WIUM Tristates Public Radio


Feb 9, 2018
Originally published on July 6, 2018 6:56 am

The Smithsonian is home to historical artifacts, iconic Americana, and all manner of weird pop culture memorabilia. We've rewritten songs by artists with "Smith" in their name to be about notable objects in the Smithsonian's collection— can you guess the object? For an extra point, name the artist we're parodying. And no, they're not all by The Smiths.

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton, here with puzzle guru Art Chung. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Thank you, Jonathan. Before the break, we met our contestants Katie and Kevin. In our next game, we'll put the -um in museum. But first, let's check in with our contestants. Katie, if you could take something from the Smithsonian museum - an object - what would you take?

KATIE FOX: I volunteer at the natural history museum, and I know exactly what I would take. In the room where I work, we have a polar bear skull. And I would definitely take that.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. That's a nice thing to have on the kitchen table.


FOX: You know, your fireplace mantle.

EISENBERG: Do you have a plan or...


FOX: Well, it is rather large, so it would probably be kind of difficult to sneak out with.

EISENBERG: Yeah. But you're working on it. Good.

FOX: Oh, yeah.

EISENBERG: Kevin, if you could take an object from the Smithsonian museum, what would you take?

KEVIN COMBES: Whenever I go to the American history museum, I spend a lot of time looking at old computers. So I think I would take the first Macintosh.

EISENBERG: Interesting. I feel like you can just buy that.


EISENBERG: But maybe not. Maybe it's rare.

COMBES: It's the thrill of the heist.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Right. You want to - right. You want to just do the whole thing. OK. We're here in Washington, D.C., home of many Smithsonian museums. So your next game is a music parody called Smiths-sonian. Katie, you won the last game. So you win this, and you are in the final round. Kevin, you need to win this, or you're going to get a hard sell on becoming a sustaining member of the Hirshhorn Museum.


COULTON: We rewrote songs performed by artists with Smith in their name to be about things that are part of the Smithsonian collection. So ring in to name the thing that I am singing about. And if you're right, you can earn a bonus point by identifying the artist that I am parodying. All right. You ready?



(Playing guitar, singing) They didn't charge a fare. The plane weighed more than air. Kitty Hawk - that was the where. Get in and say a prayer.



COMBES: Would that be the Wright brothers plane?

COULTON: That's right - the Wright Flyer.


COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the artist?

COMBES: Sam Smith.

COULTON: Yeah. You got it.


EISENBERG: Who knew air travel would get so much worse?


COULTON: I don't think it was so great in their day, either.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) No.

COULTON: (Playing guitar, singing) Because the night belongs to Muppets. Because it's hard to be so green. Because the night belongs to Muppets. He is a felt amphibian.



COMBES: Kermit the Frog.

COULTON: Kermit the Frog is correct.


COULTON: And can you name the artist for a bonus point?

COMBES: I'm just going to guess the Smiths.

COULTON: That's a good guess, but that is incorrect. That was Patti Smith - "Because The Night."

Here we go. (Playing guitar, singing) She said something none of them could hear. Now they'll think he's a fop. Jerry's booked on the "Today" show. And now he has to wear that white ruffle top. That white ruffle top.



COMBES: The puffy shirt from "Seinfeld."

COULTON: That's right. The puffy shirt. Well done.


COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name that artist?

COMBES: The Smiths.


COULTON: It's another great guess...


COULTON: ...But it was the Smithereens. (Playing guitar, singing) Click with me. Click your red heels. Three times, says Glinda. See how it feels. Just click them to no longer roam. Time to leave Oz now, so just say there's no place like home.



FOX: Dorothy's ruby-red slippers.

COULTON: Yeah. That's right.


COULTON: Can you name the artist for a bonus point?

FOX: I have absolutely no idea.


COULTON: You don't want to say the Smiths?

FOX: Sure. The Smiths.


COULTON: No. I'm sorry. It's Aerosmith.


COULTON: "Dream On."

(Playing guitar, singing) Won't shut my mouth. Heard what I said. Get out of my seat, you meathead. I am human, and I need to sit down just like every other jerk does.



FOX: The counter from the sit-ins at the - the lunch counter sit-in.

COULTON: Sorry. That is incorrect. Kevin, do you know what I'm talking about?

COMBES: Would that be Homo erectus?


EISENBERG: Yeah. You're right.

COULTON: No. I was singing about Archie Bunker's chair.


FOX: I was never going to get that.

EISENBERG: But here's the stinger.

COULTON: Here's the stinger. Nobody gets to guess the bonus point.


COULTON: But guess who it is.

FOX: The Smiths.

COULTON: The Smiths.


COULTON: This is your last clue. (Playing guitar, singing) Made of the plushest felt. Stuffed ursine companion. Named after Roosevelt. Couldn't shoot the real one.



FOX: Teddy bear.

COULTON: Teddy bear, that's right.


COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the artist?

FOX: No.

COULTON: What we were looking for is Will Smith. That's the hook from the "Men In Black" theme - some of his finest work. Puzzle guru Art Chung how did our contestants do?

ART CHUNG: Well done, Kevin, you won that game.


FOX: So you each won a game, so it's time for a quick game three. I'm going to give you a category. And you'll go back and forth naming things in that category. The first contestant to mess up will be eliminated. Buzz in to answer first. Here's your category. Eight states border Tennessee. Name them.


CHUNG: Katie, you're up.

FOX: Kentucky.

CHUNG: That is correct - Kevin.


CHUNG: No, I'm sorry. The other answers were Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina and a nearby state of Virginia. Kevin, I'm sorry to see you go. Katie, you're headed to the final round.

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