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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. And it's time now for the puzzle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Let's start with last week's challenge from the puzzle editor of the New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master Will Shortz.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Name an occupation in nine letters. It's an entertainer, but an unusual one, but a kind that everyone knows. Drop the third letter of the name and read the result backward. You'll get two four-letter words that are exact opposites of each other. What are they?

CORNISH: More than 300 of you figured out the answer. And our randomly selected winner this week is Mitch Handelsman from Denver, Colorado, who joins us by smartphone app, actually, so we have a nice clear line. Congratulations, Mitch.

MITCH HANDELSMAN: Thank you, Audie.

CORNISH: And Happy New Year.

HANDELSMAN: Thank you. And Happy New Year to you.

CORNISH: So, Mitch, what was the answer to last week's challenge.

HANDELSMAN: The occupation was daredevil. And if you drop out that R and then read backwards you get live and dead.

CORNISH: And what do you do there in Denver, Mitch?

HANDELSMAN: I teach psychology. I'm a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver.

CORNISH: Which could be helpful in puzzle solving, I'm hoping, somehow.

HANDELSMAN: I'm hoping. I can use all the help I can get.

CORNISH: Well, we're going to welcome next puzzle master Will Shortz. Happy New Year, Will.

SHORTZ: Happy New Year, Audie.

CORNISH: So, I hear you have a special puzzle for us on New Year's.

SHORTZ: Well, you know, at the start of every year for many years now I've done a names in the news quiz. And today I'm going to name some people that you probably never heard of before 2011 but who became famous during the past 12 months. And I'd just like you to tell me why they're famous. And as in the past, I'd like to credit Cathy Baker and Tim Goodman who helped me with this. They were past contestants on year-end quizzes.

CORNISH: All right, Will. Take it away.

SHORTZ: All right. Here's your first one: Kim Jong Un.

HANDELSMAN: He's the new North Korean leader.

SHORTZ: That's correct. Taking over from the late Kim Jong Il. Gilad Shalit. That's G-I-L-A-D S-H-A-L-I-T, Gilad Shalit.

HANDELSMAN: I'm stuck.

CORNISH: This is fairly recent news, Mitch. And it's from overseas.

HANDELSMAN: OK. And I'm thinking it might have something to do with the Arab Spring?

CORNISH: You are at least within the region now.

HANDELSMAN: OK.

SHORTZ: Hold that thought for later.

HANDELSMAN: OK. OK.

SHORTZ: Go ahead, Audie.

CORNISH: Gilad Shalit is the Israeli soldier who was released from captivity, right, in exchange for...

SHORTZ: That's correct.

CORNISH: ...many, many Palestinians.

SHORTZ: For 1,027 Palestinians. Good. Here's your next one. Mohammed Bouazizi, and the last name is spelled B-O-U-A-Z-I-Z-I. Mohammed Bouazizi.

HANDELSMAN: Now, is this the Arab Spring?

SHORTZ: Yes. And specifically.

HANDELSMAN: Was he the person who started it with...

SHORTZ: That is correct. He was a Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation martyrdom triggered the Arab Spring and led to the overthrow of the Tunisian government. OK. Your next one comes with a hint. This person did something twice this year that proved to be very embarrassing. And the name is Harold Camping.

CORNISH: There are so many people who could have fit that description.

SHORTZ: Oh. It sounds like I'm going to have to tell both of you.

HANDELSMAN: Yeah.

SHORTZ: OK. You don't know, Audie?

CORNISH: Wait. Can we get any hints first?

SHORTZ: Ah, well, let's see. What can I tell you? OK. He is a Christian radio broadcaster. All right. I'm just going to tell you. He predicted the end of the world twice. First in May, and when the date passed without the world ending, the recalculated and figured out it was going to be in October.

CORNISH: How can I forget that guy?

SHORTZ: All right. How about this: Kris Humphries, Kris Humphries - and the first name is K-R-I-S.

HANDELSMAN: I'm going to need at least a hint on that one.

CORNISH: No, Mitch, no. You've got this one. The spelling is with a K.

HANDELSMAN: So, is...

SHORTZ: It is a male Kris and he married somebody.

CORNISH: Who also, their name begins with a K.

HANDELSMAN: Did he marry a Kardashian?

SHORTZ: Kim Kardashian. Good job. They were married for 72 days. OK. Your last two have just single names, and the first one is Watson.

HANDELSMAN: Oh, that was the computer that played "Jeopardy!"

SHORTZ: That's right. And won on "Jeopardy!" Beat the human champions. And your last one is Siri S-I-R-I. And you of all people should get this, considering what you're playing on today.

HANDELSMAN: Oh, it's the new iPhone.

SHORTZ: It's the new intelligence software system for the iPhone that answers questions for you. Nice job.

CORNISH: Well, Mitch, for playing our puzzle today, you're going to get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel in as well as puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at NPR.org/Puzzle. And, Mitch, which public radio station do you listen to?

HANDELSMAN: I'm a member of KCFR in Denver.

CORNISH: Mitch Handelsman, thanks so much for playing the puzzle this week.

HANDELSMAN: Thank you, Audie. Happy New Year.

CORNISH: So, Will, what's our first puzzle challenge for 2012?

SHORTZ: Yes. Name certain scores in a certain sport. And this is a two-word phrase with a total of 10 letters - five letters in each word. If you have the right phrase, you can rearrange all the letters to name a different sport, also in two words - six letters in the first word, four in the second. What are the scores and what is the sport?

SHORTZ: So again, certain scores in a certain sport, two-word phrase - 5/5. If you have the right phrase, you can rearrange all 10 letters to name a different sport in 6/4. What are the scores and what is the sport?

CORNISH: Well, when you have the answer, go to our website, NPR.org/puzzle and click on the Submit Your Answer link - just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for entries is Thursday, January 5th at 3 P.M. Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. If you're the winner we'll give you a call, 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.

And, Will, this is my last on-air puzzle with you for awhile.

SHORTZ: I understand. It's so sad. You've been great. I'm looking forward to your return.

CORNISH: Well, I will tell the next host, Rachel Martin, to keep her Number 2 pencil sharpened.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHORTZ: That's good advice.

CORNISH: Thanks, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks a lot, Audie.

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