Some nice clues! Stumped by the meta. I suspected something was up with 25A
The Queen of Hearts or the Jack of Diamonds, but not the King of Spades[-------]
because of the way it was clued. But I connected 16A
, and then I couldn’t find connections for 26A
____ res (storytelling device)[--------]
Era of rising tensions[----------]
so I abandoned that train. I kept trying to tie in 36D
thinking it must be relevant because of the oblique clue but I couldn’t make it work.