RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Tackles, fumbles, blitzes and punts. This week, sports fans across America finally get their football fix. But if you're hankering for a game where the only thing that matters is how fast your mind can get to the end zone, we've got you covered. Time to play The Puzzle.
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MARTIN: And I am joined by the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Hi, Will.
WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: Will, are you psyched for football season?
SHORTZ: I like college ball. How about you?
MARTIN: I love football. It is complicated because it is a dangerous sport. But I will say that I love watching football. And I'm excited to make chili and, yeah, watch some football games. All right, so remind us of last week's challenge.
SHORTZ: Yes. It came from listener Norm Baird of Toledo, Wash. I said, if you squish the small letters R and N too closely together, they look like an M. I said, think of a common five-letter word with the consecutive letters R and N that becomes its own opposite if you change them to an M. And the answer is stern to stem.
MARTIN: OK, so over 840 people sent in the right answer. And our randomly-selected winner this week is David Kosub of Washington, D.C., a local. Hey, David, congratulations.
DAVID KOSUB: Hi. Thank you very much. Just totally excited.
MARTIN: How'd you figure it out?
KOSUB: I just put as many words as I could think of together with R-N somewhere at the end of it and just made some rhyming words. That was like urn, her, arm, all sorts of things. And eventually I was like, stern - oh, from stem to stern. And it just kind of, like, clicked. So I was pretty stoked.
MARTIN: Genius. Perfect. And what do you do here in D.C.?
KOSUB: I work at the National Institutes of Health. I'm a health science policy analyst.
MARTIN: Nice. And do you do a lot of puzzling?
KOSUB: I love doing puzzles.
MARTIN: You do.
KOSUB: I'm a total trivia dork.
MARTIN: (Laughter) OK, so now is your chance to dork out. And let's do The Puzzle. Will, I think David and I are ready. Let's do it.
SHORTZ: All right, David and Rachel, if you alphabetize the eight planets in reverse - that is, by their ending letters - the next-to-last name in the list would be Venus, which ends in s. The last planet on the list would be Mercury, which ends in Y. I'm going to give you some categories. For each one, I'll give you the next-to-last member of the category if all the names in it were alphabetized backward. You tell me the last name. And here's number one - numbers from one to 10. The next-to-last name on the list is eight. What number is last?
KOSUB: One, two, three - six.
SHORTZ: Six is it. Good job. Number two is Beatles - John.
KOSUB: Are we going by first name or last name?
SHORTZ: First name.
KOSUB: First name. Paul - I guess it'd be Ringo.
SHORTZ: Ringo is it.
SHORTZ: Ringo follows John. Chess pieces - bishop.
KOSUB: Bishop. Pawn? Oh wait, yeah, bishop, P. Never mind. Rook, queen, king...
SHORTZ: And there's one you haven't named.
KOSUB: Oh my goodness. I play checkers (laughter).
MARTIN: Like, ride a horse and they have swords.
KOSUB: Oh, it's the knight.
SHORTZ: The knight is it. Knight in a T. Disney dwarfs - Happy.
KOSUB: Happy. Sneezy?
SHORTZ: That's it. Top 10 car rental companies - Thrifty.
KOSUB: Thrifty. Hertz?
SHORTZ: That's it. Fast. Forms of music recognized by the Grammys - country.
KOSUB: Country, (unintelligible) rock - jazz.
SHORTZ: Jazz is it. Good.
SHORTZ: Ivy League schools - Princeton.
KOSUB: Princeton - and let's see, Yale, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania. Oh gosh. Of course, I went to a state school in Texas (laughter).
SHORTZ: It's in New England. There's a hint.
KOSUB: Yeah, let's see - Harvard, Brown. Brown.
SHORTZ: Brown is it, good. How about modern birth stones? Ruby.
KOSUB: R-U-B-Y. Topaz.
SHORTZ: Topaz, so fast.
MARTIN: Wow, good job.
SHORTZ: And here's your last one. It's an easy one. Major League Baseball teams - Red Sox.
KOSUB: Red Sox - oh, White Sox.
SHORTZ: White Sox.
MARTIN: I mean, get out. That was amazing. Will, wasn't that amazing?
SHORTZ: I'm impressed.
MARTIN: You thought that was a hard puzzle. That was very well done, David.
KOSUB: I will be very happy with my state Texas education (laughter).
MARTIN: Yeah, man, that was spectacular. So for playing The Puzzle today you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and puzzle books and games. And you can read about your prizes at npr.org/puzzle. David, where do you hear us? What's your public radio station?
KOSUB: WAMU or 88.5 here in D.C.
MARTIN: All right, David Kosub of Washington, D.C. Thanks so much for playing The Puzzle, David.
KOSUB: That was totally awesome.
MARTIN: Cool. All right, Will, what's up for next week?
SHORTZ: Yes, the challenge is a spin-off of my on-air puzzle. Think of a well-known category with exactly seven things in it. If you alphabetize the things from their ending letters, the last letter alphabetically is E. In other words, no thing in this category ends in a letter after E in the alphabet. It's a category and set of seven things that everyone knows. What is it?
MARTIN: When you have the answer go to our website, npr.org/puzzle, and click on the submit your answer link. Just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for those entries is Thursday, September 15 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you're the winner, then we call you and then you get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times. And he is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.
SHORTZ: Thank you, Rachel.
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