Main Unexpectedly Obscure Answer Discussion

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09:40:19 AM Dec 4th 2012
edited by DonaldthePotholer
Removed based on the TRS disscussion due to being clues based on MoonLogic or merely being a Difficulty Spike in a Bonus Round:

Honestly unwitting writers

  • Jeopardy was the inspiration for this trope:
    • The Final Jeopardy! clue for July 23, 2009:
      A: "This cheese was created in 1892 by Emil Frey & named for a New York singing society whose members loved the cheese."
      Q: "What is answer?"
      The day that this episode aired, the Jeopardy! forums were abuzz with people (including the returning champion on that episode) who pointed out the difficulty of that clue, as none of them had even heard of the cheese, nor was it listed in two different cheese enyclopedias. In a poll asking for the hardest Final Jeopardy! from that season, this clue received more than 70 votes for being the hardest, with all the other choices having at most two. Whenever an extremely difficult clue pops up on the game, it became a Running Gag on the Jeopardy! forum to mention Liederkranz in some way.
    • Another Final Jeopardy! clue that was considered an UOA, from September 30, 2009:
      A: "On Sept. 30, 2008, Daily Variety reprised this 5-word headline from Oct. 30, 1929."
      Q: "What is answer?"
      Even if the date leads you to Wall Street, and even if you are familiar with Variety's idiosyncratic phrasings, how would you possibly get the lays an egg part? (As with the above example, this clue smoked the competition in a poll asking for the toughest final clue.)
    • Opera and ballet categories are usually known for their extreme difficulty, often leading to blank stares for at least the bottom three clues. This difficulty is sometimes lampshaded when the writers name the category something like "The Dreaded Opera Category." This is more a case of the whole topic being relatively unknown in the general population than the questions being unreasonably difficult for the category, though.
    • An intentional joke when Pat Sajak hosted for April Fool's Day was the category "Amateur Trinidadian Ichthyologists" for final Jeopardy:
      A: "This common aquarium fish was named for a Trinidadian clergyman."
      Q: "What is answer?"
      This question was based on a common but erroneous belief that Robert John Lechmere Guppy was a clergyman.
  • Pyramid with Donny Osmond (Keep in mind that the person giving the clues must give only a list of things that fit the topic given, and must not say any part of the category name.):
    • The Winner's Circle Bonus Round was sometimes full of this. One example was "Things on a Cave Wall"; the contestant who was receiving the clues said "things in a cave" but that wasn't enough for the judges.
    • One of the hardest Winner's Circle boxes ever was "Colors in the Olympic Rings," even if it was on an Olympics-themed week. Here's the list: Black, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow. The list isn't the hard part. The hard part is that those are the only clues that fit... and of course, the receiving celebrity needed to be Genre Savvy enough (which seldom happened on Donnymid).
    • Subverted at least once on the 1980s $100,000 Pyramid, where one run at the top cash prize included the seemingly impenetrable "Things That Are Enshrined" in the top box. The contestant gave the clue "hall of fame books" (along with "The Torah"), which led to the celebrity giving the right answer for a $100,000 win... with fewer than five seconds left on the clock.
  • 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 something like "backgammon" with just a one-word clue?
  • 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 The Lord of the Rings. This is a case of an unnecessarily ambiguous question, rather than a unexpectedly difficult one. The first time a Hobbit is seen to hold the Ring is in the first chapter of Fellowship, the first book of the trilogy: Bilbo, at his long-expected birthday party. But the second chapter flashes back hundreds of years to another hobbit holding the Ring: Déagol, Gollum's brother. Combined with the game show'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).
  • Disney Magazine included quizzes written by Dave Smith, founder of the Disney Archives, and encouraged readers to submit their written answers. Smith managed to stump everyone when he asked for the title of the first Disney movie to receive a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation performed in New York. The answer: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which had a play in Radio City Music Hall 15 years before the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast.
  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has this from time to time, with most examples thankfully very high up in the question stacks where they belong. But the fan term "llama," meaning "to leave the show with nothing," came from the US version's first $0 loser, Robby Roseman, whose $100 question had an Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: "Hannibal crossed the Alps using what animal?"
    • Lampshaded— and also understated— by Meredith Vieira in an episode of the clock format.
    • Following the 2010 Re Tool of the US version, a recent trend in questions seems to ask what celebrities did before they became famous (or which of four celebrities had a specific job). These are almost always the hardest in Round 1 and frequently jumped or walked away from, and none have been answered correctly.

A mere Difficulty Spike

  • Wheel of Fortune
    • It can sometimes have a sadistic streak in its Bonus Round, where a contestant is given R, S, T, L, N and E plus their choice of three more consonants and a vowel to aid in solving a shorter puzzle. The 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), answers that are obscure to the category (e.g. completely off-the-wall phrases like WHAT A KICK), and/or large numbers of vowels (e.g. OAK BUREAU or IOWANS; no matter which vowel is picked, there's still a lot of empty space to fill).
    • Subverted in the bonus puzzle ZOO; given only the three blanks and a category of Place, the contestant played her hunch and called Z and O among her letters. Who would have ever thought that Z would be a good choice in the bonus round?

09:38:34 PM Jan 20th 2012
edited by lacusness
Shouldn't it be Unexpected Obscure Question ?
10:58:53 PM Mar 27th 2010
Re: Pyramid "enshrined" clues: I think on that particular occasion the contestant had actually decided to give the clues to the celebrity rather than the normal way around.
05:41:18 PM Nov 6th 2011
The "Jeopardy!" entry reminded this troper of a blonde joke he told his friends once:

Q: What words would you hear MOST blondes not say often? A: "I'll take 'The Dreaded Nuclear Physics Category' for $2000, Alex."

(The word "MOST" was put in since this troper DID know a few blondes who were smart as you wouldn't believe.)