|H||E||LIX||1 Alpha _____ (protein-structure motif)|
|E||LIX||I||R||2 Bordeaux wine, to Dr. Dulcamara|
|LIX||I||V||I||A||T||E||3 Extract by washing or percolation|
|R||I||B||B||O||N||4 _____ diagram (protein-structure visualization)|
|A||B||O||V||E||5 _____ average (like every child in Lake Wobegon)|
|T||O||V||6 “Mazel ___!” (“Happy 59th birthday!”)|
|E||N||E||7 Mercedes-Benz suffix, to a jocular organic chemist|
No Down clues: this decagon is symmetrical about the main diagonal, and the same words appear Across and Down.
As usual with these mini-puzzles,
further (and proLIX) construction and clue notes
follow in the small print.
The RIBOSE or RIBBON link would not be available had the first word been FE[LIX] as in Mendelssohn. The other common words I found were pro[lix] and bol[lix], neither of which is appropriate to a birthday present. Alas I couldn’t use SA[LIX] (botanical name for the willow), as in salicylic acid = precursor of aspirin. xwordinfo also gives a few proper/trade names such as B[LIX]EN, MUES[LIX], and NETF[LIX]. And A[LIX], which together with SA[LIX] and [LIX] itself would make this a triangular micropuzzle instead of a decagonal minipuzzle.
1: See for instance this Wikipedia page. Originally I clued HE[LIX] via RNA, rather than DNA which is famously a double helix; I had naïvely jumped to the conclusion that a single RNA strand, being much like half of DNA (but for the de(s)oxygenation indicated by the acronym’s first letter), would be a single helix. Turns out that RNA, unlike DNA, has a much more complicated and sequence-dependent geometry, making that cluing route problematic. Fortunately GB noticed that protein structures also have helical motifs and fortuitously allow for a different link with the 4th word of the grid (which used to be RIBOSE as in the R of RNA) with thematic opportunities for the remaining entries 5–7.
2: As revealed in an aside to the audience in Donizetti’s blockbuster comic opera L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love).
3: Well what else starts with LIX!? At least GB is a chemist.
4: a.k.a. Richardson Diagram, named for its developer. The Wikipedia page gives this example, hand-drawn by Richardson herself, showing both α-helices and β-sheets.
5: From the standard closing monologue of Minnesotan Garrison Keillor’s radio show A Prairie Home Companion. This famous signoff made the fictional Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon the eponym of the Lake Wobegon effect of illusory superiority.
6: To be sure, “Mazel Tov!” (a Yiddish/Hebrew phrase with a curious and circuitous etymology) isn’t specifically a birthday greeting, let alone one specific to a 59th birthday. But this phrasing of the clue may also help solvers other than GB diagnose and/or corroborate the rebus.
7: Cluing path suggested by GB and enthusiasically accepted by NDE. See for instance this instance and prolixplanation of the “Mercedes-Benzene” joke.
Hey, the solutions are almost in alphabetical order! But alas not quite: even if I assign “_____” a reading such as “[fill in the blank]” to fit between “extract” and “ “Mazel” ”, clue 5 would alphabetically precede clue 4.