Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ep 345: Sam Gaffney, Andy Welland (December 23, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

Richard asks Sam what sort of techniques he brings to the show -- is this a game five tradition?  Sam notes that there are some tricks you can learn for his favourite number mix of four large and two small; I emphatically agree, and may write a post about it some day.  With the main letter mixes there's not too much to be done, but with the conundrums it can sometimes be helpful to pick a letter and start with that.  Given that when he does solve a conundrum he does so very quickly, it looks like that technique is working well for him.

Tonight's challenger is Andy Welland, a doctor of biochemistry who spent a year in Thailand teaching English.  As Richard notes, Andy has quite a strong Scottish accent; Andy remarks that this did make the teaching somewhat of a learning experience for him.  He first noticed how strong his accent was when he said something and it was repeated back to him in fifty Thai-Glaswegian accents.

Sam's in very good form today.  There's a reach for a nine that isn't there, but aside from that he's just one letter short of optimal and with another very quick conundrum solution to boot.  Andy is consistently behind in the lettes rounds and is unable to make any headway during the numbers, as Sam takes the game 64 to 20.

It continues to be very close between Sam and I; equal performances all the way, but he outdid me comprehensively on the conundrum and I've got my third loss.  This puts my record against Sam as two from five, with just six points difference on aggregate.  Hopefully I'll catch him tomorrow... if not, there's always the finals for revenge, as he must make them now.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: L R K N A I A E O

Sam surprised me with that last vowel; was he aiming for AIRLINE?  I had RANK, RANKLE, and AILERON.  I wondered about ROANLIKE, but not seriously -- the -LIKE words are pretty sparse, and ROAN too specialised for that.  (The Macquarie doesn't have HORSELIKE, either; neither does Chambers, except that Chambers uses HORSELIKE in its description of HORS(E)Y.  It's odd for words to be used in definitions but not defined themselves.  But I digress.)

Andy has done well to find LINEAR, but Sam has outdone him with LANKIER.

Some other sevens that could have been found are OARLIKE, ALIENOR (a legal term: "someone who transfers property"), and -- using all those vowels! -- AEOLIAN ("blown or borne by the wind").


Scores: Sam 7, Andy 0, me 7

Round 2: B G C I E S T U W

An ill-fitting assortment of letters, and a rare occasion where a J would have been welcome for SUBJECT; it might have been worth chasing after the A (successfully, as it turns out) for CAGIEST.  As it is, I had SECT, CUBIST / CUBITS, and CUTIES.

Andy has CITES, outdone by Sam's CUBITS.  David has CUBIST, and notes the phrase of "BIG WET" associated to Darwin and Christmas -- there's been a few Christmas references this episode that I'm mostly omitting.

Sixes are the limit here; another one is BISECT.


Scores: Sam 13, Andy 0, me 13

Round 3: Target 208 from 75 50 25 100 6 8

Sam is still trying to get something interesting out of four large, and it continues to taunt him by serving up easy targets.  I went with 208 = 6*25 + 50 + 8, while also noting 208 = 100 + 75 + 25 + 8.  This latter is the solution used by Sam and Andy, while Lily notes several variants for getting to that 200: 6*50 - 100, 6*25 + 50, and (50/25)*100.

Sam: 208
Andy: 208
Me: 208
Lily: 208

Scores: Sam 23, Andy 10, me 23

First break: SIR ATTIC ("Creative little annoyance")

The annoyance being the TIC part of ARTISTIC.

David's talk is about three types of cake from different nations together with their meanings.  These are 'strudel' (German, meaning "whirlpool"), 'pascha' (Russian, meaning "Easter"), and croquembouche (French, meaning "crunch in [the] mouth").

Round 4: A E P L D O E C N

I had PALE, PALED, LOPED, ELOPED, CANDLE, and the speculative POLEDANCE.  I was unhappy with that last -- I thought it would be hyphenated or two separate words -- but since I was sure that sevens were there that I had not found I decided to chance it.

So did both contestants, amusingly, and we were all undone.  The Macquarie has POLE DANCING, and POLE DANCER, but does not list POLE DANCE as a verb; even if it did, it's pretty clear that it would have stuck to the two-word format.  So no swing, and fortunately for everyone's good humour there's no DANCEPOLE either.

David points out the simple CLEANED that would get the points.  I... really wish that I'd seen that.  On the other hand, that would have left me very unsure which way to jump -- an unanswered nine-letter word is a killer, so you really have to be sure that it's not valid to discount it .  So as far as mental wear-and-tear goes I was perhaps fortunate that I did not see it.

Some other sevens are ENLACED, DEPLANE / PANELED (acceptable US spelling), PEDOCAL (a type of soil), and CELADON (a shade of green; also a type of china with a light green colour).

Sam: [invalid]
Andy: [invalid]
Me: [invalid]

Scores: Sam 23, Andy 10, me 23

Round 5: F S M G I E O R M

Again, letters not quite coming together as well as one might like.  I found FIGS, FORGES, FOGIES, and EGOISM, but could not extract a seven from it.  There's FORE- and -FORM, but no seven arising.  (Chambers has MISFORM, but that's not in the Macquarie.)

Andy has the risky five of MORSE, but it turns out to be all right -- as an adjective describing anything related to morse code.  (And morse code itself has long ago lost any capital letter that it might have had.)  This is essentially irrelevant, though, as Sam has a six.

David has done well to find the seven of MEMOIRS.  The other seven that could have been found is the unusual MEGRIMS ("morbid low spirits").


Scores: Sam 29, Andy 10, me 29

Round 6: Target 126 from 25 8 2 2 1 9

Andy goes for one large, and the lack of mid-range smalls could make this a problem.  Once again, though, the target is very unchallenging and everyone finds 126 = (9 - 2 - 2)*25 + 1.  Lily has also found the alternate solution 126 = (8 - 1)*9*2.

Sam: 126
Andy: 126
Me: 126
Lily: 126

Scores: Sam 39, Andy 20, me 39

Second break: EVENT TAD ("Dispenses revenge")

'Dispenses' is a reference to the VEND of VENDETTA.

Round 7: T R S C U E I S N

Finally a very nice letter mix.  I found CRUST, CRUETS / TRUCES, INSURES, CRUSTIES (I wasn't sure that this would be there, but the Macquarie is very good at listing colloquialisms), and CURTNESS.  I couldn't find a nine, although I kept having to remind myself that INSTRUCTS was not in that mix.

Sam also has an eight of CURTSIES, while Andy's rather apt six is CURSES.  David very tersely remarks that he got CURTNESS, to general amusement once people catch on that he is speaking with curtness.

Some other eights in this mix are INCRUSTS, ENCRUSTS, CISTERNS, and CITRUSES / RICTUSES.


Scores: Sam 47, Andy 20, me 47

Round 8: Target 843 from 6 8 6 10 7 2

Andy decides to switch things up with "six wee ones".  I approve -- I've been thinking this week that I'd like to see that, as kind of a counterpoint to Sam's four large option.  Mostly, I like variety.  Of course, the drawback of six small is that the target is often unachievable (approximately one in six won't be solvable), and that is the case here -- the third unsolvable game of the week!

The dearth of odd numbers makes getting to an odd target difficult.  I had 842 = 7*6*10*2 + 8 - 6, but there's many variations of the idea.  Andy wasn't able to get anywhere with this, while Sam found another way to that 840 with 842 = (6 + 6)*7*10 + 2.  Both of our approaches used up that seven, though, which was obviously always going to cause issues.

It is possible to make the 840 while preserving the 7: 6*(6 + 8)*10... but the remaining 7 and 2 can't be manipulated into getting the required final 3.  (It could be done if the 7 were a 9 instead, with a bit of tweakage.)

Sam: 842
Andy: [no answer]
Me: 842
Lily: 842

Scores: Sam 54, Andy 20, me 54


And so, inevitably, down to the conundrum.  Sam blitzed this with a one-second solve, while I was way off the pace at the ten second mark.  I got there via INTERACT + Y, which triggered memories of a Countdown episode where a contestant needed an unanswered nine to have a chance... and pulled up this combination.  I'd only found INTERACT then, but he found the full monty and the game got interesting.

Andy: [no answer]

Final scores: Sam 64, Andy 20, me 54

Great stuff from Sam today; the nine had to be chanced once Andy went for it, but I think he might have risked it anyway.  Aside from that, Sam was just one letter off optimal, and the conundrum performance was super.  Andy had some good spots -- I did like LINEAR in the first round -- but was just consistently outdone in the letters rounds.  I very much like how Andy mixed things up in the numbers, and I wish we'd see more of that from contestants -- each mix has something to bring to the table, but we rarely get to see most of them.

My performance was essentially that of Sam's (although I wouldn't be surprised if he had found CLEANED); it just goes to show how close things are between Sam and myself.  Level all the way today, but his superior speed on the conundrums shows through.  I hope to level the scores on Monday.


Sam Gaffney said...

My letters performance was much better this game - after the close shave against Leanne, and a couple of poor words against Lewis, I had a strong coffee before playing Andy. The only downside was that between the caffeine and the adrenalin, I only managed about two hours of sleep before the next morning's episode, which I suspect led to a mistake in one round.

Andy was actually the contestant I was most worried about playing (Leanne downplayed herself until PRISONER emerged), and judging from his finding a false nine and nearly getting the optimal score in Round #8, I don't think his score reflected his ability. Perhaps he was playing along in the audience all day and tired himself out.

Round #1: I'd already found LANKIER, so I thought why give Andy a chance to find a seven with a better consonant? It's also worth going five vowels just to hear David Astle gripe!

Round #3: These easy heavyweight targets are killing me! I learned a bag of tricks for these which are completely going to waste - and I didn't do as well as I could have on the hard ones early in the week.

Round #4: I had seen CLEANED, but I was fairly confident about POLEDANCE. I would have played it regardless of Andy's answer. In fact, at this point, I wasn't even aware that contestants were allowed to write down multiple answers and declare which one they were using, I always crossed out all but one word that I had written. I find it interesting that Geoff, Andy, and me all found it, and all played it - Full Monties are rarely easy without -ING.

Round #5: I must have been having a good episode, because I could barely even find a six from my couch when watching this round on TV.

Round #7: I got CURTNESS and ENCRUSTS this time around, I didn't remember CURTSIES.

Round #8: I did it Geoff's way this time, Andy had the same answer in his head and started doing it my way, but made a mistake and got lost. I was glad when I checked a solver yesterday to find there was no better solution. It was a funny fifteen rounds of numbers this week: three impossible ones, and a stack of very easy ones.

Round #9: The letter 'Y' is the one I dread in a conundrum mix, but funnily enough, I got both TERRITORY and CERTAINTY quickly. When there is a 'Y' in a nine-letter word, it is at the end more than half the time.

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks for the glimpse into what was going on there, Sam. Very interesting! And I definitely agree about the Y in a conundrum; it is overwhelmingly likely to be at the end. In both cases I went down the rabbit hole of the -ITY ending, alas.

And you've had the weirdest luck with the numbers. *chuckles*

Mike Backhouse said...

8*25+6+100/50=208 (gulp...not the straightforward way)
PONCED (looks like I did a 'Steven Bradbury' here and ponced in with a win, because everyone else got it wrong!)
x used two R's
(2+2+1)*25+9-8=126 (noting that Andy used Sam's method, I thought I heard Sam say 'very clever' to him when comparing notes-I'm guessing they edit some funny asides that we don't get to see)
Geoff's way