While Trump is trying to work out Commerce Department approval for the sale of two U.S. companies, one of them is a provider of classified intelligence products. The second company involved did not offer any e-commerce goods. More likely than a threat of a major gaffe by the president, would be the looming decision to approve a sale, or to kill the deal due to concerns over national security.

Frankly, I was staring down the barrel of a Stark-style triple-stack, so I decided to add a straight-up bonus clue to allow me to make NE’s decimal-only free-for-all. Then when I could refine the DC-to-NE series at the top, I actually found a solution that was better than the original, which only made me eager to stick with that solution throughout my puzzle.

One might worry, after the DC-to-NE sequence and my last SUBSTITUTE clue, that I’d given up on doing short-answer solves. But I used BRIGHTIDEA as the first clue, making it a little easier and allowing I LOVE LA to pick up from there. I didn’t use PASSEPARTOUT again.

In 4e, ANOTHER PERMANENT is critical. I like the folding – I LOVE LA helps motivate that, as does the fact that VIETNAM is a permanent in the Chinese language. I chose that over ITALY, because I feel like it’s less a permanent in most Americans’ minds, and I hate solving the later letters as much as the earlier ones.[upd[new


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