Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Ep 2: Chris Scholten-Smith, Nick Taubert (July 10, 2012; originally aired August 3, 2010)

Disclaimer: While I have not seen this episode before, I did play through the blue book (episodes 1 to 50) around ten months ago when I was scheduled to be a contestant on the show.  Additionally, I did a quick flick through it a few months back to collect words for my posts about word validity.

Chris is the show's first carryover champion, but the talk with him today is just about yesterday's game coming down to the conundrum.  Did we already run out of things to say about him?  I noticed that the contestant introductions so far have been a bit more information-dense than in more recent episodes; maybe they started off by mentioning everything and then realised that this left them poorly placed for later shows with the same contestant.  Or maybe it was just that they felt more like talking up yesterday's show at this point.

Challenging Chris is Nick Taubert, an administrator for a superannuation company.  Nick also works for a children's charity, and has played indoor soccer for eight years.  But it is another recent experience of his that Richard chooses to ask about: For the past year Nick and his housemates have been participating in couch surfing, where people who are travelling stay on their couch for a night or two.  Nick describes it as a brilliant way to meet people from all over the world.

This game was a much more one-sided affair than last night's effort, with Nick twice seeing phantom letters and ending up with invalid words.  Chris had an invalid word of his own in the first round, but picked up gains in both letters and numbers rounds to be safe after round seven.  The conundrum proved to be too difficult for both contestants and Chris gained his second win, 47 to 19.

I had a reasonable game today, but missed several better answers with the letters.  Two of those I found not long after, and a third I should have seen as it is a frequent appearer on the show.  That was a bit disappointing, but my answers were still adequate.  The conundrum was also too difficult for me -- vastly harder than last night's doddle -- but I still finished with a solid win.

Round 1: S N E L I T O M U

I had LENS, LINES, LISTEN, MOISTEN, and OUTLINES.  That final vowel held out the promise of being an E for LIMESTONE / MILESTONE (or an I for LIMONITES, but I'd not have found that), but the U was still a decent addition.  After time I noted an anagram of OUTLINES: ELUTIONS (ELUTION being a noun derived from the verb ELUTE: "in chromatography, etc., to remove by dissolving, as absorbed material from an adsorbent").

Nick has STOLEN for six, while Chris declares the unusual MOULTEN for seven.  The Macquarie does not list it, though, so his choice is invalid.  My Chambers does mention it, as it turns out -- it is a Shakespearean term for "having moulted".  It's no wonder the Macquarie does not list it, but Chris was a little unfortunate there with his Scrabble vocabulary working against him.  David has found OUTLINES for his eight.

The other eights are EMULSION and LINEOUTS (LINEOUT being a term from rugby league; thanks for commenter Jan for pointing this out to me, as I'd been under the impression it was hyphenated).

The other sevens are UTENSIL / LUNIEST (variant spelling of LOONIEST), MINUTES / MINUETS, ELUTION / OUTLINE, MOULINS (MOULIN: "a nearly vertical shaft or cavity worn in a glacier by surface water falling through a crack in the ice"), MOTILES (MOTILE: "someone in whose mind motor images are predominant or especially distinct"; I've mentioned the similar concept of an AUDILE a few times), ELUSION ("the act of eluding"), and LOMENTS (LOMENT: "a legume which is contracted in the spaces between the seeds, and breaks at maturity into one-seeded indehiscent joints").

MELTON is "a smooth heavy woollen cloth, used for coats, hunting jackets, etc.".  If that is considered pluralisable then MELTONS would be the other seven, but LOMENTS would be the safer option from those letters.

Chris: [invalid]

Scores: Chris 0, Nick 0 (6), me 8

Round 2: R A B A T E C O W

I had a bit of trouble getting settled with this mix.  I wondered whether ARAB (in the horse sense) might have lost the capital letter (it has not), then had ABATE, and a fairly late spot of ABREACT ("to experience an abreaction").  After time ran out I considered BOAT, and immediately saw BOATRACE for eight; I also noted ACROBAT as another seven, and saw AEROBAT but knew from past experience that the Macquarie does not list that term.

Chris has BOATER for six, while Nick has opted for BARTER.  But that needs a second R, and Nick's answer is invalid.  David has found BOATRACE as expected, giving the drinking competition definition; the Macquarie does also list the more prosaic sense of "a race between rowing boats".

That seems to be the only eight, and the other seven is CABARET.

Nick: [invalid]

Scores: Chris 0 (6), Nick 0 (6), me 15

Round 3: Target 744 from 25 100 6 3 8 4

I started by looking at the nearby multiples of 100, and then noted that the difference from 800 was 56, which was also handily divisible by 8.  That quickly gave me the solution 744 = 8*(100 - 4 - 3).  After time I looked at the standard method, with the target being 6 away from 750.  That yielded the solution 744 = 6*(100 + 25) - 6, where one of those sixes is 3*8/4.

Somewhat later I looked at the factorisation a bit more closely, realising that it was 24*31 and finding the solution 744 = (25 + 6)*3*8.

I'll note that there was a technical hiccup (from the viewer's perspective) in this round -- with a touch over ten seconds to go the camera switched to a shot of both contestants but lost the overlay of the numbers and target in the process.  That was a bit vexing.

Nick is seven away with 737, but Chris is just four away with 748 = 100*8 - 25 - 3 - 4*6.  Lily demonstrates the nice solution 744 = (3*8 + 100)*6.

(There's an instance here of the cast not yet being familiar with each other's mannerisms, as Richard talks over Lily slightly when she is about to explain her answer.)

Chris: 748
Nick: 737
Me: 744
Lily: 744

Scores: Chris 0 (13), Nick 0 (6), me 25

First break: GIRL DOCK ("This tends to happen at peak hour")

A straight enough clue for GRIDLOCK.

David's talk is about words related to left and right, and the connotations associated to each that -- as a left-hander -- he feels are a bit unfair.  He mentions that associated to right we have dextrous, adroit, and right-hand man, which are all positive terms, while left leads to terms like sinister, gauche, and left-handed compliment which are all negative terms.

Round 4: R A R E T E S Y F

I had RARE (of course), wondered about RATER (it is not valid, but TERRA is), ARREST, RAFTERS (avoiding FARTERS, which turns out to be just as well as the Macquarie does not list it [Update: FARTER does turn out to be listed after all, as an alternative term for FART SACK, colloquial for "a bed or sleeping bag"]), and FEASTER.  After time I saw FERRATES for eight -- that's two letter rounds in a row where I've just been too slow to see the better option; bother.

(The Macquarie gives the following rather odd definition of FERRATE: "a salt of the hypothetical ferric acid".  They seem to generally define -ATE chemicals as salts of acids, which puts them in this kind of silly position when the acid does not exist as such.  The Wikipedia article on FERRATE may not be noticeably more enlightening, but at least avoids that absurdity.)

Nick has STEER for five, while Chris has FASTER for six; David lives up to expectations by finding FERRATES, and it does seem to be the only eight.

The other sevens are FERRATE, FERRETS, FERRETY, STRAFER / FRATERS (FRATER: "a brother; comrade"), FEARERS, STRAYER, and SERRATE ("having notches or teeth along the edge"; it also has a verb sense).

This round puts Chris more than a conundrum's worth ahead, so Nick has some catching up to do.


Scores: Chris 0 (19), Nick 0 (6), me 32

Round 5: S C E A G B O E T

I had CASE, CAGES, and BEGETS.  That was where I stayed within time, which was perhaps a bit fortunate for me.  Not long afterwards I saw ECOTAGE ("sabotage carried out for ecological reasons") and wondered about ECOTAGES as a possible plural form.  But either way would have been wrong, as the Macquarie does not list the term; I know that ECOTAGE (the word, not the action!) is legal in Countdown, which is where I first came across it.

Both contestants have also found BEGETS, but David has found the seven that I could not: GOATEES.  Oh, dear, that's a relatively common vowel dump for this show, and I should have found it.

The other sevens are ACETOSE (variant form of ACETOUS: "sour; vinegary") and BOSCAGE ("a mass of growing trees or shrubs; woods, groves, or thickets"; it can also be spelled BOSKAGE).

The other sixes are GOATEE, EGESTA ("matter egested from the body, as excrement"), and COSTAE (plural of COSTA: "a rib or riblike part"; incidentally, don't try RIBLIKE -- the Macquarie does not list it, which seems a bit unfair given that they use it in their definition here).


Scores: Chris 6 (25), Nick 6 (12), me 48

Round 6: Target 375 from 50 25 7 9 10 1

Nick also asks for two large and four small, which Lily calls her favourite combination.  I guess there's not been much to compare against so far, with only Elaine trying something different once.  I recall Lily in much later episodes stating a preference for three of each.

The target is familiar to those who have studied the 75-times table as 5*75, but getting a five requires a little work.  While I was considering that I looked for simpler options and found 375 = 7*50 + 25.  Then I considered using 25 alone, as the cofactor was an easily-formed 15; this gave me 375 = 25*(9 + 7 - 1).  And just before time ran out I got down an answer using the original idea: 375 = (50 + 25)*(10 / (9 - 7)).

Nick "bombed out" in his words, but Chris has solved it exactly with the first of those solutions I listed.  That extends his lead to 23 points, and if he does not lose ground on the next letters round he will be guaranteed the win.

Chris: 375
Nick: [no answer]
Me: 375

Scores: Chris 16 (35), Nick 6 (12), me 58

Second break: OVEN PEEL ("Something other than words that contains letters")

A nice clue for ENVELOPE.

Round 7: H N U I V A I D O

It looks like Chris really wanted an E, but when it doesn't arrive the mix is pretty ugly and unhelpful.  On the other hand, that could just have been strategy on his part, since an unhelpful mix is good for him.

I had VAIN, DIVAN, AVOID, wondered about UNAVOID and AVIOID but correctly rejected them, HOUND, and VIAND.

Chris has HOUND for five, but Nick has fallen victim to a phantom letter again by trying INVADE.  That is invalid, and sinks his chances (but so would a five-letter word, of course).  David could only find fives himself; the one he mentions specifically is DIVAN.

The other fives are AUDIO and IODIN (variant spelling of the element iodine).  A little surprisingly, no special plural form is given for OIDIUM ("one of a chain of spores budded off from the end of the hyphae of a fungus, which attacks the green parts of a grape vine"), so OIDIA is not another valid five.

While checking on AVIOID (still invalid) I stumbled upon what seems to be the only six: AVIDIN is "a protein found in the white of egg which combines with biotin causing a biotin deficiency in the diet of the consumer".

Chris is guaranteed the win now, and it is just a question of the margin.

Chris: HOUND
Nick: [invalid]
David: DIVAN

Scores: Chris 21 (40), Nick 6 (12), me 53

Round 8: Target 708 from 50 100 9 10 7 6

The first thought was to work up from 700, but getting an 8 is difficult.  Happily for me, I noticed that 7*6 was 8 away from a multiple of 50, giving me the solution 708 = 7*(100 - 6) + 50.  After time I saw that dividing by 10 provided a way to get that 8 after all: 708 = 7*100 + 50/10 + 9 - 6.  Dividing a large number by a small one is not always easy to spot, but occasionally quite useful.

Both contestants are one away with 709 = 100*7 + 9.  Lily has accurately found the second of those solutions above, which she phrases as finding the final adjustment of 1 = 6 - 50/10 from the 709 that the contestants found.

Chris: 709
Nick: 709
Me: 708
Lily: 708

Scores: Chris 21 (47), Nick 6 (19), me 63


A tough conundrum to finish the game with; I got hung up on the OVER- fragment, and that got me nowhere.  Neither contestant solved it within time, and I still could not do so after several minutes of further thought.  This was much more difficult than yesterday's one!

Near the end of the time I spent thinking about it I did spot the possible EAVE fragment, but still could not manoeuvre that into EAVESDROP.

Chris: [no answer]
Nick: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Chris 21 (47), Nick 6 (19), me 63

This game felt a little less satisfying that yesterday's effort, with the first few rounds not living up to the potential they offered.  On the other hand, it's nice to see the numbers having a significant influence, and both contestants did well to find BEGETS in round five.  Still no chance of a full monty, I'm sure that David's just itching for one to turn up.  Maybe tomorrow?


Mike Backhhouse said...

Geoff and/or others

I notice many contestants pick their letters in groups of consonants or vowels, at least initially. Is there any advantage to this?

At home, I alternate vowels and consonants in the hope of finding word fragments.

Jan said...

Hi Geoff,

I got to watch it yesterday, not just listen, but still couldn't get the conundrum. Like you I spent ages working with the 'over' to no avail.

And isn't Lily so neat on the board.

Rd 1- lineouts - I am thinking this is not valid. If only I had written down outlines!
Rd 2 - boater (6)
Rd 3 - (100+25)*6=750-5=745 (7)
Rd 4 - another invalid word I think - feaster
Rd 5- beast (0)
Rd 6- 7*50+25=375 (10)
Rd 7- divan (5)
Rd 8- 7*100 +9=709 (7)
And no luck with the conundrum
My score against the contestants, but not you! Was 35

I think I need a Macquarie dictionary. What a shame I can't go on the show and get one!


Sam Gaffney said...

My answers:

ACROBAT (wanted an I for BACTERIA)
744 = (100-4-3)*8
HOUND (considered the invalid HOUDINI)
708 = (100-6)*7+50
(several minutes)

Geoff Bailey said...

Nice to hear from you all; I'll respond to Mike's query below, but first some comments on the results.

Excellent game from you, Sam, with GOATEES getting you the win over me. Also, great vision to see the potential of HOUDINI, and good judgement to reject it.

Some good work from you too, Jan; you've underscored yourself, though -- FEASTER is valid (it was the last of the words I listed in my "written down within time segment"). That bumps you up to 42, and a comfortable eight point win over Chris.

LINEOUTS was a good spot, too, even though probably invalid; I'll check up on it tonight, but I'm pretty sure that it requires the hyphen: LINE-OUTS.

Another possibility that I will have to check is MOUNTIES; the Macquarie's online solver allows MOUNTIE, but I seem to recall the hardcopy only lists it with a capital letter.

And yes, Lily's neatness in these early episodes is an interesting contrast to later on. The cast definitely loosened up once they became more comfortable with the format and with each other.

With respect to Mike's query, people have different styles in the selection that may help them in different ways. A lot of Scrabble players, for instance, have word lists memorised by the available vowels, so will choose three (or more) vowels first. Sam does this, too.

Some people like to get a good mix going so that they can build words as they go, so will typically start with a pattern like CVCCVCV or a straight alternation. Others find that having a list of consonants helps them focus on possibilities better than vowels do.

My personal style is to write down the letters in separate groups of consonants and vowels. I initially selected them for the build-as-you-go option (CVCCVCV or similar) but after my first or second game I realised that I was potentially handing opponents an advantage if there was an obvious fragment on the board (like you mention looking for) -- I would not see it due to having already split the letters up.

Consequently, I shifted to batching the consonants and vowels so as to avoid accidentally doing that. Were I to do it over, I would almost certainly start with a CCCCVVV pattern (to put out those Scrabble players), and then decide about the last two based on what had been seen so far. On the other hand, if my opponent showed signs of liking consonants first I might well reverse it to VVVCCCC. I was generally happy with all orders, which left me the flexibility to slightly put out an opponent by choosing oppositely to them.

Sam Gaffney said...

I saw MOUNTIES, and have declared it while playing home before, but it is only listed in capitalised form.

Mike, with consonant/vowel selection, both players have the same letters to deal with, so any ordering advantage is limited to what works for you. I found having to decide to be a distraction sometimes.

Geoff Bailey said...

Yes, MOUNTIES is only listed capitalised; not sure why the target solver is allowing that -- maybe they decapitalised it since?

And good news for you, Jan: LINEOUTS is valid. I've updated the post to include it.

Mike Backhhouse said...

Thank you Geoff and Sam for your insights.

I was doing what was easier for me, but I can see that if you're a contestant, strategically one would want to minimise word fragments also being apparent to one's opponent.

Jan said...

Thanks Geoff for looking up lineouts for me. See you tomorrow :)