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Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Certain Kind of Fame Eludes Us (Part III)

You know how sometimes, when you watch "Jeopardy!," some poor schlemiel ends up with, like, minus-1200 dollars by the end of round two? You ask yourself, how did this yutz ever end up on the show in the first place? What you have to understand is that everyone who makes it onto the show is actually more than capable of answering the majority of questions. When somebody ends up with a humiliating total, it has to do with timing, not trivia. The thing that separates champions from runners-up is facility with the buzzer, not mental facilities.

We knew we were in trouble, therefore, when, in round one, DougfromToledo got every single answer in the "Cities of New York" category--this despite our own lifetime residence in, y'know, New York! We even got beat out on a question about New York Mets' coach Cookie Rojas. It's not that we didn't know the answers; DougfromToledo was just too damn fast! On the bright side, we did get to choose first in "Double Jeopardy."

In addition to timing being an issue, you need to have a little bit of luck with the categories. In the game before the one in which we appeared, contestants had the category "Batman's World." The categories for our "Double Jeopardy!" round were: "O Canada," "Best Supporting Actresses," "Gypsy," "Rose," "Lee," and "'Strips.'" (Get it? "Gypsy Rose Lee Strips"? BWAAA-HA-HA-HA. Kill us now.) In other words, the previous "day's" contestants got Batman; we got an entire category dedicated to Robert E. Lee.

We began the festivities by choosing "Best Supporting Actresses"--they name the movie, we name the Oscar winner. We got blocked out on the first two answers, but we rang in quickly for the $600 clue: "Moonstruck":

Alex: Yes, Solipsist?

Sol: Who is Cher?

Alex: No. DougfromToledo?

DougfromToledo: Who is Olympia Dukakis?

Alex: Yes. Best supporting actress, Solipsist.

Well. Patronized by Trebek. Guess we can cross that one off the bucket list.

About midway through "Double Jeopardy," though, something strange happened. We actually went on a little bit of a tear. We did quite well in the "strips" category. And we had a moment of true panic-indicued-inspiration when we unwisely rang in on the $1000 clue in the "Rose" category: "Meaning 'The Valley of the Deer,' it's a type of rose, or a single-malt scotch whiskey." Somehow, our brain rifled through its drawers of useless information, and came up with the thought that a Scottish valley was a 'glen' and that we knew there was some kind of scotch called glenfidditch. We guessed and were right. We were back in the game!

"Double Jeopardy" ended, and the unthinkable was suddenly thinkable: DougfromToledo had $8,700. The Solipsist had $4,700. For the first and only time in five games, the championhip was not a foregone conclusion. It was all going to come down to "Final Jeopardy." And then. . . the category was revealed:

World Capitals.

Wait a minute! WORLD CAPITALS?!?

"By the way," we asked as we deplaned at LAX, "I know I should know this, but what is the capital of Sweden?"


That was it! It was fate! The answer to "Final Jeopardy" was going to be Stockholm! We were going to defeat DougfromToledo thanks to Hottie McWindowseat! We hardly even needed to see the answer. We knew the question: WHAT IS STOCKHOLM?

Alex read the clue: "Founded in 1840. . . "

What is Stockholm?

"this city is. . . "

What is Stockholm?

"the world's southernmost world capital."

What is. . . Did you say 'southernmost'?

The horrific "Jeopardy!" music played through the studio as contestants scribbled out their answers. What were we supposed to do? How could this have happened? Alex asked Cheryl, who was in third place, for her answer: What is Hobart? Wrong.

Alex: Solipsist?

Solipsist: What is. . . . Stockholm?

Alex: I'm sorry?

Solipsist: (Ahem) What is Stockholm?

Alex: Uh, no. That's. . . that's just incredibly wrong.

OK, we didn't actually guess Stockholm. We might as well have. We went with Johannesburg, which we knew was wrong, but we just drew a blank. It wouldn't have mattered, anyway: DougfromToledo got it right (of course): Wellington, NZ. Even if we had known it, he would have won. Officially, we finished second and won a week's golf and tennis vacation at a resort in Monterey, which would have been great if we had played golf or tennis. Could have been worse, though: We could have won a gift certificate to Lobstergram.

In the long run, though, DougfromToledo is but a footnote in the "Jeopardy!" history books. At the time, he was something like the fourth-highest five-day money winner, but any major acclaim he might have received was surely overshadowed by Ken Jennings, who won a ludicrous 70-plus games before finally being defeated. And even he has now been defeated by IBM's Watson.

In the annals of game-show lore, then, YNSHC is but a footnote to a footnote. We had our moment, though. And we'll challenge Watson to a round of "Deal or No Deal" any day of the week.

If you want to see every question from the Solipsist's game: The J! Archive
"Computer Wins on 'Jeopardy!': Trivial, It's Not"


  1. Why wasn't I told you were actually on???? You know, the communication in this family really sucks!