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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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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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat September 8, 2012

Drawing A Blank (Or Two)

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Originally published on Sat September 15, 2012 11:50 am

On-air challenge: You are given sentences with two blanks. Put a word starting with R in the first blank. Then move that R to the end to make a new word that goes in the second blank to complete the sentence. For example, given the sentence, "The door of the Indian ___ was left slightly ___," the answers would be "raja" and "ajar."

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Sunday Puzzle
4:24 am
Sun September 2, 2012

An 'Amusing' Set Of 19th Century Riddles

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Originally published on Sun September 2, 2012 8:01 am

On-air challenge: Answer riddles from The Amusing Puzzle Book, published circa the 1840s:

  • I know a word of letters three, add two, and fewer there will be.
  • Without a bridle or a saddle, across a thing I ride astraddle. And those I ride, by help of me, though almost blind, are made to see.
  • What is that which has been tomorrow and will be yesterday?
  • Clothed in yellow, red and green, I prate before the king and queen. Of neither house nor land possessed, by lords and ladies, I'm caressed.
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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat August 25, 2012

What Hat Holds The Answer?

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Originally published on Sun August 26, 2012 10:32 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a two-word phrase in which one of the words starts with W and the other word is the same with the W removed. For example, if you were given the clue "desires scurrying insects," the answer would be "wants ants."

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Sunday Puzzle
1:15 am
Sun August 19, 2012

Shuffle The Anagram, K?

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Originally published on Sun August 19, 2012 12:41 pm

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is called "Anagram K-pers." Every answer is a familiar word starting with the letter "K." You identify the words from their anagrams. For example, K + vane will make "knave."

Last week's challenge: Name two insects. Read the names one after the other. Insert an "H" somewhere in this string of letters, and you'll complete a familiar word that is the opposite of what either of these insects is. What word is it?

Answer: Behemoth (bee, moth)

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Sunday Puzzle
10:54 pm
Sat August 11, 2012

In The End, There Will Be Chemistry

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Originally published on Sun August 12, 2012 7:40 am

On-air challenge: You are given the ends of the names of three things that are all in the same category. You name the category. For example, "fur," "dine" and "sten" are all ends of chemical elements (sulfur, iodine, tungsten).

Last week's challenge, from listener Annie Haggenmiller of Chimacum, Wash.: Take the name of a well-known U.S. city in four syllables. The first and last syllables together name a musical instrument, and the two interior syllables name a religious official. What is the city?

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat July 28, 2012

Name That (Former) Olympic Sport

Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 12:21 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a former Olympic sport. Given an anagram, you name the sport. For example, "flog" becomes "golf."

Last week's challenge: Name a sport in two words — nine letters in the first word, six letters in the last — in which all six vowels (A, E, I, O, U and Y) are used once each. What is it?

Answer: Greyhound racing

Winner: Jim Citron of Hanover, N.H.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat July 21, 2012

This Puzzle Is One For The PROs

Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 12:21 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with "P" and the second word starts with "RO." For example: For the clue, "A moving part of an automobile engine," the answer would be a "piston rod."

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat July 14, 2012

Following The Trail

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Originally published on Sun July 15, 2012 9:11 am

On-Air Challenge: For each category, name something in the category starting with each of the letters in the word "trail." For example, if the category were "books of the Bible," you might say Timothy, Ruth, Amos, Isaiah and Leviticus.

Any answer that works is correct. And you can give the answers in any order.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat July 7, 2012

If You Want In The Mix, You've Got To Split The Six

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Originally published on Sat July 14, 2012 3:51 pm

On-Air Challenge: For each six-letter word given, rearrange the letters to make two three-letter words that rhyme. Example: For the word "tweets," the pair of rhyming three-letter words would be "wet" and "set."

Last Week's Challenge From Listener Fred Orelove Of Richmond, Va.: Think of a well-known retail store chain in two words. Remove one letter from its name. The remaining letters, in order, will spell three consecutive words that are synonyms of each other. What are they? Hint: The three words are all slang.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat June 30, 2012

Mixing It Up On The Baseball Diamond

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On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a Major League Baseball team. You are given anagrams of their names, each with one letter added, and must name the teams. For example, given "dress," the answer would be "Reds."

Last Week's Challenge: Think of a familiar three-word phrase that might be used in poker and add an "E" at the end and you'll get a two-word phrase that's common in football. (The spaces in between the words changes in the two phrases but the letters stay in the same order.)

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat June 23, 2012

Finding The Common Thread

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Originally published on Sun June 24, 2012 5:31 am

On-Air Challenge: You are given three words starting with the letter "F." The answer is a word that can follow each of those three words to complete a familiar two-word phrase. For example, if given "flag, father's and field," the answer would be "day."

Last Week's Challenge From listener Kate MacDonald of Murphys, Calif.: Think of a common French word that everyone knows. Add a "V" to the beginning and an "E" at the end. The result will be the English-language equivalent of the French word. What is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat June 16, 2012

Hit Me Baby One More Time

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Originally published on Sun June 17, 2012 11:23 am

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is a word, phrase or name starting with the letter "B," ending in "Y" and having "A" and "B" inside, in that order, although not necessarily consecutively. For example, if I said "assistant to a baseball team," the answer would be either "batboy" or "ballboy."

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Sunday Puzzle
4:27 am
Sun June 10, 2012

This Changes Everything!

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Originally published on Sun June 10, 2012 1:50 pm

On-Air Challenge: Given a sentence, change one letter in one word to make a new word which completely reverses the meaning of the sentence. For example, given "The singer is not coming on stage." Changing the "T" in not to a "W" in the word "not" makes the sentence, "The singer is now coming on stage."

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat June 2, 2012

That's Jakarta, With A Capital 'J'

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Originally published on Sun June 3, 2012 8:37 am

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a world capital. You'll be given clues to its phonetic parts, and you name the capital. For example, given the clues "person from Bangkok" and "salary," the answer would be Taipei ("Thai" plus "pay").

Last Week's Challenge From Listener Jack Lechner: Name two different kinds of wool. Take the first five letters of one, followed by the last three letters of the other, and the result will spell the first and last name of a famous actor. Who is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 pm
Sat May 26, 2012

Just Give It A Shot In The Dark

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Originally published on Tue May 29, 2012 5:16 pm

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is a phrase in the form "___ in the ___." You'll be given rhymes for the first and last words, and you give the phrases.

Last Week's Challenge From Listener Peter Persoff of Piedmont, Calif.: Think of a common three-letter word and five-letter word that together consist of eight different letters of the alphabet. Put the same pair of letters in front of each of these words, and you will have the present and past-tense forms of the same verb. What words are these?

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat May 19, 2012

Initially Famous 2: Electric Boogaloo

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Originally published on Sat May 26, 2012 7:21 pm

On-Air Challenge: This week's challenge is a twist on "Characteristic Initials." We will gives clues for some famous people, past and present. The initial letters of the clues are also the initials of the answers. For example "Wrote Sonnets" would be "William Shakespeare."

Last Week's Challenge: Name a state capital. Change one of the vowels to another vowel and say the result phonetically. You will name a revered profession. What is it?

Answer: Madison and medicine

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

You Two, Move To The Back Of The Line

Originally published on Sat May 26, 2012 7:21 pm

On-Air Challenge: The word "mother" has a surprising property. If you move the first two letters to the end, you get "thermo," the prefix for "heat." Every answer today is another six-letter word that, when you move the first two letters to the end, you get another word or phrase.

Last Week's Challenge from listener Gary Witkin of Newark, Del.: Using only the six letters of the name "Bronte," repeating them as often as necessary, spell a familiar six-word phrase. What is it?

Answer: "To be or not to be"

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Sunday Puzzle
4:17 am
Sun May 6, 2012

Brave Sir Robin Ran Away, But The Puzzle Is Still OK

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Originally published on Sat May 12, 2012 4:11 pm

On-Air Challenge: You'll be given a series of categories. For each one, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters of the word "robin." For example, given the category "two-syllable boys' names," the answers could be "Roger," "Omar," "Barry," "Isaac" and "Neville."

Last Week's Challenge: Name the capital of a country that, when said out loud, sounds like a three-word phrase. This phrase might describe the reason why the police did not catch a barefoot thief. What is the capital, and what is the reason?

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