Bankable Stars Word warrior John Chaneski teaches us what a "letter bank" is, and asks contestants to make new words out of the letters given. You could say the winner of this round will be able to "KNAB A BANANA."
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Bankable Stars

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Bankable Stars

Bankable Stars

Bankable Stars

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Word warrior John Chaneski teaches us what a "letter bank" is, and asks contestants to make new words out of the letters given. You could say the winner of this round will be able to "KNAB A BANANA."


Let's go to our next game. Standing in front of me, are our next two contestants, Leslie Billig. And Leslie is a crossword puzzle editor.


EISENBERG: I know. The audience is like, oh my goodness. And we also have Nisse Greenberg.


EISENBERG: Nisse's a math whizz. He teaches on a volunteer basis to kids, so you really have to like math to do that.


EISENBERG: And he's originally from Bangor, Maine, but a vegetarian. You've never tried the lobster? Not even once?

NISSE GREENBERG: I'm actually from Bar Harbor, Maine.

EISENBERG: Oh, Bar Harbor, Maine, well there you go.

GREENBERG: But I tried lobster once at age 22. Yeah, somewhere round there.

EISENBERG: So a couple of months ago.


EISENBERG: Well that's too bad because our game is the Tastes of Crustacean, so that's going to be -

JOHN CHANESKI: Sorry. So sorry.

EISENBERG: No, we're happy to have you. John, tell us about the game we're about to play.

CHANESKI: Sure, this puzzle is called Bankable Stars. We're going to letter bank the last names of bankable, or profit-winning, celebrities.

EISENBERG: OK, Jon. We don't speak puzzle, so what is a letter bank?

CHANESKI: In puzzle lingo, a letter bank is a short word that contains all the letters you need to make a much longer word. For example, with just the letters in the word pearl, P-E-A-R-L, you can spell parallel. And the word sprout, S-P-R-O-U-T, is a letter bank for the phrase support our troops.


CHANESKI: Now remember...


CHANESKI: Everybody pick up on that? Got it?

EISENBERG: There's two sides of the audience happening. Half are like, this is impossible, and the other half are like, yeah, I got it.

CHANESKI: Remember the word or phrase we're looking for will use all the letters in the bank, often more than once. For example, Ophira...


CHANESKI: ...if I gave you the last name Monet, M-O-N-E-T, as in?

EISENBERG: Claude Monet, yes.

CHANESKI: Claude Monet, right? And the clue, speaking in an unvarying pitch or volume. You'd said what?

EISENBERG: I would say monotone.

CHANESKI: Monotone, right. All the letters...


CHANESKI: the word monotone can be found in Monet. Very good.

EISENBERG: OK. Contestants, you ready? You got this?

GREENBERG: Absolutely not. Oh sure.

EISENBERG: Oh excellent. OK.


EISENBERG: Remember to ring in when you have the answer.

CHANESKI: Great, here we go. The first celebrity is Ronald Reagan, R-E-A-G-A-N. Your clue, to move everything all-around, like the furniture. (bell ringing)



CHANESKI: Rearrange is right.




CHANESKI: Here's the next one. Rafael Nadal, N-A-D-A-L. Your clue, where you drift off to when you daydream, or a slang term for Los Angeles. (bell ringing)

BILLIG: La La Land.

CHANESKI: La La Land is correct, Leslie. Way to go. That's two for you. OK.

EISENBERG: Nice. Advantage Leslie.


CHANESKI: Jennifer Aniston, A-N-I-S-T-O-N. Your clue, the second most popular city in Texas, it's home to the Alamo. (bell ringing)





BILLIG: San Antonio?

CHANESKI: Yes, Leslie, way to go.



EISENBERG: Nisse, it's OK, it's all right.

GREENBERG: No, it's not OK.


EISENBERG: Give him a math question.

CHANESKI: This is a math guy in a word game with a crossword puzzle lady.

BILLIG: I mean really.

GREENBERG: It's a very fair match though.


CHANESKI: He's actually doing pretty well, so...

EISENBERG: Yeah, he's doing great.


GREENBERG: Three minus zero is three.


GREENBERG: I am three behind.

CHANESKI: Let's go to Tim Burton, B-U-R-T-O-N. The clue, the title track of a classic Bruce Springsteen album. (bell ringing)


BILLIG: "Born To Run."

CHANESKI: "Born To Run" is right.



EISENBERG: You're the boss, Leslie. Boss Leslie.

BILLIG: I'm so sorry.

GREENBERG: No. I'm liking hearing all these answers.

EISENBERG: Do you guys want to hug? Do you guys want to hug for a second?


GREENBERG: They're very good answers.

CHANESKI: OK, think on this one. Adam Sandler. Sandler, S-A-N-D-L-E-R. Your clue, the first and last name of a longtime advice columnist.

GREENBERG: No, you can do it.


CHANESKI: Ah, yeah.

Go ahead, Leslie. Take it. Yeah.

BILLIG: Ann Landers.

CHANESKI: Ann Landers is right.

EISENBERG: That's correct. That's correct.


EISENBERG: I've never seen this kind of interaction between contestants.

GREENBERG: I was trying to sweet talk her beforehand, I think it's helping.

CHANESKI: What I loved was that Leslie gave him a chance, but she put her hand over her bell and looked over at him...


CHANESKI: ...just to let him know like...

GREENBERG: You going?

CHANESKI: ...I'm giving you a few seconds here, chief.

Let's try Kim Basinger. Basinger, B-A-S-I-N-G-E-R. The clue is part of the Pacific Ocean between Russia and Alaska. It's known... (bell ringing) Yes?

GREENBERG: Bering Strait.

CHANESKI: It's known for its strait.



GREENBERG: Bering Sea?

CHANESKI: Bering Sea is right. Way to go, Nisse.


GREENBERG: I got one.

EISENBERG: OK, so our final scores are Leslie, six, Nisse, one, which makes Leslie our winner.


EISENBERG: Thank you, you will be moving on to our final round of double ASK ME ANOTHER ultimate challenge at the end of the show. Well done.


EISENBERG: We're looking for a few people in our radio audience who would like to play games and puzzles in a future show, so if you think you have what it takes, direct message us at @npraskmeanother, or you can send us an old fashioned email at and we'll send you a quiz to see if you have what it takes.

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