Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Ep 31: Naween Fernando, Paul Hughes (August 20, 2012; originally aired September 13, 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.

Once more the pre-game chat tells us essentially nothing more about Naween; in fact, he doesn't even get to speak.  It really does seem that they squeezed every fact about him into the first episode's brief, and that's a shame.

Tonight's challenger is Paul Hughes, a retired I.T. specialist who solves cryptic crosswords and sudoku puzzles daily.  Paul also volunteers at the Red Cross two days a week; he works in a call centre, and the primary role is to make sure that the people they call -- elderly housing department tenants for the most part -- are OK each morning.  But it has the secondary function of giving those people someone to talk to each day, and Paul says that you get to hear some lovely stories.

Naween needed 60 points this episode in order to match Andrew Fisher's total.  He started off a little quietly with a safe word, but was still able to outpoint Paul in each round of the first third (aided by an invalid numbers declaration from Paul) to quickly take a 23 point lead.  Paul got on the scoreboard at last in the next letters round, and then Naween risked a nine that was Scrabble-legal but not in the Macquarie.  Paul's word for that round was also invalid, so neither scored.  The following numbers round was similarly scoreless, and then Naween finished well to take points in the rest of the rounds.  It was his fastest solution to a conundrum yet, and a solid 56 to 6 victory.

I started well enough, but lost my way in the middle section of the game, missing two longer words that I might have seen on other days and being too slow to solve the numbers round.  I followed up by being overly conservative on the last letters round, but then recovered to take the last two rounds, including the conundrum.  A good game, but could easily have been better.

Round 1: I A O U B T P R D

The lack of an E plus the mismatched B and P mean that this could be tricky.  I might have been tempted to fish for a final E and PROBATE, but probably would not have.  Anyway, I had ABOUT and PAROTID ("either of two saliva-producing glands situated one at the base of each ear").  After time I wrote down a six that I had skipped over -- ADROIT -- and then saw AUDITOR as another seven.

Paul has ABORT for five, while Naween has opted for the "safe six" of ABRUPT.  David suggests that Naween needs a little warming up as he has found AUDITOR (one of Naween's roles) and UPBRAID for seven.

That is all the sevens listed, so I have to guess that Naween's risky play would have been PAROTID.  There's a few sixes, but the one I like most is UTOPIA.

Naween: ABRUPT

Scores: Naween 0 (6), Paul 0, me 7

Round 2: L E H I T A S K D

I had TILE and then got stuck for a bit.  I was hoping for a final R for STARLIKE, but without it had to settled for STALKED and DETAILS / DILATES for seven.

Paul has SKITED for six, but Naween is one better again with STALKED for seven.  David mentions DETAILS and HATLIKE as his sevens.

The other sevens are TALKIES (the old term for movies with sound, back when this was a novelty), HALIDES (HALIDE being a chemical compound involving a halogen), and HALITES (HALITE being another name for rock salt).

Some sources would allow DALETHS (DALETH being the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, amongst others), but the Macquarie does not list it.


Scores: Naween 7 (13), Paul 0, me 14

Round 3: Target 209 from 75 3 2 8 2 9

I was torn between several approaches here; I recognised the target as 11*19, for instance, and there's always the standard method.  I went slightly differently to start, though, finding the solution 209 = 8*75/3 + 9.  Then I avoided the large number entirely with the 11*19 solution: 209 = (2*8 + 3)*(9 + 2), and finished off by applying the standard method to get 209 = 3*75 - 2*8.

Both contestants declare that they have reached the target.  Naween has used the last of those solutions, but Paul's attempt is 209 = 75*3 - (9 + 8 + 2) + 3 and he has used the 3 twice.  If he had caught that it was salvageable to 209 = 75*3 - 9 - 8 + 2/2.

Lily demonstrates the first of those solutions above.

Naween: 209
Paul: [invalid]
Me: 209
Lily: 209

Scores: Naween 17 (23), Paul 0, me 24

First break: KEEN ROSE ("This will give you fuel for thought")

The fuel is a clear reference to KEROSENE.

David's talk is about three animal names that he says people might expect to have indigenous origins, but actually do not: dugong, cockatoo, and cassowary.  In fact, they all have Malaysian origins.

Round 4: C M S P O E A U G

I had COMPS (I was thinking of the verb sense of COMP -- to give someone a complimentary good or service -- but the Macquarie does not have that sense; it does, however, list COMP as a colloquial noun for 'competition'), POEMS, and CAMPUS.

Both contestants likewise have CAMPUS, and Paul is on the board at last.  David has managed to see his way through to a seven of POMACES (POMACE: "any crushed or ground pulpy substance").  Well done, David!

The other seven is MUCOSAE (plural of MUCOSA: "a mucous membrane").

Naween: CAMPUS

Scores: Naween 23 (29), Paul 6, me 30

Round 5: I E I E D R T N O

I had RIDE, TIRED, and EDITION.  I rightly rejected EDITIONER, and after time wondered about RETINOID; this turns out to be in a Scrabble list but not the Macquarie.

Naween departed from his usual letter selection policy, clearly fishing for something in particular.  It was the O, in fact, and he tries REEDITION for nine.  The RE- words are always a bit tricky, and in this case it is not listed at all, not even with a hyphen.  That's Naween's Scrabble knowledge causing him troubles as REEDITION is a legal Scrabble play.

Meanwhile, Paul had TRIDENT for seven... but that uses the T twice, so both contestants had invalid words this round.  David has found ORIENTED for eight.

That's the only eight; the other sevens are NITRIDE / INDITER (INDITE: "to compose or write, as a speech, poem, etc."), ERODENT ("eroding; erosive"), and DIORITE (a type of igneous rock).

Naween: [invalid]
Paul: [invalid]

Scores: Naween 23 (29), Paul 6, me 37

Round 6: Target 536 from 100 50 2 9 2 1

I went down the wrong paths here, looking at the offsets of 14 and 11, neither of which were particularly helpful.  I wrote down a fallback one-away answer of 535 = 9*(50 - 2) + 100 + 2 + 1, and then with only a few seconds left realised that the offset of 36 was much more helpful.  I could see that the approach must work -- I'll expand on that in a moment -- but there was not enough time left to sort out the details and get it down.  Just a bit slow to find the right idea, alas.

The offset of 36 is 2*2*9, which is part of what makes it so promising.  The remaining part to get is 500, and it's a question of the right tweak to make.  With both 2's available for tweaking, the 100 and the 50 can be separately multiplied by 1, 2, or 4 to make this work, and it was clear that this was going to be possible.  (This was where I was at when time ran out.)  With a little thought I was able to see that 500 = 4*100 + 2*50, and putting all those steps together yields the solution 536 = 2*(2*(100 + 9) + 50); this turns out to be the only solution.

Paul is just a bit outside the scoring range with 549 (presumably 549 = (9 - 2 - 2)*100 + 50 - 1; if so, he could have entered the scoring region by adjusting this to 545 = (9 - 2 - 2)*(100 - 1) + 50).  But that seems to be closer than Naween managed, as he says that he was far from the target also.  For the second round in a row neither contestant scores.

Lily has found the solution, rather quickly it turns out.  Well done, Lily!

Naween: [not in range]
Paul: [not in range]
Me: 535
Lily: 536

Scores: Naween 23 (29), Paul 6, me 44

Second break: BUNK TRAP ("Empty pockets")

Someone with empty pockets has no money, and may be BANKRUPT.

Round 7: A E U A L S R W C

I had SALE, LASER, CRAWLS, CAESURA ("English Prosody a break, especially a sense pause, usually near the middle of a verse, and marked in scansion by a double vertical line [...]"), wondered about CAESURAL, and SECULAR.  I vacillated a bit about whether to try CAESURAL or not -- it felt like a rather unusual concept to acquire an associated adjective -- and eventually took the feeble path of the safe seven.

CAESURAL is valid, though.  I've mentioned this once before, in episode 432; presumably that was what helped me find it in the first place, but I wish I had followed my instincts better instead of trying to reason about it.  I regret missing the longer answers in the previous two letters rounds, but not nearly as much as I regret seeing this option and deciding against it.

Paul has CLAUSE for six, and once more Naween is one letter better, having found RECUSAL (noun derived from RECUSE: "to disqualify from participation in the process leading to a decision [...]") for seven.  David has an anagram of it for his seven -- SECULAR -- and also harks back to his talk about animals by noting that WALRUS is there for six.

The other sevens are CURLEWS and SCALARE (another name for the angelfish).


Scores: Naween 30 (36), Paul 6, me 51

Round 8: Target 208 from 50 25 9 1 2 2

I started with a reasonably straightforward 208 = 2*2*50 + 9 - 1, then used the factorisation 8*26 twice to get 208 = (9 - 1)*(25 + 2/2) and 208 = (9 - 1)*(50 + 2)/2.  While writing this up I saw that a number could be saved with the solution 208 = 9*(25 - 2) + 1.

Paul is two off the pace with 206, but Naween has solved this with a minor variation on the first of those solutions above: 208 = (2 + 2)*50 + 9 - 1.  Lily has gone with the second of the solutions instead.

Naween: 208
Paul: 206
Me: 208
Lily: 208

Scores: Naween 40 (46), Paul 6, me 61


Oh, dear.  I'd just watched Friday's episode of Countdown before this, where the conundrum was the not-much-harder CARD CHEST.  I don't think it would have made much difference as this one is pretty clear and I got it in essentially the same time then.  Naween solved it a second or two later (he seemed a bit leisurely about pressing the buzzer).

Naween: SCRATCHED (3s)
Paul: [no answer]

Final scores: Naween 40 (56), Paul 6, me 71

Naween becomes the show's third retiring champion, and a very worthy one.  He fell just short of the 60 points he needed to match Andrew Fisher's six game total; if he had not risked REEDITION in round 5 or had managed to get within scoring range in round 6 then he would have overtaken Andrew.  Paul struggled to match Naween today, but made his task more difficult with three invalid answers.  Hopefully he can take some comfort in losing to an opponent of Naween's calibre.

Naween has some nice words at the end about the presenters and the experience, and it's always nice to see that.


Sam Gaffney said...

I imagine I hadn't seen this episode before - nothing rang a bell, and my letter rounds were relatively weak.

PUTRID (I never spot AUDITOR)
209 = 75/3*8 + 9
RENTED (was looking for something big, only just got a six)
537 = (50-1)*9 + 100 - 2*2 (took several minutes to find Lily's way)
208 = (25-2)*9 + 1

Jan said...

I had a better game, partly because Naween didn't have such a good game.

PATIO, ABORT (0) I should have seen parotid, as I know facial anatomy fairly well.
3*75 - (8*2) = 209 (10)
(50 + 2 + 2)*(9+1) = 540 (7)
(2*2)*50 + 9 - 1 = 208 (10)

Geoff Bailey said...

Yes, I have the same issue with AUDITOR as you, Sam. I'm trying to get better at that one -- it's a pretty high probability word for that vowel combination -- but it's still pretty hit and miss. Similarly with AUTHOR(ED), which I encountered recently in an old Countdown episode. The starting AU combination is not the immediate option to look at.

PAROTID was one of the earliest words I looked up once I had the Macquarie; there was some typically troublesome mix and the word generator spat it out. It turns out to be pretty useful, as do the similar PAROTIC and PARODIC. (We saw PARODIC in the previous game, in fact; PICADOR is a more useful anagram, though, since it can have an S appended.)

Nice find with CAMEOS, Jan -- I was annoyed afterwards to see that I had missed it. It was one of my early frequently-found words. I like CAUSAL, too.

Sam Gaffney said...

PICADOR does sound useful. The words with no E don't always jump out as easily.

JT said...

Pretty stock standard from Naween as usual, far from his best, but more than enough for the win, I particually like my TRIPOD in round 1.

My Asnwers
OREINTED (not sure it was valid)