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"Jeopardy!" Producer Defends "Nightmare" Final Clue Fans Call the "Worst Ever"

"That may be one of the most evil FJs I've seen in years," claims one viewer.

For Jeopardy! fans, there's no greater rush than coming up with the correct answer before a contestant buzzes in. The famous game show, which pulls in millions of viewers per episode, is considered the crème de la crème of trivia quizzes. Jeopardy!'s knowledgeable team of writers knows how to stump players where it hurts—and now, former Jeopardy! champs and fans argue the crew has cranked up the show's difficulty a level too far.

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On May 8, contestant Allison Gross, a data scientist from Cleveland, was vying for her second consecutive win when she incorrectly answered the Final Jeopardy! clue, which fans on Reddit are now calling "one of the most evil FJs."

The category was "Rhyme Time: Opera Version," and the clue read, "Telling the story of a duke, a jester & the jester's daughter, it was written by poet Francesco Maria Piave," per J! Archive.

Gross, who was leading the pack with $12,400, guessed "What is Don Juan?" Although Gross' answer was incorrect, both of her competitors, Ben Mills and Kelcy López Freeman, failed to answer the question at all. And because Gross only wagered $2,401, she was able to keep her spot at the top of the leaderboard, followed by Freeman in second place with $7,400.

"We are describing the 'Rigoletto Libretto.' The Libretto to the opera Rigoletto," explained host Ken Jennings before crowning Gross as the official winner.


While Jeopardy! is known for its clever wordplay, combining the puzzle—which many noted is already challenging within itself—with an even trickier category, like opera, ruffled a lot of feathers. In the post-game Reddit thread, former Jeopardy! champs and fans aired out their grievances about the brutal final clue category.

"I'm reasonably certain that if I ever had a nightmare about Final Jeopardy, the category in my nightmare would be Rhyme Time: Opera Version," wrote one person.

Another added: "One of the worst ever for regular season play, I'd contend. I feel bad for the contestants."

Gross even chimed in, saying, "I thought it was horrible!"

Despite pushback from both Jeopardy! pros and fans, the show's producers stand by the clue's degree of complexity. On the Inside Jeopardy! podcast, executive producer Michael Davies and producer Sarah Foss explained why the clue was thrown into the mix—and forewarned fans and future contestants to expect more questions of this caliber on the show.

"This is a tough final, people are talking about it on Reddit," Foss acknowledged on the episode, which dropped May 13.

"We don't have a lot of wordplay Final Jeopardy!s. This is actually the first time we've ever had a rhyme time Final Jeopardy! I think if we've learned anything, it's that there's a reason why we don't have a lot of wordplay finals, and we're going to take note," Foss explained.

But even five-time Jeopardy! winner Alison Betts came to Gross' defense on Reddit, saying she "found this FJ super challenging!"

"I got to Rigoletto immediately but then spent the rest of the time wondering if I was missing some other opera that had an internal rhyme, or whose title was rhyming words. I didn't consider for a second that I needed an opera title plus another word," she said in the thread.

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

Meanwhile, on the podcast, Davies said he thinks "it's amazing" that Jeopardy! incorporated a wordplay clue "in the opera category at the same time."

"We are trying to push the material on Jeopardy! across a greater range," he said. "The word games give us the ability to award people for thought- and puzzle/riddle-solving ability, in addition to just pure factual potential flashcard or J! archive-based knowledge."

However, in doing that, Davies added, "We're sometimes going to make mistakes with the material, and every time you push something, you're going to learn that maybe this wasn't exactly the right thing to do."

That said, the mind-boggling questions aren't going anywhere, Davies confirmed.

"We are trying to push our contestants and figure out how to get smarter and smarter and smarter people to win the game and to become less predictable and less obvious in what we are doing," he explained.

"We have to continue to move forward in our writing of the program. Our head writers Billy [Wisse] and Michelle [Loud] and their entire team are really pushing material, which I think is a really strong thing," Davies concluded.

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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