Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ep 8: Aaron Tyrrell, Michael Gin (July 18, 2012; originally aired August 11, 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.

Tonight Aaron is described as a copywriter, which certainly sounds better than yesterday's description as a "writer of junk mail".  Aaron is about to start an online proofreading service aimed at year 12 and university students, where submissions will be edited for clarity, consistency, and correctness and they will fix up the students' punctuation, spelling, and grammar.  Richard calls it "spellcheck with humans".  Aaron agrees, and hopes that it will help students to lift their grades.

(I'm a bit undecided about whether I think such a service is a good thing; if they learn from it, then it is.  If, on the other hand, they use it as a substitute for developing those skills then it may raise their grades but not their ability.  Working in an educational institution as I do, I've heard far too many tales of students who have engaged in any number of actions aimed at increasing grades without actually learning anything.  That is not a good thing.)

Challenging Aaron is Michael Gin, a secondary school teacher with thirty years of experience.  He teaches mathematics and English to students who have English as a second language.  Michael is also a tenor in Jonathon Welch's community choir known as THECHO!R.

There was a lot of back and forth in this game, with only one round yielding points for both contestants.  Honours were even in the letters rounds, and mostly so in the numbers, too.  The crucial moment came when Michael made a careless error in the first numbers round where a simple tweak would have seen him home, and that gave Aaron a ten point lead going into the conundrum.  If Michael solved it first then it would go to a tiebreaker conundrum, but neither contestant managed it and Aaron gained his second win with a score of 35 to 25.

I was a bit disappointed by my performance today, which started off with an invalid word and finished with a wrong guess at the conundrum.  In two other letter rounds I missed longer answers I should have found (one found just as time expired, the other not too long afterward).  On the plus side, I did find two longer words than David managed, although one of them was only found after time.  All in all, a wobbly performance, although I still managed a win against the contestants.

Round 1: R E T M I S L E D

Just looking at the letters shows up MISLED in the last six, but I did not notice that until afterwards due to the way I write them down.  I had TERM, MITRE, MISTER, MERITED, SMELTER, and struggled to find an eight, with RELISTED the only candidate that I found in time.  I was very sure there was an eight here, so I went the wrong way and chanced RELISTED.  It is not valid, and so I started off with an invalid word.

After time I added STERILE as another seven, and finally found DEMISTER / DEMERITS for eights.  That was a bit vexing, as if I'd written down DEMERIT instead of MERITED, or thought about MISTER a bit more, I could have found them within time.

The contestants start off with a pair of sixes, with Michael having read off MISLED while Aaron goes for METRES (or perhaps METERS; he is not asked to clarify).  David selects DEMISTER as his eight.

The other eight is DIMETERS (DIMETER: "Prosody a verse or line of two measures or feet").  There's more sevens here than I feel like listing.

Michael: MISLED
Me: [invalid]

Scores: Aaron 6, Michael 6, me 0

Round 2: O R U V T E S C M

I had TOUR, OVERT, ROUTES, and CUSTOMER / COSTUMER (variant spelling of COSTUMIER: "someone who makes or deals in costumes").

Michael has CREST for five, but Aaron gets the lead with COVERS for six; David has selected CUSTOMER for his eight.

Those seem to be the only eights (I was a bit surprised to find that CUTOVERS is not valid, but maybe I hang out with engineers too much).  The sevens are VECTORS / COVERTS, COSTUME, SCROTUM, SCOUTER / CROUTES (CROUTE: "a piece of fried or toasted bread on which meat dishes or small savouries may be served"), OESTRUM (variant spelling of OESTRUS, an animal's fertile period), and CURVETS (CURVET: "a leap of a horse in which the forelegs are raised together and equally advanced, and then, as they are falling, the hind legs are raised with a spring, so that all the legs are off the ground at once").

Michael: CREST

Scores: Aaron 6 (12), Michael 6, me 8

Round 3: Target 282 from 50 25 3 6 5 2

The standard method could work from either side, but I fixated on the difference of 18 from 300, with 3*6 handily there to make it.  My first solution was 282 = 2*5*25 + 50 - 3*6, which I simplified a little to 282 = 3*(2*50 - 6).  After time I added one solution from below: 282 = 6*50 - 25 + 5 + 2.

Both contestants declare 282, but Michael's solution of 6*50 - 3*6 uses the six twice; a simple tweak would have saved him, alas.  Aaron has made no mistake with his solution of 282 = 5*50 + 25 + 6 + 3 - 2.  That gives him a 16 point lead, handy to have that this early.

Lily demonstrates the tweaked solution that Michael could have used: 282 = 6*(50 - 3).  Nice and simple!

Aaron: 282
Michael: [invalid]
Me: 282
Lily: 282

Scores: Aaron 16 (22), Michael 6, me 18

First break: DATA URGE ("No more teachers; no more books")

The clue is a phrase that might be said (or chanted) after you GRADUATE.

David's talk is about the words apprentice, protégé, and recruit.

Round 4: H I N E B Y I G T

Meh, not a nice set of letters.  I had HINGE and BITING, and that was all I managed within time.  With a second or two left to go I saw NIGHTIE for seven, but that was not enough time to get it written down.  Just a fraction too slow -- I spent too much time trying to get a decent -ING word.

Aaron has HINGE for five, but Michael risks THINGY for six and is rewarded as the Macquarie lists it.  David enjoys the colloquial nature of Michael's choice, and has accurately found NIGHTIE.

That seems to be the only seven; the other sixes are NIGHTY (variant spelling of NIGHTIE), EIGHTY, IGNITE, HIEING, and HENBIT (a weed).

Those six points get the difference back to ten, a hopeful sign for Michael.

Aaron: HINGE
Michael: THINGY

Scores: Aaron 16 (22), Michael 12, me 24

Round 5: R A P A E R B U D

The final letters almost spell out EARBUD, but the Macquarie does not list it.  I had PEAR, BEARD, ABRADE, ABRADER, UPREAR / PARURE ("a set of jewels or ornaments"), PARADE, and wondered about PARADER.  Fortunately I was certain that ABRADER was valid as I recalled David finding it in episode 351; that's amusing reverse causality, as checking up on words from today might have been why David was able to find it then.  PARADER turns out to be invalid.

Aaron has PARED for five, once more outdone by Michael's choice of DRAPER for six.  David has BURPED for six, so even though this is a bit of a wobbly game for me I've at least got the consolation prize of beating him on one round.

That closes up the scores even more, with just four points the difference.

The other sixes are UPBEAR, BARRED, PURRED, BURRED, DAUBER, DURBAR ("(in India before 1947) the court of an Indian ruler"), and AUBADE ("a piece of music or a poem suited to the dawn").

There is also PARRED, which might have to be ruled against due to the Macquarie's inconsistency.  It does list PAR in a verb sense (related to golf), but does not list PARRED and PARRING as it normally would.  Since the consonant is doubled these do not count as regular inflected forms under the strict definition that it uses, and so it is possible that it would be rejected.  A bizarre omission on the Macquarie's part.

Aaron: PARED
Michael: DRAPER

Scores: Aaron 16 (22), Michael 12 (18), me 31

Round 6: Target 446 from 100 50 25 7 5 6

Michael chooses the frequently challenging three large and three small mix, and does get a difficult target.  The initial temptation is to get to 450 and subtract 100/25, but that seems to require making a 9 from 5, 6, 7 and it just does not work out.  With time running out I settled for one away with 445 = 5*(100 - (7 - 6)) - 50, although I'd seen easier methods to get one away and forgotten them.

With some further fiddling after time I saw that the offset from 500 was 54, and that led me to a solution: 446 = 5*100 - 6*(7 + 50/25).  Findable, but tough.

Aaron is nine away with 437; I'll guess this was 437 = 6*50 + 100 + 25 + 7 + 5.  But Michael has managed to get just two away with 444 = 5*100 - 50 - 6.  That gets him seven more points, and he takes the lead at last -- a great recovery from sixteen points down.

Lily has done well to find a solution: 446 = (100 - 25 - 5)*7 - 50 + 6.  Well done, Lily!

A key component of Lily's solution was effectively getting an offset of 29 via 5*7 - 6.  Considering that option leads to the slightly simpler solution 446 = 5*(100 - 7) - 25 + 6.

Aaron: 437
Michael: 444
Me: 445
Lily: 446

Scores: Aaron 16 (22), Michael 12 (25), me 38

Second break: TEST LOAF ("To hit the high notes")

A clue for the musical voice FALSETTO.

Round 7: A T C E I S P F A

I was very off my game on this round, in part being continually distracted by CAPACITIES.  I had ACTS, FACIES ("a general appearance of something naturally occurring, as a particular flora, fauna or ecological community"), and FACETS.  I knew there was a word from the first seven letters but I could not bring it to mind.

Shortly after time I saw the word that I had been trying to recall: SPICATE ("(of a plant) having spikes").  And then I saw FASCIATE ("bound with a band, fillet, or bandage") for eight, which was a nice find but would have been much better within time, of course.

This time Michael has the five of CAPES, and Aaron has found FACETS for six.  That gives the lead back to Aaron, but there's only three points in it.  David has found PACIEST for seven, so this is the second round where I found a longer word than he did, albeit a bit after time so I'm not comparing fairly.  Still, I'm taking the minor victories where I can, this game.

The other sevens are ASEPTIC and FASCIAE.  Ouch, I should have remembered FASCIAE from episode 1, which is the reason that I knew that FACIES was valid in the first place.  A little more thought about connections would have gotten me to a seven within time, and maybe to the eight.

Michael: CAPES

Scores: Aaron 22 (28), Michael 12 (25), me 44

Round 8: Target 582 from 50 100 75 6 7 3

The target is very reminiscent of the first numbers round, and the same tweak applies.  I soon had 582 = 6*(100 - 3), then wrote down a couple of solutions applying the standard method from below: 582 = 6*100 - (75 - 50) + 7 and 582 = 3*(100 + 75) + 50 + 7.

Michael is three off the pace with 579, which must be 579 = 6*100 - 3*7.  But Aaron is only one away with 581 = (7 + 3)*50 + 75 + 6.  That gives him seven points and a lead of precisely ten points, meaning that we may see two conundrums in play.

Lily shows the first of the solutions I listed, explaining how this round is essentially the same as the first numbers round.

Aaron: 581
Michael: 579
Me: 582
Lily: 582

Scores: Aaron 22 (35), Michael 12 (25), me 54


Poor decision-making from me here; I saw RELOCATE, and with the final R left over contemplated RELOCATER.  I didn't entirely like it, but it felt plausible and so I tried it at the three-second mark.  Checking the dictionary determined that I was incorrect, and then I immediately saw the correct answer.  Argh.

Aaron buzzes in at the fifteen second mark only to say that he has not solved it.  The remaining time runs out without Michael being unable to solve it, and Richard then asks Michael if he knows what it is.  That's interesting, and a change from later where it was simply assumed that the contestant did not know the answer if they did not buzz in.  The answer of CORRELATE is then revealed.

Aaron: [invalid/no answer] (15s)
Michael: [no answer]
Me: [invalid] (3s)

Final scores: Aaron 22 (35), Michael 12 (25), me 54

The contestants only managed five- and six-letter words today, and with only one solution to the numbers found and the conundrum unsolved, it is not surprising that Aaron's total of 35 is the lowest winning score so far.  (Of course, we are only eight episodes into the show's run.)  The result was always in the balance, and that makes for an enjoyable game to watch, even if the contestants could have done somewhat better.


Sam Gaffney said...

I had wondered whether SPICATE was a word, but wouldn't have found ABRADER or FASCIATE.

My answers:

MERITED (same oversight as Geoff, surprisingly awkward mix)
CUSTOMER (late swap, worried the I was needed for COSTUMER)
282 = (50-3)*6
(invalid: PARADER)
445 = 7*50+100-5 Later: 446 = (100-7)*5-25+6)
582 = (100-3)*6
4.0s (also nearly went for RELOCATER)

Geoff Bailey said...

Nice work with NIGHTIE and PACIEST, Sam, and also well done on avoiding the RELOCATER trap; even with the invalid PARADER you comprehensively outscored me today.

SPICATE was particularly annoying because I've found it several times in the past (and as far back as episode 314, in blog terms). Ah, well, maybe next time...

Jan said...

I was really pleased to get an 8 with the first word. Probably the only time I will get a better word than both you and Sam!

6*50 - 25 +2+5=282 (10)
5*100-50-6=444 (7)
6*100=600 - (75-50)=575+7=582 (10)
And not anywhere near getting the conundrum

Another win over Aaron, so happy with that.

Victor said...

Interesting numbers - I was eager to see if either player would have learned from the first numbers round.

I wonder if the old episodes will continue?

SCROTUM (just for fun, I had CUSTOMER on standby if required)
282 = 6*(50 - 3)
446 = 7*(50 - 5) + 100 + 25 + 6
FASCIAE (thanks to Geoff's ep 1 recap)
582 = 6*(100 - 3)

And lastly, shouldn't that be "grammatical errors" instead of "grammar errors" in the intro Geoff?

Geoff Bailey said...

Glad to hear from you again, Victor, and great work with AUBADE and FASCIAE! 446 was also an excellent get within time. And yes, I've reworded the intro to more closely reflect what was actually said, thank you for picking up on that.

Congratulations on finding DEMISTER, Jan, and on yet another win against the contestants. Great stuff!