Weaver's Week 2009-12-20

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Series 61, Finals Week

Andrew Hulme (1st seed, 8 wins, 930 points) beat Jacqueline Baker (8th seed, 5 wins, 510), 86-42

Since we last met her in June, Jacqui has been to Ibiza twice, seen Take That twice, and had two jobs. Andrew graced the stage in July, and his performance was somewhat better than the Doctor Doctor jokes batted about by Jeff and Rachael. Andrew moves ahead with DOODLES, the dog from the Tweenies. AMOUNTED is another winner, but his offer of CORDITES* is disallowed as it's a mass noun and Susie can't find a sense in which it can take the plural. Those have been the rules for a decade and more. The numbers game evades both contenders, but not young Riley, so Andrew's lead is 28-20 as Phil Hammond discusses the importance of washing one's hands and those lavvies on trains that don't lock when they really should.

Andrew comes up trumps after the break with MANLIKE, and D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R-F-O-R-E-I-G-H-T spells DISASTER for eight, another winner. Just when it looks like it's over, Jacqui comes back with the winner RETAINER, but her offering in the next round is rejected, and Andrew is spot on with the next numbers game to lead by 59-28. The score doesn't quite reflect the closeness of the game, and when Jacqui offers NEPHEW as a seven, it's pretty much done. We're very impressed that Andrew can come within one on a really tough numbers game, and the conundrum evades the entire studio.

Countdown 8th seed: Jacqueline Baker

Chris Davies (2nd seed, 8 wins, 892) beat Steve Wood (7th seed, 8 wins, 675), 108-61

Steve uses the show as an excuse to ask the nation for a job, and who wouldn't want to employ a Countdown quarter-finalist, because it shows they can use language and learn. Chris impressed with his ability to solve the Rubik's cube in less than 30 seconds. Susie Dent suggests that host Jeff Stelling should go on Strictly Come Dancing. Jeff says he won't, because he couldn't put in the training during the football season. A shame. But will Susie get asked to go on? Anyway, Chris begins as he means to go on with the winners RELLENOS, a type of sheep, DELTOID, a muscle, and RANDOMISED, a process of putting things into random order. With perfection on the numbers game, Chris leads 48-5 at the anecdote.

After the break, Jeff talks about his friend who has crossed a bulldog with a shih tzu. Never mind Strictly Come Dancing, Jeff ought to be on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue with a deadpan like that. Chris is so far ahead that he can risk OUTSOAR*, but it isn't there. Both contenders get the niner POLARISED, and Chris restores his advantage with NITRATE. A simple numbers game puts Chris ahead by 89-45 at the interval. WIFIES – as in the plural of Scottish women – and MAYORAL are more winners for Chris, but Steve pulls ten back on the final numbers game, and the conundrum goes to the audience, and some chap who looks remarkably like last series' champion Kirk Bevins.

Countdown 7th seed: Steve Wood

Innis Carson (3rd seed, 8 wins, 861) beat Jeffrey Burgin (6th seed, 8 wins, 685), 111-70

By a curious coincidence, these gentlemen have both started university since we first met them in the summer – Innis at Edinburgh, Jeffrey at Oxford. By a somewhat larger coincidence, these two institutions will meet in tonight's edition of University Challenge. But more on that story later. After eight each in the first round, dodginess abounds in the second, with neither player scoring. Innes gets the lead in round three with CARLINE, and a simple numbers game leaves the score 31-24 to Innes at the anecdote.

After the break, LOGIEST doubles Innes's lead, then it sounds like both players are REPEATING themselves for eighteen. Jeffrey's offer of CORONATE* is disallowed, and when Innes gets the numbers game spot on, his lead reaches 79-48, and there only looks to be one winner. Then Jeffrey offers MOTLIEST, a winning eight, and spoils his chances by picking five vowels. He has to gamble with GROANIEST*, but it's not there, and it's game over. Innis's score is helped by solving the conundrum, and his score of 111 is the highest of the quarter-finals so far.

Countdown 6th seed: Jeffrey Burgin

Brian Selway (5th seed, 8 wins, 746) lost to Ryan Taylor (4th seed, 8 wins, 792) 71-91

These contestants both made their mark in the autumn, Jeff talks about the stages of Santa, and Rory McGrath gives us some palindromes to be going on with. Ryan has to risk UNPAYED* in round two to try and keep par with Brian, but it's never really a goer. Both players come up with FLUMP in round three, which will stop people of a certain age from pootling about. It's honours even in the remaining letters games, but Ryan is perfect in the numbers, and takes a 27-24 lead into the anecdote. It seems to give him a fillip, INTEGER in the next round, and then comes up with SPOILER! Oh.

It's a seventeen-point lead, and there's nothing to split the players before the interlude: Ryan's lead is 62-45. The deadlock's finally broken in the penultimate letters game, Ryan offers RETAKES, and that 24-point lead looks insurmountable. He goes further ahead with RADIUS, and this low-scoring game is done – there's only been a handful of eight-letter words to spot, and a run of sixes and sevens makes for a flat game. Brian reduces the arrears with the conundrum.

Countdown 5th seed: Brian Selway

Andrew Hulme (1st seed, 9 wins, 1016) beat Ryan Taylor (4th seed, 9 wins, 883) 95-48

The show begins with Ryan showing us his PUDENDA, a word worth seven points. He offers UNBONE* in the next round, but it's not there, allowing Andrew to take the lead. Both players offer SOLATIA, things given to people as an expression of solace, and it's a word that needs more currency. There's no further difference in the offerings, so Andrew leads 36-31 at the anecdote.

There is a change straight afterwards, Andrew offers POLEAXE. Ryan feels compelled to offer SOUNDIEST* a little later, but it's not there, and Andrew wins with an eight, followed by DOSAGE. Both players get a tricky little numbers challenge, so Andrew's lead is 74-48 at the interval. The game's over as a contest in the next round, when he comes up with LABIATE, and then with FROSTED. Both players have GLOOPS* disallowed – Susie finds that it's a mass noun. Andrew does remarkably well on a six-small numbers game asking to reach the 900s. That's why he's in the final.

Countdown 4th seed: Ryan Taylor

Innis Carson (3rd seed, 9 wins, 972) lost to Chris Davies (2nd seed, 9 wins, 1000), 97-102

We may be two days away from the climax, but the final series hasn't really burst into life, with all five games decided well before the final whistle. The opening rounds suffer from some flat selections, with nothing more than seven in the first period, but Innis takes the lead with INTENSE in round three. A simple six-small numbers game means Innis leads by 38-31 at the anecdote. And the deadlock continues – Chris toys with APSIDES in round eight, but decides not to risk it – if he'd done so, the game would be tied. The tension is palpable, but the second numbers round is deceptively simple – Innes's lead is 75-68, it's not changed since round three. And the flat letters rounds continue – just one round has had an eight, only three have gone as low as six. It's frustrating to watch, both players are capable of great things but the selections are simple.

Then Innes offers SOLENOID in the final letters game, which moves him ahead by fifteen. And just when we're thinking "game over", the last numbers round proves decisive, Chris gets it, Innes fails, and we're suddenly facing a crucial conundrum. EPITUSSLE is the scramble, but perhaps the Finals Week conundrums are too hard – only Innes got one in the quarters. Just when we think it's over, Chris buzzes in on 25 seconds. More out of desparation than hope, he offers "Sleepsuit". Jeff pauses, and asks for the answer to be revealed. "Oh my goodness," says Chris. Blimmin' Nora! He's only gone and pulled it out of the bag! Chris makes it to the final, Innis leaves with warm handshakes and – blimey. That was good.

Countdown 3rd seed: Innis Carson

Andrew Hulme (1st seed, 10 wins, 1111) v Chris Davies (2nd seed, 10 wins, 1102)

And so it's set; the top seed Andrew Hulme, highest score in eight games (though not in nine or ten), versus Chris Davies, who came through when the chips were down. Given that Andrew's barely been troubled, might that have been the making of Chris? Both players begin with WOOMERA, which is not only a place but an Australian aboriginal device for firing spears. It's seven and seven in the next two rounds, but round four proves a turning point: Chris offers TETRODE, a part of a battery, and it's good for a seven-point lead. "The numbers games could be crucial," says Rachael, who doesn't know CECIL's trick on the big occasion: offer a tremendously simple numbers game. Chris leads 38-31 at the anecdote.

Sevens in the first round back, and both players find SARCOID in round seven – it's the only seven-pointer. Chris's perfect game finally goes in round eight, as he gets six and Dictionary Corner offer SENATES. Not that it alters his lead one iota; that happens in the next round, Chris DIARISES when Andrew goes on DIGRESS. Both players get a decidedly difficult numbers game, so Chris leads by 76-61 at the interval.

Fifteen points is not an insurmountable lead, as we found out just yesterday. Both players spot SAPPIEST, the first eight-letter word of the day, and both players miss MEDIANTS in the next round, settling for a couple of good sevens. Andrew goes for a high-risk strategy, picking five vowels in his final letters round. Chris offers the safe HOUSED, and Andrew offers the incredibly risky HOUSELOAD*. It's not there, but SHOALED would have been a winner. That is game over – Chris is 21 ahead with two rounds to go. Another simple numbers game detains neither finalist, and the conundrum – ARTLEPOOL – is solved by the new champion in a very few seconds. ALLOTROPE? Never heard of him!

Countdown 1st seed: Andrew Hulme

Anyway, Chris Davies is the champion, winning by 117-86. He picks up the Richard Whiteley Memorial Trophy, and the performance – 117 out of a potential maximum of 120 – is remarkable at any time, and to make that in the pressure of the final is just jaw-droppingly good. Indeed, our learned friends at Apterous.org suggest that it's the best performance of the series – in his heats, Chris twice came within four of a perfect game, no-one else has missed by just three letters. A worthy champion.

Countdown Champion: Chris Davies

University Challenge

Second round, match 6: Edinburgh v Regent's Park Oxford

Edinburgh beat UCLAN by 170-155 on 10 August, Regent's Park Oxford beat repechage winners Emmanuel Cambridge on 12 October – 205-165 the score there. The show doesn't get off to a promising start – one bonus in the first set, none in the second, and a missignal is all we get from the third starter. Indeed, the first six starters yield just that one correct bonus. The visual round is of flags of sub-national entities in a single country, but no-one knows their cantons, and Edinburgh's lead stands at 40-5.

Thumper is very impressed by a piece of mental arithmetic, a calculation completed almost before he'd finished reading out the question. There's a very long question about the artists who gave their name to the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles. Readers of a certain age may remember those cartoon characters. Readers of a similar age will be aware of the "I Can Have A Cheeseburger" phenomenon, which suggests that English as humans speak it is a mis-formed version of the Universal Cat Language. The audio round is on an opera composer, it's the night's fifth dropped starter, and Edinburgh leads 95-20.

In the audio bonus rounds, Edinburgh find the only Britten character they know is Peer Gynt. None of the answers are Peer Gynt. Regent's Park have been quietly coming back, helped by knowledge of the Children's Laureate and the work of Malcolm Gladwell. The deficit is reduced to 35 points, and could have come down further if they'd guessed the Mach number. Images of St John are in the second visual round, and Regent's Park are making a good go of it, now trailing 115-90.

The lead increases as Regent's Park incur a missignal by answering "Margaret Midgeley" when the question asks after Mary. Harsh; lesser quizzes would have accepted the "Midgeley" part and nothing more. Still, they take the lead with knowledge of those years when there were three kings of England. Yes, three kings. (Is this turning into a pantomime? Oh no it isn't!) Edinburgh get the next starter, and some bonuses, to re-take the lead; they prove less good at basic photosynthesis. When Regent's Park get going, they really go, but Edinburgh are able to buzz in that little bit faster, then get very little on the bonuses.

Again, Roger Tilling has managed to get himself excited by the game, and Edinburgh try to count their phalanges, but miss the ones in their toes. It's the last action of the game, Edinburgh run out the winners by 170-150. Hugh Brechin was Edinburgh's best buzzer, five starters, but the team fared badly on the bonuses, 10/36. Regent's Park did far better on that score, 15/27, but three missignals hurt them. James Aber led the buzzing with four starters. The overall accuracy rate was 46/95.

Second round, match 7: Manchester v King's College London

Manchester easily overcame the Royal Veterinary College back on 13 July; King's College London received a much more thorough inquisition from Cardiff on 24 August. Manchester have already won one title this season, the longest gap between appearances, no fewer than 22 weeks. These sides compete for the final spot in the quarter-finals, the seventh place from the winners' circle.

Word of the week is "lights", as in answers to crossword clues. The "what on earth are they on about?" question follows swiftly, there are lots of prime ministers named in the clue and it emerges to be about their first names. Manchester get a set of bonuses asking after the keys in which various symphonies were written, and fail to trouble the scorers further. The first visual round is Geekery of the Weekery, various internet terms translated into foreign languages. The Spanish for "search" evades both sides, so Manchester's lead is 50-(-10).

Bouncing balls fail to impress either sides, but there's a race to the buzzers for Jane Austin's characters. There then follows the most convoluted set of bonuses ever, on planetary arithmetic, where Mercury is one, Venus two, and so on; two digit numbers are to be given as "Mercury Venus" for 12. We can see Victoria Coren looking pointedly at her watch, muttering that she's taking over at 8.30, no matter how long these questions take to answer. King's finally get going with their first correct answer of the night, and race away with the next two starters. That includes the audio round, on hit singles released by Trojan Records. A slice of reggae is just what we need to go with the lovely snow and ice outside, and Manchester's lead has been pegged back to 85-45.

After a couple of dropped starters, Manchester get back on the map with knowledge of Assumption, both with and without the capital letter. A smart question, that, giving both definitions in a neat package. There are a lot of dropped starters in this stanza, and Manchester aren't all that good with their electrical capacitors. Do they lack capacity? Er, let's not go there. At this point, all members of the Manchester side have precisely two starters. The second visual round is the names of Spanish figures with Xs replacing their common names. It's more points to Manchester, who now lead 190-45.

We may as well call it game over, King's aren't going to pull back 145 points in seven minutes. They try, with some ten-letter words that are anagrams of each other, such as "geocentric" and "egocentric". Yes, Swedish is one of the languages of Finland, which earns the London side a set of bonuses on 15 August in history. The game peters out with two dropped starters at the end, Manchester have finished with a 210-90 victory.

Rachel Neiman's four starters led Manchester on their way, the side made 22/36 bonuses with four missignals. For King's College, Brian Murray got two starters - everyone else got one - and the side had 10/15 bonuses and two missignals. The overall correctness rate: 49/81.

The quarter-finalists are: Girton Cambridge, St Andrews, St John's Oxford, Emmanuel Cambridge, Imperial, Jesus Oxford, Edinburgh, and Manchester.

Next match (4 Jan): St John's Oxford v Girton Cambridge

Only Connect

Championship of Champions: Crossworders v Rugby Boys

Since we last met the Crossworders, the side has formed three-quarters of a victorious quizzing side at the European Quiz Championships. For the Rugby Boys, who won two of the last three matches we've seen, it's a case of playing against yourselves.

Round one begins with some cross-dressers: Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mr Toad all dressed as women so they could escape from justice. Within about two milliseconds of seeing their first clue, the Rugby Boys are muttering about "Indian words". They go for it on three points! Three points! No-one ever goes for it on three points! They do, and their offer - Hindi words - is correct. The Crossworders get a set on things that caused riots, and Ian Bayley correctly guesses the fourth clue would be "The Rite of Spring".

"Close-mid front rounded vowel" is the first clue of the next set, for which the answer is the empty set. In the audio question, the theme to "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em" is followed by two more pieces of music, and the theme from "Morse". They find it's code outside, but that's the weather. Paul Daniels is the first picture clue, Alistair Cooke in the middle, Tony Hawks the last, and the Crossworders remind us of that one-hit wonder Morris Minor and the Majors. Thanks, gents. The Crossworders lead by 5-3.

Round two: what's on fourth? The first set looks like a Rosarch test to us, but turns out to be the characters played by Best Actress Oscar winners. "This rings a bell" says Mark Labbett as the Rugby Boys look at sets of four letters, but both sides are bonged out of the points. The Crossworders get that their next sequence is on the Galilean moons of Jupiter, moving outwards from the planet, and spend most of the time debating which is furthest out.

Only Connect (2) Series One champions, The Crossworders.

The Rugby Boys get the picture round, a fiendish question going from a tonne to Ayrton Senna. He's got the voice of a tenor, as someone once sung. The Crossworders are spot on on thousands of seconds, and the Rugby Boys gamble for three points on amendments to the US Constitution, and they're right to guess they're amendments 15-18. That's not the score, that stands at 11-6 to the Crossworders.

The Rugby Boys confirmed their win with a superb performance on the wall in the final. They begin this round by looking for various complexes, and get some "first" things in various categories with some careful thought after that. The final connection they go for turns out to be parks - is there really a Charles Dickens park? Dollywood and the Asterix theme park, a quondam prize for children on The Crystal Maze. The only one they miss is on "faux amis", words with completely different meanings in French and English. Seven points!

The Crossworders begin by thinking about books, and about sons who shared their father's name, and syndromes, but it's nearly a minute before they start to press any buttons. Then they go for words meaning different things in English and American, another group got in the first attempt. Rather than going straight for the jugular, the team thinks about what might be the fourth link. It's a wise use of time, if and only if they get the final groups, which they do on the final life and with moments to spare. The final link: think big at the beginning. That's a perfect round! Ten points, and a lead of 21-13!

And so to the mssng vwls round, beginning with a group of verse forms. Haiku for anyone? It's the Crossworders, who storm the round by 4-(-2). Tools on Swiss army knives are also up their streets, which they take 3-(-1). People on the cover of "Sgt Pepper" is the next set, and that goes to the Crossworders by 3-0. Parts of a biological cell follows, the Crossworders extend their lead by 2-1.

After that, the Rugby Boys have 11 points, and the Crossworders have a quite remarkable 33 points. Ian Bayley and 33 points? There's a coincidence! Victoria invites us to make random and obscure connections on the trains, and we'll see her again in two weeks for a new series.

Next match (4 Jan): Archers Admirers -v- Music Lovers

Only Connect (2) Series Two champions, The Rugby Boys.

This Week And Next

The week to 6 December was a good one for ITV – 13.55m saw Cowell's results show, 13.4m the performances, and 10.55m I'm a Celebrity. Two weeks later, we had to stop and think who won. Strictly had 9.45m for its performances, 8.05m for the results. Family Fortunes attracted 5.95m, HIGNFY 4.7m, University Challenge 3.55m, and Dancing on Two 3.05m.

Cowell on ITV2 was the biggest digital-only programme, pulling 2.02m viewers. I'm a Celeb coverage was seen by 1.3m, and Come Dine With Me by 1.07m. We're gratified to see that Bamzooki (400,000) was more popular than anything on Dave or America's Next Top Model (330,000), and that The Man Behind the Masquerade (265,000) pulled in very creditable numbers for a very creditable show.

Channel 5's big push is for Heads or Tails (tonight – 30 December). Move Like Michael Jackson concludes (BBC3, tonight), and the Celebrity Come Dine with Me (C4) is on Tuesday, while Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (ITV) is exiled to this evening. Christmas Day highlights include an All-Star Mr and Mrs (ITV), and Stephen Nolan's on Radio 5 – there's also a Panic Attack celeb special on Tuesday (BBC1 NI).

World's Strongest Man has moved to Bravo, and there are all-day blowouts on Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Mastermind has its annual celebrity editions, beginning on S4C on Boxing Day, then transferring to BBC1 from Sunday. Family Fortunes goes out on Boxing Day. There are highlights from Y Talwrn (Radio Cymru, Sunday 27th), an Unbelievable Truth special (Radio 4, Monday 28th), the final of Còcaire nan Còcairean (BBC Alba, Monday 28th), and The Colour of Money comes back for one last blast (ITV, Tuesday 29th). The New Year shows are present and correct: both The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (C4) and Questions Pour un Champion Speciale (TV5) air on 1 January.

The new year brings lots of new series, with the British version of So You Think You Can Dance (BBC1, Saturday 2 Jan) and ITV re-inventing the dating show on Take Me Out (Saturday 2 Jan). Celebrity Big Brother (C4, from Sunday 3 Jan) moves inexorably to its conclusion. Familiar favourites returning for new series include Only Connect (BBC4, Monday 4 Jan), Raven (CBBC, Tuesday 5 Jan), and The Krypton Factor (ITV, Tuesday 5 Jan). Full details of television listings from now until the return of Mastermind proper (8 Jan) are on the TV Guide page.

Until the Week of the Year is published on 3 January, may we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very happy Christmas, the best new year you could possibly imagine, and good games to you.

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