Compounding the 'O' Sounds Puzzle master Will Shortz quizzes one of our listeners, and has a challenge for everyone at home. This week's participant is George Steinberg of Flushing, N.Y.
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Compounding the 'O' Sounds

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Compounding the 'O' Sounds

Compounding the 'O' Sounds

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm John Ydstie sitting in for Liane Hansen. And joining us is puzzle master Will Shortz. Hi, Will.

Mr. WILL SHORTZ (Puzzle Master): Hi, John. Welcome back to the show.

YDSTIE: Thanks very much, nice to be here. Always fun to do the puzzle with you. I understand, Will, that you've got something of particular interest to puzzle fans coming out on Tuesday.

Mr. SHORTZ: Right, on Election Day. It's the DVD release of Wordplay, the movie that played in theaters this past summer. And it's got lots of extras. There's more interviews with Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart and the other celebrities in the film. Patrick Creadon, the director, Merl Reagle, the crossword constructor, and I discuss the film as we watch it together; and then there are five of the best New York Times crosswords of all time come with the package, and each of the constructors of these puzzles is interviewed in the movie.

YDSTIE: Yeah, sounds like a lot of fun, and we won't have to watch any more political ads after Tuesday, so we can sit down and enjoy the DVD.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right.

YDSTIE: So Will, remind us of the challenge that you left us with, with last week's puzzle.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes, it came from listener David Rosen of Bethesda, Maryland. I said name a well-known writer of the 20th century, now deceased. It's the author of bestselling non-fiction. Six letters in the first name, six in the last. Remove the letter C somewhere from this name. The remaining letters can be rearranged to name a famous fictional detective: four, seven. Who is it?

YDSTIE: And the answer is?

Mr. SHORTZ: The writer is Rachel Carson. Remove the C and scramble, you get Nora Charles.

YDSTIE: Right, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring and sort of the founder of the modern environmental movement; and Nora Charles, a character in The Thin Man, a Dashiell Hammett novel.

Mr. SHORTZ: The Thin Man movies, right.

YDSTIE: And the movies that came afterwards, right.

Mr. SHORTZ: We had over 300 entries from people who tried to solve the puzzle, and our randomly selected winner is George Steinberg from Flushing, New York. He's on the line now. Hi, George.


YDSTIE: Welcomes to the program.

Mr. STEINBERG: Thank you very much.

YDSTIE: What do you do up there in Flushing, New York?

Mr. STEINBERG: I'm a mainframe computer programmer.

YDSTIE: Ah, so you're adept at solving puzzles.

Mr. STEINBERG: Yes. I usually do them - Will's puzzles lying in bed or in the shower.

YDSTIE: And how long have you been doing them?

Mr. STEINBERG: Over 10 years.

YDSTIE: And are you ready to play?

Mr. STEINBERG: Yes, I am.

YDSTIE: Okay, Will, meet George.

Mr. SHORTZ: All right, George - and John. Every answer today is a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase in which each half is a single syllable with a short O sound. For example, if I get you the clue, in tennis, a ball hit softly just over the net, you would say drop shot. All right?


YDSTIE: All right.

Mr. SHORTZ: Number one is a car in a drag race.

Mr. STEINBERG: Hot rod.

Mr. SHORTZ: Hot rod is right. Number two, children's game on a sidewalk.

Mr. STEINBERG: Hopscotch.

Mr. SHORTZ: Uh-huh. An uneven number of shares of stock.

Mr. STEINBERG: Odd lot.

Mr. SHORTZ: Right. A 1950's high school dance held in a gym.

Mr. STEINBERG: A sock hop.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right. A 24-second timer in the NBA.

Mr. STEINBERG: Shot clock.

Mr. SHORTZ: Right. Radio host who says outrageous things on the air.

Mr. STEINBERG: Oh, shock jock.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right. A place to pawn goods, in slang.

Mr. STEINBERG: Hot shop?

Mr. SHORTZ: Uh-huh. A secure place, as Al Gore once promised for Social Security funds.

Mr. STEINBERG: A lockbox.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right. A protective sheet that painters put over furniture or the floor.

Mr. STEINBERG: Drop cloth?

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right. A light, Top 40 music genre.

Mr. STEINBERG: Oh, something pop.

Mr. SHORTZ: Pop is the first part, pop blank. What's a little harder than pop?

YDSTIE: You're thinking too hard, George.

Mr. STEINBERG: You're right, I'm thinking too hard. I can't get it.

YDSTIE: Pop rock, probably.

Mr. SHORTZ: Pop rock, good. Good, good.

Mr. SHORTZ: Nickname for any of the Beatles, referring to their hair.

Mr. STEINBERG: Oh, mop top.

Mr. SHORTZ: Mop top is right. Co-star of the Andy Griffith show.

Mr. STEINBERG: Don Knotts.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right. Alka-Seltzer sound before fizz-fizz.

Mr. STEINBERG: Plop-plop.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right. Words preceding who's there in a joke.

Mr. STEINBERG: Knock-knock.

Mr. SHORTZ: Uh-huh. Kind of soup in a Chinese restaurant.

Mr. STEINBERG: Wonton.

Mr. SHORTZ: Right. An electric slow-cooker.

Mr. STEINBERG: Crock pot.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right, and your last one: first-rate or A number one.

Mr. STEINBERG: Top notch.

Mr. SHORTZ: Top notch, good job.

YDSTIE: All right, George, great job. You were thinking too hard on the pop rock thing, though.

Mr. STEINBERG: Yes, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

YDSTIE: But I want to thank Will for making the puzzle one that I could actually keep up with today, just my speed of puzzle.

Mr. SHORTZ: Nice, thanks.

Mr. STEINBERG: I appreciate that, too.

YDSTIE: Well, George, for playing our 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; The Puzzle Master Presents from Random House, Volume 2; a set of Sudoku puzzle books presented by Will Shortz from St. Martin's Press; and one of Will's Puzzle Master Decks of Riddles and Challenges from Chronicle Books. George, what member station do you listen to up there in Flushing?


YDSTIE: All right. Great station up there. George Steinberg from Flushing, New York, thanks for playing the puzzle with us.

Mr. STEINBERG: Thank you very much.

YDSTIE: Now Will, what's the challenge for next week?

Mr. SHORTZ: Well, take the word lather, L-A-T-H-E-R. Rearrange these letters and repeat them as often as necessary to name a famous literary work in 16 letters. What is it? And I'll give you a hint. The title of this literary work has three words, one of which is hyphenated. So again lather, L-A-T-H-E-R. Rearrange these letters and repeat them as often as necessary to name a famous literary work in 16 letters. The title consists of three words, one of them hyphenated. Name this famous literary work.

YDSTIE: When you have the answer to that riddle, go to our Web site,, and click on the Submit Your Answer link on the Sunday Puzzle page. Only one entry per person, please. Our deadline this week is Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. We'll call 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 puzzle master, Will Shortz. Thanks a lot, Will.

Mr. SHORTZ: Thanks, John.

(Soundbite of music)

YDSTIE: Don't forget, you'll never miss the puzzle if you download the podcast. Just go to

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