Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Return of the News

In the News

Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

Isis
Alexander Pacteau
Manjinder Virk
Bloomberg
Lord Janner
Periscope
Adam Peaty
Seedling – Balder Success
Waleed Ghani
Viv Nicholson
Many Clouds
Watson
Delroy Facey
John Zylinski
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey
SS City of Cairo
Jurgen Klopp
Aaron Hernandez
USS Oklahoma
Alex Reppold
Richard Desmond
Escape from Camp 14
Aaron Cook
Mustafa Kamal

In Other News

What was Sir Ian Botham’s England test wickets record beaten by James Anderson this week?
Who described the killing of 1.5 million Armenians  during world war II as genocide
Who said last week “I’m more British than UKIP”
Who announced candidacy for the Democratic Nomination?
Who won the Olivier Award for playing Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit?
Which team won the Boat Race?
What was the score in the Manchester football derby?
What position did Sir Bradley Wiggins finish in Paris – Roubaix – and why did he and a number of other competitors face censure?
Who won the Chinese GP?
How far did 300 runners in last weekend’s Portsmouth 10K actually run?
Whose notebook sold for £700000 last week?
Who is to receive a BAFTA Fellowship?
Who called for a ban on chewing gum in pubic?
Gunter Grass passed away last week. What was the English title of his famous book Die Blechtrommel?
The 5th June will be marked how by the BBC?
Which Liverpool player was supposedly shown in a Youtube video inhaling laughing gas?
Who won the US Masters?
Which famous rugby club are celebrating their 125th anniversary
Who faced Twitter death threats after speculation that she might replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear?
Who became the UN’s global advocate for elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards?
Which singer passed away , aged 73?
Who was named Laureus Sports Person of the year?
What was the champions league score between Barcelona and PSG?
– and Porto and Bayern Munich?
A surplus of £38million angered fans of which football club?
In which country were the world’s oldest ‘tools’ discovered?
Who scored a century for England in the second innings of the first test in Antigua?
Who appeared in Westminster Magistrates Court on sexual assault charges?

University Challenge 2015 - Grand Final

Gonville and Caius, Cambridge v. Magdalen, Oxford

One of the quirks of the current quarter final rounds is that it enables us to get a final where two teams that have already met in the quarters meet again in the final. In the quarter final match between these two teams, Gonville and Caius, in the shape of Ted Loveday, Michael Taylor, Anthony Martinelli, and Jeremy Warner, defeated Magdalen’s Harry Gillow, Chris Savory, Cameron J. Quinn and skipper Hugh Binnie by 60 points. That margin was perhaps just a tiny bit flattering for that match – the outcome never looked certain until the last two minutes or so. Still, if we’re looking for a psychological edge, then it has to be said that it was advantage Gonville and Caius.

If we’re looking for psychological bonuses, then answering the first starter is always useful, and it was Ted Loveday who answered it, recognizing the words of John Maynard Keynes. Ted is from Hammersmith – so, being a West London boy myself I was hoping he’d have a good evening. This brought up bonuses on British monarchs since 1660, which gave them a full house. As a statement of intent this was pretty emphatic. Not that Magdalen were worrying at this stage. Hugh Binnie took an early buzz to identify the term colloid, and earned his own team a set on trite language. They too took a full house. These two teams put on a great show in their quarter final match, and early indications were that they were going to do the same here. Now, when I heard the words – Renaissance – London and Rotterdam for the next question I went for Erasmus and Thomas More, and Ted Loveday did exactly the same. 2nd correct starter. Only one bonus was taken on astronomy, which is one more than I got. I liked the picture starter very much. We saw a table of flags, with numbers underneath. These represented nationalities, with the number of Nobel Prize winners of each – so the USA was top, then Uk , then Germany, then France. Asked which country would be next I guessed Russia, as did Michael Taylor, and we were both wrong. Hugh Binnie went for Sweden, and was right. Great shout. As a reward Magdalen received three more similar tables, representing the winners in a specific prize category, and they had to identify the category. Of these they managed two. Various definitions of the word Mensa came next, and Ted Loveday took his third starter in the first ten minutes. A full house on cubism followed. Anthony Martinelli knew the superior vena cava for the next starter. No bonuses were taken on internet pioneers, which meant that the lead at the 10 minute mark remained 75 – 45 to Gonville and Caius.

Cameron Quinn took a flyer on the next starter. Good tactic, but it didn’t come off this time. Asked which year Virginia Woolf was referring to, he buzzed before he was told it was the year in which Edward VII died. This let Jeremy Warriner in. 2 bonuses on literary quotations followed to take them to the brink of a three figure score. I didn’t understand the next question, but Hugh Binnie did, and supplied the correct answer of hypothesis. A couple of bonuses took their score to 65. For the music starter Harry Gillow was very quick to recognize an excerpt from Tristan and Isolde. Other works depicted by Marc Chagall in a fresco in the Palais Garnier provided no correct answers, but nevertheless the gap was down to less than one full house of start and bonuses. Cameron Quinn took the necessary starter, knowing about a painting of the Lady of Shallot. The first bonus on geometry was taken. Gap down to 5 points. Second bonus wasn’t taken, but the third was, and we had a tied game. There was a great buzzer race between Ted Loveday and Michael Taylor for the next starter. Ted Loveday won, and took his 4th starter answering that Ted Heat’s Cabinet had the previous tory PM – Alec Douglas Home, and the next tory PM – Margrapet Thatcher – in it. Incidentally, Ted Heath is an anagram of Had Teeth. We had that asked in a quiz once. Bonuses on Kyrgyzstan ( incidentally, is there another country which has a name that would have a higher score in scrabble? Answers on a postcard please) brought a full house. Ted Loveday took his fifth starter, guessing that the language being referred to in the question was Sanskrit. Bonuses on some physicsy thing brought little – but I did actually know about the precession of the Heavens. After I’d completed my lap of honour around the living room Ted Loveday took his 6th starter identifying Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter as the work of Simone de Beauvoir. Geology bonuses yielded a further 5 points. Now, shown a portrait of Ben Jonson, JP asked which famous poet this represented. I don’t know – he was certainly a great poet, but I would have said he was better known as a dramatist – or a 100m runner. I think this is the reason why neither team was able to answer. Anthony Martinelli recognized several items all linked by the word ghost. This earned the picture bonuses. More poets laureate were shown, and the team was asked for their names, and the monarchs who appointed them. A full set gave them a commanding lead of 170 to 95 at the 20 minute mark.

The game wasn’t over, but G and C, and in particular Ted Loveday were in commanding form at this stage of the match. It was Ted Loveday who recognized a description of the works which inspired Mussorgsky’s Pictures at An Exhibition for  his 7th starter. A set of bonuses asking the team to identify the centuries BC in which certain events happened yielded another 15 points and a 100 point lead. Some physicsy thing about sound saw G&C lose 5 for an early buzz, but Magdalen couldn’t capitalize. Ted Loveday took his 8th starter with the term Chiasmus. Bonuses on rococo libraries – don’tcha just love a good rococo library? – brought another 5 points. The irrepressible Ted Loveday took his third starter in a row, and his 9th overall recognizing a definition of magma. Fluvial Geography didn’t add a great deal to their score, but it was all academic now anyway. Now, my favourite starter of the night came next. Meaning said only once – which two-word Greek term denotes  - and Ted Loveday took his 10th starter with the correct answer Hapax Legomenon. That’s a particularly sonorous phrase which I encountered studying Old English and Old Norse at Uni. My best mate, KD Johnson, had also studied Old High German, and encountered the same term. I remember one summer evening, two wine boxes liberated from the English Society, and an increasingly bizarre series of toasts, one of which was a toast to the Hapax Legomenon. Not much else do I remember of the evening. Still, within a couple of hours of the final being broadcast KD tweeted me words to the effect of – 30 years I’ve been watching UC, waiting for that question to come up – and he beat me to it! –Ah yes, one of life’s bitter ironies that. The bonuses – a bit of an anticlimax, but then anything would be an anticlimax after the hapax legomenon – were on epithets applied to Greek heroes and deities. Hugh Binnie rightly took his team into triple figures by identifying Poland as the 6th most populous EU state. Bonuses on Henry Kissinger (altogether now – Henry Kissinger – How we’re missin’ yer – and Wishin’ you were here. _ Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album, I think) yielded a further 10 points. Ted Loveday capped a remarkable performance with his 11th starter, knowing that Tribunes could be Miliatry, or Of The People. There was just time for a couple of bonuses on geology, and this enabled G&C to take the score to 255 – 105 at the gong.

Hard lines to Magdalen. They have consistently been one of the very best teams in this whole series, and in the final, well, in the final they were up against a terrific team, one of whose members was absolutely on fire for this final, and that’s something you can’t legislate for. As for Gonville and Caius – many congratulations! Another great performance – worthy University Challenge 2015 champions.

Many thanks to the whole production team for yet another absolutely wonderful series – a pure pleasure from start to finish.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP has had a quiet series. He’s definitely mellowed since giving up Newsnight. Having said that, he is always on his best behaviour for the Grand Final. In fact, his words of consolation to Magdalen – you were unlucky with the way the questions fell, I think – were surprisingly well chosen. Having said that, though, the more you know the more likely it is that the questions will feel your way.

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

Cliché originally referred to a stereotype or stencil plate in printing.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

CIU National Finals - Blackpool - 11th April 2015

If you’re a regular reader, then you’ll know that the CIU quiz competition, regionals and then (if we qualify) national final have been a highlight of my quizzing year since before I started writing the blog. It remains an unfulfilled ambition of mine to once – just once would do – win the whole thing. I’ve been in teams which have placed 2nd, 3rd (3 or 4 times), 4th, 5th, 6th and nowhere, but never won the big one.

You might recall that September 2014 was the last organized by the estimable Chris Brewis, and at the time we had no idea whether the quiz would take place at all this year, or how it would work. I had a phone call from George a few weeks ago, saying that there would be no regionals this year, and that the final would be played in Blackpool on Saturday 11th April. Well, I won’t lie when I say that my exact words were, “Stuff that for a game of soldiers!”, the upshot being that it was too far away, and would be a far more expensive trip than normal, especially considering that we didn’t at the time know anything about who would now be running the quiz, what the format would be, whether it would be any good etc. I don’t think I was the only person to react that way, not in the South Wales and West of England region anyway. OK, when Barry started asking me about it, and we started putting concrete plans together, my opinions started to change, and we did actually manage to put out our strongest team yesterday. Maesglas ‘A’, national champions on many occasions, weren’t so fortunate though. I know that one of their star players, like I had, said that it was too far away, and just wasn’t prepared to do an overnight stop – and a large number of people who were asked to take his place all said pretty much the same thing – they’d have loved to have played, but one or two nights’ stop was just out of the question for them.

Our plan changed several times before it crystallised. Originally we wondered whether we could travel up together with Maesglas, and maybe hire a minibus between us and share costs, but Maesglas were determined on staying for two nights, which was something we couldn’t manage. Well, my poor old Ford keeps soldiering on, but I think it would be asking for a breakdown in the middle of nowhere if I tried to get it all the way to Blackpool. Barry’s car is too small, and John’s was in the garage. Train fare or hiring a car would have required us to take out second mortgages each. So for us, then, the plan had to be that George, the most reluctant chauffeur amongst all of us, would drive us up on the Friday, we’d stay overnight, and drive back immediately after the quiz yesterday. Now, it’s vulgar to talk about money, so I’m going to be vulgar. Careful use of the internet meant that we were able to do the whole trip for just over £60 a head for fuel, bed and breakfast. Not bad going at all, and only three times as expensive as our annual Derby trip. Alright, sorry, that was a cheap shot which I couldn’t resist.

The wisdom of going up the day before the quiz was proven when we found ourselves sitting on the M6 (actually that was literally true at one point when it got too hot in the car) for about two and a half hours, just outside Keele services. There was a terrible pile up around junction 16 apparently, and they had to land an air ambulance and everything. I can only hope that the people involved were OK in the end. Well, we pulled up outside the guest house at pretty much bang on 7pm, and the first sign that we were going to have a pretty good time was the fact that we parked right outside the hotel. I’d already scouted out a car park nearby where we could have left the car overnight, but that would have cost each of us the price of a pint, so being able to leave the car right outside the guest house was a huge bonus. The guest house was absolutely fine for what we paid – comfortable beds – clean and quiet – a decent full English at 8 am sharp. I would share the name of the place with you, but we are planning on making the trip again if next year’s event is the same, so I don’t want you booking there ahead of me. By half past 8 we were unpacked, had our first pint in the guest house’s bar, and were ready to set out in search of food, and take whatever Blackpool could throw at us.

I’ve only ever been to Blackpool once before, and that was only for a day trip in 1983 to visit the Doctor Who Exhibition, so my impressions are only based on a very brief acquaintance. But what I respect about Blackpool is the way that it seems totally comfortable in its own skin. Blackpool is as Blackpool does, and it makes no bones about it neither. On the sea front you could easily have a marathon pub crawl without having to walk more than a couple of hundred yards. So as you can expect there were a large number of stag and hen groups out and about – maybe it was just me, but there seemed to be a lot more hen groups than stag groups. We met up with Gordon and Colin from Maesglas in Yates’, and then went to a Wetherspoon’s for a meal, where we met Clive, Tony, Michael and the Sunderland lads, who’d had the same idea we’d had of coming up the night before.

It was a good evening. Now, if you’re a regular, you might recall me having mentioned that I’m virtually teetotal (I don’t touch tea, never have. Badoom boom ching – I’m here all week, ladies and gents). When you get right down to it, I just don’t like alcohol that much. Yes, pathetic, I know, but it’s taken me a long enough time to learn what’s me and what isn’t me, and shoving pints down my neck just ain’t me. But. Seeing as it was a special occasion, I did have a pint of cider in the guest house before we went out. It did actually go to my head, and I felt light-headed for a good hour or so till we ate.

OK, so we stayed in Witherspoons, ‘enjoying’, if that’s the right word, watching what appeared to be a spontaneous ladies’ arm wrestling competition on a nearby table. That’s Blackpool, folks. We left the pub and wandered back towards the guest house about quarter to twelve. On the way, we came upon the unusual sight of a lady – and those of a nervous disposition may wish to skip the rest of this paragraph – right, we passed a lady showing considerable ingenuity in her drunken attempts to urinate in a litter bin. A sight of which Barry, with typical Brummagem wit, said, “You know, the lasting mental image I’m going to have of this weekend is the sight of that huge, white, flabby arse draped all over that poor litter bin.” He has quite a way with words, has our Barry.

Now, if you’re like me, your inner child is very often your outer child as well, and the ten year old boy in me that is never very far from the surface absolutely demanded that I went up the Blackpool Tower the next morning. I never took the opportunity in 1983, and always regretted it since. George, like me, is of the opinion that you should always try to do something, or see something when you visit a particular place, so he came too. It was that windy along the front that I did worry that the Tower might actually be closed when we got there; as it was the lady on the tickets told us that she reckoned it would be closed by 11am. I have to say that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I know that there’s a huge ballroom in the Tower, but I didn’t expect the 3D cinema. We did get to go up to the top, mind you, where a notice informed us that there are over 90,000 beds in guest houses and hotels in Blackpool, which is more than in the whole of Portugal. I presume this means guest house and hotel beds in Portugal, as opposed to all beds, unless the Great Portuguese Bed Famine is just something I haven’t heard of.

Could the quiz, then, be anything other than an anti-climax? Well, not, it wasn’t an anti –climax at all. I’ll go into some more detail shortly, but basically, we took the lead in the first round, and I think we stayed in the lead until the last. Going into the last round we‘d won a case of lager already, and had a lead of precisely one half of a point. I have never really been in realistic contention for a win in the CIU since the very first time I played, where we went into the Who Am I (which has thankfully been dropped from the quiz now) 1 point behind the leaders, and had it on the first clue. So did the team who were in the lead. So you can imagine it was an exciting situation. Sadly, we scored a point less than the teams behind us, and lost by half a point to Gosforth Empire, and drew with Newbottle Workingmen’s from Sunderland, who beat us on the tie break. Ah, fate can be cruel, but them’s the breaks. I was fine by the time we left, but I won’t lie, for a little while I was very disappointed – not so much that we were beaten, because the Gosforth and the Newbottle boys are great guys and fine quizzers, and it’s no shame to lose to them, but because I had started – only just started to believe it mind you, that this could maybe just be our year. Maybe next time.

So let’s say a bit more about the quiz itself. The chap from the CIU club magazine has asked for feedback, and so these are my thoughts on the subject.

The Quiz

There is, and always has been, a debate to be had about the format of the CIU quiz. Now, this is just my opinion, and I’m not trying to upset anyone, so by all means disagree with me, and dismiss what I say as the ravings of a loon. Still, this is what I feel. For all the years I have been taking part, the quiz has been compiled by some great quiz players and quiz people – the late Dave Cornish, sadly missed, is a notable example, and if I tell you that yesterday’s quiz was compiled by Dave Bill, then you’ll understand where I’m coming from. However the format for the quiz has always been, well, it’s always been rather gimmicky.

I remember a few years ago the list round was introduced, whereby you could put down as many answers as you liked – correct answers brought a half point, and incorrect answers lost a half point. It’s fair to say that this round was rather controversial at the time, and a year or two later it was changed so that wrong answers didn’t lose half points, which was a much better arrangement. In yesterday’s quiz round 5 was a wipeout round. Now, Redtooth were the organization who ran the quiz, and for whom Dave compiled it, and those of you who play regularly play in a Redtooth quiz will be aware of the mechanics of this kind of round. Basically, you can go for up to ten answers. If you get any of your answers wrong, you get no points for the round. The subject of yesterday’s round was Actors and Actresses. We were given, I think, 16 names, and had to put a ring around those who were 80 or over. We were sure of 6, and erred on the side of caution. Now, what happened was that several of the leading teams were taken out by this round, scoring 0. Now, OK, you can argue that this round worked in our favour – it certainly didn’t do us any harm. However – and this is just my opinion – however, I have to ask the question -  is it right to completely destroy a team’s chances because of one wrong answer? Ah – but you may well say – but that’s all part of the competition. Judging it to perfection, and knowing when to gamble and when not to gamble. – Well, maybe, but I don’t really subscribe to that point of view myself. I always think that the winning team in a quiz should be the team that provide the most correct answers. A quiz should reward knowledge – a wrong answer should be punishment enough in itself. Still, like I said, there is a debate to be had, and if a majority of people actually like this kind of round, then fair enough.

As I said, the CIU quiz has always been gimmicky. The second round was a video round – where half the questions were inspired by the video clips and connected to something in them, and half the questions were observation questions. Well, this round certainly didn’t do our chances any harm, so again, feel free to disagree with what I say, but I tend to think that observation is rather like picture identification – it’s a skill, rather than knowledge, and to some extent it is something you either can do or you can’t. Yeah, it’s maybe fun – but should it have a place in a quiz which is contested by some pretty serious and impressive quiz teams? Again, this is just my opinion, and for all I know the majority will disagree with me which is absolutely fine.

In the interests of fairness, before I get on to the sport round I ought to say that I enjoyed the round a lot, and as a team we did as well as we could have done in the round scoring 9 out of a possible 10. The sport round was a round where teams were given three minutes to name the 20 nationalities – excluding English – of people who have managed Premier League football teams in England, with each correct answer scoring half a point, and no penalty for wrong answers, other than the fact they obviously didn’t score. I liked the time limit of three minutes, that’s a new gimmick, and not a bad one if you have to have gimmicks. However – yes, there is a however – for the sport round it was a shame that it was all on football. You do see this a lot in some quizzes, a huge bias towards football when sports questions are given. Now, while I can understand this, football being as hugely popular as it is, in future CIU quizzes it might be nice for this round to be split into different sports, with maybe 4 questions on five sports. Since there’s the time limit there’s still the same level of challenge. Just my opinion, and as always, feel free . . .

No complaints about the two general knowledge rounds and the connections rounds. We played a blinder on the first GK round, going into the lead, and not relinquishing it until, ironically, the last GK round. We found this one to be a bit of a stinker, and just couldn’t quite get the 7 points I guessed we were going to need to have a chance of winning. But that’s quizzing, and there’s no complaints about that . . . some you win, and some you lose, and the fact is that although we finished 3rd on a tiebreak, we actually came closer to winning, being half a point behind deserved winners Mike and the boys from Gosforth Empire, that we’ve ever done before. So you can see that my comments on the quiz aren’t because we were out with the washing, as we sometimes have been in the last few years. Congratulations as well to Clive, Michael, Tony and the guys from Newbottle who pipped us on the Mark Labbett tie break for second.

Well, that’s the quiz. Congratulations and thanks to Dave Bill who compiled it. I have no issue with the questions that were asked. Whichever format you use for a quiz you are never going to please everyone, and if this format is what the majority of CIU teams and players want, then that’s fair enough. If you were there and you have an opinion on the quiz, then why don’t you get in touch with club journal to express that opinion? I will.

Of course, it isn’t just the format of the quiz I have opinions about either. The conception behind this year’s event was that Blackpool in April was the venue for the CIU AGM, and so the quiz would be the climax to the weekend’s whole event. Also – maybe to encourage more teams to take part – there would be no regional heats, just the final. There’s pros and cons to this.

Travel

The good thing about Derby was that it was central. Yes, some of us had longer journeys than others, but nobody had an absolutely horrendous journey. On Friday, we left Rhwbina in Cardiff at about 10:15 am. We arrived at our hotel in Blackpool at about 7pm. That was with two service station stops neither of which was longer than about 15 minutes. Now, you might say, well, you were unlucky because you were stuck in a horrendous jam on the M6 and didn’t move from the spot for 2 and a half hours, and you’d be right. Even so, we’re talking about hours and hours of travelling to get there, and hours and hours to get back.  I don’t see that we could do it without an overnight stop. Now, that’s all well and good if it coincides with the school holidays when I’m not working on the Friday. If it did coincide with a working Friday, well, I’m afraid that my occupation isn’t one where I can just book a day off when I need it. I know quite a few people and teams from Newport and Cardiff who would have come to the quiz if there hadn’t been the need to stop overnight. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy coming to Blackpool, because I did. I loved it. But the thing is, and I’m sorry to bring this down to money, even all of us sharing one car, and going for a very cheap and cheerful guesthouse, this made taking part this year considerably more expensive for each of us than it has been in previous years.

The Organisation

Well, it has to be said that the Norbreck Castle Hotel where the final was held was considerably more swish than the other locations in which the final has been played during my time. Respect for the  freebies for everyone from the sponsors too – Sky Sports T Shirt etc. Redtooth ran the quiz very smoothly, and it cracked along at just the kind of pace that I prefer a quiz to go. Full marks for all of that. However . . . and I know that for the second time in three years I’m moaning about the buffet again here. . . but there wasn’t a buffet. Nowt. Or if there was, nobody was informed about it. Alright, you might say, what do you expect for the amount you paid for the event? But, I don’t know, it just seemed a bit of an omission, bearing in mind how far some people had come (I think we had the longest journey, but I will bow to anyone else’s superior knowledge if that’s not the case) – and how far some people had to go home. Here’s another point too. There was a free bar for the quiz. That’s amazing – except for the fact that you had to pay for diet cokes – and these proved really rather expensive. Well, alright, as a teetotaler (almost) you accept that you are always going to be fleeced in a bar, but considering that a lot of the teams would be driving home after the event, it wasn’t exactly encouraging responsible drinking.

As for the going directly to the final – well, and again this is just my opinion – I always enjoyed the regional heats, even on the occasion that we didn’t qualify, and I think it will be a bit of a shame if they’re confined to the dump bin of History for good. I can be fairly sure that fewer teams took part in this year’s competition than in last year’s, because if there were a dozen teams in the final then that’s as many as there were. I think that a lot of teams who wouldn’t consider going all that way to play in the national final would take part in regionals, but hey, I don’t know what the financial situation is, and I don’t know whether regional heats are viable or not. It’s just a shame if they don’t happen again – as always, just my opinion.

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Well, that was the CIU final for 2015. A very enjoyable weekend for a variety of reasons, and if it does happen in Blackpool again, and if it does coincide with a school holiday, and if I can get a decent deal on a guest house, and if the boys can get the Friday off work, and if one of them is willing to drive us, then on those conditions, you can count me in. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Only Connect : Series 10 Grand Final

Orienteers v. Chessmen

Here it is, ladies and germs, the first Only Connect Grand Final on BBC2. Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on what a successful transition this has been to the terrestrial channel. Those of us fortunate enough to have easy access to BBC4 have been enjoying the powerhouse Monday quiz hour for years, but now it’s been opened to a whole new audience they seem to have lapped it up as well.

Well, enough of such chaff. The Orienteers, Paul Beecher, Simon Spiro and captain Sean Blanchflower have cut a swathe through this series, entering the final undefeated. The Chessmen, on the other hand, Henry Pertinez, Nick Mills and Stephen Pearson, have flirted with disaster during the series, losing once, and needing a tie break to reach the quarter finals.

Round One – What’s the Connection?

Put into bat the Teers opted for Twisted Flax. Greek Bible Writings of St. Ephrem looked confusing – St. Luke’s Gospel A lectionary followed, Archimedes Stomachion A Prayer Book was third, and all I could come up with was works which had been written over by others – or to put it another way, palimpsests.The last – Institutes of Gaius Writings of St. Jerome – illustrated the point that unusually, with this set, I don’t know that the last clue made it any more obvious than the first, but I don’t know – maybe the last is an extremely well known palimpsest and I just haven’t heard of it. Anyway the Teers had it off this last one to earn a very valuable point. Captain Stephen of the Ches again flirted with disaster by not stressing the second vowel of the viper. They received William Henry Harrison. OK – presidents who dies in office? Too obvious. Presidents succeeded by descendants? Even more obvious. Zachary Taylor came next, and that certainly muddied the waters. Generals who became presidents? John Tyler came next, and I was running out of ideas. Millard Fillmore – now, this one, unlike the last set, did actually make it a bit clearer. I had it in my head that Fillmore was an American Whig, and so this was my guess. Bloomin’ good one as it turned out. No points for either of the teams, and so the Teers opted for Lion. Now, a surprisingly obvious set followed. We heard Spike Milligan followed by Joanna Lumley – in full smug mode I shouted – bet the last one is Cliff Richard, since they were both born in India. Actually that was the next clue. In fact the Teers needed the last clue, the sitar stylings of Ravi Shankar, to get it. Never mind, it’s always better to make sure of getting a point and not giving away a bonus, especially at this stage of the competition. The Ches took two reeds and received Heisei 26 – and Henry was right onto it. He knew that this referred to the reign of a Japanese Emperor. Yang Wood Horse came next, which was Chinese, and then 1435 AH. So these then were the year 2014 in different calendars – Japanese, Chinese and Islamic. The Ches made sure of the point by taking the last clue 2014. For the Teers, the name Diarmuid Ua Duibhne kicked off their last set, meaning nothing to me/ White Death, which came second, is a nickname for Tuberculosis. Which didn’t help me, nor did the third clue – Robin Hood. King Charles II, well I could see a connection between him and Robin Hood – in as much as they both used oak trees – Charles hiding in one, and Hood living in one, supposedly. The Teers didn’t get it, but the Ches thought much the same as me and received a bonus for it. White Death was a Finnish sniper. Finnishing off the round, then, the Ches received pictures of a yellow octopus – a sailing ship – Friday 29th February marked on a calendar – huh? – and an oyster. Well, I went for cards as in Oyster card – but I don’t know whether I would have been given it, sine I didn’t specifically link it up to travelcards. The Teers, given a chance for a bonus did something similar, but when given a second bite went specifically with Transport for London, and missed out. So the score at the end of the round was 2 apiece.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

In this round it was Sean who spurned the curse of the viper. The set the Teers received as 4th: Watt (W) – SI Units, ok, but what sequence – 3rd: Celsius (C ) – suggested that we were dealing with them in order of which the people they were named after were born. I wondered whether it might be Newton, but no, for that was the next clue. The Ches went for 1st: Joule (J). Incorrect. Henry of the Ches supplied 1st: Pascal (PA) and that was correct. Good shout. The Ches had the chance to capitalize on that bonus when they picked Water, to find that they had found the music sequence. Now, this was one of those that you were going to slap your head about if you didn’t get it. Well, that’s wehat I did anyway when I didn’t get it. We began with Elton john’s Your Song, and finished with Franke Goes To Hollywood’s The Power of Love. They were the songs, if not the artists, to accompany successive John lewis Christmas Adverts. So as the Teers knew for a bonus, the next would be Somewhere only we know – originally by Keane, but sung in the ad by Lily Allen. So now the Teers had the chance to establish a lead. They opted for twisted flax, and we saw a picture of jack Wilde as the Artful dodger in Oliver! With 8th in the top right hand corner. Next we had Tiger Woods, and 7th. I wondered if  Dodger and Tiger might be a reference to US baseball teams – maybe the number of World Series wins for them or something. The 6th looked for all world like a picture of someone being Sweeny Todd, which blew the baseball theory out of the water. The connection, which nobody had, was that each of them had broken commandments. So the 5th commandment – respect thy parents – was represented by Harry Enfield’s Kevin the Teenager. For all the fact that none of us were anywhere near getting it, that was a good set. Two Reeds for the Ches kicked off with I am Archaeopteryx. Hmm – a word thing by the look of it. I am a prillarhorn. Now, crossword fans would have had it at this point. The two contained March and April in between the words. So anything like I am Cajun English. The Ches had it on the last clue. Unfortunately for me numbers reared their ugly heads in the next set for the Teers. Lion gave them 34.1 – 13.6 – 2.1 – Sean gave the answer 0.1, which was the correct answer, and then admitted he only picked it because it felt right mathematically. The sequence was standard deviations in a normal distribution. You don’t say. Eye of Horus gave the Ches 5th: AltaVista. Well, that was an old search engine, wasn’t it? 4th: wa s Ask Jeeves – again, old search engine – 3rd: McDonalds. Now, that upset the apple cart. Failing all else, I looked at the words, and correctly predicted 2nd – iPad. The number refers to the letter of the word which is in capitals you see. Clever that. So the scores remained locked , now at 5 apiece.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Ches picked the water wall. Quickly they isolated a set of cable/satellite channels – History – 4seven – Alibi and Discovery. There was clearly also a set of revolutions there as well. Orange – French – Velvet and October, and these fell next. They could see that there was a set of Nobel Prize categories too, so spent some time working out what the last set left would be. Once Stephen worked out that Biology could be a Girls Aloud song, they isolated the Nobels – Peace – Physics – Chemistry – Economics – Leaving Biology – Jump – Sexy! No No No – the Show as the Girls Aloud works. 10/10 – great work.

The Teers then needed something spectacular of their own. I could see both a set of cigarettes and a set of London Streets, which overlapped. The Teers themselves quickly saw that there was a set of words and phrases that can precede ‘runner’ . The there was also a set of collars. So it just meant that they needed to separate them all. Road – Blade – Bow Street and Long Distance were the runners. The wall was so cleverly constructed that the London Streets fed into each of the other categories rather than forming a category of their own. Next to fall were the cigarettes – Camel – Strand – Mayfair and Pall Mall. London – Whitehall – Daniel and Black are all famous Jacks, which left Picadilly – Whitehall –Buster Brown and Mandarin as the collars. For a long time it looked as if they weren’t going to get there, but the Teers pulled it out of the bag at the end. 10/10, which meant that the score was 15 all going into the vowels.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

A whole series came down to one round of missing vowels. Well, a close match is always more exciting than a walk over. We started with things usually found in threes – and these went 2 – 1 to the Teers. Impressionist Painters and their Paintings went 3 – 0 to the Teers. That was all we had time for. Very well played to both teams, but the Orienteers are series champions, having won by 20 – 16.Hard lines Chessmen, but well played.


Here’s an interesting fact. Whichever team had won would have provided us with the first dual University Challenge and Only Connect champ – for Henry won with Manchester a couple of years ago, and Sean a while before that. Many congratulations. 

University Challenge - Semi Final 1

St. Peter’s, Oxford v. Magdalen, Oxford

Yes, in this, the first of the semi finals, an all Oxford affair saw high flying St. Peter’s take on Magdalen. St. Peter’s, in the form of John Armitage, Ed Roberts, Spike Smith and their skipper, Gabriel Trueblood have thus far carried all before them, winning all of their matches. Their skipper, Gabriel Trueblood, has drawn many of the headlines this series, as much for his excellent buzzing as for his habit of twirling the toggles of his hoodie. Magdalen’s team of Harry Gillow, Chris Savory, Cameron J. Quinn and skipper Hugh Binnie needed quarter final matches to get this far. As for their prospects in this semi final, well, I confess that I tipped St. Peter’s. However it is worth considering that Magdalen’s loss came to potential champions Gonville and Caius. St. Peter’s have beaten some good teams so far, but they had yet to face any team quite of that standard.

The psychologically important first question was won by a great early buzz from Hugh Binnie, who recognized a list of people who were booked on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, but didn’t sail on it. Good shout that. They were given a set of bonuses on Charles Darwin’s voyage on HMS Beagle, and had the same two correct answers as I had. Spike Smith opened St. Peter’s account with the next starter, on the mathematical term closed. The set of bonuses on fluid mechanics wasn’t kind, but they managed one of them. I was a little surprised that nobody knew that the son of George II, who earned the soubriquet of The Butcher for his brutal suppression of the Jacobite uprising was the Duke of Cumberland. A long question on a piece of classical music followed, but the last words – by Stravinsky – made it clear we were looking for ‘The Rite of Spring’ and this particular buzzer race was won by Hugh Binnie. A UC special set of bonuses, combining the answers to two clues to find the names of comfort foods – eg – Edgar RICE Burroughs and PUDDING Head Wilson = Rice pudding. A full set of these led to the pictures. We saw the periodic table with some of the elements – Nitrogen – Oxygen – Chlorine and Manganese – and were asked in which decade they were discovered. Well, knowing that Priestley discovered Oxygen (before writing An Inspector Calls) I went for the 1770s. The teams went either side of this decade, and so the pictures rolled over. The next starter asked for the author of a quotation. I had it from the words ‘hideous progeny’ I have taught Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” on occasion. Cameron Quinn opened his account with this starter. This opened up the picture bonuses, more elements and decades of their discoveries. Magdalen managed just the one of these, which was just the one more than I did. Cameron Quinn took a great early buzz to ascribe the word Anarchist to the writer Proudhon. Two bonuses on Europeans in Asia took the score to 80 – 15 at the ten minute mark. Early days yet, but Magdalen were looking ominously fast on the buzzer.

Gabriel Trueblood took an early buzz to identify hares as members of the order leporidae. They couldn’t convert any of the bonuses. Nobody knew that Chadwick discovered the electron by bombarding beryllium with alpha particles. Well, quite. Chris Savory lost five for an early buzz on that one. Gabriel Trueblood knew that Schumann was responsible for the Spring and Rhenish symphonies. A full set of bonuses on quotations about the constellation of Orion was a timely addition to his team’s score. Neither team could quite manage to ascribe a set of locations to Henry IV part 1. Spike Smith had a maths starter I didn’t understand to which the answer was 0110. That was three unanswered starters to St. Peter’s. Two bonuses on latin terms for logical fallacies pushed them to within ten points of Magdalen. A very fast buzz saw Cameron Quinn identify Gounod’s Soldier’s Chorus for the music starter. They were asked to identify three pieces with military connections, and only missed out on the first, Men of Harlech. Cameron Quinn took a second successive starter, buzzing early for a starter on an alternative pathway to photosynthesis. Fair enough. Bonuses on whales sounded gettable, and indeed they were with Magdalen taking a full set. Poor Gabriel Trueblood was unlucky with the next starter. Asked who, in Greek Mythology, was the father of a number of figures, he answered Neptune. Arrghh! The correct answer, sort of, but he was the Roman God, while the answer was the Greek equivalent, Poseidon. Not only did he lose 5, but it allowed Harry Gillow in with the correct answer. Complexity Theory in computer science promised me nothing, but Magdalen took a full set, and at this particular point their lead was starting to look ominous for St. Peter’s. Gabriel Trueblood wasn’t conceding defeat yet, though. He knew that Seqoyeh compiled a syllabary of Cherokee. This provided them with 10 points on bonuses on servants in opera. Now, when asked for part of the former Gilbert and Ellice Islands it’s a 50/50. Sometimes it will be Kiribati, and sometimes Tuvalu. Hugh Binnie zigged with Kiribati, and he was right. A UC Special set followed on prime numbers – eg – what prime number is the result when you subtract the year of the Great Fire of London from the year of The Boston Tea Party? A couple of answers meant that at the 20 minute mark they led by 165 to 85. Game Over? Maybe not, but it was a hell of an ask for St. Peter’s to come back now.

Cameron Quinn, who was having another great game, recognized a piece of sculpture as St. George by Donatello. Blimey, that turtle couldn’t half sculpt. The bonuses showed three paintings of saints, and asked for the name of the saint and the artist who painted each. Now, coming back to my turtle comment, I said as much before noticing that the paintings were by Raphael, then Leonardo, so it was obvious that the last was going to be by Michelangelo. Spike Smith sadly went a decade too early for the Treaty of Nanking and the publication of the Communist Manifesto which should have let Cameron Quinn in. He actually gave the year of the publication of the Communist Manifesto, 1848, and since he had been asked for the decade he was refused the point. I’ve seen those sort of answers given in the past, but have no problem with a letter of the answer adjudication as long as it’s applied across the board. Chris Savory buzzed in too early on a question on Voyager 2. He thought it was about the point at which it became the first man made object to leave the solar system, but it was somewhat earlier in its career than that when it passed Neptune. Ironically, bearing in mind his Greek mythology misfire, Gabriel Trueblood supplied the correct answer of Neptune as the planet it was the first to pass. Bonuses on languages of South Africa weren’t easy, but the two they answered took them into triple figures at least. The apterygota are so named for their wings – which Gabriel Trueblood knew to earn the next starter. Two bonuses on Physics – the last of which I had myself (the traditional lap of honour round the living room followed) reduced the gap further, but there just wasn’t enough time left in the match. Be honest, how many of you also shouted ‘Oak’ when you heard the word ‘sessile’. A couple of years ago that was one of those recurring chestnuts. Given a little more of the question, Cameron Quinn buzzed in correctly. Bonuses on histology brought nowt, which really didn’t matter, since the highly impressive Cameron Quinn took another fine starter, buzzing early to identify the words of Francis Bacon. Bonuses on presidents of Pakistan took Magdalen through the 200 point barrier. Hugh Binnie was in early for the next starter, on the term dipole. Bonuses on dem bones dem bones dat help you walk around only brought another 5 points, but it was all academic by this point. My favourite question of the evening asked which country’s capital city can be made if you rearrange the roman numerals for 552? The Answer is east Timor – from DLII – making Dili. Great shout from Hugh Binnie for that one. Poor old St. Peter’s seemed shell shocked by the fact that their participation in the contest was now over. That was that. Magdalen won convincingly by 235 – 120. In the battle of the superfast buzzers, Cameron Quinn won convincingly for Magdalen, although Gabriel Trueblood at least fought a valiant rearguard action for st. Peter’s. Very well done Magdalen – what price the final being a repeat of their excellent quarter final against Gonville and Caius, I wonder?

Jeremy Paxman Watch

On the Structural Anthropology bonus JP seemed amazed, asking “You’ve never heard of Claude Levi Strauss? Amazing – sic transit Gloria ey?” I wish he wouldn’t do that. Until you’ve had a go on a sleb quiz show yourself, Jez, leave it out. He seemed to have it in for St. Peter’s a bit with this set, since he made comments about both of their other answers, which were also wrong.

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

Perthes Disease affects the head of the femur

Friday, 3 April 2015

New Show: The Quizeum - BBC4

By rights I ought to have enjoyed this more. Museums? Love ‘em. Quizzes? Ditto. Griff Rhys Jones? Liked his 3 Men in a Boat shows, Smith and Jones, and Not The Nine O’Clock News. So what went wrong?

The basic premise of the show is that two teams of two experts each undergo a range of rounds relating to identifying various museum objects, either what they are, or what they do, or finding a specific object based on a cryptic clue provided by the other team. Each show takes place in a different museum.

I think my lack of enjoyment comes partly because this is a show with a bit of an identity crisis. I mean it is called a quiz, and there are questions asked, and sometimes there are even answers given. But for a lot of its running time I got the impression that the questions were being treated as a bit of an irrelevance, something getting in the way of what the panelists really wanted to do, which was chat, and exchange what passes for witticisms amongst such exalted circles, one supposes. It was a bit odd too, considering how unashamedly highbrow aspects of this show were, that there seemed to be a bias towards the smutty and scatological amongst the objects being discussed, the ladle for removing baby excrement, and the plate decorated with willies being the most obvious examples. Strange.

I’ve been branded smug enough times in the past myself to be wary of applying that adjective to anybody else. The panelists have the titles, the positions, the expertise and the authority to be on the show in the first place, and good luck to them for that, but, oh I don’t know, maybe it’s my own inverted snobbery, but I felt like I was at a dinner party with a group of people I’ve never met, who were all trying to impress each other, and made it perfectly clear that they weren’t interested in anything I might have to say. Believe it or not, I don’t mind not knowing things, especially if there’s no real reason why I should have known it prior to the show, but make it interesting, and don’t bore me.

I don’t have a problem with highbrow quizzes, and I don’t have a problem with lowbrow quizzes. I have a problem with boring quizzes, and with bad quizzes, and quizzes which don’t work. This one didn’t work for me. Sorry. 

New Show: Relatively Speaking : Sky 1

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but way back in the mists of time when I was about 12, one evening, a propos of nothing my Dad suddenly announced that he was going to apply for us to go on “Ask The Family” – us being him, my brother who was a year older – still is for that matter – and my mum. As for my brother who was a year younger (again . . . ) he was out of luck. Well, he never carried through with this threat or this promise, which was probably a good thing, since the only way he would have been likely to have shone would have involved being asked a specialist round on Old Holborn and Autumn Gold cider. I mention this again since I’m sure I’ve often said in the past that one of the quiz shows I’d most like to see returning is Ask the Family. All of which brings me to Sky TV’s Relatively Clever.

Well, since I’ve started with the comparison, let’s have a comparison between the two shows. Ask the Family was a terrific show which pitted nice middle class families of Dad, Mum, older child and younger child against each other in a variety of rounds – some puzzles, some general knowledge. It lasted just a little less than half an hour, and was presented by witty, dry old Robert Robinson. Well, there were revivals, but the one worth talking about was Robert Robinson’s. Now, if you’re going to model yourself on an old quiz show, there’s a lot worse inspirations than you can choose from. There are similarities between Relatively Speaking and Ask the Family, but they are not as closely related as last year’s The Guess List was to Blankety Blank, by way of comparison. For one thing, grandparents are now part of the equation. Well, as a double granddad myself now (that’s a granddad with two grandchildren, as opposed to a great granddad ) I’m all for that.

The show is an hour long, which I suppose is par for the course for something they decide to put on at 8pm on a Friday evening. I don’t know that there will ever be a big prime time quiz success again, and if there is I doubt that it will be on Sky, and I doubt very much that it will bear much similarity to a quiz like Relatively Speaking. This is not to say that it’s a bad show – it isn’t at all bad. But for me, it’s a 30 – 45 minute tea time show, blown a little out of its more realistic proportions. It’s a shame that this will probably kill it, since you never know, on a terrestrial channel, earlier in the evening, and with a shorter running time it could well gain its own following.

As for the show itself, well, there was a mixture of rounds, all of which were knowledge based, but some of which were more slightly cryptic than others. In ATF, nobody ever had to face an individual question, but there would be questions specifically directed to mother and older child, or father and younger child. In place of that there are 4 specialist rounds, and each member of the family goes head to head with one of their opposite number on these rounds. One of the rounds involved the teams trying to get four answers in a set – each member of the team producing one answer of the set without conferring with the others – for example the names of the 4 mutant ninja turtles. The final round, as it should be, was a quickfire round. In other words, this was something of an old fashioned quiz, and none the worse for it either.

It wasn’t perfect. Mel Giedroyc isn’t one of my favourite TV personalities. Sorry, Mel, but I find yours and Sue Perkins’ constant inane interruptions the worst feature of The Great British Bake Off. She was perfectly adequate in this, but you know me, if you’re not a wit on a par with Robert Robinson, or Steven Fry, or someone of that level, then my best advice is just to get on with the questions. As for the questions, well, there’s always going to be a trade off, isn’t there. If you put it on in prime time, then you want the biggest audience you can have, and people aren’t going to tune in to be made to feel stupid. So the questions, predictably, were pretty easy. At least there was a fair spread of subjects, and it wasn’t all entertainment.


All in all the hour passed pleasantly enough and I quite enjoyed it, notwithstanding the fact that my daughter beat me on several of the quickfire head to heads.