LIFE OF Why a decade of inneundo and laughter spells happiness for Countdown’s super smart maths queen
ADD a bright young maths genius to one of the world’s longest TV game shows and what do you get?
The answer, of course, is the popular figure of Rachel Riley.
Here’s a trickier one. How long has the 32-year-old been the queen of the number games on the perennial favourite, Countdown?
Even the millions of fans of the daytime Channel 4 show may be surprised know she has been setting puzzles for contestants – and solving them – for ten years.
Rachel has just finished filming her tenth anniversary show, which will air in January, and took time to chat to the Sunday People.
Although she is a maths graduate from Oxford it is the words, not the numbers, that keep her on her toes.
While her co-hosts Nick Hewer, 74, and Susie Dent, 51, seem unmoved when a risqué word pops up during the game, Rachel finds she can’t contain her laughter.
She said: “The beauty of Countdown is it does throw in the odd teaser or conundrum that is quite rude to a certain audience but not to another generation.
“Quite a lot of the time Susie and Nick won’t have a clue why I’m in the corner wetting myself, or why a word that’s completely innocent with one meaning has a completely different connotation to certain people. A lot of the time it goes over Nick and Susie’s head. Susie has got the most amazing knowledge of everything in the English language unless it’s got a rude connotation.
“She has a complete blindspot. I’m the go-to dictionary and film person that she checks with – ‘is this an innuendo, would this sound weird?’ Often a double entendre is lost on them and I am there to lend a helping hand.”
In 2014 Countdown reached 6,000 episodes and was awarded a Guinness World Record for the longest running show of its kind.
Essex-born Rachel’s quick wit and cheeky sense of humour has made her a fans’ favourite. She won over even more people, including her pro dance partner Pasha Kovalev, with her 2013 stint on Strictly Come Dancing. Rachel has appeared in over 2,000 episodes of Countdown since beating over 1,000 applicants for the coveted job. She had the tough job of taking over the felt-tip pen from Carol Vorderman, 57, who left after 26 years on the show. To practise for the job Rachel even recorded the Countdown clock music on her phone. After a decade at the sharp end of the quiz show, it’s not only the word games that have made Rachel blush. She said: “My most embarrassing moment is Nick Hewer telling everyone I was gagging for a hard one. I had my face in my hands. We had a series of easy number games and Nick told everybody I was gagging for a hard one.” But one of the favourite moments for Manchester Utd fan Rachel was a surprise visit to the show by Reds legend Ryan Giggs, carrying flowers, for her 1,000th show in 2013.
Rachel loves her job and said: “I still just enjoy doing it. It’s the basic numbers game I guess. I have no plans to leave. It’s great. They are like a family to me.”
Carol, on the show since its start year in 1982, presented it alongside Richard Whiteley, 61, until his death in 2005, then presenting with sports presenter Des Lynam, 76, and lastly singer Des O’connor, 86.
Speaking of any “rivalry” with Carol, Rachel said: “People want a maths-off between us. I can’t imagine it happening.
RECORD: With Susie & Nick in 2014 SUM STINT: Countdown’s Carol