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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

And joining us is puzzle master Will Shortz. Hey, Will.

WILL SHORTZ: Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: So, did you recover from your weekend last weekend? You were doing crossword puzzle tournaments out the ying-yang.

SHORTZ: Yeah, it was great. I was at Brown on Saturday and there were about 80 students who turned out for the crossword contest - real good; was at Harvard on Sunday and Yale on Monday night. And in addition, you might guess, I played table tennis with the MIT Table Tennis Club Saturday night and with the Harvard Table Tennis Club Sunday night, so it was a busy weekend.

HANSEN: I see the new building that you're building for your tennis table club to start having all of the emblems of all the, you know, places that you've played. Is your goal to play every club around the country?

SHORTZ: Oh, that's impossible, but my goal is to play in more clubs than anyone else. I'm currently at 97 U.S. clubs in 22 states.

HANSEN: You are amazing, oh my. You just, I mean, you do words for work and words for play. I love it, I love it.

All right. We had a great challenge last week. Could you repeat it.

SHORTZ: Yes. I said name something you might order in a restaurant - two words, eight letters all together, four letters in the first word, four letters in the last. I said drop the last letter. The remaining seven letters will read backward and forward the same. What is this thing you might order?

HANSEN: What is this thing I might order?

SHORTZ: Well, it's a side dish. Get rid of the H and the rest of the letters are palindromic.

HANSEN: Well, we had more than a thousand correct entries this week. And our randomly selected winner is Rick Blumenfeld(ph) of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Welcome to the puzzle, Rick.

Mr. RICK BLUMENFELD: Hi.

HANSEN: What do you do in Albuquerque?

Mr. BLUMENFELD: I'm a staff attorney at the state district court house.

HANSEN: Okay. How long have you been playing our radio puzzle?

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Oh, back when you accepted postcards.

HANSEN: We had someone the other week said, you know, since the creation of the Earth. I mean, it feels that long. Sounds like you're ready to play now.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: I guess so.

HANSEN: Yep. As ready as we're ever, ever going to be when we do this. All right. Please, Will, meet Rick; Rick meet Will. Let's play.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Hi, Will.

SHORTZ: All right. Hi, Rick. I'm going to give you some words. For each word, take two consecutive letters and change them to one letter to name a country. For example, if I said cubic C-U-B-I-C, you would say Cuba...

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Okay.

SHORTZ: ...as you're changing I-C to one letter. All right. Here is number one: Ape Men A-P-E M-E-N.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Uh, Yemen.

SHORTZ: Yemen is right. Number two is indict, I-N-D-I-C-T.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: India.

SHORTZ: Good. Gibbon, G-I-B-B-O-N.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Gabon.

SHORTZ: Good. Strain, S-T-R-A-I-N.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Spain.

SHORTZ: That's it. Chin up, C-H-I-N U-P.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: China.

SHORTZ: Um-hum. Tongue, T-O-N-G-U-E.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Could you say that again?

SHORTZ: Yeah, tongue, what's on the tip of your tongue, T-O-N-G-U-E.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Oh, Tonga.

SHORTZ: Tonga is it. Sudden, S-U-D-D-E-N.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Sudan.

SHORTZ: That's right. Neural, N-E-U-R-A-L.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Nepal.

SHORTZ: No.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Nepal is not it, N-E-P-A-L?

SHORTZ: No, Nepal is right, N-E-P-A-L. Did you say that earlier?

HANSEN: He did.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Yes.

SHORTZ: I thought you said St. Paul. Sorry, that's right.

HANSEN: That's right.

SHORTZ: All right. Try this one: avatar, A-V-A-T-A-R.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Qatar?

SHORTZ: Qatar is it. Nipper, N-I-P-P-E-R.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Liane?

HANSEN: Niger or Niger.

SHORTZ: Niger, Niger, however you pronounce that, good. Finance, F-I-N-A-N-C-E.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: France.

HANSEN: Yeah.

SHORTZ: That's it. Cypress, C-Y-P-R-E-S-S.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Does it become Cyprus?

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Cyprus.

HANSEN: Yes, it does.

SHORTZ: It's Cyprus, yeah. How about believe, B-E-L-I-E-V-E?

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Belize.

SHORTZ: That's it. Doorway, D-O-O-R-W-A-Y.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Norway.

SHORTZ: Um-hum. Malachi, M-A-L-A-C-H-I.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Liane?

HANSEN: Not yet.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: There's Mali, but that's not it.

HANSEN: No.

SHORTZ: That's not it. Change the C-H.

HANSEN: Malawi.

SHORTZ: Malawi is it.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Thank you.

SHORTZ: How about canasta, C-A-N-A-S-T-A?

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Canada.

SHORTZ: That's it. And your last one is mainland, M-A-I-N-L-A-N-D.

HANSEN: Maryland is not a country so, although it works. No, it's two letters. You couldn't do it. Mainland.

SHORTZ: Change the first two letters.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Finland.

HANSEN: Finland.

SHORTZ: Finland is it. Good job, Rick.

HANSEN: Hey, Rick. You're really good. You know your geography, man.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Well, thank you.

HANSEN: Rick, I know if youve been playing since the postcard days, youre familiar with this portion of the puzzle segment. We are presenting a special guest with a list of prizes today. And he was a guest on our program last week, and its great because his new album is actually called "VOCAbuLarieS." Here's Bobby McFerrin.

Mr. BOBBY MCFERRIN (Musician): For playing our puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, the "Scrabble Deluxe Edition" from Parker Brothers, the book series "Will Shortz Present KenKen" Volumes 1, 2, 3 from St. Martin's Press, one of Will Shortz's "Puzzlemaster Decks of Riddles and Challenges" from Chronicle Books, and a CD compilation of NPR's Sunday Puzzles. Ahh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Be happy. Dont worry, Rick, right?

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Right.

HANSEN: All right. Before we let you go, tell us what member station you listen to.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: KANW and KUNM.

HANSEN: Great. Rick Blumenfeld from Albuquerque, New Mexico, you are a great player. Thanks a lot.

Mr. BLUMENFELD: Well, thank you.

HANSEN: All right. Will, take up that challenge for next week.

SHORTZ: Yes. It's a spin-off of the On-Air Puzzle. Name a country in six letters. Change two consecutive letters in it to one letter to get the name of another country. What countries are these? So again: a country in six letters. Change two consecutive letters in it to one letter, to get the name of a five-letter country. What countries are these?

HANSEN: When you have the answer, go to our Web site, NPR.org/puzzle, click on the Submit Your Answer link. Only one entry per person, please. Our deadline is Thursday, 3:00 P.M. Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. We'll call you if you are 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.

And, Will, next week I'm going to be out visiting my friends at WKSU in Kent, Ohio. So you'll have the pleasure of playing with Jacki Lyden. So, I really enjoyed this week's puzzle, Will. And good luck with that table tennis. Thanks a lot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SHORTZ: Thanks, Liane.

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