The Wednesday, August 27 puzzle (solution) is the second at the Times for Donna Hoke Kahwaty. Her first artless effort was just over a year ago. Artless is a great word because it can mean either poorly made or ingenious. That puzzle was indeed clever. It removed ART from common phrases.
Today's effort shows that over the past year, Ms. Kahwaty has developed a bit of a stutter, and that makes a nice Wednesday theme. Until I figured out the gimmick I thought this was trickier than typical for midweek, but things fell into place once I realized the theme answers had déjà vu syllables.
This theme has appeared before. Richard Silvestri used it over a decade ago in a Sunday puzzle called Double Headers that even included an identical answer.
"Unencumbered" is a great word. I love the sound of it. Even better, the answer for that clue is FOOTLOOSE which, combined with "fancy free" is an expression that I fondly remember from my childhood. I wonder where it comes from. Is it redundant? You're unencumbered and there's no-one you fancy at the moment?
The fun-loving guy in the photo is English "political philosopher John" LOCKE. He was in vogue back in the 17th century and his thinking directly influenced the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
ELAYNE makes another appearance. Fourteen times now, each occurrence referencing comedian Boosler. She was always charming. I wonder what she's up to these days.