A Duel to the Death

Weekly round-writing challenge kicks off with a sticky subject.

Published September 8, 2023

Eric Keihl is the managing editor for Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. Each week, he will accept a reader challenge to write a entire, quiz-ready trivia round on some tricky or obscure subject. You can challenge Eric here.

This week’s theme is wallpaper, suggested by Geronimo Quitoriano at the Blind Donkey in Long Beach, Calif. Thanks, Geronimo!

I’ve got a pet theory that it’s better to write rounds on subjects you don’t know so well, so that you’ll be able to empathize with your fellow neophytes and not make questions too granular. We’re going to test the hell out of that theory today, because my knowledge of wallpaper basically boils down to “bubbles are bad.” Which just means there’s more to learn, right?

Actually, I do know of one pretty famous wallpaper anecdote: As he was gasping his final breaths in a fleabag Paris hotel, the great writer and smartass Oscar Wilde supposedly said, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” One of them did, and apparently the ugly floral print outlived the brilliant Irishman by a good 100 years. The moral of that story? I have no idea. Anyway, on with the round!

  1. Though his Fizzy Lifting Drinks and three-course gum still have some kinks, what fictional genius has mastered making snozzberry-flavored wallpaper?  Willy Wonka    
  2. For comparing their horrible gravy to wallpaper paste, in 1978 a KFC franchise sued what white-suited retiree?  Colonel Sanders    1
  3. A grassy spot in Sonoma, California became known as Bliss Hill2, after it was featured in the soothing default wallpaper of what early-aughts Windows version? Windows XP   
  4. Bob the Builder totally bollixed up wallpapering a house, after enlisting his pal Dizzy to churn the paste. What’s Dizzy’s usual job?  Cement Mixer    
  5. Along with 1,200 Picassos and a collar that erotically chokes you when you get a text, what Manhattan museum has a sample of Andy Warhol’s pink-and-yellow cow wallpaper?  Museum of Modern Art    3
  6. When French revolutionaries torched Jean-Baptiste Réveillon’s4 wallpaper factory in April of 1789, he fled to what nearby prison that seemed pretty secure at the time?  The Bastille    
  7. Shadows from the Walls of Death is an 1874 book5 about the dangers of coloring wallpaper green with what ultra-poisonous 33rd element?  Arsenic    
  8. When she gave the first televised White House tour in 1962, what photogenic First Lady showed off the fancy French wallpaper6 she’d had installed in the Diplomatic Reception Room?  Jackie Kennedy    

Bonus: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s most famous short story7 has a bedridden wife get driven mad by the sickly sulfur tint of her wallpaper, which is what titular color?  Yellow

  1. Sanders also compared KFC’s potatoes to wallpaper paste. Either the man openly hated the way KFC went after he left, or he secretly loved to eat wallpaper paste.
  2. The excellently-named NatGeo photographer Chuck O’Rear took the original picture on the way to a date with his future wife, Daphne. D’aww!
  3. That would be Call Me, Choke Me by Gunnar Green. Feel free to write your own data throttling joke.
  4. Réveillon generously lent his garden (and some of his fanciest wallpaper) to the Montgolfier brothers for the first crewed hot-air balloon launch, hence the balloon being named the Aerostat Reveillon. That crew, by the way, consisted of a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. Oh, wait, I know this joke!
  5. Because the book contained dozens of samples of toxic wallpaper, it was itself considered too dangerous for public release and most copies of it were destroyed. Irony!
  6.  Rescued from an about-to-be-demolished house, the Zuber wallpaper features detailed harbor scenes of Boston, West Point, New York City, and Virginia. Ooh la la!
  7. The Yellow Wallpaper was basically a clapback at Perkins’s doctor, who had confined her to three months of maddening, unstimulating bed rest to treat her postpartum depression. She even sent him a copy of the story… and of course he never responded.