As you may have noticed (assuming you don't follow this site on a news reader), I am in the habit of posting the weekly brain teaser from National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition Sunday" on the sidebar.
As you may have also noticed by my obnoxiously posting a few celebrity photos, not to mention writing about puzzles several times a day for the last few months, I am also casually acquainted with the puzzle editor of the New York Times and NPR's puzzlemaster, Will Shortz.
Every once in a while Will uses one of my puzzles on the radio. Sometimes I send him puzzles that randomly occur to me. Other times they relate to his on-air puzzles: either I stumble upon Puzzle B as I try to solve Puzzle A, or else I'm inspired to play off one of his with a new one of my own.
Last week, Will aired the following puzzle:
Name a country in six letters. Change two consecutive letters in it to one letter to get the name of another country. What countries are these?
As I do on the sidebar, I'll white out the answer so you can solve it yourself if you like.
Highlight for answer: Guyana, Ghana
So after that exercise in reviewing the countries of the world (I used the Wikipedia list; did you?), I was inspired to write a puzzle using a similar old NPR standby, world capitals. Returning to good old Wikipedia, I scoured the list of world capitals until I came up with the following gem:
Name a world capital in two syllables. Change the fourth letter to the next letter of the alphabet, then rearrange the letters to spell another world capital. What cities are these?
I thought this thing had "radio puzzle" written all over it. Short(z), sweet, elegant. Unfortunately for me, Will replied that he thought he'd heard this particular bit of wordplay before.
Upon reflection, this doesn't surprise me that much. There are only so many ways to reshuffle the finite list of world capitals, which gets even shorter once you discard the cities too obscure to be fair game for the average radio listener.
AMMAN and MANAMA, for example, would make a nice "remove the last letter and rearrange," but many people can't tell you the capital of Jordan, much less that Bahrain is a country, much less name its capital. Me, I just had the first two of these, and I wrote the puzzle.
MANAMA/PANAMA fails for the same reason, and PARAGUAY/URUGUAY, not good enough wordplay and too interchangeable.
Actually, the likely best world capital puzzle already aired on NPR years ago, so nifty it's stuck in my mind ever since:
Name a world capital. Remove a letter and rearrange the rest to name another major city. Then remove another letter and rearrange the rest to name a second world capital.
Nice, eh? I wish I'd come up with that one.
So it's back to the drawing board for me. Meanwhile, my friends, get solving!