Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Ep 86: Leif Cooper, Brett Newton (November 5, 2012; originally aired November 29, 2010)

Rounds: Here.

Leif Cooper gets his turn in the champion's seat after a very impressive turn on the letters in the previous episode.  Richard asks what got Leif into his line of work; Leif explains that he had always been good at maths and science at school, and found chemistry particularly interesting.  Naturally enough, when he did his bachelor of science he focused on chemistry, and it all followed from that; he got a job at a lab and now here he is, somewhat further down the path.

Tonight's challenger is Brett Newton, who has been a secondary school mathematics teacher for seven years.  Brett recently spent a year teaching in the United Kingdom; he enjoyed that greatly, getting to do a lot of travel including a few castle trips.  The personal highlight was a trip to LEGOLAND for his son's birthday, and the highlight of the whole trip was Christmas at Disneyland in France.

The letter mixes were rather miserly today, but Leif still did pretty well on them, including an excellent word in round four.  A trivial numbers round to start was followed by two very tough ones; Leif made errors on both of those but it was not enough to let Brett catch up.  Leif was comfortably ahead going into the conundrum, and solved it late in the piece to push his score over the half century and finish with a 53 to 19 win.

I was back to rather erratic form, alas.  The tough mixes were hard to get much traction on, and I missed finding two better options within time.  I also struggled with the numbers, although fortunately for my ego so did Lily; they were genuinely difficult.  I did manage to solve the conundrum relatively quickly, avoiding setting a new worst record on the maximum count.  I wobbled home victorious, but certainly Leif has been the best competitor on the letters for some weeks and these games are getting a bit chancy.

Round 1: P I L A G E V T A

Rather uncooperative consonants here -- they don't really go well together.  It should be no surprise that I'd have rather tried a final consonant under these circumstances (particularly wanting a final N for PLEATING), but an O for PIVOTAL or an E for VEGETAL would have been much better than that second A.  Anyway, I had PAIL and GLAIVE ("a sword or broadsword", although I would have thought that a broadsword was also a sword, making the second half of that definition redundant).

Brett has PLATE for five, but Leif has inserted an A into that to get PALATE for six.  David has also been limited to six, opting for PIGLET as his choice.

Six looks like the best possible; the other sixes are GELATI / LIGATE ("to bind, as with a ligature; tie up, as a bleeding artery") / AIGLET (variant spelling of AGLET: "a metal tag at the end of a lace"), LAVAGE ("a washing"), GAVIAL (variant form of GHARIAL: "a large Indian crocodile [...]"), APLITE (a type of granite, also known as HAPLITE), VAGILE ("(of an animal species) characterised by an ability to move about or disperse (opposed to sessile)"), and VALETA (alternative spelling of VELETA: "a ballroom dance in waltz time").

Brett: PLATE

Scores: Leif 6, Brett 0, me 6

Round 2: U T B O R E N E R

I had BOUT, BRUTE, wondered about BUNTER, and struggled.  At the last moment I found TUREEN as a safer six, which turned out to be just as well as BUNTER is not valid.  After time I noted several other sixes: RETURN, ROUTER, REBORN, and BUTENE.  I also checked up on RE-ROUTE, finding that it did need the hyphen.  I was lucky that I did not see it within time; although I thought that it was more likely to need the hyphen than not, I would probably have still attempted it.

The contestants both have six-letter words this time; Leif has BURNER and Brett has ROUTER.  David has managed to find a seven here: BOURRÉE ("an old French and Spanish dance, resembling a gavotte").  Nicely done!

Sticking with three vowels would have brought in a C for an easy seven of COUNTER.  David's find seems to be the only seven; TRUE-BORN requires the hyphen, so it does not lead to an eight.  There's several other sixes.


Scores: Leif 12, Brett 6, me 12

Round 3: Target 450 from 75 100 9 8 8 6

It's hard to imagine a clearer argument for the importance of knowing the 75-times tables in this game.  The solution 450 = 6*75 stands out a mile if you do, but otherwise a bit of work is needed.  I did find an alternative in the shape of 450 = 9*100/(8 - 6), though.

Brett seems not to know them, however, as he has ended up one away with 451.  Leif has found that solution, extending his lead to sixteen points.  (Brett's target is a bit of a puzzle, actually.  It's hard to get there without going via 450, although it is possible.  It feels a bit more likely that he used an extra 8 in 451 = 8*75 - 100 - 6*8 - (9 - 8), although a tweak of this is valid: 451 = 8*(75 - 6) - 100 - (9 - 8).)

Leif: 450
Brett: 451
Me: 450

Scores: Leif 22, Brett 6, me 22

First break: RIPS PEER ("Don't sweat it if you can't get it")

Because to sweat is to PERSPIRE.

David's talk is about the word jukebox.

Round 4: A C O T H J I C R

The J is generally a bad sign, and it's certainly not helpful here.  I had COAT, TACHO (colloquial for a tachometer), AITCH, CROTCH, AORTIC, and HARICOT.  That was another last-moment find and I was quite pleased with it... until I saw that THORACIC was also there.  Bother.

Brett has CHART for five, and Leif compounds my unhappiness by having found THORACIC for eight.  That's very well done, and I don't feel that I can get away with anything on the letters when Leif is around.  David mentions HARICOT as a seven, but presumably also saw THORACIC.

The other eight is TROCHAIC (a TROCHEE, or the adjective derived from it), and the other sevens are CHARIOT, CHAOTIC, and ACROTIC (adjective derived from ACROTISM: "absence or weakness of the pulse").

Brett: CHART

Scores: Leif 30, Brett 6, me 22

Round 5: T I F E G S A B E

I had GIFT, GIFTS, FIESTA, and BEFITS.  I wondered about BEIGEST; the single-syllable rule for adjectives makes it tempting, but it's not entirely clear if the dropping of the E counts as a spelling shift.  My current interpretation is that it does, so BEIGEST would need to be explicitly listed under that interpretation, and I correctly guessed that it was not.  After time I noted down AGEIST as another six.

Both contestants have opted for BEGETS for six.  David has managed to go one better with GABFEST for seven -- great vision!

The other seven here is not BIGFEET (the monster is Big Foot: Two words, and capitalised, and is quite probably not pluralisable in that way) but the arguably related BEASTIE.


Scores: Leif 36, Brett 12, me 28

Round 6: Target 815 from 25 50 8 5 4 8

Lily had commented in the first numbers round how nice it was to have an easy round to start off the Monday, but I disagree about that.  This round, on the other hand, showed that her earlier comments were akin to saying "at least it can't get any worse".

I struggled a lot here, and had to settle for a one-away 816 = (8 + 8)*50 + 25 - 5 - 4.  After time I finally considered the target as 840 - 25; this looks promising because 840 is divisible by 8.  That led me to the solution 815 = 8*((8/4)*50 + 5) - 25.

Leif declares five away with 810, but Brett is closer with 817.  Brett's solution starts with 4*25*8 + 25, however, and Lily points out that the 25 has been used twice.  Presumably he subtracted the other 8 at the end, which is a bit of a shame for him as he would have ended up just as close with 813 if he had added the 5 and 8 instead of reusing the 25.  Leif turns out to also have made some error, although we don't find out what it was.

Lily has also been stumped by this one, but after the break comes back with the same solution that I listed above.  A variation on that solution is to make 840 as 20*42, leading to the solution 805 = 4*5*(50 - 8) - 25; a trivial modification is to replace the 4 by 8 - 4.

There is just one other solution, a tweaked method of forming it as 825 - 10.  That works out to be 815 = (8/4)*(8*50 - 5) + 25; a rather tough answer to see!

Leif: [invalid]
Brett: [invalid]
Me: 816

Scores: Leif 36, Brett 12, me 35

Second break: RUSH FOIL ("It's good to end with one of these")

A good showman often ends with a FLOURISH.

Round 7: P A S O D I T E C

I had SOAP, PASTED, SPICATE, correctly rejected SPICATED (several adjectives of similar form can have the D appended to make a variant, but I've looked up SPICATE enough to know that it is not one of them), and TOECAPS / CAPOTES.  After time I noted down a few other sevens of OPIATES, OPIATED, CODEIAS, and DEPOSIT / POSITED, then finally saw DESPOTIC as an eight.  That would have been a satisfying word to find -- it felt like there should have been an eight here.

Brett has TIDES for five, but Leif takes the points and guarantees his win with PACIEST for seven.  David has found DESPOTIC for eight; he really has had a rather good game today.

The other eights here are ECTOPIAS (ECTOPIA: "the morbid displacement of a bodily organ or part") and DIOPTASE (a particular mineral).  One day I shall see ECTOPIA...

Brett: TIDES

Scores: Leif 43, Brett 12, me 42

Round 8: Target 562 from 75 25 5 9 9 6

We finish on an even tougher numbers round than the previous one.  There's lots of ways to one away -- I went with 561 = (5 + 6)*(75 - 25 + 9/9) -- but getting to the target is extremely challenging.  I wasted a lot of time here by ignoring my precomputation, but I would not have solved it in any case.  As the numbers went up I had noted that 9*9*6 was 486, which led directly to a one-away 561 = 9*9*6 + 75, but did not write it down.  That proved costly in terms of time as I had to scramble a bit later to come up with one.  Oh, well.

The contestants declare one away from the target in different directions.  Brett's answer is 563 = (75 + 25)*5 + 9*6 + 9; while Brett was explaining that, Leif has realised that he has made another mistake in his answer.

Lily is stumped again, and fair enough.  There turns out to be only one solution, and it uses something that I had noted but it took me a long time afterwards to get it to work.  That is, the target is 567 - 5, and 567 is 9*63.  That's rather provocative with the 9 around, and factorising it further as 9*9*7 would allow both forms to be used.  But neither of those approaches turns out to be workable, and it is the rather unexpected reversal of making it as 81*7 that yields a solution in the form of 562 = (75 + 6)*(25 - 9 - 9) - 5.

Leif: [invalid]
Brett: 563
Me: 561

Scores: Leif 43, Brett 19, me 49


The potential -ABLE ending stood out; I unravelled the remaining letters in quick time by my standards, and had the solution a couple of seconds in.  Neither contestant looked like making headway on this, but eventually with just a few seconds left Leif found the solution.

Leif: INCAPABLE (25s)
Brett: [no answer]

Final scores: Leif 43 (53), Brett 19, me 59

Another strong game from Leif despite those invalid numbers results; THORACIC was an exceptional find, of course.  Brett could have kept himself in contention with better numbers results (solving the first numbers game and having a valid two-away in the second one), but would still have needed the conundrum.  Leif makes it clear that beating him on the letters will be tough going but that the numbers may well be his downfall.  We'll just have to see how this plays out.


Jan said...

Unfortunately I stuffed up the last numbers round, so went into the conundrum with Leif one point up on me. And he pipped me by a few seconds to that.

6*75 = 450 (10) I felt sorry for Robert there.
FIESTA (6) after time saw BEASTIE
8*5*25 + 8 + 5 = 813 (7)
Stuffed it up -
About 27 secs. Just after Leif

Jan said...

Oops - 2nd numbers 8*4*25 + 8 + 5 = 813

Mike Backhouse said...

Here are mine, such as they are:

25*4*8+8+5=813 (2 off)
SOAPED (saw COASTED just after time, or as they say in Countdown, 'I have a seven not written down!')
75+25+9+6)*5-9=564 (2 away)

Mike Backhouse said...

I note there is no show on Wednesday due to coverage of the U.S. election.

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Mike. That's going to mess up the schedule a little; either they skip an episode, or there'll be a lot of talk about the wrong days of the week.

Jan: BURREN was a new word to me! Thank you for expanding my vocabulary, although I admit I'm not likely to recall it.