RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
A whole new year stretches before us. A whole new year full of big resolutions to be kinder, healthier, more adventurous or smarter than we were the year before. So here's a baby step toward a better brain in 2016. It's time for the puzzle.
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MARTIN: Joining me now is Will Shortz, puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. Good morning, Will. Happy new year.
WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. Happy new year to you too.
MARTIN: Remind us, what was last week's puzzle?
SHORTZ: Yes, I said name a famous actress who has four letters in her first name and four letters in her last. I said, add one letter, and rearrange the result to name an animal and the sound this animal makes. Who's the actress and what's the sound? Well, the actresses is Teri Garr, who starred in "Tootsie" and many other films. And if you add the letter O and rearrange the letters, you get tiger and roar.
MARTIN: So over 410 of our listeners got the correct answer. Our randomly selected winner, though, this week is Dan Simmons of Salem, Ore. He joins us on the line now. Hey, Dan, congratulations.
DAN SIMMONS: Hey, thank you very much. I'm honored to be here.
MARTIN: And how'd you figure it out?
SIMMONS: Well, I Googled a list of women actors. And as you probably know, the number that have only four letters in their first and last name is a relatively short list. And then you go down, and you try to unscramble and find animals and sounds. And by the time you get to Terry Garr, the tiger roar almost jumped off the page at you.
MARTIN: Well done. So how do you feel about being the first puzzle of 2016?
SIMMONS: I'm really excited. I was just flabbergasted. I worked this out when my daughter was out here for Christmas holidays. And I sent it in, and she says, oh, yeah, but you'll never win. And when I got the call yesterday, I was just blown away - just - just blown away.
MARTIN: Well, I think it means an auspicious beginning to your new year.
SIMMONS: Well, I sure hope so.
MARTIN: Are you ready to play the puzzle?
SIMMONS: I think so.
MARTIN: OK, let's do it, Will.
SHORTZ: OK, Dan and Rachel. I'm going to read you some sentences. Each sentence has two blanks. The first word has an O somewhere in it. Double the O, and you'll get the second word, which completes the sentence. For example, in math class, my blank asked me to find the shortest blank. You would say my prof asked me to find the shortest proof.
SHORTZ: So just double the O. Number one, to get to an online article about the 31st U.S. president, you should blank your cursor over the name Herbert blank.
SHORTZ: That is right, hover and Hoover.
MARTIN: Hover, yeah.
SHORTZ: On the team's baseball blank was a player who perfectly imitated the crowing of a blank.
SIMMONS: Baseball... The crowing of a blank.
SHORTZ: What bird crows? Especially a male bird.
SHORTZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MARTIN: A rooster? OK.
SHORTZ: Yeah, yeah. Drop the...
SIMMONS: Roster and rooster.
SHORTZ: A baseball roster, good.
MARTIN: Got it. OK.
SHORTZ: To order craft stockings made in Indiana, I needed a blank who was a blank.
MARTIN: Craft stockings?
SHORTZ: Yeah, you know, sort of homemade.
SIMMONS: A hosier that was a Hoosier.
MARTIN: Oh, good.
SHORTZ: There you go. You nailed it.
Our instructor on whaling would always blank the need for the blank to be very, very sharp. And I'll give you a hint. What goes in the first blank is actually a two-word phrase. Our instructor on whaling would always blank.
SIMMONS: Harp on the harpoon.
SHORTZ: Oh, yeah, good job.
SHORTZ: When barbecuing spare ribs, you should blank them with a bourbon sauce to get a blank taste.
MARTIN: Blank them with a bourbon sauce...
MARTIN: Spoon? No...
SHORTZ: Oh, it does start with S. It does start with S, yeah.
MARTIN: It starts with S. Smother?
SHORTZ: There you go. Yes.
SIMMONS: Smother and smoother.
SHORTZ: To get a smoother taste. Nice job.
MARTIN: Good work.
SHORTZ: All right. And here's your last one.
SIMMONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MARTIN: You bet. You bet. I'm here for you.
SHORTZ: John's wife stormed out of the disco after the blank dancer made blank eyes at her husband. And I'll give you a hint. There are two O's in the first word. And you're supposed to double them both. So here it is again. John's wife stormed out of the disco after the blank dancer made blank eyes at her husband.
SIMMONS: Go-go and goo-goo.
MARTIN: Oh, my gosh.
SHORTZ: That's it.
MARTIN: Dan, that was excellent. Well done.
SIMMONS: (Laughter) That was fun.
MARTIN: And for playing the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and all kinds of cool puzzle books and games. You can check them out at npr.org/puzzle. Dan, before I let you go, tell everyone where you hear us. What's your public radio station?
SIMMONS: KOPB in Portland.
MARTIN: Dan Simmons of Salem, Ore. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, Dan. And happy new year.
SIMMONS: It was my pleasure, and same to you both. Thank you very much.
MARTIN: OK, Will, what's up for next week?
SHORTZ: Yes, it's a variation on the old world-ladder puzzle. And the object is to change whole, W-H-O-L-E, to heart by either adding or subtracting one letter at a time, making a new, common, uncapitalized word at each step. For example, you could change red to rose in five steps. Starting with red, you would add a U, making rued, R-U-E-D. Drop the D, leaving rue, R-U-E. And an S, making ruse, R-U-S-E. Add an O, making rouse. And then drop the U, leaving rose. So changing or rearranging letters is not allowed. Also, no plurals or verbs formed by adding as. And no word in the chain can have fewer than three letters. How many steps are needed to change whole to heart? I have my best answer. We'll compare results next week.
MARTIN: OK, so you know what to do. When you've got the answer, go to npr.org/puzzle, Click on that submit your answer link. Just one entry per person, please. Our deadline for those entries is Thursday, January 7 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you're the winner, then we'll give you a call. And then you will 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. Happy new year.
MARTIN: Happy new year.
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