Thursday, August 20, 2009

NPR Puzzle -- Curb Your Enthusiastic Dog!

Here's this week's puzzle:
Think of a common street sign with three words. Four letters in the first word, four letters in the second word and three letters in the last. Drop the last letter of the first word in the sign and you'll get a new word that is a synonym of the last word in the sign. What is the sign?
Ross got it first, but with a little unintended hint. (I promised you a punchline.) This is how our conversation went:
Ross: But we live in the country. How are we supposed to know about street signs?

Me (thinking of American urban settings Ross could visualize): Just imagine Henry's neighborhood in South Philly.

Ross: Oh. (pause) Curb your dog.
And why was it that simple? Because this is the front of Henry's house in South Philly:


How cool is that? This is a very Catholic sign -- placed there by the Annunciation BVM order that occupied Henry's house (and two adjacent houses) back in the 70s. He's never bothered to take it down.

And, in precisely that way that we have of overlooking the most obvious things, Henry didn't think of the answer right away. You can sympathize with how he felt when he finally figured it out!

Now, when Henry commented on this puzzle, he referred to the British two-spelling factor. "Curb" as in "stop" is spelled the same in both countries, but the edge of the sidewalk (which they call "pavement") is "kerb." So you curb your dog's enthusiasm for crapping on the pavement by taking it to the kerb.

At some point Ross googled this sign and found a comment by an Australian tourist who was really confused to see it all over Manhattan and had to ask the Internet what it meant. I don't think it's exactly an Internationally Recognized locution. Makes you wonder how other countries express the same euphemism?

Here are the answers to this week's value-added puzzle. All of them are two-word phrases taking the form O----- M------.

Papa's companion for The Sea? Old Man

Controls eye movement: Ocular Muscle

Some contents of an art museum, perhaps: Old Masters

Device used by paramedics: Oxygen Mask

Winner of the 1969 U.S. Open (golf): Orville Moody (What -- you mean you didn't all know that?)

Place for a swap meet, in good weather: Open-air Market

Relationship for swingers, perhaps: Open Marriage

What the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts have: Old Money

Computer accessory: Optical Mouse

Baltimore suburb (and home to Maryland Public Television shows like Wall $treet Week and MotorWeek): Owing Mills

Where captains eat: Officers' Mess

Planets and electrons both exhibit this: Orbital Motion

Washington range: Olympic Mountains

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