WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Really Hard Edition 2: Part 1

Jul 17, 2014

In this hour, take on some of our trickiest games in recent memory with host Ophira Eisenberg and puzzle editor Art Chung. Do your best to remember two things at once in "International Doppelgangers" as puzzle guru John Chaneski asks you to combine celebrities with the names of countries, like that South American star, Argentina Fey. Then, try a twist on the mash-up in "Russian Dolls" by "nesting," or placing words inside a different one to make a longer word — putting a LAMB inside of a CAKE creates a CLAMBAKE.

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From NPR and WNYC, I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER. Over the next hour, we're going to bring you some of our most challenging games, some that we wrote to be tough, and others that just ended up that way in our Really Hard edition. And with me in the studio is our puzzle guru, the man who edits every single game you hear on the air, Art Chung.

ART CHUNG: Hi, Ophira.

EISENBERG: Hello. Now our first game is called International Doppelgangers. And this is a type of game we call a mashup game.

CHUNG: That's right. A mashup game is when we combine two very different things into one very long string of words. And what we've found is that some of our contestants can't really keep two things in their head at once.

EISENBERG: It's really hard.

CHUNG: It's really hard when one subject is general knowledge, like geography, and another is pop-culture, like celebrities.

EISENBERG: And that's what happens in this game, International Doppelgangers, right. We're sexing up geography by adding in a little glamorous celebrity.

CHUNG: Barely sexing it up. That's right. So in this game you'll hear Ophira joined by Jonathan Coulton and the sounds of the wheel slowly turning in the contestants' minds.


EISENBERG: On stage right now we have Kim Roth and Ryan Hyde.


EISENBERG: Kim, do you ever have people telling you that you look like a certain celebrity?

KIM ROTH: I've had Kate Winslet twice but I see it not at all. Not at all.

EISENBERG: Kate Winslet twice. I can kind of see that.


EISENBERG: Yes. Yes. Ryan, how about you? Been told anyone that you look like?

RYAN HYDE: Laurence Fishburne.

EISENBERG: Laurence Fishburne?


EISENBERG: I know. It is striking.

HYDE: You can see it.

EISENBERG: Yeah. It's the eyes. So this game is called International Doppelgangers. So there are plenty of celebrities who are known throughout the world, but you might be surprised to learn that some countries have their own versions of these well known personalities. Puzzle guru, John Chaneski, how about an example?

JOHN CHANESKI: Did you know that in Buenos Aires there's a very funny actress and writer who had a hit TV show called "Treinta Rock?" Her name is Argen-Tina Fey.

EISENBERG: It's going to be OK. It's going to be OK.


EISENBERG: Stick with me, contestants. I'm walking you through this. So in this game, you're going to combine the name of a country with the name of a celebrity. OK? And the big hint here is that the country is always going to go first. Like Burkino Fas-Ophira Eisenberg. See? Easy. And the last name will always be the celebrity's last name unchanged.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Our radio audience can't see it, but these contestants look very confident.


EISENBERG: Let's play. To be or not to be a porn star asked this actor in his breakout role in "Boogie Scandinavian Nights." You can do it. We'll talk it through together.



ROTH: Den-Mark Wahlberg?

EISENBERG: Exactly correct.

COULTON: Den-Mark Wahlberg. All right.


EISENBERG: This celebrity look alike hails from the Andes Mountain and is a real drag queen.



ROTH: Pe-Ru Paul?


COULTON: Pe-Ru Paul.


EISENBERG: All right. I was trying to come up with what Pe-Ru Paul's imaginary catchphrase would be. What do you think of - Machu Piched too much? No? How about at the end of "Drag Race" in Pe-Ru Paul he would be - I'm sorry. You have to go alpaca your bags.


EISENBERG: No? I only have 40 more.


EISENBERG: This actor has portrayed everyone from Oscar Schindler to a Jedi knight and can trace his lineage all the way back to Genghis Khan.

CHANESKI: He's in Ulan Bator somewhere between Russia and China.



ROTH: Mongo-Liam Neeson?




EISENBERG: This pop diva from a four-letter central African nation was proud that her British doppelganger was rolling in the deep.

CHANESKI: The nation sort of sounds like a man's name. A four-letter man's name. Rolling in the deep.



HYDE: Ch-Adele.

EISENBERG: Ch-Adele. You've got it.


EISENBERG: This is your last clue.


EISENBERG: I know, I know. Get excited. You've got a friend in this Persian songster who is also a favorite of his nation's short people. Persian songster.


CHANESKI: (Singing) He wrote a lot of movie songs.

EISENBERG: That is a darn good hint.

CHANESKI: "Toy Story III."

CHANESKI: That's not how the songs go.



ROTH: I-Randy Newman?

CHANESKI: I-Randy Newman is right!


EISENBERG: John Chaneski, how did our contestants do?


CHANESKI: You know, they scored some decent points, I've got to say.

EISENBERG: There were some points.

CHANESKI: But Kim did better. Kim wins the game. Way to go, Kim.


EISENBERG: This next ridiculously impossible game is a twist on the mashup game. That's right. We took the mashup game and then we made it a little harder where in this case we asked you to take words and nest them inside of other words in a game called Russian Dolls.

CHUNG: Right. Just like in a Russian doll, we took the word lamb and we put it into the word cake and you get...

EISENBERG: Lambcake.

CHUNG: Right. Or cakelamb.

EISENBERG: That's just a compound, not a nesting.

CHUNG: No. Actually the answer is clambake.

EISENBERG: Clambake.

CHUNG: Right, tricky. Very tricky.

EISENBERG: Very tricky. And we found that some contestants get this right off the bat. They understand the premise and they can almost move the letters in their mind. And other contestants, not so much. They have a little trouble with it, and then, you know, they lock up on stage.

EISENBERG: Right because it's not like they have pieces of paper on them - with them on stage. They actually have to do this inside of their head.

CHUNG: Exactly, and they probably wish they had some paper.

EISENBERG: 'Cause the pressures on.

CHUNG: Right and the listeners at home are waiting for you to answer.

EISENBERG: Well, judging you.

CHUNG: Silently judging you.

EISENBERG: That's right.

CHUNG: So let's listen in as Ophira and Jonathan Coulton try to put the nun in conundrum.


EISENBERG: Let's say hello to Allyson Rudolph and Akhil.


EISENBERG: You are my two word nerds, which tells you what kind of game we are playing. Allyson, you work in publishing as a book editor.


EISENBERG: Very cool. What is your number one hobby?

RUDOLPH: So my favorite things in the world are books and spreadsheets so I keep track of every book I've read in an Excel spreadsheet. It has the author, the editor, the agent, and also the Library of Congress cataloging and publication data.

EISENBERG: I love you. Can I just say that right now, that I love you?

RUDOLPH: You can find it on the copyright page. It's usually very funny. They have "Oryx and Crake," which is Margaret Atwood's sort of dystopian futuristic novel categorized as a love triangle.


EISENBERG: And your contestant is Akhil who has one name. Akhil, which is a cool name, don't get me wrong.

AKHIL: Thank you.

EISENBERG: But you really do not have a last name.


EISENBERG: Like, not even on your passport, driver's license?


COULTON: That's not allowed.


AKHIL: Oh, it is. In India it's allowed. I found out that when I came here it would cause a lot more problems, but.


EISENBERG: And why is it, exactly, that you don't have a last name?

AKHIL: The story that we've been told is so my dad is a Muslim, my mom is a Hindu. So when they got married, they decided let's not give our kids surnames so that when they grow up they can pick their own surname depending on what religion they pick.


AKHIL: And then I chose not to believe in anything, so.


AKHIL: It followed logically that I had to not have a surname.


EISENBERG: This is going to be fun. This game is called Russian Dolls. As you know, Russian dolls nest inside of each other and some words are like that as well. They contain one word nested inside of a different word. We'll give you a clue to a long word and that clue will contain both of the shorter words. And it's your job to nest one word inside the other longer word. Don't worry. Puzzle guru Art Chung, let's have an example.

CHUNG: If we said mothers who want their sons to go into medicine might urge them to become these, the answer would be surgeons which is the word urge nested inside the word sons.


RUDOLPH: Oh, my god.

CHUNG: Allyson is rolling her eyes.

COULTON: It's totally easy, you guys.

EISENBERG: I'll emphasize which words we want you to nest, but we're not going to tell you which word is the one on the inside and which one is on the outside. So ring in when you know the answer and feel free to talk it out. Akhil is giving me eye contact that says yes. Allyson is looking at the table and freaking out.


EISENBERG: OK. An actor might try to play an aged character like King Lear in this kind of play.



RUDOLPH: Tragedy?



COULTON: My uncle can't ride this contraption when the sidewalk is icy.



AKHIL: Bicycle?

COULTON: Close but no cigar. Allyson, do you have a guess?

RUDOLPH: Unicycle?

COULTON: Unicycle is right.

EISENBERG: And in that question you had to put yourself in the place as the niece or nephew of a clown.


EISENBERG: Spilling a tray full of food on your clean new vest would be a ridiculous this.



RUDOLPH: Travesty.

EISENBERG: Yes. Only bigger travesty is wearing a vest. You are correct.



COULTON: When the shower drain is all clear - I was emphasizing there - the water level tends to be this.


COULTON: Allyson.

RUDOLPH: Shallower?

COULTON: Shallower is right.


EISENBERG: If you don't obey your personal trainer but just sit on your tush all day, you might develop this condition.


AKHIL: Obesity.

EISENBERG: Akil, that is correct.


EISENBERG: Is that kind of funny? I was noticing this, that there is no I in team but there is a sit in obesity.


COULTON: A giant ape might try to climb this tall part of a castle.



AKHIL: Rampart?

COULTON: Oh. No. It's a good guess. Allyson, do you know what it is?

RUDOLPH: Oh. Parapet?

COULTON: Parapet. That's right. Yeah.


COULTON: Nice pull. Nice pull, Allyson.

EISENBERG: This is your final clue. It might awe you to know that this type of plant doesn't come from a seed.


AKHIL: Crawler?

EISENBERG: Akhil. No, that is not what we're looking for. I'm sorry. Allyson, can you steal?

CHUNG: Should we reemphasize the words again?




RUDOLPH: Oh. Seaweed.

EISENBERG: Seaweed. That is correct.


EISENBERG: Art, these contestants did amazing because that was a really difficult game but we will have a winner.

CHUNG: Even though Allyson was freaked out, she is our winner.


EISENBERG: Don't freak out 'cause coming up, we're going to take things up a notch by delivering clues in a different language. That's right. Our house musician Jonathan Coulton is going to sing in Italian. Thank goodness he constantly reminds us that he went to Yale. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and you are listening to our Really Hard edition on ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.