Friday, 9 March 2012

Ep 400: [GF] Sam Gaffney, Alan Nash (March 9, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

It's been a week of close finals that could have easily gone either way, and tonight is another.  Alan finds a good word in the first round to take an early lead, but Sam takes it right back in the next round with another good word (that admittedly he was not completely sure about).  The next three rounds are matched, and that brings in Alan's number choices.  He goes for a single large number and turns up a surprisingly difficult result, with the contestants ending up five and four away.  Sam has the better of it to take the lead at last, and then Alan risks an invalid word in the next round to drop behind by more than a conundrum.  Alan stakes all on the choice of six small, but both contestants are equal to it and the game is decided before the conundrum.  For once Sam is beaten to it as Alan solves it just over five seconds in, and Sam has a narrow 55 to 51 win.

I had a bit of a wobbly time myself, but all of us were level at the end of the fifth round.  I saw a better option on the next numbers round to get a lead, only to concede back that lead and more in the last numbers round where I got completely lost.  But I saw the conundrum solution faster than Alan to snatch victory at the last, and finish the series on a high note.  It's been a rollercoaster!

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: O E A E L H R C M

I had ALOE, HALO, ORACLE, and ARMHOLE.  This latter has been mentioned by David a few times on the show, I believe, but not so far this series (I made note of it in episode 360).  If you see HOLE then it's worth checking on ARMHOLE or MANHOLE.

Sam has CHROME for six, and Alan has done very well to find CHOLERA for seven.  A great word to start with!  David mentions ARMHOLE, as I was expecting.

The only other seven appears to be CHORALE.


Scores: Sam 0, Alan 7, me 7

Round 2: S D H B I E A U T

I got a bit flustered by this mix.  I might have been tempted to try a fifth vowel in search of an O for BUSHIDO; certainly I contemplated it.  (On the other hand, I probably wouldn't have pulled the fourth one, so that hardly applies.)  I had BIDS, BIDES, BASHED, BATHES, and wondered about DAUBIST, but sevens were failing to coalesce.  After time I finally saw some: HABITED and SUBEDIT.

Alan tries a risky seven of BAUDIES; he remarked that it was not as risky as the risky eight he saw, which I'll guess was BAUDIEST (instead of BAWDIEST).  Sam responds with a risky seven of his own, which turns out to be HABITED.  HABITED is perfectly fine, of course, but BAUDIES is not, and Sam ties up the scores.  (Would Sam have risked his seven if Alan had stayed with a six?  Probably, but there is the chance that Alan unwittingly pushed Sam into a correct seven that he might not have gone with.)

David has found a nine!  Once he says that I look a lot more carefully and finally see HABITUDES there.  Great solving from David!

Aside from HABITUDE, the other eight is HABITUÉS.  The other sevens were HABITUÉ, SUBHEAD, and the vowel-heavy BEAUISH (that I've mentioned once before in episode 355, but that didn't help me find it here).

Alan: [invalid]

Scores: 7 apiece

Round 3: Target 160 from 75 50 25 100 9 3

Sam pretends to consider another option, but goes for four large.  I got a bit confused on this one; it's a small target but seems a bit hard to approach.  I wrote down a fallback 159 = 100 + 50 + 9, and then realised that the other three numbers gave me the 1 that I needed, and had 160 = 100 + 50 + 9 + (3*25)/75.  Phew!

Both contestants and Lily have found a similar solution, with minor variations on the order of the operations to get that last 1.

Computer searching shows that there are quite a few solutions to this, but all bar one of them need all six numbers.  As a mini-challenge to think about, can you find the single solution that only needs five of the numbers?  Click to show/hide a hint  The unused number is the 9.

Sam: 160
Alan: 160
Me: 160
Lily: 160

Scores: 17 apiece

First break: BLUE LAVA ("Worth its weight in gold")

A straight clue for VALUABLE.

David's talk is about the word denouement and its relation to knots; he then segues to talk about the Gordian knot.

Round 4: D R L T E W I O D

That W does make things a little awkward, but it can be used.  I had WELT, WILTED, TROWEL, DELTOID, and TODDLER.  After time I noted TIDDLER as well.

Both contestants declare safe sevens.  They've each gone for TWIDDLE, and it seems very likely that they both had a risky eight of TWIDDLER.  David points out that TWIDDLER is valid for eight, so this is another case where a bit of risk would have been rewarded.  I didn't see TWIDDLE at all, so I could easily have fallen behind here.

That looks like the only eight; other sevens are TWIRLED and DOWDIER.


Scores: 24 apiece

Round 5: I E A N T P K N D

I had NEAT, PAINT, INNATE, PINKED, DETAIN, and finally thought to make PAINTED.  (I'd thought of it back when I wrote PAINT, and then nearly forgot it!)  After time I saw PINNATE ("resembling a feather"), and thence PINNATED (listed as a synonymous term) for eight.

Sam doesn't seem very happy about seven, which is understandable given how common PAINTED was.  Alan has PENDANT for his seven, and David has come through again to find PINNATED.

Five rounds in and the scores are still tied!


Scores: 31 apiece

Round 6: Target 524 from 50 7 4 2 1 7

Alan has been warned off choosing the large numbers by Sam's solution against Daniel (Sam can be heard to remark about having let the cat out of the bag).  He goes for a single large number, which is interesting since it is about the easiest choice to make.  So perhaps Alan's aim is to equalise the numbers and gain in the letters; if so, he still has to rely on getting the conundrum first.  Regardless of the reasoning, it's unquestionably a good idea for him to avoid four large numbers.

The target is so obviously near 525 = 7*75, and we have the 7 and the 1 but a 50 instead of a 75.  There is a 2 to divide it by, though, which leaves us needing to make a 21.  I found one way but it used up the one, and I wrote down my fallback one-away 525 = 7*(4 - 1)*50/2.

I then hared off on a different tack, which proved unprofitable -- it would have resulted in 522 = (7 + 4)*(50 - 2) - 7 + 1 if I had managed to get that down in time, which was worse than what I already had.  A reorganisation would have given a different way to 525 with (7 + 4)*(50 - 1) - 2*7, but again that was no improvement.

That used up all my remaining time, and it was careless of me not to look at the first approach more closely.  After time I quickly saw how to conserve that 1 and get the target: 524 = 7*(7 - 4)*50/2 - 1.  Bother.

Both contestants surprise me by being somewhat further away.  Alan is five off with 529, which I'll guess was 529 = (7 + 4)*50 - 7*(2 + 1).  Sam has managed to get one closer, and thus seven points better off, with 520 = (7 + 4 - 1)*(50 + 2).  This feels like a case of running out of time, as adding the remaining 7 would have got Sam one closer to the target with 527.

Lily has also been stumped, it turns out.  After the break she shows another way to form that 21 in the solution 524 = (50/2)*(4*7 - 7) - 1.

Sam: 520
Alan: 529
Me: 525

Scores: Sam 31 (38), Alan 31, me 38

Second break: CAST CITE ("An electric kind of feeling")

The clue is referencing STATIC electricity, and thus ECSTATIC.

Round 7: I A E P T R C M O

These letters go pretty well together, but an eight proved very elusive.  I had TAPE / PATE, PIRATE, IMPART, and PRIMATE.  After time I found some more sevens: MORTICE, POTAMIC ("of or relating to rivers"; I mentioned this recently, in episode 389), and COMPARE.  I also rejected PREATOMIC (expecting it to need a hyphen, but it is not even listed) and MICROTAPE, before finally finding OPERATIC for eight.  And just now I have seen COPREMIA (a type of blood poisoning) as another eight; I noted that in Sam's first game, episode 341.

Sam has PRIMATE for seven also, but Alan has decided to try IMPACTER for eight.  Sam grimaces when he hears that Alan will try an eight; I think he had the strong feeling that there should be one there, just like I did.  David asks Alan for the spelling, forcing him to decide between IMPACTER and IMPACTOR (he'd obviously written both of them down).  It turns out not to matter as neither is listed, and Alan's gamble has not come off.  That puts him in a very nasty situation at fourteen points behind and needing to take points off Sam in the final numbers round.  All in all, while I applaud the gamble, this might not have been the time for it.

David has found OPERATIC for his eight; it and COPREMIA do seem to be the only ones in the Macquarie.

That final vowel was a good choice; an A would have given METACARPI while an E would have given IMPRECATE.  The actual O... also turns out to give a nine, although it is much more obscure.  AMETROPIA is "an abnormal condition of the eye causing faulty refraction of light rays, as in astigmatism, myopia, etc.", and the adjective derived from it is AMETROPIC.  (Random observation: It's a good charade word, yielding A METRO PIC.)

Alan: [invalid]

Scores: Sam 38 (45), Alan 31, me 45

Round 8: Target 985 from 3 9 8 10 5 1

Alan now must beat Sam in the numbers, so has to try for six small.  The target is very large, and I got lost in a very unprofitable line of thought.  Running out of time I scribbled down something close that turned out to be 981 = 9*(8*5*3 - 10 - 1), but I had not written down the total so it cannot count.  (I hadn't even worked out what the total was, for that matter, just that it was at least in the right ballpark.)

After time runs out I look more calmly at the idea of using the 10, and find 985 = 10*(9*(8 + 3) - 1) + 5 relatively easily.  The perils of getting stuck on the wrong approach!

Both contestants have solved this, with 985 = (8 + 3)*10*9 - 5.  Rewatching the video shows Sam smiling and relaxing as he gets it around twelve seconds in and knows that he is going to be the series champion.  He recovers quickly, adopting a more serious mien and checks his solution thoroughly again, but can't avoid another smile as time runs out.  He knows that he has won, and I imagine it feels great.

No mention of what Lily did, but I'll assume she found that also.

Sam: 985
Alan: 985
Me: [no answer]

Scores: Sam 48 (55), Alan 41, me 45


Sam has won the grand final, but there are still points to play for.  Also, this three-cornered match is very much alive, and if Alan solves it first then he'll win it.  Scant comfort, I'm sure, but it's interesting how this has shaken out.

The letters go down and I have to take a moment to look at the -ING possibility, as I'm sure did the others.  But then I realise that this letter mix is a somewhat notorious one in Apterous circles (more on this later), and I have the answer at the four second mark, just snatching the win in time as Alan also finds it a second and a half later.

Sam: [no answer]
Alan: DISENGAGE (5.5s)

Final scores: Sam 48 (55), Alan 41 (51), me 55

It's been great conundrum work from both these two all finals, but Alan had the better of it today.  If only he hadn't risked IMPACTER he would have won (assuming that he had a seven, as seems likely).  A shame for him, but good fortune for Sam who played another very good game tonight.  Great work from both of them, and they are unquestionably worthy participants in the grand final.

We should see them both again when the Masters series screens, along with other great players from previous series.  I don't know when that will air, but it should have some gripping episodes when it does.

Congratulations to Sam, commiserations to Alan but also congratulations on getting so far and giving us great games to watch throughout.  Bravo to the both of them!

Now, time to talk about DISENGAGE.  This video shows why it got elevated from a single moment of amusement to a running joke, and here is a bit more explanation of the circumstances.


Sam Gaffney said...

160 = ((75+3)*50+100)/25

Got it during the game, wish I had thought of it during the show.

Geoff Bailey said...

Well done, Sam! I figured it would play to your strengths. I hope the trophy now has pride of place in your house somewhere. :)

Sam Gaffney said...

With the previous comment, I didn't make it clear that I meant I got 160 with five numbers while watching on TV.

I must admit to not finishing writing HABITED down until just after the music stopped. I had a six before that, so it only made one point of difference in theory, but who knows...

I had TWIDDLE AND TWIDDLER written down, and would have called the eight if Alan had done so, or if I had been behind (I imagine).

I almost blew the whole final in Round 6. I was about to write:
25*(7*2+7)-1 = 524.
Which would have been great, if there was a 25, which I realised about 15 seconds through. I was a bit thrown by this, and the lack of remaining time, and scrambled to 520. Note that I did not even have the presence of mind to add the spare 7 and get one closer. This was the only occasion in my entire L&N career that I had a "phantom" letter or number, so given that it was a tight Grand Final, nerves are the most likely explanation. (Although I did forget a numbers solution once when 40-0 up, so it could have been chance.)

The other reason for the phantom 25 could have been the tiny letters/numbers that contestants look at on their monitor. If you haven't been a contestant, you would be surprised how small these displays are. Playing along at home like usual, my eyes would have been drawn to the spots on the TV they are accustomed to, and perhaps I would have spotted my mistake earlier. Or perhaps I just choked!

I did a fist-pump towards my wife in the audience after solving Round 8, but this didn't get shown on TV, perhaps it looked too obnoxious.

The conundrum couldn't have been a worse word for me. I mentioned recently that 80% of nine-letter words with {I,N,G} in them have them as ING, so I spent the entire six seconds looking for -ING words. In hindsight, I don't think the 80% rule holds on L&N, there just aren't that many -ING words selected relative to a random sample. Still, if you're going to lose one, best it be when you're 11+ ahead! Alan may well have beaten me on a different conundrum, he did great with all four of his in the finals.

Well played tonight Geoff, though I had expected you would beat me by more - Alan got the first and third numbers targets so easily that I took it for granted that you would also solve them. I thought he did better with numbers tonight than in any of his other episodes; I was fortunate that he was one further away from me in the numbers round that I botched, and IMPACTER was not listed.

I'll have to try and equalise/beat you in the Masters Series!

Sam Gaffney said...

Yes, my precious trophy has been let out of its secret hiding place now! It's been a long time to keep the secret.

Mark said...

Congratulations Sam!

Mark said...

Geoff, how do you think Sam compares to previous Series Champions? I only started watching L&N towards the end of last year so I haven't seen any previous series.

Sam Gaffney said...

Hi Mark, I have a bit of extra information to answer your query that Geoff mightn't: apparently Andrew Fisher has the highest nine-game points total, then Naween Fernando, then me.

Those two gentlemen finished first and second respectively in the Series 1 Grand Final. You can find a game on Youtube where Andrew scored 95 points (his debut). Andrew has been on Countdown in the UK, winning a Masters series final (of sorts) that was never aired, due to the 1991 Gulf War interrupting TV schedules. If you weren't fortunate enough to see their Series 1 episodes, I can assure you that they are both very good.

They are also Scrabble experts - Andrew was the runner up at the 2011 World Scrabble Championship (losing 3-2 in the final), and Naween came 3rd in the 2005 Scrabble Championship.

So it is an honour to be mentioned in the same sentence as those two players, even if I did write it myself! I don't know the points aggregate ranking of the other finalists, when the Masters Series airs, the seeding may give you some idea.

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks for that further information, Sam. Mark: It's not that easy to compare across series, and my memory is somewhat faulty. That said, my lingering impression is that Sam is the best that I have seen play. I picked up the game about midway through series 2, so that does not include Andrew or Naween.

I'll add that the game is a little weighted towards the letters over the numbers (although fortunately not nearly so much as Countdown is), so as a general rule I would expect Scrabble champions to win. But anything can happen in a single game, and if the letters end up easy while the numbers end up difficult then there is enough gain to be had there.

On the topic of seedings for the Masters Series, I'd be disappointed if they did it on points; it would be better to ensure that the two players from a series could not meet until the final, and that none of the champions played each other until the semifinals. A simple 1a 2a 3a 4a 1b 2b 3b 4b seeding would do that. Still, there are arguments for other approaches... I guess we'll see when it happens.

Mark said...

Sam, thanks for that information. I just finished watching the episode on Youtube that you mentioned.

Geoff, thanks for your comments. A "lingering impression" was mainly what I was interested in.