‘Jeopardy!’: The Hardest Clue Categories Contestants Just Can’t Get Right

Jeopardy! is one of the longest-running and most beloved game shows in television history. One major draw is that fans love playing along at home, testing their knowledge on a variety of different topics from history to pop culture.

Of course, armchair Jeopardy! contestants don’t have as much at stake as the people who make it onto the show, and they don’t have as much pressure to perform well. Statistically, certain topics are easier to get right compared to the hardest topics that almost no one can master.

And then there’s one topic that Alex Trebek had to dumb down because literally no one could get a single answer correct.

Jeopardy! | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

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Jeopardy! has a unique format compared to other game shows

Instead of trying to guess the answer on Jeopardy!, contestants attempt to guess the question. This takes a bit of getting used to and forces show participants to rethink their approach to trivia facts.

Only smart people make it onto the show but being the most well-read person in the room isn’t a guarantee of success. Jeopardy! contestants also must be able to think — and press the buzzer — quickly, plus they need the element of luck on their side. The categories change with each episode and while they seem to be getting easier over the decades, it’s still a difficult game.

Notoriously difficult ‘Jeopardy!’ categories

The format for Jeopardy! has remained the same over the years, but categories shift with the changing interests of the audience. Still, writers for the show know they can’t make it too easy to win, which is why they include clues from the most challenging categories, according to Reader’s Digest.

The hardest categories include Canadian Cities (which Canadian host Trebek must appreciate), National Marine Sanctuaries, Foo Fighters (about the band), States That Flow Together (“Each correct response will be two states. The last letter of one state will be the first letter of the adjoining state”), The Roosevelts, Classical Music, Video Games, Movie Title Math, and Journalism Clichés.

Still, the difficulty of the category depends on the specific knowledge of the contestants. English majors might have dominated the journalism clichés category while a classical music scholar could have easily gotten all the clues in that domain.

The hardest category on Jeopardy!

The most difficult category on the show had to do with football trivia. During one episode of the show, no contestant was able to get a single answer correct until finally only the $1,000 clue, the most difficult, was left on the board.

Longtime host Trebek made a joke out of the whole thing. “Let’s look at the $1,000 clue just for the fun of it,” he quipped. “If you guys ring in and get this one…I will die.”

The next time “Football” appeared as a category, Trebek made it easier for contestants so he wouldn’t have another awkward situation. “Now, last year, we had some difficulty with the football category,” he said. “So, we thought we would try it again, but in this category it deals entirely with referees’ signals. And I’m going to be giving you three players the signals. OK?”

He then proceeded to act out the signals to help contestants get the right answer. It worked.