Idle Moment – Oct/Nov 2023

Hello again and welcome to autumn. Sometimes it’s good to make the odd error; it can prove that somebody is actually reading this stuff. In the last edition’s Idle Moments, I gave the answer to a question in June that Prince Andrew is fifth in line to the throne; I don’t remember where on the Interweb I actually found that information but a regular reader spotted this and emailed me to suggest this was wrong and that it is Prince Harry who is actually fifth in line. I checked more assiduously and this time found the official web site of the Royal Family which told me that Harry is indeed fifth and Andrew is eighth, behind Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.
Thank you, Martin.

Right, having brushed the ashes off the sackcloth, let’s have some number puzzles:

1. 12 LS of JH

  1. 63 is OOOOOO in B
  2. 7 M of the Y are TODL
  3. 33 J on the MTF
  4. 281 BR from T to H
  5. 16 B of C in a B
  6. 25 FT in the B of SR
  7. 12 is the CL of a T
  8. 9 SC by GM
  9. 53 M and T in TTF
  10. 16 C in the E of a BC

Here’s something new! (‘Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs!’ you may say.) After nearly 30 years (since March 1994, it says here), I’ve decided to give 5BY4 a rest and do something else which I’m calling Consecutive Celebrities. Quite possibly you spent some time in a pub with friends trying to compose a full list of people with paired initials, like Arthur Askey, Brigitte Bardot and so forth. Well, never liking to make things simple, I thought I would try to find people (of note) whose initials are consecutive letters. If you need further explanation, just look below. Can you identify these people from the cryptic (?) clues? I’m starting with the first ten letter pairs of the alphabet.

  1. AB: Decapitated queen
  2. BC: Big Yin
  3. CD: Detective Author
  4. DE: English Comedian (‘Mandy’)
  5. EF: Car builder
  6. FG: Liverpudlian ‘Dreamer’
  7. GH: The Railway King
  8. HI: Norwegian Playwright
  9. IJ: Swedish boxer
  10. JK: Beat Generation author

I don’t think that I will be able to make this last as long as 5BY4 (even if I am still going at the age of 103). For instance, I have only been able to find a single candidate for the IJ spot. And there are some letter pairs where I have found no names at all. It’ll probably turn into random (or jumbled, at least) selections as time goes on and I run out of names for other combinations. Right. I think that’s enough excitement for one edition. Time now for some boring old trivial knowledge questions. They’re a bit of a mixed bunch this time, but I gravitated to a single subject for the last three.

  1. The world’s second highest monolith (after Uluru in Australia) is Ben Amera, which stands 633 metres high above the surrounding desert in which North African country?
  2. A craft almost lost to mechanisation in Britain, what domestic implement is hand manufactured by a putter?
  3. What is a (or the) sgian-dubh and where is it traditionally carried?
  4. What everyday product is manufactured by a process involving the use of a dandy roll?
  5. What common food is mass produced using the Chorleywood process?
  6. Who was the last president of the USA to die in office by other than violent means?
  7. Thinking of assassinations, how many attempts were made to assassinate Queen Victoria during her 63 year reign?
  8. In 2016 a blue plaque was erected at 22 Gladstone Avenue, Feltham (in the Borough of Hounslow). To which singer and songwriter is it dedicated?
  9. Another blue plaque, erected in 2016, this time at 43 Waverley Gardens, Barking (Barking & Dagenham) is dedicated to which footballer?
  10. What the heck! Let’s finish off with another blue plaque erected in 2016; this time at 51 Barrowgate Road, Chiswick, W4. To which comedian is this one dedicated?

Well that’s enough for a couple more months. I’m off to sort out some warm autumn woollies; it’s only due to get up to about 30°C this afternoon. Christmas edition next time – blimey! By the way, I’m not too sure about the ‘Celebrities’ bit. These days, celebrity usually means anyone that I’ve never heard of (but, of course, you have).

Andy Pirson

As usual, here are the solutions to the puzzles set in the August/September column:

Number puzzles:

  1. 12 London Symphonies of Joseph Haydn
  2. 1 Extra Run for a No Ball in Cricket
  3. 8 Popes Appointed in the Twentieth Century
  4. 10 Cohorts in a Legion of the Roman Army
  5. 97 is the Highest Prime Number with Two Digits
  6. 5 Grandchildren of King Charles the Third
  7. 3 Number One Hits by Lonnie Donegan
  8. 143 is One Short of a Gross
  9. 1 Crown on the Epaulette of a Captain in the Army
  10. 8 Corners on a Die


  1. Cumbria (978m) – Scafell Pike
  2. Northumberland (815m) – The Cheviot
  3. Durham (788m) – Mickle Fell
  4. North Yorkshire (736m) – Whernside
  5. Herefordshire (703m) – Black Mountain
  6. Derbyshire (636m) – Kinder Scout
  7. Lancashire (628m) – Green Hill
  8. Devon (621m) – High Willhays
  9. West Yorkshire (582m) – Black Hill
  10. Cheshire (559m) – Shining Tor

General knowledge:

  1. The two counties which are listed at 28th equal, with high points 261 metres above mean sea level, are Oxfordshire (Whitehorse Hill) and Warwickshire (Ebrington Hill).
  2. The highest point in the City of London (the lowest county), High Holborn, is 22 metres (72 feet) above sea level.
  3. The world’s largest currently operational tram system, with 250 kilometres of double track and a fleet of 493 trams over 24 routes, is in Melbourne (Victoria, Australia, not Derbyshire).
  4. Another biggest; the world’s largest reservoir by volume (at 180.6 cubic kilometres) is Lake Kariba, formed by the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  5. Following February’s ten longest rivers, the UK river which has the greatest discharge with a mean flow of 179 cubic metres per second (about 142 million gallons per hour) is the River Tay.
  6. Following my rambling spiel about Jamie Aarons having set a new record by scaling all of Scotland’s Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) in 31 days, 10 hours and 27 minutes, I can now tell you that there are 282 Munros.
  7. The first person to complete ‘bagging’ all of the Munros, A E Robertson, did so in 1901.
  8. While we all know (don’t we?) that the highest Munro (and mountain) in the UK is Ben Nevis at 1,344 metres (4,409 feet), the second highest peak at 1,309m (4295ft) is Ben McDhui.
  9. The largest National Park in the United Kingdom, with an area of 4,528 sq. km (1,748 sq. mi), and so designated on 6 January 2003, is the Cairngorms.
  10. The smallest National Park at 303 sq. km (117 sq. mi) and designated by its own Act of Parliament on 1 April 1989, is the Broads.