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Two Is Company, But Three Is A Crowd
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Two Is Company, But Three Is A Crowd


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. This is the true story of one radio host...

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: ...and one puzzle master...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...and millions of listeners...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ...getting together to find out what happens...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...when people stop being polite...

MARTIN: ...and start the puzzle.


MARTIN: Joining me now is Will Shortz. He is the puzzle editor of the New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. Good morning, Will.

SHORTZ: Morning, Rachel. We can be polite.

MARTIN: We can be polite, sure. Why not? So, you had a big event last weekend, I understand, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. How did this go?

SHORTZ: It was great. We had increased attendance - 580 competitors, maybe a thousand people all together. And pianist Dan Fayer won for his fifth straight time, beat his archrival Tyler Henman, who had won the previous five years. And there's a great article about this and on their rivalry on Time magazine's website.

MARTIN: It's unbelievable. I had no idea there was such deep-seated rivalries in the world of crossword puzzling.

SHORTZ: There is.

MARTIN: So, what was last week's challenge, Will?

SHORTZ: Yes. I said take the name of a classical Greek mathematician. And the letters in his name, I said, can be rearranged to spell two numbers. What are they? Well, the answer is Diophantus. Do you know him?

MARTIN: Yeah, no, no. I don't know Diophantus. Do you?

SHORTZ: Well, I did from Diophantine equations. I don't know. Something from years ago. You could rearrange those letters to make thousand and pi. We got a couple other interesting answers. Some people submitted Euclid. You can rearrange those letters to spell due, which is two in Italian, and CLI, which is 151 in Roman numerals. And a couple of people sent in Zenadorus. That name I did not know.

MARTIN: They're just showing off, for crying out loud.

SHORTZ: They found that on a list somewhere. You could arrange that to make three numbers: zero, un U-N, which is one in French, and dos, which is two in Spanish.

MARTIN: Smart people out there playing the puzzle. More than 150 of you figured it out. Our randomly selected winner this week is David Rosen of Syosset, New York. He joins us on the line now. Hey, David, congratulations.

DAVID ROSEN: Thank you very much. And it's Syosset.

MARTIN: Syosset.

ROSEN: That's OK. It's mispronounced every time I speak to somebody out of the area.

MARTIN: I apologize. I will never get it wrong again.

ROSEN: I forgive you this time.


MARTIN: So, you're pretty well versed in the world of ancient Greek math?

ROSEN: Let's see - I knew the name Euclid. That didn't seem to work. I tried Pythagoras - couldn't go anywhere there. So, I did what everybody else did, including the people who found all these other names - I looked online and found a list of mathematicians.

MARTIN: Which is the really smart way to do it actually. And how long have you been playing the puzzle? A long time?

ROSEN: I think I missed the very first week but I've gotten just about every one since then.

MARTIN: Truly?

ROSEN: Absolutely.

MARTIN: That's amazing. Wow.

ROSEN: We are ruining a family tradition. For decades, every Thursday afternoon at 3:30, I look up and say they didn't call again. Now, you did.

MARTIN: I'm so glad we called, David. So, you ready to this then, the big moment?

ROSEN: I am ready.

MARTIN: OK, Will. Let's play.

SHORTZ: All right, David, I hope this is worth the wait. I'm going to give you two words. For each pair, think of a third word that can follow my first one and precede my second one, in each case to complete a familiar two-word phrase. And as help in solving, I'll tell you every answer starts with W. For example, if I said open and awake, you would say wide, as in open wide and wide awake.


SHORTZ: OK. Number one is humpback and oil.

ROSEN: Whale.

SHORTZ: Humpback whale and whale oil, good. Station, train.

ROSEN: Wagon.

SHORTZ: That's good. Station wagon, wagon train. Wrist, tower.

ROSEN: Watch.

SHORTZ: Uh-huh. Egg, collar.

ROSEN: White.

SHORTZ: Uh-huh. Shotgun, bells.

ROSEN: Wedding.

SHORTZ: Good. Timber, whistle.

ROSEN: Wolf.

SHORTZ: That's it. Timber wolf. Atomic, lifter.

ROSEN: Atomic weight.

SHORTZ: That's it. Third, series.

ROSEN: World.

SHORTZ: Uh-huh. Dish, dryer.

ROSEN: Water.

SHORTZ: No, not the same.

ROSEN: No, that doesn't work. Dish...

SHORTZ: Name something in your kitchen.

ROSEN: I'm sitting in my kitchen.

SHORTZ: OK. Look around.

ROSEN: Washer.

SHORTZ: There you go. Dish washer.

ROSEN: That is my assistant in the background.

MARTIN: I heard your assistant.

ROSEN: The one who comes up with the answers every week and I just say, oh, that's it. My wife.

SHORTZ: All right. Try this: barbed, service.

ROSEN: Wire.

SHORTZ: That's it. Stormy, map.

ROSEN: Weather.

SHORTZ: That's it. Old man, break.

ROSEN: Winter.

SHORTZ: That's it. And your last one is last, processor.

ROSEN: Word.

SHORTZ: That's it. Bravo. Bravo.

MARTIN: Oh, David. All those years of practice paid off, my friend.

ROSEN: Thank you. Thank you.

MARTIN: I hope you're proud of yourself. That was really good.

ROSEN: It was fun.

MARTIN: So you listen so often, you know what you win. But I'll just repeat it anyway. You get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, David, and puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at And before we let you go, what is your public radio station?

ROSEN: WNYC where I am a member.

MARTIN: Alright, WNYC in New York. David Rosen, of Syosset, New York. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, David.

ROSEN: Thank you so much.

MARTIN: OK, Will. What's up for next week?

SHORTZ: Yes, the challenge comes from listener Carol Highland of Ephrata, Washington. Take the brand name of a popular grocery item, written normally in upper and lower case letters. Push two consecutive letters together, without otherwise changing the name in any way, and the result will name a make of car. What is it?

So again: the brand name of a popular grocery item, upper and lower case letters. Push two consecutive letters together, without any other change, and the result will name a make of car. What is it?

MARTIN: All right, when you've got the answer, go to our website, and click on the Submit Your Answer link - just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for entries is Thursday, March 20th at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. Because if you're the winner we will give you a call. Stand by your phone - and you will get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz.

Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.


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