Stock clue

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The term "stock clues" originally referred to clues that have been used since approximately the days of the GE College Bowl radio show, or at least the 1990s. For a long time, those clues were recycled as lead-in clues by inexperienced teams who don't know any better, and passed through the final editing stage by editors who should have known better. Such stock clues were often biographical clues, and could also have resulted from excessive name-dropping of a term of actual importance for continuous years.

In an ironic twist, the term "stock clue" has experienced something of a backlash in recent years, as questions get better-written and some players misuse the term to refer to any clue as "stock" that they remember from previous questions, regardless of how important the clue is, how infrequently it has appeared before, and where the clue is placed in the question. Due to the frequency and annoyance of its misuse, the phrase "stock clue" is therefore falling into disuse among older players.

The presence of a given difficult clue within (or outside) power across multiple high school tossups within the span of a year or two is not a sufficient condition for that clue to be stock.

This list of stock clues is provided in the hope that people stop using them as lead-ins, or perhaps ever.

Partial List of Old-Style Stock Clues and Their Immediately Buzzable Answers


  • "Her childhood friend Truman Capote": Harper Lee (also, anything involving Dill being based on Capote).
  • "Planned to attend Juilliard, but lost her tuition money on a New York subway train": Carson McCullers
  • "wounded at the Battle of Lepanto": Miguel de Cervantes
  • "refused the 1926 Pulitzer Prize": Sinclair Lewis
  • "purchases Little Shirley Beans": Holden Caulfield

General History

  • "tutored by Bairam Khan": Akbar the Great
  • "exiled in Mongolia": Vyacheslav Molotov
  • "cup-bearer to the king of Kish": Sargon the Great
  • "wrote The Army of the Future": Charles de Gaulle
  • "accused of having a gold spoon in his mouth": Martin Van Buren
  • "said 'Because it's 2015'": Justin Trudeau
  • practically any information regarding Alexander Hamilton that once was considered "obscure" about him but now is almost common knowledge due to the popularity of a certain musical bearing his name


  • "son of a sailmaker": Victor Grignard
  • "Ideal Percent Alcohol Content of Vodka": Dmitri Mendeleev
  • "apprenticed to a bookbinder": Michael Faraday
  • "Advocated high doses of Vitamin C": Linus Pauling
  • "1% of the world's energy": Haber-Bosch Process
  • "Offered presidency of Israel": Albert Einstein

Fine Arts

  • "research on aldehydes": Aleksandr Borodin
  • "Taught at an all girls school": Gustav Holst
  • "begins with a clarinet glissando": Rhapsody in Blue


  • "Originally studied mechanical engineering": Ludwig Wittgenstein

Social Science

  • "written on a napkin": Laffer Curve
  • "thesis on Indo-European languages": Ferdinand de Saussure
  • "worked in a machine shop": Otto Rank