Saturday, 31 March 2012

A nice surprise

I'd like to tell you that I only do it in the cause of improving my own knowledge. Some nasty inner demon tells me that the more likely reason is that I'm hoping that I can score a few mental brownie points if I can prove the question master wrong.

Hmm, I'd better explain. My friend Ann returned to play in our team in the rugby club on Thursday night, after being unable to attend due to family commitments for the best part of a year. One of the last questions of the evening was -
"Name the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. " Now, I've written about 'home' subjects before. You know you're on a loser if one comes up. If I get a question right on Shakespeare, then why should I get any credit ? I'm an english teacher. But if I get it wrong . . . Well, to cut a long story slightly shorter, I've probably heard it before, but it wasn't going to come. Not on Thursday night, anyway. Ann, the light of certainty in her eyes, said words to the effect of "I know - it's Edith Wharton. " Not in a position to agree or disagree , I shoved the answer down.

Now, those of you who answered "Pearl Buck" as soon as you read the question, very well done. That would have brought you the point, and it was the answer that Clive, our QM , gave. But Ann had been so certain, and she was still so certain after the answer had been given, that we both said the immortal words "I'm going to check that on Google when I get home. " Which is really what I was on about at the start of this post - the practice of post mortem googling. Needless to say, Pearl Buck is the right answer. Edith Wharton didn't win the Nobel prize at all. On the other hand she did win the Pulitzer Prize - and was the first woman to do so, and that explains where Ann's answer came from. Just one of those things , and totally understandable. As it was we did well enough to get a rare win over the Lemurs in the questions, although we failed miserably in the picture handout and lost overall by one point. Still, it was lovely to see Ann back , even if it was only for one week. I didn't leave work until about half past 6 on Thursday night, and I was so cream crackered that I nearly didn't go down - needless to say I'm really glad I did.

Friday, 30 March 2012

News Questions

In the news questions

Who or what are the following, and why have they been in the news ?

1. Peter Cruddas
2. Sir Michael Spicer
3. Chris Cairns
4. Adam Parr
5. Gabor Rakonczay
6. The Arnold Palmer Invitational
7. Liam Stacey
8. Dylan Hartley
9. Judge John Larkin
10. Francis Maude
11. The Pirates Next Door
12. Mega Millions
13. Gary McKinnon
14. Richard Lee Norris
15. I Dreamed a Dream
16. Hank Haney
17. Viaspan
18. Baby
19. Jean Paul Guerlain
20. The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

In Other News

1. Name the two time former world darts champion who passed away last week
2. Which town is officially the accident prone capital of the UK ?
3. Who has been offered the position of coach to the British and Irish Lions tour of 2013 ?
4. What was found near the Queen Charlotte Islands ?
5. What has become the most expensive ITV drama ever produced ?
6. Which driver won the Malaysian Grand Prix ?
7. Barack Obama has warned North Korea over what ?
8. Margaret Thatcher was revealed to have said that she would not go into politics if she had her time again – for what reason ?
9. How have the London Olympics snubbed John O’Groats ?
10. Which club won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy ?
11. The Pope paid a much publicised visit to which country ?
12. Which former Conservative Cabinet minister passed away last week ?
13. Which car company recalled 100,000 cars in the UK ?
14. Which coach was sacked by Inter Milan last week ?
15. From the end of April what will be the new prices of 1st and 2nd class stamps ?
16. Foreign Olympic coaches officials and athletes will be banned from doing what in the UK during the Olympics ?
17. A forest fire broke out near Newport , South Wales last week – where ?
18. How did organisers of a shooting event in Kuwait cause anguish to the winner from Kazakhstan ?
19. What was the result of the Chelsea v. Benfica match ?
20. What was the result of the replayed Spurs v. Bolton FA Cup match ?
21. Where in the UK is Einstein’s brain going on display to the public ?
22. What was given to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall , on her visit to the set of the TV drama “The Killing “ ?
23. Which Rugby League team were threatened with receivership unless they could raise £500,000 by the end of the month ?
24. Andy Murray has announced that he will be unavoidable for the Davis Cup tie against which country ?
25. What was Sri Lanka’s lead over England after their second innings in the first test ?
26. Which football club were fined by UEFA for the behaviour of its fans during a match against Udinese ?
27. Who was been appointed England’s Rugby Union coach until the world cup in 2015 ?
28. Which senior conservative said that their front bench risks being seen as out of touch ?
29. The public are to be allowed to see he sets for the Harry Potter films – where ?
30. Who have unveiled their first uniform specifically for muslim girls ?
31. Who won the Bradford West bye election ?
32. Where is the first new grammar school campus for 50 years set to open ?
33. Who scored a century in England’s second innings of the first test v. Sri Lanka ?
34. What was Sri Lanka’s winning margin in this test ?
35. Which 80s sitcom is being revived by it’s writers for a UK cable channel ?
36. Which country held a general strike on Thursday 29th March ?
37. Which BBC Game show is to be axed ?

Answers to News Questions

1. Which quango sent out emails with the details of thousands of students ?
2. What were Fabrice Muamba’s first words when waking up in hospital ?
3. Against which team was he playing when he collapsed last week ?
4. Who admitted hitting his ex wife on the Piers Morgan Show ?
5. Croydon Council found that not one tenant was prepared to take them up on their offer to rehouse them where ?
6. What has been controversially dropped in Wales in favour of a vaccination programme ?
7. In which city in France did a lone gumman attack children in a Jewish school ?
8. What is the name of the Toulouse gunman, shot by police ?
9. Carlos Tevez was finally included in the Man City squad to play which side ?
10. It was announced that the 2014 Champions League final will be played in which city ?
11. In a survey, what came out tops as Britain’s favourite smell ?
12. Which actor from the Harry Potter films was jailed for rioting last week ?
13. 2 new paintings by whom were discovered on the same canvas ?
14. Employees from where were the winning syndicate in Friday 16th Euromillions ?
15. Which current Disney film has been predicted for a loss of $200 million ?
16. What is Nemesis Sub Terra ?
17. The higher rate of tax was lowered controversially to what rate in the Budget ?
18. Name the British hostage freed last week after a ransom was paid to Somali pirates ?
19. Who is Laura John son and why was she in last week’s news ?
20. Which film director is currently making a film on the bottom of the ocean ?
21. Who is Louise Coleman ?
22. Which group became the first UK group to have their first album debut at Number 1 in the US charts ?
23. What is the title of the new Aardman animation film ?
24. Who was rightly named the best player of the 6 Nations ?
25. Who designed the new British Olympic Kit ?
26. Why has it been criticised ?
27. The government has announced plans to set the minimum cost of one unit of alcohol at what ?
28. Who is Gregory Doran ?
29. The world’s largest deckchair was unveiled where last week ?
30. Which African country was taken over by military junta last week ?
31. What was the Coroner’s verdict on Whitney Houston ?
32. Name the Energy Secretary who has lost a high court battle over solar panel subsidies
33. What has Engelbert Humperdinck asked fans not to do during the Eurovision ?
34. BBC Countryfile has been criticised for showing illegal mountain biking in which National Park ?
35. Mars have announced that they will reuce the maximum amount of calories in their chocolate bars to which figure ?
36. Who was turned away from the Royal Berkshire Health and Racquets Gym, and allegedly called a “Daft chav” according to some reports ?
37. Who is Hiroshi Hoketsu ?


1. Student Finance England
2. Did we win ?
3. Tottenham Hotspur
4. Dennis Waterman
5. Walsall
6. Badger Cull
7. Toulouse
8. Mohammad Merah
9. Chelsea
10. Lisbon
11. Freshly cut grass
12. Jamie Waylett who played Crabbe
13. Van Gogh
14. Stagecoach drivers from Corby Nothants
15. John carter
16. The new ride at Alton Towers
17. 45p
18. Judith Tebbut
19. On trial for rioting last week she claimed she was forced to act as getaway driver for looters
20. James Cameron
21. New Dr. Who actress
22. One Direction
23. The Pirates
24. Dan Lydiate
25. Stella McCartney
26. The union flag is just different shades of blue and some people think there should be more red in the kit
27. 40p
28. New Artistic Director of the RSC
29. Bournemouth Beach
30. Mali
31. Drowned
32. Ed Davey
33. Throw knickers at him
34. The New Forest
35. 250 calories
36. Russell Crowe

Mastermind - Semi Final 2

It’s always with mixed feelings that I review a show with friends and readers playing. So before I do, let’s indulge in a little star spotting. In the audience tonight for this semi were not only Pat Gibson, but on the same row Barry , his fellow Egghead, and Diane Halligan, finalist in last year’s Mastermind. That’s some serious support.

Right then, onto the form guide. Our own Gareth Kingston would be first into the chair. Gareth was 22 on my unofficial ranking list, with 27 and no passes in the first round, and 13 on GK. LAM reader , teacher, and all round good egg Malcolm Sumner was ranked a little higher, 19 on my list, with 28 and 4 passes, and 12 on GK. Andrew Hunter was the form horse entering the contest tonight; he came in at number 3 on my list with a highly impressive 33 and 5 passes, with 16 on GK. John Snedden was also in my top 10 qualifiers, at number 10, with 30 points and 4 passes, and 13 on GK. Finally LAM reader Nick Reed, placed 13 on my list, with 29 points and 3 passes, and 14 on GK.

Gareth kicked off about as well as you can do, with a perfect round of 12 correct answers from 12 questions. I can even forgive him for his specialist subject – the Life and Career of Herbert Chapman, a man intimately associated with that other team from North London. Now, that is how you go about laying down the gauntlet to your opposition.

The Life and Career of Benjamin Disraeli offered me, as I thought, a chance for a few points. Very few as it turned out. Not so Malcolm. A perfect round he didn’t quite manage, but it was still pretty good. 11 points scored, and what’s more, he too managed to avoid making any passes either. A round which meant that he was still well in the match at the halfway stage.

Andrew Hunter’s round brought me more points than the previous one, and that surprised me a little. I knew who made the English electric deltics- my favourite diesel locomotive if it is possible to have such a thing. They all had nameplates, and were named after Derby winners, I think. St. Paddy and Crepello were two of them I remember, but I digress. I also knew who designed City of Truro, and another one which escapes me. Whichever one it was it didn’t escape Andrew. 12 and 0 was the score needed for a share of the lead at this stage was what was required, and it was duly supplied. What a good show this one was turning out to be.

John Snedden was answering questions on the father of immunization, English physician Edward Jenner. Yes, I had the one that the smallpox vaccine used cow pox, but that was just about it for me. Not so John. Everybody was getting into double figures in this semi final, and John was no exception. He. like Gareth managed 12 points and no passes. Three contenders, no passes yet . That’s good quizzing.

Last in the first round, then , was Nick Reed. You might remember that there was some discussion in LAM following Nick’s first round set on the Football Grounds of England. Well, I doubt that anyone will be saying that his round on The Blandings Stories of P.G.Wodehouse was too easy ! 13 is a good score in a 2 minute round. In a 90 second round it’s a very good round indeed. Alright, it meant that his lead at the halfway point was only one point, but in a tight match like this semi final was turning out to be, every point could be crucial.

So, no passes whatsoever in the first round. I wonder whether there has ever been a show in which none of the contenders have passed at all ? Answers on a postcard to the usual address please. Malcolm could have been forgiven for feeling a little disappointed that a good round of 11 would only be enough to put him in last place at half time. If he was, though, he didn’t let it upset him, and got right on with the task of answering the GK questions. A task he did pretty well, too, managing another dozen to put his score at 23. You didn’t necessarily think that it would be a winning score, but it was enough to put all the contenders yet to come into the corridor of uncertainty.

Gareth at the halfway stage was in joint second, but since he’d gone first in the SS round, he was next to go now. Looking on his face as he answered his questions you could tell he dropped a couple that he knew as soon as the answer was given.Well, maybe, but even so he still matched his first round GK score with 13. That’s an even better score in a semi when average GK scores tend to be a bit lower. He finished with 25 , and crucially, no passes. Nobody was going to beat that without a good GK round of their own.

Andrew Hunter had just such a good GK round in his heat. A repeat of that 16 would have put him in a very commanding position indeed. For the best part of the first minute this looked entirely possible. However the wrong answers crept in from about the minute mark, and Andrew fell some way short. His 10 put him on 22 – absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but not a winning score this time out.

John Snedden always looked as if he was going to be there or there abouts on his GK round, and he was too. He had 25 and passes as the buzzer went, but his last answer was incorrect. This meant he was tied with Gareth, but – and this was a crucial but – he had picked up 3 passes. That’s an understandable gamble – it bought him the time for that one question which gave him a shot. Sometimes gambles pay off, and sometimes they don’t. This time it didn’t.

Gareth , then, only had to endure one more round to find out his fate. Nick had that point in hand at the halfway stage, which meant in effect that he didn’t need to beat Gareth’s round, just to match it. He looked a little way short as we approached the buzzer. He was short of Gareth’s GK round, but only to the tune of 1 point. He too finished with 25, and ah, he had no passes either. So what we had, for the second time this series, was a tie break.

Believe me, I felt for both Gareth and Nick. The last time there was a semi final tiebreak was in the 2007 SOBM, and I remember talking to lovely Sandra Piddock on the day of the final when she told me all about what going through a tie break was like. Not pleasant for either of the participants. 5 questions to be answered – the same five for each of you. Either you’re outside, waiting for your opponent to have his go, not having a clue how they’ve done, or you’re sat there, having to watch your opponent answer, knowing you can do nothing at all about it. Cutting to the chase, the questions suited Nick more than they suited Gareth, and he managed 3 to Gareth’s one. It could have worked out the other way, but it didn’t, and that’s just the luck of the draw. Well done Nick – Mastermind finalist ! But hard lines to Gareth too. Well played to Malcolm, Andrew and John- those were quality performances , and it made for an exciting and compelling show.

The Details

Gareth KingstonLife and Career of Herbert Chapman12 - 013 - 025 – 0 / 26 after tiebreak
Malcolm SumnerLife and Times of Benjamin Disraeli11 - 012 - 023 - 0
Andrew HunterThe Railways of Great Britain in the 20th Century12 - 010 - 322 - 3
John SneddenEdward Jenner12 - 013 - 325 - 3
Nick ReedThe Blandings Stories of P.G.Wodehouse13 – 0 12 - 025 – 0 / 28 after tiebreak

Mastermind - Semi Final 1

Before we start, then, let’s just cast an eye down the list of runners and riders and the form guide. Nick Duffy was the number 3 ranked contender in the first round on my unofficial scoring list – with a total of 31 and an impressive 18 on GK. Julie Aris, our highest placed female contender, was 12th on my unofficial list, with a perfect SS round, and an overall score of 30, only 1 less than Nick. Steve Watson was three places lower on my list, but only one point lower with 29 , and 12 on GK. David Love was number 9 on the Clark list with 30 points as well, and 14 on GK. Last but not least, Stuart Reed, like Julie Aris, was a high scoring runner up with 29 and 16 on GK, at 16th on my list. So all 5 contenders in their first round performances were separated by only 2 points. A close thing, then.

Nick Duffy’s subject was The Novels of Martin Amis. I will admit that I have never read any of these, although my head of department at work has just discovered him and says that his books are brilliant. Nick’s round was good for a 90 second one, but it wasn’t brilliant. 8 is worth the equivalent of about 12 in a 2 minute round, and that’s good. However this was a semi final, and you had the feeling that he was going to have a deficit to make up.

Julie Aris scored a perfect specialist round on the What Katy Did Novels last week of 18 points. Tonight she was answering questions on Lady Jane Grey. Once again, she scored a perfect round. This was a 90 second round, and so if anything her 15 was perhaps even more impressive. To put this score into perspective, this was seven points better than Nick’s round. It didn’t necessarily finish off the show as a contest, but must have given the other contenders some serious food for thought.

West London’s finest, the Who , were the subject of Steve Watson’s specialist round. As a West London boy myself, who used to live not that far from John Entwhistle, I have a very soft spot for the Who. So I was pleased to manage 4 of these. Steve , as you would expect, did a lot better than that. He managed 11, a good performance in a 90 second round, and one which at least gave him an opportunity of bridging the gap to Julie.

British Birds of prey was not one of those subjects I approached with any great hope of gaining many points. Thankfully the windhover was a gimme, and I knew the hobby one from the old chestnut about the derivation of the name of the game subbuteo. David Love though put on a very good show indeed. 13 is good off a 2 minute round. Off a 90 second one it’s excellent. What was more important was that it put him only 2 points behind Julie, and ahead of the other guys with only one contender still to come.

That contender was Stuart Reid. Now, his subject was much more up my street. I loved I Claudius – the books particularly, which led me to read Suetonius, then Tactitus. So I had a few of these – not just the old chestnut of Incitatus. Not that I got into double figures, though. Stuart did, eventually managing 10. 5 points looked like a large gap to make up, but you never knew.

Nick was the first to return for the GK round, and he did what you absolutely have to do when you have a significant deficit to make up. He went for it. He gave it some real welly, and I thought he had some great answers in his round. OK, I grant you that he ended up with 22 and a lead of only 7, which to be honest didn’t look like a lot. But the important thing was that he had given himself a chance. Funny things can happen in a Mastermind GK round, especially if you start to doubt yourself. The situation can change, and to be honest, the GK rounds do sometimes seem a bit harder in the semis.

Stuart found it harder going, certainly, than he had done in his heat. Last week he managed 16 in two and a half minutes. Tonight he couldn’t match that kind of performance, and despite quite a bright start struggled from the minute mark to the end of the round. He added another 6 to take his score to 16. Steve Watson was the next to try to improve on Nick’s total. Pretty soon it became clear that he wasn’t going to match Nick’s GK round, but then he didn’t have to . He had a cushion from the SS round, but that cushion began to look thinner and less comfortable. In the end he came close, but fell one short, adding 10 to his score to finish on 21. Nick was now on the podium for this show, but how far up would he be able to climb ?

David Love ensured that he wouldn’t stay on the top step. David’s round wasn’t as good as Nick’s, but it wasn’t bad. 12 on GK in a semi is a round that has to be respected, and it was enough to put daylight between himself and Nick. His 12 took his total to 25. Which only left one question to be answered – would Julie be capable of putting on the 11 needed for an outright win. Evidence, in the form of her first round heat suggested not – she had managed 12 in 2 minutes then, but this was a new show. However Julie really never managed to get up any head of steam in her round, and the answers proved hard to come by. In the end she had managed to take her score to 19. So well played David Love. A good all round performance, and a well deserved place in the 2012 Grand Final.

Nick DuffyThe Novels of Martin Amis8 – 0 14 - 022 - 0
Julie ArisLife of Lady Jane Grey15 – 0 4 –519-5
Steve WatsonThe Who11 – 110 - 221 - 3
David LoveBritish Birds of Prey13-112 - 225 - 3
Stuart ReidCaligula 10 - 26 - 516 – 7

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Odds and Ends

I can tell that you've been dying to find out what happened in the cup final in Bridgend last night. The questions went our way and we won. Enough about that.

Actually it's not been a bad week so far, quiz-wise. John's been in Hong Kong since last Wednesday. Now, the previous time we played in the Dyffryn Arms I mentioned that John would be away last Sunday to one of the teams there, and to cut a long story short I ended up saying that I'd play with them next time. I turned up on Sunday night, and there they were, gone. Or to put it another way, not there in the first place. So I played on my own. It was a bit of a list quiz, and a bit harder than we sometimes get in the Dyffryn Arms, and that seemed to suit me, and I won. By way of a change, the first prize was actually a watch. Well, if nothing else, I thought, then that's a nice change, and something different to add to the list of different things I've won in quizzes from time to time.

Mind you, it's always a bit of a let down when that first Monday after the end of the University Challenge season comes round. One of the pleasures of the league season is getting in, win , lose or draw, and being able to watch it on the iplayer. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying Nick Hancock's "Breakaway", but it's not the same.

Speaking of which, full marks to Breakaway for allowing a quizzer of the calibre of Only COnnect Series 3 winner Dave Bill to have a go. I was late in from work yesterday afternoon, and the show was half over when I tuned in, but when I did I saw Dave straightaway, and he had broken away, and was well on the way to the money. Absolutely gutted for him when he got the last question wrong - which is the largest National Park in Great Britain ? Dave's answer - The Lake District - was the answer which is still given in many pub quizzes, but actually since about 2003 its been the Cairngorms. Very bad luck that. I think that I've seen the lady who went on to breakway and win the money on another show recently - it might have been Perfection. The question she was asked suited her, and she took the cash - that's the way that the game works. Still enjoying it, though.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

An old quiz game

Back in the mists of time – well, July, anyway, I posted about quiz based board games, ostensibly asking whether anyone still plays Trivial Pursuit any more. Helpful comments from readers led to me buying The World According to Ubi – and everything which was said about it is right. It is complicated at first, it is a bit infuriating, and it is very compelling, and a little bit addictive.

OK, fast forward to last Sunday. Escorting Mrs. C. around the boot sale in Bridgend as is my wont, I happened to notice this lurking beneath one of the tables.

Released in 1983 by Spears Games in conjunction with the BBC this one somehow passed me by at the time. It’s obviously cashing in , for want of a more appropriate phrase, on Mastermind, but couldn’t use the name for a game because the bearded chap with the rather attractive oriental lady had got in there first. The seller assured me that it was all there, and the money went down on the table.

1983 meant that this one got right in on the start of the Trivial Pursuit boom. I myself never heard of Trivial Pursuit until 1984, and that was from some Canadian guys I met on Rhodes while I was backpacking round the Cyclades and Dodecanese that summer ( said he, trying and failing miserably to make himself sound all windswept and interesting.) What’s this game like ? Well, it certainly avoids a couple of potential pitfalls. For one thing there’s no board. For another , the rules and instructions fit onto one A4 sheet of paper. If you need a thick booklet to explain how to play a game, chances are that it’s too complicated. Basically it’s all about cards. The box is full of question cards. There are ten categories of card – which are Famous People – The Animal World – General Knowledge – The Arts – Sports and Games – The Sciences – Stage and Screen – The World – History – Common Sense. I like that last one. Each category is colour coded – Hmm, heard that before somewhere. Each card contains 10 questions. each category contains 100 cards, which even my elementary arithmetic can work out as 10,000 questions. It works like this – Each player takes the turn to be the question master for one complete round. The challengers in turn decide which category they want their questions from. The first question on each card is the easiest, and therefore worth 1 point – the 10th the most difficult, and worth 10 points. A player who answers correctly continues with his/her go, up to three consecutive correct answers. If a player gets it wrong , the question passes across to the next player, and so on. Passed across questions are always worth just two points whatever the level of difficulty. The turn then goes to the next player as well. It’s not a million miles removed from Brain of Britain in this way. The winner is the first player to amass 50 points, but here’s the rub. It must be made up of cards from at least 7 categories, with no more than four cards from any one of them.

Well, that’s only the first way to play. The booklet does suggest others. You really need the category stipulation. I’ll give you an example of the questions. The first 10 are from a card in the General knowledge category, and the second is a card picked randomly from the Common Sense category –

1. Where does the poncho originate ?
2. Is soap made from oil, fat or wood ?
3. What is the first book of the Old testament ?
4. What is peculiar about a shark’s teeth ?
5. What are Lady Day and Michaelmas ?
6. Who gave the Torah to the Jews ?
7. What is the equivalent of the Red Cross in the Middle East ?
8. What are the names of the tubes that connect the nose with the ears ?
9. What is sarsenet ?
10. What are the thongs called which hold a falcon’s feet ?

Common Sense

1. Which is the most studious of worms ?
2. Where in Britain is it possible to ski in the month of August ?
3. Which doctor only ever listens ?
4. What horse can fly like a bird ?
5. What is the origin of the handshake ?
6. In tossing a coin, what is the chance of a tail after 7 consecutive heads ?
7. A flower in the eye ?
8. What is the square root of -1 ?
9. Why do the Arabs wear many layers of clothing ?
10. How do you move from eye to eye ?


1. South America
2. Fat
3. Genesis
4. Their teeth are continually regrowing
5. Quarter Days
6. Moses
7. The Red Crescent
8. Eustachian Tubes
9. Fine soft silk material
10. Jesses

Common Sense

1. The bookworm
2. Anywhere you can find enough water
3. A psychoanalyst
4. A horsefly
5. Self defence- preventing the possibility of a sudden stab with a dagger
6. 50 – 50
7. Iris
8. It has no square root ( don’t blame me – I just quote the answers )
9. For insulation, to keep cool
10. Across the bridge of your nose

Well, the questions are certainly no worse than in the original Trivial Pursuit, as far as I can see. I have to admit I’ve quite enjoyed this , and it’s worth £1:50 of anyone’s money.

Return of the News

Yes, a few news questions just to ease myself back in. Here you go : -

1. Which quango sent out emails with the details of thousands of students ?
2. What were Fabrice Muamba’s first words when waking up in hospital ?
3. Against which team was he playing when he collapsed last week ?
4. Who admitted hitting his ex-wife on the Piers Morgan Show ?
5. Croydon Council found that not one tenant was prepared to take them up on their offer to rehouse them where ?
6. What has been controversially dropped in Wales in favour of a vaccination programme ?
7. In which city in France did a lone gumman attack children in a Jewish school ?
8. What is the name of the Toulouse gunman, shot by police ?
9. Carlos Tevez was finally included in the Man City squad to play which side ?
10. It was announced that the 2014 Champions League final will be played in which city ?
11. In a survey, what came out tops as Britain’s favourite smell ?
12. Which actor from the Harry Potter films was jailed for rioting last week ?
13. 2 new paintings by whom were discovered on the same canvas ?
14. Employees from where were the winning syndicate in Friday 16th Euromillions ?
15. Which current Disney film has been predicted for a loss of $200 million ?
16. What is Nemesis Sub Terra ?
17. The higher rate of tax was lowered controversially to what rate in the Budget ?
18. Name the British hostage freed last week after a ransom was paid to Somali pirates ?
19. Who is Laura Johnson and why was she in last week’s news ?
20. Which film director is currently making a film on the bottom of the ocean ?
21. Who is Louise Coleman ?
22. Which group became the first UK group to have their first album debut at Number 1 in the US charts ?
23. What is the title of the new Aardman animation film ?
24. Who was rightly named the best player of the 6 Nations ?
25. Who designed the new British Olympic Kit ?
26. Why has it been criticised ?
27. The government has announced plans to set the minimum cost of one unit of alcohol at what ?
28. Who is Gregory Doran ?
29. The world’s largest deckchair was unveiled where last week ?
30. Which African country was taken over by military junta last week ?
31. What was the Coroner’s verdict on Whitney Houston ?
32. Name the Energy Secretary who has lost a high court battle over solar panel subsidies
33. What has Engelbert Humperdinck asked fans not to do during the Eurovision ?
34. BBC Countryfile has been criticised for showing illegal mountain biking in which National Park ?
35. Mars have announced that they will reuce the maximum amount of calories in their chocolate bars to which figure ?
36. Who was turned away from the Royal Berkshire Health and Racquets Gym, and allegedly called a “Daft chav” according to some reports ?
37. Who is Hiroshi Hoketsu ?

University Challenge - Grand Final

Manchester University v. Pembroke College, Cambridge

University Challenge Finals night is always something to look forward to. In the blue corner, Manchester University , last champions in 2009. They knocked out Selwyn College, Cambridge in the first round, Christ Church Oxford in the second, lost to UCL in their first quarter final match, then beat Newcastle, scoring a whopping 330 in the process, then Clare College Cambridge in what many people think of as the finest match of the Paxman era. In the semis they were just too good for Worcester, Oxford. Highly fancied to do well, Luke Kelly, Michael McKenna, Paul Joyce and skipper Tristan Burke had impressed throughout the whole series as a team who buzz them in from all angles. Everyone contributes important starters.

In the red – or maybe I should say light blue – corner we had Pembroke College Cambridge. They might never have won the whole series before, but they had won every match they played on the route to the final, disposing of, in order, St. Anne’s Oxford, Nottingham, Balliol Oxford, Clare, Cambridge, and in the semi-finals a good team from UCL – incidentally the only team to beat Manchester leading up to the final. Ed Bankes, Ben Pugh, Imogen Gold and captain Bibek Mukherjee formed a very useful unit, with Ben Pugh and Bibek Mukherjee weighing in heavily with starters , and Ed Bankes and Imogen Gold providing good support.

Tristan Burke took first blood for Manchester, knowing a series of novels which all contain the word History in their titles. The first set of bonuses were all connected with “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and Manchester managed to answer two of them. The Manchester skipper continued to show good form with the buzzer for the second starter, knowing that the informal word for the Church of Scotland – the Kirk – the author of the Cherry Orchard and of a well known baby care book are all linked by Star Trek. The bonuses on quotations connected with the number 7 brought just another 5 points. Well, it was early days yet. Bibek Mukherjee stepped in to halt the customary Manchester blitz start, when he correctly recognized a quotation from William of Malmesbury referring to the year 1066. Their bonuses were on comparative religion. I suppose it doesn’t say a great deal for me that when they were asked which author wrote “The Case For God” I shouted Oolon Colloophid. One for the Hitchhikers Guide fans there. One correct answer took them to 15, 20 points behind Manchester. The picture starter showed a mathematical grid with the happy primes highlighted. Lovely. Nobody got that. Surprisingly nobody got ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Of course it does. Ben Pugh finally claimed the prime picture bonuses by recognizing a number of shorter words which can all be made from combinations of some of the letters in prolix. A good and quick shout that one. They missed permutable, Fibonacci and sexy primes. Curiously enough I would have had a bonus because I’ve heard of sexy primes, and would have therefore kept on giving that answer until it was right. Enough bragging. The Pembroke skipper twitched too early when asked for two capital cities on the same river, and lost five with Buda and Pest, when the full question made it clear that the capitals of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo were required. Michael McKenna made a punt, but didn’t get Kinshasa, although he did get the harder one, Brazzaville. Luke Kelly managed a terrific answer for the next starter, recognising a personal ad typical of those put in the London Review of Books. Fair enough. A set of bonuses on Physics proved elusive, but even so Manchester managed one of them to lead by 50 to 20 at the ten minute mark.

Luke Kelly increased his team’s lead with the words iconic and ironic. Quotations bonuses followed, and I was saddened to see Manchester fail to identify my favourite poem , Keats’ Ode to Autumn. They took the other two, though. Ben Pugh took another flyer on the next and lost five, allowing Luke Kelly in with the term Steampunk for a genre of Science Fiction set in worlds where things are run on clockwork mechanisms – something like that anyway. Was this the decisive break for Manchester ? Bonuses followed on Toki Pona – see below – and Manchester managed one of these. They weren’t steaming ahead, but then it was never that type of match. The hardy perennial Planets Suite provided the music starter, and Michael McKenna was first in to identify Mercury – good shout there, I thought. Now, this was the final, and so for the bonuses they had to identify the planet, but also its largest moon. Only Mars and Phobos fell to them. Ben Pugh stopped the rot with the next starter. We’ve had the acronym BRIC before – was it last series or the previous one ? – and he knew that we were dealing with brazil – Russia – India – China. Bonuses on plant cytology provoked wry smiles between the team members, and two passes and an incorrect answer were the result. Ben Pugh took his second in a row with the Swedish chemist Berzelius. Psychological experiments brought them two bonuses, and narrowed the gap to 55 points. This time it was Luke Kelly who twitched on the buzzer, on a set of cryptic clues to Bali, which lost Manchester 5, bringing them back below 100, and allowed Ed Bankes to supply the correct answer. Bonuses on angles followed. I was really pleased with myself for remembering the angle of incidence. Pembroke didn’t manage to add to their store with this bonus. Luke Kelly took back those 5 points and more besides with the next starter on the term Civil Society. Manchester’s bonuses on volcanoes allowed them to add another 10 points. The gap now stood at 60 – not insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination, but it was looking like a large gap in this match considering that we had now reached the 20 minute mark.

Manchester’s one hand on the trophy seemed more secure when Paul Joyce took the second picture starter. Shown what looked to be an amateur landscape from 1914 he correctly answered that the artist was a Mr. A. Hitler. For the next 3 bonuses they were shown paintings by other world leaders. Two were taken. There was a lovely frivolous starter next, where two definitions of subordinate clauses were given, one being serious, and the other being ‘Santa’s little helpers ‘. Well, it made me laugh. Luke Kelly took that one, and even with definitions from Plato bringing them just another 5 points they now led by 150 to 55. Only 5 minutes remained. Ben Pugh took the next starter on the composer Gorecki. Good answer. Bonuses on melting points brought them 10 more points. Ben Pugh had obviously found his range now, as he leapt in early with the Olduvai Ravine for the next. Maybe it was a little too late, but at least Pembroke were well on course for three figures now, which is no less than they deserved. Florentine architecture bonuses helped , bringing them another 10 points. Ben Pugh again buzzed in first with the names of Major and Howe, he both served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1980s, along with Nigel Lawson. Now Pembroke were on 105, and only 50 behind. Could it be . . . Well, opera bonuses brought them a full set of 15 points. If Pembroke took another full set on the next starter, the gap would be a mere 5 points. Paul Joyce made sure that this wouldn’t happen, by buzzing in with the term pueblo for the next starter. Bonuses on inventions brought Manchester another 10 points, and a modicum of security. Which was blown away when Bibek Mukherjee buzzed in early with Tyrrhenian for the next starter. Bonuses on digestive enzymes narrowed the gap to 30 once again. It had taken a while to warm up, but now we really had a contest on our hands. Ben Pugh lost five on the next starter, when neither team got the drink Horchata. Not my favourite, I have to admit, but when it’s any port in a storm. Still, I digress. Michael McKenna beat Ben Pugh in the race to the buzzer for the next question, knowing that VIM is an anagram for the roman numerals for 1004. Bonuses on the Isle of Skye,failed them, but they were interrupted by the gong anyway. The final score was 180 to 135 for Manchester. Many , many congratulations to them. That’s the 2nd time in 4 years that Manchester have become champions – an impressive record certainly. Well done to Pembroke too. They’ve been one of the most impressive sides this year, and I can but apologise for cursing them with the Clark tip.

Action shifted then. Normally the trophy is presented by a worthy personage straight after the final. On Monday, as if by magic we were transported to Clarence House, where both teams were presented to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. I know the reason why, since it’s the 50th Anniversary of the first series of UC in 1962. But I don’t know, wouldn’t it have been nice if Bamber had been there ? I’d like to think that they asked him at the very least. Camilla seems a nice enough old bird , albeit that what she had to say was a bit of an insomnia cure, but for my money this went on a little bit too much. It was nice that Pembroke received a trophy as well – a very nice touch that, and one I hope that will be retained in future series.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP, as always was on best behavior for the final. There was little to report other than on the Physics bonuses to Manchester, where he cut off Tristan Burke’s offer of two scientists with “No , forget it “. On the world leader paintings he agreed, “Yes. That nice Mr. Putin.” I did get the feel that he was biting his tongue a little when Camilla was indulging in a little harmless chitchat with Tristan Burke about how he was chosen as captain, and when he said “Can I ask you to present the trophy now, Your Royal Highness ? “ a not very small part of me was hoping against hope that he would roll out one of his famous “Oh, come ons !”Still, congratulations to him for another fine series. I say this every year, but it’s true, and so it’s worth saying again. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the question master to any quiz show, and if we love UC, then JP deserves his share of the credit for this.

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

Toki Pona is an experimental language created in 2001 – it has no letter B

Friday, 23 March 2012

Congratulations -

Obviously to the fine team from Manchester University who won the Grand Final of University Challenge on Monday evening. Don't worry, the review is coming.

Also on Monday evening Neil, Brian and Andrew and I, the Llangewydd Arms, played our last league match of the season in the Bridgend League. We've retained the league title we won last year, but it certainly wasn't all plain sailing, and the title wasn't clinched until the last game. Credit for that goes to the boys from The Oldcastle. You'd have been forgiven for thinking that we were running away with the league by the Christmas break halfway through the season, but the Oldcastle had a better second half season than we died, became the first team to beat us, and frankly took us all the way to the wire.

On Monday we have the Cup Final. This is going to be the last match for our skipper, Andrew, who's taking a break next season. We'll be doing our very best to try to send him off on a high note.

Mastermind 1st round review - Semi Final Preview

Click on the table above and it should enlarge a little. Basically it gives you the 30 semi finalists, ranked in order of total scores in Round one. The column on the far right also gives the Gk score for each .

You know, predicting who is likely to make it through from the semis is never an easy thing to do. For one thing, I don't know who has been drawn against whom. It's a feature of Mastermind that there is often at least one 'top heavy' semi, where three or even four contenders for the whole series are pitted against each other. Then there are the contenders who have a one off brilliant performance in the first round, which they can't repeat in the semis. So, allowing for that, who has caught the eye ?

Well, you have to say that the top four on our list all look highly impressive. Andy Tucker with a brace of 18s was the pick of the bunch. However his 18 was matched on GK by Nick Duffy, who has already been to the Mastermind semis before, as has John Beynon, and our own Gary Grant and Gareth Kingston. Don't underestimate the advantage of experience in this game. I'll be honest, I can't see any dangerous looking mid table lurkers this year. You might remember that last year Ian Bayley wasn't one of the top scoring players in the first round, for example.

Looking at the table I'd say that our chances of another lady champ are pretty slim this year. Only 4 ladies have qualified for the semis this year. Repechage slot winner Julie Aris had the highest score of the 4, but this was based on a perfect SS round of 18. The chances of repeating this in the semis aren't huge, and her GK of 12 suggests she will struggle to qualify for the the final.

Pick a winner ? Hand me a pin and a blindfold. Yes, Andy Tucker's first round score was fantastic and marks him out as a potential champion. Yet it's no more impressive than Brain of Britain Iwan Thomas' first round last year, and he didn't get to the final. There are 13 contenders who have scored 30 or more, and I'd expect most of the 6 finalists to come from these. But then again, there's another 4 on 29, and 3 on 28. It's all very close.

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 24

I did say in my previous review that I am not the most observant person in the world, and I’m not, but I wonder how many people also noticed Pat and Shelagh Gibson sitting prominently in the front row of the audience. I wonder which of this show’s contenders they were supporting ? Well, whatever the case this was the last of the first round heats. What a show it was, too. Audrey Williams kicked off the show with The Life and Work of William Yeates Hurlestone, or as he is known in the Clark household, William Who? A composer , contemporary of Holst and Vaughan Williams, I gathered from the answers to the questions. Audrey started the round brightly enough, but found it a little tougher going than most of our contenders did in tonight’s two shows. As we’ve said, 8 is nothing to be ashamed of , but it wasn’t a score likely to give her any realistic chance of a win.

Quentin Holt answered question on my favourite subject of the whole evening , The London Olympic Games of 1908 and 1948. Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed as if there were more questions on the earlier of the two, which is hardly surprising since the 1908 Games was certainly not short on controversy. Wyndham Halswelle’s 400m walkover and Ralph Rose refusing to dip the flag to the king were there pretty much as I expected, for example. Now, in the previous show Ken Owen posted a perfect 16 for 16 in two minutes. Quentin also posted a perfect score in this round, of 15 from 15. This sounded just about fair because I don’t believe that he was quite as quick as Ken was. We’ll come back to this later. As it is, you can’t do better than perfection. Superlative performance.

The specialist subject chosen by Julie Aris, The What Katy Did Novels of Susan Coolidge irresistibly brought to mind an old Two Ronnies joke. It went something like this : - The BBC have announced that they will be screening 4 new classic serials – What Katy Did – What Katy Did Next – Who Did What To Kay – and – Son of Katy. Well, be fair , it was the 1970’s. - Now, Julie too scored a perfect round. She, tho0ugh, scored 18. Gary left a comment after my last post , suggesting to look out for something like this. I have to say I can’t see that Quentin was 3 questions slower than Julie. Julie answered well, and she answered quite quickly, but she wasn’t greased lightning fast. I may be wrong, but I expect people will have some opinions about this. None of which is Julie’s fault. As we always say, you can only answer what you’re asked, and she did this superbly well. 18 is a brilliant score.

Lord alone knows what was going through Paul Maddern’s mind when he had to follow that. More power to his elbow that he produced a very good round himself on Lord Byron. I didn’t score quite as highly on this round as I had on the Olympic Round, but picked up a half dozen or so which was pleasing enough. Paul got 14, and what do we always say ? Anything in the mid teens on specialist is a good round.

Audrey Williams returned to the chair, and methodically picked off those she knew, and made her way to respectability with 11 , which raised her total to 19. Paul too managed 11, which took his overall total to 25. It didn’t look like a winning score with two contenders yet to return to the chair, but you have to say remember that this would have been a good enough score to win several of the earlier heats. Quentin Holt returned to the chair, and he took a little bit of time to wind himself into the round. He dropped a couple of points early on, and wasn’t answering that quickly, but the tempo quickened, and by the minute and a half mark he was reeling them off like shelling peas. In the end he posted 15 and no passes to finish on 30. Which guaranteed him a place in the semis, whether Julie could beat that score or not.

I wondered whether we might possibly have another tie break. I stopped wondering after Julie took the first of her 6 passes. Still although she wasn’t going to post as high a score as Quentin, the fact was that she didn’t need to. She was inching towards the target, and there was enough time on the clock . Enough time to get to 30 herself, that is. Which wasn’t enough to get the win, since Quentin was passless, but that proved to be academic since Julie earned herself a runner up slot anyway. Well played both.

The Details

Audrey WilliamsThe Life and work of William Yeates Hurlestone8 - 211 - 519 - 7
Quentin Holt London Olympics 1908 and 194815 – 0 15 - 030 - 0
Julie ArisWhat Katy Did Novels of Susan Coolidge18 - 012 - 530 - 5
Paul MaddernLord Byron14 - 011 - 625 – 6

Mastermind - First Round - heat 23

Following last week’s show I must admit I was keeping a special ear open for the buzzer tonight. I didn’t notice anything untoward – which doesn’t really mean anything because I’m really not very observant. Still, I did notice that Ken Owen was sitting in the third seat as John introduced the contenders. “That’s the one who’s going to win .” I announced to no one in particular. Admittedly the Clark prediction has scuppered many people’s chances in the past, but then , if nobody is around to hear the prediction, then does the curse work, I wondered. In a way it’s a little like the question – if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound, I suppose.

Enough of such twaddle. Offering us a popular culture specialist subject was the first of tonight’s last 8 contenders of the first round, Vicki Davies. She answered on the band Nirvana. Pretty well too, if truth be told. Crisp, quick answers, and no agonizing over the ones she didn’t know. 15 is a very good score by anyone’s reckoning, and that was exactly what she managed , with just two passes . Food for thought for the opposition, certainly.

Steve Ferry was answering on a far more traditional MM subject by way of contrast to the previous round. The Thirty Years War isn’t something I know a great deal about, but the couple of facts that I do know presented themselves ready for use if the questions arose. OK, there’s no very nice way of saying this. Poor Steve ended up equaling the lowest ever score for a specialist round, and scored the lowest ever SS in a first round heat. I can’t say for certain what it was that caused this, but it looked like brain freeze after getting his first question wrong. Maybe I’m wrong about this next point, and if I am I apologise, but it also looked to me like he hadn’t prepared anything like as thoroughly as he maybe thought he did. I don’t know.

Ken was next into the chair. You might remember Ken from Are You An Egghead Series 2. He’s certainly an experienced hand at this game, and even if you didn’t know it before his round, you certainly knew it after .Ken was answering on the Roy Grace novels of Peter James. Not a series I’ve ever read at all, which excuses me for scoring precisely zero. Ken, on the other hand, posted what was to be the first perfect round of the evening. Barely a hesitation, and a perfect round of 16 points from 16 questions. Highly impressive stuff, that.

Last to go was Stuart Reid. Stuart was answering question on Everton FC since 1992. These particular sorts of rounds, covering a sporting team or a sporting event over a relatively short period of time are inevitably harder than they appear to be on paper. Stuart acquitted himself well. You could have forgiven him for having been daunted by the two extremes of Stuart’s disastrous round, followed by Ken’s perfect round, but he wasn’t, and posted a competitive 13 himself.

I’m sure that John was only being encouraging when Stuart returned to the chair, and he made a comment about people finding their minds going blank when they sit in the chair. who knows, maybe this contributed to Steve’s very good showing in his GK round. It certainly was a very good showing. 15, even on a two and a half minute round is by no means an easy ask, and while Steve’s score of 16 isn’t one of the highest of the series, it’s not the lowest either. I hope that he’ll forgive me for saying this, but if that GK round wasn’t a one off, then if he picks the right subject, and prepares thoroughly, then he could go quite a long way if he tries again in the future.

Stuart came next, and if Steve’s round had been good, well, Stuart’s was better. He dropped a couple early doors, but kept his composure, didn’t let it put him off, and kept on plugging away throughout the round, picking up some very good answers along the way. By the time of the buzzer he’d added another 16 points to his score, to take him to a total of 29. That’s a very competitive total, and if it did nothing else it certainly meant that Ken was going to have to work for his place in the semis. This was not going to be a walkover by any stretch of the imagination.

Vicki Davies couldn’t match the standard of the two previous contenders on GK, although her 9 was a good battling performance which was respectable, and her final score of 24 was certainly nothing to be ashamed of. But all eyes were now on Ken. He certainly didn’t disappoint. Ken started brilliantly , picking off chestnuts, medium ones and hard ones with impunity. He built up a head of steam very quickly, and maintained his momentum until the end of the round, by which time he had achieved escape velocity. even though a few wrong answers began to creep into the round, the fact was that he finished with daylight between himself and Stuart, adding 15 to take his total to 31.

Well played Ken ! A great performance which marks you out as one to watch for the semis. But well played Stuart as well – a performance which deserves its own place in the semis.

The Details

Vicki Davies Nirvana15 - 29 - 424 - 2
Steve FerryThe Thirty Years War1 - 115 - 316 – 4
Ken OwenThe Roy Grace Novels16 – 015 - 031 - 0
Stuart ReidEverton FC since 1992 13 - 316 - 329 – 6

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Mastermind Controversy

I don't know if you watched last Friday's Mastermind, or read the review of the show. If you did either, or both, you'll know that it was one of the most exciting heats we've had for a couple of years, with Mike Clark beating Ged Meheran on a tie break.

Well, as was pointed out in comments left by Angela and Gary after my review, there is a question mark over whether Mike Clark should have been asked his last question, with the buzzer appearing to sound while he was answering his penultimate GK question.

I watched the show last Friday 'live' on the telly. I remembered thinking at the time that it was a close call, but in the excitement of the tie break I rather forgot about it afterwards, and never went back to the iplayer to the check just how close a call it was. Well, I did that earlier, and I have to say that I think that they do have a point. I freely admit that I could be mistaken, but it certainly seems to me that the buzzer goes just before Mike Clark has quite finished his 23rd answer, and that John does not quite start speaking before it goes. John carried on to say that he'd started and so would finish, and Mike correctly answered the question, thus earning himself a tie break, which he went on to win.

I don't read anything sinister into this - it's a marginal call, and mistakes can be made. But you have to say, it's very hard lines on Ged Meheran, who had produced one of the finest GK rounds of the series to put himself on the brink of the semis. Mastermind has an honourable history of being able to put it's metaphorical hand up to admit when a mistake has been made - giving an extra place in the semi finals on one occasion, correcting scores retrospectively, or offering contenders a chance to return in the next series. One can only hope that some such consideration may be offered to Ged Meheran.

Friday, 16 March 2012

A Little Extreme Quizzing

It’s Friday evening, and I’ve now completed what in real terms has been 12 days of the job without a break. This is the excuse I offer you for having posted no news questions last weekend, and for not doing it again this weekend. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not asking for sympathy. I thoroughly enjoyed last weekend in Disneyland Paris, and the children ( and the other staff ) were a pleasure to be with for the majority of the trip. In fact I did make a small contribution to the cause of Extreme Quizzing, by producing a Disney Quiz for the bus. The first two rounds were straight Disney questions. I read out the first set between Neath and Severn Bridge, and the second set between Leigh Delamere and Reading Services.

Now, I did used to think I was too competitive in a quiz. No bones about it, I AM too competitive in a quiz – can’t help it, it’s just how I am. But let me tell you, my worst tantrums are nothing compared to two of my colleagues who were with me. To be fair to the pair of them they have terrific knowledge of Disney – better than mine, and I thought I was no slouch on the subject either. I thought that they were going to lynch me when they were caught out by one question in the first round – what is the name of Mulan’s dragon companion in Mulan ? Mind you, they couldn’t remember the name of the villain in the Incredibles – Syndrome – either, and there’s really no excuse for that. I love the Incredibles.

The second section of the quiz we did when we were about an hour away from Paris. This one I didn’t prepare earlier, but used a CD for. 20 Disney songs, name the film from which the song is taken. For ground rules we agreed that the only acceptable answer was the one on the sleeve of the CD. However this did lead to one contentious answer. Tigger’s song – you know the one – “The wonderful thing about Tiggers, is tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs etc. etc. “Now, the answer on the sleeve, and so the answer I had said I’d accept was “The Tigger Movie”. But surely this song was also sung in one of the much earlier Winnie the Pooh shorts . In fact I’d lay odds that Tigger first appeared in “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day” , and sang the song as well. Answers on a postcard to that one. A small footnote as well. The great Robert B. Sherman, who, with his brother Richard, wrote so many great songs for Disney passed away on the fifth of this month.

I saved the final round for the journey home on Sunday, and the long drag from the hotel at Disneyland to Calais. I used the Disney Trivial Pursuit DVD quiz. Which was a bit of an eye opener for me, as I didn’t know that Disney had even ever made a film called Atlantis. Adding up all the questions, there was a possible maximum of 94 points. To give you an idea of my colleagues’ obsession, their team scored a fantastic 91, and even then moaned about the Mulan question ! Thankfully they were ineligible to receive a prize. The top pupils’ team scored 86, though, which was certainly worth a prize I thought.

I only really mention this as it’s the first time I’ve ever organized a quiz which has taken place over a couple of days. Good fun, and at least it distracted the attention on the way home from the driver, who was using his hands free headset to have an angry hour and a half phone conversation with his wife who had apparently been seen b one of his mates out at 4 in the morning. I’m not exaggerating this. It was like an episode of Eastenders, only without the laughs and the feelgood factor one always associates with that fun packed half hour.

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 22

Wow. I haven’t seen a Mastermind show like that for a long time. All will be revealed. The first of our contenders into the chair was Ged Meheran. Ged was answering on the life and times of Harold Wilson, one of the most interesting and colourful British politicians of the post war era. As he walked to the chair I though that Ged looked particularly nervous. This might have explained the very slow start he made to his round. Maybe I imagined it, but he seemed far more assured on the questions about the later period of Wilson’s career, from the 60s onwards, and less with the earlier years. Whatever the case, Ged only managed 7 , although he didn’t pass on any questions either. “Well, “ I observed to no one in particular “ He’s not going to win. “ Hmmm.

Geraldine Walters came into the chair with a good old traditional Mastermind SS in the shape of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Wife of two kings, and mother of two others, to name just a couple of facts about her. That and the fact that she was played by Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter. Geraldine, needless to say, showed knowledge that went far between my meager offerings. In fact she added to Ged’s agony by posting a score that was precisely double that of his . 14 looked very competitive to me.

Mike Clark is , as it happens, the name of my son, although I believe the gentleman of the same name who came next into the chair is probably no relation. This Mike was answering on the sitcom Seinfeld. I did watch a few of these, but I don’t know that I ever ‘got’ it as such. Certainly I never really understood what the fans raved about. The target was 14, and Mike placed himself handily on the leader’s shoulder by scoring 13. Like Ged, he too avoided any passes. That’s good technique. Hmmm.

Our second traditional Mastermind SS was offered by Michael O’Callaghan, who was answering questions on Ludwig van Beethoven. I was interested to see that the chestnut quotient on this round was pretty low. There’s lots of oft asked quiz questions about Beethoven which have done the rounds in quizzes, and this round seemed to avoid asking them. Put it another way, Michael had to know his stuff – which he did to the tune of 12 points. Plenty enough to give him a decent shout.

You could have been forgiven at half time for saying – as I did – that’s one contender out of the running, and it’s between the remaining three. Now, I do wonder whether Ged thought so as well, because when he returned to the chair there was a noticeably different air about him. He didn’t look anything like as nervous as he had just over 10 minutes earlier. It certainly showed in his answers. This was a very fine GK round by anyone’s standards. The answers kept on coming, and believe me there were plenty of answers to difficult questions in there too. The score continued to climb, so much so that when he squeezed in a last answer to take his score up to 24 and no passes I just did begin to wonder whether we were actually going to witness the finest comeback since Lazarus.

Michael O’Callaghan couldn’t match Ged’s GK performance. Not that he needed to. He needed to find 13 points to over haul Ged, but you got the feeling by the half minute mark that he wasn’t going to. More hesitant than Ged had been, he was picking up a few wrong answers as well, and by th4e two minute mark he was behind the clock. In the end he came close, but 11 points was only enough to give him 23. Ged still led.

Mike Clark must have been given food for thought by Ged’s round. Maybe he knew that he wasn’t going to match Ged’s general knowledge. What he did have going for him, though, was a smart game plan. He had decided beforehand, so it seems. to answer everything, and let the correct answers pile up among the wrong ones. My goodness it was close. Mike was on 23, and John had only just said the first word or two of the last question as the buzzer went. Mike made no mistake of his answer, and the scores were tied on 24.

Not that everything was over yet. Geraldine Walters was the leader at the halfway stage, and a further 11 correct answers would see her carry the day. She didn’t start too badly, but after the first minute or so the going got harder, and I’m sorry to say that she found herself trapped in a horrible pass spiral. By the end of the round she had raised her score to 19. Well, if you’ve been following Mastermind for any length of time you’ll know how such a situation is settled. In cases of a tie, the number of passes is taken into account. On the majority of occasions this is enough to settle matters. However, what we had here was a pair of very canny contenders, neither of whom had given any passes away at all. So what we were faced with now was a tie break.

Very few Masterminders have ever taken part in a tie break. I believe the last person to win a tie break was LAM reader Gillian Taylor who won a heat in the 2009 series. It was a remarkable heat that – 2 contenders scored 27 and 0 passes, and a further 1 scored 27 and 1 pass. Then , going back to the 2008 SOBM, lovely Sandra Piddock won a semi final tie break . The way that it works, of course, is that both contenders are given the same five questions to answer. The one who scores most is the winner. Tonight’s five questions were :-

1. Mahe Island is the largest of which island group ?
2. Spencer Gore was the first winner of which sporting title ?
3. Which river is nicknamed China’s Sorrow ?
4. Karl Langsteiner was awarded the Nobel Prize for identifying the four main groups of what ?
5. Which poet accompanied the poet Dante on his journey through the Inferno in The Divine Comedy ?

Following my earlier prognostications I again told nobody in particular that Ged was sure to do it now, because he seemed a lot stronger on GK. Well, I don’t know – maybe he just tried to snap out the answers too quickly – maybe he was nervous again, having the opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He managed to answer the first , and the last . Mike returned to the chair, and he missed out on the Seychelles. One nil to Ged. However he knew that Spencer Gore won the Wimbledon singles. One all. Like Ged before him, Mike wrongly identified the Yangtse as China’s sorrow – it is in fact the Yellow river. Mike, though, knew that Karl Langsteiner identified the four main blood groups. 2 – 1. Ged had known that Vergil accompanied Dante. If Mike knew it as well, then it was all over. To cut a long story slightly shorter, he did, and it was.

Very well done Mike , you held your nerve well, and certainly earned a place in the semis. Special commiserations to Ged. It didn’t quite work out tonight, but if you come back another day with the right specialist subject, then you, sir, will be a force to be reckoned with. Good show.

The Details

Ged Meheran Harold Wilson 7 - 0 17 - 0 24 – 0 (26 after tie break )
Geraldine Walters Eleanor of Aquitaine 14 - 15 – 9 19 - 10
Mike Clark Seinfeld 13 - 0 11 – 0 24 - 0(27 after tie break )
Michael O’Callaghan Ludwig van Beethoven 12 - 2 11 - 6 23 – 8

University Challenge - Grand Final Preview

Well, for once I find myself saying that I find it difficult to predict just who is going to win University Challenge. Both teams have shown resilience, and skill during the competition. Both teams have fast buzzers . Manchester have the highest single score of the two teams, yet Manchester also lost in one of their quarter final matches. Pembroke are unbeaten. Manchester were beaten in their first quarter final match by UCL. UCL were beaten in the semi-final by Pembroke. So Pembroke should be the favourites then ? Well, actually, that’s not what the stats say.

There’s not a huge amount to choose between their average scores. Still, Manchester do have the higher average, with 251 to Pembroke’s 231. The average score of each team’s opponents is also interesting – Manchester concedes on average 127 points, while Pembroke concede 145. That’s more telling when you consider that Manchester also have a loss contributing to that stat. So does that mean that we should be banking on a narrow win for Manchester ? Well, not necessarily. We can’t ignore that loss to UCL, after all.

So how will the final match be decided ? I haven’t the foggiest. Manchester are usually very fast starters. So maybe they’ll have built up a head of steam by the ten minute mark, as they did in the semi, and not allow Pembroke to ever get on terms. On the other hand maybe Ben Pugh will have a stormer for Pembroke. When he’s on form he’s lightning on the buzzer.

Knowing that I won’t get away with sitting on the fence any more, I will make a prediction, but let me say that I have no faith in it whatsoever, and certainly would not be risking so much as a brass farthing – if I possessed such a thing – on the outcome. I just have this sneaking feeling that maybe Pembroke have only played as well as they have needed to in order to win all their matches so far, and they might just find another gear. Put me on the spot and insist on me calling a winner, I suppose I’d go for Pembroke. But then again . . . Good luck to both teams anyway. I’m really looking forward to it.

University Challenge - Second semi final

Pembroke College Cambridge v University College London

Pembroke College Cambridge are , JP delighted in telling us, the only team to get to the semis in this year’s series without losing a single match. They weren’t by any means all against easy opposition either. With big hitters Ben Pugh and skipper Bibek Mukherjee ably supported by Edward Bankes and Imogen Gold they had certainly been some people’s tip for the final ever since their first appearance against a good team from St. Anne’s. Nottingham, Balliol and Clare had all been beaten since. A formidable record to carry forward.

Not that UCL had any reason to go into the match as hugely unfancied underdogs themselves. The only blot on their escutcheon was a quarter final defeat by Worcester College, Oxford, themselves semi finalists in their own right. No shame there then. Skipper Jamie Karran has been hailed as one of the most interesting personalities of the whole series, however this shouldn’t detract from the fact that they have buzzers throughout the team in the shape of Hywel Carver, Patrick Cook and Tom Andrews– they all contribute to their success, and that’s all to the good where UC is concerned.

Patrick Cook took the Eiffel Tower for the first starter for UCL. The first set of bonuses were on red hair. One was taken. Tom Andrews took UCL’s second starter with the word Glee. Fact recall provided them with another five points. Did you know of the Ugly Sister effect ? Me neither, but now I’ve heard of it I know that I suffer from it often – especially during quizzes, worst luck. At this point Bibek Mukherjee decided that UCL had quite enough of a lead to be getting on with, and correctly identified a number of cities as having had former names derived from Stalin. This brought Pembroke a set of bonuses on Astronomy and Shakespeare. Weren’t they a progressive rock duo who used to play pubs in Greenford in the late 70’s ? I digress. Pembroke in turn took one bonus. Jamie Karran weighed in with histogram for the next starter. Bonuses on frequencies proved to be a little more to UCL’s liking as they managed a pair now. Onto the picture starter, showing a chess diagram. Ben Pugh was first in to identify Fool’s Mate. I was wondering when he’d make his mark in this contest, having been so much to the fore in earlier rounds. Pembroke’s bonuses were on a similar set of problems, giving them a series of three chessboards, from which they had to tell what the winning move would be. 1 was answered correctly. Patrick Cook knew that various counties took their titles from the roman Palatine Hill. Heroines from Greek drama gave UCL their first full set of bonuses. At the ten minute mark, had there been any time to do so UCL could have reflected on a job well done so far, as they led by 75 to 30.

The fightback began with the next starter. Ben Pugh recognized Coleridge’s description of Shakespeare, bringing up bonuses on the former East Germany, of which they managed all 3. Ed Bankes knew the term reification for the next starter – which is more than the BBC subtitler did, who rendered it as rarefication. Economics bonuses saw them take a full set to go into the lead with 80 points. Game on. Patrick Cook struck right back with the next starter, knowing that Lord Aberdeen, and the ‘hero’ of Khartoum shared the surname Gordon. Square number bonuses gave them opportunities for points, but they just missed out on any of them. The music starter gave two different excerpts for the composers to be identified – well , it is the semi final after all. Ben Pugh was equal to the task, and very impressed JP was as well. This gave rise to a UC special set on pairs of composers – the second being born in the same year that the first one died. I thought they did extremely well to get two of them. Imogen Gold buzzed in a little too early for taramasalata and galatasaray, losing five, and allowing Hywel Carver in. Science bonuses on meta materials brought them just the one. Neither team could get a reference to EM Forster’s epithet Only Connect, although Tom Andrews did buzz in too early and stun JP with “The Working class smell “. Not often I see him lost for words, there. All square, and Imogen Gold made up for earlier twitchiness by answering that a greek term denoted rule by the mob. Good shout. Bonuses on French cinema escaped them, but nonetheless they had a lead now at the twenty minute mark, with 105 to UCL’s 95.

Well, to use a time honoured cliché it was all going to come down to who wanted it more. Shown a picture of a biblical scene Tom Andrews offered “Water into Wine”, and as JP knew he obviously meant the wedding at Cana he accepted it. Quite right too. The bonuses were more depictions of the same by Italian Renaissance artists. They took the first, but that was it. Ben Pugh knew that the author of Rasselas, and of Not Waving but Drowning share surnames with former Home Secretaries. Again , a good shout. Bonuses on peaks which give their names to various science thingummybobs yielded nothing. Ben Pugh took a really good early buzz with Lammas – from Loaf Mass. Words from Arabic, used for parts of cities – souk, casbah etc. - , brought up 10 more points. Jamie Karran kept UCL in it with the term rarified. They needed all 3 bonuses on French scientists to draw level, but managed just one. Still, there was nothing in it. I was rather surprised that no one from either side knew that the Menai Straits were bridged first by Telford and then by Robert Stephenson. But then I do live in Wales, albeit right at the other end of the country. Ben Pugh again had a great early buzz for Seurat. They do say that who dares wins, and it was Ben Pugh who was daring to really go for it on the buzzer at this stage. People whose surnames began with Za gave a valuable 10 more points. Imogen Gold pushed Pembroke closer to the final by correctly supplying the answer binary star system for the next starter. Children’s Charities added 10 more points. Imogen Gold took her second in a row with Odeon, and Pembroke looked as good as there. Analysis of colour was the bonus topic, but there was only time for the one question before the gong. Pembroke had prevailed by 185 to 125. Very well played. As the only semi final team who had not sustained a loss earlier in the competition they had to be fancied to go all the way, but very well done to UCL, who have been one of the teams we’ll remember with affection from this year’s series. They pushed Pembroke all the way.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Well, we’ve seen in the past how much JP enjoys working with this UCL team, hence his very restrained reply to Tom Andrews’ answer to the Only Connect question. Other than that there really didn’t seem anything of note in this show. We can only hope that he’s keeping his powder dry for Monday night’s final.

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

The Bader Meinhoff terrorist group gives its name to the internet meme and phenomenon in which having heard an obscure fact for the first time one encounters it repeatedly in other contexts.

Monday, 12 March 2012


It’s funny how some years there’s almost no new quizzes – I think of 2010 particularly – and then other years they come thick and fast. Some are faster than others, and some of course are thicker. Here we are, not even one quarter of the way through the year, and we’ve already had enough new quizzes to have a wide selection to choose from for this year’s LAMMY for the best new quiz show of the year. Well, that’ s a long time away from us yet.

I finally sat down for a brief rest from my labours this afternoon at about 10 to 5, and came upon the BBC’s latest entry in the medium level prize, teatime quiz stakes. This is Breakaway, no less. Presenter Nick Hancock, fondly remembered for the early years of They Think It’s All Over, before it became a caricature of itself, earned his quiz spurs on the underrated ITV prime time show Duel. So we were in good safe hands there. As for the quiz itself, well, we were firmly in the land of the game show, but then there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, if it’s a good game. Now, you need to accept that the show had already been on for a while when I tuned in, so I didn’t see it from the start, and it’s not impossible that I might have got the wrong impression about some aspects of the show. Forgive my error if this is the case.

Basically it involves a team of players, standing on a walkway, graduated with 30 steps . To take a step forward, a question must be answered correctly by one of the team. If it is answered incorrectly, then they have to all take a step back, and the money is wiped off. At certain stages of the walkway, the players are offered the opportunity to breakaway. This means that they get the opportunity to go it alone, while the others have to wait for them to make a mistake. They can invite another player to join them. When they do make a mistake, then they lose a life, and can be sent home. The sections between the breakaway questions belong to different categories. For instance, in tonight’s show I saw categories of Inventions – Pot Luck – Football. Either one of the breakaways will work, or the team themselves will eventually get through the line. Whatever money they have managed to build up, that’s what gets shared by the first through the line – breakaway or team.

Maybe it sounds a little complicated, but it wasn’t really. What I liked about the questions was that they did seem to get a little harder as they progressed through each category. What a refreshing change to see that the contestants were actually required to come up with answers, rather than to choose between options as well – there’s far too much of that going on at the moment. Tonight’s show was won by a breakaway, and the lady who broke away had the sense to invite someone who actually knew something to come with her. Alright, questions like “How many presidents are carved on Mount Rushmore ? “ and “From which musical does the song – There is Nothing Like A Dame – come from ? “ are never going to give a proper quizzer sleepless nights, but how often do we see such innocuous stuff tripping up nice, decent members of the public on any numbers of shows ?

It’s early days, and it’s always best to give shows like this a bit of time to bed in before making hard and fast pronouncements on them. But I quite enjoyed this, and will watch it again. Which is pretty much the point, when you come to think about it.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 21

Yes thanks, I had a lovely trip away with the school, thanks for asking. How nice, then to be able to watch this week’s Mastermind on demand as soon as I got home. In the show I recognised that the first of our contenders, Nick Duffy, has been this way before. It’s probably fair to say that Nick cut quite a dash as one of the more colourful contenders of the 2006 series, where he did better than I did by reaching the semi-finals. Soberly attired in this show, Nick got the show off to a good start with Peter Cook. No better place to start. He put on a good show, scoring 13 , and only missing out on a couple.

Second up was Chris Shepherd. His specialist subject might have given pause for thought. French Impressionists is certainly a narrower subject than European Paintings, which was the subject that caused Arfor Wyn Hughes to famously come a cropper a few years ago, but nonetheless it may well have been tempting fate. As it happened Chris didn’t do badly at the start, but then, call it a sudden attack of nerves, call it what you like, but the round ground to a halt. You could almost feel poor Chris’ frustration through the screen. He finished with 6.

You sensed that Michael Rogers subject had seen some hard bargaining, since Haydn in England only covered a few years of the composer’s life. Mind you, getting what looked to be a narrower subject can be a double edged sword . You can often find yourself having to deal with really intricate questions if you have such a relatively narrow subject. Whatever the case 10 was enough to put into contention for the win, if not for a runner up slot on the repechage board.

Bringing the round to a conclusion was Duncan Stephenson. I know some people who still misguidedly believe that you automatically receive an easier ride if you opt for a sporting subject, but this is simply not the case. Duncan struggled manfully with his round, but despite a lot of honest endeavor he just failed to get into double figures. 9 didn’t mean that he had no chance of winning, but it certainly made him a long shot.

Before he’d get the chance to show us what he could to, though, Chris Shepherd returned to the chair. I don’t know if it was a case of what had happened in the first round forcing him to go hell for leather, but it seemed to me that there were a number of questions he knew the answer to , where he blurted out the quick wrong answer just a fraction of a second before the correct right answer occured to him. Still, his 8 points was enough to give him a one point lead. Duncan Stephenson did rather better at picking off the ones that he knew. He might not have managed double figures in his SS round, but he managed it now. OK, 11 was not the highest score we’ve seen all season, but it wasn’t bad going, and put him into the 20s, albeit that it didn’t look as if the lead was going to last until the end of the show. Michael Rogers’ first answer did suggest that it was unlikely to be him who beat it, though. You have to get stuff like King Midas right if you’re going to give yourself a chance of winning. Michael steadied himself a little, but really there were just too many wrong answers to gettable questions, and in the end he leveled out at 8 correct answers for 18 points in total.

Now, as for Nick Duffy, well, in his 2 2006 performances Nick had scored a brace of 11s on GK. These were both 2 minute rounds. With 8 required for the win without recourse to countback, there seemed to be little or no chance that he wouldn’t win. It was reasonable to expect about 16 on this form in a 2 and a half minute round. Well, I think Nick has been working on his GK, because this was a highly impressive round indeed. Alright, he wasn’t necessarily under huge pressure, with such a modest total to beat, but nonetheless a score of 18 is a terrific performance, and this wasn’t a very easy GK set either. In the end Nick finished with 31, and has marked himself out as very much one to watch in the semis.

The Details

Nick Duffy Peter Cook 13 - 018 - 031 – 0
Chris ShepherdFrench Impressionist Painters6 - 58 - 414 – 9
Michael RogersHaydn in England10 - 48 - 818 – 12
Duncan StephensonFC Barcelona 9 - 211 - 320 – 5

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

University Challenge - Semi Final 1

Manchester v. Worcester, Oxford

Well, once again a mighty Manchester team have made it to the semis. They got over their loss to UCL in their first quarter final match, to win the finest match we’ve seen in this, or any other series for a long time, against Clare.

Worcester, on the other hand recorded their loss in the first round, in a tight match against Clare , Cambridge. Well, they had the last laugh, having progressed further than their conquerors did.

On with the show. Michael McKenna was first to recognise a description of the national flag of France. The first bonus set was on Anglo Saxon kings and the epithets associated with them. Last time out Manchester had an outstanding bonus conversion rate. They didn’t quite start off at the same blistering pace with these, taking one. Still, they were happy enough to pick up the second starter, when skipper Tristan Burke recognised a work by Wittgenstein. . Economic schools followed – well, all schools have to be economic with the credit crunch now – and they took two of these. Manchester took their third starter in a row with Neville Chamberlain. Luke Kelly, who was to have a fine evening, supplied that one. Bonuses on the Parthians proved elusive, and passed them by completely. Well for Worcester that they did, for Manchester were winning the buzzer race at a canter, as Paul Joyce took the next , to bring up an astronomical set, based on the premise that if the Earth was 1cm in diameter, then how far away - etc. etc. No, I wasn’t even close either. Amazingly Manchester still managed to get one of them. This brought us to the first picture starter. This was a fine UC special, with three consecutive dictionary definitions, and wasn’t easy, even though Paul Joyce made short work of it. Three more of the same were to follow, and none of them were to provide them with points. No matter. If you recall, Manchester had set a blistering pace at the start of their last match, and they’d done exactly the same in this one, completing a shutout for the first ten minutes of the show, to lead by 70.

More one way traffic followed, as Tristan Burke recognised a description of Pittsburgh. Bonuses on edit wars helped stretch the lead to 90. The Manchurian Candidate fell to Luke Kelly, and Manchester were into three figures. Quotations on books gave them another one correct answer. Luke Kelly knew the kulaks, and buzzed in early to say so. A set of equations forced the confession from Tristan Burke – “I don’t know what the question means !” I know the feeling. Not surprisingly, they didn’t get any of these. On to the music starter, looking for the name of the composer of an opera. A rare buzz came in from Worcester, but unfortunately not a correct one. Nobody recognised Gounod. Now, though, Worcester broke the duck. I couldn’t transcribe the answer that Jack Bramhill gave to a biology starter, but it was right, and Worcester were now in the game. They’d earned the music starters, a set of works based on the Faust legend. Unfortunately they didn’t manage any of them – zigging with Bartok rather than sagging with Liszt, for example. Poor Jack Bramhill knew the answer to the next starter, but only supplied the word ‘Joy’ when JP really wanted the three words ‘The Joy Of’. 5 of those hard earned points were thus lost. Hard lines, especially when Manchester took two of the bonuses on a UC special set of two word phrases, where the last two letters of the first word are also the first two letters of the second. For example transitive verb. Paul Joyce knew about the Dissolution of the Monasteries for the next starter. Philosophers’ works followed, and they managed one. Paul Joyce also knew that Spencer Tunick photographed groups of naked people in 2010 – beats working for a living, I suppose. Bonuses on artists took us up to the 20 minute mark, and I’m afraid the score was 170 to Manchester, to 0 for Worcester.

As an aside I had a little argument with work colleagues over this, who were scornful of the way that Worcester had lost the only points they’d earned so far. I pointed out that when you’re being beaten to the buzzer, as Worcester were, then you have a choice – either sit back and accept it, or go down all guns blazing by buzzing the second you have even so much as an inkling of what the answer might possibly be. If you do this, then it’s not going to come off all the time. It’s still better to go down having had a go. Full credit to Worcester for doing that.

Still with a few minutes to go, the questions remained – how close to 300 would Manchester get, and would Worcester break the psychologically important 100 point barrier ? Paul Joyce picked off lemmings for the next starter. The team weren’t that secure on US state capitals, but still managed one of them. The second picture starter passed both teams by. Jack Bramhill took his second starter, on something in a tomato, and this brought up a set of mosaics of Byzantine emperors. One of these was correctly answered. Dave Knapp, so effective on the buzzer in earlier contests finally elbowed his way into the contest, identifying Argentina as the first South American country to legalise gay marriage. Bonuses on the Periodic table proved to be much to their liking, and now their score was up to 40. Earning a heartfelt well done from JP as it happened. The log jam seemed clear now, as Jonathan Metzer took the next starter on coughing. Bonuses on scrofula didn’t yield much to them , but nonetheless the score was now up to 50. At the words ‘Dublin born painter’ Paul Joyce was straight in with “Francis Bacon “ - well it’s got to be a good shout, hasn’t it. It was right , anyway. Bonuses followed on national Parks raised the score to 200. Luke Kelly knew that Luxembourg shares its name with gardens in Paris. Two bonuses followed. “To thine own self be true. “ was the show’s tribute to Shakin’ Shakespeare. Tristan Burke knew it was Hamlet. Tributaries of the Thames followed. Jack Bramhill took his third starter on the german word wurst to lift the score to 60, to which one bonus was added. The gong then went, leaving Worcester on 65, to Manchester’s 240. Congratulations Manchester, first of this year’s finalists. Hard lines Worcester – it happens to all of us . Sometimes it just isn’t your night.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

A lovely little touch of disdain to start with, as he muttered “Of course. “ as Tristan Burke answered Wittgenstein. No of course about it, Jez, believe me. It was on the 13th minute mark that Worcester must have started to lose hope, because that was the precise moment that JP chose to say “Plenty of time left Worcester college , we’re not even half way yet. “ I know he was only trying to be encouraging, but whenever he says something like that you just KNOW that you’re having one of those nights. Has any team ever come back to win after JP saying something like this to them ? Answers on a postcard, if you please. He made up for it later. When Jack Bramhill scored his second starter to lift Worcester away from zero, for the second time in the match, JP muttered “There we are, you’re storming away now.” Sarky devil.
To be fair he did make amends somewhat by saying that although it’s hard to be beaten by such a wide margin, Worcester have been a terrific team this series, and put in some fine performances. Damn straight there, JP.

Interesting Fact Of The Week I Didn’t Already Know

In 2010 Argentina became the first country of South America to legalise gay marriage.

It's a Dirty Job , But . . .

I will try to post a review of the first UC semi final before I go, but I just wanted to warn you that I'm off to Disneyland Paris tomorrow with the school. Oh, don't worry, I'll be back in LAM Towers by Sunday evening, but it does mean that I'll be a while catching up on this week.

Brain of Britain Grand Final

Well, the Grand Final came round at last. Ian, Rob, Rob and Ray battled it out to see who would win the salver. LAM reader Ian kicked off with two, but LAM reader Rob Milnes took a bonus, on the word karma. My good friend Rob Merrill began his assault on the title with a correct answer, but I can vouch for the fact that he was kicking himself for answering “Maldives” as the smallest African nation. He told me after the final that he’s either asked or answered it in the rugby club before now. Ray took the bonus. Rob Milnes had a great first answer with Kathleen Ferrier, and compounded this with another, but gave Rob Merrill a bonus with Urban II as the pope whose speech at the Council of Claremont inspired the first Crusade. Ray brought the round to a conclusion with 2 , but missed a gettable one with Weber, which let my mate Rob in. A very close round.

Ian took one, but got a nasty second which ray was more than equal to with Lyddite. Rob Merrill ( my Rob to avoid confusion ) missed out on Molesworth for his first – Ian took that one. Rob Milnes missed out on Ellen Ternan, which nobody knew . Ray missed out his first , a tricky little one on Deep Purple and Taliesin. One point separated all 4 at this stage.

Ian took his first, but perhaps a little surprisingly didn’t know that the dodo was actually a member of the pigeon family. Or maybe not surprisingly at all, it’s just that I’ve answered – and asked – this same question in quizzes on a few occasions myself. My Rob took it, anyway – I’m sure he will have had that correct when I asked it. As for his own questions, he managed to answer the first of these, but didn’t get the essayist Hazlitt. I wouldn’t have known that. Rob Milnes got a nasty one on alabaster, originally found in Egypt. My Rob took that , and Russell, rather cheekily, asked “Where did you get that from ? “ Well, the fact that he’s a great quizzer might have something to do with it, Russ. Ray had a nasty one about small mammals in Thailand – the bumblebee bat. Nobody had that . My Rob now led with 6. Go Neath ! Game on.

After three rounds we came to the Beat the Brains interval. In the time honoured fashion the final questions were set by the outgoing champion , Iwan Thomas. Asked about the mathematician who invented a bowling machine, they correctly answered Mr. Venn, who created the Venn diagram. Good question. The second question asked which unlikely organization was granted a 1973 UK patent for a nuclear powered flying saucer . Funnily enough they didn’t get the answer – British Rail ! Good fun question, but enough of such things. On with round four. Ian received a snatch of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go – they don’t write ‘em like that any more. Ian was asked for the names of both members of Wham, and popular culture did for him. Ray came in first for that bonus. My Rob missed out on the Knight’s Tale , which gave Rob Milnes a bonus. Rob himself didn’t know Jormungandr – the Midgard serpent – my Rob took that. Ray didn’t know the stocking frame – neither did anyone else. Rob now had a 2 point lead with 7.

Ian missed out his first – which was one of those good old sports trivia ones – requiring you to know that the Duke of York – later King George VI – took part in Wimbledon . I guess that the guys had never heard that one before. Which was probably more damaging to Ian’s chances than anyone else’s. My Rob was done by his first question, about John B. Watson. Nope, me neither. Rob Milnes got a nasty ‘brain ‘ question, about the pons. Nope, me neither neither. Ray got a nice one on HMS Amethyst to begin, but was done for by his second, which was about sharks. Ray had edged a point closer to Rob in this round.

Ian just didn’t know that the Italian equivalent of the Munich air crash involved players from Torino. Rob Milnes knew it, and kept his score bubbling along with it. My Rob got a tricky one about Eleanor crosses – asked for any of the three remaining crosses, he fell into the trap of saying Charing Cross. Alas, the one that’s there is a replica. Ray leapt in with Waltham Cross, which is the real McCoy. Rob Milnes got a nasty quotation, which allowed Ray to show his class by supplying the writer Alan Bennett. Ray took his first, but somewhat surprisingly missed the chestnutty meaning of the acronym USB. Maybe it’s a few years since that one really did the rounds, but time was you could hear that question being asked on a regular basis. Nobody took a bonus. All of which meant that Ray had leapfrogged my Rob into first place, leading with 9 from Rob’s 7, and with some of his fine answers in this round, you have to say he looked quite good value for it. Still, everything could change in the space of one round.

Ian got another horror to start with, on clams. My Rob took his first, but missed Alexander Hamilton, the other man apart from Benjamin Franklin never to be president to appear on regular denomination US Banknotes. Poor Rob got Alexander, but not Hamilton. On such small margins . . . Rob Milnes managed his own first question, but Camille Pissaro passed him by – as far as Ian, to be exact. Ray got a question which I liked very much – asking, not in so many words, which name links a character in Blazing Saddles, and a unit of Mongolian currency. Mongo . Great question. My Rob had pulled back a point on Ray , and was now on 8 to Ray’s 9. However it was Ian who’d made the great leap forward, and he was also on 8. Anybody’s game still.

The final round had come round. Ian got a physics question which did for him and all the others. Very hard luck that. My Rob didn’t know that Elvis’ first single was “That’s Alright Mama. “ Rob Milnes knew that, and it was his question now. His own first he couldn’t take. Ray could though, which answer effectively meant that he was champion. It’s just as well though, since he couldn’t get his own, on the colour turquoise. My goodness, but it was all close at the end. Rob Milnes ended with 7, one scant point behind both Ian and Rob Merrill, with Ray the worthy winner on 10 points. A small margin, perhaps, but enough, and that’s all that mattered.

Well played gentlemen all. That was a thoroughly entertaining and absorbing final, which any of you could have won right up to the last round. BoB being the kind of show that it is, the luck of the draw with the questions can make all the difference in a show where everyone is as evenly matched as the fine quizzers in this one were. A special word for my friend Rob Merrill as well. I know that before his heat Rob believed that he could get to the semis. Rob, you did so much better than that. We’re all very proud of your achievement.