Working Backwards Toward Change NPR's Puzzlemaster Will Shortz quizzes one of our listeners, and has a challenge for everyone at home. This week's winner is Kymberly Doucette, a Los Angeles Times editor from Foothill Ranch, Calif.
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Working Backwards Toward Change

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Working Backwards Toward Change

Working Backwards Toward Change

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From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

And joining us is puzzlemaster Will Shortz.

Hi, Will.

WILL SHORTZ (Puzzlemaster): Hi, Liane. I have to ask you, have you tried this new puzzle going around called Sudoku?

HANSEN: You know, I almost was going to bring this up with you. They finally started putting it in a local paper here in Washington. I looked at one puzzle and I said, `I need to give myself some time with this one.' It's felt--it felt--it's a little like an SAT test. I was looking at one with numbers and you have to do logic and it...

SHORTZ: It's all numbers, right?

HANSEN: Yeah, so....

SHORTZ: It's a logic puzzle.

HANSEN: what number follows here? What number do you put in the back? It sounds like fun. I understand it's been absorbing a lot of your time?

SHORTZ: Yes, well, it's been a worldwide craze. It started in Japan. It's--for the last several months it's been huge in Britain, and now it's coming to the United States. It's in almost 60 newspapers now and, in fact, I have two books of Sudoku puzzles coming out in late July.

HANSEN: What fun. Oh...

SHORTZ: Yeah, so give it a try.

HANSEN: I will, I promise. The next time we speak I will have at least tried a puzzle and I can embarrass myself on the air by saying that I wasn't able to get it.


HANSEN: There was a challenge you left us left week. It had numbers in it. It had coins in it. Would you repeat it?

SHORTZ: Yes, it came from Eric Friedman(ph) and it was a puzzle on the recent US Puzzle Championship. I said an imaginary country mints coins in three denominations. Each denomination is an integral number: one, two, three, etc. And the amounts 20, 23 and 29 can each be made with exactly three coins. What are the three denominations?

HANSEN: And what are they?

SHORTZ: Well, there are two different answers. You could have said six, seven and 11, or five, nine and 10. Either way can be worked out.

HANSEN: Well, we had over 900 entries from people who solved the puzzle. And our winner, randomly selected from the correct answers--and actually provided both of those two answers--is Kymberly Doucette. And she joins us from Foothills Ranch, California. Hi, Kymberly.

Ms. KYMBERLY DOUCETTE (Puzzle Entry Winner): Hi.

HANSEN: What do you do there?

Ms. DOUCETTE: I'm a news editor a the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

HANSEN: Mm-hmm, and are you a puzzle person? Do you--how long have you been playing the puzzle?

Ms. DOUCETTE: I've been playing your puzzle for about eight years now, but I wanted to tell Will that I've been doing that Sudoku thing for two weeks every day now.

HANSEN: Have you?

SHORTZ: Because it's in the Los Angeles Times now.


Ms. DOUCETTE: That's right.

HANSEN: Are you ready to play this on-air puzzle we have?

Ms. DOUCETTE: I hope so.

HANSEN: All right. Well, Will, meet Kymberly. Let's play.

SHORTZ: All right, Kymberly, this week's puzzle sounds harder than it really is. I'm going to give you clues for two words. Change the last letter of the first word to the next letter of the alphabet. Read the result backward and you'll get a new word that answers the second clue. For instance, if I said Pepsi and a voting group, you would say cola. Pepsi is a cola. Change the A to a B. Read the result backward. You get bloc, which is a voting group.

Number one. Animal that howls and a soft warm light.


SHORTZ: Yes. And then, animal that howls for--if you work backward, you got to change the first letter of glow to the preceding letter of the alphabet.

HANSEN: Right...

SHORTZ: And read it backward.

HANSEN: And so it would be wolf, right?

SHORTZ: There you go. Wolf and glow, good job.

Ms. DOUCETTE: Oh, I see.

SHORTZ: All right. Try this one. Make thoroughly wet. And your second clue is country in Southeast Asia.

Ms. DOUCETTE: Soak and Laos.


SHORTZ: Good job.


SHORTZ: A big maker of farm machinery. And your second clue is emancipated. What's a big company in farm machinery?

HANSEN: Well, I want to say John Deere. That's..


SHORTZ: Yes, Deere.

HANSEN: All right, so then...

Ms. DOUCETTE: Freed.

SHORTZ: Deere and freed. Good job.

SHORTZ: Get out of here. And your second clue is a--drug agents.

HANSEN: Get out of here.

SHORTZ: Get out of here. You might tell a pest.

HANSEN: Oh, I guess I wouldn't tell them to leave. That's a little too...

SHORTZ: Yeah, a little son--more slangy than that.

HANSEN: ...soft. Right.

Ms. DOUCETTE: I'm thinking scoot or...

SHORTZ: Right.


HANSEN: But not...

SHORTZ: That's not it, though, but that's the idea.


SHORTZ: OK, and what are drug agents?


SHORTZ: There you go.

HANSEN: All right, so backwards is...

Ms. DOUCETTE: Scram?

HANSEN: Scram, nice.

SHORTZ: Scram. That's it. `Scram! Get out of here.'

Ms. DOUCETTE: Oh. All right.

SHORTZ: All right. Try this one. Decorated again and a variety of duck.

HANSEN: Duck...

Ms. DOUCETTE: Eider and re...

SHORTZ: Eider and redid. Good job.

HANSEN: Very good.

Ms. DOUCETTE: Right.

SHORTZ: Like a monarch. And your second clue is city official.

Ms. DOUCETTE: Like a monarch. Yeah, that would be royal and mayor.


SHORTZ: Royal and mayor, nice. Nasal cavity and a North African capital.

Ms. DOUCETTE: That would sinus and Tunis.


SHORTZ: Good job. Part of a dresser. And a city in Alaska.

Ms. DOUCETTE: OK. How about drawer and Seward?

SHORTZ: And Seward is right. Singer/Actress Reynolds. And told little lies.

Ms. DOUCETTE: That would be Debbie and fibbed.

SHORTZ: Oh, good job. And here's your last one. Things to smoke. And extremely sad.

Ms. DOUCETTE: Cigars and tragic.

SHORTZ: Cigars and tragic. Nice job, Kymberly.

HANSEN: Kymberly! Oh, excellent job. For playing our puzzle today you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus, the Scrabble Deluxe Edition from Parker Brothers and "The Puzzlemaster Presents" from Random House, volume two, as well as "The New York Times Will Shortz's Favorite Sunday Crossword Puzzles" from St. Martin's Press.

Now, Kymberly, I understand that you go to our Web site to get information about the puzzle. Is that right?

Ms. DOUCETTE: I do because I work so late at night. I'm rarely up in the morning in time to hear it on the radio...


Ms. DOUCETTE: I usually check the Web site.

HANSEN: Kymberly Doucette, from Foothill Ranch, California. Boy, I'm glad you were my partner today. Thanks a lot for playing with us.

Ms. DOUCETTE: Thanks for your help. It was fun.

HANSEN: Oh, it was great fun.

Now, Will, whoa, that--as if that wasn't enough, you have a challenge for us to work on all this week. What is it?

SHORTZ: Well, take the name Arthur Conan Doyle. If you select the first and last letters of each of the three words--A, R of Arthur; C, N, of Conan; and D, E of Doyle--they can be rearranged to spell dancer. Now what famous American woman with a three-part name, when you select the first and last letters of each word in her name and rearrange them, makes the word berths, B-E-R-T-H-S? So again, a famous American woman with a three-part name. Take the first and last letters of each word. They can be rearranged to spell berths, B-E-R-T-H-S. Who is this woman?

HANSEN: When you know, put the answer in an e-mail and send that e-mail to us at Only one entry per person, please. Our deadline is Thursday, 3 PM Eastern time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. We'll call you if you're the winner and you'll get to play puzzle on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION'S puzzlemaster, Will Shortz. There's also information on our Web site at

HANSEN: Will, I'm off for my annual vacation in Massachusetts. Sheilah will be sitting in--Sheilah Kast--in this seat next week to play. But have a great holiday and thanks a lot.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Liane.

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