As an avid fan of the Connecting Wall round of Only Connect, and with two special editions solely featuring knockout rounds of the Wall coming up tonight, there was one burning question with which I had to begin our interview…
Have you ever attempted a Wall yourself? How did you get on?
“Oh yes, I play the Walls obsessively on the Only Connect website. I do quite well, I never score zero. What annoys me about the website version is that you don’t get a chance to guess the categories if you haven’t identified all the groups, so I’m often scoring two when it should really be four or six. That infuriates me. I take it extremely seriously.”
For those not familiar with the scoring, you get one point for grouping together four clues (there are four groups in the Wall), then four points are available for identifying the connections within the groups, and two bonus points if you get all the groups and their connections correct. So the maximum you can score is ten points.
But what is the quickest anyone’s completed the Wall?
“Amazingly, the quickest Wall-completion was done in a semi-final (where the Walls are much harder than they are in the heats and quarters). The Listeners, so named because they’re all fans of the Listener crossword, solved the wall in 36 seconds! It was an amazing performance. Unluckily for them, the Antiquarians had already scored the maximum ten, and there were no extra points for speed.
“That will be different on Wall Night – because of the likelihood of two teams getting the same score, we ARE actually factoring in the time it takes them to find the first group. I think that should add a real layer of nerves and tension as the walls are unveiled.”
And how many teams have been defeated by the Wall, ie not got any connections?
“Nobody’s ever been completely defeated. We’ve had teams fail to find any groups in the alloted time but, when that happens, we just resolve the wall for them and still offer bonus points for identifying the connections. And they always manage to do some of those, even on the toughest walls. We haven’t had a zero yet. Still, hope springs eternal.”
If you were a contestant on Only Connect, who would you want to be on your team?
“Oh, I’d have the Stainers — David Stainer and Katie Bramall-Stainer, the king and queen of quizzing, who have captained rival teams to Only Connect victory. They’re amazing. I’d like them to adopt me so we could be a family team. Failing that, I’d have Jeremy Paxman and Anne Robinson, then laugh when they got everything wrong.”
Are there any plans to do any other specials – such as ones just comprising the missing vowels round?
“Well, I’d love that because the missing vowels round is the one I’m best at – but no, I don’t think it could sustain a whole show by itself. We have other specials in the pipeline, though; in fact, we’ve got a “Stainer versus Stainer” episode coming up, where that great quizzing couple take their teams head to head, and another one where our heroes The Crossworders will be challenged by a team of Mastermind winners. I’m looking forward to those immensely.”
Only Connect in numbers:
• 76 – episodes so far
• 152 – walls played
• 608 – connections found
• 2,432 – clues in the walls
Only Connect Wall Night airs at 8:30pm and 10pm tonight on BBC4