Weaver's Week 2015-04-05

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Only Connect (2)


Only Connect

Parasol (an RDF company) for BBC2, 30 March

Series final ZZ: Chessmen vs Orienteers

Back in 2009, teams entered the Only Connect studio, hoping for victory. The History Boys fell in the first round. The Chessmen made it to the semi-final. The Cambridge Quiz Society were beaten in the grand final. All lost to the Rugby Boys, helmsed by the fact mountain Mark Labbett.

Mr. Labbett has chased after other engagements, and done very well. Only Connect has also moved up in the world, advancing from a little show on BBC4 to the centre of BBC2's evening schedule. All the teams defeated by the Rugby Boys have returned this year. The Chessmen defeated the History Boys in their semi-series final, and two-thirds of the Cambridge Quiz Society form the Orienteers. The sides didn't meet in 2009, and do meet tonight.

With a player who undermined the Royal Society by beating them in a quiz, and a Manchester United fan from Manchester, and a host who lapses into Welsh, and questions that even she describes as "horrible"... Let battle commence!

Orienteers play first in Connections, and begin with scratched out words and other words afterwards. "Ancient works that were written over by something else" – palimpsests is a correct answer we didn't see coming, good for one point. The Chessmen have four US presidents: short reigns? Unmarried? Nay; these were the only four Whig presidents. 1-0 to the Orienteers.

Audio time! Something buzzing, a reading of "shall I compare thee to a summer's day", HRH Sir Cliff's "Summer holiday", and a sitar piece. All born in India: Spike Milligan, Joanna Lumley, and Ravi Shankar. Another point. The year 2014 in various calendars (Japanese, Chinese, Islamic, Gregorian) gets the Chessmen off the mark. 2-1.

A group including Robin Hood and Charles II wasn't "merry", but a bunch of people who hid in trees. That's a bonus for the Chessmen, and their picture question – octopus, sailing ship, 29 February, oyster – is not leap but public transport cards. Orienteers said "London transport" cards, a bit too specific on a second go. Octopus in Hong Kong, Clipper in San Francisco, Leap in Dublin. It's 2-2.

Only Connect (2) From left: Paul Beecher, Sean Blanchflower, Simon Spiro (Orienteers); Victoria Coren Mitchell (host); Henry Pertinez, Stephen Pearson, Nick Mills (Chessmen).

Into the Sequences with 4th Watt (W), 3rd Celsius (C), 2nd Newton (N). Is it 1st Joule (J)? No. Pascal (Pa). The eponymous SI units, based on birthdate of the eponym. Good bonus for the Chessmen, who are rewarded with the music sequence. "Your song", "Please please please let me get what I want", "The power of love". John, Stephen, Frank, so not something to do with Matthew. "Somewhere only we know" is the right answer; apparently, these were used in a Christmas advert. The teams are "encouraged" to sing the song, which might appear on the internets within a week.

3-3. Pictures for the Orienteers, a question that appears to be about baseball teams. But no, it's commandments: Artful Dodger stole, others committed adultery and murder, so they're after someone who dishonoured their parents. "I am Archaeopteryx". "I am a prillarhorn". "I am a your". It's phrases with MARCH, APRIL, MAY hidden, with JUNE a very good two points, 5-3 to the Chessmen.

34.1, 13.6, 2.1. Are these the progressive ratings shares after Kerrang turned into Planet Rock? Yes, but that's normal. To be specific, Normal: it's standard deviations, ending 0.1 and two to the Orienteers. Interweb search engines: 5th AltaVista, 4th AskJeeves, then 3rd McDonalds blows their theory out of the water. It's not Yahoo, nor CocaCola (that's 5th), but iPlayer. Camel case words with the second capital letter.

5-5 into the Connecting Walls. Subjects from the song "Wonderful world" might be a distraction group – there are television channels, coloured revolutions, Nobel prizes. And from the depths of his mind, Henry Pertinez extracts Girls Aloud songs. Ten points!

Monopoly properties, runners, types of cigarette appear quickly in the Orienteers' wall. The fourth group evades them for a minute – as does the third, there aren't enough Monopoly properties left. Celebrities called Jack, and collars. Ten points!

So it's all going to be decided by Missing Vowels, being a 15-15 draw. Found in Threes goes to the Orienteers by 2-1, a slightly lucky point for the Chessmen. Impressionist paintings and their painters is a sweep to the Orienteers, 3-0.

Which means that there is just the one winner, and 20-16 it's the Orienteers! Victoria promises that the whole series has been a palindrome. Of course she's talking nonsense. "Connect Only of series, new brander to welcome. And hello!" would have been the accurate way to end.

And so ends the first BBC2 series. Oh, hang on, there's one tradition they've not seen: the trophy presentation ceremony with a celebrity suitable for the budget.

Only Connect (2) BBC2's presentation of the presentation.

Series 10 Best Bits

Allow us a little indulgence, as we recall some of our favourite questions of the series. (That, and we don't want to review The Quizeum on just two episodes, remembering how it took us a month to get into Only Connect.)

We were impressed with BBC4's cool, phlegmatic, and unemotional way to fill the slot left when Only Connect moved to BBC2. They showed a documentary about the end of the world.


  • 155, 300, 27 up 27 down, 501 in 9. This set of perfect games (snooker, ten-pin bowling, baseball, darts) has an entry point for seasoned quizzers: the unusual circumstances of a snooker score.
  • Estonia, author of "The Enormous Room", mc2mc2, merger of T-Mobile and Orange. A cross-culture question leads to "ee": there are ISO and internet codes, literature (ee cummings), physics from Einstein, and business.
  • The Murder of Gonzago, Inferior cheese, Includes Thing-A-Ma-Jig and Bowling Ball, World's longest running play. More trivia leading to "Mousetrap"; the play in Hamlet, real-life experience (the bait for an actual trap), things in the Mousetrap game, and a well-known fact about the London production.
  • (x2+y2-1)3 - x2y3 = 0, Unicode U+2665, Less than three, Courting swans' necks. Mathematicians and code experts will have got this early; the last two made it much easier for the casual viewer. The right question for a semi-final.

Media connections

Our fave picture questions were stills from BBC4 logos (a nifty acknowledgement to Only Connect history) and photos doctored to remove an exclamation point.

Music questions were all a bit samey, there isn't much to ask beyond title / performer / theme of the piece. We liked a golf scores question "The Eagle Has Landed" and "Colonel Bogey March" had us thinking about films, only for "Albatross" to take that idea away, and "The Birdie Song" got an outing. Kudos to "Broken hearts" for getting Jason Donovan on primetime BBC2.

Only Connect (2) Random moment: when Victoria explained a dull question with an apple and an unidentified flying biscuit.


4TH Tim Henman, 3RD Roald Dahl, 2ND Nadine Dorries. The series began with a statement to new viewers: the questions may appear random, but they make sense when explained.

Poisoned, Stabbed by Prince Ludwig, Becomes Prince Regent. Only Connect is a smart quiz, but it doesn't have any qualms about pop culture. The fates of Blackadder showed this.

They finally got music connections to work, "Hit the road Jack", "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba", "In the hall of the mountain king" is simple written down, and not too taxing when heard. More difficult examples followed.

Broken hearts, Sibling feuds, Inscriptions on £2 coins. To which the answer is, obviously, "Ben". The first four answers from the earlier round turn up as a question in the second. Expect the unexpected.


It's difficult to make a good wall, they need just the right number of false leads and overlap, and very distinctive answers. Too much overlap and it becomes a mechanical button-pushing exercise; too few false leads and it's no challenge. For our money, the best pair of walls came in the Chessmen's semi-final: one balanced Brazilian footballers with "Last Supper" artists and fire deities; the other ranged from mountains and Irish Eurovision stars to sons of Jacob and words that sound like animal adjectives.

Missing Vowels

Animals and their Noises provided the first episode's instant shareable, "Cuckoo and Cuckoo". Sayings Without the 'and' in the Middle made it impossible to orient around the "ND". Things a Self-Service Checkout Might Say demonstrated that the Only Connect writers are never off duty. Numbers and Roman Numerals was taxing, and well-placed in the quarter-finals.

Join us again when Only Connect resumes in the autumn.

Parish Notice

Do you have the knowledge to unlock the cube?

The Week is going out on the road: we're organising the London leg of the DASH international puzzle hunt on 30 May. We wrote about it in 2013, recorded it for the Fifty-50 Show in 2014, and ran the thing in 2015.

Want a decent walk interrupted by puzzles that could fit into the weekend papers? Want to avoid the rugby and football and cricket? A most agreeable luncheon? Form a team and join us.

(Readers in North America may be able to find a participating city closer to home.)

It's Debateable

A series of short pieces somewhere between game shows and British politics.

10) Fifteen-to-One

How many people can stand in a semi-circle and make sense? We believe the answer is closer to "one" than "seven".

Paul Farrer wrote the music. Draw your own conclusions.

University Challenge

Actual Halbenfinalrund, match 1: St Peter's Oxford vs Magdalen Oxford

"Why on earth are there no women left in this stage of the competition?" asks the host. We dealt with this question some months ago, and concluded that both producers and competing institutions can do something to encourage mixed teams. Producers can say they won't select all-male teams, institutions can say they'll not send all-male teams. But both sides can avoid action by saying it's not in their interest (producers want correct answers, institutions want to win). These stances rest on the assumption that men are better quizzers than women.

So, who are these men? John Armitage, Ed Roberts, Gabriel Trueblood, Spike Smith are the St Peter's side, the only likely semi-finalist from the bottom half of the draw did emerge undefeated. Magdalen are represented by Harry Gillow, Chris Savory, Hugh Binnie, Cameron J Quinn, and they were the win-lose side from the top half of the draw. Magdalen get the better of the early exchanges, moving to a 60-15 lead by the first visual round.

St Peter's catch up, assisted by logical fallacies with two-word names, such as "post hoc ergo propter hoc". Magdalen's lead is trimmed to 75-70 at the music round, when Magdalen fail to recognise "Men of Harlech" from ten paces. Having now earned the enmity of every viewer in Wales, we hear "your set of bonuses are on Wales". Except Thumper's diction is, again, letting him down; the questions are on *whales*, not the land of men of Harlech.

Magdalen pull further ahead, assisted by St Peter's confusing Neptune and Posiedon for a five-point fine. They then get a set of questions about whether P=NP, a problem easier to solve than "why on earth are there no women left in this stage of the competition?" This week's Pointless Country is Kiribati, and this week's Pointless Endeavour is the final ten minutes: Magdalen have a 185-85 after a picture round on artwork by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The final score is 235-120 in their favour.

End of the road for an able St Peter's side.

This Week and Next

Second Bite: some corrections from last week's edition. Diane Hallagan is spelled "Hallagan", using only the one vowel. Marianne Fairthorne is a quantitative analyst, as well as a Mastermind champion. Vogue Williams was a finalist on Steppin' Out; she and Brian McFadden were beaten by AJ and Ortisé Williams. Ms Williams is married, but not to Mr. Williams. We regret these careless errors.

Confession time: we pulled a small April Fool's joke. In the TV Guide for 1 April, we suggested that ITV5 would be showing Press Ganged. ITV5 does not exist; Cabin Fever was recorded a decade ago but never shown. Such a distant era, when ITV axed its flops before they took to air. These days, series play out, as we saw with Stars in Their Eyes and Get Your Act Together. Neither show will return.

Junior Eurovision news, the date for this year's contest has been confirmed. 21 November, in Sofia. No UK broadcaster will be playing, but we understand that Irish-language channel TG4 will be sending a song in that tongue.

This week's Brain of Britain semi-final was a nip and tuck affair, won by Brian Chesney over Jonathan Frere by a single point. Both players had the lead after some rounds, neither was able to retain it for long. Nick Reed was always close to the lead, but never quite in contention; Chris Jones suffered from a slow start and couldn't quite catch up.

BARB ratings for the week to 22 March.

  1. BBC The Voice UK is the top show, bar none; 8.15m saw the first live performance show on Saturday, and 6.8m stuck for the results.
  2. Saturday Night Takeaway (5.3m) just beat Masterchef (5.2m). But when we add in Masterchef India (185,000 on Star Plus) and Masterchef Ireland (50,000 on Watch), the brand leader changes.
  3. 4.05m for You're Back in the Room, but it was eclipsed by Eclipse Live (4.2m at 9am on Friday). Mission Survive (2.81m) just pipped University Challenge (2.78m), with 2.35m for Only Connect.
  4. Another underwhelming start for Celebrity Juice, 1.4m on Thursday. It usually recovers as the series goes on. Channel 4's best was Three in a Bed, 1m for the primetime edition. The daytime version had 900,000 viewers.
  5. Elsewhere on digital, 490,000 for The Voice not-live shows on BBC3, 480,000 for Hell's Kitchen on ITV2, 70,000 for ancient Scrapheap on Quest. All beaten by Stargazing on Cbeebies, which intrigued 610,000 young astronomers.

The build-up to Britain's Got Talent begins with the critics' best bits (ITV2, weeknights except Wednesday); the show returns to ITV on Saturday. Sue Perkins hosts a new run of Dilemma (Radio 4, Monday), Have I Got News for You returns (BBC1, Friday), and Made in Chelsea does Come Dine with Me (E4, Monday). ITV's Saturday also includes Ninja Warrior UK and Play to the Whistle; the BBC has the University Challenge Boat Races, now with equal coverage for the men's and women's events. (But it's still Oxford versus Cambridge.)

Photo credits: Presentable, ITN, ITV Studios.

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