I’ve been selected to be a contestant on Countdown. This is the culmination of everything that I’ve ever done in my life — I’ve been watching it since I was two years old, I cannot wait, I’m terrified.
So I thought I’d ease my suffering by sharing my training along the way.
Tip The Third — Letters
Today is the day that I appear on Countdown, so I thought I’d distract myself with a blog post. I’ve done as much preparation as possible, watched innumerable episodes on YouTube, and started getting distracted in conversation by trying to count the number of letters in words other people use. It’s getting serious.
Pre-Fixes & Suffixes
The most important time in a letters game is the time before the clock starts. This is where you should be gathering up safety words (always get a six down), judging your opponent’s strategy, and looking out for the most important things in Countdown: pre-fixes and suffixes.
My personal favourite is “IEST”, but there are dozens (or more) of these little gems that can be added to any word to make it a good three or four letters longer. So keep an eye out for:
ING, IER, ER, IEST, IANT, IENT, IANCE, IENCE, ICE, AGE, PRE, PRO, RE, ANTI, ANTE, ANT, ENT, UN, TION, TIAN… and many more.
They will be your saviours.
Related to but separate from the above point, it’s also vital to keep an eye out for words that can stand alone, but also be added on to other words in times of dire need. Think of “TIME”, think of “SOME”, think of “OVER”, think of “UNDER”. And then think of me.
There are also some specific rules observed by Countdown and Dictionary Corner that you’d be well to remember should you come face to face with Susie Dent in a dark alley.
– No American spellings. Begone with your flavorsome colors.
– Single-syllable superlatives are automatic, but multi-syllable must be specified in the dictionary. So it’s yes to badder, but not necessarily to eviller.
– You have to pick at least four consonants and at least three vowels. Them’s the breaks.
What Do They Have?
Always, always, always keep an eye on the last letter your opponent picks. If they pick a consonant, it’s part for the course.
But if they pick a vowel — and you listen to me, Ennis del Mar, YOU LISTEN TO ME — it means that they are banking on something coming up. Usually something pretty good. Try to slot that vowel around, because if it was the one they wanted it probably means they have something.
Also, watch how they declare. If you have a six (but maybe a seven), and they declare a seven with a shake in their voice — you declare your risky seven, too. It’s probably the same thing. If you’re both wrong, no harm.