The Ultimate US TV Quiz Book: The 80s (Ultimate Quiz Books Book 1)

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Three tough questions from Only Connect

Rick Stein's passion for using good-quality local produce and his talent for creating delicious recipes in his books and restaurants have won him a host of awards, accolades and fans. Rick has always believed in showcasing local seafood and farm produce in his four restaurants in Padstow, Cornwall, where he also has a cookery school, food shops and a pub in the nearby village of St Merryn.

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Penguin gifts. Writing workshops. You're on the look-out for questions all the time. Everything you read is judged - in part - on what it offers by way of quiz questions. I remember my delight a couple of years ago when I read Claire Tomalin's biography of Charles Dickens and came across a fact that made a lovely quiz question. It almost spoilt my enjoyment of it. Which is obviously crazy. Occasionally I enlist help. I've got one quiz-loving colleague from whom I solicit trigger words which I hope will lead me on to a question or two.

Some rich pickings there. So what makes a good quiz question?

Perhaps I can start answering that by saying what doesn't make a good quiz question. The bad quiz question is of the either-you-know-it-or-you-don't variety - the question that offers no clues, no way in, no purchase. I was leafing through a pub quiz book the other day. I came across the question, "Who flew the Spirit of St Louis? General knowledge is of course essential to being able to answer a quiz question but I think that the best quiz questions should involve a bit of lateral thinking. In my ideal quiz, no one would actually know the answer to any question.

All answers would be educated guesses.

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It's not about knowledge but the application of knowledge, and, in my experience - having presented quite a few quizzes to live audiences - it's when people get an answer right that was only ever an educated guess that they experience real quiz satisfaction. There's a "Whoop!

In the Reithian tradition, a good quiz question should inform, educate and entertain. Even if you don't know the answer, it should be something you are glad to have learnt. I came across a wonderful fact recently which instantly screamed "quiz question" - a sensation that all quiz-setters live for and will be familiar with. Wikipedia is the quiz-setter's best friend and on a random trawl I found myself on the page about hang-gliding.

As a result, I was able to ask: "In , which country banned hang-gliding for fear of its citizens trying to escape? I doubt there's anyone who read that question who had ever come across the fact. So we're immediately into the realm of the educated guess and when I've tried it on people, there are only ever three countries that get mentioned - Cuba, North Korea and East Germany. That the answer is East Germany is more than a mere fact.


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It's got the potential to be an entire Tom Stoppard play. One of the country's leading quiz-setters is Marcus Berkmann. When he's not writing books, he presides over a distinguished pub quiz in north London, and he runs a quiz-for-hire company called Brainmen. He's the best quiz-setter I know. He doesn't just write his quizzes - he scripts them. One of his regular gigs is the literary shindig that is the annual PEN originally known as Poets', Essayists' and Novelists' quiz, and it was in this context that he came up with what he tells me is his favourite quiz question: "Which winner of the Booker Prize spent part of his gap year working as a grouse-beater at Balmoral in ?

You know it's a man, and you can roughly work out his age. And then there's Balmoral, a grand country house The answer is Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the Booker with a novel well known for its stately home setting, The Remains of the Day. As Berkmann says: "It's just the most brilliant fact. I think what the hang-gliding and the Ishiguro questions tell us is that the best quiz questions are far more than facts - they are stories. And we journalists love a story. But they are not the only type of good quiz question.

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I've had a look back through a bunch of questions - mine and other people's - and here's my list of the 10 Types of Great Quiz Question:. I like a question. There's a toss-of-the-coin element that always gets an audience going. I set this question myself and I still have to look up the answer. There are some images so familiar to us that we think we can reproduce them in our heads with perfect accuracy. But can we? Example: On the cover of Abbey Road, in what order left to right are the Beatles crossing the zebra crossing?


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Example: How many varieties of Quality Street chocolates are there? I love this type of question. You could have a PhD from Harvard and it still wouldn't be any help. All questions should fulfil this criterion. Here's a good example: "Nirvana" comes from which language? Recent news events provide good tip-of-the-tongue material. That thing you know you know but can't quite bring to mind. This question has been around quite a bit this year - I've used it, and I've seen it in other quizzes, and it's a good example: Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are better known as which pop duo?


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The straightforward-seeming question that can completely flummox: Who is the vice-president of the United States? Some quiz facts are just excellent jokes, and if you take the Christmas cracker approach to answering them you'll probably get there: What is the journal of the Magic Circle called? A quiz mainstay, always satisfying, uniting three or four entirely disparate-seeming things or people - eg: Malcolm Lowry; Dylan Thomas; David Bowie; The Drifters - what's the connection?

So now you know. Our Christmas Quiz not set by me this time is in the Christmas Eve edition of the paper. Have fun! You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Try Independent Premium free for 1 month.

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