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 December 8, 2013

Noteworthy Names, In Rhyme

NPR

Originally published on Sun December 8, 2013 1:56 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a famous person whose first and last names start with the same consonant or group of consonants. You're given rhymes for the two names. You name the people. For example, if given "cycle four," the answer would be "Michael Moore."

Last week's challenge: Name a dance. Change one of the letters to a U. The resulting letters can be rearranged to name an event at which this dance is done. What is it?

Answer: hula, luau

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Sunday Puzzle
6:28 am
Sun November 24, 2013

We Plant The Seed, You Pick The Tree

NPR

Originally published on Sun November 24, 2013 11:57 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a tree. Identify the tree name from its anagram. For example, given "has," the answer would be "ash."

Last week's challenge from listener Steve Baggish of Arlington, Mass.: Think of a word meaning "quarrel" in which several of the letters appear more than once. Remove exactly two occurrences of every repeated letter, and the remaining letters can be rearranged to spell a new word meaning "quarrel." What are the two words?

Answer: Misunderstanding, argument

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Sunday Puzzle
6:46 am
Sun November 17, 2013

More Fun Than A Dead Rose

NPR

Originally published on Sun November 17, 2013 9:24 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up, two-word phrase in which the vowel in the first word is a short "e" and the vowel in the second word is a long "o." For example: A place to meditate would be a "zen zone."

Last week's challenge: There is a politician today, sometimes known by his or her full three-word name, whose initials are also the initials of a popular chain of restaurants. Who is the politician and what's the restaurant?

Answer: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hard Rock Cafe

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun November 10, 2013

Capitalize On 'This Minus That'

NPR

Originally published on Sun November 10, 2013 10:54 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a state capital, to be identified from its anagram. For example, given "banally" minus the letter L, the answer would be "Albany."

Last week's challenge from the Emmy-winning TV comedy writer Mike Reiss: A famous actress and a famous director share the same last name, although they are unrelated. The first name of one of these is a classic musical. The first name of the other is an anagram of a classic musical. Who are they?

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Sunday Puzzle
6:05 am
Sun November 3, 2013

Regardless Of The Answer, Stay Staid

NPR

Originally published on Sun November 3, 2013 10:18 am

On-air challenge: Each answer is a two-word phrase consisting of two homophones starting with the letter S. For example, given the clue "remained dignified," the answer would be, "stayed staid."

Last week's challenge: Name a brand of beer. Rearrange the letters to name an activity often associated with beer.

Answer: Tsingtao, toasting

Winner: Jacob Taber of New York, N.Y.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:03 am
Sun October 20, 2013

No Time To Be Bashful

NPR

Originally published on Sun October 20, 2013 10:16 am

This week we have a celebrity edition of the Puzzle. Comedian Paula Poundstone is taking on our challenge. Poundstone is also a regular panelist on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:21 am
Sun October 13, 2013

Can You Pass This -TE ST-?

NPR

Originally published on Sun October 13, 2013 6:47 am

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is an insider's test. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the consecutive letters T-E-S-T. Specifically, the first word will end with -TE and the second word will start ST-. For example, given "sheer force," you would say "brute strength."

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Sunday Puzzle
8:27 am
Sun October 6, 2013

Find The Rhyme And The Reason

NPR

Originally published on Sun October 6, 2013 1:05 pm

On-air challenge: For each given category, name things in the category starting with the letters R, H, Y, M, E. For example, if the category were "chemical elements with names ending in -ium," you might say: radium, helium, yttrium, magnesium and einsteinium. You can give the answers in any order, and any answer that works is fine.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:02 am
Sun September 29, 2013

What's That (Vowel) Sound?

NPR

Originally published on Sun September 29, 2013 2:13 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up, two-word phrase in which each word has two or more syllables. The first vowel sound in the first word is a short "e." Change that short "e" to a short "a" sound, and phonetically you'll get the second word of the phrase. For example, given "energetic backwoods father," you would say "peppy pappy."

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Sunday Puzzle
5:37 am
Sun September 22, 2013

Play The Blame Game

NPR

Originally published on Sun September 22, 2013 9:20 am

On-air challenge: You will be given two words. Think of a third word that can follow each to complete a familiar two-word phrase. The third word will rhyme with one of the given words. For example, given "blame" and "board," you would say "game," as in "blame game" and "board game."

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Sunday Puzzle
3:40 am
Sun September 8, 2013

Close, But No Cigar

NPR

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 12:09 pm

On-air challenge: Each of the following answers is a made-up, two-word phrase in which the two words are homophones, and both words start with the letter C.

Last week's challenge from listener Henry Hook of Brooklyn: Think of a well-known celebrity who goes by a single name — the last two letters of which are alphabetically separated by only one letter (like A and C, or B and D). Replace this pair of letters with the one that separates them, and you'll have a common, everyday word. What is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
3:56 am
Sun September 1, 2013

Shh! Listen Carefully

NPR

Originally published on Sun September 1, 2013 12:42 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase with the consecutive letters of S-H-H. Specifically, the first word in the answer will end in SH, and the second will start with H.

Last week's challenge: Think of a business that's found in most towns. Its name consists of two words, each starting with a consonant. Interchange the consonants and you'll get two new words — neither of which rhymes with the original words. What business is it?

Answer: Car wash

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Sunday Puzzle
3:18 am
Sun August 25, 2013

It's All Greek To Me

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun August 25, 2013 9:22 am

On-air challenge: You're given some sentences. Each sentence conceals the name of a language in consecutive letters. Name the language. Each answer has five or more letters.

Last week's challenge: The Roman numeral for 38 is XXXVIII. What is special or unusual about this Roman numeral that sets it apart from every other Roman numeral that can be written?

Answer: If every possible Roman numeral were listed in alphabetical order, XXXVIII would be last.

Winner: Joseph Kuperberg of Pittsford, N.Y.

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Sunday Puzzle
4:41 am
Sun August 18, 2013

A Matter Of Succession

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 2:07 pm

On-air challenge: You're given two words starting with the letter S. For each pair, give a third word — also starting with S — that can follow the first one and precede the second one, in each case to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Last week's challenge: A logic puzzle: "Nieces and nephews have I none, but that man's father is my father's son." What is the gender of the speaker? And who is the speaker referring to?

Answer: Male, the speaker is referring to his own son.

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Sunday Puzzle
3:02 am
Sun August 11, 2013

Easy As ABC

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Wed August 14, 2013 12:09 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is an anagram of a word that has the letters A-B-C in it.

Last week's challenge: Name a foreign make of automobile. Cross out several letters in its name. The remaining letters, reading in order from left to right, will spell a food that comes from the country where the car is made. What is the country, and what is the food?

Answer: Mitsubishi, sushi

Winner: Lindsy Schwantes of Waite Park, Minn.

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Sunday Puzzle
2:44 am
Sun August 4, 2013

First Names First

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 11:39 am

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is called "What's in a Name?" Every answer consists of the names of two famous people. The last name of the first person is an anagram of the first name of the last person. Given the non-anagram parts of the names, you identify the people. For example, given "Madeleine" and "Aaron," you would say "Kahn" and "Hank."

Last week's challenge: In three words, name a product sold mainly to women that has the initials N-P-R. The answer is a common phrase.

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Sunday Puzzle
1:06 am
Sun July 28, 2013

Psst ... It's Class Time

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun July 28, 2013 10:31 am

On-air challenge: This puzzle is supersonic. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name that has the consecutive letters S-S-T. Specifically, the first word will end in S-S, and the second word will start with T. For example, given, "A situation in which people speak on top of each other," you would say, "cross talk."

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Sunday Puzzle
4:05 am
Sun July 21, 2013

The Price Of Fame: A Scrambled Name

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun July 21, 2013 10:41 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a famous person, past or present, with five letters in the first and last names. One letter in each name is changed to make a new word. You name the people.

Last week's challenge: In the phrase "clothes closet," all the letters of the second word can be found inside the first. Think of another two-word phrase that means a place to keep clothes in which all the letter of the second word are found inside the first. The first word has nine letters, the second has six.

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Sunday Puzzle
6:04 am
Sun July 14, 2013

A Geography Quiz With A Spelling Twist

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun July 14, 2013 11:59 am

On-air challenge: You're given a series of clues, and every answer is the name of a U.S. state capital.

Last week's challenge: Rearrange the letters of INDIA and BELARUS to name two other countries. What are they?

Answer: Sudan, Liberia

Winner: Eddy Chandler of Piedmont, Calif.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:33 am
Sun July 7, 2013

Easy As One, Two, Three Initials

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun July 7, 2013 12:21 pm

On-air challenge: You're given the three-word names of famous people. For each one, you get a clue to a familiar three-word phrase or title that has the same initials as the person. Name the phrase or title. For example, singer Billy Ray Cyrus has the initials B-R-C. And B-R-C are also the initials of the phrase "Blue ribbon commission."

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Sunday Puzzle
2:25 am
Sun June 30, 2013

Turn That Shrub Into Something Presidential

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Mon July 1, 2013 11:36 am

On-air challenge: For the Sunday before the Fourth of July weekend, every answer is the last name of a U.S. president, which comes from their anagrams. For example, "shrub" without R is "Bush."

Last week's challenge: Write down these five words: "aide," "heart," "tough," "gelatin" and "emanate." There is something very unusual they have in common. What is it? And what's another word with this property?

Answer: mite, item

Winner: Gig Moineau of Newton, Mass.

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Sunday Puzzle
5:37 am
Sun June 23, 2013

Keep Calm As A Clam

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun June 23, 2013 10:27 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a two-word phrase in which both words start with C and are anagrams of each other. For example, "tranquil sea creature" would be "calm clam."

Last week's challenge from listener Eric Timar of Falls Church, Va.: Write down these five words: "mate," "peck," "miss," "pot" and "blunder." There is something very unusual they have in common. What is it? And, can you name one other word with the same property?

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Sunday Puzzle
1:02 am
Sun June 16, 2013

You'd Better Sit Tight For This One

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun June 23, 2013 12:08 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts SI and the second word starts with T. For example, given "unadorned set of facts," you would say, "simple truth."

Last week's challenge: Name a movie in two words — five letters in each word. Both words start with vowels. Take one letter in the first word, move it two spaces later in the alphabet, and rearrange the result. You'll get the second word in the movie's title. What movie is it?

Answer: After Earth

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Sunday Puzzle
2:56 am
Sun June 9, 2013

Follow Homer To Find Your Way

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 3:32 pm

On-air challenge: Categories are given based on the name "Homer," the name of a town in Alaska. Name something in the category beginning with each of the letters H-O-M-E-R. For example, if the category were "Chemical Elements," you might say Helium, Oxygen, Magnesium, Einsteinium, and Radon. You can give the answers in any order.

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Sunday Puzzle
3:06 am
Sun June 2, 2013

Keep Your I On The Prize

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun June 2, 2013 4:52 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up two-word phrase in which the letter I is inserted somewhere inside the first word to get the second word.

Last week's challenge: Think of a word starting with G. Change the G to a T and rearrange the letters after the T. The result will be a new word with the same meaning as the original word.

Answer: Giant; titan

Winner: Bonnie Kind of Germantown, Md.

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Sunday Puzzle
4:30 am
Sun May 26, 2013

Investigating The Crime Scene

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun May 26, 2013 1:21 pm

On-air challenge: Today's theme is "C.S.I." — as in the name of the long-running TV show. You're given three words starting with the letters C, S and I. For each set, give a fourth word that can follow each of the original words to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

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Sunday Puzzle
2:28 am
Sun May 19, 2013

Put On Your Thinking Hat

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun May 19, 2013 12:11 pm

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

Last week's challenge: From listener Al Gori of Cozy Lake, N.J. Name a famous American man — first and last names. Change the first letter of his first name from T to H. The result will sound like a term for an attractive person. Who is it?

Answer: Ted Turner; head turner

Winner: Vernon Cole, Brownsboro, Ala.

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Sunday Puzzle
3:34 am
Sun May 12, 2013

This One Is For You, Ma

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun May 12, 2013 4:55 am

On-air challenge: You are given two words starting with M-A. The answer is a third word that can follow the first one and precede the second one, in each case to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous performer whose last name has six letters. Move the first three letters to the end — without otherwise changing the order of the letters — and add one more letter at the end. The result, in seven letters, will name a place where this person famously performed. Who is it, and what's the place?

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Sunday Puzzle
3:24 am
Sun May 5, 2013

Two Last Names For The Price Of One

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun May 5, 2013 4:39 am

On-air challenge: Every answer today consists of two people, either real or fictional, whose last names are anagrams of each other.

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Sunday Puzzle
3:01 am
Sun April 28, 2013

As You Know, Puzzles Are A Pastime

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun April 28, 2013 4:40 pm

On-air challenge: For each given category, name something in the category where the first letter is also the first letter of the category. For example, given "Military Ranks," you would say "Major."

Last week's challenge: Name a geographical location in two words — nine letters altogether — that, when spoken aloud, sounds roughly like four letters of the alphabet. What is it?

Answer: Aegean Sea; Indian Cay

Winner: Terry Thacker, Greenville, S.C.

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