Monday, 16 July 2012

Ep 6: Chris Scholten-Smith, Alan Stewart (July 16, 2012; originally aired August 9, 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.

Since this is the first time it has come up, Richard explains the mandatory retirement of champions after six wins.  Chris notes that he can see that he will be addicted to the show once he gets a chance to go home and view it on television.

Standing (or sitting, if you wish to be pedantic) between Chris and successful retirement is tonight's challenger, Alan Stewart.  Alan is an editor and a poet; he collects board games and stamps.  He also organises science fiction conventions, and his dream is to travel into space.  Richard picks up on the science fiction aspect, and asks whether Alan has a favourite science fiction book and film.  Alan opts for Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe, and Star Wars.  Richard suggests that maybe Blade Runner is worthy of the top spot, and Alan concedes that it is a good movie, but Star Wars was what hooked him on science fiction.

The first third of the game went well for Chris, with Alan risking an invalid word and otherwise being just a bit behind.  That gave Chris a commanding twenty-one point lead, and by the second break Alan needed an eight-letter word (at least) to have a chance.  It just was not on the cards, and Chris was safe with two rounds to go, although if Alan had managed to solve the conundrum the margin of victory would have been a single point.  Neither managed it, though, and Chris became the show's first retiring champion with a 40 to 29 victory.

I was mostly in good shape, but it so easily could have been another optimal game.  There were just two letters rounds in it; in the first, I saw the best answer a little after time -- as is so often the case -- and in the second I actually saw the best option in potentia as the letters went up, but had forgotten it by the time the last of its letters appeared on the board.  Bother.  Aside from that, it was all optimal, including a single-second conundrum solution.  A hopeful start to the week, although flawed.

Round 1: L U O D F E R I V

I had LOUD, FOUL, FOULED, and FLOURED.  I wondered about LOUVRED, but thought that I had recalled it being tried in another episode and rejected.  Checking later confirmed that it is not valid.  I wrote down OVERFLUID as a hopeful nine, but rightly rejected it, too.  A little after time expired I found FLUORIDE for eight.

Alan starts off with FLUID for five, outdone by FLOURED from Chris.  David has come through with FLUORIDE for eight, and it's a good spot.

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


Scores: Chris 7, Alan 0, me 7

Round 2: T M E A S N I S P

I had TAME, STEAM, STAMEN, and PATINES.  I thought that the plant IMPATIENS was there for a brief moment, but although it was not in the mix that thought guided me to IMPASTES / PASTIMES for eight.  After time I noted MANTISES and MISSPENT as other eights, and decided that SEMIPANTS was a concept even if not a word.

The letters were all working well together, and another vowel would have been a reasonable option.  In this instance it would have been an E, allowing the full monties of AMNESTIES / MEATINESS.  (An O would allow MASONITES, which would hopefully be deemed valid.)

Chris has PANTIES for seven, but Alan decides to risk PANSIEST for eight.  The Macquarie does not list it, nor any adjective sense of PANSY, which is fair enough.  David has chosen MISSPENT as his eight.

The other eight is an anagram of Alan's attempt: STEAPSIN ("the lipase of the pancreatic juice").  Some sources -- but not the Macquarie -- allow a noun sense of SAPIENT, which is why SAPIENTS is legal in Countdown.

Alan: [invalid]

Scores: Chris 7 (14), Alan 0, me 15

Round 3: Target 257 from 100 75 4 3 7 2

Richard explains the full scoring for the numbers round, for what I think is the first time.

With a 7 around, the standard method is clearly the one to try.  There's a variety of ways of making the 250; the one I settled on first led to 257 = 2*75 + 100 + 7, which is also Lily's approach.  With time left to spare I decided to kitchen-sink it, finding 257 = (3*2 + 4)*(100 - 75) + 7.

Alan is 4 away with 261; presumably this was 261 = 2*100 + 75 - 7 - 4 - 3.  If so, changing the last part to 4*3 would have put him just one away from the target.  That would have been significant, as Chris is two away with 255 = 75*3 + 7*4 + 2.

So Chris has scored seven unanswered points in each of the first three rounds; the signs are not good for Alan.

Chris: 255
Alan: 261
Me: 257
Lily: 257

Scores: Chris 7 (21), Alan 0, me 25

First break: RUM LABEL ("This goes up when 'it' comes down")

As Richard explains, the 'it' in this clue is referring to rain -- an appropriate time to put up one's UMBRELLA.

David's talk is about the word quiz; he first gives the more probable origin (a derivation of the Latin "qui es"), and then relates the more amusing -- but more dubious -- supposed origin due to an Irish theatre owner betting he could get a word introduced into the language.  There are more details on Wikipedia's page about it.

(Richard refers to Letters and Numbers as a 'quiz show' in the introduction to this segment, which I know is the official line but has always struck me as inaccurate.)

Round 4: D X E U S T I D O

I had USED, SUITED, OUTSIDE / TEDIOUS, and rightly rejected OUTSIDED / STUDIOED.  After time I noted STUDIED as another seven that I'd seen within time but not written down.

Both contestants have found seven-letter words; Chris has chosen TEDIOUS while Alan has gone with OUTSIDE.  David wanted to use the X, of course, and found the only seven to do so: TUXEDOS.

The remaining seven is TODDIES (plural of TODDY: "a drink made of spirits and hot water, sweetened and sometimes spiced with cloves").


Scores: Chris 14 (28), Alan 7, me 32

Round 5: P A N I C A N L I

There's laughter as the fifth letter goes up to spell out the word.  A final E would have given a very nice PINNACLE for eight, but the further duplication of the I caused problems all around.

I had PAIN and PANIC; when the second N went up I thought of NIACIN but the vowels were around the wrong way.  I wrote down CANAL when the L came up, and promptly forgot about NIACIN.  As a result, I could not better the five within time; afterwards I saw it and felt very silly.  I used to have a short-term memory, you know...

Both contestants declare fives, to further amusement.  Alan has gone the path less travelled by choosing PLAIN, but Chris has stayed with PANIC.  David has found NIACIN and PANINI for six.  Well done, David!

The other sixes are PINNAL (adjective derived from PINNA: "a feather, wing, or winglike part") and APICAL ("of, at, or forming the apex").  Just as well I did not see that latter, as I erroneously thought that it was APICIAL.

Chris: PANIC

Scores: Chris 19 (33), Alan 12, me 37

Round 6: Target 403 from 75 25 7 6 1 9

My first thought to getting near was 16*25, but that only let me get two away.  A second way to 400 turned out to leave the right results left over, giving me 403 = (7 + 1)*(75 - 25) + 9 - 6.  Still within time I experimented with descending from the tempting 450, and found 403 = 6*(75 - 9) + 7.

The contestants declare three away in opposite directions, but Alan realises that he has made a mistake before he starts explaining his claimed 406.  Chris has 400 = (9 + 6 + 1)*25; if he'd used the 7 instead of 6 + 1 in that calculation he could have been one closer.

Lily has found a kitchen sink solution of 403 = (75 - 25)*7 + 9*6 - 1.

Chris: 400
Alan: [invalid]
Me: 403
Lily: 403

Scores: Chris 19 (40), Alan 12, me 47

Second break: DUCT OMEN ("Did you mean the doctor?")

Richard introduces this one as being slightly cryptic; those warnings will disappear in due course.  In this case, the intent was to interpret DOCUMENT as "doc you meant".

Round 7: M E Z U S R A E C

Alan has drifted so far behind that he needs at least an eight here to even have a chance, and preferably a full monty.  But the Z makes that unlikely, and indeed it was not possible for him to win from this mix.


Chris has CRAZES for six, and Alan has found MEASURE for seven but it's not enough to give him a chance.  Chris will be the show's first retiring champion.  David also found MEASURE, but wanted to use the Z so has ECZEMAS as an alternative seven.  Getting to use both the X and the Z for optimal words in the same game -- he must be happy about that!

The other sevens are AMERCES (AMERCE: "to punish by inflicting a discretionary penalty of any kind") / RACEMES (the definition did not help me much; maybe Wikipedia's entry will be more informative), and possibly CESURAE (CESURA is listed as a variant spelling of CAESURA, and CAESURAE is listed as a plural form; thus, one would hope that CESURAE would be allowed).


Scores: Chris 19 (40), Alan 19, me 54

Round 8: Target 425 from 100 75 9 6 4 7

A multiple of 25 in the family mix is usually pretty approachable.  My first thought was to make this as 500 - 75, leading to 425 = (9 - 4)*100 - 75.  For good measure I also wrote down the alternatives 425 = 4*100 + 75/(9 - 6), 425 = (6 + 4 + 7)*(100 - 75), and a solution I found on the show in my first game: 425 = 7*75 - 100.

After time I saw that the approach of 3*75 + 2*100 was transformable to another solution: 425 = (6*75 + 4*100) / (9 - 7).

Chris is three away with 422, presumably 422 = 4*100 + 9 + 6 + 7, but Alan has solved this with the second of the solutions that I listed.  That means that if he solves the conundrum first then he will lose by just a single point.  That would hurt.

Chris: 422
Alan: 425
Me: 425

Scores: Chris 19 (40), Alan 29, me 64


It seems like the letters took a long time to revolve into place, but maybe that was time distortion as I saw the answer instantly.  The letters as given did make me think of the original series of Star Trek, though.

Alan buzzed in with just a few seconds left to try "BELVEDERE or BELVADOUR or something like that", which is obviously incorrect.  With all the fussing around Chris ends up with an extra seventeen seconds of thinking time, but still is not able to unravel it.

Chris: [no answer]
Alan: [invalid] (27.5s)

Final scores: Chris 19 (40), Alan 29, me 74

So Chris gets through to be the first retiring champion, and will be in the finals.  He played a reasonable game tonight although not a great one; once again, he was vulnerable on the numbers.  If Alan had just managed to get closer in either of the first two numbers rounds then there would have been a fourteen (or seventeen) point swing, and victory to Alan.

Chris has shown a lovely enthusiasm for the game and enjoyment of the experience, which is always nice to see in contestants (and champions!).  An auspicious start for the show!  There will be two new contestants tomorrow, and I hope that they bring the same spirit to it.


Sam Gaffney said...

Good game, Geoff, very fast conundrum. I remember Richard saying at the start of the Series 1 finals that not everybody was available, I assume that Chris was in this category? Otherwise, the seeding rule may have been less strict, or there were more than eight retiring champions.

My answers:

257 = 3*75 + 100/4 + 7
OUTSIDE (worried TUXEDOS was -OES)
403 = (75-25-6)*9+7 (Lily's way first, Geoff's final way after)
425 = 7*75-100

Jan said...

Well played Geoff and Sam. I matched it with you two for the first two rounds!

But again I would have beaten Chris - but that is doing it in the comfort of my own home, without lights, camera and nerves.

1. FLOURED (7)
3. 2*100 + 75=275
7*3 -4=17
275-17=258 (7)
4. EXITS (saw OUTSIDE too late) (5)
5. PLAIN (5)
6. 75*(6-1)+25=400+(9-7)=402 (7)
7, CRAZES (6)
8. 9-6=3. 75/3=25. 4*100+25=425 (10)
No luck with the conundrum - even with the extra time. I'm impressed Geoff that you got it in one second.

My score against Chris 50-21
- against top plays 44

I will not be around for the next couple of days. Got a speaking gig in the country, so will catch up when I get home.

Geoff Bailey said...

Good results from both of you, and particularly good work with NIACIN/PANINI, Sam.

I like the match of EXITS and OUTSIDE, Jan. Interesting that we all went with PASTIMES in round 2.

Thanks about the conundrum -- I really don't think it was possible to do that one any faster; the one second was pretty much all time for the letters to rotate into view. Just one of those occasions where the answer leaps out at you.