Sunday, May 24, 2009

NPR Puzzle 5/24/09 -- Name That Name

The good part of having Henry (aka Hub 1.0) visit is that I have access to two English puzzlemasters when the time comes to solve the NPR Sunday on-air puzzle. (For those who haven't figured it out, Henry is my first husband -- hence "Hub 1.0" -- and is the guy who both introduced me to cryptic crosswords and introduced me to Ross.)

The bad part of having two English puzzle masters in the house is if Will Shortz decides to have an on-air puzzle that relies on a substantial knowledge of popular American culture, the mighty puzzlemasters look like mere mortals. Grumpy mortals, at that.

After it was over, Henry was complaining that he hadn't heard of most of the people Will had used. Ross said to him, "What, you've never heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?"

To which Henry replied, "I've heard of her, but I have no idea what the actress is called. "

And I asked, "Was Sarah Michelle Geller an answer to any of the clues?" because I didn't recall that. (In my defense, I was making pancakes for breakfast, so my attention was divided.)

"No, Callista Flockhart," Ross said.

"Callista Flockhart wasn't Buffy," I replied.

"Oh, that's right -- she was on Friends," Ross concluded.

"No, she was Ally McBeal."

"Oh, that's right. The lady lawyer, right?"

"Only now she's on Brothers & Sisters," I explained.

Anyway, that's what it's like here when it's not general vocabulary. So no one solved the take-away puzzle immediately, and faces were pretty glum at the prospect that it was going to be some American television or music personality. (Add to that, there had been some, uh, cross-chatter while Will was explaining what the puzzle was, so the three of us couldn't quite agree on what the puzzle actually was and had to wait until 10:00 a.m to get the answer on the Internet feed for Weekend Edition Sunday.)

Here is the precise wording of the puzzle:
Think of a famous person whose first and last names both have seven letters. Only two different consonants appear in this full name, each used more than once. Out of the 14 letters in the name, 13 of them appear in the first half of the alphabet, A-M. Who is this person?
We solved it using TEA, even though Ross (whose %$£&@# software it is, for goodness sake!) calls that "cheating." (Pretty cheeky when you consider that he wrote out the pattern -- which relied on excluding N-Z from all but one letter in a seven-letter name to see what came up.) And here's your "kinda" hint: When we figured it out, both Ross and Henry (whose university degrees are from Oxford and Cambridge, respectively) sheepishly allowed as how they'd heard of this individual. And me? I went to an American college. And yes, I'd heard of this famous person too.

Here are the added-value puzzles:
Name a device in ten letters that uses only letters in the top row of a standard typewriter keyboard, i.e., QWERTYUIOP.

And this one:
Name an American sports personality (4, 9) whose name has only letters in the first half of the alphabet. (By way of a further hint, Ross allowed as how the name only relies on the letters BCDEFGHIJKL, so no As or Ms.)

I saw the answer to the first question, but needed to "cheat" on the second one. It's clever -- well done, Ross!


Dan said...

What kind of hint is that? Based on the answer that my wife got, which is correct, that hint makes no sense. And we attended universities in both America and Europe.

Dan said...

Dead or alive?

Roxie said...

Ha ha, I don't think you need to be a Cambridge or Oxford graduate to know this famous person :-) Unless, of course, TEA lead you to some obscure Brit who only ever published one paper.

Magdalen said...

Something about the sheer longevity of Oxford and Cambridge -- as Henry pointed out, Cambridge is celebrating its 800th anniversary this year, and Oxford is even older -- seemed apropos for this puzzle. The famous person might seem like a whippersnapper with new-fangled ideas at Oxbridge...

I had a British friend in college (an exchange student from St. Andrews) who was taken on a tour of historic houses in the Boston area and reported to me, "Gosh, some of the buildings are 300 years old!" That's positively new construction in some parts of the UK...

Anonymous said...

whats the answer? i'm stumped.

Roxie said...

PS: I am with Ross on the TEA / "cheating" issue. Although, I often use web searches in trying to figure out the puzzler, and I guess that can also be construed as "cheating" by some purists.

Mylee519 (happy belated birthday, I guess), here's a hint: Will Shortz said on the air: "Think of a famous person, who everyone knows..."
But I can tell you that googling 'list of very famous people' won't get you anywhere. :-)
Also, the name-dropping of universities is somewhat apropos, but only somewhat.

Magdalen said...

Supposedly Will Shortz quotes his predecessor (Eugene Maleska) when asked if looking words up in the dictionary is "cheating" when doing the Times crossword. "It's your crossword -- do it anyway you want."

I don't know if this will help you, Mylee519, but I just looked up the Famous Person's alma mater (since I'm responsible for the university theme, I felt obligated) and it's been around for over 500 years.

jerryinchelsea said...

To Magdalen (or anybody else):

For all of us who have given up by now, could you pleaae tell us the answer?

davejtaylor said...

Can't give the answer away - that would be universally wrong !

However, after leanings were observed in early life, this person went around and around in a pretty big debate.

jerryinchelsea said...

Thanks, Dave!