Review #6 – The Mucky Pup, Islington N1

The Mucky Pup, N1 (fancyapint listing, map)

The Mucky Pup

Quiz starts 8:30, £1.50 per person entry. Five rounds of around ten questions each including themed picture round given out at beginning. First prize a share of the takings (on this occasion £35,) second prize a bottle of wine/round of shots.

Result: First place out of about ten teams and a share of the £35 jackpot! This was the first Serious Quizness win, and was the first time since starting this blog that I quizzed with a team larger than four, which I am sure was a big factor in the victory.

Last Wednesday was a real milestone in the life of Serious Quizness – the first quiz North Of The River. I have long been vaguely aware that there are quizzes outside the SE5/SE15 area if you know where to look, so I took a tip from my friend Ellie and decided to try The Mucky Pup.

I had been to the pub before a couple of years ago for a friend’s leaving drinks, and remembered really liking it. It’s similar to the better I’ve drunk in Camden – the ones that are a bit dive-y without too many tourists/people from Watford looking for an ‘indie’ night out, slightly hip but also local-friendly. In the beautiful scenic backstreets off Essex Road in Islington, it’s a dark-ish pub with pool, darts and rock posters/pulp novel artwork on the walls. They serve a good ale selection at reasonable prices. AND – they have a bloody great quiz.

So, the quiz started with a general knowledge round of about ten questions, covering things like winners at this year’s Oscars, a couple of history questions, and a type of question I hadn’t seen before – we were given three celebrities (Demi Moore, Prince Andrew, Andie MacDowell) and had to put them in order of age, which prompted some fun discussion.

Round two was cryptic clues for musical instruments, such as “dot dot dot toothpaste” (Tuba) and my favourite “stereotypical Japanese apple, orange, plum etc” (Flute – *groan*.) I really like these types of questions. I’ve been to a couple of quizzes recently where there have been similar rounds with cryptic clues or riddles, or lateral thinking puzzles. I like them because I tend to be good at them, but I also think they’re a great addition to quizzes because they can be worked out, and they encourage a team to try and talk their way to an answer, which I like.

The picture round was a little tougher – twenty celebrities to name, with bonus points for guessing the link between them and more bonus points for spotting the odd one out. Topically, they were all Best Actor/Actress winners at the Academy Awards, from Yul Brynner through to Charlize Theron, with the odd one out being Marlon Brando for turning his down as a protest against the treatment of Native Americans. (Sidenote – the quizmaster kept calling them ‘Red Indians.’ Bit weird.) The difficult part of this was that we were a team of relative youngsters, and this included quite a few older film stars, who we did mix up a bit.

Next was the music round, a full round of ten songs, nothing too obscure, mostly rock/indie  from the last 20 years or so. Good fun.

The final round was questions relating to Spring, as it was early March. We were asked to name the equinox that occurs in March, the bird that first signifies spring, the astrological signs in March and April, and a few other bits and pieces.

The overall level of difficulty in the quiz was very good, enough questions that most people would probably get and so not feel isolated, but a few trickier ones to separate the quiz wheat from the quiz chaff, especially in the General Knowledge and Spring rounds. The picture round was good too – we struggled slightly due to average age of team, but that isn’t really an excuse as all the people pictured were pretty famous – I just wouldn’t always recognize Henry Fonda in a picture even though I have a general idea of him and his career.

What I have omitted in this review so far, however, is the factor that takes this quiz from a decent quiz to an outstanding one, is the quizmaster. Graham, an extremely dry and detached bloke from Liverpool, is easily one of the best quizmasters I’ve ever seen. He was very funny throughout and exceptionally good at dealing with hecklers/people who quibbled over points. Also, when there was a tie for second place, he presided over an arm-wrestling match between the two teams to decide who won the alcohol. The questions in the quiz were fine, but in the hands of a lesser quizmaster, I’d have given the evening three stars out of five. Graham and the Mucky Pup have, however, earned this blog’s first ever FOUR AND A HALF STARS OUT OF FIVE RATING! I’m sure he’d be utterly thrilled to know.

Positives: Amazing quizmaster, interesting picture round, nice pub

Negatives: Finished a bit late (especially if you live in South London)

Sidenote – Just noticed on the Facebook group for the quiz it says “Serious quizzers f*** off.” Oh well. Sorry, Graham.

Review #5 The Herne Tavern, East Dulwich

The Herne Tavern (website, map)

(Photo by EwanM)

Quiz starts 7:45, £2 per person entry. Two rounds of twenty questions divided into themed rounds. A round of five music questions in each half. A picture sheet given out at half time for ten points in the second half. First prize of £30 bar tab, entry fee also gets every player a raffle ticket to participate in ‘Play Your Cards Right’ at the end for a rolling jackpot.

Result: 4th place (joint with a few other teams)

A couple of weeks ago I went to the quiz at the Old Nun’s Head with my friends Kate and Mark, and we had a splendid evening. They were great quizzing partners, what with Kate’s studying up on world geography and Mark’s excellent music knowledge. So, on Sunday night we decided to try out another quiz, this time at The Herne Tavern and with my boyfriend in tow. This will be a short review, because the quizmaster (Luke) is the same guy who runs the show down at the Old Nun’s Head and the quiz was pretty much the same format. However, there were a few differences.

First off, the Herne Tavern is a really beautiful pub. Lovely wood panelling and stained glass all over the place. According to my pals who live nearby it attracts the ubiquitous Lordship-Lane-first-child-in-expensive-buggy crowd, but I guess not too many of them go to the pub on a Sunday night, and consequently the quizzers were a decent mix of age, gender and levels of drunkenness and excitability. I felt like there were a few more serious quizzers than at the Old Nun’s Head.

The rounds were a bit better than at the Old Nun’s Head. There were again two music intros rounds (five songs per half) which breaks up the quiz nicely and is good fun – a real plus point for me is a quiz with a “guess the song” round every week.

As for the other rounds, the quiz kicked off with a sport round (which strangely featured not a single question on football, cricket or rugby,) then a pot luck round, followed by geography and lateral thinking. I suspect there may be some that say lateral thinking puzzles have no place in a pub quiz as it’s a slightly different game, but I absolutely love them. Puzzles, riddles, dingbats – stuff your quiz full of them and and on a music round and I’d be the happiest little quizzer in the world. Anyway. The picture round was a really fun one – ten pictures of celebrities as children/teenagers and you had to name them.

The second half had rounds about kids’ stuff (MUCH better than the Childrens TV and cartoon rounds at the Old Nun’s Head as it covered stuff like films, books and nursery rhymes) and the human body. I actually don’t think I’ve come across a human body round before and it was a good one – tricky, but enjoyable.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed the Herne Tavern’s quiz more than the Old Nun’s Head and I think there are three reason for this.

1. It seems to be a slightly nicer pub overall

2. The attendees was different – a bit more into quizzing rather than a Thursday night crowd starting to get into the swing of drinking as a warm-up for the weekend.

3. A better set of questions. This is probably just my own personal preferences/biases coming out but I thought the questions were most interesting, covered a better spread of topic and were a bit more original.

At both the The Herne Tavern and The Old Nun’s Head the quizmaster did a great job of working the crowd and keeping things fun, but I feel that at the Herne he had a more engaged crowd and better questions to work with. For this reason, I’d give the Herne Tavern quiz 4 stars out of 5, a half-star improvement on its sister quiz!

Sidenote – For this quiz I busted out a team name that I’d been saving up for a while -“Quizlamic Fundamentalists,” and heard one that as a Manchester City fan I particularly enjoyed: “Why Always Us?” They didn’t win though.

Sidenote to the sidenote – A lengthy and exhaustive blog post on what to name your quiz team is in the works.

Review #4 – Hoopers, East Dulwich

Hoopers, East Dulwich (website, map)

Image

Photo by Ewan, check out his great album on photos of London pubs on Flickr

Quiz starts 8:45, £1.50 per person entry. Six rounds of around ten questions each including themed picture round given out at beginning. Prizes of £10, £10 and a bottle of wine and £30 and a bottle of champagne for third, second and first place teams respectively. Gag prizes for all other teams.

Result: 5th place, won a copy of a children’s book. (there were two of us, all the teams that beat us had at least four people and winning team had nine. Just saying.)

Since moving to this area about four months ago I had heard a lot of great stuff about Hoopers. Anyone I knew who lived within a couple of miles of the place had tipped me off to its excellent beer selection and general awesomeness, so when my friend Tom drove all the way from Chatham to come to a quiz with me on a Thursday night, I knew it was time to finally pay Hoopers a visit.

We got there far too early: 8 for a quiz that ostensibly started at 8:45 (they never do,) but it was a good way to see what the general atmosphere at the pub was like. When we arrived we had a chat with the Pete the barman, who it transpired was also the quizmaster. He did a great job of bigging up the quiz, but also told us that it was his last night working there.

The quiz consisted of six rounds of ten questions each (except for the music round which was only six songs.) The categories were current affairs, music, picture round, beer, connections (all the answers involved the names of US sports team, eg Which 1995 Michael Mann film featured both Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro? Heat.) Pete ended with a round that he called Examples. I’d come across the type of question before but never a whole round of them, and it worked really well. He would read a list of words or phrases which were all types or names of something and you had to name what they all were. Types of tea, varieties of butterfly and characters from the Tempest all featured.

Pete seemed fond of rounds featuring connections, as the picture round consisted of people whose birthday was the day of the quiz. It was one of the harder picture round I’ve come across, featuring famous faces from Levi Strauss to Jah Rule.

What I particularly liked about the quiz was the variety. There were some very hard questions and no super-easy What is the capital of France type questions. Most involved a bit of thought. It definitely seemed like a quiz that had been written either by the quizmaster or someone from the pub, rather than one just bought from the internet, and I always appreciate that kind of effort.

The main issue that occurred to me during the quiz was that it was very much a locals pub, and a locals quiz. By locals pub I certainly do not mean unfriendly, everyone there from the quizmaster downwards was  very friendly and I had a couple of really nice chats with people who introduced themselves to me during my cigarette breaks. However, everyone seemed to know each other and know the quizmaster, which was both a good thing and a less good one. The camaraderie didn’t quite hit cliqueyness, but was slightly off-putting to a newcomer. However, all the regulars seemed so nice, and I’m sure that if you went there even three or four times, you would become part of the quiz-gang, and that would turn a pretty fun quiz into a really great sociable evening out.

I get the impression that the team who won probably win every week, and when talking to a couple of them afterwards I found out that they always donate all their winnings to St Christopher’s, a hospice based in Penge, so long may they continue winning. They set a great example, as the second and third place teams also donated their prize money. I don’t know if they also donated the bottles of wine and champagne that they won to the terminally ill, but here’s hoping!

The prizes for every team also gave a nice touch to the end of the quiz. We won a copy of Diary of a Wimpy kid, but I also saw teams receiving a box of dog food, a bag of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, and a box of man-sized tissues.

Just a quick note on Hoopers itself – a really friendly old-fashioned backstreet local with an astonishingly good beer selection and the kind of ale card you’d expect to find in a much poncier pub. I really felt like I’d found a gem of a local and even if the quiz doesn’t continue with Pete’s departure, I look forward to going back multiple times just for the drinks and atmosphere.

I’d give the quiz a solid four out of five. Good, varied questions with some quite tricky ones, and fantastic level of enthusiasm from both quizmaster and quizzers.

Positives: Friendly crowd, great and varied questions, good level of difficulty, fun and friendly quizmaster.

Negatives: Felt a bit strange essentially being at the leaving party of someone I didn’t know, didn’t finish until 11:15.