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Answers in the Form of Questions

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“Answers in the Form of Questions”                
 By: Claire McNear

Secrets and History of Jeopardy?!, America's Smartest Trivia TV Show

From the show's iconic theme song, “Think,” a lullaby that show creator Merv Griffin originally wrote for his son, to its brilliant and charming Canadian host of 36-years, recently deceased Alex Trebek, television’s Jeopardy!? has stood the test of time as America’s most challenging and enthralling broadcast trivia game show.

For Jeopardy!? junkies, Claire McNear’s, “Answers in the Form of Questions,” is a must-have.  It's a fact-filled glimpse at this long-running entertainment show that contains behind-the-scenes facts and figures that are both intriguing and informative.

A fast-paced, fun read, “Answers” provides anecdotal glimpses of typical show recordings; contestant selection processes, study techniques and on-air playing strategies; highest winners and worst losers; longest continuous running streaks; and so much more.

McNear’s book confirms that Jeopardy!? viewer statistics are still going strong, even following the demise of beloved host Trebek, although finding his permanent replacement will be tough because of his strong identity with the show.

Ken Jennings, Jeopardy!’s 2004 contending champion with 74 games, said, “Millions of Americans love trivia, and this ( Jeopardy!? ) is the peak of it… This is the place where it intersects with pop culture and respectability...”
 
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The Book Maven’s Journal—Reviews for Word Connoisseurs

REVIEWER:                J.Hunt         
STAR RATING            ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Answers in the Form of Questions”
Author: Claire McNear                                                                                                               
Genre:   Entertainment  |   Non-Fiction   |   
Publication Date:  09 November 2020                           
Publisher:    Twelve Books, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


 
With Sincerest Appreciation to NetGalley, Author Claire McNear and Publisher Twelve Books, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc., for Providing this Advance Reader’s Copy for Review.
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A true insider's guide to the beloved game show. Claire McNear strikes the right tone between reverence and tongue-in-cheek humor while exploring the history, strategy, and pop cultural impact of the show.
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If you know me, you would know me as a serious Jeopardy! fan. Every night I tune in at 7pm and think to myself "I can do this." But then you realize there's so much about the game you don't understand as a mere daily viewer, more behind the scenes that is just as important to the lore and hardcore following of the show as knowing the Final Jeopardy! question.

Becoming a contestant on Jeopardy! is entry to a very elite club (despite having been on the air for 30+ seasons and 9000+ episodes) and depends on your own skills and smarts instead of luck, like the casting process for many other game shows. After all, as McNear writes: "Every year, about eighty thousand people take the annual online Jeopardy! contestant test. A passing score... means an invitation to an in-person audition. Of the roughly twenty-five hundred people who make it to an audition, where they take another fifty-question test and then participate in a practice game and brief Q&A in front of the show’s producers, only four hundred or so will get the call to come on that season to compete."

This book does its job in making us a fly on the wall from the audition process to the tapings and even to the bars where Jeopardy! alums still gather weekly to compete in friendlier trivia nights and exchange thoughts on strategy. McNear details all the betting and buzzer practices developed over the years by the top players, the misfires, the further resources that older players wrote and newer players consult. It's a really well-written history and McNear talks to nearly everyone you'd want to hear from throughout Jeopardy! history. Only downside for me is it feels a little abbreviated, like a well-done article I'd read online. I wish the author included more about the early years of the program, some of the foundational period, and also more interview material, especially with folks like the GOAT trio and Trebek himself (though I understand the circumstances during which this was written) considering the GOAT competition is the basis for the opening and closing of the book.

Would also love for future editions of the book to address the controversy surrounding the hunt for Trebek's successor – the final chapter here is a "What's Next" as the Executive Producer and Casting Director at the time were departing, but all of the media hullabaloo around a new host would be fascinating to read more into.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I have been a lifelong Jeopardy! fan. I still am not over the world's loss of Alex Trebek. 
With the current mayhem in finding a new host, this was a perfect read to refresh myself on the reasons that I love Jeopardy! Yes, Alex was the heart and soul of this program. But, there are continual things to love about the institution he created. 
I loved hearing individual stories of previous contestants, background information, and quippy facts and anecdotes about Alex. I will recommend this to all my nerd friends!
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Answers in the Form of Questions is a victim of timing. 
It doesn't acknowledge the great shakeup of the game in 2020-21, changing hosts Maybe it should introduce replacements of other key retirees like the contestant coordinator.
As a 2-time auditioner, I can confirm some of the facts in the book. I did meet Maggie at my first audition.
The author interjects herself too much into the work.
This book could be better.
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This is such an enjoyable book to read!  I enjoy watching Jeopardy with my family and pausing to try to answer the questions (and might I add sometimes long pauses to try to figure out the answer).  I am definitely a nerd but no where smart enough to compete on the actual show.  I could totally identify with the author who while doing her research was encouraged to audition to experience what it is like first-hand.  Her nervousness was endearing and relatable.  McNear weaves the history of the show, Alex Trebeck's career, and gives us access to "behind-the-scenes" of everything from clue development, the buzzers, game strategy, as well as the application and audition process.  We also get a sense of individual contestant stories and their own preparation and strategies.

This book was a quick read and it was so enjoyable!
I recommend this book for all Jeopardy fans and for even casual viewers of Jeopardy.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the details of the history of Jeopardy. I never realized that they got so many episodes recorded so quickly. I had a greater appreciation for the show after reading this book.
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Had a great conversation with Claire McNear about her book. You can find the link below to the show notes and to listen to us talk about her book.
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This book was really interesting. I learned a lot about the history of the show and how people approach testing, auditioning, preparing, and game play. There were some neat facts about Alex and some of the contestants, especially well-known ones like Brad, Ken, and James, but the book mostly focuses on the show itself, which is great. For something that is so known and beloved in society there's a lot that most people don't know, like how the current version got started or how much money can potentially be won in an episode. It was really neat to read about all of that.
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Part history, part how-to and all celebration of everything Jeopardy, Answers In The From of Questions really takes the reader behind the scenes of one of our most enduring cultural institutions. I'm amazed that it's lasted so long with the level of intelligence it takes to succeed on it. But this book shows that there are always bright minds raring to take their shot at glory. It's also a great book to celebrate Alex Trebek and his life's work.
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And the answer is...I loved this book. Part of my daily routine is watching Jeopardy and this was such a pleasure to  read  about the behind the scenes of this show.
Having read several other books about Alex Trebek and Jeopardy this was a different spin on this subject. This was a very well written, fun and easy to get into book. There was so many fun facts and details that I learned.
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I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked this and did not think it could possibly be as good as Alex Trebek's memoir, but this was a decent and enjoyable read. I like how this author discusses the audition process and some of the behind the scenes aspects of Jeopardy. I would hope Alex Trebek would have been proud of the research and presentation this author did to make this book enjoyable.

Definitely recommended for any fan of Jeopardy.

Thanks to Netgalley, Claire McNear and Twelve Books for an after published copy in exchange for an honest review.

Already available: 11/10/20
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This multi-generationally beloved game show has been on the air since 1984 in its current incarnation and is viewed by many as the current gold standard in the genre.

What is “Jeopardy!”

For millions of people, “Jeopardy!” is a staple, a shared syndicated moment of intellectual rigor and high financial stakes. A combination of encyclopedic trivia knowledge, quick reaction time and the … courage … of a gambler. For 22ish minutes a day, five days a week – “Jeopardy!” is there.

Claire McNear has been writing about “Jeopardy!” for years. However, her new book “Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy!” delves far deeper than she ever has gone before. Through a wealth of interviews – including over 100 contestants – and significant behind-the-scenes access, McNear offers up a closer examination of the beloved game show than any we’ve seen before.

And count McNear among those who love the show. There’s simply no way that a charming, thoughtful paean such as this one could be composed by someone without a deep and abiding affection for the program. It is a love letter to one of the few remaining monocultural stalwarts, a show that appeals to viewers of all ages and backgrounds.

We get the nuts and bolts stuff, of course. McNear takes us to the Sony soundstage in Culver City, giving readers a look at the logistics, introducing us to the myriad figures who make sure that the gears keep turning. We meet producers and clue writers, all while a picture is painted of what it means to be in that room.

She also takes us into the audition process, laying out the circumstances with remarkable accuracy and a healthy dose of self-deprecation – she has to be talked into kinda-sorta participating due to her perceived trivia liabilities, but winds up enjoying herself (thanks in no small part to the relentless whirlwind of positive energy known as Maggie Speak). McNear also dives deep into the community that surrounds the show – particularly the robust alumni network that has bloomed via social media platforms – and takes us along as she visits a few other trivia touchstones, visiting the National Trivia Championships and making the obligatory pilgrimage to the legendary trivia night at O’Brien’s in Los Angeles.

We’re walked through the training regimens – or lack thereof – undertaken by contestants who have gotten the call (or are simply awaiting a call they’re sure is coming). Tips and tricks from some of the greats are offered. Binging episodes, taking online quizzes on sites like Sporcle, buzzer simulators – there are lots of ways to prep. There’s also a great chapter about the math side of actual play, rife with game theory and noted strategies like the Forrest Bounce and the high-stakes attitude of recent steamroller James Holzhauer.

McNear explores the cultural impact of the show as well. Weird Al’s auspiciously-timed parody “I Lost on Jeopardy,” a tune that was released mere months before the 1984 relaunch of the show. The legendary “Cheers” episode where Cliff Clavin went on the show. The recurring SNL sketch “Celebrity Jeopardy,” featuring Will Ferrell as host Alex Trebek.

Speaking of Trebek, McNear speaks with him as well; while this chapter rings bittersweetly due to the host’s recent passing, there’s no question that McNear captures his essence. He so clearly adored his job, and that love for what he did was what made him the very best. Reading this section may well elicit both smiles and tears, but it is wonderfully indicative of who the man was and really brings to light the reasons so many feel such closeness to him.

There have been efforts in the past to capture the breadth of the “Jeopardy!” experience, but none have even approached the level of success achieved by “Answers in the Form of Questions.” McNear is a dynamite writer, which certainly helps, but the key to this book’s particular excellence is her passion for the subject. You can’t write about anything with this kind of care without loving it; there’s a joie de vivre bubbling beneath the surface of every page.

It’s worth noting that McNear does a phenomenal job of capturing the contestant experience, really giving us a soup-to-nuts examination of the process from test to audition to selection to taping. As someone who has been through that process, I can speak to its truth – a LOT of memories bubbled up as I read. And as a critic, I can speak to the quality of the writing – it engages in just the right ways. I’ve never read anyone who so thoroughly and accurately evokes the vibe of what it’s like to be on that stage, part of that scene.

And sure, there’s plenty of stuff here from the big names. Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer – you can’t tell the story of “Jeopardy!” without them. But it’s the conversations with other contestants, the folks who just won a couple of games (or none at all) or who played in the pre-internet days, that really shine. Those people have had their lives changed by the show just like those who were made millionaires – mine certainly was. Perhaps not economically, but certainly emotionally.

“Answers in the Form of Questions” is a fantastic read for anyone who loves “Jeopardy!” It is heartfelt and hilarious, a well-reported and deeply-researched plunge into the world of everybody’s favorite question-and-answer (sorry – answer-and question) show. And while the circumstances of the moment may render it somewhat bittersweet, those seeking comfort could well find some within these pages.

This new book is an informative, entertaining and generally excellent look at the best game show in the world.

What is “Answers in the Form of Questions.”
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I still can’t believe I was in the middle of this eARC when I heard that Alex Trebek had passed away. He was the epitome of class and hard work. He taped Jeopardy! shows up until just ten days before he died. If you are a Jeopardy! fan like me then you know how much it hurts. This book is for fans of Jeopardy! and gives a look behind the scenes and history of the show to things I never knew. I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it.
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Part-history and part-strategy guide, Answers in the Form of Questions is a loving look at Jeopardy! It was written before Alex Trebek passed, of course, so it will need some editing. However, it’s still got a great hook and mostly stays well on track. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC. This review contains my honest, unbiased opinion.
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Category: Entertainment
Clue: A trip down memory lane 
Answer: What is a book about Jeopardy!, my all-time favorite TV game show? 

Fact is, my husband and I rarely miss it (for the record - and the benefit of various friends and family who might wonder what happened to us from 7 to 7:30 on a weeknight - if the phone rings when we're watching we refuse to answer).

You see, we go all the way back to the 1964 debut of the show with Art Fleming as the host and Don Pardo as the announcer. The current version is far more popular with viewers, with host Alex Trebek bounding on stage at the exuberant introduction of announcer Johnny Gilbert. Neither is exactly a spring chicken; Gilbert is well into his 90s (and still, IMHO, doing a bang-up job).

Despite being ecstatic over getting the chance, thanks to the publisher, to read and review a pre-release copy of this book, I figured I would already know most of what's in it. To some extent, I was right. But truth is, I learned a lot - most notably about such things as the importance of mastering buzzer ring-in timing, the process of becoming a contestant (don't for one second think it comes easy, or cheap) and what really happens behind the scenes. On top of that come insights from former champions - almost all of whom are familiar to those of us who watch religiously. From handlebar-mustached New York cop Frank Spangenberg to quirky bartender Austin Rogers to somewhat more conventional  Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings and the phenomenal James Holzhauer, they're all in here - offering tidbits about their strategies and experiences. There's even a chapter on the show's very active Alumni Chapter and how Weird Al Yankovic influenced the show's revival (say WHAT)?

I wish I could reveal some of the details, but doing so would spoil it for others so I'll keep them to myself, recommend that you read the book for yourself and end with this: 

Category: Adjectives
Clue: Word that best describes this book
Answer: What is delightful?
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I love Jeopardy. Completely and unreservedly. It isn’t just the best game show ever, it’s my favorite sport and by far the only one I’d consider worth watching. It has managed to stay on and stay relevant in a country that has grown increasingly anti intellectual without ever pandering to the unread unwashed or dolling itself up to compete with other hotter for a time but always inferior programs of similar nature. Jeopardy is smart, fun, good, unflashy and steady. Good qualities for a person or a tv show. I’ve watched it, even read about it, in Jeopardy’s best for my money champion Jennings’ Brainiac and another book dedicated to quiz shows and trivia in general, but this was a text dedicated exclusively to the game itself, facts, trivia, stats, numbers and, of course, the people behind it all. The show isn’t just hosted to perfection, it also has a dedicated team that’s been around for ages and then there are the players, the brainiacs and the maniacs whose dedication and, at times, obsession, drives them to get on the show and compete. The eternal trivia pursuit, if you will. And it’s really inspiring to read about, because despite the fact that there is a significant amount of money involved, at its base the show is about knowing things and showing that knowledge proudly, which is kinda awesome. Actually, the money thing is real and a lot of the book is dedicated to it, the betting strategies, the wagers and all that, but it’s never been the attractor for me and frankly there isn’t that much money in it comparing to other shows and the level of difficulty in playing. It’s about the sheer pleasure of knowing the right answer…or, in this case, the right question. Anyone who’s ever played any sort of competitive trivia game, even a pub quiz, should be familiar with it. It’s fun. So basically I knew a fair amount about Jeopardy and figured this was going to be like a revisit of sorts, a tour of a museum you like but have been to, but no…this book actually had lots of new to me and fascinating information, from genuinely quirky things like the bizarrely significant role Weird Al has played in making Jeopardy 2.0 version go live to some genuinely entertaining Jeopardy facts and statistics to solution to elimination of Kids Jeopardy to mustache obituary. There are stories about the greatest champions, carbon based and AI. Stories about astoundingly determined aspirants and once upon a timers. Stories about an entire community of trivia loving individuals. And, of course, a speculation on what’s next, because it appears that after decades of consistency, the show will soon have a new producer, audience coordinator and possibly a new…no, can’t go there yet, too sad. Actually, I haven’t watched Jeopardy in a while and this book has made me miss it terribly, so right now  I’ve no idea what’s going on with the show, but it has my absolutely best wishes and hopes for a bright continuously excellent future. This was a lovely read, educational and entertaining, much like its subject. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
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