Thursday, 26 April 2012

Ep 434: Simon Walton, Mark O'Carrigan (April 26, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

Simon once competed in a 24-hour Scrabble tournament.  It started at midday, and it was going quite well -- he did not have his first coffee until around one or two in the morning -- but in the last couple of games he started to feel a bit sleepy.  Fatigue really set in once he was in the tram afterwards as he started to doze off, but fortunately he woke up before the end of the line.

Tonight's challenger is Mark O'Carrigan, a carpenter and builder.  He is wearing a leather cap that he made himself a long time ago; he says that he does not often take it off because people always ask him if he has had a haircut.  Mark owns a property in the Blue Mountains that includes a natural sandstone cave that people can stay at; he has set up a small tourism business around it that enables him to stay there and gives him a lifestyle that he enjoys.  Pictures and some details are at his website.

Simon got off to an early lead in the first round, and extended it in the first numbers round.  Mark regained some of that ground when Simon tried an eight that the Macquarie does not list, but again conceded ground in rounds six and seven.  That guaranteed Simon the win, and he needed all of that advantage as Mark found a late rally to win the final two rounds and close the gap to four points.  But Simon was still the winner, 47 to 43.

I had another very good game, again just one round short of optimal.  That was a word that I might have found on a better day, but I definitely was not anywhere near it today.  The only other blemish was a slightly slower conundrum solve than I would have liked on that mix, but it was still acceptably fast.  I'm hoping I can keep this form up tomorrow to round out an excellent week!

Round 1: L N A U P S E E D

I had PLAN, PLANS, PLANES, ELAPSED, and DEPLANES.  I wrote down UNELAPSED just for amusement's sake, but it was not until just after time that I saw the possibility of UNPLEASED.  That saved me having to fret about whether it was valid or not, saving me much mental anguish.  I don't know which way I would have ended up jumping.

Mark has stopped at six, as he puts it -- a pun on his find of PAUSED; Simon's choice was ELAPSED for seven.  David has found UNSEALED as a definite eight, but has decided to "play Letters and Numbers for real"; he is trying UNPLEASED without having looked it up.  David is displeased to find that UNPLEASED is not listed (although UNPLEASING and UNPLEASANT are).  In a sense, then, I am eight points ahead of David right now... but if I tried head-to-head scoring then I would probably have to concede him the conundrum each time, so I shall avoid that.

(My Chambers does list UNPLEASED, incidentally.)

The other eight is UNLEASED.  The remaining sevens are PLEASED, UPLANDS, DEPLANE / PANELED (acceptable American spelling), UNLADES, and the interesting SPELEAN ("of, relating to, or inhabiting caves").


Scores: Simon 0 (7), Mark 0, me 8

Round 2: T G T N S I O A B

I had STING, TOASTING, BOASTING, and BOTANIST.  I was actually a little surprised when Mark called for a final consonant, as I was expecting a vowel.  I'd mentally decided on a vowel myself, although I only realised that when he called for a consonant.  That's rather unusual from me with -ING in play, and I think there were a couple of things going on in my mind that affected that decision.

First was that I already had an eight; my preference (all else being equal) for only three vowels is based on wanting long words.  I think that sevens and eights are easier with fewer vowels and more consonants to play around with; however, when explicitly nines are needed I think the balance may tilt back in favour of four vowels.  In this instance, whatever part of my head assesses these things decided that a fourth vowel was more probably helpful.

Of course, this is just speaking generally.  Actual preferences depend on the specific letters involved, as some combinations work much better together than others.

A possible other factor is the tension between -ING (three vowels generally preferred) and -ATION (where a fourth vowel is mandatory in order to use it).  I don't know how much of this is hindsight reasoning; all I'm sure of is that my instincts called for a vowel.  Good instincts, too, as an E was next and that would have allowed GESTATION for nine.  (A U would also have allowed GUSTATION -- "the act of tasting" -- and those were the only possible nines.)

Anyway, both contestants have found eights: Simon has TOASTING and Mark has BOASTING.  David makes no specific mention of a choice, but clearly has found those.

Both BOATING and BATTING are listed as separate noun entries in the Macquarie, so BOATINGS and BATTINGS may be legal eights.  They are a bit risky for my taste, though.

There's a few sevens, of which the common ones are BOATING, BATTING, BASTING, OBTAINS / BASTION, TASTING / STATING, and STATION.


Scores: Simon 8 (15), Mark 8, me 16

Round 3: Target 522 from 100 75 50 7 4 2

Simon sticks with his choice of the balanced mix, and gets another target close to 7*75.  The rest is a little fiddling to get the final 3, and there's a couple of ways; my choice was 522 = 7*75 - (4 + 2)/(100/50).

I had noted the factor of 9 at the time -- 9*58 = 522 -- but not figured out a way to use it.  Just now I have seen that 18*29 is more useful, and gives the complicated but enjoyable solution 522 = (100 - 75 - 7)*(50/2 + 4).

Mark is six off the target with 528, and I can't see how he managed that offhand.  (Which is to say, I can think of ways to get there, but none that seem particularly plausible for him to have had.)  Simon is just one away, though, with 523 = 75*7 - 2.

Lily shows a different way to get that offset of three, as her solution is 522 = 75*7 - (4 - 100/(2*50)).

That's an early 14 point lead to Simon, so Mark needs to catch up some ground.

Simon: 523
Mark: 528
Me: 522
Lily: 522

Scores: Simon 8 (22), Mark 8, me 26

First break: BE HOLLOW ("A place to vent")

Heh.  A literal but perhaps misleading definition for a BLOWHOLE.

David's talk is about the word fog, and the Gunning fog index.

Round 4: T S B R D E O I A

I had REST, SORTED, ABORTED, and ASTEROID.  After time I noted BROADEST as an alternate eight.

Both contestants declare eights; Mark has gone with BROADEST, but Simon's choice of DEBITORS is somewhat riskier than he probably hoped.  It turns out not to be listed; Chambers does list it, but specifically as an obsolete Shakespearean synonym of DEBTORS.  David has BOARDIES (board shorts) and ASTEROID for his eights.

That invalid word allows Mark to get back within striking distance.

The other eights are BROADIES, TRIBADES, and DEORBITS -- this latter being the safe anagram of DEBITORS.  As should be expected from such well-fitting letters, there are a great many sevens; definitely more than I feel like listing.

Simon: [invalid]

Scores: Simon 8 (22), Mark 16, me 34

Round 5: E U E C L R H A T

I had CLUE, LUCRE / CRUEL, CLARET, TEACHER, TREACLE, and LECTURE.  After time I noted down CHELATE (a term from chemistry) and LEATHER.

The contestants are matched again, this time with CHEATER from Mark and TEACHER from Simon.  David has LECTURE for his seven.

The other sevens are HECTARE / RETEACH and HALTERE ("one of a pair of modified hind wings of a fly [...]").  However, there is an eight... that optimal-game-spoiling eight... of ULCERATE.

As an aside, if that final T had been an N then HERCULEAN would have been a valid nine.


Scores: Simon 15 (29), Mark 23, me 41

Round 6: Target 380 from 100 75 2 7 5 6

The standard method works handily; I tweaked my way there at first, then got confused and thought it was wrong, then checked again and confirmed that 380 = 5*(75 + 7 - 6).  Then I wrote the untweaked version 380 = 5*75 + 7 - 2.

Mark is one away with 379; again, I'm not sure how he managed that.  But Simon has reached the target exactly with the second of those solutions I listed.  No word from Lily as to her approach, but she must have solved it.

Simon: 380
Mark: 379
Me: 380

Scores: Simon 25 (39), Mark 23, me 51

Second break: CHIN ROLE ("A summer smell")

I was expecting something floral from the clue, and it took me quite a while to unravel CHLORINE from this.

Round 7: A I E S M R T U G

Mark cannot afford to concede ground here, as he is already 16 points adrift.  It's another good set of letters, with the possible exception of that last pair.  I had MESA / SAME, ARMIES, MAESTRI / SMARTIE, MURIATES, and MIGRATES.

Mark has SMARTIE for seven, but Simon has reliably found MIGRATES for eight.  David was not able to better it.

That is game to Simon; if Mark had been just a bit better on the numbers he could have been ahead at this point.  The numbers can definitely matter!

The other eight is RAGTIMES, and again with such well-fitting letters there are a goodly number of sevens.


Scores: Simon 33 (47), Mark 23, me 59

Round 8: Target 432 from 100 25 4 9 3 5

The target is a somewhat familiar number to me -- it pops up in the study of certain elliptic curves, which is something I have dealt with at work -- and I noted the factor of 9 immediately.  The cofactor is 48, which can be formed a few ways but I ended up getting there in rather complicated fashion.  Still, I did emerge with a solution: 432 = 9*(100 - 25 - 3*(5 + 4)).

Then better sense asserted itself and I tried more pedestrian methods, finding 432 = 4*(100 + 5 + 3).  Heh.

Simon is one away with 433; I'm going to guess that this was 433 = 4*100 + 25 + 5 + 3.  A little fiddling around might have led him to Lily's later solution, but he does not seem quite practised enough at manipulating the small numbers for those last adjustments.

Mark has reached the target, though, with 432 = 4*100 + 3*9 + 5.  Lily's solution is 432 = 4*100 + 25 + 9 - (5 - 3).

Simon: 433
Mark: 432
Me: 432
Lily: 432

Scores: Simon 33 (47), Mark 33, me 69


So many repeated letters!  I froze a bit at the sight, but managed to scramble my way to the solution four seconds in.  Mark buzzes in just short of the halfway point; he says that he thinks he has it wrong, but ventures his answer anyway and it is correct.

Simon: [no answer]
Mark: INNOCENCE (13.5s)

Final scores: Simon 33 (47), Mark 33 (43), me 79

Good play from both contestants, in a game where no full monty was to be had but eight-letter words were available in each round.  They each found two of the eights, but Simon had just the better of the rest, and just the better of the numbers also.  That gave him those four vital points of breathing room that he needed as Mark did well to solve the conundrum.  Simon might well count himself a little lucky on this one, although if DEBITORS had been valid he would have had much more breathing room.

Simon seems like one of the more capable letter manipulators for a while; his average (valid) word length is just over 7, which is a very healthy statistic.  He showed signs of vulnerability on the numbers, however, always getting close but not quite deft enough at manipulating those small numbers to make those final adjustments.

My recent run of form has been very satisfying, and although I feel ULCERATE was findable I am not too upset about missing it.  In part this is because I missed UNPLEASED in the first round; whether or not I would have declared it, I should have seen it, so in a sense I lucked into the optimal result in that round by not quite being fast enough.  Regardless, I have had a great week so far, averaging over 80 points a game; I'll need 74 points tomorrow to get that average... hopefully the letters shall be kind to me!


Mark said...

Well done, Geoff. It was very kind of you not to put "invalid" next to David's name in Round 1.

522 = 7*75 - (4 - 2/(100/50))
380 = 5*75 + 7 - 2
432 = 4*(100+5+3)

Sam Gaffney said...

My answers:


Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks Mark. I agree, most generous of me. *chuckles*

Ooh, bad luck, Sam. You got done in by the Macquarie there, and my good luck in not seeing UNPLEASED within time.