Why is the first case wrong but the second case correct? The website gives an explanation, but it's not clear to me exactly. I understand the reason for the resistor being there to prevent damage to the zener.
The way I see it, for the zeners in series. Say 12V is the signal coming out, and the zener voltage is 6.8V and the forward drop is 0.7V.
So, 12VAC comes along, the break down is -6.8V at the zener at the top, so if it's -12V it goes through the zener, so -12--6.8 = -5.2 + 0.7(other zener in forward drop) = -4.5V is lost through the zener. Hence -12--4.5 = -7.5V is the signal that goes through.
Is that the logic as to how it works?