X is for X Marks the Spot

X Marks the Spot was a panel game on Radio 4 that ran from 1998 to 2006. The idea was for celebrity know-alls to take part in a treasure hunt which you might think an odd format for radio.

The celebrities were given a series of cryptic clues to identify four places in Great Britain which would form a giant X and the treasure was notionally buried at a fifth place where the lines crossed.

They then had to work out what the treasure was using lines from a cryptic puzzle that they may, or may not, have picked up along the way.

The two teams were encouraged to cooperate, rather than compete, and the show was designed to encourage them to tell interesting anecdotes and digressions.

Irene ThomasThe show was presented by comedian and author, Pete McCarthy until his death in 2004 and the questions for one series were written by treasure hunt author, Dan James, and it is from his website that I include the first episode from that series below.

This recording includes former chorus girl and pub pianist, Irene Thomas (pronounced Irene-ie), who was the only woman to become both “Brain of Britain” and “Brain of Brains” and was a regular on Round Britain Quiz. (See her obituary)

She is joined by Gerry Hanson, then the chairman of the National Campaign for Courtesy and Ivor Gaber, the first professor of broadcast journalism in the UK.


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7 comments… Add yours
  • Wanda 29th June 2011

    Radio games and programs were what we use to listen to before TV.

    This was a very interesting read…and the audio was quite good too.

  • Mr Parrot 29th June 2011

    Thanks for calling by Wanda. The audio was perhaps a little too loud — I misjudged the volume!

  • Reader Wil 29th June 2011

    I am fond of cryptic games, but in my own language, which is difficult enough, believe me! Great post for X! X is a letter used for mystery, for the great unknown, for kisses, for mathematics, for X factor, for St Andrew crosses, and xxx for extra strong beer in Australia, well for anything… Yet it’s the most difficult letter together with Q.

  • Mr Parrot 29th June 2011

    I agree with you that X and Q are tricky and Y can be hard to fill too.

  • Meryl 29th June 2011

    That sounds really interesting. The promise of the treasure hunt is so compelling! Great “X” post.

  • Mr Parrot 29th June 2011

    You’re absolutely right about a treasure hunt — I can’t resist ’em. And it isn’t even the treasure that matters!

  • Miskmask 4th July 2011

    I was transfixed on Dan’s Treasure Hunt website. What a wonderful, and how lovely that you’d share that link in your X article. Treasure hunts are such good fun!


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