Friday, 6 January 2012

Ep 354: Kerin White, David Armstrong (January 5, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

Maybe it's just coincidence, but after SBS sorted out their issues with the previous episode on the website, I actually managed to get this current one in appropriate time (i.e., no freezes or timeouts).  Hopefully this signifies something having been fixed, as opposed to a once-off fluke.

Kerin has two sons, aged eleven and thirteen, and they like to compete against her when they all watch Letters and Numbers.  When they beat her, particularly on the numbers, they certainly let her know.

Tonight's challenger is David Armstrong, a traffic controller and competitive pool player.  He's been playing competitive pool for around six years and enjoys playing in the Victorian pool competitions.  His team won a grand final "last week" in the Eastern District Pool League.  (It's a bit difficult to find results properly given online; his team is the Manhattan Eightball Club, but I don't know which division he was referring to.)

David adds that he feels very fortunate because in Victoria they have some of the best pool players in the world and you can just go down to a local pub, meet a world-class player, and learn something from them.

It's a bit of a messy game today; no contestant gets longer than six in the letters rounds (admittedly two of them were just that hard), and the target is only reached once in the numbers.  Kerin gets off to a fast start, and is up by twenty-two points after the first three rounds.  David manages to get a little back at the end, but it's too little too late, and Kerin's excellent conundrum solution rounds out her victory, 56 to 31.

I felt somewhat off my game today, although in retrospect I did mostly keep up.  The two letters rounds where I dropped a point (relative to David) were quite gettable, so that makes them stand out more.  The conundrum eluded me within regulation time as well, but I was still enough ahead by that point to take the win.

Obviously David Armstrong's name is going to cause difficulties in the following, as I can't even use initials to distinguish between him and David Astle.  (It's a minor relief that he did not win, although that's selfish of me.)  I'll be resolving this by using David Astle's full name in the following.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: P D W R E O C D A

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog to know that I hate leaving that final vowel to last; it takes away all the flexibility.  Fortunately it was an A and nothing goes begging.  (Suppose it had instead been an I (and chosen earlier): With PDWREOIC on the board, another vowel aiming for PERIODIC or RECOPIED is an option worth considering.)

As it was, I had DREW, POWDER, WARPED, and CROWDED.  The contestants both go for sixes, but David's choice of WOOPED uses a phantom second O and is invalid besides.

David Astle has navigated his way surely to CROWDED.  Two other sevens in this mix are DEWDROP and DECAPOD.

David: [invalid]
David Astle: CROWDED

Scores: Kerin 0 (6), David 0, me 7

Round 2: S C T R E U I E B

I flailed fairly badly on this one.  In the end I only found SECT, CRUETS / TRUCES, and CRUISE.  (Note that I missed CREST in the first five.)  Just after time I saw BUSTIER (the garment, not the comparative) for seven.

This time I dislike the early choice of that fourth vowel, and I think that a sixth consonant was a better option here.  The magic result would have been an M for CRUMBIEST, but the N would have given TURBINES / TRIBUNES for eight.

I know that I frequently complain about the choices contestants make, and sometimes I'll excoriate them for choosing a fourth vowel, while at others I'll think that they should have chosen one.  My ideas about when to do this have been crystallising somewhat, and I may write a post about that some day.  Very loosely speaking, I think that there are two times to choose a fourth vowel: When the existing vowels are extremely unhelpful (which basically means a duplication and no E -- three separate vowels give a lot of leeway), or when the consonants are a very well-meshing bunch  In this instance, there are three distinct vowels -- including an E -- and the consonants are decent but not quite good enough together; thus, time for another consonant.

Kerin once again has a six, while David has a five.  There were lots of sixes in this mix, so that's an early danger sign for him.

David Astle wanted CUTESIER, but it's not listed (although CUTESY is) so he goes back to the seven of RECITES.

An anagram of CUTESIER is CERUSITE, which my Chambers lists as an alternate spelling of CERUSSITE (lead carbonate).  The Macquarie only has the latter spelling, however.  There are some other sevens in this mix, but my favourite is SUBERIC ("of or relating to cork").

David: CREST

Scores: Kerin 6 (12), David 0, me 13

Round 3: Target 499 from 50 25 1 5 3 6

Getting to 500 and subtracting that 1 is the obvious idea; there's a few ways to do that, the most obvious being to make a 10 and multiply that by the 50.  I went with 499 = 50*6*5/3 - 1, which is also the solution that Lily used.

David was one off with 500; presumably this was 500 = 50*(6 + 5 - 1), and it's good that he wrote down a close answer even if he didn't get to the target.  Some people forget to do this and lose valuable points that they might have otherwise gained.  In this case, however, Kerin has got there, finding another way to make the 10: 499 = (25 - 5*3)*50 - 1.  That puts the scores at 22 to 0, and David has a ton of work to do to recover from this position.

I'll note another option, getting to the 500 piecemeal: 499 = (5 + 3)*25 + 6*50 - 1.

Kerin: 499
David: 500
Me: 499
Lily: 499

Scores: Kerin 16 (22), David 0, me 23

First break: DIRE REAP ("Back together after a breakup")

Easy to get REPAIRED from that.

David Astle's talk is about the words 'oriental' and 'occidental'.

Round 4: N R S L A O A H J

Testing out my theory: With those duplicated vowels and no E it was time to choose a fourth vowel.  It would have been an E, allowing some easy sevens (such as LOANERS and ARSENAL).  The J is a fairly bad result as far as consonants go, mind you; there's quite a selection of consonants that would have allowed a seven, and a W for NARWHALS would have been very welcome.

I had SNARL, LOANS, wondered about HALONS, SALON, and NASAL.  I eventually decided against HALONS; whether it would have been accepted is unclear.  It makes as much sense as ERBIUMS, which has been accepted before as the show has a fairly lenient attitude to plurals.  So perhaps I should have gone with it... but I've simplified my scoring this way.

It's fives from the contestants, and no shame in that; this is a very tough mix.  David Astle has come up with the six of JONAHS, where JONAH is "a person regarded as bringing bad luck"; this is yet another instance of a proper name being generalised, genericised, and downcased, like 'goliath' and others that we've seen before.  Interestingly, JONAH is also given a verb sense of "to jinx", so both JONAHED and JONAHING should be acceptable if they ever arise.

There are some other sixes to be found; the one that I feel I should have seen is RAJAHS.  In the realm of uncertain plurals we can add ALOHAS and LORANS (LORAN: "a long-range radionavigation position fixing system [...]").  Less open to dispute are LAHARS (LAHAR: "a mudflow containing a great amount of volcanic matter") and ASHLAR (also ASHLER; "a squared block of building stone, finished or rough").  I'll further note that although ASHLAR is not a verb, there is a specific entry for ASHLARING / ASHLERING.

Kerin: LOANS
David: SHORN
David Astle: JONAHS

Scores: Kerin 21 (27), David 5, me 28

Round 5: N R S P E O I T F

The first eight letters of this round end up being very familiar.  I had PENS, SPORE, PRISON, SPRINT, and POINTERS / PROTEINS.  The F was no help here; in fact I was willing a vowel to be called -- by my theory above, it's an OK time for that fourth vowel as all the consonants are working well with each other -- hoping for an E for INTERPOSE.  An A would have allowed PATRONISE, and the actual U would have led to ERUPTIONS.

It's only sixes from each contestant -- the same one, in fact -- and that's a lost opportunity.  Some of the missed sevens are PROFITS, SNIFTER, RIPOSTE, and ORIENTS.

David Astle: POINTERS

Scores: Kerin 21 (33), David 5 (11), me 36

Round 6: Target 896 from 75 25 100 2 10 7

David goes for a balanced mix, and I think this is the one I find most difficult.  There's not that much leeway with the small numbers, and missing the fourth large number removes most of the interesting options of the four-large mix.  Fortunately the standard approach works, once the right choice is made of methods to get to 900.  I had 896 = (10 + 2)*75 - 100/25.  This is also Lily's solution.

The contestants are each one away (in different directions); Kerin has 895 = 100*10 - (75 + 25) - (7 - 2), while David has 897 = (7 + 2)*100 - 75/25.

Note that the target is 7*128, which leads to another solution: 896 = 7*(100 + 10*75/25 - 2).

Kerin: 895
David: 897
Me: 896
Lily: 896

Scores: Kerin 21 (40), David 5 (18), me 46

Second break: RAIL TEAM ("Madonna lived in this world")

A clear reference to the MATERIAL girl.

Round 7: L H S D U A O T A

It's understandable to go chasing after an E -- there's several easy sevens with it -- but I was hoping at the time for a consonant, and more specifically an N for THOUSAND (although SOUTHLAND would have been better).  The theory suggests a consonant here, since we already have three distinct vowels and the consonants aren't fully compatible.  I had HAULS and SHOULD, and pondered OUTDASH (rightly rejecting it).  Much later I realised that what had been nagging at me during his round was an anagram of OUTDASH: The name of a character from Dune, SHADOUT Mapes.

Sixes from everyone, and I do wish we could have found out what the next consonant was.  Oh, well.  David is now too far behind to catch up; he really needed to get an advantage in this round, but it just wasn't possible.


Scores: Kerin 27 (46), David 11 (24), me 52

Round 8: Target 853 from 25 75 50 9 5 7

David sticks with the balanced option, and it serves up a very tricky set.  Getting close is not too hard; I started with 855 = (9 + 7)*50 + 75 - 25 + 5, then went one better with a different approach: 854 = 7*(75 + 50) - 25 + 9 - 5.  The desire is to get to 850 and use 75/25 for the final three, but it just doesn't work out.

Kerin has 855, while David has just managed to get closer with 852 = (25 + 75)*9 - 50 + 7 - 5.  But it's Lily who dazzles with the solution 853 = (9 + 7)*(50 + 75/25) + 5.  Bravo!

On the SBS website, commenter Philip from Sydney gives another solution; more importantly, he has explained how he found it, and I reproduce his excellent description here:
Congratulations to Lily for cracking the tricky final numbers game, and to contestant David for his one-off-the-target answer. The game was: 25 75 50 9 5 7 target 853. As we know, the large numbers have restricted options for their use. One possible manipulation is the conversion of 75 to 15 when a 5 is present (75/5=15). The nearest 100 to the target (853) is 900, and it is reasonable to know that 15x60=900. There is a 59 staring at us in the central two numbers. So, 15x(50+9)=885. Hmm, that’s 32 above the target and as luck would have it, there is a spare 25 and 7. An alternative solution becomes: (75/5)x(50+9)-(25+7) = 853. In short, spotting 75/5=15 can be rewarding.
His point about getting 15 from 75/5 is very true, and it's definitely something that should be kept in mind.  It's been of use a few times this series so far.

Kerin: 855
David: 852
Me: 854
Lily: 853

Scores: Kerin 27 (46), David 18 (31), me 59


A tricky conundrum, and I was way off the pace.  Kerin does well to see this a mere five seconds in; I paused and started a timer, eventually finding the solution at the 45 second mark -- well outside allowed time.

Kerin: DRAGONFLY (5s)
David: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Kerin 37 (56), David 18 (31), me 59

Another good conundrum solution for Kerin -- that's two tough ones in a row that she has solved.  David was unable to best her in the letters, nor able to make up ground on the numbers.  Kerin deservedly wins this game, but does look vulnerable.  If she can make it to the conundrum and still be in contention, though, I'm sure these two games will give her a lot of confidence there.

Overall this was a decent game for me, despite four misses.  Really, the only one that hurts is RAJAHS; BUSTIER I was just a bit too slow on, but at least I saw it; Lily's 853 was a great find that I would have love to have seen but am not too fussed about missing; and the conundrum was a tough one.  Roll on tomorrow, and hopefully the viewer problems will continue to be solved.


Sam Gaffney said...

My answers:

499 = (5*6/3)*50 - 1
898 = 100x10 - 75-25-2 [c]
854 = 7*(75 + 50) - 25 + 9 - 5
DRAGONFLY - 5s [d]

[a] BUSTIER the comparative.
[b] My wife called out ALOHAS, but I can't claim that. Not sure if it would be legal or not.
[c] Aforementioned helpful wife was making a lot of noise and being quite a distraction at this point, I didn't see the answer until after 30 seconds +. I wished Steve from security had been around. I might not have solved it in time anyway, though, tried too many wrong paths first.
[d] paused and solved just after Kerin buzzed in.

Some dreadful vowel mixes tonight, and awkward 3-3 number combos.

Geoff Bailey said...

I'll just note (as I've already mentioned to Sam in a private conversation) that BUSTIER as a comparative is not listed in the Macquarie. So if it ever turns up, BUSTIEST will not be valid. (Although then we could always hope for an L for SUBTITLES.)

Sam Gaffney said...

Two-syllable adjectives ending in -y are almost always extendable to -IER and -IEST. Rhyming examples: dusty, gusty, lusty, musty, rusty.

I can't see why BUSTY would be an exception, I suspect that this a mistake/oversight by Macquarie.

Mike Backhouse said...

x CUTESIER (grrrr...not in Macquarie)
Lily's way
David's way (1 off)
(5+7)*75-50=850 (3 off)
x Karen was quick here. Should have paused it.