This week we have a celebrity edition of the Puzzle. Comedian Paula Poundstone is taking on our challenge. Poundstone is also a regular panelist on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.
On-air challenge: You're given discrete categories. If you were to list all of the things in the category alphabetically, the one you're given would be second in the list. Name the thing that would be first alphabetically. For example, if you're given "Doc," you would say, "Bashful," because Doc is the second of the seven dwarves alphabetically, and Bashful is the first.
Next week's challenge (Please note this is the second week of this two-week challenge): Take a seven-by-seven square grid. Arrange the names of U.S. cities or towns in regular crossword fashion inside the grid so that the cities used have the highest possible total population, according to the 2010 Census. For example, if you put Chicago in the top row and Houston in the sixth row, both reading across, and then fit Atlanta, Oakland and Reno coming down, you'll form a mini-crossword. And the five cities used have a total population, according to the 2010 Census, of 5,830,997. You can do better.
As in a regular crossword, the names must read across and down only. Every name must interlock with at least one other name. And no two letters can touch unless they are part of a name.
What is the highest population total you can achieve? And when you send in your answer, please include the names of the cities, in order, across and down.
If you know the answer to next week's challenge, submit it here. Listeners who submit correct answers win a chance to play the on-air puzzle. Important: Include a phone number where we can reach you Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern.