Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Shifting to a new format (plus link to NG 18)

I've decided that the previous way I've been doing this has been a bit awkward; in fact, that was pretty clear from the start -- the blog is not well suited to the kind of display of the games that I used, and the comments section is a rather poor place to do the longer breakdowns that I provide.  So this game marks the first shift to a revised way of doing things.  I hope you'll like it; I certainly regard it as an improvement, even if I do not directly benefit.

The new game may be accessed here.  I've added in attempts to duplicate the various timing facets of the show's display (but not the thirty second countdown as yet; maybe as an extension).  In particular, those of you who, like me, are used to writing down the letters should find this new system works somewhat better for that style.  Those who just stare at the monitor may find the letter rounds unbearably slow; apologies.  (I have thoughts as to what to do about that.)

It should all be pretty clear after you experience it. *chuckles*  Suggestions for improvements or general feedback about the new system is encouraged in comments.

In conjunction with this, I shall move back to putting the long breakdowns into blog posts; things flow much better that way, I feel.  And I'll see what I can do about getting a better schedule to the game display compared to my current somewhat erratic one.

Game details after the cut.

Round 1: T F P E I E N B A

I had FEET, FEINT, and BENEFIT.  I was pretty pleased with that, particularly as I was failing to see any sixes.

The other seven here is one that I've mentioned a few times before, and there was a time when I would have found it: BETAINE.

There were some findable sixes, such as BEANIE and BEATEN.  The only other one I'll mention is PINETA, found by commenter Victor and also mentioned by David back in one of the series two semifinals (episode 199).  Nice one, Victor!

Round 2: D D D I E R K U R

I was rather surprised when the third D showed up.  I had DIED, DRIED, RUDDER, and RUDDIER.

RUDDIER is the only seven; amongst the other sixes are KIDDER and KIDDED.

Round 3: Target 611 from 50 75 25 3 9 9

The target is near 625, which is 25*25 and familiar territory for those who manipulate the large numbers.  But the offsets of 11 or 14 are not that manageable from those smalls, at least not without using up too many of the large numbers.  I settled for one away with 610 = (75 - 50)*25 - (9 + 9 - 3); there's many other ways to one off.

Computer checking shows that there is precisely one solution, and I'd be amazed at anyone finding it within time.  It was almost findable, though -- if the 50 and 25 were a 100 instead I would have had the related solution -- so I'll break it down.

The key observation (which I had noted) is that an offset of 11 is also an offset of 36, which is divisible by 9.  In fact, 36 = 3*9 + 9 is makeable from the small numbers and leaves the 3 or 9 around for tweaking purposes.  The aim then becomes to get to 575 with the three large numbers and possibly a tweak.

Obviously 575 is 675 - 100, and 675 is 9*75, but we don't have the 100.  The part which is hard to spot is that 575 = 1250 - 675, and 1250 is 25*50 while 675 is 9*75.  Putting it all together gives the only solution: 611 = 25*50 - 9*(75 - 3) + 9.  Phew!

Round 4: L H S F O E T D O

I had HOLES, FOOTLES, FOOTLED, and SELFHOOD.  I observed that this was a rare instance where more duplication would have been nice -- replace the E with another O and FOOTHOLDS is an option.  Unfortunately, FOOTHOLDS may not be FOOTHELD.

The two other eights are TOEHOLDS / TOOLSHED.  I am a little chagrined at spotting the not-there FOOTHOLDS and missing TOEHOLDS!  Well done to Victor and Jan on finding this word.

The sevens are TOEHOLD, SOOTHED, and STOOLED (STOOL as a verb: "to throw up shoots from the base or root, as a plant") / TOLEDOS (TOLEDO: "a type of sword or sword blade"; it's usually capitalised, but may be lower case).

Round 5: C R H A O A S E N

I had ARCH, ROACH, SEARCH, ANCHORS / ARCHONS, RANCHES, and ROACHES.  There were enough sevens that longer seemed plausible, but I could not spot one.

Not too surprisingly, as it turns out.  The only eight is ARCHAEON (plural form is only ARCHAEA, alas): "a microscopic organism which can survive without heat or light from the sun, and which thrives at temperatures near boiling point which would kill any other organism".

Round 6: Target 290 from 100 50 25 75 4 5

The four large numbers can produce 298, 300, or 302, but the offsets aren't right for just the small numbers.  Looking at the standard method instead, the offsets are 10 and 15 and I recognised the chance to divide a large number by 5.  I started off with 290 = 4*50 + 100 - 25 + 75/5, then found the somewhat simpler 290 = 4*75 - 50/10.  Changing tacks, I pulled out the factor of 5 to get the solution 290 = (50 + 100/25 + 4)*5.

If I had thought a little more carefully, though, I would have seen that 302 - 3*4 does get to the target, and made the original idea work with 290 = (75*(100 - 4) + 50) / 25.

Round 7: N S T X E I I R I


The mix was looking pretty reasonable, even with the X, until the third I turned up.  Perhaps a final consonant would have been a better choice, with a C allowing EXTRINSIC.  I took a peek and the next one would have been a B, which would at least have allowed BRINIEST.  On the other hand, an A for RAINIEST was entirely reasonable to try for.

Nothing longer than six, and there are quite a few sixes: INTERS / INSERT / SINTER / NITRES / TRINES (TRINE: "a set or group of three"), IRITIS ("inflammation of the iris of the eye"; I mentioned the derived word IRITIC in the second new game), and NIXIES (NIXIE being the feminine form of NIX: "a water-sprite, usually small, and either in human form, or half human, half fish").

Update: Sam pointed out in a comment that STRINE is also valid.

Round 8: Target 538 from 25 6 6 4 5 7

A stark reminder that even the generally-easy single large number can produce difficult games.  I wrote down a fallback one away 539 = (4*7 - 6)*25 - 6 - 5, and was not able to better it within time.

Considerably later I hit upon trying the descent from 600, and tweaked my way to a solution of 538 = (25*6 - 5)*4 - 6*7.

Tweaking is the way to go here; there are exactly two other solutions, both working along similar lines.  They are (in my opinion) hard to spot, though, descending from 700 and 750 respectively: 538 = (25 - 6)*7*4 + 6 and 538 = (25 - 7)*6*5 - (6 - 4).

On the other hand, it may be easier to think of those as adjusted versions of descent from 560 and 540 respectively.  560 is 28*20, and 7*4 is 28, and 25 - 6 is close to 20; it ends up working out quite well.  In the second case, 540 is 30*18 and again things go well.  Subtracting things from 25 before multiplying is not a technique that comes easily to me, though.


I was presented this in the form PLUSSTRET, but it made no difference; I was not able to unscramble this within time.  The answer is SPLUTTERS.

(Victor makes a good observation that conundrums ending in S as a simple plural or participle form should be avoided, and I agree.  I'd eliminated one of them earlier, in fact.  This time I second-guessed myself, as the fact that I had not solved it meant that I could be seen as a bit self-serving to eliminate it.)

Overall, some interesting letter rounds -- TOEHOLDS being my favourite word of the game, even though I did not find it -- and a couple of numbers rounds with bite to them.


Mike Backhouse said...

Geoff- you have done a good job on simulating the progressive nature of the numbers and letters. I got used to the other way, but I do like writing the letters down, and there is that extra time you get when they are being read out. The recording of the time for the conundrum is very accurate, although the 30 sec time limit for each game always sends me into panic mode!

9*75-50-(9+3)=613 (2 off)
LOOTED (pity SHOOTED is not a word)
EXIST (a X and 3 I's-sheesh)
5*4*25+6*6=536 (2 off)

Jan said...

Geoff - I like the way the letters and numbers come. Thanks.

The conundrum was way to hard for me. It will be interesting to see what it is!

(3+9)*50 + 9 + 75/25 = 612 (1 off)
TOEHOLDS (my fav word of this game)
CHOSEN, SEARCH (missed RANCHES - well done Mike)
4*75 - 50/5 = 290
7*4 - 6 = 22. 22*25 - (6+5) = 539 (1 off)

Victor said...

Nice work Geoff, I particularly like the little animation on the 'random' number generator. And yes, the rounds seems much slower now (before I was starting my timer just before opening the letters).

Ideas for the future might be a timer for each round, a word validity checker, and maybe some sort of application that would allow us to play against each other in real time. (Oh and also conundrums that don't end in S, for verbs and nouns).

TOEHOLDS is an awesome spot Jan, and it's a word I happened to know, and I was secretly wishing nobody else would get it :P

2. RUDDER (chickened out of RUDDIER)
3. 1 away: 610 = (75 - 50)*25 - 9 - 9 + 3
6. 290 = ((100 - 4)*75 + 50)/25
8. 1 away: 537 = 5*(4*25 + 6) + 7
9. -

Geoff Bailey said...

Thanks, all. My breakdown is in the main post now, for those who are interested, including the answer to the conundrum.

Mike: Yes, that extra time seemed to me to be the biggest issue for online versions of the game; it typically ends up being around forty seconds or so when the other person is calling out the letters. Of course, it's much less when you are doing the calling, since your focus ends up split. Still, I wanted to attempt to provide that extra time... it would be better with sound bites, maybe at some point.

As for the time limit, you can ignore it as much as you wish. The conundrum timer simply records elapsed time for those who want to get an idea of it.

Some nice results from everyone, and good to see that the numbers results were in close territory. Two tough numbers rounds today, I'd say.

Victor: The word validity checker is difficult, as it requires having a dictionary to back it up. Maybe one day, but there's a lot of work involved in that. And you make a good point about the conundrums -- sorry about that! It was a case where I was leaning over backwards to not favour myself by ruling out a conundrum that I did not solve, and lost sight of the fact that it still should not have been selected.

Sam Gaffney said...

Hi Geoff, I'm still another three games from catching up, but I thought I'd try out the new format.

The gradual letter/number display is an excellent addition, and allows one to write speculator words early in the mix (ANCHORS was one for me here).

My favourite feature is the conundrum timer; apart from pre-emption, every contest now produces a clear result (and there are no TV sync issues with the recording of the board spin). I'd like to see more decimal places, timing can get tight. (Heh heh heh...)

The variety of conundrum words has also been good, it is a different feeling to L&N: their solutions were never weird or dodgy words, whereas here a word like THINKIEST is plausible.

The big omission is a countdown clock, or seconds-remaining display. Perhaps at least a "time's up!" display could go in?

The number mixes are excellent - much more interesting than getting three family/classroom mixes ad nauseum. I must protest your shortage of heavyweights, though - anything below 90% is insufficient. A delightful Round 6 answer here suggests that Victor is a convert.

With the letter mixes, I think they are better than Countdown, but occasionally letters get repeated too often: the easiest tweak might be a no tripled-letter rule in your letter generation (triples were exceedingly rare in later L&N series). The contrived AEIO mixes on L&N did make nice fertile grounds for anagrams.

Jan and Victor did very well to score TOEHOLDS - I kept coming back to FOOTHOLD, but thought that toehold sounded ridiculous!

RUDDIER (more like Kevin Rudd)
one off: 612 = 75*9 -50-25 +9+3
290 = 4*75 - 50/5, then (100*75-50*5)/25
STRINE (capital?)
one off: 539 = (7*4-5)*25 - 6*6. After time: 538 = (25-6)*4*7 + 6
SPLUTTERS 2.3s (official!)

Geoff Bailey said...

Ah, yes, STRINE is also valid. Good catch! I recall a contestant trying it in what turns out to be episode 85.

With respect to the timing, it's simply not reliable asking for much more accuracy than a tenth of a second, tempting though it was to provide more. I know you like to slice those conundrum times rather fine, but you'll just have to cope. *chuckles*

Thanks for your feedback, everyone. It is much appreciated. I'm not sure if I'll have much chance to tinker with it before Christmas, but that just gives me longer to think about possible adjustments.

JT said...

The new format is great is probably the best thing apart from being on L+N itself my numbers were suprisingly shocking

invalid again

JT said...

oh and nothing on the conundrum

Geoff Bailey said...

My condolences, JT -- they were a couple of touogh numbers rounds, though.