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.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun July 5, 2015

What's A Pirate's Least-Favorite Puzzle? One That Hates Arrrrs

NPR

Originally published on Sun July 5, 2015 6:34 am

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

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Sunday Puzzle
6:08 am
Sun June 28, 2015

Where There's A Will There's A Way To Solve This Puzzle

NPR

Originally published on Sun June 28, 2015 7:40 am

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.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:08 am
Sun June 21, 2015

A Mental Block May Help Solve This Puzzle

NPR

Originally published on Sun June 21, 2015 1:48 pm

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.

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Sunday Puzzle
5:43 am
Sun June 14, 2015

The Color Of This Puzzle Is Punny Looking

NPR

Originally published on Sun June 14, 2015 9:02 am

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."

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Sunday Puzzle
6:05 am
Sun June 7, 2015

Take Two (Letters) And Solve Me In The Morning

NPR

Originally published on Sun June 7, 2015 10:35 am

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

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Games & Humor
6:03 am
Sun May 31, 2015

First, Do This Puzzle

NPR

Originally published on Sat June 6, 2015 7:54 am

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

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Sunday Puzzle
5:31 am
Sun May 24, 2015

Single-Named Singers From The Present And Past

NPR

Originally published on Sun May 24, 2015 9:15 am

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."

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Sunday Puzzle
6:32 am
Sun May 17, 2015

A Puzzle That Takes You Around The Globe

NPR

Originally published on Sun May 17, 2015 8:44 am

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."

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Sunday Puzzle
6:02 am
Sun May 10, 2015

For This Puzzle, J-st Ign-r- Th- V-w-ls

NPR

Originally published on Sun May 10, 2015 3:37 pm

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?

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun May 3, 2015

A Puzzle With Everything, Including The Kitchen Sink

NPR

Originally published on Mon May 4, 2015 12:09 pm

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."

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Sunday Puzzle
5:44 am
Sun April 26, 2015

A Puzzle As Easy As Falling Off A Log

NPR

Originally published on Sun April 26, 2015 8:47 am

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.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun April 19, 2015

W Seeking W For Compound Word Dates

NPR

Originally published on Sun April 19, 2015 9:00 am

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?

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Sunday Puzzle
6:08 am
Sun April 5, 2015

What's In A Word? Another Word

NPR

Originally published on Sun April 5, 2015 9:19 am

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?

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Sunday Puzzle
6:43 am
Sun March 29, 2015

For This Puzzle, Watch Your Words

NPR

Originally published on Sun March 29, 2015 8:33 am

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

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun March 22, 2015

What's Last Comes First

NPR

Originally published on Sun March 22, 2015 7:19 am

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."

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun March 15, 2015

Say Yes To The Puzzle

NPR

Originally published on Sat March 21, 2015 10:55 am

On-air challenge: "Yes" is supposed to be the most pleasing word in the English language. And if that's true, today's puzzle will be very pleasing indeed. Every answer is an anagram of "yes" plus two or three other letters.

Last week's challenge: Take a familiar phrase in the form "[blank] and [blank]." Put the second word in front of the first, and you'll name a common part of a large company. What is it?

Answer: "Room and board," boardroom

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Sunday Puzzle
6:10 am
Sun March 8, 2015

City And Stating The Obvious

NPR

Originally published on Sun March 8, 2015 11:08 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a well-known U.S. city and its state. One or more letters from the start of the city's name plus one or more letters from the start of the state's name are run together to spell a word. I'll give you the word. You tell me the city and state. For example, given "latex," the answer would be "Laredo, Texas."

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Sunday Puzzle
6:44 am
Sun March 1, 2015

4 Out Of 5 Puzzlers Say These Things Are The Same

NPR

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 1:07 pm

On-air challenge: Rearrange the letters in a four-letter word and a five-letter word to get a pair of synonyms. For example, given "time" and "night," you would say "item" and "thing."

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Sunday Puzzle
7:34 am
Sun February 22, 2015

And The Oscar Goes To ...

NPR

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 7:04 am

On-air challenge: Every answer today is the name of an Academy Award winner or nominee for best picture. Using the given anagram, decipher the title of the film. The films will go from oldest to newest. Example: OUTWORN (1940) (2 words). Answer: OUR TOWN

Last week's challenge: Name a major U.S. city in two syllables. Reverse the syllables phonetically to get the cost of attending a certain NBA game. What is it?

Answer: Phoenix, Knicks fee

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Sunday Puzzle
5:46 am
Sun February 15, 2015

'La La La' I Can't Hear You

NPR

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 7:42 am

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "La La La." Every answer is a word or name of three or more syllables in which an interior syllable is an accented "la." Example: Family name of the former shah of Iran: Pahlavi

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun February 8, 2015

Two Is Company, Three Is A Crowd

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun February 8, 2015 9:41 am

On-air challenge: For each familiar two-word phrase, use the first three letters of the first word and the first three letters of the second word to start two other words that have opposite meanings of each other. Example: Health food = HEAD, FOOT

Last week's challenge: Think of a well-known place name in the U.S. in four letters. Switch the second and third letters to get a well-known place name in Europe. What is it?

Answer: Erie, Eire

Winner: Paul Weinstock of Gahanna, Ohio.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:40 am
Sun February 1, 2015

The Ol' Puzzle Switcheroo

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun February 1, 2015 9:39 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up two-word phrase, where the second and third letters of the first word are switched to get the second word. Example: Serene bivalve would be calm clam

Last week's challenge: This challenge came from listener Ben Bass of Chicago. Name someone who welcomes you in. Insert the letter U somewhere inside this, and you'll name something that warns you to stay away. Who is this person, and what is this thing?

Answer: Bell boy, bell buoy.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:00 am
Sun January 25, 2015

A Puzzle Full Of Air

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun January 25, 2015 7:59 am

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a word starting with the letters A-R, which you will identify from its anagram. For example, given AR plus ROB, the answer would be "arbor."

Last week's challenge: Name two animals, both mammals, one of them domestic, the other wild. Put their letters together, and rearrange the result to name another mammal, this one wild, and not seen naturally around North America. What mammal is it?

Answer: dog + gnu = dugong

Winner: Michael Kurh, Geneva, Ill.

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Sunday Puzzle
5:41 am
Sun January 18, 2015

Sunday Puzzle: S.V. You

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun January 18, 2015 10:57 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the initials S.V. For example, given "noted Idaho ski resort," you would say "Sun Valley."

Last week's challenge: From listener Steve Baggish of Arlington, Mass. Think of a U.S. city whose name has nine letters. Remove three letters from the start of the name and three letters from the end. Only two will remain. How is this possible, and what city is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun January 11, 2015

Finding The Pieces To Form A New Nation

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun January 11, 2015 9:26 am

On-air challenge: It's another geographical puzzle this week. For each familiar two-word phrase and name, take one or more letters from the start of the first word plus one or more letters from the start of the second word. Read them in order from left to right to name a country.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:19 am
Sun January 4, 2015

A Winter Puzzle To Brrring In The New Year

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 10:20 am

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this page we posted the wrong on-air challenge. The correct on-air challenge for the week is posted below.

On-air challenge: Given a clue, each response is a two-word answer with the first word starting with B-R and the second word starting with R.

Last week's challenge: Take the following 5-word sentence: "THOSE BARBARIANS AMBUSH HEAVIER FIANCEES." These 5 words have something very unusual in common. What is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun December 7, 2014

Just Say No, N-O

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun December 7, 2014 11:07 am

On-air challenge: Think of the old saying: "That means no, N-O!" Every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the initial letters N and O. Example: Any place that reports on current events: NEWS OUTLET.

Last week's challenge: Bertrand Tavernier is a French director of such movies as Life and Nothing But and It All Starts Today. What amazing wordplay property does the name Bertrand Tavernier have? This sounds like an open-ended question, but when you have the right answer, you'll have no doubt about it.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:39 am
Sun November 23, 2014

Making A Change To Keep A Constant Consonant

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun November 23, 2014 9:56 am

NOTE: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the deadline for this week's puzzle will be on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern.

On-air challenge: You'll be given two words. Change the first consonant sound in each word to the same new consonant sound and you'll phonetically name two things in the same category. For example, given "soxer," and "legal," you would say "boxer," and "beagle," which are both breeds of dogs.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun August 31, 2014

The Same Until You Shuffle

NPR

Originally published on Sun August 31, 2014 11:31 am

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is a made-up two-word phrase, in which both words start with 'S' and they're anagrams of each other.

Example: Identical line where two pieces of fabric are sewn together = SAME SEAM

Last week's challenge: Name a world leader of the 1960s (two words). Change the last letter of the second word. Then switch the order of the words, putting the second word in front. The result will name a hit song of the 1990s. Who is the leader, and what is the song?

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Sunday Puzzle
6:15 pm
Sun August 17, 2014

Is There An Echo In Here?

NPR

Originally published on Sun August 17, 2014 10:12 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made up of a two-word phrase, in which the second word has three syllables, and the first word sounds like the last two of these syllables. For example, given the clue, "What the Italians smell in their capital city," you would say, "Roma aroma."

Last week's challenge: Name a well-known movie of the past — two words, seven letters in total. These seven letters can be rearranged to spell the name of an animal plus the sound it makes. What animal is it?

Answer: Lamb (La Bamba)

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