Thanks to Marshall for making the questions available to me. I don't have a lot of time for a full-blown analysis of a lot of questions right now, but I do want to point towards a sort of problematic writing trend that I saw throughout this tournament; fortunately the two questions I had in mind actually follow one another.
Packet 9, tossup 9 wrote:Four years before the destruction of the Savoy Palace, the “Bad Parliament” enacted a regressive version of this policy at the rate of four pence. The 1379 legislation of this policy was progressive, with a ten mark levy on the Duke of Lancaster, this policy’s chief proponent. But the 1381 legislation reverted to the regressive structure typical of this policy and tripled the rate. That triggered one violent episode whose climax occurred at Smithfield when Wat Tyler was cut down by one of Richard II’s companions, thus preserving his rule but damaging the political circle around John of Gaunt. Another violent episode--this policy’s namesake riot--occurred in Trafalgar Square in 1990; that also did not end well for the minister associated with this policy since it led directly to Margaret Thatcher’s downfall. For 10 points, name this usually-constant lump-sum tax that, despite its name, has nothing to do with voting.
ANSWER: Poll Tax (accept “head tax” or “capitation tax”)
I don't have any problem with the answer line or with the clues as such. The real issue here is that the entire bolded part is about one example of poll taxes. So basically, once I hear "Bad Parliament," I know that this has something to do with John of Gaunt, and so I can probably logic my way to "whatever this is, this is the thing that caused the Wat Tyler rebellion." Ok, that's not a trivial thought process, but the question continues talking about instances of the policy that relate to the Wat Tyler rebellion, with successive clues that reveal that... we're talking about the Wat Tyler rebellion. I think this can all be done much, much more compactly; as it is, one incident is effectively something like 6 lines of an 8 line tossup. The problem here is that the additional words don't really confer any additional information that you probably haven't already figured out.
I think a much better way to have written this questions would have been to find other instances of poll taxes, make a middle/late clue refer to and then explicitly mention Wat Tyler, and then move on to the Thatcher clue.
Packet 9, tossup 10 wrote:According to one text, Rabbi Isaac claimed that this entity transited from one end of the world to the other, until God decided to hide it. But that text, the Zohar, claims if it were truly hidden, the world would have ceased to exist and that this thing interacts with the world like a sown seed and roots. According to Rashi, God removed this thing from the world so the wicked would not use it. Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, argued that this thing was hidden by God in the Torah, which could be found by having revelations while reading it. More typically, it was said that the Ten Commandments were created in this thing’s presence. Philo believed that this entity’s intensity is greater than that of the thing produced with the firmament. This thing first appears in the third verse of the bible, and after it appears, God saw that it was good. For 10 points, identify this entity that was created on Day One, according to Genesis.
ANSWER: primordial light (do not accept light from the sun)
This question has the same problem. So from the first, I know that this is something from Jewish theology, but I don't know what. And the vast majority of the question doesn't really help me if I don't know the first clues, because deep knowledge of Jewish theology is probably possessed by two people in quizbowl neither of whom played this tournament. As far as most players are concerned, this is going to be five, six lines of words that don't add any useful information to someone trying to answer the question. The giveaway is especially kind of weird; I freely admit that my Bible knowledge is pretty weak, but would it have been so horrible to actually quote the verse in question a little more extensively?
The problem with both of these questions is that they dwell on a single aspect of the answer and then successively talk about different manifestations of that aspect. But for most people this is highly non-useful, because they don't possess gradations of knowledge about the causes of the Wat Tyler rebellion or light in Jewish theology; they just know (or don't know) the answer, and that's that. If you keep giving people more clues of the same kind, chances are those clues won't mean much to them. What I would strongly suggest is to vary the clues in such a way that they provide increasing amounts of information to people, not just within a very narrow area but in a wider scope.