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"Jeopardy!" Fans Spot "Strange Errors" in Recent Clues: "Straight-Up Mistake"

Viewers are calling out some confusing rulings.

Recent episodes of Jeopardy! have left some viewers with more questions than answers. Some of the clues featured on the show have received backlash from fans for being confusingly phrased or, in some cases, incorrectly presented. The most recent example, as reported by The U.S. Sun, came up on the Jan. 16 episode of Jeopardy!. A contestant was rewarded for a response to a clue about the largest desert in Asia that many believe was actually incorrect. There is some confusion, though, because the answer was only wrong based on the first part of the clue, not the latter two parts of it.

RELATED: Jeopardy! Producer Explains "Painful to Watch" Episode Amid Backlash.

From the category "World Geography," Ken Jennings read the clue, "The largest desert in Asia at about 1,200 miles long & 600 miles wide, it has a name from Mongolian meaning 'waterless place.'" Contestant Katie Palumbo responded, "Gobi Desert," which was deemed correct and added $400 to Palumbo's score.

As fans of the show pointed out online, though, the largest desert in Asia is actually the Arabian Desert. It is located on the Arabian Peninsula, which is part of the continent of Asia. The Arabian Desert is approximately 900,000 square miles while the Gobi Desert takes up 500,000 square miles.

The next parts of the question, which describe the length and width of the desert and the translation of "waterless place" apply to the Gobi Desert, explain why Palumbo buzzed in with that response. Palumbo did not end up making it into final Jeopardy!.

Contestants on the Jan. 16, 2024 episode of "Jeopardy!"
Jeopardy! / YouTube

After the episode aired, a fan started a thread on Jeopardy! Reddit with the post, "'The largest desert in Asia' is not the Gobi Desert, unless… Jeopardy consider the Middle East to be its own continent? The Arabian Desert is almost double the size!" They added, "Fortunately there were other informations [sic] in the clue that pointed towards the right answer, but still."

Another fan responded, "I think the [original poster] is right and this was a flat out mistake. The question asked what the largest desert in Asia was. It's the Arabian desert."

Other viewers tried to explain how the mixup might have occurred, noting that some online sources list the Gobi Desert as the largest in Asia and perhaps consider the Arabian Peninsula to be separate, although it is still part of the continent. One person posted, "Some people consider the Arabian an extension of the Sahara," to which another Reddit user responded, "The only problem is the Asian part of the Sahara Desert would still be bigger than the Gobi, but interesting nonetheless."

Another fan wrote, "I understand that the remainder of the clue pointed to Gobi but I'm [still] of the mind that if there's any uncertainty, it shouldn't be a Jeopardy question." Someone else added, "There have been a slew of strange little errors lately in the fact checking and expected answers."

As reported by The U.S. Sun, another apparent error aired in October and involved a clue about houseplants. The clue read, "Though its name means 'loving tree,' it's very popular indoors as a houseplant," and it was accompanied by a photo. Contestant Kristin Hucek responded, "monstera," but this was ruled incorrect and the correct response was said to be "philodendron." But, as fans noted online, while the clue described the philodendron plant, the photo was of a monstera.

Before this, in September, contestant Alex Lamb answered a question about First Lady Pat Nixon by saying "Nixon," but was asked by Jennings to be more specific, as reported by TV Insider. Lamb then responded "Richard," which was a mistake and allowed for another contestant to respond with "Pat Nixon." The problem, as some viewers pointed out, was that there was only one First Lady named Nixon who Lamb could have been referring to. Because of this, they argued that the contestant should have been awarded for his first answer.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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