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: Every answer today is a word or name containing the consecutive letters R-I-O. The first set of answers will end in -rio.

For example: Novelty item --> CURIO.

Last week's challenge from Ed Pegg Jr. of mathpuzzle.com: Take the four 4-letter words LIMB, AREA, CORK and KNEE. Write them one under the other, and the four columns will spell four new words: LACK, IRON, MERE and BAKE:

LIMB
AREA
CORK
KNEE

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you two four-letter words. Rearrange the letters in each of them to make two synonyms.

For example: Newt, felt --> went, left.

Last week's challenge: A spoonerism is an interchange of initial consonant sounds in a phrase to get another phrase, as in "light rain" and "right lane." Name something seen in a kitchen in two words. Its spoonerism is an article that's worn mostly by men. What is it?

Answer: Pie tin; tie pin.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a word that starts with Para-. First, I'll define it in a regular way and then in a punny way. You tell me the words.

For example: Typical examples / 20 cents --> PARADIGMS ("pair o' dimes").

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of a newspaper comic strip or cartoon, past or present. Identify the funnies from their anagrams.

For example: GOO + P --> POGO.

Last week's challenge from Mike Hinterberg of Loveland, Colo.: Name a creature in nine letters. The name contains a T. Drop the T, and the remaining letters can be rearranged to spell two related modes of transportation. What are they?

Answer: Butterfly --> Lyft, Uber.

On-air challenge: Given two kinds of people or things, name something they both do — in three letters.

For example: a false witness, and a person in bed --> lie.

Last week's challenge, from listener Peter Weisz of West Palm Beach, Fla.: Name something in 11 letters that's a common household item. You can rearrange the first six letters to form a synonym of a word spelled by the middle three letters. What is the item, and what are the words?

Answer: Thermometer; mother, mom.

On-air challenge: Given a four-letter word and a six-letter word, rearrange the letters of one of them to get a synonym of the other.

For example: Risk, garden --> DANGER.

Last week's challenge, from listener Timothy Gotwald of Chambersburg, Pa.: Think of a word that means "entrance." Interchange the second and fourth letters, and you'll get a new word that means "exit." What words are these?

Answer: Gateway, getaway.

Winner: Albert Tumpson of Los Angeles.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is a phrase in the form "___ and ___." I'll give you rhymes for the two missing words. You complete the phrases.

For example: Lick and lose --> pick and choose.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous singer — first and last names. The last four letters of the first name spelled backward plus the first four letters of the last name spelled forward, read together, in order, name a section of products in a drugstore. What is it?

Answer: Mariah Carey --> hair care.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in "X" and the second starts with "C" (as in XC, the Roman numeral for 90). A friend of mine recently turned 90, and I made this as a birthday gift.

For example: Tailless feline --> MANX CAT.

Last week's challenge, from Sandy Weisz of Chicago: Take the name of a famous musical. Write it in upper- and lowercase letters, as you usually would.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is an anagram of a six-letter girl's name. I'll give you the name and a synonym of its anagram. You tell me the anagram.

For example: GLENDA Hang loosely --> DANGLE.

On-air challenge: Every answer consists of two words in the same category that rhyme. For example, two animals whose rhyming names start with B and H are BEAR and HARE. Each clue will give you the initial letters, the words' lengths and the category. Name the things.

On-air challenge: Every answer is a five-letter word said twice, in two different meanings. Answer the clues to get the phrases.

For example: Device for moving Raggedy Ann and similar toys --> DOLLY DOLLY.

Last week's challenge, from listener Andrew Chaikin of San Francisco: Think of a common nine-letter word that contains five consecutive consonants. Take three consecutive consonants out of these five and replace them with vowels to form another common nine-letter word. What is it?

Answer: Strengths, strenuous.

On-air challenge:

Take the category, then name something in it whose first two letters are the last two letters of the category's name.

For example: Author > (George) Orwell.

1. Beatle

2. Disney musical

3. Letter of the Greek alphabet

4. Country in Africa

5. Make of auto

6. Make of automobile

7. An Obama

8. Salad green

9. Racehorse

10. Municipal official

11. Norse explorer

12. Bridge

13. Ocean

14. Best Picture

15. Summer Olympics host

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in -D and the second word starts with ST-.

For example: Small red fruit on a vine in the woods --> WILD STRAWBERRY.

Last week's challenge, from listener Donna Bass of Lake Forest, Ill.: BAIL, NAIL and MAIL are three four-letter words that differ only by their first letters. And those first letters (B, N and M) happen to be adjacent on a computer keyboard.

On-air challenge:

In a series of categories, name something in the category starting with each of the letters W-I-N-D-S. Any answer that works is fine, and you can give the answers in any order.

For example: Two-Syllable Girls' Names --> Wilma, Ingrid, Nancy, Donna, and Suzanne.

Last week's challenge: What two eight-letter terms in math are anagrams of each other? One word is from geometry, and the other is from calculus. What words are they?

Answer: Triangle, integral.

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in the letter -E, and the second word starts GO-.

For example: Something you might say when you're about to take a plunge --> HERE GOES.

Last week's challenge: Name something to eat. Change one letter in it and rearrange the result. You'll name the person who makes this food. Who is it?

Answer: Bread and baker.

Winner: Mary Ann Gaeddert, of Georgetown, Ky.

On-air challenge: Change one letter of each word and rearrange the result to get a new word that can follow it, to complete a common two-word phrase.

For example: FALL ... changing one of the L's to a T --> FLAT: Fall Flat.

Last week's challenge, based on an idea by listener Jon Herman: If PAJAMA represents first, and REBUKE represents second, what nine-letter word can represent third? There are two possible answers, one common and one not so common. Either one will be counted correct.

On-air challenge: Every answer given in this week's puzzle is a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase in which each part contains the consecutive letters A-N.

For example: Steinway product --> GRAND PIANO.

Last week's challenge, from listener Michael Shteyman of Odenton, Md.: Take the name of a country and a well-known city in the Middle East — 12 letters in all. Rearrange these letters to name another country and another well-known city in the Middle East. What places are these?

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you some six-letter words. For each one, insert two letters in the exact center to complete a familiar eight-letter word.

For example: ACCENT --> ACCIDENT.

Last week's challenge, from listener Fred Piscop of Bellmore, N.Y.: Take these three phrases:

Turkey breast
Ski slope
Cash drawer

What very unusual property do they have in common?

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you a clue for a word that has two Os. Change both Os to Es to get the answer to the second clue.

For example: Sport played on horseback / Brazilian soccer legend --> POLO, PELE.

Last week's challenge: Last week's challenge was an extension of my on-air puzzle. Think of a category in three letters in which the last two letters are the first two letters of something in that category. And the thing in the category has seven letters. Both names are common, uncapitalized words. What are they?

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of an article of apparel — something to wear. Name the items from the anagram given.

Example: LOOP --> POLO.

Last week's challenge: This was a variation on the old word-ladder puzzle. The object is to change WHOLE to HEART by either adding or subtracting one letter at a time, making a new, common, uncapitalized word at each step.

On-air challenge: It's the end of the year, so it's time for a challenge featuring the names of people who made news in 2015. For each description given, name the person (or people) described.

  1. Transgender woman and Olympic gold medal winner in the decathlon, formerly known as Bruce Jenner.

  2. County clerk in Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is the name of a Christmas carol or song — mostly carols. Answer the questions.

For example: What's the title of a Christmas carol or song that sounds like a member of King Arthur's Round Table who won't speak?

On-air challenge: Three words will be given, starting with the letters F, B, and I respectively. Find a word that can follow each one to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Last week's challenge: Name a state capital. Drop one of its letters. The remaining letters can be rearranged to name another major city in the United States. What is it? There are two different answers, and you should find both of them.

Answer: St. Paul (Minn.), Tulsa (Okla.); Salem (Ore.), Mesa (Ariz.)

On-air challenge:

I'm going to give you some 5-letter words. For each one, change the middle letter to two new letters to get a familiar 6-letter word.

Ex. FROND --> FRIEND
1. EARLY
2. TULIP
3. MOURN
4. BROTH
5. LATCH
6. JUROR
7. SCOWL
8. FUTON
9. DEITY
10. EGEST
11. GUSTY
12. HOUSE
13. ORGAN
14. PANDA
15. SLOTH
16. DECOR
17. ALIVE
18. VISOR

Last week's challenge, from listener Adam Cohen of Brooklyn, NY:

On-air challenge: Each sentence contains two words that have homophones that are opposites. For each sentence given, find the homophone opposites.

For example: Actress Susan Dey dressed up as a knight on Halloween. --> "Dey" and "knight" are homophones of "day" and "night," which are opposites.

Next week's challenge: Think of a word that contains three consecutive letters of the alphabet together — like CANOPY, which contains NOP. Change these three letters to one new letter to make a synonym of the first word. What words are these?

On-air challenge: For each word, think of a synonym whose first and second letters, in order, are the second and third letters, respectively, of the given word.

For example: Shock --> horrify.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous actor — first and last names. Drop the first two letters of the first name and the last two letters of the last name. Then put a "Y" between what's left of the two names. The result, reading from left to right, will identify who might solve this challenge and play puzzle on the air with me next week.

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is called "Bus Fare." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase, in which the first word starts with BU- and the second word starts with S.

For example: A onetime General Motors car named for a bird --> Buick Skylark.

On-air challenge:

Given a four-letter word, insert two letters to complete a common six-letter word.

Ex. PACE --> PALACE

Last week's challenge:

On-air challenge: This week's theme is SPAs. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with S- and the second word starts with PA-.

For example: Something to jot notes on —> SCRAP PAPER or SCRATCH PAD (either answer works).

Last week's challenge: This is a creative challenge, so you get some extra time. The object is to write a 10-word sentence in which each word ends with the same letter of the alphabet.

On-air challenge: For each six-letter word given, add two letters at the start to complete a common eight-letter word. The answer never involves adding a regular prefix like RE- or UN-.

For example: berate --> liberate.

Last week's challenge, from Mike Reiss: Name a famous Greek person from history. Rearrange the letters of the name to get the title of a famous Italian person from history. Who are these two people?

Answer: Euclid, Il Duce.

Winner: Linda Shacklock of Gilbert, Ariz.

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