Thursday, 13 September 2012

Ep 48: Esther Perrins, Liam Bastick (September 12, 2012; originally aired October 6, 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.

This is the crucial fourth night for Esther Perrins; if she wins she'll most likely make the finals, otherwise she will more likely miss out.  Richard comments about yesterday's nailbiting game, but basically does not give Esther chance for more than a few sounds of agreement before moving on.

Tonight's challenger is Liam Bastick, a financial modeller from the UK with a PhD in mathematics and qualifications in accounting.  Liam will soon be running a series of lectures around Australia (that was as part of the CPA Congress in 2010).  It is mentioned that Al Gore will also be a guest speaker at the same Congress; unfortunately for Liam, the two of them are speaking at the same time (but in different locations), so Liam suspects that his audience may be rather sparse.  I believe that Steve Wozniak was also a guest speaker at that Congress, incidentally.

The game goes much along the lines one would expect, with Esther having a strong advantage in the letters but Liam able to make up ground in the numbers.  A lot could easily have gone either way, but perhaps the decisive moment was a careless error from Esther in the first numbers round that allowed Liam to tie up the scores.  Esther was able to draw ahead thereafter but never quite get safe, and once more the game was alive going into the conundrum.  Liam managed to get there first, and snuck through for a 48 to 46 victory.

I had a good game, which made a nice change after the dissatisfaction of some recent efforts.  I got to the conundrum in quick time (although still a bit slower than others would have solved it), and only missed one maximum throughout.  I'm not sure I'd have chanced it even if I'd seen it, but I should have been able to do better.  Still, overall I was pleased with how it went.

Round 1: D S I E T N O R J

The game starts out with a decent looking set until the J arrives.  I had SIDE, DIETS, STONED, STONIER, EDITORS, and JOINDERS (JOINDER: "Law the inclusion of several causes of action or several parties in a single proceeding").  After time I noted down JOINTED, INDORSE, and STEROID as some other sevens.

The game starts with seven-letter words from both contestants, Liam choosing JOINERS and Esther having ORIENTS.  David has found JOINTERS (JOINTER: "someone or something that joints"; it is also the name of a couple of different tools for that purpose) as an eight.

That's all the eights listed, and there are quite a few sevens.  A final vowel is pretty tempting on this mix, with an A giving the familiar ORDINATES / NOTARISED pair, an E allowing DESERTION, and an I yielding DISORIENT.  The actual U would have yielded the slightly more obscure DETRUSION ("the act of detruding"; DETRUDE: "to thrust out or away").  Only an O does not give a nine, but it does at least allow SNOOTIER for eight.


Scores: Esther 0 (7), Liam 0 (7), me 8

Round 2: C S F U E I B N T

I had CUES, FICUS, noted down SUB- and ICE- fragments but the were not useful, and INFECTS.

Liam was very close with the similar-sounding INFEST for six, but Esther gets the lead with INFECTS.  That turns out to be the only seven, and there's a reasonable spread of sixes.

Esther: INFEST

Scores: Esther 7 (14), Liam 0 (7), me 15

Round 3: Target 382 from 50 100 25 75 9 6

Esther stays with her choice of four large numbers, of course.  The offsets from multiples of 25 are 7 and 18, and the latter is much more promising than the former.  I wanted to make the 18 as 9*2 which left me needing the 6 to get to 400; I could do that with 6*50 + 100 or 6*75 - 50, but both options used up the 50 that was needed to make the 2.  Fortunately I then realised that 18 was also 6*3 and a small tweak was enough to get me to a solution: 382 = 6*(50 - 75/25) + 100.

Note that 375 + 6 is only one away, so one can always be sure of getting at least that close; one such method would be 381 = 9*50 - 75 + 6.

Both contestants declare 2 away with 384; Esther starts off with 6*75 and I expected her to continue by subtracting (100 - 25), but she stumbles as she continues "... equals 300", which it does not.  An unfortunate error, that, and it costs her seven points.  Liam has the correct version of what Esther intended: 384 = 6*50 + 75 + 9.

Lily demonstrates the solution that I found.  There are some other options, but it is the most straightforward.

That error from Esther allows Liam to draw level again, keeping him well in contention.

Esther: [invalid]
Liam: 384
Me: 382
Lily: 382

Scores: Esther 7 (14), Liam 0 (14), me 25

First break: PANT GONE ("A defensive shape")

A reference to the PENTAGON.

David's talk is about the word larrikin.

Round 4: O E U C X T S D N

I had CUTE, noted the OUT- fragment but again it turned out not to be very useful, SCOUT, SCOUTED, COUNTED, and CONTUSED (bruised).  As time was running out I saw that TUXEDOS used the X and expected that David would mention that, but he did not.

Liam has SOUND for five but Esther takes the lead again by having found CONTUSED.

That's the only eight; the other sevens are CONTUSE, SNOUTED, and DOCENTS (DOCENT: "a guide, as in a zoo, museum, etc., often a volunteer with some training").


Scores: Esther 15 (22), Liam 0 (14), me 33

Round 5: L D E A S P I M T

I had LEAD, DEALS, PALSIED, IMPALED, IMPALES, and IMPASTED.  Good letters, but just stopping short of producing a nine-letter word.

After time I wrote down IMPASTE / PASTIME as other sevens, and then a few more eights: PLAIDEST (rather dubious but the single-syllable rule for adjectives applies) / TALIPEDS (a TALIPED being a person with a club foot), the American spelling MEDALIST, and PALMIEST (PALMY: "glorious, prosperous, or flourishing").  While checking up on PALMIEST -- it is explicitly listed -- I saw an anagram of it: PALMIETS (PALMIET being a type of plant).

The contestants have a pair of sevens again; Esther has PLAITED and Liam has DAMPEST.  David has gone with MEDALIST as his eight.

The other eights are MISDEALT and MISPLEAD / IMPLEADS (IMPLEAD: "Law Rare to prosecute or take proceedings against (a person) in a court of justice").


Scores: Esther 15 (29), Liam 0 (21), me 41

Round 6: Target 378 from 100 2 3 5 3 5

Liam opts for a single large number, and a little thought is required.  The obvious temptation is to work from 400 but making a 4 is expensive.  The target is also 375 + 3, which would be an attractive approach if that large number were 25 or 75 instead of 100 (since 375 = 5*75 = 15*25).  I happily spotted an option that would let it all work out, though, getting 378 = 3*(100 + 5*5) + 3.

Esther is seven away with 385, which was presumably 385 = ((5 + 3)/2)*100 - 3*5.  Liam, however, has managed to get two closer with a very similar approach and some tweaking: 383 = ((5 + 3)/2)*(100 - 3) - 5.  If he had tweaked with the five instead then he would have ended up just one away from the target: 377 = ((5 + 3)/2)*(100 - 5) - 3.

That last option is a little provocative: If only we had the 2 left instead of the 3 we could reach the target exactly.  That would require making a 4 from 5, 3, 3, and when viewed that way a solution falls out easily: 378 = (5 - 3/3)*(100 - 5) - 2.

Lily has used the factor of 3 for her solution, a tweaked variation of the one I used: 378 = 3*(5*5 + 3 - 2 + 100).

Those seven points bring Liam right back into the thick of things again, just a single point behind Esther.  Assuming that she does not beat him in the final numbers round, only a full monty from her can stop Liam from having a chance going into the conundrum.

Esther: 385
Liam: 383
Me: 378
Lily: 378

Scores: Esther 15 (29), Liam 0 (28), me 51

Second break: GREET HOT ("Don't go this one alone")

Rather, find someone else and go there TOGETHER.

Round 7: B R A E C L U T S

I had BEAR, CABER / BRACE, BREAST, and spent so long looking for an eight that I almost neglected to write down a seven.  When I realised this I noted down SCARLET, and that was the best I could manage within time.  (I had had to reluctantly rule out SUBCARTEL and CRUSTABLE as options.)

After time I noted some other sevens: RECUSAL / SECULAR, CLUSTER, CURABLE, and CRUSTAL.

Liam has BRACES for six, while Esther has found CLUSTER to put her further ahead.  But David has found what Esther needed: SCRUTABLE for nine.  As he notes, you would not think that "inscrutable" had an opposite like that, but it does.  Well done, David!

There are a fair number of sevens here, but also two eights: RUSTABLE / BALUSTER ("one of a series of short pillar-like supports (usually of stone) for a railing or coping, as a parapet").


Scores: Esther 22 (36), Liam 0 (28), me 58

Round 8: Target 819 from 100 1 2 10 9 4

Liam stays with the single large option, and that's sensible in this position; he can't afford to drop further behind, but even if he outdoes Esther he'll still need to solve the conundrum for safety.  An easy mix is in his best interests under such circumstances.

I briefly considered starting with (9 - 1)*100, but then realised that I'd like the 10 and 9 to add on.  The adjustment was easy, though, and I soon had 819 = 2*4*100 + 10 + 9.  Then I decided to use the factor of 9 and found another solution of 819 = 9*(100 - 10 + 1).

Both contestants have solved this; Liam went with the second of those solutions, while Esther used the first.

Esther: 819
Liam: 819
Me: 819

Scores: Esther 32 (46), Liam 10 (38), me 68


So down it comes to the conundrum, where Esther would be expected to have the advantage but nothing is certain.  There's very little moving around of letters requiring, and although I was slightly slow off the mark I had the solution a bit over a second into time.  Liam cracked it first just a second later, taking the win -- the first time he has been ahead all game.

Esther: [no answer]
Liam: CONFUSING (2.5s)
Me: CONFUSING (1.5s)

Final scores: Esther 32 (46), Lian 10 (48), me 78

Esther's good run comes to an end at the often tricky fourth game.  She played well on the letters as would be expected, but Liam was able to take his chances in the numbers to always stay in contention.  Still, only her error in the first numbers round let that be enough, so Liam did get a touch lucky.  My sympathies to Sam Chow in the audience, who must have been wishing the numbers had been like this during his match.


Sam Gaffney said...

I saw this episode in 2010, my take was that Esther had run out of steam, which was a bad time to run into Liam. My answers weren't anything to write home about here.

384 = 6*50 + 75+9 I had a one-away, but kept looking for better. Got Lily's way after a minute.
378 = (100 + 5*5)*3 + 3
BLUSTER (After David mentioned the nine, I got it after a minute.)
819 = 4*2*100 + 10+9

JT said...

I'm calling season 1 the British and Scrabble invasion of L+N I wonder what the answer would be the British contestants if they had to answer if L+N or Countdown is better...

FUSE (that was mental blank)
DEPARTS (This seems to be a reguarlity)

Jan said...

I only had a couple of rounds where I bummed out, and didn't do at least as good as the contestants, and I got the conundrum before Liam.

6*50+75+9 - 100/25 = 380
3-2=1. 1+3=4. (100-5)*4 = 380
(4*2*100)+10+9 = 819
CONFUSED - 2 secs

Geoff Bailey said...

No joy on UNCOSTED, Sam. I'd contemplated it also, but CONTUSED was safer. Well done on finding the full monty once it was mentioned -- that's more than I managed.

Nice work getting the 378, JT. I agree, the first series had a lot of Scrabble and UK players, who were not surprisingly generally better off due to familiarity with Countdown. (And also not surprisingly, generally better with words than numbers as a result.)

I can't speak for contestants, but there have been several comments from ex-UK people on the Letters and Numbers page and over at saying that they think that Letters and Numbers was better. The sample set is biased, though, so it's hard to read much into it.

Nice game, Jan! You'd have beaten both contestants handily.