Says You! — A Mensa-worthy Romance

How I fell in love with a radio show ... and what happened when it loved me back

Says You! cast
The Says You! cast (from left): Paula Lyons, Arnie Reisman, Barry Nolan, Tony Kahn, Carolyn Faye Fox, Francine Achbar Says You!

I live my life through a Says You! filter.

It started as a curiosity.

If you’re like me, it gets harder and harder to find the kind of creative, ingenious puzzles that challenge your imagination and mental agility and produce that ultimate “Aha!” moment once you’ve solved them. But I’m always looking….

It was probably about 15 years ago that I came across a reference to a radio show called Says You!

Says You! is a weekly word game quiz show that airs on public radio stations and PBS. The late Richard Sher, the show’s creator and original writer, described it as “a game of bluff and bluster, words and whimsy.” So, I listened as six witty and intelligent panelists, obviously great friends, bantered back and forth, ad-libbing groan-worthy but hilarious puns, coming out with the most obscure facts and trivia, having a blast, and generously including the audience. After that first listen, I was hooked.

Sher described his inspiration for Says You! as the desire to recreate, on the radio, a comfortable space to just relax and let loose for an hour or so. No pressure, no stress, no cutthroat competition, no implacable egos. “I’ve always thought that the brightest, most meaningful conversations take place in parlors,” Sher wrote in “Says Us!”: Scripts and Quips from “Says You!”; Volume 1: The Early Years. That simple idea became the guiding premise at the heart of the show: “Friends talking to friends. Families together.”

And that’s exactly how I feel on Saturday nights when my husband and I listen to Says You! — like part of an extended family, sitting around and having a great time, playing an old-fashioned parlor game. We ponder; we discuss; we shout out answers (as if the participants on the radio could hear us!); but most of all, we laugh. It’s a chance to recharge our mental and emotional batteries, together.

Although Says You! is based in Boston, the production travels during the year, recording live shows at venues all around the country. Ten years ago, I decided to take the plunge and started attending live tapings as often as I could when they were taking place in my resident Boston area, usually around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. My daughter and I braved many midwinter blizzards, ice- and snow-covered highways, and rampant flu outbreaks to see Says You! in person, each death-defying trek worth every white-knuckled second of the journey there and back.

The first time I attended a live taping, I was a little intimidated by the size of the crowd, lined up at the entrance and then jostling for seats. But trepidation soon turned to exhilaration. Sitting in a packed theater with hundreds of other Says You! fans, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the relaxed but expectant atmosphere. And once the panelists were on stage and the game was in full swing, everyone in the audience, including me, was playing right along with them.

Says You! invites listener input — questions, comments, corrections — so I started sending in a few of my own contributions through its website, saysyou.net. I’m an avid and eclectic reader, and soon every unusual word I’d happen across would become fodder for a Says You! submission. Then it became even more than that: odd facts, strange relationships, amusing ideas, obscure personalities and events. I’d think, Could this be part of a Says You! round? Would the panelists have some fun with that idea? Is that notion something that might interest listeners? I began evaluating my experiences as either Says You!-worthy or not, a filter, perhaps, but I had started paying more attention to even the most mundane aspects of life, and life became that much more interesting.

Up to that point, my infatuation was one-sided. I’d send in submissions that might or might not be used, and, when they were, I’d hear my name announced. Fine. But then it happened. Says You! writer Dave Zobel, acknowledging one of my submissions, asked if I would like to meet the panelists in person in the green room before a live taping. On Sept. 23, 2017, my daughter and I excitedly trooped down to the Tilden Arts Center in West Barnstable, Mass., for this extra-special episode of Says You! to meet the cast and crew.

Behind the scenes, chaos reigned. People were scrambling back and forth, everyone busy with I-knew-not-what errands, getting ready for the live shows. Chaperoned by Dave, we were introduced to executive producer Laura Sher (Richard’s widow) and the panelists, who warmly welcomed us into the turmoil. It was high-energy, organized pandemonium.

Later that night during the tapings, when my contribution to one of the bluffing rounds came up (“secateurs”), my name was announced, and I was invited to stand up to audience applause.

I’m shy. I’m quiet. I’m basically an introvert, but this was intoxicating. I could get used to this, I thought.

After the tapings, Dave asked me if I’d like to help write a few shows. I agreed without hesitation. But then I stopped to think about what I had just agreed to do. Could I really write questions for Says You!, of all shows? Am I intelligent enough? Am I creative enough? I was intimidated but determined — I had agreed to do it, so I would do it.

Fortunately for me, Dave Zobel is patient, tolerant, and more than intelligent and creative enough for the both of us. We emailed back and forth, bounced ideas off each other, researched answers, and between us, ultimately, had written the material for four Says You! episodes. To be honest, most of the credit must go to Dave for the polish and ingenuity of the questions and answers, but he graciously included my name as co-writer of the shows. What a rush! I could definitely get used to this, I thought.

When it came time to record the episodes we had on, Dave met my family and me before the show and escorted us back to the green room to meet the cast and crew and everyone involved with producing and broadcasting our all-time favorite radio program. He also gave me a copy of “Says Us!” to collect autographs and as a souvenir of this, my first venture into radio scriptwriting.

After being introduced to the members of the Says You! cast, starstruck, I was almost afraid to open my mouth lest I reveal my comparative incompetence to these fearsomely intellectual people. I should have known better. Everyone was warm and hospitable and made us all feel welcome.

And although I’m not much of a celebrity hound, my autographed copy of “Says Us!” enjoys pride of place on my bookshelves.

Since that first foray into radio writing, Dave has asked if I’d like to help with a couple more shows. How gratifying to know that my ideas and efforts are appreciated enough to be solicited from time to time! Of course, I am delighted to be able to contribute as often as I am asked. It is seriously addicting.

I’m shy. I’m quiet. I’m basically an introvert, but this was intoxicating. I could get used to this, I thought.

I still keep up my random submissions to saysyou.net, which are graciously acknowledged with a friendly note from Laura. And whenever Says You! is taping in the area, I always make it a point to get tickets. Attending the live shows has become an opportunity to reunite with old friends and an invitation to make new ones.

Yes, I fell in love with Says You!, a radio game show that celebrates intelligence, imagination, wit, humor, linguistic agility, and mental dexterity and treats listeners to a glorious gallimaufry of brain-stretching stumpers. And yes, it’s no longer an unrequited love affair — Says You! loves me back!


Linda Ferrazzara headshotLinda was born in New Jersey but has spent more than half her life in the Boston area. Having tried out unsuccessfully (the first time, anyway) for Jeopardy!, she decided to attempt to ameliorate her wounded self-confidence by taking the Mensa test, and the rest is history. She’s worked in banking and copyediting, and now she’s the network administrator (among several other roles) for the greatest local labor union in northeastern New England, UFCW Local 1445.
Boston Mensa | Joined 1996