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Many contestants seem to have trouble with categories that deal with high culture, such as the opera and ballet; or categories where the contestant is required to spell the correct response. Lampshaded whenever the producers name such a set something like "The Dreaded Opera Category".
Sometimes the most inexplicable answer will rear its head in Final Jeopardy! A notorious one asking for a cheese named for a singing group (Liederkranz) is often considered the pinnacle of arcanely obscure Final Jeopardy! clues. note The objective of a good Final Jeopardy! clue is one that requires some thought, but also not arcane or obscure that no one, except for those who happen to know the answer, has a reasonable chance at providing even a reasonable guess. An example might be the category "WWE Wrestling" and a clue that deals with Pedro Morales becoming the organization's first "Triple Crown" winner (to win the World Heavyweight, Tag Team and Intercontinental titles). Almost nobody (short of a professional wrestling fan or historian) would be able to answer a question, for instance, about whom he defeated (Ken Patera) to win the Intercontinental title, much less identify Morales as the first Triple Crown winner. But ask a question such as "On the December 1980 night Pedro Morales defeated bad guy Ken Patera at New York City's Madison Square Garden to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship, this event that made world headlines happened ... just a few blocks away." Again, many game show contestants may not have the faintest idea about professional wrestling, but the average contestant with a broad knowledge base might be able to hazard "What is the death of John Lennon?" as a guess. (Meaning, most people — especially those involved with music — know who John Lennon is, even those who were born years after his death, and that he is deceased, and a lot of people are aware that he died on a December night in 1980 in New York City.) The latter Final Jeopardy! clue still requires a little thought — i.e., "What might have happened in December 1980 in New York City that would make it world news?" — but is very answerable.
Categories dealing with famous people often have caused trouble for teams, except for the Genre Savvy who are aware that unless otherwise stated the receiver had to say just the last name. Lampshaded once in a 1980s episode, where a category read "I Hope It's Not Names"; the subject was "Things a Pyramid contestant might think about."
During tournament episodes of the $100,000 version, the fifth and sixth categories are notoriously difficult, and sometimes virtually impossible for all but the brightest of clue-givers to give acceptable clues for. Abstract categories such as, well "Things That Are Abstract" or "Things That Are Straight" are often found in the upper-tier boxes, making for exciting television when a good game player is able to successfully get his/her partner to give the correct answer.
Even during regular round where $10,000 and $25,000 is being played for, the sixth box tends to be the most difficult and gives celebrity-contestant teams the most trouble.
Until the late 1990s, it wasn't unheard of for Round 1 and/or the last round to be a fairly short puzzle without a lot of common consonants. This would lead to things like GIMME A BUZZ, where it took a whopping thirteen turns before anyone uncovered a consonant.
During the 12th season (1994-1995), there was a new category called Megaword. Each puzzle was a 9- to 13-letter word that, after solving, the contestant could use in a sentence to earn a $500 bonus. Pat made it blatantly obvious from the get-go that he hated the category, and for good reason. Most Megawords were extremely uncommon words and/or had a lot of uncommon letters, leading to one incident where someone solved a fully-revealed puzzle of PRISTINELY incorrectly and another where it took eleven spins before someone uncovered any of the letters in OXIDIZED, and eleven more before anyone revealed another. Worst of all, the sentences were not judged for proper use of the word; just about anything other than a deer-in-the-headlights stare was accepted. Needless to say, Megaword didn't make it too far into 1995.
Slang was sometimes prone to this, most notably on BUTTINSKY in 1993. With only the U and I missing, it took 9 turns before someone pronounced it correctly.
Similarly, the Bonus Round can be this at times. Even with 10-11 letters at your disposal (RSTLNE plus three more consonants and a vowel, and a fourth consonant if the contestant has a Wild Card), some bonus puzzles can be nearly impossible to solve thanks to heavy reliance on obscure letters. And it's not as if they're tied to the value of the prize, either, since that's not revealed until after the fact. So good luck trying to figure out, say, HAZY SKY or AT THE BUZZER even only for $30,000.
Other times, they just use a totally arbitrary, random phrase like WILDLY HAPPY GUY or WHAT A KICK.
Still other puzzles require not only for the contestant to offer a solution exactly as it appears on the board a rule that's been there since the very beginning an exact, correct pronunciation (in the judges judgement) 's required. Pronounce "MILAN, ITALY" or "REGIS PHILBIN AND KELLY RIPA" incorrectly, and you're out thousands of bucks.
On Nickelodeon's Double Dare, the obstacle course Bonus Roundalways had one segment, like "Pick It!", "Garbage Truck", or "Blue Plate Special", where the contestant had find the flag hidden in gunge, often only by touch. "Squelch'm Waffles" was especially bad, since there were usually two waffles, and the flag was always hidden in the bottom one.
Supercoin on Minute to Win It. Since it's the million-dollar game, and the show doesn't change games until someone has won it, it's unlikely the top prize will be won (barring Executive Meddling), and with Apollo now hosting, it's safe to say that it will never will (the million dollars, that is).
Also belongs to Don't Blow the Joker. It's a game so hard that it was the first one for NBC to provide official hints for. It doesn't help that this game is typically found in the level 4-6 range, usually resulting in a majorDifficulty Spike. God help you if you get it on Level 5...
Shrine of the Silver Monkey in Legends of the Hidden Temple, it's simply piecing a monkey out of three blocks, but in an already tough game show (where starting with less then a full Pendant is unwinnable), it's often the room where contestant end up losing the biggest amount of time. Then there's the tree room, where a token half and a switch is hidden in one of two trees, but the other tree is a guardian, so it's down to pure luck if the contestant gets tagged out.
While Takeshis Castle is known for its infamous difficulty. The level that had the fewest winners was either "Rice Bowl Down Hill" where contestants had to sit in a rice bowl down a water slide and not fall off or "Quake" where they had to kneel on several levels of cushions and not fall off while the entire set shook. Not to mention the various other levels that were simply based on luck alone, such as when they had to chose out of five holes which to jump down, two were safe. There was absolutely no way for anybody to make a guess as to which to go down.
In The Amazing Race, there's just about always one or two roadblocks or legs that really stump people up.
Any Food challenge. It tends to be either eat something really really gross or eat something that's not-so-gross...but you have to eat it fast or sickening amounts of it.
"Needle in a haystack" challenges - such as finding a sign amongst a sea of similar-looking signs (Especially neon signs) or one person in a hugely-crowded area.
The American version has the haybales - it defines That One Level. One team could not even finish it because they never found a clue. It was a Luck-Based Mission for sure - you had a 5% chance of finding a clue as you unrolled the haybales. While the probabilities of finding a clue went up the more haybales were unrolled, it was still fully possible to keep on rolling and rolling and never finding one. Which is exactly what happened to Lena and Krista, who unrolled haybales for six hours.
The Price Is Right: A number of pricing games are notoriously difficult to win (And often has many a contestant who lost a pricing game to be informed that it's "Comeback Time!" in the showcase Showdown), you'll understand why the majority of the winners who won the showcase are people who lost a pricing game.
Lucky $even, where contestants begins with a $7 bankroll and calling out digits one at a time to the price of a car, lose $1 for every dollar they're off on each number, needing $1 after the last digit to be able to win the car. While some prices such as $16,545 are used on what's expected to be an easy playing, more often than not the price contains digits at both ends away from "5" (i.e., 1, 2, 8 and 9) to take out contestants who on the third through fifth numbers guess down the middle or go for the wrong extreme.
Master Key is one of those Luck Based missions, and it even expects contestants to get one or both wrong. Heck, even if they get at least one right, it even expects contestants to get only one key, and to top it all off it even expects contestants to get the Dud key. Why? Because there's no telling which key opens a lock, which one is the dud key, and which one is the Master Key itself, making it impossible to tell which key is which.
Pay The Rent features a massive $100,000 grand prize, but to get it, you have to place six grocery items in a 1-2-2-1 tiered fashion such that each tier has a higher total than the tier before it. For a while, there were only one or two correct solutions out of 180 possible arrangements, and while a contestant's first instinct is to place the least expensive item on the first tier, that only guarantees there is no way to win the grand prizenote The proper strategy is as follows: 1. Let's call A the highest price, B the next highest, and so on down to F, the lowest price. Save A for the top tier (obviously). 2. If B < min(C+F, D+E), put B on the bottom; else if C < min(B+F, D+E), put C on the bottom, else put D on the bottom. 3. Then of the remaining 4 items, pair up the most expensive and least expensive, pair up the last 2, and put whichever pair gives you the lower total on the 2nd tier and the more expensive pair on the 3rd tier.; during this time, only one contestant figured it out, and unfortunately he bailed too soon. (The game has recently been set up so that there are multiple correct solutions, including ones where the cheapest item can go in the mailbox; even then, it took until April 2013 for the $100,000 to be won.)
Plinko: By a strict reading of the rules, this fan favorite is virtually impossible to win outright. While the pricing aspect is easy enough, the producers only count the game as "won" if you earn all five chips and drop them all into the $10,000 slot, a feat which has never been accomplished and probably never will.
Pocket ’hange, another game played for a car. In this luck-based mission, the contestant is given an initial selling price of 25 cents, given an initial bankroll of 25 cents and then asked, one at a time, to fill in the second through fifth digits of the car's price from a field of six numbers, four fitting and two of them duds. For every guess the contestant is incorrect, another 25 cents is added to the car's price. Once a digit is filled in, he is asked to select an envelope from the gameboard and the number is removed from play; once the price is completed, the contents of each envelope are revealed they contain random amounts, anywhere from no money to $2 and if after all the envelopes are revealed the contestant's bankroll meets or exceeds the selling price, the contestant wins the car. The difficulty factor is twofold:
It is notoriously difficult enough to fill in the car's price perfectly, much less with just one or two mistakes, as most of the incorrect guesses on the second and third numbers will boost the car's price considerably.
Of the 20 envelopes available, there is just one envelope each containing 75 cents and $2; three others have 50 cents, but the other 15 have amounts ranging from nothing to the most common amounts of 5, 10 and 25 cents. With just four picks, it is very difficult to meet the car's selling price, even with just one or two mistakes, and even with the $2 card found, really tough if too many mistakes are made. note The most number of mistakes possible is 11, which would boost the car's selling price to $2.75; in this case and it's happened the $2 slip and either the 50- or 75-cent cards, or two of the 25-cent cards would need to be found to win.
Stack the Deck, a grocery-pricing game played for a car where contestants are shown three sets of two grocery items, each one having a price and the contestant having to match the price with the correct item; a correct answer allows the contestant to have one of the digits (from a field of seven possible choices) inserted into the price; after all pricing questions are played, the contestant is asked to fill in the remaining blanks with the remaining digits. The difficulty is two-fold:
The pricing questions tend to be difficult enough already, with the price of the incorrect item often being a few cents off the item it's paired with. On particularly difficult playings, an unfortunate contestant can end up with no free picks, meaning he is completely on his own to price the car.
Even on playings where a contestant earns all three available picks, many of the contestants still lose because they did not guess the remaining two numbers correctly. Often, this is because a non-Genre Savvy contestant will frequently pick the first and/or second numbers, rather than the more difficult-to-guess third through fifth numbers. (Leaving the first two numbers open often then leaves an "either-or" proposition, especially if a 1, 2 and either an 8 or 9 are among the remaining numbers, and contestants that are particularly knowledgeable about car pricing can figure things out from the number choices available).
Temptation is a game where you have to give the last four digits of a car by choosing from two possible numbers on each digit. You have to get every single one right; miss one, and you get nothing. That gives this game effectively a 1 out of 16 chance of being won (1 out of 8 if you can figure out the second digit or if the last digit isn't a 0 or 5 choice). The number choices come from the prices of four gifts that usually total a decent amount, and alternatively, a contestant can bail out with the gifts, which just means even some contestants who get the car price right don't end up winning the car. It took over four years since Drew started hosting for the game to be won.
That's Too Much is a game that even Drew mentions is hard to win. There is a series of 10 prices for a car in increasing order and you have to stop at the first price that is higher than the actual retail price. Contestants usually like to stop around the middle, when the correct price is either early on (3rd or 4th) or towards the end (7th or 8th). For a short time in late 2008 and into 2009, the correct answer was almost always the second or ninth picks, further fueling frustration over this game, and the producers only reluctantly relented once enough fans complained that, and a couple of Genre Savvy contestants figured out the scheme and won the car.
Many pricing games in the past have been retired for being considered too hard or too confusing. Most notable of these is the original Bullseye, in which you had to figure out the exact price of a four-digit car in seven guesses, only being told after each guess whether the price was higher or lower. Unsurprisingly, this game was never won (with one contestant managing to miss a win by $1). Not even giving the contestant a $500 range or rounding the price to the nearest ten helped.