On-air challenge: We're in the merry month of December. Every answer this week is a two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts DE- and the second word starts C.
For example: Underwater explosive device --> depth charge.
Last week's challenge: This challenge may sound impossible, but there's a good answer. Think of a common two-word phrase, in seven letters, that has two R's in the middle. And "in the middle," means exactly in the middle. What phrase is it?
Answer: At worst (which has "two Rs" inside it).
Puzzle winner: John Campanelli of Hudson, Ohio.
Next week's challenge, from listener Matt Jones of Portland, Ore.: Think of a two-word phrase commonly seen on signs in new businesses. Nine letters in all. Change the sixth letter to an N, and read the resulting letters in order: You'll get a new two-word phrase sometimes seen on humorous signs in classrooms and offices. What signs are these?
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, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. ET.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
If you were one of many Americans sliding all over the roads in freezing temperatures last week, or even if you just saw the videos on YouTube, you know that the safest place to be this morning is bundled up at home with hot cocoa, a blanket and The Puzzle.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CHANG: I'm joined by the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz. Hey there, Will.
WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Ailsa.
CHANG: So remind us, what was last week's challenge?
SHORTZ: Yes, I said it was one of my all-time favorite challenges because it sounded impossible, but there's a good answer. I said think of a common two-word phrase in seven letters that has two Rs in the exact middle. What is it? And there was a trick to it, obviously, because you don't put R-R in the middle. When I said there are two Rs, that's T-W-O R-S. And my intended answer was at worst. And let me mention there we had some alternative answers that I thought were almost as good, things like year-end. That's seven letters, two words. It has the letter R exactly in the middle, and it has the word A-R-E exactly in the middle as well. So I thought that was pretty darn good.
CHANG: (Laughter) Well, we got just around 320 correct answers this week. And the winner is John Campanelli of Hudson, Ohio. Congrats, John.
JOHN CAMPANELLI: Thank you so much, Ailsa and Will. This is such an honor for me. I'm not going to admit about having an obsession about the NPR Puzzle and the WEEKEND lapel pin, but I will paraphrase Charlton Heston and say you're going to have to pry this pin from my cold, dead lapel.
CHANG: (Laughter) Wow. So how did you figure out the answer?
CAMPANELLI: Well, you know, I know that there had to be some trickeration (ph) involved because two Rs don't fit in the middle of seven letters. I thought maybe that it was a symbolic two Rs, like a railroad crossing, that maybe that was a phrase with a railroad crossing or military with R&R. But I kept failing. And then I - on Tuesday morning, I had a big cup of coffee and I listened to The Puzzle again online, and I thought maybe two Rs was T-W-O R-S. And I wrote that on our chalkboard and bingo.
CHANG: All right, John, are you ready to play The Puzzle?
CAMPANELLI: I am ready if you give me some help, Ailsa.
CAMPANELLI: I know you're a lawyer and a journalist, two of the most trusted and beloved professions of the nation. So I'm trusting you to not...
CHANG: Oh, we will see. We will see. Will stumps me. But I will do my best to be your ally today. OK, Will...
CAMPANELLI: Thank you.
CHANG: ...Let's do this.
SHORTZ: All right, John and Ailsa. We're in the merry month of December, and every answer today is a two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts D-E and the second word starts C. For example, if I said underwater explosive device, you would say depth charge.
CHANG: Oh, my God.
SHORTZ: OK. D-E-C number one is a place to sit on a ship overlooking the ocean.
CAMPANELLI: Deck chair.
SHORTZ: That's it. A warning sign along a road in a wooded area.
CAMPANELLI: Deer crossing.
CHANG: Oh, yeah.
SHORTZ: That's it. A piece of plastic you use to take money out of the bank.
CHANG: Oh, I know this.
CAMPANELLI: Debit card.
SHORTZ: That's it. A small vehicle wheeled around a restaurant with cakes, pies, et cetera.
CHANG: A small vehicle.
SHORTZ: Dessert cart is it. What when I was a boy is grammatically speaking.
CHANG: When I was a boy.
SHORTZ: Grammatically speaking.
CHANG: I think you're going to have to elaborate. What do you mean grammatically speaking?
SHORTZ: Yeah, so if you start a sentence when I was a boy, if it's cold outside...
CAMPANELLI: Dependent clause.
CHANG: (Laughter) Oh, my God.
SHORTZ: Dependent clause is it, good going.
CHANG: That was great, John (laughter).
SHORTZ: And your last one - political event held in 2016 in Philadelphia and in 2012 in Charlotte, N.C.
CHANG: I know this.
CAMPANELLI: Democratic convention.
SHORTZ: That is it.
CHANG: There you go.
SHORTZ: Good job.
CHANG: Great job, John. For playing our puzzle today, you will get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin as well as puzzle books and games. And you can read all about it at npr.org/puzzle. So tell us your public radio station. Where do you listen to us?
CAMPANELLI: I have to admit, I'm a little polygamist with my public radio relationship.
CAMPANELLI: I split time between WCPN ideastream in Cleveland, WKSU from Kent State University, and I also enjoy the convenient NPR One phone app. It's great.
CHANG: John Campanelli from Hudson, Ohio. Thank you so much for playing The Puzzle with us.
CAMPANELLI: Thank you, Ailsa and Will. Happy holidays to you.
SHORTZ: Thanks a lot.
CHANG: Likewise to you, too. All right, Will, what is the challenge for next week?
SHORTZ: Yes, it comes from listener Matt Jones of Portland, Ore. Think of a two-word phrase commonly seen on signs in new businesses, nine letters in all. Change the sixth letter to an N and read the resulting letters in order. You'll get a new two-word phrase sometimes seen on humorous signs in classrooms and offices. What signs are these? So let me say it again. Two-word phrase commonly seen on signs in new businesses, nine letters. Change the sixth letter to an N, read the result in order, and you get a new two-word phrase sometimes seen on humorous signs in classrooms and offices.
CHANG: And when you have the answer, go to our website, npr.org/puzzle, and click on the submit your answer link. Just one entry per person, please. Our deadline for entries is Thursday, December 15 at 3 p.m. Eastern. So 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. Thank you so much, Will. This was a lot of fun.
SHORTZ: Thank you, Ailsa.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.