Saturday, 13 October 2012

Ep 70: James Parton, Jason Taylor (October 12, 2012; originally aired November 5, 2010)

Rounds: Here.

James Parton is back for his third night, and we find out that at the age of twelve he "burst onto the gumboot-throwing scene".  He won the junior division, and as a result he competed in the senior division.  He ended up coming second, losing by 1.5 metres to the world champion.

Tonight's challenger is Jason Taylor, a data entry officer with a master's degree in history and a love of cricket.  Richard asks Jason what parts of history he is most interested in, and Jason responds that his biggest interest is European history, mainly English, around the 16th and 17th centuries.  He then adds medieval to that list, which basically expands it by a millennium.

James got an early lead in the first round, then Jason struck back in the second with an eight-letter word to take the lead.  But that was about it from Jason, who only managed to give valid answers in two of the remaining seven rounds.  He was a little unlucky on one of them, admittedly (and I was surprised by the ruling, but I'll get to that in due course).  James ran out the winner, 48 to 14.

I... had a good game.  A maximal game, in fact, and with conundrum speed of two seconds there's a case to be made for optimality, although I'm sure Sam would have gotten to it faster.  Regardless, I'm happy about it, as you would expect.  It was my first score in the eighties for a couple of weeks, and it was very nice to finish off the week on good results after Wednesday's effort.

Round 1: O U E U N T R S F

I had TUNE, TUNER, TUNERS, and FORTUNES.  I'd been hoping for another N (which would have turned up with only three vowels) for NEUTRONS, but the F was just as good.

Jason starts out with RUNTS for five, outdone by James and his find of UNTRUE.  David has also found FORTUNES, and it is the only eight.

The sevens are FORTUNE, FUTURES, OUTRUNS, TENUOUS, and TONSURE ("the part of a cleric's head left bare by shaving the hair").

Jason: RUNTS

Scores: James 0 (6), Jason 0, me 8

Round 2: N T E H A C I M S

Jason shows much better discretion with the vowels and it pays off.  I had THEN, CHANT, MACHINE, MACHINES, MECHANIST ("someone who believes in philosophical or biological mechanism"), and MISTEACH.

For a while I thought that I might have seen this episode before because I did recall seeing an episode where MECHANIST was available; whenever that was I had only found MACHINES within time (but MECHANIST not long after time expired).  Some searching eventually revealed that MECHANIST turned up again in a later episode, one of the ones that I had definitely seen, so that clears things up and I can claim the maximal game here in good conscience.

James has CHASM for five, but Jason takes the lead with MACHINES for eight.  David had thought that Jason should try a final vowel since an A would give MACHINATE; I'll note that an I would allow another nine of HEMATINIC (variant spelling of HAEMATINIC: "a medicine, as a compound of iron, that tends to increase the amount of haematin or haemoglobin in the blood").  Of course, the S turned out to be just as good as he has found MECHANIST.

The other eights here are SEMANTIC / AMNESTIC (variant form of AMNESIC), ANTHEMIC, HEMATICS (HEMATIC being a variant spelling of HAEMATIC, a medicine that acts on the blood) / TACHISME (a particular style of painting), ASTHENIC ("weak; lacking strength"), and probably HEMATINS (HEMATIN being a variant spelling of HAEMATIN: "a pigment containing iron [...]").

James: CHASM

Scores: James 0 (6), Jason 0 (8), me 26

Round 3: Target 740 from 75 50 8 4 1 2

The small numbers are recognisable as powers of two, meaning that most small combinations should be possible.  The target is a multiple of 10 and it is hard to go past that approach since the cofactor is so close to 75.  My solution was 740 = (8 + 2)*(75 - 1).  With the rest of the time I played around with multiples of 125, since the nearby 750 is 6*125, and tweaked my way to another answer of 740 = (8 - 2)*(75 + 50 - 1) - 4.

Jason just shakes his head when asked if he had anything near; James has ended up five away with 745 = (2 + 8)*75 - 4 - 1.  After the start of that I realised that the remaining numbers could still give the required 10; it's the old divide-by-five trick that I still struggle with.  That led me to the solution 740 = (2 + 8)*75 - 50/(4 + 1), and this turns out to be the solution that Lily found.

James: 745
Jason: [no answer]
Me: 740
Lily: 740

Scores: James 0 (13), Jason 0 (8), me 36

First break: TAIL DUET ("Going up")

The clue distinguishes the intended answer of ALTITUDE from the possible alternative of LATITUDE (although one could also argue that lines of LATITUDE go up).

David's talk is about the word villain, and some of the origins of Batman villain names: The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin, and Two-Face.

Round 4: E N K O D S E R I

I had DONE, NODES, SENIOR, INDORSEE, and the variant spelling KEROSINE.  I knew that this latter was valid due to looking it up recently, and so declared it due to not being able to recall if INDORSEE was listed or not (worried that only ENDORSEE might be allowed).  Both turn out to be valid, so I could only have gone wrong here by not trying either.

Both contestants have six-letter words; James has DRINKS while Jason has REDONE.  David has found DEERSKIN for eight, referring back to his find of MOLESKIN from episode 67.

That's all the eights listed; the sevens are INDORSE / ROSINED, ENDORSE, DOESKIN, RESINED / DENIERS / NEREIDS (NEREID: "a marine free-living annelid worm of the genus Nereis"), and KINDERS (KINDER being listed as colloquial for a kindergarten) / REDSKIN (listed as a derogatory colloquialism for a native American, so best not to use it and instead declare KINDERS).


Scores: James 0 (19), Jason 0 (14), me 44

Round 5: I O E E C T L L I

Gah, James continues to choose many vowels.  I had COTE, ELICIT, and COLLIE.  After time (fortunately!) I thought I saw CITIOLE, but I was misremembering CITOLE.  I also found IOLITE (another name for the mineral CORDIERITE) as another six.

Jason has TELL for four, but James has found ELICIT for six to get his lead over ten points.  David has gone with COLLIE as his six, and it does seem to be the best possible.

The other sixes are COLLET ("the enclosing rim within which a jewel is set"; it is also a verb) and OCELLI (plural of OCELLUS: "an eye-like spot, as on a peacock feather").

Taking a final consonant, even though it would have been a V, allows a full monty: the copper ore COVELLITE.

Jason: TELL

Scores: James 6 (25), Jason 0 (14), me 50

Round 6: Target 694 from 75 50 25 4 1 3

Jason opts for the often-interesting balanced mix, and gets a challenging one.  Getting close is not too hard, and I tweaked my way to a one-away 693 = (4 + 3)*(75 + 25 - 1), but the small numbers aren't quite right for getting closer.  693 is a very attractive target, though, with many factors.  After time I wrote down another way to get to it which used some of them: 693 = 3*(4 - 1)*(75 + 50/25).

Jason just shakes his head again when asked about his result.  James is five away with the untweaked version of my answer: 699 = (75 + 25)*(4 + 3) - 1.

Lily was only able to get to 693, but since the target turns out to be impossible this is the best one could do.

James: 699
Jason: [no answer]
Me: 693
Lily: 693

Scores: James 6 (32), Jason 0 (14), me 57

Second break: THEIR DYE ("Hand-me-down genes")

The clue has a bit more misdirection when spoken; written down like the above it is clearly about HEREDITY.

Round 7: E A U O V G R S O

*mutter*  I had UVEA, VAGUE, VAGUER, GROUSE (what I was doing about those vowels), SAVOUR, and GROOVES.

Both contestants declare sixes of ROGUES.  Except... Jason says ROGUES but on request spells out ROUGES.  ROUGES is a valid word, of course, but it is not pronounced like ROGUES.  As a result, David declares his word invalid.  I'll say a little more about this in a moment, but will first note that David found GROOVES for seven, and it is the only one.  Many sixes, but I won't list them.

There's a chance that Jason is a victim of internet use here; the misspelling of ROGUE as ROUGE is one that I see a lot (relatively speaking) and it is one of my pet peeves.  So from that point of view I'm glad that such a misspelling got penalised.  I should add that I think it is the right decision with the rules as they stand, but it gives me a chance to talk about a minor grey area in them.

The relevant rule here is "If a contestant spells a word incorrectly as determined by our word expert [...] this makes the answer invalid [...]".  It is unquestionable that ROUGES is not the correct spelling of ROGUES, so if Jason intended to declare ROGUES (as seems likely) but got the spelling wrong then the rule clearly applies.  The rule does not, however, address the situation where the contestant pronounces a word incorrectly; an imaginative defense in this instance might be to claim that he had always intended ROUGES but had mispronounced it as ROGUES.  I doubt that anyone would believe that defense in this instance, but one can certainly envisage much less clear-cut cases.  (COMPLEAT, for instance; is that a misspelling, or did the contestant know that it was an archaic form of COMPLETE?)

I was initially surprised by this ruling because I thought that one would just take the word as written on the paper as definitive of intent; that would sidestep this issue entirely.  Certainly we've had cases where the contestant has not been sure how to pronounce the word but has spelled it out and that has been acceptable.  It seems that the safest course for a contestant to protect against misfortune is to state on every round, "I'm not sure of the pronunciation" and then spell out the word.  No-one, particularly the show, wants this to be done but it is strictly to the contestants' advantage to do so.

When such a situation arises, it is better to manage the rules so as to avoid it.  In this case, I think the show would be better off with a rule that states that the word as written is what counts, regardless of how the contestant pronounces it or what they think it means.  If they happen to luck into a different word than they thought they were declaring, well, that's just how it goes sometimes.  It has happened already often enough (like PINNIES that I mentioned yesterday) when the spellings are the same, and I see this as being essentially the same kind of thing.

So, bad luck in one sense for Jason, but it would be hard to argue that the result was unfair.  James is now guaranteed to win, though.

Jason: [invalid]

Scores: James 6 (38), Jason 0 (14), me 64

Round 8: Target 185 from 100 50 4 1 6 10

Such a small target looks like it should be achievable, but there's only that one odd number to work with.  I made heavy going of this but eventually emerged with the solution 185 = 100 + 50 + 4*10 - (6 - 1).

After time I noted that the target was 5*37, which would be five thirds of 111 = 100 + 10 + 1.  Unfortunately, the other numbers could not produce the requisite 5/3, and although 10/6 can do so it is not then possible to make 111 with the rest.  A shame, but further musings along those lines gave me another solution of 185 = 100 + 10 + 1 + 50 + 6*4.

Once again Jason has nothing to declare, and this time James has solved it, using the same solution as that which I found within time.  Lily takes the more sensible approach of 185 = 50*4 - (10 + 6 - 1).

Musing on the answer as 175 + 10, I have just seen another solution of 185 = (6 + 1)*(100/4) + 10.

James: 185
Jason: [no answer]
Me: 185
Lily: 185

Scores: James 16 (48), Jason 0 (14), me 74


It felt like an easy conundrum tonight, with some similar sound to guide to the solution.  Or maybe I just got lucky.  Either way, I had the solution a couple of seconds in, which with a fast start of the clock (relative to the letter spin) was a decent result, particularly by my standards.  Neither contestant could unravel it within time.

James: [no answer]
Jason: [no answer]

Final scores: James 16 (48), Jason 0 (14), me 84

This game was really all James; Jason had done well to find MACHINES in the second round, but otherwise was not really in this.  He was a little unfortunate in the letters, but the whitewash on the numbers was his major problem.  Optimal answers there would have produced a 41 point turnaround and handed him the win.  As it was, James gets his third victory, and will face that important fourth game on Monday.


Jan said...

Congrats Geoff on your optimal game. Well done.

I had another win against the contestants. It makes me think I am somewhere between people like you and Sam and the other brilliant players, but against some of the carry over champs I can hold my own.

Missed the conundrum.

(8+2)*(75-1)=740 (10)
3*(4-1) = 9. 9*75 + 25 = 700 (0)
After time (75 + 50/25) x (4-1)*3 = 693 I hadn't written it as well as you did above
4*50 - (10+6-1) = 185 (10)

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, Jan -- it's always a very pleasant result to get the maximal game. Not that I've done it often enough for that statement to have much meaning...

I think it's clear you can hold your own against a good many of the players. And you're inevitably getting better as you play along; I think you've seen the benefits already in your numbers results.

JT said...

I think James' tatics is pretty good considering his somewhat defancices in the letters, although I wouldn't think you should try it against someone like Naween. I'm not sure if i'd ever try it if I ever got on L+N despite my similar letter defiancy...

invalid-EMPTINESS I thought this one was tough... luck of the draw I guess

Sam Gaffney said...

I felt a bit of sympathy for Jason, he seemed to have a complete mental blank on every numbers round. Maybe he played along with the first four episodes recorded that day and burnt out. More vowels on their way Monday!

Speaking of mental blanks on numbers, my rot continued in Round 3...

MECHANIST (I probably saw this episode)
x had 741 but wrote 739, and saw the simple 740 just after time.
693 = (75+25-1)*(4+3)
185 = 100/4*(6+1) + 10
2.8s - Wrong, Geoff; and even this time is iffy: I started with EMPTIEST, and may or may not have corrected in time (it would have depended on how loquacious Richard was).

Geoff Bailey said...

JT: Yes, it may well be good tactics -- I agree it seems to be working for him -- but it's not very friendly to the home viewer. Oh, well. Nice numberwork again, and bad luck on the conundrum.

Bad luck on that numbers round, Sam, and sorry to put you on the spot with the conundrum claim. You still managed seven maxima out of nine, which is pretty creditable.

Sam Gaffney said...

Seven is nothing!