Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ep 314: Timothy Clarke, Michael Nichols (November 10, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

In today's episode we find out that Timothy's school held a Letters & Numbers competition between the maths teachers and the English teachers.  They ran it much like the show, and the maths teachers won -- although Timothy adds that it was a narrow victory.  He may be saying that to appease David, who declares himself not happy about the result, but Lily looks pleased.

Timothy's challenger is Michael Nichols, an I.T. trainer whose goal is to ride a scooter into every European country.  A motorised scooter, that is -- it's not some Crockett Cooke-like endeavour.  This desire has its origins in that many years back he did some motorbiking around Europe and he likes the idea of doing it again in more comfort.  So far the closest he's come (on scooter, that is) is going to Tasmania, which at least involved crossing some water (as he puts it).

It's a bit of a scrappy game, this one.  Timothy continues to be very weak on the numbers, and isn't nearly as good on the letters as he was yesterday.  On the other hand Michael doesn't do much better with the letters; his superior numbers performance sees him safely home, though, 40 points to 25.

I had my worst game so far, I believe.  I dropped points on two letters rounds, and failed to reach the target on two of the numbers rounds, including missing an obvious one-point improvement that would have kept a safe lead intact.  All this culminated in a conundrum that I failed to solve, and fortunately neither did Michael or I would have had to score a tie.  All in all, very poor on my part, and I'm extremely fortunate to have scraped through with the win.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: L N E I S C O U R

We start with a promising set of letters, and I just blank.  LINE, LINES, COUSIN, INSURE... it's so obvious that there will be a long word here but it doesn't leap out at me and I go into a tiny death spiral where I'm thinking more about my failure to find something longer than about finding something.  Ergh.  I see a few fragments that might lead to something (CON-, -IER, -SURE, -SION; I spent a lot of time looking at -CURSION, too, after episode 304's RECURSION) but don't find any extensions quickly and bounce on to the next.  Oh, dear...

After time runs out, I find some sevens and eights: INSOURCE (the opposite of outsource, basically), LOUSIER (we've had that just recently, too), INCLOSE, INCLOSER (although I wasn't sure of that, but it is listed), and CLOSURE... a word which I'd hoped I'd not miss again, but that's a story for another time.

The contestants declare six and seven, and David announces a full monty.  With that in mind I look a little further, and find INCLOSURE... but David has found RECLUSION, instead.  Note that two of the four fragments I mentioned led to nines, and another led to a seven -- all of which I missed.

Some other missed sevens were COUNSEL, UNCOILS, and RECOILS (another frequently-declared word); two more eights were LICENSOR and COINSURE.

Timothy: CRONIES
Michael: COURSE

Scores: Timothy 7, Michael 0, me 0

Round 2: T R I O G E T E N

TRIO / RIOT, GOITER (another frequently appearing word), and that final N brings -ING to the table with ROTTING.  That's all I see in time, but David does find a different seven that is very familiar: INTEGER (an anagram of TREEING, another seven).  With neither contestant using the -ING, I get back to level.

Timothy declares GOITRE, and I see that I've been using the US spelling all this time.  Whoops!  Fortunately the US spelling is also allowed in this instance, but that has been careless of me.

There is an eight here, though -- the mineral TENORITE.  Not that it was in my vocabulary, so well done to anyone who spotted that.

Timothy: GOITRE
Michael: GOTTEN

Scores: Timothy 7 (13), Michael 0 (6), me 7

Round 3: Target 270 from 75 25 6 7 9 8

Timothy is still shy of those five small mixes, and is going for four small again today.  It's a small target, but the small numbers are large which can complicate things.  With the 9 there it seems natural to try for 270 = 9*30, and that leads to a quick solution: 270 = 9*(25 + 6 - (8 - 7)).  An alternative route to the five gives another solution of 270 = 9*(25 + 75/(7 + 8)).

Factorising it further, with some effort admittedly required to get the five, another solution is 270 = 9*6*(8 - 75/25), or reusing the previous approach to five, 270 = 9*6*75/(7 + 8).  Yet another solution comes from noting that 6*7*8 = 336 (along with 7*8*9 = 504, it's just one of those combinations that has stuck in my mind for many years); that's 66 away from the target, leading to the solution 270 = 6*7*8 - (75 - 9) = 270.

Neither contestant is anywhere close to the target; it feels like 269 = 8*25 + 75 - 6 should not have been too difficult to find, but they could have gotten lost in the search for a perfect target and not been able to get anything written down in time.

Lily highlights the important of realising that 27 is 3 times 9, but then takes it in an unexpected direction (to me), by then splitting it as 3*90 instead of 9*30.  Her solution is 270 = (75 + 7 + 8)*(9 - 6).

Timothy: [not in range]
Michael: [not in range]
Me: 270
Lily: 270

Scores: Timothy 7 (13), Michael 0 (6), me 17

First break: STEEL TAB ("Vehicular lifesaver")

A straight clue for a SEATBELT, and there's no doubt that they have saved many lives since wearing them became mandatory.

David's talk is about ballistics (the study of flight), arising from the word 'ballista' (an ancient Roman catapult); he then segues to discuss the words 'problem' and 'project', both originating in the idea of throwing something forward.

Round 4: D I C M A T E P O

A decent set of letters again, although I keep trying to insert an N for COMEDIAN.  ACID is clear straight up, and I'm half-expecting that E to be an O for DIATOM / ATOMIC.  It actually being an E almost throws me -- the dangers of anticipation!  I find MATED and then IMPACTED, and then that O turns up after all.  I don't find anything else within time, but I'll note three sixes that have been on the show several times: MEDICO, POMACE, and POMADE.

Both contestants have sixes, and David accurately finds the eight.  There were a few sevens here, the more familiar ones to me being ECTOPIA, DEMOTIC, and OPIATED.

Timothy: CAMPED
Michael: CAMPED

Scores: Timothy 7 (19), Michael 0 (12), me 25

Round 5: E U O M D S E R H

Here's the start of the downward slide, as I've let the lead make me overconfident.  I see MOUE, MODE, MOUSED, HOUSED, DEMURE, MUSHED, but can't see longer.  It still takes some time afterwards before I spot a seven -- the American spelling HUMORED, but I've got a feel for the Macquarie and it's accepted Americanisms now, and I would have correctly bet on it being allowed -- and then finally the eight of REHOUSED.

Speaking of Americanisms, HOMERED is another seven.  A couple of other quite findable sevens are USHERED and RESUMED.  I think this latter was what was niggling at me when I mentally rejected DEMURES.

Timothy's six of SHROUD puts to rest the other lingering feeling of a combination seen before.  Michael declares MOUSER, in the sense of a cat; David perhaps confusedly states that it is also slang for a black eye, but that sense is listed for MOUSE rather than MOUSER.  When Richard asks him about the origins, David's response also suggests that he was thinking of MOUSE when he made that comment.

Timothy: SHROUD
Michael: MOUSER

Scores: Timothy 13 (25), Michael 6 (18), me 31

Round 6: Target 805 from 25 75 100 7 2 6

Getting one off is easy to see straightaway: 806 = 7*100 + 75 + 25 + 6.  I have two plans for getting to that offset of five: The first is to use the 6 to get to 800 somehow, then add (7 - 2).  The other is to form the five as 2*6 - 7, which will require some tweakage on the 2*6 to get the rest of it up to target.  I am unable to make either work, however, so I have to stay with 806.

(There's a much more complicated way to 806, too: 806 = (25*100 - 75 - 7) / (6/2).  A shame that wasn't more useful.)

After time, I spot the divisibility by 7, and the solution 805 = 7*(100 + 2*6 + 75/25).  This is the solution that Lily later demonstrates with her usual eclat.

Timothy again has nothing to declare, while Michael finds 804 with an approach that I'd overlooked: 804 = (2 + 6)*100 + 7 - 75/25.  This ties the contestants' scores up with just one of each round to go.

Timothy: [no answer]
Michael: 804
Me: 806
Lily: 805

Scores: Timothy 13 (25), Michael 13 (25), me 38

Second break: WHILE GUN ("A drink to keep you together")

It takes me a while to work this one out -- probably longer than the commerical break would have been -- and when I do I'm unsure of the spelling.  But I take my best guess, correctly getting GLUHWEIN.

Round 7: N A E T C I S O P

At this point I have started counting my chickens a little early; with 25 points up, it would take losing both these next two rounds to endanger me.  I think that makes me careless.  In any case, I get NEAT, ENACT, STANCE, SPICATE.  The -ATION fragment yet again leads nowhere, which is annoying, but if I'd paused to think about just -TION I might have found one of the many eights available.

In extra time I find SECTION, CATIONS / ACTIONS, ACONITES, CANOPIES, and CANOEIST.  (I overlooked OPIATES in the sevens -- a bit of a blind spot to that today.)  There's no nine to be had, but note that ECTOPIA is here again, and pluralisable to ECTOPIAS.

Michael finds an eight, and whittles down my lead.

Timothy: PISTON

Scores: Timothy 13 (25), Michael 21 (33), me 38

Round 8: Target 505 from 100 50 75 10 3 9

With a 17 point advantage I'm still feeling moderately confident.  The three-and-three mix can be a bit dicey sometimes, though, and this is no exception.  I recall thinking at the beginning that 506 was no problem, but my attempts to get closer proved fruitless, and I have to fall back to that.  Except that I have a mental blank about the six and end up having to declare two off with 503 = 10*50 + 3.  Oh, dear.  This was the most careless round of all.

Timothy declares 504, which is later revealed to be invalid.  This means that out of the six numbers rounds he has played he has had no answer four times, an invalid answer once, and four away the other time, ending up without a point at all from them.  I think it's safe to say that one has to do better than that with the numbers in this game, even though he has been unfortunate to encounter some tough ones.

Michael declares 506 = 50*10 + 9 - 3, and I engage in some mental excoriation for missing what should have been a trivial adjustment, and indeed one that I'd seen at the beginning and then forgotten.  Those seven points put him exactly ten behind me, which could turn out to be very costly indeed...

In extra time I decide to try and utilise the 10, and offsets by 25 or 75.  That very quickly gives a solution of 505 = 10*(50 + 3) - (100 - 75).  I should have looked for (and found!) that in time.  Carelessness again.

Lily is as on-target as ever, demonstrating that it was possible to find an offset of five after all: 505 = 50*10 + (9 - 100 / (75/3)).  Very nicely done!

Timothy: [invalid]
Michael: 506
Me: 503
Lily: 505

Scores: Timothy 13 (25), Michael 28 (40), me 38


With Michael just ten points behind, I'm in danger territory.  And it's an awkward conundrum, although it shouldn't be -- sounding out the words in my head lead to a quick solution after time ran out.  I think that this is a case where writing down the letters would have helped greatly, but it's always a tricky balancing act -- you don't want to do it at the start in case the word is obvious and you've blown that thinking time by writing down letters.  Then after you've spent a while staring, it's not clear that you have enough time to usefully doodle on paper -- the seconds it takes to do so might be crucial.

To further digress, I think that left-handed people might have a very minor advantage here.  The buzzer is on the right, so right-handed people can't write down letters and maintain an alert button-pressing stance.  It's still time taken away from mentally rearranging the letters, however.

Around the eighteen second mark Michael makes a motion that looks like he saw something, but stopped it before he could turn it into a press.  With everyone figuratively scratching their heads, time runs out.  I start extra time, and it takes around three seconds to get COWARDICE.  Isn't that always the way?

Timothy: [no answer]
Michael: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Timothy 13 (25), Michael 28 (40), me 38

So I escape by the skin of my teeth, after a highly unconvincing game.  Full credit to Michael for finding CAPTIONS in round 7, but this still feels like a game that I survived because of my opponents playing below their best, rather than by me playing well.  With a total of just 38, this is my lowest-scoring game so far by a whopping ten points, and stands in stark contrasts to the recent run of 60's.  Perhaps my hubris in talking about possibly outdoing David has triggered karmic retribution -- certainly he would have annihilated me this time.

Hopefully I'll be able to round out the week with a return to form; it would be nice to finally see a nine within time one day, too.  One day...

1 comment:

Mike Backhouse said...

(9-6)*(75+25-8)-7=269 (1 off)
Michael's way (1 off)
10*50+9-3=506 (1 off)