Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Ep 382: Alan Nash, Sam Cejvan (February 14, 2012)

We hear more about Alan's travels today; he has been to Iceland, and he describes it as a very interesting place, an adventure in itself.  Parts of it are so green that they could be confused for Ireland (although with fewer sheep, he notes) while other parts of it are so bleak and blasted that they might make you think you were on Mars.

Tonight's challenger is Sam Cejvan, a graphic designer.  Sam also designs and makes his own furniture, using 3D software to create virtual models of what he wants; he then gets local companies to make up the components from those models and puts it together.  It sounds to me like he could have a lot of fun with a 3D printer.

[Many thanks to Karen Anderson for identifying the correct spelling of Sam's surname.  Much appreciated!]

This is a very close game, and I feel that Alan was lucky again tonight.  Sam tried for invalid words in the first two rounds, but still managed to draw ahead at the second break courtesy of some good numbers work.  (I commented yesterday about how I felt there was an opportunity there against Alan.)  Unfortunately for Sam, he conceded the ground back and then some in the next two rounds, and Alan was safe going into the conundrum.  Neither managed to solve it, and Alan gained his fifth win, 43 points to 30.

I felt extremely out of form today, consistently a letter behind David except for one round where I tried an invalid word.  If I'd stayed with the safer option on that round I would have matched Alan on each letter round.  I was luckily able to overtake him due to the numbers rounds, and was just barely safe at the conundrum.  I managed to solve it to improve the scoreline, but I definitely feel that I had a lucky escape tonight.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: S R A E T S A M I

The letters are good, but the duplication is not.  I had EARS / SEAR, RATES, STARES, STREAMS, and wondered about AIRMATES.  I correctly rejected it, and had to settle for seven.  It seemed very likely an eight was around; after time I found MISRATES, but remembered that I'd checked MISRATE before and it was not valid.  I also found MAESTRI, recognised that MASERATIS was not going to be allowed, and finally saw ASTERISM (an astronomical term for a group of stars or a constellation).  Even then I had to look it up to be sure it was correct.

Alan has the seven of MASTERS, while Sam has gone for eight.  Unfortunately, Sam's "eight" is MASTERIES and he has both re-used an E and miscounted in the process -- kind of both the same error, if he was thinking of it as a single E.

David has been thinking along similar lines to me, although much faster.  He tried MISRATES and saw it wasn't valid, but then found two anagrams of it that are: SMARTIES (plural of SMARTIE, colloquial for someone who is smart) and ASTERISM.  He gives the typographical definition of it which is not a sense listed in the Macquarie, but fortunately other senses are.

The two other eights available are anagrams of each other: ATRESIAS (ATRESIA: "Medicine the congenital absence or excessive narrowing of a duct or canal") and ASTERIAS (ASTERIA being one of a class of precious stones).

Sam: [invalid]

Scores: Alan 7, Sam 0, me 7

Round 2: D T O N K I E S U

The K doesn't fit well, although it could have been used.  I was distracted throughout this by a feeling that I should be able to make a word from DTONIES; it is not possible, and that search may have cost me time I couldn't afford.  I had KNOT, TONED, TONKED (TONK as a verb having meanings from cricket, of powerfully hitting the ball), and, in a desperate search for a seven, STINKED.

I didn't like it (STUNK obviously being a more plausible past tense), but I also didn't like only declaring six and I had a hopeful feeling that it might be an obscure alternate form.  (Here I think I was influenced by STICKED, which is an acceptable past tense of STICK in one sense: That of providing a stick for a plant to grow upon.)  In any case, I overoptimistically tried it, and it was not valid.

I could not find any of the several valid sevens after time, either; I wrote down OUSTED and DUTIES but was really looking for sevens and did not write down any of the other many sixes.

Sam declares a seven, while Alan has the six of STONED.  But Sam has gone for DONKIES, which is clearly invalid again.  That's an odd try, but I'm not in a good position to cast aspersions in this round.  David has found KINDEST for seven.

The two sevens that I should have seen are TEDIOUS / OUTSIDE.  For that matter, I did look at OUT-, and even worse I rejected SIDEOUT without making the obvious adjustment.  Carelessness!  The other sevens are DOESKIN, DUNITES (DUNITE being a type of igneous rock), SNOUTED (SNOUT being listed as having an obsolete colloquial verb sense of "to rebuff"), and KNOUTED (KNOUT as a verb meaning to flog with a knout, which as a noun is a type of whip).

Sam: [invalid]
Me: [invalid]

Scores: Alan 13, Sam 0, me 7

Round 3: Target 990 from 25 50 75 100 10 5

Alan continues with his selection of four large numbers, and the presence of 10 and 5 is a concern -- that means every number is divisible by 5, and it may prove difficult to get to a target which is not a multiple of 5.  Fortunately the target turns out to be divisible by 5, which greatly improves matters even though the target is quite large.  (As a demonstration of the difference: Making 991 from the same numbers is impossible.)

The factor of 10 is pretty obvious, and I pulled it out to get the solution 990 = 10*(100 - (75 - 50)/25).  Within time I also found 990 = 10*100 - 5*50/25.

Alan was writing up to the last moment, but only has a thousand to declare.  That must be a case of trying to get there exactly and not succeeding, as 1000 = 10*100 is pretty clear and simply subtracting five from that is a simple improvement (and further subtracting (75 + 50)/25 would get to the target, but I digress).  At least this time he got a fallback answer in place, although it doesn't pay off.

Sam has got to the target with the simple 990 = 10*100 - 50/5.  Those 10 points get him right back in contention after a very unfortunate start; if he had taken a more conservative line earlier he could have had 13 more points by this stage.

Lily has solved it with a small variant of my first solution: 990 = (100 - (75 - 25)/50)*10.

Sam Gaffney -- who is also a big fan of the four large mix -- once told me a very useful piece of information about it: With any single small number from 3 to 10 and the four large ones it is possible to get every multiple of 25 from 25 to 1000.  (And the number of exceptions with 1 and 2 are fairly low, too.)  Sometimes knowing whether a line of approach is going to work or not greatly simplifies things.  In this case, that knowledge tells us that using the 5 and the four large numbers will let us get to 1000 and then we can simply subtract that 10.  It doesn't take too much fiddling around to determine how to reach that 1000, and hence the solution 990 = 5*(100 + 75 + 25) - 10.

(Admittedly this may not always be easy to spot.  For instance, the method of getting to 975 with just that 5 is 975 = 25*50 + 100 - 5*75, and that took me far longer than 30 seconds to work out.  If the target had been 985 instead I would have been much better off subtracting 5 from one of those 990 solutions that doesn't use it rather than trying to get there as 975 + 10.)

[Update: In private communication, Sam pointed out that they can both be done more easily with that approach: 990 = (50/5)*100 - 10, and that approach makes 975 much easier:  975 = (50/5)*100 - 25.  I am not as adept as I would like to be about dividing by 5 -- it's a very powerful technique in the right situation.]

Alan: 1000
Sam: 990
Me: 990
Lily: 990

Scores: Alan 13, Sam 10, me 17

First break: COIL SEAM ("To be worn on the top part of your body, not the bottom")

The clue wasn't any help to me, but after I solved the anagram I realised that it was referring to the SOLE of CAMISOLE.

David's talk is about the meanings of three words that are also names of Scandinavian bands beginning and ending with A: ABBA, a-ha, and Aqua.

Round 4: T R E L O V A L O

Again, repeated letters make this tricky, as does the V.  I had ROLE, VOTER, LOVER, and TRAVEL.  After time I considered OVERTALL, but it is not valid and I'm not sure I'd have risked it.

Both contestants have LOOTER for six, but David is in fine form tonight and has found OVERALL.  I do feel silly for thinking of OVERTALL and missing OVERALL.  David has also looked up OVERTALL, as it turns out, and confirms that it is not there.

The other sevens are REALLOT and LEVATOR ("a muscle that raises some part of the body").  It has the interesting plural of LEVATORES, incidentally.


Scores: Alan 19, Sam 16, me 23

Round 5: D E T S U C R A G

I had DUETS, DUCTS, and CRUSTED.  I felt that there should be longer, but could not see it.  After time I noted SUGARED and CRUSADE for alternative sevens, but any longer eluded me.

Both contestants have seven, with Sam matching my CRUSTED while Alan has selected CRUSADE.  David checked up on GUESTCARD but was not surprised that it was not there; he did find the eight, though: TRADUCES.

There's a few other sevens, but I'll only mention CURATES and CUSTARD.


Scores: Alan 26, Sam 23, me 30

Round 6: Target 538 from 25 50 2 10 8 10

Sam goes for what he thinks is a safe mix, but the lack of small odd numbers mean that this could be quite tricky.  The target is even which may help; the usual method would aim to get to 550 and subtract 12.  With a 10 and a 2 handy that is particularly tempting, but I was not able to manipulate the other numbers to get to 550.  Instead I had to work up from 525 and the lack of an odd number then became a problem as the difference is 13.  I ended up one away with 537 = 10*50 + 25 + 10 + 2.

After time, I tried to get there by adding 8 to 530.  Again, the lack of odd numbers was unhelpful, but I eventually realised that 520 was much more approachable, finding the solution 538 = 10*(50 + 2) + 10 + 8.

Alan is two away with 540, but Sam is one away with 537, using the same approach that I did.  Lily shows that a little more attention paid to it would have yielded reward, as the offset of 13 was achievable after all.  Her solution is 538 = 10*50 + 25 + 10/2 + 8.  Nice one, Lily!

Richard pipes up with his solution, the one that I found considerably after time.  Well done, Richard!

Alan's relatively poor results on the last two numbers rounds have allowed Sam to make up the ground lost through those invalid words in the first two rounds, and he is now just ahead.  At this point my prediction yesterday that the numbers could land Alan in trouble is looking justified.

Alan: 540
Sam: 537
Me: 537
Lily: 538

Scores: Alan 26, Sam 30, me 37

Second break: COAL TREE ("Find and send somewhere else")

Easy enough to get RELOCATE from that.

Round 7: N Y I E A S C D R


Alan has similarly found DISCERN, beating out Sam's choice of DRAINS.  That gives the lead right back to Alan again, and guarantees that Alan will at least have a chance in the conundrum.  David calls this a toxic mix because it has sevens of ARSENIC and CYANIDE, and that since CYANIDE is listed as a verb then CYANIDES is an allowable eight.

I think that CYANIDES would have been allowed anyway (in part because the show has allowed ERBIUMS in the past, demonstrating a tendency to allow plurals of elements and similar); the noun sense given is "a highly poisonous salt of hydrocyanic acid, as potassium cyanide, KCN".  The clear implication (and this is backed up by chemical knowledge) is that any such salt would be called a cyanide, and so there can be several different cyanides.

In any case, it's been a good night of solving from David.  I don't think I acknowledge that enough, so well done, David!

There were some other sevens, with perhaps the more findable ones being CANDIES and SARDINE / SANDIER.  With Sam dropping behind on this round I now have an eleven point lead, much to my relief.  Just one numbers round to negotiate and I'll be safe in a game where I have not felt comfortable with any of my answers (except for the first numbers round, of course).


Scores: Alan 33, Sam 30, me 44

Round 8: Target 637 from 100 7 1 3 10 6

Sam changes it up by going for a single large number.  The target is pretty straightforward, with 637 = 6*100 + 3*10 + 7 being an easy spot.  In the remaining time I pull out the factor of 7 to find 637 = 7*(100 - 10 + 1), and then do it all in small numbers with 637 = 7*(6 + 1)*(10 + 3).

Sam has been writing up until the end, which isn't a good sign.  He declares 636, which is presumably 636 = 6*(100 + 7 - 1).  That's an unfortunate miss, made more so as Alan has found 637 = (100 + 7)*6 - 10/(3 - 1) to get there exactly and take an unbeatable lead into the conundrum.

Lily demonstrates the first of the solutions that I gave, and it does surprise me that both contestants overlooked it.  Still, I've done the same kind of thing often enough; sometimes a line of investigation looks promising but turns out to be a costly wild goose chase.

Alan: 637
Sam: 636
Me: 637
Lily: 637

Scores: Alan 43, Sam 30, me 54


I was slow off the mark on this one, but the -ANCE ending guided me there and I solved it seven seconds in.  Sam buzzed in a few seconds later, but he knew his guess of INCLINED was invalid even as he did so.  Alan could not get there in the remaining time, and the scores remained unchanged.

Alan: [no answer]
Sam: [invalid] (11s)

Final scores: Alan 43, Sam 30, me 64

This was a very close game, and the final difference in scores was exactly the 13 points that Sam conceded with his invalid answers in the first two rounds.  I'd imagine that he had seen safer alternatives that would have matched Alan's results; if only he had stayed with them he could have had a chance.  I think this highlights the importance of double-checking answers where possible, and also of writing down alternatives as they occur to you so that you can recover from that.

Alan must have been relieved when Sam did not solve the final numbers game, as he had conceded too much ground on the previous ones for safety.  This was a game that could have very easily gone quite differently, and it reminds me of my final game against Brett in that respect.

As I mentioned, I did not feel in good form today.  I was consistently a letter off the pace and rarely able to find the better words even considerably after time; only TRADUCES should have proven difficult, but it is part of my vocabulary and was findable.  Plus there was the silliness of declaring STINKED when I was fairly certain it was not valid.  The second numbers game was solvable if I had taken a moment to investigate the fallback plan a little more closely, as Lily showed.  All in all, I feel very fortunate that Alan had as many difficulties with the numbers as he did.

Still, Alan gets his fifth win and has a total of 282 points.  He needs a victory with 55 points or more to take second place; a loss is likely to move him to fifth position.  Can Alan get those 55 points?  Tune in tomorrow to find out!


Karen Anderson said...

Geoff, you do brilliantly at picking up everyone's surnames. I think Sam's surname may be spelled 'Cejvan'.

Geoff Bailey said...

I'm sure you are correct, Karen; searching on that variant has led me to find a very plausible match. Great job, and thank you!

(Original post edited to correct the spelling.)

Sam Gaffney said...

Great quick conundrum from Alan, given it was a fairly obscure one.

I really would have like to get SMARTIES in Round #1, it is a word I have tried to get down pat. I ran out of time going for an exact answer in Round #6, and missed the easy path to 537.

My answers:

STINKED [invalid] [b]
990 = 10*100 - 50/5
536 = 50*10 + (10+8)*2
637 = (100-6-3)*7
DALLIANCE Maybe ~30 (no backup timer)