News Quiz

No. 458: “Sweet 16”

A new government document lists 16 criteria, including “Unusual nervousness,” “Suspicious bulge/object,” and “Changing direction.” Criteria for what? 

Send your answer by 6 p.m. ET Thursday to

Monday’s Question (No. 457)—”Hair Force”:

Clairol and Britney Spears are teaming up to do something. What?

“Drive my kid sister a little further down the road toward an adulthood of depression, alcoholism, and three-times-a-week therapy. (Although I don’t have a kid sister. But I think you get the idea.)”—Matt Heimer (Tim Carvell, Sara Weisensel, and Noah Meyerson had similar answers.)

“Promote a new breast-enlarging shampoo.”—Brita J. McNay (similarly, Matt Heimer and John Tyrrell)

“Put a stop to split ends and the Russian mob once and for all.”—TG Gibbon (similarly, Tim Carvell and Jon Zerolnick)

“Porn. Lots and lots of porn … oh, with nice, shiny hair.”—Gus Robertson

“Stepping in where others have failed, the duo will craft a fair and equitable treaty for peace in the Middle East. (Actually, Britney will be doing most of the work, but Clairol, as the sponsor, will get to have its name on it.)”—Tim Carvell

Click for more answers.

Randy’s Wrap-Up

Hair is present in varying amounts on all mammals, but just because it’s popular doesn’t make it right. The body hair of whales and elephants is limited to scattered bristles, and you don’t hear them complaining. On most other mammals hair is abundant enough to form a thick coat, frequently leading to the animal’s being trapped, killed, and made into a thick coat. This would be ironic if nutria had a sense of irony or anyone was clear about what nutria actually are. Humans are among the most hairless of all mammals (except for my Uncle Milt), yet they tend to spend the most on products, so perhaps the folks at Clairol aren’t as dim as you thought. This does not, however, explain Britney Spears.

The most important function of hair is insulating against cold by conserving body heat. And yet, when you are fully dressed for winter but are not wearing a hat, some enormous percentage of heat loss (50 percent? 80 percent? I really should look these things up.) occurs through the top of your head, even if you’re a natural-looking blond with kicky summer highlights. And this will continue to be the case as long as winter hats are so unattractive.

Hair’s colors and patterns also serve purposes of camouflage and of sexual recognition and attraction among the members of a species. Many Clairol products, for example, allow us Jews to blend in among the Christians. And yet Britney Spears? Can evolution really offer any explanation or much comfort? (It can, but not nearly as much as a couple of Advil washed down with a tumbler of bourbon.)

On the scalp, where hair is usually densest and longest (in normal families), the average number of hairs is between 100,000 and 150,000. Human hair grows about 0.5 inch per month. If all the hair on your head were combined into a single hair, it would be very long indeed, and no matter what you say, you’d secretly wish it were blond and used to strangle the life out of Britney Spears except where prohibited by law.

Natural Looking Answer

Britney and Clairol are joining forces to fight world hunger and sell more shampoo to teens, except for the part about world hunger.

Last year, Clairol’s Herbal Essences brand sponsored the ‘N Sync tour (“Salon Quality ‘99” it was not called), and now they’re rolling out the big guns. “She’s upbeat and energetic, all the things that fit our brand personality,” says Clairol executive Larry Lucas. “She’s a much better fit than our second choice, that lazy sullen Shelly Winters,” he did not add.

Ms. Spears has recorded a shampoo song called “I’ve Got the Urge to Herbal,” which can be heard on her 50-city summer tour, sponsored by Herbal Essences. (Can be, but under our current system of laws, need not be.) The theme of the ad campaign is “a totally organic experience.” The theme of the tour is “a totally bland experience,” or perhaps it’s not.

Herbal Essences is the country’s second-best-selling shampoo, behind Procter & Gamble’s Pantene Pro V.

Self-Serving Extra

Which of the following is a ludicrous, over-inflated claim for the benefits of technology (and by implication Microsoft) drawn from an ad in today’s New York Times, and which is a ludicrous, over-inflated claim for the benefits of the weightless sleep system™ (and by implication Tempur-Pedic Inc.) drawn from an ad in today’s New York Times?

  1. “can make life easier for everyone”
  2. “an ingenious scientific breakthrough”
  3. “can transform major challenges into routine daily activities”
  4. “eases aches, pains, and back problems”
  5. “uses body mass and temperature to selectively adjust to your shape and weight”
  6. “has the potential to enhance the communications, productivity and creativity of every one of us at home, work and school if only a meddlesome bureaucracy stops its ignorant interference”


  1. Technology (and by implication Microsoft)
  2. The weightless sleep system™ (and by implication Tempur-Pedic Inc.)
  3. Technology (and by implication Microsoft)
  4. The weightless sleep system™ (and by implication Tempur-Pedic Inc.) although, a nice foot massage from Bill Gates might well achieve the same result
  5. The weightless sleep system™ (and by implication Tempur-Pedic Inc.)
  6. Technology (and by implication Microsoft), although the parts about the meddlesome bureaucracy might have been added by me in a confused state of euphoria brought about by the easing of the aches, pains, and back problems I developed from sitting at that damn computer

Extra Credit

Is it Bill Gates or Aage Kristiansen who is a Swedish scientist trained at the renowned Gothenburg Technical Institute whose work fundamentally changed the way people sleep and who now lives in Sarö, a small coastal village?

(It is Aage Kristiansen.)

Today’s Phrase That Pays

(Answer your phone with the Phrase that Pays and, if we call, you could win a News Quiz all-beef ball cap.)

“a turquoise fur chubby”—New York Times, July 26, 2000, obit for designer Nija Battle.

ABC You Later Ongoing Extra

The Regis network has dropped plans to tout its prime-time shows via an automated system that lets funnyman Norm MacDonald leave messages on thousands of people’s answering machines. Participants are invited to suggest substitute promo plans. Results to run Friday.

Pump Priming Examples

Already rejected idea: Topless 20/20.

Still under consideration (by me) new slogan: Maybe this’ll be the night Peter Jennings has a massive coronary!

Common Denominator

Britney/Christina cat fight.