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Drawing A Blank (Or Two)
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Drawing A Blank (Or Two)


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. And it is time now for the puzzle.


WERTHEIMER: Joining me now is puzzle-master Will Shortz. Good morning, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Will, what was last week's puzzle challenge again?

SHORTZ: Yes. It was an anagram word ladder. I said you start with the word autumn, then you change one letter at a time and anagram it each step of the way to turn autumn into leaves. And I said each step has to be a common word. And the goal was to do it in the fewest steps. Well, the answer was five steps - that is the minimum. And the answer I came up with is: autumn to mutual, amulet, salute, vestal - as in vestal virgins - and leaves. There are many other combinations that worked, and anything that worked was counted correct.

WERTHEIMER: OK. So, there were more than 500 listeners with a correct ladder of anagrams. And our winner this week is Sherin Varghese of Los Angeles, California. Congratulations, Sherin.


WERTHEIMER: So, Sherin, did you have the same words as Will did?

VARGHESE: The top three I remember were definitely the same. And I had values...

WERTHEIMER: So, Sherin, you got values instead of vestal?


WERTHEIMER: That was a very clever way to get there, I must say. I guess you don't get much in the way of autumn and leaves and whatnot out there in L.A.

VARGHESE: Not so much, but I am originally from New York. So, they are something I remember and miss every fall.

WERTHEIMER: And you're a big puzzle player?

VARGHESE: I am. I do the New York Times crossword every day, and I do love a good anagram when I can find one.

WERTHEIMER: OK. So here is your chance to meet the man who sets the puzzle. Sherin, meet Will, Will, meet Sherin.


SHORTZ: Hey, Sherin. Well, I like your policy of solving the Times crossword every day. And, of course, I've brought a word puzzle for you today. I'm going to read you some sentences. Each sentence has two blanks. Put a word starting with R in the first blank, then move that R to the end to make a new word that goes in the second blank to complete the sentence. For example, if I said: The door of the Indian blank was left slightly blank, you would say raja R-A-J-A and ajar.


SHORTZ: All right. Here's number one: when the chef burned himself on the blank, he exploded in blank.

VARGHESE: On the...

SHORTZ: Something starting with an R.

VARGHESE: On a range and anger?

SHORTZ: That's it. On the range; he exploded in anger. Here's your next one: the traveler's blank across Asia passed through blank Mongolia.

VARGHESE: Mongolia. I'm trying to think of places in Mongolia.

SHORTZ: No, you don't need a place in Mongolia. You just need to complete the phrase blank Mongolia. Or try it on the other side: the traveler's blank through Asia. Think of a synonym of path, starting with R.

VARGHESE: Path. Route.

WERTHEIMER: There you go.


VARGHESE: Route and Outer Mongolia.

SHORTZ: Outer Mongolia is it, good. Years ago, members of the Pawnee and Kiowa tribes would blank all blank the plains. Here it is again: years ago, members of the Pawnee and Kiowa tribes would blank all blank the plains.

VARGHESE: All blank the plain. Rove and over?

SHORTZ: That's it. Would rove all over the plains, good. A blank in Southwest Arizona is just the sort of property the local news blank wants to buy.

VARGHESE: Southwest Arizona.

SHORTZ: Yeah. Think of a kind of home or a property, Spanish-style. A blank in southwest Arizona is just the sort of property the local news blank wants to buy.

VARGHESE: Local...

SHORTZ: What would that second word be - the local news blank.

VARGHESE: Rancho and anchor?

SHORTZ: That's it. The actor who seemed distant and blank during the audition turned out to be quite the blank when he got on stage. OK. Here it is again: the actor who seemed distant and blank during his audition turned out to be quite the blank when he got on stage.

VARGHESE: Remote and emoter?

SHORTZ: That's it.

WERTHEIMER: Hey, that is very good.

SHORTZ: And here's your last one: between Madonna and her ex-husband, Guy blank, it was always the latter who was blank to get going.

VARGHESE: Ritchie...

SHORTZ: Yes. And what's the other word?

VARGHESE: Itchier.

SHORTZ: Itchier, yes. Good job.

WERTHEIMER: Sherin, that was fabulous. And for playing our puzzle today, you will get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at But before we let you go, can you tell me what your public radio station is?

VARGHESE: It's KPCC in Pasadena.

WERTHEIMER: Which is a wonderful station. Sherin Varghese of Los Angeles, thank you very much for playing the puzzle this week.

VARGHESE: Thank you, Linda and thank you, Will.

WERTHEIMER: OK, Will, give us your best shot for next week.

SHORTZ: Yes, this week's challenge comes from listener Erica Avery of Wisconsin, via the Internet. Name a world capital whose letters can be rearranged to spell a popular and much-advertised drug. What's the capital and what's the drug?

So again, a world capital, you can rearrange to name a popular and drug you see advertised a lot on TV. What's the capital and what's the drug?

WERTHEIMER: When you have the answer, go to our website, and click on the Submit Your Answer link - just one entry per person, please. The deadline for entries is Thursday, September 13th at 3 P.M. Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you are 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.

Will, thank you.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Linda.


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