SUNDAY VARIETY COLUMN

Variety: Puns and Anagrams

Alex Eaton-Salners arrives with a feast of fresh wordplay.

PUNS AND ANAGRAMS — Here’s another freewheeling Puns and Anagrams installment from Alex Eaton-Salners, a constructor of all kinds of puzzles for The Times. As always, every type of cryptic clue is represented; there are also some entries that simply confound me, which I would never have solved were it not for crossing letters.

Many of those crossing letters come from the puzzle’s anagrams, which are plentiful and there to help. A handful wowed me with their artistry. I loved 15A, “All-in-one actress”; 58A, “Are you a sun … or a planet?”; and 35D, “Pictures of a dessert’s base.”

Another common clue type is the charade, which can be deciphered into a series of directions. These clues range widely in complexity. Here are a few that were tricky:

1A. “In favor of moms’ moms” splits into PRO (in favor of) + GRAMS (short for grandmas, the mothers of mothers).

18A. This is an anagram inside a charade, which requires “peas” to become two letter Ps in “Where a pampered dog eats peas.” The answer is PETSPA.

9D. This clue gives an unusual command. To solve “Napped from the first to the fifth,” move the first letter in “Napped” to the fifth position in the word and finish with APPEND.

10D. This is a funny little clue: “Cared not a bit for respect” requires you to remove the “a” (“not a”) from “Cared” to get CRED, which is short for credibility, or a basis for “respect.”

In addition to anagrams and charades, each member of the cryptic clue family makes at least one appearance. I’m pretty good at recognizing hidden-word clues; the solution is there if you’re attuned to it, as in 6D. The city in this clue, “Grad from Kuala Lumpur,” conceals a name for a former student: ALUM.

Homophones are a bit more difficult to discern, and I often find them in reverse, filling in letters from crossing entries and figuring out the clue from there. Examples include:

7D. “Mike ____ (comic who gets bogged down)” brought to mind Mike Birbiglia at first, because he’s back on Broadway and his last name makes a great Panda entry for a clue like “messy brig alibi.” This entry isn’t an anagram; the comic is Mike Myers (Austin Powers, baby!), whose last name sounds like a word for getting stuck: MIRES.

61D. “___- sayer (woman who keeps her maiden name)” solves to a French word that rhymes with “nay” and that refers to one’s original surname: NEE.

26A. This is one of my favorites from this puzzle. Fill in the blank of the clue “____ you sending a telegram?” with WIRE. If you are confused, why don’t you try reading the question out loud?

An excellent, tricky double definition is at 1D. “Spies’ factories” describes two PLANTS.

For an inscrutable reversal, look to 19A. “Returning child” is NOS, which is “son” backward (and an entry that I was able to solve only via crossing letters).

I often confess to not understanding a clue or two. In this puzzle, I was scratching my head at 49A, “Singer chasing a cat on a baseball diamond,” which solves to CHER. But something just clicked! The “cat on a baseball diamond” is playing the position of catCHER. This is pretty nefarious wordplay, I’d say.

What did you think?