Saturday, 17 March 2012

Ep 405: Norm Do, Hans Pieterse (March 16, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

The chat with Norm is pretty contentless tonight, as it was last night.  I don't really feel that we've had much chance to learn about him at all.

Tonight's challenger is Hans Pieterse, a sales manager.  He works in the bearing industry, and points out (with some prompting from Richard) that an awful lot of things today depend on them.  As he puts it, "everything that moves or rolls uses a bearing", so (amongst other things) there would be no power or transport without bearings.

Norm is in very good form tonight -- it's easily the best he has played -- and left very little chance to overtake him.  Hans found some good words, but they were just short of being long enough, and Norm kept scoring the points.  Norm did well on the numbers also, and very much against form it took the conundrum to stop him.  He steamrolled his way to a 62 to 6 victory, and becomes a retiring champion with a total of 369 points.  Last series that would have put him in second place, and I'm predicting that he will be either first or second this series.

I actually had a good game also, but I just could not get away from Norm.  There were chances, but they certainly weren't easy ones.  I had an eight point lead going into the conundrum, which was very nervous territory; it proved too difficult for me also, and I was fortunate that Norm was likewise stumped as he has been excellent throughout on the conundrums.  So a tense win by default, that could easily have gone another way.

Round 1: D A C E T L A D N

Two repeated letters is kind of a bad sign.  I had DACE / ACED, ACTED, LANCED, and DANCED.  After time I saw the speculative CANDLED, and checking confirmed that it was valid (CANDLE as a verb: "to examine (especially eggs for freshness) by holding between the eye and a light").  I doubt I'd have risked it if I saw it in time, but at least I found it soon after regardless.

I'd have been tempted to chase an I for DIALECT / CITADEL; it would have arrived, too, and as it turns out going for five vowels would have allowed DELICATE for eight.  On the other hand, I was also hoping for a T for LACTATED.  Hard to know which way to jump.

Both contestants have six-letter words; Hans has ACETAL, which is a kind of solvent, while Norm has DECANT.  David has accurately found CANDLED for seven.

There are two other sevens that were new to me: DECADAL (adjective from DECADE) and DECANAL (adjective from DEAN, but also a synonym for DECANI: "the portion of a cathedral choir on the south or dean's side").  But the seven which I had heard of was CANDELA, the SI base unit of luminous intensity.


Scores: 6 apiece

Round 2: I E R M L I B H U

In this case I'd probably have taken a sixth consonant, hoping for a T and THIMBLE -- it would have worked, too.  As it was, I had RIME / MIRE, LIME, MILER, LIMBER, HUMBLER, and IMBRUE.  I wasn't certain about HUMBLER but decided it was worth trying.  After time I noted LUMBER and HELIUM.

Hans also has MILER, and Norm has risked HUMBLER.  That's the best to be done -- David had already looked it up.

Other sixes are ERBIUM, RUMBLE, HUMERI (plural of HUMERUS, the bone in the upper arm), and LIMIER.


Scores: Norm 13, Hans 6, me 13

Round 3: Target 829 from 75 3 10 3 7 10

The first thing I noted was that the target was close to 825, which is 11*75.  The difference is 4, which is 7-3, but getting the 11 used up the 3's; still, I wrote down the fallback 828 = (10 + 3/3)*75 + 10 - 7.  Then I switched tacks to look at using the 10, and the 75 and the 7 cooperated nicely to yield the solution 829 = (75 + 7)*10 + 10 - 3/3.

Hans is three away with 826; I'm going to guess that this was 826 = 10*75 + 10*7 + 3 + 3.  If so, he was pretty close to an answer -- a little bit of tweaking might have led him to my solution.  Norm has got to the target, however, with what I thought at first was going to be mine... but he demonstrates how to do it more simply: 829 = (75 + 7)*10 + 3*3.  I do feel a little silly for missing that, and if Hans used the approach that I suggested then he might well do so, too.

Lily has also used Norm's solution.

Norm: 829
Hans: 826
Me: 829
Lily: 829

Scores: Norm 23, Hans 6, me 23

First break: VICE DEED ("Aha!  I tricked you")

Relatively easy to find DECEIVED from that.

David's talk is about the word sweep, which has over forty meanings listed in the dictionary.  At some stage in there he talks about a close game brewing, and... that really doesn't seem justified by the current scores.  This will be even more evident by the end of the game.

Round 4: T S C E A M O G N

I had SECT, COMETS, and was hoping that the final consonant would be an N for MONTAGES / MEGATONS.  It was, and I was pretty much done before time started.  I knew there was another anagram of MONTAGES, but I could not recall it.  I did make a mental note of MANGOES in passing, since it has come up a couple of times, but did not write it down.

Hans has STEAM for five, which does feel somewhat off the pace.  On the other hand, I was not finding much useful until the N turned up -- six-letter words are the limit without it -- so he wasn't that far off in some sense.  Norm has gone with TANGOES for seven.  David goes into some deliberation about this but rules it acceptable; I'll say more about this in a bit.  David has also found MONTAGES for his eight.

The other two eights here are COGNATES and MAGNETOS (the anagram I was trying to recall above).

OK, so  here's the deal with TANGOES.  The Macquarie lists TANGO as both a noun and a verb.  For the noun it explicitly lists the plural as TANGOS only.  For the verb it lists the inflected forms TANGOED and TANGOING, but makes no mention of the third-person present tense (i.e., TANGOS or TANGOES).  The question then arises: Which of those is the right form?  Or are both acceptable?

As I grumbled recently (see round 5) the Macquarie makes rather limited mention of what it considers the correct way to make standard inflected forms.  Here is the full extent of what it says about this situation: "Regularly inflected forms, not generally shown, include: [...] 3. Verbs forming the present tense by adding -s or -es, such as talk (talks) or smash (smashes) [...]".  Note how this gives absolutely no guidelines as to which of -s or -es is appropriate in which circumstances, and this is the case of interest here.

Presumably they have some internal guidelines that they work to (so that they know when an unexpected form needs to be listed), but if so they have rather discourteously kept it hidden.  That leads to situations like this, where David has to adjudicate.  Here is what David has to say about the matter:
"Now, importantly, TANGOS here as a noun only takes an -s, not -es.  However, it is also a verb, and because it has a regular inflection, the -es spelling as it is cited by the dictionary is a [sic] inferred form.  Just as 'lasso', 'torpedo', 'embargo'... these don't need to be listed because the inferred form -- for an -o ending word of two syllables -- is -oes in the verb third-person form.  So TANGOES is perfectly fine."
Now, David is, of course, the absolute arbiter of what words are and are not acceptable on the show, so by definition his ruling is correct.  But I want to point out the hoops he has had to jump through as a result of the Macquarie being so unclear, because that rule is a terrible one from the point of view of helping in similar circumstances.  The "two syllable" part, in particular, makes me wonder what the rule is for three-syllable words.  It is hopefully different in some fashion, because we want to rule out 'radioes' and 'videoes' and no doubt others.  It also means that 'torpedo' and 'embargo' do not serve as useful analogues in this instance.

('Radios' and 'videos' can fall under a different classification, since the letter preceding the final 'o' is not a consonant.  But this puts us in the situation of requiring several different rules where ideally just one would do, and it makes it hard to predict what will or will not be allowed.  That's the real issue I have here.  Although I'd love to know how David arrived at the guideline that he explained.)

It turns out to be hard to find two syllable verbs ending in 'o' to compare against; the only half-decent counterexample I could find was 'photos', and the Macquarie does not list 'photo' as a verb.  So -- possibly aside from TANGOES -- it feels like this rule kind of works by coincidence rather than telling us anything useful.

Here is what the Chambers 20th Century dictionary has to say on the subject:
For the 3rd person singular of the present tense of the verb, the rule for adding -s or -es can be stated in terms of the noun rules:
if the noun takes only -s, or if there is no related noun, add -s:
two radiosshe radios
if the noun takes -es in the plural, or may take either -s or -es, add -es to the verb:
two echoesit echoes
(The only exception to this is do, plural do's or dos, 3rd person singular does.)
This rule is simple and concise: Look at the allowed plural forms for the noun, which are usually listed or implied by a preceding rule that I have not quoted, and you know what the right verb form is.  No need to take the number of syllables into account or various other rules, the information is right there already.  This is helpful, and I am fairly discontent with the Macquarie for either not having such rules, or not laying them out as forthrightly as the Chambers does.  Simply saying that one of -s or -es is added to form the participle is laziness.

Now, both the Macquarie and Chambers list TANGO as having plural form TANGOS only.  Comparing this with the other words David quoted, the Macquarie says that all three may take either plural form, and the Chambers says likewise for 'lasso' and 'torpedo' but only lists 'embargoes' as the plural of 'embargo'.  Under the rule set forth in the Chambers, this is a key difference between TANGO and those other words.  The acceptable verb forms would have to be 'lassoes', 'embargoes', 'torpedoes'... and 'tangos'.  There is no ambiguity about it, and life would be much easier all round.

(When I commented about the difficulty of finding another example above, the requirements were a two-syllable verb ending in 'o' for which the associated noun lists only the -s plural as allowed.  So far TANGO has been the only example I can find.)

Speaking personally, I would be happier if David were able to operate under such a straightforward rule.  It would be much clearer to the audience and contestants alike what words would end up being acceptable.  Alas, he is as much a victim of the Macquarie as we all are.

Now, back to the show...


Scores: Norm 23 (30), Hans 6, me 31

Round 5: D E S O R A B I N

I had DOES, SOARED, BOARDS, and then the I brought a familiar pair into play: BROADIES / BOARDIES.  These turned up way back in episode 312, where I was just too slow in getting them down -- apparently the memory has stuck!  (Both are colloquialisms; BROADIE is "a deliberate sideways skid by which a car is turned to travel in the opposite direction" while BOARDIES is simply "board shorts".)  I spent the rest of the time unsuccessfully searching for a nine; after time I wrote down BRANDIES as another eight.

Hans has BRAISED for seven, while Norm goes for BROADIES.  He didn't sound completely confident of it, but Richard mentions that we've had it before which must have reassured him.  It's fine, and David has gone with DEBONAIR for his eight.

Other eights are BROADENS / BANDORES (BANDORE being a musical instrument that I mentioned in episode 352), BARONIES, INBOARDS (INBOARD as a noun meaning an inboard motor on a boat), and ANEROIDS (ANEROID as a noun meaning an aneroid barometer).


Scores: Norm 31 (38), Hans 6, me 39

Round 6: Target 862 from 50 100 1 7 2 2

The standard method suggests trying to get there from 850.  Some tweaking is clearly going to be required to get the right adjustment; I saw that 12 = 7*2 - 2 would leave the way open for multiplying the larger numbers by 7, but could not get that to work as I wished.  I ended up getting to 850 from below and a two-away 864 = (7 + 1)*(100 + 2) + 50 - 2.  After time I saw that working from above would get me one closer with 861 = (7 + 2)*(100 + 1) - 50 + 2.  Missing that was very careless.

With a good deal more fussing at it I decided that 875 was worth investigating as a stepping stone.  The key point here is that 875 = 7*125, and we have a 7.  I managed to use this idea and tweak my way to a solution after all: 862 = 7*(100 + 50/2 - 2) + 1.  Definitely a tough one to spot, and well done to anyone who got there in time!  It turns out that this is the only solution.

Hans is 8 away with 854; this looks like it is 854 = (7 + 1)*100 + 50 + 2 + 2, and suggests that he is not that comfortable with tweaking (as I had inferred from the previous numbers round).  Norm is two away with 864, and the exact same method that I did -- Hans could have had this too, if he'd been more adept at applying tweaks.

Lily has found the solution.  Well done, Lily!

This was where I missed my chance to get a winning lead -- the 862 might have been too hard to spot in time, but the 861 was definitely findable.  Curses!

Norm is 39 points ahead of Hans, and will win this game and successfully retire.

Norm: 864
Hans: 854
Me: 864
Lily: 862

Scores: Norm 38 (45), Hans 6, me 46

Second break: SORE VERB ("One with views")

When it was said I thought it might have been SOAR, but I realised that SORE anagrammed better and found OBSERVER easily enough.

Round 7: R E X U S O D A N

Bleah for that X.  I had SURE, ROUSE, ROUSED, and AROUSED.

Hans has found the lovely EXODUS for six, but Norm has also found AROUSED to outpoint him.  A shame, because EXODUS is a great word to find.  David agrees; he has found RONDEAU (a type of poem) here, and both of its plurals can be formed for eight: RONDEAUS and RONDEAUX.  Naturally he selects the version with the X.

That completes another perfect game for David.  Well done!

Other sevens here are SOUNDER / RESOUND, ASUNDER / DANSEUR (a male ballet-dancer), and UNDOERS / ENDUROS.


Scores: Norm 45 (52), Hans 6, me 53

Round 8: Target 831 from 50 25 5 6 9 8

Just this numbers round left before the conundrum, and I've not been able to get clear.  It's not a situation I like to be in!  The standard method applies: Get to 825 and add that 6.  My first thought is to use 11*75 again, but an 11 is hard to make without using the 6.  There's plenty of other options, though, and I found 831 = (9 + 8)*50 - 25 + 6 soon enough.

Hans has not been able to get within range, but Norm has got to the target with the same solution that  I had.  No word from Lily, but it's highly likely that she had the same.

An alternative that I have just seen is 831 = 25*(50 - 9 - 8) + 6.

Norm: 831
Hans: [not in range]
Me: 831

Scores: Norm 55 (62), Hans 6, me 63


So it comes down to the conundrum, but at least I'm ahead.  Scant comfort, but better than the alternative.  The words are revealed and... I'm lost.  The Y is clearly a key character, but I cannot get anything from either -LY or -ARY, which are the most likely uses.  The longer this goes on the more likely Norm is to beat me, but eventually time runs out for all of us, and I am relieved to take the win.

It took another 21 seconds for me to find PORTRAYAL out of that.  A non-terminal Y is hard to spot!

Norm: [no answer]
Hans: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Norm 55 (62), Hans 6, me 63

So Norm successfully retires, with an impressive tally of 369.  If he is not first or second by the time the series five finals roll around I will be extremely surprised.  Against that, I feel that he has been somewhat lucky in his opponents; only Diana was able to push him to the conundrum, and four of his opponents could not get to 20.  That said, he played a very good game tonight, without much chance to outdo him, and that's a hopeful sign for his finals games.

Hans had some good words -- EXODUS being the standout, of course -- but just could not get that extra letter he needed to be competitive.  The numbers were clearly not his strong point, unfortunately.  I hope he can take some comfort in having lost to the likely number one finals seed.

David and Lily were both in great form tonight; a combined perfect game from them.  Bravo!

Aside from round 6 where I should have got to 861 in time, this was satisfactory performance.  That 861 could have been crucial if Norm had solved the conundrum, and I'd certainly be ruing it more if he had.  Getting the 862 or the conundrum would have been even nicer, of course.  Still, a decent game, and aside from Wednesday a good week.


EG said...

Geoff, just letting you know (for the sake of correctness & nitpickiness) that captions for this ep had Hans' surname as "Pieterse".

I've only recently discovered your blog, but am a regular L&N viewer. Keep up the good work!

Geoff Bailey said...

EG: Thank you very much! It's one of my ongoing vexations that I'm forced to guess about surname spellings -- I suspect I may still have one or two incorrect ones -- so I greatly appreciate it when someone can resolve that for me. I've corrected the post, and hope that you will let me know in future if I err again.

Glad to hear from you, and welcome to the blog. I hope you enjoy your stay!

Sam Gaffney said...

I thought this was Norm's most impressive night, notwithstanding his first missed conundrum (that was also too hard for me and Geoff). His letters rounds were fantastic. Hans was very gracious in defeat, a single-figure score didn't reflect some of his solid letter round answers. There were no easy numbers rounds for him, which is not good when you are playing a former AMOC team member.

Although I got to meet Norm briefly on the day he recorded his first episode, I realise that if we both graduated high school the same year, he could have been at the same National Mathematics Summer School that I went to at ANU in early 1997, although neither of us recognised the other. (There were 75 or so of us there, it isn’t that exclusive.)

Norm could well go into the Series 5 finals as first seed. His biggest threat would be against a good letters player who can solve conundrums quickly, in a game with fairly easy numbers targets. I'm not trying to give Geoff flashbacks, though it may seem so!

I got lucky with CANDLED, I was not aware of its single verb meaning that David explained.

My answers:

829 = 10*(75+7) + 3*3
862 = (100 + 50/2 -2)*7 + 1
831 = (9+8)*50 - 25 + 6

Geoff Bailey said...

Great game from you, Sam, and particularly that 862. I'll try to avoid the flashbacks... *chuckles*

I'm not so sure about the numbers, though; difficult ones may serve his opponents just as well. Of the 18 numbers rounds that Norm has played, he has reached the target 9 times. One other was invalid (presumably a transcription error) and the others were 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, and 7 away from the target. So there's certainly room there.

(In contrast, I reached the target -- or optimal -- 12 times, and was 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3 away in the others. Sam got there 14 times, I believe, being 1, 2, 2, and an unusual 7 away.)

Victor said...

Great reading in round 4, very enlightening!

I was curious about the Chambers excerpt; "plural do's or dos" - why is an apostrophe acceptable in the plural form? Also, more generally, since the Macquarie lists the language currently in common use (ie. why quidditch is being introduced I guess?), will it soon deem bastardisations such as plurals with apostrophes valid? I was actually amused to find "matrixes" listed as an acceptable plural form, at least in the online version.

My guess is Hans' performance would have been affected by nerves - after all he's just spent the day at the studio watching Norm plough through four opponents. I don't think the presenters rambling on about Norm retiring would have helped him much either. (Actually, the same situation as Sam's game against the Scottish fellow - back then I felt it was somewhat unkind of the presenters to mock his accent).

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Victor. I'm not sure why the apostrophe is allowed in "do's", but I guess it's a bit like why it can be used for plurals of single letters, such as "there are three r's in 'orrery'". It's very hard to read the word as intended without some visual distinction.

The plural form 'matrixes' actually has quite the pedigree, and is listed in the Macquarie, Chambers, and the OED. The Macquarie attaches the explanatory note:

"Usage: This word has variant plural forms, matrixes being the English plural, and matrices being derived from the Latin plural. Either form is acceptable."

This sums it up pretty well; English generally pluralises words ending in x by adding -es to them. For some words of Latin origin, alternative plurals arising from Latin are also allowed. The other obvious example is 'index', which allows both 'indexes' and 'indices' as plurals.

From this point of view the plural form 'matrices' is the odd one out. I suspect the common belief that it is the only correct plural (which I had until you brough this to my attention, so thank you) is the result of attempts at spelling reform at some point. Quite a few people have attempted that, often in rather silly fashion; the whole -ise/-ize debate can be traced back to that kind of thing.

Hans may have been affected by nerves as you say, but I think I should point out that he actually did pretty well on the words. EXODUS, ACETAL, and BRAISED were all good finds; he was a bit unlucky that Norm hit such good form on the words that game.

Mark said...

Well done, Geoff and Sam.

Geoff, I'll definitely come back later to read your explanation in Round 4 and your comments in the numbers rounds more carefully.

3. 828 = 75*(10 + 3/3) + 10 - 7
6. 854 = 100*(1 + 7) + 50 + 2 + 2
8. 830 = (25 - 9)*50 + 5*6
9. -

Geoff Bailey said...

Some more good results for you, Mark -- you'd have comfortably beaten the challenger once again. And some nice numbers work -- your 828 and 830 were good results, and that 854 was decent also. Just a little tweaking would have seen you find the solution that Norm and I used.