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Ollie, Ollie Oxen Free? Ally Ally in Free?

Salutations and greetings!

This past weekend we aired a brand-new show on which we talked about how far back into history a modern person could understand English, what you shout when you're playing hide-and-seek (ollie, ollie oxen free? ally ally in free? something else?), a bunch of words meaning crooked or askew, and we went on a hunt for a word to call the children you babysit.


Suggestions for what to call someone else's children who are in your care are already coming in. Give yours in the discussion forum:


This week puzzle-guy Greg Pliska presented a quiz called Categorical Allies or Dandy Dyads. He gave a word and the challenge was to come up with a second word that was in the same category as the first and began with the same two letters that the first one ended with.

So, French was a clue, to which we responded Chinese, the category being languages (though it would work as a type of cuisine, too). The two letters C-H end FrenCH and start CHinese. Another language that would work is Chechen.

At the end of the quiz, Greg proposed that you, our listeners, come up with a string of more than four items in a specific category that follow the same rules. Greg gave the example of American states. His clue was Alabama. We followed it with Maine, Nebraska, Kansas. These three states would also work: Maine, New Mexico, Colorado.

To play along with us, all you need to do is to come up with a pretty narrow category, such as French authors, computer parts, insects, American presidents, or anything else, and then come up with four items that can be linked together by the pairs of last and first letters. Give everyone else the first clue on the forum and the puzzling will commence! Your quiz playground is here:


By the way, quiz guys Greg Pliska and John Chaneski are members of the National Puzzlers' League. You can find more about the league here:


As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Martha and Grant will attend the 31st Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament February 29th through March 2nd. The event, hosted by NPR Puzzlemaster and New York Times crosswords editor Will Shortz, will be held for the first time in Brooklyn, New York. All previous tournaments were held in Stamford, Connecticut, but the event has grown so large that more space was needed.

Grant will fill in for Neal Conan (host of NPR's Talk of the Nation) as play-by-play commentator in the finals. He'll be joining veteran puzzle constructor Merle Reagle, whom you may have seen in the 2006 movie "Wordplay," a documentary all about the tournament. Martha and Grant both will also hand out awards on Sunday and they'll be schmoozing and joining the fun throughout the weekend.

The tournament has a variety of different playing levels, from rookie to pro, so if you'd like to play with your kind of people (or test yourself against the best), register here:


That's all from your radio pals. We hope to see you in Brooklyn!

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

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