Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Fine Art of Saying I Haven't A Clue

Having a look at the blog this morning I noticed a certain dearth of posts about my own quizzing recently. Now, I would hate you to think that my interest has been waning, or that my own quizzing activity has been tailing off. Not so at all. At the moment I play in two every week – the Dyffryn Arms on the Sunday night and the Aberavon Rugby Club on a Thursday night, and another one every other week, being Trevor’s quiz in Pill Harriers in Newport on a Monday night.

This brings me to a conversation I had last week with a teammate on an interesting question. Not a quiz question, I hasten to add, but a question about quizzes. We were discussing what actually is hardest ‘skill’ for want of a better word, to learn when you get to a certain level of ability in quizzing. The only answer we actually agreed on was that one of the last things you tend to learn is the fine art of knowing when to say “I haven’t got the foggiest idea.” Let’s be honest with each other, one of the most frustrating things in a quiz, or one of the things I find most frustrating anyway, is when the right answer to the question is on the table, but is rejected in favour of a speculative punt by someone who didn’t say that it was a punt, but led the team to believe that it was said with a certain degree of certainty. It’s even more frustrating when it was me who led the team up the garden path.

I don’t know if this is something you learn to be more wary of as you get older, but I believe that our CARR (Correct Answer Rejection Rate) has certainly decreased over the last couple of years in the club on a Thursday night. Mind you, it needs to, since the competition, in the shape of the Lemurs, is so stiff now. We were well beaten last week again in the overall standings, but at least we won the questions, which is a crumb of comfort which I’m always happy to pluck from the winners’ table.

Come to think of it, there’s no ‘easy wins’ left in my weekly schedule at the moment. Go back a couple of years, and a defeat in the Dyffryn Arms was a rara avis indeed. Now though a ‘superteam’ for want of a better word has arisen, combining elements of the Lemurs and my team, Boycs, from the Thursday night quiz, and a couple of other quizzers I know. One of the local teams as well, who have been coming for ages, has started winning their fair share as well. They still have nights when they’re well off the pace, but in a fair number of more recent quizzes their victories have been highly impressive. So you can imagine it was nice to win the last two Sundays.

As for Monday night in the Pill Harriers, well, as I think I may have mentioned before the standard of all the teams in this quiz is pretty high. When you add to that the handicaps the fact is that it’s a stiff competition every week – and I’m man enough to admit now that it’s all the better for it. The Monday night quiz is one of those with a rolling jackpot. There are three questions. If one team answers all three correctly, then they win the pot. If more than one team answer all three correctly, then it rolls over. Monday night’s questions were – and please accept that I can’t remember the exact wording on any of these : -
In which film does Jake Gyllenhall play a troubled teen visited by visions of a large, demonic looking rabbit?
In which country would you find the Aberdare Mountains?
David Lloyd George once described the House of Lords as “500 ordinary men chosen randomly from among –“ what?

Now, I think that everybody would have known Donnie Darko, and many would have known that the Aberdare Range is in Kenya. But I’ll be honest , we struggled with the answer to the Lloyd George quote, which is “the Unemployed”. After a couple of minutes I had a lightbulb moment, and wrote it down on my piece of paper, and put it on the table for consideration. But I didn’t trust where the answer had come from, so I didn’t insist, and if anything else plausible had been advocated by anyone else I would probably have conceded. Thankfully nothing else was seriously advocated by anyone else, and the jackpot was duly won.

Actually, that reminds me of another question, which brings to mind another point about dealing with questions you don’t know the answer to. Do you have a set of standard ‘fallback’ answers you trot out whenever you don’t know the answer to something? I bet that many of you do, and I certainly do, ranging from the frankly childish “Fred Gonad and his Whistling Jockstrap” which I always put down whenever we didn’t have the clue who an artist was in the Dynevor Arms music round, to answers which actually earned points on a number of occasions. On Monday night we were asked “Which Midlands city has areas called both California and New Zealand?” Nobody on the team knew a city which had both, but Barry, being himself a Brummie, knew that there is a California in Birmingham. So we went for that. Now as it happens, I did tell the guys – don’t put this down, but whenever I’m asked for a Midlands city and I don’t know the answer – I always put down Derby -. I have no idea why I ever settled on Derby in the first place, but there we are, that’s what I do. Well, as you either already know, or will have guessed, Derby turned out to be right. However I can almost guarantee that next time I trot out Derby in desperation, for a midlands city, it will be wrong. I tend to do the same with Merthyr Tydfil if a question asks for an unspecified Welsh town - or Llandudno if it asks for a town in North Wales. Both of which have proven to be surprisingly fruitful answers in the past.

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