Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Ep 343: Sam Gaffney, Lewis Robinson (December 21, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

Sam relates how after his audition for Letters and Numbers (which obviously went pretty well), as he got back to his car he was... attacked by ducks.  That's certainly not an expected occurrence!  There were four or five of them, and he had to fend them off with his umbrella; it was a very nice umbrella that his wife had given him and it got broken in the chaos, although he attributes that more to the wind than to the ducks.

Tonight's challenger is the versatile Lewis Robinson, described as a musician, pizza maker, professional stilt walker, and soon-to-be primary school teacher.  Richard asks how he came to be so many things, and Lewis quips that he is just a bit indecisive.  Richard wonders if Lewis has done them all at once, and not surprisingly the answer is negative.  Lewis likes to think of himself as a "jack of all trades, master of some".

Sam doesn't seem in as powerful form today, or perhaps the letters just weren't there for it.  But a risky eight on the first round comes home for him, and sets up a pattern of mostly outdoing Lewis, particularly in the numbers.  It's a sad showing from the numbers this game, with two very easy targets.  Sam rounds it out with a lightning fast conundrum solve, and a 62 to 21 win.

For my part, this match was much closer than the previous one, eventually coming down to the conundrum and mere milliseconds in it.  But I have to give the benefit to Sam and go down narrowly.  There were certainly chances for me -- if that risky play by him in the first round had not come off, for instance -- but round four was the place where I should have won this.  Two losses to Sam, and I'll be trying to keep it from being three tomorrow.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: R Q E S U O E T L

Interesting to see the Q pair with a U for once.  I found SURE, ROUSE, and REQUEST.  I wondered about QUESTOR (not valid -- QUESTER is the Macquarie's desired version) but was doubtful and it wasn't better in any case.  Several anagrams of it would have been acceptable, however: QUOTERS, TORQUES, and ROQUETS (ROQUET: "(Mallet sports) to cause one's ball to strike (another player's ball)").

Lewis also has REQUEST, but Sam kicks off with the gamble of REQUOTES.  David says he saw this coming, and the gamble has paid off.  REQUOTE is not a main entry, but is in the separate running list of RE- words, and that's eight points to Sam to start.  David notes that RESOLUTE is a much safer eight.


Scores: Sam 8, Lewis 0, me 0

Round 2: C D I K O A S E W

The K always plays much better with a C, but it's still not a nice sight.  I can't fault Lewis for chasing that E (fortunately getting it!), but then the W comes along to keep things tricky.  I had DOCK, SACKED, and WICKED.

Lewis also had WICKED, and Sam surprises by having stuck with a five.  Perhaps he was trying for longer and didn't get a six down?  There are a few more, such as SOCKED and SOAKED.

There were two sevens possible here: CODEIAS, harking back to a recent round as CODEIA is another name for CODEINE, and SWACKED (SWACK as a verb: "Chiefly Scottish [...] to strike or clash").


Scores: Sam 8, Lewis 6, me 6

Round 3: Target 415 from 75 50 100 25 9 1

Sam persists with the four large mix, despite threats of having ducks sicced on him.  The target is tough, but gettable.  However, I missed the ball on this, focussing too much on (9+1) being ten away from 425 but knowing that 425 was not reachable from the larges alone.  I ended up one away with 416 = 9*(50 - 1) - 25.

Lewis has 424 -- presumably he didn't think to push the one inside the brackets -- and Sam also has 416 in the same way.  Lily cuts through to what I should have seen: 415 = 9*(50 - 100/25) + 1.  That's good work from Lily, but I absolutely should have noticed that the difference from 450 (35) was 9*4 - 1, and then that solution easily follows.  A very careless miss, and one place where this could have changed from loss to win.

Sam: 416
Lewis 424
Me: 416
Lily: 415

Scores: Sam 15, Lewis 6, me 13

First break: GAIN GREW ("I'll bet you'll be able to get this one")

A bet involves WAGERING, of course.

David's talk is about Baron Münchhausen, segueing via a discussion of Münchausen's syndrome into the etymology of 'hypochondria'.

Round 4: F T A I N M E O P

I found FAINT and FAMINE.  After time I added OPIATE (yet again, not noticed in time), but the whole time my brain was nagging me that I was missing something.  I just couldn't see whatever it was, though -- even noting the letter bank of PENTIMENTO didn't get me on to the right track.  But if I had seen PIMENTO in time that would have been enough to win this game.  In retrospect, this was the real moment where I should have won but I just couldn't put it together.  I know I've had that PENTIMENTO/PIMENTO issue before, seeing the former but not the latter, and hopefully this round will make it stick for future instances.

Lewis has only managed to find a four -- with FAINT in the first five letters that's not so good -- and Sam also has a six.  David has demonstrated his mastery again, coming through with an eight: PTOMAINE.  He also points out that if that final consonant had been an S then MANIFESTO would have been there for nine.

There's a quartet of other sevens that could have been found: PTOMAIN (variant spelling) / MAINTOP ("a platform at the head of the lower mainmast") / TIMPANO (singular of TIMPANI: "a set of kettledrums", so by inference a single kettledrum) / TAMPION ("a wooden plug or stopper placed in the muzzle of a piece of ordnance when not in use, to keep out dampness and dust").

Lewis: NAME

Scores: Sam 21, Lewis 6, me 19

Round 5: N S U A B R F I A

An ill-fitting assortment again; no surprise that the E was chased after -- it would have given URBANISE for eight -- but the A is less productive.  I had BANS, BARNS, and BRAINS.

Lewis has five, and again Sam has a six -- I'm not gaining, but at least I'm not losing ground.  David has come good again, with the excellent seven of SAURIAN (lizard-like).

Another seven in this mix is FARINAS (FARINA: "flour or meal made from cereal grains [...]"), and I'd actually seen FARINA but somehow not thought to pluralise it.  Whoops!

I'll also note that the Macquarie lists FUSARIUM ("any of various fungi [...]") but makes no mention of the plural FUSARIA.  I've commented before about how the Macquarie is a bit incomplete on its listing of plurals, and here is another instance.

Lewis: RUINS

Scores: Sam 27, Lewis 6, me 25

Round 6: Target 156 from 25 100 1 6 6 7

Perhaps cowed by threats of ducks, Lewis goes for the family mix.  The target is pretty easy, with several variants.  I wrote down 156 = 6*25 + 6 and 156 = 6*(25 + 1), and there really wasn't much incentive to look for others.  Sam and Lily both used this second solution, pretty much as expected.

Lewis has only 142, though; presumably he has made the mistake of using the 100.  It's still a bit unfortunate as simply adding all the numbers gives a closer total of 145 (still outside the scoring range).

Sam: 156
Lewis: [not in range]
Me: 156
Lily: 156

Scores: Sam 37, Lewis 6, me 35

Second break: CUED NEON ("Denis is rejected for being a lightweight")

An actual cryptic-ish clue -- 'Denis' without 'is' ("is rejected") is 'den', and a light weight is an ounce -- leading to DENOUNCE.

Round 7: C G E O O S E I R

Sam keeps calling for vowels, and I'm not sure what he is aiming at.  One E is usually enough for interesting words, and more consonants are usually desirable.  And, of course, I don't like leaving a mandatory letter (the fouth consonant) until last.

I found GOOSE, SCROOGE, and CORGIS.  I thought SCROOGE was probably OK, but wasn't certain, and after a bit of vacillation decided to stick with CORGIS.  SCROOGE has become a generic term, however, thereby losing its capital letter -- David notes similar examples of ADONIS and GOLIATH.

Both contestants have stuck with GOOSE, and I have my nose just in front of Sam, but at such a late stage it's almost certainly going to come down to the conundrum.  At this point I particularly rue round 4.

Lewis: GOOSE

Scores: Sam 37 (42), Lewis 6 (11), me 41

Round 8: Target 168 from 100 50 75 3 1 7

Lewis chooses a different assortment this time, and I approve.  Admittedly he is completely out of contention, but the show needs more variety in its number choices.  The target, alas, is trivial, and everyone very easily has 168 = 100 + 75 - 7.  Just for fun I note 168 = 7*(100 - 75 - 1) with the remaining time, but don't find anything more interesting than that.  (Just now I see the kitchen sink of 168 = 7*(75 - 1 - 100/50)/3, for what it's worth.)

Sam: 168
Lewis: 168
Me: 168
Lily: 168

Scores: Sam 47 (52), Lewis 16 (21), me 51


And so, inevitably, it comes down to the conundrum.  It's another easy one; I build up from MEDIATE and quickly press in at the one second mark.  I've beaten the buzzer, but... looking at the frozen video I see that Sam's name has highlighted even though the buzzer has yet to sound.  He's pressed in, and must have just beaten me by the tiniest of amounts.  (That said, given my policy of not having the hand on the buzzer in the studio, it probably would have been a bigger margin in a head to head confrontation.)  I'd like to pretend that the sound of the buzzer is what matters, but I know it isn't, and Sam has won.  Bother!

Lewis: [no answer]

Final scores: Sam 57 (62), Lewis 16 (21), me 51

A good game from Sam, but Lewis wasn't really able to push him.  Lewis struggled in the numbers, and was behind in several of the letters rounds; the final margin reflects this disparity.  That's not to take anything away from Sam who continues to shine.

It was decent but not great from me tonight, and Sam's risk in the first round kept him just far enough ahead to beat me.  Rounds 3 and 4 presented me with the chances to get the victory, but I wasn't able to get there and once again I lost out in a conundrum dead heat.  I'm really coming to dislike those easy conundrums... I'll concede that the word was accurate, however.

There's some oddities in Sam's play -- two fives today and one yesterday, where sixes and longer were definitely possible.  Perhaps when the letters are unfriendly he tries for too much and doesn't get the sixes written down?  It feels like there is a vulnerability there, anyway.  It might be worth pulling five vowels against him as a strategy to see how he copes.

Sam's score pushes Brett out of contention and moves Sam to sixth in the rankings.  A win tomorrow or a loss on 54 or more points will also see him push me down a spot.


Anonymous said...

My god Geoff, get a life!! You have far too much time on your hands being so obsessed with how YOU fare against everyone else. No one really cares!!

Tim said...

I love this magnificently obsessive blog which is clearly gaining credibility now that it is attracting anonymous trolls

Sam Gaffney said...

Too slow again, Geoff! (*chuckles*)

Yes, my five-letter words were diabolical, I think I might have been running out of "stamina" a little bit by this point.

Geoff Bailey said...

*chuckles* Yes, the speed conundrums are my weakness. Maybe next time...

Anonymous said...


Geoff Bailey said...

GOOSIER is more evidence for my contention that the -IER words are riskier than Sam thinks. The Macquarie does list GOOSY (also spelled GOOSEY), but does not give the comparative or superlative forms and thus (due to the spelling shift) they would not be allowed.

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Mike Backhouse said...

Lily's way
PITMAN (took a risk here and was hoping it was a word. It's in my second edition. Yay.
Geoff's first way
x-GOOSIER (revised rules but not L&N rules-grrr)
100+50+3*(7-1)=168 (not the easy way...)