Saturday, 28 July 2012

Ep 15: Rob York, Andrew Fisher (July 27, 2012; originally aired August 20, 2010)

Rounds: Here.

Disclaimer: This is one of the most well-known games of the show's run; I have seen this episode before (and the latter part twice), although quite some time ago.  There are three letters rounds that I recalled (for reasons that will be obvious in due course), and I'll mention those at the time.  Additionally, I played through the blue book (episodes 1 to 50) around ten months ago when I was scheduled to be a contestant on the show and I did a quick flick through it a few months back to collect words for my posts about word validity.

Rob was in a rock and roll band in the '90s, which Richard uses to segue back to Rob's appearance in musical comedy mentioned yesterday.  Richard asks if Rob has a favourite on-stage musical, and Rob responds that it is a hard question, but that Oklahoma! is the one.

Tonight's challenger is Andrew Fisher, an auditor who has represented both the UK and Australia in Scrabble many times, and his aim is to win the World Scrabble Championship.  Richard remarks that it is quite a serious commitment to Scrabble, and Andrew agrees.  A little later in the conversation it is mentioned that Andrew has co-written a book about how to win Scrabble.

Andrew adds that he has been playing for quite a few years now and has competed in the World Scrabble Championship a few times but never come better than fifth (which he did in both 1999 and 2001), so he would like to go a few better the next time he tries.  He certainly accomplished that, coming second in 2011.

Andrew got off to a significant lead in the first two letters rounds and then three shared rounds followed, including the first full monty found by a contestant -- in fact, it was found by both contestants for a double first.  Andrew extended his lead in the next numbers round and found another full monty in the last letters round.  He finished it all off with a fast solution to the conundrum, and a very impressive 95 to 42 win.  That game score of 95 is still a record, incidentally.

I missed the best option in the first round, but was back on track in the second.  The three remaining letters rounds were the ones that I recalled, and the numbers rounds were not too difficult.  I solved the conundrum faster than Andrew, although obviously I may be memory-aided on that front and I think he was taking a reasonably relaxed approach to it at that stage.  It's hard to read much into all of this given that I recalled some significant rounds, of course.

Round 1: H L A C D I A R S

A duplicated vowel and no E makes this an awkward mix; it wasn't helping that I kept getting distracted by the not-quite-there PILCHARDS.  As it was, I had CLAD, RADIAL, and RADIALS; I was a touch unsure as to whether the noun sense (of a radial-ply tyre) would be listed, but fortunately it is.  After time I noted CHAIRS as a more findable six that I had overlooked.

Rob has CHAIR for five, somehow forgetting to pluralise it, but Andrew has found RADICALS for eight.  David has also found RADICALS.

That is the only eight; the other sevens are RADICAL, DAHLIAS, and ASCARID (one of a family of nematode worms) / ACARIDS (ACARID: "any animal belonging to the Acari (or Acarina), an order of arachnids including the mites, ticks, etc.").


Scores: Rob 0, Andrew 8, me 0

Round 2: E O E R C T P Q N

I had CORE and PERCENT.  I know from various Countdown games that I have played through that PERCENT is not valid there, but that it is listed in the Macquarie as an acceptable variant of PER CENT.

Rob has CREEP for five, but Andrew has found POTENCE for seven.  A very nice spot, that.  David has opted for PERCENT, drawing attention to its validity as an alternative form.

The other seven is PRECENT, a backformed verb from PRECENTOR ("someone who leads a church choir or congregation in singing").

So an early lead of 15 points to Andrew; Rob's numberwork was reasonably week last game, but can he get some ground back on them nonetheless?


Scores: Rob 0, Andrew 15, me 7

Round 3: Target 296 from 50 25 75 3 7 8

I overcomplicated this, but got there nonetheless; my solution was 296 = (7 - 3)*75 - 8*25/50.  As time was running out I saw a solution working up from below, but just could not quite get it finished in time: 296 = 8*25 + 75 + 3*7.

Both contestants have ended up four away with the solution 300 = (75 + 25)*3.  That's a little unusual, as subtracting the seven would have let them get one closer, but Rob is on the board at last.

Lily demonstrates the simpler approach that I should have seen: Retain the (7-3) for the final offset of 4, and see if 300 can be made with the rest.  That gave her the solution 296 = 8*50 - (75 + 25) - (7 - 3).

Rob: 300
Andrew: 300
Me: 296
Lily: 296

Scores: Rob 0 (7), Andrew 15 (22), me 17

First break: ACID RANG ("An item of clothing named after an earl")

While checking up on possible words in the first round my eye had drifted over CARDIGAN, so this was particularly easy for me this time.

David's talk is about the word cocktail.

Round 4: G T S F I A U M E

This is the first of the rounds that I recall.  When I first played it I wanted a final E for FATIGUES and then realised that FUMIGATES was even better.  This time, not surprisingly, I found FIST, AGIST ("to take in and feed or pasture (livestock) for payment"), FUMIGATES, and FATIGUES.  I'm comfortable claiming this full monty since I know I found it the first time.

Both contestants have also found FUMIGATES -- the first time that one contestant has done so, let alone both.  Richard's explanation of the scoring yesterday turns out to have been well-timed!  (Rob does that thing I hate of setting down the pen and gazing around all "nothing more to be done" about things.  Not that it mattered here, I guess, since Andrew had found it possibly even earlier.)

The other eight is FUMIGATE, and the other sevens are FATIGUE, AUGITES (AUGITE being a mineral), FUMIEST, and GAMIEST / SIGMATE ("having the form of the Greek sigma or the letter S").


Scores: Rob 18 (25), Andrew 33 (40), me 35

Round 5: R T I B D A E C O

This is another round that I recalled; I had DIRT, BRAID, BAITER, TRIBADE, BACTEROID ("any of various minute rodlike or branched organisms, many of which are bacteria, as in the root nodules of nitrogen-fixing plants"), ORBITED / DEORBIT, and BROCADE.  I emphatically did not find BACTEROID the first time (but did get one of the many sevens); I know it from this episode only, although I have since kept an eye out for it.  I think I would find it if it turned up again, but it's obviously dubious for me to claim it now so I'm ignoring it this time for scoring purposes.

It's sevens from both contestants, with Rob having the explosive CORDITE and Andrew the chemical CARBIDE.  Andrew remarked that he would "stick with a seven", so he presumably saw at least one longer word that would be legal in Scrabble but was not sure it would be in the Macquarie.  David has found BACTEROID for the nine, and that makes two potential full monties in a row.

There are a lot of sevens in this mix, but the two eights are BORACITE (another mineral) and CERATOID (I mentioned this in episode 361; it means "hornlike; horny").


Scores: Rob 25 (32), Andrew 40 (47), me 42

Round 6: Target 477 from 75 25 4 5 1 2

The target is 2 away from a multiple of 25, so the general approach is clear and there must be enough flexibility to reach it with those numbers.  I went with 477 = 5*75 + 4*25 + 2 at first (this is later revealed to be Lily's solution) and then wrote down the alternative 477 = 4*(5 - 1)*25 + 75 + 2.  Near the end of time I spotted the factor of 9 and that it could be used, but did not quite manage to get the ensuing solution down in time: 477 = (5 + 4)*(75 - 25 + 2 + 1)

Rob is one off the pace with 476, but Andrew has reached the target with 477 = (25 + 75 - 4)*5 - (2 + 1).  A handy result, and I think this marks the first time a contestant has used a solution that involves "tweaking"; that's less surprising in this instance, given Andrew's UK background -- he'll have seen it on Countdown often enough.

Rob: 476
Andrew: 477
Me: 477
Lily: 477

Scores: Rob 25 (32), Andrew 50 (57), me 52

Second break: QUAY TINT ("An amount, size, or weight")

A straight definition for QUANTITY; apropos of nothing, I note that doubling the I would allow ANTIQUITY.

Round 7: A I N E G T R H U

This is the third of the rounds that I recall.  This time I had GAIN, GIANT, GRANITE, EARTHING (EARTH as a verb is "Electricity to establish an earth for (a device, circuit, etc.); join (a conductor) to earth"), and NAUGHTIER.  The first time I played it I found EARTHING well before time, and NAUGHTIER somewhere around the edge of time; I do not recall if I got it written down in time or not, or even if I was writing answers down at that point.  I was also primed to expect a nine-letter word so it is once more a dubious result, but a somewhat defensible one.

Rob, with some amusement since Andrew has declared nine, has the seven of HURTING; Andrew has NAUGHTIER for his second full monty of the game, and the third potential one in a row.  David's comments are a little unclear, but I think his intended meaning is that he had EARTHING but once Andrew declared a nine then David saw NAUGHTIER just before it was said.  In any case, great solving from Andrew!

The other eights are anagrams of EARTHING: HEARTING (HEART being listed with an archaic verb meaning of "to encourage") / INGATHER.  That last is the best to remember, if possible, as it can be extended by an S.


Scores: Rob 25 (32), Andrew 68 (75), me 70

Round 8: Target 320 from 75 25 1 10 2 5

A very easy numbers round finishes off the main rounds.  I started with 320 = (25 + 5 + 2)*10, then explored other ideas to get 320 = 5*75 - 25 - (2 + 1)*10 and 320 = (75 - 10 - 1)*5.  After time I noted a final solution of 320 = (5*75/25 + 1)*2*10.

Both contestants have solved this; Rob used the first of those solutions, while Andrew found yet another way with 320 = (10 + 2 + 1)*25 - 5.

Rob: 320
Andrew: 320
Me: 320

Scores: Rob 35 (42), Andrew 78 (85), me 80


The IMP- and -SION fragments stood out for me, and somewhat to my surprise I had the solution before Andrew.  On the other hand, he was clearly pretty relaxed about the game at this point, and I had seen this conundrum before even if I did not recall it.  Still, nice to get it done.

Rob: [no answer]
Andrew: IMPLOSION (3s)

Final scores: Rob 28 (42), Andrew 78 (95), me 90

Great play from both contestants, and particularly from Andrew who demonstrated complete mastery of the letters and good form with the numbers -- the first contestant to really look capable in both facets of the game.  His game score of 95 set a record that still stands, and there have not been that many opportunities to overtake it -- at least two nine-letter words would be required.  Unsurprisingly, this game also has the highest combined total so far, although it will be overtaken at some point.

With three full monties available in this game and quite solvable numbers throughout, this game is hard to beat in terms of potential score.  As far as I know, only the amazing episode 378 had more potential to it.

As I've mentioned a few times, my score today is clearly not a fair representation.  If I would not have found NAUGHTIER in time then Andrew would have beaten me in the head-to-head by 78 to 72.  I genuinely don't know if I found it properly the first time or not.


Sam Gaffney said...

I didn't bother watching this game from home today, as I had seen it on YouTube within the past twelve months and remembered some of the full monties. For what it's worth, I did solve the conundrum quickly, as I want to see how many seconds Andrew takes each time.

I am interested in seeing the final stats for Andrew and Naween this series; although they beat me on total points over their nine episodes (apparently), I am hoping to pip them on most conundrums solved in less than two seconds (i.e. the 2nd wedge is completely unlit). Should I come up with any more obscure measures I think I have done well on, I will let you know (e.g. greatest number of seemingly identical blue/green shirts worn).

If the whole series airs, hopefully Geoff will be able to give us one of his meticulous statistical breakdowns of every contestant.

Victor said...

Andrew performed brilliantly in this game. I'm not usually much of a conspiracy theorist but I've always found it just a tad suspicious that a game with three full monties coincided with the debut night of one of the world's best word players.

I'm sure the letters mix was changed in later seasons and possibly pre-shuffled sometimes; notably towards the end of series 4 (starting around the week Alan Nash appeared) there was a glut of nines, many games with more than one available and several appearances of NOTARISE (the 8-letter equivalent of the RETSINA mix). This was possibly to break the deficit of contestant full monties for various reasons. I'll also note that prior to this "bounty" period at the end of season 4, the last game which had 2 full monties was Sam's 81 game, over 30 episodes back, and Sam would probably have been identified as a very promising contestant at his audition (and he certainly delivered!).

On that note, Rob Fischer's BURLESQUE was interesting, and while it garnered attention for Lily's incorrect letter pick, it is also worth noting that BURLESQUE is an (extremely) unlikely word to appear at random. It is not a common one either so super impressive work from Rob on finding it.

As for scoring Episode 15, I saw it on YouTube a few days after I first discovered L&N and I recall it well. I do however also remember my score vs. the contestants from watching it back then so we can use that as an unbiased score: 30 points (from the numbers rounds :P)

Jan said...

Well, I hadn't seen this on YouTube, so played along. My one claim to fame in this game was getting the first numbers game, which neither Rob nor Andrew got.

PERCENT (7) I didn't even think this would be 2 separate words
8*50 - 75 - 25=300. 7-3=4. 300-4=296 (10)
(1+5)*75 + 25 + 2= 477 (10)
(5-1)*75 = 300 + 2*10 = 320 (10)

Sam Gaffney said...

Victor, I agree that the letter mixes were a lot nicer in later seasons. Much better vowel combinations (e.g. no triple-A), and fewer QZXJ-type letters. I did have a good audition, including two full monties.

This episode did see three decent-probability full monties come through, as opposed to your good example of BURLESQUE, which is more like a conundrum word (RUBSEQUEL). I don't know if there was any foul play, but I like your lack of blind faith!

Geoff Bailey said...

Nice game, Jan, and it's nice that someone here had not seen it already. *chuckles* I'm afraid it's going to be tough going in the letters for a while but we can hope for some interesting numbers to balance it out.

(Fortunately that's the only one of the series one games that I have watched, excluding the finals.)

Sam might call me naive, but I don't think there's much percentage in the producers trying to organise full monties; it takes very little to throw such an elaborate plan out of whack, and they turn up often enough regardless (on average, about one every two to three episodes). Notice the flow-on effects of a contestant choosing four vowels in one of the first two letters rounds, for instance -- all those full monties disappear.

(And aside from that, stacking the deck simply takes time that they don't really have. Add that random factors might cause them to have to discard a letter -- such as when Daniel Chan's pen ran out in one of the episodes I was in the audience for -- and it really is not worth trying to explicitly organise to happen.)

There's all sorts of correlation bias in play here; good contestants are more likely to make choices that lead to longer words, so full monties accumulate around them. I recall one game, although I don't know how to locate it, where at least three rounds would have produced full monties if the contestants had not chosen poorly. (In my opinion, of course, and hindsight is always twenty/twenty.)

That said, they do change the letter mix from time to time, and that's just good sense. It's appropriate to evaluate whether it is producing desirable results and tinker with the mix occasionally to try to improve that. The distribution during series four is unquestionably different to that of series one, and they changed it again around episode 360.

Victor said...

Good points Geoff and actually my above post reflects my thoughts a while ago - since then I discovered that to increase the probability of longer words it is sufficient to just change the letter frequency in the mix - the randomness of the shuffling can be preserved. So BURLESQUE is really the only word I'm still interested in.

Enough controversy from me, time to buckle up for next week's episodes.

JT said...

I like most people here have watch the episode on Youtube, nevertheless I would of been crushed by Andrew's letter play (slightly better with the numbers, which probably is THE best letters performance ever on L+N, I'm expect I'm in for a very long week next week :/

Geoff Bailey said...

Second-best, I believe, JT. Hopefully we'll get to the other in due course.