Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Ep 397: [QF4] Toby Baldwin, Shaun Ellis (March 6, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

Again, not much to the chat although we do get to see Shaun's improved poker face.  It's a little scary, to be honest.

Once more there's some good back-and-forth, but two of Shaun's words are invalid which gives Toby crucial points.  Toby needs it, too, because he concedes a lot of ground on the numbers, and was behind by more than the conundrum going into the final numbers round.  Shaun erred, I feel, by choosing a difficult numbers option, and Toby was just able to outdo Shaun in it.  That brought the match down to the conundrum yet again, with Shaun leading but not safe.  Toby held his nerve to spot the answer with five seconds left on the clock, and scrapes through into the finals, 43 to 39.

Another slightly mixed performance from me today, including an invalid declaration in the first round that was quite bizarre in retrospect.  I'd correctly judged that it wasn't going to cost me points, at least.  I did miss a longer word in another round, but aside from that it was smooth sailing.  Just like last night, I solved the conundrum eight seconds in for what ended up being a fairly easy win.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: T C M A I H C E R

I simply could not get into this mix; I was hoping the last letter would have been an N for MACHINE (and would hopefully have seen the better option of MECHANIC) but without it I struggled badly.  I had MACH, MACHIER that I was very dubious about, TEACH / CHEAT, and CHIMER (that I was also unsure of).  Shortly after time ran out I saw CERAMIC, then CATCHER, HEMATIC, and CHIMERA.  It's vexing that I did not see CHIMERA once I had CHIMER.

CHIMER turns out to be valid; in addition to the meaning of "someone or something that chimes" it is also "a loose upper robe, especially of a bishop, to which the lawn sleeves are usually attached".  MACHIER... needs more explanation.  Basically, I was trying to think of "papier-mâché", but had somehow transposed it to "paper machier" in my head.  I then thought there was an outside chance that "machier" on its own might have acquired a generalised meaning, if a similar process was applicable to materials other than paper.

This is obviously the result of some quite confused thought processes, and calm reflection later made this clear.  At the time, however, I thought there was a very small chance it might come good, and I was convinced that six would not be enough (rightly, as it turns out).  Additionally, I wasn't even sure about that six and five definitely was going to be insufficient.  So, with only the faintest of hopes, I opted for MACHIER.  Not my finest hour!

Both contestants have done much better than me, with Toby having THRICE to Shaun's REMATCH.  Just as well that Shaun had that seven, or I would have felt even sillier.  (Also, missing REMATCH hurts a little; I found REMATCH back in episode 385, but not tonight.)

David has come through with CATCHIER for eight.  Nice one, David!  The other eight here, which would presumably appeal to him, is RHEMATIC: "relating to the formation of words".

Other sevens in this mix are MATCHER, RACEMIC (an adjective describing certain organic compounds; Wikipedia can explain it better), THERMIC, and THERIAC ("an antidote to venomous bites, etc. [...]").

Me: [invalid]

Scores: Toby 0, Shaun 7, me 0

Round 2: D N T A P O E H T

I had PANT, DONATE, PANTED, and NOTATED.  After time I saw PHONATE, and when checking up on it I was a little surprised to see that it was a verb rather than an adjective, making PHONATED good for eight (PHONATE: "to produce speech sounds by vibration of the vocal bands; vocalise").

Sixes from each contestant, Toby with POTTED while Shaun has PHONED.  Readers with long memories may recall that Shaun commented in episode 304 about having tried GASHEAD in his first game; this time POTHEAD would have served him well.

David has settled on a couple of sevens: NOTEPAD -- available from the first seven letters -- and the very nice PHAETON (a type of light four-wheeled carriage).


Scores: Toby 0 (6), Shaun 7 (13), me 7

Round 3: Target 290 from 50 75 5 9 4 3

Toby aims to keep the numbers simple, and there's a clear approach via 300.  I had 290 = 4*75 - 50/5; that division by 5 to get the 10 is not always easy to see, however, and without that finding the 10 can be difficult.  Pulling out the factor of 5 may be easier, allowing 290 = 5*(50 + 9 + 3 - 4).  There's also the simple but hard to spot 290 = 3*(75 + 5) + 50.

Toby is one away with 291 -- I'll wager he got stuck trying to find that 10, and settled for the 9 -- but Shaun is on-target with the solution that I had.  I'll note that his pen went down fairly early, but he can be clearly seen to check his answer afterwards.  That's an appropriate use of that extra time, so good on him.  (He got caught out on an easy answer back in episode 301 that checking should have caught, so he may have learned this lesson better than most contestants!)

Lily has also used this solution, and Shaun is out to a sizeable early lead of 17 points; that's a big danger for Toby.

Toby: 291
Shaun: 290
Me: 290
Lily: 290

Scores: Toby 0 (6), Shaun 17 (23), me 17

First break: LACE GIRL ("This word could cause a reaction")

It took a little while, but I did find ALLERGIC from this.

David's talk is about the rather surprising etymology of the word gun.

Round 4: M S U E F L R I G

Another mix where nothing was coming together for me.  I had MUSE, FUSE, FLUMES, MUESLI, and GRIMES.  (Actually, I had swapped the E and U of MUESLI around when I wrote it down; fortunately I was nervous about it and had decided to go with FLUMES instead.)  After time I found LURGIES, an edge case that David deemed acceptable back in episode 313.

Shaun has decided to risk FILMERS for seven, while Toby is much more confident in his choice of FIGURES.  That's a very nice find from Toby, and definitely the preferred seven to declare.  David checks up on FILMERS and sadly for Shaun it is not listed.  What David doesn't mention is that REFILMS would have been valid.

That's seven points back to Toby, closing the margin to 10 -- just barely in striking distance.

The other seven in this set of letters is MISRULE.

Shaun: [invalid]

Scores: Toby 7 (13), Shaun 17 (23), me 17

Round 5: N R Q N O I E L A

That Q is a definite spoiler of chances; although after the first seven were up I would have been tempted to chase after a U for QUINONE (and it would have turned up with the fifth vowel, too).  I had IRON and INNER, and then when the fifth consonant was an L I definitely wanted a final vowel hoping for an A and AILERON.  It was, and that was the best to be found (or its anagram, ALIENOR: "someone who transfers property").

Both contestants have opted for LOANER; Toby calls his a safe six, while Shaun seems less sure.  It is fine, of course, and David has found AILERON as expected.


Scores: Toby 7 (19), Shaun 17 (29), me 24

Round 6: Target 189 from 100 25 50 75 2 10

Shaun still hasn't a favourite mix, and interestingly goes for four large.  The target is small, and this is a case where study of the four large numbers would pay off handsomely.  One of the things that you find out when doing so is that there are some subtle options that allow some unexpected numbers to be formed from the large numbers alone, and the nearest of interest is 197.  That's just 8 away from the target, and the small numbers will yield that 8.  Putting it all together yields 189 = (50*100 - 75)/25 - (10 - 2), a solution that would be very hard to find on the fly without this kind of background.

After time I saw the somewhat easier option of 189 = 2*100 - 10 - (50 + 25)/75.

Toby is one away with 190 -- perhaps overlooking the final manipulation of the remaining large numbers in the previous solution -- but Shaun is on target again with 189 = 100 + 75 + 10 + 50/25 + 2.  Lily has also used that method.

Toby is 20 points behind now, and in a heap of trouble.

Toby: 190
Shaun: 189
Me: 189
Lily: 189

Scores: Toby 7 (19), Shaun 27 (39), me 34

Second break: FEND LUGE ("Swallowed up")

A straight clue for ENGULFED.

Round 7: R D V U E I T A S


Toby can't afford to fall further behind in this round, and really needs to pick up some ground.  He doesn't look happy about doing so, but declares a risky seven; depending on the quality of the seven that's good strategy.  That prompts Shaun to do the same, and neither of them are that keen on their words.  Shaun's choice is STRIVED and Toby's is ADVERTS.

David checks up on STRIVED, but it is not listed -- the acceptable inflected forms being STROVE or STRIVEN.  I'll note that my Chambers does list STRIVED, marked as either Shakespearean or biblical; definitely not current usage either way.  So Shaun is perhaps a touch unlucky but not really.  He groans when David points out that DIVERTS was a safe anagram of those letters.

That's good news for Toby, who will still have a chance even if his word is ruled invalid.  David moves on to checking on ADVERTS, and Toby has kind of a resigned look on his face.  But ADVERT is listed as a colloquial synonym for an advertisement, and Toby has luckily picked up some points.  Again, David points out a safer anagram; in this case, STARVED.

After all that, David has found VIRTUES for his seven.  Other sevens are ADVISER, DATIVES / VISTAED, ASTRIDE / DISRATE / STAIDER / DIASTER ("a stage in mitosis [...]"), and RESIDUA (plural of RESIDUUM).

But there is an eight!  It is DURATIVE, an adjective "denoting a verb aspect, as in Russian, expressing uncompleted or continued action, etc."  That's three potential eight-letter words to do with language or speech tonight: RHEMATIC, PHONATED, and DURATIVE.

Some dictionaries, but not the Macquarie, accept DURATIVE as a noun; those would thus allow DURATIVES, the almost-nine in this mix.

Shaun: [invalid]

Scores: Toby 14 (26), Shaun 27 (39), me 41

Round 8: Target 928 from 25 100 50 75 9 10

That last round has given Toby a good shot; he needs unanswered points in this round, however.  Shaun decides that after the last numbers round he likes the four large option, and chooses it again.  I feel that was a big mistake; With Toby having to outdo Shaun, an easy target was much more to Shaun's benefit than a hard one, and choosing a single large number was a much better way to go.

And indeed, a large target turns up and that can be a struggle.  It's a target very close to one of the important numbers for the four-large aficionado, but I made an error calculating the difference and could not get it to work.  Fortunately I found an alternative and much more prosaic solution: 928 = 9*(100 + 50/25) + 10.  This is also the solution that Lily found.

Shaun is two away with 930 -- I'm guessing that was 10*93, although there's a couple of ways to get that 93; given his first numbers round answer it could also have been 9*100 + 25 + 50/10.  However, Toby has seized the chance given to him by Shaun to get only one off with 927 = 100*10 - 75 + 50/25.  Seven more precious points, and Toby is only six behind going into the conundrum.

To expand on the previous remark about the important number, that value is 937½ = 25*50*75/100.  There's a great many ways to mix small numbers into that expression to end up with nearby integers, and this turns out to be one of the times it would work.  The difference is 9½, which is to say 19/2, and the 19 is easy from the small numbers.  The solution follows directly: 928 = (25*75 - 10 - 9)/(100/50).

[As I mentioned, I had tried this but miscalculated the difference.  Thanks to Sam Gaffney for being more accurate and finding this solution, because it's good to have a chance to highlight this technique.]

Toby: 927
Shaun: 930
Me: 928
Lily: 928

Scores: Toby 14 (33), Shaun 27 (39), me 51


So like the other three quarterfinals either contestant can win on the conundrum round.  On solo scores, Toby has solved the most conundrums of any of the finalists, and Shaun the least, but will this go true to form?  Shaun can afford for the clock to run out but Toby must find it in order to advance.

I have to consider the -ING ending for a bit, but decide that so many vowels makes that unlikely.  I refocus on -ATION, and find the solution 8 seconds in.  The clock keeps counting down, though, with some frantic writing from Shaun and intense concentration from Toby.  With just five seconds left Toby buzzes in with a flourish and his correct answer is met with a groan from Shaun who has seen this match slip through his fingers in the last three rounds.  But he applauds vigorously and sincerely congratulates Toby on his win.

Toby: AGITATION (25s)
Shaun: [no answer]

Final scores: Toby 14 (43), Shaun 27 (39), me 61

Well, what a game, and what a comeback.  It's not quite in the same league as the amazing final game from last series, but definitely well up there, and another tense finish to the game.  Fantastic stuff!

Shaun had two invalid words, but shorter valid ones would not have gained him any points.  I do feel that he lost this on the final numbers round, and should have tried for a much easier option there.  So close...

One thing I do want to note, with reference to the breakdown I gave of contestants' performances on the individual rounds, is that some of the trends seen there held true tonight.  If we treat Shaun's invalid sevens as a valid pair of five and six (I'd make them both six, but I can't be sure he saw a valid six in round 4; on the other hand, it seems clear that he would have seen FILMS and STRIVE from his eventual words) then Toby averaged 6.4 and Shaun averaged 6.0, compared to 6.43 and 6.05 respectively.

I always thought that the numbers could be quite telling; looking at Toby's performance in competition there showed that he conceded an astounding 7 points on average against me.  That is strongly indicative of rarely getting exactly to the target, and tonight was more of the same, with him being one away each time.  That almost undid his gains from the letters completely, but not quite, and true to form he got home on the conundrum.

Tomorrow sees Sam play Daniel, and then Alan against Toby on Thursday.  I'm fairly confident about Sam winning -- he has been consistently excellent throughout -- but with the way this finals series has played out I am half expecting it to go to the conundrum once more.  Tomorrow will tell!


Sam Gaffney said...

Hi Geoff, well played, and thanks for the double mention in your post.

It was a good game, both Toby and Shaun are fun to watch because they provide a bit of personality.

Below are my answers. CATCHIER was easy as I already had CATCHER. I was a little lucky that REFILMS is valid, RE- words are very dicey (as opposed to -IER/-IEST words, which I have found to be very reliable). I made sure to solve the last two number rounds in the most complex manner I could think of:

290 = (50+9+3-4)*5
189 = (100*50-75)/25 - (10-2)
928 = (75*25-9-10)*50/100

Geoff Bailey said...

Excellent point, Sam. Both Toby and Shaun bring a good deal of entertainment to the show (rather more so than I did, I think). I'll just take a moment here to give a shout out to Tim Clay, who opposed me in my second game -- I thought he would have been similarly entertaining to watch.

And that was some great numbers work from you, as I've come to expect.