Cambridge quizmaster Frank Paul sets fiendish traps on Channel 4’s The Answer Trap
The host of ‘Cambridge’s most fiendish pub quiz’ and a University of Cambridge mathematician are working together on a new Channel 4 quiz show, called The Answer Trap.
Frank Paul, who has befuddled punters at The Mill pub for years, devises the ‘traps’ of the title with Bobby Seagull, who rose to fame on University Challenge and has been pursuing a doctorate at Cambridge on mathematical anxiety and phobia.
Filmed at BBC studios in Glasgow in March and April and hosted by Anita Rani, the show features a list-based quiz format involving two teams playing against each other to secure prize money. It challenges them to place answers from a series of lists into their relevant categories. Not all the answers belong in the categories – some are decoys known as ‘answer traps’.
Frank competes with Bobby – who spent two years teaching at Chesterton Community College – to see who can catch the most players in their traps. If the teams can assign the answers to the correct categories and avoid the traps, they get the opportunity to play for a £10,000 jackpot on the final question.
Frank, the series 13 champion of Only Connect, who also supplies the Cambridge Independent’s testing festive quiz each year, said the series was “tremendous fun” to make and “so rewarding”.
“Everyone was so welcoming there. The whole crew were so lovely and really made everyone feel at home,” he said. “It was quite exhausting by the end. They filmed 30 episodes in, I think, 15 days. We had two days off and by the end of it I was phoning my wife and was barely able to finish sentences because I was drifting off in the middle of them!”
Shown on weekdays at 3pm, Frank is hoping a second series will be commissioned following a “very positive reaction, mostly, on social media”.
“I think some people consider us slightly nerdy – I think different people have different levels of tolerance for nerdiness in television shows perhaps... But mostly people have been really positive about it,” he said.
“There have been people making their own boards of answers to be solved and someone made a sort of bingo card where you strike off things that commonly happen during The Answer Trap.”
Frank is also an author and illustrator whose taxing tome The Cryptic Pub Quiz was published in 2017. He became involved in The Answer Trap after being contacted by fellow quizmaster Paddy Duffy. “He is a question setter for the show and I think he and Bobby had already been confirmed before I had,” said Frank.
Fellow Cambridge academic and TV personality, Eric Monkman was initially considered for the other ‘trapper’ role. Bobby and Eric famously competed on University Challenge and have worked on a number of shows together.
“Eric’s in Canada and, as far as I know, I think he felt that it would be irresponsible to come over because of Covid restrictions,” said Frank, “so Paddy and Bobby were brainstorming about who might be a good replacement for Eric. I felt very flattered that I was on their list.”
He added: “Bobby and Anita were brilliant to work with, and Anita is such a great host because she really cares about people and is so good at talking to people and making them feel at ease. And Bobby is such a lovely man – I’m so glad I’ve got to be friends with him.
"Bobby and I had started to meet on Zoom every week for a few weeks before the recording so we’d get to know each other and be able to spark off each other when we finally met in person.”
Frank has been able to continue doing The Mill pub quiz during the last year, albeit online, which he says he has “really enjoyed”. “I’ve had quizzers come in from far and wide who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to make it,” he said,
The Answer Trap is on weekdays at 3pm on Channel 4.