Fifteen years ago, I started asking questions on Mastermind — that’s half as long as I’ve been interviewing on BBC Radio 4’s Today.
And the big difference between the two? On Mastermind they actually want to answer the questions. A bit unfair maybe, and in some respects the two gigs are similar.
I love the story of the shovel owned by a very old man who’d spent his life digging ditches on a farm. A passer-by asked him how long he’d had it.
‘All my life,’ he answered.
‘Surely not the same shovel?
‘Well, I’ve had to replace the blade every few years and a few new handles but, yup, it’s the same shovel.’
So it is with Mastermind. An awful lot has changed about it over the years — the presenters, the technology, the whizzy lighting and clever graphics — but in the end it’s about one person in the spotlight under the relentless pressure of a ticking clock.
I can’t (sadly) replicate all that for this quiz, but when you’re answering these questions, try timing yourself. In two minutes, a good Mastermind contender would get about a dozen right. Good luck!
1. Who regretted a ‘moment of clarity’ that came to her on a walking holiday?
2. Which Eurocrat became embroiled in an investigation into wiretapping?
3. Who appeared at Glastonbury this summer and got a rock star’s welcome even though he didn’t sing a note?
4. And why did he give colleague Emily Thornberry a slap on the chest?
5. What TV programme was said to have ‘too many dragons . . . not enough sex’?
6. Why did scientists get excited when they spotted an object that looked like a cigar hurtling through our solar system?
7. And what was it, really?
8. Which actress decided she’d had enough of being ‘Nurse Who?’ and took up a different medical title?
9. Which real-life nurse switched career to train as a priest and is now the most senior woman in the Church of England?
10. Why did Vanellope Hope capture the nation’s heart?
11. Of whom did Ricky Gervais write: ‘He was tear-jerkingly generous, gushing money and time like an enchanted spring?’
12. Which two glamorous judges seemed to find each other’s company strictly unappealing?
13. Why did a worm terrify half the nation on prime-time telly?
14. And where is its name from?
15. Why was the BBC unlikely to feature poaching in its new summer cookery programme?
16. Which brothers fell out over a tribute concert for the Manchester bombing victims?
17. What took Francois Gabart 42 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes?
18. Why did Jane Austen strike it rich . . . in plastic?
19. Why might a punch-up on a pavement in Bristol have helped Australia win back the Ashes?
20. Who is Doria Radlan?
21. And why is her daughter so famous?
And now — for a little light relief — something we never do on Mastermind: multiple-choice questions.
1. What did the Committee on Standards in Public Life say was the most significant factor leading to harassment before the election in June?
A: Jeremy Corbyn’s beard
B: Tabloid newspapers
C: Social media
D: BBC Question Time
2. Who said the way to win is more about saving those you love than killing those you hate?
A: Donald Trump
B: Vladimir Putin
C: A character in the new film Star Wars: The Last Jedi
D: The Pope
3. Why was Prue Leith ‘mortified’ after she tweeted about the Great British Bake Off?
A: She admitted she ‘cheats’ by stuffing her Christmas turkey the day before
B: She said she’d prefer a boiled egg for Christmas dinner
C: She told Paul Hollywood he should shave off his beard
D: She gave away the Bake Off winner before the programme was broadcast
4. Why did environmental scientists tell us to stop putting fleeces and polyester clothing in the washing machine?
A: The soap gets in the sewers and clogs them up
B: The power used contributes to global warming
C: Buying natural wool is better
D: One single wash creates millions of plastic fibres which threaten our oceans
5. At which event did shoddy sticky-back plastic, a P45 form and a throat lozenge combine to embarrass a public figure?
A: A live edition of Blue Peter that didn’t go to plan
B: Theresa May’s speech at the Tory party conference
C: An edition of Have I Got News for You featuring Ed Sheeran
D: The BBC Sports Personality Of The Year competition, won by Sir Mo Farah
6. When George Clooney had 14 friends around for dinner he gave each of them a gift. What was it?
What was the extent of George Clooney’s generosity when he had friends over for dinner?
A: A voucher for free meals at McDonald’s for life
B: A box set of his movies
C: A signed autobiography
D: A suitcase containing a million dollars in cash
7. The New York Times asked 60 of Donald Trump’s friends and aides how much TV he watches each day. What did they say?
A: Between four and six hours
B: Never more than eight hours
C: Not long enough, if he doesn’t tweet while he’s watching
D: All the time: he even keeps a monitor on during meetings
8. According to an NHS survey, women are more happy than men when they . . .
A: Get married
B: Get divorced
C: Have their first child
D: Pass the age of 85
9. What did Mrs May say was the naughtiest thing she remembered doing as a child?
Theresa May made the headlines for her coughing during the Conservative Party conference but what naughty thing did she do as a child?
A: Throwing darts at a picture of Michael Foot
B: Playing truant so she could attend secret meetings of the Young Conservative Society
C: Running through a field of wheat
D: Promising her parents she’d never become a politician
10. Why will this year’s Oscars ceremony go down in history?
A: None of the actresses cried in their acceptance speech
B: No one thanked their mother
C: A special award for services to the film industry went to Harvey Weinstein
D: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read out the wrong card for best film: La La Land instead of Moonlight
11. What links the words antifa, broflake, gorpcore and youthquake?
A: You’ve never heard of them
B: You’ll probably never hear of them again
C: You don’t want to know
D: They were on the shortlist for ‘word of the year’ in the 2017 Oxford English Dictionary
1: Theresa May. She decided to call a General Election
2: Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
3: Jeremy Corbyn
4: It was meant to be a high five
5: The seventh series of Game Of Thrones
6: It was the first body identified as coming from another solar system. Some said it might be an alien spaceship
7: Experts concluded it was a lump of ice protected by a carbon-rich crust. One scientist put it: ‘More like a galactic choc ice than an alien invader’
8: Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor
9: The Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, the new Bishop of London
10: She was born with her heart outside her body.
11: George Michael, whose funeral was in March
12: Darcey Bussell, who had been the only female judge on Strictly Come Dancing until Shirley Ballas arrived
13: The Bobbitt worm, on Blue Planet 2, shot out of the ocean bed and devoured a fish with its razor-sharp teeth
14: It’s a tribute (if you can call it that) to Lorena Bobbitt, who cut off her husband’s manhood in the United States
15: Channel 4 had poached the Great British Bake Off
16: Liam Gallagher said Noel’s performance had been ‘fake’ and nothing more than a PR stunt when he teared up on stage.
17: Sailing around the world single-handed. He broke the world record by six days
18: Her portrait appeared on the new £10 note
19: As a result Ben Stokes was barred from the England team
20: Meghan Markle’s mother
21: If you don’t know . . . deduct ten points from your score!
Multiple Choice Answers: 1c; 2c; 3D; 4D; 5b; 6D; 7A; 8D; 9c; 10D; 11 all of them