Sunday, January 28, 2007

Last call for The Grab Bag

When people learn that I'm a former Jeopardy! champion, one of the first questions they often ask is, "How did you learn all that stuff?"

The man responsible for at least part of the answer died last week, at age 79.

For nearly 40 years, Louis Malcolm (L.M.) Boyd wrote a weekly newspaper column presenting arcane facts distilled for a mass audience. The column was published under various names in some 400 papers nationwide at the time Boyd retired in December 2000, but in the San Francisco Chronicle — where I first discovered it in the mid-1970s — it was known as The Grab Bag.

The Grab Bag appeared every Sunday in the Chronicle's "light reading" section, the Sunday Punch. In it, one found a veritable treasure trove of trivia, esoterica, results of various surveys, and factoids of every description, reported with conciseness (most Grab Bag items were only a sentence or two in length) and gentle humor by the redoubtable Boyd. You can browse a sampling of typically Boydian nuggets here.

Boyd started writing his trivia column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (where Boyd used the nom de plume Mike Mailway) in 1963. He and his wife Patricia began syndicating the piece nationally in 1967.

Boyd often salted his columns with wry observations on the interaction between the sexes, which he attributed to "our Love and War Man" — in reality, these tidbits came from Mrs. Boyd.

Although I can't point to a specific instance with absolute certainty, I have no doubt that, at more than one juncture in my Jeopardy! career, I came up with a correct response to a clue only because I had once encountered that very morsel of obscure information in a Grab Bag column.

Thank you, Mr. Boyd.

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Blogger Mr. Fabulous offered these pearls of wisdom...

I don't get any credit at all?

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