by Mel Taub

Each Puns and Anagram definition is a self-contained word game in miniature. In most cases, the clue contains an anagram, a pun or a combination of both, of the answer word. Also used are tricks of spelling, hidden word clues, word-building, word-breaking and an assortment of other devices.

The mainstay of the puzzle is the anagram definition which almost always includes a straight clue:    "Mad tune is really wild',- UNTAMED (Mad tune is an anagram of UNTAMED: wild is the straight clue);    "He doesn't have end seat"- STANDEE (end seat is the anagram).

Then there are the straight puns: "He's going to seed' - FARMER;      "A jailer who gives prizes" - AWARDER (a warder).   "Lament of tardy one"- ISOLATE (I so late);  "Consent to cut off progeny"- ACCEDE (ax seed).

One of the more common punning devices used is a word that is meant to stand for a letter. Such words as eye, you, are, tee, see, why, Kay, may stand for the letters I, U, R, T, C, Y. K, respectively.    Other examples: Tease (TT), seize, seas or sees (CC), any (NE), envy (NV), Casey (KC), Elsie (LC), Ellen (LN), etc. Also. the word nothing might stand for the letter O, as might oh or owe.

The punned letters combine with words and/or other punned letters in the definition to form an anagram:       "Lure niece with tea"- ENTICE (tea stands for T, so niece plus T makes up an anagram for ENTICE. Lure is the straight clue);     "Like Ellen Reed's figure" -SLENDER (LN plus Reed's is the anagram).

Another common device is the use of a number which stands for the equivalent Roman numeral letter or letters, i.e., One for 1, 4 for IV, 50 for L, 100 for C, 500 for D, 1,000 for M, etc. Here again the resultant letters combine with words in the definition to form an anagram: "A need 200 out-of-step GIs have" - CADENCE (A need plus CC form an anagram of CADENCE).

The Roman numeral may also be used in another form of word play: "Crowds of 1,000 fools"- MASSES (M plus asses)

Every American-style crossword has its share of overused three-letter and four-letter words. For the sake of variety other little tricks are used:

Punny word-building:    "Kind of ovation" - INN (inn-ovation); "Tim's partner" - VIC (Victim); "-Al Ross' middle name"-BAT (Al-bat-ross).    Sometimes the word-building is in pun only: "Sibyl's predecessor" - SEN (sen-sible).   

Word-breaking:  "Men, it would seem, from steamers" - TARS (the letters in seem are deducted from steamers leaving TARS);    "He made a man out of Marvin" - IRV (man is taken out of Marvin leaving RVI which, unscrambled, is IRV).

Hidden words: "Familiar street in Salem" - ELM (Elm is a familiar street name and the letters E-L-M are in Salem);    "Central American" - ERIC (in the very center of American is ERIC);    "Describing 6,298 hamburgers" - RARE (the 6th, 2nd, 9th and 8th letters of hamburgers are R-A-R-E).

Miscellaneous: You can expect just about anything that strikes the constructor's fancy In traditional and not-so-traditional word play. For example: "Pan-Hamerican, e.g." - HAIRLINE (Cockneyese);   "Fruitt sttone' - PITT ;    "Taint bull"--SCOW (s'cow);   "A g-good f-friend" - APPAL (a p-pal)

There's no telling what else might turn up but these are the essentials. Enjoy.

Part 2 - Contrasting Puns&Anagrams and Cryptics

(See also Barry Tunick's Cryptic Guide )

British style cryptics and Puns and Anagrams are cousins but, like man and ape, they evolved differently. The typical Cryptic crossword has 30 to 32 answer words in a pattern where half the letters are not keyed into any other word. In an American crossword, of course, every letter is keyed into an Across and Down word. The difference in construction enables the Cryptic constructor greater leeway on word size, so one will see longer words, practically no 3-letter words and very few 4-letter words.

The P&A will use to one degree or another most of the Cryptic type of clues; but there are many P&A tricks that are never seen in Cryptics, especially many of the kinds of clues cited for 3-&-4-letter words. One notable difference is in anagramming. The Cryptic clue typically tips off the fact that an anagram is coming with a modifier suggesting a jumble or change in the letters. For example:   P&A clue: Modern center. Ans: Recent. "Recent," a synonym for "modern" is the straight clue and "center" the anagram.   Cryptic clue: Modern renovated center. "Renovated" is the modifier that tips off there is a change or renovation, if you will, in the letters. Other such modifiers are broken, jumbled, confused, perhaps, possibly, in a way and countless (well, hundreds of) others.

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Page last modified: February 8, 2004