Unexpectedly Obscure Answer
STOP! Whoever approacheth the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see. Sir Robin:
Ask me the questions, Bridgekeeper. I'm not afraid. Bridgekeeper:
What... is your name? Sir Robin:
Sir Robin of Camelot. Bridgekeeper:
What... is your quest? Sir Robin:
To seek the Holy Grail. Bridgekeeper:
What... is the capital of Assyria? note Sir Robin:
...I don't know that!
(Sir Robin gets flung off the bridge
Sometimes, a clue on a Game Show
or other similar competition 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. Such clues are sometimes used as a way to ramp up the difficulty, although many fans of the genre (jokingly or otherwise) refer to such clues as being a way of saving money after a particularly big win...or just to save money period if the show's particularly stingy.
Sometimes played with in game show parodies, where the host asks an insanely obscure question and the contestant gets it right for a big win.
Examples are restricted to In-Universe
, plus games where the trope is Invoked
to achieve a desired effect
was the inspiration for this trope (see the discussion page for the most egregious examples), it's Not an Example
because the writers honestly thought that someone among the contestants would get the answer right. Most examples of this sort (i.e., Nine Times Out Of Ten that it happens in Real Life
) fall under Moon Logic Puzzle
- In one of the stories in Joker's Asylum, The Joker takes over a game show and presents the contestants with ridiculously difficult questions. To their surprise and relief, failure to answer correctly results in harmless joke penalties rather than the expected lethal ones the real target of the joke is the show's executives, who are cynically exploiting the incident for ratings (in a control booth bugged by the Joker).
- One Donald Duck story has him and his nephews participate in a television quiz, hoping to win a (literal) barrel of money. The nephews each successfully answer their question, but to Donald's dismay they pick a new bicycle instead of the cash. When it's finally his turn, the quizmaster decides that since Donald has been such a Jerk Ass throughout the show, he gets the most difficult question ever: how many drops per hour fall from the Niagara falls? He knows the answer! But the stress of reciting it causes him to go mad and also pick the bicycle as his prize.
- The Labyrinth in the Second Son trilogy includes a series of gates which can only be opened by answering a riddle engraved on them. Entering the wrong answer triggers a lethal trap. The last riddle is an obscure reference to the architect's favorite pancake recipe (The correct answer is a series of numbers depicting the ratio of ingredients in the recipe, in the exact order they are to be mixed together). This is quite deliberate, as the architect didn't want anyone he hadn't personally prepped with the answers to be able to make it through.
- Parodied in Monty Python's Flying Circus where John Cleese's game show host asks a housewife (played by Terry Jones) a very obscure question about philosophy ("Which great opponent of Cartesian Dualism resists the reduction of psychological phenomena to a physical state and insists there is no point of contact between the the extended and the unextended?") . When she protests she has no idea, Cleese nudges her to take a guess, which she does, correctly guessing Henri Bergson (despite never having heard of him). She has more difficulty with the second question, What do penguins eat?
- Another Python sketch had a British television host a game show with the leading figures of Communism: Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Che Guevara, and Mao Tse Tung. Marx, Che, and Lenin are shot down with obscure English Premier Football and Jerry Lee Lewis questions (oddly Mao knew the Lewis one). That version was on the Live At City Center album. On the show, it was to name the Teddy Johnson and Pearl Carr song which won at the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest. ("Sing Little Birdie.")
- In a case of Time Marches On one of the questions was "In what year did Coventry City win the FA Cup?". At the time it was correctly identified as a trick question "Coventry City have never won the FA Cup". That changed in 1987.
- Eventually, they ask Marx another set of three questions about "worker's control of factories": "The development of the industrial proletariat is conditioned by what other development?" note , "The struggle of class against class is a what struggle?" note , and finally "Who won the cup final in 1949?" note
- Played for laughs in the "Bridge of Death" segment of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Watch it here.
- The page quote has part of this exchange. Ultimately, the trope gets inverted when Arthur's third question requires him to know the airspeed of an unladen swallow. He doesn't know, since it wasn't covered in the Seinfeldian Conversation about swallows earlier in the movie, so he asks whether the question is about African or European swallows. Since the bridgekeeper doesn't know the difference, he gets tossed off the bridge.
- Played for drama in the episode "Quiz Show" of Boy Meets World. A traditional Quiz Bowl-type game show is revamped in order to appeal to youngsters by ditching their acadamia-themed questions for pop culture and "stupid question-stupid answer" type questions much to Feeny's dismay. Naturally, this made goofballs Cory and Shawn (and the not-so-goofy-but-still-on-the-team Topanga) popular returning champions. When the executives wanted Cory and Shawn out of the game, they brought back the academia to force the team to lose (bordering the line of what caused the quiz show scandals), including one question that Feeny answered in a Chekhov's Lecture earlier in the episode, which the team wasn't able to answer.
- Late Night's "Wheel of Game Shows" combines this with a Moon Logic Puzzle: the game "Find the Red Tissue" had the red tissue be on the bottom of the box instead of inside it, and then on a rebus puzzle, the contestant's seemingly correct guess "Tickle my balls" was rejected in favor of "Play my sports"
- In FoxTrot, Jason comes up with a quiz show called "I Want to Be a Millionaire", which he talks his dad into playing. He starts off by switching to math questions after Roger says that he was an English major, and the first question is "What is the 8,346th digit of pi?" The trick being that every time Roger gets a question wrong, he has to pay Jason that amount.
- Pro Pinball: Timeshock! allows the player to "combine" various Time Travel souvenirs to unlock various awards, such as a papyrus scroll + first wheel = Ultra Spinner. And that's one of the more straightforward examples...
- Subverted in the first Pajama Sam game, in which one of the questions of an in-game quiz concerns the response of a young French duke when he was presented a question on policy. All four possible answers are variants on "I have no idea," "That's too hard, I'm just a kid," or simply, "Huh?" All four answers are correct (except, of course, the duke said it in French).
- Parodied in Sam & Max: Situation: Comedy, where you have to win "Who's Never Going to Be a Millionaire?". The questions are just as ridiculously arcane as you'd expect with a title like that. To win, you have to switch the question cards with questions (actually song lyrics) that are insanely simple.
- In the Looney Tunes short "The Ducksters", Daffy is the host of a radio game show (a parody of Truth or Consequences), and Porky is the hapless contestant. Daffy throws quite a few of these at Porky throughout the cartoon, including asking for the maiden name of Cleopatra's aunt, or asking him to name an opera from a single note ("C-C-Cavalera Rusticana?" "Audience?" "Rigoletto!"). Porky gets even after winning the $26,000,000.03 (...yep) cash prize and buying the radio station with it, giving Daffy the same treatment Porky got after the question "At what latitude and longitude did the wreck of the Hesperus occur?"