Weaver's Week 2023-08-13

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In French, «chat-g-p-t» is pronounced in exactly the same way as «chat, j'ai pété», which means «cat, I farted».

That's a true fact, and we know it because we a) saw it written by a human and 2) researched it in a good dictionary.

I'd give it five minutes, or two new chancellors.

But what guff comes out of these autocomplete machines? Are they any good at quiz and game shows? Over the next two weeks, we'll find out.


Can Artificial Intelligence win a game show yet?

Over the past year, there's been an awful lot of hype about "artificial intelligence", computer programs that try to complete your sentences for you. Some of the best can write whole passages of text. There are concerns about the technology – writers in Hollywood are on strike because they want all the words handwritten by humans, and no scripts touched by computer.

This column is not impressed by these AI chatbots; we have enough mathematics to understand a probabilistic Markov chain, and however excellent the mathematics, it's only as good as the words it's been trained on. And, seeing as how UKGameshows in general – and this column in particular – is a net contributor to these autocomplete bots, we suspect they're not as good as they're made out to be. When you put garbage into a system (for instance, 22½ years of this column), you'll get garbage out.

Only Connect (2) Let's meet the teams.

We start with an Only Connect wall they published in the Radio Times a few months ago. If we're to believe the hype, an autocomplete bot will be able to solve one without breaking sweat. Or whatever bots do when they're exhausted.

We said: Sort these words into four groups of four. Each group has a common theme. Each word fits into one and only one group.

The words are: gown, guard, jury, pinafore, fishing, frock, guard, punter, ida, safety, chemise, smock, quarterback, jury, tennis, guard.
Explain your reasons.

Our bot said: Here are the four groups of four words:

Group 1: Gown, Pinafore, Smock, Chemise
All of these words are types of clothing.

Group 2: Quarterback, Tennis, Punter, Butterfly
All of these words are related to sports. A quarterback and punter are positions in American football, tennis is a sport, and butterfly is a swimming stroke.

Group 3: Penzance, Ida, Fishing, Safety
All of these words are related to places. Penzance is a town in Cornwall, UK, Ida is a mountain in Turkey, fishing can be done in many different places, and safety is a concern in many different locations.

Group 4: Snapper, Jury, Guard, Frock

All of these words are related to legal terms. A snapper is a type of fish, but it can also refer to a legal document, a jury is a group of people who decide a legal case, a guard can refer to a security guard or a legal guardian, and a frock can refer to a type of dress worn by judges or lawyers.

The answers we're expecting:
gown, frock, smock, chemise – clothing
quarterback, guard, snapper, punter – American football positions
pinafore, penzance, jury, ida – words from Gilbert & Sullivan titles
safety, tennis, butterfly, fishing – nets

Ah, we see where the bot has gone wrong. It doesn't know about Gilbert and Sullivan, their work is not on its little list. That's put "Pinafore" in the clothing group, and hasn't identified the link with "Penzance". One simple oversight, and the bot's scored one point – right to say "clothing" is a group.

We did learn that there is a place called Mount Ida in Turkey, known to the Trojans as Rethymnon.

An easier Only Connect

The Link

Hmm. Maybe a genuine, rigorous, hand-crafted Only Connect wall is too difficult. Let's try that knock-off from the New York Times.

Sort these words into four groups of four. Each group has a common theme. Each word fits into one and only one group.

The words are: amigo, mouth, lab, stooge, wolf, king, nose, chow, tenor, pom, scarf, eye, pit, gobble, peke, cheek

Explain your reasons.
Our bot said: Here are the four groups of four words:

Group 1: Mouth, Nose, Eye, Cheek
All of these words are parts of the face.

Group 2: Wolf, Peke, Chow, Pit
All of these words are names of animals.

Group 3: Tenor, Lab, Scarf, Gobble
All of these words are related to performance or entertainment. A tenor is a type of singer, a lab is short for laboratory which can be used for testing and experimenting, a scarf can be used as a prop in a performance, and gobble can be used to describe a turkey's sound which is often associated with Thanksgiving performances.

Group 4: Amigo, King, Stooge, Pom

All of these words are related to social relationships. Amigo is Spanish for friend, king is a ruler or leader, stooge is a person who is used by another to carry out unpleasant or dishonest tasks, and pom is short for pom-pom which is often used in cheerleading and dance teams where teamwork and social relationships are important.

The answers we're expecting:

Mouth, nose, eye, cheek – parts of the face
Wolf, chow, scarf, gobble – to eat quickly
Peke, pit, lab, pom – shortened dogs' names. "Chow" is a red herring for this group.
Tenor, amigo, king, stooge – famous Threes

The autocomplete bot got the face, but then got hopelessly distracted. We also note how the weak links ("pom" just here, "frock" in the last wall) get long and detailed explanations, as though we're going to believe something because the bot has explained it forever.

What would Jeremy Paxman say?

University Challenge Come on!

Oh dear. Shall we try something a bit easier: long questions like on University Challenge. These are real questions, from the first round in last year's series.

Elaine Esposito was only a child when she became a hospital patient for an appendectomy. However, due to a mistake in one of the medical procedures, she got a nickname that is easily recognised not only by children. Name the nickname in two words.
Our bot said: The nickname that Elaine Esposito received due to a medical mistake during her appendectomy is "Sleeping Beauty".

Ooh, good answer. She was in a coma for 37 years, after being given far too much anaesthetic.

Meanings of what four-letter word include a small mammal of the family Talpidae, and the SI unit for the amount of substance?
Our bot said: The four-letter word you are referring to is "mole". It can refer to a small burrowing mammal with dark velvety fur, or it can be used as the SI unit for the amount of substance, which is defined as the amount of a chemical substance that contains as many elementary entities (such as atoms, molecules, or ions) as there are atoms in 12 grams of pure carbon-12.
Having a trunk circumference of around ten metres and associated with medieval folklore, the tree known as the Major Oak is in which forest in central England?
Our bot said: The Major Oak is located in Sherwood Forest, which is a royal forest in Nottinghamshire, England. The tree is estimated to be around 800 to 1000 years old and has a trunk circumference of about 10 meters. It is famous for its association with the legendary outlaw Robin Hood, who is said to have used the tree as a hideout. Today, the Major Oak is a popular tourist attraction and is protected by a fence to prevent damage to its delicate root system.
The tree known as the Oak at the Gate of the Dead is thought to predate the nearby Battle of Crogen in 1165, and lies on which long-distance path near Wrexham?
Our bot said: The Oak at the Gate of the Dead is an ancient tree that is believed to predate the Battle of Crogen in 1165. It is located near Llandegla, a village in Denbighshire, Wales, and lies on the Offa's Dyke Path, which is a long-distance footpath that runs along the border between England and Wales. The tree is named after a local legend that says that the souls of the dead pass through its roots on their way to the afterlife. Today, the Oak at the Gate of the Dead is a popular attraction for hikers and nature lovers who visit the area to see its impressive size and age.
The Allerton Oak is said to have been deformed by the explosion of a ship carrying gunpowder in 1864, and is located in Calderstones Park in which city?
Our bot said: The Allerton Oak is an ancient oak tree located in Calderstones Park, which is a public park in the city of Liverpool, England. The tree is estimated to be over 1,000 years old and has a girth of around 10 meters. According to local legend, the tree was deformed by the explosion of a ship carrying gunpowder in the River Mersey in 1864. Despite its age and the damage it has sustained, the Allerton Oak is still alive and continues to grow new leaves and acorns each year. It is a popular attraction for visitors to Calderstones Park and is considered to be one of the oldest and most significant trees in the city of Liverpool.
Where do we find Prince Siegfried, Baron Von Rothbart, Princess Odette and her antagonist, Odile?
Our bot said: Prince Siegfried, Baron Von Rothbart, Princess Odette, and her antagonist, Odile, are characters from the ballet "Swan Lake". The ballet tells the story of a princess, Odette, who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer, Baron Von Rothbart. The only way to break the spell is for a prince, Prince Siegfried, to swear his eternal love to her. However, the sorcerer tricks the prince by disguising his daughter, Odile, as Odette, and the prince mistakenly declares his love for her instead. The ballet is set in various locations, including a castle, a lake, and a ballroom, and is known for its beautiful music and intricate choreography.
"The Lion And The Jewel", "Season Of Anomy" and "Chronicles From The Land Of The Happiest People On Earth" are among the works of which Nigerian author – the first Black African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature?
Our bot said: The Nigerian author who wrote "The Lion And The Jewel", "Season Of Anomy", and "Chronicles From The Land Of The Happiest People On Earth" is Wole Soyinka. He is a renowned playwright, poet, and essayist who was the first Black African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. Soyinka is known for his powerful and insightful writing, which often explores themes of identity, culture, and politics in post-colonial Africa. His works have been translated into many languages and have been widely read and studied around the world.

Well, that's impressive. The autocomplete bot has got all seven general knowledge questions right.

Teatime teaser – completed with a biccie?

We thought about a round of Crosswits, but found James Williams has already invited an autocomplete bot to solve cryptic crosswords. The results were not promising.


Let's try something a bit more sedate, a quick game of Countdown. These are genuine selections from an episode in 2016.

Make the longest word you can from these letters: CRUTIDOWE. You do not have to use all letters, but you may not repeat a letter.
Our bot said: Sure! Let me think for a moment... Ah, I've got it! The longest word I can make from the letters "CRUTIDOWE" is "outcried". It's a nine-letter word that means to express strong disapproval or protest.

Dan Walker in Dictionary Corner? "No, 'outcried' is not in the dictionary. And it's only an eight, not a nine. CROWDIE and COURTED the ones we've got."

Our bot said: I've come up with a nine-letter word: "influences". It's a word that describes the power or impact someone or something has on others.

"No, you've used the I twice, and it's ten letters long. UNLEASH and INHALES from us"

Dan Walker Dan is always on the case.

Our bot said: I've discovered a ten-letter word: "saturating."

"You're taking the push now, aren't you. There is a nine there, ARGONAUTS, but no ten-letter word from that selection of nine letters."

Shall we try a numbers game.

From the numbers 25, 100, 3, 1, 6, 2, use the basic arithmetical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and as many brackets as you need, to reach the target of 157. You may only use each number once, but do not have to use all of them.
Our bot said: After some calculations, I've found a solution: 100 + (25 × 2) − 6 − 3 = 157

Countdown Ooh, bad luck.

Rachel Riley is sympathetic at the numbers board: should have ended +6 +1. It's quite clear that the autocomplete bot is not very good at arithmetic – it can't count, and can't do a fairly easy numbers game.

Let's try an insultingly simple example.

From the numbers 100, 75, 50, 25, 5, 6, use the basic arithmetical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and as many brackets as you need, to reach the target of 105. You may only use each number once, but do not have to use all of them.
Our bot said: 100 − (75 ÷ 25) + 5 = 105

Countdown COL SMASH!!!!

Colin Murray smashes up the set and shouts at the autocomplete bot. "You are thick! Thicker than mints! Thicker than custard! Thicker than my toast in the morning! You are so thick you should go on Wheel of Fortune, that's how thick you are!"

Next week, the autocomplete bot goes on Wheel of Fortune.

A nice simple puzzle that you can probably solve already.

In other news

We mentioned earlier that television writers – and performers – in the US are on strike for better pay, proper health insurance, a fair share of streaming revenue, reasonable writing rooms, and a general rejection on producers using artificial intelligence. Autocomplete bots will not write their scripts!

The strike has shut down production of drama, both because nobody's writing the scripts and because the actors have also walked out. Television networks have commissioned more game shows, which is great news for fans of unscripted television like Press Your Luck, The Apprentice, and Even Bigger Brother Because We've Literally Got Nothing Else To Show.

The strike also affects quiz writers, none more so than on 61-answer-a-day behemoth Jeopardy!. The quiz, which begins its 40th "season" next month, will reuse questions from its extensive database. Time to swot up on the geography of Eastern Europe, slang from Bebo and Compuserv, and the first cabinet of Kim Campbell. Jeopardy! wants to begin its new run with a "Second Chance Tournament"; most of the participants in the annual Championship of Champions declined to take part while the writers are on strike. Except, they are having trouble finding people who lost in recent years and still want to appear to break the strike.

Strictly Klaxon has sounded all week, until we got the complete list. The rest of them are:

  • Eddie Kadi, Radio 1xtra presenter
  • Angela Scanlon, television presenter (Off the Rails, BBC3 documentaries, Robot Wars)
  • Zara McDermott, television irregular (Love Island, Love in the Flesh)
  • Adam Thomas, actor (Adam Barton on Emmerdale Farm)
  • Nikita Kanda, from BBC Asian Network radio and The One Show
  • Ellie Leach, actor (Faye Windass on Coronation Street)
  • Jody Cundy, swimmer and cyclist
  • Bobby Brazier, actor (Freddie Slater on The Eastenders) and model and son of Jade Goody
  • Annabel Croft, tennis player (and friend of Interceptor)
  • Nigel Harman, actor (Dennis Rickman on The Eastenders)
  • Sir Les Dennis, legend

Introduction show is, we think, on 16 September, with performances soon after.

Quizzy Monday

The Five Point Klaxon sounded on Only Connect as the Thrifters beat the Suncatchers by a single point. It all kicked off in the Sequence round: Suncatchers picked three on words beginning with abbreviations for months, Thrifters equalised with head writers for Dr Who. Suncatchers bagged three with substitute Eurovision hosts, Thrifters had to go for five on American presidents who served bits of terms. That five pointer echoed through the game, as there was nothing to choose between the two teams.

Hmm. We're four games in and already there are five teams good enough for our semi-final bracket.

On University Challenge, Christ Church Oxford beat Southampton by 180-155. Southampton had the better of early questions, scoring well on John Maddox prize winners. CCO kept themselves in the contest, and pushed ahead with things named after Queen Anne Stewart and overseas departments of France. Southampton left themselves just a bit too much to do, even if they'd won the buzzer race for definitions of "greenwashing".

Quiz digest

  • Subbuteo is named after a type of falcon – specifically the Eurasian hobby. The game's creator, Peter Adolph, wanted to call it "hobby", but he was not allowed to trademark such a common word.
  • A horse will never burp through the mouth. Its muscles open for food to pass through, then close tight afterwards, so no gases from the stomach can escape through the mouth. Instead, gases and liquid can accumulate in the stomach and cause pain and colic. Horses can hiccup, as that's controlled by the diaphragm.
  • MARGATE is a valid Countdown word. It's a type of fish, found in the western Atlantic. Of other ports in the area, SANDWICH and RYE are valid, DOVER is not. ROMNEY is good as a breed of sheep, and only the most unintelligent player would offer WINCHELSEA.
  • Autocomplete bots can count to two. At least, that's the sign it's making.

Two long-established shows return this week: BBC Brain (Radio 4, Mon) and Come Dine with Me (C4, weekdays). Elsewhere, Through the Keyhole returns to the Challenge channel, and on Pointless Lucy Porter regenerates into Gyles Brandreth.

Pictures: @larrythecat@twitter.com, Parasol / RDF West, STV Studios, Granada, Yorkshire TV, Bandicoot.

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