Will Shortz

NPR's Puzzlemaster Will Shortz has appeared on Weekend Edition Sunday since the program's start in 1987. He's also the crossword editor of The New York Times, the former editor of Games magazine, and the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (since 1978).

Will sold his first puzzle professionally when he was 14 — to Venture, a denominational youth magazine. At 16 he became a regular contributor to Dell puzzle publications. He is the only person in the world to hold a college degree in Enigmatology, the study of puzzles, which he earned from Indiana University in 1974.

Born in 1952 and raised on an Arabian horse farm in Indiana, Will now lives near New York City in a Tudor-style house filled with books and Arts and Crafts furniture. When he's not at work, he enjoys bicycling, movies, reading, travel, and collecting antique puzzle books and magazines.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is a phrase in the form "___ and ___." I'll give you rhymes for the two missing words. You complete the phrases.

For example: Lick and lose --> pick and choose.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous singer — first and last names. The last four letters of the first name spelled backward plus the first four letters of the last name spelled forward, read together, in order, name a section of products in a drugstore. What is it?

Answer: Mariah Carey --> hair care.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in "X" and the second starts with "C" (as in XC, the Roman numeral for 90). A friend of mine recently turned 90, and I made this as a birthday gift.

For example: Tailless feline --> MANX CAT.

Last week's challenge, from Sandy Weisz of Chicago: Take the name of a famous musical. Write it in upper- and lowercase letters, as you usually would.

On-air challenge: Ignore the vowels in each word given. The consonants in each word are the same consonants in the same order as in the name of a well-known American city. Name the cities.

For example: DOLLIES ---> DALLAS.

On-air challenge:

Take the category, then name something in it whose first two letters are the last two letters of the category's name.

For example: Author > (George) Orwell.

1. Beatle

2. Disney musical

3. Letter of the Greek alphabet

4. Country in Africa

5. Make of auto

6. Make of automobile

7. An Obama

8. Salad green

9. Racehorse

10. Municipal official

11. Norse explorer

12. Bridge

13. Ocean

14. Best Picture

15. Summer Olympics host

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in the letter -E, and the second word starts GO-.

For example: Something you might say when you're about to take a plunge --> HERE GOES.

Last week's challenge: Name something to eat. Change one letter in it and rearrange the result. You'll name the person who makes this food. Who is it?

Answer: Bread and baker.

Winner: Mary Ann Gaeddert, of Georgetown, Ky.

On-air challenge: Change one letter of each word and rearrange the result to get a new word that can follow it, to complete a common two-word phrase.

For example: FALL ... changing one of the L's to a T --> FLAT: Fall Flat.

Last week's challenge, based on an idea by listener Jon Herman: If PAJAMA represents first, and REBUKE represents second, what nine-letter word can represent third? There are two possible answers, one common and one not so common. Either one will be counted correct.

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you some six-letter words. For each one, insert two letters in the exact center to complete a familiar eight-letter word.

For example: ACCENT --> ACCIDENT.

Last week's challenge, from listener Fred Piscop of Bellmore, N.Y.: Take these three phrases:

Turkey breast
Ski slope
Cash drawer

What very unusual property do they have in common?

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of an article of apparel — something to wear. Name the items from the anagram given.

Example: LOOP --> POLO.

Last week's challenge: This was a variation on the old word-ladder puzzle. The object is to change WHOLE to HEART by either adding or subtracting one letter at a time, making a new, common, uncapitalized word at each step.

On-air challenge: Three words will be given, starting with the letters F, B, and I respectively. Find a word that can follow each one to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Last week's challenge: Name a state capital. Drop one of its letters. The remaining letters can be rearranged to name another major city in the United States. What is it? There are two different answers, and you should find both of them.

Answer: St. Paul (Minn.), Tulsa (Okla.); Salem (Ore.), Mesa (Ariz.)

On-air challenge:

I'm going to give you some 5-letter words. For each one, change the middle letter to two new letters to get a familiar 6-letter word.

Ex. FROND --> FRIEND
1. EARLY
2. TULIP
3. MOURN
4. BROTH
5. LATCH
6. JUROR
7. SCOWL
8. FUTON
9. DEITY
10. EGEST
11. GUSTY
12. HOUSE
13. ORGAN
14. PANDA
15. SLOTH
16. DECOR
17. ALIVE
18. VISOR

Last week's challenge, from listener Adam Cohen of Brooklyn, NY:

On-air challenge: For each word, think of a synonym whose first and second letters, in order, are the second and third letters, respectively, of the given word.

For example: Shock --> horrify.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous actor — first and last names. Drop the first two letters of the first name and the last two letters of the last name. Then put a "Y" between what's left of the two names. The result, reading from left to right, will identify who might solve this challenge and play puzzle on the air with me next week.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of a state. For all the words given, ignore the vowels in them. The consonants in them are the same consonants, in the same order, as in the states.

For example, the word "regain" would be "Oregon."

Last week's challenge from listener Martin Eiger: Name part of a car. Drop the fifth letter. Now reverse the order of the last three letters. The result, reading from left to right, will name a major American city. What city is it?

Answer: Seat belt, Seattle

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle has a bit of wordplay. Change one letter in each word provided to make two new words. The letter you change must be in the same position in each word of the pair. And the letter you change each of them to will be the same letter of the alphabet.

For example, "relief" and "mallet" become "belief" and "ballet."

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle involves wordplay on some well-known Canadian place names. Example:

The name of which Canadian province is an anagram of "oration"?

Last week's challenge: The seven words in the following sentence have something very unusual in common — something that almost no other words in the English language share. What is it?

"Ira saw three emigrants restock large wands."

On-air challenge: In each pair of clues, the answer to the first clue is a word that contains the consecutive letters A-R. Drop the A-R, and the remaining letters in order will form a word that answers the second clue.

Example: Sweet brown topping on ice cream / Animal with humps = C(AR)AMEL

On-air challenge: For every word provided (all starting with the letter "W"), give a proverb or saying that contains that word.

Last week's challenge: Take the phrase "I am a monarch." Rearrange the 11 letters to name a world leader who was not a monarch, but who ruled with similar authority. Who is it?

Answer: Chairman Mao.

Winner: David Slobodin of Asheville, North Carolina.

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "Monkey Business." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase starting with "M" and "B" — as in "monkey business."

Last week's challenge: Think of an adjective that describes many shampoos. Add the brand name of a shampoo in its basic form. The result, reading the letters in order from left to right, will name a famous musician. Who is it?

Answer: Herb Alpert.

Winner: Mark Dressner of Long Beach, Calif.

On-air challenge: For the blank in each provided sentence, put in the name of a color to complete the sentence in a punny way.

For example, "After getting the title to the Maserati, I was able to call that __________."

Answer: "Carmine."

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a made-up two-word phrase, in which the two words rhyme. The initials of the two words will be provided, along with a one-word clue. Example: C S, Tennis ---> Court Sport

1. N L, Moon
2. B R, Semitrailer
3. P T, Cuestick
4. H C, Electrocardiogram
5. N H, Cold
6. T V, Haiku
7. H S, Bowwow
8. R P, Speedway
9. L N, Slipknot
10. D S, Coma
11. P T, Hookah
12. G W, Obesity
13. M W, Bull
14. S O, Exclaim
15. P D, Pepto Bismol

First, Do This Puzzle

May 31, 2015

On-air challenge: Because tomorrow is June 1st, today's game is one of categories, based on the word "first." For each category, name something in it starting with each of the letters F-I-R-S-T. For example, if the category were "Two-Syllable Boys' Names," you might say Francis, Isaac, Richard, Simon and Tony.

1. State Capitals

2. Foreign Makes of Cars

3. Parts of a Book

4. Common Newspaper Names (like Post, Herald or Daily News)

5. Things to Take to the Beach

On-air challenge: Every answer today is the name of a famous, one-named singer like Madonna or Beyoncé. Identify each name from its anagram, to which one extra letter is added. The singers are a mix of past and present. For example, given "ADS" plus "E," the answer is "Sade."

On-air challenge: This week's on-air puzzle is similar to last week's, only a little harder. Every answer is the name of a country. For each word given, ignore the vowels. The consonants, in order from left to right, are the same consonants in the same order as in the country. For example, given the word "omelet," the answer is "Malta."

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a well-known U.S. city. For every word given, ignore the vowels. The word's consonants are the same consonants appearing in the same order as those in the city's name. For example, given the word "amiable," the answer is "Mobile" (Alabama).

Last week's challenge Think of a common two-word phrase for something you might see in a kitchen. Reverse the words — that is, put the second word in front of the first — and you'll name a food, in one word, that you might prepare in a kitchen. What is it?

On-air challenge: Each word provided is an anagram of something you might see in a kitchen. For example, "skin" is an anagram of "sink."

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with L-O and the second word starts with G.

For example, a professional organization that seeks to influence legislation is a LOBBYING GROUP.

Last week's challenge: The challenge came from listener Steve Daubenspeck of Fleetwood, Pa. Take the first names of two politicians in the news. Switch the first letters of their names and read the result backward to name something that each of these politicians is not.

On-air challenge: For each word starting with "W," think of another word, also starting with W, that can follow the first to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. Example: Walk --> Way = walkway

Last week's challenge: This challenge comes from listener Peter Stein of San Francisco. Think of a job, in eight letters, that names someone who might work with actors. Change one letter in this to the following letter of the alphabet to name another person who works with actors. What jobs are these?

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a popular TV series past or present. For each word or phrase given, remove some of its letters so that those that remain, reading from left to right, will name the show. Every answer will use at least half the letters of the given word or phrase. For example, "Brownies" is Bones.

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up, two-word phrase in which the first word has seven letters. Drop its first and last letters to get a five-letter word that is the second part of the phrase. For example: Bottled water from France that is not normal is "deviant Evian."

Last week's challenge: The challenge came from listener Henry Hook. And it was a little tricky. Given a standard calculator with room for 10 digits, what is the largest whole number you can register on it?

On-air challenge: The challenge is a game of Categories based on the word "watch." For each category provided, name something in the category starting with each of the letters W-A-T-C-H. For example, parts of the human body would be "waist," "arm," "thigh," "chest" and "head."

Last week's challenge: Take the word "die." Think of two synonyms for this word that are themselves exact opposites of each other. What two words are these? A hint: they have the same number of letters.

Answer: Pass, fail

What's Last Comes First

Mar 22, 2015

On-air challenge: You'll be given some words. For each one, name another word that can follow the first to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. The last and first letters, respectively, of the first word must be the first and second letters, respectively, of the second. For example, given "tennis," you would say "stadium" or "stroke."

Pages