These are my favorite "second" Sunday puzzles. The predominant constructor of the past several decades has been Mel Taub but several other prominent constructors have tried their hand at this puzzle variation over the years. The puzzle type seems to be a strange combination of standard American and British cryptic style puzzles. Don't try to solve them following cryptic "rules", anything goes in these puzzles.
Although these puzzles have been in recent decline they are as old as the NYT Sunday puzzle itself. The first "Puns and Anagrams" puzzle appeared with the first Sunday puzzle on February 15, 1942. It was called "Riddle Me This" by Anna Gram and had the following description: "Here are puns and persiflage, anagrams and homonyms, all fair game for the amateur sleuth." The early years of the form had two main constructors, George Buckler and J.F. Kelly. Of note was Eugene T. Maleska's first New York Times appearance with the December 3, 1944 "Puns & Anagrams" puzzle.
History of Puns & Anagrams (by Will Shortz)
"Puns & Anagrams were invented by Albert Morehead, the bridge and games expert, and first appeared in Games Digest magazine in 1937. They were meant to be an American version of the English cryptic crosswords, which at that time were still in their formative stage. Soon P&A were also appearing regularly in Redbook, the women's magazine, and various puzzle magazines and books.
"The main difference between P&A and cryptics was that the former had fully-checked grids (like regular American crosswords) while the latter didn't. Also, P&A clues contained lots more anagrams (generally unsignaled) than cryptics, as well as more straight puns. And over the years P&A developed various uniquely American idiosyncrasies, like the name "Elsie" representing the letters L-C, and clues like "Kind of ear" for END (where the parts and the whole have no etymological connection).
"When the Times inaugurated its Sunday crossword in 1942, editor Margaret Farrar made P&A a recurring feature on the bottom of the page, where it has been ever since.
"Mel Taub became one of several P&A makers beginning in the 1950s. Today, since he's reliable and popular, he's the only P&A contributor I'll accept (not that anyone else is trying).
"Eugene T. Maleska tried to eliminate P&A in the late 1970s and replace them with cryptics, but the outcry was too great. He compromised and reinstated them, printing one P&A every eight weeks, with cryptics appearing in the intervening months.
"When I became the editor in 1993, I planned to phase out P&A gradually in favor of cryptics, which I think are more interesting puzzles. But, like ETM, I discovered that P&A have many diehard fans. So I put them back into the schedule -- but just once every 18 weeks. Cryptics appear twice every 18 weeks.
"As far as I know, the Times is the only publication today that still publishes P&A."
Here is a zip file of the 1990's "Puns and Anagrams" (42 puzzles in all).