Saturday, 22 December 2007

Puzzles and peculiarities for Christmas 2007

It'll appear on the Guardian website shortly, but if you want a sneak preview, here is this year's General Knowledge Paper (PDF, aka the King William's Quiz) set for students of King William's College, Isle of Man. It's considerably easier with Google to hand, but some make it a point of honour not to use it, and some questions are sufficiently unspecific to be unGoogleable unless you twig the common factor for the section.
Check out also PuzzleMaster, the site for Chris Maslanka, who writes the long-running Pyrgic Puzzles page for Guardian Weekend. It includes archives from Radio 4's Puzzle Panel and Chris's Sydney Mind Olympics, a set of Australian-themed problems that ran in parallel with the 2000 Olympic Games.
Or for a slightly alternative format, also from the Guardian, try the Charlie Brooker festive quiz.

In a different vein, if you want some interesting reading, have a look at Anne T-V's link page for BMJ Christmas issues. Every year, the British Medical Journal publishes a selection of quirky articles. As explained in the editorial for 2000, A pile of strangeness, "The essence of the Christmas BMJ is strangeness. It's our left brain issue. We want everything to be not as it seems." This involves some spoof articles, but also fascinating studies of real but unusual topics: Civilisation and the colon: constipation as the "disease of diseases" (the fairly bizarre history of a malady and its mistreatment), Death and miasma in Victorian London: an obstinate belief (a history of the long-standing belief in disease being caused by, essentially, smelly air), Sword swallowing and its side effects (self-explanatory), White coats and fingerprints: diagnostic reasoning in medicine and investigative methods of fictional detectives, the excruciating You're not going to give me the umbrella, are you? (the persistence of a vivid myth among patients), and a historical murder mystery, The mysterious death of Francesco I de' Medici and Bianca Cappello: an arsenic murder?. So, if you like seasonal but mildly morbid stories, check out Ann T-V's page, which links handily to the contents pages back to 1995. - Ray

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