Friday, 17 November 2006

A master mind

This year’s Mastermind competition has just been won by Geoff Thomas, a retired lecturer. We do not know his age for certain, but I would guess he is older man than I*.

His fund of general knowledge was remarkable, and even more remarkable was the speed at which he produced the answers. In earlier rounds he had chosen for his specialist subjects William Joyce and Edith Piaf. For the final he chose Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind, and in preparation had made a trip to Atlanta. He did quite well with this but not outstandingly so—15 correct answers—but in the general knowledge round this is what he was asked, and the answers:

1. Burke and Hare provided medical specimens for a medical school in which city?

2. A codling is an elongated variety of which fruit?

3. Which American harmonica player was largely responsible for raising the instrument to classical concert status?
Larry Adler

4. Brian Boru was high king of which country from around 1002 to 1014?

5. In business, what name is usually given to an individual or company which makes a welcome bid for a company as opposed to an unwelcome or hostile bid?
White Knight

6. Which playwright’s works include the Wild Duck and the Master Builder?

7. Which actor played The Good in the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?
Clint Eastwood

8. Which common name for a tree closely related to the birch comes from the Old English for “hard wood”?

9. Which England wicket-keeper was born in Papua New Guinea of Welsh parents and played his early cricket in Australia?
Geraint Jones

10. In the Bible, what’s the name of the sister of Lazarus and Mary who lived with them in Bethany?

11. Which Wagner opera is based on the legend of the minstrel who after spending time carousing at the court of Venus goes to Rome to seek absolution for his sins?

12. Who used the codename Formal Naval Person in correspondence with Franklin D Roosevelt during World War Two?

13. Which artist, one of the foremost exponents of abstract art, was born in Barcelona on 20th April 1893?

14. What is the meaning of the Latin phrase tempus fugit?
Time flies

15. The river Po runs for more than 400 miles before it enters which sea?
The Adriatic

16. Who has presented Radio 4’s Loose Ends and the quiz show Counterpoint since they both began?
Ned Sherrin

17. What’s secreted by the sudoriferous glands?

18. Who in February 1981 announced that his News International Organisation had purchased Times Newspapers from the Thomson Group?

19. Which Vickers aircraft was used by BEA to launch first sustained passenger service operated by turbo-prop airliners in 1953?

20. For which film did Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray win Best Actress and Best Actor awards at the 2004 BAFTA ceremony?
Lost in Translation

21. Which animals are particularly affected by the contagious disease glanders?

22. Who wrote the autobiographical poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage?

23. In the French revolution, what name after the department their leaders came from was given to the moderate republicans who were prominent in the Legislative Assembly during 1791?

Given a quarter of an hour to rummage among the windmills of my mind, I would have got eleven of these right, and been rather proud of it. Geoff Thomas answered 23 questions, getting only two wrong (8 and 13), in two minutes.

When Magnus Magnusson presented him with the engraved glass bowl, he recalled that in an earlier edition Geoff had said he had two ambitions: to win Mastermind and to live to be a hundred, and went on “Good luck with the second, you’re nearly there.” I think Geoff muttered “...just ten years”, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, if he does make a century I bet that by then he will still have better recall and reaction speed than most of us had in our twenties. Not fair, is it? Still, he is losing his hair.

* I was right.

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