How One of Our Readers Proposed via a Special Wsj Crossword Puzzle

  1. Alexis Lockwood will do any crossword puzzle she comes across.
  2. She and her girlfriend Annie Barrow usually wind down before bed with a little puzzling.
    From left: Annie Barrow and Alexis Lockwood. (Photo: Sarah Portlock)
  3. So she didn’t suspect anything unusual when, Sunday morning, Ms. Barrow said, “I found this crossword puzzle. Want to do it?”
  4. She didn’t think it anything but coincidence, that the Wall Street Journal crossword contained both of their first names.
  5. Other answers, including her nickname, Owl, went right over her head.
  6. It wasn’t until she had nearly completed it, and Ms. Barrow pointed to 49 across, that she realized what was happening.
  7. Clue: Merger bid. Answer: WILLYOUMARRYME.
  8. Will you marry me?” Ms. Barrow said, holding out a ring that she had hidden under a pillow.
  9. Answer: YES.
    (Photo: Sarah Portlock)
  10. Ms. Barrow reached out to the Journal in late February, proposing a crossword that would seem normal to other puzzle-solvers but would hold special meaning for Ms. Lockwood and Ms. Barrow.
  11. The Journal’s puzzle editor, Mike Shenk, took up the challenge.
  12. Ms. Barrow supplied words that had special significance: a nickname coined by Ms. Lockwood’s godson (Owl), their favorite food (pizza) and the street where they live in New York City (Bleecker).
  13. Mr. Shenk decided that the theme – a marriage proposal – was relatively straightforward, so the puzzle would have to fall early in the week.
  14. However, to work in their first names, the clues would be slightly more difficult than a Monday puzzle. This crossword would have to fall on a Tuesday.
  15. Mr. Shenk placed their first names prominently on the top line, and split Ms. Lockwood’s last name into two words, placing “Lock” and “Wood” at opposite corners.
  16. The three theme answers were: “Engagement ring,” “Pops the question” and “Will you marry me?”
    “’Pops the question’ has a ‘Q’ right in the middle,” he said. “‘Q’ is not the most flexible letter.” He abandoned “pizza” and “Bleecker.”
  17. Sharp-eyed puzzlers may have noticed that the byline on the crossword, Keith Etton, was an anagram of “Tie the knot.” 💗
  18. The puzzle was published last week. Ms. Barrow bought 10 copies, and kept them hidden in their apartment until their trip to Washington last weekend.
  19. They started off solving it together aloud. Then Ms. Barrow became quiet, her palms sweating.
  20. Ms. Lockwood, who works more quickly than Ms. Barrow, zipped through the rest of it on her own. But it turned out to be one puzzle that she couldn’t crack without help.
  21. “In my defense, it was before I had my morning coffee,” she said. 💍