Vancouver Estival Trivia Open — Question Packets

These guidelines are for the 2005 Vancouver Estival Trivia Open.


This document borrows heavily from:
If you have any questions that aren't answered here, send e-mail to Peter, the VETO Vancouver site coordinator, at pmcc -at- alumni -dot- sfu -dot- ca . (Replace "-at-" with "@" and "-dot-" with ".")


Purpose of this Document

The goal of our tournament is to have fun. Given the nature of our game, the fun that we have depends largely on the questions. Ideally, questions will leave both the winning and losing teams with a sense of satisfaction that they are richer for having played the game. Questions that rely on retread material or the rote association of two entities (title and author, for instance) do not provide the same stimulation as does a well thought-out question that brings to light one or two interesting facts. This is not licence to write questions that contain only minutiae (as that extreme is very frustrating); instead, our aim is to guide players in creating original and interesting questions.

We understand that good questions take much longer to craft than unoriginal ones and that beginning players often do not have the experience to realize what separates a good question from a mediocre ones, so it would be unreasonable to demand perfection from every pack. We simply ask that you try to create a pack of questions that you would enjoy playing. (This should not be confused with creating a pack of questions concerning only subjects that interest you.)

To help you with construction of the pack, we have included a list of guidelines. Some of these are written to help moderators who will read your packet but are not on your team or at your site.

The Topic Areas and Reference Sources section contains many links and particular advice for each subject category. The idea is to make it easy for you to write your packet while this window is open, going through each category in turn. The biggest problem that we've found in writing a packet is simply coming up with ideas on what to write about. We hope that this section will be as helpful to you as it is to us.

How Packets will be Used

1. "Guerrilla" format

VETO will be a "guerrilla"-style quiz bowl tournament (term coined by Caltech). This means that every team is entirely responsible for editing its own packets, because nobody else will be doing so. Players will know exactly whom to congratulate on a good packet — but also whom to blame for a bad one.

You may need to bring up to three copies of your packet, because that's how many simultaneous games may be played on it.

Do not send your packet to the contact person, because he'll probably be playing on it!

2. Question Security

The usual rule at packet-submission quiz bowl tournaments is that nobody sees any part of any other team's packet. But we recognize that some VETO teams will have players that have written whole tournaments by themselves, and other teams will have no players who have ever submitted questions to a tournament. In order to allow more experienced teams to help novice ones, we are allowing the novices to get help in writing and editing their packet from those who have more experience. But please follow these important rules:

You can think of this as having some teams "adopt" one and only one other team. The purpose of the above rules is to allow more freedom in scheduling, so that no more than two teams are required to have byes in a round. If you're on team C and you got help from both Bob on team A and Doug on team B, then all three teams would have to sit out your packet. That's a situation we'd prefer to avoid.

3. Sending it off to the other site

A few days before the tournament, you'll need to e-mail your packet to a person who's playing in Toronto if you'll be in Vancouver, or in Vancouver if you'll be in Toronto. You will be informed of who your counterpart will be.

You may omit the multimedia questions in the e-mailed packet, although visual questions are usually easy to send by e-mail.


Basically, a multimedia question is one that requires props. You must have one set for every game room, and there may be up to four game rooms.

We are requiring at least one multimedia question in every packet, because these questions are fun to play on. But they're also fun to compose! These questions are banned in most American quiz bowl tournaments, but we think that this fact just adds to the thrill. You can appeal to all five senses:

1. visual

The easiest kind to do. Look up http://images.google.com or http://www.picsearch.com for a picture of a person or place or thing or work of art or map or diagram. Print out copies and ask about the picture, or individual features.

2. auditory

We'll have a cassette player in every room, so bring 3 copies of your tape. No need to limit yourself to your own CD collection: the World Wide Web offers a wealth of MP3 and RealAudio files that you can record off your computer.

In our experience, it's best to limit each sound segment to at most 20 seconds, unless you have a bonus with several parts asking about a single sound segment, in which case up to 30 seconds is OK. If you have multiple sound segments on a tape, please include some sort of audible signal between each segment, so that the moderator knows when to press STOP (and has time to press it before the next segment begins).

3. tactile

Bring something for players to handle, and ask questions about it. In 1999, Joel brought some leaves and asked the players to identify the trees they came from.

4. olfactory

Bring something for players to smell.

5. gustatory

Bring some food or drink and ask questions about it. (No alcohol, please.)
As you can imagine, multimedia questions tend to work a lot better as bonuses than as tossups — especially if the moderator (who may be from another team) is not familiar with the question beforehand.

The Elements of Style

1. Packets should be easy to read aloud.

If you have time, try reading your questions aloud to your teammates. Avoid confusing wording, unintended tongue-twisters, and run-on sentences. Use at least as much punctuation as you would in normal text, in order to provide natural pauses for the reader. Some wire-service texts intended for radio announcers capitalize the word "NOT" when it occurs; this is usually a good idea, because you do NOT want the reader to miss this word.

2. Omit needless words.

Consider the following question about Nobel prize winners from 1995:
The Noble Prize in Medicine, I can never remember who won, at least most
of them.  For ten points, name any one of the three recently announced
winners of this year's prize.
After correcting the spelling and the name of the prize, the question could be rewritten:
For a quick 10 points, name any one of the three winners of the 1995 Nobel
Prize in Medicine or Physiology.
Of course, either way, this is a one-fact tossup, which should be avoided (see below).

3. Use correct grammar.

Writers must use correct grammar. Although many strict grammatical rules may interfere with the flow of questions ("the kind of English up with which I will not put"), you must use grammar that is at least colloquially correct ("the kind of English I will not put up with"). Use simple past tense ("they did") when appropriate, and past perfect tense ("they had done") to refer to events completed at or before a time spoken of.

4. Pronunciation guides.

For foreign or unfamiliar words or names, include a pronunciation guide in square brackets immediately following the word. Use CAPITALS to indicate stressed syllables. Examples:
The acid/base indicator phenolphthalein ["fee-nole-THALE-in"] is used in ...

The economist John Maynard Keynes ["KAYNZ"] wrote his General Theory ...

5. Avoid obscene language.

Prudes who don't like hearing indecent language — or, even worse, having to use it in reading your packet or in answering your questions — will usually feel too intimidated to voice their objections. Replace obscenities, in creative ways if necessary, with abbreviations or "expletive deleted". Examples:
Name these things in the tirade located at www dot F the south dot com ...

C.  At the end of the rant, the red states are told that they can't
have their (expletive deleted) convention here next time.


1. General format

To be clear, write the answer immediately below the question, following the word "Answer:". The minimum information required for a correct answer should be in all CAPITAL LETTERS and also underlined to remove any ambiguity. Include any and all alternative answers that mean the same thing. Examples:
Answer:  SPAM

Answer:  George A. HORMEL and Company

If you'll be using ASCII format, so that underlining isn't possible, then put _underscores_ around the minimum information.

2. Names of people

If the answer to a question is a personal name, then:

3. Foreign-language answers

If the question asks for the title of a literary or artistic work, and the original title is not in English, then both the original title and English translations must be accepted. Whatever you do, don't penalize players for knowing the original title! Examples:
Answer:  CASSE-NOISETTE, or the NUTCRACKER ballet or suite



To find the original title, consult a literary encyclopedia such as Benet's, or try a library catalogue, many of which are on-line.

Translations of the title into languages other than English should not be accepted. So, for example, "La guerre et la paix", the French translation of "Voina i mir", would not be accepted unless the question were actually asking about a French translation.

Non-"standard" translations of original titles should also be accepted, especially if they are better than the standard ones. For example, the title of Dostoyevsky's Bratya Karamazovy is usually translated as The Brothers Karamazov, even though this is not correct idiomatic English. Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu is usually translated as Remembrance of Things Past, even though this is a mistranslation of the title. Include a literal translation when possible, together with translations that have appeared in print. Examples:

         or IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME [literal]

Additional comment isn't needed in the last example, because the moderator should be aware that "The Karamazov Brothers" means exactly the same thing. Similarly, in the following example:
an answer of "Kidnapping from the harem" would also be accepted, even if it does sound somewhat less refined.

Substantial Information

Questions must be based on real, verifiable, factual information.

1. Be specific!

You must make clear what kind of answer you're looking for. Some examples of bad questions:
For 10 points each, name the two men who backed the Gallipoli campaign
during the First World War.
Backed in what way? There were hundreds, if not thousands of men who were directly involved in the Gallipoli campaign, and there were other men in politics, finance, the press, etc., who supported it.
What is the highest power in Hinduism?
What kind of power? In what way "highest"? Even if we are told that the answer is "Brahman", we haven't learned anything about Hinduism at all.
Answer  the  following  about  the  AngloSaxon  epic  Beowulf 10 points a
Where  does  Beowulf  travel  to?
There are several possible answers: Denmark, Zealand, Heorot Hall, or back home to Sweden. The question should ask "which kingdom", "which island", or "which hall", and somehow specify that it refers to the beginning of the story.
5 points for identifying each of these acronyms:
1. AFL
You get the idea. :)

2. Include names, dates and places.

If you didn't have to look anything up to write the question, it's almost certainly a bad question. An example with answer Prague:
The oldest German speaking university is, surprisingly, not in any German
city, but rather in the capital of Bohemia.  For ten points, name this
city on the Moldau.
This question is based on an interesting fact. However, far more information is begging to be added. What's the name of this university? When was it founded? Any university student should know how to find this information. In fact the question is actually misleading as a tossup, because a good player may buzz in early with the name of the university (Charles University). The question is also not strictly correct as written, because Charles U. no longer operates in German, so although it was the first German-speaking university, it is NOT the oldest German-speaking university. Here's an improved version, written after a little on-line research:
Seventeen years before Vienna, and 38 years before Heidelberg, this city in
1348 became the site of Europe's first German-speaking university, which was
founded by, and named after, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.  However, Charles
University closed its German-speaking division in 1945.  For ten points, name
this capital of a country from which 3 million German-speaking citizens were
expelled after World War Two.

Here's a question about John B. Watson, which was (perhaps unsurprisingly) the last tossup written in a packet:

he maintained the view that behavior should be the sole subject matter of
psychology in the early 1900's.  For ten points, name this American
This question contains no concrete facts at all. We also strongly suspect that Watson was NOT the only American psychologist who maintained the behaviorist view in the early 1900s.

3. Avoid subjective questions.

Questions such as "What is romanticism?" or "Who was the greatest Belgian playwright?" or "Who is the sexiest man alive?" may be interesting, but they do not belong in this game, because there is no one answer that is unequivocally, factually correct. Questions that ask players to list the causes of a particular war are similarly inappropriate.

If you ask for a particular historian's list of causes of something, that is closer to the realm of the acceptable, but these questions can be hard to score. For example, Edward Gibbon gave a famous list of five causes of the growth of Christianity, but for some of these (e.g., "the zeal of the Jews, its gradual increase"), it can be hard for the moderator to judge whether the players have given an answer that is "close enough". In any case, it's better to have history questions that ask about things that happened, instead of an historian's comments about what happened.

Finally, avoid questions about what "is thought", or "is considered", even if it's "by many". Example written in 1995:

In  France, a  spate  of  new  terrorist  attacks  are  thought  
to  be  the  backlash  of  fundamentalists  in  for ten points this
country  where  the  current  government  is  supported  by  France?

Answer:  ALGERIA
I'm sure there were several countries, with governments supported by France, which were thought by at least one person to be the source of fundamentalists making terrorist attacks. Also note the complete lack of specific names, dates, and places in this question.

4. Be careful when asking to generalize from examples.

You must make clear what kind of generalization you're looking for. A bad example:
What do Ravel's D major Piano Concerto, Prokofiev's fourth piano 
concerto, and Brahms' transcription of the Bach Chaconne have in common?

THEY'RE ALL WRITTEN FOR LEFT HAND (accpet equivalents, prompt on "one 
One player's response: "They haven't been played in my kitchen." This answer is perfectly correct, and since it's correct, it deserves 10 points. There are lots of other possible correct answers, such as, they were all written by dead white European males, or Beethoven never heard any of them.
         Mexico City.  Munich.  Montreal.  Moscow.  For 5pts. apiece, 
         name the next five cities in proper order in this chronological 

         (Summer Olympics Hosts, 1968-2000)
The four cities given in the list all hosted the Bulgarian team in the summer Olympics; the next city to do so was not Los Angeles but Seoul.
     Give the correct term to describe each of these statements, ten points
     a)  John is a student.  All students study.  John studies.
     b)  I fell down and hurt my knee yesterday.  Therefore I will never eat
fish again.
     c)  Whenever Bill leaves his room, he locks his door.  Bill's door is
not locked.  Therefore Bill is in his room.
All of these "statements" are written in prose. The first one consists of three simple declarative sentences. And so on.

It is reasonable to ask for the collective name of a group, but be precise. For example, in a question about the Fates, instead of asking:

What are Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos?
which would have "characters from Hesiod" as a correct answer, you should ask:
Give the collective name for Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.

5. When in doubt, write questions with answers you've heard of.

Avoid "obscurity in, obscurity out".
    Given the phylum, describe whether a member of the phylum would be an
acoelomate, pseudocoelomate, or coelomate for five points apiece.
(example. Porifera=Acoelomate).
          Chordata  (Coelomate)
          Rotifera  (Pseudocoelomate)
          Coelenterata or Cnidaria  (Acoelomate)
          Platyhelmintes   (Acoelomates)
          Arthropoda (Coelomate)
What are acoelomates, pseudocoelomates, and coelomates? Do we really want to know? Also notice that while this question may be allowed by some tournaments, it is an illegal bonus question for VETO because:
  1. It's worth only 25 points. Every bonus must be worth 30 points.
  2. It requires 5 separate conferrals. No bonus may require more than 4 separate conferrals.
  3. It is multiple-choice with only 3 choices. Multiple-choice questions require at least 4 choices.


1. What and why

A tossup question is read until a player buzzes in and is recognized. If the answer is correct, then that player's team earns 10 points and is asked a bonus question. If the player's answer to the tossup is wrong, then the team loses 5 points and the moderator continues reading the tossup to the members of the other team only.

Tossups are intended to be interrupted at some point. The clues in a tossup should progress from hard to easier, and must not trick players into giving a wrong answer.

2. Anatomy of a good Tossup

Consider these examples.
The name of this language means "of the coast" in Arabic.  Today it is the
mother tongue of about six million people, most of them living near the
Indian Ocean, but it is also spoken by about forty million others as a common
language in east Africa.  For ten points, identify this Bantu language with the
largest number of speakers, that is an official language of Kenya and Tanzania.
This is a straightforward, factually dense question. It has many substantial clues:
  1. the meaning of the name;
  2. the number of native speakers;
  3. what coast they live near;
  4. the number of other speakers and where they live;
  5. the language family;
  6. the countries where it is an official language.

The following example is modified from Gerard Magliocca:

This author's wife, Elaine, was upset when she saw his classic 1939
novel in a Japanese bookstore translated as "Angry Raisins".
For 10 points, name this American author who described Rose, Sharon, Ma,
and Tom as the Joad family travels during the Great Depression from
Oklahoma to California in The Grapes of Wrath.

Answer:  John STEINBECK
This question has an interesting lead-in that will appeal to both players and spectators alike, making the question entertaining and memorable. It also has many substantial clues:
  1. the name of the author's wife;
  2. the date of the novel;
  3. the translation;
  4. the nationality of the author;
  5. four of the characters in the novel and the main family name;
  6. the time setting of the novel;
  7. part of the plot of the novel;
  8. the title of the work.
Someone who has read the novel a dozen times may be beaten by someone who is able to figure out the answer based on the mistranslation "Angry Raisins". This question, unlike the previous example, is more like a puzzle in the beginning, rewarding more than "pure" knowledge (but not punishing it). Many of the best questions have this quality.

3. Length

Every tossup should have at least two separate clues. Avoid one-clue tossups of the following form:
For a quick ten points, what is the capital of Afghanistan?
We would prefer that almost all of your tossups contain at least four separate concrete clues.

Tossups should not be too long, either, because long tossups slow down the game. Do not exceed six (6) lines if writing in ASCII with 79 columns per line.

4. Difficulty.

Tossup questions should be set at about a level of difficulty so that if read in their entirety to two good teams, you would expect about 90% of them to be answered by at least one of the eight players.

Two good teams should interrupt at least 80% of tossups.

5. How to order the clues.

Order clues from most obscure to least obscure. Two bad examples with the answer of Otto von Bismarck follow:
Known as the Iron Chancellor, he received a famous telegram on September
17, 1862, from War Minister von Roon recalling him to Berlin to take control
of the government.  For 10 points, name this statesman, who ruled Prussia
from 1862 to 1890.
In a real match, this question would likely be over in 5 words. It could be rewritten as:
He received a famous telegram on September 17, 1862, from War Minister von
Roon recalling him to Berlin to take control of the government.  For 10
points, name this politician who ruled Prussia from 1862 to 1890, earning
the nickname, "the Iron Chancellor".
Another example of a poorly written question:
The capital of North Dakota and the 19th-century Duke of Lauenberg who
epitomized the Junker ["YOONG-ker"] class share, for 10 points, what name?
This could be rewritten as:
The 19th-century Duke of Lauenberg who epitomized the Junker class and
the capital of North Dakota share, for 10 points, what name?

6. No misleading questions.

Avoid misleading questions which penalize knowledge and speed. These questions are supremely evil in competition and are to be avoided. Since each tossup potentially means a swing in the game score of 85 points, it is crucial that tossups be written clearly and fairly. Neither of the following is an acceptable question.
A German chancellor, a U.S. state capital, an archipelago northeast of New
Guinea, the sea enclosed by that archipelago, and the largest city in
Equatorial Guinea.  For 10 points, which is not named Bismarck?

He served as German chancellor from 1871 to 1890 and was known for his
policy of "blood and iron".  For 10 points, spell his last name.

7. Watch Pronouns and Antecedents.

Pronouns almost always must refer to the answer. Use pronouns carefully so as not to mislead the players. Poor antecedent usage is most often the culprit in poorly-written questions. This example is poorly constructed.
Vowing that he would never go to Canossa, the chancellor of Germany
announced a cultural struggle against Roman Catholicism in the 1870s.
For 10 points, what 3-syllable German noun named this anti-Catholic

Answer:  KULTURKAMPF  ["cool-TOUR-kamf"]
This question tricks a player into answering Bismarck early. It could be rewritten as:
German Chancellor Bismarck, vowing never to go to Canossa, announced a
cultural struggle against Roman Catholicism in the 1870s known, for ten
points, by what three-syllable German noun?

8. Minimize Ambiguous Introductions.

Some questions have several possible answers after a few words have been read.
Facing legal difficulties because of alleged financial chicanery, he
resigned as Vice President of the United States...

Spiro Agnew is not the only answer. Calhoun had similar difficulties in his time, though they may be less well remembered today. Some players will interrupt the question at this point. Players who are waiting to differentiate between Agnew and Calhoun will be at a disadvantage to other players who are thinking of only Agnew. Or, a player who is aware of Calhoun may bet the odds and incorrectly answer Agnew. Either way, this question might trap a better player, penalizing knowledge.

One might choose to add additional information at the start of the question to minimize this ambiguity and precisely target the desired answer as soon as possible, as in:

This former American state governor, facing legal difficulties because
of alleged financial chicanery...

There is nothing wrong with questions in which the answer is not the immediately obvious one. Further, there is nothing wrong with more general introductions (This U.S. President...). However, you should strive to minimize question ambiguity as much as possible, especially when the introduction narrows the possible answers to just a few probable answers (This Norwegian playwright...).

Avoid beginning tossups with vague clues. Here is a bad way to begin a tossup about Henrik Ibsen:

This playwright brought the problems and ideas of his day onto the stage,
and created realistic dramas of psychological conflict...
A player with an encyclopedic knowledge of theatre would be able to think of several possible answers, and would be at a disadvantage compared with someone who had only superficial knowledge of a few big names like Ibsen. This problem could be fixed easily by adding something concrete:
In his plays, such as John Gabriel Borkman and An Enemy of the People,
this dramatist ...

9. Tossups with Multiple Answers

A tossup may require two closely related pieces of information to be given as answers, but preferably no more than two. If a toss-up does require n answers where n is greater than 1, then begin it with the phrase "n answers required".

Multiple answers should be of the same type: for example, two people, or two species of animals, or two countries. Avoid toss-ups that require two non-parallel pieces of information to be given, such as a created work and its creator, or a country and its current ruler.

10. For Ten Points, the Final Clue.

EVERY TOSSUP QUESTION MUST CONTAIN THE PHRASE "FOR TEN POINTS", immediately before the last clue. If the question is short, substitute "for a quick ten points". Please avoid abbreviations "FTP" and "FAQTP", because they are not necessary and can just confuse new readers.

In the part of the tossup after "for ten points", the very last words should be what you consider the easiest clue. If there is a word or phrase that's a "giveaway", then nothing should go after it. Think of the giveaway of a tossup as being like the punchline of a joke: a joke ends as soon as the punchline is given.


1. What and Why

A Bonus question is read to a team if a player on that team has just answered a Tossup correctly. Teams may (and are encouraged to) confer on answering a bonus question, which has either several parts or several answers (and usually both).

Every Bonus question is worth 30 points. Scoring is such that the number of points a team may earn on any particular Bonus will be some multiple of 5 points (hence 0 to 30 points).

Bonus questions are supposed to test deeper knowledge than tossups. Since they will be read in their entirety, it is not necessary to put more obscure facts before more obvious facts -- unless these facts are given in separate parts of a multi-part question. If a bonus has multiple parts, there should be some sort of theme connecting the parts. The theme could even be a hidden one that won't become obvious until the whole question is read.

2. Length

No Bonus may allow for more than four (4) separate team conferrals. Thus we are not permitting Bonuses with 5 or 6 parts. If you really want to ask a Bonus like, "for 5 points apiece, name the Greek counterpart of each of these Roman deities", for example, you may want to pair them up so that only three separate team conferrals are needed, and two answers must be given in each (e.g., "Mercury and Venus", "Ceres and Diana", "Jupiter and Juno"). This may seem a bit weird, but it cuts down on the amount of time required to play the question.

No part of a bonus should have a text that exceeds six (6) lines.

3. No single-answer, single-part Bonuses.

Unlike some other tournaments, VETO will not use questions that give 30 points, all or nothing. Ask several questions with point values adding up to 30, or use a progressive format as described below.

4. Format: Multiple parts related by a common theme.

The parts of the question should be of varying difficulty so that a team with an "average" knowledge of the subject should get some points but not a perfect score. There should be no more than four (4) parts as each part can take 10-15 seconds of game time to read and answer. Example:
Just as the U.S. has states like Alaska and Hawaii that are not contiguous
with the rest of the country, France has a number of overseas departments
scattered around the world.  Identify these departments for 10 points each.

1.  The most populous of the overseas departments, this island in the
    Indian Ocean has been part of France since 1642.


2.  Divided into the twin islands of Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, this
    Caribbean department is home to the dangerous volcano Soufriere.


3.  Located 10 miles off the Newfoundland coast and occupied by the French
    since 1604, this department is the last remnant of the French North
    American colonial empire.


Be sure to be clear about how many points each part is worth, as in "for ten points each" above, or "for the stated number of points" with a point value stated in each part. Please avoid cryptic abbreviations like "FTPE" or "FTSNOP", because you might as well spell out the words rather than risk confusing new readers.

Other ways to allocate points in a bonus:

Please avoid ambiguous phrases like "on a 5-5-10-10 basis" or "on a 5-10-20-30 basis", because not everyone is familiar with these "bases".

5. Format: One question, multiple answers.

You ask for a list of things, and give points for each correct answer. Be sure to specify clearly the number of items for which you are looking, especially if a complete list is not required. Asking teams to generate long lists with many possible answers ("Name any six OPEC nations", or "Name 8 European Union members for 15 points, 9 for 20 points...," for example) tends to be difficult to moderate and should be avoided. Use a precise and manageable list. Example:
For 5 points each, name the six wives of Henry the Eighth of England.

          Anne BOLEYN
          Jane SEYMOUR
          ANNE of CLEVES
          Catherine HOWARD
          Catherine PARR
Putting each answer on a separate line helps the moderator in checking off correct answers given by a team.

In some cases, an incorrect answer ends the bonus. In this case, which should not be overused, include the phrase "but be careful, a miss will stop you" in the question.

6. Format: Progressive bonus questions.

These questions are asked in multiple parts. Each part is an additional clue to the same answer. The general category is always given in the original question, which should begin "30-20-10", for the sake of word economy, if the parts are valued 30, 20 and 10 points. Example:
30-20-10, name the newspaper.

For 30 points:  From 1851 to 1862 its European correspondent was
Karl Marx.

For 20 points:  It was founded in 1841 by Horace Greeley, who edited it
until his death.

For 10 points:  In 1924 it merged with the New York Herald.

THE FIRST CLUE IN A PROGRESSIVE QUESTION MUST SPECIFY THE FINAL ANSWER UNIQUELY. A 30-20-10 bonus that begins with the following is not acceptable.
30-20-10, name the man.

For 30 points:  He was born in Cincinnati in 1938.
There were hundreds of males born in Cincinnati in 1938, and the name of any one of them would have to be accepted as a correct answer.

Besides 30-20-10, a bonus may have two separate progressive parts worth 15-5 each, or 20-10 followed by a 10-point question, or other values depending on difficulty level. Just make sure all point values are multiples of 5, the maximum possible score on any bonus question is 30, and no more than four conferrals will be required.

7. Multiple Choice

If you write a Bonus with some multiple-choice parts (the answer to be chosen from some explicitly stated list), there should be at least four (4) choices in the list. Avoid Yes/No, binary and ternary questions.

Subject Distribution

VETO rounds will be untimed, with 20 tossups played in each. But you will have to write more than 20 tossups and 20 bonuses, because:

So your packet should include (at least): Use the following subject distribution for both tossups and bonuses:
Science, Math, Technology 3 — 4
History 3 — 4
Literature 3 — 4
Geography 2 — 3
Current Events 2 — 3
Fine Arts 1 — 2
Religion, Philosophy, Mythology      1 — 2
Social Science 1 — 2
Popular Culture, Games, Sports 1 — 2
General Knowledge 0 — 3

Avoid writing more than one question in the same narrow subject area, such as Manitoba geography or Margaret Atwood literature.

Canadian content quota:

Of the first 20 tossups, at least 4 must refer to Canadian people, places, things, events, or created works. The same goes for the first 20 bonuses.

Don't include more than 50% Canadian content overall. The person who wrote the all-Canadian packet in 2002 now regrets having done so. Also spread your Canadian questions around the various subject areas, rather than concentrating them in Geography or Literature for example.

Difficulty level:

Aim for a level of difficulty approximating that of questions you've heard at NAQT sectionals. Try to keep the questions in your packet at a roughly similar level, especially for bonuses, because players may get mad at you if they're given a bonus that was much harder than the previous one given to the opposing team.


Mix up the order of your questions, so that you don't have a bunch of science questions followed by a bunch of history questions, etc.

Topic Areas and Reference Sources

Among the most reliable sources on the World Wide Web are the on-line encyclopedias:

Search engines and directories provide access to more pages, but caution: you may find not only a lot of useless links, but also completely bogus stuff written by any fool with an account on the Internet. You have to judge the reliability of sources you find:

Biographical sources: MIT OpenCourseWare includes course materials for classes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Packet Archive at Stanford University contains many American quiz bowl packets from the past decade. This is a great source of examples of the format (some good, some bad). It can be a good place to find inspiration for questions on similar topics. For example, you might see a question about a particular novel, and copy its structure in an original question about a different novel. Or, if you read a question on a subject you know a lot about, it might make you realize that you could write a more interesting question on the same subject, with different clues and different answers. A couple of caveats:

  1. DO NOT copy questions or parts of questions from the archive. Many other VETO players have seen these questions. These people will recognize copied questions and will lose all respect for you if you include them.
  2. DO NOT treat the archive as a reliable source of correct information. Confirm facts with a separate source. Many of us have written questions that we later discovered contained details that were incorrect — and they ended up in the archive.
Also check out the question packets from VETO in 2002 and 2003 and 2004. Since we'll have a lot of returning players, please write about something new. :)

1. Science, Math, Technology:   3 — 4 tossups & bonuses

This category includes, but is not limited to:

Some possible answers to questions in this category:

Avoid questions that ask what letter is used to represent a physical quantity, or vice versa.

Some multimedia ideas:

WWW sources:

2. History:   3 — 4 tossups & bonuses

Most teams seem to find that it's easier to write questions about History than about the other two major categories, Science and Literature, probably because History questions ask about names, dates and places, which are the emphases of quiz bowl.

You've got thousands of years and a whole planet to choose from. (Questions about extraterrestrial history usually fall under the category of Science, or perhaps Religion/Mythology.)

Don't forget about the world beyond North America and Europe, and don't obsess about wars. Wars are obviously important in history, but if more than half of your history questions are about wars, then it can seem excessive.

Some possible answers to questions in this category:

Some multimedia ideas:

WWW sources:

3. Literature:   3 — 4 tossups & bonuses

This category includes, but is not limited to:

Writing questions about literature is hard for some of us who are not confident of our own level of literacy. Are we asking about works that are too obscure? If we ask about well-known works, are our questions too easy?

Some possible answers to questions in this category:

Some multimedia ideas:

WWW sources:

4. Geography:   2 — 3 tossups & bonuses

This category includes:

Some possible answers to questions in this category:

Some multimedia ideas:

WWW sources:

5. Current Events:   2 — 3 tossups & bonuses

For the purpose of distribution quotas, questions about recent happenings in literature, popular culture, science and technology belong to those categories, not this one.

Some multimedia ideas:

WWW sources:

6. Fine Arts:   1 — 2 tossups & bonuses

Include questions about:

Some multimedia ideas:

WWW sources:

7. Religion, Philosophy, Mythology:   1 — 2 tossups & bonuses

This includes:

Some multimedia ideas:

WWW sources:

8. Social Science:   1 — 2 tossups & bonuses

This category includes, but is not limited to:

When asking questions about terminology in these fields, make sure that it's a standard term and not used only by your textbook or professor.

WWW sources:

9. Popular Culture, Games, Sports:   1 — 2 tossups & bonuses

This includes most of the subjects that are covered at the "Trash" quiz tournaments, such as:

Some multimedia ideas:

WWW sources:

10. General Knowledge:   0 — 3 tossups & bonuses

This category sweeps up the questions that are not subsumed in any other, such as:

WWW sources:

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