For me, puzzles of this ilk are of the "where's the theme?" kind. Yes, there is a connecting thread running through the entries, but the entries themselves are all over the map, with no apparent connecting thread, it may as well be a themeless puzzle. Okay, so it's not really a themeless, as the word counts way too high, and has way too many 3-, 4- and 5-letter entries, and we've already gone over what the gimmick is. But hey, that's cool, right? I mean, everybody chimes in when I'm running a themeless, right?
The one variant of the "where's the theme" ilk I don't get at all is the random-letters-circled-in-a-longer-entry-that-when-you-read-those-letters-from-left-to-right-spell-out-some-kind-of-theme theme. To me, that gimmick seems like there isn't enough parameters to warrant a theme proper. While I'm here, a bright young up-and-coming talent Caleb Madison had a puzzle in yesterday's New York Times with the circled letters theme that I'm carping about now. Lack of theme excitement aside, the kid's grid was incredibly broad-based and jam packed with lively entries and trivia covering just about every category on your standard Trivial Pursuit pie. He's just getting his feet wet, so look out when he's got his stride.
To prove my point of the arbitrariness of the random circled letters hidden theme, let's apply that gimmick to today's puzzle's concept. All ya gotta do to get those kinds of entries is run a couple boolean searches over at One Look. A quick search shows that PATERNITY TEST holds PRIEST, ACT INVOLUNTARY holds ACTUARY, and THE GREATEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD holds ENGINEER. Big whoop, huh? Are those entries any better than the ones I ran in today's puzzle? It just seems the harder/tighter a theme is defined, the more entertaining the puzzle is. (Okay, did I use a boolean search at One Look to get my entries for today's puzzle that I ran? Yes. Yes I did.)
Okay, enjoy this one. New one on Wednesday.