Friday, 2 November 2012

Ep 85: Robert Jackson, Leif Cooper (November 2, 2012; originally aired November 26, 2010)

Rounds: Here.

Robert Jackson gets his turn in the champion's seat tonight, and Richard asks further about his music.  Robert says that at the moment he is playing guitar for a band called The Legless Lizards.  They tend to play music with an environmental bent -- he calls it a sort of Indian-influenced jazz -- and they try to highlight the plight of the legless lizard, which is a threatened species around Melbourne.

Tonight's challenger is Leif Cooper, a senior chemist who has completed a bachelor of science and a masters in forensic science; in the next few years he hopes to complete a PhD in environmental forensics.  Richard asks what kind of work a senior chemist does, and Leif explains that a lot of his focus is on environmental forensics.  In particular, oil spills are a problem both in Australia and around the world, and how the oil interacts with the environment makes up a lot of his work.

Leif signalled his abilities early with a couple of excellent eight-letter words, and ending up scoring unanswered points in every letters round.  As you might imagine, that was too much of an obstacle for Robert to overcome; Robert did win some points back in the numbers (although not all of them), but it was not enough.  The conundrum proved difficult; Robert's guess was invalid, but Leif was not able to solve it either.  Still, Leif took the win, 42 to 17.

I had an excellent game, except for the conundrum.  I'm a bit disappointed over that; I saw the right beginning but then went away from it, and the conundrum went unsolved.  I'd have had a maximum game if not for that, alas.  Still, I had some decent answers in the main rounds, and overall it was a game to be happy about.

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

I had INTO, TRITON (I thought I recalled this from a previous episode, which turned out to be episode 198; it is a kind of marine gastropod), marked time with STONIER and TONITES (TONITE being a mineral), and then found TRITONES for eight.  (As I mentioned in episode 66, a TRITONE is a musical interval consisting of three whole tones.)  I thought that INSERTION was there for a moment, but that uses two N's rather than two T's.  After time I noted NITRITES as another eight, and ORIENTS as another seven that I often have trouble seeing.

Robert starts with STRINE for six -- that surprised me, as I expected it to be capitalised, but the lowercase version turns out to be explicitly listed as a variant -- but Leif has done well to find TRITONES for eight.  David notes that an anagram of it is SNOTTIER but adds that SNOTTIER is not listed; he has, however, found the valid eight of INTROITS (INTROIT: "any psalm or anthem sung, or prayer said, at the beginning of divine service in a Christian church").

That's all the eights listed.  The early rounds of this episode are going to bolster my usual three-vowel policy (of course, I get to pick and choose my examples, so take it with the usual grain of salt); in this case, an M would have replaced the E and allowed the full monty INTROMITS (INTROMIT: "insert or admit").

Robert: STRINE

Scores: Robert 0, Leif 8, me 8

Round 2: M O D R A C T E E

I had DORM, CAROM, COMRADE, and MODERATE.  After time I saw RECOATED but recalled that it was not valid (I mentioned this relatively recently in episode 62), then spotted that it anagrammed to DECORATE.

Robert has found CREATED for seven, but Leif continues his good form with CREMATED for eight.  There's a bit of sympathetic groaning as it is seen that Leif's word simply inserts an M into the middle of Robert's one.  David has opted for DECORATE as his eight.

The other eights here are DEMOCRAT and ECTODERM ("the outer germ layer in the embryo of any metazoan").

Staying with three vowels would have brought in an S, and the full monty of DEMOCRATS.


Scores: Robert 0, Leif 16, me 16

Round 3: Target 308 from 50 100 10 4 6 7

This target is on the low side but still a little awkward.  There's not an obvious way to an 8, and usually one might try for the offset of 17 (which is formable) but an odd multiple of 25 is not so easy to come by.  I looked a little further afield, and the offset of 42 turns out to be very manageable; that gave me the solution 308 = 7*(50 - 6).

Somewhat after time I found another idea to attempt: Getting the offset as 18 - 10.  A couple of tweaks work for that: 308 = 6*(50 + (7 - 4)) - 10 and 308 = (7 - 4)*(100 + 6) - 10.  And just now I noticed that the idea of subtracting 17 from 325 can be made to work after all: 308 = 6*50 + 100/4 - 10 - 7.

Leif is two away with 310, but Robert has solved this with the solution 308 = 4*100 - 50 - 6*7.  Lily demonstrates the solution that I first found.

So Robert gets some points back, and it's a hopeful sign for him.  Leif looks to be rather good at the letters but may well be catchable on the numbers.  If the right rounds turn up then Robert can hope to stay in contention until the end.

Robert: 308
Leif: 310
Me: 308
Lily: 308

Scores: Robert 10, Leif 16, me 26

First break: PUSH TRIM ("One over the other")

In that case, the one TRIUMPHS over the other.

David's talk is about made up places from the Australian language; not just general terms like the outback, or the back of Bourke, but specific names: Woop Woop, Bandywallop, Bullamakanka (also Bullabakanka), Oodnagalahbi, Oodnawoopwoop, and Kickastickalong.  Those are all listed in the Macquarie, too.

Like Richard, I had thought that Bullamakanka was an actual place name.  That was in large part because I recall seeing a movie of that name listed as one of the worst movies ever made; in retrospect, that should have been a clear sign that it was not an actual place name.  For the curious, reviews of it can be seen here and here.  And, since I encountered it while looking for the movie, here's an unrelated video clip by a band of the same name.

Round 4: S A B R A D I D A

Yeesh, diabolical duplication; I admit I'd have probably gone vowel-fishing for an E and ABRADES, but it would have been unsuccessful.  I had BARS, BRADS (BRAD: "a small wire nail with a small symmetrical head, or a head projecting on one side only"), and BRAIDS.

Robert has BRAID for five, oddly missing the chance to pluralise it.  Leif, of course, has found the plural form of BRAIDS.  David has also, and mentions DISBAR ("to expel from the legal profession or from the bar") as the other six.

Those are the only two sixes, but this round continues to support the three-vowel approach, with the ensuing N allowing BANDAIDS for eight.  (That will be the last mention of it tonight; it does not produce better results in any of the other rounds, but nor does it give worse.)

Robert: BRAID

Scores: Robert 10, Leif 22, me 32

Round 5: O E N G P U L T I

There's an odd jump here in the website version (I don't know if the televised footage had the same) where the L is not mentioned -- the next letter revealed after the U is a T.  Rather strange!  I had GONE, OPEN, and OUTLINE.  I tried to use the -ING, but could not find anything better with it.

Robert says that he endeavoured to use the -ING but could only come up with PLUNGE for six instead; once again Leif causes some chagrin on Robert's part, in this case by finding POUTING for seven.  David has found OPULENT and GLUEPOT as his sevens.

The other sevens are PELTING, ELOPING, LENTIGO (a freckle), POTLINE ("a succession of electrolytic reduction cells used to make such metals as aluminium from a fused electrolyte"), ELUTING (ELUTE: "in chromatography, etc., to remove by dissolving, as absorbed material from an adsorbent"), and ELUTION (a derived noun form from ELUTE).

Robert: PLUNGE

Scores: Robert 10, Leif 29, me 39

Round 6: Target 256 from 75 50 8 6 2 6

The target is extremely familiar to any computer scientist as the eighth power of two.  Naturally my thoughts first turned to pulling out the factor of 8; the cofactor is 32, and my first solution was 256 = 8*(50 - 2*6 - 6).  Then I considered more standard approaches, with a descent from 300 seeming the most likely option; a minor tweak led to the solution 256 = 6*(50 - 8) + 6 - 2.  Still within time, I spotted a chance to use a technique from episode 83 to make this as 8*8*4, namely 256 = 8*(6 + 2)*(6*50/75).

Somewhat later I considered trying to get to 250 as 5*50; a little thought showed that making a five was possible, and gave the solution 256 = (8 - 6/2)*50 + 6.

Robert has put a severe dent in his chances by not ending up with anything to declare.  Leif has managed to get just two away with 254 = 6*50 - 6*8 + 2; if he'd come to the show in later series he might have been familiar with the tweaking idea and found the variation of this which is the second solution that I listed above.

Lily has found yet another approach with 256 = (8/2)*75 - 50 + 6.

Robert: [no answer]
Leif: 254
Me: 256
Lily: 256

Scores: Rober 10, Leif 29 (36), me 49

Second break: HARD POSY ("A Bohemian piece for the Queen")

A reference to the magnificent Bohemian RHAPSODY, by the even more magnificent band Queen.

Round 7: P A N O S W E C E

Robert still technically has a chance, but he needs to win in this round.  I had SNAP and WEAPONS.  I was pleased to spot that, as I know I have missed it several times in Countdown playthroughs.

The contestants each declare six-letter words; Leif has PONCES (PONCE: "a dandy, often effeminate") and Robert has PAWNEE.  Unfortunately for Robert, PAWNEE is not listed in the Macquarie; in any case, it is a Native American tribe and would be capitalised if it were listed.  David has also found WEAPONS, mentioning that it is an anagram of SNOW PEA but that the latter is two words.

The other seven is COWPEAS, as COWPEA is a type of plant.

Leif is now guaranteed to win; Robert needed to find WEAPONS to keep his hopes alive.

Robert: [invalid]

Scores: Robert 10, Leif 29 (42), me 56

Round 8: Target 227 from 100 25 8 9 1 8

The lack of intermediate small values often makes things difficult.  Certainly I started considering increasingly complicated options before a moment of clarity hit and I looked at the standard method again.  I'm rather relieved about that, as it led to a solution that I would have been quite embarrassed about missing: 227 = 9*25 + 1 + 8/8.

Leif is a bit far away with a 218 that was presumably 218 = 8*25 + 9 + 1 + 8.  Robert has managed to get just one away with 226 = 9*25 + 1; Lily points out that he just needed to add the final 8/8 to get the solution listed above.

Robert: 226
Leif: 218
Me: 227
Lily: 227

Scores: Robert 10 (17), Leif 29 (42), me 66


I was not sure, but I suspected I might be on a maximal game at this point.  That was true, but I still needed to solve the conundrum to seal it.  I had problems with it, though; I did consider the right start about halfway through but somehow overlooked the right order for the remaining four letters, which was a disappointing oversight.  I almost buzzed in with the incorrect TURPENTINE; I just barely stopped myself.

Meanwhile, both contestants also struggled; Robert buzzed in at the latest possible moment (literally; I thought that time might well have already expired but they gave him the leeway), which caused Leif to turn around in surprise to check the clock behind him.  Robert had found the lovely word PRURIENT, but that was not the answer.  (It would have been excellent as a find in the main rounds, mind you; I doubt that I would have managed better than PRINTER / REPRINT.)

It took me just under a minute in total before I found the answer of INTERRUPT.  When I had considered INTER- during time somehow I had got wedged on INTERPURT and not managed to correct it.  Oh, well.

Robert: [invalid] (30s)
Leif: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Final scores: Robert 10 (17), Leif 29 (42), me 66

Leif had a brilliant game on the letters today, only missing the difficult spots of WEAPONS or COWPEAS in the last letters round.  He is certainly catchable on the numbers, but did always manage to get close to the target and that is likely to stand him in good stead.  Robert played well -- and I still like PRURIENT as an excellent find -- but needed top numbers results (and to remember to pluralise BRAID) to overcome Leif's excellent letters finds.  I'm certainly looking forward to seeing how Leif goes on Monday!

It would be hard to buzz in any later than this!


Jan said...

Thanks for the explanation, Geoff, re FANNIES!

When Leif started with those two great 8's, I thought I was going to be thrashed. Fortunately my numbers got me through.

STONIER (0) would have loved snootier to be acceptable
10-7 = 3. 6/3=2. (100+50+4)*2= 308 (10)
(50+75)*(8-6) + 6 = 256 (10)
(25+1)*8 + 8 + 9 = 225 (0). After time I saw Lily's way. I am cranky I stuffed that one up! So obvious
- like Robert I found prurient too (would I have spotted it in a normal letters round. Probably not)

Mike Backhouse said...

Not too bad on the words for me, but got none of the numbers.

STONIER (sad to miss TRITONES -eg Purple Haze!- again)
6*50+7=307 (1 off)
Leif's way (2 off)
(9+1)*25-(8+8)=234 (7 off)

Mike Backhouse said...

P.S. Interesting how a letter mix can produce both WEAPONS and PEACE!

Geoff Bailey said...

*chuckles* Nice observation, Mike! And an interesting match-up between you and Jan, with the letters giving a point advantage to you but Jan's numbers making up for it.

JT said...

Leif's letters debut probably won't get the recognition it should get because of the fimilar season 1 dominators...


Geoff Bailey said...

Huh, looks like one of my previous comments got lost. Nice game, JT, particularly that fast conundrum solution!

And what I forgot to say earlier is that I really like Jan's solution for 308; I tried to make that work but did not spot how to make the 2 from 6, 7, 10. Well done!