Sunday Puzzle: Oscar Winners

Feb 9, 2020

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

Last week's challenge: The actress Michael Learned, who played the mother on "The Waltons," has an unusual property in her name. The last three letters of her first name are the same as the first three letters of her last name reversed. The name of what current celebrity has the same property? Here's a hint: The first and last names each have six letters.

Challenge Answer: Billie Eilish

Winner: Roger Wesby of Staten Island, N.Y.

This week's challenge: My friend Penelope, who is from La Jolla, went on a world vacation. She stopped in Santa Rosa, Toronto and Casablanca. What European capital did she also visit?

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 by Thursday, Feb. 13, at 3 p.m. ET.

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And it's time to play The Puzzle.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Joining us is Will Shortz. He's puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION'S puzzlemaster. Hi, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Hey there, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Will, remind us of last week's challenge.

SHORTZ: Yeah, it came from Peter Gordon (ph). I asked, the name of what current celebrity has this unusual property? The last three letters of this celebrity's first name are the first three letters of the last. Who is it? And the answer is Billie Eilish - B-I-L-L-I-E-E-I-L-I-S-H - who just won four Grammys last week.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She certainly did.

SHORTZ: Including best new artist and record of the year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We received over 800 correct responses. And the winner this week is Roger Wesby of Staten Island, N.Y. Congratulations.

ROGER WESBY: Thank you very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So are you a Billie Eilish fan?

WESBY: Actually, I only recently learned about her through the Grammys. And I am a big fan of Chris Thile (ph). And he has a show. And he does a birthday tribute to different artists. So Billie Eilish was one. And then when you mentioned the kind of retrograde idea of the ending of the first name, it just popped into my head because I've recently been thinking about that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Fantastic. And I hear that even playing since the postcard days? What was it like when you finally got the call?

WESBY: Well, it was - to be frank, it was a little scary.


WESBY: Like, I saw the number, and I thought, I'd really don't know if I want to go on the air.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can it be the - oh, you knew it was us, or you thought it was the IRS?

WESBY: Well, actually, it was - I mean, it was the day after a lot of stuff happened in Washington. And I thought it might be the Democratic Party calling me to ask for donations.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Will, take it away.

SHORTZ: All right, Roger. Every answer today is the name of an Academy Award-winning best actor or best actress. I'll give you some two-word phrases. Change one letter in each word to name the person. For example, if I said Beryl Street, that's - B-E-R-Y-L - Street, you, of course, would say Meryl Streep.

WESBY: Right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is my jam. This is like my - this is my perfect puzzle.

SHORTZ: (Laughter) Very good. Number one is top ranks - T-O-P-R-A-N-K-S.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And he's up for an Oscar this year. He played a guy in a red sweater.

WESBY: Oh, for goodness sakes, Tom Hanks.

SHORTZ: Tom Hanks, who won for "Forrest Gump" and "Philadelphia" in the past. Number two is jolly hinter - J-O-L-L-Y-H-I-N-T-E-R.

WESBY: Holly Hunter.

SHORTZ: That's it. Am pacing - A-M-P-A-C-I-N-G.

WESBY: OK, what was the first name again?

SHORTZ: The first word is AM - A-M- like I am pacing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He was just in a movie up for a lot of nominations that was on Netflix.

SHORTZ: He won for "Scent Of A Woman."

WESBY: Oh, Al Pacino.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's right.

SHORTZ: Al Pacino is it. Good.

Here's your next one - Wary Copper. - that's W-A-R-Y Copper.

WESBY: Not Bradley Cooper.

SHORTZ: Cooper is correct. Now change - get the first name.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is a golden Hollywood type guy.

WESBY: Yes. Yes. Gary Cooper.

SHORTZ: Gary Cooper won for "High Noon" and "Sergeant York." How about Clank Cable - C-L-A-N-K-C-A-B-L-E.

WESBY: Clark Gable.

SHORTZ: That's it. Salty Yield - S-A-L-T-Y-Y-I-E-L-D.

WESBY: Sally Field.

SHORTZ: Oh, that's fast. Kissy Spaces.

WESBY: Sissy Spacek.

SHORTZ: Spacek is right.

WESBY: Yeah.

SHORTZ: Singer Rowers - S-I-N-G-E-R-R-O-W-E-R-S.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She used to dance with somebody.

SHORTZ: That's a good hint. And also change the S of singer.

WESBY: Could you say it again, the name?

SHORTZ: Yeah. Singer - S-I-N-G-E-R - Rowers - R-O-W-E-R-S.

WESBY: Oh, it's Ginger Rogers.

SHORTZ: Ginger Rogers is it.

WESBY: Did everything fronted (ph) except backwards in heels. Yeah.


SHORTZ: There you go. Grape jelly - G-R-A-P-E-J-E-L-L-Y.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She became a princess.

WESBY: Grace Kelly.

SHORTZ: Grace Kelly is it. Good. Nice hint. And your last one is maroon brands - M-A-R-O-O-N-B-R-A-N-D-S.

WESBY: Marlon Brando.

SHORTZ: Marlon Brando. Good job.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Good job. How do you feel?

WESBY: (Laughter) Not utterly defeated.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were great. It was fun. That's the whole point of these. They're fun, fun, fun. And this one, I have to say, I particular love. 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 which member station do you listen to?


GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a good station. Roger Wesby of Staten Island, N.Y., thank you so much for playing the puzzle.

SHORTZ: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, Will, what's next week's challenge?

SHORTZ: Yeah, it comes from Peter Collins (ph). And it's best to write this down. He says, my friend Penelope, who is from La Hoya, went on a world vacation. She stopped in Santa Rosa, Toronto and Casablanca. What European capital did she also visit? So here are the important parts - the friend is Penelope. She's from La Hoya. She visited Santa Rosa, Toronto and Casablanca. What European capital did she also visit?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you have the answer, go to our website and click on the Submit Your Answer link. Remember, just one entry per person, please. Our deadline for entries is Thursday, February 13 at 3 p.m. Eastern. 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 very own puzzlemaster, Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Lulu.

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