Sunday, January 01, 2017

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Jan 1, 2017): Start the Year with a Word Square Puzzle

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Jan 1, 2017): Start the Year with a Word Square Puzzle:
Q: Take the four-letter men's names TODD, OMAR, DAVE and DREW. If you write them one under the other, they'll form a word square, spelling TODD, OMAR, DAVE and DREW reading down as well.

Can you construct a word square consisting of five five-letter men's names? Any such square using relatively familiar men's names will count. Will has an answer using four relatively common names and one less familiar one.
This list of 5-letter names or this list of 5-letter boys names should help you get started.
A: Will's intended answer was:
KEMAL
EMILE
MILAN
ALAIN
LENNY

One of the many possible answers, and the answer of the person chosen to play on the air was:
ABRAM
BLANE
RANDY
ANDRE
MEYER

114 comments:

  1. Here's my standard reminder... don't post the answer or any hints that could lead directly to the answer (e.g. via a chain of thought, or an internet search) before the deadline of Thursday at 3pm ET. If you know the answer, click the link and submit it to NPR, but don't give it away here.

    You may provide indirect hints to the answer to show you know it, but make sure they don't give the answer away. You can openly discuss your hints and the answer after the Thursday deadline. Thank you.

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  2. Replies
    1. Nice! Added to the original post. That list has just boys names and includes popularity.

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  3. OK, I got an answer on this one, with a fifth name that is obscure but some guys have it. For now, over and out. ---Rob

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    Replies
    1. Are your names in the lists above?

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    2. I hope your hint isn't a misdirection.

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    3. Four of the names are on the list; that fifth one is a real name, but real obscure. ---Rob

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    4. Rob - That description fits the answers I've got.

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  4. With my blog tile one would think I'd have no problem with this puzzle...keep thinking.

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  5. A letter analysis of the five-letter male first names in IMDB's actor database reveals that letters overrepresented in these names (compared to standard English text) are (in order) K, Y, J, M, R, L, and B, and underrepresented letters are T, H, W, C, and P. That is, compared to the standard ETAOINSHRDL… letter frequency, these names have a frequency of AIENROLSMTYDKHUBCJGVPFZWXQ. In this analysis I excluded names that appeared less than four times, which pared it down from about 21,000 uniques names to about 4,600.

    Here's the raw data, sorted by frequency counts.

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    Replies
    1. Then one needs to cull the female names.

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    2. What? No, the list is pulled from IMDB's male actor list. That's already done.

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    3. I can't help but think that your time and talents might be better spent trying to hack into the 上海证券交易所. On the other hand, maybe you're already doing that, and you only visit here for the amusement value.
      In any case, Happy New Year, PC!
      (And all my other frenemies, of course.)

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  6. 'Word squares generally bore me; I am reminded of Samuel Johnson's comparison of a woman preacher with a dog that has learned to stand on its hind legs: "It is not done well; yet you are surprised to find it done at all."' - Willard R. Espy

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  7. Gee, does the relative quiet here mean that no one has a square drawn from five names on the given lists? I am thinking that my fifth name is so obscure that it will be ruled out - and that's OK with me, I don't have to hunt anymore. ---Rob

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  8. You may have to copy and paste this link, titled on TYWKIWDBI : "Trump administration heads toward Washington," but I think you will like it.

    https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-P6UN966D88M/WGkt8e99g9I/AAAAAAAAmrA/D6m1Dn6Vhg0j-pLWGFI3QAb7KfROlgPugCLcB/s1600/train.jpg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I copied and pasted and all I got was a picture of a train on fire?
      I want my vote back!

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    2. Actually, I'd probably cast it the same way, so never mind.

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  9. I did the best I could. Maybe it's the new year, but I thought this one was rather tough.

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  10. I have no interest in spending my time on this puzzle.

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  11. On the air, Will said he changed the format of his year-end news quiz partly because he could not think of “many good names that sprang into the news during the previous 12 months.” I bet that as a group we could come up with quite a nice list of such names. In the hope that some of you would like to join me in this endeavor, here are 10 names to start the list:

    Merrick Garland
    Evan McMullin
    Paolo Gentilioni
    Chris Thile
    Colin Kaepernick
    Boaty McBoatface
    Pokemon Go
    Khizr Khan
    Harambe
    Kenneth Bone

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ammon Bundy
      Sandra Bland
      Luke Aikins
      Theresa May
      Park Geun-hye

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  12. Oh, and regarding this week's puzzle, I agree with SDB. Not the way I want to spend the initial hours (or days) of the new year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When solved there is no reward, such as, "Oh, I never realized that!" Or anything worthwhile at all, just that a tedious exercise was solved and nothing learned in the process. Great way to begin what promises to be a really crappy new year.

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    2. SDB, I agree, and feel the same about the change in NYT crosswords which seem to have many acronyms and foolish phrase constructions. Little worth remembering

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  13. After spending the whole day on this, I have a solution with 4 good names and 1 name that is so obscure I can find only one person on the interwebs with this spelling.

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  14. Well, Will is asking a yes/no question. Can you construct a word square using 5 relatively familiar men's names? The correct answer might be "no".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bonus points if you can also make it a palindrome, like the Sator Square.

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    2. No Sator answers with halfway recognizable names. My database creates a total of two Sator squares, but on closer inspection each contains one or more names that are more traditionally female. I guess there are technically men with those names, but it wouldn't hold up in the court of puzzle opinion.

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  15. Like others here have said, I don't like word square puzzles and never try to solve them. Waste of time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, I like my chances this week.

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    2. PC: Sounds like you had another exercise in computer programming. My idea of an acceptable solution would be if all 5 names were in the top 250 (or so) list of modern men's names. Any luck??

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  16. I wrote a little awk script to solve this one. The two lists that Blaine mentioned at the top contain 870 unique names between them. Now, no one should claim that all 870 are common (or even men's names at all), but using those, my script found 253 valid 5x5 squares. (Oddly, the first one found includes the name "Blane".) None of the squares uses 5 common male names. The hard part will be deciding which is the most reasonable one to submit.

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    Replies
    1. I am not working this one, but before I got outta bed Sunday I thought of Blaine as a possible starting point but quickly realized it was six letters.

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    2. Jan: I'd be interested in seeing your script (after the deadline, of course). Thanks.

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  17. Getting close to throwing in the towel!,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I stopped doing the laundry this weekend after I threw in the towels.

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    2. If Michael Jackson had adopted another child after Blanket, he very well may have named him Towel. Or, perhaps Blanket will change his name to Towel when he reaches adulthood. What a messed-up childhood he must have had. Just imagine all the crap he had to absorb.

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    3. Poor Blanket has apparently already changed his name....to "BIGI". I looked it up.

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  18. Like others here I have 5x5 (x5) other ways to spend my week, so at the risk of starting the year with some controversy:

    How many folks here are fans of Sudoku and/ or KenKen? And can you explain the attraction?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never do Sudoku or xwords. Never heard of KenKen. I always thought it was KenBarbie.

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    2. Can you explain the attraction of crosswords or acrostics or the NPR Sunday puzzle or the CarTalk puzzler. I guess it's like a computer in an idle loop: it's always doing something, just not always something useful.

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    3. I cancelled our local newspaper subscription over a month ago. The paper has been getting smaller and smaller with very little substance.
      The biggest thing I miss is the daily NYT Crossword. I may just get a subscription to it instead of the paper.

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    4. I often argue that we should scrap our subscription to the paper New York Times. A couple of weeks ago, I was glad that my wife prevailed. The Times included a big 30-plus puzzle bonus holiday insert, including a massive 50 x 50 crossword. It felt like a gift from Will, and was much appreciated.

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    5. Jan: I've been doing crosswords for decades; I suppose traditional crosswords test your knowledge of various trivia, sort of like Jeopardy(!). Acrostics also have additional use of wordplay/ puns/ anagrams, etc.

      But I don't get the attraction to the Sudoku/ KenKen, the answer is always some combination of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0, not necessarily in that order.

      You could argue the same for crosswords (a-b-c etc) except those create elements of common knowledge, which is really all words are, and/ or create clever reuses of language.

      By the way, the digital subscription to the NYT does include all their crosswords, you get them the day before, and you can use a timer to compare yourself to others. Though I think the fastest times are people who figure out the entire puzzle in advance, and spend that 90 seconds just filling in the blanks. I must confess I am still clumsy in filling out the digital squares.

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  19. As I make one final and desperate attempt to solve this, I keep looking ahead to how to notify NPR of my 'winning' answer.
    My first idea is to send the answer in by courier. After all, it is the most secure way, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  20. See the end of this week's post for another transmittal method for your answers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WW - I like it, that's pretty good!! Maybe DT should stay up late with a chisel & tablet instead of twitter.
      BTW, I liked your live stream video from last week!

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    2. Thanks, 68Charger. Luckily, many more live streams to come.

      Yes, anything but twittering away the early hours of the day. . .Could casting things in stone make him stop and think a bit? Cune-IForm overtaking the IPhone?

      Delete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I finally did get an answer for this puzzle. Four of the names are on both lists. The fifth, while not on either list, looks and sounds valid.
      My answers may not be elegant but it seems to work.

      Delete
  22. Speaking of Word Woman's (who is aka Scientific Steph) fine Partial Ellipsis Of The Sun (PEOTS) blog (to which she linked, above), those of you who are still struggling with this week's NPR challenge may want to check out an early-2014 blog from the PEOTS archives. It offers an excellent boy's first name that I cannot find on any other internet name list!

    Just click this link and scroll down to the Comments section. Then check out the comments at:
    Jan 29, 2014, at 5:29 PM
    Feb 1, 2014, at 10:54 AM
    Feb 3, 2014, at 12:12 AM

    I have not yet solved Will's puzzle by using this somewhat unusual name, but I am working on it.

    LegoInTheFinalAnalysisMatHaveToStopFishingCutBaitAndJustTakeAGuessAtThisWeek'sWeekendEditionSundayAnswer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that memory, Lego. Your next-to-last comment on the link above is classic dialogue that still makes me laugh, lo, these nearly three years later!

      Guess good humorous writing just gets better with age.

      Btw, I saw this fine young man at the library recently. He's in middle school now. No one ever forgets his name!

      I guess it's akin to the name-remembering technique of say, picturing a "Jim" in a Jungle Gym. The 5-letter boys' name story/hook is built in to his every introduction.

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  23. Out of disrespect for this awful puzzle I thought I would break the rules and post my answer here now. Here it is posted below:









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  24. I have 4 answers, each one using 4 names on the lists and the fifth one obscure. One of my 5th names is KAREL, relatively common but not on either list. I will post tomorrow, but I am unable to post until around 3:00 pm EST.

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    Replies
    1. A good name for Xmas time I suppose. He could go Kareling. But who really Kares? I never heard of this name and hope not to in the future either.

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    2. The Czech writer Karel Čapek fits the bill; he is best known for bringing forth the term "robot" in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots); robot was actually created by his brother Josef.

      SDB - you might enjoy reading about this Karel, he was a strong anti-fascist and Nobel nominee 7 times; he died before the Nazis could arrest him.

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    3. I guess were he alive today he would not be a fan of Gingrich.

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    4. I think if he were alive today he would not be a fan of the US.

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    5. Except he'd like how we've all become robots.

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    6. .....willingly marching to the showers.

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    7. I wake up thinking these are the last dying gasps of a structure that is collapsing under an infection of its own lunacy. And as often happens with a dying person, it is going through violent seizures as it tries in vain to cling to life/ power.

      This is not just from the party of Lincoln, the party of Clinton has done its share.

      When I'm in an optimistic mood I can see the rise of a more mature and humane state; unfortunately I'm not optimistic very often, and usually see this dying behemoth metastasizing into something more venal or taking out a lot of innocents with it.

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    8. BRAVO! Well spoken.

      Since November 8th I awake each and every morning with the overpowering feeling I am awaking into, not from, a nightmare. I now have a hard time motivating myself to arise to a new day, just to see all I have worked for to slip further and further away. I tell myself I of all people I know should be able to deal with this because I have been warning of its impending for many years now. No! It does not help. I always prayed I was wrong, but knew I was not wrong at all.

      This country was based on a series of lies and criminal actions that caused the deaths of hoards of innocents and shows no signs of stopping this villainous behavior. Now we are also determined to destroy ourselves. The majority of its people are not going to be bothered with paying more than scant attention as long as they are convinced their infatuation with greed is still seeming to be a worthwhile goal within their reach. If and when they ever do wake up it will be far too late for it to matter.

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  25. Growing up in the fifties was strange. Not only did we have to put up with McCarthyism, but we also had to pretend to be afraid of the Bomb. But then on the other hand we always had something to laugh at, such as when the popular TV show, "Leave It To Beaver" first aired. It almost caused an international incident with Canada because so many Canadians thought it was an intentional slur on their country.

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    Replies
    1. And calling the jingling of change in their pockets "Loonie Tunes" sealed the deal?

      Delete
  26. Here are two of the 253 answers I found, using Blaine's lists:

    ABRAM
    BLANE
    RANDY
    ANDRE
    MEYER

    REECE
    ERROL
    ERNST
    COSMO
    ELTON

    And here is the awk script I used. Awk is a text processing language that's included in Cygwin, a free package that provides a Unix-like environment for Windows PCs.

    BEGIN {
    i = 0
    }

    {
    x[i++] = $0
    }

    END {
    for (a = 0; a < i; ++a) {
    q = x[a]
    for (b = 0; b < i; ++b) {
    r = x[b]
    if (substr(r, 1, 1) != substr(q, 2, 1))
    continue
    for (c = 0; c < i; ++c) {
    s = x[c];
    if (substr(s, 1, 1) != substr(q, 3, 1))
    continue
    if (substr(s, 2, 1) != substr(r, 3, 1))
    continue;
    for (d = 0; d < i; ++d) {
    t = x[d];
    if (substr(t, 1, 1) != substr(q, 4, 1))
    continue
    if (substr(t, 2, 1) != substr(r, 4, 1))
    continue
    if (substr(t, 3, 1) != substr(s, 4, 1))
    continue
    for (e = 0; e < i; ++e) {
    u = x[e];
    if (substr(u, 1, 1) != substr(q, 5, 1))
    continue
    if (substr(u, 2, 1) != substr(r, 5, 1))
    continue
    if (substr(u, 3, 1) != substr(s, 5, 1))
    continue
    if (substr(u, 4, 1) != substr(t, 5, 1))
    continue
    print q, r, s, t, u
    }
    }
    }
    }

    }
    }

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All my beautiful tab indents got eaten! Oh, well.

      Delete
    2. Dam (b)loggers, those beavers!

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    3. I say "Hats off to 'em."

      A XXXXXXXXXX post.

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    4. Well, jan, that's awk-word.

      Been saving that all week :-).

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    5. Funny, the "dent" in "indent" and "rodent" has the same toothy origin. Along the same (von Ebner) lines, see Word Woman's latest blog post.

      Delete
    6. How about those word origins (said with a toothy grin)?! Thanks for the link to PEOTS, jan.

      Delete
    7. Nice job, jan. You had the winning answer. Sorry you weren't chosen this time

      Delete
  27. I wrote, "OK, I got an answer on this one, with a fifth name that is obscure but some guys have it. For now, over and out." That "over and out" is plumb wrong radio talk. If you expect a reply, you end your transmission with "over." If you are ending the conversation, you end your transmission with "out." The two are not properly used together. But the hint was to that other radio code word, "Roger," which formed the central crux of my answer:

    ABRAM
    BRODY
    ROGER
    ADEMO
    MYRON

    OK, I admit I had never heard of "Ademo" before, but it is certainly "relatively familiar" relative to, say Adexo or Adego. It is the "[much!] less familiar" fifth name, but I did find, via Google, that it was the first name of some guys out there. I doubt that it is an acceptable answer, but I didn't want to hunt anymore! ---Rob

    ReplyDelete
  28. I came up with:


    JULES
    URIAH
    LINDA
    EADON
    SHANE

    Eadon is an Irish name and Linda can be a boys name. In fact, Linda was on both those lists as a boys name. An internet checked showed some people do consider Linda as a boys name. Go figure... So, it wasn't the greatest answer but it worked!!
    That was a tough puzzle.

    ReplyDelete
  29. GREGG
    RAMAL
    EMILE
    GALEN
    GLENN

    ReplyDelete
  30. My five: ANGEL
    NEALE
    GAVIN
    ELIAN
    LENNY
    I have heard of all of those names. But, I obviously didn't get the all important call. Oh well!

    ReplyDelete
  31. This is the best I can do! Each “word square” has four names from the lists.

    HAKIM
    AMARI
    KAREL
    IRENE
    MILES

    OSCAR
    SHANE
    CASEY
    ANETE
    REYES

    OSCAR
    SHANE
    CAREY
    ANETE
    REYES

    SCOTT
    CASEY
    OSCAR
    TEAMO
    TYRON

    3x3 “word squares” are much easier:
    SAM
    ABE
    MEL

    ReplyDelete
  32. I had RHETT
    HARRY
    ERROL
    TROYE
    TYLER

    ReplyDelete
  33. I thought of some of the above, but not all at once. I got four out of five to arrive at

    CHUCK
    HARRY
    URIAH
    CRAIG
    KHYGA

    OK, the last one is not a name, but at least I tried.

    Happy New Year everyone!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Here's mine:
    SCOTT
    CORRY
    ORVAL
    TRACE
    TYLER
    This was indeed a difficult challenge. But after all this, who knows? Maybe KHYGA will catch on as a boy's name. It sounds African.

    ReplyDelete
  35. ISSAC
    STEVE
    SEGER
    AVERY
    CERYL

    All valid names per the interweb!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if it's on the "interweb" it must be true. Let us not allow critical thinking to get in our way.

      Delete
  36. EDGAR
    DIEGO
    GEORG
    AGREE
    ROGER

    that's the best i could do

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can imagine a conversation between Guess, Agree, Roger, Clarence, Victor, Hu, Wat, Idunno, and Yassir, but I'm not creative enough to compose it.

      Delete
  37. Is it really true that Holcomb, Kansas is a Clutter of dead people?

    ReplyDelete
  38. I just uploaded this week's Puzzleria!
    Ten puzzles on our menus this week, including four that Rip Off Shortz.
    You know the routine... click on the "Joseph Young's Puzzleria!" link on Blaine's PUZZLE LINKS.

    LegoWhoMuses"SpeakingOfPuzzleLinks,Wasn'tWill'sGreen+Par+TeeChallengeFramLastWeekALinksPuzzle?

    ReplyDelete
  39. Here's the answer I sent to NPR:

    "BRENT
    RUMOR
    EMILE
    NOLAN
    TRENT

    Unfortunately, "RUMOR", although a common word, is not a name. But that's the most effort I was willing to put into this horrible waste of time. I know there are a number of programmers out there that will write a brute-force script to solve this challenge. And from what I've heard, there is not an answer containing 5 common names. So I guess my official answer to your yes/no question is NO, you cannot construct a word square using 5 relatively familiar names, sorry."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will be interesting to see what the winning answer is. Plus, I'd like to see how many entries, correct or incorrect, there were.

      Delete
  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some people on this blog will blubber about just about anything!

      Delete
    2. I'm a little skeptical, a local seafood restaurant was advertising a one week dinner special today. Just curious about the timing of it.

      Delete
    3. SDB - I pulled that post and then I figured the heck with it. After today's headlines I thought we needed some humor, so I reposted it.

      Delete
    4. 68Charger - This is 2017. There is no longer anything that is humorous.

      Delete
  41. According to the frequencies in my name list gathered from IMDB, the best word grid is KEMAL EMILE MILAN ALAIN LENNY. All names are in the top 440 names. But "best" depends on whether the frequencies of names in IMDB is representative of the population. I assume it's a fairly random sample. Also there's a lot of American bias in terms of what we'd consider a "common" name.

    I had more than the usual amount of fun with the puzzle this week and I thank Will Shortz for allowing this type of puzzle to be featured on Weekend Edition Sunday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FYI I have a file with over 2500 legitimate 5x5 grids of male first names, so if anyone has a friend with a five-letter name and you'd like to know if there exists a word grid with their name in it, let me know and I'll look it up for you. Who knows, could make a nice gift.

      Delete
  42. I think there may be one offering above that meets the "relatively common" standard.
    Willy better accept any that have a more common name than his least one.
    I got some things done this week with the time I saved by not working this flop.

    ReplyDelete
  43. A friend of mines 4th cousin, Trump Pence IV, (adopted), was tring to get his names to work in a grid but with no luck. He kind of has a big ego, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet he also eats shoots and leaves too.

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    2. His parents would never take him to the National Zoo...

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    3. My parents used to take my two younger brothers and me to the Seattle zoo yearly, but we always knew how to find our way back home.

      Delete
  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  45. Next week's challenge: This week's challenge comes from Mike Reiss, who's a writer/producer for The Simpsons. He's had a number of challenges on this program. Think of a two-word phrase you might see on a clothing label. Add two letters to the end of the first word, and one letter to the end of the second word. The result is the name of a famous writer. Who is it?

    ReplyDelete
  46. Another too easy puzzle about someone known by their middle name.

    ReplyDelete