Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Ep 341: Megan Marks, Sam Gaffney (December 19, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

Talking to Megan tonight reveals that she is still very excited about Friday's win.  This feels like a waste of getting-to-know-the-contestant time.  (Not her fault; she responded to what Richard led with.)

Challenging Megan is Sam Gaffney, an analyst who consults to the retail electricity industry.  He remarks that the wholesale electricity market is quite exciting, as the wholesale price (that the retailers are paying to the electricity generators) might average around $35 per megawatt hour (MWh), but can in a short term jump up to $12,500 per MWh!  So there's a lot of risk in such a situation, if retailers don't have enough supply contracts, and many of them have gone broke as a result.

Too many six-letter words from Megan tonight, and Sam is good enough to beat them twice.  The numbers hold no solace for her -- I'm pretty sure that Sam is better from what little we saw -- and Sam wins convincingly, 51 to 23.  With Megan below the 30 points that she needed to knock Brett out of the rankings, she won't be back for the finals.

It was a decent game for me; Lily outdid me in a numbers round and David in the final letters round, but other than that I was mostly on track.  With the final numbers round defeating everyone completely, the seventies are out of reach but solving the conundrum pushes me above the sixty mark, to round off a relatively easy win in one of my better games.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: P A R I S C O M E

Reasonable letters, and that E certainly helped; I found PAIR, PAIRS, COMPRISE (I had noticed that a final E would form this, so was pleased to see it turn up), PROSAIC, and COMPARES.

Megan starts out relatively poorly with a six, as Sam has found one of the eights, as has David.  I'll note another eight here that is an anagram of COMPARES: MESOCARP (the middle layer of the pericarp (the walls of a ripened fruit)); this harks back to David's find of ENDOCARP (the inner layer) back in episode 310.

Another eight is COPREMIA, a variant spelling of COPRAEMIA ("blood poisoning due to absorption of faecal matter").  It's quite probable that the show would allow this to be pluralised, so there was the potential nine of COPREMIAS.


Scores: Megan 0, Sam 8, me 8

Round 2: G F I N E W D O S

Good to see -ING, but again it proves difficult to get as much value out of it as one might like.  Sam sensibly sticks with just the three vowels, and there's some reasonable options.  I had FEIGN, WINGED, DOWSING, and SWINGED (past tense of SWINGE, to whip or punish -- archaic, but listed).  After time I added DINGOES to that list.

Both contestants use the -ING, but only for six, while David has found the seven.

Familiarity with Native American mythology might lead one to spot WENDIGOS, but the Macquarie does not list it.  Chambers does, though, and without the capital letter that the Wikipedia article might suggest.  In any case, there is an anagram of it which is acceptable: WIDGEONS ("any of several freshwater ducks").


Scores: Megan 0 (6), Sam 8 (14), me 15

Round 3: Target 544 from 100 50 5 8 4 7

Megan sticks with the traditional family mix, and everyone finds 544 = 5*(100 + 8) + 4 pretty easily.  As long as you don't try and start with 5*100 + 50, finding this should not be too difficult.

After time I saw that the gap from 600 was 56, leading to the alternative solution 544 = 4*(100 + 50) - 7*8; this then inspired a solution using further factorisation, with 544 = (50/5 + 7)*4*8.

Megan: 544
Sam: 544
Me: 544
Lily: 544

Scores: Megan 10 (16), Sam 18 (24), me 25

First break: CYST RUIN ("A little bit of attention")

The clue is indicating the TINY of SCRUTINY.  Oddly, Richard's explanation afterwards refers to "very careful examination", suggesting that two clues had been considered and one ended up in each place.

David's talk is about the word 'boomerang'.

Round 4: T K A I O D S E M

That K is a bit of a spoiler, and it's no wonder Sam went fishing for that E.  Fortunately he found it!  I had IOTA, SOAKED, MISTAKE, and -- just finished writing it down before time ran out -- ATOMISED.  After time I noted another seven that might have been needed without that E: MIKADOS.  There was also DIATOMS; we've had DIATOM in a few mixes, but I think this is the first time for DIATOMS so far.  It's a handy word to have in the game lexicon, anyway.

Another six from Megan, but Sam has found the MISTAKE and pulls further ahead.  Fifteen points is a pretty big gap to try and make up.


Scores: Megan 10 (16), Sam 18 (31), me 33

Round 5: R U B I H D R E L

Yet another case of having a word ready for an E, and having it delivered.  I had BIRD, HURRIED (the prepared word), BUILDER / REBUILD, and BLURRED.

Everyone has sevens, and there's no better to be had.  A couple of others that could have been used: HURDLER, and DHURRIE (an Indian cotton carpet).


Scores: Megan 17 (23), Sam 25 (38), me 40

Round 6: Target 457 from 50 100 25 75 6 10

Sam warms my heart by going for four large.  I think this is the option that can most repay advance study, and can lead to some very interesting solutions.  Getting close is easy, but it uses up the key 75.  Within time I had 456 = 6*75 + (100 + 50)/25.

After time I see how to get there via three away from 460, with 457 = 10*(50 + 6) - 100 - 75/25.

Megan has 455, maybe via 455 = 6*75 + 50/10, but Sam is one better with 456 = 10*50 - 75 + 25 + 6 and the margin has blown out to 22 points with three rounds to go.

Lily has expertly found her way to the target, with 457 = (50 + 10)*6 + 100 - 75/25.

Megan: 455
Sam: 456
Me: 456
Lily: 457

Scores: Megan 17 (23), Sam 32 (45), me 47

Second break: VOWEL ARK ("The easiest way to win")

Fortunately today's match isn't quite a WALKOVER, but Megan is in a heap of trouble right now; she absolutely must outdo Sam in this letters round to have a chance.

Round 7: A N R O D T A U P

There was no E to save us this time, and getting past six is difficult.  I had ROAN, ADORN, and PARDON.  After time I added DATURA and AROUND, but couldn't extend it to seven.  I'm sure that someone in China offers a PANDA TOUR...

Megan goes for a risky seven, as indeed she must at this point.  Sadly her choice of PRUDANT is invalid (her expression strongly suggests that she knew this, but had to try for it), and Sam's six takes the points and assures him the game.

David has found a seven, though: ADAPTOR.  That's a good spot in a difficult mix.

Two other sevens that could have been found are ROTUNDA and PANDORA (as mentioned in that same round of episode 310 that had ENDOCARP in it).  Remembering that AROUND + T = ROTUNDA seems like it might be rewarded at another time.

Megan: [invalid]

Scores: Megan 17 (23), Sam 38 (51), me 53

Round 8: Target 780 from 50 25 100 75 1 1

Sam goes for four large again, and runs up against the misfortune of a pair of ones.  The drawback of choosing four large is that 10% of games will be unsolvable, and this is one of them.  In fact, it's that rare 1% case where it's not even possible to get within 1.  It's a formidable target, and the best I can do is to get twenty away in either direction: 800 = 25*50/(1 + 1) + 75 + 100, and 760 = 50/(1 + 100/25) * (75 + 1).

Everyone seems stumped (I notice that Sam is looking intently at the board rather than at the monitor built into the desk, incidentally), but in the last few seconds Sam looks like he has seen something.  He writes and checks a subtotal, and when time runs out gives a little sigh of vexation.  When asked what he had, he says he was "too late", and has nothing.  I'd love to know what he was on his way to, though, because even getting within scoring range would be an excellent achievement.

[Update: Sam reveals in a comment that he had seen 775 = (75 - 50 + 1 + 1)*25 + 100, which was an excellent find.  Aside from the 776 shown below, it is the only solution within scoring range -- the next lower achievable total is 765.]

Megan gives a rueful laugh as she confesses that she gave up.  Lily did, too!  She doesn't think that it is possible, and she's correct about that.

In fact, the best that can be done is four away, with 776 = (25 + 1)*(75 - 50 + 1) + 100.  That solution is unique, confirming that this was a very tough numbers round indeed.  (Incidentally, 800 is the closest achievable total above 780, so there's quite a range of unreachable numbers!)

Megan: [no answer]
Sam: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]
Lily: [no answer]

Scores: Megan 17 (23), Sam 38 (51), me 53


Sam will win the game, but Megan still has a chance to get the conundrum and move into eighth spot on the rankings.  I see it quickly -- I have no idea why -- but neither contestant can find it and so we finish the game with two scoreless rounds.

Megan: [no answer]
Sam: [no answer]

Final scores: Megan 17 (23), Sam 38 (51), me 63

Megan gave up too much ground early on, and was never able to reclaim it.  She's looked pretty vulnerable on the letters rounds in previous games, and Sam was able to take the chances she offered tonight.  Using difficult numbers selections to his advantage, he extended that lead and won the game handily.  Sam looks like he is decent with the numbers, and better than average with the letters -- it's been a few rounds since we last had an eight -- so I look forward to the next game with interest.

I almost kept pace with David today, but he shook clear with that last letters round.  Hopefully I shall find ROTUNDA more easily when it arises again. Numbers-wise, there were two difficult targets -- the perils of the four large mix! -- and I'm OK with missing the second completely but feel that I should have gotten to the target in round 6.  Still, with only four points dropped compared to the David/Lily combination, this is definitely one of my better games in that regard.


Sam Gaffney said...

Hi Geoff, this is Sam Gaffney! I was writing (75-50+1+1) x 25 + 100 = 775, but couldn't quite finish in time. Lily told me she could get 776, which I then realised must have been (75-50+1)x(25+1)+100 = 776.

My wife was showing me a comment on the SBS page, and I realised from one of your comments who you were, probably the best L&N player I have seen to miss out on the finals. I think I gave you a big wrap on your last show in the SBS comments.

I Googled your name to find your email address, and stumbled upon this. If you want to speak to the other most obsessive L&N fan in the world, please send an email to my business address (the one that you appear to have found with Google).

I didn't go as far you in the AMOC selection stages, my maths awards peaked with a (Westpac) AMC medal in 1993 when I was in Year 8. I never mentioned this on the show, for fear of being a less sympathetic contestant.


Justin Thai said...

Just wondering what are the chances of getting snake eyes from the heavyweight mix?

Mike Backhouse said...

I played against Sam watching the show but would like to have done better. Well done Sam.

1 off then saw contestants' way but could not get it down in time
6*75+10-100/25=456 (1 off)
x closest I had was 750

Geoff Bailey said...

Justin: The odds of that are 1 in 190.

Mike Backhouse said...

Played again with the repeat. Didn't keep records but remember I improved on last time in round two and got DOWSING.