For Mother's Day, a Tribute to 'Ma' The on-air puzzle this week is in honor of Mother's Day. Given a series of words, for each one change one of the letters in the word to "ma" to spell a new word. For example, given the word "croon" you would say "maroon."
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For Mother's Day, a Tribute to 'Ma'

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For Mother's Day, a Tribute to 'Ma'

For Mother's Day, a Tribute to 'Ma'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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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.

WILL SHORTZ: Hi, Liane. Happy Mother's Day.

HANSEN: Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate that. And it wasn't quite Mother's Day related, but I had a nice visit with WBFO in Buffalo this past week. They were doing their first annual wine tasting event, and it was a lot of fun. It's just, I couldn't really have too much of a taste of any of the wines because they were expecting me to speak. And I will say that all of the questions were about you. Everybody wants to know what you're like.

SHORTZ: Oh, no. I hope you lied. Thank you.

HANSEN: I do. Now, you're not at your home. You're not in New York. You're in Portland, Oregon at Palatine Recordings. What are you doing in Portland, Oregon?

SHORTZ: Well, I'm on a six-day speaking tour and I've been in Sta. Barbara, Berkeley, Scottsdale, Arizona; Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and Napa, California.

HANSEN: Oh, wow. So you get to go to a wine country, too, huh?

SHORTZ: Yes, I do.

HANSEN: All right. We had a challenge last week. Remind us of what it was.

SHORTZ: Yes. I said think of two countries whose names start with the same three letters. Set these names side-by-side, drop the first three letters from each of the names. The remaining letters, in order, will spell the name one of river in the world. What is it?

HANSEN: What is it?

SHORTZ: Well, the countries are Chile and China. Put them side-by-side. Drop C-H-I, both places. You're left with Lena, L-E-N-A, which was one of the longest rivers of Asia.

HANSEN: Wow. We have over 1,900 entries from people who solved the puzzle. And our randomly selected winner is Alisha McWilliams from Brooklyn, New York.

Hi, Alisha.

Ms. ALISHA McWILLIAMS (Puzzle Winner; Resident, New York): Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: What you do in New York?

Ms. McWILLIAMS: I'm a cataloger at Scholastic Library.

HANSEN: How long have you been playing the puzzle?

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Not very long. I guess, like, a few months.

HANSEN: Well, you know what happens now.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: I do. I do.

HANSEN: And you sound ready to play.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: I am. I hope I do, like, not badly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: I think that's we all hope. But, I think our greatest hope is to have some fun. So, Will, the fun starts here. Meet Alisha. Let's play.

SHORTZ: Hi, Alisha. Today's puzzle is in honor of Mother's Day…


SHORTZ: I'm going to give you some words. For each one, change one of the letters in the word to M-A to spell a new word. For example, if I said croon, C-R-O-O-N, you would maroon. That changes the C to MA.


SHORTZ: All right? Number one is table, T-A-B-L-E.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: I might need some help on that.


SHORTZ: Okay, I'll give you. I'll just…


SHORTZ: …get you off and running. Change the B to MA.


SHORTZ: What does it make? You had T-A-B-L-E, make that T-A-M-A-L-E and you have…

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Tamale.

HANSEN: Tamale.

SHORTZ: Tamale is right. Number two is dishy, D-I-S-H-Y.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Dismay?


SHORTZ: Dismay. Good job. Here's the next one: optic, O-P-T-I-C, as in the optic nerve.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: All I can think of…

SHORTZ: And the…

Ms. McWILLIAMS: …is optima. But I don't think…

SHORTZ: Optima is right.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Really?

SHORTZ: That's the plural of - that's one of the plurals of optimum. You can have optimums or optima.


SHORTZ: So good job. Try this one: slice, S-L-I-C-E, as in a slice of pizza.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Malice?

SHORTZ: Malice. Good. Now, we go a little longer. Your word is sucker, S-U-C-K-E-R.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Smacker?

SHORTZ: Smacker. Yeah. Plunge, P-L-U-N-G-E.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Plumage?

SHORTZ: Plumage. Now, you're rolling. Flagon, F-L-A-G-O-N. I'll give you a hint. This is somebody you might see on a highway when there is roadwork being done.

HANSEN: So that means changing the O?


Ms. McWILLIAMS: Flagman.

SHORTZ: Flagman. That's right. How about this one? Unkind, U-N-K-I-N-D.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Mankind.

SHORTZ: Mankind. That was fast. Nordic, N-O-R-D-I-C.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Nomadic?

SHORTZ: Nomadic. Oh, you're really cooking now. Priory. P-R-I-O-R-Y.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Primary?

SHORTZ: Yes. Auteur. A-U-T-E-U-R.

HANSEN: Do you know Yiddish?

Ms. McWILLIAMS: No. I think that's the problem.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Oh, I'll give you this one: schmaltz.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Oh, that's right.

SHORTZ: Schmaltz is it. That's right. Try this one: Rebinder, R-E-B-I-N-D-E-R.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Remainder?

SHORTZ: Remainder is right. Great. And you're last one is shopworn, S-H-O-P-W-O-R-N. I save the toughest for last. You can do it.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: I see.

SHORTZ: All right. I'll give you - change the R.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Shopwoman?

SHORTZ: Shopwoman is right. Nice job.

HANSEN: Alisha…


HANSEN: You did really well. You did really well. And for playing our puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, the "11th 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, Will Shortz's "Little Black Book of Sudoku" and "Black and White Book of Crosswords" from St. Martin's Press, and one of Will Shortz's "Puzzle Master Decks of Riddles and Challenges" from Chronicle Books. Lots of stuff there. And Alisha, tell us how you listen to the puzzle?

Ms. McWILLIAMS: A listen through podcast.

HANSEN: Podcast.


HANSEN: Oh my. I think you're one of the first ones we've ever had that had said that. Nice work. Well, Alicia McWilliams from Brooklyn, New York, thanks a lot for playing the puzzle with us today.

Ms. McWILLIAMS: Thank you.

HANSEN: All right, Will, our challenge for next week.

SHORTZ: Yes, it comes from listener Henry Hook, who is also of Brooklyn, New York. He is one of the country's top crossword constructors. Name certain internal parts of the human body, five letters, the word is plural. This word contains an I. Change the I to an O, spell the result backward, and you'll name another part of the body that's very near the first ones. What body parts are these?

So again, certain internal parts of the human body, five letters, plural. The word contains an I. Change this to an O, spell the result backward, and you'll name another body part that's very near the first ones. What body parts are these?

HANSEN: When you have the answer, go to our Web site,, and click on the Submit Your Answer link on the Sunday puzzle page. Only one entry per person, please. 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, and we'll call you if you're the winner. And you'll get to play the puzzle on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz.

And Will, next week, Rebecca Roberts will be sitting here because I am going to be at the University of Hartford, giving their commencement address and getting an honorary doctorate, a doc -

SHORTZ: Congratulations.

HANSEN: A Doctor of Humane Letters. And I've been searching the alphabet to figure out which ones those are.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Probably NPR, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SHORTZ: I bet.

HANSEN: All right. Thanks again, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Liane.

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