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Finish This Puzzle, And You'll Be Just Like Overachievers: You Both Exceed

Apr 24, 2016

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in "X" and the second starts with "C" (as in XC, the Roman numeral for 90). A friend of mine recently turned 90, and I made this as a birthday gift.

For example: Tailless feline --> MANX CAT.

Last week's challenge, from Sandy Weisz of Chicago: Take the name of a famous musical. Write it in upper- and lowercase letters, as you usually would.

Now, turn one of the characters upside-down and move it to another place in the title. The result will be the last name of a well-known stage performer. What is the musical, and who is the performer?

Answer: Oliver! --> Olivier.

Winner: Ernie Scheuer of Los Angeles, Calif.

Next week's Name a famous singer — first and last names. The last four letters of the first name spelled backward plus the first four letters of the last name spelled forward ... read together, in order, name a section of products in a drugstore. What is it?

Submit Your Answer

If you know the answer to next week's challenge, submit it here. Listeners who submit correct answers win a chance to play the on-air puzzle. Important: Include a phone number where we can reach you Thursday, April 28, at 3 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Joining me now is Will Shortz, puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. Hey, Will, good morning.

WILL SHORTZ: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's just kick it off. Remind us of last week's challenge.

SHORTZ: Yeah, it came from listener Sandy Weisz in Chicago. I said, take the name of a famous musical. Write it in upper and lowercase letters, as you usually would. I said, turn one of the characters upside-down and move it to a different place in the title. The result will be the last name of a well-known stage performer. What's the musical, and who's the performer?

Well, the musical is "Oliver!" - O, L, I, V, E, R. That's spelled with an exclamation point. And the puzzle was carefully worded. I didn't say turn a letter over - I said turn a character over. If you invert the exclamation point and stick it between V and the E, you get Olivier, as in Laurence.

MARTIN: That is tricky. So we got over 200 correct answers to this one. And our randomly selected winner is Ernie Scheuer of Los Angeles, Calif. He's on the line now. Hey, Ernie, congratulations.

ERNIE SCHEUER: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: Did this one come pretty quickly to you?

SCHEUER: Yes. I looked at a list of musicals. And as Will just said, the word in the description of the puzzle was character, not letter. So when I saw the exclamation point, that came to me immediately.

MARTIN: Well done, Ernie - well done. And have you been playing the puzzle a long time?

SCHEUER: Years - decades - I don't know how long.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Years, decades...

SCHEUER: I enter virtually every Sunday.

MARTIN: And I understand that this is not the first time you have had some kind of correspondence with our own Will Shortz.

SCHEUER: (Laughter) Yes, many years ago, there was a puzzle. Give a title for a lady, remove the first and last letter, and read the result backwards. And you'll get another title for a lady. Well, I got the answer very quickly - baroness - and reading it backwards, it's supposed to be senora. I studied Spanish a little bit, and I know that the N of Spanish is not the same as the N of the regular alphabet. So I spoke to that point. And I think Will responded and said, well, that was the convention.

MARTIN: Will, do you remember that?

SHORTZ: I do remember that.

MARTIN: Oh, you do.

SHORTZ: I get letters on this all the time. And it usually comes up with the word ano in crossword - A, N, O. And without the tilde, A, N, O means something quite different in Spanish, and not very nice.

MARTIN: Oh, (laughter) OK, then.

SHORTZ: But we do it anyway. It's convention.

MARTIN: Because you're the puzzle master, Will Shortz, and you get to make your own rules.

SHORTZ: That's right.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK, so Ernie, are you ready to play the puzzle?

SCHEUER: I am.

MARTIN: All right, well, let's do it.

SHORTZ: All right, Ernie and Rachel, every answer today is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in X and the second start with C - as in XC, the Roman numeral for 90. And a friend of mine recently turned 90, and I made this as a birthday gift.

MARTIN: Was it the queen?

(LAUGHTER)

SHORTZ: Interesting - it was my personal friend.

MARTIN: (Laughter) I don't know. You run in really elite crowds. I'm guessing not that.

SHORTZ: Yeah, not.

MARTIN: OK - I digress. Let's go.

SHORTZ: For example, if I said tailless feline, you would say Manx cat.

MARTIN: OK.

SHORTZ: All right, number one - Iowa's fourth-largest metropolis. It's named for a Native American tribe.

SCHEUER: Sioux City.

SHORTZ: That's right. Number two - a rude sound made by sticking the tongue out and blowing.

SCHEUER: Bronx cheer.

SHORTZ: A General Mills product that has a silly wabbit spokesanimal (ph).

SCHEUER: Trix cereal.

SHORTZ: Something with a wick.

SCHEUER: Something candle.

SHORTZ: What's a candle made of?

SCHEUER: Wax candle.

SHORTZ: Wax candle's it. Greek or Russian religious institution.

SCHEUER: Something church.

SHORTZ: Yes. They might call it Greek blank or Russian blank.

SCHEUER: Orthodox Church.

SHORTZ: That's it. Here's your next one - facsimile of a letter or other paper document.

SCHEUER: Xerox copy.

SHORTZ: That's it. Where to catch "The Simpsons" or "American Idol."

SCHEUER: FX Channel - something channel.

MARTIN: Stick a vowel between that.

SCHEUER: Oh, Fox Channel

MARTIN: Yeah.

SHORTZ: Fox Channel is it. And here's your last one - one to whom you send money for the government.

SCHEUER: Tax collector.

SHORTZ: Tax collector's is it.

MARTIN: Tax - why do you have to end it on such a downer note?

SHORTZ: A down note.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Ernie, well done. That was a very good effort. For playing the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and puzzle books and games. You can check out your prizes at npr.org/puzzle. And before we let you go, Ernie, what's your public radio station?

SCHEUER: I listen to both KCRW and KPCC.

MARTIN: Both in Los Angeles - Ernie Scheuer of Los Angeles, Calif. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, Ernie.

SCHEUER: My pleasure. Thank you.

MARTIN: OK, well, what's up for next week?

SHORTZ: Yes. Name a famous singer - first and last names. The last four letters of the first name spelled backward, plus the first four letters of the last name spelled forward, read together in order, name a section of products in a drugstore. What is it?

So again, famous singer, first and last names. The last four letters of the first name spelled backward plus the first four letters of the last name spelled forward together name a section of products in a drugstore. What is it?

MARTIN: When you've figured it out, go to npr.org/puzzle. Click on the submit your answer link. Just one entry per person, please. And the deadline for those entries is Thursday, April 28, at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time because then if you win, then we call you. And you get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times. And he is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.