Mastermind at 50: Test your knowledge with 50 of the toughest questions from the BBC show


1. Which American blues singer, who died in 1939, was portrayed by Viola Davis in a 2020 film adaptation of a play by August Wilson?

2. What’s the name of the British astronaut whose 2017 autobiography is entitled ‘Ask an Astronaut: My Guide to Life in Space’.

3. In a traditional English pack of playing cards, the King of Diamonds holds what weapon in his right hand?

(Photo by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

4. Kadeena Cox, who was made an M.B.E. for services to athletics in 2017, won two gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in which other sport?

5. Which author wrote the novel ‘The Invisible Man’, first published in 1897, about a scientist who stumbles across the secret of invisibility with dire consequences?

6. In which cathedral in eastern England were Catherine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots buried, although Mary’s body was later moved to Westminster Abbey?

7. What corrosive acid was formerly known as oil of vitriol?

8. What name is given to a parallelogram where all four sides are of equal length but do not meet at right angles?

9. What military disaster of 1854 was commanded by James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan?

10. The ‘great spotted’, the ‘lesser spotted’ and the ‘green’ are species of what bird that’s resident in the British Isles and is noted for probing for insects in tree bark?

11. The painting ‘Salvator Mundi’, which was sold at auction for a record $450 million in 2017, is believed to be by which artist?

‘Salvator Mundi’ (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

12. In October 2021, which band had their ninth UK Number One album with ‘Music of the Spheres’?

13. Which capital city stands on the southern side of the Gulf of Finland,  opposite Helsinki?

14. Nicholson is the surname of a Singapore-born violinist known generally by what first names?

15. What word, from the Greek for ‘leaf’, is used for an extremely thin pastry often prepared by layering several sheets together with melted butter?

16. What breed of dog named after an Adriatic coastal region was once used as an escort and guard for horse-drawn carriages?

17. Which planet has a prominent oval-shaped storm system in its clouds called the Great Red Spot?

18. For what 1993 film did the 11 year-old New Zealander Anna Paquin win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar?

19. The peppery tasting leaves of which plant, whose name comes from the Latin for ‘nose twister’, are often added to salads?

20. In 1987, which golfer became the first British woman to win the US Open?

21. Which Mediterranean island country is the smallest member of the European Union by both size and population?

22. What’s the stage name of the singer who won the 2021 Mercury Prize, at the age of just 21, for her debut studio album ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’?

23. The mineral ‘galena’ is a sulphide of which metal and is also its commonest ore?

24. Which plays the former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe in the 2018 television drama series ‘A Very English Scandal’?

The real Jeremy Thorpe in 1967 (PA Wire Photographer)

25. The Impressionist art movement took its name from the 1872 painting ‘Impression, Sunrise’ by which French artist?

26. The carambola fruit has what alternative name, a reference to its shape when it’s cut into slices?

27. ‘The Naked and the Dead’, published in 1948, was the debut novel of which American author who based it partly on his experiences serving with the Army in the Pacific during the Second World War?

28. What word, referring to great size, is used in astronomy as a measure of the brightness of a star or other celestial body?

29. In the 2018 television series ‘Bodyguard’, which actress plays the Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose actions make her a terrorist target as she gains public notoriety?

30. Jewellery made from which precious metal, with the chemical symbol ‘Pd’, has required a hallmark since 2010?

31. Which town near Cannes is a renowned centre for the production of fragrances for the perfume industry and of flavourings for food manufacturers?

32. Which Romantic poet married the heiress Anne Isabella Milbanke in 1815, the couple’s daughter being the mathematician Ada Lovelace?

33. What’s the common name of trees of the genus Quercus?

34. Which Olympic sport was originally known as aquatic football?

35. The UNESCO World Heritage site Leptis Magna, which contains some of the finest Roman architectural remains in the world, is in which north African country?

Where can you find the ancient Roman city of Leptis Magna? (Photo by MAHMUD TURKIA/ via Getty Images)

36. The hormones insulin and glucagon are produced in which organ of the human body?

37. Which French couturier’s designs include the A-line, the H-line and the Y-line, introduced in the 1950s?

38. In South Asian cuisine, a dish with the word ‘palak’ in its name contains what vegetable?

39. The words of the Christmas carol ‘Silent Night’ were originally written in what language?

40. Who became the first singer in the history of the UK’s Official Singles Chart to have had two songs at Number One for nine or more weeks with ‘One Dance’ in 2016 and ‘God’s Plan’ in 2018?

41. Which ceramic artist, born near Stoke-on-Trent in 1899, is well known for her designs called Bizarre and Crocus?

42. The name of what creamy sauce, made principally from egg yolks and butter, and served with fish or vegetables, comes from the French word for ‘Dutch’?

43. Which is the only Australian state capital not named after a person?

44. In A.D. 14, who succeeded his stepfather Augustus to become the second Roman emperor?

45. The B.C.G. vaccine is given to protect against which infectious disease?

(Kirsty O’Connor Provider: PA Source: PA)

46. Jelly made from what soft fruit is one of the principal ingredients of a Cumberland sauce?

47. In August 2021, Sharon Graham was elected to succeed Len McCluskey as the General Secretary of which trade union, one of the largest in the UK?

48. Which singer, born Mary O’Brien, had success in the 1960s with the songs ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ and ‘Son of a Preacher Man’?

49. Which island, the second largest in the Caribbean, is divided into the Republic of Haiti in the west and the Dominican Republic in the east.

50. What’s the name of the author and illustrator, best known for her creations Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort, who was Children’s Laureate from 2017 until 2019? 


Presenter Clive Myrie is set to return to Mastermind this September (William Cherry/Press Eye)
  1. Ma Rainey 
  1. Tim Peake 
  1. An axe 
  1. Cycling 
  1. HG Wells 
  1. Peterborough 
  1. Sulphuric acid 
  1. Rhombus 
  1. Charge of the Light Brigade 
  1. Woodpecker 
  1. Leonardo da Vinci 
  1. Coldplay 
  1. Tallinn 
  1. Vanessa-Mae 
  1. Filo 
  1. Dalmatian 
  1. Jupiter 
  1. The Piano 
  1. Nasturtium 
  1. Laura Davies 
  1. Malta 
  1. Arlo Parks 
  1. Lead 
  1. Hugh Grant 
  1. Claude Monet 
  1. Star fruit 
  1. Norman Mailer 
  1. Magnitude 
  1. Keeley Hawes 
  1. Palladium 
  1. Grasse 
  1. Lord Byron 
  1. Oak 
  1. Water Polo 
  1. Libya 
  1. Pancreas 
  1. Christian Dior 
  1. Spinach 
  1. German 
  1. Drake 
  1. Clarice Cliff 
  1. Hollandaise 
  1. Perth 
  1. Tiberius 
  1. Tuberculosis 
  1. Redcurrants 
  1. Unite 
  1. Dusty Springfield 
  1. Hispaniola 
  1. Lauren Child 

Mastermind returns to BBC Two later in September

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