Thursday, 22 March 2012

Ep 409: Ann Russell, James Cooper (March 22, 2012)

On Ann's fourth night the conversation turns to strategies.  She talks about searching for affixes in the letters rounds, and for 100's or 10's in the numbers rounds and hoping that they will lead to a solution.

Tonight's challenger is James Cooper, a management consultant.  James plays Ultimate Frisbee; he gives a brief overview of the general idea, and says that he enjoys playing it very much.

James is unlucky to have an invalid word in the first round -- one of the vagaries of the Macquarie that surprises David -- but thereafter he is generally beaten by Ann's choices.  Ann hits her stride with the letters in the latter part of the game, and although James won the first numbers game he was not able to keep that up and Ann was safe going into the conundrum.  It turned out to be a difficult one that no-one solved, and Ann won 62 to 35.

I had... well, it arguably wasn't actually that bad a game.  But it should have been so much better; two very careless misses -- one of them very costly indeed -- in the letters, plus another where I looked several times at the right idea and missed it.  Fortunately my numbers form kept me in things so that I was ahead at the conundrum but not safe.  It was a very nervous time as I failed to solve it, but with Ann not finding the answer I escaped with an extremely lucky win.

Round 1: L S A I M R E D A

I had SAIL, MAILS, EMAILS, wondered about MAILERS but was pretty sure I had looked that up once before and it was not valid, ALARMED, and MISDEAL / MISLEAD.  With such good letters I wondered if the full monty drought would finally break, but I could not see it.  I kept finding words with two E's and one A instead of the other way around, which wasn't helping.

After time I saw MEDIALS, MALAISE, MADEIRAS, and MALADIES.  That last one is particularly vexing to me as I kept having to dismiss MALARIAS but did not pay enough attention to the MALA- beginning.  Curses!

Ann has MAILED for six, but James has fallen into the Macquarie's trap by trying MAILERS.  He did say it was risky, and here the risk has not paid off.  David is rightly surprised by that; he says that as a contestant he would probably have been caught out by it as well.  David has found REALISM as a safe anagram of it, and then ADMIRALS for eight.

The other possible eight is SALARIED.

James: [invalid]

Scores: Ann 0 (6), James 0, me 7

Round 2: S T R E I U C F N

I had REST, RITES, and ENCRUST / INCRUST; after time I added SURFEIT and INFECTS.  It is a decent set of letters and it really seemed like there should be an eight, but I could not find one.

This time James has FIRST for five, but Ann has gone one better with STRIFE.  David has selected CISTERN for his seven.

Sevens turn out to be the limit; the other ones are INFUSER, SNIFTER, FUSTIER, CRETINS, UNITERS, and ICTERUS (another name for jaundice).

James: FIRST

Scores: Ann 0 (12), James 0, me 14

Round 3: Target 417 from 75 50 8 5 7 6

I almost started with 8*50 (which gives a simple one-away: 418 = 8*50 + 5 + 6 + 7), but then I checked on the standard method and saw that the 8 was much more usefully preserved so that it could be subtracted from 425.  The rest was just about getting that 425, and I went with 417 = 7*50 + 75 - 8.

Ann is two away with 415, but James has reached the target in similar fashion: 417 = 5*75 + 50 - 8.  As he started with that solution I realised that it was modifiable to another, which Lily points out: 417 = 5*75 + 6*7.

Those ten points tighten the game right up again -- just two points in it now.

Ann: 415
James: 417
Me: 417
Lily: 417

Scores: Ann 0 (12), James 10, me 24

First break: AMAZE GIN ("Can be filled with bullets or pages")

A double definition for MAGAZINE.

David's talk is about the word smorgasbord.

Round 4: L R T A O E H N M

I had ROTA, ALERT, ETHANOL, MANHOLE, and THERMAL.  After time I added ANOTHER, MENTHOL, and OMENTAL (the adjective derived from OMENTUM: "a fold or duplication of the peritoneum passing between certain of the viscera [...]").

This time James has THRONE for six, but Ann is one better again with THERMAL.  David mentions ANOTHER, but has found the eight of METHANOL.  *headdesk*  It was very careless of me to miss that.

It looks like the only eight; the other sevens are MENORAH, ENTHRAL, LOATHER, ALMONER, ARMHOLE, ALTHORN (a musical instrument), and TELAMON ("a figure of a man used like a supporting column") / LOMENTA (plural of LOMENTUM: "a dry fruit derived from one carpel which breaks up transversely into one-seeded segments at maturity").


Scores: Ann 7 (19), James 10, me 31

Round 5: R P S U E A D N E

I had SPUR, PURSE, SPREAD, PANDERS, and wondered about UNSPEARED, UNSPARED, and UNPARSED.  I correctly rejected those and stayed with PANDERS.  After time I added ASUNDER and ENDURES, and further wondered about UNERASED; checking revealed that it was not valid either.

James has SPARED for six, but Ann has found the eight of PERSUADE.  An excellent find; it turns out that Richard also saw it.  David has gone with UNDERSEA for his eight.  And augh, that hurts.  I looked several time at UNDER-, but was only getting possibilities like UNDERAPES and UNDERPEAS.  Just needed to throw away that P...

There is one more eight: UNDRAPES.


Scores: Ann 15 (27), James 10, me 31

Round 6: Target 627 from 25 7 2 8 3 8

James asks for an "inverted T", which betrays British origins -- that's a common Countdown phrasing, indicated a particular shape from the numbers selections.  It corresponds to one large and five small numbers.  Lily recognises the term and says that this is her first inverted T, but I'm pretty sure that I've seen a contestant explain it before on the show, probably early in series three.

The target is very close to 625, which is 25*25, and I thought I saw an easy way to that.  Halfway through writing it down I realised that I'd used up the 2, but finished writing it out as a fallback one-away: 628 = 25*(8 + 8 + 7 + 2) + 3.  A quick shift in tactics to use the factor of 3 gave me a solution: 627 = 3*(8*25 + 7 + 2).

After time I saw how to get that 25 and keep the 2: 627 = 25*(8*3 + 8 - 7) + 2.  This turns out to be Lily's solution.

Both contestants are four away at 623, and in fact they've done it the same way: 6 = 3*8*25 + 8*2 + 7.  A bit of tweaking would have seen them get there.

Ann: 623
James: 623
Me: 627
Lily: 627

Scores: Ann 15 (34), James 10 (17), me 41

Second break: ANTI LOAN ("Canberra is this capital")

A pretty clear clue for NATIONAL.

Round 7: T R I A B N I E S

I had BAIT, TRAIN, AIRIEST, and BRINIEST.  And there I stayed... after time I took a mental step back, and saw BRAINIEST at last.  *sighs*  That's a terrible, terrible miss given that I had been looking at -IEST words.  Not too mention the disappointment of missing a full monty.

Both contestants have found it, as has David.  The drought is broken at last!  (Apropos of droughts, David pretended to only have found RAINIEST.)

The other eights here are BINARIES, BANISTER, and INERTIAS.

I was almost safe, but my missing that full monty has let Ann get within conundrum distance.


Scores: Ann 33 (52), James 28 (35), me 41

Round 8: 673 from 100 10 2 1 3 6

James persists with the inverted T, and it's a mix for the tweakers.  I started with 6*100 (being reluctant to use a seven at first since it would use up more numbers), saw that tweaking in the 10 got closer, and then that further tweaking solved it: 673 = 6*(100 + 10 + 2) + 1.

After time I looked at the options from 700 (which, being closer, was a more plausible tweaking target) and found that the two ways of forming that seven did lead to solutions: 673 = (6 + 1)*(100 - 2) - 10 - 3 and 673 = (10 - 3)*(100 - 2 - 1) - 6.

Then I spotted a cute possibility, and I'm glad it worked: 673 = (2*10*100 + 1)/3 + 6.

James is three away with 670, but Ann has reached the target with the same solution I had; it was also Lily's method.

Ann is now guaranteed to win, and I'll have an early loss for the series if she gets the conundrum first.

Ann: 673
James: 670
Me: 673
Lily: 673

Scores: Ann 43 (62), James 28 (35), me 51


I was unable to get anywhere with this conundrum, and was very fortunate that Ann was not able to either.  I was so far off the pace it was silly; it took me almost seven minutes after time ran out before I decided that RIDGE was useful, and even then I stared at CART RIDGE for a while before I realised it was actually the single word CARTRIDGE.

Ann: [no answer]
James: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Ann 43 (62), James 28 (35), me 51

Ann gets over the 50 mark at last, and in some style.  Once again she got stronger as the game went on, with her last three letters rounds and the last numbers round being excellent.  James was unfortunate on the first round, but fortunately it did not prove the difference; I hope he enjoys being one of the few contestants in recent times to find a full monty on the show.

I think my performance tonight shows that I should not play while hungry.  Or something.  Two careless misses that were trivial extensions of existing words; one other that I kept looking for but not seeing; and another that I could have seen if I'd been faster.  That said, if I'd just found BRAINIEST I would have regarded this as quite a satisfactory game, so my viewpoint is somewhat fickle.  I hope tomorrow goes much better, though.


David_Brewster said...

My answers:

3. 417 = 5*75 + (6*7)
6. 627 = (((8*3)+(8-7))*25) + 2
8. 673 = 6*(100+10+2) + 1

A question to Sam, was the Masters Series comprised of the grand finalists of the first four series?

Mark said...

3. 418 = 8*50 + 7 + 6 + 5
6. - (I saw 628 = 25*(7+8+8+2) + 3, but when I went to write it down I'd forgotten it.)
8. - (This was the result of questionable strategy - I could have written down something in the scoring range, but instead kept looking.)
9. -

Sam Gaffney said...

Hi David B, the idea for the Masters is indeed the eight Grand Finalists.

Some more impressive play from Ann tonight.

Round 3 drove me crazy, every approach I tried got me one away from the target.

I was hoping for UNDERPASS in Round 5.

Geoff, your BRINIEST answer fits in beautifully with David Astle's RAINIEST joke.

I actually found CARTRIDGE within time, but I had already leapt in with REDACTING.

My answers:

416 = (75-7)*6 + 8
627 = (8/2*7-3)*25 + 2
673 = 7*(100-2) - 10 - 3

Geoff Bailey said...

Good to see that you all got BRAINIEST, and I'm interested to note that you all had difficulty with the conundrum (but probably not as much as I did).

Bad luck on MAILERS, David -- the Macquarie strikes again! BRAINIEST still gives you the win over me, appropriately enough. Good numbers work, too.

Mark: Looks like you found numbers answers within range each time, which is good. It's always tough to know when to take those few seconds to write down something close, so I'm sure you're not alone in those kind of difficulties.

Nice find of MALADIES, Sam, but ouch over that first numbers game. Like my issues with 616 two episodes ago, sometimes tweaking is not the answer!

(Untweaking your approach: 417 = 6*75 - 5*8 + 7)

David_Brewster said...

Cannot help laughing at the fact that Geoff managed to find ethanol but missed methanol.

Coming back to Sam's response in relation to the Masters Series. Sure, in theory the idea for the series is to be comprised of the 8 Grand Finalists, but what I would like to know is in practice was this actually the case?

Sam Gaffney said...

Hi David B, contestants have to sign a confidentiality form, so even though information like the Masters participants might be innocuous, I don't want to post anything that isn't in the public domain.

Geoff Bailey said...

David: It is pretty funny in its way, but I hope not to repeat such an error. (Amusingly, I was playing through a Countdown episode today and METHANOL was there in one mix. If only I'd played it two days sooner!)

I'm sure I'll make plenty of similar oversights in future games, but I hope I don't repeat this games' effort of two such omissions for a long time.