Sunday, 29 May 2016

Ep 113: Matthew Thomason, Ryan Turk (May 27, 2016; originally aired Janury 5, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

It's Matthew Thomason's fifth night, and a win here should put him into the finals.  His scoring has been decent, too, so even a loss tonight would stand him a decent shot at it, provided he scores adequately in the process.  Richard wheels out the question about technique, suggesting that perhaps we are running short of anecdotes for Matthew to tell, unlikely though that would seem -- he strikes me as somewhat of a raconteur.  In any case, Matthew indicates that there is no technique; he has done crosswords, including those by a certain DA, for many years, and he does the Target, but there doesn't seem to be a strategy behind any of it.  Sometimes he just sees a word, and other times he does not.

Tonight's challenger is Ryan Turk, an I.T. network engineer who was once verbally abused by Jim Courier, the famous tennis player, while Ryan was working as a line umpire for the Australian Open.  As Ryan relates it, he had called a ball out, and Courier responded by running over to him and screaming in his face.  There was a certain amount of instant karma here, though, although this may not have been apparent at the time: Ryan had reconsidered his call and decided that the ball was in, and was going to correct himself, but was not able to do so after that behaviour.

(This matter is covered in the ITF's Rules of Tennis, in appendix VI: Role of Court Officials, and I imagine that the line umpires are also given explicit instruction about this.  The relevant case decision is: If a line umpire realises a mistake, a correction should be made as soon as possible provided it is not as the result of a protest or appeal of a player.  Also, the result must stand in such a situation: A chair umpire must never overrule as the result of the protest or appeal by a player.)

The contestants started out with matching words in the first round, but Matthew found an excellent word in the second round to take the early lead.  He did so again in round four, pushing him clear by more than a conundrum.  The remaining letter rounds were shared, but Ryan made some good tactical choices in the numbers rounds to score points there and take over the lead going into the conundrum.  It was not enough, though, as Matthew continued his streak of very fast conundrum solutions to secure the win, 52 to 48.

I had decent results in most rounds, but unfortunately hit an invalid word in round two that set me back a bit.  I was a touch too slow with the right approach in the second numbers round, but overall managed to do enough to be comfortably clear of the contestants.  So far the winning run is continuing.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Ep 112: Matthew Thomason, Matt Bolton (May 26, 2016; originally aired January 4, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

This is the crucial fourth night for Matthew Thomason, and Richard informs us that Matthew has done a lot of travel programs as part of his TV writing and directing career.  He points out that they look glamorous, but asks about the life.  Matthew responds that it is very enjoyable, but you don't get to "sit and do the touristy thing".  On the other hand, some great experiences can result.  Matthew relates an anecdote from one time when he was shooting in Pompei (and possibly in Pompeii, for that matter).  At lunchtime, the guide took them to a place where tourists don't generally go; the owner of the establishment took them aside, cooked them a special pasta and served them home-made wine, and they ended up having lunch in a 3000-year-old gymnasium.

Tonight's challenger is Matt Bolton, a database administrator who works for Oxfam Australia, and owns a geodesic dome house.  Richard asks why he decided on such an interesting architecture for his house.  Matt says that the unique structure of it was what appealed to him and his partner.  The house is actually two domes, made up of triangular sections that combine into hexagons and pentagons, making a shape somewhat similar to a soccer ball.

The contestants started with a nice pair of sevens, but then the wobbles set in -- each of their answers for the next two rounds were invalid.  Matthew managed to creep ahead in the fourth round, but it was the sixth round that effectively ensured his victory, as an error from Matt gave Matthew the unanswered points.  A good find in the final letters round ensured Matthew's victory; the final numbers round was too challenging for both contestants, but Matthew solved the conundrum in very quick time to pad out his scoreline, finishing the victor with 44 points to 12.

I missed a full monty in the second round, but managed to avoid the invalid options that the contestants found.  Aside from that I managed to hit maxima most of the way, except for the final numbers round where I discarded an approach too soon.  I was happy to solve the conundrum just ahead of Matthew, giving me a good final score with some nice words found.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Ep 111: Matthew Thomason, Liam Murphy (May 25, 2016; originally aired January 3, 2011)

Rounds: Here.

This episode was the first of the new year, and so the pre-game banter is mostly about New Year's Eve.  It's Matthew Thomason's third night, and Richard continues the theme by asking how Matthew spent his New Year's Eve.  Matthew responds that he did the same as every year -- he slept through it.

Tonight's challenger is Liam Murphy, who has just finished a Bachelor of Pharmacy and spent the last two summers working at a chemist in a beachside town, meaning that he could surf every day.  That should endear him somewhat to Lily!  Furthermore, Liam has just accepted a job at a pharmacy in Noosa, for an intern year, so he hopes to continue the trend.

After the second break there's a bit more revealed.  (I think this is the third time in a row, or at least recently, that there's been some further contestant chatting done after the second break.  I wonder if they were trying to make it a thing, or maybe they suspected the contestants would lose and wanted to get a few more of their conversational snippets.  I don't recall it happening much by the time I had started watching.)  Anyway, like Dane Watkins from the previous episode, Liam was also a student of Chris Scholten-Smith, the show's first carryover champion.  In this case it was for year 9 English.

Liam started off well to take the early lead, but that was the high point of the show for him.  Matthew quickly overtook Liam, then the numbers rounds pushed Matthew past catching.  Liam managed to equal Matthew in the last two letters rounds, but was never able to stop Matthew scoring after the first round.  A tough conundrum proved beyond both contestants, but Matthew had cruised home to win, 49 to 18.

I managed to keep pace with David and Lily for most of the game, but then faltered on the last letters round.  The conundrum was also too difficult for me, but I'd done more than enough to beat the contestants.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Ep 110: Matthew Thomason, Dane Watkins (May 24, 2016; originally aired December 31, 2010)

Rounds: Here.

Matthew Thomason gets a taste of the champion's seat, and it seems to be to his liking.  Tonight we find out that Matthew once shared a stage with Dame Joan Sutherland.  It was his professional stage debut, and he was working as a supernumerary (essentially, an extra), which he describes as "the lowest of the low [...] we stand around and keep very still, and try not to bump into people".  The production was an opera called Adriana Lecouvreur.  Matthew jokingly claims that at the first rehearsal he pulled Dame Joan aside, they had a chat, and agreed that she should do the singing and he should do the standing around, and that worked very well.

Tonights challenger is high school student Dane Watkins, who wants to study physiotherapy and eventually run his own clinic.  Over the last couple of years Dane has gotten into subjects such as physical education, which he says is about the theory and biomechanics of how the body works, how to heal it and prevent ourselves from damaging it any further.  (I must say, that's a far cry from what P.E. was when I was at school.)  He has found that he loves it, and he would like to grow up and learn how to apply that to help people involved in sports such as the ones he competes in himself.

At the start of round six there's another snippet revealed: Chris Scholten-Smith, the show's very first champion from episode 1, was Dane's English teacher in year 7.  Dane watched all his episodes, and apparently Chris had a big fan base back at school.

It's one of those soul-crushing games for Dane tonight -- Matthew just kept finding options that were marginally better.  It took until round six before Dane managed to get on the board at all, and I'm sure it was a relief!  Matthew scored points in every round, including a quick conundrum solution, and unsurprisingly finished greatly ahead, 64 to 15.

My game was mostly good, but once again it would have been so much better with an extra few seconds on the clock.  Three times I found better words just after the expiration of time, and one of those even eluded David's eagle eye, so that's a very rare chance to outdo him lost.  Lily stumbled in the last numbers round so that I ended up tying her and David on the solo score, but that just emphasises how much I needed to find those better words faster and so outdo them.  Maybe next time...

Monday, 23 May 2016

Ep 109: Jodi Knight, Matthew Thomason (May 23, 2016; originally aired December 30, 2010)

Rounds: Here.

Jodi Knight returns for her second game, and Richard notes that Jodi is involved in an indigenous education program.  He asks for more details, and Jodi responds that she works as an Aboriginal education worker at a high school from "where [she is] from".  She works on anything that they need help with, which is mostly mathematics and English.

There's also a little more of a chat with Jodi later on in the show, at the start of the last third.  Richard refers back to yesterday's talk where it was mentioned that Jodi coaches cricket, and asks if she is doing any of that at the moment.  Jodi responds in the affirmative; in fact, she is coaching two teams: a local under-12's boys side, and a regional representative primary girls side.

Tonight's challenger is Matthew Thomason, a TV writer and director who has created shows about everything from travel to backyard science experiments, and once wrote scripts for Michelle Obama.  Richard naturally asks how that came to be about.  Matthew explains that he works for the company that produces Mythbusters, and they are doing an alternative version incorporating backyard science and Q&A's based on science.  In addition to their regular presenter, they also included some special guest presenters, of which one was Michelle Obama.  She wanted to talk about fighting childhood obesity, so he wrote some scripts for that.  (Unfortunately, I cannot figure out what that show would have been; it was most likely part of her Let's Move campaign, which would place it in 2010, but I haven't found a good match for the available information.)

Richard adds another snippet here, that over twenty years ago he and Matthew worked together.  Matthew describes it as Richard doing "in-flight videos for a very well-known commerical airline", and Matthew was the producer of those videos.

Jodi found an excellent word in the first game, but was blown out of the water by Matthew's even better find of a full monty.  Another good find from Matthew in the second round put him a daunting 25 points ahead, and that ended up being just too much to recover from.  It was mostly level-pegging after that, with Jodi making a couple of small pickups but not quite enough.  She needed to solve the last numbers round to have a chance, but it was too hard and Matthew was safe going into the conundrum.  Neither managed to solve it, and Matthew won with 46 points to Jodi's 34.

I was just a fraction too slow to see two words tonight, including that full monty.  But the remaining rounds provided enough fodder for me to come back, particularly a couple of challenging numbers rounds.  I was just safe going into the conundrum; I was a bit slow to solve it, but got there, and was rather relieved to get the win after missing that full monty.  It always makes such a big difference!

Weekly summary: Episodes 104 to 108

Once again I forgot about doing the summary until Monday.  Whoops!  There's not too much difference from last week; decent results but never quite finding those high notes.  As I've noticed happening before, it seems that my performance dropped off toward the end of the week, although that could partly be attributed to some excellent finds from Jodi Knight on Friday.

David + Lily7786727473
Me (solo)7575696970

Luke managed to break that trend of the champion losing, but only for one game.  Kathryn also managed to defend the champion's position once, but lost in turn to David, who then lost to Jodi on the final night.  Jodi had some good results in that game; let's hope she can keep that up!

Brett Chaiyawat2559284234188
Luke Brattoni535244149
Kathryn James464136123
Jason Dunn5943102
Raf Goodens593998
David Waddell383371
Jodi Knight*4848
Aram Kalyanasundaram3636

There was one full monty available this week, ably found by David.  The numbers were a bit more lively in the latter half, with one genuinely unreachable target and two others that were rather difficult.

Full Monties11
Missed Full Monties

Tough Numbers112
Impossible Numbers1

I started out the week doing pretty well on the maxima, and if not for a very poor result in a numbers round would have had a maximal game on Wednesday.  But the late-week curse hit, and I dropped a lot on Thursday and Friday.  The silver lining is that I've solved every conundrum so far, although twice contestants have beaten me to it.

Maximums: L33521

Contestants sorted by average score:

Jason Dunn102251.00
Luke Brattoni149349.67
Raf Goodens98249.00
Jodi Knight*48148.00
Kathryn James123341.00
Brett Chaiyawat188537.60
Aram Kalyanasundaram36136.00
David Waddell71235.50
Rhys McCaig13113.00

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Ep 108: David Waddell, Jodi Knight (May 20, 2016; originally aired December 29, 2010)

Rounds: Here.

David Waddell gets his turn in the champion's seat tonight, and Richard reveals that it is David's wedding anniversary tonight.  (I'm guessing that was the airdate rather than the date of filming, although they would have been fairly close at that point -- the show's organisers only found out quite late that they were being renewed after the end of the first series.)  Four years ago he married "[his] lovely wife Jen".  He proposed to her during a climb of the Sydney harbour bridge, right at the top of it.

Tonight's challenger is Jodi Knight, a radiography student and education worker who describes herself as "sports crazed".  Jodi plays basketball and tennis, and coaches cricket.  That's all we find out -- it was a strangely short introduction.

To avoid confusion between the Davids, I will be referring to David Astle as DA for the rest of this writeup.

Jodi took a small risk in the first round that paid off, and then the next round was split.  Both contestants rather strangely ended up with invalid answers to the first numbers round, but then Jodi stretched her lead with an excellent find in round 4.  Shared rounds followed -- the remaining numbers rounds were too easy to be useful -- and again both contestants had invalid answers in round 7.  Jodi was safe going into the conundrum, and with neither solving it the scoreline remained at 48 to 33 in her favour.

I was not able to find my best options that well, and only those invalid answers from Jodi kept me close.  Thanks to those I was just a point behind going into the conundrum, and fortunately managed to solve it to scramble home to the win.  Phew!