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Firing Blanks

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Firing Blanks

Firing Blanks

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From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Andrea Seabrook. And joining us is puzzle master Will Shortz. Hi Will, Happy Holidays.

Mr. WILL SHORTZ (Puzzle Master): Hi, Andrea, Merry Christmas.

SEABROOK: Remind us of the holiday challenge from last week.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes. I said think of a five-letter word starting with T, as in Thomas, that is plural. Add an S at the end, and you'll get a six-letter word that is also plural. What words are these?

SEABROOK: And the answer?

Mr. SHORTZ: Well, first I'll tell you we had a lot of answers like troop and troops, which I didn't accept because they're basically the same word. The intended answer, and the only one I accepted, is these to theses.

SEABROOK: Ah, very good. We had over 1,200 entries from people who tried to solve the puzzle, and our randomly selected winner is Brian Schnittker from Plano, Texas. Hello, Brian.

Mr. BRIAN SCHNITTKER (Puzzle Winner): Hi.

SEABROOK: What do you do down there?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Well, I'm actually at home for Christmas break. I'm usually a student in Austin, Texas.

SEABROOK: And how long have you been playing the puzzle?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Well, it's kind of a funny story. Actually, I saw the movie "Word Play" a few weeks ago and kind of got interested. I found out that Will Shortz does this show on NPR, and so I went on the Web site and started to look up some of the shows and saw the clue or the puzzle for this week and thought, oh, what the heck, I'll just send off an answer. And lo and behold, they called me up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: You know what? You should play the lottery this week.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: I think so. My goodness, this is crazy.

SEABROOK: Are you guys ready to play?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: You bet.

Mr. SHORTZ: I'm ready, all right. Brian, I'm going to read you some sentences. Each sentence ends in two blanks. Insert two words in the blanks that are reversals of each other, and as a hint, I'll tell you the words are always four letters long. For example, the spring and the place to set your bait is each a blank blank. You'd say each is a trap part. Number one is wrapping a ball of cheese in red wax is how the Dutch have always blank blank.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Hmm, wrapping a ball of cheese.

Mr. SHORTZ: Can you think of a Dutch cheese?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Not off the top of my head here.

SEABROOK: Oh, I got it.

Mr. SHORTZ: Do you know, Andrea?


Mr. SCHNITTKER: I may need a little help on this.

SEABROOK: Let me tell you about the cheese, then.


SEABROOK: It starts with an E.


Mr. SHORTZ: Go ahead, Andrea.

SEABROOK: Made edam.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's how the Dutch have always made edam, is right. Here's number two. Marty took a knife into the cave in order to blank blank.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Marty took a knife into the cave.

Mr. SHORTZ: And what would you do with a knife?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Stab bats.

Mr. SHORTZ: In order to stab bats is right. The chamber were Othello slept was known as the blank blank.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Moor room?

Mr. SHORTZ: It was the Moor room, excellent.


Mr. SHORTZ: Maybe you can hit your enemies with your open hand, but don't blank blank.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Slap pals.

Mr. SHORTZ: Don't slap pals is right. In writing a trivia quiz for bookish sorts, one must ask oneself what would a blank blank.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Know, would it...

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes, and what's know backward?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Wonk know?

Mr. SHORTZ: What would a wonk know, excellent. Criticizing the Greek love god could make blank blank.


Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Sore, Eros sore.

Mr. SHORTZ: Could make Eros sore is right. Try this one. When I asked Carlos what's the Spanish word for days, he blank blank. That's D-A-Y-S. What's the Spanish word for days?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Is it like dia - said dias.

Mr. SHORTZ: He said dias is right. Brown and Williamson tobacco is redesigning one of its cigarette logos to give it a more distinctive blank blank.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Cigarette logo.

Mr. SHORTZ: Can you think of a well-known cigarette brand in four letters?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: There's not very many benefits to smoking, but that's sure one of them right there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHORTZ: And the middle two letters are sort of linked. They're circular letters that link, in case that helps.

SEABROOK: They're menthols.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: I'm sorry, I'm drawing a blank on this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHORTZ: Go ahead, Andrea.

SEABROOK: Look Kool.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Ah, okay.

Mr. SHORTZ: Kool look.

SEABROOK: Kool look.

Mr. SHORTZ: They want to give it a more distinctive Kool look is right. Try this one. A fighter of injustice will not let blank blank.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Evil live.

Mr. SHORTZ: Will not let evil live. And your last one. The output of computer info is somewhat messy, so you'll have to clean up the blank blank.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Is it like data?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yeah, and the second part's a two-word phrase. You'll have to clean up the - the data...

Mr. SCHNITTKER: A tad data?

Mr. SHORTZ: You'll have to clean up the data a tad.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Oh, a tad, okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: Brian, I'm impressed.

Mr. SHORTZ: Nice job.


SEABROOK: That was a hard one, and you did a great job.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Oh, well, thank you.

SEABROOK: Now Brian, do you listen to this on the radio very often?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Well, yes, I will definitely listen from now on for sure.

SEABROOK: Okay, but that means that you probably haven't heard this, which I know other puzzle listeners know by heart by now. Ready?


SEABROOK: For playing the puzzle today, you'll 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 Puzzle Master Presents from Random House, Volume 2; a set of Sudoku puzzle books presented by Will Shortz from St. Martin's Press; and one of Will Shortz's Puzzle Master Decks of Riddles and Challenges from Chronicle Books. How about that?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Oh my goodness. That's excellent. Thank you so much.

SEABROOK: And what station do you listen to?

Mr. SCHNITTKER: KUT, 90.5 in Austin.

SEABROOK: Brian Schnittker from Plano, Texas. Thanks for playing the puzzle with us.

Mr. SCHNITTKER: Oh, thank you so much. Okay, Will, the final challenge of the year 2006 is upon us.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes. This week's challenge comes from listener Stuart Parker of Durham, New Hampshire. Think of two words, one starting with O, the other starting with R. Both end with I-N-G, and they have the same number of letters. In one sense the words are synonyms and in another sense they're antonyms. What are the words? So again, two words, one starting with O, the other starting with R. Both end in I-N-G, have the same number of letters. In one sense they're synonyms, and in another sense they're opposites. What words are these?

SEABROOK: When you have the answer, go to our Web site,, then click on the link submit your answer on the Sunday Puzzle page. Only one entry per person, please. Our deadline this week is Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. 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, most importantly, WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Merry Christmas.

Mr. SHORTZ: Merry Christmas.

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