Quiz on spy and espionage

Joy Bhattacharjya | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on February 17, 2017


This quiz is all about the cloak-and-dagger folks.

On February 18, 2001, US authorities arrested FBI agent Robert Hanssen, probably the most successful Soviet spy ever to operate on American soil.

1 ‘The Great Game’ was the strategic rivalry between the British and Russian empires in Central Asia during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Which British author popularised the phrase and in which specific work?

2 Mi5 and Mi6 are the two primary military intelligence services in Britain. How are their activities bifurcated?

3 Spy terminology. We all know that a honey trap is all about compromising a source by seducing them. But what is a ‘canary trap’?

4 Which Wimbledon women’s tennis champion of the 1930s worked for the US intelligence during World War II and was shot and wounded by Russian counter-intelligence agents while on a mission in Switzerland?

5 Why was Ingram Frizer’s killing of a British government agent in 1593, supposedly in self-defence, regarded as a blow to English literature?

6 This fictional spy got his first name when the producer of the film was trying to find the dullest name possible and lead actor Michael Caine innocently suggested the producer’s first name. He still got the role, and worked in a few more films featuring the character.

7 On February 9 this year, why did the escape of Pakistani Janbaz Khan from police custody make headlines internationally?

8 Which elite organisation, set up in 1949, has as its motto a quote from the Bible which translates as “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety”?

9 Which book, written around the 3rd century BC, listed the five best candidates to recruit as spies — fraudulent disciples, ascetics, impoverished farmers, unsuccessful farmers, and religious leaders?

10 This American film star played a spy in a Hitchcock film and also worked extensively for Allied Intelligence during World War II. He revealed Errol Flynn’s Nazi sympathies and recruited Noel Coward to circulate among the Hollywood set to sniff out potential German agents. Name the actor.


1. Rudyard Kipling, in Kim

2. Mi5 focuses on domestic counter-intelligence and security while Mi6, also known as the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) runs Britain’s spy network abroad

3. It is a way of checking leaks in a spy organisation by giving different versions of sensitive information to different suspects to see which information is acted upon by the enemy. First mentioned in the public domain by writer Tom Clancy

4. Alice Marble. Her husband Joe Crowley was a pilot who was killed in action over Germany

5. Frizer killed Christopher Marlowe, one of Britain’s most prolific and successful playwrights and writers, who was only 29 at the time

6. Harry Palmer, created by Len Deighton. In the original novel, The Ipcress File, he was unnamed

7. Janbaz is a spy pigeon with a message who was captured by Indian security forces. A constable opened his cage by mistake, allowing him to fly home

8. The Israeli spy agency, Mossad, formed on the recommendation of David Ben-Gurion

9. Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Kautilya organised and ran Emperor Chandragupta Maurya’s extensive spy network

10. Cary Grant, who donated all his film earnings to the war effort and the Red Cross

Joy Bhattacharjya is a quizmaster and Project Director, FIFA U-17 World Cup; @joybhattacharj

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Published on February 17, 2017
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