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: 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.

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is a word or phrase containing the consecutive letters A-X. You'll be given clues and anagrams to the answers.

Last Week's Challenge: Take the phrase "no sweat." Using only these seven letters, and repeating them as often as necessary, can you make a familiar four-word phrase? It's 15 letters long. What is it?

Answer: "Waste not, want not."

Winner: Alison Haskins of Oxford, Ohio

On-Air Challenge: Name something in a given category where the last two letters of the category's name are the first two letters of your answer. For example, given "U.S. state," the answer would be either "Texas" or "Tennessee."

Last Week's Challenge: The answer is a two-word name. Inside this name are the consecutive letters I-L-E-H. Remove these four letters, and the remaining letters in order will name something commonly found inside the original thing with the two-word name. What is it?

On-Air Challenge: Every answer consists of two words that are opposites. You are given rhymes for the words, and you give the opposites.

Last Week's Challenge from listener Toby Gottfried of Santa Ana, Calif.: Take the trees hemlock, myrtle, oak and pine. Rearrange the letters in their names to get four other trees, with one letter left over. What trees are they?

Answer: The trees are "elm," "hickory," "lemon," and "teak," with the letter P left over.

Winner: Tim Moon from Bethany, Ill.

On-Air Challenge: Today's puzzle is a grab bag. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with B-A and the second word starts with G.

Last Week's Challenge: Name a bird. Change its second letter to an E to get the first name of a famous actor. Then name the female of that bird, and double one of its letters. You'll get the last name of this actor. What are the birds, and who is the actor?

Answer: The birds are "swan" and "pen," and the actor is "Sean Penn."

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a film that won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Identify the films from their anagrams.

Last Week's Challenge: What is the longest common English word you can spell by taking the beginning letters of consecutive states in order as you travel through them? Puzzlemaster Will Shortz's answer has eight letters, but maybe you can top that.

Puzzlemaster's Answer: "Millions," which consists of the beginning letters of Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

On-Air Challenge: Every answer consists of two adjoining U.S. states. Each clue is a four-letter word formed by one or more letters starting one of the state names plus one or more letters starting the other state name. For example, given "mist," the answer would be "Mississippi" and "Tennessee," or "Missouri" and "Tennessee."

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is a familiar three-word phrase, name or title in which each word has five letters — for example, "Royal Opera House."

Last Week's Challenge: Name an animal. Add the letters "A" and "T," and rearrange the result to name another animal. These are both animals that might be found in a zoo, and the last letter of the first animal is the first letter of the last one.

Answer: If you add "A" and "T" to "gorilla," you can rearrange the letters to spell "alligator."

On-Air Challenge: Each clue contains at least one seven-letter word. Rearrange the letters in that word to answer the clue.

This Puzzle Is The Pits

Jan 29, 2012

On-Air Challenge: Today's puzzle is the pits. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with "PI" and the second word starts with "T."

On-Air Challenge: You'll be given two things in the same category. You name the only other thing in the same category that fits between the given things alphabetically. For example, given "Mars" and "Saturn," the answer would be "Mercury."

This Week, A Puzzle Reunion: Will Shortz celebrates the 25th anniversary of Weekend Edition Sunday and the Sunday Puzzle with three mystery guests.

Second To Last

Jan 15, 2012

On-Air Challenge: Think of a word that can follow a given word to complete a familiar two-word phrase or name. The first two letters of your word must be the second and last letters, respectively, of the given word. For example, if given "fallen," the answer would be "angel."

Arrange The Notes

Jan 7, 2012

On-Air Challenge: Each answer is a five-letter word or phrase containing the letters N, O, T, E plus one other letter. Answer the clues to get the words.

Last Week's Challenge: Name certain scores in a certain sport. The score and the sport are both two-word phrases with a total of 10 letters (five letters in each word). Rearrange the letters to name a different sport, also in two words (six letters in the first word, four in the second). What are the scores, and what is the sport?

Answer: Rearrange "field goals" to name "ladies golf."

The Fame Game

Jan 1, 2012

On-Air Challenge: It's our annual year-end news quiz, compiled with the help of Kathie Baker and Tim Goodman. You are given new names in the news — people you probably never heard of before 2011, but who became famous during the past 12 months. Explain why they're famous.

On-Air Challenge: Identify a gift for a child spelled by consecutive letters in familiar two-word phrases. For example, if given "tomato paste," the answer would be "top."

Last Week's Challenge: Take the word "at." Put a man's first name on each side of it, and say the word out loud. Phonetically, you'll get a word that describes a growing part of our country.

Answer: Put "Jerry," "at," and "Rick" together, and phonetically, you get "geriatric."

Winner: Ginny Walters from Shelburne, Vt.

On-Air Challenge: Rearrange a series of anagrams to identify some well-known magazines. For example, if given "never point," rearrange the letters to spell "Prevention," the name of a popular health magazine.

Last Week's Challenge: Think of an animal whose name contains the letter "O." Change the "O" to an "H", and rearrange the result to name another animal. What animals are these?

Answer: Change the "O" in "antelope" to an H, and rearrange the letters to spell "elephant." "Orca" and "char" is an alternative pairing.

Teasing Out A New Word

Dec 11, 2011

On-Air Challenge: Add a letter to create new words in a series of word teasers.

Last Week's Challenge from listener Monti Montgomery of Washington, D.C.: Name a style of music. Change the middle letter to a B, and you'll name a style of cooking. What are the style of music and the style of cooking? (There are several ways to spell the cooking style, but the answer is one of them.)

Answer: "Baroque" is the style of music, and "bar-b-que" is the cooking style.

On-Air Challenge: Change one letter in each word of a made-up, two-word phrase to get two new words that will start a familiar proverb or saying. Determining which letters to change is up to you.

Last Week's Challenge from listener Dan Pitt of Palo Alto, Calif.: Think of a common five-letter word in one syllable. Change the fourth letter to the next letter of the alphabet, and you'll get a common word in two syllables, also in five letters. What words are these?

On-Air Challenge
Every answer is a familiar phrase in the form of "_____ for _____ ." Given the word that follows "for," what's the first word that precedes "for"? For example, if you're given "joy," the answer would be "jump" to complete the phrase "jump for joy."

Last Week's Challenge
From listener Henry Hook of Brooklyn, N.Y.
What number comes next in the following series: 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 15, 20, 40, 51, 55, 60 and 90?

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a world capital. You'll be given a four-letter word. The first two letters are the first two letters of the city's name, and the last two are the last two letters of the country's name. For example, if you were given "loin," the answer would be London, Great Britain.

On-Air Challenge: You will be given a five-letter word and seven-letter word. Rearrange the letters of one of these words to get a synonym of the other. For example, if you are given "alloy" and "devoted," the answer would be "loyal," which is an anagram of "alloy."

On-Air Challenge: You will be given the name of a famous person without the first and last letters of their first and last names. Determine the missing letters to add onto the name. For example, if you are given "err row," the answer would be "Jerry Brown."

On-Air Challenge: You'll be given three words. Name the fourth word that, when added to each of these words, creates a familiar two-word phrase. The answer will rhyme with one of the three words. For example, if you're given "boob," "inner" and "test," the fourth word would be "tube."

Last Week's Challenge: Think of a familiar two-word rhyming phrase that starts with the letter F, like "fat cat." Change the F to a G and you'll get another familiar two-word rhyming phrase. What are these phrases?

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