Sunday, 10 October 2021

More on the subject of subjects

I don’t know if you watched last Monday’s heat 5 of Mastermind. The winner, Patrick Wilson, took on JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and very well he did on it too. In my review I remarked upon the difficulty of such a wide-ranging subject and expressed the view that just “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy itself would be a fitting subject. Well, thinking about this again, I can’t help wondering whether it was Patrick’s original choice, or whether the production team prevailed upon him to widen the subject.

My active experience of the show dates from more than a decade ago so whatever I say has to be viewed in that light. But on a couple of occasions, I did experience some of the horse trading over specialists that certainly went on in my experience. For my first audition, which led to my appearance in the first round in 2006, I went into the audition fully armed with my 4 subjects, only to be told not to do any of them. Basically, being an English teacher, they didn’t want me doing any authors in case I didn’t do very well, and it therefore reflected on me as an English teacher. It is arguably an admirable thing – saving people from themselves if you like. Still, it did mean that I had to really think on my feet to come up with the subject that I actually did do – the Modern Summer Olympic Games, and what I would have done for semi and final had I got there – Henry Ford and The Prince Regent. One of the subjects I discussed possibly doing was the anglo-saxon poem “Beowulf”. However, no sooner had I suggested this, than the member of the team who was auditioning me had bid it up to the whole canon of Anglo-Saxon poetry. So I drew the line at that one.

When I applied again the next year, I threw Henry Ford into the pot for the first round, and the Prince Regent for the semi. 2006 was before the temporary reinstatement of runners up places in the semis, and so I’d gone to the semis as a stand in and wasn’t used. Now, my way of thinking was this. In 2006 they’d have had to have a set of Henry Ford questions made which they never used. So maybe, just maybe, taking it for the first round in 2007 would make me a little more attractive because it would mean one fewer set of questions to make. Who knows whether this had any influence or not. Still, for my final subject I wanted to take Old London Bridge. This was the bridge which stood from 1179 – 1831. The team horse traded this up to every bridge bearing the title London Bridge, or standing at this point on the river prior to 1179.

Conversely, though, when it came to Champion of Champions my first round subject, the Bayeux Tapestry went through on the nod. When it came to the putative (and unused) final subject, the team actually lightened the burden for me there. I offered The Children of Queen Victoria, but the team reduced it to The Daughters of Queen Victoria. Not really sure why, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

I didn’t have the experience I know some people have had of being asked to change the order of their specialist subjects. In the cases where this has happened, I’m pretty sure that the production team’s concern has been to get the best spread of subjects across each of the shows.


Moving on, the newest member of our team on the Thursday night had one of the most frustrating experiences in quizzing last week. By which I mean the experience of coming up with a great answer to a difficult question, and not getting a point  because the QM has a wrong answer down. One of the very first questions began, “Which fruit is a cross between a raspberry – “ and as you would, I immediately began to write down ‘loganberry’, and just as quickly stopped writing it when the question continued ‘ and the American dewberry.” I always thought that a loganberry was a raspberry/blackberry cross. Indeed it is. Fran said that she believed it was a boysenberry. That, to me, seemed like a bloomin’ good answer. Of course, the answer given was loganberry. I consoled Fran that I was sure that the QM’s answer was a wrong’un, and we didn’t argue as I am trying very hard to be a good boy in the quiz now. Well, I will admit that I did google this when I got home. Now, although I didn’t find an answer which perfectly fit the question, boysenberry, which is given as a cross between raspberry, and dewberry ( and blackberry and loganberry!) is a better fit.

Actually, I really enjoyed the quiz apart from this. It’s the first ‘connections’ quiz I’ve played in for a few years – whereby the answers to let’s say 4 consecutive and seemingly unconnected questions – are all connected. I love the way that, if you’ve engineered your connections well, then the player can use what they do know to help figure out what they don’t know.

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