Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ep 7: Jenny Blair, Aaron Tyrrell (July 17, 2012; originally aired August 10, 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.

Two new contestants today; first up in the champion's position is Jenny Blair, a locum pharmacist and mother of three.  Jenny has played the zither since she was eleven years old, and Richard asks for more information about what a zither is and how she came to play it.  She explains that the zither is an Austrian folk instrument that is a bit of a cross between a harp and a table guitar; it is played on the table and has about fifty strings that need to be coordinated, so both hands are working at once.  Jenny adds that her father was born in Austria, so she has been heavily involved with the Austrian Club in Melbourne since she was a young child and that is where she learned to play it.

In the challenger's position is Aaron Tyrrell, who writes junk mail for a living.  Aaron once worked at a pub and was held up by a duck.  That made me think of the time that Sam Gaffney was attacked by ducks, but it's not quite the same situation.  This was a man dressed in a duck costume who entered the tavern to general bemusement, then jumped behind the bar and demanded that money be thrown into a bag (it is not mentioned if he was armed or simply intimidating).  When the robber got back to his car it failed to start, and that was where some of the customers of the bar caught up with him and managed to detain him until the police arrived.

Aaron got out to an early lead with an excellent word in round 2.  The next three rounds produced matching results from the contestants, but then Aaron finished strongly with better results in the last two numbers games and the last letters round.  He had the match wrapped up after that last letters round, but Jenny got the consolation prize of solving the conundrum.  That was the only time she was able to get unanswered points in the match, and Aaron won comfortably by 51 to 33.

I had a very good game, and in fact outscored the combination of David and Lily.  That was due to two tough numbers rounds where the solution eluded Lily within time; I solved one of them but not the other, and managed to keep up with David on the words.  I had decent conundrum speed to round off the game, and it was a very satisfactory win.

Round 1: S E H R O I T C A

This round surprised me; I had HERS, HORSE, OTHERS, SHORTIE, and then when the C turned up I saw the potential for CHAROITES (CHAROITE being an unusual gemstone) if the final letter was an A.  I mentioned in episode 5 knowing that David had found it at some point, but I had not thought it was anywhere near this early, or indeed in this series; I assumed that it was in one of the episodes I had watched, and those are another hundred and forty episodes away.  In any case, I spotted it this time, and noted down HOARIEST as an eight.

The contestants start with a pair of sixes, with Aaron choosing CRATES while Jenny opts for the very nice SACHET.  David has found the full monty, of course, and is very happy to have started the episode with one.  This episode would most likely have been filmed the day after episode 5, and David commented in episode 436 that each night after filming he would check to see what words he might have missed.  So CHAROITE would have been fresh in his memory from then -- a happy coincidence!

The other eights are CHARIOTS / HARICOTS (HARICOT: "the French bean"), THORACES (one plural form of THORAX), and THERIACS (THERIAC: "an antidote to venomous bites, etc., especially an electuary made with honey").


Scores: Jenny 0 (6), Aaron 0 (6), me 18

Round 2: D E T Y U R A T O

I had DUTY, TREAD, and READOUT.  I considered but rejected OUTRATED and OUTTRADE, having learned my lesson from those same letters appearing in the last round of episode 5; interesting how these two rounds have been very close to two rounds from that episode.

Jenny has ROUTED for six, but Aaron has done well to find TUTORED for seven.  That was also David's choice.

The other sevens are ROTATED, OUTDATE, and OUTDARE.


Scores: Jenny 0 (6), Aaron 7 (13), me 25

Round 3: Target 914 from 25 50 9 7 2 8

Keeping the 2 and 7 separate to make the final 14 was tempting, but getting the remaining numbers to make the required 900 proved difficult.  Fortunately I realised -- although it took me longer than I would have liked -- that I could tweak with the 2, and found the solution 914 = 2*(9*50 + 7).

Both contestants have managed one away with 915 = 9*2*50 + 8 + 7.  Jenny goes first, and then Aaron somewhat erroneously claims that his solution is slightly different; since the only difference was the order of multiplication, it is essentially the same solution but for some reason this was not picked up and the contestants were not asked to verify with each other.

This one has stumped Lily within time, which gives me a very rare chance to outscore the combination.  After the break Lily comes back with the solution listed above, and it is definitely the easiest of the available solutions.  The most interesting solution to me was 914 = (50*8*(25 - 9) - 2)/7; a very unlikely find within time, but if you think to multiply by seven (as the trailing 14 might suggest, since it will then yield an answer near to a multiple of 100) then the solution does fall out relatively easily.

Jenny: 915
Aaron: 915
Me: 914

Scores: Jenny 0 (13), Aaron 7 (20), me 35

First break: ROUSE FLY ("You won't need anyone's help solving this one")

Which means that you can solve it by YOURSELF.

David's talk is about words with a common origin relating to the idea of "little": pup, pupa, puppet, and pupil.

Round 4: U B W I S R O G U

I've rarely seen a less promising initial four letters, and it doesn't really get much better.  I had RUBS, BIROS, GRUBS, and BROWS.

Both contestants have found GROWS for five, and David cannot better it, settling on GRUBS for his selection.  He calls it a brutal mix.

Chambers lists both BOURGS (BOURG: "a town, esp. beside a castle; a market-town") for six and RUBIOUS (adjective derive from RUBY) for seven, but the Macquarie does not have either.  But there is a single valid six-letter word here: GUIROS (GUIRO: "a percussion instrument consisting of a dried empty gourd, which has parallel notches across which a stick is drawn").

Jenny: GROWS
Aaron: GROWS
David: GRUBS

Scores: Jenny 5 (18), Aaron 12 (25), me 40

Round 5: A E O F Q A N S I

Jenny does what a lot of contestants do when the Q turns up, and chooses too many vowels.  Usually it is best to simply give up on using it and work with the rest of them.  Especially in this case, with three U's already having turned up, the odds of getting another one are very small.  The result is a mix with very little potential (nor would the U have particularly helped, either).  I had FANE (archaic for either a temple or a church), FANES, and ANISE.

For the third round in a row the contestants have the same answer, in this case FINES.  David had FINES and NOISE as his fives, and bemoans how the rounds have progressed after the high point of the starting round.

The other fives are AEONS, ANOAS (ANOA: "either of two species of small, forest-dwelling buffalo of Sulawesi [...]"), NAIFS (NAIF: "a naive person"), and EOSIN (a red dye).

Jenny: FINES
Aaron: FINES

Scores: Jenny 10 (23), Aaron 17 (30), me 45

Round 6: Target 778 from 25 50 8 7 3 2

Aaron takes the "tried and true" family mix again, and Lily remarks that "you really can't go wrong with that"... which is a little amusing considering the first numbers round.  The near-multiple of 7 caught my eye and I wrote down a fallback one-away 777 = (2*50 + 8 + 3)*7.  Then I considered that standard method, with the target being 3 away from 775.  I had a minor lapse where I conflated 875 and 775 in my head and wrote down a "solution" that turned out to evaluate to 878, but I noticed and just barely managed to get down the correct option of 778 = 8*2*50 - 25 + 3 within time.  This turns out to be Lily's solution also.

After time I noted another solution of 778 = (8 + 7)*50 + 25 + 3.

Jenny thinks she has a six-away 784, and I'm at a bit of a loss on that one -- there are many ways to it, but none of them seem particularly plausible wih 778 as the goal.  In any case, Aaron is just three away with 775 = 7*50*2 + 3*25.  That gets him more than a conundrum's worth ahead, so Jenny has some catching up to do.

Jenny: 784
Aaron: 775
Me: 778
Lily: 778

Scores: Jenny 10 (23), Aaron 17 (37), me 55

Second break: SHINY OPS ("You are feeling sleepy...")

The classic suggestion of HYPNOSIS (at least as portrayed in popular culture).

Round 7: R S D E O E C T P

Much better letters in this round, which is a relief after the previous two letter rounds.  I had REDS, REDOES, CREEDS, was unsure about CORSETED (with good reason -- the Macquarie insists on the form CORSETTED), and was happy to render that concern mostly irrelevant with PROSECTED (PROSECT: "to dissect (a cadaver) for anatomical demonstration").

I think I had seen this on Countdown a while back, but I still had some doubts about it (since they use a different dictionary there are many words they allow that Letters and Numbers does not, and vice versa) so I kept looking for other eights-or-longer, writing down PRECOSTED (correctly rejected), POSTERED (not valid, a little to my surprise), SECTORED (which I was uncertain about but the Macquarie does list SECTOR as a verb so all is well), and finally the definitely safe ESCORTED... but time ran out just as I started to write it down.

That left me with nothing longer than six that I was certain about, which tilted the scales solidly in favour of trying PROSECTED.  (I'd spotted DEPORTS along the way but not written it down.)  If I had managed to get ESCORTED down in time then I would have had a tougher decision to make, so I perhaps saved myself a little mental wear-and-tear on that front.  Fortunately, PROSECTED turns out to be valid and the letters rounds started and ended with a full monty.

Jenny has SCORED for six, which is definitely off the pace on those letters.  Aaron has found SPORTED for seven and that guarantees him the victory.  David has found PROSECTED also.  Well done, David!

The other eights are PROCEEDS and SCEPTRED.

With the consonants working well together, a fourth vowel would be quite reasonable; an A would have allowed DECORATES for nine, while an O would have yielded CREOSOTED.  The other consonants that would give full monties were T (DETECTORS), F (DEFECTORS), K (RESTOCKED), and M (ECTODERMS; ECTODERM is "the outer germ layer in the embryo of any metazoan").


Scores: Jenny 10 (23), Aaron 17 (44), me 73

Round 8: Target 747 from 25 50 9 9 6 5

I was flying high after the last round, still possibly (as far as I knew) on track for an optimal game and at that point ahead of the combined David and Lily total.  But the family mix turned up yet another tricky option, and I stumbled.  Getting the offset of 3 looks like requiring keeping the 9 and 6 free, but the remaining numbers could not combine to form the 750 target that would be required.  I wrote down a fallback one-away 746 = (9 + 6)*50 - (9 - 5), and could not better it within time.

Afterwards I poked at it some more and finally noticed the factor of 9; the cofactor is 83, and the solution follows easily: 747 = 9*(50 + 25 + 9 + 5 - 6).  Easy to find if you spot the factor of 9, quite difficult without it.

Another solution arises from a more complicated way to make that 83: 747 = 9*(50*25 - 5)/(9 + 6).  Whew!  There is only one other solution, the difficult-to-spot 747 = (50 + 6 - 9)*(25 - 9) - 5.  That is approachable as 800 - 53, but you have to see the 16 lurking in 25 - 9 to have a chance at getting there.

Jenny declares just in the scoring range with 737 -- prompting Richard to joke about it being a different model of airplane -- but I don't believe she has calculated correctly.  There's only one way to get 737, and it involves subtracting 9 from 746, which is surely an implausible option in these circumstances.  (For completeness: 737 = (25*5 - 9)*6 + 50 - 9.)  This makes it more plausible that she miscalculated in the previous numbers round, too.

Aaron has got to three away with 750 = 50*5*(9 - 6), and becomes the first contestant to score a half-century.

I was a bit disappointed to end up one away on an achievable target, since I was ahead of the David and Lily combination at this point.  I figured that I would end up tied in unusual fashion, with both Lily and myself failing to solve different numbers rounds that the other did solve.  But Lily also missed the factor of 9, it seems, as the best she could do was 746.  Just the conundrum left to negotiate, and I might have that very rare result.

Jenny: 737
Aaron: 750
Me: 746
Lily: 746

Scores: Jenny 10 (23), Aaron 17 (51), me 80


My first thought was for -ING, but with only one other vowel it seemed unlikely.  I focused on the -IGHT fragment -- even though it was already there -- since there were limited options with only those two vowels, and pulled out SIGHT (something that I wish I had done as a contestant in episode 326).  I was a bit slow to extract the remaining letters and solve the conundrum, but I got there five seconds in.

Jenny solves it just a few seconds later, which hopefully was a nice consolation for her.

Jenny: HINDSIGHT (9s)
Aaron: [no answer]

Final scores: Jenny 10 (33), Aaron 17 (51), me 90

It was a match of contrasts in the letters, with two very miserly rounds and two full monties on offer.  The numbers rounds were three of the tougher family mixes we've encountered before, as evidenced by Lily not solving two of them within time.

Sadly, Jenny was not able to keep up with Aaron, who outplayed her in both facets of the main rounds.  Once again we see that more adept numberwork could have handed her the win, and I like that they end up being much more important than in Countdown.  The final difference in scores was 18 points, and single-round turnarounds of 25 (round 7), 18 (round 1), and 17 (rounds 6 and 8) were all potentially there, although not all equally easy.  More plausibly, pickups in a couple of rounds would have done the job.

Which should not detract from Aaron's performance; TUTORED was a good find, and he managed to do the key thing in the numbers which is to get close even if you cannot solve it directly.  That decidedly made a difference in the end, but he may well be in trouble against an opponent more capable with them.  Will one turn up tomorrow?  We'll just have to see!


Sam Gaffney said...

I'd never been seen or read this episode, but I have been exposed to the word CHAROITES as a good-probability nine before. As such, I was certain there was a nine in that mix, but it is a tough one, and I couldn't find it even with a few minutes to think about it. I think the fact that my word was CHARIOTS indicates it might have been my subconscious somewhere, but unable to fully escape.

I managed three invalid words here, by choosing CORSETED over the valid SECTORED, incorrectly pluralising FAIN, and trying OUTRATED. By contrast, I did have a nice night on the numbers, getting them all quite quickly. It is interesting to see that Lily's number skill increased as L&N continued - practice makes perfect (or at least better).

My answers:

CHARIOTS (nearly there!)
914 = (9*50+7)*2
778 = (7+8)*50 + 25 + 3
747 = (50+25+9+5-6)*9

Geoff Bailey said...

Wow, tough game for you today, Sam. Obviously you have my sympathies on CORSETED and OUTRATED; both are valid in Scrabble, I believe. I was definitely helped by the recent appearance of CHAROITE just two episodes prior; without that I might have missed it this time.

Nice work finding the 747 in time!

Jan said...

Geoff - fantastic finding both full monties, and beating the combined David/Lily score. Wow
I have just been catching up on what I missed earlier in the week

TARTED I don't think this is valid, and Aaron out scored me anyway.
(9*2)50+8+7=915 (7)
(8*2)*50 -25+3=778 (10)
(6+9)*50 - (9-5) =746 (7)
And just got the conundrum after Jenny buzzed

So again I have a win against the winner. One of these days I am going to beat you Geoff, but it might be a long time in coming!

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Jan, I was very pleased with that! It's not my best score, but not far off it.

I'm afraid you're right about TARTED -- there's no stand-alone verb sense listed for TART. It could be part of the phrase "TARTED UP", but that is not valid.

Nice conundrum speed from you, and some good numbers rounds again! I'll try and make you work for that win, but I think you'll get there at some point.