Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ep 303: Shaun Ellis, Nathan McCain (October 26, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

Shaun is back for his fifth game; Richard talks a little more to him about his online poker playing.  Shaun admits to not having a poker face, which is why he sticks to playing it online.  He also relates how it kept his ego in check after he became the carryover champion of the show -- the feeling of invincibility quickly faded after losing $50 in five minutes.

Today's challenge is Nathan McCain, an outdoor recreation facilitator and surfing instructor.  The early banter was about nicknames (David's poker nickname is Slingshot, after twice winning from a long way back), and Nathan reveals that his is Tambour, after the tambourine.  This resulted from a mate heckling him and then challenging him to perform on stage, which has led to him playing at festivals in various places.

Oh, dear, I definitely felt out of form for this game.  I was trying to get it done in a hurry before I had to go out, but that's hardly an excuse given that a filming would be more hurried.  The first five rounds went relatively poorly and soon had me fourteen points adrift; it took a tricky numbers round (not solved perfectly) to get me back in the right direction, and the final numbers round  gave me a narrow lead going into the conundrum.  Unusually for me, I managed to get it straight away, sealing an unconvincing victory in a low-scoring contest.

Shaun was in much more comfortable territory, as Nathan was only able to score in one round.  Shaun thus (relatively speaking) cruised to his fifth straight victory with a final score of 40 points to 7.  Will he go the distance?  Tomorrow will tell!

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: O E R I A N W D E

Nathan opened with a vowel-heavy mix, and I'd definitely say that fourth vowel was premature.  My preference is to get the required four consonants out first before deciding on the mix, in case they prove uncooperative -- there's nothing like having five vowels, a Y, and (say) a J, Q, or Z to make you wish you'd chosen a few more consonants.

Words found: AERO, IRON, OWNER, WARNED, ROADIE, DOWNER, WANDER / WONDER, and just after time the speculative DOWNIER.  Not sure if I would have risked it -- the -IER and -IEST inflected forms are risky due to the spelling shift -- but it turns out to be valid.  Also noted after time: NEREID, ONWARD.

Shaun finds DOWNER with a little amusement at its appropriateness, given that Nathan declared a seven.  However, Nathan's choice of DRAINER uses a phantom second R, and DOWNER gets the points.

David, sharing my lack of enthusiasm for the excessive vowel mix, says that it WEARIED him.  Some later checking also turns up ANEROID, and a commenter on the SBS page finds WIDENER.  Note that sticking with only three vowels would have granted an L and a G, bringing the ever-helpful -ING and a couple of eights to the table: DOWERING and LOWERING.

There is one eight here, though: IRONWEED.

This mix is almost identical to the very first letters round that Shaun played (in episode 292).  The difference was an S instead of that final E, which allowed DISOWNER.  But DOWNIER and ANEROID were still in both -- if he'd studied his previous game, he might have been able to get one of those this time.

Nathan: [invalid]

Scores: Shaun 6, Nathan 0, me 6

Round 2: I O L G A H M T D

A more restrained approach to the vowels from Shaun, but the lack of an E limits the options.  The IGHT fragment looks promising, but there's little that meshes with it.  Found: GAOL (noting that GOALIE would make an appearance if an E turned up), ALIGHT, and sadly just a fraction too late GOLIATH, a case of a proper noun becoming a generic term and losing its capital letter over time.  Also found after time: DIATOM and HIDALGO.

If only that D had been an R, then the full monties ALGORITHM and LOGARITHM would be there.  Alas!

Nathan: MAIL

Scores: Shaun 12, Nathan 0, me 12

Round 3: Target 416 from 4 4 2 2 6 3

Shaun raises a couple of eyebrows (his own) as he shakes things up by choosing six small numbers.  With this mix it's usually right to pull out factors where possible, and that's easy enough here: 416 = 4*104 = 4*4*26 = 4*4*2*13.  In the process of working this out I drop a required factor of two and confidently compute 208 = 4*4*(2 + 2 + 6 + 3).  Whoops!

Fortunately checking revealed the error, but I wasn't able to recover in time, or indeed for considerably afterwards.  Shaun is served well by his 420 = (3 + 4)*6*(4*2 + 2), and Nathan is unable to get within range.

Then the ever-amazing Lily shows the way to get there with 416 = 4*4*((6 + 2)*3 + 2).

Shaun: 420
Nathan: [not in range]
Me: [not in range]
Lily: 416

Scores: Shaun 19, Nathan 0, me 12

First break: BEER TAIL ("There is a cost to your freedom")

Not hard to find LIBERATE from that clue.

David's talk is about poker terms.

Round 4: F E E R N A P R T

Nathan seems to take David's remarks to heart, going easy on the vowels, and it serves him quite well here as he finds a seven.  Shaun's declares a "safe five", and if his risky choice was a six then he may be happy that it made no difference.  Nathan gets onto the scoreboard at last, fortunate to still be within striking range at this stage.

For my part, FREE, PARENT, REPARENT (a computing term for a certain action performed by window managers), FERRATE, ENTRAP.  After time I added PREFER to that list.  Not being certain about FERRATE -- chemical terms can be a bit of a lottery -- and being very sure that REPARENT would not be valid, I settled for a six.  It turns out that FERRATE is perfectly fine, and REPARENT, as expected, is not listed.

Shaun: EATEN

Scores: Shaun 19, Nathan 7, me 12

Round 5: Y D T S E U O L E

A mix I had trouble grappling with.  DUSTY, OUSTED, LUSTED, ELUDES, ETUDES... it's easy to find sixes but the sevens eluded me.  The OUT- beginning is there but hard to use.  Found while writing this up: DELOUSE.

I still can't decide about that last letter.  I'd probably have chosen a consonant -- the Y is effectively a vowel as far as things go -- but the chances of getting an R for DESULTORY are fairly low.  An I or an A would free up the mix a bit, leading to a few easy sevens; maybe Shaun was even hoping for a U for DUTEOUSLY.  In any case his choice worked out well for him as he found a good seven to again outdo Nathan and myself.

Nathan: LOUSED

Scores: Shaun 26, Nathan 7, me 12

Round 6: Target 886 from 25 100 8 6 7 7

At this stage I count myself quite fortunate to be just 14 points behind with only six letter words found so far and a numbers round failure.  Asked what he'll choose after the chaos of the six small numbers in the first numbers round, Nathan remarks that he'll go for "something different to that", and emerges with a traditional two large and four small mix.  The numbers aren't kind, though, with a large target and those high-end smalls ensuring that getting precisely to the target will be challenging.

Extremely challenging, in fact, to the extent that Lily is not able to find an answer within the 30 seconds -- the first time that's happened this season.  Nathan declares 880, but is just pipped by Shaun who has 881 = (8 + 7/7)*100 - 25 - 6.  I managed 888 = 7*(100 + 25) + 7 + 6, and found just a little too late 887 = 8*(100 + 7) + 25 + 6.  Also 887 = 8*(100 - 7) - 7 + 6*25, which feels like far too much work for the same result.  I'm definitely glad to claw back some of that lost ground!

Lily has a short think over the break, and comes back with 886 = 8*(100 + 6 + 7) - 25 + 7.  Fantastic stuff.

(Another commenter on the SBS page notes the perhaps easier to find 886 = 6*(100 + 7*7) - 8.)

Shaun: 881
Nathan: 880
Me: 888

Scores: Shaun 26 (33), Nathan 7, me 19

Second break: WOLF LORE ("Never in the lead")

Someone who is never in the lead is a FOLLOWER, of course.

Round 7: N C I E O S M G T

The -ING combination makes its appearance, leading to one of many sevens.  Found: NICE, COINS, COSTING, CONGEST, SECTION / NOTICES.  Flirted with COMESTING, and it turns out so did Shaun, but we both sensibly stick with our safe sevens.

Update: Trevor Halsall points out the eight of GENOMICS was available here.

Nathan: COMET

Scores: Shaun 33 (40), Nathan 7, me 26

Round 8: Target 633 from 75 25 50 3 1 6

A friendly mix at last, with the target in the low six hundreds and a good range all round.  Lily and I both spot the 17 offset from 650 and how to make it, finding 633 = 6*(75 + 25 - 3) + 50 + 1, but treating it as eight away from 625 feels more straightforward: 633 = 25*(75 - 50) + 6 + 3 - 1.

Shaun allows me to catch up (indeed, to pass him) by not having any result to declare; Nathan declares 625 but turns out only to have 600 (via (6+1+3)*50 + 25 + 75).

Shaun: [not in range]
Nathan: [invalid]
Me: 633
Lily: 633

Scores: Shaun 33 (40), Nathan 7, me 36


And so it comes down to the conundrum, which is a situation I prefer to avoid; this may be the result of watching too many finals episodes of Countdown, where the contestants seem to buzz in before I've even read the letters.  At least I have the slight advantage of being in front now.

... and it turns out not to matter, as I buzz in with the correct answer in two seconds (perhaps as the result of having had one for lunch?) and neither contestant is able to find the answer in time.

Shaun: [no answer]
Nathan: [no answer]

Final scores: Shaun 33 (40), Nathan 7, me 46

A scrappy game this one; although there were sevens available in each round, only the last letters mix felt inviting and that was deceptive, as it failed to produce an eight.  Two difficult numbers rounds contributed to the difficulties, and Shaun's 40 is a good score from this set.


Heather said...

Hi Geoff,
I had fun trying,
when I succeeded I was coming up with your approach.
I am very sloooooow

Geoff Bailey said...

Glad you gave it a shot; speed comes with practice, but the great thing about the show is how it can also be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Provided you don't have someone else insisting that you unpause the coverage, that is. :)

Mike Backhouse said...

GOLIATH (took a risk here)
x didn't finish
PARENT and rejected PARENTER
8*(100+7)+25+6=887 (1 off)
Lily's way but went over time ...

Geoff Bailey said...

Oh, great work to see (and risk!) GOLIATH!

Trevor Halsall said...

Round 7 has a nice eight - GENOMICS is the study of genomes.

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Trevor! I've added a mention of it.