Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Ep 422: Mathew Thomas, Steve Malcolm (April 10, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

Mathew returns after thwarting Ben's attempt to become a retiring champion last night.  Mathew grew up in New Zealand, and occasionally he does a hāngi at the local primary school.  This involves cooking the food in the ground using hot rocks; there is a big fire that goes along with that, but it does not last too long.  He usually does this in winter so that he does not get in any trouble with the fire brigade.

Tonight's challenger is I.T. manager Steve Malcolm.  He has travelled in Africa recently, and in particular ended up working in Zimbabwe for Outward Bound.  As he explains, Outward Bound is about using outdoor activities such as abseiling, rock climbing, and raft building to try and teach people life skills like teamwork and independence.

Steve also visited South Africa, where he rode an ostrich.  He describes it as "a bit like sitting on a big crazy chicken".  That pretty much conforms to expectations.

It was a close game; both managed to win a letters round, but Steve gained an early lead due to the first numbers round.  A later invalid word from him gave Mathew a good chance at recovery, but Mathew returned the favour with a transcription error on his last numbers round.  Either way it was coming down to the conundrum, but that error was the difference between Mathew being ahead or behind going into it.  Steve buzzed in after eight seconds... but his answer was invalid.  Mathew had the rest of the time to try and solve it but was unable to, and that let Steve scrape home, 34 to 25.

Once again I had two poor rounds today, which could be very costly.  The first was failing to spot a seven-letter word, which in retrospect was perhaps not as bad as it felt at the time; the second, however, was a complete meltdown on the second numbers round resulting in nothing to declare at all.  Another letters round I almost made a mess of and was very lucky that my risky recovery attempt paid off.  Against that, I had optimal results in all the other main rounds, including another risky word in the final letters round, and a four second conundrum solve.  A comfortable win despite some rocky play.

Round 1: E I R T C R S A L

A very compatible set of letters; I had TIRE / RITE, CARRIES, TARRIES, ARTICLES / RECITALS, and wondered if ARTICLERS was worth a try.  I had to decide against it, and that was the right decision.

Steve has TILERS for six, but Mathew has CRATERS for seven and takes the early lead.  David has found TRAILERS for eight.

The other eights are RETRIALS, STERICAL (variant of STERIC: "relating to the spatial relationship of atoms in the molecule"), and ERRATICS -- a little surprisingly to me, ERRATIC has a noun sense of "an erratic or eccentric person".

This was the round with the potential full monty; choosing four vowels replaces the L with an E, and allows TRACERIES for nine (also CAREERIST, but that may be harder to find).


Scores: Mathew 0 (7), Steve 0, me 8

Round 2: N E C O M A G U S

There's some good letters here, but I was not able to manipulate them to my satisfaction.  I ended up with CONE, CAMEO, and CAMEOS.  After time I wrote down OUNCES as another six, then finally looked at CON- as a fragment and immediately saw CONSUME.  I really should have looked at CON- earlier -- a careless oversight.  A little while after that I also saw MANGOES, which has had a chance to appear a few times since Toby found it in episode 333.

Both contestants have MANGES, and David looks that up.  He notes that it has a description of "any of various skin diseases [...]" and so is pluralisable.  I think that's the first time since I've started this blog that he has made on-air reference to the question of whether some nouns are pluralisable or not; maybe there will be a crackdown on some of the dodgier pluralisations that I've suggested in the past.

David has found the excellent CANGUES for seven (CANGUE: "(in China) a kind of portable pillory formerly worn about the neck by criminals").  Nice one, David!

The other sevens are UNCAGES (an easier to find anagram of CANGUES, and it is perhaps interesting that a CANGUE is something you might UNCAGE someone from) and MUCOSAE (mentioned in episode 372, MUCOSAE is the plural of MUCOSA: "a mucous membrane").  The possibly invalid plural here is ACUMENS; certainly I'd try to find an alternative rather than declare it.

Mathew: MANGES

Scores: Mathew 6 (13), Steve 6, me 14

Round 3: Target 385 from 75 4 8 9 6 4

The target is quite near 5*75, but there is no five in the small numbers.  I almost hared off after the factorisation as a result (35*11, thus 5*7*11), but fortunately noted that the 4 and 9 could make the 5.  The remaining smalls easily yielded the remaining 10, and I had my solution: 385 = (9 - 4)*75 + 6 + 4.

After time I used the same numbers to tweak it instead (which could also be considered as using the factorisation 5*77): 385 = (9 - 4)*(75 + 6 - 4), and then tweaked down from 450 as I had been on the verge of attempting before I saw how to make that 5: 385 = 6*(75 - 8) - 9 - 4 - 4.

Mathew declares 378 -- I'm at a loss on this one, as any method I can think of to get there also has small numbers left over to get closer with -- but Steve is on target with 385 = (9 - 4)*75 + 8 + 6 - 4.  Lily has used the same solution that I did.

Mathew: 378
Steve: 385
Me: 385
Lily: 385

Scores: Mathew 6 (13), Steve 16, me 24

First break: BIG HAVEN ("Honeymaking insect that's doing what it's told")

This reminds me of an old ad, but even without that it's easy to find BEHAVING.

David's talk is about the word paper.

Round 4: R I D E L A V N D

I made my life much more difficult in this round than it needed to be, and was fortunate to get out of it with a good result.  I had RILED, LAIRED / DERAIL, DANDIER, DRIVEN, and then was a bit stuck.  Somehow I'd miscounted DANDIER as only six, so I was still looking for a seven.  (I knew that DANDIER was fine because of DANDIEST from episode 403.)  I saw RAVELIN but knew from Countdown episodes that it was legal there but not listed in the Macquarie.  In desperation I wrote down RAVINED, and then had to decided whether to chance it.

I did decide to do so, in part because in the competition that Sam and I have with each other I was sure that he'd find a seven.  Then I found INVADER as the safe anagram of it, INVADED, and the very common DRAINED.  Definitely sevens to be had here!

Missing all of those was poor, and miscounting DANDIER was a terrible oversight.  I was not really surprised that there was no mention of RAVINED under RAVINE, nor as its own entry.  But as I was about to close the dictionary in dejection I spotted just above RAVINE the entry for RAVIN, which was listed as a verb (and noun) with the same meaning as RAVEN: "to devour voraciously" (amongst other meanings).  RAVINED turns out to be valid, and I was very, very lucky.

Meanwhile it is sixes from the contestants; Mathew has LADDER while Steve has opted for LAIRED.  Rather surprisingly to me, Richard thinks this latter is dubious and David has to check up on it, talking about it being an "ockerism".  Presumably he was thinking of senses related to LAIRY (flashy or vulgar), but the intended sense here (at least for me) was the verb LAIR as it related to wild animals: "to go to, lie in, or have a lair".  It is perfectly fine, of course.

David has found INVADER and INVADED for his sevens, presumably making much lighter work of this than I did.

The remaining unmentioned sevens are DANDLER and the American spelling RIVALED.

Mathew: LADDER

Scores: Mathew 6 (19), Steve 16 (22), me 31

Round 5: E I A T M S N W T

I had MATE, STEAM, TISANE, and TAWNIEST.  This last reminded me of Sebastian's choice of TAWNIER in his quarter-final against Sam last series, and was a safe eight with no plausible nine to follow.

Mathew has MEANT for five, but Steve has found MITTENS for seven.  David saw INMATES in the first seven letters, but after checking the dictionary confirmed that TAWNIEST was valid for his eight.

It's the only eight to be had, but there are a few other sevens: INSTATE / SATINET ("an inferior kind of satin containing cotton"), ENTWIST, SMITTEN, and MATTINS (variant spelling of MATINS, the religious service).

TAWNY is also a noun, with meaning "a shade of brown tinged with yellow".  Colours are almost always pluralisable since they usually cover a range that might all be called that colour.  e.g., reds, greens, blues, golds, etc.  Thus one would expect that TAWNIES should be allowed; however, the Macquarie does not explicitly list the form, and so it would be invalid due to the spelling shift.

Those seven points give Steve a ten point lead over Mathew.  Danger territory!

Mathew: MEANT

Scores: Mathew 6 (19), Steve 16 (29), me 39

Round 6: Target 441 from 25 2 2 1 5 5

Steve chooses a single large number, and I groaned when the small numbers were revealed -- common factors with the large number(s) makes the manoeuvring very difficult, as I have mentioned before.

I recognised the target as the square of 21 and pulled out the factors but got confused along the way, transmuting 49*9 into 49*7 instead.  That led me to the "solution" (2*25 - 1)*(5 + 2), which is 343 rather than the 441 I was expecting.  I caught this error while checking, as the multiplication was clearly around a hundred short, but ran out of time while trying to salvage it and ended up with nothing to declare.  But at least I gave myself a chance to do so, and not checking at all would have denied me that.

After time I managed to get one away with 440 = 5*((25 + 5)*(2 + 1) - 2).  Perhaps an easier way to approach this is as follows: The target is near 450, which is 25*18.  There's a couple of ways to make that 18 as 2*9, which will end up 9 away from the target.  The 9 can be either 5 + 5 - 1 or 2*5 - 1, in both cases using up the 1 that tweaking would need to reach the target exactly.  However, the second version preserves a 5 which we can use to tweak to one away, and gives 440 = 2*(25*(2*5 - 1) - 5).

This was a case where I ended up doing worse due to knowing the factorisation.  This game can be cruel sometimes!

Neither contestant has managed to get within scoring range.  This does feel a little odd since 450 is quite formable, but I'm hardly in the best position to make such a claim right now.

Lily has only been able to get to 440 within time, but after the break she has found the only solution: 441 = (25*5 + 1)*(5 + 2)/2.  Nice one, Lily!

(Lily explains that she found this by multiplying by 2 and trying to get the 882 from the rest; but another way of looking at this is that it uses the factorisation 441 = 7*63, where 63 = (25*5 + 1)/2.  It's a little easier to find that way, but not much -- it's a fairly unintuitive step to divide large totals by some number.  Except for Sam, maybe. *grins*)

Mathew: [not in range]
Steve: [not in range]
Me: [not in range]
Lily: 440

Scores: Mathew 6 (19), Steve 16 (29), me 39

Second break: CURIO GAS ("Goes with goodness and me")

This word popped up in play back in episode 365: GRACIOUS.

Round 7: O B S H D G S E I

A set of ill-fitting consonants to end with.  I was hoping that the final vowel would be an A for BODEGAS, but the I meant more work.  I had SHOD, SHOES, BODGES, wondered about BODGIES, and BODIES.  I did fret for a bit over declaring BODGIES, but was tilted in favour of it because the Macquarie is very strong on colloquialisms.  It was a relief to find out that this was the right decision.

BODGIE has a few meanings; it is an adjective meaning "inferior" derived from BODGER, in turn derived from bodge "to patch or mend clumsily".  That has extended to a noun sense of "a worthless person", plus some other meanings (in some states it is a type of marble, and it can also be a verb).  There's another sense of this word, which I'll get to shortly.

 Both contestants declare sixes; Mathew has HISSED, and Steve tries the unusual BOSHED.  It's not clear what meaning he ascribes to it, but the Macquarie only lists BOSH as a noun or an interjection.  One of those noun meanings is "the lower portion of a blast furnace, extending from the widest part to the hearth"; that means that BOSHES would have been a valid six.  However, with no verb sense given, BOSHED is not valid.  That lets Mathew narrow the gap to just four points.

David notes that Bob Hawke used to be known as the silver bodgie, and that BODGIES is valid for seven.  This is using the second meaning of BODGIE: "(especially in the 1950s) one of a group of young men usually dressed in an extreme fashion, with tight trousers and slicked-back hair, and given to wild delinquent behaviour".  This meaning arises from the same "inferior" base as the other: After World War II there was some attempt to pass off inferior cloth as being American made when it was not, and so this cloth was referred to as "bodgie".  It then migrated to a term for those people who used fake American accents to make themselves seem more important.

(More information in the Wikipedia article.)

The other sixes are DISHES, SIGHED, BOSSED, BOGIES / GOBIES (GOBY being a type of fish), GEOIDS ("an imaginary surface which coincides with the mean sea level over the ocean and its extension under the continents"; it is also the associated geometric figure), and DHOBIS (DHOBI: "South Asian English someone employed to do washing").

Mathew: HISSED
Steve: [invalid]

Scores: Mathew 6 (25), Steve 16 (29), me 46

Round 8: Target 693 from 75 7 4 1 6 2

The target is easily factorisable again, being 63*11.  I started off with that, and managed to produce the solution 693 = (75 - 2*6)*(7 + 4).  I then decided to try the alternate factorisation 7*99, and found 693 = 7*(75 + 6*4) within the remaining time.

Steve is 9 away with 684, but Mathew is two closer with 686.  Those five points will give him the lead, which is always preferable to have at the conundrum over the alternative.  However, his solution starts with 6*(2 + 1)... and he realises that he has made a mistake.  His intended answer was 686 = (6 + 2 + 1)*75 + 7 + 4, but by writing down the multiplication instead of addition he has rendered it invalid.  Unfortunate!

Steve's answer is 684 = (6 + 4 - 1)*75 + 7 + 2.  My first thought on seeing that was that he could have been five closer (worth two more points, and a guaranteed win) if he had used 7*2 instead of 7 + 2.  However, Sam pointed out to me in a private communication that Steve could have tweaked that to a solution: 693 = (6 + 4 - 1)*(75 + 2).

Lily has found a somewhat more complicated way to use the 7*99 factorisation; her solution is 693 = ((75 / (6/2))*4 - 1)*7.  Whew!

Mathew's invalid answer has resulted in a ten-point swing, meaning that he is now nine behind instead of one ahead going into the conundrum.  It's still there to be won by either contestant, but the advantage has shifted.

Mathew: [invalid]
Steve: 684
Me: 693
Lily: 693

Scores: Mathew 6 (25), Steve 16 (34), me 56


Down to the conundrum, and I had a small brain freeze and then fortunately settled on the CON- fragment to start with (perhaps due to missing it in round 2?) and had the solution just over four seconds in.  Steve buzzed in after 8 seconds, but that was with the invalid COUNTERED; he realised that he was wrong as soon as he buzzed, but he could not take it back, of course.  That left Mathew with the remaining time to solve it, and a nervous wait for Steve.  But time ticked down with no solution, and Steve scraped home.

Mathew: [no answer]
Steve: [invalid] (8s)
Me: CONDUCTOR (4.5s)

Final scores: Mathew 6 (25), Steve 16 (34), me 66

Whew, it came down to the wire and could have gone other ways fairly easily.  Most obvious was Mathew's error in the final numbers round, but Steve could have found one of the safer sixes in the previous letters round to still be ahead.  I liked Steve's find of MITTENS, but it was the numbers that saw him home today.  Mathew almost won through, but my prediction about him being quite catchable in the numbers proved accurate.

I'll note here that David had an optimal game tonight on the words, with BODGIES being a difficult find and CANGUES a nice word to mention.  Well done, David!

I had my ups and downs tonight, but both my risky plays came off and I solved the conundrum.  So on the whole I'm happy with the result, even with not having anything to declare for round 6.


Mark said...

Well done, Geoff. I thought I had a pretty good game, but should have done better in Round 3.

3. 382 = 4*75 + 9*8 + 6 + 4
6. -
8. 694 = (75-6)*(7+1+2) + 4
9. -

Geoff Bailey said...

... argh. Sorry, Sam, I clicked on the wrong thing and accidentally nuked your comment. I can't seem to undo that, either, which seems like poor design. Can you repost?

Additionally, I have just discovered that one of Victor's earlier comments on episode 416 somehow got classified as spam. Apologies, Victor!

Geoff Bailey said...

I'd say you had a good game too, Mark, and in particular an excellent set of letters rounds -- three maximums and the other two only having a single longer word than them.

One advantage of watching the show recorded (or off the website, in my case) is that I can pause after each round and keep going until I am satisfied (or have had enough). I think that is particularly helpful for the numbers, as the first step is seeing options; speed comes from practice.

Watching the show live removes this option, but one thing you could try is to revisit thenumbers rounds afterwards, but using the targets from the other rounds. That gives you an unspoiled set to play with at a pace that suits you.

(Assuming that you enjoy playing around with the numbers, that is.)

Sam Gaffney said...

Well played Geoff, I had assumed that your conundrum buzzer had been broken for a few weeks.

Mark, I didn't see 75*5 in Round 3 either, it was a much more sensible approach than my way.

I saw BODGIES, but didn't realise it would be an acceptable word.

My answers:
385 = (75-8)*6 - 9 - 4 - 4
440 = ((5*2-1)*25 - 5)*2
693 = (75+6*4)*7

Sam Gaffney said...

Also, RECITALS was excellent, Mark.

Victor said...

That's OK Geoff I was wondering what happened to that but I tried to replicate the comment again I think. The spam filter probably knows best anyway.

Not much I can comment on tonight's game, though amusingly I too wrote down an invalid answer in round 6; (2*(25-2))*(5+5)+1 = 461 :X. I couldn't fix that one in time and I can certainly relate to Mark's comment a few episodes ago, it is hard to write down more than one solution in the 30 seconds. I guess I might try just thinking for 20-25 secs then scrawling down whatever I've thought of by then.

Also as an observation, Mathew's pauses for thought while declaring his numbers rounds suggests he may not have been writing the target down.

And congrats on TERPENOID last week Geoff (I would have posted earlier but I've been catching up on about 6 episodes the past 3 days).

Mark said...

Thanks Geoff and Sam.

I agree with your comments about working on the numbers after time ends, Geoff. So far I haven't been motivated enough to do it.

Sam, I did see 75*5 and tried to make 5 from the small numbers, but I somehow missed 9-4, which was probably worse than not seeing 75*5.

Victor, I thought the same thing about Mathew's hesitation.

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Victor, and nice to hear from you again. I hope you've been away from the game for fun reasons!

I noticed Mathew's hesitations on declaration also, and the way he looks like he is working something out, but it's not clear cut. He did similar pauses before declaring words, and on at least one of the numbers round he said the total without looking at the pad. It's possible that he is doing last-moment checks on his results to make sure he is declaring the right thing. Certainly that might have gained me seven points in my first game.

(I think that it does look very dubious, though, and the show would ideally do something about that.)