Something a bit different for this week's Game of the Week - this preliminary round from Series 21 is the last ever Countdown which ended in a dead heat. After there were four dead heats in the series, the producers apparently decided that from Series 22 it might be a good idea to introduce the extra "sudden death" conundrums already used to decided dead heats in the quarter-finals. It also meant that more contestants could be accommodated within a single series.
Lew Schwarz already had 6 wins (and a draw!) under his belt when he met Nuala Clenaghan from Lisburn in County Antrim in this interesting encounter. Round 1 started poorly with both contestants struggling to five apiece, although Nigel Rees and Judy Pearsall did manage to come up with the amusing GASBAG in Dictionary Corner! Both players got FITNESS for 7 in Round 2, while they were again beaten by the Dictionary Duo, who got STONIEST. Round 3 saw Nuala offering BOWLED for six, while Lew had the excellent DIPOLE. Again, however, they were beaten by the pair to their right, who had both PIEBALD and BIPEDAL.
Despite CECIL's low target of just 101, the numbers game resolved the deadlock - while both players declared 101, Lew managed to blob and as we went to the break, Nuala was leading 28-18. Rounds 5 and 6 did nothing to change the gap, as the score advanced first to 33-23, then to 40-30. In the last letters game, both contestants offered CRAFTED for 7, but Nuala revealed that she had been toying with an eight - FACTORED - had she risked it, she would have extended her lead and presumably gone on to win the game. But it was not to be.
A fairly tricky numbers game saw them both getting within one of the target (Carol duly showed us all how to get 10 points),
and with just the conundrum to go, Nuala's 10 point lead she had held since the end of Part One was still intact. After
DESERTFUL was revealed, we only had to wait five seconds before Lew pressed and correctly spotted FLUSTERED. It was
another re-match for Lew, and probably the first time anyone had ever been involved in two draws (and certainly the last).
Lew went on to win the re-match 63-46, but again it was down to a crucial conundrum! Lew went on to become the only
ever octochamp to play in ten preliminary rounds, but he was beaten in the quarter-finals by number 8 seed (and eventual
series runner-up) Jackie McLeod.
This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 20 April 2001.