RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The news is by nature a grim kind of business. There's a lot of heavy stuff out there and some weeks more than others. And no, puzzling cannot change the world. But it can provide a few minutes of welcome distraction from the headlines.
Joining me now is Will Shortz. He's the puzzle editor for The New York times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. Good morning, Will.
WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. Great to see you last week.
MARTIN: Yeah. That was so fun. We actually had you in studio here in Washington. And you were in the middle of a table tennis tournament. How did it end up?
SHORTZ: It went real well. I had a great starting day. My team and I played so well we were bumped up into a higher category. And then the second and third days we got smashed.
MARTIN: Oh no. (Laughter).
SHORTZ: But we had a great time.
MARTIN: You can't win them all. You can't be, like, a genius at everything, Will.
SHORTZ: (Laughter) But I try.
MARTIN: But you try. OK, so let's get to puzzling. Remind us of last week's challenge.
SHORTZ: Yes, it came from listener Ed Pegg Jr. And it involved the name of the French film director Bertrand Tavernier, which is B-E-R-T-R-A-N-D and T-A-V-E-R-N-I-E-R. And I asked what amazing word play property is in this name. Well, it conceals the names of the "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie, all three words reading left to right.
MARTIN: Bert and Ernie. So there must've been a whole lot of "Sesame Street" fans out there because we got over 600 correct answers. And our randomly chosen winner is Claudia Brenner of Fort Collins, Colorado. She joins us on the line. Hey, Claudia. Congratulations.
CLAUDIA BRENNER: Hi, Rachel. I'm thrilled to get your call.
MARTIN: So happy to have you with us. So did this come pretty fast to you?
BRENNER: Yeah. I just saw it in there. And then the second clue about children likely knowing this too kind of confirmed that that's probably what it was.
MARTIN: Great. And do you have a question for Will, Claudia?
BRENNER: I do. I'm a former schoolteacher myself. And so I was wondering if since Will obviously is a word language person, if he had a favorite book or book series from when he was a child?
SHORTZ: I have been a puzzle head since I was a kid. My favorite books were puzzles by Sam Loyd - L-O-Y-D. There's a - he was a puzzle maker from a century ago. And there were some Dover collections - "The Best Mathematical Puzzles Of Sam Loyd" Volumes One and Two. I love, love, love those. And that's what made me want to become a puzzle maker.
MARTIN: OK, Claudia, are you ready to play the puzzle?
BRENNER: I guess as ready as I'm going to be.
MARTIN: OK, Will, let's do this.
SHORTZ: You know the old saying no means no - N-O. Well, every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the initials are N-O. For example, if I said anyplace that reports on current events, you might say news outlet.
SHORTZ: OK, number one is Mardi Gras city.
BRENNER: That'd be New Orleans.
SHORTZ: That's correct. Number two, a person who stays up late.
BRENNER: Night owl.
SHORTZ: Uh-huh. Technical term for laughing gas.
BRENNER: Nitrous oxide.
SHORTZ: That's it. The day after Halloween.
BRENNER: The day after Halloween - oh, November one.
SHORTZ: That's it. Standard starting time for offices and stores.
BRENNER: Nine o'clock. (Laughter).
SHORTZ: Nine o'clock is it. Good. Good, good, good. Captain or Admiral.
BRENNER: Naval officer.
SHORTZ: That's it. Citrus fruit much grown in Florida and California.
BRENNER: Not nectarine.
BRENNER: Oh, navel orange.
SHORTZ: That's it. French term for the responsibility of privileged people toward those less fortunate.
BRENNER: Oh, I'm thankful for my four years of French in high school. Noblesse oblige.
MARTIN: Oh, Claudia, well done.
SHORTZ: Well said. Area bordering Hudson Bay.
BRENNER: Area bordering Hudson Bay - Northern Ontario?
SHORTZ: That's it. Nice. Female anchor of "CBS This Morning."
BRENNER: I don't think I know that. Rachel, do you know that? I watch...
MARTIN: I know that one yeah.
SHORTZ: Someone in the news business, go ahead.
MARTIN: Norah O'Donnell.
SHORTZ: Norah O'Donnell. Good. The third largest city of the Sooner State.
BRENNER: Norman, Oklahoma.
MARTIN: Claudia, good one.
SHORTZ: Mined rock from which part of five-cent coins are made.
BRENNER: Mined rock - Nickel Ore.
SHORTZ: Nickel Ore is it. And your last one, a local law that restricts loud parties.
BRENNER: Noise ordinance.
SHORTZ: Oh, man. Boom, boom, boom.
MARTIN: Claudia, that was great.
BRENNER: Oh, it wasn't too bad. You give me easy ones. I was afraid you were going to do anagrams. And I can't do anagrams. (Laughter).
MARTIN: You did fabulously. And for playing the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and puzzle books and games. You can read all about your prizes at npr.org/puzzle. And, Claudia, what's your public radio station?
BRENNER: We're members of KUNC in Greeley, Colorado.
MARTIN: Great. Claudia Brenner of Fort Collins, Colorado. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, Claudia.
BRENNER: Thank you, Rachel.
MARTIN: OK, Will, what's the challenge for next week?
SHORTZ: Yes. It comes from listener Harry Hilson of Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey. Take the phrase "a few Texans come in," rearrange these letters to name a geographical place. What is it? So again, the phrase is "a few Texans come in," rearrange these letters to name a geographical place. What place is it?
MARTIN: All right. You know what to do. When you've got the answer, go to our website. It is npr.org/puzzle. And click on that submit your answer link. Just one entry per person please. And send in those answers by Thursday, December 11 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Don't forget your phone number so we can reach you at about that time because if you're the winner, we'll give you a call. And you will get to play on the air with puzzle editor of The New York Times. And he is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shorts. Hey, thanks so much, Will.
SHORTZ: Thank you, Rachel.
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