Deeper Into Jeopardy! XIV: The Far East – $800

Jeopardy! category: THE FAR EAST (15-04-2014)

$800 clue: May to November is the rainy season of this country – its coast gets 200 inches a year, but Phnom Penh gets less than 60

Correct response

The gist: You can call it the rainy season, the wet season, the monsoon season, or whatever else you want. Whatever you call it, if you’re in Cambodia (among many other tropical countries) in the middle months of the (Gregorian) year, you’re going to get soaked. The Monsoons of southeast Asia are caused by differences in air moisture – during the rainy season, humidity is drawn landward from the Indian Ocean, and during the dry season it’s pushed back. The accumulating moisture in the air causes heavy rainfall essentially unabated for months at a time. Most of the water than hits the coast, however, just drains back into the sea, and the clouds lose most of their strength by the time they get further inland to the capital Phnom Penh. Nonetheless, by the end of the season the monsoons have deposited so much water on land that the delta of the Mekong River, on which Phnom Penh lies, can’t contain itself. The overflowing water runs northwest into the Tonle Sap (“Large Fresh Water River” or, more commonly “Great Lake”), which can multiply in area by nearly ten times, from about 2500 to 25000 square kilometres. The enormous lake becomes a breeding ground for fish and prime land for rice cultivation, and the flood has become crucial to the country’s agriculture and economy. Once the water level recedes to the point that the Mekong can handle itself again, the lake shrinks back, to await another change in the season.

The Tonle Sap’s dry season borders in dark blue and its wet season flooding in light blue

The clue: Another capital question. The writers don’t seem too have gotten too creative with this category, but that’s OK – I liked yesterday’s clue and I like this one as well. Again, a simple question with an interesting fact to go with it. It strikes me as strange that the $400 clue gave the country and asked for the capital, which is generally easier than the other direction as this $800 clue does. But then Thailand is probably better-known than Cambodia, through whatever accidents of history (and maybe The King and I).

In Jeopardy!: “Cambodia” shows up in a whopping 142 clues and 3 FJ! clues in the J!Archive, so instead we’ll go with “Phnom Penh,” which gives a much more manageable 25 and one FJ!. It appears somewhat regularly in “capital categories” (straight capitals, plus “Northernmost” or “Southernmost,” where a list of capitals is given). Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator, is mentioned in three, and Khmer, either “Rouge” or “Empire”, in five. It’s also a fond target of wordplay for the writers, and it is pretty fun to say. Once again, though: know your capitals!

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