Nifty Ninety
"Midrash" by Alayne Schroll / Edited by George Barany (May 2016)

This puzzle celebrates the 90th birthday of my father, Ronald Leon Schroll, who turns 90 years young on May 19, 2016.

My father was born in Rochester, New York, a child of the depression. As with many people raised during that era, austerity measures became a way of life, evident to this day. When Ron and a close childhood friend both reached the age of 17, they enlisted in the army, realizing that the GI bill would ultimately allow them to get a college education, something that seemed impossible otherwise.

After his military service, my father began his college education at Champlain College (which closed in 1953, but lives on in the memories of its alumni) in Plattsburgh, New York. It was there that he met his future bride, Elizabeth (Betty) McIntyre, who was an operating room nurse at the local hospital.

Ronald and Betty ultimately settled in Saranac Lake, New York. My father taught high school and community college science, including chemistry and astronomy, for 25 years. My mother was a homemaker while the three daughters (myself, Aldebra, and Allison) were young; she returned to nursing (including teaching) when we were older. In retirement, my parents settled in Carlsbad, New Mexico. They played golf, cut a rug as dancers, and traveled extensively into their early 80s. Recently they began a new adventure, moving to Chico, California to be close to my two sisters.

GB adds: If you look up "devoted daughter" in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Alayne. I will spare you the technical details, but just note what a delight it was to collaborate with Alayne on this birthday tribute to her DAD (46-Down). At my request, Alayne brainstormed for words and phrases connected to her parents, including where they had been geographically, as well as their interests and hobbies. While a lot had to be left on the drawing board, I was pleased to sketch out a slightly enlarged grid (17x) which included the full name (including middle name) of the puzzle's honoree (73-Across), the full (formal) name of his bride (19-Across), the city of his birth (62-Across), his college town (40-Across), and the village where he and Betty raised a family (50-Across). Moreover, I worked in Moody Pond (26-Across), the nearest body of water to the Schroll family home; the name of their sailboat (Miniscud) had to be relegated into the clues.

Then the fun really started. I created a list of possible words and phrases that could be used at 3-Down and (symmetrically placed) at 37-Down, knowing that certainly letters were locked in because they crossed theme entries. I then asked Alayne to rank them, and gave her three completely filled grids to choose from. We hope you like TWIN_PARADOX and A_STAR_IS_BORN, because of the possible multiple meanings, given Ron Schroll's teaching interests [interesting coincidence, Judy Garland's costar in the 1954 film was James MASON, though we clued 42-Across in a different fashion.]

Finally, I want to point out that an inevitable side product of crossword construction is the appearance of any number of short words (including acronyms and abbreviations) that can be tied to the theme, either intentionally or fortuitously. We will leave to you the pleasure of finding most of them, but note that one of the clues honor Ron's service (72-Down), one refers to the state where he was born, educated, raised a family, and pursued his career (83-Across), one alludes to his favorite baseball team (32-Across), and one is a shameless plug for Alayne's Ph.D. research as a graduate student in my laboratory at the University of Minnesota (17-Down). We also worked in the date of Ron and Betty's wedding into the clue for I_DO (45-Across). Most interesting, I hope you'll agree, is 29-Across, which could have been clued for multiple folks named Al, or for Lou Gehrig's disease, but was in fact clued for the common initials of the three Schroll sisters [Alayne reminded me that her father's initials, RLS, are shared with Robert Louis Stevenson, who had a cottage (now a museum) in SARANAC_LAKE, close to her parents' cottage].

If you want to tell others about this particular page, refer them to

Back to top

View My Stats