Sunday, March 31, 2024

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Mar 31, 2024): Women's History Month

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Mar 31, 2024): Women's History Month
Q: The English language developed in a patriarchal society, so many words in our language were traditionally assumed to be male, and turned into female versions by adding a prefix or suffix. Waiter and waitress, comedian and comedienne — those are just two examples of the many stereotypically "male" words that become new "female words" by adding a suffix.

There is a common English word that works the opposite way. What is the common English word that is generally used to refer exclusively to women, but which becomes male when a two-letter suffix is added?
The answer hit me squarely on the forehead.

Edit: A forehead is where you might see a widow's peak.
A: WIDOW + ER = WIDOWER

136 comments:

  1. I have one answer. The longer word ends in a word that applies to the shorter word.

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  3. For the first answer I got, insert a letter to the female version of the word. You get something I bet you can see right now.

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  4. It seems like English is a lot less patriarchal than some of the Romance languages,

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  5. It's strange that Greg's two examples don't really follow the rules. Neither involves simply adding a suffix. He should have used examples like HEIR and HEIRESS or PRINCE and PRINCESS.

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    1. Lancek, I do agree those were two lousy word pair examples.

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  6. I have the obvious one, but not the second one. BRIDE and BRIDEGROOM does not add a 2-letter suffix unfortunately...

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  7. Might a gentleman of the night be called a strumpeter?

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  8. Too bad "Jr." doesn't work for the second answer.

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  9. Oooh I think I get Blaine's hint! Going on a walk helped.

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  10. Happy Easter to you who celebrate!

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  11. I have a second answer, but it fails two-thirds of the criteria for "common English word."

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  12. I've no idea. My mind goes dark.

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  13. Is the "Notify Me" box working for you? I check it but it doesn't stick and notify me.

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    1. WW, same here. I checked the box,, and later when I returned to the site, the check mark was gone, and none of the comments had turned up in my email.

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    2. Dr. K, thanks for your confirmation. I'll let NPR know.

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    3. If it's the notify box here, that's something with Blogger.

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    4. Blaine, thanks, it is. Can you please fix it?

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    5. I can confirm this bug. I, too, checked the "Notify Me" box here, but I'm not getting email about new posts.

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    6. I haven't changed anything so it's either a change by Blogger or an update to the browser. Can anyone try a different browser? Is there a difference on the web version vs. mobile?

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    7. No difference for me web version vs mobile. I tried both duckduckgo and google as browsers. Same issue.

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    8. It don't work no more! Anyway I hope you all find your overpriced eggs.

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    9. I just posted to last week's blog, and got a email notification immediately. Something's different about the way this week's blog was created, it seems, that keeps the email notification from working.

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  14. Even a patriarchal caveman can figure it out...eventually.

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  15. I'm pretty sure the two-answer addendum is another editing error in the transcript, left over from last week. Greg clearly says there is only one word that fits. I just hope associating Easter Sunday with a darker day of worship doesn't come back to bite him.

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    1. Thank you for that!!! I've been trying to figure out the "other answer" for a couple hours now.

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    2. It seems they've now corrected it on the website and gotten rid of that two answer addendum.

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    3. Thank goodness. And Thom G, too.

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    4. Oh, good. I got an answer quickly, and was stumped on a second one. I also didn't hear it said on air that there was a second answer, but I had missed a bit of the on air puzzle read, due to other noise in the room.

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  16. Actually, I did find a second pair, half of which is quite common.

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    1. Would the “feminine” form be obsolete?

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    2. It's the masculine part that's iffy. I was aware of the word, but not of its etymological meaning. I did drop a clue.

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  17. I definitely have an answer, although the possibility of a second answer is piquing my interest!

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    1. Ooh, I just got this. Agreed. Nice one, Dr. A.

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    2. Dr. K, you'll perhaps have shared my instinct to mention a certain late-Victorian poet...

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    3. Widow's peak/pique—with a nod to Kipling's "The Widow at Windsor"!

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  18. This is one you can't look up. It just has to come to you.

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  19. Got the answer. I could describe how I came up with it, but that would clearly violate the rules here. I can explain further on Thursday. Now to find a hint that fits within those rules...

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    1. The latter portion of the shorter word is something that I hear mentioned on NPR on most days.

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  20. I looked it up and found it on a list.

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  21. A famous example of the shorter word may be found in the letters – in order but not consecutive – of jabberwocky.

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  22. Do both words have to be "common"?

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    1. But, like many gendered words, both are getting discouraged.

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    2. Yes, there is a two-word noun phrase that can be used to refer to either, without any changes.

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  23. The female word is a noun and a verb, but the male version is only a noun

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  24. Some of the female word are black (and it's not disrespectful of African-Americans not to capitalize black in this instance).

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  25. Replies
    1. My first guess was MOTHERER, one who "mothers"; not necessarily a "mother", and not necessarily female (but not necessarily male, either, and not at all "common").
      When I read Blaine's "forehead" hint, I thought of Harry Potter's lightning scar and began wondering about WITCHER, which can, indeed, mean a male witch, but is not as common as "warlock".
      Nevertheless, that was all I had on March 31, and as I mused about J K Rowling, the word "tomorrow" occurred to me, prompting me to look up a quote from "the Scottish play" (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17–28). Sometime on April 1, for no apparent reason, the WIDOW / WIDOWER answer occurred to me, and I noted that the quote was, in fact, uttered by Macbeth upon the occasion of becoming a widower.
      That's my idiotic tale, and I guess I'm stuck with it.

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  26. The word for the woman describes my mom.

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    1. The word for the woman does not describe my wife.

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    2. My mom is a widow because my dad died.

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  27. Now I'm getting the idea my immediate response (already sent in) was wrong. I thought it might be intentionally an Easter-related puzzle.

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    3. I think I know what you mean—if "abcd" is the word for the woman, and "abcdef" is the word for the man, then the man would start a conversation with the woman if it weren't for him being so much of a(n) "abcdef."

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  28. A pretty unique puzzle….if you anagram the longer word, without repeating any letters (should there be any), the result will be something that each of us may be (no, not that one)!

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  29. Similar situation in German. You add one letter to change the word to refer to a man.

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  30. I have a pejorative word that usually refers to women. Add a 2 letter suffix and new word that refers to a man that does a particular job in one of the English speaking countries. It fits the parameters, but I'm not sure. Does this ring a bell with anyone?

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  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  33. As much as it kills me to admit this, my 14-year-old daughter solved this one before me...but at least now I can stop racking my brain!

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  34. The shorter word means something else to a printer.

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    1. In the same context, i.e., printer's terms, another related word could ironically be used to describe the Menendez brothers.

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  35. I haven't really been so lucky with this month's challenges under Mr. Pliska, unfortunately. Happy Easter to all, anyway(especially "SPARKLE GIG").
    pjbBelievesFindingHiddenEggsEarlierTodayProvedMuchEasierThanThisChallenge

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  36. A craving to eat things that are not food?

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  37. Ex-Beatle Paul. For a time, anyway.

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  38. I'm pretty sure it isn't mermaid to mermaider or mermaidan or mermaidad.

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  39. Sleepless In Seattle posed this question.

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    1. I haven't solved the puzzle yet, but I must say I like your name. 😉

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  40. "Rockette" and "rocketeer" did not quite work!

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  41. Catching up on SNL from the weekend. My favorite cast member right now is Sarah Sherman

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  42. Hard to clue without approaching TMI
    A couple good clues here. Wording was clearer this week. I think over/under 1100.

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  43. WIDOW, WIDOWER

    "Lancek, I do agree those were two lousy word pair examples." Stick "I DO" in the middle of WW to get WIDOW.

    >>> Has the "Notify Me" box worked for anyone this week?

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  44. WIDOW + ER —> WIDOWER

    Hint: “Hanna and Lana”
    —> hinting at a 1952 film starring LANA Turner as Crystal Radek, title character in The Merry WIDOW, an adaptation of Franz Lehàr’s 1905 operetta, whose original title character was named HANNA Glawari

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    1. Great clue. I debated how to hint Merry Widow/Lana without TMI.. You did it perfectly, Dr K.

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    2. Thank you, Black Swan. I have to admit that clue was fun.

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  45. WIDOW — WIDOWER

    My clues:
    There is a two-word noun phrase that can be used to refer to either, without any changes.
    That would be “surviving spouse.”

    (In response to Marylka saying “I thought it might be intentionally an Easter-related puzzle.”)
    I think I know what you mean—if “abcd” is the word for the woman, and “abcdef” is the word for the man, then the man would start a conversation with the woman if it weren’t for him being so much of a(n) “abcdef.”
    Alluding to “chick — chicken.” (I think that would have been too much of a casualism to be the intended answer.)

    Similar situation in German. You add one letter to change the word to refer to a man.
    The German words for “widow” and “widower” are “Witwe” and “Witwer,” respectively.

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  46. I wrote, “For the first answer I got, insert a letter to the female version of the word. You get something I bet you can see right now.” That's WINDOW.

    Hey, I miss getting the comments via e-mail!

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    1. Me, too. It sure cuts down on our conversations here.

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  47. WIDOW

    > The shorter word means something else to a printer.

    "A single usually short last line (as of a paragraph) separated from its related text and appearing at the top of a printed page or column"

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    1. Yes, and an "orphan" is the opposite. "Orphan", like the Menedez Brothers. Get it?

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  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  50. I had two alternate answers. The pair BAMBI and BAMBINO (for female and male toddlers, respectively) is probably illegal because of the “common English” requirement. The pair WITCH and WITCHER seems legit, since a primary definition of the latter is “a male witch.” That was news to me, since I was only familiar with the Netflix guy, who is more of a monster slayer.

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  51. WIDOW, WIDOWER

    My clue I've no idea. My mind goes dark was a way to hint at Black Widows without using the word BLACK.


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  52. Widow, widower. Like ex-Beatle Paul.

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  53. Master puzzle-maker skydiveboy (aka Mark Scott) is free-falling into your cyberfields this evening, equipped with a bulky package of three posers (packed perhaps in lieu of packing his 'chute!). Mark's Skydiversionary Appetizer is titled “Scottish Palmestry? 'Isle be snackered!' The most fruitful fruit?”
    So, please gather together tonight 'round Midnight PDT (but likely even much sooner than that) to help our friend Mark make a soft and safe landing!
    Also on this week's menu:
    * a Schpuzzle of the Week titled “Oxymoronic anagramatic exercise,”
    * a Pentapronged Hors d’Oeuvre titled “A, E, I, O, U... & Y Too,”
    * an Editing Shakespeare Slice titled “World Geography lessons from the Globe Theatre,”
    * a Fabricated Dessert titled “Rosebuds, Silk and Satin,” and
    * ten Riffing Off Shortz riffy Slices titled “Does WiDow Jones Deserve a Dower?,” including one wonderful riff by our pal Plantsmith and six sensational riffs by our friend Nodd.
    Remember, skydiveboy may be risking life and limb by packing these three puzzles for you in lieu of his 'chute!

    LegoRipRoaringCordinatorOfPuzzleria!

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  54. WIDOW; WIDOWER. My hint: The longer word ends in a word that applies to the shorter word. (DOWER)

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  55. Blaine, is there anything we bloggers might do to get the "Notify Me" box fixed?

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  56. widow // The puzzle asked for one word = that in re women.

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    1. I gave both words just in case. Good observation!

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  57. widow, widower

    Last Sunday I said, “A famous example of the shorter word may be found in the letters – in order but not consecutive – of jabberwocky.” The letters are JBK, identifying Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, a widow after her husband’s assassination and before her remarriage.

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  58. I sent in SKIRT and SKIRTER The latter is the name of an Melbourne Australian man who shears off the fleece of a sheep. It fits the parameters, but probably won't be accepted as an alternate answer.

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  59. Chuck and Clark, you are both pedantically gilding the lilly. That's way more thought than this mediocre puzzle deserves.

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    1. It's actually "gild refined gold, paint the lily", and it means to add ornamentation to something already beautiful. That's pedantic.

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    2. Well, the puzzle is NOT beautiful.

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  60. So is women's history month in April or was it in march?

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    1. The month of March has been designated Women's History Month ever since Congress passed a resolution back in 1987.

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  61. My clue was referring to Sarah Shermans portrayal of Flacos widow last week on SNL. Later in the show she played another widow in a sketch.

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  62. My clue - if you anagram the longer word, without repeating any letters (should there be any), the result will be something that each of us may be (no, not that one)! - So rearrange “widower” without the extra w and get “wordie” (or “weirdo”) - I let you decide which one each of you are…..!

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  63. This week's challenge comes from listener Steve Baggish of Arlington, Massachusetts. Think of a nine-letter word naming a kind of tool that is mentioned in the Bible. Remove the second and sixth letters and the remaining letters can be rearranged to spell two new words that are included in a well known biblical passage and are related to the area in which the tool is used. What are the three words?

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    1. Yeah.
      Well, there's a kind of connection to this past week's puzzle! (Sorry, I don't mean to take all the attention from Steve Baggish.)

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  65. This week's challenge: This week's challenge comes from listener Steve Baggish of Arlington, Massachusetts. Think of a nine-letter word naming a kind of tool that is mentioned in the Bible. Remove the second and sixth letters and the remaining letters can be rearranged to spell two new words that are included in a well known biblical passage and are related to the area in which the tool is used. What are the three words?

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