RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And it's time for the puzzle. Joining me now is Will Shortz. He is the puzzle editor of The New York Times and he is, of course, WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master.
Good morning, Will.
WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: We learned some sad news this past week that Merl Reagle, your fellow puzzler and your friend - Merl passed away. And anyone who has listened to the Sunday puzzle has probably heard you mentioned Merl's name, but I'd love if you could just share more about him for a few moments with us.
SHORTZ: Yeah, well, Merl passed away last weekend from a sudden onset of pancreatitis. He was 65. I had known Merl for 36 of those years. We were friends and colleagues that whole time. He was one of the best crossword constructors in America. His puzzles appeared in over 50 newspapers. And in my opinion, he made the funniest crosswords, hands-down. It's the kind that actually made you laugh out loud. And if you've seen the movie "Word Play..."
SHORTZ: ...He's the one who explained how a crossword is constructed.
MARTIN: I also read that he was the youngest person ever to have had a puzzle accepted by The New York Times, and then, obviously, he was able to turn that into a career. Thanks for helping us remember him. And with that, Will, refresh our memories. What was last week's challenge?
SHORTZ: Yes, it came from listener Sandy Weisz of Chicago. And it wasn't too hard. I said, name a famous military figure of the past 50 years. I said, the first three letters of his first name and first three letters of his last name are both well-known military abbreviations. Who is it? And the answer was Colin Powell, making the abbreviation for Col. and POW.
MARTIN: OK, so more than 2,000 of you sent in the right answer. Our randomly selected winner this week is Susan Reinert of Colorado Springs, Colo. She joins us on the line now.
Hey, Susan, congratulations.
SUSAN REINERT: Hi. Thank you.
MARTIN: How'd you figure this one out?
REINERT: Well, I started trying to think of abbreviations for military ranks and somehow colonel did not come to me. And MIA popped into my head, and from MIA, I got to POW and got the Powell and Colin Powell.
MARTIN: And there you had it. Good for you. So do you play the puzzle with us often?
REINERT: I listen and try to get it every week. I'm not always successful.
MARTIN: Yeah, well, you and me both, my friend.
MARTIN: And do you happen to have a question for Will, Susan?
REINERT: I do. Actually, my question was about Merl Reagle...
MARTIN: Oh, great.
REINERT: ...Because, like many other people, I probably would not really have known who he was if it weren't for Will. And it was awfully sad to hear the news of his passing. And I just wanted to know if Will has any idea of how many of the puzzlers that he's used over the years came from Merl.
SHORTZ: Yeah, NPR counted it up for me. I have said the words this week's challenge comes from our old pal, Merl Reagle, or words to that effect, at least 80 times. And I said it for both the puzzle and the answer, so that's at least 40 challenges I've used of his over the year.
MARTIN: That's very cool. OK, Susan, you ready to do this?
REINERT: I hope so.
MARTIN: I think you are. OK, Will, let's play.
SHORTZ: All right. Well, one of Merl's classic crosswords was called Anagrammys, in which he took the titles of popular songs and recast them with an anagram of one word. For example, his clue was Anagrammy-winning poker song, and the answer was "Dealer Of The Pack." And, of course, that was a play on "Leader Of The Pack," which was hit for The Shangri-Las in 1964. Now, I'm going to make this easy for you. I'll give you the answer, you name the song. So all you have to do is anagram one word in the made-up title I give you to complete the correct title. And the first few of these are Merl's, the rest are mine. Number one is I've got you under my sink.
REINERT: "I've Got You Under My Skin."
SHORTZ: There you go. And that's - his clue for that was Anagrammy-winning song about roaches.
MARTIN: (Laughter) He was funny.
SHORTZ: Here's your next one. The shadow of your slime.
REINERT: (Laughter) Smile.
SHORTZ: That's it. And his clue for that was Anagrammy-winning "Ghostbusters" song.
SHORTZ: You ought to be in pie crust.
REINERT: (Laughter) Pictures.
SHORTZ: Pictures, good. His clue for that was baking zone. The rates of a clown. R-A-T-E-S, the rates of a clown.
SHORTZ: "The Tears Of A Clown." That's a song about a professional party entertainer. OK, how about how can you mend a broken earth.
SHORTZ: That's it, environmentalist song. Hello, Lloyd.
MARTIN: Oh, good.
SHORTZ: That's it, song about meeting Mr. Bridges. How about a shore with no name.
SHORTZ: Uh-huh, song about Columbus's landing. The first time I ever saw your cafe.
REINERT: (Laughter) Face.
SHORTZ: That's it, song about a French diner. How about skis on my list?
SHORTZ: Oh, that's it, Christmas song from a winter sportsman. How about before the next predator falls.
MARTIN: Oh, quick.
SHORTZ: Oh, that's good, song about shooting down drones.
SHORTZ: And here's your last one, every bather you take.
SHORTZ: That's it, song about an employee of a spa. Nice job.
MARTIN: Oh, Susan, you nailed it. That was great.
REINERT: Well, thankfully it wasn't too bad this week.
MARTIN: No, that was a fun one. And for playing the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and all kinds of puzzle books and games. You can read about the prizes at npr.org/puzzle. And, Susan, what's your public radio station?
REINERT: I am a member of KRCC in Colorado Springs, Colo.
MARTIN: Susan Reinert of Colorado Springs. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, Susan.
REINERT: Thank you.
MARTIN: All right, Will, what do you have for us next week?
SHORTZ: Yes, name a famous movie in eight letters that has had multiple sequels. The title is one word. Rearrange the letters to get a two-word phrase for a satchel. What is it? So again - famous movie, eight letters, one word, it's had multiple sequels, rearrange the letters to get a two-word phrase for a satchel. What is it?
MARTIN: OK, when you've got the answer go to npr.org/puzzle. Click on the Submit Your Answer link. Just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for those entries is Thursday, September 3 at 3 p.m., Eastern time. Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time and it goes like this. If you're the winner, then we give you a call and you get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master Will Shortz.
Thanks so much, Will.
SHORTZ: Thank you, Rachel.
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