This week, the debut appearance of that Irish charmer from Dublin, Tim Morrissey. Tim first appeared on Countdown when he was just 12 years old - Richard revealed that when he was just 8, he had come 7th in the Irish National Scrabble Championship, so he was obviously a bit special. Like Allan Saldanha, Tim needed cushion assistance to help him to see over the desk, but he only needed one, whereas Allan had needed two or three - well, he was two years younger at the time! Tim came up against two-time champion Jean Tweddell in his first game - Jean had beaten six-time winner David Poulter and Ken Wotherspoon from Brighton in her previous matches and it was set fair for a good contest, and so it proved.
Round 1 saw them both managing a seven, neither of them spotting the 8-letter ORDAINED, while the second round saw a 7-point gap open up between them, when Tim failed to spot a seven in the selection. Scrabble's 'golden selection' of AEINRST came up on the next round, allowing both contestants a good chance of at least seven points, and so it proved, as they both opted for NASTIER. Tim had thought of risking JANTIERS for eight - he was sensible: lexicographer Georgia Hole dismissed it having checked the dictionary. Dictionary Corner had been toying with the eight-letter ARTINESS, but to no avail - it may be acceptable today, but it wasn't in the Concise Oxford Dictionary in use at the time. Their alternative STAINERS, however, was OK. The numbers game was an interesting beast, with a 25 and two 10's in the selection, but it didn't fool the contestants, as they both spotted that 17 x 8 makes 136. Carol didn't spot their rather elegant solution and admitted that she had gone 'round the houses' in order to get to the target.
A little light-hearted banter with Lance Percival and a commercial break, and it was time for Part Two. Round 5 saw more sevens for the contestants, while Lance and Georgia offered an alternative seven with LIGULES (parts of grass). The letters put up by hostess Lucy Summers for Round 6 only yielded a six for each contestant, although BAPTISED was there for eight. Another letters game and the final numbers game also did nothing to change the seven-point gap which had persisted since Round 2, so it was still anyone's game with the conundrum to go. Jean's need to write down the conundrum proved to be her undoing on this occasion, as Tim beat her to the answer by a whisker, and it ended 63-60 in his favour.
Jean's two wins saw her returning in the Quarter Finals as number 7 seed, only to be defeated by eventual series champion
Lawrence Pearse. Look out for another of Tim's matches in next week's classic Countdown game.
This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 25 Feb 2001.