This Puzzle Is The Pits

Jan 29, 2012
Originally published on February 4, 2012 6:13 pm

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."

Last Week's Challenge: This is a special two-week creative challenge. Combine the titles of some TV shows, past or present, into an amusing sentence or statement. For example: "Today / Sisters / Name That Tune / Father Knows Best"; "Desperate Housewives / Bewitched / My Three Sons / One Day at a Time"; "I've Got a Secret / Murder, She Wrote / The F.B.I.", "Webster / Lost / Lassie / Six Feet Under." Entries were judged on their sense, naturalness of syntax, humor, originality, familiarity of the TV shows named and overall effect.

Answer: "The Nanny / Lost / All My Children."

Winner: Patrick Berry from Jasper, Ala.

Runners Up:

"Desperate Housewives / In Search of... / Good Times / Kidnapped / The Bachelor." — Bill Trotter from Ellsworth, Maine

"I've Got a Secret / Wiseguy / Once Upon A Time / All My Children / Ed / Ellen / Felicity / Maude / Gidget / Tom and Jerry / The Magnificent Seven / Chopped / Family Ties. / This Is Your Life. / Work Out / Family Matters / Step by Step / One Day at a Time." — Tim Erskine from Columbus, Ohio

"Father Knows Best / Who's the Boss? / That's My Mama." — Patrick Berry from Jasper, Ala.

"Hogan's Heroes/ Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea / In Search of... / McHale's Navy." — Brenda Medvid from Reston, Va.

"Today / The Electric Company / Lost / The Wire / Six Feet Under / The Streets of San Francisco." — Wesley Weissberg from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Next Week's Challenge from listener Ed Pegg Jr.: Write the digits from 1 to 9 in a line. If you put times signs after the 2 and 4, a plus sign after the 5, and a minus sign after the 7, you have 12 x 34 x 5 + 67 - 89, which equals 2018. That's six years off from our current year 2012. This example uses four arithmetic symbols. The object is to use just three of the following arithmetic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, in a line from 1 to 9 to get 2012 exactly. The operations should be performed in order from left to right. There are no tricks to this puzzle. Can you do 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 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Time now for the puzzle.


MARTIN: And joining us now is the puzzle editor of the New York Times, and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Good morning, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK. So today, we are finally unveiling the results of our special, two-week, creative challenge. This was a big one. But before we get to that, I know we have a couple of corrections to make to last week's puzzle.

SHORTZ: Yes. In last week's puzzle, I asked what is the only planet that comes alphabetically between Mars and Saturn? I gave the answer Mercury. But as several listeners pointed out, Neptune also fits between them.

MARTIN: OK. And also, our East Coast listeners may have heard us mistakenly call Calgary, Canada, a capital city - I think I did that. The Canadian government did recently name Calgary a cultural capital but technically, Calgary is not a capital city. So apologies to all my Canadian friends, and thank you to all of our very attentive listeners who helped us catch those mistakes.

Now, back to the business at hand: this week's puzzle. Will, you challenged us to come up with amusing sentences using just TV show titles. And we received more than 580 entries. And I understand that you read all of them. What were some of your favorites?

SHORTZ: The first one is from Bill Trotter of Ellsworth, Maine: Desperate housewives in search of good times kidnapped the bachelor.

One of the longest, that was also nice, came from Tim Erskine of Columbus, Ohio: I've got a secret, wise guy. Once upon a time, all my children - Ed, Ellen, Felicity, Maude, Gidget, Tom and Jerry, the magnificent seven - chopped family ties. This is your life. Work out family matters, step by step, one day at a time.


SHORTZ: And one more - came from Patrick Berry of Jasper, Alabama. He wrote: Father knows best who's the boss. That's my mama.

MARTIN: And I know, Will, you've saved the best for last. Tell us who's the winner this week.

SHORTZ: The winner is - again, Patrick Berry, who sent one of the runners-up. His winning entry is: The nanny lost all my children.

And I chose that for its simplicity and naturalness; it made me laugh. And when I read the top entries to friends, everyone selected this as their favorite.

MARTIN: Well, Patrick is joining us on the line right now. Congratulations, Patrick.

PATRICK BERRY: Thank you very much, Rachel.

MARTIN: And say hello to Will Shortz.

BERRY: Hello, Will. It is an honor and a pleasure to meet you.

SHORTZ: Hey, Patrick. And you know, you share a name with one of the best and most prolific crossword constructors in the country: Patrick Berry from Athens, Georgia.

MARTIN: And Patrick, you - yourself - you don't just do crossword puzzles; you actually write them?

BERRY: I'm into cryptic crosswords, the British style.

MARTIN: Cryptic crosswords - I don't even know what that is. Will, do you know what that is?

SHORTZ: Yeah, those are my favorite crosswords, too.

MARTIN: Really?

SHORTZ: We'll go into detail on that someday.

MARTIN: Oh, good. OK. You two have a special bond there. OK.


MARTIN: Well, this should be an interesting puzzle, with two expert puzzlers. Let's go for it, Will. What is this week's puzzle?

SHORTZ: All right. Patrick and Rachel, today's puzzle is: the pits. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name, in which the first word starts with P-I and the second word starts with T. For example, if I said an old route taken by covered wagons, you would say pioneer trail.


SHORTZ: Number one: an eating surface at a park.

BERRY: An eating surface - picnic table.

SHORTZ: Picnic table is it. Number two: Cones grow on it.

BERRY: Pine tree.


SHORTZ: That's it.


SHORTZ: Pepperoni, sausage or mushrooms.

BERRY: Pizza topping.

SHORTZ: That's it.


SHORTZ: A classic English poem of circa 1536, written in the style of Chaucer. And the title starts with "the."

BERRY: Take a risk tale - or something.

SHORTZ: Tale is correct. And for the first word, it's a possessive, and it would name the early settlers in Massachusetts.

BERRY: Oh, "A Pilgrim's Tale."

SHORTZ: "The Pilgrim's Tale" is it.

MARTIN: There.

SHORTZ: A mouth feature of many a punk rocker.

BERRY: Pierced tongue.

SHORTZ: Pierced tongue is good.

MARTIN: Wow. Well done, Patrick.


SHORTZ: How about a former Canadian prime minister.

BERRY: Pierre Trudeau.

SHORTZ: That's it. And your last one...

MARTIN: Thank goodness you got that. Otherwise, we were going to insult our Canadian friends again.

SHORTZ: And your last one: a chest of stolen gold, silver, precious gems, etc.

BERRY: Pirate treasure.

SHORTZ: That's it.

MARTIN: Oh, well done, Patrick. You had virtually no hesitations. You nailed all those. Congratulations.

BERRY: Yeah. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: And for playing our puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at And Patrick, which public radio station do you listen to?

BERRY: That would be 90.3, WBHM, in Birmingham.

MARTIN: Nice. Shoutout to Birmingham. Patrick Berry, thanks so much for playing the Puzzle this week.

BERRY: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: OK, Will. What do you have to stump us with for next week?

SHORTZ: Yes, this week's challenge comes from listener Ed Pegg Jr., who runs the website And it is a math puzzle. Write the digits from 1 to 9 in a line. If you put a plus sign after the 2, a times sign after the 4, and plus signs after the 6 and 8, the line shows 12 + 34 x 56 + 78 + 9, which equals 2003. And that's nine years off from our current year, 2012. Now, this example uses four arithmetic symbols. [POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: The sum does not equal 2003 when arithmetic operations are performed in order from left to right. However, the challenge that follows – to use arithmetic signs in three places in a line from 1 to 9, to equal 2012 when operations are performed in order – can be solved.]

SHORTZ: The object is to use just three arithmetic signs - plus, minus, times and division; using just any of those signs - in a line from 1 to 9 to get 2012 exactly. The operation should be performed in order from left to right. There's no trick to this puzzle. Can you do it?

MARTIN: Will, you're killing me. It's a math problem.


MARTIN: When you have the answer go to our website,, click on the Submit Your Answer link. Just one entry per person, please, and our deadline for entries is Thursday, February 2nd at 3 PM Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you're 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 Puzzlemaster, Will Shortz.

Will, thanks so much.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.