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
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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Sunday Puzzle
6:24 am
Sun July 27, 2014

A Flowery Puzzle For Budding Quizmasters

NPR

Originally published on Sun July 27, 2014 9:26 am

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is a game of categories based on the word peony. For each category, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters P-E-O-N-Y.

Last week's challenge: Name something in five letters that's nice to have a lot of in the summer. Change the last letter to the following letter of the alphabet. Rearrange the result, and you'll name something else that you probably have a lot of in the summer, but that you probably don't want. What is it? (HINT: the second thing is a form of the first thing.)

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun July 20, 2014

Take A Ride On The Plural Side

NPR

Originally published on Sun July 20, 2014 10:08 am

On-air challenge: Two clues will be provided. The first is for a brand name that ends in the letter S and sounds like it's plural. Change the first letter to spell a new word that is plural and answers the second clue. Example: tennis shoes, places to sleep; the answer would be Keds and beds.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun July 13, 2014

A Puzzle With Ch-Ch-Changes

NPR

Originally published on Sun July 13, 2014 9:47 am

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes." Every answer is a word starting with the letters "ch," and your clue will be an anagram of the word.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous actress of the past whose last name has five letters. Move the middle letter to the end to name another famous actress of the past. Who are these actresses?

Answer: Greta Garbo/Eva or Zsa Zsa Gabor

Winner: Craig Moreland from Okemos, Mich.

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Games & Humor
6:10 am
Sun July 6, 2014

If You Cut In The Middle, Go To The End Of The Line

NPR

Originally published on Sun July 6, 2014 10:50 am

On-air challenge: Two clues will be given for two five-letter answers. Move the middle letter of the first answer to the end of the word to get the second answer. Example: A weapon that's thrown; a tire in the trunk. Answer: spear/spare

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Sunday Puzzle
6:12 am
Sun June 29, 2014

The Missing Link

NPR

Originally published on Sun June 29, 2014 12:21 pm

On-air challenge: For each set of three words, find a word that can precede each one to complete a familiar two-word phrase or name. The first word in each set will name an animal. Example: turtle, spring, office. The answer would be box — box turtle, box spring, box office.

Last week's challenge: Think of a 10-letter adjective describing certain institutions. Drop three letters from this word, and the remaining seven letters, reading left to right, will name an institution described by this adjective. What institution is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
5:38 am
Sun May 4, 2014

Read Between The Letters

NPR

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 11:32 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a five-letter word. You will be given a clue for the word. Besides describing the answer, the clue will also contain the answer in consecutive letters. For example, given "It's near the planet Mars," you would say, "Earth."

Last week's challenge Mike Reiss, a writer for The Simpsons: Name a famous actor or actress whose last name ends in a doubled letter. Drop that doubled letter. Then insert an R somewhere inside the first name. The result will be a common two-word phrase. What is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun April 27, 2014

First In, Last Out

NPR

Originally published on Sun April 27, 2014 4:45 pm

On-air challenge: For each word provided, give a word that can follow it to complete a familiar two-word phrase. The first two letters of the provided word should be the last two letters of the answer. Example: Red Square

Last week's challenge: Name certain trees. Also name something that trees have. Rearrange all the letters to get the brand name of a product you might buy at a grocery or drug store. What is it?

Answer: Firs + Leaves = Life Savers

Winner: Nils Thingvall of Lafayette, Colo.

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Sunday Puzzle
5:41 am
Sun March 23, 2014

Changing The World One Letter At A Time

NPR

Originally published on Sun March 23, 2014 9:36 am

On-air challenge: For each geographical place provided, change one letter to make a new, common word that has a different number of syllables than the geographical name. Note: The answer word can have either fewer or more syllables than the geographical name.

Example: Lima = limp, limb, lime (for some of the names, multiple answers are possible)

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Sunday Puzzle
5:51 am
Sun March 16, 2014

Two Is Company, But Three Is A Crowd

NPR

Originally published on Sun March 16, 2014 9:32 am

On-air challenge: A series of paired words will be provided. For each pair, think of a third word that can follow the first one and precede the second to complete a familiar two-word phrase. Every answer starts with "W." Example: Open and Awake; Answer: Wide.

Last week's challenge: This puzzle was created by Will Shortz for an event held recently at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. Take the name of a classical Greek mathematician. The letters in his name can be rearranged to spell two numbers. What are they?

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Sunday Puzzle
5:59 am
Sun March 9, 2014

A High Five On The Seven Seas

NPR

Originally published on Sun March 9, 2014 10:00 am

On-air challenge: For each five-letter word provided, insert two letters after the first letter to complete a familiar seven-letter word.

Last week's challenge: The challenge came from listener Harry Hillson of Avon-by-the-Sea, N.J. Take the first name of a nominee for Best Actor or Best Actress at last Sunday's Oscars. You can rearrange these letters into a two-word phrase that describes his or her character in the film for which he or she is nominated. Who is this star, and what is the phrase?

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