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.

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?