looks like a tractor

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Thursday Puzzle — Oh, hello. You’re probably here because you’ve solved or tried to solve Adam Vincent’s very clever puzzle and are wondering what happened to you. Please sit down, the Theme Explainer is right there for you.

First of all, on behalf of the Wordplay team, I would like to wish our readers a Happy Independence Day. This wish relates to the theme of today’s crossword, and it is a hint, but not a spoiler.

I would have to go into too much detail to spoil the multi-layered theme in this puzzle. Mr. Vincent’s grid posed a mighty struggle, but I eventually solved it, by which time I had dripped sweat, exhausted my supply of anxiety chocolate and slapped my forehead hard.

On the other hand, conquering it gave me a tremendous boost: there is evidence that the “aha!” moment we chase when we solve a problem is actually a wonderful moment. Linked to the release of dopamine – the feel-good chemical – in the brain,

So if you tried to solve this puzzle and gave up, give it another shot. Try talking to yourself. I mean – say it out loud when you make an entry. It might help. And scientists say it might even make you feel a lot better.

To celebrate this festival, Mr. Vincent wants us to sing with him either the first or second part of the United States national anthem. Good thing it’s only the first five words, otherwise this would have been the world’s longest crossword.

How do I know these are the five words, you ask? Well, we have five theme entries with groups of shaded squares at the end, and those entries are somehow related to the grid-spanning 3D, Hold On To Your Hat, which is indicated as [“Get ready!” … or what to do upon hearing the ends of the answers to the starred clues?],

If we remove the shaded squares one by one and read them from top to bottom, we get the following:

Ough
Happen
Ken
it
SSEY

Now, pop that last piece of worry-relieving chocolate into your mouth and say it out loud with me:

Oh
Tell
be able to
You
Look

At the first ray of dawn, we found it! Those are the first five words of the national anthem. But wait, there’s more to it.

We’re taking off our hats (or holding them up) as it’s common to do so when listening to the national anthem.

I agree with the creator’s note: the theme of this puzzle somewhat resembles a flag waving in the wind. Well done, Mr. Vincent.

31A. [Six Flags coaster with a Spanish name] El Toro (“The Bull”) and, with your track recordTo me this clearly falls into the category of “no thanks!”

38A. I probably haven’t been around enough tractors in my time, but I’m not sure I can see that in Ohio, [when written in upper- and lowercase]Looks like a tractor. I understand that the O’s are wheels, but what am I missing?

58A. The yoga pose I like the most, [corpse pose]This is done while I lie flat on my back and don’t move. It’s absolute bliss.

62A. I tried it during brunch with my family, excitedly exclaiming “This frittata is the eggiest!” They told me never to do it again. The clue, however, is that [Superlative for a quiche or frittata],

4d. I like to imagine that the puzzle editors saw occasional comments about the crossword as being too American-centric and, in response, encouraged Mr. Vincent to add the Tim Tam, [“Australia’s favorite cookie”]In place of the ubiquitous Oreo.

7 D. My only experience with balsa wood is watching my father make airplane models, but isn’t it a bit fragile? [used in some surfboards],

25D. [Two out of 10] The answer is pinky. No other fingers can be the answer because they don’t fit into the categories here.

36 D. What a clever clue. [Ambient musician whose name is found in white noise”] Eno is the originator of music that should be played in the background, but not listened to intently.

If your team isn’t in the Super Bowl, you have to make your own entertainment, and for me, that was realizing during the national anthem that its opening words are just one syllable long. My mind immediately jumped to hiding those sounds in words like CHEERIO and BEYONCÉ.

I was originally attracted to the fact that “The Star Spangled Banner” would span a Sunday-sized grid nicely. I initially made a list of entries that spelled out the sounds up to MAFIA DONS / SHIRLEY / ACOLYTE, but I was worried that this conceit would be undermined during the Sunday puzzle. I also didn’t like that “soon” was a pattern-breaking two syllable word.

Once I decided to solve the puzzles by days of the week, it was a fun challenge to place the theme answers in the grid. I wanted the ends of the theme answers to be close to each other so that solvers could easily see the series of sounds, which meant I needed to get inventive with horizontal symmetry. Of all the variations I tried, I liked this layout the best because it made the cleanest fill and also (to my eyes) looks more like a waving flag.

Happy 4th day!

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