The Mother of All Puzzles Puzzle master Will Shortz quizzes one of our listeners, and has a challenge for everyone at home. (This week's winner is Pris Neulander from Boynton Beach, Fla. She listens to Weekend Edition on member station WXEL.
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The Mother of All Puzzles

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The Mother of All Puzzles

The Mother of All Puzzles

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

And joining us is Puzzle Master Will Shortz. Hi, Will.

Mr. WILL SHORTZ (Puzzle Master): Hi Liane. Happy Mother's Day.

HANSEN: Oh! Well, thank you very, very much. Oh, I bet I know what this means. There's going to be a mother on-air puzzle coming up.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right.

HANSEN: All right. Well, before we get to it, remind us of the clue that you left us last week.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes, it came from listener Mike Reese(ph), of Los Angeles. I said take two words that go together to make a familiar phrase, in the form blank-and-blank. Both words are plurals, like bells and whistles.

And I said move the first letter of the second word to the start of the first word, and you'll get two new words both naming forms of transportation. What are they?

HANSEN: What are they?

Mr. SHORTZ: Well, the phrase is arts and crafts. Move the C and you get carts and rafts.

HANSEN: Ah. We had over 700 entries from people who tried to solve the puzzle, and our winner, randomly selected from the correct answers, is Priss Newlander(ph), from Boynton Beach, Florida. Hi Priss!

Ms. PRISS NEWLANDER (Puzzle Entry Winner): Hi.

HANSEN: Where'd you get the name Priss?

Ms. NEWLANDER: It's short for Priscilla, but nobody calls me that. Thank you.

HANSEN: What do you doing in Florida?

Ms. NEWLANDER: I'm an executive assistant.

HANSEN: And have you been playing the puzzle a long time?

Ms. NEWLANDER: Probably about ten years.

HANSEN: You sound like a puzzle person.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Well, I do the New York Times every single day.

HANSEN: There you go. You've made Will happy.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Actually, I have the whim-whams right now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Sounds like an obscure clue, or answer, whatever.

Mr. SHORTZ: Answer. The answer was nerves. Yes, that's very good.

HANSEN: The whim-whams?

Mr. SHORTZ: The whim-whams, yeah, there's a good word to know.

HANSEN: Wow. Well, I'll keep that in my back pocket. Maybe even for Scrabble.

Are you ready to play, Priss?

Ms. NEWLANDER: Yes, I am.

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

Mr. SHORTZ: All right, Priss, every answer here is a five-letter word that is formed from the letters of mothers, M-O-T-H-E-R-S. For example, if I gave you the clue shop, you would say store.


Mr. SHORTZ: All right, number one is a hurricane, for example.


Mr. SHORTZ: That's right. Number two, writer of the Odyssey and the Iliad.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Oh, I just, at the -- Homer.

Mr. SHORTZ: Homer is right. An animal with a mane.


Mr. SHORTZ: Uh huh. Paris subway?


Mr. SHORTZ: Right. Telegraph inventor.


Mr. SHORTZ: That's correct. Land next to the ocean.


Mr. SHORTZ: Uh huh. Walloped, biblical style.


Mr. SHORTZ: That's correct. Submarine sandwiches.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Heroes.

Mr. SHORTZ: Uh huh. Big maker of blenders, can openers, and other kitchen appliances.


Mr. SHORTZ: Excellent. Four years for a President and six years for a Senator.


Mr. SHORTZ: Uh huh. Chocolaty campfire treat.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Samoas.

Mr. SHORTZ: S'mores is the...

Ms. NEWLANDER: Oh, no, that's not...

Mr. SHORTZ: ...singular is, it's S'more.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Just a s'more.

Mr. SHORTZ: You have it. Good. Heavy books.


Mr. SHORTZ: Uh huh. First name of Israel's Diane, or Ahrens.


Mr. SHORTZ: Uh huh. Pneumonic for the Great Lakes.


Mr. SHORTZ: Good. The ones over there.


Mr. SHORTZ: Uh huh. Under five foot tall, say.


Mr. SHORTZ: Uh huh. Fundamental character of a people.


Mr. SHORTZ: Excellent. Now your next two answers, they are six letters long. And your first one is painful struggles.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Painful struggles. Liane, help.

HANSEN: Mm-mmm. Liane has left the building.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHORTZ: Drop the M from mothers and rearrange the remaining letters to make painful struggles.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Throes.

Mr. SHORTZ: Throes is right. And your last six letter one is a slangy term for a wife. It's a two-word phrase.

Ms. NEWLANDER: I'd say hot mamma but that doesn't fit. A slangy term for wife...

Mr. SHORTZ: It's two words. Drop the O from mothers. Ha!

Ms. NEWLANDER: There's only one...

Mr. SHORTZ: There's only one vowel left...

Ms. NEWLANDER: ...vowel!

Mr. SHORTZ: you've noticed. There's an E.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Yeah. Oh, Mrs., Mrs., the Mrs.

Mr. SHORTZ: The Mrs. Good.

HANSEN: Very good.

Mr. SHORTZ: Excellent. And your last one is a seven-letter answer. A container to keep a drink warm or cold.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Thermos.

Mr. SHORTZ: Thermos is right. Nice job.

Ms. NEWLANDER: Thank you.

HANSEN: Priss, amazing!

Ms. NEWLANDER: That was fun!

HANSEN: Man, you know, it's like we're doing time trials here. I think...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: You were so quick! Well, for playing our puzzle today you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, the Eleventh Edition of Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus, the Scrabble Deluxe Edition from Parker Brothers, the Puzzle Master Presents from Random House, Volume Two, a set of Sudoku Puzzle Books presented by Will Shortz from St. Martins Press, and one of Will Shortz's Puzzle Master Decks of Riddles and Challenges from Chronicle Books. Quite a mother load there, as it, as it were. Priss, tell us the member station you listen to.

Ms. Ms. NEWLANDER: We're members of WXEL in Boynton Beach, Florida.

HANSEN: Oh, good for you. Priss Newlander in Boynton Beach, Florida, thanks a lot of playing the puzzle today. You really were fabulous.

Ms. Ms. NEWLANDER: Thank you, I had a lot of fun.

HANSEN: Me too. All right, Will. Fun doesn't stop. What's the challenge for next week?

Mr. SHORTZ: Well, draw a five-by-three square rectangle, five squares wide by three squares high, fill it with the letters Happy Mother's Day in order. The top line will have Happy, the middle line will have M-O-T-H-E, and the bottom line will have R-S-D-A-Y. And the object is to spell the longest common word in the grid following the rules of Boggle; that is, proceed from letter to letter following connected squares, horizontally, vertically and diagonally.

For example, you can spell the word path starting at the first P in happy, moving left to the A, diagonally down and right to the T and then right to the H. Repeating a square is not allowed. So again, what's the longest common English word you can spell following the rules of Boggle in a five-by-three grid of Happy Mother's Day?

HANSEN: When you have the answer, go to our Web site, and click on the Submit your Answers link on the Sunday puzzle page. Only one entry per person, please, and our deadline this week is Thursday, 3 p.m. 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 will get to play Puzzle on the Air with the puzzle editor of the New York Times and Weekend Edition's puzzle master, Will Shortz, who joined us from New York. Will, thanks a lot.

Mr. SHORTZ: Thanks, Liane.

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