Today’s Final Jeopardy – May 17, 2018

Here’s today’s Final Jeopardy (in the category School Supply Words) for Thursday, May 17, 2018 (Season 34, Episode 179):

Adding “P” to a word for a chronic back condition gets you this synonym for graphite or pencil lead

(correct response beneath the contestants)

Today’s contestants:

Steve Mond, a 9th & 10th grade math teacher from Midvale, Utah
Steve Mond on Jeopardy!
Larry Martin, a 2nd grade teacher from Kansas City, Missouri
Larry Martin on Jeopardy!
Claire Bishop, a high school Latin teacher from Lexington, Kentucky
Claire Bishop on Jeopardy!


(Content continues below)

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Correct response: What is plumbago?

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More information about Final Jeopardy:

“Lumbago” is the word here referring to “lower back pain”, and “plumbago” is the synonym for graphite/pencil lead.

Anyone playing along at home who is able to get this Final Jeopardy! today should at least consider taking up competitive Scrabble, as being able to see the unusual “hooks” such as this is a crucial skill. (You can find more information about Scrabble at

Going off on a tangent about Scrabble strategy: the fact that the word “lumbago” can become “plumbago” may well affect where the word “lumbago” should be played on the board. Because of the geometry of the board, playing the word for maximum points leaves the possibility of a huge score to the first opponent to draw a P. (For the record, the Scrabble AI program Quackle and its Championship Player would open the word for the maximum 80 points.)

The word "lumbago" on a Scrabble board illustrating the risk of front-hooking a "P" for "plumbago".

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Looking to find out who won Jeopardy! today? Tonight’s results are below!

Scores going into Final:
Larry $18,400
Claire $9,400
Steve $5,600

Tonight’s results:
Steve $5,600 – $3,000 = $2,600 (What is pache?)
Claire $9,400 – $8,000 = $1,400 (What pscoliosis)
Larry $18,400 – $6,601 = $11,799 (What is pain)

The final scores of the May 17, 2018 episode of Jeopardy!

Scores after the Jeopardy! Round:
Steve $3,600
Larry $3,000
Claire $2,600


Opening break taken after: 15 clues

Daily Double locations:
1) BOOKS OF THE BIBLE $1000 (7th pick)
Steve 1200 -600 (Claire 0 Larry -800)
2) 21st CENTURY BESTSELLERS $1600 (2nd pick)
Claire 3800 -2000 (Steve 3600 Larry 3000)
3) LET’S GET SCIENC”E” $1600 (13th pick)
Larry 11800 +4200 (Steve 4800 Claire 1800)
Overall Daily Double Efficiency for this game: -67

Unplayed clues:
J! round: None!
DJ! Round: None!
Total $ Left On Board: $0

Game Stats:
Larry $15,800 Coryat, 16 correct, 1 incorrect, 26.32% in first on buzzer
Steve $6,200 Coryat, 14 correct, 4 incorrect, 28.07% in first on buzzer
Claire $11,400 Coryat, 19 correct, 4 incorrect, 36.84% in first on buzzer
Combined Coryat Score: $33,400
Lach Trash: $10,000 (on 9 Triple Stumpers)
Coryat lost to incorrect responses (less double-correct responses): $10,600

Larry Martin, stats to date:
65 correct, 6 incorrect
35.09% in first on buzzer (60/171)
3/4 on Daily Doubles (Net Earned: $7,200)
1/3 in Final Jeopardy
Average Coryat: $19,200

Steve Mond, stats to date:
56 correct, 12 incorrect
35.09% in first on buzzer (60/171)
2/4 on Daily Doubles (Net Earned: -$100)
1/3 in Final Jeopardy
Average Coryat: $10,733

Claire Bishop, stats to date:
57 correct, 9 incorrect
33.92% in first on buzzer (58/171)
2/3 on Daily Doubles (Net Earned: $3,000)
1/3 in Final Jeopardy
Average Coryat: $12,800


  • Larry’s “effective lead” is $4,599.50 over Steve and $5,199.50 over Claire, as tomorrow’s scores can be doubled in Final Jeopardy.

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17 Comments on "Today’s Final Jeopardy – May 17, 2018"

  1. I just said “plumbago” to myself as a joke when I read it, thinking I had just made up a funny word. Obviously never heard of it. One of the reasons I love this game.

    • I did the exact same thing. Who’d have thunk it was the right response? 🙂

      • When you look at the word though, it does make sense, with Pb being the chemical symbol for lead. A lot to add up in 30 seconds though.

  2. Maurine Gutowski | May 17, 2018 at 3:32 pm |

    Who uses the old word lumbago for back pain anymore and what teacher would ever use the word plumbago to refer to pencil lead??? As a FINAL tournament championship question it seems to me to be quite ridiculous.

    • Yeah, but to me it seems like the first day of a two-game tournament final often has a VERY tough FJ clue. And oftentimes contestants will wager (and lose) big. Though with the exception of Arabic earlier this week, it seems like the teachers have had problems with most of the FJ’s in this tournament.

      The deficits of Steve and Claire aren’t that large. Any one of the three could go on a roll Friday and come away a winner.

    • Just watched the actual show…I guess the answer to your first question would be Alex, for one! (Sorry to hear he suffered from it.)

  3. We have a somewhat common yard plant in Hawaii called plumbago. Never heard it used for graphite/pencil lead. . .

  4. And definitely fair. When a FJ! category has “words” in its name like today, it’s a safe bet you might have to consider Latin roots, in this case Pb (plumbum) for lead. Definitely challenging, but that’s what you want (and should expect) in a tournament final.

  5. The category title was misleading, and probably caused them to bet more than they might have. Knowing “school supply words” was not the key to getting it. Alex said as much when he said he thought it was easy, but only because he’d had lumbago. A fairer title would have been “obscure school supply words,” and the contestants could have bet accordingly.

    • I dunno. It’s a tournament final, do the contestants really need a ‘hint’ that the clue might be a tough one?

    • I agree, Robert. Although I would say that “obscure school supply words” isn’t workable either. I would argue that “plumbago” isn’t really a “school supply word” at all. Has anyone ever used that word when discussing school supplies? Didn’t think so. It’s like saying that “cerulean” is an automotive term, because it’s a synonym for “blue”, and some cars are blue.

  6. Michael Canarick | May 17, 2018 at 9:13 pm |

    I agree that the category was misleading. I also think having a basically unanswerable question somewhat ruins the game. When you google the word “plumbago” there is no mention of lead anywhere. Nobody on the planet knows that word. I have no problem with a tough question in the finals of a tournament, but not a fan of impossible questions. Likewise, I am not a fan of questions that everybody knows the answer to.

    • Stating this for the record:

      I knew the word.

    • EVERYBODY seems to be missing why this was a great and fair clue. Granted, “plumbago” is not a widely known word (save for Andy!), but ask yourself this…what other word IS a synonym for graphite or pencil lead? Not coming? Latin root time, which would have easily led to the correct response. Again, challenging, but totally gettable (fair).

      • Scott William | May 18, 2018 at 9:42 am |

        Yeah, I agree with you, Jim G. It was difficult but fair. And it’s worth mentioning that some people tend to complain when Final Jeopardy is “too easy”. Well, it was not “too easy” on this day, but it remains a great show that is worth watching.

  7. Maurine Gutowski | May 18, 2018 at 12:32 am |

    Well, I looked up plumbago in my favorite dictionary, the 1982 Second College Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary. It gives two definitions: 1. Graphite 2. Any of various plants of the genus Plumbago; leadwort. (a tropical plant, probably Joan’s yard plant; I remember when I went to Hawaii in the mid-60’s to teach at the University of Hawaii I was overwhelmed by the unfamiliar flowers). That dictionary is 36 years old, so I wasn’t surprised that an online dictionary’s definition was “an old-fashioned term for graphite,” just as lower back pain was called lumbago by old folks and I never really knew what they were talking about.

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