Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Question Master Is Always Right - Part Three

Religion, the Bible, Mythology and the classical world

Religion, the Bible, and Mythology is an ever popular subject for quiz setters. Its also a subject with huge scope for getting it wrong. Confusion over which names are Greek , and which are Roman alone is enough to keep you supplied with wrong’uns for months.

Norse Mythology. What name did the Vikings give to Heaven ?

If you ask it like that, this is a horrible question. The normal answer given to this question is

Now, in Norse mythology Valhalla ( literal translation Hall of the slain ) was situated in the heavens. But Valhalla was only part of the Norse heavens. It was the building where the souls of men slain in battle were taken by the valkyries, and it formed one part of the home of the Gods. However the whole of the home of the Gods, which is the closest idea that the pagan Norse had to Heaven, was called
Asgard ( or Asgarth )

This is far more accurate.

Advice :- If the answer you want them to give is Valhalla, then make sure you mention that it’s the place where the souls of dead warriors went, then there’s no confusion.
If you want Asgard as the answer – then ask what the Vikings called heaven, which contained Valhalla.

Norse Mythology. What did the Vikings call the Underworld ?

This is similar to the previous question. Except that the usual answer – which is again
is totally wrong. The dead souls of the ordinary Joe and Josephine Public were sent down to a place presided over by the Goddess Hel – which is where we get the word Hell from. However this is not the correct answer. The correct answer is
Niflheim ( pronounced Niffle-hime )

and anything else is wrong.
Advice: - Only ask this one if you are looking for a particularly hard question, and when you ask it say ‘Valhalla is NOT the answer ‘

Greeks and Romans. Who was who ?

Greek Roman Gods were pretty much equivalent, and yet they had different names. If you’re asked :-
Who was the king of the Gods in Greek Mythology ? –

then some of the time the answer given will be :-

This is wrong. Jupiter was the Roman one.
Advice : - It doesn’t take a lot to spell it out clearly what you want. If you want the Roman name, then give them the Greek one in the question, or vice versa.

The Seven Wonders of the World

Whose temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the World ?

Oh dear. This is a prime example of a question which requires you to play the man not the ball. Ask yourself - is your question master the type of person to say

If that's the answer he gives, I'm sorry, but he's wrong. Ephesus, though in modern Turkey, was part of the Greek Hellenic world when the temple was built, and they built it to worship

Now, I grant you that Diana is the roman equivalent of Artemis. But does your question master know that ? If he doesn't , then he may have Diana, and you'll get nothing for putting Artemis.
Advice: It doesn't take much effort to get it right. The answer is Artemis - but allow Diana.

Whose Temple at Olympia was one of the Seven Wonders of the World ?

Almost a carbon copy of the previous question. Olympia was and is still in Greece, and they worshipped the greek Gods, not their roman equivalents. So

is , at best, inaccurate. The correct answer is

but will your question master know that ?
Advice: Look for Zeus, but allow Jupiter as well. Even better, ask it like this : -
The temple at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the world , was dedicated to which God, whose roman equivalent is Jupiter ?

Which of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World are situated in Greece/Turkey ?

That's an unanswerable question in the way that its been asked. Two of the wonders in Turkey today - The Temple of Artemis - , and the Mausoleum were actually in what was Greece when they were built. So is that Greece or Turkey ?

Advice: Make it clear in the question . Ask - which of the 7 wonders of the world are to be found in modern day Greece/Turkey.

Who was responsible for Santa Claus being depicted with a red suit ?

I'll bet you always thought that this was
Coca Cola

So did every question master who has ever asked the question. The fact is that in the USA, depictions of Santa Claus through the 20s had settled on red for the standard colour of Santa's robes, and this was ten years before the first time that Santa was used in a coke advert.
Advice : - there's no alternative answer, but its a wrong'un, I'm afraid.

There is a certain type , a certain sub genre of wrong'uns which I like to think of as the "name a hairy dog " questions. This name comes from the old Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer spoof game/quiz show, which used to end with a quick fire round of questions such as -
"Name a hairy Dog ?"
"Old English Sheepdog "
"No, I'm sorry, it was an alsatian."
These are questions where the question master implies that there is only one correct answer - when in fact there are several possibilities, and unless you can read his mind, there's no guarantee that yours will be the one he wants. Here are some examples.

Which animal or creature was sacred to the ancient Egyptians ?

Ninety nine times out of a hundred you can be sure that the question master will give you the answer:-

Quite right too, they were sacred in Ancient Egypt. The trouble is, so were a lot of other creatures. Egyptian society was polytheistic - worshipping many deities, and different ones were sacred to different gods. So while cats were sacred, so too were others, including :-
scarlet ibis - bull - jackal - crocodile and even dung beetle ( scarab ) .

this is to name just a few examples.
Advice - if you hear the question asked in a quiz - your safest bet is to give cat as the answer. If you're the one setting the quiz, then don't ask this one unless you're prepared to qualify it - eg - In Ancient Egypt, which creatures were sacred to the goddess Bast ? ( Now that was just cats )

In the Old Testament, which wood was the Ark made from ?

There are two possible answers to this question. Remarkably, neither of these is the answer usually given by question masters. On more than one occasion the answer has been given in a quiz as
Cedars of Lebanon
This is just pure laziness, since the correct answer can be found in the Old Testament if the question master bothered to look. It was the Temple of Solomon, the first temple in Jerusalem that was built from the Cedars of Lebanon.
Still , taking it for granted that the question master has the correct answer down, you confidently jot down your answer ,
Gopher wood

Then when he tells you that the answer is

you start to become very annoyed. Yet both of you are right. Noah's Ark was built of gopher wood - it says so in the Book of Genesis , even though nobody really knows what gopher wood was. But The Ark of the Covenant was built of acacia. So you are both right - only you don't get the point for it. Why ? Because the question master has failed to specify what he wants from you.
Advice - to the Question master - say which one it is that you want - Noah's or Covenant. to the quizzer - if the question master can't or won't specify, then write down both eg - Noah's= gopher wood and Covenant = acacia.

On the Subject of Subjects : -

Specialist Subjects

If you read my last entry, you'll know that I commented that Friday's Mastermind featured my favourite unusual specialist subject of this series so far - Rare Breeds of British Farm Animals. This led me to thinking about the whole issue of specialist subjects. Every year since the BBCTV revival in 2003 we've had to endure the same old 'dumbing down ' controversy, and the same complaints that too many 'popular' entertainment or popular culture based subjects are being allowed.

In 2007, in my first round heat, Stacey Mitchell answered questions on the Life and Career of Jennifer Aniston. For the amount of national comment this raised, you'd think that Stacey had committed some gross outrage to decency.

I've tried to categorise the specialist subjects we've seen so far this year. This isn't always easy since some specialist subjects sit comfortably in two categoris - eg - Genghis Khan is both biographical and historical. In cases where it is the life of a single person I have always counted it as a biographical subject. Likewise, The Mod Movement in britain is certainly social history, but I have included it within Popular Culture and Entertainment, rather than History. This is purely a personal decision. So , here we go: -

CategoryNumber of contenders
Literature- books11
Popular Culture and Entertainment6
Science and Technology2
Natural world1

looking at this its easy to see that the 'traditonal Mastermind subjects - History - biographical subjects - books - are still very much to the fore. Even sport, which has its own specialist series now - has so far provided more specialist subjects than Entertainment and Popular Culture.

As regards the argument that a Popular Culture Entertainment subject gives you a better chance of winning - well of the 13 heat winners so far, sport - history - biographical - and pop culture/entertainment have each provided 2 winners. Literature and books have provided 5 winners. So - just using this series so far as our guide, you could say that these are your chances of winning a heat, based on your choice of specialist subject:-

Subject% chance of winning
Pop culture/entertainment33%

So if you go by this, there is nothing like the advantage from taking a popular culture/entertainment subject that there is from taking literature/books.

Of course, this is open to question. For one thing it doesn't take in the actual scores in the subjects. For another thing , performance in the specialist subject is clearly only one factor in deciding whether a contender does or doesn't win - quality of general knowledge and quality of opponents being every bit as important. However it does tend to back up my personal feelings on the subject - that a contender certainly does not receive any unfair advantage from choosing a pop culture/entertainment specialist subject. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there are occasions when it works in the opposite way. In my opinion the hardest set of specialist questions to prepare for in the 2007 Grand Final were those of Sandra Piddock. Her specialist topic ? 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum '. I don't believe for one moment that anyone who chooses a topic from this category has to do any less work, or put in any less dedication time and effort than any of the other contenders. So why do people moan about it then ? I'm guessing, and this is only a guess, I admit, but I'm guessing that elitism has a lot to do with it.

One final word on this subject. Go to any pub quiz, any League Quiz - watch any quiz on television. Pop culture questions will feature. They are an accepted - even important - genre within the quizzing world. As a genre, it has no more, and just as importantly , no less value than any other.

Friday, 28 November 2008

TV Watch - 28th November

Mastermind - Heat 13/24

So we begin the second half of the heats.We've yet to see a score of 30 or more this series, but alas, no such pyrotechnics await tonight. I think we have 4 Mastermind virgins in this all male line up. However, the third contender, Martin Nichols, has the same name as a contender from 1976. Are they one and the same person ? Its possible, but then Mr. Nichols would have been an extremely young contender at the time if indeed 'twas him. So on balance I think not.

So, on to the show. Stuart Macdonald raced off to lead at the halfway stage with 14. Poor Mr. Nichols found his knowledge of the Arthur C. Clarke ( and Gentry Lee ) Rama novels melting into oblivion, and it was only on the last question that he managed to score his 4th point. Worthy of mention too is my favourite unusual specialist subject of this series so far - as Karl Byrne answered on Rare Breeds of British Farm Animals.

In a week when all of the general knowledge rounds seem very fair and balanced nobody really impressed. Mr. Nichols found a little redemption, getting into double figures to score 11 for the round and 15 overall. At least this meant that for a couple of minutes he was actually in the lead. Mr Geoffrey Lim, a very well travelled student originally from Singapore struggled his way to 16. Karl Byrne then pushed the target to 19, but Stuart Macdonald powered his way past this, levelling out at a combined score of 26. So he has a chance - although I think he'll need to do a bit better on GK to have a good chance of reaching the finals.

The details

Stuart MacdonaldGenghis Khan14 - 012 - 226 - 2
Geoffrey LimGothic Architecture
of the 12 and 13th centuries
10 - 24 - 216 - 4
Martin NicholsThe Rama Novels of Arthur C. Clarke
and Gentry Lee
4 - 311 - 215 - 5
Karl ByrneRare Breeds of British
Farm Animals
12 - 47 - 519 - 9

University Challenge

An all-Cambridge match up this week. St. John's - so impressive in the first round, took on Kings. Actually it wasn't much of a match, since the rampant St. John's team scored 345 to Kings' 125. At least JP had the decency to thank them for the enjoyment their earlier performances had given us in this series. On this kind of form you would fancy St. John's have as good a chance of winning the series as any, and a match between them and the LSE would be very worth watching.

Only Connect

This week's second round match saw The Bankers take on the IT Supporters. Much as I like this show - and I really do - I have to admit that often I'm a little way behind the teams in working out the connection, but tonight I thought that the teams made a little heavy weather out of some of the connections, and the wall. Still, it was another exciting match up, with a tie break to finish, which saw the captain of the Bankers clinch the win by recognizing the phrase - Veni Vidi Vici with the vowels removed. Its got to the stage with this show that I make sure that I never miss it - although I will miss it very much when the series ends. I can only hope that the Beeb will make another series, and give it a chance to find an audience on terrestrial TV.

Are You An Egghead ?

Well, its getting serious now. After tonight's show we're down to 3 contenders. Mark Kerr took a huge step towards the prize by beating Pat Gibson to earn his place in the semi. This will be the next to be shown next week, when he will face 2004 Mastermind champion Shaun Wallace. Shaun keeps winning, and even though he does drop the odd clanger in his explanations to some of his answers - eg - "There are only three men who've won the Tour de France 5 times " - there's actually 5 - even despite this he is a formidable competitor in this quiz format. So who will get to the final is anybody's guess. Still, after tonight we know that he'll be facing the might of Barry Simmons, who beat David Rainford, the People's Favourite, tonight. Whoever wins , you certainly can't begrudge them their success. This show must be hard going for the contestants - and I'm sorry to say it, but at times its pretty hard going for the audience. Are they going to do anything different for the Final, I wonder ? Oh well, I'm guessing that by this time next week it will all be over.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Question Master is Always Right - part 2

Who was the father of film star Clint Eastwood ?

This one is also brought to you from the Department of Tenacious Urban Myths. If you hear the question asked, the answer required will invariably be
Stan Laurel
This is such a wonderful thought that its almost irresistible to a certain type of question master. Unfortunately , there is not the slightest shred of truth in it ! The fact is that Clint Eastwood was actually born at the same time that Stan Laurel's real son was born, and sadly, this child died when it was just a couple of months old. However there is no doubt that Clint Eastwood's father actually was : -
Clint Eastwood ( senior )
Advice : - resist the temptation and don't ask the question, even if you are intending to catch people out, by giving the correct answer. Its not worth it.

Who played the saxophone on Gerry Rafferty's record "Baker Street "

I honestly have no idea why anyone would ever have thought that the answer to this one should be
Bob Holness
Legend has it that this urban myth was started by broadcaster Stuart Maconie. Bob Holness does not play, and never has played the saxophone. On the record, the saxophone was played by
Raphael 'Raff' Ravenscroft
Advice : - Would you ever have asked the question if you'd never heard the Holness myth ? No ? Well don't ask it now that you know the truth, then.

What were the names of the crew of Captain Pugwash's ship "The Black Pig ?

Overgrown schoolboys and very naughty question masters will tell you that the names were
Master Bates, Seaman Staines and Roger the Cabin Boy
This is highly irresponsible, and also probably legally actionable ! John Ryan , the creator, successfully took action against newspapers who printed this allegation as a fact. The BBC would never have allowed such outright crudery on a children's show. The names were in fact,
Master Mate, Pirates Barnabas and Willy ( oooh , Matron ! ) and Tom the cabin boy
Victor Lewis Smith claims to have started the rumour, but its one of those ones I'm sure a lot of people would like to claim credit for.
Advice : - A little smut has its place in a social quiz, but not when its a wrong’un. Don’t touch this one - at the end of the day, the funny answer is wrong, and the right answer is dull.

Tinkerbell in Disney’s "Peter Pan " was based on which real life actress ?

Ah, yes, this is one we know , isn't it ? Of course, its
Marilyn Monroe
Thank you very much, one point in the bag. The problem is, though, that she was not based on poor old Norma Jean at all. Disney archives show that she was based on a little known actress model called
Margaret Kerry
At one time she was voted the actress with the Best Legs in Hollywood. And that's about it for Margaret Kerry.
Advice : - Its not worth asking it when you know Margaret Kerry is the answer. Not unless you say it along these lines - Many people think that Marilyn Monroe was the model, but actually Margaret Kerry was really the model for which Disney character ? Its not as snappy, but its more accurate for the purists.

Which actor played Frankenstein in the 1931 movie of the same name ?

This is a question guaranteed to raise many a furrow in the hardened quizzer's brow. This is because there is an easy wrong answer, and a more difficult correct answer. The problem with this is that the question master is just as likely to have the right answer down, as he is to have the wrong answer. Years ago, when this question was asked, the answer the question master would almost always give was the wrong one, ie -
Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff played the monster, which was always called just that - the Monster. Frankenstein was the name of the man who created the monster - Victor Frankenstein, and he was actually played by
Colin Clive
I'm sorry ? Colin who ? Colin Clive was a film actor of the 30s, never a great star, and Frankenstein was probably his most memorable role. Except that hardly anyone remembers it . However, over the years a certain class of wily quizmaster has taken to asking the question to deliberately catch players out, by giving the right answer. The result of this is that whenever one hears the question being asked, you have to quickly weigh up whether your question master is likely to have the right answer or the wrong answer. This calls for 'playing the man, and not the ball'
Advice: - If you ask the question, with Colin Clive as the answer, then say " be careful " when you ask it. This is the best way of showing that you want the correct answer, rather than the easy one. Don’t ask it if Boris Karloff is your answer – its wrong.

Who was the first person to play who on film ?

Its not uncommon to find this sort of question being asked in a quiz. These questions attract wrong'uns like moths to a flame. The problem is that the first person to play a well known character on film is rarely the most famous one. Just a quick glance of a small selection of some of the most well known screen characters should convince you of that.

James Bond

Everyone knows that the first James Bond was
Sean Connery
Except that he wasn't. Sean Connery was the first actor to play James Bond on film. However, he wasn't the first person to play James Bond on the screen. A little known TV actor played Bond in a CBS TV adaptation of Casino Royale in the 1950s, and he was called
Barry Nelson
Yet he was only the first James Bond on screen. The first performance of James Bond was in a radio adaptation, and was by none other than
Bob Holness
who of course never played the saxophone on “Baker Street”
Advice : - if you want to ask this question, then define your terms. If you want Sean Connery as your answer, then you have to say its the first Bond on the big screen. If you want Barry Nelson, then say on screen, or if you want to be kind, who played him on Television before he was played on film. If you want Bob Holness, then say the first ever person to play James Bond, and give the obligatory warning to be careful.


A very poor question master will give the answer
Christopher Reeve
This is just a category 1 wrong’un, since there is nothing which could ever make it a correct answer. He was the first to play Superman in the Alexander and Ilya Salkind series of films, but that's about it.
A more painstaking and careful quiz master may give the answer
George Reeves
but there is a problem with this answer too. George Reeves played Superman in the 1950's american TV series, and very successful he was too. However this is TV, not film. Moreover, Superman was played in a film serial in the 1940s, by a man called
Kirk Alyn
So does that count, even though its in a serial rather than a feature film ? Its all a question of interpretation once again.
Advice : If you really must ask this question, then be very specific what you mean. If you want George Reeves, then mention its TV. If you want Christopher Reeve, then say its the series of films by the Salkinds. If you want Kirk Alyn, then ask it the other way round- which famous character was first played on film by Kirk Alyn - or nobody will have a chance of getting it right, which means there's little point asking it.


What is the name of the actor who played Superman, and became so obsessed with being Superman that he actually thought he was Superman, and died when he threw himself off the roof of a building believing he could fly?

I've heard this one asked before, and the answer be given as
George Reeves
Complete tosh. Actually George Reeves was killed when he shot himself through the head in his home.
Advice - this is a wrong'un which can never be a right'un. Dump it like a cheating girlfriend and move on.


To be fair, many question masters do know that the first person to play Tarzan on film wasn't
Johnny Weissmuller
although lazy ones still give this as an answer. But back in the silent movie days, the first person to really play Tarzan was called
Elmo Lincoln
Between ourselves he looked a little overweight in his loincloth, but he must have been successful since they made a sequel.
Advice ; - The answer is Elmo Lincoln. Get over it.


This is a tricky little one. For once, the usual answer , that is : -
Bela Lugosi
is technically probably the fairest answer. He was the first to play the actual character Dracula. However a famous german film, called Nosferatu was made several years earlier than the Lugosi version, and it was actually Dracula, just with the names changed to avoid copyright issues. It didn't work, because Bram Stoker's widow successfully sued the producers. In this film, the vampire, Count Orlok, who was Dracula in all but name, was played by an actor called
Max Shreck
Interestingly enough, Shreck is the german word for terror.
Advice ; - stick with Lugosi - its technically correct, and far easier.

Frankenstein's Monster

Yes, once again we dip our toe into the dangerous waters of questions about Frankenstein. If you're asked who was the first man to play Frankenstein's monster on film, then you can be almost 100% certain that the answer wanted will be
Boris Karloff
This is a great pity, since Karloff's definitive performance of 1931 came over 20 years after a very early silent version of the story, made by the Edison company, in which the monster was played by one
Charles Ogle
Ogle wore the most extraordinary makeup and costume, which made him look as if he was wearing a giant brillo pad, whereas the make up created by Jack Pierce for the 1931 film has come to define the popular image of the monster, even though this is very different from the creature described by Mary Shelley.
Advice: - There's no point asking who was the first to play the monster, because no one will know Charles Ogle. So ask who played the monster in the 1931 film Frankenstein. Come to think of it, I'm getting a feeling of deja vu - or should that be deja -dit - over this.

Sherlock Holmes

Any question about Sherlock Holmes on film should immediately conjure up a mental image of the pipe , deerstalker and aquiline profile of
Basil Rathbone
Yet as we have seen, best , or most popular, is rarely the same as first. The silents got there long before Rathbone. In 1916, british actor manager
William Gillette
committed his performance as Holmes to film. Gillette had been playing Holmes on stage for a decade and a half by this time, and would go on doing so until the 1930s. As a point of interest, one of his Holmes productions saw one of the very first public performances of a young boy in his cast called Charles Chaplin.
Advice : Just don't ask. If you want to ask about Basil Rathbone, just say " Which actor played Sherlock Holmes in a number of films made in Hollywood in the 1930s?"


In which of the Sherlock Holmes stories does Holmes first say “ Elementary, my dear Watson “ ?

Actually , as you’ve probably guessed this is a trick question. The simple fact is that he doesn’t. He says Elementary, but never adds the dear Watson bit to it. The phrase was popularized by Rathbone in the Hollywood films, but its believed to have been first used in the William Gillette stage adaptations.

Who played the title role in “Saving Private Ryan “ ?

There’s a reason why I’ve included this one. I found this in an otherwise excellent quiz book, and couldn’t believe that such a well researched and well written book would ask the question, and then give
Tom Hanks
As the answer. Tom Hanks starred in it – true. Tom Hanks, played the main role – true. But his character was called Captain John Miller – and you can search as much as you like, but you won’t find that name in the title. So the title role of the film is obviously, Private Ryan. And as many of us know, Private Ryan was played by
Matt Damon
The title role means what it says – it’s the character the film is named after. I include this one since it shows how even the most normally reliable sources are capable of propagating a wrong’un.

Advice – look, if you want the star, then ask for him/her.As always, try to be absolutely clear about the answer you want to be provided with.

What were Oscar Wilde’s Last Words ?

Whenever you're given a witty quotation , and asked who said it, normally you can narrow your possible answers down to a very few names. Woody Allen if its about sex, death, or being jewish, and if not, then Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde. So you'd expect Oscar's last words to be appropriately risible. When this question is asked, his last words are usually given as : -
"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do "
As last words go, that's pretty good. Only there is no evidence that he actually said this. There is some evidence that he actually said,
"I am dying beyond my means."
Equally witty, but somehow more poignant than funny.
Advice - ask it backwards if at all. Give the last words you want to go with, and ask whose they were. If you ask what were Oscar Wilde's last words, then you're forcing the players to have to decide whether to play the man or the ball.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Question Master Is Always Right

This is dedicated to everyone who has ever had the embarrassing experience of playing in a pub quiz and querying one of the answers given by the question master, only to have this : -

“ The question master is always right . . . even when he’s wrong “

- flung back in his face by everyone else in the pub.

I say ‘his’ for lets face it, even in these enlightened days, along with trainspotting, and eating ones own earwax, arguing with a question master is still an almost exclusively male activity. I’ve been participating in pub quizzes for more than two decades, and setting them for almost that long. In all that time I can remember many, many times when an obviously wrong answer from the question master has resulted in outcry from parts of the audience, yet I can’t remember one instance of a woman being involve in a ‘heated discussion’ with a question master.

The question master today seems to have the same kind of status enjoyed by a soccer referee in the 1950’s. His authority is absolute, and any show of dissent towards him earns the player in question the disapproval of all present. In many ways, that’s a good thing, since a question master who can easily be persuaded to chance the answer he has on his sheet is far too easily manipulated, and at the mercy of unscrupulous teams. However there’s nothing more frustrating in a quiz than failing to earn those precious points you’re entitled to, because the quiz master is either too lazy or careless to make sure that the answer he has is correct.

In a quiz career which has seen me scale the heights, winning BBC’s Mastermind in 2007, and plumb the depths as well, I’ve been struck by just how many times question masters have spoilt their own efforts through having incorrect answers to their own questions.

A wrong’un is a question to which a question master supplies an answer which is wrong , and these come about for a number of reasons.

1)Laziness. The question master doesn’t bother to check his answer, and just assumes that the answer he has always thought to be correct is just that.

2)The question master’s source book for the question is wrong.

3)The question itself has an easy but wrong answer, which most people, including the question master, believe to be correct.

4)Pure accident

By far the most common type of wrong’un is category three. Here is a well known example of this type of wrong’un : -
Which three words complete this quotation from Shakespeare
“ Alas Poor Yorick ,_ _ _ -. “
The question master, and the average person in the street may know full well that Hamlet said,
“Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well. “

Except that he said no such thing. He actually said

“ Alas Poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio . “

Don’t take my word for it. Look it up in the play itself.

You could probably write a book about how such popular misconceptions have arisen. The purpose of this series of blog entries is to try to name and shame the hardcore of ‘wrong’uns’ and to provide the right answer, and a short explanation of what makes it the right answer. I’ve also tried to give advice on how it might be possible to use the question in a quiz, without it becoming a bone of contention

The questions in this series of blogs are the kind of questions which tend to evoke a particular set of responses from the experienced, more knowledgeable quizzer. Lets take the question we started with : -

“Right - Shakespeare quotations. Which four words follow this in Hamlet : -
Alas Poor Yorick – “

Immediately the question is asked the quizzer is presented with a dilemma. He will say to himself : -
“ This question has a simple answer which is wrong, and a more difficult answer which is right. If I put down the correct answer I run the risk that the question master has the wrong answer down, and I could lose a point I should have got. If he has the right answer down, and I put the wrong answer, then the same would happen. So what should I do ? “

9 times out of ten the quizzer will deliberately put the wrong answer down, because 9 times out of 10 the question master will have the wrong answer down. This tactic is known as ‘playing the man and not the ball’. The harder the correct answer, the greater the probability that the question master will give the wrong answer.

So what follows is based on two decades of observation. Every effort has been made to ensure that the answers given are the correct ones, but we are all fallible. If you find any which you know to be wrong, please contact me through email

If you’re ready then – we’ll begin.

Few categories bring out the worst in question masters like People. Partly I suppose this is because some of the most famous people in the world have been guilty of , not to put too fine a point on it, lying about themselves and their achievements. In some cases we can blame inaccurate biographers, and sketchy historical records. In some cases, its simply because stretching the truth, or even breaking it, makes a question which is just too tempting to resist.

What was John Lennon’s Middle Name ?

The way I have written it down, this question is actually impossible to answer. I’ll explain why. John Lennon was originally called
John WINSTON Lennon
When this question is asked, this is the most usual answer given. However in 1969, John Lennon changed his name by deed poll to
John ONO Lennon
So unless the question asks you what it was either BEFORE 1969, or AFTER 1969, you might as well toss a coin to decide which answer you put down.

Advice : - If you want to ask the question, then make it clear what you want – eg. – What was John Lennon’s middle name before he changed it to Ono by deed poll in 1969 ?

How did Mama Cass Elliot die ?

If you go to quizzes on anything approaching a regular basis you’ll have been asked this one before, and the answer will have been : -
She choked on a chicken/ham sandwich
Well, if that was true – how was it that the sandwich beside her remained uneaten ? The fact was that she died from a sudden and massive
Heart attackBut then you’d never ask the question if that was the answer you wanted, would you ?

Advice - don’t ask this one. There’s actually a much better question about Mama Cass’ death - – who died in the same house as Cass Elliott a few years later ? Answer – Keith Moon ! Believe it – its true.

Which film originally featured the song White Christmas ?

This one's from the 'take the question master out and shoot him if he has this wrong' file. The fact that you ask the question at all should show that you know that it isn't
White Christmas

which was actually made to cash in on the song itself. The song originally came from a film called
Holiday Inn
which is only remembered at all today for being the first film in which Bing Crosby sang the song.
Advice : - No need to play the man on this one. If you're question master gets this one wrong, then you won't be the only one telling him where to get off.

What was the last film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers ?

This is another question which will produce a wrong 'un every other time its asked. There is actually a reason for this. The wrong answer that question masters are prone to giving is
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle ( 1939)
Fred and Ginger first appeared together on film in "Flying Down to Rio " in which they were both featured players. RKO studios liked what they saw when the two were paired together for the dance "The Carioca" in the film, and so they paired them in a classic series of nine musicals. The last of these was in fact The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. After this film Ginger decided to take a break from musicals. However, 10 years later, in 1949, MGM studios got the two of them together to make
The Barkleys of Broadway
and this was the last film they made together.
Advice - as a question master - get it right. As a quizzer, put down the right answer anyway, whether you think the question master will know it or not.

Who wrote the James Bond Theme ?

This is one of those questions that question masters love to ask, and quizzers hate to hear being asked. Half the time its asked, the answer will be given as
John Barry
Now there's good reasons why a quiz master might say so. A great many of the themes and scores for the individual Bond films were actually written by John Barry. Also, John Barry arranged the theme for the first film, Dr. No. However, the man who has received royalties for the theme since 1962, who has twice had courts uphold his claim to have written the theme, and who has successfully pursued libel actions against publisher who claimed that John Barry wrote the theme, is in fact,
Monty Norman
With the weight of the British legal system in his corner, I for one am not going to argue.
Advice - Look , its Monty Norman, alright. If you want to ask about John Barry, then ask who composed the themes and scores for . . . and give the names of some of the individual themes.

Which of the Marx Brothers did not appear in A Night At The Opera ( or A day at the Races - or The Marx Brothers Go West - or The Big Store )

This is an unusual question , since the answer you will normally hear given,
Zeppo Marx
is actually right. He did not appear in any of these Marx Brothers films. However, the problem is that it is not the only right answer. For there was another brother who did not appear in any of these films, called
Gummo Marx
Gummo never appeared in any films. However he was part of their vaudeville act before their film career began, so you can legitimately say that he was part of the Marx Brothers. So which one do you choose ? You're faced with the experience of having to play the man and not the ball. Will your question master possibly know about Gummo's existence ? Quite possibly not, and so its safer to put Zeppo. I speak from xperience.
Advice - if the answer you want is Gummo, then ask specifically for the Marx Brother who never appeared in any of their films. If you want Zeppo, then say that he did appear in 5 of their films, but not the one in questions.


What was Zeppo Marx's unique contribution to winning the war in the pacific in 1945 ?

Answer :

His engineering company manufactured the clips which held the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs in place before being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Alright, its not a wrong'un, but its interesting in its own right, so I couldn't resist including it.

Which was the first short cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse ?

You can forgive a question master for giving you the answer
Steamboat Willie
to this question. After all, it was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon to find a distributor. It was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon to have a soundtrack - and one of the first of any cartoons to have a soundtrack. BUT - it had been preceded by two earlier silent Mickey Mouse cartoons - the Galloping Gaucho, which was made before Steamboat Willie, but released after it, and the earliest one , called
Plane Crazy
This was released in May 1928, a good six months before Steamboat Willie. It gained little or no interest from distributors or the public.
Advice : - Avoid confusion, and ask the question the other way around - eg - who made his first ever film appearence in Plane Crazy , in 1928 ?

How did 10CC get their name ?

This one comes from the Department of Tenacious Urban Myths. This is the answer the question master will give you : -
The name denoted the average amount of a single human ejaculation
You can see why this one appeals to a certain type of question master. Yet my medical contacts inform me that the average volume of the above is much closer to 3cc. The real answer, according to band members is this : -
The name was made up by then manager Jonathan King, and he claimed he had seen it in a dream, in which the band’s name were on a massive posted outside a stadium.
Interesting ( if true ) but nothing like as funny
Advice – there’s enough naughty questions out there you can ask – this one probably should be avoided now.

Serial killer Charles Manson auditioned for which TV show ?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if psychotic Charlie Manson had auditioned for the madcap , cute and cuddly zaniness that was
The Monkees
Well, some question masters will tell you that he did. Unfortunately for them it is a matter of record that Manson was in prison when the auditions actually took place. Who started the rumour ? Who knows, but it stands right up there in the wrong’uns hall of Fame with the Captain Pugwash , Baker Street/Bob Holness, and Clint Eastwood /Stan Lauel myths.

Advice- Use it as a true or false question , and explain why its false when you give the answer .

What is the song “Puff The Magic Dragon” Really About ?

Put it all together – It was the 60’s – the title has the words – puff – and – magic – in it . Isn’t it obvious ? The answer often given is

Marijuana / cannabis / illegal substances of some or other kind.

Well, believe it or not , some things are as innocent as they seem, and this was one of them. Puff the Magic Dragon is actually a song about
Er – a magic dragon who is called Puff
The song was written by Peter Yarrow – the Peter part of Peter, Paul and Mary who recorded the song. He based the lyric on a poem written by a University friend, Leonard Lipton – who actually wrote it in 1959 – and it is exactly what it seems, a song about the end of childhood and the loss of innocence. Lipton was inspired by an Ogden Nash poem – “ Really – O Truly – O Dragon”

Advice – Use it as a true or false question – and make it clear that the answer is false.

Well that's the first installment - watch this space for more.

Friday, 21 November 2008

TV Watch - Mastermind Half Term Report

Mastermind - Heat 12/24

This show completed the first half of the first round heats, and we'll make a few general observations about this after we've commented on tonight's show.

Up tonight were three newbies, Brian Bogie, Gordon Innes, and Ian Bayley, together with a veritable Mastermind veteran, Christopher Gonet. Mr. Bogie kicked off the show, with a fine round on Ian Botham. He maintained this lead throughout the specialist rounds. Gordon Innes mad an uncertain start to his round on The Munros of Scotland, but recovered well, and put on a spurt towards the end to push up to 12. Next up was a familiar face to viewers of "Are You An Egghead ", Dr. Ian Bayley, although billed as just plain Ian Bayley for the purposes of this show. His tactics were obviously to be as accurate as possible, but this did mean he was very hesitant on some questions, and he managed 13. Bringing the round to a close was Chris Gonet. This was his third tilt at mastermind, having also taken part in first round heats in 1991 and 2005. His grasp on some of the more obscure and arcane details of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels wasn't as secure as it needed to be, and he found himself bringing up the rear with 10.

Mr. Gonet somewhat redeemed himself with a good quickfire general knowledge round to push himself up to 23. This was good enough to push him ahead of Gordon Innes, however Ian Bayley was lurking in the wings. I thought that he had a tough general knowledge round, and to score 13 as he did was a very good performance, which is no less than we would have expected since watching his magisterial performance in the first round of AYAE. So, 26 was by no means unbeatable, and 12 would have done it for Brian Bogie. To my eyes Mr. Bogie had a rather easier general knowledge round than Dr. Ian, but he proved himself unequal to the task, scoring only 8, and even slipped back into 3rd place on pases. So well done , Dr. Ian. Not the finest performance in the first round so far, but you can't help feeling that he is only likely to do better in the semis, and thats something you certainly can't say for all of the other heat winners so far.

The Details

Brian BogieIan Botham15 - 08 - 4 23 - 4
Gordon InnesThe Munros of Scotland12 - 2 9 - 121- 3
Ian BayleyTchaikovsky13 - 0 13 - 0 26 - 0
Christopher GonetThe James Bond Novels10 - 0 13 - 023 - 0

Mastermind First Round Heats - Half term reports.

Well, we're halfway through the first round and we've had some good performances, some shocks, and even a tie break. Have we had a series winner, though ? Its really difficult to tell. After all, last year, we saw Hamish Cameron set a marvellous score of 33 in the first round, yet he didn't even reach the final. Stuart Cross in his semi final had his best performance, hit absolute top form, and even though Hamish had the 3rd best score in all of the semis, he was still beaten. So a great deal depends on who is against whom in which semi final.

Allowing for that , then , I have to say that the contender who caught the eye so far is John Beynon. His 14 on General Knowledge looks very impressive. However, after getting through a nervy heat, you'd fancy that Ian Bayley has the General Knowledge to do very well . As I said before, I think that he is only going to do better in the semis - while I don't think this about some of the others who scored more highly in their own heats. At the moment Nancy Dickmann looks the most likely woman to reach the finals. For what its worth, here's a run down of the relative performances of each of the heat winners so far.

John Beynon15 - 0 14 - 0 29 - 0
James Corcoran16 - 0 13 - 3 29 - 3
Mel Kinsey16 - 1 12- 1 28 - 2
Gillian Taylor18 - 0 9- 0 27 - 0
Nancy Dickman13 - 0 14 - 1 27 - 1
Roger Canwell14 - 113-1 27 - 2
Thomas Armer13 - 013 - 0 26 - 0
Ian Bayley13 - 013 - 0 26 - 0
Sally Jones15 - 210 -1 25 - 3
Jenny Dunn13 - 011 - 3 24 - 3
Ara Varatharaj16 - 07 - 123 - 1
Nicholas Flindall15 - 18 - 423 - 5

Only Connect

My, my, but Dr. Ian has been a busy boy recently ! We've only just seen him being beaten by James Webb in AYAE, and win his place in the Mastermind semis, but last Monday he showed himself to be a team man as well, representing The Crossworders, David Stainer's team, in the second round of Only Connect. Victoria Coren passed a comment along the lines of The Crossworders being the team to beat, and you have to say that she does have a point. Not that they had it all their own way this week. They were made to battle all the way by the Edinburgh Scrabblers, but their prowess on the wall, and in the missing vowels round saw them emerge triumphant. A very enjoyable match up. Well done gents !

Are You An Egghead ?

I found Dermot Murnaghan to be a very nice guy when I made my ill fated appearence on Eggheads, but , by God , he doesn't half drag out this show. Its a 30 minute show stretched to last 45 minutes, and it does get tedious in parts. Still, this week saw the second round being finished off. Congratulations to Pat Gibson, Mark Kerr, Shaun Wallace and Terry Toomey for clinching their places in the second round. Special congratulations to Dave Rainford too, for winning his quarter final match against James Webb. Could he be the next Egghead ? Yes he could. There might be stronger quizzers still left in, although Dave has proven himself to be an excellent quizzer already. However this format, and the terrible balance between some of the questions tends to mean that you're always in with a chance. David has the likeability factor by the bucketload, and if he did win I could see him becoming a popular Egghead very quickly.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Jackpots and Home Made Quizzes

When Winning the Jackpot is a dangerous business

Regular readers will recall a few months back the saga of my friend John and I searching for a new quiz to play in on a Sunday night, following events coming to a head at the Dynevor Arms in Groesfaen. Well, a few weeks ago we found a place that really suits. Its the Culverhouse Hotel, in Cardiff. The question master sets his own quiz every week, and the difference in quality between this, and the kind of quizzes pubs buy in from companies such as Redtooth is huge. Now, for all I know you might very well attend a Redtooth quiz every week and enjoy it. Good luck to you. I don't. In my opinion they are too full of gimmicks, there's too much popular culture and trivia, and too few genuine quiz questions. Feel free to disagree.

We'd tried out three or four different places in a row, and each one of them was using a Redtooth quiz, so finding the Culverhouse was like an oasis in the desert. For the last three weeks in a row we've won the quiz. Not a huge amount of money, but the that is of little or no importance. The fact is that its an enjoyable quiz.

So, I'll cut to the choice. We won again on Sunday. That's fine. there was some good natured banter along the lines of "Don't come back next week " from some of the teams. But it was OK. Then we made a mistake. We won the jackpot. The jackpot goes every week. you each pay an extra pound into the pot, and then have to answer one question. You play as an individual, not a team. The answer is always a question. So this week we were asked,
In which year was St. Paul's Cathedral in London damaged by an earthquake ?
I thought to myself that I have never heard of Wren's cathedral being damaged by earthquake, so surely it must have been the medieval cathedral which was destroyed in the Great Fire. I didn't reckon anybody else would would go that early, so I played fairly conservative, and offered 1624. The answer was 1580, and I was the only one within 50 years.

I promise you that we did try to give the money back, but they wouldn't have it. Then we promised to play just for the fun of it this coming Sunday, and not take a prize if we won. That wasn't accepted either. I just hope that we're not going to start killing it, because I can see teams starting to give it a miss if we keep going, and with the best will in the world, we have played with just 2 of us, against teams of up to 9 players, and in a quiz worth 50 points, nobody has yet to get within 5 points of our own total. Its a hard life, being a quiz hustler.

Why would you want to make your own quiz anyway ?

Its a question I've thought about off and on for a long time. I mean, putting yourself in a landlord, or pub manager's position , why would you want to put yourself through the hassle of putting together your own quiz, when you can download one off the internet for a couple of pounds ?

I've been writing a quiz once or twice a month for the Aberavon Rugby Club for the last 13 years or so. During this time I've also set questions for the sadly defunct Neath Quiz League. I think I can honestly say that I've enjoyed doing the quizzes, and acting as question master just as much as I have enjoyed playing in quizzes. I'm not really sure why. Its not a competitive thing. In fact, I always feel that if the teams score badly in your quiz , then you've failed. its actually about getting together a set of questions which people might or might not know the answers to, but which they will enjoy. Its about giving people the opportunity to come away feeling pleased about what they know, as well as maybe having learned something interesting they never knew before.

But then I'm a quizzer, and your average landlord isn't. So you can't expect them to see it the same way. So I'd like to offer a vote of thanks on behalf of quizzers throughout the length and breadth of the country, to those landlords, landladies, and volunteers who selflessly give up their time to produce proper quizzes. Ladies and Gentlemen - I salute you !

Friday, 14 November 2008

TV Watch - 14/11/08

Mastermind - 14th November - Heat 11 out of 24

Well, you wait weeks for another female contender, and then three come along all at once. It was a little bit like the BBC putting all of their eggs in one basket. it gave them a very good chance of getting another woman into the semi finals. However it also meant that at least 2 of the women contenders weren't going to get there. As it happened tonight, the contender who came second could well have won some of the other heats , so possibly the BBC have missed a trick here.

Jean Taylor and Barry Ingram were competing for the first time, and may well have found the occasion a little daunting. Both posted almost identical scores, with 9 for the specialist round, and another 6 each for the general knowledge. Far more impressive was another newcomer, Nancy Dickmann. Her specialist round seemed somewhat better than the 13 she scored. However she rattled through her general knowledge round at a fair canter, and scored an excellent 14. When the final contender's name, Miriam Collard, was announced I thought that it rang a bell. A quick check indeed revealed that she reached the semi finals in the Magnus Magnusson era in 1996, and then the actual final in 1998, when Mastermind was presented on the radio by Peter Snow. Well , she may well have been hoping to go one better this time, and she certainly gave it her best shot, with a very good score of 15 in the Specialist round. However hesitancy got the better of her in the general knowledge round, and she bottomed out at 12, to give her also 27. She had passed twice in the competition, and Nancy Dickmann only once. So Nancy Dickmann progressed to the semi, and you have to say that she is the most impressive of the female contenders to get through to the semi finals, and could just make it to the final.

The Details

Jean TaylorThe Coventry Blitz9 Gk - 6Total - 15
Barry IngramThe Scottish Enlightenment9GK - 6Total - 15
Nancy DickmannThe novels of Elizabeth Peters13GK -14 - 1Total - 27 - 1 pass
Miriam CollardDic Penderyn15 - 0 passesGK - 12 - 2 passesTotal - 27 - 2 passes

In Brief

Thank Heavens ! University Challenge came back this week. I didn't take details, but I believe it was the LSE v. Selwyn College . The LSE gave the opposition a good old British style thrashing, trousers down, a fact which Paxman gleefully rubbed in at the end of the show. Mind you, LSE were impressive. It will take a hell of a good team to beat them.

Are You An Egghead has reached the second round, so by my calculation that means that its half over. All the amateurs are gone, but this week had its share of shocks. Dr. Ian Bayley, so impressive in the first round, was beaten by a very nice guy I don't know called James who was I think had got as far as the semis in University Challenge.Other serious contenders to leave the competition were Jenny Ryan, Mastermind 1990 winner David Edwards, and Shanker Menon. Mind you, Shanker was always the underdog against Barry Simmons, who must surely fancy his chances in the next round.

Also reaching the second round this week was Only Connect. Its kept growing on me this series, and I will miss it terribly when its over. Victoria Coren promised the second round would be harder than the first round matches were, and she wasn't lying. We had the unedifying spectacle of one team failing to unravel any of the connections wall at all. Despite that it went to a tie break. Good stuff.

Daftest Answer of the week

For once Mastermind provides us with our daftest answer.

Question : - Pied, Grey and Yellow are all British examples of which species of bird ?
Answer : - Piper ?

Sunday, 9 November 2008

TV Watch Part Two

Are You An Egghead - Monday - Friday 4:30 BBC2

For a third week 10 contenders took the stage to attempt to earn their places in the next round. I noticed several luminaries, including Diane Hallagan, Shaun Wallace and Olav Bjortomt. Surprisingly Diane was knocked out by a chap I didn't know at all. He obviously knows his stuff, because if I heard him correctly he said that he sets quiz questions for a living. As it was it all came down to sudden death, and he probably had the benefit of the easier of the two questions, before going on to make a cringeworthy speech along the lines of he played terribly, and he is normally much better than that. Diane is a truly excellent quizzer herself, so I can just imagine how that little speech must have made her feel . Shaun Wallace I haven't met, although he hails from Wembley, just a couple of miles away from where I grew up. Still, I know all about what he did. Shaun won Mastermind in 2004, incidentally becoming the first black person to do so. He retired from quizzes after, but has been persuaded to make a comeback. So its difficult to know exactly where he fits among the champions since the programme returned in 2003. His was the best match of the week. He played against Richard - sorry, I didn't catch the surname, who won a ton of cash on Duel. And once again it came down to one question in the final round. Shaun described him as the best opponent he has ever faced. Hmm. I think you might be in for a shock in your next match up, Shaun. Then there was Olav. Olav was up against a very nice young lady from Coventry. Apparently her qualifications for the show were enthusiasm, and a crush on Kevin Ashman. Neither of which, it must be said, gave her much of a chance against a quizzer of the calibre of Olav, and lets suffice it to say that she will not feature in the second round.

So, for me this week has highlighted two of the flaws with the show. Firstly, the fact that the questions are , at times, as badly matched as they are on the original Eggheads show. They range from ridiculously difficult, to insultingly easy, and there seems no attempt to match up pairs of similar difficulty. Secondly , some of the contenders are , frankly, not up to it. That's not their fault. But on a show like this you really don't want amateurs, because it is a little embarrassing.

Oh and one last observation. Nobody knows everything. Not one of the Eggheads knew that it was Brian Ferry who recorded The In Crowd - and - A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall - in the 1970s

Other Shows

I'm still enjoying Only Connect, although I will make one little observation. No I won't. I'll ask a rhetorical question. Why on earth do they feel that they have to give the teams names that have something to do with each other ? Its a little twee.

Still no University Challenge. I do hope that its back on Monday.

Thank God for the Brain of Britain. No pyrotechnics this week, like we heard from Geoff Thomas in the previous heat, but still a good match up. The standard of the questions on the show is always a pleasure to listen to , even if the standard of the answers given isn't. Mind you , the listener's question in the middle of the show was a little on the easy side. If none of the competitors had known what Walt Disney's initially intended name for Mickey Mouse was, they should have given up and gone home then.

Its a terrible thing, getting old and losing your memory. I heard a wonderfully stupid answer in Friday's Weakest Link - but I didn't write it down, and I've since forgotten what it was. So alas, no daftest answer of this week.

Friday, 7 November 2008

TV Watch Part 1 - Mastermind

TV Watch

Mastermind - Episode 10

Another week, and another all male heat. It seems like the BBCs plea for female contenders to come forward for auditions must have fallen on a lot of deaf ears. Out of the 40 contenders we've seen face the black chair so far this year, a grand total of 8 of them have been women. Mind you, three of these all won their heats and gained a place in the semi finals. Oh well, back to this week's show. All 4 contenders were Mastermind virgins, and none of them managed to gain a winning advantage in the first round. Mick Schnackenberg, Mark Hannon and Thomas Armer all tied on 13, with Mark Samuelson a little way behind on 10. In the end Thomas Armer edged his way home with a good General Knowledge round of 13. These weren't all easy questions, and with a couple more points on his specialist he just might be worth an each way bet to reach the final. Please spare a thought for Mark Hannon. His score of 25 and 2 passes would have won 4 of the 10 heats that have been transmitted so far.

The Details
Mick Schnackenberg The Victoria Cross13 - 2 passes GK - 6 - 3 passes Total 19 - 5 passes
Mark Hannon Life and Career of Bobby Fischer 13 - 0 passesGK - 12 - 2 passes Total 25 - 2 passes
Thomas Armer Le Mans 24 hour race 13 - 0 passes GK - 13 - 0 passes Total 26 - 0
Mark Samuelson the seaman Thomas Cochrane 10 - 3 passes GK - 7 -3 Total 17 - 6 passes

Monday, 3 November 2008

TV Watch

TV Watch - 3rd November

Mastermind - heat 9

Another exciting contest this week, although not in the same way as the last couple of shows. All four contenders managed to get into double figures on their specialist subjects, with Nicholas Flindall looking the pick of them with 15 on Len Deighton's Harry Palmer novels. However the General Knowledge rounds were a lot less impressive. After Ashley Allen had set the bar at 22, we had the strangely fascinating sight of two successive contenders fall headlong into pass hell. John Dickinson only managed to add 4 points in the GK round. Katherine Jelfs at least managed to add 6 points in the GK. However, this was at a cost of no less than 10 passes. Nicholas Flindall managed to flop over the finishing line with 8 points. If this is typical of his prowess on GK you'd make him an outsider to get to the final. However, as I am always at pains to stress, it very difficult to predict results in the semis, so you never know.

The Details

Nicholas FlindallHarry Palmer novels15 - 18 - 423 - 5
John DickinsonLife and Music of Tom Paxton12 - 24- 616 - 8
Katherine JelfsThe Athenian Empire 14 - 2 6 - 1020 - 12
Ashley AllenLife and Work of Richard Feynman11- 011 - 122 - 1

Are You An Egghead ?

Its been difficult keeping up with this show all week. However I did notice Shanker Menon from Battle of the Brains. He was given a hell of a match by a lady from Swansea - Isobel Williams I think was her name. My ears pricked up when she said that she was from Swansea, but to the best of my knowledge I've never met her. Not surprising since she said that she never plays quizzes except from the armchair at home. She put a hell of a performance , whatever the case. Also through last week was former World champion, 2005 Mastermind champion, and winner of £1 million on WWTBAM, Pat Gibson, one of the nicest people in quizzing you will ever meet.

No University Challenge again this week , due to Autumnwatch.

Daftest Answer of the Week

Another little gem from The Weakest Link.

Question: Which large lizard shares its name with a certain type of Prefect in some of England's public schools ?

Answer : - Iguana ?