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.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun July 22, 2012

This Puzzle Is One For The PROs

Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 2:21 am

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with "P" and the second word starts with "RO." For example: For the clue, "A moving part of an automobile engine," the answer would be a "piston rod."

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun July 15, 2012

Following The Trail

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Originally published on Sun July 15, 2012 11:11 am

On-Air Challenge: For each category, name something in the category starting with each of the letters in the word "trail." For example, if the category were "books of the Bible," you might say Timothy, Ruth, Amos, Isaiah and Leviticus.

Any answer that works is correct. And you can give the answers in any order.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun July 8, 2012

If You Want In The Mix, You've Got To Split The Six

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Originally published on Sat July 14, 2012 5:51 pm

On-Air Challenge: For each six-letter word given, rearrange the letters to make two three-letter words that rhyme. Example: For the word "tweets," the pair of rhyming three-letter words would be "wet" and "set."

Last Week's Challenge From Listener Fred Orelove Of Richmond, Va.: Think of a well-known retail store chain in two words. Remove one letter from its name. The remaining letters, in order, will spell three consecutive words that are synonyms of each other. What are they? Hint: The three words are all slang.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun July 1, 2012

Mixing It Up On The Baseball Diamond

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On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a Major League Baseball team. You are given anagrams of their names, each with one letter added, and must name the teams. For example, given "dress," the answer would be "Reds."

Last Week's Challenge: Think of a familiar three-word phrase that might be used in poker and add an "E" at the end and you'll get a two-word phrase that's common in football. (The spaces in between the words changes in the two phrases but the letters stay in the same order.)

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun June 24, 2012

Finding The Common Thread

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Originally published on Sun June 24, 2012 7:31 am

On-Air Challenge: You are given three words starting with the letter "F." The answer is a word that can follow each of those three words to complete a familiar two-word phrase. For example, if given "flag, father's and field," the answer would be "day."

Last Week's Challenge From listener Kate MacDonald of Murphys, Calif.: Think of a common French word that everyone knows. Add a "V" to the beginning and an "E" at the end. The result will be the English-language equivalent of the French word. What is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun June 17, 2012

Hit Me Baby One More Time

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Originally published on Sun June 17, 2012 1:23 pm

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is a word, phrase or name starting with the letter "B," ending in "Y" and having "A" and "B" inside, in that order, although not necessarily consecutively. For example, if I said "assistant to a baseball team," the answer would be either "batboy" or "ballboy."

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Sunday Puzzle
6:27 am
Sun June 10, 2012

This Changes Everything!

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Originally published on Sun June 10, 2012 3:50 pm

On-Air Challenge: Given a sentence, change one letter in one word to make a new word which completely reverses the meaning of the sentence. For example, given "The singer is not coming on stage." Changing the "T" in not to a "W" in the word "not" makes the sentence, "The singer is now coming on stage."

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun June 3, 2012

That's Jakarta, With A Capital 'J'

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Originally published on Sun June 3, 2012 10:37 am

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a world capital. You'll be given clues to its phonetic parts, and you name the capital. For example, given the clues "person from Bangkok" and "salary," the answer would be Taipei ("Thai" plus "pay").

Last Week's Challenge From Listener Jack Lechner: Name two different kinds of wool. Take the first five letters of one, followed by the last three letters of the other, and the result will spell the first and last name of a famous actor. Who is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat May 26, 2012

Just Give It A Shot In The Dark

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Originally published on Tue May 29, 2012 7:16 pm

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is a phrase in the form "___ in the ___." You'll be given rhymes for the first and last words, and you give the phrases.

Last Week's Challenge From Listener Peter Persoff of Piedmont, Calif.: Think of a common three-letter word and five-letter word that together consist of eight different letters of the alphabet. Put the same pair of letters in front of each of these words, and you will have the present and past-tense forms of the same verb. What words are these?

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun May 20, 2012

Initially Famous 2: Electric Boogaloo

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Originally published on Sat May 26, 2012 9:21 pm

On-Air Challenge: This week's challenge is a twist on "Characteristic Initials." We will gives clues for some famous people, past and present. The initial letters of the clues are also the initials of the answers. For example "Wrote Sonnets" would be "William Shakespeare."

Last Week's Challenge: Name a state capital. Change one of the vowels to another vowel and say the result phonetically. You will name a revered profession. What is it?

Answer: Madison and medicine

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun May 13, 2012

You Two, Move To The Back Of The Line

Originally published on Sat May 26, 2012 9:21 pm

On-Air Challenge: The word "mother" has a surprising property. If you move the first two letters to the end, you get "thermo," the prefix for "heat." Every answer today is another six-letter word that, when you move the first two letters to the end, you get another word or phrase.

Last Week's Challenge from listener Gary Witkin of Newark, Del.: Using only the six letters of the name "Bronte," repeating them as often as necessary, spell a familiar six-word phrase. What is it?

Answer: "To be or not to be"

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Sunday Puzzle
6:17 am
Sun May 6, 2012

Brave Sir Robin Ran Away, But The Puzzle Is Still OK

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Originally published on Sat May 12, 2012 6:11 pm

On-Air Challenge: You'll be given a series of categories. For each one, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters of the word "robin." For example, given the category "two-syllable boys' names," the answers could be "Roger," "Omar," "Barry," "Isaac" and "Neville."

Last Week's Challenge: Name the capital of a country that, when said out loud, sounds like a three-word phrase. This phrase might describe the reason why the police did not catch a barefoot thief. What is the capital, and what is the reason?

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun April 29, 2012

To Cross This Puzzle Safely, Look Left And Right

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Originally published on Sat May 12, 2012 6:11 pm

On-Air Challenge: Every answer today is a familiar three-word phrase in which the second word is "and" and the first word starts with the letter L. You'll be given the last word of the phrase, and you must identify the first word, starting with "L." For example, given "master," the answer would be "lord," as in "lord and master."

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Sunday Puzzle
12:03 am
Sun April 22, 2012

A Puzzle Worthy Of Don Draper

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Originally published on Sat April 28, 2012 4:23 pm

On-Air Challenge: You'll be given classic advertising slogans and catch phrases in which the letters of the last word are scrambled. First, unscramble the word. Then name the product or company that is the advertiser. For example, given "Get a piece of the cork," the answer would be "Get a piece of the rock," which is a slogan of the Prudential Insurance Company.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun April 15, 2012

A Challenge That Is Initially Famous

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Originally published on Sat April 28, 2012 4:23 pm

On-Air Challenge: You'll be given a two- or three-word description of a famous person. The initial letters of the description are also the initials of the person.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun April 8, 2012

A Mix-Up At The Music Fest

On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a popular music group, past or present. You'll be given clues in which two letters in the group's name have been changed. For example, given "The Bench Boss," the answer would be "The Beach Boys," after changing the N in "Bench" to an A and the first S of "Boss" to a Y.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun April 1, 2012

Testing Your Wits With Knowledge Of Spirits

Originally published on Fri May 11, 2012 10:33 pm

On-Air Challenge: Today's challenges are from an old English book called Lateral Thinking Puzzles by Hannah Robson and Nick Hoare. They all have a drinking theme, and they'll test your wits.

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Sunday Puzzle
8:41 pm
Sat March 24, 2012

Don't Be Lax With Your Answers

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On-Air Challenge: Every answer today is a word or phrase containing the consecutive letters A-X. You'll be given clues and anagrams to the answers.

Last Week's Challenge: Take the phrase "no sweat." Using only these seven letters, and repeating them as often as necessary, can you make a familiar four-word phrase? It's 15 letters long. What is it?

Answer: The phrase is "waste not, want not."

Winner: Alison Haskins of Oxford, Ohio

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun March 18, 2012

If I Were An Animal, I'd Be An Alpaca

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On-Air Challenge: Name something in a given category where the last two letters of the category's name are the first two letters of your answer. For example, given "U.S. state," the answer would be either "Texas" or "Tennessee."

Last Week's Challenge: The answer is a two-word name. Inside this name are the consecutive letters I-L-E-H. Remove these four letters, and the remaining letters in order will name something commonly found inside the original thing with the two-word name. What is it?

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun March 11, 2012

This Puzzle Gets Cracked When Opposites Attract

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On-Air Challenge: Every answer consists of two words that are opposites. You are given rhymes for the words, and you give the opposites.

Last Week's Challenge from listener Toby Gottfried of Santa Ana, Calif.: Take the trees hemlock, myrtle, oak and pine. Rearrange the letters in their names to get four other trees, with one letter left over. What trees are they?

Answer: The trees are "elm," "hickory," "lemon," and "teak," with the letter P left over.

Winner: Tim Moon from Bethany, Ill.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun March 4, 2012

A Puzzling Grab Bag Of Phrases

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On-Air Challenge: Today's puzzle is a grab bag. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with B-A and the second word starts with G.

Last Week's Challenge: Name a bird. Change its second letter to an E to get the first name of a famous actor. Then name the female of that bird, and double one of its letters. You'll get the last name of this actor. What are the birds, and who is the actor?

Answer: The birds are "swan" and "pen," and the actor is "Sean Penn."

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun February 26, 2012

And The Best Picture Oscar Goes To ...

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On-Air Challenge: Every answer is the name of a film that won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Identify the films from their anagrams.

Last Week's Challenge: What is the longest common English word you can spell by taking the beginning letters of consecutive states in order as you travel through them? Puzzlemaster Will Shortz's answer has eight letters, but maybe you can top that.

Puzzlemaster's Answer: "Millions," which consists of the beginning letters of Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun February 19, 2012

Two States Enter, One Four-Letter Word Leaves

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On-Air Challenge: Every answer consists of two adjoining U.S. states. Each clue is a four-letter word formed by one or more letters starting one of the state names plus one or more letters starting the other state name. For example, given "mist," the answer would be "Mississippi" and "Tennessee," or "Missouri" and "Tennessee."

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun February 12, 2012

Hey, I've Got Five On It!

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On-Air Challenge: Every answer is a familiar three-word phrase, name or title in which each word has five letters — for example, "Royal Opera House."

Last Week's Challenge: Name an animal. Add the letters "A" and "T," and rearrange the result to name another animal. These are both animals that might be found in a zoo, and the last letter of the first animal is the first letter of the last one.

Answer: If you add "A" and "T" to "gorilla," you can rearrange the letters to spell "alligator."

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun February 5, 2012

Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Anti-Tic

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On-Air Challenge: Each clue contains at least one seven-letter word. Rearrange the letters in that word to answer the clue.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun January 29, 2012

This Puzzle Is 'The Pits'

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On-Air Challenge: Today's puzzle is "the pits." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with "PI" and the second word starts with "T."

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun January 22, 2012

Sitting Comfortably In Between

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On-Air Challenge: You'll be given two things in the same category. You name the only other thing in the same category that fits between the given things alphabetically. For example, given "Mars" and "Saturn," the answer would be "Mercury."

Last Week's Challenge: Will Shortz celebrates the 25th anniversary of Weekend Edition Sunday and the Sunday Puzzle with three mystery guests.

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Sunday Puzzle
12:01 am
Sun January 15, 2012

Second To Last

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On-Air Challenge: Think of a word that can follow a given word to complete a familiar two-word phrase or name. The first two letters of your word must be the second and last letters, respectively, of the given word. For example, if given "fallen," the answer would be "angel."

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Sunday Puzzle
8:00 pm
Sat January 7, 2012

Arrange The Notes

On-Air Challenge: Each answer is a five-letter word or phrase containing the letters N, O, T, E plus one other letter. Answer the clues to get the words.

Last Week's Challenge: Name certain scores in a certain sport. The score and the sport are both two-word phrases with a total of 10 letters (five letters in each word). Rearrange the letters to name a different sport, also in two words (six letters in the first word, four in the second). What are the scores, and what is the sport?

Answer: Rearrange "field goals" to name "ladies golf."

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Sunday Puzzle
4:00 am
Sun January 1, 2012

The Fame Game

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On-Air Challenge: It's our annual year-end news quiz, compiled with the help of Kathie Baker and Tim Goodman. You are given new names in the news — people you probably never heard of before 2011, but who became famous during the past 12 months. Explain why they're famous.

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