Delivering A Bouquet Of Phloxes

May 11, 2014

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle is a game of categories based on the word "phlox." You'll be given some categories. For each one, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters P, H, L, O and X. For example, if the category were "comic books," you might say "Phantom, Hopalong Cassidy, Lone Ranger, Our Gang Comics and X-men." Any answer that works is okay, and you can give the answers in any order.

Next week's challenge: (Please note: this is the second week of a two-week challenge) Write a clue for a word in the style of today's on-air puzzle, in which the answer has six or more letters. The clue should both define or describe the answer and contain the answer in consecutive letters.

Entries will be judged on accuracy of the cluing, specificity, naturalness of syntax and overall elegance. You may submit up to three clues in your entry. The person who sends the best clue in the judgment of Will Shortz will appear on the program next week. And some of the runner-up entries will be used on the air.

Submit Your Answer

If you know the answer to next week's challenge, submit it here. Listeners who submit correct answers win a chance to play the on-air puzzle. Important: Include a phone number where we can reach you Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. And it's time for The Puzzle.


MARTIN: Wait. No, it's time for sports.


MARTIN: OK. Actually, it's a celebrity edition of The Puzzle. We've got a two-week challenge going on. So today, we welcome WEEKEND EDITION regular and Slate podcaster extraordinaire, Mike Pesca. We usually talk about sports. Today, we're going to talk puzzles with him. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE PESCA: So when you say celebrity, who should I - what celebrity should I expect to show up?

MARTIN: (Laughing) It's you.

PESCA: I'm hoping it's...

MARTIN: We just promoted you to celebrity.

PESCA: Oh, I thought it might be Bruce Boxleitner, my favorite.

MARTIN: So also on the line is actually a real celebrity. Hi name is Will Shortz. Good morning, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, guys.

MARTIN: So you are a sports guy, Mike. But you're a man of many talents, many interests.


MARTIN: Do you do a lot of puzzles?

PESCA: I look puzzled often. I don't seek out puzzles...

MARTIN: You don't?

PESCA: ...But they seem to find me. Yeah.

MARTIN: Just in life.

PESCA: Life's a puzzle. Just trying to find the West Side Highway from 77 Street's a puzzle. I'm all right.

MARTIN: (Laughing) So, Will, do you engage in a lot of sporting activity? I mean, I know you play table tennis. But I'm trying to find common ground between the two of you. What kind of sports do you like besides table tennis, Will?

SHORTZ: Let's see. I used to play tennis a lot. I used to bicycle a lot. Don't watch much on TV, but you know the World Table Tennis Championships just ended in Tokyo. So I've been watching a lot of that online.

MARTIN: Mike, why don't you ever cover the world championship of table tennis?

PESCA: You know, I don't - I just don't want to be cliched. It's out there so much. We're just inundated with table tennis. I thought, why be part of this overwhelming, massive table tennis coverage? I did see table tennis in the Olympics, and it's an amazing, amazing sport.

MARTIN: It is. It is really amazing.

PESCA: I give them a lot of credit.

MARTIN: Yeah, it's very athletic.


PESCA: But you know there's something to a sport when you have to say how athletic it is - right? - I mean, when you have to emphasize that. I don't think anyone's really saying that about marathoning. You know, it takes a lot to run 26 miles.

MARTIN: But it does.

PESCA: I think we kind of know that.

MARTIN: Doesn't it, Will? Like, don't you sweat? I mean, not to get too into the details here, but...

SHORTZ: Yeah, literally after 15 minutes, I am drenched in sweat.


PESCA: But I'm like that with The Sunday Times crossword. So here's our common ground.


SHORTZ: (Laughing) There you go.

MARTIN: Perfect. So, Mike, are you ready to do this?

PESCA: I'm ready.

MARTIN: OK, well, let's puzzle.

SHORTZ: All right, Mike and Rachel. This is a good two-person puzzle. I have bought a game of categories based on the word phlox - P, H, L, O, X - because I'm in a spring mood. I'm going to name some categories. For each one name something in the category beginning with each of the letters P, H, L, O and X. For example, if the category were comic books, you might say, "Phantom," "Hopalong Cassidy," "Lone Ranger," "Our Gang Comics" and "X-Men." Here's your first category - chemical elements.

PESCA: Potassium.



PESCA: Helium.


PESCA: Lithium.


PESCA: O would be Oregon? No, that's not an element.



PESCA: Help me with an O, Rach.

MARTIN: Oxygen.

SHORTZ: Oxygen, yeah.

PESCA: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: Oxygen.

PESCA: Nice.

SHORTZ: Osmium would also have worked, and your X of course?

PESCA: Xenon?


SHORTZ: Xenon, yeah.

PESCA: Yeah.

SHORTZ: Good, good, good. That is great. Number two, musical instruments.


MARTIN: Piano.

PESCA: Piano, right. Yeah, that's - yeah.

SHORTZ: Piano. Good.

PESCA: Harpsichord.


PESCA: Lyre.

MARTIN: Yes, lyre.


PESCA: Organ.


PESCA: And then xylophone.

SHORTZ: Xylophone, yeah.

MARTIN: Yes. Good one.

SHORTZ: Guess what letter of the alphabet I started with when preparing this puzzle?

PESCA: You know, I have a child. And whenever the ABCs books - whenever the X comes, man, did they bend themselves in shapes to say something other than xylophone.

MARTIN: Xylophone. Classic answer, the xylophone.

SHORTZ: OK, and your last category - Fortune 500 companies.

PESCA: Phillips Petroleum.

SHORTZ: Yeah. It's called Phillips 66, actually.

PESCA: Phillips 66.

MARTIN: Oh, there you go.

SHORTZ: But that counts.

PESCA: Hess. I'm...

SHORTZ: Hess actually is.

PESCA: Hess.

SHORTZ: Definitely, and Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot both are.


PESCA: Good.


PESCA: Good.


PESCA: L. It's almost too many to choose from, so I can't choose one.

MARTIN: (Whispering) L.

PESCA: It's called the paradox of choice.

MARTIN: (Whispering) L.

SHORTZ: There is a major aircraft...

MARTIN: (Whispering) L.

SHORTZ: ...Manufacturer.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah.

PESCA: Lockheed Martin.

MARTIN: Oh, good. Yeah.

SHORTZ: Lockheed Martin, good. And O?

PESCA: Oracle?

MARTIN: Oh, must be.

SHORTZ: Oracle, yeah.


SHORTZ: Occidental Petroleum.

PESCA: Yeah.

SHORTZ: Office Depot.


SHORTZ: And an X.

MARTIN: (Whispering) X.

PESCA: Xerox.

MARTIN: Xerox.

SHORTZ: Xerox.

MARTIN: Xerox is like the...

SHORTZ: I am impressed, Mike. You should come back.

MARTIN: That was pretty - does he get a lapel pin? I don't know.

SHORTZ: Absolutely.

MARTIN: For playing the puzzle today, you will get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, Mike Pesca. I'm going to put it in the mail myself.

PESCA: Thanks.

MARTIN: You're welcome. Always good to hear from you. Mike Pesca, his new podcast at Slate is called "The Gist." You can find it on iTunes or on And this is the part where we ask you where you listen to us on public radio.

PESCA: I'm a member of a few. I feel I give to my local one, WNYC, in many ways. I listen to a lot of WNPR online and in different time zones, so I can catch Morning Edition, even at 11 a.m. So I listen to KCRW for that reason.

MARTIN: There you go. Mike Pesca. Thanks so much for playing The Puzzle, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

MARTIN: OK, Will, we are in the middle of a two-week challenge. Remind us what it was again.

SHORTZ: Yes, I said write a clue for a word of six or more letters in which the clue both defines or describes the answer and contains the answer in consecutive letters. So to take a five letter example, the clue, it's near the planet Mars, describes Earth. And it contains the letters E, A, R, T and H in consecutive letters inside "near the."

So entries will be judged on accuracy of the cluing, specificity, naturalness of syntax and overall elegance. You can submit up to three clues in your entry, and the person who sends the best clue in my judgment will be on the program next week. And I'll hope to use some of the runner-up entries on the air.

MARTIN: All right, when you have an answer, go to our website Click on the Submit Your Answer link. Limit yourself - try anyway - to one entry per person, please. And our deadline for those entries is this Thursday, May 15, at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you're the winner, we give you a call and then you get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times. And he is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.


PESCA: I would like to add one thing.

MARTIN: Oh, Mike, what do you want to add?

PESCA: When you hear Will Shortz ask a question on the radio, it's better to do this than swerve off the road. That's an answer to the question.

SHORTZ: (Laughing) Wow.

PESCA: What is the answer? Do you get it?

MARTIN: No, I don't get it. Listen?

PESCA: Answer than - T, H, A, N, S, W, E, R.

SHORTZ: Than swerve. It's inside than swerve - answer. OK, good.

MARTIN: Oh, answer.


PESCA: All right.


SHORTZ: There you go. You got the first entry. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.