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
7:51 am
Sun April 26, 2015

A Puzzle As Easy As Falling Off A Log

NPR

Originally published on Sun April 26, 2015 10:47 am

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

For example, a professional organization that seeks to influence legislation is a LOBBYING GROUP.

Last week's challenge: The challenge came from listener Steve Daubenspeck of Fleetwood, Pa. Take the first names of two politicians in the news. Switch the first letters of their names and read the result backward to name something that each of these politicians is not.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:03 am
Sun April 19, 2015

W Seeking W For Compound Word Dates

NPR

Originally published on Sun April 19, 2015 11:00 am

On-air challenge: For each word starting with "W," think of another word, also starting with W, that can follow the first to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. Example: Walk --> Way = walkway

Last week's challenge: This challenge comes from listener Peter Stein of San Francisco. Think of a job, in eight letters, that names someone who might work with actors. Change one letter in this to the following letter of the alphabet to name another person who works with actors. What jobs are these?

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Sunday Puzzle
7:25 am
Sun April 12, 2015

Be Attentive, And You'll Find TV In These Words

NPR

Originally published on Sun April 12, 2015 11:01 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a popular TV series past or present. For each word or phrase given, remove some of its letters so that those that remain, reading from left to right, will name the show. Every answer will use at least half the letters of the given word or phrase. For example, "Brownies" is Bones.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:33 am
Sun April 5, 2015

What's In A Word? Another Word

NPR

Originally published on Sun April 5, 2015 11:19 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up, two-word phrase in which the first word has seven letters. Drop its first and last letters to get a five-letter word that is the second part of the phrase. For example: Bottled water from France that is not normal is "deviant Evian."

Last week's challenge: The challenge came from listener Henry Hook. And it was a little tricky. Given a standard calculator with room for 10 digits, what is the largest whole number you can register on it?

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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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