Who is Robert Redford? and other gaps


orson beanWriter Ken Levine recently complained on his blog in a post, Who is Robert Redford?

As you know I’m a devotee of JEOPARDY. But what amazes me more is not what these contestants know but what they don’t know. They can rattle off Egyptian mythological figures or obscure rivers in Tunisia or fourteen-letter words, but there are interesting black holes.

I base this not on wrong answers. I base this on no one ringing in. So clearly none of the three contestants were even willing to take a guess.

Now bear in mind these contestants tend to be from their mid-20’s to 40’s (although there are some exceptions). And they’re all remarkably bright. They’re not kids. They’ve seemingly been around.


Then he rattled off questions people missed in the past several months. All of them I got right when I was watching. BUT I’m in my sixties. Levine’s in his sixties. And what fame is, and who is famous, changes over time.

The other factor here involves photos. They look big on your television screen. But when I was a one-day champ in 1998, I got a visual clue. Yet the monitor seemed damn small and far away.

“Born Dallas Burroughs in 1928, he’s the actor seen here.” The category was Beans, so I took an educated guess: “Who is Orson Bean?” That was correct. If he had had darker hair, as he did in his game show days, I suspect it might have been easier for me. (He’s the guy pictured, BTW.)

Where ARE the Black Hills?

Some local folks who were on JEOPARDY! were complaining about the game broadcast on March 13. I hadn’t watched it at the time. When I did, I noted, especially in the first round, questions that were Triple Stumpers, questions that no one got correctly, that I got right away.


$200 From 1978 to 1990 this woman won 9 Wimbledon singles titles, giving her the most ever among both men & women
$400 Known as O Rei, Portuguese for “the king”, this man born in 1940 has the most men’s World Cup championships, with 3
$800 In 1939 this Yankee’s No. 4 was retired, the first number ever retired in major league baseball.


$200 The 1972 Black Hills flood claims more than 200 lives
$400 An 1893 hurricane devastates the island of Cheniere Caminada


$800 Burns & Allen

(Sarah presents from the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, Steve F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.) There was room for two men–Frank Borman and James Lovell in the capsule used for their 2-week-long 1965 orbital mission in this program

Answers, please

The first was Martina Navratilova. They did make guesses: Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf, and Chris Evert.
No one guessed the Brazilian Pele.
The Pride of the Yankees, Lou Gehrig was unknown to them.

Nobody them knew the Black Hills were in South Dakota, although there were guesses of Montana and North Dakota.
The island I actually didn’t know, but the French name would have let me guess Louisiana.

Now, this WAS a generational question: they didn’t know George and Gracie.

And I reckon to guess Apollo, as opposed to the correct answer, Gemini, was a generational question too, although I thought the TWO-man crew was a giveaway.

On the other hand, I fail at most 21st-century pop culture references unless it’s so ubiquitous – The Sopranos, Orange Is the New Black, Game of Thrones, Mad Men – that I do fairly well with these. That despite the fact that I’ve never seen a single episode of any of those programs. If you watch the program enough, certain clues tend to show up regularly, such as the painting Blue Boy by Gainsborough.

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