Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ep 387: Christopher Piggott-McKellar, John Crone (February 21, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

The pre-show banter involves talking about superpowers, which is why Richard asks Christopher what superpower he would choose.  Christopher responds that if he had his way he would erase people's memories after seeing skinny black ties.  He honestly thinks they do ongoing psychological damage and are ruining a generation of Australians.  It's certainly a more interesting answer than I would have been able to give; I've not mentioned this before, but Christopher has shown a certain urbane wittiness on the show that comes across well.

Tonight's challenger is John Crone, a glazier and ballet enthusiast.  He really enjoys the ballet -- the fluid movements are a pleasure to watch.  He likes classical music as well, so it's "a bit of a double treat".  He adds that late last year he was lucky enough to see the Russian Imperial Ballet.

John's mention of Russian ballet prompts Richard to reveal that some thirty years or more ago he danced on stage with the Bolshoi Ballet.  The camera catches Lily's look of amazed disbelief.  Richard explains that it was in the early days of him thinking he might do some acting, and he ended up as an extra with them.  He had to wear a huge polystyrene dog's head and skip across the stage holding it.  Richard admits that it was not done with the grace usually associated with the ballet.

It is an interesting tussle, with only the final two main rounds allocating shared points.  John makes an elementary mistake in the first round to miscount his answer, and is soon 23 points behind.  A full monty gets him back within range, but a mistake in the next numbers round proves decisive.  Christopher ends up winning by 22 points, 53 to 31.

I basically did as well as feasible, except that I wimped out of declaring a full monty that I was quite unsure about.  It did turn out to be valid, alas.  I was also slow on the conundrum but got there in the end.  Still, a very comfortable win, and if I'd gone for the full monty it would have been my personal best solo score.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: L N T R E A E I N


Christopher got "stuck on some sixes", and declares RENTAL.  John has declared seven, but has found INTERNAL which is actually worth eight.  That makes it invalid, and a fourteen point turnover in round one.  In the words of Shaun Ellis's tattoo: Ouch.

David also found INTERNAL.  Other eights here are ENTAILER / TREENAIL ("a cylindrical pin of hard wood for fastening together timbers in ships, etc.") / ELATERIN (a white crystalline substance, apparently obtained from the squirting cucumber) and LANNERET (the male lanner falcon; the female is simply called a LANNER).

Christopher: RENTAL
John: [invalid]

Scores: Christopher 0 (6), John 0, me 8

Round 2: P D T A U E R S C

I had UPDATE, wondered about UPDATER, UPDATES, wondered about UPDATERS, then fortunately rendered those concerns irrelevant with CAPTURES, CAPTURED, PASTURED, and TRADUCES.  I was pretty sure that I'd looked up UPDATER before and it was not listed, and checking again shows that it is still not listed.  Fortunately there are many other eights.

This time John has SCARED for six but Christopher has extended his lead with CURATES.  Two rounds in and already more than a conundrum ahead is always a nice position to be in.  David mentions a few of those eights.

There does not seem to be a nine; the other eight is CUSPATED (synonym of CUSPED; CUSPATE is also acceptable).  There's a goodly spread of findable sevens, also.

This was a good time to try a final vowel, incidentally, with an O allowing OUTSPREAD.  The other potential full monties are somewhat obscure, with an E allowing DEPURATES (purifies) -- not DEPARTURES, as I erroneously thought when the letters went up; that has two R's -- and the actual I allowing EUPATRIDS (EUPATRID: "one of the hereditary aristocrats of ancient Athens and other states of Greece, who at one time formed the ruling class").

Christopher: CURATES

Scores: Christopher 0 (13), John 0, me 16

Round 3: Target 165 from 25 1 6 5 5 4

Christopher continues with his favourite single large option, and turns up a very low target.  I had 165 = 6*25 + 5*(4 - 1), then pulled out factors to get 165 = 5*(25 + 5 + 4 - 1) and 165 = 5*(4 - 1)*(6 + 5).

John has ended up one away with 164; I can think of a few ways he might have achieved that, but it does feel like he missed starting with 6*25 -- just adding the rest of the numbers will do after that step.  But Christopher is accurately there, with the first of those solutions.

Lily has worked down from 175 instead, with 165 = (6 + 1)*25 - 5 - 5.

Christopher: 165
John: 164
Me: 165
Lily: 165

Scores: Christopher 10 (23), John 0, me 26

First break: ARTY FELT ("This will get you nowhere")

A straight clue for FLATTERY.  I'll note that "flattery will get you nowhere" has less than half as many Google hits as "flattery will get you everywhere".

David's talk is about words from the Harry Potter books, two of which are apparently "due for future editions of the dictionary": quidditch and muggle.  I have to say: Really?  How does a fictional sport merit inclusion in a dictionary?  If it goes in, why not rollerballBaseketballCalvinballPyramid?

Round 4: N R T I O S E L A

I had TORN, TRIOS / RIOTS, INSERT, LOITERS, and then the final A brought a familiar pair into play: RELATIONS / ORIENTALS.

This is a retsina mix, and there's many eights to be had.  Christopher has stayed with seven, however, finding SALIENT.  That's a good word, but on this mix it's a fairly indifferent result.  John has found RELATIONS for eighteen desperately-needed points.  This makes a third contestant to find a full monty this series.  Congratulations, John!

John puts his pen down emphatically at the 20 seconds mark and leans back with a sigh of relief.  I think that's poor strategy, incidentally; if your opponent notices and thinks there is a nine they might focus solely on that, which makes it much easier to find.

(Another thing about this round: John talks about being on the comeback trail with his nine-letter word before he even finds out how well Christopher did.  I can well understand the relief -- and exhilarion for that matter -- of finding a nine, particularly in this situation, but he could have ended up with egg on his face.)

Christopher: SALIENT

Scores: Christopher 10 (23), John 18, me 44

Round 5: C F T N R E I A D

At the end I was hoping that a vowel would be chosen, with an O giving FRACTION (the word I was angling for after the first set of consonants went up).  It would have been an O, too, but FORNICATE would have been better for nine in that case.

As it was, I had RENT, INTER, FANCIER, wondered about INFARCTED, FAINTER, CRAFTED, and was also unsure about INFRACTED.  I was sure both INFARCTION and INFRACTION were words, but the question was whether INFARCT or INFRACT were verbs.  I was pretty sure (correctly) that the former was not, and spent far too long trying to decide about the latter, eventually settling for a seven instead.  Feeble play, especially on considered reflection.  Still, on the show I would not have had the leisure of that time to consider, so it's probably a fair result.

This time Christopher's seven of FAINTER outdoes John's choice of RATED.  David has found INFRACTED for the second full monty in a row.

There's several easy sevens here; Chambers lists the plant genus DICENTRA for eight, but it's not in the Macquarie.

Christopher: FAINTER

Scores: Christopher 17 (30), John 18, me 51

Round 6: Target 455 from 50 100 6 4 8 1

I almost went in completely the wrong direction on this before good sense reasserted itself and I found 455 = 4*100 + 50 + 6 - 1.

Both contestants declare that they have got there, with Christopher (and Lily) using that solution but John has made a very unfortunate error to use the 4 twice in his attempt of 455 = 4*100 + 50 + 4 + 1.  That was so close to being correct, and if he'd just noticed his error he should have found the right solution.

Christopher: 455
John: [invalid]
Me: 455
Lily: 455

Scores: Christopher 27 (40), John 18, me 61

Second break: AWARD HER ("Electronic fashion")

I'm not very convinced by the clue, but it's easy enough to find HARDWARE regardless.

Round 7: M G D S O E U I Y

A perfect example of why I dislike choosing the fourth vowel early; with the Y turning up there's not enough compatible consonants for anything of note.  I had DOGS... which I somehow wrote down as DOGDS.  Huh.  Anyway, I then had DOGES, MOUSED, and GUIDES.  I didn't even see the -IUM ending in time, which is bad, and even when I did afterwards I didn't see SODIUM.  Oh, dear.

Both contestants have SMUDGE for six, and David could not better it.  Sixes do seem to be the limit; a couple of others are MIDGES and EGOISM.

John needed to gain points here to have a chance, but with the letter mix proving uncooperative Christopher is guaranteed the win.

Christopher: SMUDGE

Scores: Christopher 33 (46), John 24, me 67

Round 8: Target 673 from 50 25 100 10 3 6

John switches things up with the difficult three-and-three mix.  The target proves extremely challenging; I found several routes to 672 but could not get to the target.  The one I wrote down, and which every else also found, is 672 = 6*100 + 50 + 25 - 3.

Lily could not solve this, and it's no surprise.  There is just one way of doing it, and it's not an easy find: 673 = 6*(100 + 50/10 + 3) + 25.

Christopher: 672
John: 672
Me: 672
Lily: 672

Scores: Christopher 40 (53), John 31, me 74


That Q stands out a mile, but I chased it down unprofitable lines.  I did actually consider the right ending pretty early on but without being able to make it work.  But I came back to it later and unravelled the solution at the twenty second mark.  Neither contestant was able to do so, and so the final rounds produce no relative change in score.

Christopher: [no answer]
John: [no answer]

Final scores: Christopher 40 (53), John 31, me 84

John was quite erratic today, while Christopher was consistent and in the end rewarded for that consistency.  Once again, it could very easily have gone the other way; John's two mistakes resulted in 24 points of relative difference, and the winning margin was only 22.  That's the second time his victory has hinged on such things.  Christopher has shown consistent, but not compelling, performance.

And so my run comes to an end, with that victory pushing me down to ninth spot at last.  If I've been at all negative in tone over the last four games it has been because I knew this was coming and it made me a bit grumpy.  So many might-have-beens about this all...  Christopher needs a victory or 44 points in order to overtake Sebastian and move into seventh spot.  Now that my fate is settled I can go back to wishing him well.

I was very slow on the conundrum, but otherwise did as well as was feasible in terms of finding answers; I saw INFRACTED and incorrectly chose not to declare it.  Had I done so, that would have been a solo game total of 95; my personal best solo score is 94 points.  I just needed to risk a little more.

Just six games left until the finals; it's technically possible for another contestant to enter the rankings.  Will that happen?  Will Christopher successfully retire?  We'll find out part of the answer tomorrow.


Mark said...

I saw RELATIONS (but not ORIENTALS), and like you, I saw INFRACTED but wasn't sure if it was valid and probably wouldn't have played it.

Geoff Bailey said...

That's some good spots, Mark. I recall ORIENTALS from various episodes of Countdown; RELATIONS is an easier find and once you know it there's not much incentive to look for ORIENTALS. I think this has a good chance of being the most common full monty.

If I'd had a lot of time to consider it, I think I would, or should, have eventually come down in favour of INFRACTED. The gain from a nine point word is significant enough to outweigh the doubt. I was much less doubtful about it than either INFARCTED or (from a much earlier episode) POLEDANCE (not valid, but tried).

But I'd already spent longer than was fair trying to decide about it; the show would rightly tell me to hurry up. I would have reluctantly declared a safe seven and hoped they asked me what my longer word was. :)

Victor said...

Commiserations on missing out on the finals Geoff! Your (non-)appearance in them was revealed early however, in the comments to Episode 341 or 342 I think. Can we be careful with spoilers please!

I share your opinion about quidditch in the dictionary.

It it just me or have the letters rounds become particularly friendly over the past couple of weeks (towards the end of a season where very few contestant full monties have been found)? :P

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Victor, I appreciate it. I agree, the letter mixes have seemed much better in the last couple of weeks. Makes up for the early weeks where full monties were very hard to come by, even for David.

I don't have a feel for how much of that is luck and how much is contestants making better choices about which combinations to choose, though. I'm trying to get over ranting about that. :)

Sam Gaffney said...

Yes Victor, that was my careless and thoughtless spoiler in the comments of Ep 341! The finals were filmed back in early November, and having only just stumbled onto this blog through narcissistic self-Googling after my episodes screened, I hadn't picked up the "will Geoff qualify?" narrative. After a severe scolding from Geoff, I have been very careful since.

Christopher has shown good personality on the show, and is a shoe-in for the longest name trophy. I would like to see him shorten it to Chris McPig.

Richard's ballet story was quite amusing. John may have been the most hot-and-cold candidate I have ever seen on the show, with a full monty, miscounted eight, and minor numbers error.

I was too busy looking for an eight to notice INFRACTED until David mentioned his seven, though I would have played it. Well done to Geoff and Mark for spotting it in time.

After all that jabbering, here are my answers:

165 = 6*25 + 5*(4 - 1)
455 = 4*100 + 50 + 6 - 1
672 = 6*100 + 50 + 25 - 3