Hello if you're reading this having clicked the link from Facebook or Twitter!
I've decided to make a couple of changes to the blog. Firstly, the by-my-own-admittance inane ramblings that precede these weekly reviews (which seem to come across as like the "thought for the week" a community spokesperson is often invited to put into the letters pages of local newspapers) will be moved to their own post, leaving these reviews to focus on what they are. It also gives the blog additional content. There's also some formatting changes, though that's really for my own benefit, as what I write here is a useful backup for my performance analysis.
As we're at the end of the first month of the year, there are overall monthly statistics to consider, but these will not be included in this post. Partially because I want to discuss those separately, and partially because I haven't actually compiled them yet, this being a job for later today. There's worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Quiz #15 - Monday 30th January, Kings Arms Dalbeattie (A)
Last week I missed out on K's quiz in Dalbeattie (for first time readers, there are two alternating hosts, whose names I abbreviate to A & K as I don't give names of people in this blog), and from whisperings I heard, I wasn't the only one. The quiz seemed sparsely attended this week, too, with Big Tam's Appreciation Society being notable absentees, apparently for the second week in a row. I was quizzing alone for the 2nd time this year, the first at this quiz, as the other teams I've joined in the past, the 4 Stooges and No Kan Do both had full houses. Still, it was one of A's quizzes back in April that gave me my best solo score of 2016, and I was in good form, having won twice at the end of last week.
A's quizzes don't have fixed subjects, though the old University Challenge classic of a "starter for ten" - i.e. ten general knowledge questions - is common, and was how the night both began and ended. The first round was one of those annoying ones in which I zigged when I should have zagged repeatedly. Getting St George's Day wrong (even by one day) was criminal, opting for Worcestershire sauce rather than Tabasco as the one made by McIlhenny & Co just unfortunate. After getting the first four wrong, however, I got the other 6 right for a solid start. It was also better than the 4 Stooges, with whom I was swapping answers for the marking.
What followed next was unusual - 3 geography rounds in a row. Regular readers will recall my past wrestling with the subject, and my uncertainty over how good I actually am on it, but the first, general, round, gave me 9. I've heard the question of the two landlocked South American countries often enough lately that I was never going to miss it (again...), there were a couple of lucky guesses (Titicaca for the largest South American lake - it was the only one I could think of - and Indonesia for the country with the most volcanoes) and some very easy ones. Both myself and the Stooges were wrongfooted by the Australian state where the Adelaide river is located, as we both knew that the city is somewhere in the south, despite both guessing the actual state wrong, but none of us knew that the river is actually at the opposite end of the country in the north.
Next was flags, a subject I know I need to learn better. I reckon I'll remember most of my wrong answers for the future though, especially the colours of the flag of Bangladesh, which I mixed up with Pakistan, though that still gave me a half mark. 4 more was all I had, but I'll take it this time. The last of the geography rounds was a total gift - European capital cities. I memorised them all long ago, and have a list of them on Youtube, and I gleefully took all 20 points on offer. They weren't all easy, either - three shared the name with the country, and the likes of Estonia, Macedonia and Georgia are hardly univerally known. The 2015 Ship Inn round on World Capitals (which is what inspired me to learn them all) is still paying me dividends all this time on, it seems!
"The Animal World" was also a decent round, giving me 7 after I decided not to change my correct answer of the largest venomous snake as King Cobra to the Burmese Python. Yes, it's bigger, but (a) not the biggest and (b) pythons are constrictors. It was a tough round, and I was happy with the score. More so than with the other general knowledge round, my weakest of the night with 4.
Overall, however, it was an exceptional night. 50.5/70 left me 4th, just half a point away from 3rd and prize money. The Stooges requested I get a special commendation for getting such a score alone, and thus I was applauded by the other teams. That was very flattering, and shows what a friendly quiz it is. Great night that I'd love to repeat in future!
Result: 50.5/70 (72.14%), 4th/8
Quiz #16, Tuesday 31st January, Ship Inn Dumfries
The Ship Inn has been the scene of some great triumphs and disasters, but it's fair to say that since the end of our run of 5 wins in 6 quizzes back in November ended, we've struggled, relatively speaking. The Newbridge Caravan Park have been dominant, though we're friendly rivals and never begrudge losing to them. The score was certain to be lower than at other quizzes, as this one is by far the hardest of those I do. I've alluded to this before, but I've also said before that I'm not one to visit someone's home and complain about the decor. Fortunately, I was in good form going into this, though my two teammates joked that they were like to bring me down.
I knew better than that, and indeed general knowledge was a team effort. Unusually, there were 19 points on offer thanks to two five point questions - the largest Mediterranean islands, and the UK cities beginning with N. We had 4 of each, and a scattering of others for 12 in total, one fewer than the NCP. The lowest score was 7, which is abnormally high actually - usually it's higher than the 1st placed score. Film & TV is often a crapshoot, despite film itself being my strongest subject. The other two not having a TV and my not watching a huge amount of it doesn't help, and the two subjects are broad enough that in combination, they're often problematic. We got 4, in evidence of this, dropping us to 3.5 below the leaders. Round 3 was sport, another common disaster for us, and I'll always accept 7/13 on it, though it furthered our slide down the leaderboard at the half way point by a mark.
Dingbats are always reliable for lots of marks; they're common in quizzes, and I've a decent mind for lateral thinking. These though, were seriously tough. Should have gotten a couple that I'd seen before, but others I hadn't. 6.5 pushed us up the leaderboard, but the NCP were extending their lead, which now stood at 6.5 points - surely unassailable.
I have to admit, I noted the difficulty of the quiz on the pub's Facebook page before this outing, and made specific reference to the specialist rounds, which are often nigh-impossibly hard, though I accept that (the specialist rounds excepted) it's not deliberate. Ironic, then, that this was an exceptionally good round for us, with 9/11. Okay so it was Harry Potter (specifically, the 6th film), which is a potential Mastermind subject for me. We correctly identified the key facts from the Wikipedia page that would likely be asked about, such as the Tokyo premiere (a week before the UK and US) and got the rest from the film itself. One of the team is also a fan, which helped us close the gap significantly.
This left the music round - contrary to anything said by my team, they do not give themselves nearly enough credit for all the other subjects. My own opinion on my abysmal musical knowledge, however, is backed up by stats. The others did the work here, getting us 21.5 - which won us the quiz! Just 1 point in it, a surprising result after what looked like a decidedly mixed performance. Clearly we gave good answers where it really mattered, however, and just edged clear at the end in a tough final round. Amazing.
Result: 60/95 (63.12%), 1st/6
Quiz #17, Wednesday 1st February, The Granary Dumfries
The Granary will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was where I did my first solo quiz. I got 10/50 back in August 2014, in my second quiz since deciding to do them in this area (the first was actually a team-win at The Grapes). Still, I've never won this one in the following 2.5 years, a key factor being my usually only having one teammate, and other teams often having 6-8 people - sometimes more - as it's a casual quiz with no limits. Not that I've ever complained about that; I beat a group of 8 alone last week, and always see it as a fun challenge. I was after 30/50 minimum here after recent results, though at this quiz that's usually a hard score to get - winning scores have been lower before.
Just like Monday, we started and finished on general knowledge. I have to say, the GK rounds at this quiz are the best constructed of all those at quizzes I do: there's a great mix of very easy questions that ensure everyone will get a least a point or two, moderate ones that separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and really hard ones that reward true specific knowledge. Telling, perhaps then that we got 5. As per usual, a couple of our misses annoyed me, but you know how high my personal standards are by now.
Round 2 was "Scotland" - history, in practice. I demonstrated good knowledge by knowing things like Arbroath as the location of the treaty that secured Scottish independence from England in 1329, but mixed up the dates of William Wallace's success at the battle of Stirling Bridge and his execution - 1297 and 1305 respectively. Won't be doing that again! 7/10 left us on my target 12/20 so far.
I really thought we'd seen the last of the 2016-specific rounds by now, but this quiz has had one each week of 2017, so it was no real surprise to see another. This was unusual though in that it was clearly written as a current affairs round back in June - so questions relating to events that in June were still to happen, but by now had happened. That was somewhat confusing, but didn't stop us getting 5 by recalling some tough facts, such as Laura Kuenssberg as the journalist who attracted the ire of Labour MPs in that month. Well, she is the BBC's political editor, so it seemed a logical guess. Round 4 was a gift - descriptions of classic films. Despite both being good films, I was surprised that The Prestige and Interstellar both counted as classic, but I got them both, as well as the other 8 for a much appreciated full house. 3 on the other GK round would get us to 30 - we had 7.
As the scores were read out, we knew we'd done well - not our best ever, but close to it. The lowest score was 19, then there was a jump to 24. With Sporting Quizbon and the over-35s social group (The Roofrax, who have gone as far as getting customised team hoodies) fielding populous teams, we knew we weren't winning. Or so it seemed... Teams kept being named, the scores bunched in the mid-20s. They edged up, and after a team on 31, it was announced that there were two teams left, one two ahead of the other. Sporting Quizbon was the other - in both senses of the word, as we had done it! After two and a half years, having come close a few times (most notably 2nd by 1 point), we were finally able to say we'd won! The prize money - a £25 bar voucher - pales in comparison to the £175 and £150 vouchers I've won on Killer Questions there, though it's no less appreciated. The title is what matters, though, and as long as I live, I'll have had it in that moment.
Result: 34/50 (68%), 1st/9
Quiz #18, Thursday 2nd February, Anchor Hotel Kippford
It's fair to say that the Anchor has been my happy hunting ground this year. 3 quizzes done there in 2017, scores of 49, 49 and 50, with two different teams. My usual team were absent and the Disciples, whom I'd joined previously, had a full house, so I joined the owners this time, a husband and wife along with their son. I've not spoken to them much, and I'd never met the son, but they seemed like very good people and I was excited, both to quiz with them and see if I could continue my runs in general and at the venue.
This time, of course, I would not have the advantage of having done several rounds previously. I tried to claim that I couldn't realistically remember most of the questions I'd heard in the previous quiz, which was back in November, but despite my being honest it wasn't believed. In fact, questions that were multiple choice the first time around had the options taken away that time specifically to stop them being too easy for me. Which didn't stop me winning. I can't help but feel a bit bad about that, but it's hardly anything I could do anything about so I suppose I shouldn't feel guilty.
General knowledge has been a strong round recently at this quiz, but this felt harder than usual, or perhaps we just erred too often. 5 isn't bad though. For our joker, film was the obvious choice, and most of them were easy enough between us. A trick question though denied us the 16 - "Which Charing Cross platform does the Hogwarts Express leave from?". Seems we weren't the only ones who missed that it leaves from Kings Cross, so "none" is the answer. Very annoying. A "dead or alive" round followed, and that's almost random luck in most cases. The Grapes did it recently but that was historical, and I'm good on history. This time we had to settle for 5 again after a few guesses went the wrong way. We were looking okay at the half way stage, and had least gotten a decent return on our joker round.
Round 4 was cryptic actors. I usually quite like the cryptic ones, but these were exceptionally hard. One of the team struggled with the concept throughout, but even though the rest of us had it, the answers weren't coming. 4.5, with the rest naturally seeming obvious once we heard them. Dingbats was definitely my territory more than that of the rest of the team, and I had them all in about a minute. Except that, not for the first time, I screwed up on one. Never. Again. Still, the other 7 I gave was appreciated by the others. It was better than the dismal 3 we had on living things. Might have had one more, but I didn't want to push too many answers on the others, despite being confident that a mandrake is a plant and not a duck or goose. That old debate - so easy to get on the wrong side of it, as I had with the dingbats.
Ultimately, the mandrake answer and the Harry Potter one cost us the win, as we were second by 2.5 points on 38. That's still impressive, however, as is the incredible generosity of the team who insisted I take the full prize money. Very nice of them. I also gained some personal prize money by winning the bonus "Minute to Win It" round, where the closest answer gets the money. The question was how many Laurel and Hardy films there were, and after debating between 80 and 120 (I knew there was a lot) opted for the latter. There were 117. One of the QMs jokingly told me not to come back, the other bowed to me as he left. I seem to be getting quite the reputation, what with 4 strong consecutive results with 3 teams. I can't pretend I'm not happy with that, though I'm wary of what others may think, as I know the QMs have had to penalise excessively successful teams before. I'll take it as a compliment if it ever gets to that stage, however - I want to be good enough for it.
Result: 38.5/56 (68.75%), 2nd/6
#Quiz 18, Friday 3rd February, Laurie Arms Haugh of Urr
Friday saw me go to a quiz for the first time, for the first time since my holiday last year. It's at the Laurie Arms at the Haugh of Urr, and in a separate post I'll review the quiz itself, so I won't go into detail on that here. I went in alone, of course, but joined up with two friendly older ladies.
The first four rounds are apparently consistent, the first being general knowledge, which we chose as our joker. The usual reputation of this round as easy, however, proved ill-founded this time. We only had 6/20, the team we were marking had similar, and the team sitting beside us actually complained to the QM. I can't pass comment, of course!
Next was "natural world" - science & nature really, with a couple of geography questions thrown in for good measure. Shame we didn't have this as our joker, as we got 9. "TV, film and music" was a round more for me than the others, but I wasn't able to help on music so we only got 5, which is a couple less than I should have had. Redemption was to be had on sport, which gave 8 thanks to a couple of fortunate guesses. This left the last round "Houses". I expected this to by 10 fictional houses, the questions being the people who lived there. There were one or two of those, but it was actually broader than that, with questions like "What part of the Whitehouse is the Oval Office in?" That would have made an equally fine joker, as we got another 9 on it.
When the dust settled, we were perfectly in the middle: 5 teams ahead of us, 5 teams behind. The team in last were 6 points below us, the winners 6 points above. Our score was in keeping with my own overall average, too. I made a good enough impression that the two ladies were keen that I return, without upsetting the established order of the pub or attracting the kind of interest that outsiders often do in these sort of places. I can deal with that, shy as I often am. This quiz runs the first Friday of every month, and I'm free next month, so I will be there! In truth, I'll maintain my loyalty to The Grapes when the two conflict, however, so after March it will be July before I can go back. It was a good evening though, and I'm not bothered that I couldn't maintain the high of the other results in the week. It's all about the experience, not the results, after all.
Result: 37/60 (61.67%), 6th/11
Week in Summation
There's no point denying it - I've had the best quizzing week of my life. It's been fantastic, start to finish. Not every question in every round has gone perfectly, but the odd blip has never outright wrecked any given quiz, as often happens. The Granary win was a first ever, the Ship Inn the first since November, and they follow a first win in months at The Grapes on Friday (my first possibly with that particular team) and a best ever win at the Anchor.
It's true that the Friday result was much more average, but it was clearly a harder quiz than others I'd done this week, was apparently harder than it usually is, and I had no prior knowledge of how it all worked. Even that was an average performance, and the fact that I can say it was average is demonstrative of the fact that I am improving as a quizzer. I actualy came across an old answer sheet from the Kings Arms that I'd kept for some reason, back in 2015, and subsequently forgotten about it. My answers were embarassing! Happy to have moved past that, however, and very much looking forward to what next week brings. I'm not expecting anything close to this week's results - but that's never stopped me trying, and won't know.
If it's not too controversial to quote Che Guevara in a post like this - "¡Hasta la victoria siempre!"
Total Result: 220/331 (66.47%)