AUDIE CORNISH, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. And time now for the puzzle.
(SOUNDBITE OF PUZZLE MUSIC)
CORNISH: Did you figure it out? Have you been losing sleep over it? Here was last week's challenge from puzzle master Will Shortz. He said: this puzzle came from listener Ed Pegg Jr., who runs the website MathPuzzle.com:
WILL SHORTZ: Rearrange the 12 letters of air cushioned to name a person in the media - first and last names. Who is it?
CORNISH: We had about 450 entries, and our winner chosen at random is Greg Erb from Medford, Massachusetts. Hi, Greg.
GREG ERB: Hello, Audie.
CORNISH: So, Greg, what was the answer?
ERB: The answer is Audie Cornish.
CORNISH: Oh wow. How did I not notice that? Well, congratulations. How long did it take you to figure that out?
ERB: This one took me a while. I figured it out on Wednesday. I worked on it off and on until then. And when I finally focused on NPR personalities, it came to me fairly quickly.
CORNISH: Have you been a puzzle fan for a long time?
ERB: I have. I've been doing crosswords from a very young age, which I owe to my mother who was an early subscriber to Games magazine.
CORNISH: And Will used to be the editor of that magazine.
CORNISH: Well, now you actually get to meet the puzzle editor of the New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. He's joining us today from the studios of WFYI in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hey, Will, how are you?
SHORTZ: I'm doing great. And, first of all, welcome to the show.
CORNISH: Thanks so much. So, what are you up to out there in Indiana?
SHORTZ: I am in the middle of a cross-country road trip. A friend and I flew from New York to San Diego a week ago and we rented a car and we're driving back to New York playing at table tennis clubs all along the way.
CORNISH: Oh man. More table tennis. When I met you this summer, we were doing table tennis.
SHORTZ: That's right.
CORNISH: Well, Will, meet Greg; Greg, meet Will. I think you guys are all warmed up and ready to play the puzzle.
SHORTZ: Hey there, Greg.
ERB: Hi, Will.
SHORTZ: I'm going to name something that's in a category. You name something else in the same category in which the last two letters of my word are the first two letters of your answer. For example, if I said tuba, you might bassoon, because tuba is a musical instrument, it ends in B-A, and B-A is the start of bassoon. All right? Number one is Connecticut.
SHORTZ: Utah, right, and starting with U-T. Number two is Obama.
SHORTZ: Madison, excellent. Omega.
SHORTZ: Gamma, nice. Atlanta.
SHORTZ: Not a state capital, no. But think...
SHORTZ: Tallahassee, good. Genesis.
SHORTZ: Isaiah, good - books of the Old Testament. Here's a tough one: gator G-A-T-O-R.
SHORTZ: Orange, yes. They're both bowl games, nice.
CORNISH: These are a lot harder than tuba, Will. I mean, your first example led us astray.
SHORTZ: That was quite an easy example. Othello.
ERB: How about Loves Labors Lost.
SHORTZ: Oh man, you're good. Loves Labor Lost, yes. Crow.
SHORTZ: Owl, yes. Matisse, Matisse.
SHORTZ: Seurat, yes. Here's another tough one: national.
SHORTZ: And that first thing to figure out is what category is national in.
ERB: Drawing a blank here.
SHORTZ: I'll give you a hint. This is something you might see at an airport.
ERB: Oh, Alamo.
SHORTZ: Alamo rental car company, yes. How about peach?
SHORTZ: Cherry, yes. And your last one is Volvo. And don't say Volvo.
SHORTZ: Volkswagen. Man, you are good.
CORNISH: Wow, Greg. You were really good.
ERB: That was a lot of fun. Thank you.
CORNISH: Greg, for playing our puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games that you can read about at NPR.org/Puzzle. And, Greg, what member station do you listen to?
ERB: I listen to WBUR and WGBH.
CORNISH: And you're from Massachusetts, yay. My first puzzle person is in Red Sox Nation, so that's cool.
ERB: Oh, I'm sorry to say, though, I'm actually not a Red Sox fan. I'm an Orioles fan.
CORNISH: Oh, are you kidding me? Really? Are you from down here?
ERB: I grew up in Pennsylvania. My wife is a Red Sox fan.
CORNISH: Cool, cool. So, we'll still air your puzzle then. No, I'm just kidding. It was a good time.
CORNISH: All right. Thank you.
ERB: This was a lot of fun. Thank you so much.
CORNISH: So, Will, next week, we commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with special programming, so we won't have an on-air puzzle. But I understand you have a two-week challenge for us to work on in the meantime.
SHORTZ: That's right. It's a creative challenge involving palindromes and, as you know, a palindrome reads backwards and forwards the same.
I'd like you write a palindrome that contains the name of a famous person. For example: No, Mel Gibson is a casino's big lemon. That reads backwards and forwards the same. Or: Ed, I saw Harpo Marx ram Oprah W. aside.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SHORTZ: You can use the famous person's full name or just the last name, whatever you like. The object is to write the most interesting palindrome that contains a famous person's name, past or present. Any length is fine, short or long. Palindromes will be judged on their interest, elegance and naturalness of syntax.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CORNISH: Ah. So when you have your awesome palindrome, go to our website, NPR.org/puzzle and click on the Submit Your Answer link. Only one entry per person, please. Our deadline is Thursday, September 15th at 3 P.M. Eastern Time. So include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time, and we'll call you if you're the winner. And you'll get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle-master, Will Shortz.
SHORTZ: Thanks, Audie.
CORNISH: And safe driving.
SHORTZ: Thanks a lot.
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