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: I'm going to name two things that are in the same category. And that category is itself part of another category, which I'll also name. You tell me the category in the middle.

Example: Volkswagen, Chrysler/Rock groups -->(The) Cars
1. Robin, Finch/Hitchcock movies
2. Seven, 100/Books of the Bible
3. Hip hip hooray!, Go team!/Sitcoms
4. Merlin, Harry Potter/N.B.A. teams
5. Mary, Elizabeth/Boroughs of New York City
6. Amazon, Nile/Female comedians
7. Roasted, Salted/Comic strips

On-air challenge: Every answer is a word, name, or phrase in which the only consonants are L and T — repeated as often as necessary. All the other letters are vowels.

Example: Add up --> TOTAL
1. Opposite of big
2. Coffee made with hot steamed milk
3. Name, as of a book or movie
4. Dole out
5. Sweepstakes game
6. "For rent" sign (2 wds.)
7. Lavatory
8. Place to insert an electric plug
9. No-holds-barred (hyph.)
10. Prevaricate (3 wds.)
11. Excite the imagination
12. Snitch

On-air challenge: In honor of Mother's Day, every answer today is a word that ends in the letters "MA." I'll give you an anagram of the letters that precede MA. You tell me the words.

Ex. GOD --> Dogma
1. ARK
2. OAR

On-air challenge: I've brought a game of categories based on the word "maybe." For each category I give, name something in it starting with each of the letters M-A-Y-B-E.

For example, if the category were "chemical elements," you might say mercury, argon, yttrium, barium and erbium. Any answer that works is OK, and you can give the answers in any order.

1. Animals in zoos
2. Four-letter boy's names
3. Place names in Canada
4. Colors
5. Things to consume at breakfast

On-air challenge: I'm going to read you some sentences. Each sentence ends in "_____ to _____." Put two homophones in the blanks to complete it.

Example: The bicycle salesman had an innovative new _____ to _____. --> PEDAL, PEDDLE

1. The thieves prowling around the Pittsburgh mill were looking for some _____ to _____.

2. To prepare the dough for the oven, the baker will first _____ to _____.

3. Since my foot surgery, my toes have gotten better, but I still have to wait for my _____ to _____.

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is a little unusual. It's all about "U" ... that is, the letter U. See how many of these U-related questions can you answer.

1. The names of two state capitals end in the letter U. What are they?

2. The word "you" sounds like the letter U, and it contains the letter U. What two words sound like the letter U but don't contain the letter?

3. Think of a common seven-letter word in which the first, third and fifth letters are all U's. (Hint: I said it in the first sentence of this puzzle's instructions.)

On-air challenge: Today I've brought a word ladder with sort of an Easter egg theme. The object is to convert CHICK to HATCH, changing one letter at a time, making a new word each step of the way. I'll give you clues for the steps. You tell me the words.

Starting with CHICK, change one letter in it to make ...
1. The sound of a camera. Then change one letter in that to make ...
2. A timepiece [etc.]
3. Unit of a city street
4. Opposite of white
5. Devoid of writing or marks
6. Long, flat piece of lumber

Drop The A And The B

Apr 5, 2020

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you clues for two words. The first word starts with AB. Drop the AB and you'll get a new word that answers the second clue.

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you a word and an extra letter. Anagram everything into a new word ... in which the added letter is silent.

Example: MOW + B --> WOMB
1. GRIN + W
2. TOGS + H
3. FINE + K
4. TENS + C
5. HANS + G
6. BRIDE + S
7. NOMAD + L
8. DOTER + B
10. SIMONE + T
11. RETINT + W
12. AIMING + E
13. NO SHAME + D

On-air challenge: Every answer is a rhyming two-word phrase, in which each word has three syllables.

Ex. Beverage that stands out --> Notable Potable

1. How-to book that comes out once a year

2. Recollection of a university in Atlanta

3. Careful examination of a rebellion on a ship

4. Personal journal written with hot language

5. Yorkshire dog that's more jolly

6. Sweepstakes involving clayware

7. Devotion to kings and queens

8. Event sent by God involving a ball

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a word, name or phrase in which the only consonants are C and T — repeated as often as necessary. All the other letters are vowels.

Example: Understood without being stated --> Tacit

1. Room at the top of a house

2. Like an angle that's less than 90 degrees

3. Group of eight musicians

4. Desert plants with needles

5. Adorable person

6. City on the Erie Canal

7. Strategy

8. Something invisible a grade schooler doesn't want to get

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you two sets of three letters. Put the same two letters in front of each trio to complete a compound word or familiar two-word phrase.

Ex. Ite Ale --> White Whale
1. Und Bin
2. Ass Own
3. Bby Rse
4. Ste Ter
5. Dar Nge
6. Ash OOD
7. Wer Int
8. Ell Ock
9. Tor Uth
10. Own Ead
11. Ain Ack
12. Ole Eat
13. And Ill
14. Tch Ker (two answers)

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you clues for two words. The first word ends in GO. Drop the GO, and what's left will answer the second clue.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is the name of a classic dessert in two or more words. I'll tell you the number of letters in the words and the first two letters of each word. You name the desserts.

Ex. [5,7] PE- CO- --> Peach cobbler

1. [3,5,8] IC- CR- SA-

2. [6,4,4] DE- FO- CA-

3. [5,8,3] LE- ME- PI-

4. [7,6,6] OA- RA- CO-

5. [3,5,6] HO- FU- SU-

6. [9,6] CH- MO-

7. [6,5] BA- SP-

8. [5,6] BA- AL-

9. [6,5] SA- TO-

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you some words starting with the letter "L." For each one, give me another word starting with "L" that will complete a common two-word phrase.

Ex. Language --> Lab

Three-letter answer:

1. Lemon

Four-letter answers:

2. Laundry

3. Loose

4. Leading

5. Lady

6. Lava

7. La-la

Five-letter answers:

8. Last

9. Latin

Six-letter answers:

10. Love

11. Lounge

12. Loss

13. Lapis

14. Living

15. Little

On-air challenge: Every answer to this puzzle is the name of an Academy Award-winning Best Actor or Best Actress. Change one letter in each word from a two-word phrase to name the person.

Ex. Beryl Street --> Meryl Streep

1. Top Ranks

2. Jolly Hinter

3. Am Pacing

4. Mean Peon

5. Wary Copper

6. Clank Cable

7. Salty Yield

8. Kissy Spaces

9. Singer Rowers

10. Sane Woman

11. Grape Jelly

12. Maroon Brands

Sunday Puzzle: Tepees

Jan 26, 2020

On-air challenge: Every answer is a word, name or phrase in which the only consonants are T and P, repeated as often as necessary.

Example: Slender tube in a lab --> PIPETTE

1. Something that Idaho is famous for producing

2. Small, as in women's dress sizes

3. Proceed very, very quietly

4. Baked entree usually with meat and vegetables

5. Artificial hairpiece to cover a bald spot

6. Marionette, for example

7. Calming drug, like heroin or morphine

8. Amount that is produced, as from a factory

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you two four-letter words. Anagram each of them to get two new words that rhyme.

Example: Inch, Ring --> Chin, Grin

1. Lure, Polo

2. Opus, Polo

3. Knee, Neal

4. Dais, Dear

5. Busy, Sire

6. Race, Hire

7. Rage, Ripe

8. Dome, Dora

9. Reef, Leaf

10. Luge, Hose

11. Flue, Laud

On-air challenge: Every answer is a compound word in which the vowel sound in each half is a short "a" — as in "grassland" or "madcap."

1. Father's father

2. Item in a levee

3. Slang term for someone who talks, talks, talks

4. Symbol in a tweet

5. Sudden remembrance of something past

6. Carrying case with straps that's worn over the shoulders

7. Pancake

8. Game of 21

9. Low-growing weed that can quickly take over a lawn

10. Old-fashioned timer that you periodically turn over

On-air challenge: Every answer is the brand name of a food or beverage that you might buy at the grocery store.

1. Preserves — Consists of a word meaning "lollipops" around the letter M

2. Soup — Conceals the word OGRES in consecutive letters

3. Breakfast cereal — Is an anagram of WHITE SEA

4. Baking goods — Is an anagram of RUBY LIPS + L

5. Cookies — Spelled backward, is a two-word phrase meaning "betting everything"

6. Soft drink — Consists of four consecutive state postal abbreviations

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is a look back on the people and things you probably never heard of until 2019, but who sprang to prominence during the past 12 months. Tell me who and what they are:

1. Greta Thunberg

2. Chasten Glezman — husband of Pete Buttigieg

3. Christina Koch and Jessica Meir

4. Naruhito

5. Lizzo

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is a variation on last week's. It's more like a quiz. I'm going to give four words. Three of them have something in common. I'll tell you what that something in common is. You tell me which word is the odd one out.

1. Words that are both flowers and girls' names: Violet, Lily, Iris, Cowslip

2. Words that start the names of state capitals: Big, Rich, Mad, Tall

3. Adjectives that are the titles of well-known movies: Frozen, Notorious, Sweet, Unforgiven

On-air challenge: Every answer is a word, name or phrase in which the only consonants are B and L, repeated as often as necessary. All the other letters are vowels.

Ex. Tell a secret --> BLAB

1. Holy book

2. Reason why you couldn't have committed the crime

3. Record company

4. "The Hobbit" hero ___ Baggins

5. Tower of ___

6. Talk rapidly and foolishly

7. Move up and down, as a doll's head

8. Air-filled sphere sometimes made by soap

9. Legally obligated

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up two-word phrase in which the first word starts with the letter C, and the second word is the same as the first but without the C.

Ex. A painting of a golfer's vehicle --> CART ART

1. A Scottish boy wearing clothing

2. Pile that doesn't cost much

3. Security device for a timepiece

4. Where a group of witches bakes a cake

5. One who assesses the quality of a feature of the lunar surface

6. Black bird that is cowardly

7. Wifey's mate who's a little overweight

On-air challenge: Here's a list of seven-letter words. For each one, change the first and last letters — but only the first and last letters — to make a new, uncapitalized seven-letter word. Both the first and last letters have to change.











Sunday Puzzle: Cocoa

Nov 3, 2019

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "Cocoa." Every answer is a word or name in which an interior syllable is pronounced "co" — in any spelling.

Example: Phoenix, Arizona's county --> MARICOPA

1. City in Washington state that shares an airport with Seattle.

2. Device that helps you read secret writing.

3. Cause of gradual loss of eyesight.

4. Symbol of plenty, or an abundant supply of good things.

5. Territory that broke into two states in 1889.

6. Giant corporation in the metals industry.

On-air challenge: The three B's in classical music are Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. But in this puzzle they're three words starting with B. Each set can be followed by a fourth word to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Example: Baseball Bathing Bottle --> CAP (baseball cap, bathing cap, bottle cap)

1. Bow Black Bolo

2. Bar Bell Bunny

3. Boom Ballot Bread

4. Brick Berlin Border

5. Building Bar Binary

6. Big Bank Booster

On-air challenge: Every answer today is something you see in a hotel room — always, or at least often. Name these things from their anagrams, minus one letter.

Example: BOXER – X --> ROBE

1. DEBT – T

2. MAPLE – E

3. OPALS – L

4. FEAST – T

5. ROBIN – B








Sunday Puzzle: 5 To 7

Oct 6, 2019

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you some five-letter words. For each one, add two letters at the end to create a common, uncapitalized seven-letter word that is unrelated in meaning to the first one.

Example: TROLL --> TROLLEY

















On-air challenge: Every answer is a holiday that goes by "____ Day." I'll give you anagrams of the words that go in the blanks, you name the holidays.

Example: ROAR + B --> ARBOR (Arbor Day)

1. GAL + F
2. HARE + T
3. BOAR + L
7. YAWNERS + E (2 words)
11. INDENTATIONS + U (2 words)