Monday, 19 November 2018

I'm a Celebrity

Can I make a plea for all readers to be kind to my friend Anne Hegerty on "I'm A Celebrity"? I don't know if you're the kind of person who would normally never phone in for such a show - I certainly am - but if I could ask for your help keeping Anne away from any more of those horrible bush tucker trials. Apart from being a fantastic quizzer, she's a really lovely person and absolutely does not deserve to be put through some of trial by television which this show is so renowned for.

Thanks in advance.

Friday, 16 November 2018

University Challenge 2019 - Repechage Match 2 - Hertford, Oxford v. Exeter


So to the second repechage match. Hertford, Oxford, represented by Steffi Woodgate, Pat Taylor, Chris Page and skipper Richard Tudor, lost on the buzzer to Clare of Cambridge in the first round, while Exeter, whose team were Simon Waitland, Will Klintworth, Jessica Brown and their skipper Danny Lay, lost a thriller to Warwick in the very first match of the series, back in July.

Possibly mindful of the way that his team were buzzed out of their heat, Chris Page came in very early for the first starter, and lost five, allowing Simon Waitland to buzz in, and rather amusingly give the correct answer while JP was burbling on telling them that they could hear the whole question. The answer was paradise papers. No, me neither. Meetings and assemblies gave Exeter a further 10 points, but I wondered if they’d rue saying enclave rather than conclave. I felt that both teams rather sat on their buzzers for the next starter, asking where Plato taught, until Richard Tudor buzzed in with Academy after a number of other clues to the word. Karl Pearson , (altogether now – known in LAM Towers as Karl Who) promised but little, but actually served me up a lap of honour for knowing that Francis Galton is considered the father of Eugenics. That was the only one that Hertford knew as well. I didn’t know that 40,000 doctors cooperated in a study that established a link between smoking and cancer, but I guessed for the next starter. Steffi Woodgate knew. Doping in sport provided a further two bonuses. Both Richard Tudor and I recognised the names of two of the tutors of Elizabeth I. for the next starter. Lorraine Hansberry added another bonus to both of us. Hertford were outbuzzing Exeter at this stage, but not making the most of the bonus opportunities. Early days though. On to the picture starter which showed us a map on which a major forest, obviously the Forest of Dean, had been marked. First to identify it was Will Klintworth. More of the same brought another two correct answers. This meat that just before the ten minute mark Hertford still led, but only by 45 – 35.

Chris Page won the buzzer race to say that YBA in a particular context stands for Young British Artists. Manet’s Le Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe provided Hertford with their first full house of the evening. Danny Lay knew that for the most part, if you hear the words Charles Goodyear at the start of a question, if you answer vulcanisation at once, you’re going to be right a lot more often than you’re going to be wrong. Bonuses on the sciences promised me but little, although I did know that a gram stain is used to distinguish between bacteria. Exeter took two. Will Klintworth knew that the Visegrad contains Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as Hungary. Good shout, that. Early Gothic cathedrals only provided a single bonus for Exeter, but more importantly it gave them the lead. Neither team could manage to dredge up the proverb ‘good fences make good neighbours’ for the next starter. Despite a very helpfully worded question, neither team knew the Belvedere Palace in Vienna. Exeter nonetheless seemed to have warmed up now, and Will Lay won the buzzer race to idenfity the term Dustbowl, as in the Great American of the 1930s. Agricultural products beginning with co provided no more points, but took us up to the music starter. Will Lay very quickly recognised the work of Edvard Grieg. Three exercises in musical nostalgia brought Exeter two correct answers, and me nowt. However I atoned for it knowing that a neotenic Mexican salamander must be an axolotl – giving me ax for the next starter. Chris Page wasn’t far behind either, with a timely back to put his own team’s effort back onto the rails. I was surprised that they didn’t know that Napoleon Bonaparte is buried in Les Invalides – you can’t afford to miss gimmes like that in a tight match. They did rally to recognise the name of the composer of the Marseillaise to score one bonus on the set. Thus galvanised skipper Richard Tudor took a good early buzz to identify Purple as the colour in the title of a 1985 Woody Allen film – The Purple Rose of Cairo if you’re not certain. Elements known since antiquity gave me that rarest or rara aves, a full house on Science. Hertford too took a full house, which gave them back the lead. Good match. Simon Waitland knew about Coriolis to snatch back that lead with the next starter. Meera Nair’s work has, I’m afraid, passed me by, but I did guess the last. Exeter went one better than me for that set of bonuses. Thus, on the cusp of the 20 minute mark they led, but the contest was nicely poised at 125 – 110.

Pat Taylor took a good early buzz to identify the phonetics term rhotic. South American capital cities offered a potential full house, and indeed that’s what they delivered, handing Hertford back the lead. A still from the biographical film about Iris Murdoch saw neither team able to identify its subject. A rush of blood to the head saw Will Lay throw away 5 points by buzzing early to identify the Red Fort as located in Beijing. This was compounded when Pat Taylor gave the correct answer of Delhi. The Picture bonuses from films about writers brought a full house to Hertford, who must have felt that the wind was well into their sails at this point. Steffi Woodgate buzzed early to recognise parts of an insects eye – each ot their own, I suppose. Bonuses on the Berlin Wall took the Hertford lead to 60 points, and with just 4 minutes to go, that looked decisive. It wasn’t over yet though. Will Klintworth won the buzzer race to identify L’Eminence Rouge as Richelieu. Bonuses on India didn’t help a great deal, yielding just the one correct answer. At this stage there was no point in Exeter sitting back on their buzzers, so I don’t blame Will Klintworth for taking a flyer with the next starter, but he failed to identify that Blair, Major etc were all Leaders of the Opposition. Richard Tudor confirmed Hertford’s win by giving the correct answer. History bonuses brought a further ten points. Haemaglutinin – gesundheit – was right up Steffi Woodgate’s street, and she left everyone else trailing in her wake for the next starter about said antigen. Meteorites provided just the one bonus, but this was immaterial since the job was done. Nobody could dredge up the term epicene for the next starter. Will Lay did well to buzz early to identify Le Figaro as the newspaper named after a character created by Beaumarchais, but Exeter’s chance had passed several minutes earlier. US Golf courses at least allowed Exeter to finish with a flourish with a full house. Indeed the final answer of the evening was supplied by Will Klintworth who recognised a description of General Gordon. This took Exeter’s score to 165 – higher than the first round, while Hertford won with 215. Make no mistake, this was a quality match, and a pleasure to watch – well played to both teams.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nothing to see here, citizens. Go on with your lives.

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

The first case of competitors losing their medals for doping offences was the 1968 Swedish Modern Pentathlon team.

Mastermind 2019, Heat 7


Well, I think we’re getting into the swing of it with this series now, aren’t we, dearly beloved. For the first time this series, BBC Wales actually consented to show this one at the same time as the rest of the UK. Won’t last.

Enough of such grumping. First through the portentous portal was Corinne Male. Speaking of the portal, it suddenly occurred to me the other day to ask myself bigheadedly whether the idea of the portal was inspired the metaphorical corridor of doubt, so often mentioned in this very blog. Answers on a postcard, please. Corinne was offering us the Life and Works of Rudyard Kipling. Well and good, but was it an exceedingly good round? Well, not quite. She had a bit of a hesitant start, which meant that when she did get into her stride the finish line came a little too quickly. She still managed double figures with 10.

I had 4 on the Kipling round, and added another 5 on Mik Levin’s round on Clement Atlee. A consistently underestimated figure in his own career and lifetime, Clement Atlee remains, to my mind, by far one of the most important Prime Ministers of the 20th century. Mik’s round was if anything the opposite of Corinne’s. He began with great confidence, and seemed destined for something around the 12 mark. However hesitancies and wrong answers began to creep in, which left him on 9. That’s a perfectly respectable SS score in this day and age, but it isn’t the platform you need to launch a bid for a win in GK.

Glamorgan County Cricket Club are my local county, as it were, so maybe I ought to have done better than the 4 points I managed on David Cowan’s round. Not really, though, when ou consider that it’s cricket, and I just can’t really get into cricket. I haven’t got the attention span. David has. He produced the best round of the night, and I particularly liked his crisp and quick answering style. This meant that although it was never a perfect round, he still managed to amass 12 points by the time the BLOD (Blue Line Of Doom) had completed its circuit.

It fell to Matilda Southwood to complete the round. Matilda was offering a traditional type Mastermind subject in the stiff and starched form of Florence Nightingale. Another 4 points took my aggregate to 15, one of my better Specialist aggregates of this series. Matilda knew her stuff, no doubt about that, but never looked quite as convincing as David. She seemed rather nervous, although still managed to push him close, scoring 11.

It fell to Mik, then, to begin the GK round. His round was actually something of a reprise of what had happened in the Specialist. Mik started extremely well, and although there was a quite a bit of bread and butter amongst the questions that he was asked, he was getting all of the harder stuff as well. The last 45 seconds or so of his round see him lose momentum in sight of the line, and incur a string of passes. He still managed a score of 13, though, and that’s not a bad score at all by anyone’s standards. Setting the target at 22 I fancied that he wouldn’t still be in last place come the end of the show.

Indeed he wouldn’t. Corinne never really managed to build up a head of steam with her GK round, and it was pretty obvious that she wasn’t going to make the target quite a while before her round actually ended. Hard lines. Corinne finished with 8 for a total of 18.

With Matilda, it was all rather closer. Still sounding rather nervous and unsure of a number of answers, she managed to keep pushing her total onwards, closer to the target. However she ran out of road, to coin a phrase, having only scored 10 for 21 by the time the buzzer trilled to bring an end to the round.

So Mik would be second at least. But could he pull off the rare feat of moving from last to first in the space of the GK round? Well, no. David’s crisp, calm answering style brought him past the winning post with quite a bit of time to spare. In the end he added an impressive 15 to take his total to 27. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, but I did think that last night’s GK rounds were a little easier than the average rounds we’ve seen this series, but nonetheless you can only answer what you’re asked, and David did that extremely well. Good luck in the semi finals, sir.

Corinne Male
The Life and Works of Rudyard Kipling
10
1
8
3
18
4
Mik Levin
Clement Atlee
9
3
13
5
22
8
David Cowan
Glamorgan CCC
12
0
15
0
27
0
Matilda Southwood
Florence Nightingale
11
0
10
2
21
2

Saturday, 10 November 2018

University Challenge, Repechage 1, Emmanuel, Cambridge v. King's, London


Connor Macdonald, Vedanth Nair, Ben Harris and skipper Daniella Cugini, representing Emmanuel, Cambridge, put on a very good performance narrowly missing out to Glasgow in their first round heat while scoring 175. Their opponents, Kings, London, Liam Tsang, Rhianne Jones, Katie Heath and their own skipper Anthony Chater, lost out in the Central London derby against old rivals UCL. They’d scored 145. Advantage Emmanuel? Time would tell.

Daniella Cugini, impressive in the first round match, started much the same way in this one, recognising a quote from “To Kill A Mockingbird” very early to take first blood for Emmanuel. Bonuses on the word cosmos brought just the one correct answer. Both teams rather sat on the buzzer for the next starter, with Connor Macdonald finally springing to life to answer Golda Meir just before the question was finished. Composers in London brought a full house. Liam Tsang hit back for UCL, recognising the definition of a bacterial colony for a timely early buzz. Astronomy and Physics I thought maybe offered me the chance of a lap of honour. Indeed, knowing that Chiron is a centaur from Greek Mythology, that’s exactly what happened. By the time I returned to the sofa, puffing and wheezing, (and it’s not even a big room) both King’s and I had taken our own full houses. Anthony Chater narrowed the gap further, knowing that Winchester Cathedral fitted the description given for the next starter. Barbara Hepworth yielded nowt for the bonuses, in what was a reasonably gettable set. So to the picture starter, and a map of part of the USA, with a city marked out in California. Vedanth Nair recognised that it was the state capital Sacramento. More American cities which were terminals of North American railroads provided a far from easy full house. Connor Macdonald took his second starter, recognising a description of sugar cane. Films of 2017 brought two bonuses, which meant that Emmanuel, who’d had the better of the opening exchanges, led by 85 to 35.

It was pretty obvious that the country in question, neighbouring Switzerland, was Liechtenstein, and Vedanth Nair won the buzzer race to supply that answer. This time Emmanuel’s bonuses were on female military leaders in China – can’t wait – I thought as JP announced these. Actually I still managed two, while Emmanuel took a good full house. Some chemistry thing to which Ben Harris supplied the correct answer Friedel-Crafts followed. Pressure brught another full set of bonuses, and at this stage the odds on a King’s win were getting longer and longer. There was a long time still to go, but Emmanuel had a 100 point lead. Nobody knew about ephedrine for the next starter. Now, if you ever get a question which contains the words “a German philologist” then it’s going to be about one or both of the Brothers Grimm. Daniela Cugini knew this as she buzzed in really quickly to answer Grimm’s Law to the next starter. Names often heard in pairs gave us a wonderful UC special set which earned Emmanuel two bonuses. So to the music starter. Anthony Chater quickly recognised that the Trolley Song was from the musical Meet Me In St. Louis. Three more MGM musicals from this period brought the ten points they needed to reduce the gap to an even hundred. A UC special set saw Ben Harris give us auk and ork, and then almost curse himself as he realised it is auk and orc, a fact which didn’t escape Katie Heath. Bonuses on various Engelberts brought the gap down to 75. Katie Heath then committed the fatal error of not listening to the question. Asked for an island in a novel by Swift, she gave us the title of the novel, “Gulliver’s Travels” allowing Ben Harris to take revenge by giving us Lilliput. To bonuses of their own on impact craters in the solar system followed. Rhianne Jones knew various latin words beginning with AL. Countries that formerly possessed nuclear weapons brought a couple more bonuses for King’s, and right on the cusp of the 20 minute mark the score stood at 175 – 95 to Emmanuel. The task was not totally beyond King’s at this stage, but it would require some phenomenal buzzer work.

Nobody knew the geometry starter which followed. Vedanth Nair recognised that the other person from the one named who shared the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was Malala Yousafzai. The anatomy of fish brought up a full house, and magnified the scale of the mountain that King’s still had to climb. The second picture starter brought a photograph of a British historical figure. Connor Macdonald did the old quizzer’s trick of only offering the surname “Pankhurst”. JP was having none of it, “Which one?” he asked, his eyes narrowing with suspicion. Connor Macdonald zigged correctly with Emmeline. Three more people involved in the Women’s Suffrage Movement brought one bonus. Now, if it’s a beverage and it’s a cantata, it’s coffee. Anthony Chater knew that, and struck like a coiled cobra. Madness in Shakespeare brought 2 bonuses. However, every time King’s scored, Emmanuel would just take the next starter, and Vedanth Nair recognised a description of Baku for the next starter. National trails in Southern England brought just one bonus, but it really didn’t matter. The clock was running down and King’s were pretty much out of time, even if they answered every remaining question. They took the next one, Liam Tsang knowing osteoblasts. Fictional spacecraft did them no favours and they failed to add to their score. The impressive Vedanth Nair took the next starter giving the terms of supply and demand in economics. Pele did them no favours, but it was immaterial. Anthony Chater won a fast buzzer race to identify the opening line of “The Go Between” which I once mistakenly thought was written by J.R.Hartley, (younger readers may wish to consult their parents or grandparents about that specific cultural reference). Island countries did at least allow King’s to reduce the gap to double figures. That was it. Emmanuel won by 235 to 140, in a pretty convincing performance. Hard lines King’s.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

‘Is it Alexander von Humboldt? is that the brother you were thinking of?’ asked Jez, teasingly. ‘Yes? Well, you didn’t get him!’ He started early this week. For the film question, asked for a city in Yorkshire, Daniella Cugini, acting on advice from Vedanth Nair that the answer began with T, offered Truro. Cue the Paxman eyebrows shooting towards the ceiling. “Truro’s NOT in Yorkshire!” he sniffed, his nose wrinkling as if it had just detecting an unpleasant odour. Actually, though, I think that there was a bit of sympatico between Jez and the Cambridge skipper. When she offered Apollo and Daphne instead of Daphnis and Chloe, she shrugged her shoulders and went ‘Ach’ in a ‘hey, whaddya gonna do?’ gesture, which caused the great man to laugh, and replicate the same. Down, boy, down, or they’ll be putting bromide in your Horlicks again.

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

Chopin gave his final performance in London in 1848 after fleeing the unrest in Paris (which saw the overthrow of Louis Phillipe)

Friday, 9 November 2018

Mastermind 2019 Heat 6


Ah, Mastermind. A good way to end a rather fraught week – my school has had a visit from the Inspectors of Estyn.

First into the chair was journalist Mic Wright. His specialist subject was Mark E Smith and The Fall. Now, I will be honest, I thought that I knew nothing whatsoever about Mark E Smith and The Fall, but it turned out I just knew next to nothing, since I scored one. Mic knew his stuff alright. He had a couple wrong but still managed a total of 13 points for his round, which proved he must have been going like the clappers.

Through the portal of portent came Tom Cappleman. Tom reached the semi finals of University Challenge with New College , Oxford a few years ago, where he proved to be a bit of a star on the buzzer for his team, so I expected good things from him last night. I certainly got them from him in the specialist round. Answering on the letters of the New Testament he scored another 13. I, on the other hand, obviously know a little bit more about them than Mr. Smith and The Fall, since I managed 4.

Okay, without wishing to be at all mean, I’d better start off Mary Breading’s round by stating that she scored 5. I’ll be honest, judging from her reactions to some of the answers and the two passes, I don’t think that this was all down to nerves. It just seemed that there were certain areas of her subject, The History of the Wrens, she didn’t know about from her preparation, and I’m afraid that Mastermind can be a cruel old show, sometimes. If you’ve left gaps in your knowledge, it will find them out, even if they’re tiny ones. I added 3, and needed a point on Isaac Newton to take me into double figures.

As it happened I got 6, my highest score of the night which took me to a very respectable specialist aggregate of 15. Offering us the great – although seriously weird – Newton was Pat Lucas. She did very well too, finding 13 of her own answers, with just the one pass. So although behind Tom on pass countback, having the same number of correct answers she would go last on the GK round.

There was a certain irony in the fact that Mary Breading, first to return to the chair, would actually put on the best GK round of the night. In fact, had she answered just a little more quickly there was every good chance that she would have scored even more than the 11 she produced. Trailing by 8 points there was no way she was going to produce a big enough target to put any of the other three into the corridor of doubt, nonetheless, it was a good performance.

The first of the contenders with a realistic chance of winning to return to the chair was Mic Wright. He started brightly too, but ah, what do we often say? The GK round is a marathon, not a sprint, and the last 90 seconds or so looked to be something of a grim old slog. It was kind of typified by his last question, an old 50 / 50 about the animal name used to describe a falling market. Yes, it was going to be either bull or bear, but which? He zagged with bull, and the answer was bear. On such small margins. He finished with 9 for 22.

Tom Cappleman took his first two or three questions comfortably. Based on his UC record I did think he’d make the target comfortably. In fact another 4 questions would pass by before he added another correct answer, and it was a while before he built up any momentum after that. He finished just ahead of Mic with 23. His tactic had obviously been to pass if the answer did not quickly occur. It’s a valid tactic, but a risky one. He’d passed on 6 questions. Would he regret it?

Well, for much of Pat’s round, it looked as if he might not. But what Pat was doing was giving herself valuable thinking time for each question. It meant that while there were a significant number of things she didn’t know, she took points for everything that she did know, and for those questions which were guessable to her. She maximised her performance that way, and took her own score to 23 and 1 pass. John Humphrys did a rather strange thing next. Before she’d even had a chance to get her breath back John told her she’d scored 21 points and 1 pass and had won. Strange. The usual procedure is to let her the last contender go back and sit down, announce there’s been a tie, say how many passes the contestants involved in the tie had scored, and THEN announce the winner. Much more effective in my opinion.

Well, there we are. Congratulations, Pat. Not the highest scores we’ve seen so far this series, but enjoyable nonetheless.

The Details

Mic Wright
Mark E Smith and The Fall
13
1
9
2
22
3
Tom Cappleman
The Letters of the New Testament
13
0
10
6
23
6
Mary Breading
The History of the Wrens
5
2
11
0
16
2
Pat Lucas
Isaac Newton
13
1
10
0
23
1

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Mastermind Heat 5


Another Friday brought us another first round heat, dearly beloved. First up was Monisha Rajesh. She was answering on the films of John Hughes. I’ll be honest, I’ve only seen about 3 or 4 of the films referenced during the round, so I wasn’t all that unhappy to only score 4 points of my own. Monisha, though, achieved what is still a relative rarity, a perfect round of 14 correct answers to 14 questions. Game on.

Now, I wouldn’t say that I’m especially knowledgeable about Billie Holliday, but I’ve loved her voice for years now, ever since I heard ‘God Bless the Child’ used on a TV advert donkeys years ago. So when Zoe Alford announced that she was answering on Lady Day, I didn’t expect to garner a cricket score. I was pretty pleased with the 6 I managed. Zoe didn’t quite match Monisha’s performance, but her 12 is a competitive score, of the kind you can’t achieve unless you’ve put the time and effort into preparation.

As Mark Grant stepped through the portal of portent, I announced to the empty sofa – “Here’s tonight’s winner.” Yes, very premature, I know, but I can be forgiven such hyperbole when you consider Mark’s track record. Brain of Britain winner. Member of the unbeaten (and possibly unbeatable) Crossworders from Only Connect. Twice a finalist in Mastermind, having placed 2nd and 3rd. I shan’t go on. Mark was answering on the poet Keith Douglas. He took 14 questions and supplied 14 correct answers, but only the last question caught him out. A fantastic performance.

Lightning is not supposed to strike twice in the same place. I’ll explain that in a moment. Emma Swift, final contender to brave the chair last night, was answering on Abraham Lincoln. I added another 6 to my score, for my second highest aggregate of the series so far. Emma, though, as had Mark and Monisha, ripped through her round, taking 14 consecutive correct answers. Lightning struck again when she failed on the very last question. Didn’t really matter, as 14 was enough to ensure that she would be the final contender in the GK round as well.

Congratulations to all 4 contenders for very fine specialist rounds. I know that I go on about this, but I don’t want to see contenders doing badly in specialist rounds, and all 4 contenders had obviously prepared thoroughly.

You can, to an extent, predict some of the things you’re likely to be asked about in specialist rounds, and because of that it is possible to prepare effectively. Not so with GK. This is why it can transpire that there’s such a difference between some contenders’ performances in specialist and in general knowledge. Zoe Alford was unable to reproduce the quality of her specialist round, and added 7 to her score to take her total, and the target to 19. As for Monisha, I may be wrong but her GK round looked badly affected by nerves, or possibly dwelling on a wrong answer given early in the round. She took her total to 18.

Mark’s round was interesting. Make no mistake, Mark is one of a number of players who could rip through a whole round of GK with a perfect round. For the first six or seven questions he was definitely on target. However then the round was becalmed with 4 wrong answers in a row, before he managed to get the show back on the road. In the end, one more wrong answers meant that he just failed to fulfil my prediction that he’d get to 30 points. Never mind, his 29 points looked a very good bet to fulfil my prediction that he was going to win this heat.

Which is not to say that Emma didn’t give it a try, because she did. 10 points in a first round GK set is a respectable score, and that’s what she managed. 24 in total gave her second place, but in all honesty I think it’s very unlikely to get her into the semi finals based on what we’ve seen so far in this series. As for Mark, well, I have no wish to jinx his chances by making predictions at this stage. However, I leave you with this to consider.  Last year’s series was won by Brian Chesney, who’d been runner up in Clive’s series. The season before was won by Isabelle Heward, who’s certainly also know the slings and arrows of outrageous Mastermind fortune. I’m not saying that there’s a pattern emerging. But let’s put it this way, Mark is very much a contender to watch.

The Details

Monisha Rajesh
The films of John Hughes
14
0
4
5
18
5
Zoe Alford
Billie Holiday
12
0
7
4
19
4
Mark Grant
Keith Douglas
14
0
15
0
29
0
Emma Swift
Abraham Lincoln
14
0
10
3
24
3

Friday, 2 November 2018

University Challenge - Round One - Keble,Oxford v. University of East Anglia


Yes, I had a lovely time in my short flying visit to Amsterdam, thanks for asking. Enough of such things, and let's get down to business. 
What, end of round one already? Well, don’t worry, dearly beloved. There’s still tons of matches to go before the destination of the title is decided. In Monday’s match, Keble College were represented by Ellen Pasternack, Michael Green, Thomas Player and skipper Rose Atkinson, while UAE were, collectively, Edward Bellamy, Matt Reid, Maddy Forde-Roberts, and captain Matt Walker.

None of us knew that the name Chile appears in the binomial of a dinosaur. Not surprised, although I was surprised that Matt Reid took a flier and lost 5 on it. Nobody managed to guess the next starter either, which gave us various clues to the letters DR, or Dr, or dr. Finally, after both teams having sat on their buzzers for the whole question, Maddy Forde Roberts took first blood for UAE, recognising a description of The Color Purple. Shakespeare and German writers offered the chance to increase the score, and UAE managed two, and with a little rub of the green might have had a full house – the answer they wanted was on the table, as it were. Ellen Pasternack opened the Oxford team’s account with an early buzz to identify various varieties of rhubarb. Anatomical objects named after people sounded difficult, and indeed both of us managed just the one correct answer with fallopian tubes. The next starter was one which repaid patience. Dendrobatidae? Meant nothing to me. They secrete poison used to coat arrow tips – no problem and both Ellen Pasternack and I chimed in with the correct answer of frogs. Two bonuses gave Keble the lead. For the picture starter we were shown the great seal of an American state. JP said that all helpful words had been removed – well, I’m sorry but it was firstly the word Eureka which gave me California. Michael Green took that one. More seals and heraldic symbols with bears on them brought just the one correct answer. I was intrigued to see both teams showing buzzer caution for the next starter. I did think that when asked for the middle letter of a word referring to an earthy  shade between yellow and red the answer would be h – we had another couple of clues before Maddy Forde Roberts buzzed in with the same answer. The Association of South East Asian Nations brought UEA’s score to 35, while Keble led with 45 at just after the 10 minute mark.

Ellen Pasternack took a flyer with the next starter and was right to do so, as she recognised that the first clue of a set was referring to the word Hunger. 1 bonus on town halls in the north west of England saw them eke the lead out to 25 points. Maddy Forde-Roberts guessed that Fakir was the term which translated as poor man, and thus earned a set of bonuses on The Dead Kennedys. Two correct answers reduced the gap to 5 points. Rose Wilkinson buzzed early for the next starter, convinced she had the answer, only for JP to had a further word which convinced her that the answer she was going to say was wrong. Given the whole question, I’d thought it would be the artist Miro, and as soon as JP said he was born in Barcelona I knew it was. UAE could not capitalise. None of us knew that Cream of Tartar contains potassium. For the next starter, asked which geographical feature is contained in the name of certain given French regions, Rose Atkinson answered mountains. “Specifically?” countered JP She zigged with Alps, allowing Matt Walker to zag with Pyrenees. I shan’t lie. When JP announced bonuses on the periodic table I put my trainers back on in preparation for a lap of honour. Well that I did, for I scooped a full house. UAE threw away two bonuses. The first, by rejecting the correct answer of tellurium for another element. The second, though, by not remembering the terms of the question which had said that the answers all begin with the same first two letters. Thus they offered ytterbium instead of terbium. Nonetheless, that one bonus was enough to take their lead to 15 points. So to the music starter. We heard Good Morning Starshine, and Thomas Player was the one to take a speculative punt on Hair. He was right to do so, and it earned more songs from rock musicals, from which two correct answers gave Keble back the lead. Ellen Pasternack was able to supply the term systole for the next starter. Winners of the Best original song Oscar provided 10 more points to stretch the lead to 25. Would UEA bounce straight back, as they had done before? Yes, they would, and once again it was Maddy Forde-Roberts draggin her team back into the match. She knew that Elizabeth Woodville was the mother of the two princes in the Tower. Bonuses on biology reduced the gap to 5 points. A gap which was reduced when Rose Atkinson had a rush of blood to the head and buzzed too early for the next starter. Again, though, UEA could not capitalise with the name of the lumen. Thus, on the cusp of the 20 minute mark, all was square.

Now, Maddy Forde-Roberts knew that the only book of the Old Testament named after a queen is Esther, and she buzzed early to secure the points. Siblings in Russian Literature provided one bonus, but again potentially another was thrown away by forgetting the terms of the question, which saw Matt Reid supply Turgenev rather than the title of the novel involved. For the second picture starter we saw a still of Peter Cushing from what seemed to be a Hammer film. It was always going to be either Van Helsing or Baron Frankenstein. Thomas Player zigged with Van Helsing, and was right to do so. This earned bonuses on more fictional professors. Two bonuses on the same two that I knew followed. Both teams were now in triple figures. I didn’t know that the clarinet is used to represent the call of the cuckoo in Beethoven’s Pastorale, but I guessed, and I guess that Ellen Pasternack did the same. Sea bird colonies brought two bonuses and a 20 point lead. This time, Michael Green took Keble’s second consecutive starter, knowing that Germany is the country bordering certain named Swiss cantons. Missing words from quotations, each of which begun with z, supplied a couple of bonuses, and stretched the lead to 40. Nobody on either team knew that Arthur Ashe beat Jimmy Connors in the 1975 Wimbledon Men’s singles final. Ellen Pasternack recognised that The Autograph Man, I Capture the Castle, and Not Waving But Drowning were all written by female writers with the surname Smith. It wasn’t quite the end of the match, but it was the end of the contest. The starter alone put UAE two full sets in arrears, and there were the bonuses to come. One bonus on the name Phaedrus was enough to put the lead at 55. This was stretched further as Michael Green knew that the massive Buddhist monument of Borobodur is on the island of Java. Only one bonus of a gettable set on US State capitals was taken, but this was immaterial, even though Rose Atkinson forfeited 5 more points of Keble’s total by buzzing too early for the next starter. It allowed Edward Bellamy to answer that Yves St. Laurent had based a dress design on the work of Mondrian. They were unable to add any more points through a set of bonuses on insects. Ellen Pasternack knew that the two consecutive digits in the year in which Charles Edward Stewart won victory at Prestonpans, would be 45. The gong sounded immediately, and Keble had won by 180 to 115. It looks like a decisive scoreline, but UAE were in there right up until the last five minutes. JP seemed to rather acknowledge this in his closing comments. Without wishing to be unkind, there just wasn’t enough buzzing throughout the UAE team to withstand Keble for the whole match. Of their 7 starters, no fewer than five were taken by Maddy Forde-Roberts. This was compared with the excellent Ellen Pasternack’s contribution of 7 starters. Does this give Keble a good chance in the second round? Hard to say, and time will tell.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

There was a lovely moment immediately after JP had finished with the first starter, where he flung the card away as if to say, ‘I bloody told you there was no point in asking that one!’ When Rose Atkinson gave her Goya answer, and hung her head in seeming shame, he joshed, “Don’t cry!”. Then when she recovered, laughing at her own misfortune, he went back for another go, “There’s no cause to laugh” he expostulated in mock exasperation. Oh Jez, you old tease, you.

I have no idea why JP corrected Edward Bellamy’s pronunciation of Mondrian. He repeated it almost exactly the same way and then said, rather huffily “Yes, I’ll accept that.” Would that possibly be because it was correct and you didn’t have any other option, there Jez?

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

Nouns that are only used as plurals are correctly known as pluralia tantum

Monday, 29 October 2018

Brain of Mensa 2018

I often tell people that I'm semi retired from quizzes now. However there is still one competition that I love playing in, and that's Brain of Mensa. It’s not entirely true that I only joined Mensa so that I could play in Brain of Mensa. However it is true that it was a big factor in my decision to take the tests in 2013 to see if I could get in. 
I played in the 2014 competition, and got to the final, where I was comprehensively beaten by the mighty Les Hurst, and that year’s champion, Egghead Steve Cook. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I made a conscious decision not to enter in 2015, but just never got round to it. Still, I did miss playing in the competition that year, so I made up my mind that I would enter again in 2016. I also took a long hard look at myself, and thought about my attitude. Did I want to win? Too royal I did. Did I think it was going to be easy? No, 2014 had proven that. So I gave myself 10 years to try to win. 
Come 2016 I won my heat, and came second to Les in my semi. At least this time though I wasn’t beaten out of sight, and with a dollop of luck on my side could have pushed him even closer. Well, that dollop of luck came my way in large amounts in the 2016 final in London. I don’t think it was by a huge amount, but I won. Which caused me to rethink my attitude. Now that I’d won, I didn’t need to put any pressure on myself, I could just play for the fun and enjoy it. And I did enjoy 2017’s competition. I was out with the washing, and frankly lucky to get second. Les put in probably the most complete performance I’ve ever seen in a final in 2017, and thoroughly deserved his 4th win.  
So to yesterday’s 2018 final. I thoroughly enjoyed a great quiz, expertly put together by Brian Daugherty, which was played in the right spirit. At the end of the 6 rounds, both Les and I were tied with the same score. We both agreed that we were perfectly happy to leave it as it was, and share the win. It seemed that Brian would have gone along with this as well, but Bobby from Mensa, very apologetically, explained that they have to have just the one champion (although he didn’t really explain why). Neither Les nor I really wanted to play the round of 6 questions to decide things, but we didn’t really have any choice. So, to cut to the chase, the records will say that I won, because I answered one more question out of 6 right. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely delighted to become a double BOM winner, and to get my name on the trophy again. However, the fact is, whatever the record books say, we all know that Les and I were joint winners.
Brain of Mensa Medals - L to R - back  - Bronze - 3rd place 2014,  Silver - 2nd place 2017, Front - Gold - 1st place 2018, Gold - 1st place 2018

Saturday, 27 October 2018

University Challenge - East London v. Manchester


East London v. Manchester

Welcome back UC. You were only gone for a fortnight, but I still missed you. There was a big, gaping, UC shaped hole in that Monday evening. Still, you’re back as the second half of the OC/UC double whammy, and all’s right with the world.

Let’s begin with East London. They were represented by Chloe Knecht, Stephen Harvie, Scott Danielsen and captain Chris O’Mahony. Opposition, from the mighty Manchester University, came in the shape of Alex Antao, Georgia Lynott, Joe Hanson and skipper James Ross.

Georgia Lynott took first blood, showing a nippy buzzer finger to come in early to identify the word gig. Dramatic theory (the theory of relativity was a pretty dramatic theory, I would have thought) provided Manchester with 2 correct answers. Georgia Lynott again buzzed early for the next starter knowing that political leader – and – Sir Peter Lely – was only going to have the answer Oliver Cromwell. Macro provided another 10 points. Next followed a UC special starter – one of those take the number of – divide it by the number of – add the number of questions. Nobody had it. Scott Danielsen from east London knew that if the question mentions Valparaiso and Mendoza, it’s got to be about Argentina and Chile. Bonuses on finches brought 2 bonuses of their own. Alex Antao took a flyer with the next starter. I understand why he suggested that sarcophagus has the meaning preserver of flesh – but actually its meaning is the opposite – eater of flesh. Given the rest of the question it became clearer that the word we were looking for, as supplied by Scott Danielsen, was creosote. Pairs of words, in which one has added at – at the start – eg tract and attract – formed a lovely little UC special set, and provided, well nowt, I’m afraid, and they really should have done better with them. None of us recognised the outline of Panama for the first picture starter. This rather handily brought us to the brink of the 10 minute mark, with both teams off the mark. Manchester led by 35 to 30. Chances of both teams going through, though, looked slim.

Alex Antao came in early to give us Snell’s Law for the next starter. This won the picture bonuses, more Geographical locations sharing their names with types of hat. A couple of bonuses were taken. James Ross knew that Shah Jahan ordered the building of the Taj Mahal, but that wasn’t what the question was going to ask about, and he lost five. Given the full question which took a bit of a swerve, Scott Danielsen knew that the second largest city of Pakistan is Lahore. Astronomy provided no bonuses for East London, but I took one with perihelion, and set off on my lap of honour. Thus I missed out on another Astronomy question which allowed Joe Hanson to have his own correct interruption with the Large Magellanic Cloud. The author Rosemary Hill brought just the one bonus. Now, when you hear ‘French painter’ and ‘Aix en Provence’ you really need to slam the buzzer through the desk and answer Cezanne because he does recur on a semi regular basis. Before the end of the question Alex Antao gave away five by chancing his arm with Monet. East London couldn’t capitalise. Both teams sat on their buzzer through the next starter, allowing Stephen Harvie to come in with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Now, you should know that if you get a set of bonuses on 18th century furniture designers the chances are that the answers will be Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Chippendale. Can you get them in the right order, though? East London didn’t, taking just the one bonus. So to the music starter. Sounded like Rachmaninov to me, but not to either team, apparently, but Rachmaninov it was. Once again, both teams dwelt on their buzzers for the next starter, allowing Stephen Harvie I to identify Goldsmith’s village. This brought the dubious honour of the music bonuses, which were recordings of Rachmaninov playing works by other composers. They had the first full house of the night. This gave them the  lead for the first time in the competition. James Ross brought his team right back in with a fantastic early buzz which identified various First Secretaries of State. Quotations beginning with the prefix self- were enough to level the scores at 80 apiece as we were about to hit the 20 minute mark. Good contest.

Stephen Harvie restored the East London lead, knowing that Mrs. Gaskell published a biography of Charlotte Bronte. Biology bonuses followed. I considered a lap of honour for peristalsis, but inertia overruled me. Two bonuses took East London into three figures. Scott Danielsen added to the score knowing geographical regions linked by the name Salvador. The Pacific Theatre in World War II saw them only take one of a very gettable set of bonuses. So to the picture starter with a promotional still from the early 80s dramatization of Brideshead Revisited. James Ross again played a captain’s innings, taking the starter to narrow his team’s deficit. Stills from more of the UK’s top TV progs of the 20th century as selected by the BFI provided Manchester with the points they needed for their own triple figure score. Alex Antao was the first in to recognise the definition of a hyperbola. Bonuses linked by the word fury brought the two bonuses they needed to retake the lead. Stephen Harvie knew various literary Roberts for the next starter. World politics in 1999 brought two bonuses, and a 15 point lead. It was all desperately close – squeaky bum time, in fact. Something chemical came next and Alex Antao was in very quickly with the correct answer of magnesium. Recent element names were a gift, which gave me a rare Science full house. Manchester also lapped these up. They were in the driving seat, especially when Alex Antao came in very early to correctly identify the Tagus as the longest river of the Iberian peninsula. Joe Hanson was already raising his fists in triumph. Would this celebration be premature? It looked unlikely since there was hardly any time left. Indeed we were gonged after one incorrectly answered bonus. Manchester had won by 155 to 135.

One fancies they might have won more convincingly if it hadn’t been for some wild early buzzing, but the other side of that particular coin is that they did win it on faster buzzing, and what seemed to me a slightly better rate on the bonuses. Good contest.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

We saw a little touch of exasperation from our hero when East London failed to really get to grips with one of the At- bonuses. They had atrium, but couldn’t get ria from it. “All you had to do was put A-T in front of it he sniffed.” WRONG! That would have given you atatria actually. The point was you had to take the AT away. – See Jez, I can be pedantic too!

His eyebrows shot towards the ceiling when Manchester suggested Gaudi was a leading figure of the Gothic revival in England. “It’s a terrible answer!” he confirmed when Joe Hanson offered this honest appraisal of his own work.

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

Creosote has the literal meaning ‘preserver of meat’

Friday, 26 October 2018

Mastermind Heat 4


Well, here we are, dearly beloved, another heat of Mastermind on a Friday evening. What could be much better than that? The big question for me was – were we going to see the kind of fireworks that we saw in last week’s high scoring heat? Experience suggested that we probably weren’t, and indeed we didn’t, but there was still much to enjoy.

The first specialist subject on offer in this heat was the History of Zimbabwe, offered to us by Paul Muddle. I didn’t expect to answer many of these correctly, yet it proved to give me my best specialist score of the night with 5. Paul did quite a bit better than this. His 12 points was the kind of score that you need to make sure that you are at the very least still in contention when the GK round comes along.

Next through the portal of portent was Ben Fasham. He gave us a good historical figures subject in the shape of Henry the Navigator.  Now, Henry the Navigator is one of those figures of whom many of us have heard, but about whom many of us know relatively little. That was my experience anyway as I struggled to 3 points. Ben, though, coped more than admirably, and in fact was on for a perfect round until the very last question, where he failed to dredge up the name of the right pope. Ah, them pesky popes.

John comes up with some odd things some times. Third contender Neil Chapman had passed through the portal, sat down and announced his subject of Sunderland AFC, when John took it into his head to start dissing his team. “. . . who won the FA Cup a VERY long time ago. “ Neil wasn’t having any of that, knowing full well that Sunderland have actually won it twice. Still, once that was over, the round began, and while it wasn’t nearly perfect like Ben’s, it was just as effective, as Neil too amassed a score of 12, and I added 4 more to my total.

Now, be honest, when you heard that the last round, offered by Sue Duffy, was about Elizabeth Taylor, did you think she meant the film star? I did. I’ve never to my knowledge heard of Elizabeth Taylor the novelist. Under those circumstances I suppose I was lucky to get one. Sue was asked one of those – ‘even if you haven’t heard it you can work it out from the question’ types- if you were banned from entering the USA because you belonged to a political party, the communist party is always going to be a good guess. Enough about me, Sue had a perfect round, and ended in the lead with 14.

Once again, my congratulations and thanks to all the contenders. I know how much time and effort it costs to learn a Mastermind subject that well, and I do love it when all 4 contenders do this well in specialist.

Now, though, we moved to the GK. We had the interesting situation that the contenders would all be returning to the chair in the same order as in the specialist round. This meant that Paul was first to return. After about a minute it became pretty clear that we weren’t going to see another round of 17 or 18. However, scores of that magnitude are pretty exceptional. What we did see was a good round of 13, achieved through what looked like a massive amount of concentration on the job in hand.

It was a score which was too high for Ben Fasham to match. For much of the round it looked possible that he might get there, but he’d slipped off the pace before the blue line of doom started to appear around his score. 11 points for 23 certainly gave him respectability, though, and double figure scores in both rounds.

The most interesting GK round of the night was Neil Chapman’s. I say this, pretty sure that it won’t be of much comfort to Neil himself should he read this, but it started so well. Of the first 7 or so questions, Neil had the first 6 right, with just the one pass. His tactic seemed clear, to answer what he knew as quickly as possible, and pass quickly if he didn’t have a clue. And don’t knock that, it’s a perfectly valid tactic. However, after about a minute he picked up a couple of passes in a row, and something changed. It seemed as if his memory had suddenly started refusing to give answers which he knew that he knew. In the end, he scored 9 to take his total to 21. Perfectly respectable, but a shame for Neil since the start of the round had promised so much more.

So to Sue Duffy. The bare facts of the matter were that her GK round had given her a two point cushion. She needed 11 and 3 passes to force a tie break. Anything less would not be enough, and anything better would give her the outright win. She was always up with the clock , and in terms of progression through the round, this was pretty similar to Paul’s. She hit the target just before the blue line of death appeared, which enabled her to match Neil’s GK score of 13, giving her 27. Well done! Best of luck in the semis.

The Details

Paul Muddle
The History of Zimbabwe 1890 - 1990
12
0
13
3
25
3
Ben Fasham
Prince Henry the Navigator
12
0
11
1
23
1
Neil Chapman
Sunderland AFC 1945- date
12
2
9
5
21
7
Sue Duffy
The Life and Works of Elizabeth Taylor
14
0
13
2
27
2