Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Ep 437: Simon Walton, Mark Niciejewski (May 1, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

On Simon's fifth night Richard asks about his preference for the balanced mix in the numbers.  Simon explains that there are two reasons for this: The first is that he has practised the 75-times tables and really wants to use that practice; the second is that he has noticed that his opponents mostly prefer only one or two large numbers, so he is trying to throw them off a bit.  Sound strategy!

Before the first numbers round Richard points out that Simon could guarantee having the 75 by choosing the heavyweight mix, but Simon is not swayed by that.  Rightly so, since one still needs the right small numbers to multiply by and there's better odds of that with three instead of two of them.  (Also, the balanced mix can always make a 75 from 50 + 25 or 100 - 25, if need be.)

Tonight's challenger is Mark Niciejewski, a serving member of the Australian Army.  At his house Letters and Numbers is a family affair -- his (nearly) two-year-old daughter dances to the theme song when it comes on, and as soon as she hears Richard's voice she sits down and watches the entire episode.  When Lily puts up the consonants Mark's daughter says what they are along with Lily -- I'd hope she does so with the vowels, also, but he only mentions the consonants.  This is one of the reasons I really like this show; it has great potential to get the quite young interested in words and arithmetic.

Simon returned to form with the letters, finding a good eight and several sevens.  Mark was not able to keep up on that front, and Simon acquired a sizeable lead.  However, two surprising misses in the numbers rounds from him let Mark catch up enough to have a chance going into the conundrum.  In the end it proved to be too difficult for them both and Simon won his fifth game, 45 to 37.

I rushed through my play of this game as I had a dinner engagement to get to.  That may be why I did not quite feel on top of things again, but I managed to do pretty well regardless; I'm vexed at missing the best answer in round five, but aside from that only the conundrum was a stumbling block.  My mini-streak of solved conundrums comes to an end at six, but it's been a good run.  I was not able to get clear of Simon for a while, but those numbers slips let me forge ahead and I ended up winning by a comfortable margin.

Round 1: A O O H R T E R S

I had HOAR, EARTH / HEART, ROOTER, ROOSTER / ROOTERS, and SHORTER.  After time I noted SHOOTER as another seven.

The contestants also have sevens; Mark has selected HOOTERS while Simon has shifted that S to the start for SHOOTER.  David has opted for ROOSTER as his seven.

There is an eight in this mix, although I don't think I had heard of it before: SORORATE ("marriage with a wife's sister"; Wikipedia explains a little more).

The other sevens are ORATORS, HOARSER, SOOTHER / RESHOOT, ROASTER, TRASHER, RHETORS (RHETOR: "a master or teacher of rhetoric"), and TOREROS (TORERO: "a bullfighter who fights on foot").


Scores: 7 apiece

Round 2: G B N S I A E P U

A familiar -ING appears, but that last vowel makes things less easy than they could be.  Changing it to a consonant would have made eights possible, with PLEASING / ELAPSING being fairly findable.  As it was, I had BINS, BASING, and ABUSING.  After time I added GUINEAS for another seven.

This time Mark has PUBIS (one of the pelvic bones) but Simon has used the -ING to best effect with ABUSING.  David has found the only unmentioned seven of PAUSING.


Scores: Simon 14, Mark 7, me 14

Round 3: Target 424 from 100 50 25 3 4 1

My first thought with that target was to pull out the factor of 4, and then a 6 is required; that is not too hard to find and I had 424 = 4*(100 + 3*50/25).  Then I took a mental step back and found the somewhat more obvious 424 = 4*100 + 25 - 1.  Heh.

Both contestants have reached the target using this second solution, but Lily has gone with the first of them.  Double heh!

Simon: 424
Mark: 424
Me: 424
Lily: 424

Scores: Simon 24, Mark 17, me 24

First break: BRED MACE ("Gave Emma a hug")

I thought that this was CAMBERED at first, but the clue makes it clear that EMBRACED is wanted instead.  ("Emma" being shorted to EM.)

David's talk is about the word floater, which has sixteen meanings in the Macquarie.  I recall him mentioning this before!  In my third game (episode 327) Eddy and I each found FLOATERS in round 7, and David commented about the many meanings and that it might become one of his talks one day.  It actually happened!

Round 4: L C R B A I E S T

Very compatible letters here; so compatible that a fourth vowel is actually tempting.  The magic result would be an I for IRASCIBLE ("easily provoked to anger"), although an O also allows the less common CABRIOLES for another nine (CABRIOLE: "Ballet a leap in which one leg is raised in the air and the other is brought up to beat against it").

In any case, I had CRAB, CABLE, was not sure about CABLER (the Macquarie does not list it, as it turns out), BAITERS, and very late in the piece I found CALIBRES for eight.  Just after time I saw LIBRATES as another eight.  If only we could re-use that A then CALIBRATES would be a ten -- the next vowel is an A, too.  But there's not much point speculating about games with different rules.

Mark has CLEARS for six, but Simon is on target again with CALIBRES.  David mentions ARTICLES / RECITALS -- bother, I should have seen those! -- but was not able to find a nine.

The American spelling CALIBERS is also acceptable, and the other eights are BASILECT ("the social dialect of a given language which is judged to be least prestigious") and STERICAL (acceptable variant of STERIC: "relating to the spatial relationship of atoms in the molecule").  There are a great many sevens, as is to be expected from such well-matched letters.


Scores: Simon 32, Mark 17, me 32

Round 5: A U E N S D M I C

I had SANE, DUNES, UNCASED, MEDUSAN, and CAESIUM.  After time I added MISCUED as another seven, and wondered about MINUSED.

Simon declares a seven -- it is MEDIANS -- and that prompts Mark to risk MINUSED.  Unfortunately for Mark, MINUSED is not valid as MINUS is not listed as a verb.  David has delved into the periodic table and emerged with SCANDIUM.  Argh!  I had done a quick check for other elements when I saw CAESIUM, but I missed this.  Bother.

Chambers lists MUSCADINE as an archaic synonym for MUSCATEL, but the Macquarie does not allow it.  SCANDIUM is the only eight, and again there are a goodly number of sevens including the fairly common CINEMAS and MAIDENS.

I'm getting a bit worried at this point, as I've been unable to shake Simon at all.  Good play from him so far, and a 22 point lead that has Mark in a heap of trouble.

Mark: [invalid]

Scores: Simon 39, Mark 17, me 39

Round 6: Target 132 from 50 75 8 2 5 1

This is pretty straightforward by addition: 132 = 75 + 50 + 5 + 2.  With plenty of time to spare I messed around with complicated alternatives, and emerged with 132 = 2*(5*8 + 1) + 50 as another solution.

Simon is oddly far off the target with 137; I speculate that this was 137 = (2 + 1)*50 - 8 - 5, as most other options are easily improved.  Mark is on target, with the first of those solutions.  That gets him ten important points, and improves his chances for sure.

Lily went with another complicated route, just because she could: 132 = (75 - 50 + 8)*(5 - 1).

Simon: 137
Mark: 132
Me: 132
Lily: 132

Scores: Simon 39, Mark 27, me 49

Second break: GUY TRAIT ("I'll give you a tip: Do this for good service")

The clue clearly indicates a GRATUITY.

Round 7: E A I N X H E T L

Gah, choosing a fourth vowel after the unhelpful pair of X and H?  I do not approve.  I had THINE, ETHANE, HEXANE, EXHALE, and wondered about LINEATE.  I was fairly sure about it, but not certain.  In the end I decided to go with it, and was relieved that checking confirmed its validity (LINEATE: "marked with lines [...]").

Mark has HEAT for four, but Simon has once again outdone him with EXHALE.  David mentions INHALE as the counterpart to EXHALE, but has also found LINEATE; it is the only seven.

There's some other sixes, but the remaining common one is ENTAIL.

Mark: HEAT

Scores: Simon 39 (45), Mark 27, me 56

Round 8: Target 156 from 100 50 10 3 10 9

Mark sticks with the family mix "since Simon didn't like the last one".  Heh.  It's sadly easy, though, and I quickly found 156 = 100 + 50 + 9 - 3.

Simon has been writing for surprisingly long, and has ended up one away with 157.  I can only guess that he formed this as 157 = 100 + 50 + 10 - 3, but if so he could have subtracted (10 - 9) to get to the target.  Odd!  In any case, Mark has reached the target exactly with the same solution that I had; it is also Lily's method.

Those two poor numbers efforts from Simon have let Mark right back into this contest, and he is eight points behind but within winning range.  They've also let me get comfortably clear, and I am safe at this point.  The situation was not looking nearly so rosy after the first five rounds!

Simon: 157
Mark: 156
Me: 156
Lily: 156

Scores: Simon 39 (45), Mark 37, me 66


Down to the conundrum, and it turns out to be a bit tricky.  I spotted ENTANGLE immediately, but that is only eight letters.  I tried -MENT but nothing useful came from that.  Eventually time ran out with no-one having seen the solution.  It took me another 36 seconds before I finally saw GENTLEMAN.

Simon: [no answer]
Mark: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Simon 39 (45), Mark 37, me 66

Simon was in excellent form on the letters tonight, but oddly off the pace with the numbers.  It could have been an upset win for Mark if he had managed to unravel that conundrum within the allotted time, but it was definitely a tough one!  Simon gets through the fifth game successfully and is almost certain to make the finals.  A win with 40 points or more will let him settle into second place; can he become the series' third retiring champion?  We'll find out tomorrow.


Mark said...

Well done, Geoff.

424 = 4*100 + 25 - 1
132 = 50 + 75 + 8 - 1
156 = 100 + 50 + 9 - 3

Mark Niciejewski said...

Hello all, surprisingly I stuggled with the letters on the show. I actually topped the Brisbane audition finding 3 nine letter words. Usually words are my strong point but on the day and on stage its a completely different story. I was a little perplexed with Simon's equations as they were pretty simple.(spoiler) Ahh well I think he loses tonight

Mark said...

Mark it's nice to hear from you, but it's disappointing that you posted that spoiler.

Mark Niciejewski said...

I did say I think he does, dont quote me on it, just going on the form that the woman showed whilst we were in the audience

JT said...

Nice to hear from Mark Niciekewski apart from Sam and of course Geoff we rarely hear from contestants who were on the show on this blog. I had three pretty embarassing rounds one was round 2 where I spent too much time on the ING and found very little after that, Round 4 were I thought i had BRACELETS only to realise I spelt it BRACLETS :/... and then the conundrum where I though it was ENTAGLEMENT only to realise it was WAY too long :/

Anyway my answers:
424- Lily's solution then the contestants
Invalid again

Sam Gaffney said...

I struggled on the letters this episode, so I can sympathise with Mark N. Simon's words were excellent, he outscored me despite his slips on the numbers.

Well played from (blog regular) Mark, your answers were much better than mine.

In Round 7 my answer was HENTAI, which struck me as a common word, though I was unsure of its meaning. It's not in the Macquarie, and if you want to Google it, I warn you that it is NSFW.

My answers:

424 = 4*100+25-1
132 = 75+50+5+2
156 = 100+50+9-3
- (about two minutes)

Geoff Bailey said...

As a public service announcement to clarify Sam's post, NSFW = Not Safe For Work, and probably other environments as well. Not that this is likely a necessary addendum, but much better safe than sorry.

It's excellent to hear from everyone, and particularly from Mark Niciejewski. Like JT says: We don't hear that much from contestants, and it's always nice to do so.

I can certainly sympathise with you, Mark N. Running into Simon in that word form on your game was unfortunate -- he is a bit variable but those first five rounds were hard to make much headway on. I must admit, the biggest thing I'd like to change about the show is the length; nine rounds makes luck a rather big factor.

Another excellent game from you today, (regular) Mark. Nice one!

Thanks for chipping in today, JT. My condolences on BRACELETS in particular; it would have been an excellent find if the I had been an E.

Sam: The good news is that the contestants you've lost to this series have both gone to the sixth game. Better luck next game!

Geoff Bailey said...

PS: Three nine-letter words in the audition is a great effort, Mark N. I only found one of the two possible in mine -- the other one occurred to me on the way home that day.

Mark Niciejewski said...

Cheers guys, Im kinda surprised that Simon won last night, I had money on Andrea destroying him, but as I said its totally different when your on stage then in the audience. Good luck to simon in the champion series