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Confessions of a Serial Quizzer: A Love Letter to the Union Pub Quiz

Nicole Entin laments the triumphs and pitfalls of her avid dedication to the Union's Sunday evening pub quiz.

If you were to ask me ‘Nicole, why have you blocked out Sunday evenings on your calendar in perpetuum?’, I would tell you that from 8pm, I am devoting myself to a higher cause. On these evenings, my temple is not the library, nor the gym, nor my laptop with the questions I should be preparing for my Monday morning Jane Austen seminar — it is the Union’s Pub Quiz. Yes, dear reader, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a university student in possession of some general knowledge must be in want of trivia.

My career as a serial quizzer commenced at the beginning of last year, when a friend asked me to join their quiz team. Having only attended the Pub Quiz twice in the course of two years at St Andrews, I was curious about the prospect of being inducted into a group of eight people and the dream of £100 in prize money. And sure, as the token arts student in a team of maths students and medics, I like the feeling of being wanted by people who are almost certain to get stable jobs immediately after graduating. Yet when one week’s attendance turned into ten, I realised that what I thought of as being a casual fling had suddenly become a committed relationship.

There is something comforting about the routine of the Union Pub Quiz. The Picture Round that opens each evening is accompanied by a debate over our team name, hoping for the coveted bonus point. If we’re feeling classy, we choose a pun on current events – for where else can a group of people band together under a name like “Fee fi fo fum, the chairs are stuck in 601”? If we’re not feeling classy, we pick something cringeworthy for the hosts to read. I’ll leave it to your imaginations, as I doubt this honourable newspaper would reprint our best creations.

The subsequent two rounds are random categories of trivia: anything from rodents, to literature, to women in STEM. It’s usually these rounds that produce the most intense debates, as we attempt to recall secondary school biology classes, opening lines of novels we read five years ago, or very, very important information about barnacles.

The penultimate Linking Round is always a crowd pleaser. It consists of nine trivia questions with thematically connected answers, with the final question invariably being “what is the link?” Although I haven’t attended many pub quizzes outside of the Union (see, committed relationship!), I've never heard of linking rounds being used elsewhere, so points to the Union hosts for creativity. I’ll even give them a bonus point if they make next week’s linking round ‘What the Romans have done for us’. Long story.

Anyway, I’m convinced that the final Music Round is the make-it-or-break it moment of the quiz, and would love to blame it for our recent streak of third placements. One day, we won’t be foiled by our lack of knowledge on Academy Award-winning soundtracks. Or songs banned by the BBC. Or…

While there are few things I’d refer to as a ‘way of life’, the Sunday evening Pub Quiz at the Union is right up there alongside my daily cup of tea. Admittedly, my team has only won twice, barely recovering a year’s worth of entry fees, but maybe the real £100 prize was the friends I made along the way. Though I’m probably telling myself to forget about the very real cost of my heating bills. To anyone on the fence about attending the quiz, I’d advise careful caution. You might just end up becoming – horror! – a regular.

Illustration: Hannah Beggerow

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