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January 25, 2016

“Teasing out” Jeopardy! clues: examples

On Saturday’s webcast on the upcoming contestant exam, which you can view here, Randy and I walked you through several clues from recent Jeopardy! matches.

The writers occasionally include hints (or even puzzles) that point to the correct response; recognizing them when they pop up is an easy way to boost your score, whether you’re taking the online test or playing along at home.

The key is simple: just look for wording that appears out of place or extraneous. If the writers wanted to ask a straightforward question, what could they take out?

Here’s one I made up:

I CANNOT TELL A LIE: HE WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

Had the writers crafted this clue as simply as they could have, it might have read

HE WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

If you don’t know the first president of the United States, maybe you will know who allegedly said he “cannot tell a lie”.

Not all clues contain hints, so going out of your way to ‘hunt’ for them during the test or during a game is often counterproductive. The idea here is to get you used to picking them up on your first pass through the clue.

All of these clues can, in theory, be answered correctly without making use of the hints, but some are so obscure that you almost certainly need them. Often they will draw from areas completely unrelated to the category in question.

One important point to mention: when reading the clue, keep an eye out for words that indicate what response they’re looking for: “this person”, “him”, “her”, and “here” are common.

WORD & PHRASE ORIGINS
AFTER LIVING IN HONDURAS,
O. HENRY COINED THIS TERM FOR A SMALL COUNTRY DEPENDENT ON A SINGLE EXPORT

“Single export” – what might be an export that comes from Honduras, and is part of the nickname for a type of country? The writers could have also made a joke about a clothing store: banana republic.

THE BRIDGES OF OTHER COUNTIES
TAKE ME HOME, FAYETTE COUNTY ROADS IN THIS STATE, BUT NOT ON BRIDGE DAY, WHEN NEW RIVER GORGE CLOSES AND BASE JUMPERS HAVE AT IT

(There was a photo along with this clue, but you don’t need it.)

Do you know where Fayette County or New River Gorge is? Probably not – but you likely have heard of the phrase “Take me home, (something) roads” which will lead you to West Virginia (mountain mama).

GALLANTLY STREAMING TV
IN 2015 JEFFREY TAMBOR WENT THROUGH SOME BIG CHANGES & WON A GOLDEN GLOBE FOR HIS ROLE ON THIS AMAZON SERIES

The suspicious phrase here is “big changes” – what are some big changes through which someone might go? A sex change! That might lead you to Transparent.

LONG-LIVED CREATURES
DEFYING A COLERIDGE POEM, THIS TYPE OF BIRD WAS 64 WHEN SHE LAID AN EGG IN 2015

You might have read about this in some corner of the scientific internet, but maybe not. But do you know what type of bird was made famous by a Coleridge poem? It might hang around your neck…

CHANNEL SURFING
USHUAIA, ARGENTINA IS
THE LARGEST CITY ON
THIS CHANNEL NAMED FOR A SHIP THAT SURVEYED
THE AREA IN 1833 & 1834

How detailed is your knowledge of Argentine geography? Probably not down to this level. If you can think of a surveying ship that was near South America in the 1830s, that might lead you to Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle.

Note that the clue is asking for “this channel”, so your response would be “Beagle Channel”. (I assume they would accept simply “Beagle”, but no need to risk it.)

FIRST ISSUES
THE FIRST ISSUE OF TIGER BEAT IN 1965 ASKED WHETHER
THIS SINGING DUO HAD LOST THAT LOVIN’ FEELING & WAS BREAKING UP

Wow, Tiger Beat is that old? Odds are good you don’t remember the first issue – or any – of said publication, but “lost that lovin’ feeling” should jump out at you.

The singers here are The Righteous Brothers.

You might not always have the knowledge get to the right answer – but if you recognize the hint, that’s the important thing.

THE EMPIRE HAS FALLEN
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, THIS EMPIRE JUST KEEPS ON COMING AS ESAU MARRIED 2 WOMEN FROM IT

Speaking of tough…

If you know it, great; if you don’t, it requires multiple steps to get to the right answer. The hint here is “just keeps on coming”, which might lead you to a popular phrase from the 1970s, borrowed (once again) by Tom Cruise:

“Hits” might get you to “Hittites” – probably not at the level where you’d feel comfortable buzzing in on the show, but since there’s no penalty on the test, might as well plug it in if it pops into your mind.

NINTH WAVE
AT THE 1824 PREMIERE OF
THIS WORK, THE MUSICIANS & CHOIR WERE TOLD TO IGNORE THE CONDUCTOR

Lots of composers had ninth symphonies, but why would they ignore the conductor? Maybe he’s deaf, like Beethoven – “Beethoven’s ninth symphony” is the correct answer. (The year might also be helpful.)

THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE
IN 1 KINGS 3 GOD TELLS HIM,
“I HAVE GIVEN THEE A WISE AND AN UNDERSTANDING HEART”

There are a lot of Bible quotes you won’t know verbatim, but “Kings” + “wise” = Solomon.

THE PULITZER PRIZE AT 100
HOPEFULLY, HE KEPT IT CLEAN WHEN HE WON A DRAMA PULITZER FOR HIS PLAY “GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS”

“Hopefully, he kept it clean” because his characters are always cursing: David Mamet.

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