A Mental Workout in Cleveland Park

10 Feb
February 10, 2011

When people head to bars in the D.C. area, getting a mental workout is usually the last thing on their mind.

But a few bars in Washington offer the chance to do just that, and one of the most fun bars to work your brain while you drink is Ireland’s Four Fields, in Cleveland Park, NW.

The large pub, right on Connecticut Avenue, is like any typical Irish bar — Guinness on tap and dartboards in the back.

Every Wednesday, the bar mixes things up with a pub quiz; but it’s different from most trivia nights in the area.

While most bars give participants a little machine to punch in answers and display results on a television, the game here is decidedly old school. It’s also very intellectual and very stimulating. Questions aren’t just: “Who won the World Series in 1985?” No, the pub quiz at the Four Fields is much more challenging.

At 8:30 p.m., a stack of papers is placed on the hostess stand along with a pint glass full of pens. A small announcement is made, with a reminder to not cheat by using your cell phone. And then the fun begins.

Each week’s test begins with the “A-Z” category, where a random topic is selected and 26 questions are asked, with each answer corresponding to a letter in the alphabet. On a recent Wednesday, the category was movies and the quiz featured some of the following questions: [All answers are below]

“A: Which film featured an oil driller called Harry Stamper?”

“N: Which 1994 Oliver Stone film spawned several copycat killings in Louisiana?”

“R: Which film saw Tom Hanks playing a mafia hit man called Michael Sullivan?”

After the alphabet section comes a Jeopardy-style section, with groups of four or five questions where the category title gives a hint to the answer. For example, in the category titled “DD-T,” the answers all contain the letter “D” back-to-back. A couple questions in that category were:

“He has represented Connecticut in the U.S. Senate since 1981.”

“This common viper is the only poisonous snake in the British Isles.”

The quiz is typically two pages long and while the first page is mostly fact-based, the second page consists of brainteasers. First, there’s usually a category of odd phrases that need to be deciphered into something more meaningful. The prompt on a recent quiz was that, “all answers must rhyme.” Some twenty phrases were listed, and they all needed to be converted to corresponding rhymes. Phrases like:

“Weighty Tax.”

“Parisian Seat”

“Ethical Sea-Rock.”

Lastly, the quiz always ends with word teasers that need to be decoded. A recent riddle was:

“Polmomice”

The quiz ends at 10:00 p.m. It takes about 15 minutes for staffers to tally the results and then the best part happens. The owner of the bar, a decidedly Irish fellow with an almost indecipherable accent, comes out and reads the answers.

It takes much longer then it should because half the time he’s cracking jokes with the crowd and taking shots at England. In response to the, “it’s the only poisonous snake in the British Isles” query, he told the bar the answer was, “the English.” Only after a bit of needling did he conceded the answer was, “adder.”

After the answers are given, the winners are announced. Fourth place wins a round of drinks, third and second place a $25 gift certificate to the bar, and first place a $50 gift certificate.

It’s a great prize, but even if you don’t win, you can still leave satisfied and happy to have given your brain some exercise.

- David

Answers to the Trivia Questions:

A-Z: Armageddon, Natural Born Killers, Road to Perdition.

DD: Chris Dodd, Adder

Rhyming: Heavy Levy, French Bench, Moral Coral

Word Teaser: Mother-in-law.

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