Will Shortz’s Wonderful World of Words
November 8 – 10, 2019
A wonderful weekend for all those who love language, puzzles, and games!
37 years ago “Words” weekend at Mohonk Mountain House was founded by the wonderful Gloria and Larry Rosenthal. In 2007, the torch was passed to Will Shortz, The New York Times crossword editor and NPR Puzzlemaster, who became our host and brings along a different set of special guest stars each year.
This program also features composer and NPR quizzicist Greg Pliska and his Mohonk Puzzle Treasure Hunt. Join the fun as we celebrate The Wonderful World of Words at Mohonk Mountain House!
Availability is limited. For reservations, please call .
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS: COMING SOON
Please check back for an updated schedule 3 months prior to the event.
Preview last year’s schedule:
2018 Word Challenge:
A Word Puzzle
by Will Shortz
Pick a star in the constellation. Then travel from letter to letter along the lines to spell a six-word quote from Samuel Johnson. The respective word lengths are (8, 2, 3, 5, 2, 7). Submit your answer at the start of the Saturday morning program in the Parlor to be eligible for a prize.
Packet of Puzzles
When you register at the front desk, pick up your packet of word puzzles and contests created by Will Shortz. Answers and entries are due back at the front desk by midnight on Saturday, November 10.
The World’s Most Baffling Unsolved Codes with Elonka Dunin
A lettered sculpture in the center of C.I.A. Headquarters. A mysterious 500-year-old manuscript in Yale’s Beinecke Library. A 19th-century pamphlet describing a buried treasure in Virginia. An encrypted scrawl by the composer Edward Elgar. These are among the world’s most baffling unsolved messages. Cryptographer Elonka Dunin explains what we know about them and the unsuccessful attempts to find solutions.
Cookies and Punch in the Lake Lounge Followed by Scramble Scrabble
Gloria and Larry Rosenthal, the founders of Words Weekend, invented Scramble Scrabble as an exclusive, annual event for this special weekend. John Williams, former head of the National Scrabble Association, will help conduct it. Seven-member teams scramble to form words using giant tiles. The members of the team with the highest cumulative score after three rounds will each receive copies of The New York Times crossword books from St. Martin’s Press.
The Joy of Names with Richard Lederer
Best-selling language author Richard Lederer reveals all you need to know about first names, last names, baby names, nicknames, cruel and unusual names, movie stars’ names, presidents’ names, eponymous names, funny married names, funny business names, and other onomastic curiosities.
Play Date with David Feldman
Gather in the Parlor to play a new boxed word game. Your choice of…
Can you finish a one-word clue in a way that only one other player matches? For example, should you say “Stormy WEATHER,” “Stormy PETREL,” or…”Stormy DANIELS”? For 4-8 players. Courtesy of USAopoly.
Rival spymasters offer clues to help teammates make contact with their agents, while avoiding falling into the enemy’s clutches. Picture version also available. Works great with 6 or more players. Courtesy of Czech Games.
Weird Things Humans Search For
Given the first half of a Google search, as collected through actual search histories, can you guess the second half? Get ready for some hilarious and surprising answers. Courtesy of Bananagrams.
Tea and Book Signing
Tea time in the Lake Lounge is year-round, but during Words weekend it’s also a book-signing session with the weekend’s authors.
Mohonk Puzzle Treasure Hunt
A team game by Greg Pliska. Come with a four-person team made of friends or family, or form a team when you arrive. Solve a set of interconnected puzzles and follow the clues hidden throughout the Mountain House. Prizes will be given to the first team to finish the hunt as well as one other successful team chosen at random.
All in the Rhyming: The Work and Play of a Musical Theater Lyricist
Join Amanda Yesnowitz, 2018 Kleban Prize-winning lyricist, as she discusses the art and science of writing lyrics for the theater, including rhyme, structure, and song form, using her own work and examples from the canon. She’ll explain when to follow the rules, and when to break them. Sit back and be prepared to learn something new and be entertained by some of Amanda’s original songs.
Will Shortz leads the awards program as he reveals solutions to the packet puzzles, reads the wittiest entries in the creative competition, and names the winners of all the weekend games. Triumphant winners will choose prizes from a wide array of puzzle books from St. Martin’s Press, reference books from Merriam-Webster, and assorted word games. Leave room in your suitcase!
Availability is limited. For reservations, please call .
MEET OUR PROGRAM LEADERS
The director of Words is the crossword editor of The New York Times, puzzlemaster for NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” and founder/director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. This year he helped create The Crossword Mysteries, a series of movies scheduled to begin on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel in January. As always, he will be playing ping-pong in Mohonk’s Game Room before dinner on Saturday, so feel free to come and challenge him!
A composer and orchestrator, Greg Pliska has been solving and creating puzzles since he could read. He is a puzzle writer and presenter for public radio’s “Ask Me Another,” and he creates puzzle hunts for corporate and academic clients. His orchestration work can be heard on CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, and in IMAX theatres world wide – as well as soon-to-be Broadway musical, Trevor. This is the 12th year Greg has created an original puzzle treasure hunt for Words.
David Feldman is the author of 13 books — 11 of them being collections of Imponderables, including the national bestsellers Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise?, When Do Fish Sleep?, and Do Penguins Have Knees? Lately he has been devoting much volunteer time to the Posse Foundation, which administers millions of dollars a year in full-tuition scholarships for low-income kids. He still attends the annual New York Toy Fair in February searching for the best commercial word games for this weekend.
Elonka Dunin is a cryptographer, geocacher, and professional video game developer. She maintains several websites on cryptographic-related topics, such as Kryptos, the sculpture with famously hidden messages at the C.I.A. Headquarters in Langley, VA. In 2010, the best-selling author Dan Brown named a character, Nola Kaye, in his novel The Lost Symbol as a playful anagram of Elonka’s given name.
Richard Lederer is the author of 50 books about language, history, and humor, including the best-selling Anguished English series, and his current books, Amazing Words, Lederer on Language, and The Joy of Names. He is a founding cohost of “A Way With Words” on public radio. A former International Punster of the Year (so gird yourself!), Richard’s syndicated column “Lederer on Language” appears in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States.
Amanda Yesnowitz is the winner of the Kleban Prize, Jonathan Larson Award, a Dramatists Guild Fellowship, Dottie Burman Award, Jamie deRoy and Friends Award, and eight MAC nominations, all for excellence and vision in lyric writing. She is a full-time English professor at NYU as well as a published New York Times crossword constructor. Amanda Yesnowitz’s accomplishments go from A to Z – just like her name!
When you visit during Will Shortz’s Wonderful World of Words, your overnight package includes:
- Three meals daily featuring fresh, locally sourced cuisine from our farm-to-table partners
- Access to more than 85 miles of the Hudson Valley’s best hiking trails
- Daily Guided “House History” Tours of our National Historic Landmark resort
- Guided Nature Hikes with stunning views of the Catskill Mountains
- Yoga, Meditation, and Fitness Classes
- Indoor Heated Pool with underwater music
- Afternoon tea and cookies in our historic Lake Lounge
- Nightly Evening Entertainment
- Special Events and more! See schedule of activities >
A la carte experiences available to overnight guests:
- A full menu of nature-inspired treatments at our award-winning spa
- The Carriage Lounge, featuring a full bar and handcrafted cocktails as well as hyperlocal draft beer and hard cider
- An award-winning wine list in our Main Dining Room
- Tour the scenic trails in an old-fashioned mule-drawn Carriage