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: 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.


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.


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.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is a familiar two-word phrase or name, in which the first word starts with the letters C and A in that order, and the second word starts with P.

For example, a sheet that a typist once used to make a copy of something --> CARBON PAPER.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the last name of a late-night TV host, past or present. Identify the hosts from their anagrams.

Example: EMERY + S ---> (Seth) MEYERS.

Last week's challenge: It's a well-known curiosity that the longest, common unhyphenated word that can be typed on the top row of a typewriter or a computer keyword is typewriter. What is a common hyphenated word, in 12 letters, that can be typed using only the keys on the top row of a typewriter or computer keyboard?

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the first and last name of one of the major Republican candidates for president. Identify the candidates from the anagrams given.

For example: PORTLAND MUD --> Donald Trump.

Last week's challenge from listener Ben Bass of Chicago: Name a well-known U.S. geographical place — two words; five letters in the first word, six letters in the last — that contains all five vowels (A, E, I, O and U) exactly once. It's a place that's been in the news. What is it?

On-air challenge: This is a game of categories, based on the word "virgo," which is the astrological sign for this time of year. For each category, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters V-I-R-G-O.

For example, if the category were "chemical elements," you might say vanadium, iron, radium, gold and oxygen. Any answer that works is OK, and you can give the answers in any order.

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle was inspired by crossword constructor Merl Reagle, who died earlier this month.

One of Merl's most classic crosswords was titled "Anagrammys," in which he took the titles of popular songs and recast them with an anagram of one word. For example, his clue was "Anagrammy-winning poker song?" and the answer was "Dealer of the Pack." Of course, that was a play on "Leader of the Pack," which was a hit for the Shangri-Las in 1964.

On-air challenge: You'll be given a five-letter word and a six-letter word. Rearrange the letters of the five-letter word to get a synonym of the six-letter one. For example, given "carve" and "desire," you would say "crave."

Last week's challenge: Take the word EASILY. You can rearrange its letters to spell SAY and LEI. These two words rhyme even though they have no letters in common.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of a state. For all the words given, ignore the vowels in them. The consonants in them are the same consonants, in the same order, as in the states.

For example, the word "regain" would be "Oregon."

Last week's challenge from listener Martin Eiger: Name part of a car. Drop the fifth letter. Now reverse the order of the last three letters. The result, reading from left to right, will name a major American city. What city is it?

Answer: Seat belt, Seattle

On-air challenge: For each word given, think of another word starting with the same two letters that can follow it to complete a familiar compound word.

Last week's challenge from listener Joe Krozel: This challenge involves a spoonerism. To recap, that's where you exchange the initial consonant sounds of two words to get two new words. For example, a spoonerism of "light rain" is "right lane." Name two animals. Exchange their initial consonant sounds, and the result in two words will be the name a third animal. What is it?