Let’s March Backward

… with a last look at leap years

Published March 1, 2024

Eric Keihl is the Editor in Chief for Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. Each week, he will accept a reader challenge to write a entire, quiz-ready trivia round on some tricky or obscure subject. You can challenge Eric here.

This week’s theme is “Leap Years,” suggested by Brittany Noonan at Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thanks, Brittany!

Leap years isn’t that tricky of a theme, but it is one with a limited window of opportunity, so let’s crawl through it before it slams shut on our necks. 

Even leap days would have been pretty easy to handle: Notable leapers include long-time Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who once got a puck trapped into his skates and haplessly ferried it straight into his own net, and exotic dancer Tempest Storm, whose sparkly G-string is on permanent display at Las Vegas’s Burlesque Hall of Fame.

Or, I could’ve talked about a leap month. Before Julius Caesar fixed the Roman calendar in 46 BCE, they would sometimes slide in a shortened month called Mercedonius to balance their traditional year with the actual solar one… if it was politically expedient. The calendar was controlled by an official called the pontifex maximus, who would occasionally decline to add Mercedonius if they wanted to, say, cut a rival’s time in office short. Honestly, Caesar deserves his own month just for kiboshing that nonsense.

But nope, we’re doing leap years, and even 25% of history is still plenty to work with. Let’s get started!

1. In 2004, future Like-button inventor Soleio Cuervo became the sixth member of what newfangled website? Facebook

The second member (after Zuckerburg, natch) was co-founder Chris Hughes. In 2018 he wrote a whole book about the scourge of income inequality… while living in a $24 million Manhattan townhouse, with a private carriage house connected via underground tunnel. Unfriended!

2. Carole Baskin’s Cage Fight was a short-lived spin-off of what true-crime show that sank its claws deep into our starving imaginations in 2020? Tiger King

As of press time, Joe “Tiger King” Maldonado is still serving time in Texas for soliciting murder. On a related note, there’s a good chance there are more tigers living in captivity in Texas than there are in the wild anywhere. Almost poetic, when you think about it.

3. In the 1912 story that introduced him, what chest-thumper sailed from Africa to the wilds of Wisconsin to romance Jane? Tarzan

After making the journey, Tarzan found out that Jane was already engaged to his cousin, the dandy fop William Cecil Clayton. How romantically tragic! In a later story, Tarzan tries to woo a female ape named Teeka–arguably tragic, but not very romantic. 

4. Driving the Spanish all the way back to regular Mexico, a 1680 Pueblo revolt captured what present-day state capital that was already 70 years old? Santa Fe

The revolt drove the Spanish out of New Mexico for a good 12 years. One of its leaders, Po’pay, now reps New Mexico in the National Statuary Hall, along with groundbreaking senator Dennis Chávez. While we’re on the subject, props to Florida for swapping out a Confederate general for civil rights icon Mary McLeod Bethune. If there’s hope for Florida, there’s hope for us all!

5. The stench of brine shrimp rotting on the Utah salt flats may have inspired Will Smith’s “What the hell is that smell” line, in what highest-grossing film of 1996? Independence Day

The Great Salt Lake alone is home to an estimated 17 trillion brine shrimp, which generate about $67 million a year in the fish food business. Their eggs are called “cysts,” so maybe they should spend some of that money on a good PR firm.

6. First used to make an engine go super-fast in 1940, first used to make a dental patient go super-slow in 1844. That’s a brief history of what three-atom gas? Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide was first created in 1772 by polymath Joseph “The Gas Man” Priestley, who also discovered oxygen and invented carbonated water. It seems unfair that he’s kind of an obscure figure, so henceforth, my laughing gas-and-La Croix benders will be known as “Priestleys.”

7. Labatt Breweries founded a new MLB team in 1976, and gave it what name that’s a subtler product plug than “Brewers”? Toronto Blue Jays

As in Labatt Blue, you see. They owned the Jays through 1995, steering them through their only two World Series wins, including Joe Carter’s all-timer home run. While you’re reminiscing, check out Secret Base’s outstanding video essay on underrated pitcher Dave Steib. No, really! 

8. England skipped Sept. 3 through 13 in 1752, when they adopted the calendar named for what pope that we’re pretty sure invented chanting? Gregory XIII

J/K: The chant guy was Gregory I, over 1,000 years earlier. And most scholars would tell you that even he didn’t invent Gregorian chants: It’s probably a synthesis of Carolingian, Visigothic, and Roman chanting traditions. Either way, do stop and enjoy this cover of “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”

Bonus: The whole “leap tall buildings in a single bound” spiel somehow isn’t the reason that Feb. 29 is the canonical birthday of what Kryptonian hero? Superman

Apparently they made it Leap Day to explain why Clark Kent ages so slowly… because he hasn’t had as many birthdays as everyone else. The fact that Superman knew this gambit would work does not speak well for the Metropolis public school system.

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