Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ep 372: Colin Shnier, Alice Wheeler (January 31, 2012)

Colin doesn't necessarily believe it, but the family myth (as he puts it) is that when he was four his parents used to have him perform mathematical calculations at dinner parties.  Whether or not that is true, he does know that he has always enjoyed playing with numbers in his head.

Tonight's challenger is Alice Wheeler, another primary school teacher.  There's mention (contrasted with the mathematics games days that Colin has organised) of how she loves to get her students doing things with textiles, fabrics, and sewing.  She comments that generally the students don't get a chance to do much with that, so they find it very exciting.

Colin has a lot of trouble in the letters rounds tonight -- his first two words are invalid, for instance -- and Alice finds good words throughout to have Colin well behind.  The numbers don't give Colin enough room to gain back lost ground, and Alice has the victory well in hand before the conundrum.  She solves it quickly, winning by 61 points to 37.  (And semi-fulfilling my prediction about Colin losing to a conundrum, except that she outscored him sufficiently in the main rounds.)

I had a terrible game today; my mind just kind of shut down.  I missed several chances, and conceded crucial points that I would not have on a better day.  I went into the conundrum only ten points ahead, and was my usual slow self in solving it.  Since Alice solved it more quickly, the result is the first draw of the blog (although I have little doubt that a second conundrum would have seen me lose).

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: L D W R N A E I S

The game started out badly; I had DRAWN, WANDER, WARDENS, and wondered about LINEWARDS or DRAWLINES.  I correctly decided that they were wishful thinking, although that made little difference.  I knew that the eight non-W letters would give me a word, but each time I tried to concentrate on them the W would obtrude itself and I'd lose track -- very frustrating!  After time was up I easily found the word that I had been seeking: ISLANDER; with a bit more investigation I added SWINDLER to the list, and those appear to be the only eights available.  There are too many sevens to be worth listing.

Colin is asked first, and decided to try a dubious nine.  Alice was happy with her eight of SWINDLER until she heard Colin trying a nine, but fortunately for her (and for my peace of mind) his choice of DRAWLINES is not valid.  It was a bold try, though.  David has also found ISLANDER.

Colin: [invalid]

Scores: Colin 0, Alice 8, me 0

Round 2: C R E F T S I A G

There was an air of familiarity about some of the combinations, but I wasn't sure why at first.  I found REFT, CREST, RIFTS / FIRST, FASTER, rejected CIGARETS (one reason for that sense of familiarity; I've looked up CIGARETS before, though, and recalled that the Macquarie does not allow that variant), and settled upon FRIGATES.  After time I noted that CAGIEST was part of the reason that the mix looked familiar.

Both contestants have six-letter words to declare, but Colin's choice of GASTER sends David scurrying to the dictionary.  It isn't listed, which is unfortunate for Colin; it is in my Chambers ("in hymenopterous insects, the abdomen proper, to the rear of the first (often constricted) abdominal segment").  A risky play, though, when the straightforward GRATES was just as available.

David points out that a final O instead of that G would have allowed FACTORIES / FACTORISE, and that explains the rest of that nagging sense of familiarity.  The next vowel was an O, as it turns out, so that's the missed chance of a full monty for today.  David has also found FRIGATES for eight.

While CIGARETS is not allowed, an anagram of it is: AGRESTIC, meaning rural or rustic.  There's a fair few sevens, of which I'll just mention SEAGIRT because it makes me think of the national anthem.

Colin: [invalid]

Scores: Colin 0, Alice 8 (14), me 8

Round 3: Target 799 from 50 100 7 10 6 5

Colin goes back to the family mix, and the target is provocatively close to a multiple of 100.  I get the obvious 800 = (7 + 6 - 5)*100 out of the way and then search for options to get that final difference of one.  With a second to go I see 799 = 7*(100 + 10 + 5) - 6, but that wasn't enough time to get it written down.  (This is the solution that Lily later demonstrates.)  After time, I found the alternative 799 = 5*(100 + 50 + 10) - (7 - 6), and just now I have found 799 = ((50 - 10)/5)*100 - (7 - 6).

The contestants have each found different ways to 800; Colin had 800 = (10 + 6)*50 while Alice had 800 = 7*100 + 50 + 10*5.

This was a costly round for me, with 800 being very easy to get to.  If I'd just been a little bit faster I'd have had 799 written down, and that would have been a ten point swing and the draw would have been avoided.

Colin: 800
Alice: 800
Me: 800
Lily: 799

Scores: Colin 7, Alice 15 (21), me 15

First break: ALSO SANE ("Calendar-dependent")

An easy anagram and clue for SEASONAL.

David's talk is about terms from online advertising.

Round 4: M T N H O I A S U

I had MONTH, HAUNTS, and AMOUNTS.  I wasn't well-served here by my mind circling back to ASTONISH all the time (which needs a second S).  After time I found MIAOUS, MANITOUS (which I knew wasn't in the Macquarie -- Chambers has it -- because I've looked that up before), and MAHOUTS.

It's sixes from each contestant, but David has found the eight of HUMANIST.  That's a good find, but a little frustrating as I'd looked at HUMAN- and dismissed it after HUMANITIES was obviously not workable.  Careless of me!

The other eight in this mix is an anagram of MANITOUS: TINAMOUS (a TINAMOU being a type of bird).  I hadn't known that word before; hopefully the memory will stick next time I'm complaining about MANITOU not being allowed.  The other sevens are OUTMANS and TSUNAMI.


Scores: Colin 7 (13), Alice 15 (27), me 22

Round 5: K D R L P E O E A

I was expecting an I to come up, giving one of the few -LIKE words that I am sure about: RODLIKE.  But it didn't, and instead I had PORED, DEPLORE, PAROLEE, and PAROLED.  After time I amused myself with REPOLKAED, but it was never a serious consideration.  POLKAED is another seven, however.

Each contestant has found a seven; Alice isn't sure about her choice of PEARLED, but it is perfectly fine (amongst other senses, pearl can be a verb meaning to search for pearls).  Colin has gone with PAROLED, while David's choice is an anagram of that: LEOPARD.  Richard quips that LEOPARD was "well-spotted", to some amusement.

The other seven here is PLEADER.  Interestingly, the Macquarie lists REPLEADER but not REPLEAD.  The reason is that REPLEADER is not "one who repleads", but a legal term meaning either "a second pleading" or "the right or privilege of pleading again".


Scores: Colin 14 (20), Alice 22 (34), me 29

Round 6: Target 418 from 75 9 6 7 2 10

Alice goes for the classroom option, and I almost blew this one.  The standard approach would aim to get to 425 and subtract 7; I think about this for far too long before it sinks in that with only one large number getting to 425 is not trivial.  With that confusion out of the way I manage to get the "nearest multiple of 75" approach working, finding 418 = 6*75 - 2*(9 + 7).  As time expires I see that the 10 allows a much simpler option: 418 = 6*7*10 - 2 (I don't get this one written down in time).

Alice has not managed to get anywhere close, while Colin is two away with 420 = 7*10*6.  It's kind of hard to see how he missed subtracting 2 to get the answer, but he was writing until the very end so I guess it was a case of time pressure.  Even more oddly, Lily does not point out this simple adjustment.

Lily's solution is 418 = (75 - 7)*6 + 10.

Colin: 420
Alice: [not in range]
Me: 418
Lily: 418

Scores: Colin 14 (27), Alice 22 (34), me 39

Second break: MIND PLUG ("Throw away the fish")

The clue being to DUMP the LING and get DUMPLING.

Round 7: C M S U A E O G T

The mental paralysis returned full force in this round.  I had CAMS and AMUSE.  Ouch.  For whatever reason, I just wasn't able to manipulate the letters into anything sensible.  After time I found OUTAGES and COSTUME.

Colin surprised me by also having stuck at five, but Alice has accurately found a seven, as has David.  That's a worrying result for Colin who falls behind by more than the conundrum, and it's rather undesirable for me as my advantage is now precisely ten points.  If the numbers don't provide a chance to gain, then this could end up a drawn game.

The other sevens that were available are ACETOUS (sour or vinegary), COMATES (COMATE: "a mate or companion"), and MUCOSAE (plural of MUCOSA, a mucous membrane).

Colin: CAUSE

Scores: Colin 14 (27), Alice 29 (41), me 39

Round 8: Target 368 from 100 50 9 2 3 3

Alice returns to the family mix, and it's very approachable.  I found 368 = 3*(100 + 2*3) + 50, 368 = 3*100 + 50 + 2*9, and 368 = 9*(50 + 2) - 100 within time.  There are others, but I stopped searching at that point.

Everyone else has used the second of the solutions that I listed.  That's no swing, and Alice is definitely the winner of this game, and still just ten points behind me.

Colin: 368
Alice: 368
Me: 368
Lily: 368

Scores: Colin 24 (37), Alice 39 (51), me 49


I'm nowhere near the required pace, and Alice conforms to expectations by solving this quickly.  She gets it at the four second mark; I started the backup timer and had the solution just before time would have expired, which I'm not very impressed with at all.

Colin: [no answer]
Alice: CHAMELEON (4s)

Final scores: Colin 24 (37), Alice 49 (61), me 49

So this time the primary school teacher is victorious, and it has to be said that Alice played a fine game tonight.  In particular, SWINDLER and COSTUME were good finds, and she solved the conundrum quite quickly.  Colin never really managed to make up the ground lost in those first two rounds, although if the Macquarie had listed GASTER then he would at least have had a chance at the conundrum.  (As long as we're arguing counterfactuals, if DRAWLINES had been valid then he would have won this game.)  Alice looks vulnerable in the numbers but she had the challenger's advantage and could steer them into safer territory.

In contrast, I had a very poor game, with ISLANDER and COSTUME both being words I have found many times before but overlooked this time.  My slowness on the conundrums continues to be a worry, and this time it mattered.  That's the first draw of the series, to go along with three losses to Sam earlier on.  At 72 games in, the one-in-twenty claim is almost exactly satisfied.  I've got some work to do to improve those figures!


Sam Gaffney said...

Colin was a bit unlucky that Alice was so strong tonight, as he had played very well his first two nights. My answers:

800 = (7+6-5) * 100
418 = 7*6*10-2 [b]
368 = 3*100+50+2*9

[a] I started writing HUMANIST, but was too late.
[b] Why no comment from the hosts on Colin's omission of -2?

Allan S said...

Sam, I thought the same on "418 = 7*6*10-2 [b]": very strange that they did not mention that he overlooked subtracting 2.

My wife got "CHAMELEON" in 1s tonight. :-)

Sam Gaffney said...

Nice going, Mrs S.

I forgot to say, Colin Shnier did demonstrate a good sense of humour on the show.

Geoff Bailey said...

Nice work on this game, Sam, and congratulations to your wife, Allan. A one-second solve is always impressive!