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The Answer Starts in the Middle

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The Answer Starts in the Middle

The Answer Starts in the Middle

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Rebecca Roberts and joining us is Puzzle Master Will Shortz.

Hi, Will.

Mr. WILL SHORTZ (Puzzle Master): Hi, Rebecca.

ROBERTS: Were you on Oprah this week, Will?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes, I was, on Thursday. And you know, I would have mentioned it last Sunday, but they didn't schedule it until Monday; it was too late for me to say anything. But it was a blast. I flew out to Chicago in December to tape the show, and Merle Regal, who is a frequent puzzle contributor on this program, he was on the program with me. Oprah was funny, spontaneous, a real person. It was just a pleasure to be on her show.

ROBERTS: That sounds like fun.

Well, it's Super Bowl weekend, so I am ready to play this puzzle. I've got my game face on. I'm ready to bring it this week.

Mr. SHORTZ: Good to hear.

ROBERTS: So remind us of the challenge you left us with last week.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes, it came from listener Daniel Scher of New York City. I said name a famous person, a living American, with a one-syllable first name and a one-syllable last name. Add a short E sound to the end of the person's first name, add a long E sound to the end of the person's last name, say the result out loud and it will sound like a common uncapitalized English word. Who is the person and what's the word?

ROBERTS: And the answer?

Mr. SHORTZ: The answer is Al Gore. Add those Es and you get allegory.

ROBERTS: We had over 1,200 entries from people who tried to solve the puzzle. Our randomly selected winner is Rebekah Rasooly from Silver Spring, Maryland.

Rebekah Rasooly, hi.

Ms. REBEKAH RASOOLY (Caller): Hello.

ROBERTS: What do you do in Silver Spring?

Ms. RASOOLY: I'm a program director at the National Institutes of Health.

ROBERTS: And how long have you been playing the Puzzle?

Ms. RASOOLY: Since the first day.

ROBERTS: Really? And this is your first time getting chosen?


ROBERTS: Well, that's very exciting. I hope your luck holds.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Are you ready to play?

Ms. RASOOLY: I am.

ROBERTS: Will, meet Rebekah. Rebekah, meet Will.

Mr. SHORTZ: All right, both Rebecca's. Exactly two common uncapitalized four-letter words in English have P-O in the middle, spot and upon. I'm going to give you some other letter pairs. Each pair is also in the middle of exactly two common uncapitalized words. What are they?

Here's your first pair. C-H, C as in Charles, H as in hero.

Ms. RASOOLY: Ache?

Mr. SHORTZ: Ache is right. And I'm not counting achy as the second answer; it has to be completely different.

ROBERTS: If you say it twice you'll really get it.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's it.

Ms. RASOOLY: Echo.

Mr. SHORTZ: Echo is right. Good job. Number two is G-L, G as in George, L as in Laura.


Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

Ms. RASOOLY: Oh, dear.

Mr. SHORTZ: It's funny, sometimes it's so easy to get the first one and...

Ms. RASOOLY: Ugly.

Mr. SHORTZ: Ugly is right. Nice job. N-C, N as in Nancy, C as in Charles.

Ms. RASOOLY: Once.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

Ms. RASOOLY: Inch.

Mr. SHORTZ: Is right. Nice job. L-S, L as in Louis, L as in Sarah.

Ms. RASOOLY: Also and else.

Mr. SHORTZ: Oh man, that's fast. V-I, V as in Victor, I as in invincible.

Ms. RASOOLY: Avid.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

Ms. RASOOLY: Hmm. Maybe a first letter would be?

ROBERTS: Not good, but...

Ms. RASOOLY: Oh, evil.

Mr. SHORTZ: Evil, good job. K-A.

Ms. RASOOLY: I'm drawing a complete blank on this one.

ROBERTS: Are you counting okay, O-K-A-Y, as a word, Will?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes I am. That's one of them. And the other is a game, in particular a card game.

Ms. RASOOLY: Not one that I've played.

Mr. SHORTZ: Maybe not. Do you know this, Rebecca?

ROBERTS: No, I don't.

Mr. SHORTZ: Skat, S-K-A-T.


Mr. SHORTZ: Maybe not as common a word as I thought. Okay, try this one. C-R, C as in Charles, R as in Rebecca.

Ms. RASOOLY: So it would be acre.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

Ms. RASOOLY: And ecru.

Mr. SHORTZ: Ecru, nice job.

ROBERTS: Good one.

Mr. SHORTZ: M-O, M as in Mary, O as in Oliver. One of the words is one way to run.

Ms. RASOOLY: Amok.

Mr. SHORTZ: Amok is right. And second...

Ms. RASOOLY: Smog.

Mr. SHORTZ: And smog, good job. U-O.

Ms. RASOOLY: No plurals, right? You won't take duos.

Mr. SHORTZ: No, not taking duos. One answer is a subatomic particle.

Ms. RASOOLY: Oh, a muon.

Mr. SHORTZ: A muon, right. And the other is something a sailor might see floating on the water.

Ms. RASOOLY: A buoy.

Mr. SHORTZ: A buoy is right. And here's your last one. Y-T, T as in Thomas.

Ms. RASOOLY: One is a byte.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

Ms. RASOOLY: Like a computer byte.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes. And the...

ROBERTS: Think Greek or Roman.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

Ms. RASOOLY: Oh...

Mr. SHORTZ: Something you might read, or hear, from ancient Greece or Rome, for example.

Ms. RASOOLY: This one is not coming to me.

ROBERTS: Is it a myth?

Ms. RASOOLY: A myth, ahh...

Mr. SHORTZ: You got it. Nice work.

Ms. RASOOLY: Very good.

ROBERTS: Good job, Rebekah.

Ms. RASOOLY: Oh, thank you. These are more difficult that you think.

ROBERTS: Well, for playing our puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin; the 11th edition of Miriam-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. Rebekah, what member station do you listen to?


ROBERTS: Rebekah Rasooly from Silver Spring, Maryland, thanks for playing the puzzle with us.

Ms. RASOOLY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: So Will, what is the challenge for next week?

Mr. SHORTZ: Well, this week's challenge is literally a brain buster. Think of a word that can follow brain and precede buster, in each case completing a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. That's all there is to it. Think of a word that can follow brain and precede buster, in each case completing a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. What word is this?

ROBERTS: When you have the answer, go to our Web site,, and click on the Submit Your Answer link 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 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 puzzle master, Will Shortz. Thanks, Will.

Mr. SHORTZ: Thanks, Rebecca.

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