Thanks, Colum, for a fun month of reviews! You went out on a high note, and I start September with a silky-smooth Patrick Berry Friday grid! It doesn't get much better than that.
I started out quickly today with PAXROMANA (13A: Period ushered in by Augustus) - a giveaway for this Latinist. Not being a full classicist hurt me, however, in not knowing "Clytemnestra's half sister" (HELEN) without several crosses. Still, it's interesting to know, and I'll try to remember it. Also interesting to learn about the prior use for METHANOL (1A: What the earliest cars used as antifreeze). I think that probably deserves an A-.
So much good, long material today. SUCCINCTLY (Without wasting a word), SMORGASBORD (Choice meal?) (my favorite today), LAYAWAYPLAN (The seller takes no interest in it) (Ha!), and the fun MONKEYBARS (Another name for a horizontal ladder). Somewhat less scintillating were MARKERPEN (Soft-headed writer?) (trying to be cute, but really, don't most people just say "marker?") and RETOTALED (Verified the count of). But they're not terrible, and look, I haven't even mentioned OBELISK, CASPIANSEA, or CANAPE (Party platter tidbit). Mmmm.... canapés...
For all this loveliness, we are asked to accept TRINI (Certain Caribbean islander, informally) (are we still talking about TRINI Lopez, here?), SHOAT (Little Swine), and CEBU (Pacific Island Magellan visited in 1521). This last one is my least favorite answer today. Sure, it's a little interesting to learn about, but come on... nobody but nobody knows that.
Great start to the month. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow!
p.s. Funny that Huygens was just mentioning OPERABOXES in his comment yesterday. I wonder if he dropped that right in today?