Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ep 259: Emily Hawker, Daniel McNamara (February 12, 2015; originally aired August 25, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

Disclaimer: I watched this episode when it first aired, and although I did not recall any of it I cannot rule out memory being a factor.

There's no pre-game chat with David and Lily this episode, which might be the show attempting to make up time after the earlier episodes filmed that day.  Fortunately, we still get to hear from the contestants.

Richard praises Emily's previous exceptional game, and asks if she was fuelled by chocolate.  Emily laughs and agrees that she was, and is most of the time.  Asked about when the love of chocolate began, she suggests that it have formed in utero, as her mother is also a big chocolate lover.  In any case, she has loved chocolate as long as she can remember, and was even the secretary of the Chocolate Lovers Society at university.

Tonight's challenger is Daniel McNamara, who wrote a program to help him practice for the show.  Further explanation reveals that this was a program to solve numbers games and to work out whether there is an exact solution or not.  (I agree that can be useful, but I think that there's more benefit using a programs simply to quickly generate games to play; one can learn a little technique from seeing solutions -- and I certainly found that somewhat useful myself -- but there's far more benefit to simply playing through lots and lots of rounds.)

Daniel used this program for a few days before the auditions, and adds that he thinks there's a lot of room to expand the program to make it more efficient, and a fuller approach to solving those problems.  I'll take this opportunity to point out the "Countdown" numbers game solver website, which I use occasionally.

Daniel starts off with a risky and ultimately invalid play in the first round, and thereafter there is very little difference between the contestants.  In fact, there was only one other round where a difference in scores happened; that time, Emily took the risk.  It paid off for her, however, and so she took an unassailable lead into the conundrum.  It was another tough one, and neither contestant found the answer within time.  That gave Emily her second win, 53 to 40.

I felt off my game tonight, particularly on the numbers rounds where I only just got answers down in time on two of them, and was too slow for the solution on the third.  An oversight on the letters in one round saw me fail to declare a better option, and I was also beaten by the conundrum.  The statistics make it seem like I played better than I did; I was struggling in many of the rounds.

As usual, details after the jump.

Round 1: W P N O A S I E R

I wrote down WEAPON speculatively after the first three letters, then had PAWN, SPAWN, WEAPONS, and PARISON.  After time I noted PERSONA as another seven, and checked up on RESPAWN; that's a common term in online video gaming, but it's not in the Macquarie 5th.

This is a very rare case where I would have asked for a fifth vowel, as I saw the potential for WEAPONISE.  The next vowel would have been an E, too... which means I was lucky, since WEAPONISE is not listed.  Huh.

Daniel takes a chance on WASPIER*, while Emily has opted for WEAPONS.  David checks, and although WASPY is listed the explicit WASPIER* is not.  David explains the rule about spelling shifts being required to be explicitly listed, and thus that WASPIER* does not get the nod.  He notes PERSONA as his choice of seven.

The other sevens are SNOWIER, SOAPIER, SOPRANI, ERASION, ENWRAPS / PAWNERS / SPAWNER, INWRAPS (INWRAP being a variant form of ENWRAP), RAPINES, and ORPINES (ORPINE being a type of plant).

Daniel: [invalid -- WASPIER*]

Scores: Emily 7, Daniel 0, me 7

Round 2: E A I L C B T O E

Gah, Daniel likes vowels too much; I wanted a final consonant, hoping for an M for METABOLIC.  It would not have turned up, but I can dream.  There was lots of other potential, too, such as OBLIGATE and OBSTACLE.  Anyway, I had LACE, CABLE, wondered about CITABLE but thought it would probably need another E if it were listed, LOCATE, and saw CABLE TIE but knew it would be two words.  After time I looked back at my words and realised that I could have tried CITEABLE after all, and I probably would have risked it.  My disappointment was compounded when checking showed that both of CITEABLE and CITABLE are listed, so I had an acceptable seven written down after all.

Both contestants have found five-letter words; Emily's is CABLE and Daniel's is BLOAT.  David expresses his surprise, saying that there were "quite a few sixes and sevens" available, but he has found the pair of eights of CITEABLE / CELIBATE.

I think David's statement comes across as a bit inaccurate as far as the seven-letter words go.  Aside from CITABLE there are only two others, neither especially common: ICEBOAT and ALOETIC (adjective derived from ALOE).

Lumping the sixes in with the sevens (as surely was his intent) makes it more reasonable.  The other sixes are COBALT, CABLET (a small cable), BOATIE, BOATEL / OBLATE / LOBATE, OLEATE ("an ester or a salt of oleic acid", which is one of the fatty acids), COITAL, ALBEIT / ALBITE (a mineral), BAILEE, and CITOLE (CITOLE being given in the Macquarie as a variant name for two different instruments, the cittern and the kithara).

Emily: CABLE
Daniel: BLOAT

Scores: Emily 7 (12), Daniel 0 (5), me 13

Round 3: Target 991 from 25 50 1 7 5 4

On to the numbers, and getting to 1000 seems like the obvious starting point.  My first attempt used up the 4 and 5, only allowing a result of 1 off with 992 = 4*5*50 - 7 - 1.  Late in the piece I considered the option of working down from 25*50 = 1250, which after tweaking gave me 1000 in a different way with (25 - 5)*50.  I spotted the option of tweaking further to get 980 + 11, and so had the solution 991 = (25 - 5)*(50 - 1) + 7 + 4.

Both contestants have found their way to 992; Emily has gone the same was as my first attempt, but Daniel took the alternative approach of 992 = (25 - 5)*50 - 7 - 1.  So close -- if he'd just thought of the tweak he could have solved it.  Lily has accurately found that tweak to get the same solution that I did.

There are a few other solutions, as it turns out.  The one that I particularly like is 991 = (50 + 5)*(25 - 7) + 1.

Emily: 992
Daniel: 992
Me: 991
Lily: 991

Scores: Emily 7 (19), Daniel 0 (12), me 23

First break: LIME BAND ("Masculine beak")

After starting with MAN the continuation to MANDIBLE was not too hard, especially given the clue.

David's talk was about exonyms, which are (loosely speaking) names for places as used by people from other countries (than those places are in).

Round 4: U I O D N K F A E

Gah, five vowels again, although I can understand the want of an E.  Still, I am somewhat happy that Daniel only gets to choose two letters rounds in this game.  I had DUNK, KIND, FOUND, FAKED, rightly rejected UNFAKED, and KNIFED.

Daniel has gone with FAKED for five, but Emily has risked the six of FUNKED.  She may have been thinking in terms of music, but there is no associated verb for FUNK in that sense.  However, it does have one in another sense: "to shrink or quail in fear".  So Emily's risk pays off, and puts her more than a conundrum's worth in the lead.  David has found FONDUE as his six, and ties that in to Emily's enjoyment of chocolate.

The other sixes are OINKED, DAIKON, and FUNDIE (colloquial for "a superannuation fund manager").

Daniel: FAKED

Scores: Emily 13 (25), Daniel 0 (12), me 29

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

I had DIMS, DIMES, SPIED, DAMPED, PADDIES, MADDEST, STAMPED, and IMPASTED (IMPASTE: "to cover with or enclose in a paste").

Both contestants have found seven-letter words here; Daniel has PADDIES while Emily has STAMPED.  David mentions PASTIME as another seven, but has gone one better with MISDATED.

The other sevens are MISDATE, IMPASTE, DAMPEST, DIADEMS, and TADDIES (colloquial for tadpoles).


Scores: Emily 13 (32), Daniel 0 (19), me 37

Round 6: Target 319 from 25 10 7 5 4 2

Daniel cements Cameron's terminology by asking for the classroom mix, and it was a bit more awkward than it feels like it should have been.  The instinctive option was 13*25 - 6, but it turns out that there's no possible solution using that approach.  That does pretty much explain the difficulty.  Fortunately, I also considered other options; working up from 12*25 was one of them; I first made the 12 as 7 + 5 but realised that would use up all my odd numbers, and switched to 10 + 2.  Getting to 19 with the rest was possible with a tweak, giving me the solution 319 = (10 + 2)*(25 + 5 - 4) + 7.  Then I shifted tacks to trying to get close with a multiple of 10, and the option 319 = (25 + 7)*10 - (5 - 4) followed pretty easily once that was considered.  A bit after time I considered the approach of 324 - 5, since 324 is the square of 18, and found another solution of 319 = (25 - 7)*(10 + 2*4) - 5.

Both contestants are three away at 316; it turns out that they each went with 316 = (10 + 2)*25 + 7 + 5 + 4.  I find that a little strange, as I would have thought that (10 + 2)*25 + 4*5 should occur as an option, and is only one off.

Lily has solved this, using the second of the solutions that I listed.

Emily: 316
Daniel: 316
Me: 319
Lily: 319

Scores: Emily 13 (39), Daniel 0 (26), me 47

Second break: MOOR POLO ("Your treasures go straight here")

I saw POOLROOM, but did not understand the clue until Richard explained that it was a reference to The Castle.

Round 7: B N R I U T E C A

I had BRUIN ("a bear"), BRUNT, TRIBUNE / TURBINE, and CABINET.  After time I noted other sevens of CARBINE, CENTAUR, TAURINE, and CERTAIN, and then somewhat later considering the -ATE fragment gave me INCUBATE (and checking confirmed that INCUBATER was not valid).

Both contestants have gone with TRIBUNE for seven.  David points out the often-useful -ATE fragment, and has accurately found INCUBATE as a result.

The other eights are URBANITE / BRAUNITE (a mineral) and BACTERIN ("a vaccine prepared from dead or attenuated bacteria").  The other sevens are CURTAIN, URINATE, UNBRACE, BRUCITE (another mineral), BRUCINE (a poisonous alkaloid similar to strychnine), CERATIN (variant spelling of the protein KERATIN), and TUNICAE (plural of TUNICA: synonymous with anatomical or similar meanings of TUNIC, such as "any loose membranous skin not formed from the epidermis").


Scores: Emily 20 (46), Daniel 7 (33), me 54

Round 8: Target 214 from 50 3 5 10 1 8

Daniel needs unanswered points here in order to have a chance, and he gets a surprisingly tough numbers game again from the classroom mix.  I sort of panicked here, as nothing seemed to work out, and in the end had to scramble to write down a 1 away 213 = (5 - 1)*50 + 10 + 3.

After time I found a few working approaches.  The first came from noticing that the offset from 150 was 64, which is 8*8.  That did not quite work out as given, but I was able to make the 64 another way to get 214 = 3*(50 + 8) + (5 - 1)*10.  Then I spotted the provocative 264 - 50, and 264 has many useful factors.  That served up 214 = 3*8*(10 + 1) - 50.  Finally, I revisited my answer and saw that a tweak there would have saved me: 214 = (5 - 1)*(50 + 3) + 10 - 8.  I'm annoyed to have missed that.

Both contestants are one off with 215, and that is bad news for Daniel.  His solution is 215 = (3 + 1)*50 + 10 + 5, and it turns out that Emily has done it exactly the same way.  That keeps her lead over ten points, and guarantees her the win.  Lily has ably found the solution 214 = 5*(50 - 8) + 3 + 1.  The thought of working down from 5*50 somehow did not occur to me, which is a bit vexing as a couple of obvious approaches immediately work once that is considered -- the other being 214 = 5*(50 - 10 + 3) - 1.

Emily: 215
Daniel: 215
Me: 213
Lily: 214

Scores: Emily 27 (53), Daniel 14 (40), me 61


It's another tough conundrum.  I saw PTOMAINE immediately, which would have been good in a main round, but nothing was working to get a longer result.  It ended up taking me a minute and six seconds to see the answer of PANTOMIME.

Neither contestant finds it, so the scores remain unchanged.

Emily: [no answer]
Daniel: [no answer]
Me: [no answer]

Scores: Emily 27 (53), Daniel 14 (40), me 61

It was yet another close game tonight -- there's been a spate of those recently, excepting the previous game, and that's been good.  The contestants had same-scoring results on seven of the nine rounds, and if the results of those two risky choices had gone the other way then Daniel would have won instead of Emily.  Bad luck for him, but Emily is the victor and moves onto her third game tomorrow.

I had some good results, but only IMPASTED felt comfortable.  I was definitely struggling in the numbers rounds, and chased overly-complicated approaches for too long, to my cost.  Hopefully tomorrow's game will go more smoothly.


Mike Backhouse said...

Not much chop for me today. I only beat the contestants in round 6 and was behind them in a few of the letters rounds.

x not within range.
10*(25+7)-(5-4)=319 (Lily's way)
(3+1)*50+10+5=215 (1 off). Then saw Lily's way just out of time.
x jumped in with wrong answer

Sam G said...

Daniel would have won some episodes had he drawn a softer carry-over champ.

Some hard conundrums recently.

2. x BELATE. I think I've made this mistake before.
3. 991 = (50-1)*(25-5) + 7 + 4. Very happy with this.
5. STAMPED. I rejected IMPASTED for some reason.
6. two off: 317 = 25*4*(5-2) + 10 + 7. Late rush, saw 320 earlier.
8. 214 = (50-8)*5 + 3 + 1
9. Took a couple of minutes to solve. Hard one, no common chunks to work with.

Mike Backhouse said...

Yes Sam, nice solution to round 3. I got bogged down with only looking at 50+25 options. Hopefully I will remember the starting point of 50*20 for numbers just shy of a 1000.

Justin Thai said...

Hot and cold for me although I happily can claim that conundrum, which seemingly eluded everyone..

PASTED (didn't think IMPASTED)
invalid (UNRATE)
about 4-5sec

Geoff Bailey said...

Congratulations on solving the conundrum, Justin!

Justin Thai said...

Thanks Geoff, btw I think the writing out of the Round 8 final solution, should not have the final bracket there, some people could read the solution as 220

Geoff Bailey said...

Well, the bracket was correctly placed, but I agree it was unhelpful to mix a parenthetical remark with a numbers solution in that way. Thanks for drawing it to my attention; I have adjusted the post to address the issue.

Emily said...

Had to laugh at your comment about the second numbers solution - I was writing the 4*5 solution out as time ended! Catch-22 - I always wrote the first one I think of within five points to make sure I had something written down to play, but this time it meant I didn't get a better solution down in time.