Answer: This company has a workforce of 17,000 people, whose average working year is only four months long.

Question: What's the alleged Final Jeopardy answer that supposedly brought down "Jeopardy!" uber-contestant Ken Jennings this week, according to reports that started circulating Wednesday?

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According to the reports making the rounds, Jennings lost in a show that was taped on Tuesday; "Jeopardy!" typically tapes multiple episodes two days a week, banking episodes to play out over a period of weeks.

Jennings finally lost after winning 75 consecutive games and amassing about $2.5 million, according to the Web site Kottke.org, which posted the first report early Wednesday morning, citing "super-tipster Phillip" as its source.

Hours later, the same information appeared on the Web site of trade publication TV Week, which cited unnamed "sources."

This, in turn, was picked up by the Associated Press, which credited TV Week, and the rest is history. By yesterday morning, Jennings's alleged loss was being reported around the country as fact on syndicated infotainment shows and TV stations' local morning news programs. Kottke.org creator Jason Kottke told The TV Column yesterday that "super-tipster Phillip" is "just a reader of my Web site; I've never heard from him before.

"I don't know him at all," Kottke said. But, he added, late Wednesday he got another e-mail from a woman, also unknown to Kottke, who said she had gone to a taping of the show that day and no Ken Jennings was in sight.

"I kind of took that as corroboration that Jennings did in fact lose at some point after that," Kottke said. "From my standpoint I feel that it's been verified."

In response to queries about the story, production house King World said in a statement that " 'Jeopardy!' is now in its 21st season, and, since its inception, we have never disclosed whether a contestant has won or lost before a show has aired. We have no intention of changing this policy."

Last September, producers of the game show created by Merv Griffin decided to abolish the cap of five wins that it had imposed on winners since its inception. By allowing contestants to keep playing until they lose, the new rule paved the way for super-colossus contestant Jennings. Broadcasts of the winning ways of the software engineer from Salt Lake City began airing June 6. This week he returned to the fray after the show took a six-week summer hiatus.

As of Thursday night, when he won nearly $22,000, Jennings had won 42 consecutive games for a total of $1,402,461.

"It would be very easy to start a hoax and spread the rumor," former "Jeopardy!" contestant Nick Aretakis told The TV Column yesterday.

The report going around this week "is within the realm of possibilities," said Aretakis, who is among those who have gone down in flames opposite Jennings.

"The story kind of has its facts straight, so it would be plausible. It says he lost on his 75th show, and that it would air some time in October. That's on schedule and would mean six more weeks of shows. He's now at $1.3 million and if the rumor is true it would put him close to $2.5 million," Aretakis said, explaining that Jennings has been averaging about $30,000 per episode.

"If you extrapolate $30,000 per game for another 30 games, he's right around there," he said.

"But anybody who wants to spread a rumor could do that math," he added.

Yeah, right. Ahem . . .

One thing that bothers Aretakis: "Super-tipster Phillip" reported that during Jennings's final "Jeopardy!" taping, he got the two Daily Doubles in Double Jeopardy and he bet $4,000 each time, and lost both times.

According to Aretakis, Jennings usually does not bet a round number on the Daily Doubles, rather an amount that would take him up to a round number.

Aretakis also noted that since Jennings returned on Monday, he hasn't dominated the competition to the same degree as he did before. "Maybe he's gotten kind of rusty, but he missed all four Final Jeopardies this week."

"I think it's a measure of how great a contestant he is that we can't believe he missed a question."

By the way, that final Final Jeopardy question is, according to Kottke.org: "What is H&R Block?"

The amazing Ken Jennings with "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek. Jennings won his 42nd contest in the show aired last night. When does he fall?