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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Double jeopardy: Brandeis grad knows all the right questions

Published: January 28, 2005
Section: News

Do you know the questions to the following answers? A) Syrians enjoy a drink called Arak, a strong liquor made from anise and this vined fruit. B) This TV show features the characters Tad Martin, Brooke English, and Erica Kane. C) Our Lady of Czestochowa, called The Black Madonna, is one of this countrys most beloved icons. D) The comet belt this Dutchman predicted to be between Neptune & Pluto in 1951 was detected by the Hubble in 1995.

If you could solve all of the above (what are: grapes, All My Children, Poland, and who is: Andre Kuiper, respectively), consider yourself one step closer to achieving your life-long dream of winning two nights in a row on Jeopardy!, as Brandeis alum Ted Stratton 03 did this past week. He answered all of the above questions or rather, answers correctly during his recent stint as a Jeopardy! champion.

Ted graduated Brandeis in 2003 with a major in History that he picked up after trying science for a while, and a minor in Italian Studies. I took a lot of art history classes, as well. I was actually one class short of a major, but I got a D in one of the classes, he told The Hoot.

Our Jeopardy! champ was also involved with fencing, squash, the Cooking Club and the Oenology (wine) Club. I guess what I was most involved with was Quiz Bowl, which was intercollegiate quizzing and trivia competitions. That gave me a lot of experience for the show.

Never a big fan of Jeopardy!, Ted started to pay attention when Ken Jennings came on and created a record-breaking 74 game winning streak in which he won over 2.5 million dollars. Seeing the champ consistently beating any challenger planted the idea of becoming the next Jennings in Teds head. Watching the show, I knew the answers to many of the questions he knew so I figured, Im pretty good. I could match up with this guy.

It so happened that Jeopardy! auditions were coming to Teds area in October, so he went downtown and auditioned. To try out, you have to score 40 out of 50 on a written test. If you pass, you then play a simulated game with buzzers. Afterward, you are interviewed by the staff to see if you can appeal to them with quirky stories that youll talk about when you are introduced on the show. I whet their appetites with a bunch of junk about how I used to play the accordion when I was two, how I like to watch cricket on TV, and how I like to sing Christmas carols even though I work for a Jewish newspaper, Ted says.

Three weeks later, Ted got the call. Jeopardy! wanted him on the show. I was pretty shocked, to be honest, but I was confident that I could hold my own, Ted admits. I only had two weeks to prepare, so I read a book on presidents and looked through an almanac. I really didnt do much to prepare. The guy who beat me on my third episode said he spent time online looking at the SparkNotes for all the books they had. Thats how he beat me in Final Jeopardy;

the question was on literature.

Once at the studio, Ted learned that five shows are taped in one day, one after the next. Alex is an amazing guy;

he has an amazing stamina. But hes kind of a mean guy he kept making these mean jokes. I dont know if hes bitter because hes been doing the show for so long, but finding that out was unexpected, according to Ted.

So how did Teds Brandeis education pay off on the show? Ted knew the solution to the following from one of his art history classes: In a series of works from around 1894, this French impressionist painted Rouen Cathedral at Dawn (who is Monet?). There were a lot of history questions. There was a question on the Roman Empire, and I knew the answer from a course on the Roman Empire that I had taken from Professor Kapelle. There was also an entire category on wine, too, so maybe being in the wine club at Brandeis helped a bit.

As everyone knows, the Final Jeopardy questions can make or break your game. After knowing that the boy who was introduced in a 1902 book flew away from his mother when he was seven days old was Peter Pan, Ted became a champion. On his next episode, the Final Jeopardy question that made Ted a two-day champ was about the Six Day War in Israel. Being a Brandeis grad came in handy there, smiles Ted. The answer? The Arab-Israeli War that started on June 5, 1967 ended with a cease-fire on this date in Israel. The question? June 10, 1967.

Any advice for aspiring Brandeis students who want to win big on Jeopardy!? Joining the Quiz Bowl club at Brandeis definitely gave me an edge, says Ted. Also, just pay attention. Watch a lot of TV. VH1 helps, surprisingly enough, because there are a lot of questions about music and pop culture history. Its very educational.