To conquer Jeopardy!, IBM may have Watson, but Northeastern has Doug Lloyd.
The law student, who graduates next month, bested the competition on an episode of the classic TV quiz show that aired Monday, April 9, earning him the title of Jeopardy! champion.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be on the show, and it was an even bigger dream to win,” said Lloyd, who plans to split his $14,400 in winnings between loan payments and his honeymoon following his August wedding.
As a child, Lloyd watched the show every night with his parents, and he began taking the online test when he turned 18. His fourth attempt, in 2009, yielded an in-person audition and entry into the contestant pool, but nothing more.
He retook the test in 2011, and once again earned an audition. Then in November, as he sat at his desk working on co-op at the legal rights organization GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders), an unfamiliar number popped up on his cell phone. Lloyd nearly didn’t pick up, but then scrambled to answer once he realized it was a California area code. On the line was the Jeopardy! representative offering congratulations and the news his taping was in three weeks.
On set, Lloyd overcame his nerves and seized the moment. He battled through the first round, and when “Math Formulas” appeared as a category in Double Jeopardy!, Lloyd relied on his knowledge from studying computer science at Harvard University as an undergraduate. “One question was about the formula for the perimeter of a rectangle. It might have been the easiest $2,000 I’ve ever earned in my entire life,” he said, laughing.
In Final Jeopardy!, however, Lloyd encountered a surreal twist. Only days earlier, Lloyd visited a friend in San Diego, and his friend’s father insisted Lloyd avoid the Hollywood Walk of Fame — a “tourist trap,” he called it — when visiting Los Angeles prior to the show’s taping. Amazingly, “Hollywood Walk of Fame” was the Final Jeopardy! category.
With Lloyd in third place, and only a couple thousand dollars separating all three players, he made a low wager, thinking his opponents would wager high to out-position the other. He thought if all three players were wrong, he’d emerge victorious. The plan worked, and Lloyd took first place with $12,400. He won an additional $2,000 for his second-place finish on the next episode.
While Lloyd humbly downplayed his vast wealth of information, he admitted a longtime passion to acquire knowledge. A few years ago, Lloyd received the book “The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind” as a birthday gift. He read 20 pages a night so it felt like “pleasure reading and not cramming.”
“If I don’t know a word, I look it up. If I read something somewhere, I fact-check it somewhere else. I think my natural curiosity probably lends to stuff getting stuck in my head,” he said.
So does he have any advice for future Jeopardy! contestants?
“There’s a big difference playing at home and playing on set. At home, no one can beat you to the buzzer,” he said.