As You Know, Puzzles Are A Pastime

Apr 29, 2013
Originally published on April 28, 2013 6:40 pm

On-air challenge: For each given category, name something in the category where the first letter is also the first letter of the category. For example, given "Military Ranks," you would say "Major."

Last week's challenge: Name a geographical location in two words — nine letters altogether — that, when spoken aloud, sounds roughly like four letters of the alphabet. What is it?

Answer: Aegean Sea; Indian Cay

Winner: Terry Thacker, Greenville, S.C.

Next week's challenge from listener Matt Jones of Portland, Ore.: The first 12 letters of the alphabet are A to L. Think of a familiar, six-word proverb that contains 11 of these 12 letters. The letters may be used more than once, and you may use additional letters from the second half of the alphabet. What proverb is this?

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. Please, keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Here comes the puzzle.


MARTIN: Joining me now is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle-master Will Shortz. Good morning, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So, remind us, Will, what was last week's challenge.

SHORTZ: Yes. I asked you to name a geographical location in two words - nine letters all together - that when spoken aloud sounds roughly like four letters of the alphabet. What is it? Well, the intended answer was Aegean Sea, which sounds roughly A-G-N-C.

MARTIN: OK. And there was a more obscure answer, I understand, as well, right?

SHORTZ: Yes. Two people sent in the submission Indian Cay - that's C-A-Y. And the letters would be N-D-N-K. It's a sandy island formed on the surface of a coral reef in the Bahamas.

MARTIN: OK. Well, we received about 950 correct answers this week. Our randomly selected winner is Terry Thacker is Greenville, South Carolina. He joins us on the line. Congratulations, Terry.

TERRY THACKER: Well, thank you very much, Rachel.

MARTIN: So, how'd you figure this one out?

THACKER: I don't want to boast because most of the time I don't get the answer. But I got it within about two minutes because I thought of letters of the alphabet, and the letter C popped up. And I just started going through the seas that I knew. I thought Adriatic, and that was too many letters. And then I went next door to Aegean, and I got it.

MARTIN: I don't know. I think you can boast, Terry. I think that's pretty impressive. And what do you do for a living in Greenville, Terry?

THACKER: Well, let me go down the list. My full-time job is with Greenville County Disabilities at a group home. On the weekend, I'm a night auditor at a hotel. I also have a window cleaning business on the side. And just for fun, I do some writing - mainly travel articles - for a newspaper called the Times Examiner, for which I have also created puzzles in the past.

MARTIN: Wow. So, you don't have a whole lot of free time in your life, Terry.

THACKER: Eh, enough.

MARTIN: Well, we are happy to have you on the program. Do you happen to have a question for Will Shortz?

THACKER: I sure do. Will, by any chance do you have a brother named Jim?

SHORTZ: You know, I used to joke around that no one would ever name a Shortz Jim because it's Jim Shortz. And I was searching online and there is a Jim Shortz somewhere.

THACKER: Is that right?

SHORTZ: And I also wondered there should be a Jacques E. Shortz.



MARTIN: Wait, I don't get it. Oh, jockey shorts. Oh, man. I'm a little slow on the draw today. I think that's hilarious, Terry.

THACKER: I love Will's line of thinking there. I love puns, so.

MARTIN: You and me both. OK. Terry, are you ready to play the puzzle?

THACKER: I sure am.

MARTIN: OK. Will, let's do it.

SHORTZ: All right, Terry and Rachel. I am going to give you some categories. For each one, name something in the category whose first letter is also the first letter of the category. For example, if I said military ranks, you would say major, because it will start with M. And as far as I can tell, every answer here is unique.


SHORTZ: Here's number one: weekdays.

THACKER: Wednesday.

SHORTZ: That's right. Card suits.

THACKER: Card suits - clubs.

SHORTZ: Clubs is it. Positions in baseball.

THACKER: Positions in baseball - pitcher.

SHORTZ: That's it. U.S. states.

THACKER: U.S. states - Utah.

SHORTZ: That's it. Provinces of Canada.

THACKER: Prince George Island - Prince Edward Island.

SHORTZ: Prince Edward Island, right.

MARTIN: Yeah, good.

SHORTZ: Clue weapons.

THACKER: Haven't played Clue in decades.

SHORTZ: It's usually made of metal and it's long and thin.

THACKER: Long and thin.

MARTIN: Heavy.


SHORTZ: It's not a cane. Do you know this, Rachel?

MARTIN: I do, I think. Is it a candlestick?

SHORTZ: A candlestick is it.

MARTIN: Colonel Mustard with a candlestick in the ballroom, blah, blah, blah.

SHORTZ: In the conservatory, whatever. Old Testament books.

THACKER: Obadiah.


SHORTZ: That's it. Central American countries.

THACKER: Central American - how about Costa Rica.

SHORTZ: Excellent. Host cities of the Summer Olympics.

THACKER: Host cities. Is Honshu, Japan, is that one?

SHORTZ: No, that's an island. It was never - not a city, yeah.

MARTIN: Yeah, but not a city, yeah.

THACKER: OK. Helsinki.

SHORTZ: Helsinki. Boy, you're good. All right. Albums by the Beatles.

THACKER: "Abbey Road."

SHORTZ: "Abbey Road." I was about to say ignore the A of "A Hard Day's Night," but you didn't need that. How about reindeer for Santa Claus.

THACKER: Rudolph.

SHORTZ: Um-hum. English queen's names.

THACKER: Elizabeth.

SHORTZ: That's it. And your last one is Old Macdonald's farm animal sounds.

THACKER: Oink, oink.


SHORTZ: Oink is it.

MARTIN: Terry, that was fabulous.

THACKER: Well, I enjoyed that.

MARTIN: That was really good. For playing the puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at And before we let you go, Terry, what is your public radio station?

THACKER: WEPR, which is part of the South Carolina Educational Television and Radio Network.

MARTIN: Great. Terry Thacker of Greenville, South Carolina. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, Terry. It's been fun.

THACKER: Thank you so much.

MARTIN: OK, Will. What's the challenge for next week?

SHORTZ: Yes, it comes from listener Matt Jones of Portland, Oregon. And Matt creates a weekly syndicated puzzle called the Jonsin' Crossword, which appears in over 50 alternative newspapers around the country.

Now, the first 12 letters of the alphabet are A to L. Think of a familiar, six-word proverb that contains 11 of these 12 letters. You can repeat them as often you want. And you can use additional letters from the second half of the alphabet. What proverb is this?

So, a six-word proverb that everyone knows that contains 11 of the first 12 letters of the alphabet. What proverb is it?

MARTIN: OK, when you have the answer, go to our website, and click on the Submit Your Answer link - just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for entries is Thursday, May 2nd at 3 P.M. Eastern.

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

Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.

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