Friday, 31 December 2010

New Quiz Resolutions

Well, here we are, dear friends, the last day of the year, and the last LAM post of 2010. Its become something of a LAM tradition for me to share some new year quiz resolutions with you, so without further ado, here they are : -

Lets start with a carry over from the last two years.

• I resolve to stop saying that any team who beat us in a straight pub quiz must have cheated, even when they have actually been using their phones in front of us.

Yes, for two years I have started the year with all good intentions with regard to this, and never made it stick until at least my birthday in June. So I will try harder this time round.

• I resolve to not close the door to appearing on some other broadcast quiz, but only to apply to something because it might be fun.

• I resolve to keep working on my weak areas as I have been since joining the quiz league this Autumn.

• I resolve to try harder to attend at least one or two grand prix events this year.

• I resolve to try even harder not to criticise a quiz unfairly , even when the questions are not especially to my liking. .

• I resolve above all else to enjoy my quizzing throughout the next year as much as I have enjoyed it this year.

That’s it for 2010. Its been a great year, and I hope it has been so for all of you. Thanks for your support and all of your comments on the blog throughout the year. Have a wonderful 2011.

Sleb Mastermind - Show 4

Another day, another four celebs into the chair, for the last of these shows of 2010. First up was James Redmond. I’ll admit that wasn’t previously familiar with his work, but apparently he is and actor who has made appearances on Hollyoaks, Casualty and the like, but is now making a career for himself as a stand-up. His subject was he England Football team since 1990, and I’m afraid, like the England team in this year’s World Cup he really struggled to make much headway, finishing with 8 on what seemed a pretty decent set of questions.

Hattie Hayridge is also a stand-up, but is probably best known for being the second actor to play the computer Holly in Red Dwarf. He subject was a rather wide one – The Cold War – one of those catch-all subjects which can derail even the most thoroughly prepared of contenders. Hattie missed a bit of a sitter when she didn’t know that the term Cold War itself originated in the writings of George Orwell, but other than that acquitted herself quite well, with 10 points.

David Threlfall is an actor I admire, and I’ve enjoyed many of his TV performances. However I’m afraid he got on my nerves when he started arguing the toss with John when he wasn’t given a point when he mumbled “ that French thing about a dog “ when asked for the title of one of the Bonzo Dog Band’s albums. It was entertaining enough for about five seconds, but after that it just got on my wick. Still, even having said that, it wasn’t a bad performance on the round at all, even if it didn’t ask about my favourite Viv Stanshall quote – as Sir Henry Rawlinson – “If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink, I’d spend it all on drink. “ I digress. David scored 12.

To finish the first half Ortis Deley, presenter of The Gadget Show, offered Spiderman Comics. Now, I haven’t read a Spiderman Comic for well over 30 years – and anyone who says different is a liar – but I was quite pleased that I managed about half a dozen of these – and not just because I’ve seen a couple of the movies, either. Ortis, though, managed a praiseworthy 13, to put himself into the difficult last to go slot in the GK round.

In the GK round we had the interesting situation that the contenders went in exactly the same order as the first round. Alright, its not that interesting I suppose, but I thought I’d mention it. James Redmond managed 9 answers, to take his score to 17, which as John Humphrys told him is respectable. Hattie Hayridge, though, did considerably better. Alright, these are not the sort of GK rounds that are going to cause regular quizzers any sleepless nights, but nonetheless 16 was not a bad performance at all. In terms of the scores we’ve already seen so far this series, 26 isn’t that much to write home about, but you have to say that she looked as likely a winner at this stage as either of the contenders yet to come.

I’m afraid that David Threlfall had something of a brain freeze when it came to his turn. I think that he was still going on about the disallowed answer from the first round. In the end he added another 6 to his core, which was actually enough to put him into second place for the time being, but nowhere near enough for the lead. So it was down to Ortis. 14 points would give him an outright win without recourse to pass countback. For quite a while I thought that he was going to do it as well, but progress in the last 20 seconds slowed right down, and he fell a little short of the line with 12. So well done, Hattie Hayridge, our 3rd lady winner in 4 shows.

The Details

James Redmond England Football Team since 1990Fair Trade8- 29 - 0 17 – 2
Hattie HayridgeThe Cold WarPrincess Royal Trust for Carers / The Orangutan Foundation 10 - 116 - 226 – 3
David ThrelfallBonzo Dog BandSave the Children12 - 16 - 218 – 3
Ortis DeleySpiderman Comics13 - 112 - 225 – 3

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sleb Mastermind - Show 3

One of the things I always look out for when I watch these celebrity shows is which ones are purely there for a laugh, having not put the work into learning their subject, and which ones are actually rather serious about winning it. Watching last night’s show it was interesting to see that all of them seemed to have put some work into learning their specialist subjects.

First to go was Frank Gardner. If you’re not familiar with the name, Frank Gardner OBE is a BBC journalist, currently their Security Correspondent. Frank was severely injured when he was shot while on assignment in Saudi Arabia. Last night he elected to manoeuvre himself into the black chair for his round. Answering on Birds of the Middle East, Frank certainly seemed to have packed a very complicated subject. I don’t know much about the subject myself, but judging from the questions that John asked each bird there seems to have about half a dozen alternative names. With 10 points, which John would later describe as modest, Frank left himself with a lot of work to do in the GK round.

A personal favourite of mine came second. I enjoy “Dragon’s Den “ very much, and our second contender was the show’s most high profile success story, the Reggae Reggae Sauce man, Levi Roots. Levi was answering about his own roots last night, when he took Jamaican Culture as his specialist subject, Hello, I thought , this is one of those nasty portmanteau subjects where they can shove in a little bit of everything, and indeed they did. So Levi’s 11 was no mean feat.

3rd into the chair was Pam Rhodes, long time presenter of the BBC’s own Songs of Praise. Which in a way is what she chose as her specialist subject. She answered on Christmas carols, and seemed to get rather an easy ride. I have no knowledge of who wrote which hymn etc. , but I managed to get into double figures just knowing which lines came from which carol. Still, to be fair, Pam seemed to cope with the more difficult questions pretty well too. She can only answer what she is asked, after all. A score of 14 put her into the lead with a little cushion.

Helen Chamberlain presents Sky’s Soccer AM show. Like Victoria Coren she is also a bit of a diva at poker as well, according to wikipedia. Her subject was The World Darts Championship. That’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds, since there’s two of them and have been for quite a long time now. I enjoyed the questions about the 80s and even the early 90s, but was out with the washing a little on the rest of the questions. Not so Helen. She presented the pick of the Specialist rounds last night, equalling Pam on 14, but doing so without incurring any passes.

So at the halfway stage it looked a fair bet that we would have our third consecutive lady winner of the series. However in 2 minutes Frank Gardner smashed that idea to the boundary. Yes, alright, we know that the GK rounds for the celebrities are easier, but even so, getting 20 points in a GK round is a hell of an achievement, and requires huge concentration. Even if you KNOW the answers to all the questions it is so easy for your mind to wander in that chair. I can’t say for certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank’s 20 is a record for a GK round on the Celebrity shows.

Follow that. Well, they tried. Levi Roots made the best attempt, and his 12 represented a decent return on the 2 and a half minutes’ investment. However it left him a staggering 7 points behind Frank. Pam Rhodes didn’t impress with her 9, and poor old Helen Chamberlain began passing after the first half minute of her round, and never really recovered from the tailspin this put her into. She added 8 to her score, I the process achieving the rare feat of moving from first at half time, to 4th by the end of the show.

Congratulations to Frank Gardner, a highly impressive performance.

The Details

Frank Gardner Birds of the Middle EastThe Back-Up Trust10 - 1 20 – 030-1
Levi RootsJamaican CultureThe Sickle Cell Society11-312- 123 – 4
Pam RhodesChristmas CarolsRSPCA Hertfordshire East14 - 29 - 423 – 6
Helen ChamberlainWorld Darts ChampionshipWildlife Aid14 - 08 - 622 – 6

A Moral Question for you

Here’s a moral question for you to consider. When setting a quiz have you ever been tempted to give an answer to a question which you know to be wrong, secure in the knowledge that if anyone makes a fuss you can hide behind the old adage “The Question Master is always right “ ?

I hasten to add that I have never done this myself, although I freely admit that I have given out wrong answers from time to time due to ignorance, carelessness, or incorrect information in my sources. No, probably the worst lie I told wasn't in a quiz at all. It was when I told a girl at university that I had been the large cub scout who ate his packed lunch on a roller coaster in “Jim’ll Fix It” However that was all a long time ago, and not really anything to do with the issue in hand.

I’m doing the second part of a two week stint as question master in the rugby club tomorrow night, and I’ve just been putting the finishing touches to the quiz. I’m going to ask a bit of an old chestnut –
Which piece of music has been requested most times on “Desert Island Discs ?”
I remember asking it about 10 years ago, and giving the teams 4 options – “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC – “Winter” from Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons – “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven – and “When I’m Cleaning Windows” by George Formby. It’s the Beethoven one of course. Last time I asked it IIRC about 4 teams actually went for the George Formby song, and I have to admit that for a minute or so I did seriously consider going with that answer tomorrow night to see if I could get away with it.

Don’t worry. I am not going to make a mockery of my self-appointed role as question master. Laugh though it undoubtedly would be. However it does beg the question – we’ve all played in quizzes where the QM has got something wrong. But have you ever played in one where you are absolutely certain that the QM has deliberately given a wrong answer – or – have you ever set a quiz yourself where you have deliberately given a wrong answer ? I’d love to hear from you if you have.

Sleb Mastermind - Show 2

Celebrity Mastermind – Show 2

The first show of this run set quite a standard for tonight’s celebs to live up to. I’ve never met last night’s first celeb, Giles Coren, but I have shared a studio with his sister Victoria on 4 occasions. Giles proved himself to be a man after my own heart as he opted to answer on Asterix the Gaul. The Asterix books are remarkable I think partly because they are brilliant in the original French anyway, but also because the translator is so clever, and the level of word play in both original and translation is surprisingly sophisticated. Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent here. Giles scored a fantastic clear round of 18 correct answers from 18 questions.

I wasn’t previously aware of the work of Dr. Pixie McKenna. Apparently she’s on one of these shows about people with embarrassing bodies. This sort of thing strikes me as the 21st century equivalent of a circus freak show, but since I’ve never actually watched one of her shows I am willing to concede that this may be unfair. Dr. Pixie’s specialist subject was The History of Ellis Island, which as I’m sure you know was the disembarkation point in New York for millions of immigrants to th USA over the years. Huge subject, I’m sure, and you have to say that for the first half of the round she grappled rather well with it. Then fatigue, or nerves, or just a set of questions on aspects of the subject that she hadn’t considered kicked in, and the run rate slowed considerably. Nonetheless she posted a perfectly respectable 10.

Dean Macey I was aware of. Athletics is one of my favourite spectator sports , and in my opinion Dean Macey was amongst the most gifted British athletes of his generation. He was cruelly ill served by injury at a time when he was among the very best athletes in the world. In the show he answered questions on the Back to the Future trilogy. Well, I say on the trilogy, but the majority of the questions were really about the first film. Nothing wrong with that, either. Dean did well to get 14, but was absolutely kicking himself for getting his Johnny B. Goode mixed up with his The Power of Love.

Broadcast journalist Samira Ahmed from Channel 4 news gave a more traditional subject in the shape of The Novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She went at a fair old gallop too. Her round was not quite as good as Giles’ round. For one thing she didn’t get them all right. Still, she managed to get through enough questions to bring her an excellent 17 points, and a definite chance of a win.

On to the general rounds, and Dr. Pixie had obviously come to have a bit of fun and to enjoy the experience, a commendable attitude. To be fair to her the GK round took a long time to get going, and she was stuck in a pass spiral from very early on. She pulled herself together eventually, and actually made a good crack, apologising to her parents for the money they had wasted on her education ! As I think she knew, its only a game after all. She added 7 to her score, which was not enough to give her the overall lead. Dean came next, and he did a bit better, but still didn’t quite manage to make it into double figures. His score of 23 though would have put him comfortably in the middle of the unofficial table last year.

Samira then needed 7 to take the lead, but rather more to set a realistic target for Giles to aim at. Broadcast journalists have a bit of a chequered history in this show. Several have taken part, and I have a feeling that Ed Stourton and Alastair Stewart are the only ones to win a show. Still Samira went about her business calmly, doing what you have to do, picking off the easy ones – well, this is the celeb version – and not worrying or spending to long over the ones she didn’t know. At the end of the round she had scored 14 to take the total to 31. OK, some way from the fireworks in the previous show, but a serious target certainly.

Gile never looked totally at ease with his round, but the scores looked too close to call. He approached the total, and although his pass total was climbing it looked as if he might do it if he could score 13. The buzzer beat him before he quite managed it, as he scored 12 to give him 30, a praiseworthy total in it own right, but not, I’m afraid a winning one. So well done to Samira Ahmed . 2 shows down, and no male winner yet.

The Details

Giles Coren Asterix the Gaul Hemihelp18-012-430-4
Dr. Pixie McKennaEllis IslandAddenbrookes Charitable Trust10-47-6 17-10
Dean MaceyBack to the Future trilogyIndee Rose Trust and Battersea Dogs Home 14- 19 - 423- 5
Samira AhmedThe Novels of Laura Ingalls WilderFawcett Society and Action Aid17- 314 - 231 – 5

Only Connect - Grand Final - and an apology

Yes, an apology. I was outvoted on Monday night by the family, and so we didn't actually watch the final as it was broadcast. No problem, we thought, since we can catch it later on On Demand. Well, here we are on Wednesday morning, and it still hasn't been offered as an option on On Demand ! No problem , we thought, since it'll be on the iplayer. Yes, except that my flipping laptop has got some horrible virus which means I have been able to download my files from it, but not use any programs at all. I'm posting this via my ancient PC, which is so incredibly slow it makes watching anything on the iplayer virtually impossible. Well, that and the fact that it hasn't got any speakers either. All of which is a very long winded way of saying that I'm sorry, but a detailed analysis of what happened in the match is going to have to wait until I can get to watch it. Not entirely sure how - hopefully On Demand will get itself together in the next couple of days. So what follows is my journal I wrote on the same day of the final.

The Final

In a mere few days Gary , Neil and I had come through 3 matches, none of which had been a foregone conclusion. As I arrived at the studios on the very next day after the semis, I was confronted by Neil and Gary and a problem. The winners of the final were due to stay on for an extra day to play a match against the series 3 winners, our friends The Gamblers. This would not be a problem for me, or for Neil, but it would be a huge problem for Gary, who simply could not have any more time from the practice where he was working as a locum GP. Now at this stage I have to stress that ‘throwing’ the match so that we didn’t win was NEVER going to be an option. None of us would ever have done it. We couldn’t, we’re far too competitive for that. Not only that, but I know for a fact that the team who make the show would have no truck with such a thing either. Still, without being able to get an extra day for Gary , we were faced with a problem.

At best our chances of being needed for the next day – that is, by winning the final – were 50/50. Still, understandably Jenny wanted the problem dealt with ASAP, and didn’t want to leave it until after the final. The most obvious solution was to whistle up a reserves player who could take Gary’s place for the next day. Neil’s suggestion was that we asked Kath Drury. Kath had beaten the pair of us in our first Mastermind appearance in 2006, so this was incredibly appealing. However we were unable to raise her by phone. Likewise the couple of good quizzing mates I suggested. Running out of options rapidly, we had to accept that this problem was never going to be sorted out until after the final itself had been played.

As early as the Saturday morning, we had heard rumours of a fantastic score in the first round by a team called The Epicureans. We had to reckon that they were likely to be our opposition. Jenny soon confirmed that this was so. Before our match there were a couple of other matches to be filmed. The play off between the Alesmen and the other semi finalists, the Wrights was by all accounts another nailbiting affair. However the team were also making another special show to be shown for Comic Relief. The winners of the first series, the Crossworders, who had also defeated series 2 champions The Rugby Boys were now to take on a team consisting of three of the magnificent University Challenge winning team from Emanuel Cambridge. This was a great thrill to me, since I already knew Jenny Harris of the team through my blog, and it meant that I also got to meet Josh Scott and the famous Alex Guttenplan. Inroducing myself I was pleased as punch to be greeted by the immortal words – “Ah, you’re the blog man !”

Three quarters of the fabulous Emmanuel 2010 University Challenge Winners – Alex Guttenplan, Josh Scott and Jenny Harris
A quick excursion into the corridor revealed two dressing rooms, with these notices on them –

All of which confirmed my suspicions. We were indeed to play the frighteningly good Epicureans.

Since it was the final we made a late decision to all go with collars and ties. Unfortunately the Legend had the former but not the latter. Still a quick shopping trip to marks and Sparks which was just down the road took care of that. Then the team fed us, made us up, and we finally got to meet each other formally as we were all miked up ready for the show.

Me, Gary, The Legend, David Brewis, Katie Bramall-Stainer , Aaron Bell – The Radio Addicts and The Epicureans – friendly rivals.

I had never actually met any of the Epicureans before the show, but its fair to say that I knew of each of them. David Brewis has amongst many quiz appearences been a finalist on University Challenge, and a winner of Masterteam, incidentally with Crossworders David Stainer and Ian Bayley. Captain Katie Bramall-Stainer has an even closer connection with my friend David Stainer, being married to him ! Family honour to uphold there, then. Katie was also a semi finalist in the 2007 Mastermind series of blessed memory. As for Aaron Bell, well Aaron Bell won a show which you may just have heard of, called The Krypton Factor in 2009 ! When we chatted he informed me that he had originally been a member of the Lapsed Psychologists, the finalists in the first series, but had to drop out before the start of the series.

On paper our credentials weren’t that bad either, but not quite as impressive. Still, there’s absolutely no point thinking about that sort of thing as you’re going in to begin the show. I’m glad to say that the Epicureans were lovely , not too serious, not too intense, just nice decent guys. That and excellent players – but then you can’t have everything. Without being asked I decided to give my team mates the benefit of my experience just before we went in. I told them to enjoy the experience, and to try to find a point during the show to just stop and smell the roses a little. Grand finals don’t come along all that often during a quizzing career, and its as well to remember that winning them isn’t everything. Mind you , I admit that I did stare a little at the trophy when we were finally sat down.

Its never the trophy itself that’s important – its what it represents. Mind you, I wouldn’t have said no to one.

Things were actually a lot closer during most of the first couple of rounds. Neither team managed to really impose their authority on the other, and indeed I think we had a slight lead going into round two. Towards the end of round two it was just pure bad luck that the Epicureans were given the only connection in the show which I would have had a chance of getting decent points on. They took the well deserved points, and this ensured that they would carry a very useful lead into the walls. We were due to go second, so it was out to the holding area we went, and win the post mortem that followed we rationalised that we had actually played quite a bit better than we ‘d played at this stage in the semis. Still, we all knew deep down that lightning rarely strikes in the same place twice.

When it came to the wall we really were out with the washing. I should have seen the London buildings, but didn’t. I should have seen the Spanish words but didn’t. We figured out what the connections were once they were revealed, but you have to say that we had the opportunity to pull back some points on the Epicureans, but didn’t. As it was, we were lucky that they only scored 5 , the same as we did.

So to the Missing Vowels. We knew that they’d be very sharp, and to be fair, they were. We ought a decent rearguard action, and I was pleased on a personal level to buzz in on some of the scat singers, but there was no doubt that they’d had the better of the round, and were worthy and comfortable winners in the end.

Champions of series 4 – the excellent Epicureans

There’s not a lot more to say than that. I made a point of telling Victoria after the show that she looked absolutely stunning – and she did in the Final too, no exaggeration necessary there. Thanks and farewells were said to all the team, and then that was it. What more can I say ? Well, simply that my involvement with the show has been an utter joy from start to finish. I’ve never had so much fun on a team TV quiz, and never been treated better in any show. It’s a great show, and I hope it continues for many, many years to come.


That's it. As I say, I am sorry that I haven't posted any details of the show itself - the fact is that without watching it again I just can't remember the details. So please watch this space, and a proper review will follow as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Sleb Mastermind - Show 1

Well, here we are, back with the traditional end of year series of Sleb Mastermind. Of course, there was one burning question on everyone’s lips – would they make the celebrities play under the new format of 2 mins for specialist and 2 and a half mins for general knowledge? Well, the answer turned out to be no, they wouldn’t, and that’s probably just as well for some of them. Still, let’s not be catty about it.

Right then, first of tonight’s lambs to the slaughter was Samantha Giles. I will confess that I was not familiar with her work, but a quick google showed that she is an actress, best known for roles in Emmerdale and Where the Heart Is She earned my respect by donating her fee to the Alzheimers Society, and her specialist subject was the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Alright, there were enough gimmes in there for a non-devotee such as myself to manage a good half dozen, but Samantha did significantly better, coring 12. Respectability ensured, but a score likely to be beaten, I thought.

Richard Herring was representing Scope. Last year we saw a heat won by his former comedy partner Stewart Lee. I’ll be honest, I’ve preferred both of them since they went their separate ways, but there we are. Richard’s specialist subject was Rasputin, and his performance was out of the top drawer. Despite the fact that none of the question mentioned the classic by Boney M, he did extremely well. A fantastic 17 and no passes set a huge target for everyone who followed.

Mark Lawrenson was donating his fee to the Baby beat Appeal. Good lad. His specialist subject was Preston North End. Devotees of this gifted defender would know that this was the club with which he began his career. In fact I believe that it may well have been in the period that Sir Bobby Charlton was the manager. This actually was the answer to one of the questions. Mark made a bright and breezy start, but from the middle of the round seemingly ran out of steam, and didn’t quite manage to get himself into double figures.

Antiques Roadshow stalwart Hilary Kay completed the round, answering questions on the Life and Work of Josiah Wedgwood. So I suppose that it’s only fair that her fee was donated to the Wedgwood Museum In terms of bare statistics she was asked 18 questions during the round, and she answered all 18. Correctly. I don’t care who you are, that is a hell of a feat. You can know your subject inside out, back to front, upside down, and still your memory can sometimes steadfastly refuse to dredge up that fact you know. Brilliant round.

Yes, the sleb show is all for fun, but I’m sure there’s a bit of pride involved. For Mark Lawrenson the target was to get the 10 points he would need to give him the lead. Its no secret, I think, that the general rounds are easier for the sleb shows than they are for regular Mastermind. Still, although he struggled manfully with the questions he could only add another 8 to take his total to 17. Yes, alright, it’s a score which would have put him in the bottom half of the unofficial table of results from last year’s series, but there were a significant number who scored lower last year as well.

Samantha Giles next. She needed 7 to take the lead, and this always looked to be on the cards. She did it with something to spare, and pushed her score on to 11, which gave her 23 overall. I don’t think it would have won her any of last year’s shows, but it would have put her safely in the middle of the table.

At the business end of the contest Richard Herring looked as if he meant business with his round. He roared through the 23-point barrier, and found that he enjoyed it so much he just kept going. He dropped a couple he might have had if he hadn’t been going so quickly , but then he still managed to improve upon his first round score of 17, scoring a fine 18 and 1 pass. To put this into perspective only Stuart Maconie last year did better than this with 19 on GK.

This left Hilary Kay with a huge total to aim at. Still, if there was any crumb of comfort it was in the fact that she didn’t have to beat Richard’s GK score, only to equal it. Neither Richard nor Hilary passed at all in their first rounds, and so Richard’s 1 pass could be significant. It looked even more so when Hilary passed twice in her own round. If she only got 17, then Richard would do it. However 18 she did manage, which gave her a grand total of 36. A winning score, and incidentally a score which takes the record for the highest ever total on Celebrity mastermind, beating Lucy Porter’s 35 from the 2009 Children in Need special. Well done.

The Details

Samantha Giles Films of Alfred Hitchcock Alzheimer’s Society12-111-323-4
Richard HerringRasputinScope17-018-1 35 – 1
Mark Lawrenson Preston North End Baby Beat Appeal 9 – 2 8-317- 5
Hilary KayLife and Work of Josiah WedgwoodThe Wedgwood Museum18-018-236-2

Monday, 27 December 2010

Did you hear it here first ? Hmm. . .

Did you , by any chance, watch "The One Ronnie" the other night ? Now, don’t misunderstand me about this, I could quite easily sit through an evening of the very best of The Two Ronnies, and if this was washed down by a night of vintage Morecambe and Wise there would be no complaints to be heard from the Clark sofa. Well, not if I was the person sitting on it. However I have to say that I was a little disappointed. Obviously nobody is going to fill Ronie Barker’s shoes, but also some of the updates of classic Two Ronnies sketch ideas just didn’t really do it for me.

That’s not why I write. Its just that one particular sketch caught my eye because it reminded me of something I wrote back in June. If you’re a regular you’ll know that I have shared with you the occasional idea for new quiz shows. Sadly nobody has yet expressed any interest in my 2009 offering “Count Your Beans ( Comptez vos haricots ) “ but back in June I wrote this : -

“The best we managed on Thursday night was picking off one of the questions from the first two words of the question. Here, you try it : -
Egon Ronay . . .
The answer is at the bottom of this post.
Of course, its not completely unheard of to be able to pick off an answer from just one word. For example –
Triskaivedakatriaphobia . . . ( not sure if its spelt correctly, but you get the drift )
The – phobia – suffix makes it obvious that its about a fear of something, so however the rest of the question is worded, in most cases its going to be asking you just what it is the fear of .

Without wishing to brag, there are times we have picked up an answer before ANY of the words of the question have been asked . I should stress that none of us possess ESP to the best of our knowledge, and it only happens in very particular circumstances, namely , as part of a set of connections. For example, we might be asked :-
Who played the female lead in The Mask, with Jim Carrey ? ( CAMERON Diaz)
Which Ivy League University was founded in Warren, Rhode Island in 1765 ? (BROWN)
Then its very tempting to take a flyer and predict that the next answer will be Eric BLAIR ( question – what was the real name of writer George Orwell ? ) Of course, you’ll come unstuck if the question actually is one that requires the answer Linda Blair, or The Blair Witch Project etc. , but then that’s all part of the fun of the game. The connection of course being the last three Prime Ministers of the UK.

Do you know, I think that I feel a quiz show idea coming on . Do you remember Name that Tune – I think Tom O’Connor presented it at one time, but doubtless there were others. Two contestants had to conduct a sort of dutch auction, to see who was prepared to identify a tune from the lowest number of notes. For notes, read words of a question. So our host ( Dale, Nick, Dermot, Jeremy delete where applicable ) would announce that the next category is , for example, world capital cities . Contestant one offers to answer in 10 words, the opponent in 9, and so on , until poor contestant 2 is committed to doing it in 1 word. The host gives him his one word, which is – “Ulaan” Contestant 2 is delighted, and answers Mongolia. So we face a second question from the same category – world capital cities. This time its contestant 1 who bids down to 1 word, and is licking his chops in anticipation as the host gives him his one word –
“Which “. Unfair, I know, but then cruel is in vogue at the moment. Personally, I think the concept has legs. If any production companies out there happen to be interested, well, you know where to contact me. “

Well, on the One Ronnie, one of the sketches featured Ronnie as the Question master of a new quiz show called "What ? " Each round featured Ronnie posing contestants Matt Lucas and David Walliams the one word “What ? “ , “Who ? “ Where ? “ etc. and then they had to supply the answer. The joke was that nobody in the history of the show had ever got one right etc. etc.

I see a resemblance. I wonder - is there, perhaps, a LAM reader among the writers of the show ? I don’t mind someone picking up a throwaway idea of mine and running with it , but it would be nice to at least be told. Personally I think it would have been funnier if they’d taken the idea of having really easy one word questions for one contestant, and then impossible ones for another, but then I would say that, I suppose.

Brain of Britain - Heat 10

Brain of Britain – Heat 10

I must apologise if my BoB reviews this year have seemed rather like a long winded name dropping exercise. The fact is that once you’ve taken part in a few broadcast quizzes, and played in the odd grand prix and big event here and there you do start to get to meet the people who go in for the same sort of things that you do. Add this to the fact that many people who have been reviewed on this very blog have been kind enough to get in touch, and it goes some way to explaining why this is yet another heat of this year’s BoB where I do know one of the contenders.

First to go today was Dr. Graham Barker. If the name sounds familiar to you, well indeed it should. Graham is one third of the Alesmen, semi finalists in the series of Only Connect which reaches its climax tonight. Graham’s participation raised the prospect of a semi final meeting with his OC captain Mark Kerr, whom we heard sprinting away from the opposition in his own heat a couple of weeks ago to win by the proverbial country mile. Would Graham repeat this feat today ? Well, indications from the first round were that he would. He missed his own second question, but with two bonuses in the round he had a 2 point lead over fellow competitors Michael Rapaport, David Skiffington Smith, and Carol Slater. I was a little surprised to see Stendahl’s “The Charterhouse of Parma” pass by all the competitors. Still, in round 2 Graham built on the lead he had established, with another 2 bonuses, but this time two of his own questions at well. Thus he led with 7 against Carol’s 4.

From then on this show became the polar opposite of last week’s show, where you may recall that it was a life or death struggle for points throughout the whole contest, and the result was in doubt up to the last question. Not so today. Given a set of five which proved to be well within his capabilities Graham took a full 5 and bonus on the next round, and for good measure helped himself to a bonus as well. Already he had 14, which to be fair was quite a bit more than the other contestants would manage by the end of the show. In the next round Graham did show a little vulnerability by confusing the Royal Oak with the Ark Royal. Both were sunk in World War II, but the Ark Royal was the aircraft carrier. Not taht anyone could use this failure on the first question to narrow the gap, as nobody scored more than a point in the round, and Graham himself picked up another bonus.

The Beat the Brains questions were these – In Peter and the Wolf – which instrument is used for the cat ? It sounded like Carol who supplied the answer Clarinet. However the team did fail to answer which instrument symbolises a swan in a piece by Sibelius. It was a cor anglais. Back to the contest. Graham rammed home his superiority by taking a very good set of 5, which I thought was harder than his first, but then that’s just me. For the other contestants it was all about beating 11, which would put them into repechage slots. Points, though, were just coming too slowly for them. After a bright start Carol Slater faded and didn’t add to her 5. Neither Michael nor David could average more than one point a round either. So it just remained to see the remaining rounds out. Graham once more missed a first question on the EFDS – the English Folk Dance Society, but in the last round I was delighted to hear him pick up a bonus on Timothy Farthing. You may recall that this was the name of the vicar played by Frank Williams in Dad’s Army. Graham certainly recalled it.

So that was it. Graham finished with 30 , comfortably the highest score of the series.Many congratulations, a fantastic performance ! Its certainly possible that he might meet Mark in the semis, although it would be a cruel twist of fate if it happened. Still, if you’re looking for irony I fancy that the three highest scorers from the heats of last year’s BoB were all put into the same semi, and if you’re looking for even more irony, one of them was Chris Quinn, the other third of the Alesmen. Ee, it’s a small world, in’t it ?

The Details

Dr. Graham Barker - 30
Michael Rapaport - 9
David Skiffington Smith - 8
Carol Slater - 5

Current Highest scoring runners-up

John Beynon – 18
Angela Wilson - 15
Ian Cassidy - 13
Anne Finch – 11/ Richard Hedges – 11

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Sleb Eggheads Update

You may recall that last year I was worried that none of the celebrity teams would possibly beat the eggheads ? As it happened a couple of teams did. Well, this year you have to say that the natural order of things has been re-established. Since my last post on the subject another 4 teams have come and gone without a penny for their trouble, or their chosen charity for that matter.

Show 4 saw Natural History presenters Chris Packham, Bill Oddie, Phillippa Forester, Nick Baker and Mark O'Shea try their luck. Not a cat in hell's chance.

Show 5 and it was the turn of Home and Garden presnters Toby Buckland, Chris Collins the Blue Peter gardener, Aggie Mckenzie , Big Brother's first winner Craig Phillips, and James Alexander Sinclair. No green shoots of recovery for them.

If any team was going to do it I sincerely hoped it would be Monday's team of old school Doctor Who stalwarts. Doctor number 6 Colin Baker, Fraser Hines, Louise 'Leela' Jamieson, and John 'K9' Leeson joined with the only ( as far as I know ) Dr. Who companion to pose in a state of some undress in Playboy with a dalek, Katy Manning. Oh, they didn't win, by the way.

Then last night a team of very old, in fact ancient, school former radio 1 DJs had a pop. They were Mike Smash ( Tony Blackburn ) , Mike Read, David 'Kid' Jensen, Diddy David Hamilton and Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart. They took the Eggheads to two tiebreaks, but poor old ex-King of the Jungle Tony B. thought that Ron Howard was the film director who shared his name with a very famous explorer. Never mind.

I'm not going to lie, the programme does give me a slight feeling of unease. It works like this. The teams are playing for their chosen charities. In the normal run of things it is very unlikely that a team of celebs is going to have the remarkable run of luck they would need to beat quizzers of the calibre of the Eggheads. Honestly, asking a team of non -quizzers to beat Pat, Kevin, Barry, Chris, Daphne, Cj and Judith, or any combination of 5 of them is rather like asking someone who has occasionally played Crazy Golf at the seaside to take on Tiger Woods.

Which means that either : -

*A team will play out of their skins, and get a huge slice of luck, and beat the eggies. Unlikely , but not impossible.
*The eggies would need to 'take a dive' - which I don't see happening.
*The Production team would try to engineer a result by fixing the questions to fall heavily against the eggies - possible , but not advisable in the current climate
*No team will beat them , and no money will be won for charity.

It makes me wonder, do the team who make the show pay a certain amount to the chosen charities anyway ? In Sleb Mastermind there's no prize pot for the charities which the contenders play for, but their appearence fees go to the charities. Is there an appearence fee paid for the celebrities which goes to their charities on Eggheads too ? I'd feel a lot more comfortable about it, knowing that the charities are getting something out of the deal, and that the daily prize money is just an added incentive.

University Challenge - Jack's Starter Stats

I'm indebted to LAM regular Jack, who has compiled this list of how each remaining player has fared so far on starters.

"OK Dave, here are the stats of the best players over the first two rounds. I have included the starter tally along with penalties for all 33 players for the eight remaining teams.

Ben Slingo (Peterhouse): 18 (2)
Tristram Cole (Sheffield): 16 (0)
Mark Jackson (Queens'): 14 (1)
Andrew Clemo (York): 13 (0)
James Williams (Bristol): 12 (1)
Will Cudmore (Magdalen): 12 (2)
Natasha Simonova (Christ's): 10 (0)
Sarah Johnson (Oxford Brookes): 9 + tie-break (0)
James McComish (Magdalen): 8 (0)
Joe Walmswell (Christ's): 8 (0)
Ben Keane (York): 8 (1)
Lucinda Critchley (Bristol): 7 (0)
Austin Sherlaw-Johnson (Oxford Brookes): 7 (1)
Kyle Haddad-Fonda (Magdalen): 7 (2)
Anthony McLarin (Oxford Brookes): 6 (0)
Andy Bolton (Sheffield): 6 (0)
Hugh Bennett (Sheffield): 6 (0)
Richard Williams (Oxford Brookes): 5 (1)
Edward Tait (Peterhouse): 5 (2)
Georgia Malcolm (Bristol): 5 (2)
Jack Belloli (Christ's): 4 (0)
Alexander Greaves (Christ's): 4 (0)
Ario Brunet (Bristol): 4 (0)
Sam Gilbert (Queens'): 4 (0)
Simon Wallace: (Queens'): 4 (1)
Louise Howes (Peterhouse): 3 (0)
Tom Thirkell (Sheffield): 2 (0)
Chris Caudwell (York): 2 (0)
Simon Donnelly (York): 2 (0)
William Belfield (Queens'): 2 (1)
David Webster (Queens'): 2 (1)
Christopher Stanton (Peterhouse): 1 (0)
Matthew Chan (Magdalen): 0 (1)"

Many thanks for that , Jack. As we always say, stats can't tell you the whole story . For example its very difficult to measure just how much any individual member of a team contributes towards bonuses. It is a fact though that you can't win a match if you don't get the starters.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

University Challenge - Quarter Final Preview

Right then, I apologise if I’ve got any of these details wrong, but I’ve compiled a little table of the results from both the first and second rounds of all 8 teams who have won through to the quarters. For each team I’ve shown the points they have scored in both matches, and the total points scored by both teams in each match. Then I’ve averaged these out for each team.Here’s the table : -

Team rd 1 scorerd 1 totalrd 2 scorerd 2 totalave scoreave total
Oxford Brookes220 430 320 420 270425
Magdalen340 460 190 315 265 387.5
Christ’s 290 350220 380 255 365
Peterhouse265 430 215 420 240 425
Bristol190 375 275 340 232.5 342.5
York245 350 195 335 220 342.5
Queens’190 375 175 295 182.5 335

Of course you can only tell so much from the numbers Still , they do enable us to make some interesting observations. Firstly its worth noting that all of the teams who shone inthe first round made considerably heavier weather of their second round matches. Of course, Sheffield, my adopted team for the season, have the highest average score across the two matches. They also have the highest average for total points scored by both teams. I hve to say though, that the most impressive performance in round two was that of Oxford Brookes. They had the highest score in round two, being the only team to beat the 300 point barrier. Fancied runners Magdalen are also in the top half of the table, although there is quite a discrepancy between their first and second round performances.

Whatever the case there will be no team repeating the heroics of Emmanuel by winning the series after losing in the first round, since both repechage winners have been knocked out.

Who will win through to the semis ? Well, you have to say that the picture has been muddied rather than made clearer by the second round matches. You wouldn’t find many to argue that Sheffield, who have been amongst the top 4 performing teams in both 1st and 2nd rounds look good value, and they are the first team to be burdened with the Clark tip. Likewise Magdalen, even if they made harder work of round 2 than looked likely. But then who ? Oxford Brookes have to be taken very seriously following their round 2 performance, albeit that they were outscored in the 1st round by Peterhouse, Christ’s and York. The fact is that in the first round they were playing a very good Cardiff team. So I take them to get to the semis as well. Who else ? Well, the teams are so well matched from here that any of them could do it. But I just have a fancy that last night’s winners Bristol could just do it. I doubt they’ll thank me for tipping them though ! After all, I did manage to pick all 4 semi finalists last year, and both finalists, and the winners, for that matter, so something really has to give , I’m afraid !

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round 2 – Match 8 – Newnham , Cambridge v. Bristol

At last I get to review a match featuring this Newnham team. Last time out I was in Spain, I think, and therefore missed their first round win over Southampton. Never mind. Tonight we saw Claire Greenwell, Lucy Andrews, Caroline Tanner and captain Elizabeth Coker face something of a big ask , bearing in mind they squeaked through in one of the lowest scoring matches of the first round. Mind you, first round form is a notoriously poor guide to eventual outcome, as we’ve already seen in this and previous series. Favoured to win tonight were the Bristol team of Ario Brunet, Lucinda Critchley, Georgia Malcolm and captain James Williams. They too had a very narrow win, although their win against a good St. Andrews team saw them almost make 200 points. Well, on with the show.

If it’s a book of travels, and its called the Million, then its famous Croatian ( well, he was born in part of what is now Croatia ) Marco Polo. James Williams began what was to prove a very fruitful evening with a correct buzz, and his team posted their intent with a full set of bonuses on academic fields. However he was incorrect when he suggested the longest word in the first verse of God Save the Queen is gracious. Claire Greenwell knew that it was victorious. The Newnham team took their own couple of bonuses on the Arts. Lucinda Critchley took the next for Bristol, recognising a group of Celias. This was added to with a single bonus on the climate change debate. Not for the last time tonight Georgia Malcolm showed decisiveness on the buzzer, taking the third starter on thermodynamics. Again, the team managed one bonus on human anatomy. The fourth starter was the first set of pictures. Skipper Williams buzzed in early , recognising Western Australia. The team didn’t quite manage any of the other autonomous regions of various countries which followed as bonuses. Lucy Andrews pulled back a little of the deficit for Newnham when she buzzed in to identify a pigment being described as Sienna, after an early miscue from Georgia Malcolm. James Williams though buzzed in impressively early on the next starter to explain that the film Agony concerns events leading up to the execution of Grigory Rasputin. 2 bonuses on chefs ensured that Bristol had a healthy lead of 80 points to 35 over Newnham at the 10 minute mark.

There was a great buzz from Georgia Malcolm on the next starter, identifying Enron as the company being described. No bonuses were taken. No matter, as James Williams himself scored a highly impressive early buzz on the term Bildungs roman. This time the team took all three bonuses on pairs of words differing by one letter – morse and morose, for example. Then came the first starter which could not be taken by either team, and Georgia Malcolm earned herself a bit of a telling off. More about that later. Maybe this gave a little heart to Newnham, who’d been buzzed out of the contest for a while, since Caroline Tanner correctly identified the temple complex of Angkor Wat from its description. Unfortunately the team failed to take any of a set of bonuses on roman provinces. The next starter, the music starter, saw a brilliant early buzz from skipper Williams. He couldn’t have heard more than a couple of bars before he had buzzed into correctly identify the band playing as the Sex Pistols. With the help of Lucinda Critchley he went on to identify a set of banned records for a full set of bonuses. She obviously enjoyed this so much that she buzzed in with the next starter, identifying the son of Odysseus as Telemachus. 3 bonuses on literary figures followed, and even though there was still plenty of time left on the clock you really couldn’t see Newnham getting back into the contest at this point. Ario Brunet took a starter identifying Lorelei as the siren of the Rhine, which meant that each member of the Bristol team had claimed at least one starter. 1 bonus on wine followed. Did you know that the phrase ‘blinking idiot’ is used in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice “ ? I did ( because I teach the play some years ) , and so did Lucinda Critchley. One bonus followed on film music. Captain Elizabeth Coker earned herself a huge beaming smile from JP when she got crème fraiche for the next starter. 1 bonus was taken on years. With time for one more starter before the 20 minute mark was reached, the 2nd set of pictures almost inevitably fell to James Williams, who recognised a painting of the Battle of Trafalgar. With one bonus this took the scores to 200 to Bristol, as opposed to 60 for Newnham.

Maybe its me, but it seemed to me that the Bristol foot came a little off the accelerator now, the game having been effectively won. Both teams missed the next starter. James Williams took the next two, on the first words of the Origin of Species, and on King Edwards – that’s the royal personages, and not the potatoes or cigars. 2 out of 6 bonuses were taken. Caroline Tanner took Newnham’s last starter when she identified that there are 4 figures in human form in The Birth of Venus and other paintings. Neither team knew starters about Lincoln Cathedral, and the Battle of the Books by Jonathan Swift. Neither did I , for that matter. James Williams added a little gilding to Bristol’s score when he recognised a starter calling for the answer – the speed of sound. Coincidence alert - one of their bonuses now asked them for Dorothy Sayers’ middle name ! Min Lacey answered the same question in Brain of Britain earlier the same day. Just one of those nice little coincidences. . Neither team managed give the answer tMontgomery as a state capital, but on a gimme like the SI Unit of Force James Williams was always going to win the buzzer race. Finally Ario Brunet took the last starter on the three countries that have territory on the island of Borneo. Time for one bonus, and the gong sounded. A comprehensive 275 – 70 win for Bristol. Well played . How far can they go –well, that remains to be seen. If you can hit the buzzer early enough you’ve always got a chance of going a long way. Watch this space for a review of the second round, and a preview of the quarter finals in the next few days.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

- and watch him I did, for I remember how besotted he seemed with last year’s Newnham team. Certainly he seemed on his best behaviour for over half of the match. When Georgia Malcolm of Bristol buzzed in to a starter on Physiology, then gave no answer, then gave an answer after Jeremy P. had already told her it was too late, his rebuke was remarkably mild. In fact he even apologised a little – “I’m sorry , its harsh, but it’s the only way to be fair. “

However the effort of being nice told on him later on. When he asked which event in British history occurred in the year of the 14th prime number he rounded on Ario Brunet who offered the start of the second world war.
“SECOND WORLD WAR !! It’s the start of the Roman Conquest !”
Then he even turned on Newnham. Up to now he had been biting his tongue if they offered an unlikely answer, but when they offered Paraguay incorrectly he expostulated “NO ! PARAGUAY’S over the OTHER SIDE of the country !”

Having said that he tried to be gallant to Newnham , particularly noticeable when he didn’t draw attention to the relatively low score they had achieved, and in fact made a point of pointing out how small the body of students they have to draw upon is. What is it about Newnham’s teams that brings out this gallantry in our Jeremy ? I think we should be told.

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

The first person to exhibit in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern was Louise Bourgeois – and as an aside , she died earlier this year.

TV Watch - Only Connect

Third Place Play-Off match – The Alesmen v. The Wrights

Here we are at the really sharp end of the series. Chris, Graham and captain Mark, the Alesmen, accounted for the Pool Sharks and then the In-Laws, and then only a run of terrible luck on the wall prevented them from beating my team, the Radio Addicts, to take their place in the final. Their opponents were this year’s surprise package, the Wrights. Pete, Rosa and captain Liz disposed of the Urban Walkers and the Bloggers, before being beaten by the mighty Epicureans in the semi final. What – no pre match prediction, Dave? No, well, you see this match was filmed before the final, and I already knew the outcome. Having said that, I didn’t know how the outcome came about, as it were.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

The Alesmen won the toss, and flying in the face of convention Mark chose water. This revealed USS New York – Palazzo Venezia – US President’s Desk and Michael Landy’s Break Down . They guessed that all were made out of ships.In a way they were on the right lines, but not close enough. They were all made from recycled materials. I knew this just because I had actually read about the USS New York a couple of days ago, and I knew that the President’s desk was made from part of an old British ship, which the Alesmen knew. The Wrights were rather further away . Wrights chose horned viper. Good choice, since this brought them music from the Boo Radleys then Moby , and they correctly guessed that the artists involved were named after book characters – 3 points. Alesmen took twisted Flax , and received I, libertine , Venus on the Half Shell ( I knew this ! ) The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Fly fishing. Mark offered that they were all works by fictional authors, then explained fictional books by fictional authors then published in their own right. 1 point.I didn’t know about I Libertine, apparently the idea of a radio DJ who wanted to get this non existent book onto the bestseller lists. Wrights , still in the lead chose Eye of Horus which concealed Napoleon Bonaparte 1809 – Juan Peron 1955 – Henry VIII 1533 – Martin Luther 1520. Well, I was doing alright until Luther came up then divorce went right out of the window. Neither team got it, but funnily enough Luther was the big clue, since these were the dates that all of these figures were excommunicated from the catholic church. A lovely set followed. The Alesmen chose Lion and found Swedish : Omelette – Spanish : Potato – French : Marmoset – English : Cheese, and correctly answered that this was what photographers asked you to say in those languages to make you smile for a photo ! Marvellous set , that. Finally the Wrights finished with 2 reeds, and were given pictures of AJP Taylor, JMW Turner, JPR Williams and JRR Hartley – er – Tolkein. Unfortunately they only recognised JPR Williams, I think, which gave the bonus to the Alesmen. This put them one point behind the Wrights who led by 4 to 3.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

The Alesmen began with two reeds, and received Philadelphia PA. One of them seemed to have the connection right away, as I did – shouting “Its Dancing in the Streets !” Unfortunately this was not the question. After Baltimore and DC had been revealed it seems that both teams ignored the song’s command “don’t forget the Motor City “, since that was the next in the sequence. The Wrights chose water for 675, 1087, 1136 . Neither team knew that these were all years in which St. Paul’s in London caught fire. If you knew that, then you’d definitely know the next would be 1666. However I didn’t either. Tough set. The Alesmen fared no better with horned viper, a picture set. The pictures showed Bill W. , founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Malcolm X and a Model Y Ford. The Wrights were close to a bonus, but just specified a Z, rather than a name ending in Z – eg Jay – Z. The Wrights then chose Lion, ad received North = DUP – and right away I think they had a good idea that we were looking at Northern Ireland political parties – then East = AP, and South =SDLP. Luckily for them Rosa corrected captain Liz’ rather woolly answer to West= SF, for West Belfast = Sinn Fein. The Alesmen then took Eye of Horus. Now this is one of very few Science ones I think I’d have had right. Ac – Al – Am made all of us think of chemical elements I’m sure. However I knew that although the elements themselves – Actinium, Aluminium – Americium were in alphabetical order their symbols weren’t. In full names, the next should be antimony – which is Sb. No points. The Wrights were given rather a straightforward one of St. Denis – Yokohama – Berlin. I say straightforward, but only if you’re a football fan. They didn’t know that these were venues of successive world cup finals. The Alesmen supplied the correct answer – Johannesburg, where this year’s final was played. Still, the Wrights maintained a one point lead with 5 to the Alesmen’s 4.

The Connecting Walls

The Wrights knew that they are a good missing vowels team, so a good performance on the wall would give them a fighting chance of victory. They took their time, but managed to unravel 4 sets. Chalky – Dusty – Nobby and Spud saw them barking up the wrong tree, looking for gang members or mates of various literary heroes. They are all naval nicknames. Personally my navel doesn’t have a nickname, but I digress. Ginger – Root – Wheat and White gave them beers, Triad – Suspension – Interval – Cadence gave them terms in musical harmony, and Beam – Arch – Swing and Pontoon gave them bridges. 7 points scored, and at most they would be 2 points behind after the round.

The Alesmen were determined not to let lightning strike twice in the same place, and so they absolutely demolished their wall. Trojan Horse – Keylogger – Virus and Worm gave them malware for the PC, Thunderbolt – Galileo – Beelzebub and Fandango all feature in the lyric of Bohemian Rhapsody , Submarine – Torpedo – Hoagie and Poor boy are American sandwiches, and Clockwise – Christ – Neutrino and Climax can all be preceded by –anti.Ladies and gents, had their semi final wall been anything like that, they would have been contesting the final. As it was they now led by 14 to 12.

Round Four- Missing Vowels

The first set was regimental names and nicknames. 3 buzzes for the Wrights to the Alesmen’s one made it a tie at the top. Films featuring bizarre plants saw the Alesmen get two right, but lose a point for a wrong answer. Then names that only use straight lines both teams got one wrong, but the Wrights answered more correctly than the Alesmen did. Types of book swung the contest irrevocably towards the Wrights. I can’t help wondering whether NNL would have allowed for Annal as well as the correct answer Annual ? Finally extinct mammals. This fell 2 – 1 to the Alesmen, but it was not quite enough. The Wrights ran out winners by 22 to 19.

Very well played to both teams. A fantastic match, and most enjoyable.

Next week, the final.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Brain of Britain

Brain of Britain – First Round – Heat 9

Blimey, its cold outside. I don’t know what its like wherever you happen to be reading this, but here in Port Talbot its freezing, and we’ve had snow down since Friday. Its been snowing on and off for several days now, which is more than we’ve had than at any time since I moved here the best part of a quarter of a century ago. All of which is a very long winded way of saying that I’ve been very happy to stay by the open fire today, with the radio on, waiting for BoB.

Second to go in today’s line-up was LAM reader Min Lacey. You’re probably aware that Min was a member of the excellent Archers Admirers, semi finalists in season 3 of Only Connect, and she also won heat 6 of this year’s Mastermind. So she’s at least a semi finalist in Mastermind as well. Could she, I wondered, make it the hat trick by getting through this heat to the BoB semis ? Certainly her GK round in Mastermind this year showed that she is a good general knowledge quizzer, and so there was every hope that she could.

First to go, though, was Julie Aris. Maglev presented her with no problems, but her second question stopped her dead. Asking about the white skirt traditionally worn by men in Greece is a bit of an old chestnut, but nobody knew it. Min was stopped by her own first, not knowing it was Hitchcock who directed Blackmail among others. Plenty of time to go. Keith Porter, third to go, knew that Stingray Bay was the original name of Botany Bay, but didn’t know that chromium gives emerald its green colour. Stuart Rudd knew that Aberdeen was the third city of Scotland, but he didn’t know Fuller’s earth. Julie did. In the second round Min took an early bonus, knowing that Peter Sallis plays Norman Clegg. She took her own first question, knowing a furnicular railway, but that was as far as she went in the round. Keith missed his first. Stuart knew all about chads in the 2000 US election, but didn’t know that Louis IV and V of France ruled in the 10th century. So at this stage all were off the mark, but Stuart led with 4.

Julie again knew her first, but again failed on the 2nd. Min knew Lincoln succeeded Buchanan, but got a nasty one for her second question. Nobody knew that the Best Friend of Charleston was the USA’s first steam locomotive. Keith again missed his first , and then Stuart missed his. In all honesty this was sounding like a nervy contest, as Julie joined Stuart with 4, with Min another point behind. Round 4 gave Julie Aris a bit of bouncer to begin . In the music question I recognised Oh Superman by Laurie Anderson, but that wasn’t the question. The question was which rock musician she is married to. Its Lou Reed. Nobody knew that in the studio, or chez Clark for that matter . Min missed a gettable question, not knowing that Simone de Beauvoir was the lifelong companion of Sartre. Nobody had that. Keith didn’t know the part of the Sahara desert in the north eastern Sudan. Not easy, but gettable – the Nubian Desert. Finally Stuart missed his first on Endocrine glands. Julie’s correct buzz was enough to give her a one point lead, going into the Listener’s questions.

The first question asked where the Falcon, the Effra and another were once found, and what they were. Through my work for the final of the 2007 SOBM of Mastermind I knew that they were lost rivers of London. The team didn’t, but they did know that Holborn takes its name from a stretch of the lost river Fleet.

On with the contest. Points remained extremely hard to come by. Julie knew that a pardon in the medieval catholic church was an indulgence. Good answer. She didn’t guess that a law in Physics would be named after Hooke. Stuart did. Min got a golf question, but nobody knew that the 1971 Open champion was Lee Trevino. Keith didn’t know where the Explicit is in an early printed book. Stuart was close, but not close enough for a point. Apparently it is at the back, but not in the index. It’s the last words of the text. Now you (and I ) know. He didn’t know that Burghley Park is in Lincolnshire, but Min did. Which meant that Keith now had 2 , Min had 4 , Stuart had 5 and Julie had 6. Still anyone’s game at this stage.

Julie looked possibly most the most likely winner, as you just couldn’t see anyone scoring more than a couple of points in any one round. She knew the chestnut that Walter Gropius was the original leading figure in the Bauhaus movement. Min got another starter which prevented her scoring on her own questions. Nobody quite got the abbreviation SPQR – Senatus Populusque Romanum. Keith couldn’t answer his own question, knowing that what the germans call white coal is really hydro-electric power. Stuart missed his own on the architectural term piloti. So Julie had edged out another point, to 7. Julie then missed her first question on a pair of Webers. Keith , who had now taken stock and begun to make his move, got a bonus. Min got a question on the troy scale which nobody answered correctly. Keith then took two of his own questions on the bounce, before handing Min a bonus for naming two of the other cities in Northern Ireland apart from Belfast. Stuart knew that the first scheduled programme on BBC2 was Play School. However he missed his second. So at the end of the round Keith had pulled up to 5, equal with Min, Stuart had 6, and Julie still led with 7.

Lets think about this for a moment. This was such a tight game, and points were proving so hard to come by that anyone who could put together a string of five would surely win. In fact a string of three or four might be enough. Julie got a nice question on millefiori to start. A second music starter did for her. I was particularly pleased with myself for recognising the theme to ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier ,Spy’. Stuart knew it, putting himself level with Julie. Min got a question on John le Carre’s 22nd novel. Bad luck that since nobody quite knew it. Keith didn’t know that histamine is released by the body as part of an allergic reaction, which gave Min a bonus. Stuart’s question about the country in which a huge field of dinosaur fossils has been discovered gave her another, with China. Which meant that the scores were now Keith 5, Min and Stuart 7, and Julie 8.

Anyone could win in the last round, and with the scores so close the situation could change with each question. Julie missed her first question, so any points she got would have to come from bonuses. Min answered her first question on the Schneider trophy . Level with Julie on 8 points ! Her second did for her though, and Keith got it, on a primitive seismograph. Keith couldn’t answer what the middle name of Dorothy L. Sayers was. Mathematically this put him out of the running. Min knew it though! Yes ! I shouted . Come on Min ! She was in the lead now by one point by my reckoning. If Stuart missed his first question, and Julie couldn’t answer it. . . Stuart knew his first. 8 points, one behind Min. He knew his second , on a neutrino. 9, and a blooming good shout . Tied for first place. He knew escape velocity . 10 points, and the outright lead. He got the next wrong ,and Min buzzed in. If she was right, it was a tie ! Oh, Min, you were so close. She couldn’t quite get out Leni Reifenstahl. Julie could, though. All of which meant that at the end Keith had 6, Min and Julie both had 9, but Stuart had won with 10.

I felt emotionally drained by the end. Very hard lines Min, but well played Stuart. This wasn’t the best first round heat I’ve ever heard, but for last round drama and tension it would take some beating.

The Details

Julie Aris - 9
Min Lacey - 9
Keith Porter - 6
Stuart Rudd - 10

Current Highest scoring runners-up

John Beynon – 18
Angela Wilson - 15
Ian Cassidy - 13
Anne Finch – 11/ Richard Hedges – 11

Friday, 17 December 2010

The 2010 LAMMY Awards

Yes, it’s the last weekend before the Christmas break, and therefore time for my annual review, and a few awards, the recipients of which are, if I may quote the official citation , “ chosen by nothing more objective than my own personal whim “. It has become traditional to begin with

1) The Award For The Best New TV Quiz Show for 2010

Oh dear.

I did post on this very same subject a few weeks ago. The basic problem is that in comparison with the previous two years that this award has been presented, there has been a real dearth of new quiz shows this year. Please note, I am not bemoaning the lack of quality in the new shows – I am bemoaning the lack of new quiz shows of any kind. The only two that have impinged on the radar at all have been : -

Million Pound Drop

As you will know if you’ve read my post about this one, its not to my liking. That’s fair enough, since I doubt very much it is meant to appeal to my demographic anyway. I’m afraid that I find Davina McCall irritating, gameplay is slow, there aren’t enough questions per show and many of those that are asked are just guessing questions.

Antiques Master

This made its debut back in July, and I actually quite enjoyed it. However, as I did say when I reviewed the show, there are problems with it. Anna Chancellor is a gifted actress, but I am afraid that her voice over was unnecessary and annoying. I felt that the show couldn’t make up its mind whether it was meant to be a proper quiz, or a bit of frivolous fun.

So, without further ado, the decision for the award for 2010 is –

No Award

I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. I have seen nothing new this year which come close to last year’s top shows, winner The Chase, and close runner up Pointless, and nothing even in the same galaxy as 2008 winner Only Connect.

However this does mean that I feel justified in offering a new award, and one suggested by LAM reader Ben Dutton. This one we call

2) The Old Dog – New Tricks Award for the Development and Refinement of an existing Quiz Show

What a bumper crop we can consider for this. After all, this is the year when : -
University Challenge moved away from the straight knockout tournament format in the quarter finals, and as a result we saw a fantastic round of some great matches.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ditched the fastest finger first, so if you appeared on the show, then there was every good chance that you were in the money. Time limits, and tweaks with lifelines, and new lifelines available at certain points brought the show a welcome injection of public interest and attention.

Pointless made some tweaks, adding a little variation to the gameplay in second and third rounds, and streamlining the format so as to produce an even faster moving and more entertaining show.

Last year’s Best New Show Winner, The Chase added my friend Anne Hegerty to their formidable roster of Chasers. In addition they shortened the ladder in the first round in order to make it easier for contestants to reach the final chase.

Mastermind unveiled a new arrangement of the theme in the 2010 grand Final. In fact the semis also showed the first deviation from the time honoured equal amounts of time for specialist and general rounds, when only 90 seconds were allowed for specialist rounds. In the current series we’ve seen GK rounds of 2 and a half minutes, made possible by the loss of the filmed inserts. No doubt in my mind, the more questions, the better. The show moves along like a runaway express now.

So, without further ado, the winner is : -


Yes, Mastermind. You think, perhaps , I might be biased. Well, possibly so. However look at the facts. This year has seen a brave departure from a tried and tested format, and I think its come off. Its not just that, though. In the summer we aw a fantastic Champion of Champions series, won by the great Pat Gibson, and frankly, if I’d allowed my heart to rule my head and counted CHamp of Champs as a brand new show, then it would have run away with the best new show award.

3) The Award for Quiz Performance of the Year

This award is always a really tough one. I mean, how can you choose between : -

University Challenge – Emmanuel , Cambridge

Yes, for the second year running the Grand Final was won in the studio ( although this season not lost on a rule infringement later ) by a team whose captain has attracted comment in the national media for his stunning performances. However make no mistake, Andy, Josh and LAM reader Jenny all played their part as well as the great Alex G. Their victory is all the more worthy of praise since the team had to come back after defeat in their first match.

Brain of Britain – Ian Bayley

Back in January in the Grand Final of Brain of Britain , Ian’s performance was frankly breathtaking. I should know, for I was sitting right next to him. I don’t know if his score of 32, and his winning margin of 23, were a record for a BoB grand Final, but it really wouldn’t surprise me. He was awesome.

Mastermind / Mastermind Champion of Champions – Jesse Honey
Mastermind Champion of Champions - Pat Gibson

Jesse holds the distinction of setting a clutch of records this year. Firstly in the Grand Final this year he set a new Humphrys era record total of 37. Then , for good measure, he broke this in his heat of the Champion of Champions series. And yes, this record should count, since the Champ of Champs heats were played with traditional 2 minute for SS and 2 minute for GK rounds. In this same show he set the all time record for a single round, with an unbelievable 23 on his specialist subject , National Flags of the World.

Jesse went on to score 36 in the Grand Final of the Champions series. This matched the target set by Pat Gibson. Pat, however, had done this with no passes. Even in the heat, where Pat had not quite hit his top form, he still made sure that he didn’t pass, which was enough to win. Have a look at Pat’s 2 specialist subjects for the series – Disney Pixar animated films – and – Great Mathematicians. That will give you an idea of the measure of Pat’s achievement – no subject too wide !

Only Connect – The Gamblers- Jenny Ryan, Alan Gibbs, David Bill

The Gamblers were the worthy winners of the 3rd series of this fantastic show. They had to do it the hard way as well, since the way that it worked out they had to play against the Archers in their semi final. I doubt that I’m the only person who thought that the Gamblers and the Archers were the two best teams to make it through to the semis. Jenny, Dave and Alan were a class act in each of their shows, and all three of them played an essential part in their overall win.

The Winner is : -

Well – it should probably be Ian. However the thing is that I gave last year’s award to Ian for his performance in the first round of the same series – which just happened to be recorded in late 2009, while the final was recorded in early 2010. I cannot split two of the nominees, therefore for the first time I am going to make a joint presentation to : -

Pat Gibson and Jesse Honey

4) The Award for Best Performance in a non broadcast quiz

Last year I gave this award to the team from Radford Road in Coventry for winning the CIU National Finals, and I think I really have to look to the same event for this year’s winners.

Maesglas Social A team

who are previous winners, managed to beat a whole wealth of quizzing talent to take back their title, a feat made all the more impressive considering that this year they were without the talents of Mark Labbett. We beat the same team in the Wales and West qualifier, but when it came to the crunch they were far too good on the day.

6) The Award for Quiz Fan Websites/Blogs

Yes, a new award this year. There are quite a few quiz based, or quiz connected sites which I really like, and you can see links to all of them here. However, if I opened this award to established sites, then the powerhouse Weaver’s Week ( part of UK Gameshows ) would ensure that no other site ever got a look in, and win from now until the end of eternity. So I am pleased to announce that the committee have unanimously decide to make the inaugural award to

Just Quiz

Yes, LAM reader and Mastermind contender Paul Philpott began this quiz setting blog back in September, and already there are over 25 good quizzes on the site for you to try your luck with. Well done Paul, and keep up the good work.

5) The Award for the Most Enjoyable Event in Non Broadcast Quizzing

Or to put it another way, a quick tour through the highlights of the year. Even when you exclude the experiences of Brain of Britain, Champ of Champs, and Only Connect this year, there’s still been much to enjoy.

The Wales and West CIU heat – this was the high watermark of our involvement in the competition this year. Still, it was a night when the individual talents of our team gelled to make a consistent whole, and we hardly dropped any points we could have had. To give you an idea we beat eventual national champions Maesglas that evening.

The Birmingham Mega Quiz – we still are not entirely sure how, but Trevor, Richie, Gordon and I managed to retain the trophy and win an event which was still huge, despite clashing with Children in Need events elsewhere.

The Bridgend and District Quiz league. – I know that I go on about this a bit, but I haven’t half missed playing in a league, and now that the first half of the season is over I can truthfully say that I’ve loved it. I love the week in , week out level of the competition – I love the fact that its got me working again on my GK in a way in which I’ve been too lazy to work on it for years.

However, as wonderful as all of these events have been , I have to say that my absolute top, number one , quiz experience of this year has been this. The award goes to

The Get Connected Charity Quiz Evening at Floridita

A truly brilliant event. Playing for a different team in each round, with teams bidding for your services doesn’t half do wonderful things for your ego. I loved it, and I’m so grateful I was invited to take part.

Ladies and Gents, that concludes the votes of the LAM jury. So not a bumper year in terms of the number or quality of new quiz shows, but in almost every other way, a very good year indeed. I hope that it has been equally good for all of you.

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 16

I was absolutely delighted tonight when I checked out the programme information before the show. Although they don’t usually say the names of the contenders beforehand, they do give the specialist subjects, and when I saw Nikola Tesla being listed tonight I knew that it meant that Jonathan Evans would be on. Jonathan is a LAM reader, which proves that he is a man of wit and discretion and that is more than enough to guarantee him the full support from Clark sofa. However he is also from Neath, the town where I have been proud to work for the last quarter of a century. We exchanged a few emails earlier this year when Jonathan knew that he was coming on the show, although he kindly hadn’t spoiled things for me by telling me how he got on.

So, how did he get on ? Well, we would have to wait a little to find out. First to go was Kate Morris. Kate is a teacher, which in another week would have been enough to earn her my support, and her specialist subject was The Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Very well she did with it too. At times she seemed a little hesitant, and at times she had a couple wrong. However what she did very well was to keep picking off the answers that she knew, to not hesitate too long over any question, and to not pass. 14 is a good score on a specialist round.

The second specialist round, offered by David Coleman, was a complete change of pace from the first. David was answering on Burgess and Maclean. Right. This doesn’t happen all that often, but sometimes you get a round, and you feel that the contender has just concentrated on one particular aspect of their subject to the detriment of others. When this happens, a low score is often the result. I guess that this is what happened with David’s round tonight. He finished with 5.

In a way I got the feeling that something similar happened with Daryl Hewison’s round. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, Daryl scored a very respectable ten points on the Life and Works of Lewis Carroll. What I mean is that he was so good on the arcane details of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, compared to how he did with those questions on lesser known works, and Carroll’s life. Still, 10 was enough to put him into second for the moment, and with 2 and a half minutes to follow on GK he certainly wasn’t out of it by this stage.

Jonathan , a student, must be one of the younger contenders in the series this year. However he went to his task with a will. I did put together a set of some questions on Tesla when Jonathan told me that he was going on the show, and although I can’t remember enough about them to say how many of them actually came up in tonight’s round, I remember enough about Tesla to know that he was a very interesting man. Undoubtedly a genius, I’m afraid that he certainly trod the line between genius and madness a little carelessly on occasion, particularly in his later years. A complex subject, certainly, but Jonathan stuck to his task, and achieved respectability with 9 .

With the banker only paying 27 and over for a runners’ up spot the only game in town for tonight’s contenders by the halfway stage was winning the show and gaining a semi final place thereby. Kate Morris certainly had the advantage on this score. However large leads have been overturned in the past. The first to chance his arm was David Coleman. He actually managed to put up tonight’s best display on General knowledge. It wasn’t a great round, but it wasn’t bad, and after scoring 13 on this round, I wouldn’t blame him for wondering what might have happened tonight if he had really got hold of his specialist subject.
Jonathan then was in third place at the halfway stage. To maintain this he needed 9, and to take the lead one more than that. I was pleased to see that he maintained his composure during the round. When you get a couple of questions which you don’t know in a row, its very easy to get stuck into either a pass spiral, or a rut of blurting out wrong answers even when you know the right ones. Jonathan kept on picking off points throughout the round, and you can’t ask a lot more than that. In fact I felt that Jonathan was very unlucky. Jon H. phrased one of the questions about the Gherkin – or the Swiss Re tower, something like this : -
“What common name is given to the Swiss rebuilding of the City of London ? “ I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jonathan’s reaction was something like mine – when I thought to myself that I had never heard of the city being rebuilt by the Swiss. A little unfortunate that. Watch it back on the iplayer and see what you think.

Daryl needed 10 for the outright lead. For a while it looked like he would get it too, but unlike Jonathan he really did get caught in a rut during the second minute and really never managed to pull out of it. There was a certain symmetry to a round which saw 8 correct answers and 8 passes, but it put him in joint third place. So whatever happened now , Jonathan would be at least second place. Could he win ? Well, yes, he could, but to be fair two and a half minutes is a lot of time to score the six points that Kate needed. She managed it with a bit to spare, and in fact added her own ten to take her score to 24. Well done ! A timely reminder, I think, that a good score on your specialist subject is still essential, albeit that there’s more time for General Knowledge this year.

As for Jonathan, well done on your first performance on Mastermind ! 2nd place in a heat is nothing to be ashamed of at all, and you can hold your head up high among he good citizens of Neath. I do hope that you enjoyed it.

The Details

Kate Morris Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan 14 – 0 10-5 24 – 5
David ColemanBurgess and Maclean5 - 113 - 518 –6
Daryl HewisonThe Life and Works of Lewis Carroll10 - 38 – 8 18 – 11
Jonathan EvansNikola Tesla9-310-319-6

Current Highest Scoring Runners-Up

Nick Mills – 34 – 4
Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Duncan Byrne – 27 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Sleb Eggheads

I see that Celebrity Eggheads is back. Last year they were beaten by two teams, one made of Sleb Mastermind show winners, and one made up from presenters of The One Show.

On Monday’s show the Yellowcoats took on the Eggies. The Yellowcoats were 4 members of the cast of Hi di Hi, led by the redoubtable Jimmy Perry. As it happened the lovely Sandra Piddock , who was taking “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” as her specialist subject in the Grand Final of my series of Mastermind actually got to meet Jimmy Perry for her filmed insert. Other members of the team were Paul Shane, Jeffrey Holland, Nikki Kelly and Barry Howard. The upshot of it was that Barry won his head to head against Barry . It didn’t help, and I’m afraid Paul Shane and Barry Howard were defeated rather easily by failing to get any of their final questions right.

Yesterday , with a pot of £1000 at stake, were the Survivors. Sorry, but they looked like newsreaders and broadcast journalists to me. They were Nicholas Owen, Sandy Gall, Stanley Johnson , Martin Bell and Brian Hanrahan. Only Martin lived up to the team’s name by defeating CJ in the head to head. It was only postponing the inevitable though. You can’t get any wrong in the multiple choice questions, because the Eggies won’t.

Tonight a team of weathermen called Cumulo Nimboids actually put on rather a good show. They were Peter Gibbs, Phil Avery, John Hammond, Simon King and Chris Fawkes. They did rather well, as it happened. They only won one head to head, again beating CJ, but Phil and Chris took the Eggheads to a couple of tiebreaks in the final. Didn’t win though. So in 4 shows last year the Eggheads lost twice. In three shows this year they are undefeated. So are we going to see an upset tomorrow, I wonder ?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round 2 – Match 7 Merton, Oxford v. Queens’, Cambridge

Another Oxbridge match. Last week it was the Oxford team that prevailed. However this always looked like a close match on paper. Merton were represented by an unchanged team of Tim Coleman, Verity Parkinson, Kim Al-Hourani and captain Tom Hudson. However there was a change to the Queens’ team, as Mark Jackson ,Simon Wallace and David Webster were joined by new skipper William Belfield.

A very impressive buzz from new skipper, William Belfield of Queens’ took the first starter, when he identified the American savant used as the inspiration for the film Rain Man. Bonuses on forgetting were more difficult, and they took the one. Mark Jackson of Queens’ allowed JP to finish asking the next starter, but he knew that the question was referring to Notre Dame in Paris. The bonuses on forums brought my favourite slip of the series, when Queens’ answered Davros when they meant the resort Davos. Still, no one should be exterminated for that. No bonuses were taken. Kim Al – Hourani buzzed too early on the next on artificial sweeteners. Still, Queens’ didn’t know it. Simon Wallace took the next starter knowing the painter required was Picasso. William Belfield buzzed in too early on the next starter, wrongly identifying the lizard sharing its name with a god to whom children were sacrificed as Baal. It was Moloch. Tim Coleman of Merton wiped out their deficit knowing that it was that well known anagram of toilets – T.S.Eliot – who redeived the 1948 Nobel prize for Literature. Their bonuses were on group 11 of the Periodic Table, and they took all 3. Which all goes to show that you can afford to let some of the starters go if you can take all of your bonuses. Mark Jackson was in quickly on a good picture starter to say that the footballer represented with two kits of clubs he’d played for was Ashley Cole with Arsenal and Chelsea. Three bonuses followed with more of the same, but Mo Johnstone restricted them to 2 . Mark Jackson was having a very good game so far, and he buzzed in with the next starter, recognising a definition of intelligence. European region and the countries they belong to gave Queens’ difficulty, and they only took one. You have to say that at the 10 minute mark, Queens’ might well have had quite a bit more to show for their dominance than the 70 – 20 lead they enjoyed.

I got a Maths question right ! For all the bamboozling detail abut squares and cubes of I when I is minus 1 etc. I saw through it and shouted that it was one. Skipper Tom Hudson of Merton looked like he heard me, as he got it. 2 bonuses followed. Then Miss Al-Hourani identified the poet Khalil Ghibran. Cue beatific smile from Jeremy, and more of that a little later on. Pairs of 10 letter anagrams followed, and only the last pair – decimation and medication fell to them. Still, the gap was closing nicely, down to a mere 15 now. Cue, perhaps for a Mark Jackson starter, and he didn’t disappoint, buzzing in smartly to identify The Isle of Man to be part of the subject of a 13th century treaty between Scotland and Norway. Bonuses on philosophers caused a few wrinkled brows behind the Queens’ table, but they still managed to take one of them. The music starter followed. Tim Coleman of Merton recognised an excerpt from Die Fledermaus – a good shout that. Bonuses were a little harder to come by, and they didn’t know any of the excerpts that followed. Again, the gap was down to easily manageable proportions, so again Mark Jackson stepped up with an early buzz, making the connection between mole – little furry feller, and mole – little birthmarky feller. A set of bonuses on Economic theorems didn’t offer a great amount, and Queens’ had no change from them at all. Still time for a couple of starters before we moved past the 20 minute mark, and the next was again taken by the Talented Mr. Jackson, who knew that Rimsky Korsakov worked on Mussorgsky’s stuff after his death. This brought up a set of bonuses on ceramics. These were no more to Queens’ liking than the previous set. Verity Parkinson of Merton knew that according to Shakespeare it is Life that is but a walking shadow. A nice smile for Miss P. here as well, since our Jeremy does love someone who knows their Shakespeare. A set of bonuses on the French Revolution offered them a chance to narrow the gap again, and they duly took a pair of them to bring it back down to 20. Time for one more starter before the 20 minute mark, and a rush of blood to the head saw Tom Hudson buzzing early to suggest that Darwin had a career in the Merchant Navy before becoming a writer and a naturalised British citizen. Joseph Conrad, I’m afraid. Still, even allowing for that, Merton were keeping themselves in the contest, although Queens’ led by 105 to 80.

It looked like Queens’ were going to blink first. David Webster buzzed too early to give the answer Stanley Kubrick, when all that was wanted was an answer of which letter did his and other names both end and begin with. Miss Parkinson took that one. Questions on Biology brought a very useful 2 bonuses, which put the two teams absolutely level. David Webster atoned for his early transgression by being first in to buzz to identify a portrait of Benjamin Disraeli for the next starter. Again, they couldn’t get any of the bonuses, missing out on pictures of Peel, Balfour and Grey. Now it was Simon Wallace buzzing in too early , but Miss Al-Hourani knew that it was carbolic acid that Joseph Lister used as an antiseptic. Lead to Merton for the first time this match. Verity Parkinson buzzed too early on the next starter, so Simon Wallace supplied the correct answer. Nip and tuck doesn’t come close to describing the nature of this contest at the moment. One bonus was taken to take the lead. I salute Tom Hudson of Merton for knowing he had to buzz early on the next starter. Once ‘orchestral suite ‘ and ‘animals ‘ had passed JP’s lips he just had to buzz in, whether he knew it for certain or not. It was right, though. Bonuses on milk proved hard to get, and indeed they didn’t get any. Mark Jackson came back into the contest after a quiet period, taking the next starter. Queens’ needed bonuses, and they got two of them. They still needed the next starter, though, and David Webster got it, knowing the process being described was pasteurisation. Bonuses on walls all fell to them . Time was running out for Merton, and so Verity Parkinson gambled on the name of illegitimate sons of kings. It didn’t come off. When JP mentioned a shipping forecast area , Mark Jackson knew it was Fitzroy. And that was that. In the end Queens’ had daylight , winning by 175 to 120.

A low scoring game, yes, but a very exciting and entertaining one. Bragging rights then shared between Oxford and Cambridge at the moment, since both have one win apiece in this week and last week’s head to heads.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

“I wonder what took you so long, Merton. “ was Jeremy’s rather sniffy response to skipper Hudson’s answer to the Maths starter. However he soon thawed out towards them, and indeed there was a huge smile on his chops when Kim Al-Hourani identified the Lebanese poet also know as the Prophet as Khalil Gibran. Watch out Miss Al-Hourani, but I think our Jezza was quite taken with you. Bromide and bucket of water on standby, please.

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

Regurgitated food transferred from a parent to a baby bird is known as crop milk. So for heaven’s sake, if you see that on a menu, have a glass of water instead.