Take One Letter Away, And Here's A Puzzle To Marry Two Words All Day

Feb 14, 2016
Originally published on February 18, 2016 9:55 am

On-air challenge: Change one letter of each word and rearrange the result to get a new word that can follow it, to complete a common two-word phrase.

For example: FALL ... changing one of the L's to a T --> FLAT: Fall Flat.

Last week's challenge, based on an idea by listener Jon Herman: If PAJAMA represents first, and REBUKE represents second, what nine-letter word can represent third? There are two possible answers, one common and one not so common. Either one will be counted correct.

Answer: A nine-letter word representing "third" would be SCOLIOSIS (or, less commonly, SILICOSIS).

Winner: Joe DeVincentis of Salem, Mass.

Next week's challenge: Name something to eat. Change one letter in it and rearrange the result. You'll name the person who makes this food. Who 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, Feb. 18, at 3 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


It is Valentine's Day, the most romantic day of the year. So let's celebrate love the way lovers do - with the puzzle.


MARTIN: Joining me now is Will Shortz, puzzle editor of The New York Times, WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. Good morning, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. You know, I've heard about couples solving the puzzle together in bed. So...

MARTIN: Whoa, really?

SHORTZ: ...It can be romantic.

MARTIN: It can be romantic? Hmm, I can't say that's something I've ever done.

SHORTZ: (Laughter).

MARTIN: But you know, who am I to judge what is romance and what is not?

Remind us. What was last week's challenge?

SHORTZ: Yes. Well, you remember several weeks ago, I said my challenge puzzle may be one of the hardest challenges I've ever given...


SHORTZ: ...and it turned out not to be? More than 1,000 people got it. Last Sunday's challenge was that tough one. The answer involved the classic telephone dial. The first letters of the trio contains the letters of pajama. The second letters of those trios contain the letters of rebuke. And the third letters in the trios could stand for scoliosis or silicosis. Those are the two answers I had in mind.

MARTIN: (Laughter) This is so confusing. I'm trying to wrap my brain around it.

SHORTZ: (Laughter).

MARTIN: OK. This was really hard. We only got 32 correct answers. Our winner is Joe DeVincentis of Salem, Mass. He's on the line now.

Joe, well done.


MARTIN: I will cop to not even really grasping the puzzle. So how in the world did you solve it?

DEVINCENTIS: So the first thing was I noticed that pajama, the word representing first, had always these A's in it. And then I looked at rebuke and I was, like, oh - rebuke is second, and it has a B in it. After I thought about that a little more, that's when I came up the idea that they were the letters on the telephone.

MARTIN: That never would have occurred to me.

DEVINCENTIS: So those are the first, second - we're talking about the first, second and third letters on each telephone key.

MARTIN: So I have a little bit of intelligence that you two know each other? Joe and Will, you guys have met before?


SHORTZ: We do. Joe is a member of the National Puzzlers' League, so I see him at the annual convention.

MARTIN: Well, then, of course you're not surprisingly that he got this really hard puzzle.

SHORTZ: Well, it takes a brilliant person to solve this, and Joe meets that definition.

MARTIN: No pressure, Joe. So now you have to pull off the Sunday puzzle. Are you ready to do that?


MARTIN: Sure. Why not? OK, Will, what do you have?

SHORTZ: All right, Joe - and Rachel. I'm going to give you a word. Change one letter in it and rearrange the result to get a new word that can follow mine to complete a common two-word phrase. For example, if I said fall, F-A-L-L, changing one of the L's to a T, you would say flat. You would change one of the L's of fall to a T, rearrange the result and you'd get flat, as in fall flat.


SHORTZ: All right.

MARTIN: OK. Let's give it a go.

SHORTZ: Number one is rush, R-U-S-H, changing the S to an O.


SHORTZ: Rush hour is right.

Number two is pore, P-O-R-E, changing the P to a V.


SHORTZ: That's right. Pore over.

Now, I have a feeling you don't need the second half of this hint.

DEVINCENTIS: (Laughter).

MARTIN: I do. Make it harder for Joe. Come on.

SHORTZ: Here's the next one. Long, L-O-N-G, changing the L.


SHORTZ: Long gone is right - to an E, that's right.

Worn, W-O-R-N, changing the R.


SHORTZ: Worn down. Mixed, M-I-X-E-D, changing the X.


SHORTZ: Mixed media's right.

Edgar, E-D-G-A-R, changing the R. And you're looking for a famous person here.

DEVINCENTIS: Yeah, I figured that.

SHORTZ: And think artist.


SHORTZ: Edgar Degas is right.

Metal, M-E-T-A-L, changing the M.

Changing the M to a P.


SHORTZ: Metal plate.

And here's your last one - equal, E-Q-U-A-L, changing the Q.

DEVINCENTIS: Of course changing the Q.

SHORTZ: (Laughter).

And you're changing the Q to a V.


SHORTZ: Equal value. Man, oh, man. That was great.

MARTIN: That was amazing. So for playing the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and all kinds of puzzle books and games. And you can read all about your prizes at npr.org/puzzle. Before we let you go, Joe, how do you listen to us?

DEVINCENTIS: Usually on the Internet.

MARTIN: I love the Internet. That's awesome.

Joe DeVincentis of Salem, Mass. Thanks for playing the puzzle, Joe.

DEVINCENTIS: You're welcome.

MARTIN: OK, Will. What's up for next week?

SHORTZ: Yes. After my killer puzzle last week, here's one that's a lot easier.

MARTIN: Oh, good.

SHORTZ: Name something to eat. Change one letter in it, and rearrange the result. You'll name the person who makes this thing. What is it?

SHORTZ: So again - something to eat, change one letter in it, and rearrange the result. You'll name the person who makes this thing. What is it? And who is it?

MARTIN: You know what to do. Get the answer. Go to our website. It's npr.org/puzzle. Click on the submit your answer link. Just one entry person, please. Get those entries in by Thursday, February 18 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget to include your phone number or at least a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you're the winner, then we'll give you call, and you'll get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.




MARTIN: I mean, we usually applaud. I don't even know what to do.

SHORTZ: We're bowing. We're bowing.

MARTIN: We're bowing. Yeah, we're bowing. Joe, that was amazing.

DEVINCENTIS: Thanks. I solved your puzzle already.

MARTIN: Now you're just showing off, Joe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.