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: For the following words starting with the letters S, E and P — as in September — find a word that can precede each to complete a familiar two-word phrase.

For example: system, eclipse, power --> SOLAR (solar system, solar eclipse, solar power).

On-air challenge: If you alphabetized the eight planets in reverse — that is, by their ending letters — the next-to-last name on the list would be Venus, which ends in "s." The last planet on the list would be Mercury, which ends in "y." I'm going to give you some categories. For each one, I'll give you the next-to-last member of the category, if all the names in it were alphabetized backward. You tell me the last name.

For example: Numbers from one to 10: Eight.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is a nine-letter phrase that's a palindrome — in other words, it reads the same both forward and backward.

For example: Certain floor models (4,5) --> some demos.

Last week's challenge, from listener Sandy Stevens of Bandon, Ore.: What one-syllable word in seven letters becomes a four-syllable word by inserting the consecutive letters I-T somewhere inside?

Answer: reigned, reignited.

Winner: Dan Bradshaw of Farmington, Conn.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a familiar 8-letter word. We're going to give you two 3-letter words that are somewhere in it. You tell me the full word.


1. VET + AIL
2. LEG + RAM
3. PEN + AGO
4. URN + OAT
5. PIP + ANY
6. NOT + ONE

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a word or name containing the consecutive letters R-I-O. The first set of answers will end in -rio.

For example: Novelty item --> CURIO.

Last week's challenge from Ed Pegg Jr. of mathpuzzle.com: Take the four 4-letter words LIMB, AREA, CORK and KNEE. Write them one under the other, and the four columns will spell four new words: LACK, IRON, MERE and BAKE:


On-air challenge: I'm going to give you two four-letter words. Rearrange the letters in each of them to make two synonyms.

For example: Newt, felt --> went, left.

Last week's challenge: A spoonerism is an interchange of initial consonant sounds in a phrase to get another phrase, as in "light rain" and "right lane." Name something seen in a kitchen in two words. Its spoonerism is an article that's worn mostly by men. What is it?

Answer: Pie tin; tie pin.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week consists of two familiar phrases in the form "___ of ___." In each case, the first word of the two phrases is the same. I'll give you the ending words. You tell me the full phrases.

For example: Heart / Pace --> Change of heart, change of pace.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a word that starts with Para-. First, I'll define it in a regular way and then in a punny way. You tell me the words.

For example: Typical examples / 20 cents --> PARADIGMS ("pair o' dimes").

On-air challenge: For each word given, name a famous person, past or present, whose name contains it. In each case, the word will bridge the first and last names. The dividing point is for you to discover.

For example: SWILL —> Venus Williams

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of a newspaper comic strip or cartoon, past or present. Identify the funnies from their anagrams.

For example: GOO + P --> POGO.

Last week's challenge from Mike Hinterberg of Loveland, Colo.: Name a creature in nine letters. The name contains a T. Drop the T, and the remaining letters can be rearranged to spell two related modes of transportation. What are they?

Answer: Butterfly --> Lyft, Uber.