Saturday, 16 March 2019

University Challenge - Qualification Match


University Challenge – Bristol v. St. Edmund Hall



Bristol, in their first quarter final, beat one ‘superbuzzer’ in the shape of Darwin’s Jason Golfinos in their first quarter. To make it through to the semis in this match they would have to beat another in the shape of Freddy Leo. Hoping to do just that were George Sumner, Owen Iredale, Pushan Basu and skipper Anne LeMaistre. In their own first quarter final, Teddy Hall beat Dani Cugini’s Emmanuel, Cambridge, through the inspired buzzing of that man Leo. Favourites to win this contest, the team were once again Agastya Pisharody, Marceline Bresson, Lizzie Fry and captain Freddy Leo.

This was a rare occasion that Mrs. Londinius was in the front room while the show was on, and I confidently predicted that this would be a Teddy Hall win, with Leo again starring on the buzzer. So of course, Bristol won the first starter. Nobody seemed to fancy a shy at the country alluded to in the question, so it fell to Owen Iredale to have a correct punt with China. This earned bonuses on the American bishop, Elizabeth Poet – sorry, I’ll read that again – the American poet, Elizabeth Bishop. Bristol took a good full house. Mr. Iredale’s buzzer finger was obviously well warmed up since he beat Freddy Leo in the buzzer race to answer that the elements of the periodic table with the longest and shortest names are tin and rutherfordium. Yes, of course I took a lap of honour for that one. European folk dances didn’t look likely to be particularly fertile ground yet yielded me a full house and Bristol 2 correct answers. The next starter, using the memorable phrase ‘frozen music’ is one of those UC hardy perennials, but neither team knew it referred to architecture. Freddy Leo made his first buzz of the night, and lost five points for his pains. Once again, Owen Iredale beat Freddy Leo to the buzzer for the next starter, knowing that the Poe story often regarded as one of the earliest works of detective fiction is “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Some physics bonuses brought me absolutely nothing (say it again) and Bristol one, although if skipper LeMaistre had nominated George Sumner for the last rather than misrepeating his answer, they would have had 2. So to the picture starter. A capital city was indicated on a map, and both Owen Iredale and I identified it as Khartoum. That was his 4th correct starter so far. Three more major cities that grew up around the confluences of major rivers provided a full house, and only one of those was anything like a gimme. George Sumner recognised a definition of the term Moment of Inertia for the next starter, while Teddy Hall continued to have moments of inertia whenever a starter was being asked. Bonuses on cyborgs brought the 5 points Bristol needed to reach 100 just after the 10 minute mark, while St. Edmund Hall languished on minus 5. Mrs. Londinius complimented me on my powers of prophecy and skill as a tipster. My reply was spherical and in the plural.

A three figure lead is not to be lightly dismissed. It was too early to say that the contest was over, but it would take a hell of a fightback for St. Edmund Hall.

They missed an opportunity with the next starter when Pushan Basu came in too early and lost five, but they were unable to recognise John Keat’s “Ode to Autumn”, one of the most perfect poems in the English (or any other) language. At last the Leo buzzer finger found its mark with the next question, on the Italian drinking song called a Brindisi. Places described in a work on Anglo-Indian words and phrases brought a couple of bonuses. Freddy Leo then took his second starter in row, knowing that Vega completes the summer triangle with Deneb and Altair. The communist politician Anna Pauker – yes, Anna Who? in LAM Towers – proved equally tough to Teddy Hall who drew a blank. Rather bizarrely, Pushan Basu came in very early on the music starter to suggest that Tina Turner’s River Deep Mountain High was the work of Kate Bush. This allowed Lizzie Fry in for the correct answer. Other works featuring the session musician Carol Kaye only produced a further five points. Still there was a lot of time still remaining, and the gap was narrowing. Freddy Leo linked stoa and stomata to get S T O for the next starter to narrow the gap further. The Hogarth Shakespeare bonuses saw Mrs. L observe that Freddy Leo wasn’t really listening to the advice of his team, and was dropping gettable bonuses. Well he certainly did that with the first, and his team only managed one bonus from a gettable set. So as we approached the 20 minute mark this last ten minutes had been all Teddy Hall, yet they had only taken their score to 55, while Bristol’s had been reduced to 95.

Now, all the momentum being with Teddy Hall at this stage of the competition, what was called for was a good buzz from Bristol, and that’s what we got from Owen Iredale, who identified Dr. Tulp from the famous work by Rembrandt. Orbital elements from Astronomy provided a distinctly useful 2 bonuses. I didn’t understand the next question, but Marceline Bresson knew the answer was 2.5%. Good answer. Bonuses on Lactantius brought a well earned full house. For the second picture starter Freddy Leo did a Golfinos, buzzing then pausing before answering, and was called out for it by JP, He still got the right answer of Toni Morrison, though. Other givers of the Jefferson Lecture took Teddy Hall into triple figures, and more importantly, one good buzz would give them the chance of taking the lead. Asked the number of the English King in 1414, Anne Le Maistre missed an opportunity by answering 4. Freddy Leo buzzed and then didn’t answer for a long pause. He earned even more of a Paxman wigging, but was still given the points for a correct answer. Quotations from the 1860s provided the one bonus they needed to draw level with Bristol. It had taken a long time, but all the evidence of the last 15 minutes suggested that they would go on to take the contest. Bristol seemed a little shell shocked, as Leo was having it all his own way on the buzzer. The final words of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner proved all too easy for him to identify for the next starter. Jewels provided a full house in short order, which actually gave time for Owen Iredale to take the next starter, knowing that as well as Peru, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina are all entirely south of the Equator. Bristol needed a full house on place names beginning with Kar but passed on the second and third. It was all down to the last starter – and it was Freddy Leo who applied the coup de grace, knowing that Thoreau wrote Walden. Gong.

What a thoroughly interesting contest. It showed that what Bristol did to Darwin was no fluke, and also that Teddy Hall are vulnerable if Leo’s buzzing is a little off, as it was for the first ten minutes. However it also showed that Teddy Hall are resilient when things don’t go their way. That contest could have gone either way – both teams over 50% on the bonus conversion rate. Well done to St. Edmund Hall, but certainly don’t write Bristol off after that.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP back was to his stern self early doors, giving Anne Le Maistre a wigging for not repeating George Sumner’s answer to the Physics bonus correctly. He didn’t give them the points either. I’ve no problem with that as long as the rule is applied consistently.

As early as 10 minutes into the competition JP was issuing the dreaded “Perhaps you’ll get going with this” to Teddy Hall. Few teams ever come back from words of encouragement from Paxman. He was very disbelieving when Marceline Bresson offered Spring for the Keats question, but then just chuckled. Time was when he’d have ridiculed her unmercifully for that.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

Emperor Hirohito made the Jewel Voice Broadcast in 1945

Friday, 15 March 2019

Mastermind 2019 Heat 20


Mastermind 2019 – Heat 20

So to another Mastermind, dearly beloved, and one which had to contend with competition from Comic Relief over on BBC One. Would hat prove to be a good or bad thing for our four contenders? Well, first up was Lucy Glass. Lucy was answering questions on 80s icon Prince. Cards on the table, I was never a fan myself, although I thought he was a brilliant songwriter, and loved some of the songs he wrote for other artists. So as it was I was quite happy to take my 3 points on this one and run. Lucy did quite a bit better. 11, as we all know by now, is a competitive score. However it did leave quite a bit of wiggle room for any contender who could have a belting round on their own subject.

Next to try to administer said belting was Geoff Stephenson. He was answering on a good, old traditional Mastermind specialist with the engineer Thomas Telford. I did slightly better on this round with 4. Geoff started like he really meant business. However, as the round progressed he began picking up a few errors. Nothing too serious, but it did again limit his score to 11.

Now, the next contender was another Stephenson, Tom of that ilk. Nobody mentioned whether he and Geoff were related, but if they were, then it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had relatives on the same show together. It’s not important anyway. What is important is that Tom was answering on the Julio Claudian dynasty, which is something I rather immodestly claim to know a bit about. So I was satisfied when I accrued a score of 13 from the comfort of the Clark sofa. From the clutches of the black chair, Tom managed 11. That’s a perfectly good score, but I would argue that at least 2 of those he dropped were perfectly gettable.

Finally Susan Simmons, answering on the novels of Charles Dickens. Phew, that’s a subject fraught with danger I thought to myself, and despite the fact that I love Dickens, I’d never have opted to take it as a specialist subject. He wrote 14 completed novels and one incomplete, and each of the complete ones is a hefty tome. To learn them to the kind of depth needed to give yourself a fighting chance would be a mammoth undertaking. Seen in this light Susan’s 7 doesn’t seem quite such a modest score, but the fact remains that it left her out of the competition to all intents and purposes with the GK still to come.

I never had to go first in a GK round, so I don’t actually know what the experience is like, but I’d imagine it can’t be an easy one. So Susan returned to the chair, and she scored 9 points, a respectable round, certainly in the context of some of the GK rounds we’ve seen in this series. But with all due respect, this was never going to have a bearing on the race for the semi final seat.

Lucy Glass’ round, on the other hand, looked very competitive. I always like to see a contender getting the most points the possibly can by using the supposedly simple tactic of treating each question on its own merits, answering what they know, and coming up with a decent guess for what they don’t. It sounds simple when I write it like that, but it’s so easy to end up dropping points on stuff you know, or could work out when you’re in the chair. Lucy’s 13 for a total of 24 looked the kind of target which could actually give her a fighting chance of the win.

It looked even more so after Geoff had returned to the chair, and never looked quite convincing as he rather laboured to 11 for a total of 22. That’s a perfectly respectable overall total, but it’s not quite enough to give you a realistic chance of winning.

All of which meant that only Tom stood – er – sat between Lucy and the semi final. And to be fair to Tom, right up until the end of the round he looked on target to do it. He Was on 22, with a good 5 questions still to come. If he could answer three of them, then he’d go through. Well, the questions came, and they went, and it was only as the blue line of doom completed it’s stranglehold on the score box that he managed to find a correct answer, leaving himself stranded on 23.

Well played Lucy – good luck in the semi finals.

The Details

Lucy Glass
Prince
11
1
13
4
24
5
Geoff Stephenson
The Life and Work of Thomas Telford
11
1
11
2
22
3
Tom Stephenson
The Julio-Claudian Dynasty
11
3
12
3
23
6
Susan Simmons
The Novels of Charles Dickens
7
2
9
2
16
4

Saturday, 9 March 2019

University Challenge 2019 - Quarter Final Elimination Match


Glasgow v. Manchester



Yes, drinking in the last chance saloon on Monday we had Glasgow and Manchester. Glasgow were represented by Lewis Barn, Freya Whiteford, Cameron Herbert and captain James Hampson. Manchester were beaten last time out by Edinburgh, and they were represented by Alexander Antao, Georgia Lynott, Joe Hanson and skipper James Ross. Favourites? Well, you pays yer money. . .

I had a very early lap of honour in this show. The first starter was extremely science, then took a swerve asking about a theoretical wager on the existence of God. Pascal! I shouted at the same time as Georgia Lynott buzzed in with the same answer. The architectural partnership of Venturi and Scott-Brown brought Manchester just the one bonus. Both teams let the next starter play out rather longer than absolutely necessary – after all, fictional work inspired by Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution rather screams out A Tale of Two Cities, but eventually Cameron Herbert went first and picked up the points for Glasgow. 20th century inventions brought 2 bonuses and the lead. A good early buzz from James Hampson identified La Boheme from a description. Cell biology did not fill me with optimism, with good reason for I couldn’t get any of the bonuses. Glasgow managed just the one as well. For the picture starter we saw a map showing an island country. Now, the country itself was enlarged in relation to the rest of the map, the most obvious feature of which was the island nation of Sri Lanka. This was a pretty big clue to the Maldives, but not a clue either team could pick up on, and the picture bonuses rolled over. I spotted the Monroe Doctrine in the next question early doors, and shortly afterwards so did Joe Hanson, to get Manchester on the move again. Picture bonuses of 3 more island groups provided 2 correct answers, and this meant that we had a tied game at 35 apiece by the ten minute mark.

Neither team knew the optical axis any more than I did for the next starter. There was a lovely UC special for the next starter. If you take the initial letters of a country and its capital, then France would be FP and Germany GB. Got it? The teams were asked to name two countries of Europe which would be SB. Lewis Barn had it with Serbia and Belgrade, and Slovakia and Bratislava. I’m sure he could have had Switzerland and Bern as well. Film criticism brought them two more correct answers. James Ross knew works that were connected by Warsaw. The Cote d’Azur brought absolutely nowt to Manchester for the bonuses. I only knew the perfume one myself. I have no idea what blockchain is all about but Freya Whiteford was in with it very early for the next starter. Ted Hughes brought two bonuses, the other was very gettable too. So to the music starter, and Joe Hanson veritably leapt in to provide the identification of the work of Philip Glass. This was Einstein on the Beach. Three more songs about Scientists saw both of us take a single bonus on Kate Bush. Something about pressures of a gas passed me by completely, but Alexander Antao supplied the correct answer of 2.5 atmospheres. Purpose built capital cities saw Manchester really fail to get to grips with any of the questions and a full set of bonuses went begging. A really lovely starter asked us for the common name of sambucus niger, then helpfully told us it could be made from the Spanish and German masculine definite articles singular – el and der. Alexander Antao was first to work that out. This gave Manchester the lead and a set on classical mechanics. Again unable to convert any bonuses – which can’t have done much for their overall conversion rate, this meant Manchester led by 80 – 70 at the 20 minute mark – but crucially, they had the buzzer momentum at this vital stage.

This state of affairs continued as Alexander Antao took his third consecutive starter with Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown. Three bonuses on fictional works about non existent works brought at last 1 bonus. So to the second picture starter, and James Ross buzzed in to identify a sketch by Tracey Emin. Works by other people who have held professorships at the Royal Academy brought a more healthy pair of bonuses. It seemed a long time since Glasgow had managed to buzz in for a starter. The next starter on Geology didn’t help, as Joe Hanson supplied the correct answer of James Hutton. Pyrotechnic colorants – which I thought were in Persil biological – provided a couple of bonuses, and pushed Manchester closer to the event horizon. I didn’t know but guessed that Jan Smuts was the only person to sign the peace settlements of both the first and second world wars. Alexander Antao lost 5, but Glasgow couldn’t capitalise, and with that, you felt, their chance had gone. Now, I’m sorry to boast, but Dorothy Hodgkin earned me a second lap of honour for the next starter. She’s a Science answer I’ve been waiting to trot out for ages. That fell to the highly effective Alexander Antao, who was one of the main differences between the two teams in this contest. People with the surname Talbot brought just the one bonus, but it was all academic by this point anyway. Alexander Antao had pulled his team ahead through quick buzzing, but came in just a tad too early on the next starter and lost 5. Again, Glasgow couldn’t capitalised, not having worked out that Napoleon’s Corsican birthplace would have been Ajaccio. James Hampson correctly buzzed in the moment he’d heard ‘sporting figure born in Sao Paolo’ but then knew that the answer had just gone. Not your night, sir, I’m afraid. Manchester thus took the whole question, and Joe Hanson supplied the coup de grace with Ayrton Senna. Three bonuses on music provided one correct answer, one wrong answer and then the contest was gonged. Manchester won by 155 to 70.

Not hard to call this one. Both teams were pretty evenly matched up to about 18 minutes, then Manchester’s buzzing, and once again I pay tribute to Alexander Antao’s buzzing in particular because it turned the contest at the crucial time, just overwhelmed Glasgow. This is just as well, since their bonus conversion rate was a miserable one in three. Hard lines Glasgwo, best of luck in the next match Manchester.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Early indignation as James Ross deliberately wound JP up by suggesting that the Aland Islands might be the Faeroes. “The Faeroe Islands!!” spluttered out hero in mock indignation. Freya Whiteford raised her arms in frustration over not being able to dredge up an optics answer and JP sniffily asked “Are you miming something?”

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

Mark Kermode conducted an interview in 2006 with Werner Herzog, during which Herzog was shot with an air rifle.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Mastermind 2019 - Heat 19


Good morning, dearly beloved. After the break for the European Indoor Athletics Mastermind was back on the screen last night. Well, team GB did better than we’ve ever done at last week’s event, so were we gong to see comparable fireworks from last night’s contenders?

First through the portal of portent was Karim Lalani. Karim was offering us Vivien Leigh. This would prove to be my best specialist round of the night. This is no great boast when you consider that I only managed 4 correct answers. Karim, on the other hand, did rather better than that. All the evidence was that he’d thoroughly prepared his subject, and he finished with 12 and no passes. That’s a good round.

Certainly it was a bit better than Elizabeth Boughton’s round on the Cazalet novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard. I’ve never read any of them, so was out with the washing on this round. Research shows it’s a five novel series, and was adapted for TV in 2001. Elizabeth was of course a lot better than I was. Nonetheless, there were a few occasions during the round when she was caught out, but smart fast answering pushed her into double figures. She finished her round with 10 points and 3 points.

Benjamin Meredith was third into the chair. He was offering a subject about which I know absolutely nothing, 1990s hip hop. Sadly we’ve seen a few contenders having a ‘mare on specialist during this series, and I’m afraid that Benjamin was another. For whatever reason, he was stumped by the majority of the questions, and finished his round with 3 points. Yes, quite right, that was three more points than I managed on the round. In all honesty he neither looked nor sounded like he had any problem with nerves, and so I think the most likely explanation was a lack of preparation.

So to our final round, with Anne Stewart answering on the Flight of the Earls. This passage of history occurred in 1607 when Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone and Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, and about ninety followers left Ulster in Ireland for mainland Europe. Although Anne obviously had some depth of knowledge on the subject she was never quite convincing, and in the end finished with a respectable 8 and 2 passes, which left her some way off the lead.

I think Benjamin had an inkling that he’d be first back into the chair, indeed he almost got up before John had actually announced that he had the lowest score. I always think that it’s probably best not to allude to a low specialist score when the contender returns for GK, but John will insist on it. This time he said “You were having a bit of an off day, I suspect, Benjamin.” You think? I had a feeling that Benjamin probably wouldn’t do badly on GK – don’t know why, but just had a feeling, and indeed he raised his score to 15. Look, 12 isn’t an earth shattering score on GK, but it’s not bad, and certainly in this show it would have given him a pretty decent shot at a win had he just known his specialist subject. A lesson for all would be contenders there, I think.

Anne Stewart’s tactic seemed quite interesting for her own GK round. I think she may well have decided that if she didn’t know it quickly then she was going to pass. As a result she accrued 10 correct answers, but also a further 7 passes. I couldn’t see any way that 18 could possibly be a winning score for the show, but she had at least put herself in the lead for now.

She was still holding the joint highest total by the end of Elizabeth Boughton’s round as well. To be fair to Elizabeth, I felt her round was slightly trickier than the two previous round, but that’s all in the eye of the beholder as we know full well. She added a further 8 to her total, which meant that she had 18 as well, although five passes meant that she had significantly fewer passes than Anne.

So to Karim. Putting it into perspective a modest round of 7 correct answers would give him the outright win. To be honest he was making pretty heavy weather of it, picking up 5 passes, and really labouring to get the 6 he needed to get to 18. Then it was as if the handbrake was suddenly taken off the round. There were four questions remaining, and he answered every single one of them correctly, to finish with 22 and a clear outright win. Well done, sir.

Gotta be honest, folks, that wasn’t a great show. That’s the way that it goes, sometimes.

The Details

Karim Lalani
Vivien Leigh
12
0

10
5
20
5
Elizabeth Boughton
The Cazalet Novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard
10
0
8
5
18
5
Benjamin Meredith
1990s hip hop
3
6
12
3
15
9
Anne Stewart
The Flight of the Earls
8
2
10
7
18
7

Friday, 1 March 2019

University Challenge Quarter Final Qualification Match Durham v. Edinburgh


Qualification Match Durham v. Edinburgh

Durham, in the shape of Sian Round, Cameron Yule, Ben Murray and skipper Matthew Toynbee, defeated a good Glasgow team in their first qualification match. They were looking to make it a double over Scottish opposition in this first qualification match. Edinburgh, for their part, defeated Manchester in their first quarter final, and that’s always a good scalp to take. They were represented by Matt Booth, Marco Malusa, Robbie Campbell Hewson and captain Max Fitz-James. Favourites for this one? Well, memories of the 360 points Durham scored in the first round lingered, so I fancied they might be just a tad too strong.

Now, Max Fitz-James knew that if you’re asked for a work of 1988 and told that it concerns physical science, it’s never going to be a bad idea to chance your arm with “A Brief History of Time”. Bonuses on limestone brought us both 2 correct answers. Durham skipper Matthew Toynbee had a fantastic early buzz to link the Leningrad Symphony by Shostakovitch with the number 7. This earned a set on knots. Reef and bowline were pretty predictable but none of us knew a figure of 8 knot. All square. Max Fitz-James came in too early for the next starter on a mathematician, allowing his opposite number to take his second starter with a punt at Euler. French place names, derived from clues from symbols for elements – yes, a UC special set that – gave me just the one and Durham two. Right, I did not in any way, shape or form understand the next question, but Ben Murray knew it was Leetspeak, so let’s be thankful for that. Seperatist movements again brought Durham two bonuses. So to the picture round. Now we saw a diagram containing several character names and arrows illustrating their relationships. The names Vladimir and Estragon were signposts that this was Waiting for Godot, and bearing in mind there was the name of a character missing I fully expected when Matt Booth buzzed in that he was going to say Godot. The name failed him, though, allowing Cameron Yule in. More unseen characters from plays proved to be a surprisingly tricky set, Durham managing none, and I only managed Abigail from Abigail’s Party. Nonetheless, Durham had set out their stall purposely in the first 10 minutes and led by 70 – 15.

Nobody knew the answer to a question about mass and kinetic energy for the next starter. No, of course I didn’t. If it’s Maths, I always answer 1 or 0. Ben Murray was 100% on the right lines with his answer to the next starter, but the answer he gave – Covenant – was not specific enough, which lost 5 and allowed Max Fitz-James in with the Solemn League and Covenant. A lovely set on Spanish cities and their namesakes provided two bonuses. Cameron Yule got Durham on the move again knowing that William Hazlitt wrote Table Talk and The Spirit of the Age. Pharmacology saw me earn a lap of honour for knowing serotonin. I didn’t get any other bonuses in this set while Durham took a full house. Now, I earned a potential second lap of honour (on which I passed) for guessing that a meteor shower named from the constellation between Taurus and Cancer would be the Geminids.

Jeremy Paxman WatchMatthew Toynbee gave the same answer. The UK tech industry promised me nowt, which it delivered. More surprisingly Durham failed to add to their score as wwell. So to the music starter. From the first ooher – ooher all the fifty somethings like myself were probably shouting ‘The Buggles!’ at the telly. Max Fitz-James, noting a similarity to the immortal Barbie Girl presumably, offered Aqua. Ben Murray came close, offering the Bugles. No cigar for that one, I’m afraid. The next starter was one of those which suddenly becomes easier right at the end. Patrick Clifton, as many good quizzers know, is none other than Postman Pat, and postman was the linking theme behind that starter. Matthew Toynbee had a shy at it, before Matt Booth gave the correct answer. More pop songs or tunes featuring Oscar nominated composers proved harder than I expected, and Edinburgh took 2, while I only took the one. 19th century French artist working mainly in wood engraving certainly suggested Gustave Dore, which was the correct answer given by Cameron Yule for the next starter. Solar eclipses gave me just the one correct answer with Isandlwana, the same as Durham. So as we approached the 20 minute mark Durham still had a healthy lead, with 115 to Edinburgh’s 55.

I know bugger all about plane of polarization or whatever the next starter was about. However I had a pretty good idea that the English scientist who died in the year that Marie Curie was born was Michael Faraday, which was enough to give me the Faraday Effect, the points, and a declined opportunity for a lap of honour. Max Fitz-James came in before the English scientist was even mentioned and lost 5. Durham couldn’t capitalise. Various actors and actresses with the initials LM saw both teams rather dwelling on their buzzers before Cameron Yule supplied the answer. Literary titles including the names of an SI unit were a rather lovely UC special set which gave Durham a full house. Robbie Campbell Hewson had a good early buzz to identify Trieste as the main seaport of the Austro Hungarian Empire. Fictional composers brought me nowt, but a further ten points to Edinburgh. I couldn’t honestly see them winning at this stage, but it was still possible. So to the second picture starter. Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what Ada Lovelace looked like, but then I didn’t know any other lady mathematician of the period so she seemed like a pretty decent shout to me. Obviously Max Fitz-James thought the same and we were both right. Other women commemorated in the Overlooked feature of the New York Times did nowt for me, but Edinburgh took one for Sylvia Plath. Asked for two of the three Chancellors of the Federal Republic of Germany to have held the position for more than 10 years I gave Kohl and Merkel, as did Cameron Yule, Konrad Adenauer being the other. Bonuses on the various French Republics were gettable, and provided me with a rare full house, although Durham only managed 1. It didn’t matter. The clock was against Edinburgh, and they already had one foot in the semis. Matt Booth knew a definition of spirals to take the next starter. Oxymorons in Shakespeare gave me one I knew from Romeo and Juliet, one I guessed in The Tempest, and one I didn’t have a scooby on, which was from Hamlet. Edinburgh took the one. Max Fitz-James took a good early buzz to identify Pitt the Younger’s death as leading to the Ministry of All the Talents. Bonuses on areas of England known as the Isle of. . . led me to predict Thanet , Ely and Dogs. Well two out of three wasn’t bad. The second was actually Axholme, and dogs didn’t get a look in. Edinburgh took just the one again. Ben Murray knew that Jamaica was traditionally divided into counties of Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey to earn a set of bonuses on aberrations in optics. This meant nothing to me, and Durham failed to add any more to their score before the gong. Didn’t matter, as they’d still won by 165 to 110.

Both teams, then were pretty evenly matched for bonuses, converting about half of them, but Durham have more buzzing throughout their team – Cameron Yule, Matthew Toynbee and Ben Murray all made significant contributions on this score, while Edinburgh were heavily reliant on their skipper. Don’t count them out yet, though. Well played Durham, though, and best of luck in the semis.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

There was an interesting reaction from the audience when Ben Murray offered “The Bugles”. So much so that even the subtitles on the iplayer acknowledged it with ‘audience murmurs’. JP paused for a moment – presumably waiting for an adjudication in his lughole – before saying “No, it was the BUGGLES!” then adding for comic effect “Shame on you!”. He was obviously in that kind of mood, since after the next starter he muttered, “Who could fail to get Postman Pat.” Be honest with you, I’m not sure if he was having a go at Matthew Toynbee for not getting it, or Matt Booth for knowing it. Probably both.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

Trieste was the main port of the Austro Hungarian Empire

Saturday, 23 February 2019

University Challenge - Quarter Finals, Emmanuel,Cambridge v. St. Edmund Hall, OXford


Emmanuel, Cambridge v. St. Edmund Hall, Oxford

Right, dearly beloved, a very interesting match up this, as Oxbridge derbies often are. We had Dani Cugini’s Emmanuel team, up against Freddy Leo’s Teddy Hall outfit. Freddy Leo, you may recall, is the lightning fingered skipper whose buzzer performance in the first two rounds was as worthy of comment as Jason Golfinos. The Emmanuel team were Connor Macdonald, Vedanth Nair, Ben Harris, and skipper, LAM reader Dani Cugini. St. Edmund Hall were Agastya Pisharody, Marceline Bresson, Lizzie Fry and captain, Freddy Leo.

Now, as soon as William Penny Brooks was mentioned I knew that the first starter was about the Olympics. When de Coubertin was also mentioned Vedanth Nair won the buzzer race to take the points. Bonuses on Stockholm brought a full house. Maybe it was just me, but the next starter seemed to be crying out for the answer – Einstein – but Vedanth Nair undid some of his own previous good work coming in early to offer Linus Pauling. This allowed Freddy Leo to come in for his first of the evening. Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare made a rather lovely set, and they produced their own full house, every bit as worthy of a Paxman well done, but not receiving one for their pains. A rare Leo missbuzz saw him come in too early for the next starter with a rather wild guess – even just from Edward Jenner he ought to have known it could only be cow pox or small pox that was required. Given the full question Dani knew it was cow pox. Sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List saw them only add 5 more points to their score. The decisive battle of 1356 gave me enough to work out we wanted the actor Sidney Poitier for the next starter, and a moment or two later we saw Freddy Leo employ that distinctive buzzing style, where he seems to bounce up on his chair while slamming down the buzzer, to provide the same answer. The physicist Lise Meitner – wasn’t she the co-writer of 80s sitcom The Young Ones? – gave both of us one correct bonus for nuclear fission. I can tell you, it was a relief to get the lap of honour out of the way early in this show. So to the picture round, and we saw the title of One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish. Neither team was in especially quickly, and it fell to Freddy Leo. Three more works in English influenced by Magical Realism whose titles had been translated into Spanish provided a full house in fairly short order. This meant that at the 10 minute mark St. Edmund Hall led by 60 – 35.

Linear Accelerator meant nowt to me, but it gave Freddy Leo starter number 4. Coalition governments. This yielded but little, but that hardly mattered considering that the momentum seemed to be all with Teddy Hall by this point. Now, I fancy it may have been on UC in years gone by that I first heard the word mondegreen – it’s a misheard lyrics thing. All of Mondays participants were too young to have watched it back then so that one went begging. Dani Cugini played a captain’s innings with the next starter, coming in early after working out that the clues in the question were all pointing to words beginning with the letter K. Large numbers filled me with apathy, but to be fair you could at least have an educated guess at these. I took 2, and Emmanuel 1. The main thing was thought that it put them at just a full set behind. With Leo in such form, Emmanuel had to buzz early, so I don’t blame Connor MacDonald for coming in too early for the next starter. Freddy Leo knew that Admiral Donitz was eventually named as Hitler’s successor. Bonuses on logic brought two to Teddy Hall and 1 to me – asked for a British philosopher if the year is possible I always answer Bertrand Russell – he crops up regularly on UC does our Bert. So to the music starter. To be fair we were allowed perhaps 3 bars before Leo leaped at his buzzer again. Alright, it was quite a well known piece of music, but nonetheless this was still impressive. More pieces written after the composers in question had suffered hearing loss provided one bonus. Funnily enough they never went for the most obvious ‘deaf composer’ in Beethoven. Emma hadn’t given up, and Dani was in for the next – sadly too early, but nonetheless the right tactics to adopt. Of course, this left an open goal for Freddy Leo to tap synecdoche into the net. By this stage I couldn’t help wondering if Freddy was going to score all of his team’s starters in this match. Actors who’ve played Heathcliff on screen paid tribute to Timothy ‘Jones the Bond’ Dalton but brought just the one correct answer. To be fair to Agastya Pisharody he did have a shy at the next Science starter, but lost 5 for his pains. Nobody knew a pi bond (make your own puns). Nobody knew the Wanderings of Oisin by Yeats for the next starter. All of which meant that Teddy Hall led by 120 to 40 as we approached 20 minutes, and to all intents and purposes this contest was over.

Connor Macdonald knew that Maricopa is the most populous county of Arizona. The Bible didn’t provide them with any further points sadly. So to the second picture starter. Freddy Leo recognised the work of Delacroix, and so earned bonuses on three more examples of orientalism in fine art. 2 correct answers ensued. Freddy Leo was first in to recognise clues to the name Mansfield. Alternative statements of the principle of conservation of energy did nowt for me, but when I came back to consciousness after the set, Teddy Hall had scored another 10 points. Marceline Bresson had a wild punt with the next starter – she could afford to, but nobody worked out that Alpha Centauri would probably be in the constellation of Centaurus – hence the name. Look, when you’re under pressure somehow the obvious becomes a lot less obvious, I know. Still having a go, Vedanth Nair came in too early for the next starter about the method of dismissal covered by law 38 in cricket. That man Leo knew that the last Stuart Monarch to rule solely in Scotland was Mary Queen of Scots. Conductors – that’s orchestral rather than bus or lightning – brought 5 more points, but it was all academic by this stage of the game. Naming two German states that border the Czech Republic was a bit of a gift for Freddy Leo, and he quickly supplied Saxony and Bavaria to take his own and his team’s 11th starter. Poems by Robert Browning put the Oxford team within striking distance of the 200 barrier. Ben Harris, though, took his team through the 50 point barrier, recognising several works connected by chip. As for the bonuses, well by the time that JP had said ‘perpendicular gothic architecture’ we were gonged.

The final score was 190 to 55. The huge difference between the two teams on the score board actually came down to one factor – the buzzing of Freddy Leo. He took every single one of his team’s 11 starters – and 11 is a ridiculous number of starters for one individual to get in one show. A fantastic performance. The team’s conversion rate was over 50% as well, slightly better than Emma’s. Well, Emma aren’t out of it by any means, but will be drinking in the last chance saloon in their next match. They’ve been there before, though, and know how to bounce back. As for Teddy Hall, well, it was always going to be said after this performance – the question remains, what happens to them if Freddy Leo has an off day? Time may tell.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Seemingly in a good mood this evening, he handed out a coveted – well done – to Emmanuel as early as the first set of bonuses. On the coalition government sets, the Oxford skipper hesitated before answering, referring to JP when he said “He’s going to laugh at us if we say something stupid, isn’t he?” to which JP smiled as if to say – yes, I am. Then he went easy when their actual answer was a little wide of the mark. We later on had the remarkable sight of JP apologising to Emmanuel when they offered William Tyndale for John Wycliffe. That wouldn’t have happened five years ago, let me tell you that. Then he corrected himself. He told Freddy Leo that a painting was Parisian Women “As you guessed” and then, bearing in mind possibly the Guttenplanesque nature of Freddy’s performance, he said “ or as you KNEW”. Which he followed up with “Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you! You KNEW it! Well done!” What has gotten into him?

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

Stephen Langton is credited with making the chapter divisions in the Bible that we use today.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Mastermind 2019 Heat 18


Right then, Dearly Beloved, another Friday evening Mastermind. You may be interested in a little research I did before last night’s show. I averaged out all the scores from the first 17 heats of last season, and then the previous 17 heats of this season by way of comparison. The average scores for both GK and SS were almost exactly the same – just slightly over 11 points. However, what was noticeable was that last year, by this stage of the season, not one contender had scored lower than 7 on GK. Already this year we’ve seen 8 contenders score 6 or less. I hoped that this number wouldn’t increase during last night’s show.

Lynne Francis kicked us off with The Children of Queen Victoria. Lynne first appeared in Mastermind in Isabelle’s series a couple of years ago, where she offered us Transatlantic liners. She was a little off the pace in that show. As for her subject last night, well, way back in the mists of time, during the champion of champions series, the daughters of Queen Victoria was my nominated subject for the final – and as stand in for that occasion I had to learn it anyway. So I expected to retain enough to have a decent stab at this round. It was a more than decent stab, actually. Admittedly under no pressure and sitting in he comfort of the Clark front room, I scored 12. Lynne, on the other hand had 10 and 3 passes – perfectly respectable but there were at least a couple of missed opportunities for her there, I felt.

Our next contender, Keshava Guha, is a familiar face to those of us who’ve been following the current season of University Challenge. Keshava is one of the stars of the Goldsmith’s College team who were so unlucky not to make it to the quarter finals after one of the best fightbacks we’ve seen in many a long year. Keshava was offering us the Novels of Penelope Fitzgerald, or Penelope Who, as she is affectionately referred to in LAM Towers. After 15 perfect answers delivered in quick time, he passed on the very last after the buzzer, which led to a rare expression of sympathy from John. Notwithstanding, that was a virtuoso demonstration of how a well prepared contender can rip the guts out of a specialist round.

Third to go was Gaetana Trippetti. She was answering on The Doors – that’s the band, in case you were wondering. Now, I liked The Doors, but I obviously didn’t know anything like as much as I thought I did about them since I only managed 2 points in the whole round. Gaetana did quite a bit better than that. She scored 12 and no passes – a very decent score, but one which left her 3 points behind Keshava.

Ian Orris, our final contender last night, was one I recognised. A quick check through the LAM archives revealed that he took part in Jesse’s 2010 series, where he was unfortunate to be in the same semi final as Jesse, to whom he finished second. Ian is also an Only Connect alumnus, so plenty of experience there. Last night he was answering on Karl Gustav Mannerheim. He was quite as accurate as Keshava had been, but he was just as fast, and amassed a fine score of 13. Somehow two points behind just seems nothing like as daunting as 3 points behind, and at this stage I did feel that we had a two horse ace on our hands. To be fair to Lynne Francis, though, she started her GK round as if she believed that she was still very much in contention. And to be fair she maintained pretty decent momentum all the way through to finish with a very good 14. Had she only done slightly better on her specialist she woulda been a contender.

Gaetana never really convinced with her GK round, and well before the blue line of death had completed its circuit it was clear that she wasn’t going to beat Lynne’s score. She added 9 to her total to finish with 21. Perfectly respectable, no issues with that.

So to Ian. Now, if you looked at his GK scores in his two previous visits to the table, you’d see that they were good, but not amazing scores. Well, last night, starting off two points behind Keshava, he produced a round that was very good indeed, his best by some distance. 15 points and 1 pass put him on 28, and left Keshava looking up at a mountain that he had to climb. To put it into perspective he needed 13 correct answers and no passes to earn a draw, and 14 to win outright.

He certainly started brightly enough. The first 7 questions were all accompanied by Keshava’s customary head nod as he knew the answer, and before we knew it he had taken his total to 22 , needing only 7 more with a lot of the round left. However the next three questions escaped him, increasing the pressure. He took two of the next four – now only 5 away from safety. Two more incorrect answers came, then two correct ones. You began to feel that time was slipping away for him now, though. He had two questions left, but failed to correctly answer either of them, leaving him high and dry on 26.

The Goldsmith’s man might still make it to the semis via the repechage places, but no question that I an Orris will be making another semi final appearance. This was a seriously good performance, and his chances will have to be taken seriously. Well done to you, sir.

The Details

Lynne Francis
The Children of Queen Victoria
10
3
14
3
24
3
Keshava Guha
The novels of Penelope Fitzgerald
15
1
11
1
26
2
Gaetana Trippetti
The Doors
12
0
9
1
21
1
Ian Orris
Karl Gustav Mannerheim
`13
0
15
1
28
1