Playing at Sixes and Sevens Puzzle master Will Shortz quizzes one of our listeners, and has a challenge for everyone at home. This week's winner is Eric Feit of Burbank, Calif.
NPR logo

Playing at Sixes and Sevens

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

Playing at Sixes and Sevens

  • 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 Noah Adams sitting in for Liane Hansen, and happily so because joining us now is puzzle master Will Shortz, and I get to meet him, at least by long distance. Hi, Mr. Shortz.

Mr. WILL SHORTZ (Puzzle Master): Hi, Noah. Nice to meet you.

ADAMS: How you doing?

Mr. SHORTZ: I'm doing great. And before we begin the puzzle, I have to do a correction on something I said last week. One of my answers in the puzzle was argon and the clue was gaseous element, element number 18, and the solver didn't get it immediately. So I added a helpful hint off the top of my head.

ADAMS: Right.

Mr. SHORTZ: I said a dangerous gas to seep into your basement, and that's radon that gets into your basement, not argon.

ADAMS: Of course.

Mr. SHORTZ: So I'm sorry about that.

ADAMS: Okay. Well, thanks for that reminder. Remind us now of the challenge that you left us with last week.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes, it was a straightforward puzzle. I said in most words containing the letter O between to consonants, the O is pronounced as either a long O or a short O. I said can you name a common word in which O appears between two consonants and the O is pronounced like a short I?

ADAMS: Give us an example of what a short I sounds like.

Mr. SHORTZ: I, like pit or big.

ADAMS: Okay. And the answer?

Mr. SHORTZ: Well, the answer is women. We had a lot of people, a lot of alternative answers: cinnamon, pivot, parrot, ribbon, common, havoc and cotton. But in all those cases, according to the dictionary, the O is a schwa. That's sort of an unstressed vowel sound. So it's not a short I. It's sort of an uh, unstressed sound. So the only legitimate answer I know of is women.

ADAMS: We had over 1,600 entries from people who tried to solve the puzzle. Our winner, randomly selected from the correct answers, is Eric Feit from Burbank, California. Hi, Mr. Feit.

Mr. ERIC FEIT (Caller): How do you do?

ADAMS: Now, you mentioned in your communication that your father actually used to try and stump your family with puzzles very similar to this one. Tell us about that.

Mr. FEIT: Well, he used to say, how do you spell fish? And of course, we as kids would go F-I-S-H and he'd say, no, it's P-H-O-T-I. And we kind of went, huh? He said, of course. It's PH as in philosophy, O as in women and TI as in revolution: fish.

ADAMS: That's right. So you had a head start on this last week's challenge.

Mr. FEIT: I knew right away. I didn't have to think.

ADAMS: What a complicated way to grow up. And in Burbank, California, your occupation?

Mr. FEIT: I'm a physician.

ADAMS: A doctor. How long you been playing the puzzle?

Mr. FEIT: Years.

ADAMS: A correlation between medical science and puzzle crafting and solving?

Mr. SHORTZ: I bet you're a pretty good. If you're diagnosing patients, then you're solving puzzles.

Mr. FEIT: That's the puzzle I play every day, absolutely.

ADAMS: Ready to play with us?

Mr. FEIT: Yes.

ADAMS: Okay. Let's start. Will?

Mr. SHORTZ: All right, Eric and Noah. Today's puzzle is called At Sixes and Sevens, which is an old expression meaning confused or in a mess. I'm going to give you a six-letter word and a seven-letter word. Rearrange the letters of the six-letter word to get a synonym of the seven-letter one. For example, if I said pierce, P-I-E-R-C-E, and formula, you would say recipe. Recipe is an anagram of pierce and it means formula.

Mr. FEIT: Okay.

Mr. SHORTZ: All right. Number one is strait, S-T-R-A-I-T, and it's a synonym of painter.

Mr. FEIT: Artist.

Mr. SHORTZ: Artist is right.

ADAMS: Good.

Mr. SHORTZ: Number two is credit, C-R-E-D-I-T, and it means oversee, to oversee.

Mr. FEIT: Direct.

Mr. SHORTZ: Direct is right. Tagged, T-A-G-G-E-D, and it means thingy.

ADAMS: Thingy?

Mr. SHORTZ: Uh-huh.

Mr. FEIT: A thingy? Hmm.

ADAMS: Doctors don't deal with thingies. A thingy? Oh, I know.

Mr. SHORTZ: Go ahead.

ADAMS: Gadget.

Mr. SHORTZ: Gadget is right. Good job. Try this one. Co-heir, C-O-H-E-I-R, and it means valiant.

Mr. FEIT: Heroic.

Mr. SHORTZ: Heroic is right. Iceman, I-C-E-M-A-N, and it means theater.

Mr. SHORTZ: Theater.

ADAMS: Theater, theater.

Mr. FEIT: Cinema.

Mr. SHORTZ: Cinema is right.

ADAMS: Very good.

Mr. SHORTZ: Ashore, A-S-H-O-R-E, and it means rasping.

Mr. FEIT: Hoarse.

Mr. SHORTZ: Hoarse is right. Sunlit, S-U-N-L-I-T, and it means affront. You give someone an affront, you give them...

Mr. FEIT: Insult.

Mr. SHORTZ: Insult is right. Meteor, M-E-T-E-O-R, and it means distant, like a...

Mr. FEIT: Remote.

Mr. SHORTZ: Remote is right. Impure, I-M-P-U-R-E, and it means arbiter.

Mr. FEIT: Umpire.

Mr. SHORTZ: Umpire. Good job. And here's your last one. Rooter, R-O-O-T-E-R, and it means matador. What's the name of that guy in the bullring with the bull?

ADAMS: Toreador?

Mr. SHORTZ: Well, you got the start right. It's torero.

ADAMS: Torero.

Mr. FEIT: Torero.


Mr. SHORTZ: Nice job. You worked together.

ADAMS: Hey, Eric. That was great. I think I could have gotten a lot of those but it would have taken be about an hour, that you got. That was very good.

Mr. FEIT: Thank you.

ADAMS: And for playing the puzzle today you'll get a Weekend Edition lapel pin; the 11th Edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus; the Scrabble Deluxe Edition from Parker Brothers - this is all coming to you - The Puzzle Master Presents from Random House, Volume 2; Wordplay - this is the official companion book to the movie featuring Will Shortz - from St. Martins Press; and one of Will Shortz's Puzzle Master Decks of Riddles and Challenges from Chronicle Books. That's all coming...

Mr. Feit: Wow.

ADAMS: media mail we assume. Eric, what number station do you listen to out there?

Mr. Feit: Both KPCC and KCRW.

ADAMS: KCRW in Santa Monica, KPCC from Pasadena, California. Eric Feit from Burbank, thanks for playing the puzzle with us.

Mr. Feit: Thank you so much.

ADAMS: And Will, the challenge for next week?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes. This week's challenge comes from listener Henry Hook of Brooklyn. He's one the country's top puzzle makers. Think of a seven-letter word that names a certain implement with a sharp point, reverse the order of the second, third, fourth and fifth letters in this word, leaving the other three letters in place. The result will name a popular TV series, and this series has other types of sharp implements in use. So again, a seven-letter word for a certain implement with a sharp point, reverse the order of the second through fifth letters, leaving the other three in place. The result will name a popular TV series that has other types of sharp implements in use. What TV series is it?

ADAMS: When you have the answer, go to the Web site,, click on the Submit Your Answer link on the Sunday puzzle page. Only one entry per person, please. The deadline this week is Thursday at 3:00 p.m. That's Eastern Time. Please include a telephone number where we can call you at about that time and we'll phone if you are 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 puzzle master, Will Shortz. Thank you, Will. I enjoyed it.

Mr. SHORTZ: Thanks, Noah.

Copyright © 2006 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.