Tuesday, 30 November 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge - Round Two – Match 5 - UCL v. Sheffield

Yes, my friends, it’s the return of Tris and Hugh of the mighty Sheffield team. No apologies for putting the full weight of Clark support behind Andy Bolton, our own Tristram Cole, captain Tom Thirkell and LAM regular Hugh Bennett, who beat Newcastle so emphatically in their first round match. Standing in their way , though, were the distinctly useful University College London side of Christopher Hale, John Walker, captain James Vale and David Dearlove. The team had seen off Hertford College Oxford in their own first round match.

First blood fell to my boys, when Andy Bolton identified that JP was talking about UNESCO. 2 bonuses followed on relatives of Prime Ministers. Tris Cole took his first of the night, knowing that if it’s a fault in the earth’s crust , then you’ll be right to say San Andreas far more often than not. 2 bonuses on Babylon followed. UCL took their first starter with the third, when they knew that the report being described was the Beveridge Report.They took one bonus. There was a superb buzz from Tris on the next starter. He knew that Houdini’s real name was Eric Weiss – and Weiss means white, so that’s the adjective applying to him. He did all that in about a split second. Still, UCL were very much in the contest despite the excellent start that Sheffield were making, and they took the picture starter, identifying that the are of the USA shown on a map would be dominated by Baptists. David Dearlove also took the next starter too, and JP gleefully informed them that a full set of bonuses would give them the lead. They didn’t take all of them, but 1 put them only five points behind. Christopher Hale of UCL , who had a very impressive night, was clearly relishing the contest, and he won the buzzer race to identify Phillipe Petain as the hero of Verdun. So after a whirlwind first ten minutes UCL led by 75 to 60.

Christopher Hale continued by taking the next starter , recognising several definitions of the word damper. A set of bonuses on authors and the Royal Mail gave them a full set. Someone in Sheffield needed to act swiftly to halt the flow of one way traffic, and it was our man Tris who did, supplying the correct answer of archetype to a JP definition. A set of bonuses on acid saw them add another ten to their score, only missing out on malic. LAM regular Hugh Tube – er – Bennett took the next starter, in what I would say is the LAM equivalent of a tag team manoeuvre. He knew that a conductor being described was Daniel Barenboim. A set of bonuses on the History of Paris rather confounded them, though. John Walker of UCL recognised an Elgar cello concerto for the music starter, but UCL only managed one of the bonuses on other composers’ cello concertos. Never mind. John then answered the Dada starter correctly to stretch the gap a little further. Not all the bonuses were being taken by either side, so the gap remained at a manageable size, and Andy Bolton of Sheffield narrowed it a little by taking a starter on mosses. 2 bonuses on Science Fiction Laws followed. Tris maintained the momentum by recognising Gresham’s Law. Bonuses on parliaments fell as a full set . Once again, the gap had narrowed, and Hugh grabbed back the lead by recognising definitions of the word empire. So at the 20 minute mark our boys from Sheffield led by 160 to 130.

Into the last few minutes, then, and all was still to play for. Tris was keeping his head, and knew that a cocktail with rye whiskey, bitters and vermouth, and a famous project would both be a Manhattan. They didn’t manage any of a tricky set of bonuses on stories. The second picture starter saw Christopher Hale have a good stab at identifying a photograph showing the portrayal of Edith Piaf by Marion Cotillard. He got the singer, but not the title of the film. Hugh, though, knew that it was La Vie en Rose. Bonuses on actors portraying singers saw them take 2 bonuses. Tristram, I have to say, your amazing buzz for the mathematical question on palindromic years left me speechless. You have to say this about Sheffield. They’re a very hard side to beat anyway, but when the wind is in their sails there seems to be no stopping them. The bonuses on chemical industrial processes brought them another two bonuses. Hugh then knew that tarantella and Tarantino both derive from Taranto. The gap, which had been so small just a few minutes earlier, had by now stretched to 95 points, and it was looking more and more like a Sheffield win.

Still, UCL are too good to be lightly dismissed and skipper James Vale took the next starter, knowing that if you draw a straight line from Cambridge to Bristol it goes through Oxford. A full set of bonuses were taken, and they took the next starter as well. 3 full bonuses were taken. The indefatigable Christopher Hale took the next starter too, and the gap was visibly shrinking. 3 bonuses on enclaves brought them to 205 against Sheffield’s 225. Another full set, and the lead would be theirs. They didn’t get the next, but neither did Sheffield. That man Hale took the next , knowing the Lord Chancellor executed in 1535 was Thomas More. With bonuses this gave them a 5 point lead. Was there time for another starter ? Yes, and our boy Tris got it ! Bonuses on US rivers followed, and 3 were taken. The lead was taken back, but there was time for two more starters. Neither of which were correctly answered. So they did it ! Congratulations to Tris, to Hugh, and to Andy and Tom.

Spare a thought for UCL, though. They were terrific, I thought, and played an equal part in a fantastic match. Very hard lines.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Good Lord ! There really was nothing really to report today. It was nice to see JP thank both teams for a terrific match. For once, he was absolutely spot on.

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

The cultural movement Dada actually took its name from a French word for rocking horse. You probably knew it, but I didn’t.

Monday, 29 November 2010

TV Watch - Only Connect

Only Connect – Quarter Final 4 – Alesmen v. In-Laws

Can it really be the last of the quarter finals already ? It surely can. Tonight saw the return of the mighty Alesmen, Chris Quinn, Graham Barker and captain Mark Kerr, who accounted for the Pool Sharks in the first round. Their opponents were the In-Laws. Jon Heal, Penny Heal and skipper Jason Stevens provided one of the most exciting matches of the first round when they managed to beat the Mountain Men in a tense last round.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

The Alesmen kicked off with Lion, and once they saw Early Return from Transportation – Destroying a Fishpond – Sacrilege they knew that these were all crimes which once received the death penalty in England. 2 points. The IN-Laws took Horus, and knew that Moe’s Tavern 1993 – Broadcasting House 2009 – No.3 Saville Row 1969 were all rooftop gigs. The third one gave it to me as well. 2 points. Ales took Viper, and a lovely set with Adam at Adam’s Peak – Flamingoes – Actors under the Hayes Code. They could see that they all keep one foot on the ground. 2 points. The Laws took Flax, and only needed to hear Ace of Base then Ben E. King on the music set to know that these were all connected by names of playin cards. 3 points for that. Ales took Reeds for a hard picture set. Neither team could see that cycle helmets – Gateau – Books and Children’s clothes are all zero rated for VAT. I didn’t see it either. A good set lay under Water for the Laws. Blue Mn – Yellow Cd – Gree Co gave them names for pigments in acrylic pains – I’d heard of cadmium yellow and the last one – titanium white. A high quality round, which saw the In-Laws lead by 7 to 4.

Round Two - What Comes Fourth ?

Ales took Horus , and a well earned 3 points. They knew that Saatchi and Saatchi , and Football Association both previously enjoyed the services of Adam Crozier, and that ITV would be 4th. The Laws then had one of the shouts of the night, when they saw that Milli Vanilli ( Mili ) – A Micro Scooter – an ipod Nano would be followed by something with Pico. Each decreasing in magnitude by 1000. Fantastic shout. Ales took reeds, and both teams failed with a real toughie. 2= seven , 3=eleven, 4=twenty seven. The answer I failed to write down, but the connection is that each number is the lowest one with that number of syllables. Very tough. The Laws were given Stephen, John , Anne, and knew that the next monarch with no number would be Victoria. Then the Ales’ last set saw Chris repeat his amazing feat from the heat of getting a full five points , by knowing that 401 unauthorised would end with 404: Page not found – error messages on the net. Brilliant shout. The Laws were unlucky with theirs. They knew from 4th Nurse selling poppies that we were dealing with characters in Penny Lane. They cautiously took the next two, and knew that 1st would be the barber. But they said he was selling photographs, and weren’t correct. The Ales knew he was showing them. Harsh, but fair. Now the Alesmen led by 13 to 11.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Laws opted for the Lion wall. They very quickly sorted out the first two sets –
No – Drax – Klebb – Orlov – who were all Bond Villains, and then Tub – Rocking – Windsor – Carver – all types of chair. Penny tentatively suggested that Jekyll might well be leading them to gardeners- but this suggestion was forgotten about. Eventually they did untangle the last two lines – which were Belmont – Crimond – Richmond and Cwm Rhondda, which Penny knew were hymn tunes, leaving Jekyll – Repton – Kent and Loudon. Alas, they opted for alter egos , missing the point, and leading Victoria to remind them that they had dismissed gardeners, which was the correct answer. 7 points.

The Ales, left with water, quickly untangled all 4 lines. Bearn – Bordel – Holland and Mayonn they knew could all precede – aise for sauces. St. Ives – Newlyn – Euston Road and Glasgow gave them schools of Art. Norwich – Italy – Boltop and Swalk were all endings or love letters. I was delighted that Victoria got mark to explain (K)knickers Off Ready When I Come Home for Norwich. Finally Air – Judas – French and Butterfly gave them a set of kisses. 10 points gained , and they barely even broke any metaphorical sweat. Not only that, but it earned lots of lovely time for the last round.

Alesmen led by 23 to 18

Round Four – The Missing Vowels

The In-Laws won their first round match on the vowels, so had some form in this game. They took the first set, stage works banned by the Lord Chancellor by 3 to 1. The next 3 sets – People known as Q – Road Junctions and Cube Numbers were shared two apiece. In many ways this was the round for the two captains to shine tonight, as Mark and Jason seemed to be weighing in with the lions’ share . The next set – dialects and accents did see Mark buzz in wrongly, and thus the Laws made a tiny bit more ground. They were within two points, but there was only time for two more words, in the Seafood category. Both teams managed one of them. The final score , a terrific 32 – 30 win for the Alesmen.

Congratulations to the Alesmen, but congratulations too to the In-Laws. Yours was also a performance from the top drawer. A wonderful match to watch.

Brain of Britain - Round One - Heat 6

I love Brain of Britain. There really is nothing else quite as good that you can be doing on a Monday lunchtime. Well, not in a school , anyway.

After the last couple of weeks of knowing some of the contestants, it came almost as a surprise not to know any of the today’s panel personally. Still, David Dorsett, third to go this afternoon, is from Swansea, so its not totally impossible that our paths may have crossed at some time in the past.

John Beynon kicked us off , and he did it superbly well. We recently heard Ray Eaton start with a full five and bonus, and today John did exactly the same thing. Follow that, as they say. Dylan Clement took his first, but failed on Hotspur’s family name in Henry IV. Ian Welham knew that it was Percy. David Dorsett took one too, but was wrong footed by the island of Monserrat, which gave Ian another bonus. Then Ian proved that anything John could do, he could do at least as well, and romped through his first five easily. So even though John kiked off with a full set, he was only in second, as Ian led with 8, then came John with 6 , then David and Dylan with 1 each.

Ian certainly looked to have the whip hand throughout the first half up to the listener’s questions. He took 4 of his second set, only missing out on which person had almost named her son Zamboni, after the ice rink smoothing machine. Nobody knew it was Sarah Palin. However it was worth noting that john too kept taking the points and the bonuses on offer. Even though he couldn’t at this stage peg back the 2 point gap, he kept on Ian’s shoulder, and going into the Beat the Brains interval, Ian led with 13, to John’s 11, David’s 4 and Dylan’s 3.

The contestants made short work of the two questions. They knew that Horace Walpole invented the word serendipity, and Karel Kapek created the word robot. So it was right back to the contest. Little happened in round 4, but it was all change in round 5. Ian dropped the old chestnut giving Very Special Old Peculiar instead of Very Special Old Pale for VSOP. John took 4 points in the round to take his score to 16, while Ian only managed a single point to take his own score to 15. This was a good contest, and both John and Ian were impressing with the width of their knowledge. Both added one more point to their scores in round 6.

Round 7 was the last round. John took a narrow lead in, and got a horrible quote as his first question for a point. Nobody knew that Income Tax has made more Americans liars than golf. Ian picked up a bonus during the round, and so did John. To win outright, Ian only needed to give the real surnames of my heroes Morecambe and Wise. He didn’t know that they were of course John Eric Bartholemew, and Ernest Wiseman. Which meant, ladies and gents, that we had a tie.

The last time this happened was in the last series, and it was won by my friend Rob Hannah. Today the question asked for the painter of , amongst other works, “The Scapegoat” and “The Light of the World”. Ian won the buzzer race to supply the correct answer – Holman Hunt. That was that. Well played – a great match. Surely John Beynon will join him in the semis as well.

The Details

John Beynon – 18
Dylan Clements – 6
David Dorsett – 6
Ian Welham – 19

Highest Scoring Runners Up

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

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Stocking Filler - take 3

Yes, its another wee book that you might just be considering slipping into the Christmas stocking of the quizzer(s) in your life. Actually Wendy Roby’s book probably doesn’t need any extra publicity from me, having been shown on “Russell Howard’s Good News “ on TV the other day. Certainly that’s where Mary saw it, and why she decided to get it for me.

The book is called “Universally Challenged “ – which is surely one of the most popular names for quiz teams throughout the length and breadth of the country – right up there with Norfolk and Chance, I’d guess. If you haven’t heard of it, basically a collection of daft answers which have been given by real contestants on real TV quiz shows.

There’s no doubt that there is a lot of very funny stuff in here. I’ll admit that I was laughing out loud at some of the answers in here.

However - quite a few of the funniest ones in here have been out there on ‘funny things contestants say on quiz show’ web sites and web pages for a long time, and won’t be new to you.
- most of the answers tend to come from a rather limited number of shows.
- You can’t help wondering whether every answer given in here is 100% genuine. For example, one of the answers given is this – in reply to the question which went something like this – what was the name given to people in medieval times paid to entertains royalty and the nobility ? – the answer given was lepers . Really ? I can remember the same joke being used in an episode of Blackadder 2.
- A large number of answers come from Family Fortunes, or from its American progenitor, Family Feud. For me, this tends to make them less funny than wrong answers in a real quiz.

Well, that’s the criticisms, anyway. If you still want to get a copy you can buy it off Amazon and get it delivered from Amazon for free for less than a fiver, which is pretty good value I would have thought. It was nice to see a little bit of a tribute to Bob Johnson at the end of the book as well. In case you’ve forgotten, Bob Johnson was the ‘turkey’ man on Family Fortunes. In the soundproof booth in the final of the show, something went wrong , and Bob could hear a member of his family give the answer ‘chicken’ to the question – name something you would stuff. Bob went back, thinking to himself that he could answer Turkey. The only problem was that he gave the answer to all of the first 3 questions. A salutary lesson for all of us about the perils of earwigging .

Mastermind - First Round Heat 14/24

It’s back to the normal routine this week following last week’s celebrity shenanigans for Children in Need. First into the chair was Matthew Coombs. He had chosen as his subject the Special Air Service. This round started a little hesitantly, but once he got into his stride Matthew didn’t look back, and sped through the rest of the round to finish with an excellent 16. To put that into perspective, it left him needing 11 in GK to put himself onto the repechage board at least. That’s not a huge hurdle in a 2 and half minute round, but time would tell whether he could manage it or not.

Sally Jones is a returning contender. She’s probably better known for her stints on BBC Breakfast Time a few years ago, but in Nancy’s series of 2008/9 she won a first round heat with the short stories of Saki, and was second to Nancy in her semi final, when she took the life and career of Billie Jean king. A good bit of previous form. I can understand why you’d want to have another go if you get to the semis, and you’re only beaten by the eventual series winner. Tonight Sally took on “The Novels of Evelyn Waugh” and I’m afraid it did not go well. Sally got an early one wrong, and that seemed to drain her of confidence. Her usually highly reliable memory just refused to furnish her with the facts she needed from the relevant books, and she struggled through to score 3.

Our third contender tonight also has a bit of previous form, although not in Mastermind. Student Edmund Dickinson was the star of the St. John’s Oxford team in the 2006 series of University Challenge, and was also one of the members of the Oxford University Quiz Society whose letter was printed in The Independent was published following the controversial decision to disqualify the 2009 Corpus Christi winning team. The Oxford University Quiz Society has produced some superb quizzers, and so Mr. Dickinson certainly needed to be taken seriously. His subject was Formula 1 1960 – 1980, and with such a relatively short time frame, as you might expect the questions were very testing. It didn’t matter, since he raced away to a fine 15.

Robin Ball’s specialist subject, “The Life and Career of Charlie Chaplin” was my favourite this evening. I read Chaplin’s autobiography about 10 years ago, and I still remembered enough to get my fair share of answers. Robin looked terribly nervous in the chair and I’m sure that nerves must have affected his performance. Some of those he missed of course he would have known – for example that the dancing bread roll sequence is from The Gold Rush. He finished with 5 points.

The contest for the win and qualification for the next round was a two horse race, then. Still, Sally and Robin had their rounds to complete first. It must be hard knowing what to say to a contender returning to the chair in this situation. Personally I feel that the least said is the better. John was only being nice, I’m sure, when he said to Sally that he bet she was kicking herself for picking a novelist who wrote so many books. But I can’t see that it would have made her feel much better. Likewise when he told Robin that he had picked a tough subject. In 2008/9 Sally managed 10 in both of her GK rounds, which is not at all bad, and gave her the hope of maybe 12 or 13 in this one. Well, she didn’t quite manage that, but did score 11. John called her score of 14 ‘highly respectable’ with forgivable hyperbole. Certainly respectable, John. Robin too finished with 14, adding 9 on GK.

Edmund Dickinson needed 12 to put himself onto the repechage board. He did considerably better than that. He was by far the pick of the contenders on GK tonight, and rushed through a good set of questions to score 15. That was a good performance. More importantly it set a really challenging target for Matthew. Make no mistake, scoring 15 on even a two and a half minute round isn’t easy. You need knowledge, obviously, but you also need rhythm, huge concentration and not a little presence of mind. Matthew couldn’t manage it. In the end he could only muster another 9 correct answers, to finish with 25. Now that, John, IS highly respectable, but it wasn’t enough to put him onto the repechage board. So well done Edmund. A good performance, and good luck in the semis.

The Details

Matthew Coombs The History of the SAS 16 - 09 - 425 – 4
Sally JonesThe Novels of Evelyn Waugh 3 - 311 - 314 – 6
Edmund Dickinson Formula 1 1960 – 1980 15 - 115 – 330 – 4
Robin BallLife and Films of Charlie Chaplin5 - 29 - 314 – 5

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

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge Round 2 – Match 4 – Peterhouse, Cambridge v. St. John’s, Cambridge.

Peterhouse were comfortable winners over Exeter in the first round, and tonight’s teams were Edward Tait, Ben Slingo, Christopher Stanton and captain Louise Howes. St. John’s didn’t qualify quite so easily, needing to beat St. Andrews in the repechage round to progress. The team, consisting of Elliot Bennett-Spragg, Mark Wilson, Caroline Tecks, and captain James Orr did just that. An interesting match up this, both teams not just playing for a place in the quarters, but presumably for Cambridge bragging rights too.

Ben Slingo was, as I recall, something of a star on the buzzer last time out, and he started as if he meant business tonight, recognising a set of clues all pointing to the name Hamlet. 2 bonuses on fossils followed. Mark Wilson knew that the Italian musical term for – from the top – is da capo, and St. John’s also took two bonuses, this time on the Great Depression. Come to think of it, great depression probably settled over the St. John’s team for quite a while, as they were shut out for the next couple of minutes. Firstly by Ben Slingo, who knew that Cadiz was the Spanish port much raided by English sea dogs, and then by Edward Tait, who took some mathematical thing involving E and Pi. Ben Slingo took the next two starters. One was a brilliant early buzz to identify people whose names had a double z – Ok he didn’t mention the double, but JP took it anyway. Then for the first visual starter they showed the name of the UK, written in another European language. Unlucky for St. John’s that they plumped for Spanish – geographically and also linguistically close, but the answer was Portuguese. No one fancied a shy at Cocteau, but at least captain James Orr managed the last starter before the ten-minute mark, recognising a definition of the word Heuristic. Good and indeed timely shout that. So the first phase of the game clearly belonged to Peterhouse, who led by 100 to 40.

If they had done well in the first phase, then Peterhouse veritably dominated the second. First of all Edward Tait supplied the full name of ATP. Ben Slingo knew about the Missouri River, then Fictional Browns, then Anagrams. At this stage of the game his performance was almost Guttenplanesque – sorry Alex, but until another UC legend comes along you’re stuck with this. Captain Louise Howes then chanced her arm by buzzing in on the music starter, giving half the answer, then pausing, then giving the rest after JP had started saying he was going to pass it across. More about that later. Still, at last the brakes seemed to be applied to the runaway express that was the Peterhouse team at his stage. Mark Wilson muscled his way in to supply Cadmium after a wrongly given Peterhouse answer. Neither team could get a fabulous UC special starter on dates written as roman numerals, but Caroline Tecks gave more fuel to the mini revival by recognising a description of the word cartouche. As we reached the 20-minute mark Peterhouse still had a commanding lead of 185 to 80, but at least St. John’s were on the move now.

The increasingly effective Mark Wilson buzzed in quickly on a definition of the term to Quench. Not only that, but St. John’s took a full set of bonuses on physicists. James Orr knew that the wars Rome fought against Carthage were the Punic Wars. Another 2 bonuses on pigments followed. With the next starter, a second picture starter, we had the rare sight of a Ben Slingo miscue. H recognised an engraving of the infant Moses, but wrongly placed it in the Book of Genesis. St. Johns needed no second invitation, and Mark Wilson knew it was Exodus. I don’t know if this unexpected show of fallibility from Ben Slingo gave St. John’s renewed vigour, but from this moment on they went at it hammer and tongs, as Elliott Bennett Spragg took the next starter identifying which fraction of an old pound was represented by 15 shillings. This was an incredible fightback, and in a way reminded me of Corpus Christi’s final surge in the 2009 final. The excellent Mark Wilson buzzed in again to correctly offer syncline, and with one bonus on garden birds the gap was down to 5 points. So he did it again, recognising a question referring to Thomas More’s Utopia. Only one bonus was taken, but more importantly St. John’s now had the lead. All bets were off. Nobody took a punt at one on ascorbic acid. Then Ben Slingo showed that he has nerves to match his buzzer speed, leaping in when he recognised the two countries which contested the last African Nations Cup in football. So Mark Wilson took the next, knowing that a cross of St. George is on the white ensign. There was surely only time left for one more starter. Which ever of these two titans of the buzzer, Slingo and Wilson, could react first would surely either win it – or if he buzzed early and incorrectly – lose it. Ben Slingo heard Ernest Simpson, and slammed down the buzzer to offer Wallis Simpson. The correct answer. That was it – the gong followed immediately.

What a great show. The finish was simply the most magnificent Devil’s gallop. Very hard lines to St. John’s, but you put up a fantastic show.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

For about 18 minutes JP was all sweetness and light. He loves a team who are on song, and while Peterhouse were building a comfortable lead Jeremy was grinning and almost purring at them.
Then Louise Howes offered the late answer – giving The Beatles right away, but then only offering Eleanor Rigby just as he was saying “ I’m sorry, . . . “ This earned her a most stern “Don’t do it again “ , in the tone of voice which in certain areas is usually followed by words to the effect of– or I’ll smash yer face in.

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

Nadezhda Krupskaya – or Mrs. Lenin – was at one time a librarian.

Only Connect - Take 2 - Our Quarter final

Round Two / Quarter Final

I’m sorry if this shatters anyone’s illusions, but despite every on screen indication that there’s a decent length of time between the recording of the various rounds, in our case the interval between recording our first round, and our second round shows was all told about an hour.

Now, I need to make a little digression here. Before the start of the first round match Neil had made a point about the fact that both Gary and I had elected to wear our lucky quizzing shirts for the first round match. I say lucky quizzing shirt, although the fact is that I had only ever worn my pink lucky shirt on 3 previous occasions. I bought it for the Mastermind Final, hoping desperately that the production team would reject it, since it was actually a wee bit too small for me then. They much preferred it to my other options, and so I was forced to go with it. Then I won the final, and so , as I thought at the time, I gladly retired the shirt from active service after one wearing. Then I was invited to audition for “Are You An Egghead ?”, and when I was offered a place in the first round, I couldn’t resist seeing if the shirt could work its magic for a second time. It could, and it did. So then when the Mastermind Champions series came round, there was only really one option for me. I wore the shirt. It didn’t bring me a win, but what it did do was enable me to get my best ever performance in a specialist subject, and the highest of all the runner up scores, which saw me invited to the final as a stand in. Gary’s lucky shirt has similar provenance and powers. Anyone who’s ever been on a TV series which has involved more than one appearance will know that TV companies insist upon you wearing a different top for each subsequent appearance. Neil’s point was that once we’d both worn our lucky shirts, then they were out of the series, and wasn’t it a bit wasteful to use two of them on the same show ? My feeling was that if you don’t get through the first round it makes no difference whether your lucky shirt is waiting to be used in the next round or not. Still, the fact was that we now had a second round match starting within the hour, and both Gary and I had played our lucky shirt cards. Neil didn’t have a lucky shirt. Maybe the top he wore for the first round will now be the lucky top.

Official team Photo - A Lucky-Shirt-Free Zone

After we had been given a bite to eat, changed our tops, and been touched up – sadly only our make up – we met the opposing team in the holding area outside the studio. They were the Britpoppers, - William Higham, Chris Roberts, and skipper Andy Ross - three friends who had all been involved in the music business in one form or another. I didn’t recognise any of them, so once again we were up against an unknown quantity. One thing I did know about them was that they had won a first round match, so had to be taken seriously. They did mention that they had done pretty well in every round apart from the wall, which they found particularly galling since they always did well on the wall when watching at home.

Gary lost the toss, which left us to go second. While we were waiting , Andy the skipper made the same crack I made in the previous round about the names of the hieroglyphs sounding like 70s Heavy Metal bands. Great minds think alike. Off we went.

The ‘Poppers found the music connection , and guessed correctly that the Prague Symphony, An American in Paris, and Vienna by Ultravox were all connected by European capital cities. We were all flummoxed by Rachael Stevens, Newfoundland Dog, Joseph Stalin and Donald Duck. All were born with webbed feet. The next one passed us both by as well, when Coade stone – Damascus Steel – Greek Fire and Egyptian Pyramids were revealed. The answer was that the method for making all of them have been lost. Gary leapt in with our first points with our second connection. Faced with Narrative – Open and Industrial Disease he knew without question that these were all verdicts which can be recorded in a Coroner’s Inquest. A chance to take the lead was presented to us when the Poppers were presented with a set of stamps. They plumped for stamps from countries which have held the world cup, but the clue really was the last one, a very famous stamp with an airplane printed upside down on it. Bonus gratefully accepted. Egg on Face Moment Number 1 occurred when we were presented with Shogi =30, Go =361 , Reversi = 4. We knew it was board games, but plumped for tiles, or some other such nonsense. Given Draughts = 7 the Poppers couldn’t get it, but far too late I knew it was possible opening moves in those games. Oh well. The connections did seem a little tougher than they had in our first round heat. We were still playing a bit cautiously, but happy to take the points on offer, and had a very small lead at the end of the round.

In round two our wheels came off a bit, and I have to say that it was my fault. Firstly though, the Poppers took a good set, getting a picture of a Starling, then Marty Feldman who was staring. Working out a letter off each time, that would give either Sting or Tring. Good set. We were offered a sequence starting with Patroclus. Gary, mentioned Harry Potter, but that was a patronus. I knew that it was the Trojan War. The next clue gave us Hector. I explained that Hector killed Patroclus, so Achilles killed Hector, and the last in the list would be Paris. We played cautious , and took the next clue, which was indeed Achilles. Good sequence, but a point dropped we could have had. The Poppers had a nice set on adjectives working their way around the compass – so if you start with Boreal, you end with occidental. Right – Egg On Face Moment 2. Bearing in mind that we could have had more points on the previous set, on the next sequence – Alexandra of Denmark – Mary of Teck, I dived in , and thinking that these were the wives of successive kings, which they were, I predicted next would be Wallis Simpson, and the last Elizabeth Bowes Lyon. Wrong ! The last clue was given to the Britpoppers – Lady Diana Spencer, and it became clear to me. Too late. The last answer would have been Camilla Parker-Bowles, since they were a sequence of wives of the Prince of Wales. The Britpoppers were a little profligate, failing to get this one.On the next they didn’t get Googolplex – Google – 100. Now , I know that its all to do with the number of noughts. There are a google noughts in a googleplex, and a hundred in a google. So there are 2 in 100. Know it now - but didn’t know it then. Neither did anyone else. Our last set passed both teams by as well – Granule – sand – silt – saw us offer mud , but that’s not the same thing as clay unfortunately. So, having seen a 3 – 1 lead become a 6 – 5 deficit we had some serious thinking to do going into the wall now.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. We went first on the wall, and solved two lines. Pollux, Vega, Betelgeuse and Altair gave us stars, while Martin Bell, Tony Manero, Marty Hopkirk and Stanley Stratton were all men in white suits – as opposed to men in white coats.However time was running out, and we didn’t have a clue about the last two. Acting on my advice to hit and hope, Gary did just that, and lo and behold, he was right ! Given the half a minute or so it took to explain the first two lines was enough time to figure out the last two. I was particularly proud of the fact that I earned Victoria’s approval for noticing that one of the clues – Mark twain – did not have a capital letter, and therefore must refer to the call from the Mississippi riverboats from which Samuel Clemens took his pen name. We identified Number – 10 – Tense and Pitch as all things which can follow the word Perfect, and then Mark twain – 365.76 cm – 4yds and snooker table as all being equivalent to 12 feet. Well, with the kind of luck we’d otherwise have associated with the last round’s lucky shirts, we took a maximum of ten. So whatever happened, we could only be a maximum of one point behind going into the last round.

During our wait in the holding area, Jenny told us that the Britpoppers thought that we were awesome. I really don’t know if she was just being nice - to be fair we’d hardly done much to justify that opinion. I was fairly relaxed and not exactly confident, but I felt very happy that we’d managed to score a maximum on at least one of our walls. I was also happy that I felt good and alert, and the adrenaline was starting to flow.

Back in the studio nobody was giving anything away about how well they’d done on the wall. You just don’t know until the scores are announced. Peter the producer came in and told us that we had 90 seconds only for the missing vowels round. We had gone close to the wire time wise, but the evidence was that the Britpoppers had done so as well. When Victoria announced the scores, though, I had to suppress a gasp. From being one point behind, we had gone to being 6 points in the lead. The Britpoppers must have had an absolute ‘mare of a wall was all we could surmise. I’ve watched the show since, and I must admit I do think we probably had the easier of the two walls, but they did struggle. They unravelled Elton John songs in the shape of Passengers – Nikita – Blue Eyes ( a personal favourite ) and The One, but that was it when the other lines were revealed they could see that Stalk – Skewer – Petrol – Miner are all the names of birds when spelled differently. However they failed to see that Blood – Tyre – Iron and Shotgun can all be pumped. Tricky that one, certainly. Finally they didn’t get that Sacrifice – Pin – Fork and Discovered Attack are all chess tactics.

Believe me, you are under pressure doing the walls, and I certainly felt for the Poppers watching the show back. Well, that time for sympathy would come later. First there was a crucial missing vowels round to contend with. I had not been very happy with my performance, or rather lack of it, during our previous missing vowels round. This time I wanted to be a little more use to the team. Concentrating fiercely, as soon as Victoria announced the category “International Stock Exchange Share Indices “ or something like, immediately I ran through a few in my mind – Hang Seng – Nikkei – etc. First one was Hang Seng. Bang, thank you very much. Gary had Nikkei. The skipper of the Britpoppers was unlucky to just fail on Dow Jones Industrial Average, and nether team got the third. Then we had nicknames of Kings. Silly Billy – bang, and I had already done twice as well as in the first show. Farmer George followed to us, and then Andy took one back for Brandy Nan. Good shout that. When we moved on to things MPs had claimed expenses for I was delighted to get Adult Films and Duck Island. To cut a long story short we had a very good round, and the Britpoppers, who were in the position of having to play catch up, found our buzzer form too hot. The Final score may have been 24 – 8, but believe me it felt a lot tougher than that score suggests to you.

The only previous time I had played in two shows in one day was in “Are You An Egghead ?” That day I’d had mixed fortunes winning the first match, but losing the ensuing quarter final. As I drove off from the HTV studios to pick up my daughter from her work, I couldn’t help reflecting that I had twice played before in semi finals, in Mastermind and Brain of Britain. The thing which made being in the semis of “Only Connect “ even better was that for this series, if you got to the semis, then you were going to be there to the end. We had already been informed that, as had happened in series 2, there would be a play off for third place. So we were guaranteed two more shows. We didn’t really have time to chat to the Britpoppers after the show. I think that they’d probably had to film two shows on the same day as well, and although a great day, it had been a long one. But they were all nice guys, and good players- it was a pleasure to meet them.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Brain of Britain - Round One - Heat 5

Well, last week I knew one of the contestants, but this week I went one better. Checking the programme information this afternoon I was delighted to see my North London team captain William Barrett, a semi finalist in the Mastermind 2007 SOBM. Then I looked down the list and saw that the very next name was Ray Eaton. I’ve only met Ray once before, at the semis of 2006 Mastermind, and a very nice guy he seemed too. Ray won his semi final, and went on to tie for second place in the final behind the great Geoff Thomas.

The first contestant to go tonight was Rosalind May. She took the first two questions, but didn’t know that the king whose only outdoor statue in London is outside St. Bart’s hospital is Henry VIII. Neither did anyone else know it. William took his first, but couldn’t remember that it was the Stamp Act which got those American colonial chappies so hot under the collar before the War of Independence. Ray took the bonus. Now, when you’re playing Brain of Britain the ideal start is to answer your first five questions. It rarely happens but it did today, and Ray took a well-earned 6 points. Dr. Jeremy Platt completed the round. He took his first 2, but didn’t know which English king was married to Isabella the She-Wolf. Edward II as it happened. No bonus to anyone. Rosalind took a point, and then didn’t know about the film From Here To Eternity. Ray did. In fact during the round Ray pulled off the feat of answering all 3 bonuses which were offered to him. William took the bonus for Ray’s when he failed to recognise a critical description of The Sound of Music. Didn’t matter. The 5 points Ray scored for this round pushed him to a 9-point lead.

In the last round before the listener’s question points were hard to come by for all of the contenders. Rosalind didn’t recognise a song from Showboat. William took a point, but then yielded to Ray who recognised that the Swiss premier changes almost once a year on average. Ray and Jeremy both took one of their own, which meant that at the break for the Listener’s questions, he led by 14 points, to the other contestants’ 3 apiece. The Listener’s questions were both about Smithfield, and the contenders managed neither of them. So, back to the show, and if anyone was going to make a move against Ray then they had to start it now. As it was only Ray managed his first, although Jeremy did answer a bonus about Cro Magnon man. Perhaps a little surprisingly none of the four recognised Sir Hugo Drax as the villain in the book Moonraker. In the film he was just plain old Hugo Drax.

To be honest the three rounds remaining were pretty uneventful. Ray was so comfortably ahead that to have any chance one of the other three would have had to get 5 in a row, and that just didn’t happen. It wasn’t just Ray’s full house in the first round that did the trick for him, though. He was into double figures on the number of bonuses he scored for the whole show – which would have been enough to win the show even if he had scored no points on his own questions at all. William rallied a little in round five with 2 of his own questions, but Jeremy did slightly better, finding a couple of his own and a couple of bonuses.

Very well played Ray. You have to say that the range of his knowledge and the speed of his buzzing was pretty impressive, and you never know, he could well join the ranks of those who have done the double of reaching the finals of both Mastermind and BoB. Hard lines William. Sometimes the questions just don’t run for you.
The Details

Rosalind May – 4
William Barrett – 6
Raymond Eaton – 22
Jeremy Platt – 8

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Mastermind - Children In Need Special

Yes, I’ve figured out why The Birmingham Mega Quiz was staged on Children in Need night this year. It meant that we didn’t miss an edition of regular season Mastermind ! Last year , IIRC, we had the celebrity special and a normal edition on the same night. Not so this time. Heat 14 will have to wait, but at least we were offered a second comedians special. You may recall that last year Lucy Porter set a Celebrity record with 35 in the Children in Need special, so this year’s crop did have something to live up to.

Fred Macaulay’s subject met with approval from the Clark sofa. In fact my uncle, who is no mean quizzer himself, has come close to applying to Mastermind on a Fawlty Towers ticket himself. The only question which would have caused any difficulty to the fans at all was “In which episode had the letters on the sign been rearranged to “Watery Fowls “ ? “ It was The Psychiatrist apparently. Believe me – they couldn’t possibly have asked about what the sign said in The Anniversary ! I excelled myself by getting all 16 of the other questions, a little better than Fred managed. Still, 14 is not to be sniffed at.

Tony Hawks is not the skateboarder, but a very amusing writer and broadcaster. His first ‘book about a bet ‘ was “Round Ireland With A Fridge” which did exactly what it said on the tin. Hence his subject, fridges. Had there been any questions about the best routes for hitchhiking with a fridge in the Emerald Isle he might have done a little better. As it was he managed 4.

Andi Osho certainly had no intention of messing around in her specialist round on the Matrix Trilogy. 19 questions – 19 correct answers. I don’t care if these questions were easier than the norm, that’s still a mightily impressive feat. Alright, you wouldn’t have expected this to be the most serious contest anyway, but it really looked as if the game was already won.

Stuart francis, probably best known for guest spots on Mock The Week, not the grape crushing former Crakcerjack presenter, was answering on The Toronto Maple Leafs. They play Ice Hockey he explained helpfully. Just as John wanted to start the round he asked what the highest ever score was, and suggested to John that they make history together. Well, considering that the lowest specialist score is 1, and the highest ever 23, that meant a target of either 0 or 24, both of them unlikely. He ended with 14.

Bereft of any realistic chance of winning the show, Tony meandered pleasantly and amusingly through his general round, bagging 10 more points into the process. Which left him still 5 points behind Andi. Fred earned himself a telling off from John for a little bit of messing around in his GK round. These GK rounds were definitely easier than the norm, but the fact was that Fred knew a lot of his stuff. As it was he scored 15, and with a little more mind on the job he might have set a very challenging target. As it was he finished with 29. Still, messing around was rather the order of the day in this show, and well that it was. Otherwise we might have missed the answer of the night, supplied by Stuart. Asked which bathroom appliance took its name from a French word for pony, because one is supposed to sit astride it, he answered “Rula Lenska. “ It made me laugh. It tickled John too, which finished Stuart off considering that it took him two or three questions’ time to regain his composure. Stuart finished with 23.

Finally Andi. Her composure was laudable. She didn’t have the best general knowledge of all the contenders, but she kept her head, cracked a joke or two as she went along, and picked off the answers she knew. She knew 11 of them , which was enough to give her 30, and the win. Well played, and good show.

Return to Birmingham

Yes, last night I took part in the Birmingham Mega Quiz for the Lord Mayor of Birmingham’s Charity.

This is always a very big event, but I have to just say that I’m not entirely sure that holding it on the same night as BBC Children in Need was necessarily the most brilliant piece of forward planning. Last year there were over 90 teams present. Last night it was just over 50, and one of the local teams we were chatting to did say that there was another charity quiz on in Birmingham last night for Children in Need, and quite a few of last year’s teams were going to that one. Oh well.

If you are expecting me to boast about being a member of the team that won the event last year, then you know me far too well. Then I played with Trevor Parry, Richard Parnell and Gordon Galliford representing the Pill Harriers RFC in Newport , and last night we fielded an unchanged team. The locals did say that the question setter was a different one for last night’s quiz. Whatever the case, the format , ten rounds of ten question, remained the same, although the round categories didn’t. For the record, last night’s rounds were : -
Food and Drink
Film Heroes, Heroines and Villains
Pot Luck
Popular Music
Science and Technology
Nature and Pets
and one other which escapes me. I think its fair to say that it was stretching a point to include questions like this one – “Who was the father of Heracles ? “ and “What name is given to the room in which the Last Supper took place ? “ into a History round, and there were others in other rounds about which the same could be said. Still, let’s be fair- if you really tried you could criticise every quiz you ever took part in, so let’s cut to the chase.

We were never more than three points off the lead, but we never held the lead throughout the competition. We trailed by three points to a very fine team called Olé at the halfway stage. With a very good couple of rounds we reduced the deficit to 1 point going into the Nature and Pets Round. We only scored 6, and felt that the game was up. Olé, though, scored 5, and so we were faced with the possibility of clinging on to the trophy through a tie break. The question was this one : -
“How many episodes of MASH were made ? “
Richie fancied 220. Gordon really fancied just over 100. We worked out that it was on for about 11 years, and decided to go with Gordon. The question master – who once again was Nick ‘TVAM’ Owen – announced that the answer was 221. – That’s it – we said – blown it. Except that we hadn’t. Olé guessed , well , never mind how much, but they put a high figure which was a little bit further away than ours was.

As I say its always a great event to be involved in, and from a personal point of view Friday evening is a much better time for it than Thursday. Sometimes, as I’m sure you know, there are times when you come away from a quiz wondering how on earth you ever managed to lose it. Well, as we came away last night we were actually wondering how on earth we ever managed to win it. Not that I’m complaining, you understand, but I do feel very sympathetic towards Olé. Guys, if it makes you feel any better, we thought you had it in the bag, and if you had won on the tie break we’d have had no grounds for complaint.

A last word about the organisation of the event. Those of us who have run quizzes for even just a social quiz for half a dozen teams in our local can appreciate that there are many many things which can throw a spanner in the works. I have to say that last night the whole thing seemed to run like clockwork. Ok, there weren’t as many teams as last year, but even so I would imagine it takes a hell of a lot of organising to get 50 teams’ answer sheets in and marked within a mere couple of minutes each time. Congratulations to the army of volunteers who put the whole thing together, and ran the event, and thanks for a great evening.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Another Stocking Filler

Yesterday I mentioned in my last post that "Know-it-All" by A.J.Jacobs might make a nice little stocking filler for the quizzer in your life. Well, if you're looking for something to fill the whole of the stocking, here's an idea for you. Whilst idly surfing the net today it came to my attention that the 5th Edition of Trevor Montague's stupendous "A to Z Of Almost Everything" was published earlier this month.

There aren't that many books I religiously buy every new edition of, but this is most definitely one of them. Would you believe it, but by pure coincidence Mary asked me as I came in from work today if there was anything in particular I would like for Christmas. What are the chances of that happening, eh ?

I shall be grumpy until New Year if she doesn't get it for me now.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Pursuit of Useless Knowledge

There’s no doubt that Mary , my wife, has a sense of humour. So when she presented me with a book called “The Know-it-All” the other day it did cross my mind that she was having a subtle – or maybe not-so-subtle – dig at me. To be fair , we’re within 10 months of celebrating our silver wedding , and she knows how much I love my quizzing, and she is remarkably understanding about it. Not necessarily understanding the obsession itself, just understanding that I’m obsessed. That’s enough.

If you haven’t encountered the book, its written by A.J.Jacobs, an American writer who’s been one of the editors of Esquire magazine. To give a rough idea of the subject of the book, he describes how one day he decided that he was going to read the whole of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and try to retain as much of it as possible. This isn’t a novel – it’s a true story.

And why did he decide to do this ? In his own words "I used to be smart. . . Then in the years since graduating from college I began the long, slow slide into dumbness . . . If things continue at this rate, by my fortieth birthday, I'll be spending my days watching 'Wheel of Fortune' and drooling into a bucket."

Ouch – that one hit home a bit. I’m sure we all have our different reasons for embarking upon our pursuit of quiz knowledge, but I have to admit that as I was reading AJ’s self-effacing, self defeating and highly amusing account of his quest for (mostly) useless knowledge, I couldn’t help wincing from time to time as I read passages about cringe making behaviour that I myself have been guilty of in the past. Not that AJ was driven to read the whole of the Britannica in order to win quizzes. What he wanted was merely to become, and more importantly, to appear smarter.

It’s a warm, amusing and clever book, and would make a nice little stocking filler for the quizzer in your life. But it actually does make serious points about knowledge – the acquisition of it, and the uses of it. I found myself asking just how much of the stuff I’ve picked up for quizzes and from quizzes over the years has ever had any real practical application. Well, other than enabling me to win other quizzes. I’m sure it does me no credit that, deep down, I think that this is actually a perfectly good reason for picking up the stuff in the first place.

TV Watch - Children in Need Only Connect Special

Only Connect – Children in Need Special – The Wheelmen v.The Larks

Yes, a sign of Only Connect’s ever growing popularity is this official seal of BBC approval, being asked to provide a Children in Need special. The teams contesting this first celebrity special were the Wheelmen and the Larks.
The Wheelmen were represented by the Reverend Richard Coles – once of the Communards, Grub Smith, and the ebullient Adam Hart- Davis. As a small coincidental fact, Adam is the cousin of John Julius Norwich, who was the host of the early 80s show Connections, which was a panel game, and also revolved around solving clues towards connections. The Larks were newspaper columnist Michael Bywater, Sleb Mastermind winner Stuart Maconie, and their skipper, none other than my old stand-in, Andrew Motion . (I’ve explained this before, but if you missed it, in 2008 I was asked to present the trophy to the winner of Mastermind, but my then Headteacher wouldn’t allow me the day off work to do it, and so they asked Andrew Motion instead ! True story . Not that I’m at all bitter, you understand. )

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

Wheelmen kicked off with Lion. Vocation crier looked inscrutable, but when it was followed by Carrot invoice it became clearer. The Wheelmen took the point for anagrams of each other, but missed the fact that they are all also anagrams of Victoria Coren ! Larks picked Horned viper – and revealed Differential calculus – binomial theorem – Babylonic cuneiform and in the last few seconds, Music from HMS Pinafore. I’ll admit that I was as stumped as they were until the last one came up. Rev Richard knew it was the patter song from the Modern Major General in the Pirates of Penzance. He went on to sing a pretty good go at it for good value as well ! For their own clue they took Eye of Horus, and found Hr – Sr – Sig. Again I thought that Richard did extremely well to get it at this point, knowing they are all abbreviations for the equivalent of Mister in different languages. Larks needed points now and picked flax. This earned the dreaded sound connection. A set of cowboys followed , which they got on the second clue with the theme from Midnight Cowboy. Battle well and truly joined. Wheelmen took reeds, and were given the pictures. I had it after cello and piano – bus and pram followed. At the death they knew it was things known by contractions of their full name – violincello – pianoforte etc. Larks ended the round with water . Baobab Tree – Tate Gallery Christmas Tree 1993 – Tarte Tatin gave the a set of things which are all upside down. So at the end of a close round the Wheelmen led by 7 to 5

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

Wheelmen began with water.Chief Norse God – Norse God of Thunder gave them what days of the week are named after, and so they knew that Woden’s Day and Thor’s Day would end 2 later with Saturn’s Day. Larks chose reeds and got 4Cb. My moment of the week – 4 Calling Birds I shouted ! They took 3 FH and 2TD , and finally got APIAPT at the death. Wheelmen chose Horus for sopt sign – 50p coin , at which they were on to it – and suggested that the last would be the Pentagon – anything with 5 sides being good for the answer. Larks took Flax for Behind – look, I’m really not boasting, but the first thing which occurred to me was the last 4 Carry On films. This was swiftly confirmed by the appearance of England, then Emmanuelle. Well done Larks for taking all the clues to eventually work it out and make sure of some points. Stuart had it. Wheelmen’s next pick was viper, which concealed pictures of a pointing finger, a board game and a toy theatre. They didn’t get it. Michael came up with an ingenious wrong answer, so the bonus went begging. It was point – game – set and the last would have been a match. Easy when you’re told, but not so easy before. . Finally the Larks ended with Lion. Huntingdon and Sedgefield gave them British PM’s constituencies, and when he weighed it up he plumped correctly for Witney. So they pulled back half of the lead, which now stood at 13 – 12 to the Wheelmen.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

Many a team has come a cropper on the wall before, but not the first of these teams. Larks liked lion, and quickly sorted out all 4 sets.
Janus – Zaphod Beeblebrox – Rigged Coin and pushmi pully gave them things with two heads. Rattle, Wood , Davis and Solti gave them conductors. Cameron , Mumba, Bond and Fox are all Samanthas, and Stump – Floor – Baffle and Throw can all mean to confuse. Didn’t confuse the Larks in the slightest.
The Wheelmen with water needed a full house too. They found the Mitchells in Eastenders – Phil – Ronnie – Grant and Little Mo. Then a set of Blondes – Dumb – Suicide – Bottle and Legally. Then the brakes came on. In the end they didn’t untangle the last two sets. When they were revealed they could not see that coin – spiders web – cricket ball – good yarn can all be spun. Still, they did know that nit – curry – honey and cox are all combs. So the Larks now led with 22 to 18

Round Four – Missing Vowels

All to play for, and the Larks were so quick on the wall there seemed there might be a lot of time left. First set was things you could buy in a cake shop. 2 – 1to the wheelmen. Forms of entertainment fell to Larks 2 –1 , and Wheelmen had a miscue. Monastic Orders went to the Wheelmen 3 – 0, but that was it for a surprisingly short last round. Winners – well, not that it matters in a friendly competition, but the Larks won by 24 to 23.

Good show chaps. Yes, maybe some of them were a little easier than is the norm, but that’s all part of the fun. I gave something to Children in Need after the show . I hope a lot of the viewers can do the same.

Oh, and in case you forget, next week its my team, the Radio Addicts v. The Britpoppers.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge Round Two – Match 3 – Exeter v. York

Exeter, represented by James Williams, Adam Doggart, James Milnes and captain Tim Abbott, are already old hands in this series. They won through the repechage round by beating the fancied Cardiff team, and boasted a bit of a star in the shape of their skipper Tim Abbott. York, on the other hand, went through to this round as of right by beating the Royal College of Music. Their team consisted of Chris Caudwell, Ben Keane, Simon Donnelly and captain Andrew Clemo.

Lets get down to business. York were quickest into their stride tonight, when Andrew Clemo recognised a number of applications of the word cardinal. They went on to take 2 bonuses on films. Tim Abbott got Exeter off the mark with his answer that the Codex Sinaiaticus is the oldest existing Bible. An impressive full house of three bonuses on demons showed that the team seemed to mean business tonight. There was a superbly quick buzz from Chris Caudwell for the next question. The words . . . vegetable . . . former Chancellor of Germany . . . had hardly died on JP’s lips when he offered the correct answer – cabbage. Nice work that. 1 bonus on lilies in bloom was taken. The next starter went begging. In answer to the question who the ‘defeated’ candidate in the 2009 Iranian general election was, Tim Abbot interrupted, but the answer had just gone, and so did five points from Exeter’s score. When pushed by JP to take a guess Andrew Clemo offered Mussavi, correctly as it happened. They took a good three bonuses on pests. The Lateran Palace escaped both teams, as did a complicated , but splendidly inventive starter on As You Like It. JP got rather huffy when he was offered the names of a place – Amiens – and a character in the play – Orlando – rather than the name of the play itself. Another starter went, but then Adam Doggart recognised that Charleston was the place and the dance. They took one bonus on sociology and the self. There was a terrific picture starter next, with a set of European national flags within a Venn diagram. Ben Keane knew that the ones in the identified set were EU members. 2 bonuses followed, with only the EFTA set slipping through the net. So the first 10 minutes seemed very much York’s and they led by 75 to 25.

A truly difficult starter asking which would be the first date of this Millennium consisting of 8 different digits gave us our JP moment of the week. More of that later. Neither team knew that it was June 17th , 2345. Not surprised, either. Tim Abbott took another starter, recognising carbon dioxide when he heard it described. At a time when they really needed some bonuses they couldn’t muster any on Lord Chancellors. A starter on Marc Chagall escaped the net of both teams, but James Milnes knew a set of record transfer fee footballers. Lovely to hear the great old quiz chestnut Alf Common ( the first £1000 footballer ) given a name check. They took 2 bonuses on a set of words with A at the start, A in the middle, and A at the end – Alabama to give the first example. The Music starter wanted the name of the composer. Tim Abbott interrupted incorrectly, but York didn’t know it either. The next starter was left pristine and untouched. Andrew Clemo earned the music bonuses by identifying Northern blotting as something to do with RNA. Captain Clemo dropped a little bit of a clanger by passing one overture just as Simon Donnelly was correctly identifying it as Glinka, still, they managed one. At this stage the game was clearly slipping away from Exeter, so who shall blame Ti Abbott for trying to stop the rot by buzzing early. He didn’t get ergonomics, though, losing 5, which York did know. A single bonus on nuclear physics followed. Then Simon Donnelly hammered home the advantage by taking a Maths starter. Exeter it must be said were becoming rather profligate with bonuses, and only took one on islands off the coast of Britain. It doesn’t matter as long as you keep getting the starters right, and Ben Keane made sure that they took the next one, knowing that the word white links – rabbit – Christmas etc. Again, a single bonus followed. At the 20 minute mark York led by 130 to 45. A good position to be in, for sure, but with the number of starters they had been getting they ought to have been almost out of sight by now.

The second picture starter was Jack Kerouac, and it was not taken. Tim Abbott earned the bonuses that should have gone with it by knowing the Russian alcoholic drink being described was kvass. They took 2 of the pictures, knowing Ginsburg and Burroughs. Andrew Clemo hit back, with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Again, only one bonus followed. Ben Keane buzzed in extremely quickly to give two homophones required as Po and Poe, and joy of joys, a full house of three bonuses on events of 1547 followed. Then came the fightback I was beginning to worry would never happen. Four – yes, four – consecutive starters were correctly answered by Tim Abbott. He knew that there are restrictions on using octopi in lab testing, the word sage, ping pong diplomacy, and the fact that there are 7 basic plots. 7 bonuses were taken across the 4. Time was getting on, yet the gap had closed considerably. If they took the next starter . . .

They didn’t. Simon Donnelly took a physics starter next, and the fact they didn’t take any bonuses didn’t matter. It was just too late, and only time remained for Andrew Clemo to provide the correct answer Moldova to the next starter, when the gong sounded. A good match – and a surprisingly exciting end considering that York were comfortably on top for most of it, winning by 195 to 140.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Yes, prickly old Jeremy returned in full force tonight. Asked that brilliant but difficult date question he looked at both teams, and then, his voice dripping with sarcasm, said,
“ Shall we come back at the end of the programme. “?

Welcome back JP. I’ve missed you.

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

Ambrose Bierce – he of the Devil’s Dictionary – disappeared in Mexico in 1913, after joining Pancho Villa’s army as an observer.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Brain Of Britain - Round One - heat 4

Well, good people and fellow travellers through the magical world that is quizdom, there are no prizes for guessing whom I was supporting in today’s show. Step forward Derek Moody. Derek was runner-up in the Mastermind 2007 SOBM, and showed a magnanimosity and generosity of spirit in his kind words after the show , that I don’t think I could have matched in the same position. He was damn good company in the bar afterwards as well. Definitely one of the good guys

Still, Derek was drawn fourth tonight, and kicking us off was Anne Finch. She stumbled on the first question, and it was Michael McPartland who nipped in quickly knowing that loganberries are named after an American judge. Nobody knew eurythmics, which meant that Michael was so far the only scorer, as he faced his first question. He didn’t quite manage to get Koh-I-noor as Mountain of Light, but Derek did. So three contestants down,and the only points scored so far were bonuses. Derek got his first, but missed out on what Pooh day commemorates. Jamie Johnston knew it was A.A.Milne’s birthday. So my boy Derek led at this stage.

Anne did better in round two, taking the first question, but not knowing that the Long March rockets are Chinese. Jamie knew it. He got a bit of a bouncer on George Lansbury next, which nobody got. Michael took 2 in a row, but Derek was quick in on the buzzer to answer that the City College, demolished in 1902, was actually Newgate prison. However I think that nerves maybe got to him when he failed to get a dictionary definition of a swastika. Anne took that one. Only one point now separated all 4 contestants.

Anne failed her first , when Jamie took a bonus on Lammas Day. Jamie himself failed on the specific events described in Paradise Regained, as did the others. Michael didn’t know that the old green penguins were crime novels, but Jamie , who was picking up a nice little set of bonuses, nipped in again to help himself. Back to Derek again. Derek took his first, but didn’t know that Roderick Maclaine was only one of several people who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria ( Gawd Bless ‘Er ). Anne took that one. So although the positions changed slightly, still only the one point separated the four of them. Anyone’s game.

In the 4th round Anne took the bull by the horns with 4 correct answer, only missing the meaning of the word Mensa in the original latin. Shame on all 4 for not knowing its table ! ( Gratias tibi ago, Mr. Rose ! ) Good set, though. Jamie named one state with a silent S, but missed the other. Derek snapped that one up. He also knew who the father of Antigone was, which Michael didn’t. On his own set he put a nice little run together to take 4 himself, which gave him an outright lead, only missing out on hemlock, given by its latin name. D’oh – latin again !

The listener’s questions were Reginald Fitzurse etc. A little too easy for the contestants, that one, all being Becket’s murderers. Mind you the second was a snorter – at which castle were they thought to have hatched the plot ? Saltwood, apparently. No surprise they didn’t know it.

Back to the competition. Anne was very much in the hunt at the start, but failed on a set of terms for a forward slash punctuation mark. No points for anyone. Jamie Johnson took his first, but didn’t know the Rolls Royce Merlin. Derek did. Michael didn’t know what v/s on a piece of music meant – neither did I, or anyone else. It means turn the page quickly. Derek finished the round taking 1 point, but missing out on the reason why Lake Malawi is called Calendar Lake as well. Its 365 miles long, and 52 miles wide ! Great question. Still, even though the round was low scoring, it was more to Derek’s benefit, as he pushed a little further ahead, leading by 4 with 11.

Anne couldn’t answer what the M in Maser stands for, neither could anyone else. Microwave, apparently. Jamie took one, but didn’t know which Dickens book became a play called The Only Way. It’s a Tale of Two Cities. Michael didn’t know that Byron was Baron Byron of Rochdale. Anne guessed correctly for a bonus. Derek then was asked about the unusual fate of Alexander III of Scotland in 1286. Nobody knew. Except me . ( Honest. ) His horse stumbled over a cliff . Not a great round, and Anne was gaining slightly.

Anne took the sound question to start, and failed to recognise the radio broadcast describing the Hindenburg bursting into flame. Oh the humanity. Derek knew it. Gap restored. Jamie didn’t know that water was used as ballast on airships. Michael took his first, but couldn’t answer who invented the term Wars of the Roses. It was Walter Scott. Derek wasn’t allowed an answer, and Anne given a bonus.

Into the last round, and Derek held a useful 3 point lead. Anne needed to score well on her own set to give herself a chance. She took the first , but didn’t know that Ceratopsian dinosaurs had horns. Jamie knew it. This meant Anne needed to answer bonuses, and hope that Derek didn’t get any. Well, he did. Derek knew Jamie’s question about The Shadow. Michael didn’t know that Brahms wrote A German lullaby, but Jamie did. Derek didn’t know his first , while Anne did. Not quite enough, though. In the end Derek brightened my day by making it through, winning by 13 to Anne’s 11. Good on you , Derek !

The Details

Anne Finch - 11
Jamie Johnston – 9
Michael McPartland – 4
Derek Moody – 13

Friday, 12 November 2010

Mastermind - First Round Heat 13/24

I may be wrong, but I do have a feeling that tonight’s show was filmed on the same day as the Champ of Champs final, since I’m sure Nick Mills was leaving just as I was coming in. I may be mistaken. Still, I suppose that’s as good a way as any of telling you that although I don’t know Nick personally, I am aware of his fine reputation, and so he was tipped to do well from the Clark sofa tonight.

Mind you, it would be a little while before we’d see just how well, since Nick was due to go last in the first round. Kicking us off tonight was Keith Nickless. Keith’s specialist subject tonight was Mott The Hoople. I was hoping that the – who wrote ‘All the Young Dudes’ ? – question would come up, since I knew that was one of the Thin White Duke’s. So did Keith. He also knew all 17 of the other questions asked during the round. For the second week running we witnessed a stupendous full house of 18 correct answers from 8 questions. Superb work.

Gillian Clissold had to follow this grandstand opening, and she offered the Life of Robert Baden Powell. She started well, rattling off five correct answers with scarcely a pause. However a couple of passes followed, before she rallied. For the rest of the round , if she wasn’t certain, she passed, and so the rest of the round was something of a staccato performance, two passes, two correct answers, two passes – etc. She finished in double figures, though, with 10.

Teacher Thomas Zugic was very brave, in my opinion, offering a potentially extremely wide subject in the shape of the Geography of South America. It was a curious fact about tonight’s show that it wasn’t until the 6th question of this, the third of the specialist rounds, that we witnessed the first wrong answer tonight. Tricky questions robbed Thomas of momentum after this, and he too went on to kind of bunny hop his way throughout the rest of the round, just passing Gillian’s score with 11.

Nick is a fine quizzer, and so I had confidently predicted that if he was in contention after the first round, as I was sure that he would be, then he would be hard to beat in the GK round. Mind you, Keith had set a massive target. Rameses never looked like an easy subject to me. Fears were raised before Nick paused for a long time on the third answer before getting it wrong, but after that the round was just incredible. Nick reeled off seemingly interminable Egyptian names with no hesitation at all, and he had built up such a head of steam that he stormed to his own 18. Fantastic quizzing.

So all was set for a couple of very high scores. First , Gillian and then Thomas returned for their GK rounds. Both acquitted themselves quite well, I’m delighted to say, even if they both seemed to suffer from a little bit of a 2 minute dip. Gillian scored 12, and as in the specialist rounds Thomas went one better with 13. He was maybe a little fortunate that John didn’t disallow ‘nitrogen’ when ‘nitrous oxide’ was required, and prompted him for more, but then it was a given that it wasn’t going to materially affect the fight for the major medals.

Thence to the main event. Keith returned to the chair, rather the underdog as I saw it. Well, I have to say that he didn’t answer like an underdog at all. In fact if he’s not a regular quizzer I’ll be very much surprised. He cracked through his answer showing a very good all round knowledge. Not only that but , not knowing the name of Frigga, the mother of Baldr in Norse Mythology, he grinned and answered “Betty”. Liked that one very much. By the end of the round he had scored a fine 16. And 1 pass.

Nick had no passes so far. He needed 16 and no passes to go through as the winner. Mind you, the chances that he wouldn’t at least make the highest runners’-up board seemed small to say the least. He didn’t start the round as well as Keith had, and it took a little while to build up a bit of momentum. He sacrificed passes to build speed, and it did seem to do the trick, as he picked up speed , and powered through the line. The line, though, came just one question too early. Nick too scored 16 correct answers, but he had also passed 4 times.

So Keith won by virtue of only having one pass. Very well done sir, a fantastic score, and a very fine all round performance. But congratulations to Nick Mills as well. 34 is a monster of a score, and there is no doubt in my mind that we’ll be seeing Nick again in the semi finals. Great show , and well played to all.

The Details

Keith Nickless Mott the Hoople 18 – 0 16 – 1 34 - 1
Gillian Clissold Life of Robert Baden Powell 10 –7 12 – 3 22 – 10
Thomas Zugic Geography of South America 11 – 4 13 – 2 24 - 6
Nick Mills Rameses II 18- 0 16 – 4 34 – 4

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

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

TV Watch - Only Connect

Only Connect – Quarter Final 2 – The Wrights v. The Bloggers

Returning to do battle tonight were Pete, Rosa and captain Liz Wright, a family team who beat the Urban Walkers in a tight first round match. Their opponents were Chris Rubery, Steve Perkins, and captain Ruth Deller, otherwise known as the Bloggers, who blew away the Mensans in an outstanding Missing Vowels performance in round one. On paper . . . well, the Bloggers had the higher score in round one, based largely on a superb buzzer performance. Matches aren’t played on paper, though.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

Wrights took the viper first. Don Quixote then Cold Comfort Farm didn’t offer me at home many clues, and the Wrights too opted for the next clue, the Rape of The Lock. I had a feeling we were talking about works that mocked other forms of literature here, and so did Liz. Good shout that for 2 points. Bloggers took Lion, and after seeing unloose and debone chanced their collective arm with false opposites. Unwisely as it proved. Given irregardless and the old favourite inflammable, Liz knew that they are all words which mean the same if you remove the prefix. Liz then took water. The word Inchon appeared in yellow. Then Archangelsk in White. Ports on rivers named after that colour ? I wondered. Then Jeddah appeared in red, and I changed rivers to seas. Black Odessa proved it. The Wrights were right to take all 4 clues, but they didn’t see the colour connection. The Bloggers saw the colours, but not why. Flax gave Bloggers the sound clues. They took all 4 but couldn’t connect them. The last two – Lust for Life and Pride ( In the Name of Love ) gave me deadly sins, which Liz had already latched onto for the bonus. They then took Eye of Horus, to reveal Greek for Laurel – Character in Metamorphoses . At this stage I was thinking – well in Ovid’s Metamorphoses its Daphne that Apollo chases, who gets turned into a laurel, which is why he wears laurel leaves, so is that the answer ? I was waiting for the character from Scooby Doo to confirm it. The Wrights were barking up the Kafka / Metamorphosis tree at this stage. Sadly it was the author of Rebecca rather than Freddie’s girlfriend which confirmed it for me.The Wrights had it at this point too. This left the Bloggers to finish off with reeds and pictures. Coral was followed by a pot , which made me idly speculate about wedding anniversaries. A rather delicious looking but forbidden pastry followed, then a somewhat less lovely creepy millipede. The connection was a thousand – millefiori, millefeuille etc. Cracking answer, guess or not. Into round 2, the Wrights led by 6 to 1.

Round Two – What comes fourth ?

Wrights do like to start with the viper, and this revealed buried alive, then encased in ice. David Blaine ? I wondered. Standing on top of a pillar confirmed it, but what came next ? Was it that damn silly thing by Tower Bridge where the silly so and so starved himself ? It looked like all Liz was going to do was supply the connection, but Rosa gave the answer about the glass box above the Thames, and the point was secured. The Bloggers opened the eye of Horus, and found exo – thermo – meso . They had a decent guess with endo, but it was not to be. I didn’t get it either. They are actually spheres in the Earth’s atmosphere. Good set, and its more obvious thank you might think once it's pointed out. Wrights took flax, and got the pictures. They didn’t get it, neither did I. Victoria was proud to announce that we had a mascot – Ascot and scot. Simple when you know it, not so simple when you don’t ! It would have led to cot. Bloggers chose reeds for vernal – aestival – at which point they knew they were looking for that kind of adjective to apply to winter . But what was it ? I knew it was hibernal – yes, bragging again, but neither side did. So to finish the last pair, the Wrights took water. 1 B =2S, 1S = 2M, 1M=2C. All manner of answers were considered, but none was offered. Captain Ruth confidently supplied a great answer – 1 C = 2Q , the letters standing for musical notes. Lion remained, and revealed 1 minute to 10, 1 minute past 10 , 11 minutes past 11, and they worked out it was time palindromes on a digital clock, for 12.21. Score now, Wrights 8 to Bloggers 4.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

Bloggers took the Lion wall. Last time out they took a full ten . Quickly they untangled Mr. Benn, Alex Delarge ( who he ? ) , Oddjob and the Riddler, who all wear bowler hats. Impressively quickly they also found Von Richtofen, Vivaldi, Manchster United and Mars, which all were nicknamed the Red – (Baron, Priest, Devils, United- although not admiral, sadly. ) With three guesses and oodles of time left they sorted out one set, but cleverly didn’t punch them in too soon, in order to give themselves time to work out the last. Kelloggs, Tottenham Hotspur ( yes ! ) , France and Pathe all suggested cockerels, but Dinara, Realm, Randy and Levi flummoxed them. The connection was tricky. If you take the last letter from each you get foreign currency. Nasty, but clever. 7 points earned.

The Wrights were left with Water. Last time out they didn’t solve the whole thing. Quickly they saw a set of Blades. There were 5 possibles, but a little nit of jiggery pokery sorted out Sheffield United, Helicopter, Ice Skate and Razor. Methodically they uncovered gov – org – biz and museum , as all part of internet addresses. With three tries left they were on the right lines looking for galaxies, and Milky Way, Andromeda, Pinwheel and Cigar fitted the bill. Only blood, curtain, cart and sword remained. The connection, that they are all things that can be drawn, wasn’t too fiendish at all, but it still eluded them. They too scored 7. So going into the final round they still led, by 15 to 11. Now, intriguingly the Wrights had also scored well in their vowels round in their first match. So anything could happen.

Round Four – Missing Vowels.

Famous film taglines brought a point to each team. The Bloggers though had two right answers, but lost a point for not quite getting the tag to Alien right. 18th century battles saw the Wrights take a potentially match winning 3 points, to 1 for the Bloggers. Phrases often abbreviated on the Internet looked like it might give the Bloggers hope, though. Indeed a 4 point shut out pulled them right back into the game. They were a scant two points behind with male and female animals to follow. 3 – 1 to the Wrights kept their noses in front and a little bit more. Alcohols followed. Ruth buzzed too early, losing a point and giving a free run to the Wrights. They then took the next two, with only the last falling to the Bloggers in a rearguard action. The finishing line seemed close as we moved onto objects collected as antiques. There was just enough time for the Wrights to pick up another point, and in the end, secure a comfortable win by 26 to 18. Well played both teams, and congratulations to the Wrights, who take the 2nd semi final slot.

What's that, you ask ? Is it us next week ? Well, it might have been. However its actually a Children In Need celebrity led special - according to the Only Connect website, between the Wheel Men and the Larks. Sounds like fun. Our match, where my team the Radio Addicts take on The Britpoppers will be on in a fortnight.

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round Two Heat 2 – Oxford Brookes v. University of the Arts, London

Yes, two of the surprise packages of the first round met in an interesting contest. Oxford Brookes University showed huge nerve to emerge winners over Cardiff in the first round through a tie break, with both teams managing to break the 200 barrier. With the full backing of my Brain of Britain conqueror, Ian Bayley, they were going to be a team to watch. Sara Johnson, Austin Sherlaw- Johnson, Richard Williams and skipper Anthony McLarin completed the team. UAL completed a very impressive win over Imperial, also from London, a fine performance from first timers. Nigel Booth, Mary Vettise, Cliff Andrade and captain Adam Walker represented UAL.

Off we go. Or went. The first starter was a nicely cryptic one where three clues suggested the triumvirate of Tom Dick or Harry. Neither team fancied it. All the old quizzers watching at home probably shouted Garibaldi at the mention of red shirt for the next starter, as I certainly did, but the teams waited for a bit more before Austin Sherlaw-Johnson buzzed in with the same. They picked up one out of a set of bonuses on design. Adam Walker took a speculative punt on Homer for a Greek historian, but Sara Johnson correctly went with Herodotus. They took 2 bonuses on composers. A number starter came next. I’m sorry, but I didn’t get it. Adam walker did, though, and took the first points for UAL. 2 bonuses on sport and the Olympics followed. Anthony McLarin was in very quickly to identify the first picture starter as the flag of the British Army. The bonuses were all flags representing military forces worldwide. They took one, but identified the US Army flag – which I didn’t recognise either – as belonging to the Swiss Army. Surely their flag has lots of useful tiny gadgets coming out of it. Sorry. Back to the show. A lovely starter followed, with the word alphabetical rendered with all of its letters given in alphabetical order. Sara Johnson’s mind worked with the speed of a human computer to get that one as quickly as she did. JP certainly thought so, judging by the smile on his chops. Bonuses on kings and succession crises netted them another bonus. This left time for just one more starter before we reached the ten minute mark, and it went badly for Adam Walker, who buzzed to guess that a world heritage site at high altitude would be Macchu Picchu. I guessed that too, but when the full question was given it became clear it was asking for something different. Neither team got it. So just on the 10 minute mark Oxford Brookes had clearly had the better of the early skirmishes, leading as they did by 65 – 15.

Mary Vettise of UAL recognised definitions of belle – letters, belle – époque, and belle dame sans merci. Good shout that. Sadly no bonuses on the Hofstadtters fell to them. A question followed which seemed for all the world like a what-the-‘ell , until the last words asked for an alkaloid obtained from opium. Well, surely its got to be heroin or morphine, and skipper McLarin zagged correctly with morphine. 2 out of three bonuses on verse forms followed. Neither team recognised lines from WB Yeats – When You Are Old. Never mind. Oxford Brookes’ redoubtable captain took the next starter, correctly answering that Roald Amundsen had made the first sea crossing of the North West Passage. 2 Bonuses followed on the nervous system .All of which led to the music starter. Classical music this time, and a name the composer question. Austin Sherlaw-Johnson struck like a coiled cobra, allowing just the briefest of snatches to be heard before buzzing in with Mendelssohn. 3 more bonuses on Mendelssohn followed, and if you expected Mr Sherlaw-Johnson to take all of them you weren’t to be disappointed. Fine work. At the half way mark it was beginning to look a little bit like a rout. Sara Johnson was as confident on her Dickens for the next starter as her teammate had been on his Mendelssohn, and she knew Mr. Turveydrop was from Bleak House. Bonuses on Sondheim saw Mr. Sherlaw Johnson taking good points for the team. Another full set. A chemistry starter followed on elements of the periodic table. Anthony McLarin knew that the element in question would be lead. Bonuses on latin America followed saw them take another full set. Nobody could say that the team hadn’t thoroughly warmed to their work by this point. They were seeing the answers before JP had finished the question, and the skipper buzzed in early again to identify the official being referred to as the Lord Lieutenant. Poor UAL looked completely demoralised by this time, and I think that it was having an effect on their buzzing. This time only two bonuses on isotopes followed, but it was enough to give them 200 points, and what looked like an unassailable lead. At last Adam Walker buzzed his way back into the show, recognising that a group of definitions all referred to words beginning and ending with D – deltoid, drunkard etc. 3 bonuses were needed, and they were needed fast. Bonuses followed on headlines in the Sun, and the year in which they appeared. Nice set, and UAL managed 1 bonus, but poor old skipper Walker ignored a correct shout from Mary Vettise which would have brought another. It’s a lonely job, being captain. Normal service was resumed as Richard Williams buzzed in when he knew that JP was referring to the term devolution. A set of bonuses on European Universities saw them take one. This meant that at the 20 minute mark they led by 215 to 45.

The last part of the show, then , began with a second picture starter. Mary Vettise recognised a pretty well known painting of Lady Jane Grey, to land a set of paintings by the same artist, Delaroche.They mulled over Joan of Arc for one picture, but didn’t offer it, thus missing a second bonus. Asked for the wife of Justinian and Wordsworth’s sister, Austin Sherlaw-Johnson gave the harder one – Theodora . Dorothy would have done, since they both come from greek words for gift of the Gods. Three bonuses on International Agreements followed. Neither team knew Cardinal Richelieu. Cultured Austin Sherlaw-Johnson knew that the thuggish race in Gulliver’s Travels were the Yahoos even before JP had finished talking about an internet search engine. The Oxford Brookes Express was pretty much unstoppable, as indeed it had been for most of the contest. Messrs McLarin and Williams practically rubbed their hands together with glee when JP announced bonuses on US state capitals, and well they might, since they had them all. Still some time to go, and the 300 barrier loomed large in their windshield. Mr. Williams fancied it, just buzzing in before UAL to identify a set of cities which are all on the Danube. A couple of bonuses took them up to 285. Adam Walker halted them briefly, taking a botanical starter. Playing for pride now, UAL took their first full set on cemeteries. Well played. Sara Johnson buzzed early on the next, recognising a set of literary Smiths. With 3 bonuses they were through that barrier, and still the show wasn’t over. Cliff Andrade took the next, ad if there was time for bonuses then UAL could at least get into triple figures and respectability. Yes! There was just time for Austin Sherlaw-Johnson to tell us that Measure for Measure is set in Vienna, then the gong went. The final score, a resounding win for Oxford Brookes by 320 to 100. No shots of a jubilant Ian in the audience this time, but you can’t have everything. A seriously impressive performance, which I think will make other sides sit up and take notice. Very well done.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I must say that I thought JP read the lines from “When You Are Old” rather well tonight, almost movingly, in fact. When Anthony McLarin struggled with the words “North West Passage”, he smiled and said “ your bonuses . . . if you can get them out.“

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

The first Paralympics to be run in the Olympic city the same year was the 1960 Paralympics in Rome

Monday, 8 November 2010

Brain of Britain - Round One - Heat Three

Back to London again this week, for 3 competitors from London, Middlesex and Surrey, and one from Cardiff. Oh yes, I was torn. In the end I had to throw the dubious benefit of my support behind Michael Parsons from Cardiff. His wasn’t a name the rings a bell, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything as we well know.

Michael was drawn to go fourth as it happened, and so the show kicked off with Graham Bennett from Surbiton – Good Life country. Graham kicked off confidently with 2 correct answers. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Prize did for him, and gave my boy Michael a first point in the shape of a bonus. Charmian Griffiths from London missed her first question, a tricky one on good old Harold Bluetooth. I did know this, but only because I studied Old Norse as part of my English degree (don’t ask, just accept it). Nobody else did. Glen Kirton from Middlesex took the first question, but missed out on the city which is the HQ of the African Union. Its Addis Ababa, and nobody knew it. Michael then faced his own first question, but failed on a type of US folk dance. Not surprised at that. So Graham led into round two.

Graham couldn’t supply the title to the musical sequel to Phantom of the Opera. Charmian knew Love Never Dies. She added to this with two of her own questions, in what was to prove her best round of the whole contest. She didn’t know that .lk on the internet refers to Sri Lanka. Michael did, though. Glen took another of his own questions, and then Michael took another bonus by giving HM the Queen’s two middle names – Alexandra Mary. He added two of his own, before giving Glen back a bonus when he couldn’t identify a term referring to the surgical procedure for removing a kidney stone. Michael now led with 4, to Glen and Charmian’s 3, and Graham’s 2.

Poor Graham was going to struggle for points for the rest of the contest. His first question on The Old Curiosity Shop proved unanswerable to all 4 of the contestants. Charmian couldn’t dredge up the name of the faun in The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, but Michael knew it. Both Glen and Michael failed on their own first questions, and indeed, falling at the first hurdle was to be something of a recurring motif in this show. Still, Michael and Glen were doing what you really have to do, continuing to rack up bonuses each round. Michael led by 5 to Glen’s 4. Round Four would, in hindsight, finish the match as a contest. Charmian picked up one point for her first answer, Glen , Graham and Michael each picked up a bonus. However Michael put together a string of five correct answers, and by the end of the round , which preceded the listener’s questions, he led by 11 to Glen’s 5, Charmian’ 4, and Graham’s 3.

Two questions on the NASA Apollo missions followed. Given a list of names, the team failed to see they were all call signs of Apollo lunar modules that landed on the moon, and so the first would have been Eagle. Even more difficult, they were asked to name the bird from which the feather used by Dave Scott to conduct the old Galileo experiment on the moon had come. It was a falcon, that being the name of the LEM on his mission.

None of the contestants managed to answer any of their own questions in round five, and only Glen and Michael picked up single bonuses. Round 6 was only slightly better, when both Charmian and Michael managed one of their own questions. Michael though kept the bonuses coming. Not only that, but he also had a nine point lead at this stage, with 15 to Glen’s 6. Again, in round 7 and also the last round nobody could answer any of their own questions, with Michael and Glen picking up a bonus apiece in both of them. That was it, then. To be honest, even if Michael had scored nothing on round 4, rather than getting 5 and bonus, he would still have won clearly. He was better on the buzzer, and to be honest I think that his knowledge seemed wider than the other contestants. Well done Michael, and good luck in the semis, carrying the hopes of Wales with you.

The Details

Graham Bennett – 3
Charmian Griffiths – 5
Glen Kirton – 8
Michael Parsons – 17

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Where Have All The Quiz Shows Gone ?

Yes, or should I say, where have all the new quiz shows disappeared to ? Here we are, only just a few weeks away from the end of the year, and in all honesty there has been only one new TV quiz show this year which I can think of. More about that one later .

Take last year for instance. Nominees for the best new quiz show of the year 2009 were, if I recall correctly, “A Question of Genius “ , “Divided”, “The Chase”, “The Fuse”, “Guesstimation”, “Knowitalls” and “Pointless”. Not nominated, yet still flaring briefly into life on Sky was “Sell Me The Answer”. Even if we say that 2009 was perhaps an exceptional year for the quantity of new quiz shows, if we look back to 2008 we can see that “Perfect Recall” , “Battle of the Brains”, “Sports Mastermind”, “Are You An Egghead” and, yes, “Only Connect” all began that year.

So, what on Earth has gone wrong ? I’m not sure. Partly I’d guess its because some of those that have come along in the past couple of years have been successful. “Pointless” has certainly cemented its place in the hearts of its audience, and there’s no reason why it might not in time become a perennial BBC favourite like “The Weakest Link “ and “Eggheads”. It may well be that the BBC feel the same about “A Question of Genius”. As regards “Only Connect”, BBC4 have got the best team quiz on television which is open to any members of the public. In 2 years and 4 series it has established itself as one of the big 4 most prestigious quizzes there is, right up there with “Mastermind”, “Brain of Britain”, and “University Challenge”. As for ITV, they have persisted with “Divided”, and “The Chase” is, I believe, currently auditioning contestants for a third series, so they seem pretty well on their way to being established in the ITV teatime slot.

I only mentioned all this in the first place since last night was the first time that I caught a part of the new quiz I mentioned earlier. Namely, Channel 4’s Million Pound Drop live. I watched a couple of these when the first series went out earlier last year. Which explains why I haven’t watched any of this series yet. I’m really sorry if you’re a fan of the show, and by all means feel free to disagree with me, but I really dislike this show. If you want me to go into detail : -I don’t like the presenter , Davina McCall- or Shouty McGurney as she is far-from-affectionately called in my house. I think the pace is positively funereal. I watched the show for about 20 minute last night, and in that time I think three questions were asked. Unless it is a quiz- such as University Challenge – which is meant for a particular group of people, then I don’t think that its right to limit the contestants to a very limited age range. OK, I haven’t watched the show much, but I’m not the first to point out that it seems like the contestants are all drawn from the 18 – 30 demographic. From what I’ve seen, as well, it would be nice to see fewer ‘pure guessing ‘ questions too.

Not that I think for one minute that this show has been designed to appeal to people like me anyway. But it is a shame that this seems to be pretty much all that we can manage for the genre this year. Dare I say it, this raises the spectre of the LAMMY Award for the Best New Quiz Show not being awarded this year . Oh, the shame of it.