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.

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.

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."

Shuffle The Anagram, K?

Aug 19, 2012

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)

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?

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.

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."

Following The Trail

Jul 14, 2012

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.

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.

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.)

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?

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."

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."

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?

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?

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

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"

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?

On-Air Challenge: Every answer today is a familiar three-word phrase in which the second word is "and" and the first word starts with the letter L. You'll be given the last word of the phrase, and you must identify the first word, starting with "L." For example, given "master," the answer would be "lord," as in "lord and master."

On-Air Challenge: You'll be given classic advertising slogans and catch phrases in which the letters of the last word are scrambled. First, unscramble the word. Then name the product or company that is the advertiser. For example, given "Get a piece of the cork," the answer would be "Get a piece of the rock," which is a slogan of the Prudential Insurance Company.

On-Air Challenge: You'll be given a two- or three-word description of a famous person. The initial letters of the description are also the initials of the person.

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a popular music group, past or present. You'll be given clues in which two letters in the group's name have been changed. For example, given "The Bench Boss," the answer would be "The Beach Boys," after changing the N in "Bench" to an A and the first S of "Boss" to a Y.

On-Air Challenge: Today's challenges are from an old English book called Lateral Thinking Puzzles by Hannah Robson and Nick Hoare. They all have a drinking theme, and they'll test your wits.