BrainTeaser

BrainTeaser

[breyn-tee-zer]
For the type of puzzle, see Brain teaser

BrainTeaser was a British game show, first broadcast in 2002, produced by Endemol UK subsidiary Cheetah Productions.

BrainTeaser was live, with phone-in viewer puzzles being announced and played during the show in addition to the studio. During its run from 2006 until 7 March 2007, it aired on Five usually between 12:30 and 13:30 Mondays to Fridays, with Alex Lovell as presenter. Until the end of 2005 Lovell rotated presenting duties on a weekly basis with Craig Stevens, Rachel Pierman and Jonny Gould, at different times in the show's history.

As of 8 March 2007 the programme has been suspended after it was revealed that the production company had misled viewers regarding winners of the viewer puzzles (entered using a premium rate phone number). Actions included publishing fictional names and presenting a member of the production team as a 'winner'. Five stated 26 June 2007 the show has been cancelled.

Format

The most recent format ran from November 15 2006 until the show's suspension. In each show, there were four contestants, all of which play the first three rounds. The lowest-scoring contestant is eliminated after each of the third, sixth and eighth rounds, so that only one is left standing for the Pyramid.

Rounds played by four contestants

Scramble

Words of eight or more letters are partitioned into four or five pieces, rearranged and presented to the contestants, who must unscramble them. Only five points per correct answer are scored in this round. In all other rounds, each correct answer scores ten points.

Except for the pyramid game, all rounds are on the buzzers, with the opponent given a chance to answer if the player who first buzzed in answers incorrectly.

Clued Up

This is a general knowledge round. Contestants must identify something (a famous person, TV show, film, place, etc.) from the clues. First the category appears, followed by four short clues revealed one by one. If a contestant buzzes in but fails to give the correct answer, the clues continue to be revealed. When all players but one have attempted to answer it, all four clues are revealed for the remaining player.

Trio

Three letters are given. Contestants must give a word that contains the three letters in the given order.

This is similar to the main game principle in Catchword and the In a Spin round of Masterteam. However, there are two differences:

  1. The first given letter need not be at the beginning of the word.
  2. The second and third letters may not occur prematurely, even if they also occur in the correct sequence. For example, given the letters C L O, the word "colour" is not allowed, since an O occurs before the L.

After the end of Trio, the contestant with the lowest score is eliminated, and the other three contestants continue, with their scores set back to zero. (For the first few days under this format, the scores from the previous rounds were retained at this stage, and reset to zero only after Word Wheel.

Rounds played by three contestants

Wordplay

The players are shown a word with the letters in the wrong order. Letters drop one at a time into the line below in the correct place, until one contestant buzzes in with the right answer.

Definitions

The players are shown a word and three possible definitions. The players must buzz in and select the correct one. If the player gets it wrong, he or she is frozen out and that definition is removed. The remaining two players are allowed to buzz in and offer one of the remaining definitions. Often there is a common theme to the definitions given for a word.

The principle is similar to Call My Bluff or the board game Balderdash; the words are generally less obscure than those featured in these games, but still unusual enough to challenge most players.

Word Wheel

A word of at least ten letters is shown in the correct order, but on a wheel so that the letters are arranged clockwise in a circle. The contestant who buzzes in with the answer receives 10 points. From then on, play moves from left to right with no buzzing, beginning with the player who identified the word, and each player in turn must offer a word at least four letters long, and they receive one point for every letter of the word. For example from RATIONALLY the players could offer TRAY for 4 points, TRAIN for 5 points or RATION for 6 points.

For the first few days of this format, there was an additional twist: Any player who failed to give a word when his/her turn comes round, or gave an invalid word, was frozen out for the rest of the round. Should all players be frozen out before the end of the round (this happened only once), a new word would be given and all contestants would be back in play. Now, all three players who reach this round remain in play throughout the round.

One contestant is eliminated after this round, so that two remain. The scores are again set back to zero.

Rounds played by two contestants

Crossfire

This is a general knowledge crossword game. The computer randomly selects the first clue to be presented to the contestants. The player who correctly answers each clue then chooses the next clue to be solved. If neither player can give a correct answer, the answer is revealed and the next clue is chosen randomly again.

Prior to 2005, this was not a quick-fire round. Instead, one player had control at a time, starting with the player who scored the most points in Scramble. The player who has control had the first attempt at answering each clue, and control passed only when a player failed to answer correctly. If neither player could give a correct answer, the control stayed with the second player to whom it was offered.

Wordstorm

Contestants must find a word with the given number of letters and the given first and last letters.

Pyramid

The winner of the semi-final plays the solo pyramid game. The player must find words of increasing length, each of which adds a letter to the previous word. The initial three-letter word is given, and for each word the new letter is given in its correct place; the letters of the previous word are rearranged to arrive at the new word. Sometimes there may be more than one word that fits the letters, but only one word is the correct one.

The contestant has 45 seconds to complete the pyramid, and there is no limit on the number of words the contestant may try before arriving at the correct one. When each word is correctly identified, the clock stops and the player may choose to continue or to stop and take the winnings. If the player chooses to continue, then the new letter is revealed and the clock started again from where it left off. If the player then fails to get the word within the remaining time, he/she wins only £100. The prize money for a contestant who stops and takes the money (or who completes the pyramid by getting the eight-letter word) is as follows:

  • 4-letter word: £200
  • 5-letter word: £500
  • 6-letter word: £750
  • 7-letter word: £1,500
  • 8-letter word: £3,000

Before 2005, there was no prize money for a contestant who runs out of time while playing the pyramid.

Previous format

Before the change to the most recent format, only two contestants played at a time. The first three rounds were Scramble, Crossfire and Trio, and these were played in two heats, therefore all four contestants played these three rounds. The winner of each heat went into the "semi-final", comprising the rounds Clued Up and Wordstorm. (The "final" is the solo Pyramid game.)

Prior to 2005, Wordplay was played instead of Trio, and Wordstorm preceded Clued Up in the semi-final. Wordplay had two differences from the round in the more recent format:

  • If one contestant buzzed in and failed to give the correct solution, only one more letter in the solution was revealed for the other player.
  • The letters did not disappear from the original anagram as they were revealed in the solution as they did more recently (this does not directly affect the gameplay).

Viewer puzzles

Throughout the show, phone-in viewer puzzles are announced. Viewers enter by calling a premium rate telephone number, and one caller is randomly selected to solve the puzzle. Normally, three viewer puzzles are played in the course of the show, for increasing amounts of prize money. The prize values have varied throughout the show's history; as of 2006 they are usually £500, £1,000 and £2,000 respectively. In recent times there have been many twists to this aspect of the show, including variations in the prize values, having one, two or four puzzles in a show instead of the usual three, and various bonus games (mostly games of chance) by which a caller can win even more money. These are usually themed to an event (e.g. Wimbledon) or a season (e.g. Snow)

Two kinds of viewer puzzle are regularly featured:

  • Scramble - a single puzzle of the kind played in the Scramble round by the contestants, usually played only for the first puzzle of each show.
  • Pyramid - similar to the final round of the show, but filled in except for one line in which only the letter added from the row above is given.

There are also three kinds of puzzles that are occasionally featured instead:

  • Linkword - the viewer must work out the word that connects the two given words to form compound words or phrases.
  • Celebagram - the parts of a famous person's name are scrambled letter by letter.
  • A game similar to that played on Quizmania and The Mint, in which callers must guess entities with some common theme in order to win money. This is run as a single game throughout the show in which several callers are taken, and is usually titled according to the theme.

The presenters often give clues to the words to aid those unable to work it out, though these often make the puzzles very easy.

A recent addition is an extra viewer puzzle announced at the end of the show and again during the commercial breaks of the following programme. This is often a Scramble puzzle, but for a prize of £1,000.

Fake contestants scam

In light of the ICSTIS investigation of the use of Premium-rate telephone numbers in various interactive UK television programs, Cheetah productions (a division of Endemol), who make BrainTeaser have admitted that some contestants were fake. Among the allegations revealed to Five and ICSTIS were:

  • The Viewer Puzzle gives viewers five minutes to solve a word puzzle, costing 75p per call. But if no one got it right, names of winners were simply made up and listed on the screen
  • That a member of the production crew appeared on the show as a winner of the viewers puzzle

Five resultantly suspended all shows involving premium rate services, claiming they knew nothing about the scam. However a simple procedure checking daily winners would easily identify the fraudulent activity instantly.

Five later admitted that a senior producer at Five was informed by Cheetah that several winners had been fake. Five ignored this advice and continued to broadcast.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary are awaiting the reports from ICSTIS and Ofcom to see if they reveal any allegations or evidence of criminal wrongdoing contrary to the Fraud Act 2006.

On 26 June 2007, Ofcom handed out a record-breaking fine of £300,000 to Channel 5 for this scam. The Ofcom report found the use of fake winners had begun as an expedient to help the continuity of the live format. As such it was not used frequently until 2007 when with the introduction of the Quickfire viewers quiz time contestants became more pressing. A system was in place that labelled callers Blue, Red or Green. These represented respectively a caller with a correct answer, a caller with a wrong answer or no winner could be found, so a fake name or staff member would be substituted. Endemol claim their original intention was to select a winner after the show; however, this only happened once. Both Channel 5 management and Endemol UK have subsequently apologized.

References

External links

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