Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

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Cortana431
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Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by Cortana431 »

Anyone know exactly how the dollar values are assigned to jeopardy clues? I've always been curious. Yes the highest value clue are generally the most difficult, but the clues are just trivia after all and general knowledge. How do the makers decide which clues most people would get and which very few would get? Do they maybe have a sample pool of 'testers'?'
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Magna
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by Magna »

Just my guess, but I think the writers assign the values based on their opinions of the clue's difficulty. I've never heard anyone report "I was a Jeopardy! clue tester," so either they are very secretive or they don't exist. Also, that degree of testing would require a higher budget.

A tougher question, which only a writer could answer, would be to what degree the board is a group effort.

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alietr
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by alietr »

Too bad Carlo hasn't made his way over here.

I think I remember (maybe on the Jeopardy DVD?) that they bat the clues around as a group (writers, producers, Alex) and decide on what values they think each should be.

Cortana431
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by Cortana431 »

So the clue are completely subjective? As in they sometimes make mistakes and the highest value clues may sometimes be the easiest clues and the lowest value the hardest?
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seaborgium
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by seaborgium »

alietr wrote:Too bad Carlo hasn't made his way over here.
He's shown up again at sonypictures.com. I've thought about PMing him to make him aware of this board, but haven't done it yet.

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MarkBarrett
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by MarkBarrett »

Harry Eisenberg's book has a chapter on "The Inner Workings of Jeopardy" that would be informational reading.

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Paucle
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by Paucle »

Cortana431 wrote:So the clue are completely subjective? As in they sometimes make mistakes and the highest value clues may sometimes be the easiest clues and the lowest value the hardest?
Cortana, when you've worked in "trivia" as long as the writers have, you get a sense of what's tough and what's not. They do a pretty good job of it, otherwise our boards would be nothing but "reassigning" clues. As it is, poorly placed clue discussion really doesn't come up that often in game threads when you consider the values are decided on by a small consensus. Also, clues can be tailored by the writers if need be to be easier or harder.

Say the category is Colonial America. The group is debating both the easiest clue and the hardest- they're all pretty happy with middle, but they have two that they're split on "easiest" and two on "hardest." So, what if one of the hardest was,
IN ONE OF THE EARLIEST CONFLICTS OF
THE SEVEN YEARS WAR, HE SURRENDERED
FORT NECESSITY TO THE FRENCH.

Certainly bottom-row clue tough. But a quick re-write...

HE LOST FT NECESSITY TO THE FRENCH IN
1754; THREE DECADES LATER THEY'D ALLY
WITH HIM AS HE LED THE COLONIAL ARMY.


With the added information, it's much easier and can become top-row, breaking both ties at once and assuaging the consensus.
Of course, this is all speculation on my part. YMMV.

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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by slam »

Since the writers do assign difficulty based on their subjective evaluation, sure there can be, and occasionally are, valuation errors that show up in the board. But as Paucle points out, the writers are very experienced at this process and probably have a well-developed sense of what's easy, moderate or difficult. Moreover, it's not just one writer who makes these decisions. If that were the case, misvaluations would be much more common since every writer comes from their own particular background of knowledge. But this seems to be a process for which decisions by committee actually do work. The proof is in the pudding. How many times have you noticed relevant misvaluations actually show up on the show?

Cortana431
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by Cortana431 »

^I'm not criticizing them; I'm just curious as to how they know which clues and knowledge would be much more difficult than others. The reason is because I think that trivia is something that you succeed in by memorization and knowledge of facts, coupled with quick thinking. Like in academic tests, the hardest questions are usually the ones that require more critical thinking, depth, and sometimes creativity, questions that usually the smartest and/or most intelligent students will solve. My curiosity with jeopardy is that knowing facts is simply needed to answer clues correctly and how they could possibly know whether a $2000 clue would be known by many or a few (beyond what the writers themselves think) and if they sometimes make mistakes in their placement.

But I agree with what is said above and that that is similar to how the clues are created and assigned values.
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Volante
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by Volante »

And then there's the wildcard factor of some one or some thing breaking the gameboard and they have to pull out their 6th backup clue...

What difficulty is Clue Six usually rated as?...

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alietr
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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by alietr »

Interesting thought, Volante. I'm wondering if, when we notice a clue is seriously mis-valued, whether it was a replacement clue. I know they aren't always on the same wavelength (see: Alex's shock that none of the contestants got Liederkranz (note to Alex: nobody in the damn Universe knew about Liederkranz)) as us, but a replacement clue would account for the occasional "What were they thinking?!?!?"

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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by jeff6286 »

It seems like the most logical difficulty level for the replacement clue should be similar to the middle clue, so it shouldn't be incredibly out of place if it is used in place of either the top row or bottom row clue. Whether that means they write 5 clues, order them by difficulty, and then try to write a 6th of approximately similar difficulty to #3, or more likely in my opinion, they just write 6 clues and then order them something like #1, #2, #3a, #3b, #4, #5. One of 3a/3b would go in the middle box, and the other would be the replacement. The flaw in this theory might be that the writer may have 5 clues that he/she really likes, and can't seem to find a 6th that is nearly as satisfying. Whatever is eventually settled on as the replacement clue may be either much easier or much harder than the average of the original 5 clues, but it would still likely be made the replacement in the hopes that it wouldn't be needed.

Then there are categories where each correct response is one of a limited set. Examples include each of the clues referring to one of the 5 fingers, each clue being about one day of the week, the 5 Great Lakes each being used for one clue, etc. Say the Lake Huron clue accidentally gets revealed early and needs to be replaced. The replacement clue might lead to Lake Ontario for a second time, or would they try to write a replacement clue about the Great Lakes in general and not have the same correct response used for 2 of the 6 clues? Of course this wouldn't work if Alex had given an instruction like "Each correct response in this category will be one of the five Great Lakes."

I have no idea how common these mistakes are, or what percentage of the time the replacement clues ever see the light of day. I suppose someone who has attended several sets of tapings and watched 5 games in each could probably give a rough estimate about how common it is. Maybe one replacement clue is needed per week, which would be 1 out of 60. That may be low, but even if they averaged 3 a week, that would still just be 3 of 60, so how much time would the writers really spend worrying about the difficulty level of the 6th clue if 95% of them are never even used?

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Re: Difficulty/selection of jeopardy clues

Post by Bamaman »

Well, they wouldn't have to be discarded if they were not needed. They cold be used in another game as a replacement or even a regular clue.

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