slugs. God, I hope you got this one right.

11. Where did William Wilson Corcoran, Washington banker and philanthropist, spend the Civil War? Answer: Paris, France. Corcoran was a southern sympathizer and his son aided the Confederate cause. He had to sit out the war somewhere other than Washington.

12. Silver Spring is named for mica that glittered in a burbling spring. Rockville probably got its name from its proximity to Rock Creek. How did Beltsville get its name? Answer: Tobacco farmer Trueman Belt. I used to think it was named after the Beltway. I'm glad it wasn't.

13. From 1911 to 1998, the U.S. Naval Academy had its own: a. competitive marbles team b. brothel c. chandler d. dairy farm. The answer is dairy farm, though I had fun coming up with the other choices. Why a dairy farm? In 1911 several midshipmen were sickened by milk tainted with typhoid. The Navy thought it would be safer to maintain its own herd.

14. Match the celebrity with the high school he or she attended (note: one celeb attended more than one school). I learned some things here. Who knew that Google gazillionaire Sergey Brin attended Roosevelt? I wonder if he donates back? As for Nirvana ex- and Foo Fighter frontman Dave Grohl, he went to three high schools--Annandale, Thomas Jefferson and Bishop Ireton--without graduating from any. I guess he's done okay for himself, though.

15. What does Nicolas Cage steal from the National Archives in the 2004 movie "National Treasure"? The answer is the Declaration of Independence. I put this question in for my daughter Gwyneth. It's one of her favorite movies.

16. What Washington Post headline inspired then-Georgetown University student William Peter Blatty to write the horror classic "The Exorcist"? The answer is "Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held In Devil's Grip." Yup, an actual story in a respected newspaper about demonic possession. The story, by Bill Brinkley, ran in 1949. The lede: "In what is perhaps one of the most remarkable experiences of its kind in recent religious history, a 14-year-old Mount Rainier boy has been freed by a Catholic priest of possession by the devil, Catholic sources reported yesterday."

Was the boy really possessed? And did he really live in Mount Rainier? Probably the best answer to those questions was offered by local author Mark Opsasnick in an exhaustive investigation he did for Strange Magazine.

Stay away from demons and enjoy your weekend. No chat today but Answer Man will be in the paper on Sunday. As always, if you have anything you think is column- or blog-worthy, drop me a line: And don't forget that there are only two weeks left in our annual fund drive for Children's Hospital. Please take a moment to donate now.

By John Kelly  |  December 26, 2008; 10:15 AM ET
 | Tags: Christmas, quiz  
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Next: Talking Funny, or: Annoying Britishisms, Sorted


My score was 50. I only knew the Sergey Brin one because I went to Roosevelt and his younger brother was in my graduating class. I don't know if he donates money to the school, but my class was sort of disappointed that we weren't able to get him to be our graduation speaker.

Also, Sergey's dad is a math professor at Maryland and his mom works at NASA-Goddard, so Google has a number of family connections to the DC area.

Posted by: washpost2081 | December 27, 2008 12:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm just catching up on last week's reading, and want to thank you for linking to that Strange Magazine article on the "Exorcist" story. That's something I never would have seen otherwise, and it was fascinating!

Posted by: Janine1 | December 29, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

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