Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Faffing Around Quotient

I don’t know if you ever watch “Strictly Come Dancing “, but I will admit here and now that it’s something of a guilty pleasure . Mary isn’t a huge fan, but I’ll watch it with whichever of the girls happens to be around on a Saturday evening. Quite often the couples will indulge in a bit of what I believe is technically called ‘faffing around’ before they actually start dancing. The girls and I will look at each other when this happens, and say “Len won’t like that. “ Len Goodman is the chief judge, and he really doesn’t like it when they don’t get on with it. Now, as regards quiz shows, I am a little bit of a Len Goodman myself. This morning I was watching yesterday’s Pointless, and as much as I like the show, and I do like it, I was struck by just how long it takes between the start of the show, and the asking of the first question. So I decided to do a little impromptu research. Here’s a comparison table of the amount of time it took on the last edition to be shown of several current quiz shows.

Show Mins until 1st questionShow duration %
Pointless 8 44 18.18181818
Eggheads 4 30 13.33333333
UC 3.25 29 11.20689655
OC 2.33 29 8.034482759
Breakaway 2.55 44 5.795454545
Mastermind 1.52 29 5.24137931
The Chase 2.0845 4.622222222


The key figure to look at isn’t so much the minutes used, as the % of the show used, since the duration of the shows varies. Where it says minutes as well, the figures after the point are all decimal figures, and not seconds. I think that I should point out, in the interests of fairness, that the edition of Eggheads was a repeat.

So the shows which come off worst on our lists are Pointless, which uses up a massive 18% of the show before the first question, Eggheads , which uses 13% of the show, and UC which uses 11 %.

Now, I fully admit that this was not exactly an exhaustive survey, being as it was based solely on one edition for each show. Also, the three shows at the top of the table are extremely different. Pointless doesn’t set out to be a typical quiz show at all, and it does utilize the relationships and the dynamics between each pair. University Challenge, on the other side of the coin, may take a little while to get going, but it has to be remembered that it’s a 29 minute show, and once it does get started the questions come thick and fast.

On the other side of the coin, I was surprised that the Chase came out so well. What this show does is to spread the ‘let’s get to know the contestants ‘ aspects throughout the show. One suspects that if I extended the survey and assessed what percentage of each show is given over to the asking and answering of questions, then UC and MM would comfortably head the lists.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

University Challenge - Round Two Preview

That was the first round, then. We’ve already had a look at the playoffs , but now let’s extend that a little. Here’s the raw details of the teams still in the competition: -

TeamScore OppositionMargin
UCL 260 85 175
Durham 245 70 175
New Oxford 230 145 85
Imperial225 80 145
Magdalene, Oxford 205 125 80
Pembroke, Cambridge 200 140 60
York 185 100 85
Manchester 180 175 5
St. George's London 175 145 30
Lincoln, Oxford 175 180 -5
Warwick 175 100 75
Jesus Oxford 150 120 30
Kings Cambridge 145 175 -30
Homerton Cambridge 145 230 -85
Lancaster 140 200 -60
Bangor 125 105 20
Bath 125 110 15
Bristol 120 105 15


* NB - Italics indicates a team in the play offs

So looking at the table it seems that our view that this is something of a lower scoring series than some of recent years seems to be borne out by the facts. There’s no score over 300, for a start. Looking at the other end of the table the lowest winning score is quite a bit lower than last year’s. So it’s quite possibly true that the questions have generally been a notch harder.

As regards the teams themselves, well, let’s cover ourselves with the caveat that first round form can be unreliable as a guide, and then let’s pick out some of the teams who are likely to do well. UCL, Durham, New College Oxford and Imperial all seem likely candidates for progression to the quarter final round. In particular I point you towards New College who managed 230 despite their opposition scoring 145 of their own points, and earning their own place in the play offs. The other three teams I mentioned all racked up very large winning margins against teams who , to be harsh but frank, couldn’t really manage to live with them. There’s less than 100 points separating the top 11 teams , which seems to promise some close matches in round 2. In fact I think you can go all the way down to Lancaster – who are underdogs in their play off against Lincoln college – before you get to teams who look unlikely to progress further. Just look at last year. Losing finalists Pembroke actually had the 11th best performance in the first round.Reigning champions Manchester are some way down the table, and yet they have a fantastic record of getting through to at least the quarter finals. So it’s difficult to pick winners now.

One thing you can say, though, is that any team which can improve upon its bonus conversion rate from the first round will be in with a pretty good chance. It’s all up for grabs.

University Challenge - Repechage Play Offs

Well, the great man kindly informed us who has made it through to the repechage play offs. Here’s the bare details

Team ScoreOpposition scoreMargin of loss
Lincoln College, Oxford 1751805
King’s College , Cambridge 14517530
Homerton College, Cambridge14523085
Lancaster14020060


Looking at it you’ll notice that there’s not a lot to choose between Kings, Homerton and Lancaster, and you have to fancy Lincoln to go through whoever they face. Consulting my reviews of the matches involving the other three teams Kings didn’t have any huge buzzer problems, but weren’t converting their bonuses. As we know, you can buzz another team out of the contest without having a great conversion rate, and so they will always have a chance. Homerton were , by contrast , well buzzed out of their game by a good buzzer team. So if they find their buzzer fingers they will also be in with a chance. As for Lancaster well, they were well beaten, but then they showed tenacity in scoring the 50 odd points they needed to get to the repechage in the last 7 minutes.

All of which means that I think the table doesn’t lie. I fancy Lincoln to go through. As for the rest though, well, you pays your money , and takes your choice.

University Challenge - Round One - Heat 14

University of Warwick v. University of Aberdeen

Here it is, then, the last of the first round matches. The University of Warwick received its Royal Charter when I was one year old, in 1965. Its team consisted of Sean Quinn, Sarah Jane Bodell, James Wheatley and their captain was Andrew Shaw. The University of Aberdeen is actually the fifth oldest in the UK. Its team consisted of Thomas Ainge, Shaun McMahon, Mr. Collier whose name I didn’t quite catch, and their captain James King. Both teams were in the enviable position of knowing that even if they didn’t win a score of 140 would be enough to bring them back. Scoring that many points, though, is easier said than done.

It’s not a 100% certainty that any questions with ‘film cameos’ and ‘film directors’ in it is referring to Alfred Hitchcock, but it’s pretty close, and so Andrew Shaw was the first in with the correct answer to the first starter. He earned his team a set of bonuses on 19th century duels. They didn’t manage any of a tricky set. A description of Ebeneezer Scrooge fell to Andrew Shaw, and the set of bonuses it brought up on caves were much more to Warwick’s liking, and they managed a full set.Neither team managed the term Creep, and neither did I. James Wheatley knew that the magic roundabout is in Swindon. A set on cell biology gave me a rare biology answer with Parkinson’s disease, and this was the only one that Warwick answered correctly as well. A great picture set followed. In the starter, and the subsequent bonuses, famous scenes from films had been recreated in lego – the teams had to name the films. Mr. Collier took Aberdeen’s first points, and it was a good starter for them to get since even though they had to get the author of the novel on which the film was based they took a full set. It got even better since Shaun McMahon took the next starter for them on Vermeer. Unfortunately this time they didn’t manage more than one of a set on art installations – and neither did I.All of which meant that at the 10 minute mark Warwick led by 50 – 30.

James Wheatley knew the Q factor ( the pilot working title for the X Factor ? Probably not. ) Tranquility was a mixed bag for Warwick, bringing them one correct answer. I took the next on Rochester, and so did James King. Cosmology bonuses didn’t offer a great deal and they were unable to convert more than one of them. No, don’t be ridiculous – of course I didn’t have any of them. The music starter followed , and we were asked to identify the work of Rachmaninov. Neither team had it, and so the music bonuses went forward to the next correct starter. Something about a reversible heat engine followed, and James Wheatley had it right. This brought Warwick the music set on three more musical types, based on dances which gave the music its form and official title. I only managed the minuet for the last one. This was one more than Warwick managed. Still, they were winning the buzzer race, and that’s one of two ways of winning the show. The other is to do slightly worse on the buzzer but get all of your bonuses right – but that’s a lot harder. A UC special followed. We were asked for three consecutive letters which begin the names of the largest part of Indonesia, the largest province of Canada and the largest state of India . Neither team had it but it’s PQR. I loved the next one. What part of the body features in names of peace democrats in the US Civil War – and the supporters of Parliament in the English Civil War. AS it happened I did know Copperheads, and so did James Wheatley. The bonus set which followed were on Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Bronte. 2 followed. Skipper Andrew Shaw, guiding his team towards a very useful team, answered the next starter, that CWG stands for Commonwealth War Graves. I enjoyed the set on monarchs which followed, and they managed 2 which put them through the 100 points barrier. We were about half a minute shy of the 20 minute mark, and Warwick had precisely double Aberdeen’s score , with 110 to 55. Warwick, then, even if there were to be an incredible Aberdeen fightback were just 30 points from safety.

There was a question about circling a rope around the earth. Nobody could answer it so let’s move on. James King knew about durum wheat. The bonuses which followed, on the theme of homage didn’t yield any points. Not surprised – tough set. The second picture starter showed the city of Bruges, as Andrew Shaw knew. Three more world heritage sites were shown, and they were asked for site and country in which it is located. They took the first, but I’m kicking myself for not getting Robben Island. A great UC special followed, with French versions of terms in cricket. Nobody had it, but I still liked the question. In fact, there were a lot of great starters tonight. The next one – in the titles of English novels, what is unqualified by John Banville, repeated by Iris Murdoch and described as cruel by Nicholas Monserrat. Lovely question that , and Andrew Shaw had it. Chemistry followed, I didn’t get any, and neither did Warwick. I had the next though, a set of words linked by Force. James Wheatley had it. President Gerald Ford gave them a full set, and a guaranteed place in at least the repechage. Lundi and Lundy gave Thomas Ainge a starter, and Aberdeen an outside chance of getting into the repechage. A full set on homo – species helped. They missed a trick on the next starter, saying that transpiration rather than transpire is an anagram of terrapins. Warwick made no mistake with that . They took one on electrical SI units. Neither team guessed that Harold Wilson was Prime Minister when David Cameron was born. James King knew that Cincinatti is the third largest city in Ohio, and this gave Aberdeen bonuses , but not enough time to answer more than one. AT least Aberdeen had made it into triple figures, as they scored precisely 100, to Warwick’s 175. Well played both , and good luck to Warwick in round two.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

In answer to the questions about which Foreign Secretary fought a duel on Putney Heath, Warwick offered The Marquess of Salisbury. JP did a verbal double take , saying , “No. WHAT ? No, I don’t think he did that sort of thing at all. “

He wasn’t fussed on the lego pictures was our JP “Three more scenes from famous films recreated in lego – Lord knows why .”

Interesting Fact of the Week That I didn’t Already Know

The UK Space Agency is based in Swindon

Only Connect - Quarter Final 1

The Footballers v. The Cinephiles

A good match pairing this. The Footballers are one of the more experienced teams of telly campaigners in the series. In the first round the team of Barry Humphrey, Michael McPartland and captain Jamie Turner beat the Second Violinists 18 – 11. Their opposition, the Cinepiles were also a more telly experienced team, and they consisted of Howard Kelly, Tim Catlin and Nancy Dickmann. They disposed of The Accountants 33 – 8 in the first round. On paper the Cines’ first round appearance seemed the more impressive, but I had predicted in my preview that they might just have the better of this game, so they had the curse of the Clark sofa to contend with.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

The Cines kicked off with Twisted Flax. Alaska 10/10/1867 was the first clue. Like Nancy I was working along the lines that I believed this was when the USA purchased the state. The next two, though, made it clearer.Samoa – 30/12/2011 and England 09/09/1752. Switch over from Julian to Gregorian calendar – I thought – days never happened – so that must be the connection. The Cines had it on this clue too. The Foots took Two Reeds. Sachertorte and Valrhona Chocolate made Barry leap in with things named after hotels. I saw where he was coming from with Sachertorte. However that wasn’t the connection. Given Custard Cream and Polo Mints the Cines couldn’t take a bonus, which was that they all have their name written on the actual item. There you go. Looks simple, but it didn’t occur to me either. Eye of Horus gave the Cines the music bonus – and I had a full 5 points ! The first one was probably best known as the Pick of the Pops theme – but I knew that its real name was At the Sign of the Swinging Cymbal. So I went correctly for musical instruments. Just as well really, because I didn’t really recognize the other clues. This one stumped both teams. The Foots took the water clues, and really earned their points with Ptomaine – Biowarfare and Foregone – seeing that each of these words contained the name of an American State. Well spotted that. Horned Viper gave the Cines a set of pictures. We saw a squid – a turtle shell – a banana skin and a mushroom. I’m ashamed that I didn’t get this. The Cines did though – linking them all up with Mario video games. I’ve actually played Mario Kart so have no excuse. Good shout by the Cines. The Foots found God Bless Our Native Land – Oben am Jungen Rhein – and the clincher – My Country Tis of Thee. As they knew they all have the same tune as God Save The Queen. So although it hadn’t started that well, it had turned out to be a good round for the Footballers, who led by 4 – 3.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

The Cines kicked off with Twisted Flax. The Wedding Party and The Hotel Inspectors gave it to me, and Gourmet Night told them it was definitely Fawlty Towers episodes – but which came next ? They went for Waldorf Salad – which was the wrong series, but the Foots had it spot on with the Germans ( and if you think I’m going to let this opportunity to write ‘Don’t mention the war’ go by, then you are sadly mistaken.) Water brought the Foots the pictures. We saw Mary J. Blige, then Stephen K. Amos, so that was enough to give them Iain M. Banks to complete the sequence. Middle initials, you see. Good shout again. Two Reeds saw the Cines given High Level – Swing – Tyne.This is the kind of set where it’s not really cryptic, just a matter of knowledge. I thought that they might have had it from Tyne, but no, and they’ll maybe be disappointed that they didn’t get that relatively benign set. The Foots were very happy to take a bonus with Millennium, these all being a sequence of bridges on the River Tyne moving downstream. The Foots were given the chance to tighten the screw further with Eye of Horus. M(4) = 127, M(3) =31, M(2) =7 left me stumped. The Foots were honest enough to admit that it left them stumped as well, but their stab in the dark answer – M(1) = 3 was perfectly correct. They are Mersenne Prime Numbers. Fair enough. All more proof that the Foots were having a blinder. Cines took Horned Viper. 1927: Kingston Upon Thames , 1965: Kensington and Chelsea; 1974 : Windsor and Maidenhead gave them Royal Boroughs, and they offered Wooton Basset – and I’ll be honest I might have had a dab at that one myself. The real answer was 2012 : Greenwich. Tricky but fair. The Foots saw out the round with Fairyhouse – Aintree – by which time they had Irish and English Grand National. SO the question really was did you gamble on the 50/50 between Ayr and Chepstow, or make certain by taking another clue ?The Foots played safe and made certain, taking Chepstow, and winning an appreciative “You’re too good !” from Victoria. All of which meant that the Cines had failed to add to their score of 3, but the Cines had scored an impressive 9 to take their total to 13.

Round Three - The Connecting Walls

The Foots got to try their wall first, and a maximum would put them in a very strong position indeed going into the last round. Lion they picked, and it was a good choice for them. They unraveled Basque – Alsatian – Gallo and Catalan – but failed to quite give the connection that Victoria required, which was that they are all regional languages of France. . Coupling – Press Gang – Jekyll and Sherlock was the next set to fall but again they didn’t manage to give the connection that they are Steven Moffat TV series. Tough connection . Whistle, cylinder, bogie and boiler fell into line almost immediately after, and they knew that they were all parts of a steam locomotive. Finally Breton – Pin – Chalk – and Candy they knew as stripes. So 6 points earned – and whatever happened they would have a lead of at least 6 going into the last round. The Water wall quickly yielded up a set of Yiddish words to the Cines – Golem – Nosh – Mensch – Klutz. Then Muggins – Dipstick – Drongo and Gowk – a set of dialect words for an idiot. Kinsella – Keyes – Aherne – Fielding they knew as writers of ‘chick lit’ . Finally Snorlax – Bulbasaur – Jigglypuff – Ditto. I’ll be honest , I’ve heard of Bulbasaur, but that’s it. Nancy had this set – all of them being pokemon. So a full set, and this at least gave the Cines a sniff of a chance. The Footballers led by 19 to 13.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

The first group – four names for the same thing – puma – panther etc. fell to the Cines 2 – 1. 2012 Olympic venues fell to the Foots 2 -1 however they also lost a point for an incorrect buzz. The gap was narrowed to 3, but there was no need for the Foots to panic. Yet. The next set of things represented by the letters OC saw the Foots lose another point, and the Cines score 1. The round ended, and the Footballers had done it by a point 20 to 19. Very well done ! Not an upset of Foinavon proportion by any stretch of the imagination as I said in my preview, but nonetheless a very good scalp for the Footballers to collect during their campaign. Well played both – good game.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Tinkering with the format

I’m a bit of a tinkerer. The regular teams at the rugby club on a Thursday evening are always happy if you provide an honest, decent general knowledge quiz with no frills, no gimmicks, just a decent wide range of questions, with something that everyone can answer during the evening, but also with some questions which might catch out even the best teams. I try to oblige with this sort of thing at least 2 out of every three times that I’m the question master. As for the other time, well the connections set always goes down well. You know how it works. You ask three questions in a given round, all of which are seemingly unconnected, and then the next question is “What’s the connection between your last three answers ?”Just for the hell of it, I’ll give you an example : -

1. Jeff Banks and Selina Scott were the co presenters of which BBC fashion show of the 90s ?
2. Which Elvis Presley song from the film G.I. Blues was based on the german folk song ‘Muss I Denn ‘ ?
3. The game of Subbuteo took its name from the latin name for a species of hawk . Which one ?
4. What is the connection between your last three answers ?

Answers

1. The CLOTHES Show
2.WOODEN Heart
3. HOBBY
4. ALL CAN PRECEDE HORSE


A connections quiz is usually well received. So much so that although I never invented the idea ( I had it from Geoff Evans in the late lamented Neath Quiz League ) I introduced it to the club, and now several of the other QMs use the format from time to time.

Well, as I say, I am a tinkerer, and I just can’t leave well alone sometimes. I once tried a What Comes Fourth ? type connection in each round, which had a mixed reception. Then for last week’s quiz I used another variation on a theme. Whereas normally in each round in a connections quiz I’d use a four question connection ( the 4th being what’s the connection ? ) and 6 unconnected questions, on Thursday night each round consisted of two five part connections. Here’s the twist, though. Both connections in each round were themselves connected. So for example in a round where the answers to the first four questions could all be either preceded or followed by the word Dry, then the answers to the next four questions could all be preceded or followed by the word Wet. Partly it was curiosity on my part as to just how well such a quiz would go down in the club – and the answer is that reactions were mixed. Some seemed to quite like it, others not so much. Partly it was to see if this would mean more than one team scoring 100% for the whole evening. Only one team got close, Rob’s team, but they dropped a point or two on the second round, despite full houses on 7 of the 8. Partly, too, it was to enable me to say at the end “If you’ve enjoyed this quiz, then these are just a handful of the questions in my new kindle Connections quiz book.", in what I will admit is nothing less than another shameless plug. Did it work ? Well, on the evidence of the last couple of days , to use the words of John Thompson’s long haired bearded scientist character ( Dr. Denzil Dexter or something like that ) from the much missed Fast Show – results were disappointing.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Psychology of Cheating ?

Gary Williams is a good egg. Gary is the head of History at school, and just this week he offered to lend me Tyler Hamilton’s book “The Secret Race”. This book is one of the things which revealed the extent of cheating that was going on in the Tour de France in the late 90s and early noughties, in particular among the highly successful US Postal team Gary knew that this would be my sort of thing for a couple of reasons. Firstly he knows that I’ve been a huge armchair fan of the Tour since Channel 4 showed daily highlights of Bernard Hinault’s epic 5th win in 1985. I was amongst the crowd in London a few years ago when the Prologue took place there, and one of my ambitions is one year, when I’ve finished teaching, to take a camper van and follow the tour around for a couple of weeks.

The other reason was that he thought that I’d be interested in the ‘cheat’s eye view’ the book gives you. Gary has heard my rants about phone cheats in quizzes on more than one occasion. Now, while I admit it’s ridiculous to compare one of the most remarkable feats of sporting prowess and endurance with the Thursday night quiz in Aberavon Rugby club I still couldn’t prevent my mind from straying along this path. I’m simplifying things a huge deal here. but in summary, a great many riders cheated in this period with EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions for a number of reasons – namely
* Because they couldn’t compete unless they did so
* Because the opposition was doing it
* Because they could get away with it.


Maybe there is a comparison to be made here. In an average pub quiz a team of social quizzers probably can’t often really compete against a team with at least one serious regular quizzer. In the rugby club, if we take results over the last five years, the vast majority of quizzes have been won by two very strong teams. As for the second point, well I have seen other teams using their phones to cheat before, but only really on the New Year quiz. Two other teams have been trying to use books for years though, with no real benefit. The third point, because they can get away with it definitely applies. After all they knew that the chances of anyone actually calling them out and naming names were virtually non existent.

I’ll tell you why I made the comparison in the first place. I wondered at the time when I posted about the last bouts of phone cheating after my return from Spain whether by some strange twisted logic the MDNs (Morally Deficient Numpties ) who were doing it actually thought that they weren’t really cheating at all. Tyler Hamilton himself in his book admits that many of the riders involved thought that cheating was so necessary, and so widespread within the sport, that they weren’t really cheating at all. He explains how he bought into this so clearly that he was actually able to pass a lie detector test himself as part of his attempts to defend himself the first time he was caught for doping offences. Not that it stopped him getting banned.

You can only take the comparison so far. Riders like Tyler Hamilton were out to make the best living and best future for themselves and their families in an often brutal sport where they were never more than one bad crash away from career ending injury. Pressure to cheat came from a variety of sources. Thankfully , quizzing isn’t like that. Gotta be honest, if I had to cheat to have a chance of winning, so that I’d never know how much I achieved was due to me, and how much was due to the cheating methods I’d employed, then I think I’d rather lose. And I hate losing.

Themed Quizzes - not for me.

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.

News Questions

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

1. Clark Kent
2. Hans Werner Henze
3. Son Tinh
4. Silvio Berlusconi
5. Frankenstorm
6. Chalara Dieback
7. Katrina Menzies
8. George McGovern
9. Kateri Ketakwitha
10. Tom Queally
11. Aaron Cawley
12. Brit Insurance
13. William Walker
14. Sir Norman Bettinson
15. Divis Tower, Belfast
16. Paul Jewell
17. Schalke
18. Catarini Migliorini
19. Mike Morris
20. Alex Partridge
21. Hannah McLeod
22. Pat McQuaid

In Other News

1. The Catholic church in England and Wales have written to the Vatican to ask if they can strip Jimmy Savile of what ?
2. Who revealed this week that he had never dug graves before becoming famous ?
3. To whom have the UCI awarded wins in the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005 ? 4. Where was the third televised presidential debate held ?
5. Who was the second person kicked off Strictly Come Dancing ?
6. Which former world leader was rumoured incorrectly to have died last week ?
7. Which programme presented an investigation into which other BBC programme’s decision not to broadcast a damning investigation into Jimmy Savile last year ?
8. Who last week branded Rupert Murdoch a person ‘ of no emotional or ethical thought’ ?
9. Who is the new World Triathlon champion ?
10. How much was Frankie awarded in damages from the Daily Mirror ?
11. Which televangelist publically backed Mitt Romney next week ?
12. What action di the UCI take against Lance Armstrong last week ?
13. Michael Gove sent an open letter to his teacher in which subject, apologizing for his behaviour when he was at school ?
14. Scientists in Italy were jailed last week for failing to predict the severity of the 2009 earthquake where ?
15. Tuesday 23rd October was the 70th anniversary of what ?
16. Frankie Dettori has ended his association with whom or what ?
17. Which team beat Chelsea in the Champions League last week ?
18. An advert for Dior mascara was banned last week. Which actress did it feature ?
19. Which verdict was reached on the inquest into the death of film director Tony Scott ?
20. Which council have introduced pedestrian permits for people to walk through their car parks
21. Disney’s new Princess Sophia has been criticized for what ?
22. Which two teams will contest this year’s baseball world series ?
23. Which former world number 1 tennis player quit tennis last week ?
24. Man Utd. recovered from 2 – 0 down to beat which team in the Champions League ?
25. Which car has been voted the UKs favourite movie car of all time ?
26. Who is starting her first tour of the UK since 1978 ?
27. Which team have been accused by the UK team of cheating in the world Carp Angling Championships ?
28. 170 women have won the right to take which city council to court for not paying them at the same rate as male employees doing the same job ?
29. Which ? Travel named which company as the best hotel chain in Britain ?
30. Last week which country faced criticism for widening its legal definition of treason ?
31. Which politician and artist were both filmed last week doing their own version of Gangnam Style ?
32. What began in Saudi Arabia last week ?
33. The world’s third biggest manufacturer of sportswear announced losses last week, despite involvement with Usain Bolt. Which firm ?
34. The route for what was announced on the 24th October ?
35. Man City were beaten by whom in the Champions League ?
36. According to Forbes List released last week, who is the current top earning dead celebrity ?
37. Which company finally shelved plans for a store in Totnes in Devon last week ?
38. Which TV presenter caused a shock by returning to make a speech to her former school , and saying how badly she had been treated while she was there ?
39. It was announced that which Ford plant will be closing ?
40. Spurs drew 1 – 1 with which team in the Europa League ?
41. Which Gloucester flanker was given a 14 week ban ?
42. What announcement did Audley Harrison make concerning his future last week ?

Answers to News Questions

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

1. Frankie and Benny’s
2. Grace Belgravia
3. Christianity Uncut
4. USS Montpelier
5. Hempstead, New York
6. Richard Hughes
7. Narodam Sihanouk
8. Gary McKinnon
9. Kunsthal Museum, Rotterdam
10. Carlos Slim
11. John Whaite
12. Bring Up The Bodies
13. Dame Janet Smith and Nick Pollard
14. Pivotal Movement
15. Mama Quilla
16. Livestrong
17. Rosie and Ruby Formosa
18. Colin Farmer
19. Susanne Wilkinson
20. George Pratt
21. Mario Menendez
22. Trenton Oldfield
23. Ben Needham
24. Dutch Rabobank

In Other News

1. The last of which former RAF bomber was grounded last week due to escalating costs of insurance for flying it ?
2. Felix Baumgartner jumped from how high in feet ?
3. What speed did he reach, to the nearest 10 mph ?
4. For how long did he freefall ?
5. And how long did the whole jump last ?
6. What was won by Heather Watson ?
7. Who was the first celebrity voted off Strictly Come Dancing ?
8. Who was criticized over a joke about Abu Hamza on HIGNFY ?
9. Who won the Korean GP ?
10. In the final of which event did Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray ?
11. Who is the player coach of Barnet FC ?
12. David Price took precisely 82 seconds to beat whom in a British Heavyweight title fight ?
13. How much does the cheapest ticket for the Rolling Stones in the O2 Arena cost ?
14. Which jailed former newspaper proprietor is due to appear on HIGNFY ?
15. Which comedian is suing the Mirror for calling him a racist ?
16. Quote of the week “I was terrified – it was like hell. “ Who said it ?
17. Who has been criticized for performing a concert in Equatorial Guinea ?
18. Which form will the Scottish Independence vote take ?
19. Which multinational was it revealed don’t pay tax to the UK government because they do not make a profit here ?
20. Which former world champion lost her lottery funding last week ?
21. Why was the England v. Poland football match delayed ?
22. Who will star in next year’s Superbowl half time show ?
23. What was the score in both Belgium v. Scotland, and Croatia v. Wales ?
24. Which veteran European performer performed his first ever show at the Royal Albert Hall ?
25. Which country’s FA have been criticized over the racism home supporters showed towards England’s Under 21 players ?
26. Who was last week reported as being fired from his Radio 2 Folk music show ?
27. – and who has taken over the show ?
28. Who began his High Court Battle for compensation after being wrongly convicted of murder ?
29. What was the score in the England v. Poland qualifier ?
30. Which quality logo has been ditched from its products by Sainsburys ?
31. How many goals has Wayne Rooney now scored for England following his strike against Poland ?
32. Which magazine will be scrapped in print form and only appear online, following 80 years of existence ?
33. Which African state have been elected to the UN Security council despite concerns over its human rights record ?
34. By what was the TV show This Morning hoaxed this week ?
35. Which French actress passed away aged 60 this week ?
36. How much was Ashley Cole fined for his Twitter rant at the FA ?
37. Which cycling team has Mark Cavendish joined ?
38. Which Rugby League club are the subject of a winding up petition ?
39. Who are being targeted for training as potential spies ?
40. Last week a US Court ruled that the descendants of the creator of whom have no rights to him any more ?
41. How many candidates are the BBC including on the shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year ?
42. Who has refused to be interviewed on the Panorama show about Savilegate ?
43. Who branded Francois Hollande an imbecile last week ?
44. Frankel will run its last race in which race ?

Answers

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


1. Swansea restaurant that served a two year old with whiskey
2. London’s first ever Women only club
3. Protest group who chained themselves to the pulpit in St. Paul’s Cathedral
4. Nuclear sub which collided with USS San Jacinto
5. Venue for the second TV debate between Obama and Romney
6. Jockey who rode 7 winners in 8 races at Windsor
7. Former King of Cambodia, passed away last week
8. Hacker who won his battle against extradition to USA last week. Theresa May ruled that he should not face trial in the US
9. Art Gallery from which £250million worth of paintings were stolen
10. Officially named as world’s richest man
11. Winner of the Great British Bake Off
12. Booker Prize Winning novel by Hilary Mantel – first person to win twice – this is a sequel to Wolf Hall, her first Booker winning novel
13. They are chairing the two inquiries into the Savilegate affair
14. Richard Hughes first of 7 winners at Windsor
15. Richard Hughes last of 7 winners at Windsor
16. Lance Armstrong’s charitable foundation from which he has stood down as chairman
17. Conjoined twins separated last week
18. Blind pensioner shot with Taser by police who thought that his white stick was a samurai sword.
19. B and B owner fined for refusing to allow a gay couple a double room
Atheist boy unable to join scouts because of oath that has to be taken
20. General who led ground forces in the 1982 Falklands invasion, arrested for crimes against humanity during reign of Argentian Junta
21. Boat Race protestor jailed for 6 months
22. Boy who disappeared on Kos 21 years ago – a new search and investigation has been launched
23. Dutch firm who have quit their sponsorship of the sport of cycling following drug revelations recently

In Other News

1. Avro Vulcan
2. 128,000ft
3. 830 mph
4. 4m 22 secs
5. 9 minutes
6. The WTA Japan Open
7. Johnny Ball
8. Clare Balding
9. Sebastian Vettel
10. Shanghai Masters
11. Edgar Davids
12. Audley Harrison
13. £106
14. Conrad Black
15. Frankie Boyle
16. Felix Baumgartner
17. Julio Iglesias
18. Single Question Ballot
19. Starbucks
20. Paula Radcliffe
21. Waterlogged pitch
22. Beyonce
23. 2 - 0
24. Johnny Hallyday
25. Serbia
26. Mike Harding
27. Mark Radcliffe
28. Barry Michael George
29. 1 - 1
30. The red Tractor mark
31. 32
32. Newsweek
33. Rwanda
34. A firm claiming to have celebrity sperm donors
35. Sylvia Kristel
36. £90,000
37. Omega Pharma Quick Step
38. Salford Reds
39. Kids who are very good at the X Box
40. Superman
41. 12
42. George Entwhistle
43. Karl Lagerfeld
44. Qipco Champion Stakes

Friday, 26 October 2012

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 13

After last week I thought it was probably wise not to expect quite such a high scoring show tonight. Besides, it’s nearly always better to judge each show on its own merits, and so I settled back in anticipation as the first of tonight’s contenders, Kathy Richards, approached the chair. Apparently Kathy is from Swansea. To the best of my knowledge we haven’t met, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Still , it did lead me to wonder how regular a quizzer she might be. Yes, it’s true that you don’t have to be a regular quizzer to get a good score in GK, but there is no doubt in mind that it helps. Not that such considerations were relevant right at this moment since this was the Specialist round. Kathy was answering on the TV series The Waltons. I thought that Kathy’s 12 points and 1 pass looked pretty good. I was a lot younger at the time, but to my memory it seemed that the Waltons was on forever, and there must have been a ton of episodes. I’m a little ashamed to say that a few good guesses, and a couple of half remembered facts like the name Earl Hamner – a name too evocative to be quickly forgotten – brought me five points, my highest specialist score of this unwikied show.

I did think that I would have scored more highly on the second of tonight’s specialists, Sir Nigel Gresley. As a former child trainspotter the name of the great LNER chief engineer certainly lit my candle. Brian O’Donnell obviously knew more correct answers than the 6 he registered, but a few of them just wouldn’t make it past the tip of his tongue. Maybe I’m being unfair to Brian, but he seemed to be a little affected by nerves. I managed 4 of this set.

Alas, that was 4 more points than I managed on The Bernard Sampson novels of Len Deighton. Sometimes you can have a round on books you’ve never read, and general knowledge will still enable you to make a correct guess on one or two questions. Well, not on this round for me. Nick Masonowicz struggled manfully through the set. Like Bernard he too never seemed totally at ease in the chair, but he managed 9 in the end to at least put him within sight of Kathy .

Mark Roberts’ specialist subject offered the possibility of at least a couple of points. He was answering questions on Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, the old ‘painted pantaloon ‘ himself. Did you know that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert called him Pilgerstein in private ? It comes from the German – Pilger , which means a pilgrim ( palmer being an old fashioned alternative to pilgrim ) Stein which means stone. All of which digression can no longer delay my telling you that I only managed 3 of these despite having read a biography of him 4 or 5 years ago – and 2 of them were guesses. Mark Roberts wasn’t guessing, he knew 9 of them. He certainly seemed a little more at ease than the previous two contenders.

My total of 12 for the first round wasn’t a high one, but it wasn’t my worst of the series. At the halfway stage, then, Brian O’Donnell looked out of it, but any of the other three could possibly win. It looked highly unlikely that any of the four contenders would get that close to Chris Quinn’s 27 from last week. Brian still looked a little nervous as he came back to the chair. While his round didn’t exactly flow, it was a good demonstration of grit and determination, as he kept plugging away through the round to get himself into the teens, with 13 points.

This looked even better when Nick Masonowicz fell into a pass spiral midway through his own round. He hadn’t answered badly up to about a minute in, but after that it was a struggle for him, and in the end he finished with 10 points. His 19 tied with Brian, but the 7 passes in the round ruled him out of any chance of a place in the semis. Mark Roberts didn’t answer quickly in his own set, but he did maintain enough composure to keep picking off the questions he knew. On a lower scoring show, that can be enough. His 11 points put him in the outright lead with 20. Let’s be honest, it’s not a high total for 4 and a half minutes of questions, but it had become a rather tight and nervous show. It certainly looked as if it would be a good enough total to put Kathy into the corridor of uncertainty.

Kathy Richards needed 9 to be certain , or 8 and no passes to win. Not a huge total, certainly , but by no means a given, especially when the weight of pressure of expectation of a win is taken into consideration. Kathy’s round was hesitant, and although she kept plugging away, answering those she knew, the finishing line was coming too quickly. John commiserated with her for not answering the last question, but the fact was that it wouldn’t have made a difference, since she scored 7 and 4 passes. So it turned out to be another close, tight show, although in a completely different way from last week’s heat. Spare a thought for Bart Smith, 4th in last week’s show. His 25 from last week would have won this show at a canter. Having said that , though, I still wouldn’t like to see the show changed so that heat winners aren’t guaranteed an automatic semi final slot. That’s just my opinion, though, and as always . . .

The Details

Kathy Richards The Waltons12 - 17 - 419 – 5
Brian O’DonnellSir Nigel Gresley6 - 313 - 119 – 4
Nick MasonowiczThe Bernard Sampson Novels of Len Deighton9 - 310 - 719 – 10
Mark RobertsHenry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston9 - 111 - 120 – 1

Only Connect - Quarter Final 1

Draughtsmen v. Numerists

Better late than never. I promise to do my best to post reviews of both UC and OC more promptly next week – and since it’s half term week I should be able to keep this promise for once. The first quarter final then threw together many people’s tip for the overall title, the Draughtsmen, and dark horses, The Numerists. In their first round match the team of Hannah Twitchell, Dorian Lidell and captain James Wilson disposed of the Trenchermen by 26 to 18. However they were behind after the first two rounds. The Draughtsmen, Andy Tucker, Steve Dodding and captain Iwan Thomas, had tied with the excellent Joinees in their first round match, winning because of captain Iwan’s steely nerve and superior buzzing. On paper this could be a close one. However you don’t play Only Connect on paper, and if I can refer you to a comment I made in last week’s preview – “Whichever of the other teams has to play the Draughtsmen will be up against it, I should think.” I thought that the Numerists would probably be too far behind to have a realistic chance of winning on the vowels.

Round One – What’s the Connection?

The Draughtsmen kicked off with the eye of Horus. They found Chichester’s Round the World yacht, and then Nicholas Breakspear. At about the same time as the Ds I could see that we had Gypsy Moth IV , and Pope Adrian IV. Nice start, and good points there. Behind Lion the Ns found a picture set showing an American crayfish, Japanese knotweed, a harlequin ladybird and a grey squirrel. They knew that these were all invasive species now introduced to the UK. Horned Viper was the Ds next choice, and this asked them the link between Marienborg – Chateau de Rambouillet ( at which I had an incorrect punt ) and Castel Gandolfo – which gave both me and the Ds the correct answer of Summer residences .The D’s chose Twisted Flax next, and received Papal Liaison to Mussolini (no idea ) – then Valentine Dyall. That was enough , since it’s an old quizzer’s question – who was Radio’s Man in Black ( and I’m an old quizzer. ) Agent J and Agent K gave it to the Ns.The music connection lurked behind two reeds, and it was the Ds who plumped for it. At the last moment I think it was Steve who saw that the connection between all of them was gemstones. Finally Water remained for the Ns. I had this one from the third clue – selling a broken laser pointer. That has been much touted in the past as the origin of eBay, so I guessed that Wardrobe Malfunction not found would have been the raison d’ĂȘtre for YouTube, and the other two clues the origins of two other well-known internet sites. Both teams were close, but not close enough to allow them a point for it. Which meant that the Ds led by 6 to 3, a useful lead, but the Ns were holding their own.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

Again, the Ds kicked off with the eye of Horus. First to be revealed was 4th: Grant Fox. – It’ll be either Dan Carter or Johnny Wilkinson – I said. about a nanosecond before the Ds said exactly that themselves. Skipper Iwan bit the bullet, and went for the Talented Mr. Wilkinson, correctly. This wasn’t world top scorers in all test rugby, but the top points scorers in the rugby world cup. Great shout, and exactly what you want to do at the start of the second round if you really want to put the pressure on the other team. Two Reeds revealed a picture set, and I’m afraid I didn’t get it any more than the Ns did. The pictures showed Tall ships, a tangent ( tan ) and Kirsty Young. The Ds knew that Tall and tan and Young and lovely are all attributes of the Girl From Ipanema. Great shout , and the Ds were clearly taking a stranglehold on the match now. The Ds picked water for their own set, and received The Millennium, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and Prince William and Kate’s wedding. They seemed disbelieving that the answer was as simple as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – these being the sequence of the last extra bank holidays. They answered it nonetheless. Horned Viper brought a good quizzers set , in fact a really good little set, for the Ns. 1: Cher and I didn’t know, but as soon as 2: Glenda Jackson came up I shouted- 4: Katherine Hepburn. The number of Oscars for acting which they won, you see. A bonus for the Ds again. They opted for Twisted Flax, and the set consisted of Switzerland 2002 – Timor-Leste 2002 – Montenegro 2006 , but failed to get the answer. This gave the Ns a much needed bonus with South Sudan 2011, these being the most recent states to join the United Nations. A good shout, and another chance of redemption was offered behind Lion. Now neither team knew the set comprising of Step 4: Moral inventory – Step 3 : turn life over to God – Step 2 : Belief in a higher power . Not through personal experience, I hasten to add, but from reading them in Jimmy Greaves’ 1st autobiography. I knew that they were part of the Alcoholics Anonymous12 step programme, and that the next would be to admit you’re an alcoholic. Nonetheless, despite missing out on this bonus, the fact is that this second round showed that there is no substitute for an excellent grasp of general knowledge, since the Ds now led by 15 points to 4.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

Going first, the Ns took the Lion wall, but I’m afraid they just couldn’t really get to grips with their wall. They unraveled a set of rabbits from Watership Down, in Blackberry, Hazel, Fiver and Clover, but the other three lines remained unsolved. Once resolved they knew that How – Magpie – Rainbow and Bod were kid’s TV shows, from the 70s, but not that marmite, olla, terrine and pipkin are all earthenware cooking pots. Nor did they know that Curry – Cocks – Honey and Tooth can all be followed by comb.

Given the water wall the Ds again showed their class. They had the connections, but took over a minute to unravel the first line of herbs, borage , savory, angelica and rosemary, but the other three fell into place pretty quickly after that. They knew that Mariette, Primrose, Montgomery and Pop are all members of the Larkins, from the Darling Buds of May and other novels. Lavender, Parliament, Ludgate and Tower they told us were all hills in London – quite right too. This left a group of field marshals – Alexander, Gort , Dill and Ironside. A full 10 points, to take the score going into the final round to 25 – 7.

Round Four

Well, we know what a good vowels team the Numerists were in their first round, so even though little remained for them to play for except pride, they gave it a lash, and good on them for doing so. The first set were Fictional Roads. The first fell to the Draughtsmen, then the Numerists took the next two. However they also got the next one wrong, which undid the good work slightly. No problem, though. They won types of aircraft 3 – 1, and also words describing European citizens 3 – 1 as well. I loved the next category – Previous teams on Only Connect, but dash it all the round ended before the Archers Admirers had been guessed. Would the Radio Addicts have made a reappearance in this round ? Who knows ? The final score, for the record was 28 – 14. Well played Numerists, for coming back so well after having been under the cosh since the start of round 2. But well done especially to the Draughtsmen. I told you they were good, didn’t I ?!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Starter for 50

Those of you who have ever worked with children will probably echo my sentiments if I tell you that they have the ability to constantly surprise you. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working with them ( quarter of a century in my case, and counting ) they always have the potential to do something you wouldn’t have expected.

I’ll explain what I’m talking about. At the start of most lessons I’ll use a little brain starter, just a couple of minute thing – eg. In 3 minutes name me as many words ending with – ous – as you can. The first class of the day, their score goes up on the board, and stays up until another class beats it. Then their score goes up. At the end of the day whichever class has the top score, their name goes higher on the board as a daily winner, and stays there until the end of the week. Despite what you might have heard, competition is not a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word in life, and it’s not a dirty word in education either – provided that you use it the right way.

This isn’t about competition , though. For Tuesday’s starter I put together a powerpoint presentation at home. Fifty national flags would be shown, one after another, and they had to try to identify them all in three minutes. To make it harder passing was not allowed. You could give as many answers as you liked, but if you couldn’t identify one of the flags, then that was where you stopped. –No chance of any class managing all of those in 30 minutes, let alone three minutes – I thought. Just goes to show how much I know. I can’t remember all of the scores. One class managed 47 in 3 minutes. Another class managed 49, only being stopped by number 50, the flag of Sri Lanka. The winners , though, managed all fifty in a fantastic 2 minutes 47 seconds. This was all the more praiseworthy since they were a Year 7 class, one of the two youngest classes that I teach.

Of course, if you’re a hardened Sporcle fan, and you play on the ‘name all the flags of the world’ type games, then this probably doesn’t sound that much of a feat, and to be fair, to serious quizzers it probably isn’t. But these are not serious quizzers – in fact not really any kind of quizzers at all. Granted that there were a lot of European flags amongst them, and not ones like Liechtenstein and Monaco either, but even so. So I had to ask the classes involved just how they were so good at the game. I’m sure that you’ve probably worked out the answer for yourself already. Football. Well, football in particular, but sport in general. Lots of the flags they knew belonged to particular countries because of seeing them at football matches, and also to a lesser extent in the Olympic Games.

A former colleague of mine once said that the most satisfying things to learn are the things you learn when you don’t even realize that you are learning them. Very philosophical, but he had a point.

As a postscript, I put together a different starter on a similar theme for today. I did an “Only Connect “ style missing vowels game on names of 50 countries. Just to stop them getting through all fifty, the last one was fdrtdsttsfmcrns (Federated States of Micronesia ). Mean? Of course. Schools haven’t changed THAT much, you know.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

University Challenge - Round One - Heat 13

New College, Oxford v. Homerton, Cambridge

Well, since I reviewed OC first last week, I thought it was only fair to kick off with UC this week. Who did we have, then? As JP said, one of the oldest of the colleges of Oxford University played one of the newest of the colleges of Cambridge University. Representing the older college were Remi Beecroft, India Lenon, Tom Cappleman, and skippering the side was Andy Hood. The Homerton outfit, being one of the youngest teams in the whole competition with an average age of 19, were Jack Hooper, Michael Angland, Drew Miley, and their captain Luke Fitzgerald.

Andy Hood was first in to take the first starter, a relatively gentle slow ball on Hansard. The first bonus set focused on 18th century history, and New College were happy enough to take two of them. Tom Cappleman, who, like his skipper, was to go on to have a very good night indeed, took his first of the evening, knowing that there are 150 psalms in the Old testament. It certainly wouldn’t be his last starter. One bonus was taken out of a tricky set on obituaries of American writers which appeared in the New York Times. Leonhard Euler followed – not literally, but in the form of the answer to the next starter, and it was Andy Hood who supplied it. 2 bonuses on a former winner of False Nose Wearer of the Year, Tycho Brahe, were correctly answered. The Homerton captain, Luke Fitzgerald, now stepped, or rather buzzed, in to stop the rot, recognizing the member of De Stijl who was being described as Piet Mondrian. I thought they coped splendidly on a UC special bonus set, with questions on capital cities and their scrabble values – taking a well-earned full set. Rather surprisingly, neither team managed to identify a diagram of a reef knot. Another starter on the term Flip flop passed as well, and it was only when Andy Hood answered on The Multiplier Effect that the rest of the knots, which were the picture bonuses, could be unveiled. I was pleased with myself for getting two of them, which was one more than New College mentioned, but it didn’t matter. They were pushing ahead. Neither team knew the Trojan asteroids – neither did I , but I knew, as did Michael Angland, that Samarkand was the capital of Timur the Lame, or Tamburlaine as Kit Marlowe called him. Bonuses on effects proved elusive. Still, it narrowed the gap, and at the 10 minute mark New College led by a bridgeable 70 points to 40.

Andy Hood maintained his team’s momentum by being the first to buzz in to say that David Rudisha had beaten the venerable world 800m record at the Olympics in 2012. Neologisms provided the bonus set, of which they managed a brace. Jack Hooper came in for the next starter, on the term muscovite – a metal as well as a native of Moscow. Good shout that. 2 maths bonuses closed the gap to manageable proportions again. Neither the teams, nor I had heard of Georg Cantor, so let’s move on to the next starter after that. Luke Fitzgerald was first to buzz in to say that the Kellogg – Briand Pact was engineered by representatives of the USA and France. This brought Homerton a full set of bonuses on name changes, and narrowed the gap even further. My favourite starter of the night followed. The question was – the chemical symbol of which element when reversed becomes an article – “Na – that’s sodium !” I shouted, a full millisecond before Tom Cappleman buzzed in with the answer. Great little buzzer question that. New College didn’t fancy any of the bonuses on Ken Russell. The music starters followed, and Remi Beecroft took it for New College, recognizing the theme of the film “Halloween”. The bonuses were on other films of the horror genre, but only Nightmare on elm Street was correctly identified. Michael Angland took his second starter, knowing that in 1983 the US had landed troops on Grenada. 2 fungal bonuses were gratefully accepted. Tom Cappleman, who had now assumed the role of strike buzzer from his captain, knew that the new Nobel prize in 1969 was for Economics – a good old pub quiz chestnut, that one. 2 Turner Prize bonuses were taken. Tom Cappleman took the next starter – which was a mathematicky thingummy (stop me if I get too technical.) This introduced a lovely little set of bonuses where the team was asked to give the title of a children’s book, based on the titles of some of its chapters. 2 were well taken. Tom Cappleman took his hat trick with the next starter, recognizing a painting of the city of Bath. More paintings of English cities followed, and they identified the first. That Cappleman spurt had done a lot of damage to Homerton, and at the 20 minute mark New College led by 170 to 105.

I don’t blame Luke Fitzgerald for buzzing early on the next starter, but he lost five on the game Go, and let that man Cappleman in again for his fourth starter in a row. 2 river bonuses just added to the agony. At last Michael Angland broke the Cappleman stranglehold, recognizing types of Arabic calligraphy for the next starter. Sadly the Homerton team failed to convert any of the bonuses on graduates of the University of Manchester into points. Neither team knew that the winner of the ‘Lost Booker Prize’ was J.G. Farrell. Likewise the Small Magellanic Cloud proved equally elusive. Still, Luke Fitzgerald knew that the Earl of Beaconsfield was Benjamin Disraeli, but again points proved hard to come by on a set on Royal jubilees. Andy Hood knew that Samuel Butler’s Erewhon is an anagram of Nowhere. (Which incidentally is the derivation of the word Utopia, as well.) A great set of 3 bonuses was taken by India Lenon. The match was over, but Homerton were into triple figures, and had been since before the 20 minute mark, and were in with a chance of getting a high enough score for a repechage place. So much was still to play for. Tom Cappleman was in the way though, and he answered the next starter about the Korean calendar. Astronomy bonuses were too difficult for them to answer or me to follow. Drew Miley took a starter on a Fibonacci sequence number, but they couldn’t convert this to bonuses on Amsterdam. Andy Hood lost 5 on a flugelhorn, but Homerton couldn’t capitalize on it. The gong was on standby as Tom Cappleman answered the last question, that the adjective Pontic refers to the Black Sea, and that was that. A very good win for New College with 230 to 145. Well played New College, but then well played Homerton too. A good match.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP pickings don’t come much slimmer than they came in this show. The most memorable comment that he made – “Obviously none of you were in the scouts” when they failed to identify the reef knot – frankly wasn’t memorable at all, and wouldn’t have even merited a mention in a normal week.

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

If you count the Mississippi – Missouri as separate rivers, then the longest river in the world to flow through a single sovereign state if the Yangtse.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Mastermind - Repechage Runner Up Slots

Chris Quinn’s fantastic GK performance on Friday night, which led to him coming third in his Mastermind heat with 27 once again raises the issue of the repechage semi final slots.

I’ll put my cards on the table now. Mastermind proper has always been a knockout competition. Granted that Sport Mastermind had just heats and finals, with the 6 highest scoring heat winners progressing to the final, but this isn’t Sport Mastermind. This is just a personal view, but I would hate to see any situation where heat winners weren’t given automatic passage to the semis. Not that I think that this idea has ever been on the table, anyway.

With regards to the repechage slots in the semis, though, this is a whole different ball game. Taking the historical perspective, for nearly all of the Magnus era, a semi final was kept purely for the four highest scoring contenders who didn’t win their heats. (Granted things were a bit different in 1997, but that was a truncated series anyway). It could – and it did happen on at least one occasion – happen that 3 of the 4 repechage slots would go to players who had all contended in the same first round heat. Then when BBC Mastermind was revived with John Humphrys in 2003, no repechage slots were allocated at all. Only heat winners went through to the semis, and this situation remained the same until Jesse’s 2010 series.

This situation was not altogether satisfactory for fairly obvious reasons. If we take the 2007 SOBM 3 contenders all scored 29 in losing their heats ( Chris Jones and Howard PIzzey in the same heat ! ) yet were out despite such fantastic performances. SO the idea of semi final slots for the highest scoring runners up was revived, and revamped. Due to the larger number of heats and contenders, there were now 6 slots allotted to runners up. Also, there would be no special semi allocated to the runners up, instead they would be mingled in amongst the heat winners. It wasn’t clear at the time whether these places were just open to people who placed second in their heats, so I put out an open question, and to his credit Jon Kelly, the Producer emailed me to confirm that these slots were only available to those who placed second in their heats.

Since then Jon has moved on, and the new producer is Mark Helsby. He may well have decided , as is his right, to change policy on the allocation of runner up slots. Still, presuming that the policy has remained the same, I take the li9berty of showing you a table of the performances of all of those contenders who did not win their heats so far :-

Name Subj Score Passes
Chris Cann The Savoy Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan 29 2
John Wheeler The Shipping Forecast 29 5
Helen Marshall Catherine of Aragon 28 3
Paul Whittaker The Life and Career of George Harrison 27 2
Chris Quinn The Novels of Roddy Doyle 27 3
Alan Sharp Everest Mountaineering 26 3
Nathan Joss The Life and Times of Elizabeth I 26 3
Nina Featherston Guns n’ Roses 25 1
Philip Walters Dr. Who - 1963 – 1989 25 1
Andrew Hunt The Life and Work of Caspar David Friedrich 25 2
Bart Smith The Life and Career of Fanny Craddock 25 5
Kevin Baker Sir Ian Botham 24 1
Philip Wharmby The History of Rome until 1944 24 3
Rosalind Winter The Completed Novels of Jane Austen 24 4
Laurie Handcock The British Alpine Club 24 5
Andrew Granath Gladstone 24
Roland McFall Radiohead 23 5
Hazel Humphreys The Life and Work of Dave Allen 22 3
Chris Kirk General Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn 22 3
Ian Copping The History and Geography of Arkansas 22 3
Les Wallace Extinct Fauna of the Ice Age 22 5
Graeme Marley The Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 22 7
Alan Haddick Shakespeare’s Comedies 21 7
Jackie Phillips The Story of Moses in the King James Bible 19 4
Sarah Lefevre The Goodies 19 6
Xavier Woodward Boxing World Title Fights since 2000 18 6
Matthew Clarke Eddie Merckx 18
Nathan Scott Wittgenstein 18
Nick Gunatilleke Battles of the American Civil War 17 7
Barbara Bell The National Parks of England and Wales 15 9
Now, the contenders who placed second in their heats , and thus are definitely eligible for semi final places are those in italics. At the moment, the top 4 actually all did come second in their heats. However the next two are Chris Quinn and Alan Sharp/Nathan Joss ( same scores and passes ) , none of whom came second in their heats.

Now, it may well be that another two second place contenders will beat Chris ‘ score, in which case the argument is purely academic. It’s not a pointless one, though. Basically, my thoughts are that if you have the rule that just heat winners go through it’s harsh, but it’s the way that it is. After all, that’s the way that knockout competitions usually work. If, though, you recognize that you can lose some great contenders this way, and you want to have highest scoring loser slots, then don’t do it by half measures. Have the highest scoring runners up, regardless of where they placed in their heats. It makes sense to me, but then it’s just my opinion, and as always, feel free to disagree.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Only Connect - Quarter Final Preview

It’s traditional for us to cast a glance over the performances of the 8 first round winners, and see what conclusions we can draw from it going into the quarter finals. Let’s begin with the raw figures: -

The Details

Team Round OneRound TwoConnecting WallMissing VowelsTotalOppositionWinning margin
Wintonians7 10107341816
Cinephiles5910933825
Scribes93109311318
Numerists467926188
Draughtsmen7310626260
TEFL Teachers257822193
Wordsmiths567119163
Footballers444618117


Well, as we all know , figures only tell a part of the story. They tell you little about the strength of the opposition for one thing. Looking at the table we see the Draughtsmen languish in the bottom half of the table. Indeed, if you were to rank the teams according to the size of their margin of victory, then they would be at the bottom of said table. Yet this is due in no small part to the fact that they were playing against an excellent team in their own right, the Joinees. The losing teams in the last two or three heats just weren’t quite of that calibre.

So if we can only draw so much from the raw figures, what is it that we can actually draw from them ? One thing which does stick out to me is the Wordsmiths’ total on their vowels round. Maybe they just had bad luck on their round, but judging their figures against the other 7 teams, they cannot reckon on having a winning lead after the third round. They have to be underdogs. All of the other teams scored at least 6 in the vowels, so all of them seem to be good ‘vowels’ teams, which means that it looks less likely that any team is going to come from way behind to win in the quarters. Conversely the TEFL teachers’ scores in the first 2 rounds suggest that maybe their general knowledge isn’t quite good enough to make it likely that they will go much further.

There are things to consider which you wouldn’t get from the table above. It’s a fact that no series of Only Connect has yet been won by a team without some serious quiz – and TV quiz – previous experience. All five champion teams have very serious quiz pedigree. Now, quite a few of the teams in the quarters do have some previous TV form, but in particular I look here towards the Footballers, the Cinephiles, and The Draughtsmen. Except for the fact that we at LAM already know that the Cinephiles and Footballers play against each other in this round. On paper it looks cut and dried. However one thing you have to consider is that the Footballers had a bad round on the wall, otherwise their score would have been quite a bit higher. If poked with a stick I’d still place the Clark 50p on the Cinephiles, but a Footballers win certainly wouldn’t be an upset of Foinavon proportions. Whichever of the other teams has to play the Draughtsmen will be up against it, I should think. The Scribes look handy, but they did rely heavily on their captain Dom Tait in their heat. If he is not totally on his game they could struggle. The surprise package of the first round was the Wintonians. I find it difficult to pick a weakness in their performance in their heat . The possibility remains that this performance was just a flash in the pan, but if they perform to this level throughout the competition, then the sky’s the limit for them. Time will tell. Good luck to all 8 teams remaining.

News Questions

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

1. Frankie and Benny’s
2. Grace Belgravia
3. Christianity Uncut
4. USS Montpelier
5. Hempstead, New York
6. Richard Hughes
7. Narodam Sihanouk
8. Gary McKinnon
9. Kunsthal Museum, Rotterdam
10. Carlos Slim
11. John Whaite
12. Bring Up The Bodies
13. Dame Janet Smith and Nick Pollard
14. Pivotal Movement
15. Mama Quilla
16. Livestrong
17. Rosie and Ruby Formosa
18. Colin Farmer
19. Susanne Wilkinson
20. George Pratt
21. Mario Menendez
22. Trenton Oldfield
23. Ben Needham
24. Dutch Rabobank

In Other News

1. The last of which former RAF bomber was grounded last week due to escalating costs of insurance for flying it ?
2. Felix Baumgartner jumped from how high in feet ?
3. What speed did he reach, to the nearest 10 mph ?
4. For how long did he freefall ?
5. And how long did the whole jump last ?
6. What was won by Heather Watson ?
7. Who was the first celebrity voted off Strictly Come Dancing ?
8. Who was criticized over a joke about Abu Hamza on HIGNFY ?
9. Who won the Korean GP ?
10. In the final of which event did Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray ?
11. Who is the player coach of Barnet FC ?
12. David Price took precisely 82 seconds to beat whom in a British Heavyweight title fight ?
13. How much does the cheapest ticket for the Rolling Stones in the O2 Arena cost ?
14. Which jailed former newspaper proprietor is due to appear on HIGNFY ?
15. Which comedian is suing the Mirror for calling him a racist ?
16. Quote of the week “I was terrified – it was like hell. “ Who said it ?
17. Who has been criticized for performing a concert in Equatorial Guinea ?
18. Which form will the Scottish Independence vote take ?
19. Which multinational was it revealed don’t pay tax to the UK government because they do not make a profit here ?
20. Which former world champion lost her lottery funding last week ?
21. Why was the England v. Poland football match delayed ?
22. Who will star in next year’s Superbowl half time show ?
23. What was the score in both Belgium v. Scotland, and Croatia v. Wales ?
24. Which veteran European performer performed his first ever show at the Royal Albert Hall ?
25. Which country’s FA have been criticized over the racism home supporters showed towards England’s Under 21 players ?
26. Who was last week reported as being fired from his Radio 2 Folk music show ?
27. – and who has taken over the show ?
28. Who began his High Court Battle for compensation after being wrongly convicted of murder ?
29. What was the score in the England v. Poland qualifier ?
30. Which quality logo has been ditched from its products by Sainsburys ?
31. How many goals has Wayne Rooney now scored for England following his strike against Poland ?
32. Which magazine will be scrapped in print form and only appear online, following 80 years of existence ?
33. Which African state have been elected to the UN Security council despite concerns over its human rights record ?
34. By what was the TV show This Morning hoaxed this week ?
35. Which French actress passed away aged 60 this week ?
36. How much was Ashley Cole fined for his Twitter rant at the FA ?
37. Which cycling team has Mark Cavendish joined ?
38. Which Rugby League club are the subject of a winding up petition ?
39. Who are being targeted for training as potential spies ?
40. Last week a US Court ruled that the descendants of the creator of whom have no rights to him any more ?
41. How many candidates are the BBC including on the shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year ?
42. Who has refused to be interviewed on the Panorama show about Savilegate ?
43. Who branded Francois Hollande an imbecile last week ?
44. Frankel will run its last race in which race ?

Answers to News Questions

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

1. Solemia
2. Olivier Peslier
3. Mount Lokan
4. Professor Sir John Gurdon
5. Liz Kershaw
6. Vladimir Umamets
7. Verity
8. St. George’s Park
9. Paul Wood
10. Darren Sammy
1. Felix Baumgartner A children’s book
2. Glastonbury
3. Ashley Cole
4. British Museum
5. Cherie Blair and Joanna Trollope
6. Hugo Chavez
7. Gabon
8. Predatory Sex Offender
9. The Women’s Land Army
10. Lady Gaga
11. Felix Baumgartner
12. Malalu Yousafzai
13. Abba Gold
14. Yekaterina Samutsevitch
15. USADA
16. Clovelly
17. Mo Yan ?
18. HMS Caroline
19. Abbey Road
20. Christakis Ioannou

In Other News

1. In which city was the Conservative Party Conference held ?
2. A vandal defaced a painting by whom in the Tate Modern ?
3. Who was announced as playing grace Kelly in a forthcoming film ?
4. Which world leader celebrated a 60th birthday ?
5. What was the score in the Man Utd. v. Newcastle Utd. game ?
6. Who won the Japanese GP ?
7. Which team won the women’s T20 world cup ?
8. Which team won the men’s T20 world cup ?
9. What was the score in the Rugby League Grand Final ?
10. J.K. Rowling has promised that her next book will be what ?
11. Tickets for which event sold out in 100 minutes last week ?
12. Who was censured for his twitter rant against the FA ?
13. What is the most popular tourist attraction in Britain with 6 million visitors in 2012 ?
14. Who are sponsoring the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction ?
15. Who won the election in Venezuela ?
16. Which African country has dropped French as an official language in favour of English ?
17. The Met Police used which 3 word phrase last week to describe Jimmy Savile ?
18. At the Crown Fochabers Estate in Moray, a memorial to which group of people was unveiled last week ?
19. Who paid a visit to Julian Assange last week ? 20. What sentence did Justin Lee Collins receive for harassing his former girlfriend ?
21. Who was sacked last week as manager of Bolton ?
22. Which english rugby ground has controversially been excluded as a 2015 world cup venue ?
23. Who are investigating complaints about incorrect exam marking ?
24. Name the Director General of the BBC who announced 2 independent investigations into the Jimmy Savile scandal
25. Which company has been accused of tax avoidance on UK income ?
26. Which company replace Umbro as supplier of England football kit ?
27. It was reported last week that which singer plans to be Britain’s first space tourist ?
28. Name the two participants in last week’s televised Vice Presidential debate ?
29. Who admitted that he has dived for England on two occasions ?
30. Who is the new chairman of the 6 Nations committee ?
31. The first private abortion clinic in which British city opened controversially last week ?
32. What plans for the 100th anniversary of WWI did David Cameron announce last week ?
33. A set of Royal Mail stamps have been issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the launch of which satellite ?
34. Who captained England v. San Marino ?
35. Which two golfers contested the Turkish Airlines world golf final ?
36. Which bank dropped plans to buy 318 branches of RBS ?
37. Which organization won the Nobel Peace Prize ?
38. Which member of the West German 1966 world cup final team passed away on the 11th October ?
39. What was the score between both England and San Marino, and Germany and the Republic of Ireland ?

Answers

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


1. Horse – surprise winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
2. Jockey who rode Solemia
3. Volcano which has erupted in Indonesia
4. Won the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology
5. Claimed that there had been a sexist culture at Radio 1, and that a colleague there had put a hand up her skirt
6. Man who vandalized the painting in the Tate Modern
7. Damien Hirst’s largescale sculpture of a pregnant woman, on long term loan to Ilfracombe
8. New National Football centre in Burton
9. Player who lost a testicle in the Rugby League final
10. Captain of the West Indies T20 team
11. Planned to make jump from the edge of space and freefall at supersonic speed – delayed all week
12. 14 year old girl shot by the Taliban in Pakistan for speaking out for education for girls
13. Bestselling CD album of last 30 years
14. Member of Russian group Pussy Riot freed from jail last week – the two other members remain in jail
15. The US anti doping agency which published a very damning report on Lance Armstrong last week
16. Devon town flooded last week
17. Chinese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
18. The last surviving warship from the Battle of Jutland, which has had its future secured in Belfast
19. Confusingly named DLR station – complaints that tourists have been travelling there thinking that it is the same Abbey Road as the one with the zebra crossing in St. John’s Wood – it’s actually about 10 miles away
20. Jailed for fraud involving selling fake olympic tickets to parents of competitors

In Other News

1. Birmingham
2. Mark Rothko
3. Nicole Kidman
4. Vladimir Putin
5. 3 - 0
6. Sebastian Vettel
7. Australia
8. West Indies
9. Leeds 26 – Warrington 18
10. A children’s book
11. Glastonbury
12. Ashley Cole
13. British Museum
14. Cherie Blair and Joanna Trollope
15. Hugo Chavez
16. Gabon
17. Predatory Sex Offender
18. The Women’s Land Army
19. Lady Gaga
20. 140 hours community service and costs
21. Owen Coyle
22. Welford Road , Leicester
23. Ofqual
24. George Entwhistle
25. Facebook
26. Nike
27. Sarah Brightman
28. Joe Biden and Paul Ryan
29. Michael Owen
30. Bill Beaumont
31. Belfast
32. All school children should have the chance to visit the WWI battlefields
33. Ariel 1
34. Wayne Rooney
35. Justin Rose and Lee Westwood
36. Santander
37. European Union
38. Helmut Haller
39. 5 - 0

Back to Breakaway

Out of interest, I only noticed this week that Nick Hancock’s Breakaway is back. this must have been the second week, since I tried to catch up on the iplayer, and I see that yesterday’s episode was number 11 of the series. I tell you why I was looking. If you’re a regular reader you might well remember that I had an audition for the show back in the summer. I wanted to check and see which, if any , of the other people in my audition made it onto the show. None of them were on it this week, but as I say, I may well have missed them last week – shame.

Well, I suppose I could go two ways with this. I could say nasty things about the show because they didn’t use me as a contestant. I’m not that nasty, and I’m not that stupid. AS I think I’ve said before, if we’re honest, I think we all know that none of us has a God given right to be on any particular show, and so if the producers decide that you’re maybe not what they’re looking for, well, that’s just the way it goes. Maybe next series. None of which changes the fact that I really liked this show in the first series, and I’ve seen nothing this week to change my opinion. I like the fact that there’s nothing too complicated about this in terms or rules and gameplay. I like the fact that contestants have to actually come up with answers, rather than guess between three or four multiple choice answers. I like Nick Hancock. As a BBC2 lead in to BBC1’s ever popular Pointless, you can do a hell of a lot worse. Good stuff.

University Challenge - Round One - Heat 12

University College, London v. University of Exeter

JP never seems to tire of introducing UCL as the godless institution of Gower Street. They always seem to go well in the opening stages of the competition and representing them were Adam Papahilippopoulos, Tom Tyzsczuk-Smith, Tom Parton and their captain Simon Dennis. Their opponents were the University of Exeter, represented by James Bellamy, William O’Rourke, John Ault, and their captain Rob Bentall. The tantalizing carrot dangling in front of both teams was the very realistic possibility of a place in the semis, even if they lost, since a score of 150 would give them a very good chance. On with the show.

James Bellamy kicked off for Exeter, recognizing a number of definitions for the word cohort. A good fast buzz, that one. The bonuses were on Straits named after explorers, and they took a full set. Tom Tyzsczuk-Smith came in too early for the next one, which asked which entrepreneur was being referred to in the quote that you should not give consumers what they want, because they don’t know what they want. JP gave the full question to Exeter, then snatched away the possibility of them answering it when he caught them conferring. More on that later. I’m not going to repeat the whole of the next starter. However, if I say “hominid discovered in Ethiopia in 1974” that will probably be enough to give you the answer. It certainly was for Simon Dennis, who recognized that we were talking about the famous Lucy. UCL received a set on Essex, and took one of them. AT the moment it looked advantage Exeter. John Ault stretched Exeter’s lead with the next starter. Prime minister – Declaration – Poodle – more than enough to give him the name of Arthur Balfour. Scientific Principles offered me little, and bought me less, that is, nothing. Exeter didn’t get any either. Simon Dennis took his second starter for UCL with longshore drift. An early UC special set followed. Each questions required the names of 2 authors, the surname of the first being the given name of the second. Upton Sinclair – Sinclair Lewis – for example. A great little set, but I’m afraid that UCL didn’t manage any of them. Neither side managed a starter on playwright Ben Jonson. Did he take up writing plays after he was disqualified from the Olympics ? Doesn’t matter . Whenever I hear a question which begins “Which particle . . . “ I usually say Alpha particle. Sometimes it works, and tonight was one of them, even though I didn’t have a Scooby doo what the question was about. James Bellamy probably did have a clue what it was about, and he buzzed in early enough to take the points. An interesting set on third men brought Exeter, and me, two bonuses. This brought up the picture starter, and the ever popular Roman roads. UCL’s inspirational captain Simon Dennis buzzed in first with Fosse Way, to bring up three more of the same. UCL managed Watling Street. At the ten minute mark Exeter still led, by 55 to 35, and we had what looked like a good contest on our hands.

Simon Dennis knew that Helen Johnson-Sirleaf who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 was from Liberia. Bonuses on philosophy brought them level. Muckrakers escaped both teams. Tom Tyzsczuk-Smith knew the term serum for the next set of bonuses on pharmacology. A full set were taken, which incidentally earned a ‘well done’ from JP. Simon Dennis won the buzzer race to identify the word ‘common’ as being the common word linking law, sense and market. 1 bonus on chess grandmasters meant that UCL were now leading, and knocking on the door of 100 points. They certainly seemed to be putting their collective foot on the gas. Neither team managed Peter Paul Rubens for the next starter, and the next one after that, on Isabelle Allende also went begging. The next was a UC special starter.JP gave the fastest time for the winning crew in the University Boat Race, and then asked how far sunlight travels in that time to the nearest astronomical unit. It was that man Dennis who had it. JP sounded amazed. The bonuses that followed were on the views of the historian AJP Taylor. 2 bonuses too their score to 110, precisely double that of Exeter, who were in danger of being buzzed out of the contest. Given the music starter it seemed almost inevitable that Simon Dennis would buzz in to identify that Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up “ was written by Stock, Aitken, and Waterman ( Leonhard, Jonathan and Dennis ? Probably not . (Leonhard Stock won the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic downhill skiing gold medal, when he controversially replaced the great Franz Klammer in the Austrian team . ) ) Three more songs by three more songwriting teams followed, and I was delighted to get a full set. Who do you think took the next starter ? Yep, Simon Dennis, knowing the name of the guy who wrote the screenplay of the film “Barfly”. For which he earned a set of bonuses on symmetry. No, I didn’t. UCL on the other hand managed two. I don’t really know what adjuvant means, but Tom Tyzsczuk-Smith did, which is all that matters. The shutout of Exeeter had now stretched to more than ten minutes, as UCL were given bonuses on US States and their official foods. I thought that UCL did well to get 2 of these. At the 20 minute mark UCL had pretty much guaranteed themselves at least a repechage slot with 160, while Exeter languished on 55.

Adam Papaphilippopoulis took his first starter of the night. ( I have to apologise for dipping into puerility for the next comment, but I thought I’d share it with you. I don’t often write my reviews while watching a playback of the show, but I did this one that way, and Mary my wife was in the same room. When Adam answered this starter she observed – I bet you’re glad he hasn’t answered many starters tonight – and obvious comment about the length of his surname. The worst of it is, she was right. ) He knew the Oresteia trilogy. The bonuses on Art and Astronomy were all gettable, and they took 2 of them. The second picture starter showed a painting by an American artist, and it was William O’Rourke who managed to break the UCL stranglehold on the buzzer by coming in first to answer that it was Whistler. More of the same followed, and Exeter managed to get one. About 5 minutes to go, and UCL had already won, but the question which needed to be answered was whether Exeter could get the 30 points they needed to get into triple figures. Adam Papaphilippopoulis , into his stride now, knew that the Teatro Olimpico was designed by Palladio – good shout. A special set on European idioms and their English equivalents brought them up to a round 200 points. A trigonometry thing cam next. I guessed Sine, Tom Parton knew it was cosine. The bonuses this answer earned were on insect development. You pays yer money . . . 1 was taken anyway. The next starter offered “play” and “Shelagh Delaney” which was enough to send Simon Dennis away, as he correctly won the buzzer race to answer “A Taste of Honey”. Bonuses on Shakespeare’s “To Be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet were surprisingly tricky – I only got the easy one myself – not that I have ever taught the play, you understand. Something about Archimedean solids followed, but nobody knew it. Fair play to James Bellamy for buzzing early on the next starter about the highest ranking angels in their hierarchy, but he zigged with Archangels, while almost inevitably Simon Dennis zagged with seraphim. The parliaments of EU member states gave UCL a little more gloss, with another couple of correct answers. I suspected that when Exeter skipper Rob Bentall supplied the answer Brian Clough, when asked which sporting figure was the subject of the book “Nobody ever Says Thank You “ , that it was a little too late for Exeter to reach three figures, but they managed to take 2 bonuses on abbreviations used by the IUCN. Simon Dennis capped off a fine individual performance when he knew that the series of words which have this number of letters – 3,3,4,4,3,5,5, represents the words for numbers starting with one. Exceptionally quickly worked out. I guessed the gong would come then. There was no time for another starter, so Exeter were stranded on 85. UCL finished with a highly impressive 60.

Hard lines Exeter. From the evidence we had in the show, they are certainly not a bad team. But the fact is that UCL were buzzing extremely well, often buzzing in with a correct answer before the question was finished. Does this guarantee that they will be in there having a major say in the destination of the title ? Maybe. You could pick out weaknesses – the fact that they took relatively few full sets of bonuses, and the fact that the great bulk of their starters came from one source . But you can’t ignore the fact that this is a strong outfit, and you’d be a fool to bet against them doing well.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I’m delighted to say that one of the teams upset him early tonight. When Exeter started conferring on only the second starter JP’s voice rose in indignation, and in tones not unreminiscent of a dalek whose spaceship has just received a parking ticket , exclaimed “ You can NOT CON-FER ! “

You know that you’ve probably come out with a bit of a corker when JP goes all quiet. When one of the Exeter team offered Tom Stoppard as the name of one of Inigo Jones collaborators there was a sharp intake of breath, and very dismissive “ God Lord, no. “ He then dared UCL to have a go, and when a speculative punt of Harold Pinter was offered, he made no effort to hide his incredulity , “You’re out by about 300 years !” Well, if we’re being pedantic JP it’s a lot closer to 400, but never mind.

There was a nice little dig at Stock , Aitken and Waterman. “Yes, they were guilty of many of the hits of the 80s."

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

The term muckrakers, referring to a particular kind of whistle blowing journalists, has its origins in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”.