The Dissecting Room . . . October 1990
A Quiz On Page 247
There are those who will say that being a Sherlockian is a pastime for gentle souls. They would picture us drawing the bed covers close around our nightshirt collars while we read The Hound of the Baskervilles and shiver. Picking up the latest L.B. Greenwood pastiche is our idea of strenuous activity, and that should be attempted only after a soothing tea.
None of these people were obviously at the Airport Hilton Plaza Inn in Kansas City over the Labor Day weekend. There they might have seen Sherlockians daring all for a small bit of unspecified glory. They might have seen what mettle Sherlockians are truly made of. They might have seen the Pshaw! Bowl.
Now the Pshaw! Bowl is quite an extraordinary concept. On the surface it might seem like a simple quiz game on some Sherlock Holmes stories. But to the knowing Sherlockian, the waters run much deeper than that . . . much deeper. Many of us had faced this dread game before in written form; we knew what was to come. For the novices involved,.teeth-gnashing and frustration awaited, and they were walking into it so innocently, too.
Because the secret to any quiz given by John Bennett Shaw, no matter what the subject matter, is to think like Shaw. Considering that during the course of his life, Shaw has had to think like an undertaker, an oilman, and even a Great Alkali Plainsman, among other things, imitating the resulting arcane mix of mental processes is no mean feat. That doesn't mean we didn't give it a shot.
In hotel rooms, burger joints, and even on the sidewalk outside a soon-to-open yogurt shop, determined contestants tried to outshaw Shaw. "What evidence is there in this story that Holmes and Watson had great strength?" one would ask. "Because Watson said, 'We picked up a hansom'," another would reply. Puns were flying with deadly abandon, and none of us were sure we would ever be quite the same again. Trying to put yourself into a harmonic psychic rhythm with such a long-time Sherlockian as John Bennett Shaw is not an idle game for the weak-minded.
As part of my own recuperative therapy, I am about to offer up a small competition. There will be a prize, so you might want to pay attention. It's going to be an open book quiz, and I'll even give you the page number -- #247 in the 1122-page Doubleday edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes.
The catch is simple -- all you have to do is think like me. Here are the questions. Good luckl
1. Mary Morstan Watson refuses to let John disembark from a train the entire time they are travelling through Ohio. Why?
2. Holmes is more than a clotheshorse on this page. Find the evidence that he is actually a horse.
3. Give eight examples of groceries and/or wildlife mentioned on page 247.
4. Watson seems to be of the opinion that the whole blue carbuncle business has to do with where Ready Kilowatt wears his belt. Quote him on the subject.
5. Who cheated at whist, and how did Holmes know?
6. With what did Victorian Tom Cruise defend queen and country?
7. What's the best poker hand you can make from this page?
There you have it, the first (and probably last) Dissecting Room Bowl. Send your answers to the editor of P&D by October 6, 1990 (time is short, so you may want to get a move-on). Decisions of the judges (said editor and myself) are final -- especially if said editor manages to answer more questions than anyone in the readership, which would look bad for the P&D staff, so please help us keep our integrity and beat Bob.
And if you'd rather pass on the quiz . . . well, you can always puli the bedcovers up close and have a soothing cup of tea. The rest of us will try to keep the Sherlockian reputation unsissified.
(Printed in Plugs & Dottles, October 1990 )