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NON Correction Corner

Usually we keep the questions out of the news section, but we’ve had dozens of emails with a “correction” letting us know that Sweden won the silver medal for 1980 Olympic Hockey. I put “correction” in quotes because — TWIST — we were right all along.

This is one of my all-time favorite trivia questions. I love it, and these “corrections” show why it’s such a great question. They demonstrate a cardinal rule of trivia: When you know half a fact, the half you know will blot out the half you don’t and leave you thinking you know the whole fact. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

You were all correct to point out that the “Miracle on Ice” was not the “gold medal game.” This is common knowledge among trivia people, and most think the question ends there: The U.S. beat the Soviets, then played the Finns for the gold medal,* therefore it’s an impossibility that the Soviets could have won silver.

(*A lot of people misremember the game following the Miracle on Ice as USA vs Sweden. This is perhaps because Sweden eventually won the bronze medal, for reasons expounded on below.)

But here’s the other half of the fact, which most people have completely forgotten: Team USA vs Finland wasn’t the “gold medal game” either. There was no “gold medal game.” The medals back then were awarded following a sort-of round-robin “Medal Round” in which the top two teams from the tournament’s two divisions played each other once, with winners getting two points, ties getting one point, and losers getting zero, with previous inter-division results carrying over. The upshot of this convoluted scoring system was that the U.S. victory over Russia (the “Miracle on Ice”) put the team in an excellent position to finish the tournament with the most points, but it needed one more win to guarantee gold. If USA had lost to Finland in their next game, and the USSR beat Sweden, the Soviets would have won gold. As it happened, the U.S. beat the Finns (despite being down a goal heading into the third period; this is what prompted the other famous Herb Brooks speech, aka “Your F***ing Graves”), and the Soviets did indeed beat the Swedes. The U.S. got the gold, USSR got silver, and Sweden won bronze. (Fun fact: If the U.S. had lost to Finland by more than one goal, it’s possible they wouldn’t have medaled at all.

Answers to Tuesday, February 8

1. “Delight” is the delightful middle name of what legendary record producer, studio executive, and musician, who also co-founded the magazine “Vibe” in 1993?

QUINCY JONES

2. Out of Henry VIII’s six wives, how many were named Mary?

ZERO

(three Catherines, two Annes, and one Jane)

3. If you look at the geographic centers of each of the lower 48 states, which state’s center is the furthest west?

OREGON

4. Who was nicknamed “America’s Oldest Teenager” all the way up until his death in 2012?

DICK CLARK

5. Biologist Lynn Margulis developed the theory of symbiogenesis in 1967, greatly expanding our understanding of how species evolve. Despite her pioneering research, she is often better remembered as the ex-wife of what astronomer and astrophysicist, who died in 1996?

CARL SAGAN