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: Today's puzzle has a bit of wordplay. Change one letter in each word provided to make two new words. The letter you change must be in the same position in each word of the pair. And the letter you change each of them to will be the same letter of the alphabet.

For example, "relief" and "mallet" become "belief" and "ballet."

On-air challenge: For every word provided (all starting with the letter "W"), give a proverb or saying that contains that word.

Last week's challenge: Take the phrase "I am a monarch." Rearrange the 11 letters to name a world leader who was not a monarch, but who ruled with similar authority. Who is it?

Answer: Chairman Mao.

Winner: David Slobodin of Asheville, North Carolina.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is the name of a famous, one-named singer like Madonna or Beyoncé. Identify each name from its anagram, to which one extra letter is added. The singers are a mix of past and present. For example, given "ADS" plus "E," the answer is "Sade."

On-air challenge: Each word provided is an anagram of something you might see in a kitchen. For example, "skin" is an anagram of "sink."

On-air challenge: Every answer today is the name of an Academy Award winner or nominee for best picture. Using the given anagram, decipher the title of the film. The films will go from oldest to newest. Example: OUTWORN (1940) (2 words). Answer: OUR TOWN

Last week's challenge: Name a major U.S. city in two syllables. Reverse the syllables phonetically to get the cost of attending a certain NBA game. What is it?

Answer: Phoenix, Knicks fee

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up two-word phrase, where the second and third letters of the first word are switched to get the second word. Example: Serene bivalve would be calm clam

Last week's challenge: This challenge came from listener Ben Bass of Chicago. Name someone who welcomes you in. Insert the letter U somewhere inside this, and you'll name something that warns you to stay away. Who is this person, and what is this thing?

Answer: Bell boy, bell buoy.

Sunday Puzzle: S.V. You

Jan 18, 2015

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the initials S.V. For example, given "noted Idaho ski resort," you would say "Sun Valley."

Last week's challenge: From listener Steve Baggish of Arlington, Mass. Think of a U.S. city whose name has nine letters. Remove three letters from the start of the name and three letters from the end. Only two will remain. How is this possible, and what city is it?

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this page we posted the wrong on-air challenge. The correct on-air challenge for the week is posted below.

On-air challenge: Given a clue, each response is a two-word answer with the first word starting with B-R and the second word starting with R.

Last week's challenge: Take the following 5-word sentence: "THOSE BARBARIANS AMBUSH HEAVIER FIANCEES." These 5 words have something very unusual in common. What is it?

Bad To The Bone

Aug 5, 2014

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is ba-a-a-ad. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with BA- and the second word starts with D-.

Last week's challenge: This challenge came from listener Matt Jones of Portland, Ore. There are three popular men's names, each six letters long, that differ by only their first letters. In other words, the last five letters of the names are all the same, in the same order. Of the three different first letters, two are consonants and one is a vowel. What names are these?

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is a game of categories based on the word peony. For each category, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters P-E-O-N-Y.

Last week's challenge: Name something in five letters that's nice to have a lot of in the summer. Change the last letter to the following letter of the alphabet. Rearrange the result, and you'll name something else that you probably have a lot of in the summer, but that you probably don't want. What is it? (HINT: the second thing is a form of the first thing.)

On-air challenge: Two clues will be provided. The first is for a brand name that ends in the letter S and sounds like it's plural. Change the first letter to spell a new word that is plural and answers the second clue. Example: tennis shoes, places to sleep; the answer would be Keds and beds.

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes." Every answer is a word starting with the letters "ch," and your clue will be an anagram of the word.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous actress of the past whose last name has five letters. Move the middle letter to the end to name another famous actress of the past. Who are these actresses?

Answer: Greta Garbo/Eva or Zsa Zsa Gabor

Winner: Craig Moreland from Okemos, Mich.

On-air challenge: Two clues will be given for two five-letter answers. Move the middle letter of the first answer to the end of the word to get the second answer. Example: A weapon that's thrown; a tire in the trunk. Answer: spear/spare

The Missing Link

Jun 29, 2014

On-air challenge: For each set of three words, find a word that can precede each one to complete a familiar two-word phrase or name. The first word in each set will name an animal. Example: turtle, spring, office. The answer would be box — box turtle, box spring, box office.

Last week's challenge: Think of a 10-letter adjective describing certain institutions. Drop three letters from this word, and the remaining seven letters, reading left to right, will name an institution described by this adjective. What institution is it?

Oh, You Know The Answer

Jun 22, 2014

On-air challenge: Every answer is a compound word or familiar two-word phrase or title in which each word has OU as its second and third letters. Example: Given "heading to Antarctica," you would say, "Southbound."

Next week's challenge: From 11-year-old listener Eli Shear-Baggish of Arlington, Mass. Name a certain trip that contains the letter S. Change the S to a C and rearrange the resulting letters. You'll name the location where this trip often takes place. Where is it?

Answer: Safari; Africa

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is geographical. Every answer is the name of a river — identify it using its anagram minus a letter. Example: Top minus T = Po (River).

Last Week's Challenge: Name part of a TV that contains the letter C. Replace the C with the name of a book of the Old Testament, keeping all the letters in order. The result will name a sailing vessel of old. What is it?

Answer: Viking Ship

Winner: Jay Adams of Monticello, Fla.

A Puzzle In E-Z Mode

Jun 8, 2014

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in E and the second word starts with Z. For example, given, "popular blush wine," the answer would be: White zinfandel.

Last week's challenge: This challenge came from listener Dan Pitt of Palo Alto, Calif. Take the name of a well-known American businessman — first and last names. Put the last name first. Insert an M between the two names. The result names a food item. What is it?

Answer: Muskmelon (Elon Musk)

On-air challenge: Every answer to the given clue is a made-up, two-word phrase in which you add IN to the front of the first word to get the second word. For example: shoe insert; sole insole

On-air challenge: The theme of today's puzzle is May. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with MA and the second word ends with Y. Example: Alcoholic beverage made from fermented mash: Malt Whiskey

Last Week's Challenge: Name a famous actress of the past whose last name has two syllables. Reverse the syllables phonetically. The result will name an ailment. What is it?

Answer: Sarah Bernhardt — heart burn

Winner: David Hodges of Collingswood, N.J.

Spoiler Alert: The answers for today's on-air challenge are given below. Read no further if you're playing along with the audio.

On-air challenge: The on-air puzzle this week consists of some of the runner-up entries from our two-week creative challenge. Every answer has six or more letters.

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