Created By: Twentington on December 15, 2009


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Sometimes, a clue on a game or quiz show may be so arcanely obscure that the contestants and viewers are left scratching their heads long after the fact. Other times, it may be a puzzle or password that is impossible to convey no matter how much skill the contestant has. Granted, everyone has a different level of skill when it comes to game shows, but when it gets to the point that nearly everyone at home is asking "how do they expect anyone to be able to know that?!", you know you have an unexpectedly obscure answer.

  • A prominent example in the game show community is the Final Jeopardy!! clue for July 23, 2009, which had an utterly difficult clue asking for an extinct, obscure strain of cheese, with almost nothing in the clue to guide the contestant in the right direction. The day that this episode aired, the Jeopardy! forums were abuzz with people (including the returning champion on that episode) who were pointing out the absurd difficulty of that clue, as none of them had even heard of the cheese, nor could they find it in two different cheese enyclopedias. Out of a poll of 72 people on the Jeopardy! forums, only three people said that they knew the answer. Whenever an extremely difficult clue pops up on the game, it is now sort of a Running Gag to refer to it as Liederkranz.
  • On Pyramid with Donny Osmond, the Winner's Circle Bonus Round was sometimes full of this. One example cited was "Things on a Cave Wall;" the contestant said "things in a cave" but that wasn't enough for the judges. Keep in mind that the person giving the clues must give only a list of things that fit the topic given.
  • Wheel of Fortune can sometimes have a sadistic streak in its own Bonus Round, where a contestant is given R, S, T, L, N and E plus three more consonants and a vowel to aid in solving a shorter puzzle. The Fake Difficulty stems from some incredibly short puzzles (for most of the 1990s, few bonus puzzles were over six letters long, sometimes getting as small as three letters), puzzles with several rarely-picked letters (e.g. JURY BOX) or puzzles with large numbers of vowels (e.g. OAK BUREAU; no matter which vowel is picked, there's still a lot of empty space to fill). Subverted in the bonus puzzle ZOO; the contestant given that puzzle had a hunch and called Z and O among her letters.
  • Cashword, a special in-game bonus on Super Password, was meant to be difficult to achieve due to its high stakes, but sometimes it was just ridiculous. Even with five digits on the line and three chances, how would you convey "backgammon" with just a one-word clue?
Community Feedback Replies: 6
  • December 15, 2009
    • Even the children's game show Knightmare could sometimes have really obscure questions you'd hardly expect english schoolchildren to know the answers to, such as the name of the first hobbit to hold the One Ring in Lord Of The Rings. Combined with the gameshow's physical challenges, it was no wonder that seeing anyone actually win the game was a rare sight (in fact, not a single team won in the first and third years).
  • December 16, 2009
    In a third series episode of QI, Helen Atkinson-Wood correctly answers a question "so impossible that Stephen Fry shall award a gigantic two hundred points if anyone gets the answer right". After she answers, the other contestants, rightly astonished, ask "How the hell did you know that?" Considering that this is a show that typically looks for the interesting answer because they don't think anyone will know the correct answer, this trope happens frequently.
  • December 16, 2009
    Pretty much anything in a spelling bee where the origin is from some obscure language-- or worse yet, unknown origin. It's pretty much going to be a wild guess in that case unless you've seen the word.
  • December 17, 2009
    That's a good one actually. This doesn't have to be game show-exclusive.
  • December 20, 2009
  • December 21, 2009
    Truth In Television: any collegiate Quiz Bowl tournament (Hrostwitha, anyone?)