Des chiffres et des lettres

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Des chiffres et des lettres (literally "numbers and letters") is a French television programme. It was created by Armand Jammot and tests the numeracy skills and vocabulary of two contestants. The original version of Channel 4's Countdown, it is one of the longest running game shows in the world.

The game had its debut in 1965, with letters only, and reached its present format in 1972. It is currently transmitted on France 3 after 39 years first on Antenne 2 and then France 2. It has been hosted since 1992 by Laurent Romejko, Arielle Boulin-Prat, and Bertrand Renard. The former two check words proposed by the contestants and Renard provides solutions to the number problems the contestants fail to solve). Renard was hired on the show at the age of 19, after having won as a contestant in 12 consecutive matches. The show is seen throughout the world on TV5.

Rules[edit]

Two contestants play against one another. As the title of the game indicates, it is based on two skills: numeracy and literacy.

In the television version, there are also "duels". These are speed problems for which only the first player to provide the correct answer receives points. Both contestants may receive points in solving the other problems. Finally, there is a game called "sprint final" where the contestants have to be the fastest to solve the two final rounds.

The winner of a match is the first player to win two games or a player who wins the opening game by 50 points or more.

Each show is made up of 16 problems presented in three sections. The first and second sections consist of two letter problems and two numbers problems played alternatively and followed by a duel. The third round consists of two letter problems and two numbers problems played alternatively and followed by the final sprint. If the players are tied at the end of the program a buzzer question is used to break the tie.

Le compte est bon ("the total is right")[edit]

The goal of this round is to arrive at a chosen number (from 101 to 999) using the four basic arithmetic operations (+, -, ×, ÷) applied to six numbers chosen randomly from the following alternatives: 1 to 10; 25; 50; 75; 100 (each number is drawn from the entire set, so the same number may appear more than once). Once these six numbers are selected, a three-digit target number is generated. The players have 45 seconds to combine the numbers arithmetically with the goal of producing the target number. The contestants may use each of the six numbers originally selected once, and the result of each operation performed with them once – for example, if a contestant multiplies 4 by 25 to obtain 100, he or she may no longer use the 4 or 25, but may use the 100 in further calculations. It's not mandatory to use all the numbers. All numbers used must be positive integers.

Example[edit]

Numbers given:
8 4 4 6 8 9
Target number:
594
8 + 8 = 16
16 × 4 = 64
6 − 4 = 2
64 + 2 = 66
66 × 9 = 594

Contestants signal that they have obtained the target number by saying le compte est bon. Ten points are awarded to each contestant who arrives at the target number exactly or, if the number cannot be reached (as checked by a computer), to each contestant reaching the closest possible number. If neither contestant obtains the best solution possible, the contestant or contestants with the result nearest the target number receive seven points each.

Numbo[edit]

In 1987 Daniel Defays implemented a computer program called "Numbo" which uses probabilistic parallel processing to model human performance in the game Le compte est mauvais.[1]

Le mot le plus long ("the longest word")[edit]

In this round, contestants alternately select a vowel or consonant (each chosen unseen from all possible vowels or consonants) until ten letters (nine until 4 April 2010) have been chosen. Contestants take turns specifying whether the next letter will be a vowel or a consonant. Specific letters may be selected multiple times.

The goal is to find the longest word using the available letters. The players have 30 seconds to study the board and find a word. The contestant with the longest word scores the number of letters in the word; both contestants get points if there is a tie. If a contestant tries a longer word that is not in the programme's dictionaries, his or her word is rejected, but his or her opponent may score the number of letters originally claimed with a shorter word. For example, if a contestant produces a nine-letter word that is rejected and his or her opponent produces an acceptable word that is shorter, the opponent gains nine points. If both words are incorrect, no one scores.

Example[edit]

  • With the following letters:
T O C E D A M I T S

it is possible to get the French words dictats, amodies and mastoïde.

  • With the following letters:
R U R E T E C E R Z

it is possible to get the French words recruter and erecteur.

Duels[edit]

There are several variations of the "duel" section:

  • the classic version, which consists of finding two words on the same theme after 10 letters have been given, using each letter once and only once,
  • "l'un dans l'autre" ("one within the other"): with ten given letters, find a ten-letter word and another word, within the first; one a proper noun, the other a common noun,
  • "la bonne orthographe" (the "correct spelling"): a word is proposed and the winner is the one who spells this word correctly first,
  • "le calcul mental" ("mental arithmetic"): the players must complete a calculation (for example, 24 × (32 − 5 × (42 ...)) in their heads.

Only one answer is accepted, from the first player to provide one. If the answer is correct, five points are awarded to the player giving it. If the answer is incorrect, the player's opponent receives three points.

Final sprint[edit]

At the end of the game, the contestants play the "final sprint" where they have to solve two problems. As opposed to the other rounds during the game (except duels), these have been generated prior to the show and they admit at least one perfect solution (either a 10-letter word or a number that can be found with the 6 given numbers) the contestants must find as fast as possible. As in duels, only one answer is accepted, from the first player to provide one. If the answer is correct, five points are awarded to the player giving it. If the answer is incorrect, the player's opponent receives three points.

Each contestant, starting from the lowest-scored one, chooses which kind of problem they want to play with : numbers or letters.

UK version[edit]

Main article: Countdown (game show)

The long-running United Kingdom TV show Countdown began in 1982, and is a close adaptation of the same format. The main differences are that the rounds last only 30 seconds instead of 45, only one contestant chooses the letters in each round and the "duels" are replaced with the "Countdown Conundrum", a nine-letter anagram.

The style of presentation is notably (and deliberately) more old fashioned, and prides itself on featuring no computerised elements whatsoever, other than a random number generator for the numbers round. Whereas contestants on Des Chiffres Et Des Lettres use computer touch-screens to register their words / number solutions, Countdown contestants use pen and paper. Unlike Des Chiffres Et Des Lettres' computerised displays, Countdown's letters and numbers are displayed on boards, with the time limit being measured using a huge clock face at the back of the set, as opposed to a bar gradually filling in. The clock, and the music played during rounds, have become icons of the UK show, and have become very famous.

No major prizes are offered, with winners receiving a dictionary, a home version of the game, and a special Countdown teapot depicting the show's clock face. The winner of each series receives a leather bound complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary. The low-tech and low-budget nature of the production is a subject of numerous jokes within the programme.

U.S. version[edit]

An unsold pilot for a U.S. version titled Countdown was filmed on September 18, 1990 hosted by Los Angeles radio personality Michael Jackson, announced by Charlie O'Donnell, and produced by the Guber-Peters Company (successor to Barris Industries now owned by Sony Pictures Television).

Main Game[edit]

Two teams, each with one celebrity (Heather Thomas & Woody Harrelson) competed in a series of rounds involving forming words from a series of nine letters.

Letter tiles are arranged face-down into two piles; one all consonants, the other vowels. The contestant picks a pile, and Jackson reveals the top tile from that pile and places it on the board. A selection of nine tiles is generated in this way, and must contain at least three vowels and four consonants. Then, the clock is started and both contestants have 30 seconds to come up with the longest word they can make from the available letters. Each letter may be used only as often as it appears in the selection.

Both team members write down the words they have found during the round, in case they have the same one. The players may confer, but each player comes up with an individual word and shows them Match Game style at the end of the 30 seconds. After the 30 seconds are up, the players declare the length of their chosen word, with the player who selected the letters declaring first. If either player has not written their word down in time, he/she must declare this also. The words are then revealed. If either player has not written their word down, that is revealed first; otherwise, the shorter word is shown first. The teams score one point for each letter in both words, up to a maximum of 18. If a contestant offers an invalid word then they score no points. If the second player reveals the same word as the first, this must be proved by showing the word to the other contestant. Finally, two word authorities (Tony Pandolfo, Lori Huggins) reveal the best word they could find from the selection, aided by the production team.

The team with the most points after three rounds wins the game and goes on to the bonus round.

Bonus Round[edit]

The team has 45 seconds to solve seven scrambled words (four, five, six, seven, seven, eight and nine letters long). All words had something in common, like "At the Movies". The celebrity was allowed to assist. Getting each word was word $200 and all seven words were worth $10,000.

As in the 80s versions of Pyramid, two games are played with the contestants switching celebrities for game two. The player with the most money from the bonus round returned the next day. If there was a tie, both players returned the next day.

Spanish version[edit]

The Spanish TV show Cifras y letras (Numbers and Letters) is another adaptation of Des chiffres et des lettres on Canal Sur 2. Originally presented by Elisenda Roca as of 1991, with a lavishly artistic designed studio and the music for each round being extracted from classical music, a movie soundtrack or similar. There are four rounds consisting of a number game followed by two letter games. Between the second and third round there is a duel that consists of finding two words on the same theme from the nine letters provided.

Points:

  • Words are worth one point per letter, but a nine-letter word is worth double; that is, 18 points.
  • The correct sum gets 9 points.
  • The duel is worth 10 points. Just like the French show, only one answer is accepted, but if the answer is wrong the other player gets 10 points.

The winner wins 602 and gets to play again the next day. If the game is tied, they both get to play again the next day and each player wins €301.

South African version[edit]

The South African version was called "A Word or 2", and aired on SABC2, from 1998–2008,[2] hosted by Jeremy Mansfield. It followed a similar format to the UK version.

In the letters game, there were three stacks of consonants and vowels. Like in the French version, contestants picked alternately, but the person to begin the round also got to choose which of the three stacks was used for the round.[3]

During the word games, both contestants score regardless of whether it's the winning word or not. During the numbers games, only the closer answer scores.

The winner of each game earned R1000, and returned for another game. The runner-up won a dictionary and the home game. The ultimate winner won a R40,000 laptop, while the runner-up won a R10,000 PC.

Italian version[edit]

Paroliamo is the name of the Italian version of the game, aired by Telemontecarlo and Rai Due for ten seasons.

Croatian version[edit]

Brojke i slova is the name of the Croatian version of the game, aired by HRT.

Turkish version[edit]

Bir Kelime Bir İşlem which means "word and operation, one by one" is the name of the Turkish version of the game, aired by TRT.

Greek version[edit]

On Friday February 13, 1976, began the Greek version under the title Γράμματα και Αριθμοί with television host Christos Oiconomou. This version was transferred until Monday December 28, 1981. On Monday November 20 1989, Mega Channel, represented the remake of this version with television host Costas Papandonopoulos, but this remake ended on Monday February 19, 1990 after 15 episodes, because Papandonopoulos had other obligations more significant to do and could not be at the Studio to make tvgames and the Program Direction could not find other person to replace him.

Australian version[edit]

Main article: Letters and Numbers

An Australian version, called Letters And Numbers (the literal translation of the original), commenced airing on SBS on August 2, 2010. It was hosted by Richard Morecroft.[4] It closely followed the gameplay of the UK version, albeit with a slightly more modern set (with subtly animated background), but the clock, manual letterboards and whiteboard for the maths problems were all present. In the course of the show there were 5 letter rounds, 3 number rounds and a final Conundrum round. The winners of each show carried over to the next episode (up to a maximum of 6 episodes, upon which they must retire), whilst the runner-up went home with a Macquarie dictionary. SBS "retired" the show in June 2012 and will replace it by showing the British version of the program.

Other versions[edit]

An Indonesian version of Des chiffres et des lettres debuted on Rajawali Televisi called Angka-Kata hosted by Denny Chandra. Took very similar stages with Countdown in United Kingdom. In Early 2015.

References[edit]

External links[edit]