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Let's Stump Neal Conan!


From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

And joining us is puzzlemaster Will Shortz. Hi, Will.

Mr. WILL SHORTZ (Puzzlemaster): Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: We're in the middle of a two-week challenge, and you're going to repeat that challenge at the end of our puzzle segment today, but we're doing a special puzzle this week because we have a special guest. Joining me in the studio is Neal Conan, host of NPR's "Talk of the Nation."


NEAL CONAN (Host, "Talk of the Nation"): Hey, Liane.

HANSEN: How you doing?

CONAN: I'm fine.

HANSEN: Are you ready for this?


HANSEN: I didn't think so.

Well, Will, I understand you've prepared something special for this very special occasion.

CONAN: Oh, heaven help me.

HANSEN: I don't want to say `Will meet Neal' because you've already met. So I think we should just get to the game. OK?

Mr. SHORTZ: Let's do that.

HANSEN: All right.

Mr. SHORTZ: And it's a little harder than usual. I prepared this just for you, Neal.

CONAN: Oh, thanks so much, Will.

Mr. SHORTZ: Liane, you jump in, too. If I asked you what coin comes between a nickel and a quarter, you would say a dime.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. SHORTZ: But if I asked you what coin comes between a nickel and a quarter alphabetically, you would say a penny.


Mr. SHORTZ: I'm going to name two things, you tell me whatever name in the same category comes between the two alphabetically.


Mr. SHORTZ: Number one is Mars and Neptune.

CONAN: Mars and Neptune, so--there's only nine of them, how could I--L, M, Pluto.

Mr. SHORTZ: Pluto's after Neptune.

CONAN: Oh, all right. So you're insisting on absolute alphabetical order.

HANSEN: Mars and Neptune...

CONAN: Liane...

HANSEN: Mercury.

Mr. SHORTZ: Mercury, good.

CONAN: OK. There you go.

Mr. SHORTZ: Number two: Cleveland, Coolidge.

CONAN: These are presidents presumably, or towns somewhere. Anyway...

HANSEN: I think they're presidents, aren't they?

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. SHORTZ: They're presidents, yes.

CONAN: Carter--no.

HANSEN: No, try the other one with a C.

Mr. SHORTZ: More recent, more recent.

CONAN: That would be Clinton.

Mr. SHORTZ: Clinton is right. Good.

CONAN: OK. That's also a town.

Mr. SHORTZ: Peach, persimmon.

CONAN: Peach and persimmon would be pear.

Mr. SHORTZ: Pear, excellent.

CONAN: OK, getting a little quicker.

Mr. SHORTZ: Illinois, Iowa.

CONAN: Indiana.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes. Blitzen, Cupid.

CONAN: Oh, no.


CONAN: Blitzen and Cupid.

HANSEN: All right.

CONAN and HANSEN: (In unison) On Donner and Dancer, on Comet...

HANSEN: Comet!

CONAN and HANSEN: (In unison) Comet!

Mr. SHORTZ: There you go--Comet. That's all you had to do. Here's a subject you know nothing about.

CONAN: Uh-huh.

Mr. SHORTZ: Right field, shortstop.

CONAN: Right field and shortstop, that would be second base.

Mr. SHORTZ: That's right. Michigan, Superior.

CONAN: Michigan and Superior would--L, M, N--Ontario.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes. Sweden, Syria.

CONAN: Wow! That's a little narrow gap in there. Let's see, Sudetenland doesn't work anymore, no.


HANSEN: Is there a Swaziland?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yeah, but that's...

CONAN: Yeah, but that's before Sweden. Give me a continent.

Mr. SHORTZ: Europe.

CONAN: OK. Switzerland.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.


Mr. SHORTZ: Indigo, red.

CONAN: So these are...

HANSEN: Colors.

CONAN: Yeah, I know they're colors, but spectrum?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.



CONAN: Now violet's afterwards.

HANSEN: Right. ...(Unintelligible)? Is that it?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yeah.

HANSEN: Red, orange, yellow...

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

CONAN: Orange.

Mr. SHORTZ: Orange, there you go.

CONAN: OK. Thank you for that, Liane.

HANSEN: Anytime, Neal.

Mr. SHORTZ: Health and Human Services...


Mr. SHORTZ: ...Housing and Urban Development.

CONAN: ...and HUD would leave us with--Liane, I know you've got this.

HANSEN: I think it's Homeland Security.

Mr. SHORTZ: Excellent. Excellent. Denver, Dover.

HANSEN: All of a sudden, every city with a name beginning with D has just left me.

CONAN: Talking about Dayton on Monday.

HANSEN: Oh, Detroit.

Mr. SHORTZ: Nope, not the capital. Sorry about that, that's Lansing.

CONAN: Oh, these are capitals.

HANSEN: Oh, we're talk--capitals.

Mr. SHORTZ: Capitals.

HANSEN: I thought we were just talking cities here.

Mr. SHORTZ: State capitals.

CONAN: Uh-huh. State capitals, I was thinking about Dover, England, not Dover, Delaware.

HANSEN: State capitals...

CONAN: State capital that begins with D.

Mr. SHORTZ: OK, it's in the Midwest.


Mr. SHORTZ: It's in the Midwest.

CONAN: Dolito(ph), no, that's not it.

HANSEN: Dolito.

CONAN: All right, help me more with the Midwest here.

Mr. SHORTZ: It's a state on the Mississippi.

CONAN: Dallas! No.

HANSEN: No, it's not.

Mr. SHORTZ: A state on the Mississippi.

CONAN: A state on the Mississippi. Des Moines.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes. Good. Nahum, Numbers.

CONAN: Come again?

Mr. SHORTZ: Nahum, N-A-H-U-M...


Mr. SHORTZ: ...and Numbers.

CONAN: And what are those things?

HANSEN: Those are books of the Bible, Neal, something of which you are so familiar.

CONAN: Well, I would have gotten Numbers. You know, Deuteronomy comes after that, but Nahum, I...

Mr. SHORTZ: Specifically the Old Testament.

CONAN: Old Testament?

HANSEN: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: And there aren't that many in the Old Testament.

HANSEN: There are enough.

CONAN: Uh-huh. Like--Is it Nehemiah?

Mr. SHORTZ: Nehemiah, excellent. How about Bucks, Celtics?

CONAN: Bucks and Celtics--these are basketball teams...

HANSEN: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: ...and I'm just running through the teams.

HANSEN: Would it be one from Cleveland?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

CONAN: Cavaliers.

Mr. SHORTZ: Cavaliers, good.

CONAN: OK. LeBron.

Mr. SHORTZ: Bloodstone, emerald.

CONAN: Bloodstone and emerald, diamond.

Mr. SHORTZ: We're doing birthstones, and diamond is it. Labor Day, Memorial Day.

CONAN: Labor Day and Memorial Day--so these are holidays...

Mr. SHORTZ: National holidays.

CONAN: Martin Luther King's birthday.

Mr. SHORTZ: Excellent. And your last one is synchronized swimming, Tae Kwon Do.

CONAN: Synch swimming--So these are Olympic events?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes.

CONAN: And Tae Kwon Do.

Mr. SHORTZ: Uh-huh.

CONAN: Synchronized, it's S-Y-O...


CONAN: Any kind of skiing is before synchronized.

Mr. SHORTZ: Right.

HANSEN: Is table tennis an Olympic sport, Will?

Mr. SHORTZ: Table tennis is, indeed, an Olympic sport. Congratulations.


HANSEN: The only reason I knew that is because of your passion for table tennis.

Mr. SHORTZ: Yeah, imagine that I would put that last, huh?

HANSEN: Absolutely.

CONAN: Go figure.

HANSEN: Hey, Neal...

CONAN: Do I get a full gold pen?

Mr. SHORTZ: Not bad.

HANSEN: Not bad. No prizes for you. No prizes for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Just the knowledge that played the puzzle so well is its own reward.

CONAN: Reward. OK. Yeah.

HANSEN: All right? And my reward is I'll be sitting in with you on "Talk of the Nation" this coming week.

And our regular puzzle will resume next week, and we have a two-week challenge going on for everyone listening. So, Will, why don't you repeat that challenge?

Mr. SHORTZ: Yes, I said write down the four chemical symbols. On the first line, LI for lithium and FE for iron, and underneath, write NE for neon and AR for argon. And reading across you get the four-letter words `life' and `near'; reading down, you get `line' and `fear,' completing a miniature word square. And the object is to create a three-by-three square composed of nine chemical symbols in which the three rows across and each of the three columns down spells a word. You may use either one-letter or two-letter chemical symbols, but the object is to use as many two-letter ones as possible.

Now to answer a question from several listeners from last week, it's not allowed to repeat either words or chemical symbols in your answer. Only uncapitalized words are allowed, and our source for acceptable words will be Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary.

HANSEN: Oh, diabolical, word full Sudoku puzzle going on here. The deadline for the challenge is Wednesday, November 23rd at 3 PM Eastern time. Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. We'll call you if you're the winner, and you'll get to play puzzle on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzlemaster, Will Shortz. And while I'm away, Sheilah Kast will be sitting in for me.

Neal, thanks a lot for playing today.

CONAN: You didn't even ask me my public radio station?

HANSEN: What is your public radio station?

CONAN: WSDL in Ocean City, Maryland.

HANSEN: OK. And, Will, thanks a lot for your special puzzle today, and I'll say happy Thanksgiving just a little bit early.

Mr. SHORTZ: Thanks a lot, Liane. Happy Thanksgiving. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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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