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Editor's note: This report contains accounts of rape, violence and other disturbing events.

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Follow Homer To Find Your Way

Jun 9, 2013
Originally published on June 13, 2013 5:32 pm

On-air challenge: Categories are given based on the name "Homer," the name of a town in Alaska. Name something in the category beginning with each of the letters H-O-M-E-R. For example, if the category were "Chemical Elements," you might say Helium, Oxygen, Magnesium, Einsteinium, and Radon. You can give the answers in any order.

Last week's challenge from Merl Reagle, one of the country's top crossword makers: Can you name three common three-letter words that are all synonyms and which together consist of nine different letters of the alphabet? Here's a hint: The letters A and O are not used.

Answer: Irk, bug, vex

Winner: Joanne Joyce, Aurora, Colo.

Next week's challenge: Name a movie in two words — five letters in each word. Both words start with vowels. Take one letter in the first word, move it two spaces later in the alphabet, and rearrange the result. You'll get the second word in the movie's title. What movie is it?

Submit Your Answer

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.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. In rain, sleet or snow - we're like the U.S. Postal Service - the puzzle must go on.


MARTIN: Joining me now from Anchorage, Alaska - where it's very snowy, I imagine, or not - who knows? It's summer - WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle-master Will Shortz. Good morning, Will.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Morning, Rachel. No snow, no snow in June.

MARTIN: No snow in June. I don't know. I've been to the mountains in Wyoming and there was snow, so I was wondering. You never know.

SHORTZ: Well, that's true. There is snow in the peaks here. And right now, I'm lucky - the weather is gorgeous.

MARTIN: And what's going on? Are you there just because it's a fun place to visit?

SHORTZ: Well, it is. A friend and I are doing a seven-day table tennis road trip through the state.

MARTIN: Sounds like an amazing trip. Are you going to get to do any other kind of Alaska touristy stuff?

SHORTZ: Yeah. We are doing fishing tonight on the Kenai Peninsula. We're stopping at Mt. McKinley. And we're having lunch with the chancellor of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

MARTIN: Very cool. Well, you have time to play a puzzle?

SHORTZ: Love to.

MARTIN: OK. Remind us what was last week's challenge?

SHORTZ: Yes. It came from our old pal Merl Reagle. And I said name three common three-letter words that are all synonyms and which together consists of nine different letters of the alphabet. And I said don't use the letters A and O. Well, Merl's answers were bug, irk, and vex, which I think is the best answer. But we got a number of alternates that I think also work. For example, there's fly, hie, run, and zip - use any three of those.

MARTIN: OK. Well, this week about 400 listeners got the answer right. And our randomly selected winner is Joanne Joyce. She joins us on the line. Congratulations, Joanne.

JOANNE JOYCE: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: How'd you figure this one out?

JOYCE: Well, I have this dumb method. I just sit down and start writing down three-letter words.

MARTIN: Well done. And, Joanne, you're from Aurora, Colorado I understand. What do you do for a living there?

JOYCE: I'm retired.

MARTIN: Great. And you play a lot of puzzles?

JOYCE: I do. I love crossword puzzles. I'm not quite up to Will's but that's my brain, you know, to get my brain...

MARTIN: Brain exercise.

JOYCE: ...every morning.

MARTIN: Yeah. I think that's good. That's a good part of a regimen. Well, Joanne, are you ready to play the puzzle?

JOYCE: Nervously, yes.

MARTIN: It'll be OK. We'll do it together.


MARTIN: All right, Will. What's the puzzle?

SHORTZ: All right, Joanne and Rachel. This is a good two-person puzzle. I brought a game of categories based on the name Homer, which is one of the Alaska towns that I'm visiting on this trip. I'm going to name some categories. For each one, name something in the category beginning with each of the letters H-O-M-E and R. For example, if the category were chemical elements, you might say helium, oxygen, magnesium, einsteinium and radon. And you can give the answers in any order.

MARTIN: Great. You got it, Joanne?

JOYCE: I do.

MARTIN: Let's give it a shot.

SHORTZ: All right. Your first category is trees.

JOYCE: Let's see. Well, oak for O...

SHORTZ: Oak, good.

JOYCE: ...maple...

SHORTZ: Maple.

JOYCE: ...elm...

SHORTZ: Elm, yes. H and R.

JOYCE: H and R. H...hazelnut.

SHORTZ: Hazelnut, excellent. Hickory and hemlock also work. And now you need an R.

MARTIN: What about those big old trees in California?

JOYCE: Oh, redwood.

SHORTZ: Redwood. Rubber tree also works. How about makes of automobiles that are no longer made?

JOYCE: Oh my goodness. OK. The O - Oldsmobile?

SHORTZ: Oldsmobile - they don't make those anymore. Good. It's always sad to learn or get your news through the puzzle.

JOYCE: Mercury. I don't know if they make a Mercury any more or not.

SHORTZ: That's right. They stopped Mercury around the time they stopped Oldsmobile.

JOYCE: The E is the one by Ford - Edsel.

SHORTZ: Edsel, excellent. H and R.

JOYCE: R is - well, no, they still make Rolls. R...Reo?

SHORTZ: The Reo, good. You know that through crosswords. R-E-O - that's very common in crosswords. And now you need an H.

JOYCE: H - we're missing the H.

SHORTZ: I have three but there is...

JOYCE: Oh, Hummer. They don't make the Hummer anymore.

SHORTZ: The Hummer, nice. Hupmobile and Hudson also work.

MARTIN: Great, Joanne.

SHORTZ: All right. Here's your last category: things commonly found in a refrigerator.

JOYCE: Hamburgers...

SHORTZ: Hamburger meat would be good. OK.

JOYCE: O would be olives.

SHORTZ: Olives - orange, oleo, good. And M?

JOYCE: M - let's see, mayonnaise.

SHORTZ: Mayonnaise, milk and mustard, good.

JOYCE: Eggs.

SHORTZ: Eggs, yes. And all you need an R.

JOYCE: R - that should (unintelligible)...

SHORTZ: R is the toughest one but there's something in a jar that you put on hamburgers.

JOYCE: Relish.

SHORTZ: Relish. Nice job.

MARTIN: Wow. Joanne, it was very well done. Those were hard. But for playing the puzzle today, you'll get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at

And, Joanne, before we let you go, what public radio station do you listen to?

JOYCE: I listen to KUNC out of Fort Collins.

MARTIN: Great, Joanne Joyce of Aurora, Colorado. Joanne, thanks so much for playing the puzzle.

JOYCE: Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

MARTIN: OK, Will. What's the challenge for next week?

SHORTZ: Yes, name a movie in two words, five letters in each word. Both words start with vowels. Take one letter in the first word, move it two spaces later in the alphabet and rearrange the result; you'll get the second word in the movie's title. What movie is it?

So again: a movie in two words - five/five, both words start with vowels. Take one letter in the first word, move it two spaces later in the alphabet, rearrange the result; you'll get the second word in the movie's title. What movie is it?

MARTIN: When you've got the answer, go to our website, and click on the Submit Your Answer link - just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for entries is Thursday, June 13th at 3 P.M. Eastern.

Please include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And if you're the winner we'll give you a call and you'll 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: Thanks, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.