Merl Reagle, May 2

Get ready to test your math skills in the oldie-but-goodie that Merl recycles this week: Each of the theme clues is a math problem in which the answer is 40.

But it’s not just simple arithmetic; Merl uses nouns commonly associated with certain figures in place of the actual numbers. So 19 Across — “____+____=40” — ends up being FLAVORS PLUS CAT LIVES, or 31+9=40: Baskin-Robbins’ 31 ice cream flavors plus a cat’s nine lives. (I pray mine still has at least eight left after overshooting the balcony railing above our living room and landing on the hardwood floor 15 feet below — and not on her feet. She’s fine.)

Some other problems are 27 Across, CARDS MINUS THE ZODIAC (52 cards in a deck minus the 12 signs of the Zodiac equals 40); 48 Across, SENSES TIMES AN OCTOPUS (5 senses times 8 legs equals 40); and 106 Across, SEASONS TIMES BO DEREK (4 seasons times “10,” the movie that made Bo Derek — and blonde corn rows — famous equals 40).

He gives you a bunch of freebies by including the word for the function (plus, minus, times) in both the clue and the answer. But even with that small criticism, I think this is a pretty stellar puzzle — fun, clever and unique.