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
3:08 am
Sun April 21, 2013

You'll Get It Just Right, Junior

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Originally published on Sun April 21, 2013 2:56 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the initials "J.R."

Last week's challenge from listener Sandy Weisz: Take a common English word. Write it in capital letters. Move the first letter to the end and rotate it 90 degrees. You'll get a new word that is pronounced exactly the same as the first word. What words are these?

Answer: Won, one; wry, rye

Winner: Ben Austin of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

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Sunday Puzzle
2:53 am
Sun April 14, 2013

O Say Can You C The Answer?

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Originally published on Sun April 14, 2013 9:04 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a two-word phrase in which the first word starts with O. Drop the O, and you'll get a new word that ends the phrase.

Last week's challenge: Name something in nine letters that is commonly read on Sunday morning. If you have the right thing, you can rearrange all the letters to name a bygone car model that you still see on the road today. What are they?

Answer: Scripture; PT Cruiser

Winner: Pam Smith of Beaverton, Ore.

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Sunday Puzzle
4:06 am
Sun April 7, 2013

A Brand-New Word

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Originally published on Sun April 7, 2013 9:08 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a well-known commercial name that spells a regular word or name backward. Identify the brands. For example, given "laundry detergent" and "work in a magazine office," the answer would be "tide" and "edit."

Last week's challenge: Name something in four letters that you use every day. Add the letters O, H and M, and rearrange all seven letters. You will name something else you probably use every day. This seven-letter thing is usually found near the four-letter thing. What are they?

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Sunday Puzzle
3:39 am
Sun March 31, 2013

Hiding In Plain Sight

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Originally published on Sun March 31, 2013 8:25 am

On-air challenge: You will be given some words. For each one, you provide a four-letter word that can follow the first to complete a familiar two-word phrase. The four letters of the second word can always be found inside the first word. For example, given "personal," the answer would be "loan."

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Sunday Puzzle
3:33 am
Sun March 24, 2013

Finding The Answers Within

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Originally published on Sun March 24, 2013 6:05 am

On-air challenge: You'll be given clues for some five-letter words. In each case, the letters of the answer can be found consecutively somewhere inside the clue. For example, given "Some teenagers' language," the answer would be "slang"(hidden inside "teenagerS' LANGuage").

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Sunday Puzzle
1:29 am
Sun March 17, 2013

Take Your Pics

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Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 9:32 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with the letters P-I and the second word starts with C. For example, given "One of 27 compositions by Mozart" you would say "(Pi)ano (C)oncerto."

Last week's challenge: Think of two familiar three-word sayings in which all three words are the same length. The middle word in both sayings is the same. In each saying, the first and last words rhyme with each other. What two sayings are these?

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Sunday Puzzle
10:33 pm
Sat March 9, 2013

From A To Z

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Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 9:20 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a word containing an A and a Z. Given anagrams of the remaining letters, name the word. For example, given "leg," the answer would be "glaze".

Last week's challenge: Eight people are seated at a circular table. Each person gets up and sits down again — either in the same chair or in the chair immediately to the left or right of the one they were in. How many different ways can the eight people be re-seated?

Answer: 49

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Sunday Puzzle
3:49 am
Sun March 3, 2013

Perfectly Puzzling

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Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 5:43 am

On-air challenge: You will be given two words starting with the letter P. Name a third word starting with P that can follow the first one and precede the second one, in each case to complete a familiar two-word phrase. For example, given "peer" and "point," you would say "pressure," as in "peer pressure" and "pressure point."

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Sunday Puzzle
2:29 am
Sun February 24, 2013

Rolling R's Into Wise Words

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Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 5:03 am

On-air challenge: You will be given some words starting with the letter R. You name a proverb or saying that contains each one.

Last week's challenge from listener Gary Alvstad of Tustin, Calif.: Name a well-known movie in two words with a total of 13 letters. Each of the two words contains the letter C. Drop both C's. The letters that remain in the second word of the title will be in alphabetical order, and the letters that remain in the first word will be in reverse alphabetical order. What movie is it?

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Games & Humor
2:36 am
Sun February 17, 2013

Dear Mr. President, What's Your Name?

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Originally published on Sun February 17, 2013 10:14 pm

On-air challenge: In honor of Presidents Day, every answer is the last name of a U.S. president. You will be given a word or phrase that is a president's last name with two letters changed. You name the president. For example, given "Carpet," the answer would be "Carter."

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Sunday Puzzle
10:08 pm
Sat February 9, 2013

The Answer Lies Within

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Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 4:36 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a three-letter word that ends a familiar two-word phrase. You will be given the first word of the phrase. You provide the three-letter word that ends it. And the three letters in your answer will always be found, in some order, inside the first word. For example, given "Arctic," you would say "Air."

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Sunday Puzzle
2:27 am
Sun February 3, 2013

Tackle 'Yards' To Make A Touchdown

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Originally published on Sun February 3, 2013 5:24 am

On-air challenge: In recognition of the Super Bowl, the key word is "yards." You will be given some categories. For each one, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters Y, A, R, D and S. For example, if the category were "Girls' Names," you might say Yvonne, Alice, Rachel, Donna and Sally.

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Sunday Puzzle
3:31 am
Sun January 27, 2013

Two Blanks For The Price Of One

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Originally published on Sun January 27, 2013 8:00 am

On-air challenge: You will be given some sentences with two blanks. Add the letters E and Y to the word that goes in the first blank to get a new word that goes in the second blank to compete the sentence.

Last week's challenge: Take the last name of a famous world leader of the past. Rearrange the letters to name a type of world leader, like czar or prime minister. What world leader is it?

Answer: (Golda) Meir; emir

Winner: Daniel Fisher of Westport, Conn.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat January 12, 2013

Two Is Company, Three Is A Crowd

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Originally published on Sun January 13, 2013 12:22 pm

On-air challenge: Given three three-letter words, give a three-letter word that can follow each to complete a familiar six-letter word. None of the words in a set will be related in meaning. For example, given "dam," "man" and "sew," the answer would be "age," which results in "damage," "manage" and "sewage."

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Sunday Puzzle
4:15 am
Sun January 6, 2013

Scrambling To Ring In The New Year

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Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 3:19 pm

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle celebrates ringing in the new year. Take the letters Y-E-A-R. Add one letter and scramble to make a new word that answers the clue. For example, by adding the letter B to Y-E-A-R, with the clue "maker of aspirin," the answer would be "Bayer."

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Sunday Puzzle
3:04 am
Sun December 30, 2012

If You Didn't Know, Now You Know

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Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 11:32 am

On-air challenge: This week is the annual "new names in the news" quiz. You're given some names that you probably never heard of before 2012, but who made news during the past 12 months. You say who they are. These names were compiled with the help of Kathie Baker and Tim Goodman, who were players on previous year-end quizzes.

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Sunday Puzzle
2:55 am
Sun December 23, 2012

Unwrap 'Christmas' For Your Gift

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Originally published on Sun December 23, 2012 10:41 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a word that can be formed from the letters of "Christmas." You'll be given two words as clues. The first one can precede the answer word, and the second one can follow it — in each case to complete a compound word or familiar two-word phrase. For example, given "forward" and "madness," the answer would be "march" (as in "forward march" and "March Madness").

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Sunday Puzzle
4:43 am
Sun December 16, 2012

Sticking With The Sunshine State

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Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 10:25 am

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

Last week's challenge: Name a major U.S. city in two words. Take the first letter of the first word and the first two letters of the second word, and they will spell the standard three-letter abbreviation for the state the city is in. What city is it?

Answer: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Winner: Mark Sobolik of Newburg, Ore.

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Games & Humor
2:56 am
Sun December 9, 2012

Quick! Sneak In That 'QU'

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Originally published on Sun December 9, 2012 12:36 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a six-letter word containing "QU" somewhere inside it. You'll be given anagrams of the remaining four letters. You name the words (No answer is a plural or a word formed by adding "s.").

Last week's challenge from listener Adam Cohen of Brooklyn, N.Y.: Name two articles of apparel — things you wear — which, when the words are used as verbs, are synonyms of each other. What are they?

Answer: Belt, sock

Winner: Jeanne Kelsey of Lamberton, Minn.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:53 am
Sun December 2, 2012

Untangle An 'Act Of God'

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Originally published on Sun December 2, 2012 7:42 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar three-word phrase in the form "____ of ____." The letters in the first and last words of each phrase are rearranged. You give the phrases. For example, "Cat of Dog" becomes "Act of God."

Last week's challenge from listener Henry Hook of Brooklyn, N.Y.: In a few weeks something will happen that hasn't happened since 1987. What is it?

Answer: A year with no repeat digits (1987, 2013)

Winner: Darren Dunham of Santa Clara, Calif.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat November 17, 2012

Being Initially Famous

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Originally published on Sun November 18, 2012 5:04 am

Special Note: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the deadline for this week's puzzle is Wednesday by 3 p.m. Eastern.

On-air challenge: Each clue is a two- or three-word description of a famous person in which the initial letters of the description are also the initials of the person. For example, given the clue "Motown great," the answer would be Marvin Gaye.

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Sunday Puzzle
1:33 am
Sun November 11, 2012

Saluting The Flag

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Originally published on Sun November 11, 2012 10:36 am

On-air challenge: Sunday is Veterans Day, so we have a game of categories based on flags. Given some categories, for each one name something in the category beginning with each of the letters F, L, A, G and S.

For example, if the category were chemical elements, you might say fluorine, lead, argon, gold and sulfur.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat November 3, 2012

What's In A Name?

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Originally published on Sat November 10, 2012 4:12 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer today 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 nonanagram parts of the names, you identify the people.

Example: Madeleine ________ Aaron.

Answer: Madeleine KAHN and HANK Aaron

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Sunday Puzzle
3:50 am
Sun October 28, 2012

Answer Me These Words Three

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Originally published on Sun October 28, 2012 2:17 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a three-word phrase, in which each word has four letters. All three words end in the same three letters, and they rhyme. For example, given the clue, "Series of offerings of excellent chardonnays and Rieslings," the answer would be "fine wine line."

Last week's challenge from Pierre Berloquin: What letter comes next in this series: W, L, C, N, I, T?

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Sunday Puzzle
11:59 pm
Sat October 20, 2012

'Poked' And 'Tummy' Become 'Poker' And 'Rummy'

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Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 6:03 am

On-air challenge: You will be given two words. Change one letter in each of them to make two new words that name things that are in the same category. (Hint: In each pair, the letter that you change to — that is, the new letter — is the same in each pair.) For example, given the words "poked" and "tummy," the answer would be "poker" and "rummy."

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Sunday Puzzle
2:32 am
Sun October 14, 2012

Where, 'O' Where Shall I Put You?

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Originally published on Sun October 14, 2012 12:14 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a two-word phrase in which the letter "O" is added at the end of the first word to make the second word. For example, given the clue "pack animal owned by Thomas Jefferson's first vice president," the answer would be "Burr burro."

Last week's challenge: Draw a regular hexagon and connect every pair of vertices except one. The pair you don't connect are not on opposite sides of the hexagon but along a shorter diagonal. How many triangles of any size are in this figure?

Answer: 82 triangles

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Sunday Puzzle
8:45 pm
Sat October 6, 2012

Frog Stuck In Your C-R-O-A-T?

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Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 11:24 am

On-air challenge: You'll be given a category, and you name something in the category starting with each of the letters in the word "Croat." For example, if the category were "boy's names," you might say Chris, Roger, Otto, Adam and Terry.

Last week's challenge: Think of a word in which the second letter is R. Change the R to an M, and rearrange the result. You'll get the opposite of the original word. What is it? (Hint: The two words start with the same letter.)

Answer: "Prose" and "poems"

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Sunday Puzzle
6:04 am
Sun September 30, 2012

Seeing Double

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Originally published on Sat October 13, 2012 4:13 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a six-letter word or name that has a repeated two-letter pair, like "eraser," which has E-R twice, or "regret," which has R-E twice. The repeated pair of letters can appear anywhere in the word. You'll be given the pair of letters and a clue, and you provide the words.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat September 22, 2012

Finding Consecutively Good TV Shows

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Originally published on Sat October 6, 2012 8:46 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a TV show, past or present. Each can be found in consecutive letters in the sentences read. Name the TV shows. For example, in the sentence, "We watched the acrobat many times," the hidden TV show is BATMAN. Hint: Each answer has at least six letters.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat September 15, 2012

Missing In Action

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Originally published on Sun September 16, 2012 6:36 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar phrase in the form of "___ and ___." You'll be given the two missing words, each with a letter removed, and you give the phrases. For example, given "lot and fund," the answer would be "lost and found."

Last week's challenge from listener Erica Avery of Wisconsin: Name a world capital whose letters can be rearranged to spell a popular and much-advertised drug. What's the capital, and what's the drug?

Answer: Tripoli, Lipitor

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