LIANE HANSEN, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

And joining us is puzzlemaster Will Shortz. Hi, Will.

WILL SHORTZ (Puzzlemaster): Hi, Liane. I understand you've been traveling.

HANSEN: I have been traveling. We went down this past week to the bayou country in Louisiana to visit the family of Mike Voisin, who has been on our show the past few weeks telling us what's been going on with the hurricanes. And we were in a town that I think would make an excellent crossword puzzle answer. It's a town called Houma, and it's spelled H-O-U-M-A.

SHORTZ: Aha.

HANSEN: Houma.

SHORTZ: I'll keep that in mind.

HANSEN: It's not Homer with a Massachusetts accent.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: A lot of people there, actually, we met and know of the puzzle. And, well, they want to know the answer to the challenge that you gave last week, so I'm going to let you provide that. First, repeat the challenge.

SHORTZ: Yes, it came from our old friend, Merle Regle. I said think of a four-letter word staring with O, change one of the letters to a new letter and rearrange the result to get a new four-letter word that's a synonym of the first. Then repeat that process on the second word to get a third four-letter word that's a synonym of the first two. What words are these?

HANSEN: And what are they?

SHORTZ: The words are `only,' `lone' and `sole,' as in only survivor, lone survivor and sole survivor.

HANSEN: We had over 1,500 entries from people who solved that one, and our winner, randomly selected from the correct answers, is Dr. Steven Kleinman, and he joins us from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Steve, how are you?

Dr. STEVEN KLEINMAN (Puzzle Winner): I'm fine. Thanks, Liane.

HANSEN: Tell me what kind of doctor you are.

Dr. KLEINMAN: Well, I'm a medical researcher these days. I do research on keeping blood transfusions safe for people who need it.

HANSEN: Wow. Are you a puzzle person? Do you like to--do you like puzzles?

Dr. KLEINMAN: Oh, I did when I was younger. You know, I've gotten so busy that I don't do them too often anymore. But yes, I like them.

HANSEN: How long have you been playing this one?

Dr. KLEINMAN: Well, actually, this is the first time I listened to the program.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Oh, beginner's luck then is on your side.

Dr. KLEINMAN: Yeah, I guess so.

HANSEN: All right. Well, Will, please meet Steven. Let's play.

SHORTZ: All right, Steve, I'm going to read you some sentences. Each sentence has two blanks, add the letters A-R at the end of the word that goes in the first blank to get a new word that goes in the second blank to complete the sentence. For example, if I said, `The Indian musician would blank for hours and play the blank,' you'd say, he would sit for hours and play the sitar. All right?

Dr. KLEINMAN: OK, sounds challenging.

SHORTZ: All right. Number one: `Maureen was excited to find a Barbie blank at a yard sale for only one blank.'

Dr. KLEINMAN: Dollar.

SHORTZ: That's correct. Number two: `The heavy stone walls in my house prevent my blank phone from working in the blank.'

Dr. KLEINMAN: Cellar.

SHORTZ: Excellent. `When I asked Joan how she liked her fish, her blank reply was it needs more blank sauce.'

SHORTZ: What kind of sauce do you put on fish ending in A-R?

Dr. KLEINMAN: Ah, gees, I don't know. Tartar sauce.

HANSEN: Yeah.

SHORTZ: Tartar. I heard...

Dr. KLEINMAN: Tartar sauce.

SHORTZ: ...tart reply. Very good. Here's your next one: `The sailors on the back of the ship were opposed to fighting, while those on the blank were blank.' So what's the opposite of back?

Dr. KLEINMAN: Back is front.

SHORTZ: What do you call the front of a ship?

Dr. KLEINMAN: I don't...

HANSEN: Prow?

SHORTZ: There you go, Liane.

Dr. KLEINMAN: Prow.

HANSEN: Prow?

SHORTZ: Yes.

HANSEN: Prowar?

SHORTZ: And those on the prow were pro-war.

HANSEN: Oh!

Dr. KLEINMAN: Oh.

HANSEN: Oh, it's one of those. Oh, one of those.

SHORTZ: Yeah, it's one of those.

HANSEN: OK.

SHORTZ: Well, they get worse. Try this one.

HANSEN: Oh, thanks.

SHORTZ: `The ingenue declared no matter what the blank, she'd like to blank in a film with Tom Cruise.' Now what would she like to do in a film with Tom Cruise ending in A-R?

HANSEN: Star is part of it and--and not star, she's with someone else, so she would?

Dr. KLEINMAN: Co-star.

HANSEN: Co--yeah.

SHORTZ: Yeah.

HANSEN: All right. Now so what's the whole sentence? So it would be...

SHORTZ: `The ingenue declared no matter what the blank...'

HANSEN: Oh. Again.

SHORTZ: No matter what the cost. You got it.

HANSEN: Cost.

SHORTZ: ...she'd like to co-star.

HANSEN: It's that...

Dr. KLEINMAN: Oh, boy. These are getting harder.

HANSEN: Well, it's the pronunciation of the vowel that's giving us trouble. Go ahead, Will.

SHORTZ: Try this one: `It's hard for me to duplicate the pitch from the blank on the tuning fork because I have a blank.' And what do you call part of a tuning fork?

Dr. KLEINMAN: An arm?

HANSEN: No, he's being so diabolical, Steve, you know.

SHORTZ: It is also something you'd find on an ordinary dinner fork.

Dr. KLEINMAN: A prong.

SHORTZ: And what's the other word for that in four letters?

HANSEN: Yeah, it's a tine.

SHORTZ: A tine is right. So you can't get it because I have a...

HANSEN: Tin ear.

SHORTZ: Tin ear. You're doing good, Liane.

HANSEN: See what he's doing to us, Steve?

SHORTZ: Steve is stunned. All right. At least...

Dr. KLEINMAN: I'm not having as much fun as I was in the beginning.

SHORTZ: And here's your last one: `Aunt Mildred was ill and couldn't attend the family reunion, but the reason blank Al missed it was blank.' So what's the opposite of an aunt?

Dr. KLEINMAN: I guess an uncle.

SHORTZ: Yes, and so they are...

HANSEN: Unclear.

Dr. KLEINMAN: Unclear. Yeah, uncle and unclear. OK.

SHORTZ: Good job.

HANSEN: Steve, I'm right with you on those last ones. OK? I'm right with you.

Dr. KLEINMAN: Yeah, I agree. I don't know how he thought of those.

HANSEN: It is--yeah, it's that difference in pronunciation in it forces you to think of the word differently, which is kind of hard to do on the spot. But I think between us, we got through it. What do you think?

Dr. KLEINMAN: Yeah, it was fun.

HANSEN: It was fun. Yeah, at least in the beginning. But there's fun at the end, too, when you get some stuff, you know. You're going to get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus, the Scrabble Deluxe Edition from Parker Brothers, "The Puzzlemaster Presents" from Random House, volume two. You'll appreciate this, Steve, because we're adding something more to our selection. You're actually going to get three Sudoku wordless crossword puzzle books presented by Will Shortz, and those are all numbers; they have nothing to do with words. It's from St. Martin's Press.

Now, Steve, tell us again how you were able to listen to us in Victoria.

Dr. KLEINMAN: Well, we have stations coming out of the state of Washington on Northwest Public Radio, and I was listening on KZEA out of Bellingham.

HANSEN: All right. Well, Dr. Steve Kleinman from Victoria, British Columbia, thanks a lot for playing with us today.

Dr. KLEINMAN: Well, thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: All right, Will, now a challenge you have for everyone to work on during this coming week.

SHORTZ: Well, take the words `may,' M-A-Y, `nay,' N-A-Y, and `stay,' S-T-A-Y. Except for their opening letters, M, N and S-T, they're spelled the same and they rhyme. Can you name three common uncapitalized words starting with M, N and S-T that again are spelled the same except for these opening letter and yet none of the words rhyme with any of the others? The lengths of the answers are for you to determine.

So again, three common uncapitalized words starting with M, N and S-T that are spelled the same except for their opening letters and yet none of the words rhyme. What words are they?

HANSEN: When you have the answer, e-mail us at puzzle@npr.org. Only one entry per person, please. And our deadline this week because of some program scheduling will be Wednesday at 3 PM Eastern time. Please 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 puzzle on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzlemaster, Will Shortz.

There's also information on our Web site at npr.org. And while you're there, you can sign up for NPR's downloadable Sunday puzzle podcast. Simply visit our Web site--once again, that's npr.org--and click on `NPR podcasts' to learn how. Subscribe and the puzzle will be delivered to your computer or MP3 player every week.

That's pretty exciting, Will.

SHORTZ: That's very cool.

HANSEN: Yeah, it's very cool. Well, thanks a lot for this puzzle, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Liane.

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