The Joy of Quiz by Alan Connor #20booksofsummer22

I’m doing something quizzy down in London midweek, but will keep schtum about the specifics (just in case I do poorly). I ought to be cramming, but I’m so busy at school at the moment my brain is overloaded and memorising lists isn’t really working for me (well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!). So my revision is reading papers and watching the news, and doom scrolling for useful info! 🤣🤣🤣. However, this book has been useful.

Connor is a journalist and TV writer/presenter – but also was question editor on series 9-12 of Only Connect. The Joy of Quiz celebrates this modern type of contest, from the first spelling bees to Pointless, via University Challenge, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and many many more quizzes along the way, with digressions to look at all the many scandals from all those US rigged contests to the coughing major.

Although I enjoyed reading about all the old shows and those still on our screens, the most interesting sections to me at the moment were those about the mechanics of quizzing. Writing the questions and fact-checking – and then answering them: how use the wording of questions to your best advantage to make calculated guesses, and the pleasure of discovering those known unknowns, or is that unknown knowns! His other key advice is, unless you’re absolutely certain of forenames, unless specified, giving the surname is enough to get the point, but a wrong forename with the correct surname may lose you the point. Throughout the book, there were plenty of testing questions thrown in which was fun.

He also profiles a few well-known quizzers. Fred Housego, the cabbie who won Mastermind in 1980, was also a London Blue-Badge Guide, so in addition to the ‘Knowledge’ had also to know huge amounts of history already. Kevin Ashman, former civil servant, and for ages now one of the Eggheads is one of the few quizzers to be able to make a living at his hobby. I encountered Ashman at an event put on by some chaps who set a postal quiz I used to do – he wiped the floor with the rest of us. (You may know that Simon of Stuck in a Book was on Eggheads – something I’m rather envious of, never having been able to form a team to apply). My claim to fame (so far) was to appear on Granada TV’s short-lived primetime version of Connections back in 1988, hosted by an up and coming Richard Madeley!

Wish me luck! (Feel free to tweet me tough questions until Wednesday teatime!)

This is my third read for #20booksofsummer22.

Source: Own copy from the TBR. Penguin paperback, 320 pages. BUY used at Amazon (affiliate link, not available at Blackwell’s)

6 thoughts on “The Joy of Quiz by Alan Connor #20booksofsummer22

  1. Calmgrove says:

    Like Karen my memory’s like a sieve (though it has been so a long time!) so I’m totally in awe of you going for this! I’m usually quite pleased to get most of the questions in ITV’s The 1% Club right, but that doesn’t really require much memory retention, does it?!

  2. BookerTalk says:

    I;d be interested in discovering how questions are set on Mastermind which these days seem to be much longer than they were in the past. Instead of just asking a question, we seem to get a lot of “extra” information

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Apparently, Clive Myrie likes them shorter, so they may change back. Maybe they’d had a run of challenged questions, so added the extra info to ensure only one possible answer…

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