The Ol' Puzzle Switcheroo

Feb 1, 2015

On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up two-word phrase, where the second and third letters of the first word are switched to get the second word. Example: Serene bivalve would be calm clam

Last week's challenge: This challenge came from listener Ben Bass of Chicago. Name someone who welcomes you in. Insert the letter U somewhere inside this, and you'll name something that warns you to stay away. Who is this person, and what is this thing?

Answer: Bell boy, bell buoy.

Winner: William Porth of Charleston, W.Va.

Next week's challenge: It's a spin-off of the on-air puzzle. Think of a well-known place name in the U.S. that's four letters long. Switch the second and third letters to get a well-known place name in Europe. What is it?

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. We are counting down to the big-game, an awesome display of courage and skill. There will be drama and glory. The big moment is almost here. Oh, yeah. And the Super Bowl is happening too. Joining me now is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master Will Shortz. Good morning, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK, so there is a big-game happening today. There is the puzzle, but there's also the Super Bowl. Do you have a dog in this fight?

SHORTZ: Actually, I don't. How about you?

MARTIN: Will, come on.

SHORTZ: (Laughter).

MARTIN: Really? You're not even going to watch?

SHORTZ: I will watch for the ads.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK. Fair enough. I used to live in Seattle so I am routing for the Seahawks.

SHORTZ: There you go. Good luck.

MARTIN: OK. So what was last week's challenge, Will?

SHORTZ: Yes. It came from listener Ben Bass of Chicago. I said name someone who welcomes you in, insert the letter U somewhere inside this, and you'll name something that warns you to stay away. Who is this person? And what is this thing? Well, the person is a bellboy as at a hotel. And if you put a U inside it, you get a bell buoy - B-U-O-Y - which warns you of danger at sea.

MARTIN: So this was a little tricky. We got 125 correct answers. And our winner this week is William Porth from Charleston, W. Va. He joins us on the line now. Hi, William. Congratulations.

WILLIAM PORTH: Well, thank you.

MARTIN: So how did you figure this one out?

PORTH: Well, a buoy as a warning device occurred to me rather quickly. But boy didn't make a lot of sense. And then the next day, it occurred to me, you know, maybe I could add some modifiers to that. And then bell buoy.

MARTIN: And what's life like in Charleston, W. Va?

PORTH: Well, I'm a lawyer, and I'm getting on in years so it's kind of peaceful.

MARTIN: And do you have a question for Will Shortz, William?

PORTH: I do. Will, you don't often mention jigsaw puzzles. And I wondered if there are any designers or makers of jigsaws that you think highly of.

SHORTZ: Interesting. Well, the puzzles by Stave are famous and beautifully made. I tell you, I am obsessive on jigsaw puzzles. I cannot leave one half done. So if I start like at 11 o'clock at night, I will not go to bed till it's done.

MARTIN: William, you like jigsaw puzzles?

PORTH: I do, very much. And I think highly of Stave as well.

MARTIN: All right, let's move on. Let's play the puzzle, which sometimes I'm good at, and sometimes I'm not. But, William, are you ready to give it a shot?

PORTH: Sure.

SHORTZ: All right, William and Rachel, every answer today is a made-up two-word phrase in which you switch the second and third letters of the first word to get the second word. For example, if I gave you the clue a serene bivalve, you would say calm clam switching the second and third letters to get calm clam.

MARTIN: You ready, William?

PORTH: Yeah, I'll try.

SHORTZ: All right, number one, a lab container in a Colorado ski town.

PORTH: Oh, gosh. A Vail vial.

SHORTZ: That's it. Number two, the only fruit used to make a gin fizz.

PORTH: A sole something?

SHORTZ: Yeah, yeah. Just switch the O and the L.

PORTH: Oh, a sole sloe.

SHORTZ: A sole slow is it. A bonus benefit at a nursery school. The first word is hyphenated. Well, first of all, what do you call a kind of school from before age five?

MARTIN: Nursery school.

PORTH: What about Pre-school?

MARTIN: Pre-school.

SHORTZ: Yeah, yeah. And you call it Pre-K.


PORTH: Oh, a Pre-K perk.

SHORTZ: That Pre-K perk is it.

MARTIN: Ah, wow, OK.

SHORTZ: Personal journal from a milkmaid.

PORTH: A dairy diary.

SHORTZ: That's. Cunningly inane.

PORTH: Gosh. That seems tough.

SHORTZ: What's another five-letter - what's a five-letter synonym for inane.

PORTH: Silly?

SHORTZ: Yes. That's it. Switch those letters.

PORTH: Slyly silly?

SHORTZ: Slyly silly is it. A skater on wheels who has less hair on his head.

PORTH: A balder blader.

SHORTZ: That's it.


SHORTZ: A thin piece of a precious metal.

PORTH: A thin piece of precious metal.

SHORTZ: It's not gold so it's the other.

PORTH: Oh, a silver sliver.


SHORTZ: A silver sliver. A person who sings love songs while he performs autopsies.

PORTH: (Laughter) That's an odd image. Serenader?

SHORTZ: No. What's the - who's the person who performs autopsies in seven letters.

PORTH: Gosh, I'm drawing a blank. Help me, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK, OK. Coroner, right?


PORTH: Ah, a coroner crooner.


SHORTZ: A coroner crooner is it. And your last one, an ideal government official in France or Japan.

PORTH: France or Japan.

SHORTZ: Yeah. It's a name of an official in just those two countries I think. First of all, what's a seven-letter word for ideal?

MARTIN: Perfect?

PORTH: Perfect.

SHORTZ: Yeah. Yeah.

PORTH: Oh, a perfect prefect.

SHORTZ: A perfect prefect. Nice job.

MARTIN: Perfect prefect. Oh, that was a tough one. William, you did a great job.

PORTH: Well, thanks. I got some.

MARTIN: You got some. I think you got most. I think you did really well.

PORTH: With many clues.

MARTIN: (Laughter) For planning the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and all kinds of puzzle books and games. You can read all about your prizes at And, William, where do you hear us? What's your public radio station?

PORTH: WVPB in Charleston, W. Va.

MARTIN: WVPB in Charlton, W. Va. William Porth of Charlston. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, William.

PORTH: I loved it. Thank you.

MARTIN: All right, Will, what's the challenge for next week?

SHORTZ: Yeah. It's a spinoff of the on-air puzzle. Think of a well-known place name in the U.S. in four letters. Switch the second and third letters to get a well-known place name in Europe. What is it? So again, a well-known place name in the United States in four letters. Switch the second and third letters to get a well-known place name in Europe. What places are these?

MARTIN: OK. When you've got the answer, go to, find that submit your answer link, click on it. Just one entry per please. And we need to have your answers by Thursday, February 5 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you're the winner, we will give you a call, and you will get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times. And he is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Mr. Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.