Sunday Puzzle: A FIR-eezing Holiday Puzzle NPR's Daniel Estrin plays the puzzle with Weekend Edition puzzle master Will Shortz and this week's puzzle winner, Philip Spiro of Durham, N.C.

Sunday Puzzle: A FIR-eezing Holiday Puzzle

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And here's a gift that may be a little difficult to unwrap. It's the puzzle.


ESTRIN: Joining us today is puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Merry Christmas, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Merry Christmas, Daniel. Welcome to the show.

ESTRIN: Thank you so much. I'm very excited to be here with you. Will, please remind us of last week's challenge.

SHORTZ: Yes, it came from listener Chip Natarajan (ph) of Philadelphia. I said, if you change the third letter of wolf to an O, you get the sound made by a dog, woof. And the puzzle was, name a six-letter animal and change the second letter to get the sound made by a completely different animal. What is it? And my intended answer was rabbit. Change the A to an I, you get ribbit, which is the sound of a frog. If you go obscure, you can do cockle, which is a kind of marine mollusk, and change the O to an A, you get cackle, which is the sound of a goose.

ESTRIN: Whoa. OK. Well, I am proud to tell you that I guessed correctly - rabbit/ribbit, so did my dad, very excited to tell you that. So did more than 2,000 listeners, and our lucky winner this week is Philip Spiro (ph) of Durham, N.C. Congrats. Welcome to the program.

PHILIP SPIRO: Thank you. And Merry Christmas to the both of you, and Happy Hanukkah.

ESTRIN: Well, thank you. How long have you been playing the puzzle?

SPIRO: Oh, (laughter) at least since the postcard days. I don't want to say how old I am, but I'm old enough to remember the postcard days.

ESTRIN: Wow. That's impressive. OK, Philip, are you ready to play the puzzle?

SPIRO: As everybody says, I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be. My kids have been texting me saying, don't embarrass us, so I feel strangely compelled to embarrass them. So if I do a faceplant, it's on purpose.

ESTRIN: OK, let's hear it. Take it away, Will.

SHORTZ: All right, Philip and Daniel, the theme of today's puzzle is firs. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase in which the first word starts with F-I, and the second word starts with R. For example, if I said of the highest quality, you would say first rate. Here's No. 1. It might have a line with a worm on the end of it.

SPIRO: Fishing rod.

SHORTZ: That's it. No. 2, a place to shoot rifles.

SPIRO: Firing range.

SHORTZ: Where to try on clothes in a store.

SPIRO: I - where to try on clothes - finish - a finishing room. Fitting room.

SHORTZ: Fitting room. You got it. G, PG or R, for example.

SPIRO: Film rating.

SHORTZ: That's it. Someone who may write for Bloomberg or the Wall Street Journal.

SPIRO: Financial reporter.

SHORTZ: You got it. A nuclear facility where atoms are split to release energy.

SPIRO: F, fir. Fuel - not fuel rod. Fission room. I don't know. I give up on that one.

SHORTZ: Fission is right. Fission is right. And...

SPIRO: Fission reactor. Reactor.

SHORTZ: There you go. A fission reactor. Light fabric that has been treated to be non-flammable.

SPIRO: Fire retardant.

SHORTZ: Or resistant, either way. Prepackaged food for soldiers on the line.

SPIRO: The... fine restaurant. Say it again?

SHORTZ: Prepackaged food for soldiers on the line. What do soldiers eat starting with R?

SPIRO: Rations.

SHORTZ: Yeah. What kind of rations?

SPIRO: I'm blanking.

SHORTZ: Do you know this, Daniel?

SPIRO: Rescue me, Daniel.

ESTRIN: I can't rescue you. Rations? I'm thinking mess hall.

SHORTZ: It's, uh, field rations. You know, field rations.

SPIRO: Oh, field rations. Will, I never would've gotten that.

SHORTZ: OK, try this. Interest amount that doesn't vary.

SPIRO: Fixed - fixed rate.

SHORTZ: That's it. Here's a tough one. The French government starting with Charles de Gaulle in 1958.

SPIRO: I need a hand.

SHORTZ: Yeah. Yeah. Do you happen to know this, Daniel?

ESTRIN: Republic?

SHORTZ: Yeah. And it's not the first republic. It's four after that.

SPIRO: It's the Fifth Republic.

SHORTZ: It's the Fifth Republic, is right. Here's a really tough one. A hit 1947 Broadway musical with the song "How Are Things In Glocca Morra?"

SPIRO: (Imitates buzzer).

SHORTZ: OK, honestly, I wouldn't have gotten that one either. That one is "Finian's Rainbow." Here is your last one. Disgustingly wealthy, in slang.

SPIRO: Filthy rich.

SHORTZ: Filthy rich is it. Good job.

SPIRO: End on a good note.

ESTRIN: Wow. Philip, very impressive. Will, those are tough ones. How do you feel, Philip?

SPIRO: Like everybody says, relieved. But this is one item I could check off my bucket list.

ESTRIN: Bingo. Well, for playing our puzzle today, you will get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at And, Philip, what member station do you listen to?

SPIRO: We are sustaining members of WUNC in Chapel Hill.

ESTRIN: That's Philip Spiro of Durham, N.C. Thank you for playing the puzzle.

SPIRO: Thank you for doing this. This is good. Thank you.

ESTRIN: All right, Will, what's next week's challenge?

SHORTZ: Yes. Name a prominent geographical location in the United States. Change the fifth letter to an S, and the resulting string of letters from left to right will name a game, a mountain and a popular website. What place is it? So, again, a prominent location in the U.S. Change the fifth letter to an S, and the resulting string of letters will name a game, a mountain and a popular website. What place is it?

ESTRIN: When you have the answer, go to our website,, and click on the Submit Your Answer link. Remember, just one entry, please. Our deadline for entries this week is Thursday, December 29 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you. And if you are the winner, we'll give you a call, and if you pick up the phone, you'll get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and puzzle master of WEEKEND EDITION, Will Shortz. Thanks, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks a lot, Daniel.

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