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.

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Games + Leisure
11:53 am
Sun April 20, 2014

April Showers Bring Puzzle Flowers

NPR

On-air challenge: With spring in the air, it's a fitting time for a flower puzzle. Find the flower answer using its anagram, minus one letter. Example: R-I-S-H-I, minus H, is "iris."

Last week's challenge from listener Louis Sargent of Portland, Ore: Name a well-known American company. Insert a W somewhere inside the name, and you'll get two consecutive titles of popular TV shows of the past. What are they?

Answer: Westinghouse; West Wing, House

Winner: John Rowden of New York

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Science + Technology
6:54 pm
Sun April 13, 2014

One Word To Rule Them All, And In The Puzzle Bind Them

NPR

On-air challenge: Three words that start with the same letter will be presented in a group. Find a word that shares the same first letter as the three, and that can follow each word within the group to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. Example: "big," "broad," "boy"; the answer would be "band" to get "big band," "broadband" and "boy band."

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Games + Leisure
9:16 am
Sun April 13, 2014

Looking High And Low For Middle C

NPR

On-air challenge: This puzzle is called "Middle C." For each prompt or clue, think of a common three-syllable word or name in which the middle syllable is pronounced "cee." Example: Coming immediately before = preceding.

Last week's challenge: Last week's challenge came from listener Mike Reiss, a former writer and producer for The Simpsons. The film Wild Wild West had three W's as its initials. What prominent film of last year had two W's as its initials?

Answer: The Wolf Of Wall Street

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Games + Leisure
5:59 pm
Sun March 30, 2014

Fool Me Once, Shame On You; Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

NPR

On-air challenge: This week's challenge comes from a book called Puzzles & Pleasantries, published by the Old Farmer's Almanac. Since April Fool's Day is coming up on Tuesday, the challenge questions are all April Fool-ish. Each one has appeared in a past year of the Old Farmer's Almanac, and each has a legitimate answer.

Last week's challenge: Name a capital of a country. Change the first letter to name a familiar musical instrument. What is it?

Answer: Caracas, maracas.

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Science + Technology
11:36 am
Sun March 23, 2014

Changing The World One Letter At A Time

NPR

On-air challenge: For each geographical place provided, change one letter to make a new, common word that has a different number of syllables than the geographical name. Note: The answer word can have either fewer or more syllables than the geographical name.

Example: Lima = limp, limb, lime (for some of the names, multiple answers are possible)

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Games + Leisure
11:32 am
Sun March 16, 2014

Two Is Company, But Three Is A Crowd

NPR

On-air challenge: A series of paired words will be provided. For each pair, think of a third word that can follow the first one and precede the second to complete a familiar two-word phrase. Every answer starts with "W." Example: Open and Awake; Answer: Wide.

Last week's challenge: This puzzle was created by Will Shortz for an event held recently at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. Take the name of a classical Greek mathematician. The letters in his name can be rearranged to spell two numbers. What are they?

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Games + Leisure
12:00 pm
Sun March 9, 2014

A High Five On The Seven Seas

NPR

On-air challenge: For each five-letter word provided, insert two letters after the first letter to complete a familiar seven-letter word.

Last week's challenge: The challenge came from listener Harry Hillson of Avon-by-the-Sea, N.J. Take the first name of a nominee for Best Actor or Best Actress at last Sunday's Oscars. You can rearrange these letters into a two-word phrase that describes his or her character in the film for which he or she is nominated. Who is this star, and what is the phrase?

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Games + Leisure
11:30 am
Sun March 2, 2014

Let's All Go To The Lobby, To Get Ourselves A Treat

NPR

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "Let's." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or title containing the consecutive letters L-E-T. Specifically, the first word will end in L-E and the second word will start with T.

Last week's challenge: Write down these six words:

  • Cupid
  • Yoo-hoo
  • Eyeball
  • Entrance
  • Seafood
  • Wiper
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Games + Leisure
10:05 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Famous Four-By-Fours That Aren't Trucks

NPR

Originally published on Sun February 23, 2014 11:57 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a famous person with four letters in his or her first name and four letters in the last. For each person, you'll be given initials and an anagram of the full name. You name the person.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous entertainer: two words, four letters in each word. You can rearrange these eight letters to spell the acronym of a well-known national organization, and the word that the first letter of this acronym stands for. Who's the entertainer, and what's the organization?

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Games + Leisure
11:44 am
Sun February 16, 2014

Get Ready To Flip Your Lid

NPR

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "One, Two, Three — Flip!" The answer will come in the form of two words, and for each word you'll get a clue beforehand. Reverse the order of the first three letters of the first word to get the second word. Example: Cavalry sword and more villainous = SABER, BASER.

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Games + Leisure
12:13 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Break Loose, Break Loose, Kick Off Your Sunday Shoes

NPR

Originally published on Sun February 9, 2014 11:44 am

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "Break Loose." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase in which the first word has a long-A vowel sound (as in "break"), and the second word has a long-U vowel sound (as in "loose").

Last week's challenge: The challenge came from listener Sam Williamson of Charlevoix, MI, and it's a two-part question: where in most homes will you see the words SHE and HIS ... and what word will you see right after HIS?

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Games + Leisure
10:21 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Drop The Zero And Get With The Hero

NPR

Originally published on Sun February 2, 2014 2:17 pm

On-air challenge: For each single letter given, recombine it with the letters in the word "ZERO" to spell a new word. For example, ZERO plus F would be "FROZE."

Last week's challenge: What word, containing two consecutive S's, becomes its own synonym if you drop those S's?

Answer: Blossom, bloom

Winner: Trey Moody of Killeen, Texas

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Games + Leisure
10:23 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Take Synonyms For A Spin (Or Pirouette)

NPR

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 2:28 pm

On-air challenge: For each word given, name a synonym in which the first two letters are the same as the second and third letters of the given word. For example, spin and pirouette.

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Games + Leisure
11:43 am
Mon December 16, 2013

When Push Comes To Shove

NPR

Originally published on Sun December 15, 2013 3:04 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a five-letter word. You'll be given a clue for the word. Besides giving you a direct hint to the answer, the clue will also contain the answer in consecutive letters. For example, given "push over hard," you would say "shove."

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Games + Leisure
11:46 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Noteworthy Names, In Rhyme

NPR

Originally published on Sun December 8, 2013 3:56 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a famous person whose first and last names start with the same consonant or group of consonants. You're given rhymes for the two names. You name the people. For example, if given "cycle four," the answer would be "Michael Moore."

Last week's challenge: Name a dance. Change one of the letters to a U. The resulting letters can be rearranged to name an event at which this dance is done. What is it?

Answer: hula, luau

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Games + Leisure
10:09 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Find The Rhyme And The Reason

NPR

Originally published on Sun October 6, 2013 3:05 pm

On-air challenge: For each given category, name things in the category starting with the letters R, H, Y, M, E. For example, if the category were "chemical elements with names ending in -ium," you might say: radium, helium, yttrium, magnesium and einsteinium. You can give the answers in any order, and any answer that works is fine.

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Games + Leisure
12:30 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Close, But No Cigar

NPR

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 2:09 pm

On-air challenge: Each of the following answers is a made-up, two-word phrase in which the two words are homophones, and both words start with the letter C.

Last week's challenge from listener Henry Hook of Brooklyn: Think of a well-known celebrity who goes by a single name — the last two letters of which are alphabetically separated by only one letter (like A and C, or B and D). Replace this pair of letters with the one that separates them, and you'll have a common, everyday word. What is it?

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Games + Leisure
7:55 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Shh! Listen Carefully

NPR

Originally published on Sun September 1, 2013 2:42 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase with the consecutive letters of S-H-H. Specifically, the first word in the answer will end in SH, and the second will start with H.

Last week's challenge: Think of a business that's found in most towns. Its name consists of two words, each starting with a consonant. Interchange the consonants and you'll get two new words — neither of which rhymes with the original words. What business is it?

Answer: Car wash

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Games + Leisure
12:48 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

It's All Greek To Me

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun August 25, 2013 11:22 am

On-air challenge: You're given some sentences. Each sentence conceals the name of a language in consecutive letters. Name the language. Each answer has five or more letters.

Last week's challenge: The Roman numeral for 38 is XXXVIII. What is special or unusual about this Roman numeral that sets it apart from every other Roman numeral that can be written?

Answer: If every possible Roman numeral were listed in alphabetical order, XXXVIII would be last.

Winner: Joseph Kuperberg of Pittsford, N.Y.

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Arts + Life
1:27 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

A Matter Of Succession

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 4:07 pm

On-air challenge: You're given two words starting with the letter S. For each pair, give a third word — also starting with S — that can follow the first one and precede the second one, in each case to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Last week's challenge: A logic puzzle: "Nieces and nephews have I none, but that man's father is my father's son." What is the gender of the speaker? And who is the speaker referring to?

Answer: Male, the speaker is referring to his own son.

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