On-air challenge: This week's puzzle is called "SuperPACs." Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with PA- and the second word starts with C.
For example: Official who oversees a city's green spaces --> PARKS COMMISSIONER.
Last week's challenge: This is a two-week challenge. Take the digits 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1, in that order. Using those digits and the four arithmetic signs — plus, minus, times and divided by — you can get 1 with the sequence 5 - 4 + 3 - 2 - 1. You can get 2 with the sequence (5 - 4 + 3 - 2) x 1.
The question is ... how many numbers from 1 to 40 can you get using the digits 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 in that order along with the four arithmetic signs?
You can group digits with parentheses, as in the example. There are no tricks to this, though. It's a straightforward puzzle. How many numbers from 1 to 40 can you get — and, specifically, what number or numbers can you not get?
Answer: 39 numbers — the only number you can not get is 39.
Here are the answers submitted by this week's winner. Note: Many numbers have multiple possible equations:
3=((5+4)/3) * (2-1);
(no equation for 39);
Winner: Margaret Gibbs of Littleton, Mass.
Next week's challenge, from listener Peter Gordon of Great Neck, N.Y.: Think of a name in the news that has a doubled letter. It's a person's last name. Change that doubled letter to a different doubled letter, and you'll get the commercial name for a popular food. What is it?
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, Nov. 3, at 3 p.m. ET.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Trick or treat? Let's go with treat. And that is no riddle because it's time to play The Puzzle.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: I'm joined as always by the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzlemaster, Will Shortz. Hi, Will. Happy early Halloween.
WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Hey, same to you.
MARTIN: So you were at the World Puzzle Championship. How was that?
SHORTZ: Well, do you ever feel you need a vacation when you come back from a vacation? That's how I...
MARTIN: ...Most vacations that I take, actually.
SHORTZ: Yeah (laughter). Anyway, it was great. There were over 350 participants at the World Sudoku Championship and World Puzzle Championship. It was in Slovakia. And let's see, for the Sudoku Championship, USA finished in 10th place out of 54 teams, and in the Puzzle Championship we finished in third place.
MARTIN: Not bad.
SHORTZ: You know, so we did pretty well.
MARTIN: Not bad. All right, so before we get too far into things, we do have a small issue to address from The Puzzle last week, right?
SHORTZ: Yeah, for the category of presidential first names, I allowed Alexander for the letter A. There's no president Alexander. Abraham or Andrew would have worked.
MARTIN: OK, so now we finally get to reveal the answer to our two-week challenge. Remind us what it was, Will.
SHORTZ: Yes, I said take the digits five, four, three, two and one, in that order, and using those digits and the four arithmetic signs, the question was how many numbers from one to 40 can you get using these digits in that order along with those signs? And the answer is 39. The only number you can't get an equation from was 39 itself.
MARTIN: Wow. OK, so we got just 520 correct answers, which means this one was kind of hard. Our randomly selected winner is Margaret Gibbs of Littleton, Mass., who's on the line now. Margaret, well done. Congratulations.
MARGARET GIBBS: Thank you, Rachel.
MARTIN: So how'd you figure it out?
GIBBS: I just took a piece of paper and a pencil and I started writing down the numbers five, four, three, two, one and getting all of the equations. And the only one that I couldn't get was 39.
MARTIN: Good for you. Do you happen to have a question for Will Shortz, Margaret?
GIBBS: I actually do. Will, you seem to have mostly word puzzles on this program. And...
GIBBS: ...Two weeks ago was the math puzzle, which I really enjoyed. Do you find that you get fewer entrants when you have math puzzles? And is that why you don't use them as frequently?
SHORTZ: It's hard to come up with original ones.
SHORTZ: Good original ones. That's the problem.
GIBBS: I see.
MARTIN: Are you ready to play The Puzzle?
MARTIN: OK, Will, we're ready to do it.
SHORTZ: All right, Margaret and Rachel, today's puzzle is called Super PACs. Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with P-A and the second word starts with C. For example, if I said official who oversees a city's green spaces, you would say parks commissioner.
GIBBS: All right.
SHORTZ: Number one - waterway connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific.
GIBBS: Panama Canal.
SHORTZ: Is correct. Number two - a bent wire for holding office sheets together.
GIBBS: Paper clip.
SHORTZ: What Comcast is to NBCUniversal.
GIBBS: Parent company.
SHORTZ: That's it. Police officer's vehicle.
GIBBS: Patrol car.
SHORTZ: Renowned 20th century cellist.
GIBBS: Renowned 20th century cellist?
SHORTZ: Twentieth century cellist, right, born in Catalonia.
GIBBS: Catalonia. I don't know. Rachel, do you know?
MARTIN: Oh, Margaret, I don't know.
SHORTZ: Stumped you both. I'll tell you. It's Pablo Casals.
MARTIN: Oh, Pablo.
GIBBS: Thank you.
SHORTZ: OK, here's your next one - country singer whose hits included "Crazy" and "I Fall To Pieces."
GIBBS: Patsy Cline?
SHORTZ: That's it. Container for a Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams product.
GIBBS: Paint can.
SHORTZ: A device for remotely watching Chinese animals at a zoo.
GIBBS: Panda cam?
SHORTZ: That's it. Person who shows up at a social event without an invitation.
SHORTZ: Party crasher is it. And here's the last one - words repeated before baker's man in a children's rhyme.
GIBBS: Patty cake.
SHORTZ: That's it.
GIBBS: Patty cake.
SHORTZ: Patty cake, patty cake.
MARTIN: I feel like we should have timed that one. You nailed that, Margaret. Well done.
GIBBS: Thank you.
MARTIN: For playing The Puzzle, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin and all kinds of puzzle books and games. Check out your prizes at npr.org/puzzle. And where do you hear us, Margaret? Tell us your public radio station.
GIBBS: My public radio station is WBUR Boston, and I generally listen to you on the podcast.
MARTIN: Great. We'll take it any way we can get it. WBUR in Boston. Margaret Gibbs of Littleton, Mass. Thanks so much for playing The Puzzle, Margaret.
GIBBS: Thank you.
MARTIN: OK, Will, what's the challenge for next week?
SHORTZ: Yes, it comes from listener Peter Gordon of Great Neck, Long Island. Think of a name in the news that has a doubled letter - and it's a person's last name - change that doubled letter to a different doubled letter and you'll get the commercial name for a popular food. What is it? So again, a name in the news that has a doubled letter, change that doubled letter to a different doubled letter and you'll get the commercial name for a popular food. What is it?
MARTIN: When you've figured it out, go to npr.org/puzzle and click on the submit your answer link. Just one entry per person, please, and our deadline for the entries is Thursday, November 3, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Don't forget to give us a phone number where we can reach you at about that time. And it works like this - if you're the winner, then we call you, and then you get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times. And he is WEEKEND EDITION's puzzlemaster, Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.
SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.