Thursday, 29 March 2012

Ep 412: Donald Piggott-McKellar, Margaret Zimmer (March 27, 2012)

It took a day and a half, but they finally allowed access to this episode from the website.  Hopefully there will not be a repetition of these difficulties for a while.

Since Ann successfully retired last game, we have two new contestants tonight.  Taking the champion's seat is Donald Piggott-McKellar, a civil engineer.  That's a pretty familiar surname, and indeed it turns out that Donald is the brother of Christopher Piggott-McKellar, who was on the show late last series and only just missed out on making the finals.  Viewers with decent memories may recall that Christopher expressed a loathing of skinny black ties; it should come as little surprise that Donald has chosen to wear one on the show.  (Donald admits that he does not like them much either, but circumstances warranted wearing one.)

Taking the challenger's seat is primary school teacher Margaret Zimmer.  She has been teaching really young children for the past nine years; Richard asks what it is she likes about that.  Margaret responds that she likes how they come in knowing nothing, and then when she looks at what they know at the end of the year she can say that she taught them all of that.  That she has made a significant impact and set them up for the rest of their education.

It's fairly close tonight; Margaret gets an early lead in the second letters round, but invalid words in the next two let Donald overtake her.  He then has an invalid word of his own in the last letters round to drop behind again, but takes the lead once more in the numbers round.  It all comes down to the conundrum, and Margaret solves it first to take the win, 38 to 34.

I had a good game this time; maybe the delay helped somehow.  Only two rounds offered improvements, and I'd not heard of the word for one of those.  The other round I was floundering and perhaps fortunate, as there is a tempting but invalid longer word which I did not even see.  I had a rare quick solve of the conundrum for a nice change, and finished just two points behind David and Lily.

Round 1: D H R G A I E T A

I had HARD, HAIRED (which would have been invalid; I was certainly suspicious of it at the time), RIGHTED, and GRADATE.  I saw AIRDATE but recognised that as one of those Countdown words that is not in the Macquarie, and also THIRD AGE but was pretty sure that was two words.  Which was correct, although a hyphenated version is also in the dictionary.  Either way, it's not valid.

Both contestants have found sixes; Donald has GATHER to Margaret's TIRADE.  David has found AIRHEAD and points out that it has two definitions, and the first was new to me: "a secure area within hostile territory, into which troops and supplies can be parachuted" (the second meaning being "a scatterbrained or frivolous person").  David also mentions the THIRD AGE phrase, and that he visited a cryptic crossword class at the university of the third age recently.

The other sevens are GIRTHED, RADIATE, and HETAIRA (variant spelling of HETAERA: "one of a class of cultivated courtesans in ancient Greece").

I'm not fond of that final vowel, as usual; a consonant was the only chance for a full monty, with an N giving THREADING.  The actual S would have allowed HARDIEST for eight, but then again so would all of the other vowels (E: GATHERED, HERITAGE; I: DIGERATI; O: GOATHERD; U: DAUGHTER), so the actual A was somewhat unfortunate.  Still, I'll come back to this next round.

Donald: GATHER
Margaret: TIRADE

Scores: Donald 0 (6), Margaret 0 (6), me 7

Round 2: S U N I R E M B I

I had RUINS, wondered about URINES but then found the safe URSINE from the same letters, and IMBRUES (the safer anagram of ERBIUMS, although I believe that ERBIUMS has been accepted before).  After time I found MINIBUS.

If Donald had stayed with three vowels on the previous round, then the S would be lost but replaced with another S (from the next round), and the A from the previous round would replace the last I here, allowing SUBMARINE for nine.  Which is why I indulged in all these counterfactuals.

Anyway, Donald has BRINES for six, but Margaret has found the apposite NUMBERS for seven.  It was the best David could do as well -- he notes MINUS in passing as tying in with that -- and it does seem to be the only common seven.

The other sevens are SUBERIN ("a substance contained in and characteristic of cork tissue") and MURINES (MURINE indicating a rodent of the family that includes mice and rats).

Donald: BRINES
Margaret: NUMBERS

Scores: Donald 0 (6), Margaret 7 (13), me 14

Round 3: Target 576 from 25 8 8 5 5 2

I recognised the target immediately as the square of 24, which means it is 8*8*9.  But despite the tempting pair of eights, making a 9 from the rest seems infeasible.  I felt fortunate to find a working re-route, using 600 - 24 and tweakage to get 576 = (8*25 - 8)*(5 - 2).

Note that 575 is 23*25, so getting one away should be quite manageable if one is prepared to do so: 575 = 25*(8 + 8 + 5 + 2).

Neither contestant was able to get within range; the seven points which the above 575 would have yielded would have turned out to be crucial.

Lily demonstrates an elegant solution that made the 23 more efficiently, allowing the final adjustment: 576 = (5*5 - 2)*25 + 8/8.  Very nice!

Donald: [not in range]
Margaret: [not in range]
Me: 576
Lily: 576

Scores: Donald 0 (6), Margaret 7 (13), me 24

First break: NOISE ACT ("Sportsman who favours wet conditions")

A straight enough clue for a CANOEIST.

David's talk is about the Hawthorne effect.  This ends up seguing into some pretense of him having been unaware of being on television, culminating at the end of the show with him looking particularly aghast at the camera when he supposedly catches sight of it.  It's silly byplay, but the expression on his face was priceless.

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

I had OATS, ATOMS / MOATS, SOMATIC / ATOMICS, and ATOMISE.  After time I added TOTEMIC and CATTIES (plural of CATTY: "a unit of weight used in Asia for the sale of rice, fruit, etc., equal to approx. 625 grams").

Donald has OMITS for five, while Margaret has selected STOMATE for seven.  Margaret is a little unfortunate here; STOMA (with plural STOMATA) is listed, but not the sometimes variant spelling STOMATE.  (See the Wikipedia article on STOMA for definition.)  David has found the similar STOMATIC ("relating to the mouth") for eight.

A minor point here: David mentions building up words as he went, and specifically the sequence SOT, OATS, MOATS, TAOISM, ATOMICS, and STOMATIC.  However, TAOISM is only listed in capitalised form, so would not be valid.  (I discovered this recently when looking for what used to be the alternative spelling DAOISM, but the Macquarie does not list that variant.)

There's a fair few other sevens here: ATOMIST, ATOMIES (plural of ATOMY, an archaic term for an atom), COMATES (COMATE: "a mate or companion"), COSTATE ("bearing ribs"), SEMATIC ("serving as a sign or warning of danger [...]"), STATICE (a type of plant), and TOMCATS.

Donald: OMITS
Margaret: [invalid]

Scores: Donald 0 (11), Margaret 7 (13), me 31

Round 5: L N F E A O D A N

An ill-fitting assortment for this round, although if the final consonant had been an R then FARANDOLE (a type of dance) would have been a difficult full monty.  I had LANE, ALONE, FELON, ELAND, and LOANED.  After time I added ANNEAL and ANODAL.

Both contestants have gone for sixes; Donald also has LOANED, while Margaret has fallen victim to the phantom letter with FLAMED.  No M, alas.  David had hoped that FLANNED would be valid, but it is not; FANNED is his six, and also FLANNO, which is colloquial for a flannelette shirt.

Six seems to be the best -- some sources might allow FENLAND (similar to marshland), but not the Macquarie -- and the others are FONDLE / ENFOLD, and LOAFED / FOALED.

With that second mistake from Margaret, Donald is in front for the first time.  The invalid words have cost her somewhat, as is to be expected.

Donald: LOANED
Margaret: [invalid]

Scores: Donald 6 (17), Margaret 7 (13), me 37

Round 6: Target 235 from 25 100 2 5 10 8

A very easy target this time; everyone goes with 235 = 2*100 + 25 + 10.

Donald: 235
Margaret: 235
Me: 235
Lily: 235

Scores: Donald 16 (27), Margaret 17 (23), me 47

Second break: DOPE DUAL ("Transferred to the network")

Another fairly straight clue for UPLOADED.

Round 7: S H T K E U I N E

I had a lot of problems with this.  I had SHUTE and KITES / SKITE, and then very late in the piece found UNITES / UNTIES.  After time I found THINKS, and also the invalid KITSUNE (which might make it into the dictionary eventually).

Margaret has STINK for five -- she doesn't seem very happy about it -- but Donald's risky six of SHEIKE turns out to be too risky, and STINK gets the points.  They will turn out to be vital, and give Margaret the lead again.

David has seen HUNKIEST, which somewhat surprisingly is not valid; he had hoped for a final consonant being a C to give CHUNKIEST.  He has done well to find ENTHUSE for seven, however.

The other sevens are THEINES (if allowed -- plural of THEINE: "caffeine found in tea"), HUNKIES (plural of HUNKY, a US colloquialism: "an unskilled or semiskilled worker of foreign birth, especially a Hungarian"), and NETSUKE ("a small object of ivory, wood, etc., usually carved or decorated, formerly used in Japanese dress as a toggle to prevent a pouch or other article, to which it is attached by a cord, from slipping through the girdle").

Donald: [invalid]
Margaret: STINK

Scores: Donald 16 (27), Margaret 17 (28), me 53

Round 8: Target 948 from 25 75 3 2 1 10

My first thought was to get near with a thousand, leading to one away with 949 = 10*(75 + 25 - 3 - 2) - 1.  Then I contemplated going via 900 but did not see anything that I liked, and then tried the 75.  That pulled out the factor of 12 quite handily, and the solution followed: 948 = (10 + 2)*(75 + 3 + 1).  After time I found the way to 950 while preserving the 2, yielding the alternative 948 = (10 + 3)*75 - 25 - 2.

Margaret has not been able to get within range; Donald has got within two with 950 = (10 + 2)*75 + (3 - 1)*25.  He was very close, in a sense -- just a tweak away from my first solution, which turns out to be Lily's approach also.

Those seven points put Donald back into the lead by six points.  If he'd just left that invalid E off SHEIKE he would have had the valid alternative spelling SHEIK and an unbeatable lead going into the conundrum.

Donald: 950
Margaret: [not in range]
Me: 948
Lily: 948

Scores: Donald 16 (34), Margaret 17 (28), me 63


Either contestant can win on this conundrum, but Donald is ahead.  For the first time in a while I solve the conundrum almost instantly.  I think it was those middle letters, where blotting out the C put me on the right track.  Margaret solves it at the eight second mark, and gets through despite those two invalid words.

Donald: [no answer]
Margaret: PUBLICIST (8s)
Me: PUBLICIST (1.5s)

Final scores: Donald 16 (34), Margaret 17 (38), me 73

A close game, with three of the five letters rounds decided due to invalid answers.  Margaret ended up with just the better of it, but Donald was slightly better on the numbers.  There really wasn't that much to choose between them, but Margaret got home on the back of the conundrum.

I had a pretty good game, really, with a fast solution to the conundrum and only two rounds able to be bettered.  One of those was with STOMATIC which I had not heard of, so it was really only ENTHUSE that held out the chance of improvement.  That's a hard find, so I'm content with my performance.  On the other hand, it feels like most of my answers were pretty matchable, so I'm a bit restrained about it all.  Still, solving the conundrum quickly is a nice change, and I hope I can do that again soon.


Sam Gaffney said...

It's a shame we won't get any more of that trademark McPig humour. Maybe Christopher & Donald have some more siblings to unearth.

Well played Geoff, you pipped me with that fast conundrum.

I only found ATOMISE quite late, having only a five for most of that thirty seconds.

I was rather annoyed with HUNKIEST not being valid, the Macquarie omits superlatives occasionally with neither rhyme nor reason.

576 = (25*(8-5)-5+2)*8
235 = (25-2)*10+5
948 = (10+3)*(75-2) - 1

Mark said...

Well done, Geoff and Sam.

3. -
6. 235 = 10*25 - 2 - 5 - 8
7. Invalid - HUNKIEST
8. 945 = (25+75+3+2)*(10-1)
9. -

Geoff Bailey said...

Good games from both of you, and bad luck on HUNKIEST. You'd have beaten both contestants with that performance, Mark.

And thanks, Sam -- nice to get a fast conundrum for once, not that I expect it to become a regular feature...

Tim said...

576 =( 2*8+8) * (25-5/5)

Geoff Bailey said...

Nice one, Tim!

David_Brewster said...

3. 576 = (5*5-2)*25+(8/8)
6. 235 = (2*100)+25+10
8. 948 = (75+3+1)*(10+2)