In the past 24 hours, I watched the last four episodes of JEOPARDY!’s most recent season, mostly comprised of the Ken Jennings steamroller making mince meat of anyone who dares stand next to him. It’s been entertaining, but it’s also been enlightening.
Things I’ve learned:
- A lot of Jeopardy! clues have nothing to do with the categories they’re in. Notice how often the category is used as a segue to the real question/answer. It’s bizarre. Often, the clue belongs in the category, but the hint that gives away the response has nothing to do with the category.
I’ll make up an example here: Given the category of “Presidents,” the answer might read, “President George Bush calls this his home state, the capital of which is Austin.” You don’t need to know the president’s home state, so long as you know the state capitals. That’s a minor example, but there are plenty just like it on any given board.
Being a movie buff certainly pays off. Movie-themed clues can show up in just about any category.
That said, Jennings’ scope of knowledge is very wide. He answers Shakespeare, geology, alcoholic beverages, European history, royal history, geography, pop culture/celebrity, mythology, and more. Lesson learned here? Being an English major is a very good thing. Being well-read is even better.
Thursday’s game had a very fast buzzer. Usually, the contestants are cleared to ring in just a split second after the camera cuts to them. On Thursday’s show, the buzzers were opened just before or just as the camera cut to them. Someone different was opening them up, and Jennings was able to notice it and correct for it.
If you’re looking for Daily Doubles, don’t bother with the first clue in a given category. This is basic Jeopardy! strategy, but there are many people who don’t understand this. In one game, there were two Daily Doubles left and two categories left. Once Jennings found the first one, he immediately switched to the other category, starting at the second clue in.
On Final Jeopardy, I got the Shakespeare clue right (actually naming 3 of 4) and the Presidents clue correctly. Both shot right to mind. It shows that sometimes, your first guess is the best. =) (I didn’t answer the Singers category right, which irked me. I should have gotten it.)
September 6th. Mark the date on your calendars. That’s when KenJen returns to go after the Tic Tac Toe record of consecutive game show wins, even if the stat is comparing apples to oranges. On the bright side, this gives him a few weeks to study. On the down side, it does the same for everyone else. heh heh
To sum this all up: Ken Jennings is a very smart man, using good Jeopardy! strategy*, and with an excellent sense of timing for the buzzer. And people want to know why he’s winning? I think it’s obvious.
(*) Some might challenge some of his betting in the name of being cute with the round numbers, though.