Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

As of this writing, we still don’t know who will be the new host of Jeopardy!, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter to me. Alex Trebek was, of course, the best; if we based the choice of replacement on nothing more than the way Alex said “Noooo,” then the producers have an impossible task ahead of them. Nobody could do a quick takedown of a wrong answer like Alex could.

Jeopardy! was never appointment-viewing for me. If I was around a TV, and other people, at 7 p.m. on a weeknight, I might sit down and test my intelligence. The show gave me the feeling of knowing many of the answers, but only if I had about five minutes to think. And I guess that’s the point of the game: know things but know them right away. (The other day, while writing a script, I tried to think of the word preside and, after fumbling around inside my head for too long, I finally turned to google and typed in synonym for being bossy, and it finally popped up among 10 other options.)

But all the drama about the Jeopardy! host has given me an appetite for trivia, and so I looked up a few of the old episodes, to see how quickly smart I really am.

Like most of us, I have my strong areas of knowledge and my weaker ones. Ask me about grammar, parts of speech, vocabulary, Broadway musicals, classic fiction, cycling or piano music and I might do pretty well. Make the category about the TV show, “Little House on the Prairie,” and I will gobble the whole category.

Give clues about geography and I might get half of them correct, so long as we don’t veer too heavily into the Middle East. Ditto clues about United States history. After that, things start to go south.

And then there are the categories for which I will excuse myself from the TV to go get a snack; even the easier, top questions in the rows are beyond me. Those would be mathematics, computer technology, sports (especially football), and the worst of all – Greek mythology. Dionysus is mentioned so often on the show, you’d think I’d know all about him by now.

And among my weak topics is science. Unless Alex is offering some third-grade level clue for which the answer will be What is photosynthesis? then I will have to sit that one out.

It’s frustrating, because I read about science all the time. I watch documentaries about science; I’m deeply interested in science. And yet, nothing seems to stick. My strongest categories are those whose topics were cemented into my memory a long time ago. I still bask in the glory of the moment, years ago, when I shouted out Chopin! when Alex offered some clue or other about the composer of piano etudes. (So what if I didn’t give the answer in the form of a question – I sounded smarter than the people who were with me.)

For grins, I recently watched a whole episode with a pencil and paper nearby, to keep track of my correct answers. Halfway through the first round I had only five tally marks, so I quit counting. I guess I don’t have the right kind of intelligence for this game.

But I do have google. Dionysus is the god of grapes and fruit, and the son of Zeus. I’ll tuck that fact away for the next time it’s a clue offered by the Jeopardy! host. Whoever that may be.

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