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: 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.

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is a game of categories based on the word "phlox." You'll be given some categories. For each one, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters P, H, L, O and X. For example, if the category were "comic books," you might say "Phantom, Hopalong Cassidy, Lone Ranger, Our Gang Comics and X-men." Any answer that works is okay, and you can give the answers in any order.

On-air challenge: Every answer is a five-letter word. You will be given a clue for the word. Besides describing the answer, the clue will also contain the answer in consecutive letters. For example, given "It's near the planet Mars," you would say, "Earth."

Last week's challenge Mike Reiss, a writer for The Simpsons: Name a famous actor or actress whose last name ends in a doubled letter. Drop that doubled letter. Then insert an R somewhere inside the first name. The result will be a common two-word phrase. What is it?

First In, Last Out

Apr 27, 2014

On-air challenge: For each word provided, give a word that can follow it to complete a familiar two-word phrase. The first two letters of the provided word should be the last two letters of the answer. Example: Red Square

Last week's challenge: Name certain trees. Also name something that trees have. Rearrange all the letters to get the brand name of a product you might buy at a grocery or drug store. What is it?

Answer: Firs + Leaves = Life Savers

Winner: Nils Thingvall of Lafayette, Colo.

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

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."

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

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.

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)

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?

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?

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

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?

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.

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?

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

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.

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."

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