Sunday Puzzle: The Reverse Is Also True Mark Mezak of San Francisco plays this week's head-scratcher with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro and Will Shortz, The New York Times crossword editor and Weekend Edition Puzzlemaster.
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Sunday Puzzle: The Reverse Is Also True

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Sunday Puzzle: The Reverse Is Also True

Sunday Puzzle: The Reverse Is Also True

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro. Tomorrow is National Cookie Day. My personal favorite is the classic chocolate chip. But there's something else I love that's fun and gooey. Yes, it's The Puzzle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Joining me as always is Will Shortz. He's puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzlemaster. Will, good morning.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu. And you and I have something in common then. We like gooey chocolate chip cookies.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter). I hope you didn't take it amiss that I called The Puzzle gooey. I didn't mean it. I just always try to find a little bit of fun. Will, remind us of last week's challenge.

SHORTZ: Yes. I said think of a familiar French expression in three words containing three, two and five letters respectively. Then take it's standard translation in English, which is a two-word phrase. And if you have the right phrases, the first words of the two phrases said out loud will sound like a world capital. What is it?

Well, the phrases are nom de plume and pen name. The first words of those are nom pen, which is the capital of Cambodia. Some people say Phnom Penh, but I think the standard pronunciation is silent ph.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Our pronunciation for the capital of Cambodia is Phnom Penh. We do the hard P. But we're going to let you get away with it this time, Will.

SHORTZ: (Laughter) OK.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We received more than 1,400 correct responses. And our randomly selected winner is Mark Mezak of San Francisco, Calif. Hey, congrats.

MARK MEZAK: Hi. Thank you so much (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How did you come up with the answer to this week's challenge?

MEZAK: Well, you know, I was lucky. I don't speak French. But I know the phrase nom de plume from a song in "Aladdin," where he sings (singing) something about a nom de plume. And so I knew that means pen name. And then I would sing out loud. So it's nom pen? And my partner said, oh, that's a capital in Asia, I think. So I had to look through a list. And I thought that it is Phnom Penh. It's the capital of Cambodia.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have a lovely voice. Do you sing for a living?

MEZAK: Well, as a hobby I do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me the story of how you got your dictionary.

MEZAK: Oh, so - God, so I've been playing The Puzzle since I was about 10 years old. My family would listen in a car on Sundays. And I've been putting off buying a dictionary because I always heard that when you got to play the on air puzzle, you win a dictionary and puzzle books and games.

But then after a while, I stopped hearing dictionary. So I was like, do you still get one or not? I'm not sure. So finally, I ended up relenting. And I bought a dictionary because I wasn't sure I'd be sent one if I ever got to play the on air puzzle.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And here we are and...

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, Mark, are you ready to play The Puzzle?

MEZAK: As ready as I'll ever be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, take it away, Will.

SHORTZ: All right, Mark, I'm going to give you clues for two words. Reverse the last four letters of the answer to the first clue to get the word that answers the second clue. For example, if I said part of a flower and flat dish, you would say petal and plate. Reverse the last four letters. Here's number one - to apportion and a coral island.

MEZAK: OK.

SHORTZ: You know what a coral island is?

MEZAK: Yeah, I'm thinking of like an atoll.

SHORTZ: Exactly. And now reverse the T-O-L-L, and what do you get?

MEZAK: Allot?

SHORTZ: Allot - you apportion; you allot. Nice.

MEZAK: OK.

SHORTZ: Here's your next one - a distress signal shot into the air and wild as an animal.

MEZAK: I'm thinking feral.

SHORTZ: Feral, yes.

MEZAK: And then flare, oh.

SHORTZ: And flare, nice. Rugged and a many-headed serpent of myth.

MEZAK: OK. A many-headed serpent - oh, there's the Titans?

SHORTZ: There's the Titans, yeah. I don't think they had many heads though. And you know a five-letter word meaning rugged starting with H?

MEZAK: Hairy? No.

SHORTZ: I tell you what. I'm going to tell you this one. It's hardy. And reverse the last four letters, you get Hydra.

MEZAK: Oh, my gosh.

SHORTZ: Here's your next one - a nosey person and an implement for eating soup.

MEZAK: Oh, a snoop and a spoon.

SHORTZ: There you go. Now we're getting longer - to call the wrong telephone number and lost.

MEZAK: Oh, I guess that would be like - I'm thinking, like, miss dial.

SHORTZ: That's it, yes. And lost would be what?

MEZAK: Mislaid?

SHORTZ: Mislaid, that's it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Good job.

SHORTZ: Here's your last one. And it's much longer than any of the others.

MEZAK: Oh, no (laughter).

SHORTZ: Your first clue is fragility and your second clue is a place to order a sandwich to go.

MEZAK: A place to order a sandwich to go - so I'm thinking drive through.

SHORTZ: Think of a play word. You might order ham on rye or a chicken salad sandwich.

MEZAK: Oh, I was thinking deli, but that's short for delicatessen.

SHORTZ: Yes.

MEZAK: Let's see, delicatessen so then delicateness?

SHORTZ: Delicateness, you got it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yay. And he comes in strong.

MEZAK: (Laughter) Wow.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right.

MEZAK: Good recovery.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How do you feel?

MEZAK: Amazing (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Well, that was great.

MEZAK: Yeah, that was really fun.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And for playing our puzzle today, you'll get a weekend edition lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at npr.org/puzzle. Mark, what member station do you listen to?

MEZAK: I listen to KQED in San Francisco.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yay, Mark Mezak of San Francisco, Calif. Thank you for playing The Puzzle.

MEZAK: Thank you Lulu. Thanks, Will.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Will, what's next week's challenge?

SHORTZ: Yes. It comes from listener Joseph Young of St. Cloud, Minn. He has a puzzle blog called Puzzleria, which is a lot of fun. Take the singular and plural forms of a particular noun. Remove the first two letters of the singular form, and you'll name a country. Remove one letter from inside the plural form, and you'll name another country. What words and countries are these?

So again, the singular and plural forms of a particular noun. Remove the first two letters of the singular form, and you'll name a country. And remove one letter from inside the plural form, and you'll name another country. What words and countries are these?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you have the answer, go to our website, npr.org/puzzle and click on the submit your answer link. Just one entry for person please. Our deadline for entries is Thursday, December 7 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'll give you a call. And you'll get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzlemaster, Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thank you, Lulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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