Monday, 3 October 2022

Mastermind 2023 - First Round - Heat 3

Good evening, dearly beloved, and welcome to our review of the third heat of this year’s Mastermind competition. First into the chair was Emeritus Professor Joe Andrew. I must just digress, since it’s not often that I have the opportunity to say anything nice about Rupert Murdock. I was reminded by the word emeritus that Rupert Murdoch is supposed to have told the editor who swallowed the huge shaggy dog story that was the so-called Hitler Diaries that he was being made emeritus editor. When asked what it meant he is supposed to have said ‘E means you’re sacked, and meritus means you deserve it.’ Coming back to Joe Andrew he delivered perfection answering on the life of the Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. He wasn’t rushing his answers, and maybe could have had another question by answering a little more quickly, nonetheless this was all very impressive.

Padraig O’Kane, by contrast, was answering on the much-loved TV show “The Thick of It”. I’ve no doubt that Padraig pt time and effort into his preparation – he’d never have got even 7 points had he not. However, his preparation wasn’t enough to enable him to get a score to challenge Joe. OK, you might argue and say it is possible to pull back a 6-point deficit at half time, but let’s be honest, it’s a once in a blue moon occurrence.

I may be wrong, but I think that Anna Kirby Hall is our first teacher contender of this series, so of course she received the dubious benefit of support from the Clark sofa. Taking The New Romantics as her subject, although she managed a decent 8, I can’t help wondering if she was expecting more of the questions to be about the music – I was. In fact, all of my points on the round came from this source. Again, while a five-point gap is theoretically bridgeable, it’s not something you often see happen.

Last to go in the first round then was Joe Karimi. Joe offered us 20th century US presidents. I have to thank him for this, since it taught me that I know a hell of a lot less about US vice presidents than I previously thought that I did. Once again, we saw a contender who certainly seemed to know his subject, but rather got bogged down in parts, and left too many unclaimed points behind him.

The upshot of all of this was that the on-course bookies had probably stopped accepting bets on Joe by the time that the half time oranges were being brought out. With the nearest contender being five points behind him it was going to take something extraordinary to deny him the win.

Well, we hadn’t seen a real disaster of a GK round in either of the previous shows, and we didn’t see one this week either. Padraig returned to the chair first. No, if I’m honest it wasn’t a brilliant general knowledge round, but I can live with that. It was a perfectly decent and respectable general knowledge round and that’s really what I’m looking for from a contender.

Joe did slightly worse, but only to the tune of one point. As was the case with Padraig, the evidence is that he’s not a regular quizzer, and if he has the desire to pass this way again, this is something he could work on for a year or two.

Anna had proven herself to be the best of the rest in the Specialist round, and this was a soubriquet to which she cemented her claim with a rather good general knowledge round. Yes, judging by her expression she was riding her luck at times, but then being able to make a guess which could be right is a genuine skill in its own right. If she could put in a really barnstorming specialist round in a future appearance, then she’d certainly have a chance of getting through.

No chance tonight, though. If anything, I was even more impressed with Joe’s general knowledge round than I was with his specialist. If last year’s series is anything to go by, then Joe’s excellent fifteen will turn out to be one of the best GK scores of the whole first round. What I found even more impressive about it was that Joe continued his measured response to each question. It shows that he was getting most of them right, and could maybe, if needed, go faster. Very well-done sir – an impressive performance which marks you out clearly as one to watch in the semifinals.

The Details

Joe Andrew

Emily Wilding Davison

13

0

15

0

28

0

Padraig O’Kane

The Thick of It

7

3

10

2

17

5

Anna Kirby Hall

The New Romantics

8

0

12

0

20

0

Jack Karimi

20th Century US Vice Presidents

7

1

9

3

16

4


Saturday, 1 October 2022

You Know You're Past It When . . .

How’s your weekend going? Me? Oh, not bad, not bad. In fact, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about really. You see, I’ve spent quite a bit of tie, yesterday evening and today, putting together the quiz for Thursday night. As you might recall, time was when you couldn’t stop me from wanting to be question master – I enjoyed it every bit as much as actually playing in a quiz and would have done it every week if I could. Well, times change. That was all 27 years ago, and since then there was my quizzing lost weekend which only ended a year ago. I haven’t got the urge to do it anymore.

None of which is to say that I won’t do it anymore. If I’m asked, unless I have a good reason why not to do it, then I’ll do it – just please don’t ask me too often. But it’s not something I’ll volunteer to do. And that’s not just because I haven’t got the desire to do it anymore. Some of it has to do with the fact that, in the nicest way possible, I have to say that I think I’m getting a bit past it.

Putting the quiz together I’ve tried to do the best I can, but there’s been a number of questions where I’ve thought – blimey, I was asking this sort of thing a quarter of a century ago. Time was that I had my ears to the ground, and a constant eye out for something that might make a fresh, more interesting question. I’m not finding that easy at all now. If we take the fields of entertainment and popular culture for instance, I’m just not that interested in keeping up with it all. Case in point – UC often features questions on video games nowadays, and this area is a complete blank to me. Now, I’ve always had weak areas, but I’ve had an idea of where to find information about these areas, and how to formulate questions about them. But, whisper it quietly, I find I just can’t be arsed.

Which is not quite such a problem with the quiz for the rugby club since it’s probably true that you could say the same about the majority of players in the club. Even at the ripe old age of 58 I’m still one of the younger players at the club. Still, I don’t intentionally do a bad job, and I find myself hoping that it will all go down alright this Thursday. Then hopefully that might be me done for 2022, and not taking my next stint until the New Year quiz.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

University Challenge - First Round - Cranfield University v. Royal Holloway

The Teams

Cranfield

Jack Chivers

Raman Suri

John Joseph Stephenson (Capt.)

Charlotte Keenan

Royal Holloway

Joel Abramovitch

Joanna Brown

George Harvey (Capt.)

Micka Harvey

Good evening, Dearly Beloved. Well, Jeremy P. made a point of stating how long it’s been since either of these teams last appeared. Let’s crack on, shall we?

A gentle starter saw Joanna Brown buzz, then pause for a bit before answering that Renee Zelwegger has played both Beatrix Potter and Judy garland on screen. Bonuses on political families saw a little Royal Holloway profligacy throw away a correct answer by giving the country rather than the figure. Good answer on Richard Cromwell, though. Janna Brown took a double, recognising several works of literature linked by the word Green in their titles. The Copley Medal promised me but little for the bonuses, however the Arthur Evans one was a steal, the hormone one was a bit of a gimme and the pulsars one wasn’t that hard, although it foxed Royal Holloway. Having taken a full house wth at least some Science content I awarded myself a lap of honour around the Clark sofa. Raman Suri opened Cranfield’s account, with the term Pop Art.I took a full house on X bonuses, while Cranfield took a pair. I most certainly did not take a full house on the pictures. Charlotte Keenan buzzed in to recognise part of Michigan which has been proposed as a breakaway fifty first state. Three more areas which have been proposed as new states in the past brought Cranfield a five point lead. George Harvey won the buzzer race to identify Marie Curie as the Nobel laureate whose notebooks have to be kept in a lead lined box. No brownie points to Royal Holloway for suggesting sharks when marine reptiles were called for in the bonuses, but they still managed 1 bonus. This was enough to ensure that Royal Holloway led by 50 – 40 at the 10 minute mark.  

Charlotte Keenan won the next starter, identifying the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Bonuses on culinary processes  brought just the one correct answer. Neither team managed the next starter which gave the names of leaders of four contiguous countries and asked for two of these countries. Raman Suri knew that William Whewell (Or Whilliam Whewthe’ell, as I like to think of him) proposed the terms anion and cation.) Good for him. Bonuses on Nauru again only yielded the one. Cranfield were doing quite well on the starters at this point, but weren’t able to capitalise on this with the bonuses. As for the next starter, well, if it’s about an artist, and it mentions a pipe, you’re going to be right more often than you’re wrong if you slam the buzzer and answer Magritte. That’s what George Harvey did, and he was right to do so. Bonuses on time brought a full house and put Royal Holloway back in front. I thought that John Joseph Stephenson was right when he suggested that the music starter was the work of the Ronettes, so when he was wrong I changed my answer to the Shangri Las. Royal Holloway didn’t get it, and I didn’t add it to my unofficial total when it did prove to be the Shangri Las. Joel Abramovitch earned the music bonuses by identifying a description of the two toed sloth. When JP explained that the music bonuses were more tracks about railway journeys I predicted Midnight Train to Georgia, Last Train to Clarksville and Chattanooga Choo Choo, and was flabbergasted to get that 100 per cent right. Not quite lap of honour worthy, but not far off. Royal Holloway had two but missed the Monkees’ hit. Nobody knew that John Bardeen’s name appeared on a shuttle in a Star Trek reboot film. Fair play to John Joseph Stephenson for knowing that San’a is the highest capital city on the Arabian Peninsula.  The works of Shirley Jackson on film provided nowt to any of us, which meant that, as we approached the 20 minute mark, Royal Holloway led by 95-75. Good contest.

I didn’t understand the next question, but George Harvey said it was a baryon and who am I to argue? They took just one bonus of a set on Australasia and Indonesia. John Joseph Stephenson recognised orchestral compositions for guitar and got told off by JP for saying classical guitar rather than just guitar. The scriptwriter Dennis Kelly provided a set of bonuses which saw them fail to trouble the scorer – they probably should have had Matilda the Musical at least. The second picture starter saw Joanna Brown identify Scandi-Drama Borgen, and three more BAFTA nominated foreign language TV series brought a full house. When you get three Russian male first names given, the thought is always that this might be the Brothers Karamazov, as indeed it proved to be for the next starter. Joana Brown took her fourth starter with this one, again hesitating as she leaned into the mic to give her answer. 2 bonuses on chemistry pushed Cranfield a little deeper into the doodoo, and frankly it looked very unlikely that they could rally to at least garner a repechage score. John Joseph Stephenson did bring them 10 much needed points, knowing of the Frankfurt school. Early wind instruments though only produced the one bonus. Nobody knew the film director Steven Soderbergh for the next starter. Charlotte Keenan recognised various species of frog to keep Cranfield’s faint hopes alive. Official symbols of US States brought just the one correct answer before the gong ended the contest. Royal Holloway had won by 155 – 110.

That looks like a comfortable win doesn’t it? Yet both teams answered the same number of starters correctly. Sadly Cranfield managed a very disappointing 8 bonuses, to Royal Holloway’s 15, and that, in a nutshell, is the whole story. Or put it another way – sometimes it’s just not your night. Hard lines, but congratulations to Royal Holloway.

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

The term Pop Art was coined in the fifties rather than the 60s.

 

Monday, 26 September 2022

Mastermind 2023 - First Round Heat 2

Good evening. Already we’ve reached the second heat of Mastermind 2023, and thankfully, there's no controversy over tonight’s show.

First up was Ben Whitworth. Ben was answering on the History of the Orkney Islands. He would later explain that he has an interest in the subject, and being that it’s one which was particularly dear to Magnus Magnusson – the last of Magnus’ grand finals was staged in St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. It’s one that Ben had prepared very well, as he put on 12 correct answers, answering rather methodically, but very accurately. Good performance.

Anu Mitra gave us another subject after my own heart, he Films of Laurel and Hardy. I was disappointed only to manage a brace of answers myself. Anu managed to get 8 of these, but I dare say that he might just be a little disappointed, considering that it left him four points off the lead with another two contenders yet to come.

Elizabeth David, the famous cookery writer, was the subject offered to us by Eleanor Jardine, our 3rd contender. I’ve no doubt that Eleanor knew her stuff, but a few of these questions came at her from angles she didn’t seem to be expecting – the reference to Mrs. Isabella Beeton being one of them. As a result she scored 7 – nothing to be ashamed of, I might add, but leaving her with a mountain to climb in the second half.

Finally our first recidivist of the 2023 series, Keshava Guha. Keshava reached the semi finals through the much-missed repechage slots in 2019. So he’s a contender with some series previous. Last time out his was a cricket subject in the 2019 semi finals and tonight he offered us the life of Sir Garfield Sobers. He did very well, too, although his 10 points meant that there was still daylight between himself and leader Ben Whitworth as the half time oranges came round.

Back amongst the wines and spirits, then, Eleanor returned to the chair for her own spirited general knowledge round. All of our four contenders managed double figure general knowledge rounds tonight, and that’s always pleasing to see. She started extremely well, but had a run of ones she couldn’t answer in mid round which rather took the wind out of her sails. Nonetheless she scored 10 to finish on a respectable 17.Anu did rather better, and managed an even doze on his own GK round. He’s a young chap, and if he decides to have another go at some time he’ll do better, having seen the level of detail in which you need to prepare a specialist round.

Whichbrings us to the main event – Keshava in the blue corner, and Ben in the red. It took Keshava a little while to build up a head of steam, but when he did he really began to build momentum and positively ripped through the second half of his et of questions. In fact I was a little surprised that he hadn’t scored more than fourteen for twenty four – it felt a bit of a better round than that.

All of which called for a cool head and steady nerves from Ben Whitworth in order to bring the 13 points he needed for an outright win. Again, his answering was measured, and not as quick as some we’ve seen. However, it was very accurate. With a little bit of time to spare Ben cruised past the target to eventually surpass Keshava’s GK total with his own excellent round of 15. That’s very good quizzing.

In his filmed insert shown during the titles at the end of the show, Ben showed great respect towards the show, and expressed his wish to get to the final. Well, on this showing, I won’t be risking the Clark 50p betting against you getting there, Ben. Very well done, sir.

Ben Whitworth

The History of the Orkney Islands

12

0

15

0

27

0

Anu Mitra

The Films of Laurel and Hardy

8

2

12

1

20

3

Eleanor Jardine

Elizabeth David

7

0

10

3

17

3

Keshava Guha

Sir Garfield Sobers

10

0

14

0

24

0

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Donald or Donovan

People who know me personally and have played with me or against me in team quizzes might have difficulty believing this next statement, but I do have times that I wish I could have just kept my mouth shut.

My friend Adam, one of our team in the Aberavon Rugby Club, was question master on Thursday. And honestly, I’m not just saying this, he produced a great quiz. I love it when you get asked a few testing questions, where you don’t know the answer (or you don’t know that you know the answer) but there is an entry to them, in that you can use what you do know to work out what you don’t. For example – the stapedius muscle is the smallest skeletal muscle in the human body – where in the human body will you find it? I don’t recall ever hearing of it before, but I went on the fact that the stapes – otherwise the stirrup – is one of ossicles in the ear. So I answered ‘ear’ – happy days! There’s quite a skill to asking questions which give the teams two chances – either through knowing the answer anyway or being able to work it out.

That’s not got anything much to do with why I wish I’d kept my mouth shut, only that it illustrates that we are talking about a quiz that I really enjoyed. Adam produced a handout. In the handout there were twenty five James Bond villains from the films, and the names of the characters they played. At the bottom were the titles of the twenty five films in which they appeared (so four of them were different Blofelds, for example). It must have taken a lot of time and effort to put together. So, as Adam was reading them out, he came to Robert Shaw’s character – Donald ‘Red’ Grant from “From Russia With Love”. “Donovan Grant.” I blurted out, without thinking, because that’s the name I’ve always heard given. Adam, rather than telling me words to the effect of – shut yer gob, the question master is always right – merely politely replied, “Well, that’s what it says on Wikipedia.” I do try to control myself, but it doesn’t always work. For what it’s worth Adam, I am sorry.

However, I am also rather anal about these things so, anyway, I checked up. Sure enough, it lists the Robert Shaw character as Donald ‘Red’ Grant on Wikipedia, and also says exactly the same on imdb. I went to the text of the original novel, though, and Ian Fleming definitely called him Donovan. Now, it would probably put it beyond contention if I watched the film, notebook in hand. But I don’t really have time – or inclination to do that. So maybe you can answer – did they change the name to Donald for the film?

To Tweak, or not to Tweak

Afternoon. I can't go to the Aberavon home match today because I'm looking after my grandson who's not very well, so I just thought that I’d share some observations about a couple of returning quizzes. I’d like to start off with “The Tournament”, a 2021 newcomer which returned this week. The Beeb often seem to give new quiz shows a couple of series to find an audience, so I don’t know if “The Tournament” was a hit first time round, or merely showed a bit of promise.

So let’s start with a couple of positives. I praised Alex Scott last year for speaking clearly, projecting a little warmth and not getting in the way. She seems to have grown into the role and seems more at ease and confident. That’s a positive. The show still delivers a pretty decent number of questions for your money too. That’s a positive.

Now, I was kind enough in my review last year to point out a number of tweaks the production team could make to ensure that the second series would be even better. I’m sad to see that they haven’t taken any of them on board. This means that the show still suffers from these flaws:-

·       The god-awful, cringe-inducing ‘battle-cries’. At the top end of the show, each contestant is forced to issue a statement of intent along the lines of ‘ I’m a primary school teacher and I’m going to teach the opposition a lesson or two tonight’. Even if these were well done – and they are not – it goes totally against the friendly atmosphere of the show. But as I said, they’re not well done. The contestants aren’t professional actors, and their delivery is more wooden than a walnut kneehole desk. They are obviously scripted and are pure gorgonzola. Please – I beg of you – should you get another series, then DROP IT! It doesn’t matter how many times Alex says ‘Great Battle cries!” I find the whole business buttock- clenchingly cringeworthy.

·       The business of telling us who is ‘favourite’ for which game. It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference, and at the end of the day – who cares?

·       The sameiness of each head to head round

·       The lack of a proper endgame in most shows. I didn’t get to watch every episode of the first series, but I have never seen a contestant knock out the other finalist and then get an opportunity to have a go at a gold run to double their money.

As I said last year when the first season aired, the show has potential. Without a few tweaks to sort these flaws out, though, then this potential will stay unfulfilled. Yes, of course that’s just my opinion. Feel free to disagree.

As for the other returning show, Jason Manford’s “Unbeatable” has been running for a couple of weeks now. I’m not in a position to discuss whether any tweaks have been made to the show or not, because I never saw any of the first series. I was just really starting to emerge from my quizzing lost weekend when it aired and wasn’t watching shows just so I could blog about them then.

“Unbeatable” as it is now does several things well, I think. I like Jason Manford – he’s a gifted comedian – and actually a very good singer too, as we saw in the first series of The Masked Singer.  He doesn’t grate on the nerves at all, and he doesn’t try to make the show all about him, which is a lot of what I want from a host. If anything, he’s maybe a little wasted here. He’s very good, but someone without his skills could do just as well with what’s required.

Which probably goes to highlight another thing I like about the show. I actually like that it doesn’t waste a lot of time talking to the contestants. I know many people have the opposite view – to which everyone is entitled. But when you get right down to it I’m not really that interested in anybody who appears. In fact, the only thing I want to know about them is how well do they do with the questions.

I also appreciate that it is not all popular culture. I would dare say that it must be a great temptation to slant a show like this more heavily towards film, TV and music.

The gameplay is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, but just complicated enough to spike a little more interest – yes, you at home may know that one of the two contestants in each round has the unbeatable answer – but do they know? Will they say it is the unbeatable answer?  However, I believe that there is an issue with the gameplay.

It works like this. The how is a series of head to head battles. Each battle consists of 3 boards. So a board will say – for the sake of argument – which of these people was the first to win a series of Mastermind. There will be 6 options – Kevin Ashman – Fred Housego – Nancy Wilkinson – Christopher Hughes – Nancy Dickman – Gary Grant. (Brownie points for modestly not including myself? No, didn’t think so.) So one contestant gets to choose what they think is the correct answer. Then the other gets to choose from the remaining five. Then the two contenders have a few seconds be first to buzz if they think they have the unbeatable correct answer. So let’s say player 1 chooses Nancy Wilkinson and buzzes. The answer is compared with each of the others, and when it turns out to be unbeatable, that player wins the board. First to win 2 boards wins. Lets say player 2 buzzes instead having chosen Fred Housego. That turns out to be beatable, and so the board goes to player 1.

If neither player buzzes, then both players answers are played against each other. Nancy Wilkinson wins. 1 – 0 to player 1. Then player 1 picks again, and so does player 2. Player 1 picks Kevin, and player 2 picks Chris. Chris is the earlier – so it’s one – all. So they pick between the last two. Player 1 picks Nancy, player 2 has Gary, and so player 1 takes the board 2- 1.

Now, my issue with this is that there is a distinct advantage to being picked to go first on the first board. Let us suppose that we have two equally good players. Player 1 gets the unbeatable answer on the first board, player 2 on the second, and player 1 wins by getting the 3rd board. I’m not sure what the production team could do about this, but it is a slight weakness in the format.

Well, a new era began this week for a show with a very tried and tested format, Pointless. Richard Osman – I feel I should write ‘The Great Richard Osman’ because he’s funny, smart, successful and on the back of his excellent novels, rich. I should hate him for these very reasons, yet he’s never come across to me as smug, and I’d like to think we’d get on if we ever met. Which rather brings me to the point that anyone having to follow Richard as the pointless friend on “Pointless” would surely be raising a poisoned chalice to their lips. Don’t get me wrong, Pointless has a very good, strong format anyway, but let’s be honest, it was the relationship between genuine old friends Zander and Richard that cemented the popularity of the show. Yeah, quite often their spontaneous banter didn’t quite hit the mark as it went galloping up a comedic blind alley, but what the hell, that was all part of the fun. So I think that it’s a smart move to have guest friends doing stints. It was Sally Lindsay last week, and Alex Brooker, Lauren Laverne, Steven Mangan, Konnie Huq and Ed Gamble are all lined up to have a go. I don’t know whether they’re going to keep this ‘this week in dictionary corner’ format, or whether they intend to judge audience reaction and then pick the best fit. As for who this would be, it all depends on whether the producers take an ‘and now for something completely different ‘ approach. If not, then although it’s not exactly a like for like replacement, I can see the lad Mangan doing well, although I’ll be watching Alex Brooker with interest. Sally Lindsay did a perfectly decent job, for what it’s worth. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

University Challenge 2023: First Round : Coventry v. Cardiff

The Teams

Coventry University

Dino Buratti

Kirsty Harrod

Aksshat Goel (capt.)

Meredith Whiting

Cardiff University

John Wimperis

Will Balkwill-Western

Zoe Revell (capt.)

Ella Freeman

Is UC going to remain the filling in the Quizzy Monday sandwich? Who knows. That was what it was yesterday anyway.

So off we go. Newbies Coventry and oldbies Cardiff both failed to spot that the Mato Grosso amongst other areas is in Brazil. Dino Buratti took first blood for Coventry, knowing that Kings Cross serves 6 separate Underground lines. Bonuses on well known bridges on the National Cycle Route 1 was right up my street. Or my cycle route. Coventry took a couple, but not the only bridge of the 3 that I’ve cycled over, Rochester Bridge. Varieties of crocus didn’t help any of us for the next starter. Will Balkwill-Western began a good evening’s work on the buzzer, knowing that South Korea has the world’s lowest birth rate. The Science bonuses that followed brought me an early lap of honour for knowing phlogiston. And once I’d phlogged my way around the sofa, Cardiff had taken two of the bonuses to level the scores. Kirsty Harrod, like me, knew that if it involves the words zenith and showers it’s probably meteors for the next starter. Bonuses on editions of the Legend of Zelda saw me answer ‘Ocarina of time’ to all of them and get one right. Coventry got another one as well, which brought us up to the picture starter. Shown the flag of a capital city because it had stars I guessed Washington DC. I don’t know if John Wimperis was also guessing or if he knew it, but we were both right. 3 more brought me correct answers for Berlin and Amsterdam, both of which I’ve visited since turning fifty, but I wasn’t yet 20 the last time I was in Rome so I missed that one. So did Cardiff. Will Balkwill-Western knew that William I was responsible for the Harrying of the North. Well, I mean, he didn’t do it all himself, he had soldiers for that, but it was under his orders. Virginia Woolf quotes about other writers – rather bitchy too – saw Cardiff fail to add to their score. Could have done better with at least one. Still, with 10 minutes on the clock they had moved into the lead with 50 – 40.

Me, I’ve never heard of the Maillard reaction – sounds like what you get when you mention orange sauce to a duck – but it was enough to give Zoe Revell the next starter. A rather innocuous set on the Incan Empire provided us both with a full house. John Wimperis knew that if it’s a renaissance scholar from Rotterdam, it’s gotta be Erasmus. Bonuses on people who shared their names with SI units brought another couple of bonuses to lead us into the music starter. Kirsty Harrod was very quickly in to identify the work of Ariana Grande, a diminutive chanteuse of some repute, so I’m told. A rather tenuous connection of the bonus was that the title of the track in question was written with only lower-case letters, as were the three bonus tracks. Coventry took a timely two. I didn’t know that Cotelettes is the French name for that musical piece we call Chopsticks. Neither did either team. Nobody got Kevin for the next starter despite fairly obvious clues. Zoe Revell was quickly in to identify Melon as the (in my opinion) unwanted flavour of Midori. I was pleased to take a full house on post war monster movies – Cardiff managed just 1 but they were in triple figures and stretching the lead.Will Balkwill-Western took his next starter on some chemistry thing. Bonuses on capital cities brought a brace on a rather tricky set. Right, when JP read the start of the next starter, “What Arabic term, meaning ‘In the name of God’” did you leap up and sing “Bismillah! No! I will not let you go!” No? Please yourselves. I did. Sadly, nobody in either team did. French phrases beginning with ‘coup’ gave John Wimperis his 3rd. Sports at the Tokyo Olympics only brought them 1 bonus. Which was neither here nor there since they led by 145 to 60 as we approached 20 minutes. Game over, I’m afraid.

My principal of answering 0 or 1 for maths value questions went wrong for the trigonometry starter that followed, since the answer was 2. Neither team got it. Will Balkwill-Western knew that Cerberus is one of the moons of Pluto named after multi-headed creatures. Artistic movements saw them miss the old chestnut of the Blue Rider, but Dadaism and Impressionism stretched their lead to over 100. For the picture starter Will Balkwill-Western took a fifth starter, recognising a naked mole rat. Other species that have been around for what I believe is scientifically called a bloody long time brought another two correct answers. Neither team got the next starter on species of cat. Ella Freeman recognised characters from Two Gentlemen of Verona, meaning that all four of the Cardiff team had correctly answered at least 1 starter. Us Secretaries of State brought, well, nowt I’m afraid. I thought they might’ve had Madeleine Albright. The discovery of a meteorite supposedly containing Martian microfossils sounds like it inspired Dan Brown’s Deception Point – neither team knew it happened in Antarctica. Zpe Revell knew films directed by Akira Kurosawa. Science bonuses all beginning with the same letters – which turned out to be eme – weren’t exactly hard, but bugger it, it’s so rare I get a Science full house that I took another lap of honour. Cardiff took a couple. Nobody knew the 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf. Will Balkwill-Western took a 6th starter, knowing various tests for the hardness of minerals. Funnily enough the ‘It it wiv an ’ammer’ test wasn’t one of them. The History of Science saw Cardiff gave them 2 bonuses, but we don’t talk about Giordano Bruno, and they missed that one. The gong sounded just before they were credited with the last one. Which didn’t matter a jot as they won by 230 – 50.

There was no point telling Coventry that they might come back in a repechage, and JP to his credit didn’t, merely thanking them for playing. It was a very good performance from Cardiff, and I shall look forward to seeing just how well they can do against stronger opposition in the next round.

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

Jeanne D’Arc is a variety of crocus

Monday, 19 September 2022

Mastermind 2023 - Heat 1

Welcome back Mastermind – I’ve missed you. It was  nice to hear Clive pointing out that the show has now been going for fifty years – I suppose an hour long celebration of the show a la University Challenge was out of the question. Not out of the question is the possibility that there will be tears before bedtime over this first heat. I’ll come to that.

Kicking off the series was Ruth Gibbons. Ruth was answering on Francisco de Goya. Well, a few years ago I did visit the Prado in Madrid and enjoyed it very much too. It did not, on the other hand, prepare me to pick up more than the two points I managed. Now, Ruth put in a practically perfect round which saw her answer every question correctly for 13 points. Brilliant performance.

Ruth was followed by Ben Spicer. Ben was answering on popular television drama series ‘Peaky Blinders’. I cannot claim to have ever watched this series, so I couldn’t really complain when I managed to guess a couple of the most obvious ones. And they were far from obvious, some of them and required a really deep knowledge of the events of the series. Ben, like Ruth before him, had a perfect round, however he scored 15 points. Was he really 2 points faster than Ruth? He must have been, because I know that the team take great care to ensure parity in the length of the rounds. But there’ll be controversy over this I dare say.

Follow that, as they say. Well, Alexia Jarvis had a very good go at it. She was answering on Team GB in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which made her a lady after my own heart. No, she didn’t quite get our third perfect round in a row, but it wasn’t far off. She was equal to what proved to be a very wide-ranging set of questions, and again must have been that tiny but faster than Ruth, since she too scored 13.

Last but not least, Davey Jarrett was answering on a good old Mastermind stager, the Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler. I’ve never read any – nor watched any film adaptations for that matter, so I didn’t add to the 10 points that I’d already scored in the other specialists. So no, I can’t really comment on the set – but what I can say with confidence is that we saw our fourth excellent row in a round. However, Davey didn’t have a perfect round, yet still finished with fourteen, one more than Ruth who actually did have a perfect round.

Well, leaving aside the controversy over that, congratulations to all four contenders. Excellent preparation, which is something I love to see.

With only 2 points separating all four contenders, and none of them having incurred any passes, all of them could win. Now, I don’t ever recall a contender who scored a perfect round being in (joint) last place at the turn round before, but it had happened, and this was what brought Ruth Gibbons back to the chair first. And for over a minute and a half she was racking up the kind of GK score I thought would probably see her take the win. But then that last minute or so just saw her catching a few crabs. Not too many though. Her 13 for a total of 26 looked good, although she did incur 2 passes, which rang a few alarm bells in my mind.

Alexia Jarvis’ round was more like a mirror image of Ruth’s. For the first more than a minute she was behind the clock. Then she began to pick up momentum, and it was starting to look far closer. She’d scored 25 and 1 pass as the warbler heralded the end of the round. However, Clive had started asking the last question. She couldn’t answer the question though and languished a point off the lead.

Davey Jarrett never quite convinced with his round. He didn’t do badly, but his score of 9 left him a little way off the lead at 23. Although he can take solace from the fact that in a weaker heat than this it might well have been enough to bring him a win.

Which only left Ben Spicer. Putting this in perspective, Ben needed 11 and no more than 1 pass for an outright win, 11 and 2 passes to earn a tie break, and anything less wouldn’t be enough. I think it’s fair to say that he struggled more through his round than Ruth had, and at one point he seemed to become so bogged down that I thought that he mightn’t do it. Like Alexia he was a point adrift as Clive started the last question. He thought for a moment, and unlike Alexia, he got it right. Crucially, he had only incurred a single pass.

Such small margins are the difference between victory and defeat. Congratulations to you sir! Let’s also spare a thought for Ruth Gibbon, who scored a perfect specialist, and produced the highest GK round of the night, yet still lost. It’s very harsh, and the sort of thing that the repechage slots used to take care of (hint hint).

The Details

Ruth Gibbons

Francisco de Goya

13

0

13

2

26

2

Ben Spicer

Peaky Blinders

15

0

11

1

26

1

Alexia Jarvis

Team GB in the 2020 Sumer Olympics

13

0

12

1

25

1

Davey Jarrett

The Philip Marlowe Novels of Raymond Chandler

14

0

9

0

23

0

Sunday, 18 September 2022

3 horse race

How are you doing, then? Me? Oh, having a lovely weekend, thanks for asking, and looking forward to Mastermind coming back tomorrow – that’s taking it for granted that tomorrow’s events don’t cause it to be postponed. If they do, well, that’s just one of those things.

You know, I have posted this before, but sometimes, when Jess or Dan is the question master for the Thursday night quiz in the club, I can’t help seeing myself 27 years ago when I started there. They both seem to really enjoy setting the quiz, and even though they’ve only been doing it for a year, they’re both committed to refining the way they do it, and to finding different ways of making the quiz they deliver that bit better and bit more interesting. I was like that, once upon a time.

Case in point. Jess made the quiz on Thursday night. Now, she could quite easily have just produced the standard club quiz – 8 rounds of ten general knowledge questions, and a handout of twenty – twenty five pictures. And don’t get me wrong, I think everyone would have been grateful. However, she also used connections – 3 questions in each round which are unconnected in themselves, but their answers all connect with each other. I talked to Jess about this, and she feels that coming up with the connections, and refining them into a form that works, is what she really enjoys when putting the quiz together. -That’s my girl!- I thought to myself as she said this. There are other setters in the club from other teams who just don’t seem to get the point of refining the questions, or just don’t care about it, which results in a desperately uneven set. One of these setters I've alluded to can, in the same quiz, produce a connection of undoubted brilliance, then, in the next round, produce something which you’d need a team of Bletchley Park codebreakers to unscramble.

But it’s not just about connections. Jess also produced a handout of photographs of actors and actresses portraying various Kings and Queens. A tricky set this, and it took real team work to get them. Interesting – something above the usual page of bland, vapid celebrity mugshots of the sort that other setters – alright, me – produce.

Not satisfied, Jess also included an anagram in each round. I’d like to think that I don’t lecture Jess, Dan and Adam too much about my own quiz values, but they just seem to get it. Variety is the spice of life as the best question setter in my time at the club, Brian Jones, used to say. Something for everyone.

The sad thing about the quiz is that for all the effort and thought and care that Jess put into the quiz, there were only three teams there altogether. It deserved more. Hopefully this was just a blip because of seasonal holidays.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Mastermind will return on Monday 19th September

 Pretty much says it all - although what with the recent events, and Monday being the funeral of Her Majesty, I don't know if it will be pushed back - understandable if it was. 

University Challenge 2023 - First Round : LSE v. University College Oxford.

The Teams

London School of Economics

Dominic Ede

Laurent Balt

Ali Hassan (Capt.)

Hannah Brown

University College, Oxford

Alex Wallop

Leah Fogarty

Ansa Cunanan (Capt.)

Alice Chakraborty

Hello, dearly beloved. Well, what a difference a week makes, eh? Here at LAM I would like to extend our condolences to His Majesty and the whole of the Royal Family. Whether you’re a royalist, or whether you're not in favour of monarchy, I think everyone has to agree what an example of duty and steadfastness Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II set, and what love she had for her people. Rest in Peace, Your Majesty.

Let’s begin then.”You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive” was the giveaway for the first starter, being the first words of Holmes to Watson. Ali Hassan, the LSE skipper was happy to take that one. World’s tallest structures throughout history was what I’d like to think of as a good quizzer’s set – if you’re a regular quizzer you’ve heard all of them many times. LSE took two but talked themselves out of Lincoln Cathedral. For the next starter, when I heard the words ‘mnemonic’ and ‘May I. . . “ I slammed my metaphorical buzzer through my metaphorical table and shouted – Pi. Less wallop was used by Alex Wallop, but he still got it right. Yeah, I did consider a lap of honour but decided to take my chances that another would be along before the end of the show. Now, if I just used the words ‘ukuleles in cinema’ to describe the next set of bonuses, would you be as surprised as me that the names George and Formby never featured in any of the answers? You’re probably too young. UC took one bonus. As sometimes happens a relatively gentle sport question foxed both teams as neither knew that Phil Mickleson became the oldest person to win a golf major recently. Both teams sat on their buzzers a little with the next starter – asked which large island was home to various species, both waited until orangutan was mentioned, at which a buzzer race ensued, won by Ansa Cunanan. The Shrodinger equation (which is an equation and at the same time not an equation – see what I did there?) means nowt to me. However, UC had two of them right, and . . . I had one of them! Seriously. Whenever the question is – what is the value of . . . I always answer either zero or one. This time I zagged right with zero. Cue lap of honour around the Clark sofa. The picture starter was a fiendish idea – showing a map of a body of water, with the coastlines shown, but nothing else shown of the surrounding landmasses. I had not a scooby. Neither did the teams. The Oxford skipper was back in to give the name of Anne of Cleeves correctly for the next starter. For his pains this brought him the picture bonuses – more of these fiendish bodies of water. I was out with the washing until the last – the Persian Gulf. UC found the same. So, just short of the 10-minute mark UC had clearly had the better of the opening exchanges and led by fifty – twenty.

A buzzer race to identify the only constituency won by the Green Party in the last General Election saw Laurent Balt get his team as well, back into the game with Brighton Pavilion. The 17th century brought just the one bonus – they might have had the Long Parliament as well, I thought. Nobody knew about magnesium chloride for the next starter. Ansa Cunanan recognised the definition of the term falsifiability. Good shout that. A grab bag of random questions about letters of the alphabet brought just a single bonus, although I nearly awarded myself a bonus for the periodic table question. Inertia won. I felt slightly better about never having heard of the game Wingspan for the next starter when neither of the teams knew it either. Again, neither team could work out that 8,700+ hours is the time taken by Earth to orbit the Sun. Now, I’ll be honest, I am not familiar with the work of US poet Amanda Gorman, the answer to the next starter. I’m a great fan of the work of Mr. Dave Gorman, but I don’t think he’s any relation. The UC skip again took the starter for his team and was really looking like the clear difference between these two teams. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know centaurs in astronomy – although in common with UC I did have the last of this set of bonuses. A fine buzz on the music starter from Alice Chakraborty identified the symphony we heard a wee bit of as the work of Gustav Mahler. More trombone solos saw me guess the first two, but not the last while UC didn’t get any of them. Again, both teams sat on the buzzers for the next starter. The moment you hear Islets of Langerhans you have to sling buzzer. Alex Wallop zigged with kidneys, so Hannah Brown picked that particular piece of low hanging fruit, knowing that these are situated in the pancreas. Descriptions of objects in paintings in the art institute in Chicago (where Andre Previn left his baton) saw LSE take 2 but they really should have had 3, had they just been able to remember the name Nighthawks. Now, I’m very sorry, but I shouted Xerophyte o the next starter while both teams were just shaking their heads – it’s basically a word taken from the Greek for dry – as is Xerox, interestingly. No, I’m too modest to have taken a second lap of honour, even if, in my heart of hearts, I rather felt I deserved it. The excellent Oxford skipper knew that if it mentions ‘Navarre’ chances are the Shakespeare play in question is ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ to take the next starter as stop the rot. Food and drink brought us both a pair of bonuses. A fine early buzz from Alex Wallop identified orange as a colour common to the flags of Armenia, Ivory Coast and Sri Lanka. Apparently, they wanted the new black. Maggie Hambling brought a full house, and a very healthy lead of 125 – 55 at just after the 20-minute mark.

Ansa Cunanan recognised two beardy 19th century palaeontologists for the next picture starter. Now, as a kid I was crazy about dinosaurs – still quite interested now, ‘samatter of fact – so I was delighted to get a full house on the dinosaur skeletons that followed. Not exactly difficult, but you can only answer what’s asked. UC did too. For once Ansa Cunanan gave a wrong answer to a start allowing Laurent Balt to identify Gabon from a description of its neighbours. Place names beginning with Mon provided a timely couple of bonuses. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think Sun Protection Factor had much to do with computer science, but it was the best answer I had to what SPF stood for. To be fair neither team knew Shortest Path First – which I thought I invented when I used to go jogging in the mid 90s. Of course, the Oxford captain won the buzzer race – knowing patriotic tone poem + Sibelius = Finlandia. Novels of the 1980s and 90s saw them take just one. Surprised they missed out on the first line of the Crow Road, as that’s become a bit of a new quiz chestnut. I don’t pretend to understand the next starter, which was maths, but Dominic Ede had it. Wisteria brought a couple of bonuses. Just shy of 100 points, I thought that LSE were too far behind UC, but were not totally out of the running of a repechage score. It didn’t help when Ansa Cunanan, as he had done for much of this match, buzzed them out of it, correctly recognising biographers of Charlemagne. Fictional countries. It didn’t matter that they only picked up one of a distinctly gettable set of bonuses – they were already in the parc ferme. Still time remained for a final flourish by LSE – identifying Staten Island from a description. Just one bonus on Missionaries – careful – was less than they really needed. There was no time left for LSE to have a go at the next starter after UC lost five for an incorrect early buzz. Didn’t matter. They won comfortably by 175 – 110.

You’ve just gotta sling some buzzer to give yourself the chance to go through, folks. You can’t wait until you know that you know the answer, you have to buzz when you think you might know the answer. Hard lines to LSE – they’re in place on the repechage board – I can’t see them staying there, sorry. Well played UC. Some gaps in knowledge, and they were heavily reliant on their excellent captain who scored no fewer than 8 starters. They won though, and if you can keep doing that you’re going to do well.

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

Magnesium chloride is an alternative to common salt in de-icing roads