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Games + Leisure

Games + Leisure

Nick Lowe was one of the founders of the Great British rock explosion of the 1970s, writing songs like "Cruel to Be Kind and "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding." He's just released a new album of Christmas songs called Quality Street — A Seasonal Selection For All The Family.

Since Lowe's lyrics would lead us to believe there isn't anything funny about peace, love or understanding, we'll quiz him on three hilarious instances of human kindness.

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

If you love cats and adore Christmas, do we ever have the website for you. It takes the concept of "reality TV" in new directions — eight solid hours a day of streaming video of cats in a holiday setting.

The scene you'll find at Christmas Cats TV is a unique one. A woman sits in a den that includes a Christmas tree, a hearth and some presents — and a whole lot of cats, some of which have been cajoled into wearing Christmas sweaters.

Much of the modern education reform movement has centered around the drive for data. Standardized tests now gauge whether children are at grade level seemingly every few months. Kids are observed, measured and sorted almost constantly.

In Silicon Valley, a $20 billion industry does much the same thing — but for a different purpose.

Video game design has become a data-driven industry where games evolve depending on how they are played.

Actor John Lithgow has won awards for performances ranging from the goofy alien patriarch in 3rd Rock from the Sun to a demonic serial killer on Dexter to dramatic and musical roles on Broadway. (And if that weren't enough, he's written best-selling children's books, too.)

This week on All Tech, we're exploring kids and technology with posts and radio pieces about raising digital natives. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, by email or tweet.

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.

This weekend, independent video game developers and fans gathered for the international IndieCade Festival in Los Angeles.

One of the featured speakers Saturday was sound designer Ben Prunty, who integrates audio into some of the most popular independent video games. Prunty composed the soundtrack to the computer game Faster Than Light, which was nominated for IGN's Best Overall Music and Best PC Sound of 2012.

Grand Theft Auto made video game history this week: The latest version of the game had a record $800 million in sales on its first day. As with past versions, the game is generating controversy over its glorification of violence and drugs and its demeaning portrayal of women.

But around 15 percent of its fans are women, who find much to like about the game, even if they do have some ambivalence about it.

In our "Weekly Innovation" blog series, we explore an interesting idea, design or product that you may not have heard of yet. Do you have an innovation to share? Use this quick form.

The whole beauty of fantasy sports is that you can manage teams of pro athletes without ever leaving your couch. The process of drafting teams, betting on the success of individual players and trash-talking with your similarly obsessed friends takes place on Web and mobile platforms, and that makes the fantasy sports pastime about more than just bragging rights. It's become a billion-dollar business.

Close, But No Cigar

Sep 9, 2013

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?

Shh! Listen Carefully

Sep 3, 2013

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

Before Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert became establishments in news satire, there was The Onion. Thursday, "America's Finest News Source" turns 25.

Two college students founded the fake news organization, which began as a newspaper in Madison, Wis. "It really started as something very local that was intended mainly to ... sell pizza coupons," Editor-in-Chief Will Tracy tells Morning Edition host Renee Montagne..

It still has that Midwestern touch, he says.

It's All Greek To Me

Aug 26, 2013

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.

Quitting Your Job For Fantasy Football

Aug 25, 2013

You may just call it late summer; for many die-hard sports fans, it's called fantasy football drafting season.

Fantasy sports is a huge business, with an estimated 36 million people in the U.S. and Canada picking teams and talkin' trash, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

And now we may be at a tipping point.

One man - Drew Dinkmeyer - actually left his job as an investment analyst to play fantasy sports full-time.

Author David Ewalt was in the fourth grade when he got hooked on Dungeons & Dragons.

"I was at one of my friends' houses on a weekend after school. And he broke out this weird game," Ewalt tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "[He] said 'hey, do you guys want to fight some monsters and explore a dungeon?'"

Now a grown man, Ewalt still can't help but spread the good word about the game. He's written a new book about it, called Of Dice and Men.

Here's what the Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvard did. In 1934, he got himself a pen and paper and drew four cubes, like this.

Then he drew some more, like this.

And, then — and this is where he got mischievous — he drew one more set, like this.

He called this final version "Impossible Triangle of Opus 1 No. 293aa." I don't know what the "293aa" is about, but he was right about "impossible." An arrangement like this cannot take place in the physical universe as we know it.

Fear Of Clowns: Yes, It's Real

Aug 6, 2013

Warning: The following story may be upsetting to some people.

That's because it's about clowns.

Yes, clowns. Painted white faces, red lips, receding hairlines with tufts of wild hair, and — of course — the red foam nose. Fun for all ages, yet plenty of people are downright scared of them. There's even a word for it: coulrophobia, though that's not an official diagnosis.

First Names First

Aug 5, 2013

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is called "What's in a Name?" Every answer consists of the names of two famous people. The last name of the first person is an anagram of the first name of the last person. Given the non-anagram parts of the names, you identify the people. For example, given "Madeleine" and "Aaron," you would say "Kahn" and "Hank."

Last week's challenge: In three words, name a product sold mainly to women that has the initials N-P-R. The answer is a common phrase.

Comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan lives happily with his wife and his five young children in a two-bedroom apartment in lower Manhattan. You read that right: Five kids. Two parents. Two bedrooms. His latest book, Dad Is Fat, reflects on the challenges and triumphs of raising a big family in a small space.

We've invited Gaffigan to answer three questions about the health habits of Gwyneth Paltrow.

On-air challenge: This puzzle is supersonic. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name that has the consecutive letters S-S-T. Specifically, the first word will end in S-S, and the second word will start with T. For example, given, "A situation in which people speak on top of each other," you would say, "cross talk."

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a famous person, past or present, with five letters in the first and last names. One letter in each name is changed to make a new word. You name the people.

Last week's challenge: In the phrase "clothes closet," all the letters of the second word can be found inside the first. Think of another two-word phrase that means a place to keep clothes in which all the letter of the second word are found inside the first. The first word has nine letters, the second has six.

The Freaks Shall Inherit The Earth

Jul 19, 2013

For those who came of age in the 90s, or went to high school in the 80s, Freaks and Geeks is a cultural touchstone. Not only because it so perfectly captured the pains and joys of adolescence, but also because its young cast would go on to do amazing things. We quiz the show's creator, Paul Feig, about what everyone in the cast has been up to since their roles in Freaks and Geeks.

Plus, house musician Jonathan Coulton gives Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" (also the Freaks and Geeks theme song) his own nerd-rock treatment.

We've got two words for you: Goth Barbie.

Not only does such a thing exist, but after Barbie, it's the best-selling doll in the world. The dolls of Monster High are bone-thin beauties all related to famous monsters. They come with books and Web episodes that follow their stories in that place where everyone feels like a freak — in high school.

On-air challenge: You're given the three-word names of famous people. For each one, you get a clue to a familiar three-word phrase or title that has the same initials as the person. Name the phrase or title. For example, singer Billy Ray Cyrus has the initials B-R-C. And B-R-C are also the initials of the phrase "Blue ribbon commission."

The Last of Us is a new survival horror video game and it features — no big surprise — zombie-like creatures. But these are not the same old zombies that have dominated movie and TV screens in the past few years.

Neil Druckmann, creative director for The Last of Us, says he wanted a fresh new way to wipe out humanity — and he found it in a BBC documentary series called Planet Earth, which depicts the scary effects of the Cordyceps fungus.

This morning, as I perused the headlines, I saw a few items about the new Lone Ranger movie, and rather than being struck by interesting thoughts about the racial politics of Johnny Depp's Tonto, I abruptly remembered this joke: "Where does the Lone Ranger take his trash?" "To the dump, to the dump, to the dump dump dump." You know, because of the music?

And then I thought, "Who built the Lone Ranger's luxury apartment building?"

"Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Trump Trump."

I visited Toy Fair in New York City hunting for ideas for our summer series about kids' culture. One of the big takeaways was the increasing popularity of construction games such as Legos. Sales shot up nearly 20 percent last year. Now, it seems, every major toy manufacturer is scrambling to add new games geared toward kids building things.

You probably know that Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon. But that guy in all the pictures from the first moon landing? That's Buzz Aldrin. So here's a lesson for you all: It doesn't matter if you're the first guy out of the spaceship, just as long as you make the other guy hold the camera.

So sure, Aldrin has been to the moon, but what does he know about mooning? We've invited him to play a game called "Drop your pants and take a bow" — three questions about exposing one's buttocks.

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