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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. Welcome back.

WILL SHORTZ: Hi, Liane. Great to be back.

HANSEN: Had a nice time on your vacation?

SHORTZ: I did. I went camping, played table tennis in Alameda, California, saw my brother and his family in Santa Barbara. So, had a great two weeks.

HANSEN: I wanted to asked you if you're familiar with a new program that's airing on AMC called "Rubicon." Are you?

SHORTZ: No, I don't know that.

HANSEN: It just began. And I was reading something about it. And apparently it's a procedural, you know, solving crimes and so forth, but they use crossword puzzles as part of their conceit and, you know - you know how you have police boards on the set and stuff? Well, they have crosswords. It debuted when you were away so.

SHORTZ: I'll check it out. Thanks.

HANSEN: Check it out. All right. Before you left, you gave us a creative challenge involving spoonerisms. Can you briefly just explain the spoonerism conceit? What is that?

SHORTZ: Yeah. I asked you to write a riddle starting with what's the different between in which the answer involves a spoonerism, where you interchange the initial consonant sounds of two words.

HANSEN: Okay.

SHORTZ: And I said entries would be judged on originality, cleverness and naturalness of syntax.

HANSEN: I have to tell you, all of our puzzle-playing listeners liked this challenge a lot. We received more than 1,600 entries - and you had to go through all of them. You have clever picks, I believe, two runners-up. Why don't you share them?

SHORTZ: Yeah, there were three entries I thought were head and shoulders above everyone else's. And here are the two runners-up: one from Pat Mauer of Los Angeles. And the question is: what's the difference between a Guinea hen and a young witch? One is a wild chicken and the other is a child Wiccan. That's a really pretty rhyme.

And from Gary Disch of Ottawa, Ontario: what's the difference between a dasher and a haberdasher? One makes short spurts and the other makes sport shirts. And that's clever - and to tie in dasher and haberdasher, that's beautiful.

But my very favorite from Michael True of Falls Church, Virginia: what's the difference between a wedding chapel and a restaurant's daily specials? One is a marrying venue and the other is a varying menu. That's brilliant.

HANSEN: Yeah. So, Will, you called him himself and he joins us on the line with us. Michael True, how are you?

MICHAEL TRUE: I am wonderful, thank you.

HANSEN: Yeah. It must've been something to have Will Shortz's voice on your answering machine.

TRUE: It was. It was a treat.

HANSEN: Tell us what you do in Falls Church.

TRUE: I'm a project manager for a government contractor.

HANSEN: And how long have you been playing our puzzle?

TRUE: I've been playing about five years - submitting for about two, so...

HANSEN: Oh, okay. So, how long did it take you to come up with your very clever entry?

TRUE: Oh, about a day and a half. I'd originally started the night that I heard the show, just trying to come up with familiar two-word phrases to no avail. And the next day I just started throwing out random words and those just popped into my head so.

HANSEN: Good for you. Well, you sound like you're ready to play.

TRUE: I am absolutely ready, guys.

HANSEN: All right. Will, meet Michael. Let's play.

SHORTZ: All right, Michael. Every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name with the initials V.C. For example, if the clue were serving of calf's meat, you would say veal chop.

TRUE: Got it.

SHORTZ: All right. Number one is piece of equipment for a housekeeper.

TRUE: Vacuum cleaner.

SHORTZ: That's it. Number two is what to give someone on February 14.

TRUE: Valentine's card?

SHORTZ: That's right, or Valentine candy, either way. A small handbag for women's cosmetics and toiletries. Sometimes it has a little mirror inside it.

TRUE: I don't carry many cosmetics. Can you help me out?

HANSEN: Yeah, I'm trying to.

SHORTZ: Second word would be case. Does that help?

HANSEN: Oh.

TRUE: Valet?

HANSEN: Vanity case.

TRUE: No, it...

SHORTZ: Vanity case is it.

TRUE: Thank you.

HANSEN: Okay.

SHORTZ: All right. Women use it to clean the skin and remove age spots.

HANSEN: Something cream.

SHORTZ: Yes.

TRUE: Wow. I need my wife out here for this.

HANSEN: All right. Something cream.

SHORTZ: What kind of cream?

TRUE: Vein cream?

HANSEN: Vein cream, vanity cream, viscous cream.

TRUE: Vanishing cream.

SHORTZ: Vanishing cream, good job.

HANSEN: Oh, very good, Michael.

SHORTZ: Okay. How about this: world's smallest country in size. And it's located inside Rome.

TRUE: Oh, Vatican City.

SHORTZ: That's it. Processed dairy product made by Kraft.

TRUE: Something cheese.

SHORTZ: Yes.

TRUE: Velveeta cheese.

SHORTZ: Velveeta cheese is it. Part of California between Santa Barbara and L.A.

TRUE: Oh my God, I've been out there so much lately, too.

HANSEN: Me too. V.C.?

SHORTZ: Yeah. Well, you can guess what the C is maybe.

HANSEN: Maybe. Valley something?

SHORTZ: No. All right. I'm just going to tell you this one. It's Ventura County.

HANSEN: Oh, okay.

TRUE: Oh.

SHORTZ: Ventura County.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHORTZ: Okay, how about this: Investment money for a new business?

TRUE: Venture capital.

SHORTZ: That's it. Where to take sick dog or cat.

TRUE: Veterinarian clinic?

SHORTZ: That's it. Parts of the throat that allow you to speak.

TRUE: Vocal cords.

SHORTZ: That's it. It can film things for YouTube.

TRUE: Video camera.

SHORTZ: That's it. Solo work by Bach, Brahms or Vivaldi.

TRUE: Solo work...

SHORTZ: For the V, think of a stringed instrument.

TRUE: Viola concerto.

SHORTZ: I was going for...

TRUE: Violin concerto.

SHORTZ: ...violin concerto, good. And here's your last one: Sport venue divided by a net that is 7 feet, 11 and 5/8 inches high.

TRUE: Volleyball court?

SHORTZ: That's it, good job.

HANSEN: Michael, nice work.

TRUE: Thank you.

HANSEN: Boy, that one really ran the gamut - I mean from Vassar to Velveeta. You know, Will?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HANSEN: Pretty good.

We have someone I think you're going to love reading your puzzle prizes today. He's a Grammy-winning musical guest. He's also a vineyard owner, an organic farm owner and all around mister nice guy. Here's Dave Matthews.

DAVE MATTHEWS: 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 and 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.

HANSEN: What do you think, Dave Matthews there for you?

TRUE: I think that is awesome.

HANSEN: Yeah. Yeah, he was pretty awesome, too, when he was in NPR doing a performance chat and he was kind enough to read the puzzles for us. So, well, Michael, before we let you go, what member station do you listen to?

TRUE: WAMU.

HANSEN: WAMU. Michael True of Falls Church, Virginia, thanks a lot for playing our puzzle. You're a great guest.

TRUE: Thank you very much. It was a lot of fun. Nice meeting you.

HANSEN: Okay, nice meeting you too.

Okay, Will, we're back to the regular one-week puzzle challenge. What have you got?

SHORTZ: Yes, it comes from our old pal, Merle Regal. Take the letters of Yo Yo Ma, as in the name of cellist: Y-O-Y-O M-A. These can be rearranged to form the initial letters of a familiar six-word question. What question is it?

So again, take the letters of Yo Yo Ma, these can be rearranged to form the initial letters of a familiar six-word question. What question is it?

HANSEN: When you have the answer go to our website, NPR.org/puzzle and click on the Submit Your Answer link. Only one entry per person, please and our deadline is next Thursday, at 3 P.M. Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at 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, nice to talk to you again. Thanks a lot.

SHORTZ: Thanks a lot, Liane.

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