Friday, 6 April 2012

Ep 419: Ben Fisher, Scott Morrow (April 5, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

I bumped into Daniel Chua at university today, which was nice.  Nicer still was that he recognised me, which isn't bad considering we only met for one day half a year ago.  Hi, Daniel!  (For any newer readers, Daniel was one of the finalists from series 4.)

It looks like we are out of interesting things for Ben to talk about, as Richard asks him about his tactics for the game.  Ben says that something that he did not realise from home is that as a contestant there's actually quite a lot of pressure during the letters rounds when calling out the consonants and vowels.  (I'll mention that I did not feel pressured in that situation, but I did notice that making those decisions was taking away thinking time that I was used to having.)  Ben has reacted to this by settling on one mix and asking for that pretty much every time, so that he does not have to think about that.

He has mostly gone with three consonants, three vowels, consonant, and the vowel/consonant in some order, but there have been exceptions.  Still, he has presumably saved himself some thought during that, which is the point.  That said, I prefer to be more flexible about it so as to take advantage of possibilities that arise as the letters are revealed.

Tonight's challenger is statistician Scott Morrow.  Scott plays African drums; he developed that interest when he did a study tour in Ghana around six years ago.  It was a drum and dance tour, catering to all levels, and he describes it as fantastic from both a musical standpoint and that of getting to interact with another culture.

There were some good words from both players tonight, and Scott pushed Ben throughout.  Admittedly he was helped by Ben making two mistakes in the numbers rounds, but he is still the first contestant to make Ben sweat on the conundrum.  Ben was only two points ahead going into it, but once again solved it quickly to take the win, 42 to 30.

I started out in excellent form, or so I thought, but David brought me back to earth.  I got flustered in the first numbers round and ended up much further away than I would have liked, but the rest was pretty good.  I was just a bit slower to the conundrum than Ben, but did solve it, to round out a mixed but enjoyable performance.

Round 1: S D C O E L A S E

I had CODES, CLOSED, CLASSED, and then spotted DÉCLASSÉ ("fallen or lowered in social rank, class, etc."); I was pretty chuffed about that.  I also wondered about DESCALES, but it is not valid.  After time I added LASSOED for another seven.

It's sixes from both contestants, Scott with SCALDS and Ben with CEASES.  David talks bout there being a glut of vowels, which seems a bit of an overstatement, but an S is usually a sign that more consonants are useful.  He has brought me crashing back to earth by finding the full monty of ADOLESCES (the verb ADOLESCE being a backformation from ADOLESCENT), which is a fantastic find.  Great work, David!

David had the only nine, and I had the only eight.  The other sevens are SOLACES, SOLACED, CLASSED / DECLASS ("to remove or degrade from one's class (social or other)"), and ELODEAS (members of a particular genus of water plants).

[Update: Sam points out that I have overlooked counting ADOLESCE as an eight.  Whoops!]


Scores: Ben 0 (6), Scott 0 (6), me 8

Round 2: T U I O E C R M D

I wrote down the OUT- fragment early, but aside from OUTIE (colloquial for "a protruding navel") I did not get to use it.  (I toyed with OUTCRIMED but not seriously.)  Instead, I had OUTIE, CUTIE, COURT, COURTED, and MORTICED -- I finally saw it within time!  I also wrote down DECORUM within time, because it is a nice word.  After time I considered MIDCOURT (invalid) and wrote down CRUDITÉ and CORDITE.

Scott has CREDIT for another six, but Ben has improved by finding DECORUM.  David also looked at OUT-, and the -ED fragment, and was able to make OUTCRIED for his eight.

Those are the only eights; the other sevens are DORMICE, OUTRIDE, MORTICE, DEMOTIC ("of or relating to the common people; popular"), and EDUCTOR ("someone or something that educes", where to educe is to draw out or elicit; I mentioned the similar EDUCTION back in episode 363).


Scores: Ben 0 (13), Scott 0 (6), me 16

Round 3: Target 804 from 25 50 5 5 6 9

This round hurts, as I got lost down a couple of rabbit holes.  I did notice that the target was divisible by 6, but I had troubles doing the division for some reason.  I figure that I lost at least ten seconds determining that the target was 6*134, and that loss of time put me under increased pressure that caused me to dismiss the 134 as impractical.  Had I looked at it properly -- as I did afterwords -- I should have seen that it was 125 + 9 and the solution follows directly: 804 = 6*(5*25 + 9).  Depressingly simple!

Anyway, as I was short of time I ended up having to settle for being vaguely within range, and wrote down seven away with 811 = (6 + 5)*(50 + 25) - 9 - 5.  Even the simple 800 = (5 + 5 + 6)*50 would have been much better than that!

Just after time, I saw that 9*6 = 54 was a good way to get the offset of 4 from a multiple of 50, and thus the solutions 804 = (5 + 5)*(50 + 25) + 9*6 and 804 = (25 - 5 - 5)*50 + 9*6.  The other solution that I mentioned can also be seen as a tweaked version of this approach.

Ben checks his working and says that he has made a mistake so has nothing to declare.  Scott has not been able to get within range, so no change from this round.

Lily makes it look easy, with 804 = (25 - 9)*50 + 5 - (6 - 5).  Nice one, Lily!

Ben: [no answer]
Scott: [not in range]
Me: 811
Lily: 804

Scores: Ben 0 (13), Scott 0 (6), me 21

First break: AMONG HAY ("A wooden pig")

Here "pig" is cluing the HOG of MAHOGANY.

David's talk is about the number 101, or rather its dictionary definition in contexts like "psychology 101" and such.  He then digresses to talk about some words based off the Latin centum, meaning one hundred.

Round 4: G I N A H O T A C

With -ING right at the start the aim should be clear, but Scott chooses that annoying fourth vowel.  Choosing a sixth consonant (as I advocate when -ING is in play) would have given an S, and some easy eights: SCATHING and COASTING / COATINGS / AGNOSTIC / COTINGAS (this last one being less easy, admittedly).

As it was, I had GAIN and COATING.  I amused myself by picturing COATHANG as a backformation from COATHANGER, but that was the only potential I saw for longer.

Both contestants have COATING, as does David; it is the best to be done.

There are some other sevens, but they are all uncommon: COTINGA (any of certain birds of Central and South America; it's worth doing an image search -- some of them are quite pretty), ACANTHI (one plural of ACANTHUS, which is a class of herbs), AGNATIC (adjective derived from AGNATE: "a kinsman whose connection is traceable exclusively through males"), and GNATHIC (adjective derived from GNATHION: "the lowest point on the anterior margin of the lower jaw in the mid-sagittal plane").

Some sources list CONTAGIUM as a synonym for CONTAGION, and thus CONTAGIA for an eight.  The Macquarie is not one of them, though.


Scores: Ben 7 (20), Scott 7 (13), me 28

Round 5: S M N A E I B D P

I had MANS, MEANS / NAMES, IMPENDS, and BANDIES.  I had one of those moments of doubt where I considered that maybe the Macquarie would only list IMPENDING and not IMPEND as a verb, so I went with BANDIES; I knew this was fine since I'd seent it while checking up on BANDIEST for episode 403.  (BANDY: "to pass from one to another, or back and forth; give and take".)

Scott has MAINS for five, while Ben has found BANDIES for another seven.  David had MAIDENS and IMPENDS for his sevens.

That's the best to be done; the other sevens are BEDPANS, DAMPENS, and MEDIANS / SIDEMAN ("a male member of a jazz band other than the leader").

Scott is now 14 points behind, which is danger territory.

Scott: MAINS

Scores: Ben 14 (27), Scott 7 (13), me 35

Round 6: Target 963 from 25 75 100 50 5 8

Scott chooses four large numbers, which I know will please Sam.  With more flexibility it would be tempting to use the factorisation 9*107, but neither is particularly easily formable in this case.  I decided to try and get close from a thousand, and feel fairly lucky that it just worked out.  The process went a bit like this: 1000 is 8*125, and the 125 could be either 100 + 25 or 75 + 50.  The latter is probably better to use since it leaves the 25 around to divide by; in fact that would leave 100/25 = 4, and 8*4 is 32 which combines with the 5 to give the 37 that we need.  Thus, 963 = 8*(75 + 50 - 100/25) - 5.

I feel that I got lucky on this one, as the approach just worked and I found the right tweak first up.  If I'd had to think more about it I may well have fallen into difficulties, like I did with the first round today.  This is the only solution, so obviously it was a huge advantage to look at it first rather than other possibilities (such as 5*200, or 13*75, etc.).

For the second time Ben has caught a mistake before declaring anything, but does not have a valid fallback.  Scott is eight away with 955 = (100 + 25)*8 - 50 + 5.  If he had tweaked that a bit he could have scored two more points, with 960 = (100 + 25 - 5)*8.

Lily has accurately found the solution.

Ben: [no answer]
Scott: [not in range]
Me: 963
Lily: 963

Scores: Ben 14 (27), Scott: 7 (18), me 45

Second break: CRASS TIE ("So frightening it will leave a permanent mark")

The permanent mark is a SCAR, leading to SCARIEST.

Round 7: S T R A E O T Y A

I had STAR / RATS, STARE, TOASTER, and angsted over TEATRAYS.  Eventually I decided against it, and was relieved that later checking confirmed that it is two words.

As expected, I think that a final consonant would have been better.  The magic result would have been an N for ATTORNEYS, but David might have found full monties from a G (GESTATORY) or a C (ASTROCYTE) also.

Ben has ORATES for six, which was the word from the first six letters that I had looked for but not found.  But Scott has found TOASTER for seven to narrow the gap to just two points.  David has found ROTATES for his seven; at the end of the show he mentions that he has found AEROSTAT in the meantime.

Aside from those words, there's nothing longer than six.  There's several of those; I'll just mention OYSTER and TREATY for now.


Scores: Ben 14 (27), Scott 14 (25), me 52

Round 8: Target 561 from 100 25 50 75 4 3

Ben is just two behind -- if he had found that tweak last numbers round then the scores would be tied at this point -- and chooses the same mix.  The target is familiar, and is 3*17*11.  The factorisation does not seem obviously helpful, although the 3 is already there so aiming to get the 187 from the rest is reasonable.

I was not able to get there, but found a few ways to one away; the one that I wrote down is 562 = 4*(100 + 50 + 3) - (75 - 25).  I spent a lot of time trying to get 4*141 - 3 to work, but without success.

Both contestants are only just within the scoring range with 571, but with very different methods.  Scott has 571 = (50/25 + 3)*100 + 75 - 4, while Ben has 571 = (3 + 4)*75 + 50 - 100/25.  Note that both of these involved getting to 575 and then adjusting; had they known that 575 can be made from the large numbers alone they could have got just two away with 563 = (100 - 75)*25 - 50 - 4*3.

Lily was not able to solve this; at the end of the show she still has not been able to.  I had spent several minutes trying a lot of options, but I resorted to a solver to confirm that it was achievable.  In fact, I got the hint that the factor of three was useful, and was eventually able to nut out the only solution: 561 = 3*(100*(50 - 4) + 75)/25.  The kind of solution that Sam likes!

Ben: 571
Scott: 571
Me: 562

Scores: Ben 14 (32), Scott 14 (30), me 59


Either contestant could win it, and Ben is perhaps a bit lucky to not be behind at this point; those two mistakes in the numbers rounds could easily have let Scott get in front.  I was a bit slow off the mark on this one, briefly distracted by MASONIC.  Ben buzzed in a little over three seconds in, and I saw the answer as I paused the video.  Ben is correct, and gets through that nervous fourth game.

Ben: INSOMNIAC (3.5s)
Scott: [no answer]

Final scores: Ben 24 (42), Scott 14 (30), me 59

Unconvincing numberwork from both, with the nearest being eight away.  The letters were better, with some good sevens -- particularly DECORUM -- and both contestants did well.  Either could have guaranteed a win if they had been more on-target with the numbers, however.  Scott is the first to have pushed Ben to the conundrum, but Ben gets through his fourth game thanks to his excellent conundrum solving skills.  Based on last series' results, Ben is quite likely to make the finals at this point, but he is surely hoping to become a retiring champion.  If he can get through tomorrow's game then he'll have a night's rest to prepare for the sixth.


Mark said...

Well done, Geoff.

3. 800 = 50*(5+5+6)
6. 971 = 75*(5+8) - 100/25
8. -
9. -

Geoff Bailey said...

Interesting results from you, Mark -- compared against Ben, three times you gained points only to yield the same number back to him in the next round or the one after. You'd have been tied going into the conundrum!

Sam Gaffney said...

There are two eights in Round 1...

I was quite annoyed not to get any of the numbers in time tonight, especially the two heavyweights.

In Round 3 I found Geoff's simple solution shortly afterwards. In Round 6, I wasted time trying to do a 5*200 sort of tweak, which didn't work. For Round 8, I didn't see the right route until just after time: 561=((50-4)*100+75)/25*3. I also wrote down a safer 562 like yours, which I might have declared in a game out of caution.

My answers:

800 = (9+6)*50 + 25 + 5*5
964 = (75+50-5)*8 + 100/25
560 = ((50-3)*75*4-100)/25