Sunday, 3 November 2019

University Challenge 2020 - First Round


Last of the first round matches, then, dearly beloved. Hoping to take the last place in the second round by right were Matthew Le Croisette, Mary Lobo, Row Janjuah and their captain Isaac Brown, representing Lady Margaret College, Oxford. Hoping to prevent them from doing so, and take the coveted spot for themselves were Downing College Cambridge. Their team were Bovey Zheng, Naivasha Pratt-Jarvis, Pranoy Chaudhuri-Vayalambrone, and their own skipper Robert Jackson.

I thought that both teams sat on their buzzers a little for the first starter, It was so obviously alluding to Beatrix Potter, the famous ale juggling ceramicist. Eventually Naivasha Pratt-Jarvis buzzed in to earn bonuses on librarians. They took two. Painting – Diner – and – four figures were enough to give me Hopper’s Nighthawks for the next starter, and Isaac Brown was hot on my heels with the same. Alumni of the Slade School of Art brought us both just the one bonus. None of us knew the answer to the organic chemistry starter which followed, but apparently the answer is an amine, which I think once attacked the crew of the Enterprise during an episode of the original series of Star Trek. I have to be honest, with the next starter, as soon as it became clear it was a female character from Shakespeare, I would have been tempted to sling buzzer and go for Lady Macbeth straightaway. I’d have been right to do so as well. Robert Jackson hit the buzzer as soon as he heard the word monster. This brought Downing a set of bonuses on physiology. By the time that I zoned back in again, they had scored a full house which brought us nicely to the picture starter. This was a nice UC special. It was a definition, in Spanish, of a single Spanish word which is used in English as well. This one, with drink, water and wine all int eh definition, was always going to be sangria. Isaac Brown was first to see it. Three more of the same provided Lady Margaret Hall with their own full house. I’ll be honest, there can’t have been that many world shaking books published in Germany in 1867, so I thought I was in with a good shout when I went for Das Kapital. Robert Jackson felt the same thing obviously, and this brought bonuses on repetition. This brought bonuses on repetition. Boom boom. One correct answer added 5 to their score. Interesting to see Marx as a bonus answer when the answer to the starter had been Das Kapital. You rarely see that sort of thing happen in a GK round. Nobody knew two of the three great capitals of China other than Berlin. So, at just after the 10 minute mark, Downing led by 60 – 40, with both teams looking up for the competition.

I’ve never heard of the Cheyne -Stokes breathing cycle, but Pranoy Chaudhuri-Vayalambrone had, and buzzed in correctly. 16th century rulers provided a relatively benign set, and Downing put all of these low hanging fruit into their metaphorical basket. I didn’t even understand the next question, but Row Janjuah came in very early with the answer of cadence. Lawyers in Charles Dickens were all gettable, but Lady Margaret Hall (LMH from here on in) took 2. Eastern diamondback gave me rattlesnake, for the next, and evidently Row Janjuah too, who took his double with this one. Recent winners of the Pulitzer Prize for History offered them the chance to draw level with Downing, but they failed to trouble the scorer here. So to the musc starter. How ironic – I was in Vienna last week – locely time, thanks for asking – and we heard the zither-played strains of the theme from the film “The Third Man”. As JP offered ‘Come on! That’s one of the most famous films – “Robert Jackson offered “The Godfather” to predictable indignation from JP. “Matthew Le Croisette decided he was having some of this action too, and offered “Ratatouille.” A fantastic UC special starter saw us given Kirkcaldy and Blenheim Palace – the birthplaces of the historical figures on the £20 and £5 notes, and asked what £10 would be. Mary Lobo worked out that it was Jane Austen, so had to be Hampshire. Lovely question that. The music bonuses, three more leitmotifs used in film soundtracks, provided just the one bonus, but more importantly brought the scores level. At this point you’d have been forgiven for thinking that both teams had a very good chance of reaching the magic target of 150, which would at least guarantee a repechage slot. Nobody knew the lagest city of Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Nobody knew Sir George Grove for the next starter either. My lap of honour finally materialised with the next starter, a lovely UC special which involved working out that if you multiplied helium- 2 on the periodic table – by beryllium – 4 then you got oxygen – 8. Matthew Le Croisette took a little longer than I did. The next three bonuses were all connected with gyres. It seemed a long time since Downing had answered a starter, but Bovey Zheng identified Spurn Head as being in the Humber estuary. One correct answer put them into triple figures. However LMH were the leaders by 5 at just after the 20 minute mark.

For the second picture starter we saw a detail of a painting, in which a small bird was depicted. I’ll be honest, style and colours screamed Rousseau to me, and also to Isaac Brown I dare say. More details from paintings in which birds were depicted brought them two more correct answers. Now, when you’re behind, I’ve always said that you’re better off being hung for a sheep rather than a lamb, so I don’t blame Naivasha Pratt-Jarvis for giving it a lash on the next question. However she came in after just hearing “Which Spanish artist – “ and let’s be fair, there are 4 hardy Spanish artist perennials which often feature in UC questions. She gave us Velazquez, she might just as well have said ‘Picasso’ or Dali’ but the answer was Goya, which became clear with the full question. Isaac Brown had that. Bonuses on the works of Stephen Hawking were enough to bring LMH the magic total of 150, so whatever happened we’d be seeing them again. Nobody recognised surgical retractors for the next starter. Bovey Zheng gave Downing some hope, knowing that osier and other trees are species of willow. Winners of the Copa Libertadores Trophy brought just one bonus, and they were still going to need at least two visits to the table to reach the repechage at least. Pranoy Chaudhuri-Vayalambrone provided one of the starters they needed, completing a Dorothy Parker couplet with doubt. Two bonuses took them to 130, just a starter and two bonuses away from safety. I was surprised that nobody could work out that the two of Kipling’s six honest serving men which are anagrams of each other are how and who. Neither team worked out Samuel Coleridge-Taylor for the next starter. Now, I knew that the only world war year in which a census could have taken place was 1941, so that had to be the year ending in a 1 when a census wasn’t taken. I don’t know if Robert Jackson used the same reckoning to work it out, but he came up with the same answer. Two bonuses on the Pacific Islands to qualify, and three to win. They took the first, but were cruelly gonged before answering the second.

Let’s get the technicalities out of the way first. Jesus, Oxford, Durham and Downing all scored 145. So the two teams going through which will be revealed next week, will eb the ones who needed to hear the fewest questions to reach their total. Fair enough. Got to separate them somehow.

This was a terrific contest, and an exciting match. I don’t think either of them were amongst the best teams we’ve seen all series, but hey, it was a good show. Let’s settle for that.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

A little aside, when JP dubbed churros as ‘the slimmer’s friend’ was pretty much all there was from him in the first ten minutes or so. In the music starter his reaction of “Noooooooo!!!!” when Robert Jackson offered “The Godfather” for “The Third Man” was exaggerated beyond it’s natural lifespan. Matthew Le Croisette’s follow up suggestion of Ratatouille gave him the opportunity to respond in high dudgeon, “Ratatouille?!” then administer the coup de grace with the put down “meretricious offerings!”.

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

Loads and loads of things I didn’t know in this, but none of them so interesting that they stuck out for me. Sorry.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Mastermind 2020 - Heat 11


Hello, good morning, and yes, I had a lovely time in Vienna, thanks for asking. I made sure I was back in time for Mastermind yesterday, mind you. Well, you can have too much of a good thing you know.

So to the show. First up was Hugh Ashton. I don’t normally comment on contenders’ appearance, for fear that they might well start commenting on mine, but I have to congratulate Hugh for his rather wonderful waistcoat and bow tie combination. This – I thought – is someone who has a bit of confidence. Mind you, he did miss his first question on that Mastermind hardy perennial, the “Mapp and Lucia” novels of E.F. Benson, who must have written them during the intervals between performances with her all-girl band. He soon shrugged that off, though to finish with 11 and no passes. Certainly, at the least that’s an in contention at half time score.

Jane Nelson who followed gave us Manchester City FC 1992 – present day. Hmm, not quite 30 years. I mean, I’m not trying to insinuate that this isn’t a long enough time period to make a set of sufficiently testing questions, but am I alone in having a nostalgic hankering for the days when a contender would have to take the whole history of a club, or a sporting event, rather than just a selected period? Oh, I am – okay then, moving on. Jane knew her subject very well, but a rather deliberate and steady way of answering meant that she was limited to an even ten points.

So to Muhammad Ali. Muhammad was answering on Greek Mythology. Now there’s a traditional Mastermind subject for you – a particularly wide traditional Mastermind subject. Muhammad scored 4. 3 of these were to the first three questions. He also got the last question right. Now, we can only judge from what we see on the screen, so I may be completely wrong about what I think happened. But for what it’s worth, it looked from his answers that Muhammad knew a bit about Greek mythology, and thought that it would be enough. Surely if he’d have prepared thoroughly he wouldn’t have missed some absolute sitters, like Ariadne. He didn’t look particularly nervous, but hey, only he could really say what went wrong in the round.

The life and written works of Harper Lee, offered to us by Poppy Bradshaw, brought the specialists to a conclusion. Apparently she did write other things than To Kill and Mockingbird, and the recently published Go Set a Watchman. That’s Harper Lee, by the way, not Poppy. A decent round followed, although I think Poppy had just undercooked her preparation a little on Harper Lee’s journalist career.

More light for me was thrown on Muhammad’s first round problems by his second round. He didn’t absolutely smash it, however he did score 9, which John called a respectful score – which it may well have been – although I’m pretty sure that he meant it was a respectable score. Which it certainly was. So was this a case of someone who knows he has a respectable general knowledge deciding to enter the show, as is his right, then deciding specialist subjects and taking it for granted his prior knowledge of the subject would see him through? Again, only Muhammad could tell us the answer to that one.

Poppy, sadly, did not get congratulated by John for reaching a respectful score, as she added just 5 to her total, and fell into a pass spiral. I always feel I want to be a bit careful when I write about low scoring GK rounds, because it may well come across that I’m criticising the contender. I’m really not. Posting a low score in a Mastermind GK round proves nothing  other than you didn’t know the answers to most of the questions you were asked. It suggests that you don’t perhaps at this time have the standard of General Knowledge that you really need to appear on the show, but that’s about it. It has nothing to do with your intelligence. However, that is the conclusion that many people often draw, and I do feel that the production team has a duty of care towards contenders. However much they want to appear on the show, I would imagine that sitting there on the chair while you’re enduring a round like Poppy’s cannot be a pleasant experience. To be honest, as a viewer I do find it uncomfortable as well. In the last 5 shows we’ve seen 5 GK scores of 5 or less. This is just how I feel, and feel free to disagree, but I do tend to feel that if you can’t score 6 or more on a GK round, then you should not be put in the position of having to endure one. Now, ok, I am sure that there have always been contenders who score decently in their auditions, and then have a ‘mare on the show, but 5 in 5 shows? Come on – and I said this last year as well – that’s the sort of batting average that suggests that quality control in the selection process is not all it could be.

Thankfully Jane and Hugh both avoided such traumatic rounds themselves. Jane was a point behind at the halfway stage, and the rather measured style of her answers in the first round suggested that in order to be able to set a challenging target she was going to have to answer pretty accurately. To be fair, she didn’t do at all badly either. Okay, 10 points for 20 wasn’t necessarily a huge target, but it meant that Hugh was going to have to have a good round to score enough points to beat it.

Which he did, and as often happens, for the first minute of his round he looked like he’d do it with a good couple of points to scare. However the wrong answers mid round took away a bit of momentum, but he made it, scoring his own ten in the process. That one point by which he’d beaten Jane in the Specialist rounds was enough to give him the win. Well played sir.



The Details

Hugh Ashton
The Mapp and Lucia Novels of E.F. Benson
11
0
10
0
21
0
Jane Nelson
The History of Manchester City FC 1992 - present
10
0

10
0
20
0
Muhammad Ali
Greek Mythology
4
1
9
1
13
2
Poppy Bradshaw
The Life and Written Works of Harper Lee
7
1
4
7
11
8

Saturday, 26 October 2019

University Challenge 2020 - First Round - Imperial v. Brasenose, Oxford


Imperial v. Brasenose, Oxford



We’re approaching the end of the first round, dearly beloved, just one more to go after this match up between Brasenose and Imperial. The London side were represented by Richard Brooks, Brandon (his surname board said Brandon, he introduced himself with ‘Hi I’m Brandon’, but surely he isn’t Brandon Brandon), Connor McMeel.,and captain Caleb Rich. Brasenose in their turn were Alan Haugh, Maud Mullan, Tucker Drew and their own captain, Ollie Hanson.

Bending, blowing and boggling can all be preceded by mind, and Alan Haugh was the first to notice this. Brasenose took 2 bonuses on the Levant. Ollie Hanson lost five by coming in two early. If he’d have waited he’d maybe have known that if it’s a South American who is runner up in the Tour de France, then he’s a Columbian (probably). It was nice to see Rene Higuita, everyone’s favourite Columbian goalkeeper, getting alluded to in the same question. Connor McMeel got his team underway with that one. They didn’t trouble the scorer on their bonus set on National Anthems. I thought Rieman was where you went to buy paper for your printer, but apparently he was a mathematician as well, as Caleb Rich knew for the next starter. Pairs of words which have the same spelling, but different meanings according to where one stresses a syllable gave Imperial the first full house of the contest. This brought us to the picture starter, and a map showing the 14 islands of Stockholm. I got this having visited that lovely place in chilly February. Richard Brooks won that one. Bonuses of other cities built on islands brought two correct answers, and one which wasn’t far off. Mr. Brandon came in early to suggest that Irving Berlin had written Begin the Beguine, but lost five, allowing Ollie Hanson to hoof the ball into Row Z of the stands by suggesting Scott Joplin when the open goal of Cole Porter loomed wide before him. Thus, at the 10 minute mark, Imperial were making most of the running, leading by 50 - 15.

Mr. Brandon made up for his earlier miss by recognising presidents or prime ministers of amongst other state, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. This gave Imperial the chance to take two bonuses on scientific terms with an x in the middle. As soon as the words ‘which French economist – “ passed the Paxman lips, Caleb Rich struck like a coiled cobra to supply us with the answer – Piketty, who also got to number 5 in the UK charts in 1970 with “That Same Old Feeling” (ask your parents). Bonuses on special edition Barbie dolls made to commemorate International Women’s Day brought another full house, and Imperial were already just one bonus away from a triple figure score. Mr. Brandon gave us a brilliantly quick buzz to identify the word  city being made from the initial letters of the capital cities of Venezuela, Pakistan, Albania and Cameroon. They made the most of it with another full house on ancient Greek philosophy. This brought us to the music starter. This brought no joy to Brasenose as Richard Brooks buzzed in with the correct answer of Aaron Copland – who later became the drummer with The Police, I believe. (Oh, come on, you can’t say that you didn’t see that one coming.)Three more musical works for which Martha Graham created dances. Ironically one of them was Scott Joplin’s, ironically. Maud Mullan probably saved her team from the dreaded Paxman encouragement by taking the next starter, Knowing philanthropy and misanthropy. One physics bonus doubled their score – and funnily enough one physics bonus, on the lumen – was enough to earn me a mid contest lap of honour around the living room. I’ll be honest, soon as I heard ‘ which form of understatement . . .” I had a shy at it with litotes, and after Imperial had given a wrong ‘un Maud Mullan took her second starter in a row with the same. Cats in Fine Art brought them two bonuses, even though none of the questions asked about Botticelli’s famous work, The Birth of Whiskas. Another good buzz from Mr. Brandon identified Stanley Kubrick as the director who had made films based on the novels of, amongst others, Nabokov and Thackeray ( who incidentally were also a useful forward partnership for Brentford during their promotion season in the late 70s). Long distance running promised much but brought just the one bonus. Thus as we approached the 20 minute mark, Imperial had an imperious lead with 145 to 150.

The second picture starter showed us the famous Salvador Dali painting looking down upon the Crucifixion. Tucker Drew took his first starter with this one. Other paintings from the collection in Glasgow’s wonderful Kelvingrove Gallery brought them two bonuses.Connor McMeel knew three philosophers whose surnames began with L,M and N. Human anatomy saw them draw a rare bonus blank. Polymerase Chain reaction means nowt to me, but Mr. Brandon knew it for the next starter. Imperial only managed one bonus on the great Neil Gaiman, but that as enough to give them a 100 point lead. Mr. Brandon added to this, knowing that Omsk lies on the river Irtysh. Gesundheit. A full set on the Olympic Winter Games took Imperial to the brink of a double century. Mr. Brandon took a hattrick, knowing that William Henry Harrison was the filling in a presidential sandwich in 1841. Imperial only took one bonus on Spanish Geography, but the contest was long since over by this stage anyway. Caleb Rich knew that the SI Unit for Something or Other is the Gray. Seed distribution brought both of us just the one bonus. As soon as JP said ‘alpha numerical designation of pairs of roads – “ I guessed that it was going to be A1. The night’s sharpest buzzer, Brandon ( I think we know each other well enough now to dispense with the Mr.) almost inevitably took that one. Again, they took just the one bonus on names of dog breeds, none of which could have been doing their conversion rate any good. Still the buzzer onslaught continued. Caleb Rich came in very quickly with aquafarba, and there was time for their customary one bonus before the contest was gonged. Imperial won with 255 to 70.

Poor Brasenose. You have to feel a little sorry, although to be fair, they demonstrated the principle that if you don’t buzz, you ain’t gonna win. It really needed them to just sling some willy nilly buzzer and hit and hope. I tend to think that you’re better off being hung for a sheep than a lamb. They managed over 50% on the few bonuses they earned. In fact this was similar to Imperial’s. However, Imperial had 43 bonuses to choose from. As for Imperial, well, you can only beat the opposition you have, and this was an impressive display.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Jez was rather indignant when Ollie Hanson suggested Scott Joplin had written some of Cole Porter’s songs. Talk about damning with faint praise. When Maud Mullan took the anthropy starter, he said, “Well done, you were quick there. “ the subtext of which being “- cause you might just as well have been asleep for the last 10 minutes.”

Just how far JP has come over the last decade was shown in his consolatory last comments to Brasenose. “That was stronger than the score seems to suggest, I think Brasenose.” Er, sorry, but no, it wasn’t Jez. Maybe you meant that Brasenose are stronger than their score suggests, which is something I’m willing to concede, but there wasn’t any real evidence in this show on which to base such a judgement.

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

Aquafarba is used as a substitute for egg whites. Now that’s what I call a versatile toothpaste.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Mastermind 2020 - First Round - Heat 9


Good morning, dearly beloved. Let’s begin with last night’s Mastermind, then, shall we? First into the chair was retired English teacher – and how I would love to be able to describe myself as such – William Donnelly. He was answering on the “Pax Britannica” trilogy. Never having read them, I thought that I was going to struggle on this. However, apart from one question which focussed on one volume’s subtitle, this didn’t prove to be much of an obstacle, since what followed was largely a round on the history of the British Empire. In fact, I rattled off 9 answers, the same score as William did. 9, as we’ve seen, is usually enough to keep you in contention going into GK.

I raised a speculative eyebrow when our next contender, Ash Cattell, announced that he was taking The Musical “Les Miserables” as his specialist. However that was totally unjustified on my part, since the setters had managed to produce an admirably diverse and testing round of questions on all aspects of the musical itself, its creation and productions. This highlighted just how good Ash’s round of 12 really was.

One of the problems with having to follow such a good round, is that if you don’t hit the heights yourself, then this is thrown into stark relief by what has gone before. Such was the fate that befell Melissa Bookbinder’s round on Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles”. There is always a danger with taking a series of books that you greatly love, which I would guess is what Melissa did. You love the books, and you may well have read them many times. However, that does not mean that your memory will dredge up some of the minutiae when you need it, not unless you have really prepared for your round in a way which goes much deeper than just reading the books again. Poor Melissa’s round seemed to unravel after a couple of wrong answers, and in the end she finished with 6.

Our final contender, Steve McMillan looked somewhat familiar, yet came up clean on my database. He was answering on UK number 1 singles of the 1960s, another subject which should come with a government health warning. Producers, writers, record labels, backing musicians – you can be asked for so much more than just the name of the song or the name of the artist. Judging by the expression on his face, Steve was a little taken aback by a couple of the questions, and he too scored 6, and in all honesty seemed none too happy with his round as he returned to his chair.

So, contest effectively over by half time? Well, no, not necessarily. If you have serious ambitions at winning a particular Mastermind show, be it heat, semi final, or final, you should be fairly confident of defending a 3 point lead. However we’ve seen in this particular season that nothing can be taken for granted with GK. So it was still at least a two horse race, even if the two back markers looked well out of it.

Melissa Bookbinder, to be fair, made a decent fist of her round to add 8 to her score. Her total of 14 was never going to win this – or any – heat, but at least it did give her a few minutes in the lead. Now, in the comments over my review of last week’s show, having made the point that I felt that a lot of the GK rounds this season had been rather on the gentle side, I did say that while consistency between shows was not such a huge issue if there are no repechage slots, it was still of paramount importance to achieve consistency within a show. Well, I did think that Steve McMillan was given one of the tougher GK rounds we’ve seen this series. I say this because it’s relatively rare for me to have two consecutive questions wrong in a GK round, and it happened twice during Steve’s round. Scores only tell you so much – my average GK score for this show was noticeably lower than on any other heat this series, but on the sae hand you can only go as fast as the contenders go, and nobody was answering particularly quickly on this show. By the end of the round Steve, poor chap, looked as if he’d been beaten with a blunt instrument for two and a half minutes. His overall total was 9.

So then, it fell to William to take his 9 from the first round, and add as many points as possible to mean that Ash would be starting his round from as far into the corridor of doubt as possible. To be fair to him too, he did have the highest GK score of the night. Looking at it in a glass half empty stylee though, it wasn’t a double figure score. He started very well, although rather slowly, but the wrong answers began to build up, so that while it looked for the first minute as if he would end with a 20+ total, in the end he levelled out at a score of 9 to take the target to 18.

I don’t want to be harsh about Ash, who, alone out of all 4 contenders in last night’s show actually seemed to be enjoying himself, but faced with a target of 7 for an outright win he should have managed to achieve this. As he just managed to squeeze out a 6th correct answer at the end of the round, he at least guaranteed himself a tie break.

I’d like to say that the rarely seen tie break did at least inject a little more excitement into the proceedings, however, having witnessed Ash’s previous 180 seconds of GK I think we probably all knew what the outcome would be.

Fair play to William, his responses to the 5 tie break questions at least showed a good range of knowledge – although he missed out on Denali/Mount McKinley, a good old quiz chestnut which has been doing the rounds for quite a while now.

The Details

William Donnelly
The Pax Britannica Trilogy
9
2
9
0
18
2
4
Ash Cattell
The Musical “Les Miserables”
12
0
6
2
18
2
1
Melissa Bookbinder
“The Vampire Chronicles” by Anne Rice
6
0
8
0
14
0
/
Steve McMillan
UK number 1 singles of the 1960s
6
0
3
1
9
1
/

Sunday, 20 October 2019

University Challenge - Round One - Wolfson-Oxford v. Sheffield


Wolfson -Oxford v. Sheffield



Homework a day late again, Clark Minor? Take 100 lines and bring them to my study after tiffin. Apologies, I was out and about yesterday. So without further ado, let’s have a look at last Monday’s heat. Wolfson, Oxford consisted of Mike Perrin, Mary Caple, Ryan Walker, and captain Claire Jones. Opponents Sheffield were, respectively Alastair Lyle, Sam Kelly, Daisy Fry and skipper Jonathan Newhouse.

I’ll be honest, for the first starter, as soon as Squirrel Nutkin appeared in the middle of a diverse list, I blurted out “50p piece”. Ryan Walker came in just before JP finished the question with the same answer. National Museums brought one correct answer. Now, you hear the words ‘paintings’ and ‘mad’ in close proximity to each other, then slam the buzzer and answer ‘Van Gogh’. Sure, sometimes it might be William Blake, but most times you’ll be right. Both teams waited for a moment or two then Jonathan Newhouse took Sheffield’s first points. Foreign language films that have won Oscars certainly seemed to please Alastair Lyle – a Chiswick man, I was pleased to see, as he pumped his fist in anticipation. With good reason, for his team dispatched all three of them to the boundary. I didn’t know the term Moral hazard, but Jonathan Newhouse did, and so this earned a set on material science. When I guessed UTS stands for ultimate tensile strength I didn’t even bother putting the trainers on, but just padded off on the lap of honour in my bare feet. Sheffield, meanwhile were showing Wolfson a clean pair of heels as they scored their second consecutive full house. Jonathan Newhouse made it 9 questions in a row for Sheffield as he knew that the bone which takes its name from the Latin for the sacred bone is the Sacrum. The bonuses on the English names of characters from the brilliant Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterix the Gaul books somewhat inevitably took the total to three consecutive full houses. At the moment, Sheffield were looking like world beaters. Now, I mentally patted myself on the back with the picture starter. Symbols belonging to a religion were obviously suggesting the Indian subcontinent, but they didn’t fit what I knew about Buddhism or Hinduism, as suggested afterwards by both teams so I suggested Jainism. The picture bonuses were earned by Wolfson skipper Claire Jones, who knew that the French king once married to Eleanor of Aquitaine was Louis VII. More religious symbols from religions with large numbers of followers in India brought us both 2 bonuses. Just approaching the 10 minute mark, Sheffield led by 75 – 35, in what seemed to have become a buzzer battle between the two captains.

Alastair Lyle knew the word nurdle. Bonuses on pairs of words only differing by the addition of the letter g t the first word – eg – rumble and grumble – should have taken them into a triple figure score, but they passed on ratify and gratify. Claire Jones won the buzzer race to pair the river Neisse with the Oder and thus earn bonuses on physical chemistry. After Wolfson had answered two of them correctly my attention focussed on the telly again, and the next starter was one of those which suddenly became obvious after much preamble. If it's a painting and there’s elephant dung involved, chances are that Chris Ofili is involved, as Mary Caple knew. Bonuses on the artist Paula Rego brought Wolfson no bonuses, although I did get Jane Eyre knowing it was published in 1947. Then to the music starter, and rather a long snatch of Don Giovanni, if truth be told, before Mike Perrin correctly identified the work of Mozart. Three more recent examples of other ‘list’ songs brought us both a brace of bonuses. Now, the next starter was one of those old quiz chestnuts which are hardy perennials on UC. Daisy Fry was the first to buzz in to answer that it is the RSPB which has an avocet for its symbol. 16th and 17th quotations brought just the one bonus, but at least Sheffield were moving forward again after a period in which they had become somewhat becalmed. One of the ever popular Ambrose Bierce definitions provided Claire Jones with a correct answer to identify plagiarism. The Italian Empire brought Wolfson a full house and put them level on points with Sheffield, a remarkable turnaround. Sheffield weren’t done yet, though. Alastair Lyle identified the hcg test as the pregnancy test. Two bonuses on Japan and its neighbour took Sheffield to a 20 point lead, with 130 to Wolfson’s 110.

First to identify Kenneth Kaunda as a former president of Zambia was the Sheffield skip.Two bonuses on religious shrines followed. Claire Jones won the buzzer race to identify a photograph of Billie Holiday. Two bonuses narrowed the gap to a full set. The answer to the next question, Essential amino acid was I believed one of the possible names for Monty Python’s Flying Circus rejected in the early stages. Ryan Walker took that one. Philosophy, and major works on Ethics ( as opposed to Suthics and Middlethics) still left Wolfson languishing by 10 points. That deficit was wiped out when skipper Claire Jones won the buzzer race to answer that it was Alfred the Great who defeated Guthrum. Then spared his life and stood Godfather to him when he converted to Christianity as it happens. It’s a Dark Ages thing. Literary terms in poetry saw them fail to trouble the scorer. Neither team knew about the Tyndall Effect. I met Mike Tindall in a charity quiz auction once, and it certainly effected me. Sheffield at this time seemed like a rabbit mesmerised in the headlights, since both teams dwelt on the buzzer over Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, which eventually was taken by Wolfson’s estimable skipper. This gave them the lead at a crucial time, and titles given to British military leaders took them to 170. With their failure to take many bonuses, Wolfson were just creeping forward, but Sheffield just weren’t getting any starters. Then they did. Alastair Lyle recognised two elements that begin with Rad. One bonus took them to level pegging on 170 and the contest was gonged. Mike Perrin just about won the tie breaker, although he answered Rhodes before correcting himself with Colossus of Rhodes. That was enough.

Well played to both teams. JP observed that both will surely be coming back, and that’s fair enough. I think it’s fair to say that Wolfson owe a great debt of gratitude to Claire Jones. She managed 6 starters, and that was essential bearing in mind their modest bonus conversion rate of less than 50%. Sheffield impressed with their excellent bonus rate of 75%. However, if you don’t buzz, it doesn’t matter whether you know the bonuses, and so it will be interesting to see how they do in the repechage.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP was in rather quiet form , and you could see him wrestling with himself to decide how much of a ticking off to give Mike Perrin at the end. Geniality won out. Wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago.

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

A swirl of toothpaste is correctly called a nurdle.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Mastermind 2020 - First Round Heat 9


Another Friday, another Mastermind heat. Well, not if you live in Wales, obviously, but then that is what the iplayer is for.

So, how did it all go? First up in the SS round was Magda Biran-Taylor. You may recall Magda either from her UC appearances with SOAS, or from her appearance in the first round of the 2018 series. She actually posted a pretty decent score of 25 then, even though she was some way behind the heat winner. From what we’ve seen so far this series, a score of 25 now would give you a very good chance indeed of winning your heat. Offering us Emily Temple, Viscountess Palmerston, it looked unlikely she would get close to that score, posting 8 and no passes. However, it is worth noting that while in previous series any score in the teens was a good performance, in this series we’ve seen that any score in double figures is a good score, so I somehow doubted that Magda would be completely out of contention come the half time interval.

The same could be said for Simon Dennis. Now, speaking of Simon Dennis, he has previous UC form himself. He skippered the godless institution of Gower Street, as Jeremy Paxman insists on calling UCL, to the grand final in 2013. Now, you don’t get to a UC grand final without having some serious general knowledge chops, and so I was interested to see whether Simon would post the kind of score to give him a realistic shot in the GK round. That he did, scoring 8 and 2 passes.

Last night’s schoolteacher was Luke Clement. He was answering on the Mabinogion, and I have to thank him for demonstrating that I know a lot less about the Mabinogion than I thought I did. In all honesty I thought I was in serious danger of posting a single figure aggregate for the specialists last night, but the three I scraped in this round, together with the 6 from the previous two rounds meant I needed just the one in the last. Luke managed the double figure score we had been looking for, with 10 and 2 passes.

All of which left Molly Ahmed to bring the specialists to a close with her round on The Life of Jaqueline du Pré. Two correct guesses left me with an aggregate of 11 for last night’s specialists, and I was quite happy to take the points and run. Molly, coincidentally, also posted 11 – although hers was only on this one round and therefore a lot more impressive than mine.

So at least in this show we had all 4 contenders still in contention by the time the half time oranges were being passed around. My gut feeling was that with Simon’s GK pedigree, and the two contenders ahead of him being unknown quantities, he would be the one to beat.

Magda was first back into the chair, though. Her round actually started really well, with her taking four out of the first 5 questions. However the breaks really came on after that, and half a dozen questions passed by without her troubling the scorer further.

So to Simon. Now, one of the disappointing things about the relatively modest average GK scores of this series so far is that the GK rounds themselves really haven’t been that difficult. Yes, I'm bragging again, but I only had 2 of the GK questions wrong all night, and that only ever used to happen during Celebrity Mastermind. So it was a real pleasure to see Simon demolishing his round. In fact, he only missed 2 questions in order to score 15. Now, okay, Luke was two points ahead of him at half time, and Molly three, but both of them were going to have to have great rounds in order to overhaul his total of 23.

Luke didn’t manage it. In fact, he rather struggled his way to 5. I don’t wish to add any more to a fellow teacher’s misfortune, and so I will move on to Molly. By my reckoning, Molly could have 4 wrong answers, and even one pass, and just about squeeze her way past Simon. She didn’t give it a bad go either, but the wrong answers started to mount up, and with a minute to go she was too far away from the target. In the end she finished with a respectable 20.

Well done Simon! I have no wish to curse you with the Clark tip, but it’s been weeks since I’ve seen anyone on the show whom I think could be a good finalist, so thank you for putting that to rights.

The Details

Magda Biran-Taylor
Emily Temple, Viscountess Palmerston
8
0
8
1
16
1
Simon Dennis
The Life and Works of William Gibson
8
2
15
0
23
0
Luke Clement
The Mabinogion
10
2
5
4
15
6
Molly Ahmed
The Life of Jaqueline du Pré
11
0
9
2
20
2

As a footnote - it was on the semi finals of the 2006 series of MM that I first met Jenny Ryan - The Vixen from The Chase. If you haven't yet seen Jenny singing in last week's Celebrity X Factor, can I suggest you check it out? A. Maze. Zing.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

University Challenge 2020 - Round 1 - Open University v. Huddersfield


Heat 11 – Open University v. Huddersfield



Yes, dearly beloved, the BBC kindly deigned to allow us to watch another University Challenge last Monday. This was an intriguing match up. I’ve said before that I’m always surprised when the Open University don’t win every year that they make it to the televised stages, not because I think that they’re automatically going to be smarter, but simply because with that much more life experience, and that much more time to accumulate knowledge, I would have imagined that the sum total of their team’s knowledge would be greater than most. Yet that has not proven to be the case in this century. Representing them on Monday were David Holmes, Liz Haywood, Michaela O’Brien and captain Bill Woodbridge. It was first time ever for opponents Huddersfield, who seemed to be fighting fire with fire, having a mix of younger and also more mature students and an average age of 40. They were Sean Fisher, Rebecca Wilson, Aaron Cahill and skipper Andy Cook.

Now it just so happens that I teach a lesson every year about the evils of comma splicing so I was in early for the first question. Andy Cook took that one. Three bonuses on 18th century satire were announced, and immediately I thought Defoe, Swift and Pope. Nope. Defoe, and Hogarth I took, but not Mozart. Huddersfield knew Mozart but not Defoe. Bill Woodbridge knew that Clem Attlee was Churchill’s wartime deputy PM. Wildflowers whose common name includes the name of a bird yielded just the one to both of us. The next question was one of those which suddenly became blindingly obvious at the end, due to my knowledge of Olympic host cities.  Aaron Cahill was first to work out that Vacouver was the 2010 host. The Nereids did nowt for Huddersfield – not surprised, that was not an especially gettable set. So to the picture starter – a phase diagram. I think my exact words as it was announced were “Bloody hell, sod all chance of a lap of honour here, then.” What a surprise, neither of the teams had it either. Bill Woodbridge was the first to see that the next question wanted catkin as an answer, and earned the very dubious reward of three more phase diagrams. I thought they did really well to get one of them. As for the next starter, well it looked from early doors to be a straight choice between Nobel Prize for Physics and Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Andy Cook jumped the gun a little and zigged with Physics, and was right to do so. Word derivations were enough to take Huddersfield to 50 points, a lead of 20 over the OU by the 10 minute mark.

In what was turning out to be very much a battle between the two skippers, Bill Woodbridge came in too early for the next starter and lost 5. Allowed the full question it was all too easy for Andy Cook to beat his teammates to give the answer of TNT. Chemistry brought another two correct answers to Huddersfield. Having come in too early for the previous starter, the OU gave Andy Cook an unopposed run at the next question. Asking for a form of writing, and mentioning Shelley in the question, poetry did seem obvious, and so it was. A regular quizzer would have known that Philomel is a name for a nightingale for the next set of poetry bonuses, and they took just the one. Bill Woodbridge found his buzzer finger again for the next starter, which asked for Nasser and Sadat. This was just as well, for none of his team had found their own buzzer fingers yet. Saints’ deaths took the OU to 45, and brought both teams up to the music starter. David Holmes now managed to elbow his way into the match, being first to buzz in to identify the work of Blur, a popular beat combo of the 1990s, I believe. More Britpop singles promised a lot and delivered just the one bonus for me, but the OU managed a full house to narrow the gap to 15. Neither team knew about a feature on the surface of Mars for the next starter. Again, Bill Woodbridge came in too early for the next starter, and once the words ‘tallest spire in England’ were given it was all too easy for Andy Cook to supply the correct answer of Salisbury. A good UC special set on words which can be made from names of shipping forecast areas totally passed Huddersfield by – Sole and Solenoid at least was gettable I would have thought. Bill Woodbridge again pulled his team out of the mire by recognising the work of Joni Mitchell for the next starter. The bonuses were on French impressionist Berthe Morisot. Indeed, her impression of a Frenchwoman was really good, I’m reliably informed. This brought just the one bonus, which meant that Huddersfield still led by 80 – 95 at the 20 minute mark.

I’ve amused work colleagues in the past by telling them that if they’re in a quiz and asked ‘which type of animal’ they should say antelope, and if they’re asked which type of flower, they should say orchid. It’s a quiz thing – it’s one of those -you’ll be right more often than you’re wrong – things. It was certainly the case when Michaela O’Brien threw caution to the wind and buzzed in with a speculative “orchid?” for the next starter. European rivers with three letter names levelled the scores. The second picture starter showed us a pine marten, and helpfully JP said that the species was known by a two word name. – Bet Andy Cook has this when nobody has a punt from the OU – I told myself, and I was right. Other threatened animals in the UK brought just the one on a quite gettable set. Andy Cook was finding this all too easy, as he buzzed in for the next starter to identify early examples of works in Irish Gaelic. Maths bonuses brought me an unexpected and rather belated lap of honour for guessing Fermat for the first. I actually had two of this set while Huddersfield managed just the one. David Holmes had another go at a starter for the next, correctly identifying the word Idiocracy. World events, and the Sumer Olympic Games venues from the same years brought them a welcome two bonuses. Bill Woodbridge knew that the liver secretes bile, but then amazingly the OU passed on three films by the wonderful Billy Wilder – an act bordering on sacrilege in my book. So, the scores were level, and both teams, with 125 points and a few minutes left, could conceivably haul themselves into a repechage slot. Andy Cook buzzed very early for the next starter, and fortune favoured the brave as he supplied the correct answer of neck. The Gordon Riots suggested a question about Barnaby Rudge was in the offing, but this was the only one of the set that Huddersfield couldn’t answer. Nobody took the next starter about a quote from William S. Burroughs. Whom I only found out the other day wrote “The Naked Lunch” and not “Tarzan of the Apes”. Nobody knew that each of the internal angles of a regular nonagon is 140 degrees. There you go. The next question was about a film that my daughter loves so much – The Princess Bride – that I walked her up the aisle for her wedding last year to it’s theme music. We were gonged just as Huddersfield were buzzing in. The final score was 145 to 125 for Huddersfield.

Well, it was a close contest, although not a great one. I don’t wish to be horrible, but to the casual observer it did appear that three members of both teams were along for the ride, leaving the two captains to slug it out. Indeed, there were only 4 starters answered by anyone other than the two captains, out of 17 correctly answered ones. Andy Cook won the contest for Huddersfield with his 8 starters. I doubt he’ll be allowed that many in the second round, but to be fair some of his buzzes were genuinely fast, and so he will always put his team in with a shout. I’m sorry, but neither team impressed me much with their bonus work, both having conversion rates of less than 50%. In fact they both answered 11 bonuses, of which Huddersfield had slightly more opportunities than OU. In the end, it was won on superior buzzer work from Andy Cook, and a couple of incorrect interruptions from Bill Woodbridge.  I don’t blame him for this in the slightest, since somebody had to try to keep his team moving, and there wasn’t a lot of buzzing coming from anyone else.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

After Bill Woodbridge identified the work of Joni Mitchell from the titles of her albums JP observed, “Didn’t know she was so pretentious!” Somehow he’s never struck me as a Joni Mitchell aficionado.

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

The sea nymphs, the Nereids, were the offspring of Doris. Love it.