Phrased and Confused is (or rather, was) a phone-in game played on Sara Cox's Radio One breakfast show. The game involves two participants: the player, and a friend or colleage of theirs, called by the radio station on behalf of the player. The second player is not made aware that they are on the radio.

The object of the game is for the first player to manipulate the conversation such that the second player will use a phrase set by Sara immediately before play commences.

The player is of course, forbidden to let the second player know that they're on the radio, or to use the phrase or any of the uncommon words in it. Covert signalling is not explicitly disallowed by the rules, but would probably lead to disquallification anyway.

The phrases set by Sara are typically of the form "Are you <engaged in some ridiculous activity>?". The first player then dutifully pretends to be attempting a normal conversation with the second, dropping small hints and bits of context as clues to what they might implicitly be doing, thus teasing the second player into asking "Are you...?".

This usually leads to a gut-wrenchingly unfunny and embarassing conversation as the second player loses the plot because the first player has drained all sense out of the conversation.

Obvious ways to cheat at this game:

  • Forewarned is forearmed: The second player is chosen beforehand by the first player. The second player can be told to expect a nonsensical phone call, and know that their objective is basically to work out what the first player is hinting at.
  • SMS messaging: most games, it seems, last just about long enough for someone to SMS a short phrase to their co-conspirator. Coincidence? I think not!
  • Colocation: There's nothing which says that the two players aren't within a short enough distance for good old-fashioned paper to be an effective means of covert communication. Particularly if the second player's telephone is a mobile phone with the ring-tone disabled.

Thankfully, this game has now been retired, hopefully to be replaced by something more tasteful, hopefully not one named after a bad pun on a Led Zeppelin song title.

The final game, played this morning, was pre-recorded (as they all must be). In one of those phony showbiz gestures, they reversed the game by making Sara the unwitting second player; the first player being fellow Radio One DJ Trevor Nelson. The target phrase was, simply enough, "Are you playing Phrased and Confused?"

She got it eventually.

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