Variety: Puns and Anagrams – The New York Times

Variety: Puns and Anagrams – The New York Times

PUNS AND ANAGRAMS — We know Andrew J. Reis well for his wide-ranging, congenial crossword puzzles; this is his third “Panda” and another admirable feather in his cap. There is a lot of personality in this particular variety of variety puzzle, I think. The incomparable Mel Taub was wholly responsible for them for many years, and now that we are seeing different constructors we are seeing some different flourishes.

For example, I always find it satisfying to solve “perfect” anagram clues, where the words that get anagrammed pertain to the final word. This is a bit reminiscent of the stricter universe of cryptic crosswords, where every word has to count for something, but it’s not de rigueur in Pandas — their rules are looser. So I really like a clue like 27A, “Once a common way to cross a lake,” because a CANOE, the anagram of “Once a,” is a common way to cross a lake. Mr. Ries did a good job with this formula, I thought, for entries like SLIPPER, AS YET, ÉGALITÉ, ANEMONE, STAN LEE, RECASTS and so on. These clues make for pleasant solving, no white knuckles, which I think is appropriate. There were a few that taught me something new, like 39A — “So, a Neill” became LOIS LANE, who was played by Noel Neill in the 1940s and ’50s.

As far as the puns went, there were several fun variants. The “missing letters” trick, where a clue is missing letters that spell its solution, had one pretty easy example (assuming you know who UMA Thurman is) and one that was trickier (maybe it’s me — I didn’t think of “postage albums” as a thing until I had most of the crosses for STAMP at 33D). Then there were subtle directions, like “removing the sides” of “tin can” to get INCA; or taking “most of the lps” to get “assists.”

Challenging one-off clues included 21A, “D <—> N” — A “D” OR (an) “N,” I guess — ADORN; 50A, “Before” — PRE — “the afterthought of a letter” — PS — gets you PREPS. 29A, “Old performance,” is EX (“old”) ACT — EXACT; 40A, “Cross nothing with a fork” is highly visual — “Cross” is T, “nothing” is O, fork is Y — TOY.

23D, “Villages toward every direction but east” solves to TO — “toward” West, North, South — TOWNS; 30D was a different take on directions: “Weak tea coming up” solves to POOR T, backward — TROOP. 65A, the string of letters beginning with “H,” seems to be “G” ENDERS — GENDERS.

Mr. Ries made double use of two homonyms, which I marked down as notable and clever. “Yew” indicated U at 1A, POPULAR; “You” indicated U at 28D, LEAGUE. More spectacularly, “See” was C at 3D, PECTIN; conversely, a missing “C” solved to LONG TIME NO SEE at 36A, my favorite clue today and presumably the “seed entry” of this puzzle, if Pandas get those.

What did you think?

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