Saturday, 26 April 2014

Fifteen to One: Out and out stoppers

Just a short one, this. I’ve still been watching and enjoying Fifteen to One, and throughout the week it has continued to be a case of saying – I know him! – and – I know her! – and shaking my head in sympathy as some of them get two or three absolute stoppers and have to switch their lights out. It’s been over a decade since Fifteen to One was last on our screens, so my recollection could easily be faulty, but it seemed to me that on the old series there were certainly some tough questions, but not as many out and out stoppers that hardly anyone is ever going to get right. See what you think. If you click on this link: -


it will take you to a page on the Quiz site. Take the 432 and 433 challenges you’ll find on the page. These give you the chance to try your luck with the questions asked to Bill McKaig and Daphne Fowler when they set their record making totals. Now, I’m not saying that there are no difficult questions there – there are some difficult questions – but there don’t seem to be any of the out and out ‘you-won’t-get-this-because-nobody-knows-it-and-nobody’s-interested-in-it-so-don’t-even-bother-giving-an-answer’ questions which have been so noticeable in the current series.

What I’d be interested to know is whether this is a deliberate decision of the new series’ producers to regularly throw in these questions. I would guess that it is – you don’t have to be a good quizzer to see that some of the questions asked in every show are out and out stoppers. However I would also like to know if the appearance of these questions is just a matter of pure, random, blind luck, or whether there’s someone sitting up in mission control, with a direct link to Sandi’s tablet, deciding that so and so has been in long enough, and then sending a stopper down the line. Who knows?

Mind you, when I was learning the game back in the late 80’s, in my first ever league team, after it had been on for a while some of my olders and betters conceived their own conspiracy theory about the original show. They reckoned that William G. Stewart probably had three questions on each card, and depending on whether your face fitted or not he would decide whether he gave you the hard, average or easy question on it. I’m not saying for one minute that I bought into it – but a couple of the boys were convinced. More realistically, they did also say that William G. Stewart could be a little inconsistent with what he’d accept for an answer – with some people he would let them be within the same postal district, while with others if it wasn’t word for word what he had on the card he wouldn’t accept it. Well, even if there was any substance to this particular observation, you could say the same thing about Brain of Britain sometimes. Meeoowww.

Teachers, Lecturers, Tutors and Mastermind Champions

Yes, I’m afraid that Clive’s win is being used here as a pretext for a little praise of my chosen profession. By my reckoning – which may of course be wrong – 16 of the 40 champions have been present or former professional educators. If I’m correct, they are: -

Nancy Wilkinson 1972
Patricia Owen 1973
Elizabeth Horrocks 1974
John Hart 1975
Rosemary James 1978
Leslie Grout 1982
Margaret Harris 1984
David Edwards 1990
George Davidson 1994
Robert Gibson 1998
Stephen Follows 2000
Michael Penrice 2001
Geoff Thomas 2006
David Clark 2007/8
Ian Bayley 2011
Clive Dunning 2014

Students of the history of Mastermind will be aware that, in its early years, Mastermind was seen to a certain extent as being the province particularly of professional educators, and there is some justification for this point of view. Of the 8 champions in the 1970s, no fewer than 5 were either college lecturers or school teachers. We’ll have a look at each of them shortly. For what follows, details of Magnus-era champions are for the most part taken from Magnus’ superb – “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish”. If there are any inaccuracies I can only apologise.

Nancy Wilkinson

The late Nancy Wilkinson was the first ever champion in 1972. At the time she was a part time lecturer in French and German literature at the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology. She offered three separate subjects – respectively French Literature – The History of European Antiques – The History of Music 1550 – 1900. In 1975 She became the first ever Champion of Champions, winning the Supermind contest between the first four champions, and she also participated in the 1982 Champion of Champions series.

Patricia Owen

I was fortunate to meet the late Patricia Owen during our heat of the 2010 Champion of Champions series. At the time of her 1973 win Patricia was a part time lecturer in English and Art at the Maria Grey College of Education in Isleworth. Her specialist subject for both first round and final was Grand Opera, while her semi final subject was Byzantine Art.Patricia was the first champion to arrive in the final by the repechage route, having narrowly lost her first round heat. She was one of only two people to participate in all three Champion of Champions competitions, coming joint runner up in the 1982 series.

Elizabeth Horrocks

Elizabeth Horrocks was an English teacher at the time of her win in 1974. Magnus doesn’t specify where she was working at the time of her win, although he does say that it is possible that her Mastermind win helped her get her next position in Hyde Sixth Form College at Tameside. Elizabeth took three different subjects in her series, respectively Shakepeare’s plays – the Works of JRR Tolkein – Dorothy L Sayers. Elizabeth was the other champion to participate in three Champion of Champions contests.

John Hart

The late John Hart was notable for being the first man to win Mastermind. It has often been noted that after the first three finals were won by women, perhaps the show ought to be called Mistressmind. John Hart was the senior Classics master at Malvern College in Worcestershire. John opted for the History of Athens 500-400BC for his first and final rounds, and the History of Rome 100 – 1 BC for his semi final. John also took part in the 1975 Supermind contest, and the 1982 Champion of Champions tournament. Incidentally, the Supermind contest was run immediately after his final!

Rosemary James

The late Rosemary James was a teacher of Latin and Classical Studies at the Mount School in York when she won the 1978 series. She was actually beaten in her first round heat by the 2012 Brain of Britain champion, Ray Ward. Nonetheless she stuck with her specialist subject from the first round – Roman and Greek Mythology, in the final, where it served her very well. In the semi final she took The works of Frederick Wolfe. Rosemary participated in the 1982 Champion of Champions tournament, where she was joint runner up in the final. She also participated in the Mastermind International tournament.

Leslie Grout

The last heat of the 2010 Champion of Champions line up actually included 3 educators, or former educators. Of course, the other contender, the great Pat Gibson actually won, and went on to win the title. Still, the other three were Patricia Owen, me, and Leslie Grout. At the time of Leslie’s 1981 win he was a teacher at Ottershaw Middle School in Surrey. According to Magnus he had been rejected 6 times for the show previously. Leslie took St. George’s Chapel Windsor as his first and final specialist subject, and the Burial Grounds of London for his semi final. The burial grounds of London was also reprised for his 2010 Champ of Champs specialist. Leslie also participated in the 1982 champions series. Leslie became the first UK champion to win the Mastermind International title, answering on Windsor Castle.

Margaret Harris

Like Patricia and Rosemary, Margaret Harris had to go through the repechage semi final before triumphing in the 1984 series. At the time she was the Deputy Head of Woolston Comprehensive School in Southampton. Margaret kept faith with her first specialist subject, Cecil Rhodes, which she used to win the final. In the semi she opted for The Postal History of South Africa. In the Final, Margaret set a record – later broken – with 38 points, which I believe is still the record score for an educator on the series.

David Edwards

Like Margaret, Rosemary and Patricia, David came to the 1990 Grand final via the repechage semi final. At the time, David was Head of Science at Cheadle High School. In “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish” Magnus relates how the team were running out of questions about Michael Faraday, David’s first round subject, and so prevailed upon him to take James Clerk Maxwell for his final subject. In between David took Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. This was also David’s final subject in the 2010 Champions series, where he took the Mystery of Rennes le Chateau in the heat. David, as well as being a thoroughly good egg, is one of our most prominent educator champs, having gone on to win the £1 million pounds on who Wants To Be A Millionaire, to contest the final of Are You An Egghead? and to be a member of the victorious Wales team on Round Britain Quiz.

George Davidson

In 1994 George Davidson became the first University lecturer to win a series. At the time he was the senior lecturer in organic chemistry at the University of Nottingham. In 1966 he had been a member of a team that reached the quarter finals of University Challenge. George applied for the 1976 series of Mastermind but failed to get in. He never applied again until 1994, when he was rather surprised to make it onto the show. By this time the rules had been changed so that everyone had to take three different subjects, and George’s were English coinage 1066-1662 - History of Chemistry 1500-1870 – John Dalton.

Robert Gibson

From now on, and especially for the radio 4 champs, I have had to rely on other sources, and so I do apologise if any of my information is incorrect. Robert Gibson, winner of the first BBC Radio 4 Mastermind competition, is a qualified teacher and self employed tutor, running his own tutoring business in Cumbria. In 1998 he took The Solar System – Charles II and Robert the Bruce as his specialist subjects. In 1993 Robert had reached the semi-final stage

Stephen Follows

Again, I apologise if I have any of Stephen’s details wrong. Stephen, if you let me know I will correct them. I believe that Stephen has taught in various independent schools, and also in Oxford Brookes University, and has also worked as a tutor. I know for a fact that Stephen holds a unique distinction – at the time of writing he is the only person to win both Mastermind and University Challenge. In the 2000 radio 4 series Stephen answered on Benjamin Britten – T.S.Eliot – Leos Janacek.

Michael Penrice

The contemporary BBC News reports from 2001 hailed Michael as a’primary school teacher from Cumbria’ when he won the Discovery Channel’s 2001 Mastermind series. The whole round system in Discovery Mastermind was a little more complicated than the other series, but I can say that Michael took Professional Boxing to 1980 as his first round subject, and English History 1603 – 1714 as his final subject. Michael has been something of a serial quizzer, being a regular grand finalist in Fifteen to One, and in the big money quiz Grand Slam he was beaten in the semi final by 1993 Mastermind champ Gavin Fuller.

Geoff Thomas

You could maybe argue that Geoff was no longer an educator by the time he began accumulating his many honours within the quiz world, having taken early retirement from his job lecturing in modern languages in Mid-Cheshire College in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, a retired educator is still an educator. Geoff was a semi finalist in the 1994 series, a contender in Discovery Mastermind, and runner up in the inaugural John Humphrys series in 2003. Geoff carried all before him in 2006. His specialist subjects were Edith Piath – William Joyce and Margaret Mitchell, and the final saw him set a Humphrys era record of 36 points, subsequently beaten by Jesse Honey. Geoff is one of our most successful ever educator champs – winning amongst other competitions Brain of Britain and Counterpoint. Geoff participated in the 2010 Champ of Champs series, taking The Life and Career of Sir Don Bradman.

David Clark

Well, you didn’t think I was going to leave myself out of this, did you? I have been teaching English in the same 11-16 comprehensive school in Neath, South Wales, since 1987. At the time of my series I was also Head of Year. I had several unsuccessful TV appearences behind me when I won the 2007 series (recorded 2007, but broadcast 2008). In particular I was knocked out in the first round in Geoff’s 2006 series – I had the joint highest runner up score, but there were no repechage semi-final places in the revived series until 2010. In 2007/8 I took Henry Ford – The Prince Regent/George IV – The History of London Bridge.IN the 2010 Champions series I took The Bayeux Tapestry as my specialist subject.

Ian Bayley

Ian is a senior lecturer in Computer Science at Oxford Brookes University. In 2008 Ian won the prestigious Only Connect quiz as part of the unbeatable Crossworders. In 2009 Ian narrowly lost the Grand Final of Mastermind to Nancy Dickmann. In the two years between his Mastermind appearances Ian scored a crushing victory in the 2010 series of Brain of Britain – I should know, I was sitting in the chair next to him! In 2011 Ian’s three subjects were the History of Chemistry 1500-1870 – Jean Sibelius - Pictures in the National Gallery. Following his Mastermind victory Ian won the title Brain of Brains.

Clive Dunning

Clive is the 40th Mastermind champion. In his filmed insert Clive said that one of the things which finally helped him make the decision to apply for Mastermind was being made redundant from the college in Stockton where he lectured in English. Clive’s subjects were Blackadder – John Lennon and Philip Larkin. Prior to Mastermind, Clive was a semi-finalist in the 2013 series of Brain of Britain.

In the News

In the News

Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. Ruben Carter
2. Bernard Hopkins
3. Julian Wilson
4. Victoria Coren-Mitchell
5. Shutthefrontdoor
6. Jamaica Inn
7. Andy Murray
8. Johan Bruyneel
9. John Higgins
10. Chelsea Elizabeth Manning
11. Alexandra Hedison
12. Mark Shand
13. Fatah and Hamas
14. Nikki Fox
15. Mark Schwarzer
16. Adnan Januzaj
17. Stephen Sutton
18. Paul Waterfall
19. The Gherkin
20. Beyonce
21. Andre Lampitt
22. A Man from the Future
23. Prime Pantry

In Other News

1. Who won the Chinese GP in Shanghai?
2. Who is to host a new BBC series of The Generation Game?
3. Which song was last week voted the UKs favourite song from the 80s?
4. Who has taken over at Manchester United until the end of the season?
5. What was the score in the Man Utd. V. Everton match?
6. – and the Chelsea v. Sunderland match?
7. Who beat Roger Federer to win the Monte Carlo Masters?
8. What became the most downloaded song in History in the UK?
9. A huge chemical fire took place in which UK city?
10. David Cameron faced criticism from some sides over his description of Britain as a what?
11. Which football club’s win over Wigan on Easter Monday confirmed their promnotion to the Premiership?
12. What was the score in the Champions League match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid?
13. – and Bayern Munich and Real Madrid?
14. An advert for which company has been banned for ‘irresponsibly encouraging parents to take their children on holiday during term time’ ?
15. Which organization switched on the first of its planned 44 renewable energy power plants?
16. Which football team clinched the Championship with two games to go?
17. People of which county were officially recognized as a minority, with equal status to Welsh, Scots and Irish?
18. The Mayor of which city has won the right to ban marijuana cafes?
19. Which species of whale are Canada to take off its endangered species list?
20. The Labour party is looking to cut its links with which bank?
21. Which sporting figure’s trial for bribery began in Germany?
22. The annual crime rate for England and Wales fell by which figure?
23. Which organization in South wales announced that it will be creating a Visitor Centre and opening its doors to the public for the first time?
24. It was claimed last week that three cups of coffee a day can cut the risk of what?
25. Nokia has sold its mobile business to which company?
26. Which bank was forced by the government to halve its proposed bonuses?
27. Which Olympic gold medalist set a new British record last week?
28. Who quit as an England National cricket selector last week?

Answers to News Questions

In the News

Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. David Stone
2. Wilson Kipsang
3. Edna Kiplagat
4. Chimerica
5. ZaZZZ
6. Iain Corby
7. Robert Berry
8. Jan Tipper and Barb Burden
9. Bluefin 21
10. Stefano Domenicali
11. Robert Hannigan
12. Nick Martin
13. M & M Hair Salon, South Ealing
14. MV Sewol
15. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
16. Lee Joon-Seok
17. Kepler 186f
18. Paul Flowers

In Other News

1. Why did sending an email make news among the scout organization?
2. Which city allowed foreign competitors to take place in its marathon for the first time last week?
3. Which position did Mo Farah finish the London Marathon in?
4. Which controversial plan for the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games has been scrapped due to local opposition?
5. Who won the US Masters?
6. What was the score in the FA Cup semi final between Hull and Sheffield United?
7. What was the score in the match between Liverpool and Man City?
8. Which TV presenter was rapped for adding to a teenage guest’s distress?
9. The author of ‘Uses of Literacy’ passed away last week. Who was he?
10. Who confirmed that he was quitting mainly due to comments about his age?
11. Which very popular website was hacked last week, amid concerns that details of subscribers may have been stolen?
12. What punishment has Silvio Berlusconi received?
13. Who was charged last week with a further count of sexual assault?
14. Who was accused of, and denied, misuse of expenses last week?
15. Which 88 year old received her Damehood last week?
16. Which F1 team lost their appeal over a disqualification at the Australian GP?
17. Which infamous prison was temporarily closed last week?
18. Inhabitants of which UK city have the lowest average life expectancy?
19. Who apologized for driving off after hitting another motorist’s car and not stopping?
20. Who is selling off his rarest red wines?
21. Which musician received $10,000 privacy damages?
22. Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg has pledged to spend up to $50 million to support which cause?
23. What was the score in the match between Man City and Sunderland
24. Who scored the winning goal in the Copa del Rey?
25. Chelsea Clinton announced what last week?
26. Which news reader and presenter announced that he is suffering from bowel cancer?
27. Which daily newspaper announced to its journalists that it will not be joining the new press regulatory body?
28. In which country was a 7.3 magnitude earthquake recorded?
29. Which company announced that it is to open its first new store in 6 years?
30. Brentford FC have won promotion to which division?
31. Who has been reappointed as England cricket head coach?


Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. He ran the fastest ever marathon wearing the costume of a TV character in the London Marathon
2. Winner of men’s London Marathon
3. Winner of Women’s London Marathon
4. Play which won 5 Olivier Awards
5. World’s first cannabis automatic vending machine
6. He was removed from the Conservative Party list of approved candidates following allegations of the misuse of taxpayers’ money
7. Passed away tragically after collapsing at the end of the London Marathon
8. The first same sex couple to have a church wedding in the UK
9. The robot submersible searching for flight MH370
10. Team boss of Ferrari who has stepped down after a series of disappointing results.
11. New Head of GCHQ
12. Resigned as the Mayor of Swindon following remarks he made about disabled people
13. South Ealing Hair academy which used a poster of Kim Jong UN along with the words ‘Bad Hair Day’. The North Korean Embassy, no more than a mile or two away in Gunnersbury, has issued a formal complaint.
14. South Korean ferry which capsized with tragic loss of life
15. Award winning novelist who passed away
16. Captain of the MV Sewol
17. Earth like planet newly discovered in a galaxy far afar away
18. Former head of Co-op bank, charged with drug possession

In Other news

1. You can earn a new scout badge for doing it
2. Pyongyang
3. 8th – new English record, but a minute outside the British record
4. The plan to blow up tower blocks in Red Road
5. Bubba Watson
6. 5 – 3 Hull
7. 3 – 2 Liverpool
8. Jeremy Kyle
9. Richard Hoggart. My first year at Goldsmith’s College was Richard Hoggart’s last year as Warden of the College, and I was fortunate enough to participate in a series of seminars he ran on Twentieth Century literature.
10. Sir Bruce Forsythe
11. Mumsnet
12. Community service with the elderly
13. Dave Lee Travis
14. Nigel Farrage
15. Angela Lansbury
16. Red Bull
17. Abu Graibh
18. Glasgow
19. Ed Balls
20. Sir Alex Ferguson
21. Paul Weller
22. Gun control
23. 2 – 2
24. Gareth Bale
25. She is pregnant
26. George Alagiah
27. The Financial Times
28. Mexico
29. Waterstones
30. The Championship
31. Peter Moores

Friday, 25 April 2014

Mastermind Grand Final 2014

If you’re a pundit, even a self-appointed pundit such as myself, the least people probably expect from you is that you are going to pund. A duty which I failed to fulfill in my preview of this Grand Final, being unable to pick a winner from the lineup. Actually that’s not strictly accurate. The fact was that I could pick a winner, the problem was that I could pick quite a few winners among the line up – about half a dozen as it happened. Where I struggled was that I couldn’t pick out 5 runners up.

First to go in the final, making his first appearance in the Grand Final after several attempts to win a semi was Hamish Cameron. Hamish was answering on Scottish Lighthouses. That’s actually a very good subject. I read a book all about the Stevensons a year or two ago. Young Robert Louis Stevenson was something of the black sheep of the family, going on to become a writer, instead of building lighthouses. In his filmed insert Hamish got to go to an offshore lighthouse – which is pretty much a mid level prize in terms of the insert lottery. Hamish very humourously tackled the subject of his multiple appearences during his filmed insert, noting that he desperately wanted to win the final so that he’d never have to apply to the show again. Well, his specialist round gave him a chance. Hamish scored 11, and in the context of this series, nobody is likely to score much more than the mid teens on specialist, so while he might have been hoping for a slightly higher score, he was definitely in there with a shout.

Our own Daniel Adler was second to go, and he was answering on Richard Wagner. For his film Daniel was one of the insert lottery winners, having been taken to Bayreuth to make his short and interesting introductory film. He obviously knew his stuff, too. During the round he maintained his composure and his confidence, but you couldn’t help thinking that the 10 that he posted was going to leave him needing a very high score on GK, and that he would be towards the rear of the field at the turn.

Retired librarian Brian Chesney had opted for the Italian Front during World War I. Brian’s number too had come up on the insert lottery, so it seemed, as his film was made in Italy. Nice to see the Beeb pushing the boat out a little with the insert filming budget. Brian needed 12 to take the lead, and indeed this was a very good specialist round, and saw him actually improve upon Hamish’s score by 2, setting the bar for the first round now at 13.

Now, I knew that Clive was going to be the contender who had the shortest journey for his filmed insert, since he was answering on the life and work of Philip Larkin. Which must mean, I reasoned, a visit to the University of Hull. Larkin is my favourite English 20th century poet, so this was a round I was quite looking forward to. I must admit a certain amount of envy that Clive got to look at Larkin’s notebooks. As for the round itself, I did Ok with 4 answers, but this was nowhere near to Clive’s 12. With two rounds to go he was in a decent position.

Roderick Cromar looked likely to have a trip to France, answering on French Cinema 1895 – 1945, and indeed his prize was a trip to the Institut Lumière in Lyon. Roderick said a couple of interesting things in his film. Firstly, that he had come to realize how wide his subject was while learning for it, which made me a little apprehensive for him. Secondly he spoke of his own memories of the show when he was little, being told about the first series rather than watching it because it was on too late at night. I had a similar experience myself. The earliest final I can actually remember watching was Elizabeth Horrocks’ final in 1974 when I was 10. Roderick’s fears were only partially confirmed during the round. He was certainly not shown up in any way by his round, but it was, sadly, just a couple of points short of a competitive total. You fancied that at 4 points behind, with one contender still to go in the first round, he was a little too far behind for a realistic chance of the win.

Our final contender, Michael McPartland, had a good claim to having won the jackpot in the insert lottery. Answering on The Salem Witch Trials he had the longest journey of all of the contenders, being whisked away to – well, where else – to Salem Massachusetts. As had all of the contenders, he spoke with interest and authority on his subject, before settling down into the chair to produce the best specialist round of the show. 14 points and no passes put him into the enviable position of being the leader at the turn.

Well, nobody had ‘done a Gary’, that is, blown everyone else away with a titanic specialist round, and Aidan McQuade last year had shown how it is possible to come from some distance back to win on GK. Even so, I did feel for Roderick as he returned to the chair. He needed a great GK round to put everyone else within the corridor of uncertainty. Right then. These GK rounds were 2 and a half minutes long. Was it just my imagination, or were last night’s GK rounds also struck with the same ‘overly long question’ disease that has so afflicted the specialist rounds throughout this series? It certainly seemed so to me. Every time that Roderick seemed to be building a bit of momentum a nasty one came along to stop him in his tracks, and in the end he scored 9 to push his score to 18.

In his semi-final Daniel had attacked his GK round with gusto and overturned a deficit on specialist to win his place in the final. Last night he attacked his GK round with the same gusto, and again produced a very good, battling performance. You have to view these GK scores in the context of this show, where each round had its share of ‘stoppers’ and questions were not exactly crammed in with a shoehorn. 12 put him up to 22. Bearing in mind that last year’s winning total was 25 this looked a little short of a winning total, but nonetheless, as a target it was enough to make the four contenders yet to come pause for thought.

For Hamish Cameron, even though this was his first Grand Final, it must have been a case of déja-vu as he was served up a set of questions which contained some straightforward questions he was able to dispatch to the boundary, but which, like Roderick, kept serving up stoppers every time he threatened to build up a head of steam. I have a feeling that he knew, as the round was racing towards the buzzer, that he had not done it, and indeed, like Roderick he didn’t quite achieve double figures. His score of 9 left him on 20.

Three contenders down, and three to go. The indications were that the 2014 champion would be one of these three gentlemen. First to go was Clive Dunning. Clive was stopped in his tracks a little by an early question, but after that he really didn’t look back. As much as you could with these rather disconcerting GK rounds, Clive grabbed it by the scruff of the neck, and bulldozed his way through the remaining questions to score a very good 13. This put him up to a total of 25, our magic number, and laid down the gauntlet.

I enjoyed watching Brian’s face during his GK round. He could feel slightly aggrieved as he had progressed smoothly to about 16, when he was hit by a series of three or four snorters one after another. The look on his face seemed to say to me – what sort of questions d’you call these? – and to be honest, I know where he was coming from. Brian’s chosen tactic was to pass quickly and get on with the round – a valid tactic, certainly, and he gained some momentum when he passed this hurdle. With the very last question he raised his score to 25, level with Clive. Would it all come down to passes?

The only person who could prevent that from happening was Michael McPartland, and for the first few questions this looked on the cards. An old quiz hand, Michael answered quickly and economically. However those stoppers were just waiting around the corner, and he, too, found his momentum taken away, and never quite managed to get it back again. Michael too added 9 to his total. His total of 23 guaranteed him third place – well done! – but who had actually won? Well, on pass countback Brian had 5, while Clive had only the one, and so Clive Dunning, college lecturer and LAM reader, is our new champion! Well done Clive. You held your nerve brilliantly, and deserved to win. Many commiserations to Brian Chesney, and in fact to all of our finalist, who made this such an enjoyable and high quality competition.

As a footnote for those interested in the history of the show, this is not the first final to be settled on passes. In 2004 Chaser Shaun Wallace beat Don Young on passes. No final of the Magnus era was settled on passes, although the 1974 final nearly was. At the end of the Final, Elizabeth Horrocks was tied on 21 with Brian Wright, but the winner on passes. However during the recording break before the presentation of the trophy it was discovered that Brian had been given a point to which he was not entitled, and so the scores were amended before the presentation. As a footnote, on a personal level, when I contacted Clive a short while ago to give my congratulations he was kind enough to point out that although giving his profession as teacher, he is in fact a college lecturer, and so strictly speaking I am still the last schoolteacher to win the show. What a nice man!

Congratulations to everyone involved with the show on another thoroughly absorbing and entertaining series (although please can we have some shorter questions next year? High scores are not a crime if you’re good enough to achieve them.)

The Details

Hamish Cameron Scottish Lighthouses11 - 19 - 220 - 3
Daniel AdlerThe Life and Work of Richard Wagner10 - 012 - 0 22 - 0
Brian ChesneyThe Italian Front During World War I13 - 012 - 425 - 4
Clive DunningThe Life and Poetry of Philip Larkin12 – 0 13 - 125 - 1
Roderick CromarFrench Cinema 1895 - 19459 - 49 - 218 - 2
Michael McPartlandThe Salem Witch Trials14 - 09 - 023 – 0

On 'Best' Subjects

In his comments about my preview of the Mastermind Grand Final – to be shown later tonight – Neil Wright asked " I wonder whether anyone has been brave enough or confident enough to leave their best subject for the final?"

This is a fascinating question. For me, it is making an assumption that contenders do actually have a ‘best’ subject. Speaking from my own experience, maybe this is going to sound arrogant, but I never anticipated doing worse on any of my specialist subjects than I would do on the others. To that extent I never had a 'best' subject. My personal feeling was that if I picked subjects according to the criteria which I'd chosen to apply - about which I have written in the past - then I ought to be able to do equally well in all 3 subjects if I put in the time and effort to learn them. That's pretty much how it worked out for me - on my four specialist subjects in regular Mastermind in 2006 and 2007 I scored 14,14,15 and 15. Each of these were two minute rounds. In the context of the show at the time, none of these were Hall of Fame scores, but all of them were good enough to give me a shout on General Knowledge, and none of them were produced without a significant amount of preparation and work on my part.

All told I actually learned 6 subjects for Mastermind Specialist rounds - the 4 that I’ve already mentioned for the regular shows, and then 2 more for Champ of Champs - I was stand-in for the Grand Final so had to prepare for it, even though the odds were against me needing it. You could definitely say I was lucky that I found all 6 of my subjects equally interesting. I'd like to think that it came down to my own foresight in choosing the right subjects, although that's just my opinion, and as always . . .Still, I can certainly see that out of three subjects you might well have one which you are far more interested in than the other two. You prepare equally well for each one, and you believe - possibly correctly - that you can do equally well on each subject, but there's one you are looking forward to over the others. Do you save it, in the hope of getting to do it in the Grand Final, or do you use it in your first round to make sure that you get to do it?

My choices for 2007 worked out like this. I chose to do the Life and Career of Henry Ford because I had a brilliant biography of the man and his company, by Robert Lacey. I knew that becoming deeply acquainted with the relevant sections of the book again would be no hardship. The fact was also that I had nominated this as my semi-final subject for 2006. In 2006 I lost in the first round, although I was one of three highest scoring runners up. There were no repechage places in the semis at that stage in the show’s history, but I was invited to the semis as a stand-in. I wasn’t needed, so the way I looked on it was that I knew that the production team of the time liked Henry Ford as a subject, and they’d have had to have procured a set of questions on him in case they were needed for the semis. So when I reapplied in 2007, I thought it might make me more appealing if they still had the question set, it would mean one less for them to produce. Did this have any influence on my selection? Probably not, but I did get on. My choice of the life of the Prince Regent for my semi-final subject was an easy one to make, since it had been my nominated final subject for the previous series. So once again, I knew that it was a subject that the team were happy with. As for me, again I found the subject very interesting and had a number of good books to work from. With regards to London Bridge for the final, well, again I had books, and I found it very interesting. There was no reason why it had to be my final subject, other than the other two had to come before for the reasons I’ve already stated.

Having said all that, I do clearly remember talking to Stewart (Cross) before our final, and he said that he wished he had opted for his semi-final subject for the final instead. It was easier to make observations about comparative specialist performances in first round, semi and final in my day, since each round was 2 minutes long. The picture today is muddied a little by having 90 second specialist rounds for the semis now. Still, I did decide to have a look at the winners’ specialist scores to see if, by and large, they tend to have their best specialist performances in the final rounds. Here is the table: -

Now, I should explain that the table only includes the Humphrys era winners (not including tonight’s, of course. Honestly, I have no insider knowledge as to the outcome of tonight’s final.) mainly because I don’t have detailed stats of Magnusson era performances. Since 2010 the semi final specialist rounds have only been 90 seconds long. I applied the mathematical formula of dividing these semi scores by 3, and then multiplying by 4 - this is why there is an Adjusted column in the table. It at least gives us an idea of how good these 90 second rounds were when compared with each champ’s other performances.

Looking at the table you can see that of the 10 champions, half of them had their best specialist round, or equaled their best specialist round in the final. Four champs either had their best round in the semi – or equaled their best round in the semi. Three champs had their best round in the first round – one of which equaled it in the semis. With regards to consistency, three champions scored the same in more than one of their specialist rounds, although nobody posted the same score in all three. As it happens I was the closest to being Mr. Consistency on this score, since there was only 1 point difference between my best specialist score in my series, and my worst. This isn’t boasting, since every Humphrys champ apart from Aidan McQuade has a higher highest specialist than mine. (As it happens, I did manage 17 in champ of champs, but that’s another story). The gaps between the champs’ highest and lowest specialist rounds range from 1 to 7, and average out at almost 4.

We’re only working with a small number of contenders here, and if you had the time to do this for every Grand Final contender of the Humphrys era it’s quite possible that identifiable trends would emerge. With a larger survey like this the results would certainly be a lot more statistically significant, and you could do it. The figures are all available on Weavers Week, for example, although whether the time and inclination are also available is another question entirely. You can’t say that the champs all saved their ‘best’ subjects (if they had one) for the final, but you can’t say that none of them did either. What is significant though, is that none of them had a weak specialist subject. Of the 30 scores, 21 of them are 15 or over, and in fact only 4 of them are less than 14.

A Good Pair of Connections

There’s something reassuring about going to the Thursday night quiz in the club when Brian is the question master. He’s such a good one that you just know that you haven’t got to worry that he’s going to make some of the simple and occasionally ridiculous errors that other question masters can make, and he isn’t going to pack a quiz with obscure and boring questions about his own areas of interest. No, Brian is a terrific question master, and he always produces a good quiz. However, sometimes, well, sometimes he will put together a quiz which has something a bit extra – an x-factor if you like. I felt that last night’s was one of them.

Yeah. Alright, my team did win. Would that I were a nice enough person to say that this wouldn’t make the slightest difference to my enjoyment of a quiz. But I can’t pretend that it doesn’t matter. There we are, that’s me and I’m stuck with it I suppose. Last night’s quiz was a connections quiz. I’ve written about these before, and I’m sure that you know what I’m talking about. I take a certain amount of pride from having been the QM who introduced the format to the rugby club quiz 19 years ago. I didn’t invent it, mind you, I nicked it from Geoff Evans in Neath, and he probably had it from somewhere else. There’s nothing new under the sun, and there’s nothing wrong with using a good idea you’ve heard from somewhere else, as long as you don’t try to pass it off as your own invention. Basically, in its classic form, you ask three seemingly unconnected questions, and then a fourth question which asks what the connection between the previous three answers is. Alright, sometimes you can use four answers, or five, and when I do one I like to end with a whole round connection, but as I say, three is the magic number normally. Brian asked two particularly interesting connections last night, and I would like to share them with you.

1) Who won the Tour de France in 1988, despite what seemed to be a positive test for a banned substance?
2) Which English philosopher and political theorist is best known for his work ‘Leviathan’?
3) Which rapper’s real name was Stanley Kirk Burrell?

Now, the 2nd and the 3rd of these questions really aren’t that difficult for a quiz regular, and being a long term devotee of the Tour de France the first posed no problems for my team either. So, the answers were: -
1) Pedro Delgado
2) Thomas Hobbes
3) M.C.Hammer
So far, so good. Now, my feeling is that in most cases, if you get all three parts to a connection set, then the connection should be fairly obvious. Well, we looked, and looked, and were just about to put the paper in with the connection unsolved, when it finally came. The first answer was the key for me. I was sure it was more likely to be Delgado which connected, than Pedr0. In which case, well, you had tennis player Jamie Delgado, which looked unlikely. Alternatively there was the late, great Roger Delgado. Roger Delgado played The Master to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. Lightbulb moment. Jack Hobbs was nicknamed The Master – and as for M.C.Hammer – well, M.C. is derived from Master of ceremonies. Cue relief, and a full house of points for the round.

It was a terrific connection set, because it demanded a little more brain work from you once you had the constituent parts. There was another set of a similar nature which sadly we didn’t work out. See how you fare with this one: -

1) The Tsar Kolokol is the largest what in the world?
2) The Park Royal Brewery in West London was owned and operated by which company until they centralized their operations in Dublin in 2005?
3) Which song begins with the lines – Listen to the ground/ There is music all around/ there is something goin’ down and I can feel it ?

Once again, nothing too extremely difficult. OK, so Park Royal is partly in the London Borough of Ealing, which is my home town, but even if it wasn’t the mention of Dublin in the question is a pretty good clue. So we had: -

1) Bell
2) Guinness
3) Night Fever by the Bee Gees

If the answer hasn’t occurred to you straightaway, give yourself a moment or two to think about it before you read the answer.

Ok – have you got it? As I said, we didn’t. It works like this: - Martin BELL was nicknamed The Man in the White Suit – Alec GUINNESS played The Man in the White Suit in a fantastic Ealing (Ealing again!) comedy, and in Saturday NIGHT FEVER, John Travolta was a man in a white suit.
Sometimes when we get asked for connections and we can’t see them I can think that they’re unfair because they need a huge amount of mental agility to be able to twist the three answers into the necessary contortions to make the required link. Not so this one. However we just couldn’t run along the rails of the necessary train of thought. We did consider that Guinness might link with Alec Guinness, but didn’t pursue it further than that.

It’s a funny thing that in last night’s quiz, if you include the Man in the White Suit as one, there were actually three questions connected with the London Borough of Ealing. The Park Royal and Ealing comedy ones I’ve already mentioned, but the other one was actually a news question I noted down in last weekend’s set, about the M and M hairdressers in South Ealing. Which is not necessarily as great a coincidence as the quiz I attended in 2007, in which there were questions about Henry Ford – George IV and London Bridge – all in the same 10 question round, and all of which were specialist subjects for me in Mastermind. The series had already been recorded at the time, but not yet broadcast. Weird.

Going back to Brian’s quiz, as I say, on a scale of 1 to 10 it was an 11. However it does confront me with a problem. It’s my turn as QM next week, and I have to follow that. I’m using the connections format, but with a twist, and you never know, it could well be lead balloon time. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Only Connect - Round One Match Two

Europhiles v. Relatives

I’m a bit of Europhile myself on the QT, so I leant a little towards Douglas Thomson, Khuram Rashid and captain Mark Seager. On the other hand, two of the Relatives, husband and wife Hamish and Davina Galloway are, I think, closer to my own vintage, and so, together with Davina’s son Nick Latham they were also deserving of my support. Or, to put it another way, I was sharing the jinx around equally for this show. Everything to play for and nothing to lose, because nobody goes home after just one show. Let’s get on with it, then.

Round One _ What’s the Connection?

The Relatives began the game choosing Twisted Flax. The Teletubbies appeared, and possible link overload precluded any chance for me of going for a 5 pointer. I had it with a tub of Vitalite – altogether (to the tune of The Israelites) – Oh – oh – Vitalite!. They all feature the sun with a face in it, I suggested. The third clue - Nuclear Power? No thanks – confirmed it. Incidentally when I was a lad I helped out on a milk round, and one of the houses in Grosvenor Road in Hanwell always had a VW camper van parked outside it, which had the same sign in its rear window, except that it was in German. Atomkraft? Nein Danke. Why I’ve never forgotten that I cannot possibly say. The last clue was the Flag of Argentina, with its Sol de Mayo. The Relatives just weren’t there, and went for circles, while the Europhiles said the sun was the connection which was enough for a bonus. Victoria asked a question which I cannot believe that I have never asked myself (although I haven’t)- why would the Vitalite sun wear sunglasses – to protect itself from what? Itself? The Euros opted for Water, and received New Year: 1 am – Chinese New Year: 1am – at this point I was barking up the wrong tree with pub closing hours – Diwali: 1 am didn’t help, but Novermber 5th: Midnight – certainly did. I guessed that this was ‘no more fireworks’ time in the UK. The Euros just didn’t have it, but the Rels were happy to take back the bonus on that one. For their second set they opted for Eye of Horus. Flattened note didn’t help any of us. However the second clue – Polyommatus Icarus I knew. It’s the scientific name of the butterfly commonly known, appropriately enough, as the common blue. I wasn’t confident enough to nail my colours to the mast just yet, but blue was certainly in my thinking. The third clue was Hugh Laurie’s Sporting Prize, and we know that Hugh Laurie won a Cambridge blue for rowing. So blue seemed right. The last clue of rare steak gave it to the Rels, who had judiciously hung on until they could get the right answer. Two Reeds gave the music question to the Euros. I think it fell right for them as well. Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that Motorhead should be written Motörhead, but the Rels did, and off just two clues they had groups whose names should be written with an umlaut. Great shöut. Oh dear, Davina of the Rels flirted with disaster by failing to voice the second vowel of Horned Viper. In the end though they understood a set of pictures all connected with the name Watson. This left the Euros with Lion. Now, this was a tricky set where the meaning of the words was unconnected, but the words themselves were – so we had Goran Ivanišević – United Arab Emirates – unimaginative – verisimilitude. Neither team had the fact that each clue is either – vowel – consonant – vowel – consonant etc. or vice versa. One of those ‘staring you in the face’ sets that you just are not going to get. This mean that at the end of the first round the Euros led with 4 to the Rels’ 3.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

The Rels kicked off with Eye of Horus, and a lovely set, if you’re an Olympic Games fan. 2000 Beijing actually gave me a big clue, because I knew that the runner up city for the location of the 2000 Olympics was Beijing. Which, working forwards, would give 2012: Paris. Now, I didn’t know that in 2004, Rome was the runner up city, but I was sticking with my answer. Toronto 2008 confirmed I had a five pointer. Neither team really quite had a handle on it. So the Euros picked two reeds and uncovered a set of pictures for their pains. The first was Laa-Laa of the tellytubbies. The second turned out to be scree. The last was Hawaii. Now, if you had the second two you had a chance – but I didn’t. Neither team had the double vowel connection, which would have been solved with the word kangaroo. Once again Davina invited bad luck by leaving the second vowel of horned viper unvoiced. I will admit that I didn’t have it from Edward Richard George, but I started to have an inkling with James Harold, and at Leonard James I shouted ‘Margaret Hilda!’ at the screen. They didn’t hear me, and in fact neither team had the answer. They are first and middle names of successive Prime Ministers – Heath, Wilson – Callaghan and then Thatcher. Round Two is often the round that sorts the men out from the goats, or the sheep from the boys, or whatever, and it was certainly giving all sorts of problems to our teams. Now, Twisted Flax gave me a second five pointer. Michael Rosen was a Children’s Laureate, so I thought that if in doubt, go for the current one, and so offered Malorie Blackman. The Euros took another, Anthony Browne, to be certain. And then gave the correct answer. Water gave the Rels Guanaco. I didn’t get a five pointer on this. However Llama for the second clue did prompt me to chance my arm with Bactrian Camel, that being the next but one largest of the camelids. That was right, and the Rels took it after being given Dromedary for the third clue. Left with no choice but Lion, the Rels took Zinedine Zidane – Kaká – and at this point began barking up the world footballer of the year tree, when they should have been looking at its neighbour, the most expensive transfer tree. This let the Rels in for a bonus, and after Cristiano Ronaldo they knew that the next highest transfer record was set by Gareth Bale. That was enough to bring the gap between the teams back to one point, as the Euros had 7 to the Rels’ 6.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Euros plumped for the Lion wall. They probably wished that they’d gone the other way. From early doors they saw a set of words which, when preceding the word – City make up the name of a fictional city, but just couldn’t isolate the right ones. To be honest they struggled to see any of the other sets, and when time ran out none of the lines had been resolved. When they were, the Euros saw that Mark – Jam – Fields and Hill can each follow the word Strawberry, Chantilly – Princess – Downton and Blonde they guessed as types of lace. A set of diamond cuts followed in the shape of cushion – emerald – pear and oval, which left the cities – in this case Sin – Gotham – Dark and Cloud. So at least 4 points had been salvaged, and whatever happened they wouldn’t be looking down the barrel of a 9 point deficit going into the vowels.

I did think that the Water wall was perhaps slightly kinder than the previous, but the Rels couldn’t untangle it. That might be the first time that neither team has untangled any of the lines on their walls in the same show. The Rels certainly could see at least two of the categories, but they just wouldn’t resolve. Once the whole wall was resolved they quickly saw that Monk – Tatum – Peterson and Waller was a set of jazz pianists. Wizard – Bard – Psion and Paladin none of us knew as Dungeons and Dragons character classes. I bet my old mate KD Johnson had that one if he was watching. They’d known there was a whisky set there which just wouldn’t quite untangle for them. This consisted of Mac – Galore – a Go Go – Priest. Off the point completely, it was interesting to see Galore and A Go Go both being part of this set. Whisky Galore is of course that perfect Ealing (yay, Ealing!)comedy based on the book by Compton Mackenzie. When it was released in France it was titled Whisky A Go Go - after the famous Paris nightclub. This left another set which again, they had nearly but not quite untangled, Powerbook – Performa – Lisa – Newton – all former Apple products. All of which meant that with 3 points, the Rels now trailed the Euros by 9 to 11.

Round Four

Alright, this wasn’t the highest scoring round we’ve ever seen, but it was close and interesting. The first set was Japanese cities, and it fell 3 – 0 to the Euros. They were suddenly very much in the driving seat, and the Rels needed a good set of their own. Euphemisms for Go To The Lavatory followed and fell 2 apiece. Scarf wearers fell 3- 1 to the Rels, and that was it. Incidentally, there was some fine black humour in the choice of Isadora Duncan as a famous scarf wearer, bearing in mind the manner of her death. The wall round had been a long one, so those three vowel categories were all we had time for. This sealed a victory for the Euros, by 17 to 14. Good game.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

University Challenge - Champion of Champions

I won’t lie to you, I’d been looking forward to this. Here’s the basic premise : - there are just two institutions that have won University Challenge 4 times since the commencement of the Paxman era in 1994. These are Magdalen College, Oxford, (97,98,04 and 11) and University of Manchester (06,09,12,13). Now, I like Magdalen, and I like Manchester – but which one is better? There’s only one way to find out. . . Both institutions fielded a team comprising of one member of each of their winning teams. So for Magdalen we had Matthew Chan from 2011, Freyja McClements from 2004, Sarah Healey from 1998, and their skipper, Jim Adams from 1997. Fittingly each of the four team members had captained their team in their winning year. Manchester’s team consisted of Henry Pertinez from 2009, Gareth Aubrey from 2006, Adam Barr from 2013 and their captain Tristan Burke from 2012. My family had already made it clear that I was to watch this show upstairs since none of them wanted to watch with me, otherwise they would have heard me say that Manchester for my money were favourites, because they had players I know to be some very good quizzers indeed. Mind you, nobody ever got rich by following up on my tips.

Both teams sat on their buzzers like good old handsm until the first starter eventually revealed the words ‘monarch’, ‘dissolution’ and ‘quasi monastic establishments’. Magdalen clearly all went for their buzzers as well, but it was Tristan from Manchester who won the race to answer Henry VIII. Bonuses on Churchill’s descriptions of his contemporaries gave us both a full set of bonuses. There was a fantastic UC special starter, where the character who marries Sebastian in Twelfth Night, and the scientist who wrote ‘Principia Mathematica’ together with the given name of Tony Blair’s predecessor gave Tristan Olivia Newton John. Art in literature provided Manchester with a second consecutive full set, and they had yet to drop a point. That happened with the next starter, though. Adam Barr was in too early with the creator of the skeleton for the Statue of Liberty, and supplied the name Bartholdi, the sculptor of the statue itself rather than the frame. Given the full question Sarah Healey was able to supply the correct answer of Gustave Eiffel. A tough set of bonuses on cosmology saw them answer just the one correctly. Never mind, they were off the mark. A very fine picture starter followed. A number of countries on a map of the world were highlighted. The country with the largest area, Russia, was labelled with the name of the country with the highest population, China. You see how it works? Canada was highlighted. Now, Canada has the second largest area. So working by the example, it needed to be labelled with the name of the second most populous country – India. I’m not sure Jim Adams quite understood how this worked, since he actually buzzed in with the answer Canada. Gareth from Manchester supplied the right one. The bonuses were more of the same, and Manchester took the lot. Very impressive. We were closer to 11 minutes than 10 after this set, and Manchester had an impressive lead of 70 to 15.

The next starter was something about a scientist I’d never heard of, and neither team managed the answer. Gareth Aubrey recognized a description of the conversational filler ’like’, and this earned a set of bonuses on Belgian cheese. ‘Limberger’! I shouted, being pretty certain that it would be the answer to one of the three bonuses, and being equally certain that I wouldn’t get any of the others. Well, as it happened I did know that the third battle of Ypres was the battle of Passchendaele, not least because my great granddad was killed on the first day of the battle, however I digress. Blindingly good on the bonuses so far, Manchester once again took a full set. For the next starter Gareth was the first to recognize a description of the Brandenburg Concertos. Bonuses on WEEE – as you well know, that stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment brought their incredible run on the bonuses to an end, although they still managed one bonus, which took their total to 110, and their lead to 95. Now, I don’t know about the tropopause, but Gareth does, and that was what it needed to answer the next starter. Poor old Magdalen were being trounced on the buzzer up to this point, and there was seemingly nothing they could do about it. Asian Maritime empires promised little, yet Manchester still delivered a full set. This was the cue for JP to unleash the kiss of death on Magdalen, by telling them “Plenty of time left.” You know that you’re on the wrong end of a hiding when he starts telling you that. Being as it was a special occasion, the boffins who set the questions had even come up with a UC special on the music starter. Two pieces of music were played in quick succession, and the teams had to identify the nationality that linked both composers. As soon as Greig’s ‘Morning Mood’ was played Henry Pertinez was first in with Norwegian. Only one bonus followed, but that was enough to push Manchester to 150. Neither team quite managed the French verb rechercher for the next starter. Neither team could answer what the letters NN in the acronym ICANN stand for. Names and Numbers apparently. It’s an internet thing. Finally a member of Magdalen threw caution to the winds and buzzed very early to correctly identify several words that rhyme with scrabble. Sarah Healey thus earned bonuses on the locomotives in the Rev. W. Awdry’s Thomas the Tank engine series. Based on clues, they had to give the names of three of the engines, and their colours or other designations. . We both had the first two, but I thought that the last one was controversial. It was obviously Gordon – we both had that. However we were both wrong with blue. Now, it’s true that Gordon’s designation is certainly Gordon the Big Engine. However, the fact is that Gordon’s colour is blue. The specific wording of the question was ‘ their colour OR designation. ‘As it happened, what was wanted for all three was the designation, and only the colour when this actually was the designation. Oh well, grumble over. After 20 minutes the score was 145 to 35 to Manchester.

I was very pleased with myself for getting libation and libration, which was the next starter to fall to Manchester, as Adam Barr answered it correctly. Bonuses on electricity did nothing for me, but provided Manchester with another correct answer. The second picture starter showed a painting of a scene from mythology, and I recognized Penelope weaving her father’s death shroud. As did Sarah Healey, thus earning three more paintings of figures from the Odyssey. A full set made their score begin to look a bit more healthy. Full marks to the setters for asking about the song with the lyric “The juice of a carrot, the smile of a parrot, a little drop of claret, anything that rocks” Tristan was the first to recognize Ian Dury’s wonderful “Reasons to be cheerful part 3”. A good UC special set on chemical symbols followed. For each one the team were given definitions of two words, the last two letters of which formed a symbol of a chemical element. They had to identify the elements. I only had molybdenum and lithium, but they had all three. Respect. Sarah Healey, fighting a valiant rearguard action for Magdalen, identified the term vexatious, as applied to litigation. Maria Dickin and the Dickin Medal brought two bonuses, and took their score to 80. With only a short time remaining, the question was whether they would be able to get the starter and two bonuses they required to take their score to triple figure respectability. It wasn’t the next starter. This fell to Adam Barr, who was in very quickly with the Monty Hall question. Fair enough. Two bonuses on linguistic typology provided them with a further ten points – kudos to the setter who slipped the Yoda question into that one.This pushed Manchester through the 200 barrier. Something about matrices followed. The answer was zero as Henry Pertinez knew. Epidemiology provided us both with two, before the gong interrupted the last. The final score, then was 230 to 80 to Manchester.

Many congratulations to Manchester, and commiserations to Magdalen, but then let’s be honest, this was a special show, a bit of fun, and not one member of either of those teams had anything to prove to anyone. A good show, highly enjoyable.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nobody was going to get off too lightly in this special show. When Tristan answered the Olivia Newton John starter, JP hailed his answer with the grunt, “I see you haven’t learned any shame in the intervening years.”. Charming. I’m sure that Miss Newton John is a big fan of yours too, Jez.

After taking a brilliant full set on Asian Maritime Empires, which meant that they had a lead of three figures, our hero was moved to observe, “They’re going to get embarrassed about looking a bit keen very shortly.” No they’re not, Jeremy! These are all University Challenge winners! Looking a bit keen goes with the territory.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

The term vexatious is applied to litigation initiated without sufficient cause, in order to harass or subdue an adversary.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Mastermind 2014 Grand Final Preview - (take two)

I can only apologise to those of you who read my previous posting of this preview. Dan Adler very kindly pointed out to me that I had my finalists wrong, and had not done Brian Chesney his due. Brian – I can only apologise. So then, let’s have a look at the finalists: -

As you can see, we have Brian Chesney out heading the table with 24 in his semi, while only two points covers all the other 5 contenders. In this way it resembles last year, where we had a similar situation. One of the things I always look at when I’m trying to weigh up who I think are the most likely winners of a Mastermind Grand Final is the GK scores of both first round and semi. While you can have a ‘lucky’ set of questions in one of the rounds, the chances of a contender posting two good GK scores without really having a very good general knowledge are slight. On this score, I like the look of Brian Chesney and Roderick Cromar, scorers of our two highest semi GK rounds among the finalists. This isn’t, though, always the most reliable of indicators – last year being a case in point. In last year’s final we saw Aidan McQuade post a very good GK score, to move from joint third at halfway, and overcome a three point deficit. Aidan’s GK scores in his two previous shows hadn’t really given any indication that this was likely to happen. So working on that basis, all of our finalists reached double figures in their semi-final GK round, and if one of them hits an absolutely purple patch, then it could be anybody’s game.

There is also the question of previous experience to throw into the mix. I have gone on record as saying that I do believe that it gets easier to handle a round in the chair each time you do it. That’s just my opinion, and as always, feel free to disagree. Still, if there’s any validity to this point of view, then Hamish Cameron could do very well. Hamish is, I think, the most experienced Masterminder of them all, and certainly is either record holder, or joint record holder for the number of semi-final appearences. I’d be delighted for Hamish if he won, and believe me, if he gets it right in GK he can certainly do it. I refrain from tipping him for the win, though, because his scores can be a little inconsistent on GK. Michael McPartland has done his time at the broadcast quiz coalface as well, being a double semi finalist, and a competitor in Only Connect and Brain of Britain as well. Clive Dunning has also contested Brain of Britain, and Roderick Cromar, University Challenge. No shortage of experience then, among our finalists.

As much as last year, then, I think it’s pointless trying to pick a winner from this field. All of them are capable of winning this contest if they have prepared their specialist subject thoroughly, and if the question in the GK round fall the right way. That’s a big if, and if you can predict with 100% certainty who is going to win, then predict next week’s lottery numbers for me as well for an encore. SO nobody gets burdened with the Clark tip this year, because I can’t call it. Who gets burdened with the Clark support, though? It’s very hard for me, because I know for a fact that we have at least 4 LAM readers in the final, any of whom would be a very worthy winner. I don’t know whether Hamish ever reads LAM, but I can’t help wanting him to do well as well. As I think I’ve said before, Hamish was the stand in for my final, despite having posted the third highest score of the semis. I admire his perseverance and determination, to keep going in pursuit of the title despite a number of semi final set backs. As for Brian, I wish him every success as well. Gentlemen, I wish you every success, and can only hope that you all enjoy(ed) your final as much as I enjoyed mine.

In The News

In the News

Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. David Stone
2. Wilson Kipsang
3. Edna Kiplagat
4. Chimerica
5. ZaZZZ
6. Iain Corby
7. Robert Berry
8. Jan Tipper and Barb Burden
9. Bluefin 21
10. Stefano Domenicali
11. Robert Hannigan
12. Nick Martin
13. M & M Hair Salon, South Ealing
14. MV Sewol
15. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
16. Lee Joon-Seok
17. Kepler 186f
18. Paul Flowers

In Other News

1. Why did sending an email make news among the scout organization?
2. Which city allowed foreign competitors to take place in its marathon for the first time last week?
3. Which position did Mo Farah finish the London Marathon in?
4. Which controversial plan for the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games has been scrapped due to local opposition?
5. Who won the US Masters?
6. What was the score in the FA Cup semi final between Hull and Sheffield United?
7. What was the score in the match between Liverpool and Man City?
8. Which TV presenter was rapped for adding to a teenage guest’s distress?
9. The author of ‘Uses of Literacy’ passed away last week. Who was he?
10. Who confirmed that he was quitting mainly due to comments about his age?
11. Which very popular website was hacked last week, amid concerns that details of subscribers may have been stolen?
12. What punishment has Silvio Berlusconi received?
13. Who was charged last week with a further count of sexual assault?
14. Who was accused of, and denied, misuse of expenses last week?
15. Which 88 year old received her Damehood last week?
16. Which F1 team lost their appeal over a disqualification at the Australian GP?
17. Which infamous prison was temporarily closed last week?
18. Inhabitants of which UK city have the lowest average life expectancy?
19. Who apologized for driving off after hitting another motorist’s car and not stopping?
20. Who is selling off his rarest red wines?
21. Which musician received $10,000 privacy damages?
22. Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg has pledged to spend up to $50 million to support which cause?
23. What was the score in the match between Man City and Sunderland
24. Who scored the winning goal in the Copa del Rey?
25. Chelsea Clinton announced what last week?
26. Which news reader and presenter announced that he is suffering from bowel cancer?
27. Which daily newspaper announced to its journalists that it will not be joining the new press regulatory body?
28. In which country was a 7.3 magnitude earthquake recorded?
29. Which company announced that it is to open its first new store in 6 years?
30. Brentford FC have won promotion to which division?
31. Who has been reappointed as England cricket head coach?

Answers to News Questions

In the News

Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. Chris Hughton
2. Pineau de Re
3. Leighton Aspell
4. Luke Juckett
5. Michael D. Higgins
6. Jack Sexty
7. Andrew Bush
8. Zoe Smith
9. The Kelpies
10. Michael Adebolajo
11. Asseem Allam
12. Winnie
13. Nicky Jacobs
14. Michael Fabricant
15. Sajid Javid
16. Stephen Colbert
17. Seamus Daly
18. Alex Hribal
19. Gerrie Nel
20. Asafa Powell
21. Bill Haas
22. Chloe Campbell
23. James Hellwig

In Other News

1. What was the score between Arsenal and Everton?
2. – and Spurs and Sunderland?
3. Which Hollywood film star passed away aged 93?
4. Which former cabinet minister and conservative peer called for Maria Miller’s resignation?
5. In which city was the half marathon cancelled when water bottle supplies failed to turn up? The runners did it anyway.
6. Who won the University Boat Race – and the reserve crew race – and the Women’s race?
7. In the Heineken Cup what was the score between Toulon and Leinster?
8. – and Saracens and Ulster?
9. And Clermont Auvergne and Leicester?
10. And Munster and Toulouse?
11. Who won the Bahrain GP?
12. Who won the Women’s T20 World Cup?
13. – and the Men’s?
14. What was the result of GB’s Davis Cup tie v. Italy?
15. Which show entered the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful reality TV format of all time?
16. There are no British writers on the shortlist for which literary prize?
17. Who is to present a Radio 2 show about Paris in May?
18. What was the Champions’ League score between Real Madrid and Dortmund
19. And Chelsea and PSG?
20. And Man Utd. And Bayern?
21. And Atletico Madrid and Barcelona?
22. What has Tim Sherwood been offered what at Spurs?
23. Scientific evidence last week suggested that what was considerably older than has been previously supposed?
24. Who will be driving for Nissan in the British GT championship?
25. Kevin Pietersen arrived to play for what team in the IPL?
26. What is the name of the Culture Secretary who quit last week – eventually.
27. Which company recalled 35,000 cars in the UK last week?
28. Who announced she is leaving Eastenders to apparently seek a career in Hollywood?
29. Who became only the second woman to be named among Wisden’s 5 cricketers of the year?
30. Name the other 4 cricketers on the list?
31. The government have been criticized for stockpiling which drug?
32. The UN approved a peacekeeping force for which African country last week?
33. Which politician was cleared of all charges in court last week?
34. Cardiff University delayed the announcement of whose appointment as their Chancellor?
35. Which actress is to receive a BAFTA Fellowship?
36. Sue Townsend passed away last week . Who was her most famous creation?
37. Which singer won a court case to keep documents given to him by Martin Luther King?
38. Who led the US Masters after round two?


Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. Sacked as manager of Norwich City
2. Horse that won the Grand National
3. Jockey who won the Grand National
4. Cambridge rower whose oar was struck during the boat race – nearly fell out of boat
5. Irish President, first to pay official state visit to UK
6. 1st person to complete a full marathon on a pogo stick
7. British millionaire murdered in a Spanish villa
8. Won European weightlifting bronze
9. Giant horse head scultpures in Falkirk
10. Appealed against full life sentence for the murder of Lee Rigby
11. Owner of Hull, refused permission to change his team name to Hull Tigers
12. Dachshund selected to be Britain’s first cloned dog
13. He was acquitted of the charge of murdering PC Keith Blakelock
14. He was sacked as Tory party vice chairman after tweeting ‘About time’ when Maria Miller resigned
15. New Culture Secretary
16. Chosen to replace David Letterman on US TV
17. Charged with Omagh bombing
18. Charged with the Pennsylvania school knife attack
19. Prosecutor in trial of Oscar Pistorius
20. Jamaican sprinter former world record holder given 18 month drug ban
21. Leader after 1st round of US Masters
22. Australia’s ‘Maddie’ – child found after 3 days
23. Former US wrestler – the Ultimate Warrior – died 54

In Other News

1. 3 – 0 Everton
2. 5 – 1 Spurs
3. Mickey Rooney
4. Lord Tebbit
5. Sheffield
6. Oxford – Oxford (Goldie) and Oxford
7. 29 – 14 Toulon
8. 17 – 15 Saracens
9. 22 – 16 Clermont
10. 47 – 13 Munster
11. Louis Hamilton
12. Australia bt. England
13. Sri Lanka bt. India
14. Italy 3 – GB 2
15. Britain’s Got Talent
16. The Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction
17. Carla Bruni
18. 2 – 0 Dortmund – Real win 3 – 2 on aggregate 19. 2 – 0 Chelsea – 3 – 3 on aggregate – Chelsea through on away goals rule
20. 3 – 1 Bayern Munich
21. 1 – 0 Atletico – 2 – 1 on aggregate
22. His old job back in the summer
23. Offa’s Dyke
24. Sir Chris Hoy
25. Delhi Daredevils
26. Maria Miller
27. Toyota
28. Patsy Palmer
29. Charlotte Edwards
30. Joe Root – Ryan Harris – Chris Rogers – Shikhar Dawan
31. Tamiflu
32. Central African Republic
33. Nigel Evans
34. Griff Rhys Jones
35. Julie Walters
36. Adrian Mole
37. Harry Belafonte
38. Bubba Watson

Friday, 18 April 2014

Mastermind - Semi Final 6

Last night’s semi brought to an end this round of the competition, and now we know who the 6 finalists are. Before we get onto that, though, let’s have a look at how our 5 contenders for the final slot fared in their first round heats.

Well, on paper two of last night’s contenders looked to be favourite. Cliff Challenger and Neil Wright were actually the top two performers in the first round. Their GK scores were significantly higher than those of the other contenders. Although having one good GK round in the heat doesn’t mean that you can do it all over again in the semi, it is at least an indication that you have the potential to do so. Worth noting too is our own Daniel Adler, comfortably placed in the outsider position, with absolutely nothing to lose.

Lawrence Cook won heat 17 back in December with one of my favourite specialist subjects, Heavyweight Boxing 1960 – 2000. I’d thought at the time that his 11 was a good score, but there had been scope for him to have achieved a couple of more points on that particular round. Last night Lawrence opted for chess champion Bobby Fishcer. I was pleased with myself for managing 2 of these. Lawrence’s round somehow looked a little better than his score of 7, and I did think in my heart of hearts that this wouldn’t be enough to give him a realistic chance of a win.

Neil Wright won that amazing Heat 23, where no less than 3 of the top 10 scores of the whole series so far were set. Back then he was answering on French Wines of the Rhone Valley. He scored 13 that night, although it wasn’t a perfect round, and he had one pass. Last night Neil opted for the Life and Times of Cesare Borgia. This time it was a perfect round of 11 and no passes. To put that into perspective, in this series we’ve seen that anything in double figures in a 2 minute round has been a good score. Suddenly the job had become a lot harder for the other 4 contenders.

LAM reader Daniel Adler offered us Puccini in Heat 10. Now, sometimes the difference between winning and losing is in managing to dredge up a wrong answer in order to prevent a pass. Daniel won his heat by virtue of having only 1 pass, as the runner up, Richard Holness, incurred 2 of them. That night Daniel scored 9 on specialist. Last night, answering on the Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler. Once again he scored 9 points. This 9, though, was scored off just 90 seconds. It didn’t put him in the lead, but it was a good score, and at the very least it gave him a fighting chance.

Julie Aris last took part in a semi final in 2012. In her first round heat this year she offered The Simon Serailler Novels of Susan Hil, and scored a very impressive 13. Tonight she was going to need a performance of that calibre, because past performances suggested that she wasn’t lilely to win on GK. Answering on Amelia Earhart, Julie never looked quite at ease with the subject, and like Lawrence’s, although it looked better than the score, the score was still 7 points.

I’ve always said that first round heat form can be notoriously unreliable as a guide to semi final form, but you’d still be forgiven for identifying Cliff Challenger as potential champion following his magnificent performance in Heat one. His 15 points on the Life and Career of Benjamin Britten looked very good – and as the series rolled on it came to look better and better, and his was the best performance in the whole of the first round. However, the fact is that in every series of Mastermind since I started compiling this blog, none of the players who achieved the top score in the first round have gone on to win the title. We’ve had a couple of second places, with Kathryn Johnson and Andy Tucker, but that’s about it. So Cliff had a lot to do if he was going to buck the trend. Sadly, he wasn’t going to do it this year by offering British Political History 1964 – 1990. I have a theory about what might have happened in this round. Asked what caused Jim Callaghan’s resignation in 1967, a slip of the tongue saw him give the answer ‘devolution’ rather than ‘ devaluation’. I think that this might have played on his mind for the rest of the round, because he missed what I thought were some gettable points, including the reason for Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Rejoice at that news’ comment. 6 points was not a disaster, but it was not enough to give him a realistic tilt at the win.

When he returned to the chair, Cliff had obviously made the decision to blast his way through the round, answering as quickly as he could, and passing those where he couldn’t come up with a plausible answer as quickly as possible. It is a valid tactic, and it saw him accrue 12 points to take him to 18. 12 is a good GK score in the context of this series, but while it was certainly good enough to push him higher up the leader board, it wasn’t going to be enough. In fact he was overtaken in the very next round. Lawrence Cook scored 12 in his GK round in his heat. This, you will recall, was off a two and half minute round. Last night he only scored one less, which actually made it a much better round considering that this was done off just 2 minutes. This put him level with Cliff on 18 points, but Lawrence had been more careful to avoid passes, and thus took the lead.

Last time that she passed this way, in her 2012 semi final, Julie Aris had, to use the vernacular, a bit of a ‘mare’ on GK, scoring 4. Fair play to her for having the determination to come back and have another go after what must have been a fairly daunting experience. It went better for her this time, but sadly, not by much, as she added 6 to her total to make 14. Now, sometimes you can think you’ve picked up clues to how well a contender is going to do from their body language, their posture and their facial expression, and you can get it completely wrong. At other times the camera doesn’t lie. Daniel Adler had obviously been really enjoying his semi, and his body language as he walked to the chair seemed to say – right, I’m up for this and I’ve got absolutely nothing to lose. What he produced was actually a better round than his GK round of his heat. In both he scored 12, but in the heat he incurred a pass, and of course he had an extra 30 seconds back then in which to do it. This was a terrific round, which served very well to do the necessary, that is, to put the last contender, Neil Wright, firmly within the corridor of uncertainty.

Put yourself in Neil Wright’s position. You have a brilliant specialist round, which means that you lead by 2 points. You know that you scored a magnificent 18 points on general knowledge in your first round heat. OK, so you have 30 seconds less in the round ahead of you now, but you only need 11 to do it. Well, I’ve been in a similar position myself, being the last contender to go in GK in a semi final, knowing that I would never have a better chance of getting to a Mastermind final, and that I only needed to come close to what I’d already achieved to do it. Believe me, that is a lot of pressure. Neil’s GK round wasn’t a bad round, but it needed to be a good one, and it just wasn’t quite. In the end the tape at the finish line was just approaching too quickly, and he added 9 to his total. Which meant that it is our own Daniel Adler who goes through to the Grand Final. Many , many congratulations, Daniel, and well done for proving that there are lies, damned lies, and first round statistics.

The Details

Lawrence CookBobby Fischer7 – 0 11 - 018 - 0
Neil WrightThe Life and Times of Cesare Borgia11 – 0 9 - 520 -5
Daniel AdlerPhilip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler9 – 0 12 - 021 - 0
Julie ArisAmelia Earhart7 – 0 7 - 614 - 6
Cliff ChallengerBritish Political History 1964 - 19976 - 112 - 418 - 5

Swings and Roundabouts

It’s probably wrong of me to say anything critical of last night’s quiz at the rugby club since we did actually win. But in the last two rounds there were just a couple of questions which illustrated some of the pitfalls the unwary question master can fall into. Last night’s question master (no names , no pack drill) sometimes has a habit of asking a greater number of what the ‘ells than the norm, and when giving the answer has been known to make the observation – “Nobody had this one right – I didn’t expect anyone to.” Well, last night’s quiz was, in my opinion a little uneven. There were quite a lot of what-the-‘ells, and too many –est questions for my liking. As the name suggests, an –est question asks for the biggest, longest, fastest etc. However, in amongst all of this, there were a couple of gems. I really liked this one : -
Who was the first English monarch following 1066 to reach the age of 70?
I like this sort of question, which you don’t know the answer to, but there’s enough in the question to allow you to use what you do know in order to have a decent stab at what you don’t. As it worked out, we didn’t have it right, for we put down Elizabeth I, who made it into her 70th year, but not as far as her 70th birthday. The answer given was King George II.

All well and good, but as I said, there were those two questions towards the end of the quiz which illustrted what can happen to the unwitting quiz master. The first one was this : -
Which US state is nicknamed The Pine Free State?
After a momentary pause for a flight of fancy about what a pine free state would actually be like, I suggested to the QM that he probably meant the Pine Tree state. As was his right, he insisted that Pine Free was what he actually had written down. I’m not proud of this, but I replied somewhat sarcastically, “Well, just have a think for a minute about which one would make sense, eh?” Now, we’ve all made similar errors in our time. However, the problem was that when the end of the round came, he gave the answer as “Vermont”. My immediate thought was “Isn’t Vermont the Green Mountain State?” My second thought was “Yes, it is.” I didn’t make an issue of it since some of the states do have more than one nickname. But I checked it up when I got home. As I’m sure that the majority of readers know, it is actually Maine.

The other question was more complicated than being an out and out wrong’un. The question was : -
In the Old Testament, in which modern day country would you find the site of Abraham’s birthplace?
You’ve probably already mentioned Ur of the Chaldees as quickly as I did last night. Now, we immediately plumped for Iraq, partly because this is the location of Sumerian Ur, and partly because this was the answer given last time I heard the question. So I was more than a little surprised when the answer was given as Turkey. This time I didn’t complain, but again, I did look it up when I got home. The problem is that there is no unanimous agreement as to where ‘Ur of the Chaldees’ actually was. Some identify it with Sumerian Ur, while others identify it with a place which is actually in modern Turkey. Mind you, other people identify it with sites in Syria and Armenia, so what can you do?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Guess List - or - Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before?

I didn’t know about this one until I’d finished writing up Only Connect. The shows I review regularly – OC – Mastermind – UC – BoB I like to watch/listen to as a fan in the first place, and then use the iplayer to make my detailed write up. When the playback of OC had finished, the iplayer helpfully suggested that I might like this. There’s an obvious comment to make here, which I am too much of a gent to write.

This show debuted on Saturday evening at 9:30 pm.It’s presented by Rob Brydon. Now, way, way, way back in the late 80s, not long after I moved to Wales, a fresh faced young man called Rob Jones presented a quiz on BBC Wales called Invasion, which I used to watch. Twas none other than Uncle Bryn to be himself. So he certainly has form in this department. Right – let me spell out to you the basic mechanics of the show, and see if the same two words occur to you as occurred to me. There are two contestants made up of ordinary MOPs ( members of the public) Our host asks them a couple of questions. There is a two tiered bank of celebrities, and they are asked for their answers. The contestants can either go with the celebrities, or give their own answers. The emphasis is on Rob Brydon’s interaction with the celebrities, and their (hopefully) given funny/witty/daft answers. So what are the two words you’re thinking? All together now – Blankety Blank.

The slight – and I do mean slight – difference that I noticed was that in Blankety Blank the questions were more of the – fill in the missing word variety, while the first couple on this show were Family Fortunes-esque – In a recent survey – things. Then for the fourth question, Simon Callow asked the contestant to guess the one thing he never does. That’s a point while I’m at it. Remarkably for this kind of show, all five celebrities were actually genuine celebrities. After two questions each, the contestant with more points plays for the prize. In this case it meant answering the question – what percentage of men say that they prefer their partner to wear make up at all times. – Correct answer – who cares? Sorry – I’m getting scornful, and I really shouldn’t. After the slebs had their goes, our host revealed two options – so it was a 50/50. The prize – an all-expenses paid trip to Perth in Scotland. So even the prizes were aping Blankety Blank. I’ll be honest, I was most interested in the end credits, where I wanted to see whether any acknowledgement of the show’s massive debt to Blankety Blank was paid. In a word – No. All it said was ‘A 12-Yard format’. Now, the libel laws being what they are in this country I have no intention of accusing anyone of plagiarism.

I probably wouldn’t have written about this in the first place if it wasn’t for the very obvious similarities with Blankety Blank.Still , if you know that it is, to use the words of another reviewer, “Blankety Blank for the digital age”, then you know exactly what you’re going to get, and if that’s your cup of tea, good luck to you. Mine, it is not. So sorry, iplayer – but you thought I might like it – our survey said – Uh uh. Not for me.

Only Connect - Round One Match One

The Heath Family v. The Exhibitionists

Welcome back Only Connect. It’s good to see you, helping us avoid University Challenge withdrawal symptoms. So let’s have a look at last night’s teams. In the blue corner we had the Heath Family – daughter Kip, mother Heather and father and skipper Alan. Family teams have featured in OC for several series now, and while none of them have yet gone on to win, we’ve seen some impressive performances in recent years. The Heaths would need an impressive performance in this show, since they were up against a very powerful team in the shape of the Exhibitionists. Keith Andrew, skipper Tim Westcott and Eric Kilby are all extremely good quizzers, who have played in and won many tournaments and competitions. In a straight, no holds barred general knowledge quiz it would take a hell of a good team to beat them. However, this was no ordinary general knowledge quiz. This is Only Connect.

Round one – What’s the connection?

The Heaths, having won the toss, elected to take the first question of the series, and behind the eye of Horus they found – Jennifer Melfi – Roderick Glossop – Hannibal Lecter – and here several possibilities occurred, but none definite – and Frasier Crane. That gave it to both the Heaths and me at the same time – fictional psychiatrists. Only one point, but at this early stage it’s probably better to wait, make sure of the point, and not give away a bonus. Lion brought the Exhibitionists a set of pictures. This was one of those sets that is a lot easier written down than it was on screen. Firstly we saw William Golding, then Tracey Austin, then Sarah Silverman, and finally US magician David Copperfield. Now, write them down like that and it looks easy. Except that it wasn’t. I confess that I didn’t see it, even though I knew William Golding, while I don’t think either team did, and neither team got the metals in surnames connection. Good set – I can’t really explain why that should have been as hard as it was. Two Reeds produced a set which might have proved tricky, but the Heaths were onto it after –sex – set and folk, and gave the correct answer of suffixes of county names. Water brought the music set to the Exhibitionists. Duelling Banjos, and The Devil Went Down to Georgia gave me a rare quick answer to a music set, that these were all connected by musical duels or competitions. A real rush of blood to the head saw the Exhibitionists offer banjos. Had they taken the third they would have known that couldn’t be the answer. The Heaths given the last two were happy to take the bonus. For their own third set they chose horned viper, and captain Alan showed his serious intentions by stressing the second vowel of horned. Well done sir! For the second set in a row, I had it off two. I like my flags, see. The first was Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and the second was Cornwall. Black and white flags – I announced. Well, I wasn’t sure, but I thought that the Taliban at least used to have a black and white one. Pirate ship confirmed it, and gave the Heaths the answer. Left with Twisted Flax, the Exhibitionists were given a rather odd set of – Has Been Dumped – Visits sex worker – Witnessed miracles – and – American lavatory. Well, that last one is a John, and John was one of the gospel writers, so that was the connection, which the Exhibitionists also had off four. But I gotta be honest, that’s not the most satisfying set that I’ve ever seen on the show. Still, at least it got the Exes moving, although the Heaths led by 6 to 1.

Round two – What comes fourth?

This is often the round that sorts out the nearly good from the really good. Once again the Heaths kicked off, and for the first time they couldn’t impose themselves on a set. Lion showed us pictures of Gladstone, Conan Doyle, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. OK, I had them, but not the sequence. Neither did the Heaths, or the Exhibitionists. You had to take the Christian names – William – Arthur – Philip – and then add Louis for Prince William’s names. Fiendish but fair – just what we expect. Eye of Horus offered the chance for the Exes to make up some points. Boron started, and carbon followed. Hmm, I thought, surely it’s not as simple as Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen. The Exes seemed to think so. Take another clue! I shouted at the screen, but amazingly they couldn’t hear me, and went for oxygen. Nope. Given Fluorine the Heaths couldn’t take the bonus, and to be fair, neither could I. Boron is – B, Carbon is – C, Fluorine is – F, and the next one in the alphabet with a single letter symbol is H- Hydrogen. Gettable? Certainly was, but not by me. Thus reprieved, the Heaths chose water, and received Millennium Dome, and O2 for their pains. After conferring briefly they opted, correctly for the O2, which is the Dome’s current designation, after a brief incarnation as the North Greenwich Arena during the Olympics of 2012. Nice set and a good shout. Left with some work of their own to do, the Exes plumped for Horned Viper, with Tim conspicuously stressing the second vowel. Now their luck is bound to change – I thought. Oh, they had the link alright – Major General (two stars) – Orion’s Belt (three stars) – New Zealand Flag (4 stars), but crucially they had the number of stars wrong. They thought we’d already had three, four and five, so plumped for the Australian flag, which they knew has 6 stars. This allowed the Heaths to get a bonus with five star general. When things don’t run for you, they really don’t run for you. The Heaths, then, knowing that they were in all likelihood going to still have a good lead after the round, chose Two Reeds. Sacramento and Phoenix they quickly latched onto as capitals of states that border Mexico, running West to East, and were quite happy that Austin of Texas would be the 4th. As indeed it was. Good shout that on a nice set. This left the Exes with a set which started with IV: Country of the Houyhnhnms. This was an out and out chance for a five pointer, and the Exes knew it as well, but after the way their luck had been running understandably decided to take the second clue to be sure. It’s Lilliput – I shouted before - III: Laputa put it beyond any doubt. That was enough to raise the Exes’ score to 4, but the Heaths had already amassed 13.

Round three – The connecting walls

Needing a very good wall round to make up some lost ground, the Exes proceeded to pick the Water wall, which I felt was the harder of the two. As always, please feel free to disagree. They saw a set of Santa’s reindeer pretty quickly, although they wouldn’t fall into place straight away. Changing tack, a series of jet airliners was the first line they solved – comprising of Trident – Comet – Tristar and 777. This took away one of the potential reindeer, and allowed them to isolate Blitzen – Dancer – Cupid and Vixen. Eric had already worked out that Donner was most likely to be part of a set of words which, if spelled in other ways, made girls’ names. They had three very quickly, but the last just wouldn’t fall into place, and after three incorrect goes the wall was frozen with the last two lines unsolved. When resolved, the names were Donner – Carry – Stellar, and the one they just couldn’t see – IV. To be fair, when I read that, I read it as 4, and I think they did the same. This left a line of Emmer – Red Fife – Norin 10, and Spelt. None of us could see it. To be fair I have heard of spelt, but that’s the only one. They are all varieties of wheat. Fair enough. 5 points to the Exes, and whatever the Heaths managed they were looking at a hard slog in the last round.

Left with the Lion wall, the first set I noticed was titles of songs by the Pet Shop Boys. The Heaths rather fancied a set of Capes – sadly Geoff was not among them – and tried for them first. That didn’t work, so they took out the songs – Go West – Suburbia – Jealousy – It’s A Sin. Speaking of which, several of the 7 Deadlies were there as well, and Lust , Gluttony, Greed and Pride were the ones they isolated. Suddenly it struck me that the last line could well be made up of sound alikes of numbers in German – dry – sex ( twice in one show? Ooh, matron) fear and elf. This left the capes of Wrath, Cod, York and Horn. The Heaths managed to disentangle these last two lines. They gave the links of all but the numbers to secure 7 points. All of which meant that they had 20 going into the vowels, and the Exes were looking down the barrel of a gun with 9.

Round four – Missing vowels

Well, yes, you can make up that much of a deficit in the last round, but it’s very hard to do so. The first set was the charming rhyming phrases meaning chaotic – eg higgledy piggledy. This set fell 3 – 1 to the Exes. The next category was – all from Birmingham. Now, none of us knew that Britain’s first Odeon Cinema was in Birmingham. So that category fell 2 – 1 to the Heaths. Definitions of the word ‘miss’ was the final category, and it saw the Exes get one, and the Heaths miss one. It made no difference. In the end the score was 22 – 14 to the Heaths. Very well played. This Heath family I don’t know at all, but I said that they would need an impressive performance, and that’s exactly what they had. They will be worth keeping an eye on. As for the Exes, well, nothing really went right for them on this show. It happens. Thankfully everyone gets at least 2 matches in the first round now, and I’d be surprised if things didn’t work out differently for them in their next match.

So welcome back Only Connect – great to see you. Oh, and here’s a point. As the credits rolled, I noticed that David Bodycombe, LAM reader and all round good egg, was no longer on the roster – Alan Connor is the new question editor. Alan, we wish you every success. As for David – well, if you’re reading this, we hope that everything is fine with you.