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Last week, returning Jeopardy! champion Megan Wachspress should have been unseated if not for her opponent’s sloppy handwriting.

Sadie Goldberger was neck and neck with the champ going into Final Jeopardy when current host Mayim Bialik read the following answer from the category 19th Century Contemporaries:

Congratulating her on the 1869 release of her biography, Frederick Douglass wrote, “I have wrought in the day—you in the night.”

Of course we all know the answer, Harriet Tubman.

And all the contestants knew the answer too, but Goldberger’s answer was a bit sloppy. Then Bialik said,

“It looks like you were going for Harriet Tubman, but you did not finish, so unfortunately that is not going to be acceptable.”

Goldberger nodded as if to keep from crying, but c’mon, this looks complete to me, but unlike Jeopardy! judges, I learned how to read and write cursive as a child.

Besides, according to Jeopardy’s rules it should have been acceptable:

5. Jeopardy! is not a spelling test – unless, of course, the category requires it. Written responses to the Final Jeopardy! clue do not have to be spelled correctly, but they must be phonetically correct and not add or subtract any extraneous sounds or syllables. (Incidentally, the same rule applies to all responses on both the written and online tests.)

Not a spelling wizard? Breathe a sigh of relief. If you’re not sure how to spell something in Final Jeopardy!, sound it out slowly in your head and write it the way it sounds. If it’s misspelled, it will come down to a judgment call, but the closer you can get it, the better chance for a thumbs-up from the judges. For example, “Jepurdee!” would probably be an acceptable spelling in a Final Jeopardy! response. But please learn that one ahead of time.

Goldberger would have won by $101 if the judges had accepted her answer.

I’m just going to say it; this would never have happened if Alex Trebek’s mustache were still in charge.


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