Saturday, 31 December 2011

Ep 350: Sebastian Ham, Nathan Dixon (December 30, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

Tonight we find out that Sebastian is one of the vocalists in a rap group called Warcry; Richard asks if it involves a lot of planned lyric writing, or whether it is spontaneous.  Sebastian responds that it is the former, and involves "quite a lot of words... big, long pages of words."

Tonight's challenger is Nathan Dixon, a fibre-optic cable joiner.  Apparently his sister Natalie was on the show a while back; Nathan remarks that Letters and Numbers is important to them, as is family, but beating his little sister is more important to him.

There's not a lot to choose between the two contestants in this game.  There's only one letters round of difference (where Sebastian finds a good seven), and Nathan slips further behind in the second numbers game only to regain the ground on the third.  It's anyone's game going into the conundrum, and when Nathan buzzes in at the six second mark it looks like he will win.  But he says he made a mistake, and can only sit there ruing that early press as time ticks away.  I don't know if he found it in the remaining time -- I think he might have, but the body language isn't clear -- but Sebastian seals the result by finding the answer, literally in the last second.  Sebastian gets his third win, 58 to 41.

I had a mostly good game, but it was just a few seconds short of being exceptional, or indeed (as far as I can tell) optimal.  One off the pace in each of three letters rounds, in each case seeing the best answer a few seconds either side of time running out.  It was more than enough for a comprehensive win.

As usual, details after the break.

Round 1: N T E S I G E C R

The -ING makes an appearance early, and I started collecting the other letters to the side in the hopes of using it.  I was wanting an L at the end for SELECTING, but the final R did just as well.  I had NEST / NETS / TENS, TINES / STEIN, TEEING, and finally SECRETING.

Both contestants have sevens -- RESTING and STINGER -- and while it's good to see the -ING being decently used there were some very findable eights both with and without it.  Nathan remarks that his was a "safe" seven, but we don't find out what the risky play would have been.

David was thinking along the exact same lines as I was, hoping for the L, but using the R just as well.

An alternative nine is RESECTING, a surgical term for cutting away.  Some of the many eights here are: (with -ING) CRESTING, STEERING, and ERECTING; (without -ING) INTEGERS, ENTICERS, GENETICS, and GENERICS.

Sebastian: RESTING

Scores: Sebastian 0 (7), Nathan 0 (7), me 18

Round 2: D A N L U S I O R

I'd have been tempted to try a fifth vowel for the E and DELUSION, but as it was I had LAND, LANDS, ISLAND, and DURIANS.  At the last moment I found DINOSAUR, but only managed to get half of it written down before time ran out.  That word turned up not so long ago, in episode 322.  After time I also found LARDONS, scoring less but an interesting word (variant spelling of LARDOONS: "strips of larding fat [...] threaded into meat, poultry and game").

It's sixes from each contestant, and David is as accurate as ever with his find of DINOSAUR.

There's a few sevens here, of which my favourite is SUNDIAL.  Two other eights, both with possible religious meanings, are ORDINALS (one meaning of ORDINAL being "a book containing the forms for the ordination of priests, consecration of bishops, etc.") and DIURNALS (one meaning of DIURNAL being "a service-book containing offices for the daily hours of prayer").

Sebastian: ISLAND
Nathan: DRAINS

Scores: Sebastian 0 (13), Nathan 0 (13), me 25

Round 3: Target 126 from 25 100 9 9 5 7

A very easy target for those numbers; everyone finds 126 = 100 + 25 + 9/9 in short order.  In a call back to my first numbers round in episiode 325 I also found 126 = 7*(9 + 9).

Sebastian: 126
Nathan: 126
Me: 126
Lily: 126

Scores: Sebastian 10 (23), Nathan 10 (23), me 35

First break: HERB RATE ("When your lungs take a break")

An easy clue for BREATHER.

David's talk is about the words 'holiday' and 'vacation', and some variants on the latter such as 'daycation'.  He provides many examples, but does not mention what I thought was the best known one of the holiday at home, the staycation.

Round 4: P E O C T A U S N

There's some amusement here as Nathan accidentally calls for an I on the sixth letter, instead of a vowel -- it's a shame it wasn't actually an I.  I found COPE, CAPOTE (a type of cloak), STANCE (somehow I did not think to make CAPOTES), and POUNCES, which we had a mere three games ago.  Just after time ran out I saw OUTPACES.

Fives from each contestant this time, while David once again has found the eight that I was a fraction too slow on.

There's quite a few other sevens to be found -- I'll mention TEACUPS, TOECAPS, PEANUTS, and TOUCANS -- but the other eight here is CAPSTONE.

Sebastian: COPES
Nathan: CAUSE

Scores: Sebastian 10 (28), Nathan 10 (28), me 42

Round 5: M D E I P G E S A

I would have tried a final consonant here, hoping for an N to bring -ING to play again (in this case, with SPEEDING).  It wouldn't have worked, however, and the A helped Sebastian a lot as it turns out.

I had DIME, IMPEDE, and IMPEDES.  Nathan has a five, but Sebastian has finally broken away with MAGPIES, a word that David has found a few times before, most recently in episode 325 again.  Not surprisingly, he's found it this time, too.

That result finally splits the contestants as Sebastian goes seven ahead.

Sebastian: MAGPIES
Nathan: PAGES

Scores: Sebastian 17 (35), Nathan 10 (28), me 49

Round 6: Target 285 from 50 100 9 8 9 2

We had this target yesteday, but with much different numbers.  I found the solution 285 = 8*(50 - 2) - 100 + 9/9; a variant of the same idea, possibly easier to see, is 285 = 2*(100 + 50 - 8) + 9/9.

Nathan is four away with 289 -- I'll guess that this was 289 = 8*50 - 100 - 9 - 2; if so he could have adjusted this fairly simply to one away with 284 = 8*50 - 100 - 9 - 9 + 2.  But Sebastian is only three away with 282 = (8 - 2)*50 - 9 - 9, and extends his lead.

Lily has found what feels like an unusual solution of 285 = (100 + 9)*2 + 50 + 9 + 8.

Sebastian: 282
Nathan: 289
Me: 285
Lily: 285

Scores: Sebastian 17 (42), Nathan 10 (28), me 59

Second break: TERN VINE ("A new idea... again")

Easy enough to find REINVENT from that clue.

Round 7: M O C I R D E U K

A third letters round where I see a better result right after time ran out.  I just need to be that tiny bit faster... I had MICRO, pondered MOIRED (would have been invalid), MOCKED, considered DUCKIER (rightly rejecting it), and then saw the -IUM but the only element I could find was CERIUM.

Just after time ran out I found MUCKIER, and it's a bit disappointing that I didn't find it right after considering DUCKIER.  A bit later I also found DORMICE.

Sixes from both contestants -- there are a great many of them -- and David stays on top of his game with a pair of sevens.

Sebastian: MOCKED
Nathan: ROCKED

Scores: Sebastian 23 (48), Nathan 16 (34), me 65

Round 8: Target 635 from 75 10 8 3 2 9

Nathan names this choice after a friend, who is a "big tall mate of [Nathan] with five hairs on his head".  He needs a little help from his friend, because he must outdo Sebastian here to have a chance.

The clarity of the single large mix is that the large number is almost certainly going to be multiplied in, so in this case we either want 35 away from 8*75, or 40 away from 9*75.  I focused on the latter, and found 635 = 9*75 - 8*10/2, or 635 = 9*75 - 8*(2 + 3).  Still within time, I thought that I could avoid multiplying by 75, and found 635 = 75 + 10*8*(9 - 2).

Sebastian is three away again with 632 -- I'll guess it was 632 = 8*75 + 3*10 + 2 -- but Nathan has given himself a chance by getting one closer.  His choice is 633 = 9*75 - (3 + 2)*10 + 8.  Lily points out that Nathan is going to kick himself, as replacing the 10 with the 8 gets him right to the target (this is the second of the solutions I listed).

Still, it's seven much needed points for Nathan, bringing him within striking distance of victory.  Even if he had gotten exactly to the target the situation would have been the same, so he hasn't lost out on much.

Sebastian: 632
Nathan: 633
Me: 635
Lily: 635

Scores: Sebastian 23 (48), Nathan 6 (41), me 75


Reversing the two halves of DUDE made the answer leap out to me within the first second; I've no idea why I decided to try that, but it worked.  Nathan buzzes in after six seconds, but then reports that he was wrong; that's a sad way to bow out of the game.  The clock is restarted and Nathan gives a little shake of his head at around the 15 to 20 second mark that might indicate that he'd seen the actual answer but can't do anything about it now.  Or it could be general regret about the situation.

Sebastian managed to buzz in just barely before the time ran out -- he was definitely in the last second -- and has the answer correct.  That puts a little more separation into the score, but I'm sure he thought he'd lost it when Nathan buzzed in.

Sebastian: DEDUCTION (30s)
Nathan: [invalid] (6s)

Final scores: Sebastian 23 (58), Nathan 6 (41), me 85

A close game tonight, and it was nice to see the numbers rounds make a difference.  Either contestant could have won the game in those, and it was certainly manageable.  Sebastian did very well to find MAGPIES in round 5, and in the end that would have been enough to give him the victory; the last-moment conundrum solve put the icing on the cake, as it were.

It was a good game for me, with a fast conundrum solution and seeing the full monty in today's mix.  Three rounds and a few seconds in each would have turned good into great, which is also nice (although obviously not as nice as having found those better options within time).  The result is my high score of the series, although I have had higher from one of the series three games.


Sam Gaffney said...

My answers:

(9+5)x9 = 126
(100+50-8)x2 + 9/9 = 285
9x75 - 10x8/2 = 635

[a] I found SECRETING as the contestants were declaring their answers.

Geoff Bailey said...

An unanswered nine really is a killer in this game; I'm not sure how I feel about that as far as scoring goes. The effect would be ameliorated in the longer version that Countdown uses.

Karen Anderson said...

Geoff, wow, I am so impressed by your finds for both the letters and the numbers puzzles. I am not nearly as good with the letters although I hold my own with the numbers and generally solve most of them. Once, for fun, I tried writing my answers down however I found using the pen and paper was a great distraction. Doing it mentally while watching the show is what I quite enjoy.

Geoff Bailey said...

Glad to see you back, Karen, and thank you for your kind comments. I agree that writing down the answers can be a bit distracting; fortunately, it's one of those things that does get better with practice, as I'm sure you can imagine.

On the other hand, I find that writing the letters down (as they are being read out) is greatly helpful to me, as I can clump them differently. I find a more compact form much easier to work with than a single straight line.