Something On The Something

Dec 20, 2019

Inspired by the holiday tradition, Elf on the Shelf, two returning champions play a rhyming word game where something is always on something.

Heard on Kal Penn And Dan Soder: The Tournament Of Champions.

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JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: From NPR and WNYC, coming to you from The Bell House in beautiful Brooklyn, N.Y., it's NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia, ASK ME ANOTHER - the Tournament of Champions. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now, here is your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Hello, everybody. This is exciting. This is our first ever Tournament of Champions. I know. So I always say we have four brilliant contestants backstage, but this time, I really mean it.


EISENBERG: We have four brilliant contestants backstage, and one of them will be our really big winner. It's exciting.


EISENBERG: Yeah, I know. And I have to say, we've been doing the show for a while. So over the years, of course, we've had a lot of contestants, and we have had a lot of winners. But what makes these four special that we have assembled tonight is that they are the four winners who were available for this show.


COULTON: It's true.

EISENBERG: Yeah. And, of course, as part of Tournament of Champions episode, we have a champion of a guest. Kal Penn is going to be joining us.


EISENBERG: Yeah. Even though Kal was, of course, in originally "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle," Kal himself considers himself - he doesn't smoke weed, and he considers himself a vegetarian and an aspiring vegan. Aspiring vegan - I just found out today I, too, am an aspiring vegan.


EISENBERG: I eat meat, but, you know, you never know.


EISENBERG: I'm an aspiring a lot of things. I'm an aspiring marathoner. I'm an aspiring flosser (ph).


EISENBERG: I'm just waiting for this one day - don't know when - where I'm going to change and be amazing. You'll see. On the show, we also have comedian Dan Soder.


EISENBERG: Dan Soder is in the Showtime series "Billions." I'm going to ask him what it's like to make thousands in a show called "Billions."


EISENBERG: And we have a game celebrating Elf on the Shelf. Thank God I missed the Elf on the Shelf. I mean, I missed it like it didn't exist when I was a child. It's very scary to me...

COULTON: It's a weird....

EISENBERG: ...Elf on the Shelf.

COULTON: It's a weird thing. yeah,

EISENBERG: Yeah, Elf on the Shelf. And, I mean, between Elf on the Shelf and Santa, there are a lot of men watching people during the holiday season.


EISENBERG: I don't - I think that's weird. I don't - I can just see the elf reporting back to Santa. Like, yeah, I saw him push a girl on the playground. But you know what? He's always been nice to me, so...


COULTON: Yeah, I don't trust that elf one little bit.

EISENBERG: No. Do you do that with your kids, Elf on the Shelf?

COULTON: No. You know, a relative sent me Elf on a Shelf. And I read the - it was new, and I read the back description of what it was. And I was like, I'm not going to put this in my children's lives.

EISENBERG: What does the back description say?

COULTON: Well, it just explains how to do it. It's the elf sits on a shelf and watches everything that they do and reports to Santa, which is already, like, super creepy.

EISENBERG: Super creepy.

COULTON: No, thank you.

EISENBERG: But don't you think with all the sort of technology that is present, especially in the last year, they're not going to be like, Elf on the Shelf, play "Baby Shark." Like, are they going to confuse...

COULTON: Yeah, right.


COULTON: It's not a - that's not a bad idea.

EISENBERG: Elf on the Shelf, what's the temperature?


EISENBERG: All right. Let's play some games, everybody.


EISENBERG: It's our Tournament of Champions. And our first two champions will play a game based on Elf on the Shelf. Our first returning champion is Danielle Mebert.



EISENBERG: So you are still an administrator at NYU, but you've moved to a different department.

MEBERT: I have, yes.

EISENBERG: OK, so where did you move?

MEBERT: I went to undergrad film and television.

EISENBERG: And how are the challenges there different?

MEBERT: I feel like a lot of pressure to, like, bring my fashion A-game, which...

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

MEBERT: ...Because I feel like our students are so effortlessly fashionable on a budget that even with an unlimited budget, there's no hope for me.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Well, I'm glad to hear as an administrator at NYU you have an unlimited budget. That's...


EISENBERG: ...Awesome.

MEBERT: I didn't say that. I said if.

EISENBERG: If, OK. Danielle, when you ring in, we'll hear this.


EISENBERG: You'll be facing our return champion, Shreyas Vangala.


EISENBERG: Now, you used to work for the New York State Power Authority, but you've moved to energy consulting.

SHREYAS VANGALA: Yeah, mmm hmm.

EISENBERG: OK. So as a energy consultant, what secrets can you tell me about my energy bill?

VANGALA: A lot of it is estimated.

EISENBERG: That doesn't sound good.

VANGALA: Yeah, so, you know - and they sort of true it up at the end of the year. Yeah.

EISENBERG: They what at the end of the year?

VANGALA: They, like, true it up. So, you know, it could be like higher than you expected at the end of the year or, you know, it might be a little bit lower. So, yeah.

EISENBERG: So it's all just...

VANGALA: So keep an eye out for that.

EISENBERG: ...Arbitrary.




EISENBERG: Shreyas, when you ring in, we'll hear this.


EISENBERG: Danielle and Shreyas, whoever has more points after two games will go to our final round.

The Elf on the Shelf - this treasured Christmas tradition dates all the way back to 2005. So we decided to get in on this and make up our own rhyming holiday traditions in a word game called Something on the Something.

COULTON: For example, if we said this fruit commonly used to make wine rests on the head of a chimpanzee, you would answer grape on the ape.

EISENBERG: All right. Ring in to answer. Here we go. This German composer's "Brandenburg Concertos" will wake you up on this classy and classical timekeeping device.


EISENBERG: Danielle?

MEBERT: Oh, god. Bach on a clock?

EISENBERG: Bach on a clock is correct.


EISENBERG: Six concertos in "The Brandenburg Concertos." He went for baroque.


EISENBERG: Terrible, terrible, terrible.

COULTON: (Laughter) This pioneering radioactivity researcher is the first person to win the Nobel Prize in two different fields - and, like all scientists, loves getting a piggyback ride on someone enthusiastically dressed in an animal costume.


COULTON: Shreyas.

VANGALA: Curie's furries.


COULTON: That's correct. Marie Curie on the furry is what we were looking for.



COULTON: And they laughed at you, Shreyas.


COULTON: But you had it right all along.

EISENBERG: You were correct.

COULTON: Create a new holiday tradition. Watch this Christmasy action movie starring Bruce Willis by projecting it onto the head of the European Central Bank.


COULTON: Wow. Shreyas.

VANGALA: "Die Hard..."


COULTON: And, you know...


COULTON: ...The head of the European Central Bank.


VANGALA: Yeah, yeah. Bacard (ph). "Die Hard" on the Bacard.

COULTON: That's a fine guess, but it's incorrect. Danielle, do you know the answer?

MEBERT: I'll pick a random French name that rhymes with it. So I'll say Ceautiard (ph).


COULTON: You had a 50/50 chance...


COULTON: ...Just doing some quick math. But that's incorrect. We're looking for "Die Hard" on the Christine Lagarde.

EISENBERG: Yeah. She's wondering right now why people don't know her name.



EISENBERG: Seems like a fairly important role.

Couldn't afford Hamilton tickets? Good news - its creator is now performing on this roofed platform along the outside of a house. It's the porch where it happens.


EISENBERG: Danielle.

MEBERT: Miranda on the veranda.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah, I'll take that.


COULTON: This is your last clue. This pop star doesn't need an umbrella, ella, ella in this room used as a dry heat bath.


COULTON: Danielle.

MEBERT: Rihanna in the sauna.

COULTON: Yeah, that's right.


EISENBERG: Great game, and Danielle is in the lead.

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