23 December 2010

King William's College "Christmas Quiz" 2010

For over a century, students at King William's College on the Isle of Man have been given a quiz (formally the "General Knowledge Paper") just before the Christmas holidays:
Up until 1999, pupils at King William's College would sit the paper unseen on the last day of term before the Christmas holidays. The questions are very hard and often cryptic, and pupils got hardly any questions right first time: five percent was considered a good score! During the Christmas holidays, pupils tried to find the answers to the harder questions by consulting reference books or asking clever relatives. When they returned to school in the New Year, they took the test again, under exam conditions and without the aid of notes.
The quiz is now voluntary for the students, but has spread worldwide via publication in The Guardian.  It is, as noted above, inhumanly difficult, requiring impossible amounts of knowledge of trivia and/or extraordinary computer search skills -
A Latin phrase is always printed at the top of the quiz: “Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis
ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est”.  Freely translated, this means "the greatest part of knowledge is knowing where to find something."
The best way to approach the quiz is as part of a group, many of which will form on the internet in the weeks ahead.

I'm not going to reproduce the entire quiz here.  Those who want to tackle the project can download the quiz from the King William's College website, or view the questions where they were printed in The Guardian this morning.

To give everyone a taste of the quiz, here is the sixth set of 10 questions:

1 What was updated by HG Wells?
2 What might be perceived as an apiary?
3 Which island is doubly recognised on 198?
4 Who left great designs in the Gulf and New South Wales?
5 Who, aided by wizardry, cuckolded his rival by impersonating him?
6 Who, being the son of Suzanne, changed his name through the benevolence of her friend Miguel?
7 What did hateful and rough weeds lose apart from beauty?
8 What was the native city of a unique pontiff?
9 What can be used instead of mahogany?
10 Who recruited Hare for Dad's Army?

Each set of ten questions has a "theme."  I"ll give you a hint that for this sixth set above, the theme is that every answer begins with the same pair of letters.  Partial answer in the Comments.

Update:  ALL the answers are now in the Comments.  Hat tips to BJN, Lene Taylor, and Greg.

If you really thrive on intellectual challenges like this, the King William's College website posts the quizzes and the answers for the past three years.


  1. Last night, after a bit of Googling, I discovered that a "son of Suzanne" who changed his name was the French painter Utrillo.

    Then I found "hateful and rough weeds" led to a Shakespearean quotation from Henry V referring to their losing beauty and utility.

    That was enough to establish that the "theme" was for all the answers to begin with UT...

    With that clue in hand, the obvious answer to #1 (the update by HG Wells) was Utopia.

    And the "unique pontiff" was from Utrecht.

    Finally, after searching "beehive" instead of "apiary" I found Utah as the "beehive state."

    But numbers 6-3, 6-4, 6-5, 6-9, and 6-10 totally eluded me. In the wee hours of the night I finally found the answers at a "super secret" thread that was blocked from Google to keep it private, and I read the other answers posted by the very bright group there. I'll defer from posting them here in case some TYWKIWDI readers want to tackle those last five.

  2. Utile (a.k.a. Sipo) wood as mahogany substitute, species Entandrophragma utile.

  3. Alison Uttley wrote the childrens book "Hare joins the home guard".


  4. The architect Jorn Utzon design the Sydney Opera House in New South Wales and the Kuwait National Assembly Building in the Persian Gulf


  5. Also correct and correct.

    Here's the answer I saw to 6-3: "Utsira is named twice in the shipping forecast broadcast on 198m." Whatever that means...

  6. 198m is a mistakenly transcribed 198 LW , which is the frequency of BBC Radio 4 which broadcasts the shipping forecast 4x daily. A non-technical person may confuse frequency (khz) with wavelength (m or meters) as they are both used in describing radio stations.


  7. that was intense!
    are these questions intended to give little Tarquin or Jocasta something to talk to their parents about after a year apart at boarding school?

  8. Utsire, as it is spelled in the shipping forecast, takes its name from the weather station at Utsira in Rogaland, Norway.
    The forecast lists two Utsires, north and south, which make up shipping zones around the British Isles.

    It's a strange thing. The Shipping Forecast is, or was, the last thing broadcast at night, on Radio4 (BBC), followed by the signature tune/playout of "sailing by", after which the same frequency would carry the BBC's World Service broadcasts. To brits of my generation, the shipping forecast was a sort of late-night lullaby. Most of us can quote the sea areas, given that there's a lifetime of repetition there.

  9. I should rephrase that Shipping zones included in the british isles weather forecast, because, of course, they're Norwegian... but the shipping forecast of the u.k. covers them, as it also does biscay, trafalgar, and south iceland.

  10. Anon, I suspect that must have been the original intent when the quizzes began - that you came home for hols and talked with mum and dad and uncle Edward and raided the family library before returning to school to discuss your findings.

    Now, it appears to be a tradition of a different sort.

  11. All the question in section 15 are about the isle of man tt course.
    1 being bungalow bridge they jump the tram lines here
    3. Govenors bridge 9after govenor Lock0
    4. Greba castle noble lived here, but you cant see the castle from the road. His horses were Derby and Peel
    6.Keple Gate
    7. laurel Bank
    9. brandy Well
    10. Quarter Bridge 9it is over the river Glass)

  12. Right, anon. The others are

    2 Stonebreaker's Hut

    4 Parliament Square (rather than Greba Castle?)
    5 Alpine Cottage

    8 Ginger Hall


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