Take It to the Bank!
"Midrash" by George Barany and Brent Hartzell (October 2013)

This puzzle was constructed by a University of Minnesota chemistry professor and a University of Minnesota alumnus in celebration of one of the signature gridiron victories in the school’s storied history.  In brief, on a brisk Saturday afternoon in October 2013, cheered on by a near-capacity crowd of 49, 995 in TCF Bank Stadium [about a quarter of whom were wearing red, rather than maroon and gold], the home team MINNESOTA (28-Across) GOLDEN_GOPHERS (36-Across) upset the nationally ranked perennial powerhouse CORNHUSKERS (19-Across), our visitors from Nebraska, by a score of 34-23. The winners were led by quarterback PHILIP (1-Across) NELSON (85-Across), a sophomore from Mankato, who passed for one and rushed for two touchdowns [the opening Minnesota touchdown, at a point in the game when they were down 0-10, was scored by quarterback Mitch Leidner]. The game marked the first time since 1960 [NINETEENSIXTY = 58-Across] that the Gophers had prevailed over the Cornhuskers.  To put that into perspective, in 1960 one of us had recently arrived with his family in New York City as immigrants from Europe and had started kindergarten, while the other was just a gleam in his parents’ eyes (they had just started their courtship). But we digress …

Adding to the drama, this was the third consecutive game that the Gophers had defensive coordinator and acting head coach TRACY_CLAEYS (75-Across) on the sidelines.  As has been amply documented in the media, head coach JERRY_KILL (65-Across) has been dealing with EPILEPSY (11-Down) for some time now, and with the full support of University leadership took a leave earlier in the month.  Relevant (and often inspirational) articles can be sampled by clicking here, here, here, and here, (chronological order). In fact, the game this puzzle celebrates had been designated as an “Epsilepsy Awareness” event! By all reports, Kill’s presence at the game, and his half-time locker-room oratory, inspired players and fans alike.

Click here for ESPN's written and video recap of the game and all of its varied storylines, and here for an article about the game in the Minnesota Daily student newspaper. In addition, the official Golden Gophers athletics site offers this article and this highlight reel (3 minutes). The photo accompanying this midrash was taken by Karen Kaler on her iPhone, immediately after the game ended [please indulge us once more by watching this brief video].

One of the pleasures of a crossword project such as this was the challenge to load up the answer grid and/or the clues with as much information as possible related to Gophers, Minnesota (University, state), and sports (especially, but not exclusively, Big Ten college football).  In these regards, we direct you to the following (complete with appropriate links) highly selective and subjective annotation:

Do You Have Chemistry? (by GB)

I was pleased to use ACETO- (80-Across). Think acetic acid or acetonitrile.

For this puzzle’s northwest corner, I drew on my knowledge of the Periodic Table to get around an almost unsurmountable problem, how to clue PKC?  I thought that public-key cryptography [e.g., the RSA (algorithm)] or protein kinase C (an important enzyme well studied by biochemists) might be too esoteric for the more general solving audience we were trying to reach.  It occurred to several of us that changing 16-Across to MONICA (easily clued for this, this, or this) could help, if only we could think of a gettable clue for PMC.  The abbreviation of PubMed Commons, readily recognized by many scientists, did not appear to cross the threshold for general accessibility.


Did anyone notice that this puzzle is a pangram, i.e., it uses every letter of the alphabet? If you still care (see above re APATHY = 35-Across), have a look at this essay that discusses pangrams from a cruciverbalist point of view.

If you want to tell others about this particular page, refer them to http://tinyurl.com/collegefootballmidrash

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