I had a very fun and slightly uncanny trivia experience last week, which reminded me of one more principle I forgot to include in the trivia players advice post:
Now, naturally this advice does not apply to trivia games whose format penalizes wrong answers. In Jeopardy!, for instance, I would never advise someone to guess every time, since getting a question wrong costs you the dollar amount of the question. However, there are plenty of formats in which wrong answers incur no penalty, and in those games, I make it my policy to guess even when I have absolutely no idea of the answer. Learned League is such a format, and last week it posed this question to me:
What was the name of cartoon mouse Speedy Gonzales’ country cousin, described as “the slowest mouse in all Mexico”?
I have a vague memory of seeing a cartoon that featured this slow mouse, and I mean very vague. I’m sure I haven’t seen it for at least 30 years. If it were a Jeopardy! question, I would surely not buzz in. But in Learned League, getting a question wrong doesn’t hurt you in any way, so I tried to piece together an answer. I figured that this mouse would probably have a name that is parallel to Speedy Gonzales, but opposite. So instead of Speedy, he’d be something like “Pokey.” And although he’s Speedy’s cousin, I guessed that he wouldn’t be named Gonzales, but rather some other common Hispanic name with a similar rhythm, something like “Rodriguez.” So the answer I submitted was: Pokey Rodriguez.
The actual answer: SLOWPOKE RODRIGUEZ
This totally blew me away. I could not believe that my wild, out-of-the-blue answer came so close to the actual, correct answer. It felt like a combination of tapping the unconscious (like I talked about in the previous post), solid logic, and pure blind luck. I was thrilled. Now, this story has a less than satisfying ending — the commissioner decided that “Pokey” was different enough from “Slowpoke” to constitute a wrong answer. However, it totally confirmed my policy of always venturing a guess, because you just never know when you’ll strike gold.
This is a story I’ve told before, but I have a strong early memory of competing in the trivia bowl and venturing a guess on this toss-up:
HOST: “Who has the record for most guest appearances on The Love Boat?”
ME: [After a long pause in which it becomes clear that nobody is going to attempt this.] BUZZ. “Uh… Charo?”
HOST: “Yes, it is Charo!”
That is the moment that cemented my love for the wild guess.