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Last Build Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2016 23:09:08 +0000


Captain America

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 23:06:16 +0000

Way back in 2014, when gay marriage was illegal in half the country, True Detective and the iPhone 6 were brand new, and Donald Trump was still just a reality TV punchline, my friend Paul Bailey asked if I might want to represent my country in the first “Quiz Olympiad,” an international quizzing championship scheduled […]

The only thing we have to fear

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 04:09:14 +0000

In my new “Debunker” column posted today on, I track the lineage of the bizarre trivia factoid that holds that “arachibutyrophobia” is a medical term meaning “the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.” I can find no evidence for this in any clinical literature, but was able to track […]

Big Blue buddy

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 22:02:55 +0000

Hey, here’s another thing that I never blogged about because it launched during the great summer blog drought. My friend Rob Kutner, who wrote for The Daily Show and is now at Conan, had an idea for a comedy podcast in which my silicon arch-nemesis Watson and I were forced to go on the lam […]

Wordplay Wednesday

Wed, 07 Sep 2016 17:43:50 +0000

Blogging again, because why not. I dimly remember that I used to run word puzzles here sometimes on Wednesdays. How about this one, which came to me in the shower this morning? There’s a certain company that introduced one of its most successful products in 1998. Take that brand name, and insert a new letter […]

Trigger warning: racist leaves

Tue, 06 Sep 2016 16:32:42 +0000

This site, like a lazy Frenchman, took the summer off. That was partly due to some database crashes and spambot attacks that happened when I was out of town, and which I’m just getting around to fixing now. Thank you for your patience. I write a weekly Monday column called Maphead for Condé Nast Traveller, […]

How many trivia questions exist?

Thu, 26 May 2016 22:10:16 +0000

A reader named Anthony writes: I hope this message makes it to you. My friend and I are debating how one might estimate the number of trivia questions that exist. Or more precisely, how many distinct questions could be asked to the American participants on Jeopardy or in any trivia game, where the reaction is […]

Old news

Tue, 03 May 2016 16:46:31 +0000

Since 2012–almost four years!–I’ve been writing a weekly news quiz for Slate magazine. But I told Slate last month that I was giving up the assignment. Last week, for the first time ever, the Slate Quiz was written by someone else. I was sorry to have to step away, because the quiz is always a […]

The other Junior Genius

Fri, 29 Apr 2016 02:24:52 +0000

Let’s face it: the seven Junior Genius books I spent the last few years writing would have been maybe one-quarter as good without the funny, charming artwork of Mike Lowery. You know what kids don’t want? Big unbroken blocks of text about 19th-century presidents. You know what kids do want? Funny cartoons of Andrew Jackson […]


Mon, 21 Mar 2016 19:17:43 +0000

Reading: I recommend it! In fact, I specifically recommend the books I’ve been reading recently. They are not new books. (Wait, with one exception.) Here’s the last month or so: The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty. Did you know Welty’s first novel (well, short novel) was a Southern update of the Grimm’s fairy tale, along […]

Welcome to the working week

Wed, 16 Mar 2016 18:46:41 +0000

I don’t usually link to the steady stream of stuff I’m writing elsewhere instead of on this blog, but here’s a quick recap: Mondays: my “Maphead” column for Conde Nast Traveler Tuesdays: my “Debunker” column for Woot Wednesdays and Saturdays: “Kennections” puzzles for mental_floss Fridays: the News Quiz for Slate This week, I also wrote […]