News Quiz

No. 295: “The Gielgud, the Bad, and the Ugly”

Following an outcry from, among others, Academy Award-winner Sir John Gielgud, the Smithsonian Institution has canceled a program. What was the program, and the problem?


Send your answer by noon ET Wednesday to

Monday’s Question (No. 294)– “Whose Tiara Is It, Anyway?”:

Facing sinking ratings, the producers of the Miss America pageant last week announced a change in format, to make the telecast more entertaining for the home audience. Name that change.

“The girls will promenade in bathing suits holding signs with their personal phone numbers over their heads.”–Alfa-Betty Olsen

“Contestants will compete against Mickey Blue Eyes star Hugh Grant in the controversial ‘Run Like a Girl’ event.”–D. Ross

“Actual AIDS babies, poverty-stricken youth, etc., for them to succor, as promised.”–Norm Oder

“The winning contestant will, after being crowned, open up her head and show us all the little gears and circuits inside.”–Floyd Elliot


“It will be held in the Maryland woods, and the telecast will consist of jittery footage of the contestants’ slow descent into madness as they are systematically stalked and disappeared/disqualified by Bob Barker.”–Brooke Saucier


Click for more answers.

Tim’s Wrap-Up

The way I figure it, there are two ways to go with today’s question. The first, as many of you did, is to take the competition improbably downscale–mixing implausible amounts of sex and/or violence into the competition. (Oddly, given the results of yesterday’s News Quiz, few participants made the obvious leap and added farm animals as well.) The other, largely neglected option: Imply that the competition, as currently configured, is improbably upscale. Perhaps the pageant organizers could prune the readings from Ionesco and the madrigal recital, or they could finally stop forcing the contestants to defend their theses. Or they could replace the Latin-translation portion of the evening with–oh, I don’t know, something frivolous. A swimsuit portion, or perhaps an evening gown competition. Everyone likes evening gowns.


Congenial Answer

The pageant’s organizers are cutting back on the number of performances from 10 semifinalists to five, and they’ll be backed by professional dancers and musicians. According to USA Today, pageant CEO Robert Beck has found that the viewers get bored watching the amateur talent routines. “You can flip to 20 or 30 stations and find great entertainment,” Beck says. “If, by great entertainment, you mean programs starring Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa, or the umpteenth Discovery Channel special on sharks,” he did not add. In other USA Today news, single diners tip best.


You Be the Critic! Extra

As the best-known film critic in America (and the only one ever to win a Pulitzer), the erstwhile broadcasting partner of Gene Siskel holds a position of unique influence in film. Play along as we rank the following movies, from best to worst, according to Roger.


Dances With Wolves (Costner, buffalo)

The Arrival (Charlie Sheen, aliens)

Booty Call (Jamie Foxx, booty)

Rushmore (Bill Murray, prep school)

8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (Joe Pesci, eight heads in a duffel bag)

The Usual Suspects (Kevin Spacey, Keyser Soze)

Blue Velvet (Dennis Hopper, “In Dreams”)

The Ghost and the Darkness (Michael Douglas, lions)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tim Roth, Tom Stoppard)


They are in the correct order. Each film received a half-star less than the one that precedes it. Which means that, to Roger Ebert, Booty Call was twice as good as Blue Velvet. And that he walked out of The Usual Suspects saying, “It was good, but it was no Dances With Wolves.”

Weeklong Extra

A headline from Monday’s Daily Variety: “Dutch regulators issue equal-access guidelines.” Participants are invited to find, in an actual newspaper or magazine, a less enticing headline. Deadline is noon ET, Wednesday. Answers will be posted Thursday.

Common Denominator

Jesse Ventura moderates as contestants Jell-O-wrestle while answering difficult questions from Regis Philbin.