AKRON (June 12, 2012)—It's time to have a little fun with a rubber quiz. In my more than two decades at this publication, I've seen the category “Rubber” come up on Jeopardy exactly two times.
So here we go, with the five clues from a show in late May. Don't cheat and look for the answers at the end of the column.
$400: Astronaut Neil Armstrong secured his gear with these made by Alliance Rubber Co., which produces 1.2 million miles of them a year.
$800: During World War II, the Soviet Union and the U.S. experimented with latex from this lawn weed to produce rubber.
$1,200: Rubber-soled shoes were first mass marketed with this now familiar name by U.S. Rubber around 1916.
$1,600 (daily double): In 1853, this American wrote about his vulcanization discovery in “Gum Elastics and its Varieties.”
$2,000: In 1770, this oxygen discoverer noticed that rubber could be used to rub out pencil marks, thus giving it its name.
I was curious to see how Alliance got its name mentioned prominently in the clue. I thought perhaps the Hope Springs, Ark., firm—founded in 1923—had contacted Jeopardy producers because the rubber firm does an excellent job of marketing itself. The company has been featured in the cable television show “Manufacturing Marvels,” and its products have appeared in a handful of movies, most recently “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” the 2010 movie starring Michael Douglas.
But Tracy Crain, marketing and communications specialist at Alliance Rubber, said the firm's mention came out of the blue. She talked to someone from the Jeopardy staff, who told her that they just do research, obtaining clues from a variety of sources. In this case, the clue about Neil Armstrong came from Alliance's “Fun Facts and Trivia” section of its website.
Here are the answers in order: rubber bands, dandelions, sneakers, Charles Goodyear and Joseph Priestly.
I wanted to see how those connected with Rubber & Plastics News fared in the category compared with the contestants on the show. So I had 17 people—including two from sister publication European Rubber Journal—take a crack at the clues.
The Jeopardy contestants got just two of five correct, dandelions and Charles Goodyear. As a group we fared pretty well. Nobody got a perfect score, but seven got four right, another three got three correct and six tied with the contestants at two.
The most difficult clue was sneakers, which just three of 17 got right. For the record, I got three correct, missing sneakers and Priestly, as did our editor, Ed Noga, who has 30-plus years at the publication. So longevity apparently doesn't count for everything.