Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Guess List - or - Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before?

I didn’t know about this one until I’d finished writing up Only Connect. The shows I review regularly – OC – Mastermind – UC – BoB I like to watch/listen to as a fan in the first place, and then use the iplayer to make my detailed write up. When the playback of OC had finished, the iplayer helpfully suggested that I might like this. There’s an obvious comment to make here, which I am too much of a gent to write.

This show debuted on Saturday evening at 9:30 pm.It’s presented by Rob Brydon. Now, way, way, way back in the late 80s, not long after I moved to Wales, a fresh faced young man called Rob Jones presented a quiz on BBC Wales called Invasion, which I used to watch. Twas none other than Uncle Bryn to be himself. So he certainly has form in this department. Right – let me spell out to you the basic mechanics of the show, and see if the same two words occur to you as occurred to me. There are two contestants made up of ordinary MOPs ( members of the public) Our host asks them a couple of questions. There is a two tiered bank of celebrities, and they are asked for their answers. The contestants can either go with the celebrities, or give their own answers. The emphasis is on Rob Brydon’s interaction with the celebrities, and their (hopefully) given funny/witty/daft answers. So what are the two words you’re thinking? All together now – Blankety Blank.

The slight – and I do mean slight – difference that I noticed was that in Blankety Blank the questions were more of the – fill in the missing word variety, while the first couple on this show were Family Fortunes-esque – In a recent survey – things. Then for the fourth question, Simon Callow asked the contestant to guess the one thing he never does. That’s a point while I’m at it. Remarkably for this kind of show, all five celebrities were actually genuine celebrities. After two questions each, the contestant with more points plays for the prize. In this case it meant answering the question – what percentage of men say that they prefer their partner to wear make up at all times. – Correct answer – who cares? Sorry – I’m getting scornful, and I really shouldn’t. After the slebs had their goes, our host revealed two options – so it was a 50/50. The prize – an all-expenses paid trip to Perth in Scotland. So even the prizes were aping Blankety Blank. I’ll be honest, I was most interested in the end credits, where I wanted to see whether any acknowledgement of the show’s massive debt to Blankety Blank was paid. In a word – No. All it said was ‘A 12-Yard format’. Now, the libel laws being what they are in this country I have no intention of accusing anyone of plagiarism.

I probably wouldn’t have written about this in the first place if it wasn’t for the very obvious similarities with Blankety Blank.Still , if you know that it is, to use the words of another reviewer, “Blankety Blank for the digital age”, then you know exactly what you’re going to get, and if that’s your cup of tea, good luck to you. Mine, it is not. So sorry, iplayer – but you thought I might like it – our survey said – Uh uh. Not for me.

Only Connect - Round One Match One

The Heath Family v. The Exhibitionists

Welcome back Only Connect. It’s good to see you, helping us avoid University Challenge withdrawal symptoms. So let’s have a look at last night’s teams. In the blue corner we had the Heath Family – daughter Kip, mother Heather and father and skipper Alan. Family teams have featured in OC for several series now, and while none of them have yet gone on to win, we’ve seen some impressive performances in recent years. The Heaths would need an impressive performance in this show, since they were up against a very powerful team in the shape of the Exhibitionists. Keith Andrew, skipper Tim Westcott and Eric Kilby are all extremely good quizzers, who have played in and won many tournaments and competitions. In a straight, no holds barred general knowledge quiz it would take a hell of a good team to beat them. However, this was no ordinary general knowledge quiz. This is Only Connect.

Round one – What’s the connection?

The Heaths, having won the toss, elected to take the first question of the series, and behind the eye of Horus they found – Jennifer Melfi – Roderick Glossop – Hannibal Lecter – and here several possibilities occurred, but none definite – and Frasier Crane. That gave it to both the Heaths and me at the same time – fictional psychiatrists. Only one point, but at this early stage it’s probably better to wait, make sure of the point, and not give away a bonus. Lion brought the Exhibitionists a set of pictures. This was one of those sets that is a lot easier written down than it was on screen. Firstly we saw William Golding, then Tracey Austin, then Sarah Silverman, and finally US magician David Copperfield. Now, write them down like that and it looks easy. Except that it wasn’t. I confess that I didn’t see it, even though I knew William Golding, while I don’t think either team did, and neither team got the metals in surnames connection. Good set – I can’t really explain why that should have been as hard as it was. Two Reeds produced a set which might have proved tricky, but the Heaths were onto it after –sex – set and folk, and gave the correct answer of suffixes of county names. Water brought the music set to the Exhibitionists. Duelling Banjos, and The Devil Went Down to Georgia gave me a rare quick answer to a music set, that these were all connected by musical duels or competitions. A real rush of blood to the head saw the Exhibitionists offer banjos. Had they taken the third they would have known that couldn’t be the answer. The Heaths given the last two were happy to take the bonus. For their own third set they chose horned viper, and captain Alan showed his serious intentions by stressing the second vowel of horned. Well done sir! For the second set in a row, I had it off two. I like my flags, see. The first was Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and the second was Cornwall. Black and white flags – I announced. Well, I wasn’t sure, but I thought that the Taliban at least used to have a black and white one. Pirate ship confirmed it, and gave the Heaths the answer. Left with Twisted Flax, the Exhibitionists were given a rather odd set of – Has Been Dumped – Visits sex worker – Witnessed miracles – and – American lavatory. Well, that last one is a John, and John was one of the gospel writers, so that was the connection, which the Exhibitionists also had off four. But I gotta be honest, that’s not the most satisfying set that I’ve ever seen on the show. Still, at least it got the Exes moving, although the Heaths led by 6 to 1.

Round two – What comes fourth?

This is often the round that sorts out the nearly good from the really good. Once again the Heaths kicked off, and for the first time they couldn’t impose themselves on a set. Lion showed us pictures of Gladstone, Conan Doyle, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. OK, I had them, but not the sequence. Neither did the Heaths, or the Exhibitionists. You had to take the Christian names – William – Arthur – Philip – and then add Louis for Prince William’s names. Fiendish but fair – just what we expect. Eye of Horus offered the chance for the Exes to make up some points. Boron started, and carbon followed. Hmm, I thought, surely it’s not as simple as Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen. The Exes seemed to think so. Take another clue! I shouted at the screen, but amazingly they couldn’t hear me, and went for oxygen. Nope. Given Fluorine the Heaths couldn’t take the bonus, and to be fair, neither could I. Boron is – B, Carbon is – C, Fluorine is – F, and the next one in the alphabet with a single letter symbol is H- Hydrogen. Gettable? Certainly was, but not by me. Thus reprieved, the Heaths chose water, and received Millennium Dome, and O2 for their pains. After conferring briefly they opted, correctly for the O2, which is the Dome’s current designation, after a brief incarnation as the North Greenwich Arena during the Olympics of 2012. Nice set and a good shout. Left with some work of their own to do, the Exes plumped for Horned Viper, with Tim conspicuously stressing the second vowel. Now their luck is bound to change – I thought. Oh, they had the link alright – Major General (two stars) – Orion’s Belt (three stars) – New Zealand Flag (4 stars), but crucially they had the number of stars wrong. They thought we’d already had three, four and five, so plumped for the Australian flag, which they knew has 6 stars. This allowed the Heaths to get a bonus with five star general. When things don’t run for you, they really don’t run for you. The Heaths, then, knowing that they were in all likelihood going to still have a good lead after the round, chose Two Reeds. Sacramento and Phoenix they quickly latched onto as capitals of states that border Mexico, running West to East, and were quite happy that Austin of Texas would be the 4th. As indeed it was. Good shout that on a nice set. This left the Exes with a set which started with IV: Country of the Houyhnhnms. This was an out and out chance for a five pointer, and the Exes knew it as well, but after the way their luck had been running understandably decided to take the second clue to be sure. It’s Lilliput – I shouted before - III: Laputa put it beyond any doubt. That was enough to raise the Exes’ score to 4, but the Heaths had already amassed 13.

Round three – The connecting walls

Needing a very good wall round to make up some lost ground, the Exes proceeded to pick the Water wall, which I felt was the harder of the two. As always, please feel free to disagree. They saw a set of Santa’s reindeer pretty quickly, although they wouldn’t fall into place straight away. Changing tack, a series of jet airliners was the first line they solved – comprising of Trident – Comet – Tristar and 777. This took away one of the potential reindeer, and allowed them to isolate Blitzen – Dancer – Cupid and Vixen. Eric had already worked out that Donner was most likely to be part of a set of words which, if spelled in other ways, made girls’ names. They had three very quickly, but the last just wouldn’t fall into place, and after three incorrect goes the wall was frozen with the last two lines unsolved. When resolved, the names were Donner – Carry – Stellar, and the one they just couldn’t see – IV. To be fair, when I read that, I read it as 4, and I think they did the same. This left a line of Emmer – Red Fife – Norin 10, and Spelt. None of us could see it. To be fair I have heard of spelt, but that’s the only one. They are all varieties of wheat. Fair enough. 5 points to the Exes, and whatever the Heaths managed they were looking at a hard slog in the last round.

Left with the Lion wall, the first set I noticed was titles of songs by the Pet Shop Boys. The Heaths rather fancied a set of Capes – sadly Geoff was not among them – and tried for them first. That didn’t work, so they took out the songs – Go West – Suburbia – Jealousy – It’s A Sin. Speaking of which, several of the 7 Deadlies were there as well, and Lust , Gluttony, Greed and Pride were the ones they isolated. Suddenly it struck me that the last line could well be made up of sound alikes of numbers in German – dry – sex ( twice in one show? Ooh, matron) fear and elf. This left the capes of Wrath, Cod, York and Horn. The Heaths managed to disentangle these last two lines. They gave the links of all but the numbers to secure 7 points. All of which meant that they had 20 going into the vowels, and the Exes were looking down the barrel of a gun with 9.

Round four – Missing vowels

Well, yes, you can make up that much of a deficit in the last round, but it’s very hard to do so. The first set was the charming rhyming phrases meaning chaotic – eg higgledy piggledy. This set fell 3 – 1 to the Exes. The next category was – all from Birmingham. Now, none of us knew that Britain’s first Odeon Cinema was in Birmingham. So that category fell 2 – 1 to the Heaths. Definitions of the word ‘miss’ was the final category, and it saw the Exes get one, and the Heaths miss one. It made no difference. In the end the score was 22 – 14 to the Heaths. Very well played. This Heath family I don’t know at all, but I said that they would need an impressive performance, and that’s exactly what they had. They will be worth keeping an eye on. As for the Exes, well, nothing really went right for them on this show. It happens. Thankfully everyone gets at least 2 matches in the first round now, and I’d be surprised if things didn’t work out differently for them in their next match.

So welcome back Only Connect – great to see you. Oh, and here’s a point. As the credits rolled, I noticed that David Bodycombe, LAM reader and all round good egg, was no longer on the roster – Alan Connor is the new question editor. Alan, we wish you every success. As for David – well, if you’re reading this, we hope that everything is fine with you.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Challenge TV - Timeline

I have never lost any sleep over the question – whatever happened to Brian Conley? I know the answer now, though. He’s been making quiz shows for the Challenge Channel. Specifically a show called Timeline. I caught it for the first time this afternoon.

It is, essentially, a simple show. Basically three pairs of contestants compete against each other to put lists of 5 items in order. As the title of the show suggests, these are often events, but not always. For example, on the show I watched, one poor pair of contestants had to place Dolly Parton’s boobs, Bruce Springstein’s voice, Tina Turner’s legs, Kylie Minogue’s bum and Keith Richard’s hands in order from least to most of how much they are insured for. Each round whittles away one of the teams. Each round is slightly different, for example, in round 2, both remaining teams had a set of events, and a year, and had to decide which ones happened in that year, and which didn’t. The team with more correct placements on the time line won. Then for the final line the remaining pair was given a timeline of 5 consecutive years. A set of film clips followed, and they had to place each event in the right place on the line. Each one they got right earned them £500. They had a time budget in which to carry this out, and so it paid to crack on with it. Now, in the best traditions of Bullseye , the winning pair was offered the chance to gamble their money in order to double it, by taking on another line. This line was a timeline with longer gaps, which made it slightly easier. That was it.

Overall. . . it was alright. At an hour it’s at least 15 minutes too long, and in fact I think that the show could probably come in at half an hour. I thought the timelines themselves were rather uneven – some of them were much, much, much easier than others. When you get right down to it, the whole thing was a little bit repetitive as well. Which is not to say that some of the lines were without interest or playing along value. But I’m afraid that I’m just not one for pure guessing games, and lines like the celebrity insurance ones were just that.

There is a decent show struggling to get out of Timeline, but it needs tweaks. In no particular order: -
* It needs speeding up and being shortened to no more than 45 minutes.
* The lines given to each team within any given round need to be evened up. I’m sorry, but there is no comparison between that awful celebrity insurance line, and a line asking you to put several talent show winners in order of age at the time that they won. I mean, come on – there’s no way that you were ever going to put Perry from Diversity anywhere but first, and Paul Potts anywhere but last, which meant that you only had three to sort our, and they were all pretty obvious as well.

I’m glad I’ve seen it now, and I know what it’s about, but I certainly won’t be going out of my way to watch it again any time soon.

Fifteen to One - Flamin' Pictures and Pointless Easter

Well, Fifteen to One has been on all week now. I still think that the new incarnation is too long at 45 minutes, and I still think that round one moves far too slowly, and round two could even be a little bit quicker. But . . . well, I think I’m becoming hooked. I think I might have mentioned that last September I took over as acting Head of English at work, and this is why I’ve found it very difficult to post during the week. Well, for the same reason I don’t often get home before 5, so I have to catch up with them when I can. For example, I watched Wednesday’s, Thursday’s and Friday’s shows in a marathon this morning. And I thoroughly enjoyed it too. It’s interesting to see how many quizzers I know, or at least know of, who have already taken part in this season. Only yesterday we saw 2011 Brain of Britain champion Iwan Thomas make it to the last three on his third attempt, and set the target at over 200. Not that I like to boast you understand, , but Iwan has the news questions and answers from me every week. For that matter, so does the winner of the first show, Nic Mortimer. Maybe one of the appeals of the show is the cruel nature of it. Maybe there are only two questions in the whole show that you can’t answer, but if those are the first two you get asked, then that’s tough. So it’s no surprise really that some good quizzers I know have been falling before the final round, and I’ll be honest, hearing some of the out and out stoppers that have been slung in I don’t think I would have done any better. Gotta be honest though, if there is another series – and I sincerely hope there will be, then I’ll be putting in an application again, you can be sure of that.


However good you are you’re going to get things wrong from time to time. So you have to get used to it and lump it. But don’t you just hate it when the question is about something important to you, something which you love, which by rights you ought to know? On Thursday evening I was irresistibly reminded of my Millionaire experience. I threw away a large amount of money on the question - In which country was Milos Forman born? I should have known the answer – I thought I did, and I didn’t. Ouch. But what made it worse – if it could be worse – was that Milos Forman directed two films which I absolutely love – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – and – Amadeus. Now, on Thursday night we were given a picture handout – yuck, pictures – showing stills from a set of films. We did OK, and only had about 3 or 4 wrong. But one of them was from The Shawshank Redemption. I wouldn’t like to say that I have one, top of the pile, all time favourite film, but if I did, the Shawshank Redemption would be on the shortlist. I just hate picture rounds. Mind you, other than that it was a very good night, since both my team and Lemurs looked pretty close to full strength, and we had enough of a lead on the question rounds to be able to overcome the deficit from the pictures and seal a win.


I mentioned back in the Christmas holidays that I taught myself how to make an interactive Pointless quiz on Powerpoint. Last weekend I put together an end of term Easter quiz, being as this week just gone was the last week of term, so that I could have a bit of fun with a couple of classes. You can imagine the sort of thing – for example, a round on Easter bunnies whereby teams had to identify 5 cartoon rabbits, which appeared as the strains of Chas and Dave’s timeless oeuvre played in the background. Ah, they don’t make ‘em like that any more. I guess a lot of other teachers had the same idea, since I uploaded it to the TES online site last weekend, and it had been downloaded almost 2000 times by yesterday. It didn’t go down too badly with the kids either, although for some reason some of the questions seemed to pose real problems to a couple of classes. I’m thinking particularly of one which went something like – Name the special day which occurs in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday? – I was looking for Good Friday, but would have been perfectly happy to be offered Maunday Thursday as well. Neither of these were offered. Instead we had Black Friday – Bad Monday – Shrove Tuesday and Easter Thursday. I suppose I should just be grateful that they didn’t offer me Sheffield Wednesday.

In the News

In the News

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

1. Chris Hughton
2. Pineau de Re
3. Leighton Aspell
4. Luke Juckett
5. Michael D. Higgins
6. Jack Sexty
7. Andrew Bush
8. Zoe Smith
9. The Kelpies
10. Michael Adebolajo
11. Asseem Allam
12. Winnie
13. Nicky Jacobs
14. Michael Fabricant
15. Sajid Javid
16. Stephen Colbert
17. Seamus Daly
18. Alex Hribal
19. Gerrie Nel
20. Asafa Powell
21. Bill Haas
22. Chloe Campbell
23. James Hellwig

In Other News

1. What was the score between Arsenal and Everton?
2. – and Spurs and Sunderland?
3. Which Hollywood film star passed away aged 93?
4. Which former cabinet minister and conservative peer called for Maria Miller’s resignation?
5. In which city was the half marathon cancelled when water bottle supplies failed to turn up? The runners did it anyway.
6. Who won the University Boat Race – and the reserve crew race – and the Women’s race?
7. In the Heineken Cup what was the score between Toulon and Leinster?
8. – and Saracens and Ulster?
9. And Clermont Auvergne and Leicester?
10. And Munster and Toulouse?
11. Who won the Bahrain GP?
12. Who won the Women’s T20 World Cup?
13. – and the Men’s?
14. What was the result of GB’s Davis Cup tie v. Italy?
15. Which show entered the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful reality TV format of all time?
16. There are no British writers on the shortlist for which literary prize?
17. Who is to present a Radio 2 show about Paris in May?
18. What was the Champions’ League score between Real Madrid and Dortmund
19. And Chelsea and PSG?
20. And Man Utd. And Bayern?
21. And Atletico Madrid and Barcelona?
22. What has Tim Sherwood been offered what at Spurs?
23. Scientific evidence last week suggested that what was considerably older than has been previously supposed?
24. Who will be driving for Nissan in the British GT championship?
25. Kevin Pietersen arrived to play for what team in the IPL?
26. What is the name of the Culture Secretary who quit last week – eventually.
27. Which company recalled 35,000 cars in the UK last week?
28. Who announced she is leaving Eastenders to apparently seek a career in Hollywood?
29. Who became only the second woman to be named among Wisden’s 5 cricketers of the year?
30. Name the other 4 cricketers on the list?
31. The government have been criticized for stockpiling which drug?
32. The UN approved a peacekeeping force for which African country last week?
33. Which politician was cleared of all charges in court last week?
34. Cardiff University delayed the announcement of whose appointment as their Chancellor?
35. Which actress is to receive a BAFTA Fellowship?
36. Sue Townsend passed away last week . Who was her most famous creation?
37. Which singer won a court case to keep documents given to him by Martin Luther King?
38. Who led the US Masters after round two?

Answers to News Questions

In the News

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

1. Mark Menzies
2. Michael Elinescu and Entscho Wladow
3. Anne Hidalgo
4. Ehud Olmert
5. Xscape
6. Manuel Valls
7. Christine Case
8. Lord Justice Goldring
9. Keane Wallis-Bennett
10. Cramlix Hall
11. Kwasi Enin
12. Lorenzo Semple Jr.
13. Segolene Royal
14. Katherine Rundell
15. Maria Miller
16. Sanpower
17. Margo Macdonald

In Other News

1. What is the new cost of a 1st class stamp?
2. – and a second class stamp?
3. The Ordnance Survey announced what last week?
4. Which famous actress passed away aged 74 last week?
5. What was the score between Liverpool and Spurs?
6. – and Chelsea and Crystal Palace?
7. – and Arsenal and Man. City?
8. Who won the Malaysian GP?
9. Who won the women’s University Boat Race?
10. Which team won the Johnstone’s Paint Final?
11. England fell out of the world T20 after their loss to which country, that went on to the semi finals?
12. Which former world leader went on trial for treason?
13. Where did Heston Blumenthal announce he is to temporarily transfer his Fat Duck restaurant?
14. Which has become the biggest grossing animated film in history?
15. What is the significance of the words ‘ all right, good night’?
16. Why did officials of the San Isidro Basilica in Leon have to deny the faithful the right to enter the Church last week?
17. In the world T20, Netherlands defeated England by how many runs?
18. Name the three African countries in which an outbreak of deadly Ebola virus was reported last week?
19. Which film character is supposedly running for the presidency of the Ukraine?
20. What was the Champions League score between Man Utd and Bayern Munich?
21. – and Chelsea and Paris St. Germain?
22. Why did Tiger Woods announce he is missing the US Open?
23. Who have been banned from accompanying the England team to the FIFA world cup?
24. What did the British Army hand over to American forces last week?
25. Much in the news, air pollution last week was blamed on what?
26. An 8.2 magnitude earthquake took place off the coast of which country?
27. England’s women won their way to a world T20 semi final against which country?
28. Who was the chairman of the Farage – Clegg BBC2 borefest?
29. David Cameron said a) which supermarket is his favourite? – and b) at which supermarket does he shop more often?
30. What is the cost of the new England replica football shirt?
31. Which 75 year old announced he will take part in a solo Transatlantic race?
32. The Queen made her third royal visit to where last week?
33. Which two teams will contest the world T20 final?
34. What remarkable innovation to the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony was announced last week ( not on the 1st April, either)
35. Who said on Michael McIntyre’s chat show that she was refused entry to the USA?
36. Who advocated gassing badgers?
37. Which Coronation Street actress was charged with drunk driving?
38. When Sir Brucie of Forsyth announced he is retiring from Strictly, who did he nominate as his successor?
39. – and which American announced his retirement as talk show host after 30 years?


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

1. Tory MP who resigned as a ministerial aide over sex and drug allegations
2. World Bridge champions stripped of their title for cheating by suing a series of coughs as signals
3. First female elected Mayor of Paris
4. Former Israeli leader convicted in Bribery case
5. New Michael Jackson album with previously unreleased songs
6. New PM of France
7. Died in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre
8. Coroner for the Hillsborough Inquest
9. Tragically killed in Liberton High School, Edinburgh, by a falling wall in a changing room
10. Hotel bought by Andy Murray
11. 1st person to successfully apply to all 8 Ivy League Universities
12. Creator of the 1960s Batman TV series who passed away
13. Mother of Francois Hollande’s children former PM of France, appointed new Minister for Energy and the Environment
14. Won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize for ‘Rooftoppers’
15. MPs overruled the damning report into her expenses claims
16. Chinese firm buying House of Fraser
17. Scottish nationalist politician, who passed away

In Other News

1. 62p
2. 53p
3. They will cease to make paper maps of every part the whole country
4. Kate O’Mara
5. 4 – 0 Liverpool
6. 1 – 0 Palace
7. 1 - 1
8. Lewis Hamilton
9. Oxford
10. Peterborough 3 – Chesterfield 1
11. South Africa
12. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan
13. Melbourne, Australia
14. Frozen
15. Last recorded words from flight MH370
16. A new book identified a chalice within the church as being the Holy Grail. Huge crowds have flocked to see it.
17. 45 runs
18. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone
19. Darth Vader ( psst – it’s a man in a costume – don’t tell anyone)
20. 1 - 1
21. 3 – 1 PSG
22. Trapped nerve in back
23. WAGs
24. Cam Bastion and Helmand Province
25. Dust sucked up from the Sahara by freak weather conditions
26. CHile
27. South Africa
28. David Dimbleby
29. A) Waitrose – B) Sainsburys
30. £90
31. Sir Robin Knox-Johnstone
32. The Vatican
33. Sri Lanka and India
34. Tower Blocks on Red Road will be blown up during the ceremony
35. Nigella Lawson
36. Princess Anne
37. Barbara Knox
38. Boris Johnson
39. David Letterman

University Challenge - Grand Final

Yes, dear friends, Monday last was the time for each of us to put up or shut up. For Trinity and Somerville, nothing less than a win would suffice. To the victors, the title and trophy, and to the vanquished some deserved accolades. As for me, I had nailed my colours to the Trinity mast, and only time would tell whether they were strong enough to beat the curse of the Clark sofa.

Trinity took out the two time champions Manchester last time out. Matthew Ridley, Filip Drnovšek Zorko, Richard Freeland and Ralph Morley make up a Trinity team that has looked to be the pick of the bunch in what has been a genuinely compelling and competitive series. The role of underdog is an unfamiliar one for the Somerville team of Sam Walker, Zach Vermeer, Chris Beer and their skipper Michael Davies, who defeated SOAS in the second semi-final last week. Even despite losing Hasneen Karbilai after the first two rounds they have carried all before them on their own irresistible march to the final. Yes, I had tipped Trinity and I was sticking to it, but that was not to take anything away from Somerville. Either team would be worthy champions.

If Trinity have a weakness it is the fact that they haven’t always started very quickly, and this has left them needing a very strong finish in some of their matches. Of course, one of their strengths is the fact that they do finish that strongly. So I was looking forward to seeing who would take the first starter. Both teams seemed to sit back on the buzzer a little as a description of King Richard I unfolded, but it was Chris Beer who took the prize. Game on. 3 distinctly gettable bonuses on wealth and riches followed, and Somerville duly distinctly got them. Richard Freeland opened Trinity’s account with the term homogeneous. Bonuses on the Danube left them feeling a little blue as they only managed the one. Never mind, for Richard Freeland knew that when you hear the words “Edward de Bono” you slam the buzzer through the desk and answer ‘lateral thinking’. Their bonuses were on Gustav Kirchhoff, known in Lam Towers as Gustav Who? This time the guys took a full set, and the lead. The picture starter showed a stamp bearing a scene from a Jane Austen novel. Now, the rule of thumb is, that unless you know the answer to an Austen question is something else, you always go for Pride and Pred. Ralph Morley did, and thus earned his team three more stamps from three more Austen novels. The first two they took, but missed out on Emma. To be fair, a girl in a carriage talking to a bloke on foot could have been from pretty much any of them. Zach Vermeer took his own first starter, knowing that Hillaire Belloc advised not attempting to keep more than 6 of the Ten Commandments. The curious set of man, gods and mangoes provided Somerville with a second full set of bonuses. So far, they had a 100% record on their bonuses. Undaunted, Ralph Morley buzzed in early on a description of Exeter Cathedral. A set of bonuses on novels of Emile Zola didn’t provide them with any points. I’ll be honest, if it ain’t “Nana”, “Therese Raquin” or “Germinal” I don’t know it. Thankfully the last one, Germinal, brought me a correct answer. Something about electricity followed, and after Sam Walker had a stab Matthew Ridley buzzed in with the correct answer. Fine art and music in the words of Kenneth Clark (the historian, not the politician)Two bonuses this time took their score to 90, and they led by 40 points at the ten minute mark. Bearing in mind Trinity’s famous sprint finish, this looked ominous for Somerville.

Right then – which song begins with 5 questions to which the answers are no – no – no – no - and – get them yourself? Nobody knew, and Chris Beer lost five for an early answer. It’s Jerusalem. Ah yes, I thought, I do see. Wouldn’t have had it though. It was Ralph who buzzed in too early for the next starter. Asked in which year a series of births and deaths happened, as soon as JP mentioned Lenin I said 1924, just as Ralph buzzed in with 1926. Zach Vermeer, a class act throughout the series, came in with the correct answer. This opened up a great little UC special set on calculations based on the order of the planets within the solar system. So for example, the sum of all the moonless planets is 3 – Mercury -1 and Venus -2. Somerville managed one of these. I loved space and astronomy when I was a kid and I had the lot. For the music starter Richard Freeland buzzed in very quickly to identify a snatch of Rachmaninov. This was one of the top 30 classical music choices among listeners of Desert Island discs, and for the bonuses they had to identify three others. We all knew that The Lark Ascending had been Number 1. Trinity also recognized the number 28, but missed out on Mahler’s Fifth. Given but a few words, Zach Vermeer identified The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. A fine full set on philosophy brought the gap back down to 20 points. I told you it was going to be a good contest. Filip buzzed in too early on the next starter, offering the term precocious rather than precocial, but Somerville could not capitalize. Asked for two of the three Canadian Provinces or Territories that are smaller than the UK Ralph Morley buzzed in with the same two as I said – Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. New Brunswick is the other. A really nice UC set followed on pairs of French nouns that differ in meaning according to gender – le or la. –I bet tower and tour is one I observed to nobody in particular. I was right, that was the last one. Le/la moule and le/la mode were the others, and Trinity had them all. Once again, Somerville pegged them back by taking the next starter. Chris Beer came in early, recognizing lyrics of The Princess, and earning himself a ‘well done’ from JP in the process. Three bonuses on 4th century saints pegged back the lead to 15. Filip had a fantastic early buzz on the next starter about mosaics on the floor of the National Gallery. Tea growing in West Asia promised little, but delivered two bonuses which took the lead back up to 35.The second picture starter showed us the photo of a scientist. Lord alone knows why, but I shouted ‘Tesla’. Sam Walker offered Nobel, and Filip offered Dirac. “No,” announced JP, “It’s Nikola Tesla”. How the hell. . . ? It is a well known fact that I couldn’t identify people’s photographs even if they’ve been known to me as close personal friends. Oh well, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. The bonuses rolled over to the next starter which saw Filip give the answer Grignard to a question about a French chemist. Il avait raison, and this earned the picture bonuses. Pictures of more scientists who gave their names to SI units brought them just the one, but rather surprisingly I had a full set. Can’t explain that, but don’t worry, it will never happen again on pictures. It took us comfortably over the 20 minute mark, and Trinity led by 160 to 110.

Zach Vermeer, so impressive for his team in this game, and throughout the series, identified a definition of truth. Bonuses on Physics on a space station in low earth orbit saw me go bye byes for a minute or two. When I came round, Somerville hadn’t managed to answer any of them correctly. I was so pleased to hear the late, great Roger Delgado get a name check in the next starter. Both Chris Beer and I came out with The Master for that one. A set of bonuses on the word stasis enabled Somerville to narrow the gap to 25. Ralph Morley dashed their hopes a little by coming in extremely early with the language Proto Indo European. Words coined during the 20th century brought another 5 points. The gap stood at 40, and Trinity were not over the event horizon yet. Various definitions of the word ‘iris’ followed. Sam Walker had a go, and I’ll be honest, I was heading up the rose path myself, so I can’t blame him for that. Still, the faces of the Somerville team told a story. They knew that this was probably it. Opening words in Shakespeare brought Trinity a further five points, and a lead which was starting to look decisive. An impression further bolstered when Filip identified Cape Agulhas as the southern tip of South Africa. A couple of bonuses on palaeontology took them through the 200 barrier. Filip took a second consecutive starter, knowing that in building terms, ORS is old red sandstone. 2 bonuses on Oman were taken, and game over, I thought to myself. Finishing with a flourish, Filip took his third consecutive starter, knowing that the E in E coli is for escherischia. There was time for just one bonus on bears, and that was that.

For the record, Trinity won the Grand Final with 250 to 145. First to pay tribute were the fine Somerville team, who applauded Trinity fulsomely. They deserve their own applause too, for they played a huge part in the success of this series in their own right, and were right up there with Trinity before falling, as so many have before, to that fabulous finishing burst. As for Trinity – well, establishing yourself as the team to beat in the first round, as they did, is one thing. Taking on all comers, and not actually allowing any other team to beat you is quite another. Trinity have now defeated all three other teams who qualified for the semis, and nobody could possibly argue that they are anything less than most worthy University Challenge champions 2014. Many, many congratulations.

As always a word of thanks to Jeremy Paxman, for continuing to be nothing more or less than himself. If a quiz is a success, then don’t ignore the contribution the question master makes. In fact, congratulations and thanks for another great series to the whole team involved in making the show. Fantastic series once again.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Jez is normally on his best behaviour for the Grand Final. It’s a measure of the quality of this series that he was equally well behaved in both semis. Still, we did at least kick off with the venerable simile “the rules are as constant as the Northern Star”. I’ve always had a fondness for that one myself.

”You’ll kick yourself”, our hero opined before giving the answer to the Jerusalem question. Oh, really?! Come on.

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

Hillaire Belloc supposedly added the words Candidates should only attempt 6 of these to Kipling’s observation that The Ten Commandments are not to be found East of Suez. Well, it made me laugh.