It's Lonely At The TOP You are given three words, starting with the letters T, O and P, and must come up with a fourth word that can follow the words and complete a familiar two-word phrase. For example, given the words "taste," "oral" and "paternity," the answer would be "test," as in "taste test," "oral test" and "paternity test."
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It's Lonely At The TOP

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It's Lonely At The TOP

It's Lonely At The TOP

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

And joining us is puzzle master Will Shortz. Hello again, Will.


LYDEN: You know, it's been so hot lately. I was thinking, do you think summer's a good time to do word puzzles or do you think it's more of a winter activity when you're curling with cocoa and a tough crossword?

SHORTZ: Yeah. You know, traditionally, it tends to be more a winter activity, cold weather. Sometimes it's just too hot to think. And, you know, I'm the last person in New York not to have air conditioning.

LYDEN: Would you please repeat the challenge from last week?

SHORTZ: Yes. It came from listener Mike Reese, who's former writer and producer for "The Simpsons." I said take the two-word title of a TV series. The first word contains a famous actor's first name in consecutive letters. The second word is a homophone for this actor's last name. Name the series and the actor.

LYDEN: And the answers?

SHORTZ: The answer is "American Idol." Inside American is the name Eric and actor Eric Idle of the Monty Python series, his last name is a homophone of I- D-O-L.

LYDEN: We had fewer than 300 listeners submitting entries this week - must be the heat. Of the correct answers, our randomly chosen winner is Scott Bretzke of Barnhart, Missouri. Hello there, Scott.

M: Hello, Jacki.

LYDEN: So, what do you do in Barnhart, Scott?

M: I work for the government.

LYDEN: And I understand you're a finalist to compete on the show "Jeopardy!"

M: Yes, I am. I am in this year's contestants' pool.

LYDEN: How long you've been playing our puzzle?

M: Approximately 11 years.

LYDEN: OK. Well, hope you're ready to play now. Will, say hi to Scott.

M: Hi, Will.

SHORTZ: All right. Hi, Scott - and Jacki. Today's puzzle is called From the Top. I'm going to give you three words starting with the letters T-O and P. You give me a fourth word that can follow each of mine to complete a familiar two- word phrase. For example, if I said taste, oral and paternity, you would say test, as in taste test, oral test and paternity test.


SHORTZ: All right. Number one: ticket, oval, patent.

M: Office.

SHORTZ: Office, very good. Number two: ten-gallon, old, panama.

M: Hat.

SHORTZ: That's right. Tree, open, publishing.

M: House.

SHORTZ: Excellent. Tree, onion, piston.

M: Repeat that again.

SHORTZ: Yeah. First one is tree, the second is onion and the third word is piston.

LYDEN: How about a clue?

SHORTZ: The onion blank is something to eat.

M: Oh, rings.

SHORTZ: Right. Tree ring, onion ring and piston ring.

LYDEN: Very good, Scott.

SHORTZ: Triple, outer, parking.

LYDEN: I have that one if you don't, Scott.

M: Triple play - no.


LYDEN: Outer, outer.

M: Oh, space.

SHORTZ: Good. Triple space, outer space, parking space. Telephone, ordinal, prime.

M: Number.

SHORTZ: That's it. Tapas - that's T-A-P-A-S - oyster, parallel.

M: Repeat that again one more time.

SHORTZ: Yeah. The first is tapas, oyster...

M: Bar.

SHORTZ: That's right.

LYDEN: Got it.

SHORTZ: Oyster bar and parallel bar, good. Throne - that's T-H-R-O-N-E - operating and pool.

M: Room.

SHORTZ: Good. Tar, orchestra, peach.

M: Pit.

SHORTZ: That's good. Tootsie, onion...

M: Roll.

SHORTZ: ...piano. That's it. Didn't even need piano roll. Tea T-E-A, old, punching.

M: Bag.

SHORTZ: That's it. And here's your last one: tray, operating, periodic.

M: Table.

SHORTZ: Excellent. Boom, boom, boom.

LYDEN: Wow, impressive. That was a...

M: Well, not really.

LYDEN: ...some feat.

M: I kind of messed up a couple of them but oh, well.

LYDEN: That was wonderful. And for playing our puzzle today, Scott, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and other things that you can read about on our website, You were a pistol. You were in the ring and you set a very high bar.


M: Well, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure being on. And this has been a dream of mine to do. And I can check this off my bucket list now.

LYDEN: Before we let you go, tell us what member station you listen to.

M: KWMU, 90.7 FM, St. Louis, Missouri.

LYDEN: Scott Bretzke of Barnhart, Missouri, thanks for playing the puzzle this week.

M: And thank you, Jacki, and thank you, Will.

LYDEN: And, Will, what's the challenge for next week?

SHORTZ: Yes. I brought a geometrical puzzle by the great Sam Lloyd. And it was published exactly 100 years ago in the Women's Home Companion. It's called the Hat Rack puzzle. A hat room contains a wall with 49 pegs arranged in a seven-by-seven array. The hat clerk has 20 hats which are to be hung on 20 different pegs. How many lines containing four hats in a straight line is it possible to produce?

Now, there's no trick to this puzzle. But keep in mind that a line can go in any direction - horizontally, vertically or obliquely. To explain your answer, number the pegs in order from one, in the upper left corner, to 49 in the lower right. Tell us which pegs you put the 20 hats on and the total number of lines containing four hats in a row.

What's the highest number you can get?

LYDEN: I'm just thinking, do I have enough hats at home to do this, Will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SHORTZ: You could try it on your own wall.

LYDEN: I might have enough.

And when you have the answer, please go to our web site, and click on the Submit Your Answer link; only one entry per person, please. Our deadline is Thursday at 3 P.M. Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time, and we'll call if you're the winner. And you'll get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle-master, Will Shortz.

Thanks a lot, Will. It's really been fun.

SHORTZ: Thanks a lot, Jacki.

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