Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Ep 347: James Bell, Ann Vasconcelos (December 27, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

There are two new contestants tonight, after Sam's successful (and possibly high-scoring) retirement.  Sitting in the champion's chair is James Bell, a computer forensic scientist and keen tramper.  Richard asks for clarification about whether being a tramper is different from being a bushwalker.  James explains that there is a difference, as bushwalking is done in Australia and tramping is done in New Zealand.  Since he does most of his bushwalking in New Zealand, he has to do tramping.

James has done a couple of "reasonable size" walks -- nothing over a week.  (His definition of 'reasonable' clearly differs from mine in this regard.)  He says that the Abel Tasman track is up to five days, and he has done the Milford walk as well.

Taking the challenger's chair tonight is Ann Vasconcelos, a strawberry packer.  Richard remarks -- and I admit I'd never considered this before -- that it is clearly a skilled job to get them looking so nice in the punnets.  How long does it take to learn those skills?  Ann has been doing it for about eleven years, at any rate.  She says that it is just like doing a jigsaw puzzle: You have to get the right shapes and sizes and weights, and it takes her about thirty seconds to do a punnet.

It is fairly close early on, but Ann does win four of the five letters rounds and the numbers rounds don't give James enough of a chance to catch up.  He was perhaps a bit unlucky in that regard, both in having less control over the numbers and that Ann's last word could well have been invalid (and wasn't nearly as solid as she appeared to think it was).  That would have kept him within range going into the conundrum; Ann solved it first in any case, winning 48 to 26.

I was much more relaxed over this game, and it started off pretty well.  Overall, in fact, there were just two single-letter drops as compared with David and Lily; the scoreline shows a larger difference because Ann did manage to do better on one of those rounds and the conundrum.  Aside from once more being too slow to solve the conundrum, this was a good round, and I'm back in winning territory again.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: D A G T E R E H S

I had GATED (thinking of the adjective sense, but the verb meaning is also allowable), GRATED, TRASHED / THREADS / HATREDS, and GATHERED.  There's not much to choose between a vowel or a consonant on that final letter, as GATHERED does not appear to be extendable to a nine.  The vowel would have been U, yielding the alternative eight of DAUGHTER.

Six from James, seven from Ann, and David has found the eight.  The other eight from this mix is HEADREST.


Scores: James 0, Ann 0 (7), me 8

Round 2: D N U I B C E N L

An unpromising set, and I might well have gone chasing after an O for BOUNCED.  As it was, I had BIND, BINNED, and UNLINED.

Ann has a five, but James has gained back ground with the lovely find of NUBILE; David goes one better again with INCLUDE.

Two other sevens in this mix are an anagram of INCLUDE, NUCLIDE (also NUCLEIDE: "an atomic species which is characterised by its mass number, atomic number, and energy state"), and NUCLEIN ("any of several proteins found in all living cell nuclei").


Scores: James 0 (6), Ann 0 (7), me 15

Round 3: Target 345 from 3 4 3 6 5 6

James kicks things off with six small, and I heartily approve.  The numbers are all midrange; this could be troublesome but fortunately the target is not that large.  Noting the divisibilty by five is pretty easy, and the quotient is 69.  That's pretty close to 72 which is a very formable number, and in short order I had 345 = 5*(3*4*6 - 3).  There's other tweakage options based around 3*4*5*6 being 360, such as 345 = 3*(4*5*6 - 3) - 6.

Ann is nowhere near while James has declared 343; unfortunately the calculation he gives is (6*5 + 3)*(6 + 4) + 3... which is 333, and out of range in any case.  So no points for either contestant.

Lily had a furrowed brow and a demeanour that suggested that she was going to ask for thinking time over the break, but then she demonstrated a solution using the 5*69 approach: 345 = ((6 + 4)*6 + 3*3)*5.

James: [invalid]
Ann: [not in range]
Me: 345
Lily: 345

Scores: James 0 (6), Ann 0 (7), me 25

First break: TAPE TELL ("For blood, not dinner")

An easy anagram to PLATELET.

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

Round 4: K T I R D O A T E

An unfortunate start with the K, but the rest of the letters are common.  Turn that final T into an S and we get the very familiar ASTEROID once more.  As it was, I had DIRT, ADROIT (which turns up moderately often), and ROTATED.  I couldn't find an eight even in extra thinking time; DIKTAT is valid, but there's no DIKTATOR.

Six from James, while Ann has the seven of DOTTIER; it needs checking, but it's there.  David has gone with the somewhat safer ROTATED.

Two eights that could have been found are the similar KERATOID ("resembling a horn") and TERATOID ("resembling a monster"); that second one in particular seems worth remembering.


Scores: James 0 (6), Ann 7 (14), me 32

Round 5: M I E O R L I S W

I had RIME / MIRE, MOIRE, MOREL, OILIER, and LORIES.  I kept coming back to MOILERS, but that seemed a nonsense.

Once more James is a letter behind Ann, and at fourteen points adrift he has some catching up to do.  David has found a pair of sevens here: SLIMIER, and LOWRIES.  The first was quite findable when checking for comparatives (I missed it, obviously, but should not have).  The second, however... the Macquarie lists LOWRY ("any of various rosellas") but does not give the plural explicitly; since a spelling shift is involved, by the show's own rules it would not be allowed.  It feels a bit problematic for David to be mentioning words which would not be valid.

The word which kept nagging at me -- MOILERS -- turns out to be valid.  MOILER is listed under the entry for MOIL ("to work hard; toil; drudge").  I think it's just coincidence that I was drawn to it so much, because I certainly don't recall ever encountering it before.

I probably wouldn't have gone for a fourth vowel, but once that was done I think I would have gone for another at the end, hoping for an A for MORALISE.  (Successfully, as it turns out.)  On the plus side, choosing that fourth vowel did keep the second R out of play, avoiding the issue with LORRIES.  (Although WORRIES would have been OK.  And I am disappointed that the Macquarie does not have LORIMERS, a fine word learned from Countdown.  LORIMER or LORINER: "a maker of the metal parts of a horse-harness", according to my Chambers.)

James: WORMS
David: SLIMIER, LOWRIES (should not score)

Scores: James 0 (6), Ann 13 (20), me 38

Round 6: Target 218 from 25 100 10 9 10 3

Ann declines to repeat James' choice of six small, going for the safe mix instead.  The target is nice and low, and my first thought is dividing by two, leading me to the solution 218 = (3 - 10/10)*(100 + 9).  Looking at multiples of 25 in the remaining time allowed me to easily find 218 = 9*25 - (10 - 3).

Ann has 225, but James has got his way to the target with the second of those solutions; this puts him only four behind in a low-scoring but close game.

Lily has found yet another solution, with 218 = 100 + 25 + 3 + 9*10.

James: 218
Ann: 225
Me: 218
Lily: 218

Scores: James 10 (16), Ann 13 (20), me 48

Second break: POSH TWIN ("A city on land, not water")

A mildly punny clue for TOWNSHIP.

Round 7: R A S N O E C P U

I was willing for the final letter to be called as a vowel (it was) and more specifically for it to be an I (it was not), as I had seen the potential for PROSCENIA to make a reappearance.  I'm very disappointed about it not cooperating.  As it was, I had ROANS, REASON, POUNCES, wondered about POUNCERS, and PERSONA.  After consideration, I decided that POUNCERS was not a plausible word and stayed with a seven.

Both contestants declare eights; James' choice of RESPONSE is doubly invalid due to using both the E and the S twice.  Ann, on the other hand, has cheerily gone for POUNCERS.  David checks the spelling with her, and then agrees that the meaning of "one who pounces" is acceptable.

That's hardly the whole story, though -- to get that we have to dig a little deeper.  The first meaning of POUNCE is the expected one, with the idea of an animal (particularly a bird) swooping or springing onto something.  The Macquarie does not allow this to have a POUNCER continuation.

The second meaning of POUNCE is an interesting one; to POUNCE can be to emboss metal by hammering it against an object on the reverse side.  I think I did this in middle-school crafts once, although not by that name.  This, also, does not admit POUNCER.

The third (and last) meaning of POUNCE as a verb is "to sprinkle, smooth, or prepare with pounce", where in this definition 'pounce' means a fine powder once used to prevent the spread of ink when writing.  A somewhat obsolete word these days, but the key point is that this sense of the word does list POUNCER as a valid entry.  So while the meaning of "one who pounces" is still the same, that glosses over the fact of which meaning of 'pounce' is being used.

So I was both correct to dismiss POUNCERS -- in the sense that the meaning I ascribed to it was not listed -- and incorrect, as it turned out to have an acceptable other meaning.  I feel that Ann got lucky on this one; nonetheless, it was interesting to find out about these other meanings for 'pounce' that I had not yet encountered.

David has found the much safer (and nicer) NACREOUS ("having a lustre resembling that of a pearl").

James: [invalid]

Scores: James 10 (16), Ann 21 (28), me 48

Round 8: Target 356 from 100 50 6 3 3 1

Ann sticks with the safe mix, and holding a lead of more than a conundrum's worth that is sensible.  I homed in on that 50 and found 356 = (6 + 1)*50 + 3 + 3; then I noticed how complacent the contestants were looking, and saw (still within time) the more straightforward 356 = 3*100 + 50 + 6.  This is the solution that everyone else used.  That gives Ann an unbeatable lead going into the conundrum, although that would not have been the case if POUNCERS had been invalid in the previous round.

James: 356
Ann: 356
Me: 356
Lily: 356

Scores: James 20 (26), Ann 31 (38), me 58


My conundrum hoodoo continues; the W is clearly the letter to focus on, but I wander down unprofitable lines like WEST END and ENSTEWED.  Ann buzzes in at the 10 second mark, and I see the solution two seconds later.  There's something very clarifying when the pressure goes off...

James: [no answer]
Ann: SWEETENED (10s)

Final scores: James 20 (26), Ann 41 (48), me 58

James seemed likely to be better on the numbers -- I may be biased here because I always like to see the six small selection -- but couldn't use that to full advantage and fell too far behind on the letters.  Ann had some good finds in the letters rounds, but looked vulnerable on the numbers.  It will be interesting to see how she fares tomorrow.

It was a decent game for me, although I was much slower on the conundrum than I would have liked -- which is pretty much always the case, admittedly.  I was beaten on two of the rounds by David, but as it turns out in both cases I had seen (and written down) a valid word of matching length that I rejected.  I was still outdone, but need not have been.  (That's more useful in a head-to-head situation, where it's possible to adjust the selection based on an opponent's declaration.)  After the tension of those games with Sam it was nice to have a more relaxed game, and I feel more in form as a result.

No comments: