4. Stay Clam
No, that’s not a typo. This bit of advice comes from a young student who let her nerves get the best of her on a tryout for Back-to-School Week. Her mis-texted advice to a friend: “When u get 2 Hollywood and ur about 2 film ur show, remember 2 STAY CLAM above all else. No matter what happens in the game, don’t let urself get intimidated or nervous.”
Textual spoonerism notwithstanding, this is good advice in an unintended way. Make like a clam and keep your mouth open only as long as you have to! I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a player blow it by giving too much information. For example, when the answer to a clue is a person, give only his last name if that is sufficient. Say Tesla and you’re right. Say Nicholas Tesla and you’re wrong. (It’s Nikola.) On occasion you’ll need first and last name, such as with the few presidents who share a last name or in the case of fathers and sons and variations thereof. But if the first name is not required, play it safe and give only the last name.
That goes for other answers where the temptation to show off might lead you astray. In the category “Two Middle Initials,” the clue called for only the middle initials of the person in question. But one contestant got cocky and answered the clue with “Who is George Herbert Walker Bush.” No, Miss Smartypants, they were looking for “H.W.” That knocked the smarm off her face, and she was so shaken that she never really recovered for the rest of the game.
By the same token, do not shout out answers before you’re acknowledged by Alex Trebek. Sometimes a player blurts out the answer once he has it even though another player has beaten him to the buzzer. Especially don’t shout out the answer trying to beat the buzzer. Sometimes a player rings in and then takes interminable seconds trying to dredge the answer from the recesses of his brain. Just as the time’s-up sounds, he shouts out the answer—but too late. In both circumstances he’s just given a free answer to a fellow contestant.