Journalist Claire McNear writes a column about "Jeopardy!" for The...

Journalist Claire McNear writes a column about "Jeopardy!" for The Ringer. Credit: Claire McNear

Answer: This writer who covers sports and culture for The Ringer is a major "Jeopardy!" fan with a new book called "Answers in the Form of Questions" (Twelve Books, $28).

The response: Who is Claire McNear?

The journalist, who pens a column on "Jeopardy!" for the pop culture website, shares her passion for the game in her book that's equal parts history, insider's guide and love letter.

"It's the ultimate contact sport," she said in a phone interview from her home in Washington, D.C.

The book opens with her visit to the set during the "Greatest of All Time" tournament earlier this year involving the show's holy trinity of champions — Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter.

In addition to speaking with them, "Answers in the Form of Questions" is chock full of interviews with host Alex Trebek; colorful contestants from long ago (remember New York City Transit cop Frank Spangenberg?) and the recent past (quirky bartender Austin Rogers); Celebrity Tournament superstars (Sea Cliff native Michael McKean); a glimpse of the original version hosted by Art Fleming; Trebek's choice for his replacement ("Why, Betty White, of course") and more.

McNear writes that the show might have never come back if it wasn't for the popularity of "Weird" Al Yankovic's 1984 music video "I Lost on 'Jeopardy!' " She also notes that "Weird" Al was considered to host the show. "Can you imagine what that would have been like?" she said. "I don't know how seriously they considered him, but it would have been a very different show."

She also weaves in tales of a few infamous players like 1986 contestant Barbara Lowe who had competed on numerous other game shows under different identities. When "Jeopardy!" producers discovered her ruse and that she had exceeded the show's guidelines for total TV appearances, her winnings were withheld.

If you think being a part of the show's Clue Crew and traveled to exotic locations throughout the world sounds glamorous, check out the story of the time they almost slid down a glacier in Alaska.

McNear also offers her own firsthand account of trying out as a contestant. "Mercifully, if not unpredictably, I flunked the test," she writes.

While McNear enjoyed talking to so many past contestants, she has a particular fondness for one — Buzzy Cohen, the quirky music industry executive who won the tournament of champions in 2017.

"He was very helpful, and he even invited me to be part of his team of all stars for trivia nights at O'Brien's," an Irish Pub in Santa Monica, California.

And did she measure up to the team of brainiacs? "No, I was terrible," joked McNear.

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