29 A. “Bad plan!”, in Southern slang, replaces an expression closely associated with political attempts to be popular, and that's what my mind went to when I discovered that a dog doesn't hunt. I originally wrote “won't” for “don't” because that's how some presidents have phrased it, including Lyndon B. Johnson And Bill Clinton. However, both words appear in references.
38A/38D. These two entries are created for a sticky crossing point at the first letters. In 38A, “certain score marks” are resolved into RESTS, symbols (“marks”) on the sheet music. I looked through the alphabet and convinced myself that 'best' (as in final results) and 'tests' (something to do with 'marks') might work. For “twist the screwdriver?” In 38D, I thought of “wind,” as in the rotating motion of a spiral. The entry here is RIND, like the part of the orange slice that decorates Screwdriver cocktail.
11 d. This entry is a delightfully sarcastic comment, and I'm surprised we don't hear it more often – we're certainly swimming in enough neurosis to make it relevant. When someone does something that will land you on the psychoanalyst's couch, try to lighten the mood by saying “PAGING DR. FREUD!”
32 D. If you haven't been exposed to remote gatherings in the past few years, this entry may not speak to you. Anyone accustomed to fumbling around on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts knows that when a person “gets ready to speak, in a modern meeting,” they mute. And one remembers to unmute the audio before muttering anything else, hopefully!
son: Crossword puzzles mean that you rarely see words with 11 to 15 letters. The shortest word allowed is three letters. So, in a row of two words and a black box, 11 characters is the maximum you can go, and rows with one word are often only 15-character spanners. I custom made this grid to have 15, 14, 13 and 12 letter slots, and started filling them in with PAGING DR. Freud.
My first draft of this grid had some duplicates and poor fill, so I posted it online (shout out to the Crosscord Discord) to see if anyone could help. Julian stepped up and redesigned the top half of the grille, improving it a lot. We didn't meet in person until months later! I'm always happy to connect and collaborate with other creators and am grateful for the online communities that make this possible.
Julian: Shout out to my dad for telling me all about the BOKEH effect on my phone, which, apart from being a great addition to my word list, has made my photos twice as good. While filling out this grid, I noticed that BOKEH was an option for the 5-Across slot, and prayed that I could get it to work without using crossword glue for the surrounding fill. I'm lucky it turned out as well as it did.
Many thanks to Ben, not only for being so generous and open to collaboration, but also for helping me since I started making puzzles. He gave me honest, encouraging critiques on my first puzzle nearly two years ago, and continues to offer great advice when I have a theme idea or a grid without a theme. It's an honor to make my New York Times debut with him!
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