Time for another Sunday-sized themeless! I made this grid shortly after the first one I posted, and promptly forgot about its existence. I'm glad I recently rediscovered this puzzle, because I really like pinwheel-shaped grids (both aesthetically and from a construction standpoint), and the long fill here is good to great. I vaguely remember trying to fill this grid without the two central black squares, but I definitely remember ragequitting my construction software at least once while assembling today's puzzle.
Brooke, as you must know by now, is a fantastic clue-writer and constructor. Not only did she suggest creating two sets of clues (à la Byron Walden for Couchword or Robyn Weintraub for Puzzle Mania), but she wrote all 225 of them in a single day — and they're all fresh, thoughtful, and clever. My favorites are 33-A ("harder"), 72-A ("hard"), 38-D (both), 53-D (both), and 100-D (both). You can check out more of Brooke's excellent work in USA Today — and in future puzzles on this site, I'm sure.
Wow, this was like signing up to run a half marathon and deciding to do the full thing on race day because why not! I always like the idea of two clue sets — a versatility possible on indie sites like Sid's and Matthew's (hint hint) — and to design clues for one of Sid's puzzles is the highest privilege. I'm consistently in awe of his mastery of the craft, especially in the context of his uncompromising stance toward inclusion, freshness, and cleanliness.
Here are some of my favorite clues (direct spoilers omitted, but to avoid hints entirely wait til after the solve):
I like my take on the parenthetical convention in 1-A (both) and 75-A (both)
In 44-A ("harder") I love the opportunity to mention Cassandra, the title character of possibly my favorite novel ever
I enjoy making the call out in 59-A ("hard")
Please see here for background on 68-A (both)
72-A ("harder") is absolutely a German class mnemonic!
In terms of misdirection, 85-A ("harder") has to be my favorite, possibly tied for the immediately following 86-A ("harder")
I had the song referenced in 91-A ("harder") stuck in my head for days after writing this clue (apologies in advance)
I love a chance to mention 110-A (both); this shouldn't be a fresh clue!
I love to exalt the two women in 47-D ("harder"). Here's the relevant creation. It reminds me of how computer science was pioneered by women, and only became male-dominated when it started to emerge as something to be intellectually glorified.
I hope you enjoy whichever version you took on, and that you learned a lot while doing it!