Will Shortz

On-air Challenge: Every answer today is a word or name that sounds like it starts with two spoken letters of the alphabet.

Example: Wanting what other people have --> ENVIOUS (N-V-ous)

On-air Challenge: Below are some clues. The answer to each one is one of the words in the clue with its vowel sound changed.

Example: What fish bite --> BAIT (the word "bite" with the long-I sound changed to a long-A)

1. Not day

2. It's made by moistening dirt

3. Jacket part that covers the head

4. Item that's sowed in a garden

5. Fail to hit a ball in fair territory

6. Painful illness you get in your joints

7. What kickboxers fight with

8. What might surround a castle

On-air Challenge: Today, I've brought a game of Categories based on the word FIRST. For each category I give, name something in it starting with each of the letters F-I-R-S-T. Any answer that works is OK, and you can give the answers in any order.

Example: If the category were "Girl's Names," you might say Flo, Iris, Rosa, Sarah and Teresa.

1. State capitals

2. Parts of the human body

3. Terms in mathematics

4. Appliances you plug in

On-air Challenge: Every year around this time I do a year-end "New Names in the News Quiz." Here's how it works. I'll name some people and things you probably never heard of until 2020, but who sprang to prominence during the past 12 months. You tell me who or what they are. This list was compiled with the help of Kathie Baker, who played a similar quiz in the past.

1. Amy Coney Barrett

2. Deborah Birx

3. Doug Emhoff

4. Li Wenliang

5. Sarah Fuller

6. Isaias

On-air Challenge: Every answer today is an eight-letter word that consists of a three-letter word inserted inside a five-letter word. I'll give you a clue to the three-letter word as well as the five-letter word itself. You tell me the eight-letter word.

Example: Wrigley's product + AREN'T --> ARGUMENT

1. Tennis court divider + MAGIC

2. Oil installation + IRATE

3. What a hot dog goes in + TRIAL

4. Everything + BROOM

5. Have dinner + ENTRY

6. Opposite of young + DRUMS

7. To employ + CAROL

On-air challenge: I'm going to read you some sentences about Christmas. For each one, change one letter in one of the words to reveal a state capital.

Example: I'm a lover of the whole Christmas season. --> DOVER (Delaware)

1. The kids made a lot of noise unwrapping their presents.

2. Did you hear Santa Claus landing on the roof?

3. Christmas is a season of traditional sacraments.

4. The little sock hanging by the fireplace is my baby brother's.

5. You'll have to pierce the packaging to get out the Christmas ornament.

NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro plays the puzzle with Phoebe Simmons of Boise, Idaho, and puzzlemaster Will Shortz.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a familiar phrase in the form "___ & ___," in which the first two letters of the first word plus the first two letters of the last word themselves spell a word. I'll give you that word as well as a definition of the phrase. You tell me the phrase.

Example: SODA — combination performance --> Song & dance

1. BOAR — Native American weapon

2. CAMO — cunning game that a feline and rodent might play

3. EVAN — old-fashioned phrase meaning "occasionally"

On-air challenge: I'm going to read you some sentences. Three consecutive words somewhere in each sentence are the first three words of a familiar proverb or saying. Tell me what it is.

Example: Put out a saucer of milk when the cat's hungry. --> When the cat's away the mice will play.

1. As meteorologists know, every cloud has water droplets.
2. Variety is the daily publication of show business.
3. The surgeon put a stitch in the gaping wound.
4. Through the mountains the road to the next town is very twisty.

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you three words starting with "F." You give me another word that could follow each of my three words, and in each case it has to form a compound word OR a familiar two-word phrase.

Example: Full, Flex, Father (four letters starting with T) --> TIME (full-time, flextime, Father Time)

1. Fly, Fifth, Ferris (5, W)

2. Fresh, Flood, Fire (5, W)

3. Fun, Full, Fraternity (5, H)

4. Flash, Focal, Freezing (5, P)

5. Fuel, Firing, Finish (4, L)

6. Feed, Flight, Flea (3, B)