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 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: 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 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 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."

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