Sunday, 31 October 2010

Let me take you back to 1927 . . .

I quote ,
Here is a new pastime.
It is most amusing and once begun, irresistible. I know this to be true, for I tried it on several people. Two Public School boys – and heaven knows they ought to be tired of it – clamoured for more . . .

Now, stop that, you’re making up your own stories. This unintentionally amusing passage is actually the first paragraph of the introduction to “Can You Answer This ? “ , which I recently bought, making it the oldest quiz book currently in my possession. It was published in 1927, hence the title of this post. Yes, its so old, that for one thing it never even calls itself a quiz book, for starters. In fact it never even uses the word quiz once.

The introduction is rather sweet actually. How about this : -
At a luncheon party where I introduced the game a number of intelligent people became incapable of rational conversation, and for several hours would do nothing but test each other’s general knowledge. One day after tea I was forced to be late for an important engagement by the eagerness of my friends for fresh questions. And it was a very important engagement. I had promised to address a Women’s Institute on Hungarian Cookery . ( Honestly, I am not making this up ! ) The Americans, who appear to have invented this game, demanded eight fresh editions of a book like this one in the course of a month in February, a month in which there are only twenty –eight days.

The introduction, as unbelievably po-faced and genteel as it may be, actually does accurately describe the effect that asking questions can have on a room full of people. My colleagues are none of them quizzers, but they are always asking me when I’m going to be bringing another quiz to road test in the staff room. Mind you, I’m not sure that I could go along with some of the claims the compiler, George A. Birmingham, makes a little further on,

“The man who learns the answers to the two thousand questions in this book can win a scholarship , if he is young enough to go in for scholarships. If he is too old for that he will place himself on a lofty pedestal in society.

Forgive my mirth there a moment , George. Still, he does make some other points which still hold good today,for example,
This new game is best played in company. The pleasure of it is increased when it is shared. Nothing is more delightful than to discover that you are the only person in the room who knows what the Pentateuch is, or to find out that Rudolph Valentino, whom you have failed to identify is, after all, a person whom no one with your superior culture can be expected to know about. “
Yes, I’ll try that one next time I get an Entertainment question wrong. Sorry boys, but you can’t expect someone with my superior culture to know about that. Sure to go down well at the Rugby club.

It is an amusement, “ continues George, “ in which the elderly have a distinct advantage over the young . “ Well, as we all know, that depends on who is setting the questions nowadays. If by ‘elderly’ he meant the middle aged and upwards, then I’d probably agree. George has a theory for this,
“The fact is that there is a blind spot in all of us. We know the things that are written in the history –books ( well, not all of us, G. ) We know the things that came within our own memory. ( again . . . ) But between the places at which the history-books stop and memory begins there is a gap, and since history-books are being continually brought up to date, that gap is far larger for the old than the young. “
Most of the rest of the introduction is taken up with George explaining how the questions were selected, and how the book is organised and meant to be used. A panel of six selected the questions, and there’s a definite hint of pique in George’s comment,
“ I myself wanted to introduce a question about the tenets of the Monophysites, a subject with which I think every school boy must be familiar . ( Honestly – not making it up. ) I was severely snubbed over this ( can’t think why . )

I love the end to the introduction as well. George explains how we should try to work on our own weak areas,
“ I find, for example, that I am shamefully ignorant of the names and reputations of movie stars. From this on I intend to stop outside every picture house I pass, and make a mental, and if necessary, a pencil note of who is ‘featured’. . . Having found your weak spot, it is plainly a duty , and ought to be a pleasure, to strengthen it. It is also a duty, and certainly a pleasure, to strengthen the weak spots of other people. “
You can just imagine that George probably took a great deal of pleasure in pointing out to other people exactly where their weak spots lay too.

I’ll just give you the first set of ‘Sitters’ questions. These are the one on which his public schoolboy chums scored on average 43%. I warn you though, George stresses that ANY adult ought to be able to score 50% on them !

1) What is Wren’s most famous building ?
2) What years are Leap Years ?
3) Which blossom first – apple trees or pear tress ?
4) How are herrings caught ?
5) From what animal do we get venison ?
6) What is flannel made of ?
7) Who was the Prince Consort ?
8) Where is the Coronation Stone ( in 1927 )
9) Where are cockles found ?
10) What is chiefly manufactured in Sheffield ?
11) In what county is the New Forest ?
12) What is Perry made from ?
13) What is larding ?
14) What is the postage on a letter to the USA ? ( in 1927 ! )
15) When is Low Sunday ?
16) What is the highest weight for Parcel Post ? ( in 1927 )
17) What is beetroot chiefly used for ?
18) Who was Julius Caesar ?
19) What happened at Runnymede ?
20) What is the Bodleian ?
21) Who was Balak ?
22) Who wrote Ivanhoe ?
23) What is flannelette made of ?
24) What does I.L.P. stand for ?
25) What is an isthmus ?
26) What birds like building their nests under eaves ?
27) What birds like building their nests in sandbanks ?
28) What birds leave their eggs to hatch themselves in the sun ?
29) What do you connect with the name Butterick ?
30) What is measured in reams ?
31) Which British bird lays the largest egg ?
32) Who is supposed to have said that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton ?
33) What is the meaning of Sinn Fein ?
34) In what year did Queen Victoria come to the throne ?
35) How old is the Prince of Wales ( in 1927, later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor )
36) Quote the proverb which tells you when it is safe to change winter for summer clothes
37) What is a sweetbread ?
38) Who is the fourth lady in the land ( in 1927 )
39) How does cotton grow ?
40) What is the capital of Somerset ?
41) What is the capital of Devon ?
42) Where are the Cotswold Hills ?
43) Where are the Quantock Hills ?
44) Where is Dartmoor ?
45) What is Worth famous for ?
46) Who was Man Friday ?
47) What is November 11 , 1918, famous for ?
48) What is a barnacle ?
49) What two primary colours mixed together make purple ?
50) What are complines ?

I’ll give you the answers in a few days. To our 21st century eyes certainly a weird set of too-easies , mixed with what-the-hells . Some remarkably succinct and askable questions – the meaning of Sinn Fein one being an example of a question that I’ve actually asked almost verbatim in the club in the past – and some questions which fail the test through being vague, through allowing for the possibility of too many alternative answers, or through being just too damn easy. Be honest, though, even though the compiler never uses the word quiz, you have to admit that this is just as much a quiz book as any that are published today. Which leads me to speculate. I did wonder if the quiz book was a post war phenomenon. Obviously its not. So just when was the first ever quiz book written and published in the UK – that is a book containing general knowledge questions, compiled solely for the amusement and entertainment of the reader ? Any answers to this one gratefully received.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 11/24

Right then, my friends , what have we learned since last week ? Well, for one thing we’ve had it from Jon Kelly, the producer of the show no less, that only those who come in second in any given heat may be eligible for one of the six highest scoring runner up slots. So with that cleared up , lets get on with the show.

Hazel Humphreys ( no relation, I’m sure ) answered on tonight’s most obviously popular culture subject, the Life and Career of Richard Pryor. If I did an ‘interesting fact that I didn’t already know of the week’ slot in these Mastermind reviews, as I do for University Challenge, then tonight’s would be that Richard Pryor helped write “Blazing Saddles “ and was originally going to play Bart in it. Hazel knew it, and quite a lot more besides. In fact she took the first 11 questions on the bounce, although she wasn’t going all that quickly, and levelled out at 13 by the end of the round. Good performance.

The name Malcolm Pryce might not instantly ring any bells, but you may well have heard of some of his Louie Knight novels, such as “Aberystwyth , Mon Amour”. This set of works was the subject taken by Tony Wheeler. Tony too correctly answered all of the first 11 questions he was asked. He was answering a little more quickly and crisply than Hazel had done, and this meant that he was able to stretch his score to an impressive 15 by the end of the round.

Sometimes its nice to see a good, old-fashioned sports subject being offered, and Peter Reilly did just this with “The Grand National since 1960 “. A wide ranging round this one was. For example, if you’ve been quizzing any length of time you’ll have been asked which fence is known as the Foinavon fence, or in which year did it happen, or which horse was the favourite etc – but would you know which horse actually began the pile up ? Peter did. Admittedly he only took the first five in a row, but never let this panic him, and kept adding on the points throughout the round. He too ended with 15 and 1 pass.

Mike Foden had been to the chair before. Mike is a confirmed quizzer, whom I know through the net, and we last saw him on Mastermind in Nancy’s 2008/ 2009 series. Then he was answering on Kazimir Malevich. Tonight he gave us The Life and Works of Robert Doisneau, who John helpfully explained was a photographer. Checking back on my 2009 review, I said at the time that it was “difficult for me to judge how fair the questions were. Some of them seemed rather long-winded, but maybe that was just my imagination. “ Well, apparently lightning does strike twice in the same place, as I thought that Mike’s questions did seem long winded again tonight. He still managed to get into double figures, though, with 10.

So once again we had 4 contenders who had all prepared well for their specialists – well done for that. However it’s a point for discussion how much you could, or should, prepare for the GK rounds, and this is what lay ahead of the four of them. Mike returned to the chair first. He knew that five points is a tough gap to bridge, but in a two and half minute round the opportunity is there to set a challenging target. He gave it a lash, but never quite got into a sustained rhythm. Again, though , he managed double figures for the round, and set the target at 20. Hazel Humphries looked a pretty good bet to take over the lead, having a 3 point lead over Mike at the halfway stage, but she really did seem to struggle to impose herself upon this GK round. For a moment I thought that she mightn’t quite get there, but in the end she did just enough to get over the line, scoring 8 for a total of 21.

Tony Wheeler‘s objectives then were to a) score 7 to put himself into the outright lead, b) score 12 to put him onto the highest scoring runners-up board, c) to score a huge total and try to secure the win. Obviously he would have hoped for option c., and he started off crisply and cleanly enough. However the wrong answers began creeping in, and in a GK round rhythm can so easily be lost. Maintaining that rhythm can be more crucial than you might think. He achieved the first option comfortably enough, but fell a little short of anything more, scoring 10 for a total of 25.

I’ll be honest, I’ve twice gone last in the chair in the GK round myself, and I never enjoyed chasing as much as I enjoyed setting a target. But it does have the advantage of letting you know exactly what you need. Peter Reilly I think could at least see that he didn’t need a perfect, or even a barnstorming round to put him through. What he needed to do was keep his head, and keep answering, with the likelihood being that if he could do that , then enough correct answers would accrue by the end of the round to put him through. Sometimes it’s as simple as that, ladies and gents, for that’s exactly what he managed to do. In the end he scored 12 , for a total of 27. Well played.

The Details

Hazel Humphreys The Life and Career of Richard Pryor13 - 18 - 121 - 2
Tony Wheeler The Louie Knight Novels of Malcolm Pryce 15 - 110 - 2 25 - 3
Peter Reilly The Grand National since 1960 15 - 112 - 3 27 - 4
Mike FodenThe Life and Work of Robert Doisneau10 - 110 – 6 20 – 7

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Duncan Byrne – 27 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7
Chris Harrison - 26 – 1

Quiz Question Blog

Mastermind contender and LAM reader Paul Philpot informs me that he has recently started a blog with quiz questions and answers. I've just been to check it out, and I like it a lot, and so I thought you might want to do the same. Follow this link : -

Just Quiz

Keep up the good work, Paul

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


If you regularly or semi-regularly set the questions for a quiz you’ll maybe understand the affliction I’m going to write about now. Even though my youngest children are both 16 they were still up for a family half-term outing today, and so we all piled in the car, and drove into deepest West Wales to Folly Farm near Narberth. If you’re ever visiting the area, and have children its well worth a visit . Its competitively priced , and has many attractions including a petting zoo, an undercover old time funfair, and a small zoo. My kids have loved the place for years. I was pleased to notice that the zoo part of the farm keeps expanding each time that we visit. In particular there was a definite Madagascar-theme going on there today. There were colonies of ring-tailed lemurs, pot bellied lemurs, and what really caught my eye, two fossa.

The fossa is the largest carnivorous mammal indigenous to Madagascar. If you’re like me , the only previous knowledge of the beast you’ll have is from the animated film Madagascar, where they were called something like foussa, as I recall.

OK – I can almost hear you thinking – so where am I going with this ? Well, its at this point that what I grandiloquently call ‘the question instinct’ kicked in. This is the sort of mental process that took place.
“Fossa, eh ? I didn’t know that they were a real creature . Say, there’s got to be a quiz question there : - let’s see – what is the name of the largest carnivorous mammal on the island of Madagascar ? – no , probably too obscure for a natural world question. Alright, lets turn it into an Entertainment question – Featured as the villains in the film Madagascar , what is the name of the largest carnivore on the island of Madagascar ? – hmm, that’s better, but yet. . . Say, what does it say up there on the cage ? Ghost hunters ? Oh, that’s clever, since the word lemur actually means ghost. Ooh, maybe that’s it – What does the word lemur mean when literally translated into English ? – Is it – small man – ghost – noisy spirit ? That’s it !”
Now, maybe you’re thinking, well, so ? What’s the problem with that ? Well, what you have to consider is that I was totally oblivious to everything going on around me while this was going through my mind, even though Mary and the girls had been trying to get my attention for some time. Not only that, but I’m not even preparing a quiz at the moment. You see what I mean ? Affliction.

OK, so we could say that this was a special case, since its not every day that you do something like visiting a zoo, which is bound to spark off some question ideas. True enough. But the problem is that it happens all the time. Yesterday evening we all went to see “Despicable Me” at the cinema. Its not ‘Toy Story’ or ‘Shrek’ , but it had its moments. Yet what did I find myself paying most attention to ? What else, the credits telling me who provided which voices, and why ? That’ll come up in a quiz, I told myself, mentally stowing away the fact that Russell Brand provided the voice of Dr. Nefario. Steve Carrell provided the voice of Grue, for that matter.

It might just be that I compiled the quiz for the rugby club for the last two weeks in a row, but at the moment I find it incredibly difficult to just accept a new fact without assessing either how I might turn it into a question for a quiz, or how likely I am to be asked to provide it in answer to a question in a quiz. Maybe there’s a psychological term for the condition. Come to think of it, that gives me an idea for a question . . .

Mastermind - Runner- up Slots

On Tuesday 19th October I posted about the question as to whether runner up semi final slots in Mastermind would be open to third or fourth placed contenders. I made an appeal at the end of the post for Jon Kelly, the Producer of the show to maybe drop me a line to clear it up, knowing that he reads the blog from time to time. Lo and behold, being the all round good egg that he is, Jon emailed me tonight, and told me this ,
"I read your post on LAM about highest scoring runners up. The rule is that you have to have finished second in your heat to qualify. This is just the simplest and fairest way to enforce this rule."
So that's the definitive answer to this question - thanks Jon. All of which means that the six runner up slots are currently occupied by : -

Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Duncan Byrne – 27 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7
Chris Harrison - 26 – 1

Only Connect - First Round Review

As you might be aware, I’m a member of the Radio Addicts team who played in the second round of this year’s Only Connect, so I am very wary of making any comments which might give away results. So I’m afraid that I shan’t be making any of my usual predictions or prognostications, merely casting an eye over the results of the first round and letting you draw your own conclusions.

These were the scores of the 8 teams that won their way through to the quarter finals : -

Team Round One Round TwoRound Three Round Four Total
Epicureans 5 41022 41
Wrights 4 4 5 1023
Radio Addicts 4 5 7 7 23
Britpoppers 3 7 5 621
Bridge Players3 8 10 5 23
Bloggers2 310 1530
In-Laws 3 5 10 11 29
Alesmen 12 4 10 7 33

Phew ! So, who do you fancy ? No clues from me, I’m afraid.

One point I can safely make, though, is about the quality of the runners-up in the first round matches. As I hope I’ve said in the past, no mugs get onto this show, but you have to say that right from the excellent Courtiers in the first match, to the Pool Sharks in Monday’s match, the teams who didn’t make it through to the quarter final stage have put up some fine performances. Well played to all of you, and very hard lines on not making it through.

As for the quarter finals, they begin on Monday at 8:30 on BBC4, when the Epicureans take on the Bridge Players.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

TV Watch - Only Connect

Only Connect – First Round Match 8 – Alesmen v. Pool Sharks

They don’t tell you the average age of teams in Only Connect, which is probably just as well when you consider the poor teams which have old codgers such as myself among their members. However if they did at least we’d be able to check whether the average age of teams this year has been somewhat older than last year, which is what it seems to me. I say this only because one of tonight’s teams, the Pool Sharks, ( 7 on the nameo-meter) did seem to fit within the younger demographic. Not so my friends the Alesmen ( ooh – a pun ! That’s an 8 ). You may well have recognised Chris Quinn, Graham Barker, and captain Mark Kerr. They’re all very fine quizzers, and among the team there’s a wealth of quiz experience, broadcast and otherwise. So the Pool Sharks certainly had their work cut out for them. Michael Howes, Tim Jordan and captain Andrew Smithies would never have got on the show in the first place if they hadn’t been people of knowledge and character, though. On with the game.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

Eye of Horus was much to the Alesmen’s liking, and they posted their serious intentions by getting the connection on just three clues – Profession=Gardening, Needle=Yucca and Ale=Water. They knew that Adam’s Ale is water, and Adam fitted the bill nicely for the others. 2 points in the bag. Horned viper seemed to speak to the Sharks with forked tongue, as pictures of a Guinea Pig, Chinese Chequers and a Panama Hat led them to say they are all named after countries. Ooh, close, but not quite. The Alesmen knew that a Guinea pig isn’t from Guinea, Chinese chequers aren’t from China, and , well, you get the picture, I’m sure. Now, prepare to be amazed. The Alesmen took one look at their first clue – Pugachev’s Cobra, and Chris had the answer. He’d been randomly looking through wikipedia the day before, and read all about this aerobatic manoeuvre. He insisted, they took it, and bagged a full 5 points. Stupendous, amazing, and probably completely demoralising for the poor Sharks. Twisted Flax concealed Tux – Sam Sawnoff ( no idea at this stage ) – Chilly Willy ( knew it now ) and Feathers McGraw. They didn’t know that they were all fictional penguins. The Alesmen did though. By the next clue it seems that the Alesmen were slipping, only scoring 3 points this time. Two reeds gave them Millie Small, by which time they were all ready leaning towards the correct answer, lollipops, and then operator of a brake on sign which confirmed it. The shell shocked sharks took the music bonus, where one I didn’t know, teddy bears picnic, Land of Hope and Glory and Anyone Can Fall in Love stumped both teams. I think I might have had this , since I had an inkling they were all existing pieces of music to which words were added at a later date. Oh dear, cover your eyes, Pool Sharks fans. The Alesmen led at the end of the round by 12 – 0

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

Don’t worry , Sharks fans, they DID fight back . However lets start with the Alesmen. They went for two reeds, and began with Jerk, and Acceleration. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get the explanation, but all that matters is that their answer – Distance, was correct for 3 points. The Sharks put points on the board when they plumped for Lion. They knew that £1 – 20 p and 1p were British coins in shrinking order of diameter, and they also knew that 5p would be next. 2 points. The Alesmen showed a very rare hint of vulnerability when given Skull – scapulae – Patellae they failed. The Sharks though gave the right answer, falanges, for the wrong reason. Its anatomical name for Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes ! Doesn’t matter, that’s a bonus earned. Alas, they missed their own set of Cole – Oakley – Marr, mistakenly guessing that these were other members of the Smiths. Mark , a confirmed Smiths fan, knew these were BBC political editors, and Nick Robinson completes the set. However they struggled with a picture set behind horned viper. Sylvester the Cat, Paul McCartney and St. Christopher had them thinking popes or saints. It was neither. The Sharks had it at once, knowing it was Dr. Who factors first names – David, as in Tennant, being next. Just as a last flourish to the round they took Water, where Rutlish Grammar, and Fettes gave them three points for identifying Eton , the set being schools attended by successive Prime Minister of the UK. So a great fightback had seen them score 7 points in the round to 5 for the Alesmen, who led by 16 to 7.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

Both teams delivered virtuoso displays on the wall, solving the whole thing in extra quick time. The Sharks going for water unpicked
Electric – Moray – Conger and Sand, as set of Eels,
Campion – Hillary – Rutherford and Finn, famous New Zealanders
Murray – Prior – Engineer and Gilchrist – all test wicketkeepers
Fife – Argyll – Angus – Sutherland – all Scottish counties.
The Alesmen, not to be outdone, showed great calm and poise unravelling these sets,
Lewis – Hall – Garcia and Springer – all Jerrys
Yell, Jersey, Hoy and Mull – all islands off the coast of Britain
Cocker, Field , King Charles and Sussex – all breeds of Spaniel
Ink – North – Flux - - Storm – all make a term when combined with – magnetic.
So the gap remained the same, as the scores were 26 – 17 to the Alesmen

Round Four – The Missing Vowels

One thing the two teams accomplished by conquering their walls so quickly was to provide lots and lots of lovely time for the missing vowels. But whose advantage would this prove to be ?
First set, Kitchen gadgets , went 2 – 1 to the Sharks. The teams both shared types of Drama 2 apiece. Supernatural creatures saw a 4 – 0 shut out to the Sharks, just about raising up the possibility of them making the greatest comeback since Lazarus. Occupations of Mr. Benn fell evenly, ah, but there was a wrong buzz by the Sharks. Ancient languages and Parts of an aircraft fell 1 apiece to both teams. So in the end the Alesmen won by 33 to 28, but my goodness the Sharks, what a fightback they made. However the Alesmen were just formidable throughout. Very well played to both teams, a pleasure to watch.

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Play off 2 – St. Andrews v. St. John’s, Cambridge

It was back in July that we saw St. Andrews play out a thriller against Bristol, when the team of Polak, Gardner, Nakornchai and captain Small lost out on the very last question, by 185 to 190. St. John’s on the other hand also lost by 5 points, 180 to 175 against Merton, but this was in the last heat of the first round. They were represented by the team of Bennett – Spragg, Wilson, Tecks and captain Orr who had played so well in their first round match. Game on.

Mr. Small of St. Andrews buzzed in impressively early to identify a tutelary spirit amongst other things as a genius. Touch of genius shown in getting that one so quickly I would have said. St. Andrews signalled that they meant business by getting a full set of three bonuses relating to Everyman. With the sides so evenly matched on first round performance you might have expected St. John’s to come straight back, and you would have been right to do so. Elliott Bennett-Spragg leapt straight in, and secured a set of bonuses on financial abbreviations. Neither team remembered that last year’s anglo saxon hoard was found in Staffordshire, but a superb early buzz began a very good night for Mr. Wilson of St. John’s, as he recognised a definition of an Angstrom from a very few words of explanation. I always thought that was Rabbit’s surname from Rabbit Run et. al. Learn something new every day. 2 bonuses followed on art terms. Bearing in mind the difficulty both teams, especially Cardiff showed in converting bonuses last week, I was keeping a special eye on this feature of the game tonight. Neither team fancied the fifth starter, but that man Wilson buzzed in again with a question asking about different pronunciations of the letters –over. 2 bonuses fell to them on the structure of cells. The picture starter showed a map of London with a highlighted thoroughfare, and Mr. Nakornchai of St. Andrews impressed me mightily by identifying Whitehall. This too was to be a very impressive night for him as well. Three more thoroughfares were highlighted on the map, but identifying them wasn’t enough, for they had to provide the cost of the street in monopoly. Great question, the sort of thing you only get on UC. 1 out of 3 bonuses on this question was pretty impressive. Mr. Nakornchai also took the next starter on Nobel Prizes, and with 2 bonuses this brought the scores level at 55 apiece at the 10 minute mark.

Mr. Gardner took the third starter in a row for St. A’s by identifying the work being described as Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians. Bonuses on choreographers proved elusive for them. Evening things up Mr. Bennett-Spragg identified Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis, and one bonus on craters pushed them a little ahead. Neither team fancied the next starter on Chemistry, but Mr. Wilson knows cold fusion when he hears it described. Well, fusion he said, I think, but JP was happy enough with the answer, and 1 bonus followed on freshwater fish. This led next to the music starter. Hardly surprising that people who weren’t born when John Lennon released (Just like ) Starting Over didn’t recognise it, although it did provide a JP moment on what was otherwise a slack night. The music bonuses went to St. A’s when Mr. Nakornchai identified Robert Devereux as the Earl of Essex. They earned one bonus . Captain James Orr of St. John’s stepped in when he realised the next starter was talking about the Nike logo. Two bonuses on African empires followed, after which Elliott Bennett-Spragg contributed another timely starter with the names of the 2 German generals who virtually took all the Kaiser’s executive power towards the end of WWI as Ludendorff and Hindenburg. 2 bonuses followed on deans. Both teams were managing to make decent headway with whatever sets of bonuses seemed to be thrown at them tonight, and the prospect of a grandstand finish was beginning to loom on the horizon. Mr. Nakornchai maintained his excellent form for St. A’s, taking a starter on the EU, thus earning one successful mathematical theorem bonus. At the 20 minute mark , though St. John’s led by 125 to 95.

Mr. Wilson took the second picture starter to begin the run in towards the home straight, recognising Amelia Earhart, which earned them three successful bonuses on other aviation pioneers. Mr. Gardner kept St. A’s in it with a starter which gave several definitions of the figure 1 slash 4. 2 bonuses followed on acanthus leaves. Mr. Nakornchai followed it with another starter, recognising a set of postcodes all belonging to residences of the Queen. With three successful bonuses on Sartre, this narrowed the gap to a mere 10 points. Cometh the hour, cometh Wilson of St. J’s, and he buzzed like a demon on the next starter which involved an element of the periodic table , and a qwerty keyboard. No, I’m afraid you’ll just have to watch it on the iplayer. Only 1 bonus was correctly answered, but James Orr urged his team on by taking the next starter, on French wine regions. 2 correct bonuses on noodles followed. Seeing the gap wax as the time remaining waned that man Nakornchai redoubled his efforts, and took the next starter on a very early buzz identifying red and yellow as the two colours on a series of national flags. Unfortunately no correct bonuses followed. The next starter fell to Elliott Bennett-Spragg of St. J’s, who took one of a set of bonuses on Edicts. With the gap at 50 points now St. Andrews looked just about finished, and even more so as Mr. Bennett-Spragg took the next starter for good measure, and two bonuses with it. In a fine display of never –say – die spirit Mr. Nakornchai took the next starter , identifying ASEAN as the association of South East Asian Nations. However the very last word went to Mr. Wilson who took the last starter right on the gong. A great contest, but a fine last 10 minutes sealed a clear win for St. John’s by 225 to 165.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

A slack week this. JP seemed really to be enjoying this one, and so was on his best , if most boring, behaviour. I did enjoy his plaintive cry over the John Lennon starter, of,
“Is ANYBODY going to buzz ? “ As with the oysters in the Walrus and the Carpenter, answer came there none.

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

Joy Adamson, Barbara Hepworth and Simone de Beauvoir all have craters named after them on Venus.

Monday, 25 October 2010

- And I'm Feeling Good.

Yes, Nina Simone knew what she was talking – er – singing about when she sang “I’m feeling good “. Birds are singing by my door – BoB is back on Radio 4 – who could ask for more ? You know how I feel. Yes, its half term, and not that, but its Monday which brings its usual cornucopia of broadcast quiz excellence with Brain of Britain, then later on tonight University Challenge and Only Connect.

However its not just the broadcast quizzes which make Monday such a treat for me at the moment. If you’re a regular you might have noticed me mention that I’m playing in the Bridgend Quiz League this year. I’m not going to go on about the individual matches we’ve played so far , but I thought it might be nice to make a couple of general comments now. I’ve said before that it must be a good five or so years since I last played in a quiz league, week in week out, and I’ve really missed it. Bearing this in mind, you might be wondering whether the experience this year could possibly live up to my expectations. Well, I have to say that , yes, it has. I’ve put on record before now my respect for the Bridgend League, and I have to say that my experiences over the last few weeks suggest that it is a respect which is well deserved.

I ‘ve found all 3 teams we’ve played so far to be very friendly and welcoming. The quizzes themselves have been varied, interesting and testing. There’s two divisions in the league, and the team I play for, the Llangewydd Arms, are newly promoted from Division Two, and they tell me that the questions we’ve had so far in Division One have been quite a bit harder than the questions they were used to in Division Two. I can well believe it. The upshot of it is that the teams, most of whom have been playing in the rarefied atmosphere of Division One for some time, are all pretty good, and there’s no easy matches. That’s the way it should be.

The format of the league is a good hybrid of written questions, individual questions and A and Bs. The first 32 questions are given to both teams for written answers , and each of these is worth a point. The rest of the quiz is split between 4 individual questions to each team, and then a couple of rounds of As and Bs. Each of these spoken answers is worth 2 points each, and one for a bonus. I have to be honest, it somehow wouldn’t seem like a proper league match for me if there were no As and Bs . You’ll know , if you have any league experience at all, that one of the most enjoyable parts of any league quiz is the post mortem, where if you lose you will inevitably decide that the matching of the pairs was terrible, or if you win you will decide that the questions were a work of rare genius and inspiration. Being honest when I’ve played in leagues in the past its always worked out that any luck – good or bad – with pairs of As and Bs tends to even itself out over the length of a season.

Playing this year actually has , in a funny kind of way, reminded me a lot of my first experience of playing in a quiz league in Port Talbot in 1988. I was 23 going on 24, and I’d only actually played in my first quiz a matter of weeks earlier, and so I was really conscious of being the new boy, and getting to grips with the League was a challenge. As it is for me now in Bridgend. There were some good teams who you knew were capable of beating you in that League then. As there are now in Bridgend. Every match was one of the highlights of the week. As they are now in Bridgend.

However, having said that , there is one difference. In those days I was very much the novice, and I learned so much from Noel , and particularly from the late Alan Coombs, who went on to become one of my very best quizzing friends, God rest his soul. I was only playing in that one quiz in the league match in the whole week. Now, I guess that I’m ‘father figure’ of the team, and I’m the one playing in three or four quizzes every week.

Have a good week, everyone. I’m sure that I will.

Brain of Britain - Round One - Heat One

Welcome back Brain of Britain ! I’ve missed you. The best voice on the radio, namely that of Russell Davies , welcomed contestants William De’Ath, Sarah Duncan, Jack Newby and Angela Wilson. Well, I’m afraid that I don’t know the last three contestants, but William I do know. A quizzer who has a very high rank nationally, and a semi finalist in Mastermind, William immediately appealed as the favourite to win the heat. However , upsets can always happen.

William began with 2 correct answers, but didn’t know that Terry, who played Toto in the Wizard of Oz, was a Cairn terrier. I didn’t know that either. Angela Wilson did for a bonus. She repeated this feat on Sarah Duncan’s second question, knowing that it was Berlioz who set out to Italy to murder his lover Camille who had run away with a piano manufacturer. Takes all sorts, I suppose. Jack Newby failed on his first question, and this time it was Sarah Duncan who cut in for a bonus on the Aga Khan. Then to Angela Wilson, who failed to answer Winston Churchill’s middle names. She had Spencer, but plumped for Randolph, his middle name. William knew it, though, and this was enough to give him the lead at the end of round one, by 3 points to Sarah and Angela’s 1.

The first point of the next round fell comfortably enough, but Theodore Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham tripped him up. Angela had the right author but wrong book, with the Cat in the Hat, but Sarah supplied the right answer. She didn’t know that the big dinosaur in the Natural History Museum is a diplodocus. William did , though. Jack Newby then proceeded to take 3 in a row, but failed on the Public school near Brighton, which Angela Wilson knew was Roedean. Her questions now, and she took the first full set of five of this match. So she now took the lead, with 9 points, to William’s 5, and Sarah and Jack’s 3.

William was served up a nasty bouncer, and his question went unanswered by anyone. Sarah Duncan was given a music question, with an aria to identify. Thank God I never had one of those to deal with last year. She knew it, though. She didn’t know the first winners of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, which allowed William in for a bonus. Jack’s first went begging, leaving Angela to complete the round. She knew that Samuel Pepys died in the reign of Queen Anne, but failed on her second. Still she had maintained her lead, with 10 points to William’s 6, Sarah’s 5, and Jack’s 3.

The listener’s questions were : - Name the 8 generally recognised members of the Ivy League. I fancied William could certainly do this, and probably the others too. They did. Then the next question was to name sports whose TV coverage was linked to 3 themes. They managed that too – a fine display from the contestants. So on with the second half of the contest. William was asked which planet has the shortest day, and he knew it was Jupiter. The second question – a medical term I won’t even try to render defeated everyone. Sarah was asked an old quizzer’s chestnut – which is the third highest mountain in the world ? She didn’t know, but William was straight in with a bonus for Kanchenjunga. Jack failed on a nice little Maths problem, and Angela picked up a bonus. However she didn’t know that Shrek marries Princess Fiona. You see, high culture on its own isn’t enough – you have to have some of the popular stuff as well. William does, and he picked up the bonus. At the end of the round the gap had narrowed, as Angela led by 11 to William’s 9, while Sarah remained on 5 and Jack on 3. Two horse race at this stage ? It seemed like it, although a full set of 5 can work wonders at any stage of the game.

William couldn’t answer what the Spanish word for a motorway is. Angela could. Sarah didn’t know what regnal number was the most famous of the Cleopatras. Neither did anyone else, and neither, I’m afraid, did I. It was 7. Jack Newby missed his first , the play from which the line “Don’t clap too hard, it’s a very old building” is taken. Angela knew it. She didn’t know her first though, and neither did the others. So at the end of the round only Angela had added to her score, taking her lead back out to 4 points.

William knew that Lohengrin’s father was Parsifal. He knew that Mame and Emma are anagrams of each other. He knew Boudicca was the widow of Prasutagus. However the 4th question did for him. Sarah failed to answer who later took the name of Ross, and Angela got in before William with T.E. Lawrence. She must have been looking at the finishing line at this point. Jack Newby, given a sound question, couldn’t identify Alan Bennett, but Angela could. It had been a good round for her so far, but she missed the poisonous substance contained in apple pips. Sarah knew though, to take her score to 6. Jack remained on 3, William had moved on to 12, but Angela still maintained a 3 point lead with 15. William was stymied with his first question, which nobody else managed either. Sarah Duncan took a point, but William scored a bonus on her second question. Then he took another on Jack’s question about presidents and Nobel Peace prizes. By my reckoning he was one point behind now, with Angela’s questions to come. Angela failed on her first, and William took the bonus on the Chinese zodiac. So William now tied with Angela.

William began the final round knowing that a boomslang is a snake. One point ahead. The second question did him in though. Sarah knew that Nutcrack night is Halloween.She didn’t know the decade when the term passive smoking was coined. William knew that it was the 70s. 2 points ahead. Jack’s question saw him take a valuable point, but nobody knew who illustrated the first Sherlock Holmes stories. So to Angela. If she couldn’t answer her first two questions, then it was game set and match to William. The first was a nasty thing about vitamins, and she didn’t know it. William, rubbing salt into the wound, did. So in the end William’s all round knowledge and steely determination in the last round brought him the win, against what I have to say was a very fine opponent in Angela , who must have a good chance of coming back in the semis. Very well played both.

As a PS , my favourite Russell Davies moment tonight was his comment that a boomslang’s venom kills very slowly, so you’d have time to phone a friend while you’re dying.

The Details

William de’Ath – 18
Sarah Duncan – 8
Jack Newby – 4
Angela Wilson – 15

Mastermind - First Round Heat 10/24

Well, here we are, I’m back, and normal service is resumed. I was interested to finally catch up on Friday night’s show. My first thoughts were that I didn’t recognise any of the contenders, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but I felt that the chances of getting real fireworks three weeks in a row must be pretty slim. We certainly didn’t see another record-breaking score, but what we did get was an absorbing, closely matched contest.

Mark Hopes kicked things off with the Life and Films of Marlon Brando. I knew Brando replied “Whaddyou got ? “ in The Wild One. However Mark had already answered all of the previous questions correctly, and I hadn’t. This was a really wide ranging round, and you had to know your Brando to get a decent score. Mark did. He picked off the first 10 without an error. The only other error was giving Kal El – which is Superman’s Krypton name, instead of Jor-El, which is the part that Brando played in the film. A great round, and a well deserved fifteen points. Gauntlet duly laid down.

Now, the subject offered by Duncan Byrne, The Tour de France, was my first choice for the final of Champion of Champions when the series was mooted. Because Duncan was doing it, I changed my choice to the Daughters of Queen Victoria. As it was I didn’t get to the final anyway. Still, you can imagine that I really sat up and took notice while the round was progressing. Again, this was a wide ranging round, and again the contender was well up to its demands. Duncan managed the first 9 in a row, before being given a nasty bouncer. This was the only one he dropped, mind you, and he too finished with 15. Me ? 9 as I played along.

Ralph Reader is one of those names I’ve heard of, but my mental filing system only supplied one reference for. Ralph Reader = Gang show. That’s it. Thankfully for Phil Smith he knew considerably more about the man and his work. These seemed like rather long questions, but it didn’t upset Phil Smith at all. His answers were precise and instant, until question 11, which saw him hesitate a bit. He still got it right, though. In fact he got all of the first 12 right, and stumbled slightly just on the run in to the finish, answering King Faisal when Farouk was required for the last. 14 is a good score though.

So with no rabbits amongst the opposition in this show, Bill Cawley had his work cut out for him just to stay up with the peloton. 20th century American presidents is one of those subjects that sounds fairly mainstream, and yet when you go into it has all sorts of nasty little intricacies to catch you out. The start of the round was relatively benign as I managed 6 of the first 7. Bill managed all of those, but was tripped up on the charge faced by Spiro Agnew.This was actually my most successful specialist round tonight, as I managed 10. Bill though did a lot better, though, scoring 14. So at the halfway stage it was absolutely anybody’s game, with one point separating all 4 contenders. Could we be about to see what would happen on the show if they had to squeeze in a tie break ?

Phil Smith was first back into the chair. As with many contenders we’ve seen this series he started the round in very good form, answering quickly, concisely and correctly. 4 questions fell quickly, but then 3 came and went begging. Poor Phil. Lots of the answers which followed made sense, but were just wrong guesses, and he never really got back enough momentum to set anything like a big enough target to challenge the opposition. He finished with 23. So that meant that Bill Cawley needed 10 to take the outright lead.He started like a train, taking the first 5 in short order, but was pulled up by the old chestnut about Daktari meaning Doctor in Swahili. It was to be another 4 questions before he got another point. Still he got into a really good run for the next minute or so, and looked pretty good for 30 points, until a run of wrong answers in the last 30 seconds pulled him up short. Still 28 was a good target, and at the very least would put him onto the runners up board.

Mark Hopes needed 14 to take the outright lead, which is equivalent to about 10 in old money. Not impossible at all, but a target that needs concentration, and a little bit of luck if you’re not a really serious quizzer. I’m afraid that it became clear before we were halfway through the round that Mark wasn’t going to get there. Too many questions saw him pausing, and having to hit and hope. Still 24 points is nothing to be ashamed of. Only Duncan Byrne could stop Bill Cawley now. He needed to get off to good start, and unfortunately after answering the first 2, another half dozen or so questions passed before he could add to the score. This meant that time was going to be very tight. Duncan certainly did pick up speed, but there were just too many he didn’t know, and although he got mighty close he finished with 27.

A really enjoyable show. It’s not that often that we see all 4 contenders having prepared their specialist subjects so well, and I congratulate all 4 contenders for this. But especially congratulations to Bill Cawley, and good luck in the semis.

The Details

Mark Hopes The Life and Films of Marlon Brando 15 - 09 - 424 – 4
Duncan ByrneHistory of the Tour de France15 - 012 - 227 - 2
Phil SmithThe Life and Work of Ralph Reader14 - 19-123 - 2
Bill Cawley20th Century American Presidents14 - 014 - 128 – 1

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Duncan Byrne – 27 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7
Chris Harrison - 26 – 1

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Where's the Mastermind Review ?

Sorry about this, my friends. Family health problems meant me making a dash to London on Friday evening, and just haven't had time to catch up on the iplayer yet. I'm back home late this evening, so hopefully normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

TV Watch - Only Connect

Only Connect – Round One – Match 7 – Mountain Men v. The In-Laws

Another week, another two teams chasing the dream of winning a difficult quiz for no reward as Victoria put it– ah yes, and what a sweet dream it may seem to be. The Mountain Men – that’s a 7 on the exoticname-o-meter – Andy Cobley, Paul Vickers and Dave Dunford – all spend their weekends conquering Britain’s mountains. Not for me, but I’m sure there are worse things to do with your spare time. Their oppositions were the In-Laws – only a 5 for the name. Jon Heal, Penny Heal, and Captain Jason Stevens are , as the name suggests, husband, wife and brother in law.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

Eye of Horus was first out of the blocks tonight as the In Laws were given E = And, K=What , L=He and used the novel approach of deciding the last clue wouldn’t give it to them, so guessing shortcuts in British Sign Language. Incorrect. The last clue revealed for the Mountain men was C=Yes. Neither got it, but when Victoria read them out in a Spanish accent it became clear. Letters pronounced the same way as common Spanish words. Nasty – but clever. The Mountains took water and began with Oscar the Grouch’s trash Can – possible answer overload there, I fancy – Mary Poppin’s carpet bag – a definite answer began to suggest itself to me . Captain Dave suggested at this point that the Tardis might be in the list somewhere. They didn’t gamble, and took the next, which was Snoopy’s kennel. Surely he was on the right lines here. Caution won, and they took the last, inevitably the Tardis. All are obviously bigger inside than they look from outside. Still its always better to secure the point than gamble incorrectly. The In-Laws took two reeds and the music question. I didn’t get the first, but the Proclaimers and the Jackson 5 suggested brothers. The first was actually the Bee Gees. A good 2 points scored. Back to the Mountains who plumped for Twisted Flax, and the pictures. A pork pie, and a camera dolly gave them a confident 3 point buzz, for the thing next to the pork pie was in fact a pork pie dolly ! Good shout. The IN Laws took horned viper, and revealed Turkey, then Trips, then Strike-Out and finally Hat-Trick. It looked hard, but the In Laws unravelled them as sporting terms for doing something three times in a row. Again, good shout. Finally the Mountains took lion, for The Oaks Stakes, The Sanctuary Spa, - by which time I guessed that these were just for females, the Oaks being for fillies only, the Sanctuary for ladies only - The Race for Life and the Orange Prize for fiction confirmed it. The Mountains had it right at the death. This gave them a lead of 5 to 3.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

In- laws began with Lion. Intake offered possibilities for an early buzz. I was thinking 4 strokes of a 4 stroke engine, and I would have had exhaust. I probably wouldn’t have gambled. But the In-Laws did ! Fantastic 5 points earned. Two Reeds gave the Mountains the pictures. A fox was followed by a comet. They knew we were talking about Santa’s reindeer as a cupid followed. But who came next ? They plumped for Dancer, but it was incorrect, as was the In Law’s Rudolph. Donner it was. The In-Laws picked horned viper. A symbol for three sharps, one for 5 sharps, a blank – which funnily enough is a good description of my mental state with this one- saw the In –Laws offer 2 flats. Not right. The Mountains knew it was 2 sharps. They then picked water, which began with January 7th. February 8th followed, then March 5th. Nope, I had no idea either. Clever Andy Cobley spotted that it was names of consecutive months and the number of letters in their names. Brilliant answer – worth more than the one point it got. The In-Laws picked eye of Horus for Moderate – were we thinking Beaufort Scale here ? I mused. No , it seemed we weren’t since the next was substantial. The next was severe, which again looked like something weather-ish, but neither team got it. It was UK threat levels, the next being critical. Only Twisted flax remained, and so the Mountains were faced with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. No idea, so the next was Snowdonia. Andy liked National Parks but wasn’t sure which way we were going. Go on, they urged the skipper, gamble, and they did, with the first one, the Peak District. Fortune doesn’t always favour the brave, and it was not the desired answer. The In-Laws, given the Lake District, went with Dartmoor. No – it was a size question, which meant that the next was the Cairngorms, a fact which Victoria pointed out to the Mountain Men with some relish. The score at the end of the round was an exciting 8 points each.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Mountain Men selected the Lion wall. It looked as if they had several of the themes early, but were a while finding any groups. Their first set – Okay – Eighty – Teepee and Excess was a good set which are phonetic renditions of two letters each . Straightaway they solved a second set – mushroom – jellyfish – snake and algae, which all seemed possibly poisonous or venomous. It hardly took any longer to unravel the other two sets. Clematis – Wisteria – Grapes and Ivy all grown on vines, and Tomato , Mesquite, Kayak and Toboggan are all words of native American derivation. Great work, 10 points thoroughly deserved. So whatever happened they couldn’t be behind going into the last round.

The In-Laws were left with the Water Wall. Very quickly they took out Strudel, Knish, Bridie and Calzone. Ah – thought I – all holders of the European Light Heavyweight Boxing Title at one time or another. No. All were pastry turnovers.
The Disney villains Scar, Ursula, Stromboli and Hades were soon solved.A quick check to be sure, and then Ned, Harry , Nick and Scratch – who were not Disney characters as well, but names for the Devil were punched in, leaving Doll, Dame , Bird and Sheila, all slang terms for what a pompous bore of my acquaintance used to call ‘ladies of the female persuasion’. What good wall teams tonight !

Going into the last round it was 18 points apiece.

Round Four – Missing Vowels.

If what had come before was good, what followed was even better. Mountain men took a two point lead with the only two answers given on famous judges. In Laws evened things up, taking three phrases from lonely hearts ads, to one for the mountin men. Flag Carrying airlines fell 4 – 0 to the Mountain Men, who were entering the home straight now. A wonderful set of job credits from Only Connect saw the In-Laws come up to their shoulders, taking three but buzzing early for the other. The lost point could be crucial. Volcanoes fell to the In-Laws by 3 to 1. They were a point behind. Two historians followed. The first went to the In-Laws. . . and so did the second. Game over.

Oh, Mountain Men. So close. Still you played an equal part in a fabulous match, and showed yourselves to be a very fine team. Many congratulations to the In-Laws, a fine performance of great nerve. Brilliant show.

More on Mastermind Update

I am indebted to LAM regular Andrew Teale who has correctly reminded me that if semi final slots are open to people who finished third or 4th in their heat , then he himself should be on the board. So it would actually be like this : -

Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Pamela Woods - 30 - 6
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Andrew Teale – 27 - 4
Ian Packham - 27 – 7

However its not as simple as that, for Andrew tells me that he asked the production team the same question - are semi final slots opne for the 6 highest non winning socres, or only the 6 highest second place scores, and was categorically told that only 2nd place scores were eligible. I must admit, that is what I had heard. In which case the board looks once again like this : -

Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7
Chris Harrison - 26 - 1
Laura Humphreys 25 – 4

But which is right ? I do know that Jon Kelly , Mastermind's esteemed and talented producer, does read the blog from time to time. So Jon, or any of the team, if you happen to be reading this, how's about dropping me an email so that I can give a categorical answer and settle this question for once and for all ?

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Play Off 1 – Cardiff v. Exeter

Well, lets get down to business, shall we ? Cardiff were the higher scoring of these two teams in the first round, where Henry Pickup, Rosie Howarth, Greg Rees and captain Shane O’Reilly were unfortunate to score 210 and lose to Oxford Brookes on a tie break in the second match of the series. Exeter, on the other hand, represented by James Williams, Adam Doggart, James Milnes, and captain Tim Abbott lost to Peterhouse in match 4 despite scoring 165. On paper it looked like advantage Cardiff. However . . .

The first starter was about which member of the royal family has a design award named after him. Part from giving us our Paxman moment of the week, it also allowed Greg Rees to get in with the first correct answer of the night after Exeter incorrectly guessed Prince Charles. Oh well, if its not Charles, then its going to be Philip. Cardiff signposted their serious intentions by taking three out of three bonuses on modern poets. They followed this up when Henry Pickup correctly identified a series of words beginning with the letters – mal. Only one out of three bonuses was picked up on Tudor rebellions. Bearing in mind the similar first round performances of both teams it always looked like the bonus conversion rate could be crucial tonight. Captain Tim Abbott put the first point son the board for Exeter , spotting that a question was referring to the carbon 14 dating technique. He drew the relatively short straw of a set of bonuses on baroque composers, and the team did well to get one of the bonuses. Neither team could manage the next starter, but Tim Abbott took the next by identifying the Paris Commune. 3 bonuses on motion followed, and greedy Exeter gobbled up the lot. All square. Greg Rees took the picture starter which showed a CV which he correctly identified as belonging to JFK. All 3 bonuses, which were more of the same , were gratefully accepted. Henry Pickup knew that the capital of Slovenia is Ljubljana, but the team couldn’t manage to answer any of the bonuses on Charles Dickens. At the ten minute mark a very tight contest so far saw Cardiff just with their noses in front by 75 – 35

Rosie Howarth recognised a definition of enamel for the next starter. Again, though, all 3 bonuses eluded Cardiff. You can win a contest without doing very well on the bonuses, but you do make it much harder for yourself. James Williams of Exeter correctly spotted that the latin for seawater is the origin of the word marinade.One bonus on palaces was taken. Tim Abbott, very much the mainstay of his team for much of the match, knew that if it’s a question about an American economist , you’ll be right more often than you’re wrong if you answer Milton Friedman. A brilliant three out of three bonuses followed on Prime Ministers and prime numbers. No, not explaining, you’ll just have to watch the show on the iplayer. James Milnes took the music starter, identifying a track by the Strokes. More tracks from the same compilation album followed, , and 2 were taken. This was a brilliant fightback by Exeter, who certainly had momentum at this stage. However Cardiff are too good a team to be swatted out of the way, and Greg Rees was still very sharp on the buzzer, as he answered a starter on the number of human figures in paintings. Alas for them, Cardiff only earned a set of bonuses on Danish film makers for their pains. Hardly surprising that they didn’t get any of them. Still, Rosie Howarth weighed in with the next starter, recognising different definitions that applied to the word – main. Bonuses were still proving hard to come by for Cardiff, and they only managed one of a set on booksellers’ abbreviations.

James Williams knew the old chestnut that the lady Dante loved from afar was Beatrice. The dropped bonus condition was infectious, so it seemed though, as Exeter could only answer one on historians. Once again, all was square. Cardiff managed the next, a Science starter on Chemistry. Captain O’Reilly of Cardiff took his first starter to earn a set of bonuses on Physics. Again, they failed to convert any into points. The next starter, the second picture starter, saw Adam Doggart correctly identify a picture of an installation in the Tate Modern. A set of three bonuses on installations in the Tate Modern saw them eventually get one which was by Anish Kapoor – one bonus , but enough to give them a slight lead of 125 to 120 as we moved to the 20 minute mark.

James Milnes increased Exeter’s lead, knowing that Archbishop Usher had set a precise date and time for the creation of the world. Bonuses on the Methode Champagnois followed, but none were converted. Greg Rees of Cardiff then narrowed the gap by recognising several definitions which all belonged to the word – fell. Yet again the bonuses failed to fall kindly for them , and they could not convert any of a set on theological terms. Neither team recognised a definition of Oxo. Adam Doggart then took a good starter by explaining that the 2nd Lord of the Treasury is more usually known as The Chancellor of the Exchequer. At last a bonus was answered correctly when Exeter managed to answer one on the locations of Halls. Another starter went begging when neither team recognised that the name shared by a European mountain range and a hebridean island is Jura. James Milnes, who had supplied some fine starters during the match buzzed early to link the name white Russian with a cocktail and a soldier fighting against the red army in the Russian civil war. Questions on South American countries’ coats of arms followed, and again, one was taken. Shane O’Reilly played a captain’s innings by getting a desperately needed early starter on chemistry. How they needed a full set of onuses on number systems. Again, they all went begging , I’m afraid. The next two starters escaped the clutches of both teams unscathed. The gap was a mere 25 points at this stage. Then the net fell to Tim Abbott, who’d had an uncharacteristically quiet few minutes. Now the flood gates opened as Exeter took a full set of bonuses on pairs of words that sounded similar.3 out of 3 taken, and what looked like a possibly winning lead established. Poor Greg Rees buzzed in quickly to guess that the latin mille passus was the origin of the word mile. Well, you could certainly see the kilometre appealing to the orderly minded romans, but as Adam Doggart of Exeter knew it was the origin of the word mile. 2 bonuses out of 3 on languages of Asia pretty much sealed the win, and Tim Abbott added a little gilt by identifying the planet originally named after one of the King George’s as Uranus. 2 bonuses on spouses of English monarchs followed. That was it. The gong went before JP could complete another question. A comfortable win for Exeter in the end by 225 to 140 just underlined the importance of converting bonuses. Once Exeter started doing that in the last few minutes there really was no way back for Cardiff. Well played.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

For once JP’s closing comments hit the nail almost squarely on the head. He commiserated with Caridff, who led for large parts of the match, saying that the questions just didn’t fall for them. To be specific, Jezza, it was the bonuses that didn’t. Them’s the breaks.
My favourite Paxman moment happened with the very first starter. When Cardiff took their time, he said “I don’t know why you equivocated so much, there’s nobody else would come to mind !” Still – he did have a point. You can’t really see Her Majesty the Queen complaining about having to practically make love to a TV remote control to make it work.

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

Marinade comes from the latin for seawater.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Mastermind Update

LAM regular reader Paul Philpot has kindly informed me that the production team told him categorically that the highest runner up slots will be filled by those 6 with the highest scores, regardless of where they finished in their heat. This is in fact just how it was in the Magnus days. So I have amended the highest scoring runners up board so that it looks like this : -

Current highest scoring Runners Up

Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Pamela Woods - 30 - 6
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7
Chris Harrison - 26 - 1

Many thanks to Paul for pointing this out.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Round Britain Quiz

Depending on which way you look at it, I offer a belated or a premature congratulations to the Wales team of my friend David Edwards, and Myfanwy Jones, whose final match saw them retain the title for Wales. I say premature since there is still Monday's match between Northern Ireland and the Midlands to go to complete the series.

All of which also means that its that time of year when Brain of Britain will be making its return, and keeping us going until the New Year. Can't wait !

Saturday, 16 October 2010

A Double Stint Down The Club

I feel that I’ve been neglecting you recently, and I’m sorry. Yes, I know I’ve kept up the reviews of the top shows, but LAM isn’t just about the shows, much as I enjoy them. For every hour that I spend watching quiz shows during the work, I reckon that I probably spend at least three taking part in quizzes. Or writing them.

Which is as good a place as any to start. I’ve told you about the Thursday night quiz at the Aberavon Rugby club before. I’ve been either playing in the Thursday night quiz at the club, or setting it for the last 15 years, and I reckon that the number I’ve missed in that time is still probably a lot less than my age, and most of those have been family holidays. Brian, who takes overall charge of the arrangements for the quiz, and I set the majority of the quizzes between us, although pretty much anyone can do it if they volunteer, and there is a small hard core of regulars who each do a handful of quizzes during the year. Brian has been away for couple of weeks. He’ll be back this Thursday, but he returns earlier in the day, so he’s not got time to prepare a quiz. All of which chaff is a pretty long winded way of saying that I was question master last Thursday, and I’ll be question master again this coming Thursday, since nobody else has volunteered in the interim.

I’ve done a two week stint before, although never a three week one, and it does present a question master with some interestingly tricky problems to solve.For one thing, as a matter of pride if you set the quiz two weeks running, on the second week you want to do something which is clearly different from the first week. That’s been easy enough to achieve. Every third quiz or so that I set for the quiz I use a connections gimmick in each round. You know how it works. Three or four questions in each round will all have answers which are connected, and so the next question is to ask what the connection is. Here’s one set from last week : -

1) Which word can mean a sideboard with shelves, or a theatrical stagehand involved with costumes ?
2) Which 2002 Walt Disney animated movie concerns aliens landing in Hawaii ?
3) Aries, Leo and Sagittarius – are they earth, fire , air or water signs ?
4) What is the connection between your last three answers ?

Answers : -

2) Lilo and STITCH
4) CROSS –

Its an old gimmick. All I can take credit for is the fact that I was the first question master to use it in the club. I first experienced it in an open quiz set by Geoff Evans during my first season playing in the lamented Neath Quiz League. This week it’s a straight quiz – well, almost. I’ve spent half of each round creating a quiz evening from the 50s and 60s – although I know that there probably never was such a thing back then.. I know that its unfair to ask all the questions from this era - on entertainment, sport and current affairs, for example. However at least half of the questions in each round have been taken from my growing collection of veteran quiz books. Hopefully it will give us something different, but not too different.
I’ll come clean, too. You may have read my recent post about dropped clangers, where I admitted that I’m playing for a team in the Bridgend Quiz League, and I am trying to work on learning some stuff in my weakest areas. Well, I will confess to recycling some of this stuff I’ve been learning in the last week or two in last weeks quiz, and again in the quiz I’ve finished putting together today. I will also confess to using a few of the questions from the 2 league matches we’ve played so far into both of the quizzes I’ve put together. Its not something any one should ever feel the need to apologise for. Recycling your own and other people’s questions is a perfectly respectable practice, and its all part of the cross fertilization by which a question ‘does the rounds’.

Mind you, there are times when you can overdo it. I remember a good few years ago attending a social quiz, where almost all of the questions were lifted directly from the same quiz I had produced for the league in Neath about a month earlier ! Likewise, I used to play in one league on a Sunday night, and a different league on the Monday. The same setter was producing the questions for both, and on one occasion had used many of the same questions in both. I stress that this has not happened in Bridgend, and to be honest, this is plain to anyone who sees the number of sitters I’ve been dropping in the league so far! Seriously, I’m loving it though. It’s a different kind of competition , playing in a league, and I’ve really missed it.

Friday, 15 October 2010

University Challenge - Round One Round Up

In the following list, the teams’ points scored are given, immediately followed by the total aggregate of points scored in their match.

Magdalen, Oxford 340 / 460
Edinburgh 335/370
Sheffield 315/385
Christ’s Cambridge 290/350
Peterouse , Cambridge 265/430
York 245/350
Oxford Brookes 220/430
UAL 215/310
Bristol 190 /375
Queen’s Cambridge 190/375
Merton, Oxford 180/355
Downing, Cambridge 160/255
UCL 155/280
Newnham, Cambridge 135/250

Repechage Round

Cardiff 210/430
St. Andrews 185/375
St. John’s, Cambridge 175/355
Exeter 165/430

So what conclusions can we draw from these results ? Well, in my opinion the first round this year was distinguished by some excellent tight matches, the very finest of them being Oxford Brookes’ tiebreak win over Cardiff. On the other hand we did see some emphatic victories too, the most notable of these being Edinburgh’s, where they won 335 points out of the 370 scored in the whole match. Its also been pointed out by readers of this very blog that Cambridge have been generally a lot more successful than Oxford this year, although it would take a very brave person to bet against Magdalen having something to do with the outcome of the series this year. Cambridge have an impressive 5 representative teams through by right, and another competing in the repechage round.

As a point of comparison between this year and last year, the highest aggregate total in any first round match of 2009 was only 405. No fewer than 5 matches this year have exceeded that total. The highest first round score of 2009 was St. John’s 270. St. John’s went all the way to the final too. This year , 270 would have only been the 5th highest score of any team.

You’d have to say at this stage that the three triple centurion teams, Magdalen, Edinburgh and Sheffield, together with Christ’s who missed it by a whisker, look pretty good bets for places in the quarters. This is all presuming that none of them get drawn against each other, mind you, which is always a possibility. Each of these teams may also find it more difficult playing against anther team who have also passed through a baptism of fire in the first round.

Lets not forget too that last year’s winners, Emmanuel, came through from the repechage round, a timely reminder to us that while you’re still in the competition you should never be discounted. Knowledge and a fast buzzer hand are essentials for success, and the top 4 teams certainly possess these qualities in abundance. However it remains to be seen whether they can handle the pressure, and as each round progresses this becomes increasingly important.

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 9/24

How quickly records are broken when a new format is instituted. Following the fireworks from LAM reader Brian Pendreigh last week I had no expectations of seeing anything quite so remarkable tonight. However, the presence of two well known and most able quizzers in tonight’s line-up raised the intriguing possibility that we might well see pyrotechnics for the second week in a row.

Chris McHarg began the show by answering on The Solar System. We last saw this as a specialist subject in the 2009 semi finals when my Only Connect captain Gary Grant made rather a good fist of it, despite being a subject he found less than fascinating. Chris tonight struggled with a couple of questions, but was very sound on the planets themselves and their natural satellites, and scored a good 13 and 1 pass . Indications were that we were in for an impressive set of specialists tonight.

However, having said this I had no idea that Pamela Woods’ round on American comedian and actor Andy Kaufman was going to be anything like as impressive as it turned out to be. Some people have the erroneous idea that entertainment subjects are somehow easier than others. They’re not. I’m not an expert on Andy Kaufman, but there seemed to be the same amount of obscure and difficult stuff in this round as you would get in any other. All of which made Pamela’s perfect 19 correct answers from 19 questions more remarkable. It was a stunningly good performance. You always felt that John could have asked her another ten minutes worth of Andy Kaufman questions, and she would still have had them all right.

The first of tonight’s well known quizzers was Mastermind veteran Hamish Cameron. We last saw Hamish in the semi finals of the 2007 SOBM, where he was unlucky to meet Stewart Cross in the semis. Stewart had the highest score of the semis, and so even though Hamish had the third highest score of the semis – mine was second highest, thanks for asking – he only got to be the stand in for the final. Hamish has actually made the semis 3 times in 5 attempts, but has yet to make it to a final. His subject for tonight – The Scottish Covenanters – looked like it could leave him some way short tonight. His 13 was a good score, but even in a 2 and a half minute round a six point gap can be extremely hard to bridge.

The other well known quizzer was Iwan Thomas. I’m sure that I’ve seen Iwan on shows in the past, although I don’t recall if we’ve ever met in person. He offered us the second entertainment subject of the night , The Byrds, and you have to say that he started brilliantly. He was answering very quickly, and very correctly, picking off the first 9 questions on the bounce. The rest of the round was good too, if not quite as impressive as the first part. Iwan scored 14, but did pass on the last question. Would this be a cause for regret later on ?

John paid tribute to a high set of specialist scores, before Chris returned to the chair. I have to say that I thought he was probably out of the running bearing in mind Pamela’s lead, and the strength of both Hamish and Iwan. Still, even though he never really got into a good run at any time of the round, he did keep picking off the answers he could, and by the end of the round had reached double figures.

Hamish actually posted the highest score in the whole of the 2007 SOBM in the first round, where he’d scored 33. Part of this was a 15 on GK, and so I expected him to set a very challenging target. I wasn’t disappointed. The best scores we’ve seen so far this series on GK were Brian’s 20 points last week, and Paul Steeples’ 17 in heat 2. Hamish shaped up like the Mastermind old hand that he is, and kept the answers coming throughout the whole round, maintaining the intensity throughout the extra half minute. By the end he’d added 17 more points to set the bar at 30 and 2 passes.

If Iwan was at all daunted by the prospect of having to match Hamish point for point in GK in order to take the lead, he certainly didn’t show it. What followed was remarkable. I may be mistaken in this, but I believe that the previous GK round record was 22. Certainly this was the GK score managed by both Jennifer Keaveney in her 1986 final, and Chantal Thompson in the 1990 final. Iwan’s 23 was the highest score ever achieved in a GK round, and it equals the 23 in specialist set by Jesse in the Champion of Champions series. OK – so Iwan had 2 and a half minutes. Even so it is an incredible achievement, and a record.

Pamela returned to the chair. She had put in an incredible performance in her specialist round, and yet still faced the prospect of needing to score 18 just to draw. With all due respect that looked unlikely. However a much more realistic 12 would put her into outright second place, and this might be doable. Well, she gave it a good try. She kept answers coming, and slowly, gradually crept up to 30 points. Alas for her, the end of the round came before she could secure second place. The 11 points she scored put her equal with Hamish, but the 6 passes put her behind. So its Hamish who goes onto the highest runners up board, and you have to say that at this stage, a third of the way through the first round, he looks good value for a record fourth appearance in the semis. But the last word must be for Iwan Thomas. That, sir, was an outstanding performance. Many congratulations.

The Details

Chris McHarg The Solar System 13 - 110 - 623 – 7
Pamela WoodsThe Life and Career of Andy Kaufman19 – 0 11 - 630 - 6
Hamish Cameron The Scottish Covenanters 13 - 017 - 230 - 2
Iwan ThomasThe Byrds14 - 123 - 037 – 1

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7
Chris Harrison - 26 - 1
Laura Humphreys 25 – 4

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

TV Watch - Only Connect

Round One – Match 6 – Mensans v. Bloggers

Right then, lets get the most serious business out of the way. I’ll give Mensans a 7 out of 10 on the exotic team nameometer, and Bloggers a 6. Both teams lose points a little from being , well, exactly what it says on the tin. The Mensans are all members of the famous society for people with a demonstrably high I.Q. Quizzer Paul Murphy and John Paines flanked captain Martyn Smith. Across the studio sat the Bloggers. They were Chris Rubery , Steve Perkins, and captain Ruth Deller. If you’re thinking to yourself, well, I bet he was supporting the Bloggers, being as he is himself a blogger, all I can tell you is that you clearly know me too well by now.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

The Mensans won the toss and elected to go first. They went with Water, and for their pains got pictures of Raymond Blanc – Vivaldi ( The red Priest – colours perhaps ?) – Frankie Valli and the boys – ah, I know, and a pizza. 4 seasons, of course- Raymond’s gaff being the Manoir aux Quatre Saisons. Nice point earned there. The Bloggers picked Eye of Horus and got a terrific connection . Powder : Blue – Water : Red – Foam: Cream – at which they twigged that this was the contents of different coloured fire extinguishers. Black :Co2 would complete it. Lovely connection, and 2 good points. Mensans took 2 reeds, and got Mr. Freese, Mr. Dahl, Mr. Magnol and Mr. Fuchs. I’ll be honest, I never twigged until Leonard Fuchs came out, but neither team saw it in studio conditions – all have plants named after them. The Bloggers, looking to build on their early lead, took Lion. 240 tolars , 5.95 markkas, 1936 lire and 0.79 punt were all they had to work on. Currencies , obviously. They plumped for all being equivalent to a pound. Close, but the cigar went to the Mensans, who knew that each was equivalent to a euro at the time when those countries adopted the euro. Lovely connection again. The Mensans showed their mettle with the dreaded music bonus. They recognised Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, and Say , Say , Say. Yes, it may look easy when its written down, but try doing it when you listen to them in the studio. They earned a good three points by having the courage of their convictions to go for it. Bloggers then took horned viper, and here was my Moment At Home Of The Week. When 1923 FA Cup Final flashed up I shouted “White Horse “ ! No, I wouldn’t have gambled in the studio. Still, TV Theme by Jacky confirmed it. D’you remember that old series about the white horses of the Carmargue ? Used to be on kids TV every holiday, along with Robinson Crusoe. Ah, now there WAS a TV theme ! – Sorry, I just went a little All Our Yesterdays for a moment there. Back to the show. Even Foam crested waves couldn’t give it to the Bloggers. The Mensans got it. That was enough to give them a lead of 6 points to 2 at the end of the round.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

The Mensans took the viper by the horns and for their trouble were given G on a blue background, E on a pink one, and H on a yellow one. They worked out we were dealing with Trivial Pursuit categories, but not which should come next. The Bloggers knew it would be A and L on brown. Good bonus. Two reeds gave bloggers one of those which you can’t believe that its right , but there’s only one thing it might be. Translunar – interplanetary – Interstellar, they were sure must be followed by Intergalactic. As indeed it was. The Mensans found a nice one behind lion. Alexander the Great was followed by Aristotle. They knew, I think that Aris taught Alex, and working back, he was taught by Plato, who was taught by the star of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Keanu Reev- I mean Mr. So-Crates. They took Plato to be certain, and indeed it was. Nice link back. Ah, the poor young Bloggers found this behind twisted flax. Mice – Madeleine – Gabriel. They had, I think its fair to say, not an earthly. The slightly older Mensans knew we were in Bagpuss country here, but which came next in order of waking up. If it’s a Bagpuss question I ALWAYS say Professor Yaffle , and this was right in this case for the Mensans. Again, they could have gambled early on their next set. Eye of Horus revealed Maria – Joseph, and here they knew it, but took Nancy and Oliver to be sure. Yes, it was those Andrew Lloyd Webber/Graham Norton shows, Britain’s Got Dorothy, or some such. A shame that both teams could see that Tamar – Severn and Forth were all bridges, but not that the longest of the set of single span suspension bridges would be the magnificent Humber Bridge. So the Mensans still led by 11 to 5.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

All change as the Bloggers got first choice and plumped for Lion. Methodically they unravelled a set of parts of a tooth, and then a set of places in the Ukraine. With not a huge amount of time remaining they solved the last two sets – Democracy – Benefactors, Noises Off and Copenhagen, which they knew were a set of plays by Michael Frayn – pretty good shout that one – and Marengo, Nelson – Traveller and Bucephalus, a set of famous horses. 10 points at any stage of the game can make a hell of a difference. Whatever happened the Mensans couldn’t possibly increase their lead before the vowels.

They had a great go at maintaining it though. I don’t now if all Mensa members are this good and quick at unravelling these puzzles, but the boys made pretty short work of untangling the four sets. They found May – Taylor – Mercury and Deacon – members of Queen. Then Zodiac – Prefect – Transit and Scorpio – Ford models -. Then Priest – Bishop – Pastor and Cantor – all religious offices. This then left them with Telescoping – Power – Harmonic and Fourier. I didn’t have a clue. They had a decent stab with scales of measurement, and Victoria gave them another go, but to no avail. They are all mathematical series. Fair enough. So the lead was reduced slightly, and going into the final round it was Mensans 18, and Bloggers 15.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

Now, the bloggers had solved the whole wall in less than the allotted time, and the Mensans had been even quicker. So a long final round looked likely. The first set, Terms in Criminal Law, saw one wrong buzz from the Bloggers, but they managed two correct ones, to the Mensans' 1. People with millions of twitter followers was very much to the Bloggers taste, and they took it 3 – 1. The Bloggers were then superb on Dependencies, and took the lot . They enjoyed that so much they did the same with Races. Game pretty much over, but to finish off they took three points on films starring married actors. I’m sorry to use this phrase , Mensans, but they were blown away by the Bloggers’ onslaught. A fantastic performance on the vowels, reminiscent of the brilliant Epicureans from match 1. The final score was a win for the Bloggers by 30 to 19.

Well played to both teams. A fascinating match, in which neither team let themselves down at all. Good show.

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round 1 Match 14 – Merton, Oxford v. St. John’s Cambridge

Here we are then, after golf – stopped – play , at the end of the first round. For our two teams the stakes were clear, anything over 155, and you’re in the next round. Mind you, both teams were keen to cement their place as of right, by winning the show. Lets start with Merton. One of the more venerable colleges in England’s green and pleasant land, Merton was founded in 1264. Considerably younger were the four team members, Tim Coleman, Verity Parkinson, Kim Al-Hourani and captain Tom Hudson. St. John’s College, who reached the semis a couple of years ago as I recall, began life as a hospital. Tonight’s team were Elliott Bennett-Spragg, Caroline Tecks, Barratt Wilson and captain James Orr. On with the show, then, and let the devil take the hindmost.

The first question was a tricky - how many British Prime Ministers were there between the outbreak of world war II, and the surrender of Japan . Ah, yes, don’t forget Clement Atlee . Tom Hudson remembered him, and took first blood. 2 out of 3 bonuses followed. James Orr of St. John’s took the next starter, identifying a battlefield description as belonging to Bosworth. Bonuses on the state of Nevada gave them a clean sweep, and a slight lead. Neither team managed the next starter. Apparently 1 joule = 10 million ergs. Fair enough. I didn’t know it, neither did Barratt Wilson or Tom Hudson, who both chanced their arms on this one. Worth a shot, anyway. There was a lovely starter on Shakespeare next. Which is the highest ordinal number to appear in the title of a Shakespeare play ? Henry VIII I yelled, quite forgetting that he wrote a popular little number called Twelfth Night as well. Tim Coleman took that one. One out of 3 bonuses on the mistresses of French kings was taken. The picture starter followed. This showed a representation of part of a London Underground map drawn to scale, and nobody managed to identify the station shown. Never mind. Neither team knew that it was his depiction of Lenin in Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller Plaza murals that caused them to be removed. Mr. Wilson, who had been flexing his buzzer finger several times so far cut in with the answer to the next starter, knowing that subjunctive, indicative etc are the moods of verbs. Given the 3 tube map bonuses St. John’s swept up the lot. I knew that RKO studios made stars out of King Kong, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, although not in the same film, but neither team got it. Barratt Wilson took the next starter on some thing to do with angles of incidence and angles of reflection. Well, he knew what JP was talking about anyway. 3 bonuses taken thank you very much, and St. John’s led at the 10 minute mark by 65 to 35.

Merton then had a little bit of a deficit to pull back, and Tim Coleman began by taking a starter on the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. I suppose its probably better than bad fiction in sex. 2 bonuses were taken on cricket. Elliot Bennett-Spragg took a good starter by identifying a definition of the word sibyl, and I was able to quote-a-long-a-Paxman with lines spoken by Lady Macbeth. 1 bonus taken. The music starter followed, with a track from a film soundtrack, which required the name of the artist and the film. St. John’s got the film, Trainspotting, but plumped for leathery old insurance salesman Iggy Pop when they should have gone for Underworld. Kim Al-Hourani knew it, and they gratefully took 2 out of the 3 bonuses on the same film soundtrack. They missed Heaven 17, plumping for Human League – from which group I think Heaven 17 had actually split some time earlier. A miscue from Mr. Wilson on a maths/biology starter let in Tom Hudson, and one bonus on the Dambusters gave Merton a slight lead. The skipper followed this up with his knowledge of Japanese Knotweed. A full set of bonus meant they were keeping the pedal to the metal. Still the indefatigable Barratt Wilson struck right back, recognising Hooke’s Law when he heard it. 3 bonuses on Ancient European languages kept them motoring at full speed themselves. James Orr recognised the picture starter as king Edward VII, and 1 bonus on other people who died in 1910 meant that they were back in the lead. At the 20 minute mark St. John’s had a reduced lead of 120 to 110.

Going into the last part of the quiz both teams had an excellent chance of making it past the total needed to progress. Mr. Wilson was too quick for his own good, answering about a statue found on a greek island. Tim Coleman knew it was the Venus di Milo. Bonuses followed on Thomas Hardy. As a coincidence, Thomas Hardy was the answer that St. John’s gave to the picture of Mark Twain in the picture bonuses, but I digress. Another clean sweep of bonuses followed. Neither team got the next starter, but James Orr impressed me by knowing Berlins as the Riga-born British philosopher. 1 bonus followed. Goodness, but this was a good match. Next question, and it was Tom Hudson who buzzed incorrectly, and Barratt Wilson, waiting this time, came in with ‘nicotine’ , which impressed JP, who to be honest seemed to be enjoying this match as much as I was. Only 1 bonus on opera was taken, but it was enough to edge St. John’s into the lead again. However James Orr buzzed too early on the name of a son of Poseidon, and Merton knew it was Triton. 1 out of 3 bonuses put them on the brink of at least the repechage round. James Orr made amends by taking the next starter, and 2 out of 3 bonuses guaranteed them at least one more match in this year’s competition. Barratt Wilson came in too early for the next starter, but Tim Coleman knew John Knox, and so Merton were also through. The small matter of the winning the game remained. Barratt Wilson identified Plaster of Paris, but we were on the very cups of the gong. When it went, as the smoke cleared we could see that Merton had just edged it by 180 to 175.

Congratulations both teams. Not quite the tightest finish this series, but a good contest between two good teams. Well played !

Well, that completes the first round. Watch this space for my now traditional review of the first round, and preview of the second in the next few days.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

My favourite Paxman moment tonight was illustrative of the way he gets awfully protective about people taking liberties with Shakespeare. When St. John’s dithered over the Lady Macbeth lines he snapped
“These are FAMOUS quotes ! You either know them, or YOU don’t – give us an answer !”

I also enjoyed the way that he baited Tom Hudson, asking for more when Tom had already given him a perfectly acceptable answer, then letting him have the point ,
“Yeah , you can have it !”

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

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only took one wicket in his first class cricket career. Mind you, it was that of Dr. W.G. Grace !

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Preparation and Dropped Bankers

If you’re a long time reader you may recall me saying in the past how much I’d love to play properly in the highly respected Bridgend Quiz League, rather than just guesting. This Autumn my wish has come true, as I’ve been invited to play for the Llangewydd Arms , promoted from the second division last year after a well earned second place. We had our first league match last week.

I’m not going to go on about the match. However what I did want to say was to make an observation which has occurred to me in the last few days. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m a lazy quizzer. I really don’t prepare for quizzes. I tend to say to myself that I go to so many quizzes, and I set quizzes quite regularly, and this serves me well enough for preparation. Most of the quizzes I take part in are social pub quizzes, so its fair enough. However embarking on a league season gave me some pause for thought. It’s a good 5 years or so since I played in a league quiz week in , week out, but that’s not so long ago that I’ve forgotten about the differences between league quizzes and social quizzes. There are things which you know you can get away without knowing in a social quiz, which you really have to know in a league quiz – because if the opposition have been preparing properly they will definitely know it as well.

Cut to the chase. Last weekend I spent quite a bit of time learning some stuff I’d picked out as being the sort of thing we’d need to be up to speed with. I shan’t bore you with the details, but amongst other things a lot of more recent political and sport stuff seemed to be a good place to start.

Of course, in the match itself, none of my carefully prepared answers were required ! What was even more galling was that we dropped points on subjects I would normally expect to be bankers – Greek Mythology – National Flags – American Geography. That’s the way it goes. I still think there’s a good bet that some of the stuff I worked on last week and this week again will bring us some points before the season ends. However, that’s not quite where the story ends. In all 3 social quizzes I’ve played in since this time last week, at least one of the things I learned has come up. Which is a nice bonus, but not why I did it in the first place !

I thoroughly enjoyed the match on Monday, and our opponents proved themselves to be a very good team, and genuinely nice people as well.