Behind The Stories

The Curious Listener: Fair 'n Square

Curious Listener 220 x 220
Katie Burk/NPR

Die-hard Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! fans can probably tell you whether or not the truth matters in "Bluff the Listener" game, how many correct answers you need to win the "Listener Limerick Challenge," and which contests on the show allow for "close enough" answers to count. And with Scorekeeper and Judge Carl Kasell at the helm, you better believe we're taking the rules seriously (however unorthodox the rules may be).

So, when we got a letter from one listener challenging the show's fairness, the NPR Listener Services team obviously had to investigate. See what they found below:

I want to cry "Foul!" I just listened to the podcast of this week's show, and I was struck by how little time Jessi Klein seemed to have for the Fill in the Blank part of the show and how much time Paula Poundstone seemed to have. So I went back and timed both segments. Jessi had a measly 20 seconds before the gong sounded; Paul had an overly generous 1 minute 25 seconds. I think the fix was in so Paula would win again. Either that or you need a new timekeeper.

From Ted Jamaica
Plain, MA

Dear Ted,

Thank you for contacting NPR. You have uncovered the deep, dark secret of Wait Wait. . .Don't Tell Me! When the show is taped in front of the live audience (on the Thursday night prior to the weekend broadcast), no timer is actually used for Lightning Fill in the Blank. Each contestant is given 8 questions. When the show is edited, if it's running long and/or contestants got some Fill in the Blanks wrong, one or two of those questions are generally the first thing to be cut. So the discrepancy you heard was the result of editing, not some sort of plot against Jessi Klein.

We are always delighted to hear from listeners. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,
Emily
NPR Audience Partnership
202-513-3232
www.npr.org

You can find the answers to more Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! questions online at the show's FAQ page.

Are You Curious?
Katie Burk/NPR

Send your questions about the inner workings of NPR, something you heard during a program, or anything else NPR-related to NPR Listener Services. Your question and the answer might even end up on the This is NPR blog.

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