But the reason actually dates back to the 1950s, long before Jeopardy! was a show. Several quiz shows at the time were caught cheating and giving away the answers to some contestants. This was a massive scandal at the time.
Jeopardy! producers partially created to get around the scandal. Merv Griffin’s wife had an ingenious workaround. Jeopardy! would give the contestants the answers to the clues, but the contestants would have to supply the question.
When executives canceled the show and brought it back in 1984, Jeopardy! continued that level of scrutiny. The show’s producers even gave Gupta some pointers on how to best hide the questions both on his person and when he was away from them.
“For example, the show’s standards and practices team was omnipresent on set. They shared some of this history with me and also gave practical tips, reminding me to keep close tabs on any papers that contained clues, even asking that I put them in the hotel safe whenever I left the room,” he wrote for a CNN blog.
“I wasn’t supposed to share clues with anyone, obviously, not even my spouse. While I was given multiple show scripts, I wasn’t told the order we would tape them until just before filming began. And, even after that, the order could be changed again to ensure no one had advance notice of the clues. Even the contestants themselves weren’t certain when they would be called into a new show. There was a constant and purposeful shuffling of schedules and content to maintain that sterling history of high integrity. I felt it all around me.”
Gupta Discusses How ‘Jeopardy!’ Writes Questions
When I think about Jeopardy!’s Clue Crew searching for questions, I imagine them climbing ladders to pull down some dusty old book at the top of some library shelf. Turns out that’s not that far from reality.
He explained that every morning there was a production meeting to go over the day’s shows. Gupta could see the questions and learn the difficult pronunciations and even ask for clarifications from the Clue Crew and writers. And when he did, they’d pull out some old tome and track down the answer.
“We sat around a table surrounded by voluminous sets of biographies and bibliographies. It even had that perfect library smell. If someone wasn’t sure about a clue, one of the genius writers would run off to a row of books, pull out the appropriate text and start flipping through pages. Sure, there was someone at a computer as well, but the whole feel of the meeting was so studious and so scholarly: very Jeopardy!“