Sunday, June 13, 2010

Falling a little shortz

Millions of people know Will Shortz as a friend of this blog. He also happens to edit the New York Times crossword and serve as the puzzlemaster for NPR Weekend Edition Sunday.

In the latter gig, Will presents a new brain teaser every week for his listeners to solve; some of them he writes, others come from his friends and listeners. From time to time, Will gives me the thrill of using on the air a puzzle I submit to him.

More often than not, the puzzles I write are spinoffs of puzzles he presents on the radio. Either I stumble upon a new puzzle while solving one, or else the current puzzle gets me thinking about the subject and I come up with something.

Unfortunately, not every puzzle I email to Will ends up on the radio. Some of them he thinks he's heard before, and others are somehow just a little lacking. This week I submitted one that fell into the latter category.

Last week's puzzle came from listener Al Gorey:

A "spoonerism" is when you interchange the initial consonant sounds of two words to get two new words. For example, with "right lane," you'd get "light rain."
Think of a familiar two-word phrase that's an instruction seen on many containers. Spoonerize it to name two things seen at the beach. What's the phrase and what are the things?

That puzzle, not too hard but pretty nifty, got me thinking about spoonerisms. I started spoonerizing names of celebrities in my mind, and in fairly short order came up with the following puzzle:

Spoonerize the full name of a well-known actress, then change the second letter to a T. The result will sound like something she did throughout her autobiography.

I thought this one had a good chance to get on the radio; although the wordplay isn't quite ideal, it's a reasonably elegant extension of the existing puzzle. Unfortunately, Will emailed that because the spoonerism was imperfect, he didn't love it quite enough to use on the air. (Gracious as ever, he also called it a neat find and thanked me for the offer.)

Oh well, the road to satisfaction is paved with near-misses.  Nolan Ryan had 12 one-hitters on the way to his record 7 no-hitters, and Roger Federer made 23 straight semifinals in winning 16 majors.

It reminds me of New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, a friend of both Will Shortz and this blog. When he rejects cartoonists' submissions, he suggests they submit 100 more.

Like them, I'll keep banging away, and sooner or later I'll have another puzzle on the radio. Either way, the fun is in the trying.

1 comment:

barbara said...

i think i solved it but i'm not guessing in case other people are trying to.