Sunday, April 12, 2020

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Apr 12, 2020): LARGE to SMALL Word Ladder

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Apr 12, 2020): LARGE to SMALL Word Ladder:
Q:
The challenge is to create the shortest possible word ladder connecting LARGE to SMALL, changing one letter at a time, making a common, uncapitalized word each step of the way. Here's the tricky part: Plurals and verbs formed by adding -s are not allowed.
This could take some time to figure out.
A: LARGE, SARGE, SERGE, VERGE, VERSE, TERSE, TEASE, CEASE, CHASE, CHOSE, WHOSE, WHOLE, WHALE, SHALE, SHALL, SMALL (15 steps).

134 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. I have a solution of eight steps, and I am not going to hunt any more.  It violates the rule about the words being common, because it includes two obscure words, one of which I knew and the other I didn’t.  The one I knew is archaic.  The one I didn’t know is more commonly French.  Both are included in the OED.  Will did not specify any particular dictionary that had to include the words.

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  3. HEY PARAPETS!

    All the world's a small, stall, stale, stage...

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  4. Musical clues: Phil Ochs, Brenda Lee, ...

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    Replies
    1. It's a bit hard to see through Jan's clue if you've got eyes like a bat...

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  5. The way I read the puzzle, the word just before SMALL cannot be either STALL, because its plural is STALLS, nor can it be SMELL, since SMELLS is both the plural of the noun SMELL, and also a congegation of the verb TO SMELL.

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    Replies
    1. I thought you couldn't have actual 5 letter words that are plurals. Like BRAGS or CHINS. That's how I read it.

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    2. To Rob, Clark a pseudonym, ron, Natasha, Snipper, and everyone else with a 7-step solution (8 words including LARGE and SMALL), do ANY of your six words in the middle still yield a valid word if an S is added to the end?
      Maybe my interpretation IS too restrictive. I just checked and I see that both LARGES AND SMALLS are recognized by Wiktionary as valid words.

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    3. Your restriction is irrational and wrong. LARGS or SMALS (if they were words) would be prohibited, but not BARGE(s) or STALL(s).

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    4. The way I read it is that, for example, bones and sings would be invalid in the ladder because bones is a plural and sings is a verb formed by adding 's'.

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    5. Hi Enya....

      Most of my five letter words can add an s to them, but that’s irrelevant to the puzzle, which is looking for five letter words, not six letter words. None of my five letter words end in s.

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  6. I cheated and got an 8 step answer.I can't divulge the method I used.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I have a 7 "letter changes" answer (8 words in all, including "large" & "small."

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    3. The 8 step word ladder solver will not give you the shortest answer...

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    4. Yes, but remember, all the words must be common.

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    5. Lewis Carroll, who invented the word ladder, said that the shortest evolution from APE to MAN consisted of six steps: APE APT OPT OAT MAT MAN.

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    6. Lewis Carroll also "solved" the Large to Small ladder in fifteen small, elegant steps using common, even friendly, words. It is easy to find.
      After my hip replacement, I find shorter rises on ladders and stairs a welcome feature, making fewer, higher ones a minus.

      I hope everyone knows that submitted creative solutions to his "challenges" such as limericks, Spoonerisms and verse become his and NPR's sole property. Willy can and has used these in products that make him money.

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    7. Here is Lewis Carroll's solution:

      Change LARGE to SMALL
      LARGE
      SARGE
      SERGE
      VERGE
      VERSE
      TERSE
      TEASE
      CEASE
      CHASE
      CHOSE
      CHORE
      SHORE
      SHARE
      SHALE
      SHALL
      SMALL

      Delete
    8. Well, there's no point in concealing the intent of my "Beach Boys" clue, above:
      Pet Sounds > Pet Music > ceptimus

      I always think of "Sarge" as capitalized.

      This puzzle that Willy gave us didn't do anything at all for me.

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    9. Interesting! I came up with Lewis Carroll's solution, word for word, without looking it up (and before seeing ron's post, which might be TMI). I was bound and determined to find a ladder using only common words, but, now that I have one, I am curiously unmotivated to look for a shorter one.

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    10. Could someone (Ron?) tell me where Lewis Carroll proposed the LARGE/SMALL puzzle. I can't find any reference to it and "SARGE" seems an unlikely word for him to use.

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    11. I have to admit that "sarge' ("Sarge"?) is missing from the glossary of of "Doublets, A Word Puzzle" the 1879 introduction to the sport by Lewis Carroll.
      Available on Google.

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    12. Nor does the seemingly complete "Lewis Carroll Resources- Doublets," also from Google, indicate that the man actually took on that pair.

      I liked looking at the Dodgson/Carroll material much more than solving the challenge.

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    13. I'm not sure Lewis Carroll would have used the word SARGE. I suspect it is American, and not English.

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    14. Etymology of SARGE. Used by 1867. There is both a British and American pronunciation: SARGE.

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    15. I still think "Sarge" Otto be capitalized.

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  7. I can't believe people are getting 8-step solutions!
    I have one in 15 steps, and mine has two uncommon words.

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  8. Seriously, i have one solution, too many steps to count, with 3 foreign words and an acronym!

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. My middle word is medium.

    Happy Easter from snowy Denver to you who celebrate.

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    1. For Christians the Son will rise. For Jews the bread won't.

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    2. Very very very nice, eco, jan and Word Woman!

      LegoWhoObservesThatByTomorrowWeWillBeObservingYeasterdayInOurCollectiveRearViewMirror

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  11. Pesach sameach!
    Whether you leaven or not, may this plague pass over all your houses.

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    Replies
    1. Okay I finally have an 8-step solution, with just one uncommon word.
      I sure didn't find it in a hurry!

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  12. Never heard of some of those words.

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  13. 8 step solution including large and small!

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  14. This week’s puzzle is one of a very few kinds that I genuinely dislike: the answer is indefinite and you don’t know when/if you’re through. To those who have the time and interest, I say more power to you.

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  15. Similar to others, on this Easter Sunday, my answer took eggs-actly 7 steps (8 words w large and small) to crack the code. Happy Easter/Passover to all celebrating.

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  16. STRAP is proud of the success of the movement to abolish anagram puzzles, and is now forming a new organization, the Society To Reject All Wordladders.

    We'll be taking a poll later.

    I suspect the 7 step ladder has words that are not really common, and a non-standard spelling.

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  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. This one may hang on the meaning of common. I have a 7 step (8 word total) guess which includes an informal word and a word with a variant spelling. Both of those are defined in M-W, so I suppose it's a valid guess. At least I learned a new word. Now to find a way to use it in a common discussion.

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  19. I have only been able to use the "Ladder" with nine steps, including "Large" & "Small". With these kinds of puzzles I find myself preferring to use the "Elevator", and just go directly from
    "Large"

    "Small"
    in just one step!

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    Replies
    1. Do I get extra points for riding an escalator down while standing upright on the black hand railings? It was a long time ago in a major department store.

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    2. There has to be some kind of lapel pin for that!

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    3. Yes, 68Charger. I believe it is an NPR lapel pin.
      NPR stands for Not Prudent Rule-breaker!

      LegoWhoOnceSkateboarded(!)DownTheBlackHandRailingOnAMajorDepartmentStoreEscalator

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    4. But was it a gold Trump Tower escalator?

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    5. No, it was the Bon Marché at the Northgate Mall. It later on became Macy's. It has now closed for good.

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  20. 8 steps, but I used that F-Troop term, and an obsolete word.

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  21. I submitted an answer with fewer than 10 words, but I suspect the intended answer will have many more words than that.

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  22. Oh no.

    John Conway has died.

    He doesn't have much to do with Will Shortz' kind of puzzles, but he was one of the gods of more mathematical puzzles.

    RIP.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, for posting this wonderful obit of a remarkable person and creative giant, Crito. I love the term "magical genius" that his colleague used to describe Conway. I had a subscription to Scientific American magazine as a lad, mainly so I could read Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column. I remember well Gardner's "unveiling" of John Horton Conway's Game of Life in SA.
      It is a sad day... but what a productive Life!

      LegoObservesThatWhileHortonMayHaveHeardAWhoJohnHortonHeardAWhooshOfMathematicalInspirationInHisSoulAndSharedItWithTheWorld

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    2. Same here, Lego! I mean: I also had a Scientific American subscription, and I really looked forward to Mathematical Games every month. (I could typically read a page or so of the serious scientific articles, and then I'd be over my head.) And that's where I discovered Conway.
      I love how he says he never worked a day in his life.

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    3. Don't forget C. L. Stong's Amateur Scientist column!
      Sci Am used to be such a great publication. I kept every issue from 1970 on, until I realized it was pointless, and my attic probably couldn't support the weight.

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    4. Oh, gosh, the Amateur Scientist, that was great.
      I remember doing the ice-freezing experiments. The question was whether sometimes warm water in ice cube trays freezes faster than cold -- and indeed it often did! I was so thrilled.

      That xkcd really is beautiful. A glider, after all, never dies...

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  23. Best I could do with 'common words' was 11 steps. I found the 8 step answers too and I'm sure the Puzzlemaster will not go for obsolete words. We'll see.

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  24. I am happy to have a solution with 18 steps (19 words).

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    Replies
    1. I am jolly with a smile. Two of my words were "jolly" and "smile".

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    2. My list was large, barge, badge, budge, bulge, bulgy, bully, belly, jelly, jolly, dolly, doily, soily, smily, smile, stile, still, stall, small.

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  25. If Merriam-Webster says it's so, it must be so.

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  26. Back on December 30, I tokhes from SCHMEAR to an apt ad from Bernie and Phyl's, a local furniture retailer. Bernie died on Monday of Covid-19.

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  27. Including "large" and "small," got an eight-step (as have others here), longer with more common words.

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  28. For those of you who haven't had enough of these word ladders, HERE are some more Lewis Carroll creations. Enjoy.

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  29. In Rome, do you suppose they suffer from 100-0-5-1-500-19?

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    1. Clever, post jan. Or, perhaps, 100-0-5-1-500-XIX?

      50ego/Obser5es/That/100ona6rus/1s/A/1,000-2.718-501-100-a-50/501-50-2.718-2,000-a

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    2. It came to me last night as I walked past 432 Broadway, across from the Cambridge Public Library.

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  30. Rome, Rome in its time;
    With that crazy SPQR sign.
    Where seldom is heard an encouraging word:
    And the lions devour Christians all day.

    (We were a creative bunch in Latin I a half century ago.)

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  31. And get take-out from Little Caligula's?

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  32. LARGE
    SARGE
    SERGE
    VERGE
    VERSE
    TERSE
    TEASE
    CEASE
    CHASE
    CHOSE
    CHORE
    SHORE
    SHARE
    SHALE
    SHALL
    SMALL

    This 18 word ladder may be the shortest with all common words. There are much shorter answers, but they all seem to have uncommon words.

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    Replies
    1. I submitted that and a minor variant

      LARGE, SARGE, SERGE, VERGE, VERSE, TERSE, TEASE, CEASE, CHASE, CHOSE, WHOSE, WHOLE, WHALE, SHALE, SHALL, SMALL

      which differs in how it gets from CHOSE to SHALE.

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    2. No. The Lewis Carrol solution has several words ending in S.

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    3. So what did you do to the West Seattle bridge?

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    4. I've only used it a few times.

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    5. I really meant 16 words, not letters.

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  33. LARGE, SARGE, SAREE, SIREE, SIRED, SHRED, SHIED, SHIEL, SHILL, SHALL, SMALL

    > Musical clues: Phil Ochs, Brenda Lee, ...

    Draft Dodger Rag, I'm Sorry, ...

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  34. LARGE
    SARGE
    SURGE
    SUAGE (also a common metalworker's tool: suage)
    STAGE
    STALE
    STALL
    SMALL

    7 letter changes (steps), 8 words total.

    There are two “word ladder solvers,” try them out: ONE & TWO. Try number ONE several times for different results...

    HEY PARAPET” anagrams to “HAPPY EASTER

    TGIM → Thank God it's Monday!

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    Replies
    1. I just don't know many metalworkers. Damn.

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    2. There's no S in HEY PARAPET.

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    3. HEY PARAPETS! See above,

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    4. An even shorter answer if you count REMOVING/ADDING a letter as a step:
      LARGE
      SARGE
      SAGE
      STAGE
      STALE
      STALL
      SMALL

      Delete
    5. Alternate six-step answer:
      LARGE
      SARGE
      SAGE
      SALE
      SHALE
      SHALL
      SMALL

      Delete
  35. LARGE
    SARGE
    SERGE
    SERRE
    SEARE
    STARE
    STALE
    STALL
    SMALL

    All wrung out with such a short ladder. . .

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    Replies
    1. A longer ladder gets you to higher places.

      Snowing to beat the band right now.

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    2. What do serre and seare mean? I couldn’t find either on Miriam-Webster.com

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  36. large, barge, badge, budge, bulge, bulgy, bully, belly, jelly, jolly, dolly, doily, soily, smily, smile, stile, still, stall, small

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  37. I'm glad somebody persevered after stepping onto the barge! I was getting nowhere with that and LARGO.

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  38. I submitted the same solution as Ron. No call at 3 though. A shorter ladder is possible if one letter is changed each step and the letters are rearranged. The Puzzle didn't say no rearrangement, but the on-air questions didn't rearrange any letters so I took my cue from that. It will be interesting to see what the "intended" solution is. Common is as common does. Up the Rebels !

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  39. I’m not sure which of these is more “common”: a variant spelling of Indian clothing or a variant spelling for a metalworking tool

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  40. I didn't like SHIEL, so I went with

    LARGE
    SARGE
    SAREE
    SIREE
    SIRED
    SHRED
    SHIED
    SPIED
    SPIEL
    SPILL
    SPALL
    SMALL

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    Replies
    1. Go from saree to spree to spred to spied to shorten the list a bit.

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    2. SPRED is not even in the Scrabble dictionary. Not a common word, but archaic.

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    3. It is a variant of spread, a common word. Some would say "obsolete" but it is out there. Look at Webster's 1828 dictionary (which is not all that archaic). Also in Urban dictionary and Wiktionary. As common as some of the other words I am seeing here, at any rate.

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  41. Y'all are not all of the same mind with this one. I had seen the ladder with SERRE and SEARE too, but neither of them have any good definitions, IMHO. I simply chose not to really tackle this one, because I can take or leave this type of puzzle. Really, I couldn't ever see how one word would lead to the other in the first place with this one. You really have to go out of your way changing each word by letter before you even get to any words that begin with S. I basically just told myself, "Not your week, kid, not your week," and I just avoided it completely. No big deal.
    CranberryThinksThisWasNotTheBestChoiceOfChallengeForHisBirthdayWeekButThenLatelyIt'sAllComeDownToBadTimingAnywayPandemic-Wise

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  42. I sent in:
    LARGE SARGE SURGE SUAGE STAGE STALE STALL SMALL...
    SUAGE, of course is the "weak rung."
    Lots of menu options on tomorrow's Puzzleria!:
    9 "Ladder-day" riff-offs
    4 Conundrums by Mathew HuffmAN
    3 others involving:
    ...A. the musical stage
    ...B. garden-variety picking
    ...C. a soul singer

    LegoLaddermbda

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  43. I don’t enjoy word ladders, so I social-distanced myself from the puzzle this week

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  44. I found a website that gave me an answer!

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    Replies
    1. Likewise. Why sweat when you can cheat? The philosopher Steve Jobs allegedly said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

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    2. Then I'm a great artist. My website is mudmusicStudio.com

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  45. Although I did not get "the call", before I sent in my answer, I made sure to go over everything, making sure to cross all the "T's" and 'dot' any uh, lower case "j's".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vvMKxDvAt8

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  46. I just posted the following "fun" over on my Puzzleria! blog. I think Blainesvillians mights enjoy it as well:
    No sports highlights to cover, so sportscasters gotta get creative.
    Here is a good example of that:
    INTRO
    DAY 3
    DAY 10
    DAY 11
    DAY 12
    DAY 22
    DAY 23
    Note: If you watch just one of these links, open DAY 23. It's my favorite. (If you like these "Highlights from Home," there are likely more of them online.)


    LegoWhoEnjoysTheseHighlightsBetterThan"RealSports"Highlights

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  47. large, sarge, serge, serve, seave*, stave, stale, stall, small

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  48. This week's challenge comes from listener Greg Lewis, of Columbus, Ind. Name part of the human body in seven letters. The first four letters, in order, spell a familiar boy's name. The second through fifth letters, in order, also spell a familiar boy's name. What body part is it?

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  49. Replies
    1. Nope. They corrected that faux pax and now the recording only lists the 15 step answer. Not corrected on their web site yet though.

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    2. Still way more than my 11 step answer

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    3. Your 11 step answer did not adhere to the stipulation that all the words must be common. So it is incorrect, just like all the other short submissions with uncommon words.

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  50. A well-known person with the second name has a last name that also starts with a body part.

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    Replies
    1. The one I'm thinking of is definitely a human body part.

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    2. Interesting... I wonder if we have different answers. --Margaret G.

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    3. OK, I got there! Little slow on the uptake. --Margaret G.

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  51. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  52. Only 100 "correct" answers last week. (No word on what he considered correct.)

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