Who Wants To Be A Statistician?

Recently, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came back for a new 7 episode run on UK TVs with Jeremy Clarkson as host. There are many good points and many bad points – the bad being the terrible graphics choices for the money ladder and lack of “playing for” or “just won” money graphics. The good points – Jeremy breathes a bit of life into the format (though if you don’t like him then you won’t like this series), Ask The Host is on the whole quite fun, the pacing was a bit better than the old series and it’s great to see the old money ladder back again.

But what interested me was analysing how the contestants did, and whether they’d make the series so ridiculously difficult no-one would get past £16,000, and to see what people did with the new movable milestone. So I dusted off my spreadsheet and made a few observations.

Thankfully, people did win big. 16 contestants played and £318k was given out over the series, including a £125k winner and £64k winner. Of the 16 contestants, 5 chose to walk away with money. 10 got their question wrong (including someone playing for £2000, so technically they didn’t lose anything), and 1 person got their question wrong but immediately after reaching their second milestone. This seems to be quite a high guess/gamble rate, people seem to be less cautious than the original series. One theory about why this could be is that of late, quiz shows have usually had a fast pace. For shows like The Chase in particular, if you don’t like the current question, a new one will be along soon. This fast-paced mentality might be leading people to go “I don’t know, but I suspect it’s answer B” and then locking it in.

The second moveable milestone is quite interesting. It used to be set at £32,000. Of the 16 contestants this series, 7 failed to set the milestone (they were too optimistic about their question answering changes), and the other 9 did the following: 4x£16k, 2x£32k, 2x£64k, 1x£125k. If you take an average of which question number it gets set on, it lands bang on question 10, for £32k! Having seen it play out, I quite like the movable milestone. It allows more cautious people to play the game and win more – they set the milestone slightly earlier and then essentially can get a free shot at £32k. It also allows the gambler to take on the game (quite often unsuccessfully, based on the number of people who didn’t set a milestone) – but setting a milestone at £125k then entices you towards actually going for the question, even if you’re unsure of the answer.

Of the 9 people who did set the moveable milestone, 4 reach the milestone safely, and 5 don’t (walk away or get question wrong). I’m not sure what this is saying, but I find it interesting that the second milestone is reached about half the time.

EDIT, and thanks to Matt Clemson for provoking this insight: Matt suggested that most contestants had the philosophy of not setting their second milestone until they’ve started to experience difficulty and have used some of their lifelines up already, leaving them with less ammunition to get to the second milestone.

Of the five people who didn’t make their milestone, when they set the milestone they had 0, 0, 1, 1 and 2 lifelines remaining, averaging 0.8 lifelines. Of the four people who did make their milestone, they had 2, 2, 2 and 3, averaging 2.25 lifelines. Those successful in reaching their milestone have many more lifelines to enable them to get there. So, I agree with Matt – you have to use your second milestone BEFORE you start to get into trouble. Maybe this information will help contestants in any future series!

The other lifelines are also quite interesting. The average questions on which the lifelines are used are as follows:
Ask The Audience – Q6.2 (used 14 out of 16 times)
Ask The Host – Q7.7 (used 13 out of 16 times)
50:50 – Q8.1 (used 14 out of 16 times)
Phone A Friend – Q9.6 (used 10 out of 16 times)

There’s a few interesting things in here. Ask The Host was used over a wide range of difficulties, from £300 to £64,000, and Jeremy did struggle quite a bit (ok, on most of them).

Ask The Audience is used on average 1.5 questions before Ask The Host. I completely disagree with this tactic. Between asking the host or the audience, you should always Ask The Host first. With Ask The Host, you’re asking 1 person with unknown general knowledge the question. With Ask The Audience, you’re asking 100ish people with unknown general knowledge the question. Due to the wisdom of crowds, the audience is more likely to know the answer to a harder question than the host – so you should Ask The Host BEFORE you Ask The Audience.

This argument breaks down a little for the Phone A Friend lifeline, because even though they are just one person, hopefully you have better sense of the strengths and weaknesses of their general knowledge. As such, they probably should be used around or later than the Ask The Audience Lifeline – and fewer people did ended using the Phone A Friend lifeline because they wanted to save it for a harder question instead (and got knocked out).

I agree with 50:50 being the middle lifeline used, you need to use it on a question where you have an inkling (medium level question) rather than absolutely no idea (harder level question), so it’s a good idea to use it roughly in the middle.

So there we have it – my summary is: People use Ask The Audience too soon – use Ask The Host instead, people seem to be gambling more, and the new movable milestone caters for both the conservative and risk taking players.

I thought Millionaire got off to an EXTREMELY ropy start on the Saturday evening, mainly in terms of ridiculously hard question difficulty settings, but they returned to approximately normal by Sunday/Monday and the rest of the week was a joy to watch. I found Jeremy a bit disrespectful at times – and got a question reveal wrong in a hilarious yet gut wrenching fashion – but he made the show entertaining and funny on a non-quiz level, which made Millionaire fun to watch. If it ever drops its pace below what we saw this week though, it’ll die right off. People can just google the answer at home and be uninterested.

I hope it comes back for another set of specials – though I’d limit it to maybe a 4 or 5 day run so people don’t get tired of it too quickly, as happened to the Millionaire of old – and only take place once or twice a year. In that fashion, long may it continue… just please change the god-awful fonts first.

Happy New 2018!

Hey all! It’s 2018! I guess that’s not a surprise given last year was 2017 and these things tend to increment by one, but still…

I’m still here, I’m still plodding along, still struggling at times and I’ll update you all about that at some point in the future. But I’m still here, and I have things planned for 2018.

Last year, CodeBreaker was a great personal success (go, watch it, click on that link!), and this year I’m planning a different video quiz. It will (most likely) be called Dan’s Quiz.

I’ve done lots of quiz hosting in person over the past few months – mostly in The Horn in Reading but I’ve done a few other gigs including one for charity that was ridiculously fun. if you are interested in my hosting a quiz of yours, email quiz@danielpeake.com and get in touch.

I think that’s it for now, I will update you all soon with Dan’s Quiz news when I have it. I tend to tweet more than I blog, I’m on twitter as @danielpeake https://twitter.com/danielpeake. Go and follow me there to see my terrible jokes.



I’ve had a bit of time on my hands recently, and so I’ve been putting some of it good use by making a quiz for YouTube!

It’s called Codebreaker – two contestants are racing to crack a four digit code. Every time they get a general knowledge question right, they get to find out a bit of information about the code and have a guess at it. The winner goes through to play an against-the-clock end game that is just a little bit frantic.

I’m very pleased with how the series has settled, the first couple of episodes aren’t as good as my hosting is a little… dry, in my opinion. But the later episodes are great fun, and there are brilliant (i.e. absolutely terrible) puns in the questions and answers.

Do take a look at the series – like and subscribe it on YouTube as all the cool kids say: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8piHCzTNLV5VLrKF4g8PkA

Crossword #4 by Everest

What, ANOTHER cryptic crossword by myself (Everest), you say? Blimey! I had some free time on my hands, and so I’ve come up with another cryptic crossword. I hope you find it fun, and/or interesting, and/or really frustrating.

Crossword #4 by Everest PDF

Crossword #4 solution by Everest PDF

Crossword #3 by Everest

Since Christmas, I’ve finally been writing another cryptic crossword, and FINALLY tonight I finished it. I’ve had really bad writer’s block in terms of quizzes, games and puzzles, so I haven’t really been making any for the past six months. Could this end the dry spell? Probably not, but it’s nice to finish setting a puzzle anyway. I will put the solution up in a few day’s time.

Crossword #3 by Everest PDF

Crossword #3 solution by Everest PDF

Helping out a Kickstarter

If you’re a fan of any puzzles I’ve written – and quite frankly who WOULDN’T be – then you may be interested in a Kickstarter I’ve helping out with.

A friend is opening up an escape room in London and they’ve used a Kickstarter to get the necessary funds to start it off. If you pledge a certain level (or above, I assume), then you will get some postcard puzzles that I designed. I was super pleased when I was asked if I could help, and I reckon you’ll enjoy the puzzles I came up with.

If you’re interested, head on over right to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1752866659/oubliette-escape-rooms-and-adventure-society before the last week in November and pledge towards the escape room. The maker of the escape room has made others around the world, and they really are world class. I’m very excited to see what escape room is being developed, and hope to play it myself one day.

A Good Ol’ Fashioned Moan

I thought I’d give you a blog post update on how I am and show you the motivations and reasons behind my way recent decisions – this probably won’t fit in a single tweet.

Back in 2013, I did my ‘2500 Clue Challenge’ to raise money and awareness about depression, and did monthly updates about my own personal struggles. It’s about time for another update. My depression and social anxiety have been particularly bad of late, and it’s currently related to the lack of a job and lack of self-esteem. (Halloween is literally a nightmare for me due to the social anxiety and prospect of trick or treaters!)

A few of you have suggested possible jobs that I could look in to, and I am truly grateful that you’ve done that, but I haven’t applied for any of them. I wanted to let you know why and hopefully not appear disrespectful, I wanted to let you know that I’m super confused and unhappy right now.

There are no jobs that I can do. I have no useful up-to-date skills. I have two main recent avenues of work – Meteorology and TV researching – and they’re both not open to me. Let me explain.

Aside from the PhD burning passion for it out of me, I can’t do any Meteorology research jobs as I only used one arcane programming language during it, and I’ve forgotten that too, so I have no coding experience. I didn’t understand what I was doing with forecasting, and didn’t cope with the shift work. So that’s meteorology out of the way.

What about telly work? I love quizzes and game shows, and I guess it is my one real passion. But it’s in London. I also strongly dislike the unpredictability of the work and short term nature of the contracts, but most of all I’m not strong enough to work in London, either by living there or by commuting. Despite writing questions for various things over the year, I actually don’t like it much and it does drive me mad very quickly.

So, I need to find something new, but I have no idea what. I’ve been thinking for well over a year “what job would I like to do”, and despite thinking for all that time I have absolutely no idea. The only answers seem to be “something involved in tv quizzes” or “hosting a radio show”. That first option, as already discussed, is not possible. The second one is also not possible as I don’t have a track record in it, it would likely have unusual hours, and have no idea where to begin. It also requires social interaction, which I need a bit of strength to deal with right now as it makes me anxious. So that’s out of the running too. I don’t know what sort of jobs I’d like, I don’t even know what I enjoy doing in my spare time at the moment, as nothing seems to interest or entertain me. I’ve lost confidence in trying new things, which isn’t useful when job hunting.

Interviews are going to be hard. I don’t have the self-esteem to apply for any jobs that require an interview. This is going to have to change. I know I must have some skills, I am alive and breathing for one, so I must be able to do something, but I haven’t got a single clue what.

I’m also getting frustrated with the fact that I need to find a part-time job to dip my toe into the working world slowly. I get exhausted very easily and I need to build up stamina for work. I keep telling myself this is the right thing to do, part time into full time later, but it does feel like I’m being a complete sissy. Looking for part time jobs is also very restrictive, most jobs advertised are full time, so it limits the type and number of jobs that I can find. I’m almost certainly being overly fussy about my job search, so I’m not expecting any sympathy from anyone here.

I realised recently that, based on how long my depression has been this severe, I’m technically disabled. It is having a profound impact on my day to day life, every single day, and has been for years. It qualifies as a disability. This upsets me even more.

If I ever get a job, then I know have other issues that I need to resolve, but right here, right now, getting a job is the big thing. It would give me something to do, make me interact socially, and give me money. It’s incredibly boring doing nothing because you can’t afford anything, you know. Though having said that, that’s been the case for so long, that I can’t really remember what things to do to have fun any more. Again, no confidence in doing new things.

I’ll be turning 30 soon, and all I see in myself a massive loser. I can’t even control my body clock at the moment, I’m getting up at 4pm, going to bed between 2 and 4am, and sleeping at least 12 hours per day (though this will change when I have something to regulate my body clock for).  I need your help to make me not think of myself as a loser. I am *incredibly* guilty that I’m claiming benefits right now, despite the fact that that’s what they’re there for. (That’s a sentence with two different homophones. Fun.) And right now I’m having to cut down the amount I’m spending on food because the benefits still leave things pretty tight.

I’m seeing the doctor in just over a week’s time and seriously considering him sign me off job searching entirely for a month or so for me to try and get myself together a bit. I am on a few counselling waiting lists, but whilst the NHS being free is wonderful, there is quite a wait and it’ll probably be a new year before anything starts.

Anyway, I just really wanted to let you know how I was and why I’ve not applied for many jobs in the past month. Sorry about the general moan. I’m really very sorry for how rubbish I am right now. Being mostly unemployed for the past couple of years has been incredibly tough. I don’t like publicly admitting half of this, because I do reckon it will harm my employment prospects, and even alienate people, but I felt this needed to be said. Tonight I felt particularly exasperated and without much to lose. Depression utterly sucks.

Told you it wouldn’t fit in a single tweet.