Sunday 22 November 2020

Staring at the wall

A couple of interesting questions on this week's episode of The Wall. Perhaps only because they both came out in the same episode, but they made me squint a little. First up, question one from round three worth a net swing of between £2 and £100,000:

The correct answer here is Burns Night, which is always on 25th January. Mother's Day and Pancake Day are easily wrong, both fall on a particular weekday, so must move around the calendar, as contestant Daniel notes. The fourth option, the Winter Solstice, is the tricky one - it's usually December 21st, but sometimes (due to leap-years and the drift that they correct for) it's December 22nd. 

We think that's more of a QI-level than a conventional quiz fact. Therefore, Winter Solstice sits awkwardly in this question - if you know Burns night is a fixed date, you might consider the solstice but figure out or remember the variation - if you knew nothing about Burns night, you might look at the other two and go "ah, the solstice isn't a variable like those", and incorrectly choose it. (Roughly what happened to our contestant.)

This isn't an unfair, or even misleading question, it's just not a very well-thought question. Asking when Burns Night is, or whether Burns Night moves - both of these are reasonable, and asking about the movement of the Winter Solstice directly might be ok - for our money it's a little hard for this show - but putting both into the options of this question creates the quite unpleasant trap that Daniel finds. Yes, you need to miss two bits of knowledge to fall into that trap, but it's not beyond imagining that the player could do so, and if they do, the outcome is distinctly iffy. 

Min one hundred euro

The next question is a little different. Doubled to be worth a swing of between £4 and £200,000, Daniel was asked:

The answer on the card is electricity. We're not going to try to explain how touchscreens work ourselves, our best recommendation is the answer given here. Our opinion: there's no question that of the four answers given here, electricity is the one that best matches the question. However, we're not quite convinced that "Modern smartphone touchscreens usually work by detecting electricity when touched" is a clearly true statement. We'd most like to substitute in the word "Capacitance" to make ourselves happy there. 

We think this ambiguity isn't helped by the other options to the question - each of moisture, heat and heartbeat give the idea of something being transmitted from the user to a sensor in the screen. In the case of electricity, you could imagine that too - though you might (correctly) doubt that the electrical impulses that flow through the body would be reliable and detectable enough to work for this purpose.

Also, they spoiled this in the pre-titles 

That's why we'd call this question a tad misleading. To be clear, we don't think the answer is in any sense debateable, and there's no any reason for aggrievement on either of these questions - but maybe a little more quality control might be worthwhile. 

I remember Millionare's promise that there were "No trick questions" and think about how often that might have helped a player find confidence in a choice, when they didn't recognise all of the alternatives. I remember The Million Pound Drop's Dr Who error. The Wall wants to be a show like these, six-figure stakes and (occasionally) big winners. 

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