Crossroad of 90th and ELM
"Midrash" by George Barany (July 2013)

This puzzle celebrated the 90th birthday of LIBBY MERRIFIELD (40-Across), aka ELM (see title and photo on the main page for this puzzle), the widow of my mentor BRUCE (71-Across) Merrifield, the 1984 Nobel laureate in CHEM. (6-Across) and himself the subject of a tribute puzzle. Cluing was with Betsy Grindstaff, the third of the six Merrifield children, while Nancy Waugh, the eldest, provided extensive suggestions on theme material and the puzzle's title, photographs from the Merrifield family archives, and test solving. Note how Jim, the second eldest and only son, got worked into the clue for DAD (1-Down), and the NAMES (29-Down) of the three youngest Merrifield children, Cathy, Laurie, and Sally, also appear in the answer grid. Having known the Merrifields since 1971 when I was a 16-year old just starting my graduate studies at The Rockefeller University, one could make the case that I am an honorary member of the family. I tried very hard, but failed, to work the number SIXTEEN into the puzzle, since that is the number of Merrifield grandchildren. All of the children, and most of the grandchildren, gathered with Libby for the week starting July 13 for a grand get-together/celebration by Deep Creek Lake in Maryland—sharpened pencils were supplied for them to tackle this puzzle.

Merrifield F1 generation, 2008.
L to R: Jim, Nancy, Betsy, Sally, Laurie, and Cathy

Elizabeth Longfellow FURLONG (27-Across) was born on June 24, 1923, to Helen and Edward Furlong, and grew up in a town called Millet, in Alberta, Canada. [Note that Libby's great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Longfellow, was a cousin of the the poet (clue for 14-Down), so the name has been in the family for several generations.] Libby attended and received her undergraduate and M.A. degrees from UCLA (referenced in clues for BRUIN, 10-Down, and GEFFEN, 62-Across), where BRUCE was her CHEM. lab instructor. Libby and Bruce married on June 20, 1949 (ELF became ELM; see clue for 65-Across, NEE), the day after RBM graduated with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and the day before they headed cross-country in a '35 Ford to begin an appointment at Rockefeller (with a side-stop at Niagara Falls). The Merrifields moved to the Bergen County, New Jersey borough (town) of Cresskill in 1955, and took up residence in the house on 43 MEZZINE DRIVE (55-Across) in 1960. The house still exists, but in 1994, the street name was changed, in honor of the borough's favorite son, to Merrifield Way! [Note that the crossword gods gave us 15-Across, LODI, which rather than the "Zinfandel Capital of the World" in California is yet another Bergen borough, and morever, the site of the Department of Motor Vehicles station that the Merrifields visited annually to get their vehicles inspected for half a century.] You can read more about many of these vignettes (and much more) in Bruce's scientific autobiography (1993), Life During a Golden Age of Peptide Chemistry.

Left photo: Libby Furlong at UCLA, circa 1946. Middle photo: Merrifield house on Mezzine Drive (now Merrifield Way), circa 2004. Right photo: Libby and Bruce at Laurie and Tom's wedding in 1987.

Libby devoted herself to raising the family for many years, but in 1980 after Sally had started high school, Libby began to ride in to work with Bruce and took charge of a project to synthesize interferon (referenced in clue for FLU, 63-Down). One of her favorite hobbies was BIRDWATCHING (20-Across), particularly at the Greenbrook Sanctuary in Tenafly, New Jersey. Starting as a young adult and continuing for many years, Libby played the CELLO (50-Down), a fact that we capitalized on with the clue "Ma's instrument," a wink at the legendary cellist Yo-yo Ma. In researching this puzzle, I also learned that Libby enjoyed watching the ROSE (70-Across) (Bowl) Parade for many years, and even helped decorate a float one year, while stile a college student at UCLA. The family CAT (50-Across) was Silky (1957-1974), succeeded by Barnaby (1975-1993). The Merrifields enjoyed a range of cultural activities, including OPERAS (47-Down), which gave me an opportunity to work into the clues the title of the only opera ever written about peptides, Peptide Ångst: La Triviata. As the puzzle teaches, the favorite Merrifield family vacation activity was CAMPING (48-Across).

Left photo: ELM, back at research in the 1980s. Middle photo: Libby and Bruce with granddaughter Elizabeth (daughter of Laurie and Tom) in 1992. Right photo: Family reunion in Brigantine, New Jersey, July 2012.

Miscellaneous: Crossword puzzle editors tip-toe around use of the word ANAL (67-Across), but us chemists have no problem with either Anal. Chem. or Anal. Biochem. [two journals represented among my first five publications from the Merrifield laboratory]. Betsy's clue for GONG (12-Down) reminded me of James Tam, recipient of the 2013 Merrifield Award. We also reference RAO (16-Across) Makineni, a longtime friend and supporter who endowed the Merrifield Award. My original clue for ILE (66-Across) was "Genetically encoded amino acid that has two stereocenters: Abbr.," a cunning piece of misdirection since THR also fits the clue. Not too surprisingly, the beta testers and family over-ruled me on that, reminding me of more than un PEU (52-Across) de famille expertise (ELM herself, and Sally) in the French language, but I hope that the final version is completely FAIR (34-Across).

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