Hey, it's a debut puzzle! Congratulations, Mr. Koppy, and welcome to the exclusive club of NYT xword constructors. Which leads me to my thanks for today: I am very grateful for this silly little thing we do each day, solving the crossword puzzle. It's a simple thing, with endless twists and enjoyable innovations. I hope that our endeavors on Horace and Frances (Featuring Colum Amory!) bring a modicum of that same pleasure to our reading audience (all eight of you!).
Today's puzzle features FLIPFLOPS (63A: Questionable political moves suggested by the answers to the nine starred clues). The themed answers are two word phrases with the words reversed, and each resulting new phrase is itself a well accepted phrase. I especially like 30A: *Neanderthal (MANCAVE) and 25D: *Spring festival (OVERPASS). I am not convinced at all by 40D: *Residence in a row (HOMETOWN). I think of that particular residence as a "townhouse."
Impressive to cram ten (10!) theme answer into a 15 x 15 grid. Even more impressive are the four extra 8-letter words, of which APPLEPAY and FORTNITE are nicely contemporary.
In exchange, you get things like OTT over MOTT, ESQS crossing QEII, and obscure Jewish month KISLEV (well, Hanukkah starts in Kislev, but truly, the use of Jewish months has gone out of style in the NYT, which I, in my lapsed Jewish state of ignorance of said names, fully support).
Overall, it's a pretty good puzzle, befitting a Wednesday in difficulty and unusual theme style. I will leave you with the amusing "kitwo" moment of trying to parse 51D: Special interest group? (THEFED) as a verb in past tense. What, I asked myself, does it mean to thefe?