Controversey: defused!!!

In the old e-mailbag this week, under the subject line “jeopardy controversey” (sic): Hi. I didn’t know who else to contact, so after a brief search I found you. Of course, you are my all-time favorite Jeopardy player and a legend to boot. However, I had high hopes for Roger Craig and was, frankly, aghast […]

You know, for kids

So cool and exciting that, after years of work, the first two books in my Junior Genius series are due out in three weeks! Cool and exciting for me, anyway. I can’t imagine you guys X-ing off days on a calendar, unless, of course, you have an eager middle-grade reader at home who urgently needs […]

Friday links

Wednesday’s blog post (“I am the 99 percent”) sort of went viral, almost entirely without controversy. It seems to have been claimed joyfully both by Occupy Wall Street drum circles (“He’s with us!”) and their opponents (“Ha ha, he’s making fun of them.”) For the record, I saw it as an absurdist joke along the […]

I don’t believe in the sun

I finished Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Solar, on an airplane last week. Not his best book by a long shot (“by a long chalk,” as one of his very British protagonists would say) but it has its moments. It has its odd moments as well. Midway through the book, its Nobel-laureate-physicist protagonist addresses a conference […]

Wordplay Wednesday

Take the name of a famous character who originated in a book, best known for running around the jungles of southern Asia and somewhat controversial, especially from a leftish point of view. Move the first letter of the character’s name forward one step in the alphabet (turn “OATH” into “PATH,” for example) and you’ll get […]

Tea zone

The new issue of mental_floss magazine should be out shortly, and page 70 contains the twenty-third (I just counted!) installment of my 6 of Ken Jennings column. Here’s a sneak preview in original-draft form…but the rest of this issue is fantastic, particularly for Beatles fans. Check it out. Chai Tea to Tai Chi Dont call […]

Liveblogging the Super Bowl, 18 hours late

Does Abe Vigoda do his own stunts? You know Betty White does, because she is some kind of ageless robot. Come on, do you know any 105-year-olds who are pretty good Password players? When I play board games with people a generation older than me, it becomes clear that the “game neurons” in your brain […]

Seattle’s most wanted

Hey, this was going to be a post about my secret plan to bring a new level of perversion to schools, but then there was late-breaking news at the end of last week. I opened the mailbox on Thursday and discovered…a speed camera ticket! The first one I’ve ever received! I was so happy. “What […]

Hand of God, cheek of tan

I kept seeing headlines yesterday like “Harry Reid Moves Massive Health Care Bill to the Senate Floor.” For crying out loud, the guy’s gotta be in his sixties–can’t they get him a Congressional page or at least a hand-truck or a wheelbarrow or something? Lift with the legs, Harry! I don’t really have anything to […]

What’s in “the Floss”?

Look for a new copy of mental_floss magazine in your mailbox or newsstand soon. (Wait, did I bold the wrong word there? Is it mental or floss? I always forget.) I just got my copies and the cover is something about miracle cures. But who cares about curing cancer when there’s a new edition of […]

Far from Kevin

A quick series of Google and Twitter vanity-searches reveals that lots and lots of Internet righties think I am President Obama’s embattled “safe schools” czar. (This Heritage Foundation post originally carried my name, for example.) That’s Kevin Jennings, people. I, TV’s lovable Ken Jennings, am rarely called upon to advise 16-year-olds on their bus station […]

No twin situation

Have you heard the age-old idea that somewhere, out there in the world, each of us has some fairly exact double walking around, unbeknownst to us? Even as a kid I remember being fascinated by this idea and its Twilight Zone-y implications (what if we met?), but also by its essential unprovability. What if my […]

Shiny and new

I have another “6° of Ken Jennings” piece in the new issue of mental_floss magazine, on sale soon. Hey, a friendly postman might be sliding the magazine into your soft yielding mailbox as you read these lines. For all I know. To tempt you, presumably, into buying your own damn subscription to this fantastic trivia […]

Breaking: weeks-old Emmy news!

Obviously, the Emmys sucked, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a pretty cool part of the show’s ad campaign: a big-ass collage! In fact, the show’s website refers to this as the anniversary show’s “historic collage.” Historic? If you got all these people to actually pose together, from Bart Simpson to Tony […]

Wasilla fuss about?

Every so often there’s a big media blow-up because of bad etymology. You might want to stay away from “squaw” and “niggardly,” for example. Up next on that list, apparently: “fecund.” A couple weeks ago, my Tuesday Trivia e-mail quiz asked, “What bay, for whom a recent newsmaker was named, is the easternmost arm of […]

Prose and khans

I just got my comp copies of mental_floss magazine in the mail, which means the new issue is about to hit “newsstands,” whatever those are. It also means the new issue must have an installment of my 6° of Ken Jennings column–otherwise they don’t send me copies! Researchers who have been working for years to […]


We liked Wall·E, and the kids liked Wall·E, and I’m a little surprised at all the on-line blowback. I don’t mind the cynical anti-environmental posturing from TV blowhards who haven’t even seen the film, but I didn’t expect the weepy “Et tu, Pixar?!” protestations from beleaguered fatties, now propped up by this Slate piece from […]

Interview with Carlo Panno, continued

Continuing our interview with 1980s Jeopardy! researcher Carlo Panno. Today Carlo reveals some of the tricks of the clue-writing trade, and outs himself as a bit of a Disney geek. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I would guess that gauging the difficulty/”gettability” of material would be one of the hardest parts of that […]

My “O” face

Since is headlining in unusually Cosmo-esque fashion, this morning, “The Sex Dreams Americans Are Having About Barack Obama!” I was reminded that I had an Obama dream a couple nights ago. No, honestly. I wasn’t getting a piece of the Barack, though. I was giving him weekly Italian lessons, for some reason, and I […]

Now I try to be amused

Ed Toutant reminds me that Anyone Can Play, the Internet quiz show that he and I (along with Kevin Olmstead and Nancy Christy) are going to be appearing on, begins airing tonight at 9 pm on Shokus Internet Radio. My brother pointed out that yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of Elvis controversially getting banned from […]

Burying the lede

Last week, the Seattle Times picked up this article from the Easton, Pennsylvania Express-Times. The headline is “School officials unite in banning Wikipedia,” which caught my eye…until I saw that the story really has little to do with any outright “ban.” Instead, it’s just a lot of scolding quotes from local high school and college […]


Everyone loves sequels! Well over a third of this summer’s record movie box office came from five sequels: The Bourne Ultimatum, The Shrek Ultimatum, Harry Potter and the Ultimatum of the Phoenix, Spider-matum 3, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Ultimatum of the Ultimatum Ultimatum. So here’s what you like, America: rewarmed, pre-chewed follow-ups to some […]

Mormon guy to Internet: shut up and think a minute

I was outed in The New York Times over the weekend. In the crossword, in fact. As 52-across, I was (along with 41-across, DONNYOSMOND) part of a mini-theme about famous Mormons. So, yeah, everyone knew I was Mormon anyway (even if everyone didn’t assume that a dorky-looking white guy with a Utah address was Mormon, […]

Where are they now? Nowhere!

A few nights ago, in honor of last week’s Tuesday Trivia Question Seven (movies whose titles end with exclamation points), we watched That Thing You Do!, Tom Hanks’ pitch-perfect, underrated 1996 paean to early-’60s rock and roll. Which means two things: one, I still have that @#$% song going through my head, and two, I […]

Country music

I happen to have a complete book of world national anthems sitting next to me this morning, for something I’m writing, so here’s some funny anthem trivia, Millionaire-style. Take your best guesses; I’ll run answers tomorrow. What’s the only country that still proclaims allegiance to another country’s king in its national anthem? A. Andorra B. […]


One common knock against “trivial” knowledge is that it’s not as deep or substantive as “real” knowledge. You know a little about a lot, but a lot about very little. But one plus to knowing a little about a lot is the ability to make interdisciplinary connections that other, overspecialized minds might miss. Here’s an […]