Does he pillory the "pillarist"? A MooT point. (McCUNE ON MONDAY)

I wish I could find Mr. Allen and sit him down to a game of MooT.

Mr. Allen taught social studies at my high school, where he was notorious for diabolically tricky exam questions.

What happened on A. Martin's farm in 1759?

If Mr. Allen had spelled out the first name Abraham everybody would have identified the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. But noooo, Mr. Allen had to have his little joke.

This came to mind recently when I was introduced to MooT ("the East-Van word game!") and its creator, Jon Steeves.

Steeves, 36, is a computer programmer with a history degree. Like Mr. Allen, Steeves is fond of diabolical questions but Steeves's are funnier.

If a seal swallows a hermit, is the hermit hermetically sealed?

Is urine pith?

(Answers: No and no.)

MooT is minimalist, not to say crude, in design and production. It has a 12-sided die, 1008 question cards and a cribbage board for a playing surface. The higher the your roll, the harder your question.

MooT's marketing is also minimal. "The only publisher who made me an offer so far basically wanted to take none of the risk and 60 per cent of the profits," Steeves said. He thinks he can do better through mail-order sales.

The only retail outlets now selling MooT are the politically correct Octopus Books East on Commercial Drive and Jimmy Pattison's brazenly capitalistic Save-On Foods in North Vancouver. That figures. Steeves has done political chores for Tory Chuck Cook and New Democrat Svend Robinson a dichotomy.

That shows up in MooT's rules, which offer "collectivist" or "corporate" play.

Steeves's omnipartisan bent also shows up in the game's questions and answers.

When a Socred cabinet minister raises his forelegs and hops on his hind legs, he is: (1) prancing or (2) capering.

(Prancing. To raise the forelegs and hop on the hind legs is to prance, whereas to leap friskily is to caper.)

On the other hand:

There is a fake fig on the table; is it a figment?

(No. Anything that exists solely in the imagination e.g. socialism is a figment)

Those last two questions are from the easiest deck, by the way. Here's one from the second-toughest:

In Greek it means "far-off writing." What word is it?

(Telegraph. The word tele-graph comes from the Greek tele, far off, and graphos, writing; thus, telephone, far-off voice, and telesavalas, far-off hair.) Ouch.

Larded among the political shivs and shameless puns are hundreds of astounding little nuggets.

"Nincompoop" comes from the Latin non compos mentis. "Bankrupt" comes from an old Italian practice of breaking the benches of fraudulent money-lenders. "Amitophobia" is the fear of aunts ("and the loathing of doilies").

Steeves came up with the game, and many of the questions, while "sitting around the pub" with his buddies. So we chose a similar setting for my introduction to the game, and I brought along noted word freak Chuck Davis. Playing the collectivist version, we aced MooT until Steeves rigged the game.

The word "fence" is to "defence" as the world "lone" is to what?

We blew this one. The answer is "alone." It seems that both "Ione" and "fence" were coined by shortening the longer words.

"There's a word for dropping the first syllable like that," Davis muttered, locked into quiz mode, steam rising from his word-laden pate.

"It's aphesis," Steeves replied casually. "Soon to be known as phesis.''Arrgh.

Here's one from the toughest level:

Use Greek roots to coin a name for a device in which one descends from the sublime to the ridiculous.

I'm not going to tell you the answer. but it should be MooT.

[Note: As mentioned above, when MooT was first published, it was called the East Van Word Game because that was the part of Vancouver I lived and moved about in, and almost all of the first MooT games were sold in the Commercial Drive area at a used book store called Octopus Books.

If you click here, you can view the original MooT poster -- designed by Doug Westhaver -- that was used to market it. -- The Mootguy]


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