This puzzle is the direct result of a hallway conversation I had with its honoree, Chuck Tomlinson. "So what are you doing this weekend?" "Celebrating my 46th birthday!" "If only you had given me more notice, I could write a puzzle about it."
Oh well, better late than never! Chuck is a native Minnesotan, and carried out his undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota as a Communications major. He started working in the Department of Chemistry in 1994 as a member of the secretarial staff [yes, in those days, that was the language used, and by the way, he had already been at the U of M for three years by then] supporting Professors Paul Barbara and Lou Pignolet. Starting in 2002, Chuck managed the Department's graduate and undergraduate student services office. When long-time Departmental Administrator Stan Bonnema retired in 2009, Chuck stepped into Stan's shoes (figuratively, not literally). A year later (*), during a Departmental reorganization, Chuck was classified as the Director of Operations. When something goes wrong, tell Chuck about it. When you need to figure out how to get something done, ask Chuck how to do it. When you are locked out of the building at 2 a.m., Chuck is the one who gets the phone call from the University police dispatcher. When you require arcane facts and figures for a crossword midrash (*, a bit earlier in this paragraph), Chuck is the man to ask [unless the puzzle is supposed to be a surprise, in which case he would have a conflict of interest].
While several of the theme answers to this puzzle struck our outside beta testers as kind of generic, I wonder how many people even within the Department are aware of Chuck's hobby/gig playing records, for a time on a radio show, and on many an occasion at weddings, etc. I also want to call to your attention two chemistry-centric clues, 8-Down refers to the ETH in Zürich, which hired one of our colleagues, and 4-Down refers to a Nobel laureate in Physics, when a more standard puzzle might have clued for a Pope.
With thanks to my co-conspirator on this project, Ben Geisbauer, as well as to Nate Davidson, Eileen Harvala, Lynne Johnsrud, Chris Lundby, Christie Martin, and Nancy Thao who kept this project "hush-hush" while first helping track down some factoids, and then getting the word out, we hope that the puzzle shows multiple facets of Chuck's larger-than-life personality, responsibilities, and interests, and is/was fun for you to solve.
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