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JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Hello, this is Jonathan Coulton from NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER.
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
(Laughter) Hi Jonathan, this is Ophira Eisenberg.
COULTON: Hello, Ophira, how are you?
EISENBERG: I'm all right. You know, fall is nice. Happy fall to you.
COULTON: Happy fall to you. It is an exciting time of year. Are you celebrating the fall in some way?
EISENBERG: Well, I guess so. You know, we're looking for some outdoor activities to do to, you know, just change things up and enjoy the nice weather. And we took our son to a farm that has a pumpkin patch and picked pumpkins.
COULTON: Oh, yeah, pumpkin patch.
COULTON: That's one of my favorite things to do in the fall.
EISENBERG: And one of the things they did was they took - I guess there was a pumpkin slingshot.
COULTON: Oh, yeah. That's fun.
EISENBERG: Yeah. OK, I've never seen this before. You know this?
COULTON: Sure. Yeah, pumpkin chucking.
EISENBERG: Pumpkin chucking. So you take very small pumpkins or apples and you put them into a very big slingshot and you can just shoot it into this big field. And if you hit a bell or get it into a barrel, you get a prize. But the whole field is littered with all the pumpkins and apples that have not made it.
COULTON: That seems a little wasteful.
EISENBERG: So I said to the people running it, first of all, why are there pumpkins and apples that we can slingshot into the fields? And they were like, well, usually it's the ones that are bruised.
COULTON: Right. Pumpkins that won't be good for anything else or the apples that won't be good for anything else.
EISENBERG: Yeah, good for anything else. And I was like, have you ever eaten a apple pie or a pumpkin pie and been like, this pumpkin was bruised?
COULTON: I can't say that I have.
EISENBERG: And then I said, well, what? Does someone have to clean these up every night? And the guy just went, uh. And then he would like this - yeah.
EISENBERG: Like, I gave him an idea.
COULTON: Yeah. You know what? Somebody does need to clean it up. And it's my nephew, Tommy, because I hate that kid.
EISENBERG: And so then my son loved the slingshot of course.
COULTON: Sure. Yeah.
EISENBERG: You know, and it's three pumpkins for a dollar. So he did that and missed. And then, of course, immediately, let's get back in line and do it again. So I was like, of course, whatever. So we grabbed three pumpkins. And it was pretty busy, the pumpkin slingshot part of the farm.
COULTON: Very popular, I would imagine. Yeah.
EISENBERG: Perfectly spaced out, though, so you did not feel like you were in any danger. And you could wear your mask while doing the slingshot. As a matter of fact, the slingshot itself looks like a mask.
COULTON: Well, there you go. That's reassuring.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) So we put the pumpkin and pull it back, and somehow we get it in the barrel.
COULTON: You are kidding me. That's so exciting.
EISENBERG: I was so excited.
COULTON: What did you win?
EISENBERG: It's a big orange T-shirt with a blue, screaming, half-smashed pumpkin flying through the air with a face on it.
EISENBERG: Yes. So I am going to be wearing it all Halloween week-long for my Zoom calls.
COULTON: I mean, here's the thing. You know, what you did is you won a game.
EISENBERG: I won a game. I won a game that I never thought I would win.
COULTON: Would you like to play some additional games?
COULTON: All right. But first, a little theme song.
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COULTON: From NPR and WNYC coming to you from various locations in New York City, this is NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and pumpkin chucking, ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.
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EISENBERG: Thanks, Jonathan.
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EISENBERG: We have a great show. And it starts with desserts and ends with a entree. That's right. We have "The Daily Show's" Ronny Chieng and Michael Kosta joining us to play games about video games, "Lord Of The Rings" and Elvis. Then, comedians and besties Danielle Perez and Madison Shephard test their knowledge of movies and sports mascot fashions. And then after that, we take a sharp left turn and welcome the writer and star of "What The Constitution Means To Me", Heidi Schreck. She'll tell us what the Constitution means to her and play a game about the U.S. Constitution. So to our listeners who are also AP U.S. history teachers, you're welcome in advance. Let's play some games.
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EISENBERG: First up, we have two correspondents from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah." They are taking a break from election coverage to come play some games. We have first-time guest Michael Kosta, who used to be a professional tennis player, and returning guest Ronny Chieng, who is currently in Australia. Michael, Ronny, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.
RONNY CHIENG: Hey.
MICHAEL KOSTA: Hi, thanks for having us.
EISENBERG: So, Ronny, you are in the future - right? - with the time zone in Australia.
KOSTA: Is there anything you need to tell us, Ronny?
CHIENG: Yeah (laughter). Yeah, just wear a mask.
KOSTA: Wear a mask.
CHIENG: Yeah. For the future of us.
KOSTA: Where we're at. That's where we're at.
COULTON: Are you up anyway because of time? Are you adjusted to the time or did you stay up late anyway?
CHIENG: I actually did wake up for this. I was like...
COULTON: Oh, my God. You went to sleep and woke up again.
CHIENG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, but it's OK. It's OK. Like I said, my whole thing is I don't even know what time - I'm just - I'm awake when someone emails me to be awake.
EISENBERG: That's a good way to be.
CHIENG: They're like, hey, be awake at this time. I'm like, OK, fine.
KOSTA: All of Ronny's email subjects are, Be Awake Now.
EISENBERG: So Michael, I know - this is very timely. I know to say that you used to be a tennis player. Is it an understatement? You were a professional tennis player. You've written a book about it. You have a podcast called "Tennis Anyone." What did you think about the U.S. Open this year?
KOSTA: I have been completely astonished and proud that tennis has figured out a way to still hold its most major tournaments. I mean, they - U.S. Open was amazing. You watched world-class tennis with zero fans.
KOSTA: Which, by the way, as someone that goes to the U.S. Open a lot, I love no fans because New York fans are the worst.
KOSTA: They're all on their phone. They're all - so it was - I was very impressed. You know, I thought tennis has done a great job with it.
EISENBERG: Do you think some of the pro players were affected by not having the crowd?
KOSTA: Yeah. I mean, it definitely helps the underdog. Serena Williams is used to playing in front of 22,000 people. I was used to playing in front of one person, two people.
KOSTA: So when you're at the low, low, low - and I was never even in a tournament like the U.S. Open. But you know, you're more comfortable when there's not a lot of people around. So I thought it helped the underdog. But is there a better sport for social distancing than tennis?
KOSTA: You're 76-feet away from your opponent.
EISENBERG: OK. We have a couple great games for you.
CHIENG: Yeah, let's do it.
KOSTA: Let's do it. I'd love to play a game.
EISENBERG: So this is a true-or-false quiz about video games.
EISENBERG: I know this speaks to Ronny's expertise because the last time you were on the show, we played into the fact that you like rebuilding Nintendo machines.
CHIENG: Oh, right. Right. I mean, I'm not even a video game guy, but compared to Michael, I might as well be the guy who invented Nintendo.
KOSTA: Yeah. I mean...
EISENBERG: OK. So what we're going to do is we're going to describe something you can do in a famous video game. And you just have to tell us if it's true or something we made up. Ronny, the first one is for you.
EISENBERG: In The Witcher series, you play a superhuman monster-slayer named Geralt. And after a night out on the town, you could even get a regretable drunk tattoo. True or false?
CHIENG: Wow, I know this game. Actually, Henry Cavill is the actor who plays this guy in the TV series of this. I think they were trying to do, like, "Game Of Thrones" but for video games or something. That's the tone of the show.
KOSTA: I'm going to get so smoked in this game. Are you serious?
COULTON: He's dropping extra trivia.
CHIENG: Yeah. But I can't play any of these games. I just know a lot - enough about them, I think. And I'm going to go with true.
EISENBERG: That is correct.
COULTON: All right, Michael, this one is for you. In the long-awaited gritty zombie game The Last Of Us Part II, you can pull out your trusty guitar and strum a dorm room cover of "Wonderwall".
KOSTA: I don't believe that the video game companies would pay the royalties for "Wonderwall" over and over and over again. And because I'm first-time guest on here, I think you're going to give me a simple one right out of the gate. So I'm going with false.
COULTON: Your reasoning is incredibly sound. However, it is actually true.
KOSTA: Oh, my God.
COULTON: And here's the tricky part, is that you can choose between six chords. So they don't actually license the song, you just have the chords.
COULTON: And "Wonderwall" is one of the many songs you can play. You can also play "Help".
KOSTA: And the music industry hasn't figured out how to license the chords?
COULTON: I know. I tried to patent C minor, but they wouldn't let me do it.
EISENBERG: Ronny, in 2020's trendiest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you can make a Faustian bargain for your soul with a blue goat named Sherb.
CHIENG: Actually, over the pandemic, I was hanging out with someone who was playing a ton of Animal Crossing. So again, a game which I've never played myself. But in all my time talking - my friend talking at me about Animal Crossing, I don't remember anything like a goat or making a bargain with the devil in the game. So I'm going to go with false on that one.
EISENBERG: That is correct.
COULTON: I love - Ronny, I love - you are just sort of absorbing all of this information about video games even though you are not playing these video games.
CHIENG: Yeah. Yeah.
COULTON: You're up on the news. You've got some friends you're talking to. It's fantastic.
COULTON: All right, Michael, this is the last question. In the charming farm simulator Stardew Valley, watch the seasons change and date various residents of your tiny town. But if you're not careful, you can also violate the Geneva Convention on at least two separate counts.
KOSTA: Should you be able to simulate dating in a video game?
COULTON: That's Question 1.
KOSTA: Do I know any of the stipulations of the Geneva Convention?
KOSTA: I assume it's not the...
COULTON: You're flying completely blind on this question.
EISENBERG: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm.
KOSTA: I think in today's...
COULTON: You're working it out. You're talking it through.
EISENBERG: I love this. I love this. This is so great.
KOSTA: I think in today's day, it's probably best if you don't - aren't able to date within a video game. I'm saying false to your BS comment, Jonathan.
COULTON: I'm sorry. It is actually true.
COULTON: All of those things are true.
COULTON: So yeah, you can - dating residents is part of the game. And the Geneva Convention issue is that the game originally featured a Red Cross emblem on its health bar and hospital. And of course, that red plus sign is used to signify humanitarian medical aid, but you need authorization to use it. If you use it without authorization, you're violating the Geneva Convention. Also, the symbol...
COULTON: The symbol has been removed, but you can still violate Article 54 Protocol 1 by rendering useless an essential agricultural region.
KOSTA: Rendering useless an essential agricultural region as opposed to some nonessential agricultural region.
EISENBERG: That's right.
COULTON: If it's nonessential, who cares? Go ahead, and salt the earth.
KOSTA: If you're growing turnips, you are nonessential.
EISENBERG: Who won? Who knows?
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KOSTA: I don't know which direction Ronny is on your screen. But...
EISENBERG: I believe - yeah, yeah, yeah. Ronny won. Ronny won that one by a hair, by a hair.
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EISENBERG: Coming up, we'll play another game with Ronny and Michael. And a little later, Heidi Schreck from "What The Constitution Means To Me" will join us for a game that is equal parts informative and adorable. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.
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