Cryptic States of America

GoogleMap
Image: Google Maps

Over the past few nights, had you come to our house, you would have found a group of adults huddled around the kitchen table. Not playing a game or eating dinner, but poring over a list of the 50 states and 50 corresponding clues. On a recent trip to England, my father had picked up a book based on the UK game show Pointless. Hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, the show is centered around obscure answers to even more obscure questions.

The book, The Most 100 Pointless Things in the World, is almost as obscure as the TV show. Containing information about game show hosts, things that hang from pub ceilings, dramatic pauses on TV talent shows and reality shows, and Luxembourg, it is a must read if you are a fan of the British and/or a fan of the obscure. There are playable quizzes, musings from the show’s hosts on the absurdities of life, and you are never quite sure if the information presented is riveting or just plain ridiculous.

The quiz that most caught our eye, however, was #81 “US States.” Osman likes to post competitions on his Twitter page, @richardosman, and this was one of his geeky wordplay quizzes. He presents 50 cryptic clues, each pointing to one of the 50 states. You will either consider it pointless or become addicted to solving each one, as we have been for the past few days. I am not a fan of cryptic crosswords, neither am I very good at them, but this had me hooked.

Some examples from this particular quiz are:

  • Heavy Laundry – Washington – “Washing” “Ton”
  • Horsehair – Maine – “Mane”
  • Two things you might need for a PhD – Alabama – “A lab” “An MA”

Bear in mind that for this particular quiz, if you decide you can’t live without the book, you have to think in British colloquialisms and not in American. Watch an episode of Downton Abbey before playing to get you in the mood. It’s also worth printing a list of all 50 states to go along with the clues. If you think you already know them, see how many you can name in 10 minutes, and you will more than likely be surprised by the ones you miss out. Apologies to residents of that beautiful state, but I always forget Wyoming. Wyoming incidentally is “I can’t understand why you can’t be more merciful,” and for that one you need to have a British attachment to the 1980 movie Flash Gordon.

If you have no interest in such a pointless book, but are intrigued by the premise of this quiz, Sporcle.com has their own variation. Though I think that one is much harder and less enjoyable for being both online and timed. While you are at it, this State geography quiz is one that I allow to give me nightmares at least once a year. It tells you how many miles you are off in your placement.