I'm proud of how the Kelly family performed during the many weeks our house was on the market. We got pretty good at leaping into action whenever a real estate agent called and wanted to bring by a potential buyer. In 15 minutes we could tidy the house, crate the dog, artfully arrange a bowl of fruit on the dining room table, turn on all the lights, tune in a classical music station on the radio, jump in the car and take off.
We left behind a Potemkin village of a house, stripped of most of its personality. The leather club chair? Gone. (Made the living room look small.) The guitar, mandolin and ukulele? Gone. (Clutter.) The box of Kleenex we had in every room? Gone. (Clutter and an unpleasant reminder that the house might have been coughed or sneezed in.)
When we were on the other end of the equation, attending endless open houses in search of a bigger abode, I remember thinking how odd it was that so many people kept their microwave ovens in the basement. It didn't seem very convenient to me. And then we moved our microwave and toaster oven into the basement to make our cozy kitchen look a little less cozy.
Declutter, declutter, declutter. That's what our agent kept telling us. After we relocated five van loads of furniture, books and toys to my mother-in-law's attic, our house looked so empty I was beginning to think maybe we didn't need to move to a bigger house after all. Then I remembered that we'd just agreed to buy another house, so this one had to go.
A lockbox was hung from our front door. A sign was driven into our front yard. Open houses were held. And still we waited, like Spitfire pilots during the Battle of Britain.
"This is it, chaps!" I'd shout when the phone rang. We'd scramble, sterilizing our suburban home, Stepfordizing it. I came to hate the blue and white embroidered pillow My Lovely Wife bought solely to position atop our bed as a homey finishing touch. (See it soon at a yard sale near you.)
Did it work? Well, we closed on our house yesterday. Now I've just got to hope all the stuff we'd carted out fits in our new place.
For as long as he can remember, David Fialkoff of North Potomac has been into quiz shows. He was on the "It's Academic" team at Peary High School and played in the College Bowl. He's been on "Jeopardy!" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
David doesn't just like answering questions, though. He likes asking them, too. From 1994 to 1997, David had his own quiz show on public access television: "Local Quizine." ("A little pun," he says.) He's contributed to Games magazine. Random House has just published "Stanley Newman Presents QUIZSHOW," a book of his brainteasers. And now David is taking a bigger leap, leaving behind his contract job as a legal editor with the Justice Department to concentrate on puzzle-creating full time.
"I'm going to take a year off or so, see if I can make a living making puzzles," he told me. "If not, I'll go back and get a real job."
What sort of person is so obsessed with puzzles? "I don't know," David said. "If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say it's competitive people who aren't athletic."
So how did David do on "Jeopardy!"? He was in the lead until Final Jeopardy, when he was the only contestant who didn't know that "Who was Andrew Jackson?" was the question to the answer "This president's wife died seven days before his inauguration."
Said David: "To this day, I can't take a 20-dollar bill out of my wallet without getting sick to my stomach."
Speaking of getting sick to your stomach, David sent along this puzzle. Enjoy.
Here are 10 pairs of supermarket products. Each product is followed by an ingredient. In five of the pairs, the products are correctly matched with an ingredient listed on their own label. In the other five pairs, the two ingredients have been switched. Can you guess which pairs are correct as is, and which need a switch? The answers are below.
1. TastyKakes Chocolate Cupcakes Nutmeg
Preparation H Hemorrhoidal
Suppositories Cocoa butter
2. Lipton Beef Flavor Pasta Sides Sour cream
Frito Lay Crunchy Cheetos Snacks Carrots
3. Cover Girl Clean Pressed Powder Menthol
Gatorade Fruit Punch Sunflower oil
4. Pedigree Little Champions Dinner
[for Dogs] With Beef & Cheese Potato flour
Sargento Natural Taco Cheese Dried yam
5. A-1 Steak Sauce Anchovies
Phillip's Maryland Style Crab Cakes Raisin paste
6. Silk Blueberry Cultured Soy
dairy-free yogurt Red cabbage
Chef's Choice Shrimp Fried Rice Applesauce
7. Progresso Traditional Beef
& Vegetable Soup White ginger extract
Aussie Real Volume
Shampoo Lettuce juice concentrate
8. Dove Invisible
Solid Deodorant Sweet almond oil
Nestle's Butterfinger Bar Buttermilk solids
9. Underwood Roast Beef
Spread Emulsifying wax
Gold Bond Medicated Body Lotion Nonfat milk
10. Natural Balance Hairball
Management Cat Food Cranberry powder
Tension Toner Tea Catnip leaves
In pairs 1, 3, 6, 8 and 10, the products and ingredients are matched correctly.
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