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 is a made-up, two-word phrase in which the vowel in the first word is a short "e" and the vowel in the second word is a long "o." For example: A place to meditate would be a "zen zone."

Last week's challenge: There is a politician today, sometimes known by his or her full three-word name, whose initials are also the initials of a popular chain of restaurants. Who is the politician and what's the restaurant?

Answer: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hard Rock Cafe

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a state capital, to be identified from its anagram. For example, given "banally" minus the letter L, the answer would be "Albany."

Last week's challenge from the Emmy-winning TV comedy writer Mike Reiss: A famous actress and a famous director share the same last name, although they are unrelated. The first name of one of these is a classic musical. The first name of the other is an anagram of a classic musical. Who are they?

On-air challenge: Each answer is a two-word phrase consisting of two homophones starting with the letter S. For example, given the clue "remained dignified," the answer would be, "stayed staid."

Last week's challenge: Name a brand of beer. Rearrange the letters to name an activity often associated with beer.

Answer: Tsingtao, toasting

Winner: Jacob Taber of New York, N.Y.

No Time To Be Bashful

Oct 20, 2013

This week we have a celebrity edition of the Puzzle. Comedian Paula Poundstone is taking on our challenge. Poundstone is also a regular panelist on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is an insider's test. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the consecutive letters T-E-S-T. Specifically, the first word will end with -TE and the second word will start ST-. For example, given "sheer force," you would say "brute strength."

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.

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up, two-word phrase in which each word has two or more syllables. The first vowel sound in the first word is a short "e." Change that short "e" to a short "a" sound, and phonetically you'll get the second word of the phrase. For example, given "energetic backwoods father," you would say "peppy pappy."

Play The Blame Game

Sep 22, 2013

On-air challenge: You will be given two words. Think of a third word that can follow each to complete a familiar two-word phrase. The third word will rhyme with one of the given words. For example, given "blame" and "board," you would say "game," as in "blame game" and "board game."

Close, But No Cigar

Sep 8, 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 1, 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

It's All Greek To Me

Aug 25, 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.

A Matter Of Succession

Aug 18, 2013

On-air challenge: You're given two words starting with the letter S. For each pair, give a third word — also starting with S — that can follow the first one and precede the second one, in each case to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Last week's challenge: A logic puzzle: "Nieces and nephews have I none, but that man's father is my father's son." What is the gender of the speaker? And who is the speaker referring to?

Answer: Male, the speaker is referring to his own son.

Easy As ABC

Aug 11, 2013

On-air challenge: Every answer is an anagram of a word that has the letters A-B-C in it.

Last week's challenge: Name a foreign make of automobile. Cross out several letters in its name. The remaining letters, reading in order from left to right, will spell a food that comes from the country where the car is made. What is the country, and what is the food?

Answer: Mitsubishi, sushi

Winner: Lindsy Schwantes of Waite Park, Minn.

First Names First

Aug 4, 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.

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."