It all started over seven years ago when I sent in an e-mail to Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! asking if I could be a listener contestant and that it would make for an awesome birthday present and added a small note about my Wait Wait Stats Page. I later found out that I was selected to be the listener contestant for the Not My Job round when Monica Seles was on as the guest back in 2009. Unfortunately, she kind of goose egged and I didn’t get to win Carl Kasell’s voicemail message.
Fast forwarding to April 2011, I got a call from one of the Wait Wait producers who asked me I wanted to be a listener contestant on the coming week’s taping. The producer kind of felt bad about the whole Monica Seles not scoring well on the game. So, I accepted the offer and was lined up to be the first listener contestant on the show that taped exactly five years ago today, April 21, 2011, and later aired on my birthday. You can listen to the segment below:
I’m not sure how much of it was reflected in my voice or mannerisms, or muted by the not-so-great headset I was using, but I had a strong mix of nervousness, anxiety, excitement and tiredness coursing through me. By the end of the segment, I had done enough to get Carl Kasell to record a voicemail message for me:
Although I haven’t deployed Carl’s message on a voicemail device, it still is nice to have a small piece of Carl’s voice to call my own.
Each of the panelists on the panel for the Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! show that aired on 2016-04-02 shared something in common: all three of their first initials were “A” (Adam, Amy and Alonzo). When my mind latched onto that, I started wondering if this was the first time something like that happened; or, was it a more common occurrence?
The first query was to pull in all of the data from the show and panelist related tables and grab the first letter of the panelist names (first initial); then, I had to group the instances of the first initials together and only show the results that have a common panelist first initial count of 3. The query also filtered out any shows that were either repeats or Best Of shows. The latter could spoil the results due to having more than three panelists recorded.
The resulting output of the query kind of surprised me. Out of the 850 shows that have been taped (again, excluding repeats and Best Of shows), there have only been three instances in which all three panelists had the same first initial. Using that list of show dates, I crafted a simple query to list the names of the panelists for those three shows.
The first instance was back in 2004-09-04, in which Roxanne Roberts, Richard Roeper, and Roy Blount, Jr. were on the panel. The next instance happened seven years later on 2011-09-03, in which Amy Dickinson, Adam Felber, and Alonzo Bodden were on the panel. The same set of panelists then appeared on the 2016-04-02 show.
While running these queries and getting ready to write this blog post, I wanted to see what the distribution of panelists first initials looked like, and I ran the following query:
From the results, there are nine panelists with a first initial of “A” (Aamer Haleem, Adam Burke, Adam Felber, Alison Stewart, Alonzo Bodden, Amy Dickinson, Andrea Michaels, Angela Nissel, and Aparna Nancherla), seven with a first initial of “P” (P.J. O’Rourke, Patt Morrison, Paul Provenza, Paula Pell, Paula Poundstone, Peter Grosz, and Peter Sagal), six with a first initial of “M” (Margo Kaufman, Marina Franklin, Maz Jobrani, Mike Birbiglia, Mo Rocca, and Moshe Kasher), five with a first initial of “K” (Karen Grigsby Bates, Keegan-Michael Key, Ken Jennings, Ken Rudin, and Kyrie O’Connor), and five with a first initial of “R” (Reza Aslan, Richard Roeper, Rosie Perez, Roxanne Roberts, and Roy Blount, Jr.).
At the end of the Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank round on the show that aired on 2015-11-07, all three panelists, Paula Poundstone, Amy Dickinson and Peter Grosz wound up in a three-way tie. Bill Kurtis stated that it was the first time that has happened under his watch [source] (nb: Peter Grosz also stated that three-way ties have never happened either.)
With that, I cracked open my favorite database tool for querying the Wait Wait Stats Page database and started pounding away at the data. The following is the query that I used to pull in panelist scoring data and filtered out shows that were repeats or Best Of shows (which don’t have panelist scores anyway) and only return results in which Bill Kurtis was scorekeeper.
Well, well… it looks like there were in fact two shows in which the panelists ended up in a three-way tie at the end of the Lightning round. The first three-way tie happened when Bill Kurtis was filling in for (now) Scorekeeper Emeritus Carl Kasell back in the show that aired on 2012-08-18. The second time happened just over a year ago with Bill Kurtis being the official scorekeeper on 2014-09-06.
Interestingly, Paula Poundstone was a panelist on the show that aired on 2012-08-18, with Luke Burbank and Faith Salie.
So, that does not mean that the three-way tie at the end of the Lightning round on 2015-11-07 was Bill Kurtis’s first one as either fill-in scorekeeper or as the official scorekeeper.
On the Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! show that aired on 2015-08-01, at the beginning of the Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank round, or Lightning round for short, Bill Kurtis made the following statement:
I can; it’s easy. First time ever, a three-way tie. [Source]
Upon hearing that, a Wait Wait Stats alarm went off in my mind, because I knew that such three-way ties had in fact happened in the past and weren’t all that rare. That said, I wanted to find out how many three-way ties have actually happened in the past several years. Also, I wanted to know if it was the first time Bill Kurtis presided over a game in which all three panelists were tied going into the Lightning round.
Before I go into the actual nitty-gritty of how I got to my answer, below is a quick refresher of the structure of the Wait Wait Stats Database by looking at its EER diagram:
When it comes to which panelists are on which Wait Wait show and how they performed, with the exception of their bluff data, is stored in the “ww_showpnlmap” table; in which, I have tried to collect and enter in as much data as I have been able to when it comes to how points each panelist had at the start of the Lightning round; as well as, how many questions were answered correctly.
So, I wanted to craft a query that pulled data from almost all of the tables to include: show date, host, scorekeeper, panelist and how many points the panelists had going into the Lightning round. The data would be grouped together and included two columns that show how many distinct scores there were going into the Lightning round (with 1 denoting a three-way tie) and a column with all of the scores concatenated together.
Unfortunately, with my SQL query writing skills being a bit on the meh side, I ended up creating a view that handled everything but the listing of each of the panelists and used that view as a sub-query in another view that would combine everything together.
This is what the query in the first view looks like this:
This is what the query for the second view looks like:
In the first query, I’m filtering out shows that are not “Best Of” shows and shows that are not a repeat show. I am also filtering out records that do not contain data for a panelist’s score going into the Lightning round.
Running a query against the “v_ww_panelists_lrnd_threewaytie” view and doing a grouping against the show’s date returns a list of 29 shows (including the 2015-08-01 show) in which all three panelists went into the beginning of the Lightning round with a three-way tie.
As you can see, before the 2015-08-01 game, Bill Kurtis has actually presided over two games that started off with a three way tie. So, even if his statement were implied to qualify that he meant that it was the first time he has seen a three-way tie entering the Lightning round, that would still be incorrect. Bill Kurtis had presided, as guest judge and scorekeeper, over a three-way tie at the start of the Lightning round on the show that aired on 2013-03-09. The other show in which Bill Kurtis witnessed the same thing was as official judge and scorekeeper on 2015-02-28 (which had Brian Babylon as a panelist).
Looking at the full results, both Brian Babylon and Mo Rocca have been on multiple games in which they were part of a three-way tie at the start of the Lightning round. Up until the 2015-08-01 show, Faith Salie has never been a three-way tie going into the Lightning round.
Another interesting note is that the number of points each panelist had in each of the three-way ties going into the Lightning round, except for one instance, was: 3. The one exception was the 2009-04-04 show in which Tom Bodett, Paula Poundstone and Mo Rocca each had two points going into the Lightning round.
To summarize, Bill Kurtis was not correct in this statement on the Wait Wait show aired on 2015-08-01 when he said that it was the first time all three panelists were tied at the start of the Lightning Round. Prior to the 2015-08-01 show, there were 28 other occurrences of three-way ties at the start of the Lightning Round. Also, Bill Kurtis had also previously presided over two games in which the same three-way tie at the start of the Lightning Round occurred.
After Roxanne Roberts smoked through all 8 of the Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank questions on the Wait Wait show that aired during the weekend of 2015-06-06, Bill Kurtis mentioned that he has not witness such a feat since he’s become the official scorekeeper for Wait Wait in the past year.
Although it is not common for a panelist to answer all eight Lightning round questions correctly, it has happened a number of times in the past few years. To be exactly, panelists have answered eight Lightning round questions correctly 15 times since 2010-01-01. Of those, Roxanne accomplished that feat 5 times. So, I decided to run a few queries against the Wait Wait Stats Page database and found that, since Bill Kurtis as become the official scorekeeper, no panelists have answered eight correctly in a single round. So, Bill Kurtis is correct with his qualified statement.
Having said that, if you widen the scope further and see if Bill Kurtis has seen any panelist answer all eight Lightning round questions correctly in one show, it indeed happened. In fact, it was none other than Roxanne Roberts who smoked P.J. O’Rourke and (coincidentally) Tom Bodett back on the show that aired just about two years before this past weekend on 2013-06-08.
To summarize, Bill Kurtis was correct when he stated that he hadn’t seen particular panelist answer all 8 of the Lightning round questions correctly in one shot (until now) since becoming the official judge and scoreekeeper of Wait Wait; but, if you include Bill’s tenure as guest judge and scorekeeper, he has witnessed Roxanne doing that feat just two years before.
At the Live Wire! Radio taping this past Saturday, Amy Dickinson was one of a number of guests on the show. When Luke Burbank, the host of Live Wire!, introduced Amy on to the stage, he stated that Amy had beaten Luke 14 times on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!. While I understand that the quip was done in jest and in a self-deprecating manner, my Wait Wait Stats portion of my brain went into overdrive and I started to wonder how many times Amy actually beat Luke.
Before I go into the actual numbers, as taping of the second show started, I tweeted out a screenshot of both Luke’s and Amy’s current stats on the show:
In case the screenshots do not come out cleanly, below is another view of both of their stats:
It wasn’t until early Sunday afternoon did I have a chance to poke and prod the Wait Wait Stats Page database to getting the data that I wanted. Even though Luke and Amy have been on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! as panelists a combined 129 times (excluding repeats and Best Of shows), the two have only been on the show together a meager four times. Below is the a SQL query that pulls data from the “ww_showpnlmap” table, which is where each row contains the show ID and panelist ID and the corresponding scoring data.
In this case, the query only looks at the rows that belong to either Luke Burbank or Amy Dickinson, excludes any records for shows that are repeats and/or Best Of shows. The “group by” and “having” lines is the quickest way to narrow the search down to only include shows that have more than one row occurrence. The resultant data shows that Luke and Amy have only been on the same Wait Wait shows aired on: 2009-10-31, 2014-01-18, 2014-04-12 and 2014-07-26.
Now, take that list of Show IDs and run a query to show the scoring data for those four shows comes back with:
Based on that query, Amy Dickinson won two of the four games by beating Luke, Julia Sweeney and P.J. O’Rourke. On the other hand, Luke won one game by beating Amy and Charlie Pierce, and then came in tied for first with Brian Babylon, ahead of Amy.
In closing, Amy and Luke are essentially 2-2 when it comes to beating each other in the four, not fourteen as Luke said, games that they’ve played against each other.