NPR logo

Rites Of Spring

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Rites Of Spring

Rites Of Spring

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


And joining us is puzzlemaster Will Shortz. Hey, Will.


HANSEN: Anything new?

SHORTZ: I was afraid you were going to ask that. You know, nothing is new. How about you?

HANSEN: Nothing. Nothing is new. All right, well, then, let's right to the play at hand. Remind us of the challenge you gave us last week.

SHORTZ: Yes, I said think of a familiar phrase in five words that means tongue- tied. And here's what unusual about it, one word in it has one letter, one word has two letters, one word has three, one has four and one has five, not necessarily in that order. What is the phrase?

HANSEN: What is it?

SHORTZ: It is, at a loss for words.

HANSEN: Wow. Well, you know, our listeners were definitely not at a loss for words on this one. About 2,000 people sent in correct entries. And from those entries, we randomly selected Mary Jo Vivian of Ames, Iowa to play the puzzle on the air today. Hey, Mary Jo.


HANSEN: I understand that you thought it was a prank call when you got called to play our puzzle. Is that true?

JO VIVIAN: That is true. That is true, because I thought they wouldn't have drawn my name out of the thousands of entries.


HANSEN: How long have you been playing the puzzle?

JO VIVIAN: Oh, back to postcards.

HANSEN: Oh, well, no wonder you were skeptical. You've been sending the entries in for so long and nobody ever picked you.

JO VIVIAN: Right, right.

HANSEN: How long did it take you to solve this one?

JO VIVIAN: It came to me right away.

HANSEN: Well done. Well, are you ready to play today?

JO VIVIAN: Oh, all right.


HANSEN: All right, we'll put our heads together, Mary Jo.

JO VIVIAN: Oh, please.

HANSEN: All right, let's play. Will, meet Mary Jo.

SHORTZ: Hi, Mary Jo. Well, spring...

JO VIVIAN: Hi, Will, you're my hero, my (unintelligible), the lynchpin of my Sunday mornings.

HANSEN: All right.

SHORTZ: Well, thank you very much.

JO VIVIAN: Yeah, my favorite NPR show.

HANSEN: There you go.

SHORTZ: Thank you very much.

HANSEN: So you're going to give her an easy puzzle now, Will, right?

SHORTZ: It's not too bad. Well, spring starts on Friday, so I've brought a game of categories based on the word Aires, A-I-R-E-S, which is the first sign of spring. For each category I name, you tell me something in it starting with each of the letters A-R-I-E and S. for example, if the category were elements on the periodic table, which is Liane's favorite category...


SHORTZ: You might say argon, radium, iron, einsteinium and silicon.

JO VIVIAN: Oh, I'm glad you answered that one, Will, for me.

HANSEN: Yeah. Me, too. I mean, einsteinium would've come to me right away, right?

JO VIVIAN: Right, absolutely.

SHORTZ: Here's number one: European countries.

JO VIVIAN: Let's see. Russia.

SHORTZ: Russia, good.

JO VIVIAN: Oh, skip one.

SHORTZ: You can do these in any order.

JO VIVIAN: England.

SHORTZ: England, all right. I'll sort of give you that. You could've said Estonia.

JO VIVIAN: Oh, okay. Spain.

SHORTZ: Spain, good.

JO VIVIAN: I need an A?

SHORTZ: So you need an A and an I.

HANSEN: And an I.


HANSEN: You wouldn't take Ireland, would you?

SHORTZ: Why, I sure would. Ireland, Iceland, Italy, all good.

JO VIVIAN: Oh, all right.

SHORTZ: And how about an A?


SHORTZ: How about something...

JO VIVIAN: Are you sure you didn't make this one up?


SHORTZ: How about, what's east of Switzerland? All right, I didn't mean to make this...

HANSEN: East of - oh, Andorra. No.

SHORTZ: Well, Andorra counts. Yeah, that's between Spain and France - could've said Austria. Albania also would have worked.

HANSEN: The most obvious ones, obviously.

JO VIVIAN: And I've been to Austria. It must have made an impression on me.



SHORTZ: All right, number two, next category: Old Testament names.

JO VIVIAN: Okay. Abraham.



SHORTZ: Ruth, good.


SHORTZ: Isaac, Isaiah, good.


SHORTZ: Esau, good.

JO VIVIAN: How about Sarah?

SHORTZ: Sarah, excellent.


SHORTZ: Woo, that was fast. So your next category: TV sitcoms.

HANSEN: I'll start with "All in the Family."


JO VIVIAN: Oh, yeah. I was thinking - I got as far as all.


JO VIVIAN: I don't watch that much TV.

SHORTZ: Yeah, you'll know all these, though. For an R, think of a one-word woman's name.

JO VIVIAN: Oh, "Rhoda."

SHORTZ: "Rhoda," "Roseanne," "Reba" all would've counted. What was the biggest sitcom of the '90s, starting with S? One-word name.

HANSEN: "Seinfeld."

SHORTZ: "Seinfeld" is it.


SHORTZ: Still need an I and an E.

JO VIVIAN: I don't know.

HANSEN: "I Remember Mama."

SHORTZ: That's good. "I Love Lucy" and "I Dream of Jeannie" would've counted.

JO VIVIAN: Oh, of course.

HANSEN: Oh, "I Love Lucy." Of course.

SHORTZ: And how about an E?

HANSEN: E. "Ellen?"

SHORTZ: "Ellen" counts. "Eight is Enough," "Empty Nest," "Evening Shade," "Everyone Loves Raymond" all would've counted.

HANSEN: You can tell how much TV I watch too, huh?

JO VIVIAN: Me too.

SHORTZ: And here's your last category: terms related to poetry.

JO VIVIAN: Okay, Iambic.

SHORTZ: Iambic, good, uh-huh.


SHORTZ: Elegy, good.

JO VIVIAN: A sonnet.

SHORTZ: Sonnet, good. So you need an A and an R.


SHORTZ: Think of a metrical...

JO VIVIAN: A rhyme. Rhyme.

SHORTZ: Rhyme, that's good. And for an A, how about a certain metrical foot in poetry?

JO VIVIAN: You got me.



SHORTZ: I'll tell you this last one. I was going for anapest.

HANSEN: Oh, anapest.

JO VIVIAN: Oh, okay.

SHORTZ: Anapest would count. Anyway...

JO VIVIAN: Well, we (unintelligible) been hanging on this phone for a long time.


HANSEN: Hey, you know, Mary Jo, we tried.

JO VIVIAN: I tried my best.

HANSEN: We - so did I. But did you have fun?

JO VIVIAN: Oh yeah.

HANSEN: Well, listen, we have some things for you, as you know.


HANSEN: Yeah. You're going to be taking home some things for being on the air today. We have someone very special to tell you what you'll get. And you may have heard on her on our program last week when she and Gramps Morgan came into our studios to sing for us.


INDIA ARIE: (Singing) Taking good care of me, always been there for me. Boy, I can't bear to leave, 'cause I need your therapy.

GRAMPS MORGAN: (Singing) Taking good care of me, always been there for me. Boy, I can't bear to leave, 'cause I need your therapy.

HANSEN: And here's Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter India Arie with your puzzle prizes.

ARIE: For playing our puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, the 11th Edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus. The Scrabble Deluxe Edition from Parker Brothers. The "Puzzlemaster Presents" from Random House Volume 2. Will Shortz's latest book series, "Will Shortz Presents KenKen," Volumes 1, 2 and 3 from St. Martin's Press. And one of Will Shortz's "Puzzlemaster Decks of Riddles and Challenges" from Chronicle Books.

HANSEN: Hey, Mary Jo.


HANSEN: You got yourself a musical celebrity there.

JO VIVIAN: Yeah, for sure.

HANSEN: What do you think?

JO VIVIAN: Well, I'm thinking what - this is an exciting way to end up my week, really.

HANSEN: It sure is. Well, let me tell people that if they didn't catch India Arie our program last week can still hear our conversation and more on our Web site


HANSEN: And before we say goodbye to you, Mary Jo, tell us what number station you listen to.

JO VIVIAN: I listen to WOI in Aims, Iowa.

HANSEN: Mary Jo Vivian of Aims, Iowa. Thanks for playing today. I loved meeting you, and you were great. Between us we made a good team.

JO VIVIAN: Thanks for calling.

HANSEN: Okay. All right, Will, we have a challenge for next week.

SHORTZ: Yes. It comes from listener Adam Cohen(ph) of Brooklyn. Name a female host of a popular TV program. The letters in her first name can be rearranged to name a god in mythology and the letters in her last name can be rearranged to name a type of god that this god is not. Who is it? So, again, a female host of a popular TV program. The letters in her first name can be rearranged to name a god. And the letters in her last name can be rearranged to name a type of god that this god is not. Who is the TV host and what are the anagrams?

HANSEN: When you have the answer, go to our Web site and click on the Submit Your Answer link. Only one entry per person, please. Our deadline this week is Thursday, 3 PM Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. We'll call you if you're the winner. And you'll get to play puzzle on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION'S puzzlemaster, Will Shortz. Will, thanks a lot.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Liane.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.