Classic Countdown

“Nine in a line, thirty seconds is the time!”

I’ve been a fan of Countdown for quite literally as long as I can remember. I’m told I watched it avidly at eighteen months, and learnt the alphabet from Carol Vorderman as she placed the letters on the board… likewise, I’m in no doubt that late great Richard Whiteley had a lasting influence on me too, such is my fondness for a weak pun, naff slogan or abhorrent tie, or perhaps all three together.

I’m sure, however, I was most taken by the iconic centrepiece and true star of the programme: the clock, and its hypnotic signature tune… it was only when I was quite considerably older that I could possibly appreciate the engaging game of which it is an integral part. I was obsessed with clocks as a child, so the Countdown timepiece was always going to capture me. About seven years ago now I began replicating the mechanics of the clock on my computer, beginning with a simple PowerPoint. Later, I found I could actually work rounds into these programs, and it morphed into what could be a very useful educational tool for teachers; at school there were few games played more in maths than the Countdown numbers round. Rounds and puzzles could be stacked and tinkered with to their heart’s content. I uploaded the presentation to a teaching site, and no end of users contacted me about using the graphics; all came back with positive words. Parents spoke quite movingly of how their child has recalled letters in a similar way to I presume I did. Rachel Riley, the hostess on the show, even used them for some of her school visits. It was incredibly rewarding to hear of something having such a positive impact. It was just a basic PowerPoint presentation! How wonderful, and testament to the real value of Countdown.

In 2012 I began working with Cinema 4D, a very exciting 3D design package. I’ve been chipping away intermittently at the Countdown set since then, purely for recreational purposes, though they were later used in annual New Year quizzes and charity events. But in the past couple of days I’ve turned the clock back – chiefly through boredom, I must confess, and because I have to split up my David Pevsner posts somehow… – and have rebuilt them to look like the Countdown of its infancy in the 1980s, before I was even invented. With the rather basic make-up of the original set, I thought it would be easy. I was wrong! It took quite a bit of graft, and some parts are quite rickety as it’s very much in progress. Redressing the various boards was a nightmare. Why did I inflict it on myself? Who knows. Oh well.

Here we go then. Tick tock! I’ve included a brief overview of the rules for each discipline, for those who may be outside the UK, or those that have just been under a rock for the last thirty-odd years.

Head to the very foot of this post for the answers.

The Letters Game: The contestant selects nine letters, requesting either a consonant or a vowel. When all nine are picked, the clock is started and there’s thirty seconds to make a word. You may only use a letter as often as it appears.

The Numbers Game: The contestant asks for six numbers, requesting up to 0-4 ‘big’ numbers (25, 50, 75, 100) and the rest ‘small’ numbers (1-10 twice over). When these have been picked, a three-digit target number is generated. Thirty seconds is given to make that number using the tiles selected; you can only use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and you must keep to whole numbers. You don’t have to use all of the numbers, but you can only use each tile once.

Countdown Conundrum: A simple buzzer round where the first to unearth the nine-letter word wins the points. The answer is given at the end of the video.

I was originally going to set a conundrum with JACOB in it somewhere, just to be self-centred. Thank goodness the conundrum used doesn’t describe me in any way. Oi. I see that look. Don’t say anything.

If you’d like to see what I was using as my guide, see below… it’s quite startling to see how stilted Richard seems here, and generally how stuffy and slightly po-faced the whole thing appears in comparison to the Countdown I loved growing up. And the music is atrocious. Thankfully, it was up all round from here!

And you can’t mention Countdown without this:

So, there we are. Something different from drawings, anyway.

If you actually had a go at the puzzles in the videos, here are some solutions for you:

Letters (also SEXISTS; probably no need to define either of these words for you)
Numbers (according to a solver, there are twenty-two ways of reaching 649)

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33 comments
  1. Lee Hesketh said:

    I don’t particularly like Countdown Jay, but I love these graphics. Impressed!! More 3D. please.

    Like

    • Jacob said:

      WHAT!?!? I don’t know if I can allow you to continue as a patron of this blog, Lee. I don’t know that I can love you either, after such a revelation… my heart, it is in tatters. Thanks for the giving it a look though. I’d equally like to see some of your work.

      …HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE COUNTDOWN?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lee Hesketh said:

        Lol nooooooooo! I don’t not like it really, I meant I just don’t watch it. There’s a difference!

        Like

      • Jacob said:

        Look at you, desperately backpedalling after your acidulous comment. How adorable. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Anthony said:

    Hi Jay, can we see more of your Countdown work? This is unbelievable!

    Like

    • Jacob said:

      Hello Anthony, and thank you for following. I don’t really have anything else Countdown of a standard I think worthy of presenting right now. However, after seeing the 1991 Countdowns on Challenge, I am currently working on building the stage in 3D. I will show it here if it works out, so stay tuned!

      Like

      • Anthony said:

        Okay thank you very much. I look forward to it!

        Like

      • Anthony said:

        I also commented on your YouTube video of the letters game above.

        Like

      • Jacob said:

        Thank you very much for your kind comment. I am happy to hear your request Anthony, but I will say beforehand that I do not distribute my raw Countdown files anymore.

        Like

      • Anthony said:

        Hello again Jay. My request was that you make video of just the clock in going round in that 1991 stage and upload to YouTube. I am helping out an event on the 17th October and the clock is a big problem we have had. A version from you would make it phenomenal when you have made the stage.

        Like

      • Jacob said:

        Hm, well I’m only working on it recreationally and it’s nowhere near finished yet, so I’m afraid I can’t guarantee anything for 17th October.

        Like

      • Anthony said:

        It’s okay. The event may be shifted to a later date anyway I was so told earlier. Can you let me know if you develop anything? Thanks.

        Like

      • Jacob said:

        OK.

        Like

  3. Billy said:

    Do you have any Richard’s side render views of this set perchance?

    Like

    • Jacob said:

      This is all there is as far as this model goes; the other shots are in separate files.

      Like

      • Billy said:

        That’s perfect, that’ll help me with more Minecraftness (I find the constant changing of views and grainy quality of the YouTube videos I find difficult to build from).

        I must admit they won’t be perfect recreations, i’ve made good progress with the Stripes set, I just don’t know where to put any screenshots of it

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        Yes, I hear that – it can be a challenge finding a decent reference.

        Good stuff. Perhaps you could try Imgur?

        Like

      • Billy said:

        That might work. I only need a good ref of the Wings set and the 2017 set now. I may just focus on the clock and its… “embrace” as fitting in the angles for the numbers/letters boards is basically not something you can do in Minecraft. Also it makes building the backdrop easier.

        What do you reckon?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        That sounds wise to me – it’s surely the main stage that’s most distinctive with each look.

        Like

      • Billy said:

        I’ll just fix my stripes set and then chuck you a screenshot

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        Great!

        Like

      • Billy said:

        http://i.imgur.com/gyy3gz8.png it’s admittedly a draft and, again, it’s difficult to do a set that is fundamentally enclosing when you can only build in 4 directions

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        The limitations do breed creativity in such scenarios. Looks good so far; certainly you’ve captured the gist of the set!

        Like

      • Billy said:

        Thank you. What tweaks would you recommend, if any?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        Hm – the only things I feel are missing are the extruded scoreboard panels. Working on a larger scale would allow for more detail, but I realise that would probably take considerable time in Minecraft. Besides, I rather like the idea of a simple, stylised version of each look like you have done.

        Like

      • Billy said:

        That’s why I used the item frames, I couldn’t think of another way to do it. I mean, if you wanted to make a silly Minecraft lets play video with it in it’d be recognizable. Which one should I do next?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        Ah – well, I’ve never played Minecraft, so I defer to you, Billy!

        Perhaps start from the beginning? Or whichever you think looks the most fun to build! I’m off to bed now – sweet dreams. Keep me posted on your progress… you be sure of it! 😉

        Like

      • Billy said:

        Right-o, i’ll work on them all and report back when I have another draft

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        I look forward to it. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

        Like

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