Really Hard Edition 2: Part 2

Jul 17, 2014

Host Ophira Eisenberg and puzzle editor Art Chung continue the hour with a trio of games that push the limits on your ability to recall cultural references. In "Nick Names," identify famous people and fictional characters named "Nick." (See what we did there?) Sing along with house musician Jonathan Coulton in "Jingle All The Way," as he performs favorite commercial jingles...in Italian. Plus, insert comic strip characters into your favorite novels in "Literary Comic Strips."

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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

You're listening to NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. And this is our Really Hard edition. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and with me is our puzzle editor, Art Chung. When it comes to pop culture trivia, it turns out that general knowledge is dead.

ART CHUNG: Well, Ophira, if it's not dead, is not feeling too well these days.

EISENBERG: That's true.

CHUNG: Well, now you remember the show "Welcome Back, Kotter" right?

EISENBERG: It's one of my favorites.

CHUNG: Well, right. You might have seen it when it aired in the '70s or if it was on Nick at Nite, but for a whole generation people who have no idea who that show was.

EISENBERG: It's true. What I thought was the most important television show of all time when I was 13 is just not the same as a current 13-year-old. And that holds true for what I thought was important with comic strips, novels, commercial jingles, well-known people named Nick.

CHUNG: That's right. And in this game, we're going to find out that people named Nick don't really have much cultural relevance these days. So let's listen in to this round lead by Ophira and house musician Jonathan Coulton.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

EISENBERG: Let's say hello to our next two contestants, Silvija Ozols and Darwin Conner.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Darwin, Silvija, would you - did you give yourself a nickname growing up or were you given one? Darwin? Your name's Darwin. Was there any nicknames?

DARWIN CONNER: Yes. I can't believe I'm going to say this in public...

EISENBERG: OK.

CONNER: ...Let alone on the radio. But in junior high school, I thought it was a good idea to call myself Big D.

(LAUGHTER)

CONNER: And a friend of mine got me a red sweatshirt - this is in the '80s - that said, "Big D," in quotes, which I wore to junior high school. So that worked out well.

EISENBERG: And you're like but what I did for myself. I made myself very...

CONNER: Very, very popular.

EISENBERG: ...Very popular.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Silvija, what did you decide to call yourself?

SILVIJA OZOLS: I never had a nickname, really, because I was kind of a serious kid. And so, like, nobody felt compelled to give me a nickname.

(LAUGHTER)

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Man, they're a lot of sad stories on stage tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah. Did you have one - like, if you could have one?

OZOLS: I did briefly call myself Silent J because there's a silent J in my name.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Aw.

OZOLS: But it didn't really stick.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: It's like an "Electric Company" story.

EISENBERG: I know.

COULTON: It's Big D and Silent J.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I know.

CHUNG: It's like an '80s rap group.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: All right, Big D, Silent J. This game is called Nick Names. And in this game, we'll get real familiar with people named Nick. I'm going to give you three made up nick names to describe a famous person or fictional character, and you have to ring in in the nick of time...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...And tell us who we're talking about. Puzzle guru Art Chung, how about an example?

CHUNG: Sure. If we said Coppola's kin, Mr. Moonstruck and a "National Treasure," the answer, of course, was Nick Cage.

EISENBERG: OK. And these nicknames, just remember, are made up. They're not real ones, as far as we know. And we're also talking about people with variations on the name Nick, so don't be thrown. Let's go. "Rich Man, Poor Man," Malibu mug shot model and the Sexiest Man Alive in 1992.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Silvija.

OZOLS: Nick Nolte?

EISENBERG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

CONNER: He was the Sexiest Man Alive?

EISENBERG: I know. That is the most...

COULTON: I would never get that.

EISENBERG: Yeah. And that's...

CONNER: It was slim pickings in '92.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Not a nickname he gave himself.

CONNER: I mean, he was not the sexiest man. Slim Pickens was not the sexiest man in...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Slim Pickens.

CONNER: The pickings literally were slim.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: He's all that, ringmaster of "America's Got Talent" and Mr. Mariah Carey.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Silvija.

OZOLS: Nick Cannon?

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

CONNER: Totally knew that one.

EISENBERG: Yeah, you did.

CONNER: My buzzer's not working.

EISENBERG: Oh, you want to test it?

CONNER: Nah, I'm just kidding.

EISENBERG: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Paris's pal, Lionel's girl, not so Simple Lifer.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Silvija?

OZOLS: Nicole Richie?

EISENBERG: Yes, indeed.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: What happened to you, Big D?

EISENBERG: It's Silent J's big moment.

NAUGLE: Call me Silent D.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Brit critic, Arsenal soccer fan, high fidelity scribe.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Silvija - she took a gasp.

OZOLS: Nick Hornby?

EISENBERG: Yeah. Exactly.

(APPLAUSE)

CONNER: Never heard of that person.

OZOLS: "About A boy"?

EISENBERG: Darwin, you've never heard of that person?

CONNER: I've never heard of that person. I have no idea who that is.

EISENBERG: No? Did you...

CONNER: This is completely unfair.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I know. We always try to write personal quizzes, and it's hard.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Maybe you know this one. We'll find out.

CONNER: Nick Cannon.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Pink wig enthusiast, "Idol" judge dropout, feud fueled rapper.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Silvija.

CONNER: Aw, I know it...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Don't feel bad. Don't feel bad.

OZOLS: Can I whisper to him and have him say it?

EISENBERG: No. You say the word.

(LAUGHTER)

CONNER: I know.

OZOLS: Nicki Minaj. Exactly.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: All right. This is your last clue. Tambourine tapper, leather and lace lover, Fleetwood Mac Mama.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CONNER: She's looking at me and answering.

OZOLS: I feel bad. Stevie Nicks.

EISENBERG: Stevie Nicks is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

OZOLS: Don't hate the player, hate the game.

(LAUGHTER)

CONNER: Wow. I do. I hate the game.

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: I don't even know if we need to go for it, but clearly, Sylvija was our winner.

EISENBERG: Congratulations, Sylvija.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Let's meet our next two contestants, Guy Matz and Danielle Sherman.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Danielle, you work as a clerk at the Brooklyn Board of Elections. That's very interesting. But you also are interested in Burmese zodiac. What is that?

DANIELLE SHERMAN: I found out that it existed 'cause I was living in Southeast Asia. I had some friends who, you know, whatever, and...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Yeah. Sure.

SHERMAN: ...One thing led to another, as it often does. And...

EISENBERG: With the zodiac.

SHERMAN: Yeah, with the zodiac. You can't get away from it. But no, I was looking into it because apparently in the Burmese zodiac - part of it is it depends on what day of the week you're born. Like, what animal you are, what creature you are. So you could be like an elephant or, like, something like a tiger. I'm, like - I'm a guinea pig. (Laughing) I found out that I was a guinea pig. So I was like, oh, well, that fits me very well. So I became a fan of that.

EISENBERG: What day of the week is that?

SHERMAN: Friday. So anyone born on a Friday...

EISENBERG: Is a guinea pig.

SHERMAN: ...Is a guinea pig. Yes.

EISENBERG: There's only seven possibilities in Burmese zodiac.

SHERMAN: Yes. And...

EISENBERG: And one of them is guinea pig.

SHERMAN: Yeah. I lucked out. I lucked out.

EISENBERG: That's a pretty good...

SHERMAN: Yeah..

EISENBERG: Yeah. I don't even want to know what the other ones are.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Now, Guy, you work in IT and computers. I used to do that.

GUY MATZ: Really? Where?

EISENBERG: Yeah, in New York.

(LAUGHTER)

MATZ: In what capacity?

EISENBERG: You want to talk about it in depth?

MATZ: No.

EISENBERG: It was back in...

(LAUGHTER)

MATZ: I actually enjoy talking shop.

EISENBERG: Yeah. It was like back when I was doing like Windows XP, pre-Service Pack 2.

MATZ: Mmm.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Do you speak Italian?

MATZ: I don't.

EISENBERG: OK. Danielle, do you speak Italian?

SHERMAN: Not that I know of.

EISENBERG: Perfect. This game is called Jingle All the Way. And what it has to do with is Jonathan is taking a side career in writing commercial jingles. You're working on Old Spice, I believe?

COULTON: Yeah, right. I'm working on Old Spice right now. The oldest spice you can buy.

(LAUGHTER)

SHERMAN: That's the working phrase I have so far. I'm still working on it, though.

EISENBERG: That's good. I like it.

SHERMAN: No. Actually, in this game, I'm going to ask you to complete the lyrics to some famous commercial jingles. The twist is that I'm going to sing them in Italian.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Because I...

EISENBERG: Why?

COULTON: ... I took Italian in college so my accent is pretty, pretty great.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: A couple of years.

EISENBERG: Two years.

COULTON: Two years.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Two years of Italian in college, so don't worry. All of this is absolutely correct.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Lucky for you contestant, you don't have to answer in Italian.

SHERMAN: Oh, thank God.

COULTON: Just tell us the product. And if you'd like to sing, sing it as part of the jingle, I think that would be appropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Woo.

COULTON: The audience agrees. So that's...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: So we're going to give you an example right now. (Singing in Italian). So puzzle guru Mary Tobler...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: What was that a jingle for?

MARY TOBLER: (Singing) Chili's baby back ribs.

COULTON: That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: So ring and when you know the answer. Pronto? Si?

EISENBERG: Yup.

COULTON: That means - yeah. OK. Yeah. That means ready. You got it. See? It's going to be - just use context clues. It'll be very easy. Here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

COULTON: (Singing in Italian).

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Danielle.

SHERMAN: Kit Kat bar?

COULTON: That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: In Italian, it sounds like the Kit Kat Lounge, right? It does. That's...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Much cooler. Everything is much cooler in Italian.

SHERMAN: Such a classy lounge.

COULTON: Yeah. (Singing in Italian)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Guy?

MATZ: Toys 'R' Us?

COULTON: Yeah.

MATZ: Oh.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: As they would say in Italy, (Italian spoken).

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Which means we are toys.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: OK. This is a cappella. That also is Italian. That means...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: OK. Here we go. (Singing in Italian).

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Danielle.

SHERMAN: I actually have no idea. 1-800 auto something. I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Auto means eight, I'm going to tell you that much.

(LAUGHTER)

SHERMAN: 1-800 car for kids? No? No. It's...

COULTON: Just list all the hundred numbers you can think of.

SHERMAN: I just going to - I'm going to keep going. What is it? 1-800 mattress. I don't know...

COULTON: No. I'm afraid you've gotten it wrong several times. Guy?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(LAUGHTER)

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Do you want to take a guess?

MATZ: Empire?

COULTON: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: That's right. Empire Carpet. OK. Here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

COULTON: (Singing in Italian).

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: (Singing in Italian). (Italian spoken).

EISENBERG: Nope.

COULTON: Oh, for God's sakes.

EISENBERG: I like that you're now angry at them.

COULTON: Well, now I'm mad.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: They are working together.

COULTON: They are conferring. They work together.

EISENBERG: The contestants are...

SHERMAN: Guy just asked me if I knew the answer.

(LAUGHTER)

MATZ: No. No. I said (Italian spoken) two time.

COULTON: Does the audience know what it is?

AUDIENCE: Yeah.

COULTON: What is it?

AUDIENCE: Double Mint.

COULTON: Double mint.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIENCE MOANING)

SHERMAN: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

COULTON: You'll be relieved to hear this is your last clue.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

(LAUGHTER)

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: (Singing in Italian).

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Danielle.

SHERMAN: Yes. I do - I do know this.

COULTON: You got this one, Danielle.

SHERMAN: Thank you. Mentos?

COULTON: Mentos. Si.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Brava.

SHERMAN: I've never gotten so much applause for doing so little.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Now you know what it's like to work at this show.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Mary, what happened in that game 'cause I can't remember. I've already blocked out.

TOBLER: We have a tie.

SHERMAN: What?

TOBLER: Yes. Can you believe it?

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIENCE SURPRISE)

EISENBERG: I know. Every once in a while it is 1-1.

COULTON: Oh, no.

(LAUGHTER)

TOBLER: We're going to have to go to a tiebreaker.

SHERMAN: Oh, dear God, no.

(LAUGHTER)

TOBLER: The phrase, Mamma Mia, that's a spicy meatball, comes from a classic commercial that was actually for what antacid?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

TOBLER: Danielle?

SHERMAN: Alka-Seltzer?

TOBLER: Correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: let's say hello to Jim Harvey and Matt Melchiorre.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: So, Jim, you are a self-proclaimed know-it-all.

JIM HARVEY: Yes.

EISENBERG: And you helped build a school in Port Au Prince, Haiti. I would like to hear about this.

HARVEY: Well, it wasn't exactly a school. We were working with...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I can tell that...

HARVEY: It was a hospital. We were...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: You're right. That is not exactly a school.

EISENBERG: No, no, no.

HARVEY: It was a mission trip. We were doing construction on a hospital for children with tuberculosis.

EISENBERG: That's amazing. And thank you. Matt, you work in the New York Department of Education.

MATT MELCHIORRE: I do.

EISENBERG: What do you do there?

MELCHIORRE: I'm an educational administrator. I'm responsible for the operation of a group of 34 schools.

EISENBERG: All right. This game is called Literary Comic Strips because as kids, we all loved reading the Sunday funny papers, but the comics are so short. So we have taken popular newspaper cartoon strips and mashed their titles with some classic books to produce longer literary works of art. OK. Puzzle guru Greg Pliska, we need an example.

GREG PLISKA: If we combined Gary Trudeau's comic strip about a bunch of baby boomers with Dee Brown's historical account of the plight of Native American tribes, that would be: Doonesbury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Oh.

PLISKA: Obvious.

COULTON: Yeah, it's easy.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: It's easy. We could skip this. It's so easy.

EISENBERG: So don't panic, OK? Just talk it out. Here we go. In this adaptation of a W.P. Kinsella novel, which was made into a movie starring Kevin Costner, a fat orange cat is told, if you build it, he will come.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Matt.

MELCHIORRE: Garfield of Dreams.

EISENBERG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Everyone loves this game, right?

MELCHIORRE: How could you not?

EISENBERG: Call me Ishmael on my two-way wrist radio, is how the story begins. It's the tale of a lantern-jawed detective who will stop at nothing to track down the whale or the hideously deformed gangster that stole his leg.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Matt.

MELCHIORRE: Moby Dick Tracy.

EISENBERG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: A lazy Army private whose eyes are always covered by his cap sees his whole life change when he falls in love with the wealthy heiress Daisy Buchanan. He spends the rest of his short life building a fortune to impress her and his commanding officer, Sergeant Snorkel.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Jim.

HARVEY: Beetle Bailey - Beetle Bailey Gatsby.

EISENBERG: All right. OK. Try it in another...

HARVEY: The Great Gatsby Bailey?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Now one more time, and you said it perfectly. Keep going. Like, exactly what you said, just all the words. Let's do it.

(LAUGHTER)

HARVEY: The Great Gatsby Beetle Bailey?

EISENBERG: Yes!

PLISKA: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

HARVEY: I don't get it.

MELCHIORRE: No. I don't either.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: We're doing a lot of things with this game, OK? You don't get it?

COULTON: It's the Great Gats-Beetle Bailey. Bailey.

HARVEY: Oh, if you merge them.

COULTON: Yes.

HARVEY: So it's the Great Gats-Beetle Bailey.

EISENBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

MELCHIORRE: Oh.

HARVEY: I get it.

COULTON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Yeah. I like that you're like I don't get it. This game is stupid.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: In an odd casting choice, a pipe-smoking, spinach-swilling sailor man plays a thrice-married, twice-widowed black woman named Janie Crawford in this adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's 1937 novel.

PLISKA: You're going to put the comic strip in the middle of the title.

HARVEY: OK.

PLISKA: Of course, if you don't know the title that doesn't help at all, does it?

(LAUGHTER)

PLISKA: The title completes the quote: They seem to be staring at the dark but...

HARVEY: Oh, oh, oh, oh, um, um, um...that doesn't really help. It's not - it's...

PLISKA: No.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK.

PLISKA: He's strong to the finish 'cause he eats his spinach-k.

MELCHIORRE: We got Pop-Eye.

HARVEY: Yeah.

PLISKA: Oh, OK. Good.

(LAUGHTER)

PLISKA: Just trying to help. Just trying to help.

EISENBERG: How about this? Maybe he loves the Lord more than spinach.

COULTON: And a part of his body is observing the Lord.

EISENBERG: All right, all right. Yeah. It's - I think we could...

PLISKA: Bail out. Bail out.

EISENBERG: OK.

PLISKA: No.

EISENBERG: Anyone out there?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN AND MEN: Their Pop-Eyes Were Watching God.

EISENBERG: Their Pop-Eyes Were Watching God.

PLISKA: Everybody knew that.

(LAUGHTER)

MELCHIORRE: Why are they never that obscure when I'm listening at home?

EISENBERG: They are.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Our contestants are definitely bright, but even famous radio geniuses can get stumped every once in awhile, like when we quizzed Radiolab host Jad Abumrad on some accidental scientific discoveries. So stick around for more of ASK ME ANOTHER's Really Hard Edition from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.