Friday, 13 July 2012

Ep 4: Chris Scholten-Smith, Chaitanya Rao (July 12, 2012; originally aired August 5, 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 returns for his fourth night, and the pre-game chat has nothing much to it -- just some banter about his book plans.

I was surprised to see that I recognised tonight's challenger (and this kind of experience is one reason why Letters and Numbers will play better to Australian audiences than Countdown will).  He is Chaitanya Rao, described as an electrical engineer who has spent five years studying his PhD in the US.  He was studying mathematics and then migrated into electrical engineering, which he carried on into postgraduate study.  That's a lot of time spent as a student, which is why he says that if he wrote an autobiography it would be titled "Finally in the real world: A young man's delayed journey".

(I know Chaitanya from the mathematical olympiad training, as I was involved in that training back at the time; he ended up representing Australia in the 1994 International Mathematical Olympiad, where he gained an honourable mention.)

It was an unpromising night for the letters rounds, with nothing longer than seven on offer.  Chris continued his pattern of one invalid answer per game, but picked up a little on the letters rounds as Chaitanya only once exceeded five.  Chaitanya did well on the first numbers round -- a round that proved too tough for Lily within time -- to get within one of the target, and that gave him a single point lead going into the final numbers round.  The victory was there for the taking, but he missed his chance and both contestants were still in contention at the conundrum.  It was Chris who solved it first to record a 47 to 38 point victory for his fourth win.

I started off with an invalid word when I simply could not see one of the more plausible options of that length, which was a shame.  Thereafter I was optimal, including safely (but fortunately) navigating the numbers round that caused Lily to falter.  Coupled with a two second conundrum solution, only that invalid first round prevented my second optimal game in a row, and had I just settled for a safer shorter word I could have outpointed David and Lily.  Still, a good game all things considered.

Round 1: S D E R O I Y E M

I had REDS, RIDES, and DESIRE.  I kept seeing a phantom B to make EMBODIES (with EMBROIDERY another distraction) which wasn't helping, and I was sure that there was a seven but it was just eluding me.  With time running out I wrote down a desperate DORMIES, thinking that it would be a shortening of "dormitory mates" by analogy with ROOMIES as a shortening of "roommates".  Tossing up whether to try it or not -- I was very sure that there was a seven -- I ended up deciding to risk it.

I was relieved to see that DORMIE was a headword, and then disappointed to find out that it was only listed as an adjective: "(of a player or side in golf) being in the lead by as many holes as are still to be played").  That makes DORMIES invalid, and I'll note that ROOMIES is not valid either.

Two other words were distracting me during this search, too.  The first was the not-quite-there MOIDORES (MOIDORE: "a former gold coin of Portugal"); I recalled this from the poem Cargoes by John Masefield that I had to learn in primary school (I think).  The other was also not quite there: SEDARIM, the plural of SEDER in the sense of part of the Hebrew Bible.  The Macquarie does not list this sense in any case, so it would not be valid, but my mind did keep circling back to these two, wasting time.  (SEDARIM is legal in Countdown, I believe, but ADMIRES / MISREAD are more obvious selections from those letters.)

After time I finally saw REMISED as a valid seven (REMISE: "Law to give up a claim to; surrender by deed").  It should have been findable, but I got lost in all the not-quite-there words instead.

Chaitanya has DRIES for five while Chris has realised that his six of DRIERS uses a phantom second R.  David has found MOSEYED for seven (MOSEY: "US Colloquial to stroll; saunter").

The other seven is MISDOER.  Chambers defines EMERODS as a Biblical word for haemorrhoids, and more specifically "representations of them in gold, used as charms".  It comes as no surprise that the Macquarie does not list this word.

Chris: [invalid]
Chaitanya: DRIES
Me: [invalid]

Scores: Chris 0, Chaitanya 5, me 0

Round 2: N A G E S L O V R

I had SANE, SLANG, GLOVES, and GOVERNS.  I briefly speculated on GOVERNALS as perhaps some kind of government journals, but not seriously.  I could not better the seven, but after time I noted down several more of them: ANGLERS, GROVELS, GRAVELS, and ORANGES.

Chaitanya has LOVER for five, somehow missing that he could pluralise it.  Chris has taken advantage of pluralisation with ANGELS as his choice, so that oversight costs Chaitanya six points.  David mentions GROVELS as his seven.

The other sevens are GAOLERS, GLOVERS (makers of gloves), LOANERS, LOVAGES (LOVAGE being a herb), and ONAGERS (ONAGER being both a wild ass and a type of catapult; it has another acceptable plural form of ONAGRI).

Chaitanya: LOVER

Scores: Chris 0 (6), Chaitanya 5, me 7

Round 3: Target 547 from 25 75 10 8 4 4

All those even numbers are a worry, and we do end up with an odd target.  It seems clear that getting there exactly will require offsetting by one of 25 or 75, but getting close should be feasible.  That said, my first line of attack was to descend from 8*75 with the difference being 53; using the 25 was a given in order to get the parity correct, and a tweak of 8*4 contributed another 32 to the cause... in my haste I miscalculated the sum as 67 and wrote down and invalid 547 = 8*(75 - 4) - 25 + 10 + 4, but just got the check done in time to scribble out the 10 to leave the correct 547 = 8*(75 - 4) - 25 + 4.  Phew!

I was quite lucky on this round, with the approach I committed to happening to work out; I had no backup plan in place, so it was all or nothing this time.  After time I noted a findable one-away 548 = 10*(75 - 25 + 4) + 8, and then applied the standard method to get one away in the other direction with 546 = 10*75 - 8*25 - 4.

Chris is two away with 549; I'll guess this was 549 = 8*75 - 25 - 10 - 4*4.  If so, that will be kind of interesting come the final numbers round.  Chaitanya has managed to do one better, though, finding 546 = (10 + 8 + 4)*25 - 4.

Lily has been stumped by this, needing the break for thinking time before she finds the solution 547 = (25*4 + 10 + 8)*4 + 75.  Nice one!

In fact, there's only one other solution, so this was a pretty difficult round.  It is 547 = (75 + 8 + 4)*(10 - 4) + 25.

Chris: 549
Chaitanya: 546
Me: 547

Scores: Chris 0 (6), Chaitanya 5 (12), me 17

First break: CASH TREE ("Sizing up land")

The clue rules out TEACHERS or CHEATERS, and makes it clear that HECTARES is the desired answer.

David's talk is about the German word geist, meaning "spirit" in two senses, which contributes to the English words poltergeist and zeitgeist.

Round 4: T A R U B X E S T

I had TUBA, BREAST, wondered about SUBTAX and SUBTAXER (neither turns out to be valid, and I did not risk the latter), BATTERS, and BUTTERS.  Just after time I saw the preferable SUBTEXT.

Both contestants have six-letter words, with Chris finding EXTRAS while Chaitanya selects BREAST.  As expected, David has opted for SUBTEXT as his seven.

The other sevens are STATURE and BATTUES; BATTUE is a hunting term for the kind of hunt where game is driven from cover into position to be shot.

Chaitanya: BREAST

Scores: Chris 0 (12), Chaitanya 5 (18), me 24

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

I had been hoping for a final R for ACCREDIT, or perhaps a D for DEDICATE, but the magic result would have been an S for DESICCATE.  The actual B was quite unhelpful, and I ended up with just ACTED and ACCEDE.

Both contestants have CITED for five, while David has gone with ACCEDE as his six.

The other sixes are ACETIC, BETIDE, DEBATE, BAITED, DECEIT, and IDEATE ("to form ideas; think").

Chris: CITED
Chaitanya: CITED

Scores: Chris 0 (17), Chaitanya 5 (23), me 30

Round 6: Target 113 from 100 25 5 6 10 9

It seemed likely that there was a simple way to get the 13 from those small numbers, but I ended up overcomplicating it with 113 = 100 + 9 + 6 - (25 - 5)/10.  Then I saw the somewhat more straightforward 113 = 100 + 10 + 9 - 6, which is Lily's eventual solution.

Both contestants have solved this.  Chaitanya worked along similar lines to me but found a simpler way to get the final adjustment by 2: 113 = 100 + 9 + 6 - 10/5.  Heh.  Chris took a different tack with 113 = 100 + 25 + 9 - 5 - 6 - 10.

Chris: 113
Chaitanya: 113
Me: 113
Lily: 113

Scores: Chris 10 (27), Chaitanya 15 (33), me 40

Second break: CLAM ARIA ("Italian for cephalopod")

Moving the final A to the second position yields the answer: CALAMARI.

Round 7: G O F A A H T E A

Chris overdoes the vowels to severely limit the possibilities.  Was he chasing after a second E for GOATEE that he recalled from Tuesday's game?  It's quite possible, and all of the other vowels would have been more helpful, with I allowing HOGTIE, U allowing FOUGHT, and a second O yielding FOOTAGE.

As it was, I had GOAT, HEAT, AGATE, and FAGOT (American spelling of FAGGOT: "a bundle or bunch of anything", although it is most usually applied to sticks).

Chaitanya has HATE for four, but Chris has also found AGATE for five, as has David.  That puts Chris just one point behind, but that could prove a very crucial point if Chaitanya can solve the next numbers round.

Chris: AGATE
Chaitanya: HATE
David: AGATE

Scores: Chris 15 (32), Chaitanya 15 (33), me 45

Round 8: Target 915 from 100 6 4 4 1 3

Chaitanya becomes the first person on the show to opt for a single large number, and gets a large target.  The factor of 3 is clear, although forming 305 may be awkward without that 3.  I went straight to 9*100 and then realised that the remaining smalls cooperated quite nicely to give me the solution 915 = (6 + 3)*100 + 4*4 - 1.

It took me a few minutes after time to manage to get the 3*305 approach to work, but I did emerge with 915 = 3*(4*(100 - 4*6) + 1).  It turns out that these are the only two solutions.

Both contestants declare 909 = (6 + 3)*100 + 4 + 4 + 1.  Chris goes first and Chaitanya has done it the same way, but seeing it written up there he realises the adjustment he should have found to get the solution and mentions it.  Lily says that he stole her thunder a little bit, and explains it again.

So Chaitanya oddly missed his chance to seal the game in this round; ten points would have put him eleven in front going into the conundrum.  As it is either could win it.  If Chris had used 4*4 in the first numbers round as I have guessed then he may have been kicking himself over missing it here.

Chris: 909
Chaitanya: 909
Me: 915
Lily: 915

Scores: Chris 15 (37), Chaitanya 15 (38), me 55


I was a touch slow off the mark here -- I zeroed in on the -NESS fragment immediately, but stumbled slightly working out the remaining letters.  Still, I had the answer after two seconds to complete an almost-optimal game.  Chris solves it just short of six seconds in, and gets his fourth win and a probable spot in the finals.

Chris: HAPPINESS (5.5s)
Chaitanya: [no answer]

Final scores: Chris 15 (47), Chaitanya 15 (38), me 65

So Chris gets his fourth win, and once again he is in the high forties.  Can he get past the fifty mark tomorrow?  For that matter, can he become the show's first retiring champion?  He might need some luck to do so; Chaitanya only narrowly missed out on demonstrating that a decent grasp of the numbers may well be enough to unseat Chris.  Maybe if Chris were to choose fewer vowels then some longer words would become available; if he does have an advantage there then so far it has been reduced by the paucity of long words on offer.


Jan said...

Geoff and Sam,
Thanks for your comments about writing down (or not) the letters, and also guiding me to Jacob's comments.
I am going to try different ways and see where it gets me.

My efforts
Rd 1 - invalid. I tried DORMIES too
Rd 3 stuffed that up
Rd 5 - CITED (5)
Rd 6 - 100+10+9-6 = 113 (10)
Rd 7 - GATE (0)
Rd 8 - (3+6)*100=900. 4*4-1=15. 100+15=115 (10)
And got the conundrum in time. Was watching it thru my computer so hard to tell if I got it before or after Chris, but it was close either way, so I'll count it (10)

Total 49 and Chris (against me) 46

I was cranky with myself for not seeing AGATE, and stuffing up the 1st number game, but apart from those, happy with my game.

Sam Gaffney said...

Very nice work on Round 3, Geoff. Shortly after time I succeeded with your approach by targeting 572-25. In theory I should have tried this first with all the even numbers, but as you say, it becomes all-or-nothing this way, and slightly harder, as you have to hit your new target with just five numbers.

My answers:
546 = (75-10)*8 + 25 + 4/4
113 = 100+10+9-6
- (risked AGATHA over AGATE, thought it was a flower)
915 = (6+3)*100 + 4*4 - 1

Jan said...

Oops - rd 8, should have been 900+15=915
Sorry about that

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Sam -- but it really was luck that it worked out. I'd have been left with nothing at all if not for that. I love MISERY as a word in the first round -- nice find! A shame about AGATHA; may you were thinking of AGAPANTHUS?

You might have just pipped me by a point on faster conundrum speed -- close game!

Glad to be of help, Jan, and my sympathies to you on DORMIES. Once again, though, you're giving Chris points on rounds where you beat him -- the head-to-head score (assuming you solved the conundrum first) would actually be 49 to 27.

Some good rounds from you, and nothing wrong with the round three result -- it was very easy to come unstuck on that one.

As far as AGATE goes, it has proven elusive on other occasions, noticeably episode 436 where David missed the possibility of AGATES in round 5.