On-air challenge: Every answer is a pair of two-syllable words. The first syllable of the word answering the first clue has the letters A-R, pronounced "are." Change these phonetically to "er," and you'll get a new word that answers the second clue. For example, given "hair-cutter" and "a North African," the answer would be "barber" and "Berber."
Last week's challenge from listener Steve Daubenspeck of Fleetwood, Pa.: The word "wizard" has the peculiar property that its letters can be grouped in pairs — A and Z, D and W, and I and R — that are opposite each other in the alphabet. That is, A and Z are at opposite ends of the alphabet, D and W are four letters in from their respective ends, and I and R are nine letters in from their respective ends. Can you name a well-known brand name in six letters that has this same property?
Winner: Jeff Rothenbach of Los Angeles
Next week's challenge: Name something in five letters that's generally pleasant, it's a nice thing to have. Add the letters A and Y, and rearrange the result, keeping the A and Y together as a pair. You'll get the seven-letter word that names an unpleasant version of the five-letter thing. What is it?
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 at 3 p.m. Eastern.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. And, sure, you could predictably resolve to eat better and exercise in the New Year. But what about something more interesting like committing to play the puzzle every single Sunday? And you can start...right now.
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MARTIN: Joining me now is Will Shortz. He is of course the puzzle editor of the New York Times and Weekend Edition's puzzle-master. Good morning, Will. Happy New Year.
WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. Happy New Year.
MARTIN: So, I understand you took on really challenging New Year's resolution yourself and you stuck to it. Tell us what you did.
SHORTZ: Yeah, last year I made a resolution to play table tennis every day for the year and to film myself everyday doing it. And last Tuesday night, New Year's Eve, I played for the 365th consecutive day. And Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, the writers-directors of "Catfish" and the "Paranormal Activity" movies, are going to edit a video of me doing this.
MARTIN: OK. Let's get to the task at hand. Can you remind us of last week's challenge?
SHORTZ: Yes. It came from listener Steve Daubenspeck of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. And it said the word wizard has the peculiar property that its letters can be grouped in pairs that are opposite each other in the alphabet. So, A and Z are at opposite ends; D and W are four letters in from their respective ends; and I and R are nine letters in from the ends. And I asked: can you name a well-known brand name in six letters that has this same property? And listeners sent in a number of answers, but there's only one brand name I'd say is genuinely common, and that is the answer: La-Z-Boy.
MARTIN: The old La-Z-Boy recliner. So, that was hard. We got about 200 correct answers. And our randomly selected winner is Jeff Rothenbach of Los Angeles, California. He joins us on the line. Hey, Jeff. Congratulations.
JEFF ROTHENBACH: Thank you. Good morning.
MARTIN: So, this one come pretty easily to you? How'd you figure it out? Do you have a La-Z-Boy recliner?
ROTHENBACH: No, we don't. I actually did it old school and I wrote the alphabet down in two columns, just to see the letter pairings. And my partner and I sat down and we just brainstormed, we were just thinking out loud and putting together combinations until we finally figured out La-Z-Boy.
MARTIN: That's how you do it - a traditionalist. It works. So, you been playing the puzzle for a while?
ROTHENBACH: Yeah. We do this - this is our Sunday morning ritual. We always listen and play along with the player on the air and...
MARTIN: How do you do usually?
ROTHENBACH: Eh, maybe a little better than 50-50.
MARTIN: That's pretty good. That's pretty good. That's about what I do that. So, with that, Jeff, are you ready to play the puzzle - and to be the first puzzler of the year 2014?
ROTHENBACH: Ooh, I'm ready.
MARTIN: No pressure. OK, Will, let's do it.
SHORTZ: All right, Jeff and Rachel. Every answer today is a pair of two-syllable words. The first syllable of the word answering the first clue has the letters A-R, pronounced are. Change these phonetically to err, and you'll get a new word that answers the second clue. For example: if I said hair cutter and a North African, you would say barber and Berber.
MARTIN: Ooh. OK. You have it, Jeff?
SHORTZ: Number one is a container of cigarettes and drape.
ROTHENBACH: Carton and curtain.
SHORTZ: That's it. A cereal grain and large and muscular.
ROTHENBACH: Ooh. Barley.
MARTIN: Yeah, yeah.
SHORTZ: Barley and burly. Ooh, yeah. A clergyman and an individual.
ROTHENBACH: Parson, person.
SHORTZ: Yeah. Parson and person, boy. A brand of motorcycle and actress Elizabeth.
ROTHENBACH: Harley and Hurley.
SHORTZ: That's it. Brand of bathroom tissue and a Civil War general.
ROTHENBACH: Charmin and Sherman.
SHORTZ: That's it. Specialized vocabularies and a brand of skin cream.
ROTHENBACH: Jargon, Jergens.
SHORTZ: Yeah, jargons and Jergens, yes. Relating to the body and a bit of corn.
ROTHENBACH: Carnal and kernel.
SHORTZ: That's it. A common bird and like some silver.
ROTHENBACH: Sterling would be the silver, so starling?
SHORTZ: Starling and sterling, yeah. And your last one involves a strange in stress: an English dramatist born in the same year as Shakespeare and certain wine.
ROTHENBACH: The wine would be merlot, so Marlow?
SHORTZ: Christopher Marlow and merlot is it.
SHORTZ: Nice job.
MARTIN: Jeff, that was fabulous.
ROTHENBACH: Thank you.
MARTIN: For playing the puzzle today, you will get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games. And you can read about it at npr.org/Puzzle. And before we let you go, Jeff, what is your public radio station?
ROTHENBACH: KPCC in Pasadena and KCRW in Santa Monica.
MARTIN: Love to hear that. Jeff Rothenbach of Los Angeles, California. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, Jeff.
ROTHENBACH: Thank you.
MARTIN: OK, Will. What's up for next week?
SHORTZ: Yeah. Name something in five letters that's generally pleasant. It's a nice thing to have. Add the letters A and Y and rearrange the result, keeping the A and Y together as a pair, and you'll get a seven-letter word that names an unpleasant version of the five-letter thing. What is it?
SHORTZ: So again: Five-letter thing, it's generally pleasant - you'd like to have it. Add the letters A, Y. Rearrange the result but keep the A and Y together as a pair, you'll get a seven-letter word that names an unpleasant version of the five-letter thing. What is it?
MARTIN: OK, you know what to do. When you've got the answer, go to our website, npr.org/puzzle and click on that Submit Your Answer link. Limit yourself to just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for those entries is Thursday, January 9th at 3 P.M. Eastern Time.
Make sure to include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time because, if you're the winner, we'll give you a call. And then you will 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: Happy New Year, Rachel.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.