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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Sunday Puzzle
8:43 am
Sun March 29, 2015

For This Puzzle, Watch Your Words

NPR

Originally published on Sun March 29, 2015 10:33 am

On-air challenge: The challenge is a game of Categories based on the word "watch." For each category provided, name something in the category starting with each of the letters W-A-T-C-H. For example, parts of the human body would be "waist," "arm," "thigh," "chest" and "head."

Last week's challenge: Take the word "die." Think of two synonyms for this word that are themselves exact opposites of each other. What two words are these? A hint: they have the same number of letters.

Answer: Pass, fail

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Sunday Puzzle
9:19 am
Sun March 22, 2015

What's Last Comes First

NPR

On-air challenge: You'll be given some words. For each one, name another word that can follow the first to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. The last and first letters, respectively, of the first word must be the first and second letters, respectively, of the second. For example, given "tennis," you would say "stadium" or "stroke."

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun March 15, 2015

Say Yes To The Puzzle

NPR

Originally published on Sat March 21, 2015 12:55 pm

On-air challenge: "Yes" is supposed to be the most pleasing word in the English language. And if that's true, today's puzzle will be very pleasing indeed. Every answer is an anagram of "yes" plus two or three other letters.

Last week's challenge: Take a familiar phrase in the form "[blank] and [blank]." Put the second word in front of the first, and you'll name a common part of a large company. What is it?

Answer: "Room and board," boardroom

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Sunday Puzzle
8:08 am
Sun March 1, 2015

4 Out Of 5 Puzzlers Say These Things Are The Same

NPR

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 3:07 pm

On-air challenge: Rearrange the letters in a four-letter word and a five-letter word to get a pair of synonyms. For example, given "time" and "night," you would say "item" and "thing."

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun February 22, 2015

And The Oscar Goes To ...

NPR

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 9:04 am

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

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Sunday Puzzle
7:46 am
Sun February 15, 2015

'La La La' I Can't Hear You

NPR

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 9:42 am

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is called "La La La." Every answer is a word or name of three or more syllables in which an interior syllable is an accented "la." Example: Family name of the former shah of Iran: Pahlavi

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun February 8, 2015

Two Is Company, Three Is A Crowd

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun February 8, 2015 11:41 am

On-air challenge: For each familiar two-word phrase, use the first three letters of the first word and the first three letters of the second word to start two other words that have opposite meanings of each other. Example: Health food = HEAD, FOOT

Last week's challenge: Think of a well-known place name in the U.S. in four letters. Switch the second and third letters to get a well-known place name in Europe. What is it?

Answer: Erie, Eire

Winner: Paul Weinstock of Gahanna, Ohio.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:40 am
Sun February 1, 2015

The Ol' Puzzle Switcheroo

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun February 1, 2015 11:39 am

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.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun January 25, 2015

A Puzzle Full Of Air

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun January 25, 2015 9:59 am

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a word starting with the letters A-R, which you will identify from its anagram. For example, given AR plus ROB, the answer would be "arbor."

Last week's challenge: Name two animals, both mammals, one of them domestic, the other wild. Put their letters together, and rearrange the result to name another mammal, this one wild, and not seen naturally around North America. What mammal is it?

Answer: dog + gnu = dugong

Winner: Michael Kurh, Geneva, Ill.

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Sunday Puzzle
7:41 am
Sun January 18, 2015

Sunday Puzzle: S.V. You

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun January 18, 2015 12:57 pm

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?

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun January 11, 2015

Finding The Pieces To Form A New Nation

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun January 11, 2015 11:26 am

On-air challenge: It's another geographical puzzle this week. For each familiar two-word phrase and name, take one or more letters from the start of the first word plus one or more letters from the start of the second word. Read them in order from left to right to name a country.

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Sunday Puzzle
9:20 am
Sun January 4, 2015

A Winter Puzzle To Brrring In The New Year

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 12:20 pm

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?

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Sunday Puzzle
9:49 am
Sun December 28, 2014

Newsworthy Names Of 2014

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun December 28, 2014 11:07 am

On-air challenge: Since this is the last puzzle of the year, it's time for the annual new-names-in-the-news quiz. Here's how it works: You're given names that you probably never heard of before 2014, but were in the news during the past 12 months. Answer with who the people are.

Last week's challenge: Take the first and last names of a well-known actress. Her first name has two vowels. Change them both to new vowels, and the result names part of a common Christmas decoration. What is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun December 21, 2014

What's That Puzzling Toy Under The Christmas Tree?

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun December 21, 2014 1:01 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer today is the name of a kid's toy that one might give for Christmas. Some are brand names, some are generic. Identify them from their anagrams. Ex. GEL + O --> LEGO

Last week's challenge: Think of a common exclamation in 4 letters. Move the last letter to the start, and then add a new letter to the end to get another well-known exclamation. What is it?

Answer: AHOY!, YAHOO!

Winner: Martin Spritzer, Pittsboro, N.C.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun December 14, 2014

A Puzzle Worth A Fortune

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun December 14, 2014 12:18 pm

On-air challenge: These are some business-related puzzles made for the New York Times' DealBook conference in New York last Thursday. Every answer is the name of a Fortune 200 company — that is, one of the top 200 corporations according to the 2014 list in Fortune magazine.

Last week's challenge: This week's challenge comes from listener Harry Hilson of Avon-by-the-Sea, N.J. Take the phrase "a few Texans come in." Rearrange these letters to name a geographic place. What is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun December 7, 2014

Just Say No, N-O

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun December 7, 2014 1:07 pm

On-air challenge: Think of the old saying: "That means no, N-O!" Every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the initial letters N and O. Example: Any place that reports on current events: NEWS OUTLET.

Last week's challenge: Bertrand Tavernier is a French director of such movies as Life and Nothing But and It All Starts Today. What amazing wordplay property does the name Bertrand Tavernier have? This sounds like an open-ended question, but when you have the right answer, you'll have no doubt about it.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:39 am
Sun November 23, 2014

Making A Change To Keep A Constant Consonant

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun November 23, 2014 11:56 am

NOTE: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the deadline for this week's puzzle will be on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern.

On-air challenge: You'll be given two words. Change the first consonant sound in each word to the same new consonant sound and you'll phonetically name two things in the same category. For example, given "soxer," and "legal," you would say "boxer," and "beagle," which are both breeds of dogs.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun November 9, 2014

Making Ends Meet

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun November 9, 2014 12:26 pm

On-air challenge: Given a category, name something whose first two letters are the first and last letters of the category. For example, given "Animal," you would say "Alligator" or "Alpaca."

Last week's challenge, from listener Sandy Weisz of Chicago: Write down the following four times: 3:00, 6:00, 12:55 and 4:07. These are the only times on a clock that share a certain property (without repeating oneself). What property is this?

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Sunday Puzzle
8:34 am
Sun November 2, 2014

What's In A Name? A Country, Apparently

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun November 2, 2014 10:04 am

On-air challenge: A series of names of famous people will be given. For each name, change either the first or last letter of the last name to a new letter, and rearrange the result to name a country.

Last week's challenge: Last week's challenge came from listener Mike Reiss, who's a writer for The Simpsons. Name a well-known TV actress of the past. Put an R between her first and last names. Then read the result backward. The result will be an order Dr. Frankenstein might give to Igor. Who is the actress, and what is the order?

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Sunday Puzzle
8:02 am
Sun October 26, 2014

Take This Job And Puzzle It

Sunday Puzzle
NPR

Originally published on Sun October 26, 2014 4:38 pm

On-air challenge: A series of sentences will be given; each one contains a blank. Put the name of an occupation in the blank to complete the sentence in a punny way. As a help, the occupation itself is hinted at, directly or indirectly, near the start of the sentence.

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