The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, January 26, 2003


Via The Agitator I found this wonderful twist on the old "guess an animal" binary search game that was one of the first applications available on PC's in the 70's: Guess the Dictator or Sitcom Character.

You are asked a bunch of yes-or-no questions until the quiz has enough information to hazard a guess. If the quiz is correct, it tells you how many other people have tried your subject. If incorrect it grovels before you, then asks for a question that would separate your subject from its incorrect guess.

The nature of the quiz leads to wonderful changes of subject such as


Do you put down rebellions?

Do you work in a brewery?


I read a lot more history than I watch TV, so I decided to try some strongmen. I warmed up with Pol Pot, and I knew the quiz had me when it asked


Did you create a calendar starting with the year you took power?


So I tried the Mexican dictator Santa Anna. When the quiz asked me


Did you lose a leg fighting the French?


I was at a loss. Google told me that Santa Anna had indeed lost a leg in 1837 fighting the French at Vera Cruz -- and had it given a full military burial. The quiz got me again; I was the third contestant to try Santa Anna.

Then I tried Bela Kun, a Hungarian Communist dictator who ruled for a short time until deposed by Rumanian troops. There was another Bela Kun in the database but his data did not match up with my answers. So I tried Heng Samrin, the Cambodian puppet installed by Vietnam after they defeated Pol Pot. I was finally victorious.


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