Few people know this but The Mike and yours truly are both Class of '96 at the occasional crossword entry/school: UNH. People ask me what that stands for all the time, and I tell them the "University of No Hope." Anyway, Mike manned up and studied mathematics, whilst I took the path of least resistance and got a liberal arts degree. That meant we took a grand total of zero classes together. But Mike lived in this hippie-dippy commune/dorm thing with one of my closest friends, so I knew The Mike thataway. I had no idea that he was a puzzlehead until he just started showing up at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, oh, five or so years ago. The shock continued when he started selling them to the Times shortly thereafter. And now he's right up there with the best. I mean hell, he had a Saturday run with essentially zero clue rewrites. That's crazy stuff.
Coincidentally, The Mike joins Byron Walden and Joon Pahk as friends of mine who
owe me money my mother curses their names whenever she sees their bylines. She simply cannot solve one of their puzzles. I think you're in good company, fellas.
Anyway. Enjoy/share the puzzle. New one on Thursday.