Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ep 370: John O'Connor, Colin Shnier (January 27, 2012)

Richard asks John what he finds so satisfying about teaching really young children.  (There's more behind this question than is apparent at this point, but we'll get to that soon.)  John responds that the big satisfaction as a primary school teacher is to see massive changes in children over the course of a single year.  His example is that if you can get a child reading well then it affects not only their English performance, but they are able to use it in maths and everything else.

Tonight's challenger is Colin Shnier, a secondary school mathematics teacher.  Richard follows on from his question to John by asking Colin what he finds appealing about teaching to older children.  Colin starts with some minor trash-talk about the first requirement being to fix what John (and his colleagues) have done; fortunately he is not serious, nor does anyone take him as such.  Actually answering the question, Colin says that the continuation of that growth that John talked about is quite beautiful; Colin adds that he really loves working with teenagers because you get such an honesty of the feedback -- you can see immediately how they are thinking and feeling.

It's another close game tonight, with the letters rounds being a little parsimonious and the numbers serving up some difficult targets.  Colin takes the lead in the first round, John gets some back and then loses that ground again in the middle rounds, and finally in the last letters round John finds a good word to hit the lead for the first time, by a single point.  But Colin retakes the lead in the ensuing numbers round, and with neither solving the conundrum that makes Colin the winner by 44 points to 35.

I did as well as possible on the letters tonight (I believe) but once again missed a number solution that I should have found.  I solved the conundrum relatively quickly, and overall it was a good game that was just short of being excellent.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: F M L D I E I N H

I had MILD, FILMED, wondered about MIDLINE (it is not valid), and settled on INFIELD.  After time, while checking up on INFIELD and MIDLINE I encountered the nearby words INFIDEL and MIDLIFE.

That H really is a spoiler; it's OK to go for a consonant (I had seen the possibility of MIDFIELD when the fifth consonant was called) as there are several that yield eights, but the H is not one of them.  That said, the duplication in the vowels makes another vowel very tempting, and once the N went up I did want a final E for MINEFIELD.  It would have been an A instead, leading to the eight of INFLAMED.  (Only an O does not lead to an eight -- U gives UNFILMED, and I the rather unusual MINIFIED.)

John has found FILMED, but Colin has the better result of INFIELD.  David notes INFIDEL.


Scores: John 0, Colin 7, me 7

Round 2: C R A D S E R Y O

I had CARD, CARDS, SCARED, SCARRED, and DROSERA.  I went with the former, fortunately, as it turns out that the Macquarie does not list DROSERA (it's a genus of insectivorous plants, the sundews; Chambers and the OED list it -- I encountered it in an episode of Countdown).  After time I also found RECORDS and CARDERS.

Both contestants have sevens, Colin with RECORDS and John with the nice find of COARSER.  David went with SCARRED, noting along the way that SCAREDY would not be valid because it only appears as part of a larger term ('scaredy-cat') and not in its own right.  That's the same reason that 'cabernet' would not be allowed on the show, as the Macquarie rather oddly only lists "cabernet franc" and "cabernet sauvignon", but not 'cabernet' on its own.  (I mention this word because I once found it in series three, beating David's choice of 'cabinet'; it wasn't until I got a Macquarie to look at that I found out that I had not outdone him after all.  Alas.)

Some other sevens are SORCERY, ADORERS, YARDERS, and CORREAS (CORREA being a type of shrub).


Scores: John 7, Colin 14, me 14

Round 3: Target 841 from 50 100 25 4 1 2

John goes for the balanced option again, and I'll note that Lily chooses the small numbers from the same locations as she has been doing this week.  This trend continues.

The target is tricky; I recognised it as the square of 29, but while one 29 was easy (25 + 4) getting another did not seem feasible.  I went with the standard approach plus a little tweakage to get one away, and so did each of the contestants: 842 = 2*4*(100 - 1) + 50.

I spent some time afterward trying to get the target exactly, without success.  I noted that if the 4 were a 3 then it would be possible with 841 = (25*(100 + 1) - 2)/3, but that's not much use.  Eventually I gave up, and looked to see how Lily fared.

Lily wasn't able to get there either, and when she comes back after the break she still hasn't managed it.  Definitely a tough one tonight!

After using a solver to check that a solution was actually possible, I eventually found the answer: 841 = 25*50 - 4*(100 + 2) - 1.  This turns out to be the only solution.

John: 842
Colin: 842
Me: 842

Scores: John 14, Colin 21, me 21

First break: DUPE RICE ("Remedy for the feet")

The clues really do make this much easier; I didn't see it without the clue, but 'feet' easily led to PEDICURE.

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

Round 4: T C L M T A U E O

I was hoping that final vowel would be an A or U (for MACULATE or CUMULATE).  As it was, I had CLAM, TACT, MULCT, LOCATE, TALCUM, and -- courtesy of Angie two days ago -- CALUMET.

Colin stays with a safe five of METAL (I wonder what his risky play was -- CAMELOT?  OUTCAME?) but John has found CATTLE for six to get back within a point.  David has recalled CALUMET, as expected; John was around for that game and Colin should have been in the audience, so they had an equal chance to find it.

There are some other sevens in this mix: MULATTO, MATELOT (colloquial for a sailor), TOLUATE ("a salt or ester of toluic acid"), and CALOTTE ("a plain skullcap, as that worn by Roman Catholic ecclesiasticals").

Colin: METAL

Scores: John 14 (20), Colin 21, me 28

Round 5: C R T H A U A Q E

I had CHART, QUART, TRUCE, and RACQUET.  I was quite pleased with that find in a moderately unhelpful mix.  After time I noted CURATE, which is a word I have had trouble seeing at other times when it would have been useful (in Countdown episodes).

This time it is John with a five -- the rather appropriate TEACH -- while Colin has the six of CURATE.  David has also found RACQUET.

The other sevens available here are TRACHEA, CHATEAU, and ARCUATE ("curved like a bow"; the variant ARCUATED is allowed if that turns up some day).


Scores: John 14 (20), Colin 21 (27), me 35

Round 6: Target 783 from 75 50 1 4 8 9

Colin remarks that since his family is here today he will go with the family mix.  There is some other banter and a rare audience shot -- it looks like there's a decent showing today, which is nice.

This time I recognise that the standard approach is in good shape, with the target 8 away from 775.  But forming 775 proves to be too difficult for me; I see the potential of 9*75 + 2*50, but with only 1 and 4 to play with I can't get the 2 that I need.  (For the second time, turning the 4 into a 3 would have given me a solution, although within time this time around.)  I flail for a bit, and in danger of not getting anything written down I eventually get to one away with 782 = (9 + 1)*75 + 4*8.

After time I see that I could have made that approach work with 783 = (9 + 1 + 4)*50 + 75 + 8.  Somewhat later I see another variant, with some tweaking involved: 783 = (9 - 4)*75 + 8*(50 + 1).

Both contestants also have 782; John has used the same method that I did, but Colin has taken a different approach with 782 = (75 + 4)*(9 + 1) - 1.

Lily has found her way to the target with the very good solution 783 = (50 + 9)*(8 + 4) + 75.  Bravo!

John: 782
Colin: 782
Me: 782
Lily: 783

Scores: John 21 (27), Colin 28 (34), me 42

Second break: SEMI NORM ("An inappropriate name for a young lady")

Again this proves difficult for me without the clue, but the clue quickly leads to MISNOMER.

Round 7: T N D I S K O I E

I had DINT, SKINT / STINK, and had hoped that we would get a final E for EDITIONS / SEDITIONS.  We did, and I also found DINKIEST within time.

John commented along the way about how unhappy he was with the letters as they went up -- he clearly wanted that E earlier -- and when Richard pokes some gentle fun at him for it John declares a "grumpy" eight.  Colin says that he had a "very happy" six, but now that he's heard John has an eight he's changing that to a sad six instead.  Colin has STONED, but John has found SEDITION to take the eight points and edge one precious point in front of Colin.  That's the third time he has found an eight in the last letters round to gain some crucial points.

David has moved the S to the other end, getting EDITIONS.

There's a sprinkling of sevens -- KINDEST seemed the most obvious -- but my favourite is DOESKIN.


Scores: John 29 (35), Colin 28 (34), me 50

Round 8: Target 163 from 100 25 9 8 6 1

If John can solve this one he will guarantee an advantage going into the conundrum, and may even take the win.  The target is a bit low, but still has some small challenge to it.  I found 163 = 100 + 9*(6 + 1), and there are several variants on that same basic idea.  After time I played around a bit to find 163 = 9*(100 + 8)/6 + 1 and the kitchen sink 163 = 6*25 + (100 + 8)/9 + 1.

Colin is on target with 163 = (8 - 1)*9 + 100, but John is two away with 165.  I'll make a guess that this was 165 = 100 + 9*8 - 6 - 1, where tweakage would have lead to Colin's solution.  We don't find out what Lily did, but it's reasonable to assume she had some variant on that idea.

That was an unfortunate miss for John, the difference between being ahead and being behind going into the conundrum.  Now he needs to solve it in order to continue.

John: 165
Colin: 163
Me: 163

Scores: John 29 (35), Colin 38 (44), me 60


The -IGHT stands out, and this mix is very close to the full monty of FORESIGHT that I missed when playing against Tim Clay in episode 326.  I don't see immediate use for that, but I consider the -OUS ending and the combination gives me the solution six seconds in.

Colin writes down the letters relatively early; it's always hard to know when the right point is to make that shift, but in any case it doesn't seem to assist him.  Neither of them solves the conundrum, which means that Colin is the winner courtesy of that final numbers game.

John: [no answer]
Colin: [no answer]

Final scores: John 29 (35), Colin 38 (44), me 70

Yet another close game, with trading of points in most of the letters rounds.  John managed to get the better of it with an excellent eight, but then stumbled in the final numbers round to allow Colin to pass him.  That proved to be the crucial difference as the conundrum was elusive; it is perhaps fitting that the mathematics teacher won due to a numbers round.

The letters mixes were a bit less forthcoming than they often are, with sevens being the limit on all but one round.  I did well there to find the best results, continuing my recent trend of doing well on the letters rounds but missing some numbers solutions that I feel that I should have found.  Still, it was a decent game today, and as always I look forward to next week.


Sam Gaffney said...

Good play again, Geoff. I thought it was a strong standard of play from John and Colin, too. Here are my answers:

842 = 2*4*(100 - 1) + 50
- (had 783, but blew it)
163 = 100 + 9*(8-1)

I had 783 = (4x(75-50)-1)x8 - 9 in my head, but wrote down 75+50 and completely lost where I was going. Then I couldn't even scramble a valid answer in time.

As for the conundrum, I didn't even get it after a few minutes of trying.

Geoff Bailey said...

I really like that solution for 783 -- I had considered descending from 800 but overlooked that it would be possible to re-use the 8 in the process like you did. Very nicely done! (And my condolences on the accident when writing it down.)

MULATTO is a great find, too. I think I would have been stuck on six-letter words only if not for Angie.