Sunday, 29 March 2009

The DOND Syndrome - Are You ANOTHER Egghead ?

A Few Observations - A Few Questions

Mrs. C. wasn't feeling too clever last night, and so took to her bed earlier than usual. This explained why number 2 daughter took control of the remote control, or to give it its technial name, the hoofer - doofer, and that explains how I came to watch Chris Tarrant's "The Colour of Money " last night for the first time. If by any chance this leads you to think - hang about , that's a game show and not a quiz show, which is outside our remit in "Life After Mastermind"- well, yes, you're absolutely right, but it is relevant. Allow me to explain.

Cast your mind back to about this time last year. Now, what was the big game show on a Saturday night on ITV ? Nick Hancock's Duel. At the heart of that show, as you might recall, was a quiz. Put it another way, you had to know stuff to win. ITV were reportedly disappointed with the audience the show received, and its noticeable by its absence this year. "The Colour of Money" is worrying confirmation of what I call the "Deal or No Deal " syndrome. Put in simple terms, for me it is proof that the big prize quiz show bonanza which we have enjoyed since "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire " first burst onto our screens in 1998 seems to be over.

Why call it the "Deal or No Deal " syndrome ? Well, the afore mentioned show is the first show that Channel Four have managed to come up with that replicates the popularity of the much missed Fifteen To One. I feel ashamed to say it, but I quite enjoy DOND, but Fifteen to One it's not. Who cares ? Not Channel Four, and certainly not the daily audience. Look at the appeal to the makers. Everyone wins something eventually. Incredibly simple format. No questions to compile. The first time I ever saw DOND actually was in the Yorkshire TV studios in Leeds when I was a stand in for the Mastermind semis of 2006. They make Countdown there, and so I guess that they had been watching it in the green room, and couldn't be bothered to change channel. When I saw it I did think that this was a development that could spell trouble for genuine quiz shows.

So where does the Colour of Money fit into this ? Well, its different from DOND in as much as not everybody wins something on the show. However it is about making the correct, or should I say lucky , choices, and knowing where to stop, and that's pure DOND. But its prime time Saturday night. I don't know what the ratings are like on the show, but if its a success, then I'm thinking we can kiss goodnight to the chance of any more massive jackpots for a genuine quiz show. Wouldn't it be strange if the highest jackpot for a genuine quiz on TV actually became the BBC's top prize for In It To Win It , or 1 v. 100 ? How long before the BBC decide that big money quizzes are past it, and they make their own 'choose your own cash' show ? Anyone who thinks that the BBC wouldn't go that far need only watch "The Wall Game " and "Total Wipeout" to see just how populist the Beeb are prepared to go. The worst thing is that I do actually quite like both of those shows.


Conversely, however, quizzes thrive at the moment on TV in the early evening slots. "The Weakest Link " and "Eggheads " continue, with seemingly a lot of life left in both of them. In the last twelve months we've had two series of "The Battle of The Brains " and "Terry Wogan's Perfect Recall ", we've had the BBC's own elimination quiz, "A Question of Genius" and also we've had "Are You An Egghead ? "

Now, to get to the point, the word is that 12 Yard Productions, makers of "Eggheads" amongst other shows, are looking to make a new series of "Are You An Egghead ? " From a TV quiz fan's point of view, that's pretty good news. "Are You An Egghead ?" was an enjoyable series, although you could make criticisms of it in the same way that you could criticise any show if you put you mind to it. There were a significant number of truly superb quizzers who took part, of whom Barry was one, and a worthy winner. However since I heard the news, I can't help saying that a number of questions have occurred to me. I'll share them with you now.

* Is one of the Eggheads leaving, or are they going to rotate 7 Eggheads instead of 6 ? Let us say that you get paid according to the number of shows you play in. 7 players would mean that you play in 5 shows out of 7, rather than 5 shows out of 6, which is less work, and therefore less money, which makes the prize less attractive than last year's.

* If one is leaving, then are they going of their own volition, or are they being pushed ? I formed the impression last year when I considered applying for the first series that the contract for the winner was only guaranteed for one year. Apologies to all concerned if I am wrong. However if that is the case, then it doesn't strike me as being very fair to Barry. Of course, its always possible that one of the Eggheads may wish to go. Be honest, though - if you were being paid for quizzing, would you ?

* Will the unsuccessful contestants from last year be allowed/encouraged/ asked to reapply for this series ? I've got to be honest, if I was to apply this year I'd feel my chances were a lot better knowing that luminaries such as Olav Bjortomt, Ian Bayley, Pat Gibson, David Edwards and Mark Kerr, to name but a few, were not taking part because of their appearance in the first series. This is actually an important point. Consider the two series of Battle of The Brains. Now, for the second series they didn't actually have a rule banning teams who had been in the first series exactly, but the rule was that no more than three of your original team could appear in the same team this time round. Its quite possible that a number of last year's teams didn't actually want to take part again for various reasons. Now don't get me wrong. There were some fine teams who played in the second series. Yet in my opinion, the average level of ability of the teams in this series was not as high as the average level of the teams in the first series. So lets think about the generally very high standard of the competitors on the first "Are You An Egghead ? " How do the producers aim to get such a high level of competitor again ? Even if they don't set their sights so high this year, they surely still want as many good competitors as possible to avoid any total mismatches.

* What are the conditions if, heaven help us, you win ? I ask myself this because I am not close enough to retirement age yet. If I was, then I might be tempted to say what the hell, and have a stab. With a job that pays a decent wage - although if my local authority wanted to offer me more I wouldn't turn them down - and a large family, I'm afraid that I couldn't afford to take a cut in salary, or risk being on the Old King Cole in a year's time if I won. I expect a significant number of other serious quizzers probably face the same problem.

OK - so if I did apply there's no guarantee that I would even get on the show. The rumour persists that Mark Bytheway applied for the first series and didn't get on. If that's true, then it would seem to be a glaring, and to be honest, rather despicable omission. Yet the Mastermind thing would seem to count for something. Its also struck me that although I have applied for other shows in the last 12 months, I'm the only Humphrys era Mastermind Champ who hasn't appeared on a TV quiz in the last few months. We had Shaun Wallace in "Are You An Egghead ?", Pat in "Are You An Egghead?" and " Battle of the Brains ", Geoff in "Battle of the Brains" and Andy in "Battle of the Brains". Perhaps this is trying to tell me something. Not sure what, though, that's the problem.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Weekend Mini Quiz 9 - Answers to Mini Quiz 8

Answers to Mini Quiz 8

Round One - in honour of the boys in white finally starting to find a bit of form - The England Rugby Union Team

1) Who captained the English team in the inaugural world cup of 1987 ?
Answer - Mike Harrison

2) While we're on the subject, which former England 5 nations winning captain had his name borrowed for the hero of a very popular series of historical novels ?
Answer - Richard Sharpe

3) Which winger scored a hat trick of tries in his second appearence in an England shirt against Ireland in 1988 ?
Answer - Chris Oti

4) For what is the England v. Australia test at Twickenham in January 1982 most often remembered ?
Answer - The streaker - Erica Rowe

5) In which year will Twickenham celebrate its centenary ?
Answer - either centenary of first club match - this year 2009 - centenary of first international ( v. Wales ) - 2010

Round Two - General Knowledge

1) Who was the most famous ever holder of the title Duke of Bronte ?
Horatio Nelson

2) Which temple , later converted into a christian church, is the most complete ancint roman building in the city of Rome ?
The Pantheon

3) Charles Dickens used a work by one of his friends to help him write " A Tail of Two Cities". Which friend, and what was the book called ?
Thomas Carlyle - A History of The French Revolution

4) What is the derivation of the word hydrogen ?
Hydro - Genes - greek - literally born of water

5) British sitcoms. In "Fawlty Towers " what is the name of the Bernard Cribbins character that Basil mistakes for a hotel inspector ?
Mr. Hutchinson

Well , how did you do ? If you didn't do so well, then here's your chance to make amends, as we proudly present : -

Weekend Mini Quiz 9
Round One - Send in the Clowns

1) Which musical features the song "Send in the Clowns " ?

2) Which ruling house of Europe shares its name with a famous clown, and what was the name of the clown ?

3) How does a circus clown copyright his own distinctive face make-up ?

4) What is the name of the clown in the Shakespeare play "Twelfth Night " ?

5) What was the name of the very famous clown associated with the Blackpool Tower Circus in the 1950s, 60s and 70s ?

Round Two - General Knowledge

1) Emerald is the distinctive green form of which mineral ?

2) In computer technology , what does DOS stand for ?

3) Who composed the St. Matthew Passion ?

4) If you are an MHR in Australia - what is your business ?

5) Which town or village on the Gower Peninsula is famous for its cockles ?

Anniversary - Mastermind Update


Yes, its been a quiet week. There was no chance of me getting out to a midweek quiz this week, being as it was the week in which we had to send out the sample of our GCSE coursework for external moderation. At my school, we're great believers in the school of 'measure twice, and cut once ' or to put it another way, make sure that the folders are as perfect as you can before they go. Its a good approach, but the problem is that it does take a lot of time and effort in marking, checking, re-marking, arguing, checking again, re-marking, filling the folders with comments justifying the marks given, etc. Thus I rationed myself to the unpleasant experience last Sunday which was the subject of my previous entry , and Thursday night's quiz, of which more later.

Not only that, then, but its been a bit of a quiet week TV wise.I've enjoyed "A Question of Genius" although I haven't caught much of it this week due to one thing and another.Then last night Mastermind was held over so that the BBC could show the world track cycling. Now, I can understand why they want to show the cycling. What happened in the Beijing Olympics was unprecedented, for the GB and NI team to so dominate a sport . I just wish that it wasn't poor old Mastermind being used as the 12th man again. You can understand why the BBC do it, though. They obviously feel that Mastermind viewers are a steady audience, many of whom will actively seek it out, and will loyally come back even if they take it off for a week without so much as a by your leave. They're probably right too.

Its a little ironic, though, since last Tuesday saw the first anniversary of the broadcasting of last year's final. Not of the filming of the final itself, which actually took place on the 15th June 2007 - which by coincidence was my 43rd birthday. Still, it is a personal milestone of sorts, even if I didn't actually realise that it had passed until Thursday ! In her fine book about her Mastermind experiences, " And No Passes " the 1989 champion Mary Elizabeth Raw prints extracts from her diary to give an example of the sort of things that happened to her in the year after her win. I'm afraid that my experiences in the past year tend to pale into insignificance alongside Ms. Raw's, but then Mastermind was on BBC1, and far more of a national institution in those days. I suppose that some of the highlights of the year would have to be these : -
* Being recognised in a car boot sale in Swansea
* Being the answer to a question in the Quiz of 2008 in the Rugby club
* Nancy Banks- Smith's review of the final in the Guardian
* Having a civic reception at the Mayor's Parlour in Neath
* Being on the front page of the South Wales Evening Post
* Being invited to become a resident expert on the website of the London Bridge Museum and Educational Trust
* Having the Mayday in Melincryddan Quiz charity Quiz Trophy renamed The David Clark Mastermind 2008 Trophy
* Being invited to spend a day with my old school, and to present the prizes on the Presentation Evening
* Being invited to attend the 900th anniversary of the Opening of Old London Bridge as a guest
* Being invited to give a speech at the Bro Morgannwg Unison Learning awards.

Actually, now that I see it all written down in the same place, its not too shabby at all. Of course, there have been a couple of less pleasant outcomes, but lets not dwell on those at all. Instead, lets take this opportunity to update ourselves on the relative performances in this series of Mastermind so far. I last gave you an update at the halfway stage, after 12 heats. Since then we've had another 10 heats, and the table looks like this : -

John Beynon 15 - 014 - 029 - 0
James Corcoran16 - 013 - 329 - 3
Richard Heller 14 - 2 14 - 028 - 2
Mel Kinsey16 -112 - 128 - 2
Gillian Taylor18- 09 - 027 - 0
Nancy Dickman13 - 014 - 127 - 1
Roger Canwell14 - 113 - 127 - 2
Gary Grant 14 - 2 13 - 327 - 5
Edward Pearce16 - 111 - 427 - 5
Thomas Armer13 - 0 13 - 0 26 - 0
Ian Bayley13 - 0 13 - 026 - 0
Stuart Macdonald 14 - 012 - 226 - 2
Louise Mayer15 - 011 - 326 - 3
Paul Moorhouse12 - 013 - 025 - 0
Sally Jones15 - 2 10 -125 - 3
Gareth Kingston16 - 08 - 024 - 0
Jenny Dunn13 - 011 - 324 - 3
Shrirang Raddi16 - 08 - 424 - 4
Hugh Brady13 - 111 - 424 - 5
Paula Keaveney14 - 110 - 524 - 6
Ara Varatharaj16 - 07 - 123 - 1
Nicholas Flindall15 - 18 - 423 - 5

So - with only two heats left there are at least 4 of the finalists in this list . Who would you pick ? Before you start putting your money down, I would like to sound a note of caution. In the last series, if you did this same exercise, and set out the first round heat winners in a table ranked first according to total scores, then separated those with the same score by taking into account the total passes, then out of the top 10 performers in the first round, only 2 won their semi finals. This was partly due to the fact that there were two very top heavy semi finals. In the first semi final last year, three of the 4 contenders had all scored 30 or more in the first round, and in another semi final two contenders had scored 30 or more, and one had scored 29 in the first round. Even then they were all beaten in that semi by someone who had scored much lower in his first round. So I guess what I am trying to say is don't read too much into relative positions and scores - but it is interesting to compare.


The quiz in the rugby club was actually good fun on Thursday - yes, we did win, how did you guess ? I was particularly pleased at remembering who Ireland's first Grand Slam team captain was ( Karl Mullen ) and for correctly guessing which the first Bob Dylan song ( as in song written by Bob Dylan ) to top the UK charts was ( Mr. Tambourine Man by the Byrds )This quiz was a connections quiz - that is, in each round three of the questions would have answers which had a connection. 'Kick Yourself For Getting It Wrong Connection' of the night was this one : -
1) Which US General burnt Atlanta during the Civil War ?
2) Which english painter is widely reckoned to be the finest ever painter of horses ?
3) In George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' what is the name of the pig whose dream leads to the animal rebellion ?

1) William Tecumseh SHERMAN
2) George STUBBS
3) Old MAJOR

So what would you say the connection is ? Not easy if you don't see it at once , is it ? Its actually Fawlty Towers - Polly's surname is Sherman - the reputable one of the two builders is Mr. Stubbs, and of course Major Gowan is the hotel's longest term resident. Maybe a little bit specialist , but you can't get by on a diet of bread and butter all the time. Good stuff.

Monday, 23 March 2009

My Flabber has never Been So Gasted

So Farewell, then , Culverhouse Hotel -

I believe that it was in "Othello" that William Shakespeare wrote of jealousy as " the green eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds on. " Mind you Shakespeare also wrote 'Titus Andronicus', which proves that he wasn't always half as clever as people think that he was. However, I digress. Gentle readers, as good quizzers yourselves, which I am sure that many of you are, you'll be fully aware of the occasional jealousy that a virtuoso display can arouse in other teams. Alas, last night this turned rather ugly.

If you've been with me since the summer, then you'll be aware of the difficulty I found trying to find a good Sunday evening quiz. The nature of the problem was twofold. Firstly, I don't like Redtooth Quizzes. For the uninitiated, Redtooth are a private company that produce quizzes for pubs and clubs. I don't like them, but they are popular, and if you play in them regularly and you like them, then good luck to you. Unfortunately for me, a significant number of pubs and clubs within a reasonable travelling distance subscribe to Redtooth, so finding a home grown quiz of a halfway decent standard on a Sunday evening can be quite difficult. This problem is complicated by the fact that we really need to have two different quizzes we can go to on a Sunday, so that we can alternate between the two, making sure that we never win any quiz more than once a fortnight.

We hit something close to the jackpot when we found the Culverhouse Hotel in Cardiff. You pay a pound each for a decent quiz, made up of 40 questions and a handout. 4 questions are 3 point multiples, and you play the joker on a round of your choice to double your score for that round. Then after the quiz its a pound each for the chance of the jackpot on a single name the year / guess the number question - closest to the correct answer scoops the pot. As regards the prize money for the quiz itself, well it covers your petrol and a round of drinks, but no more, but that doesn't matter. Its a bit of fun.

Last night was the first time we had played there for three weeks, actually. We left it a week longer since last time we played there we won the quiz and Phillippa scooped the jackpot, so we thought that we'd better give them a bit longer to get over it. Apparently 3 weeks was nothing like enough. This is what happened. We were joint winners of the quiz, with another team, who shall remain nameless in order to protect the guilty. So there was a tie break.
"Name the year in which the RNLI was first formed " asked our genial host. Immediately John, the King of the Tie Break , wrote down the answer 1824. The other team answered 1820. Of course it was 1824.

I think at this point that I should explain something. This quiz is a little unusual in that the QM reads through all 4 rounds without a break. Then he allows something like 15 minutes before asking you to swap over your papers for marking by another team. Now, the problem with this is that it is something of a cheat's charter. We saw several other teams immediately start texting on their phones, one of which, I have to say, was the team who tied with us. They were a team who quizzed standing up at the bar, a group of 20-and 30-something men who , I have to say, were somewhat the worse for drink, and did not fit your stereotype image of a successful pub quiz team. Not neanderthals, no, but certainly a team who managed to exude a bit of an aura of menace. They were incensed by our win, and called the QM over.

He came over to our table, and basically accused us of cheating. Of course, my daughter had just taken her phone out at that point, and was in the process of texting, and he leapt on this. At first I couldn't help laughing - until I realised that he was serious . Then I quickly went through surprise, shock, frustration, then extreme being-peed-off-ness, and I am afraid to say that I rose to the challenge. I explained that the phone had come out after the tie break - and pointed out that he himself had seen nothing, otherwise he would have done so when he presented us with the prize money. I then pointed out that the other team would not have even got into a tie break with us if they hadn't been texting for the whole of the 15 minutes before handing over. He backed off a little bit, but used the morally bankrupt argument that everyone ( except us ! ) used their phones a bit during the quiz, but it wasn't right in a tie break. He didn't ask for the prize back though.

After that I don't think anything would have persuaded John to go back to the Culverhouse Hotel again. However there was a particularly nasty incident just before we left. I had to pass the other team involved on my way to the Gents, and one of them made a point of calling me a * * * * ing cheat. Did I mention what shining wits they were ? Or is that a Spoonerism ? I know that the right thing was to maintain my dignity and not answer, and I didn't respond at all. Hence I am in one piece, as is the rest of my team, and we are not banned from the Culverhouse Hotel. Well, not in so many words, anyway. But we'd be very foolish to go back. Yes, we've done nothing wrong, and yes, the other team involved acted in a childish, threatening and frankly hypocritical fashion. At the end of the day, though, that doesn't make a lot of difference. If we went there again, we'd be looking for trouble.

I suppose that if I were a better person I'd be able to look at all this from the lofty perch of my own moral superiority and laugh it off. I'm not a better person , though. It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Weekend Mini Quiz - 8

Round One - in honour of the boys in white finally starting to find a bit of form - The England Rugby Union Team

1) Who captained the English team in the inaugural world cup of 1987 ?

2) While we're on the subject, which former England 5 nations winning captain had his name borrowed for the hero of a very popular series of historical novels ?

3) Which winger scored a hat trick of tries in his second appearence in an England shirt against Ireland in 1988 ?

4) For what is the England v. Australia test at Twickenham in January 1982 most often remembered ?

5) In which year will Twickenham celebrate its centenary ?

Round Two - General Knowledge

1) Who was the most famous ever holder of the title Duke of Bronte ?

2) Which temple , later converted into a christian church, is the most complete ancint roman building in the city of Rome ?

3) Charles Dickens used a work by one of his friends to help him write " A Tail of Two Cities". Which friend, and what was the book called ?

4) What is the derivation of the word hydrogen ?

5) British sitcoms. In "Fawlty Towers " what is the name of the Bernard Cribbins character that Basil mistakes for a hotel inspector ?

As usual , answer at the end of the week

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Genius ? - Perhaps not, but a good idea nonetheless

A Question of Genius - BBC 2 Weeknights - 4:15

The BBC seems to be making a serious attempt to woo away the audience of Channel 4's popular "Deal or No Deal" with this new show. On the face of it there's little comparison between the two shows , apart from the fact that they occupy the same slot on different channels. For "A Question of Genius" is a quiz show, which DOND clearly isn't. But is it any good ?

Well, I'll come clean now. I've known that this show was in the pipeline for some time. To their credit the producers have actively encouraged regular serious quizzers to apply. The presenter is Kirsty Wark,- more on that story later - also currently presiding over BBC4's enjoyable The Book Quiz. This tells us that the BBC are serious about this quiz. Why is it that so many BBC quizzes are fronted by either broadcast journalists, or presenters with a background in current affairs and news ? Think about it - Jeremy Paxman and University Challenge - John Humphrys and Mastermind - Dermot Murnaghan and Jeremy Vine and Eggheads, and in the past Angela Rippon and Masterteams, Martyn Lewis and Today's The Day, and Robert Dougal and Pets Make Prizes. Actually I made that last one up. Well, my admiration for Kirsty Wark has been documented already, so she's a plus for the show and so what if she does seem to be enjoying herself a little too much.

How does the game work ? Well apparently the contestants stay on all week, with an extra one joining each day in place of the previous show's winner. However we don't actually get to see the first round where 10 contestants are whittled down to 8. Yes, I did say whittled down. If you perked up when you read that, and the words "Fifteen to One" crossed your mind, well don't get too excited. This is rather more complicated , and nothing like as cutthroat as the Channel 4 show of blessed memory. There are four seperate rounds, a round where 8 are whittled down to 4, 4 are whittled down to 2, 2 play head to head , and a final where the last contestant plays for the money. Each round is called "A Question of . . . " and we have "A Question of Knowledge ", " A Question of Judgement " , "A Question of Pressure " , although not, I have to say " A Question of Sport". Actually, they can call these rounds whatever they like, but they are all general knowledge rounds, just with slight variations in the way that they are played.

Here's where the show's unique selling point comes into play. When you get to answer a question, you get to choose how easy it is. These range from a point for a "what's your own name" question, to up to 5 points for a practically impossible question. In practice most contestants opt for 3 or 2 point questions most of the time, although a couple of these have proven to be surprisingly tricky. In each round apart from the final , it is not about how many questions you answer, but how many points you get. Each of the first three rounds operates on a first past the post system, with 5 points needed in round 1, 10 in round 2 , and 15 to get to the final. So in order to get to the final its a matter of two things - great anticipation and buzzer technique and a good, although not necessarily great, general knowledge.

As for the money round, well, the finalist receives five questions, level 1 to level 5. With each level of question the contestant gets a choice of 2 categories. If they answer all 5 levels, then they will play for £5000.4 levels gets £2000, and so on down. However this doesn't actually earn them any money yet. Before the start of the show each contestant has nominated a Specialist Subject.Examples of winners' subjects this week are The Lord of the Rings and Rising Damp. For the money they get asked one question about their specialist subject. If they get it right, the money is theirs. They also have the option to take a multiple choice, where they are given three possible answers to choose from. However this means that the prize money is halved. At the end of the show, the names go on to a leaderboard, and in the last show the 10 highest money winners will compete for the trophy and the title of series winner.

Does it sound too complicated ? Don't worry. If you haven't seen it , its nowhere near as complicated as it sounds. Most of the time its a buzzer quiz, and I've always liked a good buzzer quiz. I'm not sure how I feel as a viewer in having so many of the same faces come back the next day during the week. As a potential future contestant, I know that it would be very difficult to commit to being available for consecutive days during term time. But if I say this, then I'm really looking for things to criticise. Lets agree, this is no Fifteen to One, but its enjoyable, and easy to watch. So much so that I didn't realise that it was 45 minutes long rather than 30 minutes until I watched Monday's show on the iplayer. Will the show woo viewers away from DOND ? I don't know. But I know what I like, and I like "A Question of Genius"

Friday, 20 March 2009

Mastermind - First Round Heat 22/24

Mastermind First round Heat 22/24

The word on the streets is that there is no Mastermind next week. Well, why should the schedulers suddenly start to show any considerations for the fans and the regular viewers now ? Never mind the fact that we're getting close to the semis . I can't help wondering how long its been since the first round heats were actually filmed ? I know for a fact that the final was filmed right at the start of September .

Well, on with the show. Four brand new contenders took to the chair this week, so we had no past form to guide us. The first contender, Gary Grant, provided us with this week's sports specialist round, with the Life and Career of Sir Jackie Stewart. He seemed particularly well versed in all aspects of his subject, and answered most decisively. Questions were either answered at once, or passed on. 14 is a good specialist score, and so Gary Grant was very much in contention at the halfway mark.

Sarah Reynard offered us The Novels of Wendy Holden. I can't say I'm at all well versed in Ms. Holden's oeuvre, but my eldest daughter swears by them. The contender seemed extremely nervous at first. I may be mistaken, but it seemed to me that she was actually shaking before taking to the chair, and she did take a while to get into her round. When she did, though, she started to make good headway as she settled her nerves, and at the end of the round she had scored 10. What do we always say, people ? Anything in double figures is a good score.

Tony Whelpton, a writer himself, plumped for this week's traditional Mastermind subject with Honore de Balzac. Over a quarter of a century ago I studied French as one of my A Levels, and there was a significant literature component in the course - thank God for that or I'd never have passed - however Balzac was not part of that course. Which is all a very long-winded way of saying that I know next to nothing about him. However to my layman's eyes 12 looked pretty good, and gave Mr. Whelpton a chance.

Bringing the first round to a close was David Christie. Mr. Christie answered questions on those whacky teutonic funsters, Kraftwerk. By the way, if you've never seen Bill Bailey and friends doing the Hokey Cokey as performed by Kraftwerk, then you've never lived. This round certainly had more than a touch of the Trans Europe Express about it, and the contender raced away to a first round lead with a finely judged round to score 15.

Somehow I had a feeling that John Humphrys was unlikely to want to reveal his ignorance about Wendy Holden, and indeed he spent the whole of his inter-round chat with Susan Reynard discussing her work as a contracts manager. She finished her round on 16. Tony Whelpton followed. I was interested to see that one of his questions - what name is give to the selection of small dishes or appetisers in Greek or Turkish cuisine - meze - also featured in tonight's "A Question of Genius". Now there's a show that deserves its own review. Watch this space. He took his score up to 21, but with two contenders yet to come his lead looked precarious to say the least. Gary Grant made his way back to the chair with a determined stride, and indeed, when the round started he accelerated like Sir Jackie in his prime, and was picking the answers off at double quick speed. The second half of the round wasn't quite so impressive, but by then he had sped way past the target, and scored an impressive 13 to set the bar at 27. To avoid a pass countback, David Christie needed to also score 13, and this seemed more unlikely as a tricky round progressed. He too finished on 21.

Gary Grant answers very quickly, and that is actually extremely useful in Mastermind. If he gets a flyer in his Specialist round in the semi final then he'll be tough for anyone to catch. Potential finalist ? Absolutely. But then anyone who reaches the semi final is by definition a potential finalist.

The Details

Gary Grant Life and Career of Sir Jackie Stewart 14 - 2 13 - 3 27 - 5
Sarah Reynard The Novels of Wendy Holden 10 - 3 6 - 1 16 - 4
Tony Whelpton Honore de Balzac 12 - 1 9 - 2 21 - 3
David Christie Kraftwerk 15 - 0 6 - 2 21 - 2

Answers to Weekend Mini Quiz 7

Round One - Biscuits

1) What makes a jaffa cake a cake rather than a biscuit ?
It goes hard when its stale. The official definition says that biscuits go soft when they are stale, and cakes go hard

2) Which biscuit shares its name with a ruling house of France ?

3) Which company manufactured the original Jammie Dodgers ?

4) Which type of wafers were famously made by Huntley and Palmers ?
Cornish Wafers

5) Which biscuits have the unenvied nickname "dead fly biscuits " ?

Bonus specialist Quiz

1. Name the order of the 4 Beatles left to right on the 'Abbey Road' LP cover
George - Paul - Ringo - John
2. What 2007 film was based around the music of The Beatles?
Across the Universe
3. Which film did David Essex star alongside one of The Beatles?
That'll Be The Day
4. Name each of the Beatles first wives
John - Cynthia Powell - Paul - Linda Eastman - George - Pattie Boyd - Ringo - Maureen Cox
5. Who was the Producer for all but one of their Studio Albums? 
(Sir ) George Martin
6. Complete the line ' "The Girl with ....... eyes"
7. Complete the line "Speaking words of wisdom ...."
Let It Be
8.  In what year was John Lennon shot?
9. And in front of what building?
The Dakota Building
10. In which city does the 'Love' Cirque de Soleil production take place?
Las Vegas

Sometimes, Cheats do Propser

Or - How to condone cheating by turning a blind eye

Or, to put it another way, should one speak up against injustice and dark deeds , or cravenly clam up to preserve the status quo ?

Allow me to explain. Last night was my turn to be question master in the rugby club. Very enjoyable it was too. Here comes the boastful , arrogant bit. At any one time there may be as many as four good all round quizzers playing, myself, Brian, Rob and Terry. All of us are well up to good League standard or better. This is not to say that nobody else who plays is any good - however it does mean that of the remaining players they all have their strengths, but they all have some pretty glaring weak areas as well. And why not ? They're social quizzers who probably only play in this one quiz a week, and enjoy it, and have no wish to play any more or do any better. The reason why I mention this, is that of the 4 'stars', only 1 of them actually played in the quiz last night. I was question master, Brian and Rob weren't there, so this left Terry to plough a lonely furrow, only, it must be said , with limited success.

So the top scores were a little bit lower than I would have expected. That's OK, I can live with that. For the first time this year, the quiz was won by a team other than my team, or Ron and Terry's. So much the better. Its just . . . Well, its just that the winning team used their phones to answer at least one of the questions. This is what happened. It was round 6, so we were really down to the business end of the quiz. I asked the question
The border between which two countries was set by the Ashburton Webster Treaty ?
I actually watched as a member of the winning team picked up his phone, and I heard him ask the question, and then a minute later say
"Oh - USA and Canada - OK - thanks ".

Now, as I'm sure you either know or have guessed, USA and Canada is the correct answer. OK, so cheating is not exactly unknown at this particular quiz, in fact two teams at least are well known for brazenly looking up answers in books. However phoning a friend is beyond the pale. Or is it ? For the fact is that I did not leap off the Question Master's raised platform, and confront the offending team with the words,
" Thou villain ! Behold, Sir, you are undone !"
or words to that effect. No. Fact was that I said nothing. The team, who had about 9 people playing for them last night anyway, achieved a rare, in fact, dare I say it, a unique win. Everyone seemed happy enough, even when I pointed out to a few selected friends that the winners had cheated on at least one of the questions.

Yet if I'd have been playing I would have been furious with the other team for cheating, and furious with me for not saying anything to them about it. Yet by shutting up, I seem to have made the majority of people , happy. A mad world, my masters. Oh, the shame of it - accessory to cheating !

Death By Entertainment

How Much Is Too Much ?

Yes, dear friends, once again this week I found myself chafing at the bias towards popular culture questions in a quiz which I played in on Tuesday.

I have actually mentioned this quiz before. It takes place every Tuesday evening in the Duke of Wellington pub in Cowbridge. This is usually a very good quiz. The pub itself is a genuine old building which is full of charm. The Quiz itself comprises of 40 general knowledge question, the last of which is a list question. Then there is a lucky seven jackpot round of seven questions. The score for this round does not go towards a team's final total, but any team scoring seven out of seven will at least get a share of the rolling jackpot. If no team scores 7, then the prize rolls over to the following week. Entry is £1 per team member, and then an extra £1 per team which goes towards the lucky 7. For your money you get the quiz, but you also get sandwiches at half time thrown in. Pretty good value, you'd have to admit it.

For reasons that I have explained in previous blogs John and I don't tend to go every week. This week, though, when we arrived we found that the usual question master wasn't doing the quiz. This always ills one with a slight sense of foreboding. Adventurous souls that we are, we still always prefer to see a quiz entrusted to a safe pair of hands. Now, your Dave is not one to go saying that a man or woman in their early twenties is incapable of producing an enjoyable quiz. However in my experience I have , as a rule, found quizzes produced by younger people to be less enjoyable , although there are of course some notable exceptions to this.

One of my pet hates about pub quizzes is when the question master concentrates on questions about popular entertainment - pop music - films - TV - to the detriment of other subjects. Now, please don't misunderstand me about this. Popular entertainment is an important quiz subject, and every bit as worthwhile as any other. But can you imagine the outcry if you were to produce a quiz where over 20 questions out of the 40 were all about , lets say History, or Literature, or Geography, or, Heaven help us, Science ? Well, on Tuesday night no less than 21 out of the 40 questions were on entertainment. Ah, but people LIKE entertainment, you might say. Well, yes they do, I wouldn't try to argue with that. But at what point does a general knowledge pub quiz become a specialist entertainment quiz with a few extra general knowledge questions thrown in ? Well, let me tell you this. I take my turn in producing the quiz for the Aberavon Rugby Club on a Thursday night, usually every three or four weeks. I have a formula which I use. There are 8 rounds of 10 questions. In each round, I try to divide the questions up like this : -
1 'in the news'
1 History/ Society / Politics
1 Geography
1 The Arts
1 Science / Technology / Industry / Economics / Mathematics etc.
1 Natural World/ Human body etc.
1 Sport
2 Popular Entertainment
which eagle eyed readers will see leaves 1 free question that can be about anything that might not fit into any other category.
So actually I do include more entertainment questions than any other category, but they still only make up one fifth of the whole quiz - and I think thats quite reasonable.

Since you ask, we came second, losing by two points. Yes, sour grapes, of course. However the lucky 7, which contained only 1 entertainment question, proved an easier nut to crack , so as it was we scooped the jackpot, which was far more than we would have got for winning the quiz itself. Would it be very wrong of me to suggest some kind of poetic justice taking place there ? Probably.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Weekend Mini Quiz 7 - A Question of Biscuits

Answers to Weekend Mini Quiz 6

Round One - The papers

1) Which is the only European newspaper which is in the list of the 10 newspapers with the highest circulation in the world ?
Answer - Bild - in Germany

2) Still on circulation, which is the english language newspaper with the highest circulation in the world ?
Answer - The Sun - UK

3) In which UK national newspaper does Jonathan Cainer write the astrological column ?
Answer - Daily Mail

4) What is the name of the strip in the scottish Sunday Post , which has featured a spiky haired boy in dungarees since 1936 ?
Answer - Oor Wullie

5) In 2005, what name did the Guardian give to the new size format it adopted ?
Answer - Berliner

Round Two General Knowledge

1) Why did BBC reporter Steve Parry hit the headlines during the Beijing Olympics of 2008 ?
Answer - He was continually mistaken for swimmer Michael Phelps - to whom he did bear a passing resemblance

2) Who directed the animated Beatles film "Yellow Submarine " ?
Answer - George Dunning

3) The 11th century Old english poem "The Battle of Maldon" describes the disastrous consequences of Ealdorman Byrtnoth's decision to allow the vikings to cross a causeway so they could fight them. Of which english county was Byrtnoth the ealdorman ?
Answer - Essex

4) In which modern day country was Joseph Djugashvili - known as Stalin - actually born ?
Answer - Georgia

5) Which company produced the Ro80 car, which used a revolutionary ( sic ) rotary engine ?
Answer - NSU

Weekend Mini Quiz 7

Round One - Biscuits

1) What makes a jaffa cake a cake rather than a biscuit ?

2) Which biscuit shares its name with a ruling house of France ?

3) Which company manufactured the original Jammie Dodgers ?

4) Which type of wafers were famously made by Huntley and Palmers ?

5) Which biscuits have the unenvied nickname "dead fly biscuits " ?

Bonus specialist Quiz

Yes - there's no General Knowledge this week, but as a bonus, this quiz on the Beatles, sent to me by Mastermind 2008 semi-finalist James Corcoran : -

1. Name the order of the 4 Beatles left to right on the 'Abbey Road' LP cover
2. What 2007 film was based around the music of The Beatles?
3. Which film did David Essex star alongside one of The Beatles?
4. Name each of the Beatles first wives
5. Who was the Producer for all but one of their Studio Albums? 
6. Complete the line ' "The Girl with ....... eyes"
7. Complete the line "Speaking words of wisdom ...."
8.  In what year was John Lennon shot?
9. And in front of what building?
10. In which city does the 'Love' Cirque de Soleil production take place?

So there we are - enjoy. In case you're wondering what prompted me to ask a set of questions about biscuits, well, the fact is that it all stems from a breaktime conversation I had with some of my pupils yesterday. A propos of nothing, one of the young scallywags pipes up out of the blue, asking me what my favourite type of biscuit is. Now, if you're like me, this is the type of question which you can neither ignore, nor give a quick answer to. So the discussion widened to encompass the Top Ten Biscuits Of All Time.

Are you with me so far ? Well and good. Now , in one of my top ten selections I nominated sports biscuits - which was met with surprise from the kids since they didn't know what I was talking about. Having access to the net in the classroom I immediately logged on and googled 'sports biscuits' to show them.

Two sites I found left me with incredulity. Firstly a page with the title "Campaign for Real Sports Biscuits ". I kid you not. Apparently Fox's - who are makers of superior biscuits IMHO - recently revived the venerable sports biscuit. However, instead of the traditional stick figures engaged in a range of sporting activities, they show fully realised figures. According to the purists this is beyond the pale - hence the campaign for real sports biscuits.

The other site which intrigued me was one which actually carried reviews of different biscuits.

So if nothing else, at least from now on when anyone has the front to tell me that my quiz obssession is sad or strange, at least I will be able to make the reply, - well, I can't be all that sad, after all, I've never led a campaign for real sports biscuits, and I've never written a two page review of a biscuit like some people have.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Mastermind - First Round Heat 21/24

Practically a photo finish

The BBC's inscrutable campaign to sabotage the original Mastermind show continues. For at exactly the same time that the show began tonight on BBC2, a version of Celebrity Mastermind, featuring David Tennant, and Screamin' Davina hosted by John Humphrys made up a small segment of the Comic Relief Extravaganza. Coincidence ? I should cocoa.If you missed the original and best, then its a shame, since it was a great episode tonight, and the tension for me was heightened by the fact that I know two of tonight's contenders. Howard Pizzey took part in the 2007 series of blessed memory, and achieved the unenviable feat of scoring a massive 29 in the first round, but still not getting to the semi finals. Howard had no luck whatsoever last year, so my fingers were resolutely crossed for him.

I also know David Porch, in as much as David is a 'face' in the pub quiz circuit between Cardiff and Bridgend. We've played against each other in many quizzes. Eagle eyed viewers might also have spotted David playing for one of the teams in Battle of the Brains a couple of weeks ago. David , who is new to Mastermind,was answering questions on the films of Sidney Poitier. It was a virtuoso performance too, and these questions were no picnic. 14 and 1 pass sounded like a pretty good score to me.

Paul Moorhouse is not someone I know personally, but he is not unknown in Mastermind circles. This was, I believe his third Mastermind performance, having made the semi finals in both 2000 in the Radio 4 Mastermind competition, and the 2004 series. It seemed to me that he had some very long questions on his subject of British Trotskyism, so 12 points and no passes was not by any means a bad return.

Howard then made his return to the Mastermind chair. His subject was British Number 1 hit singles. Howard scored 14 points and no passes, which was a great performance. But then Howard is officially amazing on pop music - so it was no surprise to see him rattle off the points as if he was shelling peas. Still, this week was a high scoring show so far. Howard missed a couple of answers, so it looked as if it would all come down to General Knowledge.

Finishing off the specialist round we had Jessica Wilkes-Mellor, our second newcomer of the week, answering on the Life and Career of Edie Sedgwick. No, I'm sorry, I didn't know anything about her either. However Miss Wilkes-Mellor did , scoring 6 points and 5 passes.

In the second round John Humphrys confirmed my suspicions by opening up the chat section with the gambit that nobody would ever have heard of Edie Sedgwick. After listening to Miss Wilkes-Mellor I do know a little more about her now. Ironically in the GK round she was asked about paraskaivedakatriaphobia - fear of Friday 13th ! That's got to be a deliberate piece of scheduling. It wasn't the finest general knowledge round, but then Miss Wilkes-Mellor looks very young, and had the perfect attitude, giving an appealing 'its only a game' laugh before going back to her seat. Nothing to be ashamed of.

Paul Moorhouse stunned John Humphrys into a minute's silence with his revelation that he is a Trotskyist himself, and his erudite explanation thereof.. Then on with the questions. This was a good, old-Mastermind-hand's round. A couple of times he seemed to be stymied on the questions, and wasted a little time, but on both occasions the answer he came up with was the correct one. 13 and no passes put him right back into contention.

David Porch came next , paying tribute to Sidney Poitier as the first great black cinema star. He delivered a measured performance, and certainly didn't miss a lot. However the last question just eluded him, and left him too on 25 points. Yet we know when a tie break is coming because they don't show hardly any of the traditional between rounds Humphrys chat. We had the chat, so obviously there was going to be a winner. Could it possibly be Howard this time round ?

Well it didn't look like it at the start of the round. Howard passed on three early questions. It looked as if he had decided on the tactic of blasting away at the answers as quickly as possible , and this tactic suddenly looked as if it was going to work. Howard suddenly clicked into gear and for the next minute he was banging them in from all angles , to use a footballing analogy. He'd scored 11 to put him also on 25, and there was enough time left for 2 more questions, either of which would put him through. He didn't get the first one, and the second - well the second was a gardening question, and these are notoriously difficult to pluck out of thin air. For the first time ever, the audience audibly gasped when John Humphrys called out the score - 25 as well. Yet no tie break, so obviously we had a winner on passes. Howard's go-for-broke tactics in the GK round was enough to count him out with 3 passes. David's 2 passes would have been good enough on many another occasion. Not tonight, though. Paul Moorhouse knows a thing or two about getting to the semi finals. Providing answers to every question you're asked, whether you know the answer or not, isn't easy. It takes massive concentration and presence of mind, but it can really pay dividends. So it was tonight.

So well done on a great and exciting show, and huge commiserations to Howard and to David. As for Paul, well, this will be his third crack at getting to the final, and who is to say that it won't be third time lucky? Not me.

The Details

David Porch The films of Sidney Poitier 14 - 1 11-125 - 2
Paul MoorhouseBritish Troskyism12 - 0 13 - 0 25 - 0
Howard Pizzey British Number 1 hit singles 14 - 011 - 3 25 - 3
Jessica Wilkes - MellorThe Life and Career of EdieSedgwick6 - 5 5 - 4 11 - 9

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Top Five Most Annoying Quizzers' Sayings

And the Winners Are -

Yes , my team and I have been comparing ideas, and after hours of drawing up shortlists, and ruthlessly whittling down the entries, here are what we believe to be the top five most annoying sayings quizzers use : -

Number 5) Its on the Tip of my Tongue

This particular phrase is usually the prelude to minutes of faffing around as a member of your team struggles in vain to remember something that they probably never knew in the first place.

Number 4) I Should Know This One

Usually the team are too polite to issue the deserved response to this one - namely - you're right , you should know it - so why the hell don't you ?

Number 3 ) Trust Me

Look, you'd never buy a used car from someone who said this to you, would you ? So why would you want to buy a precious answer from someone who says it ? Especially if it is a particularly dodgy answer, and lets be honest, the person would never have asked you to trust them if it wasn't a dodgy answer.

Number 2) I'll know it when he tells us the answer

The judging panel had a huge amount of difficulty deciding between this one, and the next as to which should be awarded the top spot in our cavalcade of cringeworthiness. On reflection this just loses out, but is still highly commended for its irritation factor. It is a statement of stunning obviousness, none of which is mitigated by the fact that it is in fact verbal shorthand for - I know the answer to this one, but it won't come, and I won't actually remember it until we are given the answer, when I will be thoroughly ashamed that I couldn't actually remember it. - Of course, the purpose of saying it is to prove to your team that you're not completely useless, and on another day at another time you'd have had the answer like a shot. The trouble is your team won't believe you anyway.

Number 1) The Question Master Is Always Right

The judging panel felt that they had to award this venerable old warhorse the top slot, simply because of the way that it is so often criminally used to defend the indefensible. It doesn't matter how obvious the question master's mistake may be, when he asks, for example,
What is the capital of Tanzania ?
and then informs you that the answer is
Dar Es Salaam
and you try to tactfully inform him that Dodoma became the capital decades ago, you will be verbally beaten down on all sides by this chant -
The Question Master Is Always Right.

Midweek Quizzes - an endangered species ?

The Kiss of Death for Midweek Quizzes

In David Niven's autobiography "The Moon's A Balloon" he recounts an episode when he and his wife Hjordis were staying in Jamaica with his friend Noel Coward. He remarked how sad it was that so many of his friends were dying, to which Sir Noel replied that he himself had reached the age that he was happy if his friends lasted through lunch.

I mention this because I have been struck this week by the mortality rates of decent midweek quizzes within a reasonable driving distance. You might recall that I am currently following a self imposed exile from Newport on a Monday night. A lot of it is to do with the burden of traveling an hour and a half on a school night, but also I haven't been enjoying it recently. So this has freed up an evening. I can now go to another quiz on a Monday , Tuesday or Wednesday without exceeding a limit of three quizzes a week during term time. Well and good.

So the problem has been actually finding a quiz to go to on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Now don't misunderstand me. The quiz in Cowbridge on a Tuesday night is still a great little quiz. I think it must have a growing reputation within the south Wales quiz community as well, since after playing a week ago on Tuesday, I saw one of the players from another team appearing on the next day's "Battle of the Brains ". This quiz has been healthily attended every time I've played. However our problem with this quiz is the same problem we face on a Sunday. If there are prizes involved, then its just not a good idea to attend the same quiz two weeks in a row. If you only go to any one quiz every other week, then more of the prizes are shared around, and I think , and hope, that this is appreciated.

OK- so I think you can see where I'm going with this. Not going to Newport is fine every other week, because it means that I can go to Cowbridge on the Tuesday every other week instead. Well and good. But what do I do the next week ? Well, This is the problem. I had planned to go to a good Monday night quiz in Misgyn, near Llantrisant. I played there twice in 2007, and found it to be varied and enjoyable, with a cash prize of around £30, which is not to be sniffed at. I originally only planned to play in it once, but I found that the rule was that the winning team had to supply the quiz for the next week. So my one week in fact became two. I remembered that I enjoyed playing in this quiz, so I rang up the pub a couple of weeks ago, only to be told that the quiz had folded.

John is more methodical and possibly more determined than I am, and he has scoured the local papers for details of any quizzes being run on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night. We've found a few, then rung them up, only to find that the quiz has died the death, and is no longer being run any more.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that this worries me a bit. For one thing it means that this is the first week in a very long time when I haven't attended any quiz between Sunday and Thursday simply because I haven't had a quiz to attend. But more importantly, I wonder if this is a sign that the midweek quiz is going to start dying out locally. I do hope not. Sunday evening still seems secure, and we usually have a choice of 3 decent quizzes, and 3 awful quizzes within a reasonable distance. Likewise Thursday night seems pretty well served. However Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday quizzes seem to be on the wane.

Not that this is a problem next week. Should we decide to we can go to Cowbridge with a clear conscience. As for the week after that , though, there is a bit of a dilemma to be faced. If we can't unearth a quiz anywhere else on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, then there is a quiz in Briton Ferry on a Tuesday night. Thus far I've resisted the temptation to chance my arm. This is to a large degree because the pub in question is right in the heart of the catchment area of my school. I can quite imagine that some of the regulars would be parents of kids in the school, and at least some of them would know about the Mastermind thing. Don't get me wrong, its something I'm extremely proud of, but as I have said before, its not something I want to advertise when I'm playing in a pub quiz.

So my dearth of quizzing this week means that I'm gladder than ever of tonight's quiz in the rugby club. Quizmaster tonight is Brian, so my team will be understrength, being that he is one of us. Competition in the rugby club is hotting up, and last Thursday I lost my first quiz there since December. I predicted that it was going to be one of those nights when you were going to win by producing brilliant answers, but by getting all of the bread and butter and not making any mistakes. I couldn't remember that Melbourne was on the Yarra River, or which River emptied into the Caspian Sea. Those were the two points we lost by. On such small margins are tight quizzes won and lost, although I do find its ironic that both questions were about rivers. And yes, before you ask, I have been swatting up on rivers a bit this week.


You may remember my request for anyone to come forward with the stories of their appearences on TV Top of The Form, Blockbusters, or indeed any other TV quiz. Alas, my two correspondents who agreed to share their experiences with us have thus far failed to return my questionnaires. I haven't badgered them about it, as they were both good enough to contact me in the first place. So rather than wait I have decided to widen the net for my Hero of the Week, and from now on I will be awarding the prize to a worthy recipient who has caught my eye in the wonderful world of Quizdom. So this week's hero of the week is -

The Rhwbina Club

for hosting a great Grand Prix event last Saturday.


One final observation. My best friend from my university days, KD, who lives in Dorset is an active member of a music and drama group, who have put on many shows over the last few years. My son, Michael Clark, who is currently studying at the University of Glamorgan, is a member of a comedy group called The Plastic Seat Company - please email me if you'd like to book them ! I've written some sketches for both groups. Every now and then KD will email me that his group are putting a show together again, and asking if I have any material for them. Every time this happens I think, - great, now I can get down to writing a sketch about a quiz. Yet I never do. Something happens, and whenever I try to write a sketch involving a quiz of any sort my mind goes a complete blank. So last week, when I received the call I vowed to myself that this would be the time to finally write the quiz sketch. Nothing. Not one idea. KD can email me and ask for anything, and I can usually come up with something which fits - this time it was pirates and little old ladies - but quizzes, no. Why ? Answers to the usual email address please.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Prizes - So Farewell Then , Battle of the Brains

The Win is enough in itself, but if a prize happens to be on offer . . .

An interesting evening last night. My friend John suggested earlier in the week, after the story had come out in the paper, that it might be a good idea to give Bridgend a miss for a week or two. Now, I will admit that I am not, myself, the bravest of souls. I don't pretend to enjoy confrontation, and will often go out of my way to avoid it. However, this was a quiz, which makes it an entirely different kettle of mackerel. So I spoke to John yesterday afternoon, and we decided to stick to our original plan of going to the Pheasant in Penyfai, and take the consequences.

As it was we needn't have worried at all. As I walked in there were a few good natured cries of
"Ban him !" from some of those who'd seen the article, but the atmosphere was friendly, and the whole evening was filled with laughs and good humour.

What most struck me about the evening, though, was the prize for winning. As we finished with the highest combined score of the evening we were given the choice of prizes, one of them being a free cinema ticket for every member of the team. What an unusual prize, and what a refreshing change ! As it is we took them up on the offer without a second thought. There were five of us altogether, me, John, my daughter Phillippa, Welsh Rugby Union and Rugby League International John Devereaux, and his wife Alison, so that's actually a significant outlay as a prize.

It did set me thinking about the prizes which you see offered in quizzes. Apart from winning £1000 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and my inscribed glass Rose Bowl for Mastermind, I've won a number of prizes during my two decades on the pub quiz circuit. By far the most common are cash prizes, and bottles of wine. I've shared in team quiz wins of up to £500 in special quiz competitions. The best cash prize for a straight, non-jackpot quiz was £100, in a pub in Neath, from which I was banned for winning the prize a couple of times. As for the wine, well, to be perfectly honest with you I hardly ever drink in the house, but its always nice to have something to be able to give visitors and guests. Much less common as prizes, although not completely unknown, are chocolates - always appreciated as an offering to Mrs. Clark for her uncomplaining sacrifices during her years as a quiz widow.

Actually, thinking about it there is one thing I've noticed regarding prizes. When I began quizzing, back in the dog end of the 1980s, it seemed like there was a charity quiz in either the Seaside Social and Labour Club, or the Bay View club, or the Aberavon Quins , every couple of months. The usual prize for these would be a large trophy for the club, and a smaller trophy each for the winning team. The charity quizzes don't seem to happen so much any more, which is a shame, and when they do happen the prize tends to be just the large trophy for the team. Actually I have no quibble with this since, after all, the less money spent on prizes, the more that goes to the charity.

So - what would be my ideal prize for winning a pub quiz ? Lets set a few boundaries here. This has to be a prize for an ordinary pub quiz, of the kind that would be run on the same day every week. Being realistic, I guess that the answer has to be - well, pretty much what you get at the moment. If you get a little bit of cash back, enough to cover the cost of a few drinks, and your petrol, then you probably can't ask a lot more. All of which means when you do win something out of the ordinary, like last night's cinema tickets, its just that little bit special.


A belated farewell to BBC2's The Battle of the Brains. I made up my mind about this series before it ended on Friday last, and I have to say that I enjoyed it a lot. Its just so refreshing to see that the production company , Shine, have listened to the criticisms that were made of the first series, and responded with a second series that was leaner, slicker and , well, just plain better than the first series. Without wishing to be disrespectful to any of the teams, its probably fair to say that the overall quality of the teams as a whole has not been as impressive as it was in the first series. However, having said that , across the series there was quite a lot of talent on show. For example, I made it that three Mastermind winners were on show at different times - although one of them, Mastermind and Brain of Britain double winner Geoff Thomas, also appeared for a different team in the first series. So, my congratulations to everyone concerned with the show - I do hope that we get a third series in the not too distant future.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Quiz Grand Prix - Endorsement in the papers - Weekend Mini Quiz 6

A very happy event

In a slight departure from the norm I'm going to begin by quoting myself, rather than anyone else. You may remember that I recently commented that quizzing is a broad church. We saw proof positive of this in the hugely enjoyable Grand Prix event held in the Rhwbina Club in Cardiff yesterday.

The Grand Prix quiz circuit is a series of nationwide quiz events put on by the good people of the International Quizzing Association - UK . Each event is an opportunity for quizzers of all levels of interest and ability to gather, meet, and quiz with and against each other. The organisers make it clear that anyone is welcome to attend and take part, and in my experience of the two events I've been to, this is borne out by the very friendly attitude of everyone involved. Is there any other competitive game or sport where you'd find an event where anyone at all can rub shoulders with impugnity with the very best in the business, and find themselves treated just the same as anyone else there ? For make no mistake, there were plenty of quiz luminaries there, but none of them either received or sought any celebrity treatment or star status.

I took part in several quizzes. In the morning the most serious business of the day takes place. this is the individual quiz, 6 categories each comprising of 30 written questions. From these are derived the points which contribute to each player's ranking within the national statistics. This has nothing to do with quiz snobbery, but rather with the IQAs wish to conduct serious quizzing along the lines of a competitive game with an international structure, like chess. I probably did slightly better than I thought I would, coming 27th out of about 70 competitors.

In the afternoon everyone is assigned to a team for a team quiz. These are based on players' rankings. This is a good idea since it means that each team contains a mixture of quizzers of different abilities, so each team is of a comparable strength. It also means that the more events you attend, the more you get to become acquainted with different quizzers who attend the events. As it happens, two out of the other 6 on my team were Pat Gibson, and David Edwards, both of whom I had met at the Bristol Grand Prix. After a written quiz, we also played three rounds of a buzzer quiz, a la University Challenge. Now, I like all quizzes, if they're good, but I do have a particular fondness for a buzzer quiz. Alas, we only won one of the three matches, but it was a privelege to be able to watch Olav Bjortomt in action as he gobbled up the starters against us in our first match.

As good as the quizzing, though, was the social aspect of the day. As well as refreshing acquaintance with David Stainer, Pat Gibson, Kevin Ashman, Dag Griffiths and David Edwards, it was a pleasure to be able to spend a little time talking with others including Mark Kerr, Rob Hannah, Chris Quinn and others. In particular I had a chat with Ian Bayley. Understandably he didn't offer me any clues as to how he did in Mastermind 2008 - we shall just have to wait until the semis and possibly the final to find out. We chatted about the University Challenge disqualification - I an strongly feels that the disqualification was wrong, and I have to say that I agree with him. But what came across most strongly is that Ian Bayley, as well as being one of the finest quizzers around, is a very nice guy. With regards to University Challenge, the finest exploration of the issue is in this weeks "Weaver's Week". If you have't red it yet, just click on the link
Weaver's Week

If you have no interest in quizzing, then a Grand Prix event is not for you. Mind you, if that's the case then you're probably not reading this blog in the first place. But if you enjoy playing in quizzes, or even if you just enjoy watching them on the telly, then you would, I'm sure, get a lot out of attending an event like this, regardless of your level of ability.

I must end with a word about a notable absentee, World Champion Mark Bytheway. I'm given to understand that Mark is unwell at the moment. So Mark, if you're reading, do get well soon.


If you read my blog of the 25th February , you'll be aware of what happened when I played for the Aberkenfig Social Club in the cup semi final two weeks ago. Regular "Life After Mastermind" reader, journalist Andrew Pugh, wrote about it last week for one of the local papers in Bridgend. I don't really want to add any more to what I've already said about what happened, but there are two things which seem worthy of mention. Firstly Andrew mentioned this blog, calling it my "popular blog, Life after Mastermind". Thanks Andrew ! Secondly I was delighted to see that he also included my comment from the blog that if any team in Bridgend asked me to play for their team next season, I'd agree like a shot. I'm grateful for that, because despite what happened I would absolutely love to play for any team in the league, and if anything is likely to get the message out to the teams, then a mention in the paper is the best thing I can think of. So , thanks Andrew, and I hope that you continue to enjoy the blog.


Weekend Mini Quiz 6

Round One - The papers

1) Which is the only European newspaper which is in the list of the 10 newspapers with the highest circulation in the world ?

2) Still on circulation, which is the english language newspaper with the highest circulation in the world ?

3) In which UK national newspaper does Jonathan Cainer write the astrological column ?

4) What is the name of the strip in the scottish Sunday Post , which has featured a spiky haired boy in dungarees since 1936 ?

5) In 2005, what name did the Guardian give to the new size format it adopted ?

Round Two General Knowledge

1) Why did BBC reporter Steve Parry hit the headlines during the Beijing Olympics of 2008 ?

2) Who directed the animated Beatles film "Yellow Submarine " ?

3) The 11th century Old english poem "The Battle of Maldon" describes the disastrous consequences of Ealdorman Byrtnoth's decision to allow the vikings to cross a causeway so they could fight them. Of which english county was Byrtnoth the ealdorman ?

4) In which modern day country was Joseph Djugashvili - known as Stalin - actually born ?

5) Which company produced the Ro80 car, which used a revolutionary ( sic ) rotary engine ?

As always answers next week - feel free to email me for answers if you need them before then

Friday, 6 March 2009

Answers to Weekend Mini Quiz 5

Weekend Mini Quiz Five Answers

Round One - Comics and Cartoons

1) What is widely reckoned to be the first ever comic cartoon strip in the UK ?
Answer - Ally Sloper's Half Holiday

2) Which cartoon strip featured on the very first page of the very first ever Dandy ?
Answer - Big Eggo - he was an ostrich

3) After the "Captain Marvel" comic strip was sued out of existence in the USA, he lived on in the UK in Britain in the 50s as 'Marvelman'. Instead of Shazam - what was Marvelman's word of power - and how was it derived ?
Answer - Kimota - it sounds like Atomic backwards

4) When The Perishers cartoon strip from the Daily Mirror was transferred to television, which very famous comic actor provided the voices ?
Answer - The late Leonard Rossiter

5) Who created the Flash Gordon cartoon strip, which led to the film serials, starring Buster Crabbe ?
Answer - Alex Raymond

Round Two - General Knowledge

1) If you went into a building in Wales which had the word "Dynion" upon it, what would you be entering ?
Answer - a gents lavatory - it means gentlemen

2) What does the 'C' in JCB stand for ?
Answer - Cyril , as in Joseph Cyril Bamford

3) Which is the only property on the Monopoly board which contains all the letters of the word Monopoly ?
Answer - The Electric Company

4) Which was the new women's track event in Athletics that featured for the first time in the Beijing Olympics of 2008 ?
Answer - 3000 metres Steeplechase

5) Leonard Nimoy's second autobiography was titled "I am Spock" - what was his first one called ?
Answer - I am NOT Spock - honestly !

This week's quiz will be posted tomorrow or Sunday

Mastermind - First Round Heat 20

Mastermind First Round - Heat 20/24

Well, we're winding down now into the last few of the first round heats, and to this reviewer it looks as if the BBC's active efforts to encourage female contenders to come forward for this series have really paid fruit. For the third week running we have an even spread of male and female contenders. All four, though , are newcomers to Mastermind.

The show begins with Kirsty Rowland offering us The Women of the Special Operations Executive. It seems to me that some of the questions are taken from the very fringes of the subject - such as what was the model of light aircraft often used to drop agents in France - but the contender managed to answer this and 10 others to score a creditable 11. Out of interest I noticed that one of the questions concerned Noor Anayat Khan. As I recall this was the specialist subject of Chris Atkins, currently the highest scoring runner-up of the series, who lost out to regular 'Life After Mastermind' reader James Corcoran.

Louise Mayer , who was next up, is a teacher, so she received a lot of support from the Clark sofa tonight. We have seen that literary subjects have done well in this series so far, and so its no surprise that she does so well with Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Make no mistake, she needed a very in depth knowledge of the Tales to do so well with these questions. 15 marked her out as a serious contender for the honours tonight.

Biographical subjects also seem to have done well for the contenders who have offered them this series, and so the outlook wasn't bad for Daniel Morrish, who took The Life and Work of Henri Cartier Bresson.It was one of those rounds where my lack of knowledge was such that I could watch but not really participate. Mr. Morrish looked to have done very well, though, and I thought that 13 was a good score which would keep him in contention.

Last up was Ian Volante, who gave us this week's 'your-granny-wouldn't-like-it' subject - the group Metallica. My headbanging days date back to the few years between about 1979 and 1983, and so I am afraid that I just about missed out on Metallica, and couldn't answer any of them myself. 13 was a score that kept Mr. Volante nicely tucked in two points behind the leader at the halfway stage.

So, would we have another women through to the semi final ? Perhaps, but by the end of Kirsty Rowland's round it didn't look like it would be her. The difference between scoring 6 or 7 on GK, and getting into double figures is to some extent a question of rhythm. A couple of questions early on robbed her of rhythm, and although she struggled on bravely she never recaptured it to end on 18.

Daniel Morrish took the chair next. He scored a good 12 to take the lead to 25, and seemed to be answering quickly. 25 certainly put him into contention, although you couldn't help thinking that with two contenders to go another point or two would really have been useful.

Ian Volante made a hugely impressive start to his round. By my reckoning he had all of the first 6 or 7 questions right. However the questions seemed to get on top of him as they went on, and, to use a cricketing analogy, the run rate required of him proved just a little too much in the end, although his tactics of giving an answer to every question is very much one I applaud, and I tried to follow myself. He scored 11 for a total of 24.

With no nurse to talk to this week John Humphrys ignored The Canterbury Tales and concentrated on Louise Mayer's work as a teacher. Nothing wrong with that, either. The target to win outright without a pass countback was 11. That's actually not an easy total to chase. Its high enough to make you have to really concentrate, because you know that one or two avoidable mistakes, or one lapse of concentration could be fatal. So the contender did very well to keep her cool, and plug away at the answers. She edged over the line to win by one, albeit that John Humphrys seemed incredulous that she didn't know that it was Basil Fawlty who said that if his wife went on mastermind her subject would be "The Bleedin' Obvious".

So congratulations to Louise Mayer. I predicted some weeks ago that we would have at least 6 woman semi finalists this season, and this proves me right, as we now have 6, and still there are 4 heats to go, so its not impossible there may be more. If she can repeat or even improve on her score of 26, then she will be in contention in the semi finals. We still have yet to see a score of 30 or more in the series, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see some fireworks in at least one of the shows left in the first round. Watch this space.

The Details

Kirsty Rowland Women of the S.O.E.11 - 1 7 - 118 - 2
Louise MayerThe Canterbury Tales15 - 011 - 3 26 - 3
Daniel Morrish Henri Cartier- Bresson13 - 112 - 425 - 5
Ian VolanteMetallica13 - 111 - 024 - 1

Monday, 2 March 2009

University Challenge Disqualification

Mistake compounded by a Mistake

University Challenge is probably the best-loved quiz show amongst genuine quizzers on British television, but its probably fair to say that each series tends to come and go without making much of an impression on our national consciousness. Not so the 2008/9 series.

Firstly we had the media circus over the victorious Corpus Christi team's captain Gail Trimble. I was asked last week by the Sunday Telegraph if I would be prepared to play in an Ultimate Quiz against Gail Trimble and some other quizzers if they could arrange it ? The answer was, yes, I would have been very interested, just for the chance to meet Miss Trimble or any of the wonderful Corpus Christi team. This idea must have fallen apart during the week, since I didn't hear from the Sunday Telegraph again. Fair enough.

Then on Sunday it was revealed that Sam Kay of Corpus Christi had not actually still been a student at the time that the later rounds of the competition were recorded. He was a student when the competition began, but completed his studies before the later rounds. Apparently the rules are that a contestant must be a student throughout the whole competition to be eligible. The BBC announced that they were taking the issue very seriously. Now, earlier this evening it has been reported on both News 24 and the BBC News website that the Corpus Christi team have been disqualified, and Manchester have become the champions.

This seems to me to be a very drastic, in fact, draconian response to the infringement.I accept that the rules have been broken, yes, but does anyone truly believe that Sam Kay deliberately contravened the eligibility rules in order to gain some advantage for his team ? I'm sorry, but the question of intent really has to be considered. I have no reason to suggest that this was not anything other than a genuine and honest mistake. Maybe this makes no difference to the BBC, but it should.

Who actually wants this disqualification ? The Manchester team didn't, that's for sure. Before the BBC announced their decision to disqualify Corpus Christi their fine captain Matthew Yeo had already stated that he and the team had no wish for a rematch. They had enjoyed the final, and saw Corpus Christi as worthy winners. After the disqualification he has expressed his team's sadness over the outcome.

If, like me, you watched the final of University Challenge last Monday you will have seen a wonderful match. This has been tainted and sullied by this decision. I wonder if it has occurred to the producers of the show to ask the question - if teams make a mistake with the eligibility rules , then are those rules clearly enough explained to all the teams ? As they stand, do they even put some teams at a considerable disadvantage ?

At the end of the day, who has gained anything from this decision ? Not the Corpus Christi team, who should still be basking in their achievement a week later. Not the Manchester team either, albeit that they have behaved with great dignity over the last couple of days. Certainly not the BBC. Not the viewers either, not in the least. I would have thought that was the point.