Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Ep 19: Andrew Fisher, Jane Cleary (August 2, 2012; originally aired August 26, 2010)

Rounds: Here.

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.

SBS finally got around to fixing this episode in the Past Episodes list, so if you've not already seen it you can do so now.

Richard asks Andrew what the international tournament Scrabble experience is like; Andrew describes it as a great experience because the room is full of these "word brainboxes" trying to outwit their opponents.  He provides a little more insight into the process, mentioning that they use chess clocks and have 25 minutes per player.  Richard asks about cultural differences, and Andrew remarks that the Americans -- of course -- have their own dictionary, but the rest of the world plays with a bigger one.

Tonight's challenger is Jane Cleary, a scientist with a double degree in physics and mathematics, a graduate diploma in I.T., and another in operations research.  That's a lot of qualifications!  In her spare time she studies Egyptology and can even read ancient Egyptian.  Richard asks about the origins in her interest in Egypt; Jane responds that it probably started with the very first Christmas present that she can recall getting, which was a book of Egyptian myths, and she has been hooked ever since.

Andrew was in excellent form tonight with three good eight-letter words, and pretty good results on the numbers also.  Jane may have had the first-game nerves going (and who wouldn't, facing Andrew?), and a couple of slips in the numbers sealed her fate.  Andrew cruised to his fifth win, 67 to 23.

I missed a couple of those eights that Andrew found, but managed to balance that out by finding some longer words elsewhere that I assume he was not prepared to risk.  I picked up just enough on the numbers to be safe at the conundrum, and much to my surprise managed to solve it first to record a win.

Round 1: T C S N O E A G B

I had COST, CENTOS (I wasn't sure about this, but CENTO turns out to be "a poem composed wholly of quotations from other authors"), CANTOS (CANTO being "one of the main or larger divisions of a long poem, as Dante's Inferno"), BEACONS, and TANGOES (somewhat unhappily, but see the discussion in episode 405 about this).  I had hoped for a final vowel with an I allowing AGNOSTIC / COASTING, but it would have been a U even if it had been selected.

Jane has SCANT for five but Andrew has started in strong form with COGNATES for eight (COGNATE has an adjective sense of "related by birth" (amongst others), and a noun sense of "a person or thing cognate with another").  An impressive find to kick off the game with, and the only eight.

The other sevens are COGNATE, ONSTAGE (the preferable anagram of TANGOES), OCTANES, NOSEBAG, CONGEST, and a word that I had checked on just earlier today, in fact, but still did not find: BOSCAGE (as I mentioned in episode 2, this is "a mass of growing trees or shrubs; woods, groves, or thickets").


Scores: Andrew 8, Jane 0, me 0

Round 2:  K T U E S R I T O

Oh, dear, I was in all sorts of troubles in this round.  I had SUET, STRIKE, a speculative TRISKET (I have no idea where I dragged this from, which is why I was very dubious about it; it's possible that I may have been thinking of TRISCUIT, but in any case it is not listed in the Macquarie), a rather doubtful OUTRISE (I was pretty sure, and correctly so, that this was not valid; I've looked at that section of the OUT- entries a fair few times), and finally pondered STRIKEOUT.

There were two concerns about this word: Would a baseball term be in the Macquarie (assumed yes, since I recall that HOMER in the baseball sense is), and should it be hyphenated if it is there?  I was pretty concerned about this last question, but with only a six as an alternative in a mix which should have sevens it felt like the lesser of two evils by far.  So I chanced it, and fortunately it is valid.  This is one of those situations where my poor performance worked to my advantage; if I had seen a solid seven it would have been much less clear a play.

Jane has found the very nice TOURIST for seven -- well done! -- but Andrew goes out on a limb with OUTSKIRT.  That proves to be too great a risk, with the Macquarie only listing OUTSKIRTS.  David has found STRIKEOUT for the full monty, which gets surprisingly little acclaim.

There are no other eights or nines; the other sevens are SKITTER and STOUTER / TOUTERS / OUTSERT ("a supplement, usually containing advertising, which is wrapped around a magazine, newspaper, etc.").

Andrew: [invalid]

Scores: Andrew 8, Jane 0 (7), me 18

Round 3: Target 464 from 50 6 3 5 9 1

Andrew sticks with a single large number; getting to 450 is clear with 9*50, and the other 14 is not too hard.  I saw a solution and tweaked it as I was writing it down to get 464 = 9*(50 + 1) + 5, then wrote down the original version of 464 = 9*50 + 6 + 5 + 3.  I also noted the factor of 8, and found another solution of 464 = (5 + 3)*(50 + 9 - 1).

Jane "lost it in the middle" and has nothing to declare.  Andrew and Lily have both solved this with the second of the solutions above.

Andrew: 464
Jane: [no answer]
Me: 464
Lily; 464

Scores: Andrew 18, Jane 0 (7), me 28

First break: TREAD HUG ("My son's sister")

Hard not to get DAUGHTER from that clue.

David's talk is about two games of Chinese origin: pai gow and pakapoo.

Round 4: F E D C O R Z E L

I had CODE, FORCED, an uncertain DEFORCE, FOLDER, and ZEROED.  After time I noted CREOLE ("a language which has developed from a pidgin to become the primary language of a community")  as another six.  I thought that I had heard of DEFORCE before, so I chanced it and was happily rewarded; it is a legal term meaning "to withhold (property, especially land) by force or violence, as from the rightful owner".  I might have half-remembered mentioning it in episode 298.

Andrew has COLDER for six which Jane matches with FORCED.  David notes FOLDER as another six, but has found DEFORCE for seven.

The other six is REFOLD.

Andrew: COLDER

Scores: Andrew 18 (24), Jane 0 (13), me 35

Round 5: N R S H U A I D E

I had URNS, RUSH, HAIRS, RADISH, and was hoping for a final O for DINOSAUR.  With the E, though, I had UNSHARED (which I was unsure about, but it is valid), HANDIER, and URANIDES (URANIDE being "any of the sequence of natural radioactive elements which includes uranium").

Jane has SHRINE for six, but Andrew has found DENARIUS for eight.  David goofs slightly by talking about having learned in ancient history that it was a Greek coin, then finds from the definition that it was in fact a Roman coin.  Whoops!

There other eights are UNRAISED and UNHAIRED (UNHAIR being listed as a verb).


Scores: Andrew 26 (32), Jane 0 (13), me 43

Round 6: Target 875 from 50 75 100 2 6 10

Jane opts for three of each, and I admit this choice is growing on me even though I find it difficult, or perhaps because of that.  The all-even small numbers might pose problems, but then the target is a multiple of 25 and there's very little that won't be solvable given that constraint.  I wrote down a couple of 8*100 + 75 solutions: 875 = (6 + 2)*100 + 75 and 875 = (10 - 2)*100 + 75.  With plenty of time left I experimented with other approaches and found the kitchen sink option of 875 = (10 + 2)*75 - (100 + 50)/6.

Both contestants have solved this using the first of those solutions, while Lily mentions the second as a minor variation.

Andrew: 875
Jane: 875
Me: 875
Lily: 875

Scores: Andrew 36 (42), Jane 10 (23), me 53

Second break: CANT DICE ("An unintentional calamity")

A straight clue for an ACCIDENT.

Round 7: T L G D I A E A O

I had LAID, DILATE, OTALGIA (earache), GLOATED, GODETIA (a plant that is very handy for this game, as it comes up reasonably frequently in mixes that can be hard to work with otherwise), and rightly rejected IDOLATAGE.  After time I noted LIGATED as another seven, and then found GLADIATE ("sword-shaped") as the eight.

I'm not sure what Andrew was aiming at with all those vowels -- the only potential nines were GLACIATED and TAILGATED -- so maybe he was taking out insurance against a helpful consonant letting Jane spot an easy eight.

Jane has GILTED for six, except that it is not valid -- GILT is the past participle of GILD.  Andrew has found GLADIATE for eight, though, to render it irrelevant.  Top class solving from him today, finding some rather tricky words.  That shrinks my fortuitous lead to nine points, so I want to pick up points in the next round or I may well suffer the agony of a single-point defeat.

That's all the eights and sevens listed.

Jane: [invalid]

Scores: Andrew 44 (50), Jane 10 (23), me 53

Round 8: Target 551 from 50 75 100 1 10 4

Jane persists with the balanced mix, which makes me happy.  The standard method is clearly the right way to go, but it's not at all clear-cut.  Getting one away is easy, but fortunately I managed to see my way through to a solution: 551 = 10*75 - 4*50 + 1.

Both contestants declare one away with 550, and that guarantees me a win that I feel pretty lucky to have.  Jane starts with 550 = (4 + 1)*100 + 75 - 25, but she has somehow turned the 50 on the board into a 25, and her solution is  invalid.  That's an unfortunate loss of points, as she clearly would have found the 550 if she had read it correctly.  Andrew has made no mistake with 550 = (10 + 1)*50.

Lily demonstrates her solution of 551 = (10 - 4)*75 + 100 + 1.  Nice one!

Andrew: 550
Jane: [invalid]
Me: 551
Lily: 551

Scores: Andrew 44 (57), Jane 10 (23), me 63


The answer leapt out at me, although I did not pause to verify before I buzzed in -- Andrew is too fast for that to pay off as a strategy.  Fortunately my answer was correct and quite against the odds I beat Andrew to the conundrum solution.  Andrew got there a couple of seconds later to score in the high sixties once more.

Andrew: TERMINATE (3.5s)
Jane: [no answer]

Final scores: Andrew 44 (67), Jane 10 (23), me 73

Great form from Andrew tonight, with COGNATES, DENARIUS, and GLADIATE being excellent finds.  He did well to leave little room to overtake him in the numbers, and despite Jane's good find of TOURIST she ended up languishing considerably behind.  I hope she can take comfort in having lost to the eventual series champion, because on form like this it takes a lot to stop him.

(That may be a little self-serving since I outscored him, but I'll note that I needed a fair amount of luck for that.  Also, in the two letters rounds where I did beat him, he may well have had the longer words but chosen not to risk them; he was declaring second and may well have responded with the matching words if we were in a hypothetical one-on-one match.)


Victor said...

Well done on STRIKEOUT Geof - I never would have spotted it.

I suffered another loss although it was a good game and Andrew pipped me at the conundrum as usual. 5-1 to him against me.

Happy to see UNSHARED was valid. My word in R4, DEFROZE, though not explicitly listed, should be acceptable as "FREEZE" has "FROZE" listed as the past tense.

464 = 9*50 + 6 + 5 + 3
875 = (6 + 2)*100 + 75
551 = 10*75 - 4*50 + 1

Victor said...

Spelling correction - Geoff**

Also I noted that Andrew solved all 6 conundrums - this means Norm Do wouldn't have been the first had he solved his 6th.

Sam Gaffney said...

I definitely saw this episode when it first aired, as I remembered TERMINATE also being one of the few Countdown conundrums I had seen. I was looking for GLADIATE quite early in Round 7, so I assume that after nearly two years, it had left a gentle hint in my brain, and the same goes for the conundrum. I will claim STRIKEOUT, however, as I think I got it at the time (which would have been very exciting), approaching it via OUTSTRIKE on both occasions.

My answers:

464 = (50+1)*9 + 5
875 = (100+75) * 10/2
551 = (10-4)*100 - 50 + 1
~3.5s (just before Andrew)

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Victor -- like Sam, I got to STRIKEOUT via OUTSTRIKE. And DEFROZE is an interesting one; I was not aware of DEFREEZE as a valid word before. As per my musings about validity I agree that DEFROZE should be allowed.

Mighty fine results from the both of you!