Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ep 450 [M1] [GF]: Sam Gaffney, Matthew Thomason (June 27, 2012)

Not that anyone reading this needs the reminder, but it's still very much meaningful to vote and comment at if you want SBS to resume producing Letters and Numbers.

Rounds: Here.

Two very worthy contestants in tonight's grand final, but of course so were all of the contestants in the Masters Series.  Because of the way the seedings work, although Matthew started out as a lower seed than Sam he will be taking the champion's position; that is because the bracket he was in included the number one seed Andrew Fisher.

Matthew got to this point by beating Tony Loui 65 to 50 in an effective rematch of the series two grand final, and then beating Toby Baldwin 63 to 47 in his semifinal.  Both matches came down to the conundrum, which Matthew solved in 2.5s and 2s respectively.  Along the way he has found some great words in tough mixes, including EPISTLES, PANELED, and TOUCHÉ.  He has struggled a bit when the numbers are tough, although he has been perhaps a bit fortunate that four of the six numbers rounds he has faced so far were very easy.

Sam started off with a sound 62 to 35 victory over Jeremy Schiftan, the largest winning margin of the Masters Series (and one of only two games in which the result was decided before the conundrum).  It is also the only match of the Masters Series so far where the conundrum was not solved, incidentally.  He then had a very tough game against the formidable Naween Fernando, which he won 54 to 39 thanks to a massive last section comeback and a one second conundrum solution.

Sam has been a bit out of touch with the words so far this series, at least compared to the form I've come to expect from him (which is understandable, as he's gotten better since then, just like I have since my time on the show); that said, his find of HISTONE in the last letters round against Naween was excellent.  Sam has excelled in the numbers, just missing out once so far with a one-away solution on a target that was also too tough for Lily to solve within time.

So it's a contrast in abilities, with the letters currently favouring Matthew but the numbers being all Sam.  And this time Sam is in the challenger's seat, where he would much prefer to be; that gives him two selections on the numbers, and you can bet he will continue to go for the heavyweight mix that has served him so well.  It's likely to come down to the conundrum, and with the contestants being so fast, anyone could win it.

Of course, I'm about to spoil the result.  *chuckles*  Do feel free to skip this section.

The match started easily enough with a shared seven, but Matthew scooted ahead in the second round when Sam's risky play turned out to be invalid.  The first numbers round was too easy to provide a challenge for anyone, and then Matthew stretched his lead with another good find in the letters.  That was danger territory for Sam, but the remaining letters rounds were shared and his number mixes saw him get ahead at last.  Sam took a precious three point lead into the conundrum, but he buzzed in early with an invalid answer to give Matthew a chance.  Matthew was not able to capitalise on that mistake after all, and Sam scraped home with a 46 to 43 victory to become the grandest of the show's champions.

It feels a bit anticlimactic to talk about my results, but I mostly kept track with Matthew.  My words were decent (as were his), but Sam's superior play in the heavyweight mixes told and I had to get the conundrum.  I was ultimately too slow to do so, and so finished with a 3-4 record on the series.

Round 1: D R E A P E M B D

I had READ, PARED, REAPED, and DREAMED.  That was it for me, although I did rightly reject DAMPERED along the way.

Both contestants have also found DREAMED, and David could not better it.

The other sevens are BEARDED / BREADED.

Matthew: DREAMED

Scores: 7 apiece

Round 2: O E I O N C B S R

I had ICON, BOONIE, BOONIES, and CORBIES.  I wasn't entirely sure about BOONIE or BOONIES, but they are valid; BOONIE is a mildly derogatory word, the equivalent of CHARNIE that has been mentioned a few times before: "a person, generally from an outer suburb of a city or town and from a lower socioeconomic background, viewed as uncultured".  CORBIES I was sure about, of course, as it has turned up a few times on the blog (CORBIE being Scottish for a raven or crow).

Sam is not happy about trying SCOOBIE for seven, and it is invalid as he feared.  His instinct that six would not be enough was right, though, as Matthew has CRONIES for seven.  David has opted for EROSION as his seven.

The other sevens are BRONCOS, and COINERS / ORCEINS (ORCEIN being "a red dye obtained by oxidising an ammoniacal solution of orcinol, and forming the principal colouring matter of cudbear and orchil").

Matthew: CRONIES
Sam: [invalid]

Scores: Matthew 14, Sam 7, me 14

Round 3: Target 350 from 50 75 4 6 8 5

Matthew sticks with the family mix as expected, and gets a rather easy target.  I started out by overcomplicating this, but settled down a bit to get 350 = (6 + 5 - 4)*50.  Then I found the simpler 350 = 4*75 + 50; there's a lot of ways to solve this, as is to be expected from a multiple of 25.

Both contestants have solved it; Matthew has gone with 350 = (8 - 5 + 4)*50 and Sam has chosen the second of the solutions that I had.

Matthew: 350
Sam: 350
Me: 350

Scores: Matthew 24, Sam 17, me 24

First break: RICH GENE ("Support you can hear")

A straight clue for CHEERING.

David's talk is about Hollywood, and some related terms.

Round 4: D G S A E U A R L

Sam decided to break his usual vowels-first pattern for some reason; I'm not sure why.  I had DAGS, USAGE, GUARDS, and -- just in the very nick of time -- GRADUAL.  I wondered about GRADUALS also, but I only had time to get one of them down and had to make a quick decision.  After time I checked and saw that it does have a noun sense ("a psalm or hymn sung in worship after the epistle, originally from the steps of the pulpit") so GRADUALS would have been acceptable.  I'd probably not have risked it in any case, mind you.

A shame that last consonant was not an F -- SAFEGUARD was lurking there if so -- but a T for GRADUATES was another option.

Sam has SURGED for six, but Matthew tries LAUDERS for seven.  David makes him sweat a little as he searches for it, but it is valid.  David has found GRADUALS for eight, although he admits that he had the luxury of using the dictionary to check.

That puts Sam more than a conundrum's worth behind, but with two heavyweight mixes to come he will fancy his chances of getting back in touch, at least.  He's unlikely to be safe going into the conundrum, however.

The other sevens are SUGARED, LAAGERS (LAAGER being a South African term for "a camp or encampment, especially within a circle of wagons"), GELADAS (GELADA being a type of baboon), and RADULAE (plural of RADULA: "a chitinous band in the mouth of most molluscs [...]").

Matthew: LAUDERS

Scores: Matthew 31, Sam 17, me 31

Round 5: H N L O E E F S T

Ergh, not a helpful mix.  I had LONE, HOLE, HOLES, HONEST, and SOFTEN.  After time I saw FLENSE, noted that TELETHONS was almost there, and then TEFLONS as a possible seven.  I'm not sure if it would be allowed or not; the definition of TEFLON calls it "the plastic [...]", and although there would be several variants in practice that might all be called teflons, it's a bit dubious.

Both contestants have found SOFTEN for six; David mentions the contrast of both HONEST and STOLEN in the same mix, and that the only seven he could find was ONESELF.

That does seem to be the only seven (with the caveat about TEFLONS above), and there's a fair few sixes that I will not list.

Matthew: SOFTEN

Scores: Matthew 37, Sam 23, me 37

Round 6: Target 416 from 100 50 75 25 10 7

Sam picks the four large mix as usual and gets a challenging target.  One away is easy, of course, so I wrote down 415 = 7*75 - 100 - 10 as a backup.  But I was unable to make further headway; the factorisation 4*104 was obvious, and leads to a host of subfactorisations, but I was not able to make much of them.  A minute or so after time I was finally able to get somewhere with the factorisation 13*32, getting 416 = ((75*10 - 100)/50)*(25 + 7).

Matthew "crashed and burned" in his words, but Sam has made it look a lot easier than it was with 416 = (50 + 10)*7 - 100/25; that was also Lily's solution.

There's only one other solution to this round, arising from 500 - 84 and some tweaking.  I'd briefly considered that possibility but had not seen the right options, nor was I particularly likely to: 416 = 7*(75 - 10 - 100/50) - 25.

Those ten points get Sam right back into contention, which is surely a relief to him.  Four large numbers can be a fickle beast at times.

Matthew: [not in range]
Sam: 416
Me: 415
Lily: 416

Scores: Matthew 37, Sam 33, me 37

Second break: EARL TUFT ("Gets your heart racing")

If so, then your heart might be AFLUTTER.

Round 7: S N A U T I A D Y

I really don't like that early selection of a fourth vowel, and the end result pretty much explains why.  Admittedly, I'd still have been tempted at the end by an E for DESTINY / DENSITY, and UNSTEADY would have been better again, but the committal was made too early.

I had TANS, UNITS, SAUNA, DAUNTS, and UNTIDY.  It really did not look at all like longer was feasible on this unhelpful mix.

Matthew has found SANITY as a "last-minute" six, although he presumably means "last-moment"; Sam has DAINTY as his six.  David could not better it, and mentions STADIA and NUDITY / UNTIDY as other options.

The remaining sixes are SATINY, AUDITS, UNSAID, NUDIST, DYNAST ("a ruler or potentate, especially a hereditary ruler"), and NAIADS (one plural of NAIAD: "one of a class of water-nymphs fabled to dwell in and preside over streams and springs"; the other plural is NAIADES).

But there is a seven!  It's tough to see, but once you see it you know it must be acceptable.  It is NAYSAID, the past tense of NAYSAY.  Hearty congratulations to anyone who found that!

Matthew: SANITY

Scores: Matthew 43, Sam 39, me 43

Round 8: Target 417 from 75 25 100 50 2 6

The target is only one away from the previous one, and I got very distracted by 425 - 8 but without any feasible way to get that to work.  I ended up writing down a two-away 419 = 6*(75 - 2) - 25 + 100/50... but I'd lost track along the way as to which way I was out by 2.  It actually evaluates to 415, and my answer is invalid.

Shortly after time I observed what I should have considered earlier: 17 is very close to 100/6, so it may be profitable to look at six times the target.  Doing so reveals that 417 = 2502/6, and that makes it very easy to find a solution: 416 = (25*100 + 2)/6.

Matthew is eight away with 425, but Sam has done well to get one away with 416 = (75 - 6)*((100 + 50)/25) + 2 = 416.

Lily has found the 2502/6 solution -- well done, Lily!  There's a lot of ways to form the 2500 from the large numbers, as it turns out, yielding several variations on that theme.  But there is a single alternative solution, the very nice 417 = (100 - 2)*6*50/75 + 25.  This breaks down as 4*(100 - 2) + 25, which would have been quite findable if the 6 were a 4; the secret of this one is to see that (6*50)/75 gets that 4 after all.  Decidedly tricky!

That gives Sam the lead at last, and this match is playing out a lot like his match against Naween did.  Nailbiting stuff!

Matthew: 425
Sam: 416
Me: [invalid]
Lily: 417

Scores: Matthew 43, Sam 46, me 43


Down to the conundrum, with the game very much alive.  I almost buzzed in with ELONGATES but caught myself in time.  That was actually faster than Sam, for once, although since I didn't buzz that would be hard to test as a proposition; I say this because Sam did buzz in at the 1 second mark, then realised immediately that he was not correct.  A painful moment for him; I'd bet that he also got misled by the ELONGATES phantom.

I paused it at this point, and ended up taking a total of 50 seconds to find the answer.  Even if I could count the extra time gained by the interruption, I was well outside of time and Sam has beaten me on this game, whether or not Matthew also does.

The contestant's body language is great throughout this segment; Sam is still in with a chance if the conundrum is too difficult for Matthew, so it's not a complete disaster but he is definitely unhappy -- it would be a very disappointing way to lose.  He hunkers down to stare at the monitor in front of him; I'm not sure if he was still trying to solve it or trying to spontaneously invent time travel from the intensity of his staring.

Matthew meanwhile is alternating between grimacing and smiling a bit in that "what can you do?" way; he knows he has been given a golden chance here, but he is struggling to unravel the conundrum's secret.  Time ticks away and I suspect that he has entered that death spiral of thinking more about the fact that he needs to solve it rather than about solving it.  It's certainly a pressure situation!

Time counts down, and then Matthew buzzes in at the last possible moment.  Sam's winces as victory is about to be cruelly snatched away from him, looking at Matthew with a pleading expression on his face.  But Matthew has buzzed in only out of desperation to give himself that extra second or two, and he knows he has not solved it.  He says ELONGATES just so he can say something, and if nothing else he has given Sam heart palpitations over this.

Anguish for Sam (click for larger version)

As I said, it took me more than the thirty seconds to find it; I found GALLEONS as an intermediate, and then the adjustment to GALLSTONE was not too hard to find.  If only I'd managed it within time, though...

Matthew: [invalid] (29.5s)
Sam: [invalid] 1s
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Matthew 43, Sam 46, me 43

Another gripping match in a series full of them; it really has been fantastic stuff.  Both contestants played to their strengths well, and either could have taken it.  A tough final conundrum is much better than an easy one, but I am obviously biased in that regard.  Hearty congratulations to all participants in this series, and especially to Matthew and Sam for producing such an excellent final.  Heart-stopping stuff, and I think we can all agree that Sam is a very worthy grand champion.


Mark said...

Congratulations Sam!

Neale M said...

Well done Sam, a worthy champion and a gripping finale.

Victor said...

Lucky Sam got to pick numbers twice! Matthew was certainly no pushover and it definitely wasn't the drubbing some people were expecting. And the agony in Sam's expression when Matthew hit the buzzer! In Matthew's place, I would have let the clock run down to the last second for more suspense even if I had worked out the answer. Maybe Sam was thinking the same thing?

Congrats again to Sam on his several records including most trophies. Is the Masters trophy a replica of the season winners' trophies?

3. 350 = 50*(8 + 4 - 5)
6. 418 = 10*50 - 75 - 7
8. 416 = 6*(75+2) - 50 + 100/25
9. ~2 mins

Sam Gaffney said...

Thanks everyone. The Masters trophy is actually a gold coloured version of the usual silvery series trophies, but I think the colour wasn't apparent, due to the reflections.

I was lucky that none of my close calls through the series turned into losses, I could have been knocked out in a number of episodes.

Matthew was actually the contestant I thought came off as the "coolest" of L&N's 450 episodes, and my template for stage manner (which I could not match). His experience in the entertainment industry gives him an incredibly relaxed demeanour.

I felt I struggled on the letters again in this episode, but watching last night, I think this was largely due to horrendous mixes. Between the Series 4 finals and the Masters, I learned all the full monties that include RETAINS, which turned out to be a dreadful time investment.

I finally got a couple of difficult heavyweight targets that made use of my practice - there were a surprising number of simple rounds in the 14 times I called it.

1. Worried that only DREAMT was valid.

2. This round was my only regret of the episode, as COINERS (or CRONIES) was a word I had prepared for the show, but didn't spot. My brain sort of shut down after spotting the dodgy SCOOBIE (scoob+doobie=invalid), I think I was still a bit drained after the battle royale against Naween 15 minutes prior. Lily suggested that I would have gotten the answer "if it weren't for those pesky kids", which was quite amusing.

3. I was a little annoyed that no-one actually announced what Matthew had requested at first, I had been told a sight gag was coming, but couldn't see his sign and didn't know it was two large, four small. I wasn't assertive enough to protest, though, and it didn't matter in the end: targets divisible by 50 tend to be rather easy to solve.

4. I think I might have been looking for SAFEGUARD here, I was last night! I saw GRADUAL near the end this time, I'd forgotten all about Matthew's LAUDERS.

5. Afterwards I saw FLESHTONE, which David thought was worth looking up (it's not in the Macquarie, if indeed any dictionary).

6. Getting to 350 +/- 7y is one of my set moves; the only change I needed to spot was using the 7 provided, rather than (100+75)/25. If you watch just after I finished writing my answer down, you can see me frantically crossing something out: I accidentally wrote + 100/25 instead of - 100/25, and had to turn the plus into a giant minus! This was the only such boo-boo I made in my 36 number rounds.

7. Another awful letter mix.

8. I answered 416 for the second round in a row. This method of 450 +/- 6y was another very familiar one for me. My hands were a little bit unsteady as I wrote this out, I was very tense. I checked if my fancy method which I used to solve 821 in Ep398 might work, but it would only get to 418 or 415, due to 6 being a multiple of 3. If either of those numbers had been the target, it would have looked spectacular (though irrelevant points-wise), but 417 was a great way for Lily to sign off, she got it quite quickly.

9. I hadn't pre-meditated to jump in early here, but when the letters spun around I must have gotten nervous about Matthew getting in quick. A lady in the audience gasped when I buzzed! Lucky for me it was a really hard one with all of those generic letters and no common fragments, I didn't solve it at any point. I thought Matthew may just have been buying time, which is why I looked anguished but not resigned when he jumped in. I think that 45s is a pretty impressive effort, Geoff, no-one in the audience (which included three other Masters) got it within time.

Finally, there has actually been an inadvertent spoiler about the winner of the Masters Series on the SBS L&N website for a number of weeks, can anyone work out what it is? (It's not in the viewer comment sections, you don't need to scour those.)

Victor said...

Sam: Your "Date Won" is missing? I'm not sure if that's much of a giveaway unless it was up there before and got removed before the masters series. I can't remember.

Victor said...

No! It's your photo. Haha! I was wondering why you and Richard were dressed differently to the series 4 final. The trophy does look a bit more golden there too.

Sam Gaffney said...

Victor wins.

Laura S said...

What a game that was! Congratulations Sam!

I thought it was a pity the Masters series didn't include many potential full monties -- would have made things more fun and interesting. But the whole Masters series was exciting, anyway. Plenty of close games and great players.

Geoff, and others who don't watch it on tv, will have missed out on the announcement they made there after the show last night, saying that sadly there will be no more L&N for now, but said Countdown starts July 30.

Sam, did you have any indication at the time that they were thinking it might be the last episode filmed? I wondered because David made a comment in his little talk about "tying up loose ends" and Richard did not say "see you tomorrow night" at the end of the show. Perhaps they already planned this to be the last...

I'll definitely miss the show, but it was great that the final game was such a memorable one!

Sam Gaffney said...

Hi Laura S, you are right about the full monties, just STAUNCHER and PADEMELON appeared during the Masters, with contestants not finding any. It could be chance, but I wonder if they mixed the letters differently.

If staff knew about L&N being axed, it must have been confidential, as they didn't provide any such hints to us contestants. Mind you, they would have known that SBS's 6pm Tour de France coverage would start screening afterwards, hence no "see you tomorrow night".

Allan S (with Sarah S) said...

Congratulations from me too, Sam!

As pointed out, the word rounds didn't seem too friendly in the masters series; I was disappointed that there were not many long words. But your comebacks with the numbers in the last two shows were great to watch!

The tense smiles/grimaces and the slump-in-despair during the conundrum added to the entertainment. :-) Great still shot there that Geoff has included!!! But it's good that you prevailed in the end; the anguish didn't last too long.

I can understand your annoyance in Round 3; it was clearly planned before, but it's very silly if they didn't tell you what the kind of numbers would be!

Thanks for your comments on this blog too; have been interesting to read.

Sarah S (still 7 months) and I will miss the show too, but thanks for a great finale...

Sam Gaffney said...

Cheers, family S!

Monica Camilleri said...

I have just discovered your blog through the Save Letters and Numbers site and it's fantastic :O)

Since getting a new job I've been unable to watch the show live and have fallen behind with the eps online, but your blog let's me play along with some of the eps I missed. So thanks!

I hope SBS listens to us and brings Letters & Numbers back soon though!

Jan S said...

Like Monica, I have only just found this blog, since the save L&N page was started. Now I wish I had dated or numbered all my pages of working out, so I could see how I went against Geoff!
Sam, congrats - that was a fantastic match, and you are a worthy winner.
And I hope SBS has some sense and brings back my favourite show.

Geoff Bailey said...

Welcome, Monica and Jan S -- great to hear from some new readers; just a shame it is under such circumstances! Whatever happens, there's going to be at least the Tour de France period without the show, and I cannot imagine that they would manage to get the show back on that soon regardless so there'll be at least some Countdown. I am very heartened by all the responses so far, though.

Laura S: Thank you for mentioning the announcement -- I had meant to try and find out if that was the case or not. For many viewers, that would have been the first that they heard about this -- it really has been an abrupt cessation.

Thanks once again for those insights, Sam, and FLESHTONE was an excellent spot even if it's not in the Macquarie. Congratulations on a magnificent run!

Anonymous said...

Congrats Sam. Ya done good.

Andrew Fisher said...

Hi Geoff and others. Well, I've only just discovered this blog (by chance, after googling for another contestant's name) but it's a good read. Funnily enough I never even saw these shows when they were broadcast, perhaps rather horrified by my weak capitulation in the first QF - though of course Toby played very well - but also because I was overseas at the time and never sought them out.

FWIW my declarations here would have been as follows:
DREAMED; BOONIES; 350; GRADUALS; ONESELF (spurning the Scrabble-valid FELSTONE); 415; DAINTY; 413; GALLSTONE, spotted in about 1 second.

It was a pleasure to meet the other contestants in the Masters series, and I would love to take Sam on for a few games. His PADEMELON would certainly have stunned me. Incidentally, SCOOBIES is valid in Scrabble in the plural form only.

Geoff Bailey said...

G'day, Andrew, great to hear from you! Those are pretty good numbers results on those mixes, too (the letterwork, of course, is your usual exceptional standard, if you'll pardon the almost oxymoronic phrase).

I'm sure you're not the only one who would love to see a matchup between you and Sam. (Or simply new games, for that matter, but I digress.)

Thanks for the kind remark about the blog.

Sam Gaffney said...

How does anyone spot GALLSTONE in a second? The letter rounds I can understand, but do Scrabble champions really need such strength in nine-letter words? I'm more in debt to Toby than I first thought (with all due respect to Matthew).

Andrew going out in the quarter-final was an anti-climax, he was the #1 seed and clear anagram king of L&N. It would have been great to have a game (or more) against him, but while a win would have made my trophy more meaningful, a loss could have been heavy! I remember being 22 points down against Naween, it was rather deflating.

Andrew Fisher said...

In answer to the query about finding GALLSTONE quickly - (1) perhaps I had been put on the right track by thinking about FELSTONE, (2) my partner recently had his gall-bladder removed, and (3) I have specifically studied some similar nines including FLAGSTONE

Michael Backhouse said...

Sam, watched this and your previous game where you were behind in the words early on yet came back in the end. Great games.