Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Ep 431: Mark Potter, Ian Phillips (April 23, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

This is Mark's crucial fourth night, and Richard wheels out the question about strategy.  Mark says that in the numbers he does not think you need more than one large number if you are reasonably good at your times table, so he tends to go with the classroom mix.  That is kind of true, as the statistics show that the single large number mix is very solvable in general, but it misses the point a little.  More large numbers do not make it easier (or in the case of two large numbers, not significantly easier); in fact, they tend to make it harder.  The different mixes expose different facets of numberwork, and it's about choosing a mix that works for you and hopefully not for your opponent.

Tonight's challenger is Ian Phillips, a government management consultant.  He has done a lot of travel "with a focus on wildlife", according to Richard.  Richard asks about Ian's most exciting wildlife moment; Ian responds that about twenty years ago he spent three months in East Africa.  He got close to leopards, elephants, hippopotamuses... but probably the best of all was sitting within arm's length of a mountain gorilla in the wild.

In a sense, it was closer than the final scoreline might suggest.  Mark started off with an invalid word to give Ian an early lead, but took the lead right back in the next letters round.  Ian forged ahead again in the first numbers round, but it was the full monty in round five that effectively ensured him the win.  Mark managed to pull back ten points in the final numbers round, but it was too late by that point.  The conundrum proved beyond both contestants, and Ian became the new champion with a 57 to 40 victory.

I had spent the afternoon trying to solve puzzles as part of the MUMS puzzle hunt, and possibly my brain was a bit tired.  Whatever the reason, I started off with a poor effort (made poorer by a conservative play) in the first round, and that turned out to be the spoiler for another optimal game.  I was a bit behind the pace on several rounds but managed to come good just in time (the closest being the full monty that I only just got down), and solved the conundrum relatively quickly.  So it ended up being a very good game after all, and I don't know whether that was in spite of or because of the other puzzle solving.

Round 1: F R L D U E I S A

I had FURL, FURLED, RIFLED, and wondered about LAUDERS.  I thought (erroneously as it turns out) that I had once checked up on this and found it invalid, but I was not certain.  It seemed plausible but far from certain, and in the end I decided to assume that my recollection was correct and stay with the six.  After time I found EARFULS for a safer seven, and then RESIDUAL for an eight.

Ian has FIELDS for six, but Mark attempts FRAILED for seven.  That's an interesting try, but it would need FRAIL to be a verb; FRAIL is an adjective and also a noun (a type of basket), but it is not a verb and so FRAILED is invalid.  David points out the large number of affixes in this mix (he mentions -FUL, -ED, and -ERS; other common ones are DIS-, DE-, -IER, and -IES) which are part of what can make it a difficult mix to work on -- too many possibly lines of attack.  In the end, though, he has come good with the eight of FAILURES.  Nice one, David!

FAILURES and RESIDUAL are the only eights; the other sevens are DERAILS, SULFIDE, REFUSAL, FAILURE, DIREFUL ("dreadful; awful; terrible"), RESIDUA, AUDILES, and the rather unusual FARDELS (FARDEL: "Archaic a bundle; a burden").

Mark: [invalid]

Scores: Mark 0, Ian 6, me 6

Round 2: P R E A N R U E S

I had PEAR, PARURE ("a set of jewels or ornaments"), PARURES / UPREARS, and EARNERS.  After time I tried ENSURER as another seven but later checking reveals it to be invalid.

Once again it is six-seven, but this time Mark's seven is valid; his REAPERS takes the points over Ian's RUPEES.  David has found ERASURE for his seven.

Seven is the best to be had; the others are SPURNER / PRUNERS, PERUSER, and SPEARER.


Scores: Mark 7, Ian 6, me 13

Round 3: Target 991 from 100 8 6 8 4 7

As expected, a classroom mix from Mark and a large target.  The standard method works well, with a ten easily formed and the rest cooperating to give 991 = (6 + 4)*100 - (8 + 8 - 7).  Still within time I experimented with using the 8 to get close to the thousand, and found the more complicated alternative 991 = 8*(100 + 6*4) - (8 - 7).

Mark has a rather unusual 993 on this mix; the most likely method is (6 + 4)*100 - 7, and of course this has an 8 available to subtract instead of the 7 (which would then easily adjust to a full solution as shown above).  There's other ways to get to that thousand, but they should also retain an 8 which can be more usefully subtracted than the 7.  A minor mystery!

In any case, Ian has found his way to the target, with the first of those solutions above; this was also Lily's method.

Mark: 993
Ian: 991
Me: 991
Lily: 991

Scores: Mark 7, Ian 16, me 23

First break: DEAD IRON ("Become a priest from Denmark")

That is attempting to clue the "Dane" sound of ORDAINED.

David's talk is about words with similar endings: apartheid, gesundheit, and Fahrenheit.

Round 4: C N G I O A D T E

After the first six letters I noted the potential for COINAGE, but it took until the final letter for it to appear.  The -ING was tempting but somewhat less useful than it can be.  I had CODING, COINAGE, COATING, and then recollected the lesson of episode 313 and found ACTIONED.

Both contestants have found COATING, but David has stayed the course to find ACTIONED also.

ACTIONED seems to be the only eight; there's a good many sevens that I am not going to list all of.  Some of the more common (or more frequently arising) ones are NOTICED, COGNATE, TANGOED, DECAGON, ACONITE, INGOTED, and GODETIA.


Scores: Mark 7 (14), Ian 16 (23), me 31

Round 5: C S R T A U E O N

I really struggled with what is a quite fruitful mix.  I had CARTS, CRATES, correctly rejected OUTRACES, CAROUSE, and -- with just barely enough time to get it down -- COURTESAN.  Phew!

After time I saw some of the eights that I had missed: COUNTERS / RECOUNTS / TROUNCES.  I really feel that I should have seen COUNTERS earlier.

Mark has CANTERS for seven, but Ian has found COURTESAN.  David pretends to look it up, but he is just teasing as he knows it is valid (and I think his dictionary was already open to the entry).  We don't find out David's selection, but it's reasonable to assume that he had it.

I'll note -- although it is hard to be sure with the camera cutting away frequently -- that it very much looks like Ian found this within the first ten seconds.  That's one of the best contestant spots of a full monty that the show has had, since it has no useful fragments to build around and is thus considerably harder to find than many of the others.  Very well done, Ian!

Unusually, there are two othere full monties in this mix: COURANTES (COURANTE: "an old-fashioned dance [...]") and NECTAROUS (variant spelling of NECTAREOUS).


Ian was already ahead by 9 points, so this stretches the lead to 27.  Mark still has a chance to recover, but everything has to go right for him in order to do so.


Scores: Mark 7 (14), Ian 34 (41), me 49

Round 6: Target 288 from 100 5 3 1 2 4

It's pretty clear to get there from 300, and there's a few ways to do it.  I went with 288 = 3*(100 - 4), which not surprisingly is also Lily's solution.

Ian kitchen sinks it with 288 = 3*100 - 5 - 4 - 2 - 1, and Mark has 288 = 3*100 - (2 + 1)*4.

Mark: 288
Ian: 288
Me: 288
Lily: 288

Scores: Mark 17 (24), Ian 44 (51), me 59

Second break: HEAR WORD ("Ploughed on with oars")

The oars is a reference to the ROWED part of HARROWED.

Round 7: H F T S B A E I N

Mark needs to score at least seven points here (and outscore Ian) to have a chance.  It's an ill-fitting mix, but the potential turns out to be there.  I had SHAFT, BEFITS, BASINET, and ABSINTHE.

Both contestants have sixes, and that guarantees Ian the win.  Ian went with FASTEN while Mark has INFEST.  David has also found ABSINTHE; it is the only eight.

The other sevens are fairly obscure: ABSINTH (variant spelling of ABSINTHE), BATFISH, HENBITS (HENBIT being a weed), STHENIA (as I mentioned back in episode 393: "Pathology strength; excessive vital force"), and FAINEST (since FAIN has adjective meanings, the single-syllable rule kicks in to make this acceptable).


Scores: Mark 17 (30), Ian 44 (57), me 67

Round 8: Target 501 from 100 3 9 8 10 10

Again, the standard method is pretty clear; a little effort suffices to find the 5 and the rest unravels as 501 = (8 - 3)*100 + 10/10 or 501 = (8 - 3)*100 + 10 - 9 according to taste.

Ian surprises by having stayed at 500; I can only guess that he overcomplicated things somehow, perhaps with 500 = 10*100/(10 - 8)?  Mark is on target with the first of the solutions that I listed.  Lily's method is not mentioned, but she probably did the same.

Mark: 501
Ian: 500
Me: 501

Scores: Mark 27 (40), Ian 44 (57), me 77


The -ABLE combination stood out clearly, but it still took me a few seconds to extract the other letters and check them.  Fortunately all was well, and I had the answer just a shade under three seconds in.  Neither contestant solves it, and so the final scoreline remains unchanged.

Mark: [no answer]
Ian: [no answer]

Final scores: Mark 27 (40), Ian 44 (57), me 87

Note the difference in scores at the end: 17 points, and the full monty is worth 18.  If Ian had found only a seven on that round (thereby tying Mark) then he would have lost by a point, instead of what seemed like a sizeable victory.  Such is the power of the unanswered full monty!

With that exception, it really was fairly close.  Honours were even in the numbers (with strange misses from each, admittedly), and Mark's invalid word was better-than-cancelled by his find in the second round.  Really just that single round proved the difference, and had it not been the full monty then the match would have been alive going into the conundrum.

So Mark's run comes to an end, and Ian looks promising; but can he get the good results when there's no full monty to alter the course of the match?  I'll be looking forward to finding out.

I was at least half a minute away from seeing RESIDUAL in the first round, so I cannot really say that I was close to the optimal game.  But with just that one round being off the pace it was an excellent chance at it.  It's a hopeful start to the week, anyway, on a day when I was not feeling at my best, and matches my highest score on the previous series.


Mark said...

Congratulations on the full monty, Geoff.

991 = 100*(6+4) - 8 - 8 + 7
288 = 3*100 - 5 - 4 - 2 - 1
500 = (3+9-8)*100 + 10*10 (Ian wasn't the only one!)

Sam Gaffney said...

Great game Geoff, when you play that well I wonder how I ever outscore you!

Creative answer from Mark in Round 8, even if it was one off.

I had my worst numbers round ever in Round 3, with an inexplicable miss. If this had happened in a real episode, I might have run out of the studio in tears and not come back (that's why security is there, to keep people from escaping until they've finished shooting).

In Round 1, I only had sixes and a couple of dodgy sevens, so I thought I would try FUSILADE. I knew it is normally spelt double-L, but the Macquarie lists a surprising number of double-L words with a single L as a variation. This was not one of them, though there was an Operation Fusilade in WWII, and fusilier only has one L.

With the full monty, I knew that there was a word or more in there, and that it wasn't OUTCRANES, but it took a bit of brain-wracking to grab it. As Geoff said, this is one of the best contestant full monties you will see, as Ian didn't have any fragments like -ION or -ING to work with.

My answers:

- (invalid: FUSILADE)
992 = (6+4)*100-8
288 = (100-4)*3
501 = (8-3)*100+10/10

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks Mark and Sam. And well done on spotting that alternative full monty!

Mark: Your way to 500 makes the most sense in terms of getting there without seeing the (8 - 3), so it is more likely to be Ian's approach. Good to have that possibly cleared up.

Anonymous said...

I think DERAILS is another 7 in round 1.

Geoff Bailey said...

Ah, yes -- thank you, anonymous commenter! I have edited the post to include DERAILS, and greatly appreciate you pointing that out. (I had it written down on my piece of paper, but had crossed of REDIALS and DIALERS next to it, somewhat obscuring it.)