Thursday, March 4, 2010

NPR Puzzle 2/28/10 -- CHiPs Eat Chips but Monks Don't Watch Monk

Here's this week's puzzle:
Name an animal in two syllables. Add an S at the end of the first syllable, and you'll get the name of an old TV show. The second syllable, phonetically, is the name of a current TV show. What animal is this?
It is our old friend, the chipmunk.

Easy-peasy, as some of you noted in the comments to my post on Sunday.  But what I don't get is the conspiracy theory.  Do y'all really think that Will Shortz has to bring the easy to NPR to help his own contract talks?

Ross and I were talking about the general question of where our beloved Puzzlemaster gets his income from.  (Sorry, Will -- you're a public figure, so this is allowed.)  We're told he gets a lot more money from the Su Doku puzzle books bearing his name -- where he's done nothing but provide a brand -- than from crossword puzzle books.  Which is jolly good for him, I say.

Where our discussion got a bit more interesting was about the ACPT.  Will started the crossword championship long before he was the crossword editor of the New York Times, and it's been his baby ever since.  Ross rather assumed he must make pots of money, but I say no.  I've been involved in organizing a convention like that, and it's not cheap.  Admittedly, the entrance fee is pretty hefty, but given that they can't know for sure how many people are coming, I bet they keep the fees as low as they dare to encourage people to participate.  If anything, I speculate that Will gets no money from the conference, and has supported it financially.  (It does have two official sponsors: The New York Times and St. Martin's Press.)

Now, the NPR gig is a bit different.  Will might get paid a nominal amount (this is public radio, after all -- not exactly raking in the dough anyway you look at it), but even if he is, that's not going to be a contract either side is going to mess with.  And no matter what he gets paid, I'll bet the royalties from the St. Martin's Press books more than match it.

Besides all that, I'm pretty sure our Puzzlemaster does almost all this stuff because he loves it and not because he loves the revenue streams.

Just my guess, you understand.


Mendo Jim said...

I was being facetious when I posted the earlier comment under Anonymous. I do know that some NPR features, such as Car Talk (Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers) do receive substantial compensation, enough that our local station had to give them up with its current tight budget.
I have tried for years to figure out Will's approach to puzzling. As the self-professed only holder of a degree in enigmatology, I have wondered why he can be so irregularly rigorous in his work.
The last four Sunday Challenges are an example: He started this string with a seriously flawed and misleading offering about bird names, never admittling his mistake. Then he followed with the iffy Cole/Cleo anagram, then two of the easiest challenges in years after that. I will predict that this one will surpass the last one in responses, setting a new record.
I think his audience (us) wants well made and challenging challenges and I don't know why, after 23 years, he doesn't.

Magdalen said...

Mendo Jim -- It's an interesting question, but I think you may have sampling problems. If you took one entire year's worth of NPR Puzzles, rated each for ease of solving (or, if that would be too subjective, the number of solutions submitted), I think you'd see a fair bit of variation.

I'm no statistician, but I suspect even the recent dramatic plunge to only 400 solutions and then up to 5,000+ (which may be a record, I don't know) is statistically within the history, say, of the past 10 years.

But you raise an interesting challenge -- Let's all guess the number for when Liane says "We received over _________ responses this week." Jim, you've picked more than 5,000 (and that Liane will announce it's a new record), Ross guesses 2,500 - 3,000, I'll guess 2,000 - 2,500.

That still leaves some slots available, if anyone wants to get in on the action. The prize is HONORABLE MENTION in the Sunday post! Whoo-hoo!