Saturday, 3 December 2016

Shaun's Bowl - How Quizzing Became Cool


I don’t know if you saw the BBC4 documentary on quizzing, “How Quizzing Got Cool” during last week. If you didn’t it was very enjoyable, and is still available on the iplayer here : -



One thing which did make me sit up and take notice was seeing Shaun Wallace talking about his Mastermind Bowl, and how it got broken. I’ve since googled this, but couldn’t find any mention of this happening anywhere on the web. Shaun, I hope that I got the wrong end of the stick, but if I did hear correctly, of course you’re right that it’s the title, knowing that you became Mastermind of the United Kingdom that mattered, but even so you have my sympathy.

University Challenge Round Two: SOAS v. Emmanuel, Cambridge


Right, dearly beloved, it’s the one we’ve been waiting for – SOAS, the team that fortifies the over-forties (and to be fair the under-forties as well) v. Emmanuel, Cambridge, led by our very own Bobby Seagull. SOAS were represented by David Bostock, Magda Biran-Taylor, Odette Chalaby and captain Henry Edwards. Bobby’s able lieutenants for Emmanuel were Tom Hill, Leah Ward and Bruno Barton-Singer.

Captain Bobby took a flyer on the first question, but didn’t know that Sir Sonny Ramphal amongst others had been a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth. That lost five and allowed Magda Biran-Taylor to take first blood for SOAS. Terms that were first coined during the first World War netted a further 15 points from a full house. A great buzz from Magda Biran-Taylor identified Churchill and Asquith as the two men from the 1906 Liberal Government who would be Chancellor, Home Secretary and Prime Minister during their careers. Be honest, how many of us would have said Lloyd George, forgetting that Churchill crossed the floor of the House to join the Liberals in the early 20th century? I did. Bonuses on novels whose titles are pronouns provided a lovely UC set, and another 15 points. In fairly short order SOAS had established a lead of 55. What was going on here? Nobody knew some historical regions of Latvia. Leah Ward put Emma into the black by recognising the speed of light. Physics bonuses gave them another 5 points, and there wasn’t even a sniff of a lap of honour round the living room for yrs truly. Emma had seemingly set themselves the tactic of using lightning buzzing to stun SOAS into submission, however it wasn’t quite coming off yet, since Leah Ward buzzed in too early and dropped five on the next question. She gave Cancer when Tropic was required. Hard lines. SOAS couldn’t capitalise this time. The tactics paid dividends though, when Leah Ward buzzed in early after hearing “The History of a Young Lady” with the correct answer “Clarissa”. You can afford a couple of misfires when you can buzz that quickly. Leeds Blue plaques gave them just one bonus. I knew the last one myself, because Samuel Smiles, author of Self Help might well also have a blue plaque in Leeds, but he had one in Granville Park Road in Lewisham too, and I know that since it was just a matter of yards away from my student hall, all those years ago. *sigh*. For the picture starter, Bruno Barton-Singer identified the name Archimedes as written in the modern Greek alphabet. Good shout that. Three more of the same taken in quick succession earned an approving well done from JP. At the ten minute mark then the gap had been reduced to a mere 5 points, and things were looking ominous for SOAS now that the Emma juggernaut was gaining momentum.

Bruno Barton-Singer knew about Durkheim to earn the lead, and also a set of bonuses on Shakespeare sonnets. Emma had two and I had a full house – one of precious few in this show. *LAP OF HONOUR WARNING* I recognised the definition of peristalsis just before Tom Hill buzzed in to confirm my answer. Plant names were quite a happy hunting ground for me as well, while Emma managed 1. I loved that Bobby for a brief moment thought that JP had said ‘sacrificial insects’ rather than ‘sacrificial incense’. Henry Edwards brought his team back into the competition knowing that it was Ovid who put his exile down to a poem and a mistake. First rule of living in the Roman Empire, Ovid old son, don’t pee the Emperor  off. Indian states gave me nothing, but SOAS managed one. To be fair to JP he managed to keep a straight face when he had to read out the title “Roger the Rabbit” (make up your own punchlines please) for the answer to the next starter. Bruno Barton-Singer knew that China is one of the two non contiguous countries that share borders with 5 stans. (Laurel? – Lee? – Wawrinka? - Boardman? – Flashman? ) Dairy farming in the UK was as unproductive as it sounds and yielded nowt. Unusually I was in extremely quickly for the music starter, just ahead of Tom Hill who was the first to recognise George Gerschwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. More recordings held within the collection of the US Library of Congress yielded a full set for Emma. Now, another slightly controversial point came next. In answer to the next question Miranda Biran-Taylor clearly said the Hapgar score with an H. JP accepted it, but corrected her with the Apgar score with an A. Look, let’s not make a big thing out of this – it didn’t affect the outcome of the competition. I really like SOAS as a team, and I didn’t want to see them get well beaten. But please, a wrong answer is a wrong answer. If the question had wanted the answer Paris, and you said Daris, I guarantee you would not be given the point. Sorry to be so pedantic, but you know, wrong is wrong. Works on the shortlist of academic books that changed the world were a very nice set, and SOAS duly answered all of them, keeping themselves in the game. Now, I’m sorry, but when both teams had the sense to wait when asked about Mirandese until they were told it is spoken in the region around Miranda du Duoro, Duoro itself should have been enough to point at Portugal. Both teams should count that as gettable points dropped. Bruno Barton-Singer, for whom this ten minute period had proven exceptionally fruitful, recognised clues to the word spiral. Chromosmal proteins made me very happy when one of the team echoed what was going through my head saying ‘I don’t understand any of that!’ I hear you there, brother, I hear you. When they were finished, Emma led by 125 to 90. They were in the driving seat, but that was not by any means a winning lead yet.

That man Barton-Singer took the next starter with literary references to the Ash tree. Symphonic music brought a further 10 points. The second picture starter showed a photograph of Quito. Hardly surprisingly this went begging. The next starter saw Magda Biran-Taylor incorrectly interrupt, which gave the almost inevitable Bruno Barton-Singer the chance to give us foal – mole and vole. Photos of other UNESCO cities brought 5 more points to their growing lead. For the next starter Bobby beat his own team mate to give the answer Cultural Hegemony after the bare minimum of the question had been asked. Years of the 19th century ending in the number 6 provided me with another full house, and Emma with 10 more points. The lead was just one bonus away from being triple figures. David Bostock reduced arrears, recognising a reference to Mozart. Film directors of the silent era provided them with 10 more points. Something about nitrogen in nitric acid gave Bruno Barton-Singer another starter, although JP had to pump him for whether the answer was plus or minus five. French nobel Literature laureates provided much amusement, when for the last answer Tom Hill smilingly turned to Bobby and said – It’s the one you mentioned on the train! – Nice one. Needless to say they didn’t quite dredge it up. Leah Chalaby knew the state of Tennessee – and well done to SOAS for keeping buzzing at this stage when the game had clearly slipped away from them. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles gave them a full house. Ah, this encapsulated the contest. When they got a chance, SOAS showed their class with the bonuses. I bet they had a very healthy conversion rate for the show. But . . . you gotta win the buzzer race to win the show. Or put it another way, its bonuses for show, but starters for dough. The gong sounded before the next question was finished, and the final score was 195 to 130. Well played both teams, and Emma – looking good for the quarters.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

He really has been taking his happy pills, has our Jez. When Bobby announced the answer to the last music bonus as “Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five” JP practically jumped out of his seat with elation. “VERY good!” he cried. Was he by any chance a fan of their work back in the day? I think we should be told.

I think he was getting frustrated with Bruno Barton-Singer answering most of the starters by the end of the match, though. When he answered the nitrogen one with five JP asked “specifically?”, and then when supplied the correct answer of plus five, he dismissed it sniffily with “Of course”. There’s no of course about it Jez, and don’t act as if you knew and it was obvious, because you didn’t, and it wasn’t.

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

A guy called Le Prince took what were probably the world’s first moving pictures, of Leeds Bridge.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Mastermind: Round One: Heat 21


Yes, my singing debut in the school concert seemed to go okay, thanks for asking. Well, that was my week – how about last night’s Mastermind contenders? First to take to the chair was Sally Budd, who was offering the great Eric Clapton. That’s 2 shows in a row where the first specialist has been on an iconic British musician – who will we get next week? Answers on a postcard to the usual address. As for Sally’s round, well, I don’t know if she was affected by nerves, but I have a feeling there were questions she probably knew the answer to, but just couldn’t dredge up. Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I hear a question asking about a British blues musician I always answer Alexis Korner, and it’s right a hell of a lot more often than it’s wrong. She finished with 7, and with the best will in the world it looked as if she was going to be some way behind at the half time whistle.

Lee Holmes took part in Ian’s 2011 season, which was rather a star studded affair in terms of the contenders, and he produced a great first round performance then to make the semis. Once again, my daughter was totally uninterested when I pronounced him the favourite to win last night’s show. Answering on the Emperor Hadrian he managed 11 points, in a round which looked rather better than just 11 – was it me or did his questions seem even longer than usual? Probably just me. Still, Lee had at least done what you must do, and produced a ‘put you in contention’ score.

I like Tintin. There we are, I’ve said it. When I was just a wee lad I was given a GAF stereo viewmaster for a birthday, and it had several discs, including Tintin’s “Destination Moon”. I only ever had about 5 discs, and they tended to get used endlessly, so I came to know this one very well, and it was my favourite. So I like Tintin. Not as much as Asterix the Gaul, mind you, but that’s another story. I don’t, however, believe I like Tintin anything like as much as Abhimanyu Chatterjee does. There are no fewer than 24 books, and Abhimanyu’s knowledge of them could fairly be called encyclopaedic. The fact that he too only accrued 11 points after such a display rather suggested that my feeling about longer questions was probably accurate.

I managed 2 points on Robert Fenner’s round on Damon Runyon, and both of these came from a passing acquaintance with the music “Guys and Dolls”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I do like to see that contenders, whatever the state f their general knowledge may be, have prepared thoroughly for the specialist rounds, and this was another round which left me in no doubt of the effort put in to prepare it. For the third round running we saw a performance which looked rather better than the score that it earned, which was 10. In the context of last night’s show that was certainly enough to give Robert his chance when the GK came round.

Maybe I’m wrong about Sally suffering from nerves, but the impression was reinforced by her performance in the GK round, where it seemed that the last 90s seconds was a bit of a grim old slog for her. She finished with 14. So to Robert. He had the chance to really lay down a marker. I reckoned that if he could get a score in the teens, then that would place both of the others yet to come at the doorway to the corridor of doubt. He started brightly enough, but as we’ve seen so often in the past, starting your GK round well is a lot easier than maintaining your momentum through it, and he could only add 9 to his total.

You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? I honestly think that it gets easier to cope with the pressures of sitting in the black chair each time that you do it, and Lee has been this way before. So what we saw was a round which, while not the best that we’ve seen all season, was an admirable display of concentration and technique. You listen to the questions. You answer those that you know correctly. You guess those you don’t, and don’t worry if you get it wrong. If nothing comes to mind you pass as quickly as you can. Written down like that it sounds rather simple. It isn’t simple – try it for yourself if you don’t believe me. But it’s what Lee managed to do, and he finished with 23.

Certainly for the first half 60 seconds or so of his round Abhimanyu looked as if he was in with a chance. However by the 90 second mark he hit a horrible pass spiral. As we know, a pass spiral is the Mastermind equivalent of a black hole, and once you’ve passed beyond its event horizon you can’t pull yourself free of its clutches. Sadly Abhimanyu finished with a total of 18, which really belies the fine specialist performance he put in.

So a clear win for Lee Holmes, and a second semi final to come. Well played.  

The Details

Sally Budd
Eric Clapton
7
1
7
2
14
3
Lee Holmes
Emperor Hadrian
11
1
12
2
23
3
Abhimanyu Chatterjee
Tintin
11
1
7
9
18
10
Robert Fenner
The Life and Broadway stories of Damon Runyon
10
0
9
2
19
2

Friday, 25 November 2016

Mastermind: Round One: Heat 20

Now this, ladies and gents, was a good show and a good contest.

John H. does seem to have a bee in his bonnet over the GK rounds. In the past he’s made observations I’ve disagreed with in his opening comments, along the lines of the GK round being the one that the contestants fear, a sweeping generalisation if ever there was one. Likewise, his assetrtion last night that you cannot prepare for a GK round is understandable, but wrong. It’s very much a question of timescale, and how you actually target your revision. Still, let’s not get bogged down in that for now.

You have to applaud any contender who manages a perfect round, and that’s exactly what we were served up by our first contender, Ian Fennell. I wonder how many people applied to answer questions on the late David Bowie for this season? However many, Ian picked this plum, and given the opportunity he grabbed it with both hands. From early doors it was clear that he was going great guns, and I’ll be honest, it looked as if John could have continued asking him specialist questions for the full half hour and he wouldn’t have dropped any. That’s great preparation making a great performance.

Which is an observation we might well make about Alan Diment’s round on Edvard Munch as well. I turned to Zara, my middle daughter, who had ignored that the show had started and thus not vacated the living room, and observed that the answer to the first question would be The Scream. It was, and so that was my work done for the round. Alan, I noticed, often gave a little smile as he produced correct answers to his questions, and as you can tell by his score, there were an awful lot of smiles in the round. Another brilliant performance.

In any other week Chris Rabbitt’s round on Postwar British Motorcycles would have left him well in contention by the time that the half time oranges were being handed out. 11 was a good score on such a searching round. Me? I managed 2 – the Triumph Bonneville, and also that Geoff Duke rode for the Norton team. I knew that because a dear friend who introduced me to quizzing used to manufacture replica Nortons, called Manxman, in a room in the downstairs of his house. Sadly he passed away a few years ago, but I couldn’t help thinking of him.

Karen Fountain, then, would have had every justification had she felt daunted coming to the chair, seeing her opposition all in such fine fighting form. She too had prepared herself thoroughly though, and ended with a great score of 13 on the Occupation of Jersey, 1940-45. This was the only round on which I failed to add to my aggregate. My best round of last night’s specialists was the Bowie round, where the first half of the questions were kind enough to allow me to get about half a dozen. Well done to all of last night’s contenders, since this is the first time we’ve seen an aggregate over 50 since Daniel’s heat, which I think was heat 5.

So to the GK. Chris Rabbitt, unlucky to be a couple of points adrift in 4th, manfully stuck to his task, and built up a score of 20, and I’m glad he got out of the teens. It was no more than he deserved, for having put up the show that he did on specialist if for nothing else. 20, though, was never going to be enough in last night’s heat. So to Karen. Being realistic, I reckoned that a score of about 25 in total would be necessary to put the boys into the corridor of doubt, and to be honest, right up until the last 20 seconds or so it looked like Karen was going to do it. At this point though the round just refused to go any further, and a string of questions to which she didn’t know the answer brought her a little short, at 23. Nonetheless, that’s a performance which falls into the category of giving Mastermind a good old lash. Well done.

Ian Fennell’s task, while not crystal clear, was still pretty straightforward. Go like billy-o, put as many points on the board as possible, and let the devil take the hindmost. Unlike most of the last few heats there was a realistic chance that last night’s second place might achieve a repechage score. What Ian produced, then, was not a fantastic score, but it was what I would call a decent quizzer’s score of 13, and when you put that together with his specialist score, that gave him a highly useful 27. That could have been a winning score.

No, alright, it wasn’t, but it did mean that Alan Diment had to produce a terrific round in order to surpass the target. Which he proceeded to do, putting on a fine 15 to end with a great overall score of 29. According to John he only just did it. Cobblers. With no disrespect intended to Ian, two clear points represents daylight between first and second. That, sir, is one of the best performances we’ve seen for quite some time in this series, and if you reproduce that form in the semis, then you could go a very long way.

Well done and thank you to all of last night’s contenders. Great show.  

The Details


Ian Fennell
David Bowie
14
0
13
1
27
1
Alan Diment
The Life and Work of Edvard Munch
14
0
15
0
29
0
Chris Rabbitt
Postwar British Motorcycles
11
1
9
3
20
3
Karen Fountain
The German Occupation of Jersey 1940 - 45
13
2
10
3
23
3

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

University Challenge: Round Two: East London v. Warwick

East London v. Warwick

East London last night were represented by LAM reader Christopher Ducklin, Kelly Travers, Rachel Evans and their skipper, Jerushah Jardine. Warwick’s team consisted of Sophie Hobbs, Sophie Rudd, Thomas Van and their captain Giles Hutchings.

I think that both teams sat on their buzzers a little with the first question, unable to believe that a question asking which order of mammals a Siberian chipmunk belonged to was as easy as it sounded. It was, and Sophie Rudd took that one. The team ummed and ahhed about questions on St. Peter’s basilica, but they got them all right. It was another buzzer race for the next question where it suddenly became obvious that the answer was the word emoji. It was Sophie Rudd again who took this one. Bonuses on heavenly bodies and elements followed. *LAP OF HONOUR AROUND THE LIVING ROOM WARNING ALERT* - I had a full house, and Warwick two. Respect to Thomas Van for knowing the former name of Donetsk for the next starter. 19th century light verse promised but little, yet 2 bonuses were quickly snaffled up. Nobody knew about the glottal catch, or stod in the Danish language, and sadly Chris Ducklin lost 5 for an incorrect interruption. Likewise, nobody knew that a chap called Waddington attended the 1878 Berlin peace conference as the Foreign Minister of France. I was surprised that nobody had a pop at tributaries of the Ebro. So three in a row went begging, until Kelly Travers broke East London’s duck, knowing that Sri Lanka begins SRI. It wasn’t as easy as that sounds. The team were unable to convert any of a set of bonuses on Sheila Grant Duff. For the picture starter my latin O level came into its own as I saw Insula Thesauraria and shouted ‘Treasure Island!’ Thanks, Mr. Rose. Giles Hutchings had that one. More latinised book titles gave Warwick a full house, and a fulsome lead at just over 11 minutes, with 90 playing 5.

Cosmic Microwave Background. Nope, no idea myself, but it gave Giles Hutchings another starter. Sewage bonuses brought them two correct answers and one near miss. Sophie Rudd buzzed back into the competition with the categorical imperative. A science thing followed yielded the by now obligatory couple of bonuses. Right – you hear the words ‘Hermes’ and ‘staff’ and you fling caution to the wind and buzz in with Caduceus. Giles Hutchings did. Medieval European history yielded a solitary bonus. Nobody, including me, recognised part of the William Tell Overture. A good sports starter went begging when neither team could answer which city became the first to host both the summer Olympic Games and the FIFA world cup finals – Paris. Giles Hutchings knew that both Alaska and Wyoming are larger than the UK, but have a smaller population than Leeds. One of the music bonuses was taken. Sophie Rudd was the first to recognise a series of definitions of the word meniscus. Words ending in ville added 5 more points.On the cusp of the 20 minute mark the score was 175 – 5 – following a 10 minute shut out. Sorry, but this was game over.

Chris Ducklin tripled his team’s score, and brought up a set of bonuses on literary titles, and these added another 5 points. Nobody knew the Fuggers. (I’ve taught a few in my time – oops, naughty boy, cheap joke, apologies.)Rachel Evans knew some things written by Brecht, and sadly the chemical element bonuses did them no favours at all. Rachel Evans took the picture starter, recognising a self portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds. More paintings brought them a much needed 5 points. Roman philosopher and orator? Cicero’s always worth an early buzz, which is exactly what Kelly Travers did. 10 points. Canterbury Cathedral bonuses yielded 5 more. That was enough for Warwick. Breather over Sophie Rudd buzzed in with the answer the Dominica’s domain code thingy is made up solely of letters that are also roman numerals. 2 bonuses on Japanese fiction followed swiftly. There just wasn’t the time for another starter, and Warwick had won comfortably with 195 to East London’s 55. Hard lines East London. When you get right down to it, this just wasn’t your night – we’ve all had one of those. Well done Warwick.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

He’s Back! The Treasure Island starter led him to grumpily concede “Wasn’t very difficult. Don’t know why it took you so long.” Oh, Jez, I’ve missed the real you.
After Chris Ducklin buzzed in on the music starter after some time, JP offered it to Warwick with the dismissive “you can hear a little more, if there is any left.”

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


The line “There was a little girl that had a little curl” etc. – oft recited to my granddaughter – was originally written by Henry Longfellow

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Alan Connor: The Joy of Quiz

I've sometimes thought how poorly off we quizzers are for books specifically about our pastime of choice. Not quiz books, I hasten to add, of which there are more than you can shake a stick at, nor even self-help books about how to become a better quizzer (may I recommend Be A Quiz Winner!, currently available on Amazon? Too late, I already did.) No, actual books about quizzing, as a hobby, a phenomenon, call it what you will. I've read and enjoyed Marcus Berkman's "Brain Men" and Ken Jennings "Brainiac", also Mark Mason's "The Importance of Being Trivial".

Adding to that list, then, may I point you in the direction of Alan Connor's "The Joy of Quiz"? Alan Connor is the Question Editor on "Only Connect" - or he was last time I watched. So he definitely knows his subject. He's a very entertaining writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book which I read in the matter of a couple of evenings. Of course, it maybe helped that I did get a namecheck, even if it was just in reference to my appearance on the Antiques Roadshow (nobody wanted to look at my Queen Anne legs or my walnut kneehole).

The book is about quizzing in general, but particularly about broadcast quizzes. As you may have gathered, I look on myself as at least a student of the genre, if not actually a connoisseur, so this was right up my street, for all the fact that it's been a pretty long time since I've written much other than reviews on LAM.

Cutting to the chase, if you love quizzes, I think you'll really enjoy it. Just google it, or go to Amazon and search for either The Joy of Quiz, or Alan Connor.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

University Challenge: Round Two - Birmingham v. St. Andrews


Birmingham v. St. Andrews

First up in this week’s match were Birmingham, represented by Elliot Jan-Smith, Fraser Sutherland, Chris Rouse and skipper George Greenlees. Their opposition from St. Andrews were Matt Eccleston, James Green, Andrew Vokes, and captain Toby Parker.

George Greenlees understandably thought that the moment you hear the words “American astronomer” you should buzz in with Edwin Hubble, but sadly this one wanted Carl Sagan, allowing James Green to take first blood for St. Andrews. A full set of bonuses on devices gave them the best possible start to the competition. No prizes to James Green for buzzing in too early when he heard the next question mention the Devil’s Dictionary. It’s a fine line to tread between taking a flier, and taking a foolhardy gamble. The question had several definitions from different sources, all pointing to the word habit. Elliot Jan-Smith took that one. Bonuses on events of November 5th in different years only yielded one bonus. Chris Rouse knew the film “The Last Of Us” to take the next starter. A trilogy of bonuses on trilogy saw them add another 5 points. A sciencey thing about a guy called Van der Waals – wasn’t he a detective in Amsterdam? – gave George Greenlees his own first starter, and a bonus on cycling saw them increase their score to twice that of St. Andrews. Their bonus conversion rate at this point, though, was a concern. For the picture starter Elliot Jan-Smith recognised that Sein und Zeit is the original title of Being and Time by Heidegger (who, according to Monty Python was a boozy beggar – that’s Heidegger, mind you, and not Elliot Jan-Smith.) More of the same followed, and almost inevitably they took one. Birgmingham, then, had dominated proceedings up to the 10 minute mark, and yet for all of their seeing superiority the score was only 55-20. Would they regret those missed bonuses later?

Elliot Greenlees recognised definitions of the names of some towns in Somerset. Right – bonuses on cell biology. When I heard the word ‘organelle’ I remembered a question which I commented on years ago, when several correspondents were kind enough to explain to me what a golgi apparatus was. So I gave this answer, and the result was a lap of honour round the Clark sofa. It seemed to galvanise Birmingham as well, since they managed a full set. George Greenlees and I both recognised a definition of the word phalanx at the same time. Another full set on food fish followed. Finally Andrew Vokes stopped the rot for St. Andrews, knowing about the films of Kevin Smith. The American Film Institute’s list of screen legends brought a couple of bonuses, and the fightback had started. Nobody recognised Haydn’s Hungarian Rondo for the music starter. George Greenlees knew about the Summer Triangle, for which they received the deferred music bonuses. One was taken, and I can’t say anything because it was the only one I managed too. James Green knew that Welsh, Cornish and Breton are Brythonic languages, but unfortunately for them they inherited a nasty set of bonuses on cities, and the parallels on which they stand. Fraser Sutherland won the buzzer race to answer a good old hardy perennial about Edouard Manet’s Olympia. A UC special set requiring pairs of words, the last letters of the first being the first letters of the second. These are often quite productive, but only yielded 1. Didn’t matter. At the 20 minute mark Birmingham had an 80 point lead – 135 – 55 – and it looked as if St. Andrews had the Himalayas to climb.

Andrew Vokes ate into the deficit by recognising a painting of Descartes. I think it was Descartes, therefore it was. Three more writers whose works featured on the Vatican’s naughty books list took 15 more points off the lead. George Greenlees knew about major cities of Guangzhou, or Canton. We both picked up the same two bonuses on museums. A very good early buzz from George Greenlees saw him give the Alaskan name of Mount McKinley – Denali. Elections of the 90s brought a bonus, but at this stage what mattered most was that Birmingham were comfortably in front, and running the clock down with every set. Identifying El Cid was just too easy for George Greenlees, and so much were Birmingham enjoying the contest that they snapped out 3 correct biology answers in double quick time. To be fair to James Green he did manage the next starter on Mars, but a really rather difficult set on Shakespeare yielded nothing to any of us. Nobody knew my favourite Ben Jonson play, “The Alchemist” for the next starter. Nobody knew economist Robert Solow either. James Green did know a range of currencies used by Lithuania – the litas was the real giveaway. Bonuses on English and Spanish brought St. Andrews’ score to triple figures. Toby Parker knew that there were mad, bold and victorious king Charleses of France. That was it. The final score was 195 to 115 – a comprehensive victory for Birmingham, who proved far faster on the buzzer.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I have absolutely nothing to say. Neither did he.

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

Deneb, Altair and Vega make up an asterism known as The Summer Triangle.