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My Indian friend Jamal recently participated in the well-known TV quiz show Who wants to be a millionaire?. You might have heard or read about Jamal's spectacular success; the media reported on it extensively.

Here is what Jamal told us about his 200 Euro question:

After my success in the first round, I started to feel a bit more confident. Prem Kumar cleared his throat, rolled his eyes, stretched his neck like a gander and started to read the 200 Euro question. I sat up straight and feverishly looked through the answers. All four answers were single letters!

I immediately discarded the second and the third answer; it was more likely to find them around restrooms, and of course ladies were always first. However, I wasn't quite sure about the first and the fourth answer: most ornithologists (and indeed also most people from the street) talk about the shape being the first answer, but I had always seen it looking more like the answer D, although they both were pretty similar letters. However, since this is a quiz show at popular culture and trivia level, I decided to go with conventional wisdom and to choose the first answer.

What was the 200 Euro question?
What were the four possible answers A, B, C, D?

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    $\begingroup$ BTW, the Indian prize money tiers are 5,000 and 10,000 rupees respectively. Here's the Wikipedia Article with the rest of them. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. Mar 31 '15 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Is the quoted section an actual quote? I'd like to read the source if it is. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Mar 31 '15 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeZ. just because Jamal is Indian doesn't mean he was on the Indian version of the game. $\endgroup$ – kaine Mar 31 '15 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ @kaine - I think he's referring to the fact that the title is slumdog millionaire. $\endgroup$ – Alconja Mar 31 '15 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ I don't get why you keep writing unconsistent plots talking about Euros and an Indian host on what you claim to be the Italian version of this quiz-show, but still. $\endgroup$ – Marco Bonelli Mar 31 '15 at 21:18
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My guess is:

Which letter is the shape of the formation migratory birds fly in?
A) V
B) W
C) M
D) Y

Reasoning:

As Ben pointed out, W and M stand for "women's" and "men's" restrooms, respectively. W is choice B rather than C because "ladies were always first." The talk about ornithologists and ganders suggests that the actual question relates to birds, so we're looking for a letter that has some connection to birds. Migratory birds are usually said to fly in a V formation, so a question about migration patterns makes sense, and the "conventional wisdom" would be to answer V. In reality, the birds' shape isn't always a perfect V, so Jamal might be more familiar with other shapes.

Sometimes it looks like a Y:

Y-shaped formation

Other times it looks (sort of) like an A:

A-shaped formation

It would be pretty confusing for choice D to be the letter A, since A is the label of a different choice, so I think it's more likely that choice D is the letter Y.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I like your answer better. Upvoted :) $\endgroup$ – Ben Mar 31 '15 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ And on the subject of having the option D:A, there's this: youtube.com/watch?v=6Vzo9gLAGnA $\endgroup$ – Ben Mar 31 '15 at 18:22
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I'm not too confident on this one, but is the question:

What shape are birds' feet?

With the choices being:

A: Y
B: W
C: M
D: X

Explanation:

W and M, indicating Women's and Men's, are letters commonly found around restrooms. The hint about ornithologists implied that the question has something to do with birds and since W and M are similarly shaped, it would make sense that the question is asking a bird-related question about something shaped like those letters.

The most common bird order is Passeriformes, which consists of birds that have feet shaped in the "typical" 3 toes forward, 1 toe backward configuration (called anisodactyl). This is most similar to the letter Y, which most ornithologists and the general public would probably pick.

However, birds such as some raptors and parrots have zygodactyl feet, in which the toes are arranged 2 in front and 2 in back (shaped like the letter X) Since Jamal is from India, it is likely that he has seen many tropical birds with these sort of feet.

A diagram illustrating this:
Diagram of different arrangements of bird toes

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The question:

What letter of the alphabet was the Pacman character based on?

Options:

A: O
B: F (possibly L - for ladies)
C: M (possibly G - for gentlemen)
D: C

Explanation:

Restroom F = Female, M = Male. Order based on ladies were always first... O & C ...both were pretty similar letters. Also references popular culture

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting thoughts but this makes no account for the ornithologist comment in the question. $\endgroup$ – Corey Ogburn Mar 31 '15 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @CoreyOgburn yeh I know, i did actually consider the migratory birds option but ruled it out for some reason $\endgroup$ – Tanner Apr 1 '15 at 7:58

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