Saturday, 11 February 2012

Ep 380: Alan Nash, Kathy Male (February 10, 2012)

Richard asks about more of Alan's travels -- in this case his visit to the City of the Dead.  Alan explains that this is a small area in Cairo where there was a graveyard; due to a housing shortage a lot of the poorer people moved in and started squatting in the tombs there, and now it is basically a city that has sprung up on a graveyard.  Richard asks if the remains were visible as Alan walked through it, but Alan responds that you can't see them, and you usually don't see other tourists because you're not supposed to walk through there -- you just view it from an overpass.  The way it is told leaves me uncertain as to whether Alan stayed on the overpass or did go walking through it.

Tonight's challenger is Kathy Male, a foreign exchange trader.  She's also a very keen bridge player; Richard asks her if she is a "really hot bridge player".  She demures, but says that she wants to become one and that she is really lucky that she has a Queensland champion who is mentoring her to help her get up the next level.  I'll note that her current ranking is a one-star National Master, and if her 2011 performance is representative then she'll get to two-star National Master mid 2013.

It's a really close game tonight, with both the letters and the numbers being much harder than the recent games.  Alan gets a lead in the first numbers game, then gives back most of it in the next.  The final letters game finally produces a difference and Alan is ten points ahead going into the final numbers round.  Both contestants were only able to get one away, and to me this was the decisive point of the match -- if Alan had reached the target he would be uncatchable, while if Kathy had done it instead then the scores would be tied at the conundrum.  As it was, Kathy needed to win the conundrum to force a second one, but neither contestant was able to solve it.  Alan may feel a little lucky to have taken the win, 52 points to 42.

I felt off-kilter today, with the letters being much less cooperative than in recent games.  I wasn't able to best either contestant in the letters rounds, and Alan found a great word in one of them to outdo me.  Fortunately for me both contestants had troubles with the numbers and I took an awkward ten point lead into the conundrum.  The solution eluded me completely, and fortunately it likewise eluded the contestants or this might have been another tie.  I limped home with a very lucky win.

As usual, details after the break.

Round 1: A O B C T E S U D

After the first three letters I was wondering about OBSTACLE, and surprisingly the letters for it just kept on coming.  Alas, that final L did not turn up.  I found BOAT, BOAST / BOATS, OBTUSE, COASTED, and ABDUCTS.  After time I added BOASTED, SCOUTED, and ACETOUS, but could not find longer.

Both contestants have sevens, and it was the best that David could do also.  It does seem to be the limit, with the only unmentioned one being ABDUCES (ABDUCE: "Physiology to draw away from the original position").

The magic result would have been a final F for OBFUSCATE.  And to take counterfactuals to rather pointless territory, if we could throw away that E and bring in the R from the next round that would yield ABDUCTORS here and allow INTERLAID in the next.


Scores: 7 apiece

Round 2: R N I A T R E I D


No surprise that I think the fourth vowel was taken too early.  I'm not really in favour of that fourth vowel even at the end but an E would have given RETRAINED so there's something to be said for it.  Staying with three vowels would have brought in an L, however, allowing INTERLARD: "(of things) to be intermixed in".

Once again the contestants each have seven, but David has found the eight: DAINTIER.


Scores: 14 apiece

Round 3: Target 205 from 100 25 50 75 4 9

Alan goes for four large again, and gets a fairly small target.  So small that really the only question is how to get that final 5, and the small numbers take care of that easily.  I had 205 = 100 + 75 + 25 + 9 - 4.  With time to spare I tried to use the factorisation, and found 205 = (50 - 9)*(4 + (100 - 75)/25).  Just now I have spotted the overcomplicated 205 = (50*(100 + 4) - 75)/25.

Alan has got to the target with the first of those solutions.  However Kathy is one off with 204; I have to assume that she didn't see the potential of 9 - 4 to get that 5.  (She may have started with 4*50 + 100/25, but that still has the same feature: Four has been added, when (9 - 4) could have been subtracted instead.)

Lily shows a different solution, a variant of my parenthetical remark just now: 205 = (100/25)*50 + 9 - 4.

Alan: 205
Kathy: 204
Me: 205
Lily: 205

Scores: Alan 24, Kathy 14, me 24

First break: PRIM SOOT ("A fake little devil")

Any cryptic crossword solver will know that "little devil" is almost always IMP, leading to IMPOSTOR.

David's talk is about the origins of some words with similar meanings: nickname, moniker, alias, and sobriquet.

Round 4: L U T S E A Y M L

I struggled considerable with this mix; I had LUST, SALUTE, LATELY, and finally MALLEUS (one of the three small bones in the ear, otherwise known as the hammer).  I wasn't even certain that it was spelled with two L's, but fortunately stuck with it and was correct.

Even after time I completely failed to find any other sevens, so I was a bit surprised when both contestants declared sevens.  And then a little embarrassed as their choices of MULLETS and MALLETS seem very findable in retrospect.  David chimes in with AMULETS for another seven, a word which has appeared in potential many times but I have not seen it yet.  One of those blind spots of mine.

The other sevens available are MULLEYS (MULLEY being a variant spelling of MULEY, a dialect word of Irish Gaelic or Welsh origin, meaning "any cow") and STALELY.


Scores: Alan 31, Kathy 21, me 31

Round 5: C E O T N H A R E

I had COTE, TENCH, THRONE, and TEACHER / CHEATER.  I found other sevens within time, but could not find an eight.  After time I wrote them down: CHANTER / TRANCHE, ACETONE, and ENACTOR.

Sevens once again from the contestants, with Kathy having the lovely THEREON.  For the fourth time in these five rounds I've had the exact same answer as Alan -- TEACHER in this case -- so we're on the same wavelength for now.

David has found two eights in this mix.  The first is the fairly obscure ANCHORET, meaning a hermit, but the other is COHERENT.  That's good solving from David.

I'll note that staying at three vowels would have replaced that E with an S, giving ANCHORETS for nine and a few easy eights.

There was another eight in this mix: CAROTENE, which I noted back in episode 337 where the full monty CAROTENES was available in the first round.


Scores: Alan 38, Kathy 28, me 38

Round 6: Target 633 from 50 100 75 6 9 9

Kathy goes for the balanced mix, and it looks tricky.  I write down a fallback 632 = 6*100 + 50 - 9 - 9, but do not manage better within time.  This is careless, as I'd looked at 9*75 and noted a difference of 42, but not stopped to think a little more carefully about it.  If I had, I would have seen the solution that Lily later demonstrates.

After time I found one away in the other direction with 634 = (50*75)/6 + 9, and then thinking it through a bit more methodically (to consider how to get an offset of 8 from a multiple of 25) I finally found a solution: 633 = 6*(100 + 9 + 9) - 75.

Kathy has also got 632, with the same method that I had.  Alan is a little surprisingly one further away with 631; there's a few ways to get that by adding 6 to 625 (such as 631 = 9*50 + 100 + 75 + 6, or 631 = 9*75 - 50 + 6), but most have a spare 9 around that could have been added instead.  So I'm going to guess that his method used up both nines, and was 631 = 6*(100 + 9/9) + 75 - 50.

Lily has found a good solution with the approach I abandoned too early: 633 = 9*75 - 6*(9 - 100/50).

This round has allowed Kathy to catch up a little, and me to get a small lead.  It's still extremely close, though.

Alan: 631
Kathy: 632
Me: 632
Lily: 633

Scores: Alan 38, Kathy 35, me 45

Second break: ACORN TIE ("Was it God? Or big bang?")

The clue clearly referring to explanations for CREATION (or, in the second case, perhaps REACTION).

Round 7: S K T A I O G D R

The vowels aren't the friendliest, and the K and G don't play that well together (or with those vowels, really).  I'd have been very tempted to choose a final vowel, hoping for an E for AGISTED (although GODETIAS would be better) or a U for AGOUTIS.  On the other hand, a final N would have given a few sevens from -ING, or the eight of GOATSKIN.  Personally, I would have liked an L for ODALISK, variant spelling of ODALISQUE: "a female slave or concubine in a harem".

As it was, I had a great deal of trouble with this mix.  I found TASK, GOATS, RATIOS, and ADROIT.  After time I found some more sixes -- GASTRO / ARGOTS / GROATS -- but no valid seven; I saw ORGIAST (a participant in an orgy) which is in Chambers but the Macquarie does not list it.  Another seven that Chambers has and the Macquarie does not is DAKOITS (DAKOIT being a variant spelling of DACOIT -- which the Macquarie does list: "Indian English one of a band of armed thieves; bandit").

Kathy has also found ADROIT for six, but Alan has found the great seven of TROIKAS.  One meaning of TROIKA is "a Russian vehicle drawn by a team of three horses abreast", but it can also refer to the horses, or to "any group of three people acting together for a common purpose".  That's a wonderful find, and David is similarly impressed.

The seven points that Alan scored there compensate for the last round, and that puts me equal with Alan, and ten points ahead of Kathy.  With ten pointers available in each of the remaining two rounds the potential for a tie of some form is very large.


Scores: Alan 45, Kathy 35, me 45

Round 8: Target 399 from 25 50 100 6 3 8

Kathy sticks with three of each, and I was mentally pleading for a 25 to be one of the large numbers.  Fortunately it was, and the target was reasonably approachable.  I found 399 = 8*50 - 100/25 + 3, and then spotted the alternative 399 = 6*50 + 100 - 25 + 3*8.  As time was running out I saw how to use the factor of 3, but did not get it written down until afterwards: 399 = 3*(100 + 25 + 8).

Both contestants are only able to get one away, however.  Kathy declares 400 = 6*50 + 100, while Alan has taken a very circuitous route with 400 = (8/(6/3))*100.  Those seem a little roundabout when 8*50 was available, but I understand the complications that one's mind leads one through in such situations.  Lily demonstrates the first of the solutions that I listed.

This result spreads us out neatly at ten-point intervals.  The conundrum decides all!

Alan: 400
Kathy: 400
Me: 399
Lily: 399

Scores: Alan 45 (52), Kathy 35 (42), me 55


It looks like it should be approachable, but I could not get anywhere with this.  Neither of the contestants manage to solve it within time, either.  I continued looking, but was only turning up nonsense like DISRUPTEE or STUPIDEER.  A bit over three minutes of searching later I came up with DEPUTISER, which was at least had some shred of plausibility (although I didn't really think it was right), and I stopped there.

The actual answer was DISREPUTE.  As can be seen, I was nowhere near this, although I did consider the DIS- beginning.

Alan: [no answer]
Kathy: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Alan 45 (52), Kathy 35 (42), me 55

It really was a very close game, with the difference in scores coming down to the numbers game.  Alan had sevens consistently in the letters rounds, and Kathy very nearly so, and tonight that was good solving.  The numbers rounds left scope for improvement, however; Kathy was consistently one away, while Alan was 0, 1, and 2 away.  Either could have won tonight with just a bit better numbers performance (although the second round was admittedly tricky).  Alan may perhaps count himself lucky to have survived.

Similarly, I count myself lucky to have won this -- the final numbers round was quite solvable, I feel, and I could easily have been tied with Alan going into the conundrum.  I was hoping that Kathy would solve it since that would have given us a second conundrum (and me the win in the process), but as long as Alan did not I was safe.  Not something that I want to rely on, though!

No full monties tonight, nor even that close to one, although rounds 2 and 5 had the potential if the contestants had avoided the fourth vowel.  A bit of a sad way to finish the week with David on a count of four, but it was certainly a tough fought game and really that's the more important thing.  Alan looks very likely to enter the finals rankings; just 33 points tomorrow will see him push Nick Terry out of contention even if Alan loses.  And if he wins he'll also push me down a spot, and almost certainly Sebastian Ham too, based on his aggregate.  My finals chances are looking quite shaky right now.

1 comment:

Sam Gaffney said...

Five sevens each for Alan and I here, he has been great on the letter rounds. I would like to have found CAROTENE, as I did find CAROTENES in Episode 337. My answers:

205 = 50/25*100 + 9-5
634 = 6*100+75-50+9
399 = (100+8)*3+50+25

[a] I wrote down TROIKAS after SKTAIO just in case, then at 29s thought "oh no, there's TROIKAS, but no time", then realised that I had already written it.