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Russian Dolls

Jan 30, 2014
Originally published on March 4, 2015 10:40 am

Russian dolls nest inside of each other. Some words are like that as well: they contain one word nested inside of a different word. For example, a mother might urge her son to become a surgeon. (Tricky, we know!) Listen as host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton challenge our contestants to assemble long words from a composite of two shorter ones.

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Let's say hello to Allyson Rudolph and Akhil.


EISENBERG: You are my two word nerds which tells you what kind of game we are playing. Allyson, you work in publishing as a book editor.


EISENBERG: Very cool. What is your number one hobby?

RUDOLPH: So my favorite things in the world are books and spreadsheets so I keep track of every book I've read in an Excel spreadsheet. It has the author, the editor, the agent, and also the Library of Congress cataloging and publication data.

EISENBERG: I love you. Can I just say that right now, that I love you?

RUDOLPH: You can find it on the copyright page. It's usually very funny. They have "Oryx and Crake," which is Margaret Atwood's sort of dystopian futuristic novel categorized as a love triangle.


EISENBERG: I like your sense of humor too.

RUDOLPH: Yeah, it's great.

EISENBERG: I like you (unintelligible). That's awesome.

RUDOLPH: So I'll tell the Library of Congress something.

EISENBERG: That amazing. And your contestant is Akhil who has one name. Akhil, which is a cool name, don't get me wrong.

AKHIL: Thank you.

EISENBERG: But you really do not have a last name.


EISENBERG: Like, not even on your passport, driver's license?


JONATHAN COULTON: That's not allowed.


AKHIL: Oh, it is. In India it's allowed. I found out that when I came here it would cause a lot more problems, but.


EISENBERG: And why is it, exactly, that you don't have a last name?

AKHIL: The story that we've been told is so my dad is a Muslim, my mom is a Hindu. So when they got married they decided let's not give our kids surnames so that when they grow up they can pick their own surname depending on what religion they pick.


AKHIL: And then I chose not to believe in anything, so.


AKHIL: It followed logically that I would not have a surname.

COULTON: Akhil There-Is-No-God.

EISENBERG: I am totally happy with your choices. I think you've done everything right.

AKHIL: Everybody except my wife.

EISENBERG: Oh, yes. Your wife didn't take a name because there was nothing to take.

AKHIL: Yeah.

COULTON: It's hyphenated. It's hyphenated.

EISENBERG: She just lost her last name as well.


EISENBERG: This is going to be fun. This game is called Russian Dolls. As you know, Russian dolls nest inside of each other and some words are like that as well. They contain one word nested inside of a different word. We'll give you a clue to a long word and that clue will contain both of the shorter words. And it's your job to nest one word inside the other longer word. Don't worry. Puzzle guru Art Chung, let's have an example.

ART CHUNG: If we said mothers who want their sons to go into medicine might urge them to become these, the answer would be surgeons which is the word urge nested inside the word sons.


RUDOLPH: Oh, my god.

CHUNG: Allyson is rolling her eyes.

COULTON: It's totally easy, you guys.

EISENBERG: I'll emphasize which words we want you to nest but we're not going to tell you which word is the one on the inside and which one is on the outside. So ring in when you know the answer and feel free to talk it out. Akhil is giving me eye contact that says yes. Allyson is looking at the table and freaking out.


EISENBERG: OK. An actor might try to play an aged character like King Lear in this kind of play.



RUDOLPH: Tragedy?



COULTON: My uncle can't ride this contraption when the sidewalk is icy.



AKHIL: Bicycle?

COULTON: Close but no cigar. Allyson, do you have a guess?

RUDOLPH: Unicycle?

COULTON: Unicycle is right.

EISENBERG: And in that question you had to put yourself in the place as a niece or nephew of a clown.


EISENBERG: Spilling a tray full of food on your clean new vest would be a ridiculous this.



RUDOLPH: Travesty.

EISENBERG: Yes. Only bigger travesty is wearing a vest. You are correct.4



COULTON: When the shower drain is all clear - I was emphasizing there - the water level tends to be this.


COULTON: Allyson.

RUDOLPH: Shallower?

COULTON: Shallower is right.


EISENBERG: If you don't obey your personal trainer but just sit on your tush all day, you might develop this condition.


AKHIL: Obesity.

EISENBERG: Akil, that is correct.


EISENBERG: Is that kind of funny? I was noticing this, that there is no I in team but there is a sit in obesity.


COULTON: A giant ape might try to climb this tall part of a castle.



AKHIL: Rampart?

COULTON: Oh. No. It's a good guess. Allyson, do you know what it is?

RUDOLPH: Oh. Parapet?

COULTON: Parapet. That's right. Yeah.


COULTON: Nice pull. Nice pull, Allyson.

EISENBERG: This is your final clue. It might awe you to know that this type of plant doesn't come from a seed.


AKHIL: Crawler?

EISENBERG: Akhil. No, that is not what we're looking for. I'm sorry. Allyson, can you steal?

CHUNG: Should we reemphasize the words again?




RUDOLPH: Oh. Seaweed.

EISENBERG: Seaweed. That is correct.


EISENBERG: Art, these contestants did amazing because that was a really difficult game but we will have a winner.

CHUNG: Even though Allyson was freaked out, she is our winner.

EISENBERG: Congratulations, Allyson. You'll be moving on to our Ask Me One More final round. Coming up, we'll see what our VIP, W. Kamau Bell knows about comedians who have hosted their own TV talk shows. So stay tuned. This is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.


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