Saturday, 5 July 2014

Only Connect - Semi Final 2

Europhiles v. Software Engineers

Semi final two then, and only one show to go after this, I think. The Europhiles, Douglas Thomson, Khuram Rashid and captain Mark Seager,were the only undefeated team left in the competition going into the show, having defeated the Heath Family and the Relatives. The Software Engineers, Stephen Macintosh, Anne Harrison and captain Chris Howlett were beaten by last week’s losing semi finalists, the Welsh Learners, first time out, but went on to beat the Heath Family and the Erstwhile Athletes.Indications as to the outcome? Well, captain Mark is one of the most impressive missing vowels buzzers that we’ve seen in a very long time, and if the teams were close going into round four, then the Euros would be favourites for the win.

Round One – What’s The Connection?

The Euros won the toss and kicked off. Two reeds gave them pictures. First was the flag of Luxembourg, with a letter g in the bottom right hand corner – second of Denmark with a k in the same place. National flags with the last letters of their names in the bottom right hand corner was all I could come up with. Bangladesh and H seemed to confirm it. Mark of the euros gave the same answer, and it wasn’t accepted. The Engs didn’t fancy a bash at a bonus. Both I and the Euros were on the right lines, but the thing is that each of those countries are the only countries with those last letters. Iraq was the last of the set. Hard? Well, it is the semi final. Lion gave the Engs the music set. Now, neither team managed this set. I only recognized two of them – the second – Carries by Cliff Richard, and the third, Firestarter by the Prodigy. Which was enough to give me works by Stephen King. Eye of Horus came next. The Euros were served up Bandwithrelative to Frequency – then Giant Lizard over New York – then First editor of the Oxford Book of Verse, and finally Co- Producer Thriller. Presumably working on Quincy Jones for the last the Euros offered Jones. Not the answer. The Engs tried the letter z. No, the answer, which I was nowhere near, was Q. Remember the film Q, The Winged Serpent? Well, if you didn’t you’d had it with this question. Now, Captain Chris really meant business in this show, and confidently voiced the second vowel of Horned Viper for their next clue. Points coming up here, then, I confidently predicted to nobody in particular. 1947 Agatha Christie Radio Play – Variant of Patience or Solitaire – Group of Assassins in Dr. No – Nursery Rhyme was the set they were served up, and Chris seemed to have a sudden flash of inspiration, buzzing in with Old Maid. No. The Euros tried a Spider. No. Now, I had this right for the wrong reasons. The only connection I could make between Dr. No and a nursery rhyme was that I was sure I could remember a version of the song Three Blind Mice being used sort of as the theme of Dr. No. That rang a bell with Agatha Christie as well. Right, the first clue of Twisted Flax, the Euro’s third set, seemed to promise a lot. The Adventures of Tintin detectives. Well, these of course were Thomson and Thompson – aka The Thompson Twins. Surely 80s bands would be too obvious? Capitals: Jamaica and St. Vincent. Kingston and King’s Town. That made it obvious. Just add a letter to one to get the other. The Euros had it with two greek letters, which it transpired were pi and phi. This increased the lead, and left the Engs with water. Apollo 14 mission was first. Now, the thing I recalled specifically about Apollo 14 was Alan Shepherd ‘playing’ golf on the moon. The next was 1939 Timeless Test. That was nothing to do with golf – that was a cricket match between England and South Africa. Kempe’s London to Norwich Morris dance came next, but it was the 4th – Reign of Lady Jane Grey which gave us all the points for the answer they lasted 9 days. The Euros then led 2 – 1.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

The Euros first set was pictures. I wasn’t sure about the silhouetted figure in the first – obviously a Saint judging by the halo. The second looked like Anne Packer, and the third like the Cerne Abbas Giant. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see that these were consecutive Superbowl winners, and even if I had, I didn’t know that the Ravens came next. Nobody had this week’s obligatory American question, then. Eye of Horus gave the Engs Floor – Understory – Canopy. It looked gettable, and yet I couldn’t come up with a rationale and therefore an answer. Suggesting respectively ceiling and roof, neither team had it. They are layers in a rainforest apparently. And again, had I known that it wouldn’t have helped since I wouldn’t have known that the emergent layer is the next. Now, Mark showed his contempt for the curse of the horned viper by leaving the second vowel unvoiced. We had Tony Blair as PM – (Years 1 - 3), Will Carling as England Captain (Years 1 – 4) and John Major as PM (years 1 – 4). Nobody had it. Tony Blair was 97 – 99. Will Carling 88 – 91, John Major 90 – 93. I knew that and I still didn’t have a Scooby Doo. They are the readio frequencies of BBC Radio 1 – 3 – so the last would be 92 – 95. That question wins the American Municipal Bankruptcies Pointlessly Ungettable question of the week award, for me. Right, Lion gave the Engs 1p & 2p=20p. Next was 5p & 10p =£5. That was enough for captain Chris to answer £1 & £2 = £20. Not right. The last was 20p and 50p = £10. The Euros didn’t have it either. Chris was working on the idea that it was the amount which you are allowed to pay for it to be legal tender – so you can pay up to £5 in 5p and 10p coins. He had the principle, just not the right answer – which was £1 and £2 coins = unlimited. Euros took Two Reeds. Dios (sp) – Donne(It) – Hommes (Fr). Nobody had this. Right – did I say that the frequencies won the ungettable question award? This was a beautifully clever question which was just far too complex. Basically, the Emperor Charles V once said I speak Spanish to God ( Dios)Italian to women – French to men and German to my horse. So the answer would be German for my horse – Mein pferd. Water came next for the Engs. We saw Powers – Principalities – Archangels. I guessed just Angels, as did the Engs. Benefitting from getting the only really fair question of the round, this was enough to give them a 3 – 2 lead. Look, I love Only Connect, but I really think we need to have a chat about these questions. The show is transferring to BBC2. Hopefully the audience will increase. However, I do worry for it with the current difficulty level settings of the show. I do not claim to be the world’s best quizzer – nowhere near in fact, but I’m certainly a halfway decent player, and when decent players are turning round and saying – that’s not really fair – about the best part of a whole round of questions, you have to ask whether the whole thing is becoming just too obscure. Just my opinion of course, and by all means feel free to disagree. Maybe it was just this one round in this one show. Maybe not, though.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Engs kicked off with Lion. Straight away I saw some 80s albums. Now, I didn’t know Fogging – Fixer – Stop Bath – and Wetting Agent. I guessed terms from photography and developing films. The Engs had them almost at once. There was a lot of hitting and hoping after that. There were Sci fi characters I saw as well, with Ming and the Mule. Then the Engs separated five by five – Negative – pan-pan and Wilco. Three strikes then did for them.The first set I was right with the explanation. That second set were all radio voice procedures. The 80s albums were Alf ( the wonderful Alison Moyet) Shaky (Mr. Stevens of that ilk? ) No Parlez (Paul Young) and Zenyatta Mondatta (The Police) This left Roger (?)– The Mule (Foundation series) – Ming ( Flash Gordon) and Paul (Dune) for the Sci Fi characters.

Water gave the Eruos a set of parts of the ear, which wouldn’t separate. Still, they worked out a set of words which, if you add a letter to the start give you London theatres – Alladium – Pollo – Delphi and Lobe. They were pretty mch stuck after that, though, and time just gradually exhausted itself. The other three lines were – Dodona – Epidaurus – Didyma and Abae. Well, I guessed greek theatre but no – they were the sites of oracles. The next was – Organ of Corti – Malleus – Helix – Cochlea – parts of the ear. Finally parabola – Tractrix – Witch of Agnesi and Hippopede. Mathematical curves. This meant that the lead doubled, as the Engs went forward with 8, to the Philes’ 6.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

Captain Mark decimated the Vowels last time out, so you fancied that the Euros were well capable of winning this one. The first set – things served cold fell 2 – 0 to the Euros. All Square. Opening words for novels saw the Euros take two, and the Engs lose one for an incorrect buzz. Members of the weasel family saw the Euros take one, and the Engs take one and lose one. 11 – 7 to the Euros. Well played!

Right, I honestly do not wish to upset anyone with any of my comments. As I have said in the past, I love Only Connect, and enjoyed appearing on it as much, if not more than any of the shows I have taken part in. I think that some of the criticism of this series has been unfair. However, as I say, maybe this was just me, but I felt that the obscurity level in this particular show was so relatively high that nobody was going to get the chance of getting five and three pointers in rounds one and two – which meant that it had the effect of rendering rounds 1 – 3 pretty irrelevant in terms of the outcome of the show. As always, this is just my opinion, and feel free to disagree.


Andrew B. said...

Well, between you and me we managed to answer all of R1 and the last three in R2, including a rare 5-pointer for me (1p+2p=20p), but it certainly wasn't an easy set.

I know two of the teams in the next series and they thought the questions weren't as tough as this.

Incidentally, Roger is the alien in "American Dad".

Londinius said...

Ah - thanks Andrew.

Well, as I said, it's just my opinion.

StuHern said...

We were very glad that we were in the other semi-final. I don't think we had anything to complain about but we fell neatly between bankruptcies and FM frequencies.

I think they may have struggled somewhat for consistency but judging the level of a question is always far harder than actually writing it (although, as you said, some of them have been beautifully crafted).

Anyhow - from a fan's point of view, I'm glad to hear that the next series may have eased off a little!

Andrew B. said...

To be fair, I (and everyone I've spoken to) certainly agree that the "municipal bankruptcies" and the "radio frequencies" were both far too hard!

Londinius said...

Hi Stu,
I agree with what you say about judging the level of the question being a lot harder than writing it in the first place. I also accept that so much of this is subjective - what I find hard others might not, and vice versa. But I still think that in these last couple of shows there have been some obscure sets, particularly in the second round which is traditionally the hardest anyway, which I don't think you can reasonably expect are likely to be got.

Heaven alone knows how hard the final is going to be!

Chris Howlett said...

Interesting. I think you're right that a number of the questions were overly obscure - the radio frequencies one in particular - but others weren't, we just didn't get them.

We almost certainly should have got the music round, although we'd probably have guessed "Horror Films" based on Carrie if we'd guessed at all, which may not have been close enough. Likewise, we should probably have got the Three Blind Mice.

The money question was perfectly gettable, and I reckon even the German horse was passably fair (depending on how well known the quote is, which I can't speak to).

Actually, our team-member Anne made a valid point - you'd rather have a show full of equally-obscure questions than a show where exactly one question is a guaranteed 5-pointer for whichever team picks it, as happened in our first match with "Rumantsch" (not that it takes anything away from the Learners, who beat us handily).

Fair play to the Europhiles, though - we were comprehensively outbuzzed and pressured in vowelly mistakes. Best of luck to them in the final tomorrow.

Stephen Follows said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Follows said...

Not only were the questions too hard, but there was a real howler in Victoria's explanation of one of them.

Thomas Kempe is a character in a Penelope Lively novel; the man who danced from London to Norwich was _Will_ Kemp.

Stephen Follows said...

And wasn't the Thomson/Thompson question a five-pointer for anyone who's ever read a Tintin book?

Londinius said...

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to comment Chris , and hard lines. Well played on doing as well as you did though.

Hi Stephen

I'll be honest, I have read a couple of Tintin books, but still didn't get a five pointer on that. Fair point about the Will Kemp thing - it did occur to me that Shakespeare's fellow actor was Will Kemp, but I didn't pursue it.

Andrew B. said...

It would have been brave to go for 5 points on the "differ by one letter" question from "Detectives in the Tintin books", since it could have been a (rather easy) clue to "80s pop groups".

Stephen Follows said...

All Tintin readers are brave. It goes with the territory.