An evening of details, considerations, or pieces of information of little importance or value.
Lindsey Simon, AB’15, with additional reporting by William Rhee, Class of 2017
There is a statue at the easternmost end of the Midway of a knight on horseback, which was set up in 1955 as a memorial to the first president of what country? Answer: That knight on the Midway honors Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia.
It’s 8 p.m. on a Tuesday in the dreary depths of midterms. A few blocks southeast of the Regenstein, a devoted group of undergrads, grad students, and community members gathers for a different kind of intellectual inquiry.
Trivia Night at the Pub in Ida Noyes has been a tradition since 2002. Just about every table is packed. At a booth in the middle of the Pub sits the group of judges who write the questions and score teams’ answer sheets.
Among their ranks is Andrew Rostan, AM’10. He’s played in pubs from Boston to Los Angeles and is a five-time Jeopardy! champion. But he says Tuesdays in Ida are unique in their rigor: “UChicago blows even Mr. Trebek’s show out of the water.”
The hair of what animal is traditionally used in the manufacture of shaving brushes, and even gives the object its French name? Answer: Badger hair is traditionally used to make shaving brushes.
A little before 8 p.m., players trickle in, find their teams, and slap down the $3 entry fee at the hosts’ table. During each round, the emcee reads eight questions. Once responses are in and scored, the emcee announces the answers (often to much whooping and groaning) and then the standings of all teams (more whoops, groans). After the fifth and final round (which has a special theme, often revolving around a quote from pop culture, and is worth double points), teams’ fates are sealed. Top contenders win cash prizes. Lower-placing teams take home bar kitsch or a coupon for free appetizers.
One booth over from the hosts’ table, a group of fourth-years is in it to win it. They’re part of a larger group of friends that tries to make it to Trivia every week. But tonight there’s a hitch: they have too many people (there’s a strict eight-person limit). So they’ve divided up into two factions: 100 Beers of Solitude, sitting a table away, and their pointedly named rivals, #$%* 100 Beers of Solitude.
The folks on #$%* 100 Beers of Solitude are feeling nervous. Most of their heavy hitters are at the other table—they see themselves as the B team. “This is embarrassing,” says fourth-year Peter Herman. “This is the worst we’re ever going to do.”
Across the Pub, another group of students assembles to form An Approximate Knowledge of Many Things. Their team, primarily Orientation Week student directors, coalesced at the beginning of fall quarter. They placed fourth, and they’ve been coming weekly ever since.
What country leads the world in production of precious opals? Answer: Australia leads the world in production of precious opals.
Over the course of the night, #$%* 100 Beers of Solitude hovers around third or fourth place, while An Approximate Knowledge of Many Things keeps a stern focus on their main objective: “to always not be last.”
Tonight, as always, the questions are illuminating. (Who knew the word ham comes from the Old English term for the bend of the knee?) “We receive a lot of excellent answers each round,” says one emcee before reading out the standings. “It’s just a shame that so few are correct.”
Round two deals with motorcycle rallies, horn violins, and fish-themed slang terms. But on one sheet the judges get a different sort of information. “One team, instead of writing the first six answers, wrote the first six lines of the Iliad in ancient Greek,” says the emcee. “Nicely done. Your handwriting is so-so and we disagree with your interpretation of line six, but whatever.”
In the human body, a sesamoid bone is completely embedded in what? Answer: A sesamoid bone is completely embedded in the tendons.
As points accumulate, tension builds in the basement air. Despite the punny names and loose banter between rounds, the hardcore teams come with their game faces on.
“You’ll see the same people each week, but not know them, and grow to hate those people,” says Adam Lindemulder, a fourth-year on #$%* 100 Beers of Solitude. He points out someone he remembers from a particularly contentious game last spring. “To this day I think of him as my mortal enemy, even though he’s probably a nice guy.”
Going into the fifth round, #$%* 100 Beers of Solitude is hanging onto fourth place with 14 points, while 100 Beers of Solitude has jumped to second place with 16 points. But this last round is worth double and the tables can turn.
Things start off rough with a tricky anatomy question, but #$%* 100 Beers of Solitude confidently glides through the geography and pop culture questions that follow.
The hosts score the answer sheets and calculate the final scores. An emcee names the teams that didn’t place (including 100 Beers of Solitude), amid supportive applause. #$%* 100 Beers of Solitude waits patiently as the fifth, fourth, and third place teams are announced and then erupts into cheers as they’re declared the runners-up. They’ve made it within one point of the winning team, trivia heavyweights the Defenestration of Smaug.
An Approximate Knowledge of Everything didn’t place. As fourth-year Steven Wendeborn explains, it’s indicative of the difficulty of the trivia. “I think we all agree that the Pub has the best trivia compared to all the other pubs near campus. It’s always surprising how much we don’t know”—“and how much Steven knows,” interjects fourth-year teammate Stephen McHugh—“but it’s always fun. I mean, if we knew all the answers it wouldn’t be as much fun, right?”
This story was originally published on the College’s website. See more “Uniquely Chicago” articles, photos, and videos by student contributors at college.uchicago.edu/archives.