Friday, 16 March 2018

University Challenge - Qualification Match - Merton, Oxford v. Edinburgh

So we come to the return of the much fancied Merton, Oxford team. Edward Thomas, Alex Peplow, Akira Wiberg and captain Leonie Woodland have carried pretty much all before them so far in this series. In the introductions, JP somewhat gleefully pointed out that Edinburgh have won three matches so far with an aggregate of just 25 points. Still, the fact is that John Heaton-Armstrong, Stanley Wang, Phillipa Stone and skipper Innes Carson had won all their matches so far. How would they stand up in particular to the demonic buzzing of Messrs Peplow and Wiberg?

A nice old chestnut started us off – and Alex Peplow won the buzzer race to identify George Bernard Shaw as the only person to win both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar. A full house on Britain and Asia served as a good statement of intent. Have you heard of chaperone proteins? Akira Wiberg has, and he buzzed early to say so too. Characters from Russian literature whose creators both were born and died during the 19th century yielded us both two bonuses. A rush of blood to the head from the normally reliable Alex Peplow saw him give away 5 on a question to which he didn’t have a Scooby. Neither did any of us. It required the answer of the African country of Guinea. Stanley Wang compounded his team’s slow start by giving “II” as the name of the king restored to the throne in 1660, and when asked for the name, allowing James to slip past his tongue before Charles. Akira Wiberg was not the sort to allow that to go unpunished, and buzzed straight in with the correct answer. Danish scientists allowed me to get the obligatory lap of honour out of the way for knowing capillaries. I knew the Sargasso Sea too, taking two bonuses on ostensibly a Science set. Merton had them all. A great early buzz from John Heaton-Armstrong to identify the flag of Alaska rescued his team from negative equity. More flags of areas which would be huge countries in their own right if they were independent brought a great full house. It didn’t bother Alex Peplow who knew that the word Purdah comes from a word for veil or curtain – a fine early buzz, that. I think that we found something of a Merton Achilles’ heel in British theatre directors, since they drew a blank on that set, and at the 10 minute mark they led by 75 to 20.

Now, Newton’s rings might well give rise to some ribald comments, but let us content ourselves with saying that it was the answer to the next starter, and Leonie Woodland took it. A full house would put Merton into triple figures. US philosophers proved to e right up Akira Wiberg’s street, and he supplied the answers. When I heard ‘ the publisher Geoffrey Faber’ in the next starter, the name TS Eliot popped irresistibly to mind. It did for Alex Peplow as well. Constellations seemed full of eastern promise but actually brought me nowt. Same happened to Merton as well. Now, if it’s about the Edinburgh Barrs company it could theoretically be about my childhood favourite, Tizer. You can bet your life it’s Irn Bru, 9 times out of 10, though. Innes Carson took that one. Female authors with male noms de plume should have brought Edinburgh a full house, but they seemed a little shell shocked by this point, and only managed the one. So to the music starter. We heard part of an opera, but nobody knew it was composed by Verdi. When people of my generation hear the word junta I would imagine that we think of Argentina, which was actually the answer to the next starter. John Heaton-Armstrong chanced his strong arm with Bolivia, leaving Akira Wiberg to supply the right answer. This brought the music bonuses and so, given several more pieces connected with witches or witchcraft brought a full house. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get the next starter at all, but the answer was second, and Leonie Woodland had it. Pairs of place names  in which the final letters of the first form the first letters of the second proved a lovely and gettable UC special which provided another full set. Alex Peplow recognised the titles of some of the major works on Stoicism, and this won bonuses on scientific terms starting with the prefix – allo - . This brought just the one correct answer, but as we headed towards the second picture starter and the 20 minute mark, Merton were in cruise control and frankly, already in the semis, leading 175 – 30.

The picture starter was one of those grainy, chiaroscuro-y, engraving things which is usually Durer or Dore. I thought it looked more like Dore, but Alex Peplow zigged with Durer. This allowed Stanley Wang to zig with Dore. We were both wrong. It was Arthur Rackham. None of us knew that 4 of the 3 state routes between Mexico and Canada pass through Idaho. Philippa Stone knew about a plant’s anther and so earned the Arthur Rackham illustrations from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. They took two, which is as many as I managed too. There was a real buzzer race to identify the two PMs whose centenary was in 2016. Innes Carson won to supply Wilson and Heath – probably best known for being given name checks in “Taxman” on Revolver. Dogs in Art brought a couple of bonuses. Nobody knew that Cork was missing from a list of the Republic of Ireland’s largest counties. A mathsy thing about ternary saw Leonie Woodland – having a great match – supply the correct answer of 55. Stuff about a roman writer whose name escaped me saw a full house gained which pushed Merton to a score of 200. Now, I’m not being funny, but the only times that the name Edward Hodges Bailey ever appears in a question, then the answer is Nelson’s Column – specifically the statue of Nelson on top. I have a feeling that Bailey was misprinted Banly in the original Pears Quiz Companion, although I may be wrong about that. Alex Peplow zigged with Eros – which I believe was the work of Alfred Gilbert – allowing Innes Carson to zag with Nelson. Edinburgh’s bonuses on the scientific names of plants and animals brought 10 more points. Leonie Woodland always sounded uncertain when giving a starter answer, yet she was invariably right in this contest in which she played a real captain’s innings, and she was right again with the answer Helium 3 (as opposed to Charlton Athletic 0) to the next starter. Bonuses on artists brought just one more correct answer before we were gonged.

Hard lines Edinburgh – after all, you were playing one of the stand-out teams of this season. Nope – not going to tip them to win the series yet as I don’t want to jinx them. But Merton continued their impressive ways, and no other team will necessarily relish meeting them in the semis.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

When Stanley Wang suggested Ghana as the answer to an early starter, JP angrily retorted , “Ghana’s NOT Francophone!” Yes, alright, it was in the question Jez.

When Innes Carson of Edinburgh answered the Irn Bru question he couldn’t help adding “That has made you what you are.” I bet he was tempted to add haggis and deep fried Mars Bars to this reprehensibly anti-Caledonian stereotyping.

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

If independent, Western Australia would be the world’s tenth largest country.


Aethelstan said...

That was a clever question that Woodland got about Si. So, pain = hurts = Hertz, ie frequency, the inverse of which is period measured in seconds. Several of the physicists in my faculty didnt get that one. Thoroughly enjoyed the questions, seemed rather tailored to showcase the teams respective strengths. Looks like they wont meet Johns in the semis, I'd imagine they'd go up against the winners of mondays Fen Poly derby or the 'castle. The scoreline wasn't as much of a walkover as I was expecting.

Jack said...

Another comfortable victory for Merton achieved on the buzzer, with both sides faring pretty much the same on the bonuses, the Oxonians converting 21/32 and Edinburgh 10/15. Agreed that Merton are likely the favourites for the title now, but we should always expect the unexpected.

If I may take issue with the first starter, though: George Bernard Shaw is no longer the only person to win both an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize; Bob Dylan has also done that now as well.

On Monday, as Aethelstan says, we have a Cambridge derby, Fitzwilliam vs Emmanuel, followed by Bristol vs Edinburgh and Newcastle vs Monday's winner.

Londinius said...

Hi both,

Fair point Jack - very fair point. That cuts the chestnut potential of that question, although I suppose you can still ask - who was the fist person to win both a Nobel prize and an Oscar.

Stephen Follows said...

Presumably the Nobel Prize question just demonstrates how long before transmission these matches are recorded.

Francophone, by the way, was the Spanish dictator's favourite mode of communication.