Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Ep 436: Simon Walton, Jean Watson (April 30, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

This is the crucial fourth night for Simon; can he get past it, and earn a probable spot in the finals?  We'll find out shortly, but first we hear that when he was twelve or thirteen years old he won his year eight spelling bee.  I'm guessing this was for his school rather than a larger group; it is not (ahem) spelled out.  Richard asks if Simon has strategised for his appearances on the show; Simon has not done so specifically, but he does note that he has done crosswords for a long time.  It was his father's parents who got him into those, and he thinks this love of crosswords has helped develop his word power.  David is nodding approvingly at all of this.

Tonight's challenger is Jean Watson, a retired teacher.  Jean is a keen bushwalker, and engages in walks every weekend; she says "Saturdays and Sundays... and on Wednesdays".  She tries to go twice a week.  Richard asks how long these walks are, and Jean admits that she is coming down to the shorter walks these days; that turns out to be twelve to fifteen kilometres.  I admire her stamina!  (Particularly at her age, but regardless.)  She mostly walks in the hinterland behind the Gold Coast.

It was somewhat of a nervous start to the game from Simon, and he declared his first sub-seven-letter words for a while.  Jean was able to outpoint him in those first two rounds, and when he made an error in the first numbers round she had a daunting 20 point lead.  There was not that much scope for gain in the next few rounds, but then Jean ended up oddly far away from the target in the second numbers game.  Simon seized his chance, and an eight-letter word in the last letters round saw him get within striking distance at last.  The final numbers round was unchallenging and it came down to the conundrum.  It turned out to need very little adjustment, and Simon buzzed in at the two second mark with the solution and a no-doubt relieving 47 to 42 win.

I did not feel as on top of things tonight as I did last week; I think I will have to put this down to being back at work again.  It must take more out of me than I realise at the time.  I ended up scrambling to get answers down in time, but fortunately ended up on the right side of the clock in this regard each time, and the result was actually quite a good game.  I was surprised to outdo David in one round, and I solved the conundrum quickly to notch up a solo score beating the combined David and Lily pair.  It was not a perfect game, but it was a good one.  A hopeful sign for the week!

Round 1: I A E C T B I S N

Vowel-happy contestants today, and a pair of I's often poses difficulties for the longer words.  I had CITE, TIBIA, TIBIAS, and then the N made things a lot better as I found CABINETS.  (Incidentally, CABINET was a word I found when on the show, in episode 326.)

Simon has found CABINS for six, but Jean has done well to find INCITES for seven.  David points out that he has miniaturised Simon's CABINS to get CABINETS, and Simon may kick himself a little over that miss.

It is the only eight; the other sevens are CABINET, BASINET, and STIBINE (antimonous hydride, a poisonous gas).


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

Round 2: E O D P S A U D R

I had DOPE, DOPES, PAUSED, and -- rather late in the piece -- AROUSED.  I recall completely failing to see that last word in several Countdown games, so it looks like it is slowly becoming easier for me to find.

Simon has PRODS for five but Jean has PADRES for six and an early lead.  David has unearthed PADDERS for seven; I'd seen this possibility but not wanted to resort to it.  Good to know that it would have been valid.

The other sevens are SPUDDER ("an employee at an oil well") and DEODARS (DEODAR being a species of cedar).

But there is an eight, and one to delight Lily: SUPERADD ("to add over and above; join as a further addition; add besides").

Simon: PRODS

Scores: Simon 0, Jean 0 (13), me 15

Round 3: Target 621 from 75 25 50 5 10 3

Simon stays with his favourite balanced mix, and it's very easy to get near this target as long as you recognise that it is near 25*25 = 625.  An adjustment by 4 is very hard to find, however, and I wrote down a fallback 620 = 25*(75 - 50) - 5.  I could not better it within time, and after time I spent a few fruitless minutes looking for other ways.  I did not find one, so I resorted to a computer check; that surprised me by indicating that the problem was soluble after all.  Thus fortified, I managed to find a solution a few minutes later, and it turns out to be the only one: 621 = (25*75 - (50 + 10)/5)/3.  A tough round!

Both contestants are one away, Simon with 622 and Jean with 620.  Simon goes first and starts off very oddly indeed with 50 / (10 - 5).  That's a very complicated way of getting a 10, and presumably what he actually meant was 50 / (10 / 5) on his way to 622 = (50 / (10/5))*25 - 3.  However, he confirms it as a mistake, and so his answer is invalid.  Jean, meanwhile, has made no mistake with 620 = (3 + 5)*75 + (50/25)*10.

Lily has not been able to get closer than 620.  I'm not surprised, given the difficulty of the actual solution.

Jean is now twenty points ahead, which is a huge lead.  The only saving grace for Simon is that he has several rounds to overcome that, and the right two rounds will do it.

Simon: [invalid]
Jean: 620
Me: 620
Lily: 620

Scores: Simon 0, Jean 7 (20), me 22

First break: GRACE BIB ("A card game for babies")

The baby reference is for the CRIB part of CRIBBAGE.

David's talk is about the word magpie.

Round 4: E A N C L U N E O

Jean goes after a lot of vowels, and I'm not entirely sure why.  Was she after a second A for CANNULAE?  Good vision if so -- I was mildly tempted by that as well -- but she would have been done in by the Macquarie if that was her plan.  It does not list an explicit plural form of CANNULA, so it must be assumed to be simply CANNULAS and CANNULAE would not be legal.  I got a bit lucky, there.

As it was, I had CANE, CLEAN, and UNCLEAN.  After time I wrote down NUCLEON ("one of the elementary particles (protons and neutrons) of atomic nuclei") as another seven, but I could not better it.

Everyone else has found UNCLEAN also, although David additionally mentions ENOUNCE ("to announce, declare, or proclaim") as a different seven.

That's all the sevens.  I'll note that if Jean had been content with just the three vowels then the ensuing G and T would have improved the situation with UNTANGLE for eight.


Scores: Simon 7, Jean 14 (27), me 29

Round 5: A O E G T F A S T

I had GATE, AGATE, and AGATES.  I could not better that -- aside from a joking TOASTAGE or GOATFEST -- and so it stayed at six.  After time I observed FETTAS as another possible six.

Both contestants have found fives that are anagrams of each other: Jean has FEAST while Simon has FATES.  David describes it as a parsimonious mix; he could not better it, although with reference to Friday's talk he had hoped that SOFAGATE would be a scandal involving a couch.  He has reluctantly settled for TOAST as his item.

That surprises me, of course -- I don't actually expect to find longer than David does -- but checking after time shows how unhelpful this mix is.  The only other six is the American spelling FAGOTS (FAGGOT: "a bundle of sticks, twigs, or small branches, etc., bound together, used for fuel, as a fascine for revetment, etc.").

Simon: FATES
David: TOAST

Scores: Simon 7 (12), Jean 14 (32), me 35

Round 6: Target 103 from 75 50 100 6 8 8

It turns out that Jean's favourite combination is also three of each.  The target is extremely low, but it has a sting to it; trying to get a three to offset the hundred by is much harder than one might think.  I tried for some little while without success, having found a few one-aways in the process, and then decided that I needed to write one of them down as a fallback.  I had lost track of them, though, and it took me more precious seconds to unearth one and get 104 = 100 + (6*50)/75 written down as a fallback.

Still with time to go I did what I should have started off doing: Since only the 75 is odd, subtract that and try to make the difference from the even numbers.  That difference is 28, which is 22 away from 50, and the small numbers just work out for that.  In a mad scramble at this point, I scrawled down 103 = 75 + 50 - 8 - 8 - 6 and got the total down just as time ran out.  Phew!

With a little calm reflection once time was no longer an issue I saw that my fallback had actually accomplished all that it needed to.  I'd spent too much time fretting and overlooked the obvious adjustment: 103 = 100 + (6*50)/75 - 8/8.  Whoops!

I also found a way to get the 28 more directly, and thus the solution 103 = 75 + (100/50)*(8 + 6).  There's probably a fair few ways, but seeing them in time is the tricky part!

Jean is bizarrely far away with 110; even just 100 = 100 would have been better than that!  Simon shows a much easier one-away than I had, with 102 = 100 + 8 - 6, and that is seven precious points clawed back.

Lily agrees that this is much harder than it looks, but has managed to conquer it; her solution is the same that I found within time.

Simon: 102
Jean: 110
Me: 103
Lily: 103

Scores: Simon 7 (19), Jean 14 (32), me 45

Second break: MINI GALE ("Sending electronic letters")

An easy clue for EMAILING.

Round 7: U I E H R L N A C

I had HIRE, LINER, LINEAR, INHALER, UNCLEAR, and just in the nick of time LAUNCHER.  After time I added RELAUNCH and INHAULER ("a rope for hauling in a sail or spar") as other eights, and CHARNEL("a repository for dead bodies") as a seven that I liked.  I really should have seen INHAULER as soon as I found INHALER, so it's just as well that I found LAUNCHER or I'd be kicking myself over this round.

Jean has found UNCLEAR for seven but Simon has LAUNCHER for eight and has managed to get back within striking range at last.

David explains how after the shows he will check up on the letter mixes on a computer (much like I do, except he gets to do it earlier, of course) to see if there are interesting words he may have missed.  He has spotted one tonight that he had missed a few weeks back in episode 401: INHAULER.  (And, of course, that is why I know the word at all.)

Those are all the eights; the other sevens are AURICLE, NUCLEAR, HAULIER, HERNIAL, CHARLIE (colloquial for a fool; I recall my dad calling me "a right charlie" when I did something silly as a young lad), CARLINE (Scottish for "an old woman"), and CAULINE ("Botany of or relating to a stem, especially relating to or arising from the upper part of a stem").


Scores: Simon 15 (27), Jean 14 (32), me 53

Round 8: Target 825 from 50 100 75 4 10 7

The final numbers game is much easier than the other two have been, which is a bit of a relief.  My first option was 825 = 7*100 + 75 + 50, but then I found the nicer 825 = (7 + 4)*75.

Both contestants have reached the target; Jean uses the first of those solutions, while Simon uses the second.  That was also Richard's solution (a rare mention from him, but he was pleased to demonstrate knowledge of the 75-times table), and Lily's as well.

Simon: 825
Jean: 825
Me: 825
Richard: 825
Lily: 825

Scores: Simon 25 (37), Jean 24 (42), me 63


Down to a must-win conundrum for Simon, and when the letters go up there's very little rearranging to do.  I thought I had the answer and buzzed in very quickly with just a second on the clock.  That turned out to be correct, and Simon found it just a second later to complete the comeback.

Simon: CACOPHONY (2s)
Jean: [no answer]

Final scores: Simon 25 (47), Jean 24 (42), me 73

Well, what a gripping game!  Simon fell behind early with two declarations that were somewhat below his usual standard, and then compounded it with an invalidly-written down numbers result.  Jean could have sunk his hopes by finding 102 in the second numbers round, and he must feel lucky that she did not.  (Conversely, of course, he might not have made that mistake in the first numbers round.  A bit of fortune each way.)  He managed to hold his nerve and get back enough to have a chance at the conundrum, and that breaks the Monday hoodoo.

Jean played well, as did Simon in the second half, and it was an enjoyable game to watch.  Both had their chances, and in the end the conundrum decided all.  Simon gets a fifth game, and that gives him an excellent chance of making the finals.  But can he become a retiring champion?  We'll know by Wednesday.


Mark said...

Well done, Geoff. It was my first decent game for a while. Round 7 was where I let myself down.

620 = 25*(75-50) - 5
103 = 100 + 75/(50/(8-6))
825 = 7*100 + 75 + 50

Geoff Bailey said...

Oh, wow, great game from you tonight, Mark! Excellent performance in both facets of the game, and you've outdone David on one round which is always an experience to treasure. I'm particularly impressed with your 103, but INCITES, PADDERS, UNCLEAN, 620... all very good finds. Well done!

Mark said...

Thanks Geoff, although I doubt that we really outdid David. I think it's much more likely that he saw FAGOTS but chose not to declare it.

JT said...

This was a particually bad game for me with only one 7 letter word and uttlerly struggling with the numbers

I don't even know what cacophony meant before today!!!

Sam Gaffney said...

Great game Mark, I didn't find your 103 answer until quite a while after the episode.

I quite liked Jean as a contestant: good personality, and her letter rounds were great. Unfortunately her numbers weren't as strong, I wonder if she misread the target in Round 6?

Simon was a bit slow to start, perhaps he had a poor sleep after shooting several episodes the day before. It would have been a bit of a shame had he been knocked out on his fourth night, as he has produced a lot of really good play, (so did Ian last week).

Cacophony was an obscure word to have as the conundrum, but this challenge was offset by being virtually spelt out as COACHPONY. JT, I don't think I knew the exact meaning of the word either!

I have been thrashed by Geoff yet again here, but I am still pretty happy with my game, as I had my numbers mojo back for round 6. I also found but didn't risk PADDERS, and was only a couple of seconds too slow with AGATES.

622 = (75+50)*5-3
103 = 75+50-8-8-6
825 = 75*(7+4)

Geoff Bailey said...

Mark: From my perspective, FAGOTS is a very difficult find. The single G is not at all the Australian spelling. He definitely missed FETTAS and AGATES, and the latter should be findable. Just one of those things... sometimes the mind follows unprofitable paths.

Nice to hear from you again, JT! There's no shame in struggling with the numbers today -- they were a deceptively tricky set.

Mark said...

Thanks Sam. I liked Jean too.

Geoff, I have to admit I'd never heard of agate before.

I learnt the meaning of "cacophony" as a child, from the Asterix comics.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Walton was my maths teacher two years ago :) He was really good and easy to get along with. Glad to see him going so well on L&N

Geoff Bailey said...

Mark: Fair enough, then. I had a small collection of semi-precious stones as a child (mostly bland things like amethyst and chrysoprase); I'm not sure if I had an agate, but it did make me aware of the stone. I also went through a stamp-collecting phase and one of my favourite sets involved the agate -- there are pictures of the set here.

Nice to hear from you, anonymous commenter! Simon is going very well at this point and it would be quite surprising if he did not make the finals. So you'll get to see him in action again, I imagine.

Geoff Bailey said...

Sam: I agree with you about Jean, too. That 110 was bizarre, but I'm having trouble picturing a compatible misreading of the target. Maybe she just got too carried away and added the other 8 as well. *shrugs*

Good that you've got your numbers mojo back!