Deeper into Jeopardy! XL: Zodiac Constellations – $400

It’s just regular size, not Extra Large, but welcome anyway to the 40th(!) installment of Deeper into Jeopardy!. It’s been an exciting couple of weeks in the J! world recently. The A.V. Club did an XL-as-in-extra-large interview with Jeopardy!’s head writer Billy Wisse which gives some good insight into the way the show’s writers think about and construct their clues. This spreadsheet of the show’s most common categories and responses also made its way to my eyes – I don’t actually know how long it’s been floating around the internet but I came upon through three separate sources in the past two weeks. While it’s sort of interesting, I don’t actually think it’s likely to help that much if you actually want to prepare for the show – certainly, it tells you that it’s good to know about China, but that’s a huge category and it doesn’t tell you what exactly you should know about China. Moreover, the category lists are really unhlepful. How are you supposed to study for “Before & After,” or “Potpourri”? You can’t. Even the somewhat more specific categories like “American History” are hopelessly broad. But anyway, last and probably most, all sorts of media outlets that normally don’t pay much attention to the show ran stories about March 12’s single-player Final Jeopardy! round, running the gamut from fact-based reporting to moral panic over the decay of the nation’s game show contestants. I caution anyone rushing to judgment to remember that the game is much harder to play on stage than it is in one’s living room, but… it was still a pretty weak performance. Certainly it was a very good reminder on the dangers of guessing – a wrong response, on average, swings the game away from you then a correct response swings it for you. Anyway, seeing as so many people heard about that episode, I thought it would be appropriate to take a category from it, so this time it’s ZODIAC CONSTELLATIONSfive clues that did more than their share to doom those two unfortunate contestants.

Jeopardy! category: ZODIAC CONSTELLATIONS (12-3-2015)

$400 clue: The brightest star in the constellation of this archer is Kaus Australis, from the Arabic for “bow” & Latin for “southern”, respectively

Correct response

The gist: And nearby it’s got Kaus Borealis, the bow’s northern bit, and Kaus Media, where the arrow itself comes out. Sagittarius (late November-late December), according to the Sumerians who originally laid out the Zodiac on which today’s horoscope pages are based, is a representation of a centaur in mid-hunt, traditionally aiming its shot at its arachnid neighbour Scorpio. Who exactly that centaur was to the Sumerians isn’t clear, but the Greeks later identified it with a few different characters, including the wise Chiron, who tutored many of Greece’s most famous heroes.

Astronomically, Sagittarius also includes the so-called “Teapot” asterism, which includes much of Sagittarius’ bow and, neatly, features the Milky Way rising out of its “spout” like steam. In fact, since Sagittarius lies in the direction of our galaxy’s core, the steam coming out of the teapot is the densest and among the clearest in the night sky. Because of all that background starstuff, Sagittarius also contains plenty of other interesting astronomical bits, including star clusters, a radio source that is believed to be the supermassive black hole at centre of the Milky Way, and several nebulae, including the Omega (aka the swan or horseshoe) Nebula.

Sagittarius, with the asterism the Teapot visible in the middle

Sagittarius, with the asterism the Teapot visible in the middle

The clue: It helpfully informs you that the correct response is an archer, which is all you really need. Be careful not to trip up and say Orion, though – although he’s a hunter, he traditionally carries a club instead of a bow, and he isn’t a Zodiac sign anyway.

In Jeopardy!: Sagittarius is pretty popular, with 36 regular and one FJ! clue in the J!Archive. Hunting and/or the constellation’s hunting equipment are the most common theme, in 16 of the clues. His horsey bits are in eight, and several are typical horoscope date clues (it’s in between Scorpio and Capricorn). Thanks to its privileged place in the sky, the Milky Way gets mentioned in four clues as well. But as with most constellations, the most important thing to know if the iconography around it.

* Asterisms are sort of like smaller, modern constellations that tends to look a lot more like their namesakes than constellations do.

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