Book Review: ‘The Joy of Quiz’ by Alan Connor

Kathryn Friedlander reviews ‘The Joy of Quiz‘ and explores its relevance to the study of expert performance, puzzle solving and niche hobbies.


Joy of Quiz‘Here’s a question: ‘Why do we spend our childhood in fear of exams, then quite willingly put ourselves through pretty much the same tests as adults?’ … The short answer is: fun. The joy of quiz is in making a gratifying game out of all that knowledge sploshing around in our heads – fascinating information, but information for which our jobs and our personal lives stubbornly refuse to find any use’.

So begins this engaging romp through the world of quizzing: an engrossing compendium of trivia and analysis drawn from social history, psychology and real-life ‘behind-the-scenes’ knowledge, based on Alan Connor‘s own experiences as a quiz editor for the BBC2 quiz Only Connect.

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“Darling, they’re playing our song … I think!” – Mondegreens and misheard lyrics

Philip Fine discusses research revealing the factors behind how well we understand song lyrics


Have you ever wondered why you can’t always understand the words someone is singing? Or why operatic sopranos are so hard to understand? And why the words are usually clearer in folk than in heavy rock?

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Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear?

Sometimes we mishear the lyrics, and this is such a common phenomenon that there’s even a word for it: Mondegreen, coined in 1954, which comes from a mishearing of the ballad line  ‘laid him on the green’ as ‘Lady Mondegreen’. Other well-known examples include the hymn line ‘Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear’ (think teddy with a squint) and ‘O Four Tuna’ (‘O Fortuna’ from the start of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana).

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What makes an expert cryptic crossword solver?

Study reveals what it takes to become a cryptic crossword expert – and it’s more than just practice

You may have heard of the “10,000-hour rule”, the belief that it takes thousands of hours of intense practice to become an expert in something. Training and practice are clearly vitally important in many highly competitive areas such as sports, music and chess. But is that really all it takes to achieve greatness?

Recent research suggests that other factors such as genetics influence the likelihood that you will try, enjoy and excel at a performance activity. We decided to test that theory in the highly challenging arena of cryptic crossword solving. Continue reading

What’s it all about?

Ever wondered why some people are better at playing the violin than others?  Mystified by those who knock off the Times cryptic crossword in only 5 minutes? Curious as to why some people pursue niche hobbies – like campanology, mycology or button-collecting?

Want to know what makes people creative (or not), and how creative thinking might be enhanced? So do we!

Based at the University of Buckingham, our CREATE research hub is dedicated to probing these questions, and more. Together with our guest bloggers and collaborators from other Universities, we’ll be sharing our thoughts and discoveries along the way.

Want to get in touch or write something for us? Leave a comment below, or check out our About page to find out more. Or contact us here.