Friday, 9 March 2012

Ep 399: [SF1] Alan Nash, Toby Baldwin (March 8, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

A little banter worth noting in the pre-game chat tonight.  Richard mentions the many conundrum showdowns in the series so far, and Alan claims that it is part of the contestants' efforts to boost ratings for the show.  Alan adds that they'll do their best to get another one tonight.  Spoiler alert for all of two paragraphs: They do.

Toby mentions that he can almost form a sentence from all the conundrums that he has solved: FRIVOLOUS AGITATION; CORPORATE PORCUPINE OVERJOYED.

The lead switches back and forth several times, with neither contestant able to get a decisive break.  Alan starts off with an invalid word to give Toby the early lead, but Toby follows up with an invalid answer on the numbers to hand the lead back to Alan.  A good word sees Toby take the lead again, only to give it back to Alan with another invalid numbers round.  Then another good word gives him the lead again, and he finally gets a valid answer in the numbers to take a ten point lead into the conundrum.  Alan solves the conundrum quickly to tie the scores and force a second one, and then solves that second one even faster to take the win, 50 to 40.  Those two crucial conundrums make up for the lack of one last night.

Meanwhile, I was having an erratic and not very satisfactory effort.  I started with a careless invalid word without a decent fallback, and arguably that cost me this game.  My numbers could have been better but those were harder finds, and my invalid guess at the first conundrum sealed the loss.  A disappointing result after three good games, and incidentally my worst result of the series.  My two worst scores have come against Alan in the finals series; a worrying sign.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: D B A I S M E I T

I had SAID, MAIDS, and STIMIED.  The observant of you will notice that it is not a word (I was thinking of STYMIED); I noticed that too, but after time had expired.  That left me without a six to fall back on (I would have gone with one if I could), so I rather feebly went for STIMIED in the hopes that a miracle would occur.  I'd have been better off hoping for both contestants to get invalid words so that my five could score, but it would not have made any difference, fortunately.

I'd not written down sixes because I was trying to make an eight at that point; some that I saw and passed over were BASTED, MASTED, MISTED, and ADMITS.  After time I saw MISDATE for seven, and was not surprised but still a little disappointed that neither MISBAITED nor DIABETISM are words.

Toby went with BIASED for six, while Alan chose AMITIES for seven.  That's a good spot, but the Macquarie does not list a plural form for AMITY and David has to rule it invalid because of the spelling shift.  Unlucky!  (This result does, incidentally, finally supply evidence that the spelling shift rule applies to plurals; this series it has only been mentioned in the context of comparatives or superlatives.  That pretty firmly puts the nail in the coffin for DUALITIES, and some others that I have mentioned along the way.)

David was not able to better six, and has chosen ABIDES for his.  It does seem that MISDATE is the only seven allowed by the Macquarie; I'll note that Scrabble lists do contain both AMITIES and STIMIED, however, so perhaps my act of desperation was not as silly as I thought.

That unfortunately-invalid word from Alan gives Toby the early lead, but a relatively minor one.

Alan: [invalid]
Me: [invalid]

Scores: Alan 0, Toby 6, me 0

Round 2: L R N U E J A U E

Toby keeps calling vowels; perhaps he was hoping for an O for JOURNAL?  It did not turn up, and the result was a mix where not much could be extracted.  Staying with just the three vowels would have added an S and T to replace them, allowing NEUTRALS for eight.

As it was, I had RUNE, NEURAL, and UNREAL.  After time I added LEANER (more lean), but could not better six (nor did I expect to be able to).

Both contestants have selected UNREAL, and David notes that the homophone UNREEL is also there.  It's not certain which the contestants were opting for, but the intonation around their announcements suggest that UNREAL was the intended one (particularly so for Toby).

Some sources list NEURULA (with possible plural NEURULAE for eight, even), but the Macquarie does not.  Sixes are the best to be done.


Scores: Alan 6, Toby 12, me 6

Round 3: Target 681 from 100 75 25 50 6 1

Alan predictably goes for four large, and the target is fairly approachable with those small numbers.  The standard method works handily, although tweaking makes it easier.  I had 681 = 6*(100 + 1) + 75, and then 681 = (100 - 75)*25 + 50 + 6.  The latter is part of the four large knowledge that I've mentioned occasionally: 675 is one of the numbers that can be made from them alone (as demonstrated), so the 6 means that this solution can be written down with little thought.  I still found the other way first, though.

Both Alan and Lily used the first of those solutions.  Toby has also declared 681, but his solution is 6*100 + 75 + 6, and he has used the six twice.  An easy enough mistake to make, but my sympathy for him is muted by him visibly counting out the last ten seconds without checking his work.  If he had done so, he might have found the correct tweak in time.

Toby's mistake allows Alan to take the lead from him, with just four points in it.

Alan: 681
Toby: [invalid]
Me: 681
Lily: 681

Scores: Alan 16, Toby 12, me 16

First break: REAL THUG ("It really is the best medicine")

When the words were read out I was not sure if it was REAL or REEL (shades of the second round in that!), but then I found LAUGHTER and knew which it had to be.  The clue then completely gave it away, as it tends to do.

David's talk is about competitive events with two components: duathlon (mentioned in episode 357 as Richelle was involved in duathlons) , biathlon, octopush, and chess boxing.

Round 4: S T Y C I O M E T

I had a strong sense of déjà vu as the fourth letter went up; this was very similar to the mix from episode 396.  I had CYST, CITY, MOIST, COMETS, TOTEMIC, and tried to do something with either MYO- or MYCO- but could not get it to work.

Alan has gone for STYMIE, which is a little amusing considering my round one failure.  Toby has gone one better with TOTEMIC, however, to take back the lead once more.  David has noticed the similarity to Monday's game, and points out that SOCIETY is still there for seven.

Seven does seem to be the limit; the other one actually comes from the MYO- fragment: MYOTICS (MYOTIC being a variant spelling of MIOTIC, a drug that has something to do with MIOSIS: "excessive contraction of the pupil of the eye").

Another six that I like is MOIETY ("a half").


Scores: Alan 16, Toby 19, me 23

Round 5: F S P R I A E D I

F and P don't play that well together, so it's not a hopeful sign to see them both (although if that A had also been an E then PERFIDIES would have been there for nine).  I had RIPS, PAIRS, PRAISED, FAIRIES, and DIAPERS.

Both contestants have sevens; Toby has opted for DIARIES while Alan has chosen DESPAIR.  David makes note of PRAISED for his seven.

There is almost an eight here, thwarted by the vagaries of the Macquarie.  Most sources allow PRESIDIA as a plural of PRESIDIUM ("(in countries in the eastern bloc) an administrative committee, usually permanent and governmental"), but the Macquarie does not.


Scores: Alan 23, Toby 26, me 30

Round 6: Target 852 from 50 9 1 5 4 6

Toby tries a single large number and gets a very difficult target.  I wrote down a fallback 850 = 50*(9 + 5 + 4 - 1), but that was an expensive way to get 17 and left no further room to manoeuvre.  I was trying to find some way directly to the target rather than just one away, and ran out of time to do so.

After time, although it took some searching, I did manage to improve things but only one better with 851 = 4*5*(50 - 6 - 1) - 9, 851 = 5*(4*(50 - 9) + 6) + 1, and 851 = (5*6 - 9 - 4)*50 + 1.  It turns out that this is the best it is possible to do; the actual target is unreachable.

Both contestants have reached 851; Toby starts with (4 + 6 + 9)*50, but he erroneously thought that this equalled 850 and it does not.  His solution is invalid.  Alan, however, has a correct answer with 851 = (5*4 - (9 - 6))*50 + 1.  Those seven points now put him back in the lead.

Lily "could not get that last one", which suggests that she found one of the ways to 851 (although it is not directly stated).

Alan: 851
Toby: [invalid]
Me: 850

Scores: Alan 30, Toby 26, me 30

Second break: USUAL FOB ("Michelle Pfeiffer's Baker Boys")

A movie reference for FABULOUS.

Round 7: C N K R A O E N G

Another messy mix.  I had CRANK, CROAK, CANKER, and RECKON.  I saw other sixes (such as ORANGE) but could not find a seven.

Alan has ORANGE for six, but Toby has done well to find CORKAGE for seven.  That's a great find, and again David is unable to better it.

So once again the lead changes, and Toby is three points ahead once more.  Such a close game!

There are two other sevens: ACROGEN ("a plant having no proper flowers but a growing point at the end of its perennial stems, as a fern or moss") and CRANNOG ("an ancient Irish or Scottish lake dwelling, usually built on an artificial island").

In fact, CRANNOG has a varient spelling of CRANNOGE, giving the eight from this mix.  A tough find!


Scores: Alan 30, Toby 33, me 30

Round 8: Target 887 from 50 75 5 8 4 10

Toby, discomforted by his effort on the last numbers round opts for the family mix.  It gives him another difficult target; the standard method suggests getting there by offsets of either 12 or 13, and both are easily formable.  I wanted to utilise 7*125 = 875, but I could not get that 7 without losing the other numbers that would make it useful.  I ended up falling back on 885 = 75*(8 + 4) - 10 - 5.  After time I saw the right combination to make the 875, leading to the solution 887 = 10*50 + 5*75 + 8 + 4.

Alan declares 884 -- presumably 10*(75 + 5 + 8) + 4 -- but Toby has found the same 885 as I did.  Meanwhile, Lily has got the solution that I saw after time.  Excellent solving as usual.

That gives Toby a ten point lead, and raises the possibility of two conundrums tonight.

Alan: 884
Toby: 885
Me: 885
Lily: 887

Scores: Alan 30, Toby 40, me 37


I thought I saw the solution and buzzed in at the one second mark.  However, my selection of DELINEATE was incorrect and I saw that as I buzzed.  I found the right answer a couple of seconds later, but I think I would not have been able to correct within time and have to mark this as invalid.  That's a disappointing way to end up losing this game.

Alan finds it five seconds in -- I honestly don't know if I would have beaten him (assuming that I had not hastily pressed in with the wrong answer).  Good solving, and we have a second conundrum.

Alan: ALIENATED (5s)
Toby: [no answer]
Me: [invalid] (1s)

Scores: Alan 40, Toby 40, me 37

The three-cornered game stops here, with both contestants ahead of me by three points.

Round 10: SUAVE CORN

I was way off the pace on this one.  Alan is on fire, getting it two seconds in to make an excellent comeback win.  I probably took around a minute or so to solve it, having several times seen the non-word CRAVENOUS.  Sigh.

Alan: CAVERNOUS (2s)
Toby: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Alan 50, Toby 40, me 37

Another gripping game from the finals series -- it really has been a great one.  I want to note just how good Toby's letters were today: David was unable to better him on any round.  That's a very rare achievement, and one that I hope he has noted and is proud of.  Unfortunately his numberwork let him down here, and he has struggled with them all series.  Of the 24 numbers games that he has played, he had invalid or out of range answers eight times and achieved the target only four times.  Those are crucial points conceded, and here they were just enough to let Alan back into the match.

Alan struggled with what were some very unfriendly mixes today, although he was a little unfortunate about AMITIES.  He did well in the numbers to give himself a chance, and finished with great solves on the conundrums.  He goes through to the grand final a worthy contender.

That said, I'm still picking Sam to win; a great player in all facets of the game and I strongly doubt that Alan will be able to take any points off Sam in the numbers.  There is sometimes enough leeway in the letters to catch him, though, and the conundrum could go either way.  If the grand final lives up to the other finals matches then it is going to be a great game to watch!


Mark said...

What a great finish from Alan! I'm really looking forward to seeing him take on Sam in the final.

Sam Gaffney said...

I made the same mistake on DELINEATE playing from home as you, Geoff, but slower! I would like to register a complaint that you nailed basically everything in my semi-final, but missed a couple of rounds here.

I did view some of this episode live, but was mostly trying to avoid watching it to conserve mental energy for the grand final (recorded straight after this). This involved pacing the corridors and sitting in the cafeteria. I'd like to think my answers below are a fair result (as an armchair performance, anyway), but you never know what creeps into the subconscious.

I remembered three things from this episode: AMITIES had been ruled invalid after careful deliberation, getting CORKAGE when I caught a glimpse of the contestant room monitors, and that Alan nailed the conundrums. Interestingly enough, in NONE of other people's conundrums that I watched live have I remembered or solved them first when watching again from home. This is especially the case with DECEITFUL in Alan's quarter-final, I grabbed the -FUL and got it very quickly in the studio audience, but didn't find it when watching again from home.

There was a lot of good play from both contestants in this game, but rarely in the same round! Toby's conundrum percentage had been great going into this game, but I don't recall any of them being as fast as Alan's were, and that did him in. Toby is a study in contrasts as Letters and Numbers contestant - he gets some great words in letters rounds, and solved a lot of conundrums, but most players with those traits also get very fast conundrums sometimes. He also comes up with some great numbers work, but throws in more mistakes than one would expect. Off-camera, I found him to be great conversation.

My answers:
681 = (100-75)*25 +50+6
851 = (6*5-4-9)*50 + 1
888 = (8+4) * (75 - 50/10/5)
(wrong) DELINEATE (~3s)

I went on to find ALIENATED within time, but well after Alan.

Thanks for tipping me Geoff, but anything can happen against a strong player in nine rounds...

Geoff Bailey said...

Well, Sam, you know I just did it that way around to spite you. But with you playing Alan in the final I don't know which way to go. *grins*

And it figures that the time I beat you to a conundrum answer it is to an invalid one. A case where being slower would have been advantageous for me!

Agreed with your remarks about Toby; I met both him and Daniel during my time on the show and enjoyed talking with them greatly.

I find the number of Toby's errors on the numbers somewhat surprising, though. If he'd checked his round 3 answer properly then he could possibly have won this game.

(And similarly for me, if I'd just had a fallback six-letter word written down in round 1. Oh, well.)

Thanks for your responses and personal insights during these finals, by the way. They have been interesting throughout.

Toby Baldwin said...

Thanks, guys. An exercise in contrasts, or at least inconsistency, indeed. One of the more memorable games I played due to the double conundrum - something I would normally have relished - and two of my favourite answers for the whole season - CORKAGE and TOTEMIC.

Tonight will be a battle royale not to be missed.

Karen Anderson said...

This was an absolute cracker of an episode! Top solutions by both players, suspense and good humour - who could ask for more? I think that each of the finals episodes have been great, particularly so because we have seen each of the players before and we know that they are all of such a very high calibre. I just love seeing the best of the best. Geoff, I have found your statistical analysis of each player's previous letters, numbers and final scores results to be particularly insightful. I am now excitedly looking forward to the grand final.

Geoff Bailey said...

Good to hear from you, Toby, and I'm glad you've found your way here. TOTEMIC and CORKAGE were great finds in difficult mixes. Incidentally, if memory serves me correctly, TOTEMIC was the best possible answer in one of our audition rounds.