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?