Before I discuss this specific puzzle, I'd like to climb onto the proverbial soapbox for a minute. A couple of years back, a well-known blogger complained about my New York Times crosswords by writing something like: "Quadstacks! That's all he [me] ever seems to do!"

[Quadstacks are, on the whole, a somewhat rare form of themeless: usually a hard unthemed Friday/Satuday crossword]

While our blogger friend was correct about my recent New York Times contributions, he was vastly overgeneralizing, since at that time, I had written over 550 CrosSynergy puzzles. Most of these puzzles were published in the Washington Post, and were somewhat easy (for a pro-solver, anyway). Moreover, these puzzles were usually straightforward daily-style themed crosswords.

So this critic was (or was claiming to be) unfamiliar with the vast majority of my published crosswords in a major US/international newspaper. Which I must say surprised me a bit, especially if crosswords are one's claimed area of expertise!

Now, don't misunderstand me, I didn't expect this critic to gush over my Washington Post puzzles (since the blog was about NYT crosswords), but I was reminded of the Oscar Wilde quote, "The only thing worse than being talked about, is not to be talked about."

So why this introduction? Well, in the land of crossword puzzles, I am mainly known for stacking entries, and the recent crossword now under discussion is interesting from a technical point of view because it combines theme entries and stacking.

Aside from stacking, one of my pet theme ideas (which I have just about done to death) is to hide shorter words inside longer phrases, either with a revealer as an entry to help the solver see the theme, or by use of the crossword's title.

I must have been at this for almost 15 years, since going through some old book collections of mine, I've found "Apple Cores," with MAC in the dead center of the theme entries. Another was "It's Cold Inside!" with ICE in the theme entries. Hiding four-letter words is more challenging of course, and hiding five-letter words is quite rare indeed. Aside from the current puzzle, the only other one that comes to mind is "Hidden Assets," in which ASSET was hidden in each theme entry.

"There, There!" hides THERE in all five theme entries. Some pros consider it a flaw that all of the hidden words "break" the same way, while others place a premium on consistency. From my point of view I consider it to be most important that the theme entries are good solid words or phrases.

I asked George Barany if he was interested in reprinting this puzzle, because I got lucky and was able to stack pairs of theme entries, plus keep one in the middle. This alone, makes the puzzle somewhat unusual, and so I felt the puzzle needed a nice "home" for the time being! And this is a pretty cozy home... comfy chairs, lit fireplace in the corner... ;)


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