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:

ALWAYS GUESS

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.

Advertisements

3 responses »

  1. Anonymous says:

    Clearly you should have followed your other advice and only answered ‘Rodriguez’. Except that you probably would have chosen to guess ‘Pokey’ which would have still been wrong (but would have been less likely to be wrong than ‘Pokey Rodriguez’)

    -Lucian

    • paulobrian says:

      HA! I really wonder what would have happened if I had guessed “Rodriguez.” The question didn’t specify first name, so I probably would have gotten it right. Damn!

  2. markm says:

    “Charo” is my new default answer now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s