Sunday Puzzle: It Doesn't Take A Know-It-All To Play This Game NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro and New York Times crosswords editor Will Shortz play this week's puzzle with Michael Holmes of North Potomac, Md.
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Sunday Puzzle: It Doesn't Take A Know-It-All To Play This Game

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Sunday Puzzle: It Doesn't Take A Know-It-All To Play This Game

Sunday Puzzle: It Doesn't Take A Know-It-All To Play This Game

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/560492280/560660202" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

With Halloween around the corner, it's time for WEEKEND EDITION's weekly treat. Or should I say weekly trick? It's, of course, The Puzzle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Joining me as always is Will Shortz. He's puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master.

Hey, Will. Good morning.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu. Welcome back.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you. Good to be back. I hear that you are also back. You've just returned from the 2017 World Puzzle Championships in India. How did the U.S. do?

SHORTZ: We did well. There were two championships, actually - first, the World Sudoku Championship - the U.S. team finished fourth. And we finished second in the World Puzzle Championship, just behind Japan.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's respectable.

SHORTZ: And Japan is so powerful in puzzle solving.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Go Team USA. Good job.

SHORTZ: We did great.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Well, it's good to have you back, as well. Will, remind us of our two-week challenge.

SHORTZ: Yeah, it came from Zack Guido, who's the author of the book "Of Course! The Greatest Collection Of Riddles And Brainteasers For Expanding Your Mind." And when he gave this to me, and I - it took me about 15 minutes to solve it, and I thought it was brilliant - I said, write down the equation 65 minus 43 equals 21. And you'll notice that this is not correct. Sixty-five minus 43 equals 22, not 21. And the object is to move exactly two of the digits to create a correct equation. Well, the answer is 65 minus 4 cubed - you simply move the three up - equals 1 squared. And so it involves exponents. I just thought that was clever.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow. This week, we received roughly 800 correct answers. I didn't even understand the question, I have to say. Our randomly selected winner is Mike Holmes of North Potomac, Md. - just up the road from here. Congratulations.

MIKE HOLMES: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How did you come up with the answer to this one?

HOLMES: Well, first I had to eliminate sort of the obvious answer, which is that you just swapped two numbers. And I used a spreadsheet for that. I also considered the possibility that you flip the six to make it a 9, which gives you 16 more possibilities. And none of them work. So then I thought of exponents. I found out pretty quickly after that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you do, may I ask, that you have a spreadsheet talent to be able to solve puzzles?

HOLMES: Well, I'm a retired software engineer. Yeah, I did work a fair amount with spreadsheets.

SHORTZ: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's all coming together now. All right. Well, you won't have time to set up a spreadsheet for this one, but I'm sure you'll do great. Mike, are you ready to play the puzzle?

HOLMES: I hope so. We'll find out.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Take it away, Will.

SHORTZ: All right. Mike, every answer today is a word with two hyphens, like out-of-date or hand-me-downs, in which the part in the middle has exactly two letters. Answer the clues. Here's number one. A carousel.

HOLMES: Merry-go-round.

SHORTZ: Merry-go-round is it. Number two, an officer during a meeting who stands near the door.

HOLMES: Sergeant-at-arms.

SHORTZ: That's it. A basic piece of lumber.

HOLMES: Two-by-four.

SHORTZ: That's it. A street that's a dead end.

HOLMES: Cul-de-sac.

SHORTZ: Uh-huh. A relative of one's spouse who is stereotypically hard to get along with.

HOLMES: Mother-in-law.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Father-in-law (laughter).

SHORTZ: Either one.

(LAUGHTER)

SHORTZ: A smarty pants or a person who pretends to have all the answers.

HOLMES: A know-it-all.

SHORTZ: Uh-huh. The state flower of Alaska, whose name suggests you'll always remember it.

HOLMES: Forget-me-not.

SHORTZ: That's it. Try this. The French named for blackjack, which translates as 21.

HOLMES: French name for blackjack. Vingt-et-un.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, good job.

SHORTZ: There you go. Vingt-et-un. Good. Decorative symbol with a French name.

HOLMES: Fleur-de-lis.

SHORTZ: Oh, good. Basic kind of knot used to tie a necktie. And the first part of this answer is a number.

HOLMES: It's a kind of knot.

SHORTZ: And it starts with a number after three.

HOLMES: No, I'm not a necktie guy. So what could I say?

SHORTZ: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Neither am I, as it happens.

SHORTZ: I'll just tell you. It's a four-in-hand.

HOLMES: Four-in-hand. Yeah.

SHORTZ: You know that? A four-in-hand?

HOLMES: No. No.

SHORTZ: OK. How about a person who is lazy and irresponsible? And the first part is a word that has an apostrophe in it.

HOLMES: Oh, a ne'er-do-well.

SHORTZ: Ne'er-do-well. Good job. And here's your last one. Relatively affluent.

HOLMES: Relatively affluent. Well-to-do.

SHORTZ: Well-to-do. Good job.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was really, really great.

HOLMES: Well, thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, you - I mean, do you speak French?

HOLMES: I took my - I can't say that I speak it. I took French in high school.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Well, you've - your pronunciation was good, and you got all the surprisingly many answers that required some knowledge of French. For playing our puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, as well as puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at npr.org/puzzle. Mike, what member station do you listen to?

HOLMES: I listen to WAMU in Washington, D.C.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mike Holmes of North Potomac, Md., thank you so much for playing the puzzle.

HOLMES: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Will, what's next week's challenge?

SHORTZ: Yeah, it's a challenge that sounds easy, but it's actually a little tricky. Name a well-known nationality. Drop a letter, and the remaining letters in order will name a metal - one of the elements on the periodic table. What is it? So again, a well-known nationality. It's one that's with millions of people, and it's also the name of their language. Drop a letter, and the remaining letters in order will name a metal - one of the elements on the periodic table. What is it?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: 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. Our deadline for entries is Thursday, November 2 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And 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 very own puzzle master, Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thank you, Lulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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