Ask Me Another (radio)
|Air dates||since May 4, 2012|
Ask Me Another is an hour-long radio puzzle game show produced by WNYC and National Public Radio. It is hosted by the Canadian comedian Ophira Eisenberg and features, as its "in-house musician" or "one-man house band", the independent rock musician Jonathan Coulton. It is typically recorded in The Bell House in Brooklyn, New York. The show has been produced since 2012.
The show features four to five individual games based on particular puzzle topics, wordplay, and trivia, interspersed by chatter from the show's hosts, as well as a segment featuring an interview and one or more games involved the guest of the week, the "Very Important Puzzler".
Nearly all games are played by two players at the show's recording. The rules of each game vary but are explained to the contestants prior to the game, with the general goal to score the most points for that game. In the case of a tie, a final question is asked to settle the tie. The winning player proceeds with all other winners to the final game at the end of the show. This last game is a series of trivia questions with answers sharing a common theme, such as answers that include the name of a musical instrument in them. This round is played in a spelling bee style in which if one contestant does not know the answer, the next one in line may attempt to answer the same question; if one player gets the answer, all those that missed it are eliminated. This is played until either one player remains, or if they run out of questions, a final tie-breaking question based on whomever rings in first and answers correctly. The prize for winning this round is typically a small bit of memorabilia provided by the week's current Very Important Puzzler, but generally of low monetary value.
Other contestants who may call in by phone or be named as the contestant for a game played by the Very Important Puzzler win either an "Ask Me Another" anagram tee-shirt or a Rubik's Cube.
The Very Important Puzzler (V.I.P.)
Guest stars on the show are referred to as "Very Important Puzzlers", and typically participate in two segments on the show. Recent guest stars have included:
- Alex Borstein
- Andy Serkis
- Anna Chlumsky
- Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez
- Brad Bird
- Dan Savage
- Danny Pudi
- Curtis Sittenfeld
- Elizabeth Gilbert
- Ingrid Michaelson
- Lake Street Dive
- Lewis Black
- Meg Wolitzer
- Neil Gaiman
- Patrick Stewart
- Peter Segal
- Sonia Manzano and Emilio Delgado of Sesame Street
- Sutton Foster
- They Might Be Giants
- Tituss Burgess
- Uzo Aduba
- The writers of NPR's podcast Welcome to Night Vale
Types of Games
Though the show's writers design many different kinds of games, there are some commonly recurring types of games. These include:
- Rhyming games, in which the contestants are asked to provide answers that rhyme with a catchphrase provided at the beginning of the game. (Example: Contestants' answers must rhyme, sort of, with the 300 tagline "This is Sparta", so an answer identifying a British constitutional document from the time of King John would be "This is Magna Carta.")
- Musical games, in which the "in-house musician" sings clues, either based in the words sung or the music itself, and the contestants are asked to determine the meaning of those clues. (Example: Contestants' answers must identify an American state, so an answer identifying a song with lyrical clues about a "flat land" set to "Dust in the Wind" by the group Kansas must correctly identify the state in question as Kansas.)
- "This, that or the other", a recurring "classic" game in which an item is announced and the contestants are asked to identify under which of three categories the item is properly classed. (Example: Contestants must identify whether the strange-sounding word "Quark" is a cheese, a dance move, or a character from Moby Dick. Quark is a cheese.)
- Mashup games, in which two concepts are invoked by one clue and the contestant must correctly supply the mashed-together concepts. (Example: A mashup game combining candy names and celebrity names could query contestants to combine the name of a nutty candy with the name of a co-host of The View. That would be "Almond Joy Behar", a combination of Almond Joy and Joy Behar.)
- Word games, in which letters of a word provided in a clue are rearranged or altered in order to provide the answer contestants must supply. (Example: A game called "Beheading" could involve contestants taking a "sword" and cutting off its head to arrive at "word", which is "sword" without its initial "s".)
- "Very Important Puzzler" games, in which either characteristics of the show's guest star are explored or the guest star's own abilities are put to a test. Often these games will be played not by show contestants, but rather by the guest stars themselves.
- Phone games, in which a contestant is not physically present at the show's recording facilities, but rather plays over the telephone. Because this means it is more difficult to have such a contestant participate either against another player or in the final game at the end of the show with several players, these contestants are instead rewarded for playing by individual winning some prize if they respond correctly to a sufficient number of questions asked.
The show's games are created by a staff of puzzle designers, and one of these puzzle designers in particular, usually referred to as a "puzzle guru", typically appears on the show along with host Eisenberg and musical sidekick Coulton as a third individual who directs the flow of activity on the show. There have been several of these since the show's creation, including:
- John Chaneski
- Art Chung, the show's formally-titled Puzzle Editor
- John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants (described as the "Puzzle Giant" on the show during which he played this role)
- Will Hines
- Greg Pliska
- Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle (for a special episode in Central Park)
- Mary Tobler
Substitute In-House Musicians
On shows where Jonathan Coulton is taking a break from recording as the in-house musician, he has been replaced by:
- John Flansburgh
- Julian Velard
The Show's "Anagrammed Ending"
The show typically ends with host Eisenberg reading the credits identifying people who worked on the show. Some of the names she reads are translated by the show's participating puzzle guru into anagrams. Typically the puzzle guru announces at the beginning "Hey, my name anagrams to..." and then announces the anagram. As Eisenberg lists others that worked on the show, the puzzle guru interjects the anagrammed forms of their names as well. Eisenberg then signs off the show by announcing that she is "Her ripe begonias" (an anagram for her own name). Occasionally, for comic effect, the puzzle guru will also provide an anagram for the call letters of WNYC ("CNYW").
Some examples of anagrams presented in the shows ending sequence are as follows:
|Role On Show||Original Name||Anagram of Name|
|Host||Ophira Eisenberg||"Her ripe begonias."|
|In-House Musician||Jonathan Coulton||"Thou jolt a cannon."|
|Puzzle Guru||John Chaneski||"Oh heck, ninjas."|
|Puzzle Guru||Art Chung||"Narc thug."|
|Puzzle Guru||Will Hines||"Hell, I wins."|
|Puzzle Guru||Greg Pliska||"Sparkle gig."|
|Puzzle Guru||Mary Tobler||"Later, my bro."|
|Venue||The Bell House||"Hot heel blues."|