RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Halloween's a coming, a chance to talk about scary stuff. And you know what's really scary? Missing the puzzle. That is frightening. But you won't miss it because it's happening right now. Joining me now is Will Shortz. He is the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. Good morning, will.
WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: Will, are you a fan of Halloween?
SHORTZ: Yeah. I get a crazy number of trick-or-treaters at my place.
MARTIN: Oh, yeah. Do you dress up for them?
SHORTZ: How about you? No, I don't.
MARTIN: (Laughter) So remind us. What was last week's challenge, Will?
SHORTZ: Yeah. It was based on a puzzle from a Martin Gardner book. I said out of a regular grade school classroom, two students are chosen at random, both happen to have blue eyes. If the odds are exactly 50-50 that two, randomly chosen students in the class will have blue eyes, how many students are in the class? Well, the answer is 21 students, 15 of whom have blue eyes. There are 210 possible ways to choose two students at random from a class of 21. In 105 of these cases, both students will have blue eyes. Now there are some other answers. If you had a class of four with three kids with blue eyes, that would work. Or if you had a class of 120, 85 of whom have blue eyes, that would also work. But those are not reasonable numbers of grade school classes.
MARTIN: OK, so about 190 of you figured it out. Our randomly selected winner this week is Jake Douglas of San Francisco, California. He joins us on the line now. Hey, Jake.
JAKE DOUGLAS: Hey, Rachel.
DOUGLAS: Thanks a lot.
MARTIN: So was this easy for you to figure out? How did it happen?
DOUGLAS: No, I mean, I kind of thought about it - like thinking about it intuitively for a few days. And then on Wednesday, I just sat down and made, like an Excel spreadsheet with a probability formula, picked some numbers...
MARTIN: Are you kidding me? You made an Excel spreadsheet.
DOUGLAS: I know. It's kind of geeky.
MARTIN: No, it's great.
DOUGLAS: Yeah. It was - I just tried some numbers that sounded right between 20 and 30 and got it pretty quickly after that.
MARTIN: That is some serious dedication to the puzzle. So your big moment, do you have a question for Will Shortz, Jake?
DOUGLAS: Yeah. I was wondering if you're happy that you stuck with that mustache before all the hipsters started moving to Brooklyn and making it trendy.
MARTIN: That's a very good question. Have you had that mustache a long time?
SHORTZ: You know, yes. And I've shaved it off a couple times. And just people expect me to have a mustache now so I grow it back.
MARTIN: Will Shortz, setting the trend for hipsters everywhere. Could question, Jake. So with that, are you ready to play the puzzle?
DOUGLAS: All right, let's do it.
MARTIN: All right. Good enough. Let's do it.
SHORTZ: All right, Jake and Rachel, I'm going to read you some sentences. Each sentence has a blank. Put the name of an occupation in the blank to complete the sentence in a pun-ie way. And as a help, the occupation itself is hinted at directly or indirectly near the start of the sentence. For example, if I said the coal digger slipped and fell, but his injuries were only blank. You would say miner. His injuries were only miner.
MARTIN: Oh, I love a good pun. All right, let's do it.
SHORTZ: Number one, the buff law officer was expert in the blank arts.
DOUGLAS: In the...
SHORTZ: Think of a law officer like a sheriff.
SHORTZ: Yeah. Like a sheriff.
DOUGLAS: Oh, OK. The...
SHORTZ: And what arts would those be if he practices judo and things like that.
DOUGLAS: Oh, marshal.
SHORTZ: The martial arts is it. Number two, the clergy woman is so sneaky, I wouldn't put anything blank.
SHORTZ: I wouldn't put anything past her, right. One military man asked another who was headed overseas, have you blank house yet? So if you're a military man, what are you? What's a synonym for any military men?
SHORTZ: There you go. Yes.
DOUGLAS: Sold your house yet. OK.
MARTIN: Soldier house. Uh-oh, is Jake there?
DOUGLAS: Yep, I'm still here.
MARTIN: Oh, good. That was, like, such a good pun, it made the line go whack.
SHORTZ: I thought we lost you there. Yeah.
MARTIN: No, we have more. Keep going will.
SHORTZ: Here's your next. After the writer had finished her latest novel, her agent asked blank any other books you want to do?
DOUGLAS: Author - are there.
SHORTZ: Author any other books, right.
MARTIN: Will, that is pushing the limit.
SHORTZ: OK, well, this pushes it even further. It's a two word answer, and it's your last one.
SHORTZ: After my assistant optometrist missed three straight days of work without explanation, blank pay.
DOUGLAS: Eye doctor pay.
SHORTZ: I docked her pay.
DOUGLAS: That was great.
MARTIN: That was great. And, Jake, you were fabulous.
DOUGLAS: Thanks, Rachel.
MARTIN: For playing the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, puzzle books and games. Go to our website, npr.org/puzzle and read all about your special prizes. And, Jake, before we let you go, where do you hear us?
DOUGLAS: I'm a member at KQED in San Francisco.
MARTIN: Jake Douglas of San Francisco. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle this week, Jake.
DOUGLAS: Thank you guys. It's been great.
MARTIN: OK, Will, what's up for next week?
SHORTZ: Well, the challenge comes from listener Mike Reiss, who's a writer for "The Simpsons." Name a well-known TV actress of the past, put an R between her first and last names, then read the result backward. And you'll get an order Dr. Frankenstein might give two Igor. Who's the actress, and what's the order? So again, a well-known TV actress of the past, put an R between her first and last names, read the result backward, you'll get an order that Dr. Frankenstein might give to Igor. What is it?
MARTIN: OK, a Halloween challenge. When you have the answer, go to our website, npr.org/puzzle. Click on the submit your answer link. And just one entry per person please. Our deadline for those entries is Thursday October 30, at 3 p.m. Eastern. Include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you're the winner, we will give you a call. And then you get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.
SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.
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