Friday, 25 June 2010

Return of the Monthly Quiz

Yes, it’s the return of the monthly quiz.

This first set are from the 1952 Quiz Inquisition book I wrote about a week or two ago.

1) What name was given to the ruler of Hyderabad ?
2) How many herrings are there to a cran ?
3) What name is given to Instructions in the Prayer Book for the conduct of Divine Service ?
4) Who was Sir William Orpen ?
5) What is afforestation ?
6) What are Torpids ?
7) What is a khaki Campbell ?
8) What is a verst ?
9) Who was Sir Truby King ?
10) How did Carey Street become a term used to denote financial difficulties ?

OK – that’s enough of them for now. Something a little more modern, and a bit easier. This next set are all from the Bumper TV Top of The Form Quiz Book ( 1974)

1) Which natural disaster befell the Italian village of Longarone in 1963 ?
2) What are the names of the two cities at either end of the journey in The Pilgrim’s Progress ?
3) Why did Cain kill Abel ?
4) Which type of thermionic valve has a cathode, and anode and a control grid ?
5) Where does the term cathedral come from ?
6) What is the difference between a knight and a baronet ?
7) What specific type of bridge is London’s Tower Bridge probably the most famous example of ?
8) What is a lady’s smock,and where would you find it ?
9) In which hills does the River Mersey have its source ?
10) Which bird is sometimes called the invisible bird ?

Compare them with something much more recent – this next set come from Foley and Coates’ Advanced Homework for Grown Ups ( published 2009 )

1) Who wrote a volume of literary criticism called New Bearings on English Poetry ?
2) What is a surd ?
3) Which stretches further north – Lancashire or West Yorkshire ?
4) The Sao Gabriel was the ship of which explorer ?
5) In which year was the IMF set up ?
6) Whose film-like work, such as Nighthawks, greatly influenced photorealists and pop artists of the 1960s ?
7) Which is the odd one out – charm – beta – strange – up ?
8) Who were the parents of Ptolemy Caesarion ?
9) Enter Lavinia – her hands cut off, her tongue cut out and ravished – is a stage direction from which Shakespeare play ?
10) The french subtitles to which film include the line “Demain c’est un autre jour “ ?

Alright, lets take the tempo down a notch or two to finish. This final set are from a randomly picked page of Collins’ Pub Quiz book 1 ( 2004 ) , and are a pretty representative sample of the kind of stuff that you get in an average quiz book. Draw your own conclusions : -

1) What country is also known as the Union of Myanmar ?
2) How many brothers were in the Kennedy Family ?
3) Which country uses the dong as its main unit of currency ?
4) Which hugely successful movie sparked off a succession of disaster movies in the 1970s ?
5) Which important set of manuscripts from the time of Jesus were discovered in a cave over 50 years ago ?
6) Which Spanish singer used to play in goal for Real Madrid reserves ?
7) What are the two types of canoe used in international competition ?
8) Do arteries carry blood to the heart or away from it ?
9) What seas are linked by the Kiel Canal ?
10) What happened to the Stone of Destiny in 1950 ?

Ho hum.

Answers to be posted in a few days. Email me if you can’t wait.

Untruth and Mistakes

I had a drink with my friend Untruth yesterday evening. That sounds rather metaphysical, doesn’t it – I had a drink with Untruth, then the two of us played a game of darts with Competitiveness. We invited Indifference to join in but he wasn’t bothered. No, its really nothing like that. Untruth is the internet name of my friend Neil Phillips. Neil and I first met when we both took part in the same heat of the first round of Mastermind 2006, where we were both beaten by the excellent Katharine Drury. Can’t yet go into detail about the exact circumstances of what we were both doing in Cardiff on a Thursday afternoon, but doubtless it will all unfold one way or another in the fullness of time. But I know that Neil reads the blog, and I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the evening, and I wish that I could have stayed a bit longer. Hopefully see you soon, Neil.


The main reason that I had to rush away was that I was question master for the quiz in Aberavon Rugby Club at 9 pm, approximately 30 miles to the west. I kind of knew that posting earlier in the week about the wrong’uns which were asked in the quiz I went to on Tuesday was tantamount to tempting fate. Still, I asked this question : -
“Which is Wales’ oldest National Park ? "
In the book - “I Never Knew That About Wales “ I read that the Brecon Beacons National Park holds the distinction. Now, I have to admit that I didn’t actually know whether this was correct or not, so I took it on face value. Last night I asked the question, and all bar one of the teams wrote the answer –
“The Pembrokeshire Coast Path “.
Had all of the teams written this down I would have not batted an eyelid, and pretended that this was the answer that I had written down all along. However one team did have the Brecon Beacons. Hence I gave a rapid disclaimer as I read out the answer , as I told everyone where I’d found it, and apologised if I had it wrong. Still, it made me pause for thought enough to google the question this morning. Only to find that all of the websites that came up claim that Snowdonia is oldest ! None, incidentally , claimed that the Beacons are. So how did this happen ? There were a couple of possibilities , I thought : -

· Maybe I read it wrong from the book. So actually I went back to check. No, it clearly said that the Brecon Beacons was Britain’s oldest National Park, established in 1957. Then on the pages for Caernarfonshire, it clearly said that the Snowdonia National Park was established in 1951 ! Shome mishtake shurely ?

· Maybe the book got it wrong. As just proven, the book did indeed get it wrong, which leads me to suggest that they should add a bit to the title – ie – “I Never Knew That About Wales Because Its Wrong”.

I don’t want to be unreasonable, and I do accept that however meticulous one is about checking and rechecking one’s facts, mistakes will occur. However you have to say, there are only the three National Parks in Wales, and so it shouldn’t have been that difficult to figure out which is the oldest. I can only apologise to the teams involve, and add in my defence that at least I’m not asking anyone to pay good money for my mistakes, though.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Spare a thought for your landlord

If you have a moment, you and I, together, right here and right now lets spare a thought for the poor landlords who buy in pre-prepared quizzes, and are therefore at the mercy of the question setter. Lets take last night. What answer would you give to this question : -
Which guitarist and singer was a member, at different times, of The Yardbirds, Cream, and Blind Faith ?
I bet its not the answer that was on the papers the landlord was reading from. Our Host read out the answer he’d been given in good faith, namely – George Harrison !
Also we had this one –
Robert Smith represented England in which sport ?
Again, there was much scratching of heads when the answer was given as – cricket !
To be fair, the landlord of The Duke of Wellington has got a bit of sense, so he googled the right answers on his phone once the predictable reaction from the teams had died down to a dull roar. The guitarist was, as I’m sure you know, Eric Clapton, and Robert Smith, well the landlord allowed show jumping, although apparently there was a Robert Smith who played cricket for England too – in the 19th century. On reflection we believe that the question was probably meant to be about ROBIN Smith.

Well, we all know that however carefully you prepare your quiz, there are times that wrong’uns happen. However what put the tin hat on it was this. The format of the quiz is that there are 7 rounds of ten questions each. Rounds 1 and 7 are general knowledge rounds. Then rounds 2 – 6 are all themed rounds. Round five was a spelling round. All the words we were given were , sort of, medical terms. I don’t know who prepared this round, but whoever it was gave the poor question master no chance. For example , the first spelling was – hermaphrodite. The only difficulty was that like many of the words in this round there is more than one way of spelling it. For example, it is perfectly possible to spell it hermaphrAdite, which is the answer that the setter gave. That would be fair enough, yet the setter didn’t give or allow any alternatives. Hence perfectly acceptable spellings like caesarean for caesarian were ruled wrong. As for appendectomy, well don’t even get me started.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I don’t blame the landlord, who was only reading what he had been given. To tell you the truth its not a question of blame anyway. It was the same situation for all of the teams, apart from the poor sods who ended up playing their joker on that round. But as a round to set it was always fraught with danger. Now, if you’re a landlord setting your own quiz, then its your own fault if you decide to set a round as potentially divisive as a spelling round, and you have to accept any moaning about it. But I believe that somebody was paid to set the quiz and including such a round just strikes me as shoddy, especially considering the two wrong’uns asked earlier in the quiz. Not only are you letting down the punters who play in the quiz, you're also not playing fair by the poor old landlord who is acting as question master - and who pays for the quiz in the first place. As always, feel free to disagree. If you’re going to set a spelling round, then its not rocket science to figure out that there may be alternative spellings. In which case its probably better not to set the round in the first place. While not exactly being the first lesson you’d be taught on your very first day at quiz setter’s school, if such a place existed, its certainly something you should have learned before lunchtime.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Quiz Hangovers - New Show Idea - Another Chase Record

You’ll probably have experienced ‘quiz hangover’ syndrome at some time or other, even if you’ve never quite thought of it in those particular terms. By which I mean the experience of putting in a really good performance in a good quiz , and then finding that you’re totally out with the washing in the very next quiz you play in. Well, if you read my last post you’ll know that I was part of a team that had a really good evening in Monday night’s CIU regionals. So much so that I was still mentally patting myself on the back by the time Thursday’s quiz at the rugby club came round, which can be absolutely fatal.

Thankfully it wasn’t fatal this time, a lot of which had to do with the fact that Robert, one of my team mates on Monday night, couldn’t play , leaving his team rather shorthanded. The quiz itself eased our passage too, being what I like to think of as a ‘Brian Special’. Brian is the organiser of the Thursday night quiz at the rugby club, as I think I must have mentioned before. He’s a very good all-round quizzer himself, although only now on a social basis, but he’s a great question master too. Every quiz he produces is good, but every now and again he’ll put in a real belter. Well, either that or every now and again we’ll be particularly tuned into his wavelength as a team, and when that happens, the result is a Brian Special. You know that you’re going to have a good night when you’re picking off the answers before the question has even been completely read out. We had quite a few like that.

The best we managed on Thursday night was picking off one of the questions from the first two words of the question. Here, you try it : -
Egon Ronay . . .
The answer is at the bottom of this post.
Of course, its not completely unheard of to be able to pick off an answer from just one word. For example –
Triskaivedakatriaphobia . . . ( not sure if its spelt correctly, but you get the drift )
The – phobia – suffix makes it obvious that its about a fear of something, so however the rest of the question is worded, in most cases its going to be asking you just what it is the fear of .

Without wishing to brag, there are times we have picked up an answer before ANY of the words of the question have been asked . I should stress that none of us possess ESP to the best of our knowledge, and it only happens in very particular circumstances, namely , as part of a set of connections. For example, we might be asked :-
Who played the female lead in The Mask, with Jim Carrey ? ( CAMERON Diaz)
Which Ivy League University was founded in Warren, Rhode Island in 1765 ? (BROWN)
Then its very tempting to take a flyer and predict that the next answer will be Eric BLAIR ( question – what was the real name of writer George Orwell ? ) Of course, you’ll come unstuck if the question actually is one that requires the answer Linda Blair, or The Blair Witch Project etc. , but then that’s all part of the fun of the game. The connection of course being the last three Prime Ministers of the UK.

Do you know, I think that I feel a quiz show idea coming on . Do you remember Name that Tune – I think Tom O’Connor presented it at one time, but doubtless there were others. Two contestants had to conduct a sort of dutch auction, to see who was prepared to identify a tune from the lowest number of notes. For notes, read words of a question. So our host ( Dale, Nick, Dermot, Jeremy delete where applicable ) would announce that the next category is , for example, world capital cities . Contestant one offers to answer in 10 words, the opponent in 9, and so on , until poor contestant 2 is committed to doing it in 1 word. The host gives him his one word, which is – “Ulaan” Contestant 2 is delighted, and answers Mongolia. So we face a second question from the same category – world capital cities. This time its contestant 1 who bids down to 1 word, and is licking his chops in anticipation as the host gives him his one word –
“Which “. Unfair, I know, but then cruel is in vogue at the moment. Personally, I think the concept has legs. If any production companies out there happen to be interested, well, you know where to contact me.

Egon Ronay - answer Hungary ( question - Egon Ronay was born in which country )
Triskaivedakatriaphobia - answer - fear of the number 13


On a more serious note, one quiz show format which is working very well at the moment is The Chase, IMHO. Yeah, alright, the Chasers are friends, but get over it. Watch the Final Chase in any of the shows, even the ones which aren’t all that close, and I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t get your competitive juices flowing. This week again saw records created , unless I’m very much mistaken. On Thursday’s show a fine quizzer called Angela, aided and abetted by a gentleman whose name escapes me for the moment, set a staggering total of 28. OK, with the two point start they were given that’s equivalent to mark’s successful chase of 26, but even so it’s a hell of a performance. As it happens Mark was in the Chaser’s chair again for this one. With less than a minute gone he was halfway there, but a wrong answer saw him pushed back one, and another wrong answer put him behind the clock. Then he had one of those questions where the anticipation of the answer can actually let you down. Hearing “Who wrote ‘The Girl With .. . . “ Mark leapt at Steigg Larsson , anticipating “ the Dragon Tattoo “ , while the question was completed with “ A pearl Earring “. On such small things . As it was, once he built up a full head of steam he got mighty close. Is 27 the highest unsuccessful chase so far ? Probably . As it was, it was very nice to see Mark pay tribute to the quality of his opposition. This time of year seems to bring with it a dearth of what for me would be ‘appointment TV ‘ quizzes, so the show has filled a nice gap.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

CIU Wales and West - Counterpoint Final

I think that most of us quiz obsessives can’t help answering questions when we hear them, and asking them when they occur to us as well. To that extent, then, we don’t so much play in quizzes because we like to, we play in them because we have to. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, at some level I do enjoy pretty much every quiz I play in. However, there’s something about a big quiz event which gets the juices flowing like no other. I think that we all have events in our annual quiz calendars which we look forward to, and which mark milestones in our quiz year. Such a quiz for me is the CIU Wales and West of England regional final.

Normally this quiz tends to take place in April or May. Checking last year’s blog entries I find that in 2009 it took place on Monday 27th April. So for one reason and another I feared that I had missed this year’s competition. What a relief to see that it was in fact being held later in the year – yesterday to be precise – and we were entered. Our skipper Barry was unable to play last night, and so it was with just a little bit of a scratch team that we set off to Bettws last night, our hopes and expectations no higher than a third place, which would qualify us for the national final in September. To be fair we had a very good chance of achieving this.Over the last few years the most successful welsh teams in the Wales and West have been Maesglas 'A' - twice national champions - and ourselves from Trefelin, once National runners up, and 3rd place in the Nationals last year. Up until last year , two superb teams from Swindon had also taken part in our heats, and as the mathematicians amongst you know, 4 into 3 won’t go. Two years ago we failed to qualify for the final in Derby by just one point. I guess that the Swindon teams now play in a different region, since they weren’t in last year’s Wales and West, and they weren’t in last night’s either. So in betting parlance, the two fancied runners were Maesglas and ourselves, but there were a couple of dangerous dark horses in the pack too.

A first point of interest of the night was that it turned out that the questions were compiled by Dave Cornish. If you’re a regular LAM reader you might recall that Dave Cornish wrote “How to Run A Quiz” , which I picked up from a car boot sale a couple of years ago. Same man.

If you’ve never played in the CIU, then it’s a very interesting format. There are several rounds of ten questions – general knowledge – sport – entertainment. Within each round, a series of four or five of the questions will be linked in some ways – either the answers will all be linked thematically, or they all begin with consecutive letters, that sort of thing. There were three handout rounds as well. The first asked teams to supply the top ten most common surnames in the UK. You don’t have to write any answers. If you do , you can supply up to 10. For every correct answer you write down, you gain half a point. Here’s the rub. For every incorrect answer you lose half a point. So it is possible to actually end the round with fewer points than you started. Now, I was actually asked exactly this same question about 5 years ago in the rugby club. So between us we gathered 7 answers, of which we were as certain as could be, and stuck there. Good tactics, which earned us 3 and a half points out of 5. The second handout was a wide and varied set of pictures, where two last minute changes bumped our score from the 17 out of 20 we would have had, up to the 19 out of 20 we did have. The final handout was a mixture of questions, with a mystery personality to identify from a set of clues. The fewer clues needed, the more points scored.

Here’s an Entertainment question for you ? Which cartoon character, whose name begins with D, had a horse called Sandy ? Don’t know ? Well, the answer is at the bottom of this post. I didn’t know either, but John guessed, and that point was enough to put us into the lead. A superlative performance on the pictures gave us another point’s lead, and even though Barry, our sport’s expert was not with us we only dropped one point on sport.

I won’t go on and on about it, but the usual thing for the quiz is for us to end either one point behind our friends in the mighty Maesglas A, or one point ahead of them, as happened last year. Going into the final handout round, we had a lead of a point. Amazingly, when the result was read out, we had won by 3 points. I don’t read too much into that. Maesglas A had a strong team out last night, but I can’t help but think that the absence of Mark ‘The Beast’ Labbett won’t have helped them. If he's back in Derby, then watch out.

Having said that, though, I am sitting here feeling all smug, not because we won, although that’s great, don't get me wrong. Its because as a team, we played so well. Considering we came together very late in the day, we played to each others’ strengths as well as I can ever remember, and that’s unusual. So well did we play, in fact, that with every point we missed, the correct answer had never been on the table. That’s exceptional for any team I’ve played in.

I won’t lie, I’d love to win the CIU Nationals one day, but to be honest, I’m just delighted to be there this year, considering that I thought we’d even missed out on the regionals. Roll on Derby.

The cartoon character with a horse called sandy was Dogtanian !


Congratulations to Andy Langley, from Chesham, Bucks, who yesterday won the 2010 series of Radio 4’s Counterpoint. It was a superbly exciting final, with Mr. Langley managing to break the tape first by answering the very last question. I’m interested to hear that all 3 finalists received ‘handsome trophies ‘ , a nice and worthy gesture, I think. I’m afraid that my lack of musical knowledge means that I won’t be applying to take part in the show any time soon, but its just about good enough that I can appreciate a fine performance and a good quiz when I hear it. Well done to all the contestants in the series, and to Paul and the production team. Good show !


Finally a thanks to everyone who took the time and trouble to wish me happy birthday on Facebook. Cheers !

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Old Quiz Books

In my last post I mentioned that I’m a sucker for old quizbooks, and I’ve just bought one from 1952. You can see it in the photograph on the left .

One of the joys of finding books like this is that it’s such a far cry from the run of the mill stuff that you get so much of nowadays. You know the sort of thing I’m talking about – huge paperbacks as thick as a housebrick with garish covers which proclaim themselves “The Greatest . . “ or “The Ultimate . . . “which have between 5,000 and 8,000 questions, none of which would cause the average contestant on The Weakest Link a moment’s anxiety. I’m being facetious of course. There are actually some good modern quizbooks out there, but there’s also a hell of a lot of dross too. This is something from a bygone era.

Have a look for yourself.Granted there are some questions which are well out of date, and a significant number which are just far too easy. Having said that, though, there's a pleasing amount of questions which should intrigue the casual and even the more serious quizzer. Here’s a selection of some of the questions from the first couple of rounds in the 1952 book. See what you think .

Selection of questions from “General Knowledge Inquisition “ – 1952

1) When is Lady Day ?
2) What is the derivation of the word Pentecost ?
3) What is a cachalot ?
4) What is the diameter of the world ?
5) What does PMG stand for ?
6) How long is a cable ?
7) Who wrote the hymn “O God our help in ages past “ ?
8) What do three stars on a brandy bottle indicate ?
9) Which school was known as The Bluecoat School ?
10) How long is the Suez Canal ?
11) What is a palanquin ?
12) What is a lac of rupees ?
13) When is Innocents Day ?
14) What is the size of a Crown piece of paper ?
15) Who wrote The Deserted Village ?
16) What is the sex of a glowworm ?
17) Which imperial measure did dwt. Stand for ?
18) In pounds, how much does a gallon of water weigh ?
19) What is meant by ‘a Roland for an Oliver ‘ ?
20) Who was William Willet ?

A few surprisingly tough ones there, eh ? Don’t worry, the answers are all at the bottom of this post.
Of course, its not perfect. There’s a few questions of the
Name the two most famous diary writers ? –
Name the most famous writer of fairy stories ? –
variety, which call for value judgements, and have perfectly valid answers which are at variance with the answer in the back of the book. Mind you, it never asks anything quite so un-PC as this one from the 1951 Top Of The Form Quiz Book –
Why do savages hold their ears to the ground ?
I’m not making it up, that’s the exact phrasing ! Well, it was the 1950s, I suppose.

Both of these books, the 1951 Top of the Form book and this 1952 effort clearly bear the stamp of having been produced at a time when Britain was in the grip of post – war Austerity. The covers are desperately unexciting, and there’s a small number of pages. They squeeze the questions in, though, and for all their drawbacks, I can’t help feeling that there’s something basically honest and decent about them. OK, the answers, then : -


1) March 25th
2) It derives from the fact that it was a Jewish festival 50 days after Passover
3) Sperm Whale
4) 8,000 miles
5) Postmaster General
6) 100 fathoms ( 600 feet )
7) Isaac Watts
8) It is at least 5 years old
9) Christ’s Hospital
10) 100 miles
11) A covered wagon carried on the shoulders
12) 100,000
13) 28th December
14) 20 inches by 15inches
15) Oliver Goldsmith
16) Female
17) Pennyweight
18) 10 pounds
19) An exchange of equal values
20) The chief advocate of Daylight Saving Time

Friday, 11 June 2010

Trivial Pursuit

Regular question setters will be familiar with the experience I’m going to describe. Let’s say that you are one of a group of regular setters for a particular quiz, and you take your turn once every three or four weeks. In the weeks between turns, although you probably don’t actually compile your quiz until the last week leading up to your turn, you certainly can’t help thinking about the questions you’re going to ask. So you go to the quiz the week before your turn, and what do you find ? This week’s setter has only gone and used half of your in-the–news questions ! It happens, and all you can do is take comfort from the old saying that great minds think alike.

OK – now, one of those questions which I was keeping back for my next quiz was actually asked in the rugby club last night : -
60 year old Canadian Chris Haney, who died at the end of May 2010, was the joint inventor of what ?
I’m sure that you’re quite aware of the answer, namely Trivial Pursuit.

It certainly made me think. I have mixed feelings about Trivial Pursuit, as do many quizzers of a certain age, I’m sure. I first became aware of the game during a holiday in Greece in 1984. I was backpacking my way down the Cyclades to Crete, then across to Rhodes, and back up along the Dodecanese. Believe me, there’s worse ways to spend a summer when you’re 19 going on 20. I was on my own, and so it pretty much fell upon me to get talking with people and pal up with them for a while before moving on to the next island. While I was on Rhodes I met a group of guys from Toronto – or Tronner as they proudly called it, and they were very much into Trivial Pursuit, which I had never heard of before. It planted a seed in my mind, as it sounded very much my sort of thing, and I resolved to have a look out for it in case it ever made it to the UK.

So, fast forward to the end of the holiday. I flew back from Athens to Gatwick, took British Rail from Gatwick to Victoria, and the tube from Victoria to Northfields station. Walking home along Northfields Avenue, I passed Caves’ toyshop, and looked in the window, where I saw my first ever trivial Pursuit box. I thought now, as I did then, that the dark green colour scheme, and the fancy lettering on the box were strongly reminiscent of the packaging of a box of After Eight Mints. No, if you’re wondering, I didn’t rush in, buy the box, and thence set myself on the path to true quizdom. In fact it was the best part of a year before I played my first game of Trivial Pursuit. One of the guys in my student hall on the edge of Blackheath had bought himself a box, and was desperate for someone to play against. In fact, I probably have never played it more than a dozen times in my life, if that. Deep in my heart of hearts I kind of agree with some of the criticisms of the first British Genus Edition, namely, that the questions were desperately inconsistent, some very dull, and some very wrong.

Well, I’m not writing this to carp on about the negative points of the game. For the fact is that while it never created quiz culture in this country, or, I suspect, in any other, the fact is that Trivial Pursuit made its contribution to its development. I suspect that there's probably quite a number of serious and casual quizzers out there who owe their initial interest in quizzing to Trivial Pursuit.That’s not a bad legacy for anyone to leave behind.


While we’re on the subject of Trivial Pursuit, I came across this the other day. In 1984 Fred Worth, author of the Trivia Encyclopaedia, sued the distributors of the original Genus edition, claiming that many of the questions were lifted straight from his book. He used the example of a deliberately wrong fact that he’d included in his book to catch anyone lifting straight from the book. The question was : -
What is the first name of Lt. Colombo, played by Peter Falk ?
The answer given – Philip, is wrong, apparently. Its actually Frank.
Well, the lawsuit was thrown out. What’s more, Philip has gone on to gain credence as being the correct answer – I’ve been asked it myself and this has been the answer more than once. Well, you know where it comes from now – blame Trivial Pursuit.


I have a great weakness for old quizbooks. Just this week I bought a 1952 book called “General Knowledge Inquisition “. There’s only 49 pages of questions, but into these pages it squeezes over 1000 questions, and some of them really make you think. All well and good. However, that’s not why I write. I write because one of the questions irresistibly put me in mind of one of my favourite old teacher stories, and I’d like to share it with you now.

An old colleague of mine, who worked in a school not so very far away from where I live, was teaching a class of ROSLA kids. This will give you an idea of how long ago we’re talking about. These were the children who would have left school at 15, but had to stay an extra year until they reached 16 , and to say the least were far from ecstatic about it. One day, my friend faced a mini rebellion, when one of the little tykes piped up with,
“Why have we got to do all this stuff about writing letters an’ at ? Why can’t we do stuff like your O Level class does ?
Well, “ replied my friend, “ what sort of thing did you have in mind ?
I dunno, “ he replied , “Stuff like Shakespeare an’ that.
Alright, “ replied Teach, "if that’s what you want. Lets start then. Who can tell me something about Shakespeare ? “
There was silence for a moment or two, then one of the other lads raised his hand hesitantly,
“ His first name was William . “
Teach was most impressed. “Well done ! OK – can anyone tell me what he’s famous for? “
Four hands shot up. Teach picked the most promising, who triumphantly announced,
“He shot an apple off a bloke’s head, didn’t he ? “

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

He's Knackered - not surprised

You take the time and trouble to find out what record for the longest succesful chase in The Chase actually is, and then someone comes along and smashes it. Typical !

Seriously , if you haven't seen yesterday's ( Tuesday 8th June ) Chase, then can I recommend it to you ? Check it out on the iplayer. Two challengers made it through to the final chase, and I have to give credit where it's due, they were very good. They set a great total of 26, and you'd have been forgiven for thinking that with that total they were odds on to be going home with the cash. However Mark was in the chaser's chair, and in what I think is one of the finest chases we're likely to see in this or any other series he concentrated on not getting any wrong - and to be honest even the hesitations when the answer didn't come straightaway were slight. Not that there were more than a few seconds left on the clock as he made it through the tape, but running down a head start of 26 takes a hell of a lot of doing. Mark's comment immediately after the chase ? "I'm knackered. " As I said at the start - I'm not surprised.

Very hard lines on the challengers though - people have played a lot worse and come away with the cash before. Its just the way the cookie crumbles.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Chase - records as they stand

In a post I made a couple of days ago I did wonder about what the current record for the highest succesful final chase is. 'The Beast' himself, Mark, has kindly supplied me with the following stats, which I am delighted to be able to share with you now : -

After ten shows of series two the current chase records are:

Highest Targets set:

25 Show 4 series two (won £19,000) against Shaun
24 Show 10 series one (won £22,000) against Shaun

Lowest Winning Score

21 on show 10, series two.

Highest Successful Chases

23 Show 2 series two, Mark with ten seconds to spare
22 Show 8 series one, Mark with eight seconds to spare
22 Show 8 series two, Shaun with one second to spare

Highest Unsuccessful Chases

23 Show 4 series two, Shaun
22 Show 10 series one, Shaun

Highest individual amount banked - £25,000 by Foiz in series one (Shaun beat team with two seconds remaining)

Highest individual amount actually won- £20,000 by Terry Toomey on Show 6 series two against Mark

Highest amount offered - £30,000 on four occasions in series two (none taken)

Interesting reading, isn't it. It is possible then to escape the Chaser with as little as 21. However that was an exceptional case. I stick to my guns. You have to get at least 23 to have a realistic chance of taking home the cash, and even that isn't a guarantee if the chaser of the day is on a real roll.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The Curse of LAM Strikes Again

Why do I say these things ? Only today, in my previous post I was discussing The Chase, because the nominal captain of my Thursday night team was telling me last night how much he was enjoying the series, and quite right too. I mentioned in the post that both Shaun and Mark have had one unsuccesful chase so far this series, but Anne was undefeated. So what happened in tonight's show ? Anne was defeated. I can't help feeling that even though the show was probably recorded some time ago, this was another case of LAM's retroactive evil influence. Anne, I'm very sorry, and wish I hadn't mentioned it. As for the team who got to share over £18,000, well, you're very welcome, and no thanks are necessary.

Short Connections and Long Chases

I’ve said it before, and doubtless I will say it again in the future, but quizzing is a broad church. What I like in a quiz you might not like, and vice versa. I don’t particularly like picture quizzes, but a majority of the regulars in the rugby club love ‘em. Good enough. Live and let live.

One thing I do like though is a connections quiz. Oh, I like all question and answer quizzes if they’re good, but I do have a real soft spot for a good connections quiz. I’m sure that you know what I mean by a connections quiz, but to be on the safe side I’ll explain.

Back in the days of the old and sadly missed Neath Quiz League, every year we’d have two or three open quizzes where all the teams could gather and compete across a range of rounds, and generally have a good time without the competitive atmosphere of the League matches. The first one I ever went to , and I can remember this clearly, was the same night that goalkeeper Rene Higuita of Colombia did the scorpion save in a friendly against England. I know this because I was watching it in the bar before the quiz started, and it was accompanied by a general exclamation of “What the . . . Hell was that ?!” When the quiz started the question master was Geoff Evans, a good quizzer and an even better question master. He used the connections format for one round, and I was knocked out by it, and made up my mind to use it in my quiz in the rugby club. As far as I know, I was the first to use this in the club, although several other of our QMs have also adopted it and use it from time to time, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that.

The usual format is that in a round of ten questions, three will have answers that are linked , and the fourth question will be to identify that link. Of course there are variations on the theme, and its not unknown for people to ask 4, 5, 6 or even anything up to 9 part connections. Still, the three part connection is the classic form of the genre. Last night Alwyn set the quiz, and he produced 8 grade A connections. He only does two or three quizzes every year, but they’re always good ‘uns. Here’s my favourite connection from the night : -

1) Maria Bicknell was the wife of which English Artist ?
2) Which is the most common Christian name in Fairy Tales and Nursery rhymes ?
3) Which 1960s recording artist was backed by a band called The Savages ?
4) What's the connection between your last three answers ?

OK – now the answer to number 2 was most likely to be JACK. From somewhere I dredged up the memory that the Savages were actually the backing band of SCREAMING LORD SUTCH. I didn’t know Maria Bicknell, but if the answer was JOHN CONSTABLE, then that would give us the connection of CARRY ON FILMS. This is the beauty of the connections quiz. Don’t get me wrong, knowing all the answers to a set of questions as soon as they are asked is lovely, but its not as satisfying as having to do a little bit of mental gymnastics to arrive at a correct answer, when you really wouldn’t have known it without the connection. Good quiz.


While we’re on the subject of last night’s quiz, in between rounds, without any urging from me the topic of conversation turned to ITV’s The Chase. That’s always a good sign for me, when people who aren’t so quiz obsessed as me are talking about a show. Our nominal captain, Little Dennis, really likes it and I have to agree with him. For the same reasons I gave in my first review last year, and the review I made last week, I ‘ve been enjoying this series. Two teams have so far eluded the chaser. Shaun had a massive total of 25 to chase, and Mark 23, leaving only Anne undefeated so far this series. I may be mistaken, but I fancy that among the team who escaped from Mark’s clutches was Terry Toomey, who lost to Shaun at the quarter final stage of the first series of Are You An Egghead ? Its made me reappraise my statement of last week that the banker never pays out for less than 20. To be honest I’ve had to revise that estimate upwards. The banker never pays out for less than 23, and there are times when I reckon that even 25 wouldn’t be enough. I don’t have the figures to check, but I can’t help wondering what the highest successful chase in either series has been . Mark, Anne, Shaun, if you’re reading this, and you know the answer, you know where to get hold of me.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Strange Format

Quizzing on a Wednesday evening ? Whatever next ?! I hope that I can be forgiven this shocking display of hedonistic behaviour on the grounds that it wasn’t a school night, and this was undertaken in what I like to think of as a bold spirit of experimentation.

I’m probably not making myself very clear, so I’ll cut to the chase. John rang me up and asked if I’d like to go to a quiz we’d never tried before last night. The quiz took place in a pub in the absolutely charming village of Llangynwd, which is just outside Maesteg, in South Wales. It was worth going to the quiz just for the picturesque drive, to be perfectly honest. That’s not why I’m writing , though. What intrigued me was the format of the quiz. The quiz itself consisted of 20 General Knowledge questions, and two handouts. That’s not the unusual thing. The unusual thing was that each team was given out the printed page with the questions and the handouts at about 9:15, and then just left alone to get on with it , and finalise their answers and write them down within the next hour or so.

Alright, its not totally unheard of to run a quiz like this, but I have to be honest, pretty much all of the quizzes I’ve ever been to like this have been individual rather than team quizzes. Don’t misunderstand me, there are no complaints about the standard of the questions or the handout. The 20 general knowledge questions were a real mixture, as they should be, and some required good guesses from us – which some did not receive, I hasten to add. The first handout showed the national flags of the 32 countries in the world cup finals this year. Well, I wasn’t certain about which countries were there, but I knew the flags, so no problem there. Thanks , Sporcle. The second handout gave cryptic clues to help you find the names of 20 chocolates, sweets, etc. The only one we missed was
often seen at the races -.
I asked Mary the same question today, and straightaway she said the correct answer – Tictac. D’Oh !

So, as I say, no complaints about the substance of the quiz. Its just . . . well it was odd. There was a distinct lack of atmosphere throughout the answering hour. Then once the answers were given out and the marking started, the banter between teams and the QM was actually terrific. Shame it didn’t start earlier. I only mention this quiz, because it intrigued me in that in over 20 years of going to pub quizzes, this is the only pub quiz I can recall that has actually worked in this way. I didn’t ask, but I can’t help wonder if they have ever tried doing it in more traditional fashion.