Sunday, 29 May 2022

Music (Round) Maestro, please.

If you’re saying to yourself – oh, here we go, another pointless post for the sake of letting people know that you’re still doing the blog, even if you haven’t got a lot to say on it – well, it’s a fair cop, guv. Still, after last week’s exertions – three quizzes in three evenings for the first time since God knows when – I’ve been back to just the one quiz since. This was my son in law Dan’s quiz in the rugby club on Thursday. I enjoyed his first quiz, but this one was even better.

You know my feelings about handouts. I don’t personally like picture handouts, but I know that the majority in the club like them very much so when I do a handout I tend to do pictures. Dan is of the same mind as I am regarding picture handouts – he prefers something more cryptic and he did a very good handout using cryptic clues to the titles of well known movies – hence a clue like – dating Mick Jagger = Romancing the Stone. You get the point I’m sure.

Not only this, but Dan also did a music round. Now, I’ll be honest, I can only recall ever once doing a music round for the quiz. It was back in the late 90s, before I had access to the web. In the club the music round was the realm of Alwyn Rees. Alwyn had been coming to the quiz since long before I had. He only ever did a quiz maybe three or four times a year, but he always did a music round, and people loved it. So much, in fact, that Brian would always clear the schedule and rota when Alwyn was ready to do his quiz. So as I said, being as this was Alwyn’s province, I fought shy of doing one for a couple of years after I started, but then I wanted to have the experience. And when I did it, I soon discovered that the experience was that it was a lot of effort and potch to go through for just the one round, and it was a case of – well, I’ve done a music round now, I know what it’s like, so I don’t have to do it again.

Dan’s quiz consisted of brief excerpts from some very well known songs from the 70s through to the 90s – in other words, my era! In fact, I used to own a tape I recorded which I had in my first car, which had no fewer than 6 of these very songs. It was flippin’ great. Speaking to Dan about the round, I think that this is just the start. He wanted a nice gentle start, and I reckon he’ll be more adventurous in his next. In the monthly movie quiz in the Gwyn Hall in Neath, there’s always a music round, and they have some songs slowed down, some speeded up and some played backwards. I reckon that this sort of thing might work very well in the club if he’s got the technology to do it. I’m sure he has.

Just out of interest, I think that my favourite ever music round was back in the 90s at the rugby club. A couple of the younger guys who occasionally took a turn as question master recorded a music round where they themselves played theme songs from well known films or TV shows . . . on a stylophone! (for younger readers – ask your parents, or possibly your grandparents) It was brilliant! No? Well, I guess you had to be there.

Friday, 20 May 2022

3 from 3 - but I'm not proud of myself

This is what really happened. My son, Mike, plays in a quiz in Bridgend every Tuesday night. A few months ago his team couldn’t make it, so Jess, Dan, Zara and I went down to help him out. Well and good. Tuesday afternoon he put a message into the family group chat to the effect that his team couldn’t make it, and did anyone fancy coming along to play? Well, I don’t know, he must have just got me on the right day. I was QM in the Thursday quiz last week, so I haven’t actually played in a quiz since the week before that, so I quite fancied it.

The way it turned out was that nobody else could play, so it was just Mike and me. Now, let me state this from the start. The quiz in question is run by the teams involved. All money raised goes to charity. All of the teams provide a question master from time to time, who compiles the quiz, and it’s all done for the love of doing it. Honestly, that’s totally praiseworthy in every way. And it means that I feel a bit of a heel, making the criticisms that I’m going to make. That’s one reason why I’m not mentioning the name of the pub involved. But it was a fascinating quiz on Tuesday night, even though I venture to say that in my opinion, the QM did commit a few errors.

Not factual ones though, as far as I could tell. No. The problems with this particular quiz were more conceptual, in my opinion. Let us begin with the handouts. Yes, plural. First of all there was a set of 15 pictures – all caricatures of well known people. Well, you may well be aware that I have difficulty identifying famous people from clear photographs, so right up my street this was not. Thankfully Mike is much better at this sort of thing than I am. Then there was a word handout. This was an ingenious thing, culled, I would think, from the puzzle pages of the i newspaper, which involved words linked either by rhyme, meaning, or one letter change. This was more my sort of thing, and I worked them all out. Finally there were two number squares, again culled from the I newspaper puzzle pages. Eventually I worked them out.

Now, just these handouts presented a quite testing mental workout even before the quiz began. Then we were onto the quiz proper. In the first round of 20 questions, 16 or 17 of them were all about Religion. Now, don’t get me wrong, religion is a perfectly valid and even fruitful topic for quiz questions. But the best part of a whole long round of them is overkill. Especially considering that most of them had a part a and a part b. Some of them even had as many as 4 answers – for example – which are the 4 religions permitted by the state in China? Now, that’s a question ripe for 2 points for all 4, 1 point for 3 out of 4. Nope. Our question master gave 1 point for all 4. If you’ve been with me for any great length of time you might well be aware of my opinions about themed quizzes – that is – a little goes a long way.

Then for the next 10 questions we switched to general knowledge. Well, that was what we were told. Actually 5 of them were on British politics of the noughties, and the rest were on History. Then we had another handout. The handout had 10 questions, all on food and drink. The first five gave names of dishes, and four possible definitions, and you had to pick the right one. Guessing game. The next five were anagrams of well known dishes. Again, quite a bit of serious brain work required, and I’m sorry to say we didn’t do very well on that round. Ten more multiple answer questions to finish.

Right – criticisms. I walked out of the quiz feeling as if I’d just had a two hour examination. For a pub quiz, this called for some serious thinking and working out. Now, that’s not necessarily intrinsically a bad thing, but this was an ordinary pub quiz. I found it a little overwhelming, so heaven alone knows how the ‘only here for the craic’ brigade found it. Then there was the huge religion content. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t mind betting that the question master really likes religion as a subject. Which is all well and good – but for me it led to him making a very basic error when putting his quiz together. Because you’re making the quiz for everyone. Actually, that’s not strictly true. You’re making the quiz for everyone participating in the quiz, except for yourself as question master. Therefore your own likes and dislikes in a quiz are irrelevant. Because you’re not playing in it. It’s about what is going to be entertaining and fun for the players.

Well, we got to the end of the quiz, and the way that they find out who won is by calling out – anyone got over 20? – Anyone got over 30 etc. etc. This went on for some time. By the time we got to 90 there were still two teams left – a legacy of having so many multiple point questions. In the end, we were the only team to score more than 100. But there’s an issue in itself. You see, it’s one thing being in a quiz where the winning team scored in the 60s and your team only managed a score in the 40s. It’s a completely different thing when you score in the 50s, and the winning team score in the 100’s. So, all in all it was an interesting evening.


Wednesday evening brought the monthly film quiz in the Gwyn Hall. I’ll be honest, this was not the first time since my lost weekend period that I’ve attended two quizzes on consecutive evenings – whenever I’ve played in the monthly quiz I’ve usually gone to the club quiz on the following evening. However it’s the first time that I’ve embarked on quizzes on 3 consecutive evenings since the lost weekend.

The theme was British films – although that theme was rather widely interpreted, and probably with good reason. I don’t always play in this one. Jess and Dan usually play, along with our friends Adam and Fran. Adam is a very, very fine film quizzer, and Fran is no slouch, so the upshot has been that they’ve won something like 8 out of the 10 they’ve played in. We nearly didn’t win on Wednesday night, mind you. In the end we won by half a point.

The prize is a free cinema ticket each to the Gwyn Hall’s cinema. Wroth having without doubt. Now, maybe we’re being paranoid, but it did seem to us that there was a hint of the gritted teeth in the congratulations from the organisers this time. Well, there was a month ago as well, if I’m honest, but it was even more obvious on Wednesday. As it happens, next month’s quiz falls on my birthday, and we’ve pretty much decided to let it go. Of course, the ironic thing is that Adam and Fran are away I think, so we’d be extremely unlikely to win anyway.


Last night in the rugby club, then, made up the final leg of the trilogy. nd the upshot of it was that I went into the quiz caring far more about winning than I normally do. Now, okay, when a quiz actually starts and the adrenaline starts flowing I never play to lose. I can’t deliberately give a wrong answer. I give wrong answers all the time, but when I do I am actually trying to give a right answer, if you see what I mean.

But last time, I was building myself up to it for hours beforehand. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I was if anything taking it far too seriously. If we had lost, for example, what difference would it have made? Would I have had to give back the prizes from Wednesday and Tuesday? No. Would it have meant that I didn’t have an unbeaten run stretching from August 2021 until the day before? No. And with hindsight, again, I don’t really like the way it made me treat this quiz more seriously.

I don’t recall getting up to challenge a question or an answer in the quizzes in the club I’ve been to since returning last summer. I did it twice last night. Granted, I was right both times, but it’s still not something I’m proud of. Last night’s quiz had connections in some of the rounds. The QM asked the question “In which book by Daniel Defoe did Captain Nemo appear?” We did pause for a moment, because Defoe wrote tons of novels, even though only Robinson Crusoe and to a lesser extent Moll Flanders are actually read any more. But Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” fitted the connection perfectly. So I went up and asked “Are you SURE it was Deniel Defoe?” He realised the error.

After that, he asked “Which was the first Carry On film shot in colour?” I wrote down Cruising, then he added – “was it Cruising or Abroad?” Then he went and gave the answer as Abroad. I went and told him that I was really sorry, but the answer is Cruising, and what is more every time that the question has been asked in this very quiz – which is many – the answer has always been Cruising. I think that I should admit that we were about 10 points ahead by the time this happened.

So while on the one hand I am very pleased and smug that I went three for three on consecutive evenings this week, I’m really not proud of taking it so seriously last night.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

In the Question Master's Chair again? Ho hum.

Yes, I am aware I haven’t posted in the last few days. TBH, I don’t really have a great deal to say. If I don’t talk about the quiz in the club, then I’m not really talking about quizzing. Come back UC and Mastermind – all would be forgiven if there was anything which needed forgiving.

OK, so the quiz at the club it is, then. As it worked out Dai Norwich had asked me if I would do the quiz, and so it was my turn. I don’t volunteer to do the quiz anymore. The fact is, as I shall shortly explain, I’m ambivalent as to whether I take a turn as question master or not. Which never used to be the case. The first time that I ever played in the quiz was in 1995, and that evening Brian, the organiser, announced that there was no one to do the quiz for the next week. I immediately volunteered. I’d never composed a quiz before, but I’d been playing in quizzes – pub quizzes and quiz league quizzes - for about 8 years by that time so I wasn’t a total novice. I thoroughly enjoyed putting the quiz together, and I thoroughly enjoyed being QM on the Thursday. From then on Brian and I were the two ever-present QMs, regularly taking our turns and filling in when nobody else was available, and I’d say I kept it up for over 20 years, right until about 2018/19.

I used to put a lot of effort into it as well. I didn’t have the benefit of access to the web for my first few years of quizmastery either. I gathered a library of useful quiz reference works, and I’d always use between half a dozen and a dozen different sources of questions. First I’d gather the questions. Then I’d write them as individual questions. Then I’d write them out again as I put them into rounds. Then I’d roadtest the questions at work and re-write any that needed work on them. It wasn’t even hard work either. It was a labour of love, with the emphasis on love rather than labour. It wasn’t as if all I was getting out of it was the rush on the Thursday night, either. I am convinced that I made a great leap forward as a quizzer in the late 90s, and this was my first five years as a quiz master. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

What has all this got to do with Thursday night? Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I just couldn’t really be bothered to make a brand new quiz. So I downloaded a quiz I wrote about 5 or 6 years ago. I changed the news questions for current news questions, and bingo. The job was done. I’m not proud of it, but on the other hand I don’t feel extremely guilty about it either. At the end of the day it worked, people seemed to enjoy it, and nobody came to me afterwards and said words to the effect of “Villain! Thou art undone! Thou hast used this quiz and this handout before, yea verily.” I’d like to think I would have held my hands up and admitted it was a fair cop guv if they had.

Well, thankfully both Dan and Jess will be question mastering again before I do. I think – I hope – they’re at the stage of really enjoying the process of putting their quizzes together. Long my that continue for them.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

At a bit of a loss what to post at the moment

 Yes, it's a post which does exactly what it says on the tin. I just haven't got a lot to say about quizzes at the moment. -Ah! - replies the cynical reader - that's never stopped you droning on about them in the past.- Ouch. Well, anyway, I am determined to try to keep the blog going - once we get to August it will have been a year. So, bearing in mind that it is my turn to be question master on this coming Thursday night's quiz, I thought I'd write a little bit about pet hates in a quiz.

Which is, I suppose, just a little perverse considering that I only usually go to the Thursday quiz at the moment, and relatively few of my pet hates are perpetrated here. Still, for what it's worth, here goes -

* Family Fortunes questions.

If you haven't encountered Family Fortunes before, it was a TV game show, based on the US original called Family Feud. Two families take turns trying to predict the answers which 100 members of the public will have given to a question like - name a hairy dog -. There's various other rules and regs, but it's the question type that I'm really talking about here. I'm really sorry, but my heart sinks every time a question master asks a question of this type. Why? Well, basically, I don't like pure guessing games. I like questions where you either:-

a) Know the answer

b) Don't know the answer - but can work out an answer that has a chance of being right, through using what you do know to help you work out what you don't know. 

Now, if we go back to our example hairy dog question, can you really apply what you know to work out whether more people will have answered labrador than German shepherd , poodle or Old English sheepdog? Or any one of half a dozen other breeds for that matter?

* Whytheell Questions

This is a term I invented, and it applies as in 'Why-the-hell is he/she asking this' questions. I grant you, this is a genre that covers a multitude of sinful questions, but on the same hand I  think you probably know what I mean. Things like "What was the cost of a colour TV license in February of 1973?" It's the sort of thing which you just can't see anyone knowing, because there really is no conceivable benefit from knowing it, and as a fact it is not interesting enough of itself to make the knowing of it in any way worthwhile. 

* Wrong'uns

Basically this is a genre of question that has an easy to get answer which is wrong, and a much more difficult and obscure answer that is right. For example - the design of Tinkerbell in the Walt Disney animated Peter Pan was based on which actress? Now you know damn well that the QM is going to tell you that it was Marilyn Monroe. Well and good - except it wasn't. It was Margaret Kelly. Who? She was an actress - just not a very well known one. But if that was the answer that the QM wanted, he would never have asked it in the first place. 

Well, I'd like to think that I've avoided any wrong'uns or whytheells for this Thursday, and at least I can guarantee that there won't be any Family Fortunes.