At-Home Trivia Game: Only in New York…or Not?

True or False?

It’s time for another at-home trivia game! Let’s see how well you know the City That Never Sleeps.

These 20 questions cover some truly unusual and obscure New York City trivia. But are they true or false? When you think you know the answer, click on the red button to reveal whether you were right. And if you like trivia games, check out our new virtual trivia games and scavenger hunts, including the Trivia Slam Game and the Escape to the Museum Virtual Scavenger Hunt.

1. Pizza Time

One hour is the limit to the amount of time pizza can sit on an open counter of a restaurant, according to the Health Department.

False! Your future slice can sit out for up to two hours. After that, bacterial contamination is possible. And by law, while your slice sits out awaiting your mouth, the pie must be kept at 140 degrees. Two hours on a counter at 140 degrees? Yeah, right.

2. Billy the New Yorker

Billy the Kid was from Manhattan.

True! He was born Michael McCarty at 70 Allen St. on the Lower East Side, in 1859. He killed a man on Pearl Street in 1876 and fled to New Mexico. He was gunned down in 1881 at the age of 21, never getting the chance to become Billy the Thirty-Something, Billy the Balding, or Billy the Crotchety Old Coot.

3. Is This Fare?

Taxi cab

If you are riding in a taxi and the driver gets into an accident, you do not have to pay the fare.

False! The same goes for breakdowns.

4. Religious Experience

In the East Village, there’s a tree where the Hare Krishna religion began in the Western Hemisphere.

True! In Tompkins Square Park, near a semicircle of benches, an old elm bears a plaque marking it as the sacred Hare Krishna Tree. Here, in 1966, Swami Prabhupada led a group in chanting a mantra.

5. Up in the Air

At LaGuardia Airport, you can’t get a direct flight to Denver.

False! The Port Authority set a rule that flights that travel more than 1,500 miles cannot depart from LaGuardia. The rule had its birth in 1948, when the Port Authority opened what is now JFK Airport and feared that no one would use it. (Today, JFK’s longer runways, and the greater weight they can support, make them better suited for large cross-country jets.) Ah, but you can catch a flight from LaGuardia to Denver, which is 1,600 miles away. These flights predate the 1,500 rule, so they were grandfathered in. So when you’re on the way to California and are crawling in traffic on the Van Wyck, thank the Port Authority.

6. Diplomatic Immunity?

Federal, state, and local laws do not apply on United Nations property.

False! The U.N. is an international zone, but U.S. laws apply. So if your cab driver jumps the curb and you crash in the U.N. garden…pay that fare.

7. Horsing Around

Horses in Central Park

Carriage horses in Central Park have ID numbers, like license plate numbers, branded into their hooves.

True! All city horses must have ID brands on their hooves.

8. Composer Woes

One of Mozart’s major collaborators died destitute in lower Manhattan.

True! Lorenzo da Ponte, the librettist of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte, and Marriage of Figaro, arrived in New York in 1805 to become Columbia’s first professor of Italian literature. Yet somehow, by the time he died, he had squandered tutte.

9. Tru Story?

Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s while living on the Upper East Side.

False! Capote lived in a basement apartment in Brooklyn Heights, where he also wrote In Cold Blood. His short story “A House on the Heights” begins, “I live in Brooklyn. By choice.”

10. Name Changer

The New York Jets football team was once known as the New York Titans.

True! Formed in 1960, they played in the Polo Grounds. In 1963 they changed their name to the Jets, echoing the name of the team that shared the Polo Grounds, the Mets.

11. You Can Always Go…

British singer Petula Clark’s hit song “Downtown” was inspired by Times Square.

True! She also sang “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” the next line of which is, “…don’t stand in the pouring rain.” Comedian Carol Leifer wondered, “What kind of guys is she going out with that she’s gotta tell them these things? You know, ‘Don’t wash your face with Clorox, don’t shave with a Ginsu knife…’ ”

12. Adults Only

Parts of the X-rated movie Debbie Does Dallas were shot in the Pratt Institute library, in Brooklyn.

True! Debbie’s crew did film in the library and the gym locker room, without having explained they were shooting the kind of movie that would wind up rated X.

13. The Feeling’s Mutual

Tommy James and the Shondells got the name for their 1968 hit song “Mony Mony” from the MONY sign atop 1740 Broadway, the headquarters of Mutual of New York Insurance.

True! “We were desperately trying to come up with a title,” James told the Times. “It had to be a girl’s name nobody had heard before, you know, a ‘Sloopy’ or a ‘Bony Maronie.’ Nothing was working.” Then they walked out on a terrace of his apartment, looked uptown, and there she was: MONY.

14. No Way!

Oreo cookies

There is a street marked “Oreo Way” in Chelsea.

True! The building at 15th Street and Ninth Avenue, now home to Chelsea Market, was once a bakery for Nabisco, where the Oreo was invented in 1912. It went on to become the century’s best-selling cookie.

15. What the Puck?

Brooklyn had a big-league hockey team in the 1940s.

This one’s true and false! For the 1941-42 season, the New York Americans team changed their name to the Brooklyn Americans, in an attempt to distinguish themselves from the more successful New York Rangers. Yet the Americans never played in Brooklyn. You decide whether you got this question correct. Is your score half empty or half full?

16. Please Don’t Be True

Black widow spiders are indigenous to New York City.

True! In recent years they’ve been spotted at Throgs Neck in the Bronx. A female’s venom can have excruciating effects (nausea, chills, fever, profuse sweating, difficulty breathing, an overall burning sensation) but is rarely fatal. The male is much smaller and harmless. And always calls you when it promised it would.

17. This Stinks

PATH train tunnels have an unusual, acrid odor because they run under the Hudson River.

False! That weird smell comes from the rubber brake shoes, burning from friction. (The MTA says that subway brake shoes are made of “an organic mixture.” Hmm.)

18. Jaws-ome News

Shark in the ocean

In the 20th century there were more than 100 reported shark attacks at New York City beaches.

False! There were just two: in 1916 in Sheepshead Bay, and in 1950 at Rockaway Beach. Neither attack was fatal. (Which may be why the Ramones did not sing, “We can get a bite at Rockaway Beach…”)

19. When Santa Came to Town

Five-time president of Mexico, General Santa Anna was ultimately exiled on Staten Island, where he played a pivotal role in the invention of chewing gum.

True! Santa Anna enlisted inventor Thomas Adams to experiment with tropical plant chicle in the hope of creating a superior rubber tire. After years of failure, Adams gave up on tires and realized he could turn the chicle into chewing gum. Four out of five dentists surveyed looked forward to a boom in their practices.

20. Tea Time

Before the Revolution, Manhattan was a pro-King stronghold, and New Yorkers ignored Boston’s call to stage their own Tea Party protest.

False! It took several months after the December 14, 1773 Boston Tea Party, but rebel New Yorkers rose to the challenge by dumping 18 chests of tea into the Hudson River on April 22, 1774.


Questions and answers courtesy of Only in New York: 400 Remarkable Answers to Intriguing, Provocative Questions about New York City.

Image credits: Taxi photo by Mike Tsitas on Unsplash; Central Park horses photo by R C on Unsplash; Oreos photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash; shark photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash