PuzzleWatch, Week 2

The second-most surprising thing about the response to Take You Out For Sushi … is the sheer number of people who agree with me. The Hansen-Shortz liaison has been a pet theory of mine for years, but judging from all the emails and comments I’ve received, it’s a notion that is widely shared — indeed, I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t express an opinion so much as I channeled a gestalt observation on behalf of NPR listeners everywhere.

The most surprising thing, of course, is that Liane Hansen herself somehow got wind of my blog post and mentioned it on this week’s show . Though she didn’t mention Polytropos by name, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that no other blog wrote about the possibility of an affair between them last week that also contained speculation about that affair’s impending demise.

First off, a couple replies to others’ comments. To Jonathan, who refers to the incident as my “fifteen minutes” of fame: Good Lord, I hope not! I mean, I wasn’t even mentioned by name! I’m holding out for an ATC interview with Melissa Block, at the very least. And to Jim, who wrote in the comments, “it’s amazing that Liane ever read or heard of this. I’d love to know how that happened if you ever find out”- Jim, why is it so surprising that I count NPR hosts among my regular readers? Surely they number in the thousands … hundreds … dozens … well, OK, I admit I was rather surprised. As for how Liane found out about it, I think we’re left with two options:

1. She’s the sort of person who obsessively Googles her own name on a daily basis.
2. Someone told her about the entry.

I’m leaning toward the latter, so if anyone’s willing to fess up, Jim (and I) would appreciate it.

But on to business! I promised to report on any further developments in this story, and this certainly counts as a development, so let’s get right to the analysis of the transcript! (My comments, as before, are in brackets.)

LIANE: … and joining us is Puzzle Master Will Shortz. Hi Will … [the difference in tone between her greeting this week and last is striking — Liane’s usual ebullience is missing]

WILL: Hi Liane!

LIANE: Guess what.

WILL: What’s that?

LIANE: We have become a rumor on the Internet …


LIANE: … I swear- I found a blog [the way she says ‘blog’ makes it sound as if she found a strange creature in her basement], and a gentleman [the first time I’ve ever been referred to as a gentleman] is writing, and is convinced that we are conducting an illicit affair — and not only conducting an illicit affair, but that there’s trouble , and we soon may be breaking up. I … I … you have to know, if we’re having an affair I figured you should know.

WILL: Well, let’s keep this a secret from your husband Neil.

LIANE: Let’s do that, shall we? Well, maybe we could consider it an affair of the mind …

WILL: There we go …

LIANE: … that we conduct every week, and that involves doing these amazing puzzles that you give us, and you left us with a challenge …

If you listen, it’s pretty clear that Liane was springing this stuff on Will on the air- under the circumstances, I’d say he handled it pretty well. Kudos to Liane, too, for making the whole thing into a bit of light humor, and thus defusing what could have been an explosive revelation. This confirms my suspicion from last week that their affair is coming to an end — clearly, she means for this exchange to serve as a sort of coda to their symphony of frustrated love. Will, I must say, doesn’t come off as being particularly upset- maybe he’s had a chance to come to terms with it all, or maybe he’s just really good at hiding his true feelings.

The drama isn’t over, though — careful listeners may have picked up on something at the end of the segment:

LIANE: Will, I’m going to have to get this answer on the radio next Sunday- I’m going to be at the beach … and Sheila Kast will be sitting in here, and I know she’s dying to play the game, so you’ll meet her …

“Dying to play the game,” indeed! Is Liane trying to set Will up with someone else? We’ll all have to tune in next week to know for sure …