Saturday, 14 July 2012

Ep 5: Chris Scholten-Smith, Jason Stockdale (July 13, 2012; originally aired August 6, 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.

Nothing much to the pre-game chat with Chris again.  Tonight's challenger is Jason Stockdale, who is studying a double degree in commerce and law.  Jason has a part-time job as a soccer referee on weekends, and is also a highly competitive Scrabble player.  In fact, he placed seventh in the recent (at the time of filming) 2010 Australian Championship.  Readers with good memories will notice a few Letters and Numbers contestants among his opponents, and in particular that he managed to beat Andrew Fisher.

There were some much better words in play tonight, which was nice to see.  Jason appeared to pay the price of the Scrabble vocabulary, twice ending up with invalid words, while Chris managed to avoid that fate (for the first time) and it proved an important difference.  Jason had slightly the better of the numbers rounds, but it was Chris who had the lead by a single point going into the conundrum.  In the end it proved to be too difficult for them both, and Chris scraped through with a 38 to 37 win, his lowest score so far.  (Note that if he had solved the conundrum he would have ended up yet again with a score in the high forties.  He's arguably quite consistent!)

I had a fairly mixed game.  I found some good words early on, but the first was tainted by foreknowledge.  My numberwork was on target throughout, but I finished with two invalid words and failed to solve the conundrum, ending the game on a disappointing note.  I'd done enough to win, but it could have been significantly better.

Round 1: P I J E S D O A L

After the first three letters I had a memory of David commenting in the finals that JALOPIES had been found during the series.  It proved to be this round, and so my result is tainted.  I had PIES, SPIDE, ADIPOSE ("fatty"), and JALOPIES.  Searching for another eight so that I could validly claim a result I spotted EPISODAL, but strongly suspected that the Macquarie would only list EPISODIC (as turned out to be the case).  That left me unhappily declaring JALOPIES.

Both contestants declare eight-letter words; Jason has EPISODAL while Chris has JALOPIES.  David checks up on EPISODAL and comes back with the sad news that the Macquarie only lists EPISODIC and EPISODICAL, so Jason's word is invalid.  I'll note that Chambers lists EPISODAL and EPISODIAL as synonymous with EPISODIC, so Jason was rather unlucky here.  A great opening round from both contestants, even if only Chris gets the points.

David also had found JALOPIES, and comments about having one out in the car park.

It does seem to be the only eight; the other sevens are DEPOSAL, OEDIPAL (mentioned as usually upper case, but need not be), DESPOIL / SPOILED / DIPOLES (DIPOLE: "a pair of equal and opposite electric charges or magnetic poles, forces, etc.") / DIPLOES (DIPLOE: "the cancellate bony tissue between the hard inner and outer walls of the bones of the cranium"), and PALSIED / ELAPIDS (ELAPID: "any snake of the family Elapidae [...]").

Jason: [invalid]

Scores: Chris 8, Jason 0, me 8

Round 2: M S E U H E R N O

I had MUSE, MUSH, USHER (overlooking MUSHER, somehow, which turns out to be valid), RHEUMS, and HORSEMEN.

Both contestants have six-letter words this time; Chris chooses MOURNS while Jason has HOMERS.  David has HORSEMEN and HOUSEMEN (plural of HOUSEMAN: "a male member of the medical staff of a hospital, commonly a recent medical graduate acting as assistant to a physician or surgeon") for eight.

Those look like the only eights; the other sevens are UNHORSE, REHOUSE, and MOREENS (MOREEN: "a heavy fabric of wool, or wool and cotton, commonly watered, used for curtains, petticoats, etc.").


Scores: Chris 8 (14), Jason 0 (6), me 16

Round 3: Target 968 from 100 50 3 2 7 5

I pulled out the factor of 8 to start with, and the cofactor is 121 which is 11*11.  I saw an easy way to 121 as 100 + 3*7, which left the others numbers needing to provide an eight.  Fortunately they did, and I had the solution 968 = (100 + 3*7)*(50/5 - 2).

A bit of searching after time for a more traditional approach finally turned up the alternative 968 = 5*(2*100 - 7) + 3.  Hard to tell how feasible that was to find within time.

Neither contestant has quite managed to get there; Chris is 13 away with 955, while Jason is 11 away -- only barely outside the scoring range -- with 957.  I'm far from certain what happened here; it feels like they must have reached 950 with only one useful small remaining, so they must have bypassed the options of 9*100 + 50 and 10*100 - 50, both of which would allow getting closer.  So I'm going to guess that Chris had 955 = (3*7 - 2)*50 + 5 -- if so, note that adding 100/5 instead would have seen him just two off the target -- and that Jason had 957 = (3*5 + 2)*50 + 100 + 7.  All highly speculative, of course!

(Another option for Jason's answer would be 957 = (5 + 3 + 2)*100 - 50 + 7; if so, that method of forming the 10 was too costly; 2*5, or 7 + 3, would both allow getting closer.)

Lily has found a solution, once again making it look easy with 968 = (100 - 3)*(50/5) - 2.  Nicely done, Lily.

There's a few other solutions, with perhaps one of the more findable approaches being 9*102 + 50.

Chris: [not in range]
Jason: [not in range]
Me: 968
Lily: 968

Scores: Chris 8 (14), Jason 0 (6), me 26

First break: FAB FLING ("This one is tricky")

It's not that tricky, with a simple swap of the first F and the B revealing the answer of BAFFLING.

David's talk is about different names for the @ symbol in various languages or cultures.

Round 4: T C H E I O R L A

I had ETCH, CHOIR, CLOTHIER ("a maker or seller of cloth or clothers"), LORICATE ("covered with a lorica"; a lorica is "a hard protective case or sheath [...]"), and AEROLITH (variant form of AEROLITE: "a meteorite consisting mainly of stony matter").  After time I noted CHAROITE (a rather unusual gemstone, found only near the Charo river in Siberia) as another eight; I recall David finding the full monty CHAROITES at some point during the show's run.  I also spotted the chemical term CHELATOR, but correctly suspected that the Macquarie would not list it (it is in Chambers).

Again the contestants declare matching lengths; this time Chris has CHOLERA -- reminding me of the series four grand final -- while Jason has opted for THEORIC.  According to my Chambers, that is a Shakespearean term for THEORY, so it is no surprise that the Macquarie does not list it.  That's unfortunate for Jason, but there were quite a few much safer sevens to be found.

David notes CHORTLE as another seven but has found HEROICAL for eight.

The other eights are ACROLITH ("a sculptured figure having only the head and extremities made of marble or other stone"), CHLORITE, and CHLORATE / TROCHLEA ("a pulley-like structure or arrangement of parts affording a smooth surface upon which another part glides, as a tendon or bone").

Thanks to those two invalid words from Jason, Chris now has a handy lead of more than the conundrum.  Jason needs to get back some of that lost ground quickly.

Jason: [invalid]

Scores: Chris 8 (21), Jason 0 (6), me 34

Round 5: N U W R E E S Z I

I had RUNE, WERE, NEWER, ENSURE, INSURE / INURES, wondered about UNWIRES, and at the last moment got SUZEREIN down.  Then I realised that the word I wanted was actually spelled SUZERAIN ("a sovereign or a state exercising political control over a dependent state"), which was disappointing as it would have been a strong candidate for the best word I've found while playing.  I mentally flipped a coin and risked UNWIRES, but it is not valid.  Bother.

Chris has found the very nice WIZENS (WIZEN: "to wither; shrivel; dry up") for six, but Jason has found the even nicer SEIZURE for seven precious points and to get back within striking distance.  David states it as the best to be found.

The other sevens are NEWSIER / WIENERS.

Me: [invalid]

Scores: Chris 8 (21), Jason 7 (13), me 34

Round 6: Target 792 from 50 100 75 8 4 1

Jason becomes the first person to choose three of each, which is nice to see.  It stands out quite clearly as being 800 - 8, and a quick tweak sees one home: 792 = 8*(100 - 1).  As expected, this turns out to be Lily's solution also.

Chris is four off the pace with 796, while Jason is one closer with 795 = 8*100 - 4 - 1.  Did Chris somehow overlook subtracting the 1, or did he have a more convoluted approach to matters?  In any case, that tightens up the scores greatly, with just a single point separating the contestants now.  That's a good recovery from Jason after the disappointments of those invalid words, but things would be much better again for him if he'd found the tweak.

Chris: 796
Jason: 795
Me: 792
Lily: 792

Scores: Chris 8 (21), Jason 7 (20), me 44

Second break: NOSE QUIT ("A sentence designed to elicit a response")

Reasonably simple to get QUESTION from those letters.

Round 7: B U A D T E R O T

I had DAUB / BAUD ("a unit for measuring the speed with which electronic data is transmitted, especially in computers"; I remember the old 300 baud modems... quite the relic of the past, now), BUTTER, BATTER, DOUBTER, and OUTRATED.

Just after time I noted in quick succession REDOUBT ("an isolated work forming a complete enclosure of any form used to defend a prominent point"), OBDURATE ("hard-hearted"), and OBTURATED (OBTURATE: "to stop up; close").  My disappointment at missing a findable nine -- the first of the show's run! -- is increased by discovering that OUTRATED is not valid.  In fact, I had had some niggling doubts about it but unwisely ignored them; they were well-founded doubts as I had noted that OUTRATED was not valid back in episode 319.  Bother.

Sevens from both contestants, with Chris have DOUBTER and Jason having ABORTED.  David is excited to be able to report finding OBTURATED, the show's first nine-letter word.  Bravo, David!

Me: [invalid]

Scores: Chris 15 (28), Jason 14 (27), me 44

Round 8: Target 475 from 100 50 75 1 4 7

Jason sticks with the balanced mix, but gets an easy target.  Everyone has 475 = 4*100 + 75 in short order, although I also wrote down 475 = 7*75 - 50 for good measure.

Chris: 475
Jason: 475
Me: 475

Scores: Chris 25 (38), Jason 24 (37), me 54


Down to the conundrum with just a single point separating them.  Jason has done well to get close despite some setbacks, but still needs to solve the conundrum to win.  It isn't an easy one, either, and I keep profitlessly circling back to -ABLE and -IBLE.  Time ends up running out with neither solving it, and Chris just barely survives to get to his sixth game.

I did not bother starting the timer this time, so I don't know how long it took me to solve this; it was probably around another thirty seconds after time expired before I saw GLOBALISE.

Chris: [no answer]
Jason: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Chris 25 (38), Jason 24 (37), me 54

A close game with an important finish.  Chris had some lovely finds tonight -- JALOPIES, WIZENS, CHOLERA -- as did Jason with SEIZURE and EPISODAL.  Unfortunately for Jason, EPISODAL was not listed, and that was just one of several small things that could have gone differently to give him the win.  The first numbers round could have been the key; just getting within scoring range would have given Jason five points and the win -- and he was only one outside it.  So close!

If Chris had solved the conundrum he would have had yet another score in the high forties.  He got through, perhaps a little luckily, and could well be the show's first retiring champion.  We'll find out on Monday whether he is.

The first week finishes with the show's first full monty, and excellent work throughout from David and Lily.  The next episode will be from a different day of filming, so it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes are made as a result of lessons learned from this week.


Sam Gaffney said...

My numbers are getting rusty - I haven't been practising now that there is less prospect of being dredged up for another episode (Master Masters, Grand Masters, Masters of the Universe).

My answers:

- (probably too late in writing 959)
CHORTLE (felt like there could have been a nine here)
INSURE (ignored the Z until too late)
792 = (100-1)*8
ABUTTED (also OUTBRED, got OBDURATE later, hadn't heard of the full monty)
475 = 7*75-50
~12s (also wasted time on -IBLE/ABLE)

Jan said...

Hi Guys,

I had a pretty good game, and I would have beaten Chris again, but not you and Sam.

I've bought myself a bigger notebook, since I am longer writing down the letters in neat rows! It helps, I think.

1. JALOPIES - was really pleased to find that (8)
2. MOURNS, HOMERS - totally missed the 'men' ending (6)
3. (7+2)*100 + 50 + 5*3=965 (7)
4. stuffed up this one, with an invalid word
5. WIENERS (7)
6. 8*100-1-4=795 (7)
Found Lily's solution before she said it, but not in the 30 seconds
7. ABORTED (7)
8. 4*100+75=475 (10)
9. No luck with the conundrum

Total score 52 (Chris against me 38 - I think)

JT said...

I was completly unaware that SBS were reapeating the second season a pleasant suprise, I've don't believe I've seen the first season (may of seen of some of Naween's games but I'm not sure) but i do have the book for this season. I will note a few things about the numbers from season 1
-lack of tweaking
-no "names" for the mixes
-people picking two large a lot
_Richard always asks what contestants would like rather than pressure people into different combinations

I will comment more and also I look forward to games which had the season 1 champions.

Geoff Bailey said...

*laughs* Are you encouraging me to picture you as Skeletor, Sam?

More good results from you, Jan -- JALOPIES and WIENERS were excellent finds!

JT: I've noticed those differences, too. I'm looking forward to seeing how the various aspects developed that have since become familiar to us.

Jason Stockdale said...

Hi all!

I just got linked to this page by my friend. What a fantastic blog.

I am Jason Stockdale, and I am ashamed to say that I had an awful game. I beat Chris in every episode that I watched them film the day we filmed mine only to fall up short at the final hurdle when it was my turn. How disappointing.

I can say that after I lost this game I did not watch an episode of Letters and Numbers and still have not. I really enjoyed my experience but such a painful loss hurt quite a lot (MAN UP I can hear you saying!); there were lots of points to be found and I really should have scored in the 50s!

Maths is clearly not my strong point. I practiced as much as I could before the filming but unfortunately didn't get good enough to get the points.

For the record; that 7th I got in the Australian National Championships was the final Scrabble tournament I played in also. Finished on a high! My word knowledge is not great compared to some of the great players like Naween and Andrew, but instead my game was focused on an enormously strategic game which turned out to work for that tournament.

I grew out of my love for words, but I hope that you followers never do!

Here's a sneaky bit of trivia I bet you didn't know! Upon the filming of my episode, they accidentally showed the final 9 letter combination SOLVED WORD on our little computer screens instead of the jumble! They had to instead use the back up word and we had to restart the filming. The first word was a lot easier (I do forget it now) and I got it straight away - I think Chris may have too though. That would have made for an interesting last round!

Anyway, great post, and good work you beat me and Chris quite easily!

Cheers & long live the power of words

Geoff Bailey said...

Great to hear from you, Jason! It's always nice when another former player drops by. I think I would say, though, that you actually played pretty well but the Macquarie was not kind to you. And all of us who have been on the show can relate to how that first game often requires a bit of settling; it's always much easier from the audience!

Thanks for the behind-the-scenes insight; it's a very interesting snippet. I imagine they had a lot of wrinkles to iron out early on.