Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ep 311: Alex van der Kooij, Colin Jones (November 7, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

Alex returns for his fourth night, and Richard comments that Alex has been a church organist for many years.  Alex says that organ music has grown on him but that it's not a very popular instrument these days "because 'organ' has the same letters as 'groan'".

Challenging Alex tonight is Colin Jones, a crew assignment officer for New South Wales Railways.  There is some discussion about how stressful the logistics can get when there is some kind of infrastructure failure.

There's not too much to separate the contestants as far as words go, but Alex's weakness with the numbers is highlighted in this game -- he fails to score any points at all, even when Colin has an invalid answer.  Aided by a very quick conundrum solution, Colin becomes the new champion with a score of 46 to 25.

My performance was all right here, and might even have given me a victory against David depending on how well he handled the numbers.  In any event, I scored points in every round for an easy victory, and my highest score so far this series.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: B R L I E O H N A

Alex continues to be fond of choosing four vowels.  It's a bit of a toss-up for me in this case, but I think I'd have come down on the side of a consonant, hoping for an R for HORRIBLE.  (The actual S would have given an easy seven of BOILERS, so would not have done too badly.)  Here the A works out quite well, but other vowels would have been less useful.  Not much in it either way.

I found BILE, BOILER, NOBLER, AILERON (a frequently appearing combination, somewhat automatically found by now).  Further thought after time expires gives BOREAL and a few more sevens: INHALER, AIRHOLE, and HOBNAIL.  Sadly HOBNAILER (someone who makes hobnails?) is not actually a word, so no full monty this round.

David comes through with a well-spotted eight of HIBERNAL, and I think that's the only one to be found.


Scores: Alex 0, Colin 0 (6), me 7

Round 2: S R S U O D C I G

I found SOURS, DROSS, CURIOS (that old standby of the IOU vowel arrangement), and was willing Colin to choose a vowel with the hopes of getting an E for DISCOURSE (for once, I noticed the DIS- beginning).  Alas, he chose a consonant, and I add CROSS to my finds.  Before time runs out I also get DISCOS and SCOURS.  A little reflection afterwards makes a minor adjustment to get DISCUS as well.

With the vowels awkward and only sixes to be seen, I think this was definitely a time for another vowel.  An E would bring the full monty, but the actual A would have opened up sevens such as CARIOUS and CUIRASS.  (But not CARDIOS, no matter how many times I think of it -- it's not a word according to the Macquarie.)

In a reversal of the previous round Colin has the shorter word, and the scores tie.  David must have been as agonised as I was about the missing fourth vowel, and comments that Colin "should have asked for an E".  Heh.

Sixes are all there is here; I'll note one more for good measure: GOURDS.

Colin: GROSS

Scores: Alex 6, Colin 0 (6), me 13

Round 3: Target 830 from 25 4 3 3 10 6

Alex makes a welcome change to the usual option, going for five small and one large.  I must admit I've been glutted on this from watching Countdown, though, so I'm a little ho-hum about it.  But with a large target and the smallest large number, this is not too dissimilar to six small, and proves challenging for the contestants.

The presence of the 10 with this target calls out for trying to get there as a multiple of ten instead of 25, and the challenge then becomes to make 83 from the five non-10 numbers.  My first thought was to get there from 75, and forming the required 8 is a little non-obvious, but manageable, and I found a solution: 830 = (25*3 + 4*6/3)*10.

With spare time to play, I wonder if I can get to 83 as 58 + 25, but cannot make it work.  I do find a solution afterward with 83 = 108 - 25, though: 830 = (3*4*(3 + 6) - 25)*10.

Alex has no answer to declare, and Colin is just one away with 829, having yielded to the temptation of the 25: 829 = (3*10 + 3)*25 + 4.  Lily demonstrates the solution that I looked for and missed, with 830 = (3*3*6 + 4 + 25)*10.

On the website comments, kevin from Canberra finds another approach: 830 = (25 + 3)*3*10 - 6 - 4.

Alex: [no answer]
Colin: 829
Me: 830
Lily: 830

Scores: Alex 6, Colin 0 (13), me 23

First break: BEAN DISH ("Disallow the man's space")

The "man's space" here turns out to be the SHED part of BANISHED.

David's talk continues his theme of rhyming slang, this time focusing on Australian variations.

Round 4: N M S H A E T R I

In contrast to Alex, Colin seems keen on sticking with three vowels.  It works out all right here, but I do think it's a mistake to leave a mandatory letter for last as it reduces flexibility.  (For instance, if -ATION turns up, it usually needs a fourth vowel to take advantage of it.)  That said, with an A and an E already on board, it can't be too bad.

In this case I find MANS, MEANS, STAMEN, ANTHERS, ATHEISM, and with that final I completing the "retsina mix", there must be eights about.  I go one way with MINARETS (unsure as to whether RAIMENTS would be a legal plural, since RAIMENT is already somewhat collective as a term), and David goes the other with HAIRNETS.

After time, I add some more sevens (HASTIER, MARINES, HERMITS), and note sadly that TRASHMEN is not valid.  There's also a word familiar to Asterix and Obelix fans: MENHIRS.  Much, much later I have a brief moment of excitement as I think that THERAMINS is there, but the correct spelling would be THEREMINS.  There's a word worth remembering.

Colin's choice of TAMERS is his second formation of an -ER word, and after a quick check David confirms that it is valid.


Scores: Alex 6 (12), Colin 0 (19), me 31

Round 5: T F L A U E D I P

F and P aren't the best of playmates, but this mix still has some longer words in it.  I had FLAT, FAULT, FLUTE, DEFAULT / FAULTED.  After several minutes of extra-time thinking I found UPLIFTED.  I note that one of my blind spots is in this mix -- it's only just now that I even see UPDATE, a word which I have never yet found within time when it is present.  (To be fair, I was looking for longer words, but noticing the UP might have gotten me to UPLIFTED faster.)

David finds an excellent seven in PLAUDIT, and also has the eight.  Some other sevens in this mix are UPFIELD, FLEAPIT, and PLAITED.


Scores: Alex 13 (19), Colin 7 (26), me 38

(As an aside, note the inversion here: Without me in the mix Colin is ahead of Alex, but with me involved Alex is ahead of Colin.  I think this is the first game that has happened -- it's due to me taking more points away from Colin than I have from Alex.)

Round 6: Target 141 from 50 9 9 7 6 7

Those large small numbers make small adjustments difficult, but it's fairly easy to spot a solution: 141 = (9 - 6)*50 - 9.  Colin, Lily, and myself have this, but Alex declares 140.  I'm genuinely at a loss as to how he could have formed that.  50 + 9*(9 + 7 - 6)?  I guess it's possible.

Afterwards I try and find a solution without the 50 (I like to do this as practice for rounds of six small numbers), but it eludes me.  I do find 141 = 50 + 7*(6 + 7), though, and the mildly amusing 141 = 7*7*9 - 6*50 (amusing because of how far away it gets from the target before coming back).

Alex: 140
Colin: 141
Me: 141
Lily: 141

Scores: Alex 13 (19), Colin 17 (36), me 48

Second break: NOTE SOAP ("Caffeine delivery device")

For measuring out instant coffee, or simply stirring your tea, a TEASPOON does the job.

Round 7: R S N F E A O T U

FERNS, NEARS, REASON, TREASON (its anagram, SENATOR, is worth remembering, although I didn't this time), and FORTUNES.  The final throw of the dice for this game, and no full monty is available.  While that U made the eight easy to find, there was already one there (SEAFRONT), and a consonant seems like the better choice to me, with the small chance of either SEAFRONTS or FRONTAGES.  I wish I knew what that next consonant would have been...

I think I've complained about most choices this game, wanting three vowels when four were selected and four when three were selected.  I'll defend that choice by saying that it depends on the particular vowels and the other consonants around at the time; it's not just a case of hindsight being 20/20.

Colin makes David check again, using yet another -ER choice, in this case FOUNTERS.  He's gone to the well too many times, though, and this time it is invalid.  That keeps Alex in the game, but he still needs to outdo Colin in the final numbers round to have a chance.

David comments that Lily might think that ten fours are forty, but to him TEN FOURS is FORTUNES.

On the website comments, Ross from Melbourne finds an interesting possibility that alas is not in any dictionary I have access to: NOSFERATU.  That's very well spotted on his part nonetheless.

Colin: [invalid]

Scores: Alex 13 (25), Colin 17 (36), me 56

Round 8: Target 966 from 100 9 3 1 10 8

Colin sticks with the one large and five small mix, remarking that it's worked well for him so far.  It gives a large target, but the numbers are large to match and I quickly find 966 = 9*(100 + 8) - (10 - 3 - 1).  Some fiddling with it after time uses one less number: 966 = 9*(100 + 8 - 1) + 3; this turns out to be the solution that Lily uses.

Colin stumbles here, having declared an incorrect total.  But Alex was unable to declare anything at all, so he enters the conundrum round too far behind to catch up.  Colin declared 965, but actually had 967; it's not clear whether this was an error in his arithmetic, or he just had it in his head as "off by one" and got the directions confused.

What he demonstrates is 967 = 10*100 - 3*8 - 9, and as he finds out the end total is 967 rather than the declared 965, he additionally laments the fact that just subtracting the 1 would have given him the target: 966 = 10*100 - 3*8 - 9 - 1.  It's possible that he got the 8 and 9 swapped, as that would have given him 965, leading to a slightly different way to get to the target: 966 = 10*100 - 3*9 - 8 + 1.

Alex: [no answer]
Colin: [invalid]
Me: 966
Lily: 966

Scores: Alex 13 (25), Colin 17 (36), me 66


That V stands out like a sore thumb, and the similar sound in the first syllable speeds me to the answer in 2 seconds on the clock.  Just as well, as Colin is a mere second behind.

Alex: [no answer]
Colin: AVALANCHE (3s)

Scores: Alex 13 (25), Colin 17 (46), me 76

Aside from missing UPLIFTED, I'm content with this game.  It would have been nice to find HIBERNAL, but it was a difficult get, and aside from those two I did as well as possible (I believe).  Alex's struggle with the numbers this game proved the major difference, as he failed to score at all during them.  That very fast conundrum solve would probably still have seen Colin home, however.

So Colin is the new carry-over champion, and Alex bows out with a four game total of 153.

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