Wow, Tough One on Jeopardy!

Contestants on Jeopardy! must be prepared to respond to all kinds of clues, occasionally even on the subject of taxes. On May 25 they faced this highly technical clue in the category Numerical Words and Phrases:

It's the basic form most taxpayers use to report income & file their return

One contestant hit his buzzer and blurted, “What is W-2?” That wrong answer gave another contestant the chance to blunder, “What is W-4?” The third contestant, whose occupation was listed as accounting director —yes, accounting director — stood in dazed confusion until time ran out and the answer, Form 1040, was revealed. Let’s hope they remember that answer when the time comes to report their Jeopardy! earnings to the IRS next year.

Jeopardy! fans may recall that Ken Jennings’ record-breaking 2004 run on the show ended on a tax-related question. In the category Business & Industry, the clue was:

Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only 4 months a year

Jennings’ streak would have continued if he identified the firm as H&R Block, many of whose employees work only during tax season. Afterward Jennings said he could have thought about that one all day and not come up with the right answer. (He guessed FedEx, which presumably doesn’t have a large number of seasonal white collar employees.)

Scroll forward to 2021. Jennings was acting as host of Jeopardy!, and one contestant was stumped by a Final Jeopardy question about travel. He couldn’t even come up with a reasonable guess, so he decided to have some fun. His question: “What is H&R Block?” The good-natured host replied with a smile, “I know from experience, H&R Block is sometimes the right answer, but not today I’m afraid.”

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