NSC 2016 Set Discussion

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NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Jem Casey » Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:26 pm

Please use this thread to discuss the 2016 PACE NSC questions. Feel free to post general comments about the overall set, praise or criticism of specific questions, errata, etc. I (Jordan Brownstein) head-edited the set, and will post some more information and a few thoughts on how it turned out shortly.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:29 pm

The Whistler's Mother tossup should have clarified that Portrait of the Artist's Mother was an acceptable answer at some point and that really anything to suggest it was a painting of Whistler's mother was fine. I had a team say "Portrait of James Whistler's Mother."
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Halved Xenon Stinging » Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:31 pm

I know that round 8 got thrown out, but was the Cuban theatre of the Spanish-American War tossup that great of an idea? Could you have at least included a disclaimer of "theatre and war required" or something like that?
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:34 pm

If I recall that tossup starts out by saying it is an "unnamed military campaign," which makes it clear (at least to me) that it's a campaign in a larger conflict. It says "theater of a larger war" before the powermark too. I guess you could say "Caribbean theater" of Spanish-American War, but that is promptable and the Cuban theater is by far the most significant of that war.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by alexdz » Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:49 pm

I was not a big fan of the giveaway clue on one of the "chicken" questions that said something to the effect of "this animal whose meat is served at KFC." Is there really not a slightly more academic giveaway clue for that?
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by The Polebarn Hotel » Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:54 pm

I don't know if I was the only one who found the excess of Japan answerlines annoying (both as tossups and bonuses), but I think that was definitely unnecessary. Also, some of the bonus parts were incredibly long, and I'm not even talking about the lead-ins. I remember the one about The Faerie Queene being over two lines long, and I ended up saying Elizabeth I because it was so unnecessarily obtuse until the end, where it finally said that it titled a Spenser poem, which I didn't end up hearing. That was my own fault, and I'm only leveling my complaint against the way many of the bonuses were structured. I liked the content of most bonuses, but in general, excessive length should be avoided.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:00 pm

The Baking of the English Working Class wrote:Also, some of the bonus parts were incredibly long, and I'm not even talking about the lead-ins.
I agree. While most parts were fine, some definitely smacked of "we are adding in hard clues unnecessarily after we had you read the easy part." I remember one first part of a bonus that, combined with the lead-in, was five lines long - long enough for a tossup in some tournaments!

That said, I really liked this set overall. There were grammatical issues and the pronunciation guides were weird.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Milhouse » Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:12 pm

An astonishingly minor quipe, but if I recall correctly, the music tossup on the _1800s_ claims that Major General Stanley does know what, precisely, is meant by commissariat, when he, in fact, does not.

Also, could I see the tossup on coffins (from Moby-Dick) from Round 8? That was a really cool question and it's too bad a lot of teams didn't get to hear it.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Jem Casey » Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:29 pm

I was the head editor of the set, and also subject-edited all the History, European Literature, and Painting. My co-editors were Aidan Mehigan (American, British, World Literature), Victor Prieto (Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy), Adam Silverman (Biology), Eric Mukherjee (Physics), Ike Jose (Earth Science, Math, Computer Science, Other Arts), Rob Carson (Music, Mythology), Shan Kothari (Religion, Philosophy, Social Science), and Chris Ray (Current Events, Geography, and Other Academic). Roughly 2/3 of the set was written by three people: Ike Jose wrote 39% of the set, Michael Bentley wrote 17%, and I wrote 11%. 33 other writers contributed questions towards the total 1050 questions. I'd like to thank everyone who helped with the set for their hard work, and note that the writers deserve lots of credit for consistently selecting creative but accessible clues and answers. They all crafted their questions with love for the subject material, and I hope that enthusiasm at least somewhat rubbed off on those who heard the set this weekend.

As in previous years, a major goal of this year's NSC was to ask about familiar material in creative ways. I encouraged writers to seek out less well-trodden, though not necessarily harder, early clues and try fresh answerlines, or unique themes for standard answerlines. When expansion beyond "familiar material" was necessary, as it often is for distinguishing top teams at a national tournament, the priority was to avoid testing players on their knowledge of the collegiate canon, but to use clues which players with independent interest in the subject material might know or find engaging. All this makes for a rather exacting set of ideals, especially when combined with our goal of keeping answerlines accessible and not piling line after line of unbuzzable content on less-experienced teams. That said, I feel that the writers and editors rose to the challenge, though I'll be interested to hear if the "whimsical" spirit of some answer-line choices felt confusing or overdone.

If I had a chance to redo the last few hectic weeks of set production, I would budget a bit more time for a final pass for packet feng-shui issues (to avoid, for instance, packets with multiple Judaism-related questions, or consecutive mentions of the uraeus), and reign in a few truly unreasonable bonus hard parts, though I do think that the vast majority were appropriate. Hopefully these issues didn't impact anyone's tournament experience too much. I had a great time putting this set together, and seeing so many talented teams rise to the challenge of the questions was a really rewarding finish to the process.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by dhumphreys17 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:57 pm

Cheynem wrote:The Whistler's Mother tossup should have clarified that Portrait of the Artist's Mother was an acceptable answer at some point and that really anything to suggest it was a painting of Whistler's mother was fine. I had a team say "Portrait of James Whistler's Mother."
What round was this? I don't think you moderated our game during that round, and if that's the case, then that makes two teams that had that problem, since our team got thrown into a similar circumstance.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:59 pm

dhumphreys17 wrote:
Cheynem wrote:The Whistler's Mother tossup should have clarified that Portrait of the Artist's Mother was an acceptable answer at some point and that really anything to suggest it was a painting of Whistler's mother was fine. I had a team say "Portrait of James Whistler's Mother."
What round was this? I don't think you moderated our game during that round, and if that's the case, then that makes two teams that had that problem, since our team got thrown into a similar circumstance.
Yeah sorry, I should have had a more generous answer line here. I'm generally of the opinion that we should be really lax about painting titles given how much they vary, are rarely set by the original artists, etc.

In any event, this is what protests are for.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:04 pm

I think it might have been mootly protested in my room.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Charbroil » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:07 pm

AKKOLADE wrote:I think it might have been mootly protested in my room.
Same here.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Jem Casey » Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:49 pm

Cheynem wrote:The Whistler's Mother tossup should have clarified that Portrait of the Artist's Mother was an acceptable answer at some point and that really anything to suggest it was a painting of Whistler's mother was fine. I had a team say "Portrait of James Whistler's Mother."
For what its worth, the answerline of this question was:

ANSWER: Whistler's Mother [or Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 until mentioned]

My apologies that we weren't more explicit about the range of acceptable answers. This confusion, as well as a similar, but less widespread, problem regarding the answerline "Laocoon and his Sons," reminds me that moderators can interpret a partially-underlined answer as "accept anything mentioning the underlined section" or "accept the underlined section, but only accept the complete answer if more is said." Clearly, the appropriate interpretation varies case by case; it's up to the writers and editors to provide enough instructions that the correct approach is taken for the question.
Xochicuicatl Cuecuechtli wrote:Also, could I see the tossup on coffins (from Moby-Dick) from Round 8? That was a really cool question and it's too bad a lot of teams didn't get to hear it.
This sort of object provides the surname of an innkeeper who owns a mysterious smoked-over oil painting and tells the protagonist that another character is out peddling shrunken heads. In the first chapter of the novel in which he appears, that protagonist describes finding himself stopping before warehouses full of these objects. A character climbs into one of these objects with an idol named Yojo after falling (*) ill with a fever and later decorates it with carvings. A canoe-like object of this sort is reworked by a carpenter into a life-buoy. One of these objects made by Queequeg emerges from a whirlpool after the Pequod sinks. For 10 points, Moby Dick ends with Ishmael floating on what sort of object, usually used to store dead bodies?
ANSWER: coffins [prompt on canoes, buoys, or sea chests]
The set will be up on the packet archive in <24 hours, so this is the first and last question-posting request I'm taking. Glad you liked the tossup! Inspired by Aidan's and Rob's writing philosophies in previous NSCs, I wrote a number of tossups that approached important plot points and symbols from core-canon literature from unusual angles; off the top of my head, some of these included Death (in Emily Dickinson poetry), Slaughterhouse-Five, book burning (in Fahrenheit 451), Sylvia Plath's father, Jay Gatsby's parties, pigs (in Lord of the Flies), and the police (in Crime and Punishment). While some of these were assuredly better ideas than others, and don't represent the best writing of this type that's been done at NSC, I would be curious to hear whether this style (including in non-literature categories) is a welcome and distinguishing feature of the NSC, or whether at least some such questions can be more frustrating and bewildering than their uniqueness is worth.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by dhumphreys17 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:59 pm

Jem Casey wrote:I would be curious to hear whether this style (including in non-literature categories) is a welcome and distinguishing feature of the NSC, or whether at least some such questions can be more frustrating and bewildering than their uniqueness is worth.
I liked that style of question, although I may be biased because it is a type of question on which my fine arts specialist (who actually does better on lit), Wendy Erickson, tends to excel. She powered the Gatsby's parties question as well as getting a 10 on Slaughterhouse Five and Death. I had an interrupt on the pig question because I was being a dummy and not paying attention to what the question was looking for.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by bajaj » Mon Jun 06, 2016 10:38 pm

Jem Casey wrote: The set will be up on the packet archive in <24 hours, so this is the first and last question-posting request I'm taking. Glad you liked the tossup! Inspired by Aidan's and Rob's writing philosophies in previous NSCs, I wrote a number of tossups that approached important plot points and symbols from core-canon literature from unusual angles; off the top of my head, some of these included Death (in Emily Dickinson poetry), Slaughterhouse-Five, book burning (in Fahrenheit 451), Sylvia Plath's father, Jay Gatsby's parties, pigs (in Lord of the Flies), and the police (in Crime and Punishment). While some of these were assuredly better ideas than others, and don't represent the best writing of this type that's been done at NSC, I would be curious to hear whether this style (including in non-literature categories) is a welcome and distinguishing feature of the NSC, or whether at least some such questions can be more frustrating and bewildering than their uniqueness is worth.
Ultimately, I found this approach to be an appreciable, rewarding feature of the set. While creative answerlines can lead to occasional confusion or additional thought in shaping a buzz, this year's questions did an excellent job of using creativity in a manner that did not detract from players' knowledge of a topic/work. If one is familiar with and/or has read The Great Gatsby, the tossup on Gatsby's parties was both fun and gettable early on. More importantly for the literature tossups, I think that this creative approach helped in separating the buzz-points for players with real knowledge and players with fake knowledge of a work. Someone who has read Crime and Punishment will fare far better with the police tossup than someone who is merely familiar with plot points, as the use of "institution" in the question will be more obvious to someone who has read the work and understood its themes.

On a final note, I just want to thank this year's PACE writers and editors for a truly excellent set that allowed players to strike a nice balance between thinking on their feet and having quite a bit of fun.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by rahulkeyal » Mon Jun 06, 2016 10:44 pm

Personally, I didn't enjoy the Slaughterhouse-Five tossup as much. Maybe it's been that long since I read the novel, but I thought that the actual building wasn't significant enough to the novel as a whole to have a tossup on it. In addition, my teammate, despite having read the novel earlier this year, buzzed about half-way through and was unable to pull "Slaughterhouse-Five", as he wasn't sure what exactly they were looking for. We personally thought the specific tossup was, as Jordan put it,
Jem Casey wrote: more frustrating and bewildering than their uniqueness is worth.
although this definitely wasn't the case for all such tossups he mentioned demonstrating such creativity.

Regardless, props to the editors for putting together such a great set! It was a blast for both my teammates and I to play, and I can say this makes me a lot more tempted to choose PACE over HSNCT (if we have to choose one) next year as well. While I can't comment on all of the set, I really enjoyed the literature, fine arts, physics and philosophy, and thought that the questions were interesting, and challenging enough to where there weren't too many buzzer races (for our team), while also not so challenging that it was off-putting.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Halved Xenon Stinging » Tue Jun 07, 2016 12:49 am

Cheynem wrote:If I recall that tossup starts out by saying it is an "unnamed military campaign," which makes it clear (at least to me) that it's a campaign in a larger conflict. It says "theater of a larger war" before the powermark too. I guess you could say "Caribbean theater" of Spanish-American War, but that is promptable and the Cuban theater is by far the most significant of that war.
I buzzed in before the point where the question mentioned "theater of a larger war", so I only had "unnamed military campaign" to work with. I said Spanish-American War, was prompted, and guessed incorrectly "Charge on San Juan Hill". I think it would've been better to either just write a tossup on Cuba with Spanish-American war clues or a tossup on the Spanish-American War.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Cody » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:54 am

Halved Xenon Stinging wrote:
Cheynem wrote:If I recall that tossup starts out by saying it is an "unnamed military campaign," which makes it clear (at least to me) that it's a campaign in a larger conflict. It says "theater of a larger war" before the powermark too. I guess you could say "Caribbean theater" of Spanish-American War, but that is promptable and the Cuban theater is by far the most significant of that war.
I buzzed in before the point where the question mentioned "theater of a larger war", so I only had "unnamed military campaign" to work with. I said Spanish-American War, was prompted, and guessed incorrectly "Charge on San Juan Hill". I think it would've been better to either just write a tossup on Cuba with Spanish-American war clues or a tossup on the Spanish-American War.
But don't both the Spanish-American War and Battle of San Juan Hill both have names as well as the latter not being a military campaign?
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Tue Jun 07, 2016 9:52 am

Halved Xenon Stinging wrote: I think it would've been better to either just write a tossup on Cuba with Spanish-American war clues or a tossup on the Spanish-American War.
Not to derail the discussion too much, but this is actually an interesting point--in general, why don't we do things like this whenever feasible? For some interesting answerlines, e.g. S5 the building, and Gatsby's parties, obviously it would not be feasible (mainly because it's too clumsy to avoid mentioning the thing you really want to ask about), but in this case what does questioning on the Cuban theatre rather than Spanish-American really add?

I'm with Jordan--whenever you can do interesting answerlines that you make think about the question and clues in a new way, that's a plus. But it feels like the Cuban theatre question didn't twist the player's experience any more than just Spanish-American would have. Is it worth it simply for the sake of novelty?
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by That DCC guy » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:12 am

Why was there a Wasps tossup. My friend buzzed in and said bee I feel he not only got cheated by a poor answerline but I mean bee and wasp...
Also could we see the agriculture question?
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by AKKOLADE » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:15 am

That DCC guy wrote:Why was there a Wasps tossup. My friend buzzed in and said bee I feel he not only got cheated by a poor answerline but I mean bee and wasp...
Also could we see the agriculture question?
Bees and wasps are different, yo.

Set'll be uploaded soon, I'm sure.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Noble Rot » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:38 am

I thought that power ran kinda late on a few questions, Pigs and Milošević being the first two that pop into my head. Also, I though that a few tossups had weird clues early, with both Japanese-Americans having ni hao and the lied tossup having Schuman early in the question.

But other than that I'd like to thank all the writers and editors for a really good set that was a blast to play. Me and my teammates all enjoyed it a ton.
Last edited by Noble Rot on Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:49 am

I'm not involved in NSC in any way, and I certainly didn't play it, but as an outside observer "Cuban theater of the Spanish-American War" sounds like an extremely cumbersome answerline and I'm not sure what is being accomplished that could not be accomplished with a tossup where the answer was "Cuba" and all of the clues were like "one battle in this country", etc. Hey it might have even let you sneak in a few clues about other wars too!
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jun 07, 2016 11:01 am

Cuba wasn't a country at the time the Spanish American War was fought, although you could say "this modern day country." I think campaign tossups work for wars in which there are multiple notable campaigns, but for the Spanish American War, Cuba is by far the most famous theater of the war (it's basically that and the Philippines).
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Jun 07, 2016 11:10 am

Look I'm not alleging that Cuba was not a key theater of the Spanish-American war or that there was not a "Cuban campaign" in the technical, military strategy sense of the term. I'm simply stating that writing a tossup on "The Cuban Campaign of the Spanish American War" creates opportunities for players getting confused by what level of answer specificity is being looked for that would not be created with an answerline like "Cuba" or "The Spanish American War".

Would "US invasion of Cuba during the Spanish American War" been accepted?
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jun 07, 2016 11:16 am

I think it was.

Sorry for not being clear--I was agreeing with you, basically for the reasons you described. My point about it being the most famous theater was that such an answerline doesn't really reward any deeper knowledge.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by 1.82 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 11:25 am

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:Would "US invasion of Cuba during the Spanish American War" been accepted?
This was in fact the primary answerline given on the sheet.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by dhumphreys17 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 1:31 pm

That DCC guy wrote:Why was there a Wasps tossup. My friend buzzed in and said bee I feel he not only got cheated by a poor answerline but I mean bee and wasp...
Also could we see the agriculture question?
I was able to 10 that question after hearing the word "ichneumon", as ichneumons are by definition wasps. I didn't feel like that was a bad answerline selection; on the contrary, I was glad that there was some entomology in this set.
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by Jem Casey » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:06 pm

Although the set has now been posted at the packet archive, I figured I should post the "invasion of Cuba" tossup since it has become a point of discussion:
During this unnamed military campaign, an officer drafted a "round robin" letter asking that sick troops be sent home after that request was ignored by William Shafter, the massively overweight general in charge of this campaign. Soldiers in this campaign were fed toxic "embalmed beef" purchased by Russell Alger. This theater of a larger war targeted an area which had earlier been oppressed by the concentration camps of "Butcher" Weyler. The speedy (*) withdrawal of troops after this campaign was called for in the Teller Amendment, which was later replaced by the Platt Amendment. During a battle of this campaign, Leonard Wood's Rough Riders charged up San Juan Hill. For 10 points, name this theater of the Spanish-American War fought on a Caribbean island.
ANSWER: U.S. invasion of Cuba during the Spanish-American War [or the Cuban theater of the Spanish-American War; or obvious equivalents; prompt on Spanish-American War; prompt on Caribbean Theater]
Yeah, this tossup wasn't a great idea--sorry about that. While I think it played fine in many rooms, the "level of answer specificity," as Bruce says, wasn't clear enough, and a question on "Cuba" with the same clues would have been much better. I don't necessarily think that the fact that there were only two theaters of the Spanish-American War makes it a bad idea to toss up some specific aspect of the conflict, though.
Basil II wrote: Also, I though that a few tossups had weird clues early, with...Japanese-Americans having ni hao
It was actually Niihau. When editing this tossup, I realized that the clue might be transparent for a few reasons, but strangely didn't notice that those terms are homophones. Oops.
Jordan Brownstein, University of Maryland '17, Plymouth Regional '13, New Hampshire

"Calm is the one thing that will never let us down"--2666

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1992 in spaceflight
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by 1992 in spaceflight » Wed Jun 08, 2016 1:52 am

I really enjoyed the set this year. I told Jordan this in person, but I thought this set did a good job of asking about important things in new ways, which is a classic of Jordan's writing style and something that I've always enjoyed about his writing. I thought the NSC was a well-done set.

I thought the travel literature tossup didn't play too well for a lot of teams (at least judging from teams I talked to). I don't know if there's anything wrong with the clues-Ibn Battuta and everyone else mentioned in the question all wrote literature about their travels, and it's certainly a brand of literature I've heard talked about plenty of times. I don't think the bottom half of the NSC field was able to convert the question at an acceptable rate, though.
Jacob O'Rourke
Washington (MO) HS Assistant Coach (2014-Present); MOQBA Secretary (2015-Present); HSAPQ Host Contact; NASAT Outreach Coordinator (2016 and 2017)
Formerly: Kirksville HS Assistant Coach (2012-2014); Truman State '14; and Pacific High (MO) '10


"And here we are as on a darkling plain, Swept by confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night."
Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach.

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jupiter
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by jupiter » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:39 pm

Overall I believe this was a very good set. It felt a little easier than last year to me, but that could be just me getting older. I really only had one qualm, and that was the Napoleon III tossup. In the first clue he is referred to as a "king". I'm pretty sure he was never king of France, only president and emperor. But again, that is my only qualm with a great set.
John DiCarlo

Kealing '12
LASA '16
MIT '20

desai
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Re: NSC 2016 Set Discussion

Post by desai » Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:04 am

Hi,

Does anyone have a 2016 PACE NSC set in all of its entirety?

If not, I am sure I can just merge the PDF's on quizbowlpackets.com/1837/

Thanks!

Desai

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