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

May 6, 2012
Originally published on 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?

Answer: The capital is Port-au-Prince, and the reason is "poor toe prints."

Winner: Jeanne Grace of Fairport, N.Y.

Next 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?

Submit Your Answer

If you know the answer to next week's challenge, submit it here. Listeners who submit correct answers win a chance to play the on-air puzzle. Important: Include a phone number where we can reach you Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Get those synapses firing, folks, because it is time for the puzzle.


MARTIN: Let's start with last week's challenge from the puzzle editor of the New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master Will Shortz.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Name the capital of a country that, when said out loud, sounds like a three-word phrase. And this phrase might describe the reason why the police did not catch a barefoot thief. What is the capital and what is the reason?

MARTIN: Well, about 420 of you figured out the answer. And our randomly selected winner this week is Jeanne Grace of Fairport, New York. Congratulations, Jeanne.

JEANNE GRACE: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK. So, what was the answer to last week's challenge?

GRACE: The answer was Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which can also be pronounced Porto Prince.

MARTIN: Nicely done. This was a hard puzzle. I mean, how long did this take you to figure out?

GRACE: I was still working on it till Thursday morning. I was running all the three-syllable capitals I could think of and not getting anywhere. And then my husband reminded me it was a barefoot person. And so I started looking for anything with a toe, and that got me to where I needed to be.

MARTIN: So, a little shout-out to your husband for his helpful hints.

GRACE: Yes, indeed.

MARTIN: And what do you do in Fairport?

GRACE: I am a retired as a professor in a school of nursing.

MARTIN: And now have a little more time for puzzles, I imagine.

GRACE: I always managed even when I was working full-time.

MARTIN: Good for you. OK. Before we continue, let's welcome the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master Will Shortz. Good morning, Will.

SHORTZ: Good morning, Rachel. And congratulations, Jeanne. That was a tough one.

GRACE: Thank you. And good morning, Will.

SHORTZ: And a lot of people were working on Mogadishu, because that ends in the syllable shoe. But you were right. You concentrated on the toe.

MARTIN: So, OK. What do you have in store for us today, Will? More world capital puns?

SHORTZ: Something different we haven't done in a while. It's a game of categories. It's based on the word robin, as in the spring bird. I'm going to give you a series of categories. For each one, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters R-O-B-I and N. For example, if the category were two-syllable boy's names, you might say Roger, Omar, Barry, Isaac and Neville.


GRACE: Well, I think we can do this, Rachel.

MARTIN: Really? You're positive? OK. I like your attitude, Jeanne, I like your attitude. Let's try it, Will. Take it away.

SHORTZ: All right. Your first category is chemical elements.

GRACE: Chemical elements. Well, we get radium, boron, iodine, nitrogen and oxygen.

SHORTZ: Oxygen. So fast. Nice job.

MARTIN: Jeanne, you don't even need me. Are you kidding?

GRACE: Oh, yes, I will.


SHORTZ: Your second category is islands.

GRACE: Islands. Bahamas, Oahu, Nihau, which is...

SHORTZ: Nihau, really?

GRACE: ...the island off Kauai. That's the forbidden island in Hawaii.

SHORTZ: OK. Also New Guinea, Newfoundland would have worked.


SHORTZ: All you need R and I.

GRACE: R and I. Well, there's Rhode Island but it's not really an island.

SHORTZ: Yeah, I won't count that one.


GRACE: OK. Rarotonga.

SHORTZ: OK. Well, you're impressing me here. My answers were Rhodes, the Isle of Rhodes and Reunion or Reunion, however that's pronounced. In Polynesia.

GRACE: We still have an I to go, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK. All right. I...


MARTIN: I suppose Indonesia doesn't count 'cause...

GRACE: Iceland.

SHORTZ: Iceland does it. Ireland and Ios would have worked. All right. Nice job. Your next category is Major League Baseball team names.

GRACE: Oh, dear. Well, let's try Red Sox, Orioles. Rachel, I'm going to need some help here.

MARTIN: Are the Brewers are baseball team.

SHORTZ: Brewers, yes. Also, the Braves and Blue Jays.

GRACE: And then the Indians. And the Nationals.

SHORTZ: Nationals, so good. And your last category is things you might see in a hospital.

GRACE: In a hospital. OK. Operating rooms should be O. Neonatal intensive care units would give us the N. The I is going to be intensive care units.

SHORTZ: All right. You could have said nurse for N. OK. And you need R and B again.

GRACE: I need R and B. Respirators.

SHORTZ: And the B is the easiest one. Where do...

GRACE: Beds.

SHORTZ: The beds, yes.

MARTIN: The beds. Wow, great job, Jeanne. Really. That was extraordinary. For playing our puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games. And you can read all about it at And, Jeanne, before we let you go, tell us what public radio station you listen to.

GRACE: We are members of both WXXI in Rochester and WRVO, which is Watertown-Oswego-Syracuse and points a bit to the east.

MARTIN: Great, double membership. Love to hear. Jeanne Grace of Fairport, New York. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle this week, Jeanne.

GRACE: Now, it was fun.

MARTIN: OK, Will, what do you have for us next week?

SHORTZ: Yes, the challenge comes from listener Gary Witkin of Newark, Delaware. Take the name Bronte, B-R-O-N-T-E, using only these six letters, repeating them as often as necessary, spell a familiar six-word phrase. What is it?

So again, the name Bronte, use only these six letters but repeat them as often as necessary, spell a familiar six-word phrase. What is it?

MARTIN: OK, When you have the answer, go to our website, and click on the Submit Your Answer link - just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for entries is Thursday, May 10th at 3 P.M. Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you are the winner we'll give you a call, and you'll get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle-master, Will Shortz.

Thanks, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.

MARTIN: Author Julia Alvarez has been straddling two worlds for a long time. She was born in New York City but raised in the Dominican Republic. And that personal experience, being of two places, has shaped much of her writing. A couple of her most celebrated works of fiction are "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" and "In the Time of the Butterflies." Both stories address issues of belonging and cultural identity.

Her newest book though is a memoir. It's called "A Wedding in Haiti." And again, Alvarez writes about place and culture, but this time she's the outsider looking in; trying to make sense of a country so close to her but so foreign.

Author Julia Alvarez joins us from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.

Ms. Alvarez, thanks so much for being with us.

JULIA ALVAREZ: Thank you for inviting me.

MARTIN: So, this story begins with a promise that you and your husband made to a young Haitian man named Piti. Describe that promise.

ALVAREZ: Well, he was a young boy, as many Haitians come across the border undocumented to work in the Dominican Republic. And he showed up at this farm project that my husband Bill and I have in the Dominican Republic. And he looked so young and I felt like, oh, my gosh, he should be with his mother. So I declared myself his distant mother.

And so, you know, we would go down to Alta Gracia - that's the name of the farm project. And nights after supper we would sit around and sing and talk. And one night, he just seemed so forlorn and sad, you know, just a boy far from home. And so, to cheer him up, I told him that I could see that in his future he would meet the love of his life and get married. And he just kind of giggled.

And I said no. No. No, no, no. You have to believe me, Piti. One day you're going to get married to this love of your life. And you know what? I'm going to be at the wedding and I'm the godmother. OK, fast forward eight years later. We get a call in Vermont. Piti is getting married - are we coming to the wedding? So we decided we made a promise, we're going to keep it.

MARTIN: We should note that this trip you made was before the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. You made this trip in 2009.

ALVAREZ: Originally, I didn't set out to write a book about this journey. But when the earthquake happened, I took out the journal as a way of being close to a Haiti that wasn't being shown on the news. The richest, warmest culture; lots of solidarity, lots of community hanging in there together, which are things that they're rich in, and that maybe we have lost.

But I needed one story, one little point of light. And so, in reading the journal was when I said, well, maybe there's a story to tell here.

MARTIN: I want to ask you about the earthquake in a moment. But first, you and your husband attend the wedding. But your return journey takes a little bit of a twist when Piti asks you if you will take him and his new wife and baby out of Haiti into the Dominican Republic. He has papers. They don't. Did you consider saying no? You knew this was going to be risky.

ALVAREZ: He didn't ask if he could go back with us. He just said he was.

MARTIN: So, after a lot of wrangling and negotiating you managed to get Piti and his family back into the Dominican Republic. Time passes. When the earthquake happened, where were you?

ALVAREZ: I was in Vermont, and when I turned on the news, I realized it was really bad. And it was overwhelming, overwhelming. So that very evening, I called Piti and...

MARTIN: We should say he was living in the Dominican Republic.

ALVAREZ: Oh, he was living in the Dominican Republic, yes, with Eseline, his wife and his little girl, Ludy. And they couldn't reach family. They didn't know what had happened. Basically, they needed to go back and see that their families were all right.

MARTIN: You decide that you need to take them. Why?

ALVAREZ: So I guess - I don't know. They're like our kids now. You're not going to put your kid on the back of a pickup with a baby.


ALVAREZ: You're going to go. So it just felt like something we would do in solidarity. We weren't in Port-au-Prince. We weren't volunteering at a hospital. But maybe we could just be with one young Haitian and his wife and kid and their family. It was I guess - I don't know. These movements of the heart, how do you explain them?

MARTIN: If you wanted to focus on Haiti as a country, why not address it in ways that you have other issues in your writing? Why put yourself in it? Why make it this memoir?

ALVAREZ: Why tell it this way? I'm just following this friendship. It's the story of a friendship. And it's just one friendship. Haiti is a big country, it has many problems, there's a lot of people there. But, you know, there's a wonderful haiku that I love by the Japanese poet Issa, and he says: I look in the dragonfly's eye and I see the mountains over my shoulder.

That sometimes through the lens of one little story, one friendship, you really can talk about the bigger problems. The story finds the form that best fits it.

MARTIN: Author Julia Alvarez, her new memoir is called "A Wedding in Haiti." She spoke with us from the studios at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.

Julia, thanks so much.

ALVAREZ: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: The people of Okemah, Oklahoma, the birthplace of Woody Guthrie, have another musical native son to call their own. His name is John Fullbright.


JOHN FULLBRIGHT: (Singing) Six long days, seven day he rest. It's said there's one sure way humans can be best to give them wine and song, fire and lust. When it all goes wrong, I'm the man to trust. And now...

MARTIN: He's all of 24 years old but he sounds like an old soul, making music with hints of folk, country and the blues. I spoke with John Fullbright recently about his debut studio album. It's called "From the Ground Up." You're listening to the album's first track, "Gawd Above." And on it, Fulbright sings from God's perspective, which he admits is pretty, well...



MARTIN: Bold is the right word, I would say.


FULLBRIGHT: Yeah, it was an interesting song to write. I wanted there to be kind of a sense of humor, you know, it was God with a gold tooth in his smile. You know?


FULLBRIGHT: (Singing) ...swinger's ball if you don't know my name, oh well. You think it's hot down there in July. I've got the means and a kitchen to fry. And then you all...

MARTIN: There are a number of tracks on this album with Biblical references in the song title or the lyrics. Did you grow up in a particularly religious household?

FULLBRIGHT: Yeah, I did. I grew up with a lot of questions that couldn't really seem to be answered. You know, why we're here? Did some higher power make all of this? Did he make me? And songwriting is kind of your own voice, your strongest voice, that you can use to ask yourself those questions.


MARTIN: You were born and raised in Okemah, Oklahoma. What's it like there?

FULLBRIGHT: I actually live in kind of an outskirt of Okemah in a little town called Bearden. But I went to school in Okemah. And Bearden is too small to have a post office. All my letters say Okemah, so it's just easier...


FULLBRIGHT: say that. But it's a very, very small place. And it seems I think is when dad's side kind of settled there and had a little farm, about 80 acres. That's where I live now. The little farmhouse that I was raised in until I was about nine, that's where the title came from, "From the Ground Up." It was - every song on this record was written in that house. And I was also kind of written in that house.



FULLBRIGHT: (Singing) I've got diamonds in my backyard. Well, they grow just like weeds. You'll come and gather them in bundles. Take all that you need. But save the flowers there for me, dear. Take the diamonds for your greed, 'cause the flowers don't grow like weeds...

MARTIN: So, you're just 24 and I'm sure you've heard this before. But you do sing with this kind of depth that would appear to come from someone who has a few more years under their belt; someone who's kind of lived through a lot of setbacks and heartbreak. Is that you, have you gone through a lot of that?

FULLBRIGHT: Well, you know, I don't have many friends.


FULLBRIGHT: No, it's - it comes from locking yourself in a room and thinking about things for a really long time.


FULLBRIGHT: But I don't know...

MARTIN: Is that what you do? You lock yourself in a room and just kind of sit for a while?

FULLBRIGHT: I did that. In my teen years I definitely did that. I locked myself in a room and played the guitar and really just brooded about it for...


FULLBRIGHT: ...for a really long time. I've been a piano player since I was a child, 5 and 6. And I can remember sitting at a piano and just of figuring out that a minor chord means sad and an upbeat song means happy.


FULLBRIGHT: And, you know, you can explain it all without having to really say anything.


FULLBRIGHT: (Singing) Memory is a river. It winds and it changes. It cries when it's happy. It smiles when it's blue...

MARTIN: John Fullbright, his debut album is called "From the Ground Up." He joined us from member station KUT in Austin, Texas.

John, thanks so much for talking with us.

FULLBRIGHT: It was a pleasure talking to you, Rachel. Thank you.


FULLBRIGHT: (Singing) One, two, three...

MARTIN: And you can hear more of John Fullbright's music on

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.