The Laker’s Disadvantage

The book Moneyball popularized a narrative we all love: “In sports, the big market teams with all the money dominate. How can small market teams compete?”

This narrative forces us to ignore the fact that even in the 2000s, every MLB team was owned by a person or group of people worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Hell the end story of the “poor owners” in the As was they sold the team for $180 million in 2005 after purchasing it for half that price in 1995 (inflation-adjusted.) It’s a forced underdog narrative.

And that brings up another writer in the same vein as Michael Lewis. Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “Outliers” and “David and Goliath,” both of which focus on success and hidden advantages. One of the funniest cases of this is when advantages are framed as disadvantages and vice versa.

It is believed going to a top-ranked school like Harvard is an advantage. However, as Gladwell notes in David and Goliath, class rank has more correlation with success (at least in terms of things like publishing, etc.) than school pedigree. In short, a big fish in a small pond has more of an advantage than a mediocre student at MIT or Harvard!

On the flipside, Malcolm Gladwell notes there are disadvantages that can be, for lack of a better word, blessings in disguise. His controversial take was in some cases, children with learning disabilities are forced to learn other skills to succeed, and that helps them more in life than being a good student.

I feel both of these scenarios apply to the NBA and two of the most decorated teams: the Spurs and the Lakers.

The Goliath Spurs

The Spurs, are by all rights, a Moneyball team. I’ve written about this before. In terms of NBA market sizes, the Spurs are in the 20th sized metropolitan market. What’s more, the Spurs were a former ABA team. For those that don’t know, the ABA teams agreed as part of their buyout with the NBA to give 1/7 of their revenue to the owners of the defunct “Spirts of Saint Louis.” As such, the Spurs compared to other NBA teams for most of their history were at a disadvantage, right?

The Spurs lucked into David Robinson and Tim Duncan, and I refuse to discount this in their history (also, as I’ve discussed before Tim Duncan was not a result of tanking). Any monumental success, of course, requires a tremendous amount of luck. But the Spurs didn’t follow the path of other teams that luck into a star. No, they stayed a contender for almost two decades. And a huge part of it was the players they signed. Just like in Moneyball, the Spurs went after “untapped resources” like international players. They also went after other teams projects like Danny Green. And this is where I say their disadvantage was their advantage.

A big part of my work with the Wages of Wins and Boxscore Geeks is about how conventional wisdom in NBA talent evaluation is wrong. And the problem is, it’s tough to get teams to change their thinking. Markelle Fultz still went #1 in the draft. Donovan Mitchell was considered a Rookie of the Year and future star compared to superior young talent. D’Angelo Russell made the All-Star game over better “role players.” The Spurs were forced to look for underrated talent due to their financial constraints. And that’s the irony. Standard teams all go for the same 20 point-per-game player. And it’s a crapshoot. Some players, like LeBron James, are easily worth it. Others, like Carmelo Anthony, were not. But the Spurs were forced to avoid these players entirely and look at a crop of players the rest of the NBA was ignoring. And in business, taking advantage of an undervalued resource over and over is a huge boost.

As a funny postscript to this story. In 2014 the NBA settled with the Spirits of Saint Louis. The Spurs got back their TV revenue and just in time for the NBA salary cap to jump. Since then, they’ve gone after traditional stars like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. And while both players have played well in the Spurs system, it’s a far cry from their underrated and undervalued stars of old.

The Underdog Lakers

If there was any parable to the Yankees in the Moneyball narrative in the NBA, it would have to be the Lakers. In the 80s they went to eight NBA Finals. They won five titles in the 2000s, and have had money to throw around. The Lakers are in the second biggest market in the NBA and have the most storied franchise. How can other teams compete?

And here’s where I’m going to partially validate Lakers fans. The Lakers edge of being known as having an unfair edge hurts that edge. In 2011 the Lakers traded for Chris Paul. While I think the Pelicans were fleeced because they decided to send the best asset they got back (Pau Gasol) to the Rockets, it wasn’t a horrible trade in terms of what disgruntled stars normally go for. However, the NBA, thanks to complaints from other owners, blocked the move.

Recently both the Spurs and Pelicans vehemently refused to do business with the Lakers, arguably costing the Lakers a shot at a year of a star. Gregg Popovich allegedly called the Pelicans to not trade with the Lakers. Note that while the Lakers are a conference rival with the Spurs, the Pelicans are a division rival! Andre Iguodala was all set to go to the Lakers when the Grizzlies, likely upon hearing about it, decided to not waive Iguodala.

And while I agree the Lakers big market and cachet does give them an edge. They aren’t alone in this. The Clippers are in the exact same market, and Paul George was sent there with a bow on top. The Nets are in the biggest NBA market, and Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving went there just fine. The Lakers advantage can actually be a disadvantage because other people perceive it as a huge advantage. Hopefully, that parsed!

I am not so naive to say that their perception around the league is enough to erase their edge. I just want to state that the perceived value of their edge is smaller than people think.

Wrapping Up

A topic that comes up all the time on the Boxscore Geeks Show is how much we force narratives in sports. We want heroes and villains. We want underdogs and unstoppable odds for them to overcome. And like most things, the truth is far more interesting. The things that let teams win aren’t always what you think. And while I enjoy the narrative in Moneyball of the big teams outspending the little guy, the data in both baseball and basketball says that advantage/disadvantage dynamic might not work how you think.

-Dre

Advanced Stats TV: Mental Samurai Finale

And we’ve reached the finale! A reminder of how Mental Samurai works. Contestants are strapped into a metal gyroscope called Ava. They have five minutes to answer twelve questions from four categories (three of each type. The order is random). During the regular season if they bested these twelve questions, they’d advance to the round of Samurai where they’d have 90 seconds plus whatever time they had from the first round to answer four questions (one from each category). Besting the first round earned them $10,000. Each question in the second round was worth $25,000 for up to a total of $100,000.

In the regular season each contestant got their own set of questions. In the finale, the 11 competitors that managed to make the Circle of Samurai all went through the same course. The top three, regardless of if they bested the course advanced to the Circle of Samurai. Whichever of the three did best in the second round won $250,000.

Given the number of competitors this show had more editing and as such my normal box score tracking doesn’t work for all competitors. I’ll do a quick breakdown of the twelve questions in the first round, and then a grid of how each competitor got knocked out.

Elimination Round

Destroyer of the first round!

Here’s the question all contestants were asked.

  1. Knowledge (Toss Up) Curling is an Olympic sport played on ice or grass?
  2. Sequence (Back Order) What order to the words “Season, Holly, Jolly” appear in “Deck the Halls?”
  3. Memory (Chatt Atack) How many words ended in “ing” in a text about the Hokey Pokey?
  4. Puzzles (Wornado) Form “Spaghetti” from word fragments. The clue is popular pasta.
  5. Sequence (Alpha Order) List “Asia, Europe, South America” in order.
  6. Knowledge (Factfinder) Which TV show is set in Pawnee, Indiana – Park and Rec. Rob Lowe was on this!
  7. Puzzles (Oddball) Which ice cream sign is not like the others? B has an extra cone rim.
  8. Memory (Blackout) What comes out of the creatures pouch in a movie clip? Jewelry.
  9. Sequence (Time Warp) Arrange “Portia and Ellen”, “Amal and George”, and “Meghan and Harry” by marriage date, earliest to latest.
  10. Memory (Pay Attention) What passenger was called to reclaim a passport? Harrison.
  11. Knowledge (Reality Check) Which is the real US quarter? A is a mirror image. Tricky!
  12. Puzzles (Picture Perfect) Which two-word phrase is represented by a rat in a gym?

The timer at the end of each question either correct or eliminated. Since this was a montage-heavy episode, many of the players have sparse entries. Also, there’s a link to each contestants qualifying run if you want to see that and their biography information.

Contestant123456789101112
Ryan Jones2952772522392192051861561401139559
Heather Hurley1391199171
Chris Yeh1179064
Sam Durbin2342111951671391168974
Kevin Hays296269243228209193177150123
Matthew Potts80
Nathan Gonzales122
Dylan Gentile204
Marissa Willman204
Ben Bergstrom200
Jackie Boehme291

The two questions that tripped up most players were listing continents in order and identifying a fake quarter. I’ll say the continent question was difficult as Africa and South America look slightly similar and it’s easy to confuse them, especially in a stressful moment. The quarter question is definitely amusing as it was just a mirror image. Traditionally on the show Picture Perfect challenges have glaring things sticking out, so this was especially tricky. Kevin and Matt both fell to the pop culture trap having a gap in knowledge. The most surprising was that Dr. Jackie missed the “gimme” first question. To be fair, curling does sound like a form of weight lifting event.

The most shocking aspect was Sam, Heather, and Chris’ tie for 2nd place. They used how fast the contestants correctly answered questions as the tiebreaker. Sam, Heather, and Chris were all within 2 seconds of each other! The official timer was Chris beat Sam by three-tenths of a second! As Chris Yeh’s podcast revealed, the editing changed the order a little. It actually went in order of regular season success, with Dr. Jackie, Ben, and Nathan going the last three. So Ryan, Heather, and Chris were all worried they’d be kicked.

Onto the medal round!

Circle of Samurai

Winner!
  1. Puzzles (Double Crossed) Across: “The Hoosier State”, Down: “Catherine Zeta”, Clue: Movie Character. Indiana Jones.
  2. Knowledge (Initial Impression) Tom Arnold, Tina Turner, and Ozzy Osborne. The clue is “type of artist.”
  3. Memory (Name Dropper) Matt the Tiger. Very last image on the right.
  4. Sequence (Striking Distance) List locations of “Empire, Grey’s Anatomy, and Breaking Bad” from West to East.
Contestant13141516
Heather Hurley8260264
Chris Yeh826532
Ryan Jones8316

Heather “fails” by thinking Empire takes place in Los Angeles. I guessed New York, but it’s actually Chicago! It doesn’t matter as she took down Chris, and Ryan doesn’t come close. Chris fell arguably by being too quick. He lists the animals and names of the image out but does it quick enough to go back to the beginning. Had he been slightly slower, “Matt-Tiger” would have been the last thing he said before the image came up. Ryan is unable to recognize Tom Arnold and “ttoo” is a hard clue to fill in. On Chris’ podcast, Ryan says he realized the answer right when he was done. Sadly, it wouldn’t have mattered, he could not have matched Chris or Heather’s time at that point.

Amazing performance by Heather! I’ll also say that I really enjoyed the format of a knock out room watching contestants watch others try and beat them. I don’t know if Mental Samurai will get a second season, but following that method might add even more tension to regular episodes. I might be back with more advanced stats or analysis. And here’s hoping to a second season!

-Dre

Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 9

And we’re back with another week of boxscores for this year’s hot new reality TV show Mental Samurai. In case you haven’t seen the show — which is streamable at Fox — contestants are strapped into a gyroscope, called Ava, flung around between four towers and asked a series of trivia questions. Answer 12 in a row, win $10,000. Answer four more, win $25,000 per question. Answer all 16, win the title of Mental Samurai. Miss a question or run out of time, and you’re done. I run down the category types and subcategories that appear in my week one writeup if you’re new.

Also, as always future contestant Chris Yeh’s podcast often has bonus content for the show, so subscribe to that if you haven’t already.

Below is each contestant’s “box score” with a little analysis. A reminder of the stats I’m tracking:

  • Category: The category of the question – Knowledge, Puzzles, Sequence, or Memory
  • Subcategory: Each category has a selection of types. I list these in depth in my week one write up.
  • Travel Time: How long it takes for Ava to settle the contestant in front of the tower with the question up in front of them.
  • Start time: What the countdown is at (in seconds) when the question is first visible to the contestant.
  • End time: When Ava flashes green or red, signifying the contestants’ answer has been registered.
  • Answer time: The time between the start time and end time. In theory, below 18 seconds is ideal for this.
  • Required Pace: How quick the contestant must, on average, answer each of the remaining questions. This assumes an average of 8 second travel time between each question.

Boris Chernin

41-year-old Emergency Consultant. He was born in Russia and came to the US in 1979. He says he learned english watching game shows and is often told he has a game show host voice!

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesWornado0300296417.7
2SequenceAlpha Order9287278918.8
3KnowledgeToss Up10268260819.6
4MemoryBlackout72532411221
5PuzzlesMissing Piece8233226722.1
6MemoryEcho Chamber92172061124.1
7KnowledgeSpellbound7199192726.5
  1. Combine word fragments to form insomnia. Clue is “Nighttime Disorder.”
  2. Arrange seven, nine, eight alphabetically.
  3. Which coffee drink is traditionally prepared with milk? Americano or Latte?
  4. What was the tattoo of? Lion.
  5. Missing piece. C completes a picture of a bear.
  6. Repeat pattern of Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo.
  7. Spell the nine-letter word that is both a popular cocktail and a New York City Borough.

We’ve seen this error before – he was asked to spell a word and he said it instead. He also broke the lever doing so! Which, I believe if we’re placing him using clues from Chris Yeh’s podcast, places him right in front of Nathan Gonzales. He had a really strong run going but answered too quickly.

Marlie Clarke

27-year-old Flight Attendant. She prepared for the show doing trivia and crossword puzzles in the jump seat during turbulence.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeToss Up0300291917.7
2SequenceAlpha Order92822641818.4
3MemoryHear Say102542381618.2
4PuzzlesMissing Piece82302181218.4
5MemoryBlackout72111971419.4
6SequenceBack Order81891593020.1
  1. Which app is used to primarliy rate restaurants: Yelp or Zillow? Yelp.
  2. Arrange Pope, rope, soap in alphabetical order.
  3. Which sound was heard twice in animal noises? Parrot.
  4. Which puzzle completes photo of singers. C.
  5. Which fruit was not in the bowl in the photo? Strawberries (they were to the right.)
  6. Arrange these words in the order they appear in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (Crowd, Peanuts, Back)

A theme we’ll see in this week’s show, Marlie gets the order right but says it in reverse! For good measure Rob Lowe has the audience sing the song at the end. Marlie wasn’t breaking any records but was on good pace, and a rough way to go out.

Courtney Courter

33-year-old model. They give her a model runway walkout intro. An annoying giveaway is she gets a very rushed intro after that with no interview time with Rob Lowe. I can now say definitively, no Rob Lowe interview on screen = no shot at winning.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeReality Check03002831717.7
2SequenceMeasure Up92742462817.6
  1. Which picture of Da Vinci’s Last Supper is real? Fake has a big piece of meat.
  2. Arrange metals in price lowest to highest: copper, silver, gold.

Just like Marlie, Courtney gets the order right but says it in reverse. To be fair, the show occasionally baits contestants on things like this (repeat Eenie, Meanie, Mo, Miney, for example). Would have loved a longer run, oh well.

Myles Nye

37-year-old Games Developer. He develops real-world games, not video games. So Mental Samurai is right up his alley. Like Courtney he gets a “fast count” entrance with no Rob Lowe time, and sadly we know his fate as a result.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeToss Up03002891117.7
2SequenceAlpha Order72822691318.4
3MemoryBlackout92602431718.8
4PuzzlesWordnado82352251019
5SequenceTime Warp72181873120.3
  1. Gates or Jobs, who co-founded Microsoft?
  2. List nine-letter occupations alphabetically. Astronaut, Chauffer, Conductor.
  3. How many cupcakes (in photo of 12 St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes) had yellow shamrocks. Two. Holy cow, he’s a wizard!
  4. Mosquito from word fragments. Clue is familiar pest.
  5. Arrange artists in order of when they recorded a song for a James Bond film from earliest to most recent: Paul McCartney & Wings, Duran Duran, Adele.

A decent run but not knowing music history sinks him. To be fair, this one was rough as it spanned 40+ years. He knew ahead of time he was guessing and guessed wrong. As a consolation though, this is absolutely the right strategy and meant Myles stayed in the game.

Eric Schroeder

29-year-old Tennis Pro. He was injured in his first match and is working his way back to compete at the world level.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceTime Warp03002861417.7
2KnowledgeToss Up9277268917.9
3MemoryChat Attack72612451618.9
4PuzzlesMissing Piece8237228919.2
5KnowledgeFactfinder8220211920.5
6SequenceAlpha Order92021881422
  1. Arrange these inventions by first successful use: trains, automobiles, planes.
  2. Which of these is a name of a grouchy muppet: Emmy or Oscar.
  3. How many points did Tigers score based on text message? 35.
  4. B completes a picture of people running with the bulls.
  5. Which of the following is not a grain: wheat, oats, or potatoes.
  6. List these six-letter dog breeds in alphabetical order: Poodle, Collie, Beagle.

Eric had one of the calmest and coolest demeanors on the show. Sadly, he didn’t know what type of dog a collie was by picture and like Myles before him, went out on a guess. Dang.

Josh Kronz

30-year-old Math Teacher. Recently lost his mother to cancer. If he wins he plans to scatter her ashes in Alaska and go kayaking with the Orcas with his wife. It was one of his mother’s life dreams.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceAlpha Order03002811917.7
2KnowledgeTrue Lies92722601217.5
3MemoryHear Say72532361718.1
4PuzzlesMatch Box82282101818.2
5KnowledgeReality Check9201192918.1
6SequenceMeasure Up81841681619.4
7MemoryName Dropper81601441620
8PuzzlesWordplay9135128720.6
9KnowledgeSpecial Equation9119962323.8
  1. List Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Anniston, and Jennifer Lawrence in order of their last name. Almost doesn’t recognize Anniston.
  2. Free is the last word of the Star-Spangled Banner. False.
  3. Chicken was the first of three sounds played.
  4. How many matching pairs are there of cats in a 3 by 4 grid? 3.
  5. Which picture of Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” is real? Fake has a pine tree.
  6. Arrange muscles by location in body head to toe: Pecs, Abs, Quads.
  7. What is the name of the firefighter in the middle? James
  8. Food Processor rearranging letters. Clue is kitchen appliance.
  9. Number of U.S. Senators plus number of U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

The math teacher loses on a math equation? Production gold. Sadly, Josh miscounts how many U.S. senators there are and comes nowhere close. He was on a very solid run before then though, so nothing to be mad about.

Ben Bergstrom

26-year-old Bartender. Says being a bartender will help him stay calm.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceAlpha Order03002901017.7
2KnowledgeToss Up82822711118.4
3MemoryChat Attack72642521219.2
4PuzzlesMissing Piece82442321220
5KnowledgeTrue Lies10222217520.8
6SequenceTime Warp82091911823
7MemoryHear Say81831681523.8
8PuzzlesOddball101581431525.2
9KnowledgeSpecial Equation91341132127.5
10MemoryPay Attention9104851929.3
11PuzzlesWordnado87768934.5
12SequenceMeasure Up1157441357
13KnowledgeFactfinder01361231328
14SequenceTime Warp71161011533.3
15MemoryName Dropper1091761541.5
16PuzzlesPicture Perfect1165461965
  1. List steak, wagon, zebra in alphabetical order.
  2. Which month has more days: June or July?
  3. How many carrot emojis were in the text message from the Easter Bunny to Santa? 3.
  4. B completes the photo.
  5. Sudoku is a form of Chinese Martial Arts. False.
  6. Arrange #1 hit songs from earliest to recent. Lose Yourself, Empire State of Mind, Humble.
  7. What is first sound played? Drums.
  8. D had a silver edge on the paintbrush unlike the others.
  9. Add the number of quarters in a basketball game with the number of quarters in $5. 24.
  10. Announcement about Lliam Neeson film festival. Taken is playing ay 6.
  11. Hypnotized from word fragment. Clue is “Altered Mental State.”
  12. Velociraptor, T-Rex, Brontosaurus. Arrange by estimated weight, lightest to heaviest.
  13. What does the G in the Tech Acronym GIF stand for? Graphics I believe.
  14. Arrange reality TV shows by their debut: Survivor, Apprentice, the Voice.
  15. Who is the blonde race car driver? Patty.
  16. Barking up the wrong tree from an image. Wow! Tough one.

Ben does Chris Yeh proud by repeatedly double-checking his answers. He almost missed an “unmissable question” (Missing Piece), but checks himself and gets it right. He wasn’t kidding about staying calm from being a bartender, throughout the entire run his temperament stayed great. His mother was behind the scenes though and more than made up for it. An amazing run and a great way to finish the season.

Alright, next week is the finale. I’m not sure the format or how the show will go, so we’ll find out together. Good job to all the competitors!

-Dre

Advanced Stats TV: Mental Samurai Episode 8

And we’re back with another week of boxscores for this year’s hot new reality TV show Mental Samurai. In case you haven’t seen the show — which is streamable at Fox — contestants are strapped into a gyroscope, called Ava, flung around between four towers and asked a series of trivia questions. Answer 12 in a row, win $10,000. Answer four more, win $25,000 per question. Answer all 16, win the title of Mental Samurai. Miss a question or run out of time, and you’re done. I run down the category types and subcategories that appear in my week one writeup if you’re new.

Also, as always future contestant Chris Yeh’s podcast often has bonus content for the show, so subscribe to that if you haven’t already.

Below is each contestant’s “box score” with a little analysis. A reminder of the stats I’m tracking:

  • Category: The category of the question – Knowledge, Puzzles, Sequence, or Memory
  • Subcategory: Each category has a selection of types. I list these in depth in my week one write up.
  • Travel Time: How long it takes for Ava to settle the contestant in front of the tower with the question up in front of them.
  • Start time: What the countdown is at (in seconds) when the question is first visible to the contestant.
  • End time: When Ava flashes green or red, signifying the contestants’ answer has been registered.
  • Answer time: The time between the start time and end time. In theory, below 18 seconds is ideal for this.
  • Required Pace: How quick the contestant must, on average, answer each of the remaining questions. This assumes an average of 8 second travel time between each question.

Alex Goines

34-year-old engineer. He works at a small engineering firm, but his hook for the show is he does endurance contests for fun, including things like swimming with sharks!

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesPicture Perfect0300292817.7
2SequenceBack Order72852721318.6
3KnowledgeSnapshot92632521119.1
4MemoryEcho Chamber72452341120.1
5PuzzlesDouble Crossed9225216921.1
6MemoryPay Attention102061871922.6
7KnowledgeToss Up7180174623.3
8SequenceRecord-Breaker81661481826.8
  1. Identify the image represented by a Flying Clock: Time Flies.
  2. Arrange the words “Mary, Fleece, Snow” in order they appear in “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
  3. What band is represented by an image of a cold thermometer and a applause call at a play. ColdPlay.
  4. Repeat pattern of London, Paris, Rome
  5. Identify “Veronica Mars” from clues Betty’s Riverdale Rival and Red Planet.
  6. What room is the Bat Mizvah being held in” Blue Room.
  7. Who has an Oscar: Key or Peele? Peele.
  8. Arrange countries by times they’ve hosted the Olympics from fewest to most. Mexico, France, USA.

Ah, the Olympic themed sequence questions are tough. Alex notes he wouldn’t have gotten the question right with more time. He falls into the category of a strong competitor with a great pace that just got hit by a gap in knowledge.

Marissa Willman

30-year-old digital marketing director. She met her boyfriend on-line dating and it turns out they went to the same high school. She loves to play video games, and those skills definitely translate.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceAlpha Order03002891117.7
2KnowledgeReality Check8281275618.3
3MemoryEcho Chamber82672571019.5
4PuzzlesDouble Crossed82492381120.6
5KnowledgeFactfinder10228220821.5
6SequenceTime Warp82121882423.4
7MemoryHear Say81801641623.3
8PuzzlesOddball91551451024.6
9KnowledgeSpellbound101351221327.8
10MemoryBlackout101121001232
11PuzzlesWordplay892652742
12SequenceStriking Distance1055411455
13KnowledgeFactfinder01311092226.8
  1. List Christmas, Easter, Halloween. Image clues given.
  2. Which is the real London Eye? Fake has large thing in middle.
  3. Repeat Ace, King, Queen, Jack from card images.
  4. Apple Pie. Clues are “Maker of Macbook” and “Circular Chart”
  5. Who was an origial co-host of “The View”: Joy Behar, Meghan McCain, Whoopi Goldberg.
  6. Place sporting events from earliest to latest in year: Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series.
  7. List instrument sound/image shown second: Flute
  8. C has a blue flower unlike other tattoo images.
  9. Spell the eight-letter word for this predominantly land-dwelling turtle. T-O-R-T-O-I-S-E
  10. Study image from “The Martian” movie carfuly. what is the mission day? Sol 21. Last thing she says before Ava asks the question!
  11. Fidget Spinner from: GIFTED ERSINNP
  12. Arrange 2018 American Music Festivals from West to East.
  13. What name has been shared by six US presidents? John, James, William, or Thomas?

A great intro run with very few bumps. Her first question was brutal, and I think definitely merited a little more time given that she had a great buffer from her intro round. Of course, it’s easy to Monday Morning Quarterback this. Great job Marissa.

Arius George

38-year-old police officer. He’s an LA police officer and says that high pressure will help him out. Sadly, he gets a quick edit and no intro time with Rob, which “spoiled” he was going to lose.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeToss Up03002792117.7
  1. Americans send more gift cards for Christmas or Valentine’s Day.

And oh man did he lose quickly. This question was very tough. I know the show says they avoid “trick questions” and that is true. However, it’s pretty easy associate cards with Valentine’s Day over Christmas. Of course, on Christmas you send cards to everyone, whereas Valentine’s day tends to be more significant others. Despite the long explanation, this one fooled me too.

Zach Engel

28-year-old from Rochester, NY. He prepared for Mental Samurai by using a rolling chair and spinning around while reading trivia questions. He also had the best hairdo-stashe-style combo on the show.

>
ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesCompound Fracture03002891117.7
2KnowledgeSnapshot82811978418.3
3SequenceBack Order81891543511.7
4MemoryEcho Chamber8146133139.1
5SequenceTime Warp912487378.5
6MemoryBlackout97861174.3
7PuzzlesWordplay115039111.7
8KnowledgeInitial Impression73212200
  1. What word is a suffix for lip and prefix for up? Stick.
  2. What action character is represented by a Ram and a Bow?
  3. Place these words in the order in which they appear in “Little Miss Muffet”: Tuffet, Curds, Spider.
  4. Repeat Cherries, Lemon, Grape pattern.
  5. Arrange husbands of Angelina Jolie in order. Billy Bob Thronton, Brad Pitt, Jonny Lee Miller.
  6. Video of skydivers. Last person to join was wearing an orange helmet.
  7. Thomas Edison from jumble. Clue is “Famous Inventor”
  8. Combine initials of Billy Idol, Clint Eastwood, and Patrick Stewart to form a body part. (Only images of actors shown)

Zach was sunk pretty early on because he took too long to figure out “Rambo.” I will say, he ended in a fun area where he hit 0 as his required pace, as in, if he were able to instantly answer every question, he was theoretically still in it. Of course, we know this is actually impossible. Zach also showed the show knocking down a close to the correct answer answer. He said “Bicep” when the answer was “Biceps.” I’d say he’d have an argument for appeal, but at best he could only get one more question in.

Kristy Agamegwa

41-year old database analyst. Dropped out of college but returned at age 37 and got her sociology degree.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceAlpha Order03002821817.7
2KnowledgeToss Up72752641117.7
3PuzzlesWordnado7257248918.5
4MemoryEcho Chamber82402271319.6
5SequenceStriking Distance92181912720.3
6KnowledgeSpecial Equation71841483619.4
7PuzzlesDouble Crossed11137924516.2
8MemoryBlackout785701510.6
9SequenceTime Warp125846128.5
10KnowledgeSnapshot7393097.7
11PuzzlesMissing Piece10201556
12MemoryName Dropper114044
  1. List blender, toaster, spatula in order.
  2. Foghorn Leghorn is which animal? Chicken or Fish.
  3. Combine floating fragments to form Switzerland. The clue is a European country.
  4. Repeat pattern “You, Happy, To, Birthday” funny.
  5. Arrange US Landmarks from North to South. Niagara Falls, Liberty Bell, Cape Canaveral
  6. Add number in 1st Jump Street Movie with number in 2nd Jump Street Movie. 21 and 22.
  7. A hit song is the clue. Across – Fireplace Tool. Down; App: ____ Time. Poker Face.
  8. What name was on the mailbox in an image? Ness.
  9. Place show in order of their U.S. TV debut from earliest to most recent. Wheel of Fortune, Deal or No Deal, the Wall.
  10. What Broadway musical is represented by a ham, a mill, and a ton?
  11. Identify the piece that completes the puzzle. C.
  12. Time expries before question finishes.

Kristy just barely ran out of time. It all boiled down to “Poker Face”, which took just a little bit of time to figure out. Kristy didn’t know the app “FaceTime” quickly or the song “Poker Face” and that set her back. A classic gap in pop culture moment. Other than that an amazingly strong run, and a thrilling finish that came down to the wire.

Dylan Gentile

40-year-old classical pianist. He’s been studying since age three! Also, I was excited to see how good his memory was. He did not disappoint.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceAlpha Order03002841617.7
2KnowledgeToss Up62782661218
3PuzzlesWordnado7259251818.7
4MemoryBlackout82432281519.9
5SequenceAlpha Order112172031420.1
6KnowledgeReality Check81951821321
7PuzzlesDouble Crossed111711482321.8
8MemoryMind Field81401281221.6
9SequenceStriking Distance13115106922.8
10KnowledgeFactfinder799881127.7
11PuzzlesOddball880602036
12MemoryName Dropper1347192847
13SequenceTime Warp0109852421.3
  1. List ant, bat, fox in order.
  2. Regifting is from Seinfeld or Shakespeare? Seinfeld!
  3. Psychology. Clue is something you can get a degree in.
  4. What shape were the designs on a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker in an ornate dress? hearts.
  5. Arrange words “Peanuts, Back, Crowd” in order they appear in “Take me out to the Ball Game.”
  6. Which image is real Golden Gate Bridge? Fake has a middle portion.
  7. Dream Catcher. Clue is “Somthing found on a bedroom wall.” Clues are Down: Nocturnal Vision. Across: Masked Baseball Player.
  8. Where is the pinata located? 4.
  9. Arrange lakes from West to East. Lake Tahoe, Great Salt Lake, Lake Michigan.
  10. Which type of noddle is called “Bow-Tie” pasta? Fusilli,. Farfalle, or Fettuccine.
  11. C has a different nose than the others.
  12. Where was image of man with a beard in polic lineup? Spot 1.
  13. Arrange Fitness Trends by year. Crossfit, Jazzercise, Step Aerobics, Soulcycle.

I was really curious how well Dylan’s memory would be, as I mentioned. And he did great. He followed pretty much the same path as Marissa, a strong first round that was immediately downed by a gap in knowledge. I guess Soulcycle is an exercise fad now? I didn’t know that either.

Alright, only one “regular season” game left and then the finale. Sorry for the late scores this week. I’ll try and be more prompt the next two shows.

-Dre

Advanced Stats TV: Let’s Watch Chris Yeh on Mental Samurai

Let’s Watch!

I got into Mental Samurai thanks to Chris Yeh. Over six weeks I’ve tracked advanced stats and learned the show for this very moment. Chris’ run was on this week, and I avoided social media and watched his run “blind” for excitement. Of course, editing by the show impacted my run a little. Enough of Chris’ run was in clips to know he got far, and was worried on a sequence question. As I note, editing also fooled me into thinking he failed as well. Tricky fools! Anyway, I have a few noted on his run, and some meta-analysis. Also, sadly WBTV pulled this run off of YouTube almost instantly. Kind of a bummer, but I wanted to make sure the view included Chris’ footage, so glad I can post it here.

Tune In Next Time

Some basic reminders. Chris Yeh has a great podcast: “The Chris Yeh Podcast”, which you can find on most platforms. Definitely subscribe if you want good behind-the-scenes Mental Samurai content, as well as a fantastic business and tech advice.

Of course, Chris Yeh will be on the Mental Samurai season finale on May 21st. So make sure you tune in. You can stream it on Fox.

You can follow Chris on Twitter, @chrisyeh.

Check Your Work!

Chris had an interesting run in that he never developed much of a buffer. A neutral pace is around 18 seconds an answer. Chris stayed close to this in the first round. What’s more, on a few questions he spent a little longer than I’d have liked, as you’ll notice in my “Let’s Watch.” Of course, here’s the key, when Chris “spent too much time” he was verifying an answer he knew. And Chris never went over 30 seconds on a given question, which wasn’t hard to gain back. On his podcast, Chris made a very astute observation. The value of extra time is minimal. You get a little extra in the last round, but beyond that, there is no reward. On the other hand, any miss is instant death. Two other competitors on last week’s show knew an answer but buzzed in immediately and lost. So, honestly, doing a double check on any question you know is pretty prudent.

Meta-Meta-Analysis

Doing a let’s watch added some good meta-analysis about runs. For seven weeks I’ve been tracking stats and collecting ideal strategies for solving Mental Samurai. I will say, Chris’ run is one I likely could have done. But as you’ll notice in the let’s watch, I miss three questions (two memory, and a puzzle, which I notice, no one misses!)

On Chris Yeh’s podcast both he and several of the Mental Samurai contestants note that the producers gave the advice to talk out their answers. And, of course, every contestant knows they’re being watched. Doing a Let’s Watch I could have been silent and tried to “match” Chris’ run, but I wanted to make sure I was giving good commentary to go along. And doing that definitely made focusing and memorizing things harder. Also, the adrenaline just from realizing a friend of mine did great on the show “knocked me off my game.” Realizing Chris probably wins, I got so excited I missed a question that I said: “No one misses this.”

Doing a let’s watch is nowhere near as stressful being in gyroscope spinning you around, tens of thousands of dollars on the line, or having Rob Lowe commenting on your every move. As such my respect for the contestants that have put up impressive runs is even higher.

I’ll see if I do another let’s watch for Chris’ finale. And, of course, I’ll keep tracking the stats until then. Seeya next time!

Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 7

And we’re back with another week of boxscores for this year’s hot new reality TV show Mental Samurai. In case you haven’t seen the show — which is streamable at Fox — contestants are strapped into a gyroscope, called Ava, flung around between four towers and asked a series of trivia questions. Answer 12 in a row, win $10,000. Answer four more, win $25,000 per question. Answer all 16, win the title of Mental Samurai. Miss a question or run out of time, and you’re done. I run down the category types and subcategories that appear in my week one writeup if you’re new.

Also, as always future contestant Chris Yeh’s podcast often has bonus content for the show, so subscribe to that if you haven’t already.

Below is each contestant’s “box score” with a little analysis. A reminder of the stats I’m tracking:

  • Category: The category of the question – Knowledge, Puzzles, Sequence, or Memory
  • Subcategory: Each category has a selection of types. I list these in depth in my week one write up.
  • Travel Time: How long it takes for Ava to settle the contestant in front of the tower with the question up in front of them.
  • Start time: What the countdown is at (in seconds) when the question is first visible to the contestant.
  • End time: When Ava flashes green or red, signifying the contestants’ answer has been registered.
  • Answer time: The time between the start time and end time. In theory, below 18 seconds is ideal for this.
  • Required Pace: How quick the contestant must, on average, answer each of the remaining questions. This assumes an average of 8 second travel time between each question.

Nick Bremner

27-year-old accountant. He works for a French cheese company. He lives at home currently and says he might move out sooner if he wins!

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesPicture Perfect03002901017.7
2KnowledgeFactfinder8282273918.4
3SequenceBack Order82652461919.3
4MemoryEcho Chamber82382241419.3
5SequenceMeasure Up92151952019.9
6MemoryChat Attack81871691819.9
  1. Identify four-word phrase by an image of a frog in a throat.
  2. Which symbol did Kesha officially remove from her stage name? Dollar sign.
  3. Place these words in the order in which they appear in the song “Jolly Good Fellow”: Jolly, Fellow, Deny
  4. Repeat a pattern using words: “Rome, Paris, London, Paris”
  5. Arrange these teaspoon cooking measurements in order from smallest to largest: Heaping, Level, Rounded, Heaping.
  6. Text message, “Dude, where r u? Where u @?” How many Us were there?

A pretty solid run stopped by a subtle question. Nick misses that the word “Dude” has a U in it. Going a little too quickly is a killer for a few contestants this week.

Matthew Schultz

46-year-old pastor. Does a lot of work in the community. He performs weddings and funerals and says this is a “leap of faith.”

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeFactfinder0300292817.7
2SequenceBack Order72852731218.6
3MemoryEcho Chamber92642521219.2
4PuzzlesWordplay82442341020
5SequenceAlpha Order72271656221.4
  1. Which talk show host is the voice of Dory in Finding Dory? Ellen!
  2. Put the words: “Dog, Farmer, Bingo” in order the appear in the song – “B-I-N-G-O”
  3. Repeat sequence of “Green, Yellow, Red”
  4. Rearrange letters to spell: “Kanye West”, clue is “Famous Rapper”
  5. List Jessicas in Alphabetical Order by Last Name. Alba, Biel, Chastain. He doesn’t know them all. Neither did I! He does guess, but puts Biel last, ouch!

Matthew fails for the classic of not recognizing the images of famous people. I didn’t either! He made an educated guess with the two Jessicas he recognized, but sadly the third name was Biel. Oof.

La Tawnya Robinson

40-year-old third grade teacher. Would love to inspire her classroom with a win. Rob likes her hair.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesWordplay03002891117.7
2KnowledgeToss Up72822691318.4
3SequenceAlpha Order72622461619
4MemoryBlackout82382221619.3
5SequenceTime Warp92131892419.6
6MemoryMind Field81811651619
7PuzzlesCompound Fracture101551451019.2
8KnowledgeSpecial Equation81371181921
9PuzzlesGridlock10108109821
10MemoryName Dropper8202-4.7
  1. Rearrange to spell “Frozen” clue is “Disney Film.”
  2. What does the K in K-Pop stand for. Korean!
  3. List “Hammer, Wrench, Screwdriver” alphabetically.
  4. What state is a License Plate with Just Married on it from? Michigan.
  5. Arrange TV Sitcoms in order of debut year, earliest to latest. That 70s Show. Modern Family, Blask-ish.
  6. The donut is located in spot #2.
  7. What four-letter word is a prefix for Works and a Suffic for Bon. Fire!
  8. Add Halloween’s day in October (31) with Valentine’s day in February (14), 45!
  9. Find three musical instruments in six by six letter grid. Violen, Piano, Flute.
  10. Doesn’t even finish :(

La Tawnya had a great run before being stumped by a puzzle. She did amazingly well on the “Compound Fracture” question, so it was brutal to get hurt on Gridlock. She completed it but became the second contestant to be mathematically eliminated from finishing.

Chris Yeh

43-year-old author. His nickname as a kid was “Encyclopeia Yeh.” He got his degree from Stanford at 19.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesPicture Perfect03002881217.7
2KnowledgeToss Up8280271918.2
3SequenceAlpha Order72642521219.2
4MemoryEcho Chamber82442311320
5SequenceTime Warp92222071520.8
6MemoryBlackout91981722621.4
7PuzzlesDouble Crossed111611342720.2
8KnowledgeToss Up7127119819
9PuzzlesMirror Mirror10109852421.3
10MemoryPay Attention877601720.3
11SequenceMeasure Up852391322
12KnowledgeReality Check83127431
13KnowledgeToss Up01171071023.3
14EchoHear Say899762327.7
15SequenceTime Warp967402729.5
16PuzzlesMissing Piece103072330
  1. Identify the four word phrase by the image: (Talk to the hand)
  2. Which musician had a hit in 1972 with the song: “Rocket Man” (Elton John)
  3. List Bull, Lion, Wolf in order.
  4. Repeat “Gold Bronze Gold Silver”
  5. List Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga in order iconic red carpet moments, earliest to latest.
  6. Which number is on the fire truck? 54.
  7. Roller Coaster from two crossword puzzle clues.
  8. T-Rex was a meat eater.
  9. Mirror image of post it note. A is the answer.
  10. What temperature is it in LA from captain’s announcement. 76
  11. Arrange amounts of data storage from smallest to largest- Mb, Gb, Tb.
  12. Which is the real Canadian Flag. Fake has blue background.
  13. Kale is a type of what? Fruit or cabbage? Cabbage.
  14. How many musical instruments were played? 3.
  15. Arrange viral Youtube videos by release date: Charlie Bit My Finger, Double Rainbow, Chewbacca Mask Lady.
  16. B completes an image of football players.

Oh, I’ll have much more to say about Chris in the future. I’m sure his podcast this week will be a hoot as well. The editors did a great job faking out Chris losing, so I was delighted when he won. He was amazingly “clutch” on his last question doing both a time check and double checking his answer. A great competitor and I couldn’t be happier that he’s a Mental Samurai! Let’s give him his own gif from show footage!

Kenyatta Smith

44-year-old firefighter. He says he’s excellent at make split second decisions.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesWordplay03002427617.7
  1. Rearrange to spell a beloved show: “Friends”

You’ve got to feel for the brain freezes that occur on the show. The original jumble said: “Finders” and Kenyatta just couldn’t find his way out. He did make a joking guess of “Derfinds”, which I appreciated.

Roz Paul

74-year-old travel agent. She was divorced 25 years, but re-entered the dating pool and has been with her current boyfriend since. Her promotion package looked amazing and Roz seems very active.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeTrue Lies03002881217.7
2PuzzlesWornado8280272818.2
3MemoryBlackout92632501319.1
4SequenceAlpha Order82422222019.8
5KnowledgeSnapshot82142041019.8
6PuzzlesCompound Fracture81961712521.1
7MemoryMind Field81631422120.5
8SequenceTime Warp9133934020.2
  1. The final word in the Pledge of Allegience is justice. False.
  2. Millionaire from word fragments. Clue is “Name a wealthy person.”
  3. What color wear the helmets in the image of white water rafters? Red.
  4. List barrel, cannon, castle in order.
  5. What band is represented by an image of a Pearl and Jam.
  6. Side is a prefix for ways and a suffix for blind.
  7. The dice are in the 5th spot.
  8. Arrange these cities in the order that they hosted the Summer Olympics from earliest to most recent.

Before her run started, Roz said her weakness was pop-culture. So when she got Pearl Jam, Rob Lowe was elated. I argue no one cares about the Summer Olympics, so I can’t fault the question that eventually downed her, as her run was fantastic before then.

Adam Thomas

37-year-old stay-at-home dad. He’s a former Marine Corps officer, and his wife is still in the Marines. They met in Iraq, and now have two kids.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceTime Warp03002851517.7
2KnowledgeToss Up82772661117.9
3MemoryBlackout72592421718.7
4PuzzlesWornado9233224918.8
5KnowledgeSnapshot7217210720.1
6SequenceStriking Distance82021891322
7MemoryPay Attention71821641823.7
8PuzzlesOddball8156148824.8
9KnowledgeSpecial Equation101381281028.5
  1. Arrange famous scientists by birthyear, earliest to latest. Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Neil Degresse Tyson.
  2. Which cereal mascot traditionally wears a red kerchief? Tony the Tiger.
  3. What was printed on the plane wings? US Navy.
  4. Combine floating word fragments to spell Versace. Clue is luxury brand.
  5. What band is represented by an image of a Nickel and a Back.
  6. Place events in order of their location from North to South. Iditarod, Burning Man, Daytona 500.
  7. Baseball play by play. Which player slid home? Hernandez.
  8. Which pizza is different than the others? C.
  9. Add number of minutes in an hour and number of hours in two days. 108.

Gotta feel for Adam, as he did the “chess blunder.” His verbal thinking had the correct answer, but he said the wrong answer and knew immediately.


For weeks I’ve been promoting Chris Yeh’s day on the show. And as an added surprise, he’ll be back for the season Finale! I’ll be back next week, and maybe before then with more content!

-Dre

Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 6

And we’re back with another week of boxscores for this year’s hot new reality TV show Mental Samurai. In case you haven’t seen the show — which is streamable at Fox — contestants are strapped into a gyroscope, called Ava, flung around between four towers and asked a series of trivia questions. Answer 12 in a row, win $10,000. Answer four more, win $25,000 per question. Answer all 16, win the title of Mental Samurai. Miss a question or run out of time, and you’re done. I run down the category types and subcategories that appear in my week one writeup if you’re new.

Also, as always future contestant Chris Yeh’s podcast often has bonus content for the show, so subscribe to that if you haven’t already.

Below is each contestant’s “box score” with a little analysis. A reminder of the stats I’m tracking:

  • Category: The category of the question – Knowledge, Puzzles, Sequence, or Memory
  • Subcategory: Each category has a selection of types. I list these in depth in my week one write up.
  • Travel Time: How long it takes for Ava to settle the contestant in front of the tower with the question up in front of them.
  • Start time: What the countdown is at (in seconds) when the question is first visible to the contestant.
  • End time: When Ava flashes green or red, signifying the contestants’ answer has been registered.
  • Answer time: The time between the start time and end time. In theory, below 18 seconds is ideal for this.
  • Required Pace: How quick the contestant must, on average, answer each of the remaining questions. This assumes an average of 8 second travel time between each question.

Hannah Cussen

18-year-old student. She’s a Colorado native. She’s a Stanford freshman. Both her parents went to Stanford. She’s got a black belt in Tae Kown Do and is one of the shortest contestants on the show.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeReality Check03002901017.7
2SequenceAlpha Order102802651518.2
3MemoryEcho Chamber102552421318.3
4PuzzlesWordplay92332082518.8
5MemoryName Dropper72011861518.1
6SequenceTime Warp81781463218.6
7KnowledgeFactfinder8138133516.3
8PuzzlesPicture Perfect91241091518.4
9SequenceStriking Distance7102861619.5
10MemoryBlackout878413720.7
  1. Which is the real Mona Lisa? Image without a necklace.
  2. List 10, 12, 11 in alphabetical order.
  3. Repeat pattern of Burger, Fries, Soda.
  4. Rearrange “POT GNU” to spell Top Gun. Clue is Iconic 80s movie.
  5. Which dog took 2nd place? Image of three dogs on a pedastal. She did amazing verbalizing a ton of info quickly on this one.
  6. Arrange American Idol winners from earliest to most recent (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks)
  7. Which sign of the of the Zodiac is an image of two fish?
  8. Identify the six word phrase represented by an image of a candle burning on both ends.
  9. Arrange European Countries (Iceland, Poland, Spain) from North to South.
  10. Image of a sign post with lots of countries with arrows. Which City’s Arrow is pointing in the same direction as Amsterdam? Spent too long on the question regardless, but bummer. Tough blackout question.

A pretty strong run that felt like it ended in fatigue. On challenge 5, Hannah did a great job verbalizing the image for her memory. On an admittedly harder memory challenge, Hannah was much quieter. I do get to a little meta-analysis on this. On any question that is a multiple choice or order question, it makes way more sense to guess than to overthink it. Both Hannah and Jameson from episode 4 fell into this trap. Obviously, it’s easy to Monday Morning quarterback this though. Good run!

Steve Kaye

26-year-old-student. He was a programming manager at a casino and worked with some major names. Says he’s relentlessly competitive, and it shows!

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeToss Up0300293717.7
2SequenceBack Order62872771018.8
3MemoryEcho Chamber10267258919.5
4PuzzlesWornado8250243720.7
5SequenceTime Warp6237228922.6
6KnowledgeTrue Lies9219213624.4
7PuzzlesGridlock92041802427.3
8MemoryHear Say91711541727.8
9SequenceRecord-Breaker81461331330.5
10MemoryMind Field101231081535.7
  1. Which movie stared Angelina Jolie, Salt or Pepper?
  2. Place words “Cupboard, Dog, Bone” in order they appear in nursery rhyme “Old Mother Hubbard”
  3. Repeat pattern of words: “Khloe, Courtney, Kim”. Has images of the Kardashian.
  4. Combine floating word fragments to form “Tennessee” Clue is US State.
  5. Arrange Academy Award Winners Best Picture in order of premiere. “Chariots of Fire, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Shape of Water”
  6. Derek Jeter is married to Jennifer Lopez.
  7. Find three people associated with Batman in 6 by 6 letter grid. Robin, Alfred, Bane
  8. What was the second sound played? Baseball bat.
  9. List Navy ranks by seniority, Ensign, Lieutenant, Commander, Admiral
  10. Where is the red bird located. It was 5 :(

Steve did the strategy I love, he answered super fast and wasted little time. His pace was competitive with some of the top contestants so far on the show. Sadly he was knocked down by a memory question, and one of the harder challenges. He noted his second guess was wrong too, so there was nothing he could have done.

Chad Poist

46-year-old supply chain manager. He grew up on a farm, has two young children and says that impacts his memory. Clever foreshadowing or good editing? Either way, it’s correct.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesWordnadop03002901017.7
2KnowledgeFactfinder82822196318.4
3SequenceAlpha Order72121951714
4MemoryEcho Chamber81871741313.7
5SequenceTime Warp101641422213.5
6MemoryBlackout71351033212.4
  1. Spell “Blackjack” from word fragments. Clue is card game
  2. In Happy Birthday, which word is only said three times? Choices Happy, Birthday, You. You.
  3. List Cup, Box, Bag in order.
  4. Repeat pattern of “Shake, It, Off”
  5. Arrange Whites from youngest to oldest. Shaun White, Jack White, Betty White.
  6. Which marking appeared on the bicyclists left side? Double red line.

A very very tough challenge. The video of the bike riding was quite long, meaning there were a lot of details to keep track of and forget. Chad is one of a few contestants with odd editing. We see a decent intro but no interaction with Rob Lowe. This has happened once or twice before. Not a horrible run, but he was definitely in time trouble and a long tough Memory challenge was brutal.

Stella Zawistowski

40-year-old associate creative director. She’s a top crossword puzzle competitor.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeToss Up0300294617.7
2PuzzlesMissing Piece8286277918.7
3MemoryEcho Chamber72702591119.8
4SequenceAlpha Order92502381220.7
5KnowledgeSnapshot82302102021.8
6PuzzlesGridlock8202195722
7MemoryName Dropper81871701724.5
  1. Which flower is the symbol for the New Year’s Day Parade in Pasadena? Rose.
  2. C completes image of merry go round.
  3. Repeat pattern of play, pause, rewind, stop.
  4. Shirt, glove, scarf.
  5. Girl on Fire. Clue is Song Title. Image of girl, on switch, and fire. Rough one, she gets it!
  6. Find three common beverages (Coffee, Juice, Milk) in 6 by 6 letter grid.
  7. What is the name of the wrestler in fire outfit – Inferno. She guesses Diablo.

Stella did what I call the classic “chess blunder.” Based on the verbalized information about the images, she had all the information she needed. She answered too quickly though and got knocked out. Especially brutal as she was on a solid pace. On Chris Yeh’s podcast he noted she would lock in the handle before saying “Lock It In.” Very much like Jeopardy, this is ideal strategy as saying “Lock It In” apparently does not impact your answer being processed, so wasting time saying it before hitting the lever is needless. At least she didn’t go out on a puzzle clue.

Ron White

45-year-old memory trainer. He’s a two-time US memory champion as well.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesWordplay0300292817.7
2SequenceAlpha Order72852642118.6
3KnowledgeToss Up102542431118.2
4MemoryPay Attention72362162019.1
5PuzzlesDouble Crossed82081872119
6MemoryMind Field81791631618.7
  1. Clue: European country. Germany
  2. List tree, star, gift alphabetically.
  3. How many meats are in BLT: One or Two?
  4. Auto phone operator, which option to leave a message: one.
  5. Familiar Phrase: Clues are NBA Legend Larry and Opposite of Late (Early Bird)
  6. Where is Gold Clover Coin located. 1. He missed. Ouch!

The memory champion misses on a straightforward memory question? Oh man, the producers must have been giddy over this. The chess metaphor I get back to here is when Gary Kasparov lost to Deep Blue on a “simple” (for chess masters) opening trap. Even the best experts when knocked off their game can blunder. Ron White is no exception. I’m sure he’ll use this example in future lectures.

Ryan Jones

28-year-old spin cycle instructor. He wanted to be on Broadway before finding his job as a spin instructor. He brings lots of performative aspects to spinning.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesWornado03002901017.7
2SequenceAlpha Order92812681318.3
3KnowledgeToss Up9259250918.7
4MemoryEcho Chamber72432331019.9
5PuzzlesMissing Piece9224216821
6MemoryPay Attention82081901822.9
7KnowledgeSnapshot7183174923.8
8SequenceStriking Distance81661511526.8
9KnowledgeFactfinder91421301229.5
10SequenceMeasure Up10120903034.7
11MemoryBlackout1080651536
12PuzzlesDouble Crossed1055451055
13PuzzlesOddball01351211427.8
14SequenceAlpha Order7114823232.7
  1. Valentine with clue of “Type of Greeting Card.”
  2. Desk, Lamp, Sink
  3. Which state uses MI as its abbreviation. Michigan!
  4. Repeat beef, chicken, fish pattern.
  5. B completes image of flowers and windmills.
  6. Which subject does student say they’re getting a B in on a phone message. History
  7. What drink is represented by a Canadian Flag and Dry desert.
  8. Arrange Singers in Country of Origin from North to South. Celine Dione, Gwen Steani, Shakira.
  9. This Van Gogh painting is of what king of flower? Irises.
  10. Arrange boxing weight divisions lightest to heaviest: Flyweight, Welterweight, Heavyweight.
  11. Subway sign. What letter is in a gray circle. S!
  12. Guitar Hero. Clues are Hendrix’s Instrument and Superman is a Super what?
  13. C. Sandcastles one with a different flag.
  14. List Larry David, David Duchovny, David Letterman, and David Beckham in order. Sadly he doesn’t know them all.

Ryan definitely follows what Chris Yeh calls the “fast and fun” method. At each question Ryan is all business, but as soon as his answer is locked in, Ryan is excited, celebratory, and takes a break until the next question. His spin mastery seems perfect here. Ryan falls on a familiar pitfall. He didn’t recognize the images of famous people shown and as a result, was unable to finish the question. On a meta-analysis level though, he played it perfectly. He didn’t spend too much time and made a guess. The show rules apparently will allow you to order people as long as you distinguish your answers enough. As he knew David Beckham, he had a 1/6 chance of getting it right. Fate was against him, but otherwise, a fantastic run.

Another week in the tank! A reminder that this week at 9 pm EST on Tuesday 4/30 is Chris Yeh’s episode. So be sure to tune in and I’ll try and make sure his box score is up quickly. See you then!

Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 5

Week 5 and we’re in a groove, so I’ll just be copy/pasting my recap notes if that’s ok … just like last week. Although I’m adding a new stat, see below. I’m reviewing the reality TV show Mental Samurai but from a box score perspective. Every week I rundown each contestants performance. Since Mental Samurai is a timed trivia game show, the box score is pretty simple – how quick and how far does each player go?

In case you haven’t seen the show — which is streamable at Fox — contestants are strapped into a gyroscope, called Ava, flung around between four towers and asked a series of trivia questions. Answer 12 in a row, win $10,000. Answer four more, win $25,000 per question. Answer all 16, win the title of Mental Samurai. I run down the category types and subcategories that appear in my week one writeup if you’re new.

Also, as always future contestant Chris Yeh’s podcast often has bonus content for the show, so subscribe to that if you haven’t already.

Below is each contestants “box score” with a little analysis. A reminder of the stats I’m tracking:

  • Category: The category of the question – Knowledge, Puzzles, Sequence, or Memory
  • Subcategory: Each category has a selection of types. I list these in depth in my week one write up.
  • Travel Time: How long it takes for Ava to settle the contestant in front of the tower with the question up in front of them.
  • Start time: What the countdown is at (in seconds) when the question is first visible to the contestant.
  • End time: When Ava flashes green or red, signifying the contestants answer has been registered.
  • Answer time: The time between the start time and end time. In theory, below 18 seconds is ideal for this.
  • Required Pace (new): How quick the contestant must, on average, answer each of the remaining questions. This assumes an average of 8 second travel time between each question.

I decided to add Required Pace after Jameson’s run last week. Examining how fast a contestant answer each question as fast enough or not is fine. That said, the real question is if they can complete the course, so the Required Pace stat helps with that. Going into this week, the “worst” required pace we got to was Mitch Emerson in week two at 8 seconds. Spoiler alert, that gets shattered this week.

Glenn Hetrick

55-year-old airline pilot. He has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and gives himself the nickname of “Flying Samurai.” I love it!

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesPicture Perfect03002841617.7
2KnowledgeTrue Lies9275266917.7
3SequenceMeasure Up72592411818.7
4MemoryEcho Chamber92322211118.7
5SequenceRecord-Breaker102111951619.4
6MemoryBlackout81871662119.9
7PuzzlesMatch Box111551352019.2
8KnowledgeFactfinder8127118919
9PuzzlesMissing Piece9109951421.3
10MemoryMind Field887721523.7
11SequenceTime Warp963224127.5
12KnowledgeSpellbound81401414
  1. Identify the Four-Word Phrase represented by a picture of a butterflies in a stomach.
  2. A seismograph is commonly referred to as a lie detector: Nope.
  3. Arrange Daniels from shortest to tallest: DeVito, Radcliffe, Day Lewis
  4. Repeat pattern of Gold/Silver/Bronze.
  5. Arrange Monopoly properties by least to most expensive Baltic: Marvin Gardens, Boardwalk
  6. A Racecar is t-boned by another car, which number? 2
  7. Identify the numberr matching images on a 4 by 4 grid.
  8. Image of glass headquarters. Three options, new HQ of which organization? Apple.
  9. Missing image in puzzle of Golden Gate Bridge.
  10. Where is image of soup located? 4
  11. Arrange Actresses from Youngest to Oldest. Mila Kunis, Amy Adams, Halle Berry, Jane Fonda
  12. Spell the nine-letter word for a sea that borders the U.S. Virgin Islands. He says it but doesn’t spell it. Oh man, heartbreaker.

A great run that ran into time trouble. Glenn even knew the right answer but missed that he was supposed to spell it out, not just say it. Of course, given his time constraints that would have been hard. Annoyingly he was on great pace heading into question 11 when the age question sucked up too much time.

Ed Moses

38-year-old former Olympic swimmer. He has a gold and silver medal and broke thirteen world records!

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1PuzzlesDouble Crossed03002019917.7
2SequenceAlpha Order91921623010.2
3KnowledgeSnapshot1015214578
4MemoryEcho Chamber7138125138.2
5PuzzlesWordnado8117107107.6
6MemoryBlackout109784137
7KnowledgeFactfinder7776896.2
8SequenceBack Order115745125
9KnowledgeToss Up7383263.5
10SequenceTime Warp92313102.3
11MemoryMind Field11202-3
  1. Solve the crossword to name a famous actor. Harrison Ford!
  2. List four-letter musical items alphabetically – Drum, Harp, Bell.
  3. Identify the body part represented by a picture of ham and string.
  4. Repeat Hickory Dickory Dock pattern.
  5. Downloading from moving fragments. Clue is “Popular Tech Term”
  6. How many fish are in the bowl on the left? 3.
  7. Steve Rogers is the Alter Ego of Captain America.
  8. Place these words in the order in which they appear in the nursery rhyme “Jack be Nimble” Nimble, Quick, Candlestick.
  9. What is a porpose? Fish or Mammal? Mammal.
  10. List first ladies by earliest to most recent: Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama.
  11. Question doesn’t even finish asking.

While not as good as winning $10,000, I can give Ed Moses this. He holds the “record” for being the first televised Mental Samurai contestant to be mathematically eliminated before failing a question. While other candidates have run into time trouble that meant it was unlikely they could have completed their course in time, Ed is the first that ran out of time. I give him full marks for persevering. The pop-culture Puzzle knocking a strong competitor off their game is nothing new. Ed “recovered” and tried his best on an otherwise exemplary run.

Jack Vomacka

19-year-old Computer Science Major. Got a perfect score on the ACT. He’s also been writing a fantasy novel for ten years.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1KnowledgeSnapshot0300294617.7
2SequenceAlpha Order102842671718.5
3MemoryEcho Chamber92582451318.6
4PuzzlesWordplay82372271019.2
5MemoryBlackout72202061420.5
6SequenceBack Order101961841221.1
7KnowledgeFactfinder10174167722.3
8PuzzlesMatch Box101571451225
9SequenceTime Warp71381162228.5
10MemoryPay Attention9107881930.3
11PuzzlesCompound Fracture97907935.5
  1. What movie is represented by a picture of a Magician and a Microphone.
  2. Arrange 11, 31, Twenty
  3. Repeat King, Knight, Queen, Queen, Rook.
  4. Rearrange letters to spell Drake. Clue is Popular Musical Artist.
  5. What type of pastry was in the image. Croissant out of focus. Nicely done!
  6. Place these words in the order in which the appear in the “Pledge of Allegiance”: Flag, Republic, Indivisible.
  7. What is another name for the human tailbone? Coccyx.
  8. Identify two matching pairs on a four by four grid.
  9. Arrange these animated series in order they appeared:Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy.
  10. What are two for 25 dollars? Jeans.
  11. What four letter words is a prefix for port and a suffix for over?

A very strong run before getting knocked off by a tough question. Essentially, Ed’s run in reverse. I’ve left the answer out, see if you can get it. It was definitely a tough question and was a real shame to see Jack’s amazingly strong run go down.

Nancy Jo Perdue

65-year-old retired journalist. She was the first television journalist. She’s interviewed six presidents.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceAlpha Order03002851517.7
2KnowledgeReality Check72782661218
3PuzzlesPicture Perfect7259250918.7
4MemoryBlackout72432281519.9
5SequenceBack Order92191942520.4
6KnowledgeTrue Lies7187178919.9
7PuzzlesWordplay10168016821.3
  1. List Bagel, Bacon, Donut in order.
  2. Which is the real White House? Fake has a pillar.
  3. What phrase is represented by hand with butter for fingers.
  4. How many black guitars in the image? 2.
  5. Arrange words Sky, Diamond, World in order they appear in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”
  6. A female fox is valled a vixen. True?
  7. Rearrange letters to spell Inception. Clue is Twisted 2010 Movie.

Another running theme, strong run with a tough question that knocked her out. She was one of the most fun competitors that had great sass in her answers.

Jackie Boehme

28-year-old Resident Anesthesiologist. Was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the US at age 2.

ChallengeCategorySubcategoryTravel TimeStart TimeEnd TimeAnswer TimeRequired Pace
1SequenceAlpha Order03002851517.7
2MemoryEcho Chamber82772651217.9
3KnowledgeToss Up102552431218.3
4PuzzlesPicture Perfect92342231118.9
5MemoryBlackout102131803319.6
6PuzzlesMissing Piece81721581417.7
7KnowledgeFactfinder10148141718
8SequenceMeasure Up71341211320.4
9MemoryName Dropper81131001322.3
10PuzzlesOddball99184725
11KnowledgeFactfinder975651033.5
12SequenceRecord-Breaker1253341953
13KnowledgeFactfinder020410410045
14PuzzlesWornado995791626.3
15MemoryHear Say871462531.5
16SequenceMeasure Up838182038
  1. Arrange Medal, Pizza, Shark in order.
  2. Repeat pattern of words “Shake it Off”
  3. Which is the Clown from Stephen King’s “IT” – Pennywise
  4. Identify the four word phrase by an image of a man with a chip on his shoulder.
  5. How many wheels are on the chair. This question is BS. She logics it out though!
  6. Which piece completes an image of a tucan.
  7. How many children does Homer Simpson have? 3.
  8. Put steps to roast turkey in order. Put stuffing in raw turkey, roast turkey, serve turkey.
  9. What is name of blonde haired woman on the right on a Christmas card? Beverley.
  10. What pharoah is not like the others? D, spinning head. Do they teach this stuff in med school?
  11. Which TV show is the show “Sheldon” a prequel to? Big Bang Theory.
  12. Arrange NBA Teams in order of Number of Championships won from least to most: Timberwolves, Bulls, Celtics.
  13. What animal is not native to Africa? I believe tiger.
  14. Combine fragments to spell “Legislation” clue is something produced by politicans.
  15. What sound played 4th? Frog.
  16. Arrange action stars from youngest to oldest: Arnold, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Matt Damon.

Jackie followed Chris’ “fast and fun” strategy. She was very matter of fact in her answers while enjoying herself and relaxing during the gyroscope time. Like other Mental Samurai winner Nathan Gonzales, she’s in the medical profession, which apparently makes the tough “Oddball” question easy. About six questions in, Rob Lowe said she needed to pick up the pace. While he was wrong, she took that to heart and crushed “the back nine.” Another compliment I can give is she “thought her way” through several questions.

Another week in the tank! The good news is we’re hitting enough data that I’ll probably be back with some meta-analysis soon. Seeya next time!

-Dre

Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 4

Week 4 and we’re in a groove, so I’ll just be copy/pasting my recap notes if that’s ok. I’m reviewing the reality TV show Mental Samurai but from a box score perspective. Every week I rundown each contestants performance. Since Mental Samurai is a timed trivia game show, the box score is pretty simple – how quick and how far does each player go?

In case you haven’t seen the show — which is streamable at Fox — contestants are strapped into a gyroscope, called Ava, flung around between four towers and asked a series of trivia questions. Answer 12 in a row, win $10,000. Answer four more, win $25,000 per question. Answer all 16, win the title of Mental Samurai. I run down the category types and subcategories that appear in my week one writeup if you’re new.

Also, as always future contestant Chris Yeh’s podcast often has bonus content for the show, so subscribe to that if you haven’t already.

Below is each contestants “box score” with a little analysis. A reminder of the stats I’m tracking:

  • Category: The category of the question – Knowledge, Puzzles, Sequence, or Memory
  • Subcategory: Each category has a selection of types. I list these in depth in my week one write up.
  • Travel Time: How long it takes for Ava to settle the contestant in front of the tower with the question up in front of them.
  • Start time: What the countdown is at (in seconds) when the question is first visible to the contestant.
  • End time: When Ava flashes green or red, signifying the contestants answer has been registered.
  • Answer time: The time between the start time and end time. I note when this is below 18 seconds in green, and above 18 seconds in red, as, in theory, that’s the needed pace to complete the full challenge.

Stephanie Thornton

38-year-old Direcotr of Consumer Insight. She’s a Mensa member, which is how she met her husband. He’s also competing!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Alpha Order 0 300 291 9
2 Memory Blackout 9 282 269 13
3 Knowledge Toss Up 9 260 246 14
4 Puzzles Picture Perfect 8 238 230 8
5 Memory Echo Chamber 8 222 209 13
6 Puzzles Wordnado 9 200 188 12
7 Knowledge True Lies 9 179 166 13
  1. Egg, Ham, Pie
  2. What name is person carving in the photo: Thomas.
  3. What is printed on US currency? “God Bless America” or “In God We Trust”
  4. Duck Face based on an image of a person taking a selfie of themselves in a duck mask.
  5. Repeat “Diamond, Circle, Square, Triangle” with visual and audio play.
  6. Combine floating/moving fragments to spells lemonade. The clue is a beverage and hit pop album.
  7. Doc is the only member of the seven dwarfs whose name does not end in Y. False. Missed Bashful, ouch!

There’s going to be some nice symmetry here. Stephanie answered a trick question too quickly. Her run had been going great and she actually had built up a decent buffer. Some quick back of the napkin math said she had 23 seconds a question (excluding travel time) for the back six. Running through all seven dwarfs would have definitely been worth it. A slight misstep on an otherwise strong run.

Jameson Thornton

32-year-old electrical engineer. As noted, he’s married to Stephanie Thornton and they’re playing for bragging rights. It appears she went first so he got to observe her run, a definite edge. He claims at home his win rate in various trivia games is about 1/5.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Back Order 0 300 289 11
2 Knowledge Toss Up 7 282 269 13
3 Puzzles Wordplay 7 262 252 10
4 Memory Blackout 10 242 183 59
5 Sequence Time Warp 9 174 156 18
6 Knowledge Fact Finder 7 149 137 12
7 Puzzles Mirror Mirror 11 126 105 21
8 Memory Mind Field 7 98 80 18
9 Sequence Alpha Order 11 69 43 26
  1. Put the words “London, Bridge, Falling” in the order they appear in the song “London Bridge”
  2. Fred Flinstone is the father of which child: Bamm Bamm or Pebbles.
  3. Rearrange letters to identify a New York city district: “Wall Street”
  4. How many seconds does Tom Hanks say he’ll be judged on in a clip from the movie Sully (208)
  5. Arrange video game consoles in debut date (early to latest): Atari 2600, Nintendo Game Boy, Microsoft XBox 360
  6. MMA Artists in the UFC compete in what shape of cage: Octogan.
  7. A^2 + B^2 = C^2 chalkboard.
  8. Where is the trophy located? Spot 6
  9. List the Kelly Ripa Co-Hosts alphabetically by first name. Regis, Middle Guy (he doesn’t know his name, neither do I), and Michael.

We get into interesting territory here. Technically Jameson bests his wife by going two more questions than her. However, by spending a full minute on his blackout question, he was in a precarious spot. In fact, by the time his run ended, I can say it was almost impossible for him to win. At 8 seconds, at best, per travel time, he’d need to answer all three of his final questions in 8 seconds or less. Highly unlikely, especially given that some questions take 10-16 seconds at minimum. As I mentioned, a very symetric point. On a multiple choice question, Jameson spent far too long, especially as he’d narrowed the question to two possibilities. Sadly he was downed by Ryan Seacrest!

Leah Khoury

24-year-old accountant. Wants to defy the stereotype that accountants are boring!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Alpha Order 0 300 284 16
2 Memory Blackout 8 276 262 14
3 Knowledge Fact Finder 8 254 248 6
4 Puzzles Wordplay 9 239 218 21
5 Memory Pay Attention 10 208 189 19
6 Puzzles Picture Perfect 8 181 161 20
7 Knowledge True Lies 9 152 138 14
8 Sequence Time Warp 8 130 101 29
9 Memory Mind Field 9 92 68 24
  1. List national toy Hall of Fame inductees alphabetically: Dominos, Hoola Hoop, Slinky. In order!
  2. Study image of balloons and duck balloon carefully.
  3. Kanye West and Rihanna released the song “Fourfiveseconds” with which former Beatle? Paul McCartney
  4. Rearrange the letters to spell “Serena Williams”, the clue is “Professional Athlete”
  5. Which makeup was not mentioned in a sound clip? Blush.
  6. Identify the phrase “In one ear, out the other” by an image.
  7. The Letter “O” in the text acronyms “LOL” and “ROFL” stands for the same word. False!
  8. Arrange these fashion brands by their founding date, oldest to newest.
  9. Where is the butterfly balloon located? 1 spot.

The Mind Field strikes again! Leah was starting to get into time trouble but had an otherwise impressive run. The killer Memory tower is brutal.

Matthew Potts

36-year-old Intelligence Officer in the Marine Corps. Has done seven tours of duty and didn’t come here to lose.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Knowledge Fact Finder 0 300 291 9
2 Sequence Alpha Order 9 282 269 13
3 Memory Pay Attention 9 260 240 20
4 Puzzles Missing Piece 8 232 221 11
5 Memory Echo Chamber 7 214 202 12
6 Sequence Alpha Order 8 194 178 16
7 Knowledge True Lies 7 171 146 25
8 Puzzles Double Crossed 9 137 107 30
9 Sequence Measure Up 7 100 88 12
10 Memory Blackout 9 79 56 23
11 Puzzles Oddball 8 48 30 18
12 Knowledge Toss Up 8 22 14 8
13 Puzzles Missing Piece 0 104 93 11
14 Knowledge Toss Up 9 84 72 12
15 Memory Hear Say 11 61 39 22
16 Sequence Time Warp 10 29 7 22
  1. Which is an image of an alpaca? (Middle one)
  2. Bow, Hay, Pin.
  3. What is there a 2-for-1 sale on? Pickled Peppers.
  4. B
  5. Repeat a pattern of green, yellow, red.
  6. Canoe, Kayak, Yacht. Clue is five letter floating vessels.
  7. Singer Lorde released her hit song “Royals” when she was only 16 years old.
  8. Miami Vice from clues: “NFL Dolphins Home” and “Bad Habbit”
  9. Arrange Eggs in order from smallest to largest: Salmon, Chicken, Ostrict.
  10. What wasn’t visible on an image of a burger (pickles)
  11. C has a larger claw that the other three. He’s a damned wizard.
  12. Which Olympics did the US most recently host. Winter, apparently.
  13. B completes puzzle.
  14. Which blockbuster won the Acadamy Award for best picture? Titanic or Avatar?
  15. What was the second sound played? Owl
  16. Place songs: Ice Ice Baby, Baby Got Back, Baby One more Time, Baby in order they hit top 10 on the charts.

True story: Ice Ice Baby was the first cassette I ever owned. Matthew puts up an amazing run and falls just short on a gap in musical knowledge. To be fair, I didn’t realize there was only a two-year delay between Ice Ice Baby and Back Got Back. Can’t wait to see Matthew back on in the finale.

Andrew Ames

35-year-old professional dancer, who has danced with some major names. He’s also scared of heights!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Picture Perfect 0 300 0 300
  1. Identify the Two-Word phrase represented by an eye in a candy wrapper.

Andrew has some fun records for a televised contestant. He’s the first contestant to spend the full five minutes on a question. Also, as he notes, since he didn’t answer the question, he’s also the only contestant to not get a question wrong or right! Good to be in the record books I guess.

Marlena Gasper

39-year-old Director of Academics. Lost her mother to HIV/AIDS at 15. Dropped out of school to help her mother, but went back and now has six degrees!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Knowledge Snap Shot 0 300 291 9
2 Sequence Alpha Order 7 284 247 37
3 Memory Echo Chamber 10 237 224 13
4 Puzzles Wordplay 8 216 207 9
5 Sequence Time Warp 7 200 178 22
6 Knowledge Factfinder 9 169 157 12
7 Puzzles Oddball 10 147 121 26
8 Memory Pay Attention 11 110 90 20
9 Sequence Striking Distance 9 81 68 13
10 Memory Blackout 9 59 46 13
11 Knowledge Special Equation 12 34 0 34
  1. Identify the Two-Word phrase represented by an eye in a candy wrapper.
  2. What Vegas duo is represented by a picture of a Pen and a Teller?
  3. List One, Two, Three, in alphabetical order!
  4. Repeat: “Blonde, Burnette, Blonde, Redhead”
  5. Rearrange the letters to identify a famous dog: Snoopy.
  6. Arrange US Holidays by when the fall in the year, earliest to latest: New Year’s Day, Halloween, New Year’s Eve.
  7. Who played Batman opposite Heath Ledger’s Joker? Christian Bale.
  8. B is missing a ring.
  9. The burger on the soundbite is made of tofu.
  10. Arrange these doctors by body party they specialize in from head to toe.
  11. What was the painting on the wall of? Sailboat.
  12. 99 Red Balloon and 99 Problems from Jay-Z combine for 198.

A very strong run sunk by a gap in musical knowledge. Must be a theme this week. Marlena had already gotten into time trouble by question 11, and was sunk when there was no real way to guess he way through it quickly. Otherwise a great run.


I’ll be back next week with more box scores! Today’s fun meta-analysis fact: of the televised contestants that answered at least 10 questions correctly, we’ve yet to see one fall to the Puzzles tower. Also, we’ve yet to see a contestant fall on question 14. We’ll see if next week changes that!

-Dre

Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 3

And we’re back! I’m reviewing the reality TV show Mental Samurai but from a box score perspective. Every week I rundown each contestants performance. Since Mental Samurai is a timed trivia game show, the box score is pretty simple – how quick and how far does each player go?

In case you haven’t seen the show — which is streamable at Fox — contestants are strapped into a gyroscope, called Ava, flung around between four towers and asked a series of trivia questions. Answer 12 in a row, win $10,000. Answer four more, win $25,000 per question. Answer all 16, win the title of Mental Samurai. I run down the category types and subcategories that appear in my week one writeup if you’re new. This week we did actually see one new subcategory added:

Puzzles:

  • True Colors: Four different words are shown, each of a color word. Each word is in a different color (different from the word color). The contestant is asked to say what color the word was in. Confusing!

Also, as always future contestant Chris Yeh’s podcast often has bonus content for the show, so subscribe to that if you haven’t already.

Below is each contestants “box score” with a little analysis. A reminder of the stats I’m tracking:

  • Category: The category of the question – Knowledge, Puzzles, Sequence, or Memory
  • Subcategory: Each category has a selection of types. I list these in depth in my week one write up.
  • Travel Time: How long it takes for Ava to settle the contestant in front of the tower with the question up in front of them.
  • Start time: What the countdown is at (in seconds) when the question is first visible to the contestant.
  • End time: When Ava flashes green or red, signifying the contestants answer has been registered.
  • Answer time: The time between the start time and end time. I note when this is below 18 seconds in green, and above 18 seconds in red, as, in theory, that’s the needed pace to complete the full challenge.

Kevin Hays

24-year-old Software Developer. He’s a world champion in the Rubik’s cube. He even has a viral video of solving the most Rubik’s cubes underwater!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Wordplay 0 300 294 6
2 Knowledge Fact Finder 9 285 278 7
3 Sequence Alpha Order 7 271 255 16
4 Memory Chat Attack 8 247 235 12
5 Sequence Back Order 10 225 183 42
6 Memory Blackout 8 175 156 19
7 Puzzles Oddball 11 145 105 40
8 Knowledge Toss Up 6 99 92 7
9 Puzzles Gridlock 9 83 72 11
10 Memory Echo Chamber 9 63 53 10
11 Sequence Striking Distance 9 44 30 14
12 Knowledge Toss Up 8 22 18 4
13 Knowledge Spellbound 0 148 111 37
  1. Rearrange letters to spell a superhero: Wolverine
  2. Where was the Fresh Prince Born and raised, according to the song? You should know this, so I’m not leaving the answer.
  3. Pear, Lime, Corn in order
  4. New Phone — who dis? Which letter was capitalized? He literally said all lowercase except N right before this.
  5. Place the words in the order they appear in the Star Spangled Banner (Twilight, Lights, Fight)
  6. Which tollbooth is not labeled tickets (numbered reverse order)
  7. Uh Oh! Four bikes, front wheel on C has one fewer circle to draw it. This challenge is b.s.
  8. Where is the femur located? Leg.
  9. Find three Grammy Award-winning bands in letter jumble. Wow, in 11 seconds??
  10. Repeat “Winter Spring Fall Summer” with visual clue too.
  11. Order LAX, Ohare, ATL from West to East.
  12. Which animal can live to be 100 years old? Maine Lobster or Atlantic Salmon.
  13. Spell the ten-letter word for the name of the Generation Born Between Generation X and Generation Z.

Kevin advances to the “Circle of Samurai” by nailing the first twelve questions. I will say if I get around to making a “strength of schedule” metric I know it will show Kevin had a ridiculously hard set of questions. Oddball is the toughest question by far. In a cruel twist of fate, Kevin falls on spelling his own generation. Full disclosure, I use Grammarly to edit my posts, and it tells me on a weekly basis my spelling is atrocious!

Marie Criddle

36-year-old stay-at-home mother. She is also a very talented illustrator. She gives Rob Lowe a great journal with a drawing of him surfing on the cover.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Alpha Order 0 300 285 15
2 Knowledge Snap Shot 8 277 266 11
3 Puzzles Wordnado 8 258 250 8
4 Memory Blackout 8 242 226 16
5 Sequence Time Warp 10 216 195 21
6 Knowledge Fact Finder 9 186 178 8
7 Puzzles Mirror Mirror 11 167 154 13
8 Memory Chat Attack 10 144 129 15
9 Sequence Record-Breaker 11 118 95 23
  1. List Cookie, Waffle, Sundae
  2. Identify the author from an image of a shake and a spear.
  3. Form word commander from floating fragments.
  4. Which hand is a snowboarder touching his board with in an image – right.
  5. Place Musicals in order the appeared on Broadway, earliest to latest: Producers, Legally Blonde, Mean Girls
  6. What is Lady Gaga’s First Name? Stefani
  7. Chalk Image of e=mc2
  8. Stu order a pizza with emoji for cheese, bacon, and tomato, but no peppers emoji. Which topping didn’t he want?
  9. Arrange models by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Covers: Tyra Banks, Kate Upton, Chrissy Teigen.

A very strong run. The question that stumped her, was super hard too, given that the difference between all three models was only 2 — Kate Upton was the most with three.

Frankie “Bam Bam” Bloise

39-year-old retired MMA fighter. He has a samurai tattoo!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Wordplay 0 300 292 8
2 Knowledge Snap Shot 8 284 0 284
  1. Rearrange the letters of a vegas game of chance: Roulette
  2. What Rock music is represented by an image of a Hall and Oats?

Last week I said I thought Bennett Reeber’s 231 failure on “Elephant in the Room” would hold up as the longest time on a question. Sadly Frankie falls to a similar problem, but arguably much more forgivable. He recognizes what the two images are — a Hall and Oats. But he never puts the two together. The band category Snap Shot challenge is brutal, as it also took down Dr. Ken last week.

Jaimi Alexander

36-year-old Digital Marketing Specialist. She labels herself the “Queen of All Trades.”

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Picture Perfect 0 300 287 13
2 Sequence Striking Distance 8 279 258 21
3 Knowledge Toss Up 10 248 220 28
4 Memory Blackout 7 213 190 23
5 Puzzles Wornado 8 182 172 10
6 Memory Mind Field 10 162 149 13
7 Knowledge Special Equation 7 142 118 24
8 Sequence Measure Up 8 110 79 31
9 Knowledge Initial Impression 7 72 0 72
  1. What image is represented by a man pushing a giant envelope (3 words)
  2. Arrange famous party cities from North to South.
  3. Which direction do Tinder Users swipe to represent they like someone?
  4. What color was the tablecloth in a scene from Dumb and Dumber – tough one!
  5. Identify the word Cosmopolitan from floating fragments. Clue – Drink and Magazine.
  6. Boat in the #2 spot.
  7. Add Dollar Value of Bill featuring Andrew Jackson + Jacksons in Jackson 5.
  8. Arrange professional ball types from small to largest by circumphrence. Golf Ball, Tennis Ball, Base Ball.
  9. Combine these famous people’s initials to name a state capital. Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, Neil Young. Albany.

Jaimi was already in time pressure when the state capital flubbed her up. Part of the challenge of some of the Mental Samurai challenges is they are two-parters. Step one do this, step two, do that. This can trip people up as their head isn’t in the right space for problem two if problem one knocks em down. Jaimi realized Albany immediately at the end, but I think was too knocked off guard not recognizing a picture of Neil Young. I didn’t know who it was either.

Nathan Gonzales

27-year-old Emergency Medical Tech. His mother was an ER nurse, and he’s getting married soon. I suspect the wedding budget may have gone up recently.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Wordplay 0 300 293 7
2 Sequence Alpha Order 9 284 261 23
3 Knowledge Toss Up 10 251 244 7
4 Memory Chat Attack 7 237 223 14
5 Puzzles Mirror Mirror 8 215 202 13
6 Memory Blackout 8 194 180 14
7 Knowledge Snap Shot 8 172 158 14
8 Sequence Measure Up 8 150 138 12
9 Knowledge Reality Check 8 130 123 7
10 Sequence Time Warp 9 114 101 13
11 Memory Echo Chamber 9 92 80 12
12 Puzzles Missing Piece 11 69 63 6
13 Puzzles Oddball 0 153 143 10
14 Sequence Time Warp 9 134 114 20
15 Knowledge Fact Finder 9 105 98 7
16 Memory True Colors 11 87 68 19
  1. Rearrange to form a long-running reality show: Survivor
  2. List five letter words: ghost, skull, and witch, in order (from picture clues)
  3. Florida or California, which is the Golden State?
  4. I just got house emoji and the rose emoji I’ve got kiss emoji (x4) for you! How many kiss emojis?
  5. License plate mirror image.
  6. Video of a man skateboarding on diner top. Which hand did he extend? Left.
  7. Which magazine is represented by a picture of a Vanity and a picture of a Fair?
  8. Arrange McDonald’s menu items by calorie count: Big Mac, Small Fries, Large Diet Coke.
  9. Which of these is the Real Sculpture of David by Michaelangelo? Fake has a crown of thorns.
  10. Arrange headlining performers from earliest Superbowl to latest: Janet Jackson, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga.
  11. Repeat a pattern of “Eeenie, Meenie, Mo, Mo, Miney” (visual clues as well)
  12. Missing puzzle piece in a fish image.
  13. Spinning Adventure badges. The odd one is missing a bird silhouette.
  14. SNL Actors earliest to latest: Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones
  15. The TV Show Mad Men was set at what fictional advertising agency? Sterling Cooper
  16. Show four color words, each is a different color. Pink is blue, which is the question.

Mental Samurai may be slightly more lenient than Jeopardy. On question 14, Nathan calls Kate McKinnon – Kate McMahMahMah (or at least that’s what I heard). Regardless the order was still right and easily inferable. Amazing, amazing job! Also, he nailed the Oddball question in 10 seconds! How ridiculous is that? As I noted we see “True Colors” for the first time and this puzzle is a doozy. Nathan still knocked it down easily for the fastest time to win both rounds of Mental Samurai we’ve seen. Will it hold up?

Next week I might start doing some more meta analysis. This week’s crop was a strong group that honestly only got flubbed on “gaps in knowledge.” I will say that is one of the fun aspects of the show. There is an element of luck, because no matter how skilled or knowledgable a contestant is, it’s hard to know everything. This week’s crop was incredibly strong and great great job to Nathan for taking down the crown.