This fine test comes from King William's College, which was founded in 1833 on the Isle of Man. The quiz itself has been given annually for over a century (this year's being the 104th); students take it twice, once immediately before Xmas, cold, and again after the Xmas holidays, after having researched the answers. A good score may be 20 correct answers on the first try; an average score, it seems, is more like two (out of 180!).* It has also become quite popular with non-students, and since 1951 has been published in The Guardian.
In its present form, the "quiz" consists of 18 sets of ten questions each. All the questions in a set have a common theme, which may or may not be given. The last set consists of questions about events of the current year, and the first set asks about events which happened 100 years ago; the remaining 16 sets may cover literature, history, geography or other subjects. (Last year's visitors were looking for the answer to a question in a set about the Swallows & Amazons books, by Arthur Ransome.)
In 2004, the year of the 100th quiz, The Guardian also published an interview with the current writer, Dr Pat Cullen (a retired GP who began compiling the quiz in 1997), under the heading 'I like to irritate' - apparently he is good at it.
Here it is: The 104th edition of the King William's College General Knowledge Paper.
Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis, ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est
1) During the year 1908:
1. who announced T?
2. who finished at 59 with 15 and 25?
3. what confectionery was inspired by Shaw?
4. who gained her second first at an old east-coast fort?
5. where did the Thomas Flyer arrive on the Asiatic mainland?
6. whose birthday present was cut into nine pieces for the family headdress and other equipment?
7. whose resignation pre-empted his demise by just 16 days?
8. which tale launched a nouveau riche boy-racer?
9. for whom was Lord Hugh best man?
10. what event elevated Manuel?
2) Who began what by:
1. recalling unusual citrous abundance?
2. describing his subject's physiognomy with a succession of v's?
3. justifying the creation of a short palindromic nickname for "himself"?
4. describing the emergence at dawn of a moustached little man with bowlegs?
5. recalling melancholy inspiration from early evening sights and
sounds in a rural churchyard?
6. suggesting that it was generally accepted that a well-heeled loner must be looking for a lady?
7. describing a studio filled with the scents of roses, lilac and pink-flowered thorn?
8. describing his hero facing execution and recalling the discovery of ice?
9. recalling a send-off from family and friends at Charing Cross?
10. providing an alibi for the white kitten?
1. Whose ground-breaking effort quoted Numbers XXIII, 23?
2. Who wired who confirming worst fears and requesting gumboots?
3. Whose telegram caused Dew to hasten westward on the Laurentic?
4. Who, on sighting the enemy, urgently requested a firearm and 300 bullets?
5. Whose expression of delight was accompanied by a request for a patent oil cooking stove?
6. With what single word did the defeated Governor allegedly advise cancellation of the papal travel arrangements?
7. Who described a suave, Bohemian, elderly, storekeeper in the Commercial Road?
8. Which repetitious message prompted the query "Does that mean Yes?"
9. Who discovered a crumpled telegram reading "Suivez à Bokhare Saronov"?
10. On what occasion was the royal wrath not expressed in code?
1. What is the Island of Sheep?
2. Where did the sea cave inspire Op 26?
3. Where was Magnus Erlendsson executed?
4. What was David's gift to the Berkshire monks?
5. Where did an amputated digit earn its owner the right to build a monastery?
6. Where did the great grandson of King John III make his first British landfall?
7. Where is the unique mutton derived from a diet of Laminaria?
8. Where was quarantine enforced for 48 years?
9. To what was Meg's deafness compared?
10. Where was Andie Dale the prefect?
5) Travelling from Nordic lands, try unravelling:
1. the eponymous traitor,
2. then Merrill's famed fisherman partner
3. and a misplaced cygnet,
4. contrasting with a little anser,
5. thousands of whose elders visit a Waddenzee barrier island,
6. while in Belgium, memories of Ursula are awakened by a Flemish Primitive,
7 and in the Amblève, or perhaps the Lesse, one might confusingly make geometry a sport
8 and try to catch a little trout
9 or even its seemingly lepidopteran relative
10 before celebrating in Germany with Piesport's speciality
1. was Foolish?
2. was Rodrigo de Borja y Borja?
3. invested Henry Sinclair as Earl of Orkney?
4. had a half-sister sired by his father's physician?
5. founded a Siamese school, which was later named in his honour?
6. was born on the 34th annversary of the death of his great grandfather and the 17th of that of his great aunt?
7. was the offspring of parents sharing the same grandmother?
8. was the 36th and last in a line started in 1299?
9. was blinded by his mother Irene?
10. was tripartite?
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?
4. Which geographically Scandinavian language is not linguistically Scandinavian?
5. Which European language is the only survivor of its branch of the Indo-European group?
6. Which Slavonic language is spoken in a country whose national language is not Slavonic?
7. Which European language is spoken by about 1% of the population of Switzerland?
8. Which European language has a past tense form which looks like a future?
9. Which Slavonic language has done away with the case forms
10. Which European national language still retains the dual number?
1. is also a game using 28 marbles?
2. formed part of a linear horticultural decoration?
3. are typically preserved in seasoned butter in Lancashire?
4. when released in America, suggested involvement with Christine Keeler?
5. are geographically confusing names of what is neither one thing nor the other?
6. pelecypod was perhaps familiar to the pupils (and their successors) of Rev Thomas Langhorne?
7. did the man from the Borough regard as the invariable accompaniment of poverty?
8. legs are found in unbaled water together with tangled lines?
9. nominally, has blue representatives in another kingdom?
10. when baked too brown, must sugar his hair?
9) Journeying on what, between which termini, might one's thoughts
2. elliptical orbits?
3. the quintessential libertine?
4. a soldier without a passport?
5. the founding father of the EU?
6. the royal prisoner of Sönderborg?
7. Judith and three mute wives?
8. clothed and naked versions?
9. the mount of Bellerophon?
10. melting clocks?
10) Which river:
1. received the defeated Aunus?
2. floats laden barges by banks of myosote?
3. was central to the non-payment of a mayoral debt?
4. was identified without doubt by the discovery of the initials AD
5. saw Captain Schenk acquire an engineer to replace the deceased Walter?
6. despite being in flood, could be crossed dry-shod following clerical plantar immersion?
7. provided drinks for kine, and horses, and little humorous donkeys?
8. along with Cairo was passed unnoticed by the raft in the fog?
9. was a source of shelly snails and green lettuces?
10. witnessed a case of unwitting filicide?
11) Who or what:
1. had instinct?
2. reds started as Villa?
3. uniquely, got three in whose match?
4. claimed continuing labial adhesiveness?
5. was formerly William and succeeded Louis?
6. in repetitive utterances, anticipated Glyn Daniel et al?
7. described a small arm accident on 17/6/15?
8. was executed at Bolton after Worcester?
9. was targeted by Nat and Dermot?
10. was presumptuous?
1. was the mistress leguminous?
2. were the Harmonic Meetings regularly held?
3. was Rogue resuscitated after his prolonged immersion?
4. did the circus manager point out that "People must be amuthed"?
5. did the curate speak for one hour and 25 minutes at an anti-slavery meeting?
6. did a little, yellow high-shouldered man, with a fixed grim smile, tell about a queer client?
7. did the landlord report that Phil was so drunk that a boy might take him?
8. did the Yorkshire schoolmaster interview tutors and pupils?
9. did the strange man stir his rum-and-water with a file?
10. did the hangman bind the old man to his chair?
1. Who remained a bachelor?
2. Who had been ADC to Mad Anthony?
3. Who was described as a withered little applejohn?
4. Whose nickname was perfect for a slogan of approval?
5. Who enlisted as a private, but came out as a brevet major?
6. Who maintained that silence ensured no need for repetition?
7. Who, in his youth, admitted to cutting down a cherry tree?
8. Who compared his strength to that of a male cervid?
9. Who is remembered, nominally, in West Africa?
10. Which two died on the same day?
14) Within the capital of which member state of the United Nations will you find:
3. that its alright?
4. a Windermere resident?
5. a West Country watercourse?
6. a pudding distinguished by ladies' fingers?
7. a simian representative?
8. a Tibetan monk?
9. a semi-metal?
1. was morally pure in EC2?
2. shot Buffalo Bill at Belvedere, Ohio?
3. went to the wrong church for her wedding?
4. believed, erroneously, that Byron murdered Ezra Chater?
5. killed Lord Frederick in a duel, following his return from Belgium?
6. possessed nothing but the contents of his wallet, the clothes he stood up in, the hare-lip, the automatic he should have left behind?
7. was as little interested in love as in the habits of Trematodes?
8. wore white for her immolation on October 27?
9. advocated unlimited slaughter of bluejays?
10. posed as Doctor Copernicus?
16) Following my leader, who or what:
1. is a Hampshire jewel?
2. decorated Findlater's label?
3. is meteorologically striking?
4. houses Colum Cille's shrine?
5. could be wild duck washed down with Ch. Latour?
6. might refer to poor Sarah's biliary obstruction?
7. is absolutely necessary to a ram?
8. was Anastasia's great aunt?
9. could have been a crusader?
10. is a musteline appendage?
17) In which town:
1. did prisoner 24601 steal the episcopal silver?
2. did Lady de Winter poison the novice at the convent?
3. was the cathedral like a vast boudoir prepared for Emma?
4. did Jake, dining alone, drink a bottle of Ch. Margaux for company?
5 .did Duhamel ask that the crayfish should be very lightly boiled just seized?
6. did la Baronne de la Chalonnière encounter Alexander Duggan at the Hôtel du Cerf?
7. did Holmes spend some months in a research into coal-tar derivatives?
8. were plum-coloured shoes removed to expose red stockings?
9. did Harry urge his uncle to enter and fortify the town?
10. did Hannay receive hellish news from Laidlaw?
18) During 2008:
1. which gartered kiwi was laid to rest?
2. which fine food has gained PGS in Leicestershire?
3. who, following 2nd at 2K with 3 others, got 1st at 3K alone?
4 which sometime bulbous plant would seem to be involved with "arthrology"?
5. who made successive day trips to Abergele, Fountains Abbey and Mugdock?
6. where has the pancake bell ceased to signal the start of a race owing to health and safety issues?
7. where did a giant arachnid briefly invade an apparently coleopteran habitat?
8. what legendary diamond fell to the successors of the fictitious Misson?
9. who got six months for dishonesty at White Plains?
10. whose jobcentre manager fetched £17.2m?
* On the first look through, I knew (or think I knew) the answers to 15 of the questions, and had at least a clue to a half-dozen or so others.