Monday, 24 October 2011

Ep 301: Shaun Ellis, Ilona Coote (October 24, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

Series 4 starts off with Shaun Ellis in the champion's seat.  Shaun is an online data producer, who wants to live and work in New York; he's also an avid online poker player and would like to make a career out of it one day.  He returns after having won two games at the end of series three; the first was a 43 to 27 victory over accountant Deborah Kemper, and the second was a very close 56 to 53 win against neuroscience student Patrick Clark, courtesy of the conundrum.

In this episode it is revealed that Shaun has an unusual tattoo on his left inner forearm.  In a nice bold font a centimetre or two high it reads: ouch1 (aʊtʃ).  When asked why he got such an unusual tattoo, he remarks that he thought it would be funny, and with delightful good humour adds "... because there's nothing like funny tattoos."  Richard checks about Shaun's plans for an accompanying tattoo on the other forearm; Shaun responds that the most common remarks about his existing tattoo were "You'll regret that" and "That's a big mistake", so he's thinking of getting either "regret" or "big mistake" tattooed there.

In the challenger seat for this game is meteorologist Ilona Coote.  She's still in training so she doesn't actually get to make the predictions yet, but may well be doing so in a year or so.

It's a decidedly shaky start to this project; after beginning well I stumbled badly and limped home to an unconvincing win.  Perhaps ironically, if I had started less well I might have ended up with a higher score.  That said, Shaun scraped by even more barely, with a 38 to 36 victory for his third successive win.

Breakdown after the jump.

Round 1: C H N A E T R F I

My style is to create words as the letters are announced.  Here I successively found EACH, CHANT / TEACH, CHANTER, and then stalled.  I toyed with the non-word FRICATE, and noted CANTREF (which I knew was not listed in the Macquarie because I'd looked for it this morning, when David mentioned it on his blog).  Further searching after time ran out only yielder FANCIER (amusingly, mentioned in the context of CANTREF in that blog post).  If only that F had been an S -- the next consonant, as it turns out -- then the full monty CHANTRIES would have been there.

Shaun was a bit unsure about his choice of TRANCHE, but it was a solid answer ("a portion or share of anything, especially stocks or shares") and a good start for him.  David notes that CHANTER is not just someone who sings, but is also the pipe part of a bagpipe.


Scores: 7 apiece.

Round 2: S D L E A G R E N

In very quick succession, SLED, DEALS, GLADES, GLARED, GENERALS / ENLARGES / ENLARGED.  Further thought afterwards revealed DANGLERS and GRANDEES (and just now, GRENADES), but no nine-letter word.


Scores: Shaun 15, Ilona 7, me 15

Round 3: Target 123 from 75 50 2 7 9 6

Shaun remarked that he wanted to start with an easy one, and he certainly got that -- no-one was stretched to find 123 = 75 + 50 - 2.  Unfortunately for Shaun, he mistakenly wrote down 25 instead of 50 in his working and so was unable to claim the points.  A strong argument for double-checking one's work, particularly as he had a good 25 seconds left to do so!

Lily noted that one of her lecturers used to say, "Hurry, scurry, makes bad curry."

Shaun: [invalid]
Ilona: 123
Me: 123
Lily: 123

Scores: Shaun 15, Ilona 17, me 25

First break: BUY RATIO ("No-one ever sees their own")

The clue is a little less direct than many have been in the past, but OBITUARY is an easy enough find.  As a side note here, OB- as a potential word beginning is handy to keep in mind when there's a B about, particularly in the absence of a helpful -ABLE ending.

David's talk is about squares, and phrases derived from them.

Round 4: J S D T O U I F N

After the first six letters I was worried the next vowel would be an E, forcing me to try and recall if JOISTED was legal (it is -- JOIST is a verb).  So I was glad to see the I instead (giving STUDIO), and then the F meaning that FOISTED would be available in its place.  But with no further E, it was all irrelevant.  Words found: JOTS, JOIST, STUDIO, FOUNDS.  Further searching after the time limit gave JOINTS and FOUNTS, but nothing longer.  Chambers lists JUDOIST, but it's not in the Macquarie.

Ilona finds FUSION, which I wish I'd seen.


Scores: Shaun 21, Ilona 23, me 31

Round 5: G B W E A R I N O

Here's where things start going awry for me.  So far I'd been tracking well with David, but now it comes to an end.  Words found: WAGE, WAGER / BARGE, and then the IN pair put all the -ING words into play.  Looking at the letters on the board makes WEARING a trivial find, but I also noted BEARING and BREWING.  Seeking an eight, I found BEWARING and BOWERING, and agonised for far too long over which to choose (BEWARING seemed likely archaic, and I wasn't certain that BOWER was a verb) before jumping the wrong way with BEWARING, which is invalid.

Had I not been ahead I might have played it safe with a seven, to my overall benefit.  For that matter, if I had stopped to consider that BEWARING involves a spelling shift and so needed to be specifically listed I think I would have avoided it.  An acceptable word in tournament Scrabble, but a poor match for Letters and Numbers.

Shaun surprises Richard (who has been looking at WEARIN laid out neatly on the board) by not choosing WEARING.

Me: [invalid]

Scores: Shaun 28, Ilona 30, me 31

Round 6: Target 590 from 100 25 50 75 8 1

Ilona surprises by choosing four large numbers, an option which I think has the potential to lead to the most interesting solutions due to the interplay of the large numbers.  It's definitely underappreciated, in my opinion, although perhaps better suited to longer thinking times.

Sadly, it doesn't serve Ilona too well; she can only get to 575, which is out of the scoring range.  Shaun does better to get 596 = 8*75 - 100/25, and realises that he could have gained another two points by simply subtracting 1 at the end -- there's a little byplay with Lily and Richard as Shaun pretends to try for it.  Incidentally, he could have gotten a further two closer by using (100 + 50)/25.

I found 590 = 8*(75 - 1) - 50/25, and it is no surprise that Lily does the same -- albeit using 100/50 for the final 2.  I was relieved to get back some of the breathing room that I lost over BEWARING.

Shaun: 596
Ilona: [not in range]
Me: 590
Lily: 590

Scores: Shaun 28 (33), Ilona 30, me 41

Second break: SCARE HER ("When you look for something again")

Back to the clues that pretty much give the answer away, but RESEARCH was straightforward to find in any case.  The clue rules out the alternative SEARCHER, though.

Round 7: S M T H E I A P E

Ouch, this round hurts.  Lots of options once the vowels came along, giving: TIMES / HEIST, EMPATHS / IMPASTE / PASTIME / ATHEISM.  I toyed with THEMAS along the way, but the Macquarie doesn't list THEMA, which is good to know.  Plus, of course, the plural is THEMATA so that would have been unfortunate.

It looked such a friendly mix, so I spent a while afterwards searching for better.  It was a head-desk moment when I finally found EMPATHISE (and wondered about EMPATHIES, but that would not be allowed).  Particularly given that I found EMPATHS extremely early (before ATHEISM, which I should have seen earlier) and indeed was declaring it as my seven letter word.  Very dispiriting.

David finds it, of course, as well as an eight that has cropped up before: MATESHIP.  Shaun falls victim to a phantom letter that he fortunately manages to catch in time to find and declare a valid answer, but only of five letters.  (This is a minor argument in favour of writing down the partial words as you find them; it gives you a fallback position in case you mishear or misread a letter.)

Shaun: PHASE

Scores: Shaun 28 (33), Ilona 30 (36), Me 48

Round 8: Target 312 from 25 50 100 75 7 5

Another big ouch for me on this round -- I think I was still flustered after missing EMPATHISE, and just fell apart.  I was sufficiently ahead at this point that worst case meant a conundrum showdown, but I'm not fond of the speed component to those.  The video was stuttering a little at this point, so I may have had even more time than the regulation 30 seconds.

Ilona surprises again by choosing the four large option, and it is revealed to be her favourite -- excellent.  The tricky part with this mix is usually getting the right offset from an appropriate multiple of 25 -- getting to the nearest 25 is almost always possible, but going closer requires some refinement.  (One of the best instances I've seen, which opened my eyes to some of the possibilities that this mix offers, is shown in this excerpt from Countdown.)

Here we have a relatively low number, and the 12 is obviously achievable as 5 + 7.  Then... sadly, brain failure for me; I've studied these combinations, and I know full well that 300 can be formed from the four large numbers (as Lily easily demonstrates later, and I recall once the pressure of the time limit is over).  But I get distracted by 312 = 12 * 26, and try to manipulate the large numbers to get that 26.  (I'm pretty sure it's not possible, although offsetting 50 or 100 by 1 in either direction is.)  Running out of time, I end up writing the feeble 7*50 - (75 - 25) + 5 = 305.

Shaun manages to get one closer with 318 = 5*75 - 50 - 7, and Lily makes it look as simple as it should have been with 312 = (75 / 25) * 100 + 5 + 7.

Shaun: 318
Ilona: [not in range]
Me: 305
Lily: 312

Scores: Shaun 33 (38), Ilona 30 (36), me 48


And so we come down to the conundrum.  I'm ahead enough to win regardless, but manage to round out a dismal last third of the game by possibly giving away the answer to an opponent.  The video was stuttering quite badly at this point, so I don't know what my timing was actually like, but I eventually saw that OVER beginning and buzzed in (pressed pause) with... OVERBROAD.  Another head-desk moment.  (Presumably I was thinking about accents.)

Admittedly, I corrected myself fairly quickly, but I genuinely don't know if I would have managed to do so in time.  (i.e., before I would have been called upon to say the answer.)  It could go either way, and if I did get it wrong then it would be very easy for another contestant to find the correction I should have (particularly with all the extra time such a stoppage entails), and get the correct answer: OVERBOARD.

Fortunately for what is left of my ego, neither of the other contestants solves the conundrum in time, and Shaun squeaks past Ilona on the strength of that last numbers game.  Maybe she would have been better served with a less difficult mix, but Shaun must be relieved that his error in the first numbers game didn't cost him the win.

Shaun: [no answer]
Ilona: [no answer]
Me: [invalid]

Final scores: Shaun 33 (38), Ilona 30 (36), me 48

This game was very much a case of what might have been.  Even without the full monty in round 7, I could easily have chosen BOWERING in round 5, calmed down and found 312 in round 8, and corrected myself just in time on the conundrum, for a final score of 76 instead of 48.  Throw in the full monty (which I was admittedly nowhere near, timewise, although I should have seen it) and it would be a very respectable 87.


Mike Backhouse said...

There were no comments on the original post?

75+50-2=123 (bad luck Shawn)
Lily's way
Lily's way but went over time slightly

Geoff Bailey said...

Mike: Nope! This was the first game covered on the blog (you can see the stylistic differences, I imagine), and the second post after the explanatory introduction. It took a while for people to stumble across this since I did not exactly advertise it.

Also, nice game!