It's been a while since I've posted a Puns & Anagrams puzzle, so happy to return to this format for the December puzzle. As I've written before, P&As are a variety format derived from cryptics, but they stand apart from cryptics in several key ways. To recap the major differences:
1) Fully interlocking grid. Unlike standard block cryptics, where roughly 50% of the squares are checked by crossing entries, P&A grids qualify as standard themeless crossword grids, with a max of 72 entries in the grid. Every square is a part of an across and down entry. This affords solvers many more opportunities to solve an entry than a cryptic does, which helps explain some of the looseness of P&A clues.
2) Anagram clues (which comprise about half of the clues in a P&A) do not include anagram indicators, which are required for cryptics. In addition, homophones of letters (or groups of letters) included in the anagram are fair game. So, the word "sea" could signal a C to be included in the anagram; the word "seize" could signal multiple Cs to be included in the anagram; and "seedy" could signal the letters CD to be included in the anagram.
3) While anagram clues will include a straight-forward hint to the entry, non-anagram clues do not require a straight-forward hint. Non-anagram clues will include cryptic tropes such as hidden words, containers, and homophones, as well as more P&A-typical conventions as visual rebuses, puns, and fill-in-the-blanks.
For this P&A, I made sure that none of the clues would work as a cryptic clue. As such this might play a little harder than a New York Times P&A, and it might be a little less wacky than a Times P&A can tend to be. I hope solvers enjoy! I realize that P&As are somewhat of a divisive format, but I find them to be a fun challenge to write and I want them to stand apart from cryptics. As always, any and all feedback is welcomed.
Happy holidays! I'm certainly ready to turn the page on 2020. I hope the puzzles were a welcome respite from this most challenging year. A reminder that you can always purchase monthly or yearly bundles of past subscription puzzles, and Rows Garden and Freestyle subscriptions are always open. Here's hoping for a better year in 2021!