Friday, 30 December 2016

Christmas University Challenge: Matches 6-10 (Sunday 25th - Thursday 29th)

OK, this will probably be my last blog post of the year, so lets get this over and done with: the second week's play on Christmas UC! Again, I haven't really watched much of these matches since they aired, so minimalistic summaries.

Sunday 25th: Magdalene Cambridge vs St Hilda's Oxford
Magdalene: Stefan Wolff, Clemency Burton-Hill, Chris Lintott, Mike Newell
St Hilda's: Fiona Caldicott, Daisy Dunn, Val McDermid, Adele Geras

So, Christmas Day action, and, in terms of entertainment, a cracking half hour of television, highlight being a picture round on DC Thompson cartoons, which was slightly spoiled somewhat when Paxo called Oor Wullie and the Broons 'naff cartoons'! Typical sassenach! Ms McDermid took these, ending the match with eight starters to her name, as St Hilda's won 225-65. Magdalene: not a bad team, but easily second best here. 

Monday 26th: Bristol vs Nottingham
Bristol: Miranda Krestovnikoff, Kate Quilton, Will Hutton, June Myerson
Nottingham: David Florence, Nick Miller, Chris Hawkins, Frances Spalding

Kudos to both teams for having a go, but it did feel like, with all due respect, they were struggling to understand the way the game works, and thus neither could really get into second gear. The final score: Nottingham won, 75-70. Yes, a 75 point winning score.

Tuesday 27th: Kent vs Leeds
The first second round match, and by a mile the best of the series. Like last time, Kent ran out to an early lead, with Paul Ross again dominating the buzzer race. But Leeds remained within touching distance, and a timely surge on the buzzer put them on level terms. Then both sides incurred a penalty, both took the resultant starters, and at the gong it was 130-each! The first tie-breaker was dropped, the second was taken by Steve Bell, and Leeds had done it!

Wednesday 28th: St Anne's vs St Hilda's
Quite possibly the first ever match between two all-female teams! Certainly under Paxo's watch. Sadly, not as good a match as the other semi-final. It started off close, with the teams swapping starters. Then St Hilda's took a steady lead, and though St Anne's pulled close a few times, they never quite managed to catch up again. St Hilda's pulled away in the final minutes, and won 165-75.

Thursday 29th: Leeds vs St Hilda's
The final of the series started off close enough, before two consecutive penalties (including a candidate for best wrong answer ever from Mr Bell!) damaged Leeds' chances beyond repair, and though they did recover to a respectable finish, they were never really on the ball for the rest of the match. St Hilda's didn't seem as on form as they had been before, but they still emerged triumphant 160-55 to win the series.

Well done to them, and thanks very much all fourteen teams for an enjoyable mini series!

So, back to normal service on Monday, with Corpus Christi vs Peterhouse, followed by Oriel vs Bristol the week after. And don't forget, Only Connect moves to Fridays as of next week, so don't get caught out by that change. See yous on Monday, hopefully. 

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas University Challenge 2016: Matches 1-5 (Monday 19th - Friday 23rd)

All right everybody, time to recap the week's events on Christmas University Challenge. Fair to say its one of the things we all look out for every year, especially if you're not a fan of the rest of the stuff on across the period. Currently watching Michael McIntyre myself, though will try not to let it distract me too much! These summaries are based on memory only, as I've only just had a quick flick through the shows just now, but I'll try to be as accurate as I can.

Monday 19th: Manchester vs St Anne's Oxford
Manchester: Sir Philip Craven, Sarfraz Manzoor, Simon Armitage, Erica McAlister
St Anne's: Rebecca Morelle, Dr Janina Ramirez, Mary Archer, Jacky Rowland

To kick the series off, a match that started close, with St Anne's only maintaining a slight lead over Manchester at first. But then Mr Armitage slipped up when he buzzed then forgot his answer, and, though St Anne's didn't pick up, Manchester never really recovered. The Oxford side raced away on the buzzer, and, though Manchester did recover some face in the final minutes, St Anne's won 185-55, and will definitely be back next week.

Tuesday 20th: Kent vs Sussex
Kent: Jeremy Wade, Shiulie Ghosh, Paul Ross, Jamie Angus
Sussex: Tim O'Shea, Hattie Hayridge, Dermot Murnaghan, Alex Bailin

This match, however, was about as one sided as you could probably get. Kent took the lead quickly, thanks in no small part to Mr Ross, who excelled himself on the buzzer with six starters, and they seemed to take the bonuses when they got in as well. Poor Sussex were only restricted to two correct starters all night, though TBF they did make good work on the bonuses when they did get in. The final score was 245-35 to Kent, and we'll be seeing them again next week too. (Hopefully they and St Anne's will avoid each other)

Wednesday 21st: City vs Newcastle
City: Ramita Navai, Brendan Barber, Samira Ahmed, Tiff Needell
Newcastle: Charlie Webster, Wilko Johnson, Helen Scales, Neil Astley

Not quite as one sided as the previous matches; it was actually a good close affair, if low scoring, for the first half. Newcastle acquired 35 points by the time of the music round, but from that point on, City ran the show, with Ms Ahmed contributing an impressive seven starters, though a slight bonus profligacy kept their score down a bit. The final score was a City victory 145-35; probably not enough for a return, but you never can tell with these specials.

Thursday 22nd: SOAS vs Leeds
SOAS: David Warren, Gus Casely-Hayford, Dom Joly, Minna Salami
Leeds: Louise Doughty, Gus Unger-Hamilton, Kamal Ahmed, Steve Bell

Again, this was a close match initially, but when Leeds built up a head of steam on the buzzer in the latter stages of the match, they had the match sewn up, though SOAS put up a valiant fight. Leeds actually answered the same number of starters as City, but a considerably better bonus rate meant the match ended with them ahead 175-85. Borderline score for the semis, and it says a lot that 85 is still the highest losing score we've seen this week.

Friday 23rd: Edinburgh vs St Catharine's Cambridge
Edinburgh: Steve Jones, Hermione Cockburn, Rachael Stirling, Helen Pidd
St Catharine's: Peter Wothers, Joanne Harris, Matthew Price, Ivana Gavric

Another low key affair, with the teams only managing twelve correct starters between them, and the bonuses proving a challenge for them too. An entertaining affair though, as have all the matches this week, and kudos to Paxo for thanking all the teams for taking part at the end of each match, pointing out that they didn't have to do this. Edinburgh won this match 115-60, but won't be back again next week.

So, at the end of the first week's play, Kent and St Anne's are definitely though to the semi-finals, and Leeds have a very good chance. Two more first rounders to come: Magdalene of Cambridge play St Hilda's of Oxford tomorrow evening, then Bristol take on Nottingham on Monday.

I'll be back to look over them next week some time, either Friday or Hogmanay probably. I also hope to look back on the final two weeks (for now) of Deal, and drawing some reflection on its ending. Either tomorrow or Monday night.

Until then, however, have a safe and happy Christmas, and the compliments of the season to all of yous!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Round 2: Match 7: Beekeepers vs Policy Wonks

OK, no sooner have I finished watching the second UC Christmas special (a full recap of all this week's shows will be up Friday/Saturday), then I have to move on to last night's Only Connect. The last Monday offering for now, as the show will be moving to Friday night after Mastermind come the New Year. Which means my reviews may possibly be moving to Sunday night.

As for last night, though, playing for the penultimate place in the group stage were the Beekeepers, Ian Wallace, Josh Spero and captain Mark Wallace, son of Ian, who defeated the Scunthorpe Scholars comfortably in their first match, and the Policy Wonks, Helen Thomas, Robert Colville and captain Robert McIlveen, who came from behind to beat the Maltsters in their first outing.

Round 1. The Wonks went first, and opened the night's proceedings with Lion: 'Only Connect = title', then 'Only connect = sentence', then 'onlyConnect = camel', and finally 'only_connect = snake'. They didn't have this, nor did their opponents. They got it when it was too late: they are case types and examples of them. The Beekeepers opened their account with Horned Viper, and got the music question: we heard the Masochism Tango, then November Rain by Guns N Roses, then Hotel Californa; they spotted that the songs all contains words from the NATO alphabet, and duly collected two points. The Wonks chose Eye of Horus next, and got the picture set: we saw Mr T, then George Orwell, then Romesh Ranganathan, and finally Sting. Again, they didn't see it, nor did their opponents: they are all former teachers. The Beekeepers chose Water next: 'Ring for', then 'Much Obliged,'; they spotted them to be novels in the Jeeves series, and thus collected three points. (Victoria was not impressed when four of the panelists confessed to having never read a Jeeves book! I intend to eventually.) The Wonks chose Twisted Flax next: 'Ship of Thesius', then 'Sugababes'; they claimed their first points when they offered that they have all had their original components all replaced. (More hilarity ensued when Victoria jokingly asked Mr McIlveen to name the original line-up and he did so! "Now I see why you haven't read any Jeeves books!") Left with Two Reeds, the Beekeepers saw 'ALBA', then 'SPRINGFED', then 'SARMENTO'; they saw them to be state capitals with their state's abbreviation removed from the name, and collected two more points. At the end of the first round, the Beekeepers led 7-3.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Wonks began the round with Horned Viper, and got a music question: we heard Johnny Burnette's You're 16, then Janis Ian's At 17, and then Pete Wingfield's 18 with a Bullet. They didn't see it, nor did their opponents, though their wrong guesses that it had something to do with weapons provoked more laughter! Something with 19 in it, like Paul Hardcastle's 19, would suffice. (For once, there was no enforced sing-along!) The Beekeepers chose Twisted Flax: 'DC', then 'DS', and then 'DI'. I knew this thanks to EastEnders, and so did they: they are CID ranks in order of seniority, so 'DCI' would be fourth. The Wonks chose Eye of Horus next: '29/2/1700', then '29/2/1800'; they saw it to be years when the leap day is skipped, so offered '29/2/2100', which will be the next, for three points. The Beekeepers chose Two Reeds next, and got the picture set: we saw a sea anemone, then New Zealand politician Bob Hawke, and then the Forbidden City next to Tienanmen Square. Neither side got this: the clues are 'sponge', 'Bob' and 'Square', so a pair of pants would be fourth! Excellent! For their final choice, the Wonks chose Lion: '1910: Herbert Asquith', then '1936: Stanley Baldwin', and then '1936: Stanley Baldwin' again. The third gave it to them that they are PMs at the time of royal ascensions, but alas offered '1953: Winston Churchill' instead of '1953', thus giving their opponents a free pick up. Left with Water for their own final question, the Beekeepers saw 'Coleridge Close', then 'Tennyson Avenue', and then 'Wordsworth Drive'. Neither team got this, cue more shocked annoyance from Victoria! It's Reggie Perrin's walk to work in the original series, so 'Station Drive' would be fourth. At the end of the second round, the Beekeepers led 10-6.

On to the Walls. The Beekeepers went first, and chose to tackle the Lion wall. They spotted some links, but they didn't have much luck isolating any. They eventually managed 'Suzuki', 'Ryder', 'Galore' and 'Goodnight', which are surnames of Bond girls. A second set came shortly afterwards: 'Moresby', 'Harcourt', 'Elizabeth' and 'Talbot' all follow 'Port' to give place names. Running out of time, they used up two shots, and were timed out before they could have their third. They did collect both connections bonuses though: 'Indian', 'Triumph', 'Ducati' and 'Aprilla' are makes of motorcycle, while 'Melbourne', 'Fed', 'Stanley' and 'Calcutta' are sporting cups. Six points there.

The Wonks thus could pull level if they could wipe the Water wall clean. After trying a few permutations, they had their first set in the bag: 'Siege', 'Eyebrow', 'Hell' and 'Roof' are things that can be raised. A second set came eventually: 'Michael Corleone', 'Romulus', 'Cain' and 'Scar' all killed their brothers. (Their offer of 'they betrayed their brothers' was rightly accepted) They did manage to use all three shots at solving, but also couldn't manage it. They took both connection bonuses too though: 'Madonna', 'Prince Albert', 'Tragus' and 'Snake bites' are piercrings, while 'Libertine', 'Robot', 'Claudius' and 'Partridge' can all follow 'I,'. So another six points, which left them trailing 16-12 going into the final round.

So, who would be triumphant after Missing Vowels? 'Words derived from Swedish' was split 2-each. 'Referees and umpires' went to the Beekeepers 3-1. 'Advertising slogans and their companies' was another 2-each split. 'Fred Astaire films' only managed one clue, which the Beekeepers took. At the end of the match, the Beekeepers won 24-17.

Another good match with some good questions and answers. Unlucky Wonks, but nothing wrong with either of your performances, and thanks very much for giving us them. Well done Beekeepers though, and very best of luck in the group phase!

So, we resume on Friday 6th at the same time, presumably with the Genealogists vs the Oscar Men.

Be back Friday/Saturday with a round up of the week's Christmas UC action, and a look back at Deal's final two weeks (for now). See yous then.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Only Connect: Does Missing Vowels carry too much weight?

Now, when it comes to online discussion of Only Connect by non-quizzers, there are various things people discuss on Digital Spy, Twitter and other sites. One is how good Victoria is looking that week. The others range from pedantic complaints about questions to actually interesting discussion about questions.

But there is one issue that is quite often tossed up that is definitely worth discussing: does the Missing Vowels round carry too much weight? This issue has been dragged up quite a bit over the past year, and, having re-reviewed the stats from the past series, I can understand why.

Just to make it clear what these people are saying: the basic complaint is that Missing Vowels quite often decides the show all by itself, either a close match can become very one sided in the final round, or a team that has led throughout will suddenly lose it at the end.

These people often say that Missing Vowels isn't really the same as the prior rounds, which require lateral thinking, while Missing Vowels is just about being quick on the buzzer.

Well, I thought I'd investigate how often this has happened.

Michael Wallace of the Board Gamers has already covered this in some depth on his and Jamie Karran's blog The Ones That Got Away. In a post made in the slipstream of their come-from-behind first round victory, he looked back over the first seven series, and determined that, in 99 episodes (presumably celeb and champions specials were ignored), only 14 times did the team trailing going into Missing Vowels go on to win; five were by trailing by just one, and the largest margin overturned was four.

I looked into the four full series we've had since and what we've had of Series 12 so far this morning/afternoon, and, by series, here are my findings:
  • Series 8 saw 3 overturnings, the afore mentioned Board Gamers turnaround from 3 behind, and two more in the preliminaries, both from just one behind.
  • The infamously difficult Series 9 saw just two overturnings, both from two behind, plus two instances of the teams going in level pegging, including the final.
  • Series 10, despite the amount of shows doubling, remained more or less the same, with three overturnings; we did see what was, at the time, the largest overturned deficit in the final round, five points, while the other two were two and three. Only once did the two teams begin the final on equal terms.
  • Then we get to Series 11, however, and now you start to see what people are on about. Seven turnarounds, only one of them from one behind, the rest from between three and five.
  • So far in Series 12, we seen six turnarounds, including the two from the Verbivores overturning seven and six respectively, thus breaking the previous record. The others from one and two. Plus several instances of a team miles behind running Missing Vowels and reducing the gap to just two or so; both Group B play-offs saw this.
So, that's a total of 21 in the past five and a bit series; in the past two and a bit, we've seen only one less than the first seven series put together. This would suggest that Missing Vowels has become more of a game changer since the move to BBC2 than it used to be on BBC4.

Of course, the complainers will look at these figures, in particular the two huge turnarounds by the Verbivores this series, and call for the rules to be changed so that, in their mind, Missing Vowels doesn't render the prior rounds completely irrelevant.

I can't really agree; bear in mind that these 21 shows have been out of 102, so its still very much the norm for the team ahead after the Walls to still be ahead after Missing Vowels, even if, in some cases, it is by a considerably smaller/larger margin.

The particularly annoying complainers will argue that Missing Vowels is completely different from the other three rounds, and that it is totally unfair for a team who have been better on the three lateral thinking rounds to be swamped over by a team quicker on the buzzer in the only round where it isn't really that important. They'll say that a team who only excel at Missing Vowels shouldn't be on a show where lateral thinking is the main advertised requirement. Some have even called for Missing Vowels to be changed so that a correct answer is only worth half a point, thus making it nigh on impossible for a team as far behind as the Verbivores were in those two matches to overturn the deficit.

Surely, however, the main object of Only Connect, like almost every other competitive quiz show, is to win no matter how. Coming from behind by bossing Missing Vowels is a perfectly legitimate tactic, even if it is a risky one that has only worked about 1/5 of the time over the years. Most of the time, how you win is glossed over by the fact that you have won. As William G Stewart used to say, it's better to win 1-0 than to lose 5-4.

This sort of thing, like most complaints people have about our favourite quizzes, is just going to keep going on until something is done. But I personally think it should stay as it is. Only Connect is a much loved show with a tried and tested format that, uniquely for some, hasn't changed at all. In fact, the only things that have changed since Series 1 are the studio colour scheme, Victoria wearing dresses instead of suits (much to the delight of some!), the hieroglyphs replacing the Greek letters, and the straight knockout tournament being tweaked twice.

The actual round layout hasn't changed at all, and there's a good reason for that: it works. Starting to fiddle with formats that work often results in the show's demise. Remember old UC? It's format was changed to the infamous Pass the Baton format for no reason other than low-ish ratings, and it was cancelled within two years. Or Deal or No Deal, which introduced Box 23 and the Offer Button to try and win back lost viewers, but all they did was alienate long term viewers (myself included) and scare them away.

Formats that needn't be fiddled with shouldn't be fiddled with unless there is clearly something hugely wrong with them. And there isn't anything majorly wrong with Only Connect's format bar the occasional quibble over an allowed/a disallowed answer and people moaning about Missing Vowels. To whom I can only say: be careful what you wish for.

That's that for now. I'll be back next Tuesday/Wednesday with my review of Monday's OC; see you then.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Round 2: Match 6: Part-Time Poets vs Surrealists

OK, Tuesday night it is this week. Hopefully same next week. And hopefully on Thursday I'll get round to that extra thing I promised you last week.

Anyway, last night's two competing teams were the Part-Time Poets, Nina Grant, Katie McGettigan and captain Jenny Harris, who narrowly pipped the Oscar Men in their first match, and the Surrealists, Jeremy Partington, Chris James and captain Jonathan Carter, who won a high scoring match against the Genealogists.

Round 1. The Poets went first, and kicked the match off with Eye of Horus: 'Pink Pinky', then 'Orange Clyde', then 'Red Blinky'; that gave it to them, they are the names of the ghosts in Pac-Man! Good call for two points. The Surrealists opened their account with Lion: 'Marsilius of Padua tract: Peace', 'John Terry 2005, 2008 & 2009: Year', then 'Flash Gordon: Earth', and finally 'British monarch: Faith'. They had it at the last one: they have all been or are 'Defender of the...' thing after colon. One for that. The Poets chose Water next: 'Liam Gallagher (guitar): Roll With It', then 'A ventriloquist's dummy (vocals): Lonely This Christmas', then 'John Peel (mandolin): Maggie May'. They suspected it to be something to do with miming, but didn't quite provide a good enough answer. The Surrealists saw 'Nobody (nothing): first 1:20 of Martha's Harbour', and offered that they were all mimed on Top of the Pops for a bonus. For their own choice, the Surrealists chose Twisted Flax, and got the music question: we heard The Hives, then Sting's Fields of Gold, then A Taste of Honey, and finally B. Bumble and the Stingers. They only recognised the second clue, and thus offered 'metals'. Not right. Their opponents saw the 'bees' connection for a bonus. For their own question, the Poets chose Horned Viper: '1 (Gaelic Football)', then '1 and 3 (American Football)', then '1 and 2 (Rugby League)', and finally '2 and 3 (Rugby Union)'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: they are the points you get for kicking the ball between the posts. Left with Two Reeds and the picture set for their own final question, the Surrealists saw some chicken being cooked, then a mathematical equation, then a poster for the film 'The Jerk' with the title removed; that gave it to them, they are all 'jerk', ie jerked chicken and the equation means 'jerk' as well. At the end of the first round, the Surrealists led 5-3.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Poets began the round with Twisted Flax: 'Europe: Dykh-Tau', then 'N. America: Logan', and then 'S. America: Ojos del Salado'. They didn't get this, nor did their opponents, and I can't say I'm surprised. They are the second highest peaks on each continent in order of size, so 'Asia: Godwin-Austen', or 'Asia: K2', would be fourth. The Surrealists chose Horned Viper next: '1st: 5p and 10p', then '2nd: 50p', and then '3rd: 1/2p, 1p and 2p'. They saw it to be issues of decimal coins, and so '4th: 20p' for two points. The Poets chose Lion next: 'Nicholas I', then 'Alexander II', and then 'Alexander III'. They saw the sequence to be the final tsars of Russia, so 'Nicholas II' would be fourth, for two points. The Surrealists chose Eye of Horus next: 'support for (e.g.) database management, web development', then 'Fortran, ALGOL, COBOL, etc', and then 'Assembly languages'. They tried 'Compiler languages'; not right. Their opponents didn't know it either. The sequence is 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st-generation programming languages, so 'Machine languages' would come fourth. For their final choice, the Poets chose Water, and got the picture set: we saw Edward Scissorhands, then Andrew Castle; they spotted it to be the Queen's children in reverse order of age, so offered 'Charles Dickens' for three points. Left with Two Reeds, the Surrealists saw '2nd: D', then '3rd: E flat'; they thought it might be simply notes going up, and offered '5th: F sharp'. Not right. The Poets saw '4th: B flat', but were none the wiser. The sequence is Beethoven symphonies, so '5th: C minor' would complete the set. At the end of the second round, the Poets led 8-7.

On to the Walls. The Surrealists went first, and chose to tackle the Lion wall. After looking over the clues, they quickly had their first set: 'Slip', 'Square', 'Yorker' and 'Ball' are cricketing terms. A second set came shortly afterwards: 'Baffle', 'Puzzle', 'Bewilder' and 'Stump' are words meaning 'confuse'. They looked over the final clues, and resolved matters with plenty time to spare: 'Darby', 'Eddy', 'Smith' and 'Fox' are surnames of founders of Christian movements, while 'Murdoch', 'Barker', 'Wesley' and 'Lively' are surnames of female novelists. A full ten there then.

The Poets thus set to work on the Water wall knowing what they had to do. They quickly had their first group in place: 'Scull', 'Stroke', 'Crab' and 'Blade' are rowing terms. They then spotted a link of famous Brians, and after a couple of misfires slotted in 'Blessed', 'Lara', 'May' and 'Cox'. The final clues didn't take long for them to work out either: 'National', 'Piano', 'Cru' and 'Canyon' can all follow 'Grand', while 'Clough', 'Chasm', 'Gorge' and 'Gulch' are names for a ravine. Another full ten, which gave them a slender lead of 18-17 going into the final round.

So, Missing Vowels, once again, would be the determinator. 'Things you can be between', such as 'THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA', went to the Surrealists 3-1. 'A Tom Hanks co-star and the film they co-starred in' went to the Surrealists 3-0. 'Things involving 13' went to the Poets 2-0, and time ran out on the final clue. The Surrealists won 23-21.

Another good close match between two even teams. Unlucky Poets, but nothing to be ashamed of at all in your two performances, so thanks very much indeed for playing. Well done Surrealists though, and good luck in the group stage!

Next week's match: the Beekeepers vs the Policy Wonks

And hopefully, I'll look into that extra matter of Missing Words later in the week.

Monday, 12 December 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 2: Match 6: Robinson vs Balliol

Evening all. So, as I thought, the final regular University Challenge before Christmas tonight. The now annual Christmas celeb specials take over from next week for the next two weeks, and we then resume, hopefully, on January 2nd, but I will let yous know for sure nearer the time. As for tonight, we welcomed back two winners of consecutive first round matches; winners would progress to the group stage, where my guess if they'll run into either Wolfson or Warwick in the preliminaries.

Robinson College Cambridge were on level terms for most of their first match against Wadham of Oxford, before a well timed late sprint saw them emerge victorious 150-95. They were the same four that fought on that occasion:
David Verghese, from Hertfordshire, studying English
Catherine Hodge, from Birmingham, studying Theology and Religious Studies
Captain: James Pinder, from Martyr Worthy in Hampshire, studying Natural Sciences
George Barton, from Beaconsfield, studying Physics

Balliol College Oxford also spent the first half of their match against Imperial of London on level terms, before they hit their stride in the second half and won comfortably 220-55. They were also unchanged for their first outing:
Freddie Potts, from Newcastle, studying History
Jacob Lloyd, from London, studying English
Captain: Joey Goldman, from London, studying Philosophy and Theology
Ben Pope, from Sydney, studying Astrophysics

Off we set again then, and Mr Goldman, to whom I apologise for getting his forename wrong last time around, took the first starter of the night, and the Oxonians firmly set their stall out as they took all three bonuses on political insults. Robinson followed them out the blocks with Mr Pinder breaking their duck, but they got nothing from their first bonus set. A second starter for Mr Goldman and a second full bonus set, and already things were looking ominous for the Cambridge lot. A third starter went to the Balliol captain, and their record slipped as they took just two bonuses this time. The first picture round, on hypothetical concert programs, went to Balliol, but they got nothing from the bonuses, which nevertheless left them leading 80-10.

Mr Potts took a second starter in a row, and Balliol resumed former service with a full set, which already put their lead at 95. Robinson reduced it somewhat when Mr Pinder, eventually, took the next starter, and they took five points from the resultant bonuses. They then lost those five to a slip-up; Balliol took the points, and gave us the comedy moment of the week when they suggested Laurence Olivier was around in 1887! Paxo wasn't impressed, but Mr Goldman retorted that they might as well say something; quite right, you're certain to be wrong if you pass. They took the second bonus, and I correctly guessed Carol Reed for the third.

The music starter saw the first and possibly only appearance of Daft Punk on the show! The bonuses, on musicals duos, went to Balliol, who took two, which upped their lead to 140-20. And when Mr Goldman took the next starter, and a bonus set on ducks gave them a further ten, I was already tempted to call game over. Miss Hodge stopped me doing so when she took the next starter for Robinson, who took two bonuses from a good set on the first Millennium AD. A rather harsh penalty then cost Balliol five, and Robinson only just missed out on the points; Mr Pinder atoned by taking the next starter, and the obligatory Shakespeare bonuses gave them a good full house.

The second picture round, on clients of Elsa Schiaparelli, went to Robinson, but they got nothing from the resultant bonuses, albeit unfortunate that they missed one, which left the deficit at 155-75. They had clawed back a substantial amount of ground though, and were still just in touching distance. But Mr Pope reawakened Balliol, and the side did well to take one bonus from a difficult bonus set.

And when Mr Goldman very promptly took the next starter, that was game over; they took just one bonus on a set which would be easy pickings for connoisseurs of the Shipping Forecast. Miss Hodge took another starter for Robinson, but just one bonus meant they fell just short of triple figures. Balliol broke 200 with the next starter and two bonuses, and there was just time for one more from Mr Goldman; nothing came from the bonuses, and the gong prevented another starter being asked. Balliol won 210-90.

Another good match to conclude the regular shows for the year. Unlucky Robinson, who were simply outbuzzed tonight, but no shame in that, and a perfectly reasonable effort, so thanks very much for playing. Very well done to Balliol though; another excellent performance on the buzzer and bonuses, and very best of luck in the group stage!

Mr Goldman ended the night best on the buzzer, with six to his name, while Miss Hodge and Mr Pinder took three each for Robinson. On the bonuses, Robinson converted 7 out of 18, while Balliol managed a not bad 19 out of 36, and both sides incurred one penalty each.

And that's it for this year; Christmas specials take over next week, and we resume in the New Year with, as far as we know, Corpus Christi vs Peterhouse and Oriel vs Bristol. Surely they've all waited long enough for their second matches!

Only Connect is on next week as usual, breaking for Christmas one week later. I'll look back on tonight's match either tomorrow or Thursday night.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Round 2: Match 5: Fire-Eaters vs Clareites

OK, Wednesday it is. Next week it could be Thursday that I end up reviewing Only Connect, we'll have to wait and see. As far as I can tell, OC is on an extra week before it pauses for Christmas, but I shall double check again at some point and let yous ken for sure nearer the time.

Anyway, playing on Monday night, we had the Fire-Eaters, Andy Davis, Tony Moore and captain Jonathan Elliott, who defeated the Eurovisionaries in their first match, and the Clareites, Ellie Warner, Olivier Grouille and captain Sarah Binney, who won out over the Wrestlers in their first match. Winners went through, runners-up went out, unfortunately.

Round 1. The Eaters went first, kicked off with Twisted Flax, and instantly triggered the music question: we heard ACDC's Whole Lotta Rosie, then Girls Aloud with Whole Lotta History, then Jerry Lee Lewis' Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, and finally Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin, as heard over the opening credits of Top of the Pops. Neither side spotted the link. The Clareites kicked off their campaign with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'Sadness' in blue, then 'Fear' in purple; they had it from the first, but took the second to make sure: they are characters in the film 'Inside Out' and their colour. The Eaters chose Lion next: 'Ian R', then 'Cameron O'; they too took three here: you add the letter to the name to give that of a country. The Clareites chose Eye of Horus next: 'Musician Peter Baker', then 'Dancer Virginia McMath', then 'Trainer Donald McCain', and finally 'Singer Geraldine Halliwell'. They offered that they all shortened their names for professional reasons; not right. Their opponents offered that their nicknames are all 'Ginger something', which was correct for a bonus. (The second clue being Ginger Rogers) For their own question, the Eaters chose Two Reeds, and got the pictures: we saw a labyrinth, then a canal, then a hammer; they offered 'parts of the ear', which was correct for two points. Left with Water, the Clareites saw 'Quarterly literary periodical of the 1890s', then 'National Gardens Scheme Annual', then 'Wisden Cricketer's Almanack', and finally 'Telephone directory of businesses'. The last one gave it to them: they are all yellow books. (Reminds me of that Yellow Pages ad about the image consultants that was in almost every ad break a few years back!) At the end of the first round, the Eaters led 6-4.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Eaters began the round with Water, and the picture set: we saw Daryl Hannah, then a minim, and then ABBA. They spotted it to be palindromes with decreasing numbers of letter, and offered a father, 'Dad', for two points. Acceptable. The Clareites chose Lion next: '2012: Wolves' (I very nearly said '2015: QPR' at this point; see if you can work out why and what would be second and third!), then '2013: Warriors', and then '2014: Rhinos'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: '2015: Rhinos' would be fourth, the sequence being winners of Rugby League's Challenge Cup. For their own question, the Eaters chose Two Reeds: 'Margaret Thatcher (1)', then 'Harold Wilson (2)'; they spotted it to be prime ministers and how many times they became PM, and so 'William Gladstone (4)' would be fourth. The Clareites chose Twisted Flax next: 'Guinea-Bissau', then 'Guinea'; they offered 'Liberia', which was correct for three points, the sequence being the West African coast going south. For their final choice, the Eaters chose Eye of Horus: 'Lord Redesdale', then 'Mr Bennet', and then 'Tsar Nicholas II'. They saw it to be fathers of six, five and four daughters, and, trying to think of someone who had three, Mr Davis offered his mate Ali, which Victoria reluctantly accepted, though she did demand proof! Left with Horned Viper, the Clareites saw '4: 7am to 7am', then '3: 1pm to 1pm', and then '2: 8am to 8am'. They didn't get this, their opponents came close, but didn't either: they are the timescales of the first four series of 24, so '1: 12am to 12am' would be fourth. At the end of the second round, the Eaters led 14-7.

On to the Walls. The Clareites needed a good result as they chose to tackle the Lion wall. Alas, like the Verbivores last week, the wall completely stumped them, and they ran out of time without grouping anything. They could still collect group points though: 'Schleifer', 'Glissando', 'Acciaccatura' and 'Turn' are musical ornamentation terms, which they got, 'Splice', 'Lashing', 'Standing end' and 'Bight' are types of knot, which they also got, 'Ria', 'Firth', 'Sound' and 'Fjord' are types of watery inlet, which they got as well, while 'Albert Ross', 'Petrol', 'Rennes' and 'Miner' are homophones of birds, which they didn't get. So, three points salvaged there.

The Eaters thus had a big chance to pull away if they could get the most from the Water wall. Unfortunately for them, they didn't fare too much better, isolating one group, 'Reeve', 'Cain', 'Routh' and 'Cavill', which actors who have played Superman, but nothing more, despite some very loud frantic thumping at the touch screen! They thus had to settle for group bonuses as well: 'Holmes', 'Child', 'Lewis' and 'Rand' are British female athletes, which they didn't see, 'False', 'Liveli', 'Neighbour' and 'Knight' can all precede 'Knight', which they also missed, while 'Manciple', 'Squire', 'Second Nun' and 'Miller' are narrators from the Canterbury Tales, which they also saw. Another three point salvage put them 17-10 ahead going into the final round.

As we've seen this series, not insurmountable, so still up in the air going into Missing Vowels. 'Dickens villains and the bokk they appear in' went to the Clareites 3-(-1). 'Famous Emmas' was a 2-each split. 'Words that contain one of each vowel' likewise 2-each. 'JM Barrie plays' only got one clue, which neither team got. At the end of the show, the Eaters won 20-17.

Another good effort by two good sides who did well considering the very tricky walls. Unlucky Clareites, but nothing at all to be ashamed of, so thanks very much indeed for taking part. Well done Fire-Eaters though, and good luck in the group stage!

Next week's match: the Part Time Poets vs the Surrealists

Also, does the Missing Vowels round carry too much weight? I investigate. Stay tuned for that either tomorrow or next week.

Monday, 5 December 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 2: Match 5: Wolfson vs Jesus

Evening all. So, we've seen half the first round matches; we've had one tonight, we'll have one next Monday, and then we're off for Christmas, with the show resuming in the New Year. Only Connect is on one extra week before it breaks for Christmas IIRC; I'll check again later. On with tonight, and the big question for tonight's teams: would the winners score more than 195?!

Wolfson College Cambridge were virtually neck and neck with SOAS throughout their first round match, which ultimately ended in a 175-each tie-break, which they emerged on the right side of. Their return much awaited on Twitter, they were unchanged from before:
Justin Yang, from Vancouver, studying Public Health and Primary Care
Ben Chaudhri, from Cockermouth in Cumbria, studying Natural Sciences
Captain: Eric Monkman, from Oakville, Canada, studying Economics
Paul Cosgrove, from Cookstown in Northern Ireland, studying Nuclear Energy

Jesus College Cambridge narrowly lost their first match to Corpus Christi of Oxford, but survived to the play-offs, where they narrowly won a Cambridge derby against Queens' to get here. Hoping to be the first repechage survivors to reach the group stage since out old friends Southampton three series ago were the also unchanged foursome of:
Sam Fairbrother, from Greater Manchester, studying Education with Drama and English
Rosa Price, from East London, studying English
Captain: Theo Morris Clarke, from London, studying Economics
Daniel Petrides, from Petts Wood in Kent, studying Political Thought and Intellectual History

Off we set again then, and it was Mr Yang who got the night underway with the obligatory Shakespeare question; one bonus followed before Mr Monkman, the return of whom in particular has been much awaited by Tweeters, broke his duck for the night. A full bonus set on the old UC staple chemical elements came with that one, before Mr Monkman undid some of his work with two consecutive penalties (albeit one of them was caused by unnecessary extra spiel). Jesus didn't pick either up, but Mr Morris Clarke identified the River Tweed (tae mark whaur England's province stauns!) to get them going. A full bonus set on the Old Testament got them firmly going. The first bonus round, on English railway towns, went to Jesus, who took five out of fifteen, but had now snuck into a 40-30 lead.

Mr Chaudhri put the sides level again when he took the next starter, and they easily reclaimed the lead with a full bonus set on ancient alphabets. A starter was dropped, Jesus dropped five, Wolfson picked up, and took two bonuses to go with it. Mr Monkman then took a second starter in a row, and the side humourously swept up a bonus set on the Lord of the Rings! Mr Fairbrother finally broke Jesus back into the match, and one bonus on astronomy meant they now had half the points of their opponents.

The music round, on classical lullabies, went to Jesus, who impressively took a full set, and thus cut the deficit to 100-75. Mr Chaudhri increased it when he took the next starter, and obscure colours with their own Wikipedia page provided an amusing bonus set, of which Wolfson took ten points. A slip up lost them five of those points; Mr Petrides picked up possession, and his side took two bonuses on writers known by their surname and two initials. What looked like a complete guess handed possession back to Wolfson, and they took two bonuses on National Trust heritage sites. (Fortunately, they weren't asked to identify its symbol!) Another starter was dropped, the next went to Wolfson, and they took a full bonus set on biology.

The second picture round, on photographs of musicians by the Dutchman Anton Corbijn, went to Jesus, who took a much needed full set, which reduced their arrears to 160-120. Still gettable with a good run, but it was Wolfson who took the next starter. For the first time of the night, the side dropped a full bonus set, getting nothing from a set on cricket.

When they took the next starter though, that was most likely game over; two bonuses on apples seemed to suggest this. Mr Monkman took the next correct answer just to make sure; the resultant bonuses took them through 200, thus ending the 195 run. A slip up proved immaterial, though Jesus did pick up and went out with a bang with two bonuses on 19th century history. There was time for Wolfson to take one final starter and bonus before the gong; Wolfson won 225-140.

Another seriously good pair of performances by both sides tonight. Unlucky Jesus, who were simply outplayed by a better buzzing team, but nothing to be ashamed of at all, so thanks very much indeed for partaking in this series. Very well done to Wolfson though; another excellent performance against strong opponents, and good luck in the group stage!

Mr Monkman was by far the best buzzer of the night, with seven starters to his name, while Mr Fairbrother ended the night best for Jesus with four. On the bonuses, Wolfson converted a good 25 out of 35 (with a not so good four penalties), while Jesus managed an also good 15 out of 21 (with one penalties), and, once again, all eight players answered at least one starter correctly. Well played both; good show!

Next week's match: don't know who once again, but I understand this to be the final match before the Christmas break; hopefully we'll find out who in the coming days.

Only Connect continued the Cambridge theme in tonight's Quizzy Mondays with the return of the Clareites; more on how they and their opponents got on tomorrow/Wednesday night.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Round 2: Match 4: Verbivores vs Taverners

Right, well, after University Challenge carried on its remarkable run of winning scores of 195, would Only Connect uphold its side of the run. Would this week's winners win with 22? Both teams tonight came through the scenic route, losing and surviving to the play-offs, then winning through to meet each other at this stage.

Playing were the Verbivores, Phyl Styles, blog reader Tom Cappleman and captain Graeme Cole, who just lost to the Psmiths then pipped the Channel Islanders, and the Taverners, Dean Reilly, Simon Gibbons and captain Mickey Alexander, who lost to the Cosmopolitans before beating the Bardophiles.

Round 1. The Taverners were put in first, and kicked off the show with Eye of Horus: 'Chief exec of TalkTalk', then '7-Up mascot', then 'Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong', and finally 'First queen of Carthage'. The last clue gave it to them: they are all called 'Dido'. The Verbivores opened their account with Horned Viper: 'Japanese: Growing rice fields', then 'Korean: Three stars', then 'Danish: Play well'; that clue gave it to them that they are what brand names mean in their original languages (Minolta, Samsung, Lego, and the last clue would've been 'German: People's car' for Volkswagen). The Taverners chose Lion next: 'Charles Percy', then 'Cecil Scott', then 'Pamela Lyndon', and finally 'Gilbert Keith'. They didn't have it, their opponents just about did: they are the first names of authors who used initials (CP Snow, CS Forrester, PL Travers and GK Chesterton). For their own question, the Verbivores chose Water: '...Bill', then '...Baby', then '...Homepage', and finally '...Quartet'. They suspected it to be a word question, but could only come up with 'String'; not right. Their opponents were none the wiser. 'Million Dollar' are the linking words. The Taverners chose Two Reeds next, and got the picture set: we saw a carp fish, then a grouse, then a mother dog with her puppies. They spotted it from the third clue that they are words meaning 'complain' (carp, grouse, 'word beginning with 'B' that rhymes with 'twitch', and some beef would've been last). Left with Twisted Flax, and the music set, the Verbivores heard Glamorous by Fergie, then Gloria, then Lola by the Kinks, and finally Respect. They had it that they are songs where the title is spelled out. At the end of the first round, the Verbivores led 4-3.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Taverners kicked it off with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'ANITA AND THREE GIRLS: Life can be bright', then 'BERNARDO: If you can fight', and then 'ALL GIRLS: Life is all right'. They knew it to be who sings what in a song, but didn't know what came next. Nor did their opponents. The song is 'America' from Westside Story, so 'ALL BOYS: If you're all white' would come fourth. The Verbivores chose Eye of Horus next: '28: 3 in 48', then '29: 1 in 48', and then '30: 16 in 48'. They didn't get this, and their opponents couldn't provide an answer quickly enough. '31: 28 in 48' would be fourth, the sequence being how many months there are in a four year cycle. The Taverners chose Lion next: 'Chamber of Stone', then 'Prisoner of Secrets'; they identified it to be the Harry Potter series with the titles merged moving forwards, so 'Order of Fire' would be fourth. The Verbivores chose Twisted Flax next: '.2' then '.25', and then '.3'. Quite simple this one: '0.5' would be fourth, with the sequence being a fifth, then a quarter, then a third and then a half. For their final choice, the Taverners chose Water, and got the picture set: we saw some pirates, then an angry person, and then a rat. They didn't see it, their opponents did: an 'A' would be fourth, the others being 'pirates', 'irate', 'rat'. Left with Two Reeds for their own final question, the Verbivores saw 'Plymouth Argyle' in green, then 'Norwich City' in yellow, and then 'Blackpool' in orange. They saw it to be football teams and their kit colours going up the rainbow, so 'Manchester United' in red would satisfy for two points. (Though, technically, Blackpool's shirts are tangerine, not orange; same with Dundee United) At the end of the second round, the Verbivores led 9-6.

On to the Walls. The Verbivores went first this time, and chose to tackle the Water wall. This would prove a mistake, as they got completely stuck, and ultimately got timed out without anything in the bag. They could still garner connections points though: 'Timbers', 'Sounders', 'Crew' and 'Galaxy' are American association football teams, which they didn't get, 'Desire', 'Lumia', 'Optimus' and 'Xperia' are makes of smartphone, which they also didn't know, 'The Fly', 'Sweetest Thing', 'Elevation' and 'New Year's Day' are U2 songs, which they did know, while 'Frozen in Time', 'Above the Below', 'Revolution' and 'Buried Alive' are stunts performed by David Blaine, which they didn't. So just the one point there, which I think may be an unfortunate record.

The Taverners thus had a big chance if they could make the most of the Lion wall. Indeed, in complete contrast, they immediately isolated 'Into Darkness', 'Nemesis', 'The Wrath of Khan' and 'Insurrection', which are subtitles of Star Trek films. A second set followed almost immediately: 'Helter Shelter', 'Michelle', 'Glass Onion' and 'Across the Universe' are songs by a pop group called the Beatles. The final clues fitted in pretty promptly too: 'The Swarm', 'Revolution', 'Rita' and 'Big One' are rollercoasters of some sort, while 'Sketch', 'Anwar', 'Maxxie' and 'Sid' are characters in the sitcom Skins. So, a full ten, which put them ahead 16-10 going into the final round.

So, once again, Missing Vowels would decide who went through and who went out. 'Football tricks', such as 'SCORPION KICK' and 'CRUYFF TURN', was split 2-each. 'Musical trios' went to the Verbivores 3-0. 'British butterflies' was a clean 4-0 to the Verbivores. 'TV series set during the 1940s' only got one clue out, which neither team got. At the end of the night, the Verbivores had snuck another one point win, 19-18!

Well, what a way for the '22' run to end; another well played match by both teams. Unlucky Taverners, but nothing to be ashamed of in any of your efforts, so thanks very much indeed for playing. Very well done Verbivores though, and best of luck in the group stage!

Next week's match: the Fire-Eaters vs the Clareites

Monday, 28 November 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 2: Match 4: SOAS vs Emmanuel

Evening all. Half way point in the second round matches, and a remarkable stat that I hadn't noticed til after last week's show: all three winning teams thus far had ended the match with 195! And to add to that, all three winning teams on Only Connect's second round had won with 22! No idea what the odds on that are! Would it continue tonight?

SOAS came through the repechage, losing by a whisker to Wolfson of Cambridge on a tie-breaker, before comprehensively overpowering Durham in their play-off, winning 270-85 on that occasion. They were the same foursome as those two prior outings:
David Bostock, from Cheltenham, studying Southeast Asian Studies
Magda Biran-Taylor, from Harrow, studying Southeast Asian Studies
Captain: Henry Edwards, from London, studying Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Odette Chalaby, from London, studying Near and Middle Eastern Studies

Emmanuel College Cambridge were trailing Nottingham for large parts of their first round match, but a strong fightback and a late sprint saw them emerge victorious by 175-135. They too were unchanged from that occasion:
Tom Hill, from London, studying History
Leah Ward, from Oxfordshire, studying Maths
Captain: Bobby Seagull, from East Ham in London, studying Education specialising in Maths
Bruno Barton-Singer, from Wandsworth in London, studying Physics

Off we set again then, and our friend Mr Seagull slipped-up straight away, allowing SOAS to take the first starter, and to set their intentions firmly straight as they took all three bonuses. A second starter and full bonus in a row to the Londoners seemed to suggest the imperious form that won them the play-off wasn't dried up yet. A starter was dropped, before Miss Ward moved Emmanuel back into positive figures; a bonus set also on physics provided the Cambridge side with five points. Miss Ward then slipped up herself, before making amends with another correct starter, which, again, provided five bonus points. The first picture round, on the names of Ancient Greek thinkers written in modern Greek, went to Emmanuel, who swept the slate clean, and cut their deficit to 50-45.

A second starter in a row for Mr Barton-Singer gave Emmanuel the lead, and a bonus set on Shakespeare's sonnets added ten to their score. Mr Hill then had his turn to add to their score, which gave them a bonus set on plants, where they amusingly offered Rosemary instead of Thyme! Mr Edwards, top buzzer for SOAS in the earlier rounds, now took his first starter, but the London side only took five from a bonus set on former Indian states. Another starter was dropped, before Emmanuel acquired an amusing bonus set on dairy farming, which they unfortunately got nothing from.

The music round, on tracks kept in the US National Recording Registry, went to Emmanuel, who swept up the board; one of the pieces was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who long term viewers will remember as the subject of a famous wrong answer back in 2010-11! Emmanuel now led 115-65, but SOAS ate into the lead after Ms Biran-Taylor was somewhat leniently allowed 'Hapgar' in lieu of 'Apgar'; suspect William G Stewart would've allowed that, so fair enough that Paxo did too. SOAS swept up the bonuses, showing that they were still very much in the game. Mr Barton-Singer moved Emmanuel further ahead, but they got nothing from a tricky bonus set on proteins. A second starter in a row went to the Emmanuel right-winger, and two bonuses on symphonic poetry added to their score.

The second picture starter was dropped; the bonuses, on UNESCO world heritage cities, went to Emmanuel, with SOAS unluckily losing five in the process. They only identified Bath, but nonetheless upped their lead to 160-85. A very quick buzz from Mr Seagull pulled them to within sight of victory, and a bonus set on years of the nineteenth century saw them take two and unluckily miss the other.

But back came SOAS, as the late Mr Bostock took a starter to earn a bonus set on silent film directors, which they took ten from the move into three figures. But when Mr Barton-Singer took the next starter, just getting away with a slight pause, that was most likely game over. The resultant bonuses gave us comedy moment of the night as the Cambridge side struggled to recall something they'd discussed on the train earlier that day! They took five. Ms Chalaby took another starter for SOAS, and they went out with a bang with a full bonus set. The gong prevented the next starter being completed; Emmanuel won 195-130.

So, after another excellently played match by both sides, the run amazingly goes on! Unlucky SOAS, who were just simply outplayed by a better side on the buzzer, which would prove decisive as we'll see, but well done anyway on a very decent series of performances. Well done Emmanuel though; another strong showing against very good opponents, and very best of luck to yous in the group stage!

Mr Barton-Singer was the best buzzer of the night, with seven starters to his name, while Ms Biran-Taylor was SOAS's best with three. On the bonuses, SOAS converted a very good indeed 15 out of 18 (with one penalty), while Emmanuel managed 17 out of 36 with two penalties; so it was indeed a game won on the buzzer, with all eight players ending the night with at least one under their belts.

Next week's match: again, don't know yet, but hopefully all we be found out in the coming days.

Only Connect saw the return of the two play-off survivors from Group A tonight; tune back in tomorrow night to find out if their side of the run continued!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Round 2: Match 3: Shutterbugs vs Korfballers

OK, back to Tuesdays this week, and should hopefully continue this way for the rest of the year, except maybe one week in a couple of weeks' time, though I will of course let yous know for sure nearer the time.

Anyway, playing last night were the Shutterbugs, Jasmine Leonard, Adam Ardron and captain Jenny Skene, who narrowly beat the Highgates last time out, and the Korfballers, Taissa Csaky, Niall Sheekey and captain Michael Jelley, who beat the Channel Islanders in their first outing.

Round 1. The Shutterbugs kicked off procedings with Two Reeds: 'Carucage', then 'Tallage', then 'Scot', and finally 'Danegeld'. They suspected it at the second, but the final confirmed it for them: they are former British taxes. The Korfballers began their account with Twisted Flax, and the picture set: we saw two beaters, of the sort seen in Gladiators, then a goalkeeper; this was enough for them to get it, they are positions in Quidditch! Victoria seemed most amused by this! The Shutterbugs chose Water next, and got the music set: we heard Michael Bolton, then George Formby singing When I'm Cleaning Windows; now, they offered, at this point, places in Lancashire, which Victoria accepted, even though the unheard clues would've been Dionne Warwick and Belinda Carlisle. Fair enough call IMO, they offered the key word, and thus were right to get the three points. The Korfballers chose Lion next: 'AUGUST 7', then 'APOLLO 8', then 'EXODUS 14', and finally 'QUIZ 22'. The final clue gave it to them: they are words and their Scrabble scores. The Shutterbugs chose Horned Viper next: 'British monarch: James II', then 'UK prime minister: Duke of Newcastle', then 'World triathlon champion: Jonny Brownlee', and finally 'Cuban president: Raul Castro'. They didn't get it, their opponents, and I, did: they all succeeded their brothers in that position. Left with Eye of Horus for their own final question, the Korfballers saw 'Fear does stimulate the vagus nerve', then 'Pectin does lower blood pressure', then 'Omega-3 does reduce natural inflammation', and finally 'A red sunset does mean high pressure moving from west'. Again, they had it from the final clue: they are scientific evidence for old wives tales. At the end of the first round, the Korfballers led 6-4.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Shutterbugs kicked the round off with Lion, and the picture set: we saw a lotus flower, then Malcolm McLaren, and then Serena Williams. They didn't get it, their opponents did: something representing 'Ferrari' would suffice, the sequence being winners of the F1 Constructors Championship in order of how many wins. For their own question, the Korfballers chose Two Reeds: 'John Houblon' (scored out), then 'Michael Faraday' (ditto), and then 'Florence Nightingale' (likewise). They spotted it to be people who have been withdraw from being on £50, £20, £10 and £5 banknotes, but couldn't get the right answer. Their opponents offered Elizabeth Fry; now, at the time of recording, she hadn't been withdrawn from the fiver, she has now, but Victoria let them have the bonus nonetheless. For their own question, the Shutterbugs chose Twisted Flax: 'Secretary of State', then 'President pro tempore of the Senate', and then 'Speaker of the House'; they knew it was the line of succession to the US Presidency, and offered 'Vice President' for two points. The Korfballers chose Horned Viper next: '1936 - Wallis Simpson', then '1952 - Queen Elizabeth II', and then '1986 - Cory Aquino'. Neither team got this one; they are women who have been TIME magazine's Person of the Year, so '2015 - Angela Merkel' would be fourth. For their final choice, the Shutterbugs chose Water: '1st: MAX GROSS', then '2nd: TARE', and then '3rd: PAYLOAD'. They had nothing to offer, and their opponents didn't have it. '4th: CU CAPACITY' would be fourth, the sequence being labels on shipping containers. Ironically, the Shutterbugs claimed in their intro to have been looking at some being offloaded while on walkabout in Cardiff! Left with Eye of Horus again, the Korfballers saw '2013: Cold Trends (Search)', then '2014: Pokemon Challenge (Maps)', and then '2015: ChromoSelfie (Chrome)'. They knew it to be stunts pulled by Google on April Fools Day, but couldn't get the fourth. Their opponents could: '2016: Minion dropping mic (GMail)' would satisfactorily complete the set. At the end of the second round, the Shutterbugs led 8-7.

On to the Walls. The Korfballers went first, and chose the Water wall to play with. After looking over and trying some sets with little success, they eventually isolated 'Horne', 'Hancock', 'Dale' and 'Clitheroe', which are surnames of BBC Radio comedians. After spending some time trying to isolate a group of words for valleys, they eventually had 'Vale', 'Ria', 'Glen' and 'Gulch'. They tried quickly to solve the remaining clues, and got it at the last try: 'Magdalene', 'Blew', 'Lowe' and 'Grimm' are homophones of words meaning 'miserable', while 'Barton', 'Stuart', 'Berry' and 'Beard' are surnames of famous Marys. A much needed full ten points.

The Shutterbugs were thus under pressure to perform well on the Lion wall. They quickly spotted some links, and eventually isolated 'Myrrh', 'Maple syrup', 'Turpentine' and 'Cork', which are products obtained from trees. Looking over the rest, they spotted a link of words that can precede 'duck', and quickly isolated 'Lame', 'Sitting', 'Rubber' and 'Peking'. Looking over the remaining clues, they worked out the links, and soon had things wrapped up: 'Christiania', 'Edo', 'Angora' and 'Hanyang' are former names of capital cities (they offered 'erstwhile capitals', and were just about given it), while 'Cashmere', 'Vicuna', 'Qiviut' and 'Alpace' are types of wool. Another full ten, which gave them a slender lead of 18-17 going into the final round.

So, once again, Missing Vowels would be the decider. 'Things you might regret the next day', such as 'ONE-NIGHT STAND' and 'BOOZE-UP'(!), went to the Korfballers 2-0. 'Films with US state capitals in the title', such as 'THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX', went to the Korfballers 2-1. 'Noted mnemonics' was split 1-each, and time expired on the third clue. The Korfballers won 22-20.

Another good close contest. Unlucky Shutterbugs, but nothing to be ashamed of at all once again, so thanks for taking part. Well done Korfballers though, and good luck in the group phase.

Next week's match: the Verbivores vs the Taverners

Monday, 21 November 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 2: Match 3: East London vs Warwick

Evening all. In a break with the last six series, neither repechage team reappeared tonight. Instead, we had two teams who had a very different experience of the first round; one narrowly won a very close match, the other ran away with the highest score of the first round. Matches aren't decided on paper, especially based on first round form, so what would we get tonight?

East London, this year's token ex-Polytechnic, were on even terms with Glasgow throughout their first match, ultimately winning it on the final starter of the match, and winning narrowly 150-135. They were unchanged from that time around:
Christopher Ducklin, from Eastbourne, studying Civil Engineering
Kelly Travers, from Westcliff in Essex, studying for a Masters of Research
Captain: Jerushah Jardine, from the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, studying Peatland Ecology
Rachel Evans, from Grays in Essex, studying English Literature

Warwick started off on even terms with Liverpool in the first half of their first match, before hitting their stride in the second half, and running away with it to win 235-95, which would turn out to be the highest first round score. They were also unchanged from that time:
Sophie Hobbs, from Birmingham, studying French and History
Sophie Rudd, from Grimsby, studying Computer Science and its Applications
Captain: Giles Hutchings, from Farnham in Surrey, studying Maths
Thomas Van, from Geneva, studying History

Off we set again then, and Miss Rudd, by far Warwick's best buzzer first time out, identified the mammal species rodentia for the first starter; a full bonus set straight away showed that they were up for it tonight. Next, we saw 'emoji' as an answer for probably the first time! Miss Rudd took that too, and two bonuses followed this time. Mr Van added his worth by taking the next starter, and two bonuses from a nice set on childrens rhymes followed suite. East London finally got to the buzzer next, but only managed to lose five (albeit for buzzing with just one word left). Ms Travers finally broke the Londoners' duck with the next correct starter, but no bonuses followed. The first picture round, on Latin names of childrens books, went to Warwick, who swept up, and already led 90-5.

Mr Hutchings, who could well be vying for the first UC-Countdown double, took a second starter in a row, but just the one bonus followed this time (unlucky to miss another though). Already, their lead was over 100, and Miss Rudd increased it further by taking the next starter. Already, they looked home and dry, even more so when Mr Hutchings was first in with a very good answer on the next starter. They took one bonus, and unluckily missed another when Mr Hutchings said the wrong answer by mistake despite having been told the right one.

The music starter was dropped (I got it, albeit only because I'd heard it on UC before!); the bonuses, on classical works based on the tales of folk heroes, eventually went to Warwick, who only took the one, but still led comfortably, 160-5. Another starter went Miss Rudd's way, but, again, just the one bonus was converted alongside. East London finally broke back into the match when Mr Ducklin took the next starter, and they took one bonus from a nice set on pairs of novels, unluckily missing the other two. A penalty dropped them back further, but they quickly recouped the points, though got nothing from the resultant bonuses.

The second picture round, on paintings by members of the Royal Academy donated upon their induction, went to East London, who took one bonus, which put the scores at 175-40. Ms Travers then took a fourth starter in a row for the Londoners, and one bonus on Canterbury cathedral ensured they wouldn't be joining the Sub-50 club. (I can post a full list of Paxo-era members of that if anyone wants)

There was only actually time for three starters in the final straight. Miss Rudd took the second, allowing Warwick to increase their lead, which they did via two further bonuses on Japanese fiction. Miss Rudd buzzed on the third, but was beaten by the gong. Warwick won 195-55.

A rather one sided game truth be told. Unlucky East London, who were simply outplayed on the buzzer and just didn't have the bonuses fall for them when they did, but you played in great spirit, so thanks very much indeed for taking part. Very well done to Warwick though; another strong performance on the buzzer and the bonuses makes them one to watch in the group stage, and good luck to them for then.

Miss Rudd was, again, best buzzer of the night, albeit only just with five starters to Mr Hutchings' four, while Ms Travers and Ms Evans took two each for East London. On the bonuses, East London converted just 3 out of 15 (while two penalties), while Warwick managed a rather good 19 out of 30.

Next week's match: don't know, but hopefully we'll find out beforehand. All I can say is I hope its not the two repechage survivors against each other; neither deserve to go out in this round.

Only Connect returned to normal this week, with no mistakes, and a pretty good close match too. More on that tomorrow. I hope.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Round 2: Match 2: Networkers vs Psmiths

OK, sorry for the two day delay, but now I can finally get round to reviewing this week's Only Connect. Yes, the one with the mistake! Kudos to TPTB for the professional way they dealt with it, having Victoria announce at the top of the show, and then confirm what it was over the end credits.

Playing were the Networkers, Frank Little, David Collison and captain Harriet Courtney, who defeated the Cousins in their first match, and the Psmiths, Mark Smith, Nick Holland and captain Nick Reed, who narrowly emerged on top over the Verbivores, who are also in the second round draw.

Round 1.The Networkers kicked off proceedings with Eye of Horus: 'Kashmir', then 'Pyrenees', then 'Lake Victoria', and finally 'Borneo'. They offered 'disputed borders'; not right. Their opponents offered 'divided between three nations', which was correct for a bonus. For their own first question, the Psmiths chose Two Reeds: 'Berk', then 'Dinas Emrys', then 'Erebor'; they offered 'dragons', which was correct. (The card answer was 'fictional dragons', but Victoria thought 'dragons' was sufficient!) The Networkers chose Twisted Flax next, and got the picture set: we saw Brendan Rodgers, then Venus Williams, then some steel, and finally Mark Owen. Neither side had it: they are the surnames of the Gang of Four. No, they're not! Roy Jenkins was in the gang of four, not David Steele! There's the famous mistake! The Psmiths chose Water next: 'Watson-Wentworth by Watson-Wentworth West', then 'Fifty Shades of Melbourne', then 'East of Macmillan'; that gave it to them, they are films where the names of a prime minister has been swapped with that of their successor. Good shout for two points. (The missing one was 'The Brown Witch Project'!) The Networkers chose Lion next: 'Northern Ireland: Council tax', then 'Wales: Voluntary organ donation', then 'Scotland: Tuition fees'; they identified things that are not applied in those parts of the UK, and picked up two points of their own. Left with Horned Viper, and the music question, the Psmiths heard 'Take On Me' by A-ha, then 'Run' by Snow Patrol, then 'Mad World' by Tears for Fears, and finally Gloria Jones singing 'Tainted Love'. Neither team knew it: these are songs that got to number one when covered by others. At the end of the first round, the Psmiths led 5-2.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Networkers began the round with Two Reeds: '4th: Canada (Alouette I)', then '3rd: UK (Ariel I)', and then '2nd: USA (Explorer I)'. They didn't get it, their opponents came close with '1st: USSR (Vostok I)', but it's actually '1st: USSR (Sputnik I)'. They are artificial satellites in order of launch. The Psmiths chose Lion next: '41st: Timberwolf', then '42nd: Eagle', and then '43rd: Tumbler (pre-election); Trailblazer (post-)'. They knew it to be secret service nicknames of US presidents, but didn't know what would be fourth. Nor did their opponents. '44th: Renegade' would complete the set as Obama's codename. The Networkers chose Water next, and got a music sequence: we heard Erasure, then 'It Never Happens to Me' by the Assembly, and then Yazoo. They didn't get it, their opponents did: something by Depeche Mode would satisfy, the sequence being the career of Mr Vince Clark going backwards. (A half decent rendition of 'Just Can't Get Enough' followed!) For their own question, the Psmiths chose Twisted Flax, and got the picture set: we saw Harry from Spooks, then a GI Joe doll, and then some chap I didn't recognise. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. We have a spy, a soldier, and the third character is a tailor, so 'Tinker' of some sort would be fourth. For their final choice, the Networkers chose Eye of Horus: 'Witham', then 'Welland', and then 'Nene'. They offered 'Ouze', which was correct. They are the rivers that feed into The Wash. Left with Horned Viper again, the Psmiths saw 'Newsbeat hands over to Scott Mills', then 'Jeremy Vine throws to second bulletin'; they knew it was what happens on the BBC radio networks at a certain time, but didn't get the right answer. Their opponents saw 'The Lunchtime Concert is introduced', but were none the wiser. They are what happens on the main four networks at 1pm, so 'Martha Kearney reads the headlines' (ie The World at One) would be fourth for Radio 4. At the end of the second round, the Psmiths led 6-4.

On to the Walls. The Psmiths had their turn to go first, and chose the Water wall. They immediately isolated a set of famous Ashleys, 'Judd', 'Banjo', 'Giles' and 'Cole', and then very quickly had a second set, 'Belch', 'Aguecheek', 'Malvolio' and 'Feste', which are characters in Twelfth Night. They looked over the remaining eight, and worked out the groups fairly quickly: 'Lyre', 'Psaltery', 'Kontra' and 'Viola' are string instruments, while 'Eruct', 'Burp', 'Gurk' and 'Rift' are synonyms for 'belch', or, as the setters put it, 'digestive wind release'! A very quickly solved full ten.

The Networkers thus had to solve the Lion wall fully too to stay in step. They made a good start, isolating 'Prospect', 'NUJ', 'Equity' and 'Napo', which are trade unions, very quickly. A second set, 'Howard', 'Daddles', 'Dad-Dab' and 'Edd', which are fictional ducks, followed. They too resolved the remaining eight with their first try: 'Britannia', 'Groat', 'Unite' and 'Crown' are British coins, while 'Leonard', 'Penny', 'Amy' and 'Sheldon' are, of course, characters in The Big Bang Theory. Another well resolved full ten left the scores at 16-14 to the Psmiths going into the final round.

So, Missing Vowels would decide who went through to the Group Phase. 'People or things with avian nicknames', such as 'BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION', went to the Psmiths 3-1. 'A country and its smallest state', such as 'AUSTRALIA AND TASMANIA', was a 2-each split. 'The word 'missing' is missing', such as 'IN ACTION', went to the Networkers 2-1, and that was time. The Psmiths had won, 22-19.

A good match well played by both despite the low scoring first two rounds. Unlucky Networkers, but certainly nothing to be ashamed of, so thanks for playing. Very well done Psmiths though, and good luck in the Group Phase!

Over the credits, Victoria confirmed that the gang of four question was the one with the mistake.

Next week's match: the Shutterbugs vs the Korfballers

Hopefully back to normal service next week; back on Monday with UC as usual. See yous then.

Monday, 14 November 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 2: Match 2: Birmingham vs St Andrews

Evening all. On we carry with the second match of the second round. Winners tonight would go through to the increasingly unpopular group phase, the runners-up would go home. No women on tonight's show, apart from in the audience, and also, possibly, the only possible case of a team playing their own football stadium! (Sorry, you really have to know your football to get that! If anyone knows any other possible permutations where this could happen, do tweet me or tell me here!)

Birmingham were initially trailing Queen's of Belfast for most of their first match, before overtaking and running away with the match in the final stages, ultimately emerging on top 165-105. They were the same four that we saw last time:
Elliot Jan-Smith, from Derby, studying Chemistry
Fraser Sutherland, from Edinburgh, studying History
Captain: George Greenlees, from Plymouth, studying Medicine
Chris Rouse, from Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire, studying History and Politics

St Andrews also spent much of their first match against Worcester of Oxford in a losing position, though never too far behind, and they just snuck ahead at the end to win 175-145. They too were the same four as before:
Matt Eccleston, from St Helens, studying International Relations and Spanish
James Green, from Schaffhausen in Switzerland, studying German and Persian
Captain: Toby Parker, from Bristol, studying Maths
Andrew Vokes, from Edinburgh, studying Chemistry

Off we set again then, and the match didn't exactly get off to a good start, with Birmingham incurring a penalty; St Andrews capitalised and took a full set of bonuses on devices. Mr Green went straight for his buzzer with 'Ambrose Bierce' when he heard the words 'Devil's Dictionary', only for the question to swerve a request a word from its definition instead; Birmingham took control, but only got one bonus from their first set, on November the 5th, which, had Autumnwatch not interfered, would have topically gone out last week. Birmingham took the next two starters, but, in both cases, took just one bonus from each set. The first picture round, on philosophical works in their original languages, went to Birmingham, who, again, took just the one bonus, nonetheless increasing their lead to 55-20.

A nice starter on the names of places in Somerset made it five in a row for Birmingham, and their bonus hoodoo lifted as they swept the board on a set on cell biology. Mr Greenlees, impressive in the earlier round, took his second starter in a row and third of the night, and a second consecutive bonus full house, on fish, put them into triple figures. St Andrews finally broke back into the match courtesy of Mr Vokes; a bonus set on actresses featured on the AFI's list of 20th century screen legends provided them with two correct starters, and a slight slip from Paxo, who pronounced Bette Davis' first name as 'Bet' rather than 'Betty'. (Shame William G Stewart wasn't there to correct him!)

The music starter was dropped; the bonuses, on pieces written for variations of the piano trio, went to Birmingham after a fresh starter. Just the one bonus followed as the Midlanders upped their lead to 120-40, before Mr Green reduced it by ten by taking the next starter. A complicated bonus set on geographical parallels saw the Scots side take one, and unluckily miss the other two. Mr Sutherland increased Birmingham's lead, and a bonus set on pairs of words, one of them a cheese, where the final few letters of one and the first few of the other are the same (didn't we have that a few weeks ago?) provided them with five further points.

The second picture round, on portraits of French writers whose work was banned by the Roman Catholic Church, went to St Andrews, who took a full house, keeping themselves in the game as they cut the deficit to 135-80. Mr Greenlees just about took the next starter, and a bonus set on Berlin museums offered them two correct answers and ten more points. A second starter in a row went to Mr Greenlees; a bonus set on 1996 elections gave me a very rare full set, but just the one from Birmingham, who nonetheless offer some amusement by suggesting Carlo Ancelotti was Berlusconi's predecessor as Italian PM!

A third starter in a row went to Mr Greenlees, a bonus set on human anatomy fell right into his lap, and that was game over. But St Andrews weren't going to give in yet; Mr Green took the next starter, but final words of Shakespeare characters got them no further points. Two starters in a row were dropped, with St Andrews losing five in the process, before the Scots side deservedly reached triple figures thanks to a starter and two bonuses. St Andrews took the final starter, but there was no time for bonuses. At the gong, Birmingham won 195-115.

A decent enough match despite it being sort of one-sided. Unlucky St Andrews, who were very much still in it until their opponents ran away near the end, but two perfectly respectable efforts, so thanks very much for playing. Very well done to Birmingham though; another good victory over decent opposition, and good luck in the group stage!

Mr Greenlees was, again, best buzzer of the night, with seven starters under his belt, while Mr Green, again, was St Andrews' best with four. On the bonuses, Birmingham converted a decent 18 out of 33 (with one penalty), while St Andrews managed an also good 11 out of 18 (with two penalties).

Next week's match: don't know yet, but I suspect we'll be seeing one of the repechage survivors based on the last six years.

Only Connect saw a very unusual occurrence tonight: a mistake! I mean, I know we've seen some very improbable things this year, but come on! All will be revealed tomorrow.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Round 2: Match 1: Cosmopolitans vs Tubers

So, the second round of Only Connect. Thanks to Tom Cappleman for confirming our suspicions that the second round is following the first round groups, and also confirming that play-off survivors will play each other as well; this means, unless they mix things up later on, it's quite easy to foresee who's playing who.

Playing each other last night were the Cosmopolitans, Annette Fenner, Emily Watnick and captain Amy Godel, who defeated the Taverners (who survived to the play-offs and are through to the second round as well), and the Tubers, David Prevezer, Hugh Brady and captain Jack Welsby, who won out over the Bardophiles (who the Taverners defeated in their play-off). So, who would triumph in the battle of the Fifteen-to-One legend captains?

Round 1. The Cosmopolitans began the match with Twisted Flax, and the picture set: we saw a young Frank Sinatra, then a young Jane Fonda, then Justin Bieber; they spotted that all the photos were mug shots of the celebs in question, and duly collected two points for it. The Tubers opened their account with Lion: 'Malabo', then 'Conakry'; they identified them as the capitals of Equatorial Guinea and Guinea respectively, and offered 'capitals of 'Guinea' countries'. Correct, for three points. The Cosmopolitans chose 'Horn-ed' Viper next: 'Con: +0. -0 = 1', then 'Lab: +0. -40 = 1', then 'Lib Dem: +0. -40 = 1'; they knew it had something to do with election swings, but couldn't boil it down precisely. Their opponents saw the final clue of 'SNP: +50. -0 = 56', and offered the election results in Scotland for a bonus. (Coincidence that this question came the same week as that question about Mhairi Black on UC last night) For their own question, the Tubers chose Two Reeds, and got the music question: we heard 'Anarchy in the UK', then 'Word Up!' by Cameo, then 'It's Raining Men', and finally 'What I Am' by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. They didn't get it, their opponents did: they are songs that have been covered by ex Spice Girls as soloists. (I shudder to think!) For their own question, the Cosmopolitans chose Water: 'Nguyen That Thanh', then 'Tafari Makonnen', then 'Shimon Persky'; at this point, they offered 'original names of heads of state'. Correct, for two points. (The missing clue was the nicely topical 'William Jefferson Blythe III', aka Mr Hilary Clinton) Left with Eye of Horus, the Tubers saw two clues in foreign alphabets that I can't reprint here, then the third clue of 'Alles ist moglich: Die 10-Millionen Show', and finally 'Quien quiere ser millionario?'. That gave it to them: they are the titles of foreign versions of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. (Reminds me of the foreign version, I can't remember which, where the host prolonged tension after a final answer with a DIY ad break!) At the end of the first round, the teams were tied at 5-each.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Cosmopolitans kicked the round off with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'G C C E' (in a column', then 'D G G A' (ditto), and then 'A D D D' (likewise). They didn't get it, nor did their opponents; they are tunings of instruments in the violin family, so a columned 'E A A G', would be fourth. The Tubers chose Two Reeds: 'Higher managerial, administrative & professional', then 'Intermediate, managerial, admin've & professional'; they spotted the sequence to be NRS demographic categories, but their offer of 'Semi-skilled manual' wasn't acceptable enough. Their opponents saw the third clue of 'Supervisor / clerical / junior management, admin've & professional', and offered 'Skilled manual', which was right for a bonus. For their own question, the Cosmopolitans chose Twisted Flax: 'Meankieli', then 'Voro', and then 'Estonian'; they thought it might be languages going up the Baltic, and offered 'Finnish'. Right answer, wrong reason: they are Finnic languages by number of speakers. Still get the two points though. The Tubers chose Lion next, and got the picture set: we saw broadcaster James Burke, then the Fibonacci sequence accompanied by some traffic lights, and then the Great Wall of China and another wall. This was great: they are visual depictions of the four rounds of Only Connect (Connections, sequences and walls), so something representing Missing Vowels would be fourth! Excellent stuff, and they had it for two points. For their final question, the Cosmopolitans chose Water: '4: qwerty', then '3: 123456789', and then '2: password'. Both teams saw it to be the most commonly used passwords, but neither could complete the sequence. '1: 123456' would be fourth. Left with Eye of Horus again, the Tubers saw 'China - Indonesia', then 'United States - United States', and then 'Canada - India'. They offered 'Russia - China' which would be right. It is the largest countries in terms of land area and population increasing. At the end of the second round, the Tubers led 9-8.

On to the Walls. The Tubers went first, and chose the Lion wall to solve. This was a tough wall; they spotted some links, but couldn't isolate anything. Eventually, they locked in 'Saint-Lazare', 'l'Est', 'Bercy' and 'Austerlitz', which are Paris railway stations. Running out of time, they eventually worked out a second group, 'Eylau', 'Copenhagen', 'Jena' and 'Marengo', which are Napoleonic battles. (Why am I somehow reminded of 'Chicken Austerlitz' from last year's UC?) With little time left, they quickly tried to solve the final groups, but ran out of time. They still could collect bonuses though: 'the Lateran', 'Lyon', 'Trent' and 'Constance' are Catholic councils, while 'Rome', 'Edinburgh', 'Sheffield' and 'Istanbul' are all said to be built of 'seven hills'. Six points for that.

The Cosmopolitans thus had a chance to pull away if they could clean sweep the Water wall. They quickly spotted two links, and eventually worked out their first group: 'Sebastian', 'Prince Eric', 'Flounder' and 'Scuttle' are characters in Disney's Little Mermaid. A second group came fairly quickly: 'Lady Lazerus', 'Daddy', 'Ariel' and 'Tulips' are works by Sylvia Plath. They tried to work out the remaining groups, and soon had them isolated: 'Calibri', 'Tahoma', 'Impact' and 'Cambria' are fonts, which they got, while 'Titania', 'Umbriel', 'Oberon' and 'Miranda' are moons of Uranus; alas, they offered 'Saturn' instead, and thus dropped the set point. Seven points there, which left the scores at 15-each going into the final round.

So, Missing Vowels would decide who went through to the group phase, and who joined Open in the 'unluckily eliminated early' club. 'Things that cause pain to runners', such as 'SPRAINED ANKLE', went to the Cosmopolitans 3-1. 'Cubes', such as 'STOCK CUBE' and 'SEVEN HUNDRED AND TWENTY-NINE', was a 2-each split. 'People you might give a tip to' went to the Tubers 3-1. 'Films about assassinations' only managed one clue, which the Cosmopolitans gave just in time. At the end of the show, the Cosmopolitans won 22-21!

An excellent close match between two fine teams that nicely complimented last night's epic UC! Unlucky Tubers, who just missed out at the post, but a very creditable effort, so thanks very much for playing. Well done Cosmopolitans though, and best of luck in the group stage!

Next week's match: the Networkers vs the Psmiths

Monday, 7 November 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 2: Match 1: Open vs Edinburgh

Evening all. So, we've arrived at the ever thrilling second round. No second chances in this round; if you lose, you're out. Which, given the high standard of teams this series, is a huge shame. Especially given tonight's fixture, which, given the line-up of the last two series, was, I suppose in hindsight, pretty easy to foresee. But more on that later.

The Open University team defeated Salford in their first round match, in a match that started evenly matched until they sprinted away in the second half, eventually emerging on top 210-115. They were unchanged from that encounter:
Rob Mitchell, from Leicestershire, studying Maths
Dale Crawford, from Shropshire, studying Maths
Captain: Sarah Banks, from North Uist in the Western Isles, studying Maths
Mags Adamson, from Gloucester, studying Music

Edinburgh were level pegging with Durham in their first match, until literally the closing moments of the match, when they took the decisive starter to win 190-155; their better bonus rate outdoing their opponent's better buzzer showing that night. They were also unchanged from before:
Luke Dale, from York, studying Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies
Euan Smith, from Aberdeen, studying Classics
Captain: Joe Boyle, from Brighton, studying Ecology and Environmental Science
Emily Goddard, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, studying Chemistry

Off we set again then, and Mr Smith was first on the buzzer the night; Edinburgh took two bonuses on Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland. (Might have been there; can't remember what the one I went to was called) Mr Crawford quickly pulled Open off the mark as well, but they got nothing from their first bonus set. Their second set, a nice one on mnemonics, proved more to their liking, as they swept the board to take the lead. The first picture round, on lists of non-speaking characters in Shakespeare plays, went to Edinburgh, who also took a full house, which gave them a narrow 45-35 lead.

On the next starter, for once, the Central African Republic earned ten points rather than none (had to be done!); Mr Crawford had the honour, and Open provided a third clean sweep in a row. Mr Mitchell moved them further ahead, but just the one bonus followed this time. A prompt buzz from Mr Dale pulled Edinburgh back on side; another clean house followed, to pull the Scots side within five points. A penalty from Open put the sides level, then allowed Edinburgh to take the lead, but nothing more than that, as all three bonuses were dropped.

The music round, on operas involving parts for children, went to Open, who only took one bonus, which nonetheless gave them back the lead, 85-80. But Edinburgh immediately took it back, with Mr Smith, again, on the mark. Two bonuses on sea birds followed, before Mr Crawford bit back for Open; people whose lives spanned a similar period to that of Churchill (Sir Winston, not him!) provided them with another full sweep and the lead returned to their grasp. Mr Boyle pulled Edinburgh level again, and a topical bonus set on US state flags provided them with just one correct answer, but the lead as well. Open reclaimed it, with Ms Banks first in to identify Miss Mhairi Black's famous win in Paisley last year; a bonus set on chapters of Dickens gave both them and myself one correct answer (and it wasn't the same one!).

The second picture round, on stills from sci-fi films of the 50s, went to Edinburgh, who got nothing from the bonuses, but did come close on one and gave us the comedy moment of the night as well! The sides were now level, 125-each, only for Edinburgh to lose five and allow Open possession again; the side impressed by sweeping the board on a very tricky bonus set on physical chemistry. Edinburgh bit straight back by taking a full set of their own on portrayals of Sir Thomas More in film (I only knew The Tudors, but predicted what the other two might be), which pulled them within five to set up yet another grandstand finish.

Mr Smith gave Edinburgh the lead, and they increased it via two bonuses. Mr Crawford bit straight back for Open, and they pulled level via one bonus, which they were a bit fortunate to be allowed; another they were unlucky to miss after Ms Banks misheard her colleague. Edinburgh retook the lead, and two crucial bonuses put them within one starter on victory. But Open took it instead, took two bonuses... and the gong went just before they gave the right answer to the third! A 185-each tie-breaker!

So, for the second time this series, it would all come down to a sudden death starter. A very long one it was too. Mr Smith eventually buzzed in for Edinburgh, and was right!

An absolute screamer of a match between two fine teams who were level pegging literally all the way through, and it's a travesty that one of them had to go out for good tonight. Very unlucky Open, who were, as Paxo rightly said, a very entertaining and impressive team, but thanks very much indeed for playing; nothing to be ashamed of. Very well done to Edinburgh though, and very best of luck in the quarter-finals!

Mr Crawford was, just, the best buzzer of the night, with six starters, just ahead of Mr Smith's five for Edinburgh. On the bonuses, Open converted 18 out of 30, while Edinburgh also managed 18 out of 30; so identical bonus rates, and one penalty each, which explains and emphasises what a great match this was! Very well played both teams! (Why do I somehow feel another post on format reform in the coming weeks?)

Next week's match: Birmingham vs St Andrews, if the last two years are anything to by. We'll probably be seeing the two repechage survivors in the weeks after that as well.

Only Connect also began its sudden death second round phase tonight, and, again, it was a huge shame either team had to lose. But more on that tomorrow of course.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Only Connect Series 12: The Story So Far

This year, two much loved and respected long running contests have introduced a risky new change in their rules to see if they work.

One is the EFL Trophy, formerly known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, a cup competition ostensibly to give teams from the third and fourth tiers of the Football League a realistic chance at a trip to Wembley (for the final). This year, TPTB have allowed sixteen Premier League/Championship under-23 teams to enter as well, ostensibly to give them more experience. But fans of third/fourth tier teams are not impressed that these youth teams have hijacked their tournament and have been boycotting matches.

The other is Only Connect. It's been a great series so far, with some great performances all round in the sixteen weeks so far. It's format: two groups of twelve teams, with the six winners progressing, while the four highest scoring runners-up enter a play-off round, with the winners going through as well.

Blog reader Tom Cappleman of the Verbivores, one of the runners-up to survive via the play-offs, described the format back in July as 'a slightly more generous variant of UC's format'. And that I agree with, as it means only four teams only get one outing, which sounds fair enough. Until you consider that the first round draw has been split in two to accommodate filming blocks.

Now, here are the losing scores from the top half of the draw, with the surviving teams in bold and those that won through to the second round in italics:
Verbivores (22)
Taverners (18)
Channel Islanders (13) (8)
Bardophiles (13) (6)
Cousins (13) (4)
Highgates (11)

And the bottom half, likewise:
Genealogists (22)
Maltsters (21)
Oscar Men (20)
Wrestlers (15)
Scunthorpe Scholars (14) (7)
Eurovisionaries (14) (6)

So, you see, both out-missers from the bottom half of the draw would've survived for another go had they been in the top half of the draw, or if the first round hadn't been split in two and the top eight had just survived. As I've already said, this seems to suggest that the format, while certainly not a bad format at all, isn't quite there in terms of overall fairness.

I could go on a rant here about how TPTB are putting their own convenience over fairness by splitting the draw up, and draw parallels with UC, which films at least two second round matches straight after the two teams' first matches, thus resulting in two very good teams meeting too early, but I won't, as, to be honest, it is but a minor quibble.

Also, I originally speculated that the format could easily have been the same as UC's old format, ie, twelve matches, with the twelve winners and the four highest scoring losers all going straight to Round 2. Had this been in place here instead of play-offs, all but one of the four runners-up would've been the same, so I'm not going to complain about that either. I'll just say: it's a perfectly reasonable format, but the way it's enforced needs to be tweaked slightly if they're to re-use it next year.

And it's certainly nothing compared to the unfairness that has arisen from PL youth teams hijacking the EFL Trophy.

As for the twelve winning teams in the second round draw, they are, in order of score and victory margin, with the top-halfers in plain and the bottom halfers in bold for reasons that will become clear later on:
Tubers (29, 16)
Fire-Eaters (26, 12)
Surrealists (26, 4)
Korfballers (25, 12)
Beekeepers (24, 10)
Clareites (24, 9)
Psmiths (24, 2)
Cosmopolitans (23, 5)
Policy Wonks (23, 2)
Part-Time Poets (21, 1)
Networkers (18, 5)
Shutterbugs (15, 4)

Them plus the four teams listed in italics above make up the second round. It's going to be very interesting. As you can see, some very close scores in amongst that lot. But to be honest, I don't think we can try to forecast OC in the same way we can UC, as OC scores are more based on getting questions/bonuses that you know and can get, rather than outplaying your opponents, although that is, of course, important as well.

Also, given that the first second round match next week is the Cosmopolitans vs the Tubers, and the week after the Networkers vs the Psmiths, I wonder if the first round split is still in force, and that the teams will be playing in amongst their first round groups. We'll have to wait and see, I suppose.

Whatever the case, I look forward to the rest of the series. Given that there doesn't seem to be the usual Children in Need celeb special in two weeks' time, unless its the week after instead, the show will probably finish up around the same time as UC, maybe a bit earlier provided, like last year, it doesn't break for Christmas while UC does.

Back next week with my usual UC write-up; see yous then.