Heat 11 – Open University v. Huddersfield
Yes, dearly beloved, the BBC kindly deigned to allow us to watch another University Challenge last Monday. This was an intriguing match up. I’ve said before that I’m always surprised when the Open University don’t win every year that they make it to the televised stages, not because I think that they’re automatically going to be smarter, but simply because with that much more life experience, and that much more time to accumulate knowledge, I would have imagined that the sum total of their team’s knowledge would be greater than most. Yet that has not proven to be the case in this century. Representing them on Monday were David Holmes, Liz Haywood, Michaela O’Brien and captain Bill Woodbridge. It was first time ever for opponents Huddersfield, who seemed to be fighting fire with fire, having a mix of younger and also more mature students and an average age of 40. They were Sean Fisher, Rebecca Wilson, Aaron Cahill and skipper Andy Cook.
Now it just so happens that I teach a lesson every year about the evils of comma splicing so I was in early for the first question. Andy Cook took that one. Three bonuses on 18th century satire were announced, and immediately I thought Defoe, Swift and Pope. Nope. Defoe, and Hogarth I took, but not Mozart. Huddersfield knew Mozart but not Defoe. Bill Woodbridge knew that Clem Attlee was Churchill’s wartime deputy PM. Wildflowers whose common name includes the name of a bird yielded just the one to both of us. The next question was one of those which suddenly became blindingly obvious at the end, due to my knowledge of Olympic host cities. Aaron Cahill was first to work out that Vacouver was the 2010 host. The Nereids did nowt for Huddersfield – not surprised, that was not an especially gettable set. So to the picture starter – a phase diagram. I think my exact words as it was announced were “Bloody hell, sod all chance of a lap of honour here, then.” What a surprise, neither of the teams had it either. Bill Woodbridge was the first to see that the next question wanted catkin as an answer, and earned the very dubious reward of three more phase diagrams. I thought they did really well to get one of them. As for the next starter, well it looked from early doors to be a straight choice between Nobel Prize for Physics and Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Andy Cook jumped the gun a little and zigged with Physics, and was right to do so. Word derivations were enough to take Huddersfield to 50 points, a lead of 20 over the OU by the 10 minute mark.
In what was turning out to be very much a battle between the two skippers, Bill Woodbridge came in too early for the next starter and lost 5. Allowed the full question it was all too easy for Andy Cook to beat his teammates to give the answer of TNT. Chemistry brought another two correct answers to Huddersfield. Having come in too early for the previous starter, the OU gave Andy Cook an unopposed run at the next question. Asking for a form of writing, and mentioning Shelley in the question, poetry did seem obvious, and so it was. A regular quizzer would have known that Philomel is a name for a nightingale for the next set of poetry bonuses, and they took just the one. Bill Woodbridge found his buzzer finger again for the next starter, which asked for Nasser and Sadat. This was just as well, for none of his team had found their own buzzer fingers yet. Saints’ deaths took the OU to 45, and brought both teams up to the music starter. David Holmes now managed to elbow his way into the match, being first to buzz in to identify the work of Blur, a popular beat combo of the 1990s, I believe. More Britpop singles promised a lot and delivered just the one bonus for me, but the OU managed a full house to narrow the gap to 15. Neither team knew about a feature on the surface of Mars for the next starter. Again, Bill Woodbridge came in too early for the next starter, and once the words ‘tallest spire in England’ were given it was all too easy for Andy Cook to supply the correct answer of Salisbury. A good UC special set on words which can be made from names of shipping forecast areas totally passed Huddersfield by – Sole and Solenoid at least was gettable I would have thought. Bill Woodbridge again pulled his team out of the mire by recognising the work of Joni Mitchell for the next starter. The bonuses were on French impressionist Berthe Morisot. Indeed, her impression of a Frenchwoman was really good, I’m reliably informed. This brought just the one bonus, which meant that Huddersfield still led by 80 – 95 at the 20 minute mark.
I’ve amused work colleagues in the past by telling them that if they’re in a quiz and asked ‘which type of animal’ they should say antelope, and if they’re asked which type of flower, they should say orchid. It’s a quiz thing – it’s one of those -you’ll be right more often than you’re wrong – things. It was certainly the case when Michaela O’Brien threw caution to the wind and buzzed in with a speculative “orchid?” for the next starter. European rivers with three letter names levelled the scores. The second picture starter showed us a pine marten, and helpfully JP said that the species was known by a two word name. – Bet Andy Cook has this when nobody has a punt from the OU – I told myself, and I was right. Other threatened animals in the UK brought just the one on a quite gettable set. Andy Cook was finding this all too easy, as he buzzed in for the next starter to identify early examples of works in Irish Gaelic. Maths bonuses brought me an unexpected and rather belated lap of honour for guessing Fermat for the first. I actually had two of this set while Huddersfield managed just the one. David Holmes had another go at a starter for the next, correctly identifying the word Idiocracy. World events, and the Sumer Olympic Games venues from the same years brought them a welcome two bonuses. Bill Woodbridge knew that the liver secretes bile, but then amazingly the OU passed on three films by the wonderful Billy Wilder – an act bordering on sacrilege in my book. So, the scores were level, and both teams, with 125 points and a few minutes left, could conceivably haul themselves into a repechage slot. Andy Cook buzzed very early for the next starter, and fortune favoured the brave as he supplied the correct answer of neck. The Gordon Riots suggested a question about Barnaby Rudge was in the offing, but this was the only one of the set that Huddersfield couldn’t answer. Nobody took the next starter about a quote from William S. Burroughs. Whom I only found out the other day wrote “The Naked Lunch” and not “Tarzan of the Apes”. Nobody knew that each of the internal angles of a regular nonagon is 140 degrees. There you go. The next question was about a film that my daughter loves so much – The Princess Bride – that I walked her up the aisle for her wedding last year to it’s theme music. We were gonged just as Huddersfield were buzzing in. The final score was 145 to 125 for Huddersfield.
Well, it was a close contest, although not a great one. I don’t wish to be horrible, but to the casual observer it did appear that three members of both teams were along for the ride, leaving the two captains to slug it out. Indeed, there were only 4 starters answered by anyone other than the two captains, out of 17 correctly answered ones. Andy Cook won the contest for Huddersfield with his 8 starters. I doubt he’ll be allowed that many in the second round, but to be fair some of his buzzes were genuinely fast, and so he will always put his team in with a shout. I’m sorry, but neither team impressed me much with their bonus work, both having conversion rates of less than 50%. In fact they both answered 11 bonuses, of which Huddersfield had slightly more opportunities than OU. In the end, it was won on superior buzzer work from Andy Cook, and a couple of incorrect interruptions from Bill Woodbridge. I don’t blame him for this in the slightest, since somebody had to try to keep his team moving, and there wasn’t a lot of buzzing coming from anyone else.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
After Bill Woodbridge identified the work of Joni Mitchell from the titles of her albums JP observed, “Didn’t know she was so pretentious!” Somehow he’s never struck me as a Joni Mitchell aficionado.
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
The sea nymphs, the Nereids, were the offspring of Doris. Love it.