Lessons From the Trivia King

How much air is in a Hostess Twinkie? Isn't it scary that someone knows?

While you're pondering that one, do you know the only two U.S. cities named after football players? Maybe you've heard of Jim Thorpe, Pa., but what about Joe, Montana?

Let's face it: You or someone you love will be on a game show sometime in your life — even if it's just throwing someone a lifeline on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire or shouting out the correct answers during Jeopardy! to impress your buddies.

Incidentally, the most money you can win on Jeopardy! in a single episode is $283,200. How do I know? It's in 10,000 Answers: The Ultimate Trivia Encyclopedia (Random House Reference) by Stanley Newman, a man who absolutely, positively needs to know which one of the Seven Dwarfs wears glasses (Doc) and which one doesn't have a beard (Dopey).

Let's Go, Catholics! Let's Go, Catholics!

Newman is the puzzle editor at New York's Newsday. Every day, he has to ferret out the clues to tomorrow's crossword puzzle. "You never know where you have to look to find the original nickname of the Notre Dame athletic teams," he says. "Now you do."

The Notre Dame "Fighting Irish" used to be known as the Notre Dame "Catholics." And you could have looked that up in Newman's alphabetical listing of hundreds of college team nicknames.

Maybe that's something you won't need every day. But Newman's tome is brimming with little-known secrets and bizarre facts on entertainment, sports, religions, politics, history, geography, food and art.

"It's organized by answers, just like Jeopardy!," Newman says. "So feel free to cheat."

That means you'll have at your disposal every person who played at Woodstock, was buried at Westminster Abby or mentioned in Madonna's hit "Vogue."

If you need to know every possible fortune you can get in a Magic 8-Ball, you've got it. If someone asks you what's the weight of $1 million in $100 bills, you say 20.41 pounds.

Skimming through the book, you'll find some shockers. Paul Revere never really shouted, "The British are coming!" Colonial Americans, after all, were British. He actually sounded out the warning, "The Regulars are out!"

Your Trivia Is Annoying Me

Perhaps the most annoying people on earth are those who bore you with those "fun facts" that you just couldn't care less about. Do you know where to find the world's largest ketchup bottle? Do you care? Now, if some boob challenges you, you can respond authoritatively, "Collinsville, Ill., 170 feet high."

If size matters — and if you're American, let's just assume it does — you now have at your fingertips details on the biggest Dixie Cup (Lexington, Ky., 1,360 gallons), fire hydrant (Beaumont, Texas, 24 feet high), and baseball bat, (Louisville, Ky., of course, 120 feet high).

You might not consider yourself a trivia fan. Maybe you make fun of people who memorize useless information as an excuse for a personality. But, to some extent, we all do it.

"Trivia are those little details we remember about our past and we love to share them," Newman says. "Find out the little facts that people remember and you'll know a lot about them. For some people, it's baseball. For some people, it's old movies."

Did you know hockey legend Wayne Gretzky gets two tickets for every event at New York's Madison Square Garden? That was one of the terms of his final contract with the New York Rangers.

'Who The Hell Was Regis Philbin?'

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