Twice-Told Homophones NPR's Puzzlemaster Will Shortz quizzes one of our listeners, and has a challenge for everyone at home. (This week's winner is Larry Davis from Santa Monica, California. He listens to Weekend Edition on member station KCRW.)
NPR logo

Twice-Told Homophones

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Twice-Told Homophones

Twice-Told Homophones

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


From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

And joining us by phone this week is puzzle master Will Shortz.

Hi, Will.

WILL SHORTZ reporting:

Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: So what's the deal. Why am I calling you on the phone today?

SHORTZ: Because I am just about to leave for the World Puzzle Championship, which is being held in Eger, Hungary, this year. And along the way I'm going to take a day's vacation in Vienna, because I've never been there.

HANSEN: How exciting. The American team ready to go?

SHORTZ: Yes, we are. We have two teams this year for the first time, and it will be the largest championship ever. I think there are 29 countries competing. And these are all language- and culture-neutral puzzles so that everyone in the world can compete equally.

HANSEN: So you got your game face on?

SHORTZ: I'm--well, I don't have to compete, so I'm there to have fun.

HANSEN: Look, for you, having fun is competing. I know that. Remind us of the challenge you left us with last week.

SHORTZ: Yes, I said take the words may, M-A-Y, nay, N-A-Y, and stay, S-T-A-Y, and I said, except for their opening letters, they're spelled the same and they rhyme. And I asked: Can you name three common, uncapitalized words starting with M, N, and S-T that, again, are spelled the same except for these opening letters, and yet none of the words rhyme with each other?

HANSEN: And what were those three words?

SHORTZ: They are mature, nature and stature.

HANSEN: Oh, I love it. We had over 1,000 entries from people who solved the puzzle, and our winner, randomly selected from the correct answers, is Larry Davis(ph). He joins us from Santa Monica, California.

Hi, Larry.

Mr. LARRY DAVIS (Contest Winner): Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: What do you do there in Santa Monica?

Mr. DAVIS: I'm a retired high school math teacher.

HANSEN: Math teacher? You have a way with words to solve this challenge?

Mr. DAVIS: I hope so.

HANSEN: Have you been playing the puzzle a long time?

Mr. DAVIS: I've been listening for about over 10 years. I've only been sending entries in for the last maybe two years.

HANSEN: Oh, you finally got brave, huh?

Mr. DAVIS: Yes.

HANSEN: So you know what happens. Are you ready to play?

Mr. DAVIS: Yes, as ready as I'll ever be.

HANSEN: Listen to you. Oh, Will, meet Larry. Larry, meet Will and let's play.

SHORTZ: All right, Larry, every answer today is a made-up, two-word phrase in which the two words are homophones. That is words that are pronounced the same, but spelled differently. For example, if I said unimportant underground worker, you would say minor miner.

Mr. DAVIS: Oh, oh.

SHORTZ: And as a hint I'll tell you all the words have exactly five letters.


SHORTZ: The first one is a bank draft from Prague.

Mr. DAVIS: A something check.

SHORTZ: Yeah, well, just say it twice.

Mr. DAVIS: Czech check.

SHORTZ: A Czech check is right. Number two, a jet with no markings on the side.

Mr. DAVIS: A jet with no mark--a blank...


Mr. DAVIS: No.

SHORTZ: What's a word for a jet?

Mr. DAVIS: You mean a jet airplane?

SHORTZ: Uh-huh. There, you just said it that last syllable.

Mr. DAVIS: A plain plane.

SHORTZ: A plain plane is it. Most inferior German sausage.

Mr. DAVIS: Something wurst.

SHORTZ: There you go. Say it twice.

Mr. DAVIS: Worst wurst.

SHORTZ: Worst wurst is it. Try this one. A terrific log holder in a fireplace.

Mr. DAVIS: A great grate.

SHORTZ: A great grate. Twenty-four sheets of paper for a church singing group.

Mr. DAVIS: Oh, not a ream. No, ream is four letters.

HANSEN: I was going to say...

Mr. DAVIS: Twenty-four sheets of paper.

SHORTZ: Yeah, what's a church singing group?

HANSEN: Choir.

Mr. DAVIS: A choir.

SHORTZ: A quire choir...

Mr. DAVIS: Oh, a quire choir, yes. They're spelled differently, yes.

SHORTZ: Good. An English county where the people are more reticent.

Mr. DAVIS: Quiet--no, choir--no...

HANSEN: More reticent.

SHORTZ: What's the term for an English county?

Mr. DAVIS: Shire.

SHORTZ: There you go.

HANSEN: Oh, shyer shire.

SHORTZ: A shyer shire is it. A group of corporate directors who are yawning.

Mr. DAVIS: Who are what?

SHORTZ: Yawning.

Mr. DAVIS: Bored board.

SHORTZ: A bored board. That was fast. A big fight in a Southeast Asian peninsula.

Mr. DAVIS: Oh...

HANSEN: A thriller in Manila. No.

Mr. DAVIS: Let's see, a big fight in the Southeast...

HANSEN: A peninsula.

Mr. DAVIS: Tai--no, Korea...

SHORTZ: It's the extreme southeast part of Asia.

Mr. DAVIS: Ch--what was the first part?

SHORTZ: Big fight...

Mr. DAVIS: Big fight.

SHORTZ: a brawl. But another five-letter word. Sounds like I stumped you both.

HANSEN: Yeah, Larry, I'm stumped. How about you?

Mr. DAVIS: Yeah.

SHORTZ: It's a Malay melee.

Mr. DAVIS: Oh, right.


Mr. DAVIS: Sure.

SHORTZ: All right, try this one. A double hotel room that's totally cool.

Mr. DAVIS: Double hotel room. A sweet suite.

SHORTZ: A sweet suite. And here's your last one.

Mr. DAVIS: Yes?

SHORTZ: Question regarding two Halloween hags.

Mr. DAVIS: Which witch?


SHORTZ: Which witch is correct.

HANSEN: Oh. Hey, Larry, nice job.

Mr. DAVIS: Well, I hope so, thanks to you Liane.

HANSEN: Oh, no, you had more of them than I did. Oh, these were dif--these were fun. It was fun, though. Come on.

Mr. DAVIS: Oh, that Will. It was. It's always fun doing puzzles.

HANSEN: Yeah, it is fun doing puzzles. And for playing our puzzle today you get a Weekend Edition lapel pin, the 11th Edition of Merriam Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus, the Scrabble Deluxe Edition from Parker Bros., "The Puzzle Master Presents" from Random House, Volume 2, and three "Sudoku Wordless Crossword Puzzle" books presented by Will Shortz from St. Martin's Press.

Wow. Larry, what's your member station?

Mr. DAVIS: Well, not only is my member station KCRW in Santa Monica, but I'm a regular volunteer there every week.


Mr. DAVIS: And I have been for about 12 or 13 years.

HANSEN: Oh, Larry, thank you very much.

Mr. DAVIS: And I naturally go in each day. I mean, yes, each day when we have a pledge drive.

HANSEN: Well, good for you. Well, Larry Davis from Santa Monica, California, thanks a lot for being our guest and playing our puzzle with us today.

Mr. DAVIS: Thank you for calling.


Mr. DAVIS: I enjoyed it. Bye-bye.

HANSEN: Bye-bye. Will, now what's the challenge you have for everyone to work on this week?

SHORTZ: Well, this week's challenge was brought to my attention by Ed Pegg Jr., who runs the Web site You're probably familiar with magic squares. In a standard four-by-four magic square you arrange the digits from one to 16 so that each row, column and cornered diagonal totals 34. Well, this is a multiplication magic square. Arrange 16 numbers in a four-by-four square so that the product of each row, column and corner-to-corner diagonal is 5,040. You can use any numbers you want, but they have to be whole numbers and you can't repeat a number in a square. And as a hint, I'll tell you the number in the upper left corner is 42.

So again, a multiplication magic square. Arrange 16 numbers in a four-by-four array so that the product of each row, column and corner-to-corner diagonal is 5,040. Whole numbers only, no repeats. Can you do it?

HANSEN: Perilously close to sudoku, Will.


HANSEN: Perilously close. When you have the answer, e-mail us at Only one entry per person, please. Our deadline is Thursday, 3 PM Eastern time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. We'll call you if you're the winner and you'll get to play puzzle on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and Weekend Edition's puzzlemaster, Will Shortz. There's also information on our Web site, And while you're there you can sign up for NPR's downloadable Sunday puzzle podcast. Simply visit our Web site,, and click on NPR Podcast to learn how. Subscribe and the puzzle will be delivered to your computer or MP3 player every week.

Will, I am going on a European vacation, so I'll be back in two weeks. So maybe we'll cross in the skies. Thanks a lot, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Liane.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.