Deeper into Jeopardy! V: Biology Class – $200

As quickly as the Battle of the Decades came, it leaves us now to make room for the College Tournament (and with it my Coryat average jumps up by more than half over last week…), which lasts until next Friday, after which we will see the triumphant return of Arthur Chu to the podium to continue his apparently maniacal ways. I’m excited to see if the frankly bizarre amount of media attention he got during his first run will start up again then, although I suspect the attention spans of both the public and the writers have run their respective courses. I’d also like to point out that by my count we saw the first clue that one of my posts should have helped you with – the $1600 clue under NAME THAT SHAKESPEARE PLAY mentioned 1415, and sure enough the correct response was Henry V (highlight to see), just as I said it would be when I talked about the Battle of Agincourt. This week had two straight science categories up on the J!Archive by the time I sat down to write Monday’s post, which I’ve been waiting for since this series started. A little bird told me which one to pick, so let’s get down to BIOLOGY CLASS!

Jeopardy! category: BIOLOGY CLASS (12-02-2014)

$200 clue: At about 9 weeks of age, a human embryo becomes one of these

Correct response

The gist: Human gestation is popularly conceived of as a nine-month arrangement, an appropriately approximate definition for a process that can vary in length by quite a bit among individual mothers. Besides the commonly-used trimesters, the nine-months-or-so can be divided into two periods (as only one of many division schemes). The first, the embryonic period or embryogenesis, lasts until about the ninth week of pregnancy, involves the cleavage of embryonic cells (a process that is also responsible for decades of juvenile laughter in biology classes) to form a blastocyst, which implants itself on the uterine wall. Continue reading

Deeper into Jeopardy! III: What a literary character! – $200

Well, we’ve covered one category of military history and another of modern presidential politics, both “important men” categories. That’s not all of history, nor all of politics, nor all of what Jeopardy! asks about, so this week we’ll be looking at a more literary category. In the coming weeks we’ll work on some science, some pop culture, some art, some geography, and more, so stay tuned.

Jeopardy! category: WHAT A LITERARY CHARACTER! (27-01-2014)

$200 clue: Simon LeGree is a brutal slave driver in this 19th century work

Correct response (highlight to see): UNCLE TOM’S CABIN

The gist: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (highlight to see that, too) mightbe the most-asked about work that I know next to nothing about. Something about slavery, right? Right. Anyway, let’s change that, shall we? Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 abolitionist novel was an instant best-seller, moving over a million copies worldwide within a year of its publication (in 1852, a huge deal). Although it’s often seen as an encapsulation of paternalistic racism in the modern day, it had an enormous impact on the antebellum United States, the abolitionist movement, and attitudes toward slavery in general.* Much more than just “something about slavery” as I sardonically put it, though, the book also explores the themes of liberty, loyalty, Christianity and spirituality, feminism, compassion, forgiveness, and many others.

Simon LeGree was the titular Tom’s third owner in the course of the novel, after being sold by the Shelbys in Kentucky and purchased by the St. Clares of New Orleans. Marie St. Clare breaks her dead husband’s promise to not sell Tom (Tom had saved their daughter Eva  from drowning before he was purchased, but Eva had subsequently died). Both the Shelbys and St. Clares had treated Tom well, but LeGree was well-known as a cruel slavedriver. His treatment continually tests Tom’s deep-held faith in God; he is beaten mercilessly when he refuses to whip a fellow slave, and LeGree, a Satan figure if there ever was one, resolves to break his faith, and nearly succeeds in doing so before Tom experiences two visions, one of Jesus and one of Eva, the Shelby’s daughter whom he had saved and befriended, that restore his resolve. He helps Cassy and Emmeline, whom LeGree had kept as sex slaves, escape to Canada, and LeGree beats Tom to death when he refuses to say where they had gone. George Shelby, Tom’s first owner, tragically arrives too late to save Tom by purchasing him back – we may be meant to take solace in the fact that Tom had stayed in God’s grace, and his Passion-like quiet defiance in the face of destruction is a symbol for the unshakeable Christian love that Stowe believed was a precursor to the abolition of slavery. LeGree may not meet a satisfying fate by the end of the novel, but Tom’s death has symbolically destroyed the institution that LeGree stands for.

LeGree with his hounds searching for the runaways Cassy and Emmeline on the cover of a comic book adaptation of the novel

The clue: Several of hints in this one, although LeGree is well-known enough that many players probably don’t need any more than his name. Of course, as we discussed, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is probably the most important and influential novel involving brutal slave drivers of all time, let alone of the 19th century, so that’s a good guess. Definitely not a clue that’s out to trick you – the only pitfall I can think of (although there are probably more) would be The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is also from the 19th century (1884), but if the show asks about Huck and slavery it nearly always also mentions Jim, that book’s escaped slave character.

In Jeopardy!: A search of “Uncle Tom,” either as the character or as part of the novel’s title, returns 76 regular clues and five Final Jeopardy! clues, with 70 and two having to do with the book itself, respectively (two of them have to do with a different literary Tom, Henry Fielding’s 1749 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, whose founder turns out to be his uncle). Those are big numbers, befitting such an important (and American) book. Most often the correct response is either “Harriett Beecher Stowe” or “Uncle Tom’s Cabin;” a few relate to Stowe’s biography and some connect the novel to other books. LeGree shows up in 19 regular clues himself, more often that not without mention of the book. He often shows up along with words like “slavemaster”or “slave owner,” often with Stowe (or looking for Stowe as the response), and often with a year between 1851 (when Stowe began writing the novel) and 1854 (when it was published in full, after two years of serialization). The novel is definitely one of the more important ones for Jeopardy!, and LeGree is a relatively important character to be able to identify as well.


* But beware of those quoting Lincoln as having said of Stowe, “So, this is the little lady who started this great war.” That quote is almost certainly apocryphal.

Deeper into Jeopardy! II: Obama-Rama – $200

Welcome to the second week of Deeper into Jeopardy! here at Three Roads Trivia. I’m going to muck with the layout a bit from last week. There’ll now be three sections for each clue. In “the gist,” I’ll give a brief background to the clue’s subject matter to try to put it in some context. In “the clue,” I’ll discuss the clue itself – how it’s phrased, what sorts of tricks and hints the writers put into it, things like that. Finally, “in Jeopardy!” will be where I look into how the clue and its correct response have been used in the show in the past using the J!Archive. So with that out of the way, this week we’ll be looking at…

Jeopardy! category: OBAMA-RAMA (21-01-2014)

$200 clue: (Robert Gibbs reading) From 2009 to 2011 I served as President Obama’s press secretary; in 2008, while our families were vacationing together in this, his native state, he served as babysitter for my 5-year-old son.

Correct response (highlight to see): HAWAII

The gist: Obama was, of course, born at Kapiʻolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. Although a prepared Jeopardy! contestant ought to be familiar with the birthplaces of the U.S. presidents, Obama might be the most well-known of all because of the proliferation of “birther” conspiracy theories, claiming he was actually born in his father’s native Kenya. Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where they were both taking Russian classes. They got married in early 1961 and Obama was born in August of the same year – in 1964 the two would divorce and Barack Obama, Sr. returned to Kenya (more on that tomorrow). The Hawaii vacation the President apparently took with (at the time) future Press Secretary Gibbs took place in August 2008, a few months before that year’s election. One can imagine it would be a stressful time, and the President apparently spent most of it golfing and lounging on the beach – an extremely boring photo gallery can be seen here, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The clue: A $200 clue about a current American president is likely to be a softball, and this one doesn’t disappoint. So long as you can toss out the junk about Gibbs and the family vacation and hone in on what the question is actually asking (“this, his native state”), it shouldn’t present a problem to most viewers or contestants. Certainly, though, the birther conspiracies and the absurd amount of coverage they received from the American press contribute to this clue being so easy. If the same clue was asked ten years ago about George W. Bush, I suspect that far fewer people would give the correct response of “Connecticut,” especially with that president’s carefully manicured “Texan everyman” image.

In Jeopardy!: Amazingly, Obama and Hawaii only show up in clues together three times, and in one of them it’s a passing mention on the road to Illinois, where he worked after attending Columbia University and would eventually be elected senator. Must be that the writers found asking about Obama’s birth state too easy even for previous $200 clues, although I’m surprised they couldn’t have found ways to mask it into a bit more of a thinking clue. In general, though, knowing Presidents’ birthplaces is one of the more important lists to memorize to succeed in Jeopardy! (here‘s a Sporcle quiz to help out), so keep on knowing the answer to this one. One fewer to memorize.