150th (week) birthday for the Guardian Thursday quiz

150 weeks ago I pressed publish for the first time on a quiz on the Guardian website which came to be known as the Guardian Thursday quiz.

It had grown out of the fact that I had done a successful light-hearted weekly politics quiz during the election campaign, and I wanted to do something with a similar irreverent tone, but also be able to write some of it in advance, so it wasn’t a panic scramble to get ready to publish it each week.

The first Guardian Thursday quiz appeared in April 2021

I hit upon the idea of doing it like a pub quiz, with different “rounds”, so that I could write history and geography and science questions and the like in advance, and then swap in topical news stories during the week. And if I didn’t get time one week, or it wasn’t particularly news-y, it wouldn’t matter, because there would be a load of pre-written general knowledge stuff.

It doesn’t work exactly like that, but the key to making it sustainable, I have found, is to decide that I’m going to do say a round about opera, or about every country qualified for Euro2024, or about every element/non-element mentioned in the opening sequence of Sapphire and Steel, then write all those questions in one go one afternoon in the pub. Then you scatter them through the forthcoming weeks, and the quiz gradually builds up. Inevitably, there is a massive spreadsheet involved.

The spreadsheet that powers the Thursday quiz

I don’t write about my work very much on here anymore. I write 1,000s of words of a live blog most days so it is a bit too much busman’s holiday to start blogging about it all when I finish. But I do love having my own little corner of the Guardian website in order to be very silly and build up a whole series of regular in-jokes and topics – the quiz often shoehorns in 30-50 feral hogs, a picture of Willow who is known as the official dog of the Guardian Thursday quiz, references to Doctor Who and the Fall and Sparks and so on, and thought I would mark the anniversary.

Willow appearing as the official dog of the Guardian Thursday quiz

I originally pitched it as a “new fun weekly quiz format for the site” and set these as the success criteria …

“What do I think success looks like? 50,000+ page views, up at the top of the attention time table, the comment thread underneath is nice and lively and shows signs of regulars doing it and enjoying it each week?”

I went on to say “I think we should start it next week, and then if after five weeks it looks like it is going well, I then make the next batch of four or six in advance and we keep it going that way”.

And 150 weeks later, here we all still are. There is a really lovely set of commenters under it each week, and also lots of my friends join in posting their scores on Facebook. I get such lovely emails from readers about the quiz, people who have WhatsApp groups to discuss it, people who use it to help keep in touch with their kids at uni by sharing scores, or describing it as things like “a constant beacon of pure joy in difficult times” or “genuinely one of the highlights of my week”. Thank you all.

There’s a new one out today. Go and do it. Remember though, it is just for fun, but do let us know how you get on in the comments …

The Guardian Thursday quiz tag page