Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Ep 401: Norm Do, Patrick Johns (March 12, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

We kick off series five with champion Norm carrying over 67 points from his first win, eight episodes ago.  Norm has two chihuahuas that like to watch the show; asked if they favour the letters or the numbers, Norm responds that he has not seen them get the numbers ever, but one of them may once have got WOOF in the letters.

A later chat reveals that they are named Choba and Taco, causing Lily great surprise -- she has a dog called Taco also.  Richard asks Lily whether her dog can play Letters and Numbers; Lily responds that he is a little bit "ruff" at it.

Tonight's challenger is Patrick Johns, a software engineer.  One of the software projects that he worked on a few years back was driverless trains -- it was for a mining company in Western Australia, and involved replacing the driver of iron ore trains with a computer that would drive the train instead.  This apparently has large benefits for both efficiency and safety.

I'll note that he did not give any identifying information beyond that, but my (possibly incorrect) belief is that the mining company in question was Rio Tinto and that Patrick undertook this work as part of Ansaldo STS.

Patrick consistently found five-letter words, which was good in a couple of places but mostly outdone by Norm's selections.  That would have put him well behind regardless, but Norm also managed to get closer on every numbers round.  Norm capped off this all-round performance by solving the conundrum at the halfway mark to finish with a comprehensive 62 to 10 victory.

I started off in good form, finding two longer words than David in the first round.  That's rare enough to be decidedly worth celebrating!  I continued in mostly good ways, but dropped three points in the first numbers round and missed a gettable and thematic eight in the last letters round.  But all in all it was a fairly decent game and a mid-sixties score to start with despite not scoring in one round.  An auspicious start to the series; I hope I can continue in this fashion.

Round 1: T O R I S E C R B

I had RIOT / TRIO, RIOTS, SORTIE (thanks to Katie Richer for jogging my memory about this in episode 389), BISECTOR, and ORBITERS.

The contestants go five-six, with Patrick having RIOTS while Norm has gone for TORIES.  That gives David some checking to do, as the main entry is capitalised and a lowercase sense must be explicitly mentioned as acceptable.  Fortunately there is one such there, and Norm gets the points... but SORTIE is the safer option from those six letters.

David has selected ROISTER for his seven.  I was very surprised about this, obviously, as I had expected he would find at least one of the eights that I did.  A moment to cherish, being very briefly ahead.

Those seem to be the only eights, and there are a few other sevens: RECTORS, RIOTERS, ORBITER, CIRROSE ("of the nature of cirrus clouds"; also allowed as CIRROUS) / CORRIES (CORRIE: "a circular hole in the side of a hill or mountain [...] formed by glacial action") / CROSIER (alternate spelling of CROZIER, the hooked staff of a bishop) / ORRICES (ORRICE being an alternate spelling for ORRIS, one of several species of iris), CORBIES (CORBIE: Scottish for "a raven or crow"), SCRIBER ("a tool for scribing wood, etc.), and EROTICS (EROTIC having a noun sense of "an erotic poem").

Patrick: RIOTS

Scores: Norm 0 (6), Patrick 0, me 8

Round 2: S P I O G V A R L

Getting P, G, and V all together isn't the most hopeful sign.  Still, I had PIGS, VIRAGOS, and SPIRAL.  I was pretty sure that VIRAGOS was the preferred plural form instead of VIRAGOES so I went with that.  As it turns out, the Macquarie lists both forms as acceptable.

It's five-six from the contestants again; Patrick has GIRLS and Norm has sought GRAILS.  That's a risky play, and too risky as it turns out -- the Macquarie only lists GRAIL in capitalised senses.  David checks and ultimately rules GRAILS invalid, giving Patrick five points.  As an aside here, I commented about the invalidity of GRAIL back in episode 332 where Eleanor was incorrectly awarded points for it; I'm glad to see the correction being made this time.

David notes VIRAGO but not VIRAGOS -- he must have been aware of the possibility, so I'll guess that did not want to delay things further by checking it, as he has found a much nicer seven: GIRASOL ("a variety of opal which reflects a floating luminous glow").  It has the alternate spellings GIROSOL and GIRASOLE, and that latter does look like it might turn up again some day.

There are two other sevens here; the first is an anagram of GIRASOL, and the base word got a mention in my post about episode 332: GLORIAS.  The other is the US spelling PAVIORS, PAVIOR being a variant spelling of PAVIOUR: "someone or something that paves".

Norm: [invalid]
Patrick: GIRLS

Scores: Norm 0 (6), Patrick 0 (5), me 15

Round 3: Target 475 from 100 6 3 9 1 7

It's a bit hard to not be mesmerised by the factor of 25, but it's also very hard to use it directly.  I floundered a bit, and the lack of a 5 somehow stopped me even thinking of getting there from 500.  I lost too much time trying to make it as 19*100/4, and in the end was fortunate to scramble one away with 474 = 3*(100 + 9*7 - (6 - 1)).  A literal last-moment find as I'd computed it was one away from the target but not followed it through to compute which way due to time pressure.  I wrote down 474 just as time expired, and was relieved that I'd gone the right way.  A little lucky, to be honest.

After time I considered the 5*95 option, but although 6-1 was good for one 5, somehow I couldn't see how to get the other from the 3,9,7 combination.  Which is pretty embarrassing, quite frankly.  Oh, well.  I did end up finding a solution by descent from 600: 475 = 6*(100 - 3*7) + 1.

Just before Lily revealed her solution I finally saw the obvious 5 = 3 + 9 - 7, and hence the solution 475 = (6 - 1)*(100 - (3 + 9 - 7)).  This did indeed turn out to be Lily's solution; I think it's safe to say that I made heavy weather of this round.

Patrick has reached three away with 478; I'm not sure how, but the most likely option seems to be a bit of tweaking: 478 = (6 - 1)*(100 - 3) - 7.  In any case, Norm is only two away with 473 = (6 - 1)*100 - 9*3, and takes the points.

Another solution that I like is 475 = 6*7*9 + 100 - 3.  It looks very simple in form, but would be pretty hard to find in practice.

Norm: 473
Patrick: 478
Me: 474
Lily: 475

Scores: Norm 0 (13), Patrick 0 (5), me 22

First break: RED RANGE ("One who oversees growth")

It is plant growth being referred to, as the answer is GARDENER.

David's talk is about a set of Italian brothers who ended up creating and lending their names to the jacuzzi.

Round 4: H S E A N I U R L

I had SHEA, SANE, SHINE, INSURE, and NAILERS.  It's not a great seven, but I've seen it before and knew it was valid.  After time I added HAILERS, HAULERS, and URINALS.  Those last eight letters really look like they should give an eight, but they don't.

For the third time the contestants go five-six, with Norm's SHINER beating Patrick's choice of LEANS.  David harks back to mentions of dogs as he has found UNLEASH for seven, but then has gone one better with HAULIERS for eight.  A good find, and I'm a little bothered that I did not see it after seeing HAULERS.

The other eight is INHALERS, but there is a nine: INHAULERS.  (INHAUL: "a rope for hauling in a sail or spar.  Also, INHAULER").  A tough find, but it wouldn't be the first time a nautical term has been useful.

Patrick: LEANS

Scores: Norm 0 (19), Patrick 0 (5), me 29

Round 5: D E Y U M T A D I

Too many vowels for my taste, but that's no surprise.  I had MUTED and DATUM, and then was quite pleased to find DAYTIME.

This time both contestants have five; Patrick has MUTED while Norm has the nice choice of DEITY.  David mentions MEATY, but has also found what appears to be the only other seven in this mix: AUDITED.  Nice one, David!

The sixes here are ADYTUM ("the most sacred or reserved part of any place of worship"), MIDDAY, TEDIUM, and (my personal favourite) DIADEM.

Patrick: MUTED

Scores: Norm 0 (24), Patrick 0 (10), me 36

Round 6: Target 516 from 100 50 75 3 4 4

Patrick chooses "the family mix with the grandmother", and the technique of investigating options as the numbers go up pays off handsomely here.  I'd mentally noted the 125 and that 4*125 was 500 as they were revealed (amongst a few other options), and when the target was revealed this easily yielded the solution 516 = 4*(50 + 75 + 4).

Patrick is six away with 522; this feels like it must have been 525 - 3, but it feels like he should have had a 4 left over to further subtract.  In any case, Norm has got to the target.  Both he and Lily have used the same approach that I did.

Norm: 516
Patrick: 522
Me: 516
Lily: 516

Scores: Norm 10 (34), Patrick 0 (10), me 46

Second break: FLEET DAD ("Feeling let down")

A slightly punny clue for DEFLATED.

Round 7: N A C E M O P I H

I was really hoping that final consonant would be an S for COMPANIES, but no such luck.  I had CANE, CAMEO, MACHINE, and ENCOMIA.  A step back to collect myself after time and CHAMPION was a clear spot.  An appropriate word for Letters and Numbers, particularly since we've just had a new series champion (hi, Sam!).  I do wish that I'd seen it within time.  Then again, that's true of every word that I don't find. *chuckles*

Patrick has his fifth five-letter word for the game with PECAN, but Norm has found CHAMPION for eight and is now guaranteed the win.  No mention of David's selection, but I'm happy to believe that he found it.

The other eight here is PHONEMIC ("of or relating to phonemes").  Other sevens include IMPEACH, APHONIC ("someone affected with aphonia", where aphonia is loss of voice), APNOEIC (the adjective derived from APNOEA: "suspension of respiration"), CAMPION (a flower), CHAPMEN (plural of CHAPMAN: "a hawker or pedlar"), CHOPINE (variant spelling of CHOPIN, which is a type of shoe) / PHOCINE ("of or relating to the seals"), PEMICAN (variant spelling of PEMMICAN: "dried meat pounded into a paste with melted fat and dried fruits, pressed into cakes [...]"), and a word that I mentioned in episode 381 but has not yet stayed in my memory: PANOCHE (variant spelling of PANOCHA: "a coarse grade of sugar made in Mexico").

Patrick: PECAN

Scores: Norm 18 (42), Patrick 0 (10), me 46

Round 8: Target 816 from 75 100 5 4 8 10

I tried very hard to make this difficult for myself -- in particular, noting that the target was near 11*75 = 825 which would have led to one away with 817 = (10 + 5 - 4)*75 - 8 if I had followed it through -- before good sense asserted itself and I found 816 = 8*(100 + 10/5).  Much preferable!

Patrick is one away with 815 which must be 815 = 8*100 + 10 + 5, but Norm has reached the target again with the same solution that I had, as has Lily.  That's three maximum results from Norm in the last three rounds -- a good increase of pace after a relatively average start.

Norm: 816
Patrick: 815
Me: 816
Lily: 816

Scores: Norm 28 (52), Patrick 0 (10), me 56


I got stuck on the possible -TION ending for a while, before I decided that the remaining vowel just could not make it work with those consonants.  (I've commented before about how -ING plays best with only three vowels all up, but I'm not sure if I've mentioned that using -TION usually works better with four vowels.  It's a bit of an annoying fragment, though, not being useful nearly as much as I would like.)

Anyway, once I get off that unprofitable track I see the solution; there may have been a brief digression to look at PROFIT, but then the cluster in the middle resolved to PRINT and I had the answer six seconds in.

Norm rounds off a good finish by also solving the conundrum, just shy of fifteen seconds in.

Norm: FOOTPRINT (14.5s)
Patrick: [no answer]

Final scores: Norm 28 (62), Patrick 0 (10), me 66

There were a couple of awkward mixes but some nice words to be found.  I'm afraid that Patrick was simply outplayed in every aspect of the game tonight, but I hope that he had a good time; that's one of the things that I like about this show -- with so little at stake it is much easier to enjoy the experience for what it is.

Norm finished strongly, and hopefully he can carry that momentum into his next game.  Both his scores have been in the sixties which is an excellent average.  He does look vulnerable in the letters, though, if he gets the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) opponent.

After the tension of the finals this was kind of a relaxing episode for me, and it turned out to be a good one, too.  A nice start to the new series.


Mark said...

Congratulations on beating David in Rounds 1 and 2, Geoff. Looking back after the game, I saw BISECTOR and assumed it wasn't listed.

My first attempt at playing "seriously" and writing down answers:
3. 469 = (3+1)*100 + 9*7 + 6
6. 518 = 4*100 + 50 + 75 - 3 - 4
8. 815 = 8*100 + 10 + 5
9. Got it just as Norm buzzed in, which was at about 15 seconds.

I think this is a pretty fair indication of my ability at this game. I definitely have to look at being more creative with the numbers.

Mark said...

I noticed I made a mistake above - you didn't beat David in Round 2. But beating him with two words in Round 1 is still a very rare achievement.

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks for sharing your results, Mark. Seeing BISECTOR after time is an excellent find, as is getting CHAMPION within time. You've definitely got the ability to spot longer words!

TEDIUM and RIVALS were also very good results in tough mixes. Note that you outdid Norm on both of those and (slight spoiler since he hasn't posted yet) also Sam. So you can say that you've beaten a series champion on two letters rounds on your first semi-official try!

Your solo score was a very respectable 60 points. If you'd been playing against Patrick then you would have won 55 to 19... but the result reverses somewhat against Norm, who would beat you 57 to 26. All in all, that seems pretty encouraging to me.

Mark said...

Thanks Geoff. I was disappointed not to have seen UNLEASHED, given that I spent time looking for UN- words.

The numbers are definitely a weakness for me. This would be surprising to people who know me, because my work is highly quantitative. That's one slightly unfortunate thing about Letters and Numbers, in my opinion - it reinforces the misconception that mathematicians are people who do complicated arithmetic.

Mark said...

Of course, I meant UNLEASH, not UNLEASHED.

Sam Gaffney said...

Great to see you submitting your answers, Mark.

Norm is a very strong player so far, excellent with numbers, and solid with letters. It will be interesting to see if he flags as the episodes mount up - if not, he could be a high seed for the Series 5 finals.

As for your performance, Geoff, you have ruined my trophy honeymoon with your greatly superior result. I didn't quite feel back in the zone, but at least David mentioned my name.

My answers:

477 = (100+7-1)*9*3/6
516 = (75+50+4)*4
816 = (100+10/5)*8

Geoff Bailey said...

You'll be back on top again soon enough, Sam, I'm sure.

So I'm just going to take this moment to point out to Mark that he beat you to the conundrum, too. *grins*