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Sunday Puzzle: Linking Arms

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

And it's time to play the Puzzle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RASCOE: Joining us, as always, is Will Shortz. He's puzzle editor of The New York Times and puzzlemaster of WEEKEND EDITION. Hey, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good to talk to you, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Yeah, and we got to do that really fun thing last week, so we all got to know you so much better. I want to say thank you again for that.

SHORTZ: That was fun. Thank you.

RASCOE: So, Will, I know we've been running a challenge for two weeks now. Remind us of what that is.

SHORTZ: Yes, I said name a geographical place, either domestic or foreign, and describe it acoustically. And I said entries would be judged on originality, sense, naturalness of wording, elegance and overall effect. We received over 700 submissions, many of which had multiple entries. I read every single one of them. So many good ones. I'll read a couple runners up. Mark Halpin (ph) sent in one short one for Laos - lax (ph) and ocean, sadly. Made me laugh. David Cornivo (ph) sent in Pisa - precarious icon stands aslant. That was nice. And Kristi St. John (ph) did one on Alaska that said, Alaska laughed at Seward's keen acquisition. So many. I wish I could read lots of them, but here's the winner. My selection - the best one came from Stephen Portnoy of Hillsboro, Ore. and he did an acrostic on Stratford-upon-Avon. And his acrostic was Shakespeare transformed rhetorical art to fashion outstanding rhythmic drama using poetry, oratory, nuance and vividly original narrative. Wow. That made me go wow.

RASCOE: Yeah, that makes me go wow, too. My goodness. That was incredible. Stephen Portnoy of Hillsboro, Ore., welcome to the show.

STEPHEN PORTNOY: Thanks. And good to be here.

RASCOE: So how did you come up with that? Because, my goodness, that was very impressive.

PORTNOY: Well, there actually was a method. I was looking for place names in which the letters of the name would include an iconic place or object associated with it. And it was remarkable how difficult it was to find someplace like that. But I finally found Shakespeare and Stratford. And from there on, it was easy. Rhetorical art came quickly. Drama was clearly there with a D. A couple of O's for original and outstanding. And there I had it.

RASCOE: Wow. So how long have you been playing the Puzzle in general?

PORTNOY: Since postcard days.

RASCOE: OK, I figured. That's what it sounded like. It sounded like you have been at this for a while.

PORTNOY: For a long time.

RASCOE: So what do you like to do when you're not playing the Puzzle?

PORTNOY: Well, playing other puzzles. But we're living in Oregon near our grandson, which we enjoy visiting. There's wonderful hiking in the area.

RASCOE: All right. Well, Stephen, are you ready to play the Puzzle? I feel like you are.

PORTNOY: I'm as ready as I'll be.

RASCOE: (Laughter) OK, take it away, Will.

SHORTZ: All right, Stephen and Ayesha. Today's Puzzle is titled Linking Arms. I'm going to give you three words, starting with the letters A, R and M. You give me a fourth word that can follow each of mine to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word word phrase. For example, if I said air, rosin and mail - M-A-I-L - you'd say bag as in airbag, rosin bag and mailbag. So here we go. Number one is Adriatic, Red, Mediterranean.

PORTNOY: Sea.

SHORTZ: That is correct. Adriatic Sea, etc. Adhesive, red, masking.

PORTNOY: Tape.

SHORTZ: That's it. Abby - as in A-B-B-E-Y - Abbey, rocky, main - M-A-I-N.

PORTNOY: Road.

SHORTZ: Abbey Road, rocky road, main road is right. Audio, rule, match.

PORTNOY: What was the middle word?

SHORTZ: Rule - R-U-L-E. It's a four-letter answer. Audio, rule, match.

PORTNOY: I'm not getting it.

SHORTZ: And if you wanted to start a fire, you might reach for this item, starting with match.

RASCOE: It's not stick, right? Because a matchstick. But that's not it.

SHORTZ: Yeah. What would a matchstick be in, perhaps?

RASCOE: Oh, a case? What's a - book? Matchbook?

SHORTZ: Oh, there you go. Matchbook.

PORTNOY: Matchbook.

SHORTZ: Matchbook, a rulebook and an audiobook.

PORTNOY: Thank you, Ayesha. Thank you. I really had trouble with that.

RASCOE: That was both of us working together on that one.

SHORTZ: That was two heads, definitely.

PORTNOY: Yeah.

SHORTZ: Acid, Rorschach, means.

PORTNOY: Test.

SHORTZ: That's correct. Here's your last one. Airplane, raffle, meal.

PORTNOY: Ticket.

SHORTZ: That's right. Airplane ticket, raffle ticket and meal ticket. Good job.

PORTNOY: OK.

RASCOE: Oh, my goodness.

PORTNOY: Thank you.

RASCOE: Great job, Stephen.

PORTNOY: I feel relieved.

RASCOE: You feel relieved (laughter). I don't even have to ask you. You're ready. So...

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: ...For playing our Puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, as well as puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at npr.org/puzzle. And, Stephen, what member station do you listen to?

PORTNOY: We're sustaining members of OPB, Oregon Public Broadcasting.

RASCOE: Oh, I love to hear that. That's Stephen Portnoy of Hillsboro, Ore. Thank you for playing the Puzzle.

PORTNOY: And thank you. It's great to be on.

RASCOE: OK, Will, what's next week's challenge?

PORTNOY: You know, some listeners have asked for a harder challenge. So here you go. It comes from Joseph Young, who conducts the blog Puzzleria! Name a musical instrument, plus part of that instrument. Drop the last letter of the instrument. Then rearrange all the remaining letters to name another musical instrument. What is it? So again, a musical instrument, plus part of that instrument. Drop the last letter of the instrument and then rearrange all the remaining letters to name another musical instrument. What is it?

RASCOE: OK, I'm sure a lot of people are like, who was asking for harder puzzles? I'm sure that's what some people are saying right now.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: But when you have the answer, go to our website, npr.org/puzzle, and click on the Submit Your Answer link. Remember, just one entry, please. Our deadline for entries this week because of Thanksgiving is Wednesday, November 22 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you. If you're the winner, we'll give you a call. And if you pick up the phone, you'll get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and puzzlemaster of WEEKEND EDITION, Will Shortz. Thank you, Will.

SHORTZ: Thank you, Ayesha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

NPR's Puzzlemaster Will Shortz has appeared on Weekend Edition Sunday since the program's start in 1987. He's also the crossword editor of The New York Times, the former editor of Games magazine, and the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (since 1978).

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