It’s time for the immemorial Christmas custom in which the family gathers round the iPad, cracks another walnut, and sharpens its competitive claws on the Spectator’s traditional challenge to suppressed memories of unlikely events, political gaffes, terrible films, old books and the Olympic opening ceremony.
1 On whose painting, ‘Black on Maroon’, in the Tate, did a man scrawl ‘A potential piece of Yellowism’?
2 A three-year-old chicken nugget from McDonald’s, Dakota City, Nebraska, said to resemble which US president, sold for $8,100?
3 Name the MP who consented to 3,000 cockroaches and 5,000 crickets being poured on to her in an underground crate.
4 Which member of the royal family was given a cardigan of the same pattern worn by the heroine of The Killing when she visited the set during a visit to Denmark?
5 Helicopters rescued 675 anglers carried away on an ice-floe, through which they had been fishing, off which island in the far east of Russia?
6 Which race did Trenton Oldfield stop?
7 Who was robbed outside the Atletico Madrid stadium when two men on their knees tugged at his trousers?
8 The president of which country resigned after being stripped of his doctorate when parts of his thesis were found to be copied?
9 Who told Glamour magazine that he had ‘never worn a watch or a ring’?
10 What was the name of the clothing store in Ahmedabad in India that changed its name after complaints?
Tip of the tongue
1 Which backbencher called David Cameron and George Osborne ‘Two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’?
2 Who called ‘George Osborne the dustpan, Michael Gove the J-cloth, William Hague the sponge’?
3 Who said that Ed Balls’s presence was ‘Like having someone with Tourette’s permanently sitting opposite you’?
4 Which 70-year-old fashion designer said: ‘Everybody looks like clones, and the only people you notice are my age’?
5 Which disgraced politician said: ‘I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman’?
6 Which bearded cleric said: ‘I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros’?
7 Who gave the advice: ‘A bit of extra fuel in a jerrycan in the garage is a sensible precaution to take’?
8 Who was revealed to have sent David Cameron a text: ‘Brilliant speech. I cried twice’?
9 Name the Russian oligarch who lost a case against Roman Abramovich and was said by the judge in the London Commercial Court to have ‘regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes’.
10 Who said to Jeremy Paxman: ‘I am proud of actually being able to endure a discussion like this without getting up and smashing your face in’?
1 ‘Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t go in for that any more,’ said Ben Whishaw, in which action movie?
2 If Benedict Cumberbatch is Smaug, who is Bilbo?
3 David Tennant provided the voice of Charles Darwin and Imelda Staunton that of Queen Victoria in which animated entertainment?
4 In which animated film did Ben Stiller voice a lion and David Schwimmer a giraffe?
5 If he was Xenophilius Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010), and Spike in Notting Hill (1999), who was he in The Amazing Spider-Man?
6 If Meryl was Margaret, who was Denis?
7 Who was Countess Lydia Ivanovna in Anna Karenina and Rose Narracott in War Horse?
8 Ewan McGregor played a fisheries expert in the screen version of which novel by Paul Torday?
9 If Arnold Schwarzenegger said, ‘If I am not me, then who the hell am I?’ in 1990, who said it in 2012?
10 John Carter, set on Mars, was based on whose Barsoom novels?
1 Which king overtook The Phantom of the Opera to become the highest earner on Broadway?
2 Which king broke his hip while shooting elephants?
3 What was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee?
4 Elizabeth, Philip, Charles, Anne, Andrew, Edward, William and Henry travelled down-river aboard the Ursula Katherine, for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, but ended up at St James Garlickhythe. What are they?
5 In which American desert city was Prince Harry photographed without clothes?
6 Which French magazine published pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless in Provence?
7 Which couple made a nine-day visit to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, starting at Singapore, for the Queen’s Jubilee?
8 Who, on arriving jetlagged in Australia, remarked: ‘I feel a few sausages short of a barbie’?
9 Who, on her first visit to Australia, was obliged to caress a koala and cuddle a kangaroo?
10 Willow, Monty and Holly appeared with the Queen in a James Bond skit for the Olympics. Which of the corgis later died, aged 13?
Life… not as we know it
1 Artemis Cooper wrote about a traveller who found living in England ‘like living in the heart of a lettuce. I pine for hot stones and thorns and olive trees and prickly pears’. Who was he?
2 Who was Counting One’s Blessings in epistolary form?
3 Which biography of a royal subject began with his pregnant mother’s journal entry: ‘Not very well again and had rather a restless night’?
4 Eben Alexander wrote in Proof of Heaven about his near-death experience. What was his profession?
5 Fabrice Muamba wrote in I’m Still Standing about his heart stopping for 78 minutes. What was his profession?
6 In his fourth volume, The Passage of Power, Robert A. Caro brought which politician to the White House?
7 John Sugden brought his biography of an English hero to completion with The Sword of Albion. Who was the hero?
8 Which subject was born at 13 Mile End Terrace, Landport, now called 393 Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth?
9 Victoria Glendinning wrote the life of a founder of London Zoo. Who?
10 Match the sportspeople with their books:
a Between the Lines; b Running my Life; c Unbelievable; d An Open Book; e My Time; f My Story; g My Liverpool Story; Bradley Wiggins; Jessica Ennis; Tom Daley; Seb Coe; Victoria Pendleton, Steven Gerrard; Darren Clarke
‘The numbers came’
1 Who beat whom by 1,054,811 votes to 992,273?
2 Whose painting ‘The Lock’ (1824) was sold in London by Carmen, Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza, for £22.4 million?
3 In July, whose kilt was auctioned for £228 for charity?
4 Which island nation set about slaughtering 30,000 feral chickens?
5 Under economic pressures, the average annual consumption of coffee fell to 5.68 kilograms per head, in which country?
6 For what service did a woman in Pessac, near Bordeaux, receive a bill for €11,721,000,000,000,000?
7 Who stepped from a balloon at 128,100 feet to become the first skydiver to go faster than the speed of sound, reaching 833.9mph?
8 Which relish was sold to the Japanese company Mizkan for £92.5 million?
9 Bishop Tawadros’s name was drawn by a blindfolded child to be the 118th what?
10 A Chinese shipping magnate bought what kind of bird for €250,400?
Snow on snow
Match these writers to the extracts from their letters.
Benjamin Disraeli; Jane Austen; Oscar Wilde; Sydney Smith; Philip Larkin; Evelyn Waugh; Walter Scott; William Wordsworth; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Lord Byron
1 Henrietta Street: Monday (7 March 1814)
Here’s a day! The ground covered with snow! What is to become of us? We were to have walked out early to near shops, and had the carriage for the more distant. Mr Richard Snow is dreadfully fond of us. I dare say he has stretched himself out at Chawton too.
2 Combe Florey, 18 December 1829
Our neighbours here are in the common line, Port and Sherry for dinner, hail, rain and snow for conversation, but the best people in any place come slowly to light, and lie, like Maccaroon cakes at the bottom of an Italian cream, last and best.
3 Combe Florey House, Nr Taunton 7 January 1963
Thaw impends. I don’t suppose you remember this house. The back is a glass covered yard. About ten tons of snow will soon fall from the roof onto this glass & under it is a hogshead of Burgundy awaiting bottling.
4 Hughenden Manor, April 13 (1876)
Snow, snow, snow! Never ceasing snow! A lonely house and never ceasing snow!
5 8 Salisbury Street, Liverpool Jan 26 1881
I hear the Thames is frozen and an ox roasted whole. Today there is a thaw, and the frostings, which have been a lovely fairyland on the publicans’ windows, are vanished from the panes.
6 Ravenna. January 31st. 1820
Weather here has been dreadful—Snow several feet— —fiume broke down a bridge — and flooded who knows how many Campi, — then rain came and it is still thawing.
7 Lucerne, Aug. 19. 1820
This journey led us over high ground, and for fifteen leagues along the base of the loftiest Alps, which reared their bare or snow-clad ridges and pikes, in a clear atmosphere, with fleecy clouds now and then settling upon and gathering round them. We heard and saw several avalanches; they are announced by a sound like thunder, but more metallic.
8 Café du Nord, Geneva, 1 April (1899)
After the chill virginity of Swiss Alps and snow, I long for the red flowers of life that stain the feet of summer in Italy.
9 32 Pearson Park, Hull, 25 January 1963
Nice to hear from you — a slight thaw making me feel a little less brass-monkey-like, I pick up my pen.
10 Edinburgh, 25 November 1825
There is nothing which some experience with letters has brought me more to despise than the puffing of friends, or the rumours circulated by enemies. I would as soon buffet with the snowflakes which are falling on my window at this moment, as I would try to contradict idle rumours and combat unfounded imaginations.
The answers to this quiz are in this week's 'Life' section