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Alex Trebek called me a ‘saucy wench’ and other Jeopardy! bits

Sun-Times reporter KarSpak Jeopardy! Tournament Champions

Sun-Times reporter Kara Spak on the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions

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Updated: December 6, 2011 8:10AM

Spoiler alert! Don’t read if you don’t want to know what happened on Thursday’s “Jeopardy!”.

I lost on “Jeopardy!”

But it’s not over yet.

I played Thursday in the second day of the “Tournament of Champions,” the competition for the top 15 players from the past 16 months.

On the stage, the 30-minute show went by in about 30 seconds, a complete blur of not being able to ring in and then finally getting in and answering with a wildly inappropriate answer (“What is a threesome?” to a question about a love triangle). During a commercial break that followed, Alex Trebek called me a “saucy wench.”

Film preservationist Brian Meacham and I played Roger Craig, a computer scientist with the distinction of winning the most money in a single game ($77,000) and placing fourth on the list of all-time “Jeopardy!” money winners with $230,200.

Craig definitely won the most money in our game — neither of us could catch him.

That left one more option for us to advance to the semi-finals — wild card spots. “Jeopardy!” tournaments offer four of these for the top four money scorers who do not win their games. Contestants who haven’t played their quarter-final games are sequestered in the green room so they have no idea what the other players are betting.

In the month before the tournament started, while I was frantically cramming information about the solar system and weather patterns, my husband was studying an online archive of “Jeopardy!” games. He noticed a pattern in past tournaments where those in second or third place bet it all, thinking they needed a huge number to advance. He calculated that I should sit tight if I had $12,000. That should be enough to move to the semi-finals. If I had more or less, I should wager accordingly.

I moved into “Final Jeopardy” with $6,000 and struggled on the wager. The category was “Countries’ Highest Peaks” and I could only think of one country’s tallest mountain — America’s (Denali in Alaska). I assumed I would get it wrong so I wagered $12.

Much to my surprise I got it right, not because I knew what mountains the clue was referring to but I was able to ferret out a decent guess based on the other information in the clue. This put me into the second wild card spot, but there were still three games left. My score of $6,012 didn’t seem like enough money to get me into the next round.

After the game, Trebek seemed baffled by my wager. “Didn’t you want a wild card spot?” he asked while we chatted as the credits rolled. Somewhat still shell-shocked from the threesome answer, I tried to explain my reasoning. At that point, though, I could do nothing but sit and watch the next three quarter-final games to see if $6,012 was enough to get me through to the semi-final round.

You can follow along by watching the next three quarter-final games at 3:30 on WLS-Channel 7, or wait for the wild cards to be revealed at the end of the Nov. 8 game.

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