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New York Times, Thursday, November 20, 2014

Author: Timothy Polin
Editor: Will Shortz
Timothy Polin
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3212/11/20111/17/20172
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1.62470
Zorro cover

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQX} Scrabble average: 1.88 This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Polin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: After completing this puzzle, connect nine appropriate letters in order to discover an image associated with 44-Down.
Timothy Polin notes: The NAZI / DEICIDE crossing, which was by far the best possible fill, looked particularly morbid to me, so I tried to clue both ... more
Timothy Polin notes: The NAZI / DEICIDE crossing, which was by far the best possible fill, looked particularly morbid to me, so I tried to clue both entries in an oblique way that would make them interesting, rather than depressing.

The NAZI clue, I think, helps to camouflage the inherent distastefulness of the word itself, and is less heavy-handed than one such as "European jackboot."

As for DEICIDE, there was a pair of Maleska-era clues in the database: "Murder of a god" and "Destruction of a god." Dictionary-like clues of this nature felt too straightforward and explicit for this entry, though, given its crossings; I thought a specific mythological clue would work better, and there were two to choose from.

Baldur taking on all weapons

The first option was the story of Baldur and Hodur from Norse mythology. Baldur, one of the sons of Odin, is beloved by all living creatures—including the gods' bitter enemies, the frost giants. Having heard a prophecy foretelling Baldur's death, Odin's wife Frigg has every last thing in the world swear never to hurt Baldur. The mistletoe plant, believed to be harmless, is the only thing that fails to take this oath. The jealous trickster god Loki, however, takes a sprig of mistletoe and fashions it into a dart. The other gods have made a game out of throwing their swords and axes at Baldur, which all bounce off harmlessly, as even metal has sworn him no harm. Loki gives this dart to Baldur's blind and innocent brother Hodur, who has been unable to participate in the fun because he lacks a weapon. With Loki's guidance Hodur throws the mistletoe straight at Baldur, killing him.

The story behind the wicked god Set's murder of his brother Osiris is equally fascinating. Envious of his brother's position as king of Egypt, Set arranges for a beautiful sarcophagus to be made conforming to Osiris' exact measurements. At a gala celebrating Osiris' return from travels abroad, Set brings forth the sarcophagus and proclaims that it is a gift for the one who fits inside. Everyone in turn tries the sarcophagus, to no avail. Osiris is the last to climb into the box, which of course fits him perfectly. Set and his attendants thereupon slam the coffin lid shut, sealing it with nails and boiling lead (killing Osiris), before throwing it into the Nile. Osiris never again walks among the living.

It's curious that both of these tales qualify as fratricide as much as they do deicide, even if they occur under wildly differing circumstances (although both involve jealousy). As it seemed less obscure, I went with the latter story.

If you take nothing else from this brief discourse, take this: If you're ever offered a glass slipper to try on, go for it. If you're ever offered a coffin to try on, decline politely and find the nearest available exit.

Oh, and keep away from mistletoe. Dangerous stuff.

Jeff Chen notes: The mark of Zorro today, embodied by nine Zs arranged in the shape of a giant Z. Not being up on my Zorro trivia, I had a tough time ... more
Jeff Chen notes: The mark of Zorro today, embodied by nine Zs arranged in the shape of a giant Z. Not being up on my Zorro trivia, I had a tough time finishing this one, but it was pretty neat to see the meta-Z slashed through the puzzle.

The Z is one of the Big Four of Scrabbliness, a tough little guy to incorporate smoothly. Of course, there are oodles of entries that contain a Z, but there are many fewer relative to, say, M, or even B. Making things more difficult today is the fact that the abundance of Zs meant that Tim had to be cautious about duping any Z words, i.e. if you use ZEE, that takes away ZED as an option somewhere else in the grid, as they have the same etymology.

Tim does well to segment his grid, almost approximating a house layout with nine rooms, in order to isolate each Z. Still, it's tough to execute smoothly with this many Zs. (It doesn't quite make our list of most Z's, but it comes close.) I rarely like seeing NAZI in my puzzles, but that's a personal opinion. And it would have been nice to get more of a ZOO CZAR GAZE feel than a ZEB EZER NAZI vibe.

The structure of benzene

Ah, BENZENE is perhaps my favorite compound in all of organic chemistry. Its hexagonal shape with shared electrons, the legend of how August Kekule ascertained its structure via a dream of Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail, its planar characteristic distinguishing it with elegance from cyclohexane's kinked conformations … oh, BENZINE (with an I) is the entry today? Harrumph.

Some sizzling clues today, M AND MS made me laugh. [Little green ones come from Mars]; how perfect, once you realize that Mars is the company that makes them. And [Having a sense of pride?] refers to a lion's pride, not man's ego. Beautiful way to make these middle-length pieces of fill really sing. Finally, reading Tim's account of the Baldur story was a highlight for me today. Loki's trickery made quite an impression on me as a youngster. So tragic.

I wonder if these pieces of Zorro trivia are generally well known? I kind of liked learning DON DIEGO / DE LA VEGA — such an awesome name! — but combined with THE CURSE OF / CAPISTRANO felt a bit too much of learning for my small brain to handle in one day. Loved the Z visual though.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,753
Across Down
1. Century, for one : FONT
5. Skip over water, as stones : DAP
8. "Brr-r-r!" : IMCOLD
14. One of the 12 in the Pac-12 : UTAH
15. "Huzzah!" : OLE
16. Descriptor for olde England : MERRIE
17. Show inattention, say : DOZE
18. Pince-___ : NEZ
19. Bold : BRAZEN
20. What Set committed when he slew Osiris : DEICIDE
22. "M.Y.O.B." : BUTTOUT
23. Sea urchin, at a sushi bar : UNI
24. Woodstock artist who performed while six months pregnant : BAEZ
25. They're hooked up to breathing tubes : SNORKELERS
29. Initial offer? : CAIN
33. British paper vendor : NEWSAGENT
34. Ultimate : ACME
35. Littoral eagle : ERNE
36. Displayed conspicuously : OOZED
38. Weapon in Clue : PIPE
39. Bygone Chevy subcompact : AVEO
40. Like Baha'i houses of worship : NINESIDED
42. Slit made with a saw : KERF
43. How zombies act : MINDLESSLY
44. Author Grey : ZANE
45. "Life doesn't imitate ___, it imitates bad television": Woody Allen : ART
46. Member of the buttercup family : ANEMONE
50. "The spur of industry," per David Hume : AVARICE
54. Skink, e.g. : LIZARD
55. New York's Tappan ___ Bridge : ZEE
56. Sea of ___, outlet of the Don River : AZOV
57. Difficult kind of push-up : ONEARM
58. 100,000 picojoules : ERG
59. Colloquial denial : NOPE
60. Some statuary : TORSOS
61. Diva's accessory : BOA
62. Certain panegyrics : ODES
1. Fictional rabbit hunter : FUDD
2. Historical buffalo hunter : OTOE
3. "Judgment at Nuremberg" defendant : NAZI
4. With 29-Down, first story to feature 44-Down (1919) : THECURSEOF
5. With 37-Down, real name of 44-Down : DONDIEGO
6. One way to turn a ship : ALEE
7. Kind of dispenser : PEZ
8. Steeps : IMBUES
9. Ricardo landlord, in 1950s TV : MERTZ
10. Suffix with theo- : CRAT
11. Little pasta : ORZO
12. Place : LIEU
13. It might be hammered out : DENT
21. "___ Dinka Doo" (Durante tune) : INKA
22. Lift others' spirits? : BARTEND
24. Petroleum ether : BENZINE
25. One not to be trusted : SNEAK
26. Pluck : NERVE
27. Manual reader, maybe : OWNER
28. Having a sense of pride? : LEONINE
29. See 4-Down : CAPISTRANO
30. Etching supplies : ACIDS
31. Get going : IMPEL
32. Clinging, say : NEEDY
37. See 5-Down : DELAVEGA
41. Antivenins, e.g. : SERA
43. Little green ones come from Mars : MANDMS
44. Subject of this puzzle : ZORRO
46. Often : ALOT
47. Young muchacho : NINO
48. Israel's Weizman : EZER
49. Goat sounds : MAAS
50. Designed to minimize drag : AERO
51. Lacoste competitor : IZOD
52. Hack it : COPE
53. Brinks : EVES
55. "The Waltons" grandpa : ZEB

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

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