Tell us about The Answer Trap and what viewers can expect from it?
There are there are two teams of players and they are competing against one another. They are shown a board which consists of answers that may fit into either of two categories, but some of the answers do not fit into either category. And they are the traps that Bobby Seagull and I have set. If a contestant or pair of contestants falls into two traps, then their team is out the round. Each correct answer wins them a certain sum of money, which builds up as the show goes on. In the final round, there is just a single category but there are more traps than ever before. If they get 10 questions correct and avoid the traps, they’ll win £10,000.
How hard have you made it, or how easy are your traps to fall into?
It varies and I found it quite hard to predict. There was one trap which I was certain no one would fall into at all, but then it was fallen into relatively quickly. Similarly, there were a couple we thought were really convincing yet the contestants avoided them both. Bobby and I have slightly different methods of setting traps. Bobby's are often something slightly obscure, but which the contestants may just have heard of so they can sometimes see through it. Whereas my traps, are more likely to be extremely obscure, so that even seasoned quizzers may not be familiar with them. There are exceptions to this and it’s always slightly frustrating when a contestant can see through my carefully plotted traps.
Did you enjoy the challenge of setting the traps?
The process of setting traps was tremendously hard and intensive work but also one of the most enjoyable things we've done. There was a lot of fun and humour in it because I like to try to think of the trap that sounded most convincingly like it might fit into a category, but which was most distant from it imaginable.
Was a part of you rooting for the contestants even though you wanted to catch them out?
I felt like I was, particularly in the final round, I felt like I was always rooting for them. The contestants were so lovely, and they were so much fun to have on the show. The last rounds got so tense sometimes, it was quite agonising to watch.
Were you quite competitive with Bobby on the show?
As the series went on, and we were totting up how many victories each one of us had, I was feeling particularly competitive and the idea of how far behind or ahead of Bobby I was at the time was really preying on my mind. Good old Bobby, he was so lovely and passionate. He really cares about sharing and discovering knowledge.
What has it been like working with Anita Rani?
Oh, she's been lovely and welcoming. She really puts people at ease and is such a lovely, fun and open person. She's such a good host because she really cares about the contestants.
It's your first time on the other side of the questions, how did you find the role reversal?
It was very curious. I've been a competitor on one TV show before, but I've never done any other TV or radio quizzes at all, so it felt very exciting. I was surprised that I was less nervous in this role than I was as a contestant. I was myself and had lots of fun talking about the traps when there were bizarre stories associated with it.
You’re an Only Connect champion. What made you want to compete on the quiz in the first place?
At the time I was running a pop quiz and my friend, Lydia, was a regular competitor in it. She was trying to get a team together for Only Connect and asked me as she knew I was extremely fond of the programme. I'd been very influenced by Only Connect when setting my own quiz questions, but I had never at all thought of auditioning. But the moment she asked me, I realised that was a thing I wanted to do very much indeed.
How did you get into quizzing before that? Were you already competitive? Or is it more about the knowledge aspects of it do you think?
I started going to pub quizzes with my now wife and realised I was enjoying them more and more, partly the idea that I was learning from them. We used to compete at this quiz that happened at The Mill pub in Cambridge, and when the quiz master retired, I took over and I ended up getting very passionate about setting these quizzes. People were quite alarmed by how difficult they were, but the more I set them and the more I presented them, the more the quiz ended up being discovered by people who are enthusiastic about wordplay and the intricacy of quizzes. You could say that my quizzes tend to be very difficult in a different way from a standard quiz, because the individual questions often give lots of different clues to the answer. Sometimes the answers can be worked out from the other answers. It's a more exhausting process trying to do one of my quizzes than trying to do a standard pop quiz.
Do you have an all-time favourite quiz from TV or radio, or any other format?
I'm very fond of Only Connect. It's really inspired, how unpredictable the questions are, and how satisfying it is. Because you don't just have to need to know what an answer is. You need to work out what the question is asking you to do. I’m also very fond of the Round Britain quiz on the radio, there's a similar thinking process involved in that.
Do you have a favourite piece of trivia or knowledge? Or, what is one of the most obscure things that you would say you know
There are so many different ones! I quite like the fact that the musician Shaggy’s real name is Orville and Shaggy the cartoon character’s real name is Norville.
Do you think there's a correlation between being into quizzes and being an artist?
There certainly is with compiling quizzes. There’s a similar process of creativity. Which is not to say that the more creative an artist you are, the better you are at compiling quizzes. I’m sure there are lots of extraordinary artists who would not be at all interested compiling a quiz. But for me, often I like to do quite intricate and surreal drawings and sometimes combine with my quizzes. There's certainly an aspect of creativity. One of the things I like to do is to set narrative based quizzes, which I often do as a special when it's Halloween or Christmas, I have this quiz that follows a storyline where the protagonist has to solve puzzles in order to get closer to completion. I did a version of Home Alone, but from the point of view of the burglars who had to avoid the traps which were often in puzzle form. I was obsessed with Home Alone as a child and I think kind of my love of traps kind of stems from that.