Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ep 32: Stavroula Nicholls, Geoff Heard (August 21, 2012; originally aired September 14, 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.

Naween successfully retired last game, so we have two new contestants tonight.  Taking the champion's position is Stavroula Nicholls, an accounts administrator who regularly runs half-marathons.  She has done four of them so far at a rate of one or two a year, and is "heading towards" her fifth.  Richard asks how long a half-marathon is, and Stavroula notes that it is 21.1 kilometres.  (This information was also vouched in episode 22, although I did not mention it there.)

In the challenger's position is Geoff Heard, a university student completing a double degree in science and commerce.  Geoff's hobbies include coin-collecting and rogaining.  Geoff explains that rogaining is very similar to orienteering: Participants head out into the bush (or other terrain) for periods of 6, 8, 12, even up to 24 hours, finding their way around using bearings, maps, and compasses, and try to collect as many checkpoints as possible in the designated time.  It can be very competitive and quite physically taxing as people push themselves to move as fast as possible over what is sometimes extremely difficult terrain.

Stavroula started off with an invalid word, allowing Geoff to score the first points.  In the next round both contestants found the best answer, and then both had invalid answers in the numbers round.  Another shared round followed, but then Geoff drew steadily away.  He had the game wrapped up going into the conundrum; it proved to be too difficult for them both and Geoff ended up with a 53 to 24 victory.

I had a careless oversight in one round that ended up costing me a maximal game.  Against that, I was quite pleased with my find in another round, and made a good decision to avoid an error in another.  I was a bit slower on the conundrum than I would have liked but got there, and finished with a comfortable win.

Round 1: T F U I O N R M A

I had TOFU, FOUNT, INFORM, UNIFORM, and then worried about MINOTAUR.  Although in fantasy settings it is common (well, relatively so) for there to be classes of creatures each of which might be a minotaur, mythologically there was just the one.  That makes it most likely a proper noun from the Macquarie's perspective, and thus capitalised.  I thought that I might have looked this up before and noted that -- although I was not certain -- and the combination of possible-memory and reasoning was enough to shunt me away from trying it.  This proved to be the right decision as the Macquarie indeed only lists MINOTAUR as capitalised.

Geoff has FRUIT for five, but gets the points when Stavroula's try of AFRONT is invalid (the word being AFFRONT, of course).  David has gone with UNIFORM as his seven.

The other sevens are TURFMAN ("a man devoted to horseracing"), TINAMOU (a type of bird), RAINOUT ("a suspension of a planned event due to rain"), and FORMANT ("any of several frequency regions of relatively greater intensity in a sound spectrum, which together determine the characteristic quality of a vowel sound").

Some sources list NATRIUM as an older name for the element sodium -- it's why the chemical symbol for sodium is Na -- but not the Macquarie.

Stavroula: [invalid]
Geoff: FRUIT

Scores: Stavroula 0, Geoff 0 (5), me 7

Round 2: E O I H S R A Y I


Both contestants, and David, have found HOSIERY for seven.  It's the only one, so good results all round.

The other sixes are HORSEY, HOARSE / ASHORE, and ASHIER.

Stavroula: HOSIERY

Scores: Stavroula 7, Geoff 7 (12), me 14

Round 3: Target 299 from 50 100 9 9 7 5

Obviously trying to get to 300 is a sensible first approximation, but neither a 3 nor a 6 are particularly easy to get.  Fortunately I realised that a 2 would also do and that the remaining numbers would also get the required adjustment, giving me the solution 299 = (7 - 5)*(100 + 50) - 9/9.  This also turns out to be Lily's solution.

Stavroula is seven away with 306, but Geoff is just one away at 300.  He explains it as (9 - 7)*100*(7 - 5)... and is pulled up there for using the 7 twice.  In any case I don't think his solution could have been valid as explained; presumably he actually meant (9 - 7)*100 + (7 - 5)*50, but that's not what he said.

That brings Stavroula's answer back into consideration.  She starts with 100 + 50... and then says that she does not have an answer after all.

While writing this up I stumbled across another solution, and I'll explain the thought processes as it may seem a bit obscure otherwise.  The basic idea was that the target is 250 + 49, originally noted because the 250 was easily manageable as 5*50.  49 is 7*7, of course, and for tweaking purposes it would have been nice if the 250 were also divisible by 7.  Obviously it is not, but 350 is, so the new tentative approach was to find a solution as 350 - 100 + 49, or 7*57 - 100.

Unfortunately there is no second 7, nor can the remaining 5,9,9 produce one.  Multiples of 7 may also turn out to be useful, though -- this is a kind of "untweaking" -- and 9 + 5 = 2*7.  That is enough for it to all work out, as 7*59 is 14 away from 7*57, and the end result is the solution 299 = 7*(50 + 9) - 9 - 5 - 100.

Stavroula: [invalid]
Geoff: [invalid]
Me: 299
Lily: 299

Scores: Stavroula 7, Geoff 7 (12), me 24

First break: ROYAL VAT ("A room with a throne")

Heh.  The intended answer is LAVATORY.

David's talk is about aptonyms, names that are appropriate to the person bearing them.  He gets into the topic via the flower gardenia, named after the naturalist Alexander Garden.  He mentions Cardinal Sin and Usain Bolt as other examples.

At the end of the show, David mentions some more sporting aptonyms: Luc Longley, Margaret Court, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, and Anna Smashnova.

Round 4: U E A B R G I D E

I want to like Geoff because of the way he spells his name, but he's making it hard with this insistence on five vowels.  I had BEAU, BARGE, BRIDGE, ABRIDGE / BRIGADE, and GAUDIER.

Both contestants have gone with BRIGADE for seven, while David opts for the anagram ABRIDGE.

The other seven is BEADIER.

Stavroula: BRIGADE

Scores: Stavroula 14, Geoff 14 (19), me 31

Round 5: T A O P N I T O R

I had PANT, POINT (overlooking PANTO, short for PANTOMIME), POTION, ORATION, and PORTION.  I paid the price for skipping over the -ATION ending, and a little after time saw POTATION ("a drink or draught, especially of an alcoholic beverage") as an eight.  That was very careless, and turns out to be the mis-step that cost me a maximal game.

Stavroula has APRON for five, but Geoff extends his lead into danger territory by finding PORTION for seven.  David has ROTATION for eight, and now I feel particularly silly for missing that.

The other sevens are PATRIOT, TAPROOT ("a main root descending from the radicle and giving off small lateral roots"), PRONOTA (plural of PRONOTUM: "the dorsal plate of an insect's prothorax"), and RATTOON (variant spelling of RATOON: "a sprout or shoot from the root of a plant (especially a sugar cane) after it has been cropped"; it also has a verb sense).

Some sources, but not the Macquarie, define PRONOIA: "the sneaking feeling one has that others are conspiring behind your back to help you".

Stavroula: APRON

Scores: Stavroula 14, Geoff 21 (26), me 38

Round 6: Target 566 from 50 100 75 9 5 9

Heh, I approached this all wrong, but was lucky enough for it to be easy.  When I saw the 9 and 75 together my instinctive reaction was to multiply them together.  That was somewhat too high, but subtracting the 100 mostly compensated and the rest was easy: 566 = 9*75 - 100 - 9.  Then I realised that what I was actually doing there was the standard method (in roundabout form) of 575 - 9, and found the simpler 566 = 5*100 + 75 - 9.

Everyone else used this latter method.

Stavroula: 566
Geoff: 566
Me: 566
Lily: 566

Scores: Stavroula 24, Geoff 31 (36), me 48

Second break: METAL RAN ("Mum's the word")

Fairly straightforward to get MATERNAL from that clue.

Round 7: C L I S E M L O S

I had SLICE, wondered about COILLESS (it is not valid), COLLIES, rejected MISCLOSE, and happily found SOLECISM ("a use of language regarded as substandard or non-standard") as a legitimate eight at last.

Stavroula has SMILES for six -- David makes the joke about it being the longest word because it has a mile between its first and last letter -- but Geoff is one better again with COLLIES.  David has also found SOLECISM, and it is the only eight.

The other sevens are LISSOME, MOLLIES (plural of MOLLY, a type of fish), and OSSICLE ("a small bone").

The gap is now out to 19 points, so Stavroula needs to win the next two rounds (without Geoff scoring points) to win.

Stavroula: SMILES

Scores: Stavroula 24, Geoff 31 (43), me 56

Round 8: Target 296 from 100 75 25 4 8 5

The standard method must be tempting here, with the target 4 away from 300.  I struggled a bit to make that 300 but eventually found 296 = 8*25 + 100 - 4, then the simpler 296 = (8 - 5)*100 - 4.  Later I realised that if I had not been so focused on preserving the 4 I might have found 296 = 4*75 - 100/25.

Stavroula is one away -- we never do find out in which direction, so I'm going to assume that she had 295 = 4*75 - 5 -- but Geoff has solved this exactly with the second of those solutions above.  That guarantees him the win, and it's now just playing for points.

Stavroula: 295?
Geoff: 296
Me: 296

Scores: Stavroula 24, Geoff 41 (53), me 66


I think I recall looking at FreeBASIC at some point, but that's not immediately relevant.  I started off with FIRE- and FACE- fragments with no success, but perhaps the sound of FACE was what helped me to find the answer.  Neither contestant could get there within time, and the scores remain unchanged.

Stavroula: [no answer]
Geoff: [no answer]

Final scores: Stavroula 24, Geoff 41 (53), me 76

Reasonable play tonight (although marred by some invalid answers) with each contestant finding at least a couple of seven-letter words, but Geoff definitely had the better of each facet.  He'll be back tomorrow, and he'll have three letters rounds then; I hope he eases off the vowels a bit.


Sam Gaffney said...

Stavroula had a very nice demeanour, and excellent posture.

I think I must have seen this episode when it first ran, as David's aptonym talk was familiar.

299 = (7 - 5)*(100 + 50) - 9/9
566 = 5*100 + 75 - 9
296 = 75/25*100 - 4
two minutes or so

Jan said...

I need to watch this either taped or on my computer, to give myself longer to try and get the conundrums. I love how Sam took about 2 minutes to find this one. And also when people buzz in quickly I can stop it, and see if I can work it out.

Had a couple of rounds I out scored Geoff, but he out scored me once more.

(100+50)*(7-5) - 9/9 = 299 (10)
9*50 + 100 + 9 + 5 = 564 (0)
75*4 - 100/25 = 296 (10)

Geoff - a question for you. When something is listed as a verb in the Mac online, can you then add an 'er' to it, as someone that does this action, or does it need to be listed in bold?

JT said...

Good to see another Geoff on this show...

My Answers
Nowhere near this, I do not like compound conundrums

Geoff Bailey said...

Sam: Agreed about Stavroula, although her diction felt a little stilted. Maybe that's the effect of being on television. Nicely done to find RAINOUT, by the way -- that's one of those words which I have yet to find within time, and it seems like it's a reasonably common one from that vowel mix.

Nice work Jan and JT -- you'd have both taken Geoff to the conundrum. I agree that compound conundrums are often quite difficult; I struggle with the compound words in the main rounds, too. A good time to look for them are when you get some letter combinations that just don't work well together; they may be part of distinct subwords.

Jan: Agent nouns (the nouns formed by appending 'er' to a verb) need to be explicitly listed in bold in order to be valid for the show's purposes. It can be a lottery at times, with the example that sticks in my memory being Shaun Ellis losing his quarterfinal against Toby Baldwin due to FILMERS not being valid. The extra dose of misfortune there was that REFILMS would have been allowed.