Sunday Puzzle: Double Down NPR's Renee Montagne and Will Shortz, New York Times crossword editor and Weekend Edition's Puzzle Master, play this week's puzzle with Phil Sweet of Sparta Township, N.J.
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Sunday Puzzle: Double Down

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Sunday Puzzle: Double Down

Sunday Puzzle: Double Down

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The 2017 World Puzzle Championships kick off today in India. But, of course, you can play our puzzle right from home.


MONTAGNE: Joining me now is Will Shortz. He's puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. And good morning.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee. And I'm actually the founder of the World Puzzle Championship. Started in 1992 in New York, and it goes to a different country every year.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, I thought you had a big hand in that. So tell us a little bit about it.

SHORTZ: There'll be about 30 countries from all over the world competing both in a sudoku championship and then a puzzle championship. And it's not crosswords or word puzzles. It's the things like sudoku, KenKen and other logic puzzles that everyone can do equally no matter what their language is.

MONTAGNE: Well, remind us of last week's challenge because it took some - a little bit of brain power.

SHORTZ: Yeah, it came from listener Chris Stewart of Las Cruces, N.M. I said take the name of a country, insert an E somewhere inside it, and you'll get a phrase that answers the question, what did Henry Ford do? And the country is Madagascar. Insert an E, and you get, made a gas car.

MONTAGNE: Well, tons of correct responses this week, more than 2,000. But our winner is Phil Sweet of Sparta, N.J. And Phil's on the line with us. Congratulations.

PHIL SWEET: Good morning. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: And you've been playing the puzzle for quite a long time, have you?

SWEET: Thirty-plus years, yeah.

MONTAGNE: Thirty-plus years - that's pretty much the beginning. And you've never won.

SWEET: Never before. So I get to cross this off my bucket list.

MONTAGNE: (Laughter) OK. Well, while you're doing that, why don't you tell us how you figured out the answer?

SWEET: This was a lucky one. It just popped into my head. As soon as the question was asked, the answer was there.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's get this particular puzzle on the road now. So, Will, take it away.

SHORTZ: All right, Phil and Renee, I'm going to give you clues to some eight-letter words. Each word contains a doubled letter. Drop that double letter, and the remaining letters in order will spell a six-letter word that answers the second clue. For example, if I said most straitlaced and a Catholic official, you would say primmest and priest because primmest is that eight-letter word. It has a double M in it. Drop the M's, and you're left with priest, which answers the second clue. We all set?

SWEET: Let's go.

SHORTZ: Number one - mussing as feathers and a court decision.

SWEET: Oh, this one is not popping into my head.

SHORTZ: I'll tell you that it ends in an I-N-G. Your first clue is mussing as feathers. And the second clue is court decision. Remember, that's going to have six letters ending I-N-G.

SWEET: Verdict? No.

SHORTZ: Yeah, but it's got to be six letters and end in an I-N-G.

SWEET: I'm drawing a blank.

SHORTZ: Renee, do you have an idea?

MONTAGNE: And I'm no help.

SHORTZ: OK, well then...

MONTAGNE: No. Mussing as feathers.

SHORTZ: Yeah. The answer is ruffling. And get rid of the F's, you're left with ruling, which is a court decision.


SHORTZ: OK, here's your next one. Fill in the blank. Blank column - it's part of a car.

And your second clue is lace, L-A-C-E.

SWEET: Steering and string?

SHORTZ: That's it. Steering and string. Good. The buying and selling of goods. And your second clue is forced to do something.

SWEET: Commerce and coerce.

SHORTZ: Oh, man, that's fast. Good. Now, the last two eight-letter words have two consecutive double letters. Drop all of these to get a four-letter word that answers the second clue. And here's your first one. One sharing living quarters. And your second clue is $79 a night, for example.

SWEET: Roommate and...

SHORTZ: That's it.

SWEET: Room rate?

SHORTZ: Roommate and drop the O's and the M's, and you're left with...

SWEET: Rate.

SHORTZ: Yep, that's it. Good. And here's your last one - doesn't fail.

And your second clue is soapy water.

SWEET: Succeeds and suds.

SHORTZ: Succeeds and suds. Nice job.

MONTAGNE: Wow. I'm sorry. Will, that was a really, really hard puzzle.

SHORTZ: (Laughter) It was really hard.

MONTAGNE: And Phil, when you got them, you just hit them right like boom, boom, boom. Like, I'm really impressed with the ones you got. So thanks very much for playing with us.

SWEET: I enjoyed it. Thank you for the honor.

MONTAGNE: Phil Sweet of Sparta, N.J., for playing our puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games. And you can read all about it at, you listeners. And, Phil, what - you know, I didn't ask you - what's your member station?


MONTAGNE: Phil Sweet of Sparta, N.J., thank you again for joining us. And, Will, I understand you've got a two-week challenge this time around.

SHORTZ: Yes. It comes from Zack Guido, who's the author of the book "Of Course! The Greatest Collection Of Riddles And Brain Teasers For Expanding Your Mind." Write down the equation, 65 minus 43 equals 21.

Now, you'll notice that this is not correct. Sixty-five minus 43 equals 22, not 21. The object is to move exactly two of the digits to create a correct equation. There is no trick in the puzzle's wording. And in the answer, the minus and equal signs stay where they are. So again, 65 minus 43 equals 21. Move exactly two digits to make this equation correct. How can you do it?

MONTAGNE: Well, give it a try. And when you have the answer, go to our website,, and click on the Submit Your Answer link. Just one entry per person, please. Our deadline for entries is in two weeks on Thursday, October 26, at 3 p.m. Eastern. And include a phone number where we can reach you. If you're the winner, we'll give you a call, and you'll 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, Renee.


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