The man with '10,000 Answers'
A new trivia reference, from A to Zelmo Zzzzzip
By Todd Leopold
(CNN) -- Many adults have fond memories of the books they read as children -- "Charlotte's Web," "Winnie-the-Pooh," "A Stitch in Time" and other stories that fired their imaginations.
Then there's Stan Newman. He has fond memories of the 1960 "Information Please Almanac."
But perhaps Newman, 49, got the better end of the deal. The mathematician and Newsday crossword puzzle editor grew up to become a game show contestant -- he won $112,000 on the early '90s show "The Challengers" -- and has now co-written "10,000 Answers: The Ultimate Trivia Encyclopedia" (Random House).
Newman was 8 when he first read that 1960 almanac. He was "hypnotized by all the stuff in there," he remembers.
"It was great to have all these facts (at hand)," he says in a phone interview from his home in Long Island, New York. "I was always interested in those kinds of things. It wasn't a hobby. I loved to read reference books."
'I wanted everything'
"10,000 Answers" grew out of his lifetime accumulation of facts and trivia, and his disappointment that certain facts weren't easily accessible in almanacs and encyclopedias -- the name of Agarn's horse in "F Troop" (Barney), for example, or the running time of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (17 minutes, 5 seconds).
But then, Newman says, the question became: What should the book cover?
"I wanted everything," admits Newman. "Classical music was as important to me as the number of M&Ms in a pound." (That's 512, if you're talking plain candies.)
Eventually, he and co-author Hal Fittipaldi picked a variety of broad subjects, narrowed them to specific topics, and set out to find the answers.
The layout of the book -- an alphabetical listing of items followed by a short explanation -- was inspired by the legendary "Trivia Encyclopedia" of Fred L. Worth.
"His book is classic," says Newman.
But Worth's book has also been criticized for mistakes, some of which perpetuated themselves by appearing in early editions of the game Trivial Pursuit. For "10,000 Answers," Newman and Fittipaldi were sticklers for accuracy.
"There are no wrong things in here," Newman says. "I can't guarantee everything 100 percent, but I just can't imagine" something incorrect, based on their research and cross-referencing, he adds. The book also has a comprehensive index, something Worth's encyclopedia lacked.
Newman is a pack rat for information, and virtually anything he's ever wondered about worked its way into "10,000 Answers." When he was appearing on "The Challengers," host Dick Clark told him that he'd used "Stan Newman" as a pseudonym on a record in the early '60s; Newman scribbled the information on a plane ticket stub, filed it away, and finally used it in the book.
In another case, he was trying to find a list of the original 28 flavors of Howard Johnson's ice cream. While looking through an old Life magazine, he saw a Norman Rockwell-style ad -- and there, in the background, was exactly the list he sought.
'Facts are fun'
For prospective trivia players, the book comes at a good time. TV game shows such as "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Weakest Link," though not the blockbusters they once were, still attract a sizable audience. Prize-offering trivia games have proliferated on the Internet and in local bars and restaurants.
Michael Dupee, a former "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions winner who reviewed "10,000 Answers," says the book is a worthwhile source, particularly because of its organization.
"The book is great for trivia contestants because (it) compiles lists of information in one place -- a whole group of literary first lines, pseudonyms, patron saints," he says. "I think it pretty much blows (other similar references) away."
Newman, however, is hoping for a broader audience than just trivia addicts.
"I didn't want another trivia quiz book," he says. "10,000 Answers," he asserts, is for anyone who's ever wondered where Al Bundy worked in "Married ... with Children" (Gary's Shoe Emporium) or what the percentage of air is in a Twinkie (68 percent).
"I think everyone is a trivia fan," says Newman. "Everyone loves to show off what they know in their field of expertise. ... Facts are fun."
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