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Mixing It Up | The Nation

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Word Salad

Kosman and Picciotto on their Nation puzzle, cryptic crosswords, wordplay and puzzles in general.

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Mixing It Up

[First, three links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where you can ask for and offer hints, and where every one of our clues is explained in detail.]

In a previous post, we discussed the workings of anagrams and stated some of our views about what makes a good one. We argued that short anagrams, being perhaps too easy to solve, could be justified by a smooth surface reading. On the other hand, we consider long anagrams a last resort, because they are easy to create but (in our opinion at least) much less fun to solve.

Today, we’d like to return to the question of anagram esthetics, and suggest a few other aspects that make a particularly good anagram.

One thing that makes a good anagram is when the letters to be rearranged—the so-called “anagram fodder”—come from a single word. This connects cryptic clueing to the related game of finding words that are anagrams of one another. Here are some examples from our first year at The Nation:
      OLD SAW  ”Two heads are better than one”—for example, Oswald’s maneuvering (3,3)
      OPTICAL  Capitol is dysfunctional—it’s a kind of illusion (7)
      PENALTIES  Palestine suffering punishments (9)
      PEPSI-COLA  Episcopal stirred a soft drink (5-4)
      PLASTER  Stapler defaced wall’s coating (7)

The fodder doesn’t have to be a single word, of course. It is just as good if the fodder is a phrase with “dictionary nature,” as in this example:
      PEANUTS  Engineer antes up payment “in the high two figures” (7)

Another feature that we always strive for, which can be seen in the examples above, is for an anagram to be “well mixed.” There’s no hard and fast line separating a well-mixed anagram from less interesting examples, but at the very least simply shifting one letter, or switching two letters with one another, would not qualify as well-mixed anagrams. In those cases we prefer to clue the wordplay differently, as in this example:
      ABDOMEN  A black cat, perhaps, with head stuffed inside belly (7)
Here a single letter moved, the A in BAD OMEN. In such a case, we feel justified in not providing the anagram fodder explicitly, because the change is so slight that it would not make for an interesting clue. Instead, we give a definition of the fodder, and more or less clear instructions on shifting the letter.

Finally, we’re particularly fond of &lit. anagrams. Here are some examples from year 1:  ASTRONOMER  Moon starer, possibly! (10)
      RESCUES  Put another way, secures! (7)
      SCENIC ROUTE  A product of innovative tour science! (6,5)
      TENO  I make notes, perhaps! (5)
      TOKYO  It is like Kyoto, but different! (5)
      VIBRATOS  Bravo—it’s “quavers”! (8)

Have you come across some great anagrams? Please share here, along with any quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.

SPOILER: PUZZLE #3271—HINTS FOR BEGINNERS

These clues are anagrams: 12A, 6D
These clues involve anagrams as part of the wordplay: 9A, 27A, 3D, 16D

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