Loplop Puns and Anagrams #016 [11×]

Surprise! Not a cryptic this time!

Puns and anagrams (a.k.a. P&As or pandas 🐼) are wily puzzles. Michael Lieberman points out that puns should be at least as silly or wacky as the question-mark clues in regular American-style crosswords. As someone who loves foxy wordplay, I’m excited by the opportunity to turn the clues up to two or even three question marks.

For those unfamiliar, Will Shortz wrote a Wordplay column reintroducing them back in 2017, and Andrew Ries has also written about pandas on his blog — I won’t be able to put it much better than the two of them.

I want to push back on the perception that pandas are simply watered-down cryptics. Hopefully, after seeing the four marquee clues in this puzzle, you’ll agree that they’re best served by being in a panda instead of a cryptic — and in fact in some cases they simply couldn’t be in a cryptic!

I had more help than usual in making this puzzle, since this is my first fully interlocking grid: a huge thank you to Norah Sharpe and Steve Mossberg for their watchful eyes on my baby steps in American-style gridding, and Kate Chin Park for the test solve. This is a 11× grid as I find my sea legs, but I’m hoping to work my way up to full-sized 15× puzzles.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy!

If you’re solving on PDF, you’ll need to refer to the web or ipuz for one clue, because of word processing devilry. Sorry.

Clue Workshop

This time I’ll discuss a clue from my previous cryptic. If you haven’t solved that yet, please do give it a go!

Offended, worried, losing head... needing to slide in hot tub (10)

• Definition: Offended
• Wordplay: [s]TRESSED containing SPA

According to Crosshare, this was the last clue for most solvers to get, and I was disheartened to see so many solvers floundering with it! In hindsight, I might have kept a closer eye on the spike in difficulty from this clue.

To enumerate, this clue has:

1. A definition that isn’t the obvious sense of the answer (the generic “to sin or offend” instead of the more common “to encroach or intrude”),
2. Two substitutions (STRESSED for “worried”; SPA for “hot tub”),
3. Two wordplay mechanics: a beheadment and an insertion (SPA into [s]TRESSED),
4. One of the longest answers and a central placement in the grid (thereby denying solvers a lot of helpful crossers if they don’t get this clue).

Ordinarily I wouldn’t blink at any of these things, but altogether it adds up to a blemish on the puzzle: I noticed it, and I’m sure some solvers did too. A simple fix would be to simply give either STRESSED or SPA away en clair (i.e. directly in the clue). I would probably have opted for:

Offended, stressed, losing head... needing to slide in hot tub (10)