Travesty on Final Jeopardy 2/5/2014

Today on Final Jeopardy, the category was “The Periodic Table”. The answer was “Of the elements whose symbols don’t match their English names, this element’s symbol comes first alphabetically”. The first guy answered correctly with silver. The next guy wrote “What is Ag” and was ruled to be correct and thus won. Really??? What part of “this element’s symbol” is unclear enough to allow this? I’ve never started a thread before, maybe it’s because I’m a bit flu-ish but I’m just livid about this. Does anyone have any clue how 2 people can give 2 completely different answers and both be correct? My answer (not framed in the form of a question:)) is that they can’t - it seems to be a cock-up on the part of the judges.

I don’t see the issue. If the answer was “this is the number that comes after two” and one person wrote “3” and the other “three” I would expect them to both get it right.

I’m thinking you’re going to blame this on the flu when you read it tomorrow.

Also, four posts in seven years and one of them is this?

Ag is the elemental symbol for silver. so i would go for the word as being correct. the element was answered for.

Okay. To me, “this element’s symbol” differentiates between an element and it’s symbol. Otherwise you might get into the element being Ag, then what is the symbol for the element Ag? As far as the rest of your post, sorry for wasting your time. Back to lurking.

The first guy didn’t have the element either. I didn’t watch, but I’m assuming he didn’t plop a silver ingot on top of his podium. He wrote “silver”, which is just a textual way of representing the element, one of many, I’m sure. The other guy wrote “Ag” which is another textual representation for the same thing.

It’s hardly the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing happen. I can’t think of any examples at the moment, but I’ve seen cases where the clue will describe two related things (like a city named after a person); depending on how the clue is worded, sometimes they’ll let it slide if your response is not the one they were looking for.

What would have been a REAL travesty would be if one of them drew a picture of the Lone Ranger atop a horse, with an arrow pointing to the horse, and they accepted THAT.

I agree with the OP. You could know that the alphabetically first symbol meeting the criterion is Ag without knowing it stands for silver, and the question asks for the element, not the symbol.

I think the actual alphabetically first element symbol is Ac for actinium (Ag being second), but you could know that, and also know that there is no element called something like Ag—ium, without knowing Ag is silver.

It seems to me both contestants gave the same answer. Ag means silver (quite obviously so in that context.)

It’s sort of like a spelling error; unless your spelling materially changes the response they’ll let it slide. “William Faulkner” and “William Falkner” would likely both be acceptable responses to the clue “This author wrote The Sound And The Fury.” Or a better example: if the clue was, say “this state was the most populous in the Union before being overtaken by California” the judges would accept “New York” but would certainly also accept “NY.”

The central issue is whether the contestant has unambiguously written down something indicating the correct response. In this case “Ag” rather unambiguously means silver. I suppose it is theoretically possible a person could be aware of the symbol “Ag” and not know it is associated with silver, but frankly I find that ludicrously unlikely.

To Robot_Arm - it seems to me that the answer is asking the question “What is the name of the element whose symbol is Ag?” (Providing you know the answer is silver, of course)

Or the bad guy from Timecop.

The judges clearly disagreed. They do have some arbitrary rules that are strictly enforced (mostly involving spelling and pluralization). This doesn’t fall afoul of any of them.

This isn’t much of a “travesty”, even if you are correct. Closer to recreational outrage, really.

Actinium doesn’t work - its symbol matches its English name.


My first thought was Gold (Au) but then remembered there was also Ag however I could not remember what element it stood for.

Watching the final, I originally thought the same as the OP, that the question was clearly asking for the element’s name, not the symbol. However looking closely at it, it can be read in both ways:

You can read that as either “(this element’s) symbol comes first” and the answer would be silver or “(this element’s symbol) comes first” and the answer would be Ag.
Unrelated to that, this episode was one of the hardest I can ever remember watching!

Well let’s call it flu-driven outrage then. And at this point I hereby apologize for using the word “travesty” in the thread title. Things like the distinction I attempted to draw matter to me. In fact, I cringe when I see that I said “and it’s symbol” in my post above instead of “and its symbol”. I know that there are people on the boards for whom this is grating.

I sort of agree with the OP. The question did make a point of distinguishing between an element’s name and its symbol and asked for the name. And the knowledge to answer the question is not necessarily the same. Suppose, for example, the guy was always mixing up whether Ag stood for gold and Au stood for silver or the other way around. He’d know Ag came before Au in the alphabet but he wouldn’t know if gold or silver was the correct answer. So he’d just bluff and write down “What is Ag?” (which in this case would be a genuine question).

I dunno, the second interpretation sounds more correct as “this element symbol” rather than “this element’s symbol” but no biggie.

Having read my last post, perhaps “travesty” is not far off the mark after all. If I am correct, then the wrong person gets to go through to the semi-finals with perhaps a chance to win $1,000,000 and the other guy gets 1/200th of that. If I were that guy, hmm… Travesty?

Upon careful reflection, I’ve concluded that “Ag” was NOT a proper answer because it is not textually equivalent to “silver.” As other posters have noted, you could conceivably know the symbol but not what it stood for.

I’ve also concluded that anyone who cares about this distinction should be attacked and devoured by rabid wolves, and that if the Jeopardy people hadn’t allowed both answers, then the Trebek Monument in the Black Hills (three-thousand-foot-high granite statue) should never be built.

Desert_Dumpster - thank you for the support in your first 2 sentences.
Still trying to work out your last sentence/paragraph.

“this distinction” - sure, that’s me.
“rabid wolves” - hmm, not looking good.
“allowed both answers” - yeah, right, right.
“should never …” Aw, the hell with it!


Bolding mine.

Could it be as simple as the first contestant not phrasing his answer in the form of a question?