Element Of Surprise

New York Times crossword June 24 / Constructed by Elizabeth C. Gorski

What is the deal, Will? Again with the high school chemistry!? A couple of months ago, you needed to know the chemical symbol for iron in order to solve a Titanic-themed puzzle. Now, you’ll be lost without knowing the symbol for carbon — the title’s “element” of surprise.

You can actually fill in each square of today’s challenging, environmentally-themed crossword without knowing chemistry. But you’ll miss the bonus puzzle — a connect-the-dots — without realizing the significance of the letter C: It’s the ATOMIC SYMBOL (“Every chemical element has one,” 23 Across) for carbon.

Somebody left a big footprint in the middle of today's puzzle.

The green theme centers around global warming with several straightforward entries. “Worrisome Arctic and Antarctic developments” are OZONE HOLES (40 Across). “Conservationist’s catchphrase” is SAVE WATER (69 Across). “Arborist’s catchphrase” is PLANT A TREE (94 Across). “Envioronmentalist’s catchphrase” is CONSERVE FUEL (117 Across). “Atmospheric worries” are GREENHOUSE GASES (14 Down). “Kind of society that is careless of the environment” is THROWAWAY (44 Down).

And the piece-de-resistance is 42 Down, “Global warming calculation whose shape is suggested by connecting 14 squares in a closed loop based on the appropriate 23-Across”: CARBON FOOTPRINT.

Turns out, ingenious constructor Elizabeth C. Gorski used exactly fourteen Cs in her grid, leaving a literal “carbon footprint” when you connect them all. The five Cs arrayed at the top –in TINACTIN, ATOMIC SYMBOL, ECCE and CELERIES are toes, I suppose.

In The News Dept.: “Falls for married women?” is NIAGARA, the famous honeymoon spot. It was also in headlines last week as daredevil Nik Wallenda crossed the natural wonder on a tightrope.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “‘Girl With a Hoop’ and ‘The Umbrellas'” are RENOIRS (26 Down). And while those two paintings are not in Philly, the city boasts 181 other Renoirs at the Barnes Foundation. (Not to mention a few at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)

Rated R Dept.: Just because it has a talking teddy bear doesn’t mean the “2012 Mark Wahlberg comedy” TED (32 Across) is appropriate for kids.

Cover Your Ass Dept.: “Pasta shapes” are SPIRALS (15 Down), which I guess would be considered rotini or rotelli. But it reminds me of the awesome “Seinfeld” bit involving fusilli, another pasta shape.

Music 4 The Masses Dept.: “1998 Alanis Morissette hit” is not “Thank You” but THANK U (48 Down).

UPDATE, July 1: The official answer to this puzzle shows the toes a bit more defined than my solution. Not sure how I was supposed to figure out those indentations:

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