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"Jeopardy!" Producer Defends "Brutal" Category After Viewer Complaints

Fans claim the new category is "diabolical."

If you want to expand your breadth of knowledge, all you have to do is tune into Jeopardy! The syndicated game show is brimming with brain teasers about history, literature, science, sports, pop culture, and more. Naturally, it takes an impressive group of writers and researchers to come up with these challenging questions—but even Jeopardy! producers admit that sometimes the categories can be a bit too mind-boggling.

RELATED: "Jeopardy!" Player Says Show Edited Out Major Ken Jennings Flub: "Had the Audience Gasping."

The second season of Jeopardy! Masters started on May 1 with a buzzy new category: Kernel of the Clue. It's particularly tricky because the answer lies within the prompt itself, and each tile has an extra clue.

For instance, the $2,000 Kernel of the Clue tile read, "She obstinately insisted there was no typo in the letter that she sent out," per J ! Archive. The clue was "where rays join." The correct answer host Ken Jennings was looking for was "focal point," which was spelled out in "typo in the."

As if the stakes weren't high enough, the category sent players Amy Schneider, James Hoizhauer, and Yogesh Raut into a tailspin. In the end, Raut came out on top with $26,395, but fans on social media are still gobsmacked over the category's difficulty level.

On the Inside Jeopardy! podcast, executive producer Michael Davies and producer Sarah Foss revealed how the puzzling category came to be—and how it was a strategic move that everyone behind the scenes was in on.

"Also have to point out the Kernel of the Clue category. I know a lot of fans were talking about it, maybe calling it brutal," Foss said on the May 6 podcast episode.

Foss explained that producers and Jeopardy! head co-writer Billy Wisse wanted to up the ante for the Masters players with "brain-twisting word play" in season two. "Some clues whose responses you couldn't find on a flashcard," Foss reasoned.

"I think that's very accurate and very fair to say it. I think the overall note is very correct," Davies agreed. "We want to push our Masters to move beyond flashcards and use the power of their brains to compete against each other and stand out against each other in this game."

A big-time Jeopardy! fan himself, Davies admitted even he found the Kernel of the Clue tiles to be rather "difficult." Nevertheless, it was exciting to see players' and fans' reactions, both producers noted.

RELATED: "Jeopardy!" Producers Explain Major On-Air Flub: "Ken Made a Mistake."

"Our players actually dealt with it, but I think it was harder for the audience," Davies acknowledged. "I think sometimes the reactions we saw were a little bit more like 'Woah this is pushing me through multiple steps.'"

On Reddit, however, Jeopardy! Masters fans displayed mixed reactions about the category. While some enjoyed the curveball questions—and are begging producers to carry kernel tiles into regular Jeopardy!—others found the prompts to be far-stretched.

"That category with the internal words is WILD," one person said, while another added: "That category drove me bonkers."

"Diabolical, brutal, and ridiculous all at once," a user wrote. "I got zero of them right. One of the most top-tier work by the writers that I've ever seen."

A fourth comment reads, "That kernel category was absolutely brutal holy moly."

Meanwhile, several fans are still confused as to how the category works and how to answer correctly. "I didn't even get what it was asking," one stated.

"I could find the hidden word in some of them but still had no idea most of the time how to figure out the whole answer," said another.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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