October 12th, 2010

krazy koati

Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star

The Price Is Right played the ``Pay The Rent'' game again, and this time Drew Carey clearly anticipated my doubts about it because he took time to explain that while there have been individual prizes --- again, I supsect ``Triple Play'' which would give away three cars if anyone ever won it ever --- larger than the $100,000 it offers, this is their biggest cash prize game.

In this second example, the grocery items were Ramen noodles ($0.29), cupcake mix ($1.49), candy ($1.69), napkins ($2.89), cocoa ($3.29), and shampoo (4.19), which on the strength of the Ramen noodles makes for a much wider spread than the first go-around of the game. To goal (to recap) is arranging the items into four levels, a single item in the first level (A), two items in the second level (B and C), two in the third (D and E), and one in the fourth (F), so that (A) < (B + C) < (D + E) < (F). There's $1,000 for starting; $5,000 if you find your (B + C) is in fact greater than (A); $10,000 if your (D + E) is greater than (B + C); and $100,000 if your (F) is greater than (D + E). You can walk away at any step; but, if you go forward and get it wrong, you lose everything.

If this price spread going to be typical it looks like the game could be safely played for a guaranteed $5000 win --- put the cheapest item in the first level and any two items in the second level; that guarantees the $5000 payoff. Probably most contestants are going to try for the $10,000, though, which is where they're going to crash.

Here's a twist: if you play this safe strategy and put the cheapest prize in as (A), you can't possibly win the $100,000. You have to put the cheapest prize on the third level as (D), alongside the second-most expensive item (E). It's probably not hard to guess the cheapest item particularly if something like a pack of Ramen is part of the mix, and the most-expensive and second-most-expensive are probably not too difficult. You have to arrange the three remaining items, one in the first level and two in the second, so that the second level's sum is greater than the first level's, but that's almost inevitable, really.

Arranging them so that (B + C) is less than (D + E) is going to be the trick. But strategizing like this, the contestant can safely bail out with a $5,000 prize, or risk it all and go for the $10,000. Unless I've missed something big, that's the critical point: with the lowest-priced item on the third level, if they get to the third level they have the $100,000. I wonder how long before the show producers notice that's the real suspense point.

Trivia: By early 1894 Milton Hershey was selling cocoa powder for drinking, baking chocolate, and sweet chocolate coatings to pour over caramels. Two years later Hershey would begin selling solid chocolate to the public. Source: Hershey: Milton S Hershey's Extraordinary Life Of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Michael D'Antonio.

Currently Reading: The King's Best Highway: The Lost History Of The Boston Post Road, The Route That Made America, Eric Jaffe. It's a very good and breezey read but, c'mon, hyperbole warning, folks, please?