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The World's Most Difficult Quiz

New Liverpool University book is one big ask

Written by . Published on September 7th 2011.

The World's Most Difficult Quiz

THERE are people who venture out to pub quizzes expecting little:  a corned beef butty, a pint of Jennings, a midweek chance to demonstrate the crack of the wise to their pals.

The Task MasterFirst birds, now thisAs they hunch, in hushed excitement, identifying blurry pictures of Justin Beiber’s underpants on a sheet of A4, just a table away are the salaried smartarses: Teachers, quantity surveyors and the like who lead organised packs of empowered punters around a town’s hostelries, systematically cleaning up, like winter ploughs,  massive accumulated snowballs as they go.

The trickiest trivia traditionally lies here at the "quiz nite's"! finale:  Which lovers were recognised by Captain Kendall? (Dr Crippen and Ethel Le Neve).  Which European language is the only survivor of its branch of the Indo-European group? (Albanian).  What repetitious word is a small rum-soaked sponge cake? (Ba-ba)

Who thinks them up?

(Click here to add text)Win one in our competitionIn the case of the above, it’s a retired GP, Pat Cullen, who has been setting the annual King William’s College General Knowledge Papers, a spit away on the Isle of Man, since 1997.

According to The Guardian, which has been republishing the papers every Christmas since 1951, it is “arguably the most difficult quiz in the world ... devised for intellectual torture”.

Dr Cullen has already distinguished himself as the author of The Manx Bird Atlas which was published here in Liverpool by the University Press.

Now LUP is publishing a huge selection of his toughest toughies in a volume which confidently takes its cue for a title from the Guardian’s appraisal: The World’s Most Difficult Quiz.

The compendium contains questions and answers from 1981 to 2010 and a bonus competition set of questions - previously unpublished – whose answers will be revealed online next summer with a prize of £1000 of LUP books on offer.

It’s £9.99 to buy but we have teamed up with Liverpool University Press to give five away to the lucky winners of our competition.

Enter at the bottom of the story, but in the meantime, have a go at these (answers below).

What lovers:

Mrs Robinson
1. – corresponded as Florizel and Perdita (pictured, well one of them)?

2. – met making To Have and Have Not?

3. – begot Caesarion?

What tale begins:

1. – ‘I was born in 1632, in the city of York’?

2. – ‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day’?

3. – ‘I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hill’?


1. Whose name was the perfect slogan for approval?

2. Who had been ADC to Mad Anthony?

3. Who was described as a ‘withered little apple-john’?


1. Which language was developed by a Polish ophthalmologist?

2. Which language of the Romance group has a definite article suffix?

3. Of which European language is the origin unknown, even to the experts?

In which city:

A Dik-Dik

1. – is Charlemagne’s octagon?

2. – did Böttger develop hard-paste?

3. – did Gutenberg set up his press?

What repetitious word is or was:

1. – a dwarf antelope (pictured)?

2. – a soft-nosed missile?

3. – a contemporary car-ferry?


When the going gets tough

Since 1904, King William's College, known by Manx locals as King Bill’s, has as set the paper for its mainly international baccalaureate pupils.

The test is presented twice; once unseen on the day before the Christmas holidays, and again when they return to school in the New Year, after having spent the holiday researching the answers. 

It is well-known to be highly difficult – and don’t forget, on the Isle of Man, no one can hear you scream, - a common score being just two correct answers from the list of several hundred.

The Team Considers Detention After Some Hard RuggeryThe KWC team considers detention
 after some serious ruggery
The best scores are 40 to 50 for the unseen test and about 270 out of 360 for the second sitting. Traditionally, the best scorers were given a half day free from school, while anyone doing particularly badly was given a detention.

In recent years, some spoilsport has made it voluntary.

The quiz is always introduced with the following: "Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis, ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est", which translates as: "To know where you can find anything is, after all, the greatest part of erudition."

Pat Cullen reports that he now checks questions by typing them into Google and changing them if necessary to make sure the answers cannot be found immediately.

Today the GKP is sent home to parents, there being a prize of £100 for the winning family. There is great competition between the local Manx families over this.  

Source: Wikepedia, the quiz-goer's friend.

The Answers

What lovers: 1. George IV and Mrs Robinson; 2. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall; 3. Caesar and Cleopatra. What tale begins: 1. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe); 2. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë); 3. Out of Africa (Karen Blixen). Who/which? 1. Dwight D Eisenhower ("I like Ike"); 2. William Henry Harrison; 3. James Maddison. Languages: 1. Esperanto (Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof); 2. Romanian; 3. Basque. In which city: 1. Aachen; 2. Dresden (porcelain); 3. Mainz. What repetitious word is or was: 1. dik-dik; 2. dum dum; 3. ro-ro


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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Angie Sammons shared this on Facebook on September 7th 2011.
Absinthe & TurksSeptember 21st 2011.

Is it "Pat" or "Sam" Cullen? Two marks for a correct answer.

Roman KnowsSeptember 21st 2011.

Surely it must be specified that was 'Julius Caesar' (Rex Harrison) who along with Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) begat Caesarion, rather than just 'Caesar'?
Cleo also had children by Marcus Antonius (Richard Burton).

AnonymousOctober 4th 2011.

And Sid James

Lord Peter WyngardeOctober 13th 2011.

It isn't well known but Lord Sugar is a love-child of Sid James. Look at their photographs - they could be twins.

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Thank you for your interest, but this competition closed to further entries on September 16th 2011.

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