Puzzlingly Appropriate

In 2013, I did my ‘2500 Clue Challenge‘, where I tried to solve cryptic crossword clues for charity.

Interestingly, Indian scientist Sundaresan Naranan has contacted me to say he has used the data from the challenge to confirm something he’s found from his own solving: The success (or failure) rate of someone solving crosswords follows a “Negative Binomial Distribution” (this is subtly different from the binomial distribution, maths fans!).

Using data from his own solving of over 5000 crosswords over the past 16 years (WOW), he found that with a particular set of parameters the negative binomial distribution was a good fit to the number of crossword clues he failed to solve per crossword. But he was only one man using cryptics from the The Hindu, an Indian newspaper. When he discovered my data, he was able to see if it also fitted my solving statistics based upon a different solver and a different pool of setters from a different newspaper. Pleasingly, he was able to find that with slightly different parameters, the same distribution applied to me too.

I don’t follow all the maths, but you can see his write up in his pdf here: vindhiya.com/snaranan/VNS-xw2015w1.pdf and see more of his work here: vindhiya.com/snaranan/

I think it’s awesome that someone used the data from the Challenge in an interesting way. Thanks for sharing it with me Sundaresan!

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to put my thinking cap on for future potential challenges. I haven’t quite found any that have been as unusual or interesting as the 2500 Clue Challenge yet… so if you have any ideas, please do send me a tweet!

A New Olympic Event

So, I’ve had an idea for an Olympic event. I call it the 1km Heartbeat Race.

The idea is simple – the winner of the race is the person who runs (or walks) 1km whilst using the LEAST number of heartbeats to do it, without coming last in the entire race.

You can go as fast or as slow as you like, the strategy is up to you, but you must try to keep your heartbeat down during the entire race. I think it would be pretty fun. The big question is: Is there any gain in walking, does your heart rate decrease enough to make it worthwhile? Do let me know if you try it.

It does turn out there could be some very unlikely winners, take this chap with a resting heart rate of 26 beats per minute: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2629213/Pensioner-81-records-worlds-slowest-heart-beat-resting-heart-rate-lower-elite-athletes-elephants.html – but of course the athletes will have to keep their calm and composed and their nerves under control in the stadium!

In the mean time, GIVE ME YOUR MONEY, etc, etc.



Keep on running…

Over the past 24 months, those of you who know me well have known that I’ve been particularly struggling with my inner demons. Churchill calls it his ‘black dog’. It is depression, and it monumentally sucks.

Given that I’ve been more unemployed than employed over the past year, I decided I’d start running. There have been plenty of studies that show a more active lifestyle can help alleviate depression. I started in July 2014, and now I have an AMAZING announcement to make:

Within the past year (i.e. 365 days), I’ve run over 1000km!! A whole megametre! I’ve run on 142 separate occasions (suffering painful stomach cramps in 5 of them) running 1001.94km over a total of 92 hours 38 minutes and 11 seconds of running time.

When I started running, my average pace was around 10:00 to 11:00 miles (6:15 to 6:50 per km) for the first few weeks, but that’s slowly improved and now I’m hovering around 8:30 per mile (5:20 per km). There are still bad runs where I get stomach cramps or have no energy or feel generally ill, and those do tend to be around 10:00 per mile, but they’re much rarer now than they were a year ago.

Also, my first run within the past 12 months was on 22 July 2014, so there’s time to increase the mileage of the year!

It’s taken quite some effort to keep going and, I can say this overall: It’s been bloody boring.

So here’s to the next 1000km…. (Actually, make that 1000m. Much more managable…)

(Bonus joke: Why do I drink from streams when jogging? Because it’s running water!)

A puzzle wot I wrote

It’s a long weekend in the UK at the moment, so I decided to create a puzzle for you to solve with the extra time. This is the style of puzzle you’d see at Puzzled Pint – which I’ve helped organise (and contribute puzzles to) in London in the past – where part of the puzzle is working out what you’ve got to do. If you like this style of puzzle, be sure to check them out at www.puzzledpint.com.

Please do share this puzzle on social media, it would be nice if the puzzle got a reasonable airing! If you like this sort of thing, and bad puns, then also follow me on twitter, @danielpeake.

I’ll post the answer tomorrow evening, tweet me if you’d like a hint in the meantime.




EDIT: Here is the answer with a brief explanation. Hope you enjoyed the puzzle!


Things I’ve Learnt This Week 2…

I also spill coffee on Thursdays. People have offered to buy me a tippy cup, the kind muppets.

You can buy $1 from the Post Office, but you’ll get a strange look when doing so. The reason I bought one dollar from the Post Office is my Mum was going away to the US for a 5 day holiday to celebrate a recent birthday (I won’t reveal her age but think diamond anniversary). I wanted to surprise her by putting some money in her card… so I told her not to open it until her birthday (whilst she was in the US) but I hope she didn’t mind me naughty but I put some extra money in her card for her. She was incredibly grateful and very much looking forward to seeing what was in the card, although she did have a few choice words for me when she had opened it (“don’t put me through that again!”).

You can put tin foil on your wall to increase the amount of light in the room when it’s sunny. The corner of the room which my desktop is in is the opposite corner to where the sun shines, so it’s quite dark. As I didn’t have a large mirror to put on the wall, I put tin foil to reflect where the sun does shine towards other parts of the room. Of course, once I put it up, the sun didn’t shine for eight days. But when the sun is out, it does work, it makes the room brighter. However, it looks terrible, it looks truly truly terrible. Not recommended if you like anything bordering tasteful furnishings.

The Crystal Maze turns 25 today!

To celebrate the fact that the most iconic game show of them all, The Crystal Maze, turns 25 today, I’ve worked out some stats about the show. And yes, of course I’ve watched every single episode of The Crystal Maze, it’s simply brilliant. I’d also like to sat that whilst it’s an iconic show that I’d love to see be remade, I can’t see it ever matching the original. I reckon it’s had its time and even though it’s aged really well and has fantastic appeal, despite what others say in the media about bringing it back, I don’t want to see it return. At the moment it’s an iconic piece of television, and I don’t want it to be tarnished. Without further ado… STATISTICS!

It broadcast 83 episodes over 6 series, including five childrens specials where you got to yell at kids missing the obvious rather than adults missing the obvious.

The four initial zones were Aztec, Medieval, Futuristic and Industrial. From Series 4 onwards, Ocean zone replaced Industrial as it was a bit too similar to Futuristic.

The most number of Crystals won [well, that the team had at the end] in a show was 10 (on five occasions) and the lowest was 1 (on two occasions, Eps 4×03 and 5×13. The teams won more crystals than this but chose to buy out lots of people).

The average time spent in the Crystal Dome was 30.8 seconds. 18 out of the 83 teams won the Grand Prize.

The average number of Crystals won in an episode was 6.687, but the average number of lock-ins per episode was 0.867 and the average number of buyouts was 0.53. This meant that if you were unfortunate enough to get locked in, there was a 39% chance of rotting in that cell for all eternity.

Mathematically, it is only correct to buy out a person when you have a greater number of Crystals than people left in the team (assuming the person is any good at collecting tokens in the Crystal Dome).

The easiest zone was Aztec, with an average of 1.843 Crystals won there per show. The hardest zone was Futuristic, with 1.434 Crystals won per show.

The best performance in the Crystal Dome was a final score of 154 tokens (Ep 3×02) and the worst was a score of -66 on two occasions (Eps 4×02, 5×01)

The average number of gold tokens collected in the Crystal Dome was 99.47, the average number of silver was 50.157 giving an average final score of 49.313.

Why yes, I AM single. What made you say that?

Things I’ve Learnt This Week…

On Mondays, there is a 1 in 4 chance that any cup of coffee I drink instead makes its way all over my desk, keyboard and crotch. Ugh, Mondays.

I’m surprisingly passionate about Survivor.

Don’t lose your repeat prescription form and then change doctors. It makes things a little complicated.

I like playing Zelda games, but I’m rubbish at them.

10000BC? 10 years too late… BRING BACK SURVIVOR!

Channel 5 have started showing 10000BC – a social experiement (buzzword alert!) where they take 20 modern humans back to the Stone Age. Abandoned for two months with a little bit of tuition in the forests of Bulgaria, they’re stripped of anything that wouldn’t have existed after 10000BC to see if humans can adapt to survive in such primitive conditions. There have to be a few nods to modern life, our feet are no longer the hardy tools they once were, so they’re all given boots to wear. But aside from that, it’s all animal pelts to wear, yurts to live in and forests to forage.

I really wanted to like this show, but I’m disappointed by it. All it did was remind me about how Survivor is a much better show than 10000BC, and make me think that the a UK channel should really think about recommissioning Survivor. Why am I saying this?

10000BC is Survivor without the fun.

The first two episodes of 10000BC have been showing you the hardships of camp life, and how difficult day to day living is. It feels quite oppressive that they’re going to do this for two months, winter is coming (GoT alert!) and essentially it seems all misery and no hope (although poo-gate was an interesting diversion).

The first two episodes of a series of Survivor will also show you the hardships of camp life, but they’ll also show you challenges pitting the tribes against each other and tribal councils where people will get voted off.

There’s a massive difference here, in that Survivor has three different ‘strands’ it can focus on, 1 – The immunity and reward challenges, 2 – the socio-political game of camp-mates trying to ensure they’re not the next voted off, and 3 – the hardships of camp life. Different episodes and seasons of Survivor will have different amounts of time devoted to each strand, but essentially the action can always be broken up by visiting another strand. 10000BC doesn’t have that. It’s all survival all the time, and I think it’s much worse for it. There’s no escape for the viewers from the single strand in 10000BC of the hardship that they’re facing.

Another point is that in Survivor, there are rewards given out for winning challenges, it gives the Survivors hope and mixes up the experience that they’re having. Unless some weird format point comes up in 10000BC in future episodes, there’s nothing for the 10000BC camp-mates to look forward to that they don’t catch or work bloody hard to get.

The premise of Survivor makes it clear that there are medical teams and various crews all around the Survivors (but not interfering). 10000BC is making more of a claim that “they’re roughing it on their own” but we saw in Episode 1 the crew had to supply the camp-mates with blankets and in Episode 2 they had to consult the crew about whether they could eat a particular animal. (OK, fair play, at least they showed interactions with the crew, but I thought the point was to be back in 10000BC.)

Also in Survivor, there’s a point to the entire show. I’m not saying 10000BC is completely pointless, as finding out if we can live with primitive tools is an interesting question, but in Survivor the aim is to outlast the other Survivors, and there’s a prize at the end. There’s a progression throughout the series and you can also take sides on which tribe or individual you want to win. With 10000BC, it’s more of a case of “one-in, all-in”, as they’re all striving to survive you can’t really take sides. Maybe that’ll change in future episodes, but to me it feels like the point of the show is for ALL of them to live in 10000BC conditions together, not some-people-live-better-than-others in 10000BC.

I have other points too. The colour palette in 10000BC is mostly green and brown (due to the nature of the show), Survivor is colouful because of the production and tribal colours. 10000BC is in a forest that’s about to get very cold, Survivor is in (usually) a tropical paradise and even though it’s hell for them out there it looks pretty to watch because it’s somewhere that we’d probably like to go on holiday. I don’t want to go to a cold snowy forest in Bulgaria for a holiday, I’m definitely a summer guy.

I reckon that a decade ago 10000BC would have been a hit. Castaway on the Scottish Islands was a hugely popular year long social experiment (buzzword alert!) and I reckon this follows in similar footsteps. But now UK audiences are after something a bit edgier – just look at the evolution of Big Brother in the UK from the placid popularity contest in 2000 to the hugely conflict driven manipulative show in 2015. 10000BC is 10 years too late.

Survivor UK wasn’t perfect. Series 2 didn’t have enough contestants, and neither of the hosts were particularly good. One of the criticisms of Survivor back in 2001-2002 was that some of the people playing the game were dishonest. The winner of the first series was dubbed a harlot for her tactics on the show and made front page headlines, but look, people were taking sides in the issue! The UK didn’t quite ‘get’ Survivor when it was initially aired, but now the scene has changed. We’ve now also had Shipwrecked, and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here has in some series become exceedingly close to the Survivor format. So why haven’t we bought it back yet?! Given the trend to recommission old shows recently, surely this must be a look in.

I know that Survivor and 10000BC are aimed at different genres, but I just feel 10000BC could be so much better. This is why I reckon Survivor should be recomissioned in the UK. It’s about to start it’s THIRTIETH SEASON in the United States, and it’s still doing well. 30 series. Over 440 episodes at time of writing. That’s phenomenal. The scenery, the weather, the characters, the epic challenges, it makes Survivor a great show. Bring it back to the UK, and I reckon it’ll be a hit.

Survivor is 10000BC with added spice!

Please, bring back Survivor. Give it a try. And I’m always around to help design the challenges. I’d be good at that.

Treasure Hunt Top 5

Recently I finished watching every single episode of Treasure Hunt, the classic 80s gameshow in which two contestants had to solve five cryptic clues against the clock and guide a ‘skyrunner’ around the course to find each clue. Originally running for 91 episodes in the 80s, Anneka Rice was the skyrunner for 77 episodes, before Annabel Croft took over for 13 episodes as Anneka was on maternity leave. It was rebooted in 2002 for a further two series and 15 episodes, bringing the grand number of Treasure Hunts to 106. In those 106 episodes, 46 teams were successful in locating the final treasure, solving an average of 4.38 clues in each show.

From a production point of view, the production values are high and the logistics of it is simply mind-boggling for the 1980s. To have a live (ok, just audio) link up from potentially the other side of the world to a roaming presenter, it’s technically challenging now, let alone 30 years ago. I can barely get a mobile phone signal in the office.

Over all those episodes, what were my favourite moments? Here are my top 5 clips.

NUMBER 5: Annie getting scared by a real person in a waxwork museum. (Skip to 3:20 for some searching and the payoff)

NUMBER 4: Annie has to ride a logflume to get a clue. I’d like to know what the contingency would have been if she’d missed it…

Start of the clue:

End of the clue:


NUMBER 3: Whenever Annie had to jump out of helicopter. She did have to do it a few times, and it was maybe a slightly overused gimmick because of that, but what an activity. Jumping OUT of a flying helicopter?! Health and safety would never allow that these days! Here’s one of the clues where Anne had to do just that (skip to 10:05 for the actual jump).

CLUE 2: The best written clue on Treasure Hunt. The clue simply read “In A Seahawk in a Seahawk in a Seahawk”. I’m not going to explain the clue, you’ll need to watch the two videos below to find out (it’s split across two videos).

Beginning of clue:

End of clue:

NUMBER 1: Well, if you thought jumping out of a helicopter troubled the Health and Safety department… this takes it up a notch. Actually, several notches. The contestants are told to go to a set of co-ordinates, but those contestants lead to the middle of the English Channel. Surely you think there’s no possible clue there… until a submarine rises up out of the ocean… and the helicopter then LANDS on it. It’s an incredibly narrow landing with waves breaking over the top of the submarine, it is superb flying and control from the helicopter pilot Keith and, presumably, the submarine controller as the helicopter will have been pushing down on the sub. The landing is in the clips below, and it’s simply stunning, which is why it’s my Number 1 Treasure Hunt moment. (The actual landing happens about a minute into the second clip, it does take them about seven or eight minutes to fly out to the co-ordinates).

Honorable mention: The series was revived with Suzi Perry as lead skyrunner back in 2002-2003, and a now good friend of mine David Bodycombe was a clue writer for the show. One of the clues required Suzy to go to a telegraph station and look in a pigeon hole as dictated by some morse code. Out of all the surnames in the world, and he didn’t know me at the time, he chose PEAKE!! I like to think of it as fate that just ten years later we’d be writing questions for the same show and becoming friends. Fate, I tell you. The clue is spread out over two clips, the Morse Code section of the clue starts two and a half minutes into the second clip below. PEAKE!! Amazing.

So that’s my top 5 Treasure Hunt moments, and there were plenty of other moments I could have chosen. Anneka getting clues from seals, abseiling/ascending cliffs, commandeering transport from unsuspecting members of the public, and also Anneka running into a horse and getting hurt. I do hope another show captures the energy, enthusiasm and inventiveness of Treasure Hunt – I look forward to watching it (and maybe even help make it) when it does.

G’day mate! Everything’s Bonza!

If you like word puzzles, then you should absolutely download the app ‘Bonza’ for iOS and Android RIGHT NOW. Not only is it an awesome puzzle game, but it’s just been updated with a Puzzle Pack created by me! In the Celebrity Puzzle Pack section you’ll see my name and oh-so-handsome face – for just several tens of pence a pack of 30 deliciously devious puzzles can be yours to piece together, all written by my own fair hand.

Personal interests aside, it is a great little app and one I whole-heartedly recommend. Now, what are you doing still reading this? Go away, play the app!