The Sound Of Letters This week's challenge: Every answer consists of two letters of the alphabet that sound like a word or name. Fill in the blanks to get them. For example, if the clue is ___ watermelon, then the answer would be, "C-D" as in seedy watermelon.
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The Sound Of Letters

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The Sound Of Letters

The Sound Of Letters

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From NPR News, this is Weekend Edition. I'm David Greene. And joining us is puzzle master Will Shortz. Hello, Will.

WILL SHORTZ: Hi, David. Welcome to the show.

GREENE: Thank you, I appreciate it. This is my first run at the puzzle. Any tips, advice since you're the expert?

SHORTZ: Well, just the advice is always sit back and do the puzzle just the way you'd do it at home. Shout out at the radio. You know, stay loose.

GREENE: And you're so loose, I understand we caught you doing your dishes today.

SHORTZ: Sixty seconds ago, I was doing my dishes.

GREENE: Is there anything special about the challenge this week and who we're going to be talking to?

SHORTZ: Yeah. I understand that our contestant's wife was the puzzle player exactly three years ago to the week. How's that for a coincidence?

GREENE: So you're going to have to convince people this thing is not totally rigged and that it is very random when we select these people.

SHORTZ: Right. You know, I have nothing to do with this. This is all done in Washington.

GREENE: There you go, blame us. Well, let's get to it. Remind us of the challenge that you left us with last week.

SHORTZ: Yes. It came from listener Louis Sargent of Portland, Oregon. I said take the last name of a famous actress in two syllables, 9 letters. Transpose the syllables, and you'll have, phonetically, the word for a common ailment. Who is the person and what is the ailment?

GREENE: And the answer is?

SHORTZ: Well, the actress is Bernhardt, as in Sarah Bernhardt, the famous stage actress. Transpose those syllables, you get heartburn.

GREENE: Well, that puzzle must have given some of our listeners both heartburn and maybe even a headache because we got fewer correct entries than last week. Just over a thousand sent in the correct answer this time. And from those correct entries, we've randomly selected Whit Morison of Bristol, Virginia, to play our puzzle on the air with us today. Whit, are you there?


GREENE: Excellent. With a name like Whit, you've got to be good at puzzles, I guess.

MORISON: (Laughing) We can hope so.

GREENE: How long did it take you to solve this one?

MORISON: Well, actually, my wife and I, we collaborate. And so she got the majority of this one. It didn't take too long. What's funny is three years ago, I think I helped her on that one. So this is always a group effort.

GREENE: Puzzle team. Did you ever think that you'd both be on at some point?

MORISON: Never did. I mean, we always submit.

GREENE: How long have you been going at this with us?

MORISON: Well, we've actually been submitting since we could do it via email, but we've been listening since the postcard days.

GREENE: It sounds like with that kind of luck, maybe luck is on your side today. So are you ready to go?

MORISON: I'm ready.

GREENE: All right. Well, Whit, meet Will, and let's do it.

MORISON: Hey, Will.

SHORTZ: Hi, Whit and David. Every answer today consists of two letters of the alphabet that sound like a word or name. Fill in the blanks to get them. For example, if I said blank watermelon, you would say C-D, as in seedy watermelon. And I'll give you hints if you need them. The first one is poison blank.


SHORTZ: Poison Ivy is right. Number two is blank Couric.


SHORTZ: Katie Couric is right. Indian blank.

MORISON: Indian...

SHORTZ: It's a dwelling.


SHORTZ: Indian tepee is right. Blank listening.


SHORTZ: Easy listening, good. Radio format. Blank doll, D-O-L-L.

MORISON: Blank...

SHORTZ: Blank...

MORRISON: Barbie doll.

SHORTZ: Blank doll. And it is a toy.


SHORTZ: You know this one, David?

GREENE: Barbie? Kewpie?

SHORTZ: Kewpie is it. Kewpie Doll. Q-P.

GREENE: I have to say someone in our studio told me. I can't take credit for that.


SHORTZ: OK. Try this one, blank calories. And your clue is junk food.

MORISON: High in - empty.

SHORTZ: Empty calories, good.


SHORTZ: Blank DeGeneres.


SHORTZ: Ellen is right. Baked blank, and it's a food. Baked blank.

MORISON: Baked cake - pie.

SHORTZ: It's an Italian food.


SHORTZ: All right, that just might be a name you don't know. Do you know it, David?

GREENE: Eubie?

SHORTZ: Eubie Blake. E-U-B-I-E.

GREENE: My colleague Charla Bear is just doing some serious work in the studio here. That's fantastic.

MORISON: I'm impressed, guys.

SHORTZ: How about this one? 19 blank, and it's a year.

MORISON: Eighty?

SHORTZ: You got it, 80.

MORISON: Eighty, OK.

SHORTZ: You got it. Here's the next one. Daytime blank. And it's the name of an award.


SHORTZ: Daytime Emmy is right. And your last one is blank pie, and it's a term of endearment.


SHORTZ: Cutie pie is it. Good job.

GREENE: Very nice.


GREENE: What's your wife's reaction? Whit, is she there watching this whole thing?

MORISON: No, she's not. I'm actually in my office at work.

GREENE: Well, there you go. If she had been there, if you guys had had the team going, it would have been every single one. But that was impressive.

MORISON: Yes, I helped her.


MORISON: I shouldn't say that. I was there for her when she played.

GREENE: Well, let her know she should have been here for you.

MORISON: Yeah. Actually, well, no, it's OK.

GREENE: All right. And to tell you what you've won, we have our celebrity guest. It's NPR's own Robert Siegel who is walking into the studio as we speak. Hi, Robert.

ROBERT SIEGEL: Hello, David. How are you?

GREENE: I'm well. How are you?

SIEGEL: All right. How are you holding up?

GREENE: I'm hanging in there. Any advice you have, though, let me know.

SIEGEL: Ah, I think this is the only hosting shift where Will Shortz puts questions to you and puzzles you in the middle of the job. It seems more challenging than my work.


GREENE: It might be.

SIEGEL: Hi, Will. How are you?

SHORTZ: Hi there. Good, good.

SIEGEL: I think David's doing a knockout job here. And I like the way especially, David, when you're confronted with fishy coincidence that Whit Morison's wife had done the puzzle three years ago, you addressed that with just enough skepticism so that in case it's a total fraud you were on to it...

GREENE: I appreciate that...

SIEGEL: But not so much as to offend them. And I think if you can get that down, that gear down, you're home free as a host.

GREENE: On-air praise from Robert Siegel. I'm writing the check to you as we speak. And I will hand it to you as you leave the studio.


GREENE: So you have some prizes that you're going to tell us about.

SIEGEL: I do. I - this just handed me. Hi, Whit. How are you?

MORISON: I'm well, thank you. How are you?

SIEGEL: Fine. And for playing our puzzle today, you will get a Weekend Edition lapel pin, the Eleventh Edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus, the Scrabble Deluxe Edition from Parker Brothers, "The Puzzlemaster Presents" from Random House, volume two, Will Shortz's latest book series, " Will Shortz Presents KenKen" volumes one, two and three from St. Martin's Press, and one of Will Shortz's "Puzzlemaster Decks" of riddles and challenges from Chronicle Books.

GREENE: Whit, did those sound familiar? Because we've looked back. Those sound like some of the very things that your wife got. So, you might be doubling up at home.

MORISON: Some are. Some are new. So that's OK.

GREENE: If you need to unload any of them, I'll give you my name and address. You're more than welcome to - I love Scrabble, so send them my way.

MORISON: (Unintelligible) if we can do that.


GREENE: Whit, you did a great job. Just before we let you go, what member station do you listen to down in Virginia?

MORISON: We are members of WETS out of Johnson City.

GREENE: Fantastic. Whit Morison of Bristol, Virginia, thank you again for playing the puzzle with us. You were great.

MORISON: Well, thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

GREENE: And Robert Siegel is still here, host of All Things Considered. You weren't so bad yourself.


GREENE: Have you done this puzzle thing before?

SIEGEL: No, I've never done the puzzle thing with Will before, but I thought you did admirably. When you instead of a kewpie doll tried Barbie doll, I didn't know that BAR was a letter in the alphabet.


SIEGEL: But, it's OK with me.

GREENE: Will, anything for Robert Siegel before we let him go?

SHORTZ: No. Just a big fan. I listen.

GREENE: OK. Before we go, Will, you've got a challenge for us for next week.

SHORTZ: Yes. Take a very common three-letter word. Say the letters phonetically, and together they'll sound like a six-letter word meaning knockout. What is it? So, again, a very common three-letter word, say the letters phonetically and together they'll sound like a six-letter word meaning knockout. What word is it?

GREENE: Well, I'm sure we'll get a lot of knockout answers. And when you have the answer, go to our Web site,, and click on the "Submit your Answer" link. There is only one entry per person, please. And our deadline this week, listen up, is Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. And please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time, and we're going to call if you're the winner. You'll get to play puzzle on the air with the puzzle editor of the New York Times and Weekend Edition's own puzzle master, Will Shortz. Will, thank you.

SHORTZ: Thanks a lot, David.

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