Why Jeopardy! Contestants Should Read Now I Know?


This is a fun one, courtesy of reader Mark S. (Thanks, Mark!)

If you watch the U.S. TV game show Jeopardy! — and I have to admit, I usually don’t — you know that currently, the show is hosting its 2023 tournament of champions. They’re in the wildcard round right now, with (if my math is right, and that’s dicey!) 108 competitors hoping to get four spots into the main event. On Wednesday night, Henry Baer, a software engineer for San Francisco, advanced to the semifinals of the wildcard round over Rhone Talsman, a product support specialist from Chicago, and Nell Klugman, a museum education from Brooklyn.

But had either Nell or Rhone read Now I Know, they would have advanced. Well, kind of.

Here’s the Final Jeopardy! clue from Wednesday night’s game. The category was “A Bit of Britain.”

In disarray, it was sold at auction in 1915 to a local Wiltshire man, who would donate it to the British government three years later

Do you know the answer? If you read the November 14th edition of Now I Know, you would — because that’s what I wrote about. (I’ll not spoil it for you in case you haven’t yet.) And if you do in fact know the answer, congrats! Because Henry, Rhone, and Nell all got it wrong. Going into Final Jeopardy!, Nell was leading with $12,400; Rhone had $10,600; and Henry, the ultimate victor, was actually last with $8,000. Because all three got it wrong, and because Henry wagered only $2,601, he ended up winning.

If any of the three had known the right answer, they would have won. And I had shared the right answer just two weeks (and a day) prior. I’ve been writing Now I Know for more than 13 years and I don’t think this has happened before. The clear takeaway is that if you want to be a Jeopardy! champion, you should read Now I Know :)

I kid, of course. The math doesn’t work out — there are a lot more questions asked on Jeopardy! than I have covered and ever could. And even in this case, it didn’t actually work out in my favor. While Wednesday’s episode aired just this week, it was almost certainly filmed a while back, and way before I published my story on November 14th. But I’m going to pretend otherwise!

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Before I jump to the Week in Review, one other update. On November 2, I shared a story about Newark, New Jersey’s failed efforts to become a sister city with a place that didn’t exist. The fake place is a long-running scam (it’s complicated, read the story) that tries to create diplomatic creations with lots of real places around the globe — and it turns out that Newark wasn’t the only one duped. Yesterday, the Guardian reported that Paraguay fell victim to them as well, and the government minister who was at the center of the mistake resigned as a result. To err is human, I guess!

The Now I Know Week In Review

MondayThe American Enclave That Pretended to Want to Join Canada: I’ve wanted to write about this part of the United States for a long, long time, but until I learned about the secession plot, it was just a geographical curiosity. That, and the fact that I was able to make a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy joke in it, make this one of my favorite stories of all time.

TuesdayThe Politician Who (Technically) Kept His Pledge: I really like political chicannery, so this one was also a fun one to write. 

WednesdayWhen Jesus Turned into a Potato (Accidentally): Art, not magic. And probably not “art,” if we’re being honest.

ThursdayPokémon Go to Jail: A scam that involves pineapple-flavored popsicles.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “The murky math of the New York Times bestsellers list” (The Hustle, 6 minutes, October 2023). The NYT bestsellers list is the ne plus ultra of book quality, and the math is… well, kind of a mess. There are a few stories out there examining this but I found this one to be the most approachable without dumbing it down too much.

2) “Handball Rules. Why Isn’t Team USA Good at It?” (The Ringer, 10 minute podcast episode, July 2021). Handball is one of the few Olympic sports in which the U.S. has never earned a medal. In fact, if you’re an American, there’s a really good chance you’ve never heard of it. But it’s fast-paced, easy to learn, and exciting (just watch!), so why hasn’t it clicked? This short episode talks about the nation’s failure to get anyone interested in what should be a really popular sport.

3) “The First Guy to Break the Internet” (Narratively, 38 minutes, October 2023). The backstory behind the viral “Kony 2012” campaign from a decade-plus ago. If you remember that story, you’ll love the backstory. If you haven’t heard of it or don’t remember, this is still a worthwhile read.

Have a great weekend!