Sunday, 15 September 2019

University Challenge 2020 Round One Heat 8


Durham v. Trinity, Cambridge

Right then, ready for the next? Bad luck if you’re not, for here it is. Durham, then, first into the lists in this match, were represented by Charles Bland, William Tams, Arthur Raffle and captain Joe Cooper. Representing three times winners Trinity were Nadia Hourihan, Lillian Crawford, Liam Hughes, and skipper Joseph Webber. Let’s crack on.

Joe Cooper took the first starter, buzzing early to identify the term default. Two bonuses on cave systems could have been a full house, had they not zagged with Cheddar when they should have zigged with Wookey Hole – which incidentally is the punchline to a very rude joke I once heard about Star Wars which I have no wish to repeat. William Tams knew that Cameroon was a German protectorate until 1916. The bonuses on sporting positions were a deceptively easy set which Durham were happy to take a full house from. Respect to Laim Hughes who very quickly worked out that in binary a 1 followed by 5 zeroes is equivalent to 32. Scientific memoirs brought Trinity a brace, but I’m a little surprised that cartilaginous fish didn’t make them think of sharks. Knowing about imehouse I was fairly quickly in with Chinatown for the next starter, but Joe Cooper eventually took it for Durham. Battles named after rivers gave Durham another rather gentle full house. A terrific UC special picture starter showed us Greenland, White Sea and Orange County, from which we could deduce the national flag of the Republic of Ireland. William Tam was first to work this out. More of the same – although harder clues, I felt, brought a very good two bonuses to Durham. This meant that by the ten minute mark Durham led by 90 – 20.

I’ve never knowingly heard of Chebyshev, but Liam Hughes had and that was enough for the next starter. Two bonus on a good set on artists who were also muses to other artists made their score look a little less anaemic. Nobody knew that the Knights Templar were founded in the 12th century. Joseph Webber knew that Faure composed Pavane. JP announced bonuses on elements of the Periodic Table, so I put my trainers on in preparation. Both Trinity and I took a full house. By the time I returned, wheezing, to the much maligned Clark sofa neither team had been able to say that Fagus refers to Beech trees, and Trinity had lost 5. Nadia Hourihan was the first to recognise titles by Cormac McCarthy for the next starter. He must have written them before he became Roman Catholic Primate of England. The Architect Amanda Who – apologies, Amanda Levete – provided us both with 2 correct answers, and put Trinity in with the chance of taking the lead on the next set. Being mere youngsters, it took both teams a while to recognise the immortal Kylie Minogue version of The Locomotion (I believe she is a big fan of George Stephenson). It was Lillian Crawford who reached up to pick this particular piece of low hanging fruit. Three other artists or groups performing songs by Carole King brought them the two correct answers which took them into triple figures, and also the lead. I don’t think that I could even type out the mathematics starter which followed – but nobody knew the answer – affine transformation – anyway. William Tams came in early to identify the kingdom formed by Picts and Scots as Alba, and bring the teams level. Scientific terms offered little to me, but delivered me one bonus, and Durham one. I nearly awarded myself another lap of honour for guessing Thermoplastic for the next starter, but inertia won the day. Joseph Webber had that one. Two bonuses on a gettable set on Mrs. Gaskell were taken. So, teetering on the brink of the 20 minute mark, Trinity had reestablished a narrow lead of 120 – 110.

Anyone’s game, then. A great buzz from Liam Hughes to supply the term quincunx showed that Trinity meant business now. Bonuses on the town of Gainsborough earned a further bonus and brought us to the second picture starter. This showed the copy of a lost painting. To be honest, it was absolutely shouting out Brueghel, and I’m surprised that both teams sat on their buzzer before Lillian Crawford gave the correct answer. More paintings brought just the one bonus. Arthur Raffle pushed Durham closer to at least a shot at a repechage score by correctly identifyin the work of Robert ‘Gravy’ Browning. Films based on French Language Comics saw them edge 5 points closer. Again, a superfast buzz from Liam Hughes edged Trinity away, as he correctly gave the answer permutation to the next half completed starter. Chinese Emperors, and the years of their reigns, saw none of us get any correct answers. I’ll be honest, the work of Orlan has somehow passed me by all these years, but Nadia Hourihan knew her for the next starter, pretty much putting her team out of Durham’s reach. They took a couple of bonuses. As for Durham, well with 125 it was entirely conceivable they could win a repechage slot with just one more full house. That would involve winning a starter, though, which is exactly what Joe Cooper did, knowing that young Amy Tinkler won an Olympic medal in Gymnastics. With two bonuses and a total of 145 they now had at least a chance. Nadia Hourihan knew that Dun Laoghaire and Cobh were previously known as Kingstown and Queenstown. Recent winners of the Booker Prize showed us all 3 clean pairs of heels. I didn’t really understand the next Physics starter, but the answer, as supplied by Joseph Webber was excited. Biblical patriarchs were announced but the contest was gonged before the first question was completed. Trinity deservedly won by 200 – 145. Well played both teams – another very enjoyable contest.

Trinity’s win was more impressive considering Durham’s blitz start in the first few minutes – conceivably this Trinity team could play even better than they did here. Their conversion rate was 50%, but they won on the buzzer. As for Drham, well, they’re worth keeping an eye on as well. Should they reach the repechage stage an impressive bonus conversion rate of over 60% suggests that they could be a handful for another team.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nothing worthy of note here.

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

Cameroon ultimately derives its name from the Portuguese for River of Prawns

University Challenge Round One - Heat 7 - Jesus, Oxford v. Manchester


Jesus, Oxford v. Manchester



Good evening, dearly beloved. Look, I’m really sorry that I’ve been so tardy about posting reviews of the last two UC matches. It’s not much of an excuse, but I did start back at my school a couple of weeks ago, and while things have been going just fine, I just haven’t found time in my hectic schedule up to now.

So, then, a couple of weeks ago we had two of the teams you might expect to do well battling it out with each other. The Jesus team consisted of Lucy Clarke, James Cashman, Miranda Stevens and captain Matt Cook. Manchester were represented by Jack Rogers, Melissa Johnson, Adam Booth and skipper James Green.

Both James Cashman and I got the word mandate early from the first clue for the first starter. Films directed by Alfred Hitchcock provided one bonus. James Green struck back for his team, recognising that Generals January and February probably belonged to Russia. Eugene Ysaye – yes, Eugene Who? – might have provided LAM Towers with nul points, but Manchester knew enough to level the scores. A tricky starter on the periodic table saw me take a lap of honour – in fact I nearly did a double since I thought it was that good – for knowing that W only appears in the element Lawrencium, although it does symbolise another element – tungsten – in whose name it does not appear. Kudos to Jack Rogers for working that one out as well. Pairs of words differing only by the addition of the letter j  ape and jape for example – promised a full set, and indeed delivered one to all of us. Already we had reached the picture starter.We were shown a graph of the finishing positions of an English Premier League football club and asked which it was. Adam Booth answered with Arsenal, yet didn’t get a telling off for bad language from JP, who actually congratulated him on a correct answer. More of the same brought one bonus. James Green came in early to identify bated breath as a phrase which first appears in “The Merchant of Venice”. Blinking idiot also appears in that play, although I don’t know if that’s its first appearance. Test matches played by the West Indies were easy enough that I managed a full house, with Manchester getting just the one. So by the ten minute mark, Manchester led by 65 – 15. They had clearly had the better of the buzzing, however a certain profligacy with bonuses suggested that there was still a lot of this match to be played.

Adam Booth played with fire by hesitating for a moment or two before supplying a correct answer to the next starter – knowing that the Kelvin – K – is named after William Thompson. Biology did little for me, more importantly it did little for Manchester, either. The next starter was one of those where you had to wait and wait, until suddenly it became obvious, at the mention of the word Halcyon in this case. Melissa Johnson won that buzzer race. European History bonuses finally brought Manchester a full house. With Jesus College languishing on 15, I did wonder whether the dreaded Paxman encouragement would soon be on the way. Lucy Clarke forestalled this by buzzing early on the nest starter to identify Lucan as a favourite of the Emperor Nero. Till he disappeared to run a beach bar on Bali, that is. Bonuses on Serbia in World War I brought another 5 points. This was added to when Miranda Stevens buzzed in to correctly identify the stigma in a flower’s reproductive parts. This earned a set of bonuses on true flies, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, if I remember correctly. Jesus managed two bonuses, and this brought us to the music set. Now, I’m not familiar with the oeuvre of the performer Kesha, but Lucy Clarke is, since we hardly heard any of her distorted warblings – Kesha’s, not Lucy’s – before Lucy buzzed in with the correct answer. The song quotes the tune known as “Streets of Cairo”, which is often used as musical shorthand for an Arabian setting – three more of the same sort of thing brought two bonuses, one maybe a little controversial. I’ll say more about that after. Melissa Johnson unfurled the sails for her becalmed Manchester vessel, being first in to recognise a description of a Stegosaurus. The novels of Robert Harris brought a timely full house. Adam Booth took a flier on the next starter. To be fair, if you’re asked for an Italian scientist Galileo is always going to leave you in with a shout, but this time it lost five, because he didn’t invent the barometer. Jesus were unable to dredge up the name of Torricelli. I was a little surprise that the mention of Flatford Mill didn’t suggest The Haywain to any of the 8 contenders, but then again nobody knows everything. Matt Cook won the buzzer race to identify “First Man” from a number of clues. Bonuses on Physics brought 5 more points, taking them to 85 at the 20 minute mark. Manchester led with 120, but at least Jesus were now slinging buzzer, and matching Manchester blow for blow.

Now, be honest, when you heard the name Jubba in the next starter, how any of you involuntarily thought – The Hutt -? I did. It’s a river which, as Adam Booth answered, reaches the sea in Somalia. People in the Art world brought two bonuses. So to the second picture starter and a still from West Side Story. As I shouted this out, I added – more films based on plays by Shakespeare (which indeed turned out to be the subject of the bonuses) and correctly predicted Forbidden Planet as one of them, and Ran as another. Coming back to the starter, James Green took that one. I didn’t have 10 Things I hate About You and Taming of the Shrew, while Manchester took a full house. The Manchester skipper took a double, recognising a description of Glengarry Glen Ross. Electronics should have excluded me from answering, but I’m glad to say I managed 2. The Chi squared test saw Manchester lose five, allowing Miranda Stevens in for Jesus. Manchester were over the event horizon by now, but a repechage worthy score was possible. New York’s Chelsea Hotel gave them a fighting chance, delivering a full house. This was followed by a very good shout by Lucy Clarke identifying the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Poisonous plants found in the UK delivered a second full house, giving Jesus 8 correct answers in a row. Matt Cook gave Jesus a reasonable shout at a repechage slot, knowing some characters created by Evelyn Waugh. Bonuses on US Geography took Jesus to within a full house of an improbably draw. Lucy Clarke was very unlucky to incur an interruption penalty for being just a millisecond too early with an incorrect answer to the next starter. This was compounded when Melissa Johnson answered that the world’s oldest artificial sweetener is saccharine. The periodic table saw me rubbing my hands together, prematurely as it happened. The contest was gonged as JP read out the first question, with Manchester winning by 185 to 145.

Well played both teams. Not much to choose in bonus conversion rates – Manchester recovered after a bad start to post a rate just slightly above 50%, as did Jesus. If Manchester had emerged from their collective shell 5 minutes earlier, well they could even have won. As it is though, I think we’ll see them again. We’ll definitely see Manchester again, and rightly so.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

A slight flicker when Manchester suggested that a 1990 Test Match might have been switched to Buenos Aires, but there was no real effort at derision, I’m afraid. As for controversy corner – well, for the second musical bonus Jesus College offered They Must Be Giants instead of There Might Be Giants – as JP confirmed while still awarding the points. My opinion – and as usual, please feel free to disagree – is that they clearly knew the correct answer . . . however they didn’t actually SAY the correct answer. I know it’s very, very harsh. However, when you accept near misses, then you are opening a can of worms. It might not have made a difference to the outcome of this match, but it’s the sort of thing where five points might make the difference between a place in the repechage and going out.

Indignation came late from JP when neither team knew that the town of Navan is in the Republic of Ireland.

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

The first known appearance of the phrase ‘bated breath’ occurred in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Mastermind 2020 - First Round Heat 5


Good morning, dearly beloved. If, like me, you live in the BBC Wales area you were treated to the delights of premiership rugby instead of Mastermind, but that’s what the iplayer is for.

First up, then, in heat 5 was John Larkin. John’s subject was the islands of Great Britain. That’s one of those subjects where the scale of the subject is a lot broader than you might think, being as there are over 6000 of them, and over 100 are inhabited. While John was answering, I got the impression that he was very sound on the purely Geographic questions, but this round was far more wide ranging than that, with questions about local customs, and who was buried on which island etc. which threw him off balance a bit. He battled to a 7, but it looked like he would be out of contention by the time that the half time oranges were being passed around.

Going into the show, my current record specialist aggregate for this series is 23. A score of 8 on the islands promised good things, however my knowledge of Tamsen Hiles’ subject, The Pop Larkin Chronicles, is limited to a couple of episodes of the TV series The Darling Buds of May. That, and a couple of good guesses, brought me three points, which was enough to keep the pot boiling. Tamsen all the while looked as if she was going to take a full house. Well, she didn’t quite manage that, but it was still a speedy and very impressive round which brought a total of 13.

One reason why I thought I had a good chance to set a new target was that our third contender, Nathan McLelland, was answering on “Doctor Who “ 2005 – present. No bones about it, I love Doctor Who, have watched every episode of the post 2005 series more than once, and have written books about it. So it really is something of a banker subject. Nathan himself did very well. He only missed two questions, although he might be kicking himself for not remembering that Roger Lloyd Pack played John Lumic. I added 12 to mean that ‘d equalled the target with one specialist set to spare.

This set, on The League of Gentlemen, fell to Paul Gurrell. Now, to be honest, I liked the radio series , but never really warmed to the TV version, although I know people who absolutely loved it. So I had to be fairly satisfied with the 4 points I earned to set the new target of 27. Paul was very unlucky. John seemed to have just started voicing what was presumably the next question as the buzzer went, and the ruling was that he hadn’t actually started the question proper. It didn’t, in the end, make a huge difference to the result, but Paul can count himself a bit unlucky there. He scored a highly respectable 10.

So to the General Knowledge. Now, usually, when the contender in 4th does his or her GK round, it is a little bit of a side show to the main event. Not so with John Larkin. After John’s irritating plenty of time to catch up call to arms, John provided one of the two best GK rounds we’ve seen all series so far. This was, to my mind, a quizzer’s round. 14 took him to 21, and at least did enough to put the others into the corridor of doubt.

Paul Gurrell again put on a respectable performance in his own round, and for much of the round looked as if he was going to at least match John’s total of 21. However he ran out of a little bit of momentum as the tape came into view, and fell one short, scoring 10 to take his total to 20.

As for Nathan, he started very well, and was ahead of schedule by the halfway mark of his round. However the wrong answers began to outnumber the correct answers, and in the end he finished with 8 to take his total to 19.

So, as Tamsen returned to the chair, the big question was, could John hang on and win the contest from 4th at the halfway stage. We have seen it happen before, but it’s rare. Once again, we had a contender, in Tamsen, who looked as if she was going to smash it for the first few questions. After that, though, it was a little bit more a struggle, and it needed a late spurt to put her over the top with one question left. 9 points meant that she finished on 22.

Well done Tamsen. Hard lines John, but with GK like that, if you choose the right specialists for a future appearance, you, my friend, could be a contender. As for Tamsen, throughout both of her rounds, I thought – judging by the look on her face she is clearly having the time of her life – I bet she’s been a fan of the show for years, and I’m glad to say her piece to camera at the end of the show pretty much confirmed it. Best of luck in the semis.

The Details

John Larkin
Islands of Great Britain
7
0
14
0
21
0
Tamsen Hiles
The Pop Larkin Chronicles by H.E. Bates
13
0
9
1
22
1
Nathan McLelland
‘Doctor Who’ 2005 - present
11
0
8
1
19
1
Paul Gurrell
The League of Gentlemen
10
2
10
3
20
5

Friday, 30 August 2019

Mastermind 2020 First round - heat 4


Nice to see you. Well, even though we were UC-less this week, thankfully we still had Mastermind to take up the slack.

Now, one of the things I can’t help doing, even though it’s pointless really to do so, is trying to work out what has gone wrong with a contender’s specialist round when they only achieve a low score. Without wishing to be horrible, that’s what this heat kicked off with. Wendy Morrison, answering on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, scored 4. Now, to me it seemed that the questions almost exclusively focused on his military career, and ignored other aspects of his life – his two marriages, for example, and his political career, and I’d guess that Wendy hadn’t prepared this aspect of his life thoroughly enough. However, at the end of the round we also saw her almost, yet not quite, answer what may well have been the easiest question of the round, which may well have been through stress caused by what had happened in the rest of the round. I scored a decent 6 in a show in which all 4 specialists seemed to offer something.

Now, over 40 years ago I read and loved the Chronicles of Narnia, which was the subject offered to us by Eve Devlin. That, though, was a very long time ago.  So again, I was pleased to dredge up a few answers to push my total onwards. Eve, though, far outshone this. In fact I did think that her round was slightly better than the 10 points she scored – I was surprised when the transparent line of death had almost completed its circuit just as John began the question which would bring her 10th point. A good round.

Not as good, though, as Vik Bansal’s round on the Life and Career of Andre Agassi. This was a calm and assured performance, and Vik obviously really knew his stuff. In fact his performance had all the hallmarks of a perfect round, until the very last question, and this was enough to give him the lead with an excellent 10 points. It also took me to 15, meaning that I needed just 2 correct answers on the final round to set a new highest specialist aggregate for this series.

I fancied my chances as well, bearing in mind that Kris Jones, our final contender, was offering us National Flags. That’s a very special subject indeed. Not quite a decade ago, the great Jesse Honey set an all time Mastermind record round score on Flags with 23 points. Well, the nature of the questions now mean that there is just no way that you could possibly get through 23 questions, so there was no chance of Kris Jones doing that. Kris’ suffered, I though, from having good knowledge of what’s actually on the flag, without having very good knowledge about the things on the flag themselves, or how they got there, or who put them there. As a result he scored 6, but was too far behind the leader to have a realistic chance in the GK. As for me, 8 brought me a new record aggregate total for this series of 23.

So to the GK, which was, to all intents and purposes, a two horse race. Prior to that though, Wendy Morrison had a chance to show us her mettle. John jocularly reminded her that there was plenty of time to race through into the lead, but as I’ve said before, I wish he wouldn’t make these comments, because all it does is to remind the contender in the chair that he or she had a bad first round. Wendy had a very good GK round as it happened. Which in one way is very nice, but in another way it must have left her thinking about what might have been. It wasn’t quite the case with Kris Jones’ round. Kris himself managed double figures, but he scored 10, which crucially left him a point behind Wendy.

With all due respect, though, this was just the sideshow, or the precursor to the main event. For Eve Devlin it was crucial to set the bar as high as possible. Once again, her round wasn’t bad. She scored 9, which was decent, but it left Vik needing only 8 answers for an outright win, and that’s not quite enough to put a good contender into the corridor of doubt, I would argue.

Finally Vik, then. Now, this was another of those rounds which looked better than the score would suggest. Vik never looked in danger of not getting enough points, especially in the first minute of the round during which I felt he was headed for a score in the teens. The last minute wasn’t quite so good, as Vik picked up a couple of wrong answers and a couple of passes, and seemed a little slower and more hesitant with his answers. Nonetheless he’d already achieved the target, and pushed on to score 11 points which gave him a final total of 23. Well played, sir, and best of luck in the semis.

The Details

Wendy Morrison
The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte
4
3
13
2
17
5
Eve Devlin
C.S.Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia
10
1
9
4
19
4
Vik Bansal
The Life and Career of Andre Agassi
12
0
11
2
23
2
Kris Jones
National Flags
6
3
10
0
16
0

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Mastermind 2020 - Heat 3


Already at heat three, Dearly Beloved. Doesn’t time fly. Okay, then, without further ado, first into the chair last night was Phil Welch. Phil was answering on the Members and Music of Genesis. Now, back in the day I was quite partial to a bit of Genesis. I even saw them in Wembley Arena in Christmas of either 1982 or 1983 – old age robs of me of the almost perfect recall of yesteryear, sadly. Last week I set this year’s first aggregate specialist target of 16. This subject, I thought, might give me the springboard to beat that. Well, it did and it didn’t. It brought me 5 points, which is certainly a decent enough start, but I was hoping for a couple more, and it meant I’d need some big hitters in those subjects still to come. Phil, on the other hand, equalled the top specialist mark for the series so far with 12, in what seemed to be a pretty nerveless performance.

Right, now or some years I’ve taken pleasure from being the last schoolteacher to win a series of Mastermind. I worked it out that even if a schoolteacher should win this series, then I would still have held the distinction of being the last schoolteacher to win for 12 years, which beats the previous record of 11 years held by my friend, David Edwards. So it is high time for another of my brethren and sistren to win. I mention all of this, as our next contender, Emma Welsh, is also a teacher. Emma was answering on the Elizabethan Tragedies of Shakespeare. – Yum yum – thought I, that being part of the day job, as it were. I managed a decent 6, but Emma did noticeably better with 9.

Up to this point we in the series we hadn’t had a really low scoring specialist round. Sadly, James Leahy had a bit of a ‘mare in his round on the Thirty Years’ War. I thought James looked quite nervous, so who knows the effect that failing to answer his second question correctly might have had? It did look though as if James was a little underprepared- apologies if this was not the case, but I can only go by what I see on the screen. James scored 4. I had three to take me to 14.

Unfortunately that was as good as it got for me last night. I’m afraid that I have never watched either “Firefly” or “Serenity”, so failed to trouble the scorer on this visit to the table. Maureen on the other hand managed a confident 10. What do we say, good people. Anything in double figures in as specialist round in this particular series is a good score.

When James returned to the table, John tried to console him a little by pointing out that Thirty Years is a very long time. Well, yes. But you see, I have a problem with this sort of comment because, for all that it is undoubtedly well meant, the fact that you pass comment about it at all only really serves to point out how low the score was. Best not to mention it, and to let the contender concentrate on the job in hand. Which James did pretty well, it has to be said. It wasn’t the finest GK round we’ve seen this series, but it was a good battling performance, and although James never looked comfortable for the rest of the show, it does show him that should he wish to come back, if he can get his problems with specialist sorted, then he could be a contender. Well done.

Emma Welsh, on the other hand, while never losing her composure, couldn’t produce the sort of performance in GK which would give her the chance of setting a challenging target. In fact she just fell short of matching James’ total as well. After the 2008 season of blessed memory a number of people in the know asked me how I managed to find the time to prepare with all the work I do as part of my career, and it’s a fair question. I wouldn’t say that I was using every spare moment for revision – but it wasn’t far off. I’m not suggesting this is only true for teachers – but it is maybe a reason why we haven’t seen another schoolteacher win since that series.

Maureen Smyth too never lost her composure, and did seem to be enjoying her round. However she didn’t find it much easier than Emma did, and just about breached the tape before the, um, transparent line of death had completed a circuit. She did raise the target, but only by one point to 17. I’ll be honest, if you’d wanted to bet on her winning the show at this stage you could probably have named your own odds, since Phil Welch was starting his round needing just 6 points for an outright win.

Of course he got them. In fact his was a competent, decent all round performance, and it felt just about right that he should win with a mid 20s score of 23. Best of luck to you in the semi finals, sir.

Speaking of which, I have to say that the piece to camera done by the winners of each show is growing on me somewhat. I do often think about what would motivate people to want to appear on the show, and it was nice to hear Phil say that he’d always wanted to appear, which is how I felt when I made my first (losing) appearance in 2006.

The Details

Phil Welch
The Members and Music of Genesis
12
0
11
2
23
2
Emma Welsh
Shakespeare’s Elizabethan Tragedies
9
2
6
4
15
4
James Leahy
The Thirty Years’ War
4
2
12
0
16
2
Maureen Smyth
“Firefly” and “Serenity”
10
0
7
5
17
5

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

University Challenge Round One - Heat Six - Edinburgh v. Birkbeck, London


Edinburgh returned as reigning champs on Monday night, this year represented by Richard Moon, Adam McLaughlan, Isaac Stephens and captain Emma Williams. The first obstacle in their way to retaining their title came in the shape of Birkbeck, London, comprising of Rob Anderson, Rosemary Barnett, Ian Kernohan and captain Nooruddean Janmohamed. Nice to see an older team like this from time to time.

Both teams rather sat on their buzzers a little bit. I should imagine a number of people at home heard “Begun in 1173 as part of a cathedral complex” and shouted Leaning Tower of Pisa as I did. The whole question was complete as Richard Moon buzzed in with the correct answer. A set of bonuses on the term tragedy followed, although I was saddened to see that the work of the Bee Gees and Steps failed to feature. Edinburgh took the first two. Various clues led Rob Anderson to the word dip. American Presidents brought two bonuses to level the scores. For the next starter the old quiz chestnut heartburn came early in the question, but both teams again sat back for a while before Adam McLaughlan came in with the correct answer. Menmonic devices were none of the ones I knew, but Edinburgh knew the first, on operations in Mathematics. The next was one of those which suddenly becomes blindingly obvious at the end. Once Holman Hunt and Tennyson had been mentioned Adam McLaughan buzzed in with The Lady of Shalot. Ida Rubinstein – yes, Ida Who? – brought Edinburgh just the one correct answer. This meant that as we approached the 10 minute mark, Edinburgh led 50 – 20.

For the picture starter we had a stave with a single note. I was out with the washing on this, but Adam McLaughlan took his triple with that one. More of the same brought Edinburgh two bonuses, and my shouting random letters at the telly brought nowt. I knew that the birthplace of Elvis starts with TUP – but neither of the teams could work it out through that or the other clues. Asked for the two word name of the largest land animal in Britain, I reckon Richard Moon probably knew the correct answer, but he buzzed in and answered ‘stag’, which was never going to get him the points. This allowed skipper Nooruddean Janmohamed to drag Birkbeck back into the contest with the correct answer of red deer. Chemical elements discovered in Sweden had me running through the Ytterby quartet and holmium, but they didn’t surface, and both of us only got Lithium. Muddy Hill and pigsty Hill are apparently possible original meanings of the name Solihull, as Isaac Stephens knew. Anglo Saxon kingdoms announced JP. Yum yum, said I. Full house for me, and also for Edinburgh on a pretty gentle set. A gentle starter about quarter days was snapped up impressively quickly by Nooruddean Janmohamed, and philosophers born in Ireland took Birkbeck to a rather healthier 50 points, albeit rather controversially. More of that later. For the music starter Adam McLaughlan quickly recognised Simon and Garfunkel. Other artists reviewed in The New Yorker by Ellen Willis only brought one bonus, but Edinburgh were progressing towards a win, so it seemed. After Edinburgh failed to identify a wading bird, Nooruddean Janmohamed chanced his arm with curlew, and was right to do so. Gardening terminology seemed to be to Birkbeck’s collective liking, and they scored a timely full house to put the scores at 105 – 75, approaching the 20 minute mark, and to keep themselves in the contest.

Once again I wasn’t impressed by either team’s buzzing for the next starter. A variety of clues pointed towards willow, and it was only a second or two after Kenneth Grahame was mentioned that Richard Moon went correctly for his buzzer. The 1956 Olympic Games bonuses were easy if you know about the Olympics, but not questions you could pull an answer from thin air for if you don’t, and Edinburgh did not trouble the scorer on this set. I decided to take my lap of honour for knowing various types of diode, as did Adam McLauchlan – know it, that is. He stayed in his seat. Poets on railways brought just the one on a gettable set. Richard Moon was first in for the second picture starter to recgonise the work of Gauguin. Other paintings representing the three stages of life brought two bonuses, and as good as sealed the deal for Edinburgh, whose score was twice that of Birkbeck’s. After again being beaten to the buzzer, a wrong answer gave Birkbeck the chance to answer Simon Sebag Montefiore for the next starter. Bonuses on 18th century Europe gave them two of an easy set, but a quizzer would probably have guessed thaler for the last one. Poor Ian Kernohan finally threw caution to the wind for the next starter, but came in too early and suffered the mortifying experience of hearing the answer he was going to give come out as part of the question. The answer to this rather convoluted thing was French horn. Nobody knew that carnations and pinks belong to the Dianthus family. Now, I guessed judging by the time of the composer’s death that the answer to the next starter would be Vaughan Williams, and Richard Moon did the same. Words added in 2018 to the US scrabble dictionary gave just time for one correct answer before the contest was gonged. Edinburgh won comfortably by 165 – 90.

“Birkbeck, you never really got a chance to get going and show us what you were made of.” Once again JP trotted this out, but he was wrong to do so. Birkbeck had more than a chance, but by the time they finally decided to start slinging some buzzer it was far too late. It’s a shame, because they answered about 2/3rds of the bonuses they were asked correctly, which is superior to Edinburgh who managed just over half. Edinburgh weren’t particularly fast on the buzzer either, but they were better than Birkbeck on it, and that’s what won them the game.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

On the elements bonuses, when there was no discussion from Birkbeck, JP kindly offered – You may confer if you’d like to, then paused for comic effect before adding – if any of you has a clue, in a tone which said, you don’t know and quit wasting my time.

This week’s controversy centred on a question to which the answer was Francis Hutcheson. Birkbeck answered Francis Hutchinson. JP made a point of correcting them, but still accepted the answer anyway. Look, I don’t want to be horrible, but if an answer is wrong, even if it’s close, then it’s wrong. Once you start accepting near misses, where do you draw the line?

For example – on one of the poetry bonuses, Edinburgh guessed that the poet was McGonagall rather than Robert Louis Stevenson. Funnily enough, he didn’t accept that one on the grounds that they were both Scottish.

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

Harry S. Truman never took off his glasses when swimming in the White House pool.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

University Challenge - Round One - HEat Five - Wolfson, Cambridge v. St. John's , Oxford


Yes, Dearly Beloved, this brings us up to date with another Oxford v. Cambridge rumble. Wolfson, Cambridge won the series a few years ago, led by the estimable Eric Monkman. Hoping to emulate his team’s achievement were Tom Greig, Erin Spike, Tommy Lee and skipper Ryan-Rhys Griffiths. I noticed that JP did not try to imitate any former captain of St. John’s Oxford when he introduced them. They were Sam Burns, Isabella Morris, Arun Soor and their captain Asher Leeks. The head to head score so far in the series stood at 1 – 0 to Oxford, who also saw Magdalen progress a couple of weeks ago. All to play for for Wolfson, then.

The first starter was one of those which suddenly becomes blindingly obvious, and it was Sam Burns who was first in to recognise that “Becoming” was the best selling memoir of Michelle Obama. Song in the electronic age provided just the one bonus. Asher Leeks came in before the next starter became obvious, which allowed Wolfson to answer that the word being defined was spur. Tapestries proved too difficult for Wolfson, which left the scores level. I didn’t understand the next question, but Asher Leeks did and buzzed in with the correct answer of sulphuric acid. A hard set on SI base units provided just the one bonus, but took us up to the picture set. For the starter we saw a map of Africa with one country highlighted in red. Neither team recognised Liberia. Erin Spike knew that a crime of 1911 referred to in the next question was the theft of the Mona Lisa. This earned the picture bonuses, in the shape of other countries, like Liberia, which are the flag states of convenience for large amounts of the world’s shipping. This was not an easy set, and they failed to add to their score. All of which meant that the teams were tied on a modest 25 apiece after the first ten minutes.

Neither team knew the Aegir, the tidal bore on the Trent, but Tom Greig lost five for an incorrect interruption. This was compounded when skipper Ryan-Rhys Griffiths did the same for the next starter. St. John’s didn’t know the term rectification, and neither did I. Thankfully Arun Soor knew the next starter, that the 1979 revolution occurred in Iran. German rococo architecture didn’t sound at all promising, yet we both took a full house. Sa Burns knew the 2016 novel The Power, and the gap was widening between the two teams. Bonuses on pairs of words that differ only by the letters V and I at the start were a nice UC special set, which provided St. John’s with a further 10 points as we approached the music round. Now, I’m not a great devotee of classical music, but I was surprised when absolutely nobody on either team recognised Schubert’s Ave Maria. Not as surprised as Jeremy Paxman mind you. More on that later. Neither team knew that UNESCO had added reggae music to its list of types of music which added to our world heritage – can’t disagree with that. Sam Burns buzzed in early to identify the word fetish for the next starter. The music bonuses, then, were three more from Classic FM’s list of the most popular classical pieces for weddings. Unsurprisingly no points were scored from this set. Now when you hear the words ‘British leader’ and ‘Roman Invasion’ it’s only natural that the name Boudicca would spring to mind, as it did for Sam Burns. Who lost five for his pains. Well, if it ain’t her then it’s going to be Caractacus – whose harem have a habit of just passing by apparently. Finally, having been shut out for about 9 minutes, Tommy Lee took a starter for Wolfson with mockingbird, thus saving them from reaching the 20 minute mark with fewer points than they had scored by the 10 minute mark. At least one correct bonus on American cities meant that they had doubled their total with this visit to the table. They trailed by 70 – 30 at the 20 minute mark.

Okay, now if the question mentions a NASA lander, then it’s going to be Mars if it asks for the planet. Sam Burns took that to halt Wolfson’s mini revival. One bonus on Physics meant we were still some way from either team breaking into triple figures. A lovely UC special starter next saw both teams really fail to understand the question, which required the answers of Charles the Bold and Charles the Bald. It had been a long time coming, but I finally took my lap of honour for knowing that 100 million years before present would put us back into the Cretaceous. Sam Burns was closest with Jurassic. It was looking all too easy for St. John’s, who had time to dwell on the buzzer a moment before Asher Leeks identified that both golf clubs and tennis racquets have sweet spots. So do jammie dodgers, although you can’t hit balls very far with them. One bonus on Simones at last put St. John’s into trile figures. The second picture starter showed us Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, which Erin Spike was first to recognise. Other pictures refused by the salon but exhibited in the 1863 salon des refuses failed to add more points to Wolfson’s total. Nobody knew that the last adjective in Paradise Lost is solitary. Not surprised. A really lovely UC special starter asked in terms of accession years, which element was equivalent to Edward VII. Neither team knew 1901 which would have given them Hydrogen. Arun Soor knew that if the question name checks William Morris, then the answer is probably Arts and Crafts. This brought up a set of bonuses on domesticated animals, of which St. John’s answered one correctly. That brought us to the gong, with St. John’s winning by 115 to 40.

What can I say? I don’t want to be mean or hurtful. In a way it’s a pity that this match up should follow some very good contests. But it did, and being objective, I have to echo JP’s words that St. John’s performance wasn’t much better than reasonable. Their bonus conversion rate was less than 50%. As for Wolfson, well, if they got more than 2 bonuses, I didn’t see them. I may be wrong, but that’s certainly the lowest scoring match I can remember since the BBC revival. Hopefully, it’s just a one off. If I were a member of the Bristol, Corpus Christi or York teams, I’d be cursing our bad luck that we didn’t get drawn against either of those teams in our first round match. That’s the way it goes.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think much of JPs Eric Monkman impression when introducing Wolfson.

On the crooners bonuses, the last question asked which former prime minister of his country had been described as a cruise ship crooner, not having a scooby St. John’s tried Kevin Rudd. “Kevin Rudd!” exclaimed JP in what sounded like the highest of dudgeons, “ I don’t even know if he can hold a note!” No, and neither did St. John’s which is possibly why they gave that reasonable answer, Jez.

I can more understand his reaction to neither team knowing Ave Maria, which he described as ‘lamentable’. A bit extreme, but at least I know where he’s coming from with that. Unsatisfied with leaving it at that, when St. John’s last wild stab in the dark at the third music bonuses was wrong, he spluttered, “No, it’s Bach! Jesu joy of Man’s Desiring – You  barbarians!” Alright, Jez, we got the point. Don’t milk it.

When Tom Greig suggested Robert the Bruce for King Caractacus JP favoured him with the most old fashioned of looks, and repeated the name with incredulity.

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

There is one ship registered for every 18 people in the Marshall islands.