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Ada is one of the last few contestants on the Greatest Assessment Match Ever. The stern and humourless quizmaster, Mr Hopkins, is giving her her final test before the end of the show. The dialogue goes as follows:

Hopkins: What name was given to the period of severe dust storms across the US and Canada in 1930?

Ada: The Dust Bowl.

Hopkins: Who was the third president of Finland, and when was he elected?

Ada: Um...

Hopkins: Time's up! In what year was the film Caught, directed by Max Ophüls, released?

Ada: 1932?

Hopkins: In 1833, a law was passed in Russia banning what?

Ada: Masturbation.

Hopkins: What is the name given to the parties hit by Cambridge University students at the end of the academic year ever since 1834?

Ada: They hit the May Ball...? Yes, May Balls.

Hopkins: Which musical have showgoers been hitting continuously since 1935 in the West End of London?

Ada: Wicked.

Hopkins: What were you doing three years before the start of World War Two?

Ada: I wasn't born that long before wartime!

Hopkins: What device is used for blocking an electrostatic field, and when was it invented?

Ada: A Faraday cage. It was invented by Michael Faraday in 1837.

Hopkins: Do you consider yourself to be attractive for a 38-year-old woman?

Ada: If you keep asking me personal questions, I'm going to get up and run out of the room!

Hopkins: I, being a fan of 2048, was wondering if anyone has any proven strategies for playing 2048?

Ada: Now you've got me completely stumped. I don't know.

Hopkins: Congratulations! You have answered every question correctly except for one. Please go to the white room to await the others' results. Soon you will know whether you have successfully beaten the competition to become the final champion.

What is the hidden meaning behind the above dialogue?

Bonus: which one question did Ada not answer correctly?

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  • $\begingroup$ Is the dialogue set in 2015? $\endgroup$ – Lynn Aug 12 '15 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ Hm, I see a pattern, but I'm not sure what to make of it. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 13 '15 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ Are the names of the participants relevant at all? $\endgroup$ – NeedAName Aug 13 '15 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ Well the dialogue should be post-1974, at least. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Aug 13 '15 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ So the dialogue is set in 2014 or 2015, if the browser/mobile game is meant with 2048 $\endgroup$ – Wa Kai Aug 13 '15 at 14:05
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It's to do with

Dismissal in cricket

Each back-and-forth is a reference to a particular "Law"/rule.


Hopkins: What name was given to the period of severe dust storms across the US and Canada in 1930?
Ada: The Dust Bowl.

Law 30: Bowled (dust bowl, 1930)


Hopkins: Who was the third president of Finland, and when was he elected?
Ada: Um...

Law 31: Timed out (time's up, 1931)


Hopkins: Time's up! In what year was the film Caught, directed by Max Ophüls, released?
Ada: 1932?

Law 32: Caught (Caught, 1932)


Hopkins: In 1833, a law was passed in Russia banning what?
Ada: Masturbation.

Law 33: Handled the ball (masturbation, 1833)


Hopkins: What is the name given to the parties hit by Cambridge University students at the end of the academic year ever since 1834?
Ada: They hit the May Ball...? Yes, May Balls.

Law 34: Hit the ball twice (hit ball, hit ball, 1834)


Hopkins: Which musical have showgoers been hitting continuously since 1935 in the West End of London?
Ada: Wicked.

Law 35: Hit wicket (Wicked, 1935)


Hopkins: What were you doing three years before the start of World War Two?
Ada: I wasn't born that long before wartime!

Law 36: Leg before wicket/LBW (long before wartime, 3 years before WW2)


Hopkins: What device is used for blocking an electrostatic field, and when was it invented?
Ada: A Faraday cage. It was invented by Michael Faraday in 1837.

Law 37: Obstructing the field (blocking a field, 1837)


Hopkins: Do you consider yourself to be attractive for a 38-year-old woman?
Ada: If you keep asking me personal questions, I'm going to get up and run out of the room!

Law 38: Run out (run out, 38)


Hopkins: I, being a fan of 2048, was wondering if anyone has any proven strategies for playing 2048?
Ada: Now you've got me completely stumped. I don't know.

Law 39: Stumped (stumped, 39th question on PSE)... 2048 (Law 48 is a red herring)


Hopkins: Congratulations! You have answered every question correctly except for one. Please go to the white room to await the others' results. Soon you will know whether you have successfully beaten the competition to become the final champion.


Aaaaaand for the title/names:

Ada is the second half of cicada, and Hopkins is a bit like grasshopper - both relatives of the cricket.


BONUS QUESTION!
The incorrect answer was 'Um...'. She left Hopkins to give the reference to 'time out' instead of doing so herself.


This is totally brilliant but very hard, rand. Have you read "Goedel, Escher, Bach"?

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  • $\begingroup$ Great job 'Cop! You've got both the theme and the pattern to the questions (which were carefully chosen). You'll get the tick, but a little more explanation might be nice :-) Also, how about the bonus question? And no, I haven't read GEB, but I've heard of it (including from you) and even written a puzzle about it! $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 15 '15 at 12:25
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The hidden meaning is to do with

the game of cricket,

the only wrong answer is

"1932", to the third question,

and what Ada is supposed to do is

include a cricket reference in every answer.

Numbering the questions and answers 1Q, 1A, etc.:

1A: "The Dust Bowl."
2A: "Um..."
This refers to the saying "Um...cricket", used when conversation has stopped and there's an awkward silence.
3Q: "(...) the film Caught (...)"
3A: "1932"
This has nothing to do with cricket and is the only wrong answer.
4A: "Masturbation."
5Q: "(...) parties hit by Cambridge University students"
5A: "They hit the May Ball...? Yes, May Balls."
6Q: "Which musical have showgoers been hitting (...) in the West End (...)?"
"End" may possibly also be intended as a cricket reference.
6A: "Wicked."
Ha ha! Sounds like "wicket". Funny one, Ada!
7Q: "What were you doing three years before the start of World War Two?"
"Before" appears in the term "leg before (wicket)"
7A: "I wasn't born that long before wartime!"
She repeats "before", and a fielder can take the position of "long stop".
8Q: "What device is used for blocking an electrostatic field, and when was it invented?"
8A "A Faraday cage (...)"
There is a version of the game called cage cricket.
9A: "If you keep asking me personal questions, I'm going to get up and run out of the room!"
Here we can think of a "run", of being "out", and of being "run out".
10A "Now you've got me completely stumped (...)"

Every answer except one contains at least one word interpretable as a cricket reference. At least five questions also contain such references, but I have probably missed some.

In the introduction, we have "Greatest Assessment Match Ever" - an acrostic clue that the solution concerns a game.

The word "test" stands out, because it's not normally used for a round of quiz questions. We also have "match". These are references to test cricket and the playing of test matches.

"White room" could be a reference to cricket whites, white being the colour traditionally worn by cricket players.

And the number of questions is 10, the maximum number of wickets in an innings.

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  • $\begingroup$ Some of these seem a bit of a stretch, and by that token 1932 could easily be related to cricket too. For example, it was the year of the first ever test match played by India. $\endgroup$ – Echo Aug 13 '15 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ Stumped, run out, caught, bowl, hit, bat, ball, wicked(wicket), blocking, field, white, um..., test, cage, match - these can't be coincidence. Long and before would otherwise be a bit iffy though, and it's still unclear what to make of 2048 and the names. $\endgroup$ – h34 Aug 13 '15 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ Every single one of those is a common word that can be used outside the context of cricket. $\endgroup$ – Otaia Aug 14 '15 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Otaia - Exactly. If they were words such as googly, innings and wicketkeeper the puzzle wouldn't work so well. $\endgroup$ – h34 Aug 14 '15 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ The theme is correct, but you haven't got the full idea. The puzzle is less arbitrary than you suggest. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 15 '15 at 12:11
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There is something funny with most of the dates.

Wicked has been running in the West End for many years, but it opened in 2006, not 1935.
According to Wikipedia, the Faraday cage was invented by Michael Faraday in 1836 rather than 1837.
As noted by @Anachor, Caught was released in 1949, not 1932.
Again according to wikipedia, the dust bowl started in 1934, not 1930.
The date of Finland's election, 1931, is correct; however while strongly implied it is never stated.

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  • $\begingroup$ Everything you say is right, but this doesn't answer the question! Once you find the "hidden meaning" referred to in the OP, there will be only one question Ada didn't get right. It'll be more useful to go on from @NeedAName's answer than from these facts. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 13 '15 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ So there is no significance in the veracity of the dates... or in the fact that some are stated explicitly while others must be inferred... $\endgroup$ – dennisdeems Aug 13 '15 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ Exactly. How did that herring taste? I painted it scarlet just for you. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 13 '15 at 16:56
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WIP:

Each of the question answer pairs includes a number. What's more, you'll notice that from the first question to the next to last (Dust Bowl ... 38 year old) you can spot the two digit numbers from 30 ascending to 38 (the third president of Finland, Pehr took over in 1931, and WWII began in 1939 so three years before was 1936). Because 38 is in a clue by itself, I assume the 18/19 prefixes are irrelevant, but I could easily be wrong. I can't quite explain the jump to 48 in the last question and I really haven't read that thoroughly. I'll come back if I get anything else, otherwise maybe this will be useful to someone.

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  • $\begingroup$ Same thing I saw. Maybe it's something to do with the syntax of how she answers? $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 13 '15 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ I haven't the foggiest yet. I'm also looking into the capital letters in each question-answer pairs. $\endgroup$ – NeedAName Aug 13 '15 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ Good catch! I meant this part to be fairly easy to spot. And the last question does link to 39, but in a more 'meta' way. Anyway, now that you've found the sequence 30 -> 39, what else can you find that links to those numbers? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 13 '15 at 16:19
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All of Ada's responses end their sentence with alternating punctuation, except for "They hit the May Ball...? Yes, May Balls."

This response is the second out of a span of three that end in a period. The "pattern" is that the phrases end in alternating forms. period, exclamation mark, question mark, ellipsis, etc.

Therefore I say that this is the incorrectly answered one. She should not have added the "Yes, May Balls." at the end of it.

(What everyone's mentioning about the numbers 30-39 being used also applies, but I think this is the criteria for formatting responses)

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  • $\begingroup$ Nope. This sounds pretty arbitrary; I promise the intended answer will be 'obviously' correct when someone gets it! I'm expecting a big AHA at some point; when someone gets that, all the clues will fit together. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 13 '15 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ So you say, but you could be wrong. After all, you're just the person who created the puzzle and decided what the answer was. You never know, the answer could end up being "Forty-Two" or something. $\endgroup$ – Kingrames Aug 13 '15 at 16:27
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For the bonus, going off of d'alar'cop's answer, I'm guessing it's

Faraday cage. This answers the literal question, but doesn't directly use words similar to the law. Um... produces words similar to the law, even if it doesn't contain them.

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