Friday, 10 February 2012

Ep 379: Alan Nash, Peter Shantier (February 9,2012)

Alan relates the tale of how he went backpacking through Europe just after he finished university, and in particular through Switzerland.  He had never seen snow before, so he took a cable car up a mountain; there were several stations along the way, and he was so impressed with the snow that he decided to walk through the snow from the top to the second top of the stations.  This was very enjoyable, until he realised that the cable cars coming up had stopped... and so had the ones going down.  This meant that he had to walk all the way down the mountain, and he discovered that the sun sets very fast there.  In short, he had to walk all the way down a mountain in the dark, and through snow.  That sounds potentially quite dangerous; fortunately he survived unscathed!

Tonight's challenger is Peter Shantier, a fragrance compounder.  His job involves working from a recipe to put together the ingredients to make a fragrance that might smell like peach or apple or strawberry or raspberry... but does not include any of them.  He has a selection of around six hundred ingredients to use; the measurements are done by weights rather than volume, apparently.  (The liquids have different specific gravities, and hence different weights per unit of volume.)  On reflection, I imagine the reason is that working by weight is much more precise than working by volume.  Peter notes that most fragrances probably include around twenty to thirty of these ingredients.

There's some discussion later on in the round where it is pointed out that Peter is doing this for industrial use rather than the perfume business: Shampoos, soap powders, dishwashing liquids, that kind of thing.

I strongly doubt that I have Peter's surname correct, but I have not been able to unearth a more likely spelling for it.  If anyone out there knows, I'd welcome a correction or even simply a plausible suggestion.

Alan is in good form today also; Peter is only able to keep up with him on three rounds.  There was scope to improve on Alan's performance, but they weren't necessarily the easiest of finds.  Alan rounds it off by solving a difficult conundrum to reach the 70's, winning 73 to 24.

I had a frustrating game tonight, due to issues with full monties and the Macquarie's foibles.  Arguably 43 points of relative difference hinged on those, which is a huge amount.  In the end, and reassuringly given some of my difficulties of previous weeks, success in the numbers saw me home by a single point against him.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: I A T L D E S I U

I wonder what Alan was aiming for when he picked those final two vowels.  Maybe an O for DIASTOLE?  It's the only reason I can think of offhand -- DETAILS is too easily found to look like providing an advantage if the vowels were played purely as spoilers (and I think that Alan is confident enough not to aim for that).  Note that staying with four vowels would have replaced the U by an N for DISENTAIL ("to free (an estate) from entail"; an estate under entail has its inheritance limited to a specific line of heirs).

Anyway, I had TAIL, TAILED / DETAIL, DETAILS, IDEALIST, and DUALITIES.  A full monty first up is always nice.  Except... the quirks of the Macquarie come into play here.  The Macquarie does list DUALITY as a noun, but fails to list its plural.  Because of the spelling shift it is not automatically allowed and David would have to rule on it; the rules are not as clear-cut as I would like on its legitimacy (in part to avoid committing David to obviously wrong decisions), but it would be consistent with the frequently quoted rules about comparatives for this to be disallowed.  Absent a response from David, I have to consider this invalid, and I am very grumpy at the Macquarie right now.

[UPDATE: In a later game, David disallowed AMITIES for similar reasons, so I consider this definitively settled as invalid.]

Both contestants have sevens using the first seven letters: DILATES from Peter, and DETAILS from Alan.  David has found an eight, however: UTILISED.  (Note that this is limited support for the invalidity of DUALITIES since David did not mention it; on the other hand, it is slightly more likely that he did not see it since he often mentions invalid almost-nines that he sees.  On the gripping hand, he might not have wanted to get into a rules discussion if he did decide to rule it invalid.  It's all a rich tapestry, as friends of mine might say.)

Note the swing here: 7 points to the contestants instead of 18 to me, a relative difference of 25 points.  That could easily make all the difference.  (And also note that if I'd not seen DUALITIES then IDEALIST would have been good, for a 15 point relative gain.)

OK, so enough about that for now.  Aside from words already mentioned, sevens seem to be the limit; there are a reasonable number of common ones, such as DILUTES, SALUTED, DAILIES / LIAISED, and UTILISE.  Another quirk of the Macquarie: It lists the American spelling DUELING, but not DUELIST, insisting upon DUELLIST.

A less common seven that I like is AUDILES (AUDILE: "Psychology someone in whose mind auditory images are especially distinct").

Me: [invalid]

Scores: Alan 7, Peter 7, me 0

Round 2: N C E O A L M D E

I wasn't making much of this until the last letter went down, having simply ONCE / CONE and CANOE / OCEAN.  I was torn between wanting a consonant (hoping for an R for ROMANCED, which it actually would have been) or a vowel, with an A giving MANACLED and an I giving COALMINE.  The E came up, though, and I found LEMONADE.

(Additionally, although I had not considered it at the time, an O would allow MONOCLED or CANOODLE, while a U would give COLUMNED.  Every vowel allows an eight, and there is no potential nine -- the Macquarie does not list DEMONICAL, which was the only contender I could find -- so a vowel was definitely the better choice here.)

Peter isn't completely happy with his six of DEMEAN, and rightly so as Alan has CLEANED for seven.  David is on track with LEMONADE also, which does seem to be the only eight.

[Update: An anonymous commenter has pointed out CODENAME.  Nice find!]

The other sevens here are MENACED, ENLACED, and CELADON, which I mentioned back in episode 345 -- a pale green colour, or china with such a colour.

LEMONADE puts me one precious point ahead after the previous round's misfortune.  This will turn out to be crucial.


Scores: Alan 7 (14), Peter 7, me 8

Round 3: Target 495 from 25 50 100 75 8 7

As expected, Alan returns to the four-large mix.  The target looks like it should be achievable, and I play around with 8*75 for some reason, rather fortuitously finding that it works out to give 495 = 8*75 - 100 - 7 + 50/25.  With time left, I consider the factorisation of 5*99 which leads me to another solution: 495 = ((75 + 50)/25)*(100 - (8 - 7)).  And it's just as well that I did this, because when it came time to declare I realised that I had accidentally written down 2 instead of 25 in the first solution -- without this to fall back on, I would not have had a valid answer.  (One could argue this either way, as a benefit of finding other solutions or an argument for using spare time to check more carefully.)

Peter is outside the range -- a little odd since 500 is achievable in a great many ways, but I guess this was one of those cases of searching for an exact solution and not getting a fallback in place -- and Alan is three away with 498 = 7*75 - 25 - 100/50.  I'm a little surprised at that, too, as subtracting (8 - 100/50) instead would have given 494 for only one away.

I'm further surprised when Lily has not been able to find a solution within time.  But after the break she comes back with the first of those solutions I listed.

Just now I have seen another approach, using the factor of 3: 495 = (100 + 50 + 8 + 7)*75/25.

Alan: 498
Peter: [not in range]
Me: 495

Scores: Alan 7 (21), Peter 7, me 18

First break: TWEED SOB ("Put upon and dragged away")

Richard explains what eluded me, that the "dragged away" refers to the TOWED of BESTOWED.

David's talk is about two types of computer games: Sandbox, and MUD.

Round 4: R N R H O U O E S

That duplicated O strongly suggests that a fourth vowel is desirable, although I'll note in passing that the next consonant would have been a T, allowing the fine eight of SOUTHRON (a southerner).  It's still a somewhat awkward mix to work with -- I had been hoping for an I for NOURISH, incidentally, although that would still have needed an S that fortuitously arrived -- but I had HORN, HERON, UNHORSE (then considered and rightly rejected UNHORSER), and HONOURS.  Similarly I considered and correctly rejected REHONOURS, nice though it would have been.

Peter has SHORE for five, but Alan has also seen HONOURS and takes the points.  David announces a full monty, and I see what it must be: HONOURERS.  I should have seen that when I considered REHONOURS; I might not have risked it, but I really wish that I had seen it.  David confirms that HONOURERS is valid, and that REHONOURS is not.

HONOURER is there for eight, of course, and the other sevens are ONSHORE and ONEROUS.

Peter: SHORE

Scores: Alan 14 (28), Peter 7, me 25

Round 5: I A E T J N G T U

That J puts a dampener on things.  The -ING turns up, but Alan squanders its potential by choosing a fourth vowel -- the ensuing R instead would have given TREATING for eight.  I had EATING, JETTING, and JUTTING.

Both contestants also had JUTTING -- Alan comments about sticking his neck out, but I think that was a play on the meaning of JUTTING instead of a genuine feeling of risk -- while David mentions JETTING also, along with his belief that those are the only sevens.  That does seem to be correct.

That's five straight scores of 7 for Alan.  I imagine he's hoping to improve on that in the numbers rounds.


Scores: Alan 21 (35), Peter 14, me 32

Round 6: Target 179 from 75 50 100 25 5 4

Peter surprises me by also going for four large.  Interesting to see both contestants try it!  Unfortunately getting to the target is trivial and everyone finds 179 = 100 + 75 + 4.

Just for fun I find a complicated kitchen sink afterwards: 179 = 4*(50 - 5) - (100 - 75)/25.

Alan: 179
Peter: 179
Me: 179
Lily: 179

Scores: Alan 31 (45), Peter 24, me 42

Second break: MAN SPEAR ("Sharp and bitey")

The clue is clearly about cheese, and finding PARMESAN is easy after that realisation.

Round 7: R E M S O A C P S

I had MORES, SMEAR, CAMPERS, COMPRESS, and COMPARES.  At the 29th second I saw MESOCARPS (MESOCARP: "the middle layer of the pericarp, as the fleshy part of certain fruits"), but was not able to get it down in time.  This links back to episode 310 where David found the related ENDOCARP, and to episode 341 where I noted that MESOCARP was an anagram of COMPARES.  If only I had remembered that I might have found this soon enough to write it down.  Frustratingly close!

Peter has SCREAMS for seven, but Alan has found COMPRESS for eight; that seals his win over Peter.  David surprises me by staying with eight also, having seen COMPARES but not its anagram.

The other eight here is SCAMPERS; there's a decent spread of very findable sevens, including ESCARPS / SCRAPES / SPACERS / PARSECS, PROCESS / CORPSES, and a word that I've seen several times on Countdown already: POMACES (POMACE: "the pulpy residue from apples or similar fruit after crushing and pressing [...]").


Scores: Alan 39 (53), Peter 24, me 50

Round 8: Target 575 from 100 2 9 5 8 2

Peter goes almost to the opposite end, with a single large number.  I think that's sound strategy at this point, although Alan has already won.  The target is a little tricky to get to, but I pull out the factor of 5 to get 575 = 5*(100 + 9 + 8 - 2).

Both contestants claim the target; Alan has used the same method that I did, and it looks like Peter tried it and got his sums muddled at some point -- he says (100 + 9 + 2 + 8 + 2)*5, which is 605.  I think this was just confusion -- it looks like he'd managed 111*5 = 555 and then lost track of the remainder -- but I will note that he was just an altered sign away from the solution: Changing 8 + 2 into 8/2 would reach the target exactly.

It is not stated explicitly, but there is an implication that Lily solved this in the same way that Alan did.

I've matched results with Alan from round 4 onwards, and that means that I have retained that crucial 11 point lead after the regrettable start.  I may only win by a single point, but I'll get home, which is a great relief.

Alan: 575
Peter: [invalid]
Me: 575

Scores: Alan 49 (63), Peter 24, me 60


This is a tough conundrum, at least for me.  I keep coming back to -ITY as an ending, but that doesn't help.  After 23 seconds Peter buzzes in, and I pause and start the alternate clock.  It takes me more than two minutes later (all up, two minutes and 37 seconds) and some shuffling around of letters on paper before I finally see the answer.

Peter's guess of HESITANCY is not correct, however, and Alan gets the remaining time.  With four seconds left on the clock he gets the answer, and that's an excellent solve.  (He may have benefited from Peter's incorrect guess here; there were at least eight seconds gained by the exchange, and he only had four seconds left when he solved it.  Regardless, it's great work, and while Peter and Richard are talking is hardly prime thinking time.)

Alan: SYNTHETIC (26s)
Peter: [invalid] (23.5s)
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Alan 59 (73), Peter 24, me 60

A comprehensive win to Alan here; Peter just wasn't able to keep up.  There was scope for Alan to do better, but any game where seven is your minimum round score is going to be a good one.  He's beatable, but it's going to take some doing.

All things considered, I did have a good game today.  But each of the full monties here frustrated me in some fashion: DUALITIES due to its unclear legality, HONOURERS slipped my notice, and I simply ran out of time before I could get MESOCARPS down.  The potential swing due to DUALITIES was 25 points (+18 to me, -7 to Alan) and another 18 if I'd got MESOCARPS down (+10 to me, -8 to Alan).  That's 43 points hinging on two rounds, and in the end I'm very glad that rounds 2 and 3 provided me that crucial 11 point buffer.

On the topic of full monties, it's amazing to follow up yesterday's results with this one.  Two more full monties (only one of them found) and possibly a third depending on ruling.  David, incidentally, is on track for his Claytons grand slam -- he has four full monties this week, and just needs one more for the five.  He's had the potential to do it already, with two (maybe three) full monties missed, and it would be nice to see him get there.  I really hope that tomorrow brings more of the same!


Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks to Allan S for pointing out several typos (including giving myself a final score of 0!) in a private communication.

Anonymous said...

There was another 8 in the round where you found lemonade. The one that jumped out at me was CODENAME.

Geoff Bailey said...

CODENAME is a very nice find, and it is listed in the Macquarie. Well done, anonymous commenter!

Sam Gaffney said...

DUALITIES is a sad story Geoff - Wikipedia's entry on DUALITY uses it constantly! CODENAME and LEMONADE are both very good gets, too.

My letter round answers were extremely similar to Alan's, except for the -ER in HONOURERS (which he possibly saw but didn't want to risk). Good conundrum get from him, too, even if it was 34 seconds. My answers:

495 = (100-8+7) x (75+50)/25 [a]
179 = 100+75+4 [b]
575 = (100+8+9-2) x 5

[a] After time, I also saw:
(100+50+8+7) x 75/25 and
75x7 - (100x8-50)/25
[b] More exciting, and written down in time, is:
[c] I had SCAMPERS first.