Monday, 1 September 2014

Only Connect Post Mortem: Series 10 Episode 1
Politicos vs. Felinophiles

Warning: the following contains spoilers for Series 10, Episode 1 of Only Connect, first broadcast on BBC Two on Monday 1st September. If you haven't seen it yet go and watch it on iPlayer!

In a new venture for The Ones That Got Away I thought I'd take what Jamie and I do each week at home and write up a quick summary of our thoughts on the week's Only Connect questions. The emphasis is on 'quick': I'll just be jotting down short comments on each of the questions in the first two rounds (walls and vowels don't bear too much analysis, I don't think), identifying which ones we really like, which ones we didn't like quite so much, and which one earns the coveted title Question of the Week (coined by quizzing supremos and regular Only Connect question setters @QuizQuizQuiz). I can't promise that this will be something I find time for every week, but if you find it interesting let me know (either here, on Twitter @statacake, or even on Facebook)!

With the show's move to BBC Two many were anticipating a dumbing down of Britain's hardest quiz, but with last season statistically the toughest ever, I'd have to say I wouldn't mind too much if it was just a little bit easier this time around. How then, would the Porticos and the Felinophiles fare, and how devilish would those questions prove? Read on to find out!

Round 1: What's the connection?

The questions
1) Cruft; NPOV; Edit war; Disambiguation page
2) Ascot racehorses; Southern-hemisphere tropical cyclone; Decanter of port; Dealer button
3) Nigel Lawson; Frank Cradock; Ramona Blanc; Nigella Slater
4) Theatre on Argyll St.; London Golf club; UK policeman; US five-cent coin
5) Music: In Paradisum (traditional); Paradise City (Guns N' Roses); Stranger in Paradise (from Kismet); Gangsta's Paradise (Coolio feat. L.V.)
6) Pictures: A boy in a swimming pool with green ring; Some mountains; 3 birds at sunset; A bookcase

The answers

Our thoughts
1) A fun one to kick off for any Internet nerd. We had this on NPOV but cruft was entirely new to me. As Twitterer @DrRhys amusingly noted, Wikipedia's series-by-series recaps of Only Connect are currently being considered for deletion as they're being seen as cruft. An easy-ish start, with most teams I suspect recognizing an edit war when they see one.
2) After two this becomes fairly clearly about direction of travel, but which direction is of course the hard bit. I clawed back memories of watching the famously not-at-Ascot Grand National and all the horses going anti-clockwise, which did the trick.
3) The first controversial question of the series, I suspect. Many will feel the Nigel Lawson clue is a bit of a trap, and I'll admit we fell for it as well. As always with Only Connect, however, lateral thinking is key, and if the connection was simply 'parents of famous chefs' then Nigel Lawson surely wouldn't be the first clue. Naturally things become clear with more clues, but it's easy to jump the gun on this one.
4) If you know where the Palladium is then this is a gift of a question, but otherwise it's a steady simplification as the clues arrive which allows for some enjoyable penny dropping.
5) Playing a bit of Paradise City that wasn't the chorus was a big clue to me that the link would be in the title. Stranger in Paradise confirmed while Gangsta's Paradise was what I like to imagine the Only Connect team thought constituted showing they were in touch with the hoi polloi who watch BBC Two.
6) Not one I can easily comment on as we only recognized the bookcase (it being the ident almost exclusively used for Only Connect on iPlayer). Once we saw that we wondered if the first was BBC One (featuring a circle) and the third BBC Three (featuring three birds); sequence question anyone?

Round 2: What comes fourth?

The questions
1) Pictures: Brandy; A brand; Bran
2) Suriname; Mexico; Costa Rica
3) Eboracum; Eoforwic; Jorvik
4) Minimum speeding penalty; Rugby conversion; A sharpened pencil
5) 4TH: Tim Henman; 3RD: Roald Dahl; 2ND: Nadine Dorries
6) Michael Spindler; Gil Amelio; Steve Jobs

The answers

Our thoughts
1) A moderately straightforward opener although we very nearly buzzed in at home with "A picture of a Zulu!" thinking the first clue was a glass of whiskey and following the NATO phonetic alphabet to its conclusion.
2) Another one sure to court controversy as it's arguably impossible from one clue. Mexico followed by Côte d'Ivoire and Republic of the Congo is (just about) plausible although the actual sequence staying within the Americas (and English) is much more intuitive. I should probably set out my stall now and say I don't think 'impossible after one clue' questions are really a problem, as they've featured in every series of Only Connect to date, and there will doubtless be more to come. Moreover, expecting all questions to be doable after one makes question setting much, much harder, and so it's a trade-off I'm more than happy with. As it was this was a neat bit of wordplay that was guessable after two clues if you had your wits (very much) about you.
3) A fairly standard general knowledge sequence here, although we only had it after the third clue.
4) After two clues I knew this was points, but wasn't entirely sure if it was starting at three and working down, or starting at one and working up (I was aware you get three points for speeding, but wasn't certain if there was some technicality whereby you it was possible to only get one). The Only Connect Sequence Strategy of "which leads to an easier to think of answer?" worked out for us here: something with zero points came to mind much quicker than something with four. I would have been quite tempted to say "what we'd score if we said the answer to this question was 'blancmange'" but that is probably why I wasn't our captain.
5) This one seemed quite easy to me, but this is very much my 'type' of Only Connect question. The name I came up with was Sandi Toksvig but I think it's tremendous that the chap on the Felinophiles can now tell people he was a correct answer on a quiz show.
6) The third question of the show that got the better of us (after the chefs and the country sequence); another straight general knowledge but ours, getting as far as "Apple...people?" wasn't up to scratch.

Overall I'd say this was a fairly gentle start to Only Connect's time on BBC Two, but with plenty of the tricky puzzles and clever thinking that make the show what it is. Many on social media think it was much easier than normal, but I suspect that's at least in part compared to the final stages of series 9. This felt much more like the level I expect of the opening round of Only Connect, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the series has in store.

Question of the Week

But finally, what was our Question of the Week? The standard was generally quite high and so there were no particular stand-outs, but after some serious deliberation in our kitchen, we've decided that Ascot racehorses... is the inaugural winner. This had the hallmarks of some of the best Only Connect questions, being guessable after one if you knew your stuff and had the guts to go for it, as well as some delightfully unrelated-seeming components. That said, with clues relating to horse racing, sailing, port and card games, this is possibly the poshest Only Connect question ever. I guess some BBC Four habits die hard.

Disagree? You can vote for your own favourite questions in the poll below!


  1. Thanks for liking my Clockwise question. The Suriname question was originally written as overlapping flags, or as SurinaMe, MexiCo, Costa RiCa... I think it's guessable like that - not sure why it was changed.

    1. You're welcome, well done for concocting it :) Interesting stuff on that other question; I'd imagine SurinaMe etc. might have been perceived as too easy, although I quite like the idea of overlapping flags.