‘Jeopardy!’ Holds First-Ever College Professors Tournament

Mayim Bialik will host the tournament featuring faculty from across the country. Stay tuned to BestColleges for updates.
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Fans of "Jeopardy!" love the annual "National College Championship" tournament showcasing know-it-all undergrads. Now, it's their professors' turn.

The first-ever "Jeopardy! Professors Tournament" airs December 6 to 17. Mayim Bialik — who brings to the podium a Ph.D. in neuroscience — will host the ultimate egghead challenge.

Faculty from 15 colleges and universities will compete for the $100,000 grand prize and a spot in the "Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions."

Let's meet our contestants:

Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik standing on set in front of the contestants of the Professors Tournament.
Courtesy to Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
  • J.P. Allen: Professor of Business and Innovation at the University of San Francisco in San Francisco, CA
  • Hester Blum: Professor of English at Penn State University in University Park, PA
  • Sam Buttrey: Associate Professor of Operations Research at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA
  • Marti Canipe: Professor of Elementary Science Education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ
  • Lisa Dresner: Associate Professor of Writing Studies at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY
  • Ramón Guerra: Associate Professor of English American Literature and Latino Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in Omaha, NE
  • Gautam Hans: Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, TN
  • John Harkless: Associate Professor of Chemistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Ed Hashima: Professor of History at American River College in Sacramento, CA
  • Gary Hollis: Professor of Chemistry at Roanoke College in Salem, VA
  • Alisa Hove: Professor of Botany at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC
  • Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders: Assistant Professor of U.S. and African American History at University of Colorado-Boulder in Boulder, CO
  • Katie Reed: Associate Professor of Musicology at California State University-Fullerton in Fullerton, CA
  • Deborah Steinberger: Associate Professor of French Literature at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE
  • Julia Williams: Professor of English at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, IN

Stay tuned for daily updates throughout the tournament to see which professors make the grade.

Friday, Dec. 17

Chevron Down

We made it! It's finally the finale! A nation sits on the edge of its collective seat in fervid anticipation.

Following last night's penultimate show, our finalists begin tonight's match with yesterday's points already in the bank. Buttrey has $20,000, Hashima has $4,600, and Hove has $3,800.

Those totals will be added to today's tally to determine the ultimate winner. Got it? Good!

Before we venture into the Jeopardy! round, Bialik comments on what a fantastic tournament this has been. They'll speak of it for millennia to come.

All the scores revert to zero, and we're off.

Our categories:

  • The History of England
  • Math, Professors (none in this crowd, though Buttrey has a stats background)
  • Miscellany
  • Percussion Instruments (including this one)
  • Movie Taglines
  • Before & After

Buttrey begins our journey in England. History professor Hashima—not, for the love of Pete, wearing a bow tie or any neckwear, for that matter—snags the first couple of clues and lands the round's Daily Double. He has $600 and announces a true Daily Double, securing it with "Who is Horatio Nelson?"

Buttrey finishes the last two clues in England and is looking strong, building upon his already substantial lead.

We move from England to Math. Seems our non-math professors know Math, Professors.

Buttrey starts off Percussion with a bang. Hashima responds with "What is a glockenspiel?" to round out the category, leading us to our first break.

It's Hashima with $3,800, Buttrey with $2,800, and Hove with $800.

We're back, and Bialik asks our profs to tell us something about themselves that we, the loving television audience, doesn't already know. Not sure that's possible.

To a person, they thank family members (including one mother-in-law!), friends, fellow competitors, and the show's crew for all the support they've received. Let's hear it directly from them:

Dabbing away tears, we launch back into the game.

Hashima and Hove sure do know their Movie Taglines.

Sensing another wordplay excursion, Buttrey bolts for Before & After. Hashima answers "What is Mitt Romney?" What is Mitt Romney? He's a Republican. The correct response is "What is oven Mitt Romney?" Buttrey loves this category but blanks on "What is Iron Man of war?"

"These are awesome," Bialik says, reading Buttrey's mind.

In Miscellany, Hove chimes in with "What are flowers?" Natch.

At the end of the Jeopardy! round, Buttrey has extended his lead with $6,800, followed by Hashima with $5,200 and Hove with $3,000.

Ahead of the Double Jeopardy! round, Bialik once again takes a moment to thank the three finalists—and all the competitors from the last fortnight—for a great tournament. "The spirit and good humor that you have brought to this game has been really, really tremendously inspirational," she says. Not to mention the ratings!

Moving along, we have these categories:

  • Law
  • Poetic Objects
  • Home, Sweet Home (from which the other 12 contestants are watching this)
  • Refugees
  • Celebrities (these three profs are of the minor variety by now)
  • Latin Mottoes & Phrases (who doesn't use these daily?)

Hove begins at Home. For some reason known only to her, she answers a clue about a region in Germany with "What is Bulgaria?" Then laughs. And quickly escapes that category for Poetic Objects.

Buttrey and Hashima know their Latin. Who says it's a dead language? Buttrey gets the first Daily Double, already leading with $8,800. He cashes in another $2,000 with "What is 'the truth will set you free'?" (Johns Hopkins University's motto.)

These two feel right at home in Home, but Hashima leaves Home for Celebrities. Hove isn't up with current celebrities and falls to -$200. Hashima takes the last clue with "Who is Michael K. Williams?" and pulls into the lead by $800.

He then grabs the second Daily Double, in Poetic, wagering $2,200. His response is preceded by a long exhale betraying a certain discomfort. "What is a crown?" Nope. It's "What is Excalibur?" He's now our ex-leader. Poetic injustice!

For the last clue in Poetic, Hashima guesses "What are teaspoons?" No. Hove ventures "What are tablespoons?" She laughs again and drops to -$2,200. Gallows humor! Will Buttrey offer "What are grapefruit spoons?" Not quite. He says "What are spoons?," taking the generic tack. Still wrong. The correct response is "What are coffee spoons?" It was a stirring moment.

Hashima knows more about Refugees than spoons. He did mention yesterday his interest in human migration. But he whiffs on a clue with "What is...?"

Buttrey gesticulates wildly when flubbing a response, as he does in Latin with "What is citius, altius, fortibus...fortius...?" The correct response is "What is semper ubi sub ubi?"

We finally get to Law. They breeze through the category with ease, each ruminating about that fateful moment when they decided to forego law school for the Ph.D. route. "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...."

Back to reality. Hashima finishes out the round, in Refugees, with "What are the Rohingya?"

And that response hands him the lead at the end of Double Jeopardy! with $15,400. Buttrey trails with $13,600, and Hove has -$1,800. But these figures are the face-up cards, and we know Buttrey's packin' aces with his $20,000 in the hole.

Because of her negative total, Hove cannot participate in Final Jeopardy! Crestfallen, she droops like weeping fig. Not really. She's a good sport, departing with a tidy $25,000 and the enduring thanks of a grateful nation.

That leaves only Buttrey and Hashima in Final Jeopardy! The category is French Artists: "The catalog of MoMa's first exhibition called this artist who died in 1891 a 'man of science' & 'inventor of a method.'"

Buttrey responds with "Who is Seurat?" and looks gobsmacked when he learns he's correct. He wagers $2,000, bringing him to $15,600. His grand total stands at $35,600.

Hashima is shaking his head. That can't be good. He writes "Who is Claude Mone?" And here we thought he knew French artists down to a T. It costs him $13,700, leaving him with $1,700 and a grand total of $6,300.

Our Professors Tournament champion is...Sam Buttrey! (Shocker!) Veni, vidi, vici! He takes home $100,000 and secures a seat in the Tournament of Champions.

Across the land, people flood the streets in celebration, honking car horns and igniting fireworks to mark this momentous occasion. Nine months from now, a generation of kids named "Buttrey" will be born. Bouncing baby Buttreys.

Bialik doesn't announce it, but Hashima's second-place prize is $50,000. Not too shabby!

That's a wrap on the 2021 Jeopardy! Professors Tournament. Let's hope this becomes an annual feature on the show. If so, we've got it covered.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for spending the time with us!

Thursday, Dec. 16

Chevron Down

Welcome to the finals! It's Sam Buttrey! It's Alisa Hove! And it's Ed Hashima!

Let's all throw our hands in the air like we just don't care!

"Our love's in Jeopardy! baby! Oooooh!"

At stake is a $100,000 cash prize, a spot in the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, and ultimate bragging rights as the BMOC (Best Mind on Campus).

The finals are a two-day affair. Points (why do they use dollar signs?) garnered today will carry over to Friday's show, with the winner sporting the highest cumulative total.

With that, we're off.

Our Jeopardy! round categories:

  • Geographic Nicknames (like Minnesota Fats?)
  • Fashion
  • The 15th Century
  • Classic Movies
  • What Do You Know? (the original name of this show)
  • Ends With A Silent Consonant (should be da bomb)

Buttrey starts us off with Nicknames. He's sporting a dapper sweater. Steve Martin is rather impressed.

Hashima, who's still not wearing a bow tie, quickly nabs the Daily Double, in Nicknames.

He has $600 and risks $800 (you can wager up to the largest amount on the board, even if it exceeds your total). It's a Daily Double plus! He nails it with "What is Mont Blanc?" (It's a pen.)

Buttrey is back to buzzer bashing. And he's kickin' it in Silent Consonants. Good for hymn!

Despite his Silent prowess, Buttrey doesn't finish the category but shifts to What Do You Know? It's a mishmash of random factoids designed to befuddle brainiacs.

Hashima responds to a video clue with "What is Hell?" Bialik laughs. It's "What is Paradise?" Missed it by an eternity.

At the first break, it's Buttrey with $3,200, Hashima with $2,400, and Hove with -$200.

By now, we already know everything there is to know about our contestants, but let's chat with them anyway. Hove discusses her research on ginseng, a Chinese herb that also grows in North America. One well-documented side effect of ginseng is euphoria, which explains Hove's previously demonstrated dance moves.

Hashima says his current academic passion pertains to the human experience of migration. Birds also migrate. Did you know that during migration the great snipe can reach 60 mph? And here we thought the snipe was just a figment of overactive imaginations.

Buttrey likes cryptic crosswords. He offers one to Bialik: "Might I start to meet actress Bialik. 'Might' gives you 'may'...there's the 'I'...'start to meet' is the letter 'm'...." Like the rest of the nation, all Bialik heard was this.

And we're back with the clues. Buttrey picks the last Consonant, the category he'd abandoned earlier. He's been waiting for the opportune moment to pounce. But it's Hashima with "What is Bourgeois?"

We turn to Classic Movies. Hove bags the first clue, which enables her to escape red figures. They whisk through the category, punctuated by Buttrey's "What is Rashomon?"

On to Fashion. Did you know the ridges in corduroy are called "wales"? Hashima did!

Bialik says she looks terrible in a paper bag waist. Who doesn't? But she looks great in peplum!

Buttrey finishes 15th Century with "Who is Torquemada?"

And with that, we're done with the Jeopardy! round. Buttrey leads with $7,200, followed by Hashima with $4,600 and Hove with $1,400.

In the Double Jeopardy! round, we have the following:

  • Literary Museums
  • Plants & Animals & Fungi, Oh My! (right up Hove's alley)
  • Snow-Pourri
  • Protest Songs
  • Mirror Image Words (missing these won't reflect well)
  • Say Your Prayers (and eat your vitamins!)

Hove launches into the round with Plants. Of course! Buttrey gets "What are ferns?" and immediately pivots to Mirror. He loves his wordplay! Hove gets "What is loot and tool?" and reverts back to Plants. We have a categorical tug of war! Buttrey responds correctly and goes straight to...Protest Songs.

Hashima knows his Protest Songs! In fact, if he doesn't win, he has a bunch of them lined up.

Aaaand...Buttrey is back to Words. He lands the first Daily Double, wagering $2,400 of his $12,400. He stretches his lead with "What are Rime and Emir?" and follows that with "What are Eton and Note?" He assumes he's now won.

We're into Prayers. Buttrey's on a roll, and Hove and Hashima might as well start saying theirs.

After a lengthy hiatus as a spectator, Hove responds successfully and, to absolutely no one's surprise, gets us back to Plants.

And it's the second Daily Double! She has $2,600 and makes it a true Daily Double! No choice in the matter, really. "Oh, I don't have to buzz in," she says before getting "What is a rust?" right.

Bialik: "For a professor of botany, that is absolutely correct." Technically, it's correct for anyone.

Hove follows that up with "What are eukaryotes?" and is suddenly back in the race.

Our two Californians and one North Carolinian now shift to Snow-Pourri. Good luck with that!

At the end of the Double Jeopardy! round, Buttrey leads with $23,200. Hashima trails with $9,800, and Hove has $6,400. Neither has a snowball's chance.

Our Final Jeopardy! category is World War II Geography: "Body-of-water battles include the Coral Sea, Philippine Sea & this one that allowed Japan to seize Jakarta."

Hove responds first with "What is the South China Sea?" Nope. She loses $2,600, leaving her with $3,800.

Hashima also guesses the South China Sea. And he's also wrong! He drops $5,200, bringing him to $4,600.

Buttrey offers "What is the Indonesian Sea?" Come on, folks. The correct answer is "What is the Java Sea?" He loses $3,200 and now has $20,000.

Remember that these scores (not dollars!) carry over into tomorrow's final show. Bialik says anything can happen. Yeah, right. Buttrey has a 50-meter head start in a 100-meter race. Maybe he'll trip or pull a hammy. Maybe Hashima will unveil his secret weapon.

Check back soon to find out who is crowned the champ!

Wednesday, Dec. 15

Chevron Down

We're back with Day Two of the semifinals! Our last three competitors are vying to see who'll face Sam Buttrey and Alisa Hove in the two-day finals extravaganza. The winner has their choice of a $100,000 cash prize or a week's stay at an exclusive alpaca farm.

Squaring off are:

  • Ed Hashima. A history professor at American River College, Hashima lapped the field in last Thursday's contest, netting a tournament-high $32,100. Aaaaand...he's still not sporting the elusive bow tie. Saving it for the finals, Ed?
  • Gary Hollis. This chemistry professor at Roanoke College also won easily in his first game, amassing $20,000. He led right from (Pokemon) go and never looked back.
  • Deborah Steinberger. She drew a canard in Final Jeopardy! but the associate professor of French literature at the University of Delaware managed to maneuver into the semis with $9,800.

Let's get to it!

In the Jeopardy! round, we have these categories:

  • Playing Professor (no acting here!)
  • Southern California History
  • 4-Syllable Words (ridiculous)
  • A Cut Above (clues pertain to barbers)
  • Prequels & Sequels
  • Whirled Menu

Hashima starts us off with Southern Cal. Of course he does. He's a UCLA grad. Not fair!

Steinberger gets "What is Caltech?" and quickly shifts to Whirled. But Hashima reverts right back to Southern Cal. Shocker.

Whirled Menu features anagrams. So "hepper dishes'' becomes "shepherd's pie." Now I'm hungry. Where's that leftover zi zap?

At every opportunity, Hashima drags us back to Southern Cal. Maybe he's homesick. And he does well in the category.

We finally get to Playing Professor. To be expected, correct responses come fast and furiously, but Hollis prefers Prequels.

That category lands him the round's Daily Double. He has $800 and converts a true Daily Double with, "What is Dune?"

At our first break, Hashima leads with $3,600, followed by Hollis with $1,600 and Steinberger with -$400.

Time for a deeper dive into the professors' psyches. Steinberger offers some trivia about the University of Delaware. Did you know both Joe and Jill Biden are grads? Of course you did! But did you know the university offered the first U.S. study-abroad excursion in 1923? Joe evidently was in that cohort. Kidding!

Hollis says he's coached Roanoke's Quiz Bowl team since 1995, which is great preparation for cerebral contests like Jeopardy! It's basically boot camp for nerds.

Hashima owns a collection of vinyl records and has a particular fondness for The Beatles thanks to his parents. With that, let's Get Back to the competition.

In Playing Professor, we have a clue about Sandra Oh, who portrays an English prof in Netflix's "The Chair." Oh, the humanities.

Hollis uncharacteristically flubs a couple of questions and suddenly finds himself tied with Steinberger at -$400. Misery loves company.

To everyone's surprise, our profs are judiciously steering clear of 4-Syllable Words. When they do venture in, Hashima offers "What is principle?" One...two...three syllables. Maybe if you say it with a Southern accent.

Still, he holds a healthy lead after the Jeopardy! round with $6,000. Hollis has $1,400, and Steinberger trails with $1,000.

In Double Jeopardy!, we have these options:

  • Nuclear Physics
  • Starts With "W" (clues begin with "L")
  • World Cities (couldn't go with "whirled" again?)
  • Music Stars
  • Czechs (wait for it...)
  • Balances (there it is!)

Steinberger makes a beeline for W. Hollis nails "What is whinge?" Gotta use that one more often. "Hey, quit yer whinging!"

Hollis the chemist is mining the Physics category with great success, offering responses like "What are Neptunium and Plutonium?" (Two of Daffy Duck's nephews.)

In W, Hashima replies to a clue about martial arts with "What is chi?" The "w" must be silent. The correct response is "What is wushu?"

Steinberger languishes in third place but nabs the round's first Daily Double, in Cities, and wagers $2,000. As the seconds tick away, she simply smiles while we anticipate this gifted ventriloquist attempting "What is Swansea?" Alas, the "w" sound proves too difficult, and she drops to $1,400. Could've used Ed's silent trick.

Hashima sure knows his Music Stars! He gets "Who is Taylor Swift?" to which Bialik replies, "The one and only Swiftie."

"I don't think she's been mentioned on this show," she adds cluelessly.

The second Daily Double, in Czechs, goes to Hashima. He sports a huge lead with $12,400 and wagers a conservative $1,200. Show some chutzpa, Ed! He gets "Who is Dvorak?" correct and curses hindsight.

We finally arrive at Balances. But we quickly revert to Czechs. And now back to Balances. Our Founding Fathers would be proud!

Hashima responds to a Balance clue with "What is balance?" You can't question an answer with the answer. The correct response is "What is inertia?"

The answer is: "What's happened during the Double Jeopardy! round?" Hashima retains his lead with $15,600, followed by Hollis at $10,200 and Steinberger at $4,200.

Our Final Jeopardy! category is Awards. Answer: "The Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider award honors influential people from this state, including western author Louis L'Amour."

Steinberger writes "What is Texas?" Nope. But she bets zero. Smart! Let your opponents wager large sums against each other and swoop in with your measly total FTW.

Hollis offers "What is New Mexico?" Also wrong. He loses $8,000 and drops to $2,200. Steinberger's strategy just might work!

Hashima responds with "What is Wyoming?" Not even close! It's North Dakota, that iconic Western state. But he drops only $5,000 and ends with $10,600, enough to make him today's champ and our third finalist! It's his manifest destiny to join Sam Buttrey and Alisa Hove in the two-day finale.

Hollis and Steinberger each take home $10,000 and six bags of kumquats.

Stay tuned for what promises to be a hair-tugging, eye-gouging slap fight in the finals!

Tuesday, Dec. 14

Chevron Down

It's Day Two of the semifinals!

Tonight's match will determine who will advance to the two-day final on Thursday and Friday. Backstage, Sam Buttrey rubs his hands gleefully as he scouts his potential competition.

Our professorial pugilists include:

  • Alisa Hove. The botany professor at Warren Wilson College won last Friday's contest with a tidy sum of $20,000, surrounding herself with greenery of the finest kind.
  • Marti Canipe. The professor of elementary science education at Northern Arizona University was last Tuesday's winner, with $13,400, thanks to her primate prowess.
  • Hester Blum. An English professor at Penn State University, Blum she squeaked in with a phonetically correct Final Jeopardy! response that garnered her $12,000 and left her nouveau riche.

It's our first all-female contest, in case anyone's keeping tabs. Time to put up your duchesses!

Our Jeopardy! categories are as follows:

  • Alliterockers
  • Succulents
  • U.S. Counties
  • An Instructor (entry-level faculty appointment)
  • A Lecturer (a rung up the ladder)
  • An Ad Junked (wow...demoted already!)

Hove jumps right into Succulents, taking full advantage of her botany background. But she whiffs on "What is aloe?"

Canipe seeks to even that playing field by veering toward Counties.

Blum takes a different tack with Alliterockers. "Who are the Beastie Boys?" is our first correct response. Alliteration rockers. We get it now.

There's no love for Foo Fighters. Bialik says, "Who are the Foo Fighters?" As fans of "The West Wing" know well, it's simply "Foo Fighters."

In that same category, Blum responds to a clue with "Who is Sly Stallone?" Well, that's Rocky. Or Rambo. Either way, I don't think he sings. His brother does, though.

Hove counters with, "Who is Sly and the Family Stone?" which is only vaguely alliterative.

The correct response, given by Canipe, is "Who is Sly Stone?" Funky exchange right there.

After almost acing Alliterockers, Hove pivots us right back to her home turf, Succulents. But after only one clue she abandons the category for Instructors. Maybe it's too much pressure to perform.

And surprisingly, our profs are avoiding the "faculty"-like categories. They don't appreciate a good busman's holiday.

At the first break, Canipe holds the lead with $2,600, and Blum and Hove are tied with $800.

In the peculiarities portion, Blum says that with her winnings she intends to purchase a 19th century letter-press printer for the bookstore her husband plans to open. Impressive!

Canipe tells a story of working for a raptor center while in college. And here we thought all along they were extinct. Or maybe she's just older than she looks. (They're actually birds of prey, we discover.)

Hove describes her college's unique work-study arrangement in which students manage livestock and harvest crops on an organic farm. Food is served in the Cowpie Caf," and a more appetizing restaurant name there has never been.

Blum gets us going again with Lecturer. Finally! She's rewarded with the first Daily Double. Now in second place with $1,200, she loses $800 with "What is eugenics?"

On to the Ad Junked category. It's about ads! Clever! They miss "What is Jaguar?" Not many adjuncts driving Jags these days.

Hove nails the last Succulents clue, and Bialik quips, "I'm so glad you got that right."

Hove breathes a sigh of relief, her self-confidence fully restored.

Bialik ruefully admits she has always wanted an "aerobics Barbie." Let's start a Go Fund Me and snag her one on eBay!

Canipe responds incorrectly to a clue, after which Blum decides to offer the same reply and, shockingly, it too is not correct.

At the end of the Jeopardy! round, it's Hove with $3,800, Canipe with $1,800 and Blum with $1,000. They aren't exactly tearing it up.

For Double Jeopardy! we have these categories:

  • Let's Talk Revolution (aka faculty collective bargaining)
  • Women Authors
  • 16th Century Arts (often featured on "Pawn Stars")
  • Transportation (let's go!)
  • Pop Culture Mr. Or Mrs.
  • Differs By A Letter

Not surprisingly, Blum the English prof goes straight for Women Authors. She does well before Hove swoops in to nab the last two clues, much to Blum's chagrin. Blum's glum.

In Differs, Blum posits, "What is...?" before running out of time. 1. Know answer. 2. Buzz in. 3. Offer answer.

Hove lands the first Daily Double of the round, in Differs. She holds a big lead. Bet it all! Nah. She wagers only $3,000 and correctly responds with "What is revenue and revenge?"

In Transportation, we get "What is Lime?" which thrills the bike and scooter service to no end.

Unfortunately, that's Bialik uttering the Lime line, so our contestants don't have a clue. Up the marketing budget.

Blum, in second place, gets the last Daily Double, in Revolution. She offers "What is the great proletarian work...?" before again running out of time, and it costs her $2,600.

Speaking of running out of time, they collectively do in this round, leaving three clues on the board. It's the first time in this tournament a round wasn't completed. For shame!

At the end of Double Jeopardy!, Hove leads with $13,200, Blum has $4,800, and Canipe trails with $2,200. Can Hove snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Our Final Jeopardy! category is 20th Century Physics: "Puzzlingly heavy & long-lived particles discovered in the 1940s were dubbed this adjective later applied to even smaller particles."

Canipe offers "What are quarks?" Nope. And that's not an adjective. It's a noun. It costs her everything: her house, car, tenure...not really. Only $2,200.

Blum responds with "What are nanoparticles?" No, and also a noun. From an English prof! She loses $1,200, leaving her with $3,600.

Hove chimes in with "What is subatomic?" Not quite, but at least it's an adjective. The correct answer is "What is strange?" You know what's strange? All three brainy profs whiffing on Final Jeopardy! for the first time.

She loses $3,000 but winds up with $10,200, making her today's champ and earning her a spot in the finals. Huzzah!

Canipe and Blum each leave with $10,000, enough to buy a few dinosaur fossils and a printing press almost as old.

Who will join Hove and Buttrey in the finals? Check back tomorrow to find out!

Monday, Dec. 13

Chevron Down

Welcome to the Jeopardy! Professors Tournament semifinals!

Over the next three days, we'll crown three winners who'll compete in the two-day, over-the-top-rope finale this Thursday and Friday. Mayim says the champion will return to campus $100,000 richer—or, more likely, book a one-way flight to Phuket.

The Semifinals Start Today! | Professors Tournament | JEOPARDY!

Here are the semifinalists for our first-ever #ProfessorsTournament!

Posted by Jeopardy! on Monday, December 13, 2021

Let's meet our first three combatants:

Katie Reed. This California State University, Fullerton music prof tallied $12,000 last week to garner one of the coveted wild card spots. She plays the trombone, which is—let's face it—decidedly not a Reed instrument.

Sam Buttrey. He teaches operations research at the Naval Postgraduate School and moonlights as Steve Martin's stunt double. He was last Wednesday's runaway winner, with $22,400, and hasn't stopped triple-rhyming since.

J.P. Allen. A professor of business and innovation at the University of San Francisco, Allen fashions himself the second coming of Mr. Fantastic and fantasizes about triggering World War III. He snuck in with a wild card-worthy total of $14,799.

Here we go with the Jeopardy! round. Your categories:

  • Professions
  • 19th Century Lit
  • Modern Shorthand (not like this)
  • Historic Americans
  • British Humor (isn't that "Humour"?)
  • Fossil Words

Allen starts us off by choosing British Humor for $400, affecting a cockney accent. He's a (wild) card! He breezes through the category and exclaims, "All right!" Allen is pumped for this semi.

And why not? He lands the round's Daily Double, in Professions, and already holds the lead with $1,800. "I believe the occasion demands a true Daily Double," he says. Allen's obviously angling for his own show. He nails "What is an Economist?"

Buttrey, meanwhile, repeatedly fails to chime in on time and expresses pure anguish with each failure. He starts mashing his buzzer like he's back in 1984 at an arcade playing Galaga.

At the first break, Allen leads with $4,600, followed by Buttrey with $2,600 and Reed with $2,000. Now it's time to learn more about our professorial pundits!

Reed describes her various teaching styles, calling her lectures "stand-up comedy." She's under contract for her own HBO special.

Allen adopts a serious tone while talking about the University of San Francisco's commitment to diversity. Then he reverts to character with, "They even make me feel included even though I suffer from extreme verticality." The air must be thin up there.

Buttrey brags that his students — military officers in training — are far better dressed than the sartorial sad sacks his colleagues must contend with.

We're back into the categories, and Buttrey's working on an acute case of carpal tunnel with his buzzer-bashing.

They love Modern Shorthand, the adult version of texting. Millennials are unimpressed.

At the conclusion of the Jeopardy! round, Buttrey has waged a comeback with $6,600, while Allen has $6,200 and Reed has $4,600.

By the way, there were no incorrect responses in that round. Just a few blank stares.

On to Double Jeopardy! with these categories:

  • Latin American Geography (responses must be in Latin)
  • A Little Chemistry
  • Sidekicks
  • Gems & Jewels
  • Let There Be Enlightenment
  • Say Something Silly, Professor (Allen is levitating)

Reed goes right for Silly. She answers, "What is cattywampus?" and adds, "OK, it is silly." What did she expect?

They're eating up this category, reveling in the opportunity to say "mullarkey" and "oofdah" on national TV.

Uncharacteristically, Allen avoids further silliness and picks Latin American Geography. In a plot twist, however, he gets to respond, "What is Lake Titicaca?" Somehow, he knew.

Allen then nabs the first Daily Double, in Latin America. He leads with $8,200 and wagers $5,400. Wow! When "What is Cuba?" proves incorrect, he doesn't shed a tear but instead maintains his canary-consuming grin and soldiers on. Buttrey must be proud. Allen rips through the rest of the category while contemplating his one and only costly mistake.

Redemption! Allen immediately snares the second Daily Double and wins $3,000 with "What is the Social Contract?" His total fluctuates like Bitcoin.

Bialik is delighted when she gets to say, "Who is Zyzzybalubah?" in the Silly category. Johnny Gilbert is teeing up "bumfuzzle."

Quarterfinalists Harkless and Hollis know A Little Chemistry. Why didn't we get this category? they're thinking.

At the end of Double Jeopardy! Buttrey has $19,000, Allen has $13,400, and Reed trails with $9,000. It's still a game.

The Final Jeopardy! category is Kings & Queens: "Due to legislative action of 1707, she was officially the last monarch of independent Scotland."

Reed writes, "Who is Mary? (Queen of Scots)" Not correct. She wagers everything and drops to zero.

Allen also responds with "Mary, Queen of Scots," also wagers everything, and joins Reed in the zilch club.

Buttrey gets "Who is Queen Anne?" correct. It's a keen queen scene! He adds $7,401 to his total, which now stands at $26,401, and becomes our first finalist.

Both Reed and Allen leave with consolation prizes of $10,000, roughly equal to one year's worth of adjuncting.

We'll see Buttrey again later this week. Meanwhile, circle back tomorrow to see how our next three fabulous faculty fare.

Friday, Dec. 10

Chevron Down

We've reached the end of Week One, and it's time to meet our final competitors.

J.P. Allen, professor of business and innovation at the University of San Francisco, grew up in Saudi Arabia and attended high school in Switzerland and Greece. He earned degrees from the University of California, Santa Cruz and also the University of California, Irvine, leaving him with torn allegiances in battles between banana slugs and anteaters.

A graduate of the University of California, Davis, Humboldt State University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, Alisa Hove teaches biology and plant ecology at Warren Wilson College. She probably knows a thing or two about hops: The college is located in Asheville, NC, commonly known as Beer City for its distinction of having the most microbreweries per capita in the country.

Our final contestant is Deborah Steinberger, associate professor of French literature at the University of Delaware. She graduated from Yale University and has graduate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and New York University. Did you know that "Delaware" translated into French is "DuPont"?

Bialik (belated happy birthday!) explains this is the last day of the quarterfinals. Do students take quarterfinals after four weeks of the semester? Next week we'll have three days of the semifinals before a two-day battle royale in the finals. The winner gets a three-year sabbatical (foreshadowing!).

Our Jeopardy! round has these categories:

  • Winter Holidays
  • Texting Shorthand (FWIW)
  • Hey Shakespeare, Who Said That?
  • Yacht Rock Sails Again (a kind of soft rock)
  • U.S. Geography
  • Get Your Somethings In A Row

Allen dives right into U.S. Geography for $600, bypassing the two cheaper options. He sure knows this terrain, almost sweeping the category before Hove swoops in to snag the last clue.

In Shakespeare, Allen posits, "What is, oh, who said that...what is...who is...uh, Othello?" The play itself is shorter. And he's wrong, to boot.

OMG! These profs really know their Texting Shorthand. Take that, Millennials! ROFLMAO!

Steinberger lands the first Daily Double, in Shakespeare. She's in third place, so it's time to be bold. And she does, making it a true Daily Double. She correctly answers, "Who is Othello?" minus Allen's preamble.

At the first break, Allen leads with $4,000, while Hove and Steinberger are tied with $1,600.

Let's hear about our professors' quirks. Steinberger says she's been on another quiz show, and you can see the jealous betrayal etched on Bialik's face. It was a French program (a "big deal in the Francophone world," Steinberger says), and winners got "lots of books." Or a library card.

Hove says she grew up "surrounded by plants" on her father's avocado farm. Initially intending to become a doctor, she found her true passion in college and became a botanist. Soooo...more plants.

Allen loves visiting Cold War historic sites (who wouldn't?), particularly nuclear ones. He has the wing span of an Andean condor and can simultaneously turn both launch keys to trigger an international attack. The Russians remain unfazed.

Diving back into the round, Hove chooses Winter Holidays. We have a Festivus clue! Allen correctly identifies the Airing of Grievances. Such an underrated tradition. We should have the day off.

The Yacht Rocks clues put us in a mellow mood. Hove gets "What is a marimba?" in reference to this exquisite example of xylophonic ecstasy.

Allen's just buzzing in and winging it now. And for some reason he sports a perpetual grin, like he's swallowed the canary. Or maybe he's still thinking about activating missile silos.

At the end of the Jeopardy! round, it's Steinberger with $6,200, Allen with $4,200, and Hove with $3,000. Still anyone's game.

Here are our categories for the Double Jeopardy! round:

  • Going Medieval
  • Famous Professors (not including these three)
  • Big Movie on Campus
  • Organ Recital
  • Where To Go On Sabbatical
  • "Ex"am Time (responses begin with X...and we've already had xylophone)

Hove goes straight for Sabbatical. She trails in the match, so maybe she's daydreaming of a year in her happy place, surrounded by plants.

Allen says "Going Medieval" with an inflection suggesting he's channeling his inner Marsellus Wallace. He gets a Movie on Campus clue correct but goes right back to Medieval. Allen just likes saying that word.

Hove secures the first Daily Double of the round, in Organ Recital (the category is about organs, not recitals). She's moved into second place and wins another $3,000 with "What are ovaries?" Plants have ovaries too, which she doesn't bother to explain.

The profs have saved "Ex"am Time for the end. Makes sense, no?

Steinberger, now in last place, lands the second Daily Double. She wins $3,000 with "What is the Exchequer?" (It's a show about retired hockey players.)

Following the Double Jeopardy! round, it's Allen with $17,400, Hove with $16,400 (what a comeback!), and Steinberger with $14,800. The tension is palpable. Brows are sweaty, hands are trembling. It's a watershed moment in our nation's history we'll tell our grandkids about. Or not.

For Final Jeopardy!, the category is 19th Century British Authors: "She called herself 'the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity' in an introduction to one of her novels."

Steinberger writes, "Who is George {something resembling a duck}?" Not quite. She bets $5,000 and is left with $9,800.

Hove gets "Who is Shelley?" correct. That's Mary Shelley, whose magnum opus pays tribute to her famous parents, Frank and Stein. Hove adds $3,600 to her total, which now stands at $20,000.

Allen answers, "Who is E. Bronte?" He doesn't bother to spell out "Emily" but takes great care to include an umlaut over the final E. Either way, it's wrong. He loses $2,601, leaving him with $14,799.

Hove is our champ! She joins previous winners Gary Hollis, Marti Canipe, Sam Buttrey, and Ed Hashima in the semifinals.

Bialik announces the wild card winners: Katie Reed and Hester Blum. But wait...there's more! Today's runners-up also make the cut. So today's match was for nothing! The three profs dance about the stage, limbs akimbo. Allen reaches into the audience and high-fives someone in the eighth row.

That's a wrap on Week One, aka the quarterfinals. On to the semis!

Thursday, Dec. 9

Chevron Down

We're back at it for Day Four of the Professors Tournament. Tonight's combatants include two English profs and a historian.

Ramn Guerra has spent a long time in Nebraska. He's a three-time University of Nebraska-Lincoln grad who's taught English literature and Latino studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha since 2008. His dream category lineup: Corn, Big 10 Football, Farm Equipment, Famous Nebraskans, Flyover States, Corn and the History of Kool-Aid.

Ed Hashima, professor of history at American River College, is nothing if not a stickler for "Jeopardy!" rules. The Stanford University and University of California, Los Angeles grad told the American River Current that "you have to answer in the form of a question" and that "you have to buzz in before you're allowed to answer." In case anyone's wondering.

Julia Williams, an English professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, graduated from Trinity University and earned a Ph.D. at Emory University. She teaches humanities at a STEM-focused institution. Einstein embraced that kind of knowledge integration, calling it "branches of the same tree." One assumes Einstein might've done OK on "Jeopardy!" back in the day.

Quick—who's your favorite fictional professor? Severus Snape? Indiana Jones? Dave Jennings? Here's what the Jeopardy! profs say:

The Professors Tournament: Who's Your Favorite Fictional Professor? | JEOPARDY!

Severus Snape, Sherman Klump, and Indiana Jones were among our educators’ favorite fictional professors! Did your fave make the list? #ProfessorsTournament

Posted by Jeopardy! on Thursday, December 9, 2021

Let's get jiggy with the Jeopardy! round. Here are our categories:

  • Prof Talk (natch)
  • Around The Mediterranean
  • What Does It Prevent?
  • All On Your Head Now
  • College Sports (let's see how these profs spend their Saturdays)
  • Lit Characters' Bad Choices

Hashima goes straight for College Sports. I guess we have our answer (or question). Guerra nails it but quickly departs for Bad Choices. Williams chimes in with, "Who is...?," evidently playing mental telepathy games with Bialik. It fails to the tune of -$800. Bad Choices, indeed.

After some categorical meanderings, the profs finally land on Prof Talk. To their utter shock and awe, they discover they actually know something about this subject. Amazing. They also know a thing or two about College Sports.

At the first break, Guerra and Hashima are tied with $2,800, and Williams has amassed -$400.

In the idiosyncrasies segment, Williams reveals that her department, an amalgam of various disciplines, offers no majors. Bialik is flummoxed. Williams seems at peace with it.

Hashima says all his inspirational mentors "knew how to rock a bow tie." And, of course, he doesn't.

Guerra goes on about his dissertation and a professor who taught his parents and had audiotapes of his great-grandfather...we'll need to consult Ancestry.com to unravel this mystery.

Oh, and he assiduously eschews any form of neckwear:

Back to the game! In the On Your Head category, the producers sneak in an answer about mortar boards. How thoughtful! But now the "Pomp and Circumstance" earworm has invaded our contestants' brains for the duration.

Hashima lands the first Daily Double, in Mediterranean. He has $6,000 and loses $1,200 with, "What is Beirut." Nope. Tripoli. Could've been a Double Tripoli. Ha! What a singular wit.

We arrive at the end of the Jeopardy! round with Hashima in the lead with $8,200, while Guerra and Williams have $3,800 and $1,800, respectively.

Our choices for the Double Jeopardy! round:

  • Yiddish Theater
  • Science Vocabulary
  • State Songs
  • Describing The TV Drama
  • In Recent Years
  • Show Me Your P-H-D (and I'll show you mine)

Williams goes straight for State Songs, rewording her question several times and thus offering one of the longest responses in Jeopardy! history. The Magna Carta is shorter. To her credit, she does get "What is the Wabash?" when the clue for Indiana's state song comes up. She does, of course, live in Indiana, so there's that.

Seriously, who knows their own state song? Go ahead...start singing yours. I'll wait.

And it seems Colorado has more than one, thanks to John Denver.

Williams then picks Yiddish Theater with body language suggesting someone eventually had to pick it sometime. Hashima lands the Yiddish Daily Double. Mazel Tov! He has a comfortable lead and adds $2,400 with "What is 'If I Were a Rich Man'?" Keep it up, Ed, and you just might be.

(Somewhere, Prof. Sam Buttrey can be heard mumbling "skittish British Yiddish....")

Hashima also likes his TV Dramas. Williams chimes in with "What is Frasier?" That's a sitcom, Jules.

In the P-H-D category (responses have those letters in that order), we have a clue about squid and "octopuses," officially putting to rest once and for all the raging debate over the plural of octopus. Octopi fans, you lose.

An In Recent Years clue asks where the 2016 Olympics were held. Won't it be a hoot in future generations to ask when the 2020 Olympics took place? Trick answer!

Science Vocabulary sits there all by its lonesome. Let's see...degrees in English, history, English...no wonder! Hashima lands the last Daily Double, as if he needs it. He's lapping the field and wagers a measly sum. Wimp. But he gets "What is gravity?"

At the conclusion of Double Jeopardy! we have Hashima with $27,400, Williams with $5,800, and Guerra with $1,400. Ho-hum. Another landslide.

Our Final Jeopardy! category is 1950s Public Works: "Dubbed 'The greatest construction show on Earth,' when completed it connected Minnesota to Montreal."

Guerra writes, "What is {squiggly lines}?" Close. He wagers everything and nets zero.

Williams offers, "What is interstate highway system?" Closer, but still wrong. She bet $2,000, leaving her with $3,800.

Hashima answers, "What is the St. Lawrence Seaway?" Correct! You rule, Ed! He adds $4,700 to his total, bringing him to a whopping $32,100, the largest sum to date. On to the semis!

Sadly, we say goodbye to Williams and probably Guerra. Maybe Hashima will show up to the semis rockin' a bow tie. We can only dream.

Tune in next time as we wrap up Week One!

Wednesday, Dec. 8

Chevron Down

After two days of blistering competition, three new profs square off.

Sam Buttrey teaches operations research at the Naval Postgraduate School. He's a Princeton University grad with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, an expert on statistics, and a sucker for chic earrings.

Hofstra University's Lisa Dresner, associate professor of writing studies, ping-ponged between University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley, earning a bachelor's at Michigan, then a master's at Berkeley, then back to Michigan for a law degree, and finally Berkeley for a Ph.D. If Mayim Bialik announces "Michigan and California Landmarks" as a category, Dresner will flip.

An assistant professor of U.S. and African American history at the University of Colorado, Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders (do friends call her Larry-Sanders?) earned her bachelor's from Wake Forest, her master's from Columbia, and her Ph.D. from Rutgers. Being on "Jeopardy!" she says, is the "coolest nerd thing" she's ever done. Oxymorons for $200.

To kick off the show, Bialik reviews the academic disciplines represented in this tournament, evidently saving nanotechnology through zoology for tomorrow's show.

There's a Wide Variety of Educators Competing in the Professors Tournament | Jeopardy!

We didn’t even get to cover the fields of study in the rest of the alphabet!

Posted by Jeopardy! on Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Our opening categories are as follows:

  • Found in King Tut's Tomb (other than King Tut)
  • The Rules of the Game
  • Company Colors (too bad we don't have profs from Brown, Auburn, or Navy)
  • More than 100
  • Dealing with the Environment
  • Prepositional Phrases

Buttrey begins by picking More Than 100 for $200, which makes perfect sense. It's at this point we also realize Buttrey is Steve Martin's long-lost doppelgnger.

Anyway, he's off to a rollicking start, racking up $3,400 while Dresner has zero and Lawrence-Sanders has -$200. At this rate, they'll have to pay Buttrey in Bitcoin.

As we break for commercials, Buttrey has $4,400, Dresner has $1,400, and Lawrence-Sanders has $400. Fours are wild.

During the ever-popular "getting to know you" segment, Lawrence-Sanders retells a class conversation about which historical figures would survive a zombie apocalypse. Rasputin, perhaps?

Dresner says her students describe her as somewhere between a cheerleader and a demented squirrel. Her words. She says she gets especially animated over coordinating conjunctions (who doesn't?) and proceeds to recite the standard "for/and/nor/but/or/yet/so" cheer.

Buttrey credits his father, also a professor, for instilling a love of learning. He prefers to keep his "fan boy" cheers internal.

Back to the game. These profs don't know their Company Colors so well. Lots of red faces.

Lawrence-Sanders lands first Daily Double, in the Environment category. She has $1,400, tying her with Dresner, and wagers $1,000. She correctly answers "What is the Green New Deal?" at the buzzer! More colors!

Anyone else surprised Dresner isn't cleaning up in Prepositional Phrases given her infatuation with conjunctions? She needs a new cheer.

They save King Tut for the end. Lots of weird stuff in that tomb. You just don't see folks buried with scarabs these days.

At the end of the Jeopardy! round, it's Buttrey with $8,000, Lawrence-Sanders $4,000 and Dresner with $1,400.

On to the Double Jeopardy! categories:

  • Literary Professors
  • Triple Rhyme Time
  • Islands in the Chain (not the Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton song)
  • Names & Places of 2021 (so far)
  • A Little Math in Your Movie
  • "Ennial" Response Will Do

With her second pick, Dresner nabs the first Daily Double, in Literary Professors. She has $1,400 and makes it a true Daily Double by betting it all. The audience goes wild! (Not really.) She gets "Who is Professor Moriarty?" correct.

Not surprisingly, stats prof Buttrey pivots quickly to A Little Math. Most of the answers go unquestioned.

But he finds his groove on Triple Rhyme Time, coming up with "chic Greek geek" and "middle fiddle riddle." Despite his penchant for triple rhymes, he switches to Islands. He's one plumb dumb chum.

Nobody knows Names and Places of 2021. Doesn't anyone read the newspaper? (Wait, what's a newspaper?)

Buttrey's back to bustin' Rhymes, with "pocket rocket socket" and "thin gin grin," but once again shifts gears to another category. Bialik says, "You like those, Sam." My point exactly!

Lawrence-Sanders, the Colorado prof, saves face with a correct response about Denver.

In the "Ennial" category, no one gets "What is Semiquincentennial?," referring to America's 250th celebration in 2026. Probably won't be great on a t-shirt.

Lawrence-Sanders gets the final clue in Names & Places, which is the second Daily Double. She loses $2,000 by confusing the Black Sea with the Baltic Sea. Not that it matters much.

That's because heading into Final Jeopardy! Buttrey has $22,400, Dresner has $6,400, and Lawrence-Sanders has $3,200. This one's over, but Bialik reminds everyone of the wild card spots still up for grabs.

The category is 20th Century People: "Gen. MacArthur said this man's death by 'violence is one of those bitter anachronisms that seem to refute all logic.'"

Lawrence-Sanders answers, "Who is John F. Kennedy?" Nope. She bets everything and winds up with zero.

Dresner writes, "Who is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?" That's also wrong, and she also bets everything and also finishes with zilch. She's also not getting a wild card.

Buttrey, like Lawrence-Sanders, incorrectly guesses JFK but wagers nothing. He got the good zero.

The answer is, "Who is Mahatma Gandhi?"

Buttrey is today's runaway champ and moves on to the semifinals. We probably say a final farewell to Dresner and Lawrence-Sanders.

Check back tomorrow for a Day 4 recap!

Tuesday, Dec. 7

Chevron Down

Tonight's matchup showcases scholars of education, biology, and music.

Marti Canipe teaches elementary science education at Northern Arizona University. She's a University of North Carolina grad with a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Like Hester Blum, who competed last night, she has experience with the Polar region. Did you know the Office of Polar Programs now offers Arctic animal trading cards?

John Harkless is an associate professor of chemistry at Howard University. He's a Morehouse College graduate with a Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. On his website, he explores the intersection of philosophy and computation, asking questions like, "How much art do we need?" and "How much time do we need?" Tonight he wonders how much money he'll need to advance to the next round.

Finally, we have Katie Reed, who teaches musicology at California State University, Fullerton. She has a Ph.D from the University of Florida and a master's from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in trombone performance. She'll be ready to play the sad trombone wah-wah-wah should her opponents fail.

Tonight's winner will join Gary Hollis of Roanoke College, who ran away with last night's contest.

Before we begin, let's acknowledge what a perfect host Mayim Bialik is for this tourney. Much better choice than Aaron Rogers.

Here we go with the Jeopardy! round. Your categories:

  • Before He Was President
  • Nonfiction
  • Office, Ours (clever...)
  • Pop Culture
  • Mountains
  • In The Curriculum (tricked! — responses use letters found in these words)

These profs may be bookworms, but they sure know their pop culture. Cleaning up in the category. And for some reason avoiding Nonfiction. Go figure.

Canipe is starting slowly. Is her buzzer broken? Wait...now she's cookin'. Phew.

At the first break, Reed leads with $2,800, Harkless has $2,400, and Canipe has $1,400. Anyone's game!

Let's get to know them a bit better! Reed shares a story of a power outage on campus, saying students used cell phones to help light the place. First time ever that students were encouraged to take out their phones.

Harkless goes into some theoretical discussion of theoretical chemistry, explaining that he didn't use chemicals in his chemistry dissertation and that he might accidentally blow something up someday. In theory.

Canipe tells a story of visiting Greenland and sleeping with students on the Arctic tundra. (That came out wrong.) Anyway, it was in-tents.

Back to the round. Canipe lands the first Daily Double, in Nonfiction. She nets $1,000 for "What is 'Eat, Pray, Love?'"

We finally get to Mountains. They evidently don't like the high country. Or American history.

Canipe does well in the category but answers one about Antarctica incorrectly. Ouch.

Now for the Presidents. They're tanking in this category. No history majors, eh?

At the end of the Jeopardy! round, Reed leads with $5,400, Canipe is on the comeback trail with $4,800, and Harkless has $2,400. It's a nailbiter!

For the Double Jeopardy! round, we have:

  • I've Got A Theory
  • Name The Musical
  • Mythology
  • They Earned A Ph.D. (tailor-made)
  • Russian History And Culture
  • 10-Letter Words (time to show off the sesquipedalian chops)

Harkless answers a chemistry question correctly. Good thing. They would've revoked his tenure. He's now tied for first and gets a Daily Double, winning $2,000 for "What is string theory?"

Harkless also knows his mythology. Except for Niobe.

Reed prefers musicals. She does well in the category and winds up tied with Harkless for the lead.

Everyone's avoiding 10-letter words. Puzzlingly.

Reed snares the next Daily Double, in Russian history, but unfortunately flubs it with "Who are the Bolsheviks?" and loses $1,600. Everyone knows it was the Mensheviks. Duh.

At the end of Double Jeopardy!, Reed has $14,000, Harkless has $12,000, and Canipe has $10,400. Final Jeopardy! is gonna be fierce.

The category is Old Geographic Names: "This term once used for Western North Africa is still used today in the name of a primate from that region."

Canipe answers "What is Barbary?" Bingo! ("What is Macaque?" is also acceptable.) She adds $3,000 to her total, which now stands at $13,400.

Harkless offers, "What is Rhesus?" He wagered $8,000 and now has $4,000. His recess is over.

After all this monkey business, Canipe wins. What a comeback! From a broken buzzer to the day's chimp champ. It's on to the semis. Reed might sneak in as a wildcard with her $12,000, which ties her with Blum.

Check back tomorrow for Day Three of this ferocious faculty feud!

Monday, Dec. 6

Chevron Down

Here we go!

Tonight's kickoff of the Professors Tournament features Hester Blum of Penn State, Gautam Hans of Vanderbilt Law School, and Gary Hollis of Roanoke College.

Blum, with a bachelor's degree from Princeton and a Ph.D. from Penn, specializes in 19th century U.S. literature, particularly Herman Melville. She's also an expert in oceanic and polar studies and has explored the Arctic Circle. She's no doubt hoping for categories on whales in literature, oceans, and glaciers. And maybe "Ice Age" movies.

Hans has a bachelor's from Columbia and a master's and law degree from Michigan. He's an expert on First Amendment law, civil liberties, and social media and will be live-tweeting the action during the show.

And then there's Hollis from Roanoke, which is holding a watch party on campus to cheer on their favorite chemistry prof. Hollis earned his undergraduate degree and Ph.D. from North Carolina and teaches organic chemistry. He's also an authority on Disney and Pokemon Go and is banking on the assumption that most "Jeopardy!" contestants don't know their Bulbasaurs from their Squirtles.

The Jeopardy! round features the following categories:

  • It's a Wonderful Life Turns 75
  • Pope-Pourri
  • Elbow Patches (perfect for tweedy profs)
  • Magazines
  • Lesser-Known Marsupials (not Captain Kangaroo?)
  • Post Doctoral (not academic, unfortunately—just words beginning with "do")

Hollis from Roanoke is dominating early. He leads at the first commercial break, with Hans in second and Blum in red figures. They clearly aren't familiar with their lesser-known marsupials.

It's time for quirky stories. Hollis describes how he and his students celebrate National Chemistry Week (who doesn't?). Hans mentions how the Socratic method used in law schools prepared him for this very moment. Bialik notes that Blum recently edited a new edition of "Moby Dick." This time, Ahab wins.

Back to the competition. Hollis gets the Daily Double, grabbing another $1,500 for "What is the Vatican Council?"

After the Jeopardy! round, Hollis leads with $7,900, Hans is in second with $2,200, and Blum trails with $1,400.

In the Double Jeopardy! round, they can choose from the following:

  • Languages
  • Girl Groups
  • We Get Letters
  • African-American Authors
  • There's Always Room for Canada
  • Finals (right around the corner for their students)

Not surprisingly, English prof Blum is cleaning up with African-American Authors. She gets the Daily Double in Languages and collects $2,000 for "What is Bantu?"

Still, Hollis is pulling away. He nails the second Daily Double ("What is 'W'"—the George Bush movie) but bets only $700.

Heading into Final Jeopardy!, it's academic. Hollis has $21,000, Blum has $8,600 and Hans has $5,400. It's an easy Hollis win unless he does something stupid.

The category is Aesthetic Movements: "This turn-of-the-century movement was alternately known around the world as Nieuwe Kunst & Modernista." Come on, can we please have something challenging?

Hans answers, "What is Avant-Garde?" Nope. It costs him $5,399, leaving him with one measly buck.

Blum writes, "What is Art Neuveau?" She's given credit for being "phonetically correct" and adds $3,400 to her total, giving her $12,000.

Hollis answers, "What is Art Deco?" Sorry, no, but close. (I would have answered, "What is Art Garfunkel?") But he bet only $1,000 and ends with $20,000, giving him the win and a victory for small colleges everywhere.

Bear in mind that losing in this round doesn't necessarily mean you're out. The top four non-winners with the highest money totals will advance to the semifinals as wild cards. Blum, with her $12,000, might have a shot. Hans is toast.

That's a wrap for Day One. Tune in tomorrow to see how our next three professorial contestants fare.