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: Change one letter of each word and rearrange the result to get a new word that can follow it, to complete a common two-word phrase.

For example: FALL ... changing one of the L's to a T --> FLAT: Fall Flat.

Last week's challenge, based on an idea by listener Jon Herman: If PAJAMA represents first, and REBUKE represents second, what nine-letter word can represent third? There are two possible answers, one common and one not so common. Either one will be counted correct.

On-air challenge: Every answer given in this week's puzzle is a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase in which each part contains the consecutive letters A-N.

For example: Steinway product --> GRAND PIANO.

Last week's challenge, from listener Michael Shteyman of Odenton, Md.: Take the name of a country and a well-known city in the Middle East — 12 letters in all. Rearrange these letters to name another country and another well-known city in the Middle East. What places are these?

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

For example: ACCENT --> ACCIDENT.

Last week's challenge, from listener Fred Piscop of Bellmore, N.Y.: Take these three phrases:

Turkey breast
Ski slope
Cash drawer

What very unusual property do they have in common?

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of an article of apparel — something to wear. Name the items from the anagram given.

Example: LOOP --> POLO.

Last week's challenge: This was a variation on the old word-ladder puzzle. The object is to change WHOLE to HEART by either adding or subtracting one letter at a time, making a new, common, uncapitalized word at each step.

On-air challenge: It's the end of the year, so it's time for a challenge featuring the names of people who made news in 2015. For each description given, name the person (or people) described.

  1. Transgender woman and Olympic gold medal winner in the decathlon, formerly known as Bruce Jenner.

  2. County clerk in Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On-air challenge: Three words will be given, starting with the letters F, B, and I respectively. Find a word that can follow each one to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

Last week's challenge: Name a state capital. Drop one of its letters. The remaining letters can be rearranged to name another major city in the United States. What is it? There are two different answers, and you should find both of them.

Answer: St. Paul (Minn.), Tulsa (Okla.); Salem (Ore.), Mesa (Ariz.)

On-air challenge:

I'm going to give you some 5-letter words. For each one, change the middle letter to two new letters to get a familiar 6-letter word.

Ex. FROND --> FRIEND
1. EARLY
2. TULIP
3. MOURN
4. BROTH
5. LATCH
6. JUROR
7. SCOWL
8. FUTON
9. DEITY
10. EGEST
11. GUSTY
12. HOUSE
13. ORGAN
14. PANDA
15. SLOTH
16. DECOR
17. ALIVE
18. VISOR

Last week's challenge, from listener Adam Cohen of Brooklyn, NY:

On-air challenge: Each sentence contains two words that have homophones that are opposites. For each sentence given, find the homophone opposites.

For example: Actress Susan Dey dressed up as a knight on Halloween. --> "Dey" and "knight" are homophones of "day" and "night," which are opposites.

Next week's challenge: Think of a word that contains three consecutive letters of the alphabet together — like CANOPY, which contains NOP. Change these three letters to one new letter to make a synonym of the first word. What words are these?

On-air challenge: For each word, think of a synonym whose first and second letters, in order, are the second and third letters, respectively, of the given word.

For example: Shock --> horrify.

Last week's challenge: Name a famous actor — first and last names. Drop the first two letters of the first name and the last two letters of the last name. Then put a "Y" between what's left of the two names. The result, reading from left to right, will identify who might solve this challenge and play puzzle on the air with me next week.

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is called "Bus Fare." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase, in which the first word starts with BU- and the second word starts with S.

For example: A onetime General Motors car named for a bird --> Buick Skylark.

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