Saturday, 29 August 2015

How easy is easy enough?

Been a while since I posted something which isn’t about a quiz show, hasn’t it? It’s not because I haven’t been quizzing either, but, well, I’m conscious that I do end up repeating myself a lot, and so without anything that new to say about quizzing I’ve tended not to say anything.

It all goes back to last Sunday. Now, I’ve thought long and hard about whether I should actually bring this up on the blog or not, but enough vacillating, and here we go. After all the unpleasantness at the Twelve Knights a few months ago John and I haven’t been back to it, and have only gone to the other Sunday night quiz once a fortnight. We never take the prize if we win, but even so by only going once a fortnight it means that other teams can win at least every other quiz. As it happens the people in the quiz we go to are absolutely lovely, and I’ve an awful lot of time for them – but nonetheless we’ve had enough experiences in the past where we’ve seen the other teams’ attitudes towards us start benignly and eventually go sour over a period of time that I don’t want to risk it happening through overkill.

Time was, maybe 20 odd years ago, when you could pick and choose between pubs which had a home made quiz on a Sunday evening. I don’t know what it’s like round your way, but in my part of South Wales when you find one now you want to cherish it. What I do find, though, is that when I find one, sooner or later I’ll get asked if I’ll make a quiz for one of the Sundays. Not that I mind this at all. However, a couple of months ago I was asked in this Sunday quiz if I could produce one, and so I did. I wrote it to the standard of the easiest kind of quiz I ever do for Aberavon Rugby club. Nobody was at all nasty about it when I asked the questions in the pub, but in all honesty looking at the scores it proved to be too hard for that pub. Surprisingly they asked if I’d so another one a few weeks later, and so I did. This one I made even easier. It was still too hard. Then again I was asked if I’d do last Sunday’s quiz for them. I went out of my way to include the easiest questions I could this side of an insult to the intelligence. The scores were still lower than they usually are in pretty much any other quiz in the pub.

Now I want to stress this next point. It has nothing to do with the intelligence of the teams who play there. Just chat with them for a few minutes and you’ll soon see that. For another thing, they do better on every other quiz I play in in the pub as well, which I don’t tend to think are any easier than the one I produced on Sunday. For example, the winning team on Sunday scored 26 out of a possible 37. OK, not so bad, but it is when you think they are normally at about 30 out of 35. All I can think of is that I just haven’t clicked with what sort of thing I need to be asking. Maybe.


Does it matter? Well, everyone who’s played in one of the 3 quizzes has been perfectly nice and kind about it, but it matters to me. You see my philosophy about setting a pub quiz is that you’re not trying to beat the teams – you’re not trying to find out what they don’t know, they’re trying to find out what they do know. I don’t want people coming up after the quiz saying ‘I’ve never heard of t etc. etc.’ I want people saying ‘ I was really pleased with myself for getting that one right’. Well, it’s just something I have to work on. As for this week, well it will be my turn on Thursday to be question master at the rugby club. Now, if I get that one wrong, then I really will be unhappy. Watch this space. 

Only Connect - Season 11 - Match 6 and Match 7

Match 6: String Section v. Headliners

And so to match 6, which I missed when I was away last weekend. The String section consisted of Tessa North, Peter Sorel-Cameron and captain Richard Aubrey. I don’t think I know any of them personally, and they all came up clean on LAM. Their opposition were the Headliners, Duncan Enright, Dave Robinson and Paddy Baker. Likewise all of them have clean records on LAM. So you pays yer money and you takes yer choc ice, as they say.

Round One – What’s The Connection?

The Headliners put the string section in to bat first, and they chose Two Reeds. I didn’t have it after Norfolk PE35 6EN, but I did after Aberdeenshire AB35 5TB. They had postcodes, but not royal residences. Berkshire SL4 1NJ saw them rather inscrutably barking up the postcodes that are not actually in the county they are supposed to be tree. London SW1A 1AA is of course Buckingham Palace, and so the Headliners were never going to turn their collective nose up at that windfall. Lion gave a picture set. We started with a cockerel. Hmm. Then two flying ducks. Hmm Hmm. Then JS Bach. Hmm hmm hmm. Then a jar of honey. All I could come up with, and I didn’t like it very much, were terms of endearment. Which turned up to be the correct answer. Fair enough, but I can’t say that this was my favourite set, and neither team had it. I was delighted to see Richard stress Hornèd in Viper, and hoped this would bring him a good set. Barley grains from the middle of the ear – nope. A London candle. Still nope. A days work from a team of oxen – ah – lightbulb. These were all definitions of old units of measurement – the oxen one being one acre, I thought. The Strings took a Thumb for the last clue, and this gave it to them. The Liners chose Eye of Horus and received God Bless America and The Cuckoo’s Calling – and I was fairly sure that the first of these was not written under a pseudonym. Ah, the Entire output of Dorothy Parker, though gave me an inkling that this might well be proceeds to charity. I made a mental bet that the last would be ‘Peter Pan’. Yes! Now, the Liners really ought to have had it from Peter Pan, but they didn’t, and neither did the Strings. Sorry everyone, but that’s the sort of thing you probably should be getting right. Twisted Flax gave the Strings the Flag of Vietnam. Yellow star on a red field. Let’s see the next. Google O’s. As the Strings knew, one is yellow and the other red, so I asked myself whether we’d also get the Pied Piper. No, after the Strings took the points after 2, we also had MCC tie and Rupert Bear’s clothes. Water inevitably brought music to the Liners. I didn’t get the first, and though I knew Kim Wilde and Sandie Shaw I needed Shakespeare’s Sister to push me to Playwrights. Ditto the Liners. So at the end of the round the Strings led by 4 - 2

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

Right, the round that separates the men from the slightly younger men. The Strings again kicked off with Two Reeds. We saw One Direction – Chris Martin, then Kylie. No, I just didn’t have it. Neither team did in the time allotted. It was artists who have sung the opening line to a recording of Do They Know It’s Christmas, and of course the first was Paul Young. Duncan of the Liners also opted for Hornèd Viper, just the way we like it. Now, the first clue was Oath. I immediately wondered if we were dealing with the Coronation – in which case what would come 4th. Anointing? Procession? Anointing and Investiture followed, so I went for crowning. So did the Liners, who said coronation. Nobody had it – the next is enthronement. Fair enough, but a pretty tricky set, I dare say. Lion saw the Strings kick off with Saw III. Part of a popular film franchise I’m reliably informed. Cars IV followed. Hmm – the set had to be harder than it looked. Then I looked at the words. Saw has 3 letters – Cars has 4. So a 6 letter word followed by VI. George VI was the example that the Strings came up with after Alien V. The Liners needed a kinder set, and hoped that they would find one behind Eye of Horus. Mikhail Youzhny didn’t help me, and he was followed by Fernando Verdasco. Jerzy Janowicz didn’t help me – sorry but this set just passed me by. Novak Djokovic looked like a complete guess by the Liners, but it was right. These were Andy Murray’s successive opponents in Wimbledon 2013. Actually that’s a good set – kudos to the setter. The Strings finished with water, and started with 4th Foot=foot. Huh? 3rd: hand=hand. Huh? 2nd Tooth= Tooth. Ah, I mused – were we in eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth territory? Yes we were. This left Twisted Flax for the Liners. We began with Jefferson City Missouri. Now, I was switched on for this one. Jefferson City is the capital of Missouri. He was also the 3rd president. Working forward, the next should be Madison Wisconsin (4th president) and Jackson Mississippi (7th). Which would mean Lincoln Nebraska would be 4th (16th president) . A well earned 5 pointer for me. The Liners could see it was Presidents, but went for Washington DC – not a state capital – not part of a state at all – and he wouldn’t have been next in line anyway – he should have been first if he qualified. Richard knew that and took a timely bonus. That meant that the Strings led 9 -4 and at the moment looked like the only winners in this show.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Liners opted for lion, and began trying to isolate a set of cigars. Now, I think that the best way to go is once you see a set, keep trying all combinations until you get the right one. They didn’t, and abandoned the set to go chasing pianos. Then they switched again, and this time isolated Hamlet – Eugene Onegin – Swan Lake and Capriccio Italien – all works by Tchaikovsky. In short order a set of canals – Erie – Herengeracht – Grand and Suez followed. A moment’s thought, and the cigars – Panama – Henri Wintermans – King Six and Castella, and the pianos – Upright – Player – Spinet and Console were resolved. Sadly they went for ballets rather than Tchaikovsky, and so ended up with 7 points, when a full house had been there for the taking.

The Strings sized up their water wall before taking out a set of things which can be preceded by the word Turkish – Coffee- slippers – carpet and delight. There was a set of Liverpool FC players that they seemed to be going for without much success, before switching to things you can run – risk – bath – race and errand. It looked like Tessa who worked out that Busby – Cabbage – Tankard and Vandal all begin with words for vehicles. This left Callaghan – Rush – Venison and Fowler as the Liverpool footballers. 10 points, and with the lead standing at 19 – 11 they really looked as if they should win with daylight between themselves and the Liners.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

The first set, Scottish authors, saw a complete 4 – 0 shut out by the Strings. Game over. Items on an Indian takeaway menu fell 2 all, but the Strings also dropped a point for a premature buzz. Consecutive Shipping Forecast areas went 3 – 1 to the Liners. French novels saw just enough time for the Strings to take a point and then lose it again. In the end the final score was 25 – 16.

Well played Strings – you came on stronger and stronger as the quiz went on. If I’m honest I don’t see either of these teams as the series winners, since I think that there are teams with a wider general knowledge in the competition, but with the Strings I kind of feel that you underestimate them at your peril.

Match 7: Road Trippers v. Athenians.


Quick – dash to the kitchen and make yourself a cup of tea – or maybe something a bit stronger (coffee). The next contest is about to start, and there’s no time to draw breath. So in this 7th match we see the first run out for the Trips and the Aths. The Aths were Jon Stilcher, Ben Holmes and Amber Marshall. Jon and Amber came up clean on Lam, but Ben was a semi finalist in the 2014 series of Mastermind. Nice to see Masterminds having a go at the OC, I always think. The Trips were Chris Pendleton, Nick Patterson and skipper Ned Pendleton. All three of these guys came up clean.

Round One – What’s The Connection? 

The Trips started with water and a character from my favourite film, The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne. Characters imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit? The Trips considered it. Ross Geller though really muddied the issue for a moment. At about the same time the Trips were looking at Palaeontologists, I was going with rock collectors. Next came Obelix the Gaul. Now, I wish to be pedantic here. Did Obelix REALLY collect Menhirs? I ask because he is always described as a Menhir Delivery Man – which suggests not. I’ve never watched In The Night Garden, so had no idea whether Makka Pakka collects rocks or not, but guessed that he did.  Victoria showed quite an amount of leeway allowing another go after palaeontoligsts, then allowing fossils. Fossils – rock collectors? Well, she allowed it and that’s that. Twisted Flax gave the Aths a photo of Ellen DeGeneres, then a chap I don’t know. The third picture showed Lee Mack and Tim Vine. Now, that had to refer to Not Going Out, in which I knew they played characters called Lee and Tim. Ellen Degeneres played Ellen in Ellen, so I guessed that they played characters with their own first name. Terry and June confirmed this in the last picture. Two Reeds gave the Trips the music set and it was the third one, a Natalie Cole/Nat King Cole duet on Unforgettable that gave it to me – duets recorded after one of the artists had passed away. The Trips didn’t have a Scooby and the Aths went barking up the parent and child duet tree. Lion gave the Aths Elizabeth and James – which looked on the surface like monarchs and successors. Menace II Society blew that out of the water, and left a void because I didn’t have a clue. Harvard Connection rang a bell as something to do with the origin of Facebook, then I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) – well, we all know about that, but what was the connection? The Facebook thing helped, since I recalled something to do with twin friends of Mark Zuckerberg being supposedly involved in the early days of Facebook, so made by twins was my guess. The Aths had no idea, the Trips were close but no cigar with brothers. Eye of Horus gave the Trips Fliffus. That’s a manoeuvre in trampolining – but I wasn’t fancying a 5 pointer on that. Next came Oliver! And I was out with the washing. The Sixth Sense did nothing to bring me back in again. Mobius Strip finished it off. None of us got it. Now, when its explained – that they all have a twist in them, it makes sense, but oh, I don’t know, it’s just not satisfying as a set. Clever, but not satisfying. We know that Victoria never gives the preferred pronunciation of Horned Viper, and this is what was left for the Aths. 35 Out of Money was followd by 33 Illogical interchange. This was clearly an IT , error message sort of thing – but what exactly? 16 Outside zone – ah – this looked like Oyster card underground turnstile error messages. 09 ticket damaged seemed to confirm it. The Aths thought so and earned a point for their trouble, to double their score and give them a 2 – 1 lead.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

The Trips kicked off with Lion. I thought that they were barking up the right tree when Marty came up, looking generally at Oscan winning films. Next The Apartment. Now, when I started quizzing in the 80s, this was the last Black and White best picture winner. Then along came Schindler’s list which is mostly B and W, and then the Artist. So that’s what I went for. The Trips took Schindler’s List and then gave the right answer. For water the Aths got a picture showing a dog on the left, and cat on the right, with a red arrow from cat to dog. Huh? Then bird to the cat – and that was my lightbulb moment. I went for fly to spider – as in there was an old lady who swallowed a fly etc etc. The Aths had it at this point as well. Top marks to Ned for both having the guts to sing a verse of the song, and then for asking for Hornèd Viper. France. . . offered little in the way of enlightenment. Arme followed – ah some French inscription of dedication – maybe Napoleon. What would come last? Peuple ? (people) . Tête d‘armée added weight ot this conclusion, but no help in deciding what was next. Apparently these were the last concerns of Napoleon on his deathbed, and the last was Josephine. What a surprise! Nobody had it! What were the chances of that happening? Alright, we’re not exactly in American Municipal Bankruptcies territory here, but come on, that’s a bit obscure I would have thought. The next set for the Aths began with Kelly. Too many possibilities there. Kelly came next, and didn’t help. However Kennnedy was the lightbulb moment. Now, the problem for the Aths was that they were far too old to remember Game for A Laugh, and so I would guess were most of the Trips. Now, there are TV shows which haven’t been on for 30 years which are still well remembered enough to give younger people who weren’t even born when it was on a reasonable chance. . . but Game for a Laugh? Oh well. Beadle was missing. Eye of Horus gave the Trips 20: Brodick. Nope, me neither. 10: Glamis though sounded more like it. Scottish castles would give Edinburgh as the top, but what number? 5: Cluzean came third, so I bit the bullet with 1: Edinburgh. These it turned out are the castles on Scottish banknotes. Having worked out pretty much everything the Trips still missed out and passed a bonus to the Aths. This left them with twisted flax and ageing – aluminium. That gave me an inkling – in the US the second I is missed out. So if the next one had an o which is dropped in US spelling, then the last could be colour/color or some such example. Foetus proved it. The Aths saw it was spelling, but not why, and so there was a bonus for the Trips. The score after round two was 6 – 4 to the Aths.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

Dolls and Ron Howard movies sprang out at the Aths from the start of their wall. After having several goes at the films they took out the dolls – Cabbage Patch – Dutch – Voodoo – Matryoshka. Then they switched to Aussie clang words – pash – Barbie – drongo and shonky. In one go they separated the last two lines – hi-hat, crash, splash and sizzle, all types of cymbals, and then this left the films – Coccoon, Backdraft, Apollo 13 and Rush. 10 points.

The Trips went for cakes from the start, then suddenly stopped and took out a set of Oceans’ films actors – Pitt – Clooney – Mac and Cheadle. Back to the cakes – no dice, and so they took out Royal Parks – Bushy – Regent’s – Green and Richmond. Sudddenly they realized there were areas of Greater Manchester – and took out Sale – Hyde – Eccles and Salford. This left the cakes which turned out to be Marble – Dundee – Madeira and Angel. Again – 10/10. 16 played 14 and it was anybody’s game.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

We began with phrases said by Del Boy. 2 apiece – which helped the Aths more than it helped the Trips. I enjoyed Book titles with the colour changed. The Aths took a very tricky full house, and that for me was the game over. Fictional TV chat show hosts was always going to have Mrs. Merton, Alan Partridge, Ali G, and the Kumars – well, I couldn’t think of any others – maybe Larry Sanders – was he a chat show host? 2 each. Onto British wrestlers but we only had time for the Aths to pick up Giant Haystacks. At the end the Aths won by 25 – 18. Good show. 

University Challenge: Round One - Heat 7

Christ’s Cambridge v. Kellogg, Oxford

An Oxbridge match usually gets the adrenaline flowing, and last Monday’s contest matched Christ’s of Cambridge with Kellogg of Oxford. Representing Christ’s we had Vivek Midha, Joe Kitchen, Evan Lynch, and their captain Douglas Morton. On the other side we had Jake McBride, Victoria Ball, Simon Dismore and skipper Jonathan Finlay representing Kellogg. So let’s get on with it then.

You don’t have to be a hardened UC viewer to feel your buzzer finger twitching when you hear the words miners’ safety lamp. Vivek Midha was the first in with Humphrey Davy. Invocations of the Muse was the subject of the first set of bonuses, and this proved barren for Christ’s. Douglas Morton knew that Bangladesh became independent in 1971, and this earned another set of bonuses, this time on St. Thomas Aquinas, and this was more fruitful, yielding two correct answers. For me Septimus Harding was the giveaway that JP was looking for A Trollope for the next starter. Simon Dismore opened Kellogg’s account, although he didn’t sound at all sure of his answer. Two bonuses on noble gases brought them into the competition. I really liked the picture starter, even though I didn’t get it right. It showed a diagram of a constellation, and the greater the magnitude of a star, the larger the dot representing it. None of us knew it was Gemini. None of us knew the definition given in the next starter referred to pink noise. Douglas Morton recognized the latin axiom we call Occam’s Razor, and this earned the constellation bonuses. I’ll be honest, the only one that I got was Orion as well. That took them to 45, as opposed to Kellogg’s 15.

Douglas Morton had a very good early buzz to identify the name of Barcelona’s Olympic stadium. Bonuses on Peter Morgan’s scripts about the Queen or Tony Blair brought another five points. Victoria Ball knew about Gesellschaft. Gesundheit. One bonus on political Garcias brought them to 30 points. Evan Lynch knew that oxygen and silicon make up about 70% of the Earth’s crust. Alchemical terms took their score to 80. On to the music starter, and nobody knew the Habanero from Carmen. I knew it was from Carmen, but no cigar for that. Vivek Midha knew that Super 8 is the format which was much used by amateur filmmakers. Bonuses on classical music took them to 3 figures. Maybe JPs words of encouragement worked at this point since the Kellogg skipper, Jonathan Finlay came in to answer that Curtmantle, Rufus and the Merry Monarch all had the regnal number 2. Now, bonuses on Banksy installations brought a slight controversy. Asked in which tourist attraction Banksy had installed a likeness of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Kellogg answered ‘Disneyland, Florida’. Now, as we all know, DisneyLAND, the original, is in Anaheim California. Orlando, Florida is home to DisneyWORLD. Since the answer was the original, JP would not allow it because they appended Florida to the answer. For what it’s worth I think the adjudication was correct – judging by the answer they meant Disneyworld, which was incorrect. Harsh, I know, but fair. The one correct answer they managed took them to 45 as opposed to Christ’s 100 on the cusp of the 20 minute mark. I’m sorry to say it, but I was finding this particular match quite slow going.

Onto the last mad gallop, then. Joe Kitchen knew that the Giant’s Casueway is made of basalt, and buzzed in impressively early. For some reason it gave me huge pleasure to hear Roger Tilling intone ‘Christ’s Kitchen’, but then that’s my problem, and I’ll just have to deal with it. French intellectuals and philosophers brought their score to 120, and I doubt that anybody seriously thought that Kellogg were going to be able to come back now. The second picture starter brought up the word Hungarian in Hungarian. Now, I don’t know Hungarian, but I do know that anything starting with the word Magyar is going to be related to Hungary, as did Douglas Morton. 2 more of the same were correctly answered as bonuses. Joe Kitchen knew the Fowler Brothers who worked on the Concise English Dictionary. A UC special set on words composed of letters in reverse alphabetical order sounded more difficult than they were and again Christ’s added two more bonuses. The two countries in the world with the definite article as part of their official two word names are The Gambia and The Bahamas. Douglas Morton supplied the former, which was all that was required for the next starter. Poor old Kellogg seemed completely demoralized at this point and just couldn’t find their buzzing range at all. Bonuses on the regnal name Theodore brought a rare full house, and that momentarily took the wind out of Christ’s sails, allowing Jonathan Finlay to identify Apatosaurus and Diplodocus as Sauropods. They took one bonus on bridges. Joe Kitchen resumed the Christ’s march on the second round, knowing that Gray wrote ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’. The almost inevitable two bonuses on fish took them to over 200. The gong ended the match before we had time to complete the next starter.

So Christ’s won by 205 to 60. Kellogg weren’t brilliant, and you have to say that they’re probably not one of the best team’s that Oxford could boast. But with UC, when it comes to assigning places in the series the overall quality of the teams within a collegiate Uni, or within an area, isn’t the only consideration. I’m neither saying that’s a good nor bad thing, just that it is what it is. As for Christ’s, that was a good performance, although it is difficult to judge just how good, and I doubt we’ll really know until they come up against a better team on the buzzer in the next round.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP for some reason best known to himself seemed to find Victoria Ball’s suggestion of the Whale as the constellation starter rather ridiculous. One sensed a sarky rejoinder was hovering on his lips. However JP has always seemed to be susceptible to an attractive lady, and so he choked back the chortle. He also laughed at Douglas Morton’s irreverent suggestion that Peter Morgan’s screenplay about Tony Blair and Bill Clinton was called Sooty II. Well, quite.

I didn’t think that Kellogg were doing that badly, but just past the 15 minute mark JP felt obliged to tell them that there was still plenty of time, which as we all know is guaranteed to make your spirits sink as it’s the closest UC has to a kiss of death. JP seemed surprised that Kellogg could bounce back from this to answer the next starter, as he murmured “impressively quick.”

The generally light hearted tone of the proceedings continued when Christ’s suggested Jaques Chirac as one of a set of French philosophers and thinkers. JP rose to the bait and replied, “I don’t think you could call him an intellectual by any stretch of the imagination. “ Yes, Jez, that was the point. I wonder if he’d have said the same if they’d said Marcel Marceau or Pepe le Pew?

You have to give it to JP. He makes you think that he’s gone soft, telling Kellogg that they had come and taken part, and that was the main thing – quite right, but then he had to go and remind us that the iron fist could come out of the velvet glove at a moment’s notice, saying “You did what you could . . . which wasn’t very much.”

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

Ununoctium (which I did know about) is actually the 7th noble gas. This renders a question I asked in a quiz last Sunday incorrect. 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Mastermind 2016 - Round One: Heat Four

Here we are again, friends – another four contenders, two of whom are Mastermind virgins, and two of whom aren’t. More examples of the enduring truths about Mastermind? Well, yes, maybe. We’ll see about that as we go through.

Now, The Academy Awards since 1970 is one of those specialist subject that is actually a lot wider and a lot harder than it sounds. For most of us, I would imagine that we immediately think we could do quite well on best actor- actress – picture Oscars, and maybe supporting actor and actress as well. How about the unsuccessful nominees though? Not to mention all the technical categories. So when you consider all of that, Dave Lodwig’s first round 10 points was a pretty decent score, I thought. Having said that, though, in the context of this year’s contest so far it looked as if it could well land him 4 or 5 points behind at the turn, and that’s a very substantial deficit to have to make up.

Janet Parfitt offered us Weimar Germany, and my 1980 O Level History, and 1982 A Level History courses saw me through to 5 points. Now, I don't wish to be harsh but the fact is that Janet appeared 2 years ago, and also scored 6 on her specialist round then. Bearing this in mind, it does make me want to use her round as an example of what can happen if your preparation does not actually prepare you for the show. What I mean by that is that I’m not necessarily saying that Janet didn’t learn her stuff, and didn’t know her stuff. But I am surprised that, after what happened last time she was on the show, her preparation didn’t prepare her for being in the chair. So when she had one or two wrong she fell into a pass spiral which she found it very difficult to extricate herself from. Of course, it’s very difficult to recreate the studio conditions, but I think it’s very useful to train yourself to answer questions on your subject in quickfire – it helps make that vital skill of ignoring a wrong answer and getting on with answering the next to become second nature, and that’s very useful if you have a couple wrong in a round.

I’ve often said that experience in the chair is very useful, and Andrew Burrows has that, albeit from over a decade ago. In Shaun’s 2004 series Andrew reached the semifinal, so he knows what it takes to win a show. This explains how he gave a terrific demonstration of how to construct a very good specialist score on the band King Crimson. I was a bit young for King Crimson first time round, but I was always partial to a bit of prog rock through my teens, and so I still managed to pick up a handful on the round. Andrew, though, did considerably better, and arguably took both Janet and Dave out of the equation by scoring an impressive 14.

David Horan, though, had no intention of making things easy for Andrew to reach a second semi final. Now, while Janet’s round relied heavily for me on my O and A Level History courses, I gave thanks to Mr. John Browning, who was one of my A Level English teachers, and Mr. Stan Tottman, who was Head of the English Faculty at Goldies (London University Goldsmiths’ College for the uninitiated) for developing my love of Hopkins’ poetry, which enabled me to pluck off enough of these to take my overall aggregate for the show’s specialist rounds to 21. Not as high as last week, but still a decent effort. Not as decent as David’s, though. He seemed to surprise himself with a terrific perfect round of 14. Game on.

First, though, Janet returned to the chair. I have to pay tribute to her ready smile as she returned to the chair after a specialist round which she must have found rather disappointing. And to be fair she had good reason for optimism having scored 16 on GK last time out. Sadly lightning didn't strike twice this time. Her passes this time looked more tactical, a decision to move quickly on if the answer didn’t pop immediately into her head, and that is a valid tactic, but in the end she could only take her overall score to 14.

Right, remember how I made the point earlier of preparing for quickfire questions so that the answer reflex becomes ingrained, and you don’t dwell on wrong answers? Well if anything this is even more important in the GK round. Yes, it’s only 30 seconds longer than the specialist, but if you let a question pull you up in your tracks the last 45 seconds to a minute of the round can be extremely difficult. In Dave’s round he really started off as you would expect a very good GK quizzer to, and I’m sure that Dave is a good GK quizzer, judging by some of his answers. However just over a minute and half into the round, and a couple of wrong answers robbed him of momentum, and in the end he finished with 12. Ideally you want those coming after you on GK to need something in double figures to put them into the corridor of doubt.

Andrew never really looked in any doubt as he returned to the chair. He passed the target with enough time to answer quite a few more questions. You felt that it was going to be a case of the banker pays 13s and over, but that was a little beyond Andrew on the night, and in the end he posted 11 to take his total to 25. Would that put David into the corridor of doubt? Well, only David himself could probably answer that one, but I would imagine so. Cards on the table, no disrespect intended towards Andrew, but I have to root for the teacher, albeit a retired teacher, and that was David tonight. He started well, though, and although points were dropped here and there, he was never behind the clock. In fact his round progressed in a remarkably similar fashion to Andrew’s, although he was on 25 with time enough for another answer. It didn’t matter, since he too scored 11, and also finished with 25. I’ll come clean, I hadn’t been counting the passes, but I knew it was close. It was too, but Andrew had incurred 5 in total, and Dave 4, and that one less pass was the price of victory. As John said, 25 rules Andrew in with a shout of a repechage spot, but I fear those 5 passes may rule him out. Time will tell. Congratulations David, best of luck in the semis.


Dave Lodwig
The Academy Awards since 1970
10
1
12
1
22
2
Janet Parfitt
Weimar Germany
6
5
8
7
14
12
Andrew Burrows
King Crimson
14
0
11
5
25
5
David Horan
Gerard Manley Hopkins
14
0
11
4
25
4

Monday, 24 August 2015

University Challenge 2016: Round One Heat 6

Institute of Cancer Research London v. St. George’s London

And so to a London derby. Not just a London derby, but a London University derby. Not just a London University derby, but a derby between two colleges specializing in the Sciences. The Institute of Cancer Research team consisted of Stuart Rankin, Ravindhi Nathavitharana, Josh Meyers and their skipper Sabrina Talukdar. Their opposition was provided by St. George’s who in their turn were represented by
Alex Costley-White, Charles Nicholas, Lucy Studd and their own captain Tom Burns.

As soon as the first question asked in which sport the first world championship was contested between Transylvania and Flanders I had the feeling that Transylvania meant that we were dealing with Quidditch. Tom Burns was the first one to buzz, and thus earned his team bonuses on quotations by Nobel prize winning scientists, of which they took 2. Nobody knew that Marguerite Johnson, but Tom Burns, shaking his head as he did so, guessed correctly. Their bonuses were on Jeanette Winterson, and I recognized the first lines from “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit”. St. George’s only managed the one bonus. Charles Nicholas won the buzzer race to recognize various definitions of the word Muse. Two bonuses on Mercury Music Prize winners took their score to 55 unanswered points. Charles Nicholas took his second starter in a row, knowing that two African country whose names differ only in their initial letters are Gambia and Zambia. Terms beginning with oo brought them another 5 points, and you sensed that JP was maybe preparing his never-popular “Don’t worry, plenty of time left” speech for the Institute. You know you’re in trouble when he tells you that. The picture round showed us all the railway stops on a railway line between two UK cities. Dyce airport showed that one was Aberdeen, and Elgin showed that the other had to be Inverness. Stuart Rankin took that one much to his team’s relief, and JP popped the comment back into the box for another day. They took one of the bonuses, which were all more of the same. So at the 10 minute mark despite being second best for most of the last few minutes they had pulled back the gap to 50, as they trailed 65-15.

Nobody recognized Dylan Thomas from the next starter. However a biology starter on the word capsid fell to Sabrina Talukdar. Two bonuses on team GB in the 2014 Winter Olympics made their score look a lot more healthy. Alex Costley-White knew the work about the financial crisis called “Too Big To Fail” This brought bonuses on Holst’s Planets Suite, but the three bonuses went begging. Charles Nicholas recognized the famous quote about sitting on top of a rocket, thinking about the fact that it had been built by the lowest bidder, made by John Glenn. Adaptations of plays by Shakespeare took them to the brink of a triple figure score. For the music starter Ravindhi Nathavitharana was very quick to recognize the tones of Michael Jackson when he was just a wee nipper in the Jackson 5 with his brothers. Three bonuses featuring bands or artists whose names also contained the names of US presidents followed, and these proved to be more difficult for the team. As did the last two Communist Party MPs in the UK. Tom Burns knew that the Choral symphony is Beethoven’s 9th. This brought triple figures and a set of bonuses on low temperatures. I didn’t understand the questions, and none of us knew the answers. Move on. Oh goody, another biochemistry question followed. Tom Burns had it. Bonuses on Mediterranean Islands only provided another 5 points. At the 20 minute mark St George’s led 120 – 45 – which probably was not a reflection of how comfortably they were winning the buzzer race, but up to this point they just weren’t putting away the bonuses.

Lucy Studd was first in on the second picture starter to identify a still from the film Fargo. Other culturally important or significant films brought them their first full house. Suddenly they had a 100 point lead. Sabrina Talukdar was first in to spell effervescent correctly for the next starter. A rather lovely UC special bonus set followed – where the team were given a list of words which would come up when the name of a city was googled – for example castle – Festival etc for Edinburgh. Two correct answers put them up to 65. This seemed to galvanise The Institute a little for Sabrina Talukdar won the buzzer race to take her second consecutive starter, knowing that Robert Graves wrote “The White Goddess”. World heritage sites in Africa brought them nowt. Nobody knew that the A in ADSL stands for asymmetric.  Alec Costley-White knew that Kazakhstan is the world’s 9th largest country. I suspect that had the question been completed it might have said – and the world’s largest landlocked country – still, a very good shout that. 5 points on William Morris followed. Nobody knew that the Pritzker prize is in the field of architecture. Charles Nicholas worked out that the word mimic is an anagram of the roman numerals for 2102. Nursing procedures offered a potential full house, but there was no great necessity for it in terms of the match, and they managed 2. Charles Nicholas knew that Shield – United FC – Eagles can each be preceded by Sheffield. There was no time for Malay words in English, and at the gong the score was 190 – 70.

In the end, a very convincing win for St. George’s, although I’m not yet convinced they’ll be going much further in the competition. Time will tell – first round form is notoriously unreliable. Well played, and hard lines to the Institute for Cancer Research.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Not much this week. When The Institute for Cancer Research failed to identify Jeffersion Airplane he gave them a wry look before replying ,”You’re too wholesome, I imagine, for it.”
He hates the teams getting literature questions wrong, does our Jez, but he’s also not happy when they miss out on UK politics as well. When neither team guessed that both of the last Communist party MPs lost their seats in 1950 he gave a look as if an invisible puppy had just defecated under his nose.
After giving the correct answer to a question – The Bose-Einstein Concentrate – he cheekily asked ‘did you understand that?- Well, be honest Jez, did you?
When Alec Costley-White buzzed in immediately to answer that the 9th largest country in the world is Kazakhstan our JP seemed very impressed – asking him if he knew the other 8. “No!” he smiled. Blooming good answer anyway. Not that JP could allow him any satisfaction in his answer “What a weird thing to know” he offered by way of a Parthian shot.
With the nursing bonuses you just knew that JP would have a field day is St George’s had any wrong, and when they failed to identify a method of artificial respiration he chortled “I don’t think you’re ready to operate yet.” Predictable, Mr. P., predictable.

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


The skeleton bobsled event in the Winter Olympics is also called the Cresta.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Mastermind 2016 - Round One - heat three

Well, I’ve just finished watching Friday’s show, and I found it an interesting demonstration of the some of the enduring truths about the show. We’ll get to those as they arise.

First to go then was retired teacher Diane Hardman. Now, as you know one of the pathetic facts about me is that I’m proud of being the last schoolteacher to win the series – we’ve had University and College lecturers win since, but not school teachers. But, and I am being sincere here, when another fellow schoolteacher does win the show I will be absolutely delighted for her or him. Diane was answering on Christopher Marlowe and it was interesting to see that her round had been loaded with a majority of ‘life of’ questions in the first two thirds or so, and then questions on the works more towards the end. I was glad about that myself, since the works questions pushed me up to 6 on what should, on paper, have been a good SS week for me. 13 and 2 passes was a very good return on a tricky round, I thought.

Remember season 9 of “Only Connect”? Yes you do (3  words – American Municipal Bankruptcies!) One of the teams that caught the eye in that series were LAM readers The Heath family. Well, skipper Alan,  doubtless supported by Heather and Kip, made his Mastermind debut in this heat. His specialist subject? I,Claudius, specifically the BBC TV series. I love the TV series, but even more than that I have read and re-read the two original Robert Graves book until the covers have literally fallen off them. I’d venture to say that it must be the same for Alan, since he provided us with a flawless example of a perfect round – and I dare say he could have gone on doing the same all night. For the record I missed out on the director’s name, but it pushed me up to 20 for my SS aggregate for the show, which is already a record for this series for me. Alan, I wonder if you could have answered if you'd been asked the name of the actor who played the son of Sejanus (Patrick Stewart) in the series? I only know because it was my mate Alfonso DiLieto (Fonzie) who I was at school with. He filmed it when he was at the Italia Conti school before joining my school. He continued to get small royalty cheques from all over the world for all the time we were at school. Fonzie also claimed that he sang the original Finger of Fudge is Just Enough advert, but I don't know if that was a wind up or not. Apologies for the digression. 

Arkle, our 3rd SS of the show, looked to be the most difficult for me. Still, I did know Mill House, and that provided the one point that I needed to give me a great shout of getting at least one question right in each of the 4 specialist rounds. Grenville Davies, needless to say, knew his stuff a lot better than I did. Based on my extremely limited knowledge this seemed like a pretty difficult set of questions, and Grenville, while he was never quite going to break any speed records, maintained a steady momentum right throughout the round. In another show his 12 and no passes might have put him on the lead, or at least on the leader’s shoulder. 3 points behind Alan though looked a significant gap.

Enduring truths about Mastermind, then. John Thompson will have been disappointed with his round of 6 points on Joseph Stalin, I’m sure. Nobody deliberately gets questions wrong on Mastermind (despite what Michael Burton claimed in 2009), and so I don’t wish to make things any worse for John. I use it merely as an example – it was one of those rounds where you felt that something had gone wrong. I’m sure that John was quite badly affected by nerves. However, one of the things that can make you more nervous is being asked a question in the first half minute which makes you realise that you haven’t learned your subject as well as you thought you did. Which brings me to the enduring truth – you can’t cut corners when learning your subject. If you think – oh, they’ll never ask me that- about a particular fact or set of information, then you can practically guarantee that you’ll be asked that.

Actually John’s round, and his subsequent GK round lead me to another enduring truth. While there are occasions when a show is won by a truly outstanding SS round, more often than not you can lose the show on SS, while more often than not you win it on GK. John went on after his SS round to return to the chair and give us a great GK round. Like Grenville earlier, he wasn’t fast, but for the most part he was pretty accurate. Even on a 2 and a half minute round, 14 is a pretty useful GK score, and had he matched the other 3 contenders in specialist, then he would have given himself a chance of a repechage semi final slot. If there is a crumb of comfort for John to draw, on this evidence he has the general knowledge to compete. Now, it’s a lot easier for a contender with a mediocre SS to improve that, than it is for a contender with a mediocre general knowledge to improve enough to make a difference on a subsequent appearance. That’s harsh, I know. But it’s true.

So to the business end of the competition. Grenville Davies’ GK round illustrated a couple of enduring truths about the GK round. All Grenville could do was to put the two remaining contenders into the corridor of uncertainty, and achieve the kind of score which would at least give him a chance of a repechage slot. And for at least the first minute and a half he looked as if this was a distinct possibility. Then the score hit 20, and Grenville had a couple of wrong answers. One of the enduring truths of the GK round is that it’s a marathon, and not a sprint. Another is that momentum, and maintaining momentum are vitally important. Poor Grenville looked as if he was mulling over the couple of wrong answers, and this put him into a spiral of passes and wrong answers which he just couldn’t pull himself out of. In the end he finished with 20 overall – nothing to be ashamed of, but I would venture to say he is potentially a bit better than that.

Now, we come to Diane’s GK round. I wonder if you noticed something that I did? I’ll come to that in a moment. What I liked about Diane’s round was that she kept her head, and maintained her momentum, answering what she could as the questions went past. It wasn’t a great total, nor one which gives her a realistic chance of a repechage slot, but 22 is nothing to be ashamed of, especially since I dare say that Diane probably isn’t a regular quizzer judging by some of her answers. Now to the interesting bit. For one of her questions, she hesitated then replied er. . . um. John H. decided that this was an attempt at an answer, and helpfully moved her on by giving the correct answer. Now, hang on a minute. Did that REALLY constitute an answer? To me, it didn’t, and was the sort of thing I’ve seen John take as a pass before now. OK, it made no difference to the result or the positions of the show, but it’s the sort of thing we need to watch out for.

Right, let’s move onto Alan’s round and one final enduring truth. If you are a regular quizzer, then you have an advantage in MM – in the same way that if you are a serious golfer you probably have a much better chance of winning your club’s monthly medal than a weekend hacker. It didn’t take very long at all for Alan to win the show, and he just kept on answering the questions in a way which made winning the show look ridiculously easy. It isn’t easy scoring 16 on GK of course. Although I would say that answering questions sitting in the chair gets easier the more times that you do it – that’s not an enduring truth, mind you, it’s just my opinion , and as with everything else I write, feel free to disagree.

That was a terrific display Alan. I honestly wish you every success in the final.

The Details


Diane Hardman
Christopher Marlowe
13
2
9
2
22
2
Alan Heath
I, Claudius
15
0
16
0
31
0
Grenville Davies
Arkle
12
0
8
5
20
5
John Thompson
Joseph Stalin
6
4
14
2
20
6

Apologies

Sorry everyone, I've been away for the weekend in Worthing, but I'll start to catch up as quickly as I can.