Subtle Clues in Final Jeopardy

Tonight’s Final Jeopardy had another excellent example of how the wording of the clue sometimes gives a hint of the answer. The category was The Bible. And the clue:

The first conversation recounted in the Bible is in Genesis 3, between these 2; it leads to trouble.

Given that conversation takes place early on in Genesis, you should be able to narrow it down to two possibilities. The players did; they were split between “Who are Adam and Eve?” and “Who are Eve and the serpent?” If you aren’t sure which is the correct response, go back and reread the clue.

Do you see it?

Pretend you are the writer for a moment and the correct response is “Who are Adam and Eve?” How would you write the clue? Probably like this:

The first conversation recounted in the Bible is in Genesis 3, between these 2 people; it leads to trouble.

But the clue doesn’t say people! It leaves it vague, and deliberately so. Jeopardy writers don’t like to be unnecessarily vague when they don’t have to. Here, however, they most certainly need to be. The correct response is “Who are Eve and the serpent?” But if they phrased the clue as:

The first conversation recounted in the Bible is in Genesis 3, between this person and this creature; it leads to trouble.

They can’t do that, though—it makes the clue painfully obvious. So they make it vague. But the fact that it is vague when it wouldn’t have to be otherwise actually makes it perfectly clear!

I’ve actually opined on this once before. About a year and a half ago, the clue was:

The circulation of the Times of New York & London totals about half the “Times of” this place, the largest of any English daily.

Do you see it? My analysis was in this video:

2 responses to “Subtle Clues in Final Jeopardy

  1. I’d argue the second final Jeopardy question is rather sloppily written. It should really be “English-language daily”, especially since it explicitly mentions The Times of London.

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