“Alphabetical” is a weekday afternoon quiz show, another one we have added to the “series record” list on our multi-channel box. It sits alongside “The Chase”, “Pointless”, “Countdown”, “University Challenge”, “Mastermind” and “Only Connect”. Combined with episodes of “Have I Got News for You”, “Strictly Come Dancing” and “Upstart Crow”, and over 100 “Top of the Pops” repeats from 1981-84, it’s no surprise that the amount of free space available on the box rarely goes above 10%.
The show is broadcast at 3pm on ITV, a slot briefly taken by “Tenable”, which I wrote about last month. Are there people who watch game shows and quiz shows uninterrupted on weekdays right through from 2.10pm (when “Countdown” airs on Channel 4) to the end of “Eggheads” on BBC2 6.30pm? I like my quizzes but I’m not sure I could ever do 260 minutes at a stretch, even at the weekend.
Having first recorded an episode of “Alphabetical” to check it out I continue to keep an eye on it because it currently has the highest jackpot available to a single player on a UK quiz show. It also appeals to me because it features more questions per episode than most shows, and the children have more chance of getting some of them right. As I have noted many times on these pages, quiz shows make up a significant proportion of our family viewing, but we have given up watching “Only Connect” together. The children have found it frustrating to watch a whole show without getting a single answer right.
Each of the first two rounds of “Alphabetical” gives each of the four contestants a minute to answer as many as 14 questions (though usually it’s about 12 per round). In the first round each answer will begin with a specific letter and in the second round each answer will end with a specific letter. Knowing the first or last letter of an answer makes it much easier to get it right. In those first 8 minutes of quizzing there will be between 90 and 100 questions, more than in the average episode of “Fifteen to One”. Rounds three to five slow things down a bit. There’s more chat between the host and the contestants, and no more than 31 questions in total. The final round has up to 26 questions in a little over two minutes. The exact time available depends on how successful the final contestant has been throughout the show. In this game, correct answers throughout the show add to the time allowed in the final round. Anything over 140 seconds appears to be a good time. The final 26 questions run from A to Z. The first letter of each answer begins with each successive letter of the alphabet, apart from X where the letter X appears somewhere in the answer. (Otherwise, I guess, the answer would nearly always be xylophone, or X-ray.)
Typically we forward through the ad-breaks and the credits, the explanation of the rules and some of the chat between the guests and host Jeff Stelling (who used to present “Countdown”). That way we get around 150 questions in under 45 minutes. Earlier this evening I forwarded straight through to the last few minutes of the show to see if the current champion had won the jackpot, which had grown to £42,300. He hadn’t, and by answering 23 question in the final round he added another £2,300 to tomorrow’s jackpot, taking it to £44,600. As I mentioned above, it’s the biggest sum available to a single player on a UK quiz show, ahead of the £40,000 won by the winner of the Grand Final of “Fifteen to One” (which has been off-air since June). It’s possible to win more on “Who Dares Wins” (also off-air currently) and “The Chase”, but they are both team games. I haven’t yet seen anyone win the “Alphabetical” jackpot. The finalist has to answer each of those last 26 questions correctly. One wrong answer and the jackpot is unavailable. Even though, once or twice, they have had time to hear all the questions through at least once, there has always been at least one that they did not know the answer to, and that was true again tonight. Fontanel, Leviathan and Vizsla were the words that evaded him today. The last of those three would have stumped me too, “a Hungarian hunting dog with a short, smooth, reddish coat” according to the clue. Never heard of it.
In more general terms putting things in alphabetical order is a regular challenge in quizzes. For example: if Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs are arranged alphabetically, which one comes last? (The answer appears below.) The following four lists are the ones that come up most often, so see if you can work out, alphabetically, which items come first and which will come last.
The numbers one to ten;
The days of the week;
The months of the year;
Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs.
The answers appear after the following paragraph.
During the summer I wrote out all of these lists alphabetically, so I have seen them all written down at least once, but I still have to think them through. The only question that I have heard often enough for me to know the answer automatically is the first combination, i.e. Which number between one and ten comes first alphabetically?
It’s eight, and the answers to the four lists above are:
First: eight, Friday, April, Bashful.
Last: two, Wednesday, September, Sneezy.
So, just to confirm that first alphabet-related answer: if you write the names of the Seven Dwarfs alphabetically the last in the list will be Sneezy. Bless you.