Jane is back for her fourth night, trying to get over that fourth game hurdle. Richard asks what sort of preparation she has been doing over the weekend; Jane responds that she has been revising her 75-times tables. She has also found a website where she can practice the maths with the clock counting down.

Tonight's challenger is Steve Hibbert, a full-time father to three children. They are aged five, four, and one, and looking after them keeps him busy; as he says, it is very challenging and rewarding at the same time. Steve also enjoys plane recognition (aka "plane spotting").

It's a good close game tonight, although the letters rounds were arguably a bit flat with findable sevens in most rounds and not much longer. Jane gets the lead in the first numbers round, and extends it in the next letters round. Steve then gets most of the ground back in the next numbers game, and they trade points in the remaining two main rounds. Steve is just two points behind going into the conundrum, and he solves it first to take the win, 48 to 40. Jane bows out at that troublesome fourth game, and it's very unlikely that she'll be back for the finals.

I'm flying high tonight, after recording an optimal game. I found best possible answers in every round, and solved the conundrum in a second. I'm pretty happy about this, as you might expect. Probably happier.

**Round 1: L R F R E A I E C**

I had FARE, FLARE, FRAILER, and wondered about LIFECARE and LIFECARER. Deciding that they were just too unlikely, I wrote down CLEARER as another seven and that was it. After time I noted CLEARFIRE as another dodgy option.

Both contestants have sevens; Steve had CLEARER and Jane had FRAILER. David has found FIERCER as yet another comparative for seven.

Sevens are the best that can be done, and the remaining two are also comparatives: LEAFIER and EARLIER.

Jane: FRAILER

Steve: CLEARER

Me: FRAILER

David: FIERCER

Scores: 7 apiece

**Round 2: T P D S U A O E J**

I had DUST, ADOPTS, UPDATES, and JOUSTED. That J really did make finding longer words implausible.

Sevens again, Jane with SPOUTED and Steve with JOUSTED. David wants to award extra points for using the J, but that would be a different game. He notes that a final R would have allowed OUTSPREAD, but otherwise sevens were the best to be done.

That does seem to be the case, and in fact just those three. There are a goodly many sixes that I won't list.

Jane: SPOUTED

Steve: JOUSTED

Me: UPDATES

Scores: 14 apiece

**Round 3: Target 983 from 100 3 4 3 6 4**

Richard lobbies for a heavyweight mix, but Jane is having none of it. However that duplication in the small numbers is problematic. The standard method is going to be to tweak from a thousand, and I found a one-away 982 = (6 + 4)*(100 - 3) + 3*4. I'd seen a couple of routes to 984 within time, but could not get to it exactly. One of those was 984 = 3*(3*100 + 4*6 + 4).

Steve was out of the scoring range, but Jane has managed to get seven away with 990 = (6 + 4)*100 - (3 + 3 + 4). A little more finesse with those small numbers would have seen her closer and two points better off -- 3*3 + 4 is 13, and 3 + 3*4 is 15, so 985 is certainly possible from that approach.

Lily was not able to get closer than 982, and with good reason: The target is impossible. Incidentally, it turns out that there's only one way to make 982, but a few others to make 984. The five-number solution is 984 = 3*4*(100 - 3*6).

Note the difficulties caused by duplicated numbers; if we replace a duplicated 3 or 4 by any other small number then 983 is achievable.

Jane: 990

Steve: [not in range]

Me: 982

Lily: 982

Scores: Jane 14 (19), Steve 14, me 21

**First break: TIE ALERT ("Holder of a pen licence")**

It took me a bit longer than I would have liked to find LITERATE from that.

David's talk is about surnames and their origins.

**Round 4: D T M C A E S N O**

I had ACTED, STANCE, and DAEMONS. (Although DAEMON is pronounced the same as DEMON, the meaning is quite different: "

*Greek Mythology*

**a.**a god

**b.**a subordinate deity, as the genius of a place or a person's attendant spirit". It is this latter sense (sometimes simply phrased as "helpful spirit") that has led to its meaning in computing: "a service program that is called into action by the operating system". I'd quibble over that definition, but it gives the rough idea.)

My "there's something here" sense was going nuts over this round, but I could not find longer than a seven. After time I wrote down COASTED (seen within time), but I've got no idea what my subconscious was fixating on.

Steve breaks the run of sevens with DANCES for six, but Jane has kept it going with DECANTS for her seven. David could not better it, and mentions COASTED as his choice.

Once again, seven is the limit. There's a lot more of them this time; the others are DONATES, OCTANES, TANDEMS, ENDMOST, DESCANT / SCANTED, MASONED, COMATES, DOCENTS, and DEACONS / ACNODES (ACNODE: "

*Geometry*a node [...] at which the tangents to two curves are imaginary and distinct"; its counterpart, where they are real and distinct, is a CRUNODE -- a lovely word that I hope I get to use someday).

Jane: DECANTS

Steve: DANCES

Me: DAEMONS

David: COASTED

Scores: Jane 21 (26), Steve 14, me 28

**Round 5: D S H N R I E A C**

I was really hoping for a G, T, or V as the last letter (GARNISHED / TARNISHED / VARNISHED). The C was decent, but obviously not as good. I had DISH, SHRINE, wasn't sure about SHRINED (it is OK -- SHRINE is listed as a verb), HINDERS, DANCERS, CHARNIES, and RANCHES.

I wasn't completely happy about declaring CHARNIES as its meaning is listed as slightly derogatory (CHARNIE: "

*ACT Colloquial (mildly derogatory)*a person, generally from an outer suburb of a city or town and from a lower socioeconomic background, viewed as uncultured"). However, the reason I knew this at all was due to David mentioning the word in episode 381, so I was confident in it being accepted.

As time ran out I saw INARCHES and INARCHED, so if issue was taken with CHARNIES I could have suggested substituting one of them (albeit not written down). (The rules do allow for a word substitution if it is deemed unsuitable for airing in a G timeslot. As I said, I imagine it would be fine but I had my bases covered nonetheless.)

The contestants both declare sevens again; Steve has HINDERS while Jane has gone for HANDIER. David has done one better with ECHIDNAS for eight.

This is the exact same mix as the first round of episode 375, as it turns out. The other eight is RACHIDES (one plural of RACHIS).

Jane: HANDIER

Steve: HINDERS

Me: CHARNIES

David: ECHIDNAS

Scores: Jane 21 (33), Steve 14 (21), me 36

**Round 6: Target 684 from 100 1 2 7 6 9**

The target is sixteen away from 700, and that is the obvious starting point. My first solution was 684 = 7*100 - 2*(9 - 1), and then I wrote down the perhaps simpler 684 = 7*100 - 9 - 1 - 6. Then I pulled out the factor of 6, finding the solution 684 = 6*(100 + 2*7). There's a good many ways to get to the target, both with and without tweaking.

Jane declares 682, which I'm a bit bemused by; my best guess is that she chose 682 = 7*100 - 6*(2 + 1). There's other ways, but that seems the most likely while also using up the 1 and the 2. In any case, Steve has reached the target with the second of those solutions that I listed, and that is ten much-needed points to him. He is now just two points behind Jane, and it is looking like a close finish.

Lily points out the factor of 6, and I thought for a moment that she would use the last of those solutions I gave. But she has chosen a slightly different route: 684 = (100 + 9 + 7 - 2)*6.

Jane: 682

Steve: 684

Me: 684

Lily: 684

Scores: Jane 21 (33), Steve 24 (31), me 46

**Second break: INGOT RIB ("Doing the rounds")**

A mildly punny clue for ORBITING.

**Round 7: R X T N L E I U G**

That X could prove troublesome, but it turns out to be very important. I had NEXT and EXULTING. I also wrote down TINGLE and TINGLER (I was not sure about it, but it turns out to be OK) in case I had a crisis of faith in EXULTING. Fortunately I did not talk myself out of this one!

Steve has RULING for six, but Jane has gone one better again with the excellent RINGLET for seven. That's sevens in each letter round for her -- an excellent base to work from. David has found EXULTING as expected.

EXULTING is the only eight, and there's very few sevens -- the only unmentioned one is ELUTING (ELUTE: "

*Chemistry*in chromatography, etc., to remove by dissolving, as absorbed material from an adsorbent").

Those seven points give Jane a nine point lead; she will definitely have at least a chance in the conundrum, no matter how the next numbers round turns out.

Jane: RINGLET

Steve: RULING

Me: EXULTING

David: EXULTING

Scores: Jane 21 (40), Steve 24 (31), me 54

**Round 8: Target 945 from 100 8 1 6 7 4**

By this stage I've realised that I'm on track for a very rare equalling of David and Lily, and possibly even that elusive optimal game. There's still this last numbers round to get through, though, and then my nemesis the conundrum.

The smalls are decently spread, which is hopeful. The target is clearly divisible by 9, and is 9*105. With the 8 and 1 giving a 9, the question is whether 4, 6, 7 can yield that five. They obviously can, and in short work I had the solution 945 = (8 + 1)*(100 + 4 + (7 - 6)). Whew!

With plenty of time left to play, I investigated getting there from 1000 and found the alternative 945 = (6 + 4)*100 - 8*7 + 1.

Jane is three away with 942; again, a mild puzzler. My best guess is (8 + 1)*100 + 7*6, but then she could have added the 4 to get closer. In fact, Steve has done exactly that, with 946 = (8 + 1)*100 + 7*6 + 4. Those seven points allow him to close the gap, but do not change the situation, so Jane's oversight (if my guess was correct) does not affect whether she wins the game or not.

Lily has used the first of the solutions that I had.

Jane: 942

Steve: 946

Me: 945

Lily: 945

Scores: Jane 21 (40), Steve 24 (38), me 64

**Round 9: WORN GROVE**

I'm somewhat amped at this point, since this has the potential to be that optimal game. The conundrum is revealed and... maybe it's the similar sounds from parts of it, or the clustering of the letters for the components, but I see the answer almost instantly, and buzz in at the one second mark. Woohoo! Steve buzzes in with the correct answer just barely before the tenth second is complete, and gets the come-from-behind victory.

Jane: [no answer]

Steve: OVERGROWN (9.5s)

Me: OVERGROWN (1s)

Final scores: Jane 21 (40), Steve 24 (48), me 74

A close game, with Steve's better numberwork offsetting Jane's advantage on the letters. She was perhaps ill-served by the letter mixes where the first four had very findable sevens with only the fourth holding any hope for longer. Still, it came down to the conundrum, and Steve did well to solve it first. It will be interesting to see how he performs tomorrow, now that those first-game nerves are out of the way.

Those flat letter mixes certainly worked in my favour, and the numbers were fortunately cooperative (even with the impossible target). With the conundrum suiting me, I have finally scored an optimal game, and it's definitely made my night.

## 4 comments:

Congratulations on your great game, Geoff.

REFER

SPOUTED

- (made a mistake)

DANCES

HANDIER

684 = 6*100 + 7*(9+2+1)

RULING

945 = (8+1)*(100+4+7-6)

3 seconds

Impressive game Geoff, with a performance like that, it's easy to see how you were almost good enough to make the Series 4 finals.

I'm just jealous, this episode was one of several crushings you have dealt me this series, and I've never had a perfect game.

Great job on round 3. I did have EXULTING in round 7, but I think getting it wrong on CHAINERS crushed my mojo, and I thought I must have confused it with EXALTING. Round 4 is the one I am a little disappointed in, there were a number of seven-letter words that I have used before.

My inferior answers:

FRAILER

JOUSTED

986 = (6+4)*(100-3/3)-4

STANCE

- (CHAINERS)

684 = (100-1)*7-9

RUTILE

945 = (8+1)*(100+4+7-6)

1.2s*

*I measure conundrum speed by the position of the second hand on the clock. As far as we could establish, Geoff and I had the same time on this one.

I forgot to mention that Jane was a great contestant these past four nights, her letter round performance was consistently up with the best I have seen on the show. She got a tough fourth match like Geoff and I did, which unfortunately for her means that she probably won't make the finals.

*laughs* Great sledge, Sam! (With comments like that, I can see why the ducks attacked.)

Thanks to both of you; I expect it will be a long time before I can match this, so I shall cherish while I can.

Mark: Once again you'd have beaten both contestants, aided by those good final numbers rounds and the conundrum. I think your statistics in this regard are quite good, although I've not collated them.

Sam: Agreed that Jane was a good contestant; aside from her invalid declaration of BANDIER (which we can both sympathise with) she scored points on every letter round, which is always a plus.

Additionally, aside from an invalid numbers declaration, she was always able to get within scoring range. Aside from her eight-away on today's tough first round, she was always within three.

(Both declarations, if valid, would have maintained those statistics.)

Those are both formidable statistics to play against! The conundrum may have been a weakness (she solved only one of the four of them), but it's always hard to tell with so little data.

Randomish aside: Jane became champion by defeating a Steve, then lost to another Steve.

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