Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Ep 199 [SF2]: Tamara McMahon, Matthew Thomason (May 28, 2012; originally aired May 5, 2011)

Disclaimer: I watched this episode when it first aired, and although I did not recall any of it I cannot rule out memory somehow being a factor.

Nothing much to the pre-game chat, as expected.  The game started out well for Matthew, who found an eight in the first round to beat Tamara's seven, and then Tamara risked too much in the next round.  That put Matthew 14 points ahead, and several flat rounds followed.  Tamara finally gained back some ground on the last letters round to get back within striking distance at last, but then immediately conceded that gain on the last numbers round.  Matthew was safe going into the conundrum, and with neither solving it he got through to the grand final with a 53 to 39 win.

I was in decent shape for the first two thirds of the match; although I did not always have the best answers in the letters, I had the best that it was feasible for me to do.  But then I faltered somewhat, with a last letters round where I was well off the pace (and beaten by both contestants, who had excellent words); that was followed by a numbers round where I only just got the answer down in time.  Fortunately I solved the conundrum in middling time to finish on a good note.  Plus I found the full monty today, which is always good.

Round 1: S I C O D S L E R

I had DISCO, DISCOS, CLOSED, DISCLOSE, DISCLOSER, and SCLEROID ("Biology hard or indurated").  After time I noted down CORDLESS and SCOLDERS as other eights.  (I was not sure about SCOLDERS, but it is listed.)  I was not sure about DISCLOSER either, but ended up risking it and it turns out to be valid.  Phew!

Tamara has found DOSSIER for seven, outdone by Matthew's choice of CORDLESS.  David has seen his way through to the full monty.

The other eight is SOLDIERS.


Scores: Tamara 0, Matthew 0 (8), me 18

Round 2: A O O B L N G E B

A rather unpromising lot.  I had BOLA ("a weapon [...] consisting of two or more heavy balls secured to the ends of one or more strong cords, which entangle the victim at which it is thrown"), LOAN, OBLONG, GABBLE, and LAGOON.  After time I noted GOBBLE as another six, but could not find anything longer.  Programmers or mathematicians might see BOOLEAN in this mix, and the Macquarie does list it... but only with a capital letter.  That conformed with my expectations (that if it were listed it would only be with a capital letter), so I'd not have risked this.

Matthew has GOBBLE for six, while Tamara expresses mild doubt about her spelling as she declares ABOLONE for seven.  The correct spelling is ABALONE, and her word is invalid.  David has found the only seven -- he really is very good! -- of BOLOGNA.  For a brief moment I thought that a rather unlikely error had arisen, as the only standalone entry for BOLOGNA is capitalised.  But lurking at the end of the entry for "bologna sausage" is a mention that it may also be simply BOLOGNA, and all is well.

It does seem to be the only seven.  The other six-letter words are BABOON, BELONG, BANGLE, and NOBBLE.

Tamara: [invalid]
Matthew: GOBBLE

Scores: Tamara 0, Matthew 6 (14), me 24

Round 3: Target 115 from 100 5 2 10 9 9

A decidedly trivial round, and everyone has 115 = 100 + 10 + 5 written down in the first few seconds.  After time I tried to avoid using the 100, finding 115 = 9*5 + 10*(9 - 2) and 115 = 5*(9 + 9 + 10/2).

Tamara: 115
Matthew: 115
Me: 115

Scores: Tamara 10, Matthew 16 (24), me 34

First break: BAD ROWER ("Add a lion and a witch, and you've got a story")

At first I thought it was BARROWED (transported in a barrow), but the clue made it clear that WARDROBE was wanted.

David's talk is about the term smart alec.

Round 4: E A E P F N Y T I

I hate that last vowel, of course, with the Y in play.  The G instead would not have helped that much, but NEGATE would still have been an easy six.  As it was, I had PANE and PIETY, with several other fives passed over (I recall PIETÀ, FAINT, and FEINT, but there may have been others).  My after-time search for a six finally turned up NEPETA, the genus of catnip; I'm pretty sure I've seen this in several Countdown episodes, so I was a bit surprised that it was not listed in the Macquarie.  Bother.

Both contestants have five-letter words, Tamara with PAINT and Matthew with TEENY.  Once again David has found the best option with PINETA, the plural of PINETUM ("an arboretum of pines and coniferous trees").

The other sixes are TEPEFY ("to make or become tepid or lukewarm"), TENIAE (plural of TENIA, the American spelling of TAENIA: "the fillet or band on the Doric architrave, which separates it from the frieze"; it is also a tapeworm genus), and PATINE (variant spelling of PATEN: "the plate on which the bread is placed in the celebration of the Eucharist").

Tamara: PAINT
Matthew: TEENY

Scores: Tamara 15, Matthew 21 (29), me 39

Round 5: G O T I H R T E C

After the first five letters I was hoping for an E for HOGTIE, but I'd forgotten that by the time the E turned up.  I had RIGHT, GOITRE, TIGHTER, and CHITTER.

Both contestants have found TIGHTER, while David has opted for CHITTER as his seven.

The other sevens are THORITE (a mineral, thorium silicate) and COTTIER ("an Irish peasant holding a portion of land directly from the owner, the amount of rent being fixed not by custom or private agreement but by public competition").

Matthew: TIGHTER

Scores: Tamara 22, Matthew 28 (36), me 46

Round 6: Target 951 from 25 100 2 7 8 10

Successive approximation worked to get me to the target with 951 = 10*100 - 2*25 + 8 - 7.  After time I played around with other approaches -- I'd wanted to use the multiples of 125 -- and tweaked my way to the alternative 951 = 7*(100 + 25 + 8) + 2*10.

Both contestants have found the first of those solutions.  That is four flat rounds in a row, with no real scope for Tamara to gain.  She is running out of time to catch up...

Tamara: 951
Matthew: 951
Me: 951

Scores: Tamara 32, Matthew 38 (46), me 56

Second break: TEST CASE ("A really old way of recording things")

This reminds me of a lovely picture that shows a CASSETTE tape and a pencil, and comments that "Our children will never know the connection between [these items]".  Not that they'll even encounter a cassette tape these days...

Round 7: R A N R A M E S U

*sighs*  I froze on this round, and had just EARN and EARNS.  I kept getting distracted by SARUMAN, which really was not helpful; nor was pondering the hypothetical plural SARUMEN.  After time I finally saw SURNAME for seven.

Update: I had considered UNARMS during time, but discounted it.  It turns out that UNARM is listed with a verb sense (synonymous with "disarm") after all, so UNARMS would have let me salvage a six from this.

Matthew has found the excellent NAUSEA for six, but is outdone by Tamara's find of SURNAME.  That gets her back into striking distance at last!  David has come through with the goods once again, finding MANURERS for eight (he comments that he had not seen SURNAME).

The other sevens are unsurprisingly MANURES and MANURER.

Matthew: NAUSEA

Scores: Tamara 39, Matthew 38 (46), me 56

Round 8: Target 348 from 50 75 10 5 2 1

I groaned at those small numbers, since they all are likely divisors of the large numbers.  But the target looks like it should be approachable; it is relatively small and only 2 away from a multiple of 25... and we have the 2, and even a handy 1 in case we need that 2 for tweaking.  So the signs are good, but I got hung up on trying to make the 350 as 7*50.  I could not find a way to do that, and I was about to write down a fallback of, well, anything when I spotted 348 = (50 - 75/5)*10 - 2.  I just barely had enough time to get it down, although it was somewhat messy.

After time I saw how to make that 7 after all, getting 348 = ((75 - 5)/10)*50 - 2.  The inner part of that is equivalent to (75 - 5)*50/10, which is (75 - 5)*5, so there is another solution arising from swapping those 5's around.

Pulling out the factor of 2 (or tweaking, effectively equivalently) also allowed a couple of solutions that should have been straightforward: 348 = 2*(75 + 50 + 5*10 - 1) and 348 = 2*(5*50 - 75 - 1).

Tamara sinks her chances of winning by being "miles away"; Matthew is one away with 349 = (75 - 10/2)*5 - 1.  If he'd seen the potential of 50/10 instead of 10/2 then he would have reached the target, I imagine.  Regardless, a good result on this round, and those seven points make him safe going into the conundrum.

Lily demonstrates what should have been very findable: 348 = (5 - 1)*75 + 50 - 2.  Nice one, Lily.

Tamara: [not in range]
Matthew: 349
Me: 348
Lily: 348

Scores: Tamara 39, Matthew 38 (53), me 66


Although the winner is decided there are still points to play for, and if Tamara solves it then she will feel even worse about ABOLONE.  Fortunately, perhaps, the conundrum proves to be too difficult for both players.  I stumbled upon the solution at the twelve second mark, and it's been a decent trot on the conundrums for me this finals series, although my solutions have been slow.

Tamara: [no answer]
Matthew: [no answer]

Final scores: Tamara 39, Matthew 38 (53), me 76

Those flat middle rounds seriously hampered Tamara's chances of getting back into contention, but she almost pulled it off.  SURNAME was an excellent find in the last letters round to keep her chances alive, and if she had solved that final numbers round then she would have won.  But witness the power of the unanswered full monty: If she had found it in the first round, then (with no other results changed) not only would she have won, but she would have been safe going into the conundrum.  Quite the turnaround!

Matthew played well, and deservedly won.  CORDLESS was a good find, as was NAUSEA even if it did not score the points.  But it was keeping his head in the final numbers round that sealed this for him, ensuring that he had something down even though he did not solve it exactly.  Tomorrow he faces Tony in the final, and I'm looking forward to it, as usual.


Mark said...

Well done, Geoff.

115 = 100 + 10 + 5
950 = (100-7+2)*10
349 = (5+2)*50 - 1
5 seconds

Sam Gaffney said...

I remember having a very good game when I watched this at home this a year ago. It was a big confidence boost only a couple of months before my episodes recorded (though I didn't even know I'd get to audition at the time).

I knew there would be a full monty, and SURNAME rang a bell. I think I got the conundrum quicker last time, too - these repeats don't always seem to help there.

My answers:

115 = 100+10+5
PATINE (I might well have gone with PAINT in other circumstances)
951 = 10*100-2*25+8-7 (also 8*100 + 7*(25-2) - 10)
348 = 10*50-(75+1)*2

Geoff Bailey said...

Excellent game from you, Sam -- PATINE was the standout find -- and congratulations on getting another conundrum, Mark -- you were the fastest of all of us!

Looking at the air dates, I must have watched these episodes around the time that I first submitted my audition request. I may well have been paying a bit more attention to them as a result; MANURERS rings a vague bell, but only a vague one.

Laura S said...

I had the same solution as Lily for the final numbers round. (And even wrote it down in time.) I've had a feeling that the players here in Series 2 haven't been up to the standard of Series 1 top players. I've been able to almost keep up with them several times. I'm hoping Sam can beat these people in the Masters series.

Sarah S said...

Thought I would just comment.

I must be one of the youngest fans of L&N (I'm almost 7 months old). When my parents say "Letters & Numbers is coming on!" then I look around at the TV and smile. Then when Richard comes on and starts talking, I smile at him too. Then I'm glued to the TV screen for the rest of the show.

I haven't got a full monty yet, but I'm working on it...

Mark said...

Hello Sarah!

Sam Gaffney said...

Thanks Laura, I'll try! I agree that Series 1 was an incredible standard, particularly with the two Scrabble stars.

Sarah S, you really need to get practising - PREDICATE and DISCLOSER were two very findable recent nines. Youth is no excuse.

Geoff Bailey said...

*chuckles* Hi, Sarah! I hope you continue to enjoy the show for many years to come.

Well done on solving that numbers round, Laura -- it was a bit slipperier than it superficially seemed.

I'm not sure I would characterise the series one finalists as stronger overall, but certainly Andrew and Naween were exceptionally strong on the letters rounds. No surprise there, as they are both world-class Scrabble players (recently, Andrew was runner-up in the World Scrabble Championship 2011).

My impression is that the contestants for the first series were mostly solicited from Scrabble clubs, which explains the slant towards word ability. However, I think that series two produced more contestants who were comfortable in both facets of the game, and in particular stronger at the numbers.

The bias in the game towards the words does still suggest that the advantage belongs firmly in the series 1 camp, mind you. Too often the numbers rounds are too easy, which exacerbates the advantages to the adept wordsmith.

Mike Backhouse said...

MANURE (sadly rejected MANURES)