Friday, 3 February 2012

Ep 374: Alice Wheeler, Pam Fichtner (February 2, 2012)

As mentioned yesterday, Alice came to Australia at 18 to study.  Her parents followed about a year later and now have a farm where they breed alpacas.  This is partly responsible for Alice's interest in textiles; she says that she has always loved sewing, but once they started getting wool from the alpacas she learned everything she could about it.  (Presumably "it" means the wool in this context.)

Tonight's challenger is Pam Fichtner, who works for the bureau of statistics.  She is also an occasional extra in TV shows.  Richard asks what it is like, and she responds that you need a lot of patience.  She adds that she has been a patient quite often on All Saints, so she got to have a bit of a sleep now and then.  She had to wake up at the right times, however.

It's sixes and sevens from the contestants tonight, with a bit each way.  The first two numbers rounds provide no separation, and scores are level at the second break.  What seemed like a risky play in the final letters round comes off for Alice, and when Pam cannot get near the target in the final numbers round Alice has the win.  The conundrum eludes them both -- it's only been solved once this week -- and that makes the final scoreline 53 to 39 in Alice's favour.

I had a decent game tonight, finding both full monties within time... but one of them only at the last moment without enough time to finish writing it down.  Still, I was mostly in pretty decent touch with the letters.  Once again the numbers could have used a little improvement, but it wasn't a case of overlooking something obvious this time (or so I claim).  The conundrum likewise eluded me tonight, but the full monty success kept me happy and comfortably ahead.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: M L T R E A E U S

I had TERM, TAMER, RELATE, EMULATE, and EMULATES.  I also wrote down EMULATERS so that I could think about it, but correctly discarded it as the Macquarie's desired spelling is EMULATORS.  I didn't find anything equal or better after time, although I noted MALTESER (obviously not going to be there) and that turning the A into an E would allow MULETEERS.  Not that that is of any use unless the game introduces wildcard tiles.  (Which might be an interesting variant, in a longer format.  I'd be interested in what that would bring to the game, although care would be needed to balance the letters-to-numbers ratio again.)

Pam gets off to an early lead as her seven of RELATES outdoes Alice's REALMS, and David has found EMULATES.  That seems to be the only one, although Chambers also lists RESALUTE.

There's a good many sevens to be found; I'll just make note of AMULETS and AUSTERE since I like them.

There was potential for a full monty here: Staying at three vowels would have replaced the U with a T for STREAMLET.


Scores: Alice 0, Pam 0 (7), me 8

Round 2: T E N A D I C O P

A good set of letters; I had NEAT, ACTED, and CANOPIED.  I wasn't completely sure about it (it is valid), but I would have fallen back on it if necessary.  Then I finally saw the -ATION ending, realised it wasn't useful but adjusted it to -ACTION and found ACTIONED, which I've written about before.  Trying to merge the P with that led me to find CAPTIONED... but I'd frittered away too much time, and could only get CAP down before time ran out.  So close!

Both contestants have stayed with the six-letter word COPIED.  With such decent letters around they really should have found longer -- PAINTED and POINTED are perhaps the most obvious of the sevens, but there's quite a few of them.  There's also some more eights: PEDANTIC and ANTIPODE.

Incidentally, staying with three vowels would have turned that O into an R and still allowed a full monty, but a much more obscure one: PREDICANT, an adjective meaning "preaching", or a noun meaning a preacher.  On the flip side, going for five vowels would turn that P into an A, giving another obscure full monty with religious meaning: DIACONATE ("the period during which a deacon holds office").  So this was a round guaranteed to allow a full monty, although the actual choice gave the easiest-to-find one.


Scores: Alice 0 (6), Pam 0 (13), me 16

Round 3: Target 175 from 50 75 9 1 1 10

Those two 1's could be troublesome, but the target is very small and quite easy.  I found 175 = (1 + 1)*50 + 75, 175 = (9 + 1)*10 + 75, and 175 = (9 - 1 - 1)*(75 - 50).

Both contestants used the second of these solutions, and Lily used the first.

Alice: 175
Pam: 175
Me: 175
Lily: 175

Scores: Alice 10 (16), Pam 10 (23), me 26

First break: GAVE REEL ("Use force to lift anger")

The anger is the RAGE of LEVERAGE.

David's talk is about words with gambling associations: croupier, roulette, casino, and pontoon (as a name for the card game twenty-one, aka blackjack).

Round 4: R A D U T E B I T

I had DART, RATED, BATTER, BITTER, and BATTIER.  After time I saw TRIBUTE -- which I'd have preferred to declare instead of BATTIER, but I had a recollection of BATTIER turning up before so was pretty sure it was OK; later checking shows that this was in episode 334 -- and wondered about TRIBUTED.  I don't know if I'd have risked it had I seen it within time.

It's six-letter words from the contestants again, while David has checked the dictionary and found that TRIBUTED is valid.  The verb sense of TRIBUTE that the Macquarie lists is a mining term, meaning "to work a mine for a share of the profit".  Wow, that's very different to what I would have guessed; I'd have thought that the meaning was "to give tribute".  An interesting result!

The other sevens here are BRUITED, TRIBADE, ABUTTED, ATTIRED, and BIRETTA ("a stiff, square cap [...] worn by Roman Catholic ecclesiastics").


Scores: Alice 10 (22), Pam 10 (29), me 33

Round 5: R C A N J O I R E

That J is a spoiler in some otherwise reasonable letters.  I had NARC, RANCOR (acceptable variant spelling of RANCOUR), and CARRION.  Nothing better presented itself after time, although later checking shows that some online sources allow JERRICAN, a possibility that had occurred to me.  As expected, however, the Macquarie only lists JERRY CAN.

Pam has managed to use the J in JOINER, but Alice has gone one better to find the good seven of CORNIER.  That ties up the scores, which must be a relief to Alice.  David has also found CARRION.


Scores: Alice 17 (29), Pam 10 (29), me 40

Round 6: Target 206 from 50 3 1 8 2 1

The basic idea of using the 50 to get to 200 and then adding six is pretty clear, with various tweaking options available.  I went with 206 = (8/2)*50 + 3*(1 + 1), and then experimented with that a little to find 206 = (8*(50 + 1) + 3 + 1)/2.

Both contestants have solved this; Pam went with 206 = 50*(3 + 1) + 8 - 2, while Alice had essentially my first solution as she simply swapped the (1 + 1) and the 2 to get 206 = (8/(1 + 1))*50 + 2*3.  There's no mention of what Lily does, but it's safe to assume she has got there.

Still all tied at the second break -- the next rounds are going to be very important.

Alice: 206
Pam: 206
Me: 206
Lily: 206

Scores: Alice 27 (39), Pam 20 (39), me 50

Second break: EPIC HACK ("A girl and a vegetable make a legume")

An easy clue to get CHICKPEA from (at least, in conjunction with the letters).

Round 7: S G A L N E S O I

This round is a little amusing.  I had SLAG / LAGS, and SLANG, then observed that an O as the third vowel would give SLOGANS.  It was, and it did.  Then I thought, "I bet she'll choose another vowel, aiming for the I for -ING.  But four vowels is too many for -ING, so that's somewhat self-defeating."  And she did, and it was the I, and when I was finished with my mental eye-roll and smugness I suddenly realised that GASOLINES was there.  In fact, this is the only full monty available and choosing the vowel was an excellent choice regardless, so earlier smug preachy me should eat some humble pie.

Still within time I found LASSOING, which I believe is the best that can be done with -ING from this mix.  (Whether SEALINGS would be allowed or not is unclear.)

I was very sure that GASOLINES was an acceptable plural because I had a strong memory of David finding it in an episode from last series.  In a conversation with Sam Gaffney he managed to pinpoint it for me -- it was episode 298, the semifinal between Jacob and Anthony.  The contestants had LEASING and LEASINGS (ruled invalid), while David went with GASOLINES.

In this case Pam has gone for the nominative determinism of LOSING, and Alice has chanced LOSINGS.  I'd have been very reluctant to try that at all -- one would think that 'losses' would be the word with the same intended meaning -- but it turns out to be valid.  It does have the same meaning as 'losses' and is the counterpart to 'winnings'.

David surprises me by choosing AGONISES for eight, thereby missing the full monty that he found before.  The other possible eights are GLASSINE, SOILAGES, and ANISOLES.


Scores: Alice 27 (46), Pam 20 (39), me 68

Round 8: Target 931 from 75 8 10 3 5 6

A large target can prove testing, and Pam can't afford to fall behind in this critical calculation.  I wasn't able to navigate my way to a solution, ending up one away with 930 = 10*(75 + 3*6).

Somewhat after time I saw the possibilities in being five away from 936 (a number I have studied a little in the context of four large numbers), and found 931 = 8*(75 + 6*(10 - 3)) - 5.

Pam isn't able to get within range, but Alice has managed to get four away with 935 = (10 + 3)*75 - 8*5.  That's seven points to her, and an unbeatable lead going into the conundrum.

Lily has found a different way to get there from 936, with 931 = (8 - 6 + 10)*(75 + 3) - 5.  I completely missed the tweak from 12*75 to 12*78; that was careless of me, but well done by Lily.

Alice: 935
Pam: [not in range]
Me: 930
Lily: 931

Scores: Alice 27 (53), Pam 20 (39), me 75


Aside from the observation that the C and the H almost certainly go together, I wasn't able to make useful progress on this.  I saw MERCHANT which might have been useful in a main round but isn't worth anything in the conundrum.

Neither contestant manages to solve it either; after another minute or so of pushing letters around on paper I hit by chance upon a very close arrangement and finally found the solution of PARCHMENT.  The guiding factor here should have been the -MENT ending, or perhaps the ARCH fragment.

Alice: [no answer]
Pam: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Alice 27 (53), Pam 20 (39), me 75

The contestants were mostly matched on the letters, but they were limited to sixes or sevens and certainly had scope to improve.  In particular, the two full monty rounds had some easy sevens and a findable eight or two.  (On the other hand, they never dipped below six, which is a good sign.)  Two easy numbers rounds proved no obstacle, but the third one proved the winning difference, with Alice managing to get near the large total that defeated Pam.  The conundrum was difficult, but Alice's lead was already enough.  A decent game from both, and if Alice wins tomorrow then she'll enter the rankings for the finals.

I'm happy about this game, as might be expected from a game where I find a full monty.  If I'd just been a tiny bit faster I would have had two of them, and the opportunity for that arises very rarely indeed.  I don't mind missing TRIBUTED -- although it would have been nice to see it within time, not doing so spared me trying to decide if it was likely to be valid -- and the final numbers target was difficult enough that one off is also acceptable.  The only major flaw here is, as usual, the conundrum.  Maybe tomorrow...


Mark said...

I'm only about average at this game, so it's always very satisfying if I beat you at any round, as I did with PARCHMENT this episode (saw it within a few seconds), and ESCARGOT in a previous episode.

It was interesting to see what you wrote about not getting CAPTIONED written down in time, because it appears that contestants will sometimes keep writing after the time has ended.

Jacob D said...

Hi Geoff,
great find with GASOLINES. When we filmed episode 298 it jumped out at me during the adjudication of LEASINGS. If I'd been versing you those 18 points might've got you across the line! I was also surprised that DA missed it this time around, nice to know he's human.
Keep up the good work!
-Jacob D.

Geoff Bailey said...

Those were excellent finds, Mark, so congratulations!

I've noticed people running slightly long on occasion; it's a fairly natural action when time runs out as you are just finishing up an answer. The show's producers understand this and, while they discourage it, adopt a less strict approach.

In this regard the Countdown policy of accepting answers that are not written down is a reasonable one, although obviously that gives contestants a tiny bit of extra thinking time. I'm OK with that, though; if someone sees an answer, I'd like them to be able to get credit for it.

I should make a disclaimer here: In my episode against Brett, I did run overtime in a letters round as I'd spotted an answer very late in the process. (What I wrote down was kind of illegible, too.) On the flip side of that, Brett appeared to likewise run overtime by the same amount on a later numbers round. I had no issues with it (it looks like he was just writing down a neat "= 615" at that point), and I hope he did not with me, either.

In any case, while playing at home I'm trying not to stretch that point; certainly getting the rest of CAPTIONED down would have taken longer than I felt justifiable.

Geoff Bailey said...

G'day Jacob, great to hear from you! The only reason I found GASOLINES so easily this time was because of having seen that episode, so it wouldn't have helped. At the time I had found LASSOING for eight which would have taken the points in that round, but you would have won the game.

My performance on the finals of your series was amusing (at least to me). Under my usual scoring approach I won all four of the quarter finals, but lost both of the semifinals. My recollection is of squeaking home the win in the final, but I wasn't approaching it completely clean -- word of your fantastic comeback was still doing the rounds while I was at the filming for my episodes, so I knew to expect a nine in the final letters round.

Welcome to the blog, and I hope you continue to enjoy it!

Mark said...

Thanks Geoff. Nice work with GASOLINES. I'm interested in your statement that it is in fact the only full monty available - do you use some sort of software to verify that?

On a related note, it's interesting to sometimes hear David describe his word as "the best to be found", which as you have demonstrated, is not always true.

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Mark. I use a Scrabble word list to find candidate words, then check them in the Macquarie. Obviously this is a flawed process since the Macquarie is full of words that are not in Scrabble lists -- Australian slang and colloquialisms, in particular -- but it is a reasonable compromise when searching for interesting words to note.

(There's other cases as well, such as TOEPRINTS that David once found. The only rigorous method would be an electronic copy of the Macquarie word list (including inflected forms). I don't have access to that, if one exists, so I make do with this process.)

My statement about it being "the only one" is thus slightly suspect, but it's reasonable to infer that if the Macquarie does have a full monty from SOLANGES + another letter then it is likely obscure or a regionalism.

David is clearly operating on a similar principle when he says something is the best to be found. Treating this as the similar "best that [David] could find" is obviously the intent.

Sam Gaffney said...

Good to see Jacob D in the comments section, a bona fide L&N silverware owner! He did put in a great performance in that Ep298, where he thumped my answers from home.

Nice full monty spotting, Geoff. Here are my answers:


[a] I'm sure I got CAPTIONED when it was a conundrum one episode. Didn't spot ACTIONED for a while, either.
[b] I chickened out of declaring TRIBUTED. I haven't had the best year with the Macquarie so far.

Anonymous said...

The strange thing is the decision to accept losings, as it does not appear in the Macquarie dictionary. It gives the plural as losses.

Geoff Bailey said...

I believe that you have misinterpreted the layout. The entry for "losing" in the Macquarie Fifth Edition is as follows (omitting the phonetic stuff):

losing adjective 1. that loses. -noun 2. (plural) losses.

Here "losses" is the definition, not the plural form. The addition of "(plural)" means that the definition applies only to the plural form of the base word, which is "losings".