29A. “‘Bad plan!,’ in Southern slang,” solves to an expression that is tightly connected to political attempts to be folksy, which is where my mind went when I figured out THAT DOG DON’T HUNT. I originally wrote “won’t” for DON’T because that’s how some presidents phrased it, including Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both words appear in references, however.
38A/38D. These two entries made for a sticky crossing spot at their first letters. At 38A, “Some score marks” solves to RESTS, notations (“marks”) on a musical score. I ran through the alphabet and half convinced myself that “bests” (as in outscores) and “tests” (something to do with “marks”) might work. For “Twist of a screwdriver?” at 38D, I thought of “wind,” as in the motion of turning in a spiral. The entry here is RIND, like the part of the orange slice that garnishes a screwdriver cocktail.
11D. This entry is such delightfully sardonic commentary, I’m surprised not to hear it more often — we’re certainly swimming in enough neuroses to make it apt. When someone does something that should lead to the psychoanalyst’s couch, try lightening the mood by saying, “PAGING DR. FREUD!”
32D. If you weren’t subjected to remote gatherings over the past few years, this entry might not speak to you. Anyone used to fumbling around on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts knows that when one “Prepares to speak, in a modern meeting,” one UNMUTES. And one remembers to re-mute before muttering anything else, hopefully!
Ben: The math of crossword puzzles means you rarely see words between 11 and 15 letters. The shortest word allowed is three letters. So in a row with two words and a black square, 11 letters is as long as you can go, and rows with one word are often just 15-letter spanners. I made this grid specifically to have 15-, 14-, 13- and 12-letter slots, and started filling with PAGING DR. FREUD.
My first draft of this grid had some duplicates and mediocre fill, so I posted it online (shoutout to the Crosscord Discord) to see if anyone could help. Julian stepped up and redid the top half of the grid, much improving it. We didn’t actually meet in person until months later! I’m always glad to connect and collaborate with other constructors and grateful for the online communities that enable it.
Julian: Shout-out to my dad for telling me all about my phone’s BOKEH effect, which, apart from being an awesome addition to my wordlist, has made my photos twice as good. While filling this grid, I noticed that BOKEH was an option for the 5-Across slot, and I prayed that I could make it work without using crossword glue for the surrounding fill. I’m lucky that it turned out as good as it did.
Many thanks to Ben, not only for being generous and open to collaborate, but also for helping me along ever since I began making puzzles. He gave me honest yet encouraging criticism on my first puzzle almost two years ago, and he continues to give great advice when I have a theme idea or a themeless grid. It’s an honor to make my New York Times debut with him!
Want to Submit Crosswords to The New York Times?
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For tips on how to get started, read our series, “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle.”