Friday, 31 August 2012

Ep 39: James Pho, Rob Mould (August 30, 2012; originally aired September 23, 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.

David Jones successfully retired yesterday, so there are two new challengers tonight.  Occupying the champion's position is James Pho, a third-year medical student who pays his way by cycle advertising.  This involves him cycling around pulling a billboard behind him; James says that it is pretty big, and that can get annoying when the weather is windy.  He adds that it is one of the better part-time jobs he has had, as it has all of his favourite things: Wearing lycra, riding bikes, and -- of course -- getting paid.

In the challenger's seat is Rob Mould, a retired I.T. consultant who has recently returned to university to study a bachelor's degree in business and financial planning.  He recently sat his first exam in forty years, and topped it.  Rob describes the experience of returning to university as stressful, but he had to do something to keep his brain going after working for thirty-nine years.

The contestants were quite evenly matched; in fact, they scored equally on the first six of the main rounds.  Then Rob got a small lead in the final letters round; he had a chance to seal the win in the following numbers round, but had become confused about which numbers were on the board and his answer was invalid.  That kept the game alive going into the conundrum; for a while it looked like it might elude them both but then Rob found the answer a bit over twenty seconds in.  That confirmed his victory with a final scoreline of 48 to 32.

I... well, there were some difficult letters rounds today, but I was still off my best which led to an unwanted record: For the first time since I have been keeping track of the maximums (110 episodes now) I failed to get a single maximum in the letters rounds.  A tough numbers round further reduced the maximum count, and I was disappointed to end up rather further away from the target than I should have.  The one redeeming feature of tonight was solving the conundrum quickly.

Round 1: N O E I L S C D A

We start with a decent selection of letters, but I ran into troubles.  I had LION, LINES, and LESION.  Once all the letters were up it seemed like there should be at least an eight, but I could not find one; by the time I was resigning myself to sevens I was running out of time to find one of those!  I thought of CONDILE but realised that I was misspelling CONDYLE ("a rounded protuberance on a bone [...]"), then SEALION but recalled from a previous occasion that it is only listed as two separate words, and finally scrambled CANDLES at last.

After time the sevens seemed very obvious, and I wrote down CANDIES, SOLACED, ANODISE, and DEACONS as examples.  I still could not find an eight, though.

Both contestants have found six-letter words; James has LANCES while Rob has CLONED.  David says that there are a couple of tricky eights of which the most common might be CELADONS.  Wow, that takes me back: In episode 345 I noted CELADON as an available word (it was new to me then); it is a pale green colour, and also a type of porcelain with a glaze of that colour.

The other eights are INCLOSED and DIOCESAN.


Scores: James 0 (6), Rob 0 (6), me 7

Round 2: U E I T P S N O E

After those first seven letters it was very tempting to go vowel hunting for an A and PETUNIAS.  Maybe that is what Rob was doing, but later events make me suspicious of that.  In any case, the lack of an A left me scrambling for a backup plan, and in the end all I had was SPITE and POINTS.

After time I finally found PEONIES for seven, and then a little later OUTSEEN.  That latter is a bit vexing; I had searched for OUT- words within time, but overlooked that.

This time both contestants have found POINTS for six; David mentions his daughter who does ballet (something he gets to do a few times during the show's run) and how that helped him see POINTES as a seven (POINTE: "(in ballet) the tip of the toe").  He has found PEONIES as well.

There's a few other sevens here, some of them quite findable.  One with some personal resonance is TOUPEES, and the others are PITEOUS, POETISE, PUNIEST / PUNTIES (plural of PUNTY: "an iron rod used in glassmaking for handling the hot glass"), and POTEENS (POTEEN: "illicit distilled whisky") / PENTOSE (a simple sugar with five atoms of carbon).


Scores: James 6 (12), Rob 6 (12), me 13

Round 3: Target 708 from 4 3 10 5 7 1

James shakes things up by opting for six small numbers, which I'm always in favour of.  Lily comments that she does not think they've had this before, but she is incorrect; Kashi Ross tried this back in episode 24.

I got hung up too much on trying to make this as 4*177, and the 177 was just not quite manageable.  I ended up four away with 704 = 4*(7*(3*5 + 10) + 1).  I ran out of time while writing down what would have been one better with 705 = 5*(10*(7 + 4 + 3) + 1), and then a bit later realised that a more sensible tweak of my first approach would have let me get to one away with 707 = 7*(4*(3*5 + 10) + 1).  Bother!

It took me a while later to finally get a solution.  I reached that by considering 705 + 3, and 705 = 5*141.  That wasn't immediately hopeful, but I recognised that 141 = 3*47 and then it finally unravelled: 708 = 3*(5*(4*10 + 7) + 1).  A tough ask within time, but I should have found the 707.

Neither contestant has been able to get anywhere with this; Lily is also stumped.  It would have been nice to know how close she managed to get, though.

There's only one other solution: 708 = (10*7*5 + 4)*(3 - 1).

James: [no answer]
Rob: [no answer]
Me: 704

Scores: James 6 (12), Rob 6 (12), me 20

First break: SNORE LAP ("This one is private")

If it is private then it may well be PERSONAL.

David's talk is about the words baroque and rococo.

Round 4: U A E H R G T A I

Rob goes vowel-heavy once more, making the mix very difficult.  I was hoping for an L or D for LAUGHTER or DAUGHTER, but as it was I had HARE / HEAR, GUITAR, and GATHER.

The contestants continue to be locked together, this time with five-letter words.  James has HEART and Rob has TIGER.  David has GUITAR for six.

The other sixes are ARIGHT, TRIAGE / GAITER, GATEAU, and AUGITE (a mineral).

But there is a seven here; I've mentioned it once before, back in episode 412, but it was easily lost in the other sevens that were available then.  This time it is the only one: HETAIRA (variant spelling of HETAERA: "one of a class of cultivated courtesans in ancient Greece").

James: HEART

Scores: James 6 (17), Rob 6 (17), me 26

Round 5: O I O R C Y A M S

Erg, another difficult mix.  I noted that SYCAMORE was almost there, but since there was no E I had to stay with RACY, MAYOR, MAYORS, CAROMS, and ARIOSO ("(a musical direction) in the manner of an air or melody").

Both contestants have CRAMS for five, continuing their lockstep ways.  David has come through with the magnificent find of CRAMOISY, an archaic word for crimson.  Bravo, David, bravo!

The other sixes here, anticlimactic though they may be, are RACISM, MICROS, MORAYS, MACROS, MOSAIC, and SCORIA.

James: CRAMS

Scores: James 6 (22), Rob 6 (22), me 32

Round 6: Target 225 from 100 50 8 1 3 4

The target was obviously 3*75, and so my first solution was 225 = 3*(100 + 50)/(8/4).  Then I found the somewhat more straightforward 225 = 4*50 + 3*8 + 1.

Both contestants have opted for the latter of those solutions, while Lily shows a different way with 225 = (3 - 1)*100 + 50/(8/4).  Perhaps the shortest solution is 225 = (8 + 1)*100/4.

James: 225
Rob: 225
Me: 225
Lily: 225

Scores: James 16 (32), Rob 16 (32), me 42

Second break: CADET LIE ("Cate at the deli")

This really feels like a clue that isn't even trying: DELICATE.

Round 7: J D R E O I H T M

I had RODE, HORDE, DITHER, MOTHER, a joking METROID, and METHOD.  Just after time I finally considered the -DOM ending and saw HEIRDOM at last, a word which I recall well from my time in the audience of episode 323.  I also noted HERMIT as another six.

The contestants finally separate!  James declares an invalid five of TORED but Rob takes the lead at last with MITRED.  David has found HEIRDOM for seven.

The other sevens are ETHMOID (familiar to me from Countdown, as I mentioned back in episode 317; it is a bone of the skull at the root of the nose), THEROID ("having animal propensities or characteristics") / THORIDE ("any of several natural radioactive isotopes which occur in the radioactive series containing thorium"), and MOTHIER -- which I had actually considered within time but not thought was a word.  Alas.

James: [invalid]

Scores: James 16 (32), Rob 22 (38), me 48

Round 8: Target 872 from 100 25 1 2 10 3

I was immediately drawn to the target being near 875, which is 7*125, and a solution followed easily: 872 = (10 - 3)*(100 + 25) - 2 - 1.  Then I also found the more prosaic 872 = (10 - 1)*100 - 25 - 3.

James was not able to get anywhere once more, which is bad news for him when Rob announces a solution.  He starts with (10 + 2)*75... and then it is pointed out that he does not have a 75 to work with.  Whoops!

Lily's solution is 872 = (10 - 2)*100 + (25 - 1)*3.

James: [no answer]
Rob: [invalid]
Me: 872
Lily: 872

Scores: James 16 (32), Rob 22 (38), me 58


The game can be won by either contestant at this point.  For what feels like the first time in a while I saw the solution quickly, so that was nice.  Time ticked away with neither contestant solving it; James went to pen and paper early which could have paid off, but not this time.  Rob unravelled the conundrum a bit over 20 seconds in to win the game.

James: [no answer]
Rob: ALLOWANCE (22s)

Final scores: James 16 (32), Rob 22 (48), me 68

Two closely-matched contestants tonight, with Rob just having the edge.  The mixes weren't the most friendly, but some of that was Rob's doing with his fondness for vowels so I'm a bit concerned over the next game where he will get to choose three times.  Still, time will tell.


Sam Gaffney said...

James had a good sense of humour, it is a shame he only got one night on the show.

My guess is I did see this episode in 2010, a couple of things felt familiar. My answers:

INCLOSED (much like Wednesday's INCASED)
705 = ((7-1)*4*10 - 5) * 3. Later: 708 = (10*7*5 + 4)*(3-1)
225 = (8 + 1)*100/4
HERMIT (I had the feeling THORIDE was OK, but wasn't sure)
872 = (10-1)*100 - 25 - 3

Mike Backhouse said...

Not a great game for me:

out of time
CRAYS (not sure about this)
conundrum not in time

Jan said...

Inad a good game against these 2, and also got the conundrum. The first numbers game I was happy to get any score from it!

(7-1)*(3+4) = 72*10 = 720 - 5 = 715. (5)
4*50= 200 8*3 + 1= 25. 200+25=225. (a very complicated solve). (10)
3*25 + 2 =77. 77*100 + 100 = 870 (7) after time could make it to 871 adding the 1
ALLOWANCE (about 12 secs)

Geoff Bailey said...

Agreed, Sam; James had a couple of good moments of repartee. Excellent game from you, and an interesting way to 705.

Mike: CRAYS is fine -- in addition to being a colloquial shortening of CRAYFISH, CRAY is also a verb meaning to go crayfishing.

Looks like you started strong with Australian colloquialisms, Jan. *chuckles* I had to check a couple of times to be sure that COLDIES was there, but it is. Nice one! 62 is a very respectable solo total on this game.

Sam Gaffney said...

My round 3 was largely the same as Jan's, I just got the 5 into brackets to get a little closer.

JT said...

My Answers:

1.3s-It looks like I beat Sam, wow!!

Sam Gaffney said...

I checked my notes (which I didn't have while commenting yesterday), and my conundrum time was actually ~4sec, but this is still well behind JT.

Richard Rose said...

Lily is usually so good with the numbers that I was quite surprised when she didn't get that first numbers puzzle. I saw a solution but it took me just a little longer than the thirty seconds to see it so I wouldn't have scored anyway,