Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Ep 449 [M1] [SF2]: Sam Gaffney, Naween Fernando (June 26, 2012)

I'm still plugging of course -- if you've not voted, please head over there and register your support for the show.  So far it has attracted a very nice amount of attention, but it could always use more.

Rounds: Here.

The second semifinal is tonight, to determine who will go up against Matthew Thomason in the grand final.  It promises to be a tough match, with Sam Gaffney exceptional on the numbers and Naween Fernando unlikely to be beaten on the letters.  With all due respect to Matthew, I expect that the winner of this match will win the series.  It's letters vs. numbers, and I can tell you that it is a cracking match.  If for some reason you read these recaps without watching the show first, skip the next bit where I summarise and skip to the round-by-round breakdown.  Better yet, go and watch the show.

The show started out ominously for Sam as Naween found the longer word in the first round.  The next round gave him a chance to settle his nerves with the best result not too challenging, but his only chance to choose the numbers turned out to be too easy.  That would have been very worrying, and Naween continued his good play to forge ahead in the next two letters rounds.  That put Sam 22 points behind, meaning that even if he got best results from the numbers he was going to need the conundrum in order to win.

Naween was in control of those numbers, and aimed for the easier options.  But fortune smiled on Sam in both of them, as they were more challenging than they might have seemed and he was able to get those crucial points.  Naween faltered in the last letters round as his extensive vocabulary proved a drawback, and Sam was actually ahead going into the conundrum; that was certainly not looking likely at the halfway point!  But victory would still go to whoever solved the conundrum, and both players had been amazingly fast on them throughout.  Indeed, with only a second in the clock one of them buzzed in for the win... it was Sam, no doubt very relieved to get into the final with a 54 to 39 victory.

I played much like Naween, as it turns out.  My letters results were at least his equal, although on the last letters round only because his choice was invalid.  I had some difficulty with the final two numbers rounds, ending up one away each time.  I feel that I should have solved them, mind you, but I overlooked a couple of options.  I still had a chance at the conundrum, but for the fourth game in a row a contestant's buzzer sounded just as I paused -- I really am getting sick of that!  So that's three wins and three losses for me in this Masters series; one chance left to swing the balance...

Round 1: E A U A R H D S O

I had AURA, wondered if AURAE was an acceptable plural (it is), HEARD, SHARED, HOARSE, and AROUSED.  I've struggled to see that last when it has arisen in Countdown episodes before, so I was glad to spot it this time.  I also wondered about SEAHOARD, but rightly rejected it.

Sam chose five vowels; I wonder if this was an attempt to make longer words difficult, with the hopes of reducing Naween's advantage.  If so, it is still a risky strategy for my taste, with Naween often opting for many vowels during his run on the show.  Personally, I had been hoping for a final C for CHARADES; the actual N would have allowed UNSHARED for eight.

Sam gives a wince as time runs out, but it looked more like a "six is not quite good enough" rather than "I've seen a seven".  He has found SHARED for six, outdone by Naween's choice of AROUSED for seven.  David notes that there was "a glut of sixes here" -- he mentions SHARED, SHROUD, RUSHED, and DASHER -- but that AROUSED was the best to be found.

There is one other seven; DOURAH is listed as an alternative spelling of DURRA ("a type of grain sorghum with slender stalks, cultivated in Asia, etc.; Indian millet; Guinea corn"), making DOURAHS a feasible seven.


Scores: Sam 0, Naween 7, me 7

Round 2: E A A N S C G D T

I had SANE, CANES, DESCANT / SCANTED, and AGNATES (AGNATE: "a kinsman whose connection is traceable exclusively through males"; I mentioned it originally in episode 419, and then David found AGNATES in episode 439).

Both contestants have found sevens; Sam was oddly unsure about DECANTS, which is perfectly fine, while Naween has AGENDAS.  Once again, David could not find longer.

The other sevens are SCANTED and ANSATED (variant of ANSATE: "having a handle or handle-like part").


Scores: Sam 7, Naween 14, me 14

Round 3: Target 823 from 50 75 100 25 9 1

Sam pretends to be considering six small, but sticks with the heavyweight mix.  Remembering the tip that all multiples of 25 (up to a thousand) can be made from the 9 and the four larges, I knew that 824 was always going to be achievable.  The target is 2 away from 825, which is 11*75, but that did not seem the most helpful line of approach.  I figured that I should write down the one-away, and the natural approach quite helpfully left the right large numbers to make the requisite 2, leading me to 823 = 9*100 - 75 - 50/25.

Both contestants and Lily have also found this solution; it was a bit too findable, which is bad news for Sam.

There are two other solutions; I quite like 823 = 9*(100 - 75/25) - 50.  The other solution is a kitchen sink that does work with that idea of 11*75 that I mentioned: 823 = ((100 - 1)/9)*75 - 50/25.

Sam: 823
Naween: 823
Me: 823
Lily: 823

Scores: Sam 17, Naween 24, me 24

First break: DATE GAIT ("What the machine did to the washing")

I could not solve this one, and then I saw that it was GAIT rather than GATE, which helped a lot.  That made AGITATED an easy spot.

David's talk is about two phrases arising from movie titles that have made it into common parlance: Stepford wife and bucket list.

Round 4: I E U F R M S L N

Naween sticks with three vowels again, so my comments in round one may have been misplaced.  I had FIRE, FUMES, and wondered about FUMIERS but wasn't sure (it is not valid, although FUMIER is listed as a comparative form of FUMY: "composed of or full of fumes"; I believe that I was thinking of the French word FUMIER here, which means fertilizer).  Then I saw REFILMS, recalling from episode 397 that it was valid while FILMERS was not (much to Shaun's disappointment), followed by MISRULE.

I was glad that the first I was not also a U, as I would have then had to decide if FRENULUMS was the right plural of FRENULUM (variant spelling of FRAENULUM, "a small fraenum", which is such a helpful definition); it turns out that the only allowable plural form is FRENULA, so that was fortunate for me.

Sam has FURIES for six, outdone by Naween's choice of MISRULE.  David notes that he found MISRULED earlier in the series; that was in the first quarterfinal, which Sam would have been around for -- so he has paid the price for his general policy of not watching other episodes so that he can remain focused.  David also mentions the FILMERS / REFILMS issue, phrased as what turns out to be a rather unfortunate in the circumstances helpful hint for future contestants.  Whoops.

The other sevens are INFUSER, LIMNERS (LIMN: "to represent in drawing or painting") / MERLINS (MERLIN being a type of falcon), and MURINES (MURINE being any rodent of a particular family that includes rats and mice).


Scores: Sam 17, Naween 31, me 31

Round 5: I E O A C L R S J

Richard suggests that Sam should choose letters for a full monty; Sam agrees, with the proviso that it is one that Naween misses.  It's looking good, right until that final J turns up.  I had LACE, ORACLE, CARIOLE ("a small, open, two-wheeled vehicle"), CARIOLES / CALORIES, CAJOLES, and CAJOLERS.

Sam has found SCALIER for seven, while Naween has accurately found CALORIES for eight.  David likes the J, of course, so it is no surprise that he has chosen CAJOLERS for his eight.

This round's result puts Sam a massive 22 points behind, and he is going to need helpful numbers and the conundrum to have a chance at this point.  The odds are against that, for sure, but it is possible.

The above lists all the eights; there's quite a few other sevens that I shall not lists.


Scores: Sam 17, Naween 39, me 39

Round 6: Target 664 from 50 4 7 10 9 3

Naween opts for his usual classroom mix, and gets a decent mid-range target.  The standard method suggests getting to 650 and adding the 14, but I confused myself by focusing too much on the 650 part at first and not the 14.  I wrote down one away with 663 = (10 + 3)*50 + 9 + 4, and although I observed that I could swap the two thirteens I did not think it through very clearly.  If I had, I might have found Sam's solution below.

After time I looked at using the 10, and found a couple of solutions: 664 = (50 + 9 + 7)*10 + 4 and 664 = (9*7 + 3)*10 + 4.  That last is particularly annoying to me, as I'd noted 630 = 7*9*10 as the numbers went up.  If I had returned back to that thought once the target was revealed I should surely have seen that tweak.

Anyway... Naween has also found 663, but Sam has gone one better with 664 = (9 + 4)*50 + 10 + 7 - 3.  That's also Lily's solution, and a much-needed 10 points for Sam.

A variant of that solution is much easier to find if one keeps the required offset in mind from the start.  The difference of 14 is 10 + 4, so the question is simply: Can 7, 9, 3 make 13?  At which point the solution 664 = (9 + 7 - 3)*50 + 10 + 4 should fall out directly.  I paid the price for looking at the wrong end of things first.

Sam: 664
Naween: 663
Me: 663
Lily: 664

Scores: Sam 27, Naween 39, me 39

Second break: PREP GLAD ("Got your hooks into it")

A fairly easy clue for GRAPPLED.

Round 7: T N O O S H I Q E

Sam switches things up a little by starting with some non-vowels, but that does not seem overly useful right now.  The Q comes along to spoil the party, and overall it is a tough mix.  I had a speculative TOON (as in short for "cartoon"), a similarly speculative TOONS, SHOOT, and HONEST.

That was the best I could do, but when I checked up on TOON (it turns out to be valid but with a different meaning than I expected; it is a type of tree) I saw TOONIE below it (the Canadian two-dollar coin), making TOONIES a valid seven.  And just a bit below that was TOOSHIE (colloquial for "angry or upset") as another seven.

Both contestants declare sevens; Naween's choice of HOOTIES turns out to be invalid, but Sam has found the excellent seven of HISTONE ("any of a class of basic proteins as globin [...]").  That's a great spot from Sam, and he must be relieved that Naween's large vocabulary has worked against him at last.  Or maybe Naween was less sure than he seemed but felt compelled to try it, as Sam declared first.  (I think that HOOTY is legal in Scrabble, but not necessarily HOOTIES, which suggests that HOOTY is HOOT + Y if so.)

That result is great news for Sam, since he will now have a chance at the conundrum as long as Naween does not beat him on the next numbers round, a possibility which is quite unlikely.

David has found TOONIES for seven, having checked HOONIEST on the off chance but not at all surprised that it was not listed.

The other seven is ISOTONE ("one of two or more atoms whose nuclei contain the same number of neutrons although they have different atomic numbers").  The other sixes are SOOTHE, OTIOSE ("at leisure; idle; indolent"), TOONIE, THEINS (THEIN being a variant spelling of THEINE: "caffeine found in tea"), and ETHNOS (ETHNO being listed as a derogatory colloquialism for a migrant).

Naween: [invalid]

Scores: Sam 34, Naween 39, me 39

Round 8: Target 266 from 75 25 7 3 10 8

Naween tries the family mix this time, which is supposedly a touch more solvable than the classroom one.  The standard method has differences of 16 and 9, and neither is obviously easily formable.  I got hung up on trying to make the 16 as 2*8, which went nowhere useful, and wrote down a fallback one-away 267 = 3*75 + 25 + 10 + 7.

Just as time was running out I saw how to make the 9 at last, finding 266 = 8*25 + 75 - 3*(10 - 7)... but I ran a second or two over time getting it down.  It might have been defensible (given past behaviours by some contestants), but not really, so I just missed out here.

A bit afterwards I found an alternative solution, using a technique that is hard to see but very useful when it works: 266 = 10*25 + (75 - 3)/8 + 7.

Naween has not managed to get in the scoring zone, so I guess he got lost trying to get the exact answer.  A reasonable thing to do under the circumstances, and indeed Sam has found a solution with the very nice 266 = (25 + 7)*8 + 10.  Well done, Sam!

Update: Revisiting this much later I finally noticed the factor of 7, leading to a solution in small numbers alone: 266 = 7*(3*10 + 8).

Sam: 266
Naween: [not in range]
Me: 267

Scores: Sam 44, Naween 39, me 39


An interesting situation -- either contestant can win it at this point, and Sam has managed to stage a 27 point comeback over the last three rounds to gain the lead for the first time all episode.  Shades of Jacob's memorable grand final win in this... but only if Sam wins.  Amusingly, I'd have been safe from being caught by Naween if it was just the two of us, but Sam's two superior rounds have meant that I am still tied with Naween and the three-way game is wide open.

One thing's for sure -- both contestants are very quick at the conundrum, and I'll need to be also.  I saw it almost instantly and paused... but once again the sound of the buzzer hits my ears as I do so.  Four games in a row!  And against my expectations, it turns out to be Sam who has done so; his answer is correct, and he gets into the final with 37 unanswered points in the last four rounds.

Naween: [no answer]
Me: EMBROIDER (1.5s)

Final scores: Sam 54, Naween 39, me 39

An excellent game from both contestants; Naween excelled in the words as expected, and may have been unlucky with that final letters round.  Fortunately it was not the difference between winning and losing!  Sam was in top form on the numbers which posed a few snags, and his lightning conundrum speed saw him home, much to his relief.

Sam acknowledges that Naween outplayed him comprehensively on the letters, and both contestants have praise for each other.  Always nice to see!

A great game to watch, and I'm glad that Sam made it into the final.  He takes on Matthew in what should be another good game, but interestingly the seedings should make Sam the challenger, giving him a precious two number choices.  My money is definitely on him under such circumstances.


Mark said...

Congratulations Sam!

Geoff, how do thw seedings work? I was surprised to see Sam sitting on the right against Matthew.

Sam Gaffney said...

Thanks Mark, and to explain your question about seedings, Toby took Andrew's #1 seed chair after beating him, then Matthew took it by defeating Toby. I didn't know that policy either; it had never come up, as the #1 seed had always made it to the grand final, and the #2 seed to at least the semi-final. I had always been requesting the challenger chair and being rebuffed; finally it was mine, which meant double heavyweights!

You've beaten TV Sam from home the last three times Geoff, I am glad that he could claw one back. Bad luck on those conundrums!

For the second game in a row, I just didn't feel in the zone on the letter rounds, but my numbers were as good as I could have hoped, and I had a bit of time to spare with all of them. Round-by-round:

1. I was completely lost with the early letters, had no real ideas, and none of my prepared words were close to showing up. I had considered the idea pre-match that Naween probably couldn't get a nine with five vowels! Good work for those who spotted AROUSED, David said that he didn't. It is actually quite a high-probability L&N seven, I am sure that Naween's Scrabble background helped here.

2. I knew that DECANTER was a word, but had never heard of DECANTS, and such back-forming does not always work out. I have seen the word pop up a lot since (and DECANTER was actually a viewer-at-home ad-break eight in Naween's Ep95).

3. My frustration here wasn't specifically that the solution was simple, more that there was really only one way to even try to solve it. I incorrectly remembered the smalls as being {9,8} here, last night I noticed the (100-75/25)*9-50 method. One of the staff at L&N suggested I might be coming across as a little sulky at this point!

4. Not only did my policy of not watching other episodes in the studio before playing keep me from seeing MISRULE, it also kept me from Ep397's REFILMS - which wouldn't air until March 2012 (the Masters were filmed way back in November 2011).

5. Like AROUSED, CALORIE/S is also a high-probability word that Naween probably saw straight away, but it wasn't on my list, and I don't always spot it even now.

6. Naween was very unfortunate here: he actually worked the correct answer out the same way as me, but mistakenly wrote 663; because of the show's rules, he was bound to declare it.

7. More bad luck for Naween: he actually considered ISOTOPE, but preferred HONEST, or at least HOOTIES (my declaration of seven forced him into trying it). This was the third occasion in my 55 letter rounds that one of my studied list words had come up, which is why I was pretty sure HISTONE was a word, but clueless as to its meaning.

8. A surprisingly difficult target, despite the range of solutions.

9. This was a nice intuitive jump-out conundrum, so I'm glad I spotted it quickly, as I'm sure Naween wouldn't have taken long. Close, but no cigar for you, Geoff! Bwa ha ha!

Geoff Bailey said...

Mark: The contestants were initially seeded in the usual way -- games won being the major criterion, then total points the tiebreaker. That naturally put all the champions in the first four spots with 9 games won, the runners-up in the next three with 8 wins / 1 loss, and Toby in eighth position with 7 wins / 1 loss.

The quarterfinals are a pretty standard 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5. Then, assuming that the higher number wins each round, 1-3 and 2-4 (whereas 1-4 and 2-3 would be more normal). And finally 1-2, of course.

The champion's position is determined by the highest seed that could have reached the position, which is fair enough. So when Toby beat Andrew, he effectively became the number one seed for the show's purposes. That is why he had the champion's position against Matthew, despite Matthew being the higher seed initially.

Since Sam was the second seed at the start, he was always going to be the challenger in the grand final (assuming that he reached it).

Geoff Bailey said...

Sam: I assume you mean ISOTONE in round 7. And interesting about AROUSED, I will update the post to reflect that.

Love the insights you provide -- much appreciated!

Mark said...

Thanks for the explanations Sam and Geoff.

Sam Gaffney said...

Oops, I did mean ISOTONE.

Another observation is that in both this game and the Series #1 Grand Final with Andrew vs Naween, both contestants managed a perfect game between them (though Andrew's eight perfect answers then dwarf my six here).

Victor said...

What an excellent game - definitely a classic and probably my favourite of all time. I don't think I've ever been as excited going into the conundrum round.

The Sam in this episode is probably the most defeatist contestant I've ever seen but congratulations on a great comeback and conundrum solve! Very exciting to watch. Always a pleasure to read your comments here too.

Commiserations to Naween who was also a pleasure to watch and humble in defeat.

2. X (STANCED) (brain fart - there are plenty of valid anagrams)
3. 823 = 9*100 - 75 - 50/25
4. REFILMS (courtesy of episode 397)
6. 664 = (10 + 4)*50 - (7 - 3)*9
8. 266 = 3*(25 + 75 - 8) - 10
9. -

The time taken to rotate the conundrum into view took away pretty much any chance of beating Sam on it I think.

Bob said...

Typo in Round 6: Lily got 664

Geoff Bailey said...

Thank you very much, Bob! I've fixed it now.

Great game from you, Victor! I particularly like your solution for 664.

Sam Gaffney said...

Thanks Victor, and very good answer from you in this game and the grand final. That's interesting that I came across as defeatist on TV - I can assure you that however I appeared, I was always in it to win it! Some of the people who worked on the show seemed to find me ludicrously competitive, and the hungriest for victory. I'm not sure about that; I've definitely spotted the eye of the tiger in Andrew and Jacob, and most of the others looked pretty keen too.