Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Only Connect - Making the matches

In my review of Monday's show I asked how it was that two such formidable teams came to be drawn against each other in the first round. I posted the same query on the IQAGB forum, and I am indebted to David Bodycombe for this reply -

"Teams are matched up on the basis of which dates they can do, and what make the most interesting match-ups (e.g. programme 1's Oxford vs Cambridge is a lot more interesting than, say, Vets vs Northerners).

I don't think previous form is particularly considered. What looks like a good team on paper may have a nightmare, there's not much legislating for that (for example, I think few people expected the Mathematicians to win on show 2)."

Thank you for explaining that David.
Personally I honestly don't mind where teams come from, or who they represent. I think its all about how they play the game, but then that's just my opinion. The point has been raised on the same forum that a good match up like show 3 is a lot more entertaining than watching one team crush another, and there's a lot of truth in that too.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

TV Watch Supplementary - Knowitalls

I do apologise for including this in its own seperate review, but I've only discovered it since writing the UC and OC reviews. Knowitalls, on BBC Two, makes a great play of the fact that its a quiz show with a difference, since there aren't any questions. As such its not a quiz at all. However it is a test of knowledge under pressure, which puts it firmly within the remit of LAM. Last night's University Challenge revealed that Norman Mailer is credited with coining the word 'factoid'. Well, this show is actually the apotheosis of the humble factoid.

The show is presented by Gyles 'Marmite' Brandreth. Actually some of my friends think that Gyles is only half like Marmite because they would say that you either hate him or you hate him. I quite like the feller in small doses. The show is basically a knockout tournament. Two teams of three contestants play against each other for a place in the next round. For each show, there are three nominated subject areas. These tend to be huge, catch-all topics. Last night's were Entertainment, History and Science. In the first round , one by one each contestant comes up and is given a specific subject eg - The Carry On Films - and given a minute or two to talk about it. They face a panel of three experts - one for each subject area. The expert for each area will set three key words or phrases for each subject area, and the contestant has to mention these for five points. Then they are awarded additional points for each relevant fact they mention. The slight problem with this, and its a problem that runs throughout the show, is that it is merely one person's opinion about what the most important facts are. For example, would you really say that one of the three most important facts about Queen Elizabeth Ist was that she had red hair ? The expert did. In the world of Knowitalls all facts are equal, but some are more equal than others, so it seems. Carping aside, I thought that all of the contestants were impressive, particularly the ones who tackled the Norman Invasion, and Queen Elizabeth Ist - who did get the point for mentioning red hair, by the way.

In the second round the teams worked together, and were given a minute to think of the most interesting fact they could about a given topic - eg. Frank Sinatra. The first team revealed that Frank Sinatra was married to Ava Gardner. True, although hardly likely to make anyone drop their TV dinner from their laps in amazement. They might have said that of his other wives, Nancy Barbato was his first wife, and this is why before they were divorced he always ended his set by singing 'Nancy with the Laughing Face' , or that Mia Farrow was younger than his daughters when he married her, or even that his last wife, Barbara, was the widow of Harpo Marx. Sorry, showing off. The second team came up with a beautiful factoid - that members of the Mafia were divided between those who could shake Sinatra's hand, and those who couldn't. Cue Head of Compliance having a near coronary, I'm sure, and the expert explaining that this fact was non verifiable. Ava Gardner thus won the point.

There's a couple of things I'm not clear about. At the start of the show it says that the teams have been given the subjects and then just one hour to pool all they know about them before the show starts. Does this mean that they have been just told - today's categories are History - Entertainment - Science, for the sake of argument, or have they actually been told - today's subjects are Only Fools and Horses , Carry On Films, Queen Elizabeth Ist etc. etc. It makes a difference. Some of the performances were extremely impressive, and it becomes a little more understandable if they had an hour to prepare specific topics, rather than huge subject areas. Still impressive, though.

Still, onto the final round. This reminded me even more strongly of an old show called Password, and to an extent, the section of Richard and Judy's old show where the viewer at home had to use clues to get Richard to say a particular word or phrase. I think the pyramid game used something similar too, although I may be mistaken. In this round, in turns each member of the team would be given a topic, and have to get one of the key words as quickly as possible, or pass. An exciting and fast moving round, but again you might argue that some of the key word choices seemed a little arbitrary. The show was decided on a straightforward tally up of points totals, with the winners progressing to the next round.

A look on the IQAGB website reveals that opinion on this show is rather polarised. For what its worth I have to say I rather enjoyed it. The fact that its a half hour long is a huge bonus. Whatever else you might think about it, the show is fast - moving. I do think there's an issue with regard to the key points. There's a very large proportion of the potential amount of points which come just from identifying the key words and phrases, and this sits a little at odds with the idea of 'knowing it all' for me. Myself, I'm a straightforward question and answer man, but I found that there was quite a bit to enjoy in this. I shall continue to watch with interest.

TV Watch - University Challenge Heat 4 - Only Connect Heat 3

University Challenge - First Round Heat 4 - Clare College Cambridge v. Jesus College Oxford

Tonight saw our first Cambridge v. Oxford showdown. Jeremy Paxman waxed lyrical, calling them two of the most beautiful educational establishments in the country. Well and good. Now normally I am able to remain completely impartial during an Oxbridge match. However sitting on the far right of the Clare team, Matt Cliffe announced that he is from Ealing, West London. Well, that makes two of us. Now bearing in mind that each of the colleges or Universities that I've burdened with my support so far in this series have all lost, I was tempted to support Jesus College to see if I could hex them as well. But I reasoned that to do such a thing would be an abuse of my powers.
I did check to see if there was a Jones within the Jesus team, but alas no, so we were spared the amusing possibility of Roger Tilling announcing " Jesus - Jones "

On with the show. Clare College snaffled up the first starter but failed to convert bonuses. For the next 6 or 7 minutes it was all Jesus College. It was interesting to see poker hands being used as a picture bonus. Thankfully the answers weren't any of the obscure terms which had been called for in last week's Only Connect. I was also very interested to hear that it was Norman Mailer who coined the term 'factoid'. There was me thinking it was Steve Wright.

Ten Minutes into the show and my boy Cliffe scored Clare's second starter. They had a couple of stinkers for their bonuses. I have never heard of the Tulip Revolution, yet apparently it only happened as recently as 2005. Cliffe scored the next starter as well, and Captain Hegarty was happy to pass the bonuses over to him . Clare now appeared to be making a fight of it, but there was a large gap to make up, even though the show wasn't yet half over. A Music starter saw Jeremy Paxman barely disguising his disdain that none of the players recognised the piece of music was by Mendelsson . "It is rather a famous piece of music by Mendelsson . . . still never mind " he sighed, more in sorrow than in anger. There was an interesting question about quotes from Marshall Macluhan. "There is no difference between Education and Entertainment. " All I can say is that Marshall Macluhan never saw me trying to teach French a few years ago.

Clare were never buzzed out of the last half of the show in the same way that they were outplayed in the first ten minutes, but it fair to say that Jesus continued to have slightly the better of the play right up until the gong. I was delighted to hear two late bonus questions about Robert Recorde of Tenby. Maybe not across the whole of the UK, but certainly in South Wales the question about him being the man who invented the equals sign has been doing the rounds for some time.

In the end Jesus ran out worthy winners with a score of 215, which impressed our Jeremy, and is certainly a good score when you think that Clare were no mugs. In particular Mr. Speller of Jesus College looks to be a bit of a star. I may well be wrong, but I think he was responsible for 8 starters, and that's very good going. As for Clare, Mr. Hegarty played a captain's innings with 5 starters, and their 165 puts them in second place on the repechage board, behind last week's runners - up University College London. So the teams that have received support from the Clark sofa maintain their 100% record of coming second. Any teams in next year's competition who wish to bribe me to support their opposition can contact me through email !

Only Connect - First Round Heat 3 - The History Boys v. The Rugby Boys

Last week we saw youth pitted against experience, with youth emerging victorious. Tonight, though, we had experience versus experience. All 6 of the players on show tonight were experienced and successful quizzers, and all of them have a TV track record. Up for the History Boys were Rob Hannah, Gareth Kingston and Craig Element. Rob was, by some distance, the youngest player in either team last night, but he's only young in terms of years, not quiz experience. Rob reached the last 16 of last year's Are You An Egghead, and along with Craig he was a member of the highest earning winning team on the second series of Battle of the Brains. Hardly a novice at all. Craig I have already mentioned, and as for Gareth, well you may well remember him as a Mastermind semi-finallist in the last series.

The Rugby boys have an equally impressive pedigree. I've played against them many times, in Newport, in the CIU and other places as well. Richard Parnell is quite simply one of the finest quizzers in South Wales, and I can vouch for the fact that he is a truly formidable opponent. I believe that he was a £125,000 winner on Millionaire. Gary Dermody captained The Ant Hill Mob in the first series of Battle of the Brains, a team containing both Richie and Mark. As for Mark himself, well he's probably the highest profile quizzer we've seen in this series so far, following his recent stint on The Chase. Other notable performances in Mark's action packed career include a big Millionaire win, and coming runner up to Chris Hughes in Brain of Britain.

All of which begs the question. What is the show doing pitting two such formidable teams against each other in the first round ? Well, maybe that's a little unfair. For all I know all of the other teams we haven't seen yet are equally strong. I'd be surprised if they were all as strong as this, though. Oh well, on with the show. The History Boys started well and confidently, but the Rugby Boys started like an express train, picking off the answers after only needing one or two clues. This first round was a stunning performance, which put me in mind of the Crossworders in last year's final. At the end of round 1 Rugby led History by 7 points to 2.

In round two at least the Rugby Boys showed that they are not totally infallible by confusing Welland - as in the canal, with Yelland - as in the former editor of the Sun. The express train had slowed appreciably, as the History Boys had the better of the round, scoring 6 points to the Rugby Boys' 4, taking the score to 11 - 8.

The Connections Wall saw the Rugby Boys go first. Characters from ER - types of heel - young of creatures and occupational surnames were all unravelled to see the team take maximum points. I'll be honest, I would have struggled, because of the ER connection. I'm not entirely sure I would have got all of the heels either. The History Boys' wall was tricky too. They quickly saw that four of the names were Hungarian, and another four were types of moustache. However types of skirt , and words linked with -pig prove too much. I can't say anything, I couldn't see either connection myself until they were pointed out at the end. So the Rugby Boys' lead increased, as the score went to 21 - 13.

To be fair, the History Boys had a real bash at the missing vowels round, but so did the Rugby Boys, as most were taken between them, although neither team was too sure on the ice-skating terms. At the end the score was 28 - 17. 17 as a losing score is really good, which bears out my point that I do think that the show may have dropped a small clanger by matching up two such good teams in the first round, although I am willing to be proven wrong in this. Congratulations to the Rugby Boys - this was a formidable performance, and it will take something special to beat them, I fancy.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Quiz Appeal - Please Give Generously

I'm going away for a little while - to Spain as it happens. So don't get too worried if I go for more than a few days without posting anything new. Tonight is probably the last quiz I'm going to participate in before we're actually going. Don't worry - I'll still be reviewing tonight's Only Connect and University Challenge tomorrow, through the magic of the iplayer. What I wanted to ask - and this is a hell of a long shot, I know, is whether by any chance there's any of you out there who know the Alicante area, and know of any quizzes going on ?!!

First time we went I found a great little quiz in a very english area. The quiz itself was in a pub in either Catral or Crevillente - sorry, I can't remember which. However when I went back last year that seemed to have gone the way of all flesh. So if you know anything, or have any recommendations, please have mercy on me, and drop me a line. You're a lifesaver.

TV Watch - Guesstimation BBC1 Saturday Night

Haven't I seen You Somewhere Before ?

I've always thought that it makes sense for the BBC to build a quiz/game show around the National Lottery slot on a Saturday evening. After all, the possibility of winning cash you've never earned just by playing a game is surely the appeal of both. In their time the BBC have tried out a wide range of different formats in this particular slot. Some of them have been successful and relatively enjoyable. This is all subjective, but I liked The People Versus and Winning Lines. I know that In It To Win It and 1 versus 100 have their admirers too. My first TV appearence was actually in a Saturday night big money quiz - Come and Have A Go If You Think You're Smart Enough, with Nicky Campbell. Fact is that we weren't . However, I say this to prove a point, that I have no particular axe to grind against BBC Saturday evening offerings, and that I always try to judge each different show on its own merits.

Which brings me to Guesstimation. As a quiz this is very much towards the Game Show end of the quiz show spectrum. Basically the show involves two family teams competing against each other by making the most accurate predictions of the answers to a series of questions set by Nick Knowles. More about him later. The winners earn themselves a 'dream holiday to a mystery location'. Actually the location wasn't that much of a mystery. They did a little teaser to give a clue, and short of festooning the screen with kiwis and All-Blacks they couldn't have done a great deal more to give away the fact that New Zealand was the destination . Certainly it didn't require a huge amount of guesswork.

Actually to be fair some of the questions were quite interesting. Apparently there are 72 ( I think ) bathrooms in Buckingham Palace, and over 1200 steps in the Eiffel Tower. I found myself playing along, and seriously trying to work out an estimate of how much the victorious New Zealand Rugby League team might have weighed in kilograms. So far so good, then. There is actually the germ of a nice little quiz in there, albeit a quiz about things you are highly unlikely to know the absolutely correct answer to. Although having said that one of the questions was how fast in mph the world's fastest recorded serve in tennis was - and that's gettable. As it was one of the teams had 150mph, which is only 5 mph out.

However, the bugbear is that this is still a game show. Actually its at least two different game shows, that you've probably seen before. Now I don't mean to imply that formats have been plagiarised , or copyrights infringed. As Churchill once said - "Oh no no no no. " ( That's the insurance dog, not Sir Winston ). But if you're like me you do get a feeling that you're watching something familiar, rather similar to things you've seen before. This is a quiz show, meets Family Fortunes, meets You Bet. I know that there's a sizeable number of people out there who do enjoy the All Star version of Family Fortunes, and who enjoyed the original, but I'm afraid I'm not one of them. This probably has to do with the fact that a certain type of question master seems to delight in using Family Fortunes questions as a randomizing factor in his or her quizzes. They'll ask -
"In a recent survey . . . "
and the quiz maniac within me, never that far from the surface, longs to shout out - Oh yes ? Carried out by whom ? Under what conditions ? When ? Where ? etc. etc. However, I digress.
As for the You Bet element, since its a Game show, and a Saturday night, we have to have Big Star Mystery Guests. And to be fair, the two guests were very big boys indeed. Ex Wigan and Great Britain Rugby League star Martin Offiah, and Britain's Strongest Man Glen Ross to be precise. With apologies to the two gentlemen involved, I have to say that I found the "How Many full milk bottles are enough to balance Martin Offiah on a seesaw ? " and "How many times in 45 seconds can Glen Ross dead lift a family hatchback car ? " to be the least interesting questions of the evening.

Yes, its a game show, and so its obligatory that We Have To Get To Know The Families. Now, don't get me wrong, the two families involved seemed very nice and pleasant people. But that's not what I tuned in for. Actually what I tuned in for was to see if it was any good. So if you push me for an opinion, I'd say that it was alright. Nick Knowles, who made a decent enough fist of Who Dares Wins last year does a competent and inoffensive job with his trademark breezy and blokey style. To be honest, though, and this is no reflection on Mr. Knowles, I think he needs something a little more quizzy than this. Something as fun-and-gamey as this really cries out for an old fashioned comedian/presenter in the great tradition of the 60's, 70's and 80's. Bruce Forsythe may not be everybody's cup of tea - actually he may not be anybody's cup of tea nowadays - but I invite you to think back to his Generation Game heyday. Think what he might have done with the 'lets humiliate the person with the most ridiculous answer ' bit which followed each question. Nick Knowles is really a bit too nice on this bit. I know that this is Saturday evening family entertainment, but you can still be rude, or at least cheeky, with a smile on your face. Or put it another way, if you're not going to do it with conviction, then don't do it at all.

I'm carping. Its only the fact that a few questions are asked within the show that brings it within our remit at all in the first place. Its an undemanding, inoffensive if a little derivative, Saturday evening Game Show. Its not really my cup of tea, but then the whole family game show genre isn't really either, so who am I to judge ? I did like the fact that all the questions and answers came up on the screen, because it meant that I could watch most of the show on fast forward. For me it worked a lot better that way.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Thanks for your support

Its almost a year to the day since I started this blog. Checking back I see that the very first entry is dated for Sunday 27th July 2008. Now, here we are 364 days and 182 posts later, this being the 183rd. So I thought it would be nice to post to mark LAM's first anniversary.

I do look back over the past year with a huge amount of surprise, and there's more than one reason which makes me say this. Firstly, I have never in my whole life ever managed to keep anything even remotely resembling a diary going for more than about 2 months. Secondly, and far more importantly, I always hoped that some people would find the blog and read it, but I can't say that I ever really expected anyone to do so. The fact that people have done so, and that have taken time and trouble to contact me through it, or to leave comments has surprised and, yes, I'm honest enough to admit it, delighted me. So thank you very much all of you, regulars and casual readers alike. Here's to the next 12 months.

Answers to July Quiz


1) Two weeks ago who became the first woman since 1997 to win the Grand Final of Mastermind - and for a bonus point she also became the first champion from which country ?
Nancy Dickmann - USA

2) Which silent film actress was the original It girl ?
Clara BOW

3) On July 10th which famous traditional race was conducted on the River Thames in London ?
Doggett's COAT and Badge

4) Which substance has the chemical formula H2SO4 ?
Sulphuric ACID

5) What is the connection between your last three answers ?
All can be either preceded or followed by RAIN

6) The Letters DOC might be found on bottles of wine from which country?

7) Song lyrics - which famous song contains the lyric
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear.
Space Oddity

8) Which word is used for an elephant driver ?
A Mahout

9) True or false - the Battles of Agincourt and Bosworth were both in the same century
True - 1415 Agincourt and 1485 Bosworth

10) Which line of latitude forms most of the boundary between the USA and Canada ?
49th Parallel

11) Farah Fawcett died in June. She had married her long term partner, Ryan O'Neill. Who was her previous husband ?
Lee Majors

12) Who was the first ever South African to win the British Open ?

13) The Norman Mailer book "The Executioners Song" is about the execution of which notorious American killer ?
GARY Gilmore

14) Former opera singer Norman Lumsden achieved success playing which character in a long running series of adverts ?
J.R. Hartley

15) What is the connection between your last 3 answers ?

16) Which people were defeated by the Greeks of Athens in the Battle of Marathon ?

17) Oxford has been described as the city of dreaming what ?

18) What type of creature is a pipistrelle ?

19) Who was the founder of antiseptic surgery ?
Joseph Lister

20) Which dye or pigment was originally obtained from crushed beetles ?

21) Name the player whom Andy Murray defeated in Wimbledon's latest ever finish in the 3rd round of the 2009 championships
Stanislaus Wawrinka

22) Which dance is often believed to be Polish, even though its name actually comes from a 5 letter Czech word meaning little half ?

23) The word ferret , meaning a domesticated polecat, can also be used to mean a type of which thread ?

24) What was the name of the British tool company taken to court in the 90s over supplying arms and expertise to Iraq ?
MATRIX Churchill

25) Karl Malden, who died last week, was nominated for Best Supporting actor in 1954 for a role in which Elia Kazan film ?
ON THE Waterfront

26) What is the connection between your last 4 answers ?

27) Which old cartoon character was always foiled by Vince and Musky ?
Deputy Dawg

28) The Tour de France started last weekend. Who won the race in 2008 ?
Carlos Sastre

29) Which element of the periodic table is represented by the letter K ?

30) What is the capital city of Mozambique ?

41) Which date last week saw the 40th Anniversary of Swansea being made a city ?
3rd July

42) Which two time Oscar winning actress was born Shirley Schrift ? Her final Oscar nomination was for The Poseidon Adventure .

43) In or on which building would you find the Bell Harry Tower ?

44) Which aircraft company built the RAF Swordfish torpedo bombers which helped to sink the Bismarck in World war 2 ?

45) What is the connection between your last three answers ?

46) The Danish word for King is Kong. So when King Kong was released in Denmark was it called
a) King Kong - b) Kong Kong or c) Kong King ?
King Kong

47) Who was the dictator of Portugal, who died in 1970 ?

48) Which work of Literature begins with a collection of travellers gathering at the Tabard Inn in Southwark ?
The Canterbury Tales

49) Which term is usually applied to the marine mammals the manatees and dugongs ?
Sea Cows

50) Who was the last person to win the Wimbledon ladies singles other than the Williams sisters ?
Amelie Mauresmo

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Thursday Night Quiz - Post Mortem

Well, I'm sure that you've been waiting with baited breath to find out how the quiz on Thursday night went, haven't you. Haven't you ? Well probably not, if truth were known. Still it might be interesting to tell you how it went, after disclosing all my compiling secrets last week, and so for no better reason than that, here we go.

One of the observations I made was that I find it works best to set a quiz for the middle-ranking teams . Its a good job that I didn't do one of my harder quizzes. We're in the season when some of the regulars are off taking their holidays, and so some of the teams were thin on the ground. I hope that no one feels insulted when I say this, but Brian, Rob, Terry and I are probably the best individual quizzers who take part in the quiz. I was QM, and both Rob and Terry weren't there. Now in one way that's a good thing, as it hugely increases the chance of one of the other teams getting a rare win, which is always a bit of a special occasion. However it did make Brian's team - which happens to be my team as well - short priced favourites.

This scenario creates a dilemma. You see, if you've ever been in the QMs seat yourself, working with a quiz you've compiled yourself, you'll be aware that it is actually possible to simplify some of the questions as you go along. Here's an example. In its original form as written, one of Thursday night's questions was this : -
The Tour de France moves to a conclusion this coming Sunday. Name the only British Rider ever to win one of the three main jersey competitions.
If you're a follower of the Tour, or regularly watch the ITV4 or Eurosport coverage then I'm sure that you know the answer, since they tend to say it pretty much every other day. Still, when I asked the question, I phrased it more like this : -
The Tour de France moves to a conclusion this Sunday. Only one british rider has ever won one of the three main jersey competitions. In 1982, which scottish rider won the King of The Mountains competition ?
Now admittedly if you know nothing about the Tour, then even that amount of information won't help. But if you do , at least it will tell you to forget about Chris Boardman, or Tom Simpson, and it should help you to remember that Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche were both Irish. The answer is
Robert Millar
Now maybe that didn't help all the teams, but I'm sure that it helped one or two. I'd say that I probably did something similar with about half a dozen other questions. But here's the point. At what point, I wonder, are you starting to patronise the teams ? Its a serious question, since you've already accepted that the quiz is suitable for the mid-range of your teams, which is most of them. I suppose that I can always use the argument that 'no one ever complains that the quiz is too easy ' as justification. Its true down the rugby club, anyway.

As it was I think all of the teams managed to get between the low 50s and the mid 60s, with Brian and the team another 4 or 5 points ahead.

Here's another point, and I have to put my hands up to this one. From a quiz book I took this question : -
Paul Shane, Su Pollard and Jeffrey Holland all starred together in which two sitcoms ?

Lovely ! - I thought. A nice two point question - one point , for Hi-de-Hi, is very easy, and the other point, for You Rang M'Lud, is rather more difficult.
I didn't check the answer. I KNEW that they were all in both.
My problem came when some of the answers came in. Two teams supplied Hi de Hi, but also Oh Doctor Beeching. I had a feeling that I was on a very sticky wicket with this one. I could definitely remember Paul Shane and Jeffrey Holland appearing in it, but I was uncertain about Su Pollard. Since I was uncertain, I couldn't give a point for it. I apologised to both teams, and said that for all I knew they were right, but I couldn't be certain. Of course, when I got home and googled it, they were right. Whose fault is that ? I'll be honest, I haven't checked, but the book I had the question out of could possibly have been written between You Rang M'Lud, and Oh Doctor Beeching. So that wouldn't be to blame. As I said last week - even if you do take care, you are going to make mistakes from time to time.

Clarity - wise I think I did quite well. There was a smaller than usual number of requests for a repeat or for clarification, although this may just be because there were fewer teams, with fewer members than normal. I'm glad to say that potentially confusing questions seemed to work - eg : -
What were the names of the two Women Police Inspectors in the TV Series Juliet Bravo, played by Stephanie Turner and Anna Carteret ? I know that this sounds obvious to say that you should specify whether you want actors' names or charaacters' names, but I've been to many quizzes where similar questions are asked, and its not clear whether the QM wants actors' names or characters' names. There's even been occasions when a QM has told you he ( for invariably it is a he ) wants the actors' names, when the answer is the characters' names, and vice versa. For the record, the two characters were
Jean Darblay (Stephanie Turner) Kate Longton ( Anna Carteret)

One final thought. Here's one of the two point questions I asked, which I did consider changing as I was in the process of asking them, but left as it was.
Which African Countries have the capital cities - a) Banjul - b) Bangui ?

Many of the teams The Gambia as the answer to part a, but I was really surprised when one of the teams had the correct answer to b - Central African Republic.
I was delighted with this, and looked on it as justification for leaving a very tough question in. Until it was pointed out to me later that the team who had the correct answer are famous for keeping an atlas just below their table ! Well, thinking about it I have seen them using books in the past, but I'd prefer to look on this answer as being more due to a sudden flash of inspiration.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Contemplating a mini-marathon

Up until last night I was contemplating making an attempt at the 7 days - 7 quizzes marathon . If you've been following LAM since last summer, you might remember that I revealed my ambition to play in a quiz every night of the week for one week, although in the end I just managed Sunday to Thursday. Well, I did have potential quizzes lined up for Friday and Saturday this week, but in the end thought better of it. You see , as I said in a previous post, I'm question master in the rugby club this Thursday night. Yes, I know that this means I am still going to the quiz, still participating in the quiz, but its not playing in the quiz. What do you mean pedantic ? Its my game, and if we don't play by my rules then I'm taking my ball home !

So only three in a row this week. Sunday saw me venturing to Bryncoch, in a quiz I'd heard about a couple of years ago, but had been keeping up my sleeve for a while. I'd never been before, so I just assumed that if it was still running it would start about 9 pm. I took along my son Michael for company, and we arrived about 8:30 to be on the safe side. The barman said that , yes, the quiz was on, and it would start at 9. An hour later than scheduled, 10 pm, and it was just about to start. This was a Sunday Evening , mark you. Having said that, once it did get started, it was actually a cracking little quiz. 5 rounds of 10 general knowledge questions, and in each round at least one of the questions was a multiple question. I do mean general knowledge as well - there was a real spread of subjects too. I think this was a home made quiz, as you could see a bit of time and effort had gone into its construction. For example - here's a multiple question from the last round : -
"Who had UK hits with these songs - a) Banana Republic - b) The Banana Boat Song - c) Banana Rock ? "

In case you're playing along at home, I shan't put the answers until the end of this post.

Just out of interest though, the QM did ask one question -
Name the Island in the Caribbean, with a ten letter name, which is an overseas department of France.

Now, I wouldn't argue with the answer he gave which is "Martinique " However I am almost 100% certain that "Guadeloupe" fits the bill just as well, yet the QM insisted on just Martinique. Just one of those little errors that creeps into most quizzes, I suppose.

Monday night was the Pill Harriers Quiz in Newport. With a full team, and Gordon guesting for us we were never due any favours from the handicapper. It was actually an enjoyable tussle, and we did well to pull up to third place. Mark the Chaser looked a likely winner until one round from home, when a spirited run from the redoutable Herbie and his team brought them a win by one. I'll share one question from the quiz with you, if I may : -
The Beverley Sisters theme song was the song 'Sisters'. In which famous 1950s film did it first appear ?

I ask it because it was one of those questions where the answer pops into your head, apparently from nowhere. I haven't even seen the film - answer at the end of this post. Tell you what, here's another good one from Trevor's quiz as well : -
What links the 1977 Open at Turnberry with a 1940s western starring Gregory Peck, Jennifer Jones and Lionel Barrymore ?

Then Tuesday night saw a return to The Duke of Wellington in Cowbridge. This is just a lovely pub in a really charming town, and John and I religiously stick to our policy of only going every other week so as not to dominate the quiz. But sometimes its hard. I could cheerfully go every week.
I may have mentioned before, but in case I haven't, the format of the quiz is two rounds of 20 questions with a break in the middle. Then there's the seperate Lucky 7 jackpot questions. The last question in Round one is always a 2 point pop music question. You're given a year, and a couple of lines of the lyric, from which you have to identify song and artist. Ready then ? Here it is , this from 1990 : -
Post Office clerks put up signs saying positions closed
And secretaries turn off typewriters and put on their coats
Janitors padlock the gates
For security guards to patrol

We failed to identify either artist or title - answers at the end. So normally, when we miss this one, then we end up 2nd or 3rd overall.
At the end of round two, the penultimate question is always a guess the year. This one was relatively simple : -
In which year did Jimmy Connors win his first Wimbledon Singles title ?
Then the last question is the multiple. Last time we went it was to name 5 inert gases. This time we were asked,
Name the 6 celebrities who have won Celebrity Big Brother
Its one of those questions where you can probably name 4 or 5 straightaway, but then the last only come right at the death. To cut a long story short, that's how it was for us. So we won, and the jackpot, and the raffle too for that matter. All I can hope is that the fact that we're unlikely to be back before the end of August or the beginning of September will curry some favour with regulars.

Songs - a) Boomtown Rats - b) Harry Belafonte ( although I think Shirley Bassey also may have done a version ) c) The Wombles
Sisters - "White Christmas"
Connection - "Duel In The Sun " - name of film, and also name given to battle between Watson and Nicklaus
Song Lyric - Nothing Ever Happens by Del Amitri
Guess the Year - 1974
6 celebrities - Jack Dee, Mark Owen , Bez , Chantelle Houghton, Shilpa Shetty, Ulrika Jonsson

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

TV Watch - University Challenge Heat 3 - Only Connect Heat 2

University Challenge Round One - Heat Three - Loughborough v. University College London

For the second week running one of the colleges of the University of London makes an appearance in the first round. This week it was University College. Last week the burden of partisan support from the Clark sofa proved too much for RVC to overcome - would the same prove true for University College this week ?

I found myself amused when Olly Tearle of Loughborough explained that he is currently studying for a Phd in Weird Fiction. Nice work if you can get it. Then Jeremy Paxman described University College as the Godless Institution of Gower Street, and reminded everyone of dear old embalmed Jeremy Bentham, whose corpse is still wheeled out for senate meetings, although not allowed to vote, apparently.

Ok - everyone still with me ? Then on with the quiz. UCL started quickly, and for the first half of the show they looked well capable of beating the curse of Clark's sofa. Team Captain Miss Woolley snapped up three early starters, although she was not to manage another during the show. Loughborough kept their heads though, and pulled back the gap steadily, to create a lead going into the last few minutes. Sharp buzzing from Mr. Tearle and Miss/Mrs. Jennings particularly saw them get 9 starters between them. Miss Jennings was the pick of the quizzers on show tonight with 5 starters, although she did receive a bit of a telling off from Jeremy Paxman for not answering at once after buzzing in for a starter.

It was still a very close match. UCL were in it right up until the final starter question, and looking back, the key moments were probably when Mr. Grahl of UCL buzzed in and answered 'Platonic' when Jeremy really wanted 'Plato' . Technically he was right, he did ask for the philosopher rather than the adjectival form, but there have been times when I've seen him accept something like this, so it was a marginal call. Then the penultimate starter was grabbed by Mr. Grahl. 3 converted bonuses would have meant they could have won with the next starter. They couldn't convert though, and the game ended as Miss Jennings answered the final starter. So Loughborough's game, by 205 points to UCL's 175.

A great game - well done to Loughborough, and here's hoping that UCL will make it through to the repechage.

Only Connect - Round One Match 2 - The Mathematicians v. The Wordsmiths

This was a real case of youth versus experience tonight. The Mathematicians were, predictably a team of Mathematics graduates , while the Wordsmiths, well, the Wordsmiths contained two players I know. First was my internet friend Howard Pizzey. Howard played in the 2007 Mastermind series of blessed memory, where he scored a whopping 29 in the first round, only to be beaten by a score of 31. Then again in the last series he scored 25, only to be beaten on passes. Then William Barrett, the team captain, also played in the 2007 Mastermind series, where he gained the highest score for any individual round of the Humphrys era, when he managed an amazing 20 on his specialist subject , The Royle Family. Third team member Bob Bunting I don't know, but amongst such company I'll lay odds that he's no mug.

Into the first round, then, and the Wordsmiths took an early lead with a bonus, by recognizing that De Profundis, the Pilgrim's Progress et. al were all written in prison. However they failed to recognize slang terms for poker hands. I may be mistaken in this, but I think that in her wikipedia entry it says that Victoria Coren herself is a mean poker player. She said that she didn't recognize some of the terms. Mind you last week she made a point of saying that there are things which are completely wrong about her wikipedia entry, so there you go. At the end of the first round the Mathematicians had a lead of 3 to 1.

The second round really did the damage. A very unlucky guess by the Wordsmiths who knew one connection related to Geological terms for time gave the Mathematicians a bonus, and a couple of good guesses mean that they had stretched the lead to 7 points by the end of the round, with 10 points to the Wordsmiths' 3. As an aside I felt particularly pleased with myself for working out that on the picture connection, the next one would be an archer, which neither of the teams managed. Yes, I know its a lot easier playing along at home than it probably is in the studio.

The connections walls were the two hardest I think I've ever seen on the show, with the possible exception of those of last year's final. Going first the Wordsmiths looked very vulnerable only making one line. However they at least could explain the connections between all four lines. Which is one more than the Mathematicians could do, only being able to get one line, and explain two of the others. Still it only pulled back a point for the Wordsmiths, and without an all out blitz in the last round it was going to be a very tall order to pull back the six points separating the teams. Both teams picked up points , but the Mathematicians picked up more of them to score 20.

So hard lines, Howard and William, and Bob. The Mathematicians deserved their win; although it looked a little lucky in terms of some of the guesses, they had the best of 3 of the 4 rounds. Well done Mathematicians - good luck in round two.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Compiling a Quiz for the Club

By a combination of circumstances too tedious to go into, it turns out that its my turn to compile the quiz for the Rugby club this week even though it will only be a fortnight since my last turn. So I thought that it might be interesting to tell you something about the process I go through when making up a quiz for the club. Of course I often use different methods when I'm doing quizzes for other places, but this seems to work OK for the club. So what is actually involved ?


Yes, theft. Invariably the first question I ask myself when I start gathering the questions is - what good questions have I heard recently that I can steal for my own quiz ? - Its a no brainer really when you think about it. If you hear a question in a quiz, and you think - that's a good one - well, chances are that other people will think so too. Let me give you an example. Years ago I heard this one : -
Villa did it in the FA Cup Final in 1981, and Sunderland did it in 1979 . Who did it in 1980 ?
I'm sue you either know or have worked out that the answer is Brooking. Villa is Ricardo, rather than Aston, and Sunderland is Alan rather than FC , and the thing they did is to score the winning goal in the FA Cup final. Trevor Brooking did it in 1980. Now that's the kind of question you hear, and you just wish you'd asked it. Don't worry - you will - over and over again, probably.


Theft is only ever going to get you a few 'star' questions which will give your quiz that little extra bit of flavour. Most of the questions you're going to have to find for yourself. But where ? More than that , what type of questions ? Which categories. I find it helps to have a template. I've never been a great fan of themed rounds, but its certainly one way of doing it, provided that there are enough rounds within the quiz to give a good spread of categories. If your quiz only has four rounds, and three of those rounds are, for the sake of argument, pop music, then TV, then film, then what you've got is a specialist entertainment quiz. Fair enough - many people like entertainment, but not everyone. But that's just an example. Its just as easy to overdose on sport, or Geography, or any one of a number of subjects. Personally I use a rough template for the club. It works like this. There are 8 rounds of ten questions. In each round I aim for one question each on in the news, History ( inc politics and world events ) , Geography, Culture ( classical music - literature , fine art), Science ( inc Technology , Industry , Economics , Business ) , Natural World, Sport - two questions on Entertainment ( popular culture - TV - Film - Pop Music etc. ) and one question on anything which doesn't fit into any of the other categories. Its not perfect, but then what is ?

Gathering Questions

Out of 80 questions, I'd say that a good 60 or so come out of books. Do you remember your first car, or your first love ? Well, my first quiz 'bible' was The Pear's Quiz Companion. When I first started compiling quizzes 15 years ago, anything up to 50 questions out of 80 would come out of the quiz companion. It had its drawbacks, and there's been much better books written since - Trevor Montague's A to Z of Almost Everything being the best I've ever had. I rarely use the quiz companion any more, though I'll get the odd question out of it for old time's sake now and again.

I don't use The A to Z of Everything on every quiz, but its always very good to fall back on, and its an invaluable source for checking the accuracy of answers to questions from other sources. Like many quizzers I have a very large collection of quiz books, and I'll use between 5 and 10 different ones on any quiz. Certain books are great for the bread and butter questions which will make up the bulk of your quiz - the three 15 to 1 books - 2000 for 2000 etc., and also the 2 Weakest link books are full of this sort of thing. Then you'll want some genuine ' thinking ' questions. The Prince of Wales quiz book is brilliant for this - all the quizzes within it were put together with love and care by genuine quizzers. I find The People's Quiz book good for popular culture and entertainment questions, although not a lot else. And the list goes on - the Perfect quiz book isn't my favourite, but does have themed rounds on specific dates which can come in handy and so on, and so forth.

They don't all come out of books. The in the news questions for example are culled from Newspapers, other quizzes, and also online In the News quizzes.

Then there's a totally different type of question, the 'original' questions which occur to you through something you've just seen, heard or read. you may get anything up to half a dozen of these in each set of 80 questions.

Combining Questions

You know that some questions in a given category are harder than others. Ideally I try to combine questions so that rounds 1 and 2 are relatively easy and high scoring, rounds three and our are tougher, round five is easy again, round six is a snorter, round seven slightly easier, and round 8 is left with the questions you didn't want to ask in any other round, because you never know, you might have a slow night when you only get through 7 rounds anyway. This isn't necessarily so easy to do when I use a connections quiz - like the July quiz of the month, where some of the question combinations are necessitated by the connections.


When I'm in work, I'll take a finished quiz into work and try out the questions in the staff room at lunchtime. my colleagues are non quizzers, so if they can answer 7 or so questions per round then I know that I've probably got the level just right. Nobody ever complains if you produce an easy quiz for the rugby club. However school broke up on Friday, so I'm kind of flying a bit blind this week.

Miscellaneous Observations

Its easy to become too sensitive to criticism. However its also dangerous to become blase and completely ignore feedback from anyone who has never made a quiz for the club themselves. So here's a few tips I try to take heed of myself, based on my observations of the way that people respond to my own quizzes.

* As a rule of thumb, people never complain that the quiz is too easy. If you're in any doubt about whether a question is too hard, then simplify it, or ditch it.

* Don't go making a quiz to appeal to your own interests. Your quiz will go best when there's something for everyone in it.

* I don't think that everyone realises just how important it is to phrase a question clearly, so that it is absolutely clear what you are actually asking. Even if you do take care, you'll still get asked for clarification sometimes. But if you don't take care it can be a very frustrating experience all round.

* You will make mistakes anyway. Some questions you've included in good faith from quiz books, for example, will be wrong. That can't be helped. Making up your own questions, and not checking that your answer is correct can be helped, and its something you really should avoid.

* Aim to write a quiz for the middle ability teams rather than the most or least knowledgable. I know that if the majority of teams are scoring about 60 out of 80, then I've pitched it just about right.

* Listen to constructive criticism. Unadulterated praise is nice, but not exactly helpful. Neither are comments along the lines of "Your quiz was crap ". If people tell you that they liked something or disliked something, then think about it. if its not fair comment - OK, but if it is fair, then use this to help you make your next quiz.

I'll let you know how it goes . Watch this space.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

University Challenge - Only Connect - The Fuse

Once again we find Monday nights have become a veritable cornucopia of quizdom, with University Challenge on BBC2 followed by Only Connect. But before we get on with the really serious business, lets take a look at ITV's The Fuse.

There are times, I hope you'll agree, when you find that you're watching some performance, and you find yourself enjoying it despite yourself. Now, regular readers will know that I'm a fan of the previous incumbent of the ITV 5 - 6pm slot, the Chase. I make no bones about it, I think that the Chase has real potential, and I hope that it does come back. So you can appreciate that I was hoping that The Fuse would be good, but perhaps not too good.

So lets de-construct it all a little to see what makes it tick. So in no particular order, here we go : -
Probably just about right for this time of day. There's little enough which is ever going to give a regular quizzer nightmares - while if you watched The Chase you'll know that there was a real mix of questions, including some real snorters. But then this is a quiz for members of the Great British Public, the have - a - go types who'd be equally at home on a game show where there were no questions involved. That's fine The programme never makes any extravagant claims bout having great quiz players on it.

Game Play
6 players start as a team. Each in turn picks a category of questions. The team must answer a chain of 6 correct answers, before the fuse, from which the show takes its name, burns out. A la Weakest Link, the time allowed for each round goes down each time. Only if they complete the chain of 6 correct answers, or if the time runs out, do the team find out how much money was in the box. To be honest I found this round just a tiny bit slow, but I'm well aware that I do like my quizzes on the fast side, and so I guess for the teatime audience it was probably just about right.
Then in the next rounds, the team have to fight it out amongst themselves. The two players who answered most right in the first rounds pick two other players to play against in a 3 way fight. Each picks a category from the ones remaining. Then they have to buzz in to answer questions. A correct buzz means you can light an opponent's fuse, or if yours is lit, you can stop it burning. An incorrect buzz means ten seconds of your fuse is extinguished in one go. Once your fuse is burnt out - boom ! Off you go. When only one remains, they go through to the next round, where the last two fight it out in a very similar round.
Finally, the last player has to answer 6 questions in a row. Their prize money is what the whole team earned in round one, plus whatever his or her own category is worth. 50 seconds or less to do it, and the money is tripled.
I'll be honest, I thought the contestant(s) v. contestant rounds were much quicker, and much more exciting - well worth watching in fact, even if the questions in tonight's show were a little on the easy side. The final round was a little anticlimactic, IMHO.

A bit of a catch-all term, this one. But easy enough to pin down. Far less serious than The Chase. Contestants had obviously been encouraged to whoop it up a bit when they succeeded in getting the 6 in a row in any category, and to 'trash talk' to each other at the start of the second round. To be honest, the trash talk was exactly that, and it rang far more true when the beaten contestants wished the winners good luck in the semi final. Mary, my wife actually really liked this, and said that she likes to see people who have a bit of life in them.
The host was, of course, Austin Healey, the Leicester Lip as was. Cards on the table, as an England rugby fan living in Wales I have a soft spot for Austin. He didn't do a bad job either. He looked professional, and seemed to be enjoying himself, which is always a plus. The catchphrase of the show is,
"Do you want to fight the fuse. Then let's light the fuse. " and Austin has to say it 6 times in the first round, which is probably at least 4 times too many, and did get a little grating. The format means that he becomes a little more matey with the contestants than the Chase allowed Bradly Walsh to become, as each contestant got the obligatory 2 minute chat before choosing their category. Its a little dated, this sort of thing, although it did allow Shaun from Swansea to tell us that if he won he could use the money for a dream wedding with his fiancée. Well, win he did, and so that was quite a heart warming moment , especially when he invited Austin to be his best man. Good stuff - its always nice to see a boy from South Wales doing well.

What's my overall verdict, then ? I'll be honest, once you get past the money gathering team round, this is actually a good show. There's something about the second round and the semi finals which really reminds me of another show - yet I can't think which one. I still really like The Chase, and hope it will be back - but I'll be watching the Fuse again during this fortnight.


University Challenge - First round Match 2

Last night's second match of the first round saw The Royal Veterinary College taking on last year's champions Manchester University. Yes, I know that we had all that nonsense about the final, but if you look in the record books, they're the champions. Thankfully Jeremy Paxman didn't mention this at all in his preamble. What he did mention was that being as all of the RVC team were studying veterinary medicine that you'd expect them to be stronger on the Sciences than the Arts. Cue a huge smile from Our Jeremy when RVC took one of the first starters, recognising a quotation from Tennyson.

You'll know by now that we're far from impartial on the Clark sofa, and so being an alumnus of London University myself I was rooting for the RVC, more in hope than expectation. ( If you're wondering, I went to Goldsmith's College - who have never had a team into the televised University Challenge tournament as far as I know ) If we were expecting another close fought contest like last week's, we were to be disappointed. RVC were just a little off the pace throughout most of the contest, and indeed towards the end they could be forgiven for dropping points by buzzing in just a fraction too early on the starters. In the end Manchester ran out comfortable winners by 235 points to RVC's 60.

So what are Manchester's chances of emulating their illustrious immediate predecessors ? On the plus side they all shared out the starters and bonuses pretty well, and its difficult to single out any one of Mr. Whyman, Miss Neiman, Mr. Whitfield and Mr. Daunt as being the 'star' of the team. On the other hand, though, you can't help feeling that they might have scored a few more in this match. Not that it matters. At the moment its about getting through to the second round.

Its unlikely that RVC will progress to the repechage round, a fact to which Jeremy Paxman paid tribute when he commented, "Its not the worst score we've ever seen. " before generously adding, "Far from it " and paying tribute to the fact that they seemed to enjoy it. Bravo. I did too.

Only Connect - BBC4 - First round Heat One

Monday evening. Often fiendish questions. String quartet. Question master not afraid to pour acid upon an ill advised answer. Oxford v. Cambridge. Its University Challenge again, isn't it ? Actually, no, it isn't, its the much awaited return of The Finest Quiz Only To Grace BBC4 - and winner of the Life After Mastermind award (honorary) for the Best New TV Quiz of 2008 - Only Connect.

A big congratulation to the production team for having the good sense to obey a maxim more honoured in the breach than the observance - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Everything you loved about the show first time round - the connections grid - the missing letters round - Victoria Coren - is back.

As for this first round heat, the Cambridge Quiz Society took on the Oxford Librarians in a contest that twisted and turned like a twisty - turny thing ( Blackadder the 2nd c. 1986 ) . To use a phrase much beloved by one of my good quiz friends, the Cambridge boys looked like they were 'out with the washing' at one point, trailing the librarians by 2 points to 8. However it all came good for them with the connections wall, where despite sailing close to the wind with only 2 lives remaining they solved the whole thing, and picked up the full points plus bonuses. The librarians started well with their wall, but were stuck on the last two connections, knowing that one was a group of theatres, but unable to get the right combination. Still they went into the missing letters round with a small lead of 2 points. Last series we saw bigger leads than this overturned in the final round, and you had the feeling after the first minute or so that the Cambridge team were going to do it. They duly did, but only by one point.

Good show. Welcome back, Only Connect - I've missed you.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

How Did I Miss That ?

You turn your back for one minute, then . . . University Challenge is back ! Yes, if you're wondering, I didn't review it last Monday because I didn't see it. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know it was on. So I'm indebted to Weaver's Week for that. With a great effort of will, when I saw the review today I stopped reading it immediately, and went for my trusty remote control. If I'd left it a day later, then I'd have missed it completely , since we can only watch things on demand for 7 days.

Well, here's hoping that we have a series which replicates the high standards and high drama of the last series, without the descent into low farce at the end of it. The first match up paired Christ's College Cambridge with the University of Warwick , winners in 2007. It was actually a very close match, with Warwick streaking off, Christ's pulling them back, and then Warwick just eking out a lead by the end, to win by 200 points to 170. That's a close match , and as good a way to start the series as any.

Most impressive was Mr. Christmas of Warwick, who bagged more than his fair share of the starters. Was it my imagination, though, or did we see him use a naughty little word when he buzzed in too early on a starter ? If it was just my imagination, then I apologise. It puts me in mind of Miriam Margolyes, who appeared in an early series , and claimed that she used the 'F' word when she got a question wrong, and that it was never edited out, thus becoming the first person to use that word on British TV since she predated Kenneth Tynan by a few years. Sadly the tape of the show was erased, I believe, so we will never know for certain. If we're looking for quiz connections with use of that word, the presenter on whose show Mr. Tynan used the 'F' word was none other than Robert Robinson - doyen of 'Ask the Family' and 'Brain of Britain'.

Here's a thought to gladden the cockles of your heart. Only Connect returns tomorrow, to provide a powerhouse quiz hour, for viewers able to receive BBC4. So at least the series is back, even if the Beeb are resisting the wishes of its fans , ie that it could actually make a move to BBC2, where it would fit like a glove IMHO, and everyone would have the opportunity to see it.

Thi is turning into something like a mini round up on TV quizzes, and that being the case, a word about "The Chase". I personally think that this has been a really enjoyable show. That last, Final Chase round is great TV, and has become compulsive viewing as far as the Clark sofa is concerned. Looking back to my comments about contestants being at a disadvantage having to buzz in, its still turned out that 3 or 4 of the teams have actually managed to win the money. Again, I know that comparisons are odious, but if you do compare this with the number of teams who actually succeed on Eggheads, then it does seem to suggest that you do have a greater chance of success on the Chase. From what I've heard its done pretty much at least as well in the ratings as Divided. So here's a radical suggestion. Commission them both. If people really like Divided, then good luck to them. Its not a bad show, even though its not really my cup of tea. But make sure you commission The Chase as well.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Charity Quizzes - a welcome return

D'you remember Charity Quizzes ? Back in my salad days, at the outset of my quiz career back in the tail end of the 1980s, and the start of the 90s, Charity Quizzes were fairly common. If you take just Port Talbot, the Bay View club, now sadly gone, and the Seaside and Labour social club seemed to hold them fairly often. Then when you factored in a few other clubs as well, you can see that you could easily take part in between half a dozen and a dozen in a year.

Now that I'm into my third decade of quizzing they seem far fewer and further between. I'm not really sure why this is. Maybe its something to do with the decline of league quizzing in South Wales, and maybe its due to other reasons - I just don't know. Still, I've always enjoyed Charity Quizzes, so its a pleasure to be able to write about anything that bucks the trend.

Last night I joined a team for a charity quiz in a school in the new development in Margam. Very good it was too. There were 8 rounds of ten questions. Thats a good amount of questions, especially for a charity quiz. By way of comparison we also do 8 rounds of ten questions in the rugby club on a Thursday night. in addition to this, there were two handouts - one of 25 pictures, and one of 30 advertising slogans. We only have one handout in the rugby club. To put it into perspective, the only other regular quiz I know which delivers more for your money is the Monday night quiz in the Pill Harriers Rugby club in Newport, where you get three rounds of 20 questions on General Knowledge, a pictures handout, and a handout requiring normally between 40 and 50 answers on a wide range of topics. I don't know how long it takes Trevor Parry to put together the Monday night quiz, but it must be hours. When I do the Thursday night quiz for Aberavon it takes a good three hours at least to put it together. So full marks to last night's QM - it must have taken a long time.

One question was intriguing.
Canada has the longest coastline in the world. In miles, in total , how long is it ?

Now, bearing in mind that the circumference of the Earth is a tad less than 25,000 miles, what would you think ? 5,000 miles ? 10,000 miles ? Well, actually , its -
151485 miles !
Staggering. I would be lying if I said that I didn't think that the question master must have misplaced a decimal point, but when I got home and fired up google it turned out that yes, its absolutely true, and this is one of those questions is just so much bigger than you would have imagined. But when you straighten out all those huge crinkly islands and the huge crinkly mainland, you actually get a line that would go round the world a little more than 6 times !

July Quiz

1) Two weeks ago who became the first woman since 1997 to win the Grand Final of Mastermind - and for a bonus point she also became the first champion from which country ?

2) Which silent film actress was the original It girl ?

3) On July 10th which famous traditional race was conducted on the River Thames in London ?

4) Which substance has the chemical formula H2SO4 ?

5) What is the connection between your last three answers ?

6) The Letters DOC might be found on bottles of wine from which country?

7) Song lyrics - which famous song contains the lyric
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear.

8) Which word is used for an elephant driver ?

9) True or false - the Battles of Agincourt and Bosworth were both in the same century ?

10) Which line of latitude forms most of the boundary between the USA and Canada ?

11) Farah Fawcett died in June. She had married her long term partner, Ryan O'Neill. Who was her previous husband ?

12) Who was the first ever South African to win the British Open ?

13) The Norman Mailer book "The Executioners Song" is about the execution of which notorious American killer ?

14) Former opera singer Norman Lumsden achieved success playing which character in a long running series of adverts ?

15) What is the connection between your last 3 answers ?

16) Which people were defeated by the Greeks of Athens in the Battle of Marathon ?

17) Oxford has been described as the city of dreaming what ?

18) What type of creature is a pipistrelle ?

19) Who was the founder of antiseptic surgery ?

20) Which dye or pigment was originally obtained from crushed beetles ?

21) Name the player whom Andy Murray defeated in Wimbledon's latest ever finish in the 3rd round of the 2009 championships

22) Which dance is often believed to be Polish, even though its name actually comes from a 5 letter Czech word meaning little half ?

23) The word ferret , meaning a domesticated polecat, can also be used to mean a type of which thread ?

24) What was the name of the British tool company taken to court in the 90s over supplying arms and expertise to Iraq ?

25) Karl Malden, who died last week, was nominated for Best Supporting actor in 1954 for a role in which Elia Kazan film ?

26) What is the connection between your last 4 answers ?

27) Which old cartoon character was always foiled by Vince and Musky ?

28) The Tour de france started last weekend. who won the race in 2008 ?

29) Which element of the periodic table is represented by the letter K ?

30) What is the capital city of Mozambique ?
41) Which date last week saw the 40th Anniversary of Swansea being made a city ?

42) Which two time Oscar winning actress was born Shirley Schrift ? Her final Oscar nomination was for The Poseidon Adventure .

43) In or on which building would you find the Bell harry Tower ?

44) Which aircraft company built the RAF Swordfish torpedo bombers which helped to sink the Bismarck in World war 2 ?

45) What is the connection between your last three answers ?

46) The Danish word for King is Kong. So when King Kong was released in Denmark was it called
a) King Kong - b) Kong Kong or c) Kong King ?

47) Who was the dictator of Portugal, who died in 1970 ?

48) Which work of Literature begins with a collection of travellers gathering at the Tabard Inn in Southwark ?

49) Which term is usually applied to the marine mammals the manatees and dugongs ?

50) Who was the last person to win the Wimbledon ladies singles other than the Williams sisters ?

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

TV Watch - Good Question - Set Questions

Ok, well where shall we start ? I guess that The Chase is as good a place as any. Its coming to an end of its initial run this week - watch out next week for a new quiz called The Fuse. ITV will thus have given us in quick succession Divided, then the Chase, then the Fuse. hat next ? Is there to be some great viewers vote to choose which will continue, and which will face the chop ? Personally I prefer The Chase to Divided, yet a lot of my non quizzing friends - yes, I do have some - are firmly in favour of Divided. Who knows, maybe The Fuse will blow them all out of the water. Watch this space.

Back to The Chase. Its confession time now. 5pm can sometimes be a quite awkward time for me to be trying to watch TV, and so I often watch the show using Virgin On Demand. Thing is, when I do that I play each contestant's initial round at normal speed, but all the chase rounds at fast forward - until the final Chase. That's becoming compulsive viewing for me. This week already Mark has won one and lost one. It was also interesting to see what happened when all four contestants were eliminated in their individual rounds. They were given a total of £4000 to play for, and they nominated one to face 2 minutes of questions. Without having to buzz in this actually gave the contestant a decent chance - even though he only started one step forward he ended up on 20 - that's good play. Mark got him in the end, but only just. I think that I've seen Shaun lose once as well. I hope that its a show that ITV will bring back.


Right, I want to post about a couple of questions. Firstly, in praise of what I thought was a great question we were asked in Newport on Monday night - a real Trevor special.

Phonetically speaking, what connects Cary Grant with Liverpool FC, Middlesbrough FC, Sheffield Utd. , Cardiff City, Fulham FC, Arsenal FC, Tottenham Hotspur FC and a host of other football clubs ?

If you've read Simon Inglis' marvellous book about the football grounds of England and Wales, then its gettable. Archibald Leitch designed stands or part of the grounds, present or past, of all of those football clubs, and many more. As Trevor said, if the question is about who designed a particular ground, or stand, then chances are he's the answer.

As I'm sure you've worked out, Archibald Leitch is pronounced exactly the same as Archibald Leach. Which was Cary Grant's real name. Incidentally, it was also the name of John Cleese's character in "A Fish Called Wanda", although that wasn't part of the question.


Then last night over to Cowbridge, for the Duke of Wellington quiz. Good quiz as usual. One of the features of the quiz is that the last question of the quiz proper is always a multiple point question. Last night it was ,
Name (the ) five inert gases
Now, I was away the day we did Science at school, or some such excuse. Put it this way - its far from my best subject. To be honest, I hadn't a clue. Neither had John. So what we did was to start writing down names of what we thought were the Noble Gases - Helium, Radon , Neon, Argon and Krypton. We had a point for each of them except Argon, with Xenon being given. I've spent a couple of minutes today looking up the Noble gases, and Inert gases, and trying to see the difference, but I have to admit I'm a bit stumped - although I was delighted to take the points and run on this one. However I did find that Argon is also a noble gas. So did he mean inert gases, or did he mean Noble gases ? Or are they the same thing ?

I ask this, because there's a certain type of question where you know there are two similar sets of things, and its very easy to get one confused with the other. For example - the Leeward Islands, and the Windward Islands. You know the two groups probably, but which is which ?

Good quiz. Any quiz which asks you things that you think you should know, but either can't remember, or find out that you don't, is probably hitting a lot of the right buttons.

Friday, 3 July 2009

New teams -What do you do when you know what's wrong, but don't know what's right ?

Two new teams contested the weekly quiz at Aberavon Rugby club last night. Anything so unusual in that ? Well, yes, and again, no. We do have new teams from time to time, but two on the same evening is unprecedented. They competed well for much of the quiz, one of them finishing in the top 4, after being just a couple of points behind the leaders at the halfway stage, and the other being one of only two teams to score a full house on any of the rounds.

Hardly newsworthy, you might think, and of course you'd be right. I just couldn't help thinking that its always nice to see new teams, but even more than that, its nice when teams come in and are competitive. We've got a pretty good record at keeping new teams once they start with us so I've high hopes that they'll be back again next week. Judging by the scores there are a few quizzers amongst them, which makes interesting speculation whether they've only just discovered us, or whether they used to play in another Thursday nighter which has folded, or they've had enough of.

While on the subject of last night's quiz, we had one of those interesting questions where you KNOW that the answer your team want to put down is wrong, but you haven't got another alternative answer.

The question was something along the lines of : -
Which element of the periodic table - atomic number 83 - is often given to patients with heartburn or an upset stomach ?

The answer the team came up with was Magnesium - as in Milk of Magnesia. That's not a daft answer at all - but the problem was that I knew that Magnesium is number 12 . I'm not boasting about this, I just got lucky that we took a group of kids from the school to a presentation about memory techniques once, and one of the tricks he showed us he used the first 15 elements for as an example. It worked so well that I've never forgotten them since - but its only the first 15.
However, the problem was that I still had no idea which number 83 was. In such a case, we did the only thing you can do in such a case , and put down the plausible wrong answer in the hope that the QM had made a mistake. Of course he hadn't. The answer is Bismuth - as in Pepto-Bismol.


Re: The Chase

As Anne kindly pointed out in response to my last post, we now know that there are two resident Chasers, and they are Mark Labbett and Shaun Wallace. As I'm sure most readers will know, Shaun was the 2004 Mastermind champion, and also the runner up in last year's Are You An Egghead - so there's no question about his TV quiz credentials.

I've never actually met Shaun . Its ironic really, since he's from Wembley and I'm originally from down the road in Ealing, yet he's the only Humphrys - era champion I don't know at all, so my comments need to be viewed in this light. But he has some screen presence, and I like him as the Chaser. I know he's a barrister, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few defendants have wilted under his cross-examination. Still, he came a little bit of a cropper last night. He was set a target of 20, which is formidable, but no more than he managed on Tuesday. A number of tricky questions later, which the team kept getting right to peg him back, and he fell short by a few steps. I can't say anything - I doubt very much whether I'd have done much better with that particular set of questions.

I love the last round, or The Final Chase as they call it. Yet I have friends who really like the head to head rounds, but don't like the final, because it goes too fast. Its all a question of personal taste I suppose. I personally think that quick fire rounds taste better than not - so- quickfire, or flippin-slowfire rounds, that's all .