Tomorrow night I’ll most likely be missing the quiz in the Dyffryn Arms. My mum and step dad, as is their wont, are staying with us for the first weekend of the half term holiday. Maybe they’ll turn round about 8pm tomorrow and say – there’s only one thing keeping this weekend from perfection, and that’s a pub quiz – but it’s unlikely, judging by previous experience. Now, I’m not saying for one minute that this would happen in the Dyffryn Arms, but the fact is that Halloween is one of those annual events which tempts normally sensible question masters to go diving into the murky depths of the themed quiz, this being the last weekend before Halloween.
I’ve written enough about themed quizzes before for you to know that I’m not exactly their greatest fan. I like a wide ranging, straight quiz, with questions of all different levels of difficulty, and something for everyone. Now, if it’s very carefully crafted a themed quiz can actually deliver all of this. It can do so, but in my experience it very rarely does. Questions do tend to be very predictable in a themed quiz. Not only that, but entertainment is often an easier subject category to use in a themed quiz, and so there tends to be a great imbalance between these, and questions from other subject areas.
Not that I’m saying that a Halloween themed quiz I played in about 10 years ago in a pub that shall be nameless was the worst themed quiz I’ve ever been to, unsatisfying though it was. No, I’m sorry to say that this distinction belongs to none other than the Aberavon Rugby club, my ‘home’ quiz. It wasn’t one of mine. I’ve never yet produced a themed quiz for the club, or for any other venue for that matter. No, it was actually a St. David’s day themed quiz, and it happened for maybe three or four years in succession.
I realize that as an Englishman living in Wales I am on very treacherous ground here, but bear with me with this one. As you might be aware if you’re a regular, Brian is the overall organizational genius behind the Thursday night quiz in the club. More than ten years ago now he was asked by an older gentleman in the club whose name now escapes me whether he ( the older gentleman ) could produce a special St. David’s Day quiz for the club on the Thursday nearest to the day itself. Brian didn’t feel he could say no, and I totally understand why. We are always trying to encourage new people to try their hand at setting a quiz, and the idea of a Welsh themed quiz for St. David’s Day is a noble one itself. So you understand that I am not criticizing the concept at all. No, it was the execution that was the problem.
The man who made the quiz never normally played in the quiz himself. Now, it’s not impossible to produce a good an enjoyable quiz if you’re not a regular player. However I would guess that it’s a lot more difficult. IN addition I believe that the question master was a long retired former grammar school welsh teacher. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but it did mean that he had a very narrow view of what it meant to be Welsh, and what he could ask questions about. You could actually produce a really good and enjoyable quiz, where you are asking questions across a broad range of subject areas , all of which have a welsh dimension. He couldn’t do this, though. His quizzes had a preponderance of questions about traditional welsh hymns, welsh language writers of the 18th and 19th century, and welsh rugby players of the 1950s. It wasn’t just me, the tame Englishman , who found these quizzes hard going. They were the quizzes which produced the lowest scores for all the teams which I have ever played in at the club. At that time we regularly had up to 8 large teams playing . They all played in the first one. A year later we were down to 6. The third year we were down to three teams.
I don’t know whether the question master tired of doing it each year, or whether he took to heart the lack of enthusiasm for his quiz, but he didn’t do it again after the third occasion. In any quiz people are likely to be faced with the fact that there are things they don’t know, which is fine as long as there’s enough being asked that they actually do know. I don’t know that scoring 2 or 3 out of 10 round after round is anyone’s idea of entertainment.
As for Halloween themed quizzes, well, as I’ve observed more than once before, there are only so many questions about bats that should ever be asked in the same evening.