Jeopardy FAQ

Updated 11/8/2020: RIP Alex! YouTube videos are gone – apparently one of the COVID work-from-home catchup tasks for SONY must have been takedown notices – but thanks to my cousin Mark, I have the originals. Contact me if you want a share! You can also see the details at J! Archive.

For those who aren’t up for reading the lengthy recap, here’s an executive summary of the questions that seem to crop up the most. Feel free to ask others in the comments!

  1. How do you get on Jeopardy?
    They now offer an online screening test for those who can’t get to California or to a city where the crew is traveling. It’s 50 questions, 15 seconds to fill in each blank (you don’t need to frame it in the form of a question). Sign up to get notified of future tests. If you pass the test (they don’t tell you and there’s no confirmation of this, but the consensus on the board is you have to have at least 35 correct), you may randomly be chosen for an audition. If you get the audition, you may get The Call. If they don’t call, try, try again!
  2. Did you study? How can you study when the questions could be about anything at all?
    I studied a lot. “Jeopardy scope” (what they might reasonably ask) is smaller than you might think, but it could still take a lifetime to cover. My favorite tool was SuperMemo on my Palm.
  3. Did you get to hang out with Alex?
    No, there is an iron wall between the contestants and anyone who is involved with knowing the questions. Aside from posing for a photo with each of us, the only time we interacted was when the cameras were rolling. But he is miked all day, so you get a pretty good sense of his personality.
  4. Do they tell you what the categories are?
    No, see #3. Because of the quiz show scandals, they are very careful to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
  5. Do they try to match up people to particular categories/games? No, see above, and in fact nobody knows who the 2 new contestants are going to be for each show until moments before. They are randomly drawn after the previous game ends. As a contestant, you have no idea which show you’ll be on!
  6. Do they pay your expenses?
    No, but you will win at least $1,000 (3rd place; 2nd place gets $2,000.) Don’t forget taxes, though (California takes 7% off the top, then you also have to pay the IRS and your state). We turned it into an actual vacation so didn’t end up in the black, but it was well-worth it for the adventure of a lifetime and a California vacation! Some people indicate you can subtract your expenses, but I’m not sure that flies legally unless you consider yourself doing Jeopardy as a “business.”
  7. Did you feel very competitive with the other contestants?
    No—everyone was funny and interesting and enjoyable to hang out with. We really bonded. Of course I still wanted to win, but it felt very collegial.
  8. Why did you get ruled wrong for leaving out a word (“The Boy in the Bubble”) when they accept Yeats for William Butler Yeats?
    The rule is that you can use just a last name as long as it’s unambiguous. There is only one famous Yeats. If it were Smith, they’d ask for a first name. But with titles you need to include every syllable. Same with proper names too—poor Wolf Blitzer lost most of the few bucks he had when they reviewed tape and discovered he’d said “Julia Childs” instead of “Child.”
  9. Didn’t you know “Code Pink”?
    Not only did I know it, but watching the game when it aired, I expected to see myself buzz in and get it. Your brain works differently when you are up there!
  10. Was there something wrong with your buzzer or your buzzer technique?
    Actually, although my timing may have been off, I was doing exactly what you’re supposed to do. They tell you to keep mashing the button until Alex calls on someone, even if your light doesn’t go on. (You can’t hold it down—that doesn’t work.) You usually don’t see so much buzzer motion because most people can rest their hand behind the podium and just move their thumb. But short people like me are hoisted into the air on an elevated platform so our heads are at the same height as the other two contestants’. As a result, I would have had to bend down to rest my hand, so I had to hold it up.
  11. Can’t you buzz in as soon as you know the answer?
    No. There’s someone backstage who unlocks the buzzer when Alex stops talking. If you buzz in too soon, you get locked out for some fractions of a second—long enough for someone else to buzz in. I felt pretty good about my timing practicing at home, but it fell apart to a certain extent in the studio. (I did well in rehearsal, but Phil and Chris were both crazy fast!) There are lights you’re supposed to be able to use for cues, but that didn’t work for me.
  12. You didn’t think the FJ answer was just “area code,” did you?
    Talk about your brain behaving differently up there—I never would have believed I’d forget to re-read the question, but I was so rattled by the wagering that I did forget. If I had re-read it, I would have put “cell phone area code.” But I don’t think I would have been given it, because it was specifically Telecommunications TERMINOLOGY.
  13. What the heck is an overlay?
    It’s a new type of area code that covers the same geographic area as a previous one. In New York, 917 was the new code given to cell phones (but also to pagers, and possibly land lines) after they ran out of numbers.

Jeopardy report!

Updated 11/8/2020: RIP Alex! YouTube videos are gone – apparently one of the COVID-19 work-from-home catchup tasks for Sony must have been takedown notices – but thanks to my cousin Mark, I have the originals. Contact me if you want a share!

I’d aged out of the contestant pool in November, 18 months after my audition. I figured I’d take the online test again at the end of January and hope for another chance at auditioning. But on 1/8/2010, Jonathan handed me the phone saying, “It’s Glen from Jeopardy.” He started by that checking all my information was the same, giving me a chance to think, “is he calling for the reason I hope he’s calling? Is this The Call“? Finally he said “Can you be here for taping on February 2nd and 3rd?” I told him I was thrilled and excited, of course, but it wasn’t until I hung up that Jonathan and I started screaming, laughing, and dancing around the living room!

Continue reading “Jeopardy report!”

Goals 4 and 25: daily habits

I did really well with Goal 4 from my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list–daily Pilates. And so far I’ve been able to consistently keep it up though I’ve moved to a new habit: picking up my hotspots (FlyLady term) for just 5 minutes. But the hotspot pickup, Goal 25, is proving very difficult. Half-way through the month, I’m only doing it about half the time. It’s only 5 minutes, but I forget, even now that I’ve scheduled it for a specific time (7pm). I guess that’s a sign I really need it and it could be key to starting to conquer my disorganization. I will probably continue to focus on that during February in exchange for something like Goal 26, flossing every day, which I’m succeeding at without focusing on it. I also added Goal 92, moving my blogs to WordPress, because Blogger (on my own server) won’t let me do something simple like put Older Posts/Newer Posts links without a ton of hassle. I’m also wondering again whether I should do the advertising thing. I hate it but if I could add a trickle of income, maybe that would really be good. I am very glad advertising pays for lots of the Web….

Goal 60: listener-contestant on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

I called the Wait Wait phone number in the spring but never got a call back. A few weeks ago I sent an email, mentioning two semi-interesting things (our town, Friendsville, was so called because it was originally a planned community for Quakers; and I have fun staffing Ask Here PA, live chat reference). An extremely nice Wait Wait staffer called me. I was on standby last week and tonight got to be the first caller, playing “Carl’s Countdown.” The really cool part was hearing the warm-up. Live, it’s a 2-hour show, which they edit down to the best bits. I would love to see it in person someday. It was very exciting–nerve-wracking to be on the phone waiting!–and I got all 3 questions right (although I was kinda disappointed they even tackled the topic of the last one, as you’ll hear if you listen). Tomorrow I’m supposed to get a call about the details of the prize–Carl Kasell on our answering machine! That’s the very first of my 101 in 1001 days list done. Here’s me in the opening segment (I do Carl’s Countdown). Woo-hoo/w00t!

Star Trek Generation X

  • I started running again this week! The days are getting longer and the roads are dry (no precipitation for the past 8 days–amazing!). I only went 3 miles today (1 – 1 1/2 3 times during the week) because I’m so out of shape, but boy it felt good.
  • I think I’ve discovered the key to making the FlyLady system work for me: it’s the after-work routine. Just 3 steps: sort the mail, declutter for 15 minutes, then tea/toast/Buffy (I just got the first 4 seasons on DVD) until Jonathan gets home. “You can do anything for 15 minutes!” (J, trying to encourage me, accidentally said “You can do anything IN 15 minutes.” Ha! I wish!) It’s really been helping so far. Oh, and I tidy the kitchen while making the tea and toast.
  • I was just about to buy a new Dell but I missed the free-flat-panel monitor offer so postponed again. My main hesitation was the royal pain of moving all my documents off this one (which is now 5 years old). And holding up my monitor is my old Macintosh Performa–full of documents I still hadn’t moved off! But with J’s help I made some inroads this weekend. After I’ve finally ditched it (hey, if anyone wants a Performa 6220CD just for the cost of shipping, let me know!), then I can think about a new Dell again.
  • On the Mac I found an old project: Jonathan’s single-panel cartoon Star Trek Generation X. He drew it in 1995 (or maybe earlier), so it’s maybe dated now, but I still think it’s hysterically funny. I had scanned it but was unable to get it into web-friendly form that would fit on a screen and be legible, so it’s been on my Mac’s hard drive since about 1998. J suggested trying a PDF, and bingo: only 33 K and it looks passable. Googling “Star Trek Generation X” reveals that others have had the same idea (presumably after he did), but IMO his is much funnier and pithier. So click here to see classic Trek and classic grunge together at last.