By Leslie Elman

May 3, 2021 23 min read

Mattel's Hot Wheels cars debuted in 1968 with 16 models, including sporty versions of real-life cars from the Plymouth Barracuda to a souped-up Volkswagen Beetle, and replicas of one-of-a-kind custom cars like the Hot Heap Model T and (my personal favorite) the bubble-top Beatnik Bandit. In 2018, to mark the Hot Wheels 50th anniversary, Chevrolet produced a limited-edition Hot Wheels custom Camaro, painted orange — just like Hot Wheels tracks.

The island of Macao takes its name from the Taoist sea goddess A-Ma (also known as Mazu), protector of sailors. It's said that in the 16th century, when a Portuguese ship landed on Macao after a severe storm, the sailors asked locals the name of the place. Language barriers being what they are, the locals mentioned A-Ma, the island's most revered deity. To the visitors, it sounded like Macao — and that's what the Europeans called the island.

A typical museum visitor spends fewer than 30 seconds looking at a single work of art. For most people, it's 10 to 15 seconds, which hardly qualifies as "art appreciation." That's what inspired Slow Art Day, an annual event that encourages museumgoers to spend five to 10 minutes taking in a single piece of art and then discussing it. Although the event is held in April, you can make any museum visit your own personal Slow Art Day if you linger, look and think about what you see.

The Tornio "Green Zone" Golf Club gives players the unique opportunity to golf in two countries in a single round. Eleven of the holes are in Sweden, and seven in Finland where the Tornio, or Torne, River separates the two countries. On the par-3 sixth hole, golfers tee off in Sweden to reach the green in Finland, crossing a time zone in the process and finishing the hole more than an hour after they started.

Of the 30 teams in the National Basketball Association, 29 play on maple hardwood floors. The Boston Celtics are the exception. Their signature hardwood parquet is red oak. The original parquet was pieced together in 1946 using scrap lumber left over from World War II. When the Celtics relocated from the old Boston Garden to the TD Garden, the floor went with them. Since then, the team's home venue has changed and the floor has been replaced, but it's still red oak parquet.

In the late 1990s, biologist Gustavo Hormiga of George Washington University discovered a new genus of spiders with conspicuously large, round bodies. He named the genus for Hollywood legend Orson Welles, who, in his later life, was known for his conspicuously large body. Hormiga named the 13 species in the genus after Welles' film roles. They include Orsonwelles polites (from the Greek word for "citizen") for "Citizen Kane" and Orsonwelles calx (from the Latin for "lime") for Harry Lime, Welles' character in "The Third Man."


1. Which of these individuals would be considered a Beat poet?

A) Dante Alighieri

B) Lawrence Ferlinghetti

C) Dante Gabriel Rossetti

D) Stevie Smith

2. Which of these terms refers to a misheard word, phrase or song lyric?

A) Anagram

B) Gerund

C) Mondegreen

D) Simile

3. Which legendary guitarist is nicknamed "Slowhand"?

A) Jeff Beck

B) Eric Clapton

C) Jimi Hendrix

D) Jimmy Page

4. In 1949, Sam Snead became the first winner of the PGA Masters tournament presented with what piece of attire?

A) Gold gloves

B) Green jacket

C) Red scarf

D) White shoes

5. In 1669, Hennig Brandt discovered phosphorus by distilling what liquid?

A) Beer

B) Milk

C) Urine

D) Water

6. An animal is a kleptoparasite if it does what?

A) Burrows into the skin of another animal

B) Eats its own young

C) Lives underground

D) Steals and eats prey killed by other animals


1) Lawrence Ferlinghetti was part of the Beat poetry movement of the 1940s and 50s.

2) A mondegreen is a misheard word, phrase or lyric.

3) Eric Clapton's nickname is "Slowhand."

4) Sam Snead was the first winner of the PGA Masters tournament to be presented with a green jacket from Augusta National Golf Club.

5) In 1669, Hennig Brandt discovered phosphorus by distilling urine.

6) An animal is a kleptoparasite if it steals and eats prey killed by other animals.


Created to mark Lithuania's 100th anniversary as an independent nation, Signato is a computer font derived from Lithuania's Act of Independence. The font includes more than 450 Latin, Lithuanian and German characters elegantly adapted from the 1918 handwritten document to reflect the inconsistencies of human penmanship. Font fans can find it online as a free download, sponsored by the office of the prime minister of the Republic of Lithuania.

The U.S. Capitol building was designed by William Thornton, a medical doctor and amateur architect born in the British West Indies. George Washington himself chose Thornton's design from those submitted in 1793 for the prestigious commission and the $500 prize that went with it. Thornton also designed Woodlawn, the Federal-style residence adjacent to Washington's Mount Vernon in Virginia. In 1952, Woodlawn became the first property to be acquired by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A walrus consumes between 3% and 6% of its body weight in food each day, which is a lot of food when you consider that a typical adult walrus weighs upwards of 3,000 pounds. While they'll dine on all sorts of sea creatures, clams are their favorite. How many clams? Between 3,000 and 6,000 in a single feeding session.

Aristides was an ancient Greek statesman known for his honesty and fairness, which earned him the honorific Aristides the Just. More than a thousand years after he was attempting to keep Athenian politics on the straight and narrow, another Aristides made history in North America. On May 17, 1875, Aristides, the colt from Lexington, won the first Kentucky Derby.

We use the adjective "minuscule" to describe something very tiny. Originally, "minuscule," which means "somewhat smaller," was coined to refer to lowercase letters. It distinguished those somewhat smaller letters from "majuscule" — "somewhat bigger" — letters, which we know as uppercase or capital letters today.

When Catherine of Aragon married Arthur, Prince of Wales, in 1501, she was 16 and he was 15. They'd been betrothed since she was 3 and he was 2! Though Catherine and Arthur's engagement was long, their marriage was not. He died about six months after the wedding. A few years later, Catherine married his younger brother, who would soon be crowned King Henry VIII of England.


1. A 1985 European treaty called the Schengen Agreement relates most closely to what?

A) Alternative energy

B) Copyright violations

C) Passports and border controls

D) Vaccination and disease prevention

2. Inauguration Day officially switched from Mar. 4 to Jan. 20 between the first and second terms of which president?

A) Calvin Coolidge

B) Herbert Hoover

C) Franklin Delano Roosevelt

D) Harry Truman

3. Which bivalves did the title characters gobble up in Lewis Carroll's famous poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter"?

A) Clams

B) Mussels

C) Oysters

D) Scallops

4. A traditional product of Greece, retsina is a type of what?

A) Pastry

B) Pottery

C) Stew

D) Wine

5. How would the year 2021 be written in Roman numerals?





6. What type of creature is the title character in the 2017 Disney film "Ferdinand"?

A) Bull

B) Elephant

C) Horse

D) Space alien


1) The Schengen Agreement governs passport and border control between European nations.

2) Inauguration Day switched from Mar. 4 to Jan. 20 between Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first and second terms of office.

3) The Walrus and the Carpenter ate oysters in Lewis Carroll's poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter."

4) Retsina is a type of wine traditionally produced in Greece.

5) The year 2021 would be written as MMXXI in Roman numerals.

6) In the 2017 Disney film "Ferdinand," the title character is a bull.


As of 2017, there were 300 authorized translations of "Le Petit Prince" ("The Little Prince"), the 1943 novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. They include Ancient Egyptian, Nepalese, Pennsylvania German and both the Tosk and Gheg dialects of Albanian.

Frustrated by second-place finishes, Ugo Sivocci, a driver for the Alfa Romeo racing team in the 1920s, painted a four-leaf clover inside a white square on his race car for luck. It worked: He won his next race. But he was killed soon after while test-driving a new model car (one without a lucky clover on its side). Today, as a tribute, Alfa Romeo Giulia sedans bear a four-leaf clover badge — a square minus one corner to symbolize the loss of Ugo Sivocci.

Until recently, there were just two U.N. member nations with national flags that do not contain red, white or any shade of blue. One was Mauritania's green flag with a gold crescent and star, but in 2017, red bars were added. Now Jamaica's flag stands alone, with green triangles to represent the land, black triangles to represent the people and a gold cross to represent the sun — and no red, white or blue.

The killdeer is a bird that gets its name from the sound of its call, not because it kills deer. (It chatters so much its scientific name is Charadrius vociferus.) One of nature's great actors, the adult killdeer draws predators away from its nest by calling out in distress and pretending to have a broken wing. When the predator pursues it, the "wounded" bird flies back to its nest to protect its young.

Green, black, red or white Kampot pepper comes from the Kampot region of Cambodia and no place else. It's the first Cambodian agricultural product to earn a geographical indication, meaning that only peppers grown in Kampot may be labeled for sale as Kampot peppers. (Like sparkling wine, which may only be labeled as Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France.) Cambodia produces about 88 tons of ground Kampot pepper per year.

A few years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Toni Stone broke another barrier as the first woman to play in the Negro League. A pitcher and infielder, Stone was 32 when she signed with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953, although her official team bio said 22. When Stone went to the Kansas City Monarchs in 1954, Indianapolis brought on two more women: pitcher Mamie Johnson and infielder Connie Morgan. Toni Stone retired after the 1954 season with a career .243 batting average.


1. What was the primary occupation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of "The Little Prince"?

A) Chemistry professor

B) Dog breeder

C) Military pilot

D) Submarine commander

2. Which airline features a shamrock on its aircraft tail fins?

A) Aer Lingus

B) Ryanair


D) Vueling

3. Which beer has been brewed in Jamaica since 1928?

A) Carib

B) Kalik

C) Red Stripe

D) Sol

4. The mandible is a bone in what part of the body?

A) Ankle

B) Elbow

C) Jaw

D) Neck

5. DJ Spinderella was a member of what Grammy-winning trio with a string of 1990s hits?

A) Destiny's Child

B) En Vogue

C) Salt-n-Pepa


6. Carved around 196 B.C., the Rosetta Stone bears inscriptions in which two languages?

A) Akkadian and Sumerian

B) Aramaic and Latin

C) Egyptian and Greek

D) Greek and Latin


1) Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of "The Little Prince," was a military pilot.

2) Aer Lingus aircraft have a shamrock insignia on the tail fin.

3) Red Stripe beer has been brewed in Jamaica since 1928.

4) The mandible is the lower bone of the jaw.

5) DJ Spinderella was a member of Salt-n-Pepa.

6) Carved around 196 B.C., the Rosetta Stone bears inscriptions in Ancient Egyptian and Greek.


Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" premiered on May 28, 1958. Though it's indelibly linked to San Francisco, where Hitchcock set it, the film is based on the French novel "D'entre les morts" ("Among the Dead"), by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, which was set in Paris.

Jeanne Baret circumnavigated the globe in the late 1700s as an assistant botanist on a French expedition to explore the Southern Hemisphere. Because French naval regulations prohibited female crew members, she spent most of the voyage disguised as a young man. Baret extensively collected and categorized plants during her travels. It's likely she was the first European scientist to document the flowering vine bougainvillea, named for Admiral Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, leader of the expedition.

The legend of El Dorado, city of gold, comes from the Muisca people of Colombia. When they installed a new chieftain, they covered him in gold dust and sailed him to the center of Lake Guatavita on a raft filled with golden objects and precious gems to be tossed into the lake as gifts to the water goddess. Imagining just how many treasures the lake held, Spanish conquerors tried unsuccessfully to drain it. They collected plenty of precious objects, but more undoubtedly remain in the lake's muddy bottom.

The first cat to play the role of Morris in commercials for 9 Lives cat food was an orange shelter rescue named Lucky. A tough-guy tomcat, Lucky lived to a ripe old age. When he died in 1978, another orange shelter cat stepped into the role of Morris, the finicky feline. Today's Morris, also a shelter cat, is the third, and just as finicky (on camera at least) as his predecessors.

The first patent for a corkscrew was given to the Reverend Samuel Henshall, rector of London's Bow Church, in 1795. His design had a button-shaped cap that prevented the helix, or "worm," from being twisted too deep into the cork. In 1883, German engineer Carl Wienke patented a folding lever corkscrew. Sturdy and reliable, it's nicknamed the "waiter's friend." If you order wine in a restaurant your server probably will use Wienke's invention to uncork the bottle.

Beluga whales migrate to the same Arctic and sub-Arctic locations every summer. Where they go depends on their family connections. Generation after generation — grandparents, parents, offspring and their offspring — spend summers in the same place, where they give birth to new generations. Many birds do this as well, returning to the place of their birth to hatch their young. The phenomenon is called philopatry, from the Greek for "beloved fatherland."


1. The Tower Commission was assembled to review circumstances surrounding what 20th-century political scandal?

A) Abscam

B) Iran-Contra affair

C) Savings and loan crisis

D) Watergate

2. Botany Bay is in what major Southern Hemisphere city?

A) Cape Town, South Africa

B) Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

C) Sao Paolo, Brazil

D) Sydney, Australia

3. The Mississippi musician born McKinley Morganfield was better known by what name?

A) B.B. King

B) Jelly Roll Morton

C) Muddy Waters

D) Howlin' Wolf

4. What's the title of Grizabella's show-stopping song in the musical "Cats"?

A) "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"

B) "Defying Gravity"

C) "If My Friends Could See Me Now"

D) "Memory"

5. Most of the world's cork comes from what country?

A) Comoro Islands

B) Portugal

C) Sweden

D) Thailand

6. What's the national flower of Austria?

A) Cyclamen

B) Edelweiss

C) Lilac

D) Saxifrage


1) The Tower Commission was assembled to review circumstances surrounding the Iran-Contra Affair during the Reagan administration.

2) Botany Bay is in Sydney, Australia.

3) The Mississippi musician born McKinley Morganfield was better known as Muddy Waters.

4) "Memory" is Grizabella's show-stopping song in the musical "Cats."

5) Most of the world's cork comes from Portugal.

6) Edelweiss is the national flower of Austria.


Oskar Speck paddled a kayak away from Hamburg, Germany, in May 1932. He was bound for Cyprus, with plans to work there in a copper mine, until he decided to kayak around the world instead. He went to Syria, India, Singapore, Indonesia — paddling some 30,000 miles in the ensuing years, while Europe's political climate was in turmoil. When he reached Australia in 1939, the world was at war. Speck was met by Australian authorities, who congratulated him on his seafaring accomplishment and then put him in prison as an enemy.

Little kids see broccoli and think it looks like trees. The great English painter Thomas Gainsborough thought the same, and the trees in some of his landscape paintings might actually be his rendition of broccoli stalks. Because painting landscapes outdoors requires ideal views and weather conditions, Gainsborough sometimes built his own model landscapes in his studio using twigs, rocks and coal, with broccoli for trees, and painted those instead.

Ordinary marathons through the streets of major world cities not challenging enough for you? Consider the Huangyaguan Great Wall Marathon or the Conquer the Wall Marathon, which include running up thousands of stone steps to follow a course atop the Great Wall of China. And you thought interval training on the treadmill at your gym was tough!

French King Louis XIV loved to dance, not merely in the ballroom but also in the ballet. His most memorable role was in a production of "Le Ballet de la Nuit" when he was 15 years old — about 10 years into his 72-year reign as king of France. He performed the role of Apollo, god of the sun, wearing a golden costume. The performance was so dazzling it earned Louis his nickname: "The Sun King."

A couple of years before his death in 1973, martial arts master Bruce Lee wrote a proposal for a TV series about a Chinese martial arts master living in the old Wild West of the United States. Studios gave it a pass and then (coincidentally?) produced "Kung Fu," starring David Carradine as a martial arts master from China living in the old west. Bruce Lee was turned down for the lead!

In 1901, New York became the first state to require automobile owners to register their cars and put license plates on them. By 1918, all states required license plates for cars, but not all required licenses for the drivers themselves.


1. The paddlewheel steamer, Clermont, which traveled between Albany, New York and New York City, was the brainchild of what artist/inventor/entrepreneur?

A) Thomas Edison

B) Robert Fulton

C) Henry Hudson

D) Samuel Morse

2. Known for their realistic depictions of city street life in the 1900s, Robert Henri and George Bellows were part of what artistic movement?

A) Ashcan School

B) CoBrA

C) Cubism

D) Hudson River School

3. The Pink Floyd song "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" asks the question "How can you have any pudding if you don't" do what?

A) Clean your room

B) Eat your meat

C) Pay the piper at the gates of dawn

D) Tear down this wall

4. The sun is the star closest to Earth. Which star is the second closest?

A) Barnard's Star

B) Betelgeuse

C) Proxima Centauri

D) Sirius

5. Which two Oscar winners were the original stars of the 1970s TV series "The Streets of San Francisco"?

A) Ernest Borgnine and Sally Field

B) Louis Gossett Jr. and Al Pacino

C) George Kennedy and Christopher Plummer

D) Karl Malden and Michael Douglas

6. How many U.S. states were there in 1918?

A) 32

B) 42

C) 48

D) 50


1) The paddlewheel steamer, Clermont, was the brainchild of Robert Fulton.

2) Artists Robert Henri and George Bellows were part of the Ashcan School known for its realistic depictions of city street life in the 1900s.

3) The Pink Floyd song "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" asks the question "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

4) Proxima Centauri is Earth's second-closest stellar neighbor, after the sun.

5) Karl Malden and Michael Douglas were the original stars of the 1970s TV series "The Streets of San Francisco."

6) There were 48 U.S. states in 1918. Alaska and Hawaii, Nos. 49 and 50, were admitted to the Union in 1959.

TRIVIA FANS: Leslie Elman is the author of "Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous and Totally Off the Wall Facts." Contact her at [email protected]

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