2000 San Francisco, CA Con article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
I had the pleasure of running Sound Off at the Newark convention. Sound Off is a speech recognition game, in which we play samples of speech from famous people, and teams of three to four players try to identify the speakers. While the speech sample is playing, anybody can declare, “Sound Off!”, in which case the speech sample is interrupted and players have to try to identify the speaker based only on what they've already heard.
We played 30 rounds in Newark and collected 31 answer sheets. The easiest samples seem to have been Neil Armstrong, Mel Blanc, and O. J. Simpson, followed by Vivien Leigh and Julia Roberts, Dan Quayle, Lou Gehrig, and Mother Theresa. Most difficult were Charles Lindbergh and Princess Elizabeth, William Shatner, and Richard Feynman.
Seven teams thought that Joseph McCarthy warned against “the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought.” If the recording had continued (“by the military-industrial complex”), more people probably would have recognized the speaker as Dwight Eisenhower. Similarly, 6 teams thought that we played Jim Bakker begging for forgiveness, not Jimmy Swaggart. I wonder if either of them was ever forgiven.
Wendell Willkie was the most popular choice for the speech opposing Roosevelt's positions during the early years of World War II, with 8 votes, while 4 teams thought it was Alf Landon. Willkie ran against FDR in 1940, during the war, while Landon was FDR's opponent in 1936. Not that Landon agreed with FDR's conduct before the United States formally entered the war . . . or that it mattered, since the speaker was Charles Lindbergh.
Eleven teams thought that Elizabeth Taylor was talking about a disease (instead of Nancy Reagan), and 7 thought that Frank McCourt, not John Lennon, reestablished a relationship with his mother at age 16. There were 16 votes for Martin Luther King talking about nonviolence (instead of Malcolm X), and 11 teams thought that Carl Sagan, not Richard Feynman, was talking about planetary motion. Nine teams thought that Jane Fonda, not Kathie Lee Gifford, was railing against people who are like cockroaches, and 13 people thought Hillary Clinton, not Gloria Steinem, was talking about a society in which roles are chosen or earned.
Total number of correct answers for each speaker:
When I first learned of the convention I hadn't managed to solve a phrase shift or a welded transposal yet, so I was sure I would be a liability to any team play and would fail miserably on my own. I contacted Tyger, though, and she told me that there was an instructional session during the flat-solving time and that I could do that instead of solving.
AHA! You mean these come with instructions?
By the time I got to the con, I had (see – newbie gets it – we call it con) managed to solve a phrase shift (that camera copper, you know, not to mention the anorexic sloth) and a welded transposal (and learned a bit about columns along the way). So I felt okay entering the ballroom at the Hilton.
I was not disappointed. The people at the table I approached were welcoming and very helpful. If there was an empty chair, anyone was welcome to sit in it, or take it to another table.
Through the next three days I was entertained, amused, and confused by a succession of puzzles created by the members of the group for the enjoyment of the group. The puzzles were not all difficult nor were they only about words, although words predominated.
As much as I enjoyed those, the real fun was in meeting the creators and the solvers, putting faces to the noms, and watching these creative, funny, friendly people in action. Next year in Vancouver!