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15,003 Answers: The Ultimate Trivia Encyclopedia

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Welcome to 15,003 Answers: The Ultimate Trivia Encyclopedia. This is the second edition of the book, originally titled 10,000 Answers when first published in 2001.

Since then, reader response to 10,000 Answers has been wonderfully positive and steady. It has been a great thrill for the authors to correspond with so many trivia fans from every part of the country. We also have it on good authority that quite a few TV game shows use our book as a reference source. (No names, please.)

As you would expect, this “new and improved” edition has many thousands of brand-new entries, all selected, researched and verified by the same exacting standards used for the first edition. All chronological lists (from Harvard honorary degrees to multiple Academy Award winners) have been brought up-to-date. But we also reviewed every other entry already in 10,000 Answers, to ensure what was correct and accurate in 2001 remains so.

That wasn’t as easy or as straightforward as you might think. Two notable examples:

  • As a result of meticulous statistical research, the official lifetime base-hit total of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb (whose last major-league season was 1928) was recently decreased by two, from the longstanding 4,191 to 4,189.
  The creation of the Department of Homeland Security (established in late 2002), and the resulting realignment of Executive Branch agencies, necessitated a thorough revision of the “federal agencies and bureaus” list.

It’s truly amazing how much the world of trivia can change in just a few years. There are airports with new names (our favorite: Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport), new Boy Scout merit badges, new recognized breeds of cats, new license-plate slogans, even a few miles added here and there to long-completed (or so we thought) interstate highways. The entries we updated include all of these, and many more.

If this book you’re holding is also your second edition of our trivia encyclopedia, we hope you’ll agree that this new edition is bigger and better.

If you’re new to our trivia-encyclopedia circle, a special welcome. The paragraphs that follow are an introduction to what the book is about.

15,003 Answers is really two books in one:

An authoritative reference book, where you can quickly find thousands of useful facts (on hundreds of subjects) that can't easily be found elsewhere, and

A trivia book designed to reward the random browser with fun tidbits on every page.

Each of these two books had its own separate inspiration.

The inspiration for the “reference” book came from my “day job” as a crossword professional--I've been Crossword Editor for the New York newspaper Newsday since 1988.

It's up to me to make sure that every clue in the 365 crosswords I edit each year is accurate. And I have a pretty big library of reference books to help me. But there always seem to be facts that are either not in any of my books, or are highly inconvenient to find. Here are a few examples:

  • The names of the Seven Dwarfs, the one that doesn't have a beard, the one that wears glasses, etc
  The colleges whose athletic teams have a certain nickname. (Almanacs alphabetize this information by college name rather than nickname.)
  The composer of the Clock Symphony. (To find it in standard music references, you've got to know who composed it.)

So one reason I decided to compile this book was to be able to find the facts I couldn't find in my other books.

Inspiration for the “trivia” book came from my lifelong interest in learning new facts. I still remember the first almanac my parents bought for me when I was eight years old. I was mesmerized by the amount and variety of information it contained. World capitals, baseball records, presidential biographies--the subject didn't matter, it was all fascinating to me. From my childhood to today, I have always enjoyed discovering interesting facts I didn't know before. It has been an added pleasure to share my favorite discoveries with friends, such as:

  • What Paul Revere REALLY shouted on the night of his famous ride (it wasn’t “The British are coming!”)
  The two towns that renamed themselves for football stars (you may have heard of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, but what about Joe, Montana?)
  The only TV commercial ever done by Elvis Presley

So, the other main reason for compiling this book was to share with you my lifetime accumulation of fun facts.

Once I decided to do the book, I knew that I shouldn't do it alone. I felt certain that a collaborator with a background and knowledge base different from mine would make for a better book. That's how Hal Fittipaldi, director of the trivia competitions I’ve attended in Allentown, Pennsylvania, since the late 1980s, came to be involved. Hal happily agreed with my “two books in one” objective, and his entries have brought all the diversity to the book that I had hoped for.

Our first job was to decide how the information in the book should be organized. Here Hal and I were of one mind. Like many trivia fans Hal and I know, our all-time favorite trivia reference book is Fred Worth's cult classic, The Complete Unabridged Super Trivia Encyclopedia, originally published in the 1970s, and long out of print. What we like most about it: the massive amount of information in all fields, the A-to-Z organization by “trivia answer” rather than subject, and the interesting lists. Open up the book at random, and you're likely to find entries on sitcoms and the Civil War on the same page. The organization of 15,003 Answers is thus inspired by Worth's classic volume, with one major difference. The Worth book has no index (which makes it tough to find any particular fact), so this book does.

How did we decide what to include in the book? We knew we wanted to give equal importance to popular culture and more academic subjects, as the cover of the book illustrates so well. We then started outlining topics within each subject, as well as some “interdisciplinary” categories, such as nicknames of famous people.

In deciding what specific entries what to include, as well as what to exclude, we were guided primarily by the “fun” and “hard to find elsewhere” objectives previously mentioned. Take film roles, for example. With thousands of roles to choose from, we decided to concentrate on two areas we felt would be the most useful and fun: Academy Award-winning roles (we believe this is the first book of any kind to include all Oscar roles) and funny names--like those of W.C. Fields and Groucho Marx. Every other topic, from sports to TV to U.S. presidents, went through a similarly thoughtful process.

Verifying the accuracy of every fact in the book was of paramount importance to us. Many entries in this book come from “primary'” sources, thus additional corroboration wasn't necessary. For example, I counted the number of words in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address myself. Twice. And we obtained the height of $1 million in U.S. $100 bills directly from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Every entry not obtained from primary sources was verified from two reliable “secondary'” sources, such as encyclopedias, almanacs, specialized reference books, and the Internet. Yes, the Internet.

The Internet is the most massive source of information ever invented. But, as every Web user knows, the accuracy of the facts to be found on the Internet is rather less than 100%. Nevertheless, if one knows how and where to look, the Internet is filled with untold riches of trivia. The key to unlocking those riches is knowing how to tell “right” from “wrong.” Hal and I found much useful information in “primary-source” Web sites, like those of consumer-products companies and pro-sports leagues. There were many “secondary-source” Web sites that we found we could trust, such as those of major magazines and cable networks.

Where we also found the Internet surprisingly helpful was in the accidental discovery of great sources of information that we weren't specifically looking for. To give you just one example, while using an Internet search engine to verify the name of Sean Connery's production company, we discovered a Screen Actors Guild website that listed the production companies of dozens of other stars. These sorts of serendipitous discoveries helped us to cover many subjects more completely than we would have been able to otherwise. And they led us to some great new material that we were able to verify elsewhere.

Whether you use it primarily for reference or for entertainment, Hal and I hope 15,003 Answers becomes a trusted friend that you’ll keep handy and visit often.

-- Stanley Newman

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