Changing The World One Letter At A Time

Mar 23, 2014
Originally published on March 23, 2014 11:36 am

On-air challenge: For each geographical place provided, change one letter to make a new, common word that has a different number of syllables than the geographical name. Note: The answer word can have either fewer or more syllables than the geographical name.

Example: Lima = limp, limb, lime (for some of the names, multiple answers are possible)

Last week's challenge: Take the brand name of a popular grocery item, written normally in upper- and lowercase letters. Push two consecutive letters together, without otherwise changing the name in any way. The result will name a make of car. What is it?

Answer: Mazola, Mazda

Winner: Keith Gurland of Holmes, N.Y.

Next week's challenge: Name a capital of a country. Change the first letter to name a familiar musical instrument. What 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.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Grab your beverage of choice and a pen - maybe a dictionary and an oracle if you have one handy because it's time for the puzzle.


MARTIN: Joining me now is Will Shortz. He's the puzzle editor of the New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. Hey, Will. Good morning.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Help us remember, what was last week's challenge?

SHORTZ: Yes. It came from listener Carol Highland of Ephrata, Washington. I said take the brand name of a popular grocery item, written normally in upper- and lower-case letters. I said push two consecutive letters without otherwise changing the name in any way, and the result will name a make of car. What is it? Well, the answer is Mazola, as in the margarine or vegetable oil. And if you push the O and the L together, you get the D, which creates the name Mazda, the car. We got an interesting alternative answer. A listener sent in Lipton, as in tea. If you squish the L and I together, it sort of makes a U. And there is an old make of car, the Upton. It's been defunct since 1907, but I give that listener high credit.

MARTIN: Wow. Points for knowing your history. But nevertheless, our randomly selected winner this week is Keith Gurland of Holmes, New York. He joins us on the line now. Hey, Keith.

KEITH GURLAND: Hey, there.

MARTIN: Congratulations.

GURLAND: Thank you.

MARTIN: So, what's going on in Holmes? What do you do in Holmes, New York?

GURLAND: Well, I'm a freelance saxophone player, so I drive to and from Holmes quite a bit.

MARTIN: Do you drive a Mazda, perchance?

GURLAND: I do not, although there is one in the family.


MARTIN: So, Keith, freelance saxophonist from Holmes, New York, are you ready to play the puzzle?


MARTIN: Yes. Good answer. Good answer. OK, Will, let's do it.

SHORTZ: All right, Keith and Rachel. I'm going to name some geographical places. For each one, change one letter to make a new common uncapitalized word that has a different number of syllables as the geographical name. For example, if I said Lima L-I-M-A, you might say limp L-I-M-P, changing the A to a P, and Lima, of course, has two syllables; limp has one. You might also have said limb or lime. Some of the names have multiple answers.


SHORTZ: All right. Here's number one: Peru P-E-R-U.

GURLAND: Well, perp.

SHORTZ: Perp is good. Perk or pert - any of those. Number two is Iran.


MARTIN: We can just change one letter?

SHORTZ: Just change one letter. Change the first one.

GURLAND: Must be changing the I.

SHORTZ: Change the I, yeah.


SHORTZ: Bran, as in Raisin Bran, good. Bonn B-O-N-N.

GURLAND: Let's see, Bonn, B-O...let's see, looking for taking one of them consonants out of there and...

SHORTZ: Yeah, change the last letter.

GURLAND: Yeah. Bo...

MARTIN: Like what you throw your dog.

SHORTZ: Yeah, but that's only one syllable. It has to be two syllables.

MARTIN: Oh, you got two syllables.


SHORTZ: Bony is it. Good job. Quito Q-U-I-T-O, Quito.


SHORTZ: Quite or quits is good. Chile C-H-I-L-E.


SHORTZ: Good, or chill, either way. Samoa S-A-M-O-A.

GURLAND: Let's see, Samoa. Samba.

SHORTZ: Samba, good. Tangier T-A-N-G-I-E-R.


SHORTZ: So, you got two syllables. You either need to make it one or three.

GURLAND: Rangier. How about...

SHORTZ: Rangier or mangier, uh-huh. Texas T-E-X-A-S.

GURLAND: Texas. I can't seem to - let's see, I'm trying to increase the syllable count here or decrease it...

SHORTZ: No, make it go down to one syllable.


SHORTZ: And change the A in particular.

MARTIN: Like books.


GURLAND: Oh, texts.

SHORTZ: Texts is it. Boise.

GURLAND: I am sorry, America.


MARTIN: No need to apologize.

SHORTZ: No need. Boise B-O-I-S-E.

GURLAND: OK. Boise. Poise.

SHORTZ: Poise or noise. Maui M-A-U-I.


SHORTZ: Maul. Paris P-A-R-I-S.


SHORTZ: That's it. And your last one is France.

GURLAND: France. France. That's two. When I make it two and when I go...

SHORTZ: It's an interesting one. You actually want to make it three.


MARTIN: Hmm. Can you tell us...

GURLAND: Beyonce, OK.

MARTIN: Ooh, really?

SHORTZ: Beyonce. Nice job, Keith.

MARTIN: Good job. Oh, Keith. That was good.

GURLAND: I give you finally a chance to say that.


MARTIN: No, that was well earned. Well done. I thought that was hard.

For playing the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and puzzle books and games. You can read all about it at our website, which is And before we let you go, Keith, where do you hear us? What is your public radio station?


MARTIN: WNYC in New York City. Keith Gurland, of Holmes, New York. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, Keith.

GURLAND: Alrighty.

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

SHORTZ: Yes, name a capital of a country. Change the first letter to name a familiar musical instrument. What is it?

So again. Capital of a country. Change the first letter to name a familiar musical instrument. What's the capital and what's the instrument?

MARTIN: Short and sweet, OK. When you've got the answer, go to our website, Click on that Submit Your Answer link. Limit yourself to just one entry per person, please. And our deadline for entries is Thursday, March 27th at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. Because if you're the winner, we give you a call, and then you will get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times. And he is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Will Shortz.

Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.

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