Puzzle #1: Blackheads

Since we’re starting on Halloween, it seemed appropriate to riff on BLACK. This type of puzzle, one whose theme type is “words-that-precede-___” or “words-that-follow-___,” has a long and rich history in puzzling. No, really! Steinberg, back me up here.

It used to be that BLACK would just be in the grid multiple times, back when a repeated word theme was acceptable. Alas, the theme is easy to do so its been done to death and is often snubbed by the gridderati. I think it’s merely one of the many tools at our disposal; if it uses colorful phrases and isn’t done too often, it seems solid to me.

Nowadays, the usual thing to do would be to put your keyword in the SE corner as a revealer, BLACK in this case. Here I tried to give the theme a new twist by putting the keyword in the title (which all puzzles should have, let’s be honest). This also freed up the grid a bit to include the bonus central shorties. That whole central area started as all black squares, then it had BLACK running through it, then it became what you see now.