Sitting Comfortably In Between

Jan 22, 2012
Originally published on January 28, 2012 5:08 pm

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.

Next 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 will be judged on their sense, naturalness of syntax, humor, originality, familiarity of the TV shows named, and overall effect. No more than three sentences per entry, please.

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. And it is time, now ,for the puzzle.


MARTIN: And this week, we brought out the old version of our puzzle theme music for just a few moments because we are celebrating WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY's 25th anniversary.

It took to the airwaves on January 18, 1987. Susan Stamberg was the host, and the idea was that the show would be the radio version of the Sunday paper. You'd have a good helping of news, but also cultural and arts features.


SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Let's see, I - oh, here it is; here's what I was looking for. It's not the comics. It's the games.

Will Shortz has promised to puzzle us on WEEKEND EDITION.

MARTIN: And puzzle us, he has - from that very first show. We've done the math and by our count, that's been about 1,300 mind-bending appearances on this program. Will Shortz joins us now, as usual, from New York. Good morning, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: And congratulations. Twenty-five years ...

SHORTZ: I know...

MARTIN: our resident puzzle master, it's amazing.

SHORTZ: I know. How many people do anything for 25 years?

MARTIN: Believe me, I'm in awe of you. So I'm happy to be a part of this special anniversary.

SHORTZ: Thanks a lot.

MARTIN: You gave us a two-week creative challenge last week, and we'll repeat that for our listeners in a few minutes. But for today's puzzle, we've lined up three special mystery guests for you. Are you ready?

SHORTZ: I am ready.

MARTIN: OK. We're going to see if you can recognize them. First off, guest number one, joining us from the studios of NPR West. Please say hello, guest.

STAMBERG: Morning, Will. Happy anniversary.

SHORTZ: Hey there, Susan.


MARTIN: And joining us from the studios of WSCL in Salisbury, Maryland, mystery guest number two. Say hello.

LIANE HANSEN, BYLINE: Hi, Will. Happy anniversary.

SHORTZ: Oh man, Liane. It's great to hear you.


MARTIN: And finally, there's one more special guest with us. Here in the studio - greetings, guest number three.

AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: Hey there, Will. Happy anniversary.

SHORTZ: Hi, Audie. Good to hear from you. Oh, this is great.

MARTIN: OK, so that is Susan Stamberg, Liane Hansen and Audie Cornish - all your favorite ladies, gathered together to play the puzzle on the 25th anniversary.

STAMBERG: Feels like Charlie's Angels, huh?

HANSEN: I feel like Bachelorette Number Two.

CORNISH: Right. The other option was the Pips. We are your backup singers. We're your backup.

MARTIN: So, I have to ask you ladies; any special puzzle memories, moments you all had with Will that you want to share?

STAMBERG: When we went on the air at the very beginning, 1987, it was just Will and me. We hadn't had the bright idea to involve listeners in answering these things. So most of our games and puzzles were this: Will posed the question and me - uh, uh, uh, uh. After I left the program, of course, I became maybe the most devoted listener. And do you know, it took me years to realize that Liane was writing it down.


MARTIN: That - this whole time, she had paper and pen, and she was working them out.

STAMBERG: Amazing, amazing, why that had not occurred to me.

HANSEN: My memory is, Will is constantly on the road - either for his tournaments, like the crossword puzzle tournament that's coming up in March - and he's never let us down for a puzzle but once. We called him in his hotel room, and he had - forgot to bring it with him. He made one up in five minutes.


MARTIN: Do you remember that, Will?

SHORTZ: I do. I panicked when I went through my bag and could not find a puzzle. But I came up with, I thought, a pretty good puzzle for that week.

HANSEN: It was. It was great.

MARTIN: Somehow, that does not surprise me.

CORNISH: And, of course, mine is table tennis-related. Very easy. I actually got to play - remember, Will, when I came up to York and we played table tennis?

SHORTZ: That was great.

MARTIN: And who won?

CORNISH: Do you really need to ask?


CORNISH: I got housed(ph) by Will. But I have a signed ping-pong ball, and that's awesome.

MARTIN: Now, Will, you know that I'm a novice - having only done this for the past couple of weeks. And I am in the company of seasoned puzzle veterans.


MARTIN: So I imagine that you, Will Shortz, have cooked up something particularly diabolical this week.

SHORTZ: Well, what I've brought, actually, is a new edition of my all-time favorite puzzle on NPR.

MARTIN: Really? Wow.

SHORTZ: Here's how it goes. I'm going to name two things in the same category. You name the only other thing in the same category that fits between mine alphabetically. For example, if I said Mars and Saturn, you would say Mercury, because Mars and Saturn are planets, and the only other planet fitting between those alphabetically is Mercury. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Neptune also fits alphabetically between Mars and Saturn.]

HANSEN: Oh boy.

STAMBERG: I would say bar, Mars bars.

SHORTZ: OK, here's number one. How are we going to do this? Just everyone jumping in?

MARTIN: Oh yeah. This is just puzzle chaos today.

SHORTZ: OK, that sounds good. Number one is June, May. What's the only month that fits between June and May alphabetically?


SHORTZ: Had to precede June.

HANSEN: It fits.

CORNISH: Is it March? It goes by letters, right?

SHORTZ: It is March, yes.

MARTIN: Yay, Audie!


SHORTZ: Number two: Alberta, Manitoba.

HANSEN: Oh, jeez.


CORNISH: Oh, boy.

MARTIN: Calgary.

SHORTZ: Nope, we're looking for the province itself.

MARTIN: British Columbia.

SHORTZ: British Columbia, good job.

MARTIN: Yessss!

STAMBERG: Woo. Mark one for Rachel.

SHORTZ: Your next one.


SHORTZ: Liane is going to know this. Left fielder, right fielder.

HANSEN: Left fielder, right fielder.



SHORTZ: Well, outfielder would apply to all of them. This is a specific position in baseball.

MARTIN: Pitcher?

SHORTZ: Pitcher is it. Who said pitcher?


HANSEN: Pitcher.

MARTIN: All right, it's the new girl.

SHORTZ: OK, good.

HANSEN: Good going.

STAMBERG: She's doing - she's batting a thousand.


SHORTZ: Happy, Sneezy.


HANSEN: Grumpy, Dopey - nope. Happy, nope. Sneezy.

MARTIN: Sleepy?

SHORTZ: There you go. Who said that?

CORNISH: Ooh, Sleepy.

SHORTZ: Sleepy is it. Good.

CORNISH: Who was that?

HANSEN: Who did that? The new girl again, right?

CORNISH: Rachel.

HANSEN: You know, she's only done a few.

STAMBERG: She'll get tired.

HANSEN: Yeah, exactly.


HANSEN: After 20 years, call me. All right?


SHORTZ: How about Education, Health and Human Services.

HANSEN: Oh, dear. Energy.

SHORTZ: Yeah. Oh, man. That was fast.


MARTIN: Liane. She has caught her groove.

HANSEN: No, I was watching the Rick Perry debates and I...


HANSEN: I mean, I knew there were three.


SHORTZ: That's true. That's one of the three. High jump, long jump. And we're looking for events in the decathlon or heptathlon.

STAMBERG: Oh, sure.

MARTIN: You know, the heptathlon.

SHORTZ: Something you throw.

CORNISH: Oh, javelin?

SHORTZ: There you go, the javelin.

MARTIN: Audie Cornish.


CORNISH: All right.


STAMBERG: (unintelligible)

SHORTZ: Polk and Roosevelt.

HANSEN: Oh, sure. Come on, all you Washington ladies.


HANSEN: I don't have my placemat in front of me.

STAMBERG: Can't. No, that's too late.

MARTIN: Either two or...

SHORTZ: It's one of the more...

STAMBERG: Harrison.

SHORTZ: It's a B, Q or R. It's one of the more recent ones.

MARTIN: Reagan.

HANSEN: Reagan.

SHORTZ: Reagan is it. Good job. And your last one…

HANSEN: Ugh, thank goodness.


SHORTZ: ...costume design - that's your favorite word.

HANSEN: Yes, it's mine.

SHORTZ: Costume design documentary, feature.


SHORTZ: So you're - costume design and documentary feature.



STAMBERG: So it's Oscars, huh?


HANSEN: Director.

SHORTZ: Director is it.



STAMBERG: Bravo. Oh my, goodness.


MARTIN: Yay, everyone.

CORNISH: Very nice.

STAMBERG: Really good.


MARTIN: You know, on the air, as the official scorekeeper, I declare it a tie.


STAMBERG: Oh, sure. Right. What a fine person you are.

CORNISH: Yes, exactly.


MARTIN: That was great fun. Thank so much.

HANSEN: Thanks for the invitation. It's so much fun.

STAMBERG: It was fun.

MARTIN: A pleasure to hear all of your voices.

STAMBERG: And happy anniversary to you all. And, Will, thanks for saying yes when I called 25 years ago.

SHORTZ: Oh, absolutely. You guys are all great.

MARTIN: OK. So, Will, we are in the midst of a two-week creative challenge. And we should note, there's still time for listeners to get in on this fun. But first, Will, could you please repeat that challenge?

SHORTZ: Yes, it's called TV Lineup. The object is to 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." Or "Desperate Housewives/"Bewitched"/"My Three Sons"/"One Day at a Time." Or "Webster/"Lost"/"Lassie"/"Six Feet Under."

So the shows can be network or cable, primetime or not. Well-known shows are best. Entries will be judged on their sense, naturalness of syntax, humor, originality and overall effect. And the best entry in my judgment will be announced next week.

MARTIN: OK. So give it your best shot, everyone. Send in just one entry per person, although each entry can have up to three sentences. Our deadline for entries is Thursday, January 26th at 3 P.M. 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 puzzle-master for 25 years and counting, Will Shortz.

Thanks so much, Will.

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