Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Ep 398: [SF1] Sam Gaffney, Daniel Chua (March 7, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

Whew, it's another great game.  It's decided just a touch earlier, but it could easily have gone all the way down to the wire.  Sam gets what proves to be a decisive 14 point lead from the first two letters rounds, and thereafter the contestants match each other all the way to the conundrum.  Along the way Sam amazes everyone as he finally gets to demonstrate some of the intricacies that the four large mix can provide, and Daniel shows some great strategic thinking in the other two numbers rounds.  The last one very nearly paid off, but not quite, and Sam was safe going into the conundrum.  Once again he blitzed it, for a solid 72 to 48 win that was much closer than the scoreline would suggest.

I was fortunate to find the full monty in this game, and that was the eventual difference.  I traded some letters results along the way and at the final numbers game was safe as long as Sam did not solve it (unless I did as well, of course).  It proved too difficult for everyone except the ever-dazzling Lily, and that was game to me.  For the third time this series I was only barely beaten to the conundrum, having paused the video before the buzzer went off but after Sam's name lit up.  A close one!

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: I E A B S H T S L

B and H are both a bit awkward; I'd been hoping for a final T for ATHEISTS / HASTIEST, but as it was I had BASE, BASTE, BASTES, and TASSEL.  I was struggling to even see a seven, but when I looked at the -ISH ending I saw the magic of ESTABLISH.  I had to check it a few times before I could believe it, but it was there, and a crucial result.

After time (although guided there from the -STABL- fragment in ESTABLISH) I saw STABLES, and then immediately STABILES.  David mentioned STABILE back in episode 339, and it has apparently stayed with me (I also noted it in episode 355).

Daniel has BATHES for six, outdone by Sam's choice of STABLES.  David points out the tactic of putting an S aside for pluralisation (as both contestants did); in his case, he found BESTIAL quickly -- which is not pluralisable -- but the anagram STABILE is, and that gave him STABILES for eight.  But then David reveals that he has been teasing a little, since he has also seen ESTABLISH for nine.

Other eights are STABLISH (an archaic variant spelling of ESTABLISH), BATHLESS, and ABLEISTS / ASTILBES (ASTILBE being a plant).  There's a few sevens -- including the very Australian SHEILAS -- but I'll only mention ABSEILS and HASLETS (HASLET: "the edible entrails of a pig or other animal, as used for food").

Daniel: BATHES

Scores: Sam 0 (7), Daniel 0, me 18

Round 2: E I O M T R A G C

Both contestants have been starting with the vowels first.  I believe that Sam does this because he has memorised some word lists based on vowels and that lets him narrow his searching sooner.  It feels to me like Daniel is playing into Sam's hands by doing the same, although perhaps Daniel has similarly prepared.

I had MOTE / TOME, TIMER, and MIGRATE.  After time I pinned down one of those nagging familiar feelings to the presence of EROTICA.

One again it is six from Daniel and seven from Sam.  Daniel has the lovely TRIAGE, outdone by Sam's GRIMACE.  David points out MIGRATE as another seven.

Seven seems to be the limit; others are MORTICE (which seems to turn up a lot, with either the C or the S, but I've got a blind spot for it), RAGTIME, GAMETIC, and ARGOTIC (adjective from ARGOT: "the peculiar language or jargon of any class or group").

That gives Sam a 14 point lead which will be very tough to overcome.  Danger territory for Daniel!

Daniel: TRIAGE

Scores: Sam 7 (14), Daniel 0, me 25

Round 3: Target 821 from 25 100 75 50 6 4

Sam is still trying to pretend that he doesn't always choose the heavyweight mix, but Richard's comments kind of give it away.  As expected, Sam goes for it, and gets a provocative target.

I might have spun my heels for a bit on this one if not for an observation from Sam (that I've mentioned here before) that any small from 3 to 10 can combine with the four larges to get every multiple of 25 up to 1000.  Since the target is 4 away from 825, and we have the 4, the 6 is good enough to guarantee that we can find a solution this way.  A little fiddling and I had a solution: 821 = 6*(100 + 50) - 75 - 4.

Both contestants have solved this.  Sam goes first and starts off inocuously with 50*4 + 6.  He then blows everyone's minds as his solution continues: 821 = ((50*4 + 6)*100 - 75) / 25.  That uses an intermediate value of 20,600 which I'm pretty sure is the highest the show has yet had.  Everyone is impressed, as you would expect.

Richard asks Daniel if he did it the same way, to further amusement.  Daniel has a simpler solution, very similar to mine: 821 = 6*(100 + 25) + 75 - 4.  Good solving, but naturally overshadowed by Sam's effort.

We don't find out what Lily did (it would be anticlimactic at this point), but I'll assume that she got there.  She comments about how good it is to find such a solution under the pressure of the semifinals, and all within thirty seconds.  I mention this so that I can note that Sam actually finished writing within twenty seconds.

(At the end of the show Richard compliments Sam again on this solution; Sam responds with gentle amusement that it's not quite the same if it turns out there was an easier way.  Heh.)

However, I will say that I am not at all surprised by this.  Sam and I have talked a fair amount about the four large mix, and this technique, and I bet he was glad to finally have a chance to demonstrate it.  His previous selections of four large tended to produce disappointingly easy targets; I'm glad that drought got broken.  (I should add that knowing this technique and being able to use it are two very different things; Sam is definitely the master of it.)

Sam: 821
Daniel: 821
Me: 821

Scores: Sam 17 (24), Daniel 10, me 35

First break: CRUDE TAP ("No longer wild")

A straight clue for CAPTURED.  That was available very recently, in episode 387, so this was an easy solve.

David's talk is about joy, and other words derived from the Latin word jocus (or iocus, depending on how far back one goes).

Round 4: I A O P N R W S R

I didn't like this mix that much.  I was hoping that the final consonant would be a T for RATIONS, but better would have been to get a B for RAINBOWS.  As it was, the duplicated R did not help me, although it should have.  I had PIANO, APRON, SPRAIN, PRISON, and PRAWNS.  After time I saw ARROW, and thus NARROWS.

Both contestants have found SPARROW for seven, which is good solving; David has found SPORRAN for another.

Other sevens are SOPRANI and INWRAPS (INWRAP being a variant spelling of ENWRAP).

This round has dropped my lead to 11, just enough to be safe at the conundrum if I can hold on for the rest of the main rounds.  Precarious, since I would back Sam to beat me on the conundrum.


Scores: Sam 24 (31), Daniel 17, me 35

Round 5: U E A E F D S T N

I had FEUD, DEFUSE, FEASTED / DEFEATS, and UNSEATED.  After time I saw FASTENED, which I would have been happier to declare than UNSEATED if I'd seen it in time.  Just a slight niggling worry about UN- words, but this one seemed safe enough to try and that turned out to be the right decision.

Both contestants have found FASTENED for eight, while David has also seen UNSEATED.  Great competitive wordwork from the pair of them.

Those seem to be the only eights.  The other sevens are DEAFEST, DEAFENS, SAUTÉED, and SNAFUED (SNAFU as a verb: "to throw into disorder; muddle").


Scores: Sam 32 (39), Daniel 25, me 43

Round 6: Target 849 from 10 7 2 6 2 7

Daniel has recognised that Sam is good with the large numbers, as I think everyone has after the previous numbers round.  (And if Alan gets through to the final, seeing that round may prompt him to avoid that mix despite choosing it every other time; certainly I think he would be well advised to try something else.)  Daniel responds by taking the opposite end of the spectrum with six small, and I mentally cheer; I've been wanting someone to do this against Sam for a long time.  (Not that it will necessarily trouble him, but it's sensible to take away the large numbers that Sam is clearly very familiar with manipulating.)

The target is at the high end again, but the solution kind of just falls out directly and everyone finds 849 = 7*6*2*10 + 7 + 2 (with minor variants in the order of the multiplication).  Sam finishes after five or six seconds, while Daniel gets there with just three or four seconds left.  But the important thing is that they both got there, and this game continues to be tight.

Again, no word from Lily, but she must have had a variant of that.

Sam: 849
Daniel: 849
Me: 849

Scores: Sam 42 (49), Daniel 35, me 53

Second break: SOB TAINT ("Often fond in gardens")

I'm not entirely sure the clue's implication is justified, but it clearly means BOTANIST.

Round 7: O I A E M C H R K

A few unhelpful consonants here; I found CAMEO, CHIME, CHROME, CHOKER, and then had MACHIER flashbacks to yesterday's game and found CHIMERA.

Both contestants have found sixes, which gives me a little more breathing room.  Daniel chose CHROME while Sam went for HACKER.  David mentions CHOKER, and then CHIMERA -- great solving from David as usual.

David said that CHIMERA was the only seven that he could find, but there are two others.  KERAMIC is listed as a rare variant spelling of CERAMIC, and the adjective CHOKY ("tending to choke or suffocate one") has the comparative form CHOKIER explicitly listed.  I'd certainly not have dared risked it, but there it is.

Daniel: CHROME

Scores: Sam 42 (55), Daniel 35 (41), me 60

Round 8: Target 905 from 100 75 25 1 3 7

Daniel is still 14 points behind after five matched rounds with little scope for gain.  He needs to score unanswered points here, and since Sam appears to be good with both large and small numbers Daniel opts for three of each.  That's an excellent, excellent decision, and I applaud him heartily for it.  The balanced option is actually one of the most difficult to do well; it lacks the key fourth number for the technique that Sam used in the first numbers round, and it has few small numbers with which to make fine adjustments.  Although the solutions are more often achievable than either the four large or six small mixes, from a contestant's point of view it can be more difficult to work on than either.  Great strategy from Daniel!

Daniel's gambit is rewarded by the highest total of the night, and it could be quite a challenging one.  Certainly I found it so, starting off four away with 901 = 7*(100 + 25) + 75/3 + 1.  Some further thinking let me advance it to two away with 903 = (7 + 3 - 1)*100 + 75/25, which is what I had to stay with once time ran out.

With further thought after time I turned up a couple of other options for two away: 903 = 7*(100 + 25 + 3 + 1) and 907 = 7*(100 + 25 + 1) + 75/3.  I should have seen that latter much earlier, it was just a minor tweak of my first 901.

Pushing it further I eventually managed to get to one away with 906 = 3*(75/25)*100 + 7 - 1, but that was the best I could do.  Definitely a struggle for me on this round although that 906 is quite findable, really.

(From a personal point of view, I am 18 points ahead of Sam at this stage.  As long as he does not solve it exactly I am home.)

Both contestants have got to 901, and in fact with the same method: 901 = (3 + 7)*100 - 75 - 25 + 1.  That means Sam is safe going into the conundrum, which must be a relief to him.  It's a shame for Daniel; his bold choice very nearly paid off -- if he'd just seen a 903 he could have still been in the competition.

Lily has deftly manoeuvred her way to a solution: 905 = (100/25)*3*(75 + 1) - 7.  Great solving from her!

The game has resolved at this point; Sam will beat Daniel, and I will beat Sam.  Still points to play for, though.

Sam: 901
Daniel: 901
Me: 903
Lily: 905

Scores: Sam 42 (62), Daniel 35 (48), me 67


A couple of letters stand out in the mix, but I don't have time to consciously process that as I simply see the answer and buzz in (pause) at the one second mark.  Sam also presses dramatically at around that time; I've beaten his buzzer, but the stilled video clearly shows that his nameplate had lit up.  I think this is the third time this series that I've been beaten to the conundrum by that minuscule amount.  Sam is correct, of course, and finishes in the seventies once more.

Daniel: [no answer]

Final scores: Sam 52 (72), Daniel 35 (48), me 67

Both contestants played an excellent game; some excellent words and numbers solutions, and yet another lightning-fast conundrum solution from Sam.  Daniel really did push Sam all the way even after an unfortunate start, and made excellent decisions about which numbers to pull to give himself the best chance.  It so very nearly came off, too; Daniel may have been relieved at how quickly Sam solved the conundrum as it ruled out those final numbers making the difference.

I will note, however, that the final difference was 24 points.  Had Daniel seen ESTABLISH in the first round, that would have been a swing of 25 points... and a one point victory to him.  The advantage of an unmatched full monty is huge.

Similarly I needed it as well, with Sam's conundrum solving being so spot on.  The final difference was only 15 between us, and either 18 or 25 points hinged on that first round.  (Although it is possible that I would have found STABLES if I had not seen ESTABLISH, and if so I would definitely have seen STABILES which would have been enough for a five point win.  Hard to say how it would have turned out.)

Tomorrow's game features Alan against Toby for the other finals spot.  I'd expect Alan to win, but the finals have definitely brought out the best in everyone and who knows what might happen.  Alan might even fret a bit much over Sam's four large prowess and get himself tangled up in the numbers.  I look forward to seeing how it turns out!


Mark said...

Geoff - congratulations on a great game, especially the full monty.

My greatest Letters and Numbers satisfaction comes on the very rare occasions that I beat both you and Sam in a round; that didn't happen in this game, but I was still very happy to get CHIMERA to beat Sam in one round.

Sam - congratulations on your win. Great solution in Round 3!

Sam Gaffney said...

Very well played again Geoff, you are having one of your good weeks! Great job on the full monty, I thought that would be your deciding factor. Trying the -ISH was the only real way into it. It wasn't an easy round to find a seven, I wasted a lot of time getting to STABLES. I then probably poked around for an eight, of which you note several (though none I had heard of).

Your analysis of my vowel selection is correct, I learned a bunch of words for the show which I usually bunched by their vowels (e.g. EIA), but the only ones that have come up are CANISTER and TINWARE, and given that I also found TRANCHES in the CANISTER+H mix, one could argue that TINWARE has been the only useful word I memorised in 40 letters rounds. I have been given very few of the generic RETSINA mixes I prepared for (perhaps only CHANTRIES), which is a trifle unlucky, as they seem to come up more often than 2.5% of the time normally.

When I declared GRIMACE, I was trying to actually grimace, for a laugh. I think David (and from memory, Richard) got it, but it didn't come out very clearly on TV.

It was nice to get to show off one of my heavyweight tricks. I did see that the answer was 825 - 4 after I had written mine down, which was slightly embarrassing. There are several ways to get to 825 with the 6, such as Daniel's way, and

A more interesting solution than these that I have found today is:
(50-6)/4 * 75 - 100/25.

I spotted CHIMERA tonight, but it was quite possibly in my subconscious. Good job from you and Mark to get it in time.

With Round 8, I had actually come across:
903 = (100+25+3+1)*7
early on, but ditched it to search for a better result, before having to scramble for 901. I later pointed out to Daniel that we could have done:
903 = (7+1)*100 + 75+25+3,
which was very similar to our 901 method. Lily's solution was great here, I had forgotten it, and couldn't get within 1 of the target tonight.

Sebastian and Daniel both seemed to save their best performance for me, hopefully Alan/Toby won't do the same on Friday!

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks Mark, Sam. It would have been a tough ask to beat the both of us tonight, Mark -- only the final numbers round offered a chance at it. CHIMERA is a great spot, and you're rightly proud of that.

(Although speaking of CHIMERA, Sam: Certainly I was greatly aided by it turning up in just the previous game. Whether I see it in a few months' time is anyone's guess...)

I'd noticed the grimace at GRIMACE, but thought that it wouldn't play as well in a description as on screen. Mild apologies for omitting a mention of it.

It turns out there is exactly one other solution to the 905 problem, and it feels like it would appeal greatly to you, Sam: 905 = (25*100 - 7)/3 - 1 + 75.

Geoff Bailey said...

For personal amusement I'll note some parallels with Sam's quarterfinal: Sam had optimal results in all but three of the rounds, including a conundrum solution of just over a second each time.

Of those three rounds, one was a numbers round where Sam scored seven points. The others were letters rounds; one a tough mix where there was a seven to be found but Sam stayed with six. And the other was the first round in each, where Sam had a seven but a full monty was there.

Obviously I'm cherry-picking connections here, but it amuses me. Also, six perfect rounds a game pretty compellingly demonstrates why Sam is so hard to beat!

Victor said...

Congrats to Sam on another super performance - not a hint of finals nerves like the other contestants. That maths solution is one for the hall of fame I presume (wink, nudge).

I posted my lowest score ever (I think) mainly due to bungled letters rounds and I simply cannot top Sam's conundrum speed.

Belated advice for other finalist: just buzz in instantly and hope you can solve it while Richard is asking you what you think the solution is!

Geoff Bailey said...

There's something to be said for that advice, Victor. Although even then, you might be too slow to buzz in!

Condolences on the low score, and I hope you did better in the next game.

Anonymous said...

Noting the near appearance of HECTOGRAM in Round 2, what is the fate of prefixed units? I guess if not explicitly listed they are not allowed?

Geoff Bailey said...

@Anonymous: Yes, acceptable words are either listed ones, or inflected forms of listed ones. The only allowed prefixed units are those which are explicitly listed, which is a bit of a shame sometimes (the dictionary is perhaps a bit erratic on what it includes).

Nice almost-spot on HECTOGRAM, by the way!