Will Shortz

On-air challenge: Today I've brought a game of categories based on the word COMBS. You probably know how this works. I'm going to give you a series of categories. For each one, name something in it starting with each of the letters C-O-M-B-S.

For example, if the category were "Three-Syllable Boys' Names," you might say Christopher, Oliver, Mathias, Benjamin and Sebastian. Any answer that works is fine, and you can give the answers in any order.

1. Musical instruments

2. Cities in Florida

3. Wild mammals in America

On-air challenge: The theme of today's puzzle is giving. I'm going to give you two words. You give each of them a letter — the same letter for each word — in order to complete a familiar two-word phrase.

On-air challenge: Every answer is an anagram of a geographical feature.

For example: PACE --> CAPE.

1. KALE
2. SAME
3. LIES
4. SPAS
5. ROOM
6. ALLOT
7. DEALT
8. CANOE
9. HARMS
10. DIRGE
11. LAPIN
12. RESTED
13. MASTER
14. ARTIST
15. SOFTER
16. NO GOAL
17. SECTIONAL
18. REAL FORCE (2 words)

On-air challenge: We're in the merry month of December. Every answer this week is a two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts DE- and the second word starts C.

For example: Underwater explosive device --> depth charge.

Last week's challenge: This challenge may sound impossible, but there's a good answer. Think of a common two-word phrase, in seven letters, that has two R's in the middle. And "in the middle," means exactly in the middle. What phrase is it?

On-air challenge: Insert the letters A and R into the middle of the first clue to get the answer to the second clue. For example, when given the clues "small argument" and "a tax on imports," the answer would be "tiff" and "tariff."

Last week's challenge, from Ken Stern of Brooklyn, N.Y.: Think of a sign that's frequently seen around this time of year — two words of four letters each. Among these eight letters all five vowels — A, E, I, O and U — appear once each, along with three consonants. What sign is it?

On-air challenge: I'm going to name some categories. For each one, I'll name something in the category that closely follows the name of the category alphabetically.

For example, "states" and "Texas." You tell me the only other thing in the category that fits between these two things alphabetically. In the case of my example, you would say "Tennessee."

On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is called "SuperPACs." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with PA- and the second word starts with C.

For example: Official who oversees a city's green spaces --> PARKS COMMISSIONER.

These Letters Don't LI

Oct 9, 2016

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you clues for two words. Insert the consecutive letters LI somewhere inside the first word to get the second one.

For example: Bit of mischief/Instrument for measuring --> CAPER, CALIPER

Last week's challenge: Name an 11-letter occupation starting with H. If you have the right one, you can rearrange the letters to name two things a worker with this occupation uses — one in six letters and one in five. What occupation is it?

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is a pun on a well-known food brand at a grocery or supermarket.

For example: given the prompt "tiny golf pegs," the right answer is "Wheaties." (Get it? "Wee tees.")

Last week's challenge: Take the words DOES, TOES and SHOES. They all end in the same three letters, but none of them rhyme. What words starting with F, S and G have the same property? The F and S words are four letters long, and the G word is five letters. They all end in the same three letters.

On-air challenge: For the following words starting with the letters S, E and P — as in September — find a word that can precede each to complete a familiar two-word phrase.

For example: system, eclipse, power --> SOLAR (solar system, solar eclipse, solar power).

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is a nine-letter phrase that's a palindrome — in other words, it reads the same both forward and backward.

For example: Certain floor models (4,5) --> some demos.

Last week's challenge, from listener Sandy Stevens of Bandon, Ore.: What one-syllable word in seven letters becomes a four-syllable word by inserting the consecutive letters I-T somewhere inside?

Answer: reigned, reignited.

Winner: Dan Bradshaw of Farmington, Conn.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a familiar 8-letter word. We're going to give you two 3-letter words that are somewhere in it. You tell me the full word.

Ex. WOO + WIN --> WOODWIND

1. VET + AIL
2. LEG + RAM
3. PEN + AGO
4. URN + OAT
5. PIP + ANY
6. NOT + ONE

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of a newspaper comic strip or cartoon, past or present. Identify the funnies from their anagrams.

For example: GOO + P --> POGO.

Last week's challenge from Mike Hinterberg of Loveland, Colo.: Name a creature in nine letters. The name contains a T. Drop the T, and the remaining letters can be rearranged to spell two related modes of transportation. What are they?

Answer: Butterfly --> Lyft, Uber.

On-air challenge: Given a four-letter word and a six-letter word, rearrange the letters of one of them to get a synonym of the other.

For example: Risk, garden --> DANGER.

Last week's challenge, from listener Timothy Gotwald of Chambersburg, Pa.: Think of a word that means "entrance." Interchange the second and fourth letters, and you'll get a new word that means "exit." What words are these?

Answer: Gateway, getaway.

Winner: Albert Tumpson of Los Angeles.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is a phrase in the form "___ and ___." I'll give you rhymes for the two missing words. You complete the phrases.

For example: Lick and lose --> pick and choose.

Last week's challenge: 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?

Answer: Mariah Carey --> hair care.

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.

On-air challenge: Ignore the vowels in each word given. The consonants in each word are the same consonants in the same order as in the name of a well-known American city. Name the cities.

For example: DOLLIES ---> DALLAS.

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is an anagram of a six-letter girl's name. I'll give you the name and a synonym of its anagram. You tell me the anagram.

For example: GLENDA Hang loosely --> DANGLE.

On-air challenge: Every answer consists of two words in the same category that rhyme. For example, two animals whose rhyming names start with B and H are BEAR and HARE. Each clue will give you the initial letters, the words' lengths and the category. Name the things.

On-air challenge: Every answer is a five-letter word said twice, in two different meanings. Answer the clues to get the phrases.

For example: Device for moving Raggedy Ann and similar toys --> DOLLY DOLLY.

Last week's challenge, from listener Andrew Chaikin of San Francisco: Think of a common nine-letter word that contains five consecutive consonants. Take three consecutive consonants out of these five and replace them with vowels to form another common nine-letter word. What is it?

Answer: Strengths, strenuous.

On-air challenge:

Take the category, then name something in it whose first two letters are the last two letters of the category's name.

For example: Author > (George) Orwell.

1. Beatle

2. Disney musical

3. Letter of the Greek alphabet

4. Country in Africa

5. Make of auto

6. Make of automobile

7. An Obama

8. Salad green

9. Racehorse

10. Municipal official

11. Norse explorer

12. Bridge

13. Ocean

14. Best Picture

15. Summer Olympics host

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in -D and the second word starts with ST-.

For example: Small red fruit on a vine in the woods --> WILD STRAWBERRY.

Last week's challenge, from listener Donna Bass of Lake Forest, Ill.: BAIL, NAIL and MAIL are three four-letter words that differ only by their first letters. And those first letters (B, N and M) happen to be adjacent on a computer keyboard.

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word ends in the letter -E, and the second word starts GO-.

For example: Something you might say when you're about to take a plunge --> HERE GOES.

Last 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?

Answer: Bread and baker.

Winner: Mary Ann Gaeddert, of Georgetown, Ky.

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.

On-air challenge: Every answer given in this week's puzzle is a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase in which each part contains the consecutive letters A-N.

For example: Steinway product --> GRAND PIANO.

Last week's challenge, from listener Michael Shteyman of Odenton, Md.: Take the name of a country and a well-known city in the Middle East — 12 letters in all. Rearrange these letters to name another country and another well-known city in the Middle East. What places are these?

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you some six-letter words. For each one, insert two letters in the exact center to complete a familiar eight-letter word.

For example: ACCENT --> ACCIDENT.

Last week's challenge, from listener Fred Piscop of Bellmore, N.Y.: Take these three phrases:

Turkey breast
Ski slope
Cash drawer

What very unusual property do they have in common?

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you a clue for a word that has two Os. Change both Os to Es to get the answer to the second clue.

For example: Sport played on horseback / Brazilian soccer legend --> POLO, PELE.

Last week's challenge: Last week's challenge was an extension of my on-air puzzle. Think of a category in three letters in which the last two letters are the first two letters of something in that category. And the thing in the category has seven letters. Both names are common, uncapitalized words. What are they?

On-air challenge: I'm going to name a category. You name something in the category whose first two letters are the last two letters of the category's name.

For example: Vegetable --> Leek or lettuce.

Last week's challenge, from listener Sandy Weisz of Chicago: Weisz runs something called The Mystery League, which conducts puzzle hunts. This challenge wasn't too hard. Name a unit of measurement. Remove two consecutive letters. The letters that remain can be rearranged to name what this measurement measures. What is it?

On-air challenge: Every answer this week is the name of an article of apparel — something to wear. Name the items from the anagram given.

Example: LOOP --> POLO.

Last week's challenge: This was a variation on the old word-ladder puzzle. The object is to change WHOLE to HEART by either adding or subtracting one letter at a time, making a new, common, uncapitalized word at each step.

On-air challenge: Each of the following sentences has two blanks. The first word has the letter O somewhere in it. Double the O to get the second word, which completes the sentence.

Example: In math class, my PROF asked me to find the shortest PROOF.

1. To get to an online article about the 31st U.S. president, you should ____________ your cursor over the name Herbert ____________.

2. On the team's baseball ____________ was a player who perfectly imitated the crowing of a ____________.

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