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September 2017

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So, The Price Is Right finally (mostly) wrapped up its season. There's another stray episode to air in mid-August, but we can consider that as part of the next season. That is, if I do keep up statistics-gathering about who wins the Showcase Showdown and how the winners of the Showcase are revealed. I admit I've started to realize I don't know why I'm keeping this data anymore, other than that I've been doing it for a long while: I went back through my records and discovered that while I could swear I'd been doing this for only a couple years, I actually started keeping track in the middle of November 2008 for crying out loud. (That's of Showcase Showdown winners; of the Showcase reveals, that goes back only to January of 2009.)

But since I've got that let me give the Showcase Showdown winners from the 2nd of June 2014 through to the 27th, plus the episodes aired the 2nd and 4th of July, in addition to what as best I can figure are the aggregate totals from the 10th of November, 2008, onward, less a couple episodes that I missed:

First Second Third
Month 6 13 15
Season 114 122 124
All Time 575 651 622

If there is anything interesting to be said about this it's it actually does appear that being the first spinner puts one at a tiny disadvantage, and that my ancient hypothesis that the second spinner has an edge might be justified. Based on this, the first spinner wins 31.11 percent of the time; the second spinner 35.23 percent of the time; and the third spinner 33.66 percent of the time.

If we suppose that, ideally, each contestant would have exactly one chance in three of winning, that would imply there ``should'' be 616 wins for each contestant, with a standard deviation (based on the binomial distribution, with p = 1/3 and N = 1848) of about 20.265. The first spinner is just a tiny bit more than two standard deviations below the expected value, and the second spinner not quite one and three-quarters above. This is suggestive but I can't say it's quite compelling, statistically speaking. That said I'm not sure it's worth gathering another season's data to make or break my null hypothesis.

(See, if you run an experiment where you expect some outcome to come up one-third of the time, and run it 1848 times, you probably won't get that thing to turn up exactly 616 times. It'll be a little low or a little high, the same way if you flip a fair coin ten times it'll sometimes turn up tails only three times or as many as eight times, without the coin being unfair. You would expect that the thing would turn up somewhere between 576 and 656 times --- two standard deviations below and above the expected value --- nineteen times out of twenty that you do an 1848-trial run. So this is really just at the point where it starts to be a fair question whether the first spinner has got a one-in-three chance of winning and has just been unlucky these past few years.)

Is the first- or the second-revealed showcase the winner? For June, for the 2013-14 season, and for all time since I started keeping track (which is only from September 2009 for all this data, I find), I make it out as:

First Revealed Second Revealed Double Overbid
Month 14 7 1
Season 91 74 18
All Time 516 330 73
Unforced Month 4 7 -
Unforced Season 22 58 -
Unforced All Time 222 254 -

I can't resist the conclusion: if your showcase is revealed first, and you didn't overbid, chances are, you're the winner. (If we assume the first-revealed has a 50 percent chance of winning, then over the course of the 919 cases shown we should expect 459.5 first-revealed winners; the standard deviation is just over 15, so, the first-revealed wins more often than expected, and the second-revealed way less often than that.) If neither of you overbid (or bid a dollar, or had a double showcase win, things that generally force the order of the revelations) it's a toss-up; the second-revealed is the winner more often but not by so very much more that it's implausible it should be just chance.

So with that, I sign off the last of my reports on The Price Is Right for this season, and possibly for good. I'll see if I can get used to just watching the show without worrying that I've missed writing down data about it. If I can't just relax and watch it I might gather data anyway just to have something to do.

Trivia: Christopher Columbus's edition of the Geography of Ptolemey was printed in Rome as published in 1478. (The first printed edition dates to Bologna in 1477.) Source: The Fourth Part of the World, Toby Lester.

Currently Reading: Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, Paul Dickson.

With the freshness of the month is a good time for another review of The Price Is Right statistics. There should be only one more of these for the season; if I read the airdate schedule right the show goes into reruns just after the fourth of July, with a late August exception. It feels to me like the show is taking a shorter summer break than it did even a couple years back. I suppose it's a good things that CBS wants more new episodes, but it still feels odd to have a long-running TV show making more episodes per season. Maybe I'm misremembering things.

First Second Third
Month 17 11 10
Season 108 109 109

As you can see, the Showcase Showdowns have reached the point of being a perfect toss-up for the spinners. I'm kind of dreading the fact of the June and early July numbers since it seems too unlikely they'll be this balanced.

First Revealed Second Revealed Double Overbid
Month 10 8 2
All 77 67 17
Unforced Month 2 7 -
Unforced Season 18 51 -

And as pretty well established, it looks like if yours is the first showcase revealed, you're more likely to have won than not, at least if you didn't overbid. The number of double overbids seems high, though; maybe they're making the budget last for more episodes by running cheaper Showcases?

Anyway, these numbers all covered Price episodes from the 5th of May through the 30th of May. This just misses ``Socially Awkward Awesome'' week, this first week of June, where the show includes some pop-up tweets and, on Monday, did a flash mob stunt. This being a new thing, the serious fans of the show (judging by hated it. So all's normal.

Trivia: In September 1905 the Hershey corporation was sued by the Société Générale Suisse de Chocolats for trademark infringement: the color scheme for its Hershey bars --- gold letters on maroon paper --- was apparently borrowed from or at least inspired by their products. After negotiations Hershey redesigned the wrapper. Source: Hershey: Milton S Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Michael D'Antonio.

Currently Reading: The 1986 Official Guide To Alton Towers, John Seccombe. What I unironically love about this is how many of the descriptions of things are at least a little apologetic: parents might enjoy this Space 1999 pavilion even if their kids don't know why they should be looking at this. And I'm not even making up that example. It's so ineffably British in its attitude that, yes, these are things one might enjoy, if you go in for enjoying things like that, but we aren't going to insist on you having a good time.

Since it's the start of the month and [ profile] bunny_hugger has to go to bed early for work anyway, let me give my report on The Price Is Right so nobody has to actually read what comes after. These are the Showcase Showdown and the Showcase numbers for the shows from the 3rd of March through the 28th of March, 2014, omitting two episodes --- the 18th and 19th --- that were reruns and two episodes --- the 20th and 21st --- which were preempted due to March Madness. As for which spinner wins the Showcase:

First Second Third
Month 4 12 14
Season 74 83 81

Yes, I dimly remember the days when I thought the second player might have an edge, but I don't believe in that advantage anymore. As for whether the first or second player revealed wins the Showcase, it's getting to look more like nobody wins as there were three double overbids this month.

First Revealed Second Revealed Double Overbid
Month 6 7 3
All 54 49 13
Unforced Month 0 7 -
Unforced Season 12 38 -

What information can be drawn from this? If you didn't overbid, and Drew reveals your Showcase second, you probably won, so you should know literally seconds ahead of everyone else in the studio, if you are certain you didn't overbid. (Warning! If you bid supremely obviously under, like, a dollar, you'll be revealed first, win or lose.)

Trivia: Britain's Easter Act of 1928 allows an Order of Council to fix the date of Easter in Great Britain to the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April, but has not been acted on. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life Of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, Graham Farmelo.

PS: The Math Blog Statistics, March 2014, to round out how today is all about talking about how last month was, if you missed that.

So we're starting a fresh month, which makes this a fine chance to do my curious updates on The Price Is Right Showcase Showdown and Showcase winners. This covers the episodes from the 3rd of February through the 28th of February and, remarkably, there weren't any reruns or interruptions during that stretch. Also from the schedule it doesn't look like they're skipping any episodes for March Madness, so, I guess basketball isn't on CBS this year or something?

First Second Third
Month 12 15 13
Season 70 71 67

Anyway, the Showcase Showdown as you see kept working its way to a statistical tie and pretty near a literal tie for who wins the thing. Meanwhile, in the Showcase, here's my track of whether the winner is the first- or the second-revealed showcase. The ``Unforced'' reveal --- where neither of the contestants overbid, or bid a dollar, or had a double showcase win, or something else that would give away the game seconds too early --- particularly surprised me for February.

First Revealed Second Revealed Double Overbid
Month 12 6 2
All 48 42 10
Unforced Month 0 4 -
Unforced Season 12 31 -

There've been, I think, a surprising number of double overbids --- including one for the Valentine's Day show with couples playing as teams and which produced an awkward ``well, we don't want to end the show on a downer'' moment. (Drew Carey explained after the double overbid that everyone in the audience was getting a gift card from something or other; undoubtedly, had someone won, that would've been revealed before either Showcase result was announced.) It also seems to me like there've been many cases of a person just barely overbidding --- like, being a couple hundred dollars over --- but since I haven't been tracking that I can't say whether that's a curious new trend this season.

Trivia: Henry Ford's ``Fordlandia'' colony in Brazil, built in the late 1920s and early 1930s (near where tire rubber would be produced), had for its time the only golf course in the Amazon basin. Source: 1493: Uncovering The New World Columbus Created, Charles C Mann. (Ford also had Methodist churches built, but I can't say how common they were.)

Currently Reading: All Clear, Connie Willis.

And what with this being near the start of the month it's a good chance to pause for The Price Is Right report. This covers the broadcasts from the 31st of December through the 1st of February, which is a pretty good block of time and included just the one playing of ``Pay The Rent'', for which the contestant bailed out at $10,000 rather than lose it all. Anyway, for those weeks, the winner of the Showcase Showdown was:

First Second Third
Month 16 19 13
Season 58 56 54

And for the mystery of whether the first- or the second-revealed Showcase wins at the end of the show, I find a curious point: they've gotten perfectly balanced this month. That would seem natural, except that I also looked at whether the show's hand was forced by dramatic necessity: ordinarily, if a person has a double showcase win, they'll be revealed second; similarly, an overbid will tend to be revealed second, to the point that Drew Carey even mentioned a few times that it was ominous when the first-revealed contestant was an overbid. Normally only a double overbid requires the first-revealed to be an overbid.

But this month --- particularly the last week of January --- were a lot of weird cases where the first-revealed showcase was an overbid, but the second won, and not by a double showcase win. They just went against audience expectation, and I wonder if that's in order to make dedicated fans of the show realize they can't guess what's coming up by whether Drew Carey goes to the left or the right of the stage.

First Revealed Second Revealed Double Overbid
Month 7 11 2
All 36 36 8
Unforced Month 4 10 -
Unforced Season 12 27 -

What's the significance of this? Nothing at all, naturally, although the feeling that I'm discovering things of how the show might work which aren't obvious to people is a fun one, and that's fun for me.

Trivia: When Sega of America launched the Genesis in the Los Angeles and New York markets, in August 1989, it came with the game Altered Beast. There were five other games available for the system: Thunder Force, Tommy Lasorda Baseball, Super Thunder Blade, Space Harrier II, and Last Battle. Source: The Ultimate History Of Video Games, Steven L Kent.

Currently Reading: Nancy Drew And The Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak.

I'm getting dangerously close to being caught up, as in, reporting on stuff going on in my life pretty near to when it actually happens, so let me take a day to pause with something really not interesting to other people and my report on The Price Is Right. I'll be back tomorrow, probably. For the month of Broadcast December --- that's the 2nd of December through the 27th, which included a rerun on Christmas, as well as one on the 20th of December for no obvious reason --- the Showcase winners were:

First Second Third
Month 14 4 12
Season 42 37 51

And as to whether the Showcase was won by the person revealed first or second, here's those numbers:

First Revealed Second Revealed Double Overbid
Month 9 5 1
All 29 25 6
Unforced Month 3 2 -
Unforced Season 8 17 -

It really feels to me like there are a lot of double overbids this year, but maybe that's a trick of memory (there was just the one in December, after all), or maybe they're trying to squeeze the budget way down.

Trivia: Yul Brenner's musical Odyssey, after a year of developments, tryouts, road performances, and lawsuits, opened at the Palace Theater on Broadway as Home Sweet Homer on 4 January 1976. It closed after one performance. Source: Not Since Carrie: 40 Years Of Broadway Musical Flops, Ken Mandelbaum.

Currently Reading: Agent of Entropy, Martin Siegel. (Well, I've been busy living the last couple days, is all.)

It's the start of a fresh month so I can disappoint everyone looking for fun or personal stuff by having an entry that's nothing but statistics for The Price Is Right. (I'll get to the pinball league tomorrow, I think, barring surprises.) This covers the 4th of November through the 27th (the show was preempted on Thanksgiving for the parade, and was a rerun on the 29th, and was a rerun on the 8th for some reason), and here's the Showcase Showdown winners:

First Second Third
Month 8 13 13
Season 28 33 39

And for the Showcase winners, regarding whether the first or the second-revealed won the showcase, or whether they both overbid, here we are:

First Revealed Second Revealed Double Overbid
Month 5 6 1
All 20 20 5
Unforced Month 2 5 -
Unforced Season 5 15 -

I'm curious whether the selection of which Showcase bid to reveal first depends on how close the bidder is to the actual retail price, but it'd make my little spreadsheet a bit crowded if I started tracking that. I might anyway for the variety of it all.

The show played ``Pay The Rent'' once in November; the contestant went home with, if I remember it rightly, $5,000 but could have got $10,000 at best. There was just the one possible winning configuration because yeah, they've given the viewers at home their win and now they're not giving away $100,000 until people stop believing in the game anymore.

Trivia: One of the first buildings in Manhattan constructed as an office building was the Trinity Building, 1853, a five-storey, double-wide structure. Source: Gotham: A History Of New York City To 1898, Edwin G Burrows, Mike Wallace.

Currently Reading: Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey that Changed the Way We See the World, Gerard Helferich.

PS: Reading the Comics, December 3, 2013, mathematics in the funny pages.

And it's official: my parents signed the contract. In about a month or so, they'll move out of central New Jersey and go to I don't know where, and I don't believe they do either.

So let me turn to the fantastically unemotional subject of The Price Is Right. They played ``Pay The Rent'' for the first time this season last Wednesday, and the contestant got out with $5,000 though she could have got $10,000 from the placement. The items were: Marinara Sauce ($2.29), Fanta Grapefruit Soda ($4.99), Quick Grits ($1.79), Olay Body Wash ($6.49), M&Ms ($0.89), and Cheez-Its ($4.39). The contestant put the M&Ms on the first level (for $0.89 on the level); then the Cheez-Its and Grits on the second ($6.18); then the Body Wash and Marinara Sauce ($8.78); and then the Soda ($4.99).

After the one $100,000 win the game's allowed the game seems to have gone to extra-vicious: there's just the one winning combination. That's the Marinara Sauce on the first level ($2.29); then the Soda and M&Ms ($5.88); then the Cheez-Its and Grits ($6.18); finally the Body Wash ($6.49). If I haven't missed one this means the game's gotten the grand prize once in its 34 runs (although a second person could have got the big prize and bailed out).

Also, what the heck, the Showcase Showdown wins, from the start of the season and including a couple of episodes that were done in August for various special reasons even though they were actually recorded last season:

First Second Third
Month 20 20 26
Season 15 14 4

I'd also started tracking again whether the Showcase winner was the first-revealed or the second-revealed Showcase and let me share that:

First Revealed Second Revealed Double Overbid
All 15 14 4
Unforced 3 10 -

The ``All'' is just what it says, all the results of Showcase reveals. The ``Unforced'' row is the one where there's obviously a free choice about which to show first: where there was just the one overbid (nearly invariably the second revealed), or where there wasn't a double showcase winner (that winning bid is also nearly inevitably the second revealed), or where neither bid was for a dollar (always the first revealed), or so on. There might be other influences behind how the show does things and I'll try to mention when I notice them. There were a lot of double overbids in the straggler episodes aired in August for whatever reason, too.

Trivia: Boss Tweed paid about $60,000 for help to make his getaway from jail in 1876. Source: The Epic Of New York City, Edward Rob Ellis.

Currently Reading: The Outdoor Amusement Industry, William F Mangels. It's impressive how much Mangels, who was such a big part of the amusement industry (he created the Whip and the Tickler, among many other rides) keeps himself out of the book. There's only about two points in it where he lets any hint that this is something he was part of slip through. I admire his striving for impartiality and to not puff himself up beyond what an objective observer would say was his due, but it's almost eerie to get a total of one anecdote about his career in a book about his profession.

Now, let me share the last report on The Price Is Right Showcase winners for the 2012-13 broadcast season. This might also be the last one I do at all, since I'm really not sure what my objective in gathering these statistics is anymore --- I've surely got enough evidence to show that spinning the big wheel really is an equal-opportunity gateway for all the contestants --- and I know nobody has any comments they can think of to go with this past ``yeah, that describes a thing that happened, I guess''.

These, anyway, are the results for the show from the 3rd of June through to the 28th --- the end of the regular season --- plus the special 4th of July Salute to the Troops episode. The show isn't to be in new run until a special episode in late August, and then picks up with the next season come September. The winning Showcase contestants so far this month and season have been:

First Second Third
Month 11 11 20
Season 119 131 130

Despite a really strong month for the third spinner, the result has to be one that's really not distinguishable from giving each contestant an equal shot at going on to the Showcase. The lowest winning spin didn't change at all this month either, and this season there wasn't any case (that I saw, at least) of all three contestants spinning the same amount and forcing a triple spinoff.

No Overspins One Overspin Two Overspins
Solo Win 65 45 5
Tied Win 65 75 -
Triple Tie - - -

I can think of a couple minor points which interest me, like whether contestants do better than random chance would predict at getting bonus money after spinning a dollar, but I think it's terribly unlikely that they would --- I just don't see how people would get, in two or three attempts, a good enough feel for the wheel to be able to spin it just right --- but if a good question occurs to me over the summer I may jump back into the counting.

I haven't given it monthly reports, but I did track in the Showcase whether the winning showcase was the first bidder revealed, the second bidder revealed, or neither, since I already had the spreadsheet and there were just these rows of table cells doing nothing. So here's how, for at least Season 41 of The Price Is Right, the winner was tipped off:

First Revealed Second Revealed No Winner
All Showcases 96 67 24
Unforced 46 46 -

To explain the ``Unforced'': sometimes a Showcase bid just has to be revealed first. For example, if a contestant bid a dollar for the Showcase, that has to be revealed first whether the other contestant went over or not; or if one of the contestants won a double showcase, that has to be revealed second. I assumed that if only one contestant overbid, that would be revealed second. So the ``Unforced'' wins are the winning bid when both contestants bid underneath the actual retail price, and neither was so obviously under (as in bidding a dollar) that it wouldn't give the winner away. So, if you're ever on the show, and they reveal your Showcase's actual retail price first, and you're not over, that's a tip off that you probably won. And if the first Showcase revealed went over, it's quite likely that either the other contestant won both showcases or you both overbid. When there's no suspense-related factors to consider, though, apparently they're equally likely to show the winner first or second.

And I think that's the best I can say about the show from my gathered data. Hope you enjoyed.

Trivia: Tokyo citizens rioted eight times between 1905 and 1918. Source: A Modern History of Japan, Andrew Gordon.

Currently Reading: Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July/August 2013, Editor Trevor Quachri.

Well, one more ``Pay The Rent''. Or ``Pay The Wedding'', as back on Monday (the 17th) The Price Is Right did a special ``Wedding Shower'' episode, featuring Cliffhangers played for a $47,000 trip to Aruba (with two dozen people going, so it could be a destination wedding, you see). That was won, by the way, as should be.

The prizes for this ``Pay The Rent'' were Biscuits ($2.59), Oven cleaner ($5.49), Margarine ($1.59), Crystal Light lemonade ($3.49), Smuckers Goober Peanut Butter and Jelly ($3.99) for everybody who finds peanut butter separate from jelly just too confusing, and Body wash ($2.29). As the range of prices indicates, they're not being so generous now.

The contestants put the Lemonade in the first level (level $3.49); then the Margarine and Biscuits ($4.18 total and a rare combination that makes syntactic sense, too); then the Peanut Butter and Jelly with the Body wash ($6.28 and sensible if you're a very sloppy eater); and carried on in the hopes that the Cleaner would be more than six and a quarter dollars (level $5.49), thus, losing the $10,000 they could've had for sure.

As best I can tell there's just the one possible solution: Peanut Butter and Jelly on the first level ($3.99); then Biscuits and Body wash ($4.88, so much for syntax); then Margarine and Lemonade ($5.08); and then the Cleaner ($5.49). This is just like last time, and mighty tight compared to the flush days before the game was finally won. (The commenters at say the game's been played a total of 33 times, counting this one.) It could have been worse; I initially made a mistake in transcribing the prices, putting the Body wash at $2.99 and making a scenario which had no valid solutions. I had half-composed an essay about the injustice of this and the gross immorality of the production team and speculating whether the contestants had got the $100,000 as compensation for playing a broken game (usually the grand prize is given if a pricing game is broken), but all those words went unsaid when I double-checked. Well, it is one thing to be difficult and another to be impossible, even if the $10,000 payout that surely counts as the real win is always possible.

The range of price prizes this season has been $3.90, $4.80, $4.70, $3.10, $7.90, $9.40, $15.50, $11.40, $7.00, and now $3.90 (see the door closing); the range of (most generous) level prices has been $3.20, $2.00, $2.10, $1.30, $7.90, $9.40, $15.50, $11.40, $5.00, and a razor-thin $1.50 now.

Trivia: Fredric Taylor's ice trade with Havana, Cuba, for 1810 earned a total of $7,400, for a thousand dollars profit, his first in the project. Source: The Frozen-Water Trade: A True Story, Gavin Weightman.

Currently Reading: How We Got To Coney Island: The Development of Mass Transportation in Brooklyn and Kings County, Brian J Cudahy. (Hi, [ profile] rapidtrabbit!)

And now one more little ``Pay The Rent'' interlude in my reporting on The Price Is Right. Last Monday there was another playing of the game, one that didn't result in a $100,000 prize being won, which is fine as I'm wondering how long I need to keep up my little number-tracking about this small point anyway. There's probably only going to be one more playing of the game before the end of the season anyway, so I'll see that out, and think about what I mean to do come September.

For this showing, the prizes were a bottle of Wood glue ($6.42); a 1.5 ounce bottle of Capzasin ($8.49); some Egg whites ($3.49); Barbecue sauce ($2.29); Gold Bond foot cream ($5.99); and a 14.5 ounce bag of Green beans ($1.49).

The contestant put the Green beans in the first level ($1.49 total); then the Barbecue sauce and the Egg whites ($5.78 total); then the Wood glue and the Gold Bond ($12.41), and for a rare moment of sense, then walked away with at $10,000 prize. This is following what's got to be the sure-win approach for the game, putting the small prizes in in ascending order and taking your $10,000, but most contestants get hypnotized by that $100,000 and go on. In this case, going on to the Capzasin on the upper level ($8.49) would've lost it all, as expected.

I had expected that with the game finally won there'd be a tightening up of the prices --- last time around had ten possible winning combinations, out of 180 conceivable and 30 if you're able to reliably pick the most expensive prize --- and sure enough that happened. As Octave and I make it out there's just one winning layouts: Egg whites ($3.49); Wood glue and Green beans ($7.91); Barbecue sauce and Gold Bond ($8.28); and Capzasin ($8.49). I expected they'd shut the door but not quite slam it so hard.

For the season, now, the range of price prizes has been $3.90, $4.80, $4.70, $3.10, $7.90, $9.40, $15.50, $11.40, and now $7.00. The range in (most generous, when that's been an option, and I think this is the first time this season there hasn't been an alternative) has been $3.20, $2.00, $2.10, $1.30, $7.90, $9.40, $15.50, $11.40, and now $5.00.

Trivia: In 1958 Jules Feiffer created for Terrytoons a pilot for a children's cartoon series, Easy Winners, which studio head Gene Deitch hoped to animate by shooting the animator's drawings directly, without inking or painting. A CBS executive rejected it as being ``too New Yorker-ish''. Source: Of Mice And Magic: A History Of American Animated Cartoons, Leonard Maltin.

Currently Reading: Priceless: The Myth Of Fair Value (and How To Take Advantage Of It), William Poundstone.

And with the start of the month, yeah, another statistics report for The Price Is Right. And, yes, I'm not sure why exactly I'm keeping these at this point, since the original question I was interested in --- whether any of the spinning contestants has an advantage from place --- seems obvious, although I suppose I should check properly whether there's a difference rather than saying that the differences look too small for me. I suppose I'll keep up the record-keeping at least to the end of this season (later in June) and consider whether I really need to keep up the tracking.

Anyway, this is for the episodes from the 29th of April through to the 31st of May, with no episode for the 27th of May because that was Memorial Day and they did a rerun, I assume of one of the shows where the whole audience was military personnel. (The DVR didn't record it --- not a new episode, after all --- and I don't recognize the episodes from the airdate schedule at the official CBS page for the show.)

First Second Third
Month 11 12 17
Season 108 120 110

For the lowest winning spin the only change has been the almost inevitable: someone spinning a nickel after the first two contestants over-spun. I did have someone ask what the lowest two-spin win was, and that's just not data that I've kept, and I'd be foolish to start keeping that. I think. At least, I'd have to rejigger the spreadsheet I have on my iPad for that and I don't want to do quite that much work.

No Overspins One Overspin Two Overspins
Solo Win 65 45 5
Tied Win 65 75 -
Triple Tie - - -

Trivia: Sailors in the late 18th century referred to the London-to-New York sailing route as ``uphill'', due to the contrary prevailing winds, while the considerably faster one from New York-to-London was ``downhill''. Source: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, And a Vast Ocean Of A Million Stories, Simon Winchester.

Currently Reading: Falling To Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey To The Moon, Al Worden, Francis French.

PS: Reading the Comics, June 1, 2013, because they've been doing word problems in the funny pages again.

With the start of the new month, yeah, it's the other routine statistical item for The Price Is Right. This is for four whole weeks, running from the 1st of April through the 26th. There was one preemption; a first-ever all-kids episode got bumped to May because a Presidential press conference on the Boston bombing preempted the show in the Eastern time zone. This produced some classic low-level Internet drama as people asked why the show was preempted, and were slapped down with ``how dare you care about a silly game show when it could have been your city!'' This seems like an overreaction to a natural question to me, but perhaps people are assuming that everyone else has to be slapped down hard what with it being the Internet and all. I am curious if the episode would've been preempted had it not been a novelty act, though.

First Second Third
Month 9 15 10
Season 95 108 91

There's not a bit of progress on getting the lowest winning spins down, so don't worry about that. I know you were ready for that possibility deep in your heart of hearts, of course.

No Overspins One Overspin Two Overspins
Solo Win 65 45 40
Tied Win 65 75 -
Triple Tie - - -

Never fear; I should be back to interesting stuff tomorrow. There's things we did and whatnot to report on.

Trivia: The French Republican calendar month of Pluvoise was translated into Italian as Piovoso, into German as Regenmonat, and into Dutch as Regenmaand. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Words From The Map, Isaac Asimov. I really love Asimov's expository style, even when he's writing under severe space constraint (no entry can get more than a couple hundred words), but boy do I long for citations. I hope I haven't outgrown him.

And now a spot of news I was figuring we'd never see: someone beat ``Pay The Rent'' on The Price Is Right --- that is, didn't just beat what I suspect is a version of the Knapsack Problem to place everything in the correct order, but also stuck with it to walk away with $100,000. This was during a Big Money-themed week, where the top prizes on various games were increased beyond the bounds of reason --- Punch-a-Bunch was played with a $250,000 top prize for example (it wasn't won), and Three Strikes played for a $285,716 Ferrari 458 Spider with iPod dock (it also wasn't won; she didn't get any of the digits right, either), and Plinko played for up to $500,000 ($1,600 won) --- and this one, at least, paid out. The contestant went on to the Showcase, and won that too (with a bid just $498 under the right price, so she was within a razor of a double-showcase win), for a total of $124,017 in prizes that made her, and here's the funny bit, the third-highest winner in Daytime Price history.

I suspected they were making the game easier in the hopes of getting more winners, by increasing the number of winning combinations. This time there was not just the ten distinct winning combinations but the toughest part --- picking a grocery item to go on top, which has to have a price at least more than the sum of any pair of the others --- was given away. The most expensive bit was more than any pair of prizes, so if you got that right you got the game. For that matter, if you just laid the prices in increasing order, you'd win, which I haven't noticed before either.

For the record the prizes were a can of Parmesan cheese ($4.99), a pack of D-cell batteries ($12.99), Toothpaste ($2.79), Mint ice cream ($5.79), Beauty bar soap stuff ($1.59), and Rice cakes ($2.49), and at this point listing all the ways those win gets more exhausting than enlightening. Anyway you know at least one winning combination. The contestant's was to start with the Rice cakes ($2.49 for the level); then the Beauty bar and Parmesan ($6.58); then the Toothpaste and the Ice cream ($8.58); finally the Batteries ($12.99) and some poor contestant had to play a time-saver game after that. You have to feel sorry for the contestant who has to play ``Switch?'' after something interesting like that starts out the game.

For the record, the range of price prizes has been $3.90, $4.80, $4.70, $3.10, $7.90, $9.40, $15.50, and now $11.40. The range in (most generous) levels has been $3.20, $2.00, $2.10, $1.30, $7.90, $9.40, $15.50, and now $11.40.

Given the apparent success of the plan to get somebody, anybody to win, I'm curious whether the price ranges are going to snap back to viciously tight again. Ten winning combinations out of (as I make it out) 180 conceivable means that random guessing gives you a 1-in-18 chance of winning, which is almost as good as ``Half Off'' gives you if you're hopeless. If the contestants can reliably guess which is the most pricey item, then there's 30 distinct plausible arrangements, and a one-in-three chance of a $100,000 payoff is unsustainable.

Trivia: Congress's 1790 authorization to President George Washington, to select the location for the federal city, allowed the district to be any 100 square miles along the Potomac river between the mouth of the ``Eastern Branch'' (the Anacostia River) and Conigogee Creek (now termed Conocheague Creek), near what is now Hagerstown, Maryland. Source: How The States Got Their Shapes, Mark Stein.

Currently Reading: Words From The Map, Isaac Asimov.

[ Sorry I'm late. We had a power failure. ]

The Price Is Right did another round of ``Pay The Rent'' Monday, so I have that to provide relatively easy content around here. Also, now, I'm convinced they're loosening up the prices of things in the hopes of getting someone, anyone, to win the big $100,000 prize: there were, by my count, eight distinct winning configurations this time around. The contestant managed to miss all of them, but, mercifully, walked away with the $10,000 prize securely won.

The prizes this time around were some Fruit punch ($1.99), a Probiotic supplement thing for solving the health problems of not paying enough money to probiotic supplement makers ($16.99) (!), Chips ($3.99), Icy Hot pain relief ($7.49), Bread crumbs ($1.49), and Gold Bond lotion ($7.18). I didn't realize Probiotic supplement nonsense was nearly that pricy.

Nancy placed the Bread crumbs on the first level ($1.49), then the Chips and Fruit punch on the next ($5.98), then the Gold Bond and Probiotic stuff on the next level ($24.17), which is where she bailed because Icy Hot may be expensive but it's not $24.17 expensive ($7.49). Now, my roster of winning combinations:

  • Bread crumbs ($1.49); Fruit punch and Chips ($5.98); Icy Hot and Gold Bond ($14.67); Probiotic stuff ($16.99)
  • Bread crumbs ($1.49); Fruit punch and Gold Bond ($9.17); Chips and Icy Hot ($11.48); Probiotic stuff ($16.99)
  • Bread crumbs ($1.49); Fruit punch and Icy Hot ($9.48); Chips and Gold Bond ($11.17); Probiotic stuff ($16.99)
  • Fruit punch ($1.99); Bread crumbs and Chips ($5.48); Icy Hot and Gold Bond ($14.67); Probiotic stuff ($16.99)
  • Fruit punch ($1.99); Bread crumbs and Gold Bond ($8.67); Chips and Icy Hot ($11.48); Probiotic stuff ($16.99)
  • Fruit punch ($1.99); Icy Hot and Bread crumbs ($8.98); Chips and Gold Bond ($11.17); Probiotic stuff ($16.99)
  • Chips ($3.99); Bread crumbs and Gold Bond ($8.67); Fruit punch and Icy Hot ($9.48); Probiotic stuff ($16.99)
  • Chips ($3.99); Bread crumbs and Icy Hot ($8.98); Fruit punch and Gold Bond ($9.17); Probiotic stuff ($16.99)

Adding this to the earlier data for the season, the range of price prizes so far has been $3.90, $4.80, $4.70, $3.10, $7.90, $9.40, and now $15.50. The most generous range in pricing levels has been $3.20, $2.00, $2.10, $1.30, $7.90, $9.40, and another $15.50.

Trivia: There are approximately 1028 bacteria of the species Pelagibacter ubique in the world; that is, it is about three out of every ten organisms. Source: The Invisible Kingdom: From The Tips Of Our Fingers To The Tops of our Trash, Inside the Curious World of Microbes, Idan Ben-Barak. And to be more remarkable, it was first isolated in 2002. (However, I see Wikipedia notes a Nature article speculating that the bacteriophage HTVC010P, attacking this bug, may be even more common.)

Currently Reading: India: A History, John Keay.

And now, if I may, the second part of my statistics-keeping for The Price Is Right: how the Showcase Showdowns came out for March. This covers the stretch from the 4th of March to the 29th, excepting two days which were reruns because of the great basket-ball tournament or something like that.

First Second Third
Month 10 12 14
Season 86 93 81

So it was a month for the third spinner to wrangle its way back into respectability, but it's coming from remarkably far behind. In the lowest winning spin there's been a tiny bit of progress, in that the winning spin for the case of a tie with one contestant over-spinning went somewhere. There still hasn't been a three-way tie this season, which is interesting to me and me alone.

No Overspins One Overspin Two Overspins
Solo Win 65 45 40
Tied Win 65 75 -
Triple Tie - - -

Trivia: Over a million gallons of liquor were shipped from Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, in 1928, in shipments on which Canadian customs authorities collected duty. Source: Ford: The Men And The Machine, Richard Lacey.

Currently Reading: Just One More Thing: Stories From My Life, Peter Falk. I don't get it. He talks a good deal, and justifiably, about the high standards he holds for movies and scripts and scenes, and then he was also in Corky Romano for some reason.

And now that we're caught up on the water park vacation, I can get things caught up on The Price Is Right. Last Wednesday they played ``Pay The Rent'' again and for only the second time --- by my accounting and by Drew Carey's host announcements (obviously he's worried about my records falling out of synch with the show's) --- the contestant put everything in the right order to win the big $100,000. She walked out at the third level, taking home $10,000, and I'd agreed with her during the playing, but still, there's something odd in that so many of the people who've got it wrong insist on going through all the levels yet the two players who've gotten it right took a sure payout instead.

The prizes this time were: Breyer's Sherbet ($5.79); Ramen noodles ($0.59); Francesco Rinaldi spaghetti sauce ($2.29); Instant coffee ($9.99 and I didn't know it was that pricey); Gum ($1.09); and French fried onions ($3.39).

The contestant put the Ramen noodles in the mailbox ($0.59 for the level); then the gum and onions on the first floor ($4.48); then the sherbet and spaghetti sauce ($8.08); and the coffee in the attic ($9.99). I couldn't imagine the coffee being more than $8.08 so I endorsed her walking after the second floor.

It turns out, though, not only was this a winning layout but there were eight distinct winning solutions, the most I've encountered. Any of these patterns would be good for a $100,000 win:

  • Ramen noodles ($0.59); Spaghetti sauce and Gum ($3.38); Sherbet and Onions ($9.18); Coffee ($9.99).
  • Ramen noodles ($0.59); Gum and Onions ($4.48); Sherbet and Spaghetti sauce ($8.08); Coffee ($9.99).
  • Ramen noodles ($0.59); Spaghetti sauce and Onions ($5.68); Sherbet and Gum ($6.88); Coffee ($9.99).
  • Gum ($1.09); Ramen and Spaghetti sauce ($2.88); Sherbet and Onions ($9.18); Coffee ($9.99).
  • Gum ($1.09); Ramen and Onions ($3.98); Sherbet and Spaghetti sauce ($8.08); Coffee ($9.99).
  • Gum ($1.09); Spaghetti sauce and Onions ($5.68); Sherbet and Ramen ($6.38); Coffee ($9.99).
  • Spaghetti sauce ($2.29); Ramen and Onions ($3.98); Sherbet and Onions ($6.88); Coffee ($9.99).
  • Spaghetti sauce ($2.29); Gum and Onions ($4.48); Sherbet and Ramen ($6.38); Coffee ($9.99).

Given that there are only 180 distinct ways of grouping six items in the pattern ``Pay The Rent'' demands (two groups of two each, two groups of one each), that's ... well, only about a one in 26 chance that a randomly selected arrangement will be a possible $100,000 solution. It's the second time I've noticed that putting the cheapest item at the start offers a chance to win, though, and I wonder if that indicates the show is trying to find someone to win the $100,000 grand prize. Earlier in March they had six winning combinations, after all.

Anyway, the range of price prizes this season has been $3.90, $4.80, $4.70, $3.10, $7.90, and now $9.40. The most generous range in pricing levels has been $3.20, $2.00, $2.10, $1.30, $7.90, and now $9.40.

Trivia: Paul Terry sold his cartoons studio to CBS for $3,500,000 in 1955. Bill Weiss, who took over as Terrytoons executive producer for CBS, claimed the network recouped the investment in two years. Source: Of Mice And Magic: A History Of American Animated Cartoons, Leonard Maltin.

Currently Reading: Just One More Thing: Stories From My Life, Peter Falk. I'm surprised and amused to learn that Falk, apparently, didn't know that The Great Race was (phenomenally loosely) based on reality, although the idea of a 1908 New-York-to-Paris motor race sounds like something that has to have been made up for a joke.

Somehow I felt it in my bones that there was going to be another round of ``Pay The Rent'' on The Price Is Right, although it came later than I expected, possibly because a promotional week where Publishers Clearing House gave an extra $20,000 to the first person to win a game that day bumped it back. For a game with a theoretical prize maximum of $100,000, you can see how the extra $20,000 might be upstaged. I'd think they would count a $10,000 as winning ``Pay The Rent'', as they do for ``Plinko'', but I haven't seen a case that answers the question one way or another.

No matter, as not only is it looking like nobody is going to win the $100,000, it's possible nobody is ever going to win anything less either. Thursday's lunkhead was Brandon, who had this set of small prizes to place:

Pain reliever ($8.49), Papaya nectar juice ($0.59), Raisin cookies ($0.99), Allegra ($6.47), Gold Bond lotion ($7.18), and Jell-o pudding ($1.19). He put in the first level the cookies, for a level total of $0.99 and right there I supposed he'd lost the $100,000. On the second level he'd put the Jell-o pudding and the Papaya nectar for a level total of $1.78 and I started to think maybe he had a chance. That was blown at the next reveal as on the third level he had the Gold Bond and the Pain reliever for a level total of $15.67 and it should have been obvious to everyone that there was no way the Allegra was more than $15.67. However, Brandon asserted that as he had allergies he knew with certainty that the Allegra was more than $15.67.

To be fair, possibly he misunderstood the size of the box, since I'm sure there are boxes of allergy pills big enough to be more than $15.67, and very easily he might not have known he could ask for the size. But he went on to continue the streak of people who could have walked away with $10,000 instead blowing it entirely. ``Pay The Rent'', for its big theoretical payout, may be the cheapest game Price has: the overwhelming majority of contestants go home with nothing.

Perhaps the show is aware of this, since as I make it out there are six distinct winning arrangements, the most I've noticed. These are:

  1. Papaya nectar ($0.59); Allegra and Raisin cookies ($7.46); Gold Bond and Jell-o ($8.37); Pain reliever ($8.49).
  2. Raisin cookies ($0.99); Allegra and Papaya nectar ($7.06); Gold Bond and Jell-O ($8.37); Pain reliever ($8.49).
  3. Papaya nectar ($0.59); Allegra and Jell-O ($7.66); Gold Bond and Raisin cookies ($8.17); Pain reliever ($8.49).
  4. Raisin cookies ($0.99); Allegra and Jell-O ($7.66); Gold Bond and Papaya nectar ($7.77); Pain reliever ($8.49).
  5. Jell-O ($1.19); Allegra and Papaya nectar ($7.06); Gold Bond and Raisin cookies ($8.17); Pain reliever ($8.49).
  6. Jell-O ($1.19); Allegra and Raisin cookies ($7.46); Gold Bond and Papaya nectar ($7.77); Pain reliever ($8.49).

For the season, the range of price prizes has been $3.90, $4.80, $4.70, $3.10, and now $7.90. The most generous range in winning levels have been $3.20, $2.00, $2.30, $1.30, and a much kinder $7.90.

I'd be interested to see if this multiplicity of potential solutions is a quirk or whether it reflects a desire to give the game at least one grand prize winner since, as Drew Carey noted, nobody's gotten the big prize yet. (One contestant had the prizes laid out perfectly, but walked away to take a sure $10,000 instead.)

Trivia: In March and April 1955 the Bureau of Public Roads tested highway font and color combinations by having drivers (using 1951 Pontiacs) peer at signs reading, ``BALK'', ``FARM'', ``NAVY'', ``STOP'', ``ZONE'', and ``DUCK''. Source: The Big Roads: The Untold Story Of The Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created The American Superhighways, Earl Swift.

Currently Reading: Conversing With The Planets: How Science And Myth Invented The Cosmos, Anthony Aveni.

For The Price Is Right Showcase Showdowns, well, here's the statistics for February. This covers the period from the 4th of February through the 1st of March, with no skipped shows and no reruns to interrupt the flow of data. It also turned out to be as uniform a month as could be, for having 28 days in it, so that's nice enough.

First Second Third
Month 13 13 14
Season 76 81 67

The lowest winning spin didn't decrease in any of the six possible categories this month, although one contestant did win on 65 cents against both competitors. This category's looking like a bore, although when I get around to plotting the lowest winning spins against time ... eh. We'll see.

No Overspins One Overspin Two Overspins
Solo Win 65 45 40
Tied Win 65 95 -
Triple Tie - - -

I notice incidentally that there've been fifteen cases of double overbids on the Showcase this season, which seems high.

Trivia: During 1863 the Petersburg (Virginia) Railroad distributed $653,403 to its shareholders; this was approximately 60 percent f the book value of its ordinary shares. Source: The Railroads Of The Confederacy, Robert C Black III.

Currently Reading: The Motion Paradox: The 2,500-year-old Puzzle Behind All The Mysteries Of Time And Space, Joseph Mazur.

January's wrapped up pretty well, so here's the report for The Price Is Right showdowns from the 31st of December through to the 1st of February. This excludes the 21st of January which for some reason was a rerun or something. I offer no explanation for this phenomenon. Also the airdate schedule at is getting all close-mouthed about upcoming airdates. They've just posted the thing out through the 15th of this month.

First Second Third
Month 18 17 12
Season 63 68 53

There's only been a little progress in the minimum winning spins. There was one episode where it looked like 45 cents was going to beat both comers, but, nah.

No Overspins One Overspin Two Overspins
Solo Win 65 45 40
Tied Win 65 95 -
Triple Tie - - -

Trivia: In 1919, Ford's Highland Park plant employed fifteen men per car per day. In February 1921, when the plant was reopened after the Christmas 1920 layoff, it employed nine per car per day. Source: Ford: The Men And The Machine, Robert Lacey.

Currently Reading: Mathematics: From The Birth Of Numbers, Jan Gullberg.