Slit made with saw / THU 11-20-14 / Sea urchin at sushi bar / First story to feature ZORRO 1919 / Lacoste competitor / Historical buffalo hunter / Descriptor for olde England / Bygone Chevy subcompact

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium (could lean toward "Challenging" for some, given the not-famous story title and not-famous "real name" that take up so much real estate)

THEME: ZORRO (44D: Subject of this puzzle) — contains "first story to feature ZORRO" ("THE CURSE OF / CAPISTRANO") and the "real name of ZORRO" (DON DIEGO / DE LA VEGA). Then there's the note:

So connect the "Z"s and get a much bigger "Z," it seems.

Word of the Day: Skink (54A: Skink, e.g. => LIZARD) —
Any of numerous smooth shiny lizards of the family Scincidae, having a cylindrical body and small orrudimentary legs and living chiefly in temperate and tropical regions.

[Latin scincus, from Greek skinks.] (
• • •

This is solid work. It's not the most accessible puzzle, in that the bulk of the theme answers—in fact, all the theme answers besides ZORRO—are bits of trivia that no one but a pulp aficionado is likely to know. I would not call myself a pulp aficionado, but I did read Dynamite's recent run of "ZORRO" comics, so the details here are at least vaguely familiar to me. I didn't know Z's name of his first story off the top of my head, but with some coaxing from crosses, I got both of them quickly enough. I'm not much for drawing on my answer grid, but that connect-the-Zs trick here is neatly done. I'm most impressed that the multitude of "Z"s, each of which must be in a precise position, did not turn the fill to goo. I probably should've made KERF my Word of the Day, because what the hell … but aside from a minor clunk here and there, this grid held up very well, considering the strictures.

I finished in 6+ minutes, which is pretty normal for Thursday, but I feel like the first minute was one big free fall. I didn't have a damn thing in the grid after my first pass at the NW. Weirdly, the first thing I up in the grid was DAP (5A: Skip over water, as stones), whose definition here I know only from crosswords. Then there was INKAINKA was ugly, but INKA was easy. But I still didn't make much headway up there. I ended up poking into a bunch of nooks an crannies (first the west, then the NE…) before I ever put any of the bigger answers to gather. LEONINE (28D: Having a sense of pride?) + OOZED (36A: Displayed conspicuously) ended up (finally) bringing a lot of separate sections of the puzzle together. I normally solve in a somewhat more connected, methodical fashion, but I couldn't do that today, for whatever reason. Somehow this didn't affect my time much. Decent theme, cleanish fill, nifty little trick. Totally acceptable Thursday.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:13 AM  

    Medium for me too. It helped that I recently completed a puzzle in a Peter Gordon book that had ZORRO's full name as an answer.  Nice when that happens.  I still had a fair amount of problems...DEal before DENT, several attempts before BENZINE, at least two tries at LEONINE, nova before AVEO, Ucla before UTAH...

    Fun puzzle and a reasonably smooth grid given the constraints.  Liked it.

    wreck 12:20 AM  

    Toughest Thursday for me in some time! If you aren't up on Zorro trivia, you are in for a long day. Plenty of trouble at just about every turn -- nothing came easy!

    Charles Flaster 12:27 AM  

    Loved the puzzle.Medium but would have been easy except for 4 answers I had trouble trouble eliminating.
    Nova for AVEO
    Ardor for NERVE
    Marine for ONE ARM.
    UCLA for UCAL and then eventually UTAH.
    (Do not even think UCAL is used for Berkeley).
    Helped to remember Zorro's name from Disney series approximately 50 years ago.
    Loved clues for BARTEND, PEZ, SNORKELERS and LEONINE.
    Terrific construction!
    Thanks TP

    Whirred Whacks 12:29 AM  

    Well executed puzzle! Zippy and full of Zest!

    Solving it took me back to my first encounter with Zorro: the late 1950s Disney TV series starring Guy Williams in the title role.

    I've been to two Baha'i temples: in New Delhi, and in Wilmette, Illinois (north of Chicago). Both are quite impressive.

    Lots of great clues. My two favorites:
    "Little green ones come from Mars" for MANDMS
    "The spur to industry, as per David Hume" for AVARICE

    Is CENTURY a much-used font anymore? I don't think so. Perhaps when THE CURSE OF CAPISTRANO was written, though.

    chefwen 12:54 AM  

    I was toast before I even left the bag of bread. Managed to complete the NE and SW, that's pretty much where it ended. I know nothing about ZORRO except the big slash/slash/slash Z. Pretty much "threw in the towel". While I was trying to solve I kept thinking that M&E would love this if he had a Z fetish instead of the revered U.

    Anyhoo, I tried.

    Rebus please next Thursday or Sunday would also work.

    Anonymous 1:04 AM  

    I can't believe you never heard of "The Curse of Capistrano". Incredible. It's one of the most famous mysteries of all time, so much so that it's widely considered the forerunner of any of the adventurer/scientist/forensic mysteries of the past 50 years. No less than M. Night Shyamalan has said the Indiana Jones could not have existed without "The Curse of Capistrano".

    Brief recap - Every year around the Ides of March all the Monks at the Mission San Juan Capistrano became ill, and many died. Some year the death rate among the monks exceeded 25%. After several years it was assumed that the Mission was cursed, that there were Satanic influences involved. The peasants thought is was a curse, the Monks went with the Satanic, as it was only the Monks who died, and the evil one's hand was thus seen. Over time, it got harder and harder to reruit new monks, and it was feared that the Mission would die.

    Through various adventures Zorro got involved, he came to the help of the monks that helped the peons. An educated man, he dismissed the ignorant belief in curses held by the peons, and though a religious man, he similarly dismissed the Satanic explaination. And while quick with the steel, he was even quicker of mind and suspected other influences. Through tireless investigation he eventually came upon the explaination to the problem, an explaination outside the ken of the godly and the ungodly.

    It was the swallow shit.

    Anonymous 1:06 AM  

    Fun puzzle! But the clue at 6D is just wrong. by 180 degrees. Tacking, one turns into the wind! In a small boat, pushing the tiller "hard alee". But still...

    -Sal's Dad

    Steve J 1:07 AM  

    Didn't like this at all. I'll take plenty of my share of the blame for that. I don't know ZORRO at all. Should I? Debatable, but it's not the constructor's fault if I have no knowledge of his theme material. Not knowing Zorro, and not being able to infer all the references, made this difficult.

    But it's not all on me. KERF? Eventually gettable once I figured out that OF had to be part of the Zorro title. There were worse problems: DAP crossing DON DIEGO. I don't know Zorro's name (I'm guessing a lot of people don't). I didn't know there exists a specific word for skipping rocks (I don't know how many do; I'm also guessing a lot don't). Needless obscurity in the clue for LIZARD (skink? I figured it was akin to skulk), crossing an uncommon proper name. These things introduced extra difficulty where it probably wasn't necessary, since the theme's not going to be obvious to a lot of people anyway.

    There were good things: BRAZEN, BUTT OUT, AVARICE. But this felt really clunky overall, even handicapping it for my lack of knowledge of the theme material.

    okanaganer 1:07 AM  

    Out of the night,
    When the full moon is bright,
    Comes the horseman known as Zorro.
    This bold renegade
    Carves a "Z" with his blade,
    A "Z" that stands for Zorro.


    Unknown 1:08 AM  

    Tough one here, even after figuring out most of the theme. I had THECountOFCAPISTRANO as a guess, which screwed up the middle of the puzzle irretrievably. When I finally googled for BENZINE, I could resolve the mess. I finished with 3 errors. bAAS/ANEbONG/LEONINg. Oh well. Good puzzle. Beat me fair and square.

    mathguy 1:18 AM  

    Great puzzle. Lots of fun remembering the Zorro stories.

    Anoa Bob 2:24 AM  

    This one brought back memories of when I was an undergraduate living with five other poor-as-church-mice students sharing an off-campus house. We were so poor that a typical evening's entertainment was sitting around shooting the breeze and watching reruns on our antenna-only black-and-white TV.

    ZORRO was one of our favorites (along with Sherlock Holmes) so I remembered his "real" name and was able to piece together the CAPISTRANO dealie.

    What I remember in stark relief is a scene where ZORRO, all decked out in black, is riding his black horse at full gallop through the chaparral, with his black cape streaming heroically behind him.

    It was a great shot with the camera moving along at the same speed, looking up from almost a ground level at our hero as he and his steed sprinted gallantly along.

    There was, however, a fly in the ointment. In the upper left hand corner of the screen was a contrail (!), an unmistakable sign of a jet plane at high altitude. Wait a minute. Did they have jets in ZORRO's time? No.

    Since then I've never been able to get back to that level of suspension of disbelief that is necessary to be won over by the make-believe that's being shown on the screen. (Hey, there's no coffee in that cup! She's just pretending to sip!)

    Lots of other good stuff in this puzz. BAEZ & MERTZ were around during ZORRO days, right? I've done a lot of sawing, so KERF was a gimme.

    Heard of BENZeNE, but not BENZINE.

    Anonymous 3:15 AM  

    What's up with "Initial offer?" I get that Cain was the first (initial) son of Adam and Eve, but what does offer have to do with it?

    Anonymous 3:27 AM  

    Cain "offed" Abel

    jae 3:33 AM  

    @Anon 3:15 - Off means to kill someone in slang, so CAIN was the first guy to do that biblically speaking.

    And, speaking of Guy, Anoa Bob's post got me thinking about watching Zorro when I was in Jr. High (I suspect I'm a bit younger than Bob) and how much I enjoyed the actor Guy Renaldo. Then I looked it up and it was actually Guy Williams, Duncan Renaldo was the Cisco Kid. The moral is checking is a good idea.

    John Child 3:35 AM  

    This took me more time than Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday's puzzles put together, so challenging here. I saw ZORRO on the first pass and got the Z connection soon after, but I didn't know the long theme answers and just had to flog the crosses until something reasonable appeared. I applaud the fresh theme and enjoyed the puzzle.

    GILL I. 5:35 AM  

    @Anoa Bob and @Anony 1:04...I'm glad I didn't have something in my mouth when I read your posts!
    Really liked this...Was/am in love with Tyron Power, Alain Delon and Antonio Banderas. DON DIEGO DE LA VEGA a BRAZEN MERRIE caballero! Adelante!
    Caught on to the ZORRO early so I easily filled in the rest of his name. Knew there had to be a Z in the grid which gave me LIZARD which I misread as skank... Never heard of DEICIDE nor KERF so I learned something new.
    Did I mention how much I really, really liked this puzzle?
    I suppose if you didn't know ZORRO (how could you not?) then this would have been a BOA.
    OLE Timothy Polin!

    George 6:38 AM  

    Didn't know that maa distinguished goats as opposed to baa for sheep, and anemone in the buttercup family I'd interesting. Tough cross for me.

    Anonymous 6:58 AM  

    Beautifully done puzzle - challenging, well constructed, lots of thematic material and all those Z's lined up perfectly! My problem with it is that with the hint directing me to 44 down, I got ZANE immediately and ZORRO right after that, which led to what the nine letters were and what shape they would make. So the "Aha moment" came at the beginning instead of the end. Still, a great crossword puzzle.

    RAD2626 6:59 AM  

    Really fun and challenging puzzle. Maybe next week can feature The Lone Ranger.

    Initial offer? clue worth the price of admission.

    AugustJune 7:19 AM  

    Great puzzle! The Zs were lined up perfectly, and Disney memories of 50 years ago sufficed to recall Don Diego. Great clues... Loved "initial offer." But what on earth is MANDMS???

    Anonymous 7:39 AM  

    Good puzzle, but why does oozed mean displayed conspicuously?

    Anonymous 7:48 AM  


    Add spaces. M AND Ms, which are made by M&M/Mars Candy

    Dorothy Biggs 8:04 AM  

    I had an English teacher in HS who would count off 10 points for any and all occurrences of "ALOT," demanding to know just what a "lot" is. I've always remembered that and to this day I rarely use it and wince when I do...expecting to be docked 10 points off my life or something.

    ZORRO is a blast from my early TV past. I don't think I ever really watched the show, but it was on all the time (in reruns, of course...I'm not that old). My favorite part was when he slashed the Z on a victim's chest when he could have slit their throats. All the victims would have to show for their comeuppance was a ripped shirt in the shape of a Z. Ah, those were the days.

    Didn't know DAP or KERF.

    The MERTZes are another blast from my early TV past.

    I had neon at 39A and dado at 42A to start. But I figured the book had to have an "OF" in there...I finally guessed at what "littoral" meant, got ERNE, which made neon/dado look really erased it and started over. I figured 4D was either THECountOF or THECURSEOF. SNORKELERS was the pivotal aha moment.

    Overall, an A- from me because of the aforementioned ALOT, KERF, and DAP.

    chefbea 8:17 AM  

    Too tough for me. Noticed all the Z's and knew they would all be connected to make a big one. But have never followed Zorro so did not know his real name or the first story.

    Off to Curves - will read the comments later

    Unknown 8:19 AM  

    Other than leaving THE COUNT OF CAPISTRANO in until fairly late, it solved fairly readily for me. I'd say medium-easy for a Thursday.

    Anonymous 8:21 AM  

    Thought it was impossibly hard. I didn't come close to finishing and as I revealed answers, I mostly reacted with 'what the hell is that?'

    Anonymous 8:21 AM  

    SKINK with a chuckle-

    SKINK, is a fictional character who has appeared in several novels by Carl Hiaasen, beginning with Double Whammy in 1987. He is an opponent of sprawl and development, and partakes of roadkill cuisine.

    Anonymous 8:24 AM  

    Loved the puzzle. For me, Catherine Zeta-Jones puts the Z in Zorro!

    Of course seeing Jimmy Durante's name brought back memories of "the schnoz" and "the schnozzola."


    Moly Shu 8:36 AM  

    I'm in the @SteveJ camp. No knowledge of ZORRO. I did know what a skink was, so I got that one no problem. What I can't figure out is, I never read The Last of the Mohicans so could not get UNCAS from a few days ago. I do know that it is a relatively famous book and considered classic literature. I'm not sure that I even knew that ZORRO stories were in books. I assumed they were just TV episodes or movies I'm not familiar with. Having said all that, what I can't figure out is how did I get DON DIEGO DE LA VEGA with only a few crosses? Somewhere my brain came up with this. If you would have asked me who this DON DIEGO was, I probably would have guessed " some guy in a Quentin Tarantino movie? "

    As for KERF, keep it.

    Challenging Thursday. I either missed the note that lead to connecting the Z's or it didn't appear on the IPhone app. It's a neat trick.

    Anonymous 8:37 AM  

    Thank you! !!

    AliasZ 8:39 AM  

    Snazzy puzzle, sizzling with a dizzying blizzard of jazzy pizzazz. I was bedazzled by the tizzy of razzle-dazzle and razzmatazz. Pizza anyone?

    I liked the entire grid crizz-crozzed by the mark of ZORRO, the horizontal Z's evenly spaced out four squares apart. If I had the tendency to be anal about such things, I would have noticed that the central Z on the diagonal is in the wrong place, and that one Z is missing. NEWSAGENZ / BARZEND and ZINESIDED / LEOZINE would have fixed that, together with OO[G]ED and BEN[G]INE where [G] could be any letter except Z. With the fill thus redesigned, the center square would not be a Z, but all the Z's on the diagonal would have been also evenly spaced with one square between them. But who pays attention to such ridiculous details? The way it is, there is a Z in the center and that is just the way Timothy Polin intended.

    Don't mind if I go for baroque with the most obvious musical choice today: the cantata Beatus vir by Italian composer Domenico Zipoli (1688, Prato, Italy - 1726, Córdoba, Argentina).

    Moly Shu 8:42 AM  

    Forgot this. I always thought the company name was IZOD Lacoste, so didn't think of them as competitors. Did they break-up, have a falling out ???

    joho 8:44 AM  

    I never saw the note so really enjoyed seeing that the ZZZZZZZZZ formed a big Z ... at which point I drew it on the puZZle with a flourish and SLASH!SLASH!SLASH!SFX in my head ... how much fun!!!

    I didn't know ZORRO's real name or the name of the story which actually made the solve both more difficult and satisfying.

    AmaZing concept, Timothy Polin, which you pulled off as seemingly effortlessly as ZORRO slashing his famous Z! Loved it!!!

    Unknown 8:47 AM  

    I am not a Zorro expert, but I remember watching the reruns as a kid. Probably on The Wonderful World of Disney or some such program. Needed crosses to home in on his name and the story, but easy enough.

    Definitely Medium, verging on challenging. Lots of great words, and tough but fair clung (Initial offer!). Great Thursday puzzle.

    Anonymous 9:00 AM  

    Just wondering if the Z connections create a one-off meta puzzle. A "micro-meta," as it were.

    Echoing other comments. Great puzzle. Some new words, some very clever clues, and no (as yet) complaints about fill, crosswordese, or who/whom debates.

    I don't expect the NYT puzzles to be this good every day. Generally they are good, some very good. This was excellent.

    Anonymous 9:05 AM  

    I speak a little Spanish, which helped on the Zorro stuff, but I speak no goat whatsoever. "Maa"? Who knew. Would have much preferred cluing that one as "Serpico author Peter __."

    Mohair Sam 9:05 AM  

    Wonderful puzzle. Played challenging here for two reasons: 1. I Know nothing about Zorro. But that's fair because Uncas was a gimme the other day.
    2. Wife went to work early this morning, had to do this one alone.

    KERF and DAP and skink new words - learn something everyday . . .

    Clue for CAIN goes in the classic file, beautiful.

    Actually think this might have been more fun for us non-Zorro folks because of the test of having to work through some very difficult and well-clued crosses.

    Fun Thursday - thanks Timothy Polin and WS.

    Wendy 9:24 AM  

    FUDD, INKA, CAIN, MERTZ, DON DIEGO DE LA VEGA!! Plus getting to make a big Z! ALOT of fun!

    jberg 9:26 AM  

    I didn't notice the note until I had finished the puzzle, so the first thing I did notice was that there were lots of Zs, and that they seemed to have some logic to their arrangement. It was still slow going (like @Rex, I kept having to start over in a new section.) But ZANE Grey was a gimme, once I got down that far; that gave me ZORRO, and the rest was easy.

    The thing is, you don't really have to know the trivia parts of the theme answers. You just have to know that Zorro was a nobleman, or DON, and that DIEGO is the only 5-letter Spanish name starting with D; similarly, once you have CAP, you have to know that CAPISTRANO is a place in California.

    @anon 1:04, you really had me. Until I got to the punch line, I was seriously asking myself how there could be a Zorro story with no obvious place for swordplay, or reason for a secret identity. Nice.

    @NCA Pres -- a 'lot' is whatever quantity a commodity is usually sold by; a gross, 200 tons, or whatever. As opposed to when it is sold retail, one piece at a time. So a lot is always a large amount of something, from the consumer's point of view.

    Whoever asked about OOZE -- think of the song from "My Fair Lady," "OOZing charm from every pore, he oiled his way around the floor..."

    Sal's Dad, "Hard alee" is when you're jibing, I think.

    Took me a long time to see ACME instead of last -- almost as long as the time since we've seen her here. Sigh.

    Questinia 9:34 AM  

    After successful completion of the puzzle on the NYT site a big blue *Z* appears, emblazoned a la Zorro. Zexy!

    This felt like a tough-ish duel, as I am not up on Zorroisms, but somehow I knew the moves to get the *Z*.

    Didn't Zorro also wield a whip?

    I second @Gill I take on @ anon and @Anoa Bob.

    In Scorcese's Age of Innocence set in the late 1800's I remember a tender scene between two characters and in the background the unmistakable blinking lights of rooftop antennas.

    Unknown 9:39 AM  

    Note to self: study up on marine botany AND Intro to Goat. Because next time I may not be so fortunate: they may not cross.

    Horace S. Patoot 9:40 AM  

    Two comments.

    I really didn't like "ultimate" (an adjective) cluing ACME (a noun). Is there some usage I'm not aware of?

    As a chemist, I have to comment that BENZINE is not an ether in current nomenclature (i.e. "petroleum ether" does not contain ethers.) Sorta like how a "carnation" is neither a car nor a nation.

    Steve M 9:44 AM  


    Unknown 9:53 AM  

    @Horace, @Z can answer any/all questions regarding ULTIMATE as a noun.

    @SteveJ KERF was a gimme here. All you have to do is cut a board in two with a saw and you'll notice that the whole was indeed greater than the sum of the parts, and you'll never, eve,r ever forget KERF.

    wreck 9:55 AM  

    @Moly Shu

    I thought the same! That is why I put POLO in at first.

    quilter1 9:56 AM  

    Wonderful puzzle. Always a ZORRO fan and while I didn't know the name of the story it came easily with crosses.

    Whirred Whacks 10:00 AM  

    The talented Hayley Gold has a cartoon "celebrating" today's Zorro puzzle.

    It can be found HERE

    Cheerio 10:12 AM  

    I loved this! I have added Polin to my favorite constructors list. I liked that it was difficult, but I could puzzle it out by taking my time. In the end I missed a few squares because e.g. I didn't know the character names in Zorro, nor the word dap. I do have to question the clue for AVEO. It's still being made, no? It's only been around since 2002. Maybe it's not marketed in the US anymore? I don't know. Seems not quite right to call it "bygone."

    pmdm 10:18 AM  

    Don't know if it was intentional, but author Zane Grey might be considered to be linked to today's theme. Grey wrote the book which is the basis for the Lone Ranger character, a character which some might compare to Zorro. For those who watched theatrical productions with these characters, it might be a nice link. Alas, Zorro has no iconic music associated with him as does the Lone Ranger (which, dear AliasZ, was the most obvious music suggested to me by today's puzzle).

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:20 AM  

    Fun puzzle; Medium-Challenging for me.

    Hand up for DEAL before DENT. Also hand up for "All I know about Zorro I learned from the TV series" (and I watched it first-run.)

    Hey, shout-outs to ACME, . . . and to KERF(uffle).

    Tiniest of nits: To me, there is something slightly wrong with BARTEND as a verb. I'd much prefer TEND BAR.

    Irrelevant: As I looked over the clues before getting started, my heart beat a bit faster when I saw the references to a 1919 story. In my mind "story" became "film" (though that is not the case here), and just last night at our local Historical Society meeting, we watched Charlie Chaplin's 1918 silent film "Shoulder Arms." This mindset was reinforced a bit by the clue for 5 D, with the reference to "real name" making me think of an actor's name rather than a super hero's alter ego.

    mac 10:29 AM  

    Excellent Thursday, more challenging than medium for me because of my lack of Zorro knowledge.

    The NW was the hardest and last part to fall.

    Beautiful words: avarice, anemone, deicide, leonine. And then the theme answers!

    Z 10:36 AM  

    Do I really need to post an opinion on the puzzle or can you infer it? Z. Ultimate. Offer, not offer. A Kim Kardashian reference at 22A. A ONE ARM TORSO and MINDLESSLY NINE-SIDED ART. A little DEICIDE for the the atheists amongst us. This puzzle OOZED quality.

    I was thinking/fearing that 4D would be Spanish, having Ucla before UTAH didn't help. Fortunately, it was Buick that made the car, stopping me from crossing FUDD with Ford and wondering if "da" was a Spanish article. I was also trying to come up with someone specific on trial, so that NW was the last for me to fill in. As for CAIN, it wasn't until I read my question (thank you @anon3:15) that the light went on. Great clue.

    @NCA President - You didn't have one smart-ass in class who looked up "lot" and then tried to justify it's use? Probably just as well. "Many" or "often" are probably better, but there's nothing especially wrong with "a lot."

    @Horace Patoot - Besides my favorite game, ultimate is may also be used as a noun.

    Leapfinger 10:43 AM  

    @Anon 1:04, just because you say 'swallow' doesn't mean I have to swallow that...

    @Anon 7:39, re OOZED as 'displayed conspicuously':
    From My Fair Lady -
    OOZing charm from every pore
    He Oiled his way across the floor,
    That hairy hound from Budapest...

    Don't think I've ever seen Zorro on TV, but have heard it on radio, so I got as far as DON DIEGO DE somewhere, and the rest of the theme was a bamboozle, completely cross- and imagination-dependent. Had most of the top and all the bottom covered while the midriff was still quite bare. The NW was also tough: I wasn't FONT of anything except FUDD; had UCLA>UTEP before UTAH; considered
    an abbrev GOBL on the way to NAZI...

    On the plus side,
    DAP skipped right in;
    KERF popped right to mind; I also have done some carpentry an have at least read the word, though I wasn't sure enough till SNEAK confirmed;
    Enough Botany classes to link ANEMONE to Buttercup (Ranunculus);
    Enough Zoology for Skink; I think that's the LIZARD whose tail comes off, leaving the predator with a morsel instead of a meal. Similar to @Martin's sea cucumber, which not only releases the tail-end, but throws out the whole digestive tract at the pursuer. Disgusting? Yes. Not to worry -- both species grow back the lost bits. Agree that Hiassen's Skink is much more fun.

    Also enjoyed the NEZ-PEZ crossing, so nearly similar to NEZ-PErZe. Hard to DEICIDE the head-scratchingest clue: the zombie act was hard to follow, but will say I face-palmed when I finished with that N in CAIN.

    Not a puzzle to solve MINDLESSLY.


    Addend: Don't know if it's been noticed, but the D on my keyboard has been sticking lately; I've tried to fill in the missing ones, but Spellcheck has limits, can't tell 'an' should be 'anD', etc. Should anyone notice any I've missed here, please insert DE ICI, DE ICI, DE ICI as appropriate. tyvm

    Matthew A. Harmer 10:45 AM  

    This was a good one, and I'm not up on my Zorro at all.

    MANDMS was my "duh" moment; it took me a good 20 minutes after finishing before I figured out it was M AND Ms. I even figured that Mars was the candy company, but just figured that Mandms was some British thing I didn't know. Duuuhhhh....

    Horace S. Patoot 10:47 AM  

    Thanks, Z and Casco, about "the ultimate". Sometimes I can stare right at something and not see it.

    JohnV 10:51 AM  

    Could not get NW nor the East. On seeing the solition for those spots, it strikes me that the crosses are questionable. I had figured that the image coming was a Z, 'cause there were a lot of Zs in the fill.

    Painfully challenging, for me. I appreciate the construction virtuosity here, but not a fun Thursday. I know nothing about Zorro, nor Baha'i. I barely know how to catch Zs. Just sayin'

    Anonymous 10:54 AM  

    DAP? Really DAP. Google it and good luck in finding the definition offered in this grid. It comes up as a fishing term:

    verb (daps, dapping, dapped) [ no obj. ]
    fish by letting the fly bob lightly on the water without letting the line touch the water.

    but no mention of "to skip over water" Ridiculously obscure and useless. And I only came up with it because I was certain ZORRO wasn't LAP or another combination with _AP

    And a big ugh to CAIN as Initial offer. A bit too cute for the Bible's first recorded murder.

    Anonymous 10:56 AM  

    This is a ridiculous puzzle that if the theme weren't squarely in Rex's wheelhouse, he surely would have been dismissing as horrid.

    Without detailed knowledge of Zorro or the pulp-fiction based trivia, it's damn near impossible to finish in any reasonable time.

    RnRGhost57 10:59 AM  

    Tough but fair puzz.

    @NCA President, as a teacher I, too, discourage the use of "alot."

    Mike 11:00 AM  

    Tough one for me: just wasn't on the author's clue wavelength and didn't know much about Zorro. As the Zs fell into place I just guessed at Zorro as the character name and things got s little better.

    Arlene 11:07 AM  

    I loved this puzzle - even though it got me at KERF. I really enjoy playing (connecting the ZZZZ's) after filling it all in.
    I knew we were into ZORRO pretty early in the game - absolutely amaZing that it all came together so well.
    Loved LEONINE the best - had such pride in getting that clue!

    Sir Hillary 11:08 AM  

    Very nice puzzle. Like many others, I noticed the preponderance of Zs fairly early, but it took a while for me to understand that they formed the "mark of Zorro".

    The clue for CAIN is off-the-charts good. 11:10 AM  


    verb (used without object), dapped, dapping.
    1. to fish by letting the bait fall lightly on the water.
    2. to dip lightly or suddenly into water:
    The bird dapped for the fish.
    3. to bounce or skip, as on the surface of a body of water:
    The stone dapped along the surface of the pond.

    verb (used with object), dapped, dapping.
    4. to cause to dip in and out of water:
    to dap one's bait.
    5. to cause to skip along the surface of water:
    to dap stones across the river.
    6. Carpentry. to notch (a timber) to receive part of another timber.
    7. Carpentry. a notch in a timber for receiving part of another timber.

    Anonymous 11:12 AM  

    Puzzles are fun and oftentimes the comments as well. Thanks to all.

    Leapfinger 11:29 AM  

    @Z - So you liked it?

    @Casco - Everything you need to know about marine botany was summe up recently by @Someone: What's it all about? Algae! Intro to Goat, lol, that's almost satyre.

    CAPISTRANO in Calif, thanks. Being stuck in Italy = confusion.

    So DON DIEGO is Hispanic? I was thinking ZORRO Austrian...

    Ludyjynn 11:32 AM  

    So proud of myself that I finished this med/chal. puzz. in c. 1 hour UNTIL I read Rex 'struggled' through in c. 6 minutes! I can't
    even read through all the clues
    that fast (and doubt I ever will). But I thoroughly enjoyed my protracted solve due to so many beautiful and funny clues. Same 3 tough answers as everyone else, but got them via crosses; phew.

    R.I.P. Mike Nichols, who directed "Silkwood" from Wed. puzz. and who achieved the rare feat of winning Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy awards for his amazing range of work.

    Thanks, TP and WS for a great Thursday.

    SpellCheck 11:41 AM  

    You all are right about 'alot'; the correct form is 'allot'.

    Anonymous 11:44 AM  


    Anyone else notice NONAGONAL fits?

    Hartley70 11:45 AM  

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this one. It was definitely in the "challenging". category for me but what overall fun! I know nothing about Zorro except vague 1950 memories and had no idea Zane Grey was the author. The story and his actual name were complete unknowns, I had the ON on his first name and I tried to make Tonto work, then Don...Draper, Corleone etc., but the A at the end led me to a Spanish origin. Gee it was fun working it all out! The southeast was the toughest and CAPIATRANO was the last to fall. The big Z was a great bonus! Felicitades to El Constructatoro!!!!

    @AliasZ This was your day and you make me very happy when you go for my fav baroque. Thanks!

    mathguy 12:46 PM  

    Incredibly sad to hear of Mike Nichols's death. It's like losing a member of the family. I played the Nichols-May routines so often at home that my two boys could do them by heart. One of them became a professional actor.

    @Leapfinger: Bravo for satyre.

    Lewis 2:00 PM  

    Because I didn't know Zorro's real name or the name of the book, this was was battle for me, and it made the tough cluing tougher. It is beautifully crafted, with some lovely clues (BARTENDER, SNORKELERS, CAIN) and loads of ZZZZs, but in the end, the work I had to put into it wasn't compensated by the solve. Nonetheless, I love when this happens, because it makes me feel like a beginner again, which I love.

    Lewis 2:35 PM  

    Factoid: Bob Kane, creator of Batman, has credited Zorro as part of his inspiration for the Batman character. Like Zorro, Bruce Wayne is affluent, the heir of wealth built by his parents. His everyday persona encourages others to think of him as shallow, foolish and uncaring to throw off suspicion. (Wikipedia)

    Quotoid: "For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the ACME of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." -- Sun Tzu

    xyz 2:45 PM  

    A little too clever for mainstream, no matter how zzzzzzzippy the work is

    Anonymous 3:25 PM  

    Not a PIPE; in Clue, it's a LEAD PIPE.

    (Which is why I had ROPE there for a while.)

    Unknown 3:35 PM  

    Anonymous said:
    "Not a PIPE; in Clue, it's a LEAD PIPE."

    I agree.

    Unknown 3:36 PM  

    @leapstress Initial Algae: CAINE

    Z 3:53 PM  

    Hand up for a lot of rope at first. I believe that, per OSHA, the PIPE in Clue™ is now PVC.

    dick swart 4:23 PM  

    Kerf? Skink?? Dap??? Original offer????

    May Don Diegi de la Vaga carve a Z on their chests or whatever.

    And wasn't de la Vega a Chevy along with Srs Aveo and Nova?

    A tough morning!

    Nighthawk 4:51 PM

    I would have liked to see Fred Ziv's name worked into this one.
    He was a great guy. Humorous, unpretentious and fun. Besides being a sort of father of TV.

    Leapfinger 7:29 PM  

    Very nice, @CascoK; see how easy that was? Euglena little knowledge and soon its cilia than ever!

    Pretty soon @ZEEk is going to suggest we move this act elsewhere.

    Anonymous 7:56 PM  

    Ah @Casco and @Leapfinger, we aren't all gluttons for punnishment like y'all.

    This was a fun puzzle but a DNF for me. Started strong in the SW, with ZANE, NINO and LIZARD as gimmes. OOZED past the Zombies ( even had Zs in the clues!) and up through narrows, tacking ALEE to the tributaries (yes, I know, " block that metaphor") but with the lonely SE left, I did not Tappan ZEE OTOES and get home.

    Couldn't see CAIN until I got here, wanted lA PISTolero or something of that ilk. Wanted DELAcroix. I have to start using the theme clues - if I had thought of drawing the Z for ZORRO, much angst would have been avoided.

    Thanks, Mr. Polin.

    Teedmn 7:58 PM  

    Whoops, didn't mean to go all annonymice. That's me at 7:56.

    snowmaiden 8:25 PM  

    My moment of pride at pulling the term DADO from the cobwebs was short-lived. Kerf-oo. Gesundheit.

    Anonymous 5:13 AM  

    It would have helped to know more about Zorro, but an enjoyable puzzle nonetheless. I love FUDD. I had Cain but never understood "initial offer".

    You're welcome 6:57 AM  

    Anony 5:13
    Cain was the first (initial) person to murder (off) another.

    Anonymous 7:42 AM  

    Great puzzle, but I guess there were no sailors in the crowd.
    The "way to turn while tacking" is to windward not to lee

    OISK 9:21 AM  

    Didn't know until I checked that I had finished correctly, with DAP, UNI, and KERF all looking wrong. Loved the clue for "Cain.' Fine puzzle, more like "Challengng" for me.

    spacecraft 11:30 AM  

    MERRIE Syndi-Christmas! Joy to all! As I solve on newsprint, the editor does not see fit to publish any extra "notes." We're lucky to get the byline. But I did notice that every corner had a Z, and so did the center--but not the middle east or west. Hey, that makes a big Z! Very clever.

    Didn't take me long to figure out ZORRO, which made his real name a gimme. Don't ask; that's just some of the factoid flotsam that gums up my head. It kinda rolls off the tongue, no? DON DIEGO DE LA VEGA. Cool name. Not so KERF. Yikes, what a word! Talk about your 100% filled on crosses...

    Clues like "Initial offer," clever though they be, didn't throw me as much as "Displayed conspicuously" for OOZED. I guess we must be referencing Prof. Higgins:

    "OOZING charm from every pore, he oiled his way around the floor..."

    but really. OOZE does not mean that. EZER and AZOV also received needed cross help. Gotta tap some pretty obscure stuff to come up with all those Z's, but the payoff is worth the strain, IMO.

    My Clue weapon was roPE for a while, but after doing the SE and winding up with -STRANO, I just guessed at the old swallows' homestead. Med-chall; I'll give it a Z. No wait! B+.

    Same as yesterday: Happy holidays!

    rondo 12:02 PM  

    OFL says 6 minutes - humbug - no wonder most puzzles are no fun for him. Where's the joy in that? Much longer for me I'll say. Challenging enough. Couldn't do it MINDLESSLY.
    Wanted rONDIEGO for a little bit in honor of our syndi world traveler.
    How about a clue for Sharon Jones and the DAP Kings instead?
    Hand up for UCLA, until it wasn't.
    Had BENZeNE until I learned about NINESIDED buildings. No idea.
    Needed the last Z to fix jEB and complete the puz.
    Really liked it.
    Again, very Merry to all the Syndis who visit here today.

    Captcha = 155 = 2

    DMG 2:50 PM  

    What a fun puzzle. Enjoyed the clues which somehow pried all the ZORRO info from my head where it had been tucked under a lot of other stuff. Never saw the TV show, so my knowledge must have come from the long ago Tyrone Power effort, and one of my all time favorite movies, "ZORRO, the Gay Blade" with George Hamilton and Elena Versugo.

    Merry Christmas to all. We,ve helped the grandson open his loot and been blessed by Mother Nature with some rain. A pretty perfect day!

    Even the Captxha says HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

    KariSeattle 5:58 PM  

    The clue, displayed conspicuously reminded me of a tale about Mae West, who was oozing diamond jewels and went to check her fur coat at a nightclub.. When the wide eyed coat check girl squeals, "Oh my goodness, what diamonds!", Mae replies, "Oh honey, goodness had nothin to do with it!".

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