‘Jeopardy!’: How Researchers Select Questions, What It Takes to Be One of the Show’s Clue Creators

by Katie Maloney
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Think you’ve got what it takes to be Jeopardy! clue creator? Here’s how the team comes up with each season’s clues.

What is 14,000? The answer: How many clues it takes to create one season of Jeopardy! Still think you’re interested in the job? Well, it actually takes an entire team to produce the clues for the show. First, the writing team brainstorms and comes up with clues. Then, the research team fact-checks and double-sources each clue. They also try to ensure that there is only one answer for each clue. That is A LOT of research.

Suzanne Stone, who’s been a writer with Jeopardy! for 34 years said that any conversation can lead to clues for the show. In fact, she said that one time a 20-minute water cooler conversation about squirrels inspired an entire category. She also said that the writing and research team work closely.

“The relationship is that we’re all in it together,” said Stone during an interview.

Meet Michele Loud, Co-Head Writer for Jeopardy!

What Is the Number One Thing a Jeopardy! Clue Creator Needs to Have?

In addition to being creative, the clue creating teams also needs to be flexible. Despite all the hours of work and research that go into each clue, the team sometimes has to accept alternative answers.

“I think everyone’s had one of those,” said long-time Jeopardy! researcher, Michael Harris. “The contestant suddenly says something and you’re like, ‘Hmm, well, maybe.’ A lot of times they’re wrong. But then sometimes based on how the clue is written, we decide to accept it.”

So you now know that clue creators have to creative, flexible and team-oriented. But you’re still missing the number one thing that each team member must have: a passion for knowledge. There is no topic left unbreached when it comes to Jeopardy! Clue creators have to familiarize themselves with topics including classic films, American history, Japanese language, obscure cuisine, and The Beatles.

“I get to come to work and make TV – fun TV – and study and learn and get paid to do it,” said Harris. Fellow researcher, Keith J. Varadi joked that “It’s like we’re getting paid to attend the smallest liberal arts college.”

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