Sunday, 26 July 2015

New Chaser

I've just read in Weaver's Week that Jenny Ryan is going to be the new Chaser. That's great news. Jenny is possibly best known to the wider quizzing public as a member of the victorious Only Connect Series 3 champs The Gamblers.

I first met Jenny in 2006, when we were both stand-ins for the semi finals of Mastermind. I'm absolutely delighted for her, and wish her every success.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

In the News

Here we are - just 30 to get us all back in the swing of things

In the News

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

Mick Fanning
Natalie Fitzsimmons
Ashley Madison
Simon Brodkin
Pete Kennaugh
Bill Turnbull
Ray Flynn
Nigel Richards
Jules Bianchi
Xiao Yuan
Laura Kuenssberg
Ai Wei Wei
John Bercow

In Other News

The flag was raised over which embassy in Washington DC for the first time in 54 years?
Who claimed that Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured in Vietnam?
Who won the Open in a play off?
Which team did GB defeat in the Davis Cup quarter final, and which team will they face in the semi final?
Who was dropped from the England Ashes team to make way for Jonny Bairstow for the 3rd test?
Tyson Fury said that Wladimir Klitschko was as boring as what?
Which US Technology giant reported a $3 billion loss?
Name the author of Billy Bathgate and Ragtime who passed away this week
Where was the oldest fragment of the Koran text discovered ?
What was the Champions’ League score between Celtic and Stjarnan?
Who bought the Financial Times for £844 million?
Where did the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series begin?
The California Supreme Court has given permission for a civil suit over sexual assault claims against whom?
Which country’s football team had a point deducted from its European campaign after a swastika was imprinted on the pitch before a game against Italy?
Name the Maltese football team who only lost to West Ham in the Europa League on penalties
Which jeep manufacturer recalled 1.4 million vehicles?
Obama paid a first visit to which country since becoming president?

Friday, 24 July 2015

Why Do I Say These Things?

I was back in the question master’s seat in the rugby club last night.  It’s only today that I realized that I’ve been setting quizzes in the club on a regular basis for the last 20 years – I distinctly remember that my first quiz in the club was asked on the first Thursday of the summer holiday in 1995.

This year has been the first year when I’ve put off being QM on anything approaching a regular basis. I don’t want to drag you through the whole litany of work issues and other issues all over again, but suffice it to say that while all these things rarely if ever stopped me from going to a quiz, there were weeks when it was just too awkward to find the time to make a quiz properly.

And I’m sure you know, it does take time to make a quiz properly. I reflected on this last night again. Now, we have some little customs, and whenever Brian or I do the quiz, after round seven we always say – ‘I’ve got a round 8 – if you want it.’ I will admit that last night’s quiz was a little trickier than I often make a quiz for the club, which probably explains why, when I made the traditional announcement – hardly anyone responded. Now, to be fair, I didn’t hear any shouts of ‘NO!’. But even so, I made the comment,
“Oh, thanks for that round of indifference. It makes all the hours I spent putting together a quiz for you worthwhile.” Which, to be fair, got a far warmer reception than the original announcement.

Which means I am a hypocrite, I am afraid. For the fact is – and I have tried hard to stop myself doing this – I am the first and often loudest person to moan in the club when a question setter asks a quiz which is not to my personal taste. I inwardly cringe when I think of some of the comments I just can’t stop myself making – along the lines of : -
‘Oh good, yet ANOTHER entertainment question!’ – and –
‘Why the hell are you asking a question nobody is going to know the answer to –‘ and the ever popular –
‘Question Master – What is etc. etc. etc.?
Me – And more to the point, who cares?’
I don’t know why I do it. Actually I do – it’s because I honestly can’t stop myself. And the ironic thing is that I’ve probably enjoyed the quiz in the club in 2015 as much as any other year I can think of. Finding a bit of form against the Lemurs possibly has something to do with it. I don’t keep a tally of how many wins each team has, but I reckon we’re pretty much neck and neck for the year, which is all the better considering that a significant number of the quizzes we’ve won have seen Lemurs fielding a full strength, or close to full strength team. Wins against a full Lemurs team in the two or three years previous have been as rare as rocking horse droppings.


Nobody ever complains that a quiz is too easy. Well I do sometimes, but nobody not obsessive about quizzes, sensible and well-adjusted does. I say this because while we’re on the subject of question masters and the setting of quizzes, it will soon be my turn to set the quiz for the Fox and Hounds. John and I started attending this one about a year ago. We only go once a fortnight, because we’re always made very welcome, and we want to keep it that way. About two months ago I agreed to a request to do a set of questions. As a rough guide, I thought that if I made it twice as easy as a quiz for the rugby club, then it should be at just about the right level for the regular players. .

Being honest, it didn’t really work. It was too hard for the regular players. I feel a bit sorry about that, but the right attitude in these cases is to invite honest, constructive criticism, and try to take it on board and do better next time.

Well, I tried. Thing is though, even though I made the quiz easier, second time around, it was still too hard for the players. Which gives me a problem, as you can see. After all, I have to ask myself, how easy can I make it before it becomes obvious that I am deliberately ‘ dumbing it down’, for want of a better word? I mean, in my opinion I’m already giving them quiz lite as it is. I'm worried that I'm only maybe one step away from 'I Can't Believe it's Not Harder' , and two steps at most away from insulting their intelligence. Oh well.  It won’t be for a couple of weeks, so I’m going to give it some thought. I’ll let you know how it went afterwards. 

Only Connect - Series 11 - Match 2

Polyglots v. Yorkers

I enjoyed last week’s first match, and was hoping to do the same with this one. The Ployglots, Dan Shane, Lyndsay Coo and captain Vicki Sunter took on the Yorkers, Jack Johannes Alexander, Joe Crowther and captain Alasdair Middleton. To the best of my knowledge I don’t recall meeting any of them before, and they all came up with clean records when I searched the archives. Which means I’ve nothing more to add before the match.

Round One – What’s the Connection?

The Yorks chose two reeds, and received the music set as a punishment. I’ll be honest, I thought it was Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real”, but it was actually the Jimmy Somerville cover version. You Make Me Feel So Young – one of my all time favourite Sinatra recordings, that – which made it clear these were all – You Make Me Feel Likes. Third was – Dancing, and last was – A Natural Woman.  The Yorks were seemingly misled by the Sylvester thing and plumped, rather in desperation one suspects, for names of cats. This gave the Glots a nice bonus, and they then opted for Eye of Horus. Lying Next to Venus (Titian) – suggested a reference to the Venus of Urbino, but what it meant none of us knew at this point. Watching Bathers – Seurat – (Bathers at Asnieres) did help though. I’d probably have taken another in the studio to be sure, but I had a mental picture of a black and white dog lying next to the sitting boy with the silly hat in the middle of the painting, so I went for dogs. If I had gone for another, then Killing Deer – Courbet (Ronnie?- Olga?) made it look a pretty decent shout. Playing Poker – Coolidge (Susan? – Calvin? – Rita?) was enough to give it to the Glots. The Yorks look to the twisted flax for their first points. Monstroso offered little, followed by Any Human Heart. Hmm – a novel I haven’t read by William Boyd. Birdsong came next. Now that I have read, and it’s by Sebastian Faulks. Both Boyd and Faulks have written James Bond novels, which would have been my guess. The Yorks went for novels set in hopsitals. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, given to the Glots as the last clue confirmed that my hypothesis was right. The Glotss could do nothing with it, though, so they opted for Lion. South Korea: Naver didn’t ring any bells with me. Russia Yandex didn’t, but the Glots seemed to like it and they took a flyer with financial Share Indices. Wrongly as it turned out. Given Japan: Yahoo! -and - China: Baidu the Yorks were able to put their first points on the board with the bonus of the most popular search engines in specific countries. Alasdair went for a conventional pronunciation of Horned Viper, and received – Regndråber drypper i mit hår - . Now, I’ve never studied Danish, but I have studied the related Scandinavian language Old Norse, which I guess is why this yelled out to me Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Well, I think it actually translates as Raindrops are falling in my hair, but that’s close enough. Gocce di pioggia su di me –the second clue – wouldn’t have helped me any more than it helped the Yorks, but I’d already given my answer off the first clue. Regen fallt heute auf die Welt might have helped, since regen I knew as rain – I think that one of Michael Schumacher’s nicknames was something like Dei Regenmeister (the rain master). Toute la pluie tombe sur moi is French for all the rain falls on me – which interestingly is maybe as close to Why Does It Always Rain On Me? as the other song. Which is what the Yorks went for, and were allowed another bite of the cherry. It didn’t help, and the many-tongued Polyglots made no mistake for a bonus. Their last set were hidden behind water. We saw a cockerel, then a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. Rhodesian – Rhode Island Red – so either Rhodes, or simply RH. One more clue needed to be sure. What I guessed were rhodedendrons appeared next, then Wales’ own Rhod Gilbert. So rhod then. That was enough for the Glots, and so they finished the round leading by 4 – 1.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

For their first set the Yorks kicked off with Azinger. Since this was a sequence, I was sure we were lo9oking at Ryder Cup winning captains. Which meant that the last would be McGinley. . . unless it was American captains, in which case the last would be Tom Watson. Probably sensible to take one more clue, which is what the Yorks did. Just as well, because as soon as they saw Montgomerie they knew too. A good shout, and now they had shown they were better than their first round performance suggested. The Glots took the flax, and began with Monday: Met. Now, I think this was a five point chance. I wonder how many people, as I did, shouted out ‘Crrraaaigg DAAAvid!’ as soon as this one came up. In which case, I reckoned, the answer would be Thursday: Made Love (again). Tuesday: Went for a Drink – came next and the Glots had it worked out, but took another clue – Wednesday: Made Love – for safety’s sake. The Yorks looked to maintain their impressive form in this round with – Paul Volcker- Alan Greenspan – and at this point I knew the connection, but not who came 4th. The Yorks did, though, and went with Janet Yellen – current chair of the US Federal Reserve. Eye of Horus gave the Glots French Head. That’s tete. Then Thierry Henri – who is titi. No comment. Still, I ventured to suggest that the final answer would probably be former Archbishop of Cape Town. The Glots needed Dorothy’s terrier – Toto – to make sense and get the answer. The last set for the Yorks began with Valerie Singleton. I wouldn’t have gambled in the studio, but at home I guessed longest serving Blue Peter presenters and chucked in the answer of the great John Noakes. Konnie Huq confirmed we were dealing with BP Presenters and gave the Yorks the connections. Not the answer though. They’re all too young to remember Peter Purves, the last clue, as were the Glots, and so that one went begging. The last set of the round went to the Glots, with a truly marvelous set of pictures. The first showed us a silhouette of a bowler. The second, Michael Holding. ‘Good Lord!’ I shouted, ‘ They’re not going to have a phallus in the last picture are they?’ – this being obviously the famous Brian Johnstone deliberate gaffe – The bowler’s Holding, the Batsman’s Willey. Well, no, they actually had a picture of the man himself, Peter Willey. The Glots had no idea of this one. A timely bonus for the Yorks meant that they’d had by far the better of the second round, and had drawn level with the Glots, 8 points apiece.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Glots took the Lion Wall. Straightaway I could see a set of pastries there, as did the Glots. They did just what you must do, and kept plugging away at all the possible combinations of what could be pastries until it resolved with Baklava – Berliner – Profiterole – Palmier. Good technique, that. I could see a set of comediennes as well. So did the Glots, and once again they plugged away until Osho – Éclair – Perkins and Calman resolved. They could see there was a set of blinds, and I could see a set of Art Galleries as well. Eventually they resolved the two lines – Roller – Venetian – Louvre and Roman being the blinds – leaving Tate – Hayward – Ikon and Baltic as the galleries. 10 well earned points and the gauntlet well and truly lain own.

With the Lion wall the Yorks saw a set of Lily Allen songs, but couldn’t isolate them at first. So they stepped back for a moment to work out which lines were there. Then they took out pinch – pounce – massacre and smile – all words which end with imperial measurements. Then we had sticky situations – Jam- Pickle – Dilemma – Fix. After this they went looking for tarts, and found them with Bakewell – Neenish – Manchester and Treacle. This left the line they had actually started out looking for – the Lily Allen songs – Alfie – The Fear – LDN – 22. Again, very good technique, and an impressive performance.

All of which meant that both teams were tied on 18 going into the last round.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

The first category – Enid Blyton Books – saw the Glots make a crucial mistake, giving Five Get In Trouble, rather than Five Get INTO Trouble. On such small margins – the lost point meant that the Yorks were ahead for the first time in the contest. Cliches a boss might use saw the Glots wipe out the lead – but then – disaster – another error, and just before the end of the contest. All of which meant that the Yorks won by 21 – 20.

So yes, another very enjoyable contest. Have we seen the series winners yet? Gut reaction says not, but hey, what do I know? Good show. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

New Show - BBC4 - Hive Minds

Welcome to the quiz where simply knowing the answer isn’t enough. Hang on a moment – BBC4 – Teams of 3 - am I getting a little déjà vu here? Well, you can’t blame BBC4 for looking for another Only Connect. OC is, by some distance, the finest new quiz of the last decade, and I don’t know how willingly 4 relinquished it to 2, but I doubt very much they were hounding it out of the door. But that’s OC, and this is Hive Minds.

This is a board game, and the board is a giant hexagon, containing 37 smaller hexagons. Each one will show a letter in it. The game simply involves finding answers to questions or clues by tracking along from one hexagon to another. Actually, I say simply, but the game isn’t simple at all, which is all to the good. The rounds did vary a bit, which kept the game from becoming repetitive. The hardest, round three, the Super Hive, involved finding a solution to – for example – a set of fish – which has to involve using every hexagon, and has several, should you excuse the pun, red herrings to trip you up. I’d argue that although a very good general knowledge would not guarantee that you’d do well in this game, a poor grasp of general knowledge would prevent you from doing so, and this was especially true of the last round. This simply involved finding answers to clues – eg  a ship used by Columbus. Yes,OK, a ship used by Columbus actually had three possible answers, but at least you knew what you were looking for. As for an Italian Nationalist – well, honestly, who else could it be apart from Garibaldi. Well, alright, Giuseppi Mazzini, but 90 times out of 100 it’s going to be Garibaldi. Likewise, flower of the genus Taraxacum is going to be dandelion every day of the week. No, this isn’t a complaint about the show. I’m afraid that I always rather like it when the best pure quizzers of the bunch are at an advantage. It was reassuring to see names like Jack Whaley-Cohen and Richard Morgale involved with setting and verifying the questions on the credits.

I’m really not sure about Fiona Bruce in the hot seat. According to my wife I was within about 3 feet of Fiona Bruce who was being touched up – ooh Matron – at the same time as I was having my slap applied for my appearance on the Antiques Roadshow last year (apparently I have Queen Anne legs and a walnut kneehole) but I didn’t notice she was there. She’s no Victoria Coren-Mitchell, but then most people aren’t (all bar one in fact). So we’ll reserve judgement for the time being.

As for the overall verdict – well, I didn’t think I was going to like it that much . . . but I did. I found the play-along-at-home-ability was rather high, as with the best shows, and it was generally rather interesting and challenging. Now, I’ve been wrong about new shows more often than I’ve been right, but from one viewing, I’d say it’s got legs. Is it the new Only Connect? No, it’s the original Hive Minds – and that in itself seems to be no bad thing. I shall be watching it again. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

University Challenge - Round One - Match 2

Liverpool v. St. Peter’s Oxford

We’re one contest in already, and it was quite a good one too. Hoping to match that first game we had Liverpool and St. Peter’s, Oxford. According to JP the two have met in UC before, and that time it was the Oxford college who had the better of it. Liverpool were represented by Jenny McLoughlin, Jack Bennett, Ed Bretherton and skipper Robin Wainwright. St. Peter’s’ team were Isaac Kang, Jeremy Thundow,  Yaroslav Sky Walker, and their captain Nathan Gower.

I have actually heard the first starter about Alien Hand Syndrome before, so I chucked in Dr. Strangelove before it became obvious where the question was driving towards. As soon as it did, though, Robin Wainwright won the buzzer race. Liverpool took two out of three bonuses on British coronations. Nathan Gower opened his team’s account, recognizing a description of the pineal gland. Wizards, as in ‘the wizard of’ followed. We were asked Wishaw (John Higgins), Riga (Mikhail Tal) and Menlo Park (Thomas Edison) , although not The Dribble (Stanley Matthews). A mental pat on the back to myself for knowing Mikhail Tal was from Riga. Jack Bennett had a good early buzz, linking the names of the author of “The Magnificent Ambersons” with the founder of the Salvation Army to get Booth – Tarkington and William respectively. The novels of E.M.Forster, film versions of – provided two bonuses. Did I ever tell you that my nan swore blind that E.M. Forster wrote “Howard’s Way”? Onto the first picture. This was hard. We had a map of Europe, and then in the place where three capital cities would be were the distances to a 4th capital city. The teams had to work out which the 4th was. Very hard, and neither team, nor me, managed it. I wasn’t that far out, since Berlin isn’t THAT far from Prague, but still no cigar. The next starter was a little cracker. I had it from – The titles of non-fiction works by which author include a reference to the venues of the 1900 and 1908 Olympic Games – which gives you Paris and London as in Down and Out in – so we’re in George Orwell territory. We also had a reference to Wigan, and another one to Catalonia before Jack Bennett took the plunge. This earned Liverpool a bonus set on more maps and distances, and they were unlucky to fail to add to their score. The Cardwell and Childers Report in the 19th century led to the reorganization of the British Army.  I didn’t know that – I guessed the Royal Navy – but both captains had a pop at it, and Robin Wainwright had it. Subatomic physics offered me but little, and delivered zilch, and Liverpool looked equally lost as well. It didn’t matter too much. At just past the 10 minute mark they led with 60 – 15.

British protectorate off the coast of East Africa. Be honest, if you go for Zanzibar every time you hear those words you’ll be right a lot more often than you’re wrong. That’s what Jeremy Thundow did, and this brought up a set of bonuses on disputed islands. A full set made their score look a lot more healthy, and the competition look a lot closer. Jack Bennett had already shown an ability to buzz in the moment that the answer became pretty clear, and once the obscure definitions of the word cataract were done, and we had ‘waterfall’ and ‘medical condition’ he was in there. Fossil hominids – I think I’ve taught a few of them in my time – were actually more straightforward than they appeared on the surface, and Liverpool duly despatched the full set to the boundary. So to the music starter, and that man Bennett won the race again when we’d had a couple of seconds of Jimi Hendrix. Again, this was a lovely set – because according to statistical information collected by YouGov ( who, me? Yes, you, guv.) a significant number of people for whom University Challenge is one of their favourite programmes list Jimi Hendrix as one of their favourite performers. More of the same followed with Ian Dury and the Blockheads (yes), Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (nyeh, not so much) and Dusty Springfield (meh). That last one provded the only bonus. Nathan Gower had an impressively early buzz to identify Nate Silver as the statistician who correctly predicted the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election. Not so impressive as an act of prediction in a two horse race, but there we are, nice work if you can get it. Human physiology provided me with my lap of honour moment, since I did know that melatonin controls the sleep-wake cycle. BY the way, in terms of ridiculous misheard lyrics I was very disappointed to see a while back that in “A Whiter Shade of Pale” Procul Harum actually sing ‘ As the Miller told his tale’, rather than ‘As the melatonin fails’ which is what I’d heard. However, I digress. St. Peter’s added no points on that set. Nathan Gower, though, had found his buzzing form well, and identified the Mississippi born author who published her first novel in 1992 as Donna Tartt. Two of my work colleagues whose opinions I valye both absolutely love Donna Tartt. I’ve only read The Secret History, and while I agree it’s well written, I’m afraid it just didn’t do it for me. Benjamin Britten and the Cinema provided two good bonuses, and at least kept them in the game. The gap narrowed more when Jeremy Thundow identified the 1850s as the decade in which lord John Russell, and the earls of Derby and Aberdeen were Prime Minister. 19th century US history sounded full of Eastern promise – er – western promise. I was pleased with myself for dredging up the Gadsden Purshase – St. Peter’s couldn’t capitalize sadly. Robin Wainwright was the first to buzz in to identify Tannhauser as the Wagner opera about a 13th century minnesanger. Bonuses on French cities meant that at the 20 minute mark Liverpool led by 115 to 80. Judging from what we’d already seen you wouldn’t have bet against Liverpool completing the win, but both teams looked as if they could post a repechage score as well.

Nathan Gower identified Blake’s picture of Shakespeare. More pictures of poets from Manchester Art Gallery reduced the gap to 10 points, and took St. Peter’s into double figures. Neither team knew the term amphibolic and so we moved on. Now, you hear Flemish Artist – and – beard – and you slam the buzzer through the desk and answer Van Dyke. That’s the theory anyway, but neither team were very quick in their response. As it was Robin wainwright buzzed in to win a set of bonuses on geology. 1 bonus pushed them close to a repechage score. The Achievement of a synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits is how Carl Sandburg described poetry apparently. Neither team got that. Robin Wainwright knew that in France, bandes dessines are comic books/comic strips. Leaders of the Lib Dems gave Liverpool a full set, and they were looking good for the win. I was well pleased in my instant answer that 1000 in binary is 16 in decimal, and when the rest of the question was asked Jeremy Thundow had it as well. Books by Nobel Laureates took their score to 120, and although Liverpool led by 35, the result was once again in question. Nobody knew that the southernmost point of mainland Asia is in Malaysia. You say Swedish dramatist, and I think – Strindberg. Why? Because I don’t know any others. Well, it would have bought me the next starter, as it did for Robin Wainwright. Birds brought another timely full set, and at 180 Liverpool were coming back for another game whatever happened. Jack Bennett – best buzzer of the evening, I think, knew that A Tale of the Christ is better known as Ben Hur. Paintings in the collection of the J Paul Getty collection in Los Angeles gave them 5 more to take them to 195. Isaac Kang knew that every King of Scotland in a given period had the regnal name James. At 130 a full set could give them a decent chance of a repechage slot. Operas premiered in La Scala gave them a chance, but they had none. Jenny McLoughlin knew that the metacarpal phalangeal joints are the knuckles. Bonuses on time zones gave them only one chance to add to their score, and they were gonged out.

Liverpool won by 205 to 130. For St. Peter’s sake I hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling that they may miss out on a repechage slot by a couple of bonuses there. Well played Liverpool, though – the better team on the night.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP again seemed to have been taking his happy pills, since he even went as far as to say that the first picture starter was pretty difficult when neither team got a correct answer.

He doesn’t like Dr. Hook, does our Jez. When that turned out to be one of the favourite groups for a large number of people who love UC he wrinkled up his considerable nose and virtually spat out,
“The viewers of this programme are even older than the presenter!” That’s quite clever actually – an insult to the viewers wrapped up in a seemingly self-deprecating comment. Welcome back JP – we’ve missed you.

There wasn’t much in the rest of the contest, although his exasperated ‘What?!’ when Nathan Gower suggested Carl Sandburg as a noted exponent of the limerick hinted at better things to come during the series.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
The Cardwell and Childers Report in the 19th century led to the reorganization of the British Army.  

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Only Connect Series Eleven - Match One

Cluesmiths v. Operational Researchers

Last year OC made a triumphant transfer to BBC2. I wasn’t the only one to believe that the show had hit the right level of difficulty again, following the obscurity of some of the sets of questions in series 9. So I’ve been looking forward to this series. First up, then, we had the Cluesmiths – Mick Hodgkin, John Tozer, and Richard Heald, the skipper. Opposing them were the Occupational Researchers, Paul Allen, Alex Hill, and captain Clare Lynch. Let’s get on with the show.

Round One – What’s the Connection?

I give captain Richard of the Cluesmiths credited for taking on the Viper first, although feared for him when he did not use our favoured pronunciation of Horned. The first clue was quintuple – troth. Huh? The second, though – distress single helped a lot. SOS is a distress single. It’s also the title of an Abba singl;e – as is I do I do I do I do I do. The 3rd clue – 1963 Lincoln memorial speech confirmed it, being the Martin Luther King – I have a dream – speech. The Smiths actually ruled out I have a dream, and went for a last clue – 1815 Belgian Battle. Even then they couldn’t see it, and I’m sorry guys, but that was a bit of a red face moment, especially since the Ops snapped up that unconsidered trifle for a bonus. For their own first set they opted for Lion and received Derbyshire=Nottingham. Nope, me neither. Nottinghamshire=Wantage came next, and at this stage I just didn’t have a handle on the set. Worcestershire = New gave it to me though, since I knew that Wrocs Country Cricket Club play at New Road. I even predicted the 4th would be Leicestershire=Grace. The Ops didn’t have a Scooby, and the Smiths at least had cricket, but went for captains. OK. Now this is why, if you want to really do well on OC you have to have at least one regular general knowledge quizzer/pub quizzer. I can almost guarantee that anyone who is even slightly serious about their quizzing, if you said to them the words – Leicester – and – Grace – would come up with the idea of Grace Road, and work on from there. Ok – lecture over. The Smiths chose water, and earned the music set for their trouble. I didn’t recognize the first two, but the second was going on about the skies. Kelly Watch the Stars by Air came next, and you never know, I might, like the Smiths, have chanced my arm with stars at this point. They earned their first points, and we moved on to Eye of Horus. This gave the Ops –(eg) Dairy Milk (chocolate). For me this certainly wasn’t enough to go on. Pringles (potato crisps) though gave me the answer – that these are all products which have been disputed – that is – for w while the EU ruled that British chocolate such as Cadbury’s could not actually be called chocolate – and Mr. Pringle actually took issue with the idea that his most excellent snacks are in fact potato crisps. The next two were ketchup (vegetable) and Jaffa Cakes (cakes). The Ops pretty much had it on the 4th. Now, according to QI the whole issue over Jaffa Cakes – which I believe ARE actually classed as cakes and not biscuits – led to the definition of the difference between biscuits and cakes. It goes like this – when they go stale, biscuits go soft, while cakes go hard. Therefore Jaffa Cakes are cakes, QED. Two reeds gave the Smiths Iago. Now, I would NEVER have gone for it in the studio, but I did actually have a five pointer here. The obvious thing is Shakespearean villains, so I didn’t go there. However, Iago is also the Spanish equivalent of James. Who is the patron Saint of Spain – the Santiago of Santiago de Compostela. So – parton saints of countries in that country’s native language. Francesco e Caterina looked Italian, and Dewi, as in Dewi Sant, is St. David of Wales. John worked it out, and after their first set the Smiths seemed to have rallied well. The Ops finished with pictures. Now, the key to this set was recognizing picture two – Earl Grey. Get this, and you have it off two. As for the others, though, a full ENGLISH BREAKFAST, a RED BUSH, and a golfing GREEN, were not by any means easy. Get Earl Grey, and you know it’s tea. Without it, though it escaped both teams. The Ops had 2, while the Smiths led with 4.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

Lion gave the Smiths a picture of a red horse. “Buzz in and chance your arm with Red Lion!” I shouted. They played more cautiously, taking the second picture of a White Hart. That was enough for the Smiths, and as sets go, it was a little bit of a gift. Clare of the Ops too went conventional with her pronunciation of Horned Viper, and earned Madonna – and there are too many possibilities there, then Chris Cornell. That gave it away, and so I yelled ‘Adele!’, this being a sequence of artists who recorded James Bond film themes. They could see what the sequence was, but took the third clue before giving the correct answer. The Smiths took water, and their first clue was the intriguing Teeth. This was followed by Eyes. At about the same time we all worked out that this was Shakespeare’s seven ages of Man – sans teeth, sans eyes, and so the sequence would end with everything. Good shout. Eye of Horus gave the Ops excel – then – el. Now, a few years ago I would have had no chance at this one, but I’ve seen them do this sort of thing on the connecting wall enough now to  see XL – L – Which would mean we’d go EM , then ESS. The Ops had it, but they Opted to play cautious and took the last clue before giving the correct answer. Phonetic rendition of clothing sizes. Twisted Flax brought the Smiths Versus then Kiss. I was struggling at this point. I think it was Richard who had an excellent shout here. Versus is V , while a kiss is an X. V then X are roman numerals, so working on L then C, something like Celsius would do the trick. The Ops finished off with Reeds and 4: Abu Dhabi – which wasn’t enough for me – then 3: Bilbao. Now, the Guggenheim Museum is a thing which most quizzers link with Bilbao, so I went for 1: new York, location of the original Guggenheim. Yes, the Ops had it at this point, and yes, they once again opted to go cautious, and took the last clue 2: Venice. Their caution was understandable, but meant that they were 5 points behind the Smiths, who led with 13.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Ops went for the Lion Wall. Early doors they could see a linked set of sort of crown type headgear denoting rank, but left these go for a bit in order to find Goosen – Crown – Dover and Tito. Take the last letter of each off and hey presto, you’ve caught a bird. Pschent – Diadem – Tiara and Coronet were the headgear, and they fell quickly. They could see a set which would all follow American in film titles – Beauty – Sniper – Pie and Hustle, but hung fire a minute to try to work out what linked Sabbatini – Locke – Player and Frost. Well, Player and Locke were both South African golfers so that was my guess. They went with philosophers – John Locke – but he never won the Open so no. 7 points.

The Smiths, faced with Water, tried a group of words denoting something false. These wouldn’t resolve. They saw Ascorbic Acid and initially thought food additives. Not a million miles away, but a serious quizzer would know that it’s Vitamin C, which would have given away a line of vitamins. I could also see a list of words which, when combined with a specific number, would give the name of a group – eg Sham (Sham 69) – and this was the first group they resolved with Sham – Shed – East – Haircut. Then the vitamins fell with Retinol – Ascorbic Acid – Thiamin and Riboflavin. They could see that there was a group of things also symbolized by E, so they knew the connections of the last two sets, it was just a matter of resolving them. They didn’t manage to do so, but when they were resolved they were MDMA (Ecstasy = E) – Earth – Tocopherol (vitamin E) and Spain were the Es, while Ersatz – Faux – Mock and Shanzhai the fakes/false items. 6 points meant they led by 19 – 15.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

Category one was excuses given by train companies. I like this sort of category because you know what is likely to come up, and so you just have to spot them first. These fell 3 – 1 to the Smiths. Nicknames for newspapers went 2 apiece. All known by the initials AA (surely that should be the initials _ _ ?) fell 2 apiece. There was only time for one of the Works of Handel, which fell to the Smiths. They won comfortably in the end, by 27 – 20.

I hadn’t been impressed by the Smiths in the first couple of sets, but they went on to show their true mettle, and came up with some pretty good shouts during the contest. I don’t think that they will necessarily be the strongest team of this series, but they’ll be in there with a chance. Hard lines to the Ops, but they have another chance to prolong their involvement in the series. 

University Challenge 2016 - Round One - Match One

Glasgow v. Peterhouse, Cambridge

One of my last posts, I notice, was actually the Grand Final of the previous series. Surely it isn’t a year since we were watching the documentaries about the selection of all of last year’s teams? Well, yes, I’m afraid it is. Well, I didn’t notice any such documentaries this year, but never mind, we certainly have the first two teams of the series anyway. Glasgow were represented by Andrew Davidson, Vitali Brejevs, Ollie Allen and captain Evelyn McMenamin. Peterhouse in their turn were represented by Thomas Langley, Oscar Powell, Julian Sutcliffe and their skipper Hannah Woods. Well, that’s the niceties over with, and away we go.

The first question was a relatively gentle lob about Thomism, and first to the buzzer was Thomas Langley. This brought a series of bonuses on Bleak House. This was not a novel with which the Peterhouse team were familiar, and thus a gettable set went begging. The next starter asked about the term bitcoin. Vitali Brejevs opened his team’s account with this one, and they took the lead with a set of bonuses on Physicists, of which they managed one. I did my first lap of honour of the living room of this series when my guess of Ernest Rutherford brought me a point on this set. Vitali Brejevs zigged with Galvani for the inventor of the first battery, allowing Thomas Langley to zag with Volta. Artists as described by Simon Schama brought us both a full house. I knew that “The Aspern Papers” is set in Venice, and so did Evelyn McMenamin, which earned Glasgow a set on South America,in which each answer began with –qu-. A good full set were taken. This brought us to this series’ first picture starter. We were shown a map with the trail marked on it. Hannah Woods offered ‘ The Pennine trail’ and this was accepted under the ‘close enough’ ruing. The answer is more correctly The Pennine Way. Yes, ok, that’s fair enough, as long as other teams are also allowed answers which are equally close while not adhering to the strict letter of the answer. Time alone will tell on that one. Three more of the same followed, and Peterhouse took one. I would only have had the same one – Hadrian’s Wall path – myself. So after a brisk and competitive start to the contest Peterhouse led by 50 – 40 at the 10 minute mark.

Thomas Langley provided a good early buzz to identify Charles I’s Short Parliament. The SOHO space mission provided slim pickings, yielding one bonus. Oscar Powell opened his account identifying a series of words beginning with the letters –ul-. Regions of China provided one bonus. Now, coming back to the ‘close enough’ rule, Hannah Woods offered the Taklaman desert, and it was reassuring to see that this was not accepted for the Taklamakan Desert. Bad luck because she obviously knew the right one, but the right adjudication. Some Physics questions about optics eluded all of us. Now, you hear the words 1961 – and – New Capital – and you buzz in with Brazil before you even hear the words ‘world heritage site’. Well, that’s the idea. Both teams listened to the whole question, then Hannah Woods buzzed in. She sounded uncertain, but she was right. Peterhouse at this stage of the game were outbuzzing Glasgow. Questions about Graham Greene (met him once and was very unimpressed. Mind you, so was he.) A couple of bonuses were answered correctly. The first music starter of this series saw neither team manage to identify a little bit of Monteverdi. Not surprised. So the bonuses rolled over while we had another starter, and Ollie Allen recognized a definition of the term ‘bus’ as used in computing. The music bonuses offered three pieces inspired by the myth of Orpheus, and asked for their composers. I fancied we’d be getting the Can Can, and this was actually the last one. It was the only one I got, but Glasgow didn’t know it. A very good early buzz from Vitali Brejevs identified “Cabbages and Kings” as the work of O. Henry. The 2014 Winter Olympics brought 2 correct answers and ten points. Oscar Powell looked as if he was guessing when he buzzed to offer sial as the name used for the upper part of the Earth’s crust, but he was right anyway, and he earned his team bonuses on English and Scottish monarchs. Now the first one, about the king at the time of the Norman Conquest was asked in the rugby club two weeks ago, and considering the difficulty of the question I was a little annoyed that we weren’t given anything for putting Malcolm II rather than Malcolm III, but I digress. Peterhouse were close to all three, but only managed the one. This took their score to 115, which meant that they had now established a 50 point lead by the 20 minute mark, and were looking like the stronger of the two teams.

Julian Sutcliffe recognized the Duke of Wellington’s quote about battles won being as melancholy as battles lost. Miserable old git. That’s the Duke of Wellington, and not Julian Sutcliffe. Questions on Switzerland brought another 5 points. Vitali Brejevs, who to be honest so far had been almost single handedly keeping his team in the game, was first to buzz in for the second picture starter to identify an engraving by Gustave Dore. The bonuses were further illustrations by Dore, and the team had to identify the work it was created for and the author of the work. They managed two, but were probably kicking themselves for not getting the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A great early buzz from Hannah Woods saw her recognize the definition of postmodernism. I’m a post-impressionist myself. My impression of a post is brilliant. I’m here all week, ladies and gents. Neglected Tropical Diseases brought a good full set, and Peterhouse were, if not home and dry, certainly in their own street and only slightly damp. Oscar Powell was unlucky not to quite understand the question for the next starter. Only participle was needed, while he offered past participle, which wasn’t quite the answer to the question as asked – and again he was correctly decided not to have quite qualified for the close enough rule to come into operation. Maybe misled by the previous answer, Glasgow plumped for gerund. Close but no cigar. Hannah Woods knows that you hear the words ‘Swiss French architect, and you hit the buzzer and say ‘Le Corbusier’. Novels about the First World War brought two correct answers – I didn’t know “The Daughters of Mars” either. Ollie Allen knew that the first country to declare war in July 1914 was Austria-Hungary. Bonuses on Ancient Greece took them to 105, and with maybe 5 minutes left they at least had the chance of making a bid for a repechage slot. Now, with the Maths starter that followed, I used the Clark principle of always answering zero or 1, and got it right by answering zero. So did Vitali Brejevs. European cities with 4 letter names took Glasgow to 130, and a good enough score for a run at the repechage was looking a much higher possibility. The impressive Mr. Brejevs knew that FLOPS stands for Floating Operations Per Second, and a set on royal wives added 5 more points. 145 might just do it, and in fact a win wasn’t out of the question now. Well, Oscar Powell wasn’t having any of that, and won the buzzer race to say that ATP stands for Adenosine Triphosphate. Italian football grounds provided 5 more points, but the two they missed out on were gettable. Vitali Brejevs won the buzzer race to name the Indonesian province on Borneo as Kalimantan, and that, I fancy, might just be enough to take them to the repechage round. There was no time for any bonuses, and so Peterhouse won 185 to 155.

This was a good and enjoyable contest, and both teams can be pretty pleased with their displays. On balance Peterhouse seem to have a little more buzzing throughout their team than Glasgow, but then first round form is notoriously unreliable.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP earned himself some Clark brownie points by alluding to the TV series Doctor Who, but lost all of them immediately by calling the character Doctor Who, rather than The Doctor. The Doctor supposedly gained his degree from Glasgow.

I thought that we were going to get a comment about Peterhouse’s identification of the Glyndwr Way as the Brecon Beacons, but JP merely looked down his not inconsiderable nose and moved on. There was the hint of a laugh when Glasgow offered Handel for the composer of the Can Can.
I’ve rarely seen JP so lost for words as when Vitali Brejevs offered the title of “The Firebird” in Russian! In English? he replied, his expression suggesting that he maybe felt that Mr. Brejevs was ‘showing off’.

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

Thomas Keneally wrote the 2012 novel “The Daughters of Mars”

Friday, 17 July 2015

Where Was I?

Right now, where was I?

Actually, that’s a very pertinent question. Look, I am really sorry to any formerly regular readers who happen to chance upon this entry that it’s been months since I last posted. I feel I owe you some kind of explanation, albeit that I really don’t have much that I can say.

Going back through to January, this has been a hell of a difficult year for me. It started badly when I was sick right throughout the Christmas holiday period, and wasn’t really recovered when I went back to work in January. Since January this school year has been the most difficult, most pressurized I can ever remember – I won’t labour the point, but basically my school closes when it amalgamates with two other local schools one year from now, and none of us knew whether we would in fact get jobs in the new school. Add to the fact that the school underwent an inspection as well. Meanwhile, at home we had the difficulties of two of my daughters splitting up with their partners, and coming to live with us again. Pip brought my grandson Ollie with her – and don’t get me wrong, I was delighted about that because that young man is the apple of my eye – and Jen gave birth to my granddaughter Amelia a little while after moving back with us. Now, my grandchildren are nothing but a joy – but you can understand this has been a very difficult and trying period.

Well, the school passed through the inspection with flying colours, which is ironic considering we’re closing, and thankfully I have a job in the new school. Pip and Jen are renting a house together and have moved out, but it’s literally 3 streets away so I can see Ollie and Meemo (Amelia) any time I want to. So what my grandmother always said does actually seem true – it’ll all come out in the wash, and things have a habit of working out in the long run.

Now, I haven’t actually fallen out of love with quizzing – far from it, and I always said that writing LAM was never a chore for me, but a labour of love. But the fact is that things that have happened since January , some of which I’ve tried to explain above, have just left me mentally shattered and exhausted. I would hate to be writing LAM, and begrudging doing it. So it wasn’t actually a conscious decision to stop writing – more a question of waiting until I had something which I felt was worth saying. The return of UC and OC seemed the perfect opportunity.

So I am sorry if you’ve missed LAM, and ask for your understanding. Thanks.

And now, back to the quizzes.