“Touched by an Angel”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 👩🏽‍🚒 👼🏻 🧑🏼‍⚕️

Today’s puzzle took a circuitous route to the blog. I wrote it back in 2019, and it was accepted by The New York Times editorial team as a Wednesday-ish grid. But before the team could slate it for publication, the novel Coronavirus–for which the novelty is beginning to wear off somewhat in my opinion–emerged and, well, changed the emotional landscape of the puzzling community. As a result, Will et al. kept bumping this one down the queue, waiting for a moment when its thematic content might be less of a downer. Eventually they decided it probably wasn’t going to land right any time soon, and asked to remove it from their queue altogether. Which is why you get to enjoy it here on my site, where standards of taste are dramatically lower than in the august pages of The Gray Lady.

I’ll take this seasonal opportunity to give thanks for the Times editorial staff: Will, Tracy, Wyna, Joel, Sam & Everdeen. The Times puzzle comes in for its share of fair criticism as the largest and most profitable puzzle venue. With great revenue comes great responsibility. But I think it often goes overlooked (or perhaps under-remembered) that the Times puzzle under Will deserves, in my opinion, more credit for raising the bars of quality and creativity in crossworld than any other puzzle outlet. Hats off.

Some thoughts and spoilers for “Touched by an Angel” after the jump. Thanks to Matt and Ben for test solving!

remind me to use FIRST RESPONDERS (15) as a revealer…

This puzzle has its roots in the dual realizations that a) EMERGENCY CONTACT can be reinterpreted as it is in the puzzle as the physical contact rendered by a first responder, and b) that HEIMLICH MANEUVER is an equally off-width 16-letter answer.

With a 16-wide puzzle and only four theme answers (feel free to drop suggestions for what #5 could have been!), there’s a *lot* of real estate for bonus fill. I probably could have pushed the envelope beyond the stacked NW/SE 9’s and intersecting NE/SW 7/8s, but a relatively straightforward theme set like this probably would have felt mismatched with a more ambitious grid layout.

Here’s to hoping no one needed the HEIMLICH during the ritual stuffing stuffing. And by the way, if you’ve never landed on Dr. Henry Heimlich’s wiki page, do yourself a favor. What a career!

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross

9 thoughts on ““Touched by an Angel”

  1. Hate to nitpick—really—but 14a’s clue should actually read “C’est la __”, not “C’est le __”. You have French-speaking fans in your Rolodex (ahem), so you should put them to good use when you want to test-drive such an entry.

    On a completely different note, I must disagree with your assessment that the NYT (currently) deserves “more credit for raising the bars of quality and creativity in crossworld than any other puzzle outlet”. That has been true in the past, but nowadays, the editor who’s doing the heavy lifting is, undoubtedly, Erik Agard at USA Today. To find out more about this, see https://time.com/5871704/erik-agard-usatoday-crossword-diversity.

    1. Not a nitpick at all! I appreciate your eye in helping refine for accuracy!

      I’m not sure that my historical assessment of the Times under Will’s editorship really conflicts with an appreciation of the USA Today puzzle under Erik’s stewardship. They’re doing important, quality work that I’ve commented on extensively in various media. If you’re a solver who’s after, like, Sunday-size grids, tricky themes, themeless puzzles, etc., it’s a pretty apples-to-oranges comparison.

  2. This puzzle getting pulled from the Times in Covid Era reminds me of concern, in the immediate aftermath of Sept 11, with the distribution of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”. There was a petition out to have the film renamed before release (together with the usual idiotic speculation that a malevolent Hollywood cabal had deliberately named the work something horrific – a half century after Tolkein had actually done so – to catch the eye of the shell-shocked public – there were conspiracy theorists back then too).

    Anyway I’m glad your puzzle ran now, ars longa vita brevis.

  3. Enjoyable puzzle. Feels like not running it only allows for us to make the boogey man divisions in our heads grow even larger.

    1. Thanks, Erica. I’m not sure there are any real boogey men to be found in this puzzle. I’ve got a high tolerance for “bummer” material, but I can see where they were coming from.

  4. I think this was great and can’t imagine what the problem may have been. Theme of “EMERGENCY CONTACT” is clever as hell. For some reason had the British spelling of MANEUVER in my head but that was the only hang up. Some dumb thoughts:

    {Stem a spout}: PRESSUREBANDAGE (15)
    {Song to sing while giving CPR}: STAYINALIVE (11)
    {__________ resuscitation}: CARDIOPULMONARY (15)

    Well done.

    1. Thanks for solving, John! I gather that they felt that the near-death scenarios implied by the EMS techniques in the puzzle could be triggering for solvers, given that emergency medical needs have been dominating the discourse for going on 18 months now. Fair enough, says I.

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