The Well of Lost Plots
The 2003 Nextian Brain Competition
Well, this competition has now closed and my thanks to all those people who took part. The depth of knowledge displayed is awe-inspiring, and not only shows how observant people are, but just how difficult it is to set unambiguous questions with only one answer!

If you still want to do the quiz purely for fun then read no further and click HERE to read the questions.

The average score was 73, the highest 93, the most often, 82. It was very interesting to see how people's minds worked. Some folk got the really hard ones like the Thursday's Uncle, Lennie and his rabbits and the Titanic2 question, but missed correctly naming Mrs Bradshaw. What I sneakily didn't say, of course, was that just reading the books wasn't enough. Many of the questions relate to the website and can only be answered if you have trawled around there and kept your eyes open - like noticing that Gerhardt Von Squid was at one time Thursday's Uncle.

Scoring was tricky. Some of the questions were slightly ambiguous as you will see in the answers below. There were three frontrunners, and between all of them they would have scored 100%. So in third place was Julie Jones with 89 points. Hearty handshake and a Nextian Tee-shirt. 2nd place goes to Yvonne Dubreuil with a staggering 92 points. Leapt ahead with Lennie and correctly identifying Churchill-speak, but got caught out by Eeyore's copyright problems. Tee-shirt for her, too. But only one point ahead and crowned Nextian Brain of 2003 with a staggering 93 points is .....drum roll.... Jennifer Withers! My heartiest congratulations to her and a Mammoth Roadsign will be despatched forthwith. My thanks to all those who took part. Hope you enjoyed it.


1: What is Mrs Bradshaw's first name?

Melanie. Not difficult, this one.

2: What should be for eternity, not just page 27?

Unicorns, as suggested by Snell in Sword of the Zenobians. No-one got this wrong.

3: Who murdered Dora Spenlow?

It was David Copperfield. A fanmail letter to Thursday in TN2 suggested this and Havisham in TN3 confirmed it. No-one got this wrong, either.

4: Under which design order does Martin-Bacon produce the Eject-O-Hat?

The first web-based question. The answer, "FME/247946" can be found on the technical page of the TravelBook on my site. The designation - most things have a meaning of some sort in my books, especially numbers - means: "First Manned Ejection (FME), 24th July 1946". This was undertaken by Benny Lynch at the Martin-Baker ejection seat company based in Chalgrove, when he banged out of their test Gloster Meteor at 320 MPH.

5: Which Book does Sam Weller the Bootboy reside in?

Pickwick Papers. I've been asked to do a foreword in the latest Signet Classics reprint, so it was on my mind.

6: If Miss Havisham drove straight on at the Jesmond, where would she end up?

Road atlases out! Stratton St Margaret, or Swindon, or even the A361 are all acceptable answers. The journey can really be made if you are around Highworth, and the Jesmond does exist, right on the corner with a set of lights as in the book.

7: What do Thursday's Room number at the Finis, the number of the mugged John Milton and Braxton's office number all have in common?

8128, 496 and 28 are all perfect numbers, that is, the sum of their divisors. (1+2+4+7+14=28) The ancient Greeks knew of the lowest (6) and all of these. The rest of the known perfect numbers spring up through history rather like undiscovered planets; the 5th was discovered in the 15th century, and by 1811 the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th had also been uncovered, the latter with 37 digits. It was at this point that the mathematician Barlow stated -rather rashly I thought- that no higher Perfect would ever be discovered. He was to be proved wrong when after his death a 10th perfect was discovered with 77 digits in 1876. With the advent of computers the list has been growing steadily - I think we've found the 27th at present, but I haven't looked for a while.

8: Apropos the above question: Where does the next number in the series appear?

Well, this is my poor questioning, really. I erroneously asked the question in descending order of magnitude, so most people answered '6' then searched around for somewhere where six appeared. I gave full marks for this when in fact I was wanting 33,550,336, Thursday's identification number in the Tank Corp and the 5th perfect number. One person noticed this, but full marks for either.

9: Who approaches Thursday and Havisham when they enter the Jurisfiction offices prior to session 40319?

Another slightly ambiguous question from me. Apologies again. Of course, Miss Havisham joins Thursday once in the offices, so Thursday is really with Bradshaw. But the first person who approaches them as they step into the ballroom at Norland is a young man with tall stories about amputations and gassings. It can only be Billy Liar, from the Novel (and later play) by Keith Waterhouse.

10: Who wrote Bunyan's Footscraper?

Bunyan's Bootscraper was written by John McSquurd, but you knew what I meant.

11: At the BookWorld awards, which book is represented by table eight?

Lots of rabbits. It can only be Watership Down by Richard Adams

12: What does Mathias' pretentious latin quote actually mean?

It means: "Times change and we change with them" or something similar.

13: Which couple serve Apple Benedict at dinner parties?

Quite a few people said 'ibb and obb' for this answer but they are not a couple (at least not yet). The only answer acceptable is the Schuetzburgs, mentioned in the 'Anna Karenin' crossed footnoterphone gossip in TN3.

14: What did Mycroft leave in 'The Wreck of the Hesperus'?

Yes, it was his jacket.

15: Which letter does Thursday's middle name begin with?

Again, everyone got this one. It's "E".

16: Which book is JurisTech located within? (Not Plum's regional office at Norland Park)

Bit of a tricky one, here. Listed on the advert for the new Footnoterphone in the back of TN3 is an ISBN number that refers to "Gulliver's Travels", so that's the answer.

17: Where was Bowden's stand-up comedy night held?

It was at The Happy Squid pub in Swindon. Another Squid moment in my books. Like lobsters, they seem to pop up with startling regularity. You might recall that Woody Allen's character in Sleeper ran a health food store called The Happy Carrot.

18: What is Spike's girlfriend's profession?

Hitwoman, assassin. One of my favourite sub-plotettes.

19: What award did the 'magic roundabout' in Swindon win?

It won the 'Traffic Flow Silver Star for 1983'. At least, it did in my head (another web-based question from 'Views of Swindon'.) I'm sure it did win something, though, being the first of its kind. Ideas, anyone?

20: Where can Anton's grave be found?

Near Sevastapol on the Crimean peninsula, all full marks. The block of stone in the GSD churchyard in Wanborough is just a monument. 'None of the bodies came home'. You'll find the same holds (pretty much) true for the first and second wars.

21: How many chapter headings in TN2 were written by Thursday's uncle?

Three. Sneaky trick question. Uncle Mycroft writes none of them, of course, but Gerhardt Von Squid was once married to Thursday's Aunt April (see the Family Tree) so that makes him an uncle, and he wrote three of them.

22: Why was Mycroft's splicence revoked?

Due to the 'incident with the prawns' which is never fully explained. A similar thing is spoken about by the Hon. Galahad Threepwood in the Blandings novels by PG Wodehouse. Gally, constantly threatening to publish his scandalous memoirs that will implicate almost every respectful member of British society, refers to an incident with prawns that might have a dire effect upon the social standing of Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, were they to become known..

23: What was the name of the motorway services before it was changed to 'Leigh Delamare'?

Kingston St Michael.

24: Why was Mycroft having problems with his overbite?

Because of the gnawing he had to undertake as part of the 'Wombat' secret society he used to belong to. The pouch used to 'chafe something awful', too.

25: Which Outlander company make Dream Topping?

Bird's, now owned by Kraft. Bird's also make custard powder, a Fforde staple.

26: In Chronoguard parlance, What is a 'time aggregation' euphemistically referred to as?

'Unavoidably Detained.' Filbert Snood (love that name! Reeks of Don Martin, Mad Magazine's editor and chief cartoonist) had this happen to him and he didn't like it one bit.

27: Where is the 1st reference to the Titanic? (TN2; easy)

Conversation with Schitt-Hawse in TN2 where they discuss a Goliath guarantee. S-H says it is 'riveted Iron' and Thursday replies: 'So was the Titanic'.

28: Where is the 2nd reference to the Titanic? (TN3; hard)

Only Mattias and Casmi got this one. It's hidden in Ibb and obb's generic registration code: TSI-1404912. 'Titanic Struck Iceberg, 14th April 1912'. Mattias didn't make the 'TSI' connection but Casmi did. She suggested: 'Titanic Scraped Iceberg'. Jolly well done!

29: Where is the 3rd reference to the Titanic? (TN3; so-so)

The 'White Star Line' porcelain on board the Nautilus. (P157 TN3) One presumes Nemo went and got it from the wreck.

30: What is a World Croquet League final called?

It's a SuperHoop.

31: Why couldn't Eeyore appear at the BookWorld awards?

I couldn't write about Eeyore because he is heavily copyrighted, hence being unable to appear at the awards. For a fuller explanation of the Eeyore problem, see The Well of Lost Plots Special Features section.

32: What is the Neanderthal title of the book: 'I, Robot' ?

'We Robots,' I should imagine, since they don't use the personal pronoun. My daughters and I had a very spirited argument over whether it should be 'We, Robot' or 'We, Robots'. We reckoned 'Robots' as the Neanderthals always regard themselves as a group, never individuals. Incidentally, I just discovered that Neanderthal bones were found in Gibraltar 8 years prior to the discovery in the Neander valley from where they get their name. But Gibraltarthals doesn't sound so good, does it?

33: Why are bananas called bananas?

Named after their engineer, Anna Bannon, and not the gay pulp writer of the sixties, Annie Bannon, as some people pointed out.

34: Where is the reference to the 60's TV show The Prisoner in TN3?

Lots of different answers to this one, some very obscure. I had in mind the conversation Thursday has in the village inside Shadow the Sheepdog, specifically the exchanges: 'Beautiful Day', Rain later' and 'Be seeing you!'.

35: What is Mycroft Next's middle name?

Delaste. You can find this out on the Next family tree in thursdaynext.com

36: On what date was the 1987 Chimera Amnesty?

14th February. It is written in two places on the thursdaynext.com site but only once with the full date - as a pop-up box on the 'Pete and Dave's Dodo Emporium' page. The 'Views from Swindon' date is obscured so many people wrote 'the 1?th of February which I can't accept.

37: Which parishioner of Joffy's is profoundly deaf?

Gladys Higgins

38: Highlight at least one outbreak of Churchillianism in TN3

Again, a lot of rampant speculation over this one, which leads me to believe that a lot of what we say Churchill also said at some time. The places I was looking for was at Tweed and Libris' final march to push UltraWord, specifically: 'History will be good to us for we shall write it!' and 'Broad sunlit uplands' - a favourite of Winston's. There are a few others, too - I thought it was amusing to subvert Winston's rhetoric for evil usage.

39: What car does Thursday drive when we first meet her?

It's a Pontiac. slightly battered. She doesn't buy the Speedster until she arrives in Swindon.

40: What year did Sergeant Tozer die?

Eight years on, Thursday says, from the date of the charge - so that must be 1981 if the charge happened in 1973.

41: What excuse do the authorities usually use when a SEB escapes?

Legionnaires Disease. I spent hours trying to find a good anagram to justify it but couldn't, but liked the idea anyway.

42: What is the trade name for the vacuum cleaner Spike uses to suck up the SEB?

The book doesn't ever specify but since it is 'James at R&D' and we talk about 'Dual Cyclone Action' with 'No loss of suction' it has to be a Dyson, designed by James Dyson himself. They're very good.

43: Where is the John Steinbeck reference in TN3?

The one I was after was Lenny who likes to come and look after the rabbits in Sword of the Zenobians when he has some time off. (from Of mice and Men). Fool that I am I forgot that Billy tells Thursday that he has been asked to write additional dialogue for John Steinbeck, so most people answered that... apart from Mattias and Yvonne, the only two. One point for Billy, two for Lenny.

44: In the Bookworld, which celebrity wore a Kalvin Hobbs matching tunic and spats?

The Jabberwock, as part of a product placement deal brokered by AdverText, the bookworld's premier advertising agency.

45: What do Slow-and-Solid and Stickly-Prickly become?

They become Armadillos, from 'The beginning of the Armadillos' chapter in the 'Just So' stories by Rudyard Kipling. If you haven't read it then you must - it is quite delightful!

46: Who was Daisy Mutlar's first husband?

It was Murray Posh of 'Posh's Three Shillings Hats' a character from 'Diary of a Nobody' by the Grossmith brothers and also used in TN1.

47: Which SpecOps department does John Smith work at?

Easy one. SO-32, Domestic Horticulture Enforcement Agency or 'Weeds and Seeds'

48: What do SO-26 do?

They are the Pasta Police. You can find out more by logging onto the SpecOps site.

49: Who is Emperor Zhark's teacher at Jurisfiction?

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.

50: Which literary work does the Bellman usually reside in?

The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll. A Bellman is a town crier, for anyone who doesn't know, and all the characters in the expedition for Snark capturing begin with a 'B'.

So those are the answers. Now:


100 points: You are a genius with a photographic memory. Alternatively you peaked at the answers and are nothing more than a cheat, bounder and a cad - and would do far better writing additional dialogue for John Steinbeck, as you no doubt claim.

75-99 points: Fantastically good. Your powers of observation are certainly better than mine and you have a brain the size of the Mekon's but not, I hope, as green. You have clearly read all the books ever written and have an unsurpassed knowledge of popular culture, movies, 70s sitcoms and Enid Blyton. You have a close circle of caring and loving friends and access to sound psychological medical advice. You probably have a well paid job as rocket scientist, particle physicist or medical research chemist, have an internet connection plugged directly into your cerebral cortex, an IQ of over 180 and can refer to people like Einstein and Newton as ' donkeys' without challenge.

50-75 points: Excellent, no problems here. You are extremely knowledgeable in a great deal of stuff but not quite as much as the people above, who you wouldn't want to be like anyway. For a start you are hardly sad at all and will rarely (unlike them) be described as a 'boring know-it-all' behind your back. You like my books and rarely, if ever, spend more than eight hours straight logged on to the internet. You are all upright and sensible members of society whom any government could trust to fight a war on their behalf. Your lucky stone is turquoise, your unlucky stone is Bill Wyman. (old joke)

25-50 points: A valiant effort. Quite clearly you like nothing better than to walk amongst small furry woodland creatures and step nimbly across babbling mountain brooks as you cavort outdoors instead of reading books, watching TV and logging onto the forum like those poor deluded creatures in the categories above. No pointless swotting over questions for you when the great outdoors and life's rich tapestry beckons your unfettered mind. Your laid-back attitude is something to be proud of and there is far too much emphasis on winning these days anyway. You probably know the real name of a conker tree, which season it is, and can identify farmyard animals with ease. I like you guys the most. Well done!

To view the results of the 'Wherefore that name?' competition, click HERE
To view the results of the 'Summarising TN3' competition, click HERE