Monday, 11 November 2013

Ones that got away: Only Connect Special 2!

Warning: the following contains spoilers for Series 8, episode 7 of Only Connect, first broadcast on BBC4 last Monday (4th November). I'd be surprised if anyone reading this both cares about the result, and yet hasn't seen the show, but if that's you look away now!

That's right, it's another Ones That Got Away Only Connect special! Like the previous special, I'll be going into considerable detail about what my team (the Board Gamers: Hywel Carver, Michael Wallace and Jamie Karran) were thinking during our latest Only Connect adventure, as well as a little about what we got up to after recording our first episode.

Before the show

More on that team name later
Having won our opening game we had a Saturday evening and the entire Sunday to relax before returning to film on the Monday. As I've previously mentioned, we spent the night painting the town red playing a quiz machine in a Cardiff Wetherspoon (to which the accompanying picture attests). I am not ashamed to admit that, thanks to the sort of session that only comes after a dramatic quizzing victory, I was a little worse for wear the following morning. However, that wasn't going to stop us making the most of our Sunday off, oh no.

From chatting to the production team, we had understood that there were precisely two activities that Only Connect contestants would pursue on an day off from filming. One of these was the Doctor Who Experience in nearby Cardiff, but while we are obliged to at least show a passing interest in all things Whovian to hold onto our geek cards, this didn't particularly appeal. Instead, we headed to St Fagans, a huge open-air national history museum whose slogan isn't, but should be 'the other thing to do near Only Connect'. It's a nice place, and I'd definitely recommend it to any future contestants, but similarly doesn't bear much repeating, so instead I'll leave you with this photo of two thirds of the board gamers in a cockpit.

When we got back to the studios we floated this to the
producers as a replacement for missing vowels.
Sunday night had us bunkered down in the hotel, ordering takeaway curry and getting in some apparently much-needed connecting walls practice on the Only Connect website. Unfortunately we forgot that while we could order takeaway curry, we (I think understandably) hadn't brought any cutlery with us, so we were forced to eat it with the tablespoons from our tea and coffee making facilities. The privation Only Connect contestants undergo to bring the great British public some Monday night entertainment goes shockingly underreported. A terrible night's 'sleep' followed (I think I managed about two hours) and barely a moment after I'd closed my eyes it was time to get up, force down some breakfast, and head out to the studio.

Round 1: What's the connection?

The questions
1) (All in seven segment display) 461375809; 77345663; 5318008; 070616
2) Khartoum's street layout; Pizza Margherita; KieĊ›lowski's Three Colors Trilogy / Red Cross Symbol
3) (Music) Second piano concertos by Chopin; Beethoven; Brahms; Rachmaninov
4) Test of dissolved oxygen; Climate of wine-growing regions; Giles Coren's first novel; Arthur Fonarelli
5) The George and Dragon = 6; The Red Lion = 4; The Cricketers = 22; The Ship Inn = Out
6) (Pictures) The Singing Ringing Tree; The Singing Butler; The Singing Nun; The Singing Detective

The answers

The excuses
1) Oof. Not the best of starts. We had this as soon as the Lasletts did, but at least they were kind enough to buzz in nice and quick to save us spending too long wondering if they'd got it as well.
2) I don't know where I'd picked up the Khartoum trivium (although it is a bit of a quizzing chestnut), but I do wish I'd been slightly more confident about it and gone for five. Unfortunately neither Hywel nor Jamie could confirm my suspicions so we took the second clue to be sure. I was thus able to use a piece of information I'd read on the back of a pizza menu a few weeks prior to get us back in the game.
3) Not much to say other than that yep, we had no idea. Second symphonies I might have had a shot at, having spent a ridiculous amount of time as a child in the double bass sections of orchestras (playing the double bass, I should add, not just hiding), but recognizing a set of second concertos seems crazytough.
4) Always going to struggle when you know nothing about three of the four clues. Perhaps on another day we'd have guessed Winkler, but it really didn't seem likely to fit the others (whereas the non-existence of GiCo: The Novel remains one of the world's greater mysteries).
5) Like the calculator words, another one we'd have liked. I've never actually played this (nor have I ever particularly understood it; surely most car journeys long enough to warrant a game are mainly on motorways which tend not to be well populated with pubs?) and unlike the Lasletts would have needed the second clue to get it, rather than merely confirm it.
6) Fair play to the Lasletts for stealing the bonus on this, we had no idea. While 'before my time' is a complicated excuse to pull off, and I have at least heard of The Singing Detective and the Singing Nun, they nevertheless strike me as clues whose difficulty is strongly tied to one's age. Not recognizing the Singing Ringing Tree, meanwhile, seems to be our penance for having never been to Burnley. (I was a touch surprised to discover that it is one of four landmarks in a project titled 'Panopticons'. Now obviously 'panopticon' just means 'observe all', but all that word makes me think of is the total surveillance prison designed by Jeremy Bentham, below.)

In a bid to calm the nerves of inmates, Bentham initially
proposed the name 'Singing Ringing Prison'.

Round 2: What comes fourth?

The questions
1) Doctor of Divinity; C.C. in 'beaches'; B.B. King
2) 4th: In the footsteps of Hemingway; 3rd: Around the Pacific rim; 2nd: From North Pole to South Pole
3) Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?; A man's got to know his limitations; Marvelous
4) Ron Francis; Gordie Howe; Mark Messier
5) Cap height; Median; Baseline
6) Nuclear missile launch; UBS logo; Sign of Saint Peter

The answers

The excuses
1) The third question of the night we would have desperately loved to see on our side. Doctor of Divinity could only mean DD, and while I briefly considered the sequence might go up to GG, I realized that there were far more things that would fit for AA. I was a touch surprised the Lasletts took a second clue here, but then again with a six point lead they didn't need to gamble.
2) Considering we had no idea on the Michael Palin angle, I remain moderately impressed we got this (albeit having been given a slightly generous second bite of the cherry by Victoria). Credit to Jamie for the quick-thinking to go from our initial answer to the correct one despite having no clue why. Looking these up it seems I shouldn't be surprised by our ignorance; none of us have ever been particularly TV-literate, let alone in our pre-teens.
3) Another tough set, I thought. We got caught up with the idea of 'mis-quoted lines' (via "Do I (you) feel lucky?") hence our guess of "Play it (again), Sam".
Giving a puck.
4) Having moved to Canada since filming, I have had to try very hard to keep this episode secret from our new friends. We also took a trip (pilgrimage) to the Hockey Hall of Fame last month to atone for our sins (right). Well done to the Lasletts for recognizing any of the names (and thus successfully applying the rule of "the answer to any hockey question is 'Wayne Gretzky'").
5) The sight of the word 'median' will get any statistician excited, but the other clues didn't ring any other statistical bells. However, Hywel had recently read a book on typography which helped as, being full of words, it presumably featured loads of descenders.
6) The only question on the show I felt was a bad miss, as well as a lesson in how easily you can get distracted by the wrong idea. After two clues we thought we had two things with two keys (which Jamie almost buzzed in on, forgetting it was a sequence question). Our eventual theory of it going 3, 2, 1, 0 really did not sit well with me, but we didn't have enough time on the third clue for me to point out that the Sign of Saint Peter has two keys (it's on the flag of Vatican City, y'see) and so a 4, 3, 2, 1 sequence would make much more sense.

Going into the walls we had a 13-6 deficit, and were already starting to think about a winner-loser playoff. Still, any sort of turnaround here and we'd be in with a chance, and we couldn't do much worse than last time...

Round 3: The connecting walls

We were up first, and our wall can be played on the Only Connect Website (wall 373). Groups (and connections) under the button:

The answers

Unlike our previous attempt, we spotted an early set of five and were able to rattle through the permutations to get a group of beers ('Sol' being the phony). Next to fall were the stages of a solar eclipse, with Bailey's Beads and diamond ring two big giveaways. (I saw a (total) solar eclipse in Germany back in 1998. Our initial spot started to get cloudy as we neared totality, and I have a very distinctive memory of speeding across the German countryside in a salmon pink Renault Clio.) After a bit of a pause I was pleased to take advantage of one of the wall tricks we'd picked up in training. Sometimes you can look at groups you've already identified and spot elements that are designed as red herrings for the groups you've not yet found. Diamond ring in our solar eclipse group was one of these, and helped the penny drop that we were looking at 'momma's gonna buy you'. We then spent a while trying to figure out what the last group could be, before worry got the better of us as we made sure we had actually solved the wall.

We got painfully close to the -arium answer (Hywel at one point even says "it's got to be a suffix, or something"), but we just couldn't see it. Meanwhile, the discussion between Jamie and Victoria about milking billy goats completely passed me by at the time.

With seven points scored, we'd improved on our first wall, but knew the Lasletts would need to have an absolute 'mare to leave us with any chance in missing vowels. Theirs is number 374 on the website, groups and connections below.

The answers

Playing this one at home (albeit without the help of Hywel) we put in a fairly unimpressive five. We got the colours and the DJs, but couldn't untangle Blake's 7 from islands. We're thus rather glad we didn't get this wall, not just because of the possibility of a lower score, but also because we have a number of friends who would be incredibly unimpressed to see us fail at a Blake's 7 question on national television (it's on the to-watch list, honest). Unfortunately, Blake's 7 seemed the key to this one (as far as I can tell there's no fifth re herring character for that group, either), and the Lasletts made absolute mincemeat out of it.

Round 4: Missing Vowels

The bad news was that we were now trailing by ten going into missing vowels. The good news was that we knew we had approximately zero chance of victory, so could relax a little. In the end (mainly thanks to some mis-buzzes from the Lasletts) we came out level, 5-5, but in reality we were already thinking about our next game which, in magical TV land, was filming immediately after this one. So while it was a well-deserved break for the Lasletts, it was a quick change of clothes and some painkillers for me. Once more unto the breach, and all that...

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