INGA SAFFRON had a plan, and it didn't involve winning the highest honor in American journalism.

But the Inquirer's architecture writer took one for the team about 3 p.m. yesterday when she bagged the 20th Pulitzer Prize in the newspaper's history.

"I was slipping out quietly to cook, when people started coming over to my desk," Saffron said of the foiled plan to slink away unnoticed to prepare a Passover seder for 10 people.

Those dang Pulitzers. Get handed out at the most inconvenient times.

"Shocked" was how Saffron described her reaction, as she sipped a glass of champagne and answered questions from reporters. For once, the "Changing Skyline" columnist seemed to be at a loss for words.

"I'm excited for tomorrow," Saffron said, "when I'll be done cooking."

Saffron, who joined the Inquirer as a suburban reporter in 1985 and later covered wars in the former Yugoslavia and Chechnya, won the Pulitzer for criticism that the awards committee said blended "expertise, civic passion and sheer readability into arguments that consistently stimulate and surprise." She was previously a three-time finalist for the prize.

"Inga really is a stellar reporter, writer and analyst," Inquirer editor Bill Marimow said. "Most importantly, her work really makes a difference for everybody that lives here."

Saffron said she had no plans to rest: "It's nice to be honored by your colleagues, but you still have to go out and make the case for good planning and good urbanism. There are still a lot of big battles to be fought in this city."

As Saffron made her second exit attempt yesterday, she was intercepted by rambunctious Daily News reporter Wendy Ruderman, who won a 2010 Pulitzer with People Paper colleague Barbara Laker. They embraced in the hallway that separates the two newsrooms.

"I'm still shaking," Saffron said, laughing, before hopping on the elevator.

"It's going to take awhile to sink in," Ruderman said. "I'm really happy for you."

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.