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 clues for two words. The first word starts with the letter "A" and is accented on the second syllable. Reverse the order of the syllables and phonetically you'll get the second word.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a word that contains part of the human body in the exact middle.

Ex. Group of Native Americans, starting with T and ending with E --> TRIBE, which contains RIB between the T and the E
1. E ____ Y Mournful poem
2. W ____ Y Tired
3. A ____ G Very sore
4. EL ____ SE Geometrical shape
5. LE ____ ES Beans and peas
6. RE ____ AL Opposing argument in a debate
7. OB ____ TE Out of date
8. RA ____ SS Quality of a harsh voice
9. FLA ____ ESS Showy display

On-air challenge: This puzzle is called "BBC," as in the British media giant. You get two words starting with B. Come up with a word starting with C that can complete each of the first two words to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Ex. Bob Burmese ---> CAT [bobcat, Burmese cat]

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you some 6-letter words. For each one insert two letters in the exact center to complete a familiar 8-letter word.

Ex. INNATE --> INNOVATE

1. ARGENT
2. VANISH
3. CORRAL
4. ROSARY
5. PANAMA
6. THOUGH
7. CARNAL
8. CRUDER
9. MANURE
10. CHAISE
11. ESTATE
12. OFFING
13. SUBTLE

On-air challenge: Every answer today is the name of an airline. Name each one from its anagram.

Ex. ALL + E (2 words) i--> EL AL
1. LEAD + T
2. TUNED + I
3. SANTA + Q
4. CARMINE + A
5. FOR RENT + I
6. STEAMER + I
7. LEAF ROT + O
8. HALF NUTS + A

On-Air Challenge: Every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the initials T-A. Answer their clues.

Ex. Professor's aide --> TEACHER'S ASSISTANT

On-Air Challenge: I'm going to read some sentences. Each sentence has two blanks. Put two five-letter homophones in the blanks to complete the sentence. For example: If I said, "Criminals went to a Pittsburgh factory late at night to ___ ___," you'd say they went their to "steal steel."

  1. "Because I never took a class in penmanship, I never learned to ___ ___."
  2. "The driver jammed his foot on the pedal so hard, he made the ___ ___."

On-Air Challenge:

For each five letter word, change the middle letter to two new letters to get a familiar six letter word. For example if the word is " being" you would say "belong" changing the "i" to an "l-o."

1. Minor

2. Croon

3. Favor

4. Count

5. Dinar

6. Amore

On-Air Challenge: A game of categories based on the word APRIL. For each category, name something in it starting with each of the letters A-P-R-I-L. For example, if the category were "Chemical Elements," you might say Argon, Platinum, Radium, Iron, and Lead. Any answer that works is OK, and you can give the answers in any order.

1. Five-Letter Girls' Names

2. Parts of a Car

3. Foreign Rivers

4. Terms in Geometry

5. Words Ending in "X"

On-Air Challenge: Take two-word clues that might appear in a crossword. The first and last letters of each answer are the same as the first and last letters of the clue.

Example: Football mistake --> FUMBLE (both the clue and the answer start with F and end with E)

  1. Snow tool
  2. Autumn flower
  3. Warm material
  4. Stairway toy
  5. Math operation
  6. Spanish mister
  7. Near relative
  8. Cable giant
  9. Baby's shoe

On-air challenge: Take two four-letter words. Rearrange the letters in each of them to make two new words that are opposites.

For example: PEON THUS --> OPEN & SHUT

  1. NAME CINE
  2. VOLE HEAT
  3. FLIT PROD
  4. BUYS LIED
  5. ACME NEWT
  6. OWLS FATS
  7. VEIL DADE
  8. PEEK SOTS
  9. SEAT STEW
  10. AGIN SOLE
  11. HEIR RIFE
  12. WHOS HIED
  13. REAM DUST
  14. SEAN STUN

On-air challenge: I'm going to read you some sentences. Each sentence ends in two blanks. Put two 4-letter homophones in them to complete the sentence. Homophones, of course, are words that sound alike but are spelled differently.

For example: The nautical supplies company that was going out of business had a big ____ ____. --> SAIL SALE

1. Business was strong for most of this month, and then for the last seven days we had a ____ ____.

2. Taxi drivers don't want to gouge passengers with their rates; all they ask for is a ____ ____.

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you three 5-letter words. You tell me a 5-letter word that can precede each of mine to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Ex. DRAFT HOUSE RIDER --> Rough (rough draft, rough-house, Rough Rider)

1. GLASS SLIDE MELON
2. TIGER TRAIL TOWEL
3. COUNT DONOR SPORT
4. SENSE POWER LAUGH
5. GIANT PEACE THUMB
6. SHIFT SHIRT STAND
7. SALAD PUNCH FLIES
8. TEASE POKER STEAK
9. STORY ORDER RANGE
10. SAUCE CIDER STORE
11. BLANK GUARD TAKEN

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you a word plus a category. Change one letter in the word to name something in the category. Then change a different letter in the first word to name something else in the category.

Ex. PALE — University --> YALE (changing the P) and PACE (changing the L)

  1. HOUSE — Animal
  2. BULK — Male animal
  3. IMAN — Country
  4. CRAM — Seafood
  5. LURE — Musical instrument
  6. HEARD — Part of a human body

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a made up two-word phrase, in which the first word has six letters. Its last three letters spell the second word that will complete the phrase.

For Example: Scurrying insect whose appearance has been affected by radiation --> MUTANT ANT

On-air challenge: Today I've brought a game of categories based on the word COMBS. You probably know how this works. I'm going to give you a series of categories. For each one, name something in it starting with each of the letters C-O-M-B-S.

For example, if the category were "Three-Syllable Boys' Names," you might say Christopher, Oliver, Mathias, Benjamin and Sebastian. Any answer that works is fine, and you can give the answers in any order.

1. Musical instruments

2. Cities in Florida

3. Wild mammals in America

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a familiar phrase in the form "___ in the ___," in which the words that go in the blanks have been replaced by their sometimes complicated-sounding dictionary definitions. You identify the phrases.

For example: An extremely young child in the dense growth of trees --> BABE IN THE WOODS

  1. Bipedal primate mammal related to the great apes in the Earth's only known natural satellite

On-air challenge: This puzzle is a welcome for Lulu to the program. We're going to take it from the top. Every answer is a compound word or familiar two-word phrase in which the first part starts TO- and the second part starts P-.

Ex. Producer of love apples in the garden --> TOMATO PLANT

  1. Product from Crest or Colgate
  2. Product from Charmin or Cottonelle
  3. Place on a highway where you have to stop and pay money

On-air challenge: Every year around this time, I do a year-end news quiz — usually on names that sprang into the news during the previous 12 months. Since 2016 broke the mold in so many ways, I decided to break the mold with my year-end quiz. Here are some notable quotes from the previous 12 months. Who said them?

  1. "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters."
  2. "When they go low, we go high."

On-air challenge: The theme of today's puzzle is giving. I'm going to give you two words. You give each of them a letter — the same letter for each word — in order to complete a familiar two-word phrase.

On-air challenge: Every answer is an anagram of a geographical feature.

For example: PACE --> CAPE.

1. KALE
2. SAME
3. LIES
4. SPAS
5. ROOM
6. ALLOT
7. DEALT
8. CANOE
9. HARMS
10. DIRGE
11. LAPIN
12. RESTED
13. MASTER
14. ARTIST
15. SOFTER
16. NO GOAL
17. SECTIONAL
18. REAL FORCE (2 words)

On-air challenge: We're in the merry month of December. Every answer this week is a two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts DE- and the second word starts C.

For example: Underwater explosive device --> depth charge.

Last week's challenge: This challenge may sound impossible, but there's a good answer. Think of a common two-word phrase, in seven letters, that has two R's in the middle. And "in the middle," means exactly in the middle. What phrase is it?

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the last name of a world leader of the past 100 years. For each country and an anagram of the name, find the name of the leader.

Ex. Israel, BRAIN --> (Yitzhak RABIN)

  1. Russia, INPUT
  2. Cuba, ACTORS
  3. Philippines, CAROMS
  4. Soviet Union, LATINS
  5. Pakistan, HOT TUB
  6. South Africa, LEADMAN
  7. Ethiopia, SEA ISLES
  8. Italy, SENIOR CLUB

One bears a question, while the other questioned bears. Now, that headline may seem like a non sequitur, but it's also a little clue to the Sunday Puzzle — which concludes a two-week conundrum.

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you three words starting with the letters P, T and A (as in Parent Teacher Association). You give me a word that can follow each of mine to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

For example: pea, tomato, alphabet --> soup.

On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of an NPR host — that is, one of the colleagues of this week's special guest, NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who will be taking over as host of Weekend Edition Sunday in January. Given some wordplay on their names, you name the hosts.

Last week's (and next week's) challenge: This is a two-week creative challenge. The object is to write a conundrum or riddle that starts "What is the difference between ..." — in which the answer involves a transposition of words.

On-air challenge: Insert the letters A and R into the middle of the first clue to get the answer to the second clue. For example, when given the clues "small argument" and "a tax on imports," the answer would be "tiff" and "tariff."

Last week's challenge, from Ken Stern of Brooklyn, N.Y.: Think of a sign that's frequently seen around this time of year — two words of four letters each. Among these eight letters all five vowels — A, E, I, O and U — appear once each, along with three consonants. What sign is it?

On-air challenge: I'm going to name some categories. For each one, I'll name something in the category that closely follows the name of the category alphabetically.

For example, "states" and "Texas." You tell me the only other thing in the category that fits between these two things alphabetically. In the case of my example, you would say "Tennessee."

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is called "SuperPACs." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with PA- and the second word starts with C.

For example: Official who oversees a city's green spaces --> PARKS COMMISSIONER.

On-air challenge: This is a game of categories based on the word "guard." For each category I give you, name something in it starting with each of the letters G-U-A-R-D.

For example, if the category were "Three-Syllable Girls' Names," you might say Gabrielle, Ursula, Andrea, Rosalind and Diana. Any answer that works is fine, and you can give the answers in any order.

This week's special guest: Savannah Guthrie, co-host of NBC's Today.

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you two words. Move one letter from one of them and insert it in the other — without changing the order of any of the letters — to get two synonyms.

For example: Kid, snort --> kind, sort.

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