University of Warwick v. University of Edinburgh
I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you of all people how welcome it is to hear Roger Tilling’s dulcet tones announcing ‘University Challenge – Asking the questions – Jeeerrrreeemy Paxman’ at the start of a new series. But welcome it certainly is. Now, there is a theory that the Producers like to select one of the most exciting and close games of the whole of the first round, and put that one on to start the series. The fact is though that you could clearly see the team names underneath JP as he announced that this was indeed the first show of the new series. So perhaps not.
Tonight’s first team to be introduced were the University of Warwick, which came into being in 1965, a year after I did. The team consisted of Martin Rixham, Celia Nicholls, Sumukh Kaul , and captain Tom Hayes. Their average age was a mere 23. Their opponents were Edinburgh, whom you might remember as one of the highest scoring teams in the first round of the last series. Edinburgh have appeared in more Paxman series than any other non-collegiate university. Representing Edinburgh were Ben Wynne, Mark Allen, Tom Facer and captain Tim Macdonald, whose average age was an even mere-r 22 . On with the show.
First blood of the show, and indeed the series went to captain Tim Macdonald, who buzzed in very sharply to see that a five letter term for children, and also for something in commerce would be issue. This brought up a set of bonuses on European Alps. Alas, they missed something of a quiz chestnut by not getting that the Monte Cervino is another name for the Matterhorn, but they’re all easy if you know them. They didn’t convert any of the bonuses into points this time. Sumukh Kaul knew that the book published in 1859 which should not , according to a later introduction, cause offence to anyone would be Darwin’s Origin of Species. This brought up bonuses on bacteria. I was out with the washing, but Warwick managed one of them for an early lead. Martin Rixham built on this with the next starter, knowing that Germinal was written by Emile Zola. The bonuses this earned were all on innovations in Greek Drama. Of these they managed two. A lovely cryptic starter followed, which didn’t fox Mark Allen, who leapt in with the phrase being alluded to – boom and bust. The bonuses were on a shared place name. 2 correct bonuses brought them to within 5 points of Warwick, and when Mark Allen correctly buzzed in for the picture starter to identify an AK47 Assault rifle, they went into the lead. Ben Wynne nodded along sagely to JPs comment about the video game Call of Duty, but I’m afraid that the team didn’t identify any of the other assault rifles for the bonuses. Not that I can say anything there since I couldn’t either. Tom Hayes buzzed in for Warwick on an astronomical starter to take back the lead and earn a set of bonuses on rodents. They missed out on the coypu, otherwise known as the nutria, but took the next two on capybara and chinchilla, a decent shout that one. So right on the ten minute mark the contest was finely balanced, with Warwick leading by 55 to 40. All the indications were that the traditional tight opener was indeed what we were being given.
There was a terrific buzz from Mark Allen on the next starter to identify the words of future first lady of the USA, Abigail Adams. Very nice work that. I loved the set of bonuses from George Orwell’s essay on Charles Dickens. Edinburgh can be forgiven for saying the riots one was “A Tale of Two Cities”, but the riots were the Gordon riots rather than the French Revolution. Still they took the other two, and once again there was barely daylight between the two teams. The next starter, asking how many years elapsed between the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the Battle of Britain saw neither team willing to hit and hope. First to be certain was Sumac Kaul, who answered correctly with 352. Good shout. The bonuses were on the shared prefix – ophio . No bonuses were taken, but never mind, Warwick took their second starter in a row with a lovely question – which 4 letter prefix, when added to a discipline creates the name of another discipline. Martin Rixham buzzed straight in with meta, to earn more bonuses, this time on Physics. I knew the Doppler shift, and the last bonus that it would be the red end of the spectrum. Yeah. Mind you, Warwick had all three. At last there was a starter where neither team knew the answer on a mathematician called Rhazes, although Martin Rixham jumped in early to lose 5 points. Never mind, and on to the next.
A marvelous buzz from Mark Allen next, who suggested that what Margaret called The Enemy within – “more difficult to fight, and more dangerous to liberty” ( than the Argentine forces in the Falklands ) were actually the cabinet ! Worth a few points for cheek I would have said. ( Do you remember the Spitting Image sketch with Mrs. T. and her Cabinet in a restaurant ? Mrs. T. orders steak, and the waiter aks ‘What about the vegetables ?’ to which Mrs. T. replies ‘ Oh, they’ll have the same.’ No ? Well, please yourselves. ) Sumukh Kaul had it, but JP made him work before he gave them points for the National Union of Mineworkers. Bonuses on Mephistopheles followed, and one was taken. Warwick had broken through the 100 point barrier, and were starting to get away from Edinburgh. I have two artist daughters, and when the words ‘animal’ and ‘Holman Hunt’ passed JP’s lips they both shouted “The Scapegoat !” I’d said it a millisecond earlier of course, but then so had Mark Allen, who was playing very well , I thought. This brought a set of bonuses on mirrors for princes. 2 bonuses were taken, and it was on to the music bonus. Tom Hayes knew from a couple of bars of what I think was “John Brown’s Body” that the conflict being referenced was the US Civil War. Bonuses followed with more songs from the same period, and 2 were taken. It was becoming obvious that Warwick seemed to be able to just keep the gap they had created, and even at this relatively early stage you just couldn’t see Edinburgh being able to put together a run of three or 4 starters consecutively to overtake them and build a lead. Not that Tom Facer was giving anything up at this stage, as he came in with his first starter of the night , knowing that the term which was required for the next starter was white collar crime. I knew that K is 5 in scrabble , and potassium is K. In fact I knew all three bonuses to this set – Science to boot ! 1 was taken by Edinburgh. Warwick came roaring back with the next starter as Martin Rixham knew that the element being referred to by its ores was titanium. Birds in poetry followed, and they took one. That man Mark Allen buzzed in again for the next, knowing that the Prime Minister in 1959 was Harold Macmillan. Three bonuses followed on towns whose names were homophones of other things – eg Goole and ghoul. Eton and eaten escaped them. Still, at slightly more than the 20 minute mark this slightly reduced Warwick’s lead, with the score now standing at 140 to 115.
In real terms there was still nothing in it, but neither team had really been able so far to put together the kind of run of consecutive starters necessary to shake off the challenge of the other. The next starter was the second picture starter. This required the name of the opera house being shown , and the city. I hadn’t a clue what La Scala in Milan looks like, but I would have hammered the life out of the buzzer to get there first if I’d been there, since it’s the real percentage answer. Whether it was a guess or not, Sumukh Kaul took the points, to which the team added a bonus by recognizing the Royal Opera House in London in Covent Garden. Tom Hayes knew that Cuzco was the capital of the Incas, and suddenly it looked as if time was really starting to run out for Edinburgh. The bonuses on paintings were not to Warwick’s liking, but even so time was on their side, and it was ticking away. Celia Nicholls buzzed in too early on the next starter which asked for the name of the first political cartoonist to be awarded a Pulitzer prize, but unfortunately for Edinburgh they did not know that Garry Trudeau created Doonesbury. The next starter went begging as well. Captain Tom Hayes kept his nerve for Warwick, knowing that Oology – Oostend etc were all linked by a double o. Two bonuses on Geology gave them a very useful cushion. Sumukh Kaul, who was building up a good tally of correct starters took the next by identifying the eye condition glaucoma, and at last we were seeing one team managing to shut out the other. I did know all three of the cities in Wales bonuses, but then I do live here, so I should. Warwick only managed one, but they were in a comfortable position now of having an 80 point lead. I don’t blame Ben Wynne one bit for guessing that Biggin Hill houses the RAF museum, but it was Hendon. Tom Hayes knew that the two sub atomic particles for the next starter were proton and neutron. History bonuses on Oxford brought them a full set, and the team were now starting to apply some gloss to their victory. Tom Facer took the next starter for Edinburgh, identifying a definition of the word ash. That was it, though, since the gong cut JP off in his prime halfway through the first bonus. The final score was a win for Warwick by 220 to 125. I imagine we may well see some other teams who are better with the bonuses during the first round matches, but nonetheless this was an enjoyable, well fought contest. Nice words from JP who told Edinburgh they could go with their heads held high – very true. The scoreboard says that they were beaten by 95 points, but the damage was all done in the last few minutes. As for Warwick, well done !
Jeremy Paxman Watch
A gentle start to the new series this, from our Jezzer. In fact he was almost avuncular throughout the whole show. Yes, there was his comment on the assault rifle bonuses, “Any long nights misspent on the computer game Call of Duty” with the emphasis on misspent, and then his comment to Ben Wynne – “You should have spent more time playing this game !” That was really it, though. Hopefully he’s just lulling us into a false sense of security.
Interesting Fact Of The Week That I Didn’t Already Know
There are over 9000 species of fern.